Monday, March 10, 2014

Wk.10- The Good, the Bad and the (Indian) Wells

Hmmm, what's happened through two and a half rounds of action at Indian Wells? Well, some good things... and some bad.

The Good: Vika showed up
The Bad: She probably shouldn't have
The Indian Wells: But, then again, we know that Vika has never exactly been one to underreact to pain, even if an injury isn't necessarily serious. Maybe that's the case this time, as well.
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The Good: There were all sorts of sisters players in Indian Wells: two Radwanskas, a Pliskova, a Kichenok, a Chan, a Rodionova and even a Krajicek and a Schmiedlova.
The Bad: But, alas, still no Williamses, despite Serena having had her name included on the potential participant list a few weeks ago
The Indian Wells: For the first time in a decade, though, there's at least a small chance that the longtime Williams boycott of the tournament might end soon
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The Good: Svetlana Kuznetsova is still alive in both the singles AND doubles draws
The Bad: One wouldn't want to bank of that being the case for too much longer. But, then again, we never know with Sveta, do we?
The Indian Wells: She plays Kvitova next, by the way. Seriously, how fitting is that?
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The Good: Some winless Italian vets finally got their first wins of 2014
The Bad: The didn't get a second win, though
The Indian Wells: Ah, but Flavia Pennetta plays on, even if her path to the final could still contain four straight slam winners. First up: Sam Stosur.
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The Good: Sloane Stephens and Petra Kvitova have looked very good so far
The Bad: I probably won't be saying that about either by this time next week
The Indian Wells: But at least Current Sloane is SOUNDING and ever LOOKING a little like Future Sloane this week. (Hmmm, is that the sound of a clock ticking that I hear?)
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The Good: We'll get the Bouchard vs. Halep 4th Round match-up that looked so enticing at the start of the tournament
The Bad: Halep came in with two ailing Achilles, and is playing with a still-ailing serve
The Indian Wells: We're going to get a semifinalist from the survivor of the Halep-Bouchard-Dellacqua-Davis section
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The Good: Bagels and Radwanskas STILL go well together
The Bad: Hmmm, not sure there's ANYTHING bad about that... that's my story, and I'm sticking to it
The Indian Wells: Hey, I have to be nice, since the two weeks of Miami will coincide with The Rad's mythical Waterloo. Oops, did I say too much?
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ITF PLAYER: Zarina Diyas/KAZ
...the 20-year old Kazakh claimed the $50K Blossom Cup in Quanzhou, China, winning her fifth and biggest-ever ITF title with wins over Wang Qiang, Ksenia Pervak and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in a 6-1/6-1 final.
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JUNIOR STAR: Veronika Kudermetova/RUS
...a week after the 16-year old Hordette lost to fellow Russian Olga Doroshina 7-6(5)/4-6/7-6(6) in the final of a $10K challenger in Astana, Kazakhstan, Kudermetova got revenge against her in a final in the same city this weekend, winning 7-6(2)/7-6(3) to claim her first professional singles crown.
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DOWN: Victoria Azarenka/BLR & Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (ITA/ITA)
...Vika said she was glad to just be in IW, and as it turns out that'll have to suffice, 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 2nd Round match and went to her knees in pain at least half a dozen times before slowly lifting herself upright again. 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 shut her out in that classic set in her last match in the 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 coach 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 changeover. 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). Meanwhile Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci were dumped out in the 1st Round in Indian Wells by the all-star wild card team of Svetlana Kuznetsova & Sam Stosur, 6-3/3-6/10-6. Sure, the Italians managed to defend their AO title in January, but the former doubles #1's have now lost three of their last four matches.
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[I.W. Week 1]
1. IW 2nd Rd - Davis d. Azarenka
...6-0/7-6(1).
In many ways, this was a lesser version of Vika's "why is she playing?" dance in her final match of '13 in the Tour Championships. 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 ventures out once again. Hopefully, "Groundhog Day" won't continue to play on a loop when she's on the court.
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2. IW 3rd Rd. - Cornet d. Suarez-Navarro
...6-7(4)/7-5/6-3.
Cornet is making a habit of these sort of matches this year. CSN held three MP at 5-4 in the 2nd, but the Pastry advanced in a nearly three-and-a-half hour battle.
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3. IW 1st Rd. - Schiavone d. Barthel 3-6/6-2/6-2
IW 2nd Rd. - Vinci d. Keys 6-3/6-3
...
Italian fortunes change, as both vets get their first wins of 2014. Meanwhile, Keys, following up her bad Fed Cup excursion to Cleveland, still can't defeat an Italian on U.S. soil.
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4. IW Q1 - Fichman d. Kumkhum 6-3/4-6/6-3
IW 1st Rd. - Watson d. Bencic 7-5/6-4
IW 1st Rd. - Dellacqua d. McHale 7-6/6-4
...
good results are a fickle mistress, as recent "feel-good" moments turned sour in California for the Thai, Swiss and Bannerette.
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5. IW 1st Rd - Soler-Espinosa d. Petrova
...1-1 ret.
Oh, Nadia.
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6. IW 2nd Rd. - Torro-Flor d. Kerber
...2-6/7-6(5)/6-4.
The German surged back from 4-1 down in the 2nd to force a TB, and came within two points of a win there at 5-4. The Spaniard thought otherwise.
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7. IW 1st Rd. - Townsend d. Knapp 7-6/6-1
IW 2nd Rd. - Pennetta d. Townsend 6-3/6-7(4)/6-3
...
hmmm, this begs the question: what if Taylor had been in that FC tie vs. Italy in Cleveland?
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8. IW 2nd Rd. - Wozniak d. Lisicki
...7-5/1-6/7-6(5).
Lisicki led 4-0 in the 3rd set tie-break, only to drop seven of the final eight points.
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9. IW 2nd Rd. - Ivanovic d. Svitolina
...4-6/7-5/7-6(1).
Svitolina served up 5-4 in the 3rd.
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10. IW 2nd Rd. - Li d. J.Zheng
...6-1/7-5.
In Chinese tennis history, this match-up is as good as it gets.
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HM- IW 3rd Rd. Halep d. Safarova 6-2/4-6/6-4
$25K Campinas BRA Final - Begu d. Panova 6-2/6-4
...
Halep scrambled from being down an early break in the 3rd in Indian Wells, but her countrywoman didn't need to worry about such things in Brazil.
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1. IW 1st Rd. - Wozniak d. Urszula Radwanska
...6-2/6-0.
A Rad can take it...
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2. IW 3rd Rd. - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Beck
...6-0/6-0.
But they prefer to dish it out. And they don't just like bagels -- they like doughnuts, too!

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3. IW Q2 - Anna Schmiedlova d. Nadiya Kichenok
...6-4/6-4.
When a sister meets a sister, one wins... but one also has to lose.
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4. $25K Campinas BRA Doubles Final - Lyudmyla Kichenok/Panova d. Thorpe/Vogt
...6-1/6-3.
Meanwhile, Lyudmyla provides some competitive balance for the Kichenoks' week.
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5. $25K Preston UK Final - Kristyna Pliskova d. Buyukakcay
...6-3/7-6(4).
While her sister Karolina was firing aces in Indian Wells, Kristyna was notching Killer "B" wins over the likes of Bacsinszky, Brianti and Buyukakcay en route to her fourth career ITF title.

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HM- $10K Gainesville USA Doubles Final - Frankova/Kramperova d. Roxanne Ellison/Sierra Ellison
...6-4/6-3.
The former San Diego State doubles duo have their very own web site, just like so many other all-sister combinations.
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**2014 ITF TITLES**
2...Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
2...Misa Eguchi, JPN
2...Anastasia Grymalska, ITA
2...Jang Su-Jeong, KOR
2...Lauar Pous-Tio, ESP
2...Patricia Maria Tig, ROU
2...Zhang Ling, HKG

**RECENT INDIAN WELLS FINALS**
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


All for now.

28 Comments:

Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, the second week of Indian Wells won't be accused of entering quietly. Not only did Nadal lose, but so did defending champ Sharapova.

Sharapova fell to qualifier Giorgi -- who's proven to be quite adept at playing big matches on U.S. hard courts -- in three sets. The Italian, who at one point looked like she might fade down the stretch, finally put things away while serving for the match for a second time. Giorgi will meet countrywoman Pennetta, who took out Stosur in three sets.

Meanwhile, Pavlyuchenkova went out via a love 3rd set (shocking, I know), to Wozniak; while the Kvitova/Kuznetsova match ended the same way. Of course, since EITHER of those two being bageled as they went out the door would surprise no one, I'm thinking we could just flip a coin to figure out which won.

(Flip)

And it's... Kvitova who advanced! For now, anyway.

In the last match of the day, Sloane Stephens had a slightly "Futuristic" look about her, but since she was playing AnaIvo it's probably not wise to read TOO much into it, even as the draw has opened quite wide so that a very interesting possible Stephens/Pennetta QF match-up now looks probable. Stephens blew a lead in the 1st (she was two points from the set), but went on to put away the tie-break. In the 2nd, Ivanovic nearly went up a double break, but Stephens avoided it and then closed things out in straight sets by taking the 2nd at 6-4. A nice, professional save from Stephens... but AnaIvo has made a living in recent seasons losing matches she had a chance to win.

Tomorrow, it's Halep/Bouchard, JJ/Caro and Aga/Cornet (Dellacqua/Davis, too).

Rubbing hands together in anticipation of some fun.

Tue Mar 11, 01:36:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

I think Maria now understand the feelings Caroline went through in US Open when she lost to Giorgi :). What I'm most worried about is Giorgi's father he was not far from a heart attack. Maria didn't play well. Fun to follow the matches but I must say if you're fan of Petra it must be like riding in a roller coaster. She might pun in more toilet breaks ;)

Tue Mar 11, 03:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

A few seasons ago there was hope that Kvitova would avoid it, but she has most definitely become a "traditional Czech player." ;)

Tue Mar 11, 12:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

All the Round of 16 matches are going on Tuesday, and the first completed was Halep/Bouchard.

From the jump, Halep was in tune while Bouchard was out of whack, as the Romanian ran out to a 5-0 lead before the Canadian finally got her feet under her. Halep won the 1st 6-2, but then had difficulty getting points off her second serve in the 2nd, as Bouchard won 6-1 to knot the match. Serving up 4-3 in the 3rd, Bouchard's own difficulty winning second serve points came back to bite her, as she was broken, then got a late-match visit from coach Nick Saviano down 5-4. Serving to stay in the match, she couldn't pull things together again. A few errant tosses in the breeze, a very poor swinging volley attempt along with some bad ground stroke errors brought down the curtain on the Canadian's trip to California, as Halep won 6-2/1-6/6-4.

Genie's Army will now have to take up a new position in Miami, I suppose.

Tue Mar 11, 03:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

JJ had a pretty easy time of it vs. Wozniacki, leading 6-3/5-0 before Caro at least got a game on the board to avoid an outgoing bagel. Rory has a practice round caddy again.

On TC, Tracy Austin, Mark Knowles and Brett Haber mentioned how JJ had a recent birthday on February 28th. Oh, wouldn't it be just PERFECTLY FITTING if she'd been born on February 29th? Come to think of it, it was probably the 29th somewhere in Asia when JJ was born in Belgrade in '85. ;)

Dellacqua had an even easier time today. She passed through to the QF without playing a single point after Lauren Davis w/d due to a case of food poisoning.

Tue Mar 11, 05:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Now that you bring it up, it would be fun to see JJ's astrological chart. Moon in--I wonder.......Probably Saturn in glitter :)

Tue Mar 11, 09:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha!

Meanwhile, not unexpectedly, Kvitova's difficulties returned in her next outing, as she won just five games off Cibulkova in a 6-3/6-2 match. Stephens, though, continues to show something a little extra in Indian Wells. She led Kleybanova by a set and a break up at 4-2, then lost her break lead and saw the Russian serve for the set at 5-4. It's the sort of set up where Stephens has gone on to lose so many matches over the past year but, once again in the desert, she kept her focus and surged back in the final games. She broke Kleybanova to even things at 5-5, then broke her again to end the match to win 6-3/7-5. She'll face off with Pennetta next.

JJ and Aga go tomorrow.

Wed Mar 12, 12:31:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Geez, that was a mini-novella in the final game of Li/Wozniak.

Li won the match 6-1/6-4 in 1:34, but the final game took twenty minutes all by itself. Li went up 40/love, but ended up having to save two break points and survive a very bad call by the umpire (followed by a rather animated -- for Li -- protest) before finally winning on her ELEVENTH match point (after losing four w/ DF) of the GAME.

Afterward, Li told the crowd, "Welcome to the crazy women's tennis tour."

Wed Mar 12, 01:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I love how the comments re: Li-Na's-bad-call on instagram and twitter were related to Serena:

- "The official must be a hater. She's unattractive inside."
- "Li Na is not the one"

Even in absence, her presence is felt...

Finally, "That must have been El Jannari [Jennetti (sp?)] in the chair."

Wed Mar 12, 09:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Will Corby said...

Despite the loss to Stephens, is Kleybanova possibly back to her pre-cancer self? Wins over Duval, Muguruza, and Torro-Flor.

Also if the Maria-Teresa ever becomes a greater force on tour, or maybe if she doesn't, you should start calling her either Tower-Flower or bullflower. Flor of course is Spanish for flower while torre is tower and toro is bull - both very close to Torro. :-)

Wed Mar 12, 10:12:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Eric-
Of course, it that'd happened to Serena in Indian Wells, of all places, the discussion would have likely taken an even uglier turn.

Will-
I'm wondering that, too. She's certainly getting close.

Hmmm, interesting on MTF...

Wed Mar 12, 11:11:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

all this talk of a fifth grand slam is really obnoxious to me. either do it or don't...but stop speculating. bc a few years ago it was Miami...but then they stopped updating facilities...every fall they say it's Beijing or somewhere in Asia. Sometimes it's Doha or Dubai during the early spring swing...and now it's Indian Wells.

I think Madrid and Rome were discussed at one time as well. (Ion Tiriac woo...)

How about the moon? If you're going to add another snazzy event, be bold. Be the first sport in space! Instead of global stars, you'll have galactic stars!

But srsly, the conversation is old.

(I'm mostly for not having another Grand Slam...part of me thinks women's golf made a mistake...)

Wed Mar 12, 12:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

And since Pete Bodo is hellbent on updating the world on this issue every time a premiere or mandatory event comes along, I'll say this.

Yes, Indian Wells is doing great. It's improving and renovating and it has a great benefactor. Couple things tho:
- Why would anyone agree to having a second grand slam in America? Especially now that the game is more global.
- This event is in March, when another bastion of American tradition takes place - March Madness. Which sporting network would cover this event?
- Does Larry Ellison want to cede control of his event to the powers of tennis and watch them weave their bureaucracy into the way he likes to get things done? (Say, you catch him on a day when he feels like legacy is important...and you say, "Larry, if Indian Wells is added as a 5th grand slam, you'll leave an indelible mark on tennis."...well...guess what, he's already got this thing called Oracle.) I bet that this event is his stress release...I think he likes tinkering with things...I don't think he'll want to give it up...This could even be his post-retirement hobby...dunno. I just don't see him ceding control.

I do think that the tour should make some changes, especially since the international premiere tennis league could dilute some of the flash of the game...but I don't think adding a 5th grand slam is it...or not as a first move... If you really want to expand the games, have continent leagues, improve Fed Cup, have team events every so often.

Random thoughts.

Wed Mar 12, 12:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

More random thoughts:

- my opinion of Carlos Rodriquez and coaches in general have gone up tremendously since Carlos partnered with Li Na. (Perhaps this is due to Li Na's willingness to talk about their partnership...others are more tight-lipped.)

I know that he's working with talent of the upper echelons of the highest caliber (best of the best) -- I know that having pupils like Henin and Li Na makes a difference -- but no one can deny that Li Na is a better player now after working with Carlos. Her forehand is better, and most importantly, her mentality is better. It makes you wonder what his effect on Justine was. Similarly, I wonder a lot about Richard Williams and his ability to coach two world champions.

Lightning doesn't strike twice, so some of it has to be skill.

I first started noticing the effect of coaching when Maria Sharapova stole Thomas Hogstedt from Li Na. I used to really admire Li Na's foot work - her stutter steps - and I just figured that that was her talent. But then I started seeing Maria having the same footwork prep into her groundstrokes...and her game improved dramatically. Granted, he no longer works with either player and Maria no longer stutter-steps as often...but Li Na still does...

Similarly, Serena's game changed after teaming with Patrick...her attitude changed as well...but she used more short angles, especially off the forehand wing to pull opponents waaaay off the court. Her movement and footwork prep into shots was much better. Her accuracy off the ground was tremendous. I'll be interested to see what changes will happen if they're no longer working together.

Other incidents that come to mind:
- JImmy Connors with Andy Roddick at the 06 US Open. Andy's backhand was soooo much better.
- MariaS and Sven Groenefeld the other day against Giorgi. He said, "Your need to get lower." I thought that was a really insightful comment. Something that only an expert could say to her.

For some reason, I don't see the difference in the Big 4 as much...like everyone said that Andy Murray's game changed...but I didn't really feel like there were any new tactics or variety...just more his belief and mentality...which obviously can be cultivated by a coach too. (Or just not being a 20 yo male anymore...i mean being 25,26 is a big difference!)

Either way, it's definitely a collaboration...but I see the effects more. Also, willingness to listen is a big must. I don't think that Serena would have listened to any body else prior to losing first round at the French Open...or after suffering her health scares. She was looking to really improve after those incidents.

Wed Mar 12, 01:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I'm fine with leaving things at four. And if a fifth slam were to be created, it seems pretty ridiculous for it to be held in the U.S. in March, or at any other time, for that matter. There have to be equal money opportunities elsewhere in more deserving places than here. Also, in order for it not to be overkill, there'd have to be something different that made a fifth slam unique and worthwhile on a competition level, too, not just a financial one. Say, maybe having it in the heart of Asia, possibly all indoors. But that would take a monster facility with a huge number of indoor courts, which I don't know of existing at the moment. Hmmm, maybe in Dubai? They'd certainly have the money to put it together.

I wonder if anyone has ever considered something like a tennis World Cup, with both men's and women's team competitions taking place simultaneously, and maybe as a replacement for DC/FC every four years? Just a thought.

As far as the Asian league is concerned, any of those participating players who utters a single peep about either tour's schedule, the lack of an offseason, commitments to tour/sponsors/events or sees their standing take a hit during the regular year because of lingering injuries and/or a lack of time to recover and wants to complain or garner sympathy for their plight will reveal themselves as full-out hypocrites. Just sayin'. ;)

Wed Mar 12, 01:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

whoa...JJ's back in the top 5...when did that happen? has she won anything recently? or just deep play...

Wed Mar 12, 01:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

On the coaching, so much of it also depends on the player being willing to listen, as you noted.

Li does, and utilizes what she's learned when it matters. So far, for example, the jury is still out on both accounts when it comes to Wozniacki.

The really interesting watch will be Stephens with Annacone. Although they ARE a bit biased, when it comes to the player and coach (since Annacone works for TC), Davenport and Carillo noted how calmly he talked to Stephens during their on-court call-ups, offering her advice and observations, but not pressing her and telling her what to do. She's responded well in Indian Wells, digging herself out of spots in which she would have lost matches over the past year. If she turns a noticeable corner as 2014 goes on, Annacone's influence will certainly be looked at as having played an important role.

Wed Mar 12, 01:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

whoa...JJ's back in the top 5...when did that happen? has she won anything recently? or just deep play...

She's been pretty consistent, though she's only won one title over the past year. Also, Sharapova losing all those points after winning IW last year and losing early here helps, too. :)

I think Halep could still be the one who reaches the Top 5 next week, too, right?

Wed Mar 12, 01:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Yeah Todd, thanks for reminding me...I forgot...another reason no one would agree to having it in America is that America isn't a dominant force in the game anymore. They have a dominant media presence...maybe, the Canadians could push for having the event there...At least it would be similar time zones...

I personally think the four weeks of tournaments in America in March should be a big team competition not bound by nations...Like specifying that each team needs a man and a woman from teh top 10, a man and a woman from teh top 50, and three players from 51 - 150. Or maybe two from 11-20 if you don't get someone from teh top 10. (minimum...teams could be bigger). And then you could have like high school dual meets with singles, doubles, mixed doubles. Also this helps players who are coming back, too. LIke I'm sure Alisa Keybanova would be snatched up in two seconds since her ability is higher than her ranking. You could even televise the draws. Or you could have fans pick the teams.

Also no legends. Just no.

Four weeks may be excessive...but something different in the middle of the year before the serious European season starts.

Todd,
Do you remember the fantasy teams that the WTA did for one (maybe two) seasons? I feel like the concept should be like that...but one big tournament instead of over the course of the season. They players could have fun too since ranking wouldn't really be a factor.

Wed Mar 12, 01:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I think what Halep does really well is to enjoy herself. She says that a lot. "I'm just trying to enjoy." What a refreshing attitude...and I think that it shows in her game. Less tension. Halep seems to instinctually know that the best time in a career is when you're first coming up. No pressure. I think Sloane needs some of that.

Yes, I'm really interested in this Annacone/Stephens relationship...but I think she needs someone who will be with her all the time. When he took his TC commentating break during the middle east swing...she was just not the same player.

I have this theory that Sloane takes a highlighter to the draw before the tournament not looking for those ranked higher than her, but for those with a higher Q rating. She probably tries to stay in the tourney longer than them. Notice how Genie's out now...and Sloane personally took out AnaIvo.

Wed Mar 12, 01:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

What Carlos R. did for Justine : 1. got her to stop choking, 2. forced her to go to the net, despite her initial refusal to do so. He is definitely a superior coach. I also happen to agree with Ricardo S., by the way, that he, too, is one of the better coaches on the tour. Add sam S. to that list. And so far, I'm impressed with Annacone.

Oh, yes, if there has to be a 5th (and I'm against it), put it on the moon! JJ will win it every year, but will complain constantly about how hot she is in her spacesuit, and about how you can't glitter in space.

Wed Mar 12, 10:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Seriously, how fun is it to watch an Aga/JJ match? I mean, there's something good on nearly every point, coming from both sides of the net. Tonight's match lasted two and a half hours. Hated to see it end so soon but, of course, it had to.

Aga won 7-5/2-6/6-4 in a match that swung back and forth all night. Radwanska led 3-0 in the 1st, JJ went up 4-0 in the 2nd, and Aga took at 4-0 advantage in the 3rd.

Jankovic surged late in the 1st, but it was too late to steal the set. Still, she was serving at deuce to force a tie-break, but ended with a DF and error that handed the set to Radwanska. In the 2nd, Aga's groundstrokes were landing too short, and JJ took advantage of her second serve en route to a 6-2 win, after having broken A-Rad to end a long seventh game. Jankovic then waned in the 3rd as Radwanska's began to place her shots deeper in the court again, but JJ once again came back strong, knotting things at 4-4 and holding a break point on an Aga second serve with a chance to be able to serve out the match. But she didn't do enough with her return, and Radwanska ended up holding serve. At 4-5, up 40/15 on serve, though, JJ again concluded a set with errors, as a very entertaining match ended with more of a whimper than one would have liked, with Aga taking the 6-4 set on a long JJ shot.

Of course, with JJ involved, there "other" moments to remember. Some of them:

1) JJ coming back following a changeover suddenly wearing pants, and initially having a hard time figuring out where to stash her spare ball when serving. In the colder air, though, she DID play far better once she got on some warmer clothes.

2) JJ constantly falling to the ground, sometimes rolling over after a missed shot, then talking (though, for her, more calmly than usual) to her player's box and, one time, even raising her racket to challenge a call while still sitting in the splits position behind the baseline

3) JJ playing the Nature Lady, picking up a grasshopper (I think) with her racket, then laughing while a ball kid made a rather inept attempt to grab the fluttering critter with his bare hands. Finally, an adult official came out and got it. It was later seen courtside, trapped inside a glass jar without any holes punched in the lid... I'll be optimistic and say that the night ended better for it than it ultimately did for JJ.

Aga faces Halep in the semifinals.

Thu Mar 13, 01:39:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

No fifth Slam. No. No. No. And what's wrong with the current ATP and WTA calendars? Where does this need for new and different events come from? It reminds me of the Oscars trying to be hip and cool, losing their halo of prestige at the same time. James Franco co-hosting was a disaster. This year, there was a segment about heroes, showing excerpts from superhero movies, and my friend and I were like "what the heck is this doing here"?

The most meaningful sports events rise out of history. No one declared that they should be important. Their importance rather imposed itself with time. Tennis Slams, World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, Olympics, etc. You don't create important sport events by mere willpower. Take the hockey world championships. It takes place at the same time as the playoffs for the Stanley Cup, and despite being called "world championships", no hockey player or fan has any doubt which among the two is the most important.

In tennis, who considers exhibition events (or any extension thereof, like WTT, Antwerp and others) as anything more than an opportunity to play and find one's footing and form in view of upcoming events or matches? (Mademoiselle Cornet excepted.) Oh, and fun as well. But fun doesn't and shouldn't be the basis that defines an important event. Find any new and "cool" structure for a tennis event, nothing beats a competitive match played by two players at their best knowing the significance of the match they are dueling in.

One of my favourite Simpsons quote ever comes from Homer: "You know me Marge. I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals FLA-MING!"

Well, I like my tennis spectacular, my tennis players uninjured and in top shape and my tennis events COMPETITIVE.

Thu Mar 13, 02:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

I think every IW finalist except for Jenny Byrne has reached a slam semi. Is this a good omen for Halep? The only one that can stop her from reaching the final is A-Rad, who I think is also the only Miami winner not to have won a slam(yet).

Thu Mar 13, 04:26:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Zidane-

Haha! Great comments as always! Yeah, I agree that we really don't need a 5th slam. Certainly not at the moment, at least. And you make a very good point about how even the majors/slams that we recognize today weren't really seen as the high level of events that they are now. That just sort of evolved over time. If they were, the likes of Navratilova and Evert would have even more slam titles just because they would have played in Australia more often if they knew their "career legacy" was going to be judged by how many majors they won.

Oh, and speaking of that, it's also interesting to note just how -- much like the players of today have a mythical "advantage" over those of the past because generations ago players didn't think of "slams" in the same way -- future slam winners would have an advantage over past and current players simply because they'd get 10-15 more opportunties to win major titles if a 5th slam was designated, further confusing how different generations of players are compared through history.

Also, if there was a 5th slam then we'd constantly have to hear people call the big "left out" tournaments the SIXTH slam! Please... no. ;)


Colt13-

Yeah, and if you start counting when IW became a Tier I event (in 1996), then ALL finalists have reached a slam SF. Actually, all but three since '96 (Coetzer, Spirlea & Hantuchova) and two (Byrne & Manuela Maleeva) before that year have reached slam FINALS. Hopefully, it's a good path for Halep to be going down.

And, yes, Aga IS the only Miami champ to have not won a slam.

Also of note, since Halep won in Doha this year, she's got the chance to sweep the first two high-level Premier events of the season. If you go back through the years in which 5+ Tier I, then those events listed as high-level Premier tournaments starting in 2009, only three women have won the first two large non-slam events in a season:

1994 Steffi Graf
2011 Caroline Wozniacki
2012 Victoria Azarenka

All three ended the season at #1. Not that that would happen for Halep if she went 2-for-2, but it says something about the company she's close to keeping right now.

Thu Mar 13, 05:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Galileo said...

I have to also agree with you Todd on the fifth slam. I kind of see the whole of March as a kind of single event which can make or break seasons. Also, we dont need a third hard court slam surely? Indoor clay or grass or carpet in Asia would be really interesting. Also, Li Na is really living up to her seeding.Why did neither of us choose to pick her to win?

Thu Mar 13, 08:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hey, Galileo. :) On a side note, a little selfishly, I sort of like March just because there aren't so many tournaments and it provides a little bit of a breather on this end before the EuroClay season starts.

Ah, one of those prognostication conundrums! To go with chalk, or not to go with chalk. Picking #1 vs. #2 always feels like you're not really picking at all... yet we're two wins away from the #1 seed facing the #2 seed in the final. You just never know. ;)

Thu Mar 13, 09:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Just to add to the historical breakdown: Evert also missed three French Opens because she was playing WTT! The chances are very high that she would have won all three of them since she was unstoppable at Roland Garros during that period.

Thu Mar 13, 11:33:00 PM EDT  

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