WTA

Ash Barty named WTA POTY, Emma Raducanu nets newcomer award

By Sports Desk December 07, 2021

Ash Barty has won the WTA's Player of the Year award for a second time, while Emma Raducanu's sensational 2021 season was capped with the Newcomer of the Year prize on Tuesday.

Barty collected the tour's top individual year-end award in 2019, having won the French Open and finished that season as the world number one.

And after Sofia Kenin succeeded her in 2020, Barty is back on top this year.

This was the third straight season the Australian superstar claimed the year-end number one ranking, and it saw her land a second major title at Wimbledon. Barty's five WTA titles in 2021 were unsurpassed.

But she has had to share the limelight in recent months with Raducanu, and that was the case again as the 19-year-old Briton was unsurprisingly hailed as the tour's star newcomer.

Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a grand slam when she swept to glory at the US Open, having also impressed in a run to the last 16 at Wimbledon.

The teenager, who has risen from 343rd to 19th in the rankings in the past year, won 10 straight matches without dropping a set from the first qualifying round to the final at Flushing Meadows.

Elsewhere, Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova collected a pair of awards, scooping Most Improved Player and, alongside Olympic, WTA Finals and French Open-winning partner Katerina Siniakova, the Doubles Team of the Year.

Carla Suarez Navarro, who retired in 2020 and was then diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, returned to the tour cancer free in 2021 for a farewell season and carried off the Comeback Player of the Year award.

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    Andy Murray has defended using an underam serve in his four-set Wimbledon victory over James Duckworth and believes the tactic should be seen as smart.

    The two-time Wimbledon champion recovered from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 against the Australian on Monday.

    Murray maintained his record of having never lost in the first round at SW19, throwing in an underarm serve to help him win a point in the third set.

    The Scot insisted using the underam serve, a move often associated with Duckworth's compatriot Nick Kyrgios, is a legitimate tactic and not a sign of disrespect to an opponent.

    "He changed his return position, that's why I did it," Murray explained after the match. 

    "He was struggling a little bit on the first-serve return, so he stepped probably two metres further back. As soon as I saw him step further back, I threw the underarm serve in.

    "I personally have no issue with players using it. I never have. Certainly more and more players have started returning from further behind the baseline now to give themselves an advantage to return.

    "No one says it's disrespectful for someone to return from five or six metres behind the baseline to try to get an advantage.

    "So I used it, not to be disrespectful to him, but to say, 'if you're going to step further back to return the serve to give yourself more time, then I'm going to exploit that'.

    "I've never understood that [argument it is disrespectful]. It's a legitimate way of serving.

    "I would never use an underarm serve if someone was standing on the baseline because I think it's a stupid idea because they're going to track it down and it's easy to get.

    "If they stand four or five metres behind the baseline, then why would you not do that to try to bring them forward if they're not comfortable returning there? Tactically, it's a smart play."

    Murray will face big-serving American John Isner in the second round on Wednesday, having won each of the duo's eight previous head-to-head meetings.

    He was happy with how he felt physically after beating Duckworth, having returned from the abdominal injury he suffered while reaching the Stuttgart Open final earlier this month.

    "The last few days when I've been serving was fine," he said. "I went to get an ultrasound scan on it on Saturday after my practice just to see how it was progressing.

    "It was all clear for the first time on the scans, which is really positive. I wanted that kind of for my own peace of mind to know that the injury has healed. 

    "Obviously I still need to take precautions and still do some rehab and protect it when I can, but in the match it was absolutely fine."

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    Andy Murray said he intends to make the most of every appearance on Centre Court after recovering from one set down to beat James Duckworth in his Wimbledon opener.

    Two-time Wimbledon champion Murray took two hours and 43 minutes to record a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over the Australian, maintaining his record of having never fallen at the first hurdle in SW19.

    Murray is making just his second Wimbledon appearance since 2017 and is looking to better last year's run to the third round, where he suffered a straight-sets reverse against Denis Shapovalov.

    Having endured a spate of injuries and undergone two hip surgeries since his last Wimbledon triumph in 2016, the 35-year-old said he will enjoy every opportunity he gets to play in front of a home crowd on Centre Court.

    "It's amazing to be back out here again with a full crowd after the last few years, amazing atmosphere," he said.

    "Obviously I'm getting on a bit now, so I don't know how many more opportunities I'll get to play on this court. I want to make the most of every time I get to come out here now.

    "I'm glad I managed to get through and hopefully I'll get another match on here in a couple of days."

    After fighting back to beat the world number 74, Murray expressed his hope he could grow into the tournament as he advances. 

    "I thought I did well to rebound after the first set, he likes playing on the grass, he's come back from a hip surgery himself in January and was playing very well," he added.

    "Once I started to find my returns a little bit more as the match went on, I felt a bit more comfortable and did well to get through.

    "Naturally, there's always nerves and pressure and butterflies and stress and all of those things before the first match, it was a longer build-up for me than usual because of the ab injury I had after Stuttgart [where Murray finished as runner-up earlier this month].

    "I've done a lot of practising here, I've been at the venue a lot in the last couple of weeks so yeah, it was great to get out here, get a win under my belt and hopefully I'll play better from here on in."

    Murray will face big-serving American John Isner in the second round on Wednesday, having won each of the duo's eight previous head-to-head meetings.

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