Mover of the Week
Five-time Major champion Maria Sharapova is the Mover of the Week after winning the title at the Tianjin Open in China. It was the 30-year old Sharapova’s first title in two years, and her first title since returning from a 15-month ban. Conquering the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6 to win in Tianjin was clearly no easy task for the former Grand Slam champion. Indeed, the Russian was forced to fight back from 4-1 down in both sets before finally overcoming Sabalenka’s dogged resistance. Sharapova, who was unseeded in China, also had to come through the ninth seeded Irina-Camelia Begu and third seed and defending champion Peng Shuai just to reach the final.
As a result of her Tianjin exploits the Russian has returned to the world’s top 60, jumping 29 ranking spots. It leaves Sharapova at #57 and she will be hoping to carry that good form into the Kremlin Cup in her home country. If she can continue to play well in what remains of the WTA season, a return to the top 50 is not out of the question for the former world #1.
Loser of the Week
China’s Peng Shuai drops four places from #25 to #29 after failing to defend her Tianjin Open title. The third seed lost in the semifinals to the eventual champion, Maria Sharapova, in straight sets. The 31-year-old had an injury-plagued 2015 season but 2016 was one of her best years on Tour so far, in both singles and doubles. Indeed, the Chinese star even reached the doubles final with partner Andrea Hlavackova at the Australian Open earlier this year. But whilst Peng’s success in doubles continues, she is 8th in the world, her highest singles ranking of #14 was in 2011. And at the moment it continues to move in the wrong direction.
This week saw no shortage of success, with the winners in Hong Kong and Linz playing some excellent tennis. The champion at the Hong Kong Open was the sixth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who beat the seventh seeded seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia 5-7 6-3 7-6, in a match that was repeatedly delayed by interventions from nature. Initially, the match began much later than scheduled, due to heavy rain. A half an hour rain delay during the match caused further delay and raised the threat of a postponement. However, the combatants survived the weather, and a tiebreak, to finish at 1:00 a.m. after over three hours of play.
But the bad weather should not distract from what was a thrilling encounter. After Gavrilova took the opening set with a late break Pavlyuchenkova levelled proceedings in the second. In the decider, the two could not be separated, and a tiebreak was needed to settle it. Gavrilova opened up an early 3-1 lead, but Pavlyuchenkova hit an excellent volley winner to turn the tiebreak around. That was the first of six straight points for Pavlyuchenkova which fired her to the title. As a result, the 26-year-old moved into the top 20 this week climbing from #21 to #18.
Barbora Strycova was also a winner, with the Czech triumphant in Linz. Six years after her first title in Quebec, Strycova finally claimed a second WTA singles title. The Czechoslovakian was seeded second in Austria and dismantled the top seed Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-4 6-1 to claim the title yesterday. In fact, it took Strycova less than an hour and a half to wrap up the win.
Whilst both players sought to take advantage of their net games, it was the sublime Strycova who dominated the forecourt. She also won 82% of her first serve points and faced just a single break point. In the second set, Rybarikova was faced with losing the set without recording a single game with Strycova serving for the match at 5-0. The Slovak, however, capitalised on her first break point of the match. But it only delayed the inevitable. Strycova broke again in the next game to win the championship. Strycova climbs one place in the rankings cracking the top 25 at world #25. She will doubtless be hoping it isn’t another six years before she gets her hands on another title.
- Simona Halep, 6175 points, no change
- Garbine Muguruza, 6135 points, no change
- Karolina Pliskova, 5605 points, no change
- Elina Svitolina, 5465 points, no change
- Venus Williams, 4642 points, no change
- Caroline Wozniacki, 4540 points, no change
- Jelena Ostapenko, 4510 points, no change
- Svetlana Kuznetsova, 3950 points, no change
- Caroline Garcia, 3860 points, no change
- Johanna Konta, 3795 points, no change
- Angelique Kerber, 3122 points, moves up one place
- Dominika Cibulkova, 3110 points, moves down one place
- Kristina Mladenovic, 2910 points, no change
- Coco Vandeweghe, 2819 points, moves up one place
- Sloane Stephens, 2722 points, moves up one place
- Madison Keys, 2713 points, moves down two places
- Petra Kvitova, 2532 points, no change
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 2425 points, moves up three places
- Agnieszka Radwanska, 2340 points, moves down one place
- Elena Vesnina, 2300 points, moves down one place
- Anastasija Sevastova, 2295 points, moves down one place
- Daria Gavrilova, 2110 points, no change
- Ashleigh Barty, 2031 points, no change
- Serena Williams, 2030 points, no change
- Barbora Strycova, 2025 points, moves up one place
Who was your Mover of the Week? Let us know in the comments below!
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