Wk.6- Hey, Aren't You...?
Week 6 was filled with what at first might have been assumed to be a series of mistaken identities.
Players who reached their career heights years ago re-emerged to wake up the echoes of their past. Some simply as a reminder of what once was, but others as a potential shot across the bow of their futures and what could still be possible for their careers.
And then we had this...
And -- yikes! -- even this...
Kim Clijsters: Still got it! pic.twitter.com/5dI09nwr7w— Live Tennis (@livetennis) February 15, 2015
Holy Serbian Good Luck Charm! What the retired Belgian Barbie is going on here?
(Stay tuned... that'll come later.)
*WEEK 6 CHAMPIONS*
ANTWERP, BELGIUM (Premier $731K/HCI)
S: Andrea Petkovic/GER def. Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP walkover
D: Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Arantxa Parra-Santonja (ESP/ESP) d. Mestach/Van Uytvanck (BEL/BEL) 6-4/3-6/10-5
PATTAYA CITY, THAILAND (Int'l $250K/HCO)
S: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK def. Ajla Tomljanovic/AUS 3-6/6-3/6-4
D: HC.Chan/YJ.Chan (TPE/TPE) d. Aoyama/Tanasugarn (JPN/THA) 2-6/6-4/6-3
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Andrea Petkovic/GER
...for the second straight Backspin, Petko is the Player of the Week. The last time that happened was when Serena Williams won in Weeks 19-20 in 2013 in the lead-up to her win at Roland Garros. At this point, Petkovic's 2015 season can be divided into two distinct parts: (no pun intended) B.S. and A.S.. Before Stuttgart, and after Stuttgart. The German entered last weekend's Fed Cup tie with Australia with an 0-3 record, then battled back from MP down against Sam Stosur and won an 8-6 3rd set vs. Jarmila Gajdosova while leading Germany back to the FC semifinals. Jumping from Stuttgart to Antwerp, Petko maintained her momentum... and her knack for drama. In her first match, playing against a Belgian in Belgium (so the FC feel was still intact), Petkovic saved eight match points against Alison Van Uytvanck. She nearly lost a big lead and the 1st set against Dominika Cibulkova next time out, but collected herself to win in straights. She took out Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova in two tie-breaks sets in the semis, saving a SP in the 2nd in a very fun match that served to highlight the Czech as one of the more entertaining players on tour. Then, in the final... well, there wasn't one. Petko won career title #6 in a walkover when Carla Suarez-Navarro couldn't play due to a neck injury. So, with a five-match win streak still going strong, Petkovic now re-enters the Top 10 for the first time since dropping out during her injury-plagued '12 season. Her ascension comes as Fed Cup teammate Angelique Kerber's Top 10 streak ends at 143 consecutive weeks.
RISERS: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP & Marina Erakovic/NZL
...CSN, who missed last week's Fed Cup World Group II tie against Romania, came out firing in Antwerp. She came back from a set down to take out Camila Giorgi (who knows something about losing from ahead -- ouch), then followed up with victories over Monica Niculescu, Francesca Schiavone and Karolina Pliskova (the Czech had ousted her in a love 3rd set in the Sydney QF a few weeks ago) to reach her first career Premier level singles final. Unfortunately, a neck injury prevented her from facing off with Andrea Petkovic for the title, meaning CSN has now won just a single title ('14 Oeiras) after advancing to seven finals during her career. Erakovic reached the Pattaya semis after putting up wins over Luksika Kumkhum and Yuliya Beygelzimer, then saving three match points against Vera Zvonareva. In the semis against eventual champ Daniela Hantuchova, Erakovic failed to convert two match points of her own that would have pushed her into her fifth career tour final.
SURPRISES: Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar/ESP & Yuliya Beygelzimer/UKR
...Sanchez-Quintanar, 25, didn't win her first career ITF singles title this weekend, but her story is still worth noting. Born in Campo de Criptana, Spain, CSQ's "first love" was soccer. But she was pretty good at tennis, too, and the opportunities there were greater, so she ended up traveling to the University of Maryland on a tennis scholarship in 2009. She arrived there mid-semester, and received permission to play on the soccer team, but she eventually had to give that up in order to fulfill her tennis commitments. When her coach left for Texas A&M in 2011, she went with him, and was able to play soccer there, as well. She ended up playing in the NCAA postseason tournaments for tennis, soccer and basketball. But her tennis scholarship came first, and the sport soon became her #1 priority again. In her last year of tennis eligibility, Sanchez-Quintanar climbed as high as #5 in the NCAA rankings and A&M reached the women's team final in the NCAA Championships in 2013. With one year left on campus, CSQ once again fed her soccer desire. In late October of last year, she played in her first professional tournament as a pro (she won an ITF doubles title back in '09). Since then, she's gone 24-7 in singles on the challenger circuit, and has reached back-to-back finals in a pair of $10K events in Port El Kantaoui, Tunisia this year, the first after having made her way through qualifying. She's still ranked outside the Top 1000, as she's lost both finals, but she's 11-3 in 2015 and is now an intriguing little side story in a sport that has so many that we never hear anything about. Well, at least here's one that we now can't say that about. Meanwhile, Beygelizmer lost in Pattaya qualifying, but entered the draw as a lucky loser. Once there, she came back from a 7-5/5-2 deficit, then 5-2 in the 2nd set tie-break, to defeat Kimiko Date-Krumm and reach the 2nd Round. The Ukrainian was one of two lucky losers (w/ Zhu Lin) to record 1st Round victories in the tournament.
VETERANS: Francesca Schiavone/ITA & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
...she might not be a force in the slams these days, but don't throw dirt on Francesca in the regular tour events just yet. Once again, the 34-year old Italian showed her continued viability in Antwerp, making her way through qualifying with wins over Lyudmyla Kichenok, Oceane Dodin and Anna Lena Friedsam, then notching main draw victories over Klara Koukalova and Angelique Kerber to reach the QF. The latter win was a 1 & 1 spanking of the German that gave Schviaone her first win over a Top 10 player since 2012, and knocked Kerber out of that same Top 10, as well. Zahlavova-Strycova became the third Czech this season to reach a pair of singles semifinals, reaching the final four in Antwerp with wins over Yanina Wickmayer, Alize Cornet and Mona Barthel. In the semi against Andrea Petkovic, which turned out to be the psuedo-final when the injured CSN couldn't post on Sunday, BZS held a set point against the German in the second of two tie-break sets in a straight sets loss.
COMEBACKS: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK & Anastasiya Sevastova/LAT
...Hantuchova's teaming with coach Carlos Rodriguez continues to produce results. In Pattaya, she reached her sixteenth career final, picking up title #7 (her first since taking Birmingham in '13). The 31-year old opened with a three-set win over Zarina Diyas, then knocked out Zheng Saisai, Duan Yingying, Marina Erakovic (saving 2 MP) and Ajla Tomljanovic on her way to the title. It's Hantuchova's third title in Pattaya City, having also won in 2011 and '12. In fact, she's won five of her seven singles titles at just two tournaments, picking up a pair of wins in Indian Wells in '02 and '07. So... does this mean she's a legit threat to win there in Serena's return to the tournament in a few weeks? We shall see. Meanwhile, Sevastova's return to action after a nearly two-year absence remains unblemished by defeat. In Week 4, the 24-year old Latvian played for the first time since March '13 and took the singles and doubles titles at a $10K challenger in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. This week, she did the same in another $10K in Trnava, SVK with a win in the final over top-seeded Reka-Luca Jani. So far, Sevastova's comeback has produced two singles and two doubles titles, with a combined match record of 17-0.
FRESH FACES: Ajla Tomljanovic/AUS & Indy de Vroome/NED
...20-year old Tomljanovic, who only recently started playing under the Australian flag, is already using the new/good vibes to lift her career. She reached her first career tour singles final in Pattaya after putting up wins over Elizaveta Kulichkova, Jarmila Gajdosova, Evgeniya Rodina and Monica Puig (in a three-set thriller where every stanza went to seven games, and Tomljanovic won on her fourth MP). She lost in three sets in the final to Daniela Hantuchova. 18-year old de Vroome made it through qualifying in Antwerp, getting victories over Paula Kania, Serbian Bad Luck Charm Vesna Dolonc and Katerina Siniakova, then notching her first career tour-level main draw win over Tsvetana Pironkova.
DOWN: Genie Bouchard/CAN
...Bouchard entered Antwerp as the #1 seed, playing in her first event with new coach Sam Sumyk. Even with a late start after a 1st Round bye, her week didn't last long, as she was ousted in her opening match by Mona Barthel, always a sneaky upset threat and the Paris Indoors champ in '13. A few days later, after being announced as a wild card entrant into Dubai, Bouchard pulled out of this week's event. The Canadian lost in her first match nine times in 2014, and this week's defeat means it's happened at 40% of her full-draw events (10-of-25) over the last two seasons.
ITF PLAYER: Daria Gavrilova/AUS
...the 20-year old newly-Aussie former Hordette won her second straight $50K challenger title in Launceston, Australia to match the career-biggest title she won a week ago in Burnie. Gavrilova's third career ITF win came with wins over Erika Sema, Nudnida Luangnam, Junri Namigata, Irina Falconi (who she also defeated in the final last week) and Tereza Mrdeza in the final.
Think I deserve these babies ?? pic.twitter.com/wQZXFslvry— Daria Gavrilova (@Daria_gav) February 15, 2015
JUNIOR STAR: Bianca Andreescu/CAN
...at the end of last season, the 14-year old became the fourth straight Canadian to win the Orange Bowl 16 singles, following Erin Routliffe, Gloria Liang and Charlotte Robillard-Millette (Gabby Dabrowski won the 18s in '09). This past week, in the Grade 2 Condor de Plata junior event in Bolivia, Andreescu won her eleventh consecutive match (she's 20-1 in her last 21) and claimed the rain-delayed final 6-0/6-4 over Colombia's Yuliana Monroy. She also took home doubles honors.
DOUBLES: Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan (TPE/TPE) & Anabel Medina-Garrigues/ESP
...the Chan sisters claimed their third career WTA title as a duo -- they also have a WTA $125K Challenger win -- to move into a tie for second place on the all-time list of sisters doubles champions (way behind Venus & Serena, with 21). The win over Shuko Aoyama and Tammy Tanasugarn (it's the first time the 37-year old has played for a WTA title in her home country since she reached both the singles and doubles finals -- winning the latter -- in Pattaya in 2010) gives Hao-Ching five career titles, while older sister Yung-Jan has thirteen (including this same tournament in '08). Medina-Garrigues, 32, teamed with Parra-Santonja, also 32, to reach the Bogota final all the way back in 2004, but she didn't win her first title with her fellow Spaniard until this weekend in Antwerp when they defeated an all-Belgian pair in the final. It's AMG's 24th career doubles title, with APS being her fifteenth different title-winning partner going back to her first crown with Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez back in 2001.
1. Antwerp 2nd Rd. - Petkovic d. Van Uytvanck
...6-7(7)/7-6(5)/6-2. Petko just can't help herself, apparently. Days after saving MP against Stosur in Stuttgart, she was faced with the same task -- several times over -- against the Waffle. The German led 5-2 in the 1st and held two set points, but saw Van Uytvanck grab the set. In the 2nd, the Belgian won a 19-point game to force a 2nd set tie-break, where she held EIGHT match points. But Petko was just warming up, as she won the TB then took a 4-0 lead in the 3rd before finally putting away the victory on her own fourth MP.
Hmmm, is Petko in training to become a F.O.C.A -- a Friend of Citizen Anna? That would explain a LOT. (And the blackboard in the background says it all, too, I guess.)
2. Antwerp 2nd Rd. - Barthel d. Bouchard
...4-6/6-1/6-2. Hmmm, maybe fewer runways are the answer? Hey, didn't Sloane walk a runway last year, too? I'm just sayin'.
3. Pattaya QF - Erakovic d. Zvonareva
...2-6/7-6(6)/7-5. Zvonareva had another good week in her comeback, putting up her third QF result in four events in 2015. But she came so close to so much more. The Hordette held a MP at 6-5 in the 2nd set TB, then two more at 5-4 in the 3rd. If she'd been able to convert any of her trio of chances she'd reached her first semifinal since the WTA Championships in 2011.
4. Pattaya SF - Hantuchova d. Erakovic
...4-6/6-3/7-6(3). What the Tennis Gods giveth, the Tennis Gods taketh. At least as far as Erakovic was concerned last week. The Kiwi saved 3 MP vs. Zvonareva, but she failed to convert two of her own a round later against Hantuchova, both at 5-4 in a 3rd set that featured a combined eight breaks of serve.
5. Antwerp QF - Petkovic d. Cibulkova
...7-6(2)/6-0. Ultimately, it now looks like a minor bump in her road to victory in Antwerp, but after Petko failed to put away eight set points and saw Cibulkova win a 17-point game to break serve and force a 1st set tie-break, anyone who has ever seen the Slovak pick up momentum and never give it back will tell you that it's a good thing the German won the opening set, because if she'd lost it the end result might have been very different here. As it was, Petkovic took the 2nd set at love and went on to win the title.
6. Antwerp 2nd Rd. - Safarova d. Mladenovic 6-4/6-1
Antwerp 2nd Rd. - Zahlavova-Strycova d. Cornet 6-4/6-2
...a preview of this spring's Fed Cup semifinal between the Czech Republic and France? Minus Amelie, of course. And that's big difference.
7. Pattaya 2nd Rd. - Tomljanovic d. Gajdosova 7-6(3)/6-3
Pattaya Final - Hantuchova d. Tomljanovic 3-6/6-3/6-4
...Tomljanovic won the early battle between imported Aussies, but couldn't quite grab her first career title against a pure Slovak.
8. Antwerp 1st Rd. - Cornet d. Bencic 1-6/6-2/7-5
Dubai 1st Rd. - Cornet d. Flipkens 6-0/6-7(6)/6-3
...it would be the WTA without a little Alize drama, now would it? First, she took out her Fed Cup frustrations on a teenager in Belgium, then this Sunday she opened play in Dubai with a 3:11 victory that began with her winning six straight games (taking the 1st in nineteen minutes, losing just eight points), then ended the same way. In between the two bagel runs, Cornet limped, fell, and argued calls (one a bad line call that gave Flipkens a set point in the 2nd, but Cornet couldn't ask for a replay on because she was out of challenges). In the end, she won, though... so more drama is likely to follow later this week.
9. Pattaya 1st Rd. - Zhang Shuai d. Vekic
...6-2/6-0. Things just continue to get worse for Vekic. She's now 8-22 since winning the Kuala Lumpur title last April.
10 Dubai Q2 - Dabrowski d. Goerges 6-4/3-6/6-3
Dubai 1st Rd. - Pennetta d. Goerges 2-6/7-6(3)/6-4
...play has barely begun in Dubai, and Goerges has already lost twice. First, she saw Dabrowski defeat her to qualify for her first Premier level main draw. After getting into the draw as a lucky loser, the German failed to convert four match points up 6-2/5-2 against Pennetta, then saw the Italian vet battle back to get the win.
11. $25K Sao Paulo Final - Pous-Tio d. Mitu
...6-2/6-2. Pous-Tio, the 30-year old from Spain who recorded her first Top 100 season back in 2005, tied for the ITF circuit lead in titles last year with seven. She picked up her first of 2015 -- the 20th of her career -- this weekend in Brazil.
'No offense, Kim, but I'm really glad you're gone from the tour.' Petkovic after Clijsters wins their exhibition. pic.twitter.com/6glrrDL91v— Live Tennis (@livetennis) February 15, 2015
12. Antwerp Exhibition - Clijsters d. Petkovic
...5-3. After CSN was unable to play in the singles final, Diamond Games tournament director Kim Clijsters suited up to play an exo with event champion (and new Top 10er) Petko... and ended up winning. Naturally, afterward, Stubbsy was "causing trouble."
Hot damn @CaroWozniacki in SI swim suit issue ?????? stunning ??— victoria azarenka (@vika7) February 10, 2015
Dubai Q2 - Arina Rodionova d. Anastasia Rodionova
...6-2/0-1 ret. This is just the second time the sisters have faced off in singles as pros. Oddly enough, the last time it happened -- in a $50K challenger in Las Vegas in 2012 -- it also ended in a retirement. That time, though, it was Arina who put an early stop to the competition, trailing her sister 5-2 in the 1st set. They've since had new experiences in Dubai.
I just learned there is a "Couple" app which I'm not really interested in...Is there a "friends with benefits" app? #ValentinesDayGiftIdeas— victoria azarenka (@vika7) February 9, 2015
**ACTIVE WEEKS-IN-TOP-10 STREAKS**
[as of Febraury 16]
**WTA ALL-SISTERS DOUBLES TITLES**
21 - Serena & Venus Williams *
3 - Karolina & Kristyna Pliskova *
3 - CHAN HAO-CHING & CHAN YUNG-JAN *
3 - Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko
1 - Lyudmyla & Nadiia Kichenok *
1 - Chris & Jeanne Evert
1 - Katerina Maleeva & Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere
1 - Cammy & Cynthia MacGregor
1 - Aga & Urszula Radwanska *
1 - Adriana & Antonella Serra-Zanetta
**2015 WTA SF**
2...Maria Sharapova, RUS (2-0)
2...Petra Kvitova, CZE (1-1)
2...Karolina Pliskova, CZE (1-1)
2...Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE (0-2)
So saddened to hear about the terrorist attack in Copenhagen.. Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected ?? pic.twitter.com/9kXKMghCen— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) February 15, 2015
DUBAI, UAE (Premier $2.513m/HCO)
14 Final: V.Williams d. Cornet
14 Doubles Final: Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova d. Kops-Jones/Spears
15 Top Seeds: Halep/Kvitova
#6 Makarova #1 Halep
#3 Wozniacki d. #7 Kerber
#8 V.Williams d. #4 Ivanovic
#2 Kvitova d. Muguruza
#3 Wozniacki d. #6 Makarova
#2 Kvitova d. #8 V.Williams
#2 Kvitova d. #3 Wozniacki
...Venus is just the second '14 champion to try to defend a singles title this season (and the other, Pironkova in Sydney, had to go through qualifying in her attempt), and if the continent-hopping wear-and-tear of the last few weeks doesn't hold her back she could very well become the first repeat champ this year. I won't pick it, though, after finally getting my first win of the season this past week with the Petkovic prediction.
And, hey, after having four previous picks reach finals but then lose, it only took Petko saving more than half a dozen match points, nearly blowing a lead in another match, squeaking by BZS in a pair of tie-breaks and then getting a walkover in the final to finally do it... surely the traditional way to correctly prognosticate a result on the WTA tour, eh?
Petra has had a good rest since losing to Keys in Melbourne, so I'll go with her.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (Int'l $250K/HCO)
14 Final: Nara d. Koukalova
14 Doubles Final: Begu/Irigoyen d. Larsson/Scheepers
15 Top Seeds: Errani/Begu
#4 Brengle d. #1 Errani
Mattek-Sands d. Van Uytvanck
Mattek-Sands d. #4 Brengle
...just how much longer can the Summer of Brengle last? She's running out of continents... and it's not summer in South America. So... maybe almost a full week?
Elswhere, while Maria was late in arriving on the social media scene, her photography, sense of humor and facial expressions continue to be quite possibly the best on tour when it comes to the InstaTwitterVerse...
And, really, just like her tennis, Timea Bacsinszky's contributions tend to be often-overlooked and underrated, as well. But they shouldn't be.
All for now.