Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Second Month BSA's: Them. Theirs. Crowded. Themselves. They. Many. Team. Accompanied.

Spring is almost here, now that the shortest month of the year is finally over.

But for every bad Aga hair day in February...

There was a cool moment like this one in Acapulco...

As well as a whole lot of others. Such as...

1. Simona Halep, ROU
...after backing up her ranking with a first-ever career slam QF in Melbourne, Halep returned to more familiarly successful stomping grounds in her first post-AO month, leading the Swarmette Fed Cup team out of zone play, then winning her biggest title (so far) in Doha to climb into the Top 10 for the first time and match the all-time Romanian ranking mark by rising to #7.
2. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
...while most players only had one or two (if that) banner weeks over the past month, the Czech was the busiest woman of them all. She garnered what turned out to be a super-important match win in the Czech FC team's three-day comeback effort against Spain, then reached back-to-back finals in Rio and Florianopolis (giving her a tour-best three in '14), winning in her latter attempt to end her eight and a half year tour singles title drought.
3. Venus Williams, USA
...whether she'll be able to maintain her good early-season level all year or not, Venus has most definitely caught a bit of a gentle breeze so far in 2014. She reached a final in January, then came through a few weeks ago with a title run in Dubai. It's her first since 2012, and her biggest since her Sjogren's diagnosis.
4. Peng Shuai, CHN
...after a disappointing Australian Open effort with doubles partner Hsieh Su-Wei, Peng opened her post-AO season with a title with Zhang Shuai in Pattaya. She followed up with another in Doha with Hsieh that raised her ranking to #1, making her the first Chinese player to ever sit atop the rankings.
5. Czech Fed Cup Team
...playing without an ill Petra Kvitova, and with Lucie Safarova initially limited to doubles due to her own health, the Czechs were blessed with a crappy weather situation in Seville that dragged out the 1st Round FC tie with Spain to three days, with the majority of action coming on the concluding Monday. The delay stole away the Spaniards' early momentum, allowed Safarova to get well enough to contribute a tie-saving singles victory and ultimately led to Andrea Hlavackova and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova winning the deciding doubles to send the Czechs to their sixth straight FC semifinal. The Czechs: Mother Nature's Favorite Team?
6. Andrea Petkovic, Angelique Kerber & the German Fed Cup Team the FC 1st Round, Petkovic came off the mat to take down Dominika Cibulkova in comeback fashion in Match #1 to knock the Slovaks to the ground, then Kerber came in to put a boot on their collective necks by going 2-0 as the Germans pulled off arguably the most impressive win in 2014's opening Fed Cup weekend to head off to a first semifinal since the Graf era. A week later, still-riding-a-Fed-Cup-high, Kerber reached the singles final in Doha.
7. Alize Cornet, FRA
...the Pastry has quite possibly been 2014's biggest mover-and-shaker. And I'm not just talking about Cornet's spirited celebrations after big wins, of which there have been many so far this season. She's still searching for a singles title to hang her beret on (so far, the Hopman Cup crown has to suffice), but she's getting a lot of bang out of the accomplishments she's pulled off. Amongst them over the past month: a semifinal run at the Paris indoors, a hand (w/ Kristina Mladenovic) in France's deciding doubles win in Fed Cup play vs. Switzerland, and a run to her first career hard court singles final in Dubai that included a victory over no less than Serena Williams.
8. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS & Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS the days before the start of the Sochi Olympics, two Hordettes lifted singles title trophies on the same weekend for the first time since 2010. Pavlyuchenkova's win in Paris was the biggest of her career (even if, as usual, she followed it up with precious little success in her next outing), while Makarova's Pattaya title ended a nearly four-year title-less span.
9. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
...after reaching the Australian Open final, Cibulkova played a huge role (in a bad way, going 0-2) in the Slovak Fed Cup team's latest epic fail, but she rebounded to end her month with a title in Acapulco which included a triumph in a nearly three-hour final vs. Christina McHale that raised her ranking to a career-best #11.
10. Kurumi Nara, JPN
...Nara continued the recent upswing in Japanese tennis results with her maiden tour singles title in Rio, giving her nation it's first first-time champion in seven seasons.
11. Karin Knapp, ITA
...without the front line of fabled Italian Fed Cup stars on hand in Clevelend, Knapp stepped into the lead role for Team Italia against the Americans and handled it with ease, going 2-0 and carrying her countrywomen into a sixth straight FC semifinal after methodically snatching the heart of the young Bannerette team, as well as a partisan crowd that never got up off their hands. Knapp will likely have more big-name assistance come the spring match-up with the Czechs.
12. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
...she's still finding her way in singles, but the Pastry knows what's goin' on in doubles. In Fed Cup, Kiki teamed with Cornet to win the deciding point that advanced the French team into the World Group playoffs this spring, then finally got on the board with a '14 WTA doubles crown (after two RU) with Galina Voskoboeva in Acapulco.

HM- Australian Fed Cup Team
...sure, it was a fait accompli that the Aussies would take out the pre-school (well, not really... but the WERE a young group!) Hordettes in the Fed Cup 1st Round, but Sam Stosur ending her six-match World Group losing streak and sending the team into the semifinals for the first time in over two decades is surely worth at least an honorable mention here, right?

"You can take more time, it's yours." - Jelena Jankovic, once again squabbling with Serena Williams on the court during their QF match in Dubai
"Do you really want to do this again, Jelena?" - Serena Williams, to JJ moments before finishing off a 6-2/6-2 victory

1. Simona Halep, ROU
2. Peng Shuai, CHN
3. Alize Cornet, FRA
4. Angelique Kerber, GER
5. Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai, TPE/CHN

6. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
7. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
8. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
9. Karin Knapp, ITA
10. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
11. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
12. Kristina Mladenovic/Galina Voskoboeva, FRA/KAZ
13. Paula Ormaechea, ARG
14. Julie Goerges, GER
15. Kiki Bertens, NED
16. Teliana Pereira, BRA
17. Kaia Kanepi, EST
18. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
19. Christina McHale, USA
20. Zhang Shuai, CHN
21. Sorana Cirstea, ROU
22. Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
23. Caroline Garcia, FRA
24. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
25. Monica Niculescu, ROU


1. Belinda Bencic, SUI
2. Kurumi Nara, JPN
3. Annika Beck, GER
4. Garbine Muguruza, ESP
5. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
6. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
7. Elina Svitolina, UKR
8. Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL
9. Ashleigh Barty, AUS
10. Alexandra Cadantu, ROU
11. Vicky Duval, USA
12. Irina Khromacheva, RUS
13. Jana Cepelova, SVK
14. Alison Riske, USA
15. Jang Su-Jeong, KOR
16. Sharon Fichman, CAN
17. Nicole Gibbs, USA
18. Richel Hogenkamp, NED
19. Maryna Zanevska, UKR
20. Allie Kiick, USA
HM- Anett Kontaveit, EST & Sabina Sharipova, UZB

1. Luksika Kumkhum, THA
2. Zhang Ling, HKG
3. Nastassja Burnett, ITA
4. Alla Kudryavtseva/Anastasia Rodionova, RUS/AUS
5. Lyudmyla Kichenok/Olga Savchuk, UKR/UKR
6. Katarzyna Piter, POL
7. Demi Schuurs, NED
8. Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
9. Danka Kovinic, MNE
10. Dinah Pfizenmaier, GER
11. Maria Irigoyen, ARG
12. Gabriela Ce, BRA
13. Nicha Lertpitaksinchai, THA
14. Tadeja Majeric, SLO
15. Anna-Lena Friedsam, GER
HM- Alize Lim, FRA & Amy Bowtell, IRE

1. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
2. Venus Williams, USA
3. Andrea Petkovic, GER
4. Andrea Hlavackova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE/CZE
5. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
6. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
7. Samantha Stosur, AUS
8. Alla Kudryavtseva/Anastasia Rodionova, RUS/AUS
9. Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Yaroslava Shvedova, ESP/KAZ
10. Kaia Kanepi, EST
11. Casey Dellacqua, AUS
12. Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
13. Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
14. Lucie Safarova, CZE
15. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
HM- Kveta Peschke/Anna-Lena Groenefeld, CZE/GER

1. Australian Fed Cup Team
2. German Fed Cup Team
3. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
4. Christina McHale, USA
5. Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
6. Casey Dellacqua, AUS
7. Tamira Paszek, AUT
8. Heather Watson, GBR
9. Caroline Garcia, FRA
10. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
11. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
12. Michaella Krajicek, NED
13. Iveta Melzer, CZE
14. Ekaterina Bychkova, RUS
15. Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
HM- Nadia Petrova, RUS & Vera Zvonareva, RUS

1. Veronika Kudermetova, RUS
2. Iryna Shymanovich, BLR
3. Nina Stojanovic, SRB
4. Darya Kasatkina, RUS
5. Usue Arconada, USA
6. Sandra Samir, EGY
7. Mayar Sherif, EGY
8. Paula Badosa Gibert, ESP
9. Leticia Garcia Vidal, BRA
10. Anna Kalinskaya, RUS

1. Jovana Jaksic, SRB
2. Heather Watson, GBR
3. Laura Pous-Tio, ESP
4. Misa Eguchi, JPN
5. Zhang Ling, HKG
6. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
7. Anastasia Grymalska, ITA
8. Tamira Paszek, AUT
9. Patricia Maria Tig, ROU
10. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, BLR
11. Pauline Parmentier, FRA
12. Olivia Rogowska, AUS
13. Stephanie Vogt, LIE
14. Gai Ao, CHN
15. Wang Qiang, CHN
HM- Anastasiya Vasylyeva, UKR & Chanel Simmonds, RSA

"I think people forget that there's a normal life that you have to live outside of being on the tennis court all the time. I'm a regular 20-year old girl. I sometimes need to like talk to Paul (Annacone, coach) about my boy problems or I need to talk to Andrew (Fitzpatrick, hitting partner) about how stupid my best friend is." - Sloane Stephens

1. Roberta Vinci, ITA
2. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
3. Petra Kvitova, CZE
4. Slovak Fed Cup Team
5. Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
6. Serbian Fed Cup Team
7. Sara Errani, ITA
8. Kazakh Fed Cup Team
9. Chinese Fed Cup Team
10. Vesna Dolonc, SRB
11. Russian Tennis Federation
12. Sabine Lisicki, GER
13. Sloane Stephens, USA
14. Arantxa Rus, NED
15. Serena Williams, USA
HM- Eugenie Bouchard, CAN & Maria Sharapova, RUS

"A lot of things happen throughout the year, and some things are super frustrating that I don't want to deal with half the time. But you have to be patient; otherwise things will not happen." - Sloane Stephens


1. Andrea Petkovic, GER
2. Karin Knapp, ITA
3. Angelique Kerber, GER
4. Andrea Hlavackova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
5. Alize Cornet/Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
6. Belinda Bencic, SUI
7. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
8. Samantha Stosur, AUS
9. Luksika Kumkhum, THA
10. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
11. Paula Ormaechea, ARG
12. Kiki Bertens, NED
13. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
14. Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
15. Simona Halep, ROU
16. Teliana Pereira, BRA
17. Lyudmyla Kichenok/Olga Savchuk, UKR
18. Zhang Ling, HKG
19. Kaia Kanepi, EST
20. Amy Bowtell, IRE

#1 - Simona Halep notches three Top 10 wins -- over Errani, A-Rad & Kerber -- in Doha, securing her biggest career title and reaching the Top 10 herself for the first time
#2 - In the Paris indoors, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova knocks off three Top 10ers (including Maria Sharapova) as she wins five consecutive three-set matches en route to the biggest title of her career
#3 - The Czech Republic, playing without Petra Kvitova, defeats the Spanish on home red clay in Seville on 2014's opening Fed Cup weekend, overcoming an early loss and constant rain that postpones most of the action until Monday

#4 - Venus Williams wins Dubai for her biggest title since winning the same event in 2010, stringing together wins over Vesnina, Ivanovic, Pennetta, Wozniacki and Cornet.
#5 - Peng Shuai wins consecutive doubles titles in Pattaya and Doha to rise to doubles #1, trumping even Li Na to become the first Chinese to ever attain such a professional ranking
#6 - Even in the Swiss team's ultimately losing effort in the WG II Playoffs, 16-year old Belinda Bencic makes her Fed Cup singles debut a memorable one, twice leveling the tie with upset victories over Virginie Razzano (Day 1) and Alize Cornet (Day 2) in front of a Parisian crowd.
#7 - In arguably the toughest opening-weekend Fed Cup match-up, the Germans take down the Slovaks in Bratislava to reach the semifinals for the first time with members of the post-Graf generation. Andrea Petkovic's come-from-behind Match #1 win over Dominika Cibulkova (she was down MP) set the tone for the entire weekend, simultaneously waking the echoes of Germany's FC past (champs in '87 and '92, but having not won a 1st Round WG tie since 2002) and the Slovaks' recently bad, psyche-stabbing history (blowing a 2-0 lead vs. Russia in the semis last spring).
#8 - Klara Zakopalova reaches back-to-back Brazilian singles finals in Rio and Florianopolis, winning the latter title to claim her first tour singles title since 2005
#9 - Aga Radwanska once again puts the Polish Fed Cup team on her back, lending a hand in all three wins vs. Sweden (including an Ula-less doubles win over the veteran duo of Arvidsson/Larsson) as the Poles move on to their first-ever World Group Playoff this spring
#10 - Facing off in Fed Cup Asia/Oceania I pool play along with the seemingly-stronger Kazakh and Chinese teams, in Kazakstan, it's the Thai team that shines the brightest. Led by surprise AO star Luksika Kumkhum, Thailand takes down the home Kazakh team in a head-to-head battle, winning a deciding doubles match (Kumkhum w/ vet Tammy Tanasugarn) to do it. In the promotional playoff, the young/old doubles combo is successfully called upon again to put away a game Uzbeki team led by teenager Sabina Sharipova.
HM - Kurumi Nara, appearing in her maiden WTA final, wins her first career tour singles title in Florianopolis

[Best Performance - Olympic Edition]

$25K Surprise Final - Jovana Jaksic d. Tamira Paszek
As Paszek, on a nine-match winning streak, attempted to win back-to-back challenger titles, the Austrian served for the match twice in the 2nd set. But Serbian Jaksic saved fourteen match points -- six in the 15-13 2nd set tie-break alone -- en route to what might just end up being the craziest result of the season. Must be something about Serbians with the initials "J.J.," huh?

Doha 2nd Rd. - Petra Kvitova d. Venus Williams
At least on a limited basis, Kvitova still as "it." Here, both players saved MP -- Venus at 5-4 in the 2nd, before both thwarted chances in the 3rd set TB -- before the Czech finally won on her third of the match. A week later, Kvitova blew a big lead in a 2nd Round match in Dubai, while Venus went on to win the title.

Acapulco Final - Dominika Cibulkova d. Christina McHale
In this 2:54 match, McHale battled back from a 5-2 3rd set deficit, saving three MP before holding a point to level things at 5-5. It didn't happen. But, still, two steps forward, but just a single one back, is measured as good progress for the often-wanting-in-the-clutch American.
Dubai Doubles 1st Rd. - Makarova/Vesnina d. Williams/Williams
The Russians get revenge on The Sisters. In singles, Serena had defeated Makarova, while Venus had taken out Vesnina.
Dubai 1st Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Angelique Kerber
Kerber saved three MP at 6-5 in the 3rd, then saw AnaIvo save one in the deciding tie-break. On her fourth MP, Ivanovic won... only to soon after meet a dire Dubai fate vs. Venus.
Fed Cup WG II Playoffs - Maria Irigoyen/ARG d. Kurumi Nara/JPN
This match seemed to produce good mojo for both players. Here on the clay, Irigoyen won in 3:39 on her fourth MP. Two weeks later on the clay in Rio, Nara won her first WTA singles title, while Irigoyen won her first tour doubles title in the same event.
Fed Cup WG II Playoffs - Cornet/Mladenovic (FRA) d. Bencic/Bacsinszky (SUI)
In the tie-deciding doubles match, the Swiss team actually served for the 1st set, but the Pastries took it to grab the lead, and then the match. Let a Cornet-style celebration ensue.

Fed Cup 1st Round - Hlavackova/Zahlavova-Strycova (CZE) d. Soler-Espinosa/Suarez-Navarro
What do you do when you're playing without your best player, and your second-best is limited? How about when you fall behind 1-0 on the road, then see rain delays push matches back to Sunday, then Monday? Well, in the case of the under womanned Czechs, you wrap up a come-from-behind tie vs. Spain with a deciding doubles victory that keeps alive the dream of a third FC title in four years. Oh, and you also do this:


*TO WIN IS GREAT, but to come back in divine*
Doha 2nd Rd. - Simona Halep d. Kaia Kanepi
Kanepi led 5-3 in the 3rd set, and served for the match at 5-4, only to see Halep win the 2:30 match. It was the Pride of Romania's only three-setter of the week, as she won her biggest career title and jumped into the Top 10 for the first time. Once again (see Kvitova at Wimbledon), Kanepi is on the wrong side of history.
Fed Cup World Group II Playoffs - France d. Switzerland
How do you overcome a bright-eyed 16-year old instent on stealing the show, who twice pulls off upset wins against far more experienced opponents to knot the tie at 1-1 and 2-2? Well, you have a coach like Amelie Mauresmo, that's how. Her surprise "gut decision" to use clutch vet Virginie Razzano in Match #1 vs. a shaky Stefanie Voegele gave the Pastries what turned out to be a key 1-0 lead on Day 1, and her knowledge of the internal/emotional workings of her team led to her gameplan to hold off using doubles star/singles question mark Kristina Mladenovic too early. It worked out perfectly, as Kiki was teamed with team sparkplug Alize Cornet -- a pairing that alleviated a potential case of bad nerves for both women -- to produce a strong deciding doubles win that proved that (MJF, take note) FC coaches CAN make a difference in tight and possibly difficult circumstances simply by innately understanding how their players will react BEFORE they actually do.
Acapulco Q1 - Belinda Bencic d. Olivia Rogowska 3-6/7-6(7)/6-3
Acapulco Q3 - Vicky Duval d. Belinda Bencic 6-7(8)/6-0/7-6(5)
the New Swiss Miss isn't infallible, but she's no pushover, either. She spent 7:33 attempting to qualify in Acapulco, opening with a comeback win from 6-3/4-1, and down a MP in the 2nd set TB, to defeat the Aussie in 2:25. Two matches later, though, she held two MP of her own at 6-5 in the 3rd, only to lose in 2:58 to fellow newcomer Duval. Alas, the main draw remained just out of reach for BB.
Paris Final - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Sara Errani
Hmmm, barring a FC triumph down the road, is anyone else getting the feeling that both Errani and Vinci's 2014 full season highlight (winning the AO doubles title) is already in their rear view mirror? Granted, while Vinci exited February still looking for her first '14 singles match win, Errani had a nice result in Paris, reaching the final. But that she led 6-2 with a point for 3-0 in the 2nd, only to lose, sort of put a few scuff marks on the accomplishment. Of course, so did the Russian's forty-eighth winner, which ended the match.

*IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T "SUCCEED"... choke, choke again*
Dubai 2nd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Petra Kvitova
Sadly, this is becoming common for Kvitova. In this slow-burning meltdown, the Czech took nine SP to put away the 1st set, then took at 6-1/4-2 lead. She served at 5-4 in the 3rd, and led 4-2 in the deciding tie-break, only to drop the final five points of the match. Oh, Petra.
Pattaya 1st Rd. - Kimiko Date-Krumm d. Garbine Muguruza 6-7(2)/7-5/7-6(6)
Florianopolis Final - Klara Zakopalova d. Garbine Muguruza 4-6/7-5/6-0
what has Aga done to Garbi's confidence? Ever since the Pole sandblasted the Spaniard's headspace in Melbourne, these sort of blown opportunities have been calling cards for 2014's first maiden champion (in Hobart). In the 2:50 match vs. KDK, Muguruza held a MP at 5-3 in the 2nd, as well as at 6-5 in the 3rd set tie-break. In Brazil, she led Zakopalova 6-4/5-2, only to lose five straight games to lose the 2nd set, then eleven in a row to close out the match, dropping serve six of seven times down the stretch and on the way to defeat. Ouch.

*TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY... for upsets?*
Dubai SF - Alize Cornet d. Serena Williams
Some blamed it on Serena wanting to clear the way for her sister Venus in the Dubai final (really? I thought we were past such conspiracy theories with The Sisters). Others pegged a rumored looming break-up with coach/BF Patrick Mouratoglou. Hmmm, or maybe it was the lingering AO back injury that led to the absence that only ended because, according to Serena, she was "bored" with practicing. But, really, even with Williams not in top form, all congrats go to Cornet, who collected herself and held it together after losing a 6-4 and a break lead and failing to put away four MP at 5-3 in the 2nd. Serena's string of final game errors helped set the table for the Pastry's biggest career win, but we all know the emotional Frenchwoman could just as easily have folded in the moment and still lost this one. As it is, that moment happened in the final vs. Venus.
Fed Cup WG II Playoffs - Belinda Bencic/SUI d. Alize Cornet/FRA
Indoors in Paris, in her maiden FC singles match, Bencic ran off seven straight games to steal the 1st set and grab an advantage in the 2nd en route to a win that knotted the SUI/FRA tie at 1-1. One was led to believe that the time was past when sixteen year olds had these sort of debuts. Hmmm... but maybe if you're Swiss and are coached by Melanie Molitor it's simply what HAS to happen? Bencic then came back on Day 2 and took out Virginie Razzano 6-1/6-1 to once more knot the tie at 2-2. The youngster's run finally ended in the deciding doubles.
Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Andrea Petkovic/GER d. Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
After dropping the 1st set, Petkovic -- only playing a big role because of Sabine Lisicki's shoulder injury -- was forced to hold at 4-5 and 5-6 to stay in the match before forcing a tie-break in which she raced to a 5-0 lead. But Cibulkova, fresh off her AO final run and looking to erase the Slovaks' historic choke from 2-0 up vs. Russia in last year's FC semis, reeled off six straight points to reach match point, only to dump a weak service return into the net. Petkovic went on to win, and the rest was history as Angelique Kerber proceeded to clean up what was left of the Slovak team. Petkovic didn't play another point all weekend... but she didn't have to. Her work was done.
Fed Cup Asia/Oceania I Zone Play - Luksika Kumkhum/THA d. Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
Sure, it looks like an upset. But factor in the scrappy Thai's AO win over Petra Kvitova, and that notion is questionable. Add to that the fact that Kumkhum also defeated Shvedova in last year's zone play -- by almost the exact same score, 0-6/6-4/6-4 -- and the eyebrow is raised even higher. Throw is that Kumkhum teamed with Tamarine Tanasugarn to defeat Shvedova and Galina Voskboeva in a Pool-deciding doubles match and I'm thinking this Kumkhum thing is getting more than a bit serious.
Paris SF - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Maria Sharapova
Sure, Pavlyuchenkova's standing makes this one a questionable "upset," too. But, remember, Sharapova hadn't lost to fellow Russian since Maria Kirilenko took her out in the AO 1st Round four years ago, a run that included fifteen all-Hordette match-ups. Of course, Sharapova's thirteen DF, including four in the final two games, and back-to-back DF to end the match, had something to do with it.

**By the Numbers...**
0... number of matches played in February by current world #4 Victoria Azarenka following her Australian Open QF loss to Aga Radwanska
0-6... Klara Zakopalova's record in tour singles finals since her last singles title in Portoroz, before her win in Florianopolis
1... total number of women's wheelchair players included in the Tennis Hall of Fame now that Chantal Vandierendonck has been announced as an inductee in the Class of 2014. Four years from now, expect Esther Vergeer to join the 1990's era Dutch champion in Newport.
1 of 8... number of singles matches played by China's (only) two Top 50 singles players included on the roster in the nation's Asia/Oceania Fed Cup zone play in February.

3... number of months Caroline Wozniacki's coaching relationship with Thomas Hogstedt lasted before the Swede was fired by the Dane
4... counting this year's upcoming semifinal meeting, the number of times Italy and the Czech Republic have met in Fed Cup play over the last four seasons. The three previous winning teams in the match-ups were eventually crowned FC champs that year.
4... consecutive Fed Cup ties lost by Team Serbia since winning in the 2012 semifinals to reach the nation's first (and only) FC final
10... years since Team Canada's last appearance in a World Group playoff. Canada's recent WGII Playoff win over Serbia advanced the team into that round for 2014.
12... Aga Radwanska's current Fed Cup singles match-winning streak. Poland will play in the nation's first-ever Fed Cup World Group playoff this spring.
18... years since a Romanian (Irina Spirlea) made her Top 10 debut before Simona Halep did it in February
77-23... Maria Sharapova's career mark vs. fellow Russians. Her 15-match winning streak over Hordettes was snapped in the Paris semifinals by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but Sharapova is still 23-1 in her past twenty-four meetings against her countrywomen.
#160... the highest-ranked member of Russia's Fed Cup team competing in the tie vs. Australia, which (as expected) became the nation's first 1st Round loss since 2006
1993... before this season, the last year that Australia appeared in the Fed Cup semifinals
1995... before this season, the last year that Germany appeared in the Fed Cup semifinals

When all else fails, go with the Rads... in leather.

As a last-ditch attempt to salvage the day, go with Maria and Genie... in crisp white.

Meanwhile, in a season so far anything-but-dominated by a certain member of the Williams clan, we are left to wonder whether the eventual/potential "Ms. Backspin" is still (somewhat) hiding in the shadows of the still-young season.

"Me.Mine.Alone.Myself.I.One.Solo.Unaccompanied." - mysteriously Tweeted by Serena Williams, with no further explanation

Hmmm. Stay tuned.

1999 Serena Williams d. Steffi Graf
2000 Lindsay Davenport d. Martina Hingis
2001 Serena Williams d. Kim Clijsters
2002 Daniela Hantuchova d. Martina Hingis
2003 Kim Clijsters d. Lindsay Davenport
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne d. Lindsay Davenport
2005 Kim Clijsters d. Lindsay Davenport
2006 Maria Sharapova d. Elena Dementieva
2007 Daniela Hantuchova d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2008 Ana Ivanovic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Vera Zvonareva d. Ana Ivanovic
2010 Jelena Jankovic d. Caroline Wozniacki
2011 Caroline Wozniacki d. Marion Bartoli
2012 Victoria Azarenka d. Maria Sharapova
2013 Maria Sharapova d. Caroline Wozniacki

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier Mandatory $5.575m/hard outdoor)
13 Final: Sharapova d. Wozniacki
13 Doubles Final: Makarova/Vesnina d. Petrova/Srebotnik
14 Top Seeds: Li/A.Radwanska

=Round of 16=
#1 Li d. Mattek-Sands
#12 Cibulkova d. #8 Kvitova
#4 Sharapova d. #20 Pennetta (fun!)
#11 Ivanovic d. #5 Kerber (they've already had one great match in '14)
#6 Halep d. #18 Bouchard (the battle to not be "Sloany?")
#3 Azarenka d. #19 Flipkens (not sure Vika will get this far, though...bites nails)
#7 Jankovic d. #10 Wozniacki
#2 A.Radwanska d. #32 Cornet

#1 Li d. #12 Cibulkova (AO rematch!)
#4 Sharapova d. #11 Ivanovic
#3 Azarenka d. #6 Halep (not feeling great on this one, but In Vika I Trust, I guess)
#7 Jankovic d. #2 A.Radwanska (umm, I want this for selfish reasons... wink, wink)

#4 Sharapova d. #1 Li
#3 Azarenka d. #7 Jankovic

#4 Sharapova d. #3 Azarenka (despite Vika's recent HC success vs. Maria)

By the way, there'll be a mid-I.W. update next week... as well as, very shortly, QC's turn to save the world.

All for now.


Blogger Zidane said...

Wait wait wait... You have two Stephens quotes, and both include more than 140 characters??

Wed Mar 05, 09:41:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Maybe there's hope for her yet! :D

Thu Mar 06, 01:41:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, the long Italian WTA nightmare is over (well, one of them anyway): Francesca has finally won a match! She defeated Mona Barthel in three sets in IW, notching her first win of 2014.

Meanwhile, Taylor Townsend downed another Italian, Karin Knapp, in straight sets. Hmmm, maybe SHE should have been on MJF's Fed Cup roster?

The Mladenovic Doubles Partner Spinning Wheel landed on "Pennetta" for IW (yah!), and the pair opened with a nice win over Kudryavtseva/Rodionova on Thursday.

Umm, and to throw in something from Wednesday... Petrova retired from her 1st Round match after just two games. Oh, Nadia.

Fri Mar 07, 03:09:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Another Italian nightmare ended on Friday, as Roberta Vinci finally got her first win since last year's FC final, defeating Madison Keys (who STILL can't beat an Italian in '14).

Meanwhile, Vika Azarenka said she was glad to just be in IW, and as it turns out that's how it'll have to stay, as her Cali journey ended after one match in a 6-0/7-6(1) loss to Lauren Davis.

Back on the court after three weeks in a walking boot, Azarenka played in pain throughout the match and at least half a dozen time went to her knees before slowly lifting herself upright. She winced constantly, and took zero chances when it came to footwork. As a result, as Davis played a remarkably clean match, Vika was bageled for a second straight set in the 1st, after Aga did so in her last match in AO QF.

Of course, Vika being Vika, every twinge of pain was made into what looked like a career-threatening moment, even if she was just sore. Still, it made for some nice drama. Between sets, using typically salty language, Vika made it pretty clear to Sam Sumyk just how much her foot hurt, and how embarrassed she was by her play. After their chat, she did play better in the 2nd. She was up a break at 2-0 and 3-1, but never really seemed confident in her footing or comfortable on any level, and only looked like herself in brief spurts. After holding in her anger all night, when DF #9 broke her own serve to give Davis a 4-3 lead in the 2nd, Azarenka destroyed a racket on the way to the changover.

Still, she calmed herself down enough (even at one point using the combo of a deep breath, then "simmer down" hand movements that we often see from Serena, something which I don't remember seeing Azarenka do before) to break back and go up 5-4, and broke Davis to force a tie-break.

There, though, Vika lost her shots, while Davis played a very professional TB, winning 7-1 to get easily her biggest win ever (she'd never beaten a Top 25 player before this win over #4).

In retrospect, Vika probably should have just sat out IW, but at least now she'll have some extra time to heal up before she next plays.

Sat Mar 08, 12:04:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Looking at how vika played. I am surprised she got 2nd set tie break. Absolutely no confidence and no feel on her feet. Her game is based on movement. I have not seen sumyk came down for coaching for a very long time. Not a good sign

Sat Mar 08, 12:45:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, he seemed to be seeing if she wanted to continue or retire. That she played on and at least had a few moments, even with all her movement issues, makes you wonder if maybe the injury is healed, but it's just a pain management/mental thing. As we know, even though she's never really had a major injury, she's missed time with various ailments quite a bit in the past, then, as Sharapova once pointed out, she was right back out playing, making people question her injuries.

Hopefully, it's just a case of Vika being overly sensitive to pain, and tentative with her movement because of that, not because of any continued seriousness with the foot. That being the case, another week and a half and maybe she'll be far better off in Miami. If she's still not ready then, it wouldn't be a crime to miss it look forward to the rest of the season, either.

Sat Mar 08, 01:59:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Sunday we saw some real battles: Cornet in a maraton, Haleph on the heels as Caroline was - you feel quite exhausted;) And then Aga back in form a real pleasure to watch and the first double bagel of the year? What pleased me most was that Caroline could win even if she played bad that means that her fighting spirit is back. And another bad day for the Italians :(

Mon Mar 10, 03:19:00 AM EDT  

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