Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki start their bid for the number 1 spot in the first week of the 2018 season - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki start their bid for the number 1 spot in the first week of the 2018 season

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The 2018 WTA season will kick off next week with three tournaments which will feature the top-three players playing in three different tournaments: world number 1 Simona Halep in Shenzhen, Garbine Muguruza in Brisbane and Caroline Wozniacki in Auckland.

 

Each of these three players has a chance to take the world number 1 spot in the WTA Ranking during the opening week of the 2018 WTA season and head into the Australian Open as the top-seed.

The seeds at the Australian Open will be based on the WTA Rankings on 8th January 2018 after the first week of tournaments of the new season.

Shenzhen WTA International: Simona Halep became the world number 1 when she reached the final at the China Open in Beijing and ended the the 2017 season at the top of the 2017 WTA season edging Garbine Muguruza by 40 points in the WTA Race to Singapore. The Romanian star will start her 2018 season at the Shenzhen International where she won the title in 2015, but lost in the Round of 16 in 2017. Halep has also entered the Chinese tournament in the doubles tournament, where she will team up with her compatrion Irina Camelia Begu. Halep will remain at the top of the ranking if she wins her second title in Shenzhen next week.

The Shenzhen field will be also highlighted by former world number 1 Maria Sharapova, who upset Halep in the first round of the 2017 US Open last September, and by Latvian 20-year-old player Jelena Ostapenko, who won her maiden Grand Slam title last June beating Halep in the 2017 French Open final in one of the best matches of the past season. Ostapenko will start her season with an exhibition match against Serena Williams in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Brisbane WTA Premier: Two of the five players who held the world number 1 spot during the 2017 season Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova and three more top ten players Elina Svitolina (winner in Rome, Toronto, Dubai), Caroline Garcia (Wuhan and Beijing champion) and Wimbledon semifinalist Johanna Konta will be the stand-out names at the star-studded Brisbane WTA Premier tournament. Muguruza reached the semifinals in Brisbane and went on to win at Wimbledon and in Cincinnati during the 2017 season. She held the world number 1 spot for eight weeks.

The Spanish player of Venezuelan origin will need to reach the final in Brisbane to have the chance of returning to world number 1 spot. If Muguruza wins the Brisbane tournament, Halep would need to win the Shenzhen title in order to remain at world number 1 spot.

The Brisbane tournament will feature British number 1 player Johanna Konta, who will make her come-back atter being sidelined by a foot injury since September. The Sydney native player has started working with Maria Sharapova’s former coach Michael Joyce one month ago. Konta feels at home in Australia, as she lived in Sydney until she was 14.

“The field is strong, as is every year in Brisbane. We have some great champions playing here, so I am looking forward to competing in as many matches as I can. Michale and I have ben working together for roughly four weeks, so it will be our first tournament together. So far we are doing good work”, said Konta.

ASB Classic in Auckland International: World number 3 and 2017 WTA Finals champion Caroline Wozniacki will grab the headlines at the ASB Classic in Auckland in a field that also features Agnieszka Radwasnka and WTA Elite Trophy champion Julia Goerges. Wozniacki will return to Auckland, where she reached the quarter final in 2017. The Danish star needs to win the Auckland title with Muguruza losing before the final in Brisbane and Halep losing before the quarter finals in Shenzhen.

During a successful 2017 season former world number 1 Wozniacki reached eight finals (and won two titles in Tokyo and at the WTA Finals in Singapore (the biggest win of her career) beating Venus Williams in the title match. She has moved up to world number 3, her highest year-end ranking since 2011.

Caroline’s close friend Agnieszka Radwanska ha salso signed to play in Auckland next week. Wozniacki holds a 11-6 lead in their career head-to-head matches.

“I feel like I have played really well in New Zealand, making the semifinals and a final. I wanted to come back for the winners’trophy next year. It is such a special place to play. It is one of the best stops on the tour. The crowd are always so supportive and full right from day one. You don’t get that in many tournaments”, said Wozniacki.

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Venus Williams Explains Met Gala Photo With Maria Sharapova

The former world No.1 says she and her sister Serena have ‘respect and love’ for Sharapova.

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Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams at the 20201 Met Gala (image via Instagram)

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams says there are no hard feelings between her, her sister Serena and Maria Sharapova after the trio took a photo together at the Met Gala.

 

The former world No.1s was seen smiling and laughing together at the New York fundraising event with both of the Williams sisters uploading a photo of them all on their Instagram story. Prompting surprise from some fans considering the at times icy rivalry between Serena and Sharapova that dates back to the 2004 Wimbledon Championships.

In her 2017 autobiography, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Sharapova mentioned Serena’s name more than 100 times. She says the American hated her for beating her at Wimbledon that year and that the two were ‘not friends.’

“What I heard when I came in to the locker room was Serena Williams bawling,” Sharapova wrote.
“Guttural sobs. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there.
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds … I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment.
“But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”

Responding to the claims, Serena hit back at the book in 2018 by describing it as ‘hearsay’ and said she never had any ‘negative feelings’ towards Sharapova. The two clashed on the Tour no fewer than 22 times with Serena winning 20 of those meetings.

“So I don’t have any negative feelings towards her, which again, was a little disappointing to see in that hearsay book,” Williams commented back in 2018. “So I have always, you know, and especially having a daughter, like, I feel like negativity is taught. One of the things I always say, I feel like women, especially, should bring each other up.”

Three years later and it now seems that all parties have put their disagreements behind them. At the Met Gala they were seen getting on pretty well. Besides posing for a photo together, they were also seen together in the bathroom at the event. A photo taken by pop star Anitta and rapper Saweetie which showed them in the background.

Speaking about the event for the first time, 41-year-old Williams said she wishes Sharapova was still playing before adding that they still ‘respect and love’ each other.

“First of all, Serena and I were talking about Maria the day before,” the 41-year-old explained on Instagram.
“We were like, ‘Damn, I wish Maria was still playing.’
“And we saw her, and we both told her separately, ‘Oh my gosh, we were just talking about you yesterday, we wish you were still on tour.’
“We were so happy to see each other. There was hugs, there was laughing, there were stories, and there was a photo.
“So the backstory is that even though us players compete really hard of the court for years, we still respect and love each other, and love Maria
.”

Williams, Serena and Sharapova have won a total of 35 Grand Slam singles titles between them.

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Emma Raducanu Launches Own Weibo Account With Viral Video

In her first video, the teenage sensation promised to play in China next year.

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Emma Raducanu reacts after winning a Women's Singles semifinal match at the 2021 US Open, Thursday, Sep. 9, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu is gaining a rapidly growing fan base in China with her first video on the social media account Weibo surpassing one million views in less than two days.

 

The 18-year-old has become one of the most talked about athletes in the world of tennis following her unprecedented run to the US Open title. At the Grand Slam she didn’t drop a single set in 10 matches played to become the first qualifier in history to ever win a major title. Even more remarkable was the fact Raducanu was playing in a Grand Slam main draw for only the second time in her career.

In her native UK bookmakers are already tipping the youngster as a strong contender to win this year’s prestigious BBC Sports personality of the Year award. Although it isn’t just Britain where she is proving to be a hit. Raducanu was actually born in Canada to a Romanian father and Chinese mother who both work in the finance section. The family moved to the UK when Raducanu was two-years-old.

“My mum comes from a Chinese background. They have very good self-belief. It’s not necessarily about telling everyone how good you are, but it’s about believing it within yourself. I really respect that about the culture,” she said.
“She’s always instilled a lot of discipline and respect for other people into me, so I think that having parents like I do, they always push me, they have high expectations so I’ve always tried to live up to that. And I just hope I did them proud this week and I’m going to keep trying to go, keep going.”

Shortly after her US Open win, the world No.23 delivered a message in mandarin which was posted on the tournament’s Weibo account. SportsPro Media reports that the video generated more than 11 million impressions.

Now Raducanu has launched her own Weibo account with a video message to her fans. Shine.cn, which is a website powered by Chinese newspaper Shanghai Daily, said that the British player has promised to play in the country next year. This season’s Asian swing has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Shine also said she spoke with a slight ‘accent from northeast China’ where her mother is from.

According to the latest view count, the video has been watched more than 1.22 million times since it was published. The view count may look impressive but it is by no means a one off. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that two hashtags related to Raducanu on Weibo have been viewed at least 200M times each as a result of her US Open win. These hashtags were ‘18-year-old ethnic Chinese young player wins US open championship‘ and ‘Raducanu.’

Despite her relative inexperience on the Tour, many are tipping Raducanu to become one of the most marketable athletes in the world. Her ability to interact with the Chinese market will play a significant role in those considering the country has invested millions into the sport and hosts a series of prestigious women’s events. However, in the immediate future the teenager says her focus is on the tennis.

“I have a few days’ rest and recovery – I think needed after the last seven weeks,” she told CNBC’s Closing Bell earlier this week.
“But then I am straight back to training and hungry to get better and come back out and play some more tournaments.”

Besides Weibo, Raducanu also has over 583,000 followers on Twitter, 1.9M Instagram followers and 63,000 followers on her official Facebook page.

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World No.1 Ash Barty May Skip WTA Finals Over ‘Ridiculous’ Conditions, Says Coach

The decision to move the event to Mexico could result is the loss of the wortld No.1.

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Ashleigh Barty (AUS) celebrates defeating Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) in the fourth round of the Ladies' Singles on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 7 Monday 05/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Florian Eisele

The season-ending WTA Finals could take place without the world’s highest ranked player due to the change of venue and its conditions, according to her coach.

 

Ash Barty is the reigning champion of the event, which was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is usually held in the Chinese city of Shenzhen but this year’s edition has been relocated to South America. Earlier this week the WTA confirmed that it will be hosted in Guadalajara, Mexico during the early part of November.

Reacting to the latest development, the mentor of reigning Wimbledon champion Barty has hit out of the new location. Craig Tyzzer has voiced his concern over the decision to use pressure-less balls at the event which will be played at high altitude. Going as far as describing the situation as ‘ridiculous.’

“We only just found out it’s in Mexico at 1500 metres (above sea level) and they’re using pressure-less balls,” Tyzzer told the Australian Associated Press.
“Pressure-less balls absolutely fly. It’s a ball that, if you use it in normal conditions, it doesn’t bounce. It’s not the greatest advertisement for the best girls in the world to be playing something they’ve never done before.’
“In conditions they’ve never played, in a country they don’t play and at altitude, I just feel it’s ridiculous. As a spectacle, it’s just frightening.”

Guadalajara already hosts a WTA 250 event during the first quarter of the season. In this year’s tournament no top 20 players were present in the main draw which was won by Canada’s Leylah Fernandez.

Barty is currently taking a break from the Tour following her third round loss at the US Open. Tyzzer said the chances of the world No.1 playing in the WTA Finals is up in the air due to the current travel restrictions in place. When Barty returns to her native Australia she is required to spend two weeks in isolation. Therefore the later she leaves it to go home, the less time she will have to prepare during the off-season.

“Indian Wells (next month) is still on the radar but she just needs a rest. So I told her to just get away and have a holiday,” he said.
“It certainly isn’t easy for us to get there and to play that event in Mexico and then to come back and have to do two (more) weeks (in quarantine) and then your summer is sort of ruined as well. It’s a decision we’ll have to sit and mull over quite a bit.”

So far this season Barty has registered a win-loss record of 42-7 and has won a total of five Tour titles. Besides Wimbledon, she has also triumphed at two Premier Mandatory and two Premier 700 events.

The WTA Finals features the eight highest ranked players in the world with a multi-million dollar prize money pool. This year will be the first time in it’s 49-year history that the tournament will take place in South America before returning to the scheduled home of Shenzhen in 2022.

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