In Quebec City at the Coupe Banque Nationale, French teenager Oceane Dodin broke through by going all the way to win her maiden WTA trophy. The title run will see the 19-year-old crack the top 100 rankings for the first time in her career.
Across the Pacific Ocean in Tokyo, Christina McHale sailed to her first ever WTA title at the Hashimoto Sogyo Japan Women’s Open Tennis. The American is guaranteed a return to the top 50 rankings as result of the achievement.
Last week’s titlist
Lille-born Oceane Dodin turned professional in 2012 and has improved her year-end ranking each year since, finishing last year at number 150. The Frenchwoman also made her WTA main draw debut and Grand Slam main draw debut that same year, at the Internationaux de Strasbourg and the Australian Open respectively. Dodin has also won seven singles titles on the ITF circuit, her most recent coming in Barcelona a fortnight ago.
As an unseeded player in the Quebec City draw, the Frenchwoman was drawn to face fifth seed Naomi Broady in the opening round. After dropping the first set, she came back to score the upset win and then defeated the likes of Sachia Vickery and Alison Van Uytvanck to make her first WTA last four appearance. There was no stopping for Dodin as she swept past Julia Boserup in the three sets and in her first ever final, breezed past qualifier Lauren Davis 6-4, 6-3 to capture her maiden WTA title. The title also meant that Dodin became the first teenager to lift a title in 2016.
In this year’s edition, neither of the eight seeds made it past the round of 16 stage. Defending champion and second seed Annika Beck alongside 2014 winner and third seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni led the opening round upset train which also saw three other fellow seeds crash out. In the last 16, seventh seed Evgeniya Rodina and eighth seed Samantha Crawford were sent packing, hence making top seed and local hope Eugenie Bouchard the sole seed left. The Canadian however fell in a disappointing straight-set loss in the hands of Russian Alla Kudryavtseva.
Former top 30 star Christina McHale began her rise all the way back in 2011 where a strong finish to the season saw her placed at number 42 in the rankings come year-end, an improvement of 73 spots from the year before. She continued her steady surge in 2012, winning back-to-back at the first three Grand Slam events and peaking at number 24 in the rankings, her career-high ranking to date. A diagnosis of glandular fever in 2013 however was the start of a struggle for the American as she finished that year inside the top 70 at 68th.
Since then, she has finished runner-up once, at Acapulco in 2014 and made the quarterfinals or better in just seven other tournaments. Prior to winning Tokyo, McHale’s 2016 highlights were the semifinals of Acapulco and the last eight in Rome. As the seventh seed in the Japanese capital, McHale battled past Kateryna Kozlova and Rebecca Peterson to reach the quarterfinals. This was followed by wins over Viktorija Golubic and Jana Cepelova, putting the American in her second WTA final appearance. There, she came back from a set and break down to prevail 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 over Czech Katerina Siniakova for her first WTA trophy. Even more impressive, the American came through all her five matches in three sets.
Like Quebec City, a similar phenomenon took place in Tokyo when defending champion and second seed Yanina Wickmayer was ousted at the first hurdle by Golubic in straight sets. The Belgian was joined in the sidelines by top seed Misaki Doi, fifth seed Madison Brengle and eighth seed Kateryna Bondarenko, who all went winless too. The only seeds to safely advance into the quarterfinal stage were McHale and sixth seed Zhang Shuai. Zhang however was eliminated in the last four by Siniakova.
There are no changes in the top 10 rankings with Angelique Kerber entering her second week as world number one. Zhang goes up from 49th to 40th after her semifinal showing in Tokyo while McHale is two spots behind the Chinese player, improving 11 places to 42nd. Tokyo finalist Siniakova rises from number 65 to a new career-high ranking of number 53. Tokyo quarterfinalist Alison Riske advances four spots into the top 60 at 57th with fellow quarterfinalist Golubic moves up from 73rd to 67th.
Quebec City runner-up Davis is back in the top 100, surging 21 spots to number 83. Meanwhile, Dodin leaps 39 spots to sit at a new career-high ranking of 93rd. Cepelova goes up 13 spots to 102nd after making the last four in Tokyo. Semifinalists in Quebec City, Boserup and Tereza Martincova both rise from 125th to 116th and 233rd to 169th respectively.
Beck and Wickmayer, who both failed to defend their titles in Quebec City and Tokyo respectively, fall in the rankings. Beck drops from 38th to 47th while Wickmayer exits the top 50, dropping 12 places to 51st. Last year’s finalist in Quebec City Jelena Ostapenko goes down six spots to 46th after skipping the tournament. Last year’s semifinalists in Quebec City, Lucic-Baroni and Broady dip from 54th to 60th and 78th to 87th respectively. Magda Linette, last year’s runner-up in Tokyo, dives 21 places to 109th after falling to Golubic in the second round.
Road to Singapore
In the race to the WTA Finals, McHale’s title run in Tokyo sends her into the top 40 standings, from 46th to 34th while Siniakova advances ten spots into the top 50, currently sitting at 46th. Golubic moves up from 69th to 63rd while fellow Tokyo quarterfinalists Kurumi Nara and Varvara Lepchenko rise from 76th to 69th and 78th to 71st respectively.
Davis goes up 16 spots to 77th while Dodin makes a vault of over 30 places to sit at number 84. Quebec City quarterfinalist Catherine Bellis enters the top 100 standings, the American surging from 103rd to 98th.
This week’s action
The Asian swing gets into full swing this week with three cities hosting tournaments. The Premier-level Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo will witness the likes of Garbiñe Muguruza and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska lead the field of 28 players. Meanwhile, on the Asian mainland, the cities of Guangzhou and Seoul will host the Guangzhou International Women’s Open and Korea Open Tennis respectively.