Monday, October 20, 2014

Wk.42- From Russia With Love

Ten years after the Hordettes ruled the WTA roost, the tour's annual stop in Moscow for the Kremlin Cup revolved around... wouldn't you know it, Russians.

While the week's biggest Russian-themed tennis headlines focused on eye-rolling and inexcusable comments by Russian tennis legend Shamil Tarpischev, who was fined and banned by the WTA for a year after his televised remarks about the Williams sisters (he has since issued a written apology), where WAS actually GOOD news happening on the court in Moscow, as well.

Some came at the end of the week, when the first Russian since 2007 was crowed singles champion of the event. But, actually, maybe the most Impressive Performance by a Hordette Award was wrapped up several rounds earlier.

Please, read on...

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Premier $710K/Hard Indoor)
S: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS def. Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU 6-4/5-7/6-1
D: Hingis/Pennetta (SUI/ITA) d. Garcia/Parra-Santonja (FRA/ESP)

S: Annika Beck/GER def. Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE 6-2/6-1
D: Bacsinszky/Barrois (SUI/GER) d. Hradecka/Krejcikova (CZE/CZE)

Aga, making an appearance at the WTA Finals (since, if last year's effort from her is any indication, she won't likely make much of an impression ON the court this week in Singapore)...

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS
...the player who was touted years ago as the best bet to pick up the lead and continue the Russian dominance on the WTA tour has so far had what would have to be called a "disappointing" career. Pavlyuchenkova, now 23, has led a WTA existence marked by terrible inconsistency, sparked by bright moments that seem to point to even greater things ahead, only to be soon followed by jaw-dropping upset losses and questions about whether the ball-thumping former junior #1 and three-time girls slam champ will EVER live up to her initial promise. It's been three years since Pavlyuchenkova reached a career high of #13 and had her only year-end Top 20 ranking, but what the Russian has managed to accomplish in 2014 might -- finally? again? -- point to the upcoming WTA campaign as being THE year: the season when Pavlyuchenkova is more than just an intriguing shadow. It says something about how good she COULD be that, even while she's seen as something of an "underachiever," her title run at this past week's Kremlin Cup gives Pavlyuchenkova seven career tour crowns, and her second straight multiple-title season puts her in a group that includes only players named Williams, Sharapova, Halep and Kvitova when it comes to accomplishing the feat of consistency in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Last week, wins over Ana Konjuh, Alison Riske, Vitalia Diatchenko, Katerina Siniakova and Irina-Camelia Begu led Pavlyuchenkova into the winner's circle, adding a second '14 indoor title to go along with her win at the Paris Indoors earlier this season. The titles are the biggest of the Russian's career, and her only Premier level championships thus far. Of course, she still hasn't reached a slam QF since her only two such results during the 2011 season. Perhaps 2015 will be the year she matches, or exceeds, those results and has her long-awaited "breakthrough year?" Then again, it could be just another false alarm.


I did It!!!!!?? What a nice end to the season...#7?? 25 ????????? ????? ??????...????????? #25jubileekremlincup

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RISERS: Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU & Timea Bacsinszky/SUI Moscow, Begu became the third Romanian to reach a '14 tour singles final (w/ Halep & Niculescu), though she ultimately fell for the third time in four career finals. The 24-year old put up impressive victories over Donna Vekic, Ekaterina Makarova, Tsvetana Pironkova and Lucie Safarova en route to her first championship match since winning Tashkent in 2012. Begu is up to #42 in the new rankings, just four spots behind the career-high she set back in 2011, when she was bestowed with the WTA's Newcomer of the Year award. 2014 has been one long climb back up the ladder for Bacsinszky, a Top 40 player three seasons ago. She began the year ranked at #285, and now finds herself in the Top 50. Her best result last week in Luxembourg wasn't in singles (she lost to eventual champ Annika Beck in the 1st Round), though, it was on the doubles court. The Swiss teamed with German vet Kristina Barrois to win her second career title at the event, having been crowned champion with Tathiana Garbin back in 2010. In fact, this was by far the best doubles result that Bacsinszky has ever had with anyone other than the now-retired Italian vet. The pair reached five finals in '10, the only other tour-level doubles finals Bacsinszky has played in, winning three. Just like her singles ranking, her doubles standing has risen over 200 spots, as she's climbed from #531 in January to inside the Top 230.
SURPRISES: Denisa Allertova/CZE & Kristina Barrois/GER
...Allertova, 21, has nearly climbed into the Top 100 (#109) for the first time on the back of her ITF Player of the Year-worthy (hmmm, is that the first "unofficial Backspin Award announcement" of '14?), circuit-leading seven titles this season. Last week in Luxembourg, though, the Czech's success "jumped species" and took root on the WTA tour, as well. After making her way through qualifying, Allertova notched main draw victories over Ons Jabeur, Sabine Lisicki and Varvara Lepchenko to put up her first career semifinal result. Is it too early to made a prediction about her going one more step -- at least -- in 2015? In the same event, 33-year old German vet Barrois announced her retirement after her singles qualifying loss to Lucie Hradecka. Then, wouldn't you know it, just like a fairy tale, she advanced through the doubles draw with Timea Bacsinszky and ended up claiming her first (and last, I suppose) tour-level title of any kind when the pair defeated, oddly enough, Hradecka (hello, again) and Barbora Krejcikova in the final. Quite the send-off, I'd say.

VETERANS: Martina Hingis/Flavia Pennetta (SUI/ITA) & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
...Hingis & Pennetta didn't make the field of eight in Singapore, but that didn't stop them from putting up a great season-ending result in Moscow. The veteran pair won their second title in eight events together in '14, taking the Kremlin Cup doubles crown a full thirteen years after the Swiss Miss won her last, in 2001 with Anna Kournikova. Hingis won the singles title in 2000, as well. Hingis' third '14 title is the fortieth of her career, while Pennetta picked up #17. The win leaves Hingis & Pennetta just 64 points (behind Kudryavtseva/Rodionova) outside the Singapore field, a difference that would have been made up with one more match win in just one of five of the six events (not Tianjin) they entered but didn't win. Meanwhile, feisty Czech BZS reached her fifth career tour singles final in Luxembourg, taking down Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Alison Van Uytvanck, Johanna Larsson and Mona Barthel along the way before falling to Annika Beck, failing to get career title #2 ('11 Quebec City). 2014 is Zahlavova-Strycova's first multiple final campaign (w/ a RU on the grass in Birmingham), and she's up to a new career-high of #26 in the rankings. She'll easily have her best-ever year-end standing (which was previously #33 in '11), as well.
COMEBACK: Vitalia Diatchenko/RUS
...Pavlyuchenko lifted the singles trophy in Moscow, but Diatchenko was arguably the biggest winner of the week. At this year's Kremlin Cup event, Diatchenko officially pulled a tennis career back into the starting gate in full circle fashion, closing out her '14 WTA season ten months after she essentially "re-claimed" her career. What a long fight it's been, too. When the 23-year old Hordette won a $50K challenger in Ankara in December it came after a week that had included her first singles action in thirteen months. She had played just five matches in '12, as well, following an eight-month absence after suffering a knee injury at the Kremlin Cup in 2011. That single ITF result moved her from unranked into the Top 500, and she's been steadily climbing back into contention every since. She's won a $100K challenger this year, as well as two other ITF crowns, including an event held in Moscow just last month. But it was the Kremlin Cup, where all her troubles began, that the two-fisted-on-both-sides ball-striker finally officially announced her return to the WTA conversation. After making it through qualifying (def. Ekaterina Bychkova and Evgeniya Rodina), Diatchenko got her first tour main draw wins in over twenty-five months (def. Olga Govortsova, via a retirement, and then #1 seed Dominika Cibulkova) to reach her first career WTA quarterfinal. 24-4 since late July, Diatchenko now finds herself ranked just outside the Top 100 at #105, matching her career-high from July '09 when she was an 18-year old looking like a good bet to follow-up on the great success of the revolutionary Russians that had preceded her. The result qualifies her for direct entry into the 2015 Australian Open, where she'll play her first main draw slam match since the '11 U.S. Open. So... Take Two. Sometimes, hard work does pay off.

FRESH FACES: Annika Beck/GER & Katerina Siniakova/CZE

...a year after she reached her first career tour singles final in Luxembourg, losing to Caroline Wozniacki, 20-year old Beck returned and claimed the crown as her own. The German never lost a set all week, defeating Timea Bacsinszky, Roberta Vinci, Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, Denisa Allertova and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova in the final (as a qualifier, she'd also defeated the Czech in the 1st Round of this same event in '12) to become the fourteenth maiden title-winner in '14. Beck dropped a total of eight games from the QF to the final. In Moscow, 18-year old Siniakova put on quite a show. In singles, she qualified and then upset Elena Vesnina, Kristina Mladenovic and Camila Giorgi in the main draw to reach her first career WTA singles semifinal. In doubles, she and Aleksandra Krunic also knocked out Kremlin Cup crowd favorites Ekaterina Makarova & Vesnina. In fact, Siniakova was so good that her success rubbed off on others. Doubles partner Krunic upset Caroline Garcia in the 1st Round, while Barbora Krejcikova (who teamed with fellow Czech Siniakova to take the U.S. Open junior doubles last year, then the pair did a synchronized dance routine on court to celebrate) reached the doubles final in Luxembourg with another Czech, Lucie Hradecka.
DOWN: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & Donna Vekic/CRO
...who would have thought, back in Melbourne, that NEITHER of the Australian Open's singles finalists would be playing in the WTA Finals in Singapore? Now, Li Na has a more logical reason, but what about Cibulkova? Last week in Moscow, where the Slovak was installed as the #1 seed, Cibulkova still had the chance to at least serve as the "second lady in waiting" -- aka 2nd alternate -- at this week's event, replacing Ekaterina Makarova, right behind waiting-for-an-injury Angelique Kerber. All she had to do was win one match, but she couldn't even manage to do that, losing her opener in the 2nd Round to Vitalia Diatchenko. Cibulkova's fate came down to a 3rd set in which she promptly fell down a double break at 4-0 before going on to lose it 6-2. Reaching just one QF since April -- a span that has included fourteen tournaments -- Cibulkova has just three match wins since Wimbledon. Meanwhile, Vekic has had a successful season, winning her first career title in Kuala Lumpur, but she still hasn't managed to rise into the Top 60 (she's currently just outside the Top 80, after finishing '13 at #86) nor win more than a single match at a grand slam. It's the last half of her '14 campaign that has served as her quicksand. The Croat won six straight matches and rode an 11-2 stretch back in April, but her 1st Round loss in Moscow to Irina-Camelia Begu drops her to 5-15 in her last twenty.
ITF PLAYER: Carina Witthoeft/GER
...the 19-year old -- and future German Fed Cup star? -- won the $50K challenger in Joue-les-tours, France, claiming her fourth ITF singles crown of the season, and the eighth of her career. Witthoeft, who reached three consecutive finals last month (winning two), took out Jelena Ostapenko (SF) and Urszula Radwanska (Final) on her way to the title.
...after failing to clear that second hurdle in Flushing Meadows after nothching her 1st Round upset win at the U.S. Open over the aforementioned Cibulkova, Bellis had no such trouble a week after winning her first professional singles titles in the $25K event in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Instead, she stayed in-state and moved on to Florence, where she won a second straight event this weekend in another $25K. The 15-year, #1-ranked junior knocked off fellow Bannerette teen Katerina Stewart (17) early on (for the second straight week), then allowed just three games in the final against 20-year old Waffle Ysaline Bonaventure to claim the title.

Caro Corner...

Carol Corner...

And a couple of "original Hordette" Russians being honored in Moscow.


Seems like old times ) ??

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1. Moscow QF - Siniakova d. Giorgi
Days after failing to put away a match point for the second time in a final this season, Giorgi was on the wrong end of a three-hour marathon.
2. Lux Final - Beck d. Zahlavova-Strycova
Still, Beck's title means seven of my eight pre-season first-time champion picks won maiden titles in '14. If Giorgi could have converted one of those match points I'd been eight-for-eight. Is this going to develop into a THING around here, Camila?
3. Moscow Final - Pavlyuchenkova d. Begu
The eight tour singles titles won by Russians this season are the most since since 2010.
4. Lux 1st Rd. - Parmentier d. Petkovic
Three straight losses heading into the Fed Cup final.
5. Lux 1st Rd. - Lisicki d. Hantuchova
Is The Wonder gone for good from the Slovak's game?
6. Moscow Doubles 1st Rd. - Krunic/Siniakova d. Makarova/Vesnina
Makarova and Vesnina went a combined 0-3 in singles and doubles at the Kremlin Cup. Siniakova was 2-0 against them all by herself, also defeating Vesnina in singles.
7. WTA Rising Stars Round Robin - Monica Puig d. Shelby Rogers 6-3/6-7(4)/11-9
WTA Rising Stars Round Robin - Zheng Saisai d. Zarina Diyas 6-7(4)/7-6(2)/10-5
Sunday's final two Round Robin matches in the inaugural Rising Stars competition in Singapore set up a Monday championship between Puig (3-0) and Zheng (2-1). Diyas was the only member of the four-player competition to go win-less in RR action.

8. Moscow SF - Begu d. Safarova
The Czech's only other '14 singles semifinal came at Wimbledon.
HM- $50K Tampico MEX Final - Duque-Marino d. Mestach
The 25-year old Colombian picked up her 17th career ITF singles title over the weekend.

1. Moscow 1st Rd. - Mladenovic d. Karolina Pliskova
Mladenovic Magic strikes again! Meanwhile, it looks like we'll see Karolina in the Fed Cup final (the first of many?).
2. Moscow Doubles QF - Lyudmyla Kichenok/Savchuk d. Krunic/Siniakova
3. $25K Bangkok Doubles Final - Varatchaya & Varunya Wongteanchai d. Borecka/Kerkhove
The Thai sisters win their third '14 crown as a duo, and their fourth overall.
HM- $25K Florence 1st Rd. - Tornado Black d. Tatishvili
Unfortunately, Black didn't get to meet Bellis in an all-Bannerette Junior final. She pulled out of the event before her 2nd Round match.


Paris thank u for all these fun memories! That day and that One moment I will never ever forget! Till next time... Bisous

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Sydney - Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL, age 26)
Hobart - Garbine Muguruza (ESP, age 20)
Rio - Kurumi Nara (JPN, age 22)
Bogota - Caroline Garcia (FRA, age 20)
K.Lumpur - Donna Vekic (CRO, age 17)
Marrakech - M-T.Torro-Flor (ESP, age 21)
Oeiras - C.Suarez-Navarro (ESP, age 25)
Strasbourg- Monica Puig (PUR, age 20)
Nurnberg - Eugenie Bouchard (CAN, age 20)
Eastbourne- Madison Keys (USA, age 19)
's-Hert. - Coco Vandeweghe(USA, age 22)
Tashkent - Karin Knapp (ITA, age 27)
Tianjin - Alison Riske (USA, age 24)
Luxembourg - Annika Beck (GER, age 20)

Shenzhen - Li Na, CHN (W)
Shenzhen - Peng Shuai, CHN (L)
Miami - Serena Williams, USA (W)
Rome - Sara Errani, ITA (L)
Bucharest - Simona Halep, ROU (W)
Stanford - Serena Williams, USA (W)
Cincinnati - Serena Williams, USA (W)
U.S. Open - Serena Williams, USA (W)
Moscow - A.Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (W)

2003 Anastasia Myskina
2004 Anastasia Myskina
2006 Anna Chakvetadze
2007 Elena Dementieva
2014 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

5 - USA - S.Williams,V.Williams,Keys,Riske,Vandeweghe
4 - RUS - Sharapova,Makarova,Pavlyuchenkova,Kuznetsova
4 - GER - Petkovic,Lisicki,Petkovic,Barthel,Beck
3 - CZE - Kvitova,Ka.Pliskova,Koukalova
3 - ESP - Muguruza,Suarez-Navarro,Torro-Flor

**2014 WTA TITLES**
[Hard Court]
5...Serena Williams, USA
3...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2...Petra Kvitova, CZE
2...Li Na, CHN
2...Karolina Pliskova, CZE
1...Alize Cornet, FRA
1...Karolina Pliskova, CZE
1...Maria Sharapova, RUS

#251 Wang Yafan/CHN - Guangzhou
#189 Nigina Abduraimova/UZB - Tashkent
#166 Kristina Kucova/SVK - Bucharest
#160 Nasstasja Burnett/ITA - Rio
#155 Maria Kirilenko/RUS - Seoul
#147 Shelby Rogers/USA - Bad Gastein (RU)
#145 DENISA ALLERTOVA/CZE - Luxembourg
#140 Belinda Bencic/SUI - Charleston

Anna Kournikova (1999-02)
Jana Novotna (1997-99)
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1997)
Helena Sukova(1996,'98)
Mirjana Lucic (1998)
Flavia Pennetta (2014)
Mary Pierce(2000)
Natasha Zvereva (1997-98)
Mahesh Bhupathi (2006=Mixed)
Lindsay Davenport (1997)
Gigi Fernandez (1995)
Mary Joe Fernandez (1997)
Maria Kirilenko (2007)
Sabine Lisicki (2014)
Barbara Schett (2002)
Nathalie Tauziat (2000)

79...Lisa Raymond, USA
59...Cara Black, ZIM
53...Liezel Huber, USA
35...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
27...Kveta Peschke, CZE

5...Sara Errani, ITA (5/0)
5...Peng Shuai (5/0)
5...Roberta Vinci, ITA (5/0)
3...Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE (3/0)
3...Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS (3/0)
3...Sania Mirza, IND (2/1)
3...Karolina Pliskova, CZE (3/0)
3...Anastasia Rodionova, AUS (3/0)

[recent champions]
2009 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2012 Serena Williams, USA
2013 Serena Williams, USA
[all-time titles]
8...Martina Navratilova
5...Steffi Graf
4...Chris Evert
3...Kim Clijsters
3...Monica Seles
[most finals]
14...Martina Navratiova (8-6)
8...Chris Evert (4-4)
6...Steffi Graf (5-1)
[reached final in debut appearance]
1979 Tracy Austin
1981 Andrea Jaeger
1994 Lindsay Davenport
1996 Martina Hingis
2001 Serena Williams (W)
2004 Maria Sharapova (W)
2011 Petra Kvitova (W)
[doubles titles]
11...Martina Navratilova
10...Pam Shriver
4...Lisa Raymond
3...Lindsay Davenport
3...Liezel Huber
3...Natasha Zvereva

13 Final: S.Williams d. Li
13 Doubles Final: Hsieh/Peng d. Makarova/Vesnina
14 Top Seeds: S.Williams/Sharapova

(1) S.Williams 3-0
(7) Ivanovic 2-1
(5) Bouchard 1-2
(4) Halep 0-3
(2) Sharapova 3-0
(3) Kvitova 2-1
(8) Wozniacki 1-2
(6) A.Radwanska 0-3

#1 S.Williams d. #3 Kvitova
#2 Sharapova d. #7 Ivanovic
#1 S.Williams d. #2 Sharapova

...close to #1, Maria. But no Sugarpova candy cigar.

In this instance, Genie has it right, I suspect... just on the fashion choices alone. Hmmm, which is more preferred? The outfits with a whole lot going on on the left, or the more conservative, classic choices on the right?

Overall, a good mix, I'd say.

The Regional Honors have been posted. Another quick look back at 2004 arrives soon.

All for now.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014 BSA's: Regional Honors

The presentation of the 2014 Backspin Awards began with the annual "MVP List." Up next, positioning a magnifying glass on the world... region by region.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Serena Williams, USA
PoY (RUNNER-UP): Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
RISERS: Coco Vandeweghe, USA & Madison Keys, USA

SURPRISES: Katerina Stewart, USA & Marcela Zacarius, MEX
VETERAN: Venus Williams, USA
FRESH FACES: Monica Puig, PUR & Shelby Rogers, USA
COMEBACKS: Madison Brengle, USA & Christina McHale, USA
DOWN: Sloane Stephens, USA & U.S. Fed Cup Team
JUNIORS: CiCi Bellis, USA (singles) & Renata Zarazua, MEX (doubles)
DOUBLES: Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears, USA/USA
TEAMS: Washington Kastles (WTT) & UCLA Bruins (NCAA)
NCAA PLAYER: Danielle Collins, USA (University of Virginia)

ITF PLAYERS: Ana-Sofia Sanchez, MEX & Sharon Fichman, CAN
IMPROVED: Alison Riske, USA & Victoria Rodriguez, MEX
UNDERRATED: Varvara Lepchenko, USA & Vania King, USA
FED CUP: U.S. Junior Fed Cup Team
SISTERS TO WATCH: Tornado Black, USA & Francoise Abanda, CAN
KEY AN EYE ON...: Taylor Townsend, USA & Lauren Davis, USA
TOP PERFORMANCE: Serena Williams is first woman to three-peat as U.S. Open champ since Chris Evert (1975-78)
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE: On a single Sunday, Taylor Townsend wins four matches (semifinals and finals in both singles and doubles) in the Indian Harbour Beach challenger -- giving her four titles in two weeks -- to wrap up a USTA-awarded wild card into the Roland Garros main draw, where she would make her slam debut
NATION TO WATCH: Canada (Fed Cup)
COMEBACK NATION: United States (WTA singles)
WORRIED NATION: United States (Fed Cup in the "Mary Joe Fernandez Captaincy Era")
BUY: Anna Tatishvili, USA & Kathy Rinaldi (USTA Player Development/Lead National Coach/future Fed Cup Captain?????)

SELL: Liezel Huber, USA & Lisa Raymond, USA
HOLD: Sloane Stephens, USA, Jamie Hampton, USA & Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Paula Ormaechea, ARG

PoY (RUNNER-UP): Teliana Pereira, BRA
RISERS: Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR & Mariana Duque-Marino, COL
SURPRISES: Tatiana Bua/Daniela Seguel, ARG/CHI
VETERAN: Andrea Koch-Benvenuto, CHI
FRESH FACES: Yuliana Lizarazo, COL & Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
COMEBACKS: Maria Fernanda-Alves, BRA & Maria Teresa Alvarez Teran, BOL (Fed Cup)
DOWN: Florencia Molinero, ARG (singles)
JUNIORS: Camila Giangreco Campiz, PAR & Leticia Garcia Vidal, BRA
DOUBLES: Maria Irigoyen, ARG & Florencia Molinero, ARG
TEAM: ARG Fed Cup team
ITF PLAYER: Nadia Podoroska, ARG
IMPROVED: Gabriela Ce, BRA & Paula Cristina Goncalves, BRA
UNDERRATED: Laura Pigossi, BRA & Bianca Botto, PER
FED CUP: Paula Ormaechea, ARG
SISTERS TO WATCH: Maria Paulina Perez Garcia & Paula Andrea Perez Garcia, COL/COL
KEEP AN EYE ON...: Montserrat Gonzalez, PAR
TOP PERFORMANCE: Argentina defeats Japan in Fed Cup World Group II action
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE: Maria Irigoyen (ARG), world #173, defeats Kurumi Nara (JPN), world #65, 6-7/6-4/6-4 in 3:39 in the opening match of the ARG/JPN WGII tie
NATION TO WATCH: Brazil (Fed Cup)
BUY: Brazilian Fed Cup Team & Nadia Podoroska, ARG (the new "Oh, Nadia!?")

SELL: Catalina Castano, COL (retired)
HOLD: Florencia Molinero, ARG (singles)

PoY (RUNNER-UP): Peng Shuai, CHN
RISERS: Kurumi Nara, JPN & Wang Qiang, CHN
SURPRISES: Luksika Kumkhum, THA & Nigina Abduraimova, UZB
VETERAN: Casey Dellacqua, AUS & Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
FRESH FACES: Zarina Diyas, KAZ & Zheng Saisai, CHN

COMEBACKS: Chuang Chia-Jung, TPE & Tamarine Tanasguarn, THA
DOWN: Ashleigh Barty/Casey Dellacqua, AUS/AUS & (ex-partners) Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai, TPE/CHN
JUNIOR: Xu Shilin, CHN & Sun Ziyue, CHN
DOUBLES: Sania Mirza, IND & Anastasia Rodionova, AUS
TEAM: Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai, TPE/CHN (Roland Garros champs)
ITF PLAYERS: Zhang Ling, HKG & Zhu Lin, CHN
IMPROVED: Sofia Shapatava, UZB & Ankita Raina, IND
UNDERRATED: Duan Ying-Ying, CHN (singles) & Shuko Aoyama, JPN (doubles)
FED CUP: Luksika Kumkhum/Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA/THA
SISTERS TO WATCH: Chan Yung-Jan/Chan Hao-Ching, TPE/TPE

KEEP AN EYE ON...: Yui Kamiji, JPN (Wheelchair) vs. the ghost of Esther Vergeer's career
TOP PERFORMANCE: At the Australian Open, Li Na wins her second slam title, writing a fitting final chapter for a legendary career that would end eight months later
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE: Peng Shuai rises to the top of the doubles rankings, becoming the first Chinese to ever be ranked #1
COMEBACK NATION: Japan & Thailand
MOST INTRIGUING NATION: Australia (The NextGen, slowly rising?)
BUY: Zarina Diyas/KAZ & Ajla Tomljanovic, AUS
SELL: Zheng Jie, CHN & Chinese Fed Cup Team
HOLD: Samantha Stosur, AUS & Ashleigh Barty, AUS

PoY (RUNNER-UP): Chanelle Scheepers, RSA

RISERS: Chanel Simmonds, RSA & Basak Eraydin, TUR
SURPRISE: Michelle Sammons, RSA & Melis Sezer, TUR
VETERAN: Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR
FRESH FACES: Ons Jabeur, TUN & Madrie Le Roux, RSA
COMEBACK: Natasha Fourouclas, RSA
DOWN: Shahar Peer, ISR
JUNIOR: Ipek Soylu, TUR

DOUBLES: Cara Black, ZIM
TEAM: Melis Sezer/Ipek Soylu, TUR/TUR
ITF PLAYERS: Deniz Khazaniuk, ISR
IMPROVED: Ilze Hattingh, RSA
UNDERRATED: Fatma Al-Nabhani, OMA & Pemra Ozgen, TUR
FED CUP: Mayar Sherif/Ola Abou Zekry, EGY/EGY
SISTERS TO WATCH: Hulya Esen/Lutfiye Esen, TUR/TUR
KEEP AN EYE ON...: Ines Ibbou, ALG
TOP PERFORMANCE: Cara Black defends Tokyo Beijing women's doubles title, and reaches three consecutive finals
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE: Ipek Soylu, 18, puts up nearly 50 match wins on the ITF circuit, winning four singles titles and three more in doubles
BUY: Ons Jabeur, TUN & Ipek Soylu, TUR
SELL: Shahar Peer, ISR
HOLD: Julia Glushko, ISR

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Maria Sharapova
PoY (RUNNERS-UP): Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina
RISERS: Ekaterina Makarova & Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
SURPRISES: Natalia Vikhlyantseva & Marta Sirotkina
VETERAN: Svetlana Kuznetsova
FRESH FACES: Elizaveta Kulichkova & Veronika Kudermetova

COMEBACKS: Alisa Kleybanova & Russian Fed Cup Team
DOWN: Nadia Petrova (player) & Shamil Tarpischev (banned Captain/coach)
JUNIORS: Darya Kasatkina & Varvara Flink

DOUBLES: Alla Kudryavtseva
TEAM: Russian ITF World Junior Championship Team
ITF PLAYER: Vitalia Diatchenko
IMPROVED: Daria Gavrilova & Marina Melnikova
UNDERRATED: Margarita Gasparyan & Anna Morgina
FED CUP: Ekaterina Makarova
SISTER TO WATCH: ummm, Dinara Safina (on Twitter) and her daily "Dinara Challenge" exercise updates?
KEEP AN EYE ON...: Ksenia Pervak (now ex-KAZ)
TOP PERFORMANCE: Maria Sharapova defends her Roland Garros title
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE: Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina claim their second slam doubles crown, winning the U.S. Open
BUY: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (player) & Anastasia Myskina (FC Captain)
SELL: Nadia Petrova (singles) & Vera Zvonareva
HOLD: Maria Kirilenko & Nadia Petrova (doubles)

PoY (RUNNER-UP): Elina Svitolina, UKR
RISERS: Monica Niculescu, ROU & Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
SURPRISES: Sofia Shapatava, GEO & Akvile Parazinskaite, LTU
VETERANS: Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL & Kaia Kanepi, EST
FRESH FACES: Maryna Zanevksa, UKR & Iryna Shymanovich, BLR
COMEBACKS: Sorana Cirstea, ROU & Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
DOWN: Victoria Azarenka, BLR

JUNIORS: Jelena Ostapenko, LAT & Anhelina Kalinina, UKR
DOUBLES: Yuliya Beygelzimer/Olga Savchuk, UKR/UKR
TEAM: Lyudmyla Kichenok/Nadiya Kichenok, UKR/UKR

ITF PLAYERS: Patricia Maria-Tig, ROU & Andreea Mitu, ROU
IMPROVED: Lesia Tsurenko, UKR & Valeriya Strakhova, UKR
UNDERRATED: Olga Govortsova, BLR & Aliaksandra Sasnovich, BLR
FED CUP: Romanian Fed Cup Team
SISTERS TO WATCH: Elizaveta Ianchuk, UKR & Olga Ianchuk, UKR
KEEP AN EYE ON...: Maria Sakkari, GRE
TOP PERFORMANCE: Simona Halep reaches Roland Garros final, becoming first Romanian in a slam final since 1980
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE: Tsvetana Pironkova wins eight matches in eight days, going from qualifier to first-time WTA singles champ in Sydney
BUY: 2016-17 Romanian Fed Cup Team
SELL: (Bulgarian again) Sesil Karatantcheva's old Kazakhstan gear
HOLD: Victoria Azarenka, BLR

PoY (RUNNER-UP): Ana Ivanovic, SRB
RISERS: Karolina Pliskova, CZE & Garbine Muguruza, ESP
SURPRISES: Aleksandra Krunic, SRB (Good Luck Charm & Li Na appreciator) & Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP

VETERANS: Andrea Petkovic, GER (singles) & Martina Hingis/Flavia Pennetta, SUI/ITA (doubles)
FRESH FACES: Belinda Bencic, SUI & Jana Cepelova, SVK
COMEBACKS: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, CRO & Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
DOWN: Slovak Fed Cup Team & Serbian Fed Cup team
JUNIORS: Marie Bouzkova, CZE & Jana Fett, CRO
DOUBLES: Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA & Garbine Muguruza/Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP/ESP
TEAMS: Czech & German Fed Cup teams
ITF PLAYERS: Denisa Allertova, CZE & Laura Pous-Tio, ESP
IMPROVED: Alize Cornet, FRA & Kiki Bertens, NED
UNDERRATED: Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE & Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP
FED CUP: Angelique Kerber, GER (and Kvitova & Petkovic, too)
SISTERS TO WATCH: Anna Schmiedlova, SVK & Karolina Pliskova/Kristyna Pliskova, CZE/CZE

KEEP AN EYE ON...: Jocelyn Rae/Anna Smith, GBR/GBR & Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova, CZE/CZE (together, and alone)
TOP PERFORMANCE: Petra Kvitova powers to her second Wimbledon title
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE (Doubles): Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci win Wimbledon, completing the Career Doubles Slam
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE (Team Division): Germany reaches first Fed Cup final since 1992
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE (A-Rad Division): Agnieszka Radwanska destroys Vika Azarenka in a love 3rd set at the Australian Open
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE (Coaching Division): Amelie Mauresmo (anywhere and everywhere)
NATIONS TO WATCH: Czech Republic "NextGen" & Switzerland
COMEBACK NATION: Germany & France
WORRIED NATIONS: Slovak Republic, Austria & Italy
BUY: Caroline Garcia/FRA, Camila Giorgi/ITA (2015 Motto: One More Point!), the Comeback Brits (Laura Robson & Heather Watson) and Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (2.0)
SELL: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK & Roberta Vinci/ITA
HOLD: Aga Radwanska/POL, Jelena Jankovic/SRB & Nicole Vaidisova/CZE (she's back, but she's not yet B-A-C-K)

2008 Serena Williams, USA
2009 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Serena Williams, USA
2011 Serena Williams, USA
2012 Serena Williams, USA
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Serena Williams, USA

2008 Gisela Dulko, ARG
2009 Gisela Dulko, ARG
2010 Gisela Dulko, ARG
2011 Gisela Dulko, ARG
2012 Paula Ormaechea, ARG
2013 Paula Ormaechea, ARG
2014 Paula Ormaechea, ARG

2008 Zheng Jie, CHN
2009 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2010 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2011 Li Na, CHN
2012 Li Na, CHN
2013 Li Na, CHN
2014 Li Na, CHN

2008 Cara Black, ZIM
2009 Shahar Peer, ISR
2010 Shahar Peer, ISR
2011 Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
2012 Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
2013 Cara Black, ZIM
2014 Cara Black, ZIM

2008 Dinara Safina
2009 Svetlana Kuznetsova
2010 Vera Zvonareva
2011 Maria Sharapova
2012 Maria Sharapova
2013 Maria Sharapova
2014 Maria Sharapova

[Non-Russian Europe]
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2011 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2014 Simona Halep, ROU
2013 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2014 Petra Kvitova, CZE

More 2014 Backspin Awards are coming soon!

All for now.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Wk.41- An Affair to Remember

Forget Wozziroy. We have a new WTA love affair to remember.

Hmmm, what should we call the winning couple: "Stosaka?" "Samasaka?" "Osasur?"

Either way, Samantha Stosur has surely found her match in Japan. I mean, the WTA has only held a tournament in Osaka six times, and her win this weekend is her sixth there, taking up half of the 2011 U.S. Open champion's total career tour singles title haul. Not only that, but Osaka has been there for the Aussie every time she's needed a shoulder to lean, too. In 2009, it finally provided her with her maiden WTA title after she'd gone 0-5 in finals over a five-season stretch. Last year, after having parted ways with her longtime coach David Taylor, Osaka was there again to tell her that things were going to be all right.

Of course, that hasn't exactly been the case in 2014. Stosur has suffered through a rather disappointing season, even losing, oddly enough, to a player NAMED Osaka (Naomi) this summer. The loss seemed like a bad joke, as if the Tennis Gods were taunting Stosur, trying to convince her that her longtime, strong relationship with Osaka (the one in Japan) was just a figment of her imagination.

But then Osaka came to her rescue yet again, as we all sort of figured it would, I guess. I mean, I picked Stosur to win the title -- so it must not have been TOO much of a wild possibility a week ago.

Courtney Nguyen at said it best, I think.

Yep... if only.

So, does Stosur's title run mean she'll suddenly rebound in full force in '15, and maybe even grab a second slam title? Umm, no. But, when the proverbial dust settles, Osaka will still be there for her, anyway.

Those two are just like that.

LINZ, AUSTRIA (Int'l $250K/Hard Indoor)
S: Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Camila Giorgi/ITA 6-7(4)/6-3/7-6(4)
D: Olaru/Tatishvili (ROU/USA) d. Beck/Garcia (GER/FRA)

OSAKA, JAPAN (Int'l $250K/Hard Outdoor)
S: Samantha Stosur/AUS def. Zarina Diyas/KAZ 7-6(7)/6-3
D: Aoyama/Voracova (JPN/CZE) d. Arruabarrena/Maria (ESP/GER)

TIANJIN, CHINA (Int'l $250K/Hard Outdoor)
S: Alison Riske/USA def. Belinda Bencic/SUI 6-3/6-4
D: Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova (RUS/AUS) d. Cirstea/Klepac (ROU/SLO)

Sorana Cirstea, answering the question, "Why China?"


I couldn't leave China without saying a proper good bye !!! ?????? #TheGreatWall

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...well, no pun intended (well, maybe it is), but the Czech is surely serving notice that she will demand more attention in 2015 (hence, her PoW honors here over the aforementioned Aussie, just to stay ahead of the game). In Linz, Pliskova's fifth '14 final appearance (just one behind tour leaders Serena and AnaIvo) produced a second title, the third of the Maiden's career. After putting up wins over Kirsten Flipkens, Mona Barthel, Madison Brengle and Anna-Lena Friedsam put her in the final, Pliskova saved a match point in the final against Camila Giorgi, at 6-5 in the 3rd after she'd charged back from 5-2 down, and won the title in a deciding tie-break. A year ago in this same event, Karolina and her sister Kristyna won their first doubles title as a duo (they've added two more in '14, meaning only Venus & Serena stand ahead of them on the WTA's all-time all-sisters doubles title list). Karolina is up to a career-best #27 in the new rankings.

RISERS: Alison Riske/USA & Camila Giorgi/ITA

...and to think that a few seasons ago the prospect of a successful WTA career from Pittsburgh-born Riske, now 24, wasn't exactly a given. At first, her success seemed to make her simply a "grass court specialist," as she qualified in Birmingham in 2010 and went on to reach the semifinals, losing in three sets to Maria Sharapova. The result earned her a Wimbledon wild card in her first career slam main draw, boosted her growing confidence and, well, the rest is history. Since then, while she's still most dangerous on the grass, she's expanded her battlefield to hard courts. She upset Petra Kvitova at last year's U.S. Open and finished the year in the Top 100, then was in an upsetting mood again in Melbourne this past January, knocking out Elena Vesnina and reaching her third straight slam 3rd Round. Last week in Tianjin, she joined the growing list of Bannerettes (minus one notable exception, of course) reaching new career heights on a regular basis, reaching her first WTA singles final with wins over Cagla Buyukakcay, Olga Govortsova, Varvara Lepchenko and Zheng Saisai, and then becoming the latest U.S. woman to win her maiden tour title with a win in the final over fellow first-time Belinda Bencic. Riske comes in at a career-best #44 this week. Meanwhile, for a second in Linz it looked like Camila Giorgi was going to finally allow me to check her name off as the seventh of my eight pre-season first-time champions predictions to actually win a maiden title in '14. Earlier this season in Katowice, the Italian had failed to put away a match point in her first tour final against Alize Cornet. But, wouldn't you know it, this weekend in the final against Karolina Pliskova it was Giorgi once again holding -- but, alas, failing to put away -- another MP in another tour singles final. After squandering a 5-2 3rd set lead, Giorgi was a point away (again) from her first WTA crown at 6-5, only to see the Czech save it and go on to win the tournament title in a tie-break. So, the tireless little Italian will have to try again. Wins last week against against Andrea Petkovic, Ons Jabeur, Marina Erakovic and Karin Knapp were still impressive, though, especially considering she carried a four-match losing streak (and was on a 3-9 skid heading) into Austria.
SURPRISES: Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER & Luksika Kumkhum/THA
...20-year old German Friedsam, the winner of the WTA $125K Challenger in Suzhou last month, qualified in Linz with victories over Dinah Pfizenmaier, Kristina Kucova and Alexandra Panova, then ran off three additional main draw wins over Dominika Cibulkova, Jana Cepelova and Stefanie Voegele to reach her first career WTA semifinal. She's up to a career-best #76 in the new singles rankings. Meanwhile, fresh off her two medal haul at the Asian Games, Kumkhum also reached her first career tour singles semifinal in Osaka following wins over Christina McHale and Madison Keys, who retired from their QF match. Kumkhum, whose results made Thailand the thirtieth different nation to produce a WTA singles semifinalist this season, is up to a career-best #86 today.
VETERANS: Samantha Stosur/AUS & Alla Kudryavtseva/Anastasia Rodionova (RUS/AUS)

...after putting together three straight final runs -- in Osaka, Moscow and Sofia -- to end '13, Stosur is again shining her brightest right before the WTA turns out the lights on another season. After reaching the semis in Beijing, the Aussie defended her Osaka title, winning her third title there in the six years in which the event has been held (she's also had an additional runner-up result in '11). Wins over Jarmila Gajdosova, Yulia Putintseva, Elina Svitolina and Zarina Diyas came without dropping a set -- and she did it with only one retirement from an opponent (Gajdosova), which isn't a given at this time of year. In Tianjin, Alla Kudryavtseva & Anastasia Rodionova picked up a third doubles title of the season (their fifth as a duo), defeating Sorana Cirstea & Andreja Klepac in a 10-8 match tie-break in the final. The title, the Hordette's eighth of her career and the Aussie's ninth, also clinched their berth as the final team to qualify for the WTA Finals doubles competition next week in Singapore.

COMEBACK: Madison Brengle/USA took seven years, after she'd reached both the Australian Open and Wimbledon junior finals in 2007, but the Summer of Brengle became a reality in 2014, and now it's officially stretched into the fall. The Bannerette's career-best stretch kicked off with a $50K challenger title in July, followed up by a wild card entry into the U.S. Open and the end of her decade-long quest for her first career main draw slam win. After winning the $50K challenger in Las Vegas two weeks ago, raising her ranking into the Top 100 for the first time, Brengle qualified last week in Linz, taking out Czech Lucie Hradecka in the final round. In the main draw, she put up a 1st Round win over Irina-Camelia Begu, then got a 2nd Round walkover from Ana Ivanovic (left hip) to reach the QF. In the new rankings, Brengle is up to yet another career-high, coming in at #88 (and climbing).
FRESH FACES: Belinda Bencic/SUI & Zarina Diyas/KAZ
...both Bencic and Diyas have been able to carry over their U.S. Open moments in the spotlight with good results in the fall. Before last week, Bencic had already put up Wins in Asia over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Shelby Rogers, then the 17-year old Open quarterfinalist made her way through Hsieh Su-Wei, Romina Oprandi and Peng Shuai (granted, the latter two via a walkover and retirement, respectively) to reach her first tour-level singles final in Tianjin. She failed to get a win over fellow first-time finalist Riske, but the New Swiss Miss will surely get many more opportunities to grab her maiden in the near future. Bencic is up to a career-best #33 this week. Meanwhile, 20-year old Kazakh Diyas, who calmly put the CiCi Bellis Story to rest in the 2nd Round in New York (after having previously, rather anonymously, also reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon), has since added additional, bigger wins over Sorana Cirstea, Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Klara Koukalova (twice). Last week, she reached her first tour singles final in Osaka after knocking off Chan Yung-Jan, Lara Arruabarrena, Ana Konjuh and Luksika Kumkhum. Diyas lost in the final to Stosur, but considering the "year after" results of the Aussie's other Osaka final victims, maybe big things are in store for the Kazakh in '15. In '09, Stosur defeated Francesca Schiavone, who went on to win Roland Garros a season later; and in '13, the Osaka RU was Genie Bouchard, who only reached her first slam final, plus two more major semis, and won her first tour title while climbing into the Top 10 this season. The Backspin "Regional Honors" haven't arrived in this space quite yet, but I'd say Diyas, now up to #34, is a good bet to appear on the "Buy" column on the Market Watch list for the Asia/Pacific region.
DOWN: Jelena Jankovic/SRB
...after staging a welcome comeback a year ago, returning to the Top 10 in '13, JJ has seen things take a step back this season. Another early round exit last week -- to Zheng Saisai in Tianjin, where the Serb was the #1 seed in the inaugural edition of the event -- was followed by the announcement that Jankovic was ending her season a few weeks early due to a back injury. It looks like she'll end the season ranked somewhere between #14-20, approximately the same area she ended up at the end of the 2011 season. Much like QC, she ends 2014 somewhat "hanging in mid-air." We'll have to soon do something about that... well, at least for half of that equation.
ITF PLAYER: An-Sophie Mestach/BEL
...the 20-year old Waffle took the title at the $50K challenger in Monterrey, Mexico. Mestach's run to a sixth career ITF crown, her third this season, included victories over Elise Mertens, Alexandra Cadantu, Julia Glushko and Lourdes Dominguez-Lino in the final, taking out the Spaniard in straight sets, 6-3/7-5.
...the 15-year old continues to add weight to the promise of a bright future. Following up her star turn in the main draw at the U.S. Open, Bellis led the Bannerette team to a Junior Fed Cup championship in recent weeks, then last week jumped back onto the professional scene and found success there once again. The #1-ranked junior reached and won her first ITF challenger event title at the $25K event in Rock Hill, South Carolina. After having just three main draw professional wins -- including her 1st Round victory over Dominika Cibulkova at Flushing Meadows -- to her credit before last week, Bellis won five to take the challenger title, defeating the likes of Katerina Stewart, Chanel Simmonds, Despina Papamichail and Lauren Embree in a 6-4/6-0 final. Embree, a cog in the two-time NCAA championships teams at Florida (2011-12), drops to 0-4 in '14 ITF finals with the result.


Not great clarity but Rock Hill 25k winnerrr????

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You're 15, CiCi. Clarity can come later.

Meanwhile, Caro had a sense of deja vu...


Deja vu!

Se på Instagram

And went on an adventure...

Suddenly, the shadow of the Dane seems "cool" again. Less Irish baggage, I guess.

1. Osaka Final - Stosur d. Diyas
Stosur is the fifteenth top seed to win a tour singles title in '14, and the eighth to successfully defend a title. Only six times has a player won a crown this year while being BOTH the top seed and defending champ, though. Let's see... there's been Sam, Li Na and Serena Williams (X 4). That's it. That's the whole list. A rare, good playing-with-pressure moment for the Aussie, I'd say. Imagine if it carried over to Melbourne. Yeah, I know... a didgeridoo dream.
2. Tianjin Final - Riske d. Bencic
Riske is the thirteenth maiden champ in '14, the most since 2009, and the third Bannerette to step into the winner's circle for the first time just since June. She's the fifth first-time finalist from the U.S. this season, a tour best. Also, this was the third final match-up this year between title-less players, as well as the third such meeting of two first-time finalists. The others came in Marrakech (Torro-Flor d. Oprandi) and Strasbourg (Puig d. Soler-Espinosa).
3. Linz 2nd Rd. - Friedsam d. Cibulkova
The AO runner-up has gone 7-13 since reaching the Kuala Lumpur final in April. Still, she's highly enough ranked to be the top seed this week in Moscow.
4. Linz 2nd Rd. - Knapp d. Rybarikova
...6-3, ret.
The Slovak retires from her third straight event. Maybe she should take the hint?
5. Tianjin QF - Cirstea/Klepac d. Hingis/Pennetta
And with the title run by Kudryavtseva/Rodionova, The Original Swiss Miss and The Original Flavia miss out on a berth in the WTA Finals in Singapore. Still, it says something that it took the Russian/Aussie duo twenty-one events to edge out what Hingis & Pennetta accomplished in just seven tournaments together. Hopefully they'll team up again in '15.

6. Osaka QF - Svitolina d. Davis
During her birthday week (she turned 21), Davis became the eighth U.S. woman to reach a third WTA QF in 2014. The others are named Serena, Venus, Madison, Alison, Varvara, Christina and Vania. Notice anyone who's missing? Yep, the now-#35 ranked Sloane has only two QF. She's still Currently the fourth-ranked Bannerette on tour, but she's not that far off in the Future from being the eighth, or maybe even ninth-best in her nation (depending on how good a start to '15 we see from Shelby Rogers).
7. Moscow Doubles 1st Rd. - Krunic/Siniakova d. Makarova/Vesnina
There she goes again. The Tashkent champs pulled off the first -- of many, I'm sure... it's October, after all -- of what will surely be MANY upsets that will occur this week in the Kremlin Cup.
8. Moscow 1st Rd. - Pironkova d. Kovinic
After starting the season strong, then drifting away ever since, the Weeping Angel appears to be stirring in the season's closing weeks. Also, for once, Pironkova, an actual singles champion in '14, won't feel like an "unfair" addition to the Tournament of "Champions " field back home in Bulgaria, where she's been included in the draw as a title-less wild card the last two years.
9. Linz Doubles Final - Olaru/Tatishvili d. Beck/Garcia
Riske wasn't the only Bannerette hoisting her first career tour title trophy this weekend.

10. Linz 2nd Rd. - Brengle w/o Ivanovic
and here I didn't think that I could possibly have a THIRD straight week in which one of my champion predictions exited a tournament mid-week due to an injury.

In case you were wondering why the recap didn't get put up on Sunday night...

Hey, the Terminus gang got what was coming to them. Oh, and, yep, Carol is a badassssss.

1. Linz Final - Karolina Pliskova d. Giorgi
After failing to win her first title after, for the second time this year, holding a match point in a final, Giorgi joins fellow Italians Errani and Vinci (all 0-2) in the "winless in multiple finals" club for '14. As of right now, there are only two other non-Italian members.
2. Tianjin QF - Bencic d. Hsieh Su-Wei
This loss by Hsieh prevented a match-up of former doubles partners (who'll reunite one more time in Singapore, of course) in a singles semifinal. Ultimately, Bencic defeated Peng Shuai, as well, as the Chinese vet retired during her match-up with TNSM.
3. Tianjin Doubles Final - Kudryavtseva/Anastasia Rodionova d. Cirstea/Klepac
Nothing against Rodionova, but you'd have gotten few takers in January if you'd asked who thought that she'd end up being the highest-ranked Aussie doubles player in 2014, what with the great '13 season that was put up by Barty/Dellacqua that seemed to point to even more success this year. As it turned out, Dellacqua's focus was more on singles, while Barty has decided to leave the tour for a yet-to-be-determined period of time.
HM- Osaka 1st Rd. - Osaka d. Erika Sema
How often do you get to say, "Osaka wins in Osaka," anyway? Well, at least once. In this case, of course, the Osaka in question was wild card entry Naomi, the same Osaka who defeated the still-reigning Osaka champ Stosur a few weeks ago. Got that? Full circle, baby.

While Aga goes all Cheesecake Factory, Vika goes Chi-Chi-Chipotle...


Hawwwttttt #chipotlegang #chilling #mybroissweatinglikecrazy

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**2014 WTA FINALS**
6...Serena Williams (6-0)
6...Ana Ivanovic (4-2)

0-4 - Angelique Kerber, GER
0-2 - Sara Errani, ITA
0-2 - Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
0-2 - Roberta Vinci, ITA

Serena Williams - Brisbane
Li Na - Shenzhen
Serena Williams - Miami
Maria Sharapova - Stuttgart (2012-14)
Serena Williams - Rome
Elina Svitolina - Baku
Serena Williams - U.S. Open (2012-14)
Samantha Stosur - Osaka

25 - Serena Williams
5 - Venus Williams
1 - Melanie Oudin
6 - Serena Williams
1 - Madison Keys
1 - Alison Riske
1 - Coco Vandeweghe
1 - Venus Williams

92...Margaret Court, 1968-76
68...Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, 1970-80
17...Kerry Melville-Reid, 1968-79
15...Dianne Fromholtz-Balestrat, 1973-79
9...Wendy Turnbull, 1976-83
6...Jelena Dokic, 2001-11
6...SAMANTHA STOSUR, 2009-14
5...Alicia Molik, 2003-05

5 - Errani/Vinci, ITA/ITA
3 - Hsieh/Peng, TPE/CHN

[first-time champions]
Annika Beck, GER
Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
Camila Giorgi, ITA
Madison Keys, USA
Karin Knapp, ITA
Garbine Muguruza, ESP
Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
Donna Vekic, CRO
[first-time finalists]
Camila Giorgi, ITA
Madison Keys, USA
Garbine Muguruza, ESP
Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
Sloane Stephens, USA
Stefanie Voegele, SUI
red = hit
plain = miss

La Trufflette and the All-England Club, still a match made in tennis heaven:

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Premier $710K/HCI)
13 Final: Halep d. Stosur
13 Doubles Final: Kuznetsova/Stosur d. Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova
14 Top Seeds: Cibulkova/Makarova

#7 Ka.Pliskova d. #6 Pavlyuchenkova
#5 Kuznetsova d. #8 Garcia
#7 Ka.Pliskova d. #5 Kuznetsova

...Kuznetsova Cursed? Sorry, Karolina.

13 Final: Wozniacki d. Beck
13 Doubles Final: Vogt/Wickmayer d. Barrois/Thorpe
14 Top Seeds: Petkovic/Cornet

#3 Lisicki d. #6 Vinci
#2 Cornet d. Van Uytvanck
#3 Lisicki d. #2 Cornet

...if Lisicki wins this, after previously winning in Hong Kong, will she be deemed a serial "adulterer," irreparably damaging her relationship with Wimbledon's Centre Court?

The season review continues, with the Regional Honors up next.

And, finally, yep... she's still there, even on Instagram. And might even be on top of the tennis world in a few weeks.


Took me a while to create an Instagram account but enjoying it so much. #travel #ocean

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All for now.