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Strycova Rounds Out WTA Top 20 After Career Year

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Barbora Strycova

2016 Quick Hits
Week 1 Ranking: No.42
Year-End Ranking: No.20 (Career-High No.19, 8/22/2016)
Titles Won: 0 (Dubai, Birmingham RU)
Best Major Result: 4R (Australian Open)

2017 Outlook

Barbora Strycova bounced back from a middling 2015 from the first week of the season, upsetting eventual French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza en route to the second week of the Australian Open. She followed that up with a run to the biggest final of her career, knocking out former No.1 Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Garcia at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“It’s been the best year of my career because I learned so many things, and also because my ranking improved,” Strycova told WTA Insider at the Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai. “I was very consistent throughout the whole season, which was, for me, the most important thing.”

The Czech veteran brought her best tennis all all surfaces, pushing Agnieszka Radwanska in a thrilling third round encounter in Roland Garros, and making her second WTA final of the season on grass at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham. Her brightest moments came in national competitions, earning a Bronze medal at the Olympic tennis event with Lucie Safarova, and later leading the Czech Republic to its fifth championship in six years. 

“The Olympics was something I dreamed about. When we found out we were playing together, Lucie told me on the flight to the Rogers Cup, ‘Ok, we’re going to get a medal!’ I told her, ‘You’re joking; we’ve played together once, what are you saying?’ But then we did it; it was something incredible.”

Looking ahead of 2017, Strycova plans to prioritize fitness over the off-season so she may continue to balance her heavy schedules in singles and doubles (with new partner, World No.1 Sania Mirza).

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Svitolina, Larsson Book New Haven Clash

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

NEW HAVEN, CT, USA – Lucky loser Johanna Larsson is through to her first WTA Premier-level semifinal at the Connecticut Open after a big upset over No.2 seed Roberta Vinci. She sets up a battle against No.10 seed Elina Svitolina, who powered past Elena Vesnina in straight sets.

Watch live action from New Haven this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!

At this tournament last year Larsson fell in the qualifying rounds, but today she got her revenge against the same player who ousted her, defeating Vinci, 7-6(9), 6-1.

“Last year I had a tough loss against her in the finals of qualifying,” Larsson recalled after the match. “And I actually remember I was serving for the set in that match as well. I was in the same position today, and I messed it up a little bit, but I was lucky to win today in the tiebreak.”

Larsson was a point away from comfortably taking the opening set 6-4; she had just broken Vinci’s serve with a pair of aggressive forehand returns, and brought up two set points on serve in the next game. But Vinci rallied to break back and keep them level, sending the set into a tiebreaker. The momentum swung back and forth between the two – both of them held set points during the tiebreaker – but Larsson’s dogged defense eventually forced the critical error from Vinci.

The Swede took flight in the second set, breaking Vinci four times to reel off five consecutive games against the Italian, taking the match and a spot in her first Connecticut Open semifinal on her main draw debut.

After the match Vinci, who looked considerably more sluggish in the second set, admitted that a lingering injury played a role in the defeat.

“I’m injured a little bit. I have a little bit of pain of my tendon on left foot,” Vinci explained in press. “On the second set, I was not tired. But I thinking always about my pain, and I lost. But now I have two or three days off before New York to try to recover and stay better for the US Open.”

Larsson’s opponent in the semifinal will be No.10 seed Svitolina, who had all the answers against Vesnina and cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

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Vinci Clinches Top 10 Debut

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

DUBAI, UAE – Roberta Vinci caps a spectacular six months that saw her reach the US Open final, qualify for the Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, and capture the biggest title of her career at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy with one incredible 33rd birthday present. Next Monday, Vinci will become the oldest woman (at 33 years, four days old) and fourth Italian in WTA history to debut in the World’s Top 10.

“Yes, well, it was an incredible month for me, incredible end of the season, and incredible ranking right now,” Vinci said after reacing the semifinals in Zhuhai, which helped her finish 2015 ranked No.15.

A former No.1 in doubles, Vinci completes a quartet of a most impressive generation of Italians that includes Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, and Sara Errani – all of whom have reached the Top 10 and the finals or better at a Grand Slam in singles. Vinci paired with Errani to form one of the most dominant doubles pairs of the decade, winning five major titles together and completing a career Grand Slam at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships.

The veteran had previously peaked at No.11 for ten weeks in 2013 after reaching back-to-back quarterfinals at the US Open, but it was her most recent fortnight in Flushing – six weeks after being ranked as low as No.58 – that will prove unforgettable. Playing her first Grand Slam semifinal, she halted World No.1 Serena Williams’ own history-making bid to become the first to achieve the Calendar Year Grand Slam in 1988. Eliminating the American in three arduous sets, she then took part in the first-ever all-Italian final against eventual champion and childhood friend, Flavia Pennetta.

“I won a lot of matches,” Vinci told WTA Insider in Wuhan. “I reached one final in a Grand Slam for the first time, I beat Serena, I beat Petra. So of course now is my time, no? I’m close to the Top 10, so now I have to push more, I think.”

She began 2016 with a career-best Australian swing – reaching the quarterfinals of the Brisbane International and the third round at the Australian Open for the fourth time in her career – and a clear goal in mind for what she initially considered to be her last season.

“Well, of course I’m confident right now,” she said in Brisbane. “I’m 15 in the world right now and will try my best to reach the Top 10. This is my goal. I know it’s not easy, but I would like to enjoy this year, no pressure, try my best, improve every single day, every single tournament everything.”

Vinci all but clinched that goal a month later when she won her first Premier-level title at the inaugural event in St. Petersburg, defeating another Top 10 debutante Belinda Bencic in the final.

“It’s a lot for me. It’s an amazing moment. I’m not young,” she said on the WTA Insider Podcast. “I’m almost done. I’m really happy. I always tried to my best. It’s not easy to practice every single day. For me this tournament was a fantastic moment.”

Here is a look at the oldest players to make their Top 10 debut after the rankings made its debut in November 1975:

PLAYER (NATIONALITY)

DATE OF TOP 10 DEBUT

AGE

Roberta Vinci (ITA)

22-Feb-16

33 years, 4 days

Betty Stove (NED)

2-Oct-76

31 years, 100 days

Francesca Schiavone (ITA)

7-Jun-10

29 years, 349 days

Julie Halard-Decugis (FRA)

23-Aug-99

28 years, 347 days

Ai Sugiyama (JPN)

10-Nov-03

28 years, 128 days

Lucie Safarova (CZE)

8-Jun-15

28 years, 124 days

Paola Suárez (ARG)

7-Jun-04

27 years, 349 days

Li Na (CHN)

1-Feb-10

27 years, 340 days

Sandrine Testud (FRA)

7-Feb-00

27 years, 310 days

Flavia Pennetta (ITA)

17-Aug-09

27 years, 173 days

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Radwanska Runs Past Kvitova In New Haven

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

NEW HAVEN, CT, USA – Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska dropped just two games in a clinical 6-1, 6-1 defeat of defending champion Petra Kvitova at the Connecticut Open. She’s set to play against No.10 seed Elina Svitolina for a chance at the title. The Ukrainian youngster powered past lucky loser Johanna Larsson 6-4, 6-2 on her way to her first Premier-level final.

Watch live action from New Haven this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!

“I didn’t really expect that quick matches, for sure,” Radwanska said in her post-match press conference. “Everything was working for me tonight. I was really playing great, solid tennis from the beginning till the end.

“I think I was just feeling very good on court, very confident, very loose. I was serving much better than the other days.

“Well, what can I say? I’m just so glad I could win a match in that kind of style.”

Kvitova had led Radwanska 6-4 in their overall head-to-head heading into the final four, and was looking to reach a fifth straight final in New Haven (winning three of the last four years).

But the Czech star had been dealing with a cold, which appeared to catch up with her against the World No.4, who has now won their last three meetings. Playing in her first semifinal since Stuttgart, Radwanska blitzed Kvitova in cool 79 minutes to reach her second final of the season.

Kvitova took the defeat in stride, but now faces a race against the clock to be healthy in time for the US Open.

“It’s a long time since I’ve sat here as the defeated player, right?” she joked in press. “It’s not the best, but I think that I played good tournament here. I was in the semifinal. After a tough season for me so far, it’s always great result to play good tennis.

“I’m really glad how I played here, even today. I got everything back. I was just running out with my steam. It’s been a tough three weeks for me with Rio and week off between Rio and here. So I’m really glad that I played good.

“I’m still sick. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I’m playing Monday on US Open. I hope I will be better at that time.” 

Radwanska will play Svitolina for a first New Haven title; the Ukrainian youngster began the afternoon with a decisive win over Johanna Larsson.

“It’s a great feeling to be in the final again,” she said after the match. “It’s the first in a premier event for me, so it’s special one. I’m looking forward to this challenge.

Svitolina began the season by taking on former No.1 and Class of 2016 International Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee Justine Henin as a coaching consultant, and though she trails Radwanska 0-2 in their previous two meetings, the first was a grueling three-set affair at the Miami Open back in 2014.

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Fit Tip Friday: Cibulkova’s Footwork

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Semifinal Day Down Under

January 27, 2016

It’s semifinal day Down Under, and Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Johanna Konta are in action seeking a spot in the year’s first Grand Slam final. wtatennis.com contributor Chris Oddo makes his picks.

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Rogers & Jurak Capture Mylan WTT Trophy

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

FOREST HILLS, NY, USA – Led by WTA stars Shelby Rogers and Darija Jurak, the San Diego Aviators took home the Billie Jean King Trophy with a 25-14 (1-1 in Extended Play) win over Nicole Gibbs and Alla Kudryavtseva’s Orange County Breakers in the Mylan World TeamTennis Final.

Rogers and Jurak are in the midst of career-best seasons in singles and doubles, respectively, and helped the Aviators win three of the five sets played in women’s singles, doubles, and mixed to help their team clinch victory at the West Side Tennis Club on Friday.

A French Open quarterfinalist back in May, Rogers was set to make her Mylan WTT debut a year ago, but a debilitating knee injury not only kept that from happening, but essentially derailed her entire 2015 season. 

“Having this be my first full season of World TeamTennis, I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” Rogers told WTA Insider after the Final. “I couldn’t have asked for a better result. The memories and friends I’ve made will last forever. Everything was perfect; you get the nerves from your team and want to perform well for them. That was really cool tonight; I’m glad we could come through, and this is such a great moment for us.”

The young American will head into the US Open just shy of the career-high ranking of No.50 that she earned last week; defeating Gibbs 5-2 in women’s singles and partnered with Jurak to win the women’s doubles set by the same score, Rogers hopes to take some of the tactics she learned from Billie Jean King’s co-ed professional league into her WTA matches.

“World TeamTennis is great at helping you learn to play the big points well, and teaches you to not be so distracted by little things. You have to play through whatever, and the crowds are great. They really get into it and give us energy that helps us through the tough times. Our home matches in San Diego were the best; our fans were so loyal and it’s been a blast.”

Jurak joined the league as a substitute back in 2013, and credited new WTA partner Anastasia Rodionova – who helped the Kastles to many of their record-setting six straight Mylan WTT trophies – with inspiring her to new heights in her second season with the Aviators.

“Nastya said a lot of things about World TeamTennis,” the doubles specialist said of her co-winner in Eastbourne and co-finalist in Stanford. “She’s a four-time champion – and she set a good example; I learned from her a lot because she’s been playing this league and on the WTA tour for so long and I’m fortunate that I can play with her.

“I can’t explain how happy I am that we won today. This team effort is amazing, and I’m really happy that we have such good chemistry, which is almost everything here. Without that, it’s impossible to win, because we have to really be a team.”

Finishing a close second to the Aviators, Gibbs and Kudryavtseva had another season to remember in Mylan World TeamTennis, reaching their second straight final with two different teams. Rookie of the Year in 2015, Kudryavtseva paired Gibbs to become top women’s doubles team in the league and win seven straight matches to reach the championship match in New York City.

“It was really fun to have the chance to develop what we had done last year and progress as team,” said Gibbs, who was awarded Female MVP after combining her doubles prowess with the second highest winning percentage in women’s singles.

“I always give all the credit to Alla in the doubles. She’s the one telling me what to do and I’m just kind of occupying space out there, and letting her do her thing.”

“And that’s why I like to play with her, obviously,” Kudryavtseva added with a laugh. “She gives me all the credit; even when she’s over there hitting aces, she’ll say, ‘Well done! You gave me good direction!'”

The 41st season of Mylan World TeamTennis came to a close with the spirit of King’s vision of men and women working together in harmonious equality completely on display within both teams not only on display, but also standing in stark contrast to the increasingly polarized climate in which the league presently exists.

“It’s always a privilege to get to play in a league founded by Billie Jean King and really delivers her message,” Gibbs said. It’s really special for both of us, especially as individuals who are vocal about equality; we’re walking the talk by playing World TeamTennis and making ourselves available in this part of the year.

“We’re in the midst of a contentious election in the US, and so people are probably more vocal than normal about some of these topics. I just hope that equality is something pushed as an agenda item.”

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Venus Hungry For Further Success In 2017

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Venus Williams

2016 Quick Hits
Week 1 Ranking: No.7
Year-End Ranking: No.17
Season Highlights: Title at Kaohsiung
Best Major Result: SF (Wimbledon)

2017 Outlook

Despite turning 36 last summer, Venus Williams continues to challenge for tennis’ biggest honors. She proved this at Wimbledon, where she saw off several of the game’s brightest young talents to became the oldest Grand Slam semifinalist in 22 years.

It was not the only high point of the campaign either; in Kaohsiung she collected a 49th career title, reaching another final at Stanford before teaming up with Rajeev Ram to win mixed doubles silver at the Rio Olympics – her fifth medal at the Games.

There had been whispers that Brazil could be the curtain call on Williams’ wonderful career. However, the American has quashed such talk, outlining her plans to stay on tour until 2018, and even entertaining the possibility of playing until Tokyo 2020.

“I’ve been working hard in the gym and getting back on the court,” Williams said recently. “I just love the game, I really do. I love the challenge. It’s been such a part of my life that it’s hard to imagine life without it.

“I’m just gearing up for 2017 like I’m sure everybody else is.”

Her season opener will come in Auckland, where she will be joined by sister Serena and another thirtysomething still going strong, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Understandably, Williams, who lifted the title in 2015 and reached the final in 2013, is excited about her upcoming visit to the North Island.

“I am so excited to come back to Auckland, which is one of my favorite stops on the circuit,” Williams said. “It will be nice to have Serena there as well this year. “Being in Auckland will be a fantastic way to start 2017 and I am really looking forward to it!”

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RTS Update: Radwanska Boosts Hopes

RTS Update: Radwanska Boosts Hopes

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Traditionally the Connecticut Open is a time for dotting i’s and crossing t’s, providing a stage for its invariably impressive cast of performers to fine tune their game ahead of the year’s final major, the US Open.

Agnieszka Radwanska grasped the opportunity with both hands, strolling through that draw and to the 19th title of her career. The result elevated her to fourth place on the Road To Singapore leaderboard and closer to qualifying for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, which she so famously won last autumn.

With many of the other leading contenders for Singapore resting up or travelling early to New York, other movement was restricted to lower down the leaderboard. Elina Svitolina produced some of her best tennis of 2016 to reach the final, a result that took her from No.30 to No.20.

One of Radwanska’s victims, another former WTA Finals champion Petra Kvitova, was rewarded for her semifinal run with a jump from No.33 to No.25 on the leaderboard, while Elena Vesnina is up to No.14 from her previous position of No.15.

The campaign’s final major usually has a significant say in who will be Singapore-bound, with Garbiñe Muguruza, Radwanska and Simona Halep all hoping secure their spot alongside the first two qualifiers, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.

RTS Ranking Movers

Petra Kvitova: No.33 to No.25 (+8)
Elina Svitolina: No.30 to No.20 (+10)
Elena Vesnina: No.15 to No.14 (+1)
Agnieszka Radwanska: No.5 to No.4 (+1)

WTA Road To Singapore Leaderboard

Click here to see the full Road To Singapore leaderboard standings following New Haven.

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Kvitova Wins Ostapenko Opener

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

NEW YORK, NY, USA – No.11 seed Petra Kvitova overcame a losing head-to-head record against 19-year-old Jelena Ostapenko to win 7-5, 6-3 in her opening round match at the US Open.

Kicking off the day’s action on Court 12, the two-time Wimbledon champion was dealt a tricky opening match against the young Latvian. Ostapenko has defeated Kvitova twice already in 2016, notching three-set wins at Doha and Birmingham.

“I knew that I had to return better, especially on her second serve, which I did today at the end of the match,” Kvitova explained in post-match press. “I was struggling a little bit at the beginning, kind of tight and couldn’t really move. I know that she hits big and fast, and I was trying to eliminate that.”

Ostapenko has been on the rise all year: she started out the season ranked No.84 and now at No.36, she just narrowly missed out on getting a US Open seeding. And against Kvitova, whose bronze medal at the Olympic tennis event has been the highlight of an otherwise quiet season, the Latvian’s big hitting always spells out big trouble.

Ostapenko kept to the script out on Court 12 today as well, breaking Kvitova twice to power ahead to a 3-0 lead. The Czech rallied to grab a break back, playing consistent tennis to force the errors to leak from the 19-year-old’s backhand wing. Kvitova finally leveled the set at 5-5, and rattled off the next two games to take the opening set.

Kvitova continued her romp into set two, where she tamped down three of Ostapenko’s break opportunities to roll to a straight sets victory. The Czech hit just six winners to five unforced errors during the match, but overall kept her margins cleaner than Ostapenko’s four winners and 11 unforced errors.

“I feel like I had a breakthrough here at the US Open,” Kvitova said. I didn’t really like it before; I don’t know why, but I feel the courts aren’t as fast as I wish they’d be. But I made a great success last year, and I hope it’s not the end. I know how difficult it is with the air and the humidity is not the best for me, but today I played good and didn’t have any troubles with that.”

She’ll face Turkey’s No.66 Cagla Buyukakcay in the second round, who recorded the first win of the day when she knocked out No.75 Irina Falconi in her US Open main draw debut.

“I haven’t played her yet, but it’s nice that someone is making stories like she is,” Kvitova said of the Turkish trailblazer. “It’s nice that she’s showing her tennis to Turkish people so more people play there.”

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