Monday, July 25, 2016

Wk.29- Venus Being Venus

Thank goodness for Venus Williams. She was a flesh-and-blood saving grace in a week when up was down on a seemingly disintegrating landscape.



In a week in the U.S. that featured an excrement-throwing circus in Cleveland, there was Venus half-way across the country at Stanford, worrying that she'd sound like a nerd for outing herself for having a poem that had inspired her. Bless her.



Meanwhile, the dual tour stop in D.C. continued a sorry 2016 tennis theme of shoving WTA matches into a corner while the tournament director, when confronted with the situation, had things tumble out of his mouth such as, "There's television obligations, television requests. There's also the tournament, from my perspective, what I feel is best for the fans in terms of popularity, seedings as well, and some player preferences that we take into consideration." Umm, yeah... okay. At the same time, for example, the "boffo" Tomic/Young men's match was put on a quarter-full (maybe) Center Court, while at the same time a match-up of a grand slam winner/#1 seed (Sam Stosur) and a very popular former #1 (Caroline Wozniacki) was relegated to a packed side court; and then all four men's QF were played back-to-back on the bigger stage without a single women's match finding its way onto the schedule (not even nudging aside, say, the less-anticipated Paire/Zverev match-up) on the same day later in the week.



But, thankfully, on the far coast, we had Venus being Venus to make us smile all week long. Bless her (and her sister, too).





Twenty two years after she made her tour debut at the very same Bank of the West tournament, a now 36-year old -- and still Top 10-ranked -- Venus staged a run to the 80th singles final of her legendary career mere weeks after she woke up the echos of her fabled past with a semifinal result at the All-England Club.



She also, once again, made a point to remind everyone that just because some may wish certain "feelings" to be facts in tennis -- just as was the case in Cleveland -- doesn't make them, you know, ACTUAL facts. In other words, she's not planning on going anywhere at the moment, Olympics or no Olympics. Yep, Venus is a living, breathing B.S.-free zone at a time when one is sorely needed. Bless her.




Ignorant mobs aren't shouting for Venus to be "locked up," either, nor is she being accused of treason because of the latest made-up "scandal" posing as cover for a variety of long-held, deep-seated ill feelings and/or anxieties. And when she's around we don't have to listen to an otherwise weasely termite of a politician and then be essentially coerced to acknowledge, beyond all the "normal" reason that's gone out the window of late, that he may have been the only person with a "conscious" (albeit a self-serving one) within a gathering of the so-called leaders of a real life political party that has led the most powerful nation in the world for a large portion of the last 150 or so years, but which now seems to barely be able organize a lunch menu without simultaneously trying to turn back the clock by nearly all those 150 or more years.

But have no fear, back in the "real world," Venus need only to listen to a little music to make us smile and, for now, whistle as we walk past the wreckage. Bless her.



Of course, Venus isn't a REAL super hero, and she can't make everything better and ensure a sane world. But her presence in our lives surely served an unintended -- but important -- purpose this past week, no matter whether or not she managed to win or lose in the end.



After all these years, Venus is still the sport's trump card. And without a hint of an unnaturally orange hue, either. Just a bit of red on occasion... which is oh so much better.

She's still something at which to marvel amid all the chaos. Still something to be proud of. So take a deep, comforting breath. At least we have Venus. And, for now, that's enough.



Bless her.



*WEEK 29 CHAMPIONS*
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier/Hard)
S: Johanna Konta/GBR def. Venus Williams/USA 7-5/5-7/6-2
D: Raquel Atawo/Abigail Spears (USA/USA) d. Darija Jurak/Anastasia Rodionova (CRO/AUS)

WASHINGTON, D.C. USA (Int'l/Hard)
S: Yanina Wickmayer/BEL def. Lauren Davis/USA 6-4/6-2
D: Monica Niculescu/Yanina Wickmayer (ROU/BEL) d. Shuko Aoyama/Risa Ozaki (JPN/JPN)

BASTAD, SWEDEN (Int'l/Red Clay)
S: Laura Siegemund/GER def. Katerina Siniakova/CZE 7-5/6-1
D: Andreea Mitu/Alicja Rosolska (ROU/POL) d. Lesley Kerkhove/Lidziya Marozava (NED/BLR)




PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Johanna Konta/GBR
...the rise of Konta continues in 2016. Since finishing a season in the Top 100 (#47) for the first time in her career last year, the Sydney-born Brit has lurched forward in leaps and bounds over the last seven months. Her surprise semifinal run at the Australian Open (which began with a 1st Round upset of Venus Williams) rocketed her into the Top 30, then a semifinal in Eastbourne pushed her into the Top 20 for the first time. Throughout her first-time run to a tour-level final in Stanford, Konta served her way to her maiden WTA title in California, taking out Julia Boserup, Zheng Saisai and Dominika Cibulkova before fittingly ending her latest career-best week with another win over Venus in the final. It all now brings the Top 10 within Konta's reach, as she'll be at a new career-best of #14 on Monday, with still quite a bit of elbow room left for additional growth.
===============================================
RISERS: Yanina Wickmayer/BEL and Alison Riske/USA
...Wickmayer had the full D.C. experience. She began the week by making her way around town...



And then ended the weekend by making off with ALL the trophies.



The 26-year Waffle won her fifth career tour singles title after a run of victories that included wins over Madison Brengle, Zhang Shuai, Kristina Mladenovic, Yulia Putintseva and Lauren Davis in the Sunday final. She'd already picked up career doubles title #2 with Monica Niculescu on Saturday. After having gone thirty-two months without appearing in a tour-level singles final, Wickmayer has now won two WTA titles since last September (w/ Tokyo last fall), and also picked up a WTA 125 Series crown in Carlsbad in late November, as well. The D.C. singles win bumps Wickmayer up to #40 this week, putting her within striking distance of a seed at the U.S. Open, where she had her sole career slam semifinal result back in 2009.

Meanwhile, Riske continued her sneaky good '16 campaign, reaching her third tour-level semifinal in Stanford after surviving a 3rd set TB in the 1st Round vs. Varvara Lepchenko, taking out qualifier Ana Bogdan in three, and then seeing CoCo Vandeweghe retire after rolling her ankle in the QF. After a slow start, Riske pushed Venus in the 2nd set of their semifinal, holding two SP after Williams suffered through a briefly horrid serving stretch when originally trying to close out the match. Though Riske didn't reach her third final of the season, the only U.S. player with more SF than her three is Serena (w/ five). Even with a hugely disappointing slam mark (0-3 this season), Riske (who'll jump twenty spots alone on Monday) has climbed 39 spots in the rankings since ending '15 at #97. She'll be #58 on Monday.
===============================================
SURPRISES: Jessica Pegula/USA, Risa Ozaki/JPN and Lesley Kerkhove/Lidziya Marozava (NED/BLR)
...last summer, Pegula was one of the surprise belles of the early rounds of the U.S. Open, as the daughter of the owners of the Buffalo Bills (NFL) qualified, notched a 1st Round upset over Alison Van Uytvanck and pushed Dominika Cibulkova to three sets. As a wild card into the D.C. draw last week, the world #173 reached her first career tour singles QF and SF in a career-best week that included wins over Aleksandra Wozniak, Christina McHale and #1-seed Samantha Stosur (her first career Top 20 win). The 22-year old will top off her week appropriately, as well, as she'll rise to a new career-high of around #135 as Week 30 begins.


Ozaki, 22, also reached her first tour QF in the Washington event, opening up by knocking off defending champ Sloane Stephens in the 1st Round, then backing up the victory with a win over Naomi Broady. The singles #136, Ozaki, who hadn't played doubles on any level since 2014, pulled double duty this past week by also reaching the doubles final with D.C. warhorse Shuko Aoyama (the three-time champion of the event from 2012-14).


In Bastad doubles, surprise finalists Lesley Kerkhove & Lidziya Marozava lost in the final to Andreea Mitu & Alicja Rosolska, ending a dream week that had included three 3rd set TB wins over four rounds -- 11-9 vs. Bucharest champs J.Moore/Wongteanchai in 1st Rd., 10-3 vs. Olaru/Siniakova in the QF and 10-8 in a SF win over Schuurs/Voracova. It was the first career WTA final for both. Dutchwoman Kerkhove, 24, has won six career ITF doubles titles, and came in ranked #182 on the WTA computer; while 23-year old Belarusian Marozava has collected fourteen ITF crown, and was ranked #105 after having spent time in the top 100 just last month.
===============================================

VETERANS: Laura Siegemund/GER & Venus Williams/USA
...the clay and Siegemund just go together like David Duke and Donald Trump's political coattails. A week after the German welcomed a return to clay with a semifinal result in Bucharest, the 28-year old reached her second final of the season (w/ Stuttgart, both on clay) in Bastad and walked away with her maiden tour singles title. Wins over Kateryna Kozlova, Lucie Hradecka, Lara Arruabarrena, Julia Goerges (ret. in 3rd) and Katerina Siniakova did the trick. Siegemund's work will have her at a career-best #32 on Monday, making her the second-highest ranked German on tour. At the end of the 2015 season, she was at #90 and stood as the ninth-best player in her nation. I guess that says a great deal about Siegemund, as well as the collectively sagging '16 results of nearly every German player not named Angie this season.

Stick around for probably what will be the best (surprise) champagne bottle moment of the season during the trophy ceremony:



In Stanford, even while she didn't ultimately win the title, Venus was THE story of the week. As great on the court as she was off it, she reached her 80th career final twenty-two years after she made her WTA tour debut as a wee fourteen year-old back in the Bank of the West Classic in 1994 (w/ a win over Shaun Stafford, then a 2nd Rd. loss to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in a love 3rd set) when the event was held in Oakland. After being forced to three sets in her opening match against Magda Linette, Williams dispatched younger countrywomen CiCi Bellis and Alison Riske in straight sets (with a close set vs. each) before finally not being able to corral Brit Johanna Konta in the final. Her week moves her up to #6, past the pregnant Vika Azarenka in the rankings and with a Top 5 season-ending finish clearly within reach considering all the points #4 Aga Radwanska will have to defend in Asia come the fall.



===============================================
COMEBACK: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK
...all right, so the bar was VERY low here. But, by such standards, AKS did have a "comeback" performance in Bastad. A week after she gave Aliaksandra Sasnovich a good run in Bucharest (squandering a lead and losing in the 1st Round of a tournament she won in '15), the Slovak finally got over the proverbial hump (well, a preliminary, small one) with a 1st Round victory over Swedish wild card Susanne Celik. It ended Schmiedlova's streak of fifteen straight WTA MD losses. She lost in three sets to eventual finalist Katerina Siniakova in the 2nd Round, but... baby steps.


===============================================
FRESH FACES: Katerina Siniakova/CZE, Lauren Davis/USA and CiCi Bellis/USA
...Siniakova was welcomed into the Czech WTA finalist circle in Bastad, as the #92-ranked 20-year old made her way through qualifying and strung together MD wins over Jana Cepelova, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, #2-seeded Sara Errani and defending champ Johanna Larsson to reach her maiden tour-level singles final. After a close 1st set vs. Laura Siegemund, Siniakova's veteran opponent pulled away for a 7-5/6-1 victory to secure what was HER first career WTA singles title.


Davis, 22, joined Konta and Siniakova as one of the three first-time tour singles finalists this week. In Washington, the #122-ranked Bannerette became the ninth different U.S. player to reach a tour-level final in '16 (they're a combined 9-9). Wins over Shelby Rogers, Monica Puig, Camila Giorgi and Jessica Pegula put the Ohio native in her first singles final of any kind since a 2013 challenger and will lift her ranking to #104 on Monday. With a win in the final vs. Yanina Wickmayer, Davis would have jumped all the way into the #80's. She reached a career high of #43 back in 2014.


While Siniakova and Davis lasted until the weekend, Bellis was the young star of the first half of Week 29. Set to commit to play at Stanford next year if her SAT scores meet the school's standards, the 17-year old reached her first career tour QF on the university's campus. And she did it after being hit in the face by her opponent's overhead shot in a doubles match at the starting of week. The incident left her with a bloody eye, fuzzy vision and an overnight headache (but, apparently, no concussion). Still, she was able to proceed in singles and opened with a 1st Round win over Jelena Ostapenko (her third win in five matches vs. Top 50 players) on Tuesday, then followed up with another over Sachia Vickery. Against Venus, who made her WTA debut in the tournament in '94 (five years before Bellis was born), in the quarters the teenager put up a good battle with the 36-year old in the 1st set of a 6-4/6-1 loss. Bellis will be the youngest player in the Top 200 in the new rankings, and her future continues to open up before her eyes.



===============================================
DOWN: Sloane Stephens/USA, Caroline Wozniacki/DEN and Nicole Vaidisova/CZE
...a year ago, Stephens began her climb back to relevance with her turning-tuna-into-lobster maiden title run in Washington.



She's continued to live a trophy life in '16, piling up three more wins in 2016, albeit with an accompanying three one-and-out results over the course of her first six events of the season. Stephens, who briefly re-entered the Top 20 for three weeks in recent months, had gotten out of the feast-or-famine game in her last four events, going a combined 6-4 and notching at least one win in each tournament. But, in her first career title defense attempt, the current #23 was bounced in nasty fashion by #136 Risa Ozaki, who allowed Stephens just three games on the day.

Meanwhile, a little more than a year ago, Wozniacki was still dining out on the remains of her 2014 summer comeback run. At the Rogers Cup in Toronto, she was ranked #5 when she fell in the 2nd Round to eventual champion Belinda Bencic. Flashforward to this week, one week before the start of this year's Rogers Cup in Montreal, and the Dane was ranked #58, sporting an 11-11 record this season, and 20-21 since the end of last year's Wimbledon. An easy 1st Round win in Washington gave hope for another summer rebound, as did her set lead over #1-seed Sam Stosur one round later. But Wozniacki was then forced to retired with an elbow injury seven games into the 2nd set. As one of the top players (well, formerly top-RANKED players, at least) who has shown an excitement about heading to Rio, you have to hope this won't be a setback. Of course, Caro continues to expand her "brand" beyond the court, but if she doesn't find a way to get her ranking into a bit more respectable range over the next nine months or so for how long will she continue to be as "in demand" for such extracurricular activity?


Some comebacks work, but others just never gain traction. Consider Vaidisova's now-abandoned attempt to re-start her career most decidedly in the latter category.



A former Top 10 player and two-time slam semifinalist (at age 17), Vaidisova was one poor shot selection away from having a MP to reach the Roland Garros final in 2006 (she'd defeated Mauresmo and Venus before squandering a lead vs. Kuznetsova). She originally retired in 2010. but after a four-and-a-half year break which included a three-year marriage to Czech player Radek Stepanek, Vaidisova returned to tennis in 2014. She never rose above #200 in her comeback attempt, and only played four total MD tour matches (1-3), though her appearance in Miami in the spring of '15 (she defeated Timea Babos and took Simona Halep to three sets) gave some hope (false, as it was) that good health and good results would eventually come for her. Vaidisova 2.0's best result on any level was a $100K challenger semifinal in Midland, Michigan in February of last year. Before announcing her second retirement last week, the Czech had been just 5-6 in 2016, losing two of her last three matches via retirement, the last in the 2nd Round of a $10K challenger in Gyor, Hungary in May. Thus, the (still only) 27-year old takes up permanent residence in the "what might have been" room of WTA history, having picked up six singles titles in her short career. She's still the sixth-youngest WTA champ ever, having won in Vancouver in 2004 at 15 years, three months and twenty-three days old. And, of course, she'll always be remembered around these parts for an epically-on-the-nose-even-if-a-bit-condescending 2005 quote in which she said, "People who never care that they lose have never won so much."

===============================================
ITF PLAYER: Sonya Kenin/USA
...the 17-year took the lead in the USTA's U.S. Open Wild Card Playoff race by claiming the $50K challenger title in Sacramento with a 4-6/6-1/6-4 win over Grace Min in the final on Sunday night. Unseeded at the event, #10-ranked junior Kenin reached the final with additional wins over Jovana Jaksic, Greet Minnen and Valeria Solovyeva. On Monday, she'll join CiCi Bellis as the only two players under 18 ranked in the WTA Top 250.

===============================================
JUNIOR STARS: Usue Arconada/USA, Vera Lapko/BLR and Amina Anshba/RUS
...off her singles QF and doubles title run in the Wimbledon juniors, 17-year old Arconada carried over her momentum to the tour-level tournament in Washington, essentially her "home" event, as she's risen through the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park, Maryland. Given a wild card into the MD, Arconada got her first career WTA victory with a 1st Round win over Canadian teenager Francoise Abanda, then pushed Yulia Putintseva to three sets as the Tiafoe twins (fellow JTCC'ers) cheered her on from the nearby stands... then got a loud post-match rebuke from the Kazakh once she wrapped up the victory over the young Bannerette.


In Astana, Australian Open girls champ Lapko, still the #7-ranked junior (though she hasn't played a girls event since Melbourne), won a $10K challenger by defeating Valeria Savinykh 7-6(3)/3-6/6-4 to pick up career title #2. The 17-year old Belarusian has reached two finals in her last three pro events, going 11-2 over the six-week stretch.

In Klosters, Switzerland, Hordette Amina Anshba upset the #2 (Olesya Pervushina) and #3 (last week's WTA Gstaad semifinalist and RG jr. champ Rebeka Masarova) girls to claim the B1 clay title at the European Junior Championships. The #9-ranked junior, 16-year old Anshba took out fellow Russian Pervushina 6-2/2-6/6-2 in the final.
===============================================

DOUBLES: Raquel Atawo & Abigail Spears, USA/USA
...in Stanford, the veteran American duo grabbed career title #14 as a team, tied with Hingis/Mirza for third-most amongst active pairs behind only the Williams Sisters and Errani/Vinci ("active," since they're scheduled to reunite in Rio), which both have 22. At 33 and 35 years old, respectively, Atawo & Spears' combined age of 68 is second to Venus & Serena (70 at Wimbledon) as the oldest championship duo on tour this season. Speaking of siblings, the pair climbed over both Rodionova sisters en route to the title, taking out Arina & Jelena Ostapenko in a 10-7 3rd set TB in the QF, then Anastasia & Darija Jurak in straight sets in the final. But, of course, the summer hard courts are where Atawo & Spears have often found success, having previously won five summer titles in North America in Quebec City (2011), Carlsbad (2012-13), Stanford (2013) and Cincinnati (2014). This week's title was their first title together since last October in Linz.
===============================================


Hmmm... would the White House look better with zebra stripes?



As long as it doesn't have T-R-U-M-P emblazoned on the side by this time next year, I guess.

Meanwhile... it's never a bad time to say...



And then there's this...





1. Washington DC Final - Wickmayer d. Davis 6-4/6-2
Washington DC Final - Niculescu/Wickmayer d. Aoyama/Ozaki 6-4/6-3
...
Wickmayer joins Bertens (Nurnberg) and Serena (Wimbledon) as s/d sweeping champions this season, while Davis fails to become the seventh different Bannerette champion in a single season since 2002.

===============================================
2. Bastad Final - Siegemund d. Siniakova
...7-5/6-1.
This was the third '16 meeting in a final between players facing off for their maiden tour title. Irina Falconi (def. Soler-Espinosa in Bogota) and Cagla Buyukakcay (def. Kovinic in Istanbul) won the previous two.

===============================================
3. Stanford QF - Cibulkova d. Doi
...7-5/6-0.
The newlywed Slovak charged back from 2-5 down in the 1st to win eleven straight games and assure herself a return to the Top 10 in the new rankings.
===============================================
4. Washington DC 1st Rd. - Ozaki d. Stephens
...6-2/6-1.
This was Stephens' worst ranking loss since she lost to another player ranked #136 -- Aliaksandra Sasnovich -- last September in Seoul.
===============================================
5. Washington DC 2nd Rd. - Putintseva d. Arconada
...6-4/4-6/6-4.
As is often the case, with Putintseva comes a touch of over-emotive drama, this time after the Kazakh let go of her anger at a specific cheering section after finishing off the game teenager.



===============================================
6. Washington DC 1st Rd. - Bellis d. Ostapenko
...6-4/6-4.
Did someone say something about drama? Here, Bellis came back from 2-4 down in the 1st to win in straights. Naturally, Ostapenko couldn't help buy try to make more new friends and influence still more people, saying afterward, "I mean, everything is so weird here, it's my first time here," noting, "The balls are Penn, which I never played anywhere. I think it's maybe on the American series, so it's not amazing conditions for me." Bless her Latvian heart.

===============================================
7. Washington DC 2nd Rd. - Stosur d. Wozniacki
...5-7/4-3 ret.
Wozniology-101 class now has sections on "Catch 22" and "Murphy's Law."

===============================================
8. Bastad 2nd Rd. - Arruabarrena w/o Kerber
...
it was easy to question Kerber's appearance in this particular draw, but after getting her tour-leading 35th win in the 1st Round she pulled out with an elbow injury. All right, it makes a little bit more sense now. She's set to play this week in Montreal, which makes a whole heck of a lot more sense.
===============================================
9. Stanford QF - Riske d. Vandeweghe
...6-3/1-0 ret.
CoCo was one of the loudest when it came to expressing her desire to play in Rio.



But after badly rolling her ankle (it's 2:00 into the highlights on the video below) and being wheelchaired off the court, you hope she didn't rattle the Tennis Gods' cage a little TOO much with her words and they've decided to "teach her a lesson."


===============================================
10. Bastad 1st Rd. - Mattek-Sands d. Bertens
...7-5/6-2.
This was Berten's worst (winless) clay court event result since LAST year's 1st Round loss in Bastad. In her previous seven clay court events -- at all levels -- dating back to last season, the Dutch woman put up SF-W-SF-1st (but only after winning her way through qualifying)-W-SF-RU results.
===============================================
11. $50K Sacramento 1st Rd. - Tara Moore d. Laura Robson
...5-7/6-2/6-4.
A subtle passing of British ships in the tennis night? Or a hopeful sign since Robson put up such a fight? Hmmm.
===============================================
12. $50K Sacramento 1st Rd. - Caroline Romeo d. Alison Van Uytvanck
...3-6/6-4/6-3.
Days after winning the Stockton $50K event, #1-seeded Van Uytvanck fell in the 1st Round in Sacramento to a Lucky Loser.
===============================================
13. Stanford 1st Rd. - Gibbs d. Zhao
...6-2/4-6/6-3.
Gibbsy wins the all-Stanford Cardinal battle on the campus at Palo Alto. They teamed in doubles for the week, too, losing in the 1st Round.
===============================================
14. Bastad 2nd Rd. - Errani d. Golubic
...7-6(6)/6-1.
The Gstaad champ couldn't carry over her roll to Bastad. Similar city names, yes... but very dissimilar results.
===============================================
15. $25K Darmstedt Final - Tamara Korpatsch d. Fiona Ferro
...6-2/6-2.
The 21-year old, #250-ranked German picked up her second '16 title, finishing off a nice week that included earlier wins over #6-seed Jil Teichmann, Anna Kalinskaya, #2 Isabella Shinikova and #8 Dalila Jakupovic.
===============================================
16. $10K Schio Final - Valeriya Strakhova d. Lucrezia Stefanini
...0-6/6-2/6-3.
The 21-year old Ukrainian picks up career title #11, outdistancing the 18-year old Italian (#1042) junior who put up a win over Tessah Andrianjafitrimo in the Roland Garros girls, and pushed both the Anastasia Potapova (RG) and Olesya Pervushina (Roehampton) to three sets in recent outings.
===============================================
17. $10K Tampare Final - Piia Suomalainen d. Emma Laine
...0-6/6-2/6-3.
In a match-up of veteran Fins, 32-year old Suomalainen (#739) gets her first ITF singles title in four years over #570-ranked, 30-year old Laine.
===============================================
18. $10K Evansville Final - Kennedy Shaffer d. Emina Bektas
...6-4/1-6/6-2.
The 19-year old University of Georgia Bulldog qualifies and picks up pro singles title #1 in Indiana. Shaffer knocked off '15 Wimbledon girls champ Sofya Zhuk in the 2nd Round.
===============================================


Not a Vika-inspired baby boom, but...






1. Stanford Final - Konta d. Venus Williams
...7-5/5-7/6-2.
Getting over the finish line wasn't easy, but the Brit proved solid down the stretch. It'd taken Konta two attempts to finally serve out the 1st, but then she squandered a 4-1, two-break lead in the 2nd, failing to put away MP and seeing Williams push things to a deciding 3rd. Konta went up 4-2 in the final set, but on a few occasions Venus threatened make a game of things yet again before the first-time finalist finally wrestled the last stretch away from the 80-time finalist, denying Venus her 50th career title.

===============================================
2. Stanford QF - Venus Williams d. Bellis
...6-4/6-1.
Just your typical tennis match between players nineteen (and nearly twenty) years apart. In other words, a full Ostapenko... with enough head room for a tossed racket or two, as well.
===============================================
3. Stanford SF - Venus Williams d. Riske
...6-1/7-6(2).
Williams jumped on Riske to the tune of 5-0 in the 1st, but things tightened from there. Venus served for the match at 5-4 the 2nd set, only to see her serve suddenly go WAY off. Three straight DF later and the set was knotted. A game later, Riske went up 40/love, nearly gave back the break before staving off a BP and eventually holding two SP of her own. Williams pulled out the TB with casual ease, and didn't even realize until she was told in her post-match interview just how close she'd come to being forced to go three sets. Call it the "Venus bubble." Bless it.
===============================================
4. Bastad 1st Rd. - Anna Karolina Schmiedlova d. Celik
...6-1/6-3.
The long international Schmiedlovian nightmare finally comes to an end. Or maybe it just experienced an intermission?
===============================================
5. Stanford 2nd Rd. - Cibulkova d. Ula Radwanska
...7-6(3)/6-3.
Without Aga, another Cibulkova/Radwanska match didn't provide another classic. But Ula (who defeated K.Bondarenko in the 1st Round) did force a 1st set TB.
===============================================
6. Stanford 1st Rd. - Linette d. Kristyna Pliskova
...2-6/6-2/7-5.
Pliskova fires 15 aces and loses. In other words, the usual.
===============================================
7. $10K Bad Waltersdorf Final - von Deichmann d. Gabriela Pantuckova
...7-5/6-4.
21-year old Pantuckova failed to pick up 2016 title #3, but the Czech has put up a quite a run of results since May. Her last eight events have gone like this: RU-W (def. von Deichmann)-QF-W-QF-QF-SF-RU.
===============================================
8. $10K Saint-Gervais-les-Bains Final - Chiara Scholl d. Sibille
...6-2/6-2.
24-year Chiara (aka "Chi Chi") -- sister of Duke University senior Chalena -- wins career challenger title #3, her first since 2011.
===============================================
HM- Stanford Q1 - Townsend d. Arina Rodionova 3-6/7-5/6-4
Stanford QF - Atawo/Spears d. Ostapenko/Arina Rodionova 2-6/7-5 [10-7]
Stanford Final - Atawo/Spears d. Jurak/Anastasia Rodionova 6-3/6-4
...
it was a week of "almosts" for the Rodionovas. Taylor Townsend came back from 4-2 down in the 3rd vs. the younger Rodionova sister in qualifying, then Atawo/Spears took out BOTH sisters en route to the doubles title.
===============================================



Not a single cloud ????

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on


??

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on



Turtles are going to miss Vika, too.









The Dashas. Sushi and shopping. 'Nuff said.


A bit of shopping therapy ??

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on



Gavrilovian Thesaurus?






Stranger Waiting on a Train.

Waiting for the morning train like...????

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on



Sharapova on ice water. No, not WALKING on water... cool your jets, WADA.





**2016 FIRST-TIME WTA SINGLES CHAMPS**
Bogota - Irina Falconi, USA (25/#92)
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (26/#118)
Gstaad - Viktoriya Golubic, SUI (23/#105)
Bastad - LAURA SIEGEMUND, GER (28/#40)
Stanford - JOHANNA KONTA, GBR (25/#18)
[wta 125]
Bol - Mandy Minella, LUX (30/#186)
[2016 first-time finalists]
Bogota - Irina Falconi, USA (#92, 25) (W)
Stuttgart - Laura Siegemund, GER (#71, 28)
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (#118, 26) (W)
Gstaad - Viktoriya Golubic, SUI (#105, 23) (W)
Stanford - JOHANNA KONTA, GBR (#18, 25) (W)
Washington DC - LAUREN DAVIS, USA (#122, 22)
Bastad - KATERINA SINIAKOVA, CZE (#92, 20)

**2016 OLDEST WTA SINGLES FINALISTS**
36...VENUS WILLIAMS (STANFORD)
35...Francesca Schiavone (Rio)
35...Venus Williams (Kaohsiung)
34...Serena Williams (5 finals)
34...Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Strasbourg)
32...Roberta Vinci (St.Petersburg)
32...Samantha Stosur (Prague)

**ALL-TIME WTA FINALS**
239 - Martina Navratilova
226 - Chris Evert
138 - Steffi Graf
93 - Lindsay Davenport
91 - Serena Williams *
85 - Monica Seles
80 - VENUS WILLIAMS *
77 - Arantxa Sanchez

**WTA FINALS - 2014-16**
17 - Serena Williams (7/5/5 = 14-3)
13 - Angelique kerber (4/5/4 = 6-7)
13 - Karolina Pliskova (5/6/2 = 4-9)
12 - Simona Halpe (5/5/2 = 7-5)
9 - VENUS WILLIAMS (4/3/2 = 5-4)

**2016 BIGGEST AGE DIFFERENCE IN WTA FINAL**
14 yrs - Vinci (32) d. Bencic (18) - St.Petersburg
13 yrs - S.Williams (34) d. Keys (21) - Rome
12 yrs - Muguruza (22) d. S.Williams (34) - R.Garros
12 yrs - Schiavone (35) d. Rogers (23) - Rio
11 yrs - V.Williams (35) d. Doi (24) - Kaohsiung
11 yrs - Konta (25) d. V.Williams (36) - Stanford
--
NOTE: older player is 4-2

**2016 WTA FINALS - NORTH AMERICANS**
5 - Serena Williams, USA (2-3)
3 - Sloane Stephens, USA (3-0)
2 - Madison Keys, USA (1-1)
2 - VENUS WILLIAMS, USA (1-1)
2 - Genie Bouchard, CAN (0-2)
2 - Alison Riske, USA (0-2)
1 - Irina Falconi, USA (1-0)
1 - CoCo Vandeweghe, USA (1-0)
1 - Shelby Rogers, USA (0-1)
1 - LAUREN DAVIS, USA (0-1)
--
ALSO: Puig/PUR (0-1)

**2016 LOW-RANKED FINALISTS**
#186 Marina Erakovic/NZL (Rabat)
#170 Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP (Bogota)
#132 Francesca Schiavone/ITA (Rio - W)
#131 Shelby Rogers/USA (Rio)
#122 LAUREN DAVIS/USA (Washington DC)
#118 Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR (Istanbul - W)
#105 Viktorija Golubic/SUI (Gstaad - W)

**2016 QUALIFIERS IN FINAL**
Sydney - Monica Puig (22, #94/PUR)
Charleston - Elena Vesnina (28, #85/RUS)
Stuttgart - Laura Siegemund (28, #71/GER)
Rabat - Marina Erakovic (28, #186/NZL)
Strasbourg - Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (33, #66/CRO)
Nurnberg - Kiki Bertens (24, #89/NED) (W)
Bastad - KATERINA SINIAKOVA (20, #92/CZE)

**2016 MOST WTA TITLES - BY NATION**
6 - USA (Falconi,Keys,Stephens,Vandeweghe,S.Williams,V.Williams)
3 - ITA (Errani,Schiavone,Vinci)
2 - FRA (Cornet,Garcia)
2 - CZE (Ka.Pliskova,Safarova)
2 - ESP (Muguruza,Suarez-Navarro)
2 - GBR (KONTA,Watson)
2 - GER (Kerber,SIEGEMUND)
2 - SUI (Bacsinszky,Golubic)

**2016 OLDEST DOUBLES CHAMPIONS**
36 - Venus Williams (Wimbledon)
35 - Martina Hingis (5 titles)
35 - ABIGAIL SPEARS (STANFORD)
34 - Serena Williams (Wimbledon)
34 - Anastasia Rodionova (Eastbourne)
[team combined age]
70...S.Williams/V.Williams (34/36) = Wimbledon
68...ATAWO/SPEARS (33/35) = STANFORD
66...Medina-G./Parra-S. (33/33) = 3 titles
66...Jurak/An.Rodionova (32/34) = Eastbourne
64...Hingis/Mirza (35/29) = 5 titles
[oldest finalist]
36 - Venus Williams (Wimbledon)
35 - Martina Hingis (7 finals)
35 - ABIGAIL SPEARS (STANFORD)
34 - Serena Williams (Wimbledon)
34 - ANASTASIA RODIONOVA (Eastbourne/STANFORD)

**SINGLES/DOUBLES FINAL IN SAME EVENT**
Brisbane - Angelique Kerber, GER (L/L)
Doha - Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP (W/L)
Istanbul - Danka Kovinic, MNE (L/L)
Nurnberg - Kiki Bertens, NED (W/W)
Birmingham - Barbora Strycova, CZE (L/W)
Wimbledon - Serena Williams, USA (W/W)
Washington DC - YANINA WICKMAYER, BEL (W/W)


Sigh...



Yep...








MONTREAL, QUEBEC CAN (Premier/Hard)
15 Final: Bencic d. A.Radwanska
15 Doubles Final: Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Garcia/Srebotnik
16 Singles Top Seeds: Kerber/Muguruza
=============================

=QF=
#11 Cibulkova d. #15 Konta
#4 A.Radwanska d. #10 Keys
#5 Halep d. #9 Kuznetsova
#2 Kerber d. Kasatkina
=SF=
#11 Cibulkova d. #4 A.Radwanska
#5 Halep d. #2 Kerber
=FINAL=
#5 Halep d. #11 Cibulkova

...I ranked Bencic's run to the Rogers Cup title (which included four Top 6 wins -- three over past #1's and six over former slam finalists -- with upsets of #1 Serena and #3 Simona) as 2015's "Performance of the Year." It's a pity her wrist (or back?) injury prevents her from being in Montreal to defend her crown.

Oh, please, oh, please, dear Tennis Gods... give us another dose of Cibulkova/Radwanska.


And, finally, it shouldn't have taken Nike to come up with this campaign. With all the photos of WTA stars as kids-with-rackets floating around the internet, it's been a tour marketing campaign hiding in plain sight for years. Naturally, it was ignored in favor of the latest flashy, usually forgettable effort that was just a shade different from the previous one, as well as the next one.










All for now.

Read more...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Wk.28- Justine's Legacy Finds a Permanent Home, Simona Gets Her Groove Back (Maybe) and Vika Now Serves for Two

Well, it was just your "typical" week on the WTA tour. And it was as interesting as ever.




First, a decision was rendered delayed. Make of that what you will.



Then, a new star was born, right out of the gate...



A new trend continued...



Rio absences were announced and explained...




Another longer term situation came to light...



One can quibble with the timing, of course. After all, Vika is currently ranked #6 in the world, leads the tour in season titles (3), best record in finals (3-0) and best win percentage (89.7%). She still has the longest uninterrupted WTA win streak (16 matches) in the world this year, and a few months ago became the third woman to ever complete the Indian Wells/Miami sweep. She won two Olympic medals four years ago, and the summer hard court season and U.S. Open had been looked at as possibly her "time to shine." But that can wait. Obviously, this was an unexpected situation, and one that I can't really remember happening with a top-level player (unlike in some other sports) in the prime of her career without it being a planned life choice, usually late in their career. But Azarenka has already stated her intention to return in 2017... so we've already got a major plot point for next season, and THIS season is barely half over.

Of course, now the wait goes on for our first Vika Baby dabbing photos...



And something along the lines of what we saw with Azarenka and her "Mini Vika" fan in Brisbane back in January. Little did she know.



Of course, that wasn't all. Elsewhere, the Swiss took over Gstaad on the court, while Amelie Mauresmo (about a month and a half late to be included in my Roland Garros "La Divine" series) did a good Suzanne Lenglen impersonation in Newport...




Speaking of Amelie, she belatedly got her Hall of Fame moment in the sun this weekend, one year after being unable to attend the ceremonies due to her pregnancy. As usual, she spoke with great class and feeling, taking time to emotionally touch on the Bastille Day attack in Nice and similar one elsewhere, saying, ""In Paris, Brussels, Tel Aviv. It has to stop. The only thing we can do to continue to be free, continue to be happy."

Of course, for this space's purposes, the centerpiece of the HoF ceremony involved the induction of "La Petit Taureau herself," Justine Henin, the first Belgian ever inducted in Newport (beating Kim Clijsters by a full twelve months -- whew!)




After Marat Safin's comedic and free-wheeling speech ("It's almost as hot as in Russia. Jesus.") in the sizzling Newport heat, Monica Seles introduced Henin. Naturally, she singled out the Belgian's one-handed backhand for praise, calling it "one of the signature shots in tennis history," adding, "And as an opponent, I hated it." Of Henin's four-title run at Roland Garros, Seles noted that the "clay court was her canvas, and her racket the paint brush." "She was an artist; power, touch, court sense, creativity. Justine's game was like a rainbow. The full spectrum of color. But Justine was also a warrior. Drive, dedicated, focused. One of the toughest competitors we'll ever see."



Henin came without a prepared speech, but she made due, pointing out that when Seles mentioned her and her mother attending the 1992 RG final and a young Justine making her fabled promise to become a champion, that she'd failed to note that the match INCLUDED Seles herself. Though Henin did remember the 3rd set over Steffi Graf as having gone 8-6 in Seles' favor, even if it was actually 10-8... but that's okay.

She hit on all the expected points of her career, thanking her parents and saying that through tennis she learned that if you work hard enough for your dreams, as the old adidas ad campaign noted, "Impossible is nothing."



Earlier, Henin had spoken about Clijsters, who'll be in this same position next summer, and their unbreakable linkage in tennis history. "We were very lucky to be there at the same time," she said. "I always say I wouldn't have been the player I was without Kim. It was challenging being from a small country and being almost the same age. We traveled a lot together when we were young and were pretty close. When we became rivals on the tour, it became more competitive, but the respect was always there."

"Because of and with Kim, I was able to accomplish a lot of things. Seeing her succeed made me think I could do the same. Being #1 and #2 from a small country made the story different and made it more beautiful. She pushed me to get better and improve. It made us better players than we might have been."



Ah, but that only took us up to SATURDAY. On Sunday, another new star put down her footprints (err, backprints?)...



And then an already-a-star gave another hint that she may finally be ready... maybe for everything?




(clears throat)

And how was your week? As interesting as the Most Interesting Tour in the World?


If so, well... congratulations!




*WEEK 28 CHAMPIONS*
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA (Int'l/Red Clay)
S: Simona Halep/ROU def. Anastasija Sevastova/LAT 6-0/6-0
D: Jessica Moore/Varatchaya Wongteanchai (AUS/THA) d. Alexandra Cadantu/Katarzyna Piter (ROU/POL) 6-3/7-6(5)

GSTAAD, SWITZERLAND (Int'l/Red Clay)
S: Viktorija Golubic/SUI def. Kiki Bertens/NED 4-6/6-3/6-4
D: Lara Arruabarrena/Xenia Knoll (ESP/SUI) d. Annika Beck/Evgeniya Rodina (GER/RUS) 6-1/3-6 [10-8]



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Simona Halep/ROU
...suffice to say, it looks like I'm "all in" with Simona this hard court summer. Oh, no. What have I done?



The fact is, so far, Halep has done pretty much everything I've asked of her in recent weeks and months to escape the bull's eye and Cliffs-dragging reputation she'd developed over the previous year or so. Even her decision to skip the Olympics might work in her favor on the court, as she'll be able to have an uninterrupted U.S. Open preparation and, Zika fears aside, won't have to deal with the pressure of competing for (and maybe failing to live up to the expectations of) her country.

As it is, Halep was all smiles in Bucharest, as she claimed the tournament title on Romanian soil for the second time in three years. After dropping the 1st set in the 1st Round vs. Barbora Krejcikova, she showed little mercy the rest of the way. She finished off the Czech 1 & 1, then took out Isabella Shinikova, Danka Kovinic and Vania King (though with a lost TB in the 1st) before serving Anastasija Sevastova a double-bagel in the final in just forty-six minutes. With the win, Halep moves past Virginia Ruzuci into first place on Romania's WTA title list with fourteen wins in her career, and is 9-1 in her last ten matches, 12-2 since the start of Roland Garros and 18-3 since beginning what was a march to her first '16 title in Madrid.

Has Simona finally found her groove again? Maybe so (he said hesitantly).


===============================================
RISERS: Kiki Bertens/NED and Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
...Bertens and Bacsinszky met on the terre battue in Paris in the QF, with the Dutch woman emerging with the victory. Back on the clay in Gstaad, they faced off again in the semis, and with the same result.

Bertens picked up right where she left off on the red clay about a month and a half ago. Already in 2016, the surface has been very, very good to the 24-year old. She went 2-0 in singles (def. Garcia and Mladenovic) in the Fed Cup semis vs. France on clay, reached the Rabat SF on the stuff, then won her first tour title in four years in Nurnberg on the dirt AND pulled off a surprise Roland Garros semifinal, as well. Last week in Gstaad, she was the lone non-Swiss in the event's final four as she defeated Tamira Paszek, Claire Feuerstein, Irina Khromacheva and Bacsinszky to reach her third career final. She lost in three sets to another Swiss, Viktoriya Golubic, but is now on the cusp of her first Top 20 ranking. She'll be #21 on Monday.


Bacsinszky, as the #1 seed, didn't manage to become the champion of the first WTA event held in Switzerland since 2008, but her victories over Sara Sorribes Tormo, Mandy Minella and Johanna Larsson put her into her first SF since her title run in Rabat in April (she also had semi in Miami). And, of course, she's never not a good egg.

===============================================
SURPRISES: Viktoriya Golubic/SUI and Isabella Shinikova/BUL
...did anyone really see Golubic coming in 2016? I mean, like THIS? The 23-year old had never finished a season higher than #178, after all, and she was more than a little ways down the pecking order when it came to the suddenly burgeoning organism that is Swiss tennis. Although, to be fair, there WERE signs if we'd known to be looking for them. Golubic was proving herself all over the world. First, she joined with Timea Bacsinszky to win the deciding doubles over Poland in a road World Group Playoff tie in April '15, taking a 9-7 3rd set over A.Radwanska/Rosolska. In the season's closing months, she won a $25K singles title in Great Britain in August, reached another $25K final in France in October, won a pair of $50K doubles events in France and the U.S., then a $50K singles crown in November in Waco, Texas and immediately followed that up with a season-ending singles/doubles final combo in another $50K in Scottsdale, Arizona. She opened the 2016 schedule with a Week 1 $25K title run in Hong Kong, then qualified for her first slam MD in Melbourne. In the spring, she couldn't hide any longer. She was the star of the Swiss Fed Cup effort, shockingly putting the team on her back in the semifinals vs. the mighty Czech squad, going 2-0 in singles (def. Ka.Pliskova and Strycova) in what was a losing team effort. Another qualifying run in Paris, and her first career MD slam win, continued the forward progression. Then, last week in Gstaad, she rose above a field of super-achieving Swiss (three of four semifinalists, and a doubles champion) to claim the title at the first tour-level event held in Switzerland in eight years. Wins over Mona Barthel, Evgeniya Rodina, Carina Witthoeft, Rebeka Masarova and Kiki Bertens garnered Golubic her first career WTA singles title AND her first-ever Top 100 ranking this coming week. Her #72 placement puts her 106 spots higher than she was at the start of the season, and she's surely not finished climbing the WTA ladder.




24-year old Bulgarian Shinikova has been burning up the ITF circuit in 2016, salting away six titles over the course of the season. I noted a few weeks ago that we'd likely be seeing her in some WTA draws soon. She managed to qualify and get into the Katowice MD in the spring, where she lost to Alize Cornet in three. But after three consecutive stalled efforts to qualify at WTA-level grass events, Shinikova finally got another chance on the clay in Bucharest. After winning three matches to reach the MD, she notched her first career tour win in the 1st Round over Kateryna Kozlova before falling to Simona Halep a round later. She rises into the Top 150 for the first time this week at #143.
===============================================
VETERAN: Laura Siegemund/GER
...the 28-year old, #43-ranked German who was the revelation of the spring clay season last week welcomed (with open arms, no doubt) the brief summer clay court window that comes before the full-force hard court circuit kicks in. Earlier this year, Siegemund reached the Charleston QF and Stuttgart final, going 15-3 in one stretch, before a disappointing follow-up in Paris (1st Rd. loss to Bouchard) and 1-3 grass season. Last week in Bucharest, she put up her best result outside of Stuttgart with a SF run that included wins over Teliana Pereira, Misa Eguchi and Polona Hercog without dropping a set, with Siegemund not losing more than five games in any match. She fell in the semis to Anastasija Sevastova, but her week's work puts her back into the Top 40 (she reached her career high of #37 earlier this season)
===============================================
COMEBACKS: Anastasija Sevastova/LAT and Vania King/USA
...Sevastova, 26, is more than a year and a half into the comeback from her mid-2013 retirement, and she suddenly will find herself back in the Top 50 as the new week begins. Once upon a time, the only Latvian to win an Open era tour title (2010) ranked as high as #36 before injuries and illness led to a premature end to her first career. In 2016, she's garnered 1st Round victories in both Melbourne and Paris, her first slam MD victories since 2011. Currently, though, she's working on clearing another hurdle -- winning a "big" title. While she won four ITF titles in 2015, Sevastova hasn't claimed anything larger than a $50K since her return. In May, she lost to Katerina Siniakova (via a love 3rd set) in a $100K challenger decider, then fell to Caroline Garcia in the Mallorca grass court final before Wimbledon. Last week in Bucharest, she defeated the likes of Gabriela Elena Ruse, Patricia Maria Tig, Sara Errani and Laura Siegemund without dropping a set to reach her second final in her last three events. But against Simona Halep in the final, Sevastova was simply schooled by the Swarmette, falling 6-0/6-0. That HAS to leave a very bad taste in her mouth after a very tasty week. Still, she's up to #49 this week, and that's nothing but good news in the big picture view.

27-year old King, too, is making her way back after taking most of '15 off in order to heal her body. Her semifinal run in Bucharest was her first on the WTA tour since 2014 (Bogota), and her wins over Paula Kania, Cagla Buyukakcay and Pauline Parmentier edges her just a little bit closer to the Top 100. She'll jump from #144 to #119 this week. She ranked as high as #50 as a teenager in 2006.


===============================================
FRESH FACES: Carina Witthoeft/GER and Irina Khromacheva/RUS
...while the latter stages of the Gstaad draw was seemingly overrun with Swiss, there WERE a few players representing other nations there, too. One was Witthoeft, the 21-year old German who was ranked in the Top 50 last summer but came into last week at #100, though off putting up a nice fight vs. Angie Kerber at Wimbledon in a 3rd Round match that included a 13-11 TB. Her QF run in Switzerland was her best tour-level result since Nurnberg in May '15, as she knocked off Stefanie Voegele (a Swiss!) and Lara Arruabarrena before falling in two TB sets to eventual champ Viktoriya Golubic (another Swiss! Sheesh!).


Another non-Swiss achiever in the Gstaad draw was Khromacheva, the former junior #1 who was sporting a WTA singles ranking of #118. The 21-year old Hordette reached her first WTA QF with wins over Lucie Hradecka and Julia Goerges. Of course, in the same week that Justine Henin was inducted into the International Hall of Fame, it should be noted that Khromacheva's training base is at the Henin Academy in Belgium.
===============================================
DOWN: Caroline Garcia/FRA
...Garcia's fortunes have been on a definite upswing in recent months, so it's probably wise to view her 1st Round loss in Gstaad to Lara Arruabarrena (after winning the 1st set in a TB) as a temporary setback rather than a return to past habits. After all, this was her first one-and-out exit in two months, since her opening match loss in Rome. In the period since then, the Pastry has won two singles titles (on clay AND grass) and the Roland Garros doubles.
===============================================
ITF PLAYERS: Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL and Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS
...though it's not a WTA-level event, the North American hard court season essentially kicked off with this past week's $50K challenger in Stockton, California. And in the week in which Justine Henin became the first Belgian inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, fellow Waffle Van Uytvanck walked away with the title. The 22-year old, who finished last season at #42, has been having a hard time of things in 2016. She's missed time with an ankle ailment, and was forced to skip Roland Garros, meaning she lost all her points from her first career slam QF last year. Because of the injury and loss of RG points, she's fallen all the way out of the Top 100 and arrived in California at #125 and riding a seven-match MD losing streak on all levels that dated back to March. But she managed to recoup a little of that lost ground with her string of wins over Bannerettes (Melanie Oudin, Jamie Loeb & CiCi Bellis) and then a three-set victory in the final over Hordette Anastasia Pivovarova. It's Van Uytvanck's tenth career ITF title, and her first singles crown of any kind since winning the WTA 125 Series event in Taipei in late 2013. She'll move up to #116 this week.

In the $50K in Olomouc, Czech Republic, it was 20-year old Russian Kulichkova who grabbed her seventh career circuit crown with a win over fellow Hordette, RG qualifier and AnaIvo SW19 conqueror Ekaterina Alexandrova in a three-set final (does Alexandrova play anything else? Luckily, she's 11-5 in three-setters in '16). For Kulichkova, the win equals her previous biggest-ever title, which won in China in March of last year with a victory in the final over Jelena Ostapenko.
===============================================

JUNIOR STARS: Rebeka Masarova/SUI and Emeline Dartron/FRA
...mark it down, Week 28 of 2016 was when Masarova became a star. Yeah, the 16-year old spent the spring clay court season running roughshod over junior competition, winning the Roland Garros girls title (def. the #1 and #2 seeds) while going 26-3 (winning sixteen straight at one point). In all, the Swiss teen has gone 34-6 vs. junior competition in 2016. But what she did in Gstaad in another thing altogether. Making her WTA tour debut as a wild card, ranked #797 in the world, Masarova opened up by upsetting #2-seeded Jelena Jankovic, a former #1 (current #27), then followed up with two more Top 100 wins over #92 Anett Kontaveit and #38 Annika Beck en route to the semifinals. Just like that, the LATEST Swiss Miss jumps 483 spots to #314 in the new rankings. And so it begins.

While Justine Henin was getting inducted in Newport, back at the Henin Academy in Limelette, Belgium the Grade 4 Justine Henin Cup was being held. The winner was Emeline Dartron, a 16-year old Pastry (#960 jr.) who grabbed not only her first junior singles title (def. Chile's Fernanda Labrana in a love 3rd set in the final), but her first doubles crown, as well. She won that one with Maria Amelie Dardaine. Because, you know, it was only right that a Pastry with Amelie in her name would share in some honors, right?
===============================================
DOUBLES: Lara Arruabarrena/ESP and Xenia Knoll/SUI
...sure, Arruabarrena and Knoll won the Gstaad title as a team, but it's appropriate to honor them individually here because both have found success with all sorts of partners and have never actually played with EACH OTHER before this past week. This was Arruabarrena's second '16 title (w/ Tatjana Maria in Bogota), and the seventh tour-level win of her career. She's won her titles with seven different partners.

Meanwhile, Knoll has been playing the role this season that Kristina Mladenovic used to play as she's found success at every level with all sorts of players by her side. This season alone, she's 2-2 in WTA finals, 1-0 in WTA 125 finals and 2-1 on the ITF circuit. She won her first WTA title with Aleksandra Krunic (her best friend and most common partner -- and they're back together this week in Bastad... go Bracelet!), as well as a WTA 125 event with Petra Martic and $25K with Ysaline Bonaventure. She's reached other finals with Viktorija Golubic, Danka Kovnic and now Arruabarrena.



Not that the pair's Gstaad title run was a breeze. They had to win three consecutive 3rd set breakers to do it -- 11-9 over Mertens/Naydenova in the QF, 10-7 over Rae/Smith in the SF and 10-8 over Beck/Rodina in the final.
===============================================


Of course, Masarova and Jankovic had crossed paths before last week in Gstaad. Well, sort of...



"#Jelenaaswell," indeed.

Hmmm, you get the feeling there are a lot of pictures like that of JJ floating around out there? Yeah, me too.



1. Bucharest Final - Halep d. Sevastova
...6-0/6-0.
We'll choose to look past the likely fact that this scoreline -- the first double-bagel final on tour in three and a half years -- will provide easy fodder for the WTA haters to harp on the quality and depth of talent on tour, and instead focus on Halep's 46-minute mastery of the moment. She just breezed past The Cliffs of Simona at "Back to the Future" DeLorean speed in this one. Also, I'll note that scorelines and quality don't necessarily always inform one another. Example: You know that other double-bagel final I mentioned? Well, that took place in Sydney in 2013, with Aga Radwanska defeating Dominika Cibulkova. Ummm, I think we've seen -- quite a few times, in fact -- the sort of quality matches those two are capable of producing.
===============================================
2. Gstaad Final - Golubic d. Bertens
...4-6/6-3/6-4.
Of course, I'm sure this will do nothing to prevent commentators from acting as if Golubic was suddenly dropped from the sky by space aliens (aka Trump-Pence supporters?) should the Swiss put up a result of note come the North American hard court season. We've seen situations similar to it enough to KNOW it'll happen again.
===============================================

3. Gstaad 1st Rd. - Masarova d. Jankovic
...1-6/6-4/6-2.
Unfortunately, JJ won't be able to rebound anytime soon. A leg injury will keep her out of Bastad and Montreal. Oh, in case you might have wondered: JJ made her WTA MD debut in Indian Wells in 2001, defeating Brie Rippner in the 1st Round in a 3rd set TB. Nothing against Rippner, but I guess that's "Advantage, Masarova."
===============================================
4. Gstaad SF - Bertens d. Bacsinszky
...7-5/7-6(1).
This was the third match-up between these two. Kiki is 2-1, with Timea's only win coming at the '14 U.S. Open when Bertens retired with a one set lead. So, even with a win in the series, Bacsinszky has actually lost all five complete sets they've played against one another.
===============================================
5. Bucharest 2nd Rd. - Errani d. Schiavone
...1-6/6-2/0-0 ret.
A shoulder injury prevented what might have been a wonderful, thanks-for-the-Italian-memories 3rd set here. Hopefully, they'll get to play that deciding set somewhere else down the line.

===============================================
6. Gstaad 1st Rd. - Siniakova d. Schnyder
...2-6/7-5/6-4.
This was 37-year old Schnyder's first tour-level MD match since the 2011 Roland Garros. But pity poor Siniakova, as she got to experience a special sort of "torture" by having to follow up her maddening Wimbledon loss to Radwanska with another contest against the spinny, Sneaky Patty. She was just getting over her Aga nightmares! But at least she got a win here, so that'll help her sleep.
===============================================
7. $25K Winnipeg - Francesca Di Lorenzo d. Erin Routliffe
...6-4/6-1.
An all-NCAA match-up on Canadian soil, as 18-year old Ohio State sophomore Di Lorenzo picked up career ITF title #2 with a win over Univ. of Alabama senior Erin Routliffe. Both were qualifiers. Di Lorenzo also won her first career doubles title with Ronit Yurovsky, who just finished up her career as a Michigan Wolverine.
===============================================
8. $25K Imola Final - Daniilidou/Sabino d. Di Giuseppe/Masini
...4-6/6-2 [10-4].
33-year old Daniilidou picks up her 16th career ITF doubles title. She won five tour-level singles and three doubles titles from 2002-08. This is her biggest title of any kind since 2013.



Am I the only one who thinks those trophies could double as serving dishes?
===============================================
9. $25K Aschaffenburg Final - Anna Kalinskaya d. Dalila Jakupovic
...6-3/2-6/6-2.
The 17-year old Hordette (#19 jr.) is now 3-1 in 2016 ITF finals.
===============================================
10. Washington DC Q2 - Lauren Albanese d. Shuko Aoyama
...7-5/6-1.
Albanese's second straight win over a Japanese woman in D.C. qualifying gets the world #275 into her first WTA MD since Bogota in 2010. Her next goal? Her first tour-level MD win since the 1st Round of the 2006 U.S. Open. She lost in the 2nd Round of that Open to Svetlana Kuznetsova, by the way. So, I guess THAT Kuznetsova Curse has been holding steady for a decade now.
===============================================


Marion Bartoli update:





1. $50K Stockton Final - Kristyna Pliskova/Alison Van Uytvanck d. Robin Anderson/Maegan Manasse
...6-2/6-3.
Another Pliskova making her way in the world today... in doubles. It's Kristyna's eighth ITF doubles title.
===============================================
2. Bucharest 1st Rd. - Aliaksandra Sasnovich d. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova
...6-4/1-6/7-5.
She's still not there, but she's getting closer. AKS led 4-2 in the 1st set, then 5-2 in the 3rd and held a MP. Serving for the match up 5-3, she double-faulted on BP and never won another game. Even while she may be inching closer to, well, something, the Slovak is finally starting to feel her slide in the rankings. She's now dropped outside the Top 50. But, on the "bright side," she's still ranked AHEAD of both Wozniacki and Sharapova. So there's that.
===============================================
4. Bucharest Final - Jessica Moore/Varatchaya Wongteanchai d. Alexandra Cadantu/Katarzyna Piter 6-3/7-6(5)
$10K Victoria Park Final - Mizuno Kijimi d. Varunya Wongteanchai 6-1/6-2
...
it was a mixed weekend for the Wongteanchai sisters. 26-year old Varatchaya won her second WTA doubles title of the season as she and Aussie Jessica Moore (22 ITF doubles titles, 14-3 in finals since '14) won three 3rd set breakers en route to the Bucharest final; while 23-year old Varunya saw her career ITF singles final mark fall to 0-2.
===============================================
5. $10 Prokuplje Final - Veronica Miroshnichenko/Valeriya Zeleva d. Hulya Esen/Lutfiye Esen
...7-5/6-1.
The Turkish sisters are 6-11 as a duo in ITF doubles finals.
===============================================
HM- $50K Olomouc 2nd Rd. - Ekaterina Alexandrova d. Magdalena Pantuckova 6-2/6-3
$50K Olomouc SF - Ekaterina Alexandrova d. Gabriela Pantuckova 6-1/3-6/6-1
...
the Pantuckova sisters weren't likely rooting for Alexandrova in the final vs. Van Uytvanck.
===============================================














20 days till the Olympics!!???????? Follow the Danish Olympic athletes on @danmarktilol #allforrio

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on










Photo Booths, they never go out of style. This was one I can share from that fun night at Boca Grande ??

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on




Maria looks like she's levitating. Oh, no... now WADA will suspend her for that, too. And she'll only have herself to blame, I guess.



**2016 WTA TITLES**
3 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
3 - Sloane Stephens, USA
2 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2 - Caroline Garcia, FRA
2 - SIMONA HALEP, ROU
2 - Angelique Kerber, GER
2 - Serena Williams, USA

**UNDEFEATED IN MULTIPLE 2016 FINALS**
3-0 - Victoria Azarenka
3-0 - Sloane Stephens
2-0 - Caroline Garcia
2-0 - SIMONA HALEP

**WINLESS IN MULTIPLE 2016 FINALS**
0-2 - Genie Bouchard
0-2 - Alison Riske
0-2 - ANASTASIJA SEVASTOvA
0-2 - Barbora Strycova

**MOST WTA FINALS - 2014-16**
17 - Serena Williams (14-3)
13 - ANGELIQUE KERBER (6-7)
13 - Karolina Pliskova (4-9)
12 - SIMONA HALEP (7-5)
8 - Maria Sharapova (6-2)
8 - Petra Kvitova (6-2)
8 - Venus Williams (5-3)

**2016 WTA FIRST-TIME CHAMPIONS**
Bogota - Irina Falconi, USA (25/#92)
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (26/#118)
Gstaad - VIKTORIJA GOLUBIC, SUI (23/#105)
[WTA 125 Series]
Bol - Mandy Minella, LUX (30/#186)

**2016 WTA SINGLES TITLES IN HOME NATION**
Charleston - Sloane Stephens, USA
Stuttgart - Angelique Kerber, GER
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR
Prague - Lucie Safarova, CZE
Strasburg - Caroline Garcia, FRA
Bucharest - Simona Halep, ROU
Gstaad - Viktoriya Golubic, SUI

**2016 WTA SF**
6 - Angelique Kerber (4-2)
5 - Serena Williams (5-0)
5 - Dominika Cibulkova (4-1)
5 - Aga Radwanska (1-4)
4 - Caroline Garcia (2-2)
4 - KIKI BERTENS (2-2)
4 - Karolina Pliskova (2-2)

**2016 LOW-RANKED SEMIFINALISTS**
#797 - REBEKA MASAROVA, SUI (GSTAAD)
#238 - Paula Cristina Goncalves, BRA (Bogota)
#199 - Sorana Cirstea, ROU (Rio)
#190 - Zhu Lin, CHN (Kuala Lumpur)
#186 - Virginie Razzano, FRA (Strasbourg)
#186 - Marina Erakovic, NZL (Rabat - RU)

**MOST CAREER WTA TITLES - ROMANIA**
13 - SIMONA HALEP (2013-16)
12 - Virginia Ruzici (1975-85)
4 - Irina Spirlea (1994-98)
4 - Ruxandra Dragomir (1996-97)

**MOST WTA TITLES WITHOUT SLAM TITLE**
23...Caroline Wozniacki*
21...Pam Shriver
19...Nancy Richey
19...Manuela Maleeva
17...Aga Radwanska*
16...Elena Dementieva
15...Jelena Jankovic*
15...Dianne Fromholtz
14...Zina Garrison
13...SIMONA HALEP*
13...Nadia Petrova
--
*-active in 2016

**2016 WTA DOUBLES FINALS**
7...Martina Hingis, SUI (5-2; + 1-0 MX)
7...Sania Mirza, IND (5-2; + 0-1 MX)
6...Caroline Garcia, FRA (4-2)
6...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA(4-2)
4...XENIA KNOLL, SUI (2-2; + 1-0 WTA 125)


You're nobody on that other tour unless you've posed with Serena. Just sayin'.



And let's not forget the brotherly love thrown Dinara's way by Marat, either. As noted in his HoF speech, the Williams Sisters are the only siblings to reach #1 on the WTA tour, but the Safin family is the only one to produce #1's on BOTH tours...



Speaking of Dinara, as she saw it...

#halloffame #legends #newport @tennishallofame

A photo posted by Dinara Safina (@dinarasafina2704) on









STANFORD, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier/Hard)
15 Final: Kerber d. Ka.Pliskova
15 Doubles Final: Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai d. Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja
16 Singles Top Seeds: V.Williams/Cibulkova
=============================

=SF=
#1 V.Williams d. #4 Vandeweghe
#3 Konta d. #2 Cibulkova
=FINAL=
#1 V.Williams d. #3 Konta

...if Venus can successfully go from the SW19 grass to the California hard courts it would say a great deal about the rest of her summer. The time of the year that, you know, used to belong to her about a decade and a half ago. She last won in Stanford in 2002, and last raised a singles trophy in the U.S. in 2007 in Memphis.



WASHINGTON, D.C. USA (Int'l/Hard)
15 Final: Stephens d. Pavlyuchenkova
15 Doubles Final: Bencic/Mladenovic d. Arruabarrena/Klepac
16 Singles Top Seeds: Stosur/Stephens
=============================

=SF=
#5 Bouchard d. Wozniacki
#2 Stephens d. #4 Mladenovic
=FINAL=
#2 Stephens d. #5 Bouchard

...her D.C. title run a year ago kicked off what has been a fabulous twelve months for Stephens. Sloane could take the lead for 2016 titles (she has 3, tied w/ Vika), and defend a crown for the first time in her career.



BASTAD, SWEDEN (Int'l/Red Clay)
15 Final: Larsson d. Barthel
15 Doubles Final: Gavrilova/Svitolina d. Buyukakcay/Jankovic
16 Singles Top Seeds: Kerber/Errani
=============================

=SF=
#1 Kerber d. #3 Bertens
#8 Larsson d. #5 AK.Schmiedlova
=FINAL=
#1 Kerber d. #8 Larsson

...not sure about Kerber picking to play this clay event in Europe, right after the grass season and before the North American hard court and South American Olympics (also on HC). Anyway, and still going with her here. And, yep, I'm also throwing AKS into the semifinal mix! Hey, the turnaround has to happen sometime, right? Hopefully, if it doesn't happen here, we'll be paying attention when it finally does.


And, finally, tangible proof of British tennis "immortality"...

Had to pop over to @wimbledon today... And just couldn't help myself! ?? #selfie #sorrynotsorry

A photo posted by Heather Watson (@heatherwatson92) on



And, then, umm, this...




All for now.

Read more...