The WTA Q2 Report Card Of 2018 - UBITENNIS
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The WTA Q2 Report Card Of 2018

How did your favourite player on the women’s Tour fair during the second quarter of 2018?

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Ubitennis examines the performances of the most notable players from the second quarter of the season, as well as their prospects heading into Q3.

Simona Halep

Much like Caroline Wozniacki in Q1, Halep finally silenced the doubters and naysayers by winning her first Major in Q2. Will her Roland Garros title satisfy Halep, or will it release the pressure and allow her to play more freely in search of a second Major title? I’m banking on the latter, though the grass courts are Halep’s weakest surface. Although, Simona has reached the quarterfinals or better at The All England Club in three of the last four years, so her Wimbledon chances should not be discounted. Last year in the quarterfinals, she was just one match away from going atop the rankings for the first time, but lost to Britain’s Johanna Konta. The summer hard courts will be a good opportunity for the women’s number one to extend her ranking lead. Halep currently leads by over 1,200 points in the 52-week rankings, and has more than a 1,700 point edge in the year-to-date rankings. Simona should easily gain points at the US Open, following her first round loss last year to Maria Sharapova. With bitter defeats in her mind from last year’s Wimbledon and US Open, Q3 may see Halep conquer some more demons from her past.

Petra Kvitova

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Sitting right behind Halep in the year-to-date rankings is Kvitova, who leads the tour with five titles in 2018, three of which came in Q2. Petra won back-to-back titles for the second time this year by taking the trophies in Prague and Madrid. Her French Open performance was a bit disappointing, going down in the third round to Anett Kontaveit. But Kvitova bounced right back on the grass, as she usually does, by winning her fifth title of the year in Birmingham. This past week, she withdrew from Eastbourne due to a hamstring injury. Getting some rest heading into Wimbledon is a smart move by Petra, and I consider her the favorite to win her third Wimbledon title as long as she’s healthy. While the North American hard court swing has never been her strongest time of the season, she’s now made the quarters at the US Open in two of the last three years. Kvitova has never been higher than two in the world, but she has a shot at catching Halep if she can sustain her Q1 and Q2 success through the rest of the year.

Sloane Stephens

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Stephens was just 4-4 during the WTA clay court season heading into Roland Garros, yet she solidified herself as a top contender at the Majors by making her second Major final in Paris. She was up a set and break, but ran out of steam and was unable to close out Halep in the final. That was actually the first tournament final Stephens has lost on tour. Stephens did not play a grass court warm-up event, so I’m curious to see if she can carry her momentum into Wimbledon. She did make the quarters there in 2013. Looking ahead, the summer hard court season will bring with it a lot of pressure for Sloane. She’ll have 2,700 points to defend from her semifinal appearances in Toronto and Cincinnati, and of course her US Open title. It will be extremely challenging for Stephens to back up those results, and her ranking will likely fall from her current career-high spot at number four in the world.

Caroline Wozniacki

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Caroline had a predictable letdown following her maiden Major title in Melbourne, and didn’t make another tournament final until just this weekend, when she won her second title on the grass of Eastbourne. That confidence boost was much needed, especially considering Wimbledon is the only Major where Wozniacki has not been farther than the fourth round. The US Open will likely be the next Major where she has a legitimate shot at the title: Caroline is a two-time finalist in New York. The current world number two is 2,000 points behind Halep in the year-to-date rankings, so she’ll need a big Q3 if she wants to make a run at regaining the top ranking, which she held for a few weeks in Q1.

Garbine Muguruza

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After a slow Q1, Muguruza won the title in Monterrey during the first week of Q2. That victory did not translate into further success on the European clay until the French Open. Muguruza had her swagger back in Paris, and appeared prone to take her second Roland Garros title, until she was thwarted by eventual champion Simona Halep in the semifinals. Garbine is the defending Wimbledon champion, but did not get off to a good start on the grass. She was defeated in her second match at Birmingham by Barbora Strycova. While no player goes from cold to hot (and back) as often as Muguruza, she’s yet to successfully defend a title in her career, and has never won two titles at the same event. Garbine’s also never looked fully comfortable playing in New York: her fourth round appearance there last year was her best-to-date, and she’s only 5-5 lifetime at the US Open. With almost 4,000 points to defend in Q3, the current world number three will likely see her ranking slide considerably in the coming months.

Madison Keys

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Keys started off Q2 with a nice run to the semis in Charleston, but proceeded to lose in her opening round of both Stuttgart and Madrid. After winning her first two matches in Rome, she had to withdraw from her round of 16 match against Simona Halep due to a rib injury. So it was pretty surprising when she won ten straight sets to reach her first semifinal at Roland Garros, falling to fellow American Sloane Stephens in a rematch of last year’ US Open final. Madison then withdrew from Birmingham due to the same injury that forced her out of Rome. If Keys is healthy, she could be a legitimate threat at Wimbledon. Her game is perfectly suited for grass, and she reached the quarterfinals at SW19 three years ago. Unfortunately, her Q3 results will likely be dictated by her health, and it’s fair at this point to declare Keys as being injury-prone. Let’s hope she can get healthy in time to defend her run to the final last year in New York. I’d like to see how she’d perform there following last year’s career highlight which ended with a disappointing performance in the final.

Eilina Svitolina

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I could basically copy and paste what I wrote about Svitolina in Q1, and the quarter before that, and the quarter before that. She continues to keep herself in the top five with tournament victories outside the Majors, like her Q2 win in Rome. That was her third title of 2018, and the second year in a row she won the Italy’s Premier 5 event. Yet in Paris, she went out meekly in the third round to Mihaela Buzarnescu. She then lost again to Buzarnescu on the grass of Birmingham. I don’t like Svitolina’s chances at Wimbledon, where she’s just 5-5 in her career. She’ll look to defend another title at the Rogers Cup in August, but I’m much more interested to see when Elina can finally advance passed the quarterfinals at a Major. It seems only a matter of time, though it’s already taken longer than I expected.

Maria Sharapova

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Sharapova finally found some consistency and regained some momentum in Q2. In Madrid, Rome, and Paris, she picked up ten match wins. This run was highlighted her over three-hour quarterfinal battle against Jelena Ostapenko. After crushing Karolina Pliskova at Roland Garros 6-2, 6-1, she was subsequently crushed by Muguruza in the quarterfinals by the same scoreline. This will be Sharapova’s first appearance at Wimbledon in three years, when she reached the semifinals at The Championships. I’m sure she’ll be determined to prove she can still be a factor at the year’s most prestigious Major. But it may be the summer hard courts where Sharapova really shines. As her ranking continues to rise, she’ll of course receive more favorable draws. Q2 was the longest stretch in several years that Maria has looked healthy and confident, and she’ll be a force in Q3 if that continues. With less than 500 points to defend between July and September, look for Sharapova to make a big jump up the rankings.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Women’s Semifinals

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Iga Swiatek doing her best Hulk Hogan impression on Wednesday (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Are we just one round away from World No.1 Iga Swiatek facing World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in a humungous women’s final?

 

On Thursday in Paris, Swiatek and Sabalenka are both favorites to win their semifinals.  But Beatriz Haddad Maia and Karolina Muchova both provide challenging styles of play, and their chances should not be overlooked.

Also, the mixed doubles championship match will be staged, featuring an inspiring redemption story, and the 2019 US Open women’s singles champion.


Karolina Muchova vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Sabalenka is 34-5 this season, and is vying for her sixth final of the year, and her 13th consecutive win at a Major.  After losing her first three Slam semifinals, all by the score of 6-4 in the third, she broke through this past January in Melbourne with a straight-set victory over Magda Linette.  Aryna has claimed all 10 sets she’s played this fortnight.

Muchova is 22-7 on the year, and is into the second Major semifinal of her career.  She first achieved this feat two years ago at the Australian Open, when she lost a three-set semifinal to Jennifer Brady.  Karolina has dropped one set to this stage, and notably upset another Roland Garros semifinalist, Maria Sakkari, in the first round.

They’ve only played once before, four years ago on a hard court in Zhuhai, with Sabalenka prevailing in a tight two-setter.  Muchova’s variety is often quite effective in disrupting her opponents.  But based on the confidence Aryna has been playing with, her huge game makes her the favorite to reach a second consecutive Major final.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – Last on Court Philippe Chatrier

Swiatek is 33-6 in 2023, and is looking for her fifth final of the season.  She is 17-2 on clay this year, and 26-2 lifetime at Roland Garros.  And Iga has been completely dominant this fortnight, losing only 17 games across nine sets.  She holds a 3-1 record in Major semifinals.

This is entirely new territory for Haddad Maia.  Prior to this tournament, she was 0-7 in the second round of Slams.  But she’s now 22-11 this year, after winning four consecutive three-setters at this event, and upsetting Ons Jabeur on Wednesday.

Beatriz is actually 1-0 against Iga, having defeated her 7-5 in the third last summer in Toronto.  She utilizes her lefty-ness well, and was intelligently aggressive during pivotal times of her match against Jabeur.  But on this surface, and in a match of this magnitude, Swiatek is a considerable favorite to reach her third Roland Garros final.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Miyu Kato and Tim Puetz vs. Bianca Andreescu and Michael Venus – Kato was defaulted from the women’s doubles draw after hitting a ball girl with a ball, but has owned that error and earned a lot of goodwill in the process.  This is a first Major final in any discipline for Kati and Puetz, while Venus won the men’s doubles title at this event six years ago, and Andreescu’s resume is well-documented.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Ons Jabeur Admits Rushing Back From Injury After Roland Garros Exit

Ons Jabeur has admitted she rushed back from injury just to play Roland Garros as she exited the tournament in the quarter-finals.

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Ons Jabeur (@rolandgarros - Twitter)

Ons Jabeur admitted to rushing back from injury during the clay court season after exiting Roland Garros.

 

The Tunisian is out of the second Grand Slam of the season after a three set defeat to Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Jabeur had control of the majority of the first two sets but a third set capitulation saw her clay court season end in disappointing fashion.

After the match Jabeur admitted it was disappointing to lose but is proud of her tournament in Paris, “We always want to do better, unless we win the title, you know,” Jabeur said in her post-match press conference.

“Yeah, I mean, I think it is a great tournament. I honestly wasn’t expecting to be in the quarterfinals. Especially this is kind of my first tournament after being injured.

“I think it was good. I was trying to push myself until the end, but I think pretty satisfied with the results. You always want to push for more, but I mean hopefully next time will be better, and no more quarterfinal here at the French Open.”

Despite the result Jabeur can be proud of her efforts as she looks to build on a positive week and a half in Paris ahead of the grass court season.

Jabeur also commented on her physical state after a gruelling tournament in Paris.

The Tunisian said nothing is hurting but admitted she wanted to rush back from her injury in order to be back for Roland Garros, “Yeah, thank God, there is nothing hurting. I didn’t have much time to prepare for especially clay season because it’s more physical than any other surface,” Jabeur admitted.

“I’m feeling okay. I think I rushed my way back on tour, but that’s because I wanted to be ready for the French Open. You know, like all the training and the physical training, maybe I didn’t have enough time to prepare for that, but I did my maximum. I did what I could do in a short time period.

“But, yeah, she probably played longer than me, but she’s a beast, and I wish her all the best. I mean, honestly, what she’s doing for — I feel like my story and her story are a little bit similar. I’m very happy for her and for Brazil, and hopefully she can do much more for her country.

“But, yeah, for me now I’m going to try to rest a little bit and be ready, but I’m good for now.”

Jabeur will look to be physically fit ready for the grass court season where she looks to defend her performance from last year where she reached the final.

The Tunisian outlined her grass court season towards the end of the press conference and admitted she’s hoping to play doubles with Venus Williams having played with Serena Williams last year, “Yeah, for now I think I’m going to have the same schedule. Berlin, Eastbourne,” Jabeur said.

“Maybe Venus wants to play doubles there. I’m not sure. She didn’t ask me yet. Then Wimbledon. Just trying to play as much matches as I can. To be honest with you, I want to enjoy playing on grass because I do enjoy a lot. I have my brother’s wedding before, so I’m going to party for a bit and just be ready.

“I’m hoping to go and get the title really in Wimbledon. I’m dreaming about it. It’s something that I always wanted. Last year was unfortunate because I was very close. When I put something in my mind, I know I can do it, so it’s definitely here.”

Jabeur will look to achieve her dream when Wimbledon takes place on the 3rd of July.

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Iga Swiatek Downs Gauff To Set Haddad Maia Semi-Final At Roland Garros

Iga Swiatek reaches her third Roland Garros semi-final with a straight sets win over Coco Gauff.

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Iga Swiatek (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

World number one Iga Swiatek is into the semi-finals at Roland Garros for a third time after defeating Coco Gauff 6-4 6-2.

 

The Pole extended her head-to-head over the American to 7-0 and 14-0 in sets as her title defence will continue into the final four.

It was a valiant effort by the American but ultimately fell short of reaching the semi-finals for a second consecutive year.

Next for Swiatek is Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia, who defeated Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals.

It was a positive start from Gauff as she played aggressive, smart tennis from the beginning to test Swiatek from the baseline.

However the Pole edged to a couple of service holds and would break to love in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead as her returning quality showed.

Gauff provided an immediate response in the next game to break back as she tested Swiatek’s rally tolerance and tested the Pole’s defensive rustiness.

The American was holding onto her service games despite producing below 40% of her first serves.

Swiatek continued to find big points in pressure moments as Gauff was producing some big shots on pressure points.

In the end the Pole’s returning presence and quality showed as she broke for the set with Gauff producing a number of errors.

There was a slight moment of hope for the American at the start of the second set as she overcame the poor end to the first set with some effective point construction.

Last year’s finalist set up three break points but made some fairly erratic errors as any hopes of a comeback were snuffed out.

Swiatek remained aggressive, proactive and produced world-class depth to take advantage of Gauff’s error-prone game.

The Pole’s level of play intensified and improved as she sealed too late breaks of serve in impressive fashion as she claimed victory in 90 minutes.

Speaking after the match Swiatek said the match wasn’t easy but was happy to get through, “For sure, it wasn’t easy – the first set, especially, was really tight and Coco was really using the conditions here,” Swiatek was quoted by the BBC as saying.

“I’m pretty happy I was able to work on it and win this match because quarter-finals are sometimes the toughest matches. Even though Coco is young, she is experienced so I’m pretty happy to be in the semi-final.

“We play many tournaments in the year where we have to play day after day but I’m pretty fresh because, as you saw in previous matches. I didn’t really spend too much time on court so I’m actually happy today was a tighter match.

“I will be ready no matter what and not having a day off was something that I knew since the beginning of the tournament so I am ready for this situation.”

Another tough loss for Gauff to take as Swiatek seals her place in the semi-finals in Paris for a third time.

Next for Swiatek will be Beatriz Haddad Maia tomorrow.

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