2009 Women's Year in Review

Kim Clijsters won the 2009 US Open in the third tournament into her WTA Tour return.
Serena Williams won both the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2009 for her 10th and 11th Grand Slam titles, respectively.
Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Dinara Safina to win Roland Garros 2009.
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com

It was a memorable season on the WTA Tour in 2009, which included the return of past champions, the continued success of current ones, the crowning of new stars and glimpses at the bright futures of others. We can only hope 2010 brings more of the same excitement! Now here is a look back on some of the top memories of the past year:

January – Victoria Azarenka wins the first title of the year in Brisbane, also the first title of her career. Elena Dementieva starts the year with back-to-back titles in Auckland and Sydney. Next up is the 2009 Australian Open, which sees the return of a familiar face in former star Jelena Dokic, who makes a surprising run to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual finalist Dinara Safina in three sets. Jelena Jankovic is ranked No. 1 in the world to start the year and is the top seed in Melbourne but falls in the fourth round to Marion Bartoli.

Dementieva continues her great play to start the year with a run to the semifinals, where she loses to Serena Williams. Venus Williams is not as fortunate, as Carla Suarez Navarro upsets her in the second round in three sets. No. 7 seed Vera Zvonareva reaches her first career Grand Slam semifinal, losing to Safina. Safina then faces Serena in the final, hoping to win her first career Grand Slam title. It was not to be, however, as Serena dominates in the final to win 6-0, 6-3 for her 10th career Grand Slam title. Serena and Venus Williams win the doubles title for the first of their three Grand Slam doubles titles in 2009.

February – Serena ascends back to the No. 1 spot in the rankings during February, a spot she had returned to briefly after winning the 2008 US Open. The Fed Cup quarterfinals are the beginning of February, with the slight underdog U.S. team defeating Argentina, 3-2, in the final doubles rubber behind Liezel Huber and Julie Ditty. Melanie Oudin, ranked No. 151 in the world at the time, wins her second singles match to keep the U.S. alive in the tie. Also advancing were Italy, Czech Republic and Russia.

On the WTA Tour, Venus wins the 40th title of her career in Dubai, with Liezel Huber and Cara Black winning the doubles. The tournament is not without controversy, however, as Dubai denies a visa to Israeli star Shahar Peer claiming security fears and bringing an outpouring of criticism of the decision from the WTA, fellow players and many people around the world. Venus follows up her title win in Dubai with No. 41 shortly thereafter in Acapulco. Azarenka wins her second title of the year in Memphis.

March – The first-ever BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup is played at Madison Square Garden between Serena and Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. Serena and Venus both advance to the finals, with Serena winning the inaugural title. Former world No. 1 and 2005 US Open champion Kim Clijsters announces her plans to return to the WTA Tour in the summer, after an over-two year retirement that included having her first child in February 2008. The WTA Tour moves to the mini-major hardcourt tournaments in the U.S., with Indian Wells up first. Zvonareva wins both the singles and doubles title (with Azarenka) at the prestigious tournament, defeating Ivanovic in the singles final. Maria Sharapova makes her return to the WTA Tour after a shoulder injury – but just in doubles – for the first time since July 2008. Azarenka continues her great start to 2009 with a title run at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, upsetting Serena in the final for the biggest title of her promising young career.

April – Caroline Wozniacki wins her first title of the year in Ponte Vedra Beach in what would turn out to be a career year for the 19-year-old Dane. The season turned to the European clay-court season, with Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova each winning their first titles of the year. In late April, Safina ascends to world No. 1 for the first time in her career from the No. 2 spot, overtaking Serena. The Fed Cup semifinals are played, with the U.S. traveling to the Czech Republic as once again the underdog. This time it is 19-year-old Alexa Glatch who steps up for her country, dominating in both of her singles matches against top-50 players to keep the U.S. alive and send it to the deciding doubles rubber, where Huber and Bethanie Mattek-Sands come from behind in a dramatic three-setter to put the U.S. in the Fed Cup final for the first time since 2003. In the other semifinal, Italy upsets defending champion Russia.

May – Safina wins her first title of the year and first as world No. 1 at the prestigious tournament in Rome, defeating Kuznetsova. She follows it up with the title at the premier tournament in Madrid soon after, defeating Wozniacki in the final. Safina seems to have the momentum heading into Roland Garros to capture that first major title with her spring success on clay. Sharapova makes her singles return to the tour in Warsaw, reaching the quarterfinals. Former world No. 1 and currently retired Justine Henin makes a brief appearance at Roland Garros but says she has no plans to return to the WTA Tour.

June – As Roland Garros 2009 comes to a close, however, it is not Safina but Kuznetsova who hoists the trophy. It is the second career Grand Slam title for Kuznetsova, who also won the 2004 US Open. Kuznetsova wins, 6-4, 6-2, in a match Safina – who seemed to let her nerves get the better of her – was favored to win based on her play of late. Safina dominated first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Dominika Cibulkova to reach the final. In her first Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2008, Sharapova reaches the quarterfinals, where she falls to Cibulkova. Kuznetsova defeats another first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, Samantha Stosur, to reach the final in three sets, after defeating Serena in the quarterfinals. Defending champion Ivanovic loses in the fourth round to Azarenka. Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual win the doubles title. Wimbledon begins a few weeks later, with Safina again the top seed.

July – Safina reaches the semifinals at Wimbledon but is stopped by defending champion Venus Williams in a commanding 6-1, 6-0 victory. In the other semifinal, Serena and Dementieva battle in what is arguably the best women’s match of 2009. Dementieva wins the first set in a tiebreak, 7-6 (4), and Serena rebounds to win the second, 7-5. Without a tiebreak in the final set, the two stars push on through the third set before Serena finally wins 8-6, denying the No. 4-seeded Russian a shot at her elusive first Grand Slam title. In a Venus-Serena final for the second year in a row at the All-England Club, it is Serena this time who emerges victorious for her 11th Grand Slam title, winning 7-6 (3), 6-2. Serena and Venus also team to win the doubles title. A lot of talk in the tournament, however, centers on Oudin, the Fed Cup hero from February. The 17-year-old upsets Jankovic to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career, making her a household name and shooting her up in the rankings.

The Olympus US Open Series begins in July in Stanford with Marion Bartoli winning the first title and Serena and Venus winning another doubles title. Flavia Pennetta continues a great summer season with a win at the LA Women’s Tennis Championships just a few weeks after winning in Palermo, Italy.

August – The Series continues with Jankovic winning her biggest title of 2009 at the Western and Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, where Clijsters makes her return to professional tennis for the first time since May 2007. And it turns into a tremendously successful return for Clijsters, as she advances to the quarterfinals, defeating Bartoli, Patty Schnyder and Kuznetsova along the way. The world No. 1 doubles team of Black and Huber wins the doubles title in Cincinnati. Dementieva then wins the premier Rogers Cup – where Clijsters reached the third round – and Woznaicki wins the Pilot Pen heading into the US Open.

September – The season then turns to New York and the US Open, where Clijsters’ comeback story comes full circle. The new mom wins her second career Grand Slam title in just her third tournament in her return to the WTA Tour with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Wozniacki, who was playing in her first career Grand Slam final. It is a sweet celebration for Clijsters, as her young daughter Jada and husband join her on the court for the trophy presentation. With her victory, Clijsters shoots up into the top 20 in the rankings. Wozniacki also moves into the top five for the first time. The road to the final was a crazy one in the women’s draw, which was filled with upsets. No. 1 seed Safina loses in the third round, Jankovic falls in the second round, and Oudin is again the talk of the town, with the hometown crowd on her side as she takes out seed after seed on her way to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in her young career. In the second round, Oudin defeats No. 4 Dementieva in three sets, then takes out Sharapova in the third round in three sets, then No. 13 Petrova in three sets before falling to Wozniacki in three sets in the quarters. Her run moves Oudin into the top 50 in the world.

Yanina Wickmayer also reaches her first Grand Slam semifinal, falling to Wozniacki. On the other side, Venus and Clijsters meet in the fourth round in a crazy 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 win for the Belgian. Defending champion Serena moves past Pennetta to set up a semifinal against Clijsters in a match not soon to be forgotten. In the second set with Clijsters leading, Serena is called for a foot fault and then given her second code violation of the match after she verbally abuses the lineperson who makes the foot-fault call. The second code violation results in a deduction of a point, which just happens to be match point, giving the match to Clijsters. Serena is fined and apologizes for her behavior. She then teams with Venus to defeat Black and Huber in the doubles final.

Shortly after the US Open is over, Henin announces she will end her year-and-half retirement and return to the WTA Tour in 2009.

October – Sharapova wins the title at the premier event in Tokyo, her first since her return to the tour. Kuznetsova follows with a win at the premier China Open. Francesca Schiavone then wins the title at the prestigious Kremlin Cup a few weeks later. Serena returns to No. 1 in the world mid-month for two weeks before it goes back to Safina.

November – Serena returns to No. 1 the first week in November and clinches the year-end No. 1 ranking with her win at the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha (and with Safina’s withdrawal from the tournament with an injury), defeating defending champion Venus in the final. It is just the second time in Serena’s illustrious career that she has finished the year ranked No. 1 and the first time since 2002. Safina finishes at No. 2. Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez win the doubles title at the Sony Ericsson Championships, but Black and Huber once again finish the year as the world No. 1 doubles team.

The last women’s event of the season is the Fed Cup final between the U.S. and Italy in Reggio Calabria, Italy. The underdog U.S. team of Oudin, Glatch, Huber and Vania King (a late replacement for Serena, who had to withdraw with exhaustion) takes on the Italian team of Pennetta, Schiavone, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani. Behind two singles victories from Pennetta over Glatch and Oudin, Italy wins the 2009 Fed Cup title, 4-0, over the U.S., the second title in the country’s history.

December – Former world No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo, 30, announces her retirement from the WTA Tour after a 17-year tennis career.

And now to 2010…
 
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