The final leg of the US Open Series, the Connecticut Open, took place last week in New Haven, on the coast of The Constitution State. Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who took a wildcard into the tournament, took home her second title of the year and her first ever trophy in New Haven, thus ending a seven-month title drought. The Pole strengthens her position in the top four rankings as she heads into the US Open as one of the contenders for the world number one spot.
Last week’s titlist
After a second-half season revival and a subsequent commendable finish to the 2015 season, winning her only three titles of the year in the concluding two months, Polish number one Agnieszka Radwanska entered 2016 as one of the in-form players. She began the year strongly, winning her debut tournament of the year in Shenzhen, also her fourth straight trophy in Asia. This was then followed by last four finishes at the Australian Open, Qatar Total Open and BNP Paribas Open. She also made the round of 16 in Miami before posting another semifinal result, this time in Stuttgart. She amassed a 21-5 record from Shenzhen till Stuttgart.
Things turned a little rocky for the Pole as the clay season got into full swing. After a first round loss to Dominika Cibulkova in Madrid, she came within a couple of games from reaching her second quarterfinal at the French Open but loss her lead and eventually the match to Tsvetana Pironkova in a rain-ridden encounter.
Having had a remarkable season on grass last year, Radwanska looked to build up on those results but only made one quarterfinal, at Eastbourne where she lost to Cibulkova. In the round of 16 at Wimbledon, she fell to the Slovak once again, coming up short in a tight three-setter.
After Wimbledon, things did not seem to improve as she fell in the round of 16 in Montreal to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and then received her second consecutive opening round loss at the Olympics. At the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, she made the quarterfinals, falling to Simona Halep.
The loss to Halep prompted the Pole to take a wildcard into the Connecticut Open in hope of finding some form before the US Open, where she has never been past the round of 16. A quarterfinalist here last year, the top seed had a first round bye and cruised past Jelena Ostapenko to make the quarterfinals, where she beat lucky loser Kirsten Flipkens.
In her first semifinal since Stuttgart, she ended the reign of two-time defending champion Petra Kvitova, scoring her third win in a row over the Czech. In the final, she beat 10th seed Elina Svitolina for her 19th career title. This title is Radwanska’s first in North America since winning Montreal in 2014.
The tournament was hit with multiple withdrawals at the start of the week, with the likes of Madison Keys, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Johanna Konta, all of whom were projected seeded players, pulling out. This was followed by another two top 20 entrants in Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Strycova pulling out. Radwanska, Kvitova and Svitolina were the only surviving seeds come the semifinals. Second seed Roberta Vinci crashed out in the last eight to lucky loser Johanna Larsson, who had a dream run to the last four, where she was stopped by Svitolina. Seventh seed Timea Bacsinszky was defeated by Larsson at the first hurdle.
The New Haven trophy extends Radwanska’s lead over fifth-ranked Simona Halep, the Pole now in front by 600 points while Svitolina moves back into the top 20, rising from 23rd to 19th. New Haven quarterfinalist Ekaterina Makarova records a top 30 return, moving up from 36th 29th. Ostapenko and Eugenie Bouchard, who both made the last 16 in New Haven, improve from 39th to 36th and 40th to 39th respectively. Meanwhile, Larsson makes a 15-spot leap from 62nd to 47th with fellow lucky loser Flipkens rising from 68th to 56th.
Kvitova, who failed to defend her title, drops from 15th to 16th, her lowest ranking in more than five years. Last year’s finalist Lucie Safarova dips from 35th to 44th after skipping the tournament this year. Both of last year’s semifinalists, Caroline Wozniacki and Lesia Tsurenko, also fall in the rankings. Wozniacki, who was beaten by Ostapenko in the first round is down from 51st to 74th while Tsurenko, who was a lucky loser, drops from 80th to 99th after pulling out.
Road to Singapore
In the race to the WTA Finals, Radwanska overtakes Garbiñe Muguruza for fourth position. New Haven quarterfinalist Elena Vesnina moves ahead of Venus Williams for 14th place, pushing the American to 15th. Svitolina surges into the top 20 standings from 30th to 20th. Kvitova advances from 33rd to 25th with Makarova right behind her, going up two spots to 26th. Other inroads see Ostapenko improving two spots to 32nd, Larsson leaping from 60th into the top 50 at number 42 and Flipkens going up from 61st to 51st.
This week’s action
The final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open, will be the highlight of tennis action this fortnight. Top seed Serena Williams leads the pack of 128 players as the American chases a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title and her seventh in New York. Williams’ spot atop the rankings however is in danger as top four stars Angelique Kerber, Muguruza and Radwanska are also in contention for the pinnacle spot.