Wk.20- The Power of Positive Thinking
The cursed Roland Garros Sunday start is only hours away. But there's still a whole week of WTA, ITF and junior action to recount. And while hardly anyone actually pays attention to these pre-slam events, they DO count.
*WEEK 20 CHAMPIONS*
STRASBOURG, FRANCE (Int'l $227K/RCO)
S: Samantha Stosur/AUS def. Kristina Mladenovic/FRA 3-6/6-2/6-3
D: Chuang Chia-Jung/Liang Chen (CHN/CHN) d. Nadiia Kichenok/Zheng Saisai (UKR/CHN) 4-6/6-4 [12-10]
NURNBERG, GERMANY (Int'l $227K/RCO)
S: Karin Knapp/ITA def. Roberta Vinci/ITA 7-6(5)/4-6/6-1
D: Chan Hao-Ching/Anabel Medina-Garrigues (TPE/ESP) d. Arruabarrena/Olaru (ESP/ROU) 6-4/7-6(5)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Samantha Stosur/AUS
...things are suddenly starting to come together again for Stosur. Likely not coincidentally, her surge has coincided with her reconnecting with former coach David Taylor a few weeks ago. After ending '14 on an 8-1 run with a title in Osaka, the Aussie began '15 at 6-10 before her recent improvement. Putting up multiple wins in two of her last three events, Strasbourg ended up providing her with a lot more. Not just career title #7 (her first on red clay) after a win over defending champ Monica Puig (love & 3) and back-to-back-to-back three-set victories against Ajla Tomljanovic, Sloane Stephens and Kristina Mladenovic, either. Better yet, she now heads to Paris with the power of positive thinking working in her favor again. And while most players are more than better off after getting a confidence boost, the sometimes-she-has-to-be-forced-to-believe Stosur has always seemed to need it a little more than most. She's traditionally done her best big stage work in Paris and New York... so maybe this is going to time out pretty well.
RISERS: Karin Knapp/ITA & Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...Knapp won't likely ever rise to the career heights of any of her more veteran Italian countrywomen, but the 27-year old notched her second tour singles title in the last nine months with her win on Saturday in Nurnberg. Victories over Antonia Lottner, Anna-Lena Friedsam, Yulia Putintseva and Lara Arruabarrena placed her into the tour's first all-Italian singles final since 2013 against Roberta Vinci. After winning the 1st set in tie-break, Knapp went on to take the match in three sets. She'll be up to #42 in the new rankings, within shouting distance of the career-high (#35) she reached back in 2008. In Strasbourg, Mladenovic, who recently climbed into the doubles Top 5, added her maiden singles final to her list of 2015 accomplishments. Wins over Pauline Parmentier and Alison Riske, then a QF walkover from Madison Keys and SF retirement from Virginie Razzano will allow her to push closer to returning to the Top 40 at #44. Kiki, who also reached the Marrakech semis on red clay earlier this spring, now heads to Paris, where she upset Li Na en route to the 3rd Round a year ago.
SURPRISES: Virginie Razzano/FRA & the NCAA champion Vanderbilt Women's Team
...32-year old Pastry Virginie Razzano made much noise three years ago when she received a wild card into Roland Garros, then upset Serena Williams in the 1st Round while being inspired by the memory of her fiance and former coach Stephane Vidal, who'd died of a brain tumor prior to RG one year earlier. Ranked #251 last week, she received another WC into Roland Garros, just as she did in order to play in the main draw in Strasbourg. As it turned out, it was a good move for the event... even if it does make any additional Parisian heroics from Razzano even less likely. After Mona Barthel retired from their 1st Round match, Razzano knocked off Francesca Schiavone and Elena Vesnina before retiring herself in the semifinals against Kristina Mladenovic. The SF run was her best since the same result in Carlsbad in 2013. She hasn't reached a final since 2009, her only Top 20 season. Still, it was quite a week. "It is something that will remain engraved in my memory," said Razzano. "I am really very happy of what I have done here."
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt was crowned the surprise NCAA Division I tennis champions last week. It's the first-ever title for the school. The Commodores were led by redshirt Freshman Astra Sharma of Australia, who pulled off a big singles win in the semifinals against Southern Cal's Chanelle Van Nguyen. Vanderbilt then went on to defeat the defending champion UCLA squad 4-2 in the women's team final.
VETERANS: Roberta Vinci/ITA & Maria Fernanda Alvarez-Teran/BOL
...Vinci, 32, has seen the bottom drop out of her singles ranking (and her #1-ranked doubles partnership break up, as well) since she opened 2014 in the Top 15. She managed to put together a pair of appearances in finals last season even while nearly falling out of the year-end Top 50 (#49), and added another this week after arriving in Nurnburg at #42. Wins over Vitalia Diatchenko, Tereza Smitkova and Kurumi Nara preceded a walkover from Angelique Kerber in the semis that presented Vinci with her thirteenth career final appearance. She lost in three sets to fellow Italian Karin Knapp, but her week will lift her back into the Top 40 as play begins in Paris. Meanwhile, 27-year old Bolivian Maria Fernandez Alvarez-Teran will play in the singles final of the $10K challenger in Antalya, Turkey against Brit Anna Brogan, seeking her first ITF crown since 2012. A consistent Top 350 player from 2008-13 and a winner of ten ITF titles, MFAT fell outside the Top 700 after missing the last half of last season. She entered last week ranked #1153.
COMEBACKS: Sloane Stephens/USA, Madalina Gojnea/ROU & Jessica Pieri/ITA
...sure, you'd like Stephens to NOT end EVERY tournament by dropping a set at love. But you take progress where you can get it with Current Sloane. And she did accomplish something last week in Strasbourg -- she reached her first tour singles semifinal in twenty-eight months. Yep... since she faced Vika Azarenka in the 2013 AO final four. Things have never really been the same for Stephens since then, and not in a good way. So this is just a small step, especially when you consider she needed a QF retirement from Jelena Jankovic to reach this week's semi. Still, Sloane should take her full match wins over Nadiia Kichenok and Coco Vandeweghe, as well as the first two sets of her loss to Samantha Stosur, and try to use them as motivation for Paris. She'll need it, since she faces Venus Williams in the 1st Round. Down a level, Romanian Gojnea -- one of the Original Swarmettes eight years ago, when she was ranked inside the Top 150 and climbing -- returned to pro tennis last week in the $10K Sibiu challenger after having retired at age 25 two years ago due to a number of injuries. After making it through qualifying, she's reached the final and will face off with Anna Bondar on Sunday in an attempt to win her first ITF singles title since 2010 (she's 12-4 in finals). Down still another level, junior Pieri reached the semis of the Grade A Milan girls singles this weekend. The 18-year old lost there to Charlotte Robillard-Millette, but only after knocking off Miriam Kolodziejova to become the first Italian girl to reach the final four at the event since 2010. Pieri has been dealing with injuries for a few seasons, namely a back ligament ailment that has lingered for over two years, that have prevented her from maintaining a consistent schedule. She's still not healthy, as she's talked about her pain during this week's run, but she's still managed to put up additional good results on both the junior (a recent Grade 1 final in Santa Croce) and challenger (a $10K singles semi in January) levels this season.
FRESH FACE: Yulia Putintseva/KAZ
...the 20-year old Kazakh, trying to climb back into the Top 100, make it through Nurnberg qualifying last weekend, then was on the winning end of #1-seeded Andrea Petkovic's 1st Round retirement. Putintseva then saved a match point and downed Kiki Bertens to reach her first tour QF since she put up the same result in Osaka last October.
DOWN: Madison Brengle/USA, Andrea Petkovic/GER & Jelena Jankovic/SRB
...the good news for Madison is that summer is the time for movie sequels. So, maybe she'll star in the WTA-produced "The Summer of Brengle III" soon. The original, remember, arrived last year in North America when the Bannerette's decade-long quest finally produced her first slam main draw victory. In January, during the Aussie summer ("The Summer of Brengle II: Madison Down Under"), Brengle reached her first tour singles final and then the Round of 16 in Melbourne. She's gone 12-11 since she reached the AO 4th Round, but the clay season hasn't been kind to her. Her 1st Round loss in Strasbourg to Ajla Tomljanovic gives Brengle five straight clay court losses. But, hey, it'll soon be summer again in North America. Since reaching back-to-back semis in Miami and Charleston, Petkovic has won just two matches, skipped Day 1 in Fed Cup semifinal action because of exhaustion, lost in a walkover in Madrid and retired with a thigh injury after losing the first five games in the 1st Round of Nurnburg against Yulia Putintseva. Jankovic's retirement after losing the 1st set of her Strasbourg QF match against Sloane Stephens gives the Serb her third retirement/walkover exit already this season. JJ, who fell out of the Top 20 at the start of the week, has been troubled by an ailing back since last season.
ITF PLAYER: Darya Kasatkina/RUS
...a year ago, the Hordette was two weeks away from winning the Roland Garros girls singles title. This weekend, the 18-year old won the $25K Caserta, Italy challenger, defeating 19-year old Turk Ipek Soylu in the final. Kasatkina is now 4-0 in career challenger singles finals, with three $25K titles.
JUNIOR STARS: Marketa Vondrousova/CZE & Marketa Vondrousova/CZE
...these two have have been the movers-and-shakers of the junior circuit in recent weeks. A week ago the #4-ranked Vondrousova, 15, swept the singles and doubles titles at $10K pro event; while #21 Robillard-Millette, 16, entered this past week having won back-to-back Grade 2 and Grade 1 girls events. In the Grade A event in Milan, both have advanced to the singles final. Voundrousova, the #2 seed, has defeated Michaela Gordon and Katherine Sebov en route, while #7-seed CRM extended her winning streak to fifteen matches with a win in the semis over Italian Jessica Pieri.
15 in a row for Robillard-Millette! She beats Pieri 7-6(3), 6-4 to reach her 3rd straight final at the Grade A Torfeo Bonfiglio. #CdnTennis— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) May 23, 2015
AO girls doubles champs Vondrousova and Miriam Kolodziejova have already locked away the Milan doubles crown.
DOUBLES: Chuang Chia-Jung/Liang Chen (CHN/CHN) & Chan Hao-Ching/Anabel Medina-Garrigues (TPE/ESP)
...in the week before Paris, most of the top duos sat things out, but there were quite a few doubles specialists who teamed up with uncommon partners to great success in Week 20. Nadiia Kichenok joined with Zheng Saisai to reach a final, while Raluca Olaru followed up her RU result in Nurnberg last year with Shahar Peer with the same result this time around with Lara Arruabarrena (who did double duty by also reaching the singles semis). But it was Chan Hao-Ching and Anabel Medina-Garrigues who were crowned champions in that Nurnberg event, as Chan won her sixth career title and added another '15 win to the title she won in Pattaya with her sister Yung-Jan, who was busy in RG qualifying (she lost in the final round). AMG, now a doubles-only player, claimed her second title of the season (Antwerp), and the 25th of her career. Strasbourg champs Chuang/Liang have won together before, taking a title in Guangzhou last September. It's Chuang's 22nd career crown, while Liang now has three (having gone 1-1 in previous '15 finals with Wang Yafan, including losing the Shenzhen championship match to BOTH Kichenok sisters in January).
You know it's a "Gibbsian moment" when you stop and think about it and suddenly see the logic...
I mean, she DID go to Stanford, after all.
1. Stras 2nd Rd. - Keys d. Lucic-Baroni
...4-6/7-6(3)/7-6(0). Hmmm, is this match a candidate for "Comeback of the Year," "Choke of the Year" or maybe both? Lucic-Baroni led Keys 6-4/5-0 in windy conditions, but was sent packing as Keys' Fed Cup '14 lesson about NO match EVER really being over until, you know, it actually IS once again came to the forefront. Even more spectacular than the blown lead, Lucic never managed to even hold a MP after taking that lead. She served for the match twice in the 2nd set, but the closest she got was within two points of victory on Keys' serve in game #6. At one point, Keys won 16 straight points and took the 2nd set TB 7-3. In the 3rd, Lucic served for the match for a third time at 5-4 (again coming within two points of the win), but failed to put it away there, as well. Ultimately, she lost the deciding TB 7-0. Of course, while this is an extreme example, Lucic's results have been more than wanting since she won her first title in sixteen years last September in Quebec City. She's gone just 7-14 since, with all but one loss coming this season.
2. Nurn Final - Knapp d. Vinci
...7-6(5)/4-6/6-1. This was the third all-nation final of 2015, but the first that didn't include a pair of Czech Maidens.
3. Nurn 2nd Rd. - Putintseva d. Bertens
...6-4/5-7/7-5. Bertens served up 5-2 in the 3rd set, holding a MP at 5-4.
4. Nurn 2nd Rd. - Arruabarrena d. Lisicki
...6-2/6-7(3)/7-6(3). Sabine sent the German fans home with disappointment on their minds. She served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd set.
5. Nurn 1st Rd. - Putintseva d. #1 Petkovic 5-0 ret.
Stras QF - Mladenovic walkover #1 Keys
Stras QF - Stephens d. #2 Jankovic 6-1 ret.
Nurn SF - Vinci walkover #2 Kerber
...predictably, any ailments the top seeds have while playing in an event the week before a slam usually results in an early exit. Hopefully, these will serve to be "precautionary" moves in order to maintain their viability in the draw in Paris. But at least in the case of Petko and JJ, who've been dealing with physical issues for a month or more now, this isn't an encouraging development for this summer.
6. Stras QF - Stosur d. Tomljanovic 6-4/3-6/6-1
Stras SF - Stosur d. Stephens 6-3/3-6/6-0
Stras Final - Stosur d. Mladenovic 3-6/6-2/6-3
...hopefully all the late-week work won't doom Stosur in the early rounds in Paris.
7. Stras SF - Mladenovic d. Razzano
...6-3/1-2 ret. Ditto for Razzano. But I'm guessing she probably wouldn't trade this past week for the next few days, though.
Nurnberg 1st Rd. - Doi d. Anna Schmiedlova
...6-2/6-1. Not exactly the best lead-in to Paris for Schmiedlova. At last year's Roland Garros, the Slovak upset Venus Williams in the 2nd Round.
**2015 OLDEST WTA CHAMPIONS**
34 - Venus Williams, USA (Auckland)
33 - Serena Williams, USA (Miami)
33 - Serena Williams, USA (Australian)
31 - Daniela Hantuchova, SVK (Pattaya City)
31 - SAMANTHA STOSUR, AUS (Strasbourg)
34 - Martina Hingis, SUI (4 doubles, 1 mixed)
33 - Abigail Spears, USA (Doha)
32 - Raquel Kops-Jones, USA (Doha)
32 - ANABEL MEDINA-GARRIGUES, ESP (Antwerp/Nurnburg)
32 - Arantxa Parra-Santonja, ESP (Antwerp)
**2015 NATIONS w/ MULTIPLE CHAMPIONS**
3...Czech Republic - Kvitova, Ka.Pliskova, Safarova
2...United States - S.Williams, V.Williams
2...Germany - Petkovic, Kerber
2...ITALY - Errani, Knapp
2...Slovak Repubic - Hantuchova, A.Schmiedlova
**2015 FIRST-TIME FINALISTS**
Hobart - Madison Brengle (#84, 24/USA - RU)
Pattaya - Ajla Tomljanovic (#68, 20/AUS-CRO - RU)
Rio - Anna Schmiedlova (#75, 20/SVK - RU)
Bogota - Teliana Pereira (#130, 26/BRA - W)
Strasbourg - Kristina Mladenovic (#54, 22/FRA - RU)
**ALL-TIME WTA TITLES - AUSTRALIANS**
92 - Margaret Court, 1968-76
68 - Evonne Goolagong, 1970-80
17 - Kerry Melville-Reid, 1968-79
15 - Dianne Fromholtz-Balestrat, 1973-79
9 - Wendy Turnbull, 1976-83
7 - SAMANTHA STOSUR, 2009-15
6 - Jelena Dokic, 2001-11
5 - Alicia Molik, 2003-05
**2015 WTA LOW-RANKED SEMIFINALISTS**
#251 VIRGINIE RAZZANO/FRA (Strasbourg)
#181 Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE (Kuala Lumpur)
#158 Sesil Karatantcheva/BUL (Acapulco)
#134 Mariana Duque/COL (Bogota)
#130 Teliana Pereira/BRA (Bogota champion)
#110 Lucie Hradecka/CZE (Charleston)
#105 Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL (Katowice)
**2015 WTA SF - BY NATION**
14 - United States
13 - Czech Republic
8 - Germany, Romania, Russia (w/ Gavrilova)
6 - Spain
5 - France, Italy
**RECENT NCAA WOMEN'S TEAM CHAMPIONS (Division I)**
[most team titles]
ROLAND GARROS; PARIS (GS/RCO)
14 Final: Sharapova d. Halep
14 Doubles Final: Hsieh/Peng d. Errani/Vinci
14 Mixed Final: Groenefeld/Rojer d. Goerges/Zimonjic
14 GS Final: Kasatkina d. Jorovic
14 GD Final: Ducu/Rosca d. Bellis/Vondrousova
14 WC Final: Kamiji d. Van Koot
14 WD Final: Kamiji/Whiley d. Griffioen/Van Koot
Meanwhile, go figure...
All for now.