The Insider Wrap is a recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. This week, WTA Insider looks back at the 2021 Western & Southern Open, where Jil Teichmann continued a sizzling summer for Swiss tennis and No.1 Ashleigh Barty continues to distance herself from the pack.
Performance of the Week: Ashleigh Barty
The World No.1 keeps doing World No.1 things. Barty came into Cincinnati off a disappointing first-round loss at the Tokyo Olympics but quickly played herself into form and confidence. En route to her tour-leading fifth title - no one else on tour has more than three - Barty defeated three Slam champions in succession: defending Cincinnati champion Victoria Azarenka, Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova and three-time major champion Angelique Kerber.
Facing a red-hot Jil Teichmann in the final for the first time, Barty patiently poked and prodded until she zeroed in on Teichmann's more passive court position to exploit the Swiss from the baseline, winning 6-3, 6-1.
No.1 Ash Barty since returning to the tour after being sidelined for 8 months last year:— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 22, 2021
Yarra Valley Classic 🏆
Miami Open 🏆
And Olympic bronze in mixed.
Tour leader in match wins (40) and titles (5).
14-1 vs. Top 20. pic.twitter.com/JuV2IzdRDS
With the win, Barty stretches out her lead on the pack both literally and figuratively. She adds another 1900 points to her Porsche Race Leaderboard tally, clearing 6,000 points. Krejcikova, who she defeated in the quarterfinals, sits at No.2 with less than 4,000 points.
Next up for Barty is a week of safe travel to New York, rest and preparation for the final Slam. Earlier in the week, Barty was asked what it was like to already be halfway to a career Slam, with the US Open and Australian Open the only majors missing. That's a fine proposition for Barty, who has proven herself to be one of the best hardcourt players in the world. Of her 13 career titles, nine have now come on the hardcourts.
"Yeah, look, I hadn't even thought about it," Barty said. "It took me 25 years to get the first two, so let's hope it doesn't take another 25 to get the next two."
Surprise of the Week: Jil Teichmann
Anyone watching the tour during the first three months of the season would not be surprised to see Jil Teichmann make a WTA 1000 final in 2021. The Swiss was on a hardcourt tear to start the season, where she made the Adelaide semifinals and came within a win of making the Dubai final.
But you would be surprised if you were tracking Teichmann's results over the past four months. After her great start to the season, which saw her reach a career-high No.40 in April, Teichmann's body betrayed her. Her clay and grass seasons were completely derailed by injuries. According to Teichmann, her three-set loss to Danielle Collins in the first round of Montreal two weeks ago was the first time she felt pain-free since the spring.
Teichmann: "Belinda has been amazing, Olympics, as well as with Viktorija. I was actually calling them right after the matches.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 20, 2021
"I'm just really, really happy for Swiss female tennis. We really need that. We are very good players and we are showing it.”#CincyTennis
So defeating three Top 12 opponents, including the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion (Naomi Osaka), the Olympic gold medalist (Belinda Bencic) and the Wimbledon and Montreal finalist (Karolina Pliskova), to make the Cincinnati final while posting more winners than that trio? A Swiss surprise indeed.
Barty said it best during her victory speech: "Jil, what a week, mate. This is your level. This is where you belong."
The Czech continued her resurgent form. After making the Wimbledon final to get back in the Top 10 and the Montreal final to get back in the Top 5, Pliskova marched her way into the Cincinnati semifinals before losing to Teichmann.
But perhaps more importantly than any semifinal run? Pliskova finally beat Jessica Pegula. The American has been the thorn in Pliskova's season from the start, holding a 4-0 record over the former No.1 before they faced off in the Round of 16 in Cincinnati. There, Pliskova came back from 1-4 down in the first set and 0-5 down in the second set to score a 6-4, 7-6(5) win. When it comes to completely turning the page from a frustrating first six months of the season, mission accomplished.
Pliskova took her 0-4 record vs. Pegula w/ good humor.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 20, 2021
“Right now I'm super enjoying my win over Pegula (laughs), so I'm not thinking about Rybakina/Badosa. I'm not scared at all (laughs)."
"You're going to win everything from now on?"
"Now everything is possible. (laughs)." pic.twitter.com/tTu1vjf8u7
Kerber rediscovered her mojo during the grass season, winning Bad Homburg and mounting a strong charge into the Wimbledon semifinal, losing to Barty. She successfully carried that momentum into Cincinnati, where she beat Maria Sakkari, Elina Svitolina, Jelena Ostapenko and Petra Kvitova, before again bowing to Barty. That's a warning shot for New York.
Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai
Reunited for the first time since the Australian Open, Stosur and Zhang played clutch tennis all week - all four of their matches before the final were decided by a match-tiebreak - before cruising to a 7-5, 6-3 win over Montreal champions Gabriela Dabrowski and Luisa Stefani. The title was the affable duo's third as a team and their first since winning the 2019 Australian Open.
Gabriela Dabrowski and Luisa Stefani
The Canadian-Brazilian duo couldn't complete the clean sweep of the summer hardcourt WTA 1000s, but their new pairing continues to wreak havoc through the draws. After making the San Jose final and winning Montreal, Dabrowski and Stefani defeated Pegula/Azarenka, No.3 seeds Aoyama/Shibahara, and No.1 seeds Krejickova/Siniakova to make their third straight Championship match.
The Czech champion took a much-needed vacation after her non-stop summer, but the break did not chill her form. In her singles main-draw debut, Krejcikova defeated Daria Kasatkina, Dayana Yastremska, and Garbiñe Muguruza, before losing to Barty. Since the start of Strasbourg in May, where she won her first title the week before Roland Garros, Krejcikova has taken just two losses at WTA Tour events. Both have come to No.1 Barty.
The Spaniard had to retire to Pliskova in the quarterfinals due to a right shoulder injury, but Badosa had a gritty week in Cincinnati. She saved five match points to win in her first round against Petra Martic, then edged new No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in three sets in the second round to tally her third Top 10 win of the season.
A finalist last year, Osaka may have been disappointed with her Round of 16 exit to Teichmann, but her week in Cincinnati helped raise awareness of the heartbreaking rescue efforts in Haiti, after a 7.2 earthquake hit the country last weekend. Osaka pledged her prize money to relief efforts and the tournament's title sponsor, Western & Southern Financial Group, quickly announced they would match her donation.
11: The age Ashleigh Barty was the last time Victoria Azarenka won two games in a match. Barty handed Azarenka her heaviest defeat since 2007, winning 6-0, 6-2 in the Round of 16.
9: Match winning streak for Dabrowski/Stefani before losing the Cincinnati final to Stosur/Zhang.
4: Top 10 wins for Jil Teichmann in 2021. She was 4-0 (Kvitova, Svitolina, Osaka, Pliskova) before her loss to Ashleigh Barty in the Cincinnati final.
90: Weeks at No.1 for Ashleigh Barty as of Monday, Aug. 23. This puts her at No.9 on the all-time list, with an eye to pass No.8 Lindsay Davenport (98 weeks) and Justine Henin (117 weeks).
3: Matches lost by Krejcikova since the start of Strasbourg in May. Two have come to Ashleigh Barty (Wimbledon, Cincinnati) and one to Belinda Bencic (Tokyo Olympics). All three came to the eventual champion.
7: Teenagers to win a WTA 125 Series title: CiCi Bellis, Elina Svitolina, Bianca Andreescu, Clara Tauson, Aryna Sabalenka, Alison Van Uytvanck and Kristina Mladenovic.