Wk.5- Post-Melbourne Musings
Seriously, what sort of WTA world are we living in when evidence suggests that Ricardo Sanchez should be considered a sane, moderate and calming influence?
A few questions and ponderings after the first post-Australian Open week of WTA results:
1. Considering that winning a title at the Paris Indoors -- where Petra Kvitova (in '11) and Angelique Kerber ('12) were recent champions -- has been a pretty reliable gauge of a player's ability to, on balance, do big things over the course of a full WTA season, has the tournament's "star-making dust" been sprinkled on '13 winner Mona Barthel? The lanky German's already been in two finals this season and is bearing down on a Top 25 ranking with a big stretch of the season coming up where she'll have no points to defend from her mid-season dry spell of last year. How high could she climb by the end of the year? Top 20? Top 15?
2. Is it just me, or did the fact that the Super Bowl site could have a mid-game power outage make all the annual U.S. Open rain-delayed finals seems at least a LITTLE more professional and not nearly as embarrassing as it once did. Yeah, it's probably just me... and likely not even that come summertime.
3. Did Casey Dellacqua learn a valuable lesson in Pattaya? A week ago, she failed to win a doubles title while teamed in a final with a 16-year old. This weekend, she won one while playing alongside a 42-year old. Does this mean that Kimiko Date-Krumm is worth slightly more than two and a half Ashleigh Barty's?
4. Maybe that crazy Spaniard is onto something. First, Ricardo Sanchez makes the most out of Queen Chaos's talent during his coaching tenure with the former #1. Then, last year, Nadia Petrova's singles career was resurrected after Sanchez stepped into the picture. Now, a week after being brought on by Sabine Lisicki, Sanchez saw the German rebound from her disappointing Australian Open to reach a final in Pattaya, her first on tour since the summer of 2011 in Dallas. Of course, all three of those players have had a certain "craziness" ingrained into their results throughout their careers, so maybe it's just a case of finding the right MIXTURE of different flavors of crazy to make the recipe pop. Either way, Caro aside, wherever Sanchez goes good things seem to follow.
5. With every Petra Kvitova loss to a player the former Wimbledon champion should be beating, the questions about the Czech's inability to follow up her 2011 Player of the Year success grow just a little bit more hair. Is a coaching change needed to turn the tide? And, if so, what sort of bottom do her results have to hit before she'd consider making a move away from -- or an addition to -- coach David Kotyza? Are we talking a "Wozniacki bottom" (now, stop snickering), or one more similar to AnaIvo or -- yikes -- Anna Chakvetadze? Petra's been a Top 10 player for ninety-one consecutive weeks, the third-longest active streak behind only Vika Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. She's currently 740 points ahead of #11 (Wozniacki, no less). Would seeing that streak end be enough to wake up the echoes of Wimbledon? At this rate, we might find out by the end of 2013.
But, then again, The Radwanska might wipe us all out by then. So... no worries. Enjoy.
*WEEK 5 CHAMPIONS*
PARIS, FRANCE (Premier $690K/HCI)
S: Mona Barthel/GER def. Sara Errani/ITA 7-5/7-6
D: Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) d. Hlavackova/Huber (CZE/USA)
PATTAYA, THAILAND (Int'l $235K/HCO)
S: Maria Kirilenko/RUS def. Sabine Lisicki/GER 5-7/6-1/7-6
D: Date-Krumm/Dellacqua (JPN/AUS) d. Amanmuradova/Panova (UZB/RUS)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Mona Barthel/GER
...at six-foot-one, and with a big serve and baseline game (and, at least in the Paris Indoors final against Sara Errani, with no problem rushing the net if the gameplan calls for it), Barthel certainly looks like the sort of player who could be successful on the WTA tour. She produced over 50 winners against the Italian. At times over the last fourteen months, she's been worthy of attention, too. A year ago, she began her '12 season on a 16-3 run and won a title in Hobart. This year, she's started 12-3, reached another Hobart final and has now won career title #2 in Paris after wins over Urszula Radwanska, Roberta Vinci, Marion Bartoli, Kristina Mladenovic and Errani. Thing is, after her hot start last year, Barthel cooled off considerably. She went 21-22 the rest of last season, a period which included a six-match losing streak. After having some issues with nerves in the past, though, the German dealt well with a few tough spots against Errani, so maybe the inconsistency that hampered her over the long haul last year won't return this time around. She's now up to a career-best #28 in the rankings, so the table is officially set for her to show what she can do the second time around.
RISER: Maria Kirilenko/RUS
...after a slow start to her '13 season, Kirilenko has kicked things into gear. Not surprising, she's reached a high point in Asia. In grabbing her sixth career title this weekend in Pattaya, where she was the runner-up a year ago, she won her fourth crown in an event held in Asia. Wins over Akgul Amanmuradova, Luksika Kumkhum, Elena Vesnina, Sorana Cirstea and Sabine Lisicki allowed the Hordette to lift a singles trophy for the first time since September 2008, when she won in Seoul. She's now 6-6 in career WTA finals.
SURPRISES: Kiki Bertens/NED & Nina Bratchikova/RUS
...Bertens, a WTA singles champion in Fes last year, lost in Paris qualifying to Virginie Razzano, but made it into the main draw as a Lucky Loser. Once there, the 21-year old went on a tear that included wins over Tamira Paszek, Dominika Cibulkova and Lucie Safarova, and it didn't end until she retired in the semifinals against Sara Errani with a lower back injury. Bertens is the fifth Lucky Loser in the last two seasons to reach at least the SF stage of a tour event. Bratchikova, 27, reached her first career WTA semi in Pattaya with wins over Shahar Peer, defending champion Daniela Hantuchova (who retired) and Ayumi Morita.
VETERANS: Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (ITA/ITA) & Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN
...all right, so it might be stretching it a WEE bit to put Errani (25) and Vinci (29) in the "Veterans" category, at least in Errani's case. But so be it. The Italians, in their third straight final in 2013, won their second consecutive title, adding the Paris Indoors crown to their Australian Open honors. Of course, even with a walkover in the semifinals, it wasn't easy -- they had to escape an 11-9 3rd set early in the week against an all-Pastry duo of Alize Cornet & Pauline Parmentier. In singles, Errani -- who also got two wins via retirement, which sort of evened-out her having to stay on court for three hours to take down Carla Suarez-Navarro -- reached her eleventh career final. Of course, there's NO question about whether or not Date-Krumm is a veteran. The 42-year old (w/ Casey Dellacqua) won her fourth career tour doubles title -- but her third in the last sixteen months -- in Pattaya. KDK also got a singles win over Chanelle Scheepers.
COMEBACK: Sabine Lisicki/GER
...two weeks ago, Lisicki suffered a come-from-ahead loss to Caroline Wozniacki in the 1st Round of the Australian Open, blowing a 3-0 3rd set lead and seeing her ranking slip outside the Top 50 barely a year and a half after her breakout semifinal run at Wimbledon in 2011. The German immediately announced that Ricardo Sanchez was going to be her new coach... and then she went to Paris and reached her first final since the same summer as her exploits at SW19. Considering Sanchez's spearheading of the miraculous resurrection of the injury-prone and lead-blowing Nadia Petrova's singles career in '12, should we expect to now see the same things occur with the injury-prone and lead-blowing Lisicki? Well, while Lisicki didn't exactly mow down a Murderer's Row of opponents in Tatjana Malek, Alexandra Panova and Marina Erakovic en route to the Pattaya final, and ultimately faltered in the final (dropping seven of her final eight service points) against Maria Kirilenko after staging a 3rd set comeback that had allowed her to serve for the title, she was smiling when all was said and done. If Sanchez can help remove the dark cloud that often hovers over the sunny-and-charming Lisicki's career, the tour would surely be better off for it.
FRESH FACE: Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...at the end of the '12 season, Mladenovic won the first of the WTA's Challenger 125 events, in Taipei, Taiwan. This week, the 19-year old reached her second "regular tour" semifinal (Quebec City '12) in Paris after upsetting the likes of Julia Goerges, Yanina Wickmayer and Petra Kvitova. The 2009 year-end junior #1 is now at a career-best tour ranking of #69.
DOWN: Petra Kvitova/CZE
...it's hard to imagine now, as she sits 6040 points behind #1 Victoria Azarenka, that a little more than a year ago Kvitova was two wins away from rising to the top of the singles rankings. As Kvitova's results, save for a nice run on North American hard courts and in Fed Cup play, have disappointed more often than not over the past year, one thing seemed a "given" -- that she was unassailable on an indoor court. Now, even that is looking pretty flimsy. About this time last year, she was riding a 27-match indoor winning streak (31 matches with Hopman Cup results included). After her QF loss to Kristina Mladenovic last week in Paris, an event she won in '11, Kvitova has now lost three of her last five matches on indoor hard courts after having previously gone over two years without a loss in such matches. Interestingly enough, the first of those three losses came against Agnieszka Radwanska at last year's WTA Championships. Hmmm... make your own assessment of THAT. Well, at least Kvitova has next weekend to look forward to, as she'll lead the Czech Fed Cup team as the Maidens begin their title defense in the 1st Round against Australia. Although, since the tie will take place in the Czech Republic rather than Australia, the threat of Miss Samantha Stosur might be quite lethal. Oh, no... Petra's not going to now lose the ONLY "given" she's still got left, is she?
ITF PLAYER: Elina Svitolina/UKR
...at the end of the '12 season, Svitolina won the second of the WTA's Challenger 125 events, in Pune, India. This week, the 18-year old claimed a $75K ITF Challenger in Eilat, Israel, defeating Hordette Marta Sirotkina (oh, I'd love to hear a TV commentator try to call this match without accidentally mixing up those names in the middle of a point) in a three-set final. She won the doubles with Alla Kudryavtseva, as well.
JUNIOR STAR: Anett Kontaveit/EST
...a week ago, the 17-year old Estonian reached the Australian Open Girls semis. This past week, still in Australia in the $25K challenger in Burnie, Kontaveit made it through qualifying and then reached another semifinal.
1. Pattata Final - Kirilenko d. Lisicki
...5-7/6-1/7-6. I suppose, no matter how things turned out in the end, Lisicki (considering her history) should be commended for recovering from losing nine straight games to fall behind 3-0 in the 3rd set. Then from falling down 5-2, and staving off two match points. Sure, she wilted in the end after serving for the match at 6-5, only winning one more point on serve in the match (losing a 7-1 deciding tie-break), but the German was in good spirits afterward. Sanchez must have a pocket-full of fairy dust.
2. Paris Final - Barthel d. Errani
...7-5/7-6. Would the "bad" Barthel have taken over had the German not won that ten-minute service game to get a crucial hold for 6-5 in the 1st? We'll never know... well, unless we can get our hands on Future Sloane's time machine and then drop a feather down from the rafters in front of Barthel right before a big second serve, leading to a double-fault and a quick fall from grace, I mean. I hear that sort of thing can change an entire match.
3. Paris 1st Rd - Hlavackova/Huber d. Kvitova/Wickmayer
...7-6/4-6/10-1. As odd as it was to have Kvitova and Wickmayer teaming up in doubles, it was even more strange that Mladenovic later beat them both in singles. Speaking of...
4. Paris QF - Mladenovic d. Kvitova
...6-3/6-4. Kvitova had nine double faults. Petrapetrapetrapetra.
5. Paris 1st - Wickmayer d. Pavlyuchenkova
...7-6/4-6/6-3. Ahh, remember Brisbane? At this point, I wonder if Anastasia still does?
HM- Pattaya 2nd Rd - Morita d. Date-Krumm
...4-6/6-4/6-1. The past, present and future of Japanese women's tennis. Oh, and Ayumi Morita played in this one, too.
1. Pattaya 1st Rd - Varatchaya Wongteanchai/Varunya Wongteanchai d. Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan
...6-4/3-6/10-7. A four-for-one Sisters Special, as the Wongteanchai clan took out the Week 1 Shenzhen-winning Chans. Varatchaya, a winner of an ITF singles title a few weeks ago, also got a win in Pattaya over youngster Annika Beck.
2. Paris 1st Rd - Barthel d. U.Radwanska
...7-6/6-0. Barthel starts her week delivering a melon to a Radwanska. She ends her week as a champion. Will she soon regret it?
3. $25K Burnie 1st Rd - J.Moore d. E.Sema 6-3/6-2
$25K Burnie 1st Rd - Aoyama d. Y.Sema 6-4/6-7/6-1
$25K Burnie Doubles SF - Aoyama/E.Sema d. Lykina/Y.Sema 4-6/7-5/11-9
$25K Burnie Doubles Final - Aoyama/E.Sema walkover Bobusic/J.Moore
...wow, what a round-robin Down Under this turned out to be. First, both Sema sisters were ousted in the 1st Round in singles. Then, the siblings were on OPPOSITE sides of the net in doubles, with Erika teaming up with the same Japanese player who'd defeated Yurika. Erika claimed the doubles crown in a walkover... over a team that included Jessica Moore, who'd defeated her in singles at the start of the week. Whew! Is YOUR head spinning now, too?
**LONGEST CURRENT TOP 10 STREAKS, in weeks**
123...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
97...Maria Sharapova, RUS
91...Petra Kvitova, CZE
78...Samantha Stosur, AUS
70...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
44...Serena Williams, USA
38...Angelique Kerber, GER
35...Sara Errani, ITA
26...Li Na, CHN
2...Marion Bartoli, FRA
**2013 WTA SF**
3...MONA BARTHEL (2-1)
3...Li Na (2-1)
2...Victoria Azarenka (1-0 +L)
2...Agnieszka Radwanska (2-0)
2...Sloane Stephens (0-2)
**BEST RECENT "LUCKY LOSER" RESULTS**
2008 Quebec City - Angeles Haynes (SF)
2008 Tokyo - Jarmila Gajdosova (SF)
2012 Fes - Mathilde Johansson (SF)
2012 Stanford - Coco Vandeweghe (RU)
2012 Linz - Irina-Camelia Begu (SF)
2013 Brisbane - Lesia Tsurenko (SF)
2013 Paris - KIKI BERTENS (SF)
**2012 CHAMPIONS, REACHED 2013 FINAL**
Hobart - Mona Barthel, GER (lost to Vesnina)
Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (def. Li)
Sydney - Katarina Srebotnik, SLO (def. Errani/Vinci)
Paris - LIEZEL HUBER, USA (lost to Errani/Vinci)
I'll be back in a few days with Fed Cup picks.
All for now.