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The WTA Season Review

Ubitennis reflects on the 2022 WTA season where Iga Swiatek won two Grand Slam titles.

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Iga Swiatek - Stoccarda 2022 (foto Twitter @PorscheTennis)

Player of the year: Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek ended the year as the World number 1 for the first time in her career. The Polish player won eight titles, including the second and third Grand Slam titles of her career at Roland Garros and the US Open. She was also victorious at WTA 1000 tournaments in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami and Rome, as well as WTA 500 tournaments in Stuttgart and San Diego. She is the first player to win six titles in a row since Justine Henin in 2007 and 2008. 

Swiatek achieved a 37-match winning run between February and June, equalling the longest WTA Tour streak since 1990. 

Last June she beat US teenager Coco Gauff 6-1 6-3 to claim her second career title at Roland Garros in three years. She won her 35th consecutive match, tying Venus Williams for the best winning streak this century. The Pole has become the fourth youngest player to win the French Open more than once, only Monica Seles, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert were younger. She is the youngest woman to win multiple Grand Slam titles since Maria Sharapova won her second Major at the 2006 US Open at the age of 19.  

Iga Swiatek: “I am more aware of how it is to win a Grand Slam and what it takes. How every puzzle has to come together and basically every aspect of the game has to work. With that awareness, I was even more happy and even more proud of myself, because in 2020 I just felt that I was lucky. This time I felt like I really did the work”. 

Swiatek then beat Ons Jabeur 6-2 7-6 (7-5) in the US Open final to become the first Polish player to win the US Open. Earlier in the tournament, Swiatek came back from 2-4 down in the third set by winning the final four games in the semifinal against Aryna Sabalenka. She has become the third woman in the past 15 years to win multiple major titles in a season on different surfaces, joining Serena Williams and Justine Henin. 

“I needed to stay composed and focused on my goals. It’s mind-blowing for me. I am really proud I could handle it mentally. At the beginning, I realized that maybe I could have some good results on WTA events. I also made it to the semifinal at the Australian Open, but I was not sure if I was on the level yet to win a Grand Slam, especially at the US Open where the surface is so fast. It’s something that I wasn’t expecting for sure. It’s also a confirmation for me that sky’s the limit. I am proud but also surprised a little bit. I am just happy that I was able to do that”.
Switek on her US Open win

At the WTA Finals in Fort Worth (Texas) she won the group stage beating Daria Kasatkina, Caroline Garcia and Coco Gauff before losing to Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals. 

Swiatek ended the season with 67 match wins, the most since Serena Williams in 2013. She has also become the first player to finish a season with more than 10000 ranking points since Willams in 2016. 

The comeback of the year: Caroline Garcia

French player Caroline Garcia returned to her best shape in the second half of the season by winning the most prestigious title of her career at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth. Garcia beat Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 in the championship match to become the second French player to win the WTA Finals title after Amelie Mauresmo in 2005. 

Garcia also won three more WTA tournaments at Bad Homburg, Warsaw and the WTA 1000 in Cincinnati as a qualifier. She also reached the US Open semifinals in what was her career-best performance at Grand Slam level. She started the season outside the top 70 in the WTA Ranking and ended the year at number 4. 

“It’s definitely a lot of giant happiness,” Garcia said of winning the biggest title in her career at the WTA Finals.
“A crazy final, a lot of intensity on every point. Just really proud of the work we did through all the year. It was a great match – really went for it. I’m really happy to win my biggest title.

The breakthrough of the year: Elena Rybakina

Elena Rybakina won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon after beating Ons Jabeur in the final. Earlier in the tournament, the Kazakh player defeated Simona Halep to reach her first Grand Slam final to become the youngest Wimbledon finalist since Garbine Muguruza in 2015. 

After dropping the first set, Rybakina battled back to beat Jabeur to claim her first Major title. She is the first Kazakh player in history to win a Grand Slam title. 

Rybakina is the fourth youngest active Grand Slam champion, older than only Swiatek, Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu. 

Rybakina won her third career title at Wimbledon and her first since Hobart in 2020. She had lost four finals. She also lost to Elina Svitolina in the bronze medal match at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

Elena Rybakina on her Wimbledon triumph: “I am always very calm. I don’t know what should happen. When I was giving a speech in the end I was thinking: ‘I am going to cry now, but somehow I hold it. Maybe later when I am going alone in the room, I am going to cry somehow. Maybe because I can do deep inside. At the same time there are too many emotions. I was just trying to keep myself calm. Maybe one day you will see a huge reaction from me, but unfortunately not today”. 

Rybakina opened the season by finishing runner-up to Ashleigh Barty at the WTA 500 tournament in Adelaide. She also reached her third final of the year in Portoroz before losing to Katerina Siniakova in three sets. 

 The historic Grand Slam performance – Ons Jabeur 

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur made a major breakthrough by becoming the first African woman in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon after her three-set win over Tatjana Maria in the semifinal.

Jabeur: “I just love the atmosphere at Wimbledon. It was my main goal from the beginning of the season, and even from last year. I just love being here”. 

She also finished runner-up to Iga Swiatek in the US Open final and won two WTA titles in Madrid on clay and Berlin on grass. 

The African player reached a career-high ranking of world number 2 last June, becoming the first North African woman to break into the top 5 and qualify for the WTA Finals. 

The Rising star of the year – Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff became the first US teenager to reach a Grand Slam final since Serena Williams. At the French Open she beat Elise Mertens in the fourth round, Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals, and Martina Trevisan in the semifinals before losing to Iga Swiatek in straight sets in the final. 

At the Canadian Open Gauff became the youngest player to reach back-to-back quarter-finals since Jennifer Capriati in 1990 and 1991. She beat Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka in third-set tie-breaks before losing to eventual champion Simona Halep in straight sets. 

Gauff reached the quarter-finals at the US Open for the first time to become the youngest US player to achieve this feat since 2009. She is also the youngest player to make their debut in the top 10 of the WTA Ranking since 2006.

The rising star became the youngest player in singles since Maria Sharapova to qualify for the WTA Finals. Gauff and her teammate Jessica Pegula also qualified for the WTA Finals in the doubles tournament, becoming the first US players since sisters Serena and Venus Williams in 2009 to qualify for both the singles and doubles at the WTA Finals. 

WTA doubles team of the year

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova

The Czech team formed by Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova won three Grand Slam doubles titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. With their triumph in New York over Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend, they became the second team in WTA history to complete the career Grand Slam. They were undefeated in their three round-robin matches at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth before losing to Elise Mertens and Veronika Kudemertova in the final. They finished the season with a 27-4 win-loss record. 

Krejcikova and Siniakova have now won six Grand Slam doubles titles together. They have won two Roland Garros titles in 2018 and 2021, two Wimbledon titles in 2018 and 2022, the US Open in 2022 and an Australian Open title in 2022. They have joined a list of past doubles teams, who have completed a set of Grand Slam doubles titles, that includes Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver, Serena and Venus Williams, Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani.  

Barbora Krejcikova: “I am really happy that we won the final Grand Slam that we were missing. It sounds great that we have achieved such an amazing feat”. 

Veronika Kudemertova and Elise Mertens

Veronika Kudemertova and Elise Mertens crowned their successful season by beating defending champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova to win the WTA Finals doubles title in Fort Worth. Kudemertova and Mertens reached the semifinals at the Australian Open. They won four more titles in Dubai, Doha, Miami and ‘s-Hertogenbosch. 

The Billie Jean King Cup team of the year – Switzerland

Switzerland clinched the Billie Jean King Cup title for the first time in history after wins from Belinda Bencic and Jill Teichmann in the final against Australia. The Swiss team finished runner-up in 2021. 

Belinda Bencic: “We were finalists last year and we were so heartbroken, but in the locker room Teichmann came to me and said: ‘Next year, we are going to do it, we are going to take it”. And we did, I am so proud”. 

The match of the year

Krejcikova beats Swiatek 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 in the Ostrava final

Barbora Krejcikova rallied from a set down to beat Iga Swiatek 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 in an epic 3-hour and 16-minute final in Ostrava. 

Krejcikova claimed her second title in consecutive weeks after winning the Tallinn Open. Meanwhile, Swiatek lost a final match for the first time since 2019. 

Krejcikova broke to love to earn a chance to serve for the match, but she did not convert six championship points in an epic final game. The Czech player sealed the win on her seventh opportunity with her seventh ace to win the fifth singles title of her career. 

Krejcikova: “It was a great atmosphere. We have been trying to offer the crowd the best match that we can. It feels great. I thank Iga for bringing the best out of me”. 

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Rising Star Mirra Andreeva Teams Up With Wimbledon Champion Martinez

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Mirra Andreeva – Australian Open 2024 (foto: X @WTA)

Teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva has begun working with a former Grand Slam champion on a trial basis ahead of the French Open.

The 16-year-old has linked up with Conchita Martinez, who is overseeing her run at this week’s Rouen Open in France. Martinez peaked at a ranking high of No.2 during her career and won 33 WTA titles. After retiring from the sport, she has coached Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova. 

Andreeva’s latest partnership was formed with the help of her agent ‘two or three weeks ago.’ According to the WTA website, their practice week went well and now they are testing working together during a tournament. 

“So far, so good,” said Andreeva“I like it, I hope she likes it too. We will see how it will go and then we will decide about our next tournaments. I cannot say there are special aspects we are working on. But the first thing we worked on was my slice, because she was a good slicer. So she told me some tricks, and I’m trying to use it when I have time and a good possibility on court.”

Andreeva is currently ranked 43rd in the world and is the youngest player in the top 100. She has already reached the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open but is yet to win a WTA title. So far this year the Russian’s best result was a quarter-final appearance at the Brisbane International. 

Martinez, who also reached the last 16 of a major at the age of 16, spoke about the teenager with Ubitennis during last year’s Wimbledon Championships. At the time she pointed out that consistency is key for the youngster.

“The most important thing is that she keeps practising and focusing on what she has to do to get better. It’s great what she is doing now but she has to maintain it,” she commented.

Andreeva kicked off her campaign in Rouen with a 6-1, 6-3, win over Nadia Podoroska. 

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Red-Hot Danielle Collins Ready To Take On Red Clay After Charleston Triumph

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

Just how good is Danielle Collins?

Right now, she may be as good as anyone on the WTA Tour.

Just think about it. Who’s better?

Winning a seven-round near-major one week on hard courts, then putting together six straight victories the next week on green clay is fairly significant.

Collins didn’t go against a lame duck field in either tournament, especially at the Credit One Charleston Open where she defeated three of the best clay-courters on the tour in Ons Jabeur, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina, as well as the likes of Sloane Stephens and Paula Badosa. She defeated a Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina, on hard courts in the Miami final.

ONLY TWO LOSING SETS IN 28

Collins lost only two of the 28 sets she played in Miami and Charleston.

Of course, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and third-ranked Coco Gauff are power players on any surface. But after those two, Collins looks capable of winning anything in sight. It would be interesting to see Collins take on either of those two on Europe’s red clay.

Collins now has played about as brilliantly in these two tournaments as Sabalenka, Gauff or top-ranked Iga Swiatek have played within the last year.

Collins has the type game no one wants to play against right now. She has jumped all the way to 15th in the world after her success at Miami and Charleston.

COLLINS DOMINANT IN FINAL

Against 2017 Charleston winner Kasatkina in Sunday’s final, Collins was dominant in a 6-2, 6-1 victory. The Russian didn’t have the game to match up with Collins’ power. Collins played to win, and wasted few opportunities.

No one on the WTA Tour attacks more aggressively than the 30-year-old Collins. Short balls end up being a “done deal” when Collins moves in on them and smashes forehands, backhands and lobs away. She nails high back-handed returns of lobs to the corners with the same type of precision she connects with high forehand put-aways inside the court. Few players can hit that type of backhand high volley with such power and precision.

 She also plays the baseline as aggressively as anywhere else, and her serve is solid enough to keep her out of early trouble. Few double-faults find her racket.

LOCKED INTO PROCESS

“I think one of my biggest areas of improvement over the course of the last few weeks has been my concentration and focus and really being locked into my process,” Collins said after winning Charleston.

“These women that I’m playing against, they’re the best in the world, and it’s — sometimes things go your way and then sometimes things don’t go your way, and you have to be open to that when those times do happen.

“I’m really looking forward to getting home (Bradenton, Fla.) and getting some time to spend where I don’t think about tennis, and then hopefully when Madrid comes around I am back in ‘Danimal’ mode. Then it’s back to reality. So it’s like spring break for me. I feel like a kid at spring break.”

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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Danielle Collins Extends Winning Streak To 12 Matches

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image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

Danielle Collins just goes out and wins.

She wastes few shots and is a master of shot placements.

The court surface doesn’t seem to matter. She did it a week ago on hard courts to win the Miami Open. And she is doing it again at the Credit One Charleston Open on clay courts.

Collins has won 12 straight matches and is one win away from a coveted second straight title on the WTA Tour.

She’s unseeded, but keeps winning. She is the last American standing.

In Saturday’s Charleston semifinals, Collins scored a relatively easy 6-3, 6-3 win over third-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece.

KASATKINA STANDS IN COLLINS’ WAY

Just 2017 Charleston champion Daria Kasatkina is standing in the 30-year-old Collins’ way of a second straight tour title.

Oh, yes, Collins is playing her final year on the WTA Tour. She wants to go out a winner badly.

Kasatkina is the fourth seed, and she may already have played a key role in Collins’ drive to another title. Top seed Jessica Pegula appeared to be unbeatable in this Charleston Open until running  into Kasatkina in Saturday’s first semifinal and simply couldn’t close out the Russian when their  match was on the line.

PEGULA’S LOSS BIG SURPRISE

Pegula’s 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) loss to Kasatkina was the biggest surprise of this tournament. Pegula had won the last 12 games of a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kasatkina in 2023 in Tokyo’s Pan Pacific Open.

Very tough match,” the ultra-conservative playing Kasatkina said about Saturday’s long match that ended in a third-set tiebreaker.
“Really happy with my win, with the way how I did it. And, yeah, really happy to be in the finals here again.”

Kasatkina has been impressed by Collins’ outstanding recent play.

“Danielle is, I think, playing the best tennis of her career right now. She’s fearless. When she feels her game, she’s one of the most dangerous players on tour, and she definitely feels it right now,” Kasatkina said.
“So, yeah, it’s going to be very tough battle. And it’s finals. I mean, it’s so nice. I’m so happy to be in the finals, and I think it’s going to be a good one. I think the atmosphere is going to be great because playing an American in the United States, it always brings some extra electricity on court. So, I’m really looking forward to it.”

COLLINS IMPRESSED BY KASATKINA’S PLAY

Collins also has respect for Kasatkina’s style of play.

“We’ve played so many matches against each other over the years and battles. She’s one of my favorite players to watch because she makes these matches so interesting,” Collins said about Kasatkina.

“The way that she plays and her tennis IQ, how creative she is on court is phenomenal. I think against Daria I have to be very flexible. She has just about every tool in her toolbox. She can hit big. She can hit with shape. She can hit slices. She can come into the net. She does everything very, very well. She serves and returns well. She mixes up her pace. She’s just solid all over. And so, it’s going to be a battle, and I have to be ready to play a long, tough match, if that’s what’s needed.

“I’ll have to kind of take a little bit more of a look statistically at some things and some different patterns, but I think the biggest thing is just fighting until the end and being adaptable out there.”

About her win over the usually solid Sakkari, Collins said, “I think my aggressive game style helped me. I had to stick with it. And she was throwing a lot at me and doing a lot of different things.
“So, I had to try to counter that and use my aggressive game style as much as I could.”

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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