It’s total, yet again. Another day, another tight match. One that had just enough drama to keep us tuning in. This week, the teams were locked in a tight battle for the WTA No. 1 ranking with the number of match points at a decade-high. We’ll have more in a moment, but first, let’s take a step back and examine some of the trends that emerged from this latest batch of WTA match play.
It was a big week for former World No. 1 Simona Halep, who not only moved into a tie for second place with a thrilling 7-6(2) 7-5 win over Kaia Kanepi, but also claimed her first ever WTA crown. “I came here to win, and I did it,” said Halep. “I had such a great match. I served well and won a super big trophy.”
It was the biggest surprise of the week, one that came as a complete shock to just about everyone. Having won 11 of her previous 12 matches, Halep looked to be on her usual pre-match routine. She’d made early inroads, breaking Kanepi’s service game and leading 4-1 in the first set. Unfortunately, after taking a 5-4 lead in the second set, Halep’s run of success came to a sudden end as Kanepi battled back to tie the set at 5-all. From there, the Ukrainian failed to convert two set-points before the Estonian closed out the game and took the title.
This was another week of dominant performances from the #TeamRed team, with two of the week’s top three players all dressed in crimson. Dominika Cibulkova continued her red-hot form, hammering another top-20 opponent 6-0 6-1, saving a match point while steamrolling her way to victory in the other. She now leads the team with 23 wins and has only lost four matches since the start of 2019, easily the best record on the team.
A month ago, we might have said the same about Petra Kvitova, but her campaign came to an end in heartbreaking fashion when she was ousted by Elise Mertens in the quarterfinals. Since then, Kvitova has been nowhere to be found in the world of tennis. She currently sits at 91st place in the rankings, her worst showing in years. She’s lost nine of her past 10 matches and, for the third week in a row, she exited the WTA championship in the quarterfinals. After winning the first set against Elina Svitolina, the second set went to a tie-break which the Ukrainian emerged victorious from, for a third set that she eventually lost.
We’ll take a quick trip down memory lane and remember the 2016 US Open, where Petra Kvitova became the first Czech player to win the singles title at a Major. Back then, when Petra Kvitova was at the top of her game, there was no one she couldn’t beat. And beat she did, easily cruising past opponents in her path to the final, where she faced off against Serena Williams. It was an all-time classic and one that will be remembered for years to come.
The final score was 6-4, 6-4 in favor of Williams, but it wasn’t close to the final score of the first set. The second set was almost an exact replica of the first, with Williams breaking Petra Kvitova’s serve twice and saving a match point. The third set saw Serena take control again and coast to victory, closing out the match on serve for the fourth time in the set.
Petra Kvitova’s reign as WTA No. 1 was also short-lived, as Kaia Kanepi not only snatched the top ranking away from the Czech star, but she also became the first-ever WTA champion from Estonia. On the subject of leading ladies, Kanepi is the definition of the phrase “never say die.” Coming from behind to beat Halep twice this week, and then closing out the win in the final against Kvitova, Kanepi completed an unbeaten week and showed no signs of slowing down. She is determined to make the most of her opportunity and is aiming for a spot in the top four at the upcoming French Open. As mentioned by her coach, Jan Suchy, Kanepi may not be the best returner in the world, but she makes up for it with a never-say-die attitude. If she keeps playing like this, she just might be able to shake off that last spot and prove her doubters wrong.
The #TeamWhite team also had a very good week, with a trio of top-ranked players, including defending champion Angelique Kerber, taking down ranked opponents. The most notable win came in the form of a 6-3 6-3 triumph over the World No. 5, Ashleigh Barty, which elevated Alexandra Baltacha’s game to a new level. After making the final, she became the first unseeded player to win a WTA title. Baltacha also became the first player in the Open Era to win a WTA title after three sets of doubles. In the end, it was another very good week for the team, which can now look forward to the French Open.
Last but not least, there’s the team that continues to defy all odds and remain unbeaten, the #TeamBlue team. Once again, this was another dominant week for Caroline Wozniacki, who not only won her third doubles title of the year (along with her sister, Elise Wozniacki), but also sealed the No. 1 ranking with a 6-3 6-2 win over Kaia Kanepi. When asked about her winning streak, the 2017 French Open runner-up responded with a smile: “This is not a surprise to anyone, because we’ve been playing well for years. I think we’ve always played well together, but it’s only now that we really seem to be meshing as a family and as a unit. I’m very happy that my family got to experience this with me. This is a big confidence boost going into the rest of the season.”
The undefeated streak will be on the line this week in Marseille as the team gears up for the French Open. While Wozniacki will be looking to extend her win streak, her opponents, in particular her sister’s, will be desperate to end it. If Wozniacki can avoid losing a game until the final, it will be yet another historical feat for the family.