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Late tennis season storylines

Jelena Ostapenko

With all four majors now firmly in the rear view mirror, most of the world has stopped paying attention to tennis, but the season is 11 months long. There is still lots unfolding as both tours are tearing up Asia. Here is a look.

Ostapenko is here to stay:  The ladies tour has been wide open for most of the year. No one has taken more advantage of that than Jelena Ostapenko. Despite a few good results early in the year, no one expected the young Latvian to show up unseeded at the French Open and win it, but she did.

She followed that up with a run to the last eight at Wimbledon. Then, it looked like she was headed down the same path as many of her peers in recent years. The path of making a breakthrough and then falling off a cliff for about a year. Following Wimbledon, Ostapenko, won just two matches through the U.S. Open.

Following an early exit in New York, Ostapenko came to Asia early. She snagged her second career tournament victory in Seoul and knocked off new World No.1 and Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza the following week in Wuhan, China. She is also part of this week’s loaded field in Beijing.

Her game style is as simple as it gets. See ball, hit ball hard. Yes, she is one-dimensional. However, that one dimension is really good. Given her relatively small stature, it is amazing that she is able to generate such massive power. Watch her work in the video below from the WTA YouTube channel.

Ostapenko has put together one of the most consistent seasons on tour this year. No occasion seems too big for her. The 20-year-old will only get better. The sky is the limit.

Kerber showing signs of life: Following a first round exit as defending champion at the U.S. Open, Angelique Kerber went from World No. 1 and holder of two major titles to being ranked outside the top 10 and not holding a title of any kind in the span of a year.

Sports have a way of humbling their players. Kerber has been humbled, but seems to be playing a bit more relaxed in Asia. She avenged her U.S. Open loss to Naomi Osaka in Tokyo, where she reached the semis, as well as this week in Beijing.

This may not seem like much for a player of Kerber’s caliber, but the sturdy German was desperate for any kind of positive after a performance that was hard to watch in New York. Asia may have given her something to build on. Only time will tell.

Sharapova comeback continues: One of the biggest stories of 2017 is at a critical juncture. Maria Sharapova is playing in Beijing this week, the first of two Chinese events on her schedule. The Russian is still ranked outside the top 100 with the rankings cutoff for January’s Australian Open fast approaching.

Sharapova needs to win as many matches as possible over the next two weeks. If she can’t get her ranking into double digits by year’s end, Sharapova may need a wildcard to play in the first major of next year. With the five time major winner returning from a doping suspension, there has been a lot of drama and debate about giving her free passes into the biggest events in the sport again. Some tournaments have done it, others have denied her.

Sharapova is a lot of things, stupid is not one of them. She is no doubt aware of the situation and does not want to leave her participation in Australia up to someone else. She saved match point to defeat her U.S. Open vanquisher Anastasija Sevastova and is awaiting her second round opponent in Beijing.

Maria Sharapova
Photo: tennisnow.com

 

Roger and Rafa back in action: With Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Kei Nishikori all dealing with injuries that forced premature ends to their seasons, 2017 has been about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The last part of the season will be no different.

After playing a series of team exhibitions that saw the pair play some doubles together, they are ready to get back to competitive play. Coming off another U.S. Open title, Nadal is in the draw in Beijing. He will be joined by Federer and several others next week in Shanghai.

Roger Federer
Photo: Belfast Times

It will be fun to see just how competitive these two get between now and the end of November. They know they are the star attractions everywhere they go. Also, one must wonder if an outsider can create opportunity for themselves like South Africa’s Kevin Anderson did in New York.

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