Monday, March 30, 2015

Wk.12- Your-ami + My-ami = Our-ami

Yep, it's Miami...

Where the fans are always right...

But one looks like he might have been a little scared by CiCi Bellis' career prospects...

Well, either that or he just couldn't get Heather Watson's outfit out of his head...

Or maybe that was just me? Oh, well.

Anyway, meanwhile...

Before Miami: Serena was holding up a wall in Vogue


A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

Miami: Milos Raonic's hair was secretly planning a hostile takeover of his entire body

After Miami: The Radwanska is looking for any way back inside Aga's head. Maybe It's succeeding, too. I mean, how else can you explain that it took her so long to utter the word "cheesecake" while answering this question?

Before Miami: Madison Keys was the top NewGen hope for the Bannerettes
Miami: Keys lost rather decisively to the former top NewGen hope for the Bannerettes, Sloane Stephens

After Miami: Maybe the best way to get to the future in one piece is to not think so much about it?

Hmmm... past, Current and Future Sloane all in one? Maybe she's onto something...

Serve Em Up ??

A photo posted by Sloane Stephens (@sloanestephens) on

Before Miami: Simona Halep's hopes were looking way up after her Indian Wells triumph. In fact, she may have even inadvertently made a Parisian "prediction."

Miami: But, as Petko says, if you say it you spray it. Believe me, I know.

After Miami: Thinking big again is great, but make sure you walk before you gallop

Before Miami: The week began as a Swiss Miss X 2 production

Miami: And as each day went by, nothing changed

After Miami: As the second week begins, BOTH Martina Hingis and Belinda Bencic are still in the draw. Hey, speaking of the Swiss...
Before Miami: Timea Bacsinszky decided to take a rest and skip Miami
Miami: You didn't think I was going to go a whole week without talking about Timea, did you?

After Miami: Hey, I figure if she can hold onto her Mexican adventures for as long as possible, then all's good here, as well...


As for the rest, you know, ON the court...

RISERS: Daria Gavrilova/AUS-RUS & Andrea Petkovic/GER

...Maria Sharapova must have Miami on her figurative "You-know-what List" by now. The Russian is already 0-5 in Miami finals, and this year she was ousted by a Russian/Australian (depending on whether the tournament is a regular tour event or a slam) who was given a wild card into the main draw. 21-year old Gavrilova is Moscow-born, but is now an Aussie in every way except for her official WTA standing. The 2010 U.S. Open girls champ and former junior #1 had been climbing up the ranks even before her star-turn in Miami. Under the coaching eye of Nicole Pratt, she's put up a '15 win over Belinda Bencic and locked away two $50K challenger titles. In Indian Wells, eventual champ Simona Halep began her title run by staving off a very game Gavrilova in a three-set win in her opening match of the tournament. The Aussie arrived in Florida at a career-best #97, then advanced when Marina Erakovic retired in their opening round match-up. Gavrilova's straight sets win over #2 Sharapova in the 2nd Round is her first career victory over a Top 10 player (she has the same number of career slam main draw wins), and she's already backed it up with a win over Kurumi Nara to set up a 4th Round meeting with Karolina Pliskova. Petkovic arrived in Miami having gone just 2-3 since her fabulous two-week turn as a Fed Cup star and Antwerp champ in early February. Possibly finally mentally and physically settled from all that intense activity, the German has won two matches over Christina McHale and Kristina Mladenovic, dropping a total of six games, and will next face Ekaterina Makarova in the Round of 16. The German might not last until next weekend, but she certainly seems to be rounding into the sort of form that might allow her to peak next week when she begins the defense of her Charleston crown. Who knows, maybe this year she'll not only get the chance to "do the Petko," but also the Charleston.

SURPRISE: Tatjana Maria/GER
...the 27-year old German gave birth to her daughter Charlotte in December '13 (the baby shower was planned by some of her Miami neighbors, named Venus and Serena), but the former world #64 (2009) had arguably her best-ever on-court moment last week in Miami. As the #113-ranked player on tour, Maria made her way through qualifying, then became the Last Maria Standing after taking out Roberta Vinci and Genie Bouchard in the main draw. The win over the #7-ranked Bouchard gave Maria (formerly Malek) her first Top 10 win since February 2010, when she upset Li Na in Kuala Lumpur. Maria lost in the 3rd Round to Belinda Bencic.

VETERANS: Flavia Pennetta/ITA & Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
...Pennetta simply shines the brightest on U.S. hard courts. The 2013 U.S. Open semifinalist and 2014 Indian Wells champ righted her '15 season ship last week with a QF run in her return to the desert that very well could have been even better (she held match points for the SF). The Italian survived a few dangerously emotional moments in I.W, but it's been dangerous opponents she's been outrunning in Miami. She came back from a set down to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova, then struggled but survived in a 7-6/7-6 win over Vika Azarenka on Sunday. She's into the Round of 16, with I.W. champ Simona Halep up next. Kuznetsova won the Miami title in '06, but one never knows which version of the Russian you're going to get on a given day. So far, we've been treated to a good Sveta. Wins over Alison Riske and Angelique Kerber, the latter via a "perfectly Sveta" 6-3/3-6/6-3 scoreline, has set up an intriguing 4th Rounder against Serena Williams. Well, it might be an intriguing match-up. Or not. It depends on which Sveta shows up... and how long she sticks around before being replaced by her evil twin. We'll see.

COMEBACKS: Sloane Stephens/USA & Sara Errani/ITA
...what Stephens started in Indian Wells she has carried over to Miami. The comeback aura of her 4th Round result in the desert has now been bolstered by another (so far) Round of 16 run in south Florida. Wins over Yanina Wickmayer, Madison Keys (strike one great big blow in favor of the AO semifinalist from TWO years ago) and Johanna Larsson, all without dropping a set while also looking to be a bit more in control of the take-it-or-leave-it on-court attitude that has sometimes made it appear as if she doesn't really care all that much over the past twenty-six months. Meanwhile, a week after the break-up of their doubles partnership, Errani and Roberta Vinci had very different experiences in Miami. Vinci lost in the 1st Round to qualifier Tatjana Maria, while Errani -- not playing doubles at all in the event -- put up very nice wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and hard-hitting Garbine Muguruza, coming back from a set down to avoid an "upset" (as least as far as their rankings go) by the Spaniard.
FRESH FACES: CiCi Bellis/USA & Marcela Zacarius/MEX
...Bellis is STILL just 15, but she's continued to knock down career milestones since she grabbed so many headlines last summer with her 1st Round upset of Dominika Cibulkova at the U.S. Open. The Bannerette, the current junior #1, has won crowns in singles (3) and doubles (1) on the ITF circuit since she left New York, and was given a wild card into the Miami main draw, her first appearance at the WTA level since the Open. The world #211 opened with a win over Indy De Vroome (the 18-year old recently reached the Round of 16 in Antwerp, where she lost to, oddly enough, Cibulkova), then followed up with a 2 & 1 upset of #29 seed Zarina Diyas, the same Kazakh that ended Bellis' NYC run in the 2nd Round. Her Miami journey ended quickly -- and emphatically -- against Serena Williams in the 3rd Round, but on a tour where the "breakthrough age" has steadily risen in recent seasons, the flashes that Bellis has shown over the past year are surely significant tremors that could lead to something bigger down the line.

In the $10K challenger in Metepec, Mexico, 21-year old Zacarius claimed her eighth career circuit singles title with a win in the final over 31-year old Brazilian Maria-Fernanda Alves, who was attempting to win her twenty-fourth (she grabbed her first in '00, but hasn't won any since '13). Zacarius and Victoria Rodriguez lost in the doubles final to Alves and Bannerette Kaitlyn Christian, the former USC doubles All-American who won a rare "triple crown" of NCAA majors with partner Sabrina Santamaria during the Trojans' 2012-13 season, winning the university's first NCAA women's championship crown.
DOWN: Donna Vekic/CRO, Maria Sharapova/RUS, Madison Keys/USA & Genie Bouchard/CAN
...oh, where to begin? Well, let's try at the start. Literally. In the first round of Miami qualifying, Vekic (the current world #85, but in virtual free fall since winning the Kuala Lumpur title last April) lost to 16-year old Ingrid Neel (#765), who'd never played a singles match at a WTA event. Vekic took a total of three games off the Bannerette, dropping her to 8-22 since the Croat won her only tour singles title last spring. The loss to Neel is Vekic's seventh to a player ranked outside the Top 100 over the span.

In the main draw, Sharapova (0-5 in Miami finals) put up her second consecutive un-Sharapovian effort. After allowing a match to slip away against Flavia Pennetta in I.W., the Russian was never really the best player on the court in her 2nd Round match against 21-year old Russian-Australian Daria Gavrilova, who admitted to seeing Sharapova as an idol since watching her at Wimbledon when she was 12. Sharapova lost in straight sets in her opponent's first career Top 10 victory. Since reaching the Australian Open final, Sharapova has been forced to withdraw from the Acapulco semis with a viral illness, and then didn't quite seem herself in Indian Wells or Miami. One suspects a possible injury (maybe a leg, which would heal in time for her EuroClay push... but hopefully not something a bit higher on her torso, which would be more troublesome) might be at least a partial cause. Either way, while she had a shot at the #1 ranking late last season, she might not be able to hold onto her current #2 slot for long if she's unable to be in top form for the dirt, where she's really kicked her season into high gear in recent campaigns.

Meanwhile, also in the 2nd Round in Florida, Keys looked very much like so many young players who have a huge slam result and then have a hard time living up to it. In just her third match since her AO semifinal run, Keys was sometimes an emotional and frustrated mess in the windy conditions against Sloane Stephens, who knows a little about having a hard time dealing with new expectations. Stephens won a never-close match, allowing Keys to implode before finally collecting herself (at least for a game that got her on the board) after falling down 5-0 in the 2nd set of her straight sets loss. Keys seemed to have collected herself after the match, but make no mistake that she now understands it won't be as easy as she sometimes made it look in Melbourne.

And, last but not least, Bouchard once again went down in flames in Miami as she proved that unless she's feeling confident in her physical condition she'd probably just be better off staying home. After being ousted in Indian Wells after suffering an abdominal injury that severely hampered her serve, the Canadian was sent out in her first match against world #113 Tatjana Maria in a 6-0/7-6 defeat. It was Bouchard's worst loss since losing to #113 Shelby Rogers in the debacle that was her return home to Montreal last summer, when the Quebec native was also nursing an injury AND dropped the 1st (and 3rd) set at love. The last time Bouchard lost a match to a player ranked lower than Maria or Rogers was in Eastbourne qualifying in 2013, when she was knocked off by #187 Yuliya Beygelzimer. Current #7 Bouchard was ranked #67 at the time.

ITF PLAYERS: Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS & Katerina Stewart/USA
...on opposite sides of the globe, teenagers ruled the ITF courts. In the $50K Blossom Cup in Quanzhou, China it was 2014 Australian Open girls champ Kulichkova, 18, who grabbed the biggest title of her career. The #6 seed, the Hordette claimed her sixth career title with wins over #2-seeded Magda Linette, Rika Ozaki and '14 Wimbledon junior champ Jelena Ostapenko in a 6-1/5-7/7-5 final. Kulichkova defeated Ostapenko in a three-set QF match in Melbourne en route to her crown there two years ago. Meanwhile, in the $25K challenger in Palm Harbor, Florida, 17-year old Stewart qualified and then knocked off Anhelina Kalinina, Mandy Minella, Alexa Glatch and Allie Kiick to reach her sixth final since last March. In the final, she took down #1-seeded Maryna Zanevska when the Ukrainian retired down 2-0 in the 3rd, claiming her fifth career title and her first $25K championship. Stewart is one of nineteen players tied for the circuit lead with two challenger singles titles this season.

JUNIOR STARS: Ingrid Neel/USA, Paula Badosa Gibert/ESP & Priscilla Hon/AUS
...a bevy of achievers. 16-year old Neel is the #50-ranked junior and had never played a singles match at any tour-level event before she made her debut in the Miami qualifying rounds. As it turned out, the world #765 notched a Q1 win over world #85 (and a tour title winner less than a year ago) Donna Vekic, despite having never even FACED a player ranked higher than #245 in her young career. Neel won a $10K challenger in Amelia Island, Florida last September, and has picked up a pair of $10K doubles crowns this season.

Junior #17 (WTA #419) Badosa, 17, received a wild card into the Miami main draw and quickly said hello by grabbing the first win of her WTA career, putting up her first-ever Top 100 victory with an upset of #89 Petra Cetkovska, then followed up with an even bigger win over #75 Zheng Saisai. Badosa lost to #14 Karolina Pliskova (7-5/6-1, after erasing an early 4-1 deficit in the 1st) in the 3rd Round, but she seems to be leading the next wave of Spanish players arriving on tour after the recent rise of Garbine Muguruza. Vamos!

In the $15K challenger in Morningston, Australia it was 15-year old Aussie Hon (girls #78) who swept the singles and doubles titles in her first appearances in a pro final in either discipline. Hon, who made her grand slam debut with a main draw WC in Melbourne in January, claimed the singles crown with a 5-7/6-3/7-6(4) victory in the final over Poland's Sandra Zaniewska. She won the doubles with Tammi Patterson.
DOUBLES: Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic (HUN/FRA)
...after being quite possibly the most coveted -- and available -- doubles partner the last couple of seasons, Kiki Mladenovic seems to have finally settled on a "regular" teaming with longtime friend Babos. The Pastry has teamed with the Hungarian in all six of the women's doubles competitions she's entered in '15. They won their first title together in Dubai in February, and their 2-0 record so far in Miami puts them at 9-4 for the season. But, as was the case in the events in which they were paired last year, their results are decidedly hit and miss. In 2014, they reached three finals and a semi, but lost in the 1st Round in their other four events. This year, the title run and another semifinal have been paired with two defeats in the 1st Round and another in the 2nd. They've already barely escaped an early exit in Miami, saving match point in their 1st Rounder and winning in a 13-11 match tie-break. A larger sample size in '15 will surely produce more good-to-great results, though, and could lead to both women being ranked in the year-end doubles Top 10 if they live up to their vast potential as a duo. At the moment, Mladenovic is at #14, while Babos comes in at #18.

Meanwhile, Petra...

And Dinara (obviously not anywhere along a very long stretch of the U.S. east coast... trust me):

[Miami Week 1]
1. Miami 2nd Rd. - Gavrilova d. Sharapova
"I'm just so excited, I'm so happy, I can't explain it," Gavrilova said. "I always believed and that's probably why I won." The win over the world #2, of course, is the biggest of her career... and from here on out she can only best the result by one.

2. Miami 2nd Rd. - Stephens d. Keys
Has the Bannerette hot potato been passed BACK, at least temporarily?

3. Miami 2nd Rd. - Maria d. Bouchard
This isn't the Maria that Bouchard is used to losing to.

4. Miami 1st Rd. - Brengle d. Krunic
Hmmm... the first signs of the Spring of Brengle? Meanwhile, Krunic has been hovering around her career-best ranking (#75, now #77) for weeks, but she's currently riding a four-match losing streak and is 1-4 since her heroic Fed Cup week in February.
5. Miami Q1 - Zhu d. Schiavone
Ouch, ooch, ouch. A walk over hot coals for Francesca. On the bright side, this was 21-year old, #112-ranked Zhu's fourth Top 100 win this season.
6. Miami 1st Rd. - Vaidisova d. Babos 6-1/7-6(4)
Miami 2nd Rd. - Halep d. Vaidisova 6-4/2-6/6-1
slowly, but (maybe) surely, Vaidisova's name is edging back into the fringes of a few conversations. The win over Babos was the Czech's first MD WTA victory in her comeback, and the set she took off Halep was a step forward from her straight sets loss to AnaIvo in Indian Wells.

7. Miami 1st Rd. - Pavlyuchekova d. Zvonareva
Meanwhile, in other comeback news. Zvonareva led 4-1 in the 3rd, but the double-break lead wasn't enough to outlast her fellow Hordette. Naturally, Anastasia then went on to lose her next match. Sigh.
8. Miami 2nd Rd. - Azarenka d. Jankovic
The week started well for Vika, as she posted her fifth Top 20 win of the season over I.W. runner-up Jankovic. But the signs of trouble were there, as JJ was 0-of-13 on break point chances in the match, including 0-for-7 in the final game of the match. Azarenka finally won on her seventh match point.

9. Miami 3rd Rd. - Pennetta d. Azarenka
Vika's demons came home to roost against Flavia. Pennetta served at 5-3 in the 1st and held a set point, only to see Azarenka soon after serve for the set at 6-5. She couldn't close it out, though, and the Italian took the tie-break on her third SP. Pennetta again led 5-3 in the 2nd, and served at 5-4. Vika forced a tie-break, where Pennetta led 5-4, serving two. Azarenka knotted things up at 6-6, but she couldn't totally reverse the course of things on the afternoon. But she COULD murder a racket quite effectively, though. Good thing "Dexter" is no longer on the air, I guess.

10. Miami 3rd Rd. - Lisicki d. Ivanovic
After her semifinal run in Indian Wells, Lisicki has caught the wind again. She closed out Ivanovic in straight sets after coming back from 4-1 down in the 2nd, and will next get Errani with an eye on Serena in the QF.
HM- $10K Heraklion Final - Maria Sakkari d. Anastasiya Komardina
The 19-year old from Greece has won her fifth career title. She reached eight challenger finals in '14, but this was her first in the new season.

Flavia may have gotten the best of Vika, but Vika got the best of Sascha...

Ummm, the same can't be said about her attempt at a high-five with John Isner, though.

Very high ? with @JohnIsner #kidsday #MiamiOpen

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

1. Miami 2nd Rd. - Aga Radwanska d. Anna Schmiedlova 6-4/7-5
Miami 2nd Rd. - Venus Williams d. Ula Radwanska 6-3/6-2
"The Real Sister Wars of Miami-Dade County."
2. Miami 3rd Rd. - Venus Williams d. Samantha Stosur
Venus led 6-3/5-1 and served for the match three times. But she held off the Kuznetsova Curs-... err, I mean the Aussie in the tie-break to advance to yet another match-up with the Dane. Said Venus of playing near her Palm Beach Garden home, "I'm definitely in my own back yard -- I love it here and I'm not going anywhere else." Meanwhile, Venus threw her proverbial hat into the ring for "outfit of the tournament":

Although, as usual, Elina Svitolina made a valiant effort to contend:

3. Miami 3rd Rd. - Serena Williams d. Bellis
The 15-year old had a good run in Miami, but -- hardly shockingly -- that ended against the seven-time Miami champ.

HM- Miami 1st Rd. - Babos/Mladenovic d. Date-Krumm/Karolina Pliskova
...6-2/6-7(5) [13-11].
KDK/Pliskova forced the match tie-break after taking the 2nd on their eighth set point, then took a 4-1 lead and held a match point at 11-10.


On Caro Corner... the Dane maintains a sense a humor.

Makes an early bid for a 2016 Grammy nomination in the BEST POP VOCAL (DUET) category...

Finally found a guy who understands me ??

A video posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

And takes part in an Instagram "Flashback Friday"... though her actions DO sort of beg the question, "Is it a true flashback post when you've never stopped posting the flashback images since, you know, back when they were NEW? I'm just wonderin'.


A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

1991 Monica Seles (L-W)
1994 Steffi Graf (W-W)
1996 Steffi Graf (W-W)
1999 Serena Williams (W-L)
2000 Lindsay Davenport (W-L)
2000 Martina Hingis (L-W)
2005 Kim Clijsters (W-W)
2006 Maria Sharapova (W-L)
2012 Maria Sharapova (L-L)
2013 Maria Sharapova (W-L)
Note: '15 I.W. champ Halep still alive in Miami draw

[as of March 30]
371 weeks...Aga Radwanska
344 weeks...Caroline Wozniacki
233 weeks...Maria Sharapova
217 weeks...Petra Kvitova
184 weeks...Serena Williams
164 weeks...Ana Ivanovic
162 weeks...Angelique Kerber
146 weeks...Sara Errani
97 weeks...Carla Suarez-Navarro
82 weeks...Simona Halep
61 weeks...Genie Bouchard
42 weeks...Andrea Petkovic
38 weeks...Ekaterina Makarova
38 weeks...Lucie Safarova
33 weeks...Venus Williams
9 weeks...Madison Keys
7 weeks...Karolina Pliskova
5 weeks...Peng Shuai
2 weeks...Jelena Jankovic
2 weeks...Garbine Muguruza

Meanwhile, the birthdays just keep comin'...

But the words in this mid-Miami post don't. So...

And all points north, south, east and west.

All for now.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Doubles semifinal set: Hingis/Mirza vs. Babos/Mladenovic. A let's-see-where-we-are moment for both duos.

Also, there's still a chance for a Hingis/Mirza vs. Hsieh/Pennetta all-former partners final, which would be, umm, interesting. Of couse, no matter the result, just the match-up would prove that everyone made the right decision in the end. Eventually.

Tue Mar 31, 03:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, not anymore. Niculescu/Panova saved a MP and took out Hsieh/Pennetta...

Tue Mar 31, 06:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Wow what a popcorn match. The quality of play is so high. The *pace* of play is very fast. Both women are so fit.

Halep isn't playing badly. Serena is playing unbelievable. She isn't letting Halep dictate play.

Thu Apr 02, 10:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

That's the problem with getting Serena's attention by beating her. She's usually ready, willing and able forever after when that player is on the other side of the net. At that point, with her respect/alertness at such a high level, it's a bear to take her down again. See Maria, Sloane, etc.

Really, only Vika, at her peak, seemed to be able to contend with Serena under such circumstances for a period of time a few seasons ago. Of course, that scenario between the two might never be duplicated again, though.

Thu Apr 02, 10:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Geez, the final is going to feel a bit anticlimactic after that, isn't it?

Thu Apr 02, 11:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I think what I'm loving about Halep this year is that she really did what she said she would do. She told the world she wouldn't let any matches go anymore...and so far she hasn't.

I also really like her attitude. She just loves to play. It's not just about winning. It's about being her best.

Other points:
Her focus is unbelievable. She's also really fast on the courts.

Fri Apr 03, 02:00:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home