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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ATP

Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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ATP

Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Krejcikova Comes Alive With Her Serve To Win 12th Grand Slam Title At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

It must have seemed like the whole world was against her when Barbora Krejcikova served for the match for a third time against crowd favorite Jasmine Paolini.

But Krejcikova was only going for her 12th Grand Slam title. She was well prepared.

So, she released her patented way-out-wide serve to the smallish Paolini’s backhand, and the best the Italian could do was get her racket on the ball enough to return the serve far off the court, long and wide.

ARMS UP FOR A CHAMPION

The weight of the world was gone as Krejcikova threw her arms over her head and calmly walked to the net to greet the Wimbledon runner-up.

Now, Krejcikova was half-way home to a career Grand Slam in singles. She already owns a career Grand Slam in doubles among her dozen Grand Slam titles that also include one mixed doubles Grand Slam title.

She has won the hard ones, the French Open on clay and Wimbledon on grass.

At 28 years old, anything must look possible to this 5-10 Czech.

KREJCIKOVA COMES THROUGH UNDER PRESSURE

Paolini simply was out played in a second straight Grand Slam final, on clay and on grass. Now she faces the real tests, two straight Grand Slam tournaments on hard surfaces that might not be overly friendly to the 5-4 Paolini.

But there it was, a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory for Krejcikova on Wimbledon’s famed Center Court.

After what might be called a throw-away second set for Krejcikova, she came alive in the third set, pinning Paolini to the deep corners while nailing low hard-hit balls to both corners.

Krejcikova got off to 40-0 starts on her first four service games of the decisive set and ended all four with service winners to take a 5-3 lead (with the aid of the only service break of the third set). She yielded only one point in those four service games, a double fault at 40-0 that was followed by an ace.

Of course, it was the serve again that saved the day for Krejcikova and gave her set points two and three, then sealed the deal for a spot in Wimbledon history.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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