MELBOURNE – On November 2nd, 2014, Caroline Wozniacki ran the New York marathon in 3 hours and 26 minutes, while Serena Williams waited for her at the finish line to hug and congratulate her best friend and rival. On Saturday, the beautiful Danish girl deservedly won her first and long-awaited Grand Slam title in Melbourne after a true tennis marathon that was contested in such heavy and humid conditions that Tennis Australia was forced to suspend the match between the second and third set, allowing Caroline and her opponent Simona Halep of Romania to take a 10-minute break.
The highly entertaining final lasted 2 hours and 50 minutes during which the two contestants engaged in gruelling rallies and covered the court with great tenacity and speed. At the end, Simona Halep had to throw in the towel after climbing back from 1-3 to 4-3 in the third and final set: 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 was the result in Wozniacki’s favor. Despite a few tears at the end of the match, Halep should be proud of her performance at this year’s Australian Open. The Romanian sprained her ankle in her first-round match and then saved an astonishing 5 match-points in her route to the final – 3 in her third-round match against Lauren Davis and 2 in her semifinal clash with Angelique Kerber.
We will see if this devastating loss will hamper Halep’s mentality in the future: The Romanian has lost all three Grand Slam finals that she has contested so far in her career and all three defeats have come in very close three set matches. Last June she suffered an unexpected defeat against Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the French Open final after leading 3-1 in the third set.
Wozniacki has enjoyed an illustrious career so far, with 29 WTA titles and 67 weeks spent at the top of the rankings between 2010 and 2012. A Grand Slam title was the only accomplishment that was missing from the Dane’s resume. With her monumental win in Melbourne, Wozniacki is now back at No. 1 in the world rankings and this time around her reign will certainly be considered more legit. She won’t be a “Slamless” No. 1 anymore.
Simona Halep, who has been sitting at the top of the rankings since October 9th, 2017, will drop down to No. 2. In her post-match press conference, when a reporter mentioned that “Great champions such as Evert and Navratilova lost their first few Grand Slam finals,” the Romanian replied: “Yes, but then they ended up winning many… I hope I will finally win one at my fourth attempt!”
Wozniacki, who flirted with defeat in the second round when she had to climb back from 1-5 in the third set and save two match-points against Jana Fett, has now elevated her career to new heights. With 67 weeks and counting at No. 1, she is ahead of great champions such as Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters, Arantxa Sanchez, Jennifer Capriati, Garbine Muguruza and Evonne Goolagong in the all-time women’s rankings.
“It is such an emotional day for me, I have been waiting for this moment for so long. I know it is a tough day for you, Simona. I am really sorry for you,” Caroline said during the trophy presentation. She also thanked her dad Piotr and her fiancé David Lee – a former basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs.
The men’s final will be contested by the great Roger Federer – who is chasing Grand Slam title No. 20 – and Marin Cilic of Croatia. Roger leads their head-to-head 8-1, but Cilic’s only win occurred in a very important occasion: A crucial semifinal clash at the 2014 US Open – a tournament that the Croat ended up winning.
This will be Federer’s 30th Grand Slam final and Cilic’s 3rd. There is no need to mention that Roger will be the overwhelming favorite. His record speaks for itsel
(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )
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Emma Raducanu Needs Less Hype And More Consistency To Be Among The World’s Best
COMMENT: Raducanu is a sensation of tennis, but she has a way to go to become a great.
Three months have passed since the world of tennis was stunned by the run of a British teenager at one of its most prestigious events.
Emma Raducanu entered the US Open surrounded by hype following her performances earlier in the year. In June she made her WTA main draw debut at the Nottingham Open before going to to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon as a wild card. Becoming the youngest British woman in the Open Era to do so. Unfortunately, her fairytale journey at The All England Club didn’t have a happy ending as she was forced to retire from her last 16 match due to illness which was worsened by high anxiety.
Now in the limelight for the first time, Raducanu continue plucking away on the Tour in North America where she was runner-up at a WTA 125 event in Chicago. This would however be the precursor to the biggest achievement of her career to date. Entering the US Open qualifying draw, the teenager stormed to her first major title without dropping a set in 10 matches played. Those she defeated included Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkri. In the final she downed Leylah Fernandez, who at the time was also on a sensational run after beating a series of top 20 players.
“For me, I don’t feel absolutely any pressure. I’m still only 18 years old,” Raducanu said shortly after her US Open triumph. “I’m just having a free swing at anything that comes my way. That’s how I faced every match here in the States. It got me this trophy, so I don’t think I should change anything.”
After her New York triumph, Raducanu’s wealth rocketed thanks to a surge of endorsements from the likes of Dior, Tiffany & Co., Evian and British Airways. In the UK she was a household name after being on the front pages of every major newspaper. In December she won the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year award which is ultimately decided by a public vote. It is also widely reported that she is in line to receive an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.
2021 has been the year of Raducanu but what about the future?
There is no doubt that the 19-year-old has what it takes and she has proven this. Tennis great Martina Navratilova has described her as the ‘whole package’ and Billie Jean King says the youngster is ‘the real deal.’ But is the world of tennis getting carried away?
The WTA Tour has a reputation for its unpredictability with numerous players excelling at the very top and then there is a lull. Since 2015 eight women have won their maiden major title without going on to claim a second. Not counting Raducanu’s win at the latest major. Sloane Stephens was tipped to become the next Serena Williams following her 2017 triumph in New York and Bianca Andreescu looked destined to be the best in the world before injury struck.
Perhaps the most appropriate way to describe Raducanu is as a potential star in the making and not a sporting heavyweight. This isn’t to criticise or to devalue her extraordinary achievements but it brings things into perspective.
“Only March the 18th was my first session on court in 2021,” Raducanu reflected prior to the start of the Linz Open in October. “And so January, February, March I was literally just sat on my desk staring at a wall for nine hours a day. So I feel like where I am now I just need to really take it all in and enjoy because looking back at how far I’ve come it’s pretty surreal. I just really need to enjoy it because when I was in the beginning of the year I would have never thought this was possible. I’m kind of just really living in the moment right now I feel.”
In 2017 Jelena Ostapenko became the first unseeded woman in the Open Era to win the French Open. It remains her biggest achievement to date and since then the Latvian has failed to shine in any other Grand Slam. In fact, she has only managed to progress beyond the third round in two out of 13 attempts.
“When players don’t know you and you’re the underdog in every match, you have nothing to lose against the top players and that can help you to play really well,” Ostapenko told The Independent. “My opponents didn’t know me that well, because I was still new to the tour. But after I won in Paris, everyone knew me and they knew how I played. They knew how to prepare to play against me, so that was way harder for me.”
”The situation turns around when you’re the Grand Slam champion. You’re the favourite and it’s your opponents who have nothing to lose against you. That’s the hardest part of it all.”
Sometimes it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and not look at things from a wider perspective. Raducanu has proven that she has the ability to win the biggest tournaments in the world and produces tennis that millions around the world only dream of having. But she is still young and is yet to spend a full year on the Tour.
As 2022 beckons Raducanu will be guided by Torben Beltz who is known for his work with Angelique Kerber. Many will be talking up her chances of winning the Australian Open but is it the right thing to do?
Historically many players have become media sensations overnight if you look at the performances of Stephens and Ostapenko when they won their maiden Grand Slams. However, those who are referred to as greats of the games are the ones who are able to replicate this on multiple occasions and consistently.
Only time will tell if Raducanu will be known as a sensation or as a great. The important thing for Raducanu in 2022 isn’t how she fares at the Australian Open, it is how she performs at every Grand Slam throughout the year.
As former world No.1 King once said – “Champions keep playing until they get it right.”
1st December 2021: The Day Women’s Tennis Held China Accountable For Their Actions
With millions at stake, the WTA stands firmly behind their players.
Even with the threats coming from the WTA few were convinced that the governing body of women’s tennis would conduct one of the most significant moves in its history.
In a statement published on Wednesday, WTA CEO Steve Simon announced that all tournaments in China and neighbouring Hong Kong will be suspended with immediate effect. The remarkable decision is a show of solidarity with Peng Shuai who many fear is being censored by Chinese officials for accusing a former vice-premier of sexual assult. Something the country denies with state-backed media publishing videos and photos of the player. Even a recent video call between Shuai and the International Olympic Committee failed to ease the concerns of the WTA.
“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation – without censorship – into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.” Simon said in a press release.
The bold move has been hailed by many across social media ranging from tennis players to celebrities. Billie Jean King, who is the WTA’s founder, said the organisation remains ‘on the right side of history in supporting our players.’ Meanwhile, former world No.1 Andy Roddick tweeted ‘there are a lot of organisations who can afford to do something a lot more than the WTA Can.’ It is this point by Roddick that speaks volumes to the significance of their announcement.
Over the past 15 years China has injected millions into developing tennis within the country. It began during 1988 when tennis was brought back into the Olympics before Li Na’s mainstream breakthrough triggered a huge surge in interest. Various cities such as Wuhan, Li Na’s birthplace, started to invest millions in facilities in order to stage major events. As the years went by China wasn’t just a fixture in the calendar, it was instrumental for the entire WTA.
In 2019 China hosted nine WTA events which had a combined prize money pool of $30.4M. To put that into perspective the figure works out to be roughly 17% of the entire prize money offerings on the WTA Tour that year. It was also during 2019 when the WTA Finals started in Shenzhen as part of a lucrative 10-year deal which was valued at $1bn at the time of the announcement by The Sports Business Journal. However, the country has been unable to host another edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it was instead held in Mexico this year.
Perhaps from a cynical perspective, the pandemic showed to the WTA that they can still hold a highly successful Tour without relying on a single country during one period of their calendar. Would this influence their decision to withdraw from China in support of Shuai? Probably but they are unlikely to admit it. Not that the WTA doesn’t deserve widespread praise for their decisive action which put other governing bodies to shame.
There is also the question as to how will China respond? Will a country that has spent so much trying to promote tennis be prepared to make some deal with the WTA in order to get them to change their minds? In an ideal world, yes, but this isn’t an ideal world.
“I don’t think they (the WTA) have been paying much attention to what has been happening in Basketball and football in threatening the Chinese with Economic sanctions. It’s not going to work and part of the proof of the pudding was they were not able to get in touch with her (Shuai) and that’s her sport,” IOC council member Dick Pound told CNN earlier this week.
Pound has been a spokesperson for his organisation in defending their handling of Shuai and has told multiple news outlets that she is safe based on what the IOC interpreted from the video call. Ironically, he hasn’t seen the video himself and the IOC made no mention of the sexual assault allegations in their press release.
However, Pound’s remarks on China’s stubbornness is supported by past incidents. One of which involved Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who made a comment in public supporting the democracy movement in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong. China’s CCTV stopped broadcasting NBA Games and the sporting body later apologised but it was 15 months before another Houston game was shown on TV.
Money and politics aside, there remains serious concerns about Shuai’s welfare. Whilst she had made headlines around the world, China’s state-owned media have not published a single article. Photos and videos of the tennis player have only been published on Twitter which is blocked in her home country. BBC analyst Kerry Allen has confirmed that Shuai’s Weibo account is still under restrictions. Users are banned from quoting, sharing or commenting on her historic posts.
It would have been so easy for the WTA to sidestep the Shuai case and label it as a domestic matter in order to maintain their relationship with the Asian country. Instead, they have backed their player despite the likely consequence of a financial loss should China not back down. Something that is both brave and inspiring.
Will the men’s ATP or the ITF follow suit and suspend business with China? Only time will tell on that front. The most important thing is trying to establish the true welfare of Shuai. Something the WTA is determined to do no matter what the cost may be.
December 1st, 2021 has been a historic day for tennis.
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