This year the WTA "Tashkent open" celebrates its coming of age as it turns 21. During the period of two decades the tournament has carved out a new term for itself “Enduring Rock”, because no player has been able to conquer this peak twice!
Almost every year, winners of past seasons return to Tashkent hoping to break the jinx of a player coming back to win the title for the second time, but this feat has eluded the players so far. Perhaps the WTA “Tashkent open” this year could be an exception.
Every year, the tournament produces worthy duels between highest ranked and experienced Women's Tennis Association (WTA) stars and, those who are have started their ascent into the global tennis arena. According to tennis experts, one of the reasons for “Tashkent Open” having not been won by any player twice so far is the high level of competition due to clash of generations.
Last year was no exception. Among the participants were seasoned players which included Former world No2 Vera Zvonareva of Russia and former world No5 Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, Swiss girl Stefanie Voegele, Germany's Tatjiana Maria, Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Russia's Evgeniya Rodina, and Slovenia's Dalila Jakupovic alongside Next Gen stars which included 17-year-old Olga Danilovic of Serbia and 2016 Junior Wimbledon champion Anastasia Potapova.
The 2018 “Tashkent open” proved a fairytale journey for the 17-years-old Anastasia Potapova, who came into main draw as a qualifier, in the first round she accounted for the fourth seeded Swiss Stefanie Voegele. Potapova proved to be the giant killer of the tournament taking out more experienced opponents on her way to the final where she unexpectedly faltered against compatriot Margarita Gasparyan.
The winner of the 2018 edition Margarita Gasparyan began her journey towards the title with a first round win over our compatriot Sabina Sharipova. In the three previous meeting Sabina had prevailed over Margarita sending out hopes to her fans , but this time it was Margarita's chance to dominate Sabina which she did with an easy 6-2, 6-2 win.
Margarita Gasparyan however had to fight out in all her other matches on way to the finals showing off her fighting abilities. The final against Anastasia Potapova who was considered the new rising star of Russian tennis , however, turned out to be an one sided affair handing over Margarita Gasparyan the title of Champion at WTA “Tashkent open”, in 2015 Gasparyan had claimed the doubles title with fellow countrywoman Alexandra Panova.
Gasparayn's title 2018 was truly commendable as 3 former champions Irina-Camelia Begu (2012), Nao Hibino (2015), and Bojana Jovanovski-Petrovich (2013) were in fray, only Nao Hibino came ever so close to winning the title for the second time In 2016, as she lost to Kristina Pliskova (Czech Republic) in the finals.
At “Tashkent open” 2018 Uzbekistan was represented by two players - Sabina Sharipova and Nigina Abduraimova, but unfortunately, they failed to provide adequate resistance to competitors. As already mentioned above, Sharipova lost to the future Champion Margaita Gasparyan in the first round.
Nigina Abduraimova, ranked 301 in the WTA rankings showed some determination winning the first set 6-4 against 93th WTA ranked Mona Barthel of Germany. Nevertheless, Bartel’s experience and skill prevailed as she won the subsequent sets 6-3, 6- 3.
“Tashkent open” has always thrown unpredictable results and even tennis specialists find it difficult to determine outcome of the final results in advance, this is evident as last year’s top seed Irina-Camelia Begu lost to Ukrainian Katerina Kozlova in the very first round. But Katerina Kozlova reached the semifinals, upsetting another seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova
Summing up the results of all the years of the WTA “Tashkent open”, one can confidently say that this tournament had a huge impact on the development of not only tennis, but all female sports in Uzbekistan. Then, at the dawn of its independence, our young country took the path to the development of all sports among girls and it has flourished.
The victory of Iroda Tulyaganova in 2000 had a stunning resonance. No other Uzbek player has managed to conquer the peak of “Tashkent open”, but the very participation of young tennis players in a tournament of this level increases their professionalism and gives confidence for the future.
Akgul Amanmuradova also showed good results, reaching the finals in 2005entering the event as a wild-card , in the first round, she ousted the second seeded Alyona Bondarenko, She Confidently advanced to the final unfortunately going down to Michaela Kracijek 6-0, 4-6, 6-3. It was not an easy victory for the Dutch tennis player perhaps it was the youth of Kracijek, who at that time was 16 years old that played the differentiator between the win and loss.
For the records Michaela Kracijek was not the youngest winner of the WTA “Tashkent open”. The year before her victory, in 2004, the Czech tennis player , Nicole Vaidisovawas only 15 years old, when she became the youngest winner in history of Tashkent Open . Also as matter of reference, in 2017 Kateryna Bondarenko became the oldest champion of Tashkent Open at the age of 31.
Well contested matches are always in the spotlight of spectators and TV viewers. Each match is actively discussed, amateurs make predictions, and professionals follow the game of their colleagues with passion. What kind of results the event will throw up this year is everyone's guess, but for now we are preparing for an exciting tennis week - hoping it to be bright, fast and victorious!
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