Monday, October 26, 2015

Wk.42- The Tennis Gods Might Be Hordette Crazy...again

Hmmm, are the Tennis Gods trying to tell us something? Are they drunk on power, being their usual annoyingly smug we-know-everything-but-you-know-nothing-nyah-nyah-nyah selves, or just plain crazy?

Could it be that they miss the "good old days" of the WTA's Russian Revolution, too?

Remember, there was a time when, with no disrespect to the Sisters or the two-headed Waffle monster, the Hordettes sported the deepest pool of talent in the sport, and were collectively the biggest and most far-reaching force not named Federer or Serena in tennis. From 2002-10, Russians won 110 titles and reached 117 additional finals on tour, with sixteen players becoming first-time singles champions during the stretch. Russia won four Fed Cups from 2004-08, and from 2004-12 Hordettes led (alone or tied) the WTA in finalists for nine straight seasons, and in seven of those seasons produced the most champions, as well.

Last year, Backspin celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Revolution's banner campaign. In 2004, three Russians were first-time slam champions. The season ended with Maria Sharapova taking the title at the WTA Championships, and Team Russia, in Moscow, claiming the nation's first of four Fed Cup titles over the next five years. Four Hordettes finished the season ranked in the Top 6. Since Anna Kournikova became the first post-Soviet era Russian to find WTA success in 1997, finishing in the Top 10 in 2000, ten additional Russian women have reached the Top 10 since '01, more than any other nation during that span. Two -- Sharapova and Dinara Safina -- reached #1. In all, they've won eight slam crowns, produced fourteen major runner-ups, one singles Gold Medalist (Elena Dementieva), as well as five others who ended up on the Olympic medal stand (including the historic sweep of all three singles spots in Beijing in '08). More different players from Russia have claimed slams since 2004 than from any other country, and the nation has placed at least one player in the semifinals of thirty-six of the past forty-seven slams (including nine different women in major final fours from 2003-15) and in the Round of 16 at sixty of sixty-one.

For the most part, though, the Russian threat has lessened considerably of late. While the best and the brightest of the group, as well as the most consistently competitive at a high level, Sharapova, reached the Australian Open final and Wimbledon semifinals in '15, she has missed chunks of the season due to, or played with, an injury. Even with all her success, it's been a common theme/worry for her career for years. Most of the original Revolutionaries are now retired, nearly so, or only occasionally spark (hello, Sveta). This season seems assured of being the Hordettes' least successful since the pre-Revolution days. The five singles titles won by Russians this year are the least since they were shut out in 2001. The nine singles finalists are the fewest since that same season.

Ah, but have no fear... the Tennis Gods seems to be bestowing on us a little Hordette hope. Or at that appears to be the case.

In 2013, Hordettes won the Junior Fed Cup 16s title, and Russia has claimed the 14s FC title the last two years, as well. Over the last two seasons, three young Russians have picked up junior slam titles at three different majors, while two others have reached finals.

2014 Australian Open - Elizaveta Kulichkova
2014 Roland Garros - Daria Kasatkina
2015 Roland Garros - Anna Kalinskaya (RU)
2015 Wimbledon - Sofya Zhuk
2015 Wimbledon - Anna Blinkova (RU)

On the WTA tour, 20-year old Margarita Gasparyan became the first 20-or-under Hordette maiden title winner on tour since 2011. The last teenage first-timer from Russia was back in 2010, but 18-year old Daria Kasatkina, a first week star at this year's U.S. Open and a first-time WTA semifinalist this past weekend, might end that drought soon. So far, the numbers are still working in the Hordettes' favor, as four different Russians have claimed singles titles in '15, tied for the tour lead this season (as usual), but more than a few other things are bringing back memories of the former Russian glory of the 2000's.

On the final regular season weekend of the year, at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, no less, the Tennis Gods appeared to be positively drunk on Hordettes (or, you know, semi-divine vodka). We witnessed a bit of the old Revolutionary flavor take hold in the mother country after having been absent for quite a while as Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova met in the 27th all-Hordette final on tour (seventeen different woman have played in those matches, with twenty-one having taken place between 2004-09). It was the first all-Russian final since 2011. The last time Hordettes met to decide the champ in Moscow was 2006.

2003 Doha - Anastasia Myskina def. Elena Likhovtseva
2004 Doha - Anastasia Myskina def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2004 Roland Garros - Anastasia Myskina def. Elena Dementieva
2004 U.S. Open - Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Elena Dementieva
2004 Hasselt - Elena Dementieva def. Elena Bovina
2004 Moscow - Anastasia Myskina def. Elena Dementieva
2006 Indian Wells - Maria Sharapova def. Elena Dementieva
2006 Miami - Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Maria Sharapova
2006 Moscow - Anna Chakvetadze def. Nadia Petrova
2006 Linz - Maria Sharapova def. Nadia Petrova
2007 Hobart - Anna Chakvetadze def. Vasilisa Bardina
2008 Doha - Maria Sharapova def. Vera Zvonareva
2008 Dubai - Elena Dementieva def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2008 Berlin - Dinara Safina def. Elena Dementieva
2008 Beijing - Elena Dementieva def. Dinara Safina
2008 Tokyo - Dinara Safina def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Auckland - Elena Dementieva def. Elena Vesnina
2009 Sydney - Elena Dementieva def. Dinara Safina
2009 Stuttgart - Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Dinara Safina
2009 Rome - Dinara Safina def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Roland Garros - Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Dinara Safina
2009 Toronto - Elena Dementieva def. Maria Sharapova
2010 Kuala Lumpur - Alisa Kleybanova def. Elena Dementieva
2010 Istanbul - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Elena Vesnina
2010 Tashkent - Alla Kudryavtseva def. Elena Vesnina
2011 Baku - Vera Zvonareva def. Ksenia Pervak
2015 Moscow - Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
[most finals]
12...Elena Dementieva (6-6)
9...Svetlana Kuznetsova (5-4)
7...Dinara Safina (3-4)
5...Maria Sharapova (3-2)
4...Anastasia Myskina (4-0)
3...Elena Vesnina (0-3)
2...Anna Chakvetadze (2-0)
2...Alisa Kleybanova (2-0)
2...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (1-1)
2...Nadia Petrova (0-2)

But that wasn't all. Kasatkina & Vesnina combined to win the doubles, too, making it a full Russian sweep of the titles for the first time since 2004. That was THE year, of course. That sweep eleven seasons ago was soon followed up by Sharapova winning the tour's year-ending championships, and Team Russia winning the first of those four Fed Cup titles soon after.

Hmmm... is it right to wonder if the Tennis Gods might be teasing us, or trying to tell us something?

Maybe, maybe not. But here's where I note that Sharapova is back in action at the CURRENT WTA Finals event, having just completed her first full match since Wimbledon, and getting a win in round robin action over the 4Q's top player, Aga Radwanska. A great Sharapova comeback week could single-handedly change the Russians' collective '15 campaign stats with a title run or final appearance. A sixth '15 singles title for a Hordette would cut back the "fewest since" year to 2012, and a tenth Hordette finalist would match 2014's overall total of ten.

Oh, yeah. And in a few weeks the Russians will be competing in the Fed Cup. Just like in 2004.

Of course, the defending champion Czechs will having something to say about things. But I'm just sayin'.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Premier $703K/HCI)
S: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS 6-2/6-1
D: Daria Kasatkina/Elena Vesnina (RUS/RUS) d. Irina-Camelia Begu/Monica Niculescu (ROU/ROU) 6-3/6-7(7) [10-5]

S: Misaki Doi/JPN def. Mona Barthel/GER 6-4/6-7(7)/6-0
D: Mona Barthel/Laura Siegemund (GER/GER) d. Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Arantza Parra-Santonja (ESP/ESP) 6-2/7-6(2)

Final: Naomi Osaka/JPN def. Caroline Garcia/FRA 3-5/5-4(6)/4-1

Co-PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS & Misaki Doi/JPN
...well, you just never know when Sveta is going to come to play, do you? Back in Russia, the 30-year old Kuznetsova claimed her first ever pro singles title on home court at the Kremlin Cup, ruling Moscow with an iron fist with wins over Czechs (Katerina Siniakova & Klara Koukalova), a Latvian (Anastasija Sevastova), a Ukrainian (Lesia Tsurenko) and, finally, a fellow Hordette (Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) in the first all-Russian tour singles final since 2011. Kuznetsova joins Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva as the only Hordettes to lift both Kremlin Cup singles and doubles ('13 w/ Sam Stosur) championship trophies, and her fifteenth career tour win makes her 2014-15 stretch (she last won in Washington in '14) the first back-to-back seasons in which she's won a singles title since 2009-10. This was the fourteenth singles title of the season won a thirtysomething player, while Kuznetsova is the first ever 30+ winner with "RUS" next to her name.

Week 42's second PoW honoree is Doi. The 24-year old, playing in her first WTA singles final in Luxembourg, became the third Japanese woman in the last two seasons to become a maiden champ (after no women from Japan had been able to say as much since '07). Doi won a $50K challenger final in January, but the biggest of her five previous pro singles titles had been a $75K event in 2010. She came into Luxembourg on a five-match losing streak, but she opened her week with a 1st Round upset of Andrea Petkovic (7-5 in the 3rd) and took off from there, winning seven of her next eight sets of action against Denisa Allertova, Jelena Jankovic, Alison Van Uytvanck (who retired after the 1st) and Mona Barthel, dropping only a tie-break 2nd set in the final against the German before then proceeding to win a bagel 3rd to take the title. She's up to a career-best #60 in the new rankings, replacing the recently-elevated (and fellow first-time champ) Nao Hibino as the highest-ranked Japanese woman on tour.

RISERS: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS & Mona Barthel/GER
...hmmm, should I ask for a little compensation from Anastasia? I mean, if she wanted to go on her best run of the season a little earlier than October all she had to do ask for me to start talking about what she HASN'T done back in January rather than the last couple of weeks. It wouldn't have been an editorial stretch. A week after winning a title in Linz, Pavlychenkova, the '14 Kremlin Cup winner, returned to the final in Moscow after running off a string of victories over Monica Niculescu, Lucie Safarova, Margarita Gasparyan and Daria Kasatkina. She ultimately went out in quick order (2 & 1) against Kuznetsova. But, come on, we KNEW she wasn't going to win the title. That possibility was taken off the table when I actually picked her to DEFEAT Sveta in the final once Angelique Kerber pulled out of the event.

Like Pavlyuchenkova, Barthel is usually at her best at indoor events. The Paris Indoors champ in 2013, she was looking to win under the roof in Luxembourg last week, which would give her four straight seasons with a WTA singles title. Only Sharpova, Serena, Caro, Kvitova and A-Rad have longer active streaks. Wins over Sloane Stephens, Tatjana Maria, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Stefanie Voegele put her into her sixth career final. But after winning a tie-break to force a 3rd set against Misaki Doi in the championship match, Barthel was left in the dust by the Japanese woman in the deciding stanza, which she took at love. Barthel didn't end her week on that bad note, though, as she later took to the court in the doubles final with Laura Siegemund. The pair had saved three MP in the semis to advance, and a win over Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja in the final gives Barthel her second career tour-level (Stuttgart '13 w/ Lisicki) doubles title.

...while she's been mentioned in this space several times during the '15 season, the name of the 18-year old world #202 wasn't exactly on everyone's lips heading in the Rising Stars exhibition in Singapore. By the end of the weekend, though, she'd gathered quite a few new fans, garnered good reviews and, oh yeah, walked off with the trophy for the second annual competition despite being the lowest-ranked player (#202) in the four-woman field.

After losing her first two matches in three (abbreviated) sets in round robin action to Caroline Garcia and Ons Jabeur, Osaka slipped into the final with a 1-2 record via a 3rd set tie-break victory over Zhu Lin. In the final, she once again faced off with the more experienced Garcia, and quickly fell behind a set and 3-0 (with the Pastry only needing to win a fourth game for the title). After staving off four match points, Osaka went on to to win a 2nd set TB and then took four of the five games in the 3rd set to succeed Monica Puig (2014) as the exhibition champion and send Garcia home wondering what might have been. Unfortunately, the Pastry has a little TOO much experience on that front.

VETERAN: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO
...the 33-year old Croat reached the QF in Luxembourg, notching wins over Carina Witthoeft and Sara Errani, with the latter victory over the Italian Lucic's third (w/ Stosur & Begu) over a player ranked in the Top 26 since she reached the Quebec City semis last month, one year after winning the title there. Following a #61-ranked season in 2014 in which MLB ranked in the Top 100 for the first time since 1999 and won her first title in sixteen years, 2015 hasn't been quite as headline-worthy. Setting aside a big win over Simona Halep at Roland Garros and one over then-Top 10er (and soon-to-be U.S. Open Series -- cough, cough - "champ") Karolina Pliskova in Toronto, Lucic has been battling back against bad stretches all year. She had five consecutive losses in the spring, a 2-6 skid during the summer (spanning the clay, grass and early hard court seasons), and was riding another 2-5 slump heading into last week. Still, at 23-28, Lucic has done enough to be ranked in the Top 70 and is going to finish in the Top 100 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1997-99, when she was aged 15-17.
COMEBACKS: Stefanie Voegele/SUI & Anastasija Sevastova/LAT
...25-year old Latvian Sevastova retired from the sport in May 2013. She returned in January of this year, and had immediate success. She won four of her first five comeback events on the ITF circuit, compiling a 29-1 record. As she's moved up to playing in WTA events later in the season, her results have (not surprisingly) slowed a bit. Still, in Week 30 she reached the semis in Florianopolis, her first such result on the WTA tour since 2010. But she came into Moscow off a 4-5 stretch since reaching that July SF in Brazil. She ended the skid with three qualifying wins, then MD victories over Olga Govortsova and (here she is AGAIN) Karolina Pliskova (putting a final stake in the heart of the Czech's Singapore hopes) to reach the QF. Sevastova, 54-13 overall this season, is up to #112 in the new rankings, and if she plays in a few small ITF or WTA $125K Series events in the final months of '15 the former world #36 (2011) might just get her fourth career Top 100 season, her first in four years.

Voegele, 25, was a wild card entry in the Luxembourg event last week as the #148-ranked player in the world. It's been quite a swift fall in '15 for a woman who finished at #44 in 2013 (when she had four SF results, most notably in Charleston and Linz) and #78 last year. She opened her season innocently enough back in January, taking a three-set loss to fellow Swiss Timea Bacsinszky (then ranked #47... oh, what we didn't know), but the seasons that followed for both since that moment couldn't have been more different. Bacsinszky won two titles, reached a slam semi and climbed into the Top 10; while Voegele lost six straight in the spring, then seven straight in the summer. Having nearly fallen out of the Top 150, she finally had her best result of the season last week, knocking off Ula Radwanska, Anna-Lena Friedsam and Laura Siegemund to reach her seventh career tour-level semifinal (her second in Luxembourg, having gotten so far in '13, as well), her first since July '14 in Baku. She's up to #121 in the new rankings.
FRESH FACES: Daria Kasatkina/RUS & Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL
...fear the Kasatkina. The 2014 Roland Garros girls champ has been making a name for herself on the pro level in '15, and she was at it again -- big time -- last week in Russia. A winner of a circuit-leading five ITF titles this season (she's 7-0 in career finals), the 18-year old recently put in a 3rd Round U.S. Open run as a lucky loser. In Moscow, she qualified with victories over Kateryna Kozlova, Anna Kalinskaya and Paula Kania, then notched MD wins over Kania (again) and '14 runner-up Irina-Camelia Begu, then destroyed Carla Suarez-Navarro in under an hour before falling in the her first career WTA semi to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. In doubles, she teamed with fellow Hordette Elena Vesnina to win her first career tour title (delivering Begu a second loss of the week, with partner Monica Niculescu in the final). Before last week, she'd never even played doubles at the WTA level. Kasatkina, despite the LL branding, knows something about winning. She opened '15 by going 18-3, then after a slight 0-3 slip in the spring has gone a combined 40-9 since in ITF and WTA competition. Her week lifts her from #104 into the Top 100 at #73. Needless to say, I'm going to be picking this girl to win her first tour singles title next season when 2016 "Prediction Blowout" time comes around. (Psst...maybe even more than one.)

Van Uytvanck, who at one point had none other than countrywoman Kim Clijsters (Backspin's "All-Time MVP," don't you know) cheering her on from the stands in Luxembourg, reached her third 2015 singles semifinal with wins over Richel Hogenkamp, #2-seeded Ana Ivanovic and '14 runner-up Barbora Strycova. The Waffle was forced to retire in the semis against Misaki Doi with a viral illness, falling to 0-4 in career WTA SF appearances (all in the last thirteen months). Still, she's up to a career-best #41 in the new rankings.

DOWN: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI & Caroline Garcia/FRA
...this week's "Down" (dis)honorees are a dual case of, "but it started out so well." The experiences of both Bacsinszky and Garcia in Week 42 don't take away from the good both achieved, but what happened is surely worth noting here. Bacsinszky's banner year has led her to the Top 10 in the sport, but with Singapore still within reach she was playing in Luxembourg (where she was won her first career title in '09), which the tour had announced in early October wouldn't count in the Singapore race because of it's Sunday final. Thing is, most players had to sign up for the event well before that, and most weren't exactly kept in the know about the whole situation until it was too late, or nearly so. As it turned out, Bacsinszky injured her knee in her first match against Laura Siegemund, forcing her to retire and, ultimately, end her season early. She'd been hoping to at least be an alternate in Singapore. Of course, none of this dampened Bacsinszky's spirits one bit. She just wouldn't be the People's Timea if that happened.

New best friend #robocop #injuredbutfashionable #nameonitincaseiforget

A photo posted by Timea Bacsinszky (@timea.bacsinszky) on

It's fitting that Bacsinszky and Garcia come together once more at the end of 2015, considering the two did a Mexican tango (if there is such a thing, and if there isn't, well, there should be) in a pair of finals in Acapulco and Monterrey earlier this season in which the Swiss wrestled away the "Queen of Mexico" title from the Pastry on successive weekends. Playing in the Rising Stars exhibition in Singapore, Garcia (#35) was the highest-ranked player in the four-person round robin (w/ Naomi Osaka, Zhu Lin and Ons Jabeur). She went 3-0 in RR action, coasting into the final (the other three each went 1-2). But after defeating Osaka in three sets just a few days earlier, Garcia squandered a set and 3-0 lead (the abbreviated rules only required her to win four games in the set), failing to convert on four match points and losing to the 18-year old world #202 in the 3rd in her MOST important singles match of her week. Garcia competes in the WTA Finals doubles with Katarina Srebotnik this week (they lost their opening match on Monday to the Chan sisters).
ITF PLAYERS: Jovana Jaksic/SRB & Daniela Seguel/CHI
...22-year old Serb Jaksic, the runner-up at the WTA Monterrey event last year (in the WTA's first all-Serb tour final vs. AnaIvo), claimed her biggest title since playing in her only tour level final with a victory at the $50K challenger in Saguenay, Quebec this weekend. The runner-up to Julie Coin at last year's event, Jaksic returned and completed the extra step by claiming her fifteenth career circuit crown with a 6-3/6-7(5)/6-1 win in the final over Switzerland's Amra Sadikovic.

At the $25K event in Bucaramanga, Colombia it was Chile's Daniela Seguel who walked away with the honors. The 22-year old defeated Paraguay's Montserrat Gonzalez 6-7(0)/6-3/6-4 in the final to pick up her tenth career circuit title, and tied for the 2015 ITF lead with her fifth crown of the season.

JUNIOR STAR: Rebeka Masarova/SUI
...up for a game of "Six Degrees of Backspin Seperation?" I can get from Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar to Roger Federer in two moves. Earlier this season in a $10K challenger in Madrid, CSQ defeated Swiss junior Rebeka Masarova in a semifinal match-up. Masarova was born in Basel, Switzerland... the hometown of none other than Roger Federer. Yep, that was just a way of introducing another entry in Swiss Tennis's ultimate plan to take over the world. Masarova, the 16-year old 25th-ranked girl, swept the singles and doubles titles at this weekend's Grade 2 Torneo event in Sanxenxo, Spain, defeating Dutch teen Nina Kruijer in a 6-1/6-3 final, and taking the doubles with Brit Francesca Jones. It was a significant step in the Swiss girl's career, but she's been close this year to even bigger things. Having previously won a Grade 3 event last November, Masarova was a runner-up at events in Casablanca (Grade 1) and Trofeo (G1), and a semifinalist in Beaulieu-sur-Mer (G1) and Milan (Grade A) earlier this season. She'll be looking to take similar steps in the '16 junior slams, for sure, having lost early in Paris (Q1 to Priscilla Hon), Wimbledon and New York (1st Rd. in both to Michaela Gordon) this year.

DOUBLES: Elena Vesnina/RUS & Laura Siegemund/GER
...what started out as a bad week for Vesnina (she and Ekaterina Makarova pulled out of Singapore due to Makarova's lingering leg injury), ended quite nicely as she teamed with another Hordette -- teenager Daria Kasatkina -- to win her second Kremlin Cup title in Moscow. Vesnina, now with twelve career tour doubles titles, won the Kremlin Cup in 2012 with Makarova. Kasatkina & Vesnina are the fourth all-Hordette duo to win the title. With Makarova maybe also out for the Fed Cup final, is it possible that Captain Myskina could make a leap of faith and include THIS duo as Team Russia's final match stop gap should things go to the deciding doubles? Not likely, but surely getting Kasatkina some big time FC experience early next year wouldn't be a bad idea (in other words, it's something MJF would never do... so the Czarina should do it, and likely will). There's a little bit of a Bracelet-like vibe about her.

This week I will never forget, thanks for everybody and specially @vesnushka86 ?? @kremlincup_by_bm

A photo posted by Darya Kasatkina (@kasatkina) on

Meanwhile, Siegemund advanced to the singles QF in Luxembourg as a lucky loser, getting a 1st Round retirement from #1 seed Timea Bacsinszky and a full match win over Kirsten Flipkens. But she ended her week in even finer fashion by picking up her third '15 tour doubles title -- with a third different partner, having also won with Asia Muhammad and Annika Beck -- by winning the crown with fellow German Mona Barthel, who also reached the singles final. The duo saved three MP in the semifinals vs. Bertens/Larsson, then defeated the veteran Spanish duo of Medina-Garrigues & Parra-Santonja in straight sets in the final.


Maria is always busy. Meeting tennis legends...

Floating (and hitting) on court...

Or taking aim off it. Take that, mom.

1. Moscow Final - Kuznetsova d. Pavlyuchenkova
Oh, yes. The all-Hordette, all-Consternation final. I mean, there are few more unpredictable Russians -- or players, period -- than these two. So, of course, they met in the final. Want to play another little Backspin game? Okay... Pavlyuchenkova was the 2014 Kremlin Cup champ, while Kuznetsova hadn't won a title since 2014 in Washington, the same event at which Pavlyuchenkova was the runner-up this past summer against Current/Future Sloane Stephens. I'm sure there's a Rad/Citizen Anna connection in there somewhere, too. The Tennis Gods just have too much free time on their hands. I mean, can't they just sue the USTA or something so that they can stop making me dizzy?
2. Lux Final - Doi d. Barthel
With Nao Hibino three weeks ago, Doi makes Japan the only nation with two first-time title winners on tour this season. Of the eleven first-time champions in 2015, Barthel was the final victim of the week for two of them, having also lost in the Bastad decider to Johanna Larsson. Ah, but that's not all -- she lost in the 1st Round in Eastbourne to Belinda Benic en route to the Swiss teen's maiden title there on the grass this summer, as well.
3. Moscow 1st Rd. - Gavrilova d. Cornet 3-6/6-3/7-5
Moscow 1st Rd. - Begu/Niculescu d. Cornet/Gavrilova 6-3/7-6(2)
this is the second straight event that Cornet faced off in singles with her doubles partner for the week. In Hong Kong, it was Yaroslava Shvedova. But in that case, Cornet won the singles encounter, then the duo took the doubles crown. Neither happened in Moscow where Gavrilova was concerned.
4. Lux 1st Rd. - Maria d. Andrianjafitrimo
So close, Tessah. Oh, so close. Maybe next time. (Evil laugh.)
5. Moscow 1st Rd. - Dabrowski/Olaru d. Bukhanko/Majoli
Hey, if Martina Hingis can get into the doubles act, then Iva Majoli, the Croat who defeated the Swiss Miss in the '97 Roland Garros final (which ultimately denied a 16-year old Hingis a Grand Slam that season) can, too. The 38-year old got a Kremlin Cup wild card into the doubles competition and played her first match on tour since 2004.
6. Lux 1st Rd. - Siegemund d. Bacsinszky
...4-6/6-4 ret.
Yet another lucky loser gets an opening round victory, though it's a pity it had to come this way.
7. Lux SF - Barthel/Siegemund d. Bertens/Larsson
...4-6/6-1 [15-13].
The Germans saved three MP in the deciding tie-break, then went on to take the title.
8. Moscow Q3 - Kasatkina d. Kania 6-2/6-1
Moscow 1st Rd. - Kasatkina d. Kania 7-5/2-6/6-3
Kania knows all about fearing the Kasatkina.
But don't blame her for Glenn's plight... that is, if what happened on "The Walking Dead" really DID happen on Sunday night, which I don't necessarily think it did. I say, blame the Tennis Gods... or the USTA. I mean, you know, if it DID happen.

On second thought, just blame the USTA as a matter of course. It's usually a full-proof plan of action.
9. $10K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Jenny Claffey d. Karola Bejenaru
... 6–3/7–6(4).
The #817-ranked, 25-year old from Dublin, who was spending time coaching at the Elm Park Tennis Club in Ireland before making her pro debut in March, claims her first career ITF singles title.

10. $25K Brisbane Final - Priscilla Hon d. Kimberly Birrell
Hon wins her second career title by taking the battle of 17-year old Aussies.
11. WTA Finals RR - Halep d. Pennetta
Halep easily claims the opening singles match in Singapore, winning 20 of the first 27 points and the first seven games, taking the match from Pennetta in 1:10. Somehow, though, I think she'd trade this win for one over the Italian in the U.S. Open semifinals last September. Just a hunch.

12. WTA Finals RR - Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro
The Dynamic Duo, with the collective eye of the tiger, get an opening RR day win in their first match since taking the title in Toronto.


Success is where you find it.

Apparently, Ajla Tomljanovic is starring in a new, slightly different buddy movie called "Anything But Stable."

Yep, another Serena Williams U.S. Open 1st Round victim update: Vitalia Diatchenko is, literally, above it all.

1. WTA Finals RR - Sharapova d. Aga Radwanska
Great fight from Sharapova was shown in this comeback win in her first full match since Wimbledon, but A-Rad had a shot to potentially reverse the course of the match (again) when she missed on a swing volley on break point down 4-5 on the Russian's serve in the 3rd. Rather than hitting into a relatively open court, she sent the ball down the line to a waiting Sharapova forehand lob effort -- in a case of getting a taste of her own medicine -- that was placed perfectly over the Pole for a winner. She went on to hold serve and win on her third MP. We'll see whether this will be a tone-setting match for both this week, or an opening salvo that will seem quaint by next weekend. After all, it's still a question whether or not Sharapova will be in top form all week (she wasn't much of the time here), and Aga has been the most in-form player to this point in the 4Q... though this loss does make her 1-6 in the last seven WTAF matches.

2. Rising Stars Final - Naomi Osaka d. Garcia
The scoring here was of the first-to-four games, win-by-two, TB at 4-4, to-claim-the-set variety. Oddly enough, it STILL didn't keep Garcia from blowing a big lead (of course not). The Pastry led 3-0 in the second and held four MP against Mari's sister (Naomi's 19-year old tennis sibling, in case you were wondering why Osaka is on this list).

3. Moscow 1st Rd. - Karolina Pliskova d. Dulgheru 6-4/5-7/7-6(7)
Moscow 2nd Rd. - Sevastova d. Karolina Pliskova 6-3/7-6(10)
Pliskova battled to keep her WTAF hopes alive, saving MP vs. Dulgheru, but her Singapore dream proved to be short-lived nightmare one round later
4. $50K Joué-lès-Tours Final - Fridman d. Kristyna Pliskova
The Pliskovas are a combined 0-3 in finals since June. Before that point, they were 5-3 in 2015 title-deciding matches. Meanwhile, 17-year old (world #434) Fridman claims her second ITF title, and the biggest of her career so far. The Ukrainian made her WTA tournament debut in Baku qualifying in July.
5. Moscow 1st Rd. - Ostapenko/Rodina d. Nadiia Kichenok/Kovinic 6-4/6-3
Moscow 1st Rd. - Jurak/Melichar d. Lyudmyla Kichenok/Savchuk 3-6/6-1 [10-8]
obviously, pairing off the Kichenok sisters with others isn't the answer to a question that comes up good for either one of them.

Rubbing elbows...

And doing Paris...

From Paris with ??

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

#Repost @serenawilliams Morning tea ?????? @carowozniacki ??

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

Caro doing her best artful Sharapova-on-Instagram impression. (It might not be an album cover... but maybe a fine photo fit for a puzzle?)

And now, buckle in for an extra-long version of...

Gavrilova: The Early Years

Get there!!

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

The Dancing Queen

We always dance when we are together but we could never really dance... ?? #sorry

A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Made for @WTAReactions...

And, finally, Dasha... is that you?


A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

2003 Anastasia Myskina
2004 Anastasia Myskina
2006 Anna Chakvetadze
2007 Elena Dementieva
2014 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
2015 Svetlana Kuznetsova
2002 Elena Dementieva
2003 Nadia Petrova
2004 Anastasia Myskina & Vera Zvonareva
2008 Nadia Petrova
2009 Maria Kirilenko & Nadia Petrova
2012 Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina
2013 Svetlana Kuznetsova
2015 Daria Kasatkina & Elena Vesnina

#130 Teliana Pereira, BRA (Bogota)
#117 Nao Hibino, JPN (Tashkent)
#112 Margarita Gasparyan, RUS (Baku)
#87 Ana Konjuh, CRO (Nottingham)
#86 Yanina Wickmayer, BEL (Japan Open)

Katowice - Anna Schmiedlova (SVK, 20 - Giorgi)
Bogota - Teliana Pereira (BRA, 26 - Shvedova)
's-Hertogenbosch - Camila Giorgi (ITA, 23 - Bencic)
Nottingham - Ana Konjuh (CRO, 17 - Niculescu)
Eastbourne - Belinda Bencic (SUI, 18 - A.Radwanska)
Bastad - Johanna Larsson (SWE, 26 - Barthel)
Istanbul - Lesia Tsurenko (UKR, 26 - U.Radwanska)
Baku - Margarita Gasparyan (RUS, 20 - Tig)
Washington - Sloane Stephens (USA, 22 - Pavlyuchenkova)
Tashkent - Nao Hibino (JPN, 20 - Vekic)
Luxembourg - Misaki Doi (JPN, 24 - Barthel)

2 - Maria Sharapova (Jan, 1-1)
2 - Timea Bacsinszky (Feb/Mar, 2-0)
2 - Caroline Garcia (Feb/Mar, 0-2)
2 - Simona Halep (Feb/Mar, 2-0)
2 - Angelique Kerber (Apr, 2-0)
2 - Serena Williams (Jun/Jul, 2-0)
2 - Simona Halep (Aug, 0-2)
2 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Oct, 1-1)

Auckland - Venus Williams, USA (F-Ivanovic)
Sydney - Petra Kvitova, CZE (SF-Pironkova)
Katowice - Anna Schmiedlova, SVK (QF-Cornet)
Charleston - Angelique Kerber, GER (SF-Petkovic)
Stuttgart - Angelique Kerber, GER (2r-Sharapova)
Strasbourg - Samantha Stosur, AUS (1r-Puig)
Bastad - Johanna Larsson, SWE (F-Barthel)
Quebec City - Annika Beck, GER (SF-Lucic-B)
Moscow - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (F-Pavlyuchenkova]
ALSO: Washington - Stephens, QF w/o Pavlyuchenkova

4...Italy - Errani,Giorgi,Knapp,Pennetta
4...RUSSIA - Gasparyan,Kuznetsova,Pavlyuchenkova,Sharapova
3...Czech Republic - Kvitova,Ka.Pliskova,Safarova
3...Germany - Beck,Petkovic,Kerber
3...United States - Stephens,S.Williams,V.Williams
2...JAPAN - Doi,Hibino
2...Romania - Halep,Begu
2...Slovak Republic - Hantuchova,A.Schmiedlova
2...Switzerland - Bacsinszky,Bencic
2...Ukraine - Svitolina,Tsurenko

Sydney: Kvitova d. Ka.Pliskova [first all-CZE since 2009]
Prague: Ka.Pliskova d. Hradecka [CZE]
Nurnburg: Knapp d. Vinci [ITA]
New Haven: Kvitova d. Safarova [CZE]
U.S. Open: Pennetta d. Vinci [first all-ITA slam final]
Moscow: Kuznetsova d. Pavlyuchenkova [first all-RUS since 2011]

86...Serena Williams (2015: 5)
77...Venus Williams (2)
68...Martina Hingis
58...Maria Sharapova (3)
40...Caroline Wozniacki (3)
34...Jelena Jankovic (2)
33...Victoria Azarenka (1)

.000 - Carolin Garcia (0-2)
.000 - Roberta Vinci (0-2)
.000 - Carla Suarez-Navarro (0-2+L)
.200 - Karolina Pliskova (1-4)
.333 - Caroline Wozniacki (1-2)
.333 - Lucie Safarova (1-2)
.333 - Garbine Muguruza (1-2)

Marrakech - Timea Babos, HUN (L/W)
Roland Garros - Lucie Safarova, CZE (L/W)
Bastad - Johanna Larsson, SWE (W/W)
Florianopolis - Annika Beck, GER (L/W)
Baku - Margarita Gasparyan, RUS (W/W)
Luxembourg - Mona Barthel, GER (L/W)

Auckland - Ana Ivanovic (lost to V.Williams)
Miami - Serena Williams (def. Suarez-Navarro)
Bastad - Mona Barthel (lost to Larsson)
Cincinnati - Serena Williams (def. Halep)
New Haven - Petra Kvitova (def. Safarova)
Moscow - Anastasia Pavlyucheniova (lost to Kuznetsova)

35...Maria Sharapova (2003-15)
16...Elena Dementieva (2003-10)
13...Nadia Petrova (2005-12)
12...Vera Zvonareva (2003-11)
12...Dinara Safina (2002-09)
10...Anastasia Myskina (1999-05)
9...Olga Morozova (1969-75)
8...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2010-15)
8...Anna Chakvetadze (2006-10)

Istanbul = Tsurenko(W)-U.Radwanska(RU)-Flipkens-Rybarikova
Tashkent = Hibino(W)-Vekic(RU)-Jovanovski-Rodina
Moscow = Kuznetsova(W)-Pavlyuchenkova(RU)-Tsurenko-Kasatkina(q)
Luxembourg = Doi(W)-Barthel(RU)-Voegele(wc)-Van Uytvanck

18 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (Prague)
18 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (Washington)
18 - Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA (Bogota)
19 - Barbora Krejcikova, CZE (Quebec City)
19 - Rebecca Peterson, SWE (Rio)
19 - Katerina Siniakova, CZE (Prague)

12...Martina Hingis, SUI (w/ 3 MX)
9...Sania Mirza, IND
6...Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA (w/ 1 MX)
4...Lucie Safarova, CZE
4...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
4...Chan Hao-Ching Chan, TPE
3...Chan Yung-Jan, TPE
3...Timea Babos, HUN
3...Raquel Kops-Jones, USA
3...Abigail Spears, USA

Prague - Katerina Siniakova, CZE
Bastad - Johanna Larsson, SWE
Toronto - Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
Tianjin - Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai, CHN
Moscow - Daria Kasatkina/Elena Vesnina, RUS
ALSO: Dabrowski/Zhao (CAN) won Pan-American Games gold in Toronto

8 - Martina Navratilova
5 - Steffi Graf
5 - Serena Williams
4 - Chris Evert
3 - Kim Clijsters
3 - Monica Seles
2 - Evonne Goolagong
2 - Justine Henin
2 - Martina Hingis
2 - Gabriela Sabatini
1 - Tracy Austin
1 - Lindsay Davenport
1 - Silvia Hanika
1 - Petra Kvitova
1 - Amelie Mauresmo
1 - Jana Novotna
1 - Maria Sharapova
1 - Venus Williams
14...Martina Navratilova (8-6)
8...Chris Evert (4-4)
7...Serena Williams (5-2)
6...Steffi Graf (5-1)
4...Lindsay Davenport (1-3)
4...Martina Hingis (2-2)
4...Monica Seles (3-1)
4...Gabriela Sabatini (2-2)
3...Kim Clijsters (3-0)
3...Evonne Goolagong (2-1)
3...Amelie Mauresmo (1-2)
3...Maria Sharapova (1-2)
2...Tracy Austin (1-1)
2...Justine Henin (2-0)
2...Mary Pierce (0-2)
2...Venus Williams (1-1)
[Reached Final in Debut]
1979 Tracy Austin
1981 Andrea Jaeger
1994 Lindsay Davenport
1996 Martina Hingis
2001 Serena Williams (W)
2004 Maria Sharapova (W)
2011 Petra Kvitova (W)
2014 Simona Halep
2015 Debuts: Muguruza,Pennetta,Safarova

11 - Martina navratilova
10 - Pam Shriver
4 - Lisa Raymond
3 - Cara Black
3 - Lindsay Davenport
3 - Liezel Huber
3 - Natasha Zvereva
2 - Margaret Court
2 - Gigi Fernandez
2 - Martina Hingis
2 - Anna Kournikova
2 - Jana Novotna
2 - Nadia Petrova
2 - Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
2 - Samantha Stosur

**2015 ITF TITLES**
5...Fatma Al-Nabhani, OMA
5...Deniz Khazankiuk, ISR
5...Daria Kasatkina, RUS
5...Anne Schaefer, GER
5...Isabella Shinikova, BUL
5...Tamara Zidansek, SLO

Garcia kicks off the Singapore infinity pool tradition for Year 2...

Another two-year-old tradition... the Singapore walk.

The Elite 8... but not the Elite 8 playing for the "Elite" Trophy event next week. They're MORE Elite than THOSE Elite 8, for sure. I think.

The gang's all here. (Well, except for Serena.)

14 Final: S.Williams d. Halep
14 Doubles Final: Black/Mirza d. Hsieh/Pennetta
15 Singles Top Seed (Red Group): #1 Halep (#3 Sharapova,#6 Radwanska,#7 Pennetta)
15 Singles Top Seed (White Group): #2 Muguruza (#4 Kvitova,#5 Kerber,#8 Safarova)
15 Doubles Top Seeds: #1 Hingis/Mirza, #2 Mattek-Sands/Safarova

#5 A.Radwanska d. #2 Muguruza
#4 Kvitova d. #3 Sharapova
#4 Kvitova d. #5 A.Radwanska

...well, I guess I've already done a number on Petra. I made this pick before her opening round robin loss on Monday to Kerber. I suppose she could still slip through to the semifinals, though, as her indoor court prowess is a known commodity. Well, unless Truly Bad Petra shows up, or Mono Petra. After today, though, I fear we might not see Good Petra or Stereo Petra in Singapore. She had seven DF against the German, and failed to convert set point in the 2nd after having broken Kerber when she served for the match at 5-4. She could really use a boost. Hmmm...

Maybe PETRA is the one hiding in plain sight, just like Luke Skywalker in the new Star Wars movie poster!?!?

#1 Hingis/Mirza d. #3 Chan/Chan
#2 Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. #4 Babos/Mladenovic
#1 Hingis/Mirza d. #2 Mattek-Sands/Safarova far, so good for the Dream Team, though. They won their eighteenth straight match on Monday over Kops-Jones/Spears. It's gotta be the ring.

Or this...

No daily updates for Singapore, but there may be some commentary in the comment section, though (seems fitting). Oh, and the Regional Honors arrive this week, as well.

And, finally, because respect must be paid to the Original Face of Backspin. In a case of perfect timing...

Somehow, I think the vote will work out in La Petit Taureau's favor.

All for now.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, I wonder how the overall level of play at this tournament (singles-wise) would have been had it been played in the last week of September rather than the last of October, without the additional month of wear and tear, weekly continent hopping and lingering injuries/illnesses made worse by not being allowed to be given a suitable break?

It's no coincidence that, Muguruza aside, the most competitive and "on" player so far has been Sharapova... the only one in the field who didn't put herself through the early fall grind.

Granted, this is a season particularly plagued by such maladies for the top players at the close of the year. Still, though the round robin format of this event is a better, more fare, option for the WTAF, the single-elimination draw that was in effect when it was held in NYC might be a better physical/health match for most of the players with the current schedule set-up as it is.

Wed Oct 28, 02:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nicolas said...

Muguruza is just WOW! I mean.. she is even coming to the net A LOT. Beatiful to watch!

Wed Oct 28, 06:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I can't watch much of it because of the time difference, and even what I CAN watch is being hampered by constantly changing temoeratures in my house (wake up early and have to go back to sleep).

Odd how Mugu is peaking now. Could she pull a Mauresmo?

Wed Oct 28, 10:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I'm liking that "next first time slam champ" thought I had earlier for Muguruza. Maybe in January? Hmmm. ;)

You have to wonder if she might be more "fresh" now than some others because of some excitement over the immediate results she's had with Sumyk. She seems to be more consistently focused and "working off a gameplan" in recent weeks than she's sometimes been.

Wed Oct 28, 11:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I thought about that, too. He's such a good coach, and if the chemistry is good, then she may have gotten quite a boost. It was only a matter of time, anyway. And with the others tired/injured/burned out, why not now?

Thu Oct 29, 12:07:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, now that was more like it. Classic Aga. Well, at least after she'd failed to convert two SP in the 1st, then fallen behind 5-1 in the eventual tie-break against Halep before turning things around to win, then being rewarded with a semifinal berth despite a 1-2 RR record.

Showing a bit more aggression, Age was displaying her typical brilliant shotmaking skills even more than usual. Lobs, running winners off Halep drop shots, etc. There were even a handful of beautiful high backhand volleys/overheads (which commentators like to say is the toughest shot in the sport... but Aga pulls it off all the time with little trouble at all).

Unfortunately, the ultimate 7-6(5)/6-1 win over Halep was Classic Simona, too. Without the Simonativity, I mean. Once again, she just went away in the 2nd set and ended her season with a whimper. All she had to do was win that 1st set and she'd eliminated Radwanska and, essentially, put herself in the semis.

I just didn't like the optics of her whole Singapore experience this week. One year after she defeated Serena there, made the final, and sort of went away in the championship match, she arrived this year with no Serena in sight and as the #1 seed... and said she didn't expect to win and was just looking to "enjoy" the experience. Watching Darren Cahill try to shake her out of it after she blew the 1st set to Radwanska was painful. A coach shouldn't have to tell the world #2 to "inspire him" with her play, it should be a given under the circumstances. No matter how many times he told her that be believed that she "can do this" she didn't show an iota of agreement with the notion. It doesn't give one great hope that anything will be different in '16. She'll still be good, but the belief is missing that is necessary to win the BIG events. And trying to downplay your chances heading into some events (it was pretty easy to think her words were her attempt to take pressure off herself) isn't going to fool anyone, let alone herself.

Considering her idolization of Henin, one wonders if there might only be one person who could REALLY help her. Carlos Rodriguez. He was last seen still working with Hantuchova... but finding his way one day to Halep would seem to be a worth-the-effort project that could be a case of lightning striking twice (or three times, if you take into account what he did for Li). So what if he's not Romanian?

Of course, the polar opposite of Halep at the WTAF is Sharapova. She's REALLY savoring everything, and has been more competitive than a bushel of Simonas. I mean, who else would take down Pennetta in two sets, showing no mercy, then note (very honestly) how she'd wanted to get some revenge on Flavia for past defeats before her career was over... then throw in that she just learned that this was going to be Pennetta's final match. Oh, well. Mission accomplished then. :)

Classic Sharapova. As it should be.

Thu Oct 29, 05:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Agree about Carlos R. and Halep. Halep, I think, is a very complex person, as were Henin and Li. He seems to do eell these kinds of players.

Thu Oct 29, 10:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...


Thu Oct 29, 10:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Apparently she's making some sort of coaching announcement next week. I'm sure Rodriguez won't be involved, though. I suspect this "announcement scenario," ala with AnaIvo, might become an almost annual (or more frequent?) thing for a while. :(

Thu Oct 29, 11:52:00 PM EDT  

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