By Editorial Team
Grass court season is coming into full bloom as the Wimbledon Championships are only days away; the qualifying rounds begin on Monday the 24th. This year there were four black wildcards that will compete for a title.
The timing of the wildcard announcement caught both fans and players off-guard. Some players only had days to prepare for their qualifying matches with such late notices. In addition, according to the wimbledon.com website, there are still 6 spots available (2 men and 4 women) that have not been used or reserved for next direct acceptance.
Regardless of the selection process or timing, this year’s wildcards are very deserving and have a real chance of making a dent in the main draw. Many have been competing in the warm-up tournaments this week and last week honing their games and adjusting to the high level of play expected during the Championships at the All England Club.
The draws have not been released yet, but our Editorial Team has put together the current list of wildcards and their status leading into the tournament.
Jay Clarke is one of England’s rising stars. With a top 150 ranking he is sure to make a splash in this year’s main draw as a wildcard recipient. Jay has the perfect all-around game for the grass courts as he is able to serve and volley effortlessly and attack using his big forehand weapon from the ground. It is important that Jay continue his quest toward the top 100 and a couple of wins in the main draw will definitely springboard this young 20 year old into tennis stardom.
Heather Watson is definitely not new to this. This is her 6th year at Wimbledon, but she is still gathering her footing on the WTA Tour after the close upset she had against Serena several years back at Wimbledon. Heather will attempt to rekindle that spark once lit. With a more focused and consistent training schedule and better efforts in major events, Heather could easily go deep in grand slams. She is hoping that a couple of wins here in Wimbledon could put her back into the spotlight as the top European tennis talent.
Paul Jubb is also an England homeboy who made such a heroic effort to win the 2019 NCAA Collegiate Championships last month. In addition to the main draw US Open wildcard he was able secure the Wimbledon main draw wildcard due to his British heritage. Paul could make some noise in the main draw with a big win, but he will mostly likely use the experience to propel his pro career and hopefully sidestep the more grueling ITF World Tennis Tour. Expect to see great things from the University of South Carolina tennis star.
Cori Gauff has been coming on strong professionally this year after winning the French Open Juniors last year and getting past the first round in the Miami Open. This qualifying draw wildcard definitely gives her a boost to complete against the world’s best. One of Cori’s biggest strengths is that she is a very quick learner and can make adjustments from tournament to tournament. Expect to see a qualifying winner and main draw birth from one of the world’s best young talents at age 15.
Gauff wins first WTA title in Linz
By Editorial Team
Cori “CoCo” Gauff made a huge turnaround at the Linz Open this week after losing in the final qualifying round to now reach the main draw finals.
Putting the “luck” in lucky-loser, CoCo was able to inherit Maria Sakkari’s draw and defeat the number one seeded, KiKi Bertens in straight sets 7-6, 6-4.
Coco was the favorite going into today’s final against Jelena Ostapenko, but it was not easy as Jelena had been playing inspired tennis over the last couple weeks after defeating Karolina Pliskova 7-5 in the third set at the R64 China Open last month.
CoCo had to grind out the win in three long sets to capture the final round against Jelena 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.
This was the first encounter for these two on tour, but CoCo had the slight advantage as the more steady player. Jalena is known for up and down roller coaster play from match to match making the former French Open champion the underdog in this final.
Jalena must now recover in Linz as she must face CoCo’s doubles partner, Caty McNally, next in the first round of the Luxembourg Open early next week. Its assumed that this doubles team (Linz Open semifinalists) will definitely be sharing notes on Jalena’s game over the next couple of days.
The key to CoCo’s success were mixed balls with flat power and slices, a high first serve percentage and being calm under pressure. With this win today, Coco became the youngest American WTA Tour title winner since Jennifer Capriati in Puerto Rico (1990).
Coco is sure to break more records while on her path to winning her first grand slam, but for now she can celebrate a huge Tour title win before she prepares for the holiday season.
When asked about her recent success in Linz, CoCo’s response was accurate and simply put,
How Naomi Got Her Groove Back
By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka seems to have found her rhythm late in the season after letting go of her most recent coach, Jermaine Jenkins. After several rumors, now it appears that her Dad, Leonard Francois, has the right formula for success after winning two major WTA events in a row – Japan Open and China Open.
Naomi did it in dramatic fashion as she defeated the 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and world number 1 Ashly Barty both in tough 3 set matches.
Many feared that coaching changes and off-court distractions may have ruined what appeared to be a great season for Naomi after winning the Australian Open in January. The sports community questioned the decision to part ways with Sascha Bajin after back to back wins in an abrupt fashion after leaving Australia with the championship trophy.
The general media was not informed of any scandal or rationale for the change. Jermaine was thought to have been a good substitute after being the right-hand man for Serena over the last several years on tour. But not all was peachy for Naomi as she was not able to fulfill her true potential under the direction of Jermain.
Rolling into the Asian swing, Naomi appeared to have been mailing it in and preparing for her next coaching transition heading into the 2020 season – choosing her Dad as a bridge.
It was evident that maybe Naomi needed time to unwind from the structure of a tradition coaching team. Unforced errors and patience were added to her stellar shot making ability especially down the stretch late in the third set.
Regrouping after being a set down and making adjustments when needed against the Tour’s top ranked players are definite signs that Naomi has her sights set on regaining her position as world number one.
The way forward should be filled with opportunity for Naomi. With a new home in Los Angeles, CA and some time off after the WTA Finals should enable her to totally regroup for the 2020 season.
Osaka and Keys in QF at Japan Women’s Open
By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka is on pace for a much needed title after an early R16 loss in the US Open. Her quest for the first title of the year began with a win over Viktoriya Tomova 7-5, 6-3 today. With a inconsistent ground game, Naomi is looking to iron out weaknesses with new coach Wim Fissette who is a proven WTA professional with Azarenka, Kerber and Clijsters as former students of his. Recent news broke five days ago on Twitter announcing the split with Jermaine Jenkins after a slew of poor results in major grand slam events this season.
Sloane Stephens is also riding the coaching change wave after accepting Kamau Murray back into her team. The two have earned multiple titles in 2017/2018 so it can only be upside from here as she now faces Camila Giorgi in the R16 of the Japan Women’s Open. This will be a tough test for Sloane as the aggressive Italian has been on a roll with her most recent final run (losing to Magda Linette in 3 sets) at the New York Open that lead into the US Open late last month.
Update: Sloane fell 6-0, 6-3 to Camila in the R16 match which did not live up to the hype. Sloane will look to recover quickly as she prepares for the WTA Finals later this year.
Madison Keys is a favorite to win here in Osaka Japan, but she has to get past the high ranking vet, Angelique Kerber. Madison has a 8:2 win/loss record against Kerber and is healthy enough to get her third win against such a quality opponent. Madison most recently defeated Kerber in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last month 6-4 in the third set.
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