Monday, September 26, 2016

Wk.38- She's a Brick House

Finally, after a two-year hiatus, if can finally be said once again... Caroline Wozniacki is a brick house.

Title #24 got me like?????????????? #Tokyo

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

Ow, she's a brick house
She's mighty-mighty, just lettin' it all hang out
She's a brick house
That lady's stacked and that's a fact
Ain't holding nothing back

Two summers ago, in the summer of both her off-court discontent and public self-discovery, Wozniacki put all her effort into changing the course of her career. After years of being ranked #1 and/or talked about disparagingly as a "pusher" who lacked the "necessary" aggression to truly contend for slam titles, the Dane simultaneously proved some of the part-time detractors correct, while also showing herself that she could indeed play a style of game that was both centered around her defensive skills and fitness, as well as possessing a more aggressive approach that allowed her to end important rallies of her own accord rather than only try to elicit errors from less physically fit and/or inconsistent opponents. The results were striking, as the summer ended with a trip to the U.S. Open final (her first appearance a a major championship match in five years) and a return to the Top 5.

After years of being compared to a straw house, Caro was suddenly a far-more-sturdy, fortified-with-brick structure not only seemingly capable of so much more, but also quite possibly better equipped to claim such honors than she had been before.

But then it all sort of went away. The focus of the back-half of '14 seemed to wane, the improving results weren't maintained on a regular basis, and all the hope for a "second go" at the sport's top prizes gently drifted away as Wozniacki seemed to focus much of her attention on things outside the lines of the court. Through the first eight months of 2016, things looked to be heading in the wrong direction at an ever faster pace. Losses, injuries, the usual coaching in-and-outs and (eventually) even talk from father Piotr about a possible around-the-corner retirement seemed to make Wozniacki bristle as the questions and whispers about her desire and will bubbled to the surface.

Maybe it was all enough to make her angry, and even desirous to prove something. If so, based on the last month, it was the best thing that could have happened.

After an especially woeful performance in New Haven at a tournament she used to dominate and shine her brightest, the suddenly-ranked-#74 (!!!) Wozniacki's ability to last beyond the 1st Round at Flushing Meadows was rightly questioned. Indeed, she struggled mightily to reach the 2nd Round. But once she did, her confidence soared as her game improved with every round all the way to a stunning appearance in the semifinals.

But was it a one-off result? Could she make it last?

Well, based on what happened last wek in Tokyo, at least for the moment, it sure looks like Wozniology-101 (or it is 102 or 103 by now in the course catalog?) is going to be a hot ticket once again come sign-up time for 2017 classes. Three hard-fought three-setters and a come-from-behind win in the final while battling a leg injury and a crowd favorite/star-in-the-making proved just how much Wozniacki wants to get back into the game, leaving behind the almost-but-not-quite period of creeping "irrelevency" of just a month or so ago well behind her.

Ow, she's a brick house
Well put-together, everybody knows
This is how the story goes

Now, hopefully, the Dane won't systematically, brick-by-brick, lessen the effectiveness of the internal structure she's managed to rebuild. If nothing else, Angelique Kerber's 2016 success has shown a whole slew of "almost" champions who have traditionally lacked the "final ingredient" to become something greater that it's never too late, and that if enough will and desire are infused into the effort, well, NO gap can't be closed. The sight of the German's name atop the rankings should act as "North Star" to all the players who have and still find themselves trapped (but not perpetually) in the vast "limbo" between the sport's great and slightly above average stars. Kerber's success screams "Don't give up hope."

Wozniacki has long been -- and has possibly renewed her lease as -- one of those players "trapped between floors." For now. Maybe by this time next year she'll have followed in Kerber's footsteps to the next level of contenders on tour. Or maybe she'll dismantle her brick house yet again.

Wozniacki used to always say that she "had time" to become the sort of champion that everyone wanted her to become. Well, that time has arrived. The moment to shoot for the moon is now.

TOKYO, JAPAN (TPP) (Hard/Outdoor)
S: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. Naomi Osaka/JPN 7-5/6-3
D: Sania Mirza/Barbora Strycova (IND/CZE) d. Liang Chen/Yang Zhaoxuan (CHN/CHN) 6-1/6-1

S: Lesia Tsurenko/UKR def. Jelena Jankovic/SRB 6-4/3-6/6-4
D: Asia Muhammad/Peng Shuai (USA/CHN) d. Olga Govortsova/Vera Lapko (BLR/BLR) 6-2/7-6(3)

S: Lara Arruabarrena/ESP def. Monica Niculescu/ROU 6-0/2-6/6-0
D: Kirsten Flipkens/Johanna Larsson (BEL/SWE) d. Akiko Omae/Peangtarn Plipuech (JPN/THA) 6-2/6-3

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...once Wozniacki got past Belinda Bencic ('15 Tokyo RU) in three sets in Tokyo, then followed the win up by doing the same vs. Carla Suarez-Navarro in a three-hour marathon you could sort of see this week's storyline playing out in your mind's eye. A win over a qualifier was followed by another three-setter over '15 Tokyo champ Aga Radwanska to get the Dane into her 40th career final, but her first since Stuttgart in April of last year. After falling behind Naomi Osaka in the 1st set, then being treated for a leg injury that hindered the (likely tentative) Dane for a bit after she returned to the court, it was her experience that proved to be the key in taking the title. While Osaka overreacted to both the moment and Wozniacki's condition, Caro called upon her old calm and consistent game to allow the teenager to hit herself out of a set that she'd seemed destined to win. With Osaka flailing, Wozniacki took a 5-0 lead in the 2nd, then held off a late, no-more-pressure-here revival from the new Japanese star down the stretch.

Career title #24 gives Wozniacki tour-level wins in nine straight seasons, just one behind the current top active streak (the 7th-longest run in tour history) of ten by Serena Williams (Maria Sharapova actually has a 13-season title streak, but she won't be extending it to fourteen in 2016). The Dane's last title came nearly nineteen months ago, in Kuala Lumpur in March '15.

Back up to #22 -- in lightning-quick fashion, too -- in the new rankings, Wozniacki at the very least now stands a good chance of extending her season-ending Top 20 streak to nine straight years, and if she can finish higher than #17 she'll actually manage to improve upon her 2015 finish.

Sometimes it's astounding how much difference a month can make.
RISERS: Lara Arruabarrena/ESP, Lesia Tsurenko/UKR and Elina Svitolina/UKR
...Tsurenko and Arruabarrena were the victors in final match-ups vs. more veteran foes, while Svitolina arguably had the more "impressive" week.

In Guangzhou, Tsurenko, 27, grabbed the second title of her career (w/ Istanbul '15), dropping just a single set en route to the crown with victories over Junri Namigata, Nigina Abduraimova, Alison Riske and, in the final, tournament defending champing Jelena Jankovic in three sets. Her week was a continuation of the head of steam she built up at Flushing Meadows, where Tsurenko knocked out two seeds (#21 Begu & #12 Cibulkova) on her way to the Round of 16. It's a long-awaited uptick in a season which had seen her drop from a year-end #33 in '15 to #80 heading into last week, going out of three events via walkover/retirement after not winning her first tour-level match (she won three in Fed Cup zone play, though) of the season until March after opening '16 with a four-match losing streak. Tsurenko will be up to #53 in the new rankings.

In Seoul, Arruabarrena took down Monica Niculescu in the final, taking the 1st and 3rd sets at love to gain her first tour singles title since winning in Bogota in her only other WTA final in the spring of 2012 (the longest stretch between crowns of any singles winner on tour this season). The 24-year old Spaniard's run included additional wins over Arantxa Rus, Johanna Larsson, Patricia-Maria Tig and, in the 2nd Round, a victory over Louisa Chirico in which Arruabarrena saved two MP. She's the fourth player this season to win a singles title after facing down a match point. Seven did it last year. Arruabarrena, who'd won the Seoul doubles the last two seasons, will jump from #90 to #61 in the new rankings. Her career high is #70 in 2013.

Svitolina didn't win any titles this weekend, but her time in Tokyo was surely good. After a summer that included a final in New Haven, a win over then-#1 Serena Williams in Rio and a tough three-set loss in Montreal to would-be #1 Angelique Kerber, the Ukrainian added a semifinal result and impressive victories over CoCo Vandeweghe, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Garbine Muguruza, the latter her second Top 5 victory in her last five events.

SURPRISES: Jennifer Brady/USA and Asia Muhammad/USA Guangzhou, 21-year old former UCLA Bruin Brady reached her first career tour-level QF with wins over Anastasia Pivovarova and Danka Kovinic. She reached the semis of the WTA 125 tournament in Carlsbad last November. With those two results, as well as a $50K title in Granby in August and $75K win in Indian Harbour Beach in the spring, now all being counted on her points total, Brady will jump to a new career-high of #109 on Monday.

The sister of an NBA player and niece of a former NFL wide receiver, Muhammad obviously comes from some pretty good athletic bloodlines. For the most part, though, until recently, her tennis success has come on the ITF circuit. But she's had a lot of it. Twenty-one doubles titles have come in challenger events dating back to 2010, including a $100K, two $75K events and eleven $50K tournaments. She's won six (four $50K) in 2016 alone, five with fellow Bannerette Taylor Townsend . Last year, the 25-year old won her first tour title with Laura Siegemund on the grass at Rosmalen and finished with her first Top 100 ranking (#89). She'll rise into the Top 50 for the first time after picking up her second WTA title in Guangzhou this weekend, partnering with Chinese vet Peng Shuai to lift the trophy in their very first tournament together. They didn't lose a set all week long.

VETERANS: Jelena Jankovic/SRB and Monica Niculescu/ROU was a weekend of being so close, and yet so far, for this pair of veterans.

Jankovic, seeking to pull off just the second successful defense of a singles title in her career (Rome 2008-09), made it all the way to the Guangzhou final with wins over Rebecca Peterson, Sabine Lisicki and Ana Konjuh without losing a set. But in her 36th career final, Lesia Tsurenko took the title-winning spotlight away from her in three sets. Still, once again, Asia provided JJ with a chance to shine in the latter stages of her career. Her last three tour-level finals (as well as a WTA 125 title run last fall) have all come in Asia, with the most recent before this weekend being in Hong Kong last October, when she defeated Angelique Kerber in three sets.

In Seoul, Niculescu was looking for career title #3, her first since taking the honors in Guangzhou two years ago. The Swarmette reached the final without losing a set, knocking off Eri Hozumi, Jana Cepelova and Zhang Shuai. But when Niculescu DID lose her first sets of the week, vs. Lara Arruabarrena, she did so in "crazy style," falling via the sort of scoreline -- 6-0/2-6/6-0 -- that can't help but cause foreheads to reflexively rest in palms all over the world. Though she came up short in the end, the week's work of the Romanian produced her best singles result on tour since reaching the QF in Guangzhou last season.
...Peng may never again ascend to the height in singles that saw her rank as high as #14 and reach the U.S. Open semifinals two years ago, but the 30-year old is showing signs of rebounding from offseason back surgery and a match win drought that lasted over a year (ending earlier this season in March).

Given a wild card into the Guangzhou MD, Peng posted a 1st Round victory over #8-seeded Zheng Saisai (#74) for just her second Top 100 win since February '15 (w/ #53 Van Uytvanck in Miami this past spring). She lost in the 2nd Round to Sabine Lisicki. But while Peng entered the week at #244 in singles, she's been inching up the doubles rankings. At #120 heading into Guangzhou, and already with a '16 title under the belt (w/ Hlavackova in Nottingham), Peng teamed with Asia Muhammad to claim a second, the 19th of her career. They did it without losing a set, defeating Govortsova/Lapko in the final.

While Peng has had difficulty picking up singles titles during her career (0-6 in WTA-level finals), she's now 13-1 in her last fourteen doubles finals dating back to 2011, losing only in the championship match at the 2014 WTA Finals vs. Black/Mirza in her final match with childhood friend Hsieh Su-Wei, with whom she won twelve titles from 2008-14.

FRESH FACES: Naomi Osaka/JPN and Anett Kontaveit/EST
...Osaka seems very well on her way to progressively better and bigger things. Her large game and talkative nature, as well as the buzz generated by both, speak to a very bright future on many levels. But she's still only 18, and consistency has yet to become her BFF. Given a wild card into the Tokyo event, Osaka thrilled the home crowds with wins over Misaki Doi, Dominika Cibulkova (3 games lost), Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Elina Svitolina to become the first Japanese player to reach the final in twenty-one years (Kimiko Date, in 1995, of course), as she appeared in her maiden tour singles final just a few weeks after reaching the 3rd Round of a major for the third time in 2016. A match away from her first pro title of any kind, Osaka led Caroline Wozniacki in the 1st set, only to lose her way and concentration after the Dane's medical timeout mid-way through the set, as well as possibly being hindered by a shoulder injury of her own. She dropped the 1st set, then fell behind 5-0 in the 2nd before finally taming her game and getting things to 5-3 before Wozniacki finished off the straight sets win. This loss is added to her WTA 125 Series defeat at Hua Hin last November, as well as a career 0-4 mark in ITF challenger title matches to run her overall final mark to 0-6. Still, with coach David Taylor (formerly w/ Sam Stosur) in her corner and a new Top 50 ranking, things can't help but continue to look up.

Kontaveit, 20, put up her best result since reaching the QF in Nottingham in June. The Estonian, still collecting the rewards from her Round of 16 U.S. Open result from last season, was at a career-best ranking of #73 in March, but had fallen to #129 heading into last week. Her Guangzhou wins over Katerina Siniakova, Zhu Lin and Viktorija Golubic gave her three MD wins for the first time since March.
DOWN: Karolina Pliskova/CZE and Madison Keys/USA
...all right, I guess this makes it "official," as in dotting a final "i" and crossing one last "t." Pliskova winding up in this category in her first outing after her breakthrough appearance in the U.S. Open final is apparently a prerequisite these days for players after reaching new career heights. The sudden change makes the next few weeks a blur that can't help but carry over onto the court until things settle down a bit. It's just a matter of avoiding a protracted slump (so, to be continued in Wuhan). After knocking off a handful of Top 10 (and Top 5) players in the closing weeks of the summer in North America, the Czech went to Tokyo last week and fell in her first match to #107 Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Well, at least it gave Karolina a bit more time to spend with friends and family in China.

Back in Tokyo with @belindabencic ????????

A photo posted by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on

Tbt ????

A photo posted by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on

Of course, Keys hasn't quite seen the heights that the Czech reached at Flushing Meadows a few weeks ago, falling in the Round of 16 at the Open. She was in Tokyo, too, and she also fell in her first match. Her opponent, Yulia Putintseva, arrived with a bit more of a reputation than the Belarusian who took out Pliskova, but the Czech just wasn't in the right "head space" to compete yet. Keys led her match, was up a break in the 3rd st and eventually held five match points before falling to the Kazakh (who then failed to convert two MP of her own a round later and lost to Magda Linette). So, in a way, on the scales of WTA progress, one might argue that it was actually Keys who took the bigger step back last week.
ITF PLAYERS: Natalia Vikhlyantseva/RUS and Mandy Minella/LUX
...19-year old Hordette Vikhlyantseva claimed the biggest title of her career in the $100K challenger in St.Petersburg, Russia. Her second '16 crown came with wins over Maria Marfutina, Valentini Grammatikopoulou, Irina Khromacheva and Donna Vekic in a 1 & 2 victory in the final. While the result lifts the Russian from #234 well past her previous career high (#225) to #163 in the new rankings, Vekic's movement back up the WTA rankings continues, as well. Weeks after watching courtside while Stan Wawrinka won the U.S. Open, the Croatian will now return to the Top 100, moving past, for one, Maria Sharapova (who is about a week or so away from learning whether or not she'll be back playing somewhere around January 2017, or '18).

Meanwhile, 30-year old vet Minella picked up the second-biggest title of her career in the $75K event in Albuquerque, just four months after winning her biggest in the the WTA 125 Series tournament in Bol back in May. The #1 seed in the event this past week, Minella put up wins over Ysaline Bonaventure, Barbora Stefkova, Maria Bouzkova, Aleksandra Wozniak and Veronica Cepede Royg in the final. She dropped just a single set all week, a TB vs. Wozniak in the semis, and will climb back into the Top 100 on Monday. Minella also teamed with Michaella Krajicek to take the doubles.

...the 17-year old '16 AO girls champ, fresh off reaching the QF of the $50K Zhuhai challenger, where she lost to Olga Govortsova, arrived in Guangzhou looking for another big week in her pro career. She got it, only not in singles. She lost in qualifying as a solo act, but teamed with (naturally) countrywoman Govortsova in doubles to reach her first career WTA final. The wild card Belarusians defeated the #2 (Kichenok/Kichenok in an 11-9 3rd set TB) and #3 seeds (Hingis/Jankovic in a 10-8 3rd set TB) before falling to Asia Muhmmad & Peng Shuai. Not celebrating her 18th birthday until this coming Thursday, Lapko is the second-youngest tour finalist in 2016, behind only Aussie Kimberly Birrell, the 17-year old who reached the Hobart WD final with Jarmila Wolfe back in Week 2.
DOUBLES: Sania Mirza/Barbora Strycova (IND/CZE) and Kirsten Flipkens/Johanna Larsson (BEL/SWE)
...well, add another entry in the "Sania" column on the unofficial post-Hingis/Mirza scorecard.

In Tokyo, Mirza & Strycova picked up their second title in three events together, running their overall record to 12-1 after winning close matches last week over Doi/Nara (10-8 3rd TB) and Dabrowski/Martinez-Sanchez (10-5 3rd TB), then downing Liang Chen & Yang Zhaoxuan 1 & 1 in the final. For Strycova, this was her 20th career title, and third this year. The Czech has played in four doubles finals in '16, after having appeared in none since 2012, and has also reached a pair of singles finals, her first since 2014. As for Mirza, she now has forty career titles, a tour-leading eight this season and, maybe most importantly, three in her four events since the end of the partnership with Hingis, a period of time in which the Indian vet has gone a combined 16-1.

Meanwhile, in Guangzhou, Martina Hingis teamed up with Jelena Jankovic for the first time, losing in the semifinals to wild card duo Govortsova/Lapko. Before last week, the two hadn't appeared on court in a WTA match at the same time since 2007. Hingis has gone 7-3, with no titles, in WTA doubles matches since ending her partnership with Mirza.

One year ago, Hingis & Mirza were winning the Guangzhou title, notching wins #7 through #9 of what would become a 41-match winning streak.

In Seoul, Flipkens & Larsson took home a title in their second tournament together, but their first since a 1st Round loss in Auckland in 2013. They defeated first-time tour finalists Akiko Omae & Peangtarn Plipuech in straight sets. Somewhat surprisingly, this is Flipkens' maiden tour doubles title, while it's Larsson's sixth, and second in 2016. Of note, it's also the Swede's first WTA final without Kiki Bertens by her side since February '14. The duo went 3-2 in finals over the stretch, including a runner-up result in Seoul last year.

1. Seoul 2nd Rd. - Arruabarrena d. Chirico
Winning in 2:52, the eventual Seoul champion saved two MP down 6-5 in the 3rd.

2. Tokyo 1st Rd. - Putintseva d. Keys 6-3/3-6/7-6(7)
Tokyo 2nd Rd. - Linette d. Putintseva 4-6/6-3/7-5
Keys was up a break in the 3rd set, and held five MP in her loss to Putintseva, who'd go on to fail to convert two MP of her own vs. Linette a round later.
3. Guangzhou Final - Tsurenko d. Jankovic
Further proof of the final days of a recently-important WTA era: this was the first appearance in a tour singles final by a Serb in almost a full calendar year.
4. Tokyo 2nd Rd. - Muguruza d. Sevastova 6-3/6-3
Tokyo QF - Svitolina d. Muguruza 6-2/4-6/6-3.
Muguruza lost her next match to Svitolina, but at least she was able to complete a quick exorcism of her 2nd Round loss to the Sevastova at the U.S. Open.
5. Guangzhou 1st Rd. - Errani d. X.Han
A little of the old Italian fight here, as Errani overcome a 6-2 deficit in the 3rd set TB and won after saving five MP. A round later, she saved 8 SP vs. Viktorija Golubic in the 1st set before going on to lose.
6. Tokyo 2nd Rd. - Puig d. Kvitova
Wim Fissette wasn't with Kvitova in Rio when she lost to Puig, but he joined the Czech in Tokyo and ended up getting a crash course in #PicaPower as Bronze-winning Petra was ousted once again by the Olympic Gold medalist.
7. Seoul Final - Arruabarrena d. Niculescu
Niculescu hadn't lost a set all week. She made up for it here, though.
8. Tokyo 1st Rd. - Puig d. Lepchenko
After months of being allowed to publicly twist in a wind filled with whispers and accusations, WADA finally saw fit to clear Lepchenko last week after many months of innuendo about a possible "silent ban" suspension earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Puig's eventual loss to A-Rad was her first in six tour-level quarterfinal appearances in 2016.
9. Seoul 2nd Rd. - Cepelova d. Begu
Cepelova, fresh off her semifinal last week, became the sixth player this season to defeat a tournament's #1 seed and defending champ (Begu fit the bill for both) but NOT ultimately win the title. Three have done it AND gone on to be crowned the champ, though.

10. Tokyo 1st Rd. - Pavlyuchenkova d. Petkovic
...6-4/2-0 ret.
Oh, Petko.

11. Guangzhou 1st Rd. - Golubic d. Allertova
The Swiss trailed 4-0 -- and 5-3 -- in the 3rd set.
12. Seoul 1st Rd. - Tig d. Erakovic 2-6/7-5/6-4
Wuhan Q1 - Chirico d. Erakovic 4-6/7-6(6)/6-3
Tig charged back from 4-2 down in the 2nd, then 4-1 in the 3rd, winning the final five games of the match to get the victory over Erakovic despite twelve DF in the match. The Kiwi went on to also fail to put away Chirico after leading by a set and 4-0 in the 2nd set TB in Wuhan qualifying. Chirico then knocked off Christina McHale to reach the MD, where she got a weekend 1st Round win over Timea Bacsinszky.
13. Tokyo 1st Rd. - Wozniacki d. Bencic
Bencic, after finishing '15 at #14, fell from #26 to #40 with this early exit. Her crushingly disappointing season has already continued in Wuhan, as she fell down in her 1st Round match vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova and was forced to retire after possibly aggravating the tailbone injury that took her off tour earlier this season.

14. $10K Brno Final - Miriam Kolodziejova d. Diana Sumova
In a battle of Czechs, 19-year old Kolodziejova finally picked up her first career pro singles title after reaching her fourth final in her last five events. She's 19-4 during the stretch.
15. $10K Sharm El-Sheikh Final - Riya Bhatia d. Ana Bianca Mihaila
A week after she defeated 17-year old Zeel Desai in another challenger final, the Swarmette falls to yet another Indian teen, 19-year old Bhatia, who picks up her first career title.
HM- $25K Tweed Heads Final - Lizette Cabrera d. Destanee Aiava
In a battle of Aussie teens seeking their maiden titles, 18-year old Cabrera defeats 16-year old Aiava.


So much for that great 4Q stretch run "battle for #1," I guess.

But, hey, at least we finally discovered the tennis "Rosetta Stone."

But I'm not even sure if that "answer key" can FULLY explain this...

Oh, and Marion is back in the game. And by "the game," I mean the New York City Marathon.

1. Tokyo Final - Wozniacki d. NAOMI OSAKA
With a big part of both their games -- Caro's movement, Naomi's serve -- at least partially hindered by injury, Wozniacki battled back from a 4-3 and down a break deficit in the 1st set after receiving a medical timeout to treat a leg injury. The Dane, after a slow start, became more comfortable as things progressed; while Osaka nearly fell apart, losing the 1st set, winning just four points in the first four games of the 2nd and falling behind 5-0. Hitting out, she closed to within 5-3, but it only served to make the final score a bit more palatable.

2. Tokyo 2nd Rd. - Sasnovich d. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
Sasnovich gets her first Top 10 win, while Pliskova loses her second '16 match to a player outside the Top 100 (after Shelby Rogers at RG).
3. Seoul 1st Rd. - ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA d. Piter
Shhhhhh. Don't say anything. We wouldn't want to spook her.

4. Tokyo SF - Wozniacki d. AGA RADWANSKA
Caro improves to 9-4 against her longtime friend and past holiday partner (who apparently holds no grudge against the Dane for inadvertently letting slip her marriage plans a few weeks ago), winning her fourth straight in the series despite the Pole serving for the set in what turned out to be a match-up of the 2015 AND 2016 tournament champions.

5. Tokyo 2nd Rd. - AGA RADWANSKA d. Strycova
Aga improved her head-to-head vs. Strycova to 6-0. But not only did the Czech win a set off her for the second straight meeting, she also was up a break three different times in the 3rd set and served for the match.
HM- Seoul 1st Rd. - Flipkens d. KRISTYNA PLISKOVA
Flipper doing her best Aga...


Rainy days in Tokyo got me like ???? #cozy #tokyo

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

When in China I pose ??

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Sunday. All day.

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

Australian Open - Angelique Kerber, GER (1 MP - 1r/Doi)
Rio - Francesca Schiavone, ITA (1 MP - QF/Burger)
Charleston - Sloane Stephens, USA (1 MP - QF/Kasatkina)

[13 yrs - Sharapova 2003-15]
10 years - Serena Williams, 2007-16
9 years - CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, 2008-16
6 years - Agnieszka Radwanska, 2011-16
[5 yrs - Kvitova 2011-15]
4 years - Elina Svitolina, 2013-16
4 years - Simona Halep, 2013-16
4 years - Karolina Pliskova, 2013-16
21...Martina Navratilova, 1974-94
18...Chris Evert, 1971-88
14...Steffi Graf, 1986-99
13...Maria Sharapova, 2003-15
11...Evonne Goolagong, 1970-80
11...Virginia Wade, 1968-78
10...Serena Williams, 2007-16

Bogota - Irina Falconi, USA (W)
Stuttgart - Laura Siegemund, GER
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (W)
Gstaad - Viktoriya Golubic, SUI (W)
Stanford - Johanna Konta, GBR (W)
Wash.DC - Lauren Davis, USA
Bastad - Katerina Siniakova, CZE
Nanchang - Duan Yingying, CHN (W)
Quebec City - Oceane Dodin, FRA (W)

18 - Jelena Ostapenko, LAT (Doha)
18 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (St.Petersburg)
19 - Oceane Dodin, FRA (Quebec City) [W]
20 - Katerina Siniakova, CZE (Tokyo)
17 - Kimberly Birrell, AUS (Hobart)
17 - VERA LAPKO, BLR (Guangzhou)
20 - An-Sophie Mestach, BEL (Auckland) [W]
20 - Barbora Krejcikova, CZE (St.Petersburg)
20 - Ipek Soylu, TUR (Istanbul) [W]

Sydney - Kuznetsova/RUS def. (Q) Puig/PUR
Dubai - Errani/ITA def. Strycova/CZE
Rio - Schiavone/ITA def. Rogers/USA
Monterrey - Watson/GBR def. Flipkens/BEL
Nurnberg - (Q) Bertens/NED def. Duque/COL
Quebec City - Dodin/FRA def. (Q) Davis/USA

Australian Open - Serena Williams (lost to Kerber)
Stuttgart - Angelique Kerber (def. Siegemund)
Roland Garros - Serena Williams (lost to Muguruza)
Wimbledon - Serena Williams (def. Kerber)

Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (def. S.Williams/F)
Charleston - Sloane Stephens (def. Kerber/SF)
Prague - Lucie Safarova (def. Ka.Pliskova/SF)
Roland Garros - Garbine Muguruza (def. S.Williams/F)
New Haven - Aga Radwanska (def. Kvitova/SF)
ALSO: C.Garcia (Strasbourg - w/o Stosur/QF)

Daria Kasatkina - Auckland [1st-V.Williams; lost 2nd]
Ana Ivanovic - Dubai [2r-Halep; lost QF]
Svetlana Kuznetsova - Miami [4th-S.Williams; lost F]
Pauline Parmentier - Katowice [1st-AK.Schmiedlova; lost SF]
Elina Svitolina - Rio Olympics [3rd-S.Williams; lost QF]
JANA CEPELOVA - SEOUL [2nd-Begu; lost QF]
[won title]
Australian Open: Angelique Kerber, GER (def.S.Williams/F)
Charleston: Sloane Stephens, USA (def. Kerber/SF)
Roland Garros: Garbine Muguruza, ESP (def. S.Williams/F)

7 USA: Falconi,Keys,McHale,Stephens,Vandeweghe,S.Williams,V.Williams
3 ESP: ARRUABARRENA,Muguruza,Suarez-Navarro
3 FRA: Cornet,Dodin,Garcia
3 ITA: Errani,Schiavone,Vinci
2 CZE: Ka.Pliskova,Safarova
2 GBR: Konta,Watson
2 GER: Kerber,Siegemund
2 ROU: Begu,Halep
2 SUI: Bacsinszky,Golubic
2 UKR: Svitolina,TSURENKO

**MOST WTA FINALS (ACTIVE), 3 seasons: 2014-16**
17 - 7/5/5...Serena Williams (14-3)
16 - 4/5/7...Angelique Kerber (6-10)
15 - 5/6/4...Karolina Pliskova (5-10)
13 - 5/5/3...Simona Halep (8-5)
9 - 4/3/2...Venus Williams (5-4)
8 - 5/3/0...Maria Sharapova (6-2)
8 - 4/4/0...Petra Kvitova (6-2)
8 - 2/4/2...Aga Radwanska (6-2)
7 - 6/1/0...Ana Ivanovic (4-3)
7 - 3/0/4...Dominika Cibulkova (3-4)
7 - 3/3/1...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (3-4)

1.000 - Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (3-0)
1.000 - MIRZA/STRYCOVA (2-0)
0.714 - Hingis/Mirza (5-2)
0.667 - Chan/Chan (2-1)
0.667 - Mattek-Sands/Safarova (2-1)
0.571 - Garcia/Mladenovic (4-3)

Naomi Osaka has joined Twitter!

WUHAN, CHINA (Premier 5/Hard)
15 Final: V.Williams d. Muguruza
15 Doubles Final: Hingis/Mirza d. Begu/Niculescu (Hingis 2014-15)
16 Singles Top Seeds: Kerber/Muguruza

#1 Kerber d. #4 Halep
#2 Muguruza d. #6 V.Williams
#1 Kerber d. #2 Muguruza

...if everyone can come to China in good form, this could get really interesting. But that's a VERY big if.

15 Final: Hibino d. Vekic
15 Doubles Final: Gasparyan/Panova d. Dushevina/Siniakova
16 Singles Top Seeds: #2 Flipkens/#3 Buyukakcay

#5 Nara d. #3 Buyukakcay
#6 Tsurenko d. A.Bogdan
#6 Tsurenko d. #5 Nara

...trying to ride the hot horse, but likely failing in horrible fashion.


FED CUP 16s - Budapest, HUN

And, finally... the most recent example of making America "great" again?

All for now.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Wk.37- NextGen Conventions-Я-Us

A week after a major, there's always a little more "elbow room" on tour.

The result: dueling NextGen conventions half a world apart.

TOKYO, JAPAN (Japan Open) (Hard/Outdoor)
S: Christina McHale/USA def. Katerina Siniakova/CZE 3-6/6-4/6-4
D: Shuko Aoyama/Makoto Ninomiya (JPN/JPN) d. Jocelyn Rae/Anna Smith (GBR/GBR) 6-3/6-3

S: Oceane Dodin/FRA def. Lauren Davis/USA 6-4/6-3
D: Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE/CZE) d. Alla Kudryavtseva/Alexandra Panova (RUS/RUS) 7-6(2)/7-6(2)

...nobody worked harder -- or longer -- than McHale in Week 37. So it's fairly fitting that she was rewarded with her first tour singles final in Quebec City on Sunday. You know, for the effort.

And it only took thirteen hours (and change) on court over the course of five matches to pull it off, too.

The 24-year old's week in Tokyo (where she reached her second career WTA final) included wins over Kateryna Kozlova (2:53; 7-6 3rd), Rebecca Peterson (2:25; 7-6 3rd), Viktoriya Golubic (2:37), Jana Cepelova (2:28; 7-5 3rd) and Katerina Sinikova (2:47) in the final, in her fifth straight three-setter at the event.

Of course, one could sort of see McHale heading this way all season long, taking the "long route" with every step. Four seasons past her career-best year (2012, high of #24), she was trapped outside the Top 60 and lost three of her first four matches. Then she stopped off in Hawaii on her way back from Down Under and everything changed. She played in and won a $50K challenger (w/ both the SF/F going three-sets, naturally) there, claiming her first singles title in five years. Soon after came a tour-level semi in Acapulco (she played three three-setters), an Indian Wells upset of Garbine Muguruza and another three-setter (a loss, but still) vs. Serena Williams in Miami. She then made Captain Mary Joe Fernandez look both good and bad at the same time in Fed Cup play, knocking off Sam Stosur (yes, in three) in a surprising shutout of Australia in a rare "good hunch" move by MJF, who'd consistently left an available McHale off FC rosters for years, onto to see her put up her first win since 2012 right when even the USTA head honchos had to be wondering just how much longer Fernandez's teams could be allowed to underachieve without someone saying "you're fired" (no, not him... though he'd probably fit in temperamentally with that lot). Clay court victories over Karolina Pliskova (in TWO!) and Ana Ivanovic followed, as well as another tough match (w/ a 1st set TB) vs. Serena in Rome. McHale didn't waver on the grass, either, getting wins over two of this weekend's other three finalists (Siniakova & Lauren Davis), as well as Naomi Osaka in Birmingham, and then (again) pushing Serena to three sets at Wimbledon.

In the final throes of the waning season, McHale finally got her signature North American summer result in Quebec, coming out into the light to tell everyone that she'd been right there all along, if only someone had pulled back the curtain to see. Her win will lift her to #42 in the rankings, making her the sixth-ranked Bannerette on tour... and maybe securing her role as a key post-Rio cog when it comes to MJF's Fed Cup machinations in 2017-18.

(Although, one can never assume such things, can one? We ARE talking about Mary Joe, after all.)

RISERS: Jiske Griffioen/NED, Katerina Siniakova/CZE and Lauren Davis/USA
...well, it's official. After a few years of jockeying for position, Griffioen has inherited the throne as THE top wheelchair champion of the post-Esther Vergeer era, which ended when the dominant Dutch future Hall of Famer swept Gold at the Paralympics in London in 2012. Four years later in Rio, 31-year old Griffioen kept the Gold medals -- all the Gold medals -- in "the family." Just like Vergeer, Griffioen swept the Paralympic singles and doubles Gold, meaning she's won five of the last seven slam/Olympics singles titles (and 6 of 8 of the sport's biggest events, when you include the season-ending Masters event in 2015). As is so often the case, Griffioen went through her doubles partner, Aniek Van Koot, to achieve all this. After already defeating her in the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals this year, she defeated Van Koot again in the Rio final. As if to further be the linking agent connecting Vergeer and Griffioen, it was Van Koot (five years younger than the current #1, and nine years than the former) who earned the Silver while losing to Vergeer in HER Paralympic singles swan song in '12. Van Koot & Griffioen joined forces to win the doubles Gold, defeating another all-Dutch duo -- Marjolein Buis & Diede de Groot -- in the final.

19-year old de Groot could very well be "the next" in the long line of Dutch WC champs. Not only did de Groot -- or, @DiedetheGreat, if we're to believe her Twitter handle -- win Silver in doubles, but she finished fourth in singles as the #6 seed, defeating #3 Jordanne Whiley in the QF before losing to Griffioen in the semifinals, then Yui Kamiji in the Bronze match.

Meanwhile, Siniakova and Davis were the unfortunate runners-up in the weekend's dualing pair of finals between women vying for their maiden tour singles title.

Siniakova, 20, reached her second summer-of-'16 final in Tokyo, two months after losing in Bastad to Laura Siegemund. While the Czech's final opponent, Christina McHale, had played four straight three-setters heading into the championship match, Sinikova had lost just one set -- in a 3:00 match vs. Louisa Chirico, her second of four wins over Antonia Lottner, Alison Riske and Zhang Shuai. The fifth highest-ranked Czech on tour, Siniakova will move to a career-high #53 on Monday.

The week's other runner-up was #104-ranked Davis. The 22-year old Bannerette, like Siniakova, was playing in her second tour-level final of the summer, having lost in Washington, D.C. in July. A qualifier who posted wins over Marie Bouzkova and Nao Hibino, Davis took down Carol Zhao, Samantha Crawford, Alla Kudryavtseva and surprise semifinalist Tereza Martincova before facing first-time finalist Oceane Dodin, losing in straight sets to the big-hitting (albeit sometimes, well, often erratic) Pastry. Still, the win will move her back into the Top 100 to #83, though it's still a far cry from the career-high ranking of #43 she enjoyed two summers ago.

SURPRISES: Tereza Martincova/CZE, Julia Boserup/USA and Danielle Lao/USA
...a week after a slam, surprises are to be expected. This week's included:

World #233 Martincova making her way through Quebic City qualifying (def. Robillard-Millette and Panova), then becoming the latest Czech to make her mark in a WTA event with MD wins over Barbora Krejcikova (a fellow Maiden -- is that legal!), Ekaterina Alexandrova (Wimbledon's darling, remember) and Jessica Pegula to reach her first career tour semifinal. She'll now jump to #169 in the rankings. But it's not a new career-high -- was was #167 back in February.

In the same Quebec event, #125-ranked Boserup, just off a career-best major run (3rd Rd.) at Wimbledon, reached her own maiden tour semifinal with wins over Amra Sadikovic, Evgeniya Rodina and CiCi Bellis. The 25-year old be at a career-best of #116 on Monday.

Meanwhile, former USC All-American Lao, 25, made her way through qualifying in Quebec, pulling off upsets of Sesil Karatantcheva and Jovana Jaksic. Then the world #365 pulled an even bigger rabbit out of her hat, a win over 2014 (sixteen years after her most previous tour title) champ Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. "The Little Giant," indeed.

VETERANS: Zhang Shuai/CHN, Olga Govortsova/BLR and Alexandra Stevenson/USA the start of the '16 season, after ending last year at #186, Zhang was on the verge of calling it a career in January. But a QF run in Melbourne (w/ upsets of Halep, Cornet, Lepchenko & Keys) changed all that. A $25K challenger win and victory over Caroline Wozniacki soon followed, but next came a spotty season on the clay and grass courts. The return of hard courts this summer has once more injected life into the Chinese vet, though. An upset of Timea Bacsinszky at the Olympics foreshadowed another nice slam result (U.S. Open 3rd Rd., w/ a win over Stosur). Now, back in Asia, Zhang reached her first tour-level semifinal since Birmingham in June '14 with Tokyo wins over Naomi Osaka and (again) Lepchenko. She'll rise to #40 in the rankings on Monday, just ten spots behind the career-high position she held two years ago.

Govortsova, 28, picked up her sixth career ITF challenger win at a $50K in Zhuhai this weekend, defeating Ipek Soylu 1 & 2 in the final. After ending the 2015 season at #69, the Belarusian came into this past week at #268. After starting the season on a 3-15 spin-out, she's set things straight this summer. She reached the final of the $50K Granby tournament in Canada the first week of August with wins over a handful of Canadian youngsters (Robillard-Millette, Zhao & Abanda), as well as Melanie Oudin. She dropped the final to the U.S.'s Jennifer Brady, but has now gone 9-2 over her last three events.

Meanwhile, with all the talk of the latest NextGen of Bannerettes, take a moment to remember a previous group of young U.S. would-be stars... and realize that the Williams Sisters aren't the only players from the generation that came of age in the late 1990's who remain active in the sport. 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Stevenson is still at it, as well. This past week, the 35-year old, in her fifteenth event of the season, reached the doubles final of the $50K challenger in Atlanta along with Taylor Townsend, 20. They lost to Ingrid Neel & Luisa Stefani in a 10-5 3rd set tie-break. If Stevenson had won, it'd been her very first ITF doubles crown after all these years. She has just one tour-level WD title, but it's a noteworthy one. In Leipzig in 2002 she picked up the win along with one Miss Serena Williams. It's the only women's doubles title that Serena has ever won without Venus by her side. The crowds watching Stevenson aren't as big as they were at SW19 seventeen years ago, but the effort is still there.

COMEBACKS: Jana Cepelova/SVK and Elena Bovina/RUS
...just the sight of Cepelova's name in a draw is a good sign about her current health, even if we all know that that's pretty much a condition that must be checked hourly at tournaments just to be sure that nothing has dramatically changed. In Tokyo, the 23-year old Slovak was able to be in good form long enough to reach her first WTA semifinal of the season. Wins over Madison Brengle, Jang Su-Jeong and Kurumi Nara did the trick. Against Christina McHale in the semis, Cepelova wasn't able to convert a bushel of BP chances in the final set that could have made HER the talk of the tournament rather than the eventual champion Bannerette. Cepelova has managed to have some presence on tour this summer, with her highlight being a successful Q-run at Wimbledon (she failed to reach the MD while trying to qualify for the other three '16 majors), followed by a SW19 upset of Garbine Muguruza (her third career Top 3 win) and a three-set loss to Lucie Safarova. Her week will nearly lift her ranking back into the Top 100, as she now rises from #115 to #102.

After back-to-back challenger appearances in Moscow (she'd only previously played one doubles match since 2012), 33-year old Original Russian Revolution Hordette Bovina was in action in Quebec City, fourteen years after she won her second of three career tour singles titles at the same tournament back in 2002. A WC entry into both draws, Bovina lost 6-4/7-6(3) to Amandine Hesse in qualifying, but reached the WD QF along with Francoise Abanda, pushing eventual champs Hlavackova/Hradecka to a 10-5 3rd set TB. Apparently, Bovina lives part-time in the city, so this trip was a logical one for her in her late '16 "tryout" to see if her body -- battered by shoulder, hip and back injuries in the past -- will allow her to stick around. "If it were up to me, of course I want to get back on the circuit," she said, "but the answer is for my body. There is a year and a half, I did not even think to play, so I'm optimistic and I'll try to do a few tournaments before the conclusion of the season."

FRESH FACES: Oceane Dodin/FRA, CiCi Bellis/USA and Francoise Abanda/CAN
...19-year old Dodin reached her first career tour singles final in Quebec City, taking out Lauren Davis in straight sets to win her maiden title and become the first teenage WTA singles champ of 2016. Before last week, Dodin hadn't posted tour-level MD win all season (her last came in her 1st Round upset of Jelena Jankovic at last year's U.S. Open), and had lost nine straight matches (Q/MD) in WTA events. Still, the Pastry has been burning up the ITF this summer, winning sixteen of nineteen circuit matches. Dodin reached a $100K challenger final in July, as well as another $25K in Belgium last month, before winning the $25K Barcelona tournament the first week of September. All were on clay. She'd lost four straight hard court matches before her pre-final wins in Quebec over Naomi Broady, Sachia Vickery, Alison Van Uytvanck and Julia Boserup.

Bellis, too, had quite a week. Fresh off her 3rd Round run at the U.S. Open, the 17-year old turned down Stanford and announced her decision to turn pro after finishing up at Flushing Meadows. Sporting a new career-high rank of #120, she then put up Quebec City MD wins over Amandine Hesse and Danielle Lao to reach her second tour-level QF of the summer. The other? In Stanford, ironically enough. Bellis will begin this week with ANOTHER new career-high rank of #115. What's next? Let's sit back and watch.

Unlike another player most definitely not named Benie Gouchard, 19-year old Abanda has always been at her best while playing within the national borders in Canada. This season alone, she's reached the QF of a $50K, defeated Zheng Saisai in Montreal (and pushed Elina Svitolina to two TB) and Olga Govortsova in Fed Cup while playing in from of home fans. Last year, she had a breakout moment when she put the overmatched Canadian FC team on her back vs. the visiting Romanians and very nearly shocked the world, upsetting Irina-Camelia Begu and pushing Alexandra Dulgheru to three sets. A wild card last week in Quebec City, Abanda opened with a win over #6-seed Mona Barthel and lost to Jessica Pegula in a tight 7-6/7-5 2nd Rounder. She also reached the QF in doubles. Coming in at #201, Abanda will rise to #186 this week, not far off her career-high of #175.

Merci Québec! ??

A photo posted by Françoise Abanda (@franckie_abanda) on

DOWN: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK's hard to tell what to make of Hantuchova these days. While the now 33-year old Slovak isn't what she once was on the court, there are at least a few higher-ranked players who FEEL more of a "lost cause"... at least where it comes to having the heart to keep going forward in concerned.

After a dozen seasons which never saw her year-end ranking dip below #35 (thirteen if you go to #37), the downward trajectory of Hantuchova's career has been gradual in recent seasons. She ended 2011 at #24, but has since ended consecutive seasons at #32, #33, #64 and #81. Then, this year, the bottom has dropped out of her standing on tour. She entered last week ranked at #262, with just one MD win on tour in 2016 (in Mallorca) -- her only such victory in a WTA event since July '15. Her most recent efforts resulted in what has become the norm for the Slovak -- a loss in Tokyo qualifying, this time to Erika Sema in the final round. On Sunday, she lost in the Q-rounds of the second WTA event in Tokyo being held this week, as well (to Aleksandra "The Bracelet" Krunic). But while the numbers look bad on her end, between the cracks are enough good wins to think she MIGHT not yet be too far gone for a something of a final act. She notched a victory over Jennifer Brady last week, and this season has managed to get past the likes of Laura Robson, Naomi Osaka, Yaroslava Shvedova, Anna Tatishvili, Irina Falconi, Lauren Davis and Jelena Ostapenko, often times in qualifying. Even going back as far as last July in Istanbul, when she recorded her second most recent WTA MD win, it's not a "dry well." She defeated Cagla Buyukakcay in that match. The same Buyukakcay who'd come back and win the same tournament's singles title this season. A few weeks before that win over the Turk, Hantuchova had upset Dominika Cibulkova at Wimbledon and reached the QF in Birmingham. So, suffice to say, while it might LOOK like the end is near for the former Wonder Girl, one wouldn't want to be TOO hasty about that.

And, anyway, Hantuchova doesn't seem depressed about her current on-court condition. Her social media presence is always offering philosophical notes of encouragement, and is generally cheery about the life the sport has given her. Just the other day, she was even able to reminisce about the "good old days" with former doubles partner Ai Sugiyama when the two met up again in Japan.

ITF PLAYERS: Rebecca Sramkova/SVK and Elise Mertens/BEL
...the biggest event on the circuit, the $100K in Biarritz, went to Slovak Sramkova, as the 19-year old (#156) defeated Italy's Martina Trevisan in a 6-3/4-6/6-1 final to walk away with her fifth career title. Three have come in 2016. She'll be at a career-best ranking of #126 on Monday.

In Atlanta, Belgian Waffle Mertens, 20, took the $50K title with a 4 & 2 victory in the final over Melanie Oudin. Mertens, who'll rise from #131 to a career-best #122, is now 11-2 in ITF finals in her career. She's had quite the summer, too. She put up grass wins over the likes of Schiavone, Bouchard and Krunic, then qualified at the U.S. Open before pushing Garbine Muguruza to three sets in the 1st Round.

As far as the on-the-comeback-trail Oudin, she notched wins over Paula Cristina Goncalves (#4 seed), Marcela Zacarias and Laura Robson (4 & love) to reach her first singles final since playing in the $50K Las Vegas challenger (lost to CoCo Vandeweghe) in 2013.

JUNIOR STAR: Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK
...the just-concluded U.S. Open's girls singles runner-up, 18-year old Kuzmova was right back out on the ITF circuit last week in the $25K challenger in Lubbock, Texas. Already an experienced player on the circuit, the Slovak was playing in her eleventh career ITF final, and her sixth this season. Her 6-0/7-5 win over British teen Freya Christie gives the #303-ranked player a 9-2 career mark in pro singles finals. She's 4-2 in 2016 alone, and this is the biggest title of her career.

Kuzmova "somewhat famously" fired twenty-three aces vs. Sonya Kenin in the U.S. Open junior semis just a week or so ago.

DOUBLES: Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE/CZE) and Shuka Aoyama/Makoto Ninomiya (JPN/JPN)
...while Czech women were grabbing tennis medals left and right in Rio, Hlavackova & Hradecka -- Silver medalists in 2012 -- didn't join in on the fun, losing to fellow Maidens Safarova/Stryova in the Bronze match. They "corrected" things in Quebec City, taking their twelfth title together with a win over Kudryavtseva/Panova in the final. It's their first tour crown as a duo since reuniting as a team late in the '14 season after a brief parting following their '13 U.S. Open title run. Though they did win a $100K challenger when they first joined forces again late in '14, they'd gone 0-4 in WTA finals over the last season and nine months. For Hradecka, it's career title #20, while Hlavackova now has seventeen, having won two previous '16 tournaments while partnering Margarita Gasparyan (Prague) and Peng Shuai (Nottingham).

In Tokyo, Aoyama & Ninomiya became the sixth duo this season to win a tour doubles title on home soil, defeating the British team of Jocelyn Rae/Anna Smith in the final after notching previous impressive wins over #1-seeded Wang Yifan/Zheng Saisai (1st), #3 Aleksanda Krunic/Katerina Siniakova (SF) and Demi Schuurs/Renata Voracova (QF). They're 1-1 in tour finals this season, though Aoyama reached (and lost) two additional finals with different partners. Aoyama has six career titles, with her most recent before this week coming in this same event in 2014 (w/ Voracova). This is Ninomiya's maiden tour title.

1. Tokyo Final - McHale d. Siniakova
As she'd done all week, McHale battled long and hard until she was the last person standing in the final. Siniakova had led 6-3/3-2 when there was rain delay. McHale's title makes her the seventh different U.S. woman to win a singles title this season, the most on tour since 2002.
2. Quebec City Final - Dodin d. Davis
It's always easy to say something about Davis' slight stature, but this is ridiculous. I mean, she pretty much looks like a grade school-aged ball kid next to Dodin in the post-match trophy photo.

At forty-one combined years (Dodin 19, Davis 22), this is the youngest final on tour so far this season.
3. Tokyo 2nd Rd. - Siniakova d. Chirico
Siniakova led 6-4/5-2 before Chirico forced things to a 3rd set. Finally, on MP #6, the Czech closed out this battle of NextGen 20-year olds in just about three hours.
4. Paralympics Gold Final - Griffioen d. Van Koot 3-6/6-1/6-4
Paralympics Bronze Match - Kamiji d. de Groot 6-3/6-3
Three of the four semifinalists were Dutch, but Japan's Kamiji prevented a medal stand sweep by grabbing the first medal of her career.

5. Paralympics Doubles Bronze Match - Shuker/Whiley d. Kamiji/Nijo
Whiley prevented best friend and regular doubles partner Kamiji from taking home a second medal, as she and fellow Brit Shuker won their second consecutive Paralympic WD Bronze.

6. Quebec SF - McHale d. Cepelova
Cepelova just barely fails to reach her first tour singles final since her memorable Charleston run in 2014. But McHale was happy, at least.

7. Quebec 1st Rd. - Vickery d. Tig
Considering her previous Fed Cup history there, Canada does just not agree with Tig. In this wild one, Tig served for the 1st set at 6-5, but lost it. Vickery twice served for the 2nd, but lost it. Tig saved MP in the 3rd set TB, had her own MP and eventually went down at the hands of the Bannerette. Her thirteen DF didn't help, either, I'm thinkin'.

8. Quebec 1st Rd. - Stefkova d. Beck
2016 in a nutshell: Beck was the defending champion and #2 seed, but she fell in the opening round to the lucky loser Czech despite having held a 6-2/5-2 lead. Stefkova had entered the MD after Bethanie Mattek-Sands withdrew with "exhaustion" after having won the U.S. Open WD with another Czech, Lucie Safarova. Meanwhile, #233-ranked Czech Martincova ended up reaching the semifinals in this event. Welcome to the... well, you know.
9. Tokyo 1st Rd. - Golubic d. Wickmayer
Not to be outdone, the week's other defending champion -- Wickmayer -- also failed to win a match "the year after."
10 Quebec 2nd Rd. - Kudryavtseva d. ********
What was it I said about Gen-... err, I mean Benie Gouchard? (I'm trying to protect the "unidentified player" from USTA detection, just in case... and I honestly don't think they're swift enough to break that "code," so don't tattle.)
11. $25K Bucha, UKR Final - Anastasiya Komardina d. Deniz Khazaniuk
The 19-year old Hordette wins her third '16 title, and sweeps the doubles with fellow Russian Valentyna Ivakhnenko.
12. $10K Sharm El-Sheikh, EGY Final - Ana Bianca Mihaila d. Zeel Desai
Indian newbie alert! The Swarmette wins here, but I'm listing this because of the appearance in the final of 17-year old Indian Desai, who very nearly walked away with a title in just her third professional tournament. Desai upset four seeds in her five matches -- the #3, #4, #5 and #8.

HM- $10K Bucha, UKR - Mariya Koryttseva d. Alexandra Perper
...4-0 ret.
A little backtracking to last week, as the closing days of the U.S. Open allowed this one to slip through the cracks around here. Some of you might vaguely recognize the name of Koryttseva, a former Top 50 player back in 2008, who reached a pair of WTA singles finals (losing to Kirilenko and Errani) over a ten-month stretch back around that time, and picked up six WTA singles titles in her career. Now 31, the Ukrainian hadn't played singles since 2012, and only five doubles matches in two Bucha challengers last September, over a four and a half year span before she showed up in the singles Q-draw in this Week 36 tournament. As it turned out, she reeled off eight match victories and won her first singles title since taking a $25K back in 2007. Sounds a little like last year's "Sevastova Story."

Oceane, smoseon. Alize Cornet was busy doing something even MORE remarkable last week...

1. Tokyo Q1 - Lottner d. ULA RADWANSKA 1-6/7-5/7-5
Seoul Q1 - Voracova d. ULA RADWANSKA 6-4 ret.
Radwanska failed to convert two MP vs. Lottner, then didn't finish vs. Voracova.
2. Umm, well... AGA WINS AGAIN


Movement is medicine! Staying active! And beautiful scenery and weather always helps @mrdoitmoving

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Cool chair

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Bogota - Irina Falconi, USA (age 25)
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (26)
Gstaad - Viktoriya Golubic, SUI (23)
Bastad - Laura Siegemund, GER (28)
Stanford - Johanna Konta, GBR (25)
Nanchang - Duan Yingying, CHN (27)
[WTA 125 Series]
Bol - Mandy Minella, LUX (30)
Dalian - Kristyna Pliskova, CZE (24)

Bogota - Irina Falconi, USA (W)
Stuttgart - Laura Siegemund, GER
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (W)
Gstaad - Viktoriya Golubic, SUI (W)
Stanford - Johanna Konta, GBR (W)
Wash.DC - Lauren Davis, USA
Bastad - Katerina Siniakova, CZE
Nanchang - Duan Yingying, CHN (W)

21 - Madison Keys, USA (Birmingham)
21 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (Kuala Lumpur)
[youngest finalists]
18 - Jelena Ostapenko, LAT (Doha)
18 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (St.Petersburg)

**LOW-RANKED WTA CHAMPIONS - since 2012 **
#208 Melanie Oudin - 2012 Birmingham
#174 Lara Arruabarrena - 2012 Bogota
#163 Duan Yingying - 2016 Nanchang
#149 Kiki Bertens - 2012 Fes
#132 Francesca Schiavone - 2016 Rio
#130 Teliana Pereira - 2015 Bogota
#127 Karolina Pliskova - 2013 Kuala Lumpur

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

0-2 - Genie Bouchard Benie Gouchard, CAN
0-2 - Alison Riske, USA
0-2 - Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
0-2 - Barbora Strycova, CZE

Sydney - Kuznetsova/RUS def. (Q) Puig/PUR
Dubai - Errani/ITA def. Strycova/CZE
Rio - Schiavone/ITA def. Rogers/USA
Monterrey - Watson/GBR def. Flipkens/BEL
Nurnberg - (Q) Bertens/NED def. Duque/COL

22 - USA (10 wins)
10 - GER (4)
9 - CZE (4)
5 - FRA (3)
4 - ROU (4)
4 - ITA (3)
4 - SVK (2)

7 USA: Falconi,Keys,McHALE,Stephens,Vandeweghe,Williams,Williams
3 ITA: Errani,Schiavone,Vinci
3 FRA: Cornet,DODIN,Garcia
2 CZE: Ka.Pliskova,Safarova
2 ESP: Muguruza,Suarez-Navarro
2 GBR: Konta,Watson
2 GER: Kerber,Siegemund
2 ROU: Begu,Halep
2 SUI: Bacsinszky,Golubic

**2016 - U.S. WTA FINALISTS**
5...Serena Williams (2-3)
3...Sloane Stephens (3-0)
3...Madison Keys (1-2)
2...Venus Williams (1-1)
2...LAUREN DAVIS (0-2)
2...Alison Riske (0-2)
1...Irina Falconi (1-0)
1...CoCo Vandeweghe (1-0)
1...Vania King (0-1)
1...Shelby Rogers (0-1)

[seven different U.S. title-winners - 2002]
Jennifer Capriati
Jill Craybas
Lisa Raymond
Chanda Rubin
Monica Seles
Serena Williams
Venus Williams
Irina Falconi
Madison Keys
Christina McHale
Sloane Stephens
CoCo Vandeweghe
Serena Williams
Venus Williams

#797 - Rebeka Masarova/SUI (Gstaad)
#238 - Paula Cristina Goncalves/BRA (Bogota)
#233 - TEREZA MARTINCOVA/CZE (Quebec City)
#199 - Sorana Cirstea/ROU (Rio)
#190 - Zhu Lin/CHN (Kuala Lumpur)
#186 - Virginie Razzano/FRA (Strasbourg)
#186 - Marina Erakovic/NZL (Rabat) - RU

Kaohsiung - Chan/Chan, TPE
Indian Wells - Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe, USA
Roland Garros - Garcia/Mladenvoic, FRA
Stanford - Atawo/Spears, USA
Nanchang - Liang Chen/Lu Jingjing, CHN

**2016 $100K FINALS**
MIDLAND: Naomi Broady/GBR d. Robin Anderson/USA
ANNING: Zhang Kailin/CHN d. Peng Shuai/CHN
CAGNES-SUR-MER: Magda Linette/POL d. Carina Witthoeft/GER
TRNAVA: Katerina Siniakova/CZE d. Anastasija Sevastova/LAT
MARSEILLE: Danka Kovinic/MNE d. Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE
CONTREXVILLE: Pauline Parmentier/FRA d. Oceane Dodin/FRA
BUDAPEST: Elitsa Kostova/BUL d. Viktoriya Tomova/BUL
BIARRITZ: Rebecca Sramkova/SVK d. Martina Trevisan/ITA

1988 Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
1992 Monique van den Bosch, NED
1996 Maaike Smit, NED
2000 Esther Vergeer, NED
2004 Esther Vergeer, NED
2008 Esther Vergeer, NED
2012 Esther Vergeer, NED
2016 Jiske Griffioen, NED
1988 Monique van den Bosch, NED
1992 Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
1996 Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch, NED
2000 Sharon Walraven, NED
2004 Sonja Peters, NED
2008 Korie Homan, NED
2012 Aniek Van Koot, NED
2016 Aniek Van Koot, NED
1988 Terry Lewis, USA/Ellen de Lange, NED
1992 Regina Isecke, GER
1996 Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
2000 Maaike Smit, NED
2004 Daniela Di Toro, AUS
2008 Florence Gravellier, FRA
2012 Jiske Griffioen, NED
2016 Yui Kamiji, JPN

1992 Monique van den Bosch/Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
1996 Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch/Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
2000 Maaike Smit/Esther Vergeer, NED
2004 Maaike Smith/Esther Vergeer, NED
2008 Korie Homan/Sharon Walraven, NED
2012 Marjolein Buis/Esther Vergeer, NED
2016 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek Van Koot, NED
1992 Nancy Olson/Lynn Seidemann, USA
1996 Hope Lewellen/Nancy Olson, USA
2000 Branka Pupovac/Daniela Di Toro, AUS
2004 Sakhorn Khanthasit/Ratana Techamaneewat, THA
2008 Jiske Griffioen/Esther Vergeer, NED
2012 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek Van Koot, NED
2016 Marjolein Buis/Diede de Groot, NED
1992 Oristelle Marx/Arlette Racineaux, FRA
1996 Oristelle Marx/Arlette Racineaux, FRA
2000 Christine Otterbach/Petra Sax-Scharl, GER
2004 Sandra Kalt/Karin Suter Erath, SUI
2008 Florence Gravellier/Arltte Racineaux, FRA
2012 Lucy Shuker/Jordanne Whiley, GBR
2016 Lucy Shuker/Jordanne Whiley, GBR

Naomi Osaka has joined Twitter!
(I sense a disruption in The Force.)

TOKYO, JAPAN (TPP OPEN) (Premier/Hard)
15 Final: A.Radwanska d. Bencic
15 Doubles Final: Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro d. Chan/Chan
16 Singles Top Seeds: Muguruza/A.Radwanska

Sevastova d. Svitolina
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. (WC) Osaka
Wozniacki d. #5/WC Keys
#2 A.Radwanska d. #7/WC Kvitova
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. Sevastova
#2 A.Radwanksa d. Wozniacki
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. #2 A.Radwanska

...we'll get to see how much carry-over the Open has in Asia with quite a few players this week. From Pliskova to Wozniacki to Sevastova to Osaka and others, the "next step" will be there to take for quite a few in Tokyo. I'll stick with the confidence-thick Czech, but remember that Asia is where Aga took off to great heights last fall.

15 Final: Begu d. Sasnovich
15 Doubles Final: Arruabarrena/Klepac d. Bertens/Larsson
16 Singles Top Seeds: Begu/Larsson

#3 Shu.Zhang d. Cepelova
#4 Mladenovic d. Duan
#3 Shu.Zhang d. #4 Mladenovic

...she's getting closer and closer to home.

15 Final: Jankovic d. Allertova
15 Doubles Final: Hingis/Mirza d. Xu Shilin/You Xiaodi
16 Singles Top Seeds: Errani/Jankovic

#7 Siniakova d. #5 Riske
#3 Konjuh d. #8 Sai.Zheng
#7 Siniakova d. #3 Konjuh

...well, I tried it last week (and, instead, got an eleventh champion pick this year turn out to be the runner-up... but who's counting?), so I'll go with it again.


Oh, hey Serena. I didn't see you sittin' there. My bad.

..... And the girl who never took a vacation took one day off...and then she came back

A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

All for now.