#WTA #ATP 2020: Tennis is Alive and Well

Yes. For two months now, tennis has been on hold – while the world as we know is at a standstill. COVID-19 has just disrupted lives and took away a lot of them. A. Lot. Of. Them.

Could the virus have also quashed the sport for good?

Dominic Thiem may have his reasons for not backing the players’ fund, but it’s just quite insensitive at this time.

At least, that’s how it felt when men’s world number three Dominic Thiem disagreed with the idea of helping out lower-ranked players; stating that ‘none of them are going to starve’.

Just unbelievable.

See. No matter how unprofessional a player may be, he or she is still part of the tour. And it’s a global health crisis we are experiencing that earning capacity has been reduced to dust. If you do not want to help certain players, then you should not worry because your said $30,000 is not going to be divided just among those ‘unprofessional’ players you are talking about. Donations are pooled and beneficiaries are much more than a handful.

In line with this, the international governing bodies of tennis has raised more than US$6 million to assist players struggling due to the coronavirus. This fund particularly targets those outside the top 200 as eligibility for cash aid will be determined by ranking and previous prize money earnings.

This initiative somehow gave hope to tennis.

Tennis United: While there’s unity, there’s hope for tennis.

No. Tennis is not dead. What with players even coming together online for a weekly show called, ‘Tennis United’.

Tennis is alive and kicking. Still.

The only question is, when would it actually resume? July 13? August 3? January 2021? Or when there’s already a vaccine?? For how would the players’ traveling be like? And so, how would it be like under a ‘new normal’?

Tennis players: Don’t let this ‘pause’ relax your competitive juices, keep working on your game.

While uncertainty fills the air, with the unity shown in the tennis world, there is really nothing to worry about. Players. Fans. Organizers. Tough as it may seem, tennis would conquer this pandemic…

And play would be back before you even know it.

#WTA 2020: Kenin, Svitolina annexes Lyon and Monterrey titles

After another week of women’s tennis, we saw two Top players get back to the winners’ circle as world number 4 Sofia Kenin outplayed Anna Lena Friedsam (6-2, 4-6, 6-4) in Lyon while world number 5 Elina Svitolina overcame Marie Bouzkova (7-5, 4-6, 6-4) in Monterrey.

Yes. Both in three sets – which only showed their struggles may be, just may be (after all, it took both of them even three sets to win against much less accomplished opponents) over after taking home their titles.

Sofia Kenin with her nice-looking trophy in Lyon.

Remember in our previous article? Small tournaments are a good way to find back your rhythm. So, those struggling should really take advantage of these little tourneys before the big ones begin.

Speaking of big ones, Indian Wells has been cancelled due to the health emergency it has experienced.

Elina Svitolina after winning in Monterrey.

Incidentally, this is a blessing in disguise for defending champion Bianca Andreescu (as well as the injured Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber) who is still recovering from her knee injury; but certainly not good for eager tennis fans and players who are ready.

Other Developments

The WTA has recently acknowledged Renata Zarazua as February 2020’s Breakthrough Player for making the semifinals in Acapulco. This is something we do not fully agree with though.

While Zarazua did well, the WTA overlooked a couple of more deserving players. Elena Rybakina, who has the most wins so far in 2020 while being a finalist in both St. Petersburg and Dubai; and 17-year-old first-time finalist Leylah Fernandez who even beat Zarazua herself on her way to the finals in Acapulco.

Leylah Fernandez showed promise with her skills but has to be quicker in going to her right (or backhand) – something many left-handed players struggle with.

Anyhow, for now, Miami could be a “wait and see” thing.

#WTA 2020: Sabalenka clips Kvitova in Doha finals

Coming into the match, there was this notion that the finals between Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka was going to be a hotly contested one…

After all, their previous matches always had a set that went to a 7-5 count.

But not this time – as the match ended at 6-3, 6-3 in favor of the Belarusian as Sabalenka tied her head-to-head matchup at 2-2 with the Czech.

Aryna Sabalenka (L) and Petra Kvitova (R) with their trophies last night in Doha.

What happened? Well, the match basically showed just two things. One, Sabalenka’s consistency in the match. For though Kvitova sets up better, the match became a who hits harder, who moves better kind of thing which favored Sabalenka as – two, Kvitova’s tough luck cost her the title…

Even how the match ended would speak of the Czech’s performance.

Heather Watson gets back on the “podium” after four years.

Meanwhile, British Heather Watson overcame the challenge from 17-year-old Canadian first-timer Leylah Annie Fernandez in three sets, 6-4, 6(8)-7, 6-1 in Acapulco for her fourth WTA singles title.

Time to prepare for the ‘Sunshine Double’ by way of Lyon and Monterrey – two tournaments that players struggling for form should not pass up on.

#WTA 2020: Halep survives Rybakina to claim Dubai title

From lucky number two last week to 20 this week as we witnessed Simona Halep pick up her 20th title against 20-year-old Elena Rybakina in 2020… or 02/22/2020.

Wow. Must be written in the stars – but what a match it was?!

A 3-setter – 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) – in over three hours was just the perfect way to spend an entertaining weekend for tennis fans regardless of who won.

Elena Rybakina (L) and Simona Halep (R) with their trophies. (Photo: REUTERS/Satish Kumar Subramani)

Still, while the Romanian took the title, one can not help but marvel the rise of Elena Rybakina. Four finals’ appearance in less than two months – and now ranked 17th in the world. Hey, if she continues to play like this, the Kazakh could be in the Top 10 even before Roland Garros.

This must be her breakthrough year – just as 2018 was Naomi Osaka’s and 2019 was Bianca Andreescu’s – well, at least on a personal development level that is. After all, though Rybakina did beat two Top 10 players in this Dubai tournament, it’s Sofia Kenin who won the first grand slam of the year. So, while both Rybakina and Kenin has the inside track, they got to win a couple of big ones to really make 2020 their year.

Elena Rybakina displays her reach advantage.

But what impressed us most is while Kenin has that fierce focus, Rybakina has that calmness under pressure. Such handling of nerves are what makes winners. Then, does that mean Rybakina can actually win a grand slam this year or in the future? Too early, besides, we have already mentioned in our previous article that she has got to improve on her athleticism.

See. While many sees strength in the Kazakh, we say that power is not at par with strong top players. Notice how she lost against Kiki Bertens in St. Petersburg? This means, she could stand toe-to-toe against speedy players like Halep more (due to her reach and aggressiveness, that she just has to improve her quickness to succeed more at the net) than she could against stronger players.

More than feeling ecstatic, Halep just seemed relieved to have pulled through.

In other words, Elena Rybakina is something like a Karolina Pliskova. Though the Czech possesses a more potent serve, the Kazakh is stronger and quicker which makes her more likely to win a major compared to her contemporary.

Can Rybakina continue her finals’ streak in Doha? Let’s see.

#WTA 2020: Bertens defends St. Petersburg as Linette takes Hua Hin

Two seems to be the lucky number for Sunday as Polish Magda Linette took her second WTA singles title via Hua Hin while Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens got her back-to-back titles in St. Petersburg.

Well, the results were anticlimactic so to speak as the eventual winners were highly favored against their less decorated opponents right from the start. And not that experience greatly decided the game, it’s just that both Bertens and Linette were far more athletic compared to Elena Rybakina and Leonie Kung.

Magda Linette d. Leonie Kung

Still, was Kung just nervous or something? Perhaps – since this was her first final – and true enough, this paved the way for Linette’s better shot placement in her 6-3, 6-2 victory. Then again, even if Kung wasn’t nervous, Linette was just stronger than she was that it would be hard for her “still developing skills” to overcome.

Leonie Kung (L) and Magda Linette (R) for their posterity photo in Hua Hin.

What’s nice about Kung’s finals appearance though is that she climbed up the rankings by 127 spots. And that’s certainly something good to build upon.

Kiki Bertens d. Elena Rybakina

Speaking of strength, such was an obvious factor in Bertens’ blasting of Rybakina, 6-1, 6-3. With power, the ball is just faster that if you don’t have the speed and skill, it’s like you would just be going through the motions.

And clearly, we saw it in many instances where Rybakina just watched the ball instead of trying to get to it. For what’s the use? With her speed (as well as strength) still wanting, if ever she gets to the ball, she would only set herself up for a Bertens’ smash or an unreturnable shot.

Kiki Bertens (L) and Elena Rybakina (R) with their St. Petersburg trophies.

Anyhow, while Bertens scooped her tenth WTA singles title, this season has verily been an impressive start for Rybakina. One, it’s her third finals for the year. This is like a finals appearance every 15 days! And two, because of her exploits, she is now ranked 19th in the world.

All right, it’s time now for Dubai.

#WTA 2020: Sofia Kenin snatches the Australian Open title

The Australian Open has a new champion – and her name – Sofia Kenin.

With the crashing out of erstwhile champion Naomi Osaka and the rest of the Top 10 players (with Kenin herself beating world number one Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals), the race to the podium so to speak became quite interesting. And certainly, Kenin cashed in by topping 2-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza in three sets, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 after two hours of great tennis in Melbourne.

The victory not only gave Kenin her first Grand Slam title but it pushed her to the Top 10 – where she now ranks seventh in the world.

Fierce focus, something Sofia Kenin has a wealth of.

It was not surprising at all to see her annex the title, regardless of those questioning her unorthodox serve. Sofia Kenin has the skills but more importantly, she probably is one of the most mentally tough players in the tour. Just as how we captioned in our previous article, “…fierce focus is key to remain on top.”

After all, you may have all the tools of the game but if you crack under pressure – then all the talent in the world is second to useless.

Following up on a major would be key to Sofia Kenin’s rep.

Still, with Kenin’s rise, could she be a serious contender for world number one? Ask Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka who not only has the track record but are more athletic. Surely, they would be back roaring. So, not until we see how Kenin follows up on her #AusOpen win in other big tournaments can we even say…

“Beware, the lioness.”

#WTA 2020: R3 Shockers of the 2020 #AusOpen

Serena Williams. Caroline Wozniaki. Naomi Osaka. All out in the third round of this year’s edition of the Australian Open.

That’s right. Round three has just given us three shockers as who would have expected these more established players to get booted out this early in the tournament?

Not that they cannot and would not lose, but it’s to whom they lost to. That’s why it’s called a shocker.

Ons Jabeur d. Caroline Wozniacki

First was the 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki. After winning an unbelievable comeback in round two against an up and coming but unconscious Dayana Yastremska, one would want to think that Wozniacki would at least reach the semifinals.

Caroline Wozniacki, now ready for her next chapter.

But no. She lost to an unheralded but inspired Ons Jabeur in a thrilling 3-setter, 5-7, 6-3, 5-7. It was indeed a sad day for her and her fans knowing that this is her farewell tournament. Then again, it happens.

Wang Qiang d. Serena Williams

Yes, it happens even to the best of them as Serena who was going for Grand Slam number 24 got beat by Chinese Wang Qiang after three sets, 4-6, 7-6(2), 5-7 in almost three hours.

Serena Williams, time is ticking. The longer it takes, the harder it becomes.

Well at least, she got beat by a top 30 player. This is why even if Serena has defeated Wang last year, you should know that anything could happen as Wang could have learned from their previous meeting. Speed, good returns and focus could beat power.

Coco Gauff d. Naomi Osaka

Still, what’s the most surprising of the three upsets though is the loss of defending champion Naomi Osaka to 15-year-old Coco Gauff, 3-6, 4-6 and in just 67 minutes.

Naomi Osaka, fierce focus is key to remain on top.

It’s like she did not even try to put up a fight. She’s a top player who’s still getting started yet she did not even win a set. While many would praise Gauff, of course, she’s got promise; a keen observer would notice that Osaka was like in a beach somewhere.

With the confidence-boosting wins, should we expect any of the three victors to make the finals?

Our answer. Do you expect their opponents to be intimidated against them?

It was just one of those days.