The 2018 WTA Season Review - UBITENNIS
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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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Daria Kasatkina Continues To Struggle As Seeds Tumble In Miami

Daria Kasatkina lost her seventh match of the year to Venus Williams, while Mertens, Sevastova and Collins were also knocked out.

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When she arrived in Miami last year, Daria Kasatkina had already won 13 matches and had just played in the biggest final of her career at Indian Wells.

This time, it was a very different story, as she started her second round match in search of only her fourth win of the year.

Encouragingly, the Russian beat 15-year-old star-of-the-future Cori Gauff 6-3 6-2 to give herself something to build on.

But the optimism did not last long. Kasatkina failed to hold serve at any time during her humbling 6-3 6-1 loss to Venus Williams.

It was an extraordinary performance for all the wrong reasons, and it is easy to imagine just how depressed the Russian will be feeling about it.

Furthermore, the ease of the scoreline does not make sense when compared to the players’ three previous encounters.

All those matches, at Wimbledon, Indian Wells and Auckland respectively, were closely-fought contests that went the distance. In addition, Kasatkina won two of them, which makes the contrast even starker.

Given this evidence, it is clear something is not right with the Russian, and she will need to find a way of regaining her form soon to avoid a dramatic slide down the rankings.

Mertens, Sevastova and Collins Crash Out

In February, Elise Mertens produced the best tennis of her life to beat Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep and claim her first Premier title in Doha.

Since then, she has suffered one first-round loss and two second-round losses. The latest of those came today against Marketa Vondrousova.

It was a close encounter, and there was nothing to choose between the two players until the Czech teenager earned a break in the ninth game to move 5-4 ahead.

The second set was even tighter. Both players served better to take it all the way to a tie-break, which Vondrousova won.

Anastasija Sevastova also experienced an unexpected loss. She was defeated 1-6 6-2 6-3 by Yulia Putintseva.

Although she played well in the first set and a half, she was unable to sustain that level throughout the match and her Kazakhstani opponent took full advantage.

Danielle Collins became the third seeded casualty of the day when she lost 7-5 6-1 to rising star Wang Yafan.

The Chinese player has enjoyed an extraordinary recent run of results. She beat Donna Vekic and Sofia Kenin en route to her first WTA title in Acapulco.

Wang then beat Kristina Mladenovic and Elina Svitolina, both in straight sets, to set up a meeting with Collins. In the last 16, she will face the highest-ranked player from her country: Wang Qiang.

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Angelique Kerber Exits Miami By Branding Andreescu A ‘Drama Queen’

It was a very frosty ending to the match between the two at the Hard Rock Stadium.

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Angelique Kerber (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Angelique Kerber’s run at the 2019 Miami Open won’t be remembered so much for tennis, but for the words she said following her final match.

The two-time grand slam champion bowed out 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, in the third round on Saturday night to Bianca Andreescu. Suffering her second loss to the Canadian in as many weeks following their clash in the final at Indian Wells. During what was a tense encounter between those two, the match was overshadowed by a frosty handshake at the end. During which Kerber called the 18-year-old “the biggest drama queen ever.

Questioned about the comment afterwards, world No.24 Andreescu said she didn’t hear what was said at the time. She is now on a 10-match winning streak and is undefeated against top 10 opposition this year. Andreescu ended 2018 ranked 178th in the world.

“She said something, but I’m not sure what,” New York Times journalist Ben Rothenberg quoted her as saying. “I just didn’t say anything, whatever, I’m not trying to focus on that. I’ll just let my tennis talk.”

It is unclear as to what lead up to the jibe from Kerber. During their match in Indian Wells, Andressce requested a medical time out during the deciding set. Something that might have been interpreted as a tactical time out. However, the teenager did have a couple minor injury issues coming into that match. Nevertheless, Kerber praised her afterwards.

“She played good, especially in the third set. When she had the chances, she just goes for it. Yeah, she put the balls in the court. At the end, she deserved to win.” The German said.
“She played the whole tournament good. I know that I had to play my best tennis. But, yeah, at the end, I was not able to take my chances, but she did it.” Kerber added.

Following her latest loss, Journalist Jannik Schneider described Kerber as ‘downhearted’ as she addressed the media in the mixed zone at the Miami Open. Revealing that the 31-year-old currently has some sort of thigh issue, but it is unclear how severe it is. Could Kerber’s words be out of frustration and nothing other than that?


Next up for Andreescu will be Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in the fourth round.

 

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Injured Serena Williams Quits Miami

It is bad news for the former world No.1.

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Serena Williams (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Miami Open on Saturday after battling through a roller-coaster second round clash on the previous day.

A statement confirmed that the former world No.1 has been forced out of the tournament due to a left knee injury. Williams made her debut at the tournament this year on Friday with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, win over Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. She is an eight-time champion in Miami, which moved to the Hard Rock Stadium this year. However, her last triumph was back in 2015.

“I am disappointed to withdraw from the Miami Open due to a left knee injury,” Williams said in a press release. “It was an amazing experience to play at the Hard Rock Stadium this year and I would like to thank the Miami Open for putting on an amazing event. I hope to be back next year to play at this one-of-a-king tournament in front of the incredible fans here in Miami.”

It is the second consecutive tournament, which the American player has been forced to retire from. At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Williams retired during her match against Garbine Muguruza due to a viral illness.

“It’s definitely not easy at all. But I’m through it. That’s that. I just got to get my game back to where I know it can be.” She said commented recovering from the illness on Friday.

No details have been released about the severity of the issue. The 37-year-old has been hampered by numerous issues with her knees throughout her career. Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, once said her knee cartilage “was not gone, not all of it, but a big part.” It was a left knee problem that forced Williams out of the 2017 edition of Indian Wells.

As a consequence, China’s Wang Qiang has received a walkover into the fourth round in Miami. Wang will play either compatriot Wang Yafan or Australian Open semi-finalist Danielle Collins.

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