WTA 2018 season alternative awards: Naomi Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka among winners

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As the curtain closes on another tennis season, we’d be remiss if we don’t hand out some awards to the protagonists of the WTA tour who kept us entertained throughout the year.

But instead of sticking to forehands and backhands, wins and losses, comebacks and flops… here are some alternative awards for the ladies of the circuit, to commemorate an eventful 2018 season.

QUICKEST TO COME TO PRESS

Aryna Sabalenka

The Belarusian, who was named WTA Newcomer of the Year, is unrivaled when it comes to how fast she gets to her post-match press conferences. Win or lose, Sabalenka walks off-court straight into the interview room, with her racquet bag on her back and sweat still dripping from her face. Her coach Dmitry Tursunov is often found wondering the hallways trying to find her after her matches and by season-end he finally figured out where she is most likely to be found right after a match. It is a habit that is much appreciated by most journalists, especially when it comes to those working on tight deadlines.


BEST INSTAGRAMMER

Andrea Sestini Hlavackova

Sestini Hlavackova’s Instagram probably wouldn’t be the gem that it is without her doubles partner, the second half of the ‘Angry Birds’ duo, Barbora Strycova. Sestini Hlavackova’s account was a continuous feed of hilarious moments from the Czech pair, whether they’re singing Czech lyrics we cannot understand, or are taking votes on which restaurant to go to with their teams in the evening. Their energy is infectious and their posts all seem natural and unstaged. More of the same please, next season!


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Cinska jizda v podani #AngryBirds Chinese ride for #AngryBirds

A post shared by Andrea Sestini Hlavackova (@andreasestinihlavackova) on


BEST INTERVIEWEE

Naomi Osaka

There isn’t enough space on a newspaper page to contain all the brilliant quotes Osaka has blessed us with this season. The Japanese US Open champion is one of a kind and her take on things is always not what you’d expect.

When she tried to explain her complicated feelings after she won the US Open under stressful circumstances that involved Serena Williams’ standoff with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, Osaka said this to a journalist in Beijing: “Have you ever eaten green tea ice cream? This is a serious question. When you bite into it, it’s, like, sweet but also very strong. Like, that’s how that memory feels to me.”

In an interview with Sport360 in Dubai earlier this year, this is how she reacted when she was asked about being a role model.

“If there’s anyone that looks up to me, I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better so that they can have something to look up to. But the me right now is a little bit immature,” said Osaka.

When she was asked in Indian Wells how it felt to reach a final of such a big tournament, she said it felt “lonely” because most of the players are already gone.

While the WTA tour has plenty of engaging personalities (the list is long), Osaka definitely stands out among the lot.

TRIVIA MASTER

Elina Svitolina

The Ukrainian finished her season with a bang, clinching the WTA Finals crown, but earlier in the year, Svitolina impressed us with her trivia knowledge when it comes to her fellow top players. She aced a Sport360 quiz about the top seeds of the Madrid Open in May. We respect her commitment to keeping tabs on her rivals. It’s what true champions do!

BEST STRAIGHT-SHOOTER

Karolina Pliskova

The Czech is a firm believer in saying it like it is. Pliskova wastes no time beating around the bush. You ask her a question, you can expect a straightforward and honest answer. She doesn’t shy away from stating her opinion and doesn’t worry about saying the thing that will earn her the most popularity. If she believes she is struggling with her famously lethal serve, she will break it down to you and admit it. If she is particularly proud of defeating archrival Petra Kvitova, she will allude to their complicated “history” and confess that even her parents are thrilled with the fact that both Pliskova, and her twin Kristyna, claimed wins over their fellow Czech. Honesty like that is hard to come by sometimes in professional sport, so when you witness it, it’s very refreshing.

MOST CHEERFUL

Daria Kasatkina

Many players on the WTA tour can scoop this award but Kasatkina has got to be one of the most cheerful women to encounter off court. She’d typically greet journalists with high fives and hugs, even after defeats, and loves a good laugh. After she lost the Indian Wells final to Naomi Osaka in March, it was Kasatkina who told me to cheer up when I was asking her a question in a serious tone. ‘Why so serious? I’m going to be okay. It’s all good,” she assured.

MOST INTROSPECTIVE

Aleksandra Krunic

One thing I’ve learned this year: When Krunic speaks, you listen, take lots of notes, and learn. The Russia-born Serbian world No. 55 is as knowledgeable as she is eloquent and her interviews can all be compiled together to form a podcast called ‘Life Lessons with Aleksandra Krunic’. If you want measured opinions, and well-thought insight, Krunic will more than likely provide it.


BEST FOOTBALLER

Ons Jabeur

While it’s impressive how athletic the players are, and how they often seamlessly transfer their skills from one sport to another, Jabeur is arguably the most gifted on tour when it comes to her footy skills. A quick visit to the video section of her Facebook page will show you why.

MOST LIKELY TO WIN AN ARGUMENT

Madison Keys

Keys spoke this year about what it’s like being the daughter of a lawyer, how she always insists on knowing the explanation and reasoning behind something rather than taking it face value, and how that sometimes makes it tough for her to find the right coach. Because not all coaches would go to the lengths she needs in order to be convinced by something. The American says that trait does have its advantages though.

“Being the daughter of a lawyer, if I don’t understand something and I ask a question, there’s no answer of, ‘This is why I’m saying that’, sometimes I’m like, ‘Hmm, I don’t know if I like that’… I think my mom was great because she didn’t just say, ‘Because I said so’. She gave you all of the reasons as to why you were doing what you were doing. But I also think that it makes you great at arguing,” said Keys.

“I think just my mom’s mentality of how she dealt with us was very, Okay, you did this, so this is going to happen, this is the consequence. It was always super non-emotional, like, ‘This is how it is. If you break the law, this is what happens’. In that sense, it was very interesting. But I will say as far as questioning things and arguing things and finding loopholes in things, it was always really helpful in other situations away from my mom.”

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