Wk.33- Child, Please
A week ago, Serena Williams was taken down in the semifinals in Toronto by a teenager, losing for the just second time in 2015. With the U.S. Open -- and Williams' chance to win a Grand Slam -- just two weeks away, some attempted to portray the world #1's rare failure to win a title as a sign that maybe the moment was going to be too big for her to make history in New York, that her game isn't slam-worthy at the end of a long season, or that some "generational changing of the guard" ceremony might soon be in order.
"She's the best player in the world. I just have to believe in myself."
That's what Simona Halep said after winning her semifinal match on Saturday to set up a meeting in the Cincinnati final with Williams. As Justine Henin, Halep's playing idol, noted last week in Toronto, one of the things that the current crop of WTA players need to work on is trusting in their own abilities and coming to the conclusion that, yes, they CAN defeat the world #1. As great as she is, she CAN be beaten... as long as you don't lose the match before you even start playing it.
It's easier said than done, though.
As Williams proved throughout the past week, even as her serve continued to be a work in progress that occasionally (temporarily, and inconsistently) leaves her in the wake of her elbow injury of a few months ago, she can still fight and claw and manage to find a way to be the last player standing in any match. In Cincinnati, she even gave her career-long tendency to complete multiple on-court escapes a name. After coming back from a break down in the 3rd set against Ana Ivanovic, winning six straight games to take the match, Williams said she "pulled a Serena."
Of course, around here I've been calling that her "Serenativity" trait for years. And it was in attendance in the final against Halep, as well.
Once again, Williams started slowly, losing serve in the opening game and falling behind 3-1. But, as is her way, Serena won five games in a row to take the 1st. In a tight 2nd set, the Romanian challenged Williams, showing that she, in fact, DID seem to believe that the match was not yet lost. She took Serena to a tie-break, losing it 7-5 to drop the match in straights sets, 6-3/7-6(5), with Williams ultimately hitting fifteen aces in another not-perfect-but-getting-a-little-bit-closer-the-nearer-she-gets-to-Arthur-Ashe-Stadium sort of way. With the result, Halep falls to 1-6 in her career series against the American.
Still, this match was a good thing. And not only for Williams, either. For Halep, too, and maybe the rest of the U.S. Open field. Yes, the odds are still heavily in favor of Serena becoming the first player in twenty-seven years to sweep all four slams in a single season (Steffi Graf '88), matching Graf's record career twenty-two Open era slam wins, and winning her fifth straight major to ensure that she'll head to Australia next January with yet another knock, knock, knockin' on history's door event to answer questions about -- matching Martina Navratilova and Margaret Court's record of six straight slam titles. Ah, but that's another chapter in the Book of Serenativity to cover when the time comes.
First, let's talk about today.
Halep, who entered the match having played nearly eight and a half hours (after her even more exhausting week in Toronto, remember) to Serena's 5:40 for the week, didn't pack things in after dropping that opening set in it'll-wear-on-you-if-you-let-it fashion. She sort of did that in their only other meeting to determine a title in the WTA Finals at the end of last season, and after the offseason pressure of being the Swarmette Queen fully settled in on her psyche before the start of '15, and then fully took root a few months in, that sort of fight coming from Halep in the closing stages of a big match on a big stage hasn't necessarily been a given ever since. As great as her season has been, questions have been raised about her ability to handle the big moment that all her hard work the last few years has allowed to be set before her time and time again as a newcomer among the group of women that can call themselves the "best of the best" players in the world. Most importantly, though, Halep has been among the people calling those abilities into questions.
For a tennis player, too much self-reflection can be crippling, but if it's handled in an intelligent, I'll-learn-from-this sort of way, it can be equally liberating, lifting the pressure to succeed (figuratively, at least) and replacing it with a determination to prove her "bad side" wrong, killing it before it forever changes the path of her career.
Halep seems to have embraced the latter course of action. It's probably a large reason why, over the past two weeks, we seem to have seen her emergence from the other end of what might have been a nightmare for a less "together" and "ready and willing to find a way" sort of player than herself.
After taking a month off following Wimbledon, Halep has returned with a "lighter touch" off the court than the perhaps overly contemplative Simona had earlier in the season. With her has come a game that has rediscovered the turning-defense-into-offense balance that got a bit muddled during her super disappointing clay season, then didn't bear the expected (by her) fruit during the grass court part of the schedule, either. Thankfully, the fight that Halep promised months ago would always be present, then wasn't on a few post-vow occasions, is along for the ride, too. In fact, in some ways, it's driving the bus.
In Toronto, she took herself to the physical limit, pushing Belinda Bencic to a 3rd set in the final when she rightfully had no business doing so in her condition. It's the sort of moment, even with her eventual retirement in that match, that can plant a seed in a player's mind that leads to even-greater-than-already-expected things (see Henin at the U.S. Open, circa 2003). It's certainly possible in the short term, as Halep's affirming meeting with Henin in Toronto (La Petit Taureau talked up the style of the one WTA player whose game is most reminiscent of her own) and subsequent run in Cincinnati proved, and it could mean big things in Flushing Meadows, as well. Halep, thanks to her back-to-back finals, will be on the opposite side of the draw from Williams at the Open, having swiped the #2 ranking away from Maria Sharapova in the updated WTA rankings this week.
And that's never a bad thing... crossing one's fingers from afar can't hurt anyone, after all. And, let's be honest, "belief" that you can defeat Serena will still ONLY get you so far. At some point, the Tennis Gods have to lend a hand... or at least a few digits.
At the start of the season, Halep was seen as the most likely first-time slam champ of '15. She still is that, but Serena's been "a little bit stingy" about letting ANY of them get away from her this year. Not that Halep has pushed for such grand hardware this season as strongly as she did in '14. She hasn't, but her newly-rediscovered "Simonativity" might just put her back in the mix in NYC... just like Williams' "Serenativity Lost & Found" claim one year ago wiped out three-quarters of a season's worth of poor results in majors and set her on her current course toward (more) tennis immortality.
As always, Williams could indeed be vulnerable to a "bad day" in New York over the course of (especially) the first week, and she'll likely have at least one moment when she teeters on the edge of staring down defeat. It's something of a prerequisite en route to a slam title for her. But the closer she gets to the final weekend -- and the feel of the fuzzy ball of history directly on the racket -- the less likely she is to stumble.
So anyone who harbors any thought that wrestling the Open away from Serena is going to in any conceivable way take anything less than a "career-defining" and/or "career-making" performance, well...
Cincinnati only just re-affirmed what we already knew: Serena is going to win the Grand Slam... unless someone is present on the perfect storm of a day in which she's at her best and Serena isn't.
And even then the smart money will be on Williams.
*WEEK 33 CHAMPIONS*
CINCINNATI, OHIO USA (Premier $2.40m/HCO)
S: Serena Williams/USA def. Simona Halep/ROU 6-3/7-6(5)
D: Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan (TPE/TPE) d. Casey Dellacqua/Yaroslava Shvedova (AUS/KAZ) 7-5/6-4
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Serena Williams/USA
...another event, another first. Williams is the first woman to defend the Western & Southern Open singles title since the event joined the WTA schedule in 2004. Wins over Tsvetana Pironkova, Karin Knapp, Ana Ivanovic, Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep headlined Serena's sixty-ninth career tour title, and her tour-best fifth this season. Her five wins give her more (48) than any other player in '15, and she's now won fifteen consecutive finals, last losing in a championship match vs. Victoria Azarenka in this same Cincinnati event in 2013. After a while, though, even Serena is just "ready to get it over with," as she actually said following Sunday's final in regards to the expected media storm that will surround her attempt to win the Grand Slam at the U.S. Open beginning one week from now. I think we can all agree with her on that front. Succeed or fail, it's time to get it done... if for nothing else so that we can stop having to hear ESPNers slavishly -- and, really, incorrectly -- transform the name of an accomplishment that always has been, always will be and currently is the "Grand Slam" into a we-think-our-viewers-are-too-uninformed-about-tennis-to-know-that-we're-not-talking-about-baseball entity called a "Calendar Slam," even though they didn't see fit to constantly do the same thing when Jordan Spieth was staring down the possibility of a PGA Grand Slam a few weeks ago.
RISERS: Simona Halep/ROU & Anna Schmiedlova/SVK
...even with back-to-back hard court final losses in Toronto and Cincinnati, Halep is still (at least for a few more weeks) 2015's Hard Court Queen, with a tour-best thirty-two match wins, five finals (#1) and three titles (tied w/ Serena). Recovering well from her long week in Toronto, the Romanian spent another 9+ hours on court last week while notching victories over Kristina Mladenovic, Andrea Petkovic, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Jelena Jankovic before losing to Serena in the final. Oh, yeah, and she's got the "Elvis punch" down perfectly, too.
Schmiedlova's breakout season continued in Cincinnati, as she qualified (def. Taylor Townsend and Olga Govortsova) and reached the QF with wins over Aga Radwanska (she called it the best match of her career), Irina-Camelia Begu and Varvara Lepchenko (from two breaks down in the 3rd). On a 13-2 run since her 1st Round loss to Coco Vandeweghe at Wimbledon, Schmiedlova's run has assured her of a seed at the U.S. Open, as she rises to a career-best #32 on Monday.
SURPRISE: Ayla Aksu/TUR
...a '14 high school graduate from San Francisco, 19-year old Aksu has already done some nation-hopping when it comes to which one she's representing, having played under the flag of both Turkey (2010-12, '14-now) and the U.S. (2013). Ranked #492 heading into Week 33, Aksu has had a great summer run, winning all three of her career ITF singles crowns in recent weeks. She won her second consecutive title this weekend in the $10K challenger in Izmir, Turkey with a victory in the final over Israel's Karen Shlomo, 2-6/6-4/7-6. The title pushes her good recent run to 13-2. She's also won five '15 doubles titles with fellow Turk Melis Sezer, though she failed to pick up one this week after reaching the final with Uzbeki Arina Folts.
Jelena Jankovic has no idea what comes out of her mouth sometimes. pic.twitter.com/QwyX58ekm4— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 22, 2015
VETERAN: Jelena Jankovic/SRB
...at "thirty and flirty," JJ continued her summer comeback tour in Ohio. Back in June, the 30-year old Serb was ranked #30 as she put on a semifinal run on the grass at Rosmalen, then followed it up with a Round of 16 result (and upset of Petra Kvitova) at Wimbledon. A title run at the tiny $125K Series Nanchang event a few weeks ago preceded her fourth SF-or-better result in the Cincinnati tournament that has traditionally been one of her best. She won the title in 2009, and has reached the final in '11, the semis twice ('13/'15) and quarters three more times ('05-'06/'14). Wins over the Madisons (Brengle and Keys), Karolina Pliskova (from 5-2 down in the 3rd and after saving a MP) and Anna Schmiedlova put her into a Cincy semifinal rematch of the Indian Wells final from the spring (and last week's 2nd Rounder in Toronto) vs. Simona Halep. As occurred in their two previous '15 meetings, the Romanian prevailed, but Jankovic's two Top 20 wins (Keys/Pliskova) give her ten in Cincinnati for her career, and she'll move up to #21 in the new rankings. A second week stay in New York (she's protecting 4th Round points) could lift the Serb into the Top 20 yet again as the 2015 calendar (and that of her career) turns over to September. Who says 30 isn't the new 20?
Learn something new everyday: Jelena Jankovic, rather appropriately, has a glitter heart dampener on her racquet. pic.twitter.com/f7L98HLXJY— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 20, 2015
COMEBACKS: Victoria Azarenka/BLR & Patty Schnyder/SUI
...the week didn't end well in Cincinnati for Azarenka, but her game (and mental fortitude) appeared in good shape BEFORE she finally retired with an upper leg injury in the 3rd Round after having played with heavy taping all week. She said she expects to be fine for the Open (she'll edge back into the Top 20 on Monday), as it's apparently not a serious injury, though it's one she'll have to mind, especially considering her troubling recent history with lower body ailments. A full week of tending to this one is the key to her summer hard court season, as her level of play has steadily risen this summer, but without a good result in New York it'll have all gone for nothing. She put up victories over Lauren Davis and Caroline Wozniacki last week, defeating the Dane love & 4 after recovering from love/40 holes in consecutive service games in the 2nd set. She's 4-0 vs. Wozniacki in 2015, and hasn't dropped a completed set against her since 2010. In her third match last week, Azarenka was on top of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova early, as well, taking the 1st set 6-1 before retiring three games into the 2nd.
Meanwhile, in a $10K challenger in Oldenzaal, Netherlands we got a new, even more successful episode of "Comeback Patty." In her second event back from retirement, 36-year old Schnyder put up her first official match wins since 2010 en route to the quarterfinals. After a victory over Dutch player Dana Kremer, she took out #1 seeded Sandra Zaniewska 6-2/6-3, then lost to #5 seed (and eventual finalist) Katharina Lehnert in a hard fought 1-6/7-5/7-5 match.
FRESH FACES: Elina Svitolina/UKR & Belinda Bencic/SUI
...Svitolina ended '14 at #29, and the 20-year old has progressively gone about her business in '15, steadily moving up the WTA ladder. She opened her season with a Week 1 semi in Brisbane, took a set off Serena in the 3rd Round in Melbourne and then won a title in Marrakech to climb into the Top 20. A first career slam QF result in Paris followed, and her SF in Stanford got her North American hard court campaign off to a quick start (she reached a career-high #15). She reached a second summer semi this week in Cincinnati, notching wins over Alison Riske, Genie Bouchard, Caroline Garcia and Lucie Safarova before losing once again to Serena, failing to become the youngest Cincy finalist since Vera Zvonareva (19) in 2004. A year ago in this event, Svitolina got her first Top 10 win (Kvitova) and reached the QF. The next big step for the Ukrainian will be get into a big final, and maybe even win it as her fellow "Fresh Face" honoree Bencic did last week in Toronto. But, so far, Svitolina is just 1-4 in '15 semis (Bencic is 3-0), losing out to multiple season title winners (Sharapova, Pereira, Kerber and Williams) who have combined to claim thirteen singles titles this year alone.
Meanwhile, Rogers Cup champ Bencic proved that she's capable of following up great success by maintaining a winner's momentum. With barely time to acclimate herself to the added attention that accompanied her career week, the 18-year dropped down into Cincinnati and immediately knocked off Angelique Kerber, then stopped vet Flavia Pennetta to run her winning streak to eight matches. She finally retired with a wrist injury a round later after dropping the 1st set to Lucie Safarova in the 3rd Round, but she'd made her point well enough. Her 2014 QF run in Flushing Meadows wasn't a fluke, and the NYC spotlight will be on her one week from now. It might be a while before it moves off her, too.
??— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) August 18, 2015
DOWN: Garbine Muguruza/ESP & Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
...since Wimbledon, while she's been around and about soaking up the extra attention garnered from her star-making appearance in the SW19 final, Muguruza has, umm, yet to actually win another match. In her second summer hard court event, a week after a straight sets loss to Lesia Tsurenko in Toronto (after Muguruza had served for the 1st set, then fell apart to go down 5-0 in the 2nd while dropping serve four consecutive times), the Spaniard was sent out in straights in Cincy by Yaroslava Shvedova. Again, Muguruza crumbled down the stretch, dropping the 2nd set tie-break at love. Things aren't any better for her countrywoman CSN at the moment, either. Suarez-Navarro dropped her fifth straight match in a 1 & 2 slamming in the 1st Round by Sloane Stephens in Cincinnati. Oh, but things got even worse for these two last week. As a duo, they also dropped their 1st Round doubles match in straight sets to Jankovic/Vesnina, falling to 1-3 in their last four matches.
ITF PLAYER: Johanna Konta/GBR
...the 24-year old Brit's string of good results now includes the second $100K Vancouver challenger title of her career. Konta won the same title in 2013, and after a two year absence she returned last week to put up the same result and grab her eleventh career ITF crown. It's her second title this summer after also winning a $50K last month in Granby, Canada. Her most recent title run included wins over Pauline Parmentier, Anna Tatishvili, Petra Martic, Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens in a 6-2/6-4 final to extend her current winning streak to ten matches. Konta returns to the Top 100 in the new rankings, not far behind the career-high of #89 she set in July of last year. She also claimed the doubles title (her third ITF doubles crown of '15) as an unseeded entry with Maria Sanchez, defeating #3 Rae/Smith, Fichman/Zhao and #4 Olaru/Tatishvili in the final.
Winner winner chicken dinner! Team Vancouver celebratory dinner:) pic.twitter.com/GcIFQ8wYDL— Johanna Konta (@JoKonta91) August 24, 2015
JUNIOR STARS: Sara Tomic/AUS & Elena Gabriela Ruse/ROU
...while the Tomic family has been feuding with Tennis Australia, 17-year old Sara, when she hasn't been stirring the proverbial pot herself, has actually been playing very well on the ITF circuit. Since the start of the summer, Tomic has reached the singles finals of four different $10K challengers in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, winning her first career singles title in June, and her maiden doubles crown a week ago. This weekend, as the #2 seed, she reached her second straight singles final, losing to top-seeded Anastasia Grymalska in a match that the Aussie had on her racket more than once. In the 2nd set, Tomic failed to convert nine match points and eventually lost 3-6/7-6(7)/6-4. Even while putting away just five of twenty-three break point opportunities, the teenager still ultimately won more points (123-122) on the day than Grymalska. While Tomic has played just four junior matches (2-2) in 2015, her challenger results have her knocking on the door of the WTA Top 500 (she was #528 heading into Week 33). Meanwhile in the $10K challenger in Bucharest, 17-year old Swarmette Ruse had a very good week in both singles and doubles. After defeating the #4 and #7 seeds, the world #919 (junior #24) lost in the semis to #1-seeded eventual champ Diana Buzean to just miss out on reaching her first singles final (it was still her first pro semi). In an all-Swarmette doubles final, she and Oana Georgeta Simion lost to Buzean & Cristina Dinu. A week ago, Ruse won her first pro doubles title with another fellow Romanian, Jaqueline Adina Cristian.
DOUBLES: Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan (TPE/TPE)
...quick! Which sisters are the most successful doubles duo in WTA history? Yes, of course, it's the 21 title-winning Williams Sisters. But do you know which sisters are SECOND on that list? Yeah, the fact that the Chan sisters are the winners here sort of gives it away, but with their Cincinnati title this weekend they broke out of a three-way tie with the Pliskovas and Bondarenkos to move into sole possession of #2 with their fourth career tour title as a pair (Yung-Jan has won ten others, while Hao-Ching has three). Quite frankly, their run over the past week was pretty fabulous, not to mention drama-filled. In the QF, they won a 19-17 super tie-break to take out the "Fed Cup magic" duo of Errani/Pennetta, then won another match-deciding breaker (10-6) against Wimbledon champs Hingis/Mirza in the semis. Facing off with Roland Garros finalists Dellacqua/Shvedova for the title, the Chans didn't have to go to such lengths, but they still had to win a close 7-5/6-4 contest.
Meanwhile, I'd say Coco Vandeweghe was a bit "lippy" on Twitter the other day. But, well, you know. While JJ was making people smile in Cincy, Vandeweghe -- who also managed to be mouthy AFTER losing to Sharapova at Wimbledon, you'll remember -- saw fit to go the other way when it came to re-branding JJ's "Emperess" nickname as the "EmperASS."
Of course, she'll get no blowback for it since, you know, ESPN and the U.S. sports media doesn't care if you essentially call a female Serbian tennis player and former #1 an ass. Plus, Coco talked about the New York Knicks during Wimbledon, so she's now "immune" to criticism in the States.
But here's where I'll mention that she's gone 1-3 on tour since Wimbledon, and dropping three of four when you factor in the Sharapova defeat. She'll face Aga Radwanska in the 1st Round in New Haven before she shows up in New York and gets to be the apple of the media eye once again.
Bated breath. Or not.
1. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Garcia d. Kvitova
...7-5/4-6/6-2. The Pastry's first Top 5 victory, but Mono Petra is hardly living up to the promise of Stereo Petra, and isn't even as head-shaking as Bad Petra. So, make of it what you will.
2. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Svitolina d. Bouchard
...7-6(6)/7-5. Not bad. The pulse is still there. Although, Bouchard DID lead 3-0 in the 1st and had a SP in the TB, then got an early break lead in the 2nd, as well. So, make of it what you will. The same goes for breaking your racket in two... in mid-swing.
Hoping there's a money-back guarantee for faulty equipment like pic.twitter.com/RwHS74s08D— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) August 19, 2015
3. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Azarenka d. Wozniacki
...6-0/6-4. Wozniacki led 3-0 in the 2nd, while Azarenka recovered from love/40 down twice to hold and take the set to avoid losing her first set to the Dane since 2010. She's 4-0 vs. her in 2015.
4. Cincinnati 3rd Rd. - Ivanovic d. Stephens
...2-6/6-4/6-1. Stephens saved nine BP in game #8 of the 2nd set to hold for 4-4, but was broken in game #10 to drop the 2nd. AnaIvo went on to win the match to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Serena. Said Sloane during the week, "It might not go your way, but at least you're out there trying." All right, good enough. But, as of today, make of it what you will.
5. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Halep d. Mladenovic
...7-5/5-7/6-4. You know you're on good terms with the umpire when you can intentionally throw a ball at him and get a laugh rather than a default. Life lessons by Kiki.
Learning not to laugh at a player for celebrating a point too early like pic.twitter.com/MJDFys1qHS— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) August 19, 2015
6. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Knapp d. Konjuh 7-5/6-1
New Haven Q1 - Larsson d. Konjuh 6-4/6-4
...to her former junior rival, the New Swiss Miss says, "Ketchup."
7. Cincinnati 3rd Rd. - Pavlyuchenkova d. Azarenka
...1-6/3-0 ret. The last time Vika retired mid-match? 2012 in Montreal.
8. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Keys d. Bacsinszky
...6-4/6-3. Suddenly, Timea is no longer the highest-ranked Swiss.
9. $100K Vancouver 1st Rd. - Pervak d. Robson 6-2/7-5
New Haven Q2 - McHale d. Robson 2-6/7-6(5)/6-3
...the road back. Against McHale, Robson led 6-2/5-2 and served for the match at 5-3.
10. $100K Vancouver 1st Rd. - Jabeur d. Schiavone 6-4/4-6/6-1
New Haven Q1 - Tsurenko d. Schiavone 5-2 ret.
...5-15 since early March, but with the slam appearance record within reach, Schiavone is set for New York. She'll play in her sixty-first consecutive slam at the Open, one off Ai Sugiyama's tour record of 62 (and just two behind Federer's extended all-time mark of 64).
When you're trying to put on a brave face but you know your outfit is all wrong pic.twitter.com/NOZRhMtIZh— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) August 19, 2015
Oh the GIF's from this BTS video will be ah-mazing. ?? https://t.co/QAtAx9At1J— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) August 20, 2015
1. Cincinnati Final - Serena Williams d. Halep
...6-3/7-6(5). After the way things ended for them in Toronto, the chances that both these two would last to the final didn't seem likely a week ago. Yet, there they were. And it was a good match, too. Halep opened strong, getting a break in game #1 and taking a 3-1 lead before Serena charged back to win five straight games to take the 1st. Williams saved five BP in game #2 of the 2nd, then they exchanged breaks the next two games. After eight straight holds by both women, Serena won a nip-and-tuck tie-break 7-5 to claim the title. See you in the city.
2. Cincinnati 3rd Rd. - Jankovic d. Karolina Pliskova
...6-2/3-6/7-5. Pliskova had a 5-2 lead in the 3rd, and served at 5-2 and 5-4, holding a MP in the middle game at 5-3.
3. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Bouchard d. Kateryna Bondarenko
...7-6(2)/7-6(5). Don't look now, but Genie is stirring. A little. Well, at least her tennis death has been great exaggerated. This week. Bouchard saved three SP in the 1st, and survived K-Bond serving for the set in the 2nd and holding a 4-2 lead in the TB.
4. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Anna Schmiedlova d. Aga Radwanska
...4-6/6-3/6-1. Ever so slightly, Aga is losing a bit of her recent summer shine, isn't she? Although, she's still capable of stuff like this:
5. Cincinnati 3rd Rd. - Anna Schmiedlova d. Lepchenko
...6-3/3-6/6-4. Lepchenko had a two-break, 3-0 lead in the 3rd set.
6. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Ivanovic walkover Venus Williams
...this one was called after warm-ups, as Venus' viral illness left her feeling that she couldn't adequately compete. At this stage with Venus, these things are just going to happen.
7. Cincinnati QF - Serena Williams d. Ivanovic
...3-6/6-4/6-2. In a rematch of the 2014 final, Williams erased an early break disadvantage and upped her 2015 three-set record to 16-1.
8. Cincinnati QF - Chang Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan d. Errani/Pennetta
...6-7(4)/7-6(1)/19-17. It's hard out there for a sister. For two, it's even tougher.
9. Cincinnati SF - Chang Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan d. Hingis/Mirza
...6-4/0-6/10-6. But if they survive, then it gets easier. Just a little bit at a time.
10. Cincinnati Final - Chang Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan d. Dellacqua/Shvedova
...7-5/6-4. And, eventually, to the victors go the spoils.
Wishing our 2013 champ Azarenka a speedy recovery en route to the US Open! pic.twitter.com/xeH6Bpb21s— W&S Open (@CincyTennis) August 20, 2015
**2015 WTA FINALS**
5 - SERENA WILLIAMS, USA (5-0)
5 - SIMONA HALEP, ROU (3-2)
5 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (1-4)
4 - Angelique Kerber, GER (4-0)
3 - Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (2-1)
3 - Maria Sharapova, RUS (2-1)
3 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (2-1)
3 - Anna Schmiedlova, SVK (2-1)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (1-2)
3 - Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP (0-2+L)
**2015 CON. WTA FINALS**
2 - Maria Sharapova (Jan.; Brisbane-W, AO-L)
2 - Timea Bacsinszky (Feb/Mar; Acapulco-W, Monterrey-W)
2 - Caroline Garcia (Feb/Mar; Acapulco-L, Monterrey-L)
2 - Simona Halep (Feb/Mar; Doha-W, I.W.-W)
2 - Angelique Kerber (April; Charleston-W, Stuttgart-W)
2 - Serena Williams (Jun/Jul; RG-W, Wimbledon-W)
2 - Simona Halep (Aug; Toronto-L, Cincinnati-L)
**2015 TITLE DEFENSE ATTEMPTS - IN FINAL**
Auckland - Ana Ivanovic (lost to V.Williams)
Miami - Serena Williams (def. Suarez-Navarro)
Bastad - Mona Barthel (lost to Larsson)
Cincinnati - Serena Williams (def. Halep)
**2015 WTA SF**
8...SERENA WILLIAMS (5-2+L)
8...SIMONA HALEP (4-3+W)
6...Karolina Pliskova (5-1)
6...Angelique Kerber (4-1+L)
6...Maria Sharapova (3-2+L)
5...Anna Schmiedlova (3-2)
5...Caroline Wozniacki (3-2)
5...Sara Errani (2-3)
5...ELINA SVITOLINA (1-4)
**2015 WTA DOUBLES TITLES - TEAMS**
4 - Hingis/Mirza
4 - Mattek-Sands/Safarova
3 - Babos/Mladenovic
2 - Bertens/Larsson
2 - CHAN/CHAN
2 - Kops-Jones/Spears
**ALL-TIME WTA DOUBLES TITLES - SISTERS**
21 - Serena & Venus Williams
4 - CHAN HAO-CHING & CHAN YUNG-JAN
3 - Karolina & Kristyna Pliskova
3 - Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko
1 - Lyudmyla & Nadiia Kichenok
1 - Chris & Jeanne Evert
1 - Katerina Maleeva/Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere
1 - Cammy & Cynthia MacGregor
1 - Aga & Urszula Radwanska
1 - Adriana & Antonella Serra-Zanetta
**2015 ITF $100K CHALLENGER FINALS**
FEB - Midland, USA - Tatjana Maria/GER d. Louisa Chirico/USA
MAY - Cagnes-sur-mer, FRA - Carina Witthoeft/GER d. Tatjana Maria/GER
MAY - Trnava, SVK - Danka Kovinic/MNE d. Margarita Gasparyan/RUS
JUN - Marseille, FRA - Monica Niculescu/ROU d. Pauline Parmentier/FRA
JUL - Contrexville, FRA - Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU d. Yulia Putintseva/KAZ
AUG - Vancouver, CAN - Johanna Konta/GBR d. Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
**WTA ALL-TIME WEEKS AT DOUBLES #1 - Asians**
45...Ai Sugiyama, JPN (2000-03)
20...SANIA MIRZA, IND (2015)
20...Peng Shuai, CHN (2014)
5...Hsieh-Wei, TPE (2014)
**2015 U.S. OPEN WILD CARDS**
Louisa Chirico/USA - 19-year old also awarded '15 RG WC (lost 1st Rd.)
Samantha Crawford/USA - 20-year old '12 U.S. Open girls champ won USTA WC playoff berth
Oceane Dodin/FRA - big-hitting Pastry's third '14 slam WC; making U.S. Open debut
Nicole Gibbs/USA - fourth con. U.S. Open WC (2 as NCAA champ); reached 3rd Rd. in '14
Sonya Kenin/USA - 16-year old won U.S. 18s National Championship; making slam debut
Jamie Loeb/USA - '15 NCAA champ; won '14 Billie Jean King Invitational; making U.S. Open debut
Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA - 30-year old was Wimbledon qualifier; five-time U.S. Open 2nd Rd.
Sachia Vickery/USA - 20-year old was Wimbledon qualifier; reached 2013 U.S. 2nd Rd.
Robin Anderson, USA (former NCAA #1)
Usue Arconada, USA (16)
Tornado Alicia Black, USA (17)
Vicky Duval, USA (def. Stosur in 1st Rd. of '13 U.S. Open)
Ravenna Kingsley, USA (17)
Claire Liu, USA (15 years old)
Bernarda Pera, USA (ex-Croat, 2009-13)
Jessica Pegula, USA (lost in Q3 of '15 RG and Wimbledon)
TBD (spot to be won in playoff)
When you hear that ESPN is debating Serena vs JMac on-air pic.twitter.com/Klbouf64I9— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) August 21, 2015
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT USA (Premier $689K/HCO)
14 Final: Kvitova d. Ryabarikova
14 Doubles Final: Klepac/Soler-Espinosa d. Erakovic/Parra-Santonja
15 Top Seeds: #1 Halep (withdrew) / #2 Kvitova
#5 Ka.Pliskova d. Gavrilova
Svitolina d. #3 Wozniacki
Svitolina d. #5 Ka.Pliskova
...if Svitolina is looking for the "next step," this would be a good place to start. Halep, as expected, pulled out of this event after Sunday's Cincy final, while Kvitova is probably the biggest question mark on the board for this week AND the Open. At one point, this tournament seemed like it could be re-dubbed "The Wozniacki Open," as the Dane won four straight titles from 2008-11. She's gone SF-SF-2nd Round the last three years.
ALSO: U.S. OPEN QUALIFYING
Meanwhile, the tennis community once again must rally...
Sad news: Per her Twitter, @AllieKiick (CH 136) announces a break from tennis after being diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 18, 2015
And, in closing, in case you ever wondered... yes, EVERYONE gets caught in the rain sometime.
It's the getting dry that matters.
All for now.