Wk.42- Mastering the Art of Danish Cooking
Take a smidge of Midge, then throw in a dollop of Caro 2.0. Mix thoroughly in bowl. Place in oven for baking. Then cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Occasionally last week in Moscow, it seemed like "old times." With a twist. Caroline Wozniacki was on the court, winning three set matches by extending points (can you say, "44-shot rally?") with good defense and patience, but, alas, no overwhelming killer instinct. Although routinely breaking serve, she was beaten to the punch by opponents with bigger games, and giving away her own serve soon afterward. In both the quarterfinals and semifinals, she served to wrap up the match in straight sets, only to fail to do so, lose a tie-break and be forced into a 3rd set.
Of course, that sort of thing USED to work out rather well for the Dane. So much so that she won eighteen singles titles and became the world #1 on the back of her ability to outlast most opponents. Of course, she was often hounded for her lack of a slam title and her "counter-puncher" reputation on the court, but it was hard to argue (too much) with her results.
Well, until it was suddenly easy to do so.
After previously simply coming up short of slam finals/titles, in 2012 she started coming up short everywhere. She lost her #1 ranking, then fell entirely out of the Top 10. She entertained a variety of coaching situations, lost in consecutive slams in the 1st Round, and notched just six total slam match wins this season, far behind the totals of her generational counterparts (Azarenka's 21, Kvitova's 17 and Radwanska's 15) at the top of the women's game. After a stint working with coach Thomas Johansson, her immediate on-court results weren't encouraging, though the former slam-winning Swede often noted that Wozniacki was at least playing a bit more aggressive brand of game in practice, only to lack the will to implement it when it mattered. A change in her service stance gave her the ability to serve harder, but the results were hit-and-miss. Still, it was a positive development, and proof that the former #1 WAS trying to improve things after years of seemingly fighting against the notion of fixing what "wasn't broken." Of course, confidence is more often built through actual wins, rather than back-patting during or after practice. And, for the longest period of time this season, as the losses mounted, Wozniacki appeared to be a shell of her former, often bright-eyed self.
Of late, though, that HAS changed.
How much credit ThoJo gets for it is still as up in the air as his coaching future with the Wozniacki clan, but Caro HAS surely seen her results pick up in the WTA's 4th Quarter (psst, Wozniackis... Lendl didn't get immediate results from his work with Murray, either). A month ago, C-Woz finally reached her second final of the season in Seoul, winning her first '12 title, then got her first win over a Top 10 player (Li, in Beijing) of the season after a 0-7 start. Last week in Moscow, she won again. She's currently still (barely) on the outside looking in at the Top 10, but a more "normal" season in '13 should take care of that fairly early next year. So far in the 4Q, she's a tour-best 14-2, with two titles and two Top 10 wins.
During her Moscow run, though, it was easy to be confused. Wozniacki was supremely proficient in converting break points, putting away 32-of-50 for the week. But she often had trouble backing them up against harder-hitting, more aggressive opponents. Three times, she couldn't close out a match in straight sets and was forced to play a 3rd. But, then again, the "old" steady Caro who produced few errors, but elicited many from her opponents, was always there, ready to take advantage of her less patient, more error-prone foes in the deciding stanza. But then there was the nagging low 1st serve win percentage that constantly brought her back to "even" after she'd managed to take a lead, making the return of "last-'em-out" Caroline necessary in the first place.
Of course, in "classic Wozniacki" mode, she took the title anyway. But doing that sort of thing used to be something she could do in her sleep. If she's re-claimed that part of her game, good for her. But is there going to be something more, too? Of note, Wozniacki was seen venturing toward the net late in the goings-on against Stosur in the final, and even attacking a return shot for a winner. Midge wouldn't have likely done that, and surely didn't in her last HUGE slam moment against Li Na, at the 2011 Australian Open semifinals (if she had -- she held MP in that one, remember -- her history ever since might have changed dramatically). On Sunday, it at least looked like a dollop of Caro 2.0 had been added to the mix. Sure, it wasn't close to overwhelming the "winning recipe" or creating an entirely new one, but just that it's on the list of ingredients these days is somewhat encouraging.
Go on, Caroline. Experiment a little more with that. Who knows, you might come up with something pretty tasty in the long run. One thing is for certain -- it'd be a wonderful addition to the WTA menu in 2013.
After it was all over at the Kremlin Cup, Wozniacki even got the opportunity to re-assume a bit of her old role as the "face of the WTA." During the trophy presentation, she spoke to the fans in Russian. To be generous, I'll say it was a more "Federesque" move than a "Clijstersian one (and not just because Caro did help me get my Moscow pick right last week, either).
Granted, the jury is still out, more so after Moscow that Seoul. But it might be time to at least begin the early stages of putting together a new course outline. Not for another "Wozniology-101" class, but maybe for "Wozniology-102." Whether or not it turns out to simply be more of the same, we'll have to wait and see. But after what we've seen from the Dane for most of '12, even a rehash of all the old lectures will be an improvement. Remember, a few months ago, Wozniacki was pretty close to being an "irrelevancy" on tour. The last month has changed that.
But for better, or worse?
*WEEK 42 CHAMPIONS*
MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Premier $740K/HCI)
S: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. Samantha Stosur/AUS 6-2/4-6/7-5
D: Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) d. Kirilenko/Petrova (RUS/RUS)
LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG (Int'l $220K/HCI)
S: Venus Williams/USA def. Monica Niculescu/ROU
D: Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) d. Begu/Niculescu (ROU/ROU)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...this might not have been the Caro who might wish to kick butt and take names in the future (maybe pat butt and ask for names would be more her style?), but it was at least someone who resembled the player who's been ranked #1 in the world for 67 weeks during her career. For most of '12, even SHE has been M.I.A., replaced by a sometimes-defeated twentysomething who couldn't seem to figure out which side was up. Of course, whether that's been because all her off-court requirements as the world #1 forced her to cut her practice time in half -- as the Dane claimed last week -- is open to be debated, if not by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tonight, then at least by anyone with a passing interest in "Wozniology" as this season concludes and 2013 commences. But, eyebrow-raising "explanations" (see, I might have used another word beginning with "ex-" in the past... so I'm at least PARTLY behind the Dane again these days) aside, she did manage to strategically place some impressive moments in between some of her rather shaky ones last week in Moscow. That was enough for her to defeat a Radwanska (Ula), a defending champ (Cibulkova), a fellow Scandinavian (Arvidsson) and a top-seeded Top 10 player (Stosur, for just her second Top 10 win in '12) to claim the twentieth singles title of her career, moving Wozniacki to within one of tying Pam Shriver for the most wins in WTA history by a player without a slam title. Ahh... see, I'm still not TOTALLY behind her. Not when Vika and Petra are still out there.
RISERS: Monica Niculescu/ROU & Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
...in Luxembourg, Niculescu became the thirteenth woman to reach both the singles and doubles finals at the same event this season. Unfortunately for the Romanian, she became just the third (Pennetta in Auckland, Goerges in Linz) to walk away without a title of any kind. Still, in following up her runner-up result in the same Luxembourg event a year ago, Niculescu put up wins over Romina Oprandi, Julia Goerges, Lucie Hradecka and Daniela Hantuchova to return to the final, just the second such result of her tour career. Of course, such a "Silver medal performance" from a Swarmette is no surprise -- Romanians have gone 1-7 in WTA singles finals over the last two seasons. After winning the Premier Beijing doubles title two weeks ago, Makarova and Vesnina, two very good Russian doubles (and flashy-but-inconsistent singles) players who hadn't played regularly together before, made it seem like a good idea to play together as often as possible. Last week, they combined to take another title in Moscow, defeating countrywomen Maria Kirilenko & Nadia Petrova in the final.
SURPRISE: Samantha Murray/GBR
...the rise of the Brits continues! Murray (no relation), 25, is getting a "late" start as she is still in the early stages of assuming her pro career, after having played college tennis at Northwestern, where she was the first woman at the school to reach the NCAA Championships for four straight seasons (2007-10). In a $25K challenger in Glasgow, Scotland, the world #374 claimed her first career singles title, defeating Alison van Uytvanck in the final.
VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA & Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka/CZE
...nice, Venus. For the first time in two and a half years (Acapulco '10), the older half of the Williams Sisters lifted a tour singles trophy over the weekend in Luxembourg. After having not reached a final since doing so in Madrid in the spring of '10, and having since been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Sjogren's Syndrome, Venus showed once again -- as she has on multiple occasions since her sad-looking exit from the Wimbledon singles this summer -- that it's still too early to give up on her. Wins over Belinda Bencic (coached by Melanie Molitor, mother of Martina Hingis), Mona Barthel, #1-seeded Roberta Vinci, Andrea Petkovic and Monica Niculescu got Venus her 44th career singles crown (in her 71st final!), moving her to within one of Serena's 45. Also, at 32, Venus is now the oldest singles champ of 2012 (beating Strasbourg winner Francesca Schiavone by five months), and the oldest on tour since a 33-year old Tamarine Tanasugarn won in Osaka in '10. Also in Luxembourg, the all-Czech duo of Hlavackova & Hradecka picked up their ninth title as a team (and fourth in '12) heading into the first career appearance by either woman in the season-ending WTA Championships this week in Istanbul.
COMEBACKS: Andrea Petkovic/GER & Alexa Glatch/USA
...look out, here comes Petkorazzi! Again. After missing much of the season due to injury, Petkovic is finally back. Last week in Luxembourg, it was more than just in name only, too. The first German to debut in the Top 10 in nineteen years (Anke Huber '92) back in 2011, Petko found herself at #182 heading into Week 42. Wins over Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Jankovic and Ksenia Pervak helped her reach the semifinals, her best result since her runner-up finish in Beijing late last year. In a $25K challenger in Makinohara, Japan, 23-year old Glatch won her first singles title since 2009, defeating Aussie Monique Adamczak in the final.
FRESH FACES: Marcela Zacarius/MEX & Annika Beck/GER
...junior #18 Zacarius, 18, one week after notching her first career ITF singles crown in Mexico City, won another this weekend in a $10K event there. Just like last week, she defeated Ximena Hermoso in the semis, but this time took out Russia's Nika Kukharchuk in the final. Meanwhile, in Luxembourg, the pro career of '12 Roland Garros junior champ Beck, 18, continued to move along rather well. Already a Wimbledon qualifier and winner of four ITF events this season, the German made it through the WTA event's qualifying with wins over the likes of Eva Birnerova and Anna-Lena Friedsam, then got a main draw victory of Barbora Zahlaova-Strycova.
DOWN: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS
...A-Pav is still just 21, and she's the youngest Hordette ranked in the current Top 150, but her consistent rise up the WTA rankings following her glorious junior career came to an abrupt end in 2012. After a six year climb that saw her season-ending ranking move up from #402 to #281, then year-end ranks of #45, #41, #21 and #16, Pavlyuchenkova sits at #36 as the WTA's regular season came to a close in, of all places, Moscow, with her 1st Round loss to Yaroslava Shvedova, a former Hordette-turned-Kazakh. After going 41-21 last season, Pavlyuchenkova put up a 21-25 mark in 2012.
ITF PLAYER: Rebecca Marino/CAN
...from February to September, Marino took a voluntary break from the sport to get her heading-for-a-burnout-situation head right. Well, she's back -- and last week was her best so far! In the $25K challenger in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the Canadian won eight matches in a row. As the #12 Q-seed -- after finishing at #63 in '11, her inactivity had dropped her to outside the Top 500 -- Marino qualified, and then got main draw wins over Mariana Duque-Marino, Shelby Rogers, Michelle Larcher de Brito and countrywomen Stephanie Dubois and Sharon Fichman (in a three-set final) to earn her first ITF singles title since 2010. And that she did it on the same weekend that Venus -- who once said Marino's game reminded her of her own -- also won her first title in two seasons? Priceless.
JUNIOR STAR: Carol Zhao/CAN & Barbora Krejcikova/CZE
...coming off her wild loss to Francoise Abanda in the Pan-American Close Championships final in Tulsa, 17-year old Zhao got right back on the proverbial horse. The #12-ranked junior qualified in singles (def. Chelsey Gullickson) and doubles in the $25K challenger in Rock Hill, South Carolina, then got a main draw win, as well. Elsewhere, 16-year old Krejcikova, the #25-ranked girl, won her first career ITF singles title in a $10K in Dubrovnik, Croatia. She defeated Russia's Polina Leykina in the final.
1. Moscow Final - Wozniacki d. Stosur
...6-2/4-6/7-5. Oh, we've seen THAT post-match look on Slingin' Sammy's face before, haven't we? While the Aussie did notch her 400th career match win last week in Moscow, she still didn't find an answer to any of the questions that have arisen (yet again) about her psyche since she won the U.S. Open last year. A consistent Top 10er for a few seasons now, she's still won just three titles in her career, and none since lifting the cup in Flushing Meadows. While Stosur doubled up Wozniacki (40-20) in winners, she tripled her in unforced errors (48-16), a total which included the UE's on final two points of the match. She led 2-0 and 3-1 in the 3rd set, and was up 40/15 (and held AD) on the Dane's serve in the crucial 4-4 game in which she missed on a huge crosscourt forehand return attempt on one break point. Yep, we' ve seen that seaching, what-do-I-have-to-do-to-not-feel-this-way? expression before. NYC '11 aside, it's pretty much loomed over Stosur's entire singles career.
2. Lux Final - V.Williams d. Niculescu 6-2/6-3
Lux Doubles Final - Hlavackova/Hradecka d. Begu/Niculescu 6-3/6-4
...the Swarmettes just have a devil of a time winning tour finals, don't they?
3. $25K Lagos NGR Final - Cristina Dinu d. Chanel Simmonds
...7-5/4-6/6-4. They've figured it out on the ITF level, though.
4. Moscow QF - Wozniacki d. Cibulkova
...6-2/6-7/6-1. This was Wozniacki's first win over a tournament's defending champion since she defeated '07 Stockholm champ Aga Radwanska in the return event in 2008.
5. Lux 1st Rd - Jankovic d. Peng 3-0 ret.
Lux 2nd Rd - Petkovic d. Jankovic 7-5/6-0
...turning rivers into apple sauce right up until the eleventh hour, JJ got a retirement win over Peng, the same player she blew eight match points against in Cincinnati. One rounder later, Jankovic lost to the same player she'd beaten in the 1st Round in Beijing a few weeks ago... then she withdrew from the doubles with a GI illness. Not exactly the most desired prep for her HUGE upcoming weekend in the Fed Cup final in Prague. But, then again, since when has Queen Chaos ever done ANYTHING easily or routinely?
6. Moscow Doubles SF - Kirilenko/Petrova d. Kops-Jones/Spears
...7-5/6-4. And the fourth and final berth in the WTA Championships doubles competition was wrapped up by the Hordette pair, not the Bannerette duo. The late-season surging Americans had already put up impressive wins over Peschke/Groenefeld and Llagostera-Vives/Mirza.
7. Moscow SF - Wozniacki d. Arvidsson
...6-3/6-7/6-4. C-Woz escaped a troubling tendency to immediately give away her serve one game after earning a break. Luckily for her, it was against Arvidsson and not against a true "biggie," so she got away with it.
8. Lux 2nd Rd - Hantuchova d. Flipkens
...6-4/4-6/6-2. Maybe Flipper was too distracted by the excitement of having Kim "mentoring" her at select events in 2013?
9. Lux 2nd Rd - V.Williams d. Barthel 7-6/6-4
Lux QF - V.Williams d. Vinci 7-6/6-4
Lux SF - V.Williams d. Petkovic 5-7/6-4/6-4
...the tough nature of Venus' wins in Luxembourg sort of put to bed the notion that, at least at the moment, she's not physically up to battling her opponents on the court anymore.
10. Moscow 2nd Rd - Arvidsson d. Bartoli
...6-3/6-0. La Trufflette has had a disappointing season, epitomized by her quick exit at her final "regular season" event, her "second alternate" role this week in Istanbul, and her somewhat loose grip on her Top 10 ranking (with #11 Wozniacki now just 55 points behind).
1. Moscow 2nd Rd - Wozniacki d. U.Radwanska
...6-1/6-3. Caro took out a Radwanska sister, but Ula didn't hold any grudges against her "best friend." Well, at least not publicly. Who knows what's going on with Danish-looking melons behind closed doors. On a side note -- how many players have called Wozniacki their "best" friend anyway? I think Ula might make it at least three! Oh, and U-Rad -- who smashed through her Top 50 goal this season by reaching the Top 30 -- DID mention in her WTA site blog about going on vacation with Aga during the offseason. So... look out, some nameless beach somewhere in the world! It -- and They -- are coming.
2. $25K Rock Hill Q3 - Carol Zhao d. Chelsey Gullickson 6-3/6-1
$25K Rock Hill 2nd Rd - ChiChi Scholl d. Carol Zhao 6-4/6-4
...Zhao got through one tennis-playing Bannerette sister, but two was one too many. Or something like that.
3. $25K Antalya Final - Olga Ianchuk d. Demi Schuurs
...6-2/4-6/6-3. Elizaveth Ianchuk's 1st Round loss prevented Schuurs from meeting her in the 2nd Round. But the latest pair of Ukrainian tennis sisters eventually got their ounce of blood from the Dutch girl, courtesy of Olga in the final.
**CAREER SINGLES TITLES - ACTIVE**
45...Serena Williams, USA
44...VENUS WILLIAMS, USA
27...Maria Sharapova, RUS
20...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, DEN
14...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
**CONSECUTIVE YEARS w/ 2+ TITLES**
6 years - Serena Williams, 2007-12
5 years - CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, 2008-12
4 years - Victoria Azarenka, 2009-12
3 years - Maria Sharapova, 2010-12
2 years - Agnieszka Radwanska, 2011-12
2 years - Petra Kvitova, 2011-12
**2012 - DEFEATED TOP SEED & DEFENDING CHAMP**
Mona Barthel, GER - Hobart [QF-Gajdosova/F-Wickmayer]
Angelique Kerber, GER - Copenhagen [F-Wozniacki]
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, DEN - MOSCOW [F-Stosur/QF-Cibulkova]
[didn't win title]
Marion Bartoli, FRA - Miami [QF-Azarenka/QF-Azarenka] - lost in SF
Simona Halep, ROU - Fes [QF-Garrigues/QF-Garrigues] - lost in SF
**MOST SINGLES FINALS - since 2009**
27...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (17-10)
21...Victoria Azarenka (14-7)
19...Maria Sharapova (8-11)
16...Serena Williams (12-4)
12...Vera Zvonareva (5-7)
11...Petra Kvitova (9-2)
11...SAMANTHA STOSUR (3-8)
10...Agnieszka Radwanska (6-4)
10...VENUS WILLIAMS (5-5)
10...Li Na (4-6)
10...Marion Bartoli (3-7)
**2012 LOW-RANKED SEMIFINALISTS**
#262 Kirsten Flipkens/BEL - 's-Hertogenbosch (SF)
#208 Melanie Oudin/USA - Birmingham (W)
#183 Donna Vekic/CRO - Tashkent (RU)
#182 ANDREA PETKOVIC/GER - LUXEMBOURG (SF)
#174 Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino/ESP - Bogota (W)
#174 Olga Puchkova/RUS - Baku (SF)
**NATIONS w/ MULTIPLE DIFF. 2012 CHAMPIONS**
3...Slovak Republic - Hantuchova,Cibulkova,Rybarikova
3...Italy - Errani,Schiavone,Vinci
3...UNITED STATES - S.Williams,Oudin,V.Williams
2...China - Zheng,Li
2...Germany - Barthel,Kerber
2...Russia - Petrova,Sharapova
[nations w/ one player w/ title(s)]
Austria, Belarus, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan
[recent seasons - different nations w/ champions]
2007: 17 (most different winners: Russia-8, France-5, United States-4)
2008: 18 (Russia-7, United States-3)
2009: 20 (Russia-6, 3-France, 3-Italy)
2010: 21 (Russia-9, 3-Belgium, 3-Itlay)
2011: 20 (Russia-5, 3-Australia, 3-Germany, 3-Slovak Republic, 3-Spain)
2012: 23 (Italy-3, Slovak Republic-3, United States-3)
**2012 SEMIFINALISTS BY NATION**
24 - Russia
17 - Italy
16 - GERMANY, UNITED STATES
14 - Czech Republic
13 - ROMANIA
TOTAL DIFFERENT NATIONS: 32
**2012 DOUBLES TITLES - DUOS*
8...Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
5...Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond, USA/USA
4...Raquel Kops-Jones & Abigail Spears, USA/USA
4...ANDREA HLAVACKOVA & LUCIE HRADECKA, CZE/CZE
2...Marina Erakovic & Heather Watson, NZL/GBR
2...EKATERINA MAKAROVA & ELENA VESNINA, RUS/RUS
2...Serena Williams & Venus Williams, USA/USA
**NORTH AMERICANS - MOST 2012 ITF TITLES**
3...Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
3...Grace Min, USA
2...Mallory Burdette, USA
2...Lauren Davis, USA
2...Jennifer Elie, USA
2...Heidi El Tabakh, CAN
2...Sharon Fichman, CAN
2...Jamie Loeb, USA
2...Nicole Melichar, USA
2...Maria Sanchez, USA
2...Ana Sofia Sanchez, MEX
2...MARCELA ZACARIUS, MEX
2...SERENA WILLIAMS *
1...PETRA KVITOVA *
1...MARIA SHARAPOVA *
1...Venus Williams *
[finals - active]
4...SERENA WILLIAMS (2-2)
2...MARIA SHARAPOVA (1-1)
2...Venus Williams (1-1)
1...PETRA KVITOVA (1-0)
1...VICTORIA AZARENKA (0-1)
1...Caroline Wozniacki (0-1)
1...Vera Zvonareva (0-1)
[most Championships Doubles titles]
4...LISA RAYMOND *
3...LIEZEL HUBER *
2...Cara Black *
2...Samantha Stosur *
WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS - ISTANBUL, TURKEY (Premier $4.9m/hard indoor)
11 Final: Kvitova d. Azarenka
11 Doubles Champions: Huber/Raymond
12 Top Seeds: Azarenka/Sharapova
#3 Serena Williams 3-0
#1 Victoria Azarenka 2-1
#7 Li Na 1-2
#6 Angelique Kerber 0-3
#5 Petra Kvitova 3-0
#2 Maria Sharapova 2-1
#4 Agnieszka Radwanska 1-2
#8 Sara Errani 0-3
(alternates: Samantha Stosur & Marion Bartoli)
S.Williams d. Sharapova
Azarenka d. Kvitova
S.Williams d. Azarenka
...it just goes to reason, I think. But if anyone other than Serena (who'd take her 3rd career YEC title) wins, it surely sets up a rather wonderful storyline that would carry over into 2013. Of course, after going two-for-two (5/6, if you count my un-posted men's predictions) in picks last week, and getting three consecutive WTA event champions correct... I guess I'm due for another o-fer.
In that case, for purely selfish reasons, I'd have to put all of Backspin's hopes behind Vika. Sorry, Petra... but you've still got the Fed Cup final next week.
Speaking of Vika, how great is it that of the eight women in the singles round robin in Istanbul, she was the only one who chose to wear pants to the tournament's "dress-up" photo session? L-O-V-E. I-T.
Later this week, the march of the 2012 Backspin Awards begins (well, unless you count last week's "MVP List") with the dispensing of the Regional Honors.
All for now.