Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep picked up their second Majors. Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu emerged as the debutants of the Slam season. It would not be unjustified to say women’s tennis at the Grand Slams in 2019 brought forth surprises aplenty.
There were other matches, too, that was played in these four tournaments which created their thrall. The following are five match picks which, according to me, were among the best-played this season. These are, of course, subjective and are in no particular order.
Feel free to disagree and state the choices that you think could have been mentioned in this list. Coco Gauff vs Venus Williams – Wimbledon, First Round In the American derby, the 15-year-old Gauff upset five-time former champion – and a former teenage prodigy, herself – Williams in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
Gauff who received a wildcard into the qualifying draw was no match for her older rival, who struggled to hold her ground. It was also like watching time speeding away from the veteran, just two years after she had seemingly stopped it with a twirl into the finals at the Championships.
Gauff made it all the way through to the second week where on Manic Monday, eventual champion Simona Halep bested her. Naomi Osaka vs Petra Kvitova – Australian Open Final This was an emotional match for both players for different reasons.
Reaching the final at Melbourne Park was another milestone in the Czech player’s return since she was attacked at home, towards the end of the 2016 season. For Osaka, this final meant she had a fresh opportunity to forget the proceedings of her maiden Major win – at the 2018 US Open.
The match went through twists and turns. Osaka had the lead in the game but conceded it after losing her focus to drop the second set after having three match points on her serve. The Japanese player, however, recovered quickly from that dip in the third set to win the title on her fifth match point.
Following the win, Osaka also ascended to the WTA rankings’ top, becoming the first Asian player to get to the pedestal. Taylor Townsend vs Simona Halep – US Open, Second Round The inexplicability of Halep’s struggles at Flushing Meadows was extended yet again in 2019.
This time at the hands of American southpaw Townsend, who rallied from a set down to upset the Romanian in the second round, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4). Townsend’s serve-and-volley tactics made adjustment difficult for the 2019 Wimbledon champion.
The former world no. 1 had needed three sets to win against lucky loser – and another American – Nicole Gibbs in the first round. When she saved two match points in the third set – on Townsend’s serve – it looked as though she would extricate herself once again.
But Townsend made good on her chances in the tie-break that ensued, winning her first match against top-10 players in 11 attempts. Naomi Osaka vs Victoria Azarenka – French Open, Second Round This was one of the most-awaited matches at Roland Garros this year.
It did not disappoint and at the end of nearly three hours of play, Osaka was the last player standing on the red dirt. Azarenka raced ahead and built a solid lead for herself by winning the first set but the younger player retaliated by chipping at her to restore parity in the match by taking the second set.
Osaka’s onslaught added to the Belarusian’s flagging in the third set. The Australian Open champion would finally win the match 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Johanna Konta vs Karolina Pliskova – US Open, Fourth Round Konta’s 6-7(1), 6-3, 7-5 win propelled her to the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows.
It was the first time since 1983 (Jo Durie) that a British woman had made it to the last-eight in New York. After she lost the opening set despite taking an early lead thanks to a break of serve, it looked like Pliskova would reassert her status as the higher seed and march comfortably ahead into the pre-penultimate round.
However, Konta’s determination coupled with erroneousness in Pliskova’s game allowed her passage into the quarters, notching a new high in what was to be, a low-key game. Honourable Mention Karolina Pliskova vs Serena Williams – 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, Australian Open, Quarter-final Williams led 5-1 in the third set and looked poised to make it to the semi-finals.
But a freak twisting of her ankle and Pliskova’s Houdini act in saving four match points hampered and stopped the American. While it was not the most ideal start to the 23-time Slam champion’s campaign in the year’s Majors, the win put the Czech player in her first semi-final of the tournament.