Sunday, May 01, 2016

Wk.17- Spring Fever

While there were a few "fools" in April, the past month produced far more springtime champions and achievers -- some more historic than others. But it wouldn't be The Most Interesting Tour in the World without a little of both, now would it?

A quick thumbnail sketch of the month that was...

**THE TOP DOZEN - WK. 14-17**
1. Caroline Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic, FRA/FRA: swept through Charleston & Stuttgart (and clinched France's FC semi win)

2. Angelique Kerber, GER: reached the Charleston semis, went 2-0 in Fed Cup, then defended her Stuttgart title
3. Sloane Stephens, USA: won 2016 title #3 in Charleston for her first clay court crown
4. Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR: became the first Turkish woman or man in pro tennis history to win a tour-level singles title, winning in her hometown in Istanbul
5. French Fed Cup Team: Mauresmo's Pastries reached the FC final for the first time in eleven years, and will face the Czechs for their first title since '03
6. Czech Fed Cup Team: with yet another deciding doubles win, the Maidens will play for a fifth FC title in six years
7. Lucie Safarova, CZE: back from her illness layoff, success first came in doubles (Charleston RU), with singles honors (Prague title) not far behind

8. Laura Siegemund, GER: reached the Charleston QF, then the Stuttgart final as a qualifier who won three straight matches over Top 10 opponents
9. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK: won her first post-Achilles surgery title in Katowice, and led SVK to a WG II Playoff win over Canada
10. U.S. Fed Cup Team: with MJK finally pushing the right buttons (and Stosur gagging up a storm), the U.S. returned to the '17 World Group with a whitewash of the Aussies Down Under
11. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI: ended her '16 disappointment following a late '15 knee injury with a title run in Rabat
12. Irina Falconi, USA: won her maiden title in Bogota, then led a relief effort for earthquake victims in her native Ecuador

1. Caroline Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2. Viktoriya Golubic, SUI
3. Angelique Kerber, GER
4. Kiki Bertens, NED
5. Garbine Muguruza, ESP
6. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
7. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
8. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
9. Lucie Hradecka & Karolina Pliskova, CZE
10. Aliaksanda Sasnovich, BLR
11. Christina McHale, USA
12. Hsu Ching-wen, TPE
13. Madison Keys, USA
14. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
15. Andrea Petkovic, GER
16. Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
17. CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
18. Lee Ya-Hsuan, TPE
19. Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
20. Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
21. Daria Kasatkina, RUS
22. Mandy Minella, LUX
23. Melanie Stokke, NOR
24. Barbara Haas, AUT
25. Francoise Abanda, CAN
HM- Dea Herdzelas, BIH & Katharine Lehnert, PHI

RISERS: BLR Fed Cup Team & Yulia Putintseva/KAZ
FRESH FACES: Daria Kasatkina/RUS & Maria Sakkari/GRE
SURPRISES: TPE Fed Cup Team & Kateryna Kozlova/UKR
VETERANS: Elena Vesnina/RUS & Marina Erakovic/NZL
COMEBACKS: GER Fed Cup Team & Amra Sadikovic/SUI
DOWN: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK & AUS Fed Cup Team
ITF: Paula Ormaechea/ARG & Asia Muhammad/Taylor Townsend (USA/USA)
JUNIORS: Anna Blinkova/RUS & Anna Kalinskaya/RUS
DOUBLES: Ipek Soylu/TUR & Hozumi/Kato (JPN/JPN)

2005... the last time France played in the Fed Cup final, as it will in November after defeating the Netherlands in the FC semifinals
2005... when Lucie Safarova last won a clay court WTA singles title before Week 17 in Prague
1998... the last time Italy was out of World Group I, as it will be in 2017 after losing to Spain in the WG Playoffs
1997... the last time Russia was out of World Group I, as it will be in 2017 after losing to Belarus in the WG Playoffs
#186... Marina Erakovic's ranking when she reached the Rabat singles final, making her the lowest-ranked WTA finalist in 2016
12... number of deuces in Game #11 of the Stuttgart match-up between Aga Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova (A-Rad held in the 15-minute game on her seventh GP, after having saved seven BP)
8... WTA singles finals reached by Stuttgart winner Angelique Kerber in 2015 and '16, the most on tour the last two seasons (Serena has seven)
8-0... Charleston champ Sloane Stephens' record in singles semifinals and finals beginning with her maiden title run in Washington last summer (she'd been 0-6 in career semis prior to then)
6... WTA singles titles won by Stuttgart winner Angelique Kerber in 2015 and '16, the most on the tour the last two seasons (Serena has five)
5... Fed Cup finals reached by the Czech Republic the last six years after the nation defeated Switzerland in the semifinals (CZE is 4-0, so far, in those finals)
4... number of the Top 4 singles seeds that reached the singles semifinals in Week 17 in Prague (#1 Kuznetsova, #2 Safarova, #3 Ka.Pliskova, #4 Stosur), the only time in any 2016 event in which it's happened
1-10... WTA singles record of Anna Karolina Schmiedlova during the first seventeen weeks of 2016. AKS was 15-7 (and 1-1 in qualifying) in tour events over the same stretch last year.
0... points garnered by Australia in a 4-0 World Group Playoffs loss to the U.S. in Brisbane

S: Lucie Safarova/CZE def. Samantha Stosur/AUS 3-6/6-1/6-4
D: Margarita Gasparyan/Andrea Hlavackova (RUS/CZE) d. Maria Irigoyen/Paula Kania (ARG/POL) 6-4/6-2

S: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI def. Marina Erakovic/NZL 6-2/6-1
D: Xenia Knoll/Aleksandra Krunic (SUI/SRB) d. Tatjana Maria/Raluca Olaru (GER/ROU) 6-3/6-0

...well, when Lucie was ready, it didn't take her long to claim tangible rewards for her progress. Heading into this past week in Prague, Safarova was sporting a 0-5 2016 singles mark since she'd returned full-time from the bacterial infection that left her hospitalized last fall. But a week ago in Stuttgart her 1st Round loss to Karolina Pliskova was a tight affair, her first three-setter of the season. It was a hopeful sign, but who knew it was actually going to be the stepping stone to this? After losing the opening set of her 1st Round match in Prague to Mariana Duque, Safarova didn't lose another set on the way to her first final since New Haven last summer. Her week included additional wins over Lucie Hradecka (ret.), Hsieh Su-Wei and, interestingly enough, Pliskova, the defending champ at the event. This time, Safarova downed her countrywoman 4 & 6. In the final, she came back from a set down against Samantha Stosur to secure her seventh career tour title in her sixteenth final. It's her first title run on clay since she won her maiden singles crown in Estoril in 2005. This is actually Safarova's third Prague Open title, with the previous two coming when the event was a $100K challenger in 2012-13.
RISERS: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI and Kiki Bertens/NED
...the time felt (sort of) right heading into Rabat for Bacsinszky to finally get her '16 season into some rightful order, and so it was. The Swiss put together her first title run since her Queen of Mexico two-fer in Monterrey and Acapulco in February/March of last year. Bacsinszky reached her first final since Beijing in October (she injured her knee in Luxembourg soon afterward, contributing to her slow '16 start), with wins over Anna Blinkova, Kateryna Kozlova, Johanna Larsson and Timea Babos, losing just one set (to Kozlova). In the final, she dropped only three additional games to Marina Erakovic to win her fourth career WTA title, and her first on clay. She'll soon be defending semifinalist points at Roland Garros, so this at least maybe gives her a fighting chance in Paris.

Obviously, the "take home version" of the Rabat trophy is a tiny bit different from the on-court showpiece.

Timea is still loving her job in Madrid, as well. She's opened with a Sunday win over Andrea Petkovic.

Also in Rabat, Bertens once again showed the talent that has made her a Fed Cup legend at age 24, but also why she's yet to really fully carry over her Dutch FC team success to the regular tour. She came into the week ranked just #97, but after reeling off wins over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Yulia Putintseva she found herself in her first WTA semifinal since last summer on the grass in Rosmalen and with a chance to reach her first tour final since 2012 (Fes). She led Marina Erakovic 6-2/5-3 and held a match point, but failed to put away a contest in which she surely would have coasted to victory had she had the likes of Richel Hogenkamp, Arantxa Rus and Paul Haarhuis cheering for her from the sidelines. She'll move up to #82 in the new rankings, but the week still counts as a bit of a lost opportunity.
SURPRISES: Xenia Knoll/Aleksandra Krunic (SUI/SRB)
...a week after reaching the final in Istanbul, but then not getting to contest it when partner Danka Kovinic (who'd just lost the singles final) decided she couldn't play another match, Knoll got another chance in Rabat with Aleksandra Krunic. Playing together for just the second time ever (they reached the semis in a $25K challenger in Wiesbaden in April 2013), the pair of 23-year olds won the title with a 6-3/6-0 win over #1-seeded Tatjana Maria & Raluca Olaru. It's Krunic's second career tour title ('14 Tashkent), but Knoll's very first. It put a capper on a great rebound week for Krunic, who arrived off a disappointing Fed Cup weekend and a double-bagel loss in Istanbul. After making it through qualifying, The Bracelet defeated Anastasija Sevastova 3 & 2 (payback -- it was the Latvian who'd handed her the 6-0/6-0 defeat a week earlier) and #2-seeded Ekaterina Makarova 2 & 2 to reach her fifth career WTA singles QF (three in '15, and another in '12).
VETERANS: Samantha Stosur/AUS and Marina Erakovic/NZL
...few players -- well, aside from a certain Slovak -- were in more dire need of a good result than Stosur was in Week 17 after her disastrous recent Fed Cup weekend, so her run to the Prague final acts as something of a cleansing act that will (hopefully) wash away whatever lingering aftereffects were still hanging with the 32-year old Aussie. Wins over Sorana Cirstea, Marketa Vondrousova and Barbora Strycova (saving 2 MP in 2:58) got Stosur into the semifinals, where a walkover from Svetlana Kuznetsova put her into her first final since last July. Unfortunately, after winning the opening set against Lucie Safarova, Stosur added another lost opportunity to her long career list as she dropped a three-setter that ended her string of three straight victories in tour singles finals. This was her first lost in a WTA final since she dropped the Tournament of Champions decider in Sofia at the end of the '13 season.

In Rabat, Erakovic's up-and-down, injury-plagued career, took another upswing with a qualifying run that eventually became the Kiwi's first tour final since Quebec City in 2013. The world #186, Erakovic added MD victories over Andreea Mitu, Lesia Tsurenko, Aleksandra Krunic and Kiki Bertens (saving a MP) to string together six consecutive wins for the first time since 2008. The 28-year old's 2015 season ended early with a knee injury at the U.S. Open last summer, contributing to her season-ending ranking of #134 after four straight Top 76 seasons. After having dropped fifty-two spots through the first sixteen weeks of the season, this single result will lift her fifty-eight on Monday as she'll be back up to #128.

COMEBACKS: Laura Robson/GBR & Samantha Murray/GBR
...while Robson's 1st Round result in Rabat doesn't look like much on paper -- a victory over Moroccan wild card Ghita Benhadi, an unranked 18-year without a win and set won in twelve pro matches (though she did get her first Fed Cup win in zone play earlier this month) -- it WAS a big deal for her. It was the Brit's first MD tour win since 2013, as her return from wrist surgery continues to be a very long-term comeback. Ranked #426 going into last week, Robson fell 1 & 2 in the 2nd Round to Timea Babos, then improved slightly with a 4 & 2 loss on Sunday to Vika Azarenka in Madrid. Time would appear to be on the side of Robson, who is STILL only 22 years old, so hopefully her wrist cooperates.

In Week 17's $10K Sharm El Sheikh challenger, 28-year old Murray's return after a twenty-month injury layoff produced her first title just two events into her comeback. After qualifying and reaching the QF in her first tournament, the Brit knocked off #3-seeded Despina Papamichael and #1 Melanie Klaffner last week en route to her first singles final since 2013. She lost 6-3/6-4 to Julia Wachaczyk, but picked up her eleventh career ITF doubles title while partnering Papamichail.

The former Northwestern University star (she qualified for the NCAA singles championship all four years of her college career) was a Top 200 player in 2013, but finished the '14 season at #465 after not playing after July (she'd lost seven straight matches, and was 1-12 after reaching the semis of a $25K challenger in which she defeated Naomi Broady in the QF before losing to Cagla Buyukakcay). She hadn't played a match in twenty months until she returned two weeks ago at another event in Sharm El Sheikh. With her result this week, she's 7-2 in singles.
FRESH FACES: The NextGen Czech Maidens
...the top of the Czech Maiden heap is already well-populated. Lucie Safarova won the Prague singles title, defending champ Karolina Pliskova reached the semis and Barbora Strycova was in the quarterfinals (and has opened with an upset of Angelique Kerber in Madrid). Veteran Andrea Hlavackova even claimed the doubles crown in the event. Karolina's sister Kristyna is now in the Top 100, while Petra Kvitova will be looking to defend her title in Madrid in Week 18.

But the NextGen Maidens are already looking over all their shoulders, seeking a chance to seize the spotlight.

In Prague, 16-year old wild card Marketa Vondrousova (#339) made her WTA main draw debut and put up a win over Oceane Dodin. Another teen, 19-year old Katerina Siniakova (#113), used her wild card just as effectively, knocking off Alize Cornet in the 1st Round for her first MD win since reaching the QF in Shenzhen in Week 1. Siniakova won the Prague doubles title a year ago with Belinda Bencic. Meanwhile, #192 Barbora Krejcikova, 20, failed to make it through qualifying, but entered the MD as a lucky losser and got a big upset over Dominika Cibulkova for the first Top 50 win of her career.

Siniakova is already at it in Madrid, as well. She qualified with victories over Kateryna Bondarenko and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and pushed Ana Ivanovic to three sets in 1st Round loss on Sunday.
DOWN: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK
...well, here we are again for yet another chapter in the Mystery of Schmiedlova series. And rather than things getter better for the Slovak, they may actually be getting worse. And, yes, that apparently IS possible. While AKS's only 2016 salvation has come in Fed Cup, she faced off this past week in the 1st Round in Rabat with Kiki Bertens, who has made a virtual career out of Fed Cup heroics. Schmiedlova had already gone down in flames often this season -- managing just 3 (twice), 2 and 1 games in losses -- so posting just a single game vs. the Dutch woman almost doesn't count as a nadir (since she CAN still, technically, do WORSE), but with nary a hint of a turnaround in sight it's now become difficult to recognize the difference between a disappointment and an irreversible trend. So, was the additional (and closer) 6-2/7-5 loss on Sunday in Madrid to Garbine Muguruza an example of "improvement" or just the Spaniard losing her focus for a few minutes in the 2nd set? Either way, if one has to count, and it HAS become a weekly thing in this space thus far this season, another 0-2 week gives AKS ten first match defeats in eleven WTA appearances this season, including nine in a row. 3-12 overall in '16, she's now 1-11 in tour events, with all her losses being of the straight sets variety. At least the (hated, at least by me) weekend start in Madrid will prevent Schmiedlova from another appearance in this category for Week 18. So at least there's that. Yep.
ITF PLAYERS: Asia Muhammad/Taylor Townsend (USA/USA) & Grace Min/USA
...Muhammad & Townsend have been dominating the USTA circuit this spring. The Bannerette duo are set to face off with Shelby Rogers & Alexandra Panova in the $50K Charlottesville final, seeking their fourth title in the past month, where they've won fourteen straight to up their '16 mark to 20-1 (w/ four titles) heading into Sunday's final match.


Townsend, 20, played in her second straight singles final, as well, winning the title with a 7-5/6-1 victory over Grace Min. After losing to Rebecca Peterson in the $50K Dothan final last weekend, Townsend used a wild card berth in the draw to get some payback with an early Charlottesville win over the Swede en route to the championship match. Townsend's title run just about wraps up the USTA's "playoff" race for a berth in the Roland Garros main draw, which she also earned in 2014 via the same playoff format.

The unseeded Min may have lost, but she had a great week. It included victories over #5 Julia Glushko, Francoise Abanda, #4 Alexandra Panova and #2 Anna Tatishvili. The 21-year old was looking for her third title (w/ $25K wins in Jackson and Pelham) in a month, but the USTA's "playoff" schedule only included the $50K events in Dothan and Charlottesville, as well as this coming week's $75K challenger in Indian Harbour Beach.
JUNIOR STARS: Anna Kalinskaya/RUS and Elysia Bolton/USA her third consecutive '16 challenger final dating back to November, and her fourth overall on the ITF circuit since last spring, 17-year old Kalinskaya finally picked up her first pro singles titles in the $10K event in Shymkent, Kazakhstan with a win over Ilona Kremen of Belarus in the final. The Hordette, ranked #599 on the WTA computer and the #4 junior girl, was the #8 seed in the event, and notched wins over the #4 seed, as well as #1 Sabina Sharipova. Kalinskaya reached the U.S. Open girls QF in '14, the Roland Garros final last year and the QF in Melbourne in January (losing to eventual champ Vera Lapko). She lost to '15 AO junior champ/'16 AO junior finalist Tereza Mihalikova in a $10K final at the very start of April.

In the Grade 4 Copa Badia event in Coral Gables, Florida it was Bannerette Elysia Bolton who grabbed the first ITF junior title of her career with a win in the final over #1-seeded Hurricane Tyra Black. 16-year old Bolton, the #230-ranked girl, defeated Black 6-4/6-3, allowing just one more game against her than she did in their 2nd Round meeting in the Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson, California a few weeks ago. In between those two events, Bolton won the Easter Bowl doubles with Sofia Sewing. She also reached the doubles final with Emma Navarro this week.

DOUBLES: Margarita Gasparyan/Andrea Hlavackova (RUS/CZE)
...Gasparyan & Hlavackova made it through three match tie-breaks in order to reach the Prague final, then ultimately had their easiest match of the week once they got there as they claimed the title in their very first event as a duo with a 6-4/6-2 win over Maria Irigoyen & Paula Kania. For 21-year old Gasparyan it's her third career tour doubles title, while 29-year old Hlavackova has now garnered sixteen (eleven with Lucie Hradecka, with whom she reached the AO final in January, and one each with five other partners). As for Irigoyen/Kania, while they failed to get a set in their last match, it was their third appearance in a final together since last July (0-3). 28-year old Argentine Irigoyen, particularly, has a fabulous doubles history. She's 2-4 in WTA finals, but has reached ninety-seven more on the ITF level, winning fifty-eight times.

Another busy week in Sharapova...

My #FitnessFriday. How was yours?

A video posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

Hmmm, another possible album cover photo...?

Last rays of sunlight #NYC

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

1. Prague Final - Safarova d. Stosur
Safarova's run in Prague lifted her season record to 5-5 (and she's gone over .500 with a 1st Round win in Madrid), as she'll be back up to #13 this week with her Roland Garros runner-up points defense just around the corner. At 29 (Safarova) and 32 (Stosur), the Czech and Aussie combined for the second-oldest singles final match-up this season at 61, just one year behind the Australian Open final between Serena & Kerber (34+28=62).
2. Rabat Final - Bacsinszky d. Erakovic
With the first CZE and SUI winners, as well as AUS and NZL finalists, Week 17 increased both this season's total number of nations with champions (13 & 14) and finalists (21 & 22) thus far in 2016.

3. Prague QF - Stosur d. Strycova
In a 2:58 match, Stosur exorcised a few of her Fed Cup demons by winning after saving two MP -- with an ace and serve/volley winner -- to take out Strycova on the Czech's home soil. The Czech has already rebounded quite well, though.

4. Rabat SF - Erakovic d. Bertens
Bertens led 6-2/5-3 and held a MP in the 2nd set. The Dutch woman failed to reach her first final since 2012, but Erakovic reached her first since 2013.
5. Prague 1st Rd. - Kuznetsova d. Sasnovich 6-0/5-7/6-1
Prague 2nd Rd. - Kuznetsova d. Brengle 5-7/6-4/6-3
Prague QF - Kuznetsova d. Puig 4-6/7-5/6-4
in oh-so-typical Sveta fashion, Kuznetsova stretched herself to three sets (including a "classic" Kuznetsova scoreline in the 1st Round) in three consecutive matches. Against Puig, she overcame a 6-4/5-5 deficit to win. While it was all good, of course, the bad aftertaste was Kuznetsova's walkover with an abdominal injury in the semifinals vs. Stosur.

6. Madrid 1st Rd. - Siegemund d. Kuznetsova
She's baaaack! Siegemund, who qualified and won on Sunday to give her a 13-2 clay court record this spring, and Kuznetsova, too, who played in and lost yet ANOTHER three-setter.
7. Rabat 2nd Rd. - Krunic d. Makarova
The Bracelet crushes the #2 seeded Russian.

8. Rabat 1st Rd. - Robson d. Benhadi 6-1/6-1
Prague 1st Rd. - Brengle d. Konta 6-2/6-0
Madrid 1st Rd. - Gavrilova d. Watson 7-5/6-4
Madrid 1st Rd. - Garcia d. Konta 6-4/2-1 ret. (respiratory illness)
could it be that ROBSON is the most in-form and/or healthy tour-level Brit on clay this spring? Yikes.
9. Madrid Q1 - Broady d. Dodin
It says something when even YOU are a little shocked that you're a Brit who just won a match on clay.

Of course, the moment was short-lived. Broady lost in her second Q-match to Monica Puig.
10. Prague 1st Rd. - Safarova d. Duque
It was the start of something big.

11. Prague 1st Rd. - Hradecka d. Hlavackova
The Czech Silent H's didn't play doubles WITH each other in Prague, but they did play AGAINST one another. Hlavackova won the doubles title with Margarita Gasparyan, but is back with fellow AO doubles finalist Hradecka this coming week in Madrid.
12. $10K Hammamet Final - Sandra Zaniewska d. Ines Abbou
The Pole wins her second straight challenger title, topping the 17-year old Algerian (#35 junior/#1066 WTA), who also lost in the doubles final.
13. Madrid Q1 - Chirico d. Falconi
And the Bogota carry-over is non-existent for Falconi. But Chirico is looking good -- she qualified and posted a Sunday 1st Round win over Monica Niculescu.
14. $25K Wiesbaden Final - Victoria Kan d. Laura Schaeder
The 20-year old Hordette wins her second '16 title and improves her career record in ITF singles finals to 15-4.
15. $25K Chiasso Final - Isabella Shinikova d. Amanda Carreras
The 24-year old Bulgarian improves to 4-0 in '16 challenger finals. After starting her career with a 2-9 finals mark, she's gone 13-2 the last two years.
HM- $10K Manisa Final - Abbie Myers/Melis Sezer d. Eleni Daniilidou/Margarita Lazareva
33-year old Daniilidou is no longer the highest-ranked Greek player (her s/d rankings were #727 & #819 heading into last week) -- that'd be Maria Sakkari -- but she may still be angling for another trip to the Olympics. She won five tour-level singles titles from 2002-08, and three in doubles, the last coming in 2011. And she still looks like Elvis Presley's (or Adam Lambert's) sister, too.


It'll be here before you know it...

1. Prague SF - Safarova d. Karolina Pliskova
A week after losing to Pliskova in Stuttgart, Safarova downs the DC en route to a title. During one of her previous title runs in the then-$100K Prague event in 2012, Safarova also defeated Pliskova in straight sets in the 2nd Round. Meanwhile, after beginning the season at #11 and seemingly one good result away from her Top 10 debut, Pliskova has still yet to reach a 2016 final and will find herself down to #20 in the rankings on Monday.
2. Rabat 1st Rd. - Hsieh Su-Wei d. Kristyna Pliskova
While Karolina is struggling to hold onto her high standing, Kristyna, the past week notwithstanding, has seen much progress in 2016. After four years of season finishes just outside the Top 100, she's climbed into the Top 100 this year and reached a career-high of #83 in early April. A former Wimbledon junior champ (2010), one has to think that her serve will be even more effective come the grass season. Both Pliskova twins rank in the Top 4 for most aces on tour this season.

Spring in Prague??????not really happy about yesterdays match by the way....??

A photo posted by Kristyna Pliskova (@kristynapliskova) on

3. Rabat Q1 - Sorribes Tormo d. Arina Rodionova 6-2/7-5
Rabat Q3 - Soler-Espinosa d. Anastasia Rodionova 6-7(4)/7-6(3)/6-3
Rabat 1st Rd. - Maria d. Anastasia Rodionova(LL) 6-1/6-4
Rabat 2nd Rd. - Sorribes Tormo/Pigossi d. Rodionova/Rodionova 6-2/6-2
needless to say, the losses piled up for the Rodionovas in Morocco.
HM- Madrid 1st Rd. - Cibulkova d. Aga Radwanska
With Serena on the sidelines and Kerber having already been ousted a few hours earlier, Aga's Sunday exit leaves the Madrid draw without the Top 3 players in the world... and it's not even Monday yet.


Nice way to finish up a Friday afternoon!????

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

Wozniacki has played in thirty-six consecutive slams, having not missed a major since making her debut at Roland Garros in 2007, four months after playing in the Australian Open girls final.

Dasha Style

Artsy fartsy

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

And things are off to a good start in Madrid...

Shenzhen - Aga Radwanska, POL - d. Riske
Kaohsiung - Venus Williams, USA - d. Doi
Prague - TIMEA BACSINSZKY, SUI - d. Erakovic

Australian Open - Angelique Kerber, GER (F-S.Williams)
Charleston - Sloane Stephens, USA (SF-Kerber)
Prague - LUCIE SAFAROVA, CZE (SF-Ka.Pliskova)

35 - Francesca Schiavone (Rio)
35 - Venus Williams (Kaohsiung)
32 - Roberta Vinci (St.Petersburg)
30 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (Sydney)
29 - LUCIE SAFAROVA (Prague)

35 - Francesca Schiavone (Rio-W)
35 - Venus Williams (Kaohsiung-W)
34 - Serena Williams (Aust.Open-L,IW-L)
32 - Roberta Vinci (St.Petersburg-W)

#186 MARINA ERAKOVIC, NZL (Bacsinszky-L)
#170 Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP (Bogota-L)
#132 Francesca Schiavone, ITA (Rio-W)
#131 Shelby Rogers, USA (Rio-L)
#119 Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (Istanbul-W)

Sydney - Monica Puig, PUR (22/#94) - Kuznetsova (L)
Charleston- Elena Vesnina, RUS (28/#85) - Stephens (L)
Stuttgart - Laura Siegemund, GER (28/#71) - Kerber (L)
Rabat - MARINA ERAKOVIC, NZL (28/#186) - Bacsinszky (L)

#238 Paula Cristina Goncalves/BRA - Bogota
#199 Sorana Cirstea/ROU - Rio
#190 Zhu Lin/CHN - Kuala Lumpur
#172 Tamira Paszek/AUT - Auckland
#170 Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP - Bogota (RU)

11 - USA
9 - GER
1 - 17 nations
[recent seasons]
2010: 32
2011: 31
2012: 33
2013: 31
2014: 30
2015: 32
2016: 35

**2015-16 WTA SEMIFINALS**
13- Angelique Kerber (8/5)
13- Aga Radwanska (8/5)
11 - Serena Williams (9/1)
10 - Simona Halep (9/1)
8 - Sara Errani (6/2)
8 - Elina Svitolina (6/2)
8 - Carolina Wozniacki (7/1)
7 - Maria Sharapova (7/0)

**2016 CZECHS...**
1...Lucie Safarova (1-0)
1...Barbora Strycova (0-1)
2...Karolina Pliskova (0-2)
1...Lucie Safarova (1-0)
1...Barbora Strycova (1-0)
1...Petra Kvitova (0-1)
4...Karolina Pliskova (2-2)
2...Petra Kvitova (1-1)
2...Barbora Strycova (1-1)
1...Katerina Siniakova (0-1)
1...Lucie Safarova (1-0)

4 - Jan-Feb - Hingis/Mirza (W-W-W-W)
3 - Mar-Apr - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (W-W-L) #
2 - Feb - Chan/Chan (W-W)
2 - Feb-Mar - Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (W-W)
2 - Apr - Mattek-Sands/Safarova (W-L) #
2 - Apr - Garcia/Mladenovic (W-W) #
2 - Apr - XENIA KNOLL (L-W) #
2 - Apr - TATJANA MALEK (W-L) #
#-active streak

20 - Elise Mertens, BEL (Auckland)
20 - Ipek Soylu, TUR (Instabul)
21 - An-Sophie Mestach, BEL (Auckland)
21 - Miyu Kato, JPN (Katowice)
21 - Yang Zhaoxuan, CHN (Kuala Lumpur)

MADRID, SPAIN (Premier $4.8mxK/RCO)
15 Final: Kvitova d. Kuznetsova
15 Doubles Final: Dellacqua/Shvedova d. Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro
16 Singles Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Kerber

(Q) Siegemund d. Cibulkova
#4 Azarenka d. #5 Kvitova
#3 Muguruza d. #10 Bacsinszky
#11 Safarova d. #16 Stephens
#4 Azarenka d. (Q) Siegemund
#3 Muguruza d. #11 Safarova
#4 Azarenka d. #3 Muguruza

...Vika/Garbi II? We should be so lucky. Of course, Petra is a two-time champ (2011, '15) here, but only one of her seventeen career titles (New Haven '15) was a successful title defense. So, I'll go with the odds... and Petra probably being THAT Petra somewhere along the line.

Meanwhile, Garcia & Mladenovic will attempt to win their third straight clay court title. I don't know if it'll happen, but Kiki DOES have that look in her eyes. Oppose her at your own risk.


A photo posted by Kristina Mladenovic (@kristinamladenovic93) on

All for now.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wk.16- Sign o' the WTA Times

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life...
on the Most Interesting Tour in the World

You'd think that the reigning Australian Open champion defending a title for the first time in her career... in Germany... against a fellow German... and picking up a second brand new Porsche -- not exactly the kind you'd find in a second hand store -- for her personal collection would be THE biggest story on the WTA tour in Week 16.

You'd think so.

But, for Turkey, that was but a footnote to an historic weekend where not one...

...but TWO players rose to the occasional in the tour's only stop in their country to produce a series of chapters that won't easily ever be topped in the nation's ever-expanding tennis biography...

Wuhuuuu Istanbul Cup WTA Çiftler Şampiyonluğu!!! 🎉💪

A photo posted by Ipek Soylu (@ipek_soylu) on

...nor on tour this entire season by too many other nations along for the ride along Route WTA's gloriously scenic journey through 2016.

For once, the Turks got to say, "let's go crazy" and party like it's 1999.

Of course, on the Most Interesting Tour in the World, these sort of things are to be expected. On this trip, the persistent question isn't "Are we there yet?"

It's "What's next?"

S: Angelique Kerber/GER def. Laura Siegemund/GER 6-4/6-0
D: Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA/FRA) d. Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND) 2-6/6-1 [10-6]

S: Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR def. Danka Kovinic/MNE 3-6/6-2/6-3
D: Andreea Mitu/Ipek Soylu (ROU/TUR) w/o Xenia Knoll/Danka Kovinic (SUI/MNE)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Angelique Kerber/GER
...all right, Take 2? Last spring, Kerber began the clay court season by looking for all the world like a potential Queen of Clay. She won in Charleston, then backed that title run up by picking up her first career crown in Stuttgart. While a possible run in Paris ultimately fizzled out for the German, as she went 1-2 in the Rome/Madrid swing, pulled out of the Nurnberg semis and then lost in the 3rd Round of Roland Garros to Garbine Muguruza, Kerber's early clay court spring turned out to be the opening salvo of what has been a remarkable year. Since her title in South Carolina just over a year ago, she's won six times, claimed her maiden slam crown and climbed as high as #2 in the rankings. After winning in three sets in her opening match last week over Annika Beck, Kerber's superior standing in the draw became clearer and clearer with each outing as she knocked off Carla Suarez-Navarro, Petra Kvitova and then Laura Siegemund in the final to defend a singles title for the first time in her career. Will such a result lead to her first real run for the Couple Suzanne Lenglan in Paris, where she's only reached one QF (2012)? Stay tuned. But, as of today on the clay, Nothing Compares to U, Angie.

RISERS: Laura Siegemund/GER & Danka Kovinic/MNE
...Kerber was ultimately crowned champion for the second straight year in Stuttgart on Sunday, but it was another German who drove the story all week long. Siegemund, 28, became the first qualifier to reach the final (without losing a set through seven matches) as she rode a game style with very Radwanskian and Vinci-like undertones to a career week that included an opening round win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova that was followed by back-to-back-to-back Top 10 victories over Simona Halep and, incidentally, BOTH Vinci and Radwanska. Siegemund had never advanced past the QF in a tour-level event before this week, and her only Top 10 victory had come last fall over Timea Bacsinszky in Luxembourg, when the Swiss was forced to retire with a knee injury. Ironically, Bacsinszky's recent "second career" rise, when she went from beginning to plan out her after-tennis life to finding one-more-try success once she's shed all the pressurized baggage that had doomed her young career, in many ways resembles that of Siegemund.

Siegemund was a successful junior, winning the Orange Bowl 12s title in 2000 but soon finding it difficult to live up to German tennis' post-Graf expectations in a "baby you're much too fast" example of pressure and hype clashing with reality. She made her WTA qualifying debut in 2003, but didn't play in her first tour-level main draw until 2010. A knee injury in 2012 left her questioning a full-time tennis future. During her time out, she studied for a psychology degree (she finished #1 in her class a year later) and got her trainer certification, eyeing a potential future in coaching. Slowly, though, the success arrived once she returned to the court, armed with the knowledge that hard work is often its own reward (and sometimes just a prelude to something even greater). In 2014, she finished in the Top 200 for the first time. Last year, she put up her first Top 100 season, qualifying for her first slam MD (Wimbledon), winning her biggest title ($100K), reaching two tour-level QF, picking up three WTA doubles crowns and getting that first Top 10 win over Bacsinszky. This season, she's upset Kiki Bertens and #19-seed Jelena Jankovic for her first slam match wins in Melbourne en route to the 3rd Round, qualified for Indian Wells (losing to Serena in the 2nd Rd.) and recently advanced to her first Premier QF in Charleston.

Not that any of ALL that -- some of it highlighted here -- prevented Tracy Austin and Ted Robinson from acting on Tennis Channel this weekend as if the German had been dropped from the sky by aliens, never before heard from or seen by anyone until the last few days in Stuttgart. If your only connection to any coverage of the sport came this weekend from TC, you would have wondered how a player who has "only played in the lower level events" had somehow managed to climb to even #71 heading into this past week, let alone the notion that, while Siegemund's name hasn't exactly been written by skywriters above Route WTA over the past year, she HAS been making progress for quite some time now (I picked her to reach her maiden tour final in my preseason predictions, so her results were attention-worthy if anyone chose to pay attention -- and, hey, now I can at least check that one off my list!).

Of course, the lack of actually bothering to do even the slightest bit of background research won't be an excuse from tennis commentators regarding Siegemund now. The German will jump up to a new career high of #42 on Monday, and that post-playing career future (just throwing something against the wall here -- might it possibly one day include a stint as Germany's Fed Cup Captain?) looks like it'll definitely be pushed back a few additional years now.

In Istanbul, Kovinic became the third player this season to reach both the singles and doubles final in the same event. Unfortunately for her, she became the second player in '16 to fail to walk away with a title in either, as the Montenegrin lost out to Turkey's Cagla Buyukakcay in three sets in a final that was assured of the winner becoming the very first WTA singles champ in her respective nation's history. Kovinic put up successive wins over Kurumi Nara, Tsvetana Pironkova, Maria Sakkari and Kateryna Kozlova en route to her second career tour final ('15 Tianjin). She'll jump from #60 to #47 on Monday, one off the career-high she set in February.

SURPRISES: Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR and Kateryna Kozlova/UKR
...Cagla has simply owned this category this season. This week, during which she knocked down a handful of still more career and Turk-best moments, is already the fourth time she's been listed as a "Surprise" in 2016. This time, though, it comes after something truly special, as she pulled off what will go down as one of most heartwarming accomplishments this season.

Playing in her Istanbul hometown, Buyukakcay rode the wave of her own tennis momentum and the support of the crowd to her first career tour singles semifinal, final and maiden title with wins over Marina Melnikova, Sorana Cirstea, Nao Hibino, Stefanie Voegele and Danka Kovinic in a 3-6/6-2/6-3 final. She's the first Turkish woman to accomplish any of those feats in WTA history. The 26-year old now rises into the Top 100 for the first time and is assured of appearing in her first slam main draw in Paris. Now everyone has to learn how to spell her name. Ha -- I got a head start on that one!

B-U-Y-U-K-A-K-C-A-Y. ✓

22-year old Ukrainian Kozlova hasn't let her brief suspension last season hold her back. Since her return to action last August, she's qualified for the U.S. Open, reached a WTA QF in Tashkent, a $100K semi, a 125 Series QF (which included a win over Danka Kovinic) and a '16 QF in St.Petersburg (MD wins over Barbora Strycova and Elena Vesnina, and a Q-win over Laura Siegemund). The world #129 was at it again in Istanbul, reaching her first career tour-level SF with victories over Alexandra Dulgheru, Kirsten Flipkens and Anastasija Sevastova.

VETERAN: Aga Radwanska/POL player on tour has been more consistent since last fall than Radwanska. Already back to #2, her semifinal run in Stuttgart -- which included wins over Andrea Petkovic and Karolina Pliskova -- was her ninth SF-or-better result in her last eleven tour events. But she's developing a bit of glass ceiling for herself, it seems. Since winning the title in Shenzhen in Week 1, she's lost four straight semifinals, has often found herself unable to follow-up a hard-fought win (see Vinci in Miami, Pliskova this past week) with another victory, and sometimes appears physically tired and/or is "out-Radwanska'd" by the likes of a Timea Bacsinszky (Miami) or Laura Siegemund (Stuttgart). If she's going to find a way to ever slip into the dream winner's circle at a slam -- and considering her ongoing form, the next two majors might be the last best chances she'll ever have -- she's going to have to find a way to maintain her earlier level of play at the end of the week when the matches and stakes are that much bigger.
COMEBACKS: Petra Kvitova/CZE and Sorana Cirstea/ROU
...since she seems to be pertually bursting in through the out door, then going back the way from which she came soon after, you take signs of resurgence wherever you can get them with Kvitova. The Czech's first semifinal result of 2016 will officially be more remembered for a nice three-setter vs. Angelique Kerber and a three-set takedown of Garbine Muguruza (which included a dominant love 3rd set that had the Spaniard and Sam Sumyk once again in an exasperating public exchange during a coaching visit) than that she opened the week by dropping a 6-2 1st set vs. Monica Niculescu (arriving after a tough Day 2 loss on FC weekend) and having to save three MP to avoid another one-and-out disaster. At least Petra is learning to "embrace the rollercoaster experience"... and isn't that the first step in recovery?

Somewhat under the radar, Cirstea is looking like she'll be in the running for the honor of producing one of 2016's best season-long ranking climbs. The 26-year Romanian fell all the way to #244 at the end of 2015, and she'll have already climbed over a 100 spots come Monday when she comes in at approximately #131. The comeback has been fueled by a 15-3 run in ITF/WTA events held in Brazil earlier this year (she reached back-to-back $25K finals, winning one, and reached a tour semi in Rio), as well as a $50K semifinal earlier this month. Last week, Cirstea made it through qualifying and opened MD play with a win over Istanbul defending champ Lesia Tsurenko.
FRESH FACES: Maria Sakkari/GRE and Ipek Soylu/TUR
...20-year old Sakkari has finally given Greek tennis its first legitimate threat since the career peak of Eleni Danillidou in the early 2000's. She continued to rise up the tour ranks in Istanbul, making it through qualifying and then posting main draw wins over top-seeded Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Hsieh Su-wei to reach her first WTA singles quarterfinal. Earlier this season, Sakkari qualified in Melbourne (her second straight successful slam Q-run) and notched her first career MD win in a major (then pushed Carla Suarez-Navarro to three sets in the 2nd Round), extending a steady incline in results that has included eleven ITF singles finals in 2014-15 (she won seven, including a 3-0 mark last season), a semifinal result in the WTA 125 Series event in Carlsbad last November and a $50K Osprey semifinal run earlier this year which included a win over Francesca Schiavone. Having already reached a career-high singles ranking earlier this month, Sakkari is set to do so again on Monday as she jumps from #127 to inside the Top 120.

Meanwhile, Buyukakcay wasn't the only Turkish player giving the Istanbul crowd something to cheer about last week. While 20-year old Soylu lost in the 1st Round in singles, she stuck around all week in doubles, teaming with Andreea Mitu to reach her first tour-level final. Like Buyukakcay, Soylu was set to face off with Danka Kovinic, who'd advanced to the championship with Swiss Xenia Knoll. Unlike her Turkish countrywoman, though, Soylu didn't get the "full championship experience," as Kovinic pulled out of the doubles final after losing in singles, handing both Mitu & Soylu their first career tour titles. Of course, I suppose Soylu could have just tried to play two sides of the net in the final, considering she's partnered with BOTH Mitu and Knoll in the city. She and Knoll teamed together to win a previous title in Istanbul, winning on hard court in an ITF $25K challenger in November 2014.

Note: Knoll is playing doubles with The Bracelet in Week 17 in Rabat.
DOWN: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK and Simona Halep/ROU
...the latest chapter of the Schmiedlova Mystery arrived just a few days after the Slovak picked up her first match win in two months last weekend in Fed Cup play. After a Saturday victory, her only win since the previous FC weekend in February, she was replaced in the singles lineup on Sunday (by Jana Cepelova, who lost) though she apparently wasn't injured. She still celebrated as Slovakia defeated Canada, and the hope was that a successful weekend might finally put an end to her '16 funk. When Victoria Azarenka pulled out of this past week's Istanbul event, The Artist Formerly Known as Schmiedy became the #1 seed... and, unfortunately, she then picked up right where she'd left off before her brief bit of FC-related good news. Schmiedlova's 6-2/6-3 1st Round loss to qualifier Maria Sakkari gives her eight first match losses in her nine WTA appearances this season, including seven in a row. 3-10 overall in '16, she's now 1-9 in tour events, with all her losses being of the straight sets variety. So much for Fed Cup weekend "jump-starting" her season. One suspects that this is what it sounds like when doves cry.

Speaking of a player searching for an elusive boost. I think everyone would like to tell Simona, "I feel for you." But no matter how much support she has, she's going to have to figure this thing out for herself. Halep's opening match 2nd Round loss to Laura Siegemund in Stuttgart, while it doesn't seem so harsh now in retrospect after the German's career-best week, is still another troubling case of the Romanian going out in rather routine fashion. After rolling her ankle but managing a Day 1 win over Andrea Petkovic last week in Fed Cup, Halep played the next day but managed to get just four games off Angelique Kerber. She got just three off Siegemund. And it can't be chalked up to just being "a German thing," either. As she did on FC weekend, she didn't admit to her ankle being a big problem. But something was limiting her movement, and she did leave the court in Stuttgart with a trainer for treatment on some issue. All in all, this is starting to look an awful lot like last spring's clay season, which turned out to be pretty much a wash-out for Halep, and essentially set her up for an injury-filled, angst-ridden and psychologically challenging final six months of the season. Oh, Simona.

ITF PLAYERS: Paula Ormaechea/ARG, Rebecca Peterson/SWE and Taylor Townsend/USA
...suddenly, Ormaechea is on fire. The 23-year old Argentine, a former Top 60 player currently ranked #341, picked up her third straight challenger title in the $10K event in Baura, Brazil. Incredibly, her 15-0 run comes directly on the heels of a 3-13 stretch and being without a MD victory since July before the first of her trio of title runs. The #1 seed last week, Ormaechea notched wins over the #4 and #8 seeds before defeating fellow Argentinian, #2-seeded 18-year old Julieta Estable, in a 1-6/6-3/7-5 final.

In the $50K challenger in Dothan, Alabama it was 20-year old Swede Peterson who was the last woman standing. Her run to career title #9 -- which matches the one she won in Macon, Georgia in October for her biggest ever -- began with a win over Jovana Jaksic and ended with one against Taylor Townsend in the final. Townsend's recent upswing in results continued, as well, as she followed up her successful Indian Wells qualifying attempt and $25K semifinal with a run that included wins over Claire Liu, Alexandra Panova and Alla Kudryavtseva. She leads the USTA's "Playoff" race for a berth in the Roland Garros main draw. The Bannerette also won her third ITF doubles title of the month with Asia Muhammand, defeating Caitlin Whoriskey & Keri Wong in the final.

JUNIOR STARS: Rebeka Masarova/SUI, Katerina Zavatska/UKR and Jaimee Fourlis/AUS
...#13-ranked Swiss junior Masarova, the #1-seed at the Beaulieu-sur-mer event in France, is set to meet #15-seeded Ukrainian Zavatska in the final with the ultimate 16-year old winner claiming the first Grade 1 title of her career. Masarova reached two Grade 1 finals last season, and reached the Australian Open girls semis in January before winning a Grade 2 event in March. Her path to the final has included wins over the #9, #10 and #16 seeds at the event. Junior #62 Zavatska is playing in her third consecutive final, having won nine straight matches while winning a Grade 2 title a week ago in the wake of her run to the Grade 1 Perin Memorial final (a loss to Elena Rybakina) earlier this month.

I'm not sure if weather has caused this event's final to be pushed back to Monday or not, as I can't find the results anywhere. So I'll update the post with the winner later.

UPDATE: Zavatska grabbed her first career Grade 1 title with a 6-7(2)/7-6(5)/6-2 win over Masarova on Monday. She's 15-1 in junior action in 2016.

In the Gallipoli Youth Cup, 16-year old Aussie Fourlis claimed the title at the Grade 4 event. The girls' #63 was the #1 seed at the event, where she defeated the #4 and #8 seeds to reach the final, then knocked off #3 Himari Sato of Japan to take the crown. The teenager picked up her first pro title in February with a win at a $25K challenger in Perth.


DOUBLES: Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA/FRA) least for the Pastries, the Fed Cup spirit from last weekend lived on in Week 16. Garcia & Mladenovic added the Stuttgart title to the one they won in Charleston two weeks ago, extending their winning streak to eight matches a week after clinching France's berth in the FC final with a deciding doubles victory over the Netherlands. Garcia & Mladenovic's 10-6 match TB win in the final over Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza added the co-#1's names to a list of big-time duos that that have fallen this season to the French women that already included the likes of Mattek-Sands/Safarova, Kasatkina/Vesnina, Groenefeld/Peschke and Dellacqua/Stosur. 2-2 in '16 finals, including a loss in Sydney to Hingis/Mirza, the Pastries are now behind only the world #1's totals in titles (4) and finals (5) this season.

The doubles champions don't win cars. Caroline wasn't too upset about that, though. For now. Just as long as she doesn't expect a little red corvette to ever roll onto the court in Stuttgart.


The week in Sharapova...

I'm hoping one of these wristbands will give me access to a gym this morning. #Coachella

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

The reunion of #GunsNRoses #coachella

A video posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on


This weekends memories from the @parkerpalmsprings

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

Hmmm, I wonder if Maria talked to that pawn as it sat next to her? Because, you know, she HAS to do that all the time or else she's a low-down, dirty scoundrel who should be blasted for her every move when her back is turned. Or so I've heard.

1. Stuttgart Final - Kerber d. Siegemund
Siegemund led 4-2 before Kerber seized control, becoming the first opponent to frustrate Siegemund all week. After dropping the 1st set, the qualifier left the court with a trainer and when she returned was never able to solve the riddle of her defending champion countrywoman. Kerber sweep the final ten games of the match, ending Siegemund's very long -- but even more rewarding -- week. For she has proven that she can indeed dream of and make a reality a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom.
2. Istanbul Final - Buyukakcay d. Kovinic
In a first-ever tour final match-up between and a Turk and a Montenegrin -- adding a 19th and 20th different nation represented in WTA singles finals in the first sixteen weeks of 2016 -- Buyukakcay made all her dreams comes true, and by doing so in her hometown probably thought up a few on the fly that hadn't even legitimately occurred to her as being truly possible until sometime late in the week. Of course, with Buyukakcay's emotional completion of her journey when she finally converted her fifth MP, Kovinic was left to lament what might have been.


3. Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Kvitova d. Chirico 6-0/6-0
Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Kvitova d. Niculescu 2-6/7-6(5)/6-2
Stuttgart SF - Kerber d. Kvitova 6-4/4-6/6-2
you never really knew which Petra you'd get in Stuttgart (so... just like everywhere, I guess). Petra did such a Batdance all over Chirico that she no longer knew up from down, while Niculescu, who upset Kvitova in Fed Cup play in February, very nearly took down the Czech once again. The Romanian held three total MP at 6-2 and 6-5 in the 2nd set before Petra's rollercoaster finally swung back around and left Niculescu stranded while Kvitova hopped off and beat a path to what would be her first SF result of '16, where Kvitova was finally overtaken down the stretch by the eventual champ.
4. Stuttgart QF - Kvitova d. Muguruza
Kvitova's wild swings of fortune on match day are hardly foreign agents to the Spaniard, who can seemingly go from a happy-go-lucky future slam champ one moment to a sullen, cranky, back-talking brat the next. Just ask Sam Sumyk, who got to publicly live out his personal coaching nightmare in the changeover area in yet another "session" with Muguruza. Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if he dropped "act your age not your shoe size" on her, you know, just to see what would happen?

Sam just didn't know how good he had it with Vika. Seriously, this relationship can't last much longer, can it?
5. Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Siegemund d. Halep
Sigh, Simona. Here we go again? On the bright side: to Siegemund is now a thing.

6. Stuttgart Q1 - Ankita Raina d. Tena Lukas
India's highest-ranked singles player -- hint, hint -- saves a MP. She'd go on to lose to Kristyna Pliskova one Q-round later.
7. Stuttgart Q3 - Chirico d. Giorgi 6-3/6-3
Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Beck d. Giorgi 6-4/6-2
first the hot war with the Italian tennis federation, and now this.
8. Stuttgart Final - Garcia/Mladenovic d. Hingis/Mirza
...2-6/6-1 [10-6].
Hingis/Mirza are now 13-2 in finals. The previous loss was also on clay (in Rome), and Mladenovic (only w/ Babos by her side) was on the other side of the net THAT day, as well.
9. Istanbul 1st Rd. - Cirstea d. Tsurenko 6-3/6-4
Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Petkovic d. Mladenovic 6-2/6-4
Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Niculescu d. Garcia 6-2/6-2
Istanbul 1st Rd. - Mitu d. Wickmayer 7-5/6-4
Istanbul 1st Rd. - Pironkova d. Sasnovich 6-2/6-2
Istanbul 1st Rd. - Sevastova d. Krunic 6-0/6-0
Prague Q1 - Kuzmova d. Golubic 7-5/6-4
the first match after a Fed Cup weekend can be a real you-know-what for some players. Et tu, Golubic?
10. Istanbul 1st Rd. - Kozlova d. Dulgheru
Kozlova's SF run almost wasn't. She blew a 5-0 1st set lead, dropping the opening set to the Romanian and then having to win a tie-break to push things into a 3rd.
11. $10K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Katie Boulter d. Anastasia Pribylova 4-6/6-3/7-5
$10K Heraklion Final - Freya Christie/Chanel Simmonds d. Valeria Savinyk/Alyona Sotnikova 6-4/6-0
more entries in Britain's New Power Generation! 19-year old Boulter, a former Top 10 junior, wins her second career ITF title (first since '14), while 18-year old Christie grabs doubles title #4.
12. Prague Q1 - Amandine Hesse d. Klara Koukalova
Is the Czech's career about to take a very long nap under the cherry moon? At 34, Koukalova is now down to #117, and she hasn't finished any season ouside the Top 120 since 2001. This loss gives her six straight defeats, and she's without a tour-level MD win since July.
HM- Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Friedsam d. Konta
It wasn't a great week for EVERY Brit, though. For Konta, it was just another Manic Monday.

Beyonce. Serena. And since it was Saturday night. I guess that makes is ALL right. 'Nuff said.

1. Stuttgart QF - Aga Radwanska d. Karolina Pliskova
Aga won in two, winning her eleventh and twelfth consecutive sets vs. the Czech. But game #11 of the 2nd set, and the eventual tie-break, made this match something more than a "routine" victory. Serving at 5-5, Radwanska survived a 15-minute, twelve-deuce game in which she saved seven break points (Pliskova missed on second serve returns more than once) before finally holding on her own seventh game point on, naturally, a net cord dribbler. In the TB, Pliskova's fight was admirable, if too late. On Radwanska's first MP at 6-5, the Czech shot a forehand winner up the line, then she fired a saving ace on MP #2. After Radwanska's return winner on a Pliskova second serve gave the Pole MP #3 at 8-7, Pliskova blasted a backhand winner. Aga's volley winner brought MP #4 at 9-8, where Pliskova finally brought things to a close with a forehand into the net.

2. Istanbul 1st Rd. - Sakkari d. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2/6-3
Istanbul 2nd Rd. - Sakkari d. Hsieh Su-Wei 6-3/6-4
the Greek's career-best QF run was built upon the backs of tennis sisters.

3. Stuttgart SF - Siegemund d. Aga Radwanska
By the time Siegemund had locked away her third straight Top 10 win, and her seventh consecutive straight sets victory of the week, her run was hardly a surprise. Showing no hint of nerves, the German played as if she'd been in these sort of situations her entire tennis life. Of course, even while the continuation of her tennis career wasn't a sure thing not that long ago, such a reaction isn't super shocking from a player working on a sports psychology degree and writing a bachelor thesis about "choking under pressure." Unlike Dinara Safina, who once noted, "The more you know, the less you sleep," Siegemund seems to fall on the, "The more the know, the less you fear" side of the psychological divide.


4. Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Karolina Pliskova d. Safarova
Not long after Safarova posted U Got the Look-style congratulations to Pliskova and the rest of the Czech Fed Cup team, she was taken out by Karolina, who fired 16 aces and overcame failing to convert a MP and Safarova getting back on serve late in the 3rd set. Safarova, while her doubles success (she reached the semis w/ Sabine Lisicki, making her 10-3 this season) has come swiftly in her return to action, has yet to find her footing in singles. She's now 0-5 on the season, but at least this was her first three-setter of 2016.
5. Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Aga Radwanska d. Petkovic
Much like Halep after her slip and fall vs. Petko in Fed Cup, the German, while apparently not seriously injured, wasn't quite the same after yet another likely-unsettling brush with injury.

6. $25K Nanning Final - Liu Chang/Varatchaya Wongteanchai d. Lykina/Webley-Smith
Wongteanchai, 26, picks up her 31st career ITF doubles crown, and her second of '16.
7. $10K Antalya Final - Shymanovich/Drew d. Tayisiya Morderger/Yana Morderger
...3-6/6-1 [10-2].
No, the Morderger twins aren't the hallway girls from "The Shining" all grown up, they're 19-year old Germans who very nearly came away with their first career ITF doubles title in Antalya. Instead, the event honor when to Iryna Shymanovich (who also won in singles) and Jazzamay Drew, a 21-year old Brit who has to be on the short list for the best first name in the sport.

Just because why not ??

A video posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

But that doesn't mean she doesn't have a busy schedule.

Airport life ?

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

**2016 WTA FINALS**
3 - Victoria Azarenka (3-0)
3 - Sloane Stephens (3-0)
2 - Dominika Cibulkova (1-1)
2 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (1-1)
2 - Genie Bouchard (0-2)
2 - Serena Williams (0-2)

2...Chan/Chan, TPE/TPE (2-0)
2...Hozumi/Kato, JPN/JPN (1-1)
2...Mattek-Sands/Safarova, USA/CZE (1-1)
2...Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja, ESP/ESP (2-0)

18y,8m,3w - Jelena Ostapenko (Doha-L)
18y,11m - Belinda Bencic (St.Petersburg-L)
21y,5m,1w - DANKA KOVINIC (Istanbul-L)
21y,5m,3w - Elina Svitolina (Kuala Lumpur-W)

Brisbane - Angelique Kerber, GER [L/L]
Doha - Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP [W/L]

[lost final]
Sydney - Monica Puig, PUR (22/#94) - Kuznetsova
Charleston- Elena Vesnina, RUS (28/#85) - Stephens
Stuttgart - LAURA SIEGEMUND, GER (28/#71) - Kerber
Auckland - Tamira Paszek, AUT (25/#172)
Brisbane - Samantha Crawford, USA (20/#142)
Kuala Lumpur - Zhu Lin, CHN (22/#190)

4 - Jan-Feb - Hingis/Mirza (W-W-W-W)
3 - Mar-Apr - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (W-W-L) #
2 - Feb - Chan/Chan (W-W)
2 - Feb-Mar - Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (W-W)
2 - Apr - Mattek-Sands/Safarova (W-L) #
#-active streak

3 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE (all 3 over Ivanovic)
2 - Angelique Kerber, GER
2 - Yulia Putintseva, KAZ
2 - Elena Vesnina, RUS

#170 Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP (Bogota-L)
#132 Francesca Schiavone, ITA (Rio-W)
#131 Shelby Rogers, USA (Rio-L)

6...United States
5...Czech Republic
4...Great Britain

Little did they all know...

15 Final: Ka.Pliskova d. Hradecka
15 Doubles Final: Bencic/Siniakova d. K.Bondarenko/Hrdina
16 Singles Top Seeds: Kuznetsova/Safarova

#1 Kuznetsova d. #5 Strycova
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. Hradecka
#1 Kuznetsova d. #3 Ka.Pliskova

...of course, considering the success rate of my picks this season (my Kovinic in Istanbul selection was the latest cut off at the pass in the final), I suspect this is a Kuznetsova Curse situation. Or maybe a secondary jinx will reverse the curse this week?

15 Final (Marrakech): Svitolina d. Babos
15 Doubles Final (Marrakech): Babos/Mladenovic d. Siegemund/Zanevska
16 Singles Top Seeds: Bacsinszky/Makarova

#1 Bacsinszky d. Parmentier
#8 Putintseva d. #2 Makarova
#1 Bacsinszky d. #8 Putintseva's about time for Timea to love her job AND pick up some hardware, too, don't you think?

And, finally, the WTA reacts...

RIP Prince??????

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

RIP #legend #funky #genius #Prince Music will never be the same??

A photo posted by Barbora Strycova?? (@barborastrycova) on

"I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain."

All for now.