MORITA STILL SEEKING FIRST WTA TOUR TITLE
Ayumi Morita, one of Japan’s few top-flight women’s tennis professionals, entered the 2013 season hoping to claim her first WTA tournament title.
Morita, whose career-best world singles ranking of #40 was achieved in October 2011, played well from January through April until she was beset by nagging injuries that derailed most of the second half of her year.
Small in stature but with excellent foot speed and agility, Morita relies on consistency in her game, especially with her groundstrokes, to overcome a lack of power, particularly with her serve.
In January, Morita got off to an encouraging start at the Australian Open, her most successful major tournament since turning professional, with an advance to the third round in 2011.
With victories in her first two matches, Morita again advanced to the round of 32 in Melbourne, this time to face American superstar Serena Williams. Morita fought valiantly against the bigger, stronger Williams but fell in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3.
A confident Morita produced an even better February, first reaching the quarterfinals of the Pattaya City tournament before succumbing to Nina Bratchikova in three sets.
Later in the month, she advanced to the semifinals of the BMW Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. But Morita’s dream of reaching the finals was halted with a loss at the hands of the eventual champion, Karolina Pliskova, by 6-0, 6-2 scores.
Morita’s March-April highlights saw her progress to the third-round at the Sony Open in Miami to again battle Serena Williams. Morita was unable to combat Williams’ power, however, and dropped the match in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.
Morita made one more run at a title in the spring at the Monterey Open, advancing to the quarterfinals before going down to defeat to Angelique Kerber, 6-2, 6-1.
May, unfortunately, brought injury woes, starting with a left thigh problem that forced Morita’s withdrawal from a third-round contest at the Italian Open versus Victoria Azarenka, who has won back-to-back Australian Open championships.
Hampered by the lingering leg muscle issues, Morita could not get past the first round at the French Open, Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, where a back injury further compounded her troubles at the season’s last major tournament.
The 23-year-old Morita concluded her season in late September at the Toray Pan Pacific Open. She emerged victorious from her first match, but dropped the second-round contest to Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 6-1.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2014
Morita compiled a 32-28 overall record in singles’ competition in 2013, while earning $327,658 in prize money for her efforts. However, Morita’s inability to capture that elusive first WTA Tour title must be getting frustrating for her.
As she approaches her 24th birthday in March, it seems imperative that Morita find a way to avoid the injury bug that has so often curtailed her success since turning pro in 2005.
Morita’s track record suggests that her best chances of capturing a WTA title should be in the early months of 2014 before her body is worn down as the grueling season progresses.
Patrick Hattman lived in Japan for more than a decade and continues to closely follow the country’s best athletes and team sports.