Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 BSA's: Matches of the Year



The WTA season is over, but what about a supersized look back at the best and most memorable matches? How many can you remember?

Or maybe I should ask, "How many do you WANT to remember?"

*TOP MATCHES OF THE YEAR*

1. 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 year.
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2t. Doha 2nd Rd. - Petra Kvitova d. Venus Williams
...6-2/2-6/7-6(7).
Both players saved MP -- Venus at 5-4 in the 2nd, before both thwarted chances in the 3rd set TB -- with the Czech finally won on her third of the match. But this one was just the appetizer for what was to come during the summer.

Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Petra Kvitova d. Venus Williams
...5-7/7-6(2)/7-5.
In 2:30, a fitting "Cool Classic" that was the first match-up on grass between two woman who, by the end of the tournament, would have won the title at SW19 a combined seven times in the last fifteen years, and five in the last ten. Only three break points were carved out in the match: Venus saved one to hold in the first game of the match, then converted the second to take the 1st set before Kvitova finished things off with a break to win the match. Williams came within two points of the match in the 2nd set, but five errors in the tie-break prevented what could have been a story for the ages from spinning into reality (as Venus lost in the third straight slam in a match in which she'd won the opening set), and instead provided a follow-up chapter in the Wimbledon career of perhaps the next dominant SW19 champion in Kvitova, who'd go on to claim her second championship at the All-England club.

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3. Roland Garros Final - Maria Sharapova d. Simona Halep
...6-4/6-7(5)/6-4.
In her third straight RG final, Sharapova wins her second title against the first Romanian to reach a major final since 1980. In the first three-set final in Paris since 2001, Sharapova's forehand ruled the day as she locked away her 20th consecutive three-set match win on clay in 3:00. Afterward, the Russian said it was the most competitive and "best" grand slam final in which she's ever played.
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4. WTA Finals SF - Serena Williams d. Caroline Wozniacki
...2-6/6-3/7-6(6).
Win or lose for the Dane, this match was going to be remembered by many for THIS Caro save (a few, actually) on match point.

As it was, Wozniacki's new-found aggression and blossoming friendship with Serena seems to have made her fearless when it comes to facing Williams.
She very nearly took her friend out in Singapore, too. Out of the tournament, that is. She took it to Serena in the 1st set, only to see Williams come charging back in the 2nd with upped aggression of her own. In the 3rd set, the two were on serve at 4-4. Wozniacki moved into the net and Williams dumped a backhand to give the Dane the break and herself a shot to serve for the final at 5-4. Williams immediately broke back, but Wozniack held BP again in the next game. Eventually, Serena put in two big serves -- the first a service winner off Caro's racket, and a second that set up a short put-away shot for Williams -- to hold. A game later, Wozniacki saved a MP on a wonderful point (see above) that saw Serena make a series of defensive saves, only to have the camped-at-the-net Dane pull off several volleys and claim the point. She held for 6-6 and force a deciding tie-break. When Williams hit a DF on point #5 it was Wozniacki who led 4-1, but when a Serna shot clipped the net and bounced a foot onto Wozniacki's side of the court a point later it proved to be the biggest moment. It made the score 4-2 rather than 5-1, and it turned the momentum of the TB. Serena won five straight points and held two more MP before Caro knotted things at 6-6, but a big serve and return from Williams pulled her through to the final with an 8-6 win. Still, in the end, even in defeat, Wozniacki held a 91-87 advantage in total points.
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5. U.S. Open 4th Rd. - Victoria Azarenka d. Aleksandra Krunic
...4-6/6-4/6-4.
In the best women's match under the lights at this year's Open, world #145 Krunic's Cinderella run was finally brought to a close in a dramatic, momentum-shifting match chocked full of drop shots, defensive gets, lobs, fist pumps, full body thrusts, net cords and, for good or for bad, a "happy birthday" salute from Vika to Gael Monfils. In the end, the two-time finalist and former #1 Azarenka's experience won out, but the speedy Krunic's grit and surprising (mabye even to her) offensive firepower provided the fuel that made this one of those matches that will always make you smile when you think about it.

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6. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Alize Cornet d. Serena Williams
...1-6/6-3/6-4
After winning five straight games to take the 1st set after a rain delay, Williams' game went awry as Cornet's came into focus. The Pastry won the first five games of the 2nd and, on her second attempt in the 3rd, served out the match with a love game... just how her win over Williams in Dubai earlier in the year had wrapped up. Cornet had been 0-20 in grand slam vs. Top 20 players, while Serena had lost before the Round of 16 at Wimbledon just twice before, in 2005 and in her 1998 debut.
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7. Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Samantha Stosur
...6-7(8)/6-4/6-2.
The stifling Aussie heatwave 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 pulzerized 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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8. $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 the craziest result of the season. Must be something about Serbians with the initials "J.J.," huh?

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9. 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 fiesty (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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10. Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Angelique Kerber d. Maria Sharapova
...7-6(4)/4-6/6-4.
The German stares into the Sharapova light and lives to tell the tale. Keeping her error total low in a match filled with hard-hitting rallies, Kerber's defense forces Sharapova into errors as she tries to do more in order to wrestle away points. Kerber held off a Sharapova comeback from 4-2 in the 1st that forced a tie-break, then another after the Russian had saved a match point in the 3rd at 5-3 and threatened to pull another of her patented "lean-in-at-the-finish-line" victories when she got a break to get things back on serve at 5-4. Finally, on MP #7, Kerber ends Sharapova 11-match winning streak in three-setters as Sharapova still hasn't come back from a set down to win at Wimbledon since her title there a decade ago. The last time she did it? In the '04 semifinals vs. Lindsay Davenport.
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11. Cincinnati SF - Ana Ivanovic d. Maria Sharapova
...6-2/5-7/7-5.
AnaIvo led 6-2/4-0, but the ultra-competitive Sharapova's usual fight wrestled away the direction of the match. She took a 4-2 lead in the 3rd, served at 5-4 and held two match points. But back-to-back double-faults broke her own serve, and the Russian's expected 3rd set magic went with it in a match result that ultimately typified her less-than-successful '14 summer on the hard courts.
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12. 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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13. FC Final Match #3 - Petra Kvitova/CZE d. Angelique Kerber/GER
...7-5(5)/4-6/6-4.
In one of more dramatic matches of the year, with the Czechs' FC title there for the taking in front of a partisan crowd, Kvitova battled against Kerber (and, naturally, herself on occasion) for 2:57 before finally clinching the title. Credit it to her 1st set comeback, when she came back from 5-2 down, saved six set points and survived the German serving three times for the set, which lasted 1:16. Kerber overcame a 3-0 deficit of her own in the 2nd to force a 3rd set, where she went up 3-0 and 4-1, but then saw the Czech cut into the lead and then surpass her down the stretch. After her fourth match point, it was finally over, and Petra's FC legacy tree grew yet another limb.
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14t. Miami 3rd Rd. - Maria Sharapova d. Lucie 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.

Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Maria Sharapova d. Lucie Safarova
...7-6(5)/6-7(5)/7-6(2).
Sharapova's Stuttgart title run almost never happened, as Safarova, as she did with Li Na in Melbourne, once again nearly got the upset, only to actually provide the fuel for an eventual champion's fire. Safarova erased Sharapova's 5-1 3rd set lead, saving three match points before sending the match to a deciding tie-break. The Russian won in 7-2, getting her footing on dirt in preparation for yet another spring EuroClay campaign that ended with a Roland Garros title.
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15. Charleston SF - Jana Cepelova d. Belinda Bencic
...6-4/5-7/7-6(7).
A NextGen instant classic, as Bencic raced to a 5-1 2nd set lead, only to see Cepelova knot things at 5-5 and force the Swiss teen to take six set points to send things to a 3rd. There, Cepelova overcame an early break to hold a match point at 5-4. Bencic forced another tie-break, taking a 4-1 lead before the Slovak provided the final comeback of the 2:35 match by winning on her fourth match point.
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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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.
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19t. 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. The American's learning curve had an even more advantgeous outing a short time later...

Fed Cup World Group PO - Madison Keys/USA d. Alize Cornet/FRA
...6-7(4)/7-6(4)/6-3.
Keys learned the lesson that never giving up sometimes pays off in the end. After putting up an unsuccessful fight in the hour-long 1st set (breaking Cornet when she served for the set) and dropping an equally frustrating battle against the Pastry in Game #4 of the 2nd (it ended with a 14-minute Cornet service hold for 3-1), Keys could have thrown in the towel. It she had, she'd have missed out on the always-dramatic Cornet slowing down while experiencing leg cramps that turned her service games into an adventure. Unable to push off, the Pastry threw in three DF to break herself for 3-3, yet still was able to right back enough to manage to keep the set even up until 4-4 in the 2nd set tie-break. Keys stayed with it and took the TB, then grabbed a two-break lead in the 3rd. Cornet twice cut the double-break advantage in half, but Keys held firm -- mentally and physically -- long enough to notch her first career FC singles win and keep the U.S. hopes alive at the end of Day 1. Keys went on to learn from the whole experience, picking up her first title in Eastbourne as she began to look more and more like the equal (at worst) to Sloane Stephens when it comes to career prospects.
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20. Charleston SF - Andrea Petkovic d. Eugenie Bouchard
...1-6/6-3/7-5.
The match before Petko's Sunday triumph turned in Game #6 of the 2nd set, with Bouchard looking to add a break advantage to her 6-1/3-2 lead. The German saved three break points and held for 3-3, then a game later grabbed a 40/love lead on the Canadian's serve, getting the break on her fourth BP of the game to end a 0-for-7 drought in the match. Petkovic finished off four straight games to take the 2nd set, then overcame a 4-2 3rd set deficit and got to match point at 5-4 on Bouchard's serve. Bouchard saved it and held, setting up a potential Petkovic last minute collapse. But it didn't happen. Petkovic held and then broke the Canadian a game later to reach the final.
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21. Roland Garros 2nd Rd. - Taylor Townsend d. Alize Cornet
...6-4/4-6/6-4.
Against a French crowd and vs. a drama-loving Pastry, the American wild card combines powerful groundstrokes with a hint of variety to grab a two-break lead in the 2nd, only to see Cornet force a 3rd set. Townsend went up a double break there, as well, only to see a 5-1 lead shrink to 5-4 after she failed to convert on four MP in game #7. The 18-year old finally holds to win, becoming the youngest Bannerette to reach the RG 3rd Round since Ashley Harkleroad in 2003.

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22. 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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23. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Tereza Smitkova d. Bojana Jovanovski
...4-6/7-6(5)/10-8.
The Czech qualifier pulls out the 2:53, back-and-forth match against BoJo. Jovanovski had a MP at 6-5 in the 2nd, then overturned Smitkova's 4-2 lead in the 3rd and served for the match at 6-5 and 7-6, holding another MP. Smitkova held three MP of her own at 8-7, finally winning on #5 two games later.
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24. Charleston 3rd Rd. - Eugenie Bouchard d. Venus Williams
...7-6(6)/2-6/6-4.
In a multi-generational, multi-North American nation match-up in the U.S. South, Bouchard saved two set points in the 1st set tie-break after Venus had overcome an early 4-2 deficit. In the end, it turned out to be the most important moment of the match.
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25. Kuala Lumpur Final - Donna Vekic d. Dominika Cibulkova
...5-7/7-5/7-6(4).
Vekic fumbled her 4-2 lead and dropped the 1st set, then fell behind Cibulkova 7-5/5-4. But the Croat didn't go away quietly, taking the 2nd and then going up 4-0 and 5-1 in the 3rd. She held four MP at 5-2, but the Slovak pushed things to a tie-break, where Vekic won on MP #7, closing out the 2:51 match to claim her first career title.
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26. WTA Finals Round Robin - Caroline Wozniacki d. Maria Sharapova
...7-6(4)/6-7(5)/6-2.
It took 3:13, but Caro gets her second straight win over Sharappova (having also defeated the Russian in Round of 16 at the U.S. Open), and her first over a world #2 since 2010 (Zvonareva in Doha). Again, things turned on the Russian's serve. She served at 5-4 in the 1st set, and led 4-2 in the opening tie-break, finally double-faulting on the Dane's set point. It was her ninth DF of the set, as she'd have fifteen for the match.
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27. Birmingham 2nd Rd. - Kimiko Date-Krumm d Monica Puig
...2-6/6-4/9-7(7).
KDK saved a MP at 6-5 in 3rd, then another in the TB after Puig had also saved three MP. Finally, the 43-year old wins on her fourth.
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28. Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Coco Vandweghe d. Garbine Muguruza
...6-3/3-6/7-5.
Fresh off her title in the Netherlands, Vandeweghe fires 15 aces. After failing to put away any of four MP at 5-4 in the 3rd, Coco needs nine MORE at 6-5 to finally get the win. After being 2-of-23 on break points in the match, Vandeweghe gets a gift -- two, in fact -- as the Spaniard ends the match with back-to-back double-faults.
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29. Cincinnati QF - Maria Sharapova d. Simona Halep
...3-6/6-4/6-4.
This rematch of the Roland Garros final had the same result as in Paris. Halep was up a break at 2-0 in both the 2nd and 3rd set, but still wasn't able to win either and grab her first win in five meetings with Sharapova.
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30. 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 before finally winning on her own fourth MP.
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31t. 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.

Fed Cup World Group II - Kiki Bertens/NED d. Kurumi Nara/JPN
...7-6(5)/4-6/9-7.
In the 3:00 match, the second long FC match lost by Nara this season (see above), Bertens turned the tie in the Dutch team's favor in Match #3, overcoming a 3-1 3rd set deficit to win in 3:00 on her fifth MP.
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32. 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 her Australian Open debut.

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33. WTA Finals Round Robin - Maria Sharapova d. Aga Radwanska
...7-5/6-7(4)/6-2.
A-Rad might not hold the sort of bedeviling sway she once did over the Russian (in NYC and Miami, at least), but she's still able to frustrate her on occasion. If Sharapova could have converted one of three match points she held in the 2nd set (where she led 5-1), ultimately hitting a DF on Radwanska's SP in a tie-break, all her round robin court time (6+ hours) would have at least put her into the semifinals and kept alive her chances to finish at #1. Instead, she eliminated herself by failing to get a straight sets victory. As things turned out, her 3rd set win proved once again that Sharapova is still the same ultra competitor at heart that she's always been, even if a win just meant she "saved face" and avoided the same 0-3 fate for the week that befell a certain young Canadian that week in Singapore. On MP #4, Sharapova nailed a crosscourt forehand winner off a Radwanska second serve to close out the 3:09 affair.
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34. Madrid 2nd Rd. - Aga Radwanska d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
...6-3/4-6/7-6(6).
Kuznetsova led 4-1 in the 3rd, but Radwanska served for the match at 5-4. Kuznetsova held three MP in the TB at 6-3, only to see A-Rad end the match on a five-point winning streak.
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35. Beijing Final - Maria Sharapova d. Petra Kvitova
...6-4/2-6/6-3.
In their first meeting in a final since Kvitova defeated her in the '11 Wimbledon decider, Sharapova led 3-0 and 4-2 in the 3rd, but a pair of errors gave Kvitova a break point to get back on serve. But, as she has so often in recent outings against the Russian, the Czech failed to secure the big point (she committed an ill-timed error) and lost her chance. She got another a few weeks later in Singapore, though, and that time Kvitova was the more efficient player, winning in straight sets as she converted five of eight break points to end her five-match losing streak against Sharapova.
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HM- Montreal SF - Venus Williams d. Serena Williams
...6-7(2)/6-2/6-3.
In the Sisters' first meeting in Canada, Venus gets her first win over Serena since '09, losing serve only once thanks to a series of superior second serves. It was the only hard court match Serena lost all summer.
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[The Storm Before the Calm]
Rome 2nd Rd. - Zhang Shuai d. Petra Kvitova
...7-6(6)/5-7/6-3.
Not long before her triumph at Wimbledon, Kvitova was up to her old, "Oh, Petra" tricks. She led 4-0 in the 1st, only to see Zhang hold a set point at 5-4. In the tie-break, the Czech led 3-1 and held two SP of her own before losing 8-6. In the 2nd set, Kvitova charged back from 4-2 down to knot the match after Zhang served for the victory at 5-4. In the deciding 3rd, the Chinese woman led 3-0, saw Kvitova tied things at 3-3, then Zhang won the final three games to take the victory. Whew! Kvitova is often breathtaking... in her losses, as well as her wins.
Roland Garros 3rd Rd. - Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Petra Kvitova
...6-7(3)/6-1/9-7.
In a 3:13 match, Kvitova loses a 3-1 lead in the 3rd, but serves for the match at 5-4. She can't put it away, and Kuznetsova holds two MP at 6-5. Kvitova served for the match again at 7-6, but once more is broken. Kuznetsova breaks again -- at love -- to end the match two games later. Who knew what would come Kvitova's way a month later? The only REAL clue might have been...

[The Dust-Up Before the SW19 Domination]
Eastbourne 1st Rd. - Petra Kvitova d. Lucie Safarova
...6-1/5-7/7-6(4).
In a preview of the Wimbledon semifinals, Kvitova serves at 6-1/5-4 and holds MP, but Safarova forces a deciding 3rd set. Kvitova led 3-1 there, served at 6-5 and held two more MP, but was forced to a TB. Down 4-2, Kvitova won the last five points to advance. And you know the rest. Kvitova won in straights over Varvara Lepchenko the next round, then withdrew with a hamstring injury. Two and a half weeks later, she was Wimbledon champion once again. Sometimes the path to a grand slam title is a strange one. Oh, Petra!

[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.

[Memorable Swiss Daughter-vs.-Swiss Pupil]

Wimbledon Mixed Doubles 3rd Rd. - Hingis/Soares d. Bencic/Klizan
...6-3/5-7/9-7.
Original Swiss Miss Hingis faces off with New Swiss Miss Bencic, coached by Hingis' mom, Melanie Molitor, who also coached Hingis when she was the #1 player in the world. "Old school" takes the classroom. Barely.

[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 IW semifinals vs. Pennetta, but her battle with her forever-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."

[The Incomplete Almost-Classic]
Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Yaroslava Shvedova d. Madison Keys
...7-6(7)/6-6(0) ret.
Keys, still on a roll after her Eastbourne title, kept Shvedova from serving out the 1st set, then had four set points in the TB before the Kazakh won it 9-7. Late in the evening, with darkness overtaking the AELTC, an injured Keys broke for a 6-5 lead, then called for the trainers to treat her leg. Trying to hold and knot the match, the American's compromised movement led to her being broken and a TB being necessary. The match was then called for the night on the middle Saturday, setting up a classic and dramatic re-start on Monday... but it never happened, as Keys pulled out of the tournament due to the injury. Drat.

[The Best... and the Worst]
Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Ekaterina Makarova d. Aga Radwanska
...6-3/6-0.
Radwanska, trying to erase the memory of her '13 SW19 semifinal collapse at her favorite tournament, took a 3-2 over the Russian... and then never won win another game, double-faulting on set point in the 1st, and then being forced to think about her disastrous performance when the match was delayed due to rain with Makaraova leading 5-0 in the 2nd. Makarova played great, spotless tennis. But, really, Radwanska's play was so bad the Hordette probabably would have won handily even while playing her "C" or "D" game.

[Wildest 1st Set]

U.S. Open 1st Round - Danielle Collins leads Simona Halep
...7-6 (2).
For one set, NCAA champ Collins looked ready to take down the #2-seed in Flushing Meadows in one of the biggest slam upsets in recent memory. But Halep stayed calm and figured one what she had to do to turn the tide. After scoring just two points in the 1st set tie-break, the Romanian lost just three total games in the 2nd and 3rd sets.

[Memo to the Tennis Gods]
Beijing 1st Rd. - Alize Cornet d. Jelena Jankovic
...7-5/3-6/6-4.
There weren't any sort of historically dramatic moments in this one, but it last 2:39 and Cornet saved four set points and overcame a 5-3 deficit in the 1st. It was the Pastry's first win in four meetings with the Serb. But... they hadn't met in FIVE YEARS! Come on, Tennis Gods... you've got to get these two drama queens together more often than that! I mean, you know, if you put the two of them in a small court-size cage and shake it up enough times we're bound to eventualy get something AMAZING. Don't be afraid... we can handle it. I think.

[The Quest is Completed]
U.S. Open 1st Round - Madison Brengle d. Julia Glushko
...6-3/6-2.
After twenty-seven failed attempts to qualify for a slam, including twenty-four straight, Brengle was mercifully given a wild card into this year's U.S. Open main draw. After being 0-4 in her previous 1st Round matches in majors, the Bannerette's 1st Round win over Glushko finally ended Brengle's ten-year quest to notch a victory at a major.



*COMEBACKS OF THE YEAR*
1. 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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2t. WTA Doubles QF - Cara Black/Mirza d. Kops-Jones/Spears 6-3/2-6/12-10
WTA Doubles SF- Black/Mirza d. Peschke/Srebotnik 4-6/7-5/11-9
...
in their final event before Black's possible break (again) for motherhood or possible retirementin '15, Black/Mirza obviously didn't want their partnership to end just yet. They extended it the hard way, blowing four match points against the Americans in the QF, then saving another in a match tie-break. A match later, they escaped Peschke/Srebotnik holding triple MP (on the first MP, Peschke dumped an overhead into the net that SHOULD have ended the match) to advance to the final. They only lost one GAME there.
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3. 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 lockerroom. 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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4. Wimbledon Doubles 3rd Rd. - Errani/Vinci d. L.Kichenok/N.Kichenok
...5-7/7-6(10)/6-1.
History turns on a single point. Well, six of them actually. The Kichenoks held six match points in the 2nd set tie-break, but Errani/Vinci fought them all off... then went on to win Wimbledon (below), completing the Career Doubles Slam and maybe carving out a Hall of Fame-worthy niche for themselves in the game's history.

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5. 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 tie soon belonged to the Germans 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. Germany ultimately advanced to the Fed Cup final for the first time since 1992.
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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. Fed Cup World Group II Playoffs - France d. Switzerland
...3-2.
How do you overcome a bright-eyed 16-year old instent on stealing the show, who twice pulls off upset wins against far more experienced opponents to knot the tie at 1-1 and 2-2? Well, you have a coach like Amelie Mauresmo, that's how. Her surprise "gut decision" to use clutch vet Virginie Razzano in Match #1 vs. a shaky Stefanie Voegele gave the Pastries what turned out to be a key 1-0 lead on Day 1, and her knowledge of the internal/emotional workings of her team led to her gameplan to hold off using doubles star/singles question mark Kristina Mladenovic too early. It worked out perfectly, as Kiki was teamed with team sparkplug Alize Cornet -- a pairing that alleviated a potential case of bad nerves for both women -- to produce a strong deciding doubles win that proved that (U.S. coach Mary Joe Ferandez, 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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10. Stuttgart Final - Maria Sharapova d. Ana Ivanovic
...3-6/6-4/6-1.
AnaIvo led 6-3/3-1 and had a point for 4-1, only to give the break back. She even had a break point for 4-2 to immediately take the advantage back. But a Sharapova backhand winner saved it, then the Russian won eleven of the final thirteen games to notch her seventh straight win over the Serb and defend her Stuttgart crown yet again. AnaIvo would get some revenge with a win over Sharapova in Rome... but then the Russian would win Wimbledon, and the Serb would soon move on from yet another coach. Game, set, match, career... Maria.
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11. 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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12. Roland Garros QF - Eugenie Bouchard d. Carla Suarez-Navarro
...7-6(4)/2-6/7-5.
The second of Bouchard's three SF-or-better slam runs this season foreshadowed her "B"-game ride to the Wimbledon final, as she overcame CSN's 4-2 lead, with the Spaniard twice serving for the set and holding a SP, to take the 1st, then overturned another 4-1 deficit in the 3rd.

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13. Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Jelena Jankovic d. Mona Barthel
...2-6/7-6(8)/6-3.
Barthel led 6-2/3-1, but lost the lead and saw Jankovic get to 5-4. Barthel saved six set points, finally breaking JJ on the fourth BP of the game, then took a 6-2 lead in the 2nd set tie-break. Jankovic saved the four match points, then took the 3rd set to send the German packing.
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14. Oeiras Final - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
...6-4/3-6/6-3.
No one said winning a title would be easy. In her sixth career final, CSN had to come back from 4-1 down in the final set before finally getting to lift her maiden singles trophy.
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15. Indian Wells 3rd Rd. - Alize Cornet d. Carla Suarez-Navarro
...6-7(4)/7-5/6-3.
Cornet made 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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16. 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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17. Monterrey 2nd Rd. - Jovana Jaksic d. Luksika Kumkhum
...3-6/7-6(5)/7-6(2).
En route to her surprise first WTA final, Jaksic saved three match points at 5-4 in the 2nd.
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18. Wimbledon Doubles 2nd Rd. - Pavlyuchenkova/Safarova d. Black/Mirza
...2-6/7-6(7)/6-4.
Black & Mirza looked as if they were going to win in straight sets, but the Russian/Czech pair saved five match points at 5-4 in the 2nd, then four more in the tie-break to force a 3rd set. Then, in the deciding stanza, Pavlyuchenkova & Safarova came back from an early break down at 2-1 to win.
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19. Wuhan 1st Rd. - Carolina Garcia d. Venus Williams
...6-4/4-6/7-6(6).
A good sign that the Pastry's rise will continue in 2015: a late-season come-from-behind win in which Venus led 5-2 in the 3rd set and held a MP at 5-3.
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20. Strasbourg Doubles Final - Barty/Dellacqua d. Bua/Seguel
...4-6/7-5 [10-4].
Down 6-4/5-1, the Aussies saved 3 match points and claimed their first clay court title. It looks like it'll have to hold the Aussies for a while, as Barty withdrew from the tour for an indefinite period at the end of the season.
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HM- Ningbo WTA $125K QF - Magda Linette d. Zheng Saisai
...1-6/7-5/6-3.
Linette, the eventual champ, trailed 6-1/4-0, 30/love two matches earlier. If she's to have a more reliable '15 season, maybe countrywoman Aga might want to have what Magda's having.
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[An Offert the Italian Continues to Refuse]
Katowice Final - Alize Cornet d. Camila Giorgi
...7-6(3)/5-7/7-5.
Cornet nearly made quick work of the Italian, leading 7-6/3-0, and then 5-3. But Giorgi took things to a 3rd set, and even held a match point for her first career title at 5-4 before the Pastry surged back to win in 3:11.
Linz Fina - Karolina Pliskova d. Camila Giorgi
...6-7(4)/6-3/7-6(4).
With Giorgi STILL looking for her first career tour title, she once again gets within a whisker of seizing the moment. Then doesn't. Giorgi led 5-2 in 3rd, held a MP (in her SECOND '14 final) at 6-5, but ultimately lost in a deciding tie-break. Oh, well... I guess there's always 2015. Maybe.

[Special Fed Cup Mention]
On the road in St.Louis, the French Fed Cup team erases a 2-1 deficit against the U.S. as Caroline Garcia collects two points on Sunday, one in singles and the other in the deciding doubles (w/ very nervous vet Virginie Razzano) when the American team had no established doubles players on the roster to call upon if the tie came down to a final match. Another "good" call, MJF.



*CHOKES OF THE YEAR*
1. Katowice SF - Alize Cornet d. Agnieszka Radwanska
...0-6/6-2/6-4.
The perfect example of the "Bad Aga" that we've seen since the 2013 Wimbledon SF. Radwanska had gone 6-for-6 in sets vs. Cornet before this match, then took the 1st set at love. She led 3-0 in the 3rd, too, and was a point away from 4-0. Still, she lost, and still has yet to reach a tour final in Poland.
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2. 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, after 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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3. Dubai 2nd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Petra Kvitova
...1-6/6-4/7-6(4).
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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4. Miami 2nd Rd. - Varvara Lepchenko d. Jelena Jankovic
...6-2/2-6/7-6(2).
JJ didn't have -- or inspire -- much fun in Miami. She led Lepchenko 5-1 in the 3rd, and served for the match at 5-2 and 5-4.
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5. 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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6t. 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.
Charleston 2nd Rd. - Peng Shuai d. Madison Keys
...6-1/6-7(3)/7-6(4).
After her Fed Cup learning experience that resulted in a just-wait-for-it win over Alize Cornet, Keys proved to be a good student as she battled to come back from a 6-1/5-1 deficit, then erased a 4-1 3rd set disadvantage to force a tie-break. Of course, her loss proved that the Bannerette is still a STUDENT (hence her upcoming mentoring sessions with Lindsay Davenport), and has a bit to learn.
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7t. 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
...
after a quick start to her '14 campaign, a 4th Round AO loss to Aga Radwanska seemed to sandblast the Spaniard's headspace for months, leading to these sort of blown opportunities. 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. Thankfully, Garbi DID rebound...
Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Garbine Muguruza d. Grace Min
...7-5/7-6(6).
Min led 4-2 in the 1st set, serving at 5-4 and holding a set point. She led 4-1 in the 2nd, too. A round later, Muguruza upset Serena Williams 2nd Round, handing the world #1 her worst slam loss ever, and went on to reach her first slam QF and climb into the Top 20 for the first time at the end of the year.
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8t. Fed Cup World Group PO - Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN d. Jana Cepelova/SVK 4-6/7-5/7-5
Fed Cup World Group: Eugenie Bouchard/CAN d. Jana Cepelova/SVK 7-6(6)/6-3
...
with Cibulkova and Hantuchova absent, Charleston finalist Cepelova was forced to assume the lead role for the Slovaks. She put up an early fight in both her matches, only to crumble badly down the stretch. Against Wozniak, she led 6-4/5-2 and served at 5-3, then led 3-1 and served at 5-3 in the 3rd. Against Bouchard, she led 5-3 in the 1st and had a set point at 6-5.
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9t. Madrid 2nd Rd. - Maria Sharapova d. Christina McHale 6-1/4-6/6-4
Strasbourg SF - Siliva Soler-Espinosa d. Christina McHale 5-7/7-6(7)/6-3
...
McHale still has trouble closing out matches. She led 4-1 in the 3rd against Sharapova, then served at 7-5/5-3 against SSE and led 5-1 in the 2nd set TB, holding a match point.
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10. Paris Final - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Sara Errani
...3-6/6-2/6-3.
Like doubles partner Vinci, Errani didn't climb to nearly the height in singles in '14. She DID have her moments as a solo act, but this wasn't one of them. 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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11. U.S. Open 2nd Rd. - Johanna Larsson d. Sloane Stephens
...5-7/6-4/6-2.
Others may have lost bigger leads than Stephens, who led 7-5/3-0, or failed to close out matches from a more advtantageous postion than Current Sloane's break lead at 2-0 in the 3rd. But that Stephens' 2014 slam campaign was closed out with yet another disappointing result, even after her second coaching change since the end of last season, is worth noting largely because the player who was the talk of the tour a season ago has already (though it may still ulimately be temporary) become an afterthought in the eyes of the WTA as the 2015 season is a month away from kicking off, replaced as the "bee's knees" by other, more upwardly mobile players from her generation (or younger). Beware, Genie?
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12. Oeiras QF - Elena Vesnina d. Roberta Vinci
...7-6(5)/4-6/7-5
Even at the end of her best week of results all season, Vinci went down badly, leading 5-2 in the 3rd and twice serving for the match in this 2:40 loss.
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HM- Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Yuliya Beygelzimer
...7-5/7-5.
Beygelizmer led 4-1 and 5-2 in the 1st, serving at 5-4, then 4-0 in the 2nd, including holding a set point at 5-4. The Ukrainian is 0-9 in grand slam main draw play.
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[Special Anti-Mladenovic Magic Mention]
Birmingham Doubles 1st Rd. - Barty d. Dellacqua d. Babos/Mladenovic 5-7/7-6(3)/12-10
Netherlands Doubles Final - Erakovic/Parra-Santonja d. Krajicek/Mladenovic 0-6/7-6(5)/10-8
...
the Mladenovic Magic was lost in the blades early in the grass court season, as Kiki and Babos lost a 7-5/4-2 lead and held three MP in a 1st Round exit in Birmingham, then she and Krajicek had three more MP after leading 6-0/5-2 in a loss in 's-Hertogenbosch. The ol' MM was rediscovered, for a while, at Wimbledon as Mladenovic reached the Women's Doubles final and Mixed semis at the All-England Club.

[Special Dishonorable Mention]
With a second 2014 loss (this one to Romania), the Serbian Fed Cup team has now lost five straight ties since reaching the 2012 final. The nation will find itself back in zone play to start 2015. In such a case, it might be wise to carry along a "Serbian Good Luck Charm. I'm just sayin'.




*UPSETS OF THE YEAR*

1. U.S. Open 1st Rd. - CiCi Bellis d. Dominika Cibulkova
...6-1/4-6/6-4.
The 15-year old wild card (ranked #1208) makes her tour debut a memorable one, taking down the #12-seeded, AO finalist to become the youngest player to win a U.S. Open main draw match since Anna Kournikova in 1996.
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2t. Stanford 1st Rd. - Naomi Osaka d. Samantha Stosur
...4-6/7-6(6)/7-5.
Talk about coming full circle. In 2009, Stosur won her first tour title in Osaka, Japan. Five years later, the Aussie lost to Japan's Osaka -- a #406-ranked 16-year old making her tour debut -- after holding a MP in the 2nd set tie-break and serving for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd.

Guangzhou 1st Rd. - Wang Yafan d. Samantha Stosur
...2-6/6-2/6-2.
Yep, another loss to a player ranked outside the Top 250 (#251) making her WTA debut.

On the bright side, Stosur rebounded to defend her singles title in Osaka. Naomi Osaka lost in the 2nd Round to Elina Svitolina, who then lost to Stosur in the semifinals. Second circle?
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3. U.S. Open 3rd Rd. - Aleksandra Krunic d. Petra Kvitova
...6-4/6-4.
Once again, Kvitova proves that the bigger they are the harder they fall. In the sweltering heat of NYC, the wrung-out Czech is dispatched by the surprisingly powerful Serbian qualifier who never once showed an ounce of intimidation or fear concerning the propsect of sending the Wimbledon champ packing.
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4. 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 was 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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5. Charleston 2nd Rd. - Jana Cepelova d. Serena Williams
...6-4/6-4.
Falling behind 5-0, and playing with a wrapped thigh, Serena wasn't quite up to par. But the 20-year old Slovak surely was. She gathered up the momentum gained here and reached her first career final.
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6. 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 2nd set 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. Still, Cornet ended up notching two more "career-best" victories over #1 Serena during the '14 season.
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7. 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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"Before I felt very small, but today I thought, 'I’m not going to feel very small.'" - "big" Garbine Muguruza after defeating Serena Williams, her favorite player as a child, at Roland Garros
"Since I was a child, I thought, 'Oh, I want to play against Serena on center court.' And today was the day, and I think I did very good." - Muguruza


8t. Roland Garros 2nd Rd. - Garbine Muguruza d. Serena Williams 6-2/6-2
Roland Garros 2nd Rd. - Anna Schmiedlova d. Venus Williams 2-6/6-3/6-4
...
sixty-three minutes apart, both Serena and Venus are sent packing in Paris, as the Sisters lose on the same day at a slam for the fourth time. In a particurly bad outing, Serena had her worst slam loss ever, claiming just four games, winning only 55% of her 1st serves and putting up a paltry eight winners to twenty-nine unforced errors. Venus lost eight of nine games after taking a 6-2/2-1 lead against Schmiedlova, who entered having never won back-to-back WTA main draw matches.

"She's going to be even better as she continues to play. I see wonderful things for her." - Venus Williams, on Schmiedlova

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9. Australian Open 4th Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Serena Williams
...4-6/6-3/6-3.
AnaIvo outhits (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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10. 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, (then) nearly-Top 10 ranked Italian. It all set the course for both their seasons, as the Croat was the youngest player ranked in the year-end Top 200, while Vinci, despite her doubles success, nearly fell out of the Top 50 at the end of '14.
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11. Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Kristina Mladenovic d. Li Na
...7-5/3-6/6-1.
Li is the fourth Australian Open champ to lose in the 1st Round in Paris in the Open era, but the first since 2000 and just the second in the last thirty-five years.

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12. 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 it was clear this Kumkhum thing was getting more than a bit serious. By the end of the year, she'd reached her first WTA singles semifinal in Osaka.
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13. 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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14. Montreal 2nd Rd. - Shelby Rogers d. Eugenie Bouchard
...6-0/2-6/6-0.
It's not that Rogers won the match that makes it a big upset, as the American had reached a final in Bad Gastein weeks earlier, it's that she served two bagels to the Canadian in front of her home crowd in an event that was catered to revolve around the recent Wimbledon finalist. Bouchard's summer improved a bit after this, and she reached the U.S. Open Round of 16. But, make no mistake, if she's competitor she seemed to be in '14, the Canadian will have some "unfinished business" back in Quebec next August.
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15. WTA Finals Round Robin - Aga Radwanska d. Petra Kvitova
...6-2/6-3.
Kvitova -- even on an indoor hard court -- looked more like her Bad self than the Good one. Aga can bedevil any opponent on a good day, but usually big hitters like Kvitova can power through it. But not this day, as Petra committed 42 errors to Radwanska's 9 for the match, providing the Pole with an odd-tasting WTA Championships/Finals sandwich. Radwanska's big wins over the Czech in 2012 and 2014 were separated by the her dreadful, barely-there performance in the event last year.
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16. Fed Cup WG II PO - Sorana Cirstea/ROU d. Ana Ivanovic/SRB
...3-6/6-1/6-2.
Best friends or not, Cirstea put down AnaIvo in the opening match of the ROU/SRB tie, setting the tone for Serbia's fifth consecutive lost FC tie as well as Romania's 2015 attempt to reach the World Group by this time next year. Maybe the Serbs forgot to bring their Good Luck Charm.
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17. 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 while 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, and then cut short her season a few weeks early in the fall, as well. Better late than never, I guess.
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18. WTA Finals Round Robin - Simona Halep d. Serena Williams
...6-0/6-2.
Yep, Halep CAME TO PLAY at her Finals debut. Everything was working against Serena, who had another of her "nothing is working" moments. Halep hadn't even taken a set off a Top 3 player before bageling Williams in the 1st, as Serena had a 4/18 winners-to-UE ratio and just nine total points. Her two games equaled her fewest games won in a full match in her career (Quebec City qualifying in '95 vs. Anne Miller, and Okla.City QF in '98 vs. Joanette Kruger). Said Serena, "You've got to step up to the plate. She did, and I didn't." For Halep, "Everything went very well for me today. I think it was the best match of my life." The loss ended Williams' 16-match winning streak at the event, leaving Martina Navratilova's surviving record of 21 straight safe for, well, a VERY, VERY long time. Hmmm, will this result -- Serena's worst in sixteen years, tying the fewest games she's ever won in a match -- go down as the rubberband-on-the-wrist moment that Williams will carry with her as a reminder to ALWAYS be on her game when the Romanian is on the other side of the next? You know, sort of like her '04 losses to Sharapova have now preceded what has become a full decade of NOT losing to the Russian. It seemed to work in the final, where she destroyed Halep 6-3/6-0 in a rematch. Does this mean a decade of bad days for The Pride of Romania? Well, if Serena is still playing at 43...
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19. 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. Cibulkova ultimately reached her first career slam final in Melbourne, losing to Li Na.

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20. Monterrey 1st Rd. - Kimiko Date-Krumm d. Flavia Pennetta
...7-5/6-2.
Just weeks after Pennetta's Indian Wells triumph, KDK gets her eleventh Top 20 victory since her 2008 comeback.
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21. Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Michelle Larcher de Brito d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
...3-6/6-3/6-1.
A year after knocking off Sharapova at SW19, qualifier MLdB moves on to kicking another slam-winning Hordette out the front gate at the AELTC.
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22. Monterrey 1st Rd. - Jovana Jaksic d. Karin Knapp
...6-3/6-4.
Knapp has fallen down the rabbit hole since her February FC heroics. Meanwhile, this "JJ" -- not the other one -- ended up being one half of the first-ever all-Serbian WTA singles final. Hello, historical footnote.
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23. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova d. Li Na
...7-6(5)/7-6(5).
Bounced early at a second straight slam since winning the AO, Li sees BZS's match point overruled in the 2nd set tie-break, but then double-faults to end the Czech's 0-24 career run vs. Top 10 players. This turned out to be the last match of Li's career, as her bad knee led to her retirement in September without her having graced another court for a more appropriate goodbye match.
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24. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Alize Cornet d. Serena Williams
...5-6 ret.
The Pastry's third "win" over Serena in' 14 has a very large asterisk attached, as Williams' retired with a viral illness while leading in the 1st set.
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25. Charleston 1st Rd. - Belinda Bencic d. Maria Kirilenko
...6-1/7-5.
In her first match of 2014, Kirilenko fell down 6-1/5-2, 40/love against the Swiss teen who admitted she'd grown up with a poster of the Russian on her wall. Perhaps not wanting to leave her fan with a bad impression of her, Kirilenko saved six match points to get to 5-5 and even held a break point to take the lead. Bencic still won in straights, but her idol had stretched the 2nd set out to 1:22. Whew! Loss, upset or otherwise... there were no fallen idols here.
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STILL TO COME:




All for now.








7 Comments:

Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

In case you were wondering (or maybe it was just me, haha), that's 127 matches, give or take a few entries that might not count as actual "matches." ;)

Fri Nov 28, 03:05:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp_ubxHxm6M#t=229

THis paints Mladenovic and Zimonjic in a real good light!

Mladenovic has so many ball skills -- much more than Sharapova...but I guess that's what makes Sharapova special. Her mettle and desire for battle is well beyond others and compensates for her deficiencies.

A player like Mladenovic should watch this and use it as motivation for when they face off in singles. Something akin to "I have superior skills. I can take her."

But then Sharapova shrieks and it's all over. It pierces the resolve of another player.

Fri Nov 28, 05:04:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I think I would have put Halep's win over Serena higher on the upset list.

Also...how come no one has mentioned the Serena/Stosur match in Cincy? There are 22 minutes worth of highlights from that match!!!! It's worthy of being on the best matches of 2014 list.

Fri Nov 28, 08:02:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I always enjoy watching Mixed Doubles (what little you see of it). The match-ups and strategy are always interesting, with the men serving to the women and facing off at the net. Many times it's the male partner that gets targeted as the weaker team member as far as match-ups, and that's always interesting to see.

I'm sure Zimonjic got some good reviews about Mladenovic from Nestor. I with she'd be able to find a regular doubles partner that she'd be consistently successful with. She plays with so many different people, but her results really varied this past season (w/ Pennetta, for example, their results were awful... yet Pennetta was totally in sync w/ Hingis). She played the most with Babos, and while she reached a number of finals had a hard time closing things out.

Well, there are always a few matches left out. I had that one in my list to pick from, but when I looked at my notes I hadn't really written anything much about it at the time, so it ended up dropping off because of that (I had grouped it an in-season Quarter Awards with a couple other Stosur matches that showed that she was "showing signs of life...or not"). The scoreline was great -- 7-6(7)/7-6(7) -- but one can't help but think if Stosur could have managed to push it to three sets it would have had more of a chance to stick out at the end of the season.

[Signs of Life... or not]
Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Serena Williams d. Samantha Stosur 7-6(7)/7-6(7)
New Haven 1st Rd. - Samantha Stosur d. Kurumi Nara 7-6(5)/6-7(10)/6-2
U.S. Open 2nd Rd. - Kaia Kanepi d. Samantha Stosur 3-6/6-3/7-6(8)
...a tale of tie-breaks. After a mostly-miserable season, Stosur seemed to catch a breeze in her two tie-break loss to Serena in Cincinnati. In New Haven, in a another battle of tie-breaks, the Aussie overcame a 5-1 1st set deficit against Nara to take the lead. She then rebounded after failing to convert three MP in the 2nd set tie-break, losing 12-10, by taking the 3rd set en route to the semifinals. With her prospects for the Open looking up, Stosur... failed to convert two MP against Kanepi and lost in the 2nd Round in New York. Oh, Sam.

Fri Nov 28, 09:38:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Whew! I feel like I just re-lived the whole season! That was a great post.

I can never quite decide what my favorite match of any season is. I mean, in terms of quality/excitement (as opposed to Petra pulverizes Princess sort of thing). Too many matches, too much to remember. The FO final was pretty great, as were Kerber d. Sharapova and Kvitova d. Kerber.

Sat Nov 29, 01:23:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Great post Todd and I agree with Diane that you had the inner movie rolling.

Also great what's going on in Manilla. Me thinks it's a splendid way to promote tennis and to get away from the exhibition matches - it's fun to watch and brilliant tennis is played although Maria has her problems with the serve clock which is a great idea and should be implemented in the WTA tour together with no-ad points. And the players are not playing too much and have fun at the same time - really great.

Sat Nov 29, 10:02:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

It's always difficult to try to "rank" the matches, though it's really more like a series of "tiers" of matches, even though I do number them 1 to whatever. Aside from when there's a Rafa/Federer at Wimbledon "GMOAT" moment, it's really a personal thing which you remember most fondly, etc.

If it was all about stakes and high quality, probably any of Kvitova/Venus (Wimb), Sharapova/Halep (RG) or Serena/Caro (WTAF) could have surpassed Aga/JJ (IW). But, even though that match didn't quite have the "high stakes" of the others, I remember just so thoroughly enjoying watching them play against each other that I had to put it at #1.

Yeah, the league IS a good place to try out possible new rules to get an idea of how they'd play out during the season. Though, of course, Rafa isn't there -- so the time between serves rule won't REALLY be tested to its fullest extent. :)

Oh, and I forgot before, I think I have the Halep/Serena match as low on the Upset list as I did because, while the scoreline was a bit of a shocker, Halep WAS a Top 2-4 player, and anyone at the WTAF should be a potential winner over anyone. That said, I did have the Aga/Kvitova upset just a tad higher (#15 vs. #18), I suppose, because I wasn't expecting much from Radwanska because of her "off" season and horrific performance at the event last year.

Sat Nov 29, 11:49:00 AM EST  

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