Monday, March 23, 2015

Miami is Nice...until someone gets hurt (hopefully not literally)

For two weeks, the WTA tour takes its collective talents to South Beach. Yep, the newly-dubbed Miami Open is here.

The comfy court-side chairs are set up...

The Sugarpova space has been constructed...

Caro is striking another pose...

And Bouchard is sporting a onesie...

Best travel outfit #OnePieceOnesie

A photo posted by Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) on

Ummm, did Genie raid Bieber's closet in Indian Wells or something?

Just days after the crazy goings-on in Indian Wells on the other side of North America, the Miami Open is set to begin, with Serena Williams looking to add yet another chapter to her enduring (good) legacy at the tournament. While she went fourteen years without playing in the desert, she's been dominant in South Beach, winning a record seven titles and advancing to nine finals since 1999.

Actually, for all the parity that has existed in the Indian Wells event, which has crowned nine different champions over a nine-year stretch (and 11 in 12), Miami has been a picture of consistency. For fourteen straight years (and 16 of 17), the Miami final has included either a Williams or a Sharapova (once, in 2013, both, and another time there were TWO Sisters). Stark differences in success have developed within that small group over the timespan, though, as Serena has gone 7-2, Venus 3-1... and Sharapova 0-5 in championship matches. Venus won her three titles over four years from 1998-01, but has reached just one final (2010) since. Serena, meanwhile, arrives on a 12-match Miami winning streak and has gone 32-2 since 2007. She's 53-3 since '02, and 74-7 in the tournament for her career.

But will the same story play out this time around? After all, Serena arrives wearing a slew of question marks after pulling out of the I.W. semifinals this past weekend with a knee injury. Will this development open the door for some Indian Wells-style craziness to take place in Florida?

While it's not overwhelming, there IS a history of occasionally singular moments occurring in Miami. Remember, last year's tournament was the site of what turned out to be last run to a final in Li Na's career, and was also where Martina Hingis won her first WTA doubles title since 2007. Twelve months later, 33-year old Li is retired, while the 34-year old Original Swiss Miss arrives as the new Indian Wells champ, a '15 slam title winner and might just have her eyes on still bigger prizes before the end of the current season, as well. In 2012, The Radwanska was "born." In 2009, Victoria Azarenka, barely less than three years before her rise to #1, knocked off Serena in the only Miami final lost by Williams since Venus defeated her in 1999. At that moment, a 17-year old Serena was looking to follow up her titles at the Paris Indoors and Indian Wells with her third career crown. She didn't get it that day, but about five months later she won her first career slam in New York, beating Venus to the front of the line. She won her first the following summer in London, then took the U.S. Open en route to winning four major titles over a six-slam sprint. The next year, Serena kicked off her "Serena Slam" stretch.

The one Serena/Venus final in Miami took place in '99, the first of what have been four all-Sister meetings in the event (but there's been no second final) over the years. Of course, that match was five tournament sponsors ago for the event. Sixteen years ago, Lipton was still the name that ruled the day. Since then, the "Ericsson Open," "NASDAQ-100 Open," "Sony Ericsson Open" and "Sony Open" have come and gone. Now, the "Miami Open presented by Itaú" is the way of the land.

Some things change, but others remain the same. Might we see a flashback to "the old days" at the end of the next two weeks?

Maybe I'm just trying to play with history, but after the year 2001 was bandied about so often in relation to Serena's return to Indian Wells, it's interesting to see how the year can be brought into the conversation again with this tournament. In 2001, Venus' withdrew from her I.W. semi with Serena, then Serena went on to take the title. Two weeks later, Venus won in Miami. This weekend it was Serena who pulled out of a semi in the desert. And now here we are with the Sisters on opposite sides of the draw, with their first match-up in a Miami final since the birth of CiCi Bellis (by a little more than a week) a legit possibility thanks to Venus' good form (15-3, with a title and FC starring role) in the 2015 season's early months.

I'm just sayin'.

The "crazy women's tennis tour" has produced crazier results than what I'm thinking might be about to happen.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, the Indian Princess is now a mere 755 points away from #1...

And new partner -- and new world #5 -- Martina Hingis isn't far behind...

But those developments still won't begin to grow REAL hair for a little while longer.

2005 Kim Clijsters d. Maria Sharapova
2006 Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Maria Sharapova
2007 Serena Williams d. Justine Henin
2008 Serena Williams d. Jelena Jankovic
2009 Victoria Azarenka d. Serena Williams
2010 Kim Clijsters d. Venus Williams
2011 Victoria Azarenka d. Maria Sharapova
2012 Aga Radwanska d. Maria Sharapova
2013 Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova
2014 Serena Williams d. Li Na

1991 Monica Seles (L-W)
1994 Steffi Graf (W-W)
1996 Steffi Graf (W-W)
1999 Serena Williams (W-L)
2000 Lindsay Davenport (W-L)
2000 Martina Hingis (L-W)
2005 Kim Clijsters (W-W)
2006 Maria Sharapova (W-L)
2012 Maria Sharapova (L-L)
2013 Maria Sharapova (W-L)

7...Serena Williams
5...Steffi Graf
3...Venus Williams
2...Victoria Azarenka
2...Kim Clijsters
2...Martina Hingis
2...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
2...Monica Seles
[oldest champion]
34...Serena Williams (2014)
[youngest champion]
16...Monica Seles (1990)

9...Serena Williams (7-2)
7...Steffi Graf (5-2)
5...Chris Evert (1-4)
5...Maria Sharapova (0-5)
4...Venus Williams (3-1)
3...Monica Seles (2-1)
3...Gabriela Sabatini (1-2)
3...Jennifer Capriati (0-3)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0)
2...Kim Clijsters (2-0)
2...Martina Hingis (2-0)
2...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (2-0)
1...Svetlana Kuznetsova (1-0)
1...Martina Navratilova (1-0)
1...Aga Radwanska (1-0)
1...Kimiko Date (0-1)
1...Lindsay Davenport (0-1)
1...Elena Dementieva (0-1)
1...Justine Henin (0-1)
1...Jelena Jankovic (0-1)
1...Anna Kournikova (0-1)
1...Li Na (0-1)
1...Chanda Rubin (0-1)
1...Judith Weisner (0-1)
1...Natasha Zvereva (0-1)
[unseeded finalist]
2005 Kim Clijsters (W)

[without grand slam final appearance]
1990 Judith Weisner
1995 Kimiko Date
1996 Chanda Rubin
1998 Anna Kournikova
[without grand slam title]
1990 Judith Weisner
1994 Natasha Zvereva
1995 Kimiko Date
1996 Chanda Rubin
1998 Anna Kournikova
2008 Jelena Jankovic
2012 Aga Radwanska (W)

2005 Svetlana Kuznetsova & Alicia Molik
2006 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2007 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2008 Katarina Srebotnik & Ai Sugiyama
2009 Svetlana Kuznetsova & Amelie Mauresmo
2010 Gisela Dulko & Flavia Pennetta
2011 Daniela Hantuchova & Agnieszka Radwanska
2012 Maria Kirilenko & Nadia Petrova
2013 Nadia Petrova & Katarina Srebotnik
2014 Martina Hingis & Sabine Lisicki

7...Jana Novotna
5...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
3...Martina Hingis
3...Nadia Petrova
3...Lisa Raymond
3...Helena Sukova
2...Gigi Fernandez
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova
2...Martina Navratilova
2...Pam Shriver
2...Katarina Srebotnik
2...Samantha Stosur
2...Ai Sugiyama
2...Natasha Zvereva
2...Martina Navratilova/Pam Shriver
2...Jana Novotna/Helena Sukova
2...Jana Novotna/Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
2...Jana Novotna/Martina Hingis
2...Lisa Raymond/Samantha Stosur
[mixed champions]
1985 Martina Navratilova & Heinz Gunthardt

Victoria Azarenka
Kim Clijsters
Steffi Graf
Martina Hingis
Martina Navratilova
Monica Seles
Serena Williams
[active, won I.W. but not Miami]
Simona Halep
Daniela Hantuchova
Ana Ivanovic
Jelena Jankovic
Flavia Pennetta
Maria Sharapova
Caroline Wozniacki
Vera Zvonareva

1994 - Steffi Graf
1996 - Steffi Graf
2005 - Kim Clijsters

1994 Steffi Graf (Tokyo & Miami)
2011 Caroline Wozniacki (Dubai & Indian Wells)
2012 Victoria Azarenka (Doha & Indian Wells)
2015 Simona Halep (Dubai & Indian Wells) *
* - Halep has won first two of 2015; no player has ever swept the first three such events in a season

MIAMI, FLORIDA USA (Premier $5.381m/hard outdoor)
14 Final: S.Williams d. Li
14 Doubles Final: Hingis/Lisicki d. Makarova/Vesnina
15 Top Seeds: S.Williams/Sharapova

Even without the presence of TPT -- "The People's Timea"... OUR Timea, the new world #23 who is giving herself a much-needed rest, Miami has the potential for another bang-up first week.

=Early Rounds=
Wow, what a difference one fewer round makes. There are some potentially great 2nd and 3rd Round matches in the six-round draw of Miami that we'd likely NEVER see in a seven-round slam set-up. In the top half, on deck is Jankovic/Azarenka and Keys/Stephens, with Venus/Coco and Caro/Krunic in the bottom. The 3rd Round could produce Venus/Stosur, Azarenka-JJ/Pennetta and Keys-Stephens/Bouchard. Not to mention Serena's possible rematches with two of her Indian Wells victims, Monica Niculescu and Zarina Diyas.

Vika, not seeded as she was (at #32) in Indian Wells, is once again presented with a stacked draw. Sharapova stopped her in the 3rd Round in the desert, and she could face off, in succession, with the likes of JJ, Flavia, Halep, and Bouchard/Keys and have to beat then all just to reach a semifinal against Serena.

=4th Round=
#1 S.Williams d. #24 Kuznetsova
#21 Muguruza d. #5 Ivanovic
Azarenka d. #3 Halep
#17 Keys d. #6 Bouchard
#7 A.Radwanska d. #12 Suarez-Navarro
#16 V.Williams d. #4 Wozniacki
#8 Makarova d. #9 Petkovic
#2 Sharapova d. #14 Ka.Pliskova

...again, some great match-ups if things work out properly to allow them. Most of those matches would be good FINALS, let alone Round of 16 contests. Of course, Serena's health could change the entire top half. As of now, she's scheduled to play after a few days of rest following Indian Wells. Even if she's unable to go far, though, the goods are there for great fun in what would be her section of the draw.

#1 S.Williams d. #21 Muguruza
Azarenka d. #17 Keys
#16 V.Williams d. #7 A.Radwanska
#2 Sharapova d. #8 Makarova

...not a bad one in the bunch. All super-intriguing, too. The winners and finalists at this event (see below) have traditionally been grand slam winners or finalists, so I'll play the odds and only go with four who fit that bill. Naturally, it'd made for the most star-studded pair of semifinals, too. Weird how that happened.

#1 S.Williams d. Azarenka
#16 V.Williams d. #2 Sharapova

...I think I sort of telegraphed this WAY back in this post, didn't I?

#16 V.Williams d. #1 S.Williams

...ditto. Sure, it won't happen now that I've picked it. But I'm feeling it, so I'll go with it.

Venus is surely going to at least be dressed for success. We'll see if a big ol' box of it lands at her doorstep.

By the way, there'll be a mid-Miami update next week, as well. And be sure to check out Galileo's Miami picks on ATP Backspin.

All for now.


Wk.11- A Serb is Led to Water, but She Can't Prevent a Swarmette From Drinking It

Ah, Li Na. You didn't know how correct you were. One year after the now-retired Chinese star arrived in California and dubbed the WTA "the crazy women's tennis tour," Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic showed up for a singles final in Indian Wells and gave Li's words new life.

Thankfully, at least for the Romanian, in the desert, only the Tennis Gods can hear you scream.

"I didn't play my best tennis but I wanted to fight until the end. I will fight til the end. Always." - Simona Halep

One would usually expect Halep's fellow Indian Wells finalist Jelena Jankovic to be the one who ultimately thrived the most amid chaos. But that wasn't the case when the two faced off in a final that included the usual sort of antics we've always associated with Queen Chaos matches -- code violations, blown break leads, animated coaching sessions and incessant grumbling -- as well as at least few new ones (the chair umpire calling a double-fault after just one serve, and various classic Pam Shriver interview moments on ESPN, right down to her "magically" appearing in a chair next to Halep in the changeover area immediately after the match).

For a bit, it looked as if the story of the final was going to be about Halep learning another lesson about how the world's #3-ranked player can't play "in a bubble" and must learn to deal with frustrating opponents, stressful matches and days when her game isn't in top form. Jankovic maintained her own good form in the early going in the match, flashing her defensive skills and a top-notch overhead to take the 1st set at 6-2 and go a break up on three separate occasions in the 2nd. Meanwhile, Halep struggled mightily to string together enough good points to stay in the match while she hobbled about with another lower body injury and visibly wrestled with her inner Swarmette and its inclination to throw up both hands in frustration just like she did against Ekaterina Makarova in Melbourne. She almost wasn't able to fight off the urge, either. But the stick-around skills she honed in Dubai came in handy on this day. While she was never "good," by her standards, Halep was "good enough" to hang around long enough for Jankovic to let the match slip through her Serbian fingers.

Jankovic broke Halep for 5-4 in the 2nd and served for the match. She got within two points of the title, but Halep's ability to extend and close out several important rallies enabled her to pull the match from the brink of defeat. She won the final three games of the set to force a 3rd, where JJ could never really get out of her own way.

The Serb still managed to take a break lead twice, but she wasn't able to hold onto the advantage either time. Both players produced far too many untimely, unnecessary errors more and more as the match wore on, but Jankovic's proved the most damaging. While Halep failed to serve out the match at 5-3, Jankovic dropped her last four service games as the match stumbled across the finish line with everyone watching trying to shake away their dizziness by the time it was all over.

Halep won 2-6/7-5/6-4. And, quality of play issues aside, make no mistake, this was an important result.

While Jankovic still hasn't won a title in her last forty-four attempts, her two weeks of work in Indian Wells makes one believe she COULD win again soon. Meanwhile, Halep is the first woman to win three titles in 2015 alone, and has nearly won a dozen in less in than two years. For a player who thrives on control, winning her biggest career crown after claiming a match in which she was really NEVER in control of anything could open the door to a period in her career when winning ugly is a virtue. After all, it a building block upon which grand slam champions are often made. Rarely can even the very best and most successful players be at their very best and most successful ALL the time... but that doesn't mean they still can't win on those days.

Halep is learning that lesson, and it could prove to be a very big one come, oh, maybe later this spring. Possibly in Paris.

S: Simona Halep/ROU def. Jelena Jankovic/SRB 2-6/7-5/6-4
D: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND) d. Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS/RUS) 6-3/6-4

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Simona Halep/ROU hasn't always been pretty, but Halep is slowly but surely learning how to win when she's not at her best. Four of the five matches she played in Indian Wells went three sets, with the Romanian being forced to rally from a set down three times (vs. Daria Gavrilova in the 2nd Rd., Carla Suarez-Navarro in the QF and Jelena Jankovic in the final). She didn't have to deal with Serena Williams in the semis, as the world #1 pulled out with a knee injury, giving whichever player ultimately took the crown an "asterisk moment" on her career ledger. But tennis is a results-based sport, and while Halep has often not looked in great form in '15, has openly talked about her difficulty with dealing with the stress of expectations, has admitted to being frustrated and essentially giving up in her embarrassing effort vs. Ekaterina Makarova in the Australian Open and then was blasted off the court in an important Fed Cup match soon after, the facts are that Halep is 20-2 on the season, is currently on a ten-match winning streak and has won three of the four tour events she's played in 2015. Career title #11 (all claimed in the last twenty-two months), the biggest of her career, moves her within one title of matching all-time Romanian WTA title leader Virginia Ruzici, and her I.W. title run makes her just the fourth woman (since 1990) to sweep the season's first two Tier I/Premier Mandatory-Premier 5 events, having also won in Dubai in February. Maybe it has something to do with the company she keeps?


RISERS: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI & Sabine Lisicki/GER
...Bacsinszky has picked up far too many new admirers to count in recent weeks, as her comeback from a bad tennis childhood (you know the drill) and injuries that brought her THIS CLOSE to giving up the game has suddenly revealed her to be the most likeable and crafty player this side of Aga Radwanska. For the most part, nothing changed in Indian Wells, as the 25-year old Swiss remained convincingly stunned by and grateful for her hard-won success. After winning back-to-back titles in Mexico, in Indian Wells she extended her winning streak to fifteen matches with victories over Marina Erakovic, Ekaterina Makarova (coming back from 3-0 and 4-2 in the 3rd set) and Elina Svitolina (another three-set comeback) as she ran her '15 record to 10-1 in matches that have gone the distance. The streak came to an end in a QF match against Serena Williams, but Bacsinszky played well and, quite frankly, she probably needed the added rest the exit provided her. Already closing in on the Top 20 (now #23), Bacsinszky didn't need to do anything else to earn anyone's respect, but she still managed to do it. I mean, I suppose some respect should be given for her managing to change her dress on court without the assistance of an army of towel-holders, or stirring up any faux controversy by, you know, actually being seen wearing the under-the-dress attire that many players publicly practice in, anyway.

Let's be honest, there was ZERO reason to believe that Lisicki was going to put up a good result in the desert. For one, she had gone 1-6 this season heading into Indian Wells. Secondly, the German was 0-6 in career main draw matches at the tournament. And, maybe most importantly of all, it wasn't a grass court event! Yet, there was Lisicki putting on an Italian-destroying (wins over Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta, the latter after saving three MP), Pastry-burning (def. Caroline Garcia) string of excellence that didn't come to an end until she lost a set and a break lead over Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals. No matter, the result still was enough to lift Lisicki from #30 to within in eyelash of the Top 20 (#21, 14 points behind #20 Peng Shuai) in the new rankings.

SURPRISES: Lesia Tsurenko/UKR & Lucie Kankova/CZE
...the #85-ranked Tsurenko had quite the two-week run. First, the Ukrainian qualified in Indian Wells, then she notched main draw wins over Germans Annika Beck and Andrea Petkovic. In her second week in the desert, she took down Alize Cornet and Genie Bouchard (w/ Petkovic, her second Top 10 win at the event). While Bouchard had an abdominal injury, Tsurenko played with an injured ankle that nearly forced her retirement against the Canadian, then ultimately did just that a round later against Jelena Jankovic. Still, Tsurenko was the first qualifier to reach the Indian Wells final eight since 2004 (Gisela Dulko). Look out, here comes another Czech Maiden! In the Sarawak Chief Minister's Cup in Malaysia, 15-year old Kankova won her first career Grade 1 title. The #16-seed put up wins over top-seeded Naiktha Bains as well as the #7 and #9-seeds before defeating #5 Olivia Tjandramulia in the final when the Aussie retired with the match in a virtual dead heat at 6-2/6-7(5)/2-2. Tjandramulia, 17, was also playing her first Grade 1 final after posting wins over the #3, #6 and #10 seeds.
VETERANS: Serena Williams/USA & Flavia Pennetta/ITA
...things didn't end well for Serena in Indian Wells, as she ultimately pulled out of the semifinals with a knee injury. But before that point, her return to the desert after a fourteen year absence looked as if it was going to end with her third title run at the event, sixteen years after her first in 1999. She dropped just one set against the likes of Monica Niculescu, Zarina Diyas, Sloane Stephens (the one lost set came here, though Serena held set point) and Timea Bacsinszky (ending her 15-match win streak). Unfortunately, we didn't get to see what was a hotly-anticipated semifinal against Simona Halep, and Williams' 12-match winning streak (15-match run dating back to the WTA Finals) came to a "technical end" when she awarded the Romanian a walkover into the final. But Serena is still undefeated for '15 (those matches in Perth don't count), and her careful handling of her injury will likely prevent her from slipping from "odds-on winner status" in any event she enters when the tour shifts to Europe in a few weeks. Indian Wells defending champ Pennetta didn't see her return to the desert end as she'd hoped, either, but in between a few emotional moments she had some pretty big ones at -- like the Open -- another tournament that has to now be considered a Flavia Favorite. Early on, she downed Madison Brengle, then upped the ante in successive match wins over Samantha Stosur and Maria Sharapova (she's 3-2 vs. the Russian, with three straight wins since '09 -- Sharapova last defeated the Italian in '06). With a return to the final within reach, Pennetta had three match points in a QF loss to Sabine Lisicki. So, while her run came to an end on a Lisicki ace on MP, Pennetta is now 7-3 in her last three events.

COMEBACKS: Jelena Jankovic/SRB & Alexa Glatch/USA
...JJ's great moments have had ample room the breathe the last few years. Since she won the title in Indian Wells in 2010, she's won just a single title (Bogota '13). But, true to Queen Chaos form, one year after Li Na uttered the brilliant, "Welcome to the crazy women's tennis tour" as a prelude to her last run to a WTA final in Miami, JJ followed in her footsteps with a final (but hopefully not similarly last) run of her own. While Jankovic's three-set loss in this year's championship match in the desert drops her to 1-6 in her last seven singles finals, it's difficult to not see her stop in California as a potentially season-turning moment. Remember, the Serb came to Indian Wells having opened '15 on a 2-4 slide while possibly being hampered by a back injury, falling in the 1st Round in Melbourne (to Bacsinszky, so hardly a "bad" loss, in retrospect) and recently dropping out of the Top 20. The 30-year old seemingly turned back the clock over the past two weeks, knocking off four 21-or-under players in Lauren Davis, Madison Keys (JJ's first Top 20 win since August), Sloane Stephens (now 22) and Belinda Bencic -- all in three sets -- before advancing past a retiring Lesia Tsurenko and taking out Sabine Lisicki in yet another three-set comeback. The final turned out to be all about lost opportunities for JJ, as she was up a break three times in the 2nd set and served for the match at 5-4. In the 3rd set, she was up a break twice, but never quite seemed to fully put that squandered 2nd set behind her. She ultimately dropped her final four service games of the match as she began to tire and admittedly felt her nerves. Still, she was up for trophy ceremony jokes about the tournament physios doubling as her hairdressers during her time on grounds and was all smiles even as Halep lifted -- umm, or didn't -- the heaviest tennis championship trophy on earth. Maybe that's what Queen Chaos looks like when she's relieved. Maybe "the end" isn't as near as it appeared to possibly be a few weeks ago. Whew! JJ has returned to the Top 20 in the new rankings.

Glatch, 25, is a former junior star who was ranked in the girls Top 5 in 2005, when she was runner-up to Vika Azarenka in the U.S. Open junior final. Soon afterward, she broke her wrist and elbow in a motor scooter accident and was out eight months. As with many Bannerettes from the era, her WTA career never really took off, though she did have her moments. In 2009, her ranking topped out at #102, a season which included a Roland Garros upset over Flavia Pennetta and straight sets Fed Cup victories as a rookie over both Iveta Benesova (Melzer) and Petra Kvitova in a tie against the Czech Republic. She took off nearly fifteen months following Wimbledon in '13, having hip and wrist surgeries before finally returning last October following a lengthy rehab period. In January, she reached the third round of Australian Opening qualifying. This weekend in the $25K challenger in Irapuato, Mexico she won her first ITF singles title since 2012, defeating veteran Czech Renata Voracova in the final to claim her eighth career crown.


FRESH FACES: Belinda Bencic/SUI, Elina Svitolina/UKR & Dalma Galfi/HUN
...sure, Bencic was wearing an outfit that sorted looked a bit like a candy wrapper, but it was hard to argue with her results. After opening with a victory over Bojana Jovovanski, the newly-eighteen year old put up her first career Top 5 win in a straight sets victory over Caroline Wozniacki. Svitolina notched wins over Mona Barthel and Lucie Safarova en route to the 4th Round, where she lost a three-set match to Timea Bacsinszky (just like most everyone else has in '15). Galfi, 16, continued to recent hot streak. The Hungarian, who ended '14 by picking up the Eddie Herr junior title, grabbed her third career ITF singles crown at the $10K challenger in Solarino, Italy. Her path included victories over #2-seeded Irina Ramialison, as well as #5 Deniz Khazaniuk, #7 Lisa Sabino and #8 Gloria Liang of Canada in the final.
DOWN: Genie Bouchard/CAN & Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (ITA/ITA)
...Bouchard's up-till-then good run in Indian Wells ended when an abdominal strain that that made it difficult to serve proved to be too much to overcome against an also-injured Lesia Tsurenko (ankle) in the 4th Round. The Canadian had served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd set, and was up a double-break in the 3rd. A series of injuries put a damper on the back half of Bouchard's breakthrough '14 campaign, and is already acting as a set of handcuffs on her '15 progress, as well. Off court, co-#1's Errani & Vinci, after recently vacationing together and showing no signs of strife (aside from that Fed Cup implosion), unexpectedly announced the end of their partnership without any "real" explanation, adding their names to yet another new tombstone in the suddenly-crowded graveyard of former WTA doubles duos. The Italians have won twenty-two titles together (more than any twosome on tour, including the Sisters), five majors and completed a Career Doubles Slam in 2013. Hmm, so maybe I was correct in more ways than one when I wondered if Team Italia's FC collapse against France last month was "the end of an era."

ITF PLAYERS: Olga Govortsova/BLR & Claire Liu/USA
...the 26-year old Belarusian became the latest two-time 2015 ITF champion, adding the $25K Seville title to a $50K event she won earlier this season. Govortsova's fifth career title came with wins over a variety of players, from a veteran (Virginie Razzano) to a youngster (Aliona Bolsova Zadoinova) and a few somewhere in between (including Richel Hogenkamp and, in at 7-5/6-2 final, Maryna Zanevska).

While the big names were in California, on the other side of the U.S. in a $10K challenger in Orlando, 14-year old Claire Liu won her first career professional title, taking the singles crown after putting up wins over Sonya Kenin (2nd Rd.), Irina Khromacheva (SF) and 16-year old Fanni Stollar (who'd defeated Week 11 ITF champ Katerina Stewart a few days earlier) in the final. Liu, the #81-ranked junior (WTA #1221), was playing in just her fourth pro event and entered the week having never post a main draw singles win in a professional tournament. Just to make you feel old, here's where I'll note that Liu was born in May... in 2000. Two weeks ago, she became the first player born in the 2000's with a singles ranking, and now she's already a champion. I know they grow up fast, but this is ridiculous.


JUNIOR STARS: Katie Swan/GBR & Usue Arconada/USA
...15-year old Swan, the Australian Open junior runner-up in January, qualified and then reached her first pro final, winning her maiden title at the $10K Sharm El Sheikh challenger, defeating Bulgarian Julia Terziyska 6-2/6-2 in the decider. This was just her fourth pro event, and her second time in a professional main draw. She also reached the doubles final. Meanwhile, a week after she won her first career Grade 1 crown at the Banana Bowl in Sao Jos dos Campos, Brazil, 16-year old Arconada won her first career Grade A title a little ways down the Brazilian coast in Porto Allegre. The #3-seeded Arconada put up wins over the #2 and #7 seeds to reach the final, where she took down top-seeded Argentine Julieta Estable, 6-2/6-4.


DOUBLES: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND) & Victoria Rodriguez/Marcela Zacarius (MEX/MEX) the search over? Have Martina and Sania finally found their personal doubles "true north" in a teaming with each other? It sure looked that way in the desert. After occasional, haphazard and sometimes lacking success with other partners, the two Top 7 doubles veterans split with their most recent partners to team up in Indian Wells. As the #1 seeds, they barreled through the competition in Marvel Team-Up superhero fashion, never dropping a set in five matches and taking out the teams of Raymond/Stosur and Makarova/Vesnina to close out their title run, the second women's doubles crown for both in '15. Hall of Famer Hingis, a winner of the title back in '99 with Anna Kournikova, has now won forty-two career WTA doubles titles with sixteen different women; while Mirza, the '11 I.W. champ and runner-up in '12 and '14, has claimed twenty-four with thirteen partners. Add to this the announcement this past week of the end of the teaming of top-ranked Errani/Vinci, and my prediction in December that 2015 would include Mirza becoming the first Indian woman to be ranked #1 (Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have done it in men's doubles) is suddenly looking better and better. Hingis has held the #1 doubles ranking on six occasions during her career for a total of thirty-five weeks, and was last in the top stop in 2000. Down a level, the Mexican duo of Victoria Rodriguez & Marcela Zacarius continue to spin quite a successful partnership. The 19 and 20-year old countrywomen teamed to win the $25K Irapuato, Mexico challenger doubles crown this weekend, claiming their seventh ITF crown (in their ninth final) over the past year. Meanwhile, Zacarius was also announced as a Fed Cup Heart Award nominee last week.


Lauren Davis post-nap cookie binge break!

Break over.

1. IW QF - Lisicki d. Pennetta
If this had been the final, it'd been an instant classic. It was still a dramatic quarterfinal, though. Lisicki held a match point in the 2nd set, only to see defending champ Flavia! battle back and hold three of her own in the 3rd. But the Italian's tentative play down the stretch doomed her chances, as the German sealed the win with an ace on her second MP.
2. IW 3rd Rd. - Sharapova d. Azarenka
It wasn't a classic, but it was far more interesting than the scoreline would indicate. In the 1st set, a bad call on a hold point for 5-5 caused Azarenka to lose her previous focus. She was broken to drop the set, then fell behind 5-1 in the 2nd. But then she rallied, saving four match points on serve, then breaking Sharapova a game later. The Russian needed six match points to finally put her away in a straight sets (but not straightforward) match that lasted nearly two hours. The head-to-head between the two is now knotted at 7-7.


3. IW 4th Rd. - Pennetta d. Sharapova
Did Sharapova's difficulty in closing out Azarenka carry over to this match one round later? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's rare to see Maria squander a lead as she did her. Consider it a learning experience.

4. IW 4th Rd. - Tsurenko d. Bouchard
This one turned multiple times. Bouchard led 3-0 and 4-1 in the 1st, breaking Tsurenko three straight times to begin the match, but was pushed to a tie-break. She served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd, but an abdominal injury made serving difficult and Tsurenko pushed things to a 3rd set. Bouchard took a two-break lead there, but became less and less effective as Tsurenko, injured ankle and all, found a way to wait out the storm and prevail.

5. IW Final - Halep d. Jankovic
For the fifth time in five meetings, Simona and JJ went three sets, with Halep winning for a fourth time. Things weren't as great as the scoreline might make them appear, though. Although the Romanian showed a better ability to hold on and wait out her opponent than she did in Melbourne, especially in turning around the 2nd set just as most hope seemed lost, this one was mostly about which player would string together enough untimely errors to lose. As it turned out, that player turned out to be JJ, who was up a break on five different occasions in the 2nd and 3rd sets but failed to hold onto any of her advantages, including when she served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd after arguing with coach Chip Brooks about how his advice wasn't really helping her because he made it seem far easier than it actually was... brother!

6. IW 3rd Rd. - Stephens d. Kuznetsova
The last time Sloane won three matches in an event? Last spring at Roland Garros. Of course, it didn't come without some drama. She led 4-0 in the 3rd, and served at 5-3. She missed all her first serves in the game and was broken, but then broke Kuznetsova to get the victory. Still, Stephens has slipped to the eighth-highest ranked U.S. woman, as both Alison Riske and Madison Brengle have passed her by in the new rankings.
7. IW 3rd Rd. - Garcia d. Ivanovic
Hmmm, didn't we just see this result? Pastry Caro has AnaIvo's number.
8. $10K Port El Kantaoui QF - Myrtille Georges d. Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar
There was no FIFTH straight final in the cards for CSQ.
HM- IW Final - Hingis/Mirza d. Makarova/Vesnina
Did this match mark the official start of the "Race for #1 in the post-Errani/Vinci Era?" These are the four players-most-likely to contend, so Martina & Sania get the early nod.


Meanwhile, on Caro Corner... what is it they say about working with children and animals?

If Bruno starts donning a bikini... look out! But when all else fails, go with mom...

1. IW QF - Serena Williams d. Timea Bacsinszky
With a combined streak of 29 match wins (Serena w/ 14 going back to Singapore '14, and Timea w/ 15 since February) between the two of them, this will probably be the "in-form" match-up of all match-ups for 2015. Of course, it ended with the Swiss heading home without playing another match (have no fear, the sombrero made it without a scratch)... and then Serena doing the same soon after (sans nifty sombrero, but with some new reading material... though maybe she should have waited until AFTER the Indian Wells final to show everyone what she's doing on her leisure time. I'm just sayin'.).


A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

2. IW SF - Halep walkover Serena Williams
fourteen years later, a similar (but, thankfully different) ending.

3. IW 4th Rd. - Serena Williams d. Stephens
Sloane had a two-break lead at 3-0 in the 1st, but soon saw Serena holding a set point at 5-4. Rather than fold, though, Stephens held on and won the set in a tie-break. Williams seized control after that but, hey, Current Sloane not putting her head down and slinking away in the opening set counts as a good result considering we've seen quite the opposite on many occasions over the past two years. At least it might have made her 22nd birthday on Friday a little better.
4. IW 4th Rd. - Halep d. Karolina Pliskova
For all that the Czech has accomplished in 2015, one thing she hasn't done is take a set off The Pride in two matches this season. It's a familiar feeling. Karolina lost in straights to Halep in their only junior meeting in '06, as well. She did have SOMETHING to celebrate, though.

5. $10K Gonesse Final - Bukta/Simion d. Elizaveta Ianchuk/Olga Ianchuk 6-4/3-6 [10-6]
$10K Gonesse SF - Honcova d. Elizaveta Ianchuk 6-1/0-6/6-3
$10K Gonessa Final - Olga Ianchuk d. Honcova 3-6/7-5/6-3
the Ianchuk sisters were all over a challenger for a second straight week. Again, they lost in the doubles final, and Olga won her second straight singles crown. The siblings didn't have to play each other in singles this time around, though, as Michaela Honcova nipped that possibility in the bud in the semis. There wasn't enough room in her tummy to devour BOTH Ianchuks, though.

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: a Baby Frussian Pastry is on the way...

One step forward, and onto Miami.

**WTA FINALS, 2012-15**
28...Serena Williams (26-2)
21...Maria Sharapova (10-11)
17...Victoria Azarenka (9-8)
15...SIMONA HALEP (11-4)
12...Sara Errani (6-6)

1994 Steffi Graf (Tokyo & Miami)
2011 Caroline Wozniacki (Dubai & Indian Wells)
2012 Victoria Azarenka (Doha & Indian Wells)
2015 Simona Halep (Dubai & Indian Wells)

15...Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (FEB-MAR, ended by S.Williams)
12...Serena Williams, USA (JAN-MAR, ended by walkover)
11...Maria Sharapova, RUS (JAN, ended by S.Williams)
10...SIMONA HALEP, ROU (FEB-current)

**CAREER WTA/Mixed DOUBLES TITLES w/ partners**
[Martina Hingis]
11 - Anna Kournikova (1999-02)
8 - Jana Novotna (1997-99)
3 - Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1997)
3 - Helena Sukova (1996,98)
2 - Sabine Lisicki (2014-15)
2 - Mirjana Lucic (1998)
2 - Flavia Pennetta (2014)
2 - Mary Pierce (2000)
2 - Natasha Zvereva (1997-98)
1 - Mahesh Bhupathi (2006 Mixed)
1 - Lindsay Davenport (1997)
1 - Gigi Fernandez (1995)
1 - Mary Joe Fernandez (1997)
1 - Maria Kirilenko (2007)
1 - Sania Mirza (2015)
1 - Leander Paes (2015 Mixed)
1 - Barbara Schett (2002)
1 - Nathalie Tauziat (2000)
[Sania Mirza]
5 - Cara Black (2013-14)
5 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (2007,12-13,15)
3 - Liezel Huber (2004-06)
2 - Mahesh Bhupathi (2009 Mixed,2012 Mixed)
2 - Elena Vesnina (2011)
1 - Chuang Chia-Jung (2009)
1 - Edina Gallovits (2010)
1 - Martina Hingis (2015)
1 - Vania King (2007)
1 - Shahar Peer (2007)
1 - Anastasia Rodionova (2012)
1 - Mara Santangelo (2007)
1 - Yaroslava Shvedova (2011)
1 - Bruno Soares (2014 Mixed)
1 - Zheng Jie (2013)

3...Martina Hingis, SUI (2/1)
2...Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA (2/0)
2...Sania Mirza, IND (2/0)

Meanwhile, at the Grand Canyon...

Well, Miami is up next. Once again, we won't be seeing Petra:

But we will see this:

Quite smashing, I'd say. But is it the outfit of a potential champion? With all the talk of 2001 over the last couple of weeks, it might be noteworthy that the last time Venus was the champion in Miami was... yep, 2001. Hmmm.

The Miami picks will be in the next post. Hmmm, whom shall I curse this time? (Venus, you can try to avert your eyes all you want -- but it might not protect you from being called upon in class.)

[cue tense, suspenseful music.]

All for now.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Wk.10- The Bad, the Good and the Indian Wells

Hmmm, what's happened through two and a half rounds of action at Indian Wells? Well, some bad things... and some good.

The Bad: Indian Wells 2002-14
The Good: Indian Wells 2015: The Return

The Indian Wells: The future.

The Bad: In 2014, an injured Vika Azarenka valiantly-but-unwisely playing in Indian Wells getting blitzed 7-6/6-0 by Lauren Davis in her first match.
The Good: Vika returning in better form in 2015, with new coach Wim Fissette and hitting partner Sascha Bajin in tow, and showing good match toughness in turning around a 4-2 2nd set deficit to defeat Kirsten Flipkens in straight sets.
The Indian Wells: With a 4-2 record vs. Top 20 players this season, Azarenka will next face world #2 Maria Sharapova in their first meeting since the 2013 Roland Garros semifinals. Vika leads the career head-to-head 7-6.
The Bad: Hsieh/Mirza and Hingis/Pennetta go a combined 9-8 in 2015, with no titles.
The Good: Hingis/Mirza go 2-0 in the first week of action in the desert...
The Indian Wells: while Hsieh/Pennetta lose their only match.
The Bad: Bacsinszky can't play in Mexico forever, no matter how long she holds onto the great memories...

The Good: But Timea's Mexico memories are SO much fun...

The Indian Wells: Well, all good things must come to an... no, wait, maybe they DON'T! It looked like Bacsinszky's magic carpet ride was going to end in the 3rd Round against Ekaterina Makarova. She lost the 1st set, but then rallied to force a 3rd. She fell behind 4-2 there, but then surged back to win four straight games, breaking the suddenly error-prone Russian twice to extend her winning streak to fourteen matches. She's 9-1 in three-setters in 2015, and 20-2 overall.

The Bad: A tribute to Chrissie... but isn't that really Steffi?

The Good: So, what has the Frussian Pastry (Tatiana Golovin) been doing lately? Getting a meal... or becoming one?

The Indian Wells: Making sure no Sloane Stephens fan has a "Williams moment" to use against HER years from now? Just wondering.

The Bad: Well, you know...

The Good: A moment of sincere optimism...

The Indian Wells: Maybe Stephens should ask the tour to REALLY make Indian Wells a "fifth slam."
The Bad: Little MO needs to catch a break, man.

The Good: Dream Team

The Indian Wells: Oh, no. Not again! Stacey get out of there!

The Bad: No one really believed a Radwanskian repeat of an appearance in the I.W. final was in the cards this time around, but not making it past the first weekend wasn't on the radar, either.
The Good: The Cheesecake Queen lives!

The Indian Wells: Well, there's always 2016, I guess. And more cheesecake.
The Bad: Creep alert.

The Good: One of the benefits of tennis: former champions CAN show their stuff years later...

The Bieber: Acting all Bieber-y and such...

But Bouchard at least got in a typically sarcastic dig before he'd made ALL his rounds...


RISERS: Heather Watson/GBR & Lesia Tsurenko/UKR

...just before former British #1 Laura Robson takes the first on-court steps of her comeback in Miami, current British #1 Watson is rounding into good form after staging her own comeback over the last year or so. She opened 2015 by winning a title in Hobart, but hadn't put up a main draw win since before getting on the board in Indian Wells. She's taken the momentum and dashed off with it, too. The victory over Julia Goerges has already been followed by additional wins over Camila Giorgi (who reached the Round of 16 at I.W. in '14) and last year's runner-up Aga Radwanska. Radwanska defeated then-qualifier Watson in the 2nd Round a year ago in the desert, but couldn't take a set off her on Sunday in a frustrating, error-strewn contest (yes, AGA's game was error-strewn). After being 0-11 in previous matches, this was Watson's first win over a Top 10 player. Tsurenko has had a front row seat to Timea Bacsinszky's recent run, losing to her in BOTH Acapulco and Monterrey in the Swiss woman's back-to-back title runs. She even led the Queen of Mexico 6-4/4-2 in their 2nd Round match in Monterrey. The Ukrainian has had her own moments to savor so far in Indian Wells. After having a career year in '13, she posted just four MD tour wins in '14, but Tsurenko already has four in 2015, including wins this past week over Germans Annika Beck and Andrea Petkovic, countrywomen who have combined to win five WTA singles titles over the past year.
SURPRISES: Zhu Lin/CHN & Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar/ESP
...Zhu, 21, is closing in the Top 100. Coming in as the #119-ranked player in the world, she qualified in Indian Wells with victories over Paula Kania and Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, then took out Francesca Schiavone in the main draw before losing in the 2nd Round to Sara Errani. Meanwhile, back in Port El Kantaoui, Tunisia there was CSQ STILL trying to get that first career ITF singles title. Once again, for the fourth straight event there, the former Texas A&M star reached the final, defeating the #6 seed and winning a semi over Margot Decker 4-6/6-0/6-0. But, in the final, #3-seeded Pastry Clothilde de Barnardi grabbed her eighth career title in a straight sets victory. Sanchez is 20-5 in singles in 2015 and was #758 at the start of the week, edging close to surpassing by what was her last official year-end WTA ranking (#761 in 2009). But the quest continues...
VETERANS: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND)
...after sometimes struggling to find consistent success with their regular partners of late, Top 10 doubles stars Hingis (#7) and Mirza (#5) teamed up for Indian wells and have found immediate success. So far. Their two wins have them in the quarterfinals. Coming into this week, Mirza had gone 6-4 (w/ no titles) with regular partner Hsieh Su-Wei, while having won her other event when partnering Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Hingis was 3-4 with regular partner Flavia Pennetta, but won her other event while partnering Sabine Lisicki. Interestingly, Hsieh & Pennetta teamed up in Indian Wells, losing their 1st Round match.
COMEBACKS: Sesil Karatantcheva/BUL & Sloane Stephens/USA
...Karatantcheva, still riding the high of her lucky-loser-to-semifinalist run in Acapulco, made it through qualifying in Indian Wells with wins over Cagla Buyukakcay and Pauline Parmentier. She got her first main draw I.W. win since 2005 (def. Marlene "The Blue Angel" Weingartner) when she took out Tsvetana Pironkova, then lost a round later to Coco Vandeweghe. Meanwhile, Sloane has been mostly "Current-proof" in Indian Wells. Good moments have been few and far between for Stephens since her 2013 Australian Open semi run, but trips to the desert have served to remind many of what she's sometimes capable of. She lost in her opening match as the #17-ranked player two years ago, but has since used Indian Wells as an oasis in her persona WTA, well, desert. Last year, she reached the QF. This year, at #42 and fighting to just stay in the Top 50 before the clay court season begins, she's put up wins over Chanelle Scheepers and Angelique Kerber. The win over #14 Kerber was Stephens' first Top 20 win of the season, and her best since taking down then-#13 Ana Ivanovic last year in this same tournament. The last time Sloane had multiple main draw victories in any event was last August in Cincinnati. She plays Svetlana Kuznetsova later on Sunday , with the "reward" for the winner a likely meeting with Serena Williams in the 4th Round.
FRESH FACES: Yulia Putintseva/KAZ & Ons Jabeur/TUN
...the 20-year olds both made it through Indian Wells qualifying and then put up main draw victories, as well. Putintseva knocked off Edina Gallovits and Arina Rodionova to reach the MD, then took out Czech Tereza Smitkova before losing to Ana Ivanovic in the 2nd Round. Putintseva came in at #107, and she may soon return to the Top 100. Her career high was #88 in 2013. Jabeur had Q-round wins over Denisa Allertova and Julia Boserup before upsetting #51 Kaia Kanepi in the 1st Round, her third-best career win (topped only by victories over #37 Bojana Jovanovski and '13, and #33 Zheng Jie in '12). The 2011 Roland Garros girls champ, who ultimately lost in the 2nd Round to Caroline Wozniacki, could achieve a new career-high rank when the singles rankings are posted after Indian Wells. She entered at #130, with her career-best an easily-within-grasp #126 (which she just reached last month).
DOWN: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE), Angelique Kerber/GER and Aga Radwanska/POL January, BMS & Safarova teamed up for the first time and won the Australian Open. In their second pairing, well, things didn't go quite so well. They lost their 1st Round match in Indian Wells to Raluca Olaru & Olga Savchuk, dropping an 11-9 match tie-break after having led it 9-5 and holding four consecutive match points. Olaru/Savchuk won the last six points of the match. Meanwhile, Kerber's mini-freefall continues. After beginning 2015 in the Top 10, the German opened with back-to-back QF and SF results and a 5-2 record. Since then she's dropped to #14 and gone 2-6, dropping her third consecutive match (fourth in five) in her 2nd Round opener in Indian Wells to Sloane Stephens. Depending on what a few other players do, Kerber could fall as low #17 once things have finished up in the desert. Radwanska, a finalist a year ago in Indian Wells, was bounced on Sunday in the 3rd Round by Heather Watson in straight sets. A year after defeating Watson in the 2nd Round in California, Aga won just eight total games this time around and committed twenty-nine unforced errors to drop to 7-7 on the season (not including her 3-1 Hopman Cup record). Hmmm, considering the fickle notion of most coach-consultant/player arrangements of late, might Martina Navratilova's time in the Aga camp be nearing its end?
ITF PLAYERS: Katerina Stewart/USA & Olga Ianchuk/UKR
...Stewart, 17, is another of the rising Bannerettes. As the #1 seed, the Miami native won her fourth career ITF title at the $10K challenger in Gainesville, Florida with wins over fellow American teens Ingrid Neel (a lucky loser, in the QF) and Sonya Kenin (in a three-set final). Ianchuk, 19, grabbed her sixth career ITF singles title in the $10K event in Amiens, France. She put up wins over her sister Elizaveta (in the SF) and Pastry Alize Lim in the final. The Ianchuk sisters also teamed up to reach the doubles final.

JUNIOR STARS: Usue Arconada/USA, Kimberly Birrell/AUS & Sonya Kenin/USA
...16-year old Arconada, the junior #34, won her first career Grade 1 singles crown at the Banana Bowl in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil. After three semifinal and two runner-up results at Grade 1 events over the past fourteen months, Arconada finally got over the hump (as the #1 seed) with victories over the #3 and #12 seeds to reach the final, then #9-seeded fellow Bannerette Francesca di Lorenzo in a 6-1/6-7(6)/6-4 win in the decider. Birrell, 16, reached her first career ITF singles final on the grass Down Under in the $15K Mildura challenger. The '14 AO girls semifinalist got victories over Priscilla Hon, #2-seed Jang Su-Jeong and Sherazad Reiz before losing to fellow Aussie Alison Bai. Birrell is ranked #887 on the WTA computer, and #24 in the junior standings. Meanwhile, world #1034 (#19 girl) Kenin reached first-ever career pro finals in the singles and doubles at the $10K challenger in Gainesville. A member of the reigning U.S. Junior Fed Cup championship team, Kenin made it through qualifying as the #9 q-seed and ran off a total of seven straight wins before losing to Katerina Stewart in the final.
DOUBLES: Anna Bondar/Dalma Galfi (HUN/HUN)
...the junior Hungarians won the title at the $10K ITF challenger in Solarino, Italy. Bondar, 17, is the girls #49, while 16-year old Galfi comes in a #4 (she also reached the singles SF last week), and their win over Sofiya Kovalets & Janina Toljan gives them two titles in three career pro final appearances. For Bondar, it's her third ITF doubles win.

[I.W. Week 1]
1. I.W. 1st Rd. - Olaru/Savchuk d. Mattek-Sands/Safarova
...3-6/7-5 [11-9].
The AO champs led 9-5 in the match tie-break and had four consecutive MP, losing the last six points of the match to officially christen their partnership as a "feast-or-famine" proposition.
2. I.W. 1st Rd. - Niculescu/Panova d. Babos/Mladenovic
...3-6/7-6(4) [11-9].
Babos/Mladenovic held a MP in the 2nd set, then three more starting at 9-6 in the match tie-break.
3. I.W. 1st Rd. - Townsend d. Mattek-Sands
Unfortunately, BMS' trip to the desert didn't include a lot of tennis. Although, she DID manage to get in an extra set here after coming back from 6-4/3-0 down to force a 3rd.
4. I.W. 2nd Rd. - Stephens d. Kerber
Future Sloane makes a cameo appearance. But Current Kerber might have had a say in the result, too.
5. I.W. 1st Rd. - Stephens/Townsend d. Kops-Jones/Spears
...6-4/2-6 [10-8].
Nice to see two young American singles players teaming up in doubles. Both Stephens and Townsend were doubles achievers as juniors, picking up three girls slam titles each, though none with the other as a partner.
6. I.W. 3rd Rd. - Bacsinszky d. Makarova
Whew! Sorry, Serena, but you won't be matching Timea's tour-best 14-match season winning streak, after all. Well, not in Indian Wells, at least.
7. I.W. 2nd Rd. - Makarova d. Vesnina
When doubles partners meet. Hopefully, no hard feelings about that bagel.
8. I.W. 2nd Rd. - Jankovic d. Davis
Well, well. JJ lives. Davis reached the Round of 16 a year ago in Indian Wells, while Jankovic was a quarterfinalist. So maybe this IS an important match win for the Serb, who entered with a 2-4 record for the season, and her best win since last September coming over the world #77 earlier this year. She'll face Madison Keys next, looking for her first Top 20 victory since she defeated Sloane Stephens in Montreal last August.
9. I.W. 2nd Rd. - Tsurenko d. Petkovic
For all that Petko has accomplished in 2015, this loss drops her to 6-6 for the season.
10. I.W. 2nd Rd. - Lisicki d. Vinci
A win from the German -- just her second in eight matches this year -- didn't come without a "Sabine moment," as she served at 6-1/5-4 before being forced to win in three sets.
11. $10K Antalya Final - Victoria Kan d. Anna Schaefer
The 19-year old Hordette wins her twelfth career ITF title, while Schaefer loses in her circuit-best fifth '15 singles final (she's 2-3).
12. $10K Sao Jose dos Campos Final - Nadia Podoroska d. Victoria Bosio
The 18-year old Argentine is now 6-0 in career ITF singles finals.

Hopefully, this Vika won't show up on Monday against Maria.

One of those days ????????

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

For everyone's sake.

1. I.W. 2nd Rd. - Serena Williams d. Niculescu
In her first match in the desert since defeating Kim Clijsters in the 2001 final, Serena was a bit taken aback by the moment -- and the Romanian's odd, spinny game -- in the early going. Niculescu served for the set in the 1st. But after the cheers and tears were over (the first batch, anyway), Williams got everything together and won in two tight sets.
2. I.W. 3rd Rd. - Watson d. Aga Radwanska
Maybe Radwanska should call on Citizen Anna for some assistance?
3. I.W. 3rd Rd. - Karolina Pliskova d. Muguruza
If the race is on to see which one can reach the Top 10 -- or a slam semifinal -- first, then it's worth noting that the Czech is now 2-0 vs. the Spaniard in 2015.

4. $10K Amiens SF - Olga Ianchuk d. Elizaveta Ianchuk
Meeting for the first time since 2012, Olga takes out her older sister Elizaveta to run her career record in their head-to-head meetings to 3-0. Thanks, sis?
5. $10 Amiens Final - Olga Ianchuk d. Alize Lim
Olga now has six career ITF singles titles to Elizaveta's four.

6. $10K Amiens Final - Daniilidou/Csoregi d. Elizaveta Ianchuk/Olga Ianchuk
I guess Elizaveta was a bit of a bad luck charm in Amiens. On a side note, 32-year old Eleni Daniilidou takes her 16th career pro doubles title since 1998, but her first title of any kind since winning the $75K Albuquerque doubles with Coco Vandeweghe in 2013. By the way, 18-year old Ilka Csoregi, a former Swarmette, is now representing Hungary.
7. I.W. 1st Rd. - Kuznetsova/Vandeweghe d. Anastasia Rodionova/Arina Rodionova
Speaking of Coco, she was part of the winning effort here, as well. The Rodionova sisters held a match poit at 10-9 in the match tie-break.

On Caro Corner, she's at it again...

Bless her heart.

2007 Moscow 2r - Azarenka 7-6/6-2
2009 Los Angeles 2r - Sharapova 6-7/6-4/6-2
2009 Beijing 2r - Sharapova 6-3/6-7/7-5
2010 Stanford F - Azarenka 6-4/6-1
2011 Miami F - Azarenka 6-1/6-3
2011 Rome QF - Sharapova 4-6/3-0 ret.
2012 Indian Wells F - Azarenka 6-2/6-3
2012 Australian Open F - Azarenka 6-3/6-0
2012 Stuttgart F - Sharapova 6-1/6-4
2012 US Open SF - Azarenka 3-6/6-2/6-4
2012 Beijing F - Azarenka 6-3/6-1
2012 WTA Chsp. SF - Sharapova 6-4/6-2
2013 Roland Garros SF - Sharapova 6-1/2-6/6-4
2015 Indian Wells 3r - ???

**2015 ITF TITLES**
2...Amanda Carreras, GBR
2...Clothilde de Bernardi, FRA
2...Magarita Gasparyan, RUS
2...Daria Gavrilova, AUS
2...Victoria Kan, RUS
2...Sofia Kvatsabaia, GEO
2...Magda Linette, POL
2...Nudnida Luangnam, THA
2...Anne Schaefer, GER
2...Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
2...Isabella Shinikova, BUL
2...Julia Terziyska, BUL
2...Sachia Vickery, USA

2...Sachia Vickery, USA
1...Usue Arconada, USA
1...CiCi Bellis, USA
1...Gloria Liang, CAN
1...Katerina Stewart, USA
1...Marcela Zacarius, MEX

2006 Maria Sharapova d. Elena Dementieva
2007 Daniela Hantuchova d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2008 Ana Ivanovic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Vera Zvonareva d. Ana Ivanovic
2010 Jelena Jankovic d. Caroline Wozniacki
2011 Caroline Wozniacki d. Marion Bartoli
2012 Victoria Azarenka d. Maria Sharapova
2013 Maria Sharapova d. Caroline Wozniacki
2014 Flavia Pennetta d. Aga Radwanska

All for now.