Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki both feature twice in part two of the countdown of my favourite WTA matches of 2015. In case you missed it, you can read part one HERE which featured some sentimental choices with my favourite live matches of 2015. Read on for part two which features matches 15 to 11.
15. Cetkovska d. Wozniacki, 6-4 5-7 7-6(1) (US Open, R2)
One of the early shocks from a wild US Open was Petra Cetkovska’s three set win over Caroline Wozniacki in the second round. While it was a surprising result, Cetkovska’s talent has never been doubted. The Czech player has faced adversity all through her life, suffering a brain injury when she was younger and dealing with all kinds of injuries through her career. A cult favourite amongst WTA tennis fans and known for her wonderful production of groundstrokes, it all came together for Petra in this match.
Showcasing her all-court game, Cetkovska hit a whopping 61 winners to prevail against the 2014 US Open finalist. Hitting winners from both wings, unsettling the Dane with her backhand slice and displaying a superb transition game, this was a tremendous performance from Cetkovska. The Czech player nearly let things slip, losing the second set having led 6-4 *4-1. It looked like a classic Woz comeback was on the cards and the general consensus was that Cetkovska would fold thereafter.
Cetkovska fought admirably, saving four match points deep in the third set, all on fearless winners. Cetkovska played a flawless final set tiebreak to secure a fairytale win. Cetkovska won just two WTA main draw matches in 2015 and they both came at the US Open. Her run ended in the third round against the eventual champion, Flavia Pennetta. In fact, it was Pennetta’s toughest match of the fortnight, winning 6-4 in the decider. Cetkovska played just one more tournament in 2015 which ended in a retirement :-(. I hope we get to see a fully fit Petra in 2016.
Match Time: 3h 02
Match Stats: Cetkovska (61 winners and 60 unforced errors) and Wozniacki (23 winners and 32 unforced errors)
14. Halep d. Azarenka, 6-3 4-6 6-4 (US Open, QF)
Azarenka-Halep was one match-up that I really wanted to see in 2015 and it finally happened at the US Open. Prior to their quarter-final match, Azarenka had beaten Halep twice for the loss of a combined six games; however the pair hadn’t played since Halep’s meteoric rise up the rankings. Azarenka started this match with an early break, her confidence sky high after a fabulous win over Angelique Kerber in the third round. Halep though, came equipped with a smart gameplan and was able to exploit Azarenka’s movement and execute the down-the-line shot. It was a good serving day for Halep too who wrapped up the opening set, 6-3.
Halep continued to be aggressive and proactive in the second set but Azarenka, tenacious as ever, began to take more chances and step into the court. While she failed to serve out the second set, a mistimed backhand from Halep saw the Romanian player surrender her serve and the second set. The third set began with a bang, as the pair played out some cracking points. I was on the edge of my seat for most of this one because I had absolutely no idea who would prevail. A rain delay came early on in the third set (a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to watch Bake Off!) but play resumed later that afternoon.
In a match of fine margins, Azarenka had a game point to go up 4-3, but Halep managed to secure the break and then held her nerve to seal the win. A few errors creeped into Azarenka’s game towards the end while Halep fully committed to an aggressive gameplan and was so accurate with her dreamy down-the-line winners. This was arguably Halep’s best win at a Grand Slam and her stats were pretty incredible! Halep’s reaction after match point said it all…
Match Time: 2h 40
Match Stats: Halep (40 winners to 19 unforced errors) and Azarenka (38 winners to 42 unforced errors)
13. Kerber d. Keys, 6-2 4-6 7-5 (Charleston, Final)
Following up their fabulous final in Eastbourne last year, Angelique Kerber turned the tables on Madison Keys to snap a four match losing streak in finals. This is a fun match-up between two different game styles and it was a fitting way to end the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, one of my favourite stops on the WTA calendar. In many ways, it was an unlikely final; Keys has always written off her chances on clay (although she is better suited to the green clay compared to red clay) and had a 1-2 W-L record since reaching the Australian Open semi-finals. Kerber’s form had been even more dreary, going 2-5 since Melbourne.
In challenging conditions, Keys began in dreadful form, hitting seven consecutive unforced errors to start. The American player settled into a groove midway through the first set but Kerber held on and then ran away with it once more, taking the first set, 6-2. Mentally, Keys stepped up her game in the second set; she saved a break point at 4-4 before breaking Kerber in the next game for the set with a huge forehand winner. It never gets boring watching Keys hit the absolute crap out of the ball. The raw power she can generate, particularly on the forehand side, is pretty spectacular.
Keys looked well on her way to a second WTA title, racing out into a 4-1 in the third set. Kerber’s challenge was fading, but a coaching changeover with the newly reinstated, Torben Beltz, reinvigorated her chances. A gusty trio of games saw Kerber level up the decider at 4-4. Keys had a massive hold in the next game, volleying away a winner with a huge scream and forcing Kerber to serve to stay in the match. It was Keys though who buckled first, letting slip a *40-0 lead at 5-5 in a game that featured one of the rallies of the year with both players up at the net. Kerber served out the match to love. It was amusing to see both players on the floor at the end of the match and it was a very respectful handshake. Kerber went on an absolute tear in Premier events after Charleston; it’s fair to say that this was a huge mental win for the German player.
Match Time: 2h 16
Match Stats: Kerber (17 winners to 21 unforced errors) and Keys (49 winners to 57 unforced errors)
YouTube Video by Mucho Tennis
12. Radwanska d. Jankovic, 7-5 6-4 (Wimbledon, R4)
Things I never thought i’d see again in my lifetime… Jelena Jankovic in the second week of Wimbledon! Prior to this year’s grass court season, Jankovic had won just one out of her last seven matches on grass since reaching the final of Birmingham in 2012. This year, she won eight matches on the green stuff including taking out the defending Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova in the third round of Wimbledon. Jankovic was involved in a pretty darn great fourth rounder against eventual semi-finalist, Agnieszka Radwanska.
Aga in full flight, tricks and all, was a delight to watch in this gruelling encounter on the aptly coined, Magic Monday. The first set featured two rather magical stats; Radwanska hit 22 winners and Jankovic played 25 points up at the net, winning 16 of them. The rallies were just magnificent. It was Radwanska’s touch more craft and consistency that saw her win a tight opening set. The Polish player continued to hit some stunners in the second set but Jankovic stayed in contention. If the actual tennis wasn’t good enough, there was some peak JJ drama who uttered the words “I don’t want to speak to you” to the umpire after getting penalised for slow play. Radwanska closed out the match in straight sets with the pair combining for 62 winners. It’s such a shame there aren’t more highlights on YouTube.
Match Time: 1h 43
Match Stats: Radwanska (32 winners to 17 unforced errors) and Jankovic (30 winners to 21 unforced errors)
YouTube Video by carlleaburn
11. Wozniacki d. Halep, 7-5 5-7 6-2 (Stuttgart, SF)
In the first of three matches from Stuttgart, Caroline Wozniacki edged Simona Halep in this super semi-final, lasting just two minutes shy of the three hour mark. Matches from Stuttgart are an ever-present in my top 20 countdowns and the fast indoor clay surface always makes for entertaining matches. 2015 was a tough year for Wozniacki as she battled a knee injury for much of 2015 (even in this encounter she had a bandage on her knee). However, this was the one tournament where Wozniacki really shone with a series of positive and aggressive performances. It was the most comfortable that Wozniacki has ever looked on the clay.
Wozniacki sneaked out a close opening set with Halep succumbing on serve at *5-6. There were some gorgeous points in what was a battle of the backhands and a fight to gain the upper hand in the rallies. Halep was the more dynamic player in the second set, going up a double break to lead 3-0. Wozniacki practically ran another marathon, chasing everything down; the Dane got back on level terms to 4-4 on a quite remarkable point where Halep twice used the drop shot but Wozniacki eventually clung onto a forehand winner. The Dane was playing some inspired tennis as she looked to close it out in two sets, but the match took another turn with Halep serving at *4-5 *30-30; Wozniacki, in control of a rally, couldn’t put Halep away who produced an blinding backhand pass.
While Halep wrapped up the second set, it was Wozniacki’s fitness that was the limiting factor in the third set. The Dane made it into a physical match and with Halep clearly struggling with a back injury, she powered into a 5-1 lead. Wozniacki needed four match points before finally putting away the Romanian player. It was a superb match even though the third set didn’t quite match the tension of the first two sets. For Wozniacki, it was not only her best win of the year in terms of ranking but also her most impressive performance too.
Match Time: 2h 58
Match Stats: Wozniacki (30 winners to 26 unforced errors) and Halep (41 winners to 47 unforced errors)