Monday, March 04, 2013

Wk.9- Her Name is Sara, and She Likes to Play on Clay

Sara Errani put on a "getting it done" class on the clay in Acapulco. Caroline Wozniacki cooled off in Kuala Lumpur. And Venus Williams DIDN'T win in Brazil.

Of course, those are just a few of the things that happened --or didn't -- in Week 9.

S: Sara Errani/ITA def. Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP 6-0/6-4
D: Dominguez-Lino/Parra-Santonja (ESP/ESP) d. Castano/Duque-Marino (COL/COL)

S: Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA 1-6/7-5/6-3
D: Aoyana/Chang (JPN/TPE) d. Husarova/S.Zhang (SVK/CHN)

S: Monica Niculescu/ROU def. Olga Puchkova/RUS 6-2/4-6/6-4
D: Medina-Garrigues/Shvedova (ESP/KAZ) d. Keothavong/Savinykh (GBR/RUS)

...just call Errani the little Italian engine that can. No matter if Nadia Petrova thinks her game is "boring," it's hard to argue with Errani's results. Her wins last week over Alexandra Cadantu, Eugenie Bouchard, Kiki Bertens, Alize Cornet and Carla Suarez-Navarro last week in Acapulco were nice on their own -- especially since she didn't drop a set in any of those matches -- but it's her combined, sustained results that are even more impressive. For one, Errani not only won the Acapulco title, but she also defended it. It's her fifth singles title since the start of the '12 season. The only players with more? Two ladies named Serena and Vika. Since her 1st Round exit in Melbourne in January, Errani has appeared in three singles finals, more than any other player on tour this season. She's played more matches (25) and has more singles wins (18, since A-Rad's zone FC wins aren't "official" in the tour's eyes) than anyone else, too. In fact, Errani has played EVERY week this season. Well, unless you count the second week of the AO, of course... but she used that time to work on getting a third leg of a Career Doubles Slam with Roberta Vinci while she was Down Under, so she was hardly "taking it easy." Of course, with her style of play, when DOES Errani have time to take a break?
RISERS: Monica Niculescu/ROU & Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
...going into Week 9, Niculescu and Suarez-Navarro were a combined 0-5 in tour singles final. After the two reached their third and fourth career finals, respectively, this weekend only one was celebrating come Monday. The trip of 25-year Niculescu to the Florianopolis final was somewhat one of survival. She opened her week by saving three match points in the 1st Round before defeating Anabel Medina-Garrigues. Then, after getting wins over Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, it looked as if the Romanian was going to have to face Venus Williams in the final. Remember, Niculescu already lost to Williams in the Luxembourg final just last season. But Williams fell to Olga Puchkova in the semis, so Niculescu ended her week by surviving another three-setter against the Russian to take her first tour title. CSN, 24, wasn't quite so lucky. A natural clay courter who actually puts up some decent hard court results, as well, on occasion, the Spaniad ran off wins over Mathilde Johansson, Stephanie Foretz-Gacon, Francesca Schiavone and Siliva Soler-Espinosa to reach the Acapulco final. Then she ran into Errani, who blanked her in the opening set and then put her down in straights. Still, Suarez-Navarro finds herself at a new career high rank of #21 this week, making her the second-highest ranked player (behind #17 Sloane Stephens) on tour without a WTA singles title in her career.
SURPRISE: Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP
...SSE, 25, is proving to be the very definition of a true late-bloomer. Aside from a miniscule slip in the year-end rankings -- from #82 to #83 -- from the end of 2011 to '12, the Spaniard has improved her ranking every season since 2003. She reached a career-high of #54 last spring, and her first-ever tour semifinal run last week in Acapulco is setting her up to (maybe) easily best that as the true clay court season beckons in about a month's time. Her wins over Mandy Minella, Irina-Camelia Begu and Karin Knapp in Mexico helped jump her ranked from #85 to #68 this week.
VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA & Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA
...having just returned to the Top 20, Williams seemed like a good bet to win the inaugural WTA event in Florianopolis. Early wins over Mirjana Lucic, Garbine Muguruza and Magdalena Rybarikova put her into the semifinals, but her journey ended there with a three-set loss to Olga Puchkova. Still, this was just Venus' second official event of '13, and a semifinal from the 32-year old, who was the oldest player ranked in the Top 75 last week (Kimiko Date-Krumm edges her out this week, coming in exactly at #75 in the new rankings), is nothing to sneeze at this early in the season. Meanwhile, Mattek-Sands, 27, is suddenly finding all sorts of success in coming back from her 2012 shoulder injury. She and Sania Mirza have already won two doubles titles this season, and the American followed that up last week with a run to the SINGLES final in Kuala Lumpur, her first appearance in a tour singles decider since January '11 in Hobart. Ranked #197, Mattek-Sands got wins over Donna Vekic, Duan Ying-Ying, tired defending champ Hsieh Su-Wei (after the Taiwanese vet had to play TWO matches the previous day) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. She then lost in three sets to Karolina Pliskova, dropping her career mark to 0-4 in tour finals.
COMEBACK: Olga Puchkova/RUS
...Puchkova, now 25, climbed up yet another BIG step in the ongoing ladder that is her comeback. Going into Florianopolis as the #109-ranked player the world, the Russian surely never saw coming what turned out to be the best string of results in her career. She reeled off wins over Kirsten Flipkens, Caroline Garcia, Jana Cepelova and, wait for it, Venus Williams (in 3 sets) to reach her first tour final since 2006. In both her previous singles finals, both in the same season, Puchkova lost three of the four sets she played at love, to Martina Hingis and Marion Bartoli (who double-bageled her). She dropped to 0-3 in finals after her loss to Monica Niculescu, but it was after a three-setter in which she won twelve total games.
FRESH FACES: Karolina Pliskova/CZE & Wang Qiang/CHN come the Czechs! Again. A week after countrywoman Petra Kvitova ruled the courts in Dubai, 20-year old Maiden Karolina became the first of the Pliskova twins to win a tour singles title. In Kuala Lumpur, unseeded with a rank of #127, Pliskova took out the likes of Casey Dellacqua, Misaki Doi, Patricia Mayr-Achleitner and Ayumi Morita before defeating Bethanie Mattek-Sands in three sets in her first appearance in a WTA final. Additionally, Karolina and her sister Kristyna lost in the semifinals in doubles to the tournament's eventual champs. Qualifier Wang saved a match point in her 1st Round match in Kuala Lumpur against top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, then ended up running away from the former #1 down the stretch, winning a 2:16 contest for the biggest win of her career. The 21-year old Chinese woman, who entered as the #186-ranked player in the world, lost her 2nd Round match to Mayr-Achleitner.
DOWN: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...the Dane can't win 'em all. Well, we -- and Caro -- have sort of learned that truth the hard way over the last two seasons. But, still, it was hard to envision that, as the #1 seed and seemingly in prime position to grab her first title of the season, Wozniacki would drop her 1st Round match in three sets to world #186 Wang Qiang despite having held a match point for a straight sets victory in the 2nd. Wozniacki dropped the 2nd set tie-break 7-1, then the 3rd set at 6-1. Afterward, the Dane said she wasn't feeling well, and had been light-headed during the match. Of course, considering what happened on the golf course a few days later, maybe there's more to the story than meets the eye? Who knows with these crazy kids, right?
ITF PLAYER: Maryna Zanevska/UKR
...the 19-year old Ukrainian, ranked #181 in the world, won her second consecutive circuit singles titles this weekend in a $10K challenger in Bron, France. She defeated Waffle Ysaline Bonaventure, and has now reached three straight ITF finals.
JUNIOR STAR: Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA
...suddenly, Brazilians are everywhere! Well, here's another. The 16-year old is the #18-ranked Girl in the world, and has won a handful of small ITF events the last couple of seasons. But her win over the U.S.'s Chieh-Yu Hsu last week in Florianapolis was the first main draw WTA victory of her young career. Ranked #634 on the WTA computer, Haddad Maia very nearly got an even bigger win one round later, taking veteran Melinda Czink -- still a Top 100 player -- to a 3rd set tie-break.

1. Flo SF - Puchkova d. V.Williams 4-6/6-4/7-5
Flo Final - Niculescu d. Puchkova 6-2/4-6/6-4
hmmm, I wonder if the Romanian had a good night's rest thinking about NOT having to play Venus, then nearly got tripped up by her ACTUAL opponent the next day? Just wondering.
2. KL 1st Rd - Wang d. Wozniacki
First, after seemingly turning a corner in recent outings, an under-the-weather Caro blows a MP and loses to a player ranked in the low 100's. Then, 48 hours later, Rory McIlroy walks off the golf course in the middle of a round claiming his head isn't in the right place... or, that he had a painful wisdom tooth... or is it that he's frustrated with his game's transition period since his new endorsement deal has him playing with new Nike equipment? An odd combination of events that make you go, "hmmmm. Or not. Hey, it was a slow women's tennis news week... though Kim DID announce that she was pregnant again, trumping Justine even before LPT gives birth to her first mini-LPT.
3. Acap Final - Errani d. Suarez-Navarro
The last two Sharapova springs aside, Errani has made a pretty decent case of late for herself being the best claycourter in the world.
4. Flo 1st Rd - V.Williams d. Lucic
Whoa! Maybe Future Sloane and Anna's time machine is finally working -- I think I just had a 1999 flashback.
5. KL Doub Final - Aoyama/Chang d. Husarova/S.Zhang
Chang defended her half of last year's KL doubles title, but she and Aoyama had to survive a 2nd set MP to do it.
6. Flo Doub Final - Medina-Garrigues/Shvedova d. Keothavong/Savinykh
Both AMG and Shvedova lost their 1st Round singles matches, but made up for it -- sort of -- in the end.
7. Acap Doub Final - Dominguez-Lino/Parra-Santonja d. Castano/Duque-Marino
The Spaniards have quite a history in this event, having previously been champions in 2007, and runners-up in 2009, '11 and '12.
8. KL QF - Pavlyuchenkova d. Barty
Still, the Aussie reached her first tour singles quarterfinal.

1. Kuala Lumpur Final - Ka.Pliskova d. Mattek-Sands
Karolina is the third tennis-playing sister to lift a WTA singles crown in 2013.
2. Kuala Lumpur 1st Rd - Diyas d. Kr.Pliskova
Her sister Kristyna isn't one of the other two, though. Not yet, at least.
3. Kuala Lumpur Doubles SF - Aoyama/Chang d. Pliskova/Pliskova
And Kristyna didn't get to share Karolina's glory in doubles, either.

25...SARA ERRANI (18-7)
20...Agnieszka Radwanska (17-3) *
18...Mona Barthel (14-4)
17...Petra Kvitova (12-5)
17...Roberta Vinci (10-7)
* - also played 4 Fed Cup zone matches (4-0)

3...SARA ERRANI (2-1)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0)
2...Agnieszka Radwanska (2-0)
2...Mona Barthel (1-1)
2...Li Na (1-1)
2...Serena Williams (1-1)
2...Sabine Lisicki (0-2)

Hobart - Elena Vesnina, RUS (age 26)
Memphis - Marina Erakovic, NZL (age 24)
Kuala Lumpur - KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE (age 20)
Florianopolis - MONICA NICULESCU, ROU (age 25)

#228 Catalina Castano, COL (Cali RU)
#198 Paula Ormaechea, ARG (Bogota RU)
#127 KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE (Kuala Lumpur W)
#109 OLGA PUCHKOVA, RUS (Florianopolis RU)

Shenzhen - Li Na, CHN
Auckland - Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
Sydney - Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Doha - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Bogota - Jelena Jankovic, SRB

2 January - Agnieszka Radwanska (Auck-W,Syd-W)
2 January-xx - Victoria Azarenka (AO-W,Doha-W) #
2 February-xx - Sabine Lisicki (Patt-L,Mem-L) #
2 February-xx - Sara Errani (Dubai-L,Acap-W) #
# - active streaks

Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka
Doha - Victoria Azarenka
Acapulco - SARA ERRANI
Sydney - Katarina Srebotnik
Kuala Lumpur - CHANG KAI-CHEN

**2013 ITF FINALS**
3...Julia Kimmelmann, GER (3-0)
3...Tara Moore, GBR (3-0)
3...Jovana Jaksic, SRB (2-1)
3...Reka-Luca Jani, HUN (2-1)

I'll be back later with Indian Wells picks, as well as the second monthly BSA's of the 2013 season.

All for now.


Post a Comment

<< Home