Sunday, October 23, 2016

Wk.42- The Kuznetsova Curse Kiss

Sometimes it's just that easy. In Sveta we trust.

(Pssst. Ummm, are you sure you really want to say such a thing? I mean, isn't that sort of how that "Curse" thing started?)


MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Hard/Indoor)
S: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS def. Dasha Gavrilova/AUS 6-2/6-1
D: Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE/CZE) d. Dasha Gavrilova/Daria Kasatkina (AUS/RUS) 4-6/6-0 [10-7]

S: Monica Niculescu/ROU def. Petra Kvitova/CZE 6-4/6-0
D: Kiki Bertens/Johanna Larsson (NED/SWE) d. Monica Niculescu/Patricia-Maria Tig (ROU/ROU) 4-6/7-5 [11-9]

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
...she really wanted it, and was not to be denied. Imagine if she'd played her career, over the last dozen or so years, like that. Yeah, I know, then she wouldn't really be Sveta, would she? If Kuznetsova wasn't oh-so-human, and susceptible to being tagged with such notions as the "Kuznetsova Curse" more than a decade ago, would she still be as lovable to so many?

Hmmm. Yeah, probably. But then, rather than being a mirror reflection of us all, she'd be seen as the all-knowing sage of sport and life (which she sort of already is), but also, "What Would Sveta Do?" would be a thing. It still COULD be, even with all we know... but the connotation of the phrase would have a far different meaning now than the one that would be attached to that other, mythical Kuznetsova in the alternate reality. Oh, well. This is the Sveta we've got, and it's hard to imagine anyone would REALLY want to return her to the universe in favor of another version.

I mean, then, there wouldn't be so much joy in seeing the Hordette having to go back to Russia, where the seed of her year-long resurgence (and return to the Top 10) began with a Kremlin Cup crown in '15, and finding a way to defend her title and slip in the back door of the WTA Finals field in Singapore. Wins over Alize Cornet, Timea Babos, Elina Svitolina (the latter two in three sets, naturally, after Sveta won the 1st) and Dasha Gavrilova in a 2 & 1 final. For Kuznetsova, it's career title #17, tying her with Kerry Melville Reid and Mary Pierce on the all-time WTA list, but more importantly, it gets her into her first season-ending championships since 2009.

#nonstoplife #passion Moscow ill be back ...??? ? ??????? ..???? ???? Singapore ????

A photo posted by ???????? ?????????/Kuznetsova (@svetlanak27) on

Ah, but she's just 3-12 in those events during her career. Of course, turning those numbers around and transforming from eleventh hour invitee to champion might just put to shame even Aga Radwanska's remarkable run to the title one year ago. But, you know, what are the odds of that becoming a reality vs. the possibility a loopy-tired Sveta just being happy to be there as she manages one marathon three-setter, but has little else to offer for the final week of her long season?

What would Sveta do? No, not THAT Sveta. THAT Sveta. We shall see.

RISERS: Dasha Gavrilova/AUS and Lauren Davis/USA
...Backspin's Official Unicorn ended her 2016 just as she began it, with hope springing eternal and popping out all over the place. Between her Hopman Cup title and star-making Round of 16 run in Melbourne, Gavrilova had an up-and-down season. A good clay season (QF in Madrid, wins over Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina) and summer hard court victories over the likes of Svitolina (again) and Caroline Garcia were the highlights of a 8-month stretch that included eleven events in which she failed to win multiple MD matches. But, as it turned out, the Aussie saved the best for last. Her three-event, season-concluding sprint, after a false start in Wuhan, included a progressive climb from quarterfinalist (Beijing) to semifinalist (Hong Kong) to first-time tour singles finalist this week in her orignial hometown of Moscow. She went 10-3 in the closing weeks, notching big victories over #1 Angelique Kerber, Timea Bacsinszky, and Garcia (again), then last week took out Lucie Safarova, Carla Suarez-Navarro, two-time Moscow finalist (and '14 champ) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Julia Goerges to finally knock down the finalist door (so I get to check one more of those preseason predictions, too!). She finally ran out of gas in the final vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova, but she had a full week. She and Daria Kasatkina -- the Dashas -- reached their first doubles final together, as well, a run which included a win over the top Russian doubles duo of Makarova/Vesnina. The Aussie will now climb to a career-high #24 on Monday, assuring herself of a seed at January's Australian Open.

In Luxembourg, Davis added another layer to a good season that, nonetheless, has sometimes had a hard time "getting over the hump." The 23-year old Bannerette became the second player this year (w/ Puig) to produce a second 2016 SF-or-better result after having to make it through qualifying, as her semifinal this week comes after a previous 4Q final appearance in Quebec City (and a second final, as an unseeded player, during the summer in Washington, D.C., when she was ranked all the way down at #122). Last week, Davis pulled upsets over defending champ Misaki Doi, recent tour title-winner Kristyna Pliskova, and Andrea Petkovic (from a set down) to reach her third semi of the season (as many as players named Muguruza, Bacsinszky, Azarenka, Stephens and Venus). Still, the result will only lift her to #72, after having been outside the Top 80 heading into Luxembourg. She finished '15 at #87, but was #57 a season earlier, rising as high as #43. But after how far outside the boundaries of WTA contention she was a few months ago, "the hump" can wait until 2017. Davis has at least managed to put herself back on the map.

SURPRISE: Ana Konjuh/CRO's really not a surprise that Konjuh was able to reach the QF in Moscow, but is is that she did it as a lucky loser. After falling to Nicole Gibbs -- 7-5/5-7/7-6(1) -- in the final round of qualifying, the 18-year old Croat pulled off a big three-set win over Barbora Strycova in the 1st Round, then received a walkover from teen Hordette Anna Blinkova (hamstring) one round leader to reach the final-eight-or-better in her third tour-level event in 2016 (one of which was the U.S. Open), making her the fifth lucky loser to do it this season. Konjuh had similar results at a pair of WTA 125 Series events this season, as well. Konjuh ultimately fell 1 & 1 to Elina Svitolina at the Kremlin Cup, but her run will second-chance will push her into the Top 50 for the first time on Monday. Oh, and she actually outlasted Gibbs in the MD, too, as the Bannerette fell in the 1st Round to Ekaterina Makarova.

VETERANS: Monica Niculescu/ROU and Julia Goerges/GER
...while Petra Kvitova headlined the week, Niculescu stole the show in the Luxembourg final, taking out the Czech 6-4/6-0 to win a third career title, her first in two years. The Swarmette had earlier advanced past Kirsten Flipkens, Francesca Schiavone (coming back from a set and 5-2 down to win eleven of fifteen games to take the match) and Kiki Bertens, as well as getting a walkover from an ill Caroline Wozniacki in the QF. She'll move up to #37 (from #51) in the new rankings. The third Romanian to win a title in '16 (Halep & Begu), Niculescu very nearly swept the doubles, as well, ultimately losing (w/ Patricia-Maria Tig) a 13-11 3rd set TB to Bertens/Larsson in the final. And she gets a sure-fire nod for one of the most addictive post-match ceremony performances, too.

In Moscow, Goerges produced her fourth SF-or-better result (Auckland RU, Bastad & Nurnberg SF) of the season by stringing together impressive wins over Danka Kovinic, Elena Vesnina and Daria Kasatkina. While the German didn't play doubles at the Kremlin Cup, she now heads off to Singapore for her first WTA Finals appearance, partnering with Karolina Pliskova in doubles. She's been even more successful there in 2016, though she hasn't won a title. A WD runner-up at Indian Wells, and semifinalist in Dubai, Cincinnati and at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon (all with Pliskova, save for her Dubai run w/ Timea Babos), Goerges is set to finish with her best-ever season-ending doubles ranking. She enters the week at #17, after having reaching a doubles high of #12 in August.

COMEBACKS: Petra Kvitova/CZE, Andrea Petkovic/GER and Jana Fett/CRO
...Kvitova didn't win the Luxembourg title, though she did reach her second 4Q final, as she looks to be rounding into form for a (hoped for) return to the Czech Fed Cup roster next month against the Pastries (of note, on an indoor hard court in a small town, just as Petra would like it, as the French Tennis Federation seems intent on making Amelie Mauresmo's crew jump through hoops of fire while wearing gasoline-soaked jumpsuits to win the title... though I suppose we do know that everyone will know about the team uniform regulations this time around, at least).

Last week, Kvitova's wins over Hsieh Su-wei, Varvara Lepchenko, Johanna Larsson, and Lauren Davis (she lost just one of nine sets), before her loss to Monica Niculescu, gives her a 13-3 record since the U.S. Open, and she's 24-6 starting with the Olympic experience in Rio (she ultimately won a Bronze) that she credits with having "saved" her season.

Also in Luxembourg, Petkovic's disappointing season at least was given a decent, not-soul-crushing, send-off. Wins over Mandy Minella (hello, dancing queen) and Caroline Garcia (1 & 1) put the German into the QF, where she lost in three sets to Lauren Davis. It's her first QF since Doha in February, when she ran off a string of victories over Ekaterina Makarova, Magarita Gasparyan, CoCo Vandeweghe, and Garbine Muguruza before having to retire against Jelena Ostapenko, setting the wayward course for the rest of her season. She'd started 2016 with additional QF results in Brisbane (def. Makarova) and Dubai (Giorgi & Jankovic). But even that 8-4 start didn't help Petkovic avoid a sub-.500 (20-22) campaign that sees her ranked outside the Top 50 at the conclusion of a season for the just the second time since 2008, with the other time being her injury-shortened '12 season (#143).

Meanwhile, she's baaack. Fett, I mean. Jana Fett. No relation (I don't think) to the Fett family of "Star Wars" fame. (See, I've missed being able to make that reference this season.


The 19-year old Croat, the '14 Australian Open girls runner-up, has been out for most of the season with a wrist injury that required surgery in June. Still, even while she was playing just her second event of the fall after having just one match from mid-January until October, Fett came into the week still ranked inside the Top 200, which says a great deal about the promise she showed in 2015. Last season, she claimed three ITF singles titles and finished (at the close of the "official" ranking season in early November) at #231 in her first full year as a professional. She ended on an 18-3 sprint through the fall/winter challenger season, going 2-1 in singles finals and reaching another semi. She opened 2016 playing in tour-level qualifying Down Under. By April, she was up to #142, even though because of her injury she hadn't played a match since January, and after losing in Katowice qualifying, wouldn't again until two weeks ago. Working her way back slowly, Fett has gone 2-2 in singles, but last week in the $25K Hamamatsu tournament she claimed the doubles title with Ayaka Okuno, defeating Hsu Chieh-Yu & Justyna Jegiolka in a 12-10 3rd TB in the final.

Once more, The Force looks as if it might be strong with this one.
FRESH FACE: Daria Kasatkina/RUS's been quite a year for Kasatkina. Twelve months ago in Moscow, the then-18-year old went a combined 10-1, qualifying and reaching her first tour singles SF, as well as winning her first tour doubles title. One year later, after finishing '15 at #72, she's the highest-ranked teenager and knocking on the door of the Top 20. Returning to Moscow, she knocked off Belinda Bencic and Ekaterina Makarova en route to the QF (giving her a half dozen good tour-level results this year, including a second career SF in St.Petersburg, and additional big-event QF in Indian Wells, Charleston, Montreal and the Olympics). In doubles, she and Dasha Gavrilova reached their first final together, a run highlighted by a 1st Round defeat of top-seeded Makarova & Elena Vesnina (who teamed with Kasatkina for last year's title) before ending in a 10-7 3rd set TB loss in the final vs. Hlavackova/Hradecka.

Runner ups :( @kasatkina

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

And thus ends a very good season for the Hordette, but one that can still be improved upon quite a bit in 2017. Remember, Kasatkina has been pretty consistent in the early stages of her career, and has nearly gotten herself into the Top 20 despite still seeking her first slam Round of 16 result, as well as her maiden appearance in a tour final. Both will come in 2017, maybe within the first month of action. Yep... next year The Fear becomes real.
DOWN: Belinda Bencic/SUI and Genie Bouchard/CAN
...whoo-boy, it's been a long season for Bencic. Well, check that, it's been a long three-quarters of a season. It's easy to forget that the "New Swiss Miss" (or is that Golubic, now?) actually got off to a great start this year. She started '16, a season which saw many top players have a hard time in the early months, on a 12-4 run, reaching the Australian Open Round of 16 and going 2-0 for Switzerland in Fed Cup (leading the squad to the semis). She soon added an appearance in the St.Petersburg final. But then back and wrist injuries scuttled the remainder of Bencic's year. Her straight sets 1st round loss to Daria Kasatkina in Moscow gives her a 1-6 finish to her '16 campaign. She's 4-11 since her brief summer up-tick at Rosmalen (three wins and a SF), and 8-17 since St.Petersburg in February. After finishing last season at #14, eyeing the Top 10 and hoping for an eventful Olympics, Bencic will be #43 on Monday, is the third highest-ranked teenager (barely ahead of the fourth, Jelena Ostapenko) and didn't even get to play in Rio. She even lost in the 1st Round in doubles last week with buddy Kiki Mladenovic. Much like a certain Slovak whose case this year is too awful to recount, 2017 can't get here soon enough for the 19-year old.

Meanwhile, in Luxembourg, Bouchard stumbled across the 2016 WTA finish line, as well, losing her 1st Round match in three sets to Denisa Allertova. While the Canadian actually won more matches in 2016 than she lost (going 31-24, but buoyed greatly by an ages-ago 15-6 start), it doesn't FEEL like it. She ends the season losing five of her last six, and will finish outside the Top 40 for a second consecutive season, after having been #7 in 2014.

She couldn't even "avoid the noid" at the airport.

ITF PLAYERS: Donna Vekic/CRO and CiCi Bellis/USA Sharm El-Sheikh, Vekic continued her late season resurgence since watching from the Ashe Stadium players box as Stan Wawrinka won the U.S. Open. Since losing in the qualifying rounds at Flushing Meadows, the Croat has gone 10-4, reaching a $100K challenger final in St. Petersburg last month, and then winning another this week in Egypt. 20-year old Vekic put up wins over Laura Pigossi, Arantxa Rus, Maria Sakkari and Sara Sorribes-Tormo in a 6-2/6-7(7)/6-3 final. It's her biggest title since taking her lone WTA level crown in Kuala Lumpur in April 2014. After suffering through a pair of eight-match losing streaks earlier this season, Vekic is now 27-29 on the season and will climb back into the Top 100 on Monday.

In the $50K challenger in Saguenay, Quebec, 17-year old Bellis won in a 6-4/6-2 final battle of teenagers over Canada's 16-year old Bianca Andreescu. The Bannerette's wins over Marie Bouzkova and Aleksandra Wozniak (w/ a SF walkover from Sachia Vickery) set up the match-up. It's the biggest title of Bellis' career, and she's now 5-1 in ITF singles finals. For her part, Andreescu had been the story of the week, wowing the home crowd by reaching both the singles and double finals (she and Charlotte Robillard-Millette fell vs. Elena Bodgan & Mihaela Buzarnescu in a 10-6 3rd set TB), downing defending champ Jovana Jaksic in the 1st Round, coming back from 4-1 down in the 3rd set to Lauren Albanese in the 2nd, and winning a 3rd set TB over Jennifer Brady in the semis.


Anna Blinkova beat Anastasija Sevastova 4/6 6/1 7/6! #Wta #moscow #1round

A photo posted by Tennis_Photos_Results (@tennisphotosresults) on

JUNIOR STARS: Anna Blinkova/RUS and Anastasia Potapova/RUS
...18-year old Blinkova, last year's Wimbledon girls runner-up and this year's Junior Masters winner, broke through the tour-level glass ceiling at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Ranked #246, the Russian made her way through qualifying, ending Cagla Buyukakcay's season and advancing past Nadia Podoroska in the final round. Then she posted the first WTA-level main draw win of her career over U.S. Open quarterfinalist Anastasija Sevastova, coming back from a 5-2 down in the 3rd set and saving five MP. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury caused Blinkova to withdraw from her 2nd Round match against lucky loser Ana Konjuh. But, officially, yet another Hordette career has been launched.

Down on the junior circuit, reigning Wimbledon girls champ Potapova (the current #2, but ranked #1 this summer) claimed another big honor, taking the Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup with a 6-2/6-4 win in the final over Japan's #4-seeded Mai Hontama. Hontama, the girls' #80, after having not won multiple matches in a junior event since January, knocked off three seeds en route to the final. 36-7 in junior play this season, 15-year old Potapova has won at least three matches in all ten junior events she's played in 2016, as well as in her three pro challenger tournaments this season. The last time she failed to win a trio of matches against junior competition was when she fell victim in the 1st Round of last year's U.S. Open to #1-ranked Marketa Vondrousova.

Won the Grade A in Japan??????

A photo posted by Anastasia Potapova (@nastyaapotapova) on

DOUBLES: Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE/CZE) and Kiki Bertens/Johanna Larsson (NED/SWE)
...while the rest of the WTA Finals doubles duos were in or on their way to Singapore, Hlavackova & Hradecka were in Moscow, picking up their thirteenth title as a pair (second in '16) by winning a trio of 3rd set tie-breaks over Ivakhnenko/Rosolska (10-6, 1st Round), Siniakova/Srebotnik (13-11, SF) and the Dashas in the final (10-7). It's career title #22 for Hradecka, #19 for Hlavackova. The long-time friends won their first title together in Prague in 2008.

In Luxembourg, Bertens & Larsson won their second indoor title in the last two weeks, having claimed honors in Linz a week ago. Their fifth title run as a duo came after their own pair of 3rd set tie-breaks, 13-11 vs. Flipkens/Mertens (QF) and 11-9 in the final over Niculescu/Tig. Ranked just outside the Top 20, Bertens also managed to break her long singles slide. The Roland Garros semifinalist came into the week having lost seven straight matches since reaching the Gstaad final back in July. She notched her first singles win in three months over Annika Beck, then took out Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (oh...) and Denisa Allertova to reach the semis.


From one #1...

To another...

1. Moscow 1st Rd. - Blinkova d. Sevastova
How many players get to say that their first WTA MD victory included a comeback from 2-5 in the 3rd and five saved MP in a nearly 3-hour battle that ended in a 12-10 TB? Well, Blinkova is one who can.
2. Moscow 1st Rd. - Kasatkina d. Bencic 6-4/6-1
Moscow 1st Rd. - Gavrilova/Kasatkina d. Makarova/Vesnina 6-4/4-6 [10-6]
Moscow 2nd Rd. - Kasatkina d. Makarova 6-4/6-1
Kasatkina was a merciless one woman Russian wrecking crew (with an assist from another Dasha) early on at the Kremlin Cup. She ended Bencic's season after falling behind 4-2 in the 1st set, winning ten of the final eleven games. She and Gavrilova put out the all-Hordette pair in doubles, one year after Kasatkina won the Moscow title with Vesnina. If that wasn't enough, she then handed Makarova ANOTHER loss, and if Vesnina hadn't lost one round before a potential "rematch," Kasatkina would have faced HER in singles, as well.

???????? ?????? ? 16:30?? #vtbkremlincup2016 #tecnifibre #nike #BSIgroup

A photo posted by Darya Kasatkina (@kasatkina) on

Feel the Fear?
3. Moscow Final - Kuznetsova d. Gavrilova
Sveta, with two semis and a title in her four post-U.S. Open events, is the third woman to defend a tour singles title in 2016.

4. Luxembourg Final - Niculescu d. Kvitova
That's just the second love set that Kvitova has lost in the fifty-eight sets she's played in her twenty-five career WTA singles finals. The other came in the 2013 Tokyo final vs. Kerber, which Petra ultimately won.
5. Moscow 1st Rd. - Pavlyuchenkova d. Siniakova 7-6(2)/5-7/7-5
Moscow QF - Gavrilova d. Pavlyuchenkova 7-5/4-6/6-3
Pavlyuchenkova, the '14 winner and '15 runner-up at the Kremlin Cup, looked to still have her Moscow mojo early, coming back from 0-3 in the 3rd vs. Siniakova to win in 2:48. Two rounds later, with a 14-2 record in her last sixteen matches in the event, she fell in three to Gavrilova to fall to 0-7 in 2016 quarterfinals.

6. Luxembourg 2nd Rd. - Niculescu d. Schiavone
From a set and 2-5 down, Niculescu wins eleven of fifteen games and goes on to take the title. Francesca had put up a good win in the 1st Round over Laura Siegemund, who'd won the doubles title at the event last year.

2016 sezonu benim için sona erdi. Yasadigim ilkler, hayallerimin gerçege dönüstügü anlar, edindigim yeni deneyimler ile unutulmaz bir seneydi. Kendi ülkemde elde ettigim için çok daha anlamli olan ilk Wta sampiyonlugu, ilk 100 hedefim, Grand Slam ana tablolari,kariyer rekoru ve tabiki Türk tenisinin ilk Olimpiyat katilimi????Bu sene için daha iyisini hayal edemezdim.Zorlu yolculugumda iyi ve kötü günümde beni hep daha iyisini basarabilmem için tesvik eden ailem ve takimim, destegini hiçbir zaman esirgemeyen Federasyonum,Spor Bakanligimiz,kulübüm ve destekleriniz için sizlere çok tesekkür ederim. Bu unutulmaz sene ilginiz ve desteginizle çok daha keyifli ve özel oldu. Simdi tüm seneyi sindirip güzelce dinlenmek için sabirsizlaniyorum.Umarim 2017 de en az 2016 kadar keyif verir ??Sevgiler ??#sezonsonu #sonsuztesekkürler #istanbulcup #rolandgarros #olympics #rio #doha #wimbledon #usopen #arthurashe #rioolympics #rio2016 An amazing season is over for me. It was an unforgettable one as there were many career firsts, new experiences, moments that my dreams came true. Maiden WTA title that I won in my homeland, breaking into top 100, major maindraws, career high, representing Turkish tennis for the first time in Olympics... Couldn't imagine for better. Thank you all so much for supporting me through thick and thin in this tough but beautiful journey. You've made it more meaningful with your huge interest and support. Now it's time to enjoy this splendid season with a bit of relaxing. Hope that 2017 will be cheerful as 2016. Lots of love?? #offseason #thankyou

A photo posted by Çagla Büyükakçay (@caglabuyukakcay) on

7. Moscow Q1 - Buyukakcay d. Solyvyeva 1-6/7-6(2)/6-1
Moscow Q2 - Blinkova d. Buyukakcay 6-2/6-3
and, thus, Buyukakcay's historic 2016 season comes to an end. She's already off experiencing a whole new batch of things for the first time.

8. Moscow 1st Rd. - Babos d. Begu
Since winning the title in Florianopolis in August, Begu has lost eight of her next ten matches. Here, Babos took her out despite firing eleven DF on the day.
9. Moscow 2nd Rd. - Gavrilova d. Suarez-Navarro
...6-4/3-0 ret.
CSN's wrist injury officially put an end to her Singapore dreams. So, maybe SHE took the figurative "Kuznetsova Curse" bullet for Sveta?
10. WTA Finals Future Stars 14u Final - Shiori Ito d. Olesya Kim 4-6/6-2 [10-3]
WTA Finals Future Stars 16u Final - Violet Apisah d. Shivani Amineni 7-5/6-4
titles have already been handed out in Singapore, as Ito from Japan defeated Uzbekistan's Kim to take the 14-and-under version of the Future Stars honor. In the 16-and-under final, Australia's Apisah ended India's two-year run of champions in the competition with a straight sets win over Amineni, the teenager who was seeking to win the third straight title for her nation.

11. $50K Joues-les-tours Final - Maryna Zanevska/BEL d. Elena Ruse/ROU
In her second final in two weeks as an official Waffle, Zanevska makes up for her loss a week ago by taking down the 18-year old Swarmette.

12. $10K Ismaning Final - Anastasia Zarytska/UKR d. Tess Sugnaux/SUI 6-2/7-6(6)
$10K Pula Final - Vanda Lukacs/HUN d. Katerina Zavatska/UKR 0-6/6-1/6-2
meanwhile, Zanevska's former fellow Ukrainians were also in finals this weekend. Two members of the "Ska Band" went 1-1, with 18-year old Zarytska winning her second career title, while 16-year old Zavatska failed to get her third.
13. Grade 2 LTAT (THA) Junior Final - Zeel Desai/IND d. Mihika Yadav/IND
The 17-year old pulls off her second straight junior singles/doubles title sweep, after having lost nine of ten combined s/d matches in girls competition prior to that. The other sweep came in August. In between those four titles, Desai went onto the ITF challenger circuit and reached her first pro singles final in a $10K in Egypt and won her maiden doubles title two weeks later in another.
14. $10K Antalya Final - Ayla Aksu/TUR d. Agnes Bukta/HUN
Meeting in a second straight final, Aksu again defeats Bukta for career title #8. She 5-0 in '16 finals.

15. $10K Hammamet Final - Chiraz Bechri/TUN d. Jade Suvrijn/FRA
...4-0 ret.
The Pastry's retirement hands the 18-year old Tunisian her first career pro singles title (in her fourth final).

HM- $10K Lagos Final - Conny Perrin/SUI d. Tadeja Majeric/SLO
Conny Perrin wins her eleventh career title. Or is it Penny Conny?


1. Luxembourg 1st Rd. - KRISTYNA PLISKOVA d. Dodin
They meet again, for the second week in a row. Pliskova lost to the Pastry while firing 23 aces, but won with "just" 19. Pliskovian logic?

2. Luxembourg 1st Rd. - ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA d. Wickmayer 6-0/1-6/6-3
Luxembourg 2nd Rd. - Bertens d. ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA 6-3/6-1
another, "oh, Anna Karolina!" to, "oh, false alarm" week in two quick rounds.
3. $10K Bol Final - GABRIELA PANTUCKOVA/CZE d. Ani Mijacika/CRO
Having just climbed into the Top 300, the Czech went over 50 wins on the season and wrapped up ITF title #4 of 2016.

Till the end #fight #M ??? #intosemifinal #3rdinarowthere ???? #3hours @vendiezovi ??????????????

A photo posted by Gabriela Pantucková (@gabrielapantuckova) on

HM- $10K Hua Hin Final - Nudnuda Luangnam/VARUNYA WONGTEANCHAI d. Jandakate/Momkoonthod
...6-2/6-7(2) [10-0].
With her sister off playing on the WTA circuit (Varatchaya is Top 100 in doubles, Top 300 in singles), Varunya (#541/#734) picks up her eleventh career ITF doubles crown, her sixth without her older sister by her side.

Happy weekend everyone! ????cc: @robinfenlon

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Saturdays ?????? #tanlinesonpoint #lifesgood

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

Season is over! Not the trophy I wanted but still a great week! Two finals in one week! #exhausted #top30

A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

My new lover ??

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

**2016 WTA TITLES**
3 - Angelique Kerber, GER
3 - Aga Radwanska, POL
3 - Simona Halep, ROU
3 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
3 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
3 - Sloane Stephens, USA
2 - Serena Williams, USA
2 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE
2 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2 - Caroline Garcia, FRA
[hard court]
3...Aga Radwanska
3...Victoria Azarenka
2...Angelique Kerber
2...Dominika Cibulkova
2...Caroline Wozniacki
2...Sloane Stephens

**2016 WTA FINALS**
7 - Angelique Kerber (3-4)
6 - Dominika Cibulkova (3-3)
5 - Serena Williams (2-3)
4 - Karolina Pliskova (2-2)
3 - Aga Radwanska (3-0)
3 - Simona Halep (3-0)
3 - Victoria Azarenka (3-0)
3 - Sloane Stephens (3-0)
3 - Madison Keys (1-2)
3 - Alison Riske (0-3)
17 - Serena Williams (14-3)
16 - Angelique Kerber (6-10)
15 - Karolina Pliskova (5-10)
13 - Simona Halep (8-5)
10 - PETRA KVITOVA (7-3)
9 - Aga Radwanska (7-2)
9 - Dominika Cibulkova (4-5)
9 - Venus Williams (5-4)

**2016 #1 SEED WON TITLE**
Shenzhen - Aga Radwanska, POL
Taohsiung - Venus Williams, USA
Prague - Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
Rome - Serena Williams, USA
Nottingham - Karolina Pliskova, CZE
Wimbledon - Serena Williams, USA
Bucharest - Simona Halep, ROU
New Haven - Aga Radwanska, POL

Bogota - Irina Falconi, USA (#92, 25) [W]
Stuttgart - Laura Siegemund, GER (#71, 28)
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (#118, 26) [W]
Gstaad - Viktoriya Golubic, SUI (#105, 23) [W]
Stanford - Johanna Konta, GBR (#18, 25) [W]
Washington DC - Lauren Davis, USA (#122, 22)
Bastad - Katerina Siniakova, CZE (#92, 20)
Nanchang - Duan Yingying, CHN (#163, 27) [W]
Quebec City - Oceane Dodin, FRA (#132, 19) [W]
Tokyo TPP - Naomi Osaka, JPN (#66, 18)
Tashkent - Kristyna Pliskova, CZE (#100, 24) [W]

Brisbane - Angelique Kerber, GER (LL)
Doha - Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP (WL)
Istanbul - Danka Kovinic, MNE (LL)
Nurnberg - Kiki Bertens, NED (WW)
Birmingham - Barbora Strycova, CZE (LW)
Wimbledon - Serena Williams, USA (WW)
Washington DC - Yanina Wickmayer, BEL (WW)
Montreal - Simona Halep, ROU (WL)
Florianopolis - Timea Babos, HUN (LL)
Tianjin - Peng Shuai, CHN (WW)

35 = Francesca Schiavone, ITA (FEB: Rio) [oldest by one day]
35 = Venus Williams, USA (FEB: Kaohsiung)
34 = Serena Williams, USA (JUL: Wimbledon)
34 = Serena Williams, USA (MAY: Rome)
32 = Roberta Vinci, ITA (FEB: St.Petersburg)
30 = Peng Shuai, CHN (OCT: Tianjin)
30 = Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (JAN: Sydney)

17 - Kimberly Birrell, AUS (Hobart WD - L) [17y,8m]
17 - Vera Lapko, BLR (Guangzhou WD - L) [17y,11m,3w]
18 - Jelena Ostapenko, LAT (Doha WS - L)
18 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (St.Petersburg WS - L)
18 - Naomi Osaka, JPN (Tokyo WS - L)
19 - Oceane Dodin, FRA (Quebec City WS - W)

14...Simona Halep (2013-16)
12...Virginia Ruzici (1975-85)
4...Irina Spirlea (1994-98)
4...Ruxandra Dragomir (1996-97)
3...Irina-Camelia Begu (2012-16)
3...MONICA NICULESCU (2013-16)

SF = Strasbourg - Virginie Razzano, FRA
SF = New Haven - Johanna Larsson, SWE
QF = Nottingham - Tamira Paszek, AUT
QF = Florianopolis - Lyudmyla Kichenok, UKR

8...Garcia/Mladenovic (4-4)
7...Hingis/Mirza (5-2)
5...Mattek-Sands/Safarova (4-1)
4...Chan/Chan (3-1)
4...Makarova/Vesnina (2-2)
3...Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (3-0)
3...Mirza/Strycova (2-1)

[singles finals]
1972 Chris Evert d. Kerry Reid
1973 Chris Evert d. Nancy Richey
1974 Evonne Goolagong d. Chris Evert
1975 Chris Evert d. Martina Navratilova
1976 Evonne Goolagong d. Chris Evert
1977 Chris Evert d. Sue Barker
1978 Martina Navratilova d. Evonne Goolagong
1979 Martina Navratilova d. Tracy Austin
1980 Tracy Austin d. Martina Navratilova
1981 Martina Navratilova d. Andrea Jaeger
1982 Sylvia Hanika d. Martina Navratilova
1983 Martina Navratilova d. Chris Evert-Lloyd
1984 Martina Navratilova d. Chris Evert-Lloyd
1985 Martina Navratilova d. Helena Sukova
1986a Martina Navratilova d. Hana Mandlikova
1986b Martina Navratilova d. Steffi Graf
1987 Steffi Graf d. Gabriela Sabatini
1988 Gabriela Sabatini d. Pam Shriver
1989 Steffi Graf d. Martina Navratilova
1990 Monica Seles d. Gabriela Sabatini
1991 Monica Seles d. Martina Navratilova
1992 Monica Seles d. Martina Navratilova
1993 Steffi Graf d. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1994 Gabriela Sabatini d. Lindsay Davenport
1995 Steffi Graf d. Anke Huber
1996 Steffi Graf d. Martina Hingis
1997 Jana Novotna d. Mary Pierce
1998 Martina Hingis d. Lindsay Davenport
1999 Lindsay Davenport d. Martina Hingis
2000 Martina Hingis d. Monica Seles
2001 Serena Williams w/o Lindsay Davenport
2002 Kim Clijsters d. Serena Williams
2003 Kim Clijsters d. Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Maria Sharapova d. Serena Williams
2005 Amelie Mauresmo d. Mary Pierce
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne d. Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Justine Henin d. Maria Sharapova
2008 Venus Williams d. Vera Zvonareva
2009 Serena Williams d. Venus Williams
2010 Kim Clijsters d. Caroline Wozniacki
2011 Petra Kvitova d. Victoria Azarenka
2012 Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova
2013 Serena Williams d. Li Na
2014 Serena Williams d. Simona Halep
2015 Aga Radwanska d. Petra Kvitova
2016 ?
[doubles champions]
1973 Rosie Casals / Margaret Court
1974 Billie Jean King / Rosie Casals
1979 Francoise Durr / Betty Stove
1980 Billie Jean King / Martina Navratilova
1981 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1982 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1983 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1984 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1985 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1986a Hana Mandlikova / Wendy Turnbull
1986b Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1987 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1988 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1989 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1990 Kathy Jordan / Liz Smylie
1991 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1992 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario / Helena Sukova
1993 Gigi Fernandez / Natalia Zvereva
1994 Gigi Fernandez / Natalia Zvereva
1995 Jana Novotna / Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1996 Lindsay Davenport / Mary Joe Fernandez
1997 Lindsay Davenport / Jana Novotna
1998 Lindsay Davenport / Natasha Zvereva
1999 Martina Hingis / Anna Kournikova
2000 Martina Hingis / Anna Kournikova
2001 Lisa Raymond / Rennae Stubbs
2002 Elena Dementieva / Janette Husarova
2003 Virginia Ruano-Pascual / Paola Suarez
2004 Nadia Petrova / Meghann Shaughnessy
2005 Lisa Raymond / Samantha Stosur
2006 Lisa Raymond / Samantha Stosur
2007 Cara Black / Liezel Huber
2008 Cara Black / Liezel Huber
2009 Nuria Llagostera-Vives / Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez
2010 Gisela Dulko / Flavia Pennetta
2011 Liezel Huber / Lisa Raymond
2012 Maria Kirilenko / Nadia Petrova
2013 Hsieh Su-Wei / Peng Shuai
2014 Cara Black / Sania Mirza
2015 Martina Hingis / Sania Mirza
2016 ?

11 - Martina Navratilova
10 - Pam Shriver
4 - Lisa Raymond
3 - Cara Black
3 - Lindsay Davenport
3 - Martina Hingis
3 - Liezel Huber
3 - Natasha Zvereva
2 - Margaret Court
2 - Gigi Fernandez
2 - Anna Kournikova
2 - Sania Mirza
2 - Jana Novotna
2 - Nadia Petrova
2 - Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
2 - Samantha Stosur

**WTA FINALS - additional competitions**
2014 Monica Puig/PUR def. Zheng Saisai/CHN
2015 Naomi Osaka/JPN def. Caroline Garcia/FRA
2016 ?
[FUTURE STARS - 16u finals]
2014 Karman Thandi/IND def. Rifanty Khafiany/INA
2015 Pranjala Yadlapalli/IND def. Yun Hye Ran/KOR
2016 Violet Apisah/AUS def. Shivani Amineni/IND
[FUTURE STARS - 14u finals]
2014 Thasaporn Naklo/THA def. Yuki Ando/JPN
2015 Chu Jiayu/CHN def. Fitriani Sabatini/INA
2016 Shiori Ito/JPN def. Olesya Kim/UZB
2014 Marion Bartoli
2015 Martina Navratilova
2016 ?

Naomi Osaka is the WTA's "Newcomer of the Year"...

That's accomplishing something on a "bigly" scale...

15 Singles Final: A.Radwanska d. Kvitova
15 Doubles Final: Hingis/Mirza d. Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro (Mirza 2014-15 champ)
16 Singles Top Seeds: Kerber/A.Radwanska
16 Doubles Top Seeds: Garcia/Mladenovic & Hingis/Mirza

2-1 - #1 Kerber
2-1 - #3 Halep
1-2 - #6 Keys
1-2 - #7 Cibulkova
3-0 - #4 Ka.Pliskova
1-2 - #2 A.Radwanska
1-2 - #5 Muguruza
1-2 - #8 Kuznetsova
#1 Kerber d. #2 A.Radwanska
#4 Ka.Pliskova d. #3 Halep
#4 Ka.Pliskova d. #1 Kerber this the face of a Czech ready to rumble?

Yeah, I know. Sometimes it's hard to tell with the twins. But Pliskova arrives in Singapore rested and, in what could be a boon, on an indoor court which could increase the lethal aspects of her already biggest-serve-in-the-tournament (w/o Serena around). She's the only singles player in the doubles, as well, but it's not a round robin competition this year, so she shouldn't "pull a Garbi" and be worn down to the nub, ala the Spaniard at last year's Finals.

The Red Group sure looks like the proverbial "Group of Death," while in the White there's some elbow room for Pliskova to not HAVE to be perfect, with Kuznetsova possibly tiring (or in a perfect groove -- one never knows), Muguruza iffy with her ankle injury and Aga carrying a big burden on her shoulders as defending champ. As happened last year, though, the Pole might be able to get through to the semis with a 1-2 record. In the White, Kerber is surely already running on fumes, but she's lifted her game in big events in 2016 (and did it again in the 3rd set of her opening Singapore match vs. Cibulkova on Sunday). Keys is a bit of a wild card in her first WTA Finals appearance, while Halep's past exploits in this event could be key, especially with her laid back attitude (she's a new aunt, and likes that she's no longer the focal point in her family) maybe providing an atmosphere that will allow her confidence to bloom still more (it looked like on Sunday vs. Keys).
Hmmm, I'm almost talking myself into picking Si-mo-na now (days after she -- and her career arc -- earned a second straight "Backspin MVP" honor), but I can't go back and change my pick now. Even now that it's confirmed that "SimonaShortz!" are back.

Oh, well.

This would be a third big event final in recent months that featured both Kerber and Pliskova. With Karolina having won Cincy, and Angie the Open, this would prove to be the rubber match. With the Fed Cup final around the corner, Pliskova is looking to peak soon. So, I'll throw a little faith her way once again this season and see what happens.

Whew! And now I'll be able to watch the "Walking Dead" premiere tonight without having to worry about completing this update in the aftermath.

I'm still going with Michonne as being on the wrong end of Negan's barbed bat Lucille. (I'll update with the final verdict later, right or wrong.)

LATE NOTE: Well, I'm actually glad I was wrong. Not really shocked by the TWO characters killed off (one was my second choice, and the other was the victim in the comic book version of the story, so it was the "default" pick). It'll be interesting to see where the writers take the show from this point forward. It's always been a deeper show than its zombie apocalypse premise, and this will truly test that.

All for now.