Monday, August 13, 2018

Wk.32- Simona... Just Right (and maybe even a little better)

The premature fretting can now officially cease.

As a breaking-and-entering little girl in a fairy tale famously discovered the porridge temperature that was "just right," creating a Goldilocks Principle concept of the "perfect" balance that maximizes effectiveness, the "Simona Principle" has grown into a force to be reckoned with.

One never know what winning a maiden slam title will do to a player. With their biggest career goal met, some players lose focus. Or, worse, lose sight of the most important personal qualities that got them into the winner's circle in the first place. Since winning Roland Garros, some have raised a suspicious eyebrow at Simona Halep's comments about having now achieved all her career goals -- reaching #1 and winning a major title -- and that winning an Olympic medal for Romania in Tokyo in 2020 is now her only true focus in tennis. Many have wondered if that meant she was looking past the nearly two-year gap between now and the next Summer Games. Was her desire for more titles and slams suddenly gone? Was the fight and desire that pulled her to the top of the sport somehow smaller now than it had been prior to her triumph in Paris?

Well, after what Halep did this past week in Montreal, I think we got our answer.

Yes, Simona is a changed woman. But not *that* changed. She's still a fighter. Sometimes a cranky one prone to tossing a fit (and racket) or whining about a few bad shots, even while she's ahead in a match. Hey, she's Romanian -- we'd have to question her heritage if she *wasn't* like that, right? She's also still an awesome defensive player with an aggressive mentality who'll fight from sun up until sun down. Aches, pains, blisters, bad scheduling and in-form opponents be damned. She won't always win, but she'll wear herself down to the nub trying to. The most important aspects that made Halep *Halep* are still intact.

Actually, with the lack of an overbearing pressure/fear of possibly *never* truly succeeding at the highest level now banished from her career resume (and mindset) forever, Halep may actually even be *better* than she was before. Deeper. More expertly equipped -- though hardly faultless, as no #1-ranked player on the Most Interesting Tour in the World should *ever* be that -- to deal with the ups and down of a long battle between the lines.

With the knowledge that defeat can no longer *truly* damage her, from within nor without, she may have finally learned to naturally live in the "just right" space that will allow the types of things she did in Montreal (and Melbourne and Paris) to define the remainder of her career, as well as her legacy forever after.

If so, the Simona Principle will be a very lovely notion indeed. And even more fun to watch play out.

MONTREAL, QUEBEC CAN (Premier 5/Hard Court)
S: Simona Halep/ROU def. Sloane Stephens/USA 7-6(6)/3-6/6-4
D: Ash Barty/Demi Schuurs (AUS/NED) d. Latisha Chan/Ekaterina Makarova (TPE/RUS) 4-6/6-3 [10-8]
ITF WORLD JUNIOR CHSP. (Team 14s/Prostejov, CZE)
F: Russia d. Czech Republic 2-1

...blisters, fatigue, scheduling issues, battles with negativity... but, in the end, with a triumphant raising of the arms to close out the week. Yes, it was everything -- and more -- that we've come to expect from Halep, who's transformed before our eyese from tough luck contender to beloved (and gusty) grand champion, #1-ranked player in the world (now with a nearly-2000 points gap between herself and #2) and quite possibly the last player on The Most Interesting Tour that anyone wants to face off with when tennis death is on the line.

Over the course of 2018, Halep has become the Bulldog Queen of tennis. Her warrioress trek through the draw in Melbourne didn't ultimately reward her with a title, but it earned her the respect and admiration of her peers that few enjoy over the course of a career. While she's carried the physical scars of that two-week stretch all season long it's been the mental strength she gained from it that has led to her complete metamorphosis. As with any player with perfectionist tendencies, she's still liable to get on herself for a bad stretch, even when she's leading on the scoreboard. It happened vs. Sloane Stephens in the Montreal final, after a 4-1 1st set lead had slipped to 4-3. But she didn't give up, saved four SP and won an 8-6 TB in what turned out to be the key moment of the match. With a set in hand, she was able to overcome dropping the 2nd (though she made Sloane use four more SP chances before finally securing it). After an early 2-0 lead in the 3rd turned into a push/pull series of breaks of serve, and three squandered Halep MP's came and went (one after a DF), the Romanian still had a superior reservoir of take-a-licking-and-keep-on-ticking, today-is-a-good-day-to-die fire and bullheadedness to call upon in her time of need.

After a career of nibbling around the edges, Melbourne fed that particular beast. Paris decorated it with a silver glow. Now Halep wears it like a badge of honor, and it's because of that, perhaps defying the beliefs of many, she's worn her #1 ranking quite well since rising to the position for the first time last October. She only briefly dropped out of the spot for four weeks after Caroline Wozniacki's AO triumph, and now looks to possibly be able to ride it out until the end of the year if she can maintain even a reasonably high level of performance in the season's closing months.

In her first tournament since Wimbledon, where she followed up her RG win with an acceptable 3rd Round result ended by the bedeviling game of Hsieh Su-wei, it wouldn't have been shocking for Halep to take her time finding her footing in Montreal. Instead, she jumped feet first in the North American summer fire. In a two-day match vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, she overcame a 4-2 3rd set deficit and won in 3:07, then came back later in the night and defeated Venus Williams in straight sets. She won nine of ten games under the lights to finish off Caroline Garcia after trailing 5-4 in the 1st set, then knocked off Ash Barty in straights early in the afternoon on Saturday to reach her fifth '18 final (tying Petra Kvitova for the tour lead), then won an insta-classic three-set final over Stephens to add another to her tour-leading match win total (42), claim her third title of the season (tied for second behind Kvitova), and second straight Rogers Cup win in Montreal, having won the last time it was played there in '16.

Yep, don't worry about Simona. She's doing just fine.
RISER: Sloane Stephen/USA and Kiki Bertens/NED
...Stephens looks primed and ready to begin her U.S. Open title defense. Well, unless maybe Simona Halep shows up in her path yet again, that is (and after that happened when they faced off in Paris and Montreal, who *wouldn't* want to see that?).

After losing out in the end to the world #1 in a gritty, grueling three-set battle on the Romanian's favorite surface at Roland Garros two months ago, Stephens saw a similar scenario play out in the Montreal final on *her* favored hard courts this weekend as both put up fabulous efforts in their first post-Wimbledon outings just two weeks before the start of play at Flushing Meadows.

While Halep may have won her second straight (over three years) title in Montreal, the Rogers Cup (albeit in Toronto in '17) was something of a "homecoming" event For Stephens. For it was there that her miraculous summer run to the Open title first gained real traction last summer. In the event, as the #934-ranked player in the world, she got her the first match win (over Yulia Putintseva) in her comeback from foot surgery and followed it up with three more over the likes of Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova before falling to Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals. A Cincy SF followed (a run ended, naturally, by Halep), then she just went and won the U.S. Open and suddenly found herself in the Top 20. She entered this week ranked #3. Wins over Franckie Abanda, Carla Suarez-Navarro and defending champion Elina Svitolina allowed her another chance at Halep. She had her opportunities in another classic, holding four SP in the 1st and battling through a tight 3rd set, but she wasn't able to stop Halep from extending her winning streak in their head-to-head series to six matches since Stephens' 1 & 1 win in the 2nd Round of the Australian Open in 2013.

Once considered a "clay court specialist," Bertens is in serious discussions to change her career-long label. Yes, after a slow (4-7) start to her '18 season on hard courts, it *was* the start of clay court season that the Dutch player's fuse. She opened the campaign by winning in Charleston, then reached the Madrid final, going 15-5 on the surface and recording five Top 20 (two Top 10) wins. Then she followed up by reaching the Wimbledon QF, knocking off top 10ers Karolina Pliskova and Venus Williams on the grass. Bertens returned to hard courts in Montreal, and picked up right where she'd left off in London. Wins over Pliskova and Petra Kvitova (the latter in the same match-up as in the Madrid final) obliterated her career 0-9 HC record vs. the Top 10, as she reached her first Premier HC quarterfinal since 2013.
...the spring/summer comeback story of Kiick added yet another layer of success this weekend in Cincinnati when the 23-year old notched impressive qualifying wins over former U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur and Natalia Vikhlyantseva to reach the MD, her first in a Premier Mandatory event since 2014.

Having lost years with knee injuries and a battle with skin cancer, Kiick has been making up for lost time in recent months. She's gone 28-8 since April, winning a $25K title and reaching two other finals, as well as her maiden tour-level QF in Washington a week ago. In her 1st Round match in Cincy vs. Tatjana Maria she'll be seeking her first career PM main draw victory.

VETERAN: Alize Cornet/FRA
...Cornet is just about at that age (she turns 29 during the '19 AO) where so many of her peers have posted their best career results. Could the best be yet to come for her, too? The Pastry is already a former #11 (2009) and four-time slam Round of 16 performer, with seventeen Top 10 (three #1) wins to her credit. After avoiding a suspension earlier this year for missing too many drug test appointments (the final offense came when the tester stood around pushing the button on a broken intercom while Cornet was possibly within earshot on the property, not knowing the next year or so of her career may have been balancing on a rusty wire... as usual, the suspension was overturned by more reasonable independent minds, without which the so-called testing program would be even more of a feeble joke than it already is).

So, Cornet didn't lose her standing, points or '18 campaign, and now she still has a shot at having her best season-ending finish in four years despite a subpar spring/early summer (a QF in Charleston being the lone exception) that occurred while her future was in question and she played on in hope that the effort wouldn't be in vain. After a Brisbane QF and AO 3rd Round (w/ a victory over Julia Goerges that ended the German's 15-match win streak), Cornet's Charleston result was her only multiple MD win event in her next fifteen until two weeks ago she claimed the Gstaad crown, her first title since 2016. In Montreal, she rallied from a set down to defeat Tatjana Maria, then took out Wimbledon champ Angelique Kerber in straight sets to reach the 3rd Round, where she lost to Ash Barty.

After it was over, Cornet then proceeded to disappear into the Montreal street scene.

Streets of Montreal ??????

A post shared by Alizé Cornet (@alizecornet) on

She soon emerged in Cincinnati, winning a pair of weekend qualifying matches over Nicole Gibbs and Sonya Kenin to reach the tournament's MD. She'll face Alona Ostapenko in the 1st Round.

Cornet will be at #33 on Monday, with upcoming fall defenses of QF results in Guangzhou, Wuhan and Moscow and a Premier Mandatory 3rd Round in Beijing. Her last Top 30/35 finish came in 2014 when she came in at #20.
COMEBACK: Johanna Konta/GBR
...slowly but surely, Konta is emerging from her year-long funk, and she's celebrated the occasion by flashing some of her old hard court form in recent weeks as the tour has shifted to North America.

After following up her '17 Wimbledon semi with a 2nd Round exit this year at SW19, finally ridding herself of the tremendous weight her home soil success placed upon her shoulders last summer, there's been a decided shift upwards as far as results for Konta. A QF run in San Jose saw her hand Serena Williams her worst career defeat, no matter Serena's personal circumstances on that day, and it surely gave the Brit an nice injection of confidence. She confirmed as much in Montreal, turning the tables on Alona Ostapenko to come back from a set down to win, and then handling Vika Azarenka in straight sets a round later. She fell to Elina Svitolina in the 3rd Round, but it was still a good week for Konta, both on and off court.

First, she got off a really good "Most Interesting Tour" advertisement while commenting on "upsets" on the women's tour...

And she had a strong social media week, as well...

It was a good balance to her recent bad-looking headline run where she's been placed in the "villain" role in a building issue vs. Pooh Corner.

Likely having dropped outside of realistic seed range for the U.S. Open, the currently #39-ranked Brit will surely be one of the most dangerous unseeded floaters in the women's draw when things kick off in Flushing Meadows in two weeks.
FRESH FACES: Ash Barty/AUS and Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK
...Barty's final four run in Montreal was her fourth SF-or-better result of the season, and her second on hard courts (after a final in Sydney in January) after also winning a title on grass (Nottingham) and reaching another semi on clay (Strasbourg) earlier this year. After notching a 1st Round win over Irina-Camelia Begu in 2:45 while saving 16 of the Romanian's 20 BP chances in the match, the Aussie followed up with victories over Alison Van Uytvanck and Kiki Bertens before finally finding eventual champ Simona Halep too much to handle. After going out in singles, Barty combined with Demi Schuurs to take their second doubles title of the season.

In Cincinnati, 20-year old Kuzmova, who's already risen from #132 to (on Monday) #56 this season, finally played her first matches on hard court since her star-making 2-0 singles (def. Sabalenka and Sasnovich) weekend vs. BLR in the Fed Cup WG Playoffs in April. The Slovak won back-to-back qualifying matches this weekend over Caroline Dolehide and Camila Giorgi, coming back from a set down to win a 7-5 3rd set over the Italian to reach the MD of her first career Premier Mandatory event. Kuzmova's best junior slam results came on hard courts at the U.S. Open. Both of her two junior slam finals were at Flushing Meadows, as she won the '15 doubles title and was runner-up in singles to Kayla Day in '16. She made her slam MD debut in New York last year after having put on a successful qualifying effort.
DOWN: Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...the newly-wed Pliskova has had a good season, it's just that it sometimes doesn't seem as such. The 26-year old was a somewhat unexpected force during the clay season, winning in Stuttgart and reaching the Madrid semis. Hard court, though has been where she shined the brightest the brightest in 2016-17, her two Top 10 seasons. In '18, her results have been, well, fine on hard courts, but hardly "great." A Brisbane SF, Australian Open, Indian Wells & Miami QF provided a good starts, but it's traditionally been the North American summer circuit where she's had her best extended run of results. Remember, she won the U.S. Open Series in 2015 (though without a singles title, revealing the huge loophole in the now-defunct points competition that put participation in a large number of events nearly on par with getting good results in them), was the Cincinnati champ and U.S. Open finalist in '16 as, as the newly-christened women's #1 last July, reached the Toronto and Cincy semis and was the top seed at Flushing Meadows (she reached the QF). She played in Montreal this week as the #9 seed.

After a good win over fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova, Pliskova recorded just four games against Kiki Bertens in the 2nd Round. She's gone a combined 8-7 on three surfaces since defeating Simona Halep in the Madrid QF. Even something of a a rebound over the remainder of the summer, if it doesn't come with a title of some kind attached, won't necessarily return a shine to Pliskova's '18 campaign. Not after she showed her potential by reaching the top of the rankings and challenging for a slam title. Since she reached the Open final two years ago, three first-time slam finalists have followed in her footsteps and four maiden major champs have been crowned. Pliskova has reached one major semi in that seven-slam period. While everyone else has been improving, Pliskova has stayed about the same, at best, and has likely taken at least a step back. Even the serve that so fueled her game hasn't been quite the eye-popping weapon in was as she was climbing the rankings. After leading the tour the last three years, Pliskova is currently in second, well behind Julia Goerges (her WD partner in Montreal), for this season. With her Cincinnati and U.S. Open points defenses on deck, Pliskova could soon be in danger of falling out of the Top 10 for the first time in nearly two years (her active 100+ week streak of Top 10 rankings is behind only the four and a half year stay of #1 Simona Halep).

To continue the theme, Karolina sort of played second fiddle to this little girl, too. Can you say, "a viral star is born?"

ITF PLAYERS: Madison Brengle/USA and Zhu Lin/CHN Landisville, Pennsylvania the USTA Wild Card Challenge series concluded with Brengle winning her seventh straight challenger final dating back to 2014, and improving to 11-2 in such matches since early 2011.

While the 28-year old has only recorded two MD tour-level wins in ten events this season, and just three in the past year, she's found success on the challenger circuit in the U.S.. Since winning her biggest career title in the Midland, Michigan $100K in January, she's reached an $80K final in Charleston, South Carolina and $60K semi in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Career title #12 came after a week in which she defeated Arina Rodionova (3 sets), Gabriella Taylor (ret. after 2 sets), Ann Li and Priscilla Hon, and become official when Kristie Ahn retired down 6-4/1-0 in the final.

Ahn had saved two MP in the semis vs. Jessica Pegula, who would have won the Challenge series and a WC berth in the U.S. Open MD had she won the match. Ahn would have gotten it had she won the final. With Brengle's title, though, Lexington champ Asia Muhammad gets the decade-in-the-making honor.

Meanwhile, recent Nanchang semifinalist Zhu Lin won the $60K challenger in Jinan, China with a 6-4/6-1 win over countrywoman Wang Yafan in the final. She'd knocked off #1-seeded Luksika Kumkhum 4-6/7-6(3)/7-6(6) in the semis. The eighth ITF win of Zhu's career, it's also the biggest to date for the 24-year old. It's just her second singles title since 2014, as she'd been 1-5 in challenger final since her win this weekend.

JUNIOR STARS: Russian 14s Team Prostejov, Czech Republic a new generation of Hordettes posted a result that signals that Russian women's tennis won't likely be seeing a dearth of young talent anytime soon. Led by Diana Shnaider and Erika Andreeva, the Hordettes were crowned the ITF World Junior 14s champions, earning the nation's third title in the event since 2014. Seeded #3, Russia defeated the #2 U.S. squad in the semis with Shnaider clinching the win with a three-set victory over Katrina Scott. In the final versus the top-ranked host Czechs, it was Andreeva who was called upon to come to the rescue when Shnaider (the European #1) lost to Linda Noskova (who also defeated her in the recent European 14s championships) in the opening match. Andreeva notched a victory over Linda Fruhvitova to send things to the deciding doubles, where she joined forces with Shnaider to defeat Fruhvitova/Noskova 6-4/6-4 to take the title with a 2-1 victory.

(By the way, I could really get behind Shnaider making the polka dots her signature look should she go on to become a pro player of some relevance.)

2007 USA d. FRA
2008 USA d. GBR
2009 USA d. CZE
2010 USA d. UKR
2011 SRB d. USA
2012 SVK d. GBR
2013 USA d. RUS
2014 RUS d. UKR
2015 RUS d. USA
2016 UKR d. USA
2017 USA d. UKR
2018 RUS d. CZE

In Orlando, the USTA National Championships (18s) were won by '17 RG girls champ Osuigwe. After defeating #3-seeded Coco Gauff in the semis, the #2-seeded 16-year old staged a comeback from 5-1 down in the 1st set vs. '16 U.S. Open junior champ Kayla Day in the final, grabbing a wild card into the women's draw at Flushing Meadows. In a big hole in that 1st set vs. the top-seeded Day, Osuigwe left the court for treatment for a leg injury. When she returned, she seized control of the match and didn't let go, winning six straight games to take the opening set and winning 7-5/6-3. Day doesn't leave empty handed -- she gets a WC berth in the Open qualifying draw.

Meanwhile, Fiona Crawley won the 16s title.

DOUBLES: Ash Barty/Demi Schuurs, AUS/NED
...with her "go-to" doubles partner role in flux due to the retirement of Casey Dellacqua, Barty has gotten the chance to "try out" a few new teammates in recent months. She won in Miami with CoCo Vandeweghe, but went 2-3 with her in subsequent outings. Schuurs, who seems to be able to win (matches *and* titles) with virtually anyone she teams up with, joined Barty in Rome in their first-ever pairing. They won the title. They joined forces again in Montreal and, well, they've still yet to taste defeat. The duo's second '18 title run ups their record to 10-0.

Barty/Schuurs posted straight sets wins over Mattek-Sands/Safarova, L.Kichenok/Ostapenko, Aoyama/Marozava and Melichar/Peschke to reach the final without dropping a set. There they came back from a set down to defeat Latisha Chan (looking to win back-to-back titles w/ two different partners, after winning in San Jose w/ Kveta Peschke) and Ekaterina Makarova (seeking to defend the crown she won w/ Elena Vesnina last year) in a 10-8 3rd set tie-break. No matter, Chan still re-claims the #1 doubles ranking from Timea Babos on Monday.

Schuurs' six titles are double the next-highest total on tour in '18. *That* list of players includes Barty (w/ Dabrowski and Mertens), who improves to 3-0 in season WD finals. It's Barty's eighth career tour title, and Schuurs' ninth. Seven of Schuurs' wins have come since last September.
...20-year old Dutch player Jansen, the WC world #34, swept the singles and doubles competitions at the Memorial Jens Vanherck event in Belgium. The #1 seed, she defeated #3 Charlotte Fairbank (FRA) in the semis, then #4-seeded South African Mariska Venter 6-4/1-6/6-3 in the singles final. She and Venter joined forces to take the doubles title.

Here's a quick traveler's POV look at her trip to a recent event.

To learn more about Jansen, let her tell you about her journey to and goals for wheelchair tennis career.

The Cornet Rain Delay Story (courtesy of Jimmie48 Photography)

And.... scene.

1. Montreal Final - Simona Halep def. Sloane Stephens
Halep and Stephens came together for another classic final, and yet another Match of the Year contender.

Halep led 4-1 in the 1st, but as both players jumped on the poor second serves of their opponents things got tight rather quickly. Halep served for the set at 5-4, but soon had to hold at 5-6 just to reach a TB. She saved a pair of SP to get there, then quickly fell behind 4-0. After getting one mini-break back, the Romanian DF'd to fall into a 5-1 hole. Back-to-back errors from the serving Stephens turned a 5-2 lead into a suddenly-close 5-4. Another Halep DF gave Stephens two more SP, but she failed to convert either, with her fourth of the set going away via a net cord shot that sailed beyond the baseline. Halep won a 20-shot rally with a backhand winner into the corner to reach her first SP, which she got with a Stephens return error to win 8-6.

Up 4-2 in the 2nd, Stephens saved two BP and forced a 3rd set when she converted on her fourth SP (after being 0-for-7 in the match).

Halep led 2-0 in the 3rd, but Stephens got back to even at 2-2, only to see Halep break to reclaim the lead as the two continued to trade off breaks of serve. Serving at 5-3, Halep DF'd on MP, and saw Stephens save two more on her own serve in game #9. Finally, serving for the match at 5-4, Halep fired an ace up the "T" to secure the win.

And, who knows, this might not be the last time Simona and Sloane face off this summer.
2. Montreal 2nd Rd. - Elina Svitolina def. Mihaela Buzarnescu
...6-3/6-7(5)/4-3 ret.
Sometimes the Tennis Gods are real a-holes, you know? Only days after Buzarnescu's comeback story hit its zenith (so far) with her maiden tour title and appearance in the Top 20, injury once again pulled her down. Playing for a third time in '18 (Svitolina won both previous matches), Buzarnescu led the Ukrainian 3-0 in the 3rd set. Not long after questioning the slipperiness of the court in Montreal's week-long rainy weather, Buzarnescu fell in the sidelines of the court. Screaming in pain at a level close to Mattek-Sands' agony at last year's Wimbledon, Buzarnescu was ultimately wheeled off the court, ending her summer run. She'll miss the U.S. Open but, in the only good news here, she hopes to be back for the schedule's Asian swing.

3. Montreal 2nd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The Russian had the Romanian by the tail, but she hollered and she let her go. And, well, the rest was history. After playing just seven games on Day 1 of this one (Pavs 4-3), the bulk of the contest took place on Day 2. There, Pavlyuchenkova dropped the 1st set despite holding SP (Halep won it on SP #4), and led 4-2 in the 3rd, as well. Despite suffering from foot blisters that would plague her all week, Halep prevailed to run her career record vs. the Hordette to 8-0.

4. Montreal 2nd Rd. - Ayrna Sabalenka def. Caroline Wozniacki 5-7/6-2/7-6(4)
Montreal 3rd Rd. - Elise Mertens def. Aryna Sabalenka 2-6/7-6(1)/6-0
what a day. Last week, Sabalenka fell in the opening round of San Jose qualifying to #258 Maria Sanchez. This week, she saved 3 MP vs. #2 Wozniacki and avenged her loss to the Dane in the Eastbourne final, firing 15 aces and 64 winners en route to the biggest win of her career in the 2:31 contest. Thing is, due to all the rain in Montreal, Sabalenka wasn't finished. She had to play a second match about ninety minutes later vs. Mertens. She held a MP vs. the Waffle, but dropped a 2nd set TB, then lost the 3rd set at love.

Sabalenka. One of these days. Until then... sigh.
5. Montreal SF - Sloane Stephens def. Elina Svitolina
The defending Rogers Cup champ, Svitolina had won eight straight semifinal matches.
6. Montreal 1st Rd. - Lucie Safarova def. Dasha Gavrilova
Gavrilova led 6-4/4-2, and was up 5-2 (and had a MP) in the 3rd of this 2:35 loss in which she had 17 DF. Ouch.

7. Montreal 1st Rd. - Vika Azarenka def. Kristina Mladenovic
Mladenovic lost 4 & 2 in the 1st Round in San Jose a week ago, as the summer funk that set in on the Pastry last year (which ultimately grew into a 15-match losing streak) seems to have set in yet again. Since her funk-breaking final run in Saint Petersburg in February, Mladenovic has gone just 10-15 in tour-level matches (not counting her 3-1 FC record) and has now lost three straight. She faces Julia Goerges in the 1st Round in Cincinnati.
8. Montreal 1st Rd. - Anastasija Sevastova def. Aleksandra Krunic
Oh, Bracelet. Since her title run at Rosmalen, Krunic has gone 1-4. In her last two matches, vs. Sevastova and Kateryna Bondarenko, she's won a TOTAL of three games.
9. Montreal 1st Rd. - Julia Goerges def. Timea Babos
Goerges fired 17 aces and had 44 winners. After taking the 1st set, Babos was 0-for-7 on BP chances in the 2nd.

10. Montreal 1st Rd. - Maria Sharapova def. Sesil Karatantcheva
Fourteen years after their infamous "I'll kick her ass off" comment from Sesil, in their first meeting since 2010, Sharapova records her first match win since Roland Garros in a two-day match (the Russian led 4-1 after Day 1). Sharapova leads the head-to-head 5-0. Karatantcheva, who turned 29 this past week, is still one of the most quotable players around: see?

11. Montreal 2nd Rd. - Maria Sharapova def. Dasha Kasatkina
Sharapova still maintains her spot atop the Russian tennis hierarchy, as her shockingly definitive win over Kasatkina showed. 90-26 vs. fellow Hordettes, Sharapova is 36-5 vs. Russians since her AO 1st Round loss to Maria Kirilenko in 2010. Of course, too many photos like this and Maria might start to question if she's being unkind to children.


12. Montreal 1st Rd. - Genie Bouchard/Sloane Stephens def. Gaby Dabrowski/Xu Yifan
...6-4/4-6 [10-6].
Bouchard fell 2 & 4 to Mertens in the singles 1st Round, but she and Sloane reached the WD QF. It's more evidence that Bouchard should really play a little more doubles, for the success as well as the match play. And, yes, because I picked her to win *two* tour doubles titles in '18... and time is running out!


13. Montreal QF - Simona Halep def. Caroline Garcia
The side story here was that Garcia led Halep 5-4 in the 1st set, then her coach/dad paid her a visit in the changeover area. After dumping a bag of baguettes-load of information into her head, Garcia seemed at a loss about what to do next. She nearly lost the next two games at love, and dropped nine of ten games to lose the match. Yeah, Halep played very well. But the timing of Garcia's collapse was interesting, to say the least.
14. $25 Nonthaburi THA Final - Wang Xiyu def. Barbora Stefkova
The 17-year old Wimbledon junior doubles champ (w/ Wang Xinyu) picks up her first pro singles title.
15. $15K Guayaquil ECU Final - Fernanda Brito def. Gabriela Ce
The Chilean wins her South America-leading fourth challenger title of the year, and her third singles/doubles sweep of the season.

16. $15K Sezze ITA - Bianca Turati def. Nastassja Burnett
For the third straight week, these two battled it out for a title. For the second straight week, Turati raised the championship trophy.

17. $60K Hechingen GER Final - Ekaterine Gorgodze def. Laura Siegemund
Siegemund doesn't win another challenger crown, but she adds another good result to her recent run. She's 19-6 since Roland Garros, with a pair of tour-level QF, a challenger title and two finals.
18. Montreal Q2 - Katie Boulter def. Leylah Annie Fernandez
Though she ultimately lost, the Canadian junior proved a spirited rival vs. the Brit.

19. Montreal 1st Rd. - Dasha Kasatkina def. Maria Sakkari
A classic Kasatkina MP (even without a jumping backhand slice drop shot being involved).

20. $60K Landisville USA 1st Rd. - Priscilla Hon def. Nicole Gibbs
Top-seeded Gibbs led 6-4/5-1 here, and converted on her fifth MP to defeat Hon. Well, except that the linesperson missed the call, and Hon came back to win (and reach the semis). Gibbsy was NOT happy.


(i.e. the message board equivalent of Tennis Twitter during a back-and-forth WTA match... often when betting is involved)

1. Montreal 2nd Rd. - Kiki Bertens def. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
Bertens defeats Pliskova for the second straight time this summer (Wimbledon 4th), and neither time was on clay. This one erased her 0-9 career mark vs. Top 10ers on hard court. She followed up with another over Kvitova.
2. Montreal 1st Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro def. NAOMI OSAKA
Osaka was 15-4 on hard courts this season up to her Indian Wells title run. Since then she's gone 3-4 on the surface.
3. Montreal 3rd Rd. - Simona Halep def. VENUS WILLIAMS
Already playing with her right knee wrapped with a brace, Venus then did this. Try *not* to "loudly" wince... I dare ya. She's pulled out of Cincinnati.


San Jose explained...

The new "planking?"

You should work on every shot??????? #DD

A post shared by Daria Kasatkina?? (@kasatkina) on

Morning routines overlooking Montreal ??????????????????

A post shared by Elina Svitolina???? (@elisvitolina) on

5 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (5-0)
3 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (3-0)
3 - Elise Mertens, BEL (3-0)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (2-1)
3 - Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU (1-2)

72 - Serena Williams, USA
49 - Venus Williams, USA
36 - Maria Sharapova, RUS
29 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
25 - Petra Kvitova, CZE
20 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
20 - Aga Radwanska, POL
18 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS

93...Serena Williams (72-21)
83...Venus Williams (49-34)
59...Maria Sharapova (36-23)
53...Caroline Wozniacki (29-24)
41...Svetlana Kuznetsova (18-23)
36...Victoria Azarenka (20-16)
35...Jelena Jankovic (15-20)
32...Petra Kvitova (25-7)
32...SIMONA HALEP (18-14)

*2018 WTA SF*
7 - SIMONA HALEP (5-1+L)
6 - Mihaela Buzarnescu (3-3)
5 - Petra Kvitova (5-0)
5 - Elise Mertens (3-2)
5 - Angelique Kerber (2-3)
4 - Caroline Wozniacki (3-1)
4 - Julia Goerges (2-2)
4 - ASH BARTY (2-2)
4 - Anastasija Sevastova (2-2)
4 - Garbine Muguruza (1-2+W)

4...Elise Mertens, BEL (3-1)
4...Barbora Krejcikova, CZE (2-2)
4...Kveta Peschke, CZE (2-2)
4...Katerina Siniakova, CZE (2-2)
4...Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU (1-3)
4...Kirsten Flipkens, BEL (1-3)
4...Andreja Klepac, SLO (1-3)
4...Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP (1-3)
3...ASH BARTY, AUS (3-0)
3...Gaby Dabrowski, CAN (3-0)
3...Timea Babos, HUN (2-1)
3...Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU (2-1)
3...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (2-1)
3...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO (2-1)
3...Nicole Melichar, USA (1-2)
3...Elena Vesnina, RUS (1-2)

377 - Steffi Graf
332 - Martina Navratilova
319 - Serena Williams
260 - Chris Evert
209 - Martina Hingis
178 - Monica Seles
117- Justine Henin
98 - Lindsay Davenport
71 - Caroline Wozniacki
51 - Victoria Azarenka
39 - Amelie Mauresmo
34 - Angelique Kerber

2013 Shleby Rogers
2014 Nicole Gibbs
2015 Samantha Crawford
2016 Sonya Kenin
2017 Sonya Kenin
2018 Asia Muhammad

*USTA 18s NATIONAL CHAMPIONS - since 2012*
2012 Vicky Duval
2013 Sachia Vickery
2014 CiCi Bellis
2015 Sonya Kenin
2016 Kayla Day
2017 Ashley Kratzer
2018 Whitne Osuigwe

Doha - Petra Kvitova, CZE
Indian Wells - Naomi Osaka, JPN
Miami - Sloane Stephens, USA
Madrid - Petra Kvitova, CZE (2)
Rome - Elina Svitolina, UKR
Montreal - Simona Halep, ROU
Cincinnati - x
Wuhan - x
Beijing - x
Doha - Dabrowski/Ostapenko, CAN/LAT
Indian Wells - Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE
Miami - Barty/Vandeweghe, AUS/USA
Madrid - Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS
Rome - Barty/Schuurs, AUS/NED
Montreal - Barty/Schuurs, AUS/NED (3/2)
Cincinnati - x
Wuhan - x
Beijing - x

1/1: Simona Halep
1/8: Simona Halep
1/15: Simona Halep
1/22: Simona Halep
1/29: Caroline Wozniacki
2/5: Caroline Wozniacki
2/12: Caroline Wozniacki
2/19: Caroline Wozniacki
2/26: Simona Halep
3/5: Simona Halep
3/12: Simona Halep
3/19: Simona Halep
3/26: Simona Halep
4/2: Simona Halep
4/9: Simona Halep
4/16: Simona Halep
4/23: Simona Halep
4/30: Simona Halep
5/7: Simona Halep
5/14: Simona Halep
5/21: Simona Halep
5/18: Simona Halep
6/4: Simona Halep
6/11: Simona Halep
6/18: Simona Halep
6/25: Simona Halep
7/2: Simona Halep
7/9: Simona Halep
7/16: Simona Halep
7/23: Simona Halep
7/30: Simona Halep
8/6: Simona Halep
8/13: Simona Halep

1/1: Latisha Chan/Martina Hingis
1/8: Latisha Chan/Martina Hingis
1/15: Latisha Chan/Martina Hingis
1/22: Latisha Chan/Martina Hingis
1/29: Latisha Chan/Martina Hingis
2/5: Latisha Chan/Martina Hingis
2/12: Latisha Chan
2/19: Latisha Chan/Martina Hingis
2/26: Latisha Chan/Martina Hingis
3/5: Latisha Chan
3/12: Latisha Chan
3/19: Latisha Chan
3/26: Latisha Chan
4/2: Latisha Chan
4/9: Latisha Chan
4/16: Latisha Chan
4/23: Latisha Chan
4/30: Latisha Chan
5/7: Latisha Chan
5/14: Latisha Chan
5/21: Latisha Chan
5/28: Latisha Chan
6/4: Latisha Chan
6/11: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina
6/18: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina
6/25: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina
7/2: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina
7/9: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina
7/16: Timea Babos
7/23: Timea Babos
7/30: Timea Babos
8/6: Timea Babos
8/13: Latisha Chan

CINCINNATI, OHIO USA (Premier 5/Hard Court Outdoor)
2010 Clijsters d. Sharapova
2011 Sharapova d. Jankovic
2012 Li d. Kerber
2013 Azarenka d. S.Williams
2014 S.Williams d. Ivanovic
2015 S.Williams d. Halep
2016 Ka.Pliskova d. Kerber
2017 Muguruza d. Halep
=2017 WS=
QF: Ka.Pliskova d. Wozniacki
QF: Muguruza d. Kuznetsova
QF: Stephens d. Goerges
QF: Halep d. Konta
SF: Muguruza d. Ka.Pliskova
SF: Halep d. Stephens
F: Muguruza d. Halep
2010 Azarenka/Kirilenko d. Raymond/Stubbs
2011 King/Shvedova d. Grandin/Uhlirova
2012 Hlavackova/Hradecka d. Srebotnik/J.Zheng
2013 Hsieh/Peng d. Groenefeld/Peschke
2014 Kops-Jones (Atawo)/Spears d. Babos/Mladenovic
2015 Chan/Chan d. Dellacqua/Shvedova
2016 Mirza/Strycova d. Hingis/Vandeweghe
2017 L.Chan/Hingis d. Hsieh/Niculescu
=2017 WD=
SF: Hsieh/Niculescu d. Mirza/Peng
SF: L.Chan/Hingis d. Safarova/Strycova
F: L.Chan/Hingis d. Hsieh/Niculescu
WS: #1 Halep, #2 Wozniacki, #3 Stephens, #4 Kerber
WD: #1 Krejcikova/Siniakova, #2 Babos/Mladenovic

Onto the next...

All for now.