The tennis season is over and 2022 is around the corner. The WTA Tour was, as usual, full of flux and drama this year. Here’s a look back at five of the most surprising and shocking moments of the season:
Five Crazy WTA Moments in 2021
No. 5 – Naomi Osaka pulls out of French Open then Wimbledon
Naomi Osaka came off winning the US Open and Australian Open consecutively and seemed a lock to regain the #1 ranking at some point in 2021. Unfortunately, Osaka seemed to be fighting inner demons and they all came out just before the French Open commenced. Osaka initially announced she would hold no interviews or press conferences during the tournament. But the French Federation and International Tennis Federation were not having it and threatened Osaka with default for not meeting her commitments.
Osaka played one match, did a brief on court interview, and then shocked the world by pulling out of the event. This caused a stir leading to accusations of insensitivity. Meanwhile a debate was sparked on the mental pressures top athletes were facing. It is pure speculation, but so far in her career Osaka has hardly won a match on clay or grass, either in the lead ups or major tournaments. That would not have helped her mood at all. Osaka needs to get beyond being a hard court only tennis player.
No 4 – Barbora Krejčíková wins French Open in Singles and Doubles.
A player who came out of nowhere to win a major title, Krejčíková reached the fourth round of the French Open the previous October and a career high ranking of 65th in the world. It is fair to say then that Krejčíková was not seen as a contender to win such a prestigious title. However, not only did Krejčíková win the French Open singles, but also the doubles with Kateřina Siniaková! The first player to complete the double since Mary Pierce in 2000. Krejčíková climbed to a career high #3 in the rankings and qualified for the WTA championships in Guadalajara. Where she lost all three round robin matches…
No. 3 – Karolina Pliskova reaches a Wimbledon final.
This is a scenario which appeared more and more unlikely as time went on. Pliskova has been one of the best players on the tour in the last six years and attained the #1 ranking in 2017. However, Pliskova had struggled mightily at Wimbledon throughout her career despite the big serve and quick-fire groundstrokes, usually a recipe for success at Wimbledon.
Her difficulties in SW19 were made all the more baffling as Pliskova won Eastbourne twice, the lead up tournament to Wimbledon. Pliskova’s biggest problem at Wimbledon is not her technique but her movement. Her movement when stretched out wide is compromised and has a difficult time dispatching good opponents.
No doubt nerves play a part as well. In 2021 Pliskova managed to find the formula, working on her movement with new coach Sascha Bajin. That took her all the way to the final but couldn’t get over the line against world #1 Ash Barty in a three set battle.
No. 2 – Sloane Stephens plays Madison Keys at the US Open.
Sure, on the face of it, an all American matchup, two friends playing against each other, two talented players. However, there is more to this match than meets the eye. These two played each other in 2017 for the US Open title! Four years later they are playing each other in the first round of the same event. In the world of crazy things that happen in women’s tennis, this is right up there. Both players are too good to find themselves at the lower end of the rankings scale. For the record, Stephens sneaked past Keys in a third set tiebreak. Stephens also beat Keys in 2017 for her major title.
No. 1 – Emma Raducanu wins the US Open as a qualifier
It just gets crazier. You cannot imagine a qualifier winning a major tournament. The first time this happened in the entire history of tennis. In fact, it is so suprising that I’m not sure if odds would have been offered for such a possibility.
Raducanu not only won the whole shebang as a qualifier, she won all of her ten matches without dropping a set! It will surely will never happen again. Raducanu’s life has changed dramatically but when you pull off a feat like this, it can mess with the mind. Simply put, Raducanu is not ready to be consistent top 10 player. It is going to be a painful transition to elite level status but hopefully she can do it.
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