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Insider RTS Update: Concrete Start

Insider RTS Update: Concrete Start

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Azarenka’s Near-Perfect Start: Former No.1 Victoria Azarenka continued her march back towards the top of the women’s game with a 20th career title at the Miami Open, becoming the third woman in WTA history to capture the Indian Wells-Miami “Sunshine” Double – joining Steffi Graf (1994, 1996) and Kim Clijsters (2005). With 22 of her 23 matches won thus far, Azarenka is in the midst of her best start to a season since her 23-match winning streak back in 2012. The Belarusian has won a tour-leading three titles and her only loss came in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open to eventual champion Angelique Kerber. Azarenka swiftly avenged the loss and didn’t drop a set en route to her third Miami title.

Just over a year ago, injuries and inconsistencies saw the two-time Australian Open champion fall as far as No.50, but her Sunshine Sweep not only takes her back into the Top 5 for the first time since 2014, but also helps her regain the top spot on the Road to Singapore leaderboard.

Kerber Rebounds For Strong Second: Though Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber struggled to regain the form that helped her defeat Azarenka and World No.1 Serena Williams to win her maiden Grand Slam title through the Middle East and Indian Wells – losing in her opening match in both the Qatar Total Open and the BNP Paribas Open to Zheng Saisai and Denisa Allertova, respectively – a solid fortnight in Miami brought her back to No.2 in the world and the Road to Singapore leaderboard. The German was down a set to Kiki Bertens in the third round and a break in the final set of her fourth round against Timea Babos, but was full of confidence in her quarterfinal against rival Madison Keys and came closest to pushing Azarenka to three sets in their semifinal.

Kerber next heads into what was her strongest part of last season, having won back-to-back titles in Charleston and Stuttgart. Top seed at the Volvo Car Open, she will have the opportunity to close what is only a 169 point gap between herself and Azarenka on the RTS leaderboard.

Serena Stays In Contention: World No.1 Serena Williams remains in search of a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title and trails Azarenka and Kerber on the Road To Singapore leaderboard. Finishing runner-up at the Australian Open, the American appeared on course for her first BNP Paribas Open title since 2001, but the emotions of the moment undoubtedly played a factor in her straight-sets loss to the Belarusian in Indian Wells. Playing Indian Wells and Miami for only the second time in 15 years, Williams ran into an inspired Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round of the Miami Open, a tournament she has won an astounding eight times in her glittering career. The defending French Open champion will look to make up for lost ground in the clay court season, having reached the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open before triumphing on the terre battue in 2015.

Radwanska’s Semifinal Streak: Agnieszka Radwanska may have lost before the semifinals for the first time in 2016 at the Miami Open, but one cannot ignore the Pole’s stunning stretch of results; in fact, no player has won more matches since last year’s US Open than the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion, who reached the final four in Australia and Indian Wells. Radwanska reached the semifinals or better at four of her five events so far this year, lifting the tropy on her season debut at the Shenzhen Open. Her run in Miami came to a premature end at the hands of 2015 French Open semifinalis Timea Bacsinszky, causing her to drop back down to No.3 on the WTA rankings – after briefly reclaiming No.2 following Indian Wells – and settle for No.4 on the Road to Singapore leaderboard. Radwanska may prefer to be heading to grass courts to better capitalize on her good form, but clay court success is far from impossible for the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up, who made the semifinals in Madrid and quarterfinals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia back in 2014. 

Ones To Watch: An ankle injury interrupted Carla Suárez Navarro’s Sunshine Swing, but the Spaniard nonetheless had a first quarter to remember in 2016, reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and her first career Premier 5 title at the Qatar Total Open. Aiming to reach the Top 5, Suárez Navarro got within one spot of her season goal – and a career-high ranking – following her win in Doha, peaking at No.6 on the WTA rankings and currently rounds out the Top 5 on the Road to Singapore leaderboard. One of the many hoping to qualify for Singapore last fall, she narrowly missed out on a qualification berth when she lost in the quarterfinals of the Kremlin Cup to Daria Kasatkina. 

RTS No.6 Svetlana Kuznetsova has stealthily enjoyed a career renaissance since capturing the title in Moscow last fall, winning the Apia International Sydney and following up her Miami upset over Williams with a run to the final, losing to Azarenka in straight sets. The two-time Grand Slam champion was very close to returning to the Top 10 for the first time since 2010, but still managed to vault into the Top 8 on the RTS leaderboard. Kuznetsova hasn’t qualified for the WTA Finals since 2009, and never progressed past the round robin stage in five appearances.

British No.1 Johanna Konta refuses to rest on her laurals, backing up her run to the semifinals of the Australian Open by posting solid results through the WTA’s very own March Madness. The first set of her quarterfinal against Azarenka was one of the best of the tournament, one that truly tested the mettle of both women, who had only competed one other time last fall.

Ranked No.8 on the Road to Singapore leaderboard is Italian veteran Roberta Vinci, who captured the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy and became the oldest woman to debut in the Top 10 in WTA history. The 2015 US Open finalist was forced to pull out of the BNP Paribas Open with a right foot injury in the fourth round and won only one match in Miami before losing to Keys in straight sets.

On the bubble are Belinda Bencic and Barbora Strycova, ranked No.9 and No.10 respectively on the RTS leaderboard. Bencic made her own Top 10 debut after reaching the finals in St. Petersburg and boasted her best Australian Open finish with a run to the round of 16. Strycova has played some dangerous ball in 2016, herself, finishing runner-up at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and upset Garbiñe Muguruza in Melbourne. 

Timea Bacsinszky is Bencic’s compatriot and the former World No.9 rocketed up the Road to Singapore leaderboard (no.64 to No.14) after she made the semifinals of the Miami Open with her first career Top 3 win over Agnieszka Radwanska, which she followed up by beating former No.2 Simona Halep in the quarterfinals. 

Looking Ahead: The clay court season begins in earnest at the Volvo Car Open, which will be headlined by Kerber and Bencic; how many points are up for grabs leading up to the second Grand Slam of the year?

• In 2015, Kerber was the only player to win two clay court titles at the Premier level or higher.

• Serena Williams owns 12 clay-court titles, the most among active players

RTS Leaderboard - Miami

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Gibbs Of Gab: Bright Lights Equal Rights

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Before walking out to Center Court on Monday night, I prepared myself for the worst case scenario. Moments before the match, on the TV monitor in the gym, I could see that there were still very few fans positioned in their seats. I prepped myself for a deflated walk-out scene and a distant – if not completely detached – crowd of a thousand in the massive 14,000 seat stadium.

This wasn’t a new prep routine for me. Coming from the challengers and qualifying rounds, I am very accustomed to empty seats, if not empty stadiums like this one. “It’s not about how many people are there or what the atmosphere is like, it’s about the tennis,” a familiar self-told mantra ran through my head, almost on auto-pilot.

This time, I had completely miscalculated. Hundreds of fans were filing in as the announcer sent my name flying up into the night sky and it was met with energy. Not final round qualifying on Court 1 energy, and not even first on Stadium Court at 11am. This felt like the real deal in a way that no prior experiences had prepared me for. Meanwhile, for my opponent, No.4 in the world, this was nothing new. This was unexceptional – just another evening at the office.

I had a feeling I might be in trouble when we got to the overheads segment of the warmup. My overhead, a shot I normally rely on for its consistency (and general non-sh***yness) was all over the place. Shank. Miss-hit. Shank, shank. 10 feet long. Oh god. I readied myself in my chair after the warmup. You can do this. Focus on the tennis, there’s nothing to lose here. You belong here. I got up from my chair and set up to serve for the first point of the match.

“Ready, play.” The hum of the crowd turns to complete silence. When did it get so dark? I can’t make out a single face up in the stands. Wow, these lights are really, really bright. Everyone in the audience can see me, but I can’t see them, I can only hear that they’re there. It’s an eerie feeling. My head is spinning, and I’m feeling a little disconnected from my body. Somehow, I win the first game.

And that would be the last game I won.

Around the time I would normally settle into a match after a nervous start, around 4-1, things just got worse. My serve had completely disappeared, I wasn’t moving well to my left, my body felt tense and foreign, and my opponent was playing high level tennis. This was a nightmare. By the time 6-1 2-0 rolled around, I had taken on an even greater sense of despair. Here I had been arguing for equal pay for the WTA just earlier this week, and now I’m going to be used as a case-in-point example for the opposition’s stance. The arguments go, “The WTA provides an inferior product to the ATP” and “The top players barely spend time on the court because there’s no depth on the women’s side.”

I thought to myself, just please get games and make the match longer or more entertaining. Please don’t give people another reason to call you, or more importantly, your sport, a joke…

For all of you who are reading this and thinking, “Wow, was she really thinking about all that during the match?” Yes, I was. But this pattern of thinking is nothing new to me. As a female athlete, it can sometimes feel like I have to put up a fight for basic respect. I could already see the post match tweets saying, “Ha ha, 55 minutes on court and 1 game but you deserve equal pay??” or “What a joke that you think your opinion matters to anyone, you’re a crappy WTA player,” or even a rendition of “Go back to the kitchen where you’ll be useful.”

Most of the time, it’s easy to view these messages with humor. These aren’t the people whose opinions I value. So if it stopped there, with a few isolated hate messages on Facebook or Twitter, that would be one thing. But it doesn’t come close to stopping there.

For me, being told that what I am doing is second class is second nature. Moments after Raymond Moore’s comments at Indian Wells a few weeks ago, I received messages from ATP players, goading me, asserting that Moore’s reasoning was sound. I have had countless individuals, men and women alike, suggest to me that tennis skirts are the principle driver of revenue on the women’s tour. From average, high school aged male tennis players challenging me to matches because they’re sure they could never lose to a girl, to male coaches telling me, “In women’s tennis, you don’t even have to be talented to succeed,”

I feel like I’ve seen it all. But in reality, I haven’t. I live in a privileged world in which the idea of equality is actually entertained. For a majority of women in the world, issues of female infanticide and domestic violence trump simple issues of pay and respect. But when are we going to get to a place as a global community where disrespect and lack of opportunity are no longer the problems reserved for fortunate women?

In the meantime, Billie Jean King tells me that I have a platform, so I plan to use it. Because I, for one, would love for my future daughter to fight for a game down 6-1 2-0 because she hates getting bageled, not because she’s worried that a bagel might undermine her right to equality.

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News | WTA Tennis English

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Angelique Kerber is guaranteed a return to WTA World No.1 when the new rankings are released by virtue of Serena Williams’ withdrawal from the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open.

Kerber and Williams entered the tournament facing a battle for World No.1, with the American needing to reach at least the semifinals to hold on to the top spot. But the race to the top took another twist as Williams announced her withdrawal on Tuesday before the start of play at Indian Wells:

“Sadly, I have to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Miami Open,” Williams said in a statement. “I have not been able to train due to my knees and am disappointed I cannot be there. I will keep moving forward and continue to be positive. I look forward to being back as soon as I can.”

As a result, Kerber is projected to return to World No.1 when the new WTA rankings are released on Monday, March 20 after Indian Wells and will hold on to the spot through at least April 2, which will take her career total to 22 weeks at No.1.

She will surpass Kim Clijsters (20 weeks), Tracy Austin (21 weeks) and Maria Sharapova (21 weeks) in terms of all-time weeks atop the rankings.

The German first rose to the World No.1 ranking on September 12, 2016 after winning her second Grand Slam at the US Open. Kerber became the second German woman to reach the milestone since the computer rankings were introduced in 1975, and the first since Stefanie Graf. The then-28-year-old also became the oldest player to make her debut at No.1, a record previously held by Jennifer Capriati, who was 25 years, 200 days when she reached No.1 in October 2001.

Kerber held the spot for 20 consecutive weeks until Williams reclaimed the ranking following her historic 23rd major victory at the Australian Open in January.

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Statement On Garcia vs. Begu Match

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

WTA STATEMENT in response to media allegations of misconduct by WTA player, Caroline Garcia, during Garcia v Begu match, April 4.

Steve Simon, WTA CEO: “The highest level of professional conduct on court is paramount to the WTA and anything less is unacceptable. After thorough investigation, we have found no evidence to support these allegations. This matter is closed.”

 

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