This week, the U.S. summer hardcourt season began, and it’s safe to say it gave us a lot to ponder.
At the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Venus Williams made a run to the final before being stopped by British sensation Johanna Konta in the final, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. In doubles, Raquel Atawo and Abigail Spears won the title by defeating Darija Jurak and Anistasia Rodionova, 6-3, 6-4.
At the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., where I spent most of the past week, it was the week of Yanina Wickmayer. The Belgian defeated American Lauren Davis in the final, 6-4, 6-2, and also won the women’s doubles title with Monica Niculescu, 6-4, 6-3 over the Japanese duo of Shuko Aoyama and Risa Ozaki.
Meanwhile, there was one final clay-court tournament of the summer, the Ericsson Open in Bastad. Laura Seigmund won the first WTA singles title of her career, 7-5, 6-1 over Katerina Siniakova. Andreea Mitu and Alicja Rosolska took the doubles title.
Observations from the Citi Open
As I mentioned, most of my week was spent at the Citi Open, so this weekly recap will be very heavily Washington.
Remember Shuai Zhang, who came into the Australian Open without a single Grand Slam win in 15 tries, only to make it all the way to the quarterfinals? Well, she’s now going to the Olympics, and she calls it a “dream come true,” adding that she’s “so lucky I continued to play and tried one more time in Australia so I have a chance to be here and be an Olympian.”
Just a lovely story.
I still don’t know what happened to Sloane Stephens in her loss to No. 136 Risa Ozaki. Apparently, neither does she. “It just sucked,” she told reporters after the match. “One of those days that was just really bad. I’m not the first person to have a bad day, and I won’t be the last.”
That’s the spirit! She also wasn’t rife with praise for her competitor, though her honesty was refreshing.”
I would say it was probably all me,” she said, I mean she played a solid match, but I’d say I was very helpful.”
It’s really crazy to think that Yanina Wickmayer’s big breakthrough came seven years ago when she made the semifinals of the U.S. Open at only 19 years old. That literally seems like a lifetime ago.
I’ll have more about Wickmayer in the coming days, but I should say that my favorite interview of the entire week was my five-minute chat with her and Niculescu mid-week. It’s not hard to see why the two of them are successful on the doubles court together, considering they have so much fun off of it.
It was great to see Jessie Pegula make a deep run at the Citi Open. The 22-year-old made it to the semifinals in DC with wins over Alexandra Wozniak, Christina McHale, and No. 1 seed Samantha Stosur. She has been back on tour for about a year since being sidelined for 18 months due to knee surgery, and is already nearing her career high. Fitness is an issue, still–she was gassed by the semifinals–but there’s certainly reason to believe the top 100 is within her grasp.
This was Lauren Davis’s first career WTA final, and I must say that it was a blast to watch her compete in person. She is so petite and quiet off the court, but she she takes the stage a light switches and this truly fierce competitor comes out.
She actually took a two-month break from tennis this spring, and it seems to have completely rejuvenated her.
It was gut-wrenching to watch Caroline Wozniacki struggle with an elbow injury and be forced to retire against Sam Stosur in the second round. The injury happened when she hit a backhand at 5-5 in the first set, and although Stosur tried to keep her in the match by continuously hitting to her forehand, every time Wozniacki hit a backhand the sharp pain would not let up. So she, wisely, called it a day.
“At this point I just can’t catch a break. I’m thinking I’m going to catch a break sooner or later, but for now it’s just one thing after another,” Wozniacki said. “It’s really disappointing.”
She is scheduled to be the flag bearer for Denmark at the Olympics, an honor she said would likely be the biggest moment in her tennis career. Let’s hope the injury doesn’t prevent that from happening.
The scheduling at the Citi Open continues to be absolutely horrible for women. Their matches are on either at 2:00 in the afternoon, in the scorching hot sun, or incredibly late at night. There is very little in-between. Plus, even a star-studded match-up like Wozniacki/Stosur doesn’t get scheduled on stadium court because the men get priority at all times, no matter what. Yes, the women’s event is a lower tier than the men’s, so slight favoritism is somewhat acceptable. But treating the women like they’re second-class citizens is simply not okay.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 21, 2016
Other notable performances
- Don’t look now, but Konta is up to a career-high ranking of No. 14, and she’s No. 8 in the Road to Singapore rankings. That is remarkable.
- Take a bow, CiCi Bellis. The 17-year-old had a good run in Stanford, making it to the quarterfinals where she faced Venus Williams. Bellis is up to No. 159 in the world, no small feat for someone that young, and seems to be nicely building on the promise she showed back at the U.S. Open two years ago when she upset Dominika Cibulkova as a 15-year-old. You can hear a good interview with her on the WTA Insider podcast.
- Ali Riske also had a great run, making it to the semis in Stanford. Unfortunately, she won in the quarters when CoCo Vandeweghe retired with an ankle injury. Vandeweghe is scheduled to play doubles with Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the Olympics, so hopefully she can recover quickly.
Best social media posts
@WTA hoping for a quick recovery for Coco. Thoughts are with her??
— Alison Riske (@Riske4rewards) July 23, 2016
— Muhabirin Köşesi (@muhabirinkosesi) July 24, 2016
— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) July 21, 2016
Meet Stanley. Stanley is family. Stanley is coming home. pic.twitter.com/NSv45PiCtY
— Johanna Konta (@JoKonta91) July 25, 2016
It’s Montreal time! Serena has withdrawn, but there’s still a tantalizingly good draw, with Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep, and Venus Williams serving as the top five seeds.