Though it feels like barely any time has passed since the end of the 2017 WTA season, the 2018 season kicked off last week in Brisbane, Shenzhen and Auckland, as well as the Hopman Cup in Perth.
In Brisbane, Elina Svitolina came through a field including world number two Garbiñe Muguruza and defending champion Karolina Pliskova to win her 10th WTA title, beating qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the final. Svitolina won the most WTA titles in 2017 and shows that she plans to pick up where she left off in 2018. After failing to back up her WTA Tour form in the Grand Slams in 2017, the Ukrainian will be determined to improve on her best showing of the third round at the Australian Open.
Shenzhen almost got the first box office final of the season, but defending champion Katerina Siniakova downed Maria Sharapova in the semi finals, preventing a match up between the five-time Grand Slam champion, and world number one Simona Halep. In a final moved indoors due to persistent rain, Halep saw off Siniakova in three sets, as well as winning her first WTA doubles title alongside compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu. The Romanian will go into the Australian Open, where she has lost her previous three matches, brimming with confidence.
One of the WTA Tour’s most interesting rivalries saw its 10th match-up in the Auckland final, as Julia Goerges continued her excellent 2017 form with a victory over top seed Caroline Wozniacki. Despite Wozniacki having the more illustrious career, Goerges has had her number in most of their big matches in their head-to-head and scored her sixth victory over the Dane this week. This was her third consecutive title, following wins in Moscow and Zhuhai at the end of last season, and she rose to a career high ranking of 12 as a result. Goerges will be many pundits’ dark horse for next week’s Australian Open.
Meanwhile, in the Hopman Cup, Switzerland (Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic) saw off Germany (Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber) in the final. Both women went unbeaten until the final, where Kerber found her best form to beat Bencic in straight sets. It wouldn’t be surprising to see both players make deep runs in Melbourne.
Story of the week: Aliaksandra Sasnovich’s run to the Brisbane final.
The Belarusian won seven matches in total during her surprising run, including main draw victories over higher ranked opponents Kristina Mladenovic, Anett Kontaveit, last year’s runner-up Alize Cornet and in-form Anastasija Sevastova. She put her good form down to a daily dinner of mushroom risotto and saw her ranking climb 35 spots to a career high of 53 in the world.
Shock of the week: Sachia Vickery’s demolition of Agnieszka Radwanska in Auckland.
The American qualifier, who has yet to make the top 100, began her week in style, thrashing defending champion Lauren Davis for the loss of only three games. However, her biggest win came in the quarter finals, where she thrashed Radwanska, one of the biggest names in the tournament, 6-2 6-2, to make her first WTA semi final, where she went down fighting to Caroline Wozniacki.
Player of the week: Julia Goerges.
Despite impressive tournament wins from Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep, Goerges edges it this week because she managed to continue her run of consecutive titles and scored a convincing victory over world number three Caroline Wozniacki in the final.