Shenzhen Open – Setting the Tone for 2017’s WTA Season

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With the tennis season coming in full swing (congrats to Roger Federer and Serena Williams for their Australian Open victory), let’s take a look back at the Shenzhen Open, the very first tournament of the year that got the ball rolling for the 2017 season.

1. Simona Halep’s Shocking Exit

Tennis fans were stunned when world no.4 and tournament second seed, Simona Halep, wrapped up her campaign with a second round finish at Shenzhen. The 2014 Shenzhen Open champion couldn’t match up to Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova aggressiveness and had her serve broken eight times.

After Shenzhen, Simona then began her Australian Open (AO) campaign with a Grand Slam title in mind. However, her lacklustre performance at Melbourne has caused her to crash out of the tournament, delivering the first major upset of the AO. It was the second consecutive year she lost her opener at the season’s first Slam.

Will Simona finally pick up the momentum and win bigger tournaments or eventually make it to the WTA Finals? Her performance is definitely something to follow closely this year.

2. Match Made In Heaven – Peng Shuai x Andrea Hlavackova

Second seeded doubles pair- China’s iconic former world No.1 Peng Shuai and former world No.3 Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic sure are doubles experts.

The duo come into the tournament with a combined haul of 39 doubles titles, including two Grand Slams each. Andrea won the 2011 Roland Garros and 2013 US Open while Peng Shuai took Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open a year after.

Their triumph at the Shenzhen Open 2017 represents Andrea’s 20th of her career while Peng Shuai brings her own doubles titles tally to 21, and has also earned them a 12th seed placing at the AO.

They may not be the highest ranked pair, but their impeccable teamwork shook top-seeded French pair Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, powering into AO women’s doubles final.

Considering that both Andrea and Peng Shuai have won titles on clay, they might be the pair to beat at the French Open this June.

3. Will 2017 be Aga Radwanska’s Year?

Agnieszka (Aga) Radwanska is capable of hitting magic shots through odd angles. However, upsets are part of tennis- even when you’re world No.3. Aga’s performance in 2016 wasn’t too impressive and she was unable to attain the consistency in tournaments that mattered the most.

After giving her fans a minor scare in the first round of the Shenzhen Open, the Polish manage to put on a stronger performance to book a spot at the quarterfinals. She was then outperformed by Pittsburgh native Alison Riske whom she defeated at the same tournament a year ago.

Aga is considered the best player on tour without a Grand Slam title. She may have pocketed 20 titles including one from the WTA Finals but a major title still seems unattainable, especially after an early Round 2 exit at the AO.

The hunt for a maiden Grand Slam is still on but is 2017 THE year for Aga? That’s something to look forward to.

4. All The Buzz On Jo Konta

Johanna Konta is one of the more talked about players in women’s tennis. We’ve seen her around for years but 2016 was a break out season for the Brit. She ended her 2014 season with a ranking of 150 but try guessing at what ranking she started her 2017? An impressive perfect 10!

She’s the first British woman to achieve a top ten ranking in over 30 years! (The last one was Jo Durie in 1984). Gone were the days she had to play at the Qualifying for a spot at the main draw of Shenzhen. In fact, she was seeded third for the 2017’s tournament.

She had a pretty good run at the AO in the past two years (a semi final finish in 2016 and a quarterfinal finish in 2017) but its her humble personality and mental resilience that makes people root for her.

We reckon she’s the one to look out for in 2017 – even World No.1 Andy Murray is keeping a close eye on how far she goes in the game.

5. Up & Rising – Katerina Siniakova

Katerina Siniakova is a pleasant surprise. She may be the youngest player at the Shenzhen Open but this girl’s tennis sure is fiery. Her aggressive style of play did not only knock-out top seeds Simona Halep and Jo Konta but has also earned her a career maiden title.

The Czech completed her dream run in Shenzhen with a solid two-set victory over American Alison Riske to become the youngest player to win the tournament in its five-year history.

Katerina’s run at the AO 2017 was nowhere near impressive – she only had a Round One finish for both the women’s Singles and Doubles. But with that eagerness she had in her eyes, breaking into the top 10 is just a matter of time. Don’t say that we didn’t give you a heads up!

All images are sourced from Shenzhen Open