Highlights from first round action at the Aegon International.
Timea Bacsinszky hasn’t always loved the grass. Before she returned to the tour after a three-year break, she was 3-5 in her career on the turf. “I was kind of afraid of grass for many years, but since I came back in 2013 [it’s changed].” Indeed, since her return three years ago she is 10-4 on grass with a Wimbledon quarterfinal already under her belt last year.
Bacsinszky’s first match on grass in three years came at Wimbledon qualifying in 2013. It was just the second tournament she played since deciding to return to the tour (the first being Roland Garros). “I played against Madison Brengle and I ended up winning 6-4 in the third.” Bacsinszky said during All-Access Hour at the Aegon International on Monday. “For me it was like a miracle, like coming from nowhere playing in Roehampton, which is like a potato field,” she said, much to the delight of a laughing press corp.
“All my respects to Roehampton, they are trying their best, but it’s not really the most glamorous grass court ever. With those like funny conditions, you have many courts everywhere and it’s like a bazaar. It’s like a zoo over there. I ended up winning a match. I was like, wow. And almost won my second match but I lost against Schmiedlova 7-5 in the third.”
Slowly, the always adaptable Bacsinszky, who has posted her best results on clay and hard courts, began to realize her game could flourish on grass.
“My game is quite good right now on grass because I’m able to play longer rallies if I really need to,” she said. “I know it’s not good to defend on grass, but I can be in that position to give one extra ball back for my opponent and to mix up with the spins to be able to come to the net, to be able to maybe do a chip and charge. I’m not even at 1% of Roger’s level in that, but I’m trying to improve my game and to make, yeah, everything possible what I can that can help me to play well on grass.”
Roger Federer is a seven-time Wimbledon champion. Belinda Bencic is a junior Wimbledon champion and won the Aegon International for her first title last year. Stan Wawrinka is a two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist and Bacsinszky has also made the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Martina Hingis is a Wimbledon champion in singles and won the doubles title with Sania Mirza last year.
So what gives? Why are the Swiss so solid on grass? As is her wont, Bacsinszky had an interesting take.
“I think it’s not something about the surfaces but it’s more that being in the middle of Europe tennis-type-wise you have all those influences,” she explained. “The French are playing like they like the nice game, coming forward, making big shots, aesthetically nice, a lot of culture of tennis.
“Then you have the Spaniards fighting for every point, they don’t give a s***. And they just like go for every ball, try to give back so many balls, try to make work the [opponent]. Okay, you’re gonna say not every Spaniard, for sure. There are always the exceptions; Muguruza is not that type of player.
“The majority of Spaniards are like, ‘Okay, I’m going to fight for everything, and the spirit of clay court. Even if I have to chip everything, I’m going to win the match even if it’s ugly. Even if it’s playing with the other side of the racquet, I don’t care.’
“Italy can be also like this. It’s a mixture. And then you have Eastern Europe, which are based on the baseline hitting everything, going for the lines, trying to take the ball early, putting a lot of pressure.
“Why Switzerland, why we have so many maybe good players? We have all these influences. And I think that’s what it’s like in the Swiss mentality, you’re open for everything. We have to learn more languages, every kid has an education. Most of the people have a job, a decent job. They work hard. We like to work. It’s all the system which works.
“And maybe – it’s a small parallel to say that – maybe that’s why we can also play well on grass, because we are open minded. We say, ‘Okay, we are gonna fight for every point. We are gonna try to hit balls. We’re gonna try maybe new things and we are going to accept the situation and how it is.’ And so we go for it.”
But for Bacsinszky it’s more than just about being Swiss. A child of Hungarian immigrants, she traces part of her her autonomous drive – her Twitter hashtag motto is #limitless – to her parents.
“My mom and my dad were, when I was a kid, telling me you have to fight for what you have, you have to fight for who you want to be, it’s not only given. You have to go and work for what you really want to get. It’s probably why also I’m restless. If I commit to something, I really want to go to my maximum. I never know where my limits are, where my maximum is, but I’m trying to seek it.
“It’s probably because of the Hungarian influence, because they have been beaten so many times in war. They were such a big empire. But we are also quiet population. In Switzerland, you don’t say, ‘Oh, I’m a proud Hungarian.’ Other countries, they would all the time have the flags and stuff. But Hungarians are I believe in foreign countries they are really super quiet.
“I have this will and probably it’s coming from that. You have to fight. Like my dad fought to get away from Romania. He was Hungarian but in the Hungarian minority of Romania, and he couldn’t pass the borders and had to arrange a marriage in order to get out. I mean, political refugee.
“It was really tough. My mom had an easier situation, but I know it wasn’t easy for them. And I grew up with that. So that’s why I fought all the time for everything, what I did. It’s probably because of that.”
Click here to read more about this year’s Wimbledon Contenders, courtesy of WTA Insider.
All photos courtesy of Getty Images.
Garbiñe Muguruza hasn’t had too much time to revel in her maiden Grand Slam triumph. Not long after stunning World No.1 Serena Williams to win the French Open, the Spaniard had to shift focus to yet another major tournament, one played on courts that serve as a stark contrast to slow red clay.
“I just have to keep a totally open mind,” she told press after her opening round loss at the Mallorca Open. “I came to Mallorca with very little time to prepare. I mean, yesterday I was still in Paris, and this is a totally different surface.
“The truth is I’m disappointed, but now I’m just training harder to arrive ready for Wimbledon.”
While many French Open champions tend not to grab too many headlines as the tour takes over the All England Club, all eyes will be on Muguruza to see if she can back up last year’s breakthrough fortnight, when she upset Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the final – becoming the first Spanish woman to make it that far since Conchita Martinez in 1994.
“Oh man, I barely remember the last time. It’s been over a year since my [Wimbledon] final, and it feels like ages since I last stepped on grass. But sure, it brings me great memories, even though grass isn’t a surface I’ve always loved – I didn’t used to like it at all.”
While back-to-back quarterfinal appearances foreshadowed this year’s title run at Roland Garros, the Spaniard had won a grand total of one main draw match at Wimbledon, and was perilously close to elimination in bother her second and third round matches to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Angelique Kerber before catching fire in the second week.
“I’ve learned to love it more lately, with time. And then reaching the final at Wimbledon, that was something so special.
“It’s always a hard switch, especially the first few days on grass, but there’s little tricks to help adjust.”
Playing her first major final, she played Williams through two tough sets, admitting to nerves playing a part in keeping her from stepping over the finish line.
“I felt I had a lot of opportunities against her, and I just thought in Wimbledon I was very nervous,” she said after winning in Paris. “I couldn’t really control that.”
After losing the opening set of her first round, Muguruza looked in complete control in Paris, rolling over the field and winning 12 straight sets en route to the title and a new career-high ranking of No.2. Whether the quantum leap in her resume gives her more confidence remains to be seen, but seems to know she can’t rest on her laurels.
“When you step out onto the court, it doesn’t matter if, last week, you’ve just won a Grand Slam, in the end it comes down to who can play their best on that day.”
Muguruza’s career has already been full of the highest of highs and lowest of lows; it took her until the Asian Swing to recover from reaching last year’s Wimbledon final, but she made up for lost time in style, going undefeated in round robin play of her BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global debut.
This season, but contrast, has been a slow build, putting one solid result on top of another before she was able to climb up and grab a piece of Grand Slam glory. A steep drop-off wouldn’t be out of character, but certainly out of step for a player who has not only evolved into a Grand Slam contender, but a Grand Slam champion.
Click here to read more about this year’s Wimbledon Contenders, courtesy of WTA Insider.
All photos courtesy of Getty Images.
Steffi Graf won her second straight Wimbledon final against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1996.
16-year-old Martina Hingis became the youngest Wimbledon winner since Lottie Dodd in 1887, but did so at the expense of good friend and doubles partner Jana Novotna, who was playing her first major final since her heartbreaking loss to Steffi Graf in 1993 at the All England Club.
But Novotna finally won her Wimbledon trophy one year later in 1998, upsetting Hingis in the semifinals and defeating Nathalie Tauziat in the championship match.
Lindsay Davenport ended Steffi Graf’s hopes for a 23rd Grand Slam title by winning her second major in under a year and defeating the German in her final Wimbledon appearance.
Venus won the first of her five Wimbledon titles to kick off the new millennium, knocking out Hingis, sister Serena, and defending champion Davenport for her long-awaited first Grand Slam title.
Venus repeated the feat in 2001, becoming the first woman to win two Wimbledons in a row since Graf in 1996, defeating a young Justine Henin, who was playing her first major final, in three sets.
Venus and Serena played the first of four all-Williams Wimbledon finals in 2002, with younger sister coming out on top for her first victory at the All England Club, which became the second leg of her 2002-2003 Serena Slam.
The sisters met again in 2003 for an epic three-set final that saw Serena capture her fifth Grand Slam title in six appearances.
Wimbledon at 17: Maria Sharapova toppled Serena Williams in straight sets to capture her first major title, catapulting her to the top of the women’s game in 2004.
Seeded No.14, Venus Williams overcame all kinds of adversity to up-end Davenport for her first major title since 2001, saving a match point and winning the longest women’s final in Wimbledon history back in 2005.
Less than six months after her first major title, Amélie Mauresmo struck gold at Wimbledon, denying Henin of the Career Grand Slam to clinch her first Wimbledon title in 2006.
Ranked outside the Top 30, Venus became the lowest ranked and lowest seeded woman in Wimbledon history to capture the Venus Rosewater dish, taking out surprise finalist Marion Bartoli for her fourth title at the All England Club.
Venus made it two in a row once more in 2008, earning her first win over sister Serena in a Grand Slam final since 2001 for her fifth Wimbledon title.
Serena got her revenge in 2009, defeating Venus in straight sets for her second major title of the season.
Serena defended her Wimbledon title for the second time in her illustrious career, defeating Vera Zvonareva in straight sets.
Petra Kvitova became the first woman born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam, surprising Maria Sharapova to win her first of two Wimbledon titles in 2011.
After a harrowing two-year odyssey dealing with injuries and illness, Serena won her first major title since 2010, surviving a second-set fightback from Agnieszka Radwanska in the final. Serena came back to the All England Club three weeks later to win a pair of Olympic Gold medals.
Marion Bartoli made her Grand Slam dream come true in 2013, stunning Sabine Lisicki in straight sets as the Frenchwoman won her first major title before retiring a few weeks later.
Kvitova won her second Wimbledon title in 2014, playing emphatic tennis over the fortnight leading up to a brilliant display in the championship match against Eugenie Bouchard.
Serena’s sixth Wimbledon title may have been her most special, as it helped her clinch her second Serena Slam. The World No.1 will nonetheless be in the hunt for title No.7 next week at the All England Club.
SINGAPORE – Doubles co-No.1s Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have become the first players to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, the WTA’s crown jewel event where the world’s Top 8 teams will battle for a $7-million prize purse.
“Qualifying for the WTA Finals for the second year in a row with Sania is very exciting,” said Hingis, three-time WTA Finals doubles champion. “We enjoyed every moment in Singapore last year and hope to defend our title amongst the best doubles teams in the world.”
Mirza added, “Being able to achieve such great success together has been a dream come true. Having won the WTA Finals in Singapore last year as well as multiple tournaments in such a short period of time has been an unbelievable experience. I’m very much looking forward to competing in Singapore once again to try to make it three titles in a row.”
The collaboration between Hingis and Mirza began at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where they achieved instant success by taking the title and eight more by the end of the year, including the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. This year, Hingis and Mirza have already claimed five titles – Brisbane International, Apia International Sydney, Australian Open, St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia – Rome. As a result, the Swiss-Indian duo, known as “SanTina” to their fans, will attempt to defend their title in Singapore in their second appearance as a team.
Here is the current doubles Road to Singapore Leaderboard:
1. Martina Hingis (SUI) / Sania Mirza (IND)
2. Caroline Garcia (FRA) / Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)
3. Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) / Lucie Hradecka (CZE)
4. Chan Hao-Ching (TPE) / Chan Yung-Jan (TPE)
5. Xu Yifan (CHN) / Zheng Saisai (CHN)
6. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) / Elena Vesnina (RUS)
7. Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) / Arantxa Parra Santonja (ESP)
8. Julia Goerges (GER) / Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
9. Vania King (USA) / Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS)
10. Timea Babos (HUN) / Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ)
The doubles competition will begin in Singapore on October 27 and is a single elimination contest between the Top 8 doubles teams of the 2016 season, all vying to hold the Martina Navratilova Doubles Trophy. Total prize money for doubles stands at $1.4 million with the champion team taking home up to $500,000.
Want to watch SanTina go for season-ending glory? Tickets packages for the WTA Finals are already available!
For the latest updates and insights, follow on Twitter (@WTAFinalsSG), Facebook (facebook.com/WTAFinalsSG) and Instagram (@WTAFinalsSG).
Defending champions Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza became the first players to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. The Co-No.1s started the year with their third straight Grand Slam title and have been all but invincible since, capturing a total of five titles in the first six months of the 2016 season.
Want more Santina stats? We’ve compiled the most important numbers behind Hingis and Mirza’s superb doubles careers – together and apart.
92 – Hingis (55) and Mirza (37) have won a total of 92 doubles titles throughout their careers.
41 – Hingis and Mirza went undefeated from the US Open to Qatar Total Open, the longest winning streak since 1990.
9 – The pair earned nine titles during their streak, including two Grand Slams and the WTA Finals crown.
14 – As a team, Santina has won 14 titles together and will look to defend their doubles title in Singapore at the WTA Finals this year.
3 – Mirza is returning to the WTA Finals for the third consecutive year.
2 – Mirza is a perfect 8-0 in doubles matches at the WTA Finals winning the title in 2014 with Cara Black and 2015 with Hingis.
1661 – Throughout their careers, Hingis (960) and Mirza (701) have combined to win 1,661 matches in singles and doubles matches combined.
111 – Mirza (63) and Hingis (58) have combined to spend 111 weeks at the top of the WTA Doubles Rankings, including 23 weeks as Co-No.1s.