Wk.24- The Grass is Greener on Angie's Side of the Net
The careers of Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova have certain things in common, but the German took advantage of the opportunity presented by their meeting in the Birmingham final to (barely) stay a step ahead of the Czech. For now.
This spring, both Kerber and Pliskova threw their proverbial hats into the "Queen of Clay" race with singles titles on the dirt, but neither was able to last past the 3rd Round in Paris. Not only that, both woman similar history when it comes to putting up very good results, only to often come up just short of making them "great."
Pliskova has led or been near the top of the WTA in all sorts of categories -- from aces to final appearances to match wins -- over the last two seasons, but her big serve, calm on-court demeanor and crisply clean, winners-laden game have yet to produce the sort of slam breakthrough that is by now a prerequisite for a Czech player to be judged to have officially "arrived" (ask Lucie). The lanky Pliskova, 23, has never reached a slam Round of 16, though she sometimes looks like she might have the game to WIN one at any moment, and this season had had a hard time just putting away titles after winning two in the final stages of 2014. She'd lost two of her three '15 finals coming into Birmingham (playing a great match vs. Petra Kvitova in Sydney, only to lose in straight sets in a pair of tie-breaks), even while surely still looking like a player who could begin to win more often. A lot more.
Meanwhile, the 27-year old Kerber is a two-time slam semifinalist (U.S./Wimb.) who came into 2015 with her own difficulties with winning actual titles. She'd won just one of nine finals over a 26-month stretch heading into the season, and with a career-high rank of #5 she's the active-and-still-a-threat player who's risen the highest without having taken the next step of reaching a slam final (other "non-retired" players have climbed higher without a major final -- #3 Petrova, #4 Dokic -- while other active players -- #4 KDK, #5 Hantuchova -- technically have been equally or higher-ranked than Kerber, but they'll really no longer legit slam threats at this point).
When the two met in the Birmingham final, a Top 10 ranking was on the line -- Kerber to hold onto hers, Pliskova to become the latest Czech to climb so high -- as they were both the first players this season to reach finals on three different surfaces. Both had chances to pull ahead during the match. In the 1st, Kerber failed to secure her lead (4 SP), and Pliskova took the set. But she couldn't hold it, and Kerber was soon in position to win the title, but then SHE couldn't put it away despite serving up 5-4. In the championship-deciding tie-break, though, it was the German who strung together a winning finish, taking the final three points to pull away from a mid-TB 4-4 tie. The win keeps Kerber ahead of Pliskova in the rankings, at least for now.
Pliskova has now played in more finals in 2015 than any other woman, and more in the last two seasons than anyone not named Serena Williams. But she's still on the outside looking in at a Top 10 -- Top 8, really, considering her overall, non-slam numbers -- that truly SHOULD include her. Maybe she need only to look at Kerber to see that being close doesn't mean that she's fated to always lag ever-so-slightly behind.
Kerber hasn't quite pulled EVERYTHING together this season. She's been great at times, but also uncharacteristically inconsistent at others. And then there was that Fed Cup tie... sigh. She's still yet to reach a slam final, too. But while Pliskova is 1-3 in WTA finals this year, the German is 3-0, tied for the very best on tour, and her first grass court win gives her a Career Surface Slam -- titles on hard, red clay, green clay and grass -- after winning just six titles.
Quite a change from the thumbnail sketch of her career just a few months ago. And maybe a sign that another late-twentysomething WTA star is stirring, and about to hit her career peak.
*WEEK 24 CHAMPIONS*
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND (Premier $731K/Grass)
S: Angelique Kerber/GER def. Karolina Pliskova/CZE 6-7(5)/6-3/7-6(4)
D: Garbine Muguruza/Carla Suarez-Navarro (ESP/ESP) d. Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) 6-4/6-4
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Angelique Kerber/GER
...whatever Kerber has done to quell some of the demons that have held her back in big moments previously in her career, she should keep doing it. The same player who entered this season with a career 3-9 mark in finals, including 0-4 in 2014 and 1-8 since right before she reached the Wimbledon SF in 2012, is now 3-0 in such matches this year (only Serena Williams and Simona Halep have matched the feat) after grabbing her first career grass title in Birmingham. And that undefeated-in-finals run hasn't been a cakewalk, either. In Stuttgart, she knocked off Maria Sharapova and charged back in the 3rd set against Caroline Wozniacki (who was two points from the title) in the final. She defeated Madison Keys to win Charleston. In Birmingham, "all" she did was take out Tsvetana Pironkova (on grass, 'nuff said), Jelena Jankovic (a former event champ, and finalist in '12), Katerina Siniakova (the Czech can play on the green stuff... I mean, she's Czech, after all) and Sabine Lisicki (the preeminant Top 20 player whose performance quality improves exponentially just due to the sight of grass beneath her feet). In the final, Kerber struggled with the lead. She had a 5-3 advantage in the 1st, and held four set points, but Karolina Pliskova won it. Rather than allow her anger to pull her down, as has sometimes happened in the past, the consistent-but-not-traditionally-spectacular Kerber charged back to take the 2nd and put herself in good position once more in the 3rd. Again, after serving at 5-4, the German was made to work longer, eventually breaking free of a 4-4 tie in the deciding tie-break and winning the final three points of the match, holding both her service points to close things out. The win prevented Pliskova from overtaking her in the Top 10, and Kerber heads to Wimbledon with her confidence high. And, hey, as great a history as Czechs have at the AELTC, the exploits of German players over the last few decades aren't too "shabby" there, either.
RISERS: Karolina Pliskova/CZE & Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...Pliskova continues to lead the tour in many areas (her Birmingham final gives her a tour-best four in '15, and her nine in the last two seasons is behind only Serena's ten), but come up just short in others. Her wins over Johanna Konta, Zarina Diyas, Carla Suarez-Navarro and Kristina Mladenovic gave her the chance to add her first grass court title to the four she's already won in her career on hard court and clay. Playing for her first berth in the Top 10 on Monday, Pliskova survived Angelique Kerber's four set points in the 1st to take the opening stanza, then saw the 3rd go into a tie-break after the German failed to hold onto her lead in the final set, as well. It still wasn't enough, as Pliskova dropped to 1-3 in '15 finals. Also, the Czech, even with her big serve, is just 2-7 in the ten tie-break sets she's played in her ten career finals, including going 1-4 in such TB this season. You'd think her serve and ability to hit winners would mean a tie-break would benefit her, but that just hasn't been the case. Meanwhile, Mladenovic's recent surge (Strasbourg final, win over Bouchard in Paris) continued in Birmingham. She put up victories over Alison Riske (on grass, even more impressive), Genie Bouchard (again, this time with a love 3rd), Barbora Strycova (the '14 runner-up) and #1-seeded Simona Halep to reach the semifinals. The win over Halep makes Mladenovic the only player in '15 to notch two victories over a tournament's #1 seed (def. Muguruza in Marrakech) -- she also advanced in a walkover past #1 Keys in Stuttgart -- but it looks like she'll just miss out on achieving a new career-high in singles, as she'll likely come in at #37, one off the high of #36 she attained in 2013.
SURPRISE: Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
...ah, The Bracelet. After serving as the Serbian Good Luck Charm for Fed Cup in 2015, Krunic has had difficulty finding time -- or, should I say, success? -- elsewhere. She came into Birmingham qualifying with a 3-0 FC singles mark, but with just a 9-11 record otherwise. After notching her first career grass court win against a Brit (Who, you ask? Why, that'd be Askew, that's who.), then knocked off Nicole Gibbs to reach the main draw. A win over Heather Watson followed before losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova. In Eastbourne this weekend, Krunic was back at it again. Last year's surprise U.S. Open star (4th Round), Krunic put up a Q-round win over Tereza Smitkova, who reached the Wimbledon Round of 16 last year, before losing out in quick fashion to Polona Hercog on Sunday.
VETERANS: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK & Klara Koukalova/CZE
...by this point in the season, it's easy to forget that Hantuchova's results in 2015 -- her first season with Carlos Rodriguez as coach -- included grabbing a title in Pattaya in Week 6. She arrived in Birmingham with not much good having happened since. She was 10-12 on the season, with eight straight losses. She'd gone 2-10 since her title run, and her ranking dropped to #77 from #64 since the start of the year. But the Slovak has always been a good grass court player. She reached the Wimbledon QF in just her seventh career slam in 2002, and matched the result at her next two majors. After that 3-in-8 slam QF run, she's had final eight results in just two of her last forty-seven slams. But Hantuchova won the Birmingham title in 2013, and this past week she had wins over Irina-Camelia Begu, Marina Erakovic and Michelle Larcher de Brito to reach the QF, easily her best outing since Pattaya. She'll now again be a legitimate "dangerous floater" in London, where the now 32-year old first made her mark. Of course, she'll likely ultimately disappoint when it comes to living up to that sort of thing... but still. And, of course, there was also Koukalova. With "CZE" next to her name, you're sort of conditioned to expect SOMETHING from her on grass -- you think maybe they inject babies with liquid grass fertilizer over there? -- and she delivered. After qualifying with wins over Louisa Chirico (the USTA has no power here) and Saisai Zheng, Koukalova got wins over former Nottingham champ Coco Vandeweghe and Caroline Garcia before going out to #1 seed Simona Halep.
COMEBACK: Sabine Lisicki/GER
...we KNOW that Sabine likes to play on grass, and her results in Birmingham showed just much of a weapon her serve is on the surface. After coming in with just a 12-14 record on the season, Lisicki reached her second tour SF (Indian Wells) this year. In her opening match against Belinda Bencic, the German set a WTA record with 27 aces, and barely missed on a serve that would have tied the 131-mph serve record she set last season. She also put up victories over Magdalena Rybarikova and Daniela Hantuchova, running her record to 32-8 in her last nine grass events since 2011 (a run which has included one title, a runner-up, two semis and three QF).
FRESH FACES: Katerina Siniakova/CZE & Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
...19-year old Siniakova is keeping up the Czech tradition of being adept at grass court tennis. In Birmingham, she took out the likes of Kurumi Nara, Andrea Petkovic and Christina McHale to reach her first career grass court quarterfinal. It won't be her last, by a long shot. Meanwhile, Larcher de Brito -- hardly a "Fresh Face," but still only 22 after making her debut as a 14-year old -- has proven in recent years that on the grass is where her game produces its best results. Two years ago, she upset Maria Sharapova as part of "The Radwanskian Massacre" at Wimbledon. She's reached the 3rd Round at SW19 the last two years, and she's 5-4 in MD matches at the AELTC for her career. The former Bollettieri Academy product came to Birmingham as the world #135 and had to go through qualifying. Wins over Yulia Putintseva and Irina Falconi were followed by a 1st Round defeat of Saisai Zheng, setting up a 2nd Round encounter with #2 seed Ana Ivanovic, the defending champ. The Portuguese woman came back from a 3-1 3rd set deficit, being down a break twice in the final stanza, and surviving the Serb serving for the match to record her second career Top 10 win (w/ Sharapova) and record four straight Top 100 wins for the first time in her career. She lost in the 3rd Round to Daniela Hantuchova, having faced off with the Slovak vet for the first time since they met in Larcher de Brito's first career WTA event in Miami in 2007 when she was just 14. Hopefully she won't have to wait another eight years for a shot at revenge... but I guess the Slovak will have more say in that than MLdB.
DOWN: Genie Bouchard/CAN & Ana Ivanovic/SRB
...the rocky road continued for Bouchard in Birmingham. Her opening match 2nd Round loss to Kristina Mladenovic makes the '14 Wimbledon finalist 1-10 in her last eleven matches. Once again, the Canadian went three sets in defeat, but only after winning the 1st and then eventually dropping the 3rd at love. She lost 2 & 3 in a 1st Round doubles match with Svetlana Kuznetsova, too. Meanwhile, coming off her first slam semifinal in seven years (which, by the way, I'd forgotten that I'd actually predicted for AnaIvo back in January -- so, score on that one!) in Paris, Ivanovic came to Birmingham as the #2 seed and defending champion... and then after talking about how happy she was to be back playing on the grass, the Serb lost her first match to Michelle Larcher de Brito. AnaIvo led 3-1 in the 3rd, twice held a break lead, and served for the match at 5-4. Granted, MLdB is a super-dangerous grass court player, but this sort of lack of a follow-up to a great result fits the typical pattern of Ivanovic for the last seven years. So... I'd say Ana's coaches, trainers and other hangers-on should probably keep a bag packed and ready for the order from on high to immediately vacate the premises. I'm just sayin'. History says it'll happen soon, and probably when they least expect it.
ITF PLAYER: Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER
...much like her countrywoman in Birmingham, Friedsam dropped the 1st set of her final in the $50K grass court challenger in Ilkley, UK but managed to take things to three and grab the title. The 21-year old world #97, who recently pushed Serena Williams to three sets in Paris, put up wins last week over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Paula Kania, Wang Qiang, Denisa Allertova (ret.) and Poland's Magda Linette in the final to win her fourteenth career ITF title. She's 10-0 in her last ten finals and will rise to #87 in the new rankings, within range of the career-high (#76) she attained last fall.
JUNIOR STARS: Marketa Vondrousova/CZE & Miriam Kolodziejova/Marketa Vondrosouva (CZE/CZE)
...world junior #1 Vondrousova, who'll turn 16 the day before Wimbledon swept the singles and doubles at her second straight ITF event, winning her second and third career crowns, respectively, and the biggest ones so far in the $15K in Prevov, Czech Republic. The unseeded Vondrousova took out the #7, #3 (Barbara Haas) and #6 (Ekaterina Alexandrova in the final) seeds en route. It's her third s/d sweep of either a junior or ITF event in 2015, as she won four titles in two events in May (in a Grade A jr. and a $10K challenger). She reached the singles semis at Roland Garros, and took the doubles title with Kolodziejova, with whom she won in Prerov this week. It's the Czech pair's second ITF title in back-to-back events, and they'll soon head to London in an attempt to win their third junior doubles slam title of 2015. No girls duo has ever completed a true Grand Slam.
DOUBLES: Garbine Muguruza/Carla Suarez-Navarro (ESP/ESP)
...this all-Spaniard pair is a potentially lethal doubles team, and sometimes their results bear out that fact. But, as with both players' singles results, sometimes they leave you wanting a bit more, as well. Surprisingly, their title run in Birmingham -- in which they defeated Kudryavtseva/Pavlyuchenkova, Chan/Zheng and Hlavackova/Hradecka in the final -- is just their SECOND as a duo, though this was their sixth final. While both Muguruza and CSN have proven to be adept singles players on multiple surfaces, this win means they've now won doubles titles on grass and hard court, but not clay. And they're Spaniards! Like I said, the trend with these two seems to include a whole lot of, "Whaaaaaat? Really?" moments when it comes to what their actual results are compared to what you THINK they are, or should be. But, hey, maybe this will be the stepping stone. If they both commit to Fed Cup next year, this combo could push Spain deep into the competition over the next two years, and maybe produce a final (or even a title).
1. Birmingham 2nd rd. - Larcher de Brito d. Ivanovic
...6-4/3-6/7-6(6). AnaIvo talked about loving her return to the grass this week, but that didn't prevent her Edgbaston title defense from going up in flames despite her twice being up a break in the 3rd set here, and serving for the match at 5-4. After saving two of Larcher de Brito's MP, the Serb double-faulted to deliver the win to the Portuguese.
Ana Ivanovic double-faulted at match point to hand Michelle Larcher De Brito a 6-4 3-6 7-6(6) victory in Birmingham. pic.twitter.com/N0aZwOyYNI— Tennis Photos (@tennis_photos) June 17, 2015
2. Birmingham 2nd Rd. - Lisicki d. Bencic
...6-1/7-6(4). The German added the total aces (27) record to the fastest recorded serve (131 mph) mark she set last year, but she was still lamenting narrowly missing out on tying that latter record in this match, too.
3. Birmingham QF - Mladenovic d. Halep
...2-6/6-0/7-6(4). Mladenovic failed to serve things out on her first try, but there was no stopping her adding to the top-seeded Romanian's string of disappointing recent exits. Halep had said her clay season results had come up short because was trying to employ a more aggressive style on a surface with which it didn't blend all that well. It was supposed to play out better on the grass, though. Ummm, not yet.
4. Birmingham 1st Rd. - Babos d. Vinci
...6-2/6-7(5)/7-6(5). The Italian led 4-2 in the 3rd, as well as 5-4 in the deciding tie-break. Vinci also lost in the 1st Round of Eastbourne on Sunday to Caroline Garcia.
5. Birmingham 1st Rd. - Pironkova d. Swan
...6-2/6-2. The British junior made her main draw tour debut, but had to face off with Pironkova. On grass. Obviously, the Tennis Gods were in an especially cheeky mood.
6. Birmingham 3rd Rd. - Siniakova d. Petkovic
...4-6/6-1/7-6(4). I'm thinking this one Petko reaction sort of tells the story of the day.
When your mom says you can't have any cookies before dinner pic.twitter.com/GDYwzCEZi2— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) June 16, 2015
7. Birmingham 2nd Rd. - Mladenovic d. Bouchard
Yup ?? https://t.co/c1W0PvZoW6— Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) June 19, 2015
8. Birmingham 2nd Rd. - Diyas walkover Azarenka
...with her foot again not at 100% (remember, similar issues hounded her '14 campaign), Vika pulled out and saved herself for Wimbledon. Or maybe for the upcoming North American swing? Hopefully, the precaution will prove beneficial, since all of Azarenka's progress in '15 has seemed to have been working toward setting her up for the late summer hard court stretch of the schedule. You'd hate to see that be compromised in any way, let alone jeopardized.
9. Birmingham 3rd Rd. - Suarez-Navarro d. Kuznetsova
...6-3/6-4. CSN's run ended a round later, but this victory means she's put up multiple victories at twelve of thirteen (missing out on at the AO) events in 2015.
Tras 17 meses de ausencia en el circuito... ¡Bienvenida de vuelta, Laura! pic.twitter.com/VBpUPFP1R9— TENNISTOPIC (@tennistopic_) June 20, 2015
10. Eastbourne Q1 - Gavrilova d. Robson
...6-0/6-1. It didn't last long (:58), but Robson's first match back after seventeen months out following wrist surgery means she's back (here and at Wimbledon, where she's been given a main draw WC). She only won one game, and twenty total points, but that's really beside the point right now. Hopefully she won't become the WTA's version of Juan Martin del Potro, who has once again announced ANOTHER (his third) wrist surgery.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came to Eastbourne to watch today. Meant the world to me. #onwardandupward— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) June 20, 2015
11. Minsk $25K Final - Darya Kasatkina d. Iryna Shymanovich
...6-1/6-1. The 18-year old Hordette takes out the 17-year old from Belarus, winning her fourth 2015 ITF title and running her career record in circuit singles finals to 6-0.
12. Grand-Baia $10K Final - Marie Bouzkova d. Lou Brouleau
...6-3/6-4. The 16-year old Czech, the 2014 U.S. Open girls champ, wins her second career ITF singles title, and also takes the doubles (w/ Rosalie van der Hoek) to complete her first title sweep at a professional event.
HM- Allianz Kundler German Juniors Grade 1 Final - Katharina Hobgarski d. Ioana Diana Pietroiu
...6-2/6-2. This is actually a clay event, so it might not mean anything in the Wimbledon juniors, but Hobgarski has been on quite a run lately. Currently the #26-ranked girl, the German has won thirteen of fourteen junior matches since May, winning two Grade 1 events and reaching the RG quarterfinals. She even turned 18 this week.
Heute feiert Katharina Hobgarski aus dem Porsche Talent Team Deutschland ihren 18. Geburtstag! Happy Birthday, Kathi! pic.twitter.com/CAggXShe6u— DeutscherTennisBund (@DTB_Tennis) June 18, 2015
It's open!! ?? Come join us at 94 High Street Wimbledon Village pic.twitter.com/mPlwFNzZOd— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) June 19, 2015
1. Birmingham Final - Kerber d. Karolina Pliskova
...6-7(5)/6-3/7-6(4). In a match-up of the only two women to reach finals on three different surfaces in 2015, Kerber dropped the 1st set after leading 5-3 and holding 4 SP. After putting herself in position to win again in the 3rd, she couldn't serve things out at 5-4. The win completes a full Career Surface Slam for the German, as she's now won titles on hard court, red clay, green clay and grass.
2. Birmingham 1st Rd. - Chan Yung-Jan/J.Zheng d. Dellacqua/Mirza
...6-4/6-2. Hingis took the week off. And, for the most part, so did Sania.
3. Sharm El-Shiekh $10K Final - Sara Tomic d. Wacanno
...6-4/6-1. The 17-year old Aussie, reaching her second career ITF final in as many weeks, claims her first pro title... and now has something to brag about to Bernie.
4. Nis $10K Final - Crespo Azconzabel/Gobbi Monllau d. Maryna Kolb/Nadiya Kolb
...6-1/6-2. The least known of the army of Ukrainian tennis sisters -- after the Bondarenkos, Kichenoks and Ianchuks --- fail to grab career circuit title #1.
5. Alkmaar $10K Final - Sally Peers/Zaniewska d. Anna Klasen/Charlotte Klasen
...6-3/6-4. One Aussie sister (w/ the help of a Pole) takes down two German sisters in one fell swoop.
**2015 WTA TITLES**
3...Serena Williams, USA
3...Simona Halep, ROU
3...ANGELIQUE KERBER, GER
2...Petra Kvitova, CZE
2...Maria Sharapova, RUS
2...Timea Bacsinszky. SUI
**2015 WTA FINALS**
4 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA (1-3)
3 - Serena Williams (3-0)
3 - Simona Halep (3-0)
3 - ANGELIQUE KERBER (3-0)
3 - Maria Sharapova (2-1)
3 - Timea Bacsinszky (2-1)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki (1-2)
3 - Carla Suarez-Navarro (0-2+L)
**2015 WTA TITLES - most surfaces**
3 - Angelque Kerber = Green Clay, Red Clay, Grass
2 - Petra Kvitova = Hard, Red Clay
2 - Maria Sharapova = Hard, Red Caly
2 - Serena Williams = Hard, Red Clay
**2015 FINALS ON MOST SURFACES**
3 - ANGELIQUE KERBER = Green Clay,Red Clay,Grass
3 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA = Hard,Red Clay,Grass
2 - Camila Giorgi = Hard,Grass
2 - Petra Kvitova = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Lucie Safarova = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Anna Schmiedlova = Red Clay,Hard
2 - Maria Sharapova = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Carla Suarez-Navarro = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Serena Williams = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Caroline Wozniacki = Hard,Red Clay
**CAREER TITLES LIST - active players, #15-30**
15. Flavia Pennetta, ITA (10)
16. Roberta Vinci, ITA (9)
17t. Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN (8)
17t. Sara Errani, ITA (8)
19t. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK (7)
19t. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (7)
19t. Samantha Stosur, AUS (7)
22t. Jelena Dokic, AUS (6)
22t. ANGELIQUE KERBER, GER (6)
22t. Maria Kirilenko, RUS (6)
22t. Andrea Petkovic, GER (6)
22t. Lucie Safarova, CZE (6)
22t. Francesca Schiavone, ITA (6)
22t. Nicole Vaidisova, CZE (6)
29t. Eleni Daniilidou, GRE (5)
29t. Shahar Peer, ISR (5)
**CZECHS IN WTA TOP 10, by year reached**
1975 Martina Navratilova
1980 Hana Mandlikova
1984 Helena Sukova
1989 Jana Novotna
2006 Nicole Vaidisova
2011 Petra Kvitova
2015 Lucie Safarova
#1 - Navratilova
#2 - Novotna
#2 - Kvitova *
#3 - Mandlikova
#4 - Sukova
#6 - Safarova *
#7 - Vaidisova *
NOTE: Ka.Pliskova is at #11
EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND (Premier $665.0K/Grass)
14 Final: Keys d. Kerber
14 Doubles Final: Chan/Chan d. Hingis/Pennetta
15 Top Seeds: Kvitova/Wozniacki
#1 Kvitova d. #3 Safarova
#12 Keys d. #2 Wozniacki
#1 Kvitova d. #12 Keys
...I can't escape the feeling that Petra probably won't win this title, especially since doing so would mean she's playing right up until the start of Wimbledon and it could compromise her chances to defend her title at SW19, and she'd be missing out on a week of practice on the AELTC lawns. But, then again, if Kvitova is "on" the only thing that might stop her in London would be named Serena, so of what importance there will this tournament be, anyway? So I'll go with the "chalky" Petra pick. I mean, what's gonna happen -- I might miss it? I've already gots LOADS of that sort of experience this year, as I'm barreling down the "worst picks year ever" highway as we near mid-season.
UPDATE: Kvitova pulled out on Monday due to illness (hmmm, any malevolent influence there?), so I guess I'll go with Safarova now. For what it's worth.
FED CUP AMERICAS II ZONE PLAY
NOTE: All the Wimbledon lead-up comes later this week, as well as a nod to the second annual commemoration of "The Radwanskian Massacre Day" on Friday the 26th, the actual date that is exactly two years beyond that dark day at SW19 in 2013. With Wimbledon now starting a week later, the official anniversary comes before the start of main draw action this year (though there will be Q-round matches taking place). So, The Radwanskian Massacre Day will have to be "observed" by Backspin on Day 3, the same day of the tournament where all the original carnage took place at the AELTC. Also, this Wimbledon marks the very first year in which The Radwanska Award will be presented. Whether it goes to the person, place, or thing that has a hand in an upset with seeming evil intent, a general cloud of doom that pervades because of some odd occurrence or something currently beyond our realm of thought -- be it on Day 3, or another -- is still to be determined. But I suspect we'll know it when we see it.
All for now.