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The 2018 WTA Season Review

Ubitennis.net reviews a memorable 2018 WTA season highlighted by Simona Halep’s first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, Naomi Osaka’s breakthrough at the US Open, the return of Serena Williams, the Wimbledon triumph of Angelique Kerber and the emergence of Aryna Sabalenka.

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In 2018 four different players won the four Grand Slam titles: Caroline Wozniacki (Australian Open), Simona Halep (Roland Garros), Angelique Kerber (Wimbledon) and Naomi Osaka (US Open) during what was a very unpredictable season. There was no dominant player on the circuit with many different winners in the WTA Premier 5 and Premier Mandatory tournaments: Petra Kvitova (Doha, Madrid and Birmingham), Elina Svitolina (Dubai and Rome), Naomi Osaka (Indian Wells), Sloane Stephens (Miami), Karolina Pliskova (Stuttgart and Tokyo), Simona Halep (Montreal), Kiki Bertens (Cincinnati), Aryna Sabalenka (Wuhan) and Caroline Wozniacki (Beijing).

 

Here is a breakdown of the highs and lows of this season

The best player of the year: Simona Halep

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Simona Halep finally won her first WTA Grand Slam at Roland Garros in her fourth attempt. Defeating Sloane Stephens after losing the first set. The Romanian star had lost her three previous Grand Slam finals at Roland Garros in 2014 against Maria Sharapova and in 2017 against Jelena Ostapenko, and at the 2018 Australian Open against Caroline Wozniacki. The Romanian player won two more WTA titles in Shenzhen and Montreal. At the Canadian Open she beat Sloane Stephens in a re-match of Roland Garros.

Unfortunately Halep ended the 2018 season early due to a herniated disk and was forced to miss the WTA Finals in Singapore, but ended the year as the WTA World Number 1 player.

The World number 1 player received an honorary doctorate from West University in Timisoara for the great results on the court and the contribution she has given to Romania as a country.

The Breakthrough of the year: Naomi Osaka:

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The 21 year-old player born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother enjoyed her breakthrough season. Winning against another 21-year-old, Daria Kasatkina, in the final of the Premier Mandatory tournament at Indian Wells and her maiden Grand Slam trophy at the US Open, where she beat Serena Williams. Osaka extended her winning streak of ten matches by reaching the final at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she lost to Karolina Pliskova. The US-based Japanese player also reached the semifinal at the China Open in Beijing. She qualified for her first WTA Finals in Singapore, where she lost all her round-robin matches against Sloane Stephens, Angelique Kerber and Kiki Bertens. She withdrew during her match against Bertens due to a hamstring injury in her final match of the year.

Osaka has improved her ranking to world number 4. She has become the joint-highest ranked Japanese male or female player in history, equalling Kimiko Date and Kei Nishikori.

She also reached the third round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, matching her best result at both tournaments.

The comeback of the year:

Serena Williams:

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Serena Williams made her comeback to the tennis court last March at Indian Wells after giving birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia. She reached the third round at Indian Wells before losing to her sister Venus and lost in the first round against Naomi Osaka in Miami. After reaching the Round of 16 at Roland Garros Serena qualified for two Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and at the US Open. In both tournaments the 23-time Grand Slam champion dropped just one set before the final. Her Wimbledon final was her first title match at Grand Slam level since the 2017 Australian Open. Williams beat Karolina Pliskova in the quarter final of the US Open, scoring her first win against a top-10 player since her return from pregnancy.

Angelique Kerber:

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The German player of Polish origin dropped out of the top 20 at the end of a difficult 2017 season, but she started her comeback season with a win in the Sydney final against Australia’s Ashleigh Barty. At the Australian Open she beat Madison Keys to set up a semifinal against Simona Halep, who won the third set 9-7 on her fourth match point. After qualifying for the quarter finals in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome and the semifinal in Dubai, the tennis player from Bremen reached her first Roland Garros quarter final in six years, before losing to eventual champion Simona Halep in three sets. The German player beat Serena Williams in straight sets in the Wimbledon title match in a re-match of the 2016 final in this tournament to climb to world number 4 in the WTA Rankings.

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Why Newly Married Elina Svitolina Has No Plans To Change Her Surname

The Ukrainian explains why she isn’t using her husband’s surname of Monfils just yet as she books her place in the third round at Tokyo 2020.

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Just over a week ago Elina Svitolina tied the knot with her long-time partner Gael Monfils at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

Shortly after the world No.6 took to social media and changed her name on Twitter to Elina Monfils as part of the tradition that the woman takes on the man’s name once they are married. As a consequence, various websites started to identify the Ukrainian under that name. Although she would rather that they don’t do such a thing.

“I don’t know why they changed my surname. Maybe they saw that I had changed it on my social networks,” Svitolina told BTU.
“I’m going to play as Svitolina till the very end of my professional career and will change it only after retirement.”

Svitolina explains she believes it is better if all of her achievements are made under the same name instead of two. So far in her career she has won 15 WTA titles, reached two Grand Slam semi-finals and has earned more than $20.5M in prize money.

I had numerous achievements and people know me as Svitolina. My father would be upset if I changed the surname and played as Monfils,” she joked.
“I am proud to be Svitolina and my tennis career will always be connected with this surname.”

Over the coming week the 26-year-old is hoping to add an Olympic medal to her resume. On Monday Svitolina survived a stern scare after coming back from a set down to defeat Ajla Tomljanović 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and move into the third round of the tournament. Her win came on the day where there were shocks galore in the women’s draw with seeds Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova all crashing out.

Svitolina will play Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the next round whom she has lost to in two out of their three previous meetings.

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Why Ash Barty Isn’t Staying At The Olympic Village In Tokyo

The two-time Grand Slam champion has opted to stay at an alternate venue heading into the Games.

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Ashleigh Barty (AUS) playing against Angelique Kerber (GER) in the semi-final of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 10 Thursday 08/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jed Leicester

Ash Barty will prepare for her debut at the Olympic Games by staying at a base located outside of the athletes village as part of her ‘performance plan.’

 

The world No.1 heads into Tokyo as one of the favourites for gold following her triumph at Wimbledon where she defeated Karolina Pliskova in the final. She is one of six top 10 players set to play in the women’s singles tournament which will start on Saturday.

Leading up to the Games, the head of the Australian Olympic delegation has told reporters that Barty’s decision not to stay in the village will enhance her gold medal chances. In previous Games athletes have stayed outside of the villages but this year it is more challenging to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency and fans are banned from attending the event amid fears of the virus spreading if they do so.

“Ash is staying elsewhere,” chef de mission Ian Chesterman told the Australian Associated Press.
“We have a number of athletes staying outside the village. We allow that, it’s just what works best for them.
“Something I’ve always been very big on is driving performance takes a whole lot of flexible decisions, flexible options.
“In terms of her performance plan, it’s best served by her being able to control her environment and we respect that.”

The exact location of Barty’s base has not been disclosed but it is near to the village where she was said to have visited and had a cup of coffee on Tuesday morning.

She is staying in an Australian environment where she can still easily access the village,” Chesterman stated.

The 25-year-old is bidding to become only the second Australian in history to win a medal in the women’s singles at the Olympics. The first was Alicia Molik who claimed a bronze medal back in 2004.

During a recent interview with The ITF, Barty said playing at the event is a dream come true for her as she describes representing her country as the ‘highest honour.’

“Being an Olympian has always been a dream of mine as a kid, I think representing your country is the highest honour,” Barty told the ITF.
“For an Aussie it’s the best thing you can do and I can’t wait to have an opportunity to wear the green and gold.
“You’re playing for something bigger than yourself. You’re playing to represent your nation. You’re playing to make people proud and that’s not just with results it’s with your attitude.”

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Bianca Andreescu pulls out of Tokyo Olympics

The world number five has officially pulled out of the Olympics in Tokyo stating reasons due to the ongoing pandemic situation.

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Bianca Andreescu will not be making the trip to Tokyo to play in the Olympics after withdrawing due to the current pandemic situation.

 

The former US Open champion issued a statement concerning what she describes as a ‘difficult decision.’ Andreescu is the latest top name to pull out of the Olympics. Last week Nick Kyrgios also said he wouldn’t be playing for similar reasons. Due to a a surge of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo, the city has gone into a state of emergency which prompted organisers to ban spectators from attending Olympic events in the city. Athletes will be subjected to tough restrictions during their time at the event, as well as regular testing.

” I would like to inform you that I have made the very difficult decision to not play in the Tokyo Olympics later this month,” Andreescu wrote on Instagram. “I have been dreaming of representing Canada at the Olympics since I was a little girl but with all the challenges we are facing as it relates to the pandemic, I know that deep in my heart, this is the right decision to make for myself. I look forward to representing Canada in future Fed Cup ties, and competing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris! “

The Canadian hasn’t played since losing in the first round of Wimbledon to Alize Cornet of France and most recently split with her coach Sylvain Brunneau after a four-year partnership.

Her 2021 season has been up and down starting in Australia where she lost in the second round before making the semifinals at the Phillips Island Trophy event. She then made the final at the Miami Open before taking a fall in the final against Ash Barty and was forced to retire due to injury.

Then the clay-court season came and Andreescu tested positive for Covid. She was forced to miss events in Madrid and Rome, so she headed to Strasbourg for some preparation before the French Open. The world No.5 won two matches in Strasbourg before pulling out due to an ab injury. She then lost in the first round of the French Open.

The Canadian moved on to the grass-court season heading to Berlin but again would get upset in the first round by Alize Cornet before winning one round in Eastbourne and losing to Anett Kontaveit.

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