Monday, October 13, 2014

Wk.41- An Affair to Remember

Forget Wozziroy. We have a new WTA love affair to remember.

Hmmm, what should we call the winning couple: "Stosaka?" "Samasaka?" "Osasur?"

Either way, Samantha Stosur has surely found her match in Japan. I mean, the WTA has only held a tournament in Osaka six times, and her win this weekend is her sixth there, taking up half of the 2011 U.S. Open champion's total career tour singles title haul. Not only that, but Osaka has been there for the Aussie every time she's needed a shoulder to lean, too. In 2009, it finally provided her with her maiden WTA title after she'd gone 0-5 in finals over a five-season stretch. Last year, after having parted ways with her longtime coach David Taylor, Osaka was there again to tell her that things were going to be all right.

Of course, that hasn't exactly been the case in 2014. Stosur has suffered through a rather disappointing season, even losing, oddly enough, to a player NAMED Osaka (Naomi) this summer. The loss seemed like a bad joke, as if the Tennis Gods were taunting Stosur, trying to convince her that her longtime, strong relationship with Osaka (the one in Japan) was just a figment of her imagination.

But then Osaka came to her rescue yet again, as we all sort of figured it would, I guess. I mean, I picked Stosur to win the title -- so it must not have been TOO much of a wild possibility a week ago.

Courtney Nguyen at said it best, I think.

Yep... if only.

So, does Stosur's title run mean she'll suddenly rebound in full force in '15, and maybe even grab a second slam title? Umm, no. But, when the proverbial dust settles, Osaka will still be there for her, anyway.

Those two are just like that.

LINZ, AUSTRIA (Int'l $250K/Hard Indoor)
S: Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Camila Giorgi/ITA 6-7(4)/6-3/7-6(4)
D: Olaru/Tatishvili (ROU/USA) d. Beck/Garcia (GER/FRA)

OSAKA, JAPAN (Int'l $250K/Hard Outdoor)
S: Samantha Stosur/AUS def. Zarina Diyas/KAZ 7-6(7)/6-3
D: Aoyama/Voracova (JPN/CZE) d. Arruabarrena/Maria (ESP/GER)

TIANJIN, CHINA (Int'l $250K/Hard Outdoor)
S: Alison Riske/USA def. Belinda Bencic/SUI 6-3/6-4
D: Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova (RUS/AUS) d. Cirstea/Klepac (ROU/SLO)

Sorana Cirstea, answering the question, "Why China?"


I couldn't leave China without saying a proper good bye !!! ?????? #TheGreatWall

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...well, no pun intended (well, maybe it is), but the Czech is surely serving notice that she will demand more attention in 2015 (hence, her PoW honors here over the aforementioned Aussie, just to stay ahead of the game). In Linz, Pliskova's fifth '14 final appearance (just one behind tour leaders Serena and AnaIvo) produced a second title, the third of the Maiden's career. After putting up wins over Kirsten Flipkens, Mona Barthel, Madison Brengle and Anna-Lena Friedsam put her in the final, Pliskova saved a match point in the final against Camila Giorgi, at 6-5 in the 3rd after she'd charged back from 5-2 down, and won the title in a deciding tie-break. A year ago in this same event, Karolina and her sister Kristyna won their first doubles title as a duo (they've added two more in '14, meaning only Venus & Serena stand ahead of them on the WTA's all-time all-sisters doubles title list). Karolina is up to a career-best #27 in the new rankings.

RISERS: Alison Riske/USA & Camila Giorgi/ITA

...and to think that a few seasons ago the prospect of a successful WTA career from Pittsburgh-born Riske, now 24, wasn't exactly a given. At first, her success seemed to make her simply a "grass court specialist," as she qualified in Birmingham in 2010 and went on to reach the semifinals, losing in three sets to Maria Sharapova. The result earned her a Wimbledon wild card in her first career slam main draw, boosted her growing confidence and, well, the rest is history. Since then, while she's still most dangerous on the grass, she's expanded her battlefield to hard courts. She upset Petra Kvitova at last year's U.S. Open and finished the year in the Top 100, then was in an upsetting mood again in Melbourne this past January, knocking out Elena Vesnina and reaching her third straight slam 3rd Round. Last week in Tianjin, she joined the growing list of Bannerettes (minus one notable exception, of course) reaching new career heights on a regular basis, reaching her first WTA singles final with wins over Cagla Buyukakcay, Olga Govortsova, Varvara Lepchenko and Zheng Saisai, and then becoming the latest U.S. woman to win her maiden tour title with a win in the final over fellow first-time Belinda Bencic. Riske comes in at a career-best #44 this week. Meanwhile, for a second in Linz it looked like Camila Giorgi was going to finally allow me to check her name off as the seventh of my eight pre-season first-time champions predictions to actually win a maiden title in '14. Earlier this season in Katowice, the Italian had failed to put away a match point in her first tour final against Alize Cornet. But, wouldn't you know it, this weekend in the final against Karolina Pliskova it was Giorgi once again holding -- but, alas, failing to put away -- another MP in another tour singles final. After squandering a 5-2 3rd set lead, Giorgi was a point away (again) from her first WTA crown at 6-5, only to see the Czech save it and go on to win the tournament title in a tie-break. So, the tireless little Italian will have to try again. Wins last week against against Andrea Petkovic, Ons Jabeur, Marina Erakovic and Karin Knapp were still impressive, though, especially considering she carried a four-match losing streak (and was on a 3-9 skid heading) into Austria.
SURPRISES: Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER & Luksika Kumkhum/THA
...20-year old German Friedsam, the winner of the WTA $125K Challenger in Suzhou last month, qualified in Linz with victories over Dinah Pfizenmaier, Kristina Kucova and Alexandra Panova, then ran off three additional main draw wins over Dominika Cibulkova, Jana Cepelova and Stefanie Voegele to reach her first career WTA semifinal. She's up to a career-best #76 in the new singles rankings. Meanwhile, fresh off her two medal haul at the Asian Games, Kumkhum also reached her first career tour singles semifinal in Osaka following wins over Christina McHale and Madison Keys, who retired from their QF match. Kumkhum, whose results made Thailand the thirtieth different nation to produce a WTA singles semifinalist this season, is up to a career-best #86 today.
VETERANS: Samantha Stosur/AUS & Alla Kudryavtseva/Anastasia Rodionova (RUS/AUS)

...after putting together three straight final runs -- in Osaka, Moscow and Sofia -- to end '13, Stosur is again shining her brightest right before the WTA turns out the lights on another season. After reaching the semis in Beijing, the Aussie defended her Osaka title, winning her third title there in the six years in which the event has been held (she's also had an additional runner-up result in '11). Wins over Jarmila Gajdosova, Yulia Putintseva, Elina Svitolina and Zarina Diyas came without dropping a set -- and she did it with only one retirement from an opponent (Gajdosova), which isn't a given at this time of year. In Tianjin, Alla Kudryavtseva & Anastasia Rodionova picked up a third doubles title of the season (their fifth as a duo), defeating Sorana Cirstea & Andreja Klepac in a 10-8 match tie-break in the final. The title, the Hordette's eighth of her career and the Aussie's ninth, also clinched their berth as the final team to qualify for the WTA Finals doubles competition next week in Singapore.

COMEBACK: Madison Brengle/USA took seven years, after she'd reached both the Australian Open and Wimbledon junior finals in 2007, but the Summer of Brengle became a reality in 2014, and now it's officially stretched into the fall. The Bannerette's career-best stretch kicked off with a $50K challenger title in July, followed up by a wild card entry into the U.S. Open and the end of her decade-long quest for her first career main draw slam win. After winning the $50K challenger in Las Vegas two weeks ago, raising her ranking into the Top 100 for the first time, Brengle qualified last week in Linz, taking out Czech Lucie Hradecka in the final round. In the main draw, she put up a 1st Round win over Irina-Camelia Begu, then got a 2nd Round walkover from Ana Ivanovic (left hip) to reach the QF. In the new rankings, Brengle is up to yet another career-high, coming in at #88 (and climbing).
FRESH FACES: Belinda Bencic/SUI & Zarina Diyas/KAZ
...both Bencic and Diyas have been able to carry over their U.S. Open moments in the spotlight with good results in the fall. Before last week, Bencic had already put up Wins in Asia over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Shelby Rogers, then the 17-year old Open quarterfinalist made her way through Hsieh Su-Wei, Romina Oprandi and Peng Shuai (granted, the latter two via a walkover and retirement, respectively) to reach her first tour-level singles final in Tianjin. She failed to get a win over fellow first-time finalist Riske, but the New Swiss Miss will surely get many more opportunities to grab her maiden in the near future. Bencic is up to a career-best #33 this week. Meanwhile, 20-year old Kazakh Diyas, who calmly put the CiCi Bellis Story to rest in the 2nd Round in New York (after having previously, rather anonymously, also reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon), has since added additional, bigger wins over Sorana Cirstea, Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Klara Koukalova (twice). Last week, she reached her first tour singles final in Osaka after knocking off Chan Yung-Jan, Lara Arruabarrena, Ana Konjuh and Luksika Kumkhum. Diyas lost in the final to Stosur, but considering the "year after" results of the Aussie's other Osaka final victims, maybe big things are in store for the Kazakh in '15. In '09, Stosur defeated Francesca Schiavone, who went on to win Roland Garros a season later; and in '13, the Osaka RU was Genie Bouchard, who only reached her first slam final, plus two more major semis, and won her first tour title while climbing into the Top 10 this season. The Backspin "Regional Honors" haven't arrived in this space quite yet, but I'd say Diyas, now up to #34, is a good bet to appear on the "Buy" column on the Market Watch list for the Asia/Pacific region.
DOWN: Jelena Jankovic/SRB
...after staging a welcome comeback a year ago, returning to the Top 10 in '13, JJ has seen things take a step back this season. Another early round exit last week -- to Zheng Saisai in Tianjin, where the Serb was the #1 seed in the inaugural edition of the event -- was followed by the announcement that Jankovic was ending her season a few weeks early due to a back injury. It looks like she'll end the season ranked somewhere between #14-20, approximately the same area she ended up at the end of the 2011 season. Much like QC, she ends 2014 somewhat "hanging in mid-air." We'll have to soon do something about that... well, at least for half of that equation.
ITF PLAYER: An-Sophie Mestach/BEL
...the 20-year old Waffle took the title at the $50K challenger in Monterrey, Mexico. Mestach's run to a sixth career ITF crown, her third this season, included victories over Elise Mertens, Alexandra Cadantu, Julia Glushko and Lourdes Dominguez-Lino in the final, taking out the Spaniard in straight sets, 6-3/7-5.
...the 15-year old continues to add weight to the promise of a bright future. Following up her star turn in the main draw at the U.S. Open, Bellis led the Bannerette team to a Junior Fed Cup championship in recent weeks, then last week jumped back onto the professional scene and found success there once again. The #1-ranked junior reached and won her first ITF challenger event title at the $25K event in Rock Hill, South Carolina. After having just three main draw professional wins -- including her 1st Round victory over Dominika Cibulkova at Flushing Meadows -- to her credit before last week, Bellis won five to take the challenger title, defeating the likes of Katerina Stewart, Chanel Simmonds, Despina Papamichail and Lauren Embree in a 6-4/6-0 final. Embree, a cog in the two-time NCAA championships teams at Florida (2011-12), drops to 0-4 in '14 ITF finals with the result.


Not great clarity but Rock Hill 25k winnerrr????

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You're 15, CiCi. Clarity can come later.

Meanwhile, Caro had a sense of deja vu...


Deja vu!

Se på Instagram

And went on an adventure...

Suddenly, the shadow of the Dane seems "cool" again. Less Irish baggage, I guess.

1. Osaka Final - Stosur d. Diyas
Stosur is the fifteenth top seed to win a tour singles title in '14, and the eighth to successfully defend a title. Only six times has a player won a crown this year while being BOTH the top seed and defending champ, though. Let's see... there's been Sam, Li Na and Serena Williams (X 4). That's it. That's the whole list. A rare, good playing-with-pressure moment for the Aussie, I'd say. Imagine if it carried over to Melbourne. Yeah, I know... a didgeridoo dream.
2. Tianjin Final - Riske d. Bencic
Riske is the thirteenth maiden champ in '14, the most since 2009, and the third Bannerette to step into the winner's circle for the first time just since June. She's the fifth first-time finalist from the U.S. this season, a tour best. Also, this was the third final match-up this year between title-less players, as well as the third such meeting of two first-time finalists. The others came in Marrakech (Torro-Flor d. Oprandi) and Strasbourg (Puig d. Soler-Espinosa).
3. Linz 2nd Rd. - Friedsam d. Cibulkova
The AO runner-up has gone 7-13 since reaching the Kuala Lumpur final in April. Still, she's highly enough ranked to be the top seed this week in Moscow.
4. Linz 2nd Rd. - Knapp d. Rybarikova
...6-3, ret.
The Slovak retires from her third straight event. Maybe she should take the hint?
5. Tianjin QF - Cirstea/Klepac d. Hingis/Pennetta
And with the title run by Kudryavtseva/Rodionova, The Original Swiss Miss and The Original Flavia miss out on a berth in the WTA Finals in Singapore. Still, it says something that it took the Russian/Aussie duo twenty-one events to edge out what Hingis & Pennetta accomplished in just seven tournaments together. Hopefully they'll team up again in '15.

6. Osaka QF - Svitolina d. Davis
During her birthday week (she turned 21), Davis became the eighth U.S. woman to reach a third WTA QF in 2014. The others are named Serena, Venus, Madison, Alison, Varvara, Christina and Vania. Notice anyone who's missing? Yep, the now-#35 ranked Sloane has only two QF. She's still Currently the fourth-ranked Bannerette on tour, but she's not that far off in the Future from being the eighth, or maybe even ninth-best in her nation (depending on how good a start to '15 we see from Shelby Rogers).
7. Moscow Doubles 1st Rd. - Krunic/Siniakova d. Makarova/Vesnina
There she goes again. The Tashkent champs pulled off the first -- of many, I'm sure... it's October, after all -- of what will surely be MANY upsets that will occur this week in the Kremlin Cup.
8. Moscow 1st Rd. - Pironkova d. Kovinic
After starting the season strong, then drifting away ever since, the Weeping Angel appears to be stirring in the season's closing weeks. Also, for once, Pironkova, an actual singles champion in '14, won't feel like an "unfair" addition to the Tournament of "Champions " field back home in Bulgaria, where she's been included in the draw as a title-less wild card the last two years.
9. Linz Doubles Final - Olaru/Tatishvili d. Beck/Garcia
Riske wasn't the only Bannerette hoisting her first career tour title trophy this weekend.

10. Linz 2nd Rd. - Brengle w/o Ivanovic
and here I didn't think that I could possibly have a THIRD straight week in which one of my champion predictions exited a tournament mid-week due to an injury.

In case you were wondering why the recap didn't get put up on Sunday night...

Hey, the Terminus gang got what was coming to them. Oh, and, yep, Carol is a badassssss.

1. Linz Final - Karolina Pliskova d. Giorgi
After failing to win her first title after, for the second time this year, holding a match point in a final, Giorgi joins fellow Italians Errani and Vinci (all 0-2) in the "winless in multiple finals" club for '14. As of right now, there are only two other non-Italian members.
2. Tianjin QF - Bencic d. Hsieh Su-Wei
This loss by Hsieh prevented a match-up of former doubles partners (who'll reunite one more time in Singapore, of course) in a singles semifinal. Ultimately, Bencic defeated Peng Shuai, as well, as the Chinese vet retired during her match-up with TNSM.
3. Tianjin Doubles Final - Kudryavtseva/Anastasia Rodionova d. Cirstea/Klepac
Nothing against Rodionova, but you'd have gotten few takers in January if you'd asked who thought that she'd end up being the highest-ranked Aussie doubles player in 2014, what with the great '13 season that was put up by Barty/Dellacqua that seemed to point to even more success this year. As it turned out, Dellacqua's focus was more on singles, while Barty has decided to leave the tour for a yet-to-be-determined period of time.
HM- Osaka 1st Rd. - Osaka d. Erika Sema
How often do you get to say, "Osaka wins in Osaka," anyway? Well, at least once. In this case, of course, the Osaka in question was wild card entry Naomi, the same Osaka who defeated the still-reigning Osaka champ Stosur a few weeks ago. Got that? Full circle, baby.

While Aga goes all Cheesecake Factory, Vika goes Chi-Chi-Chipotle...


Hawwwttttt #chipotlegang #chilling #mybroissweatinglikecrazy

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**2014 WTA FINALS**
6...Serena Williams (6-0)
6...Ana Ivanovic (4-2)

0-4 - Angelique Kerber, GER
0-2 - Sara Errani, ITA
0-2 - Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
0-2 - Roberta Vinci, ITA

Serena Williams - Brisbane
Li Na - Shenzhen
Serena Williams - Miami
Maria Sharapova - Stuttgart (2012-14)
Serena Williams - Rome
Elina Svitolina - Baku
Serena Williams - U.S. Open (2012-14)
Samantha Stosur - Osaka

25 - Serena Williams
5 - Venus Williams
1 - Melanie Oudin
6 - Serena Williams
1 - Madison Keys
1 - Alison Riske
1 - Coco Vandeweghe
1 - Venus Williams

92...Margaret Court, 1968-76
68...Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, 1970-80
17...Kerry Melville-Reid, 1968-79
15...Dianne Fromholtz-Balestrat, 1973-79
9...Wendy Turnbull, 1976-83
6...Jelena Dokic, 2001-11
6...SAMANTHA STOSUR, 2009-14
5...Alicia Molik, 2003-05

5 - Errani/Vinci, ITA/ITA
3 - Hsieh/Peng, TPE/CHN

[first-time champions]
Annika Beck, GER
Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
Camila Giorgi, ITA
Madison Keys, USA
Karin Knapp, ITA
Garbine Muguruza, ESP
Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
Donna Vekic, CRO
[first-time finalists]
Camila Giorgi, ITA
Madison Keys, USA
Garbine Muguruza, ESP
Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
Sloane Stephens, USA
Stefanie Voegele, SUI
red = hit
plain = miss

La Trufflette and the All-England Club, still a match made in tennis heaven:

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Premier $710K/HCI)
13 Final: Halep d. Stosur
13 Doubles Final: Kuznetsova/Stosur d. Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova
14 Top Seeds: Cibulkova/Makarova

#7 Ka.Pliskova d. #6 Pavlyuchenkova
#5 Kuznetsova d. #8 Garcia
#7 Ka.Pliskova d. #5 Kuznetsova

...Kuznetsova Cursed? Sorry, Karolina.

13 Final: Wozniacki d. Beck
13 Doubles Final: Vogt/Wickmayer d. Barrois/Thorpe
14 Top Seeds: Petkovic/Cornet

#3 Lisicki d. #6 Vinci
#2 Cornet d. Van Uytvanck
#3 Lisicki d. #2 Cornet

...if Lisicki wins this, after previously winning in Hong Kong, will she be deemed a serial "adulterer," irreparably damaging her relationship with Wimbledon's Centre Court?

The season review continues, with the Regional Honors up next.

And, finally, yep... she's still there, even on Instagram. And might even be on top of the tennis world in a few weeks.


Took me a while to create an Instagram account but enjoying it so much. #travel #ocean

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All for now.


Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Good draw in Singapore me thinks:
The Red Group contains: Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard and Ana Ivanovic.

The White Group, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova.

Another final between Caroline and Serena? - yeah why not. Let the games begin :)

Sat Oct 18, 09:59:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

It does seem to be a very well-balanced draw. Should produce some good Round Robin matches. Well, hopefully.

Meanwhile, with Beck's win in Luxembourg today, that means seven of my eight pre-season "first title" picks won titles this season, with the eighth holding match points in TWO different finals during the season. Grrr... Giorgi! So close to a clean sweep...

Sat Oct 18, 12:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

guess who's not there...

early non-tennis comments:
- it's been interesting to see the candid pictures and observe who sits together when the official cameras are off...this pic says it all...

The pleasant and more shy halep and kvitova together. Kvitova and wozniacki who have been friends since the juniors. BFFs Caro and Serena. Serena in the center. Serena and Aga are friends... and with Ana too. I was surprised that Ana and Maria were sitting together............. Maria and Genie have known each other for years.

Wonder where Vika would have been in the photo...

Interesting that Kerber's presence isn't as missed. Each person in this top 8 has a lot of presence and bigger fan bases...

- ivanovic had the best dress/cut

- Aga had an interesting dress

- Genie's eye makeup was too much.

- Serena's dress...depends on the photo. Sometimes looks great; sometimes looks too prom-y.

- I feel like I've seen this style on Maria a lot. Surprised she hasn't moved on from it.

- I really think Caroline should have a stylist... She's a tall and pretty girl and she always picks things that don't fit her well...

Really excited for the matches. Should be a great tournament.

Sat Oct 18, 02:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha... the cropped shot of Sharapova/Bouchard sitting next to each other might make a few Photo of the Year lists. ;)

On another matter, a rare moment of WTA proactivity: WTA Fines/Suspends Tarpischev for comments about Williams sisters.

I mean, really... this IS 2014, right? It's ridiculous nonsense that the tour was forced to deal with this at all. I wonder if this might be some small insight into what sort of things were troubling the Russian FC team before Myskina became Captain this year?

Sat Oct 18, 04:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I have to say, I'm a little disappointed with Dementieva's lack of reaction...

But that might also be due to the timing of when she was on tour. It's only been since 2010 when they adjusted the rankings and the roadmap that the WTA tour became more cohesive...the camaraderie wasn't there before...and the focus was on personal success/achievement. Now the focus is on promoting women's sports and kind of making a statement that women can be athletes as well. I think that motive has allowed the players to have more respect for each other...since they're the only ones who understand the pressures/expectations...

Maybe they had this before as well but it wasn't publicized as much.

I think that this will be Stacey Allaster's legacy. She has a lot of strange ideas...but I do think she's done a good job of unifying the players...and maybe she's been able to do that since she's also a woman.

But back to Dementieva...I don't think that players were that close to each other when she was on she probably didn't see any need to stick up for the Williams Sisters...And without the media training and current tour initiatives, she probably didn't recognize that she should have said something.

Also, there are cultural dynamics...I know nothing about Russian culture. And Tarpischev has history with her coach...and influence...he's powerful in teh tennis community...

Sat Oct 18, 05:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I really want to see:
- kvitova v sharapova
- kvitova v serena
- serena v bouchard
- serena v halep
- kvitova v wozniacki would also be interesting

I think Kvitova's current form...and the indoor conditions...I want to see how she does against everyone.

I think Ana Ivo's matches will be interesting too...especially against MaSha.

Sun Oct 19, 01:07:00 AM EDT  

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