What have we learned so far from the 2018 WTA season? Freelance tennis reporter and regular contributor to Sport360.com Reem Abulleil joins a super-sized episode of the WTA Insider Podcast to reflect on the first three-and-a-half months of the season, which has seen a perfect balance of generational strife.
Listen to the full episode below:
On the theme of the 2018 season so far:
Nguyen: "You have three [generational] bands of players trying to battle it out for supremacy and I think it's been really exciting. It's been this interesting balance, going into the big events and thinking I don't know who is going to win this title, but I'm pretty sure it's going to come from a player ranked No.1 through 20.
"There haven't been too many results that have surprised me this year, but I can't say what I've seen is what I've expected either."
Abulleil: "I don't feel that there was someone super dominant, but for me, if you look at it as a whole, Simona Halep was super solid. She's 19-3 and it's mid-April. She won Shenzhen, final of the Australian Open, playing with incredible heart.
"For me, what I got out of the Australian Open, the lingering feelings I had about the Australian Open all were about Simona Halep. In the end, it didn't really matter to me that she didn't win the final because she did everything she could."
Nguyen: "The player that most surprised me in the first quarter was Petra Kvitova. Not because she did things that I didn't think she was capable of. I think we all know what Petra Kvitova is capable of. When she is at her best she is near-unbeatable. For 14 matches that's precisely what she was. Every time I got complacent with the story, as she kept getting wins, when I started to think it was not a big deal I stepped back and remembered that this is absurd. This is an absurd and emotional thing that she's doing."
On the season's surprises so far:
Abulleil: "I'd have to say Naomi Osaka. Just the manner and the way she won Indian Wells. We've noticed her a long time ago and I've been waiting for her to get the big win and she finally did it. What I love is the growth over the last 3.5 months has been so rapid. The list of players she beat in Indian Wells - that is not normal."
Nguyen: "I just love watching Daria Kasatkina play. I love watching her construct points. It's always a struggle. She is at her heart, an artist, and sometimes that artistry is terrible because she's also just 20-years-old. She hasn't figured it all out yet. But it's coming together."
Abulleil: "I want to know what did Wim Fissette tell Angelique Kerber, or who told her what, because this is an insane ability. To just get over something like that. I'm not looking back, that's it, that's done, it's as though it never happened. How do you do that? I wish I could do that."
Nguyen: "It's a frustrating start to the season for Maria Sharapova. I think until she gets to the point where she can play and practice pain-free, I don't know what to expect.
Abulleil: "Like Serena Williams said, she has a lot of work to do. And probably on the clay it's even more work because her weapons aren't as effective as on other surfaces. But I definitely think it was super impressive that it was March and she was already winning matches."
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