Monday, August 17, 2015

Wk.32- Better Call Bencic

Let's be honest, come the end of the 2015 we'll be hard-pressed to find too many better overall performances than the one 18-year old Belinda Bencic pulled off this past week in Toronto.

The results during this summer's stint between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open has produced some "interesting" results that might be difficult to judge considering that many top players have taken the opportunity to have a brief rest before the final big stretch of the season heading into the fall. While Angelique Kerber's career season continued in Stanford a week ago, so far, we've also seen four first-time singles champions, four first-time finalists, a trio of match-ups of unseeded players in singles finals, a Brazilian become the first two-time champ from her nation in nearly thirty years and Top 25 player Jelena Jankovic step down and win a title on the WTA $125K Challenger Series.

All right, so anything "odd" or "different" when JJ's involved doesn't really count. But you get the idea.

For the record, world #20 Bencic was another of the unseeded champions that have dominated the summer. But there is no questioning this one. The New Swiss Miss is the real deal.

While the multiple junior slam titles, Molitor/Hingis coaching stamp of approval, U.S Open QF run and Wimbledon Round of 16 result before her 20th birthday should have already served notice, one need only to look at this week alone to peg the Swiss teen as one of THE faces to watch on tour. Heck, Serena Williams did just that earlier this week... and that was BEFORE she lost to her.

Consider, "all" Bencic did in Toronto was win the biggest title of her young career (title #2, following her win on the grass in Eastbourne) by running off a string of victories over players with more highlighted portions of their career resumes than years she's actually been on this earth. Just a few of the honors of the fallen:

* - Four are Top 10 players
* - Three are in the Top 5, and two in the Top 3
* - They've combined for 22 grand slam singles titles
* - Three others have reached slam singles finals
* - Three have been ranked #1

Her opening match three-set victory over Genie Bouchard was, by this point, to be expected, but Bencic only seemed to gain more and more confidence with each passing round. A 7-5/7-5 win over Caroline Wozniacki sent her barreling forward to a 3rd set tie-break victory over Sabine Lisicki (saving a MP) and a straight sets command performance against Ana Ivanovic. Facing off with world #1 Williams in an instant classic in the semis, Bencic became the youngest player to defeat her in a completed match since Maria Sharapova in 2004.

Bencic could barely believe it had happened, but she still had to face Simona Halep in the final. Oh, yeah... that.

One could have forgiven an unfocused performance from her so soon after her biggest career victory, but Bencic was anything but the typically aimless "day after" competitor. Instead, in a physically trying and emotional (not to mention sometimes contentious, though never personally with Halep) contest that might have gone either way with a more potentially-scattered player (you know who some of them are!) involved, Bencic continued to back up the growing notion that the WTA's next generation of slam winners are already beginning to make their mark. While Halep refused to give up, pushing things to a 3rd set despite looking as if she should be anywhere but a tennis court while dealing with injury, exhaustion and illness, Bencic didn't back down and allow her opponent's condition to distract her. After seeing the 2nd set slip away, the teen came out in the 3rd set and quickly established a 3-0 lead, forcing the Romanian to finally do the only sensible thing -- retire and live to fight another day, as Bencic prevailed 7-6(5)/6-7(4)/3-0. The first Swiss woman to win the Rogers Cup since Martina Hingis in 2000, she's now 6-1 vs. the Top 10 in 2015 alone, and will rise to #12 in the new rankings

It was a somewhat anticlimactic ending to the best week of her career, but one gets the notion that Bencic might have some even bigger things on the horizon.

I mean, if Serena says so, then it just HAS to happen, right?

S: Belinda Bencic/SUI def. Simona Halep/ROU 7-6(5)/6-7(4)/3-0 ret.
D: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE) d. Caroline Garcia/Katarina Srebotnik (FRA/SLO) 6-1/6-2

...a week after Sloane Stephens gave us a hint of Future Sloane, Bencic showed that Current Belinda might be even more intriguing heading into New York, where a "lesser" 17-year old New Swiss Miss has already reached the final eight.

Incidentally, I think the best blink-and-you-missed moment of the entire final (and there are generally a few possibilities in a Bencic match, considering the winning sideways glances, smirks and wry smiles that she tends to give when things are going well... or quite the opposite) might have been the look of total bewilderment on her face when it was announced during the trophy presentation ceremony that she'd moved into the #1 slot in the U.S. Open Series and could soon be playing for a million dollars in the Open? She was like, "Whaaaattt???"

Of course, in a purely evil way, I sort of enjoyed her on-court interview after her semifinal win over Serena, as well, when she was asked about playing for her "first WTA title" in the final. Bencic looked as if she wanted to say a bit more to the woman, but was kind and began her answer with, "I won one in Eastbourne..."

RISERS: Simona Halep/ROU & Lesia Tsurenko/UKR
...during a week in Toronto in which she experienced vocal (and well-traveled) Romanian support in the stands, Halep's return to action following her somewhat troubled 8-6 spring and early summer stint on clay and grass courts (which included 2nd and 1st Round exits in Paris and London) proved to be a case of the Swarmette finally seeming to find a sense of comfort on and off the court once again. Lighthearted, thoughtful and "back in business," she was up to her old problem-solving ways as she knocked off, in order, a not-a-bad-apple-in-the-bunch string of opponents that included Jelena Jankovic (Nanchang champ), Angelique Kerber (Stanford champ), the resurgent Aga Radwanska (for career win #300) and no-slouch Sara Errani to reach her tour-leading fourth hard court final of 2015, and her first of any kind since March. With her horde of "Si-mo-na"-chanting fans in the stands, Halep stubbornly refused to pack things in during the 2nd set of the final against Belinda Bencic, even while she was visibly dragging herself from point to point with a leg injury, exhaustion, illness and the nagging suspicion in her mind that, for her own good, she should probably start thinking about not overdoing things and damaging her chances in Flushing Meadows, Halep gave all that she had, then wisely called it a day three games into the 3rd set. After several instances earlier this year when the pressure to succeed and live up to the expectations of such vocal and nationwide support got the best of her, even with her retirement, Halep's week in Toronto managed to end on a high note. Maybe, just maybe, that will be enough to carry her through the next moment in a big event -- maybe even in just a few weeks -- when her legs get heavy and she is fighting herself and the moment as much as her opponent. Maybe what happened in an ultimately losing effort will give her the additional push to make possible her greatest victory ever. Maybe.

Meanwhile, Istanbul champ Tsurenko ran her winning streak to ten matches in Toronto before losing to Sara Errani in the QF. A qualifying run that included victories over Nicole Gibbs and Lara Arruabarrena was followed by wins over Yanina Wickmayer, Garbine Muguruza (the Ukrainian's third Top 10 win of '15) and Carina Witthoeft. She'll rise to a career-best #44 in the new rankings.


SURPRISES: Naomi Broady/GBR & Robin Anderson/USA the $25K challenger in Landisville, Pennsylvania that was THE site for comebacks this week, 25-year old Brit Broady grabbed her seventh career ITF crown with a 3rd set tie-break win in the final over Anderson. Broady had knocked off the #2 seed Shelby Rogers earlier in the week, adding to her good summertime results that have already included a semifinal in the Surbiton grasscourt challenger and a WTA level victory over Jarmila Gajdosova. It's summer in North America, so Anderson's success continues the trend of NCAA stars putting up good ITF results on the hard court circuit. 22-year old New Jersey native, UCLA Bruin and former NCAA women's #1 Anderson won the 2011 Landisville singles title before the start of her college career, and she returned there this past week as a pro with Laura Granville as her coach. After making it through qualifying, Anderson put up wins over #6-seed Mayo Hibi and #1 An-Sophie Mestach en route to her runner-up result.

VETERANS: Sara Errani/ITA & Roberta Vinci/ITA
...this surely isn't the first time the Italians have shared this award in this space, but in the past they've often been co-winners as a single doubles entity. This time, the honor is based on their own singles accomplishments at the Rogers Cup in Toronto... ironically, one season after they claimed the doubles title at the Montreal version of the event 53 weeks ago. Vinci reached the QF with wins over Karin Knapp, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and the on-fire Daria Gavrilova before losing to Serena. She DID play doubles, but lost in the 1st Round with Jelena Jankovic to Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro. Meanwhile, the always-underrated-on-hard-courts Errani put up her fifth SF-or-better result of '15 with a string of nice wins over Kristina Mladenovic (allowing just one game), Madison Brengle, Victoria Azarenka and Lesia Tsurenko (ending the Ukrainian's 10-match win streak) before falling in the semis to Halep. Errani reached the doubles QF with Flavia Pennetta, falling to Mattek-Sands/Safarova. Still, one expects Sara will be hearing the Simona-supporting Romanians in her dreams for at least a few additional days.

...welcome back, Vicky. More than a year after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, then nevertheless going on to qualify at Wimbledon and win a 1st Round match (she lost to Bencic in the 2nd Rd.), the cancer-free 19-year old Duval returned to action in the $25K challenger in Landisville, Pennsylvania. After notching victories over Sophie Chang and Ivana Jorovic (after being down 6-3/4-1 and saving a MP) to reach the QF, she withdrew for precautionary measures from her match with Naomi Broady. It still isn't confirmed that she'll receive a wild card into the U.S. Open, but if she's physically up for it, it's hard to see even the USTA being "out of it" enough to not hand one over to her. After all, Duval has handled the U.S. Open spotlight pretty well in the past, including in a night match with Kim Clijsters in '12 and pulling off a huge upset under the lights against Sam Stosur a year later.

Made it to Landisville! ????#TheGrindShallBegin #AfroGameIsKiller #CornFieldsForDays

A photo posted by Vicky Duval ?? (@vickyduvaaal) on

FRESH FACES: Daria Gavrilova/RUS-AUS & Carina Witthoeft/GER
...21-year old Gavrilova's elevator ride up the WTA rankings continues this week, as she'll lift her ranking to a career-best #36 on Monday after starting the season at #233. The Russian-Aussie reached the 3rd Round in Toronto, but her route there was more impressive than her final result as she took out Sam Stosur in straight sets off the veteran's Bad Gastein title and Washington semifinal runs, then staged a comeback from a set and 5-4 down with Lucie Safarova serving for the match to get an even bigger win over the Roland Garros finalist.

20-year old German Witthoeft qualified in Toronto with wins over Sesil Karatantcheva and Magda Linette, then notched MD victories over Coco Vandeweghe and Alison Riske. It's the first time Witthoeft has put up multiple Top 50 wins in the same event, and she'll now re-enter the Top 50 after a brief absence at a new career-best rank of #49.

DOWN: Venus Williams/USA & Serena Williams/USA
...last year in the Rogers Cup Montreal, the Sisters were front and center on the weekend with just their second meeting in five years in the semifinals. Venus got her first win over Serena since '09 as she claimed a 6-7(2)/6-2/6-3 victory to advance to the final, where she lost to Aga Radwanska. That was Serena's last three-set loss until she was taken out by 18-year old Bencic this weekend in Rogers Cup Toronto, going down in flames in a performance lacking in the "Serenativity" we've seen so often over the years (save for the first three slams in '14, that is). Serena called her performance "crappy" and like that of an amateur, and when you look at stats that show she committed twelve DF, fifty-nine unforced errors, was broken seven times (the last in the match's closing game after seemingly having turned the tide in her favor at the eleventh hour vs. Bencic) and converted just six of twenty break point chances, well, you can sort of see her point. Either this is a sign that the overwhelming pressure -- and maybe that lingering, serve-impacting elbow injury -- is going to be THE biggest Flushing Meadows story in a couple of weeks, or Serena will make her first loss in a completed match to a player 18 years old or younger since Maria Sharapova in 2004 (WTA Championships final) a mere curious (though "classic" Williams) speed bump along her road to history in September. Venus didn't have a good week in Ontario, either. One week after falling out of the Top 20 when her Montreal points fell off the computer (the event is a week later in '15), she was dumped out of the event in the 1st Round by Sabine Lisicki by a 6-0/6-3 score. Venus is 23-10 on the season, but her loss this week gives her three consecutive straight sets defeats since her 3rd Round win at Wimbledon over Aleksandra Krunic.

ITF PLAYER: Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor/ESP the $75K challenger in Prague, Torro-Flor continued a mastery of the ITF circuit that goes back to 2012, defeating back-to-back-to-back Czechs in the QF (Nicole Vaidisova), SF (Petra Cetkovska) and Final (Denisa Allertova) to grab her thirteenth career title. Earlier this season, after a two and half year absence from the lower circuit, the 23-year old Spaniard took a step down from her WTA schedule to win a $50K event and break the consecutive ITF match win streak record that had been held by Casey Dellacqua for three years. MTTF extended the streak with an additional win to get to thirty-six matches before losing this spring, but her win this week gives her a 41-1 mark on the circuit since the beginning of her record run.

JUNIOR STARS: Sonya Kenin/USA & Jessica Pieri/ITA
...16-year old Bannerette Kenin was the winner of the USTA's 18s National Championship a week ago, defeating Tornado Alicia Black in a 6-2/5-7/7-5 final to claim the title. The #9 junior in the world, Kenin gets a wild card into the U.S. Open women's main draw and will make her slam debut there in two weeks. Last year, 15-year old CiCi Bellis was the national champion (also def. Black in the final), and turned her MD slot into something of a star-making turn with a 1st Round U.S. Open upset victory over Dominika Cibulkova that made her the youngest player to win a women's match there since Anna Kournikova in 1996, and the youngest American to do so since Mary Joe Fernandez in 1986.
In Innsbruck, 18-year old Pieri won her first professional title by qualifying and then taking the singles crown with a three-set victory over Iva Primorac. Ranked #871 on the WTA computer, the Italian has been dealing with a lingering back ligament injury for nearly three years, but has been healthy enough to put up some good results in 2015, including a semifinal in a $10K challenger in January, as well as on the junior circuit. Pieri had a SF at the Grade A event in Milan (the first Italian to get so far since 2010), where she lost to Charlotte Robillard-Millette, and a Grade 1 runner-up result in Santa Croce (losing to Wimbledon girls RU Anna Blinkova).

DOUBLES: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE)
...the Dyamic Duo are at it again. They failed to get their third straight '15 slam win at Wimbledon, but there's nothing that says they can't go three-for-four in New York. Their Toronto title run is surely a good start. The pair put up victories over "makeshift" duos Errani/Pennetta and Mladenovic/Ka.Pliskova, then easily eliminated Garcia/Srebotnik in the final by a 1 & 2 score. Garcia/Srebotnik had ended the eight-match winning streak of Hingis/Mirza in the semis. The title is BMS/Safarova's fourth as a team this year, tying Hingis/Mirza for the tour lead even as they pass them and move into #1 on the Doubles Road to Singapore. Overall, it's Mattek-Sands fifth WD title of the season, tying her with both Hingis and Mirza for the most on tour.


Serena's on-court winning streak might have ended in Toronto, but she continued her recent string of off-court successes.

1. Toronto Final - Bencic d. Halep
...7-6(5)/6-7(4)/3-0 ret.
This one might have gone down as a true classic had it played out differently in the 3rd set, but it still will be remembered for the drama-filled first two sets. After starting with five straight breaks of serve, Halep eventually took a 4-3 lead but the long rallies common to both players' games likely played a part in the leg injury that led to the first of her multiple visits with the WTA trainer. Throw in Bencic's changeover meltdown with her father, then her comeback from 1-4 down in the tie-break to claim the 1:08 1st set and the stage was set. While both players were experiencing physical difficulties at the end of a long week, Halep's issues were far more obvious. The leg, combined with the heat and her flat-out exhaustion following her SF win over Sara Errani led to her plodding around the court between points in the 2nd, bending over due to pain or looking as if she was trying to keep the contents of her stomach right where they belonged. In the late going, Bencic failed to put the set away while Halep refused to stop fighting to keep it alive. She actually seemed to be working against her own desires, as after she'd win points she'd appear to sigh and be disappointed because it meant that the end continued to be anything but near. Bencic's growing frustration led to her tossing her racket, while Halep got a break for a 6-5 lead, then seemed to pick up her game a bit more while winning the tie-break to force a 3rd set. After taking the long walk to leave the court, Halep returned to give things a go, but after falling down 3-0 she finally decided to preserve herself to fight another day and retired, giving Bencic her biggest title yet.

2. Toronto Doubles Final - Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Garcia/Srebotnik
It's gotta be the socks!

3. Toronto 2nd Rd. - Azarenka d. Kvitova
Amazingly, this was the first meeting between the two since 2011 (on clay in Madrid, before Petra's first Wimbledon title), and it's Azarenka's first win over the Czech since the '09 Australian Open. But, at least Kvitova has gotten at least the first clue to some of her recent health issues...

4. Toronto 2nd Rd. - Gavrilova d. Safarova
In the Czech's first action since Wimbledon, she served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd. Safarova battled back from 3-1 down in the 3rd to get back on serve, only to see Gavrilova get the match-ending break of serve.
5. Toronto 1st Rd. - Riske d. Bacsinszky 3-6/7-6(4)/7-6(3)
Toronton 2nd Rd. - Tsurenko d. Muguruza 7-5/6-1
a pair of immediately unsuccessful returns to action by two women who faced off in a Wimbledon QF a month ago. Bacsinszky served for the match at 6-5 in the 2nd and held two MP vs. Riske in their 3:04 match, while SW19 RU Muguruza served for the 1st set at 5-4 before dropping serve four consecutive times en route to falling down 5-0 in the 2nd. Of course, none of this prevented Timea from maintaining her ability to dispense sly wisdom in the form of a question...

6. Toronto 2nd Rd. - Hercog d. Makarova
2014 U.S. Open semifinalist Makarova is still searching for her form of last summer. She trailed 6-2/5-2 vs. Hercog, who twice served for a straight sets win. The Russian forced a 3rd set, but failed to take advantage of Hercog's earlier lost opportunity.
7. $25K Landisville 1st Rd. - Duval d. S.Chang 6-4/6-2
$25K Landisville 1st Rd. - V.King d. Coin 6-1/1-6/7-5
Duval's wasn't the only comeback that took place in Landisville. King returned from her hip injury for her first action since last year's U.S. Open, knocking off veteran Pastry Coin in three sets in her first match. She lost in the 2nd Round to Broady, who then got a walkover from Duval in the QF and went on to win the title.
8. Toronto 1st Rd. - Cornet d. Suarez-Navarro
CSN loses her fourth straight match, and next opens her run in Cincinnati vs. Sloane Stephens.
9. Toronto 1st Rd. - Cibulkova d. Stephens
Speaking of the D.C. champ. She didn't follow-up her maiden title run with anything special. Well, unless you count her championship level racket decapitation. And, really, SHOULDN'T we? Even Serena complimented Stephens on her technique.

10. Toronto 1st Rd. - Bencic d. Bouchard
It says something that Bencic's impressive list of victims this week in Toronto included one of those Sesame Street "one of these things is not like the others" entries that sort of sticks out from the rest, and not in a good way. Genie, are you blushing? No, of course not... but I guess she CAN say that the eventual champion still had to go through her, right?

11. Toronto 2nd Rd. - Bencic d. Wozniacki
Forced to show up and lose for a third time this season to Bencic, Caro wasn't happy about it.

12. Toronto 3rd Rd. - Halep d. Kerber
It was actually sort of impressive that Kerber was able to put up this much of a fight coming off her long, title-winning week in Stanford.
13. Toronto 3rd Rd. - Errani d. Azarenka
Not the ending Vika was looking for. This was Errani's first win over her since 2008, and she'd dropped fourteen straight sets over a seven-year stretch against the Belarusian.

14. $10K Chiswick Final - Katy Dunne d. Emily Arbuthnutt
The 20-year old Brit picks up her fourth career title, taking out the 17-year old junior #35. Arbuthnutt, playing in just her sixth pro event (her first in '15), reached her first career finals in both singles and doubles (losing there again, with Freya Christie, to Dunne and partner Harriet Dart).
15. $10K Gimcheon Final - Lee So-Ra d. Makota Ninomiya
21-year old Korean Lee picks up her sixth career title and her fourth of 2015, tying her for the circuit lead. She's 27-6 on the season.

Swiss Miss(es) reaction break...

1. Toronto SF - Bencic d. Serena Williams
In a crazy match that played out like "The Three Faces of Serena," 18-year old Bencic becomes the youngest player to defeat Williams in a completed match since a 17-year old Sharapova in 2004. For the day, Serena's serve was as "off" as it's ever been (12 DF vs. her 16 aces) as she was broken seven times and had 59 UE. Still, Bencic's nerves -- and Williams "near-Serenativity" -- nearly got the best of her. She served up 5-3 in the 2nd, but double-faulted on SP and lost 10 of 11 points as Williams knotted things at 5-5. Bencic battled back from love/40 on serve two games later to hold, and then broke Serena to take things to the 3rd. The teenager took a two-break, 4-0 lead in the final set after saving six BP in two serve games (three each), then served for the match at 5-1 and 5-3, missing on a backhand pass up 30/15 in game #9 that would have given her MP. She double-faulted on BP and Williams closed to 5-4, seemingly putting her in position to steal a victory in the manner that she often does. But perhaps Bencic unwittingly heeded Rogers Cup HOF inductee Justine Henin's comments from this week about players not believing they can beat Serena as much as they should, for she bounced right back and broke Williams to take the match for her first career win over a world #1. It was Serena's first defeat in a three-set match in sixteen such instances this season, and her first since she dropped a three-setter to Venus in LAST year's Rogers Cup semifinals.

2. Toronto 1st Rd. - Lucic-Baroni d. Karolina Pliskova
Off her three-set loss in the Stanford final, Pliskova led 6-3/4-0 and served for the match at 5-3 before losing to the Croatian veteran.

3. Toronto QF - Halep d. Aga Radwanska
After reaching the QF in just two of her first ten events in 2015, Aga had now done so in five consecutive.

4. Toronto 2nd Rd. - Serena Williams d. Pennetta
Coffee, tea or... oh, never mind. I'm good. Serena needed an espresso to get through her Hopman Cup match vs. Pennetta in January, but she extended her '15 record in three-setters to 15-0 with this win. The streak would end there, though, of course.
5. Toronto 1st Rd. - Lisicki d. Venus Williams
Sabine loses to 44-year old Kimiko Date-Krumm, defeats 36-year old Venus, then loses to 18-year old Bencic. As usual, Lisicki is a lick-your-finger-and-stick-it-into-the-air type of player when it comes to results.

6. Cincinnati Q1 - Goerges d. Ula Radwanska
U-Rad led 4-2 in the 3rd set, but Goerges continued her Toronto "lucky loser" luck (she reached the 2nd Rd.) AND got a measure of revenge (she lost there to Ula's sister Aga). Goerges won't need a late withdrawal in Cincinnati to reach the MD, as she made it through qualifying this time around.
7. $10K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Mihalikova d. Sara Tomic
The Slovakian 17-year old Australian Open girls champ knocked off #1-seeded Fatma Al Nabhani, then the younger Tomic sibling to grab her second career title. Tomic still managed to win her first pro doubles title with Ireland's Jenny Claffey.
8. Cincinnati Q2 - Anna Schmiedlova d. Govortsova
You've got to think that Schmiedlova -- a 2015 two-time tour title winner, ranked #41 and the #2 q-seed -- won't have to go the qualifying route for much longer.

Remember when "grunting" was a tennis "controversy?"

Vika, MJ and The Purple One.

Serious Caro.

Not-so-serious Caro.

Old school Gavrilova.


Don't tell anyone.....but I shower naked ;)

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

[singles finals]
Dubai - #4 Halep/ROU d. #18 Ka.Pliskova/CZE
Indiand Wells - #3 Halep/ROU d. #21 Jankovic/SRB
Miami - #1 S.Williams/USA d. #12 Suarez-Navarro/ESP
Madrid - #4 Kvitova/CZE d. #29 Kuznetsova/RUS
Rome - #3 Sharapova/RUS d. #10 Suarez-Navarro/ESP
Toronto - #20 Bencic/SUI d. #3 Halep/ROU
Cincinnati - x
Wuhan - x
Beijing - x
[doubles champions]
Dubai - Babos/Mladenovic, HUN/FRA
Indian Wells - Hingis/Mirza, SUI/IND
Miami - Hingis/Mirza, SUI/IND
Madrid - Dellacqua/Shvedova, AUS/KAZ
Rome - Babos/Mladenovic, HUN/FRA
Toronto - Mattek-Sands/Safarova, USA/CZE
Cincinnati - x
Wuhan - x
Beijing x

4 - Serena Williams, USA
4 - Angelique Kerber, GER
3 - Simona Halep, ROU
2 - Maria Sharapova, RUS
2 - Petra Kvitova, CZE
2 - Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
2 - Samantha Stosur, AUS
2 - Anna Schmiedlova, SVK
2 - Teliana Pereira, BRA

**2015 WTA FINALS**
5 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (1-4)
4 - Serena Williams, USA (4-0)
4 - Angelique Kerber, GER (4-0)
3 - Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (2-1)
3 - Maria Sharapova, RUS (2-1)
3 - Anna Schmiedlova, SVK (2-1)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (1-2)
3 - Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP (0-2+L)

**WTA FINALS - 2012-15**
31...Serena Williams (29-2)
22...Maria Sharapova (11-11)
17...Victoria Azarenka (9-8)
16...SIMONA HALEP (11-5)
15...Angelique Kerber (7-8)
13...ara Errani (6-7)
12...Petra Kvitova (9-3)
12...Aga Radwanska (7-5)
12...Caroline Wozniacki (5-7)

4...SIMONA HALEP (3-1)
3...Timea Bacsinszky (2-1)
3...Karolina Pliskova (0-3)
2...Serena Williams (2-0)
2...Maria Sharapova (1-1)
2...Caroline Garcia (0-2)
2...Carla Suarez-Navarro (0-2)

41 years - Marrakech = Svitolina (20) d. Babos (21)
41 years - 's-Hertogenbosch = Giorgi (23) d. Bencic (18)
41 years - Baku = Gasparyan (20) d. Tig (21)
41 years - Toronto = Bencic (18) d. Halep (23)

4 - Angelique Kerber = Green Clay/Red Clay/Grass/Hard
3 - Serena Williams = Hard/Red Clay/Grass
2 - BELINDA BENCIC = Grass/Hard
2 - Petra Kvitova = Hard/Red Clay
2 - Maria Sharapova = Hard/Red Clay
2 - Anna Schmiedlova = Hard/Red Clay

**2013-15 WINS OVER #1 SERENA - by ranking**
2014 Charleston 2nd - #78 Jana Cepelova
2014 Roland Garros 2nd - #35 Garbine Muguruza
2014 Dubai SF - #26 Alize Cornet
2014 Montreal SF - #26 Venus Williams
2013 Wimbledon 4th - #24 Sabine Lisicki
2014 Wimbledon 3rd - #24 Alize Cornet
2014 Wuhan 2nd - #21 Alize Cornet
2015 Toronto SF - #20 Belinda Bencic
2014 Australian Open 4th - #14 Ana Ivanovic
2014 WTA Finals rr - #4 Simona Halep
2015 Madrid SF - #4 Petra Kvitova
2013 Cincinnati Final - #2 Victoria Azarenka

6 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
6 - Serena Williams, USA
4 - Lucie Safarova, CZE
4 - Maria Sharapova RUS
3 - Caroline Garcia, FRA
3 - Simona Halep, ROU
3 - Angelique Kerber, GER
3 - Petra Kvitova, CZE
# - Azarenka, Ivanovic, Jankovic, Sharapova, S.Williams, V.Williams or Wozniacki

5...Martina Hingis, SUI
5...Sania Mirza, IND
4...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
3...Timea Babos, HUN
4 - Hingis/Mirza
3 - Babos/Mladenovic
2 - Kops-Jones/Spears
2 - Bertens/Larsson

**2015 ITF TITLES**
4...Daria Kasatkina, RUS
4...Anastasiya Sevastova, LAT
4...Julia Terziyska, BUL
4...Marcela Zacarias, MEX

Rubbing elbows with the Original Face of Backspin will get you everywhere in these parts...

14 Final: S.Williams d. Ivanovic
14 Doubles Final: Kops-Jones/Spears d. Dabrowski/Mladenovic
15 Top Seeds: S.Williams/Sharapova

#1 S.Williams d. Stephens
#11 Kerber d. #4 Kvitova
Azarenka d. #15 Petkovic
#8 Ka.Pliskova d. #2 Sharapova
#1 S.Williams d. #11 Kerber
Azarenka d. #8 Ka.Pliskova
#1 S.Williams d. Azarenka

...who knows, really? As usual, Serena HAS to be the pick. If she plays more than one match before resting her elbow, that is. There's still a chance at the Serena-Simona final that we DIDN'T get in Toronto, but after a long week, a knee injury and everything else in Toronto the chances of Halep putting in anything more than a cameo appearance (if even that) seems counterproductive for her Open chances (if they haven't already been compromised). Sharapova hasn't played since Wimbledon, while Kvitova's health is always an issue in the U.S. summer humidity. Bencic could stay on her super high, but she has to be tired -- physically and emotionally -- and she'll face Kerber in the 1st Round (whatta ya say, if they're both in it 100% -- an over/under of 2:45 in that one?). So I'll just go with the intriguing final match-up I WANT rather than the one that will likely actually happen.

Hey, don't even rule out The Force being with someone else...

Incidentally, this year's return to Cincinnati marks the tenth anniversary of a certain Dane's WTA debut at the event back in 2005. 15-year old Caroline Wozniacki played her first tour match at this very tournament that year, losing a 1st Round encounter with Patty Schnyder, who'd go on to win the event. Caro, still smarting and piqued about having to play (or else) last week in Toronto, is in the draw once again, and her (bad) luck when it comes to finding Vika Azarenka in her path in the early rounds has struck once again. Vika is already 3-0 with a trio of dominant wins over Wozniacki this season (twice in 2nd Round meetings), and they're once again set up for another likely 2nd Round clash in Cincy. Caro hasn't won a complete set off Azarenka since 2010, having dropped eight straight sets since knocking off Azarenka in the Indian Wells QF when Vika retired three games into their match.

Meanwhile, when in doubt, take out your lucky La Petit Taureau for good luck.

Ah, there, that's better.

All for now.


Blogger jo shum said...

Bencic has the goods more than Bouchard Abd Stephens. Have decent impressive wins before the immediate fame Gina serves her mind well.

Still pick serena and vika? After last week, I am not sure anymore. can be anyone's taking I guess.

Very impressed with Kerber's fight. She seemed to get thinner? She has been pretty good in all non slam tournaments so far , what does it say though?

Mon Aug 17, 07:15:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Toronto and Montreal seem to point to rising stars. Ivanovic's coming out party was beating Hingis in 06, and Djokovic taking out #1, #2 and #3 the next year was his. If history is correct, Bencic will be making a slam final as the last winner of Toronto/Montreal not to appear in one was Laura DuPont in 1979.

Mon Aug 17, 09:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I wonder who Carl would pick if he were around this week? Hmmm, I'm thinking maybe Kerber. Actually, I almost tried to get in contact with him to get his take on Sunday, but thought better of it. ;)

The Rogers Cup is in a nice position in the schedule, not too close to Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, so maybe it's more of a better gauge of the future. After a week like that that shows what she's capable of, it'd be pretty disappointing if BB didn't get at least that far at some point, I guess.

Mon Aug 17, 12:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I added Bencic's "Whaaattt?" reaction video to the post. Even better than I remembered. :D

Mon Aug 17, 05:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

vika left Lagardere to join IMG. So cutting ties completely with Sam and Meilen. I wonder who Sam will coach next?

Tue Aug 18, 12:31:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, I wonder what her reaction was when she heard about the Bouchard/Sumyk split?

Tue Aug 18, 03:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Then again, maybe this move IS a reaction to that, huh?

Tue Aug 18, 03:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I wondered about that, too. Sumyk is a really good coach--someone should grab him.

Tue Aug 18, 07:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Line up the usual suspects?

Tue Aug 18, 08:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

He mustn't return calls from anyone named Ana!

Tue Aug 18, 08:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ha! Exactly!

Tue Aug 18, 09:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

In a typical USTA move, Duval didn't get a WC into the Open main draw, but got one into qualifying.

Of note, Robson got a main draw WC from Wimbledon after being out for a year and a half with a wrist injury and winning just a single game in her only match upon her return. Duval, who put on a great show under the lights in her two trips to Flushing Meadows in '12 and '13, qualified for last year's Wimbledon and got a MD win AFTER getting a cancer diagnosis, was out for a little over a year undergoing treatment and then reached the QF of a $25K challenger in her first tournament back.

This is the intelligence level that helps explain why it takes twenty years to get a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium and Mary Joe Fernandez is still the FC captain after a series of embarrassing decisions (and I won't even bring up that whole USTA Wimbledon wild card "playoff" situation with Chirico -- who also received a WC into the Open MD -- and Stewart again).

Wed Aug 19, 02:11:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Are they that stupid, lr is it something to do with "politics?" Either is possible, I suppose. Vicky deserves a md wild card, case closed.

Wed Aug 19, 10:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

I actually disagree on Duval. My heart wanted her to get one, but the fact that she didn't finish her last tournament doomed her. Like the ones they gave out, except that Bellis isn't on the list, and don't know what happened to the reciprocal that they had with the Aussies.

Who would have thought that the Williams pulling out of Cincy would be Venus? And Lucic-Baroni in for Sharapova.

Wed Aug 19, 10:25:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I understand that opinion. But she won two matches and the w/d was said to be precautionary (I can't imagine she expected to have to play so much in her first event back). That's why I mentioned Robson, who got a Wimbledon WC after playing (barely) and getting just one game in her only pre-SW19 return match.

Yeah, I'd think Bellis would have been a better choice than, say, Gibbs, who's barely won a match since April (w/o any injuries to blame) and really should have had to earn her way into the MD. Plus, she's been given back-to-back WC as the NCAA champ in 2012-13, then again last year. This is her fourth Open WC in a row.

Apparently, the Aussies pulled back their reciprocal WC for this Open. Not sure why. Maybe if Barty (their usual WC giftee at the slams) were playing...

Wed Aug 19, 12:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

So, you make out a 32-entry bracket of the supposed Greatest Female Athletes Ever and you include a race car driver who is popular on the internet and a snowboarder, but not Chris Evert or Venus Williams (or a single figure skater, for that matter)?

And you fill in 31 of the spaces, and then leave #32 open for "the people" to fill... and you include Evert on the supposed "bubble" list (can you say, "insulting?"), but STILL not Venus?

ESPN... ladies and gentleman.

Sat Aug 22, 06:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jwr said...

Unfortunately, and for a whole host of sociopolitical reasons, Evert was getting shafted in "Greatest ever" conversations even when she was playing (and even when it was just about tennis). ESPN is merely carrying on a sad tradition. For those interested, I used her father's passing last weekend to express some thoughts about that and other things...

Mon Aug 24, 08:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jwr said...

or better yet, here

Mon Aug 24, 08:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yes, there are so many things that go into the perception of Evert. Not the least of which, too, might be that her main rival was Martina, who was sort of seen as the epitome of "athletic" is the minds of many. Of course, that's another story, as well... since it wasn't considered a "positive" trait by so many of those same people. Which probably only added to the Evert as "non-athletic" myth.

I think we know all the evil little thought processes that go into the equation where the perception of both women are concerned, too. From body types to sexual orientation. I mean, you can see it still today with what Serena has to deal with (and Mauresmo did when she broke onto the scene in the late 1990s).

As far as the ESPN list goes, I think they're also just trying to serve far too many areas and cover bases rather than bother to put together a legitimate list. It's obvious they felt like that had to serve all the entities that they can make some money from. NASCAR (put in Danica), X-Games (put in a snowboarder), college/pro basketball (put in as many as possible...yet they left out Cheryl Miller, who played "too long ago," I guess), etc. And, of course, there couldn't be TWO Williams sisters in the field. Crazy.

Odd thing is, Evert is actually an employee of ESPN, so you'd think someone would have not fallen into the trap where she's concerned.

Mon Aug 24, 10:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jwr said...

It certainly does get complicated, but whatever narrative the powers that be decide on, they're very good at sticking with it. Watching the Evert/Navratilova battles at the AO and FO finals from the eighties, there were numerous instances, from several different announcers, where Evert played and won incredibly athletic points (by both women) and the announcers would say something along the lines of "That proves what a great athlete Martina is because nobody else would have gotten their racket on that!"

But I'll always believe it really began in the seventies, when positing that the woman dominating tennis wasn't a great athlete was a club to beat up the WTA. Of course, the same people have found many other clubs since, as you rightly point out.

Mon Aug 24, 11:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

And this just points out what I consider the absolute ridiculousness of making these lists in the first place. IMO, it isn't possible to pick the greatest in a single sport, let alone all sports (and are they all even sports?). Who decides what is "great"? What is the measure of greatness? How can you ever reconcile the constantly changing standards from one generation to the other? I just wish it would all stop.

Tue Aug 25, 12:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jwr said...

I agree and I'd be very happy for the lists to go away. But since they do exist, it would be nice if they at least promoted better understanding and less ignorance. Too much to ask I know, but one clings to the smallest hopes!

Tue Aug 25, 03:58:00 PM EDT  

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