Monday, April 30, 2012

Wk.17- April No-One's-Fools

There were no WTA fools in April, but some were less foolish than others.

"She was amazing." - Lucie Safarova, after losing to Serena Williams in Charleston

*April Awards - Wk.14-17*
1. Serena Williams, USA one looked better this past month than Serena did in Charleston. Whether that will mean anything come Paris and/or London, though, is anyone's guess.
2. Jelena Jankovic, SRB & Serbian Fed Cup Team
...JJ, after briefly dropping to #20, rebounded well and has now held onto her Top 20 ranking for a tour-best 298 consecutive weeks. Oh, and she played the lead role in the upset of Russia in Moscow that sent the Serbs to their first-ever Fed Cup final, too.
3. Maria Sharapova, RUS
...exorcising quite a few of her recent demons, Sharapova busted through a talent-heavy Stuttgart field to MAYBE place her name atop the list of favorites for at least one of the season's three remaining slams (+ Olympic competition at SW19).
4. Sara Errani, ITA Barcelona, Errani swept the singles and doubles crowns at an event for the second time in 2012.
5. Angelique Kerber, GER winning her second title of the year in Copenhagen, she dealt a blow to two-time hometown defending champ Wozniacki. Then turned around and crushed her with even less mercy with her own home country advantage in Stuttgart.
HM- Petra Kvitova, CZE
...the definitive Czech team leader, but with something of a "Sharapova problem."

1. Angelique Kerber, GER
2. Sara Errani, ITA
3. Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
4. Samantha Stosur, AUS
5. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
HM- Lucie Safarova, CZE & Ayumi Morita, JPN

1. Simona Halep, ROU
2. Christina McHale, USA
3. Polona Hercog, SLO
4. Garbine Muguruza-Blanco, ESP
5. Ons Jabeur, TUN
HM- Donna Vekic, CRO

1. Taylor Townsend, USA
2. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, SVK
3. Allie Kiick, USA
4. Yulia Putintseva, RUS
5. Sabina Sharipova, UZB
HM- Chalena Scholl, USA & Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA

1. Kiki Bertens, NED
2. Stefanie Voegele, SUI
3. Laura Pous-Tio, ESP
4. Camila Giorgi, ITA
5. Yuliya Beygelzimer, UKR
HM- Florencia Molinero, ARG & Paula Ormaechea, ARG

1. Serena Williams, USA
2. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
3. Maria Sharapova, RUS
4. Samantha Stosur, AUS
5. Sofia Arvidsson, SWE
HM- Venus Williams, USA & Iveta Benesova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE/CZE

1. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2. AUS Fed Cup Team
3. Evgenia Linetskaya, ISR
4. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
5. Alize Cornet, FRA
HM- Kaia Kanepi, EST & JPN Fed Cup Team

1. Andrea Petkovic, GER
2. RUS Fed Cup Team
3. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
4. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
5. CHN Fed Cup Team
HM- Kim Clijsters, BEL & Sabine Lisicki, GER

1. Camila Giorgi, ITA
2. Sandra Zaniewska, POL
3. Heidi El Tabakh, CAN
4. Ksenia Milevskaya, BLR
5. Silvia Njiric, CRO
6. Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE
7. Jennifer Elie, USA
8. Fatma Al Nabhani, OMA
9. Maryna Zanevska, UKR
10. Olga Puchkova, RUS
HM- Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP

Serena Williams wins Charleston without dropping a set, taking 24 of 27 games in the semifinal and final. It's her first clay crown since 2008.
[In the Fed Cup Bubble]
JJ! JJ! JJ! What chaos could the Queen reign over in the Czech-hosted FC final?

FC SF (CZE/ITA) - Safarova d. Schiavone
With Kvitova capable of only winning two of the three necessary matches for the Czechs to return to the FC final, Sararova's role was an important one. With a career 5-10 Fed Cup record, her legendary "iffyness" could have proven costly. In Match #1, it nearly was. Serving and coming within two points of claiming the 1st set, Safarova was broken by long-time FC star Schiavone. After saving three set points, Safarova got into a 1st set tie-break, then took a quick 5-1 lead against the frustrated Italian vet. With Kvitova going her customary 2-0 on the weekend, it was Safarova's Day 1 victory that provided the "extra" push needed for the defending champs to get a chance to repeat -- on home soil -- in November.

CHOKING? (again): After breaking their four-year Fed Cup losing streak with a Zone play victory in February, thanks to the "A" team of Li, Peng and Zheng, the Chinese went with the "C"-teamers again in the World Group II Playoffs. The result was another loss (this time to Argentina), and a return to Zone play in 2013.
A COMEBACK OF SEISMIC PROPORTIONS?: One year after having to postpone a scheduled Fed Cup tie in the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown tri-disaster, the Japanese Fed Cup team defeated a group of Belgian girls in the World Group Playoffs to return to the World Group 1st Round for 2013. It'll be the team's first appearance there since 2007.
BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE: As a qualifier without a career main draw tour win to her credit, Dutch player Kiki Bertens wins FIVE in Fes to claim her maiden WTA title and become the first singles titlist from the Netherlands in six years.
AN UNSINKABLE DANISH DISASTER?: Trying to win her third straight title at her hometown Copenhagen event, Caroline Wozniacki loses in the final in straight sets to Angelique Kerber, taking just eight games. Says Caro, "Yes, it's a disappointment to lose. But it's not a disaster." Two weeks later, the two meet again in an early-round match in Stuttgart. Wozniacki loses once more, winning just three games this time around.

(Cue Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On")

S: Maria Sharapova/RUS def. Victoria Azarenka/BLR 6-1/6-4
D: Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova (CZE/CZE) d. Goerges/Groenefeld (GER/GER)

FES, MOROCCO (Int'l $220K/RCO)
S: Kiki Bertens/NED def. Laura Pous-Tio/ESP 7-5/6-0
D: Cetkovska/Panova (CZE/RUS) d. Begu/Cadantu (ROU/ROU)

...was that You-Know-Who on the court in Stuttgart? Well, it SORTA looked like her, though since we haven't really seen her since 2008 one can never be certain. But Sharapova's couldn't-have-handled-the-pressure better title run in Stuttgart surely LOOKED a bit "Supernovic." She took out an in-form Samantha Stosur 6-7/7-6/7-5 in the QF, backed that up with a straight sets win over Petra Kvitova to end the Czech's 27-match (unofficially 31) indoor winning streak, then never allowed world #1 Victoria Azarenka a chance to get her balance in the final in the third tournament-deciding meeting between the two women in 2012. And her serve didn't break down at any point along the route, either. In fact, it thrived in the Stuttgart indoor clay court thunderdome. Sharapova only lost her serve once against Kvitova and Azarenka, the two women who defeated her in slam finals over the last year. Sharapova currently still sits at #2 in the rankings behind Azarenka, but she's surely stirring. She's reached the final in four of her five '12 events, and just ended her string of three straight finals lost. If her serve can maintain it's current level, maybe the unfinished business of completing the Career Grand Slam in Paris that Sharapova seemed destined (according to some) to do last year CAN be accomplished six weeks from now. This title was Sharapova's 25th title, allowing her to pass Jana Novotna on the all-time WTA list, and tie Amelie Mauresmo. Next up: 27-time winners Gabriela Sabatini and Hana Mandlikova. Also, with a title in her tenth consecutive season, Sharapova is now alone in sixth on the tour's all-time consecutive title-winning seasons list, behind only some players named Martina, Chris, Steffi, Evonne and Virginia.
RISERS: Simona Halep/ROU & Iveta Benesova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova (CZE/CZE)
...the 20-year old Swarmette continues to have great success in the Fes event. Halep was the runner-up there the past two years, and reached the semifinals this time around after getting wins over Alexandra Cadantu and top-seeded Anabel Medina-Garrigues. It's the Romanian's second win over a #1 seed this season, more than any other player on tour. Benesova and Zahlavova-Strycova won the doubles title in Stuttgart, their tenth as a duo, but their first since winning in Luxembourg in October.
SURPRISE: Mathilde Johansson/FRA
...Johansson lost in Fes qualifying early last week, but slipped into the main draw as a Lucky Loser. She made (nearly) the most of her second chance, getting wins over Shahar Peer and Petra Cetkovska en route to the semifinals. It's the best result put up by a LL since Angela Haynes reached the semis in Quebec City in 2008.
VETERAN: Laura Pous-Tio/ESP
...the 27-year old Spaniard is coming back from a knee injury, so she went to Fes last week having only won one match all season. But the world #110 found her rhythm in Morocco, advancing to her first career final after notching victories over Olga Govortsova, Arantxa Rus, Irina-Camelia Begu and Mathilde Johansson.
COMEBACK: Melanie Oudin/USA
...well, lookie here, Oudin came to play last week. Little MO, now 20 and barely holding onto a Top 400 ranking, won the $50K challenger in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, taking the final in three sets over Irina Falconi. After getting a spot in the draw via a wild card, she'd already knocked off the likes of Alla Kudryavtseva, Camila Giorgi, Channel Simmonds and Julia Cohen. This is Oudin's first challenger title since May '09, BEFORE her great Round of 16 run at Wimbledon, and her even-more-spectacular QF result at the U.S. Open later that summer.
FRESH FACES: Kiki Bertens/NED & Mona Barthel/GER last week began, 20-year old Bertens was the #149-ranked player in the world. She'd won six career ITF titles, including two this season, but had yet to make a mark of any kind on the WTA level. She'd only played in one main draw tour match, and didn't win it. But then she made it through Fes qualifying with wins over Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino (a first-time tour champ earlier this season) and Kristyna Pliskova. Then, with three wins in hand, she strung together five more over Urszula Radwanska, Channel Scheepers, Garbine Muguruza-Blanco, Simona Halep and Laura Pous-Tio in a match-up of first-time WTA finalists. Now Bertens is a tour singles champ (the second to win crowns on both the ITF and WTA levels in '12), the first Dutch woman to be able to say as much since Michaella Krajicek in 2006 (in 's-Hertogenbosch), and the new world #92. Ain't that a (Kiki) kick in the head? Meanwhile, in Stuttgart, Barthel was impressive once again although she left Germany disappointed. The German got a swift win over Marion Bartoli, and then faced off with Azarenka for the fourth time this year. Once again, she more than held her own. After a three-hour tussle, she lost to the Belarusian, but continued to garner the experience that puts her at the top of the WTA's current "To Watch (if you know what's good for you)" list.
DOWN: Andrea Petkovic/GER
...Petkorazzi has been hit with the unlucky stick, and she hasn't even fallen below the #13 ranking yet. After just returning the other week in Fed Cup play following a three-month absence due to issues with her knee, just three matches in, Petkovic rolled her ankle in her 2nd Round match in Stuttgart against Victoria Azarenka. Torn ankle ligaments. Out three more months. We're THIS CLOSE to seeing the world #12's 2012 season being pretty much judged a washout. And here we thought Sabine Lisicki was unquestionably the most "unlucky" German player on tour. But the Tennis Gods have their reasons, I suppose.
ITF PLAYER: Sandra Zaniewska/POL
...A-Rad didn't emerge victorious in Stuttgart (wrecking a certain caveman's plans for world domination, I'm sure), but another Pole did in Tunis, Tunisia. Sandra Zaniewska claimed her third challenger event of the season in the $25K event, defeating Ioana-Raluca Olaru, Bibiane Schoofs and Tunisia's own Ons Jabeur in the final.
JUNIOR STAR: Sabina Sharipova/UZB
...wouldn't you know it that the same week that a Sharapova wins a WTA title, a Sharipova wins one on the ITF level, too. The 17-year old Uzbeki, the #17-ranked junior and a Girls quarterfinalist at the AO in January, claimed the $10K in Andijan, Uzbekistan, winning in the final over Korea's Jang Su Jeong.

1. Stutt SF - Sharapova d. Kvitova
In a semi-fitting semifinal follow-up to their fabulous Australian Open SF clash, the margin between the #2 and #3 players in the world was still razor thin. But, once again, the Russian had the advantage when it counted most. In Melbourne, Kvitova lost the tight three-setter while going just 3-for-14 on break point opportunities. Just one more break might have put the Czech in her second slam final. In Stuttgart, she was 0-for-10 in BP chances until, after saving a match point, she finally converted to break on her 11th attempt, forcing the 2nd set tie-break. Once there, Sharapova jumped on top again at 3-0 and eased into the final. Kvitova has been super-clutch in team competition this season, but has had difficulty winning the highly-pressurized big points in tight matches on the regular tour. As a result, she's 0-3 in semifinals and is no longer "untouchable" in indoor matches.
2. Stutt Final - Sharapova d. Azarenka
Sharapova had twice as many winners as unforced errors, and only had to face one Azarenka break point opportunity the entire day. Even without Vika's problems with her wrist, the way Sharapova was going, it might not have mattered. As Maria confirmed afterward, she was "very motivated" to win.
3. Stutt SF - Azarenka d. A.Radwanska
It's still a mind-bending stat, so I'll go there again. In 2012, Radwanska is 0-5 against Azarenka, but 32-0 against everyone else. Vika has pretty much bought a fully furnished apartment inside A-Rad's head.
4. Fes Final - Bertens d. Pous-Tio
#149 defeats #110, as Bertens becomes the third 2012 tour singles champion -- after Mona Barthel and Hsieh Su-Wei -- to go through qualifying before lifting the trophy. And how can you not like a player named Kiki?
5. Stutt 2nd Rd - Kerber d. Wozniacki
(Clears Throat.)
6. Stutt 1st Rd - Barthel d. Ivanovic 7-5/7-6
Stutt 1st Rd - Wozniacki d. Jankovic 6-3/1-0 ret.
Estoril Q1 - Foretz-Gacon d. Krunic 7-5/7-5
Budapest Q1 - Tabak d. Jovanovski 6-2/2-6/6-4
ah, the victorious Serbian Fed Cup team. Still basking in the glow of their semifinal triumph, they went a combined 0-4 in singles matches "the week after." At least BoJo salvaged a lone set over the weekend to prevent it from being a complete shutout.
7. Stutt QF - Azarenka d. Barthel
Azarenka is 4-0 in matches against the German this season, but this was the second of those matches to be a three-hour battle. One of these days, Barthel is going to figure this out.
8. Estoril Q1 - Heather Watson d. Caroline Garcia 6-1/6-1
Estoril Q3 - Heather Watson d. Sloane Stephens 4-6/6-4/6-2
the Brit gets some very nice wins against fellow youngsters en route to the Estoril main draw.
9. $25K Tunis TUN QF - Bibiane Schoofs/NED d. Ana Savic/CRO
The Croat had been 26-0 in qualifying and main draw matches in 2012 after returning following a three-year "vacation" from the sport.
10. $10K Vic ESP Final - Ksenia Milevskaya/BLR d. Anastasiya Yakimova/BLR
For the second consecutive week, in two different nations, the Belarusian defeats her fellow Belarusian in a challenger final.
11. Estoril Q3 - Kristina Barrois d. Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino
What a difference a year almost makes. Barrois was the runner-up in Estoril in 2011, but had to make it through qualifying to get back into the main draw this time around. What, no wild cards were available?
12. $10K Chosica-Lima PER Final - Ana Sofia Sanchez/MEX d. Anastasia Kharchenko/UKR
Olé!!! Yet another Mexican woman is putting up notable results. The 18-year old won her second career challenger title this weekend.

1. Fes Doub 1st Rd - Pliskova/Pliskova d. Rodionova/Rodionova
...2-0 ret.
There were just so many sisters that the Rodionovas didn't know what else to do.
2. Fes Q2 - Bertens d. Kr.Pliskova 6-1/4-6/6-4
Fes 1st Rd - Bertens d. U.Radwanska 6-4/7-5
apparently, the way to a title is through a sister. Or two.
3. Fes Doub QF - Pliskova/Pliskova d. U.Radwanska/Tatishvili
All the sisters had magnets in their pockets in Fes.

21...Martina Navratilova, 1974-94
18...Chris Evert, 1971-88
14...Steffi Graf, 1986-99
11...Evonne Goolagong, 1970-80
11...Virginia Wade, 1968-78
10...MARIA SHARAPOVA, 2003-12 (current)

**MOST WTA FINALS, 2009-12**
25...Caroline Wozniacki (8/8/8/1 - 15-10)
17...VICTORIA AZARENKA (3/4/5/5 - 12-5)
15...MARIA SHARAPOVA (2/5/4/4 - 6-9)

**2012 WTA SF**
5...Angelique Kerber, GER (2-3)

**2012 WINS OVER #1**
JAN- Sydney QF - #8 Agnieszka Radwanska d. #1 Caroline Wozniacki
JAN- Australian Open 4th Rd - #11 Kim Clijsters d. #1 Caroline Wozniacki
MAR- Miami Final - #7 Marion Bartoli d. #1 Victoria Azarenka
APR- Stuttgart Final - #2 Maria Sharapova d. #1 Victoria Azarenka

Hobart - Mona Barthel, GER (age 21, #64)
Paris - Angelique Kerber, GER (age 24, #27)
Bogota - Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, ESP (age 19, #174)
Monterrey - Timea Babos, HUN (age 18, #107)
Kuala Lumpur - Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE (age 26, #124)
Fes - KIKI BERTENS, NED (age 20, #149)

Marion Bartoli, FRA - Miami [QF: Azarenka, reached SF]
SIMONA HALEP, ROU - Fes [QF: Medina-Garrigues, reached SF]

Hobart - Mona Barthel, GER (def. Wickmayer in Final)
Paris - Angelique Kerber, GER (def. Sharapova in QF)
Acapulco - Sara Errani, ITA (def. Vinci in SF)
Charleston - Serena Williams, USA (def. #2-seed Stosur in SF)
Copenhagen - Angelique Kerber, GER (def. Wozniacki in Final)
Stuttgart - MARIA SHARAPOVA, RUS (def. Azarenka in Final)

18 - Timea Babos, HUN (Monterrey)
19 - Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, ESP (Bogota)
21 - Mona Barthel, GER (Hobart)

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (Intl' $220K/red clay outdoor)
11 Final: Vinci def. Begu
11 Doubles Champions: Medina-Garrigues/Rosolska
12 Top Seeds: Errani/Pervak

#1 Errani def. Cadantu
Babos d. Zahlavova-Strycova
#1 Errani d. Babos

...Errani has put up some great results in '12 in both singles AND doubles. She's the #1 seed in Budapest, so I'll go with her to win season singles crown #3, which would make Azarenka the only woman with more this year. Maybe she'll even get her third s/d sweep of the season.

ESTORIL, PORTUGAL (Intl' $220K/red clay outdoor)
11 Final: Medina-Garrigues def. Barrois
11 Doubles Champions: Kleybanova/Voskoboeva
12 Top Seeds: Vinci/Kirilenko

#1 Vinci d. Hradecka
#3 Medina-Garrigues d. #2 Kirilenko
#3 Medina-Garrigues d. #1 Vinci

...poor, AMG. With the tour's re-arranged schedule, she sees two events held this week where she's a reigning champion -- in singles in Estoril, and in doubles in Budapest. Naturally, she's defending her singles crown in Portugal. By the way, Medina-Garrigues is one singles title away from tying Anna Smashnova for the most career titles won (12) without reaching a slam quarterfinal.

Hello. Carla here again. Where's Carl, you ask? Well, darlings, your guess is as good as mine. He tends to disappear for long stretches without a word.

Such is the life of a caveman and the cavewoman who loves him.

Thankfully, he usually returns with enough bounty to fill the meat locker for months, though. So, while he hunts (I'm assuming), I'll gather the picks in this segment for a bit. Now, as Carl noted, I wasn't able to defeat Todd when I filled in for Indian Wells and Miami... then Carl came back and got two wins in two weeks. I know Todd hates that, but so do I. It makes Carl a tad insufferable for a few days. Secretly, I think that he failed to get another win this weekend (he didn't go with Azarenka, and let The Radwanska get him by picking A-Rad to win in the final over Sharapova) made him feel embarrassed... though he'd surely never admit it.

Of course, now I'm left to pick two smallish clay court events. I'll do my best, darlings.

(8)Begu d. Cadantu
(6)Martic d. Krajicek
(6)Martic d. (8)Begu

(7)Petrova d. (4)Cetkovska
(2)Kirilenko d. (3)Medina-Garrigues
(2)Kirilenko d. (7)Petrova

...sorry, Nadia.

All for now.


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