It’s March and the WTA tour is up to the Sunshine double – Indian Wells and Miami, two WTA1000 events. World number 1 Ash Barty is staying at home in Australia – that stroll to the Australian Open title took it out of her – and my other fave, Barbora Krejcikova is unfortunately injured. Krejcikova is up to world number 2 and would have been the top seed at Indian Wells, but that arm injury she picked up in Doha ruled her out. its unclear if she will be back for Miami, but a good chance for the other form players to overtake her and bag themselves a big title.
Surprise package of the year so far is undoubtedly Jelena Ostapenko. She took the title in Dubai and made the semis in Doha with some scintillating tennis. Ostapenko is one of the most entertaining players to watch on the tour. She has THE best facial expressions and her all out, all or nothing game is pretty devastating. She beat my beloved Petra in the QF, in a match Petra should have win. She served for every set and had match points, but Ostapenko was that bit more fearless at the key moments. Ostapenko then beat my other fave, Krejcikova and demolished my current nemesis, Garbiñe Muguruza in Doha. That was a real schadenfreude moment. Ostapenko ran out of steam against one of the other form players, Anett Kontaveit, who similarly ran up against a peaking Iga Swiatek in the final.
In world events, the war in Ukraine is overshadowing tennis right now. Russian and Belarussian players are being made to play without their flag next to their names while Ukranian players are the new heroes!
A players I have always disliked, Dayana Yastremska, has suddenly become one I am rooting for, after she and her 15 year old sister were forced to flee Ukraine, leaving their parents behind. She is undoubtedly talented, but had been guilty of some appalling bad sportsmanship over the years, frequently calling for the trainer when losing. I remember Kiki Bertens, one of the nicest players on tour commenting on how she had done it three times against her. There was an extremely ill judged blackface incident on social media, then a doping ban that she managed to wriggle out of after it emerged a guy she slept with had been taking some banned substance and people had a field day with bodily fluids speculation! However, as a Ukrainian escapee, Yastremska is riding the crest of a wave of goodwill – even mine… for now!
As a Brit, I could not but cheer for Emma Raducanu when she had that fairy tale win at the UsOpen in 2021. Suddenly people in the UK took an interest in women’s tennis. . 10 million stayed up that magical Saturday night in September – including The Queen! Since then, young Emma has had a target in her back as every struggling pro wonders how this green kid came through qualifying to take one of the highest profile titles in the game.
She has had some tough losses – a 0 and 1 thrashing from the admittedly very good Elena Rybakina and after a battling victory over Sloane Steohens, a horrible hand injury had her slicing her forehand, Monica Niculescu style before falling to Danka Kovinic in R2 of the Aussie Open. She has just managed to get a good win over Caroline Garcia in R2 of Indian Wells. Garcia is a very talented player but has been in the doldrums for the last few years. 2022 has seen her play better, pushing Krejcikova in Dubai and beating Halep in Doha. She took out Ukrainian sweetheart Yastremska in R1 so a good victory for Raducanu, who needs to play matches in the tour and get used to the level.
My lovely Petra turned 32 the other day and after being forced out of Doha with a wrist injury, will play Sasnovic in R2. Petra has slipped down the rankings and could do with a decent run, but if she gets past Sasnovic, it will probably be Maria Sakkari, who is in good form. Thats the problem when you are in the 20-30 ranking, you get the top 10 players early. Anyway, fingers crossed she can at least take out the annoying Sasnovic.