Thursday, May 23, 2019

Roland Garros Predictions: A Gathering of Souls

For one more time in the 2010's, souls will gather in Paris over the next two weeks to determine the best clay court tennis player in the world.



The Roland Garros line of champions from 2010-18 have produced all sorts of historical moments, from veterans (Francesca Schiavone & Li Na) winning their maiden titles early on, to the middle years being dominated by players (Serena Williams & Maria Sharapova) who have served as the "voice" of their generation winning multiple titles to further burnish their career resumes, to the most recent three years seeing the rise of a "new ruling class" (first-timers Garbine Muguruza & Simona Halep) and the initial major uprising (Alona Ostapenko) of an impatient generation.

Who will be the final woman to raise aloft the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen this decade? Will she be a familiar face in the winner's circle, or yet another (the sixth maiden slam champ in ten years of play at RG) who'll come of age (be it early in a career or late) on the big stage in Paris?

Répondez s'il vous plaît.




*RECENT WOMEN'S SLAM WINNERS*
2016 AO: Angelique Kerber, GER
2016 RG: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2016 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2016 US: Angelique Kerber, GER
2017 AO: Serena Williams, USA
2017 RG: Alona Ostapenko, LAT
2017 WI: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2017 US: Sloane Stephens, USA
2018 AO: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2018 RG: Simona Halep, ROU
2018 WI: Angelique Kerber, GER
2018 US: Naomi Osaka, JPN
2019 AO: Naomi Osaka, JPN

*ACTIVE SINGLES PLAYERS - FIRST SLAM FINAL*
1997 U.S. Open - Venus Williams
1999 U.S. Open - Serena Williams (W)
2004 Wimbledon - Maria Sharapova (W)
2004 U.S. Open - Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2009 U.S. Open - Caroline Wozniacki
2010 Roland Garros - Samantha Stosur
2010 Wimbledon - Vera Zvonareva
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova (W)
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka (W)
2012 Roland Garros - Sara Errani
2013 Wimbledon - Sabine Lisicki
2014 Australian Open - Dominika Cibulkova
2014 Roland Garros - Simona Halep
2014 Wimbledon - Genie Bouchard
2015 Wimbledon - Garbine Muguruza
2016 Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (W)
2016 U.S. Open - Karolina Pliskova
2017 Roland Garros - Alona Ostapenko (W)
2017 U.S. Open - Sloane Stephens (W)
2017 U.S. Open - Madison Keys
2018 U.S. Open - Naomi Osaka (W)
--
ALSO...
2008 U.S. Open - Jelena Jankovic
2015 Roland Garros - Lucie Safarova



*ROLAND GARROS #1 SEEDS*
2010 Serena Williams (QF)
2011 Caroline Wozniacki (3rd Rd.)
2012 Victoria Azarenka (4th Rd.)
2013 Serena Williams (W)
2014 Serena Williams (2nd Rd.)
2015 Serena Williams (W)
2016 Serena Williams (RU)
2017 Angelique Kerber (1st Rd.)
2018 Simona Halep (W)
2019 Naomi Osaka

*ROLAND GARROS FINALS - active*
4...Serena Williams (3-1)
3...Maria Sharapova (2-1)
3...Simona Halep (1-2)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (1-1)
1...Garbine Muguruza (1-0)
1...Alona Ostapenko (1-0)
1...Sara Errani (0-1)
1...Sloane Stephens (0-1)
1...Samantha Stosur (0-1)
1...Venus Williams (0-1)
-
ALSO: Lucie Safarova (0-1)

*RECENT RG SEMIFINALISTS*
2010 Schiavone (W)/Stosur (RU), Dementieva/Jankovic
2011 Li (W)/Schiavone (RU), Bartoli/Sharapova
2012 Sharapova (W)/Errani (RU), Kvitova/Stosur
2013 S.Williams (W)/Sharapova (RU), Azarenka/Errani
2014 Sharapova (W)/Halep (RU), Bouchard/Petkovic
2015 S.Williams (W)/Safarova (RU), Bacsinszky/Ivanovic
2016 Muguruza (W)/S.Williams (RU), Bertens/Stosur
2017 Ostapenko (W)/Halep (RU), Ka.Pliskova/Bacsinszky
2018 Halep (W)/Stephens (RU), Muguruza/Keys

*LOW-SEEDED RG SEMIFINALISTS - since 2008*
un....Kiki Bertens, 2016
un....Alona Ostapenko, 2017 (W)
#30...Samantha Stosur, 2009 (RU)
#30...Timea Bacsinszky, 2017
#28...Andrea Petkovic, 2014
#23...Timea Bacsinszky, 2015
#21...Samantha Stosur, 2016
#21...Sara Errani, 2012 (RU)
#20...Dominika Cibulkova, 2009
#18...Genie Bouchard, 2014
#17...Francesca Schiavone, 2010 (W)
#13...Madison Keys, 2018
#13...Lucie Safarova, 2015 (RU)
#13...Dinara Safina, 2008

*ROLAND GARROS GIRLS FINALS - since 2008*
2008 Simona Halep/ROU d. Elena Bogdan/ROU
2009 Kristina Mladenovic/FRA d. Dasha Gavrilova/RUS
2010 Elina Svitolina/UKR d. Ons Jabeur/TUN
2011 Ons Jabeur/TUN d. Monica Puig/PUR
2012 Annika Beck/GER d. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK
2013 Belinda Bencic/SUI d. Antonia Lottner/GER
2014 Dasha Kasatkina/RUS d. Ivana Jorovic/SRB
2015 Paula Badosa/ESP d. Anna Kalinskaya/RUS
2016 Rebeka Masarova/SUI d. Amanda Anisimova/USA
2017 Whitney Osuigwe/USA d. Claire Liu/USA
2018 Coco Gauff/USA d. Caty McNally/USA

*BEST RG GIRLS/WOMEN'S RESULTS*
[won Girls & Women's titles]
Sue Barker (1974 Jr. Champion; 1976 Women's Champion)
Jennifer Capriati (1989 Jr. Champion; 2001 Women's Champion)
Simona Halep (2008 Jr. Champion; 2018 Women's Champion)
Justine Henin (1997 Jr. Champion; 2003, '05-'07 Women's Champion)
Mima Jausovec (1973 Jr. Champion; 1977 Women's Champion)
Hana Mandlikova (1978 Jr. Champion; 1981 Women's Champion)
[others]
Renata Tomanova (1972 Jr. Champion; 1976 Women's RU)
Martina Hingis (1993-94 Jr. Champion; 1997/99 Women's RU)
Natasha Zvereva (1998 Jr. Champion; 1988 Women's RU)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (2001 Jr. RU; 2009 Women's Champion)

*FIRST-TIME SLAM CHAMPS AT ROLAND GARROS*
[Open Era]
1971 Evonne Goolagong, AUS
1974 Chris Evert, USA
1976 Sue Barker, GBR
1977 Mima Jausovec, SLO
1978 Virginia Ruzici, ROU
1987 Steffi Graf, GER
1989 Arantxa Sanchez, ESP
1990 Monica Seles, YUG
1997 Iva Majoli, CRO
2003 Justine Henin, BEL
2004 Anastasia Myskina, RUS
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2011 Li Na, CHN
2016 Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2017 Alona Ostapenko, LAT
2018 Simona Halep, ROU
--
NOTE: Ann Haydon-Jones won first career slam at '61 Roland Garros, before Open era began in '68

*AO/RG TITLES IN SEASON - OPEN ERA*
1969 Margaret Court, AUS
1970 Margaret Court, AUS
1973 Margaret Court, AUS
1988 Steffi Graf, FRG
1991 Monica Seles, YUG
1992 Monica Seles, YUG
2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
2015 Serena Williams, USA

*RG WHEELCHAIR CHAMPIONS*
2007 Esther Vergeer, NED
2008 Esther Vergeer, NED
2009 Esther Vergeer, NED
2010 Esther Vergeer, NED
2011 Esther Vergeer, NED
2012 Esther Vergeer, NED
2013 Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
2014 Yui Kamiji, JPN
2015 Jiske Griffioen, NED
2016 Marjolein Buis, NED
2017 Yui Kamiji, JPN
2018 Yui Kamiji, JPN
[doubles]
2007 Maaike Smit/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2008 Jiske Griffioen/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2009 Korie Homan/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2010 Daniela Di Toro/Aniek van Koot, AUS/NED
2011 Esther Vergeer/Sharon Walraven, NED/NED
2012 Marjolein Buis/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2013 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek van Koot, NED/NED
2014 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
2015 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek van Koot, NED/NED
2016 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
2017 Marjolein Buis/Yui Kamiji, NED/JPN
2018 Diede de Groot/Aniek Van Koot, NED/NED



*RECENT WC SLAM SINGLES FINALS*
2017 AO - #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #1 Jiske Griffioen/NED
2017 RG - #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2017 WI - Diede de Groot/NED def. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2017 US - #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #2 Diede de Groot/NED
2018 AO - #2 Diede de Groot/NED def. #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN
2018 RG - #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #2 Diede de Groot/NED
2018 WI - #1 Diede de Groot/NED def. Aniek van Koot/NED
2018 US - #1 Diede de Groot/NED def. #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN
2019 AO - #1 Diede de Groot/NED def. #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN

*FIRST-TIME SLAM SEMIFINALISTS SINCE 2013*
=2013=
AO: Sloane Stephens/USA
RG: -
WI: Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
US: Flavia Pennetta/ITA
=2014=
AO: Genie Bouchard/CAN
RG: Simona Halep/ROU (RU), Andrea Petkovic/GER
WI: Lucie Safarova/CZE
US: Ekatarina Makarova/RUS, Peng Shuai/CHN
=2015=
AO: Madison Keys/USA
RG: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
WI: Garbine Muguruza/ESP (RU)
US: Roberta Vinci/ITA (RU)
=2016=
AO: Johanna Konta/GBR
RG: Kiki Bertens/NED
WI: Elena Vesnina/RUS
US: Karolina Pliskova/CZE (RU)
=2017=
AO: CoCo Vandeweghe/USA
RG: Alona Ostapenko/LAT (W)
WI: Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
US: -
=2018=
AO: Elise Mertens/BEL
RG: -
WI: Julia Goerges/GER
US: Naomi Osaka/JPN (W), Anastasija Sevastova/LAT
=2019=
AO: Danielle Collins/USA

*CAREER SLAM #1 SEEDS - active*
20...Serena Williams
6...Caroline Wozniacki
5...Simona Halep
4...Maria Sharapova
3...Victoria Azarenka
3...Angelique Kerber
1...NAOMI OSAKA
1...Karolina Pliskova
1...Venus Williams
-
ALSO: 1-Jelena Jankovic

*RECENT SLAM JUNIOR CHAMPS*
[2017]
AO: Marta Kostyuk, UKR
RG: Whitney Osuigwe, USA
WI: Claire Liu, USA
US: Amanda Anisimova, USA
[2018]
AO: Liang En-shuo, TPE
RG: Coco Gauff, USA
WI: Iga Swiatek, POL
US: Wang Xiyu, CHN
[2019]
AO: Clara Tauson, DEN



*SLAM TITLES AFTER AGE 30*
10..Serena Williams, USA (age 30-35)*
3...Martina Navratilova, USA (age 30-33)
3...Margaret Court, AUS (age 30-31)
2...Billie Jean King, USA (age 30 & 31)
2...Chris Evert, USA (age 30 & 31)
1...Flavia Pennetta, ITA (age 33)
1...Virginia Wade. GBR (age 31)
1...Ann Haydon Jones, GBR (age 30)
1...Angelique Kerber, GER (age 30)*
--
*-active

*OLDEST WOMEN'S SINGLES SLAM CHAMPIONS - OPEN ERA*
Serena Williams (35y/125) - 2017 Australian
Serena Williams (34/283) - 2016 Wimbledon
Serena Williams (33/285) - 2015 Wimbledon
Martina Navratilova (33/263) - 1990 Wimbledon
Serena Williams (33/254) - 2015 Roland Garros
Flavia Pennetta (33/201) - 2015 U.S. Open
Serena Williams (33/127) - 2015 Australian

*OLDEST WOMEN'S SINGLES SLAM FINALISTS*
Martina Navratilova (37y,258d) — lost '94 WI to C.Martinez
Venus Williams (37/28) - lost '17 WI to Muguruza
Serena Williams (36/347) - lost '18 US to Osaka
Serena Williams (36/291) - lost '18 WI to Kerber
Venus Williams (36/226) — '17 AO, lost to S.Williams
Serena Williams (35/125) — '17 AO, def. V.Williams
Martina Navratilova (34/325) — '91 US, lost to Seles
Serena Williams (34/287) — '16 WI, def. Kerber
Serena Williams (34/252) — '16 RG, lost to Muguruza
Serena Williams (34/127) — '16 AO, lost to Kerber

*OLDEST FIRST-TIME SLAM CHAMPS*
33y,199d - Flavia Pennetta, 2015 U.S. Open
29y,346d - Francesca Schiavone, 2010 Roland Garros
29y,275d - Jana Novotna, 1998 Wimbledon
29y,154d - Kerry Melville-Reid, 1977 Australian Open
29y,98d - Li Na, 2011 Roland Garros
28y,277d - Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon
28y,12d - Angelique Kerber, 2016 Australian Open
27y,200d - Caroline Wozniacki, 2018 Australian Open
26y,255d - Simona Halep, 2018 Roland Garros
26y,207d - Amelie Mauresmo, 2006 Australian Open
26y,165d - Samantha Stosur, 2011 U.S. Open

*MOST SLAMS BEFORE FIRST TITLE*
49 - Flavia Pennetta (2015 U.S. Open)
47 - Marion Bartoli (2013 Wimbledon)
45 - Jana Novotna (1998 Wimbledon)
43 - Caroline Wozniacki (2018 Australian Open)
39 - Francesca Schiavone (2010 Roland Garros)
34 - Samantha Stosur (2011 U.S. Open)
33 - Angelique Kerber (2016 Australian Open)
32 - Simona Halep (2018 Roland Garros)
32 - Amelie Mauresmo (2006 Australian Open)

*TEEN SLAM CHAMPS - since 1997*
1997 Martina Hingis, 16 (AO)*
1997 Iva Majoli, 19 (RG)*
1997 Martina Hingis, 16 (WI)
1997 Martina Hingis, 16 (US)
1998 Martina Hingis, 17 (AO)
1999 Martina Hingis, 18 (AO)
1999 Serena Williams, 17 (US)*
2004 Maria Sharapova, 17 (WI)*
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova, 19 (US)*
2006 Maria Sharapova, 19 (US)
--
* - first-time slam winner

*WON TITLE AT FIRST SLAM SEEDED #1*
[since end of Evert/Navratilova era]
1991 Monica Seles (Roland Garros)
2002 Jennifer Capriati (Australian Open)
2002 Serena Williams (U.S. Open)
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne (Australian Open)
-
NOTE: Osaka #1 seed for first time at 2019 RG

*BIGGEST AGE DIFFERENCE IN SLAM FINAL*
17y,45d - Seles (17) d. Navratilova (34) = '91 U.S.
16y,20d - Osaka (20) d. S.Williams (36) = '18 U.S.
15y,180d - Martinez (22) d. Navratilova (37) = '94 WI
14y,175d - Graf (18) d. Evert (33) = '88 AO
13y,113d - Muguruza (23) d. V.Williams (37) = '17 WI

*LOW RANKED IN SLAM FINAL - Open era*
NR - Evonne Goolagong, 1977 Australian (W)
NR - Kim Clijsters, 2009 US Open (W)
NR - Justine Henin, 2010 Australian
#181 - Serena Williams, 2018 Wimbledon
#111 - Chris O'Neil, 1978 Australian (W)
#83 - Sloane Stephens, 2017 US Open (W)
#81 - Serena Williams, 2007 Australian (W)
#78 - Betsy Nagelson, 1978 Australian
#68 - Barbara Jordan, 1979 Australian (W)
#66 - Venus Williams. 1997 US Open




=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#14 Keys d. Azarenka - Vika faces Ostapenko, then maybe Osaka and Sakkari, so she could blow up (bad) as well as BLOW UP (good). So splitting the difference with '18 semifinalist Keys (vs. Garcia 3rd Rd.) is my "compromise" with the Tennis Gods.
#10 S.Williams d. #8 Barty - is Serena healthy enough for a second week run, and is "second choice" in her section -- Andreescu -- prepared for one big clay result after not playing on the dirt all spring? Meanwhile, Barty could be the beneficiary of the questions and succeed on her least favorite surface.
#3 Halep d. Swiatek - a first-time run for Iga, but if Kasatkina (3rd Rd., if she makes it that far) can find her form she could pull her hugely disappointing season out of its ugly tailspin
#6 Kvitova d. #17 Kontaveit - Petra's the clear favorite in a section what could see Anisimova get a second '19 slam shot at Sabalenka in the 2nd Rd.
#7 Stephens d. #19 Muguruza - unless Svitolina (1st Rd. vs. Venus, 3rd vs. Mugu) finally finds her place in the season, which she so far has not
#4 Bertens d. #15 Bencic - can Kiki ride the wave of expectation? She may have to win tough early match-ups with Kuzmova (2nd Rd.) and Konta (3rd Rd.) just to get this far.
Vondrousova d. Pavlyuchenkova - MV might have to defeat her first non-Simona Top 10 player (Kerber 2nd Rd.) to get here. Pavlyuchenkova over Mertens (3rd Rd.) because, well, who can ever really predict the Russian, so why not?
#2 Ka.Pliskova d. Kudermetova - is in an oddly interesting section with the injured Wozniacki (4th Rd.), the unpredictable Kuznetsova (2nd Rd.), spring breakout Petra Martic and a comeback minded Mladenovic (either in the 3rd Rd.)

=QUARTERFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#14 Keys d. #10 S.Williams - would much rather see Keys replaced by Azarenka or Garcia, and Serena by Andreescu or Barty. But this seems like the "safer" scenario.
#3 Halep d. #6 Kvitova - Petra hasn't been to the QF in Paris since 2012
#4 Bertens d. #7 Stephens - but could easily envision Sloane hitting stride and whipping through this match-up and then taking the title
#2 Ka.Pliskova d. Vondrousova - is Vondrouosova ready? Maybe if she wasn't facing another Czech, so an early Pliskova stumble vs. quite a few upset-minded opponents could swing a door wide open.

=SEMIFINAL PREDICTIONS=
#3 Halep d. #14 Keys - this would be three straight RG finals, and four in six years, for Halep. A second straight title could give her a shot to be RG's Player of the Decade.
#4 Bertens d. #2 Ka.Pliskova - Kiki has a history of knocking off multiple Top 10ers in an event, and Pliskova is one of the four she's defeated in majors (though it was on SW19's grass last year). Her last Top 10 win in Paris was in 2016.


=FINAL PREDICTION=
#4 Bertens d. #3 Halep - can the Dutch, who's thwarted Halep in Cincinnati and Madrid in the past year, do it on the Romanian's "home turf?" If she does she'd become Roland Garros' fourth consecutive first-time slam champ.



And, of course, the "Decade's Best" series for 2010-19 will continue during Roland Garros, with a look back at each edition of the tournament from this decade appearing in the "And finally..." section of Backspin's daily updates over the course of the next two weeks. A stand-alone 2010 recap has already been posted just to kick things off. After the final '19 champ has been crowned, the list of the Top 10 RG players of the decade will be unveiled, as well as the latest update of the Players of the Decade nomination list.


All for now.

Read more...

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Decade's Best: 2010 Roland Garros

From Francesca to Simona, as well as the champion who'll lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen a little over two weeks from now, it's been quite a decade for Roland Garros.



As a continuation of the season-long "Decade's Best" look back at the soon-to-conclude "20-teens" (here's the final Australian Open DB post and the most recently updated list of qualifiers for Players of the Decade), it's time to begin the countdown of the year-by-year RG thumbnail tournament sketches, leading up to selecting the Top 10 players (and other stuff) for all the happenings in Paris from 2010-19.

First up, a look back at the 2010 edition...


==NEWS & NOTES==
After Serena Williams began the decade by winning slam #12 in Melbourne, the notion that the decade's series of major champions might become a cut-and-dry affair was put to rest in just the second slam event of the 2010's as Francesca Schiavone put on quite possibly the most unexpected, life-affirming run to a legacy-altering major title in tour history.


In one fell swoop, Schiavone's 6-4/7-6(2) win over Samantha Stosur in the women's final made her the first female Italian slam champion (none had reached a final, and the last semifinalist was in 1954), the first woman in the Open era to win in Paris while ranked outside the Top 10 (#17), the oldest first-time major champ (29 years and 347 days, some three months older than '98 Wimbledon winner Jana Novotna) and the woman with the second longest wait (her 39th major, behind Novotna's 45) before winning a slam.


Schiavone's win was a forerunner to the decade's other late-blooming champions. Three of her four-time Fed Cup winning teammates -- Sara Errani ('12 RG), Roberta Vinci ('15 U.S.) and Flavia Pennetta ('15 U.S.) -- also reached slam finals, with Pennetta winning to become the *new* oldest (33) maiden major winner. Schiavone reached another final in Paris in 2011. Three players won slams later in their careers, with Pennetta (49th event, the new record), Marion Bartoli (47th at '13 Wimbledon) and Caroline Wozniacki (43rd at '18 AO) all surpassing Schiavone on the all-time list; while Alona Ostapenko broke the Italian's record by winning RG in 2017 when ranked #47.

One of Schiavone's "first/last" marks remains, though. Thirty-five slams later (and with just three champions left to be crowned in the decade), she's the last woman armed with a one-handed backhand to win a major title.

===============================================
While Stosur didn't win her maiden slam crown in Paris in 2010 (she would a season later at the U.S. Open), her run was quite remarkable. While becoming the first Aussie woman to reach a slam final since 1980, she defeated future #1/RG champ Simona Halep in her slam debut, ended former #1/RG champ Justine Henin's 24-match winning streak in Paris (ultimately ending her RG career) in the 4th Round, and upset world #1 Serena Williams in the QF (saving a MP) to become the first Australian woman to post a #1 victory in a slam since 1999.


A year before losing to Schiavone in the Roland Garros final, Stosur has defeated the Italian 6-4/6-2 in the 1st Round in Paris in 2009.
===============================================
None of the 2010 RG singles semifinalists had previously won a major title, making it the first time that had occurred in a slam since the 1979 Australian Open. One of those semifinalists was Elena Dementieva, who retired from her match vs. Schiavone. It would be the Russian's last of nine SF-or-better slam results (she reached two finals in '04). She advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open in the summer and played in her last singles final (her 32nd) in Tokyo that fall, then shocked many by publicly announcing her retirement from the sport at age 29 following her final round robin match (a loss to Schiavone on Day 4) at the WTA Championships. She never won a major title, but was an Olympic singles Gold medalist in 2008 in Beijing when Hordettes swept the WS medal stand.

Schiavone vs. Stosur represented the first time two first-time slam finalists had faced off since Roland Garros in 2004 (Myskina def. Dementieva).
===============================================
Playing in her first Roland Garros since 2007, back-from-retirement four-time RG champ Justine Henin reached the Round of 16, where she saw her 24-match tournament winning streak ended by Stosur. Her streak remains the third-longest by a woman in Paris behind only Chris Evert (29) and Monica Seles (25).

The Belgian would injure her elbow at Wimbledon a month later and would announce her final retirement following the Australian Open in January 2011. Henin's final win at Roland Garros was a 3rd Round victory over Maria Sharapova. The Russian ended the Waffle's 40-set RG streak in the match, but ultimately saw Henin rally from 0-2, love/40 down in the 3rd set to win, converting on her fifth MP.


Meanwhile, in the same event in which Henin saw her RG legacy come to an end, a player who idolized her -- Simona Halep -- saw hers begin. The Romanian, the '08 girls champ, qualified to reach her first slam MD, where she too lost to Stosur. Halep has since completed back-to-back #1 seasons in 2017 and '18, and in the latter year finally won her long-awaited maiden slam crown in Paris.

===============================================
In a 2nd Round match, Svetlana Kuznetsova did what she's always done in her career, experiencing a "whole life in a day" vs. Andrea Petkovic. In a match that included several rain delays, Petkovic had served for the win at 6-4/5-4, 40/love. Kuznetsova eventually saved four MP before winning on her own fourth MP, 4-6/7-5/6-4.
===============================================
In just her third career slam singles MD, 24-year old South African qualifier Chanelle Scheepers reached the Round of 16. She's the only player from her nation -- as well as the entire continent -- to advance so far in a major during the decade. Scheepers retired in 2015, having reached a pair of tour-level singles finals (winning in Guangzhou in '11, losing in Bastad in '14) in her career but only advancing to the 3rd Round twice more (both in 2011) in the remaining nineteen slam MD in which she appeared.
===============================================
After reaching the singles final in 2008 and '09, Dinara Safina was upset in the 1st Round by Kimiko Date-Krumm, who as 39 became the second oldest woman (V.Wade '85) to win a Roland Garros MD match. Safina had led 4-1 in the 3rd set, but ultimately went down to defeat in a match in which she had 17 DF. For Date it was her first slam win since the 1996 Wimbledon.

The Russian never played in Paris again, and never won another slam match (0-2). The former world #1's final year on tour was 2011, but she didn't officially retire until 2014.
===============================================
Venus and Serena Williams won the women's doubles title, claiming their fourth consecutive major title and 12th slam crown with a 6-2/6-3 victory over Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik. They both rose to the co-#1 doubles position for the first time after the tournament, a spot they held for the next eight weeks. Playing sparingly, they've added just two more WD majors since, at Wimbledon in 2012 and '16.


Srebotnik also reached the Mixed doubles final, winning her third career RG MX crown and her second with Nenad Zimonjic (2006).
===============================================
Dutch wheelchair great Esther Vergeer took the women's singles title (the 15th major win of her career) with a double-bagel win over countrywoman Sharon Walraven. Vergeer had opened play in the tournament with a 1st Round win over Jiske Griffioen, who'd later go on to reach WC #1 (2015) and win four singles majors.


Vergeer and Walraven lost in the WD final to Aniek Van Koot & Daniela Di Toro (HUN/AUS), ending Vergeer's streak of slam doubles titles at nineteen dating back to the 2002 RG. She's win the next eight before a loss in the 2012 Wimbledon semis in what was her final slam.
===============================================

Elina Svitolina became the first Ukrainian to win the RG girls title, defeating Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in the final. Having risen as high as #3 on the WTA tour as a pro, Svitolina has still yet to reach a slam semifinal. No player in tour history has won more singles titles (13) than she without at least one such result in a major. In the RG quarterfinals in 2017, Svitolina led Halep 6-3/5-1 and twice served for the match, then after failing to convert a MP in a 2nd set TB lost a love 3rd set to the Romanian in a mere twenty minutes.

Elsewhere in junior play, future RG champ (2016) Garbine Muguruza qualified to reach the girls MD, then lost in the 2nd Round to another Ukrainian, Lyudmyla Kichenok. Jabeur's run to the final included wins over Caroline Garcia (2nd Rd.) and Sloane Stephens (QF), and she teamed in the girls doubles with Nour Abbes to upset the #1-seeded Pliskova twins in the 1st Round.

Timea Babos and Stephens won the junior doubles title, defeating Spaniards Lara Arruabarrena & Maria Teresa Torro Flor in the final. Stephens would go on to reach the women's singles final in 2018.
===============================================
Day 6, due to weather delays and a string of suspended matches, produced quite possibly the most star-studded single day schedule in slam history, as pretty much *all* of the greatest players of their generation took to the court on the same afternoon. In action on the women's side were Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova (Kim Clijsters didn't play RG in '10), while the men's schedule saw Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray hit the courts.
===============================================
FASHION REPORT: Venus shocked with her corset dress, and flesh-colored/"nude illusion" undergarments...


While Jelena Jankovic positively glowed on her way to the semis...

===============================================


[from "Viva Francesca!" - June 5, 2010]


When (Schiavone) hopped up to shake Stosur's hand at the net, her white shirt was covered in red. On this day, winning a grand slam didn't have to be pretty... even when the new champ's game turned out to be far more beautiful than anyone anticipated.

Over the years, climbing into the stands in celebration of winning a slam title has almost became a rote, forced and unnecessary procedure since Pat Cash impetuously inaugurated the trend at Wimbledon back in 1987. But that wasn't the case with Schiavone's trip to the seats. After climbing over the railing and wading through the stands to get to her cheering section (she was ultimately dragged into it, really), she received a group hug of epic proportions in one of the most heartwarming scenes following any slam in recent memory. Ah, those life-loving Italians.

But the Schiavone scene didn't end there. In the trophy ceremony, she continued to let her joy flag fly.

Singing along with the Italian national anthem (the music was surprisingly monotonous, so I assume the words have great meaning), she flashed the huge smile that once again threatened to steal the world. A few feet away, Stosur, now sans sunglasses, looked down and ahead as she tried very hard to not allow her obvious-in-her-naked-eyes deep emotions of disappointment to consume her. A few moments later, while addressing the crowd, Schiavone turned to the Aussie and told her to not feel too sad, saying, "You are young. You can do it." Even after substituting her opponent's dream with her own, Schiavone was still able to make her (finally) flash a smile. Stosur seemed to be thankful for the moment of relief... even if in the back of her mind, she might have been thinking that she's only three years younger than the "old" Italian.

In between hugging and lovingly kissing the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen as if the occasion was the reuniting of herself with a long lost child she never knew she had, Schiavone still managed to grab the microphone one last time to thank trophy presenter Mary Pierce (it's the tenth anniversary of her RG title), telling her how much she loved her and was glad that she was there. The Frenchwoman seemed truly touched by the unexpected gratitude.


Sometimes, you can almost viscerally sense the moment when a player becomes something more in everyone's mind's eye from that day forward and forever. Anyone who watched Jana Novotna cry on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent could never be an uninterested bystander the rest of her career. Even more than her heroic play today, it was Schiavone's oh-so-thankful, oh-so-joyful, oh-so-life-affirming post-match moments that served as the moment for the Italian and anyone who was watching her. Nasty comments, intense rivalries and in-your-face outbursts often garner the most headlines in tennis, but it's the small, more intimate moments like this that make a player go from a familiar name to a person that you can't help but want to see succeed. Needless to say, it was a nice change.

Two weeks ago, you would have been thought demented to say it: "Francesca Schiavone is the champion of Roland Garros." Now, you would be called a crazy genius. Wonders never cease.



==QUOTES==
* - "I never believe I've lost until I'm shaking hands. And sometimes I don't believe it then, either." -- Serena Williams

* - "After Miami, she just felt like I wasn't good enough to play with anymore." -- Cara Black, on Liezel Huber
* - "Whenever we mentioned something about the #1 ranking Cara would just tighten up. For me it was never 'Liezel Huber the #1 player.' But I felt for her it was 'Cara Black the #1 player.' Who cares what the ranking is?" -- Liezel Huber, on Cara Black

Just weeks before the 2010 RG (in April), the doubles duo of Black and Huber had suffered a nasty break-up after a five-year stretch that saw the pair win four majors (in seven finals), claiming three-fourths of a Career Doubles Slam (coming up just a 2005 RG final loss short), along with two WTA Championship crowns and 28 total WTA titles. Neither ever won an elusive first RG doubles title, though Black did complete a Career Mixed Doubles Slam.

* - "I wasn't like this ten years ago. I decided to express myself, to be free, to be able to share my joy. Why not? When you give, you also can receive. If you remain closed, there's no exchange. I love to exchange. I love to give." -- Francesca Schiavone


Nearly a decade later, the memory of Schiavone's title in Paris *still* can't help but put a smile on the face of even those with the hardest of hearts.



I'll pick up the series with a look back at 2011, as well as all the years that followed, once play begins at Roland Garros. Until then...


All for now.

Read more...

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Wk.20- Shall a Czech Sit on the Clay Throne?

With the inevitable approach of the concluding battle to determine who will sit on the Clay Throne for the following twelve months, yet another contender injected her name into the conversation. She hails from the House of Czech, and her name is Karolina.



It's been thirty-eight years since one of her kind ruled the kingdom from Paris for as far as the eye can. Could *she* be the next?




*WEEK 20 CHAMPIONS*
ROME, ITALY (Premier 5/Red Clay Outdoor)
S: Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Johanna Konta/GBR 6-3/6-4
D: Victoria Azarenka/Ash Barty (BLR/AUS) def. Anna-Lena Groenfeld/Demi Schuurs (GER/NED) 4-6/6-0 [10-3]


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...before Rome, Pliskova's blazing start to '19 seemed to have hit a snag just as the clay season began. She skipped a week with a potential injury and was just 1-2 on the surface (w/ all three matches going three sets) heading into the week after having opened by playing at a 21-5 clip on hard courts.

While she never played anyone ranked in the Top 35 all week long, Pliskova emerged as the most consistent player in an Italian Open draw ravaged by rain, retirements and walkovers, likely often due in large part to precautionary actions with Roland Garros just a week away. No matter, Pliskova will take her wins over Ajla Tomljanovic, Sonya Kenin, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sakkari and Johanna Konta and reap the benefits. For one, they got her her 13th career tour-level title, the third (and biggest) on clay in her career. After eighteen champions were crowned in the season's first eighteen events, she's the third woman (after Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens) in recent weeks to record a second title run in '19. It'll lift her five spots in the rankings all the way to #2, setting up the '17 semifinalist on the opposite end of the RG draw from world #1 Naomi Osaka (who exited Rome via a walkover after waking up with an injured thumb after playing two matches the day before).

Pliskova is the first Czech to win the Rome title since 1978. Which woman won it then, you ask...? [see below]



Probably not anyone you might have been thinking: it was Regina Maršíková.




The last Czech to win Roland Garros? That's be Hana Mandlikova in 1981.
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RISERS: Maria Sakkari/GRE and Kiki Bertens/NED
...while the list of potential Coach of the Year candidates is pretty well populated, from the likes of Sylvain Bruneau (Andreescu), Raemon Sluiter (Bertens), Craig Tyzzer (Barty) and Wim Fissette (Azarenka) to maybe even Conchita Martinez (Pliskova), Dimitri Zavialoff (Konta) and Sascha Bajin (Osaka/Mladenovic), save a spot in the conversation for Tom Hill, who Sakkari may have finally landed on as the perfect choice after much recent trail and error.

Or, you know, unless it was the bird. Said Sakkari, "It’s funny, a bird s**t on my bag before the tournament in Rabat so I was like, good things are going to happen. So I haven’t cleaned my bag since then. I think I’m not going to wash it."

Whether the Greek's biggest help sports feathers or not, she's certainly taken some major steps since going 1-2 in Indian Wells and Miami. With her week in Rome, she's gone 14-4, winning her maiden title in Rabat, notching two Top 6 wins, and reaching her biggest tour semi this past week after qualifying (def. Zvonareva and Petkovic) and posting MD victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Anett Kontaveit and Petra Kvitova (on the same day, w/ the Czech retiring), and then rallying in the QF from 7-5/2-1, 40/love down vs. Kristina Mladenovic. A SF loss to Pliskova ended Sakkari's week, but her ten-spot ranking bump will lift her back into her career-high position (#29) and get her a seed at Roland Garros.




Well, a Madrid/Rome sweep probably *was* too much to ask from Bertens, right? At least now she won't head to Paris riding a double-digit winning streak that would cast her as quite possibly the #1 favorite to take her maiden title. Of course, she'll *still* be in the conversation as a title contender at the slam that has so often played host to a first-time major winner.

Bertens' week in Rome produced her third straight SF+ finish this clay season, but she didn't dominate like she did in Madrid. After a 1st Round bye, she went to a 7-5 3rd set vs. LL Amanda Anisimova and followed up later in the day with another win over Carla Suarez-Navarro square in the middle of the tournament's rain-delayed, backlogged schedule. After getting a walkover from Naomi Osaka, Bertens lost in three sets to Johanna Konta. Karolina Pliskova's title run allowed the Czech to leap over Bertens (who could have risen to #2 this week) and Simona Halep to capture RG's #2 seed.
===============================================
SURPRISE: Dalma Galfi/HUN
...a week after maintaining her spring momentum with a singles QF and double title (w/ Jana Fett) in the Monzon $25K, the 20-year old Hungarian finds herself in position to sweep the titles at a Spanish $60K challenger in La Bisbal d'Emporda. Galfi qualified and then recorded MD wins over Sabine Lisicki, Marie Bouzkova and Maryna Zanevska, the last two from a set down, to reach the semis. Rain delayed the semifinals until Sunday, where Galfi did it again, coming back from a set down to defeat Paula Badosa via a 7-5 deciding tie-break to reach her first singles final since 2016.

The final will be contested on Monday vs. China's Wang Xiyu, while Galfi and Georgina Garcia Perez are set to face off with Aussies Arina Rodionova & Storm Sanders in the WD final. Heading into the finals, the Hungarian is on a 13-3 singles run since April, and is 7-0 in doubles the last two weeks.
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VETERANS: Johanna Konta/GBR and Victoria Azarenka/BLR
...we'll soon see how Konta handles the elevated-once-again level of expectations after what has turned out to be a surprisingly productive clay court spring that has included her first tour-level semifinals and finals on the surface (in Rabat and now in Rome). This week she added a pair of Top 10 wins to her resume over #8 Sloane Stephens ('18 RG finalist) and #4 Kiki Bertens (she trailed the Madrid champ 7-5/5-4) *and* additional victories over Vens Williams and Marketa Vondrousova. She lost in the final to Karolina Pliskova, but it was still her biggest week of results since she won Miami and reached the Wimbledon semis two years ago. She'll jump back into the Top 30 with the result, going from #42 to #26 on Monday and slipping into the seeds for RG.




Thus far, she's 0-4 at Roland Garros, though, and lost in the 2nd Round at last year's Wimbledon after her '17 semi and climbing into the Top 10 soon afterward. In fact, since winning five matches at SW19 to reach her second major semi in a year and a half, Konta has gone a combined 3-6 in slams.

The spring has turned out to provide the setting for an Azarenka reawakening. Since her tearful 1st Round exit in Melbourne, she's continued her hard work on and off the court. And it's paid off, to the tune of a pair of doubles titles (including this week's in Rome w/ Ash Barty), her first singles final (Monterrey) in three years, and a significant rise in the rankings (up seven more to #44 on Monday). This week, her comeback from 5-2 down in the 3rd set (and MP) in the 2nd Round vs. defending champ Elina Svitolina led to a retirement win over Garbine Muguruza a round later and a QF berth for her third final-eight-or-better result in her last four events. Though she fell short against eventual champion Karolina Pliskova, with her now routinely flashing some newly-tuned doubles skills at the net Vika has posted three Top 6 wins in recent weeks and cast her as maybe *the* unseeded player no one wants to draw in the early rounds in Paris a week from now.


===============================================
COMEBACKS: Kristina Mladenovic/FRA and Marcela Zacarias/MEX
...is Sascha Bajin on his way to a *second* straight Coach of the Year award? As much as Karmic Kiki has helped herself out in recent weeks, the difference between Mladenovic's results before and after hiring Bajin is stark (and, lest we forget, he's also steered a player to a slam title this season).

Kiki came to Rome having already gone 5-2 in singles (and won a doubles title) since the most recent Fed Cup weekend, and after winning Rome qualifying matches over Anastasia Potapova and Amanda Anisimova, Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia *finally* met on opposite sides of the net for the first time since the publicly nasty (at least on one side) break-up of their doubles partnership in 2017. Since then, Garcia has risen high (and lately come back down a bit and leveled off), while Mladenovic has mostly fallen. Partly because of injury, with some sizable does of a lack of confidence and maybe even karmic justice thrown in. But the Pastries made up (or at least learned how to civilly deal with each other) during last month's Fed Cup semifinal, teaming in doubles to send France to the final, and the dark cloud (which had already shown some signs of brightening since she was seemingly reprimanded and maybe even barred from FC play by French Captain Julien Benneteau in February) almost immediately lift from atop Mladenovic's game.

With much of the old tension set aside in recent weeks, the Kiki/Caro meeting was far less headline-worthy than it might have been had it come over the last two-plus seasons, when the two were a match away from such a moment on multiple occasions before one (or both) lost and avoided the match-up. Mladenovic (on her birthday, no less) handled Garcia 1 & 2, and the countrywomen met at the net with a cordial, and appropriately solid, handshake and double-kiss greeting. Wins over Belinda Bencic and Ash Barty (on the same day) followed, before the Pastry squandered a 7-5/2-1, 40/love lead in the QF vs. Maria Sakkari, missing on a forehand shot on GP that might have put the match out of reach. Afterward, Mladenovic lauded Sakkari for her great play. If she's not a "new" Kiki, she's surely doing a good job of holding up an elaborate mask to hide her true self.

Of course, Mladenovic's hiring of ex-Osaka coach Bajin essentially coincided with all this (which could also be viewed as part of the karmic cloud-parting, if one would choose to do so). Her 10-3 mark since Fed Cup is also her mark in tour events with Big Sascha, which is a remarkably quick turnaround for a player who was 5-10 in '19 before her first official tournament with her new coach.

This article is a little old, but it's a good explanation for why Bajin chose that from Mladenovic over the many offers he apparently received after his dismissal from his last job after leading the company to "record profits." I sure hope he can keep the winning "fun" with Kiki, since that was apparently the official explanation for what got him sent packing a few months ago.



Meanwhile, Zacarias is *really* enjoying her time in Cancun, and it has nothing to do with the beach.



Zacarias' dominant stretch on the lower end of the ITF circuit continued this week as she swept the singles and doubles titles in a $15K challenger for the fourth straight week. After winning her second straight WD title with Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez, the 25-year old defeated Patricia Maria Tig 6-3/6-1 to claim the singles crown. She's now won thirty-three straight matches -- twenty in singles (40-0 sets) and thirteen in doubles.
===============================================
FRESH FACES: Marketa Vondrousova/CZE and the Stanford Women's Tennis Team
...while she still doesn't have any trophies to back it up, Vondrousova has been on fire since leaving Melbourne. The Czech lost in the 2nd Round in Melbourne to Petra Martic, but has only tasted defeat five times since while winning twenty-one singles matches. Her QF run in Rome was her fifth straight, a stretch which has included finals in Budapest and Istanbul, back-to-back QF in IW/Miami, an undefeated Fed Cup weekend and her only two career Top 10 wins, both against #2 Simona Halep (three-setters on hard court and clay).

In Rome, the 19-year old took out Barbora Strycova, Halep and Dasha Kasatkina (getting some belated revenge after having lost in the RG junior semis in '14 when the Russian then went on to take the girls title, and in the 2nd Round in Paris in '17 in their only other pro meeting). Vondrousova is up to a career-best #38 this week.

At the USTA National Campus in Orlando, #3-seeded Stanford successfully defending its women's team championship by defeating top-seeded Georgia (led by Freshman Meg Kowalski, who'd carried the Bulldogs into the final even while being sick on Saturday and needing to be given an I.V. in her second match) 4-0. The Cardinal end the season on a 23-match winning streak and secure the school's record 20th NCAA title. Playing in a fourth consecutive final, the back-to-back title runs are a first for Stanford since winning three in a row from 2004-06. Janice Shin clinched the title with her singles victory.


===============================================
DOWN: Alona Ostapenko/LAT
...there were a lot of retirements and/or walkovers in the rain-delayed and subsequently jumbled-up event in Rome, but Ostapenko made it across the imaginary finish line earlier than most, retiring in the 1st Round vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu with the Romanian serving up 6-2/5-4, 15/love.

Of course, the move rankled some (hint: they had monetary stake in it being a *completed* match). Said Alona in her Instagram story afterward, "It really sucks when you have to retire from a match at one of your favorite tournaments. Unfortunately, I felt really bad today out there on court and had a fever (of) 38.1 (degrees C - that's 100.6 F), so I couldn't continue the match. I feel really sad about it, but I will do everything possible to recover as quick as I can."

Of course, that this comes on the doorstep of Roland Garros only add to the Latvian's woes. The defeat drops her to 1-3 on red clay this spring (3-4 if you count her green clay results in Charleston), and she'll drop thirteen spots to #40 on Monday. Two years after she won the title in Paris, she won't be seeded this year. She was #47 when she had her big run in 2017.

Hmmm, Sascha Bajin noted recently that he had numerous offers from some big name players -- some with a bigger salary -- before she signed up with Mladenovic. I wonder if Ostapenko was one of them, and at the moment whether she still *qualifies* as a "big-name" player, too, for that matter? Things can change quickly on the WTA tour.
===============================================
ITF PLAYER: Bernarda Pera/USA
...while she missed out on getting the USTA's RG wild card berth, the 24-year old rebounded in Slovakia by claiming her biggest career title at the $100K challenger in Trnava, becoming the fourth Bannerette (after Caty McNally, Taylor Townsend and Lauren Davis) to win the first four $100K events of 2019 (they've filled seven of the eight finalist spots, as well). Wins over Cornelia Lister, Jana Cepelova, Laura Siegemund, Veronica Cepede Royg and Anna Blinkova (in the 7-5/7-5 final) allowed her to complete her title run without dropping a set, and she'll make a huge 32-spot leap in the rankings on Monday, going from #115 to #83. Pera's career best is a #67 standing last October.


===============================================
JUNIOR STAR: Daniela Shnaider/RUS
...the 15-year old Hordette (jr. #86) put to rest her slow (1-4) start to 2019, collecting her first career Grade 1 singles crown in Santa Croce, Italy. Shnaider, once again sporting her signature polka dot headgear, didn't drop a set. She defeated Ecuador's Mell Elizabeth Reasco Gonzalez 7-6(5)/6-2 in the final.



Shnaider was a big part of Russia's 14s World Junior team title last August, as well, teaming with Erika Andreeva in the deciding doubles to defeat the Czechs in the final.


===============================================
DOUBLES: Victoria Azarenka/Ash Barty, BLR/AUS
...most of Barty's doubles partners turn out to be a pretty good much to the Aussie's skills (which currently have her in the Top 10 in both singles and doubles, the only player to appear on both lists), and her partnership this season with Azarenka has proven to be no different. The unseeded duo won their first title together in Rome, dropping just one set along the way on a path that included wins over #5-seeded Hsieh/Strycova, #1 Krejcikova/Siniakova (in the semis, after having previously defeated the Czech pair in the 1st Round on hard court in Miami) and defending champ Demi Schuurs (w/ Anna-Lena Groenefeld) in a 4-6/6-0 [10-3] final. Schuurs had teamed with Barty to take last year's title, so the win gives the Aussie another feather for her 2019 cap: she's the first player to successfully defend a WD title this season.

For Azarenka, it's her second title of the year, having previously won Acapulco with Zheng Saisai. Azarenka's singles QF run featured a win over defending champ Elina Svitolina in the 2nd Round, a victory which helped preserve Barty's Top 8 seed for Roland Garros. Both Barty and Azarenka are hardly favorites to truly contend for the singles title in Paris, though they've shown themselves this spring capable of pushing (and defeating) almost anyone on a given day even on a surface that isn't ideal for their games, but the same might not be the case for them as a doubles duo once WD play begins soon at RG.



While Barty's doubles career is more known, it's Azarenka who has the majority of the slam doubles titles between the two. She's won a pair of MX crowns (in 2007-08), while going 0-3 in women's doubles finals (2008-11). Barty finally won her first WD major at last year's U.S. Open with CoCo Vandeweghe after having gone 0-4 with Casey Dellacqua from 2013-17.
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WHEELCHAIR: The NED World Cup Team
...it's hardly an unexpected occurrence that it was the Dutch squad that came out on top in Ramat Hasharon, Israel at the World Team Cup at the wheelchair version of the Fed/Davis Cup competition. But that doesn't mean it was easy.



Facing off with Japan in the final of the week long event, the Netherlands took the early lead in the best-of-3 tie with Aniek Van Koot handling Manami Tanaka 1 & 1. But it was the headliner match-up that everyone was looking forward to, as world #1 Diede de Groot attempted to clinch NED's successful title defense in match #2 against world #2 Yui Kamiji. As it turned out, she wasn't able to. Kamiji defeated de Groot for the second time in four '19 meetings, winning 3-6/6-2/6-1. Kamiji still leads their career head-to-head 14-11, and cut Diede the Great's recent advantage to 9-3 in the last twelve.

In the deciding doubles, the two returned to the court, with de Groot teaming with Marjolein Buis to defeat Kamiji & Monoko Ohtami in a Cup classic, winning the 3:16 affair 7-6(2)/4-6 [10-8] to secure the Netherlands' 31st title in the women's competition's 34-year history. Yep, the Czech FC women have nothing on the Dutch. The only years they didn't win the title: 1994 (USA), 1999 (AUS) and 2017 (CHN).

This result will likely have little bearing on what happens in Paris, as the event was contested on hard court, but Roland Garros is surely set to be the site for potential history in a few weeks. If de Groot can win the RG singles she'll become the first player to have claimed all eight slam crowns in a career (the Wimbledon singles didn't begin until '16, so Esther Vergeer didn't have the opportunity), and if she sweeps *both* the singles and doubles titles she'll be the first to simultaneously hold *all* the available WC slam titles since Vergeer did it in 2011. Of course, de Groot would be the first to concurrently hold *eight*. Kamiji defeated de Groot in last year's RG final, winning her second straight title in Paris.

Aha! But that's not all. If de Groot fails to secure the only slam she hasn't won (RG singles), then when everyone convenes at Wimbledon a month later it will be Kamiji who'd have the chance to make history. *She* only needs the Wimbledon singles to boast of having won all eight major crowns. She lost in the semifinals at SW19 the last two years, while de Groot was the champion in 2017-18. While de Groot leads their slam head-to-head 3-2, they've never met in singles at the AELTC.
===============================================




*2019 ROLAND GARROS WILD CARDS*
Audrey Albie/FRA (24) - makes her slam debut; her only previous GS matches came in RG qualifying in '17
Lauren Davis/USA (25) - the eleventh hour winner of the USTA Wild Card Challenge, Davis makes her first slam MD app. since her marathon loss to Halep (15-13 3rd set) in the '18 AO. She has 11 career slam MD wins, but her only one at RG was in 2012.
Priscilla Hon/AUS (21) - receiving a WC into a second straight slam, the Aussie makes her RG debut after receiving Tennis Australia's pass based on overall play (not via the 8-player tournament at RG that was held in recent seasons)
Selena Janicijevic/FRA (16) - the 16-year old makes her slam debut. A Top 30 junior, Janicijevic is 20-5 in junior play in '19, and won a G1 title in March. She's only played two professional MD matches, both the $15K level.
Chloe Paquet/FRA (24) - Paquet is close to becoming "the Rogowska of Roland Garros," garnering her third straight MD Paris wild card from the French Federation. Her only 1st Round win came in '17.
Diane Parry/FRA (16) - the Top 10 junior will make her slam (and tour) MD debut after losing in '18 qualifying (and in the final round of Strasbourg qualifying this weekend). Barring an even younger qualifier, the Pastry will likely be the youngest in the MD draw (she's a few months younger than fellow WC Janicijevic). Parry won a G1 in Brazil (def. Hurricane Tyra Black) earlier this year, and reached a Grade A semi. Late last year, she was an Orange Bowl semifinalist and won a Grade A in Mexico in November with wins over Coco Gauff and Clara Burel.
Jessika Ponchet/FRA (22) - 0-3 in slam MD (2 AO, 1 RG) in the last year and a half, Ponchet has been awarded back-to-back RG wild cards and qualified on her own to reach the AO MD in January.
Harmony Tan/FRA (21) - after falling in the final Q-round in Paris a year ago, Tan gets the nod. Her only other slam MD app. came at the U.S. Open in '18 (also as a WC).








1. Rome 2nd Rd. - Victoria Azarenka def. Elina Svitolina
...4-6/6-1/7-5.
The two-time defending champ, Svitolina came up on the short end of a match ravaged by rain delays. It was suspended with the Ukrainian up 6-4/0-1, then again with Azarenka leading 4-1. In the 3rd, Svitolina led 5-2 and held a MP, but Vika rallied into the night to get her third Top 10 win of the spring. After going 4-0 in three setters en route to winning the WTAF in the fall, Svitolina has exited in five of eight events via a three-set defeat and is *still* title-less in 2019.



===============================================
2. Rome QF - Maria Sakkari def. Kristina Mladenovic
...5-7/6-3/6-0.
What a difference a few weeks make. Mladenovic losing to Sakkari after having led 7-5/2-1, 40/love and missing a forehand on GP that would have put her half-way to a 2nd set win would have felt like another fallen brick in a crumbling wall *before* Big Sascha arrived. Now, though, if feels like a near-miss, bump in the road slip on the way to better things. Weird how that works.
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3. Rome 1st Rd. - Kristina Mladenovic def. Caroline Garcia
...6-1/6-2.
On her birthday, Karmic Kiki's journey from comeuppance to redemption advances another step toward completion. A short while ago, who would have thought this match would feel anticlimactic?


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4. Rome 1st Rd. - Belinda Bencic def. Anastasija Sevastova
...2-6/6-3/6-2.
From 6-2/3-0 down, Bencic wins six straight games to knot the match. She won seventeen straight points in the 3rd, and finished by taking twelve of the final fourteen games.



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5. Rome 1st Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro def. Dayana Yastremska
...6-1/1-6/6-3.
Yastremska is 3-6 (1-6 in tour-level matches) since winning her maiden title in Hua Hin. Why, it's like the difference between the celebration of her 18th birthday last year...



And her 19th this past week...


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6. Rome 2nd Rd. - Marketa Vondrouosva def. Simona Halep
...2-6/7-5/6-3.
So you say your first two career Top 10 wins, within a few months of each other, have come against Simona Halep...

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WHAT.A.DAY!!!??????

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===============================================
7. Rome 3rd Rd. - Victoria Azarenka def. Garbine Muguruza
...6-4/3-1 ret.
Remember when these two met for the first time last year, and what resulted (a 7-6/7-6 Vika win in which Mugu forced a 2nd TB from 5-2, 2 MP down and Azarenka won on MP #4) was maybe the best two-set match of the season? Well, we're still waiting for a sequel. Or even a full match. They met in the Monterrey final, and Muguruza won when Vika retired down 6-1/3-1. This time it was Garbi's turn, with a thigh injury.
===============================================
8. $80K Saint-Gaudens FRA Final - Anna Kalinskaya def. Ana Bogdan
...6-3/6-4.
The Russian wins the battle to lift the biggest career title for either finalist.


===============================================
9. $60K Kurume JPN Final - Rebecca Marino def. Yuki Naito
...6-4/7-6(0).
For Marino, it's her first '19 title, but her sixth since the start of her comeback.
===============================================
10. $15K Antalya TUR Final - Eleonora Molinaro def. Ines Abbou
...6-2/6-4.
Back-to-back titles for the 18-year old from Luxembourg.


===============================================
11. $15K Barletta ITA Final - Elli Mandlik def. Oana Georgeta Simion
...6-0/6-2.
Mandlik celebrated her 18th birthday by winning her second career title. She's 19-5 on the year in ITF play.


===============================================
12. $15K Naples FLA Final - Katerina Stewart def. Belinda Woolcock
...6-4/6-3.
The 21-year old former cadet wins her eleventh ITF title in fourteen career finals.


===============================================





1. Rome 1st Rd. - VENUS WILLIAMS def. Elise Mertens
...7-5/3-6/7-6(4).
Though still rarely serving at full speed due to an unknown malady, Williams still knows how to fight. Up 5-1 in the 3rd, Venus served at 5-2, 40/15 and had six MP in game #8 (one a DF at 40/30), but was broken. With another shot at 5-4, she failed to convert two additional MP and the Belgian forced things to a deciding TB. Finally, on MP #9, Williams won a 7-4 breaker to finish off Mertens in 3:03 (1:21 of that in the 3rd set alone). Alas, her first match-up against Serena in Rome in twenty years never materialized.


===============================================
2. Rome 1st Rd. - SERENA WILLIAMS def. Rebecca Peterson
...6-2/6-2.
What with her walkover before the 2nd Round due to her lingering knee issues, Serena's first match since the Australian Open final will be her only one before Roland Garros. Hmmm, or will it be the grass season, or maybe Wimbledon?
===============================================
3. Rome SF - Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Demi Schuurs def. CHAN HAO-CHING/LATISHA CHAN
...7-5/6-7(6) [10-6].
ALG/Demi get some revenge for the Chans' win over them in the Doha final earlier this year. Angel & Latisha had won back-to-back match TB's to get this far in Rome. Still, in nine tournaments this season the sisters have won two titles, reached another final and four additional semis. They've gone 25-7.
===============================================
4. Rome 3rd Rd. - Johanna Konta def. VENUS WILLIAMS
...6-2/6-4.
The Brit's win evens the head-to-head at four each, and ends Williams' three-match winning streak (w/ victories on clay, grass and hard courts) in the series.
===============================================
5. Rome Final - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. Johanna Konta
...6-3/6-4.
Pliskova's 13th career title ties her with Elina Svitolina amongst active players, now one ahead of the likes of Kerber, Pavlyuchenkova and Zvonareva.
===============================================


6. $25K Singapore Final - ABIGAIL TERE-APISAH def. Valeria Savinykh
...6-3/6-2.
ATA, 26, becomes Papua New Guinea's first ever professional singles champion, and also reached the WD final with India's Rutuja Bhosale. Her family is all over the sport, with sister Maria also a player, along with nieces Violet and Patricia.


===============================================
7. Rome QF - Kiki Bertens walkover Naomi Osaka (thumb)
...
Thus, Osaka heads into RG *still* #1, and with a 7-1 record on clay this season, but with two walkovers. She reached the 3rd Round in Paris in 2018.
===============================================


Mashona Washington's Wild Kingdom...




Fed Cup re-enactment...?







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... Roma ??????

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So, Angie stole the "process" concept from Svitolina? Geez... such a drama queen, right?












The take from the WTA's "meh" #ItTakes campaign...



Lorena Popa alternate take (bless her)...



[more commentary on #ItTakes in the comment section of last week's post]






*2019 WTA FINALS*
4 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (2-2)
3 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE (2-1)
2 - Kiki Bertens, NED (2-0)
2 - Bianca Andreescu, CAN (1-1)
2 - Ash Barty, CAN (1-1)
2 - Sonya Kenin, USA (1-1)
2 - Simona Halep, ROU (0-2)
2 - JOHANNA KONTA, GBR (0-2)
2 - Marketa Vondrousova, CZE (0-2)

*2019 WTA CHAMPIONS BY RANKING*
#3 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (Stuttgart)
#4 - Naomi Osaka, JPN (Australian Open)
#7 - Kiki Bertens, NED (Madrid)
#7 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE (ROME)
#8 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (Brisbane)
#8 - Kiki Bertens, NED (Saint Petersburg)
#9 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (Sydney)
#12 - Ash Barty, AUS (Miami)
#13 - Aryna Sabalenka, BLR (Shenzhen)
#14 - Julia Goerges, GER (Auckland)
#18 - Madison Keys, USA (Charleston)
#19 - Garbine Muguruza, ESP (Monterrey)
#21 - Elise Mertens, BEL (Doha)
#40 - Petra Martic, CRO (Istanbul)
#45 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (Dubai)
#47 - Dayana Yastremska, UKR (Hua Hin)
#50 - Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL (Budapest)
#51 - Maria Sakkari, GRE (Rabat)
#56 - Sonya Kenin, USA (Hobart)
#60 - Bianca Andreescu, CAN (Indian Wells)
#65 - Wang Yafan, CHN (Acapulco)
#76 - Amanda Anisimova, USA (Bogota)
#89 - Polona Hercog, SLO (Lugano)
#146 - Jil Teichmann, SUI (Prague)

*2019 WTA CHAMPIONS BY AGE*
30 - Goerges
29 - Kvitova
28 - Hercog,Kvitova,Martic
27 - Bertens (2), KA.PLISKOVA
26 - Ka.Pliskova
25 - Muguruza
24 - Keys,Van Uytvanck,Wang Yafan
23 - Mertens,Sakkari
22 - Barty
21 - Bencic,Osaka,Teichmann
20 - Kenin,Sabalenka
19 - Yastremska
18 - Andreescu
17 - Anisimova

*2019 ACTIVE 2+ EVENT TITLE STREAKS & result*
[WTA + WC]
=5 years=
Yui Kamiji - Wimbledon WC WD 2014-18 (d) = TBD
=3 years=
Johanna Larsson - Linz 2016-18 (d) = TBD
=2 years=
Elise Mertens - Hobart 2017-18...DNP
Elina Svitolina - Dubai 2017-18...SF
Lesia Tsurenko - Acapulco 2017-18...DNP
Raquel Atawo - Stuttgart 2017-18 (d)...QF
Kveta Peschke - Prague 2017-18 (d)...RU
ELINA SVITOLINA - ROME 2017-18...2nd Rd.
Yui Kamiji - Roland Garros WC WS 2017-18 = TBD
Petra Kvitova - Birmingham 2017-18 = TBD
Diede de Groot - Wimbledon WC WS 2017-18 = TBD
Yui Kamiji - Wimbledon WC WD 2017-18 (d) = TBD

*2019 WTA SEMIFINALS*
5 - KIKI BERTENS, NED (2-3)
4 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (4-0)
4 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE (3-1)
3 - Bianca Andreescu, CAN (2-1)
3 - Simona Halep, ROU (2-1)
3 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (1-2)
3 - Naomi Osaka, JPN (1-1+L)
3 - Angelique Kerber,GER (1-2)
3 - Donna Vekic, CRO (1-2)
3 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (0-3)
[2015-19]
33...Halep [9/6/7/8/3]
32...KA.PLISKOVA [8/6/8/6/4]
30...Kerber [8/11/3/5/3]
27...Svitolina [6/7/6/5/3]
25...Wozniacki [7/4/8/5/1]
23...Kvitova [5/6/2/6/4]
22...Muguruza [5/3/7/6/1]
20...A.Radwanska [8/9/2/1] (ret)
19...BERTENS [1/5/3/5/5]
19...Goerges [0/4/7/7/1]
18...S.Williams [9/6/1/2/0]
16...Garcia [2/4/7/3/0]

*MOST WTA DOUBLES FINALS in 2019*
3...Chan/Chan (2-1)
2...Mertens/Sabalenka (2-0)
2...Hsieh/Strycova (2-0)
2...Stosur/Sh.Zhang (1-1)
2...Babos/Mladenovic (1-1)
2...Melichar/Peschke (1-1)
2...Kalinskaya/Kuzmova (1-1)
2...GROENEFELD/SCHURRS (0-2)

*PLAYERS WITH WTA S/D TITLES in 2019*
Sonya Kenin, USA = Hobart + Auckland
Elise Mertens, BEL = Doha + Indian Wells,Miami
Aryna Sabalenka, BLR = Shenzhen + Indian Wells,Miami
ASH BARTY, AUS = MIAMI + ROME

*2019 SLAM/PREMIER MANDATORY/PREMIER 5 FINALS*
Australian Open (HC) - #4 Osaka/JPN def. #6 KVITOVA/CZE
Dubai (HC) - #45 Bencic/SUI d. #4 Kvitova/CZE
Indian Wells (HC) - #60 Andreescu/CAN def. #8 Kerber/GER
Miami (HC) - #11 Barty/AUS def. #7 Ka.Pliskova/CZE
Madrid (RC) - #7 Bertens/NED def. #3 Halep/ROU
Rome (RC) - #7 Ka.Pliskova/CZE def. #42 Konta/GBR
[doubles winners]
Australian Open - Stosur/Sh.Zhang, AUS/CHN
Dubai - Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE
Indian Wells - Mertens/Sabalenka, BEL/BLR
Miami - Mertens/Sabalenka, BEL/BLR
Madrid - Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE
Rome - Azarenka/Barty, BLR/AUS

**2019 TOP JUNIOR EVENT CHAMPIONS**
TRARALGON AUS G1: Clara Tauson/DEN
COFFEE BOWL BRA G1: Abigail Forbes/USA
RPM JUNIOR OPEN CZE G1: Kristyna Lavickova/CZE
AUSTRALIAN OPEN JUNIORS: Clara Tauson/DEN
COPA BARRANQUILLA COL G1: Savannah Broadus/USA
MUNDIAL JUVENIL DE TENIS ECU G1: Abigail Forbes/USA
ASUNCION BOWL PAR G1: Charlotte Chavatipon/USA
BANANA BOWL BRA G1: Diane Parry/FRA
PORTO ALEGRE BRA G1: Ane Mintegi Del Olmo/ESP
YELTSIN CUP RUS G1: Anna Charaeva/RUS
NONTHABURI, THA G1: Bai Zhuoxuan/CHN
CASABLANCA MAR G1: Selena Janicijevic/FRA
SARAWAK MINISTER'S CUP MAL G1: Joanna Garland/TPE
VILLENA JUAN CARLOS FERRERO ESP G1: Alexandra Vecic/GER
INT'L SPRING CHAMPIONSHIPS USA G1: Hurricane Tyra Black/USA
PERIN MEMORIAL CRO G1: Daria Frayman/RUS
BEAULIEU-SUR-MER FRA G1: Elsa Jacquemot/FRA
SANTA CROCE ITA G1: Diana Shnaider/RUS

*WHEELCHAIR WORLD TEAM CUP WINNERS, w/ host nation*
2019 [ISR] - Netherlands
2018 [NED] - Netherlands
2017 [ITA] - China
2016 [JPN] - Netherlands
2015 [TUR] - Netherlands
2014 [NED] - Netherlands
2013 [TUR] - Netherlands
2012 [KOR] - Netherlands
2011 [RSA] - Netherlands
2010 [TUR] - Netherlands
2009 [GBR] - Netherlands
2008 [ITA] - Netherlands
2007 [SWE] - Netherlands
2006 [BRA] - Netherlands
2005 [NED] - Netherlands
2004 [NZL] - Netherlands
2003 [POL] - Netherlands
2002 [ITA] - Netherlands
2001 [SUI] - Netherlands
2000 [FRA] - Netherlands
1999 [USA] - Australia
1998 [ESP] - Netherlands
1997 [GBR] - Netherlands
1996 [AUS] - Netherlands
1995 [NED] - Netherlands
1994 [GBR] - United States
1993 [AUT] - Netherlands
1992 [BEL] - Netherlands
1991 [USA] - Netherlands
1990 [USA] - Netherlands
1989 [USA] - Netherlands
1988 [USA] - Netherlands
1987 [USA] - Netherlands
1986 [USA] - Netherlands

*NCAA WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS*
[recent singles winners]
2009 Mallory Cecil, Duke (USA)
2010 Chelsey Gullickson, Georgia (USA)
2011 Jana Juricova, California (SVK)
2012 Nicole Gibbs, Stanford (USA)
2013 Nicole Gibbs, Stanford (USA)
2014 Danielle Collins, Virginia (USA)
2015 Jamie Loeb, North Carolina (USA)
2016 Danielle Collins, Virginia (USA)
2017 Brienne Minor, Michigan (USA)
2018 Arianne Hartono, Mississippi (NED)
2019 ?
[recent doubles winners]
2010 Hilary Barte / Lindsay Burdette (Stanford)
2011 Hilary Barte / Mallory Burdette (Stanford)
2012 Mallory Burdette / Nicole Gibbs (Stanford)
2013 Kaitlyn Christian / Sabrina Santamaria (USC)
2014 Maya Jansen / Erin Routcliffe (Alabama)
2015 Maya Jansen / Erin Routcliffe (Alabama)
2016 Brooke Austin / Kourtney Keegan (Florida)
2017 Francesca Di Lorenzo / Miho Kowase (Ohio State)
2018 Jessica Golovin / Eden Richardson (LSU)
2019 ?
[overall singles champions by school]
14 - Stanford
4 - Florida
3 - Georgia
2 - California, Duke, Virginia
1 - Baylor, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi, San Diego, UCLA, USC, Wake Forest
[most singles titles]
2 - Sandra Birch, Stanford
2 - Danielle Collins, Virginia
2 - Patty Fendick, Stanford
2 - Nicole Gibbs, Stanford
2 - Laura Granville, Stanford
2 - Amber Liu, Stanford
2 - Lisa Raymond, Florida
[recent team champions]
2010 Stanford
2011 Florida
2012 Florida
2013 Stanford
2014 UCLA
2015 Vanderbilt
2016 Stanford
2017 Florida
2018 Stanford
2019 Stanford
[most team titles]
20...Stanford
7...Florida
2...Georgia
2...UCLA
2...USC
2...Texas





















All for now.

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