By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka finds herself in another grand slam final this weekend, but this time she faces a more tame opponent in Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.
With Serena’s surprisingly early exit, Naomi has cemented her first opportunity to play for the number spot on the WTA ranking leader board. This should not be a huge shock to anyone after such a stellar 2018 season, but the pace in which she was able to rise among the ranks is quite amazing. Naomi was outside of the top 50 in 2017 and had no indication of top 10 aspirations until she defeated Angelique Kerber in the second round of the 2017 US Open.
Since then Naomi has been on a tear with top consecutive upsets leading up to her first big title win in last year’s BNP Open at Indian Wells where she defeated Kerber and Simona Halep back-to-back comfortably in straight sets. The women’s tour took notice as she then schooled her idol, Serena Williams, in a drumming at the Miami Open. Not to mention the US Open title and a second Serena beating on Ashe Stadium court.
Naomi will not have an easy route to her first AO title against Petra. These two have not played on tour yet so this first encounter could fall against Naomi if she is not playing her top game. First serve percentage and few unforced errors while playing her attacking game should do the trick for Naomi, but the left-handed Petra is able to handle power shots and control big points from the ground. The winner versus error ratio must go in Naomi’s favor if she is to be competitive against the more season veteran.
Osaka fans will be crossing their fingers as she laces up for her final round in Melbourne. With outcome uncertain and the hype of number one ranking in the balance, Naomi is well equipped mentally to handle the challenge and arise victorious as champion.
Serena in question heading into US Open
By Editorial Team
Serena Williams has made a good case for herself as eventual grand slam title holder this year with only one remaining hurdle.
In the past is was almost automatic to assume Serena would win every final match she appeared in. Tomorrow will definitely not be a routine win for her as she now must face the red-hot Canadian Bianca Andreescu.
Bianca was able to win straight sets for the first time in the Rogers Cup this week as she dismantled Sofia Kenin 6-4, 7-6 in a tight competitive match that could have gone either way. Serena was able to overcome a first set glitch to later win the final two sets 6-3, 6-3.
This is the first time these two have gone up against each other, but it would appear that Serena has the upper hand given her experience and title record.
However, she can not take her opponent lightly in the first set as she has a 25-1 record of winning matches after taking the first set. Serena must get off to a good start and play her attacking style of play. Big serves and cross court forehands must be the theme of the day.
After defeating an embattled Osaka straight sets, Serena should have the confidence to finish the job tomorrow and head into the US Open with much needed momentum.
Update: Serena falls 1-3 to Andreescu due to back spasms and can not finish the final. Serena will most likely rest up and hope can fully recover for the US Open which begins in 2 weeks.
Young talent makes US Open swing
With Cori Gauff setting the standard for junior tennis, several other rising stars were given opportunities to shine in this year’s US Open Series events.
Many fans are feeling the rush and excitement with the new crop of young talented teenage juniors looking to transition into the WTA Tour.
Cori Gauff, Hailey Baptiste, Robin Montgomery and Katrina Scott are the American hopefuls placed in position with the USTA’s support to soon dominate women’s tennis. This group is very determined and definitely talented enough to make it happen.
Tennis fans and other tour players are witnessing the next generation of women’s tennis in America as they take advantage of wildcard opportunities.
Transitioning to pro tennis is not an easy task, however Katrina and Robin gave it a solid fight to the end in tough 3 set battles (7-5 & 6-2 respectively) against top seeds in the qualifying rounds of Silicon Valley Classic and the Citi Open today.
Cori Gauff, the #1 seed, cruised through both of her qualifying rounds in straight sets at the Citi Open and is expected to advance against Diyas in her main draw match on Monday. Cori seems to have made the transition to pro tennis with easy at an early age. After her match today she stated,
“I’m happy that I was able to get into the main draw. These two matches, I feel like, will prep me for my first round, especially because I’ve never been to this tournament before; I was glad that I was able to get a feel of how it is, the site, playing those two qualifying matches. The weather is similar to home, so I felt like I’ve been practicing at home. I’ll be happy playing on any court.”
Her success is a direct reflection of her determination and hard work. It was noted that Cori went right back to work in Florida after Wimbledon and seems to have gained further ground in her game. In addition, her coaching has been very consistent over a long period of time. That’s something that most seasoned pros don’t have or can’t seem to keep over time.
Hailey Baptiste also hopes to make the most of her main draw wild card as she’ll be coming in against Madison Keys as the underdog favorite. Madison’s power style could be a good match-up for Hailey of the unforced errors fly frequently enough from Madison’s racket.
Katrina and Robin will circle the wagons after their early qualifying round losses in effort to go deep in the upcoming US Open juniors championships later next month. These two have the potential and current momentum to be the next superstars on line to follow Gauff’s trailblazing effort not seen since the Williams sisters.
Gauff transcends WTA
By Editiorial Team
Cori “CoCo” Gauff is becoming a torchbearing world tennis superstar in a short stint after ascending to R16 in the Wimbledon Championships. She represents talented teenagers with big ambition who may not fit the mold.
The stardom hasn’t completely gone to her head, but rather she has used it to boost her confidence in being able to withstand the heat from some of the WTA Tour’s most talented players.
Simona Halep deflated an eager CoCo and ultimately went on to win the title in a commanding fashion over Serena in the final. Cori had her chances in the match, but the shear power and point duration could not be matched, at least not last week.
Every week Cori seems to be able to “next level” her game and rise above the competition. With a current top 175 WTA ranking, Cori is now able to qualify for larger events that her own team may not have anticipated earlier this month.
Her next challenge is the Citi Open where she is projected to earn a qualifying spot. She’ll definitely need the matchplay as she is preparing for an inevitable appearance in New York later next month at the US Open.
Uncertainty continues to plague the Gauff camp as current WTA rules may not allow her to play in her 7th WTA event (after she was granted 2 additional events). The US Open officials have already bumped the rulebook in effort to bring her aboard the main draw in August.
Due to the crazy frenzy over the 15 year old phenom the US Open has declared it impractical for such a rising star to be limited to play only qualifying rounds or exhibitions. From a business perspective the USTA wants paying fans and TV coverage that preliminary/exhibition matches can’t accommodate.
Pushing the limits of a teanage pro schedule, Cori can only do her best to compete against the world’s best. At this time, only the the WTA can keep Gauff away from fulfilling her full potential.
Granting additional matches and bending existing rules may not sit well with others who have suffered greatly. Whitney Osuigwe is one example of a teenage professional who struggles with scheduling tournaments.
Whitney (age 17) has limited access to WTA events as she is now seems restricted to only playing ITF events where she usually reaches the semifinals and has won three ITF titles since turning pro just last year. It seems as if she’s bored with playing these smaller low-ranked events. It is also evident that she has suffered going into grand slam events without WTA Tour match play throughout the season.
For now, rising teenage stars on tour may grapple over tournament starts, but if Cori can prove that she can handle the workload and become successful on a consistent basis, the WTA Tour may relax the rules to accommodate overly ambitious teens looking to make a pro transition.