What a way to begin the 2015 WTA season! So much to talk about, so let’s get to it. In the biggest event, the Premier-level 2015 Brisbane International, it was a dream final between top seed Maria Sharapova and 2nd seed Ana Ivanovic. These two fan favorites and former world #1s did not disappoint with an early year classic. Masha would emerge as the victor, 6-7 (4) 6-3 6-3. Ana showed a lot of heart coming back from 1-4 down and two set points against her at 4-5 to win the first set in a tiebreak. Still, Ivanovic couldn’t hold back a determined and mentally tough Masha. There were several momentum swings and breaks of serve in the final set but when the dust settled Sharapova had the victory. It’s Masha’s 34th WTA singles title and inches her within striking distance of recapturing the #1 ranking at the Australian Open, depending on various scenarios.
In the two smaller WTA events, there were still big name rising to the top. In Shenzhen, with host Li Na in attendance, Simona Halep captured her 9th career title at the 2015 Shenzhen Open, defeating Timea Bacsinszky 6-2 6-2. Even though Brisbane was the biggest event this week, I had my eye on Shenzhen as my top two favorites, Halep and Petra Kvitova were seeded 1 and 2. Unfortunately for Petra, she was upset in the semifinals by Bacsinszky. Although she made the semis and Timea has talent, that’s a bad loss for Petra. With she and Simona as the only two top 5 players in this event…heck, they were the only two top 20 players in this event…Kvitova really needed to at least make the final. But you just never know what Petra is going to show up from match to match…the unbeatable one or the very beatable one. But to be fair to Kvitova, Timea is on the rise having beaten Sharapova in Wuhan last year. And a lot of top players tend to get upset in the first couple of tournaments in a given year. In fact these first two weeks are basically a chance for players to get back into the swing of competition play before the Australian Open begins. So with that in mind, we should wait to see what happens with Petra in Melbourne. As for Simona, this continues the momentum she’s been building for the past two years. Coming off an appearance in the year-end 2014 WTA Finals, this could be a statement of more success to come. However, as I mentioned she and Petra were the only top 20 players in this singles draw, and Simona barely made it past Annika Beck in her first match. We’ll need to see more from Simona at Melbourne.
Somebody who cannot be discounted as a contender in Melbourne is Venus Williams. When her health allows her to be, she is still a high level competitor. The only question is whether she can physically hold up for two weeks at a Major without a sub-par off day creeping in. If so, she can make some noise at the Australian Open. She certainly was on her game in New Zealand as she stormed back from a set down to take out top seed Caroline Wozniacki 2-6 6-3 6-3 to win the 2015 ASB Classic. With all due respect to 2nd seed Sara Errani, Caroline vs 3rd seed Venus was the dream final for this event. And like Masha and Ana at Brisbane, this clash of former world #1s Venus and Caro did not disappoint. The win marks the 46th singles title in the surefire Hall of Fame career of Venus Williams.
While sister Venus was victorious in Auckland, Serena Williams and John Isner (Team USA) fell to Agnieszka Radwanska and Jerzy Janowicz (Team Poland) at the 2015 Hopman Cup in Perth. It marked Poland’s first ever Hopman Cup title and Aga was huge in securing the trophy. Janowicz fell in men’s singles to Isner, but Aga defeated Serena 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-1 in women’s singles and paired with Jerzy to take the mixed doubles over Serena and John, 7-5 6-3. This isn’t an official WTA event, so the singles results don’t count toward rankings, but any opportunity to get a win versus Serena is special. In fact, both Aga and Eugenie Bouchard beat Serena at Hopman Cup. But as I’ve said, it’s only the first week of the year. Let’s see what happens in Melbourne. I will say that I am very interested in seeing what Aga does in 2015 with the legendary Martina Navratilova as her coach. This is sure a nice way to begin.
1 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 6-7 (4) 6-3 6-3 vs 2 Ana Ivanovic)
1 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-2 6-2 vs 8 Timea Bacsinszky)
3 VENUS WILLIAMS (won 2-6 6-3 6-3 vs 1 Caroline Wozniacki)
AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (Team Poland def. Team USA, 2-1)