Wednesday, April 02, 2014

1Q BSA's: To Bold-Li Go


Hmmm, what did we get in 2014's first quarter of action?

Well, we had Genie selfies...



But that's not all. We also had the continued weaving of her complicated web by the WTA's "Black Widow," a threat to all coaches far and wide (Piotr, err... Victor... yes, even you -- watch your back!)...



And, of course, we got a healthy dose of the usual JJ chaos from ol' QC...



But there was only one true star in the ocean of faces that made up the initial thirteen weeks of the season.



"My heart has no limits." - the message written in Chinese on the shirt worn by Li Na in the Australian Open final

*1Q Awards - Weeks 1-13*
**Ms. BACKSPIN STANDINGS**
1. Li Na, CHN
...with good humor, (comical post-match) grace and in-game aggression buoyed by a new confidence (not to mention a little well-timed good fortune, as the Tennis Gods pushed that Lucie Safarova attempt at a winner on match point in the AO 3rd Rd. a few inches long), Li added yet another influential chapter to what now seems certain to be a Hall of Fame career. Slam title #2 came in her third attempt at a successful Australian Open final, no matter that her draw never included an actual Top 20 foe. After seeing her chances fall by the wayside last year in Melbourne after a series of badly-timed and poorly-positioned falls in the final against Vika Azarenka, Li was due a break or two. Almost already forgotten is her Week 1 title defense in Shenzhen, a tournament -- much like the growing number of them dotting the WTA schedule -- that likely wouldn't exist if not for her own success the last few years. While Li's game has been beset by dodgy service games and inconsistency since Melbourne, she's still followed up her 13-0 start to '14 with an 8-3 follow-up that included a semifinal in Indian Wells and final in Miami, enough to raise her ranking to a career-best #2.
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2. Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai, TPE/CHN
...the childhood friends and longtime doubles duo's great 2013 -- titles at Wimbledon, the Tour Championships and at two high level Premier events -- has continued into '14 with two more big event crowns in Doha and Indian Wells. They've replaced Errani/Vinci as the top-ranked doubles team in the world, and Peng's additional doubles win in Pattaya (with Zhang Shuai) made her the first Chinese player to ever attain the #1 ranking. Hsieh currently sits at #2.

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3. Serena Williams, USA
...while Serena has put together what would be a stellar 1Q of a season for most players -- two titles, including successful defenses of her titles in Brisbane and Miami -- she hasn't displayed the sort of dominance that has characterized her tennis rebirth over the last season and a half. Many of her questions have, once again, come with injury footnotes. A back injury in Melbourne preceded her 4th Round AO loss to Ana Ivanovic, and an injured thigh and quick hard court-to-clay turnaround likely contributed to her 2Q-opening loss to Jana Cepelova in Charleston this week. In between, she fell to Alize Cornet in Paris and rarely played in her upper register during her seventh title run in south Florida. Still, she's 6-0 against Top 10ers this season and has a 5000-plus point lead at the top of the rankings. So, Serenativity Lite is still (mostly) effective, but watching Williams struggle yet win isn't quite as much as a rush as the original formula.
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4. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
...with a bigger racket, the same out-sized ferocity and new-found calm in the clutch, the shortest woman on the WTA tour showed that size both does and doesn't matter on the WTA tour. Nowhere near the discussion of AO dark horses before the tournament began, Cibulkova dominated her opponents (finishing them off in easy final sets that often went her way by 6-0 or 6-1 scores) and yet managed to sneak up on and knock out four Top 20 players, including #3 Maria Sharapova and #5 Aga Radwanska, on her way to her first career slam singles final. 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 with a title in Acapulco and semifinal run in Miami that pushed her into the Top 10 for the first time. Also, now a little more than a year after her double-bagel loss to Aga last January, Cibulkova has more than overcome any lingering fear of Radwanska's unique wrath.
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5. Simona Halep, ROU

...the Swarmette's remarkable climb up the WTA mountain continues. With some preseason critics still questioning her ability to maintain the pace that began with her semifinal run as a qualifier in Rome last spring, all Halep has done is attain a new career-best slam result (AO QF), led Romania out of Fed Cup zone play, win her biggest title yet (Doha), become the first Romanian in eighteen years to crack the Top 10 and the first ever to reach the Top 5. A semifinal run in Indian Wells, even while dealing with lingering Achilles issues, proved that Halep's success hasn't yet reached it's ceiling as her smart, turn-defense-to-offense game plan has shown the ability to work on all surfaces, continents and stages, no matter how big or small. Her biggest problem may end up being that her consistency means she racks up match totals at an alarming rate, meaning she needs to wisely manage her schedule so that she doesn't play herself into the ground because of TOO much success.
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6. 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?
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7. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
...last summer, Pennetta was coming off wrist surgery, with her ranking at #166 while she contemplated retirement. A Round of 16 run at Wimbledon kept her hopes high, and she's spun that run on the grass into gold. Her first slam semifinal came later that summer in New York, and she backed that up with a QF in Melbourne this year. Then came Indian Wells. Pennetta's run in the desert included victories over two Top 5 players, and four ranked in the Top 20. It was the Italian's biggest singles title ever, and her first since 2010. Suddenly, the first Italian to ever reach the Top 10 (in 2009) is threatening to return there at age 32. Talk about a thrilling encore.
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8. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
...not many would have guessed that the best Czech player on tour in the 1Q wouldn't be named Petra, Lucie, Andrea or even Karolina, and would instead be a "Klara." Zakopalova was a busy woman through the season's first thirteen weeks. Twice she knocked off a #1-seed in an event, reached a tour-leading three singles finals, including back-to-back Brazilian jaunts in Rio and Florianopolis, the latter of which she won to end her eight-year tour singles title drought. Oh, but that wasn't all. Zakopalova and Monica Niculescu won a pair of doubles crowns in January, and she garnered what turned out to be a super-important match win in the Czech Fed Cup team's three-day comeback effort against Spain. Oh, Petra? Forget that. Make it, "Oh, Klara!"
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9. German Fed Cup Team
...in the Fed Cup 1st Round, Andrea Petkovic came off the mat to take down Dominika Cibulkova in comeback fashion in Match #1 to knock the Slovaks to the ground, then Angelique 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 FC weekend and now head off to the nation's first semifinal since the Graf era.
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10. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
...Aga has been at her best in big events in '14, but the pattern of often coming up just short that was famously highlighted by the semifinal loss at Wimbledon last summer has continued. While she went 3-0 in Hopman Cup play in Week 1, Poland lost in the final. At the Australian Open, Radwanska vanquished longtime nemesis Victoria Azarenka with a brilliant performance in the quarterfinals, but then came out flat and was bounced a round later. She reached the semis at Doha, too, only to lose again. In the Indian Wells final, a lingering knee injury often made her non-competitive and brought her to tears in the post-match ceremony. But it wasn't all missed-it-by-that-much for Aga, as she extended her Fed Cup winning streak to twelve matches and has now pretty much single-handedly dragged the Polish team from the depths of zone play to within one tie win in April from joining the Fed Cup World Group in '15 for the first time in Polish history.
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11. Italian Fed Cup Team
...without the front line of fabled Italian Fed Cup stars on hand against the U.S. team in Clevelend, Karin 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 away the heart of the young Bannerette team, as well as a partisan crowd that never got up off their hands and into the contest. Knapp will likely have more big-name assistance come the springtime match-up with the Czechs.
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12. 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 something to behold. Now, we'll see what happens when the Aussies host the Germans, back home Down Under in April, right in the middle of what is supposed to be the EuroClay season. Will Stosur's mind and body be fully, or even literally, engaged considering she was somewhat noncommittal about her plans back in February?
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13. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
...entering '14 as last season's tour Newcomer of the Year, then 19-year old Bouchard more than lived up to advance expectations. Taking advantage of a good draw, she showed impressive control of her nerves in just her fourth appearance in a slam main draw, knocking off crowd favorite Casey Dellacqua under the lights on Laver, then upset Ana Ivanovic to reach her first career slam semifinal, matching North American counterpart Sloane Stephens' result from a year ago. Genie's Army was drafted after her glorious two weeks in Melbourne, but they're still waiting for their next marching orders. She's reached just one QF in her five events since the AO, but she did lead the Canadiettes into their first Fed Cup World Group Playoff in a decade. Unlike with Stephens, there seems to be little reason to wonder whether Bouchard will ever "get" it.
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14. Venus Williams, USA
...whether she'll be able to maintain her good early-season level all year or not, Venus has often caught a bit of a gentle breeze in 2014's 1Q. She reached the Auckland final in January, then came through with a title run in Dubai. Her biggest title in four years, it's also her first since 2012 and marks her post-Sjogren's diagnosis high mark. With no one questioning her ability to play through the Rio Olympics in 2016 (at least) these days, Venus might not be through surprising us this season, either.
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15 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
...with a rediscovered forehand that rekindled dreams are made of, AnaIvo shined in January like she hasn't since, well, she became both #1 and a Roland Garros champion back in 2008. In Auckland, she claimed her first title since 2011, avoiding what has become common for her in recent seasons -- a 3rd set collapse. After being forced to three sets against Venus Williams, Ivanovic won the title to prevent the first weekend in which both Williams Sisters won a title since 1999. At the AO, AnaIvo upset Serena Williams -- getting her first win after going 0-4, losing all eight sets, in their career head-to-head -- and reached just her second slam QF since winning in Paris nearly six years ago. Since then, well, while her results haven't totally fallen off the table (Round of 16's at both IW and Miami), she hasn't exactly outrun her past (losing to Petra Kvitova 6-3/0-6/0-6 in a match with an odd scoreline that effectively crystallizes both players' careers).
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=IN A CATEGORY ALL HER OWN=
Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
...always viewed as a dangerous floater in any draw, capable of taking down any player at any given moment if given the chance (and she has the inclination), Pironkova has had one of the more frustrating careers of recent times. Heading into Sydney qualifying in Week 2, she was ranked outside the Top 100 and had never reached a tour final, going 0-7 in career semis. Operating just out of sight, she changed all that in the span of eight days. Winning eight matches in those eight days, including three over Top 10 players (Errani, Kvitova and Kerber), Pironkova finally won her first career title. Of course, her stay in the AO draw was short-lived, as she exited in the 2nd Round against Sam Stosur (6-2/6-0) and hasn't reached the QF at any event since, but the Bulgarian managed to add another tantalizing chapter to a career that is still nearly impossible to figure out. While she's slipped back into the shadows once again, I suspect we haven't seen the last of Pironkova. As soon as we all look away... there she'll be again.

=HONORABLE MENTIONS=
Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA: AO champs, but not much else
Ekaterina Makarova, RUS: with Sveta flagging, the Hordettes' biggest dual threat
Alize Cornet, FRA: 2014's #1 teammate, and the Most Improved Player not named Dominika
Garbine Muguruza, ESP: hot as an Australian summer in January, but as talented-but-unreliable as an Australian WTA star ever since
Maria Sharapova, RUS: not a bad 1Q, but also not up to her standards, either
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS: Paris showed what she can do, but the rest of the quarter proved once more that she only rarely does it

**RISERS**
1. Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai, TPE/CHN
2. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
3. Simona Halep, ROU
4. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
5. Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
6. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
7. Alize Cornet, FRA
8. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS

9. Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS
10. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (doubles)
11. Alla Kudryavtseva & Anastasia Rodionova, RUS/AUS

12. Karin Knapp, ITA
13. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
14. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
15. Canadian Fed Cup Team

16. Paula Ormaechea, ARG
17. Kiki Bertens, NED
18. Caroline Garcia, FRA
19. Monica Niculesco & Klara Zakopalova, ROU/CZE
20. Raquel Kops-Jones & Abigail Spears, USA/USA
21. Sloane Stephens, USA
22. Elena Vesnina, RUS
23. Sorana Cirstea, ROU
24. Ayumi Morita, JPN
25. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP
HM- Zhang Shuai, CHN & Coco Vandeweghe, USA

**FRESH FACES**

1. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
2. Garbine Muguruza, ESP

3. Belinda Bencic, SUI
4. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
5. Elina Svitolina, UKR
6. Kurumi Nara, JPN
7. Camila Giorgi, ITA
8. Annika Beck, GER
9. Madison Keys, USA
10. Ajla Tomljanovic, CRO
11. Lauren Davis, USA
12. Ashleigh Barty, AUS
13. Anna Schmiedlova, SVK

14. Taylor Townsend, USA
15. Vicky Duval, USA
16. Zarina Diyas, KAZ
17. Donna Vekic, CRO
18. Nicole Gibbs, USA
19. Monica Puig, PUR
20. Alison Riske, USA
21. Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL
22. Sharon Fichman & Maria Sanchez, CAN/USA
23. Jana Cepelova, SVK
24. Alexandra Cadantu, ROU
25. Barbora Krejcikova, CZE
26. Allie Kiick, USA
27. Anett Kontaveit, EST
28. Duan Ying-Ying, CHN
29. Grace Min, USA
30. Sharon Fichman, CAN
31. Ana Konjuh, CRO
32. Katerina Siniakova, CZE
33. Richel Hogenkamp, NED
34. Irina Khromacheva, RUS
35. Carina Witthoeft, GER
HM- Gabriela Dabrowski, CAN

**JUNIORS**
1. Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS

2. Veronika Kudermetova, RUS
3. Kristina Schmiedlova, SVK
4. Iryna Shymanovich, BLR
5. Jana Fett, CRO
6. Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
7. Varvara Flink, RUS
8. Francoise Abanda, CAN
9. Sun Ziyue, CHN
10. Anhelina Kalinina, UKR
11. Ivana Jorovic, SRB
12. Nina Stojanovic, SRB
13. Darya Kasatkina, RUS
14. Usue Arconada, USA
15. Fanny Stollar, HUN
16. Sandra Samir, EGY
17. Mayir Sherif, EGY
18. Renata Zarazua, MEX
19. Paula Badosa Gibert, ESP
20. Anna Kalinskaya, RUS
HM- Fiona Ferro, FRA & Leticia Garcia Vidal, BRA

**SURPRISES**
1. Luksika Kumkhum, THA

2. Casey Dellacqua, AUS
3. Sabine Lisicki, GER (doubles)
4. Olga Govortsova, BLR
5. Teliana Pereira, BRA
6. Estrella Cabeza-Candela, ESP
7. Zhang Ling, HKG
8. Nastassja Burnett, FRA
9. Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP
10. Katarzyna Piter, POL
11. Lyudmyla Kichenok & Olga Savchuk, UKR/UKR
12. Gabriela Ce, BRA
13. Nadiya Kichenok, UKR
14. Olivia Rogowska, AUS
15. Nicha Lertpitaksinchai, THA
16. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, AUT
17. Tadeja Majeric, SLO
18. Alize Lim, FRA
19. Storm Sanders, AUS
20. Maria Irigoyen, ARG
21. Dinah Pfizenmaier, GER
22. Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
23. Viktorija Golubic, SUI
24. Demi Schuurs, NED
25. Danka Kovinic, MNE

**VETERANS**
1. Li Na, CHN
2. Serena Williams, USA
3. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
4. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
5. Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA

6. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
7. Venus Williams, USA
8. Maria Sharapova, RUS
9. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
10. Cara Black & Sania Mirza, ZIM/IND
11. Samantha Stosur, AUS
12. Martina Hingis, SUI
13. Andrea Petkovic, GER
14. Lucie Safarova, CZE
15. Samantha Stosur & Svetlana Kuznetsova, AUS/RUS
16. Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
17. Yvonne Meusburger, AUT
18. Zheng Jie, CHN
19. Andrea Hlavackova & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE/CZE
20. Kveta Peschek, CZE
21. Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
22. Lucie Hradecka, CZE
23. Kaia Kanepi, EST
24. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
25. Virginie Razzano, FRA

**COMEBACKS**

1. Australian Fed Cup Team
2. German Fed Cup Team
3. Casey Dellacqua, AUS
4. Alisa Kleybanova, RUS
5. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
6. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
7. Christina McHale, USA
8. Martina Hingis, SUI
9. Caroline Garcia, FRA
10. Heather Watson, GBR
11. Jarmila Gajdosova, AUS
12. Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
13. Iveta Melzer, CZE
14. Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
15. Shahar Peer, ISR
16. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
17. Vitalia Diatchenko, RUS
18. Tamira Paszek, AUT
19. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
20. Ekaterina Bychkova, RUS
21. Michaella Krajicek, NED
22. Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
23. Nadia Petrova, RUS
24. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
25. Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond, USA/USA

**DOWN**
1. Roberta Vinci, ITA
2. Laura Robson, GBR
3. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
4. Slovak Fed Cup Team
5. Petra Kvitova, CZE
6. Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
7. Serbian Fed Cup Team
8. Vesna Dolonc, SRB
9. Jamie Hampton, USA
10. Julia Goerges, GER
11. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
12. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
13. Sara Errani, ITA
14. Ashleigh Barty & Casey Dellacqua, AUS/AUS
15. Kristina Mladenovic & Flavia Pennetta, FRA/ITA
16. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
17. Kazakh Fed Cup Team
18. Chinese Fed Cup Team
19. Arantxa Rus, NED
20. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
HM- Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA

**ITF PLAYERS**
1. Jovana Jaksic, SRB
2. Irinia-Camelia Begu, ROU
3. Heather Watson, GBR
4. Denisa Allertova, CZE
5. Jang Su-Jeong, KOR

6. Zarina Diyas, KAZ
7. Laura Pous-Tio, ESP
8. Misa Eguchi, JPN
9. Zhang Ling, HKG
10. Laura Siegemund, GER
11. Vitalia Diatchenko, RUS
12. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
13. Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
14. Grace Min, USA
15. Pauline Parmentier, FRA
16. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, BLR
17. Patricia Maria Tig, ROU
18. Anastasia Grymalska, ITA
19. An-Sophie Mestach, BEL
20. Gai Ao, CHN

*FED CUP*

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



"After so many years, so much work and everything, this is the moment I've always waited for. And it's coming when you don't expect it." - Flavia Pennetta, after winning Indian Wells

**TOP PERFORMANCES**

1. [The Life of Li]
Li Na finally wins the Australian Open in her third appearance in the final and battles her way to a career-best #2 in the rankings
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2. [Flavor Flavia]
Still persevering after all these years, the 32-year old Italian takes another huge step in her comeback from career-threatening wrist surgery, defeating four Top 20 players and two in the Top 5 en route to the biggest title of her career in Indian Wells. The win ended her 76-tournament title drought (since 2010) and edged her close to the Top 10 five seasons after she became the first Italian to ever reach such a rankings height.
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3. [The Weeping Bulgarian Angel]
Tsvetana Pironkova qualifies, reaches her first final and claims her maiden career tour singles title in Sydney, winning eight matches in eight days and notching wins over Top 10ers Errani, Kvitova & Kerber

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4. [The Pride of Romania]
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
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5. [Serena Down Under]
Serena Williams defends her Brisbane title, winning her fourth straight tournament and getting wins over Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka
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6. [Garbi was Great. Garbi was Good.]
Back from summer '13 ankle surgery, Spaniard Garbine Muguruza qualifies and wins her first tour title in Hobart

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7. [Russian Overruns Crimea... err, I mean Paris]
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
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8. [Megawatt Venus Lights up Dubai]

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
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9. [The 7th Time is the Charm, just the 6th, and 5th and...]
While she cut things close a few times, Serena Williams loses just lost one set while successfully defending her Miami title, knocking off two Top 10 players -- including #2 Li Na in the final -- en route to her seventh singles crown at the event
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10. [AnaIvo Wakes Up the Echos]
Ana Ivanovic wins title in Auckland, defeating Venus Williams to win her first singles title since 2011. In the Australian Open, she upsets Serena Williams.
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11. [Czech Mate...finally]
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
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12. [Down the "T" in China]
Li successfully defends a singles title for the first time in Shenzhen, winning an all-Chinese final against Peng Shuai
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[Sochi Olympics Edition]


[Non-Champions Division]
Dominika Cibulkova defeats four Top 20 players, including two in the Top 5 (Sharapova & Radwanska), to reach her first career slam singles final at the AO
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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
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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 on court over three matches while 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.
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[Double Doses of Daring Do]
Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai take the first two high level Premier titles of 2014 in Doha and Indian Wells, further backing their standing as the best doubles team in the world
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Even in what has been an otherwise poor season, the Italians grabbed the biggest title available. Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci defend their Australian Open title, winning their fourth slam crown in the last eight majors.
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Miami wild cards Martina Hingis & Sabine Lisicki overcome an illness to the German and three seeded opponents to claim the doubles crown, the Original Swiss Miss' first tour-level title -- though she's been a WTT champ with the Washington Kastles -- since 2007
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[Two -- or more -- Rackets are Better than One]
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
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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).
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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.
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Team France -- Alize Cornet & Jo-Wilfried Tsonga -- wins a first Hopman Cup title, after runner-up results in 1998 (w/ Mauresmo) and '12 (Bartoli).

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[Fans]
Genie's Army Takes Melbourne


[Juniors]
Elizaveta Kulichkova, in her final junior event before turning professional, sweeps the girls singles and doubles competitions at the Australian Open. She's the first Hordette junior champ since 2010 (Daria Gavrilova - U.S. Open), and the first in Melbourne in seven years (Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2006-07).

[Post-Match Ceremony]
As usual, Li Na


[Best Set]
Classic Aga. Agnieszka Radwanska dominates two-time defending champ Victoria Azarenka in the 3rd set of their Australian Open quarterfinal, ending the Belarusian's 18-match Melbourne streak by bageling her 6-0 by using her entire arsenal of clever, tricky, did-you-just-see-that?, yes-I-did-but-I-don't-believe-it shots, leaving Vika a frustrated spectator and everyone else in awe. In essence, Azarenka was simply "Radwanska'ed."


"She's a genius!" - Pam Shriver, on Aga Radwanska, during her AO QF match vs. Azarenka

[Worst Set]
Entering her 3rd Round meeting in Miami against Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens sported a winless and set-less history against the Dane. It showed, as Current Sloane made like an infinitive and split... at least mentally. As soon as she fell behind early, she gave up. Oh, but she still had almost two full sets to complete. After dropping the 1st at 6-1, you'd have thought some sort of athletic pride might have crept into Stephens' demeanor and/or performance. Umm, nope. She was even more of a ghastly ghost in the 2nd, getting bageled and winning just five total points. Years ago, Chanda Rubin dubbed a particularly disinterested outing against her by opponent Jelena Dokic as a "semi-tank." Well, Sloane's tank runneth over in Miami.

"I'm only 20 years old. Who cares? Flavia is like 32 and she's still doing well. If I'm going to play for that long, I have a long ways to go." - Sloane Stephens, who has since turned 21, after losing in the Indian Wells QF to 32-year old Flavia Pennetta

*MATCHES OF THE 1Q*

Indian Wells QF - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Jelena Jankovic
...7-5/2-6/6-4.
Aga led 3-0 in the 1st, JJ 4-0 in the 2nd and Aga 4-0 in the 3rd. Jankovic calls for a replay challenge while sitting in the splits position behind the baseline, and becomes a wildlife advocate by rescuing a gigantic moth. Yep, it was a typical Queen Chaos match... and, from both sides of the court, probably the most entertaining match of the entire 1Q.
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Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Samantha Stosur
...6-7(8)/6-4/6-2.
The stifling Aussie heat wave finally broke on a day that included stoppages of play because of heat, lightning and rain. Under the cover of darkness, AnaIvo and Stosur played like they hadn't spent most of the seasons since they won their slam titles searching in vain for what it was that got them their trophies in the first place. In a high-quality match that was won, not lost, the most memorable moment came when a sudden downpour broke out in the middle of a point at 7-7 in the 1st set tie-break. After failing to get the point (which she'd lost) replayed, Ivanovic lost the TB 10-8 when play was resumed. But instead of sulking and going away, Ivanovic dug in and pulverized Stosur's serve the rest of the match. On match point, she put things away by slugging her 32nd forehand winner.
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$25K Surprise Final - Jovana Jaksic d. Tamira Paszek
...4-6/7-6(13)/7-5.
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?

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Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Maria Sharapova d. Karin Knapp
...6-3/4-6/10-8.
In a match played under Extreme Heat conditions in the final set, with the roof open because the mysterious threshold wasn't met until the 3rd had already begun, Sharapova held on for dear life against the feisty (is there any other kind?) Italian. After committing a double-fault and three errors to break herself to lose the 2nd, Sharapova held three match points at 5-3 in the 3rd, only to eventually have to hold on pressurized service games at 5-6 and 6-7 to stay in the match. Finally, she got a break for 9-8 in the 3rd, then served out the final game (despite three more DF) to win the 3:28 match on MP #4.
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Doha 2nd Rd. - Petra Kvitova d. Venus Williams
...6-2/2-6/7-6(7).
At least on a limited basis, Kvitova still sometimes has "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.
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Australian Open QF - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Victoria Azarenka
...6-1/5-7/6-0.
After having lost five consecutive straight-set matches to Azarenka, Radwanska ends Azarenka's 18-match AO winning streak with a brilliant 3rd set display of every shot in her bag of tennis tricks. An instant classic -- capable of inspiring shock, awe and fear in anyone who dares to watch.

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Acapulco Final - Dominika Cibulkova d. Christina McHale
...7-6(3)/4-6/6-4.
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.
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Brisbane SF - Victoria Azarenka d. Jelena Jankovic
...1-6/6-3/6-4.
JJ was a point away from being up a set and a break at 6-1/0-0, 40/love. Within minutes, she was out of replay challenges for the match and was arguing with the umpire, the player's box and maybe even the buzz of the insect next to her ear (or maybe that sound was just inside her head). Azarenka led 5-1 in the 3rd before service troubles made things interesting, but she ultimately pulled out the match.

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Auckland Final - Ana Ivanovic d. Venus Williams
...6-2/5-7/6-4.
Venus saves a match point and comes back from 5-3 in the 2nd set to force a 3rd, but AnaIvo finds her way to her first title in over two years.
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Australian Open 1st Rd. - Madison Keys d. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner
...6-2/6-7(8)/9-7.
After erasing a 5-2 2nd set deficit, Keys hold three match points in the tie-break, only to lose 10-8 and go to a 3rd. Coming back from a break down in the final set, she wins on her fifth MP to finally end the 2:30+ match.
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Australian Open 1st Rd. - Ekaterina Makarova d. Venus Williams
...2-6/6-4/6-4.
Venus held break point for a 4-2 lead in the 2nd, and was up a break at 3-0 in the 3rd. But she's unable to hold the advantage, as Makarova adds an AO win over a second Williams Sister (she def. Serena in '12). Williams ends with 56 unforced errors (vs. 50 winners), and eight double-faults.
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Dubai 1st Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Angelique Kerber
...3-6/6-3/7-6.
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.
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Fed Cup WG II Playoffs - Maria Irigoyen/ARG d. Kurumi Nara/JPN
...6-7/6-4/6-4.
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.
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Australian Open QF - Eugenie Bouchard d. Ana Ivanovic
...5-7/7-5/6-2.
After breaking serve to get back on serve at 4-3 in the 2nd, Ivanovic is treated for a hip injury. Rather than become tentative, the composed Bouchard ups her aggression and makes Genie's Army proud in Melbourne by reaching her first career slam semi in the Australian Open debut.

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Miami 3rd Rd. - Sharapova d. Safarova
...6-4/6-7(7)/6-2.
Sharapova overcomes a two-break deficit at 4-1 in the 2nd, but poor play in the clutch brought the set to a tie-break, where Sharapova held two MP. But "New Lucie," as the Czech's coach called her during an on-court coaching session, didn't let her lost lead get her down as it would have "Old Lucie." She pushed the Russian to three and, about an hour after Sharapova's first two MP in the 2:56 match, staved off six more MP at 5-2 in the final set before Sharapova won on her ninth MP of the match when Safarova netted a crosscourt forehand pass attempt.
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[Matches for the Ages... literally]
Australian Open 1st Rd. - Belinda Bencic d. Kimiko Date-Krumm
...6-4/4-6/6-3.
In her grand slam debut, the 16-year old defeats the 43-year old. So much for respecting your tennis elders. A Pironkova could comfortably fit inside that age difference.
Miami Q2 - Kimiko Date-Krumm d. Francoise Abanda
...7-6(4)/4-6/6-4.
The age difference between the 43 and 17-year olds might not hold a full-sized Pironkova with room to spare, but a Radwanska would fit quite nicely.

[Welcome to the Crazy Women's Tennis Tour]
Indian Wells 4th Rd. - Li Na d. Aleksandra Wozniak
...6-1/6-4.
Disaster finally caught up to Li in the semifinals vs. Pennetta, but her battle with her still lingering tennis demons was a crazy one in the final game of this match. The contest lasted just 1:33, but twenty minutes were taken up by the final game alone. Li took a 40/love lead on serve and it seemed as if it would be a breeze, but she ended up having to save two break points, survive a bad call from the umpire on a shot that Wozniak couldn't reach and four MP blown via double-faults before she finally put things away with the ELEVENTH MP of the game. Afterward, Li told the crowd, in typical charming fashion, "Welcome to the crazy women's tennis tour."

[Nobody Fools Mother Nature, Sloane]
Indian Wells QF - Flavia Pennetta d. Sloane Stephens
...6-4/5-7/6-4.
Coach Paul Annacone seemed to talk a frustrated Stephens out of giving up on the match in the 2nd set, and things seemed to turn in her favor as she pulled out the set and went up 3-0 in the 3rd. Who knows what would have happened if not for the windstorm that dominated the rest of the match. Of course, Flavia being Flavia, one gets the sense that she probably would have found a way to win no matter what.

[Aga's Tasty Bagels]
Indian Wells 3rd Rd. - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Annika Beck
...6-0/6-0.
So, does this mean the German will be a Top 10er and reach the AO Final in 2015?

*HER COMEBACK IS OUR COMEBACK*
Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Li Na d. Lucie Safarova
...1-6/7-6/6-3.
At match point at 6-5 in the 2nd, Safarova had an open shot down the line for a winner. Li was thinking about her plane reservations for a flight out of Melbourne. But the Czech missed the shot. The rest is history. Li is the first woman to come back from match point in the tournament to win a slam since Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2009 (SF vs. Dementieva).
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Miami QF - Dominika Cibulkova d. Agnieszka Radwanska
...3-6/7-6(5)/6-4.
Radwanska -- possibly because of her knee injury? -- refused to budge from her position behind the baseline most of the match, and even while fourteen of the first seventeen games of the match ended with service breaks, the Pole seemed poised for a quick victory. After climbing back from 3-1 down in the 2nd, then holding for a 5-3 lead after falling behind love/40, Radwanska got to match point one game later. On a Cibukova second serve, her return seemed to snag the baseline for a winner that would send both to the locker room. But Cibulkova challenged the call, and everything changed. The converted MP was overturned, then the Slovak saved two more MP to hold. In the tie-break, A-Rad led 5-2, but dropped the last five points and had a hard time getting past the collapse in the 3rd set. A rash of Radwanska errors and a late Cibulkova break for 5-3 assured the Top 10 of welcoming a newcomer to the party, and permanently filed that double-bagel loss to Aga last January in the circular file.
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Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Andrea Petkovic/GER d. Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
...2-6/7-6(6)/6-2.
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.
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Australian Open Doubles Final - Errani/Vinci d. Makarova/Vesnina
...6-4/3-6/7-5.
At 5-2 down in the 3rd, the Italians looked about to be dethroned as AO champs. But... no. Imagine, had the Hordettes played in the Fed Cup final last year, the whole thing could have come down to a title-deciding match between these same two teams. Well, at least we got to see it SOMEWHERE.
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Auckland Final - Ana Ivanovic d. Venus Williams
...6-2/5-7/6-4.
Venus saves a match point and comes back from 5-3 in the 2nd set to force a 3rd, but AnaIvo finds her way to her first title in over two years.
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Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Galina Voskoboeva
...7-6/3-6/8-6.
CSN comes back from 4-1 and 5-2 down in the 3rd. Voskoboeva, who served for the match at 5-3, is broken in her final three service games in the 3:11 tussle.
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Indian Wells 3rd Rd. - Alize Cornet d. Carla Suarez-Navarro
...6-7(4)/7-5/6-3.
Cornet has been 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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Doha 2nd Rd. - Simona Halep d. Kaia Kanepi
...6-4/3-6/7-6(5).
Kanepi led 5-3 in the 3rd set, and served for the match at 5-4, only to see Halep win the 2:30 contest. 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.
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Fed Cup World Group II Playoffs - France d. Switzerland
...3-2.
How do you overcome a bright-eyed 16-year old intent 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 game plan 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 (U.S. coach Mary Joe Fernandez, 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.
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Miami 2nd Rd. - Serena Williams d. Yaroslava Shvedova
...7-6(7)/6-2.
As she did against Serena at Wimbledon in 2012, Shvedova had chances. She served at 5-4 in the 1st, and led 6-3 in the tie-break. She then lost both serve points, saw Williams hit back-to-back aces, then lost the set when Serena hit a winner off a Shvedova net cord shot to take the 1st after having faced three set points. Just as at Wimbledon two years ago, Williams went on to win the title.
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"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

*HEIMLICH MANUEVERS*
Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Sloane Stephens d. Ajla Tomljanovic
...3-6/6-2/7-5.
For once, it isn't Current Sloane who loses her nerve down the stretch. Of course, that almost wasn't the case, as Stephens blew a 3-0 3rd set lead after an hour-and-a-half lightning/rain delay, aftering holding a break point for 4-0. Tomljanovic served for the match at 5-4, but saw the American up her aggression before the Croat double-faulted on break point. Stephens then held for 6-5, and converted on her only match point.
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Dubai 2nd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Petra Kvitova
...1-6/6-4/7-6(4).
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.
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Miami 2nd Rd. - Varvara Lepchenko d. Jelena Jankovic
...6-2/2-6/7-6(2).
JJ didn't have -- or give -- as much fun in Miami as she did in Indian Wells. She led Lepchenko 5-1 in the 3rd, and served for the match at 5-2 and 5-4.
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Miami 2nd Rd. - Angelique Kerber d. Peng Shuai
6-3/1-6/7-6(5).
Peng didn't have a good week in Miami when it came to singles OR doubles, where she and Hsieh Su-Wei lost before the QF just days after winning in IW. She led Kerber 5-2 in the 3rd, but still found a way to lose despite winning more points than the German in the match. Angie sort of enjoyed the end result.

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Paris Final - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Sara Errani
...3-6/6-2/6-3.
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 is still scratching for much of anything to feel good about in her '14 singles campaign, 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.
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[Sino-American Relations]
Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Zheng Jie d. Madison Keys
...7-6(5)/1-6/7-5.
Keys erased a 4-1 1st set deficit, and served for the set at 5-4 and 6-5 before losing the tie-break. In the 3rd, the American held a two-break, 4-1 lead, only to be broken in three of her final four service games.
Miami 3rd Rd. - Li Na d. Madison Keys
...7-6/6-3.
Keys took Li to three sets in the Sydney QF in 2013, and had her chances here. She served at 5-3 in the 1st and held three set points, but lost the 1st set tie-break. Then Keys had four break points for a double-break 3-0 lead in the 2nd. After failing to get it, she was immediately broken, then double-faulted on BP two games later. The shots and power are there, but Keys still has some work to do. She doesn't turn 20 until next February, though... so could she be on a similar early '15 schedule as that of then-19 year old Stephens and Bouchard, who saw some big dividends Down Under the last two Januarys right before they exited their teen years?

[Introducing... "The Garbi Special"]
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
Miami 2nd Rd. - Ajla Tomljanovic d. Garbine Muguruza 3-6/7-6(6)/6-1
...
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. Still not ready to give up the ghost of Radwanska, the Spaniard led 6-3/4-2 and served for the match at 5-3 vs. Tomljanovic, only to lose in freefall form in the final set. At this rate. Muguruza won't be outdone -- in a bad way -- for a while yet.

*IN AN UPSET STATE OF MIND*

Australian Open 1st Rd. - Luksika Kumkhum d. Petra Kvitova
...6-2/1-6/6-4.
Playing with two hands from both sides, 20-year old, world #88 Thai shocked and flummoxed Kvitova. Facing a Top 10 player for the first time in her career, Kumkhum was broken when serving for the match at 5-3 in the 3rd, but then pivoted and easily broke the Czech in the next game to take the match. It's the first time Kvitova has exited in the 1st Round at a slam since her opening match loss at the U.S. Open after she'd won Wimbledon in 2011.
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Dubai SF - Alize Cornet d. Serena Williams
...6-4/6-4.
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 rumored personal issues 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.
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Fed Cup WG II Playoffs - Belinda Bencic/SUI d. Alize Cornet/FRA
...7-5/6-4.
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.
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Australian Open 4th Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Serena Williams
...4-6/6-3/6-3.
AnaIvo out-hits (leading 23-5 in groundstroke winners) Williams, limited on serve and in her movement while playing with a back injury. The Serb's forehand leads the way, as the twenty winners from that wing help produce her most thrilling slam result since winning Roland Garros in 2008.
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Auckland 1st Rd. - Ana Konjuh d. Roberta Vinci
...3-6/6-4/6-2.
The 16-year old 2013 AO & US junior champion, Konjuh made her tour debut in Week 1. All she did was begin her WTA career with a victory over the #1-seeded, nearly-Top 10 ranked Italian.
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Fed Cup Asia/Oceania I Zone Play - Luksika Kumkhum/THA d. Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
...0-6/6-4/6-1.
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 Voskoboeva in a Pool-deciding doubles match and I'm thinking this Kumkhum thing is getting more than a bit serious.
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Paris SF - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Maria Sharapova
...4-6/6-3/6-4.
Sure, Pavlyuchenkova's standing makes this one a questionable "upset." But, remember, Sharapova hadn't lost to a 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.
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Indian Wells 2nd Rd. - Lauren Davis d. Victoria 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, as she played in the desert far too soon after spending three weeks in a walking boot. She could barely make her way around court with hunching over in pain, but refused to retire from the match. In retrospect, Vika probably should have just sat out IW, just as she did Miami. Better late than never, I guess.
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Indian Wells 3rd Rd. - Camila Giorgi d. Maria Sharapova
...6-3/4-6/7-5.
Sharapova has lost three-set matches in the 1Q to Cibulkova, Pavlyuchenkova and this fightin' Italian, countrywoman to Knapp, who took her to the edge in Melbourne.
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Australian Open 4th Rd. - Dominika Cibulkova d. Maria Sharapova
...3-6/6-4/6-1.
Sharapova's long, hot, tense trip Down Under finally comes to an end. After winning the 1st set, Sharapova was treated for a hip injury and then immediately fell behind 5-0 in the 2nd. She battled back to 5-4, then lost seven of the final eight games of the match.

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"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



**By the Numbers...**
0-6... Peng Shuai's career record in WTA singles finals after her loss in this year's Shenzhen title-decider. The current world doubles #1, she's 15-3 in tour doubles finals.
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1... number of female wheelchair athletes enshrined in the International Tennis of Fame after the inclusion of 1990's trailblazer Chantal Vandierendonck in the class of 2014
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1-3... Alize Cornet's singles record during France's run to a first Hopman Cup title
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2... number of the four slam Wheelchair titles contested since Esther Vergeer played her last match that have been won by Australian Open champion Sabine Ellerbrock (GER). The other two were won by Aniek van Koot (NED), who defeated Ellerbrock in last year's Australian and U.S. Open finals.
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2 of 6... number of straights sets wins by Serena Williams in her last six meetings in finals against Victoria Azarenka, after her 6-4/7-5 win in Brisbane. Yes, they DID play in the 1Q... as hard as it already is to remember.

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2-4... Kristina Mladenovic's 1Q doubles record while partnering Flavia Pennetta
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15-2... Kristina Mladenovic's 1Q doubles & mixed doubles record while partnering everyone not named Flavia Pennetta
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3... current streak of consecutive grand slams in which no Russian has reached the singles semifinals, the longest since 2003-04
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3... number of women representing the Slovak Republic who have reached the WTA singles Top 10 now that Dominika Cibulkova has done so for the first time in 2014. Karina Habsudova (1997) and Daniela Hantuchova (2002) were the others.
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3-0... Li Na's record this season vs. Dominika Cibulkova

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3rd, #5 and 7... Simona Halep's standing as a Romanian woman to reach the Top 10 (the first since 1996), her highest career ranking (a Romanian record) and career singles titles (second most ever amongst Romanians)
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4... the consecutive number of Fed Cup ties lost by Team Serbia since advancing to the nation's only FC final in 2012
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5... consecutive slam Round of 16's reached by Sloane Stephens, the third-best active streak on tour
=============================
5... the total number of points won by Stephens in the 2nd set of her 3rd Round match vs. Caroline Wozniacki in Miami
=============================
5 & 5.. total games allowed by Victoria Azarenka in her 2013 AO semifinal match vs. Sloane Stephens, as well as there 2014 AO Round of 16 rematch.

=============================
6... consecutive Fed Cup semifinals reached by both Italy and the Czech Republic
=============================
7... consecutive slam Round of 16's reached by Serena Williams and Aga Radwanska, tied for the longest active streak on tour
=============================
12... current Fed Cup singles match-winning streak by Aga Radwanska, who led Poland into its first World Group Playoff earlier this season
=============================
13... total number of doubles/mixed partners used by Kristina Mladenovic to win her career total of eighteen WTA, ITF, WTA 125 and Mixed slam crowns
=============================
13-0... Li Na's season-opening winning streak

=============================
15... consecutive times Serena Williams has defeated Maria Sharapova. She last lost to the Russian in October 2004. At the time, Belinda Bencic was seven years old.

=============================
27... age difference between 16-year old Belinda Bencic and her 1st Round opponent at the Australian Open, 43-year old Kimiko Date-Krumm
=============================
32... combined age of then 31-year old Li Na's 1st and 2nd Round opponents -- Ana Konjuh & Belinda Bencic -- at the Australian Open

=============================
42... Serena Williams' career victories over players ranked #1 & #2
=============================
45-4... Serena Williams 2012-14 record vs. Top 10 players
=============================
76... tournaments Flavia Pennetta went without a singles title before winning in Indian Wells
=============================
94... streak of weeks in the Top 10 by Sara Errani which ended as the conclusion of the 1Q
=============================
1993 & 1995... last appearance in the Fed Cup semifinals, respectively, by 2014 final four members Australia and Germany
=============================
2005... year in which Klara Zakopalova last won a tour singles title before her win in Florianopolis, the fourth-longest span between titles in WTA history
=============================
2007... year in which Martina Hingis last won a tour title before her doubles win in Miami

=============================
5075... ranking points separating #1 Serena Williams and #2 Li Na
=============================

=THE GOOD...=


=THE A-RAD...=


=THE VESNAROO!=


=THE VESNINA SEE-THRU=


=THE DOMI OVERHEAD FOR YOU=


=THE COURT WITH A VIEW=


=oh, and ROBSONROO, too=





*2014 Weeks in Top 10*
[through 13 weeks]
13...Serena Williams, USA *
13...Li Na, CHN *
13...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL *
13...Victoria Azarenka, BLR *
13...Petra Kvitova, CZE *
13...Angelique Kerber, GER *
13...Jelena Jankovic, SRB *
13...Maria Sharapova, RUS *
12...Sara Errani, ITA
10...Simona Halep, ROU *
3...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
1...Dominika Cibukova, SVK *
--
* - current Top 10

*Longest Active Streaks*
[Top 10]
183 weeks - Victoria Azarenka
157 weeks - Maria Sharapova
130 weeks - Agnieszka Radwanska
104 weeks - Serena Williams
98 weeks - Angelique Kerber
86 weeks - Li Na
27 weeks - Petra Kvitova
26 weeks - Jelena Jankovic
10 weeks - Simona Halep
1 week - Dominika Cibulkova
[Top 20]
320 weeks - Agnieszka Radwanska
307 weeks - Victoria Azarenka
293 weeks - Caroline Wozniacki
260 weeks - Li Na
245 weeks - Samantha Stosur
182 weeks - Maria Sharapova
166 weeks - Petra Kvitova
133 weeks - Serena Williams
113 weeks - Ana Ivanovic
111 weeks - Angelique Kerber
95 weeks - Sara Errani
85 weeks - Roberta Vinci
62 weeks - Sloane Stephens
53 weeks - Jelena Jankovic
46 weeks - Carla Suarez-Navarro
39 weeks - Sabine Lisicki
31 weeks - Simona Halep
10 weeks - Dominika Cibulkova
10 weeks - Eugenie Bouchard
3 weeks - Flavia Pennetta



Meanwhile, someone wants the last word...



"Agent, make me rich." - Li Na

Oh... and see ya soon, Vika.




All for now.

10 Comments:

Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hey, using Genie's photo to begin this post proved to be some good luck for her, as she had a nice 7-6(6)/2-6/6-4 win over Venus today in Charleston, saving 2 SP in the 1st set tie-break to grab what turned out to be an important early advantage in the match.

Meanwhile, as good as Peng Shuai is in doubles, she just has a hard time in singles even though she often has chances for very big wins. She escaped Madison Keys yesterday despite blowing a 5-1 lead in the 2nd and dropping the set, then nearly squandering a 4-1 lead in the 3rd before winning a match-deciding TB. Against Sara Errani today, she had set points in both the 1st and 2nd sets (at 6-5 in both), but still managed to lose in straights, 7-6(7)/7-6(5).

Meanwhle, Elina Svitolina might be in the middle of a name-making week. The top-ranked teen on tour, she knocked off Sloane Stephens yesterday and is facing off with Belinda Bencic as I speak (she's won the 1st, but is down a break in the 2nd).

Thu Apr 03, 04:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

I'm about to swallow my comment on Errani! Good thing, I like her!

Talking about Italians, I guess that Vinci as #3 in veterans was meant for Pennetta?

I'm not sure my eyes will survive reading the word "Canadiettes".

Thu Apr 03, 11:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hey, Zidane. Thanks for catching that Vinci/Pennetta switch-up. Fixed that! 2013, maybe. 2014... Flavia all the way. :)

Haha! I've had that possible group nickname on file for quite a while and see it all the time, but have never used it because I wasn't 100% with it. I thought I'd give it a try here, though. No go, huh? Oh, well... back to the drawing board on that one!


Fri Apr 04, 12:16:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, by the way... Bencic being Bencic, she ended up completing the comeback and defeating Svitolina, 6-7(4)/6-4/6-1. I guess having another teen being ranked higher than her just doesn't sit well with her. :)

Fri Apr 04, 12:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Bencic strikes again, coming back from a set down to defeat Errani to reach her first tour semifinal. She'll face Cepelova. Surely, before the tournament, EVERYONE had those two battling it out for a spot in the final.

You know, just like Date-Krumm and Jaksic in the Monterrey semis.

Fri Apr 04, 11:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

And Bencic vs. Cepelova (unless Cepelova finally gives out from exhaustion, which is possible) should be quite a match. They are both playing extremely well.

Sat Apr 05, 01:59:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Well maybe that's a match but what do you think of Caro vs Ana - also a good matchup. Sad though it should be in the semi final. Twice they will be playing against eachother in Monterrey ;)

And Caro got her 401th win tofay in a thriller. 6 DF but some improvements in serve and FH and she has a steady roll right now.

Sat Apr 05, 02:07:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Another good one, yes. I've enjoyed following Monterrey this week. Date Krumm won her quarterfinal at the exact moment Cepelova won hers!

Sat Apr 05, 09:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

One thing I've thought a little of is the missing Hawk-eye in some tournaments like Monterrey. It was quite obvious Saturday when Ana and Caro played. They both play with shots licking the lines and I must say that both the line judges AND the umpire made mistakes.You could see the irritaion from the players in both semis that they didn't believe their shots were out. It's not an excuse for Caro's defeat because it's a well earned victory for Ana in a good match, but players today play so much better than a few years back. Hawk-eye on all major courts thanks.

Sun Apr 06, 03:33:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Agreed. It really should be mandatory for any WTA event to have the main court equipped in such a way.

And replay should be able to be used on ALL courts in grand slams, too. As much money as those four tournaments make, it's absurd that they have outer courts (for "lesser" players) where challenges can't be made. Especially when Indian Wells has it on ALL courts.

Sun Apr 06, 02:19:00 PM EDT  

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