The 2021 WTA Review of the Year - UBITENNIS
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The 2021 WTA Review of the Year

Ubitennis.net reviews the highlights of the 2021 WTA Tour season.

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Ashleigh Barty (AUS) on the Member's Balcony with the Venus Rosewater Dish after winning the Ladies’ Singles final against Karolina Pliskova (CZE) on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 12 Saturday 10/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Bob Martin
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2021 was a very exciting year with four different Grand Slam champions (Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, Barbora Krejcikova at Roland Garros, Ashleigh Barty at Wimbledon and Emma Raducanu at the US Open) and six different champions in this season’s WTA 1000 tournaments (Garbine Muguruza in Dubai, Ashleigh Barty in Miami and Cincinnati, Aryna Sabalenka in Madrid, Iga Swiatek in Rome, Camila Giorgi in Toronto, Paula Badosa in Indian Wells).

 

WTA best player of the year

Ashleigh Barty

Ashleigh Barty won the second Grand Slam title of her career at Wimbledon. The Australian player beat Barbora Krejcikova in the quarter final and then 2018 champion Angelique Kerber to set up a final against Karolina Pliskova. Barty beat Pliskova 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 in the final to become the first Australian player to win the Wimbledon title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980 and the first top seed to win this tournament since Serena Williams in 2016.

Ashleigh Barty: “It was the most incredible feeling I have ever experienced on a tennis court. There was certainly disbelief. I have worked so hard my whole career with my team and with people that mean the most to me to try and achieve my goals and my dreams”.

Barty also clinched two WTA 1000 titles in Miami and Cincinnati, a WTA 500 tournament in Stuttgart and the Yarra Valley Classic tournament in Melbourne. The player from Ipswich recorded her first top 10 wins of the year against Aryna Sabalenka and Elina Svitolina to reach her second consecutive Miami Open final and successfully defended her title after Bianca Andreescu retired from the championship match during the second set.

Barty won her third title of the season at the Stuttgart Open on red clay after scoring three consecutive wins coming back from one set down against Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka.

Barty won the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati without dropping a set in the tournament, beating Jil Teichmann in the final. She also finished runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka at the Madrid Mutua Open.

Barty finished the year at world number 1 becoming the fifth player to finish the year as the number 1 player for three consecutive years after Stefi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Chris Evert.

The Breakthrough of the year

Emma Raducanu

2021 US Open Women’s Singles Champion Emma Raducanu (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Emma Raducanu made history at the US Open by becoming the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virgina Wade at Wimbledon 1977, and the first qualifier to win a Major singles title at the age of 18. The British teenager did not drop a set in all ten matches she played in New York just three months after her WTA Tour level main draw debut in Nottingham. She beat Sara Sorribes Tormo in the third round, Shelby Rogers in the fourth round, Belinda Bencic in the quarter final and Maria Sakkari in the semifinal en route to the final.

In the championship match Raducanu beat 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez from Canada in all-teenage US Open final to win her first Grand Slam Trophy and her first tour-level title overall. It was the first women’s singles final between two under 20 players since the 1999 US Open match between Serena Williams and Martina Hingis.

Raducanu, who was ranked world number 150 when she won the US Open, is the lowest-ranked player to win the US Open title since an unranked Kim Cljisters won the first Major title of her comeback at the 2009 US Open. After the Flashing Meadows triumph Raducanu rose to world number 23 in the WTA Ranking.

She is the first woman to win the US Open without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014 and the youngest Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova won at Wimbledon at the age of 17.

Emma Raducanu: “It’s an absolute dream. You just have visions of yourself going up to the box, hugging everyone, celebrating. That’s something that you always think of, you always work for”.

The young British star reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in her Grand Slam main-draw debut to become the youngest British woman to achieve this feat at the Championships. She also was runner-up at a WTA 125 tournament in Chicago and reached the quarter final at the Transylvania Open in Cluj Napoca.

Raducanu was born in Toronto on 13 November 2002. Her father Ian Raducanu comes from Romania and her mother is from Shenyang in China. She moved to Great Britain with her family when she was two years old and started playing tennis at the age of five.

Leylah Fernandez

Leylah Fernandez (Darren Carroll/USTA)

The 19-year-old Canadian player won her first WTA Tour title at the 2021 Monterrey Open by beating Viktorija Golubic in the final and finished runner-up in the US Open championship match after beating three top 5 players. The North American teenager, who was ranked world number 73 in the WTA Rankings during the US Open, scored three-set wins against defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round, three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the fourth round and Elina Svitolina in the quarter final before beating second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4 in the semifinal to reach her first Grand Slam final. Fernandez became the second Canadian teenager in the last three years to reach the US Open final after Bianca Andreescu, who won this tournament at the age of 19 in 2019.

Leylah Fernandez: “I am just having fun. I am trying to produce something for the crowd to enjoy. I am glad that whatever I am doing on court, the fans are loving it and I am loving it, too. We will see it’s magical. I am extremely proud of the way I fought for every point. My mental toughness, that’s been a huge plus for me. I am happy with what I achieved during the US Open. Off court I am enjoying every minute of it”.

Fernandez was born in Montreal. Her father Jorge is a former football player from Ecuador and her mother Irene is a Filipino Canadian. Leylah came to the fore in 2019, when she finished runner-up to Danish player Clara Tauson in the Australian Open Junior singles final.

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Lorenzo Sonego claims the title in Metz

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Lorenzo Sonego beat seventh seed Alexander Bublik 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 after 87 minutes in the final of the Moselle Open in Metz to win the third title of his career and the first in 2022 without dropping a set in the whole week after beating Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinal. Sonego won his first tournament on hard-court.

 

Sonego, who was playing the fifth final of his career, saved three break points at 2-2 to hold serve in the fifth game of a hard-fought first set. Bublik saved a set point on return at 4-5 down with a backhand passing shot. 

Sonego won four consecutive points from 3-3 in the tie-break with two mini-breaks to claim the opening set 7-3 after 57 minutes. 

Sonego broke serve in the third game at 15 to take a 2-1 lead, as Bublik made a volley error on the break point. The former Vienna finalist earned a double break at 30 in the fourth game to take a 4-1 lead with a passing shot. Sonego closed out the win with a hold at 15 on his first match point. 

Sonego has extended his lead in the head-to-head matches against Bublik to 4-0. 

“I improved my tennis every day, and I am really happy for this match and this tournament. I like the atmosphere here. It was unbelievable today, yesterday and this week. It’s really tough to play against Alexander, because he is an unbelievable player with an amazing serve, good talent, and it is always tough to play him”, said Sonego. 

Sonego has reached his first ATP Tour final since Eastbourne in June 2021.  With this title he has moved up to world number 44 in the ATP Ranking. 

Bublik had won his first ATP title on French indoor courts in Montpellier last February. “Big congratulations to Lorenzo. It’s always a pleasure to lose against you, as I told you at the net. Thanks to my team, thanks to everyone for supporting me and I was happy to be back in the finals in France”, said Bublik.

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

 

The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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Team Europe leads 8-4 over Team World 8-4 heading into the final day at the Laver Cup

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Novak Djokovic cruised past Frances Tiafoe 6-1 6-3 after 72 minutes to earn Team Europe a 6-4 lead over Team World at the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London. 

 

Djokovic also won the doubles match with Matteo Berrettini to put Europe into a 8-4 lead before the final day on Sunday.

Djokovic was playing his first match since his 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last July, when he beat Nick Kyrgios. The Serbian player holds a 1-1 at the Laver Cup, after losing his only previous match at this tournament against Kevin Anderson in 2018. 

Djokovic did not drop a point on serve in the first set against Tiafoe and faced just one break point in the entire match. He held serve at love in the opening game. 

Tiafoe held in the second game with a service winner. Djokovic won his second service game to take a 2-1 lead before breaking serve in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. 

Djokovic hit another service winner in the fifth game to hold his third consecutive service game. Djokovic rallied from 0-30 down to earn his second break with a crosscourt forehand winner building up a 5-1 lead. 

Djokovic closed out the first set at love 6-1 in the seventh game with a backhand down the line after 22 minutes. 

Djokovic converted a break point in the opening game of the second set with a backhand winner. Tiafoe earned a break point with a backhand down the line winner in the second game. Djokovic saved it to build up a 6-1 2-0 lead. Tiafoe held serve in the third game with a winner at the net. Djokovic held serve with an ace down the T line at love In the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. 

Tiafoe fended off a break point in the fifth game with a backhand crosscourt winner and held another chance with a lucky net cord winner. Djokovic hit an ace to hold serve for 4-3. Tiafoe netted a backhand to face two match points, as he was serving to stay in the match in the ninth game. Djokovic converted his first match point to earn his 24th  win this season. 

“I have not played for two months and I am really glad to have continued the run, It was a pretty decent match from my side”, said Djokovic.

Earlier today Matteo Berrettini edged Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6 (13-11) 4-6 10-7 in a hard-fought match to put Team Europe ahead 4-2. Berrettini sealed a very long tie-break on his sixth set point in the first set 13-11 in the first set after more than 20 minutes. Auger Aliassime needed just one break in the thirdto win the second set 6-4. Berrettini earned a 7-2 lead with two mini-breaks in the Super tie-break. Auger Aliassime pulled one mini-break back for 5-8, but Berrettini sealed the win 10-7 on his first match point after 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Berrettini has extended his lead in his head-to-head matches against Auger Aliassime to 4-1. He beat his 22-year-old Canadian rival in last year’s edition of the Laver Cup. 

“It’s always a great fight against Felix. We played for 2 hours and 15 minutes. He is a hell of a player. I had to play my best tennis in the Match tie-break to win. I am really happy because I didn’t win just for me but for the team. Having the chance to live what we lived yesterday is something that’s going that’s going to be stuck in my heart and my brain forever. I am not lying when I say that I am here because of Federer. He was the one that I was looking up to. He was the one that I was supporting, cheering for him”, said Berrettini. 

Taylor Fritz then edged past Cameron Norrie 6-1 4-6 10-8 to draw the tie level to 4-4 before Djokovic cruised past Tiafoe to give Europe a 6-4 lead. The 21-time Grand Slam champion teamed up with Berrettini to beat Jack Sock and Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-2 in 1 hour and 22 minutes.

Team Europe leads 8-4 heading into the final day. Europe will win a fifth cnnsecutive title with two more victories.

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