The Insider Wrap is a recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. This week, WTA Insider looks back on the four-week Australian Swing, which was comprised of the Yarra Valley Classic, Gippsland Trophy, Grampians Trophy, Phillip Island Trophy, Australian Open, and the Adelaide International.
Champions of the Australian Summer
Australian Open (Slam)
Singles: Naomi Osaka d. Jennifer Brady
Doubles: Elise Mertens/Aryna Sabalenka d. Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova
Yarra Valley Classic (WTA 500)
Singles: Ashleigh Barty vs. Garbiñe Muguruza
Doubles: Shuko Aoyama/Ena Shibahara d. Anna Kalinskaya/Viktoria Kuzmova
Gippsland Trophy (WTA 500)
Singles: Elise Mertens vs. Kaia Kanepi
Doubles: Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova d. Hao-ching Chan/Latisha Chan
Grampians Trophy (WTA 500)
Singles: Anett Kontaveit, Ann Li (Co-Champions)
Adelaide International (WTA 500)
Singles: Iga Swiatek d. Belinda Bencic
Doubles: Alexa Guarachi/Desirae Krawczyk d. Hayley Carter/Luisa Stefani
Phillip Island Trophy (WTA 250)
Singles: Daria Kasatkina d. Marie Bouzkova
Doubles: Ankita Raina/Kamilla Rakhimova d. Anna Blinkova/Anastasia Potapova
Player of the Month: Naomi Osaka
The numbers don't lie. The World No.2 has not lost a match in more than a year and has now won back-to-back hardcourt Slams for the second time in her young career. Before the first ball was hit at the Australian Open, all the talk was around Osaka's tough draw. By the end of the fortnight, she had dropped just one set - though she did have to save match points against Garbiñe Muguruza - and dominated the fortnight with wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Caroline Garcia, Ons Jabeur, Muguruza, Hsieh Su-Wei, Serena Williams and Jennifer Brady.
Osaka's ability to find her best tennis when she needed it was the hallmark of her Melbourne campaign. Against Muguruza, she hit three unforced errors to give the Spaniard two match points and proceeded to play the next 22 points without making an unforced error. After hitting three double-faults against Serena Williams in the semifinal to land back on serve in the second set, Osaka then won the next eight points and the match. And against Brady in the final, when she needed a big forehand to save break point late in the first set, she found one.
Jennifer Brady: That Brady emerged from hard quarantine to make her first major final is everything you need to know about the level-headed, hard-working American. After a grueling preseason, Brady used her two-week isolation to refresh her mind while maintaining the discipline that has helped her evolve into one of the most dangerous strikers in the game. During her hotel quarantine, Brady refused to be tempted by a Netflix binge, knowing full well that it would eat into her time for rest and recovery. That's a herculean effort.
Brady leaves Australia proving to herself and everyone watching that her 2020 breakout, which included her first WTA title in Lexington, Kentucky, and her breakout run to the US Open semifinals, were no fluke. The 25-year-old and her inside-out forehand are a force.
Iga Swiatek: Every match Swiatek plays feels like an event because, quite frankly, there have not been that many on the WTA Tour. Having made her WTA main-draw debut at the 2019 Australian Open, the 19-year-old is playing only her third season on the WTA Tour. In addition, Swiatek is quickly establishing herself as one of the most enjoyable players to watch when she is in full flight, blending a compelling mix of power and athletic shot-making.
In her first foray since winning Roland Garros, Swiatek leaves Australia with another Round of 16 at a major and her first hardcourt title, after winning the Adelaide International last week. Any concerns over her racquet switch can be quickly laid to rest and she performed well under the new pressure of being a Slam champion.
Daria Kasatkina: The Russian captured her first title since 2018 Moscow battling through a tough draw at the Phillip Island Trophy to win the WTA 250 event. Kasatkina's road to the title was one of the toughest you will see at the WTA 250 level:
d. Boulter. 6-4, 6-2
d. Gracheva, 6-4, 6-3
d. Pavlyuchenkova, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4
d. Martic, 6-0, 6-4
d. Collins, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1
d. Bouzkova 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Kasatkina leaves Australia with a 10-3 record, and a huge weight lifted from her shoulders after ending her title drought. Kasatkina has been working regularly with a sports psychologist and the work is paying off.
"I learn a lot," Kasatkina said. "But the main thing was that I learn your confidence shouldn't depend on your results. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it doesn't have to break your inside child. This is the main thing I learn. I think this is very important because this is true.
"We are losing many matches during the year. Apparently in the best case there are few weeks where you're not losing a match. To lose one match doesn't have to kill yourself from inside, so ... I think that was the main thing."
Serena Williams: Serena's quest to add to her Slam tally will continue into Roland Garros, but this was no wasted trip to Australia. From her exhilarating performances to make the semifinals at the Yarra Valley Classic to her high-energy, confident march to the semifinals of the Australian Open, this was the best the American has played since winning her last major at the 2017 Australian Open. That's nothing to shrug at.
Garbiñe Muguruza: The Spaniard continues to play great tennis, putting herself in positions for big wins. In fact, the two players to knock out Muguruza in Australia were the World No.1 and World No.2. Muguruza looked on a mission at the Yarra Valley Classic, marching to the final with fantastic wins over Sofia Kenin, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Marketa Vondrousova, losing to Ash Barty in the final. Muguruza then rolled into the Round of 16 at the Australian Open and came within a point of knocking out the eventual champion. The two-time major champion is doing all the right things. A big result is just around the corner.
Hsieh Su-Wei: After struggling to find her game after the tour restarted last summer, there were few expectations that Hsieh would make a career-best run at a Slam at Melbourne Park. After dismantling Andreescu in the second round and coming back from the brink to earn her first career win over Sara Errani in the third round, Hsieh became the story as the tournament headed towards the second week.
Between her hilarious non-sequiturs and guileless wit, Hsieh would tell her story. Her path to this milestone career achievement was paved by her irrepressible spirit and helped along the way by mentors and friends who understood her unique talents on the court.
Karolina Muchova: The soft-spoken Czech would have had every right to think the universe was conspiring against her at the start of the season. She was forced to withdraw from Abu Dhabi due to a member of her support team testing positive for Covid-19, and then she had to go it alone in Australia after her coach, David Kotyza, also tested positive before his flight. Then came an abdominal injury during the Gippsland Trophy, which forced her to withdraw ahead of the quarterfinals. Nothing was going according to plan.
As it turned out, the adversity translated to resilience. After scoring solid wins over Jelena Ostapenko and Mona Barthel to start the Australian Open, Muchova morphed into the Comeback Queen. She rallied from 0-5 down in the second set to upend her practice partner and No.6 seed Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 7-5 in the third round. Then she came back from a 0-4 start against an in-form Elise Mertens to win 7-6(5), 7-5. And in a bracket-breaking upset in the quarterfinals, Muchova rallied from a set and a break down to defeat No.1 Ashleigh Barty 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 to make her first major semifinal.
Jessica Pegula: Along with Brady and Shelby Rogers, who advanced to the Round of 16, Pegula's run to her first major quarterfinal solidified a growing trend of mid-career success among the American women. As the Buffalo native was quick to remind reporters, she does not fall in with the group of "young Americans," like Coco Gauff or Sofia Kenin. Pegula, 27, rounded into her success after the age of 25.
Ann Li: One name to keep an eye on is American Ann Li. The 20-year-old is up to a career-high No.71 after a successful start of the season. Coming out of the hard quarantine, Li defeated Jennifer Brady to win her first WTA title at the Grampians Trophy. At the Australian Open, Li defeated Zhang Shuai and Alize Cornet before being overpowered by Aryna Sabalenka. Even-tempered with a smooth, athletic all-court game Li looked ready for a breakthrough last season before the pandemic hit and she picked up right where left off in Australia.
10: Match wins for Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina in 2021, the most on tour.
2: Doubles titles won by Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara in 2021, the most on tour. The Japanese duo started the year by winning their first 11 matches before losing to eventual champions Mertens/Sabalenka at the Australian Open. They currently rank No.3 on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen Leaderboard.
0: Sets lost by Iga Swiatek en route to her two WTA titles at Roland Garros and Adelaide.
1: Player in the Match Stats Era (since 2008) who owns a higher percentage of return points won vs. second serve than Iga Swiatek. In her career thus far, Swiatek is winning 60.1% of points played against her opponent's second serve. Only Victoria Azarenka has a higher success rate: 61.8%.
30: Match wins for Elise Mertens since the tour restarted last July, more than anyone else, posting a 30-6 record.
Most Match Wins since 2020 Restart
1. Mertens: 30-6
2. Sabalenka: 26-7
3. Brady: 22-7
4. Osaka: 21-0
5. Halep: 19-3
6. Azarenka: 19-6
0: Losses taken by Naomi Osaka once she makes the quarterfinals of a Slam, posting an Open Era best 12-0 record.
Pic of the Month