Thursday, November 14, 2013

2013 BSA's: Performance & Match Lists



The WTA season is over, but there are still things that remain to be quantified... such as the best performances and matches of the year. In "supersized" format.

"I'm playing better. I working hard. I'm doing more things, and feel like I deserve to win." - Serena Williams

*PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR*
[Individuals]

1.
Serena Williams had many "career best" numbers in 2013, but her best moment was one that she'd experienced before -- winning at Roland Garros. She'd kicked off her "Serena Slam" run with a title in Paris in 2002, but had spent the last decade-plus living a "Groundhog Day" like existence in the City of Light, as it was "always something" that got in the way of a second time there. Blown match points, Henin's wave, Razzano's upset. No matter how much she loved the city, Williams only found heartbreak there. Until this year. After joining together with Frenchman Patrick Mouratoglou, both on and off court, and refining her focus, game and life, Williams spent much time in Paris over the past year. At the start of the season, Serena made no bones about her desire to win a second RG crown, as her only Coupe Suzanne Lenglen replica trophy was "lonely" and had "spider webs on him." By the time she returned there in late May, she was on an epic run. She arrived in Paris sporting a 16-0 season record on clay (w/ titles in Charleston, Rome and Madrid) and an 18-match winning streak, and proceeded to claim her long-awaited second RG title while dropping just one set. She lifted another Couple Suzanne Lenglen exactly eleven years to the day after she raised her first. Williams would go 28-0 in '13, winning five titles, on what has long been called her "worst" surface, and her career-best winning streak of wins hit 34.
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2. Marion Bartoli, known for so long for her on-court ticks and eccentricities, has also always been seen as a dangerous lurker on the WTA tour capable of beating anyone on a given day. In 2007, she flashed such fire and skill en route to her only slam final at Wimbledon to produce a career-best moment. Until this year at SW19, that is. While La Trufflette knocked off two Top 3 seeds (Henin & Jankovic) six years ago, the Pastry never faced a Top 16 seed in London this time around, as the tournament experienced an unprecedented string of stunning upsets and injury-related exits. But such calamity did nothing to dampen the #15-seeded Bartoli's title run, which took place without the loss of a single set (the tenth time it's happened at Wimbledon), made the 28-year old the fifth-oldest first-time slam champ ever and the player who needed the most tries (47) to finally become a major winner, topping the mark (45) of former Wimbledon champ Jana Novotna, who actually served as Bartoli's coach for a brief period in '13. Six weeks after her moment on Centre Court, the dramatic Frenchwoman surprised (and, oddly enough, didn't) many when she suddenly retired from the game. Of course, there's nothing that says she can't change her mind in time to attempt to defend her crown next year.

"In tennis, anything can happen. I'm a perfect exampe of it." - Marion Bartoli

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3. After years of playing second and third fiddle to Italy's greatest Fed Cup heroines -- Pennetta & Schiavone -- Roberta Vinci was finally given the opportunity to lead Team Italia. And lead she did. In her previous eighteen ties. Vinci played just four singles matches (1-3), while going 17-0 in doubles, mostly with regular partner Sara Errani. In 2013 alone, while leading the Italians to their fourth FC crown in the last eight years, Vinci went 4-1 in singles (1-0 in doubles) in three ties this season, providing the team with both its most important points and most inspirational moments on three different weekend. In the 1st Round against the U.S., Vinci lost her one set advantage of Jamie Hampton in Match #2, then, cramping badly, fell behind 5-1 in the 3rd. She battled back to 5-5, but ultimately lost the set 7-5... her her fight set the tone for Vinci's entire FC year. With Italy down 1-2, Vinci game back a day a later and won her singles match, then joined with Errani to clinch the tie. In the semis, Vinci went 2-0, leading the charge in the upset win over the two-time defending champion Czech team. In final against the heavily-favored Russians, Vinci battle through a neck injury, but saved four match points and ultimately took out Alexandra Panova in the opening match, putting to rest any thoughts of an inspired Hordette shocker.

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4. Victoria Azarenka weathers a "VikaGate" media storm following the controversy surrounding her medical timeout(s) in the semifinals against Sloane Stephens to defend her Australian Open crown with a tight win in the final over and in-form (but stumbling, literally) Li Na. It's Vika's third straight appearance in the final of a hard court slam, and she'd make a four with a runner-up result at the U.S. Open during the summer, making her a 26-2 combined AO/US record in 2012-13.

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5. Victoria Azarenka wins Doha, defeating Serena Williams in a three-set final. After having failed to do so in the same situation at the '12 U.S. Open, Vika managed to serve out the match at 5-3 in the 3rd, completing her first win over Williams since 2009 (and her first over what could be called a "healthy" Serena). On the downside, Azarenka lost the #1 ranking to Serena a day later, and has been been back at #2 (and for a brief moment, #3) for the nine months since that February weekend.
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6. Serena Williams sweeps both the U.S. Open Series and U.S. Open singles title, becoming the second women to do do (Clijsters '05) and setting a professional tennis record by claiming $3.6m in prize money for the dual accomplishment (matched by Rafa Nadal when he won the men's crown). The successful title defense gives Serena her fifth Open, and seventeenth major title, bringing her to within one of both Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert's career totals.
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7. Days before the start of Wimbledon, Simona Halep wins her second tour singles title in two weeks. After winning her first career crown on the red clay of Nuremberg, the Romanian follows up a win on the grass at 's-Hertogenbosch less than a week later. Her grass court run includes victories over top-seeded Roberta Vinci and Kirsten Flipkens, the latter of which who'd soon reach the semifinals at SW19.
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8. Victoria Azarenka wins Cincinnati, notching wins over two former #1's (Wozniacki & Jankovic), as well as Serena Williams in the final via an 8-6 3rd set tie-break. Azarenka's win over Serena, combined with her win in Doha, makes her the first to defeat Williams twice in three-set matches in the same season since 2004 (Capriati), the second to defeat her in two finals in a season (Sharapova '04), and ties Venus Williams with the most (3) career wins over Serena in tournament finals.
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9. Despite losing to Azarenka in the Doha final, 31-year old Serena Williams replaces her as the world #1 and becomes the oldest woman ever atop the WTA singles rankings, breaking the record set by a Chris Evert (30 years, 11 months) in 1985. Having turned 32 in late September, Williams re-sets the mark every single day.
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10. Agnieszka Radwanska opens the season with back-to-back title runs. In Week 1 in Auckland, the claims the title without dropping a set. In Week 2 in Sydney, the once again fails to lose a set, and double-bagels Dominika Cibulkova in the final. A-Rad's dominant open to 2013 ultimately lasts thirteen matches, and twenty-six straight sets.
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Source: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America
11. Maria Sharapova reaches four consecutive finals in the spring. She advances to back-to-back finals in Indian Wells and Miami, winning the former to claim her first hardcourt title since 2011 (ending 0-6 and 1-8 slides in HC finals), temporarily assuming the #2 ranking from Azarenka, and extending her streak of seasons with a WTA title to eleven. The Russian then heads off for the EuroClay season and reaches two more finals, defending her Stuttgart crown before dropping the Madrid final to Serena (who also defeated her in Miami) in a head-to-head battle for the #1 ranking. Attempting to defend her Roland Garros title, Sharapova would reach the final in Paris, as well, only to lose to Serena yet again.
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12. Serena Williams reaches her eighth career Miami final, taking the title for a record sixth time. Along the way, Williams had to overcome at 6-2/4-1 deficit against Dominika Cibulkova in the 4th Round.
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13. Petra Kvitova wins Dubai, getting over three Top 10 players (Errani, Wozniacki & Radwanska) while playing the week without her "vacationing" coach David Kotzya.
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14. Serena Williams defends her Charleston crown, defeating Jelena Jankovic in the final after the Serb verbally challenged her speed of play after taking the 1st set, then proceeded to have a mental meltdown as the American easily swept the final two sets. One year earlier, Serena had won this same title, which at the time had been her first clay court title in four years. She's now won seven clay titles over the past two seasons.

"She has different rules?" - Jankovic, to chair umpire Kader Nouni, on Serena
"Honestly, you got a problem? I'm not the one." - Serena, to Jelena

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15. Serena Williams goes 5-0 and claims her fourth career WTA Championships title. She ends 2013 on an eighteen-match win streak, and has won fifteen straight matches in the season-ending event.
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16. Andrea Hlavackova sweeps the women's and mixed doubles titles at the U.S. Open, becoming hte first woman since Cara Black in 2008 (US) to do so.
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17. Simona Halep wins on hard court in New Haven, taking a title on her different surface on the season. The Romanian notched wins over four-time tournament champ Caroline Wozniacki and defending champion Petra Kvitova in the final.
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18. Simona Halep ends her season on nine-match winning streak, taking back-to-back indoor hard court crowns at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and Tournament of Champions in Sofia. With a 6-0 season record in singles finals, the Romanian climbs to a season-ending career high of #11 in the rankings.
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19. Samantha Stosur claims her first tour singles title since winning the U.S. Open in 2011, winning Carlsbad with wins over Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka.
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20. Serena Williams wins Beijing for her tenth title of the season, a personal record. Never dropping a set all week, Williams knocks of Jelena Jankovic in the final, winning the tournament for the first time since claiming the inaugural event in China in 2004.
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21. Dominika Cibulkova wins Stanford, avenging her double-bagel loss in the Sydney final by getting her first career win over Agnieszka Radwanska in the final, staging a comeback from a set down and 4-2 in the 3rd.
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22. Kristina Mladenovic wins six doubles/mixed titles with six different partners, and has won eight titles with eight different individuals over the last two seasons.
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23. Sara Errani reaches the hard court final in Dubai, then defends her red clay crown in Acapulco a week later.
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24. Bojana Jovanovski is granted a late entry into the Tashkent event, but she has to first make her way through qualifying before being given a #1 seed in the main draw. She does, then goes on to win the tournament title.

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25. Francesca Schiavone, with a 14-20 record since winning in Stuttgart in '12, arrives in Marrakech with a 5-9 mark on the season, but manages to win five matches and take the title. At 32 years and ten months, the Italian vet is the oldest singles champion on tour this season. She only captured her old lightning in a bottle for a brief time, though, going 15-17 the rest of the season.
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26. In a preview of the Fed Cup semifinals, Roberta Vinci defeats Petra Kvitova in the Katowice final, taking the title without dropping a set. A week later, she defeats the Czech again in Italy's advancement past the two-time defend FC champs.
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27. In the high point of her late season surge, Petra Kvitova wins in Tokyo with wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber in the final.
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28. Samantha Stosur's 4Q surge includes appearances in three straight finals in Osaka (W), Moscow & the Tournament of Champions (losing both to Simona Halep).
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29. Angelique Kerber overcomes the controversy (dubbed "LinzGate") of being added as a late #1-seeded entry in the Linz main draw, winning the title and becoming the final woman to qualifying for the WTA Championships in Istanbul. Caroline Wozniacki, who narrowly missed qualifying, issues a strongly-worded complaint to WTA CEO Stacey Allaster.
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30. Roberta Vinci wins Palermo, defeating doubles partner Sara Errani in the final. It's Vinci's sixth consecutive win in a singles final, in which she's 9-1 for her career.
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31. Caroline Wozniacki, title-less for a year, wins in Luxembourg to extend her crown-winning streak to six years. It's the Dane's 21st career title, tying her with Pam Shriver for the most in WTA history by a player without a slam singles title.

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32. Zhang Shuai becomes the first woman to win a ITF, WTA 125 (Nanjing) and WTA (Guangzhou) singles titles in a single season.
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33. One week after reaching just her second career final (Budapest, lost to Halep), 29-year old Yvonne Meusburger reaches her second in two weeks in Bad Gastein, winning her first career title as she puts together a 21-4 run in ITF & WTA play.
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34. Marina Erakovic wins Memphis, becoming the first New Zealander to win a tour singles title since 1989 (Belinda Cordwell).
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35. Anabel Medina-Garrigues wins three doubles titles on three different surfaces (hard, grass & red clay) with three different partners.
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HM- A Brave New World: Unseeded German Sabine Ellerbrock, in the first grand slam wheelchair competition since the official retirement of the great Esther Vergeer, upsets the #1 and #2 seeds en route to the women's title at Roland Garros.
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[TEAMS]
1. Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina twice win deciding Fed Cup doubles matches to send the Russians to the Fed Cup final. Of course, then neither showed up to attempt to win it.
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2. Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci reach four straight finals, winning three, including the Australian Open to grab their third slam crown in less than a year.
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3. Team Italia wins a fourth Fed Cup crown in the last eight years, defeating an overmatched Russian team in the final.
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4. Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai win Rome, defeating Errrani & Vinci in the final to end the Italians' 31-match clay court winning streak.
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5. Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina win their first slam as a duo, defeating defending champs Errani/Vinci in the Roland Garros final
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6. Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai win Wimbledon, defeating Ashleigh Barty & Casey Dellacqua in an all-Asia/Pacific final.
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7. The Washington Kastles, led my MVP Martina Hingis, set a North American team record with their 34th straight victory, then go on to win a third straight World Team Tennis title.
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8. Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai win the WTA Championships, becoming the first Asian champions at the tour's season-ending event.
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9. Czech's Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka win their first U.S. Open title (their second slam). They play just one more event -- a RU in Quebec City a week after the Open -- before Hlavackova announces in November that their regular partnership is over and that she'll focus more on her singles in 2014.
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10. Nadia Petrova & Katarina Srebotnik reach four consecutive finals in Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami. After going 0-3, the duo finally wins their only title in the stretch in attempt #4.
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11. Raquel Kops-Jones & Abigail Spears win back-to-back titles in Stanford and Carlsbad.
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12. Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Fernando Verdasco go 4-0 in Hopman Cup ties, winning Spain's fourth HC title. The pair defeated the Serbian team of Novak Djokovic & Ana Ivanovic in the final, taking the crown by winning the deciding mixed doubles match.
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13. #12-seed Stanford wins its seventeenth NCAA team title, defeating the #1, #3, #4 and #5-seeded teams, becoming the lowest-seeded women's champions ever. In the deciding match in the final against Texas A&M, Kristie Ahn erases an early 3rd set break and defeats Cristina Stancu.
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14. New veteran doubles duo Cara Black & Sania Mirza win back-to-back titles in Tokyo & Beijing.
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15. Karolina & Kristyna Pliskova win their first tour doubles title in Linz, becoming the ninth all-sisters duo to share a title in WTA history.
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[JUNIORS]

1t. Ana Konjuh begins and ends the '13 slam season by winning girls singles titles at the Australian and U.S. Opens.
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1t. Belinda Bencic, the first Swiss junior girls champion since Martina Hingis, wins Roland Garros and Wimbledon, stringing together thirty-six consecutve junior level match victories. Bencic is coach by Melanie Molitor, the mother of Hingis.
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3. Czech teens Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova win the U.S. Open girls doubles for their third straight slam crown of the season.
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4. Stanford's Nicole Gibbs defends her NCAA women's singles championship, becoming just the fifth woman to repeat, and the first since 2004.
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5. The Russians wins their fourth Junior Fed Cup title, defeating Australia in the final.
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[Special Mentions]
1. Maria Sharapova loses a record-breaking total low of just nine games en route to the Australian Open semis, but then gets dumped out of the tournament by Li Na. She'd opening the slam with back-to-back double-bagels wins, which hadn't happened at a slam for twenty-eight years.
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2. 19-year old Sloane Stephens makes her slam semifinal debut at the Australian Open
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3. One year after failing to even be awarded a spot in qualifying at Wimbledon, Kirsten Flipkens reaches the semifinals at SW19
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4. Simona Halep reaches the Rome semifinals as a qualifier, hinting at what was to come during her six-title run over the course of the rest of the season
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5. Li Na reaches her second Australian Open final, and has a chance to dethrone defending champ Victoria Azarenka, but falls that injure her ankle and head ultimately turn the match in Vika's favor

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6. Continuing a recent trend, Maria Sharapova reaches major singles finals (in '13, the trio of Miami, Madrid and Roland Garros), only to fall there to Serena Williams. In 2012, Sharapova lost in six high-level finals vs. Williams, Azarenka and Radwanska.
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7. Sabine Lisicki reaches her first slam final at her beloved All-England Club after defeating the defending Roland Garros champ -- '09 Kuznetsova, '11 Li, '12 Sharapova & '13 Serena -- at her fourth straight Wimbledon. The first German woman to play for a slam crown since Steffi Graf in London in '99, Lisicki loses the final to Marion Bartoli
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8. Flavai Pennetta reaches her first career slam semifinal at the U.S. Open
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9. Ashleigh Barty & Casey Dellacqua are runners-up at the Australian Open and U.S. Open, then finish at #5 in the 2013 points race to finish in the Top 4 for the WTA Championships' field.
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10. Dominika Cibulkova notches three Top 10 wins in Sydney en route to the final, where she is double-bageled by Aga Radwanska
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11. Unseeded Tornado Alicia Black reaches the U.S. Open girls singles final
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12. Junior Antonia Lottner defeats two #1 girls seeds at a pair of slams (Konjuh at RG, Bencic at the U.S. Open). The German fails to win a slam title, while Konjuh & Bencic split 2013's four slam crowns.
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"Because I'm stupid." - Li Na, when asked why she fell so many times during the Australian Open final

["The Radwanskian Massacre"]
On the craziest day in the one hundred and twenty seven year history of Wimbledon, and likely at ANY grand slam EVER, "Black Wednesday" in London saw seven former #1-ranked players fail to advance out of the 2nd Round, and amidst myriad slips, stumbles and falls, four players awarded walkovers to their opponents, while three more retired mid-match (four if you count doubles). Day 3 witnessed six Top 10 seeds have their Wimbledons unceremoniously come to a close while, as far as the #1's went, ultimately, Victoria Azarenka withdrew, while Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Roger Federer and Leyton Hewitt all lost on a day of "Radwanskian mayhem." If you closed your eyes and listened intently, you could hear a certain alter ego's evil chuckle wafting over the grounds of the All-England Club, as It closed Its eyes and marveled at the immeasurable havoc capable of Its "invisible hand."

"It's a very black day. It's difficult to say what the explanation is." - Marin Cilic

Well, some of us knew.

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*TOP PERFORMANCE WINNERS*
2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne = U.S. Open
2004 Maria Sharapova = Wimbledon
2005 Kim Clijsters = North American hardcourt season
2006 Maria Sharapova = U.S. Open
2007 Justine Henin = U.S. Open
2008 Venus Williams = Wimbledon
2009 Serena Williams = Wimbledon
2010 Serena Williams = Wimbledon
2011 Petra Kvitova = Wimbledon
2012 Serena Williams = Olympics
2013 Serena Williams = Roland Garros



*TOP MATCHES OF THE YEAR*
1. Cincinnati Final - Victoria Azarenka d. Serena Williams
...2-6/6-2/7-6(6).
Matching the accomplishment of her three-set win over Serena in the Doha final, Azarenka pushes Williams to three and emerges with a win. After the first two sets' scoreline read the same as the '12 U.S. Open final, Azarenka breaks for 4-2 in the 3rd but fails to convert a game point for 5-2. The match is decided by a tie-break, where Serena overcomes a 4-2 deficit and takes a 5-4 lead. With the match on her racket, Williams loses back-to-back service points, missing long on an open court shot and then double-faulting. Azarenka gives herself a second match point in the TB with a low-angled volley off a hard Williams forehand passing attempt, then wins when Serena nets a forehand. Later, Williams credited the loss with renewing her focus for Flushing Meadows. Speaking of...
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2. US Open Final - Serena Williams d. Victoria Azarenka
...7-5/6-7(6)/6-1.
A great championship-level performance by Serena in the second straight three-set Open final between the two. Even with Williams' victory, this one is most highlighted by Azarenka, who came within two points of taking the 1st set, and her remarkable 2nd set comeback. Down a double-break at 4-1, Azarenka twice saw Serena serve for the title (a year after Vika had failed to do the same against her in the '12 final) and come as close as two points from locking away the match before a tie-break was needed to decide the set. There, Azarenka overcame another disadvantage -- a mini-break deficit at 3-1 -- and won 8-6 to forced a deciding 3rd. In the end, Serena's experience came to the forefront... but -- for now, at least -- BOTH players emerged as "winners," having done something for which they could be proud.
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3. Fed Cup Final, Match #1 - Roberta Vinci/ITA d. Alexandra Panova/RUS
...5-7/7-5/8-6.
In what was supposed to be a "drama-free" weekend, who'd have guessed we'd end up with a candidate for Match of the Year? That's what we got, though, as the Hordettes -- in the form of a debuting Panova -- hit the Italians with anything and everything they had (for the whole weekend) in the FC final's opening match. And it still wasn't enough. The atmosphere was crazy exciting as Vinci played through a neck injury, while Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp cheered her on from the edge of the stands, switching ends of the court along with Vinci throughout the match. Vinci led 4-2 in the 1st set, but an aggressive Panova turned things in her favor, breaking the Italian three straight times to win the set, then taking a 5-2 lead in the 2nd as Vinci again dropped three straight service games. The Russian twice served for the match, and held three match points at 5-3, but Vinci reeled off five straight games as the Italian fans in the stands exploded and Vinci fully embraced her newly-inherited role of team leader. Still, she didn't breeze through to victory in the 3rd, even after grabbing an early break advantage. Again, Panova battled back and put herself into position to snatch a stunning opening match victory. She served for the match for a third time at 5-4, holding her fourth MP of the day, but was broken yet again. Finally, Vinci, on her own second match point, put away the victory at 8-6 in the 3rd. This moment, and the act of either rising or falling in the face of it, is what the absent Hordettes missed, and will never be able to reclaim from their "lost weekend." Actually, "A"-team Russians be damned, the only thing that spoiled this one was chair umpire Alison Hughes (nee Lang) issuing Vinci a coaching warning in the 3rd set due to the shouts of Schiavone & Co. Really, Alison? You mean there was coaching going on... in the Fed Cup final? Really? I'm shocked that such a thing would ever happen, what with coaches sitting a few feet off the court for the entire match and all. Oh, well. The disapproving glare Vinci gave Hughes as she walked to the changeover area after that particular game pretty much said it all.
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4. Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Victoria Azarenka d. Jamie Hampton
...6-4/4-6/6-2.
The one that got away, changed Australian Open history, and maybe, just maybe, made Azarenka's career. Hampton was able to hit with Vika throughout this match, keeping balls deep and challenging Azarenka's in-and-out confidence. In the 3rd, Hampton was up a break at 2-1, but the back injury she'd already been treated for during the match finally got the best of her as the (then) world #1 held on (by her fingernails) for the win. If Hampton had won, so many things would never have happened. No medical timeout controversy. No show of strength in the face of turmoil and being rewarded with a second grand slam trophy for the effort, either. After what Azarenka survived and triumphed over in Melbourne, she should be able to call upon the memory for the rest of her career when she needs to remind herself what's she capable of doing in dire circumstances. If Hampton's back had been up to it... well, who knows?
Hey, careers (and legacies) can turn on less.
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5. Australian Open Final - Victoria Azarenka d. Li Na
...4-6/6-4/6-3.
After enduring forty-eight hours of ridiculous controversy surrounding her late-match medical time-out in a STRAIGHT sets win in the SF over Sloane Stephens, Azarenka rediscovered her inherent inner toughness as she battled against an Aussie crowd firmly set against her, a game opponent in Li made even more endearing than the likable Chinese already naturally is by her pair of behind-the-baseline falls (and hilarious reaction when a trainer asked her to follow a finger with her eyes after hitting her head on the court surface) that delayed the match for a total of fifteen minutes, and a ten-minute Australia Day fireworks-related interruption. But the defending champ was steady down the stretch, finally dropping her racket in relief after match point, then sobbing in her chair. This was the only the second time in twenty-six slams that the eventual champion lost the opening set (with the other also coming when Li took a lead vs. Kim Clijsters in the '11 AO final, only to see the Belgian win).
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6. Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Urszula Radwanska d. Venus Williams
...7-6(5)/6-7(4)/6-4.
Venus, bad back and Sjogren's symptoms be damned, gives it all she has for 3:20, as everyone knows, even if she wins, that she'll have nothing else left to give once this one was over. U-Rad served for the set at 6-5 in the 1st and held a set point, only to see Venus save it and erase a 6-1 tie-break deficit as she saved five more SP before losing it 7-5. In the 2nd set TB, U-Rad led 4-0, only to see Venus win seven straight points to knot the match. In the 3rd, Radwanska led 4-0, but was broken as she served for the match at 5-2. But Venus' valiant effort ended there, as the Pole finally served things out at 5-4 to hand Williams her fifth career 1st Round slam defeat. As expected, Venus' back injury forced her out of the doubles with Serena.
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7. Rome Doubles Final - Hsieh/Peng d. Errani/Vinci
...4-6/6-3/10-8.
Errani/Vinci's multiple season-spanning 31-match clay court win streak comes to an unceremonious end in Italy.
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8. Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Laura Robson d. Petra Kvitova
...2-6/6-3/11-9.
Sure, it wasn't a work of art. In fact, the play of both lefties drifted into head-shaking pits of depravity at times. But the short rallies and hard-hitting drama was fantastic. Kvitova was quite bad, then quite good, saving herself with big-time serving, while Robson often expertly timed her service returns. In the 3rd, Kvitova led 3-0, and had game points for 4-1, only to hit two double-faults on GP, then another to go down break point. At 5-4, Kvitova got to within two points of the win, but failed to finish things off. Robson broke the Czech for 6-5, then was immediately broken back. Kvitova came back from love/30 and saved break point for 8-7, then blasted three aces (giving her 17 for the match) to go up 9-8, only to see DF #18 help Robson get a break to take a 10-9 lead. Robson's big 1st serves in game #20 of the 3rd put her up 40/love before the match ended, fittingly, with a Kvitova error, as the Australia-born Brit Robson, after midnight, finished off her defeat of a third former grand slam winner -- joining Clijsters & Li at last year's U.S. Open -- in her previous two slam appearances.
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9. Doha Final - Victoria Azarenka d. Serena Williams
...7-6/2-6/6-3.
Set to lose her #1 ranking, and still smarting from all the Melbourne controversy, Azarenka backs up her AO crown by going toe-to-toe with Williams in a seesaw match and living to tell about it. After failing to put away the U.S. Open final against Serena when serving for the title at 5-3, Azarenka has no such problems here, going up 40/love in the same situation and then winning when Williams sprayed a return.
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10. Miami 2nd Rd. - Venus Williams d. Kimiko Date-Krumm
...7-6/3-6/6-4.
Two seasons after their '11 Wimbledon match went to 8-6 in the 3rd set, two of the tour's "SuperVets" do battle once again. Once more, Venus triumphs, but only after KDK breaks her serve at 3-1 and 5-3 in the final set, saving five match points in all. Of course, 32-year old Venus withdrew from the tournament before her next match with a back injury, and 42-year old Date-Krumm retired from her 1st Round match in her next tournament with a back injury of her own.
=============================
11. Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Jana Cepelova/SVK d. Bojana Jovanovski/SRB
...5-7/7-5/11-9.
With Serbia's FC hopes hanging by a thread, BoJo, forced once again into a leadership position due to injuries to Jankovic and Ivanovic, battles for 3:18 looking for a second singles win that would at least assure the Serbs of forcing a deciding doubles match against the Slovaks. Unfortunately for Jovanovski, her ailing back wasn't strong enough to allow her to put the entire team on her shoulders.
=============================
12. Australian Open SF - Victoria Azarenka d. Sloane Stephens
...6-1/6-4.
A relentless Azarenka takes the 1st set from Stephens, who was 1-of-10 on game points, and surges to a 4-2 lead in the 2nd. Vika serves for the match at 5-3, only to have a string of forehand errors prevent her from capitalizing on five match points during a 12-minute service game as she's broken by the American. Before Stephens' service game, Azarenka takes a medical timeout. Two, actually, for an injury and what she described as "chest pains" (more than likely, anxiety). Soon, the hell hounds would be released on her. Of course, all of this was approved by the trainers, and within the rules, whether they were stretching the boundaries of said rules or not. Stephens, after sitting on her chair for ten minutes, is unable to hold serve after play resumes as a collected Azarenka puts away the straight sets victory on MP #6. The rest is now history.

"I almost did the choke of the year."
"I couldn't breathe. I had chest pains. It was like I was getting a heart attack.
- Victoria Azarenka

=============================
13. Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Marion Bartoli d. Olga Govortsova
...7-6/4-6/7-5.
In 3;14, La Trufflette puts on a crowd-pleasing show, coming back from a break down three times in the 1st, saving two match points in the 3rd and then winning on her own FIFTH MP. Oh, if only we could tap into Bartoli's veins, the world energy crisis would be solved. Instead, she used her powers to win Wimbledon a month later.
=============================
14. Wimbledon QF - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Li Na

...7-6/4-6/6-2.
Li grabbed the early advantage, serving at 5-4 and holding four set points, one on which she served an ace. Pity it was called out, with Li never asking to see the replay that showed that it was actually on the line. Down 3-1 and 5-3 in the tie-break, Radwanska took her good fortune and found a way to turn it into a 1st set win. After Li outlasted a tiring A-Rad in the 2nd, the Pole emerged from a post-2nd set medical break to grab a 5-1 lead. In the final game, Radwanska finally closed things out on match point #8.
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15. Wimbledon SF - Sabine Lisicki d. Agnieszka Radwanska
...6-4/2-6/9-7.
After splitting the first two sets, Radwanska seemed to grab a commanding 3-0 lead in the 3rd in her third straight three-set match. But, as she had against Serena Williams two rounds earlier, the German's game caught fire and she was soon serving for the match at 5-4. Radwanska got the break and came within two points of the final at 6-5, only to see Lisicki escape with a hold of serve. A-Rad wouldn't get any closer to victory, as Lisicki broke for 8-7 and served her way into her first slam final, eliminating the '12 Wimbledon runner-up.
=============================
16. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Madison Keys
...7-5/4-6/6-3.
The young American with the powerful game, in her debut Wimbledon, was up to the challenge of the world #4, whose experience and consistency won out in the end. Keys had two breaks points in the 1st for a chance to serve out the set, but failed to convert, then a game point to go to a tie-break which never came to be. On serve at 3-2 in the 3rd, Keys hit a ten-minute rough patch and saw her chances slip away as if The Radwanska had stole her soul in the middle of the night. A-Rad broke for 4-2, and had triple match point at 5-2. The Bannerette saved all three and held with big serves and ground strokes, but couldn't hold off Aga on MP #4. But, like A-Rad, this won't be the last time Keys plays for big stakes in a slam.
=============================
17. US Open 4th Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Angelique Kerber
...4-6/6-3/7-6(3).
In 2:41, the Spaniard and the German played an exhausting contest that included nearly 100 combined unforced errors, 75 winners and a CSN who served for the match at 5-4 and was broken at love, but lived to tell about it and advance to her first U.S. Open quarterfinal after prevailing in a 3rd set tie-break.
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18. Tokyo SF - Petra Kvitova d. Venus Williams
...3-6/6-3/7-6(2).
In one of the cleaner, better-played matches this season, Kvitova and Williams held serve in all but one game in the 2nd and 3rd sets.
=============================
19. Carlsbad QF - Virginie Razzano d. Petra Kvitova
...6-7(8)/7-5/7-6(8).
In 3:35, Kvitova doesn't implode, but she does squander a big opportunity by failing to put away a break point at 5-5 that would have allowed her to serve for a straight sets victory. As it is, the Czech saved three match points while down 5-4 in the 3rd, but failed to put away a MP of her own at 6-5 and 8-7 in the deciding tie-break. Razzano won on her second MP of TB, and her fifth overall.
=============================
20. US Open 2nd Rd. - Zheng Jie d. Venus Williams
...6-3/2-6/7-6(5).
Zheng holds break point for a 5-1 3rd set lead, but Williams battles back to 5-5 and forces a deciding tie-break. There, Zheng leads 4-1, only to see Venus even things at 5-5 yet again. But with the dramatic 3:00 match in the balance, Williams dumps a volley into the net and knocks a return shot out to close the match in anticlimactic fashion.
=============================
21. Stanford Final - Dominika Cibulkova d. Agnieszka Radwanska
...3-6/6-4/6-4.
Coming in with a 0-4 record against A-Rad, and with the memory still fresh from of her double-bagel loss to the Pole in January, Cibulkova was never discouraged while going 0-for-7 in break point attempts through the first set and a half. On BP #8, Cibulkova converted and went on to take the 2nd set. In the 3rd, the Slovak was twice down a break, and A-Rad served at 4-2, up 40/15. With Aga's usually-clever shot selection abandoning her down the stretch, Cibulkova out-hit Radwanska, finally putting away the 2:28 match with a crosscourt winner on her fifth MP.
=============================
22. Eastbourne SF - Jamie Hampton d. Caroline Wozniacki
...6-7/7-5/6-3.
Caro was down the entire 1st set: 3-1, 4-2, 5-3 with a set point, then 3-0, 5-2 and with two set points for Hampton in the tie-break. The Dane won the set, but lost the "war." Up a break at 4-2 in the 2nd, then at 2-1 with a break in the 3rd, Wozniacki lost what she had gained and her pre-Wimbledon surge came to an abrupt end.
=============================
23. Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Sabine Lisicki d. Jelena Jankovic
...7-6/7-5.
Yes, the earth tilted just a little on its axis when the pair of former Ricardo Sanchez proteges met on one court. Predictably, unpredictability ensued as JJ saved six set points in the 1st, but lost it anyway, then dropped a tight 2nd, too. Oh, what did the Tennis Gods hide from our eyes by preventing the drama of a 3rd set between these two drama queens from becoming a reality?
=============================
24. Luxembourg QF - Annika Beck d. Katarzyna Piter
...6-3/6-7/7-6.
In a 3:12 clash in the Luxembourg quarterfinals won by the 19-year old German. Piter, 22, saved two match points in the 2nd set, only to see Beck save one in the 3rd set before going on to win. Ultimately, Beck, the Roland Garros girls champ last year, reached her first tour level.
=============================
25. Tokyo Doubles Final - Black/Mirza d. H-C.Chan/Huber
...4-6/6-0/11-9.
Considering both their checkered histories with Huber, you have to wonder what was said under the breaths of Black and Mirza both before, during and after this one... especially after Chan/Huber led the deciding tie-break 9-7 and held two match points.
=============================
HM- Charleston 1st Rd. - Bethanie Mattek-Sands d. Anastasia Rodionova
...6-4/6-7/7-6.
Quite simply, at 3:42, the longest match of 2013.
=============================











*COMEBACKS OF THE YEAR*
1. She's Back! Whew!
...
over the course of this season, Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor Alisa Kleybanova, in just her second event back, won a $10K ITF challenger in Landisville, Pennsylvania, played her first WTA tour event in seventeen months in Toronto, then later at the U.S. Open got her first slam match win since her 1st Round victory at the 2011 Australian Open, right before her diagnosis. In Moscow at the Kremlin Cup, Kleybanova reached her first tour QF in her comeback, then got the chance to represent her country in the Fed Cup final. The former Top 20 Russian finished the season in the Top 200, and has now set her sights on even more in 2014.
=============================
2. Fed Cup SF - Russia def. Slovak Republic 3-2
...
for the sixth time in Fed Cup World Group play, a team comes back from a 0-2 deficit to advance, as Makarova/Vesnina come up with a win in a clinching FC doubles match for the second time in 2013. They wouldn't play for Team Russia in the final, though, leaving the "C"-team to put up a valiant -- though, futile -- effort against the veteran Italian squad.
=============================
3. Australian Open Doubles 3rd Rd. - Errani/Vinci d. Williams/Williams
...3-6/7-6/7-5.
Both Venus and Serena served for the match in the 2nd set, and the Sisters led 3-0 in the 3rd. The Italians went on to win their third slam title. Hard to say they didn't deserve it.
=============================
4. Welcome Back, QC! (Me... doing a happy dance.)
...
after slipping out of the Top 20 in 2012, Jelena Jankovic stages an unexpected comeback. She wins her first title in nearly three years in Bogota, puts up some great missed-it-by-that-much results (RU in both Charleston & Beijing) and returns to the Top 10. In her first WTA Championships since 2010, JJ notched her first Top 4 win (over Azarenka) in three years, ending a 0-17 slide, and reached her first semifinal at the event in four years.
=============================
5. Nanjing $125K 2nd Rd. - Ayumi Morita d. Petra Martic 6-7(7)/7-6(10)/6-4
Nanjing $125K QF - Ayumi Morita d. Anna Schmiedlova 6-7(8)/7-6(0)/7-5
...
in the 2nd Rd., over two days, Morita played nearly 3:00 and saved seven match points against Martic. A round -- and three more hours -- later, she saved another match point against Schmiedlova. The Nanjing runner-up, Morita, ended up having to be content with an amazing week of work -- the best of her career -- even if she didn't take home a title at the WTA Challenger event.
=============================
6. Bad Gastein 1st Rd. - Arantxa Rus d. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor
...7-5/5-7/6-4.
Rus, fresh off her WTA record-tying losing streak of seventeen matches that dropped her ranking from #61 to #262, finally gets a win in the 1st Round at Bad Gastein, erasing a 4-2 3rd set deficit to defeat Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor. She reaches the QF, then continues her resurgence for the rest of 2013, going 26-5 and winning four ITF singles titles.
=============================
7. Doha 3rd Rd. - Petra Kvitova d. Nadia Petrova
...4-6/6-4/6-3.
Showing a bit of her old verve in the Middle East, Kvitova charges back from a 6-4/3-1 deficit, saving five break points at 3-2 in a four-deuce game. She fell behind 3-1 in the 3rd, too. But, no matter, she just reeled off five straight games to take the match. Oh, Petra!
=============================
8. Doha QF - Serena Williams d. Petra Kvitova
...3-6/6-3/7-5.
Kvitova, though only up one break, led this one 4-1 in the 3rd. But this is a "comeback" rather than a "choke" because there's never any shame in losing to Serena when the American gathers herself late in a match as she did here. It's just what Williams does. You know, like hitting aces on match point. Yeah, she did THAT here, too.
=============================
9. Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Eugenie Bouchard d. Galina Voskoboeva
...5-7/7-6/6-4.
Bouchard survived the hectic early days at SW19, but only barely. Voskoboeva served up 7-5/5-4, only to see the 2012 Wimbledon Girls champ eventually advance.
=============================
10. Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Final - Mladenovic/Nestor d. Raymond/Soares
...5-7/6-2/8-6.
The Pastry and the Canadian saved two match points, gaining Mladenovic her first slam title and denying 39-year old Raymond a successful defense of her 2012 Mixed crown.
=============================
11. Fed Cup WG II - Sweden d. Argentina 3-2

...
the Swedes erase a 2-0 Day 1 disadvantage, snatching victory away from their Argentine hosts. After Swedish FC stalwarts Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson went 0-2 on Day 1, winning no more than three games in four of the five sets they played. The prospects for a three-match sweep on Sunday didn't look good. But Argentina's Paula Ormaechea, seeking to finish off the tie in the first match of Day 2, was forced to retire with a torn ligament five games into the 3rd set against Arvidsson, giving the Swedes new life. Larsson's proceeding singles win (the two vets are 57-35 in their combined FC singles careers) sent things to a deciding doubles match, where Arvidsson & Larsson teamed to clinch the unlikely win, further cementing their places in Swedish FC history.
=============================
12. She's Baaaaack... again
...
recent Hall of Fame inductee Martina Hingis came out of retirement for a second time. After winning the Female MVP award for the WTT champion Washington Kastles, the Swiss Miss returned to tour doubles action with Daniela Hantuchova. They didn't have the immediate success that Hingis was hoping for, but hopefully she won't give up quite so easily.
=============================
13. Mother, May I? Yes, You May.
Cara Black wins the doubles title in Auckland, claiming her first post-motherhood tour crown. But no magazines laud her as the greatest living example of female determination in the history of not only sport, but all humanity since the dawn of time... unlike what happened with a certain Waffle we used to know. Black would go on to win three titles in '13 and finish as the doubles #13.
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14. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Petra Kvitova d. Ekaterina Makarova
...6-3/2-6/6-3.
Kvitova leads 6-3/2-0, then drops eight straight games, finally shifting the momentum back in her favor after saving a break point that would have put her down 3-0 in the 3rd before the suspension of play. A day later, she opens by breaking Makarova in back-to-back service games and coasting to victory.
=============================
15. US Open 3rd Rd. - Daniela Hantuchova d. Julia Glushko
...3-6/7-5/7-6(4).
The Slovak vet trailed 5-2 in the 2nd set and saved four match points en route to reaching her first U.S. Open quarterfinal in eleven years.
=============================
16. She's Back in the Winner's Circle!
...
Shahar Peer wins the WTA 125 challenger in Suzhou, China to cap a summer that included an appearance in a WTA final in Baku, her first on the regular tour since 2011
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17. She's Back... and in the Winner's Circle!
...
Sandra Klemenschits wins the Bad Gastein doubles for her first career tour crown, five years after the death of her sister Daniela. Both sisters, who'd combined to reach a tour doubles final in '05, had been treated for the same rare form of cancer, forcing them to retire in 2007.
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18. Rome QF - Simona Halep d. Jelena Jankovic
...4-6/6-0/7-5.
JJ led 3-0 and held two match points in the 3rd set.
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19. Roland Garros 4th Rd. - Sara Errani d. Carla Suarez-Navarro
...5-7/6-4/6-3.
The '12 RG finalist erases a 7-5/4-2 deficit and, despite an "odd-seeming" chest injury, goes on to become a '13 RG semifinalist.
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20. Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Heather Watson d. Ksenia Pervak
...4-6/7-6/6-2.
Down a set and a break, Watson saves three match points and wins a 9-7 tie-break in the 2nd set to stay alive, then pulls away from Pervak in the 3rd.
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HM- Quebec City Final - Lucie Safarova d. Marina Erakovic
6-4/6-3.
Despite her success in helping the Czechs to back-to-back Fed Cup titles in 2011-12, Safarova hadn't won a tour singles title in five years.
=============================

*CHOKES OF THE YEAR*
1. Team Serbia in the Fed Cup
...
in the first action since losing in last year's Fed Cup final, Serbia crashed out of the '13 1st Round against the Slovak Republic in a hail of injuries, questionable roster decisions and one valiant effort. With Jelena Jankovic out with injury, FC newbie (and new Serb) Vesna Dolonc was put on the team roster rather than Aleksandra Krunic, a key doubles star in Serbia's often-down-to-the-deciding-doubles climb to a first-ever final last year. When Ana Ivanovic was another late injury-related scratch, Krunic was added to the roster for doubles. But the tie never got there with anything at stake, as Dolonc was pasted 3 & 2 by Daniela Hantuchova in match #4 and the Slovaks clinched a SF berth as Serbia went 0-2 on Day 2. Bojana Jovanovski (battling a back injury) had opened the day by losing out in a 3-plus hour, 11-9 3rd set battle with Jana Cepelona, herself an injury-related substitute for the Slovak squad. Krunic never did get on court.
=============================
2. Indian Wells QF - Maria Kirilenko d. Petra Kvitova
...4-6/6-4/6-3.
In the desert heat in North America, Kvitova faltered yet again. The Czech served at 6-4/4-3 against Kirilenko, but saw the match slip away after she served four consecutive double-faults (she had 13 for the match) in a single game in the 2nd set. Down 3-2 in the 3rd, Kvitova broke herself with back-to-back DF's to go down 4-2 as the Russian coasted to victory.
=============================
3. Roland Garros QF - Maria Sharapova d. Jelena Jankovic
...0-6/6-4/6-4.
Sharapova commits twenty errors in six games in the 29-minute 1st set, then sees JJ's frustation grow to Jankovician levels in just the FIRST game of the 2nd set. Naturally, Jelena then loses for the eighth time in nine matches vs. Sharapova.
=============================
4. Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Lucie Safarova/CZE d. Samantha Stosur/AUS 7-6(6)/7-6(3)
Fed Cup 1st Rd - Petra Kvitova/CZE d. Samantha Stosur/AUS 2-6/7-6(3)/6-4
...
Stosur came into the 1st Round sporting a six-match FC winning streak outside of Australia. When she took 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 leads in the 1st against Safarova on Day 1, she seemed set. But, come on, this is Sam. The 1st set ended up lasting eighty-two minutes, included three ten-minute games and went to a tie-break. There, Stosur led 6-4, double-faulted at 6-5, then committed two back-to-back errors to end the set. In the 2nd tie-break, at 3-3, she stopped a point to challenge a call and -- wouldn't you know it -- she was wrong and lost the point. She never won another. On Day 2 against Kvitova, Petra found a player more willing to go on walkabout than even she has on occasion over the last two seasons. Stosur held a MP for a 6-2/6-4 win. When she failed you get it, who COULDN'T have guessed how this one would turn out? Kvitova's victory clinched the Czech Republic's return to the semis.
=============================
5. Miami 4th Rd. - Serena Williams d. Dominika Cibulkova
...2-6/6-4/6-2.
364 days after, in the same round, Cibulkova blew a 6-1/5-2 lead over Azarenka in Miami last year, her 6-2/4-1 advantage over Serena also falls by the wayside. As is her wont, Williams went on to win the title.
=============================
6. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Laura Robson
...5-7/6-2/7-6.
Robson led 5-2 in the 3rd set, and twice served for the match. In the closing moments, the Brit ended things with a double-fault. When you think about, who'd know better how Robson felt after a moment like this than AnaIvo?
=============================
7. Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Zheng Jie d. Samantha Stosur
...6-4/1-6/7-5.
If we're talking chokes, why not include one more Stosur loss? Here, naturally, being back home in Australia, Stosur led 5-2 in the 3rd, twice serving for the match. In the end, she double-faulted on ZHENG's match point.
=============================
8. Rome 1st Rd. - Bojana Jovanovski d. Caroline Wozniacki
...2-6/6-4/7-6.
Wozniacki led 4-0 in the 3rd, then wilted on the vine in Rome as BoJo coasted to victory. She liked it so much that she came back and beat Caro in the 2nd Round at Roland Garros, too.
=============================
9. Toronto 2nd Rd. - Sorana Cirstea d. Caroline Wozniacki
...5-7/7-6(0)/6-4.
The Dane battled back from a 5-3 2nd set deficit and held two match points at 6-5. After she failed to convert either, she dropped the tie-break at love and lost the 3rd set. Cirstea went all the way to the final.
=============================
10. Pattaya Final - Maria Kirilenko d. Sabine Lisicki
...5-7/6-1/7-6.
Lisicki trailed 5-2 in the 3rd set and saved two match points, but she strung together back-to-back breaks and actually served for the match at 6-5.... then she lost seven of eight service points to end the match, dropping the deciding tie-break 7-1 as Kirilenko won her first title in four years.
=============================
11. Eastbourne 2nd Rd. - Yanina Wickmayer d. Petra Kvitova 3-6/6-3/7-5
Wimbledon QF - Kirsten Flipkens d. Petra Kvitova 4-6/6-3/6-4
...
Kvitova led 3-1 in the 3rd before losing to the Belgian Wickmayer in Eastbourne, foreshadowing her SW19 loss to Belgian Flipkens when the Waffle pulled away at 4-4 in the 3rd set against the ill (again) Czech.
=============================
12. US Open 3rd Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Christina McHale
...4-6/7-5/6-4.
Already with a checkered slam history of blowing leads (once, even a 5-0 advantage in the 3rd!), this time McHale's Open resurgence became endangered the moment she failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the 2nd set.
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13. Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - Kaia Kanepi d. Angelique Kerber
...3-6/7-6/6-3.
Kanepi knows about squandering chances at Wimbledon (see '10 QF vs. Kvitova). Now she knows how the "other half" lives after the Estonian benefited from '12 Wimbledon semifinalist Kerber blowing at 5-1 tie-break lead in the 2nd set, allowing Kanepi to move on and eventually end up in the QF.
=============================
14. Australian Open 1st Rd. - Caroline Wozniacki d. Sabine Lisicki
...2-6/6-3/6-3.
Lisicki had three break points at 4-5 in the 2nd set, and led 3-0 in the 3rd. But the German's fifty-seven errors -- to Wozniacki's eight -- proved to be too much, as the Dane narrowly avoided her third consecutive 1st Round slam exit.
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15. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Laura Robson d. Marina Erakovic
...1-6/7-5/6-3.
Erakovic served at 6-1/5-4, only to be broken and then double-fault on Robson's set point. The Brit advanced to her first career Round of 16 at Wimbledon, setting the stage for a heap of pressure to be placed on her shoulders in future summers.
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HM- Tokyo 3rd Rd. - Venus Williams d. Simona Halep 4-6/7-5/6-3
Beijing 1st Rd. - Urszula Radwanska d. Simona Halep 7-6(4)/7-6(2)
...
the wonderful second half of 2013 campaign of the Romanian wasn't with a FEW bad notes. Against Venus, Halep was up a set and a break on three different occasions -- at 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 -- but lost anyway. Against U-Rad, she led 5-3 in the 1st and held two set points, then had a 5-2 advantage in the 2nd and had a set point there, too, before dropping serve three straight times and losing all three service points in the tie-break. No matter, she came back strong to close out her season with back-to-back indoor titles in Europe.
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In case you were wondering where a certain someone was in that list. Well, here she is...

=WHEN SLOANE IS AROUND, SOMEONE NEEDS TO LEARN THE HEIMLICH MANEUVER=
Doha 2nd Rd. - Klara Zakopalova d. Sloane Stephens
...4-6/7-6(5)/7-6(5).
With her recent AO SF run not helping her one bit, Stephens twice serves for the match, but fails to convert any of four match points en route to a loss quite similar to the come-from-ahead defeats she often suffered before Melbourne. Stephens led 5-3 in the 2nd, 5-4 in the 2nd set tie-break, 6-5 in the 3rd, squandered break advantages in the deciding set on three different occasions and couldn't close out the last-chance tie-break when she and Zakopalova were knotted at 5-5. In 2:41, Future Sloane was no more.
=============================
Dubai 1st Rd. - Sorana Cirstea d. Sloane Stephens
...5-7/6-3/6-2.
Stephens led 7-5/3-1.
=============================
Fed Cup WG Playoff - Sofia Arvidsson/SWE d. Sloane Stephens/USA
...6-4/4-6/6-1.
At least Sloane got to carry the American flag around the court in celebration of the U.S.'s WG Playoff win over Sweden. Even though it was Venus Williams, not Sloane, who was called upon to get the clinching singles win on Sunday to avoid having things go to the doubles. And even though it WAS Sloane who came up very small in her FC singles debut on Saturday against Sofia Arvidsson, losing in three sets in a match in which she racked up 74 unforced errors and (shades of vs. Vika in Oz) she came out very flat in the 3rd after a weather delay. Stephens fell behind 4-0 and failed in her one attempt -- at 30/30 in Game #5 -- to possibly get back into the contest.
=============================
Wimbledon QF - Marion Bartoli d. Sloane Stephens
...6-4/7-5.
Serving down 5-4, 40/40 when play is stopped because of rain, Stephens, as occurred during Victoria Azarenka's medical timeout in the semifinals in Melbourne, returned a shadow of her earlier self, quickly dropping two points to let the set slip away, and then losing 18 of her first 19 service points after the resumption of play. Stephens broke Bartoli when she served for the match at 5-3, getting things back on serve, but was ultimately unable to get past the eventual Wimbledon champion.
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Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Sloane Stephens d. Petra Cetkovska 7-6/0-6/6-4
Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Sloane Stephens d. Monica Puig 4-6/7-5/6-1
...
after coming back from 5-3 down in the 1st to win a deciding tie-break vs. Cetkovska, Stephens losses eight consecutive games and trails 2-0 in the 3rd, but then wins five of the final six games. The American saved break point at 5-5 in the 2nd vs. Puig, then trailed by an early break in the 3rd before charging back to sweep the final six games.
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Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Sloane Stephens d. Maria Sharapova
...2-6/7-6(5)/6-3.
Down a set and 2-0, Stephens comes back to get her first career win over an uncomfortable and less-than-match-tough Sharapova, who commits 62 errors to 16 winners. See you in 2014, Maria.
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US Open 1st Rd. - Sloane Stephens d. Mandy Minella
...4-6/6-3/7-6(5).
No stranger to losing leads herself, Stephens turned the tables on the veteran from Luxembourg. Minella led 4-2 in the 3rd set, then 3-1 in the deciding tie-break, before the American reeled off five straight points and escaped what would have been a deflating end to her successful 2013 slam season.
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Tokyo 2nd Rd. - Eugenie Bouchard d. Sloane Stephens
...5-7/7-6(7)/6-3.
As is often the case when Current Sloane appears on lists like this, Stephens led 7-5/5-3. She served for the match at 5-4, and was knotted with Bouchard at 6-6 in the 2nd set tie-break.
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Linz QF - Stefanie Voegele d. Sloane Stephens
...6-7/6-4/7-5.
Stephens led 5-2 in the 1st, but failed to convert on eight set ponts. She finally locked away the set on SP #10 in the tie-break, but then blew another 5-2 lead in the 3rd set. Voegele won the final five games of the match to bring Stephens' breakthrough 2013 season to a head-spinning conclusion.
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I hope Sloane doesn't block me on social now. Well, actually, I wouldn't care ALL that much. Ha!



*UPSETS OF THE YEAR*

1. US Open 1st Rd. - Vicky Duval d. Samantha Stosur
...5-7/6-4/6-4.
In just her second career main draw slam match, 17-year old qualifier Duval served for all three sets, but narrowly avoided a straights loss to the '11 U.S. Open champ when she trailed 4-2 in the 2nd. Stosur's DF to hand a break to Duval lit the fire of the young Bannerette and she broke the #11-seeded Aussie again two games later. After breaking Stosur for 4-3, world #296 Duval expertly held her nerve (and her serve) in the closing games of the 3rd, smacking a winner on her fourth match point.
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2. Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - Michelle Larcher de Brito d. Maria Sharapova

...6-3/6-4.
Sharapova broke through at Wimbledon nine years ago with her first slam crown, but the going has often been rocky there ever since. Her latest ker-splat at SW19, her third 2nd Round exit in six years (against just one QF+ result in London in the last seven years), came at the hands of #131-ranked Portuguese qualifier Larcher de Brito, a one-time child phenom renowned for her on-court decibel level (sound like someone Maria "knows?"). On Black Wednesday, Sharapova slipped and fell all over the court, never looking like the determined come-from-behind winner she normally is in such circumstances. Meanwhile, except for an extended bout with closing things out -- MLDB finally did it on MP #5 -- the youngster, channeling a bit of Jelena Dokic, circa 1999 vs. Martina Hingis, played pressure-less tennis and sent the Russian packing... or at least off to watch a Grigor Dimitrov match. Sharapova would play just one more match -- a loss after which she fired new coach Jimmy Connors -- before shutting things down for 2013 with a shoulder injury.
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3. Australian Open QF - Sloane Stephens d. Serena Williams

...3-6/7-5/6-4.
Future Sloane is now. Or, at least, she was, since Stephens' now-slam results were pretty lacking (she still hasn't reached a final) after her first big-time, big-stage moment in the spotlight saw her rise to the occasion and come back from a set down against Serena after Williams was at least temporarily hampered after injuring her back racing to reach a drop shot. But credit the then 19-year old for holding her nerve in the match's most important moments, including breaking serve to take the 2nd set, then holding for 5-4 late in the 3rd at a point where Williams would normally turn the tide in her favor against a more inexperienced opponent. The upset gave Stephens her first Top 10 win and maiden slam SF berth, and also ended Serena's 20-match win streak with Williams' first-ever loss to an American younger than herself. Of course, Stephens sort of spoiled the memory of the moment with her short-lived, shortsighted social media feud with Williams a short time later.
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4. US Open 3rd Rd. - Camila Giorgi d. Caroline Wozniacki
...4-6/6-4/6-2.
Fiery, never-give-up Italian -- do they make them any other way? -- Giorgi stuns Wozniacki in the qualifier's nighttime debut on Ashe, showing no nerves and a personal style that will likely get her a bit of off-court acclaim. Sample next-day headline: "Tiny Blonde Bombshell Italian Goes Wild at Open."

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5. Seoul 1st Rd. - Jang Su Jeong d. Klara Zakopalova
...6-3/6-1.
This might not count as a "titanic upset." But, still, Jang was a wild card ranked #540, and the fifth-best Korean player on the WTA computer. Meanwhile, Zakopalova was #33 and the second-best Czech behind only Kvitova. Needless to say, this result shouldn't happen.
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6. Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Sabine Lisicki d. Serena Williams

...6-2/1-6/6-4.
Serena entered as the odds-on favorite (to say the least) on a 34-match winning streak who'd watched the rest of the draw crack open and swallow up most of the other players considered contenders. But Lisicki's been here before, a former semifinalist (2011) who'd already knocked off defending RG champions three times at Wimbledon. Still, Serena led 3-0 in the 3rd, had a 40/15 lead for a 4-1 advantage, and found herself up a break twice in the final set. But it was Serena who felt the pressure, stopped moving her feet and became tentative, while Lisicki's groundstrokes and serve became more and more freewheeling with every swing. Lisicki charged back from love/40 down to hold for 4-4, then hit an ace on break point two games later before serving things out.
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7. Bad Gastein 2nd Rd. - Lisa-Maria Moser d. Mona Barthel
...6-2/4-3 ret.
The Austrian, the world #725 and a last minute wild card making her WTA debut at the event, upsets the injured defending champ and advances to the QF. Moser was under .500 for her career and had earned less than a total of $10K heading into the week. Of course, her surprising BG run didn't prevent Moser, a local who'd originally been given a spot in the Linz draw, from being "bumped out" in favor of Angelique Kerber, sparking the "LinzGate" controversy, later in the season.
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8. Kuala Lumpur 1st Rd. - Wang Qiang d. Caroline Wozniacki
...2-6/7-6/6-1.
Forty-eight hours before Rory McIlroy would walk off a golf course under questionable circumstances -- it was either because of poor play, new equipment, a wisdom tooth or his head being "not right" -- Wozniacki failed to convert a match point and lost to the world #186. Rumors commenced, but were shot down. A few weeks later, McIlroy lost his #1 world golf ranking to Tiger Woods. Later, Caro couldn't even take a fun Twitpic of a sleeping Rory without setting off a social media storm.
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9. Washington DC Q1 - Usue Arconada d. Maria Irigoyen
...7-5/6-3.
The 14-year old, the #5 Q-seed who was given a late wild card into the draw, overcomes a 5-2 1st set deficit to defeat the Argentine, becoming the youngest player to get a win in a WTA event since Madison Keys (14) in 2009.
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10. Florianopolis SF - Olga Puchkova d. Venus Williams
...4-6/6-4/7-5.
Pretty much everyone was expecting Venus to play in the final of the maiden tour level event in Florianopolis, the first WTA event held in Brazil in over a decade. Puchkova, by reaching her first final since 2006, changed the storyline. Eventual first-time champ Monica Niculescu, a tour final loser to Venus in the past, ended up being the happiest player in Brazil.
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11. Australian Open 1st Rd. - Kimiko Date-Krumm d. Nadia Petrova 6-2/6-0
Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Monica Puig d. Nadia Petrova 3-6/7-5/6-4
Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Karolina Pliskova d. Nadia Petrova 6-3/6-2
US Open 1st Rd. - Julia Glushko d. Nadia Petrova 6-3/6-4
...
lost at sea after a coaching change early on, then deviled by a hip injury, Petrova followed up a year in which she climbed the rankings ladder to #12 by slipping off nearly every rung all the way out of the Top 100. Going 0-4 in '13 slams, she saw KDK become the oldest-ever AO match winner against her, then was the "First Seed Out" in Paris. In London and New York, she slipped away a bit more quietly.

Oh, Nadia.
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12. Toronto Q2 - Lauren Davis d. Svetlana Kuznetsova 5-7/6-4/6-4
Toronto 1st Rd. - Lauren Davis d. Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6/7-5/7-5
...
it's one thing for the 19-year old to pull off one come-from-behind win over a multiple slam winner, but to turn around and do it all over again when the same veteran stands across the net from her again as a "lucky loser" is something to stand up and take note of.
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13. Fed Cup WG II Playoffs - Paula Ormaechea/ARG d. Laura Robson/GBR
...6-4/4-6/6-2.
This one came fairly early in the season, but it was already Robson's third loss to a player ranked outside the Top 100, and sixth against a player ranked below her, following her win over Petra Kvitova in Melbourne. By the end of 2013, eleven of the Brit's twenty-three WTA/FC losses had come to lesser-ranked players, including her final defeat at the hands of 43-year Kimiko Date-Krumm.
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14. Sydney 1st Rd. - Madison Keys d. Lucie Safarova
...6-2/6-1.
The Bannerette's first career Top 20 win. Two more came later in 2013, and many more will undoubtedly follow.
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15. US Open Doubles SF - Hlavackova/Hradecka d. Williams/Williams
...6-4/6-2.
Hey, isn't it always an upset... even with a diminished Venus?
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[Best Post-Match Moment Dance Routine of the Year]


STILL TO COME:


All for now.








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