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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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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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Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Happy’ To Follow In Grandfather’s Footsteps At Olympics

The Greek speaks out about carrying his family’s legacy at the Games.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas never met his grandfather but the two of them do have something in common – they are both Olympians.

 

The world No.4 has already created history in Tokyo by winning his first round match against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Sunday to become the first male player from his country to win a singles match since 1924. Greece has won two medals at the Games but both of them were during its inaugural edition back in 1896.

Tsitsipas’ debut in Tokyo enables him to continue his family legacy of playing in the sporting extravaganza. His grandfather was Sergei Salnikov who played football for the Soviet Union during the 1950s. In 1956 Salnikov was part of the team who won Olympic gold in Melbourne. After retiring from the sport, he went on to manage the FC Spartak Moscow and the Afghanistan national team before passing away in 1984 aged 58.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him. But my mom told me stories of his career and how he got it…. He kind of inspires me in a way,” said Tsitsipas. “I know what kind of athlete he was, with all the achievements and all the trophies. I’m proud of him.
“It’s something good, a legacy that is being carried on in the family. I’m happy to be the next in the family to be competing at the Olympics.”

It isn’t just a medal in the singles Tsitsipas has his eyes on, he will also be bidding for success in the mixed doubles alongside Maria Sakkari. The two previously paired up at the 2019 Hopman Cup where they finished second in their group.

“We have already played once (together), and we had great success,” Sakkari told reporters on Monday. “We know each other really well, and we are much better players two-and-a-half years later, and we are both really pumped to play together. Of course, I cannot predict that we will get a medal. We will try our best and I think we give ourselves the best chance we can.”

Tsitsipas will return to action tomorrow in the men’s singles where he will play Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

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Carlos Alcaraz becomes the youngest ever champion at ATP Tour level since Kei Nishikori in 2008

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Carlos Alcaraz beat Richard Gasquet 6-2 6-2 in the final of the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag becoming the youngest ever champion at ATP Tour level since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori in Delray Beach in 2008 and the youngest Spanish ATP Tour champion since RafaelNadal in Sopot 2004. 

 

Alcaraz earned his first break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead with an inside-in forehand winner and he never looked back by holding his next service games. The Spanish teenager broke serve in the third game as Gasquet made a double fault. Alcaraz converted his third break point in the fifth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Gasquet earned three break points but he was not able to convert them. 

“I had a lot of good moments in this tournament. I beat five great tennis players. I think that I grew up a lot in this tournament and  I keep a lot of experience from this tournament. It’s going to be useful for the future”, said Alcaraz. 

Gasquet was aiming to win his first ATP Tour title since s’Hertogenbosch in 2018. 

“It was tough for me to play with his full intensity. I had a tough match yesterday. It was tough, and especially with a guy like Carlos, who is playing really fast with a lot of energy and spin. He is playing unbeievable. He is only 18 and of course he had a great future and Ijust could not play at his level and his intensity”, said Gasquet. 

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