Friday, January 11, 2019

John Farley Spotlight WTA: The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Out of the Gates in 2019

At the end of the 2018 tennis season I featured three young Belarusian players - Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich. and Vera Lapko - in an article entitled, "The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Showcasing Young Climbers of 2018."  Now, two weeks into the 2019 season and on the cusp of the Australian Open in Melbourne, let's check in and see how they are coming out of the starting gates of the 2019 season after extraordinary performances in 2018.


Aryna Sabalenka:

Coming into 2019 with a ranking of  #13 off two WTA titles in Connecticut and Wuhan, Sabalenka took the trophy in Shenzhen beating Alison Riske in a tough 3-set final, knocking out Maria Sharapova along the way. With that win she has risen to #11 in the world and set the stage for some real tennis poetry with the possibility after winning in Shenzhen - the first tournament of the year  - of very elegantly punctuating her year by winning the WTA Final in Shenzhen - the last tournament of the year. Go get it tiger.


Aliaksandra Sasnovich:

Sasnovich came into the year with a career-high ranking of #30. She made it to the quarterfinals in Brisbane and the semifinals in Sydney. In Brisbane she avenged her loss last year in the final by beating  #4 Elina Svitolina in the 2nd round and then, after getting through the qualies where she beat the Olympic Gold Medal winner, Monica Puig, she continued her "slaying" of top ten players kicking off the main draw in Sydney with a big win over #10 Daria Kasatkina. Two weeks in and already two top-ten wins. I would say Sascha has come out of the gates on fire.


Vera Lapko:

Although she only made it to the 2nd round at the Hobart International, losing to a very "in-form" Dayana Yastremska, in the first round she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 23 points above her, a former Juniors #1 who has reached the quarterfinals in all of the Grand Slams. This was a big win for her and no doubt a confidence booster knowing that she can definitely compete on a very high level with the best players. Now ranked at #63 in the world, she is poised to move into the top 50 in singles.


The Triumvirate in Melbourne

So now onto the Australian Open where will see if our trio can maintain their momentum. Sabalenka is seeded #11, in the third quarter of the draw, and will open against a qualifier, Anna Kalinskaya, #167. She'll face either Katie Boulter or Ekaterina Makarova in round two. Petra Kvitov√° and Caroline Wozniacki are the top seeds in her quarter of the draw. Sasnovich, who at #33 in the rankings just missed getting seeded, in the 4th quarter of the draw, will open against the tricky slicer, Kirsten Flipkens #49. Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber are the top seeds in her quarter of the draw. Lapko is also in the 3rd quarter and opens against Johanna Larsson of Sweden, ranked at #75.

Obviously, as you can see, I’m a big fan of this trio: their youthfulness, their athleticism, their competitive spirit. And I’m excited to see how deep they’ll go into the Melbourne fortnight. I’m hopeful that at least two of the three will make it to the second week of the tournament, which is a big deal by the way, in terms of prestige, ranking points, and significant Australian bucks. It would be a huge step if one or more makes the semifinal or final. Each one of our trio has generated significant  momentum to start the season. Now let's see if they can keep it as they head to the serving line in Melbourne.



Anyway, that's how I see it.



Appendix:

I've included below the link to my post: The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Showcasing Young Climbers of 2018 and clips of Sabalenka in Shenzhen and Sasnovich.in Brisbane.

The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Showcasing Young Climbers of 2018

Aryna Sabalenka vs Alison Riske, Shenzhen Open 2019




Aliaksandra Sasnovich vs Elina Svitolina, Brisbane 2019









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