In some way 15-year-old Coco Gauff went through two campaigns at this year’s Linz Ladies Open in Austria.
In the qualifying draw, she rallied back from a set down in her opening match to defeat Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova 6-7(10), 6-2, 6-2. However, her run was ended at the next stage by Tamara Korpatsch. Seemingly ending her campaign at the tournament until a stroke of luck came her way.
The withdrawal of Greece’s Maria Sakkari paved way for a vacant lucky loser spot, which was filled in by Gauff. It marked the start of what turned out to be another sensational week for the rising star. Who made headlines earlier this year by reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon in what was her grand slam debut. Coming through the first two rounds, she faced top seed Kiki Bertens in the quarter-finals. A world No.8 who is 12 years older than her. Despite the gap in experience, the American prevailed in straight sets to claim her first ever win over a top 10 player.
“There have been a lot of firsts this week,” Gauff told reporters on Friday. “I’m really happy and proud of how I’m playing.
“Kiki was playing well and there was just a difference of one or two points.
“I’m glad I was able to come out on top. I’ve really gotten a lot of support from the crowd.”
Continuing her momentum with a win over another veteran player in the form of Andrea Petkovic, Gauff faced Jelena Ostapenko in the final on Sunday. A former French Open champion who has experienced a roller coaster season. Gauff’s fairytale run concluded with a happy ending as she outlasted the Latvian 6-3, 1-6, 6-2. Becoming the youngest WTA champion since Nicola Vaidisova back in 2004.
“I’m still overwhelmed and shocked,” the newly crowned Linz champion said of her triumph. “I guess it’s crazy to say it’s my first WTA title. This was definitely not on the calendar at the beginning of the year, because I didn’t think I’d have a chance to get in, and now I’m the champion, so it’s crazy.”
— USTA (@usta) October 13, 2019
There are many impressive aspects to Gauff latest run in the European country. Midway through the tournament she ensured that she would break into the top 100 for the first time on Monday. A goal she set out at the start of the season when she was only ranked 685th.
Despite her young age, the American is already becoming a household name. Signing numerous endorsement deals with brands such as Barilla and New Balance worth thousands. She is currently managed by Team8, which is a management company co-founded by Roger Federer.
“It’s kind of tough now, I guess, because you meet a lot of famous people. I guess you feel nervous and have to kind of portray a different person to them, but I always remind myself that it is ok to be myself.”
Due to her age, Gauff is still restricted as to how many tournaments she is allowed to play. The WTA age rule is used to prevent young players from suffering an early burn out. Inspired by the turbulent journey experienced by Jenifier Capriati as a teenager. Something that frustrates some people in the industry, including Patrick Mouratoglou.
“Age is a number,” Mouratoglou told Sky Sports.
“That is why I don’t like the rule. Some people are immature at 25, some people are mature at 15. I think ‘Coco’ is incredibly mature for her age.”
“She has very high expectations,” he added.
The season isn’t quite over yet for Gauff. She will shortly be travelling to Luxembourg to play her final tournament of 2019. She will play Russian eighth seed Anna Blinkova in her opening match.
Dayana Yastremska Appoints Former Naomi Osaka Mentor As Coach
The youngster is hoping to build on her 2019 breakthrough next year with a new coach by her side.
Rising star Dayana Yastremska will head into the 2020 season under new guidance of the 2018 WTA Coach of the Year winner Sasha Bajin.
The 19-year-old confirmed her new coach in a Facebook post published on Thursday morning. Bajin is best known for his work with former world No.1 Naomi Osaka, who won two grand slam titles whilst working with him, as well as her first Premier title in Indian Wells. The two ended their collaboration shortly after the Australian Open earlier this year. Since then, Bajin briefly worked with Kristina Mladenovic before deciding to depart.
“I am very happy to share the news that I am starting the 2020 season with a new coach!” Yastremska wrote.
“I am extremely happy, and I am very excited to start our collaboration as it is going to be very interesting and impressive work. I am confident that he (Bajin) can help me in achieving my ambitions.’
“I’m Super excited for the beginning of our pre-season preparation and I am confident that everything works out!”
In recent weeks there has been speculation about the two joining forces on the tour. During the WTA Elite finals in China, the world No.22 was asked about the rumours concerning her team speaking with Bajin. However, at the time she dodged the question by replying ‘I would like to build a great team, but for now I won’t say anything about it.’
Yastremska has enjoyed her best season on the tour yet in his career and broke into the world’s top 30 back in September. She is currently at a career ranking high of 22nd. On the tour in 2019, the Ukrainian has clinched two WTA titles in Hua Hin and Strasburg. In the grand slams, she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time.
As of this week, Yastremska is one of only four players under the age of 20 who are in the world’s top 30.
Elsewhere on the WTA Tour there has been another development on the coaching front. Former world No.1 Angelique Kerber has confirmed that she will be working with Didi Kindlmann. A former hitting partner with Maria Sharapova, who have previously worked with Elise Mertens and Ajla Tomljanović. Kerber is currently ranked 20th in the world compared to 12 months ago when she was in second spot.
As much as I’ve enjoyed my time off, I’m excited to get back into training. Happy to announce that Didi Kindlmann will be joining my team as the new coach! Work starts here, and I‘m thankful for the people in my team that share the same vision moving forward! #TeamAngie pic.twitter.com/Y6p1YSppyq
— Angelique Kerber (@AngeliqueKerber) November 21, 2019
Dominika Cibulkova announces her retirement from tennis
Dominika Cibulkova has announced her retirement from professional tennis at an event in her home town of Bratislava. The 30-year-old Slovakian player won eight titles on hard-court, grass, and indoor surfaces and achieved her career-high of world number 4 on 20th March 2017.
Cibulkova reached the semifinal at the 2009 Roland Garros, three quarter-finals at Wimbledon (i2011, 2016 and 2018) and the quarter-final at the US Open in 2010. She became the first Slovakian player to reach a Grand Slam final when she finished runner-up to Li Na at the 2014 Australian Open. She achieved the best result of her career in October 2016, when she beat former world number 1 Angelique Kerber at the WTA Finals in Singapore to clinch the Billie Jean King Trophy. That year Dominika won three more titles at Katowice, Eastbourne, and Linz. She also finished runner-up in Acapulco, Madrid, and Wuhan.
“It wasn’t just winning the WTA Finals, but also the road to qualifying, which was really hard. I had to win in Linz just to make it there. While winning Singapore was the biggest moment of my career and life, winning Linz and the way I had to fight to get there, the fact that I was able to do it and belong among the best players in the world”, said Cibulkova in an interview to the WTA Website.
Cibulkova also won four more titles in Moscow 2011, Carlsbad 2012, Stanford 2013 and Acapulco 2014.
She represented the Slovak Republic at two editions of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and has scored a record of 22 wins and 11 defeats in her Fed Cup appearances.
Cibulkova decided Roland Garros would be the final tournament of her career.
“It wasn’t a decision where I woke up and thought: “I don’t want to play anymore”. It was a long process. I was already convinced by the time I played Azarenka in Miami, that this could be my last match. It was strange because I knew, and no one around me except my team knew it would be my last tournament. At that point, I was 100 percent sure. I was not doubting or thinking: maybe yes or no. I knew I wanted to do it like this, for this to be my last tournament. I went home and I was happy with my decision. It’s really hard to make it, but once you do, you more free. I feel like this life has been fulfilled for me, and I want to start a new one. I was already feeling like the tennis life is really tough, with all the traveling and training, giving 100 % every day. I started to get tired of it. In the end, I gave enough and achieved things I never dreamed of reaching in my career ”, said Cibulkova.
Karolina Pliskova Splits From Coach With A Possible Replacement Already In The Pipeline
The Czech made the surprise announcement on social media as she enters negotiations with an unnamed individual.
World No.2 Karolina Pliskova has ended her collaboration with Conchita Martinez after working together for more than a year.
Pliskova, who has won four WTA titles this season, had been working with the Spaniard since the 2018 US Open. She originally joined the team on a part-time basis before being upgraded to a full-time position in February this year. Martinez is a former player best known for winning the 1994 Wimbledon Championships.
“I decided I will no longer work with Conchita,” Pliskova posted on Instagram. “It was a tough decision, as the season was great. Thank you for all this year, and wish you only the best. Life is a change!”
The decision comes after what has been a solid year on the tour for the 27-year-old. Overall, she has won 51 out of 68 matches played. Recording five wins over top five opponents. In the grand slams she reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in what was her best ever performance at the tournament. However, she failed to repeat that success at the other three majors. Reaching the third round of the French Open followed by the last 16 in both Wimbledon and the US Open.
“Just a little note to inform you that Karolina and I have decided to take different paths next year.” Martinez wrote in a statement. “It has been an incredible year full of great moments and emotions. I wish Kaja and her team the best for the future.”
It may not be long before the identity of who replaces Martinez is revealed. Michal Hrdlicka, who is Pliskova’s manager and husband, has confirmed to Czech News Agency CTK that discussions are underway with an unnamed individual.
“After the Champions Tournament (WTA Finals), we started negotiations on the engagement of a new coach. Negotiations are underway and we will inform the fans when they are over.” He said.
In her last tournament of 2019, Pliskova reached the semi-finals of the WTA Finals. She was knocked out of the event by top seed Barty who went on to win the title.
Pliskova has finished the year ranked No.2 on the WTA rankings. The highest year-end ranking she has ever achieved so far in her career.
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