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Predicting The WTA Lockdown Winners And Losers

Ubitennis takes a look at some of the lockdown winners and losers on the WTA side ahead of Tennis’ restart.

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Bianca Andreescu (@TennisCanada - Twitter)

In the first part of assessing tennis’ restart from a five month hiatus, UBI Tennis looks at the potential lockdown winners and losers on the WTA Tour. 

 

After a five month hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the WTA Tour is due to return on the 3rd of August in Palermo, with events in Prague and Lexington following before the second grand slam of the season in New York. Although there is still doubt whether the US Open will happen, tennis’ top stars will be making their return at some point this season, so with that in mind it’s time to take a look at some of the players that may have benefited from the Lockdown and the players that may have their momentum halted. Firstly let’s take a look at the potential lockdown winners.

Lockdown Winners 

Bianca Andreescu 

Although the Canadian may not have played this year before the lockdown, the extra time off would have benefited the defending US Open champion. After suffering a serious knee injury at the WTA Finals in October, Andreescu has been spending time rehabilitating and recovering in time for her return. Although it is unclear whether the world number six will return this year, the 22 month ranking rule means that she won’t lose too many points in her absence from tennis and can take her time coming back to tennis as she looks to build on what was a sensational 2019 season. Bianca is definitely a lockdown winner.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_A0p6jja-3/

Johanna Konta 

Another potential lockdown winner is Johanna Konta, having started the year in terrible form having won three matches from her opening four tournaments. All three victories came at her last competitive tournament in Monterrey, where the highest ranked opponent she managed to defeat was at 84 in the world. This time off would have cleared her mind and also ensured that her niggling knee injury has fully recovered ahead of the semi-final points that she has to defend at Roland Garros. The time off has also allowed her to focus on other projects such as her self-titled podcast. Therefore Jo is a lockdown winner.

Naomi Osaka 

After a phenomenal end to the 2019 season, Naomi Osaka’s frailties were there to see before the lockdown as nerves got the best of her at the Australian Open in a present v future match against Coco Gauff. This third round loss in Melbourne was followed by her disastrous display in Spain at Fed Cup against Sara Sorribes Tormo on the 7th of February. Now Osaka has had six months to mentally and physically get in shape as well as earn praise for using her voice in a positive way as she continues to call out systematic racism. Is this the motivation she needs to raise her level on her return to tennis? This break could benefit Naomi massively, therefore she is a lockdown winner.

Notable Mentions:

Sloane Stephens: The American only managed to win one match in 2020 before lockdown, serving as a reminder that much work is to be done in order to get back to the form that won her the US Open in 2018. This break could help her mentally get back on track and return to winning form

Donna Vekic: The Croatian has only managed to win back-to-back matches at two tournaments since her US Open quarter-final and as a result split with her coach Torben Beltz just before resuming training. This lockdown would have been beneficial for the 24 year-old to get back to her roots and look to rediscover the form she produced in the American summer last year.

https://twitter.com/DonnaVekic/status/1280886772180844553

Lockdown Losers

Simona Halep

Just before lockdown, the Romanian managed to win her first title of 2020 at the Premier event in Dubai in a hard-fought final against Elena Rybakina. In-fact Halep had only lost two matches in 2020, winning the other 10. Therefore the lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time especially given the fact that coach Darren Cahill is still in Australia. Only time will tell whether Tennis’ long hiatus has managed to disrupt her momentum but it certainly can’t have been beneficial to the Wimbledon champion, therefore Simona is a lockdown loser.

Garbine Muguruza

Before lockdown, Muguruza was undergoing a rebirth of her grand slam winning form under Conchita Martinez, having reached the Australian Open final. Wins over Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Simona Halep saw the Spaniard rekindle that hard-hitting, confident form that has seen her win two grand slams. A Doha Quarter-Final loss to Ash Barty before the lockdown gave Muguruza something to think about but there is no denying that this lockdown has halted Muguruza’s momentum.

Aryna Sabalenka 

The big-hitting Belarusian entered lockdown having won another premier 5 tournament this time in Doha having beaten Petra Kvitová in the final. The world number 11 was in free-flowing form after her first round Australian Open defeat. Ultimately this is one of the reasons why she is one of the losers of tennis’ hiatus as she now has to rediscover her momentum in tough circumstances but as we all know when Sabalenka is playing her best tennis she is hard to stop.

Notable Mentions

Ash Barty: The world number one won Adelaide, reached the Australian Open and Doha Semi-Finals before lockdown and had her momentum halted. Furthermore travel restrictions from Australia means that it could be difficult for her to defend her Roland Garros title in October.

Petra Kvitová: The world number 12 won 12 matches in 2020 before the lockdown and was arguably the in-form player before lockdown and will need to get back into her rhythm when tennis returns

 

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Roger Federer trains with Dominic Stricker in Dubai

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Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has been training hard with his compatriot Dominic Stricker in Dubai, where he traditionally spends his off-season. Federer published a photo on his social media with Dominic Stricker, who won the Roland Garros Junior title and current world junior number three. 

 

Stricker made a comment on his Instagram account: 

“What three weeks. I really enjoyed every single minute in Dubai. What a great start to the new season. I am looking forward to playing some tournaments. Thanks to Roger Federer and his team for these great practices”, said Dominic Stricker. 

Federer will skip the Australian Open, but he may make his come-back in Rotterdam or Dubai. His main goals for the 2021 season are Wimbledon, the US Open and the Olympi Games in Tokyo. He has pulled out of the Australian Open because his wife Mirka did not approve of the quarantine conditions set out for his family. 

“Roger had two options. He could come with the whole family and quarantine. The problem is that Mirka and his children could not leave the room. They would have to stay 14 days in the room”, said Australian Open director of player relations Andre Sa. 

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The Rotterdam ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament will be held behind closed doors

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Organisers announced that the 48th edition of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament will be held behind closed doors from 1 to 7 March 2021 because of the current epidemiological situation and the measures to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

The tickets already sold for the 2021 edition will be moved to the 49th edition in 2022. It does not mean that there will not be fans in the arena. In the event that this turns out to be possible, fans, who have already bought the tickets, will be contacted. Because the capacity is expected to be limited with the latest information regarding the situation in the Netherlands, this will be announced at a later stage. It has alreaady decided to postpone the tickets from 2021 to 2022. 

“As much as we regret it, we are making the decision now to move all tickets for the coming edition to 2022. That way, every fan has the certainty that he or she can attend the tournament next year at the seat and the day he or she wants. Should it turn out last minute that we can offer tickets for 2021, we will give the people who have already tickets now the opportunity to be there”, said Rotterdam tournament Director Richard Kraijcek. 

The star-studded Rotterdam already features 2020 ATP Finals champion Danil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev (winner in Doha, Adelaide, Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Vienna in 2020), three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, former top 10 player and 2017 ATP Finals runner-up David Goffin, 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori and 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner. 

Medvedev will play in the Dutch city for the fourth time in his career. He made his debut at this tournament in 2018 as a qualifier, when he was ranked world number 57. He returned to Rotterdam in 2016 as world number 16. He reached the semifinal before losing to Gael Monfils, who went on to win the tournament. 

Wawrinka will make his fifth appearance in Rotterdam. The Swiss player has won 16 ATP titles, including Rotterdam in 2015, when he beat Tomas Berdych in the final. He won the Australian Open in 2014, Roland Garros in 2015 and the US Open in 2016 and reached a career-high of world number 3. He is one of the few players besides the big three to win multiple Grand Slam titles in the last decade. Wawrinka is now ranked world number 18. 

Nishikori will play in Rotterdam for the second time. The Japanese player reached the semifinal in 2019, when he was beaten by Wawrinka in three sets. Nishikori will chase the 13th title of his career. He claimed his first tournament in Delray Beach in 2008 and won five of his twelve titles in indoor court tournaments.  Sinner made his debut in Rotterdam in 2019 and beat then world number 10 David Goffin in straight sets, but he lost to Pablo Carreno Busta in the tie-break of the third set. World number 37 Sinner is the youngest player in the top 100 and won his first ATP Tour title in Sofia last November. 

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Dominic Thiem hopes that tennis will get back to normal in 2021

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World number 3 Dominic Thiem has travelled to Adelaide, where he is serving a two-week quarantine before heading to Melbourne for the second edition of the ATP Cup and the Australian Open. 

 

Thiem is aiming to win a second Grand Slam title after claiming the US Open trophy last September beating Alexander Zverev in the final. He clinched his Grand Slam title in his fourth final. 

“I have been on vacation a little longer than usual, and the training went well. For the first two and a half weeks, I only did fitness.  The presence of physio Alex Stober since the days before Christmas was very helpful. In the first week, I can play with a training partner and two others in the second set. We can also go out from the third week, probably for the first time without a mask since Indian Wells 2020. That is sensational. I hope that we can play throughout the entire year and repeat the results from the previous couple of years”,said Thiem.

Last year Thiem came back from two sets down to beat Zverev in a five-set tie-break at last September’s US Open after 4 hours and 2 minutes. He became the second Austrian player to win a Grand Slam title after Thomas Muster, who won the French Open in 1995. 

The Austrian player lost a five-set quarter final to Diego Schwartzman at the French Open in five hours and eight minutes. He was not able to reach the Roland Garros semifinal for the first time in five years. Thiem qualified for the semifinal in Paris in 2016 and 2017 and two consecutive finals in 2018 and 2019, finishing runner-up to Rafael Nadal both times. 

Thiem hopes that tennis will be back to normal after the pandemic affected the 2020 season. 

“I hope that we can play throughout the entire year and repeat the results from the previous couple of years. I also wish our lives get back to normal by the summer months”, said Thiem. 

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