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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Maria Sakkari Appoints Witt As Coach For American Swing

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Maria Sakkari - WTA Washington 2023 (foto Twitter @mubadalacitidc)

Maria Sakkari has enlisted the help of Jessica Pegula’s former long-time coach in a bid to regain her form on the Tour. 

Greek media has confirmed that the world No.9 has begun a partnership with David Witt, who has also previously coached Venus Williams. Witt had worked with Pegula since 2019 before the tennis star decided to end their collaboration earlier this year. During their time together he oversaw the American win two WTA 1000 events, reached the quarter-final of a grand Slam on six occasions and peaked at a ranking high of No.3. 

Sakkari’s appointment comes after she ended her six-year working relationship with Tom Hill. Highlights of their partnership include winning two Tour titles, reaching a Grand Slam semi-final twice and spending more than two years in the top 10. 

“Tom, thank you for all the emotions, the support on and off the court, and the belief you had in me since day one,” Sakkari wrote on Instagram last month. “We grew together, and you helped me realize that everything is possible.

“Not only did you make me a better tennis player, but you also made me a better person. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for always having my back! Good luck on the next chapter in your career.”

Sakkari is looking to get back on track after what has been a disappointing start to 2024. She had won just two matches in her first four singles tournaments played and is yet to face an opponent ranked in the world’s top 20. However, she faired better at the United Cup, where she won three matches in the team event, including victories over Lelylah Fernandez and Angelique Kerber. 

It is understood that Sakkari will be working with Witt at both Indian Wells and Miami. If their partnership is successful, it could be extended further into the clay swing. The other members of her team will remain in the same roles. 

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai

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Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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