The 2020 WTA Season Review - UBITENNIS
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The 2020 WTA Season Review

Ubitennis.net looks back on the highlights of the WTA season which was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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2020 saw women’s professional tennis halted at one stage for almost five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic but still there were plenty of success stories.

 

The Grand Slams saw rising stars Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek establish themselves as the next generation of players ready to break out. Simona Halep clinched titles in Dubai, Prague and Rome to become one of only two players to have won three WTA titles this year. The other is Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka. Other notable events that took place included Naomi Osaka’s run to the US Open title whilst highlighting the black lives matter movement and the resurgence of Victoria Azarenkz.

A lot has happened over the past 12 months and here is a review of this year’s WTA award winners.

Best WTA Player of the Year: Sofia Kenin

Sofia Kenin is the only player to reach two Grand Slam finals in 2020. In January she claimed her first Australian Open trophy to become the youngest US player to win a Grand Slam women’s singles title since Serena Williams in 2002. Kenin dropped just a set en route to the final against Coco Gauff in the fourth round. The US player of Russian origin upset world number 1 and 2019 Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty in the semifinal before beating two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza in the final.

When the WTA Tour resumed following the pandemic-related break, Kenin reached the fourth round at the US Open before losing to Elise Mertens. She continued her successful Grand Slam season at Roland Garros, where she won four three-set matches during her first five matches before beating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. Kenin lost to Polish rising star Iga Swiatek in the final. She reached a career-high of world number 4 in the WTA Rankings.

The WTA Rising Star of the season: Iga Swiatek

Polish rising star Iga Swiatek won her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros at the age of 19 to become the first player from her country to win a Grand Slam title. She is the youngest women’s singles champion at the French Open since Monica Seles in 1992.

The teenager, who won the Wimbledon Junior title in 2018, beat Marketa Vondrousova in the opening round and then later in the tournament top seed Simona Halep, who was on a 17-match win streak. Swiatek beat Sofia Kenin in the final to become the lowest ranked French Open champion in the history of the WTA Rankings. She is the first Polish player to reach a Grand Slam final since Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon in 2012.

She didn’t drop a set during the whole French Open tournament and lost just 23 games. The number of games she lost in total during the tournament was tied for the second-lowest among French Open singles champions behind the 20 games Steffi Graf lost in 1988.

Swiatek rose from world number 54 to number 17 in the world after her win in the French Open final.

Swiatek also reached the French Open semifinal in the doubles tournament teaming up with Nicole Melichar.

Iga Swiatek: “I am just proud of myself. I have done a great job in the past two weeks. I wasn’t expecting to win this trophy. It’s obviously amazing for me. It’s a life-changing experience. I never would have thought that I was going to be in the final. It’s crazy. I just kept believing in myself. It’s like a dream come true. Basically I was a little bit overwhelmed”.

Iga’s father Tomasz was an Olympic rower who competed in the quadruple sculls even at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Swiatek combines her tennis career with school. Her favourite subject is mathematics. She decided to put off going to the University to focus on her tennis career.

“Right now it’s going to be hard to make a decision to go back to studying because I feel like really I can achieve big things. I just want to focus on that, but I am only 19, so a lot can change during a few years. We are going to see. Maybe I am going to be hungry for knowledge. I am not going to make a decision right now. I want to have two gap years to see how my tennis is going to develop when I don’t have other things in my life. So I just want to fully focus on that. It depends. If I am going to be top 10 and I am going to be fighting for Grand Slams, then for sure I am not going to have time for the university. I am going to work more on my career, but if I am in the top 100 for a few years, then I am going to go the university”.

Matches of the year:

Simona Halep beat Elena Rybakina 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Former world number 1 Simona Halep clinched her 20th career title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after beating Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in a third-set tie-break in the best WTA Match of the Year.

Halep came back from a break down at 3-1 in the third set to beat Rybakina 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5). Halep broke back immediately in the next game and held on her serve before breaking for the second time to take a 6-5 lead. Halep was not able to reach the match point, as she was serving for the match in the next game. Rybakina broke back to force the match to tie-break. Rybakina earned a mini-break to take a 4-3 lead, but Halep got the mini-break back with a forehand winner. Halep earned the only match point after Rybakina hit a backhand wide, and converted it to secure the tie-break 7-5.

With her 20th career title Halep has tied Victoria Azarenka in sixth place on the list of active title winners behind Serena and Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova.

Naomi Osaka beat Victoria Azarenka 1-6 6-3 6-3

Japanese star Naomi Osaka claimed her second US Open title and her third Grand Slam trophy beating Victoria Azarenka 1-6 6-3 6-3. Osaka came back from a set and break down by winning ten of the next twelve games. Osaka broke serve in the fourth game of the third set and saved three break points to hold serve for 4-1. Azarenka saved four break points to hold before breaking serve in the seventh game for 3-4. Osaka broke again to open up a 5-3 lead. Azarenka saved a championship point but Osaka sealed the win on her second opportunity after a 13-shot rally.

Osaka is the first woman in 25 years to come back from a set down to win the US Open final. The 22-year-old Asian player becomes the youngest three-time Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova.

Naomi Osaka: “For me it was a really an incredible moment. I am really glad I did it. I was thinking about all the times I have watched the great players sort of collapse onto the ground and look up into the sky. In the end all I focus on is what I can control on the tennis court. That’s what I did in 2018 when I won my first US Open. I feel like that’s what I did this time”.

The Most Consistent Players of the Year:

Aryna Sabalenka

Aryna Sabalenka won three WTA titles this season in Doha, Ostrava and Linz and ended the year in the top ten of the WTA. During her career Sabalenka won five of her eight titles in autumn tournaments.

Sabalenka beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 6-3 in the semifinal and Petra Kvitova 6-3 6-3 in the final in Doha.

The Belarusian player beat Coco Gauff in the deciding tie-break in the Ostrava first round. She then came back from 0-6 0-4 by winning 12 consecutive games to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 0-6 6-4 6-0. She went on to beat Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-4 in the semifinal and Victoria Azarenka 6-2 6-2 in the final to claim the seventh WTA title of her career.

Sabalenka also won her fourth career doubles title with Elise Mertens in the Ostrava final beating Gabriela Dabrowski and Luisa Stefani 6-1 6-3.

Sabalenka beat her friend and doubles partner Elise Mertens 7-5 6-2 to win her third title of the season and her eighth career trophy at the season-ending Upper Austria Ladies Open. Sabalenka tied Simona Halep for most titles won this season.

“This is something amazing. This was the perfect end of my season”, said Sabalenka.

Sabalenka achieved her best result at Grand Slam level, where she reached the third round at Roland Garros before losing to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.

Simona Halep

Reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep came back from one set down to claim the 20th WTA title of her career in Dubai beating Elena Rybakina 3-6 6-3 7-6 in the final. Halep won the Dubai tournament for the second time in her career.

The world number 2 in the world added two more WTA titles in Prague beating Elise Mertens 6-2 7-5 and at the Rome Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where she was leading 6-0 2-1, as her opponent Karolina Pliskova was forced to retire due to an injury problem.

Halep reached the quarter final in Brisbane before losing to Aryna Sabalenka. At the Australian Open the Romanian star beat Elise Mertens in the fourth round before losing to Garbine Muguruza in the semi-final.

The Comeback of the year: Victoria Azarenka

Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka came back from one set down to beat Serena Williams 1-6 6-3 6-3 to reach the US Final. Azarenka advanced to her first Grand Slam final since Williams beat her in the US Open final in 2013. Azarenka scored her first win over Williams in a Grand Slam match.

Azarenka won the Western and Southern Open title in New York via walkover after Naomi Osaka withdrew from the match due to a hamstring injury. This was Azarenka’s first title since the 2016 Miami Open and since the birth of her son Leo.

The Belarusian player beat Venus Williams and Sofia Kenin at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome before losing to Garbine Muguruza in the quarter finals.

Azarenka lost to Sabalenka 6-2 6-2 in the final of the Ostrava Open.

The rising star of the year: Elena Rybakina

Elena Rybakina has led the WTA Tour in finals and match wins during the 2020 season. The Kazakh player reached four finals in her first five tournaments. After losing her first final of the season against Ekaterina Aleksandrova at the Shenzhen Open, Rybakina beat Zhang Shuai to claim her second career WTA title in Hobart. Rybakina reached two more finals, finishing runner-up to Kiki Bertens in St. Petersburg and to Simona Halep in Dubai. Rybakina enjoyed a great Dubai tournament where she beat two top 10 players Sofia Kenin and Karolina Pliskova.

After the tour resumed following the lockdown Rybakina reached her fifth final of the season in Strasbourg, where she was beaten by Elina Svitolina.

Best WTA doubles team of the year: Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic

Timea Babos from Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic from France claimed two Grand Slam doubles titles at the Australian Open and at French Open in 2020. They beat Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-Wei 6-2 6-1 in the final of the Australian Open.

Babos and Mladenovic won their second consecutive French Open title beating Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk 6-4 7-5.

Timea Babos: “I am really happy to take the US Open title here. It’s somehow very special. I always say it’s special, but this time it’s different. It’s like a weird feeling. It’s even hard to describe. It’s a relief. I am always honest. I think this was the worst match we played in a very long time. I think we need again a little bit of time to really understand what happened”.

The Breakthrough of the Year: Martina Trevisan

Martina Trevisan came through the qualifying round at Roland Garros to set up an all-Italian clash against Camila Giorgi, who retired from the match due to an injury. Trevisan beat Coco Gauff in three sets to reach the Grand Slam third round for the first time. The Italian 27-year-old player came back from losing the first set 1-6 to beat Maria Sakkari to advance to the fourth round. Trevisan upset Kiki Bertens in straight sets before losing to Iga Swiatek in the quarter final.

Trevisan made her Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open after beating former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard in the qualifying round. She lost to eventual champion Sofia Kenin in the first round.

Trevisan, who is the younger sister of tennis player Matteo Trevisan, reached the semifinals at both the French Open girls’ doubles and the Wimbledon girls’ doubles championships.

ATP

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina beats Hubert Hurkacz to reach the quarter final in Montpellier

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Alejandro Davidovich Fokina came back from 1-3 in the opening set and converted four of the ten break points to claim a 7-5 6-2 win over Hubert Hurkacz in 1 hour and 34 minutes at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. 

 

Hurkacz went up a break in the fourth game at deuce to take a 3-1 lead. Davidovich Fokina broke back in the fifth game at 15 and held serve to draw level to 3-3. Hurkacz saved a break point in the seventh game to hold serve after two deuces. Davidovich Fokina converted his second break point in the 11th game to win the first set 7-5. 

Hurkacz saved three break points in the third game of the second set, but Davidovich Fokina broke twice in the fifth and seventh games at deuce to win the final four games from 2-2 securing his spot in the quarter final. 

The 21-year-old Spanish player set up a quarter final against Egor Gerasimov, who knocked out Aljaz Bedene 6-4 7-6 (7-4) after 1 hour and 51 minutes. Bedene converted his second break point at deuce in the first game. Gerasimov broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Gerasimov closed out the first set 6-4 with a break on his opportunity in the 10th game.

Bedene went up a break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. Gerasimov broke back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5. Gerasimov earned five match points at 6-1 in the tie-break. Bedene saved the first three chances, but Gerasimov closed out the tie-break 7-4 on his fourth opportunity. 

Roberto Bautista Agut cruised past Gregoire Barrère 6-0 6-3. The Spanish player built up a 6-0 2-0 lead with four consecutive breaks. Barrère came back by winning three consecutive games to take a 3-2 lead with a break in the fourth game. Bautista Agut reeled off four consecutive games with two consecutive breaks to win the second set 6-3 

Dennis Novak came back from 3-5 down by winning the final four games in the second set to beat Dusan Lajovic 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 after 1 hour and 35 minutes. Novak set up a quarter final clash against German Peter Gojowczyk, who came back from one set down to beat Juri Vesely 6-7 (3-7) 7-4 (7-4) 6-3 after 2 hours and 28 minutes. Gojowczyk hit 17 aces and won 86 % of his first service points. Gojowczyk saved four break points in the ninth game. Vesely earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-brek 7-3. The second set went on serve en route to the the tie-break. Gojowczyk earned one mini-break to win the tie-break 7-4. The German player converted his only break point in the second game to seal the third set 6-3.

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Adrian Mannarino sets up quarter final match against Radu Albot at the Singapore Open

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Top seed Adrian Mannarino beat Roberto Marcora 6-3 7-5 to advance to the quarter finals at the Singapore Tennis Open. 

 

Mannarino converted his second break point at deuce in the fifth game of the opening set after six deuces to take a 3-2 lead, as Marcora hit his forehand into the net. The Frenchman earned three set points in the ninth game. Marcora saved the first two chances, but Mannarino sealed the first set on his third chance after 50 minutes. 

Marcora went down 0-40 in the second game of the second set, but he saved all three break points to hold serve at deuce. Mannarino held his serve in the next games and earned two match points on return in the 12th game. He sealed the win, as Marcora sent his backhand into the net. 

“At this stage there is no easy match. I never played against Marcora before, but I knew he had a couple of good games before. In the second set, he got used to the pace and was winning points in the big moments and it looked like it could go either way. I am pretty happy that I managed to keep my focus and win the second set”, said Mannarino. 

Mannarino set up a quarter final against Moldova’s Radu Albot, who fended off three match points to beat Yannick Hanfmann after 2 hours and 42 minutes. Albot fended off match points at 4-5 15-40 and in the second set and at 6-7 in the tie-break. 

Australia’s Matthew Ebden cruised past his compatriot John Millman 6-4 6-1 in 72 minutes. Soonwoo Kwon won 31 of his 38 first service points to beat Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3 6-4 setting up a quarter final against Marin Cilic. Soonwoo Kwon claimed his third ATP Challenger Tour title in Biella beating Italian Next Gen star Lorenzo Musetti.

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The tennis world celebrates the 87th birthday of Rino Tommasi

The legendary Italian tennis writer was greeted by heavyweights of the game such as ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi and Hall-of-Famer Steve Flink

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Rino Tommasi

Journalist Rino Tommasi turned 87 on Tuesday, and so Ubitennis decided to ask the members of the ITWA (International Tennis Writers Association) to send their birthday wishes to a professional who spear-headed the use of statistics in the game.

 

A recipient of the ATP Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award in 1993, Tommasi was voted as the “Tennis writer of the year” twice by the players (in 1982 and 1991), and was rewarded by the IOC in 2012 for his extensive coverage of 11 editions of the Olympics – he is also a great boxing expert. Furthermore, for several years he wrote the official US Open match previews, and his broadcasting partnership with Hall-of-Famer Gianni Clerici was the subject of a Sports Illustrated feature article.

Here are some of the messages we received celebrating him (other contributors include Doris Henkel, Marco Keller, Simon Cambers, Mike Dickson, Guillermo Salatino, René Stauffer, Eduardo Puppo, Sandra Harwitt, Tom Tebbutt, Serge Fayat, Paolo Bertolucci, Andrea Scanzi, Marco Gilardelli, Bill Scott, Federico Ferrero, Sebastian Fest, and Craig Gabriel):

Andrea Gaudenzi

Dear Rino,

Wishing you many happy returns on your 87th birthday! As an iconic figure in Italian tennis journalism, you were always at the forefront of statistics and data in our sport, and that is something that I personally always admired and respected throughout my playing career. While your presence on the Tour is missed, your contributions to our sport are certainly not forgotten. Happy birthday and wishing you all the best,

Andrea


Steve Flink

Rino,

Ubaldo tells me that today you are 87, which is hard to believe. The years pass so quickly. In my mind I see you when you are 45 or 50, but 87? That’s impossible.

I have so many memories of our interaction through the years. Let me share just a few. We were all in Palm Springs in 1978. One morning before the matches we played some tennis in the hard courts. You gave me a 30-0 lead in every game. I soon realized why you did that because you were so much better than me.

The rallies were long but you beat me 6-1, 6-2. I was a bit embarrassed but you said, “Steve, you played much better than I thought you would!”. We both laughed and you said something you repeated to me many times over the years. You said, “I am not going to be modest because I have no reason to be modest.” Then you broke into that laugh that belonged only to you. No one could laugh like you. No one.

I am thinking now of a very amusing moment in the Wimbledon press room in 2009. You were sitting in your usual desk one or two seats away from Ubaldo. I came by and said, “It’s so great to see the best Italian writer there has ever been”.

You smiled, Rino, assuming I was talking about you and getting ready to thank me. Then I turned to Ubaldo,  patted him on the back and said,”I am talking, of course, about the great Ubaldo Scanagatta!”

Ubaldo laughed heartily and so did I. You grimaced, Rino, But then you smiled and shook your head and looked at us as if we were a couple of helpless fools—which we probably were. You then put your arms around Ubaldo and me and said, “You both have so much to learn and so far to go, but I will get you there.”

Once again you had shown us your superiority. We did not know whether to say, “Game, set, match, Rino” or “Check Mate!”

I have so many other recollections  but I will leave you with this one. Sampras and Rafter were playing the Wimbledon final in 2000 and I was running back and forth between the media room and the Centre Court because I was reporting on the match for CBS Radio.

I was running  up those steps in the Centre Court press section with Rafter having won the first set in a tiebreaker and the second set on serve at 6-5. You saw me standing there looking serious and said, “Steve, don’t look so depressed.”

You knew that I was hoping for Sampras to win and get his 13th major to pass Roy Emerson, which of course he did in four sets. When you told me not to be depressed you did it with sensitivity and not sarcasm. I liked the fact that you knew when to be sarcastic and when to be understanding of your friend’s feelings. That is a great trait.

You also once gave me good advise in your typically candid manner about my writing. You said, “Steve, you should write more  the way you talk.” I took that to heart.

So, Rino, I raise a glass to you now to celebrate your birthday. I do have good reasons to be modest, so I will simply say none of us could ever measure up to your standards.

Happy Birthday my friend!

All the best,
Steve Flink


Kaoru Takeda

When I went to the Rolland [sic] Garros for the first time in 1985, he was there, I remember. I don’t remember you, sorry. Whenever the late Eiichi Kawatei talked me about the tennis of his days, the name of Rino always came up, with JP, Bud Collins, Richard Evans or Russ Adams. Eiichi also was a good friend of Ken Rosewall, and almost the same age as Rino(1933, Dec.).  “Never spoil a good story with the truth” is really a good saying of his. Story telling is the very joy of our job, and I believe that with good tennis telling in Italy, you have good young players now.Tell him and his family A Happy Birthday and I hope to see him somewhere in the near future. […]

Kaoru Takeda

PS: Do you know the Feb.23rd is the birthday of the present Emperor, the grandson of Hirohito. So it was a holiday here in Japan.


George Homsi

Amico Rino! 

I wish you a fantastic 87th birthday and many more to come. I cherish old memories from our meetings and discussions in press rooms and I miss your friendly expert opinions and your presence. Keep strong as i know you are, and I hope to be able to see you again sometime and share a plate of spaghetti! Aldentissimo of course.

Georges Homsi


Richard Evans

My earliest memories of covering the Foro Italico in the the 1960’s are of his kindness to me, coupled with the invitation to write articles for his excellent Tennis Club magazine. […] Rino was a huge presence on the tennis tour for the following decades and, statistically, he was supreme! He gave the early days of technology in tennis a human face – something we must remember not to lose. With very best wishes, 

Richard


Mark Winters and Cheryl Jones

Dear Rino:

When I learn it was your birthday, I began to remember some of our interactions over so many years.  The first thing that came to mind was talking with you late one afternoon after you had finished your tennis writing and were about leave the tournament site to catch a flight to Las Vegas to cover a fight…and how excited you were about making trip. I don’t remember who fought, but I can still recall seeing you sitting at your desk the next day, and how please you were about successfully completing a “tennis-boxing” double.

I look back on the countless times you greeted me, as I walked to my desk in a media room, with a “knowing” Rino smile that always made me think that you knew something about what I would encounter that day…and didn’t want to let me know what I was facing because you wanted me to be surprised.

More to the point, you were my tennis Google before the application had been invented. You always had the statical information I needed for a story. More important, I never had to check its validity because…Rino always provided the appropriate details.

Like Hoad and Rosewall, you and Gianni Clerici are unique. He has always had Lew’s flair, while you always provided Ken’s steadiness. This was certainly the case when Gianni did his nude US Open broadcast in the sweatbox broadcast booth at Armstrong Stadium and you patiently handled all the visitors who dropped by to see “what was taking place”.

You are one of a kind and I am fortunate to have you as a friend.

Have a memorable and Happy Birthday,

Mark (Winters) and Cheryl (Jones)

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