By Ros Satar
- Britwatch Sports covered 14 tournaments this year all around the world!
- Chief tennis writer Ros Satar takes a look at Britwatch’s travels and picks out her best moments
- First up – the start of the season Down Under, the spring US hard court swing and then onto clay
LONDON, UK – It has been a great year for tennis, with some fascinating stories and stars emerging in 2018. Ros Satar looks at some of the best tournaments of the year as she travelled around the world covering tennis for Britwatch Sports.
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For the second time, Britwatch Sports was at the Australian Open and going into the new season, we were uncertain what we were going to see. Andy Murray had intended to start his season at Brisbane and had to pull out with ongoing issues with a hip injury that saw him miss the end of last season, and it was a bitterly disappointing blow for the Brit to delay his comeback to the tour still further.
We need not have worried – later to become British No. 1, Kyle Edmund more than stepped up to the plate. From winning a tough opener against Kevin Anderson, Edmund gained in confidence as he went on with an especially solid win over Grigor Dimitrov. However, he came unstuck against Marin Cilic as injury caught up with him, ruling him out of the Davis Cup tie straight after Melbourne.
Cilic went on to face Roger Federer in the final, losing to the Swiss for a second time in a row, but given his tearful exit in the Wimbledon final thanks to blisters the year before it was a far better account of himself this time around, pushing Federer to five sets.
On the women’s side, the expectation was all on Simona Halep. A rolled ankle looked to put that in jeopardy, but gritty determination of spirit saw her and Angelique Kerber deliver arguably one of the best matches of 2018. For our money it was the de facto final.
However, in the final facing Caroline Wozniacki, one of those ladies was going to win a Slam for the first time. It was a tight affair, with Halep giving it everything she had left and ending up in hospital on a drip afterwards, but it was Wozniacki who joined the Slam winner’s club on her third try.
It gave rise to Wozniacki’s relief that she would never have to answer the question of why she had never won a Slam again – although that would come to be replaced with ‘Why have you never advanced past the fourth round of Wimbledon?’ which proved to be quite the irritant for the Dane!
Our second outing of the year saw us head for some desert sun, and Indian Wells. Serena Williams was back in action, Edmund took over the mantle of World No. 1 but elsewhere on the British side, despite two remarkable years, Johanna Konta had been floundering at the start of the year.
The story of the tournament was the young’uns prevailing as Daria Kasatkina and Naomi Osaka delighted both on court and in press with their quirky styles. Kasatkina demolished the in-form Kerber and Halep was effective dismantled by Osaka – the future of the WTA was shining bright in the desert. In the end it was Osaka’s day, as Kasatkina ran out of steam.
If it was all about the youngsters on the WTA side, it was the comeback kings, Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro who battled to the end of the tournament. After Federer’s resurgent 2017, and his win at the start of the year in Melbourne, all eyes were on the Swiss to dominate – but a maiden Masters was on its way to the world’s perennial favourite, Del Potro.
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Always a favourite stop on the Britwatch tour, Stuttgart remains one of the best tournaments in the calendar, even if the slick indoor clay doesn’t quite herald the start of the lead up to Roland Garros (in the same way we roll our eye at the green-grey ‘clay’ of Charleston), it is the start of the European swing for many players.
We have seen Kerber add to a growing collection of Porsches, witnessed the media circus around Maria Sharapova’s return to competition after her drug suspension – and this year we saw a winner who did not even have a drivers’ licence.
Coco Vandeweghe spent most of her time carving through the field complaining about how much she hated the clay, but was a determined challenger to Karolina Pliskova, whose dry wit and ability to drop swear-words into press was at least as amusing as her reaction to the suggestion that she let her twin sister drive her new Porsche. The answer to that was a resounding no!
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After Edmund’s Australian Open heroics, illness and injury had taken a bit of a toll on the Brit, but now wearing the mantle of the British No. 1 he was back on his favourite surface of red clay, as he flew the flag well in Murray’s continued absence from the tour. He grabbed his first win over Novak Djokovic and despite bowing out to Denis Shapovalov, there was plenty to be proud of as he made a Masters quarter-final and hit the Top 20.
Rafael Nadal, having waited until the clay court season to make his return to the tour after injury swept to record-breaking 50 straight sets on clay as he reached the quarter-finals.
At the same tournament, Sharapova admitted that her coaching split with Sven Groeneveld had been tough as she struggled to find form over the year.
On to Paris for two weeks, and the story of the tournament for us was Halep finally getting over the line in her second Slam of the year, and her third try at the French Open. But before we get to that, beleaguered British No. 1 Konta stood her ground after losing in the first round again. She dug in her heels against a lot of criticism from the traditional press about her Roland Garros record with quite some style!
Cameron Norrie, who had impressed in his Davis Cup debut for Team GB made the best of his chances, reaching the second round in what was a rough Roland Garros for the Brits with Edmund getting the furthest in the third round.
Anticipation was high for an expected Serena v Sharapova showdown in the fourth round but injury for the recently returned mother ruled her out of the encounter, but not before quite a few parting shots from the pair.
While Nadal won a staggering 11th Roland Garros title, and shock, horror, Alexander Zverev finally made it to a Slam quarter-final, the big news was Halep. In the final against a sassy Sloane Stephens, she was almost like a female Andy Murray – always making the final, never quite making it over the line – and for a time it looked as though the pattern would continue.
Stephens played a commanding match, up a set and a break in the final – the same position Halep found herself in 12 months ago. This is what proved to be the turning point for the Romanian – she had lost from this position – and once she resigned herself to the fact this might not be her day, she turned things around – and how!
In Part Two of our look back over the year, we will head to the grass, and then the close of the season.
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