Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wk.1- Act 1, Scene 1 (2015)

Hmmm, so Aga is happy, huh?

What does this mean for the rest of us?

Ah, but a certain Radwanska rediscovering a bit of her lost "finishing touch" wasn't the only headline-worthy happening in the first week of action in 2015. For example:

Genie took a selfie...

And Venus looked every bit like the champion of old (but not an "old champion," no matter what the record book says).

Li Na returned! (But, alas, only for the final... and even the women's tennis tour isn't crazy enough to give her a pre-final bye so that she could try to defend her Shenzhen title like they used to do it in the old days at the All-England Club)...

Oh, and Serena ordered an espresso. No, she really did.

A few months from now, the happenings of Week 1 might mean it was more than worthy of Aga to dance like it's 2014...

But, as of right now, it might not have been enough to get her Player of the Week honors. Or was it?

Well, it's time to find out. So, off we go...

S: Maria Sharapova/RUS def. Ana Ivanovic/SRB 6-7(4)/6-3/6-3
D: Hingis/Lisicki (SUI/GER) d. Garcia/Srebotnik (FRA/SLO) 6-2/7-5

S: Simona Halep/ROU def. Timea Bacsinszky/SUI 6-2/6-2
D: L.Kichenok/N.Nichenok (UKR/UKR) d. Liang/Y.Wang (CHN/CHN) 6-4/7-6(6)

S: Venus Williams/USA def. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN 2-6/6-3/6-3
D: Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) d. Aoyama/Voracova (JPN/CZE) 6-2/6-1

S: POL (A.Radwanska/Janowicz) d. USA (S.Williams/Isner) 2-1

Co-PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Maria Sharapova/RUS & Simona Halep/ROU's only happened once around here -- and that was actually BEFORE Maria defeated Serena -- but having co-Players of the Week for Week 1 just feels right for 2015. After all, probably the two biggest (i.e. most consistent) contenders for Serena Williams' #1 spot are Sharapova and Halep, so in a week in which the world #1 looked shaky in Perth, honoring BOTH players who lived up to their hype should be a given. Sharapova won her first-ever Week 1 event in Brisbane, extending her season title-winning streak to thirteen years with wins over Yaroslava Shvedova, Carla Suarez-Navarro, Elina Svitolina and Ana Ivanovic, dropping only a single set all week (the 1st in the final vs. AnaIvo) en route to career win #34. The title moves her out of a tie on the WTA all-time list with Hall of Famer Conchita Martinez, and puts the 41 titles won by the all-time #14 (Kim Clijsters) legitimately reachable sometime over the next year or so. Not only that, but the win moves the Russian to within 681 points of #1 after she missed out on an opportunity to finish as the year-end #1 last November at the WTA Finals. Halep is currently ranked behind #2 Sharapova at #3, but the Romanian's ability on multiple surfaces has made her a title-winning monster since she began her climb up the WTA ladder in the middle of 2013. She's won all nine of her career crowns since spring '13, second only to Serena during the time span. In Shenzhen, Halep dropped her 1st set of the season against Annika Beck in the 1st Round, then proceeded to run off ten straight set wins as she coasted to the title with victories over the likes of Aleksandra Krunic, Zheng Saisai and Timea Bacsinszky (who took care of Petra Kvitova for her in the semis, preventing what might have been the most intriguing match of the entire WTA weekend). She'll go for 2015 title #2 this week, as she's kicking off the how-many-tournaments-is-too-many? discussion awfully early in the season.

RISERS: Aga Radwanska/POL & Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
...well, apparently Aga has learned how to finish. Thanks, Martina? No matter the reason for her coming through in Perth, going 3-1 in singles (and 3-1 in doubles, too) with wins over Heather Watson, Casey Dellacqua and (yes) Serena Williams as Poland grabbed its first-ever Hopman Cup title while partnering Jerzy Janowicz is great news for our resident magician. Aga and Grzegorz Panfil had lost the final a year ago to Poland, though Aga defeated Alize Cornet in singles in the final. This year, it was the Pastry who handed Aga her only singles loss of the week. Of course, the big story here is Radwanska finally finding a way to take down a big hitter and, most notably, that it was Serena, who is 8-0 against her in "real" matches. Sure, Serena's errors piled up, and she seemed to go away after not grabbing an early break in the 3rd, but Aga has been known to be essentially defeated before she even stepped on the court in such matches in the past. Not this time. If new-set-of-eyes Navratilova has already helped stoke A-Rad's confidence so early in the season, though, it might mean that '15 could have a potential "storyline monster" that seemed a relic of the past not that long ago. Hmmm, just what happened with QC and The Rad up North, anyway? We'll find out soon -- I promise! Meanwhile, Bacsinszky, the always-in-the-shadows Swiss, had a great week in Shenzhen, reaching her first tour singles final since 2010 with wins over countrywoman Stefanie Voegele, Karin Knapp, doubles partner Vera Zvonareva (who retired after 5 games) and, ahem, Petra Kvitova in straight sets in the semis. Of course, being Bacsinszky, she accomplished this on the same weekend that fellow Swiss tennis army members Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka AND Martina Hingis won titles. Oh, well, at least she made this little Swiss cartoon (Martina didn't!):


SURPRISES: Lyudmyla Kichenok/Nadiia Kichenok (UKR/UKR) & Varvara Lepchenko/USA, it's not something from some creepy movie centered around the exploits of a pair of racket-wielding twins, it's just the Kichenoks. The twins reached a new career height as a duo this weekend in Shenzhen, adding their first WTA level title to the eighteen the 22-year olds have picked up over the years on the ITF circuit. Their third appearance in a WTA final (second consecutive in Shenzhen) proved to be the charm, as the Ukrainians became the tenth all-sister team in WTA history to share a title. They're not the first from Ukraine, though, as the Bondarenkos beat them to it in 2008, ultimately taking three crowns. In Brisbane, Lepchenko, 28, once again took her customary role as the most overlooked Bannerette (err, make that the most overlooked naturalized Bannerette, right, ESPNers?) and ran with it. She erased a 5-1 3rd set deficit against Sam Stosur in the 1st Round, saving match point, then followed up with wins over Madison Keys and Alla Kudryavtseva before falling to Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals. Still, even there, Lepchenko erased a 5-1 2nd set deficit and forced AnaIvo to use seven match points before putting away a 6-4 set to claim the match.
VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
...Venus experienced yet another renaissance last week in Auckland, dropping just one set (in the final vs. The Almost-Great-But-Not-Quite-Yet Dane) against the likes of Jana Cepelova, Kurumi Nara, Elena Vesnina and Caroline Wozniacki. It was all good for career title #64, making the 34-year old the fourth-oldest tour singles champion ever. Just as good, though, was her "new hair," as well as her brief channeling of her chatty "inner Na" following her semifinal win, during which she answered a question about her "Queen V" nickname by saying it was her "rapper name," and then followed up after the final by joking about people attending her concert in a long, but funny and charming address to the crowd.

Also in Auckland, Zahlavova-Strycova's late-twenties (28), post-suspension rebirth is going quite as swimmingly in '15 as it did in '14. She got wins over Chanelle Scheepers, Marina Erakovic and Coco Vandweghe en route to the semifinals. After finishing up 2014 at a best-ever year-ending ranking of #26, BZS's future status as yet another in a long line of Top 20 Czechs is looking very bright.
COMEBACKS: Vera Zvonareva/RUS & Urszula Radwanska/POL
...though it's a series of two steps forward, one step back, Zvonareva's comeback continues. After missing eighteen months following a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery in '13, she returned in Shenzhen a year ago. The now 30-year old Hordette won two matches at Wimbledon before ending her season early last summer in order to get her body ready for '15. So far, she's played two events -- a $10K challenger in Hong Kong and her WTA return last week to Shenzhen -- and reached the QF in both, only to retire from both, as well. Still, her final eight result in China in Week 1 was her first on tour since 2012, and her wins over Peng Shuai and Cagla Buyukakcay more than hint that Zvonareva still has the skills to put up some good results... if her body will let her. Injuries have also set back Ula Radwanska, including shoulder surgery following the '13 season that made all of last year a long crawl back. After finishing in the Top 50 in 2012 and '13 -- climbing as high as #29 in October '12 -- U-Rad finished last season at #180, but had some encouraging results late, including a QF in Tashkent. It continued last week, as she qualified in Auckland, notched wins over Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova, and reached another QF (losing in three to Lauren Davis), giving her final eight results in her last two tour level events. Oh, Radwanska!
FRESH FACES: Elina Svitolina/UKR, Lauren Davis/USA & Zheng Saisai/CHN the week's biggest event, 20-year old Svitolina got wins over Magdalena Rybarikova, Ajla Tomljanovic and Angelique Kerber to reach the semifinals, losing to eventual champ Sharapova. In Auckland, Davis, 21, took out Shelby Rogers, Sloane Stephens and Ula Radwanska to reach her first career tour semifinal. She, too, lost to the title winner, Venus Williams. And in Shenzhen it was 20-year old Zheng who reached the semis with victories over Alexandra Dulgheru, Polona Hercog and Zarina Diyas (overcoming the Kazakh serving for the match in the 2nd set) before, yes, ALSO losing to the player who would go on to win the tournament, Simona Halep. Apparently, there's already a paying-your-dues tone being set for the 2015 season.

DOWN: Serena Williams/USA & Samantha Stosur/AUS she did so often in '14, Serena again looked mortal in the opening week of '15. At the Hopman Cup, she was bageled in a set (and asked for an espresso to get herself going), blown out by a North American, stretched to the limit by a Czech and the beaten by a player who is 0-8 against her in her career. Meanwhile, #2 Sharapova closed the gap behind Williams to under 700 points, with both having room to improve (w/ a pair of 4th Round results last year) in Melbourne. Blame the koala? Meanwhile, the phrase "Stosur in Australia" strikes fear in no one... well, no one except Sam Stosur herself, that is. In her opening match Down Under in Brisbane, Stosur took the opening set against Varvara Lepchenko, and then led 5-1 and held a match point in the 3rd. Naturally, as is her pattern back home, she found a way to lose.
ITF PLAYER: Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
...yes, Misaki Doi won the biggest challenger event of Week 1, but I'm going to go back and honor the Serbian Good Luck Charm for her $50K title in Ankara in Week 51 of 2014, which lifted Krunic into the Top 90 for a new career high ranking (just weeks after she was scooped up by Octagon in November, a few months after her U.S. Open run). So far, she's carried over her momentum into '15, too. She qualified in Shenzhen, knocking off Anna Schmiedlova, and reached the QF before losing to eventual champ Simona Halep. After rising to another new high of #84 in the "Week 0" rankings before the week play last Monday, Krunic should rise to another new career height in the post-Week 1 rankings THIS Monday. Go Team Bracelet!

JUNIOR STARS: Sofia Sonya Kenin/USA, Dalma Galfi/HUN & Michaela Gordon/USA
...again, (mostly) a little housekeeping from the end of '14, as it's time to belatedly honor 16-year old Galfi for her Eddie Herr win. The Hungarian defeated Bannerette Caroline Dolehide in the semifinals before taking out a Swarmette (Elena Gabriela Ruse) in straights in the final. In the other big December junior event, Sofia Kenin (who apparently prefers "Sonya") claimed the Orange Bowl, played mere minutes away from her home. The Russian-born 16-year old helped carried out the U.S. singles sweep (Stefan Kozlov won the boys title) with a big win in the semis over #1 CiCi Bellis (6-3/6-2) and in the final over Ingrid Neel (6-3/6-3). Kenin, who played doubles in the U.S.'s Junior Fed Cup title run last season, lost this weekend in the SF of the Coffee Bowl (G1) in Costa Rica to Michaela Gordon. Gordon, 15, went on to win the girls crown with a win the final over Usue Arconada of the U.S., and also took home doubles honors with Claire Liu.

DOUBLES ACHIEVERS: Martina Hingis/SUI & Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (ITA/ITA)
...the Original Swiss Miss is at it again, taking career title #41 in Brisbane with Sabine Lisicki after ending her '14 campaign with a title in Moscow with Flavia Pennetta. The last time Hingis did something close to similar was when she won in Moscow at the end of '01 before winning the doubles at the '02 Australian Open, both times sharing the title with Anna Kournikova. World #1's Errani & Vinci opened with a title in Auckland, their 22nd as a duo and 25th (for both) for their careers. The Italians are the two-time defending AO champions.

1. Bris 1st Rd - Lepchenko d. Stosur
And the award for the first official Choke of the Year goes to... no, Sloane, it's not you this year. (Progress!?) Sam, come take your Vegemite... err, I mean medicine.
2. Bris Final - Sharapova d. Ivanovic
AnaIvo came back from 4-1 down and saved two set points to take the 1st, but Sharapova's three-set prowess assumed command after that. Maybe that three-set win by the Serb in Cincinnati really IS an anomaly, as she's now 1-3 in such matches vs. the Russian.

3. Hopman Cup rr: Safarova d. Bouchard 6-0/6-4
Shenz 1st Rd - Liang Chen/Wang Yafan d. Peng Shuai/Xu Yifan 3-6/6-2/14-12
things didn't go so well the first time out for Bouchard (opening with a bagel after somehow avoiding one in her awful winless 2014-ending outing in Singapore), or Peng, opening her Hsieh-less '15 by playing with Xu in China. The pair held three match points in the match tie-break. Things got a bit better for Genie, but not Shuai, who also lost her 1st Round match in singles in the event won by Li Na last season. Hmmm, does that mean she WON'T be winning in Melbourne, either?

4. Auck 2nd Rd - Davis d. Stephens
Well, Sloane is ousted, by another fellow Bannerette, after winning the 1st set. But, thanks to Sam...
5. Auck 1st Rd - Townsend d. Wickmayer
A Waffle is served a bagel. Worth at least a smile on the inside?
6. Bris Q2 - Kulichkova d. Date-Krumm
The '14 AO girls champ takes out the 44-year old vet. The impertinence!
7. Auck 1st Rd - Hantuchova d. Errani 6-3/6-2
Auck 2nd Rd - U.Radwanska d. Hantuchova 1-6/6-3/6-1
the former Wonder Girl, in her first match with Carlos Rodriguez, gets her first Top 20 win since May 2013, but her hopes were soon dashed by a Radwanska. My, that sounds sorta familiar.
8. Shenz 1st Rd - Zvonareva d. Peng
The former world #2's first WTA win since she reached the 3rd Round at last year's Wimbledon.
9. Shenz SF - Bacsinszky d. Kvitova 6-4/6-4
Shenz Final - Halep d. Bacsinszky 6-2/6-2
Good Timea, or Bad Petra? Definitely Good Simona.
10. Bris SF - Garcia/Srebotnik d. Hsieh/Mirza
And Cara wipes away a tear. Mirza & Hsieh led the match tie-break 6-0 before losing it -- and the match -- 10-8.
11. Auck Final - Errani/Vinci d. Aoyama/Voracova
The Italians won the title, but Voracova continued a good run that saw her '14 end with a tour title in Osaka (w/ Aoyama) and a WTA 125 win in Limoges.
12. Syd Q1 - Pironkova d. Scheepers
And your reward for qualifying and winning your first tour title in Sydney a year ago is... to be placed right back in the Q-draw again? Pironkova didn't drop a set (and only five games vs. Vekic & Gibbs) in her final two qualifying matches, and will open her defense with a 1st Round clash with Pennetta.
HM- Syd 1st Rd - Gavrilova d. Bencic
Nope, the New Swiss Miss isn't quite ready just yet. But, fear not, she won't turn 20 until 2017.

1. Bris 1st Rd - Karolina Pliskova d. Azarenka
Yes, Vika held a pair of match points in the 2nd at 5-4, then 6-5 in the tie-break. But after missing the final stages of an injury-plagued year, things could be worse than being so close to knocking off a hard-serving nearly Top 20 player in her opening match of the season. Match toughness will return. Hopefully the injuries won't do the same.


2. Auck Final - Venus Williams d. Wozniacki
In Auckland, Venus met up with a figure from her past. You think that photo would make her feel about a decade older than she actually is? Either way, a year after reaching the final in her first trip to New Zealand, Venus did one better this time after shrugging off her opening set loss and taking control the rest of the way, out-hitting the Dane to win a tour singles title in the fifteenth different season of her career. Of course, she still has nothing on Ted, Oscar and Super Teddy.

3. Hopman Cup rr: Serena Williams d. Pennetta
Hopman Cup rr: Bouchard d. Serena Williams 6-2/6-1
Hopman Cup rr: Serena Williams d. Safarova 6-3/6-7(1)/7-6(6)
Hopman Cup Final: Aga Radwanska d. Serena Williams 6-4/6-7(3)/6-1
Hopman Cup Final: Aga Radwanska/Janowicz d. Serena Williams/Isner 7-5/6-3
did Serena give her Melbourne opponents some additional confidence with her in-and-out play in Perth? After seeing Halep drop a bagel on her in Singapore, Pennetta opened her '15 season with another last week. Then Bouchard got her first "unofficial" win over a world #1, and Safarova pushed Williams to the limit. In the final, with Aga sporting a winless 0-8 record again her, Serena's errors (59) outdistanced her winners (45, but countered with a healthy 27 for A-Rad, especially against a power player) as the Pole ran away with the 3rd after Williams dumped a shot into the net on break point early in the set. Then Aga won out over her again later in the day in the deciding mixed doubles, as well. Of course, such "traps" have often led to the demise of many future Serena would-be conquerors, haven't they?
HM- Hopman Cup rr: Cornet d. Aga Radwanska
It took 2:42, but Cornet got this one. Of course, leave it to the Pastry to go 3-0 in Hopman singles (and 2-1 in doubles) and see France not get out of round robin play, after she went 1-3 a year ago en route to the title. I guess Benoit Paire's 0-3 singles mark was a bit of an anchor, eh? Anyway, these two go at it again in the opening round in Sydney.

#tbt #girlfriends #tennis @vichka35 miss you and So proud of you! ??

A photo posted by Anna Kournikova Official ?? (@annakournikova) on

Vika and Anna, the living and breathing versions of the names, of course. It just HAD to happen sometime.


**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)
2015 Poland (A.Radwanska/Janowicz)

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
2015 Maria Sharapova/RUS, Simona Halep/ROU (co-PoW)

Billie Jean King: 39 yrs, 7 mo, 23 d (83 Birmingham)
Kimiko Date-Krumm: 38 yrs, 11 mo, 30 d (09 Seoul)
Martina Navratilova: 37 yrs, 4 mo, 2 d (94 Paris)
VENUS WILLIAMS: 34 yrs, 6 mo, 23 d (15 Auckland)
Margaret Court: 34 yrs, 4 mo, 26 d (76 Melbourne)

21 - Martina Navratilova, 1974-94
18 - Chris Evert, 1971-88
14 - Steffi Graf, 1986-99
13 - MARIA SHARAPOVA, 2003-15

239 - Martina Navratilova
226 - Chris Evert
138 - Steffi Graf
93 - Lindsay Davenport
85 - Monica Seles
81 - Serena Williams *
77 - Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
68 - Martina Hingis
61 - Justine Henin
*-active singles

**WTA since 2012...**
25...Serena Williams
9...Victoria Azarenka
7...Petra Kvitova
7...Aga Radwanska
27...Serena Williams (25-2)
20...MARIA SHARAPOVA (10-10)
16...Victoria Azarenka (9-7)
13...SIMONA HALEP (9-4)

21 - Serena & Venus Williams *
3 - Karolina & Kristyna Pliskova *
3 - Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko
2 - Chan Hao-Ching & Yung-Jan *
1 - Chris & Jeanne Evert
1 - Katerina Maleeva/Manuela Maleeva-F.
1 - Cammy & Cynthia MacGregor
1 - Aga & Urszula Radwanska *
1 - Adriana & Antonella Serra-Zanetta
*-both active

[by Top 10 season debut]
1975 Olga Morozova (USSR)
1988 Natasha Zvereva (USSR, later BLR)
1998 Anna Kournikova
2001 Elena Dementieva
2003 Anastasia Myskina
2004 Nadia Petrova
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova
2004 Maria Sharapova
2004 Vera Zvonareva
2006 Dinara Safina
2007 Anna Chakvetadze
2013 Maria Kirilenko
2015 Ekaterina Makarova

2008 Aga Radwanska
2009 Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Flavia Pennetta
2010 Li Na, Samantha Stosur, Francesca Schiavone
2011 Petra Kvitova, Andrea Petkovic
2012 Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani
2013 Maria Kirilenko
2014 Simona Halep, Dominika Cibulkova, Genie Bouchard
2015 Ekaterina Makarova

2000 Edina Gallovits, ROU
2001 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2002 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2003 Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
2004 Monica Niculescu, ROU
2005 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2006 Urszula Radwanska, POL
2007 Melanie Oudin, USA
2008 Lauren Embree, USA
2009 Daria Gavrilova, RUS
2010 Samantha Crawford, USA
2011 Yulia Putintseva, RUS
2012 Ana Konjuh, CRO
2013 Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
2014 Dalma Galfi, HUN

2000 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2001 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2002 Vera Dushevina, RUS
2003 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
2004 Jessica Kirkland, USA
2005 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2006 Nikola Hofmanova, AUT
2007 Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR
2008 Julia Boserup, USA
2009 Gabriela Dabrowski, CAN
2010 Lauren Davis, USA
2011 Anett Kontaveit, EST
2012 Ana Konjuh, CRO
2013 Varvara Flink, RUS
2014 Sonya Kenin, USA

All right, let's give this another go. It's hard to determine whether or not I should be pleased with my Week 1 picks (seven of eight finalists correct, after course-correcting when Muguruza w/d before play), or angered by the final results (NO correct champions, even with Serena in Perth, and AnaIvo and Caro taking the 1st set in their finals). So, after all that, I still went 0-for-4.

Now I know how Angie Kerber feels.

14 Final: Pironkova d. Kerber
14 Doubles Final: Babos/Safarova d. Errani/Vinci
15 Top Seeds: Halep/Kvitova

#1 Halep d. #3 A.Radwanska
(Q) Pironkova d. #2 Kvitova
#1 Halep d. (Q) Pironkova

...a little odd magic from the defending champ/Weeping Angel? Maybe, even with a draw that will bring Pennetta, then Keys, and either Caro/Safarova/BZS just to reach the semifinals. So, simply getting to a second straight Sydney final as a qualifier (???why???) would count as quite a "year after" run. The stumbling block in the top half is -- shocker! -- Aga. She opens with Cornet, who defeated her in Perth. The Pastry may make it 2-0 in '15, but Radwanska's chances of carrying her Hopman momentum deeper into the draw are probably greater (the 1st Round winner might get Muguruza, if she actually PLAYS this week -- which she surely will, since I'm not picking her to win the title). Remember, Aga opened the '13 season with back-to-back titles, with the second coming in this event, something that Halep can match with another win here.

Of course, this all means that Kvitova will probably win the title, a week after she was my only finalist pick not to pan out in Week 1. Or Muguruza. Naturally.

14 Final: Muguruza d. Koukalova
14 Doubles Final: Koukalova/Niculescu d. Raymond/S.Zhang
15 Top Seeds: Dellacqua/Diyas

Nara d. #1 Dellacqua
Beck d. #2 Diyas
Beck d. Nara

...Beck was the last player in '14 to get her maiden title (Luxembourg), and was the only player to take a set off Halep last week in Shenzhen. No Pride of Romania in Hobart, so I'll go with the German in an event draw that seems almost designed to produced a first-time or somewhat surprising champion. I mean, the #1 seed (Dellacqua) has never even reached a tour singles final, and is currently the highest-ranked player never to have done so (whew... Sloane avoids that jab, sort of). Meanwhile, the #2 (Diyas) is 0-1 in finals, and the #3 (Giorgi) failed to put away match points in TWO finals last season. Hmmm, maybe I should go with the Italian? No, I'm complicating things. Beck it is.

Of course, the aforementioned Current Sloane is the fourth-highest seed (at #5, due to Lepchenko's withdrawal) and has already opened with a nice win over Niculescu. She couldn't... she wouldn't... right? Nahhh. Beck it STILL is.

Sorry about that, Annika. She's about to play as this recap is posted... so by the time you read it she'll probably have already lost.



All for now.


Blogger jo shum said...

the final results of champions are a bit of out of ordinary. who would have thought? but then, it makes it really fun to watch. sydney will be good to see further, too bad vika couldn't get in.

so if serena is truly not in top form... maria, aga and halep?

Sun Jan 11, 09:20:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

If Serena really does turn out to be "off" in the AO, it could be crazy. If Li was still around, well... unfortunately, I guess that ship has sailed. ;)

Meanwhile, in a shocker: Beck edges out Cepelova 6-7(4)/7-5/6-4 in the 1st Round in Hobart. The Slovak served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd. Curse proof... at least for one day.

Sun Jan 11, 10:04:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Is Shenzen still a 125? I don't know where to find this information anymore....they used to list it in the tournaments section of the wta site...

My larger question is which is the "bigger" tournament: Shenzen or Auckland?

Brisbane is still premiere...or whatever they're calling it these days?

Mon Jan 12, 04:43:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Shenzhen is an International $500K now, and Auckland is an International $250K. There might be another page on the WTA site that lists the totals on one page, but I know you can see all tournaments' standings by clicking on the individual event pages from the site's tournaments listings page.

I couldn't immediately find 2015 WTA 125 info on the WTA site, but Wikipedia has this listing of 125's for this season. A few changes from '14.

And... scariest headline of the year so far (from the WTA site): "Radwanska Gets Revenge in Sydney" ;)

Mon Jan 12, 12:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Actually you can can here o the WTA site to see the full '15 schedule with Premier/Int'l #'s and such. ;)

Mon Jan 12, 12:55:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Thanks Todd. :)

Mon Jan 12, 01:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

That picture of Kournikova and Vika is great.

Mon Jan 12, 01:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...


I didn't think that the HKTA's comments were that out of the ordinary. I mean why hasn't the WTA stepped in in similar when the world was against the Williams Sisters for withdrawing from a lot of tournaments due to injury?

I get that a player's ability to play can only be determined by the I don't buy the argument that because Bouchard lost on 9/1, she had ample time to inform the HK Open and didn't do so until 9/7 when it was too late...

But I also don't think that their comments were that bad. They are true statements.

The part that they don't say is whether Genie got to keep her appearance fee or not. If Genie didn't receive the money or returned the money, then the tournament should just be satisfied with that and be done with it...even if the spectators are disappointed. But if Genie kept the money and didn't show up...then that's a different issue. The article doesn't go into that.

Mon Jan 12, 02:20:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I may be skipping over some of the details, but I think at this point it might be a situation of the tour trying to put someone "in their place," especially a vocal someone involved with a new tournament on the calendar and who really has no standing at this stage to make a public show of things. The tour surely doesn't like anyone pointing the longtime dirty little secrets about players not playing events after their names were used to sell tickets, and then using veiled "reasons" for their absence, whether they be legit or not. It's a time-honored tennis tradition, of course, but tournament/federation officials usually know better than to gripe about it publicly and pull the covers back a little TOO much. If they "go along to get along," the tournament would likely be "taken care of" and assured by the tour of getting some bigger names in future seasons.

Obviously, the HK official is a little slow to understand "the game," though.

I wonder if the tour is angling to try to get him replaced by someone a little less vocal and easier to "bend to the tour's whim" (i.e. who'd just keep his trap shut and be happy the tour put an event there in the first place).

Of course, that's just a wild thought. I could be way off...but there's probably at least a little truth in there somewhere. ;)

Mon Jan 12, 03:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

That is...SO PERCEPTIVE. I didn't think of that. But hopefully you're wrong bc I always get the heeby-jeebies when I hear about situations when people go after other people's jobs in a political way...

Love the new background.

Mon Jan 12, 04:30:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hopefully you'll like the latest new/temporary one just as well when it replaces the current one in about... hmmm, what time is it NOW? :D

Mon Jan 12, 05:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, two weeks in a two champion picks (Halep this time around in Sydney) have pulled out before the start of play. Still got the touch, if I do say so myself.

"Lucky Loser" Nicole Gibbs replaced Halep in the draw, then gave still more new meaning to the term by being wiped out by Karolina Pliskova 6-0/6-0.

On the bright side, now I can change my pick to Pironkova. ;)

Mon Jan 12, 11:56:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

I am going to pick Pilskova to win so vika doesn't look too bad in her comeback. :)

Ah even I live in HK I didn't realize there is such a big deal on Bouchard. I remember reading the title but not in details. No big deal really, HK does not have a very big fan base on tennis, I doubt a lot of ppl know this. But I must say they did put in a lot of promotions on that one. Personally am never interested in exhibition matches, think it Is a waste of money for everyone. :o

Tue Jan 13, 10:03:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Was it an exhibition in HK? I thought this was all swirling about the $250K Int'l tour-level event last September. :\

Tue Jan 13, 11:06:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Ending at 03.10 in the morning in a tennis event - must be a record ?

Kerber vs Gavrilova 67 76 63

Tue Jan 13, 11:18:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Right, it was an international event. Mixed up with another one. Probably because a friend was offering tickets so I thought it was an exhibition.

Tue Jan 13, 11:25:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Jo - haha. exhibition bc your friend offer you tickets? :)

Todd - I feel like the diff backgrounds are akin to a mood ring.

Update: I have tried to submit this comment 7 times and recatcha won't let me in. --_____--

Tue Jan 13, 01:34:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Whelp - 8 times is the lucky charm.

Tue Jan 13, 01:34:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jessica said...

You know, for some reason I always think that Sabine Lisicki isn't very tall, but looking at her standing beside Hingis, I guess she's as tall as tennis players often are.

Also, what are your thoughts on Pironkova not getting a wildcard as the defending champ who just missed the cutoff for the main draw? Surely there must be a way to somehow reserve one of the Top 20 wildcards for a defending champs (so you don't take away one of the normal wildcards from the Aussies)?

I don't know, it just seems like poor form to force the defending champ into qualies. Pironkova herself said that she didn't feel like a champion coming back.

Tue Jan 13, 02:22:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Jessica - I think the answer to your question is that what you're saying makes too much sense. LOL.

I think what it comes down to for players who aren't from one of the 4 slam countries are that they have nothing to trade. Thus Pironkova got shafted... And I don't think they believe that Pironkova draws that big of a crowd...

Todd would know better than me.

Tue Jan 13, 05:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

You know, that it wasn't even immediately remembered as a tour event probably says a lot about why the WTA reacted strongly against the HK official who sort of played the role of an ant shaking a fist at the person who nearly stepped on them. Or something like that. :)

Are you able to just post a comment without even checking the reCAPTCHA box? I thought that was the case before, since something Blogger did suddenly made it start appearing on all blogs a while back, whether it was asked for or not. Speaking of, I thought I read a few weeks ago that they were going to get around to having that thing no longer automatically appear on blogs sometime after New Year's. Still waiting...

Yeah, I guess that's a good way to look at the backgrounds (and the two little images in the blog title area). Well, that and I apparently just like bells, whistles and bright colors. :)

In understand. It always momentarily surprises me whenever I'll see, say, Sharapova (6'2') standing next to a "regular sized" individual. Wozniacki, too, who's 5'10" but somehow seems less than that. Lisicki seems to have a bit of a stocky build, so she would seem to be shorter than she is, I suppose.

Eric's notion about Pironkova not getting a main draw spot probably has more than a bit of truth to it, since I'm sure she didn't drag out her decision to show up defend her title (most of last year's Week 1-2 winners didn't return to defend in '15, either because of retirement or, as in Muguruza's case, she "upgraded" from Hobart to the bigger tournament in Sydney).

Seems a bit of a "thanks for coming, but you're just a body to fill in a space in the draw" when it comes to sending Pironkova back to the Q's again, but I guess her best response would be to just go out and win it again. So far, she's 5-0 and back in the QF.

Of course, it wouldn't be a bad idea if she had someone -- maybe that HK official? -- to plead her case. Hmmm, I wonder what Damir Dokic is doing these days? :D

Tue Jan 13, 07:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

If she does win it again this year, won't that be fueling the tournament's decision? The tournament directors will jokingly say that it's good incentive...or a good luck charm (gotta spin it)...esp since she doesn't have notable results elsewhere (besides grass).

Wed Jan 14, 03:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Todd, you're right...I didn't have to get recaptcha right at all... I'm just in the habit of "checking all my boxes" so I never even tried to skip it.

Wed Jan 14, 03:29:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ha... well, at least there's that. :)

On the Sydney WCs, there were only two given (Gavrilova and Gajdosova, who both won 1st Rd. matches), and both went to Aussies. So, probably not a lot of wiggle room there. But the draw had two byes, which should have been WC spots... and then one of the players getting a bye (Halep) pulled out late, so that opened up a spot that went to a lucky loser. So... whoops, said the 'roo.

Meanwhile, Pironkova is now 6-0 (14 straight Sydney wins) and in the semis. ;)

Petra is up next.

Wed Jan 14, 10:51:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

The luck of the draw? - well can Caroline win this little section she can go all the way:

B.Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) [25]
Timea Babos (HUN)

Jie Zheng (CHN)
Kai-Chen Chang (TPE)

Sloane Stephens (USA)
Victoria Azarenka (BLR)

Taylor Townsend (USA)
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [8]

Thu Jan 15, 08:20:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Also interisting if you look at the LIVE rankings right now - who can be the new #1? and that's actually 4 players - have a look:

1. Serena Williams (USA) 7776
2. Maria Sharapova (7095)
3. Petra Kvitova (CZE) 6305
4. Simona Halep (ROU) 6141
5. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 4495
6. Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 4415
7. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 4030
8. Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) 3935
9. Angelique Kerber (GER) 3120
10. Andrea Petkovic (GER) 2770

ALL points from last years AO is gone so you can plus whatever point they will get to this list. Have fun with that and may the best player win.

Fri Jan 16, 07:59:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Azarenka vs. Stephens for the third straight year in Melbourne, by the way.

If it's Vika/Caro in the 2nd Round, that's the big match to watch in the first few days. How injured is The Dane's wrist? Is Vika match ready yet? That she was so close to taking out Pliskova, who just lost but took Kvitova to the limit 7-6/7-6 in Sydney, says she may be very close. Hmmm...

Fri Jan 16, 10:26:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I can't figure out why people are so worked up about the Sloane-Vika match. Anything other than Vika in straight sets will surprise me.

Fri Jan 16, 05:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Diane, I think it's like Todd says...3rd straight year...past drama, past success.

I agree...I'm thinking Sloane will get steamrolled...but maybe playing Vika will allow her to swing freely (nothing to lose mentality)...who knows. Vika was rusty against Pliskova...

Fri Jan 16, 07:00:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Last vestiges of all the '13 hype, I guess. Bright side: it could light Azarenka's fire, not that she's needed much to do that in Melbourne over the years.

Of course, if Sloane did manage to win, it really wouldn't reveal much about either, other than that Azarenka will need a few more tournaments to get her feet under her after her '14 troubles. Not that ESPN would take that tone if it DID happen.

I think a potential Vika/Caro 2nd Round meeting holds a great deal more intrigue.

Fri Jan 16, 11:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

What do you think of this question:

Caroline Wozniacki

Who would like to see me and Rafa Nadal play mixed doubles together? — in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

until now - 23 h later - more than 55000 has pressed like :)

Sat Jan 17, 03:08:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

That WOULD be fun. :)

Sat Jan 17, 12:47:00 PM EST  

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