Another grass season is over for another year, with top class tennis being played on the lush green surface. This section of the calendar is adored by players and fans alike, which makes it disappointment that it’s so short with grass being the primary surface for only just over a month. The WTA tour plays grass tournaments at 4 different venues including arguably the biggest Grand Slam of the year, the Wimbledon Championships. The other three events are held at Birmingham, S-Hertongenbosch and Eastbourne with different winners in each. Throughout this report I shall be reviewing the grass season for players of the WTA Tour.
The first grass event of the year took place in Birmingham, where players met to compete for the Aegon Classic title. The tournament’s line-up featured many of the World’s top 50 players including top 3 seeds; Ana Ivanovic, Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens.
Whilst both Stephens and Stosur fell before the semi-final stage, Ivanovic reached the final where she was to play surprise finalist Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, who had knocked out 3 seeds en route to the final. Top seed Ivanovic had not dropped a set throughout the whole tournament, and continued this trend by defeating Zahlavova-Strycova in straight sets 6-3 6-2, to collect her first title on grass. Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears won the doubles tournament, defeating Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua. Dellacqua had reached the singles semi-finals before being beaten by Strycova.
The following week contained the two last warm-up events before Wimbledon in Eastbourne and S-Hertogenbosch. In Holland, all top 6 seeds failed to make it past the second round with only Garbine Muguruza and Klara Koukalova advancing into the Quarters. Top seed Simona Halep worryingly retired midway through the second set in her second round clash against Annika Beck, casting a doubt over her participation at SW19. Promising youngsters Andrea Petkovic and Eugenie Bouchard both surprisingly lost early in tight three set matches, however the latter didn’t have too long to wait for a bit of success on the grass.
The final was contested between China’s Zheng Jie and America’s Coco Vandeweghe, with both players looking for their first title on the green surface. In a one-sided affair Vandeweghe took her first career tour title, defeating Zheng 6-2 6-4. The doubles title was won by Marina Erakovic and Arantxa Parra Santonja who saw off Michaella Krajicek and Kristina Mladenovic, despite losing the first to a bagel.
In Eastbourne, the main attention was towards Victoria Azarenka’s return to the tour, after a short absence due to injury. After winning the first set against her first round opponent Camilla Giorgi, she dropped the last two to give the Italian the victory. Another surprise result occurred in the first round with top seed Agnieszka Radwanska being dumped out of the event by Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets.
Britain were well represented at home with Heather Watson going all the way to the semi-finals, despite having a tough draw on paper. Watson saw off challenges from Tsvetana Pironkova and Flavia Pennetta before the 2011 Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova pulled out of the tournament, giving the Brit a bye into the semi-finals where she met young American Madison Keys. Keys has been tipped to become one of the US’ biggest stars and it was easy to see why, as she confidently ended Watson’s run, winning 6-3 6-1. The other semi-final promised a mouth-watering encounter with former World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki facing Angelique Kerber, a player who had previously made the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the final here at Eastbourne, both in 2012. The match delivered with Kerber advancing to the final after winning a thriller 3-6 7-6 (3) 6-3. In the final, Keys joined Ivanovic and Vandeweghe by collecting her first grass title in the summer of 2014, beating Kerber in a brilliant 3 set match. She also joined Vandeweghe by collecting her first ever title on the WTA tour, aged 19. The doubles title was won by Chinese-Taipei pair Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan who defeated Flavia Pennetta and Martina Hingis in an exciting final. With three different winners in three different tournaments, it was becoming difficult to pick a winner for the main event; The Championships at Wimbledon.
The 2013 women’s singles event had been one of the most surprising to date with Marion Bartoli winning her first Grand Slam title, defeating Germany’s Sabine Lisicki in the final. Both were long shots at the start of the tournament but with the top seeds tumbling, it was left to 15th seed Bartoli to become the Wimbledon champion. With this major success under her belt, Bartoli retired from tennis and was unable to defend her title. She did however, walk onto Centre Court on the first Tuesday of the tournament before Lisicki played the first match of the day.
After two disappointing finishes in Melbourne and Paris, Serena Williams was tipped by many to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish for a 6th time as she remained the number 1 player in the world. The draw played out a possible Quarter-final clash between Serena and the 2004 winner Maria Sharapova, with the winner arguably made the favourite to go on and lift the trophy. Both fell before this stage. For Serena it was another poor showing at a Grand Slam with Alize Cornet dumping out the American in one of the matches of the tournament. Sharapova went one round better, losing in the fourth round to Kerber, the Eastbourne runner-up, in a memorable battle. Second seeded Li Na exited in the same round as Serena, losing to the Aegon Classic runner-up, Zahlavova-Strycova out on Court One. Another early casualty was Victoria Azarenka who departed at the second round stage, losing to Bojana Jovanovski. British interest was over by round 2 with only Heather Watson being able to win a match at this year’s Championships, before losing to Kerber in topsy-turvy encounter. After two rain delayed days, several matches were held over to the next day, meaning the order of play was mixed up, with some players still having to play 3rd round matches whilst some 4th round matches were already in play. Despite the rain, we had our final 8 and the quarter-final line-up looked strong. However, each match was decided in straight sets and not one match featured a tie-break in one-sided affairs. Bouchard advanced to her 3rd Grand Slam semi-final by beating Kerber 6-3 6-4 to set up an intriguing encounter with rising Romanian star Simona Halep, who saw off last year’s runner-up Lisicki who disappointed in the Quarters. The other semi-final was set for an-all Czech affair with the 2011 winner Kvitova facing Lucie Safarova, who beat Agnieszka Radwanska’s conqueror, Ekaterina Makarova. Now the favourite, Kvitova saw off Strycova 6-1 7-5 to face-off against her close friend.
After winning a tight first set, decided by a tie-break, Kvitova stormed the second-set 6-1 to reach the second Wimbledon final of her career. For Safarova, this had been an excellent tournament as she had reached her first ever Grand Slam semi-final. She seemed overwhelmed in the second set but she should be proud of her achievements during the fortnight. The other semi-final was expected to be a cracker with two young stars fighting it out for a shot in the Wimbledon final. Just like the other match, the first set was decided by a tie-break with Bouchard holding her nerve to lead one set to love. In mirror image again to the other semi, the second set was one-sided with the young Canadian advancing to her first major final, after twice previously falling one round before. The 2014 final was set; would the winner be the rising young star Bouchard or would Kvitova capture her second Wimbledon title? We had to wait less than an hour to find out.
From the Quarter-final stage onwards, the matches had been one-sided affairs with none of the following matches going the distance. Surely this wouldn’t happen again in the Wimbledon final? We were set for an epic right? Wrong. In arguably the most one-sided display in a Grand Slam final, Petra Kvitova destroyed Bouchard’s dreams, winning 6-3 6-0 in less than an hour. Looking at the result you would think Bouchard played poorly but she didn’t, Kvitova just played incredible tennis and perhaps would be unbeatable in that kind of form. The women’s doubles event was won by the Italian pair of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who beat Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in another one-sided match. Babos and Mladenovic had beaten defending champions Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai in the third round.
Wimbledon bought to an end a brilliant grass season on the WTA circuit, with four different winners in the four tournaments played. We only wish there were more played on grass…
Aegon Classic (Birmingham)
Winner – Ana Ivanovic
Runner-Up – Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova
Winners – Raquel Kops-Jones / Abigail Spears
Runner-Ups – Ashleigh Barty / Casey Dellacqua
Topshelf Open (S-Hertogenbosch)
Winner – Coco Vandeweghe
Runner-Up – Zheng Jie
Winners – Marina Erakovic / Arantxa Parra Santonja
Runner-ups – Michaella Krajicek / Kristina Mladenovic
Aegon International (Eastbourne)
Winner – Madison Keys
Runner-Up – Angelique Kerber
Winners – Chan Hao-Ching / Chan Yung-Jan
Runner-Ups – Flavia Pennetta / Martina Hingis
Winner – Petra Kvitova
Runner-Up – Eugenie Bouchard
Winners – Sara Errani / Roberta Vinci
Runner-Ups – Timea Babos / Kristina Mladenovic
What was your favourite part of the grass season on the WTA Tour? Feel free to comment below.