Tuesday, March 03, 2015

February BSA's: Petkoing on the Ceiling

Oh, what a feeling... when you're Petkoing on the ceiling.

Rarely has a WTA February been as newsworthy as it was this season. Three of the six tour singles champions staved off multiple match points en route to their titles, while 2015's first Fed Cup weekend included another match-point-down-to-thrilling-victory arc and an historic road comeback from a 0-2 Day 1 deficit.

Against Italians. In Italy. On clay, no less.

But that wasn't all. Serena Williams announced the end of her decade-plus Indian Wells boycott. She made a new friend, too.

Meanwhile, her Danish pal showed up wearing about a square foot of fabric (in total) in Sports Illustrated, while still ANOTHER Czech Maiden (two, actually) edged ever closer to the Top 10. Petra, watch your back?

Also, as the WTA world turned, Sam left Vika for Genie...

While Wim, cut loose by Simona, hooked up with Vika...

just before her ex (romantically, not coaching-umm, -ly) made a weekly dancing date to strut his stuff on American television...

But don't worry, Vika will persevere. In fact, she's already well along the comeback trail. She's more than a few steps along on her way back, and who knows how high she might ultimately fly all over again.

Hey, if THIS can happen after all these years:

Then ANYTHING can. Anything.

(Hmmm, is that a restless La Trufflette I hear in the background? We shall see.)

As for the rest of February...


1. Andrea Petkovic, GER
...while Andrea's January was bleak (0-3), February was the Month of Petkovic. It's a pity it only had twenty-eight days, but it DID allow her to concentrate her Petko power for additional punch. As she did in '14, when she provided the spark in the Germans' first trip to the Fed Cup final in the post-Graf era, Petko was an FC star. Needing a win to avoid a 0-2 hole vs. Australia, she saved a match point and won a 12-10 3rd set against Sam Stosur in a three hour-plus match, then clinched a return to the semifinals by winning an 8-6 3rd stanza against Jarmila Gajdosova. A week later, she saved eight more match points en route to a title in Antwerp, lifting her into the Top 10 for the first time since injuries brought her down in '12 after her only year-end Top 10 finish in 2011.
2. French Fed Cup Team
...where would the Pastries be without Amelie Mauresmo as their Captain? Not in the Fed Cup semifinals this spring, it can probably safely be said. Down 0-2 on the road against Italy, Mauresmo worked her tactical and motivational magic and cooked up an historic comeback that led to a home team's first-ever World Group loss after holding such a Day 1 advantage. Kristina Mladenovic replaced Alize Cornet on Day 2, winning her FC singles debut against Sara Errani. Caroline Garcia then came back from a set down to overtake Camila Giorgi. Then the two Pastries combined to hand Errani & Roberta Vinci their first-ever FC doubles defeat to complete a comeback that, while it might not foreshadow a surprise French title run, could very well be the "unofficial end" of Italy's recently great Fed Cup era.
3. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
...Pliskova has been everywhere lately. Literally. She played on four different continents in four weeks during one stretch, and was successful on all of them. In February, she took her turn in the Czech #1 singles slot and lifted the Maidens to a seventh straight FC semifinal. With her clean, flat groundstrokes and big serve rarely letting up, Pliskova (who reached the Sydney final in January) followed up with a SF in Antwerp and another final run in Dubai in which she knocked off four Top 25 players. Even without a singles title in '15, she's up to a career-best ranking of #15 and is obviously hungry for more. Soon. Pliskova leads the tour with eighteen match wins, and the Top 10 looks like her destiny before the end of spring. The only question might be whether she or fellow Maiden Lucie Safarova (#11) get there first. But, of course, Karolina still cherishes her time with her twin sister Kristyna (who actually won a ITF singles crown of her own in February, so maybe the instigating moment that pushes HER career upward has finally been found in the form of Karolina's success?).

Those days with her are just?? #love #forever #twins??

A photo posted by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on

4. German Fed Cup Team
...after reaching their first Fed Cup final since 1992 a year ago, the Germans are one round away from reaching two in a row. After putting away the Aussies for the second straight year (they met in the '14 semis), Germany next faces Russia, the very team that the nation seems to have replaced as the second-deepest squad (behind CZE) of all the squads contending for FC dominance. With emotional spark plug and big-match ace Petkovic leading the way and bull-headed Angelique Kerber (who'll surely right her recent dip soon) serving as a solid #2, the roster is further filled out by the likes of Sabine Lisicki, Julia Goerges and Mona Barthel. Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld can provide a solid (regular) doubles combo, while youngsters like Carina Witthoeft and Annika Beck wait in the wings. The Graf era looks to have finally given way to "the Petko era" when it comes to German Fed Cup possibility.
5. Simona Halep, ROU
...despite her 15-2 record in '15, Halep has looked shaky at times. A new coach was hired, and a consultant has already been jettisoned. She's lost big (vs. Makarova in Melbourne, then Muguruza in Fed Cup), and admitted to feeling the pressure of expectation brought about by her success the last two years. A year after injury questions made some doubt her ability to stay atop the rankings, the mental side of the game has become an issue. But Halep is one of the more collected personalities on tour, and her natural ability to problem-solve looks like it might be her career's best friend. It certainly came in handy in Dubai, where she overcame some stressful moments to lock away her second title of the year, defeating three Top 20 players and putting her career title haul into double-digits.
6. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
...25-year old Bacsinszky is the tour's secret weapon. The "Unknown Swiss Miss," she's been quietly building back her career over the past two years after injuries nearly pushed her out of the game in 2013. Over the past twelve months, the climb has picked up great momentum. She's become the anchor of the Swiss Fed Cup team, which she again led to victory in the World Group II playoffs in February. After reaching a singles final in January, she reached a second in Acapulco and won her first tour crown since 2009. Up to a career-best #31, she's already opened March with another victory to move to 14-2 in 2015. Timea even found a way to make that sombrero look good this past weekend, too. Not an easy feat.

7. Garbine Muguruza, ESP
...technically, Muguruza hasn't actually won anything but a doubles runner-up trophy in 2015. She's climbed into the doubles Top 10, then slipped out, and drifted in and out of the singles Top 20 seemingly on a weekly basis. But when she DOES win something big in 2015, it could be REALLY big. Remember, the Spaniard is the same woman who handed Serena Williams were worst ever slam loss in Paris last year. In February in Romania, she thrashed Simona Halep and nearly almost single-handedly led Spain on a successful comeback against the Swarmettes (going 2-0 in singles, and taking the 1st set in the deciding doubles). The hard-hitter already has six Top 25 wins this year, and she doesn't seem to have even reached anything near her highest gear yet. If you're looking for a first time slam semifinalist (or better) in 2015, one might not want to look past Muguruza without doing a quick u-turn. You know, just in case she saw you pass her by.
8. Lucie Safarova, CZE
...ever the late bloomer, Safarova seems to be coming into her own as she nears her 30th birthday. After taking her place in the Czech Fed Cup hierarchy in recent seasons, 28-year old Safarova looked THIS CLOSE to something bigger last season. She held MP against eventual AO champ Li Na, then reached the the Wimbledon semis. In 2015, she's already won her first career slam doubles title in Melbourne, and was 9-2 in February with four Top 15 wins. Three of them came in Doha, where she won the first Premier level event of her career and then moved to a career-best #11 in the rankings. At the start of the season, I included Safarova as one of my "Top 10+1" picks for 2015. I thought her selection was my biggest "gut feeling" selection of the bunch, and surely not a sure thing. Her getting there this fast is a bit of an early-season surprise. Just goes to show what I know... and don't... but do, or did... sorta. Well, you get the idea. It's always nice when a player manages to rise above already slightly-elevated expectations.
9. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
...it's nice to have an Amelie in your corner. French FC Captain Mauresmo has shown great confidence in Mladenovic the last two years, calling on her to play huge doubles -- and this February, singles, when she kicked off France's Day 2 comeback with a win over Sara Errani -- matches with ties on the line for the Pastry squad. Always a great doubles player, Mladenovic followed up her FC success with a title in Dubai with longtime friend Timea Babos. She set a new career doubles ranking high of #11 in February. Still outside the Top 50 in singles after getting to #36 in '13, Mladenovic's consistent solo breakout stretch is still in her future. But it's coming. Soon. You can feel it.
10. Sara Errani, ITA
...February could have been a disaster for Errani. She played a key role -- and not in a good way -- in Italy's collapse on home clay against the French in Fed Cup play. But she rebounded quickly, saving three match points in Rio and winning her first title in two years. It was enough to lift her within shouting distance of the Top 10 again. And just as the REAL clay court season is about to begin, too.
HM- Victoria Azarenka, BLR
...armed with a new coach in Wim Fissette after Sam Sumyk left for Canadian-lined pastures, Azarenka embarked once more on the comeback trail in February. After her Round of 16 run at the Australian Open, Azarenka took part in her first Fed Cup action since 2011 (going 2-0 and clinching Belarus' promotional playoff win) and then knocked off three Top 20 players in Doha (defeating Venus Williams for the first time ever) to reach her first final since January of last year and climb back into the Top 40. She left the Middle East with another lower body injury, but if we -- and Vika -- have learned anything over the past few seasons it's that Azarenka has the heart and fire of a champion that no minor set back can extinguish. A Comeback Player of the Year season is there for the taking. It's just a matter of always looking forward, and not back. She should know the drill by now. By heart.

1. Andrea Petkovic, GER
2. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
3. Garbine Muguruza, ESP
4. Simona Halep, ROU
5. FRA Fed Cup Team
6. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
7. Lucie Safarova, CZE
8. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
9. ROU Fed Cup Team
10. Caroline Garcia, FRA
11. Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
12. Camila Giorgi, ITA
13. Aleksandra Krunic, SRB
14. SUI Fed Cup Team

15. Zarina Diyas, KAZ
16. NED Fed Cup Team
17. Kiki Bertens, NED
18. GBR Fed Cup Team
19. Johanna Larsson, SWE
20. Monica Puig, PUR
21. Wang Qiang, CHN
22. Stefanie Voegele, SUI
23. Misaki Doi, JPN
24. Arantxa Rus, NED
25. Kurumi Nara, JPN
HM- Mona Barthel, GER & Jarmila Gajdosova, NZL

1. Anna Schmiedlova, SVK
2. Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL
3. Belinda Bencic, SUI
4. Ajla Tomljanovic, AUS
5. Ana Konjuh, CRO

6. CiCi Bellis, USA
7. Ipek Soylu, TUR
8. Chanel Simmonds, RSA
9. Anett Kontaveit, EST
10. Rebecca Peterson, SWE
11. Tereza Smitkova, CZE
12. Denisa Allertova, CZE
13. Indy De Vroome, NED
14. Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
15. Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
16. Ivana Jorovic, SRB
17. Carina Witthoeft, GER
18. Antonia Lottner, GER
19. Louisa Chirico, USA
20. Montserrat Gonzalez, PAR
HM- Marcela Zacarius, MEX

1. Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR
2. Olga Govortsova, BLR
3. PAR Fed Cup Team
4. Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
5. TUR Fed Cup Team
6. Sesil Karatantcheva, BUL
7. Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, ESP

8. Yuliya Beygelzimer, UKR
9. Tadeja Majeric, SLO
10. Paula Cristina Goncalves, BRA
11. Kateryna Kozlova, UKR
12. Zhu Lin, CHN
13. Rika Ozaki, JPN
14. Elena Bogdan, ROU
15. Eri Hozumi, JPN
16. Peangtarn Plipuech, THA
17. Makoto Ninomiya, JPN
18. Rebecca Sramkova, CZE
19. Gabriela Ce, BRA
20. Berfu Cengiz, TUR
HM- Amy Bowtell, IRE

1. Andrea Petkovic, GER
2. Lucie Safarova, CZE
3. Sara Errani, ITA
4. Venus Williams, USA
5. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
6. Maria Sharapova, RUS
7. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK

8. Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
9. Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
10. Marina Erakovic, NZL
11. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
12. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
13. Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
14. Kaia Kanepi, EST
15. Piia Suomalainen, FIN
HM- Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS

1. Victoria Azarenka, BLR

2. RUS Fed Cup Team
3. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
4. SRB Fed Cup Team
5. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
6. Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
7. Sesil Karatantcheva, BUL
8. Sofia Arvidsson, SWE
9. Evgeniya Rodina, RUS
10. Urszula Radwanska, POL
HM- Nicole Vaidisova, CZE

1. Kristina Schmiedlova, SVK
2. Bianca Andreescu, CAN
3. Paula Badosa Gibert, ESP

4. Vera Lapko, BLR
5. Manca Pislak, SLO
HM- Olga Fridman, UKR

1. Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
2. Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
3. Olga Govortsova, BLR

4. Daria Gavrilova, AUS
5. Sofia Kvatsabaia, GEO
6. Magda Linette, POL
7. Margarita Gasparyan, RUS
8. Julia Terziyska, BUL
9. Amanda Carreras, GBR
10. Carina Witthoeft, GER
11. Laura Pous-Tio, ESP
12. Lou Brouleau, FRA
13. Anne Schaefer, GER
14. Anastasia Pribylova, RUS
15. Tatjana Maria, GER
16. CiCi Bellis, USA
17. Andreea Mitu, ROU
18. Diana Buzean, ROU
19. Marie Benoit, FRA
20. Marcela Zacarius, MEX
HM- Jang Su-Jeong, KOR

1. Petra Kvitova, CZE
2. Genie Bouchard, CAN
3. Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
4. ITA Fed Cup Team
5. Angelique Kerber, GER
6. SVK Fed Cup Team
7. Donna Vekic, CRO
8. Sloane Stephens, USA
9. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
10. Alize Cornet, FRA
11. Aga Radwanska, POL

12. CHN Fed Cup Team
13. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
14. Peng Shuai, CHN
15. Martina Hingis/Flavia Penentta, SUI/ITA
16. Luksika Kumkhum, THA
17. Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
18. Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ
19. BEL Fed Cup Team
20. Klara Koukalova, CZE
HM- Elena Vesnina, RUS


1. Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic, FRA FC
2. Veronica Cepede Royg/Montserrat Gonzalez, PAR FC
3. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
4. Caroline Garcia, FRA
5. Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic, HUN/FRA
6. Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears, USA/USA
7. Julia Goerges/Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER/GER
8. Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan, TPE/TPE
9. Lyudmyla Kichenok/Nadaii Kichenok, UKR/UKR
10. Jocelyn Rae/Anna Smith, GBR FC
11. Shuko Aoyama, JPN
12. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
13. Caroline Garcia/Katerina Srebotnik, FRA/SLO
14. Rebecca Peterson/Ysaline Bonaventure, SWE/BEL
15. Lara Arruabarrena/Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP/ESP

"I felt the expectation that everyone was waiting for me to win. I didn't play my best but she was very good. She has a beautiful future." - Simona Halep, after being soundly defeated by Spain's Garbine Muguruza in Romania during Fed Cup play

1. Andrea Petkovic, GEr
2. Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
3. Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
4. Aleksandra Krunic, SRB
5. Maria Sharapova, RUS

6. Venus Williams, USA
7. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
8. Veronica Cepede Royg/Montserrat Gonzalez, PAR
9. Olga Govortsova, BLR
10. Arantxa Rus, NED
11. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
12. Misaki Doi, JPN
13. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
14. Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
15. Anett Kontaveit, EST
HM- Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR & Garbine Muguruza, ESP

"I was either going to be a genius or a nonsense Captain! I took the decision to play Kristina because I knew she had the game to beat Errani. We knew the tactics and she was able to deliver on the court, which is always the toughest thing to do." - French Fed Cup Captain Amelie Mauresmo, whose Day 2 shake-up of the Pastry roster pecking order sparked an historic comeback from a 0-2 Day 1 deficit against Italy


#1 - Andrea Petkovic leads Germany past Australia and back to the Fed Cup semifinals, saving a match point and winning a 12-10 3rd set vs. Samantha Stosur, then clinching the tie by taking an 8-6 3rd set vs. Jarmila Gajdosova
#2 - Amelie & Co. evict Team Italia. The French overcome a 0-2 deficit against the Italians in the 1st Round of Fed Cup. On clay. In Italy. With Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia (both 1-0 in singles on Day 2, with Kiki making her FC singles debut) winning the deciding match against the previously-undefeated-in-FC-action world's #1 doubles team of Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci. That's all, folks.
#3 - Days after her Fed Cup heroics, Petkovic saves eight MP vs. Alison Van Uytvanck in Antwerp, then knocks off Dominika Cibulkova and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova before winning the title via a walkover in the final and returning to the Top 10

#4 - Serbian Good Luck Charm Aleksandra Krunic, holding down the #1 singles slot after being ridiculously relegated to mop-up (or no) duty in recent FC outings, leads Serbia out of Europe/Africa Zone play as the team ends a Fed Cup losing streak that began after Serbia's win in the 2012 semifinals
#5 - Lucie Safarova wins her biggest career title in Doha, taking down three current Top 20 players (Makarova, Petkovic & CSN), an ex-world #1 (Azarenka) and another former slam champ (Stosur)
#6 - Simona Halep wins the first big Premier event of 2015 in Dubai, overcoming her own expectation and stress-related issues -- and a few shaky moments -- to win her Australian Open QF rematch with Ekaterina Makarova, as well as matches against Caroline Wozniacki and Karolina Pliskova to win her second title of the season
#7 - Sara Errani saves three match points in the QF round, then goes on to win career title #8 in Rio
#8 - Daniela Hantuchova saves two match points in a semifinal, then goes on to win career title #7 in Pattaya City, her first with new coach Carlos Rodriguez
#9 - Timea Bacsinszky wins in Acapulco, claiming her first tour singles title since 2009 after considering giving up the game due to injuries two years ago

#10 - The Czech "B"-Team (or maybe "C"-Team, if not for early-season workhorse Karolina Pliskova, a curve-altering "A-" all on her own in her FC singles debut), beginning a defense of the 2014 Fed Cup title, sweeps the Bouchard-less Canadians in Montreal to add another chapter to a growing (into-a-monster?) FC legacy as they'll next play in a seventh straight semifinal and seek a fourth FC title in five years

"Maybe I'm like a good wine -- with time, I'm better!" - Timea Bacsinszky, after winning the Acapulco title

[Best Performance - Most "Sesil-like"]
Sesil Karatantcheva, representing her native Bulgaria again after a five-year stint as a Kazakh, reaches her second career WTA singles semifinal in Acapulco... and she does so as a lucky loser. Naturally.

[Best Performance - Belgian Barbie-Out-of-the-Blue Edition]

Antwerp tournament director Kim Clijsters, after Carla Suarez-Navarro's neck injury prevented her from playing the final, squared off in a one set exhibition against new champion Andrea Petkovic. Looking much like her old self, she defeated Petkovic 5-3... and then went about literally tearing down the tournament before shutting out the lights.

Your move, La Petit Taureau?

[Best Fed Cup Save]
Venus Williams going 2-0 in Fed Cup play vs. Argentina, bailing out U.S. Captain Mary Joe Fernandez from making another decision-making blunder -- including non-claycourter Coco Vandeweghe on the roster for a road tie on clay, then not having a legit back-up plan when Serena Williams' illness prevented her from playing her match on Sunday -- that could have cost another FC tie win for the Americans after questionable roster moves and game day changes by MJF led to two defeats on U.S. soil in 2014 and 1-3 skid since '13. If Williams had lost her match, the tie would have gone to the deciding doubles, where Venus would have likely had to play with little rest. Even if it had turned out all right for the Bannerettes, if it had come down to a one-match showdown before a partisan crowd in Argentina it would have been more than a little embarrassing considering the comparative "historic weight" of the roster of the two teams, and the suddenly-very-deep pool of U.S. talent from which Fernandez can now conceivably pull together a roster.

[Best Tantrum]
Petko in Dubai

[Best Post-Match Q&A]
Venus Williams converts match point. Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova winces as she walks to the net, obviously with all sorts of choice words streaming through her mind, then gives a rather transparent "look" of disapproval to Venus.

Venus: "Was that look for something?"
BZS: "No."
Venus: "All right, good."

[Best Fed Cup Captain]
Amelie Mauresmo. Really, any questions about who should win this one EVERY time should probably be put to rest about now.

[Best Russian Revolution Reunion]
All together for the first time since they claimed three grand slams in 2004, Russian FC Captain Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova showed that the old Russian magic isn't yet a thing of the past as the Hordettes righted their recently-flagging FC ship and advanced to the semifinals.

"I was tired. I was sweaty. I was dead." - Alize Cornet, after defeating Kirsten Flipkens in Dubai

Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Andrea Petkovic/GER d. Samantha Stosur/AUS
Fed Cup is Petko Time. With Germany down 1-0 to the Aussies, Petko pulled the tie back from the brink in a 3:16 match in which she saved a match point at 5-4 in what turned out to be a 22-game 3rd set. Stosur led 14-5 in aces, 61-56 in winners and had fewer (35/43) unforced errors than Petkovic. But the German led 147-137 in points, taking the match on the back of forcing 23 more errors from Stosur.

Dubai 1st Rd. - Alize Cornet d. Kirsten Flipkens
Alize was, well, even more Alize than usual. Cornet won the first six games of the match, as well as the last six. In between in the 3:11 match, the Pastry limped, fell, yelled, argued and made a few bad decisions (including not challenging a bad line call that gave Flipkens a set point in the 2nd). But she erased her bad Fed Cup Day 1 memories with a win the only way she knows how -- by putting on a "death-defying" show.

Europe/Africa I Zone RR - Jocelyn Rae/Anna Smith (GBR) d. Olga Savchuk/Elina Svitolina (UKR)
With the final E/A round robin tie wrapped up with back-to-back singles win, Rae & Smith needed to just win one set in order to distance the Brits from Turkey and advance to the promotional playoff. But after getting to within two points of doing so at 5-5 in the 1st set tie-break they dropped the set and soon found themselves down match point at 7-6/5-4, 40/30. They saved things on a crazy match point that included great defense from Smith and a stretching overhead backhand volley, then went on to edge out the Ukrainian pair.

Antwerp 2nd Rd. - Andrea Petkovic d. Alison Van Uytvanck
On the heels of her FC triumph, Petko led 5-2 and held two set points in the 1st against the Waffle, only to lose it. The German won a 19-point game at 5-6 in the 2nd to force a tie-break, then saved eight match points there before winning the TB and forcing a 3rd. After going up 4-0, Petkovic finally put the match away on her own fourth MP and went on to take the title.

Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Andrea Petkovic/GER d. Jarmila Gajdosova/AUS
Petko's win over Stosur got the headlines, but this win clinched Germany's return to the FC semifinals and Petkovic had to come back from a break down to win another extended 3rd set to do it.
Fed Cup II 1st Rd. - Irina-Camelia Begu/Monica Niculescu (ROU) d. Garbine Muguruza/Anabel Medina-Garrigues (ESP)
Playing without regular doubles partner Carla Suarez-Navarro, Muguruza wasn't able to win a third match on the weekend and lead the Spaniards to a thrilling, Romanian tennis nation-deflating win over the Swarmettes in Galati. So, Romania's trip down the path to FC semifinal/final contention in 2016-17 continues without a detour... barely.

Fed Cup Europe/Africa I Zone RR - Aleksandra Krunic/SRB d. Timea Babos/HUN
The Serbian Good Luck Charm lives up to her nickname. Again. The smallest player on the court always has the biggest heart when Krunic is around. She came back from a break down in the 3rd to defeat Hungary's Babos in Budapest to lock away advancement to the promotional playoff, which the Serbs swept as Krunic again provided the clinching point. Shame on the Serbian Federation if Krunic doesn't have a role in every FC tie for as long as she desires to take part for at least the next five years.
Fed Cup Americas Zone I RR - Veronica Cepede Royg/Montserrat Gonzalez (PAR) d. Victoria Rodriguez/Marcela Zacarius (MEX) 6-3/3-6/6-3
Fed Cup Americas Zone I Promotional Playoff - Veronica Cepede Royg/Montserrat Gonzalez (PAR) d. Paula Cristina Goncalves/Teliana Pereira (BRA) 6-3/6-3
Paraguay's fate rested in the hands of doubles duo Cepede Royg & Gonzalez, who took down the Mexicans on their home soil in the deciding doubles match of the tie that determined the Pool winner. Then, against Brazil in the promotional playoff, they teamed to do it again and send Paraguay to the World Group II playoffs.

Has the future of clay court tennis been found, courtesy of Paola Suarez?

*COMEBACK, Kiki... and Sesil and CiCi and Vika, etc.*

Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Kristina Mladenovic/FRA d. Sara Errani/ITA 6-4/6-3
Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Caroline Garcia/FRA d. Camila Giorgi 4-6/6-0/6-2
Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Garcia/Mladenovic (FRA) d. Errani/Vinci 6-1/6-2
the Pastries' historic comeback in FC 1st Round play, handing Team Italia the first-ever World Group home team loss after leading 2-0 after Day 1. Captain Amelie Mauresmo replaced Alize Cornet (0-1 on Day 1) with Mladenovic, who made her FC singles debut a successful one, then Garcia staged a sterling comeback against Giorgi in a match interrupted by attempts to repair a shoddy clay court that was SUPPOSED to be an advantage for the Italians. Perhaps unnerved by the whole deal, Errani/Vinci were quickly run out of the deciding doubles in their first career FC doubles loss as the French team pulled off what had seemed an impossible task just a few hours earlier. Of course, as we should know by now, nothing is "impossible" if master motivator/roster manipulator Mauresmo is pulling the strings. Next up in the semis for France: the champion Czech team in front of a partisan crowd in Ostrava, likely with Petra, Lucie and maybe even Karolina on hand. It seems like a tough ask for Amelie & Co. So I guess that means they'll be handing out baguettes in the final?
Rio QF - Sara Errani d. Beatriz Haddad Maia
...3-6/7-6(2)/3-0 ret.
Errani rebounded from her FC crash-out by overcoming a 6-3/5-3 deficit and saving three 2nd set match points against the Sao Paulo-born teenager, ultimately outlasting her when she was forced to retire due to the cramping brought on by the length of the match in the South American heat. Haddad had been trying to become just the second Brazilian in twenty-five years to reach a WTA singles semi. Errani went on to win the title.
Acapulco QF - Sesil Karatantcheva d. Monica Puig
Lucky loser Sesil lost a 4-0 2nd set lead and saw Puig hold a match point at 6-5. Up 6-3 in the tie-breaker, Karatantcheva was forced to save a third MP before finally forcing a 3rd set and going on to reach her second career tour singles semi.
$25K Surprise 2nd Rd. - CiCi Bellis d. Susanne Celik
...1-6/7-6(6)/2-2 default.
Bellis pulled herself out of 6-1/5-1 hole against the Swede, saving multiple match points and forcing a 3rd set. It was a good move, considering a frustrated Celik was ultimately defaulted mid-way through the final set when she slammed a ball that then bounced into the next court and hit the umpire in the face. Oops.

Doha 2nd Rd. - Venus Williams d. Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova
Venus served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd, but had to save a match point at 6-5. With the help of some questionable calls, Venus prevailed... then shut down a perturbed BZS when she halfheartedly (for a Czech as feisty as she) attempted to challenge Williams' "good fortune" at the net following the match.

Doha 2nd Rd. - Andrea Petkovic d. Zarina Diyas
After losing to Diyas in a match that contained a Petko tantrum and "gummy legs" syndrome after her big weeks in Stuttgart and Antwerp, Petko comes back from a break down three times in the 3rd set to take out the Kazakh.
Fed Cup Europe/Africa I RR - Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL
In her first FC action since 2011, and after being without her equipment all week when her luggage went missing and the news went public about coach Sam Sumyk leaving her for a paid position in Genie's Army, Vika overcomes Pironkova's 3-0 3rd set advantage thanks to the Bulgarian's missed volleys up 4-3/deuce and 5-6/15-15. Days later, Azarenka clinched Belarus' win in the promotional playoff with her second win in the green-and-red since winning two medals at the '12 Olympics.

Pattaya QF - Marina Erakovic d. Vera Zvonareva
The Russian held a MP at 6-5 in the 2nd set TB, then two more at 5-4 in the 3rd.
Pattaya SF - Daniela Hantuchova d. Marina Erakovic
What the Tennis Gods giveth the Kiwi, they took a way a round later. Erakovic was the one holding match points (2 at 5-4 in the 3rd set) this time around, as Hantuchova survived the eight-break deciding set and won the title a day later.
Fed Cup Asia/Oceania I RR - Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ d. Peangtarn Plipuech/THA 6-7(3)/7-5/6-2
Fed Cup Asia/Oceania I Promotional Playoff - Kurumi Nara/JPN d. Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ 2-6/7-6(4)/6-2
Shvedova, a Top 25 player a little over two years ago, is always a dangerous carnival ride come Fed Cup time, and things usually end in disaster. After upset losses to Luksika Kumkhum the last two years, the Kazakh avoided another defeat at the hands of an unheralded Thai player in round robin action, saving two MP vs. world #493 Plipuech. But in the promotional playoff, Shvedova's demons came home to roost once again, as she failed to convert her own MP against Nara and dropped a three-setter to add another disappointing chapter to Kazakhstan's FC history.
Dubai 1st Rd. - Flavia Pennetta d. Julia Goerges
It wasn't easy, but Pennetta finally got her first singles win of '15 after saving four match points down 6-2/5-2 against Goerges.

Hmmm, speaking of (maybe?) comebacks...

*IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T "SUCCEED"... well, just give up*
Asia/Oceania I Zone #3/#4 Playoff - Korea d. China
Maybe the Chinese should just send a few table tennis stars to play Fed Cup, because the tennis federation doesn't seem to care much about it. Rarely do top Chinese players play when FC weeks roll around, though the squad was as good as it's been in years for this season's February zone play. Wang Qiang held up her end, but top singles and doubles player Peng Shuai, on the roster, never played singles and only took to the court in one (meaningless, as the tie had already been decided) doubles match in round robin play. But nothing "topped" what happened in the placement playoff match with Korea. After Wang opened things with a victory, Zheng Saisai retired four games into the second match. Rather than play Peng or Zhang Shuai in the deciding doubles match with Wang, China offered up a walkover and lost the tie 2-1 despite winning fourteen of the twenty games played. After reaching the 2008 semifinals in the year of the Beijing Olympics, China is now barely in the Top 30 in the FC nation rankings and hasn't advanced at any level of FC play since 2012.

*TO WIN IS GOOD... but to upset is divine*
Europe/Africa I Zone - Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR d. Elina Svitolina/UKR 6-3/4-6/6-0
Europe/Africa I Zone - Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR d. Heather Watson 6-3/3-6/7-5
the Turkish Fed Cup team failed to pull a shocker and advance to the E/A I promotional playoff, but an upset round robin win over Great Britain was nearly the tipping point feat that did the deed. Still, Buyukakcay was a star, knocking off #36 Svitolina and #38 Watson on back-to-back days for the two biggest wins of her career.
Acapulco Q1 - Makoto Ninomiya d. Kimiko Date-Krumm
...6-7(6)/6-2 ret.
The 20-year old Ninomiya, at #624 the 36th-ranked woman from Japan, outlasted her retiring (but only in this match!) 44-year old countrywoman KDK (at #106, still the third-best in Japan).
Antwerp 2nd Rd. - Mona Barthel d. Genie Bouchard
No, not a tremendous upset, especially since the German has often been at her best at indoor events. But Bouchard was the #1 seed here and playing her first match with new coach Sam Sumyk.

Vika has reason to feel good as March arrives.

On Caro Corner...

Wozniacki displayed a cool new Twitter profile... well, profile.

Went sandboarding in the desert...

And was a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue model...

Meanwhile, back in California, Nicole Gibbs gave a subtle/inadvertent submission to the 2016 SI swimsuit issue editors...

**By the Numbers...**
0-4... Victoria Azarenka's record vs. Venus Williams before her win over her in the Doha semifinals
0-5... Carla Suarez-Navarro's record vs. Petra Kvitova before her wins in back-to-back weeks over the Czech in Dubai and Doha
0-6... Lucie Safarova's record vs. Victoria Azarenka before defeating her in the Doha final
2 & 2... ITF singles and doubles titles won in '15 by Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in her first two tournaments back after having retired in May 2013 due to ongoing injuries and illness. Sevastova is a combined 17-0 this season, and hasn't lost a match since March 2013.
3... number of days Vika Azarenka's luggage -- along with all her tennis gear -- was lost before it finally arrived in Budapest for Belarus' Fed Cup Europe/Africa I zone competition. Azarenka missed her Day 1 match as a result of the delay, but Belarus still managed to advance.
7 & 1... number of times a team has come back from 0-2 down to win in Fed Cup World Group play as France did vs. Italy in February. And the number of times under such circumstances in which the home squad -- as Italy was -- was on the losing end of such a come-from-ahead defeat.
17-1... the career record in ITF finals -- 7-1 singles, 8-0 doubles -- of 17-year old Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, the '14 Wimbledon junior champ who won her biggest career pro title (a $50K challenger) in February
17-2... Venus Williams' career Fed Cup singles record. Her last singles defeat came in 2005 against current Russian FC Captain Anastasia Myskina.

19-1... the combined singles/doubles '15 junior record of Canadian Bianca Andreescu
18-0 & 6-0... Roberta Vinci's career Fed Cup doubles record, and her mark with Sara Errani, before the Italians lost the deciding match against Garcia/Mladenovic to complete Italy's collapse from 2-0 up vs. France in the 1st Round
2001... the last time Serena Williams played in Indian Wells, a tournament boycott -- which she is set to end in March
2009... the last time a Swiss woman won a WTA singles title before Timea Bacsinszky's title in Acapulco. Bacsinszky was the player who won that title in 2009, as well.
2012... season in which Francesca Schiavone notched her most recent Top 10 win before she defeated Angelique Kerber in February
2012... Team Serbia's last successful Fed Cup weekend -- in the '12 semifinals -- before the Aleksandra Krunic-led squad advanced out of Europe/Africa I zone play in Budapest

But, of course, even after all that, the show continues to go on...

Even if home remains where the collective heart is.

So stay tuned for more.

All for now.


Blogger jo shum said...

sometimes i wonder about tennis news nowadays, apparently serena's hitting partner is now moving to vika's team and made headlines. it's a good move though i think by the way.

Thu Mar 05, 01:28:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I think Sascha is probably the ONLY hitting partner who'd make the news. ;)

Serena's always given him a lot of credit over the years, and he's been one of the few non-family members who moved into the Williams inner circle -- and has been there for so long. Just because of that, there is a newsworthy quality to it all. He didn't go with her to Melbourne, though, and things went "okay" for her there. :)

It's a good move for Vika, though. Can't help but make her practices even more productive.

Thu Mar 05, 03:33:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

So, Kvitova is out of Indian Wells citing exhaustion. After playing four matches over the last five weeks, it should be noted.

Good Petra. Bad Petra. Eyebrow-raising Petra.

Thu Mar 05, 05:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Seriously, maybe the funniest report I've seen in years: Marcelo Rios is trying to get his Australian Open final loss to Petr Korda overturned on a doping violation, and have the title awarded to him. Sure, Korda was suspended later that year after failing a drug test. Rios served six weeks at #1 later that season, but never won a major title in his career.

But the final in question was in 1998.

So, it didn't cross his mind to maybe bring this up earlier?

Thu Mar 05, 11:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I don't understand this Hsieh/Mirza business...wouldn't which side you play on be one of the first matters you discuss when deciding to be partners?

Fri Mar 06, 06:29:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Has Esther Lee left the Williams camp? I've seen conflicting reports.

And WOW...Patrick really has had a big impact on Serena...her consistency...her team... perhaps helping to hone her desire into real results... and who knows how much he helps with her nerves.

Fri Mar 06, 06:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Hey, this is Marcelo Rios you're talking about--no amount of crazy is unexpected!

Fri Mar 06, 09:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I wonder if the simple fact that they haven't actually won anything yet is the real reason?

Ha! So true! Maybe he stumbled upon that old final one afternoon on YouTube and thought, "That skinny guy had to have been on something." Then looked a little closer and, said, "Hey, that other guy looks like me!" The rest is history. Literally.

Sat Mar 07, 12:25:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I saw the highlights from Vaidosova/Ivanovic...WOW, Nicole seems a lot calmer now...and her ground strokes are still beautiful...lots of power.

Her serve isn't as good as before...and her reactions aren't fast enough yet...

I think the thing that caught her off guard was Ivanovic's use of angles. I feel like the top women use angles and the short game a lot more now than when Vaidisova was playing...so she's going to need to adjust/add that to her game as well.

It's good to have her back.

Sat Mar 07, 10:35:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I know it's a bit premature...but maybe there will be 5 Czechs in the top 20 soon... :)

Sat Mar 07, 10:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I can't help but think that she could have been on tour this whole time...just think of all of those rivalries from the Eastern European girls born in '87-90...


(shout outs to cibulkova, lisicki)

Sat Mar 07, 10:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I never enjoyed Vaidisova; there was something so dreary about her. The temper tantrums, though inappropriate (and not all tantrums are, imo), at least indicated that she was present.

When she retired, one of her friends said that Nicole had absolutely no aptitude or feel for competition (kind of like Andrea Jaeger). She's older now and has undoubtedly changed--we all do--yet I wonder if--this time around--when I see her, will I see someone in there?

Sat Mar 07, 10:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Yea I agree...we never really "knew" Vaidisova...she was too young before...and her camp protected her a lot (or maybe protected us from her)...I just loved her game though. And I was always waiting for her to break through.

I "met" her once at Cincy...when she was only Mrs. Stepanek. People in the audience still recognized her...she just had an aura about her. I was babysitting a cute 7yo at the event and I shamelessly used him to get her autograph. :)

I hope that she has found more of herself now...I mean I feel like people don't go through a divorce...and then decide to partake in a comeback if they haven't come to *some* realizations about themselves... I don't know if she's the type to share her feelings though.

Sat Mar 07, 11:12:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

23 titles and the last on the international womens day and for the 8th straight year with a title - congrats to Caroline Wozniacki. It was a good "warm up" to Indian Wells. We saw a player with better serves - 7 in one of the sets alone - better deep strokes, better line play and a very consistent performance. Well that's how I saw the week. And I saw a Roumanian player who is extremely well playing flying a bit under the radar - Doulgheru. Hsieh is also a good player who had some injuries last year but is back,

Sun Mar 08, 04:43:00 PM EDT  

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