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...
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
7th WTA title from Prague!!!! So happy! Thank you so much for all your support!! Was amazing week! ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/yD8I1ec2Un— lucie safarova (@luciesafarova) April 30, 2016
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
People are amazing!!! There is still so much good in the world!! ???????? pic.twitter.com/HyKUhTvJbn— Irina Falconi (@IrinaFalconi) April 28, 2016
Huge thanks to every single person who donated!! It is a huge help! Travis and I are planning to personally head down to Ecuador and help!— Irina Falconi (@IrinaFalconi) April 28, 2016
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... 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
*WEEK 17 CHAMPIONS*
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (Int'l $427K; RCO)
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
RABAT, MOROCCO (Int'l $227K; RCO)
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
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Lucie Safarova/CZE
...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
...in 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 Chiara Lommer. She also reached the doubles final with Emma Decoste 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.
Wednesday's workplace ?? pic.twitter.com/gssO9Hv59r— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) April 27, 2016
1. Prague Final - Safarova d. Stosur
...3-6/6-1/6-4. 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
...6-2/6-1. 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
...6-3/6-7(3)/7-6(4). 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
...2-6/7-6(7)/7-5. 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.
Im sorry i had to withdraw from semi-final of the Prague tournament.Due to my abdominal injury. pic.twitter.com/ZaCY8XiTKg— Svetlana Kuznetsova (@SvetlanaK27) April 29, 2016
6. Madrid 1st Rd. - Siegemund d. Kuznetsova
...6-0/3-6/6-3. 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
...6-2/6-2. 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
...6-2/6-4. 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
...3-6/6-3/6-3. It was the start of something big.
First singles win in this season!! So happy! pic.twitter.com/mtqQ1PpnDm— lucie safarova (@luciesafarova) April 26, 2016
11. Prague 1st Rd. - Hradecka d. Hlavackova
...6-4/6-1. 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
...6-1/6-4. 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
...6-1/6-1. 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
...6-2/4-6/6-0. 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
...6-4/7-6(1). 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
...6-4/6-4. 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.
1. Prague SF - Safarova d. Karolina Pliskova
...6-4/7-6(4). 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 returning to the Top 10, 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
...4-6/6-3/6-1. 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.
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
...6-4/6-7(3)/6-3. 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.
Another step towards recovery ???????? pic.twitter.com/pO0JDtooAp— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) April 25, 2016
Hearing from Caroline Wozniacki’s team that she is 50/50 for the French Open. Hopes to be healthy enough to play.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 26, 2016
**2016 TOP SEED WON TITLE**
Shenzhen - Aga Radwanska, POL - d. Riske
Kaohsiung - Venus Williams, USA - d. Doi
Prague - TIMEA BACSINSZKY, SUI - d. Erakovic
**2016 DEFEATED DEFENDING CHAMP, WON TITLE**
Australian Open - Angelique Kerber, GER (F-S.Williams)
Charleston - Sloane Stephens, USA (SF-Kerber)
Prague - LUCIE SAFAROVA, CZE (SF-Ka.Pliskova)
**2016 OLDEST SINGLES CHAMPIONS**
35 - Francesca Schiavone (Rio)
35 - Venus Williams (Kaohsiung)
32 - Roberta Vinci (St.Petersburg)
30 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (Sydney)
29 - LUCIE SAFAROVA (Prague)
**2016 OLDEST SINGLES FINALISTS**
35 - Francesca Schiavone (Rio-W)
35 - Venus Williams (Kaohsiung-W)
34 - Serena Williams (Aust.Open-L,IW-L)
32 - Roberta Vinci (St.Petersburg-W)
32 - SAMANTHA STOSUR (Prague-L)
**2016 LOW-RANKED WTA FINALISTS**
#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)
**2016 QUALIFIERS IN FINAL**
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)
**2016 LOW-RANKED SEMIFINALISTS**
#238 Paula Cristina Goncalves/BRA - Bogota
#199 Sorana Cirstea/ROU - Rio
#190 Zhu Lin/CHN - Kuala Lumpur
#186 MARINA ERAKOVIC/NZL - Rabat (RU)
#172 Tamira Paszek/AUT - Auckland
#170 Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP - Bogota (RU)
**2016 WTA SEMIFINALISTS BY NATION**
11 - USA
9 - GER
5 - CZE,ITA,POL,RUS,SUI
4 - ESP,FRA
3 - BLR,GBR,SVK,UKR
2 - BEL,CAN,HUN,LAT,ROU
1 - 17 nations
**2015-16 WTA SEMIFINALS**
13- Angelique Kerber (8/5)
13- Aga Radwanska (8/5)
11 - Serena Williams (9/1)
10 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA (8/2)
10 - Simona Halep (9/1)
8 - Sara Errani (6/2)
8 - Elina Svitolina (6/2)
8 - Carolina Wozniacki (7/1)
7 - TIMEA BACSINSZKY (5/2)
7 - Maria Sharapova (7/0)
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)
**2016 WTA CONSECUTIVE DOUBLES FINALS**
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) #
**2016 YOUNGEST DOUBLES CHAMPIONS**
20 - Elise Mertens, BEL (Auckland)
20 - Ipek Soylu, TUR (Instabul)
21 - MARGARITA GASPARYAN, RUS (Prague)
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.
All for now.