WTA

Kim Clijsters To Make WTA Tour Comeback At Age 36

The WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) announced that former World No.1 Kim Clijsters, winner of 41 career singles titles including four Grand Slams and three season-ending WTA Finals, is in training with plans to compete on the professional tennis tour in 2020.

Clijsters, who played the first professional matches of her career on the ITF Circuit in 1997 and made her WTA debut age 15 at Antwerp in 1999, was 29 years old when she played her last competitive matches at the US Open in 2012. Now 36, the Belgian eyes her return to the tennis circuit as a mother of three – daughter Jada was born in February 2008, followed by sons Jack (2013) and Blake (2016). She is also a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, having been inducted in the Class of 2017.

“Kim Clijsters ranks among the greats of the game and her return to the Tour is exciting news for the WTA family and tennis fans around the world,” said Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO. “Driven by her love for the sport, this wonderful champion continues to inspire women and men in all walks of life – and she only adds to the compelling wealth of talent in women’s tennis. I wish Kim all the best in this next chapter of her playing career.”

Clijsters’ ‘first career’ was highlighted by two victories at the WTA Finals (2002-03), 19 non-consecutive weeks as World No.1 on the WTA Rankings (first attained on August 11, 2003 for 10 weeks), and a maiden Grand Slam title at the 2005 US Open. That triumph at Flushing Meadows came after four runner-up finishes at Slams: Roland Garros in 2001 and 2003, the US Open in 2003 and the Australian Open in 2004.

She stepped away from tennis in May 2007, marrying Brian Lynch shortly after and giving birth to a daughter, Jada, the following year. But in July 2009, after 26 months away from the tour, she launched a famous comeback that began with a run to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Then, in just her third tournament back, Clijsters won the US Open to become the first mother to win a Grand Slam title since Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon in 1980. She defended the Flushing Meadows crown in 2010, before going on to capture a third WTA Finals title at Doha and win the 2011 Australian Open. Her victory in Melbourne helped Clijsters return to No.1 for a 20th career week in February 2011 – the only mother to hold the top spot since computer rankings began in November 1975.

Her last singles match was against Laura Robson in the second round at the 2012 US Open, which she lost in two tie-break sets. This was followed by a first round doubles exit partnering with fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens and finally, a second round appearance with Bob Bryan in the mixed doubles.

With 41 singles titles (41-19 record in finals), Clijsters still places third among active players, behind Serena Williams (72 titles) and Venus Williams (49) – and 14th on the Open Era list. She reached at least the semifinals on 16 of her 35 Grand Slam appearances and also shone in doubles, winning 2003 Roland Garros and Wimbledon (both with Ai Sugiyama) among 11 titles and spending 4 weeks at No.1. She remains one of just six women to simultaneously hold the top spot in both singles and doubles.

In addition to being a fan favorite, Clijsters won the WTA’s Peachy Kellmeyer Player Service Award in 2010 and the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award a record eight times – both accolades decided by peer vote. She was named Most Impressive Newcomer by international media in 1999; Comeback Player of the Year in 2005 and 2009; and Player of the Year in 2005 and 2010. In recent years she served as a Legend Ambassador for the WTA Finals in Singapore.

As a former World No.1, Clijsters is eligible for unlimited wildcards at WTA tournaments. She will need play three tournaments or earn 10 ranking points to re-establish a ranking.

Bianca Andreescu Makes WTA Tour Top 10 Debut Following U.S. Open Victory

Newly crowned US Open champion Bianca Andreescu makes her WTA Top 10 debut at World No.5 today, September 9 for the first time in her career.

Andreescu becomes the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title and the third Canadian woman to appear in the Top 10, joining Eugenie Bouchard and Carling Bassett-Seguso in this elite group. Her 6-3, 7-5 win over Serena Williams prevented the American from winning her record-tying 24th major singles title.

So far in the 2019 season, Andreescu has claimed all three of her WTA singles titles, including victories at the BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells), Rogers Cup presented by National Bank (Toronto) and now her maiden Grand Slam trophy at the US Open.

Andreescu previously had never been further than the second round at a Grand Slam, was the first Canadian to advance to the final of a Grand Slam since Eugenie Bouchard (2014 Wimbledon, lost in final) and is just the second Canadian ever (Bouchard) to reach a major title match.

Listen to Andreescu on the latest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast after her triumph in Flushing Meadows.

With Success of Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty and Coco Gauff, Comes Added Pressure

by Sharada Rajagopalan

It took Naomi Osaka a few years on the tour to build up her professional resume, with the biggest titles and rankings. The fall was much quicker – building up within months – with various reasons spouted to rationalise her sudden loss of form. No matter what was being speculated, it was not until Osaka clarified what had not been working for her that the matter became clear. Not just about her career alone but also of other fellow youngsters on the professional tennis tour.

“The last few months for me have been really rough tennis wise… I can honestly reflect and say I probably haven’t had fun playing tennis since Australia and I’m finally coming to terms with that while relearning that fun feeling…” Osaka shared in a Twitter post. Though the entirety of the 21-year-old’s post stood out, the portion in which she spoke about “not having fun” stood out sharply than the rest.

Going back to her matches after the Australian Open, it became obvious to what she was referring. After the US Open, making her way into the new season as the most in-form player, alongside her results, expectations boomed. And, direct proportional to these expectations, pressure also rose on her to justify these – as though, these were of her making.

When Osaka won the Australian Open, she seemed to have found a way to negate both while fulfilling her potential. The way things have turned out, it now feels as though Osaka only – albeit successfully – masked the circumstantial despondency. Articulating the same now, is her attempt of coping with it while subtly putting out an advisory that she needs her space to re-find herself.

Borrowing from what Osaka wrote, a case for leaving a player alone can be made for other such players who are considered as the successors on the professional tour. Among the men, the scenario has been pushed to its zenith with touting such as “NextGen” forcibly nudging the idea that the present is all about the future. As youngster after youngster stumbles along the road, the idea of present – older players – being dominant versus a future that has letdown the sport in its uncertainty is also being polished in its reiteration.

In contrast, the WTA lot, especially the youngsters evade such deeply-poring intensity until obliviousness is not an option. That is, while talent abounds among the juniors, somehow or the other, the men’s action takes more precedence shoving the women into the shadows. That, however, is a debate of men’s tour vis-à-vis the women’s remains a topic to be discussed at some later, finite point. Yet, this existing chasm between the reception of the men’s and women’s game helps the younger WTA players focus on developing their game and make their way upwards, literally, through the ranks.

Once they step into the tour events and the world at large cottons on to their aptitude, and paean-like articles are sung about them being the proverbial future that is when reality enters the fray, disrupting years’ worth of carefully-nurtured concentration. Be it Osaka, or be it Jelena Ostapenko, or even Ashleigh Barty to name a few.
In case of the Australian, praises about her finding her place among the major champions do make it a point to include how she took a sabbatical from tennis to play cricket. Barty, too, has credited how cricket helped center her. The 23-year-old’s confessions aside, these narratives do not talk about how Barty moved on to play a team sport that does not receive much attention (if any, at all) from non-Commonwealth countries. If she needed to regroup, the 11-player game gave her as much of an opportunity to be connected with the sports’ world as much as there was a gulf separating her from expectations.

More than her win on a surface that was always thought to be non-conducive to her playing style, Barty’s winning a singles major at the French Open when everyone’s usual picks fell off the draw sheet was the bigger surprise. As if it were a given offshoot, it was also not surprising that Barty’s Roland Garros title led to chants of her winning Wimbledon.

This externally-driven pipe dream may have been extinguished for Barty. But onlookers latched on to another player to fuel their aspirations – in 16-year-old Coco Gauff. It also became convenient to do so since she defeated 38-year-old Venus Williams, one of her idols, in the opening round thereby earning the moniker of being someone-like the Williamses in the years to come.

However, the irony is that Venus and Serena Williams did not become who they are now while starting off as teenage prodigies. It has taken the Williams sisters over two decades on the tour to get to where they are now. In a way, they are outliers to the usual plotlines spun around tennis because they have not only shunned expectations – while battling against odds – but also used them as expedient benchmarks to be surpassed.

If they are to be used as examples, more than their achievements, it is this quality of theirs that the likes of Gauff and Osaka need to be expected to emulate – in their wins as in their losses.

Barbora Strycova Seals Near Perfect Wimbledon With Doubles Title To Lift Her To No. 1 Doubles Ranking

The WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) announced that Czech Republic’s Barbora Strycova will ascend to WTA World No.1 in doubles for the first time in her career when the rankings are released on Monday, July 15.

By capturing her maiden Grand Slam doubles title at Wimbledon, alongside former WTA World No.1 doubles player Hsieh Su-Wei, Strycova becomes the seventh woman representing the Czech Republic to achieve the No.1 doubles ranking. She joins her compatriots Helena Sukova, Jana Novotna, Kveta Peschke, Lucie Safarova, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

Strycova also becomes the 43rd woman overall to reach the WTA World No.1 doubles ranking, taking the top spot from Kristina Mladenovic, who has held it the past five weeks. At 33 years, 109 days, Strycova becomes the second oldest player to debut as the World No.1 in doubles following Kveta Peschke in 2011 (35 years, 361 days).

“It’s a great honor to become the World No.1 doubles player,” said Strycova. “I’m so happy to win my first Grand Slam, and I could not have made it here without my amazing partner Hsieh. We’ve put in so much work and I’m proud of all of our accomplishments together.”

Over the last 12 months, Strycova has lifted six WTA doubles trophies from eight finals including titles at the 2018 Connecticut Open in New Haven and China Open in Beijing (both w/Andrea Sestini Hlavackova), and 2019 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Mutua Madrid Open, Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, and Wimbledon (all w/Hsieh).

“Earning the WTA World No.1 Doubles Ranking is a reflection of the hard work and dedication that Barbora has put forth,” said Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO. “Congratulations to Barbora on this very special achievement which highlights her outstanding career in both singles and doubles.”

The new WTA Doubles World No.1 holds 27 career WTA doubles titles, including three WTA Premier Mandatory trophies at 2018 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (w/Hsieh), 2018 Beijing (w/Sestini Hlavackova) and 2019 Madrid (w/Hsieh).

In addition to winning her first Grand Slam doubles title at Wimbledon, Strycova also reached her career first major semifinal in singles this fortnight at the All England Club, defeating four seeded players including British No.1 Johanna Konta before falling to Serena Williams.

Click here to read more on about the history of Czech Tennis in the book “A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257685/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_Fn8kDbRYNM39M

The Latest On Naomi Osaka, Japan’s New Tennis Titan

Naomi Osaka is taking the tennis world by storm. Last year at this time, Japan’s newest tennis super star was ranked No. 72 and now she is on the cusp of becoming No. 1. Here are some info in advance of her Australian Open final.

She is making fourth main draw appearance at Australian Open, where she has advanced to first Australian final and second Grand Slam final.

Her previous best result here was a round of 16 showing in 2018 where she defeated two Top 20 players (No.19 Vesnina and No.17 Barty) before falling to World No.1 and eventual runner-up Simona Halep. Osaka’s 2018 run saw her become the youngest Japanese to reach the round 16 at a Slam since Ai Sugiyama at 1995 Roland Garros (19 yrs, 342 days) and she was the youngest player from Japan to reach this stage at Australian Open since Kimiko Date in 1990 (19 yrs, 122 days).

In other outings at the Australian Open, she made the third round in 2016 (as qualifier, lost to Vika Azarenka) – which marked Grand Slam main draw debut – and a second round in 2017 (losing to Jo Konta).

Having won the US Open in 2018, Osaka is bidding to be the 10th woman to win US Open and Australian Open back-to-back (most recently accomplished by Serena Williams in 2015). She is seeded at No. 4 this fortnight, which is her highest seeding at a Slam, up from No. 18 at 2018 Wimbledon. The No.4 seed has won title in Australia on three occasions in the Open Era: Mary Pierce (1995), Martina Hingis (1997) and Li Na (2014) Osaka is contesting 2019 Australian Open at a career-high of No.4, which was first achieved October 8, 2018.

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Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka Wins Third Career WTA Tour Title In Shenzen, China

World No.13 Aryna Sabalenka’s meteoric rise to the top of women’s tennis looks set to continue this season as the hard-hitting Belarusian overcame a slow start to defeat American Alison Riske 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 in two hours and 11 minutes to lift her third WTA Tour career title on the hard courts of the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Centre this afternoon.

The 28-year-old Riske, playing in her third Shenzhen Open final in four years, began the match impressively, hitting decisive and accurate winners that frustrated her 20-year-old opponent, and converted the second of two break points in the third game to take a one set lead.

The 5-foot-11 Sabalenka, playing in her sixth career final and third in China, grew with confidence as the match progressed and converted her first break point in the fourth game of the second set to take a 3-1 lead.

Riske fought hard to get back in the set, saving four break points in the sixth game and two set points in the eighth before breaking her 20-year-old opponent with four points on the trot in the ninth game and holding serve to tie the match at 5-5.

However, in the tiebreak, the American lost focus and gifted her opponent a number of unforced errors to set up a third set for the title.

The momentum was now well and truly with Sabalenka, as the Belarusian broke her opponent twice in the first three games to take a 3-0 lead.

Riske, who has now gone six finals without a win, got a break of her own in the fourth game and threatened to turn the tie around when she got another break opportunity in the eighth game, but it was simply not to be her day once again.

Sabalenka squandered two match points in the final game of the encounter, before finally breaking her opponent’s serve one last time with a powerful forehand drive to lift her second title in China, following last year’s win at Wuhan.

“It was a tough match today, especially coming back after first set down. I just couldn’t find a way to beat her and she played an unbelievable match, with shots down the lines. I am so happy that I found a way to beat her, especially in the final to win my third title. It’s really special, also my second title in China. I’m so happy with this result at the start of the year,” said the Belarusian, who has an early lead in the race to the WTA Finals that will also be held in Shenzhen in October.

“Now I am first but it is only 280 points! But I really want to go on to the WTA Finals. Last year I didn’t make it there and I was so pissed. This year, I am going to do everything to get there. After this good start, hopefully I can do well at the Australian Open,” added Sabalenka.

World No.62 Riske was despondent to have now gone three finals in Shenzhen without a win, but promised to be back once again in future.

“Aryna played really well and she proved last season how good she is. In the second set, she started serving a little bit better. I still tried to be aggressive but my shots just weren’t landing in like they were in the first set. So I think that kind of flipped things a little bit and she got on top of me a little bit sooner. Everyone here is just super special and that’s why I keep coming back. The people have made it such a good tournament and place to be. I’m sorry if I let anybody down and I hope they will cheer me on for the next tournaments to come. I will certainly come back again,” said the American, who heads to Melbourne next to prepare for the Australian Open.

In a doubles final match that featured three local Chinese stars, former world No.1 Peng Shuai proved that she was the doubles queen of Shenzhen as she picked up her second doubles title here in three years, this time with first time partner Yang Zhaoxuan.

The second seeded duo defeated the unseeded Chinese-Czech pairing of Duan Yingying and Renata Voracava 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 14 minutes on Centre Court.

Peng and Yang got off to a shaky start as they relinquished their first service game of the match, but leveled matters in the fourth game and stole the first set with another break in the tenth game.

The second set was tightly contested early on, as the two teams exchanged two breaks each in the first six games, but the No.2 seeds kicked into high gear in the eighth game, winning eight points in a row to break their opponents and then held serve in the next game to lift the doubles trophy in Shenzhen.

The 2019 Shenzhen Open doubles title is the 22nd of 32-year-old’s Peng Shuai’s career and the fourth doubles title that 24-year-old Yang Zhaoxuan has picked up on the WTA Tour.

“We are very happy to be playing together and very happy with the results of this week. We have both helped each other out and we really enjoy playing together. We are now looking forward to play together in future. We will be playing in the Australian Open together,” said Peng after the win.

The Shenzhen Open is organized by the Chinese Tennis Association, Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism. IMG and CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company and is co-organized by the Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism of Longgang District, Kaisa Culture & Sports Group and Shenzhen Gemdale Sports Industry Co., Ltd.

The event is proud to have prestigious commercial sponsors that include the premier sponsors Kaisa Group and Gemdale Group, together with Crowne Plaza Shenzhen Longgang City Center, Iqiyi Sports, Erke, Life Fitness, Yonex Head and Master Kong Drinking Water.

The official tournament website www.ShenzhenOpenTennis.com has additional information about the tournament.

Agnieszka Radwanska Announces Retirement

Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska announced today her retirement from professional tennis. She leaves the game following 20 career WTA singles titles, highlighted by the 2015 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global trophy.

Radwanska reached her lone Grand Slam singles final at 2012 Wimbledon, which helped her reach a career high ranking of WTA World No.2. She earned over $27.6 million in prize money over her career, which currently ranks seventh on the all-time career prize money earnings list.

“Today, after 13 years of playing tennis competitively, I have decided to end my career,” said Radwanska in her statement. “This was not an easy decision. I am grateful to have so many special memories, including 20 WTA titles, the WTA Championships in Singapore, a Wimbledon final, and so many others.”

In addition to her on court accomplishments, Radwanska, also known as “the Magician” by fans and media due to her crafty style of play, was voted the WTA Fan Favorite for six consecutive years.

“Congratulations to Agnieszka on an outstanding career,” said WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon. “Agnieszka embodies the qualities that make a true champion, on the court delivering world class performances and incredible displays of athleticism, and off the court with her poise, professionalism and support for her fellow players. Agnieszka leaves a legacy on the game across the globe and on behalf of the WTA, she will truly be missed.”

Radwanska played her last professional match in September at the KEB Hana Bank Incheon Airport Korea Open in Seoul.

Katatkina Moves To Top 10 With Moscow Victory

Russia’s Daria Kasatkina won her second career title in Moscow beating Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the final in three close sets 2-6, 7-6, 6-4.

“I remember 10 years ago, when I was young, I came here dreaming that one day I would lift the title. Now, I’ve done it. My dream has come true,” Kasatkina said.

Down 2-6, 1-4, Kasatkina used her tactics and mental strength to completely change the match on the way to realizing her dreams. Kasatkina owes her strength in character to her coach, the Belgian Philippe Dehaes, who is known to say the right words to boost and motivate the young champion. Kasatkina and Dehaes are a very strong team who follows the spirit of her sponsor, Tecnifibre, #fightsmart spirit.

At 21 years of age, the native of Togliatti, Russia moved into the Top 10 in her career. Her previous title was in 2917 in Charleston, S.C.

Wide Open Field For WTA Finals In Singapore But Who Is The Favorite?

Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina are the last two player to qualify for the eight-player year-end 2018 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global that will take place from October 21-28, 2018.

Pliskova and Svitolina round out the singles field, joining Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, US Open champion Naomi Osaka, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Dutch star Kiki Bertens, Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in Singapore. The eight players will compete for $7 million in prize money and bragging rights as to who can lay claim to be the “best of the year” for the 2018 season.

Women’s tennis has been as unpredictably exciting the last few years, illustrated by the fact that over the last eight major championships, eight different champions have been crowned.

Pliskova has earned her WTA Finals spot with two wins this season – in Stuttgart and at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. Said Pliskova, “I can’t wait to close out the year competing against the other elite players of 2018.”

Svitolina won three titles in three final-round appearances in 2018, lifting trophies in Brisbane, Dubai and Rome. The Ukrainian reached the quarterfinal stage at the Australian Open and made the round of 16 at the US Open, maintaining her Top 10 ranking all season long.

While many pointed to world No. 1 Simona Halep, the world No. 1, as the favorite, her health has been a major concern, causing her to pull out of the event in Moscow this week as well as Singapore and will not play again until 2019.

Wozniacki, the world No. 2, has shown a return-to-form with her recent victory in Beijing and could be the WTA betting favorite in Singapore because of this, Halep’s injury, and the fact that she is the defending champion, having beaten Venus Williams in Singapore last year. Following her break-through win at the Australian Open, her first major singles title, Wozniacki returned to the No. 1 ranking but struggled to maintain that form for most of the rest of the year, only winning in Eastbourne in June on grass.

Osaka turned the tennis world on its head with her shocking final-round win over Serena Williams at the U.S. Open and has handled the spotlight well since her maiden major victory in New York. She reached the final in Tokyo in her first event after her U.S. Open win, not an easy task, especially under the immense media scrutiny in her home nation. She also reached the semifinals of Beijing. She is trending upwards and could also cap her most impressive year with a title in Singapore.

Said WTA CEO & Chairman Steve Simon of the event, “Singapore will be an exciting week for women’s tennis, as the Top 8 singles players…are ready to compete for this prestigious title while celebrating an amazing five-year legacy in this wonderful city.”

Staged at the Singapore Sports Hub from October 21-28, the 2018 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global is a 10-day tennis festival featuring the world’s best players vying for a US$7 million in prize money and two of the most prestigious titles in women’s tennis. The Top 8 singles players will compete in a round-robin format with the winner taking home the Billie Jean King Trophy. For more information, go to www.WTAFinals.com

Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu Wins First WTA Title In San Jose, California

Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu won her first WTA title in convincing fashion on Sunday at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., defeating 23-year old Greek Maria Sakkari, 6-1, 6-0, in 1 hour, 13 minutes.

The victory will see Buzarnescu break into the Top 20 for the first time at 30 years old. Injuries have affected the Romanian’s career so much so that she was ranked outside the Top 400 as recently as May 2017 and used her time away from tennis to complete a PhD in sports science.

Sakkari, who defeated Venus Williams in the quarterfinals and two-time NCAA singles champion Danielle Collins in the semis, turned in a career-best result by reaching the final.

The US Open Series now brings the world’s best players to Canada in Week 3, with the Rogers Cup in Toronto (men) and Montreal (women). John Isner, Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe, Jared Donaldson, Ryan Harrison and qualifier Bradley Klahn are the American men competing in Toronto. Montreal will feature Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and qualifiers Caroline Dolehide and Christina McHale.

ESPN2’s coverage of both Rogers Cup events begins with second-round matches on Thursday and continues through Friday’s quarterfinals, Saturday’s semifinals and Sunday’s finals. The women’s final from Montreal will air at 1:30 p.m. ET, while the men’s final from Toronto will air at 4 p.m. ET. Additionally, Tennis Channel will have weeklong ATP World Tour coverage from Toronto, beginning on Monday and continuing through Sunday’s doubles final, wihle beIN Sports will air early-round matches in Montreal, beginning on Monday and continuing through Thursday.