Monday, July 15, 2013

Wk.28- A Week of Change, and Consolidation

Well, it's a week after a slam. Do you know where some of the most important parts of your favorite players are?

Well, here's something of an "unofficial" rundown of the things that were deemed M.I.A. over the past seven days:

Ana Ivanovic's most recent coach, Nigel Sears. Of course, a coaching change is nothing new for the Serb, who is still searching (in vain?) for the right combination to bring forth the results that led AnaIvo to a slam title and #1 ranking five years ago. Give her credit for not being so stubborn that she's willing to waste time if she thinks things aren't progressing as well as she'd hoped. One should never say never, but if it turns out that Ivanovic's brief turn at the top turns out to be her only one, then at least she'll always be able to say that she took advantage of the opportunity when it was presented to her. There are a whole lot of almost-were and missed-it-by-that-much players who wish they were able to say the same.
Agnieszka Radwanska's clothes, as evidenced by her in-the-buff pose in ESPN Magazine's Body Issue
Maria Sharapova's coach Thomas Hogstedt, the Swede who worked so well with the Russian as she climbed back to #1 and completed a Career Slam at last year's Roland Garros. Sharapova has since announced a new partnership with Jimmy Connors (they'll surely be able to compare notes on "competitive grit"), which will surely be Topic #1 when when the U.S. Open rolls around next month. As for Hogstedt, former coach of the likes of Tommy Haas and Li Na as Top 10 players, he's now on the open market... and there are surely some current Top 10ers who could use a new set of eyes. One's already a former Wimbledon champ, while the other, ala Hogstedt, has some Scandinavian roots and a dad who has surely been paying attention to the news of the past week.

Will either one strike a deal for a shot at a new beginning? It will be interesting to see.

Of course, that's just a start. Be sure to check the "lost and found" box on your way out to see if anything else looks familiar.

S: Roberta Vinci/ITA def. Sara Errani/ITA 6-3/3-6/6-3
D: Mladenovic/Piter (FRA/POL) d. Ka.Pliskova/Kr.Pliskova (CZE/CZE)

S: Simona Halep/ROU def. Yvonne Meusburger/AUT 6-3/6-7/6-1
D: Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) d. Bratchikova/Tatishvili (RUS/GEO)

...Caro, be on notice. You have an Italian breathing down your neck in the rankings. Over the past two seasons, at a point where past players started to go down "the other side" of the tennis mountain, Vinci has fashioned quite a climbing career for herself. She's reached a new career-high ranking in singles, become the doubles #1, won three doubles slam crowns and built up what is becoming a rather remarkable record in singles finals in her career. Last week in Palermo, Vinci gots wins over Polona Hercog, Loudes Dominguez-Lino, Estrella Cabeza-Candela and doubles partner Sara Errani in the final. The successful turn in the championship match gives Vinci a 6-0 mark in her last six attempts over a three-year stretch, and a 9-1 record in the ten finals she's reached during her career, starting with a win in Bogota in 2007. With yet another title to her credit, Vinci edges just a little bit closer to becoming the fourth Italian woman to reach the Top 10. For the record, current #11 Vinci trails current #10 Wozniacki by just 440 points.
RISERS: Simona Halep/ROU & Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...quite simply, with all apologies to La Trufflette, Halep is the hottest player going on the WTA tour right now. With her title run in Budapest, she's won three of her last four events (two on clay, one on grass), going 16-1 in her last seventeen matches, losing only to Li Na in a three-setter at Wimbledon in which the Romanian was treated for a back injury. Last week, her list of victims included Sesil Karatantcheva, Timea Babos, Alexandra Cadantu and Yvonne Meusburger. Having improved her year-end singles ranking in every season she's been on tour, the 21-year old Halep, up to a new career-high ranking of #23, looks to be more than prepared to continue her ascension. Mladenovic had a disappointing week in singles in Palermo, losing in the 2nd Round as the #3 seed to Estrella Cabeza-Candela. But, as usual, she more than made up for it with her doubles prowess. Over the past year, the 20-year old Pastry has won eight doubles and mixed doubles titles, and has done so while partnering eight different players (seven women, one man) during her championship runs, a truly crazy stat for a player so early in her career. This past week the "lucky duck" was Poland's Katarzyna Piter who got to team with the '09 junior #1. After the duo took out defending champs Voracova/Zahlavova-Strycova in the quarterfinals, and the Pliskova sisters in the final, Piter, like most of Mladenovic's playing partners, left with a smile on her face and a bigger-than-normal check in her pocket. Hmmm, maybe they should conduct the selection of Mladenovic's weekly doubles partners like they do the tournament draws... at least it'd give everyone an equally fair chance.
SURPRISES: Estrella Cabeza-Candela/ESP & Danka Kovinic/MNE
...ECC, 26, is yet another player who qualifies as something of a "late bloomer" on tour, having reached the Top 100 for the first time earlier this season. Heading into Palermo as the #108-ranked player in the world, she put up wins over Kristina Mladenovic and Renata Voracova and reached her first career WTA singles semifinal. Kovinic, an 18-year old from Montenegro, has won a pair of ITF singles crowns this season, and made her WTA main draw debut last week in Budapest. She made it all the way to the QF with wins over Johanna Konta and Valeria Solovyeva. A week after seeing her ranking jump from #242 to #183, she'll make the leap to #172 this week.
VETERANS: Yvonne Meusburger/AUT & Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE/CZE)
...Meusburger, a recent qualifier at Wimbledon (and 1st Round victim of a certain alter ego's human host), reached the second WTA final of her career in Budapest, but her first since losing to Francesca Schiavone in the Bad Gastein decider back in 2007. The world #112 took out Alison Van Uytvanck, Johanna Larsson, Annika Beck and Chanelle Scheepers to get to the final, where she lost to Halep in three sets. Still, Meusburger's run makes Austria the twenty-ninth different nation to produce a tour semifinalist in 2013, and the twenty-first with a finalist. Also in Budapest, Hlavackova and Hradecka won their tenth tour doubles title as a duo, but their first since they claimed their fourth of four '12 titles late last season in Luxembourg. In singles, Hlavackova also got a win over #2 seed Alize Cornet.
COMEBACKS: Shahar Peer/ISR & Zhang Shuai/CHN's hard to believe now that Peer was one win from entering the Top 10 two and a half years ago, and as her ranking has slipped outside the Top 100 over the past year it was easy to believe that she was on a fast track to "remember her?" status. Well, she might not have totally turned that notion around, but at least there's a little movement in the right direction. A successful qualifying try earlier this season in Miami was followed by a QF in Katowice. Last week, in the main draw without being forced to go the qualifying route in Budapest, Peer got a win over Anna Tatishvili and reached another QF. She's up to #143. Meanwhile, in a $75K in Beijing, 24-year old Zhang claimed her first ITF crown since 2010, the only season in which the Chinese woman has finished in the Top 100 at year's end. She defeated the likes of Misaki Doi, Michaella Krajicek and Zhou Yi-Miao in the final on her way to the title.
FRESH FACES: Karolina Pliskova/Kristyna Pliskova (CZE/CZE) & Nicole Gibbs/USA
...the Pliskova sisters have reached twelve ITF finals as a doubles duo, winning six titles from 2010-12. While Karolina became the first of the two Czech siblings to win a tour singles title earlier this year in Kuala Lumpur, they've yet to win a WTA doubles crown. They did reach their first final this weekend in Palermo, though, losing to Mladenovic and her current Random Number Generator partner. In a $50K challenger in Yakima, Washington, two-time NCAA singles champ Gibbs, 20, claimed the third ITF crown of her career (but her first since turning pro) after reaching her second circuit final of 2013. She got wins over Alexandra Stevenson, Asia Muhammad, Sachia Vickery, Julia Glushko and Ivana Lisjak in the final. Gibbs won previous titles in 2007 (as a teenybopper in Mexico City) and 2012 (Denver).
DOWN: Sara Errani/ITA & Lucie Safarova/CZE
...with the WTA's reconfigured schedule this season, Errani found herself in the position of being the defending champion at BOTH of the tournaments -- Palermo and Budapest -- held in Week 28. As the #1 seed in Palermo, Errani reached her fourth final of the season, but failed to defend when she lost to her best friend and doubles partner Vinci (who she'd beaten in the Dubai SF earlier this season). Meanwhile, in Budapest, #1 seed Safarova didn't come anywhere close to adequately "filling in" for the Italian at the top of the draw, winning just one game in a one-and-love 1st Round loss to Valeria Solovyeva.
ITF PLAYER: Stephanie Vogt/LIE
...the 23-year old from Liechtenstein grabbed her eighth career ITF title at the $100K in Biarritz, France. It's her biggest crown to date. Ranked #198, Vogt notched wins over Alize Lim, Pauline Parmentier and youngster Anna Schmiedlova, the '12 Roland Garros Girls runner-up, in the final.
JUNIOR STAR: Ivana Jorovic/SRB the Grade 1 German Juniors championship on red clay, 16-year old Serb Jorovic, the #14 seed, defeated #9-seeded Croatian Jana Fett in the final to run her winning streak to twenty-one matches (she's 25-4 this season). Fett, another 16-year old (but with, seriously, one my favorite names out there right now, as it lends itself SO well to all sorts of "Star Wars" references... just in the time for another movie trilogy, too), was coming off successful girls qualifying runs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and a combined three junior main draw wins at those slams. Fett had also won the doubles at this event. See, I was preparing in the event the Croat won this tournament. Want further proof? Well, I was ready to bring up that Fett's ITF bio lists under her Personal Interests, "chilling with friends and reading books." Yep, too good to pass up, winner or no winner.

1. Palermo Final - Vinci d. Errani
After so many all-Russian finals in seasons past, this was the first WTA singles final of any kind to pit players from the same nation since Serena Williams and Coco Vandeweghe met in the Stanford final almost exactly one year ago. As it turned out, Vinci became the first player this season to defeat a top seed/defending champion in a tournament and take the title for herself. The only other time the #1/DC sweep has taken place in '13 was when Sabine Lisicki knocked off Serena, but came up short in the final last weekend against Marion Bartoli.
2. Budapest Final - Halep d. Meusburger
The Swarmettes are now 4-0 in 2013 WTA singles finals. Halep, for her part, now finds herself just one career title from tying Irina Spirlea and Ruxandra Dragomir (both w/ 4) for 2nd place on the all-time Romanian tour title list, behind only Virginia Ruzici (12).
3. Palermo 2nd Rd. - Errani d. Zahlavova-Strycova
A year ago, this match-up was the Palermo final. Errani won it, too, only by a slightly more dominant 6-1/6-3 score.
HM- Budapest 1st Rd. - Solovyeva d. Safarova
You take on the "Pocket Hordette," you get the horns.

1. Palermo Doub F - Mladenovic/Piter d. Pliskova/Pliskova
A "4K Special," as Kristina & Katarzyna defeat Karolina & Kristyna. No word yet on the rumor that such "alphabet soup" is how Mladenovic picks her many doubles partners.
2. Palermo 1st Rd. - Zahlavova-Strycova d. Kr.Pliskova 6-4/6-4
Palermo 1st Rd. - Pfizenmaier d. Ka.Pliskova 7-5/7-5
yep, the Pliskovas had remarkably similar experiences in Palermo. Of note, Pfizenmaier, who'd previously recorded her only career main draw tour wins at Roland Garros the last two years, got her first one elsewhere here. She soon got another in the 2nd Round against Anabel Medina-Garrigues.

6...Serena Williams, USA
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
2...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2...Maria Sharapova, RUS
2...Elena Vesnina, RUS

**2013 WTA FINALS**
7...Serena Williams (6-1)
5...Maria Sharapova (2-3)
4...SARA ERRANI (1-3)
3...SIMONA HALEP (3-0)
3...Victoria Azarenka (2-1)
3...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2-1)
3...Li Na (1-2)
3...Sabine Lisicki (0-3)

**2013 CLAY TITLES**
3...Serena Williams, USA

Montreal w/ Klaudia Jans-Ignacik
Quebec City w/ Tatjana Maria (nee Malek)
Taipei 125 w/ Chan Hao-Ching
Memphis w/ Galina Voskoboeva
Charleston w/ Lucie Safarova
Oeiras w/ Chang Yung-Jan
Wimbledon Mixed w/ Daniel Nestor
Palermo w/ Katarzyna Piter

3...Timea Babos, HUN
3...Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
3...Sara Errani, ITA
3...Nadia Petrova, RUS
3...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
3...Roberta Vinci, ITA

Hobart - Mona Barthel, GER (lost to Vesnina)
Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (def. Li)
Doha - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (def. S.Williams)
Acapulco - Sara Errani, ITA (def. Suarez-Navarro)
Charleston - Serena Williams, USA (def. Jankovic)
Stuttgart - Maria Sharapova, RUS (def. Li)
Madrid - Serena Williams, USA (def. Sharapova)
Roland Garros - Maria Sharapova, RUS (lost to S.Williams)
Palermo - Sara Errani, ITA (lost to Vinci)

#228 Catalina Castano, COL - Cali (lost to Arruab.-V.)
#198 Paula Ormaechea, ARG - Bogota (lost to Jankovic)
#197 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA - K.Lumpur (lost to Ka.Pliskova)
#127 Karolina Pliskova, CZE - K.Lumpur (def. Mattek-Sands)
#112 Lucie Hradecka, CZE - Strasbourg (lost to Cornet)
#112 YVONNE MEUSBURGER, AUT - Budapest (lost to Halep)
#109 Olga Puchkova, RUS - Florianopolis (lost to Niculescu)
#103 Andrea Petkovic, GER - Nuremberg (lost to Halep)

**2013 ITF $100K FINALS**
Midland, USA - Lauren Davis/USA def. Alja Tomljanovic/CRO
Cagnes-Sur-Mer, FRA - Caroline Garcia/FRA def. Maryna Zanveska/UKR
Prague, CZE - Lucie Safarova/CZE def. Alexandra Cadantu/ROU
Marseille, FRA - Andrea Petkovic/GER def. A.Medina-Garrigues/ESP
Biarritz, FRA - Stephanie Vogt/LIE def. Anna Schmiedlova/SVK

BASTAD, SWEDEN (Int'l $235K/red clay outdoor)
12 Final: Hercog d. Johansson
12 Doubles Final: Castano/Duque-Marino d. Hrdinova/Jugic-Salkic
13 Top Seeds: S.Williams/Halep

#1 S.Williams d. #3 Zakopalova
#2 Halep d. Johansson
#1 S.Williams d. #2 Halep

...hmm, Serena takes on another clay event prior to the North American hard court circuit. Perhaps to work a bit on the fundamentals before the surfaces get faster?

BAD GASTEIN, AUSTRIA (Int'l $235K/red clay outdoor)
12 Final: Cornet d. Wickmayer
12 Doubles Final: Craybas/Goerges d. Groenefeld/Martic
13 Top Seeds: Barthel/Beck

#4 Petkovic d. #5 Bertens
#2 Beck d. Meusburger
#4 Petkovic d. #2 Beck

...Petko won her first career tour title at this event in 2009. Beck would be looking to follow in her countrywoman's footsteps.

All for now.


Blogger Will Corby said...

Kovinic became the first Montenegrin to reach a main tour quarterfinal (WTA or ATP).

And do have any information on Budapest? There was only 31 players in the draw and no qualifying. So seriously no one wants to play in Hungary? And they couldn't have picked a random ball girl to play Hradecka in round 1?

Mon Jul 15, 01:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I was wondering about all that, too.

Apparently, the tournament organizers decided to go ahead with the tournament despite springtime flooding in Hungary, but did cancel the qualifying rounds, with the top four alternates entering the MD automatically. They also reduced the doubles draw form 16 teams to 8.

I'm guessing the questions surrounding the event leading up to the scheduled date didn't help when it came to players committing to show up, as well. That they cobbled together a tournament at all under adverse conditions should probably be applauded.

Mon Jul 15, 02:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Will Corby said...

Wow...I had no idea. I guess I need to pay more attention to non-sports world news. Thanks for the input.

Mon Jul 15, 02:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

finally some drama on the men's side.

Mon Jul 15, 05:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

I am excited for the second half of the season, expect many more random results than usual.

Mladenovic has been fun to watch in doubles. Almost like when Goerges got dumped by Raymond, and played with a different partner almost every week.

Vandeweghe's points came off. Poor girl may need a WC just for qualies at the US Open.

Mon Jul 15, 11:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I'm guessing you meant to say Huber. And it still seems a sort of a flip-of-the-coin situation when it comes to who Huber will be playing with each tournament. So far she's played with nine different partners this season, and seen her ranking fall from #8 down to #20 (so far).

I guess it's not all that unusual for a young player like Mladenovic to partner w/ so many different players (7 diff. in WTA events in '13, though she HAS been w/ Voskoboeva in 7 events, more than twice the number w/ anyone else), but being as successful as she's been with so many of them is quite something.

Tue Jul 16, 02:19:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Breaking. Thomas Hoegstedt new coach for Caroline - Matt Cronin go home to gossip land. Great news 1.New racket and 2. new coach. 2014 looks promising to me.

Tue Jul 16, 09:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, according to some sources, it seems it's not a done-deal quite yet. It would seem to be a somewhat natural connection, though, and probably a good one for Wozniacki.

Tue Jul 16, 02:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

In Charleston, it was obvious that Lucie didn't have too much hope that she could defend her title; she and Mladenovic had never even practiced together before! But Mladenovic was able to "blend in" with Lucie like they'd been playing together for months. This is someone who "reads" the partner and the court very well. I want to see Mladenovic crank it up in singles now--she really has some skills.

Tue Jul 16, 02:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

She certainly showed that she's capable vs. Sharapova at Wimbledon, though the pressure of the moment/stage did get to her a bit at the time.

Tue Jul 16, 03:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Actually did mean Goerges, although that was 2011. Then again, one thing that made the doubles exciting everywhere, especially at the slams, is that almost all of the teams are new.

Tue Jul 16, 05:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, ok. ;) I never really associate Raymond w/ Goerges in doubles, I guess, since they never won anything as a duo.

Worked out pretty well for Raymond, though, as she teamed up w/ Huber right after that, won the U.S. Open and WTA Championships and six other titles w/ her in 2011-12.

Tue Jul 16, 06:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Talk about a surprise. I doubt if we'll see any bigger than Austria's Lisa-Maria Moser.

At 22, she finished last year at #1098 and is currently ranked #725, with less $10,000 in career earnings. This week in Bad Gastein, after back-to-back $10K final runs in Egypt (she won one), Moser was awarded the last wild card entry into the main draw because countrywoman Melanie Klaffner (tied for the ITF lead in '13 titles) was injured and couldn't accept it herself. In her tour MD debut, Moser, under .500 for her career, got a win over qualifier Elena Bogdan and then broke #1-seed Mona Barthel early in the 1st set today, taking a 6-2/4-3 lead before the German (who'd won her 1st Round match 6-0/6-0) retired with a shoulder injury, putting Moser into the QF.

Wed Jul 17, 01:06:00 PM EDT  

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