Breaking News

Who Has the Best Shots in Women’s Tennis?

Category: Sports,Tennis

Much has changed in four years in women’s tennis. In August 2014, when The New York Times last tried to determine the best strokes in the game, Li Na, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams were all reigning Grand Slam champions.

Angelique Kerber had yet to win any major titles, and Naomi Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka and Jelena Ostapenko were still teenagers who had yet to play a match in a major.

The landscape is different now, with less clear sight lines. Li retired in September 2014. Sharapova has struggled after returning last year from a suspension for a doping violation. Williams and Kvitova have shown flashes of brilliant form but have not worked their way back to the top after extended absences: Williams after the birth of her first child in September 2017; and Kvitova after a knife attack in December 2016 that left her with career-threatening wounds on her primary playing hand.

It is time for a new survey to reflect the change and the talent on the rise. As in 2014, more than 20 coaches, players, former players and analysts have been polled. Each participant was asked to select a top three in each category with the focus on singles play. Greater weight was given to the votes of current tour-level coaches who regularly scout the leading women’s players.

Conclusions? Ashleigh Barty, a versatile 22-year-old Australian, might not have made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament in singles, but she has no shortage of admirers. As for Williams, she has slipped in some categories: forehand, movement and returning in particular. But at age 37 and even after playing just seven events in 2018, she can still hold her own in the ratings game.

BEST FOREHAND

1. Sloane Stephens

2. Naomi Osaka

3. Madison Keys

Honorable mention: Ashleigh Barty
and Aryna Sabalenka

The new wave dominates here, led by Stephens, who does not hit her forehand as consistently hard as Keys, but can flatten it out when desired and hit it beautifully on the run.

BEST TWO-HANDED BACKHAND

1. Simona Halep

2. Serena Williams

3. Caroline Wozniacki

Honorable mention: Victoria
Azarenka and Jelena Ostapenko

Williams takes the same spot she took four years ago. This time, she is behind Halep instead of Sharapova.

BEST ONE-HANDED BACKHAND SLICE

1. Ashleigh Barty

2. Carla Suárez Navarro

3. Daria Kasatkina

3. Anastasija Sevastova

Honorable mention: Magdalena
Rybarikova

With Francesca Schiavone’s retirement this year, the one-handed backhand drive is one step closer to extinction at the elite level of women’s tennis. Suárez Navarro is the only member of the top 50 still hitting it. But fine backhand slices are abundant.

BEST FIRST SERVE

1. Serena Williams

2. Karolina Pliskova

3. Julia Goerges

Honorable mention: Naomi Osaka
and Madison Keys

Williams’s serve remains the most feared shot in women’s tennis, even if she has not won a tournament since January 2017.

BEST SECOND SERVE

1. Serena Williams

2. Barty

3. Keys

Honorable mention: Caroline Garcia
and Sabalenka

Barty, just 5-foot-5, creates excellent pace and spin. But the second serve to watch for the future is Sabalenka’s. It has tremendous kick.

BEST SERVICE RETURNER

1. Halep

2. Angelique Kerber

3. Wozniacki

Honorable mention: Serena Williams
and Garbiñe Muguruza

Sharapova, top of this category in 2014, cannot crack the top five this time.

BEST NET GAME

1. Barty

2. Barbora Strycova

3. Venus Williams

Honorable mention: CoCo
Vandeweghe and Taylor Townsend

Category was not open to pure doubles specialists, but Barty, Strycova and Williams all can shine at doubles and singles.

BEST PASSING SHOTS

1. Halep

2. Wozniacki

3. Kerber

Honorable mention: Stephens and
Serena Williams

Another sweep by Halep, Wozniacki and Kerber.

BEST THIRD SHOT

1. Kerber

2. Petra Kvitova

3. Halep

Honorable mention: Wozniacki and
Stephens

With big returns now the rule in women’s tennis, who defends them best? Kerber, no power server, has to do it particularly well to thrive, and she was the clear winner here.

BEST TOUCH AND OVERALL FEEL

1. Kasatkina

2. Sevastova

3. Barty

Honorable mention: Hsieh Su-wei
and Agnieszka Radwanska

Kasatkina is a wizard at varying pace and spin. Sevastova is a master of the drop shot.

BEST MOVEMENT

1. Halep

2. Wozniacki

3. Stephens

Honorable mention: Kerber and
Elina Svitolina

Halep is not the fastest, nor the most comfortable in the forecourt, but she remains the smoothest.

BEST MENTAL GAME

1. Serena Williams

2. Wozniacki

3. Kerber

Honorable mention: Halep

Though shaky in both her Grand Slam finals this year, Williams remains widely admired for her competitive streak and ability to turn trouble into victory.

BEST ENDURANCE

1. Halep

2. Wozniacki

3. Sabalenka

Honorable mention: Kerber

Fifth and final category won by Halep, the world No. 1.

STRANGEST STROKE

1. Hsieh (whole game)

2. Monica Niculescu (forehand)

3. Katerina Siniakova (serve)

A close race between Hsieh’s disruptive and unorthodox game and Niculescu’s rare sliced forehand.

TO PLAY A MATCH FOR YOUR LIFE

1. Serena Williams

2. Wozniacki

3. Kerber

Honorable mention: Dominika
Cibulkova and Simona Halep

Williams retains this crown, and again, it wasn’t close.

Contributors to the survey

Votes from Wim Fissette (former coach of Kerber, Halep Johanna Konta and others), Kamau Murray (coach of Stephens), Sam Sumyk (coach of Muguruza), Michael Joyce (former coach of Sharapova and Azarenka), Thomas Johansson (former Australian Open champion and coach of Maria Sakkari), Anibal Aranda (coach of CiCi Bellis), Azarenka (former No. 1), Chris Evert (former No. 1), Tracy Austin (former No. 1), Mary Joe Fernandez (former United States Fed Cup captain and two-time Grand Slam singles finalist), Nicole Pratt (head of women’s tennis at Tennis Australia and former tour player), Anne Keothavong (British Fed Cup captain and former tour player), Jo Durie (commentator and former tour player), Anna Chakvetadze (commentator and former tour player), Andrea Leand (analyst and former tour player) Christopher Clarey (The New York Times), Simon Cambers (British journalist), Stephanie Myles (Canadian journalist), Sophie Dorgan (French journalist with L’Équipe), Ben Rothenberg (New York Times contributor) as well as other players and coaches who preferred to remain anonymous.


Source link

No comments