Monday, April 07, 2014

Wk.14- Petkorazzi Dances the Charleston...almost

While the NextGen stars outshined the old guard throughout the week in South Carolina, in the end, it was hard luck 26-year old "middle child" Andrea Petkovic who couldn't help but dance after being crowned the champion of the 42nd edition of the only green clay event on the WTA schedule. What could be better than that?

Well, actually, there was ONE thing might have been.

So far, 2014 has been a wonderful reminder of what a joy Petkovic can be. Be it her on or off court persona, there's a lot to like. Unfortunately, injuries have far too often taken the German away from the tour, turning a Top 10 talent into a case study of missed opportunity. But maybe, if she and we are lucky, that's starting to change.

Last year, Petkovic's ranking dipped as low as #177 after she injured her knee in her opening match of the season at the Hopman Cup, causing her to miss two months in her latest health-related absence. But she rebounded with two appearances in tour finals and climbed back into the Top 40, a rise highlighted by an upset of Vika Azarenka in Beijing. Earlier this season, it was Petkovic who kicked off Germany's big road win over the Slovaks in the opening round of the Fed Cup. She saved a match point against Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in match #1 of the tie, setting the tone for a winning weekend.

Her title run in Charleston is her first on tour in nearly three years, and if the city is the site of her "official" rebirth than she couldn't have found a more perfect setting. After all, her father arrived in the state from Yugoslava and played college tennis for the South Carolina Gamecocks there. For once, maybe the Tennis Gods are looking down on Petkorazzi and smiling.

Speaking of the Petko craze of a few years ago, when the German danced her way to the U.S. Open quarterfinals (one of three QF runs she pulled off in 2011, though she has sickeningly missed more slams than she's played since then), we actually got to see an abbreviated version of the Petko Dance after her win in the final over Cepelova. It was great. Oh, but I wish she'd thought of maybe, literally, doing the Charleston instead... in Charleston, no less. Seriously, how great would THAT have been?

Oh, well. There's always next year. Crossing fingers.

S: Andrea Petkovic/GER def. Jana Cepelova/SVK 7-5/6-2
D: Medina-Garrigues/Shvedova (ESP/KAZ) d. Y-J.Chan/H-C.Chan (TPE/TPE) 7-6(4)/6-2

S: Ana Ivanovic/SRB def. Jovana Jaksic/SRB 6-2/6-1
D: Jurak/Moulton-Levy (CRO/USA) d. Babos/Govortsova (HUN/BLR) 7-6(5)/3-6/11-9

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Andrea Petkovic/GER title #3 was Petkovic's first since winning in Strasbourg in 2011, and her very first Premier level championship. The German seemed to pick up steam and confidence as the week went on, following up wins over Lesia Tsurenko and Lourdes Dominguez-Lino with increasingly impressive triumphs over Sabine Lisicki (1 game allowed), Lucie Safarova, Eugenie Bouchard and Jana Cepelova in the final. After defeating the young Slovak on Sunday, Petkovic's good humor and personality added to the feel-good moment -- played out under threatening skies that never opened up -- with a great post-match speech in which she compared her talkative nature to that of a politician and even "offered" to coach the all-alone-in-South-Carolina Cepelova.
RISERS: Ana Ivanovic/SRB & Eugenie Bouchard/CAN
...AnaIvo really does seem to have turned a corner in 2014. Although she did reach an AO final back in '08, the Serb has never started a season as quickly as she has this one. Her title run in Monterrey -- with wins over Urszula Radwanska, Aleksandra Wozniak, Magdalena Rybarikova, Caroline Wozniacki & Jovana Jaksic -- gives her two this season. It's just the fourth year in her career that she's won multiple titles, but she's never stashed two away in her back pocket so early on the schedule. And that's not even counting her Melbourne win over Serena... well, to be fair, or her weird two bagel set loss to Petra Kvitova in Miami, either. Hey, she's still AnaIvo, I guess, even in possibly 2.0 form. This is career title #13 for Ivanovic, tying her with four other active women (including JJ), the win makes her 12-3 in non-slam finals, with ten title wins coming in straight sets. Meanwhile, have no fear, there really isn't a Sloany bone in Bouchard's body. While Current Sloane is still trying to find her footing after her 2013 AO semifinal, the Canadian is already showing signs of finding hers follower her own 2014 AO semi. Genie's Charleston wins over Alla Kudryavtseva, Venus Williams and '13 runner-up Jelena Jankovic gave her her first post-Melbourne semifinal, and she very nearly took down Petkovic in the semis to reach her first final since her only previous one last season in Osaka. While Sloane talks about having all the time in the world, Bouchard looks like she's ready to start making good use of hers again.
SURPRISES: Jovana Jaksic/SRB, Julia Boserup/USA & Darija Jurak/Megan Moulton-Levy (CRO/USA)
...Monterrey was just full of surprises. Fittingly, the woman who made a name for herself earlier this year by saving fourteen match points and defeating Tamira Paszek in the final of a challenger event in Surprise, Arizona, Jaksic led the way. The 20-year old Serb twice came back from a set down en route to her first career tour final, defeating Karin Knapp, Luksika Kumkhum (saving 3 MP), Julia Boserup and Kimiko Date-Krumm before losing the championship match to countrywoman AnaIvo. While Jaksic didn't back up her ITF prowess (she's won thirteen of her last fifteen finals on the circuit), she does down in history -- rather surprisingly, interestingly enough -- as one half of the first all-Serbian final in tour history. Californian Boserup, 22, made it through qualifying in Mexico, defeating Alexandra Panova, Oksana Kalashnikova and Sharon Fichman, then got main draw wins over Kirsten Flipkens and Allie Kiick to reach her first tour level QF. In the Monterrey doubles final, it was Jurak and Moulton-Levy who were crowned the surprise champs. It's the first WTA title for both woman. Jurak, 30, gets her first win in four tour doubles finals after having previously won thirty-eight crowns on the ITF level. 29-year old American MML, who at one time competed under the Jamaican flag, was playing in her first career tour final after having won ten ITF doubles titles in her career.
VETERANS: Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN & Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Yaroslava Shvedova (ESP/KAZ)
...43-year old Date-Krumm isn't finished yet. She opened the festivities in Monterrey with a win over top-seeded Flavia Pennetta -- the Japanese vet's eleventh Top 20 win since her 2008 comeback -- and followed up with victories over Timea Babos and Monica Puig to reach her first tour semifinal since the Tournament of Champions in Bali in 2010. In Charleston, AMG and Shvedova teamed up to win their second '14 doubles crown (their third overall as a duo), the 23rd and 10th titles, respectively, in their WTA careers.
COMEBACKS: Caroilne Wozniacki/DEN & Michaella Krajicek/NED
...since forgoing her arrangement with coach Michael Mortensen, Wozniacki has gone 6-2, following up her Miami QF with a SF in Monterrey that likely would have been one notch better had she not been stuck in the bottom half of the draw with Ana Ivanovic, with whom the Dane at least played a close two set match. Earlier, she got wins over Coco Vandeweghe, Kristina Mladenovic and Karolina Pliskova. In the $15K indoor hard court challenger in Dijon, France, Krajicek -- still only 25 -- won her second ITF title of the season with a win in the final over Russia's Olga Doroshina. The Dutch woman is 13-1 in WTA and ITF singles finals in her career.
FRESH FACES: Jana Cepelova/SVK & Belinda Bencic/SUI's hard to find a better story than that of Cepelova's in Charleston. Well, unless you're counting the mouth-wateringly potential being shown by 17-year old Belinda Bencic in her first season on tour. All world #78 Cepelova did was open her week with a victory over #1 Serena Williams, then follow-up with wins over Elena Vesnina and countrywoman Daniela Hantuchova before taking a real battle over fellow Fresh-Facer Bencic to reach her first tour singles final. And she did it all without a coach (Janette Husarova began the week with her, but then left after losing in doubles), trainer, hitting partner, friends, family or anything other than herself and whatever complimentary assistance the tournament provided her. Oh, yeah, she was also dragging along shoulder and calf injuries, as well as lingering fatigue, as well. I'd say she made exponentially more new fans this week alone than the total number of people who could have picked her out of a lineup a seven days ago. The Slovak has shown some signs of potential in the past, first in Fed Cup and then just a few months ago with a win in Doha over Sam Stosur. But it's the fight -- and independence -- she showed in Charleston that makes you want to believe that she can be a can't-miss-kid. Speaking of can't-misses, the newest Swiss Miss certainly has that look about her, doesn't she? Sure, while Bencic still finds way to squander leads (sometimes living by the serve, but also dying a little by it under pressure, too), her big-match persona is quite remarkable for a player who was an untested former junior champ on the pro tour for the first time just a few months ago. She had to qualify in Charleston, but wins over Chan Yung-Jan and Mathilde Johansson really just got her warmed up. Once in the main draw, she was once again a wrecking ball, taking out Maria Kirilenko, Marina Erakovic, Elina Svitolina and Sara Errani on her way to her first career tour semifinal. In the new rankings, Cepelova has jumped into the Top 50 for the first time, while Bencic surges 49 spots from #140 to #91.
DOWN: Serena Williams/USA, Flavia Pennetta/ITA & Karin Knapp/ITA

...ah, the twisty turns of the crazy women's tennis tour, where players can go from champions in the early spring's two biggest events to, shortly thereafter, opening match losers not that far away from their triumphs. Fresh off her win in Miami, Serena moved north to Charleston. She dropped the first five games of her match with Jana Cepelova, paused to have her injured thigh wrapped, then went on to suffer her "worst" loss -- ranking-wise -- as a reigning #1 in five years. Pennetta, maybe still celebrating her Indian Wells win (well, at least she had a fine time at a "zombie party" with the likes of Kirsten Flipkens, who also exited early, and others), lost the second of her three post-desert matches in her first outing in Monterrey against Kimiko Date-Krumm. Meanwhile, her countrywoman Knapp lost in the 1st Round to in Mexico to eventual finalist Jovana Jaksic. Since her starring Fed Cup role for Team Italia, Knapp has gone 2-4 and is riding a four-match losing skid.

ITF PLAYER: Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR
...the Paraguayan, 22, won career ITF crown #13 with a victory in the $50K challenger in Medellin, Colombia. Cepede Royg notched wins over Montserrat Gonzalez and Varvara Flink to get to the final, where she defeated Swarmette Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4/4-6/6-4 to take the title.
...the 14-year old Bannerette won the Grade 1 USTA International Spring Championship event in Carson, California. As the #5 seed, Bellis took out Christina Makarova in the semis before defeating 9th-seeded Raveena Kingsley in the final to complete her title run without dropping a set. The #53-ranked junior, she's undefeated in 2014 (11-0), having claimed another Grade 1 title in the Coffee Bowl in Costa Rica in January.

1. Chas SF - Cepelova d. Bencic
In a two and a half hour contest, the two NextGens battled back and forth. Bencic led 5-1 in the 2nd, but the Slovak scrambled back to 5-5 before the Swiss won on her sixth SP. Bencic was up a break in the 3rd at 3-2, but Cepelova eventually held a MP at 5-4. Bencic went up 4-1 in the deciding tie-break, but Cepelova finally won on her fourth match MP. Diane has a detailed account of the match over at Woman Who Serve.
2. Chas SF - Petkovic d. Bouchard
The match turned in the German's favor -- or at least away from the Canadian's -- in game #6 of the 2nd set when Petkovic saved three break points and held for 3-3. She then went up 40/love on Bouchard's serve one game later, and finally broke her on her fourth BP of the game after having been 0-for-7 in the match. She took the next two games to grab the set. Bouchard led 4-2 in the 3rd, but Petkovic again battled back. Bouchard saved a MP at 5-4, and one wondered if it might signal a final turn of the match in her favor. It didn't. Petkovic ultimately finished things off with a break in the final game.
3. Chas 2nd Rd. - Peng d. Keys
Peng escaped this one, but she sure seemed to be trying to be tripped up. She led 6-1/5-1, but Keys forced her to a 3rd set. There, she led 4-1 but was forced to a tie-break. Whew! Where's Su-Wei when Shuai needs her?
4. Mont 2nd Rd. - Jaksic d. Kumkhum
En route to her first tour final, Jaksic saved three MP at 5-4 in the 2nd. But, baaahhhhh -- she saved fourteen against Paszek in Surprise. By those standards, this was nothing.
5. Chas Final - Petkovic d. Cepelova
An oldie but a goodie. Petkovic's instructional video on doing the Petko Dance, with the help of her "Chinese robot" friend.


6. Mont Final - Ivanovic d. Jaksic
Hey, didn't we always figure that the first all-Serbian WTA final would feature an Ana and a woman with the initials JJ?

7. Chas 1st Rd. - Bencic d. Kirilenko
Kirilenko's 2014 debut didn't last long, but it didn't end quickly, either. Down 2-5, love/40 she saved six match points and evened things up at 5-5, and then had a BP to take the lead. Bencic went on to take the 1:22 set, defeating the player whose poster she said she had on her wall when she was younger. Nope... not gonna make a Sloane reference here. Not gonna do it.
8. Chas QF - Bouchard d. Jankovic
With this win, Bouchard officially has more career Top 10, as well as Top 20, wins than Current Sloane. Team Genie shoots and scores!
9. Chas 2nd Rd. - Svitolina d. Stephens 6-4/6-4
Chas 3rd Rd. - Bencic d. Svitolina 6-7(4)/6-4/6-1
Chas QF - Bencic d. Errani 4-6/6-2/6-1
Svitolina has four Top 20 wins in 2014 alone, just one off Stephens' career total. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian is still the highest-ranked teen, but Bencic picked up about fifty spots on her in the new rankings. Oh, all right... if Belinda ever complains about the media making up stories about posters on walls, etc., then remember that she DID indeed originate the story all by herself.
10. $15K Dijon Doubles Final - Jani/Shinikova d. Borecka/Krajicek
Once again, it is time. "Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani!"

1. Chas 2nd Rd. - Cepelova d. Serena Williams
At #78, Cepelova is the lowest-ranked player to defeat a #1-ranked Serena since Klara Zakopalova in 2009. Ah, speaking of Klara... more on her in a few moments.

2. Chas 1st Rd. - Venus Williams d. Zahlavova-Strycova
Venus smiled in Charleston, and Gladys Knight caught a ball... but the Pips got nothing.

3. Chas 3rd Rd. - Bouchard d. Venus Williams
After surging back from 4-2 down in the 1st, Venus held two set points in the tie-break but couldn't put things away. In the end, that would have made the difference.
4. Mont 1st Rd. - Ivanovic d. Ula Radwanska
U-Rad is getting closer.
5. Chas Doubles Final - Medina-Garrigues/Shvedova d. Chang Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan 7-6(4)/6-2
$25K Jackson USA Final - Simmonds/Zec-Peskiric d. Erika Sema/Yurika Sema 6-7(7)/6-3/10-5
no matter the level of tournament, all-sister doubles teams just couldn't catch a break in Week 14.

...still waiting for Vika to return to action. But, before her return, here she is in action.

**CAREER WTA TITLES - active**
59...Serena Williams
45...Venus Williams
29...Maria Sharapova
21...Caroline Wozniacki
17...Victoria Azarenka
13...Agnieszka Radwanska
13...Jelena Jankovic
13...Svetlana Kuznetsova
13...Nadia Petrova

Sydney - Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL (#107, 26 - W)
Hobart - Garbine Muguruza, ESP (#58, 20 - W)
Rio - Kurumi Nara, JPN (#62, 22 - W)
Acapulco - Christina McHale, USA (#70, 21 - L)
Charleston - JANA CEPELOVA, SVK (#78, 20 - L)
Monterrey - JOVANA JAKSIC, SRB (#137, 20 - L)

#160 Nasstasja Burnett/ITA - Rio (SF)
#140 BELINDA BENCIC/SUI - Charleston (SF)
#137 JOVANA JAKSIC/SRB - Monterrey (RU)
#126 Andrea Hlavackova/CZE - Pattaya (SF)
#114 Estrella Cabeza-Candela/ESP - Hobart (SF)
#107 Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL - Sydney (W)
#102 Julia Goerges/GER - Pattaya (SF)

4 - Serena Williams
2 - D.Cibulkova, P.Kvitova, E.Makarova, A.Radwanska, V.Williams
Active #1's (7): Azarenka, Ivanovic, Jankovic, Sharapova, S.Williams, V.Williams, Wozniacki

**WINS BY #50+ OVER REIGNING #1's - last 10 seasons**
#226 2009 Beijing 2nd - Zhang Shuai d. Safina
#188 2008 US Open 2nd - Julie Coin d. Ivanovic
#133 2005 Indian Wells Final - Kim Clijsters d. Davenport
#133 2008 Wimbledon 3rd - Zheng Jie d. Ivanovic
#132 2009 Tokyo 2nd - Chang Kai-Chen d. Safina
#95 2009 Marbella 1st - Klara Zakopalova d. S.Williams
#94 2008 Montreal 3rd - Tamira Paszek d. Ivanovic
#78 2014 Charleston 2nd - JANA CEPELOVA d. S.WILLIAMS
#76 2011 Cincinnati 2nd - Christina McHale d. Wozniacki
#73 2011 Bastad 2nd - Sofia Arvidsson d. Wozniacki
#52 2009 US Open 3rd - Petra Kvitova d. Safina

KATOWICE, POLAND (Int'l $500K/hard indoor)
13 Final: Vinci d. Kvitova (on RCI)
13 Doubles Final: Arruabarrena/Dominguez-Lino d. Olaru/Solovyeva
14 Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Vinci

#1 A.Radwanska d. #5 Koukalova
#8 Pironkova d. #3 Suarez-Navarro
#1 A.Radwanska d. #8 Pironkova

...first off, everyone go krazy! We can be kooky for Koukalova again! As a relationship ends, "Zakopalova" is no more. Sure, that's too bad for Klara, after marrying her soccer-playing husband back in 2006. But, as far as this space is concerned, I'm happy to be able be resurrect one of the original Backspin nicknames, around as far back as 2003 when the Czech upset Monica Seles at the Austalian Open. As far as Koukalova's chances for her fourth 2014 final, well, she might have to get past Cornet in the QF to have a shot at crowd fave Aga in the semis. I'll go with her getting that chance, just to highlight the name change. In the end, it's hard to go against A-Rad back home in Poland. Although, she's never reached a tour singles final in her home country.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (Int'l $250K/red clay outdoor)
13 Final: Jankovic d. Ormaechea
13 Doubles Final: Babos/Minella d. Birnerova/Panova
14 Top Seeds: Jankovic/Stephens

#1 Jankovic d. Pereira
#5 Garcia d. #6 King
#1 Jankovic d. #5 Garcia

...JJ's been wonderful, wacky and even a bit wayward at times in recent weeks. She's the defending champ in Bogota, though, the event title run that sparked her recent Top 10 resurgence. This is her first attempt at a title defense in three years, so we'll see how it goes. She's surely a big favorite. Stephens, vs. clay courter Duque-Marino in the 1st Round (another loss?), likely won't give this event much of her time.

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

Ooh--I wish one of us had thought to ask her to dance the Charleston if she won. You know Petko--she probably would have done it! She caused a bit of a stir when she used "colorful" language to describe to me why she hadn't submitted any of her poetry for publication.

I wish Andrea and JJ had won the doubles title because that would have been the press conferrence of all time. Only we'd still be there.......

Mon Apr 07, 05:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

You know, certain steps of the Charleston are sort of reminiscent of the Petko. Her doing the knee-crossing move would have been hilarious!

Mon Apr 07, 06:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

1st Round in Bogota: Duque-Marino d. Stephens 6-3,6-3

Hey, so what? She's 21. She's got time to burn, right? :\

Meanwhile, feast-or-famine Mladenovic had the latter experience again, losing in the doubles 1st Round with Hesse today. It's only Tuesday, but the Pastry is already through in Colombia, having lost in singles, too.

Tue Apr 08, 08:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

USTA & MJF have announced that Stephens will "lead" the U.S. Fed Cup team against France next week. Gulp.

Wed Apr 09, 12:41:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

They also told us, for the 100th time, that Lepchenko "loves playing for her country." Oh wait--does she play for the USA?! Who knew?

Too bad for the USA that BMS is out injured again.

After Charleston and Bogota, MJF must be feeling less than thrilled.

Wed Apr 09, 10:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, what is the deal with that?

If I didn't know any better, I'd wonder if maybe that was a veiled message/accusation about players who maybe don't "love playing for" their country "as much" as Lepchenko. ;)

Of course, the same press release also described Stephens as having played well this year and noted her Fed Cup experience, as if being pulled on Day 2 of a tie last year because of her less-than-stellar Day 1 performance is an experience that speaks well for her prospects as the "leader" against the French this time around. :)

All with a grain of salt. :D

Thu Apr 10, 12:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I think that, too--and perhaps it isn't that veiled :) They made such a big deal about her becoming a U.S. citizen, and now they're going all Huberesque with it.

Thu Apr 10, 05:40:00 PM EDT  

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