Doha: Top-5 Moments of 2016

1) Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Roberta Vinci

The scoreline doesn’t come close to telling the story. Agnieszka Radwanska’s 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Roberta Vinci in the 2016 Doha Quarterfinals was EPIC. Radwanska had only lost one match all year, after earning her 18th career WTA title in Shenzhen and reaching the Australian Open Semifinals. Roberta Vinci had just won her first Premier title in St. Petersburg, and at 33-years-old, had climbed to a career-high ranking of #10 in the world. Radwanska just eliminated a very tricky opponent in a tough match with Monica Niculescu – fanning the flames of her on-court creativity and shot-making mastery. Roberta was fueled by the confidence that comes with momentum. The clash was absolutely absurd; quite possibly the most highlight-packed tennis match in years. Both put on a hell of show leaving tennis fans worldwide craving more…

2) Carla Suarez Navarro

You can’t call it a MUST-WIN, but this victory certainly needed to happen for Carla Suarez Navarro. Not just that…it needed to happen in THIS WAY: A come-from-behind, everything-on-the-line, championship match turn-around after getting breadsticked in the first set. Let me explain: Carla has only won ONE singles title (Oeiras-2014)…in NINE finals. Not good. On top of that, her opponent Saturday night happened to be the same 18-year-old Latvian that clobbered her 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the Wimbledon Championships seven months earlier. After that All-England loss, Carla wouldn’t win again for nearly three months, falling in the first rounds of Stanford, Toronto, Cincinnati, the US Open and the Tokyo International. Abysmal. Yes, she needed the win to prove to herself that she’s not a perrenial runner-up. Most importantly, she needed to win with her back against the ropes to cultivate the mental toughness it will take to attain her goals: Break into the top-5 and improve performance at the Slams. With the Premier-5 title in Doha, she’s closer to achieving half of her mission. On Monday, she will be the #6 player in the world – a career-high.

3) Jelena Ostapenko

She’s 18-year-old, but this week played with the poise and confidence of a grizzled veteran, earning an appearance in her first Premier-level Final. She’ll be ranked inside the WTA’s top-50 on Monday. Ranked #88 coming into Doha, Jelena crushed Zarina Diyas, bageled the 12-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova after a first-set tie-break, took-out the World #8 Petra Kvitova, dominated Zheng SaiSai, and overcame an injured Andrea Petkovic in the Semifinals. She’s an amazing ball-striker who can really make things uncomfortable for the sport’s top-talent. The pace of her groundstrokes steals significant time, leaving opponents scrambling, dependent on defense. Without a solid game-plan and precision shot-making, those who face Jelena can expect to be overwhelmed by her power, endurance and heady confidence. She’s not arrogant – she’s just damn good – and only 18. Insane.

4) Elena Vesnina

Are you kidding me? The World #118 had her Mom in-tow this week. The truth is, we might see more of Mom throughout the year considering Elena’s implausible singles run in Doha. Vesnina upset Caroline Garcia in Round-1, World #4 Simona Halep in Round-2 and Caroline Wozniacki in the Round of 16. As if that weren’t enough, she and Daria Kasatkina reached the doubles Semifinal by posting a 10-5 match tie-break win over Santina (Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis), the #1 doubles team on the planet who hadn’t lost a match since Cincinnati last August. Seriously, Sania and Martina were on a 41-match win streak that included titles at the US Open, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, the WTA Finals in Singapore, Brisbane, Sydney, the Australian Open and St. Petersburg. Wow. Needless to say, even with Elena’s singles win over Halep – that Quarterfinal doubles win may have been the week’s crowning achievement.

5) SaiSai Zheng

SaiSai Zheng absolutely clobbered World #2 Angelique Kerber in Round-2: (7-5, 6-1). Kerber hadn’t played a match since winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. SaiSai’s game-plan worked brilliantly: Exploit her opponent’s rustiness by ferociously attacking the net…point after point after point. The World #22 (Doubles) made a completely uncompetitive match highly entertaining. She’d go-on to take out Eugenie Bouchard in the Round of 16 before falling to Jelena Ostapenko in the Quarterfinals.

Oh yeah – and then there was this…