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Tennis • Winners in Charleston, Monterrey Show Returns to Form As WTA Moves to Clay Season • 10sBalls

Spanish tennis player Garbine Muguruza poses with the trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during their women’s singles final match at the Monterrey Open tennis tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, 07 April 2019. EPA-EFE/MIGUEL SIERRA



By: Thomas Cluck


They say it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and for this week’s WTA finalists and champions in Charleston and Monterrey, it looks like they’re well on their way to a good finish. After struggling mightily for any ounce of confidence, any signs of good play or big wins, the first week of April was a fresh start for Madison Keys, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza, and Victoria Azarenka to reestablish themselves as names to beat on tour and return to form as the WTA moves to clay on the Road to Roland Garros.


In Charleston on the unique green clay of Daniel Island, a tournament beloved by players and fans for its Southern hospitality and South Carolina lowcountry beauty, it was the simple feeling of feeling good that helped kickstart Madison Keys’ 2019 season, surviving an emotional rollercoaster first match against Tatjana Maria before reeling off wins against 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens, and 2018 Aussie Open winner Wozniacki to win her fourth career title and first Volvo Car Open crown.


Photo by @Madison_Keys via Twitter

Photo by @Madison_Keys via Twitter

Coming off brutally difficult and confidence-bruising first-match losses in both Indian Wells and Miami to Mona Barthel and Samantha Stosur, respectively, Keys came into the green clay with as little confidence as anyone on tour and by the first-set tiebreak in the final against Wozniacki, she looked like a no-doubt future Grand Slam champion. Keys’ game is characterized by her powerful first serve, huge forehand, and sharp backhand, but despite her embarrasment of tennis riches, the puzzle has often not come together all at once for Keys. The American will be the first to say in typical sarcastic and self-deprecating manner how the dirt has never been her favorite surface. Keys may not go on to win trophies in Rome and at the French Open this season, but with her confidence back whoever draws her better watch out.


Despite not leaving Charleston with another tournament trophy, Wozniacki will walk away feeling much the same after a difficult start to the season, one plagued by slow starts, illness, fatigue, and poor form. Wozniacki came into Charleston low on matchplay for the year but now finally healthy and feeling good, the Dane proved what she too can do when her confidence is flowing. After some solid match wins in Charleston, the former world number one will hope to keep new clay-court consultant Francesca Schiavone in tow on her Road to Roland Garros and hopefully build some solid momentum on a surface that has befuddled Wozniacki for much of her career.


Wrapping up the North American hardcourt season in Monterrey, Mexico, it was Muguruza keeping the good vibes at good places run going this week, reclaiming her better form as she defended the title at the Abierto GNP Seguros. The big-hitting Spaniard, a two-time major champion, did not drop a set all week and once again seems to be rounding into form going right into one of her best parts of the season, the dirt, where she won her maiden Slam title three years ago at Roland Garros.


It wasn’t the way anyone wanted it to end with a calf injury cutting her time short with a retirement in the final, but Victoria Azarenka still enjoyed another strong week as she looks to slowly but surely rebuild her career back into a stalwart of tennis. The former number one and two-time major winner scored a huge top ten win over Angelique Kerber in the semis and reached her first final since winning the Sunshine Double with her Miami win in 2016, her first since giving birth to her son Leo later that year, a bittersweet moment Azarenka will hope to build on as she hopes to stay healthy and enjoy success on clay as well.


In the doubles this week,

Polish Star Alicja Rosolska and veteran Anna-Lena Groenefeld reigned victorious at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston with a straight-sets defeat of Veronika Kudermetova and Irina Khromacheva. Meanwhile, in Monterrey, Americans Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez picked up the title in Mexico over Australians Jessica Moore and Monique Adamczak to round out this week’s titlists.

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