Wk.39- Will the Real Petra Please Stand Up
For a while, it was easy to wonder if anyone even WANTED to win Wuhan at all.
After all, reason-for-the-tournament's-existence Li Na retired from her tennis career in the week leading up to the inaugural WTA event in her hometown. Also, Vika Azarenka pulled up the stakes of her season, and then when play began three former #1's retired from their matches and top seeds fell like dominoes striving to prove a theory. It sure FELT like a "last chopper out of Saigon" scenario in the making.
Ah, but have no fear... enter Petra Kvitova. As it turned out, the tournament wasn't the biggest sports boondoggle of the weekend this side of the Ryder Cup, the annual "winner" of the Most Over-Sold Silliness Award on the sports calendar each and every year.
Again, just like in New Haven, Kvitova rose above a decimated draw to prove her worth as the world #3 and (still) potential #1 down the line. Even with so many absences and upsets, the final four included three Top 10ers -- Kvitova, Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki, as well as coming-soon-to-a-Top-20-ranking-near-you Elina Svitolina. After dispatching with 20-year old Svitolina, Kvitova handled Bouchard, also 20, just as easily in the final as she had in the championship match at Wimbledon earlier this season.
Kvitova dropped just three games in London to the Bouchard, and only failed to collect seven in Wuhan. Playing in 90-degree heat "oven" (but maybe not quite as lethal humidity as in the U.S.?), Kvitova was at least made to work late in the proceedings by the Canadian, whose frustration with her inability to impose her game on the Czech as she has so many others in '14 was crystallized in her cracking of her left hand with her racket follow-through on a forehand. After failing to put away a match point, Kvitova saved five break points before eventually dropping serve. Two games later, she served out the 6-3/6-4 victory to become the first-ever Wuhan champ, and run her career head-to-head against Bouchard to 3-0.
So, is this finally, again, the REAL Petra?
Kvitova followed her 2011 Wimbledon win with a bad summer in North America, but rebounded by taking the WTA Championships title and leading the Czechs to the Fed Cup crown. After qualifying for Singapore and the newly-named WTA Finals, and with a FC final date against Germany set for later this fall, Kvitova stands poised to end her '14 season the same way she did three years ago, when she put on a late push for WTA Player of the Year and set herself up as the "next superpower" in the game. Early in 2012, she nearly claimed the #1 ranking, but soon fell back into the bottom of the Top 10 and slipped from very-top-contention on tour until taking SW19 for a second time this summer.
Are we looking at the early stages of a successful "do-over?"
Maybe more so than any other player on tour, a high-level Kvitova that consistently resembles the player who has crushed opponents in two Wimbledon finals sparks the imagination of the tennis masses. It did three years ago, and did so again this summer in a London sequel. But we've never really had a true, tour-defining Serena vs. Petra "moment" -- between the winners of five of the last six SW19 titles --since the Czech rose to prominence, even while they HAVE met three times (w/ Serena dropping just one set) since Kvitova's first win.
We COULD have one this coming week in Beijing, albeit in the SEMIfinals, not a final. And only then if the "real Petra" stands up for a second straight week.
It could be a prelude to a "perfect storm" sort of season for the WTA in 2015. One would think that Serena will be there, ready for action, next year as she looks to rebound from her "incomplete" slam campaign of '14. But will Kvitova?
*WEEK 39 CHAMPIONS*
WUHAN, CHINA (Premier 5 $2.4m/Hard Outdoor)
S: Petra Kvitova/CZE def. Eugenie Bouchard/CAN 6-3/6-4
D: Hingis/Pennetta (SUI/ITA) d. C.Black/Garcia (ZIM/FRA)
JUNIOR FED CUP FINAL (San Luis Potosi, Mexico)
S: USA def. SVK 3-0
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Petra Kvitova/CZE
...Kvitova lost just one set in Wuhan, showing (again) just how good she can be when she's not battling herself, her asthma or her inconsistency, especially in the humid summer conditions of North America. Winning ten of eleven sets over Karin Knapp, Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Garcia, Elina Svitolina and Genie Bouchard, the Czech is now 3-0 in '14 finals. With her fourteenth career singles title, Kvitova ties Jennifer Capriati, Aga Radwanska and Zina Garrison on the all-time tour list, one behind Ana Ivanovic.
RISERS: Eugenie Bouchard/CAN & Caroline Garcia/FRA
...save for her Round of 16 run at the U.S. Open, Bouchard's post-SW19 summer was pretty forgettable as she dealt with some under-reported injuries and showed just how poorly she can play if she's not prepared to do so. To a large degree, the Canadian turned the ship around in Wuhan. After coming back from a set down to take out Mona Barthel in her first match, Bouchard ran through Alison Riske, Alize Cornet and Caroline Wozniacki, all in straight sets, to reach her fourth career singles final, and third this season. She joins Ana Ivanovic as the only players on tour to reach finals in hard, clay and grass court tournaments in 2014. Of course, the resurgence ended there, as Bouchard was handled once again in the final in a Wimbledon rematch with Kvitova. After a great start to her season, which included her first tour title in Bogota and a starring Fed Cup role in April followed by QF results in Madrid and Nurnberg, Garcia ended a 6-12 skid in Wuhan by posing her first QF result in over four months. The Pastry got wins over Venus Williams, Aga Radwanska and Coco Vandeweghe, and also reached the doubles final with Cara Black (def. Errani/Vinci in the QF). She's set for a rematch with Venus in the 2nd Round in Beijing.
SURPRISES: Alize Cornet/FRA & Conny Perrin/SUI
...as Cornet continues to climb up the rankings -- FINALLY into the Top 20 this week -- she notches bigger and bigger wins that you really never see coming. In Wuhan, she got her third -- THIRD! -- win over Serena this season when Williams retired with another viral illness in their 2nd Round meeting. It was also the Pastry's tour-best fourth win over a tournament #1 seed in '14, and she's already followed up her QF run in Wuhan with an opening round win over '13 Beijing runner-up Jelena Jankovic on Monday in a 2:39 marathon. Meanwhile, as Belinda Bencic (a Wuhan qualifier) and Timea Bacsinszky (QF) pop up and more in the latter rounds in WTA level singles and 33-year old Martina Hingis (Wuhan champ) covers old/new winning ground in doubles, their Swiss countrywoman Perrin has been burning up the ITF circuit. The 23-year old swept the singles and doubles crowns (that's four titles each in '14) in the $15K challenger in Algiers, defeating Frenchwoman Sherazad Reix in the final. The wins are Perrin's 21st and 22nd (9 & 13) career crowns.
VETERANS: Martina Hingis & Flavia Pennetta (SUI/ITA) & Laura Pous-Tio/ESP
...U.S. Open runners-up Hingis & Pennetta grabbed their first doubles title as a duo in Wuhan, outlasting Cara Black & Caroline Garcia in a 12-10 match tie-break in the final. It's Hingis' second Premier doubles title this season, having won Miami with Sabine Lisicki in the spring, and the 39th of her (already... literally) Hall of Fame career. It's Pennetta's 16th title. At 33 and 32, respectively, Hingis & Pennetta are the second-oldest doubles duo to claim a title in '14 at a combined 65 years, behind only Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik (38+33=71) in Rome. Pous-Tio, 29, won the $25K challenger crown in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to grab her 15th career ITF title, and tour-leading seventh this season alone. She defeated 33-year old countrywoman Lourdes Dominquez-Lino in the final.
Speaking of ages, did you know that BOTH the world #1 and #2 have celebrated birthdays over the past week?
And, on Sunday, Kimiko Date-Krumm celebrated her 44th.
COMEBACKS: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI & Edina Gallovits-Hall/ROU
...while 17-year old Bencic leads the way for the Swiss at #34 in the rankings, Bacsinszky isn't far behind at #45 (up 26 spots in two weeks, and not far off the career-best #37 she attained in 2010). The 25-year old carried over the momentum of her SF run in Guangzhou (w/ wins over Soler-Espinosa and Torro-Flor) to a qualifying run (Scheepers & Kr.Pliskova) in Beijing that got even better when she put up a pair of Top 15 main draw wins over Hordettes Ekaterina Makarova and Maria Sharapova (and pushed another Top 10er, Caroline Wozniacki, to three sets in the QF). Gallovits-Hall, 29, returned to pro tennis last week by accepting a wild card into the $10K challenger at Amelia Island. EGH last played at the Australian Open in 2013, losing 6-0/6-0 to Serena Williams in the 1st Round. Citing a series of injuries, the Romanian officially retired in February of this year, saying she wanted to begin a coaching career. Well, maybe things have changed a little. She advanced all the way to the final, taking out the likes of U.S. Open junior draw achievers Natalia Vikhlyantseva (def. Bellis), Caroline Dolehide (SF) and Marie Bouzkova (W) before losing to 16-year old Ingrid Neel in the final. Of course, that the final match ended via Gallovits-Hall's retirement with the score knotted at 4-4 in the 1st set, as she failed to notch her 19th career ITF title, might lead her to believe her original plan might have been the best course of action. We'll see.
FRESH FACES: Elina Svitolina/UKR & Ingrid Neel/USA
...the recently-turned 20-year old Ukrainian Svitolina has already won and defended a WTA singles title in her pro career, but her week in Wuhan just produced her first Premier level semifinal result as the two-time Baku champ put up impressive wins over Camila Giorgi, Sabine Lisicki and Angelique Kerber before losing to eventual champ Kvitova. Up to #33 in the rankings, matching the career-high she first reached in May, Svitolina is set to meet Maria Sharapova in the 2nd Round in Beijing after getting a 1st Round bye due to her final four berth in Wuhan. Neel, 16, won the $10K Amelia Island challenger highlighted by Gallovits-Hall's comeback run. The young Bannerette made her way through qualifying and into just her third career pro main draw, completing her title drive with her eighth win of the week when the Romanian retired eight games into the final.
DOWN: Simona Halep/ROU & Aga Radwanska/POL
...the end of long seasons are playing havoc with two of the most intriguing players to watch on tour when they're healthy, focues and in their rather unique individual "zones." Both Halep and Radwanska dropped their opening matches in Wuhan, with the Romanian falling to Garbine Muguruza and the Pole being taken out by upset-minded-once-more Garcia. Aga had already gotten a Beijing win over Coco Vandeweghe, who she missed out on facing in the 3rd Round in Wuhan, while Halep has advanced in this week's tournament in China with a victory over Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, who never got the chance to face the Swarmette in a possible QF match-up last week. Proving, I guess, that if you wait around on an abandoned road long enough, you'll eventually get run over by an automobile. Or something like that.
ITF PLAYER: Madison Brengle/USA
...BrengleFly is on quite the resurgence kick of late. After her summer included the end of her decade-long quest for a slam main draw match win, the Bannerette has opened the fall with a $50K challenger win in Las Vegas. The 24-year old notched wins over Nicole Vaidisova (who reached the QF in her second comeback event), Kateryna Bondarenko and Michelle Larcher de Brito in the final to grab her seventh career ITF crown and second this season. Of (some) note, MLdB had defeated Brengle for her own very first ITF title in the Rancho Santa Fe challenger final back in 2011.
JUNIOR STARS: U.S. Junior Fed Cup Team
...for the second time in three seasons, Team USA claimed the Junior Fed Cup title, going undefeated in matches in Mexico. The 3-0 win in the final over the Slovak team included Tornado Black defeating Tereza Mihalikova, then CiCi Bellis (who led the American squad's title-run to the 14-and-under World Junior crown last season) clinched the title with a win over Viktoria Kuzmova. The U.S. team had taken out the defending champion Russians in the semifinals, with Bellis pulling out a three-set win over Anna Kalinskaya after having lost a 6-1/4-2 advantage in the match. Read a recap of the final from Zoo Tennis' Colette Lewis here.
By the way, pictured above are both Bellis and Black, along with doubles teammate Sofia Kenin and team coach Kathy Rinaldi. Hmmm, so Rinaldi has proven adept at handling this young group of Bannerettes and leading them to great junior success, huh? Maybe she should be given a look as coach of the big Fed Cup team -- filled with many of the same players, no doubt -- down the road? No matter what what-exactly-are-they-trying-to-prove? award the current captain is awarded by the USTA.
1. Wuhan Final - Kvitova d. Bouchard
...6-3/6-4. The difference between Wimbledon...
It will be a Wimbledon final rematch for the Wuhan title. Petra won easily in July. Can Genie prevail this time? pic.twitter.com/9sqU41wiVa— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) September 26, 2014
might just have been the level of a certain Canadian's P.O.'ed-ness after her defeat. More then, when she was more strident in her right to win NOW. Less at the moment, after a humbling summer. Most everything else was exactly the same.
2. Wuhan SF - Bouchard d. Wozniacki
...6-2/6-3. Genie wins the playing-to-the-crowd and...
Good week but want to do better! Thank you Wuhan for the memories & gifts ?? pic.twitter.com/JYaJal5iz2— Eugenie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) September 27, 2014
taking photos with babies awards.
Oh, and she won the match, too. This was her eighth career Top 10 win.
3. Wuhan 3rd Rd. - Bacsinszky d. Sharapova
...7-6(3)/7-5. Sharapova's first straight sets loss this season to a player not currently ranked in the Top 10. She's since rebounded in Beijing with a win over Kanepi.
4. $25K Podgorica Final - Mitu d. Diatchenko
...6-1/6-4. The Swarmette has won six ITF singles titles this season, just one off the circuit lead.
5. Wuhan 1st Rd. - Pavlyuchenkova d. Ivanovic 7-5/6-5 ret.
Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Dellacqua d. Pavlyuchenkova 7-6(7)/6-7(5)/6-1
Beijing 1st Rd. - Zhu d. Pavlychenkova 6-3/3-3 ret.
...as the Pavlychenkova turns.
Deadlines, Daney baby. They're a you-know-what.
Only 5 weeks left...... Uh oh !! @nycmarathon— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) September 28, 2014
1. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Cornet d. Serena Williams
...5-6 ret. The dramatic Pastry's third win over Williams ended Serena's winning streak at 12 matches, maintaining Li Na's standing as the player with the longest WTA winning streak (13) this season. Nice touch.
2. Wuhan Doubles Final - Hingis/Pennetta d. Cara Black/Garcia
...6-4/5-7 [12-10]. Black, sans Asian Games-playing partner Sania Mirza, reaches but fails to win her second doubles final in two weeks. Hey, at least it was a winning week for Sania, as she picked up a Mixed Doubles Gold for India along with countryman Saketh Myeni.
Gooolldddddd ???????? pic.twitter.com/doeUq6UT11— Sania Mirza (@MirzaSania) September 29, 2014
3. $10K Madrid Final - Elizaveta Ianchuk d. Paquet
...6-2/6-3. Olga's sister wins her fourth ITF circuit singles title of the season.
4. Wuhan 3rd Rd. - Kvitova d. Karolina Pliskova
...6-3/2-6/6-4. Pliskova followed up her Seoul title with Wuhan wins over Stosur and Petkovic, and claimed the only set lost all week by Kvitova, too. Finally running out of steam, she's already lost in the Beijing 1st Round -- but in three sets -- to Polona Hercog.
5. Beijing 1st Rd. - Venus Williams d. Watson
...6-3/6-1. Of course, the Brit had a few other concerns, too.
Waiting for the last 6 hours to pee for my 25th drug test of the year so far... Awesome ?? #cmonbladderyoucandoit !!— Heather Watson (@HeatherWatson92) September 28, 2014
HM- Beijing 1st Rd. - Serena Williams d. Soler-Espinosa
...7-5/6-2. Ah, the key to success in Asia... pretty nails?
**2014 WTA TITLES**
6...Serena Williams, USA
4...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
3...PETRA KVITOVA, CE
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS
**2014 BEST WIN PCT. IN 2+ FINALS**
100% - Serena Williams (6-0)
100% - PETRA KVITOVA (3-0)
100% - Maria Sharapova
67% - Li Na (2-1)
67% - Ana Ivanovic (2-1)
**2012-14 WTA FINALS**
26...Serena Williams (24-2)
17...Maria Sharapova (8-9)
16...Victoria Azarenka (9-7)
11...Simona Halep (8-3)
11...Aga Radwanska (7-4)
11...Sara Errani (5-6)
11...Li Na (4-7)
11...Angelique Kerber (3-8)
9...PETRA KVITOVA (7-2)
9...Caroline Wozniacki (4-5)
**2014 WINS OVER WORLD #1**
JAN - AO 4r - #14 Ivanovic d. #1 S.Williams
FEB - Dubai SF - #26 Cornet d. #1 S.Williams
APR - Chas 2r - #78 Cepelova d. #1 S.Williams
MAY - RG 2r - #35 Muguruza d. #1 S.Williams
JUN - Wimb 3r - #24 Cornet d. #1 S.Williams
AUG - Mtl SF - #26 V.Williams d. #1 S.Williams
SEP - Wuhan 2r - #21 Cornet d. #1 S.Williams
**2014 WINS OVER TOURNAMENT #1 SEED**
**2014 WTA SF**
8...Serena Williams (6-2)
8...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (3-5)
7...Ana Ivanovic (6-1)
7...Maria Sharapova (3-4)
6...Simona Halep (4-2)
6...EUGENIE BOUCHARD (3-3)
6...Aga Radwanska (2-4)
**2014 WTA FINALS - CZECHS**
4 - Karolina Pliskova (1-3)
3 - PETRA KVITOVA (3-0)
3 - Klara Koukalova (1-2)
1 - Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova (0-1)
**2014 WEEKS IN SINGLES TOP 10 - 39 weeks**
39 - Serena Williams*
39 - Li Na*
39 - Aga Radwanska*
39 - Maria Sharapova*
39 - Petra Kvitova*
39 - Angelique Kerber*
36 - Simona Halep*
35 - Jelena Jankovic
31 - Victoria Azarenka
14 - Dominika Cibulkova
13 - Eugenie Bouchard*
12 - Sara Errani
8 - Ana Ivanovic*
7 - Carolina Wozniacki*
* - currently in Top 10
**2014 WINS OVER ACTIVE FORMER/CURRENT #1's**
11 - Serena Williams
8 - Ana Ivanovic
4 - Eugenie Bouchard
4 - Alize Cornet
4 - Aga Radwanska
4 - Venus Williams
**CAREER "PREMIER" TITLES - active**
16...Serena Williams (5 in '14)
10...Maria Sharapova (2)
9...Aga Radwanska (1)
8...PETRA KVITOVA (2)
**2014 WEEKS AT DOUBLES #1**
19...Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci
5....Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai
**2014 ITF TITLES**
7...Denisa Allertova, CZE
7...LAURA POUS-TIO, ESP
6...ANDREEA MITU, ROU
6...Patricia Maria Tig, ROU
**RECENT JUNIOR FED CUP FINALS**
2005 Poland d. France
2006 Belarus d. Russia
2007 Australia d. Poland
2008 United States d. Great Britain
2009 Russia d. Germany
2010 Russia d. China
2011 Australia d. Canada
2012 United States d. Russia
2013 Russia d. Australia
2014 United States d. Slovak Republic
A whole different sort of "Mladenovic Magic"...
BEIJING, CHINA (Premier Mandatory $5.19m/HCO)
13 Final: S.Williams d. Jankovic
13 Doubles Final: Black/Mirza d. Dushevina/Parra-Santonja
14 Top Seeds: s.Williams/Halep
#1 S.Williams d. #6 Wozniacki
#3 Kvitova d. #12 Makarova
#4 Sharapova d. #7 Kerber
#9 Ivanovic d. #2 Halep
#1 S.Williams d. #3 Kvitova
#9 Ivanovic d. #4 Sharapova
#1 S.Williams d. #9 Ivanovic
...part of me wants to pick Serena Sidekick Caro to upset -- or outlast -- Williams in the draw in Beijing, but if Serena wins the title and I DIDN'T pick her I'll be a tad bit upset at not picking up an "easy" prediction win in the season's closing weeks to make my '14 record look at least a tiny more presentable. She didn't already retire from her opening match this time, so it seems a smart thing to do.
And, finally, well... this is simply EPIC:
All for now.