Saturday, January 03, 2015

2015 Pre-Game Post: Ready, Set... Play

Shhhh... the 2015 season has apparently slipped in through the back door when nobody was looking. Hopefully, no innocents were hurt in the oh-so-cold process.

Ouch 🙈🙊🙉 good thing It's not gonna be for too long as I'm gonna sweat my butt off in a bit 😂😂😂😂😂

Фото опубликовано Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35)

Oh, Vika. I said, "innocents." But that's okay... you always get a pass around these parts.

Well, the season's first results have already been posted in the qualifying rounds in Auckland, Brisbane and Shenzhen. The likes of a certain Serbian Good Luck Charm has tasted victory, while a Japanese fortysomething has already tasted both victory AND defeat in this young campaign. Meanwhile, before their first scheduled matches, top seeds in Shenzhen are sampling the local culture...

...and the Brisbane #1 has already dispensed with January niceties and is focused on the reality of the upcoming twelve months.

Meanwhile, with a little time before the REAL battles officially begin, a few pre-game points...

Love/Love... first, a look back at the annual pre-season packing-of-the-bags. A WTA tradition for all.

The feeling after zipping up the last and final bag! #australia #herewecome #cantwait

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

Packing ?? I wish I could take all my shoes and Js with me ?? and the rest of my closet ?????? #GoMode

???? ???????????? Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35)

As for the Rads, it was all about a sixth year of the Noble Box Project shopping spree:

Love/15... as is also always common at this time of year, a look back at the preceding twelve months is instructive, and sometimes surprising.

15/15... hmmm, not exactly sure what Laura and Sloane were doing, though. Or exactly what the Brit was wearing when they did it.

I do know that Robson's '15 will officially get off to a good or bad start depending on how the Carolina Panthers do in the NFL playoffs today.

Meanwhile, well, I have no words.

But tennis star holiday photos don't get much better than Andy Murray's.
30/15... Down Under, in the span of about two decades, Samantha Jane Stosur has gone from this...

To this, as the Aussie officially joined the social media world this past week:

Samantha Stosur??(@samstosur)??????? -


**HOPMAN CUP CHAMPIONS - since 1999**
1999 Australia (Dokic/Philippoussis)
2000 South Africa (Coetzer/W.Ferreira)
2001 Switzerland (Hingis/Federer)
2002 Spain (Sanchez-Vicario/Robredo)
2003 United States (S.Williams/Blake)
2004 United States (Davenport/Blake)
2005 Slovak Republic (Hantuchova/Hrbaty)
2006 United States (Raymond/Dent)
2007 Russia (Petrova/Tursunov)
2008 United States (S.Williams-Shaughnessy/Fish)
2009 Slovak Republic (Cibulkova/Hrbaty)
2010 Spain (Martinez-Sanchez/Robredo)
2011 United States (Mattek-Sands/Isner)
2012 Czech Republic (Kvitova/Berdych)
2013 Spain (Medina-Garrigues/Verdasco)
2014 France (Cornet/Tsonga)

2002 Venus Williams, USA
2003 Serena Williams, USA
2004 Lindsay Davenport/USA, Eleni Daniilidou/GRE (co-PoW)
2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Lucie Safarova, CZE
2007 Dinara Safina, RUS
2008 Li Na, CHN
2009 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2010 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2012 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Serena Williams, USA

**FINAL 2014 JUNIOR TOP 10's**
1.CiCi Bellis, USA
2.Xu Shilin, CHN
3.Iryna Shymanovich, BLR
4.Jil Teichmann, SUI
5.Darya Kasatkina, RUS
6.Kristina Schmiedlova, SVK
7.Marie Bouzkova, CZE
8.Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
9.Paula Badosa Gibert, ESP
10.Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, ESP
1.Andrey Rublev, RUS
2.Orlando Luz, BRA
3.Stefan Kozlov, USA
4.Quentin Halys, FRA
5.Jaume Munar, ESP
6.Taylor Fritz, USA
7.Omar Jasika, AUS 8.Yunseong Chung, KOR
9.Michael Mmoh, USA
10.Johan Sebastien Tatlot, FRA

30/40... hmmm, does anyone else think that Sania Mirza has maybe recently been elevated to "most favored partner" status in the tennis world?

The evidence says, "Maybe, yeah."
Deuce... who is that masked man?

Advantage, "well, here we go with another year of weekly picks" (crossing fingers)...

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA (Premier $881K/hard outdoor)
14 Singles Final: S.Williams d. Azarenka
14 Doubles Final: Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova d. Mladenovic/Voskoboeva
15 Top Seeds: Sharapova/Ivanovic

#1 Sharapova d. #3 Kerber
#8 Muguruza d. #2 Ivanovic
#8 Muguruza d. #1 Sharapova

...well, I might as well start off with an eyebrow-raiser, with the Spaniard who began '14 by winning her first career title in Hobart pulling off a string of huge wins -- possibly over the likes of Azarenka, AnaIvo and Sharapova, with maybe even an additional fourth previous slam winner in Stosur if the Aussie can get past the combo of Lepchenko and the Cibulkova/Keys winner -- to start '15. So, I guess I should go ahead an issue my apology to Garbi right now, just to get it over with.

Of course, not that I'd be teary-eyed if a certain Belarusian proves she's ready to reassert herself in an event in which she finished #2 to Serena last year.

In doubles, the top-seeded duo is the new team of Hsieh Su-Wei & Sania Mirza, as the Taiwanese vet gets in on the I-want-to-play-with-Sania/NO-I-want-to-play-with-Sania! action. Also in the draw: the Rodionovas, AnaIvo/Kerber, Chan Hao-Ching/Peschke, Garcia/Srebotnik and Hingis/Lisicki (as Pennetta is in Perth with signifigant other Fognini).

SHENZHEN, CHINA (Int'l $500K/hard outdoor)
14 Singles Final: Li d. Peng
14 Doubles Final: Niculescu/Koukalova d. Kichenok/Kichenok
15 Top Seeds: Halep/Kvitova

#1 Halep d. #4 Diyas
#2 Kvitova d. Zvonareva
#2 Kvitova d. #1 Halep

...Vera starts things off on a good foot, but Petra wins one for Na, and then finally gets an answer to the offseason question, "Is ALL of that smell you?"

By the way, I'm not sure if it answers any questions about her plans for the full season, but with her partnership with Hsieh over, Peng Shuai's first partner of '15 is countrywoman Xu Yifan. Also in the doubles draw, Miss Krunic and her Maiden Tashkent co-champion, Katerina Siniakova.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (Int'l $250K/hard outdoor)
14 Singles Final: Ivanovic d. V.Williams
14 Doubles Final: Fichman/M.Sanchez d. Hradecka/Krajicek
15 Top Seeds: Wozniacki/Errani

#1 Wozniacki d. #7 Vandeweghe
#3 V.Williams d. #2 Errani
#1 Wozniacki d. #3 V.Williams

...not sure if the Dane would take down a healthy and in-form Venus if Williams reaches the Auckland decider for a second straight January, but, well, I HAVE to pick a #1 seed to win in Week 1, don't I? I'm a bit intrigued by Ana Konjuh here, who opens vs. #8 Barthel, and could face Venus in the QF. The Croat made her WTA debut in this event a year ago and upset #1-seeded Roberta Vinci in the 1st Round. Meanwhile, there's an opening for a certain Current player to slip through the bottom section of the draw and reach her first tour semifinal in nearly two years... but what are the chances of that happening?

HOPMAN CUP; PERTH, AUS (team exhibition/indoor)
14 Final: France (Cornet/Tsonga) def. Poland (A.Radwanska/Panfil)
CAN (Bouchard/Pospisil)
CZE (Safarova/Pavlasek)
ITA (Pennetta/Fognini)
USA (S.Williams/Isner)
AUS (Dellacqua/Krygrios)
FRA (Cornet/Paire)
GBR (Watson/Murray)
POL (A.Radwanska/Janowicz)

USA d. POL, Aga gets an early chance to be a finisher after having such a hard time accomplishing similar missions over the past eighteen months, including in last year's Hopman final. With Jerzy Janowicz at her side after he missed this event a year ago with an injury (Grzegorz Panfil, we hardly knew ye), Aga... this time loses to the which-serve-do-YOU-want-to-face? duo of Serena and Isner.

Sure, it would mean little regarding her season, but it would officially kick off what will surely -- it it lasts, that is -- be one of the enduring intriguing questions of 2015: Is "Agalova" a sign of great things to come, or just a cruel joke?

Match... and, finally, ahhh, I see now...


Well, that's it. Buckle in, it's all about to start all over again.

All for now.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

(Clears throat.) Like I said, my apologies to Muguruza, whose ankle didn't even have the courtesy to allow the Spaniard to play a match in Brisbane before forcing her to w/d and scuttle my very first weekly pick of the season.


=Brisbane SF=
#1 Sharapova d. #3 Kerber
#2 Ivanovic d. Azarenka
#2 Ivanovic d. #1 Sharapova

...why not? (And, of course, sorry, AnaIvo... and congrats o your soon-to-be singles titles, Maria)

Sun Jan 04, 11:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Well Todd try again because Vika is out in Brisbane and won't be seeded in AO. Jankovic is slumping together with Errani, Cibulkova, Lisicki and AGAIN Stosur.

Mon Jan 05, 12:04:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I always knew Ka.Pliskova was a possibility to take out Vika in the 1st Round. But, still, after not playing for so long, then winning the 1st set, holding 2 MP in the 2nd, and being on serve until very deep in the 3rd against a would-be Top 20 player with the second-most lethal serve (aces-wise) on tour last year, not defending those Brisbane RU points doesn't look all that bad as it might have had she gone out without a fight (she didn't pull a Stosur, and blow a 5-1 3rd set advantage). That's a match toughness issue, and that skill should come back soon.

Maybe not by the time she leaves Melbourne (especially since she might get a very bad draw w/o a seed next to her name), but soon afterward.

Hopefully. ;)

Mon Jan 05, 01:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...


For some reason I thought Azarenka's comeback would be more of a slog...but she actually looked pretty good in Brisbane. She's not too far from top form. She has some pop on her shots again...just poor shot selection at critical junctures. I do think that shot penetration is something that will trouble Azarenka this year...she wins by grinding and I felt like a lot of shotmakers made their presence known in 2014 while Azarenka was away.

This was the first time I had watched Pliskova play. Her serve is wicked good. Her forehand seems to be the weaker side...and her movement to the forehand wing can improve a bit. She's not the fastest player, but her lateral movement wasn't too shabby.

Mon Jan 05, 09:52:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

The court in Perth seems bigger?

Mon Jan 05, 10:14:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

vika's first set was quite impressive after long laid off. i was more surprised to see that. but again you wondered if she could keep up and well, she got tight.

a bit disappointed that she couldn't make those MPs worked. that's one of her weaknesses, she went passive on set points and match points always waiting for others to make mistake. she should always step on the gas than easing off. she got to learn from it. if she can't control her UEs, she is what the ranking suggested, not even a top 20 player. i think she will continue to run into those problems if she can't turn those errors around. but as long as she is healthy, she is too much a competitor to not want to win badly.

Mon Jan 05, 11:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, what to make of Serena in Perth? Ordering a mid-match espresso, dropping a bagel 1st set to Pennetta, and now losing 6-2/6-1 to Bouchard...

The U.S. is 1-1 in Hopman Cup action and would still be the "favorite" to win the title if it makes the final (shades of Singapore?), but Williams doesn't exactly seem ready for Melbourne.

Famous last words...?

Tue Jan 06, 12:04:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Bouchard is looking super fit. I think she really needed the time in the offseason to heal her niggling injuries.

I think Serena was smart to play an exo before Melbourne this keep some pressure at bay.

I liked their handshake at the end -- It was friendly, but I got the distinct impression Serena was saying, "I see you, girl."

Tue Jan 06, 03:22:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

i think serena would like to see bouchard again in AO, so she can get her revenge. hehe. now she is worked up as it seems like a disgrace to lose 1 & 2, so might be for the better for motivation to do well afterall.

Tue Jan 06, 09:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, like Serena vs. Simona in Singapore. First match: embarrassment. Second match: destruction.

Of course, with Bouchard's ranking, they couldn't meet until at least the QF, or maybe later. A lot of work for both in Melbourne to get to that point.

Wed Jan 07, 11:29:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Brisbane- Sharapova vs Ivanovic Auckland- Wozniacki vs Venus Shenzhen- Halep vs Bacsinszky

Long time since we have seen finals like these - good start for 2015 me thinks. Of course I hope Caro wins over venus for the first time.

Fri Jan 09, 10:18:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Nothing against Bacsinszky, but it'd be even a little better if it'd been Halep vs. Kvitova. And not just because it would have meant I was eight-for-eight in my Week 1 finalist picks, counting the USA/POL Hopman Cup final.

Well, not TOTALLY because of that. ;)

Fri Jan 09, 04:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Whelp...Serena was in fine form against the umpire in the Hopman Cup final...

Sat Jan 10, 05:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Serena was terrible against Aga in Perth. Bad attitude, slow feet, trying to beat Aga at court craft -- which is just not going to happen. She was also actively NOT putting easy balls away. I can't imagine that Patrick was too happy with her. We haven't seen that version of Serena since 2007. I hope she hasn't *regressed* since achieving 18.

Sat Jan 10, 07:00:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I was wondering if maybe she and Patrick were fighting again... Sascha and Esther weren't with her this week...

But seriously...playing cat and mouse with Aga is just not going to happen. You'll be caught in Aga's web.

Sat Jan 10, 07:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yep, Perth will certainly serve to give Serena's opponents a little bit more confidence in Melbourne.

Then again, if she wanted to set a wonderful trap... ;)

Sat Jan 10, 11:45:00 PM EST  

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