Friday, October 26, 2012

2012 BSA's: Regional Honors




The presentation of the 2012 Backspin Awards has begun. First, positioning a magnifying glass on the world... region by region.

==NORTH AMERICA==
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Serena Williams, USA
POY (RUNNER-UP): Venus Williams, USA
RISERS: Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears, USA
SURPRISE: Mallory Burdette, USA
VETERANS: Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA
FRESH FACE: Sloane Stephens, USA
COMEBACK: Melanie Oudin, USA (singles)
DOWN: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
JUNIORS: Eugenie Bouchard, CAN & Taylor Townsend, USA
DOUBLES: Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond, USA
TEAMS: Washington Kastles (WTT) & Florida Gators (NCAA)
ITF PLAYER: Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
IMPROVED: Varvara Lepchenko, USA
UNDERRATED: Julia Cohen, USA
FED CUP: Serena Williams, USA
PERFORMANCE: Serena Williams destroys field en route to winning Gold at London Olympics
NATION TO WATCH: Mexico
COMEBACK NATION: Canada
WORRIED NATION: none, really (but maybe the U.S., as far as non-Wiliams slam singles champion contenders?)
BUY: Victoria Duval, USA & Marcela Zacarius, MEX
SELL: Liezel Huber, USA & Alison Riske, USA
HOLD: Christina McHale, USA & Rebecca Marino, CAN
SISTER TO WATCH: Chelsey Gullickson, USA
MOST INTRIGUING in 2013: Coco Vandeweghe, USA

==SOUTH AMERICA==
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Paula Ormaechea, ARG
POY (RUNNER-UP): Mariana Duque-Marino, COL
RISER: Florencia Molinero, ARG
SURPRISE: Cecilia Costa-Melgar, CHI
VETERAN: Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran, BOL
FRESH FACE: Laura Pigossi, BRA
COMEBACK: Paola Suarez, ARG
DOWN: Gisela Dulko, ARG
JUNIOR: Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
DOUBLES: Catalina Castano/Mariana Duque-Marino, COL
TEAM: ARG Fed Cup team
ITF PLAYER: Daniela Seguel, CHI
IMPROVED: Patricia Ku Flores, PER
UNDERRATED: Bianca Botto, PER
FED CUP: Paula Ormaechea, ARG
PERFORMANCE: ARG def. CHN to reach '13 Fed Cup Group II
NATION TO WATCH: Brazil
COMEBACK NATION: Argentina
WORRIED NATION: Paraguay
BUY: Florencia Molinero, ARG
SELL: Gisela Dulko, ARG (singles)
HOLD: Gisela Dulko, ARG (doubles)
SISTER TO WATCH: Flavia Guimaraes Bueno, BRA
MOST INTRIGUING in 2013: Montserrat Gonzalez, PAR

==ASIA/PACIFIC==
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Li Na, CHN
POY (RUNNER-UP): Samantha Stosur, AUS
RISER: Misaki Doi, JPN
SURPRISE: Marina Erakovic, NZL
VETERAN: Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
FRESH FACES: Ksenia Pervak, KAZ & Chang Kai-Chen, TPE
COMEBACK: Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE
DOWN: Jelena Dokic, AUS
JUNIOR: Anna Danilina, KAZ
DOUBLES: Sania Mirza, IND
TEAM: JPN Fed Cup team
ITF PLAYER: Duan Ying-Ying, CHN
IMPROVED: Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ (singles)
UNDERRATED: Zheng Jie, CHN (as always)
FED CUP: Ayumi Morita, JPN
PERFORMANCE: Li Na wins Cincinnati (first title since '11 RG)
NATION TO WATCH: Kazakhstan
COMEBACK NATION: Taiwan
WORRIED NATION: Thailand
BUY: Ashleigh Barty, AUS
SELL: Jelena Dokic, AUS
HOLD: Jarmila Gajdosova, AUS
SISTER TO WATCH: Chan Yung-Jan/Chan Hao-Ching, TPE
MOST INTRIGUING in 2013: Li Na, CHN (w/ Carlos Rodriguez)

==AFRICA/MIDDLE EAST==
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
POY (RUNNER-UP): Chanel Simmonds, RSA
RISER: Fatma Al Nabhani, OMA
SURPRISE: Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR
VETERAN: Shahar Peer, ISR
FRESH FACE: Ons Jabeur, TUN
COMEBACK: Evgenia Linetskaya, ISR
DOWN: Cara Black, ZIM
JUNIOR: Ipek Soylu, TUR
DOUBLES: Natalie Grandin, RSA
TEAM: TUR Fed Cup team
ITF PLAYER: Basek Eraydin, TUR
IMPROVED: Natasha Fourouclas, RSA
UNDERRATED: Julia Glushko, ISR
FED CUP: Ons Jabeur, TUN
PERFORMANCE: Basek Eraydin (TUR) wins five ITF titles
NATION TO WATCH: Turkey
COMEBACK NATION: South Africa
WORRIED NATION: Israel
BUY: Basek Eraydin, TUR
SELL: Shahar Peer, ISR
HOLD: Cara Black, ZIM
SISTER TO WATCH: Hulya Esen, TUR
MOST INTRIGUING in 2013: Ons Jabeur/Nour Abbes, TUN

==RUSSIA==
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Maria Sharapova
POY (RUNNER-UP): Nadia Petrova
RISERS: Maria Kirilenko & Ekaterina Makarova
SURPRISE: Alexandra Panova
VETERAN: Nadia Petrova
FRESH FACE: Valeria Savinykh & Valeria Solovieva
COMEBACK: Alisa Kleybanova
DOWN: Vera Zvonareva
JUNIORS: Irina Khromacheva
DOUBLES: Elena Vesnina
TEAM: Maria Kirilenko/Nadia Petrova
ITF PLAYERS: Victoria Kan & Margarita Gasparyan
IMPROVED: Olga Puchkova
UNDERRATED: Nina Bratchikova
FED CUP: Svetlana Kuznetsova
PERFORMANCE: Maria Sharapova wins Roland Garros
BUY: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina
SELL: Vera Zvonareva
HOLD: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
SISTER TO WATCH: Arina Rodionova
MOST INTRIGUING in 2013: Nadia Petrova (w/ Ricardo Sanchez)

==REST OF EUROPE==
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
POY (RUNNER-UP): Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
RISER: Angelique Kerber, GER
SURPRISES: Mona Barthel, GER & Kiki Bertens, NED
VETERANS: Roberta Vinci, ITA & Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka, CZE
FRESH FACES: Laura Robson, GBR & Donna Vekic, CRO
COMEBACKS: Tamira Paszek, AUT & Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
DOWN: Sabine Lisicki, GER & Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
JUNIOR: Annika Beck, GER
DOUBLES: Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci, ITA
TEAM: CZE & SRB Fed Cup teams
ITF PLAYERS: Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP & Ana Savic, CRO
IMPROVED: Sara Errani, ITA & Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
UNDERRATED: Kaia Kanepi, EST & Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
FED CUP: Petra Kvitova, CZE & Jelena Jankovic, SRB
PERFORMANCE: Victora Azarenka starts season 26-0, wins AO & becomes #1
NATION TO WATCH: Great Britain
COMEBACK NATIONS: Spain & Serbia
WORRIED NATIONS: France & Italy (but in "full" Europe, maybe it's Russia)
BUY: Heather Watson, GBR & Camila Giorgi, ITA
SELL: Francesca Schiavone, ITA
HOLD: Petra Kvitova, CZE & Marion Bartoli, FRA
SISTER TO WATCH: Urszula Radwanska, POL
MOST INTRIGUING in 2013: Karolina & Kristyna Pliskova, CZE


More 2012 Backspin Awards are coming soon! All for now.


11 Comments:

Blogger Eric said...

I feel like Li Na is starting to look like Justine a bit...

Her hair is a little longer now so the shape of her ponytail with the visor...the fist pump...the coach...played tricks on my eyes today.

I think that if she can stabilize her mind, she still has a good run left in her. But the mind is a tricky place...

Hope you are well Todd! :)

Fri Oct 26, 01:59:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

The "sell" for Asia/Pacific must have been hard for you...

But Vika makes it all feel better?

Fri Oct 26, 02:06:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

"The "sell" for Asia/Pacific must have been hard for you..."

It was (though there really wasn't another legitimate choice)... but she's proven me wrong before. I hope she does again. :)

Well, Vika more fills the vacant LPT role. Jelena is really irreplaceable.

Fri Oct 26, 08:56:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jessica said...

I enjoy how Russia gets its own section, and actually has enough intriguing players to justify it!

Fri Oct 26, 11:11:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Jessica-

Yeah, I've separated Russia like that in the past, but I must say that this was the first year where I wondered if maybe that time might be coming to an end. For '12, the numbers still justified it, but if the overall downward trends continue in '13 the Hordettes might end up getting folded into the Rest of Europe next year.

Fri Oct 26, 02:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Day 4:

Sharapova d. Stosur 6-0/6-3

...maybe Sam should have just gone home to Australia rather than stop off in Istanbul. Sure, she picked up some extra money, but one wonders if what happened on the court did her more harm than good. After her confidence-damaging play in the final in Moscow last weekend, she went 0-2 in RR matches as a fill-in for Kvitova. After being bageled in the 3rd set by Errani yesterday, she lost 6-0 again in the 1st against Sharapova today. She had a 47% 1st serve percentage, 5 DF, 1 winner and no break point opportunities in the twenty-one minute set. She played better in the 2nd, getting a BP look in Game #4, but it was no way to end her season. Sharapova, on the other hand, got some good practice in before tomorrow's SF.

Radwanska d. Errani 6-7/7-5/6-4

...you just kind of knew, what with the styles of these two, that this one would last a long time. It did, too. 3:29, in fact -- the longest three-set match in YEC history.

A-Rad had a 5-1 record, and 10-2 leads in sets, vs. Errani coming in, but the little Italian was more than up for her today. In fact, with Aga employing a more aggressive gameplan, the Pole was more uncomfortable-looking than usual all match against another player who wished to extend points and force errors (just like her!).

In the 1st set TB, A-Rad came back from 3-1 down to knot things at 6-6, but back-to-back errors (the last at the end of a 34-stroke rally) gave Errani the lead in the match. The stats for the set were very un-Aga like, as well. She had 19 winners and 13 errors (Errani was at 23/16), and was 16-of-21 in net approaches (E: 10/14). Radwanska won the close 2nd set, again with stats that showed a very different gameplan than her norm: she had 17 winners and 21 errors.

In the 3rd, Aga settled in a bit as Errani flagged early, taking a 3-0 lead. But Errani surged back after getting to A-Rad's serve in Game #4 as the two combined for six straight breaks. Serving at 5-4, Radwanska got to MP after putting away a shot at the net, then won on an Errani error. This was A-Rad's second 3+ hour match in the RR... and her reward for getting to the SF is to face Serena tomorrow.

Fri Oct 26, 05:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Day 4, Pt.2:

Azarenka d. Li 7-6/6-3

...needing a win to reach the SF and secure the year-end #1 ranking, Vika got off to a slow start vs. Li, against whom she was tied 4-4, and 10-10 in sets, in their previous match-ups.

Li got an early break and led 3-1, and nearly extended her lead even more. But Azarenka saved 2 BP to hold for 3-2. They then put together a run of three straight breaks of serve before both held to force a TB. Azarenka took an early 3-1 lead there, then put the set away at 7-4.

In the 2nd, as the cracks in Li's new serve (which looks very much like Henin's old motion, before she changed things -- and got inconsistent results -- to take pressure off her shoulder) began to show more and more. The set began with three straight breaks, but then Vika took over. She led 5-1, but again had some hiccups trying to close things out. She was broken for 5-3, and then went down 30/love on Li's serve in the next game. Naturally, her racket took the brunt of her frustration. But, as she so often has this week, she seemed to get everything out of her system with her burst of anger and settled herself. She won the next four points to secure the match and year-end #1.

So, Li goes to get some rest, and try to perfect things with Carlos Rodriguez in the offseason in time for a run in Oz; while Vika heads off to face Sharapova (again) tomorrow. Azarenka is 4-1 vs. Sharapova this season, and 6-0 against her on hard court over the last three seasons.

Fri Oct 26, 06:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Todd,

If you haven't already done so, go to the WTA photo gallery entitled "Aga Serves Up Epic Win." Photo no. 8 captures more--ahem--than I think the photographer intended.

Sat Oct 27, 12:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Diane-

I just got finished cleaning out the gutters in preparation for the coming hurricane (hey, it's a hurricane you don't have to evacuate for -- imagine that!), so maybe my eyes aren't working right. I'm missing it. Another hint?

Sat Oct 27, 02:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Just back up and look at the image--as a whole. This may be what It sometimes appears as :)

Sat Oct 27, 03:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Day 5:

Well, after such a great week of action (maybe the best YEC RR play ever?), Saturday was a disappointment (in singles, at least). For the first time since 1989, the top four-ranked players in the world reached the YEC semis, but both matches took decided turns in one direction and, save for one long game, never threatened to turn back.

S.Williams d. Radwanska 6-2/6-1

...Aga came in saying she just wanted to "live through" the semifinal after two 3+ hour matches this week, and one was tempted to think is was some sort of mind trick being played by The Radwanska, especially after A-Rad had a BP in the first game of the match (SW held). After falling behind 2-0, too, Radwanska got back to 2-2 after Serena contributed her 3rd DF of the set in Game #4. But from that point on, Williams was 10 of the final 11 games. In the 1st set alone, she outpaced the Pole 19-1 in winners. In the 2nd set, Serena had three aces in one game to take a 2-0 lead, while A-Rad was laboring (unsuccessfully) to just get above 50% in 1st serve points won in her own service games.

The match end big surprise.

Sharapova d. Azarenka 6-4/6-2

...Vika came in with a 7-4 career mark against Sharapova, and a 6-0 record against her on hard courts over the past three seasons. But Maria was "on" in this one from the start, while Azarenka struggled one day after winning a do-or-die match vs. Li and securing the year-end #1 ranking.

In the 1st, the two traded breaks in the middle of the set before Sharapova finally served things out in the 5-4 game. In the 2nd, Sharapova broke in the opening game with a couple of great defensive gets, then an aggressive approach and winner. She raced to a 4-0 lead as Azarenka seemed to be struggling with her legs (pausing to grasp at her thighs on more than one occasion, and noticeably going for early winners to cut some rallies short). Serving for a 5-1 lead, Sharapova seemed to be on her way to an easy out. But then Azarenka gave her one final, one-game battle.

The game lasted 15 minutes, and nine deuces. After Sharapova dumped an easy, into-an-open-court shot from right on top of the net, one wondered if the miss might come back to haunt her, as Azarenka consistently took advantage of Maria's habit of always serving up the middle in the AD court. On GP #4, Sharapova doubled faulted, just as she would do on GP #8. In between, Vika had one BP opportunity, but couldn't cash in when she went for a quick down-the-line forehand winner and missed it. Finally, on her ninth GP, Sharapova held serve for 5-1.

As the two broke from the final changeover, Azarenka was laughing about something (A video played on the stadium big screen? Or something someone said or did?), and had a hard time wiping the grin off her face even as Sharapova was beginning to serve for the match. Obviously, this wasn't the intense Vika that is 2012's #1. Sharapova held and advanced to her first YEC final since 2007 (her only win came in '04, when she defeated Serena in the championship match -- the LAST time she's defeated Williams, in fact... eight years ago now).

See you Down Under, Vika. Or should I spell it "Vichka," as the back of Azarenka's shoes read today? ;)

So, with the Serena/Sharapova final, every '12 grand slam singles final -- Azarenka/Sharapova(AO), Sharapova/Errani(RG), Serena/Radwanska(WI) and Serena/Azarenka(US) -- and the Olympic Gold Medal match (Serena/Sharapova) will have been "re-played" at these championships. I don't know when the last time something like that happened, especially in a year in which five different women reached GS finals, but this has to be a SUPER rare occasion.

In doubles, Hlavackova/Hradecka advanced past Huber/Raymond in straight sets, after the Americans had held 4 SP in the 1st (and Huber double-faulted twice in the TB). In the other semi, Kirilenko/Petrova came back from a set down to defeat Errani/Vinci in the deciding 10-pt tie-break.

Sat Oct 27, 03:06:00 PM EDT  

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