WTA

Ash Barty named WTA POTY, Emma Raducanu nets newcomer award

By Sports Desk December 07, 2021

Ash Barty has won the WTA's Player of the Year award for a second time, while Emma Raducanu's sensational 2021 season was capped with the Newcomer of the Year prize on Tuesday.

Barty collected the tour's top individual year-end award in 2019, having won the French Open and finished that season as the world number one.

And after Sofia Kenin succeeded her in 2020, Barty is back on top this year.

This was the third straight season the Australian superstar claimed the year-end number one ranking, and it saw her land a second major title at Wimbledon. Barty's five WTA titles in 2021 were unsurpassed.

But she has had to share the limelight in recent months with Raducanu, and that was the case again as the 19-year-old Briton was unsurprisingly hailed as the tour's star newcomer.

Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a grand slam when she swept to glory at the US Open, having also impressed in a run to the last 16 at Wimbledon.

The teenager, who has risen from 343rd to 19th in the rankings in the past year, won 10 straight matches without dropping a set from the first qualifying round to the final at Flushing Meadows.

Elsewhere, Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova collected a pair of awards, scooping Most Improved Player and, alongside Olympic, WTA Finals and French Open-winning partner Katerina Siniakova, the Doubles Team of the Year.

Carla Suarez Navarro, who retired in 2020 and was then diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, returned to the tour cancer free in 2021 for a farewell season and carried off the Comeback Player of the Year award.

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    Rafael Nadal continued his search for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title with a routine victory over Karen Khachanov at the Australian Open.

    The Spaniard, aiming to achieve the record for most grand slams won by a man, cruised past Khachanov with a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1 third-round victory at the first major of 2022 on Friday.

    Nadal improved upon his perfect 7-0 record against the Russian, who he last faced at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals, and has only ever lost two of 20 sets in meetings between the pair.

    The 35-year-old will now wait to see whether he faces Aslan Karatsev, the 18th seed in Melbourne, or Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round.

    Nadal raced out the blocks, breaking the 25-year-old at the first time of asking as he grasped a 3-0 lead within the opening exchanges at Rod Laver Arena.

    The 28th seed Khachanov fought back to 5-3 down but Nadal produced another dominant service to secure the first set, in which he dropped just one point on his serve.

    A marathon first service game of the second set eventually ended with Nadal again breaking Khachanov after a gruelling 13 minutes and seven deuces before claiming the second set in straightforward fashion.

    However, Khachanov – who managed silver at the Tokyo Olympics – bounced back in the third with Nadal making numerous mistakes and unable to cope with his mammoth forehand.

    Nadal managed to regain his composure in the following set, celebrating enthusiastically after breaking Khachanov's first service game, before outclassing his opponent, who seemed to run out of steam in a match that lasted 2 hours and 51 minutes.

    DATA SLAM: Nadal powers on at Melbourne Park

    Nadal has lost on only two occasions in his career when boasting a two-set lead, with the most recent coming against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-final of this tournament last year.

    Despite a spirited fightback from the Russian, Nadal moved onto a 72-15 record at the year's first major, with only Roger Federer (102) and Novak Djokovic (82) recording more victories at Melbourne Park.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Nadal – 39/30

    Khachanov – 36/42

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Nadal – 4/6

    Khachanov – 14/3

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    Nadal – 5/15

    Khachanov – 1/5

  • Australian Open: 'This is the biggest step, even though I lost' – Osaka proud despite defeat Australian Open: 'This is the biggest step, even though I lost' – Osaka proud despite defeat

    Naomi Osaka is taking pride from her Australian Open campaign despite suffering a shock third-round exit to unseeded Amanda Anisimova on Friday.

    The two-time Melbourne champion fell short in her latest title defence with a 4-6 6-3 7-6 (10-5) loss to Anisimova in a thrilling contest on Margaret Court Arena.

    Osaka, who eased past Camila Osorio and Madison Brengle in straight sets in the first two rounds, squandered two match points to overcome 20-year-old opponent Anisimova.

    It means the Japanese star has now failed to defend any of her four major crowns, with Victoria Azarenka the last women's player to do so at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013.

    But competing in her first competitive event since exiting the US Open to Leylah Fernandez in September, Osaka was pleased with her efforts.

    "I fought for every point. I can't be sad about that," said Osaka, who nearly walked away from tennis last year.

    "I'm not God, I can't win every match. It would be nice to win the tournament, but I can't think of winning the grand slam at the start of the year every time.

    "I feel like I grew a lot in this match. The last time I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude, so I'm really happy, even though I lost. I'm happy how it went."

    Osaka's Australian Open title defence has been halted by a breakthrough American talent for the second time, having previously lost to Coco Gauff at the same stage in 2020.

    Despite match points passing the world number 13 by, she refused to be too downbeat by the manner of the defeat.

    "There are days that I'm going to have bad days, and there are days that I'm going to have great days," she said. 

    "It's always random, and I never know, but no matter what happens for me, I just want to leave the court knowing that I fought for every point.

    "Today, of course there were things I felt I could improve on, but even with that, I had two match points, and I think that's something that I can be proud of myself for."

    Osaka had dropped just one set in her first five matches this season and looked in the mood as she raced ahead against Anisimova.

    But Anisimova hit more than twice the number of winners that Osaka managed (46 to 21) to pull off a huge upset and set up a last-16 clash with top seed Ash Barty.

    The American lifted her second career title at Melbourne Summer Set 2 earlier this month and has now won 10 of the last 11 matches she has played, including all eight in 2022. 

    It is the first time Anisimova has won from match point down since the 2019 Mallorca Open and the youngster was lost for words in her on-court interview.

    "I'm speechless. I absolutely love playing in front of you guys [the crowd] in Melbourne. It's honestly so much fun. I can't stop smiling," she said.

    "I knew I had to be playing sharp if I wanted to give myself a chance, Naomi is always going to be playing well and she's an absolute champion. 

    "I knew I had to step up my game and try to be aggressive, I think that's what I started doing in the second set.

    "I'm so grateful I was able to play well and get this win, it means a lot. Stepping on to the court, all I'm thinking is having fun. Every day here is an amazing opportunity."

  • Australian Open: Barty had no expectations of Osaka meeting Australian Open: Barty had no expectations of Osaka meeting

    Ash Barty insisted she had no expectations Naomi Osaka would be her fourth-round opponent at the Australian Open after the Japanese star's surprise loss.

    Barty and Osaka were on track to meet in the last 16 in Melbourne before the latter suffered a three-set loss to Amanda Anisimova on Friday.

    World number one Barty, who crushed Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-3, always felt there were no certainties despite all the talk about a potential clash against Osaka.

    "That was your expectation. My expectation was whoever it would be. I mean, each match is uncertain," she said.

    "Each match of tennis, there are no certainties. You have no idea what's going to happen. You just have to navigate your way through as best you can that given moment.

    "I have done a good job of that this week. Now it's exciting to get to play Amanda again. We've played before. It will be nice to play each other again in a big match."

    Barty and Anisimova will meet for the first time since their 2019 French Open semi-final, which the former won on her way to a maiden grand slam title.

    That match was a "turning point" in Barty's career. After losing the first set despite leading 5-1, Barty fell 3-0 behind in the second, only to fight back for a 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3 victory.

    "I try to forget, but also, I remember that I learned a lot from that moment," Barty said.

    "That was a turning point in my career, and you have to be able to take learnings from those moments, as hard as they are sometimes, and I was able to navigate and find a way through.

    "At that point in my life, in my career, it was a massive turning point.

    "Obviously it feels like it's a lifetime ago, but some of those memories are still really vivid. Without a doubt we will take that and use that experience, use those feelings and those emotions as best we can come Sunday."

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