Tuesday, March 05, 2013

BSMA's 2.0 - Vim, Vigor & Vindication

In the early stages of 2013, you can't spell "vindication" without Vika. Or Petra, or Sara or, well, you get the idea.

Here, here. Victoria Azarenka might still be trying to live up to the long shadows of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova (though, let's be honest, that of the former is quite a bit more formidable that the latter, both literally AND figuratively) in the eyes of some players, fans and commentators, but she's certainly managed to set a tone for this new season. One of vim, vigor and vindication, with a dash of redemption and "I'll-show-you" thrown in for good measure.

Case in point -- February (and the first few days of March).

After overcoming needless controversy and ugly anti-Azarenka sentiment Down Under by coming through with a defense of her Australian Open title, in many ways, Vika pulled off a just-slightly-different version of the feat in Doha. The same week that everyone was lauding Serena Williams -- and ignoring Vika -- for finally overtaking the Belarusian for the #1 ranking, Azarenka ended that particular week by defeating Williams and once again defending a title. Take that. Now, while not many players might follow Vika into battle, they surely didn't have any trouble following in her footsteps over the past month.

If you want, you could count Serena in the mix, for returning to #1 after a two-year absence and a brush with death, and proving that age 30 is no longer an inevitable sign of decline in this sport. But even if one were to separate Williams' accomplishment from being compared to those of Azarenka this season, there have been more than enough redemption-ish stories over the past month to display the trend quite clearly.

For example, Petra Kvitova finally came in from her self-imposed darkness in Dubai. Sara Errani went about proving her detractors wrong in any number of cities since her early loss in Melbourne. Jelena Jankovic and Maria Kirilenko won titles after droughts of several seasons. Bethanie Mattek-Sands is coming back strong from injury, while Sabine Lisicki (who could be ailing from anything and everything, depending on the time of day and her state of mind and/or denial) has reached two recent finals.

Then there's Olga Puchkova, Caroline Wozniacki (for the most part), South American women's tennis, Catalina Castano (speaking of S.A. tennis) and Cara Black, too. Heck, I'll even throw Kim Clijsters' womb onto the list, as well. All have made re-appearances in the news of late after periods of absence (at least for much of anything good), with some having longer "dark stretches" than others.

Vindication for real or perceived sins. Redemption for mistakes, misdeeds or simple lost time. Comebacks from adversity and/or controversy. So far, they've all played a large part in the story that is the WTA in 2013.

See, Vika. They're following you... and they don't even realize it. Shhhhhhh. Don't tell them -- just let them come to the realization all on their own.

It'll be sweeter that way.

*Backspin Monthly Awards - Wk.5-9*
1. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
...she's #2 in the rankings, #1 in Backspin's heart and still undefeated in 2013. The likelihood of another 26-match season-opening streak isn't great (though it‘s not imposible, either), but Vika sets at more than half-way there (14 wins, with 12 in-a-row since handing Serena a walkover in the Brisbane semis in Week 1) as she heads to Indian Wells to attempt to defend last year's title. Azarenka lost the #1 ranking in Doha, but she ultimately had the last laugh that week, upending Williams in the final to defend her second '12 title of the season (after the AO). "Respect" as a locker room leader may come to her down the line. But respect ON the court, especially hard court, is no longer a wispy dream for Vika.
2. Petra Kvitova, CZE
...did February play host to the start of the reclaiming of the promise that Kvitova showed on the court not all that long ago? Sure, Kvitova still had a tendency to go off the rails for a set, or fall behind, over the past month. But starting with a pair of comeback wins against Australia on Fed Cup weekend which seemed to stoke the Czech's confidence, Kvitova -- a more fit Kvitova, it should be noted -- has often looked to be a transformed player. A close loss to Serena in Doha showed her progress, and then she went to Dubai a week later and ruled the courts against a series of Top 10 players. And she pulled it off without her ever-present coach in attendance, too. The new-found game day self-sufficiency seems to be paying off for Kvitova. Of course, we ARE talking about Petra. So, perhaps no optimistic opinion should be set in stone quite yet.
3. Errani/Vinci, ITA/ITA

...the Italians were already the most successful doubles team on tour coming into 2013. They opened the season by upsetting the Williams Sisters in Melbourne and going on to win their third slam crown in the past year. February proved to be no different. They claimed two more tournaments, running their title-winning streak to three, and final run to four. Throw in a Fed Cup tie-deciding win for Team Italia, which pushed the pair's clay court winning streak to 28 matches, and you've possibly got the makings of a legit two-headed contender for 2013's "Ms. Backspin" honor. Look out, Vika and Serena?
4. Serena Williams, USA
...sure, Serena got an another easy win over Maria Sharapova, and reclaimed the singles #1 ranking for the first time since 2010 -- at 31, she 's the oldest women's singles #1 ever -- but her loss in the Doha final against Vika means she hasn't actually won a title (not even in the AO doubles w/ Venus) since Week 1 in Brisbane. Her Australian Open ankle injury and twisted back in the Middle East are likely contributors to that, but if Azarenka (less than 50 points behind at #2) can find a way to hold onto most of her points from last March (when she won I.W.) we might see a TRUE race for the year-end #1 by September as Williams will have oodles and oodles of points of her own to defend beginning this summer.
5. Sara Errani, ITA
...disregard her at your own risk. Sure, the diminutive Italian can be bested by bigger, powerful players. But some of them could learn a lot from her consistency and tenacity, as well as her willingness to change tactics in the middle of a match if Plan A isn't working. In February and the first few days of March, Errani not only won two doubles titles, but she also reached three singles finals, pushing Kvitova to three sets in Dubai on hard court, then following up by defending her Acapulco crown without dropping a set on red clay a week later. She's reached at least the final in seven of the twelve singles/doubles draws she's entered in '13, and 6-of-7 starting with the Australian Open doubles championship match. Boring? Depends on your point of view, I guess.
HM- Czech Fed Cup Team
...the Czech Maidens' path to a third straight Fed Cup title officially began with a 4-0 shutout of the Aussies in the first FC weekend of 2013. The last team to three-peat as FC champions was Spain from 1993-95.

WHO IS THAT WIGGED WOMAN.. and why is her father yelling at the chair umpire?

1. Sara Errani, ITA
2. Maria Kirilenko, RUS
3. Marina Erakovic, NZL
4. Sabine Lisicki, GER
5. Varvara Lepchenko, USA
6. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
7. Monica Niculescu, ROU
8. Lucie Safarova, CZE
9. Ayumi Morita, JPN
10. Sorana Cirstea, ROU
11. Kazakh Fed Cup Team
12. Karin Knapp, ITA
13. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
14. Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
15. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
HM- Urszula Radwanska, POL

1. Mona Barthel, GER
2. Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, ESP
3. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
4. Kiki Bertens, NED
5. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
6. Heather Watson, GBR
7. Laura Robson, GBR
8. Ksenia Pervak, KAZ
9. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP
10.Jamie Hampton, USA
11. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
12. Elina Svitolina, UKR
13. Donna Vekic, CRO
14. Annika Beck, GER
15. Ashleigh Barty, AUS
16. Timea Babos, HUN
17. Wang Qiang, CHN
18. Canadian Fed Cup Team
19. Louisa Chirico, USA
20. Victoria Duval, USA
HM- Zarina Diyas, KAZ

1. Ana Konjuh, CRO
2. Antonia Lottner, GER
3. Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
4. Anett Kontaveit, EST
5. Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
HM- Barbara Haas, AUT

1. Paula Ormaechea, ARG
2. Teliana Pereira, BRA
3. Brazilian Fed Cup Team
4. Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP
5. Jana Cepelova, SVK
6. Nina Bratchikova, RUS
7. Luksika Kumkhum, THA
8. Lourdes Dominquez-Lino, ESP
9. Stefanie Voegele, SUI
10. Mandy Minella, LUX
11. Anastasiya Sevastova, LAT
12. Tereza Mrdeza, CRO
13. Varacheya & Varunya Wongteanchi, THA/THA
14. Ayufanti Damayanti, INA
15. Beatriz Garcia Vidagany, ESP

1. Serena Williams, USA
2. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
3. Roberta Vinci, ITA
4. Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Sania Mirza, USA/IND
5. Catalina Castano, COL
6. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
7. Sofia Arvidsson/Johanna Larsson, SWE/SWE
8. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
9. Marion Bartoli, FRA
10. Galina Voskoboeva, KAZ
11. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
12. Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
13. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/Arantxa Parra-Santonja, ESP/ESP
14. Cara Black/Anastasia Rodionova, ZIM/AUS
15. Venus Williams, USA

1. Sabine Lisicki, GER
2. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
3. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
4. Catalina Castano, COL
5. Swedish Fed Cup Team
6. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
7. Olga Puchkova, RUS
8. Cara Black, ZIM
9. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, ESP
10. Sesil Karatantcheva, KAZ

1. Serbian Fed Cup Team
2. Sloane Stephens, USA
3. Samantha Stosur, AUS
4. Liezel Huber, USA
5. Sofia Arvidsson, SWE
6. Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
7. Angelique Kerber, GER
8. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
9. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP (singles)
10. Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ (singles)

1. Lauren Davis, USA
2. Julia Kimmelmann, GER
3. Jovana Jaksic, SRB
4. Tara Moore, GBR
5. Lara Michel, SUI
HM- Maryna Zanevska, UKR


#1 - Victoria Azarenka triumphs (again), losing her #1 ranking, but defending Doha with a victory over Serena in the final
#2 - Petra Kvitova defeats three Top 10 players en route to the Dubai crown
#3 - Roberta Vinci overcomes Saturday cramping to get singles & doubles wins a day later and send Team Italia back to the Fed Cup semis
#4 - Errani & Vinci win their second (Paris) and third (Doha) titles of the season, as well as a tie-deciding FC match for Italy
#5 - Serena Williams, 31, becomes oldest woman to be the WTA's singles #1
HM - Sara Errani reaches three singles finals since the Australian Open, and defends her Acapulco title

**By the Numbers...**
0... losses by Victoria Azarenka in 2013
2... consecutive singles finals reached by Sabine Lisicki since bringing on Ricardo Sanchez as coach
3... years since Jelena Jankovic won a tour singles title before taking the crown in Bogota
4... years since Maria Kirilenko won a tour singles title before taking the crown in Pattaya
7... consecutive years in which Team Russia has reached the Fed Cup semifinals
10... after Doha, consecutive times Serena Williams has defeated Maria Sharapova since the start of the 2005 season
14... Fed Cup match winning streak -- in singles and doubles -- put together by Ayumi Morita (JPN) before losing the deciding doubles match vs. Russia in the World Group 1st Round
23... years since a Brazilian woman reached a WTA singles SF before Teliana Pereira did it in Bogota
24... years since a New Zealand woman won a tour singles title before Marina Erakovic did it in Memphis
40... rankings points world #2 Victoria Azarenka is behind #1 Serena Williams
42... Kimiko Date-Krumm's age when she won the Pattaya doubles title with Casey Dellacqua
68... current record total of Fed Cup appearances by Luxembourg's Anne Kremer, a run which began when she was 15 years old in 1991
127... current tour-best consecutive weeks ranked in the Top 10 (Victoria Azarenka)
300... current tour-best consecutive weeks ranked in the Top 20 (Marion Bartoli)
3-0... Lucie Safarova's Fed Cup singles record since the start of the 2012 season. The Czech had been 5-9 in FC play prior to last season.
18-0... Roberta Vinci's career Fed Cup doubles record after teaming with Sara Errani to win the deciding match in Italy's World Group tie vs. the U.S.
1986-87... the last time the WTA's #1 singles and #1 doubles players were age 30 or over. Then, both spots were filled by Martina Navratilova. Now, it's 31-year old Serena Williams and 30-year old Roberta Vinci.

*WOZNIACKI CROSSES MORE ATHLETIC LINES...now she'll REALLY be confused about the coaching rules*

Week 1 - Serena Williams, USA
Week 2 - Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
Week 3/4 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (AO)
Week 5 - Mona Barthel, GER
Week 6 - Roberta Vinci, ITA (FC)
Week 7 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Week 8 - Petra Kvitova, CZE
Week 9 - Sara Errani, ITA
[Junior Star]
Week 0/1 - Ana Konjuh, CRO
Week 2 - Christina Makarova, USA
Week 3 - Anna Danilina, KAZ
Week 4 - Ana Konjuh, CRO (AO)
Week 5 - Anett Kontaveit, EST
Week 6 - Ana Konjuh, CRO (FC)
Week 7 - Barbara Haas, AUT
Week 8 - Antonio Lottner, GER & Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
Week 9 - Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
Week 0/1 - Madison Keys, USA
Week 2 - Tadeja Majeric, CRO
Week 3 - Sharon Fichman, CAN
Week 4 - Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
Week 5 - Elina Svitolina, UKR
Week 6 - Lauren Davis, USA
Week 7 - Julia Kimmelmann, GER
Week 8 - Tara Moore, GBR
Week 9 - Maryna Zanevska, UKR

1999 Serena Williams d. Steffi Graf
2000 Lindsay Davenport d. Martina Hingis
2001 Serena Williams d. Kim Clijsters
2002 Daniela Hantuchova d. Martina Hingis
2003 Kim Clijsters d. Lindsay Davenport
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne d. Lindsay Davenport
2005 Kim Clijsters d. Lindsay Davenport
2006 Maria Sharapova d. Elena Dementieva
2007 Daniela Hantuchova d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2008 Ana Ivanovic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Vera Zvonareva d. Ana Ivanovic
2010 Jelena Jankovic d. Caroline Wozniacki
2011 Caroline Wozniacki d. Marion Bartoli
2012 Victoria Azarenka d. Maria Sharapova

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA (Premier $5.185m/hardcourt outdoor)
12 Final: Azarenka d. Sharapova
12 Doubles Champions: Huber/Raymond
13 Top Seeds: Azarenka/Sharapova

=Round of 16=
#1 Azarenka d. Hampton
#8 Wozniacki d. #10 Petrova
#16 Safarova d. #4 Kerber
#24 Barthel d. #7 Stosur
#5 Kvitova d. #12 Cibulkova
#3 A.Radwanska d. #13 Kirilenko
#6 Errani d. #9 Bartoli
#2 Sharapova d. #22 Lepchenko

...I'm going with Hampton against Vika here rather than the American's potential 3rd Round opponent -- Sloane Stephens -- largely because I'd like to see Azarenka get a chance for a "do-over" of her perilous win over her in Melbourne in January. Hmmm, maybe I should pick Petrova into the QF to give Vika a chance to earn Nadia's "respect," too? Nah. The Stosur/Kerber section of the draw looks mighty "soft" if both play down to their recent lack of achievement. I'm not sure Aga really wants to see the Petra she saw in Dubai again. Of course, it IS Kvitova... so it could be an entirely different Petra in I.W., I suppose.

#1 Azarenka d. #8 Wozniacki
#24 Barthel d. #16 Safarova
#5 Kvitova d. #3 A.Radwanska
#2 Sharapova d. #6 Errani

...unless Caro walks off the court in the middle of a game earlier in the tournament, that is. She's got that nasty little possibility in her head now, you know (thanks, Rory). It could be Makarova (possible 3rd Rd. opponent) in that spot instead of Safarova, as well.

#1 Azarenka d. #24 Barthel
#2 Sharapova d. #5 Kvitova

...Vika and Mona had some spirited matches early last season. So did Maria and Petra. Has Petra learned how to win -- and convert break points -- against Sharapova? Maybe... but, suddenly, the Russian has something of her own to prove after her AO flame-out following such an historically hot start.

#1 Azarenka d. #2 Sharapova

...Vika. Maria. Hard court. Based on recent evidence, there is no other possibility. This would be THIRD straight title defense for Azarenka this season, and would run her 2013 undefeated streak to 19 matches.

By the way, there'll be a mid-I.W. update next week, as well.

All for now.


Blogger Nicolas Willy said...

what happened with Li Na? for me, she would have been the one to beat in IW...

Tue Mar 05, 01:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, I suppose she's still healing up from those falls she had in the AO final.

Tue Mar 05, 01:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

It's her ankle.

Tue Mar 05, 06:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I cannot stop watching this video.


Fri Mar 08, 06:38:00 PM EST  
Blogger Dinkie-Di said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Fri Mar 08, 07:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Dinkie-Di said...

Meanwhile Tennis.com still thinks Azarenka is number one.

Top ranked players from Tennis.com

Or is it an apology of a kind?

Fri Mar 08, 07:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Haha, Eric. That's good. Maybe the lip balm question explains a little bit about the plight of Miss Samantha Stosur, hmmm? :D


Hey, for once, Vika gets the benefit of the doubt! :)

Sat Mar 09, 12:22:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Can anyone of you explain to me why WTA allows so little TV from a mandatory event. IW is the most crappy TV wise or is it only because Tennis Channel has bought the rights? Sad that womens tennis is so little promoted in the USA IMHO.

Sat Mar 09, 05:21:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

And don't tell me they have no cameraes on court 3 because they are airing ATP matches from there - they just switch them off when there is a WTA match - shame on IW and shame on WTA for allowing this.

Sat Mar 09, 08:53:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

2 games into the Keys-Stosur match...and my takeaways are that Madison needs to improve the footwork on her backhand and that her backhand slice is a product of Evert influence. It's weird seeing that shot from her since it's not really a part of women's power tennis.

Sat Mar 09, 02:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

On serve 3-4, Madison's coach came out to talk to her...he said something inane like, "when you see an opportunity, take it." And then she didn't win another game in the first set.

le sigh.

Sat Mar 09, 02:46:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Funny to see that you've no comments on the TV scandal from IW. In this twitter link you can see that TC fought to get at least ONE WTA match shown yesterday because they (Worldfeed) were actually NOT planning to send any and do you know why? - neh - because WTA hasn't made any deals with worldfeed about WTA matches and that's a scandal! Well look for yourselves on this twitter thread where there are comments from Lindsay Davenport: https://twitter.com/BenRothenberg/status/310617387756056577

Sun Mar 10, 05:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

The WTA always lags behind in doing what should be obvious to promote the sport, then expects to be patted on the back for brilliant things like changing the tour's logo or getting the players together to dress up and take pictures or paint words on their arms (sometimes with celebrities, too... oooh) to publicize the sport.

Indian Wells has fallen victim to a lack of interest before. A few years ago, in-week coverage (of IW & Miami) was shifted to Fox Sports Net for a season a two in the U.S. Of course, the tour made no deal with the regional outlets of FSN that said they HAD to actually show matches. So, most showed local basketball games instead, and the tournament pretty much disappeared until the semis and finals... and even the players at the event complained that they couldn't go back to their hotel rooms and see any of the matches -- you know, like those of their next opponent -- taking place on the grounds.

Sun Mar 10, 11:37:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

Sloane Stephens....robson....Watson..,.. Didn't get to see them play

Sun Mar 10, 11:43:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Yeah and here we go again Sunday only 4 WTA matches scheduled for TV but do we see them all?? 10 ATP matches with lots of concrete. I think it's montreal that send from day one where they just put up a camera and let it run without commentary and that could be really fine here too and evrywhere else where they play tennis. Then you can decide yourself what you want to see. So no Kirilenko or Kvitova match today. Bad very bad.

Sun Mar 10, 02:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Leif - I don't watch tennis with the WTA website, so I'm not quite sure what you are talking about, but I might still enlighten you on the Rogers' Cup tournament and why it possibly offers better coverage.

The Rogers' Cup is in rotation between Montréal and Toronto. For instance, in 2012, women played in Montréal, while men played in Toronto. This year, women will play in Toronto and men in Montréal. Not to be chauvinist, but even if Stacey Allaster is a past director of the Toronto tournament, the Montréal organization has always been much superior. If my stats are correct and up-to-date, for instance, Montréal is the non-Slam tournament that sells the most tickets (including in comparison with Toronto, a more populous city that). I'll come back to Allaster in a bit.

Until very recently, the two tournaments were not playing during the same week. So one week, men were playing their Master's, and the week after, it was women's turn. Everybody was happy: both tournaments received wide television and news coverage, and tennis fans could watch tournaments, both on TV and on site. Due to recent WTA-ATP partnerships, a number of high-profile tournaments now take place at the same time in both tours. It was already the case for the Slams, of course, and Indian Wells and Miami as well. They thus wanted to add some prestige to other tournaments. It makes sense when the tournament takes place in the same stadium: people can still watch the two tournaments live. It made no sense when the tournament is actually taking place in two different cities, and the introduction of this new policy for the Rogers' Cup was very criticized. At the end of the day, the tournaments' (plural) organizers had no choice but to accept the changes dictated by the ATP and WTA.

So, in the past, big tennis fans in Canada could spend one week in one of the two cities and the other week in the other or watch it on television and thus watch both tournaments. Now, they can't. In order to appease Canadian tennis fans, the tournaments' organizers increased the actual filmed coverage of the tournaments, so that Toronto crowds can follow the Montréal tournament on screens and vice-versa. I think this explains why the coverage might be better for the Rogers' Cup than for other tournaments.

Note on Stacey Allaster, which is quite revealing of some of the WTA's difficulties. The current organizer of the Montréal Rogers' Cup, Eugène Lapierre, who occupies this position since forever, has always made special efforts to attract tennis fans to women's tennis. As a result, in the Montréal edition, women players gather crowds almost as important as men. Toronto, led for a long time by Allaster, has never made such efforts until recently, and so the women's edition there is significantly less popular than the men's version. So much that for a while, Rogers (the main sponsor of the tournament, a telecom company) suggested that the men's tournament should always take place in Toronto and the women's edition always in Montréal, in order to maximize crowds and ticket sales. Obviously, Montréal people rejected this proposition.

It's quite ironic that this same Allaster who never made special efforts to gather tennis fans to the women edition is now head of the WTA. Special note, as well, that despite Toronto being more populous than Montréal, even more when we include suburban areas, Allaster never managed to bring tennis popularity in Toronto to anything close to what Lapierre achieved in Montréal. Today, tickets sales and profits for Montréal editions still remain significantly higher than in Toronto (when comparing men editions together and women editions together - a men edition in Toronto is more profitable and popular than a women edition in Montréal, but less than a men edition in Montréal). In many ways, Allaster brought these issues with her at the WTA, including the problems you are rightly complaining about now.

Sun Mar 10, 07:25:00 PM EDT  
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