#WTA 2019: Ashleigh Barty, 2019 Year-end World Number One

It’s been a week now since world number one Ashleigh Barty dethroned erstwhile champion Elina Svitolina in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3 to be this year’s WTA Finals champion.

If we just look at their head to head matchup, it would be interesting to note that Barty has actually never won against Svitolina in all their five previous matches. So coming into the final, the Ukrainian would naturally have that confidence against the Aussie. And considering Svitolina has gone unbeaten in this tournament, you would think that she could actually retain the title.

However, things did go in favor of Barty as this time she mixed it up a bit more. See. To beat good receivers, you either got to be an accurate power player or – you got to mix up your shots. Like in Barty’s case, it should not be just slices. Now since she went to the net more, so a straight sets win.

Incidentally, it would have been enthralling though if only Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu did not get injured and withdrew.

Osaka and Andreescu: They may have “missed out” on the year-end tournament but this is just the beginning of an exciting rivalry in women’s tennis.

As we have said, it would have been a rematch between Osaka and Andreescu in the final of this year’s WTA Finals had they stayed healthy. Looking at our predictions, we picked the top four seeds advancing to the semifinals – and they were as you know, Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu.

We were actually right with Barty and Pliskova while incidentally, our other two choices got injured. So, fate again had something to do with these developments as instead of seeds three and four advancing, it were seeds seven and eight that made the semifinals. Synchronicity. Thus, notice that the Barty versus Pliskova match looked more like the final than the actual final between Barty and Svitolina?

Ashleigh Barty: It would be intriguing to see how her “new found” aggressiveness would fare against top power players.

Because as per our prediction, Svitolina and Belinda Bencic only took the places of the injured Osaka and Andreescu. Do you follow?

Still, many say women’s tennis is hard to predict as ranking and head to head records do not matter. But actually, in a tournament where only eight players play, it’s a matter of reading between the lines.

Funny but Bianca Andreescu could have been just a “hair band” away from beating Simona Halep.

Notice that Andreescu started to lose – first, against Osaka at the China Open then Simona Halep here in the WTA Finals, both of which were winnable – when she did not wear her lucky charm? Yes, the “hair band” thing on her right bicep.

Just like visualization, sometimes superstitions count.

#WTA 2019: Aryna Sabalenka takes Zhuhai title

Aryna Sabalenka continued her streak in China as she claimed her fourth WTA title in the country after trampling world number 10 Kiki Bertens, 6-4, 6-2 in a battle of hardhitting racket warriors in Zhuhai.

While both did a good job of varying their attacks by getting to the net more often, the match simply boiled down to who had more gas in the tank as Bertens seemed to be expended after being in successive tournaments before participating in the WTA Elite Trophy.

This was likely due to the fact that she was trying to rack up points in hope of qualifying for the WTA Final in Shenzhen which, unfortunately, fell short for her. Still, with a fast court like that of Zhuhai, it was a no-brainer to expect power players to dominate the tournament which is why three of the four players who were such (Bertens, Sabalenka and Karolina Muchova) made the semifinals.

WTA Finals: Day 1

Meantime, the WTA Finals in Shenzhen went off soundly as we witnessed Naomi Osaka bruise up Petra Kvitova in a 3-set win, 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-2. While the next match saw world number one Ashleigh Barty proving too much to handle for Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic as the Aussie pulled on all triggers after losing the first set with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory.

WTA 2019 Top 8: If you still don’t believe in signs, last year was proof and this year will be a statement.

Our Prediction.

Last year’s edition saw seeds five to eight making the semifinals with several signs, as we then documented, pointing to eventual champion Elina Svitolina winning it all. This year, it looks like it would be the opposite with seeds one to four making the semis…

Osaka-Andreescu: Possible rematch in the making that would end WTAs 2019 season with a bang.

And a potential Naomi Osaka against Bianca Andreescu finale. Unless Simona Halep and the rest of the gang can do something about it.

Let’s see.

#WTA 2019: Jelena Ostapenko is ready to rumble after Luxembourg win

Two years ago, then 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko took Paris by storm and won the Roland Garros title as she beat a formidable opponent in Simona Halep in the final. With all the promise that she had shown, she was deemed as the future of tennis.

Two years passed and all that was left was broken dreams and wasted potential as she sunk to the depths of irrelevancy, losing to just about anyone you would never have even imagined her to.

Until two weeks ago.

The Latvian started to show signs that she was ready to reclaim her throne as one of WTAs best when she worked her way to the final of the Linz Open. A week later and as a wild card at Luxembourg, Ostapenko made her second straight run to the finals – and this time, she won.

With Ostapenko creeping back to form, expect more excitement in women’s tennis.

And she did it in blistering pace.

After just an hour of play, Ostapenko won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1 and left defending champion Julia Goerges in exhaustion who tried but failed to keep up with her pinpoint power strokes.

She’s back. Jelena Ostapenko’s back but hopefully, for real.

Meanwhile in Moscow, WTA Final qualifier Belinda Bencic came back torching an inspired Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 to take the Kremlin Open in 104 minutes.

Kremlin Open champion Belinda Bencic brings in that puzzle to the WTA Final.

With the victory, Bencic now moved up the rankings to world number seven – or back to her career high ranking.

The WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai starts on the 22nd of October while the WTA Final in Shenzhen follows right after its conclusion.

#WTA 2019: Cori Gauff snatches her 1st title

Women’s tennis has just added Cori Gauff to its list of young champions as the 15-year-old beat former Grand Slam winner Jelena Ostapenko for the Linz Open title, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 in 99 minutes.

Coming in as a “lucky loser” after losing to Tamara Korpatsch in the qualifiers, Gauff went past Stefanie Vogele, Kateryna Kozlova and surprisingly even world number eight Kiki Bertens whom she dispatched in straight sets, 7-6(1), 6-4.

Cori Gauff’s serve could only get potent as she ages.

Well, what can we say but lucky indeed.

For while Gauff is undoubtedly talented, how could she just lose to one ranked outside the Top 100 but beat someone in the Top 10? If you recall her match against the Dutch, well, seems like Bertens was wandering. Not wondering but wandering, and so the loss. Could there have been something behind her seeming sluggishness?

Incidentally, the player who eliminated Gauff in the qualifiers which was Korpatsch – got beat by Ostapenko in the first round. What a merry-go-round, all in one tournament! If that’s not luck for you, what do you call it??

Still, Gauff’s luck was simply fate as her second round opponent in Kozlova retired early in the decider; for which she then proceeded to shocking Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals.

Cori Gauff’s second WTA title would probably be more convincing.

At any rate, Gauff’s advantage at this time is simply her reach. She’s young alright but so is Ostapenko. She’s got a good serve, same goes with Ostapenko. While we can not exactly predict on how strong or fast Gauff would be since she still 15 and even lanky, what’s obvious again is just her reach which she used to her advantage.

Rebecca Peterson claims her second WTA title in Tianjin.

Meanwhile in Tianjin, Rebecca Peterson defeated Heather Watson in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, for her second WTA title.

Over now to Luxembourg and Moscow!

#WTA 2019: Naomi Osaka inching back…

The weekend saw a finals matchup of WTA number ones as Ashleigh Barty took on Naomi Osaka for the China Open title in Beijing with the former number one beating the current number one in three sets, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Though the match lasted for 110 minutes, obviously, it was not as exciting as the widely anticipated quarterfinal match between Osaka and Bianca Andreescu, the two players seen by many to go on collision course for top honors over the next decade. Even their first meeting had the air of what should have been the championship match of the tournament where it even lasted longer than the Barty-Osaka tussle at 134 minutes.

Slice master Ashleigh Barty needs to mix it up a bit more.

Against Barty though, Osaka just basically had her way. Yes, despite the match needing a third set to decide the winner. As we have kept saying, while Barty is skilled, slices are no match to power. Even if you try to lower the ball, you may not be able to do that the whole time. Okay, you may win a set or even a tournament, but the weapon is just not sustainable. For with slices as your go-to shot, you would mostly be on the defensive against power strokes.

Unless, of course, you become aggressive by constantly approaching the net which Barty did not. And so, after Osaka got her rhythm, there was no stopping her towards the title.

With the victory, Osaka is now inching her way back to the top as she has gotten up to world number three in the rankings. But can she make it back to number one? Well, if she could defend the Australian Open and not if Bianca Andreescu could help it.

Naomi Osaka getting more focused is the key.

Looking at their quarterfinal match, Andreescu actually had Osaka’s number as she got up 5-1 in the first set before taking the set at 7-5. And again in the decider where Andreescu got ahead 3-1 then 4-3 before losing the last three games and the match to Osaka.

So, was it Osaka’s resolve that won it for her? Partly. But Andreescu lost because she did not use her full arsenal. Instead, she tried to go toe-to-toe with Osaka’s power which is a mistake. See, Serena Williams is older and now less mobile while Osaka is younger and more mobile. Thus, Andreescu can not use the same tactics she used on Serena while playing against Osaka. As while Andreescu has the strength to handle power players, which is why she even led 5-1 in the first set and 4-3 in the decider, she’s no power player per se which is why she eventually lost the match.

But just like Barty, for which Andreescu is a stronger version of, the Canadian should have gone to the net more often but did not. Look. While Barty going to the net would have given her a 50/50 chance against Osaka, Andreescu could have really won their quarterfinal encounter since she could take the strength of Osaka at the net with her shot variety. Set-up and adjustments are the keys.

Bianca Andreescu’s slip on focus cost her the match against Naomi Osaka.

Problem is, Andreescu got carried by the moment and did not know “what’s going on” that she even asked her coach what was she doing well. A slip on focus. And that was the time we knew she could lose the match despite being up 4-3 in the third set.

Anyway, it’s Tianjin and Linz this time at the tour.

#WTA 2019: Aryna Sabalenka wins anew at Wuhan

Wuhan has a back-to-back champion in Aryna Sabalenka as she disposed all opposition including world number one Ashleigh Barty on her way to the title against Alison Riske.

Well, we were actually hoping that rising stars Amanda Anisimova or Dayana Yastremska would contend for the championship to provide that excitement against the power-hitting Aryna Sabalenka. But at least the Belarusian’s play in this final against the American made the absence of these youngsters a little more bearing as Sabalenka won 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 after almost two hours of ball smacking.

Aryna Sabalenka: Wuhan’s even lovelier the second time around.

Two keys to Sabalenka’s victory.

One. Service game. Though the protagonists’ first serves were just about the same, Sabalenka’s second serve was almost perfect and just a lot more against Riske who surprisingly did not take more risks in going to the net.

Two. Net game. What Riske did not do, Sabalenka did as her aggressiveness only reaffirmed that a good net game is essential to winning a title. Yes. Not just in Wuhan but anywhere.

These two keys also showed why two-time Grand Slam winner and world number seven Petra Kvitova lost to Alison Riske in the semifinals as the Czech’s reliable serves that setup and dropped Yastremska were absent against Riske. And with Kvitova not really known for her net game, she failed to make up for her deficiencies.

Petra Kvitova just got shockingly booted out by Alison Riske at Wuhan’s semifinals.

As for Anisimova, an early exit was simply the price to pay for a long lay off as it was just the American’s first match after weeks of absence on the tour. Interestingly though, when Kvitova was interviewed after her victory over Yastremska in the quarterfinals, the Czech replied something like they got the same game – as in ‘power’ – where it was just a matter of who establishes her game first.

Hmm. Not exactly.

Kvitova is more like a much more polished version of Sabalenka – service and power – which Yastremska and most power players also have. However, the Ukrainian is more than just service and power. She’s got speed, among others, which she just failed to use against the much slower Czech. As we even kept saying eons ago, Yastremska’s got all the tools to dominate the game even before US Open champion Bianca Andreescu did, however, she just does not know how and when to use her tools that she loses focus under pressure.

Question of Dominance: Would Dayana Yastremska be just another “if only”?

Without focus and the ability to adjust during matches, talent is second to useless.

Meanwhile, Alison Van Uytvanck beat Sorana Cirstea in a more exciting finals’ match at Tashkent (6-2, 4-6, 6-4) as it took the Belgian five tries at championship point before finally taking the match.

Tashkent Open champion Alison Van Uytvanck (R) with runner-up Sorana Cirstea (L).

With that, let’s get to Beijing as we await the future of women’s tennis, Bianca Andreescu, make her debut.

#WTA 2019: Naomi Osaka wins the Toray Pan Pacific Open

Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka just won her first title since bagging the Australian Open as she clamped down on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-2, 6-3, for the Osaka Open title.

Could this signal another run for the former world number one? Hmm. After eight tumultuous months, it was just fitting that she regained her winning ways at her birth place of Osaka, Japan as we look forward to her solidifying her footing towards the WTA Final.

Did the tournament win now revive Naomi Osaka?

Still, while the victory may be a confidence booster, Osaka should learn to focus more and prepare harder for when she faces other fellow top players as obviously more effort would then be required to win.

Incidentally, while Osaka has been going to the net more often – which is good to strengthen her game – so have the other players. This then neutralizes any advantage that she may develop unless she gets speedier.

This speed is exactly what we have been prodding on the fast-rising, US Open champion Bianca Andreescu. Everybody’s trying to get to the net nowadays that the only way you could get the upper hand is to be ‘faster’. From foot speed to reflexes to “in-the-moment” thinking and in-game adjustments.

Other WTA Developments

Meantime in Seoul, Czech Karolina Muchova finally won her first WTA title at the expense of Magda Linette in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1.

Karolina Muchova with her trophy after blasting Magda Linette in Seoul.

Sofia Kenin, meanwhile, upended Sam Stosur in three sets, 6(4)-7, 6-4, 6-2 as she took her third WTA title at Guangzhou.

Sofia Kenin had to put some extra work for her Guangzhou trophy.

The Asian swing continues and this time it’s at Wuhan. Keep an eye on Tashkent, too. Things are only going to get interesting.