Postpone our weekly Q&A sessions and give out rewards. We will do the WTA this week, and the ATP next week. I have no problem with the media voting for sports honors. But I have a problem with the media voting for awards behind the cloak of anonymity. So let’s go public with our picks and some additional categories:
WTA Player of the Year
• Tennis balls are spherical. The tennis courts are rectangular. The tennis off-season is insufficient. Arthur Ashe Stadium is not intimate.… There are immutable truths about tennis. Here is another: Iga Swiatek is the best player in the game today. The 2022 poll is very different from the 2021 poll. But after the retirement of several stars and the decline of others (yes, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep; but also Barbora Krejcikova and Emma Raducanu), Swiatek got his battlefield promotion in 2022. She honored it by winning two of three majors and going 67-9. – including a series of 37 in a row – over the year.
WTA Doubles Team of the Year
Gabriela Dabrowski / Giuliana Olmos
Coco Gauff/Jessica Pegula
Lyudmyla Kichenok / Jelena Ostapenko
Barbora Krejcikova / Katerina Siniakova
Veronika Kudermetova / Elise Mertens
• Visor tip to Pegula and Gauff for committing to the act, even though they placed in the top ten in singles. More of that, please. But let’s follow the leaderboard and let’s go Barbora Krejcikova (also a good singles player, of course) and Kateřina Siniakova who most recently beat Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend to win the US Open.
WTA Most Improved Player of the Year – Player who finished in the Top 100 and showed significant improvement throughout the season.
Beatriz Haddad Maia
• Many valid candidates. Haddad Maia, who was playing $60,000 ITF events a year ago and is now ranked No. 15. Brazil has long been underrepresented in the sport’s highest echelons. No more. But we’ll get off the menu and vote Jessica Pegula, the epitome of good to excellent. Two years ago she was outside the top 50. She started the Australian Open at No. 21. She is now No. 3 and got there not with a spectacular result, but with consistent tennis and consistently winning. At 28 years old. “Inspiration” is one of those sports words overused by criminals. But countless players have to pull him watching his mid-career rise.
WTA Newcomer of the Year – Player who made his Top 100 debut and/or notable achievements during the season.
• It’s still a little vague where to draw these lines. Who, exactly, is a newcomer? Fruhvirotva, 17, is a classic party goer. Memorize the name and spelling. Niemeyer who is 23, but has won 39 matches and his ranking is No. 63, but even without the points for his Wimbledon quarter-final. But the vote here goes to Zheng20, who has won 38 games, nearly $1 million, and is up to No. 25.
WTA Returning Player of the Year – Player whose ranking had previously dropped due to injury or personal reasons and results from the current season have helped restore the ranking
• Not many solid choices—perhaps fortunately, given that it’s an injury-based reward. A writing for Taylor Townsend—she of winning personality and winning left-handed tennis – back from maternity leave and doing it in singles and doubles.
Here are some categories we will add:
• Serena Williams. Achievement for life. “Thank you for everything you have done.” Something. You can’t have a real retirement ceremony without thanking her. here is our Tribute to Sports Illustrated.
Wimbledon Champion Award
• Hard to believe we need this, a special recognition to the winner of the biggest of events. But also hard to remember a major champion getting less fanfare. For memory Elena Rybakina won “The Championships” by mixing power, precision and balance. She received no points, which is why she is, improbably at No. 22, absent from the WTA Finals. The fact that she was born in Russia and (somewhat) based in Russia adds a layer of awkwardness to it all. But give woman her due!
Game of the Year
• We will fill the oval to Ash Barty beating Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6 in the Australian Open final. It’s admittedly a cheap way to recognize Barty, a worthy No. 1 and infallible Hall of Famer, who retired in February while inhabiting the sports penthouse. But a larger point to consider: we think of “big games” as who wants more? Business that makes 5-5 in the decisive set. But often, context is important. Barty is #1. She’s playing her home major as the top seed, trying to become the first homegrown product since the ’70s to win. She also knows that this could be her last professional game. Imagine the mental toughness she summoned to win that second-set tiebreaker.
Coach of the year
• David Witt? Great job. Issam Djellali? Well done. Diego Moyano? Congratulations.* But unless there are extenuating circumstances – for example Caroline Garcia parting ways with Bertrand Perret at the end of the season – if you coach the best player, you are the best coach. Which means that the price amounts to Tomasz Witkorowskiaide-de-camp to Iga Swiatek.
* Hats off to the WTA for taking steps to solve this problem.
quote of the year
• Ons Jabeurtake it away.
Q. Today is a historic day in the UK. Our Prime Minister has resigned. The man who wants to replace him, the leader of the opposition, was here in the royal box looking at you. Do you think he made the right decision?
ONS JABEUR: I have no idea. I am the minister of happiness
Shot of the Year (aka Radwanska)
• Ladies and gentlemen, the wand of So Jabeur.
Profiles in Courage Award
• Given the awkwardness of tennis to make a coherent statement condemning Russia and the dastardly Vladimir Putin without creating collateral damage, by Daria Kasatkina outspokenness was particularly welcome.
WTA 2023 issues to follow….
• Will Naomi Osaka rekindle her flame? Will Iga Swiatek loosen her grip? Will Coco Gauff win her first Major? Will Venus Williams, for the first time in her career: the active player with the most major titles, continue? Will the WTA put its balance sheets in order? Or will he return to China?
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