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The WTA 2019 Scouting Report

With the new season already upon us, here’s a look at the prospects of the top WTA players.

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Serena Williams

Ended 2018: Did not play again following the infamous US Open final, where she lost to Naomi Osaka.
Starting 2019: At the exhibition team event, the Hopman Cup. She’ll team with Francis Tiafoe, and face Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic on the first day of the year.
Coaching Changes: None.
Prospects: In 2018, Serena made two Major finals coming off a year-long absence from the tour, and despite only playing seven tournaments on the year. The US Open incident will only make her more determined to win her 24th Major this year, which seems nearly inevitable.

Simona Halep

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Ended 2018: Ended her season early after injuring her back in September.
Starting 2019: Next week in Sydney.
Coaching Changes: She is without a head coach after Darren Cahill announced his departure in the offseason.
Prospects: The absence of Cahill will loom large over Halep in the new year. He’s one of the best coaches of all-time, and was the driving force behind Simona’s ascension to the top of the sport. I would expect Halep to hire a new coach as the season progresses, but for now she’ll proceed without a defining voice in her box. I suspect her results will suffer as a result.

Angelique Kerber

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Ended 2018: Going just 7-7 following her Wimbledon title.
Starting 2019: At the Hopman Cup teaming with Sascha Zverev, and will join Halep as the top two seeds in Brisbane.
Coaching Changes: She split with Wim Fisette right before the WTA Finals in October, and has hired former Australian Open Finalist Rainer Schuttler.
Prospects: Much like Halep, Kerber’s level of play will likely be heavily influenced by her coaching change. The split with Wim Fisette was puzzling considering their 2018 success, though it seems Fisette never sticks with the same player for very long. He’s already reunited with his former charge, Victoria Azarenka. I’m curious to see how the coaching relationship with Schuttler pans out, but I doubt this sudden coaching change will result in immediate success.

Caroline Wozniacki

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Ended 2018: Winning the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing before being eliminated in round robin play at the WTA Finals.
Starting 2019: This week in Auckland, where she is the top seed.
Coaching Changes: None. Wozniacki is one of the only WTA players to not partake in the WTA coaching carousel, with her father continuing to serve as her long-time coach.
Prospects: Defending her sole Major title from last year’s Australian Open will be a tall task, and an early loss in Melbourne would send her ranking plummeting out of the top eight. Wozniacki has spent the majority of the past 10 years ranked inside the top 10, yet is still only 28-years-old and could easily have many strong years on tour ahead of her. Another Major title is not out of the realm of possibility if Caroline remains healthy and more offensive-minded.

Elina Svitolina

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Ended 2018: Winning the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals.
Starting 2019: This week in Brisbane as the top seed.
Coaching Changes: Started working with Nick Saviano in September, with Andrew Bettles also remaining as a part of her team.
Prospects: Her 5-0 run at the WTA Finals should be just the boost she needs to finally get farther than the quarterfinals at a Major. Saviano was a big factor in the early success of both Sloane Stephens and Genie Bouchard. He’s already had a positive effect on Svitolina, and I see that continuing in 2019.

Naomi Osaka

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Ended 2018: Followed up her US Open victory by making the final in Tokyo and the semifinals in Beijing, but went 0-3 at the WTA Finals.
Starting 2019: Scheduled to play in both Brisbane and Sydney.
Coaching Changes: None. She’ll continue to work with Sasha Bajin in the new year.
Prospects: The US Open was a life-changing event for Osaka, sky-rocketing her fame and fortune to new heights. Shockingly, it did not have an immediate impact on her results, judging by her impressive runs in Tokyo and Beijing. But a post-Open slump seems inevitable as Osaka adjusts to her new reality, and it would be completely understandable if Naomi struggles as 2019 begins.

Sloane Stephens

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Ended 2018: Advancing to the final at the WTA Finals.
Starting 2019: Just like Osaka, she’s scheduled for both Brisbane and Sydney.
Coaching Changes: Kamau Murray recently told the New York Times that she and Sloane are “on a break,” and he will not be joining her in Australia.
Prospects: Stephens will likely be another player severely impacted by the absence of the coach that helped guide her to Grand Slam glory. And also like Halep, it sounds as if Sloane is going to Australian coach-less. I still expect Stephens’ future to include more Major titles, but not the immediate future.

Petra Kvitova

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Ended 2018: Went just 9-10 in the second half of 2018, including 0-3 at the WTA Finals.
Starting 2019: Will be the fourth seed in Brisbane this week.
Coaching Changes: None.
Prospects: Kvitova led the WTA with five titles in 2018, but had nothing left come the last four months of the season. And Petra went just 4-4 at the Majors last year, so I’m sure her goal for 2019 will be to focus her energies on those events. Her results have always been inconsistent, but her recent record at Wimbledon has developed into a concerning pattern. The two-time Wimbledon champion made the quarterfinals or better every year between 2010 and 2014. But in the four years since, she’s 4-4 at The All England Club. Kvitova has long battled asthma, with many speculating it’s been a significant factor in her recent results at SW19. Let’s hope the easy-to-root-for champion finds a way to again compete for the Venus Rosewater Dish. Her chances at the other Grand Slam events may be slim, as she hasn’t reached a semifinal at a non-grass Major since 2012.

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Past Champions Wozniacki and Kerber Cruise Into Third Round

Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber continued their search for a second Australian Open with comfortable second round wins.

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Caroline Wozniacki (zimbio.com)

Past Australian Open champions Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber cruised into the third round with straight sets wins. 

The defending champion Wozniacki made it back-t0-back wins with a crushing 6-1 6-3 win over Sweden’s Johanna Larsson.

While 2016 champion Angelique Kerber proved why she is one of the favourites for the title after a 6-2 6-3 win against Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia.

The German will now play Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell after she stunned Donna Vekic while Wozniacki could face Maria Sharapova on Friday.

Although it was Wozniacki’s first time of defending a grand slam title, she sure hasn’t looked nervous so far as she went too work against the world number 77.

A break to love in the second game sealed a good start as the Swede was made to pay for early match nerves. In this Scandinavian clash the Dane had 10 break point opportunities as she continued to be aggressive.

After a second break in the sixth, the clinical Wozniacki sealed the opening set in 28 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

The second set provided fans with a similar pattern as the Dane assumed control by breaking in the third game to love for a 2-0 lead.

Even though Larsson created a couple break points, she wasn’t aggressive in the big moments to capitalise as Wozniacki sealed her fourth break of the match to book her place in the last 32.

A great performance from Wozniacki, who is sending a real message that she has no plans of giving up her title without a fight.

The win from the world number three means she could face Maria Sharapova in the next round, who still has to play Johanna Larsson.

Kerber Continues Good Form

Another player who is sending a real message in world number two and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber who dropped five games in a great win over Beatriz Haddad Maia.

The Brazilian qualifier had to work very hard to keep hold of her serves but was broken three times without reply as the Kerber advanced to the last 32.

In the next round Kerber will now play Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell after she knocked out 29th seed Donna Vekic 6-4 4-6 6-1.

The world number 200 is making the most of her Aussie summer as she makes the last 32 of her own slam after sealing her first top 10 win in Brisbane earlier this year against Daria Kasatkina.

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Angelique Kerber Eases Past Hercog, Goerges Ousted By Collins

Angelique Kerber set a marker for the rest of the tournament to follow after crushing Polona Hercog 6-2 6-2 in a dominant display in Melbourne.

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Angelique Kerber (zimbio.com)

Angelique Kerber sent a message to the rest of the field after she thrashed Slovenia Polona Hercog 6-2 6-2. 

The world number two has looked impressive all season and continued that form by dropping only four games in her Australian Open opener.

A clinical Kerber converted four of five break point opportunities to seal a comfortable first round win and will face Beatriz Haddad Maia in the next round.

However the Melbourne heat got the better of 14th seed as she was ousted out of the Australian Open by in-form Danielle Collins 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4.

The 2016 champion headed into this year’s Australian Open having won five of her six matches to start the season in Hopman Cup and Sydney, with her only defeating coming to Petra Kvitova.

It was easy to see why she was one of the favourites to win the title early on as she dominated the Slovenian early on with her impeccable groundstrokes.

A 4-1 lead was secured in very quick fashion as the world number 92 was facing a very difficult task to try and outsmart the three time grand slam champion.

The 30 year old was only forced to save one break point in the first set as she won the opener in 38 minutes. Although Hercog had forced the issue a bit more in the second set, the same result was produced as Kerber opened up another 4-1 lead.

The Slovenian failed to convert any of her three break points as her 47 unforced errors would prove costly. Eventually Kerber served out a 74 minute win to progress into the next round.

After the match the German stated that she felt good despite the heat, “I am feeling and my body was feeling good and I’m happy I could play a little more than one hour today.”

The German who will be seen as a favourite for the tournament will now play Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the next round.

Goerges Stunned By Heat And Collins

However it wasn’t a good day for another German as 14th seed Julia Goerges crashed out in a three set defeat to powerful American Danielle Collins.

The American played a very good last set and a half to take out the Auckland winner 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 in brutal heat. The loss will be even more frustrating for Goerges who served for the match at 6-5 in the second set.

It’s good news for Kerber though as she was scheduled to play Goerges in the fourth round and will now avoid the big-serving German in the last 16.

As for Danielle Collins she could produce a big threat in the tournament as she has an all-American clash with Sachia Vickery in the next round.

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Serena’s Bid, Halep’s Test and Wozniacki’s Mission: Five Australian Open Storylines To Follow In The Women’s Draw

What will the always unpredictable WTA Tour produce in Melbourne Park this year?

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It has been almost four years since the same woman won two grand slam titles in a row. The WTA Tour is renowned for its unpredictability, which draws an equal amount of criticism and excitement from fans. There is no telling what that this year’s Australian Open will bring, but here are the main topic’s to follow in the women’s draw.

Serena eyes No.24

During her comeback season last year, it was a case of so near, but so far for Serena Williams. Twice the American came within touching distance of equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record for most grand slam titles. At Wimbledon, she suffered a comprehensive defeat to Angelique Kerber. Then at the US Open she was outplayed by Naomi Osaka in a final that was overshadowed by her clash with umpire Carlos Ramos.

“Last year she made an incredible effort to come back in shape after having a baby and actually she came back in a decent shape quite fast,” Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou said.
“It was a big deal. She had a lot of medical issues after the delivery but she definitely was not 100 percent.
“And I think she’s fitter now … she came back (this season) to a very, very high level of fitness.
“So she’s ready. She’s ready to compete and when Serena’s ready to compete, she’s ready to win.”

Already a seven-time Australian Open champion, should she win again Williams would become the most successful female player in the Open Era to ever participate at the tournament. Her first triumph was in 2003 and last was in 2017, when she defeated sister Venus in the final.

“I think it’s possible for Serena to equal me,” Court told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper Sunday. “If anybody’s gonna do it, it’s Serena, but I don’t think there’s a clear-cut favourite.
“I think it’s a pretty open tournament and I think an outsider can win it.”

Williams is yet to play a WTA Tournament this season heading into Melbourne. The only indication her current form occurred on December 27th when she defeated Venus in an exhibition match at Mubadala World Tennis Championships.

The former world No.1 will make her 18th appearance in the main draw. The event where she made her grand slam debut back in 1998. At present she has a 89% winning record at the event (81-10).

Williams will take on Tatjana Maria in the first round.

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