WTA Best of 2016: Memorable Moments

The fifth of the Best of 2016 posts showcases a collection of memorable moments from the 2016 WTA season. In case you’ve missed any of the previous posts you can catch up using the following links:

For handshakes and hugs, and awesome sportsmanship click HERE

For best points click HERE

For best shots click HERE

For funny moments, click HERE

The first week of the 2016 season featured arguably the most dramatic match of the entire year in Auckland… step forward, Jelena Ostapenko and Naomi Broady. The Brit was incensed to the point of tears that Ostapenko wasn’t defaulted during the second set when her flying racquet hit a ballkid. Broady saved two match points to win, 4-6 7-6(4) 7-5 but the pair shared some words at the net with Broady shouting…

For a full recap of all the drama, check out the article from The Tennis Island below.

The Brisbane International got off to an unfortunate start as the top three seeds were all forced to pull out. This paved the way for Victoria Azarenka to sweep up with a dominant run where she dropped just 17 games, winning her first title since 2013 in Cincinnati.

Peak Sveta made an appearance at the start of the year; she won the Apia International in Sydney, beating Monica Puig in the final, 6-0 6-2 before inflicting the same scoreline on Daniela Hantuchova in the first round of the Australian Open. Kuznetsova hit 48 winners to just 8 unforced errors in the space of two matches… amazing!

Prior to the Australian Open, Zhang Shuai had never won a main draw match at a Slam in 14 attempts. In one of the fairytale storylines of the year, Zhang upset the number two seed, Simona Halep in the first round of the Australian Open with a stunning, 6-4 6-3 win. Zhang’s post-match interview is a truly wonderful moment.

Zhang would go onto reach the quarter-finals with wins over Alizé Cornet, Varvara Lepchenko and Madison Keys before falling in straight sets to Johanna Konta. The pair shared a wonderful embrace after Konta won through to reach her first Slam semi-final.

Ahead of their Australian Open quarter-final, Angelique Kerber had never beaten Victoria Azarenka in six previous matches. Against the in-form Azarenka, who had won their previous match less than two weeks before in the Brisbane final, Kerber summoned a superb performance to beat the Belarusian in straight sets, 6-3 7-5. I don’t think i’ve ever seen Angie so animated than in this post-match interview with Rennae Stubbs.

And Kerber, who had saved a match point in her first round match against Misaki Doi, went onto beat Serena Williams in a fitting finale. The sportsmanship on show from both was admirable and Kerber’s reaction remains as one of my favourite moments of the year.

Agnieszka Radwanska and Roberta Vinci joined forces for one of the most entertaining matches of the year in Doha. Just zone in on those net points… more to come on this match!

Miss of the year contender #1 from Daria Gavrilova in Doha… sorry Dasha!

Carla Suárez Navarro won the biggest title of her career in Doha. I love this picture!

Miss of the year contender #2… Magdalena Rybarikova went onto win this match over Belinda Bencic in Indian Wells but I can’t quite comprehend what she was doing here! I’m laughing at Belinda walking casually into shot at the end.

The semi-finals of Indian Wells was one of the best nights of tennis all year with two superb matches. The stats in Indian Wells always suffer due to the tough conditions of a slow court and a ball that skids through due to the thin, desert air; however, all four semi-finalists came out with positive stats.

Victoria Azarenka was the stand-out player during the first three months of the season, winning Indian Wells and Miami. After surprising Serena Williams in the final of Indian Wells, Azarenka delivered a knock-out speech. I loved Serena’s reaction and the tremble in Vika’s voice as she delivered such meaningful words.

Nicole Gibbs wrote some tremendously thoughtful pieces for the WTA this year.

Angelique Kerber defended a title for the first time in her career in Stuttgart but the surprise of the week was Laura Siegemund who came through three rounds of qualifying and scored three consecutive top ten wins over Simona Halep, Roberta Vinci and Agnieszka Radwanska. Laura didn’t drop a set en route to the final and played some stunning tennis, seamlessly mixing in aggression and variety.

There was an incredible moment in Istanbul where Cagla Buyukakcay won her first WTA title in her home country.

After a tough illness-affected start to the 2016, Lucie Safarova updated her Facebook page with a nostalgic post.

Lucie lost her first five matches of the year, but found form again in her home tournament of Prague where she reeled off five straight wins to take home the title.

Emotions were running high in Rome where Flavia Pennetta was celebrated on court with some of her fellow players on the WTA tour.

Alizé Cornet v Tatjana Maria at the French Open… again, I must refer you to The Tennis Island for a recollection of this wild match.

An injured/cramping Cornet won, 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4 with a frosty handshake and some words.

Tissues at the ready…. here’s an emotional, Shelby Rogers after she came out of nowhere to reach a first Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. The crowd cheering for Shelby was a lovely moment.

Going one better in reaching the semi-finals of Roland Garros was Kiki Bertens.

And it was Garbiñe Muguruza who won her first Slam title, ending a damp, dreary and frankly miserable two weeks at Roland Garros on a high note in a superb final against Serena Williams.

Onto the grass court season and a personal memory for me was watching Lucie Safarova save three match points to edge doubles partner and good friend, Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round of Wimbledon.

Would you believe it… in one of the most entertaining matches of the year between Venus Williams and Daria Kasatkina, the pesky rain stopped play at match point. Venus’s face was an absolute picture!

Domi and Aga on Court 3 at Wimbledon… three hours of absolutely sensational tennis. My highlight of Wimbledon.

Elena Vesnina reached her first Slam semi-final in singles at Wimbledon. Vesnina powered through any nerves and served out her quarter-final match against Dominika Cibulkova to love. I can’t think of anyone who deserved it more :-).

The Wimbledon girls final was an absolute treat and featured one of the most dramatic endings to a match you could ever imagine. Anastasia Potapova twice celebrated the win and was twice denied by Hawkeye.

Serena wins #22… the final was awesome on all levels.

And Serena and Venus paired up to win their first Slam in doubles since 2012 in a stunning final.

Jelena Jankovic and Bethanie Mattek-Sands kicked off the inaugural Gstaad Open with a trip to Glacier 3000.

And it was a pretty special tournament in Gstaad where once again, a player won her first title at home. It was a dream week for Viktorija Golubic who had an all-round super year by ending it inside the world’s top 60.

The photo says it all… as a qualifier, Kristina Kucova reached the semi-finals of Montreal.

 

The Olympics was one of the most memorable weeks of the year where Monica Puig defeated Angelique Kerber in a rip-roaring final to win the gold medal.

Puig’s Olympic spirit and joy at winning gold was definitely one of the highlights of the year.

The women’s doubles ceremony was awesome with practically all the players in tears. I loved seeing how much it meant to them all! If someone can find a video of this then please let me know :-).

Two players who skipped Rio, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova, both enjoyed banner summers; Halep compiled a 13-match winning streak with back-to-back titles in Bucharest and Montreal, while Pliskova won the biggest title of her career in Cincinnati, setting herself up for a best ever run at a Slam. Pliskova FINALLY made it into the second week of a Slam and reached the final of the US Open with wins over the Williams sisters.

Kateryna Bondarenko v Zheng Saisai in the second round of the US Open… I will forever remember watching this courtside eating popcorn. It was another cracking WTA match that had everything including an underarm serve on match point and a spectator being dragged away by security at the end.

Angelique Kerber, two time Slam champion.

That moment when you begin to realise what you have achieved…

Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands had a rough run through the clay and grass court seasons but their chemistry and quality shone through again at the US Open where they won the title, sowing the seed for an 18-match winning streak that also saw them win titles in Wuhan and Beijing.

Naomi Osaka joined Twitter… a treat on and off the court. The Japanese player reached her first WTA final in Tokyo where she lost out to a resurgent, Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets.

Peak Petra made a rare sighting in Wuhan; after beating the world number one, Angelique Kerber in a thrilling third round match, Kvitova dismantled the games of Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova in the final two rounds for the combined loss of just five (!) games.

An OstaPoots match in Beijing was as you’d expect, highly eventful. Yulia Putintseva saved a match point, celebrated as if she’d just won the career Slam and pissed off Ostapenko in the process who gave an ice-cold stare and barely there handshake.

After nine months away from the tour to have back surgery and with a 0-6 record in WTA finals between 2006 and 2014, one of the most heartwarming moments of the year saw the 30-year-old, Peng Shuai win her first ever WTA title in her hometown of Tianjin. Not only that, she also won the doubles title with Christina McHale!

The regular WTA season ended in funky style with Monica Niculescu beating Petra Kvitova in the final of Luxembourg. Monica’s speech was delightful.

A fabulous round robin match at the WTA Finals in Singapore between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Agnieszka Radwanska hit the headlines when Sveta cut her hair on one of the changeovers!

Cracking the top five for the first time in her career, Dominika Cibulkova won the WTA Finals in Singapore by beating the world number one, Angelique Kerber in the final.

And finally, the Fed Cup ended the season in style and then some. Here’s a touching moment between Caroline Garcia and Kirstina Mladenovic after Caroline levelled up the scores at 1-1 after day 1.

This should be in the “Shots of the Year” post but it’ll do here! In one of the best doubles matches i’ve ever watched, Karolina Pliskova produced a moment of sheer brilliance with this volley to seal the crucial break in the second set at 5-5. Pliskova and Strycova served out the match to win the Fed Cup for the Czech Republic, their fifth victory in the last six years.

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