For the second time in Sloane Stephens' career, the American takes home a title on home soil, this time at the Volvo Car Open (the only tournament played on green clay) in Charleston, South Carolina. It is Stephens' fourth career title overall and her third of 2016. Across the Atlantic in Europe, Dominika Cibulkova raced to the Katowice Open title. It is the Slovak's first title in more than two years.
Last week's titlists
Sloane Stephens had not made a WTA final let alone win a title till she broke the duck at the Citi Open on home soil at Washington D.C. last July. Entering 2016, she has since won titles in Auckland and Acapulco bringing her total tally to three and now the biggest title of her career at the Premier-level Volvo Car Open.
Besides maintaining her 4-0 record in finals, she became the first player to win multiple titles this year and now the first player to lift trophies on different surfaces. Moreover, an interesting statistic worth noting is that Stephens has been 'go big or go bust' this year. Other than her three title runs, she exited in the opening round of her other tournaments.
Finalist Elena Vesnina was the fairytale topic of this year's edition coming through qualifying and eventually made it to the championship match before falling to an inspired Stephens 7-6(4), 6-2. In other news, defending champion Angelique Kerber had to retire in her semifinal match due to a virus.
Only three of the top eight seeds managed to survive past the round of 16 as second seed Belinda Bencic, fourth seed Lucie Safarova, sixth seed Andrea Petkovic and eighth seed Madison Keys all lost their opening matches. Third seed Venus Williams was stunned by Yulia Putintseva in the round of 16.
This year's edition of the Katowice Open saw its eighth seed Dominika Cibulkova blitz past fifth seed and two-time (2014 and 2015) finalist Camila Giorgi in straight sets. It is the Slovak's first trophy since winning the Abierto Mexicano Telcel more than two years ago and her fifth overall. Moreover, this marks Cibulkova's first trophy in an indoor tournament since winning her first title at the Kremlin Cup in 2011.
It has been a tough road for Cibulkova since coming back from an Achilles surgery middle of last year which kept her out for three months and this title will mean a lot to her. On Giorgi's part, this will be another heartbreaking loss for the Italian who could not make it third time lucky here, having finished second best in 2014 (to Alizé Cornet) and 2015 (to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova).
Katowice lost its top seed and defending champion in a slumping Schmiedlova in the opening round to eventual semifinalist Pauline Parmentier. Other than that, third seed Jelena Ostapenko, seventh seed Timea Babos and ninth seed Kirsten Flipkens all had good runs in the tournament, the former reaching the last four and the latter two posting quarterfinal results.
Serena Williams maintains her position at the top of the rankings entering the clay court swing. Agnieszka Radwanska replaces Kerber as world number two after Kerber failed to defend her title. The other members of the top 10 maintain their respective positions in the rankings.
Big movers include Stephens, who moves up four spots to number 21, less than 200 points shy of cracking the top 20. 18-year-old Daria Kasatkina moves to a new career high of number 32 and looks poised for her first Grand Slam seeding at the upcoming French Open. Cibulkova returns to the top 40 at number 38 while Vesnina currently sits at number 51, 20 points away from 50th-ranked Sabine Lisicki. After a quarterfinal showing in Charleston, Putintseva moves up to a new career high ranking of 53rd. Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone improves to 90th after reaching the last eight in Katowice.
Contrarily, Petkovic, who made the semifinals in Charleston last year, drops to world number 30, her lowest in two years. Both Keys and Schmiedlova fall three spots to number 25 and 34 respectively. Defending champion in Bogota, Teliana Pereira is out of the top 50 for the first time this year at number 55.
Road to Singapore
Other than Kerber replacing Victoria Azarenka at the top of the leaderboard courtesy of a deep run in Charleston, there were not any other major shake-ups. The alternate spots are currently occupied by Stephens who vaults up 15 places and Charleston semifinalist Sara Errani.
Other notable movements in the race to the WTA Finals include Cibulkova and Putintseva who move up 15 spots to number 13 and 36 respectively, Vesnina who rises from 48th to 18th, Charleston quarterfinalist Laura Siegemund who improves to number 57 from 75th and Giorgi who vaults up 60 places to 74th.
This week's action
This week, the WTA tour will head to Bogota for the Claro Open Colsanitas. Ukraine's Elina Svitolina is projected to be the top seed with Teliana Pereira returning to defend her title as well. More significantly, the Fed Cup semifinal ties will take place during the weekend. Two-time defending champions Czech Republic face Switzerland whereas France plays the Netherlands.