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.

Grand Slam

(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) The Wimbledon Clash Between Djokovic And Sinner Could Have Been Better

It was an epic five-set clash but imagine how better the match would have been if both were playing well at the same time…

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Hall of Famer Steve Flink and Ubitennis’ Ubaldo Scanagatta analyse the dramatic events that unfolded on Tuesday at Wimbledon.

 

Top seed Novak Djokovic staged an epic comeback to oust Jannik Sinner in a match of two halves. Meanwhile, Cameron Norrie brought delight to the British fans.

On the other side of the draw, how will Rafael Nadal fair against the in-form Taylor Fritz? The Spaniard recently sidestepped a question about a potential new injury. 

As for the women’s draw, Ons Jabeur made history by becoming the first Arab player to reach a major quarter-final. She will next play 34-year-old mum-of-two Tatjana Maria who had never been beyond the third round of a major until now. 

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WIMBLEDON: 10 Facts About Semi-Finalist Ons Jabeur

All you need to know about the Trailblazing Tunisian who has created history at The All England Club.

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image via twitter.com/wimbledon

Second seed Ons Jabeur achieved a new milestone for both her and her country at Wimbledon on Tuesday. 

 

The world No.2 battled back from a set down to defeat Marie Bouzkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the last four of a major event for the first time in her career. Jabeur has now dropped only one set in five matches played and is the highest ranked player remaining in the draw. Her major breakthrough comes seven years after she made her Grand Slam debut at the 2015 Australian Open. 

“I played really good from beginning of the second set, especially having a early break kind of helps me gain confidence,” said Jabeur.
“I know it wasn’t easy playing Marie. She gets all the balls and doesn’t make, to win a point, easy for me. I’m glad I stepped in with my game. I was more aggressive in the second set, and especially tactically I was playing some angles that she didn’t like much.”

To mark Jabeur’s Wimbledon milestone, here are 10 facts to know about her:-

  1. She is the first North African player – male or female – to reach a Grand Slam semi-final. The last woman from the entire African continent to reach a major semi-final was Amanda Coetzer at the 1997 French Open. 
  2. Her win over Bouzkova is Jabeur’s 26th Tour-level win on the grass.
  3. Jabeur has now won 83 matches over the past two seasons. This is more than any other player on the WTA Tour. 
  4. Has won 21 out of her last 23 matches.
  5. She is the only Tunisian woman currently ranked in the world’s top 700.
  6. Jabeur had failed to win back-to-back matches on her three out of her four previous appearances at Wimbledon in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She reached the quarter-finals in 2021.
  7. Coming into Wimbledon she has already earned more than $6.2m in prize money in her career.
  8. She has won three Tour titles in Birmingham (2021), Madrid (2022) and Berlin (2022). 
  9. Has beaten a top 10 player four times in her career – Dominika Cibulkova (2017 French Open), Simona Halep (Beijing 2018), Sloane Stephens (Moscow 2018) and Karolina Pliskova (Doha 2020).
  10. In October 2021 she became the first Arab player (mae or female) to crack the world’s top 10 in tennis. 

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Tatjana Maria – Reaching Wimbledon Semi-Finals is ‘Amazing’ But It Doesn’t Beat Parenthood

The underdog is enjoying her best-ever run at a major 15 years after making her debut.

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Image via twitter.com/wta

Germany’s Tatjana Maria reveals people once doubted her ability to return to tennis after having her first child. Now a mother-of-two, she has secured a place in the Wimbledon semifinals. 

 

The fairytale run of the world No.103 continued on Tuesday when she ousted compatriot Jule Niemeier 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, in her quarter-final match. Until the tournament, Maria had never been beyond the third round of a major event. However, that changed with high-profile wins over Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko prior to Niemeier.

“It’s amazing. I mean, I tried to calm down a little bit in the locker room and to realize something, but it’s still hard to realize it,” she said of reaching the last four at Wimbledon.

Whilst some players prepare for their Grand Slam matches in the gym, Maria’s routine is somewhat unique. She began her day by taking her 8-year-old daughter to her tennis lesson. It wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she also has a 15-month-old baby.

“Outside of the court, nothing changes for me for the moment,” she said.  “I try to keep this going, everything the same. We keep going (to the tennis lessons) even if I’m playing the semifinals.”

Incredibly the 34-year-old returned to the circuit following maternity leave less than a year ago. It was during that absence that she decided to switch to a one-handed backhand. She has been ranked as high as 46th in the world and has two Tour titles to her name. 

“A lot of people who never believed I would come back. This was already after Charlotte and when I changed my backhand,” she said.
“I showed it last time already that I am back. I reached the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I’m back with my second child. Still, everybody was doubting.’
“I’m still here and I’m a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming.”

Relishing in her best-ever performance at a major event, Maria is another example of a player having a breakthrough later in their career. To put her run in perspective, in the Open Era only five other women have reached the semifinals at Wimbledon after turning 34.

However, in Maria’s eyes, her achievements on the court can’t beat her top priority off the court.

“To be a mum is for me on the top of my life. So I think it helps me in tennis too because now my priority is my kids,” she explains. “I play tennis, I want to do my best, that’s all that I want. But my kids are the priority.’
“If I go out there, I want my kids to be happy, that they are healthy, that everything is okay. That’s the most important thing for me in my life.”

Maria made her Grand Slam debut back at Wimbledon in 2007. 

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