Saturday School: Most successful women against southpaws

Currently, there are eight left handed women in the Top 100 rankings, four in the Top 50 and two in the Top 10. Nearly 10% of the players in the tennis world currently are left handed. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova were the most successful left handed players who dominated the slams. However, since 2010 the left handed women have won only five grand slams. These five grand slams have been shared between Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova. It is always a challenge to play against left handed players since most of the players are accustomed to play against right handed players who are in vast majority on tour. A data was collected that saw the most successful women on tour against left handed opponents since 2010, having played at least 35 matches against the southpaws.


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Serena Williams has been the most comfortable woman against left handed opponents. The former World No.1 has a 83.33% win rate against southpaws. Out of the 36 matches she has played against left handed players since 2010, she has won 30 of these matches. Out of the six defeats she faced against left handed players, two of them came against Angelique Kerber in the finals of the 2016 Australian Open and 2018 Wimbledon Championships. At Madrid, Serena faced back to back losses in 2014 and 2015 against Petra Kvitova. The Czech also defeated Williams at the 2018 Cincinnati Open. Out of the six times she has faced Serena, Ekaterina Makarova registered her first ever win against the American at the 2012 Australian Open.


Image result for sharapovaFive-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova has an impressive win rate of 76.2% against left handed opponents. In 2011, Sharapova lost to Petra Kvitova in the finals of Wimbledon and was the first of the two instances when the Russian lost to a southpaw at Wimbledon since 2010. The second occasion was in 2014 when Angelique Kerber defeated Sharapova in the fourth round. Sharapova has lost ten matches against left handed players since 2010. Kvitova and Kerber have handed the Russian four defeats each. Sharapova’s other two defeats came on clay against Lucie Safarova. In 2010 at Madrid and in 2015 at the French Open, Sharapova lost to Safarova in straight sets. Sharapova leads Kvitova 7-4 and Safarova 4-2 in head to head meetings whereas she is tied with Kerber at 4-4.
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Like Sharapova, World No.1 Simona Halep has also a similar win rate against left handed players by winning 32 of the 42 matches she played against the southpaws since 2010. Halep’s rivalry against Kerber is one of the best in the WTA circuit in recent years. The duo are tied at 5-5 in their head to head meetings. In 2011, Halep faced four left handed players in the season and lost three of those matches to Sybille Bammer, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Lucie Safarova. Ekaterina Makarova trails Halep 2-5 in head to head record. The two wins for Makarova came in the quarterfinals stage at the 2015 Australian Open and 2017 Washington Open. Currently Halep is on a nine-match win streak against left handed opponents.


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Seated at World No.3 in the rankings, Kerber is the highest ranked left handed player in WTA. Being a southpaw herself, Kerber has the advantage of understanding her left handed opponent’s game better than most right handed players. In 2011, Kerber faced four left handed players in the season, but lost to three of them. Ksenia Parvak, Varvara Lepchenko and Laura Robson were the three players who defeated Kerber in three sets. In 2014, Kerber won all seven meetings at tour level against left handed players. Kerber has a 8-6 record against Makarova. Out of her six wins against the German, Makarova won two of these encounters at majors. Till 2017, Kerber was tied at 5-5 in her rivalry against Kvitova. However, at Stuttgart, Kerber won her matchup against Kvitova to inch ahead 6-5 in their head to head meetings. Kerber has a win rate of 74% against fellow left handed players since 2010.


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World No.5 Petra Kvitova is the second highest ranked left handed female tennis player. The two-time Wimbledon champion played sixteen matches against left handers from February 2013 till August 2014. Since 2010, Kvitova is 5-3 against left handed players at the slams. Kvitova has lost 13 matches out of the 48 matches she has played against southpaws in the last eight years. Six of these defeats have came to Angelique Kerber and four have come against compatriot Lucie Safarova. Earlier this year, Kvitova won her finals match against fellow left handed player Mihaela Buzarnescu at Prague. The win meant that Kvitova improved 3-0 in the finals against left handed players in the past eight years.
Among other notable players are Victoria Azarenka, Andrea Petkovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova who have a win rate of 71.4%, 65.8% and 62.9% respectively against left handers in the past eight years.
Caroline Wozniacki has played the maximum number of matches against left handed opponents. Out of the 69 matches that she has played against southpaws, the Dane has won 46 matches with a win rate of 66.7%.

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