Sofia Kenin Leads 2020 WTA Player Awards

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The 2020 WTA Player Awards, including Player of the Year, Doubles Team of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year, were announced Tuesday by the Women’s Tennis Association.

The WTA Player Awards are voted on by members of the international media.

The Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award, Peachy Kellmeyer Player Service Award and the WTA Coach of the Year, were also revealed by the WTA. The Sportsmanship Award and Player Service Award are voted on by WTA players.

• The WTA Player of the Year was awarded to Sofia Kenin of the United States. In 2020, Kenin won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, where she beat current World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals and former No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza in the final. Kenin, who was also a finalist at Roland Garros, was just one of the two players to reach the second week at all three 2020 Grand Slams. She ended the season with a career-high ranking of World No. 4.

• The WTA Doubles Team of the Year was awarded to Kristina Mladenovic of France and Timea Babos from Hungary, who won two Grand Slam titles – at the Australian Open and at Roland Garros – in 2020. It marked their third and fourth major doubles titles as a team. Mladenovic was ranked No. 1 doubles player in February while Babos reached No. 2 this season.

• The WTA Comeback Player of the Year was awarded to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. This year, Azarenka won her first title in over four years at the Western & Southern Open before reaching her fifth career Grand Slam final at the US Open. She also reached the final at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open, making her one of five players who reached three or more finals in 2020. Following her US Open performance, Azarenka returned to the WTA Top 20 for the first time since March 2017 and finished the year ranked No. 13.

Iga Swiatek of Poland, was recognized as the WTA Most Improved Player, awarded to the player who finished inside the Top 100 and showed significant improvement throughout the 2020 season. Swiatek won her first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, where she didn’t drop a set during the fortnight. In winning Roland Garros, she became the first Polish player – male or female – to win a Grand Slam singles title. She broke into the Top 20 after winning Roland Garros and finished 2020 ranked a career best No. 17.

Nadia Podoroska of Argentina was awarded WTA Newcomer of the Year, honoring her as the player who made a Top 100 debut and/or notable accomplishments during the 2020 season. Podoroska began the year ranked outside the Top 250, playing a mixture of ITF and WTA qualifying events. She reached her first Tour-level semifinal at Roland Garros, where she entered as a qualifier and defeated World No. 5 Elina Svitolina before losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek. Podoroska reached the Top 100 and the Top 50 for the first time in her career this year and improved her year-end ranking from 2019 by over 200 spots, going from No. 255 at the end of 2019 to No. 48 at the end of 2020.

Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic is the recipient of the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award, voted on by her peers on the WTA Tour and presented to the player “who conducts herself in a manner fitting of a professional sports figure and observes the rules of fair play, shows respect for others and is a gracious on and off the court.”

All 10 players who served on the WTA Players’ Council during the 2020 season were recognized as winners of the Peachy Kellmeyer Player Service Award. They include: Kristie Ahn, Gabriela Dabrowski, Madison Keys, Johanna Konta, Aleksandra Krunic, Christina McHale, Kristina Mladenovic, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sloane Stephens and Donna Vekic. According to the WTA, “the group has worked diligently discussing proposals and obtaining feedback to help the Tour return safely and successfully, all with a dedicated commitment to their fellow players.”

• WTA Coach of the Year honors were awarded to Piotr Sierzputowksi, coach of Iga Swiatek. A Gold Member of the WTA Coach Program, Sierzputowski becomes the third recipient of the WTA Coach of the Year Award. The award recognizes the winning coach not only for success on the court but also for serving as an ambassador of the sport and bringing coaching to the forefront of the game.

After AO, what happens to the rest of the tennis calendar?

With the Australian Open fortnight expected to take place in Melbourne beginning Feb. 8 through Feb. 21, what happens to other tournaments?

On Tuesday, the Open 13 Provence, an ATP 250 event in Marseille, France, scheduled for February 15-21, said it would move its 2021 dates to March if – as it is expected – the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open 13 Provence organizers are eying the week of March 8-14, which is when the Indian Wells ATP and WTA combined event is scheduled, as a backup. In a statement on its website Tuesday, the Open 13 Provence said that while nothing has been finalized, the 2021 edition of the tournament would definitely not be played in February.

“The Open 13 Provence is likely to take place in March from the 8th to the 14th,” the tournament’s statement said.“Everything will depend on whether or not Indian Wells is maintained. The situation in California is worrying and the organizers do not know if the health situation will allow the Masters 1000 to be played. This 2021 edition will not take place under normal conditions, but we are fighting for its maintenance and hope to be able to offer entertainment and tennis, whether or not it is restricted.”

Australia’s Nine to ask for discount due to AO delay

Australia’s Nine Entertainment Co., which owns the Australian TV rights to the Australian Open, is expected to demand that Tennis Australia grant it a discount for the delay of the 2021 Australian Open tournament “on the grounds it has defaulted on its broadcast rights agreement.”

No. 1 seed Mladenovic advances at Al Habtoor Challenge

France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who is the top seed at this week’s Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, a $100K ITF hard court event in Dubai, advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 7-5 win over 156th-ranked qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland. Next, she will face No. 177 Elena Gabriela Ruse of Romania, who beat No. 104 Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-1.

Also advancing were: No. 2 seed Polona Hercog of Slovenia, who beat Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, 7-5, 6-3; No. 3 seed Heather Watson of Great Britain, who defeated No. 236 Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, 6-0, 7-6 (3); and No. 6. Barbora Krejcikova of Czech Republic, who advanced over Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, 6-1, 6-2. However, No. 4 seed Anna Blinkova of Russia, ranked 60th, was upset by Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, ranked 86th, 6-2, 6-1.

Nick Kyrgios: ‘Tennis is a great life, but …’

Supporting others matters to Iga Swiatek

“Supporting others matters. For me, the more that it is thanks to what I do that I can do something good. Helping is a team sport, that’s why #teamSwiatek it works! Come on @szlachetnapaczk and help others. There are still many people waiting for support.” – Iga Swiatek, reigning Roland Garros champion

What they’re writing

Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova wrote the cover story about Naomi Osaka, who Sunday was part of a group of five extraordinary activist athletes who were named as Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year.

What they’re sharing on social media

Conchita Martinez / One more day moving towards the goal