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
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, in the second part of her year in review.
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Ah that quick turnaround between the dirt and the grass! There is nothing like Wimbledon. The tradition, the queuing, the walk up that hill with a laptop! The tournament opened with the depressing news that Andy Murray was still not quite ready, despite having tested out his hip at Queen’s Club and Eastbourne. With all the stir of the news of Serena Williams getting a seeding, which bumped the former No. 32 seed Dominika Cibulkova out of the picture – but not for long. While Johanna Konta was slowly beginning to find her confidence again, she came up against an inspired Cibulkova and found herself bounced out the second round.
Kyle Edmund perhaps might have felt hard done by when a bizarre double-bounce non-call that should have gone Djokovic’s way. Novak Djokovic was on his merry way to chew a bit more grass as the Brit field were left to miss the presence of Murray all the more at SW19. What we did see though was the return of Djokovic.
His comeback had been rushed, stilted and at Indian Wells he admitted that it had been like playing his first ATP tour match. It was a long hard road for the now 14-time Grand Slam champion as the year closes out, and we could just be on the verge of a new period of dominance by the ever-flexible Serbian.
On the flip side, we were subject to long, laborious five-setters that saw John Isner and Kevin Anderson play the second longest battle, with the rangy South African making it to a second Slam final, but at a cost. He was spent, and could not really take the battle to Djokovic, and finally the All England Club made a decision on deciding set tie-breaks, with a toe-break at 12-12 from 2019.
On the women’s side, Williams made the most of her seeding to pretty much plough through the field without really being troubled that much – until she came face to face against Angelique Kerber once more at a Wimbledon final.
This has become an intriguing rivalry – Kerber unravelled Williams at the Australian Open in 2016, and Williams had the measure of the German later in the year when they met in the 2016 final. But Kerber came into this final actually talking the talk this time in terms of being aggressive. She took the fight to Williams for the loss of only six games to claim a third title.
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ATP & WTA Cincinnati
One of our favourite events of the year – a great tournament, and a useful one for previewing what might come ahead at the US Open. With Djokovic now seemingly back on track, could he finally grab the one Masters title that had eluded him?
More on that later – Konta’s season had been slowly turning around, although a first round against the fast-rising Aryna Sabalenka, but still was trying to find the positives after a rough season.
Murray had already started his hard-court return in the US Open Series, with an emotional ground-out win in Washington and admitted that at this stage the focus was still very much on finding the balance between rehab for the hip injury and getting the tennis in.
Kyle Edmund had dominated in his first round, in his quest to pick up his first Masters win, but still looked to be struggling a little, health-wise in his second round against Denis Shapovalov and elsewhere in the draw, Petra Kvitova would look on her downing of Serena as one of the highlights of her year.
But it would be Kiki Bertens, who had thought of quitting the game last year before turning her fortunes around in 2018, who delivered the surprise, halting Simona Halep’s attempt to claim the Canada/Cincinnati double with a great win over the World No. 1.
On the men’s side it really was set up to be a dream final with Djokovic against Roger Federer as he continued to try and claim that elusive ninth Masters title. He had fallen the final hurdle five times before, three times at the hands of Federer – would history repeat itself?
History, it turns out, was on the side of Djokovic with a straight sets win as Federer admitted his return had not been anywhere good enough, and was looking to rest up ahead of the US Open, while momentum was now definitely on the side of the Serbian, who would be marching into New York as one of the favourites.
While Britwatch Sports was back at home, there was plenty of drama to keep us transfixed. We were beginning to see the dawn of a new age of dominance. Maybe more promising (albeit shortlived) was seeing Juan Martin Del Potro back in the mix and contending for Grand Slam titles, although he would suffer a fractured patella at the Shanghai Masters and close down his season with more injury heartbreak – for him and many fans of the Tower of Tandil.
But of course the real story was the rise of Naomi Osaka, after winning her biggest title to date at Indian Wells. She was a force to be reckoned with and as she cruised past last year’s defeated finalist Madison Keys it was worth remembering that when she and Williams had met earlier in the year, it was still early in the American’s comeback, and Osaka was still high on confidence from Indian Wells, despite the prospect of playing her idol.
Osaka was brutal from the off, and the prospect of equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 Slam titles was no doubt weighing heavily on Williams. Of course what transpired was the latest in a line of controversies at this Slam, as umpire Carlos Ramos chose to weigh straight in with a coaching violation after Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou was seen gesturing advice to Williams.
The fact that Williams did not see it, nor is she a regular on-court coaching user on the main tour made no difference, and the more Williams was frustrated with not finding much of a way through the Osaka barrage, a racket smash earned her a point penalty for a second infraction, and a heated exchange where Williams accused Ramos of stealing a point from her and called him a liar saw the situation descend into chaos.
To see one of the bright, enduring characters of the women’s tour reduced to tears in what should have been her finest moment, and to learn later it was still a very bittersweet moment for her, drives us to believe that 2019 and another Slam title (which is well within her reach) will be equally deserved as her moment in the spotlight.
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It was all about the fighting talk in all access as we headed to Singapore for the last time for the WTA Finals. Elina Svitolina was not backwards in coming forwards as she said she wanted to prove the haters wrong – and boy did she!
Last year, her Singapore experience was rocky to say the least – she struggled to stay on track, and cut rather a dejected figure at the end, and was determined not to repeat the experience this time around. All the top seeds struggled in their openers as the four lower-deeded players turned the tables on them in the first round robin matches.
For newly crowned US Open champ Osaka, it felt like a tournament too far as she ended up retiring in her final round-robin match and failed to get out of the group stages. Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki stunned the tennis world by announcing that earlier in the year she had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, so to even make it this far for one of the players famed for her fitness was impressive and inspiring in itself.
But the spotlight belonged to Svitolina – Stephens had to come from a set down to book her spot in the final, and maybe that had a bit of an effect as the Ukrainian edged Stephens to win the title – and now surely equips herself to challenge the criticisms that continue to dog her about her slam record
And so – after a long season we wound up back home (but it really as it is easier to stay in Greenwich than to schlep back and forth from home to the final event of our year), as the O2 played host to the season-ending finale.
As well as the unveiling of the ATP Cup in 2020, Djokovic had already wrapped up the Year End No. 1, and to all intents and purposes looked to have the ATP Finals sewn up. Alexander Zverev had other ideas. Despite getting a bit of a pounding in the group stages at the hands of Djokovic, he delivered a tight straight sets win over Federer to earn another crack at Djokovic, albeit in the face of disgusting behaviour from Federer fans after a contentious point where a ballboy dropped a ball in play, with Zverev halting proceedings.
Noe under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl, we saw a very aggressive Zverev take to the court as he went toe to toe with Djokvic, and this time the Serbian had no answers as Zverev copped the title and a natty line in trophy ceremony speeches!
If you missed our first part of a season in review – read it here
And now we gallop into 2019 – first up for Britwatch Sports will be the Australian Open. Thanks to our readers for your continuing support, and see you on the other side.
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Tennis News, Wimbledon, US Open, Angelique Kerber, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina, Alexander Zver
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