WTA Recap: Sharapova, Halep & Venus Open Their 2015 Accounts With Titles
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The opening week of the new WTA season has now concluded, and it didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of shocks, drama and quality tennis to fill the appetite of any fan of this great sport. Let’s take a look at what went on in week one.
Maria Sharapova started her 2015 campaign in the perfect way by claiming the Brisbane title. The Russian came from a set down to defeat number two seed Ana Ivanovic 6-7,6-3,6-3. Sharapova undeniably is one of the best fighters on tour, and Saturday’s final proved that to its fullest. Despite not playing her best, the 5 time Grand Slam champion managed to pull the victory out of the bag despite being a set down. How many times have we seen that before? The run up to the final was fairly easy for Sharapova, who didn’t drop more than four games in a match before her meeting with Ivanovic. Her title win in Brisbane continues her great streak of winning a title every year since 2003, an impressive stat indeed. Sharapova will go into the Australian Open in good form and confidence, where she’ll hope to win her 6th Grand Slam crown. Judging by her form this week, that could very well happen.
It would be unfair to not mention the efforts of Ana Ivanovic, who did just as much as her opponent to make the final an entertaining and dramatic spectacle. The Serbian never gave up the fight, coming back from a break down to win the first set, and saving championship points before eventually losing the match. Despite the loss, the 2008 Roland Garros champion should be in good spirits heading into the Australian Open. The Serbian will be looking for a deep run in Melbourne, with the potential of going all the way.
In the doubles, Martina Hingis and Sabine Lisicki defeated Caroline Garcia and Katarina Strebotnik 6-2,7-5 in the final. That’s their second title together.
Simona Halep became the first player not named Li Na to win the Shenzhen open. The Romanian survived the early round scare by Annika Beck, and from then on looked ominous on her way to the title. Halep didn’t drop a set after losing the first in her opening round match, and didn’t face a break point in the final. The world number two defeated eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky 6-2,6-2 in just over an hour, despite feeling a bit sick in the build up to the match.
Winning the Shenzhen title historically has had a good bearing on the Australian Open. Li Na made the final in 2013 after winning the inaugural event, and in 2014 the Chinese star went all the way after winning her second straight Shenzhen title. It bodes well for Simona Halep, who will go into the first grand slam of the year as one of the favourites.
Runner up Timea Bacsinszky can be proud of her efforts in Shenzhen despite being completely outplayed in the final. The Swiss upset number two seed Petra Kvitova in the semi finals in straight sets, denying us a first seed vs second seed final. The 25 year old has been as high as 37 in the world rankings, and on the back of a good week here she’ll move up to number 38 in the world. Chances are Bacsinszky will achieve a career high ranking sooner rather than later.
In the doubles, Ukrainian pair, Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiia Kichenok defeated China’s Liang Chen and Wang Yafan, 6–4, 7–6(8–6) to win the title.
Many people are questioning whether 2015 will see the end of Venus Williams’ tennis career, but judging by the former world number one’s performances in Auckland, there is plenty of juice still left in the tank.
Venus was dominant on the road to the final, not dropping a set and handing out enough bagels to set up a bakery. Her biggest challenge stood in the form of Caroline Wozniacki in the final. The first set saw Venus struggle with the conditions which meant she hit a lot of unforced errors. Wozniacki remained aggressive yet consistent to take it 6-2. The American picked her game up in the second, and Caro started to fade. The third was the closest set of the lot, but The American stayed strong on serve to take the match 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 and improved her head to head advantage over the Dane to 6-0. This was the perfect warm up for Melbourne for Venus Williams, who in this form will be a dark horse to go deep in the competition.
Caroline Wozniacki had a good run, but never really asserted any dominance during the week. She made many uncharacteristic mistakes in the final, and didn’t serve very well. The former world number one will have to improve her performance if she wants to go deep in Melbourne. Wozniacki will look to use the Sydney tournament to build up some better form for the Australian Open.
Overall, a good first week of the season. Halep and Sharapova began their quest for the year end number one spot, whilst Venus showed she isn’t finished just yet. Let’s see what Sydney and Hobart bring as the Australian Open build up continues.