Monday, November 02, 2015

Wk.43- The Little Pole Who Could... does

In Singapore, you only live twice. Or, in the case of Aga Radwanska, three times... or was it four?

"It doesn't matter how you start, it matters how you end."

For all the magic she often artistically dispenses with her racket, that simple, to the point, sentiment might just be the most essential, intelligent thought that Radwanska has ever had or uttered concerning her tennis career. And that's saying something.

As for SOME of the rest (and a little more of our favorite Pole)...

1. Come on, you knooooow

The Force was definitely with Aga in Singapore.
2. The Dream Team (and here is where we bow to their greatness)

One season after Serena Williams tried, but failed, to achieve a Grand Slam, might Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza be the team to pull off the feat in 2016 in women's doubles? Martina, for one, knows how to go about it. She was the last to win a Grand Slam of any kind in professional tennis, sweeping the WD slams in 1998 (winning three with Jana Novotna, and the fourth with Mirjana Lucic). The last women's doubles DUO to do it was Navratilova/Shriver in 1984. And with the Olympics on tap, a Golden Slam is possible, as well... but only for Hingis, who'd likely be teaming fellow Swiss Belinda Bencic in Rio.

Then again, where Hingis is concerned, it might a case of in WHICH discipline gives her the best shot at a Grand Slam. There's always a Mixed Grand Slam possibility with Leander Paes, too. Maybe even a DOUBLE Doubles Grand Slam???

Heh-heh... not too much pressure of expectation or anything.
3. The WTA Finals Evolving into THE Doubles Showcase for the Sport, how great was the overall doubles competition in Singapore? While the Dream Team was expectedly dominant, the new round robin format is such a perfect showcase. 2015 began with a vast reshuffling of the leading doubles duo, but it ends with a collection of pairs that are as interesting and exciting to watch as their singles brethren. And with the single-elimination format gone, we get a better opportunity to savor that fact at the WTA Finals.

It's usually very (too?) easy to knock the things that are wrong with how the WTA or other organizations (the slams, the... cough, cough... USTA, etc.), but when someone gets something right then THAT should be pointed out loudly and with excitement, as well. So, well, THERE! Loud enough?

4. While We're At It...
...can new WTA CEO Steve Simon's comments about looking FIRST at the way the WTA schedule is constructed be the next good idea worth shouting (in the early stages) about by this time next year? I mean, imagine how much MORE competitive this event would be if it was held in the first week of October rather that the last, and how much more rested and healthy the players would be come January if they had that extra month of recuperation at the end of a long season.
5. New Stars Being Born


1. The Calm Before the Storm (but it was worth it!)
Aga's 1-9 stretch in WTA Championships/Finals play. Well, before... you know, what happened after that. "It doesn't matter how you start, it matters how you end."
2. Simona Halep
...unfortunately, while Radwanska's turnaround in her final round robin match with Simona Halep ultimately led to sparkling drama a few days later, the ultimate 7-6(5)/6-1 victory left us with an unsavory aftertaste in our mouths regarding the Romanian. At least that's the case with me.

Without "Simonativity" to guide her (yet 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 last 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. Huh? Umm, allll right... if that's how you want to play it.

Watching Darren Cahill try to "shake her out of it" after Halep 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, either. She'll still be (likely, Top 5) good, but the belief is currently missing that is necessary to win the BIG events (Garbi seems to have stolen those good vibes, actually). And trying to downplay her 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 her inner, pressure-feeling self. Neither is what happenend AFTER that match.

Halep talked of having had a good season, which she did... even it was front-loaded with her best results (cue that earlier Aga quote), and ends with the lingering memory of so much that has become unraveled with her mental game in 2015 rather than the fact that she finished the year at #2, the best finish ever by a Romanian. Maybe it's just me, but I wanted her to be more ticked off, and resolute in her determination to remove the doubts about her that have grown roots over the past year. Maybe I want a Serena or Vika-like take down of her own efforts, or at least the sort of "on the mark" comments that were coming from Halep herself earlier this year when she crumbled in pressure situations and vowed to never do it again. Of course, then she did just that several times during the remainder of the season... so maybe they'd just be hollow words if she'd uttered them, at least until things actually change on the court.

After losing to Radwanska, Halep stuck around Singapore and seemed the picture of a pressure-free player in the stands during the Radwanska/Muguruza semifinal that probably should have featured her. I wasn't the only one a bit disturbed by the image, at least on the surface. And Martina is usually on the mark when it comes to such things.

It just doesn't seem like the sort of reaction we'd see from, say, Justine Henin, Halep's tennis idol, after what would rightly be considered a hugely disappointing week that SHOULD serve as the focus of an offseason that would seek to change the storyline regarding the top-ranked Romanian by this time NEXT year.

Oh, well. We'll see how things go, but at the moment it's hard to be as optimistic about Halep as was the case twelve months ago.

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?

Halep is set to make yet another coaching announcement for next season this week. Rodriguez's name won't likely come up, but maybe it will down the line. In a 2016 during which Le Petit Taureau is pretty much a certainty to be inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame, Halep will get a glimpse of what can happen when a player gets the very most out of her career. Henin did just that, many times over. So far, Halep has not.

She's got time. But time slips away faster than one might think in these situations.
3. The Stupid Sameness is largely a television/online sport, so why should it be so difficult a task to institute a directive that forces players on TV courts to declare before a match what outfit/color scheme they will wear so that they can be immediately visually differentiated from their opponent during the action? It's a rule that pretty much all team sports enacted long ago, and even individual sports like golf and boxing "unofficially" adhere to, for the most part. Only in tennis is it often difficult for a viewer to tell the players apart with a quick glance.

The Kvitova vs. Safarova match in Singapore -- in an EIGHT-player field -- was the latest which featured players wearing identical outfits and colored shoes. They were even both Czechs! The sport has managed to change all sorts of things to produce a better televised product, from replay challenges and on-court coaching with microphones (though it's debatable how good that is) to in-match interviews (little debate there -- it's just wrong), so why not this? It would seem to be the EASIEST of all these things to fix, in fact.

I'm just sayin'.




...hey, Maria, don't step on my toes and make some sort of pronouncement about Muguruza's future before I get my shot in the 2016 "Prediction Blowout," okay? Maybe I should go ahead and do this. Hmmm, let me see, let's just say that I could see Garbi being on top "Up Over" at some point next season. Hint, hint. Get it? Think about it, it'll come to you. [Of course, no prediction is OFFICIAL until December.]

*THE, uh, NO, ANGIE. NO.*

...while Angelique Kerber's thoughts are understandable (especially considering she failed to advance out of round robin play), the fact is that one big allure of this season-ending event is that every match gets an individual spotlight. It's one of the most ridiculous things in the sport that the slams often play big matches late in the tournament at the same time, pretty much giving a collective middle finger to the many fans around the world who'd like to devote time to watching each match rather than having to switch back and forth (meaning they don't really "watch" either), or skip one altogether.

...why is Katrina Adams, the current President and CEO of the USTA since last November, still doing tennis commentary? Part of the world television feed from Singapore, Adams was the featured sideline commentator on both Tennis Channel and, for the final, the coverage featured on ESPN2 on Sunday. Adams has been a serviceable commentator for a while, though hardly one anyone would miss should she be absent, what with her decided lack of on-air personality and generally rote in-match notes. Although, I guess it's not as if she has anything else more important to do... oh, yeah, except for the fact that she does. Or supposedly so.

Of course, it should be noted that former players with deep USTA links -- Mary Joe Fernandez and Patrick McEnroe -- are already featured on ESPN2's regular coverage, so such head-shaking broadcasting notes are hardly uncommon. And, yes, that's the only thing that needs to be said when one wonders why there is never any legitimate criticism of anything relating to the USTA on ESPN's coverage.

Anyway, I just found it more than odd. So... the USTA and a moment of eyebrow raising confusion. Go figure.

(Oh, and on a side note... go, Genie.)

*AND... THE ??????*
Arantxa's Pants

But, of course, in the end, Singapore was all about Aga. After fighting to get into Singapore, fighting to get into the semifinals and then fighting to win back-to-back matches vs. power players once she got there, Radwanska rightly basked in the afterglow of a career week that went from nightmare to dream in what seemed like a blink of an eye. It left her disbelieving and breathless, not the mention a little teary-eyed. She wasn't likely the only one.

"A few weeks ago I didn't know if I would be here. This is the biggest day of my life!"
- Aga Radwanska


WTA FINALS (Singapore; HCI)
S: Aga Radwanska/POL def. Petra Kvitova/CZE 6-2/4-6/6-3
D: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND) def. Garbine Muguruza/Carla Suarez-Navarro (ESP/ESP) 6-0/6-3
RS: Naomi Osaka/JPN def. Caroline Garcia/FRA 3-5/5-4(6)/4-1
FS 16s: Pranjala Yadlapalli/IND def. Yun Hye Ran/KOR 6-2/6-0
FS 14s: Chu Jiayu/CHN def. Fitriani Sabatini/INA 6-0/2-6 [10-6]
LEGENDS: Martina Navratilova, USA

...where there's a Radwanska, there's a way (is there an echo in here?). The notion never proved more so than last week in Singapore, as Radwanska came into the WTA Finals as the hottest player of the 4th Quarter before turning into the most disappointing performer of the week, then turning on a dime and suddenly becoming quite possibly the most memorable winner of the event. Ever. Needless to say, things didn't seem to be going Aga's way early in round robin play. Seeking career win #500, she squandered a lead and lost to Maria Sharapova in three, then failed to put away the 1st set and lost in straights to Flavia Pennetta. After failing to put away set point in the 1st against Simona Halep in her final RR match, Radwanska was staring down the barrel of her second 0-3 Finals week in three years (at the moment, she'd gone 1-9 in her last ten matches at the event dating back to 2012) when she trailed 5-1 in the 1st set TB, knowing that dropping even one set would eliminate her from semifinal contention. But when the Little Pole That Could charged back with six straight points she changed the direction of the event, as well as quite possibly both Halep's career, as well as her own. Her straight sets win, coupled with Sharapova's sweep of Pennetta later in the day, pushed A-Rad into her third year-end tournament semis. After battling her way through two power players in back-to-back three-setters -- flashing all her many skills vs. Muguruza, then using her brains to outlast Kvitova -- Radwanska claimed the biggest title of her career and her third of the 4Q alone, as her late-season surge allows her to finish in the Top 5. After not posting a Top 5 win all season, Aga ended 2015 by winning three straight over Top 5 players and replacing Kvitova in that elite group.

It was a sometimes frustrating season for Radwanska, but one that now might rightly be considered her "best ever" and "most important" after the possibly career-defining rally she put on over the last half of the year. At some point this season, with the walls (and a new generation of stars) closing in around her, one got the feeling that maybe even Aga was looking at the possibility that her best might be behind her. I think what she's done since June might have even surprised her. But now, for maybe the first time since she lost in that Wimbledon semifinal to Sabine Lisicki in 2013, she knows what she's capable of. What she does with that knowledge will be keenly interesting to observe.

RISERS: Garbine Muguruza/ESP & Petra Kvitova/CZE
...Muguruza gets the top billing in this category because, while Kvitova reached the final and Aga won the title, the Spaniard was the true "breakout" star of the week in Singapore. Even after having already reached the Wimbledon final this summer, Muguruza's lackluster post-SW19 hard court swing prevented us from really getting a glimpse of what she COULD be. On the heels of her Wuhan runner-up and Beijing title run, the just-turned 22-year old has proven in the 4Q that she can indeed string together quality results against top players in big events. Teaming with new coach Sam Sumyk, Muguruza was more consistently focused in recent weeks, and managed to be so ALL the way through the WTA Finals, as she was the only player who had to play all eight days, having reached the singles semis (going 3-0 in her singles RR debut) AND doubles final with Carla Suarez-Navarro. The youngest player in the field, Muguruza may have officially replaced Simona Halep as the top "maiden slam champ in waiting" on tour... probably a fitting distinction considering how she destroyed the Romanian in their big stage Fed Cup match-up early this year in what proved to be a telling, and maybe season-turning, moment for both players. All her late season work allowed Muguruza to claim the year-ending rank of #3, behind only #1 Serena Williams and #2 Halep, despite winning just one singles title during the season. After an offseason and early-year work with Sumyk, the sky may be the limit for the Spaniard in 2016. In fact, by the end of next year Halep may again be considered the "next first-time slam champ"... but it might not be because the Romanian will have solved her issues with pressure by then, but instead because Muguruza could have already claimed her first.

It was odd week for Kvitova. For the most part, she often didn't look good in round robin play, going 1-2 and falling to Muguruza in her third match with a spot in the semifinals on the line. But then she got a helping hand from Fed Cup teammate Lucie Safarova, whose straight sets win over Angelique Kerber sent Kvitova into the semis. Showing great poise and Good Petra stuff, Kvitova rose to the occasion and downed Maria Sharapova, erasing a 5-1 2nd set deficit to win in straight sets and advance to the final of the WTA Finals (then "Championships") event she won in 2011. Against Aga Radwanska, though, Bad Petra was back. For quite a long stay. But Good Petra pushed things to a 3rd set, even going up an early break against the Pole. But a lingering thigh injury and Aga's magical three-day-long magic carpet ride finally put an end to things for Kvitova. Still, after a trying season of dealing with and attempting to play through a bout with mono, Kvitova looked good enough at times in Singapore to think she could assume her usual leadership role in the Fed Cup final against Russia. Who knows, we might even get to see if she can take down Sharapova again, only this time with the Maidens' fourth FC title in five years on the line. Of course, if not, maybe Lucie can bail her out once more.

SURPRISE: Rebecca Peterson/SWE
...20-year old Peterson is the second-highest ranked Swede (behind Johanna Larsson) on the WTA computer. This weekend she won her biggest career singles title at a $50K challenger in Macon, Georgia (U.S.), claiming career title #8 with victories over Victoria Rodriguez, Jacqueline Cako, Jennifer Brady, Lesley Kerkhove and top-seeded Bannerette Anna Tatishvili 6-3/4-6/6-1 in the final. She's up to a career-high of #129 in the new WTA rankings. In February, Peterson grabbed her only tour-level title in Rio, winning the doubles crown with Waffle Ysaline Bonaventure.
VETERANS: Maria Sharapova/RUS & Martina Navratilova/USA
...we weren't quite sure what to expect from Sharapova, but what we got was hardly unexpected. Completing her first match since the Wimbledon semifinals, Sharapova opened RR play in Singapore with a three-set comeback win over Aga Radwanska, showing great competitive form, if not always sterling form, in general. Ultimately, she went 3-0 in RR play, handing #1-seeded Simona Halep a commanding defeat and not even giving up a set to Flavia Pennetta when all the Italian vet needed was to win one to extend her career at least one additional match. In the semifinals, though, with the thought of Sharapova's first year-end championships title since 2004 on everyone's mind, she was bested by Petra Kvitova for the second straight year at this event. After dropping the 1st set, she led the Czech 5-1 in the 2nd before uncharacteristically squandering the lead and falling in straights. She'll close the year at #4 for her fifth straight Top 5 finish and the ninth in the last twelve seasons.

In the Legends doubles exhibition, 59-year old Martina Navratilova (the event's doubles trophy is named for her) claimed the honors, winning a higher percentage of games in the alternating-partners format than "junior Legends" Marion Bartoli (31, and last year's winner), Arantxa Sanchez (43) and Tracy Austin (52).
COMEBACKS: Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE/CZE) & Tatjana Maria/GER
...thankfully, the Czechs have seen the error of their ways after disbanding their partnership after the 2013 season. Hlavackova & Hradecka won eleven titles from 2007-13, including two slams (U.S. & RG), and reached the finals of Wimbledon, the Olympics and the (then-named) WTA Championships. While they're fine with other partners, they're simply even better together. They picked up again late in '14, winning a $100K challenger at the end of the season. They haven't claimed a title together in '15, but have reached three finals and slipped into the WTA Finals field due to the absence of Makarova/Vesnina as the #7 seeds. The Maidens won their opening RR match over Babos/Mladenovic, and the set they took off Kops-Jones/Spears (despite a loss) was enough to get them into the semifinals. With the loaded singles pool of talent, both likely won't be on the Czech Republic roster for the Fed Cup final, but with the Olympics once again on the docket next season they'll likely be in the mix again in Rio as they try to match (or better) their London Silver medals. In Toronto, Tatjana Maria claimed the title at a $50K challenger with wins over the young-ish to young collection of Charlotte Robillard-Millette, Karman Thandi, Maria Sanchez, Carol Zhao and Jovana Jaksic in the final (the Serb was going for her second title in as many weeks). It's the 28-year old German's thirteenth career ITF crown (second this year with a $100K in February). After having a daughter in December '13, then returning the following April, Maria ended last season at #214. This week, she finds herself at #68, not far off the career-high of #62 she set during the summer. Tatjana is surely happy about all of this. Of course, so is daughter Charlotte.

FRESH FACES: Valentini Grammatikopoulou/GRE & Emily Arbuthnott/GBR
...with Naomi Osaka's "Rising Stars" title run on last week's ledger, the Fresh Faces winners come from the ITF circuit. Greek Grammatikopoulou, 18, reached her ninth 2015 singles final in the $10K challenger in Heraklion, Greece. With a win in the final over Bulgaria's Julia Stamatova, she claimed her fifth season title and has climbed into the Top 400 (#384) for the first time in her career. Grammatikopoulou also reached the doubles final, falling to 6-2 in ITF WD finals this season.

First pro tournament win ?? #10k #Sharm

A photo posted by Emily Arbuthnott (@emilyarbuthnott) on

Meanwhile, 18-year old Arbuthnott, who's mostly played on the junior level up until now (recently losing in the 2nd Round at Flushing Meadows to eventual U.S. Open girls champ Dalma Galfi), picked up her first professional singles title at a $10K challenger in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt with a win over fellow Brit Lisa Whybourne via a 3rd set tie-break in the final.
DOWN: Simona Halep/ROU & Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE)
...needless to day, Singapore was a huge missed opportunity, and one that she might never truly get back. 'Nuff said there (and earlier).

The Dynamic Duo of Mattek-Sands/Safarova, granted, were a bit out of practice due to Safarova's recent abdominal injury and hospitalization with a bacterial infection. Still, they were expected to escape group play in Singapore. Their opening RR win over Muguruza/CSN was their first since winning the Toronto title, but a 2 & 2 loss to the Chan sisters was then followed up with BMS retiring with a knee injury in the final RR match against Garcia/Srebotnik. Not exactly the best ending for the WTA's "Personality Plus" doubles duo, but they don't seem to be worried. And if they aren't, then all is good.


ITF PLAYERS: Monica Niculescu/ROU & Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE the absence of a regular WTA tour event, quite a few tour level players not eligible for Singapore (or Zhuhai) were playing in the two $100K challengers held last week on the ITF circuit. In Poitiers, France, thankfully, at least one Swarmette proved to have a good final week of October, as Niculescu picked up her second $100K title of the season (she also won in Marseille in June) with wins over Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, Oceane Dodin, Kiki Bertens, Kateryna Kozlova and Pauline Parmentier in a straight sets victory in the final. It's the 28-year old Romanian's eighteenth ITF singles title, while she also picked up career ITF doubles title #22 with countrywoman Andreea Mitu. In Nanjing, Hsieh grabbed her 26th career ITF crown. The 29-year old from Taiwan has seen her doubles ranking slip to #26 this year (after ending both 2013 and '14 in the Top 5, and reaching #1) in the wake of the end of her longtime doubles pairing with Peng Shuai and her ultimately short-lived partnership with Sania Mirza earlier this season. Last week, she outlasted the mostly Asian field (26 of the 32 MD participants represented Asian nations) in the Chinese event, getting wins over Eri Hozumi, Wang Yafan, Tian Ran, Zhang Kai-lin and Yulia Putintseva in a three-set final to take the crown. After back-to-back Top 100 singles seasons (#25 in '12), Hsieh ended last season at #144. She's at #108 heading into the final "official" week of the WTA's 2015 schedule.
JUNIOR STARS: Pranjala Yadlapalli/IND & Chu Jiayu/CHN part of the wide scope that the WTA Finals event has chosen to cover since the year-end championships arrived in Singapore last year, the Future Stars competitions serve the up-and-coming set just as the Legends doubles exhibition has provided a place for past players to shine. The teen winners this year included 16-year old Pranjala Yadlapalli of India, the #22-ranked junior in the world and second consecutive girl from her nation to win the title. The #2-seed in the 16-and-under competition, she defeated Korea's Yun Hye Ran 6-2/6-0 in the final. Earlier this year, Yadlapalli won a Grade 1 event in Thailand in March, then in April claimed the Asian Closed Championships, during which she defeated current girls #23 Zheng Wushuang, her sometimes doubles partner. Of some note, at a Grade 3 event in India in January, Yadlapalli also defeated fellow Indian teen Karman Thandi in the semifinals. Thandi was the winner of the inaugural 16s Future Stars competition last year in Singapore. Meanwhile, in the 14-and-under group, 14-year old Chu Jiayu of China defeated Indonesian Fitrianti Sabatini 6-0/2-6 [10-6] to claim the 14s title. Chu had defeated #2-seeded Mahak Hain in the semifinals to reach the deciding match of the competition.

DOUBLES: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND), Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan (TPE/TPE) & Garbine Muguruza/Carla Suarez-Navarro (ESP/ESP)
...seriously, how good were the Dream Team in Singapore. Sheesh!

At times dominant, fierce and giddy (for good reason), Hingis & Mirza ruled the WTA Finals court in the first year of round robin doubles play at the event. Going 5-0 for the week to extend their winning streak to twenty-two matches and claim their ninth crown as a duo (all since teaming up in March) and their fifth straight, a run during which they've won 44 of 46 sets. In all, they've gone 55-7 as a pair. In Singapore, they rolled all of that into a powerful little, potentially "world-destroying" ball. With Hingis anticipating things at the net and Mirza blasting shots from the baseline (and striking fear with her power at the net at times, as well), they were pretty well unstoppable. The title was never in doubt. Mirza defended her 2014 WTA Finals win (w/ Cara Black) with this title, becoming the first to win the year-ending event with different partners in consecutive seasons since Lindsay Davenport did so with three different combinations from 1996-98; while Hingis grabbed career WD title #50 and is part of a year-ending #1 doubles team for the first time since she did it with Anna Kournikova in 1999-2000.

While they didn't win the title, or even reach the final, the Chans were the doubles revelation of the event. Their easy, naturally complimentary style of play in Singapore showed why they've gone 25-2 against everyone but Hingis/Mirza (1-5, including a semifinal loss this week) since the summer hard court season. Already the second-most winningest all-sisters doubles duo in tour history (behind some pair of California-born siblings), the Chans look to be poised to be a stable force on the oft-changing WTA doubles landscape for quite a while. Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro weren't even supposed to play in Singapore, and it took two teams pulling out (the last being Dellacqua/Shvedova) to get the Spaniards into the RR as the #8 seeds. Even with Muguruza being forced to play every day (more than once on Saturday) last week in singles and/or doubles, the duo went 2-1 in RR play, getting a huge win over the Chans to just edge them out as the group winners. A win over fellow alternates-turned-participants Hlavackova/Hradecka in the semis put the Spaniards into the final, where Hingis/Mirza "showed them what 'fer." Needless to say, with both being top singles stars, this might be the "most talented" of all the non-Williams doubles duos, but as Muguruza's singles fortunes rise even higher one expects their two-season commitment to play doubles won't be fully renewed for 2016. This past TOO FULL week proved that it would likely ultimately hurt Muguruza's singles in latter stages of big events. Still, they'll probably play a bit, maybe in the slams, and be in Rio with a chance to grab medals.

Meanwhle, from the sidelines...

New Swiss Miss Road Rage Early Warning Alert!

Timea, always watching...

Little MO, proving that she still can't seem to catch a break (and if she did catch one, it'd probably break her forearms).

Dominika Cibulkova, dressed as a Kardashian for Halloween?

Ah, this is more like it. Umm, Steffi and Andre, ladies and gentlemen. Or should I say, The Andre?

1. WTAF rr - Muguruza d. Kvitova
In the first meeting of what will (hopefully) be many on big stages, the promise of this hard-hitting match-up was intermittently present. Fifteen breaks of serve were separated by moments in which Muguruza made the tour and all who follow it cross their fingers that the more consistent and focused Garbine we've seen in the 4Q will now be the standard when she hits the court in '16. With Kvitova up 2-0 and 4-2 in the 3rd, two points from the win and securing a semifinal berth by her own hand, Muguruza surged back and soon broke the Czech to take a 6-5 lead. Fighting off two Kvitova BP a game later, the Spaniard finally won on her fourth MP of the game, wrapping up a perfect round robin record against the horde of three Top 10 lefties in her group. Oh, and Kvitova slipped into the semis anyway, thanks to lefty Safarova's straight sets win over lefty Kerber.
2. WTAF SF - Kvitova d. Sharapova
After Safarova had gifted her a semifinal berth, Kvitova finally found her Singapore resolve against Sharapova. After failing to come up large on the big points against the Russian while losing five straight to her from 2012-14, the Czech stood tall this time.

2012 Australian SF - Kvitova was 3/14 on BP
2012 Stuttgart SF - Kvitova was 1/11 on BP
2012 Roland Garros SF - Kvitova was 1/5 on BP
2014 Miami QF - Kvitova led 4-2 in the 1st
2014 Beijing Final - Kvitova had BP on MS serve down 2-4 in 3rd

When the two last met at the 2014 WTA Finals, Kvitova had converted five of eight BP chances in a straight sets win. Here, Good Petra ruled the 1st set as the polish that Sharapova had previously shown during the week was largely absent. But Sharapova grabbed a 5-1 lead in the 2nd, and served at 5-2 and 5-4, seemingly pointing herself toward a three-set comeback win when she held set point before Kvitova finally found her groove and tied things at 5-5, winning five straight games to go up 6-5. Sharapova fired an ace to send things to a TB, where she took at 2-0 lead. It was a tie-break filled with familiar "come on's" and barks, but it had the unfamiliar ending of seeing Sharapova squander yet another lead, dropping seven of the final eight points as Kvitova converted five of six BP on the day and returned to the final for the first time in four years.

3. WTAF Final - Hingis/Mirza d. Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro
The Dream Team had a near-perfect match going until the closing games, taking a 6-0/2-0 lead and being unable to contain their joy as pretty much every shot they tried landed inside the lines with the precision of a sharpshooter (x 2). As long as both stay healthy -- or the Williams Sisters play doubles in Melbourne? -- it might just be a while before these two lose a match. 22 in a row... and counting.

4. WTAF rr - Sharapova d. Pennetta
Pennetta's career could have been extended had Sharapova allowed the U.S. Open champ to just win a single set here. But... no dice. Maria isn't about offering any sort of "charity" on the tennis court. Pennetta was going to have to TAKE that set, and while she came close in the 1st she wasn't quite up to it. We'll likely see Flavia again in some form... trophy ceremonies, Olympic doubles with Fabio Fognini, Fed Cup Captain and, maybe down the line, even in Newport. For now, though, she's Flavia Pennetta, former tennis player. And she seems all right with that. “I'm really proud to be strong all the time," she said. And that's why she's Flavia.

Meanwhile, the Italians said, "Ciao."

5. WTAF rr - Kvitova d. Safarova 7-5/7-5
WTAF rr - Kerber d. Kvitova 6-2/7-6(3)
WTAF rr - Safarova d. Kerber 6-4/6-3
the German played an integral part in the Czech round robin drama, eventually giving back what she'd taken away, as Safarova showed "no hard feelings" toward her Fed Cup teammate (8-0 vs. Lucie, and with 16 con. wins over fellow Czechs) after losing to her in the first all-nation match-up in the event since 2009, and the first between Czech-born players since Navratilova/Novotna in the 1991 semis.

6. WTAF rr - Sharapova d. Halep
After dropping the 1st set, Halep fell behind 5-1 in the 2nd. Really, those few minutes -- never mind the fact she rallied to make the set close -- were all the proof necessary to know that "Simonativity" is currently M.I.A. as 2015 quickly turns into 2016. The Romanian is set to make a coaching announcement this week for the upcoming season. But unless the name "Carlos Rodriguez" is thrown into the story, it might be difficult to have a lot of grand slam optimism for the Swarmette Queen come January.

7. WTAF rr - Kops-Jones/Spears d. Hlavackova/Hradecka
...6-3/3-6 [11-9].
This win by the Americans in the final round robin match of the week meant that no one in either the singles or doubles RR went 0-3. This was the first year for the latter competition, but it's only the second time (2003, the first year of RR action rather than the single elimination format) there were no winless singles players. Granted, that's including Sharapova (0-2 before she withdrew) in 2011, and two 0-1 Russians (Safina & Zvonareva, who played after other players were injured) in '09, but it's still an impressively competitive feat even if you take those two seasons out of the thirteen-year history of the format.
8. $100K Poitiers 2nd Rd. - Parmentier d. Schiavone
With just one more ranking Monday left in the WTA schedule, the 35-year old #112-ranked Italian is assured of having her worst year-end standing since 1999. It looks like Schiavone might just be on the bubble (and she might need a little work for even that) for direct entry into the Australian Open, where a main draw appearance (her 62nd straight at a major) would tied Ai Sugiyama's tour record.
HM- WTAF rr - Halep d. Pennetta
Halep easily claimed 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 in a rematch of the U.S. Open semifinal in which the Romanian failed to post. So, essentially, in Singapore she just did things in reverse order from how things went in New York. Not sure which is preferable, or less satisfying.

We interrerupt this Backspin for a Genie "snow day" break.

Infinity break #1, answering the question of what WTA Finals doubles alternates do on their many "off days." The possibilities are endless.

Proving that the infinity pool is big enough for TWO Chans. So, no fights. Whew!

Come on, it's too easy: Infinity Petra.

[ AKA "Aga's Greatest Hits & Co." ]

1. WTAF Final - Aga Radwanska d. Kvitova
Two years after being a shell of herself at the year-end championships (losing six of six not-close sets in '13), Radwanska played her best tennis of the week -- in her final week of '15 action -- as the weekend approached, bringing it all to a close in a final that pitted TWO players who'd gone 1-2 in RR play (only one player, Venus in '09, had ever reached the WTAF final under similar circumstances before). The Pole didn't display the aggressive tactics in the final against Kvitova that she had against Halep and Muguruza in order to get there, but using the Czech's own propensity for errors (and questionable health coming in after a bout with mono, not to mention a thigh injury that impacted her more and more as this match moved along) against her made such a game plan unnecessary for Radwanska. She took the 1st set in thirty-three minutes, never facing a BP and committing just one unforced error (Kvitova had nearly 20). As Kvitova tried to force the action and eliminate long points, the Czech erased a 3-1 deficit in the 2nd, winning nine straight points in a stretch and forcing a 3rd set. In the past, Radwanska might have gone away with a string of over-compensating errors of her own after seeing a power player seize control of the match, as Kvitova did when she went up 2-0 in the deciding set. But not here. After winning a long rally which affected Kvitova's play beyond the point, A-Rad broke serve in the next game and slowly seized control. The two exchanged breaks in games #5 and #6. Kvitova's beautiful running forehand winner got her a game point in game #7, but an error-DF (her 8th)-error combo gave Radwanska the winning break advantage that she never relinquished. In the final numbers, Kvitova had more winners (41-15), but far, far more errors (53-5). The win assures Radwanska of her third Top 5 season (2012-13), and her heroics since the start of the grass season this summer were enough to allow her to BETTER her 2014 rank (#6) despite having fallen out of the Top 10 in May, snapping her 187-week string.

2. WTAF SF - Aga Radwanska d. Muguruza
In a trick-or-treat Halloween classic, this underrated rivaly of contrasting styles got a high profile showcase. In seasons past, the Pole's tactics often bedeviled the Spaniard, turning her smile into a frustrated frown. But Muguruza's '15 rise has included a trio of three-set wins over Aga. In the event's already-comfortable Singapore haunts, a fourth full-match experience manifested itself. Radwanska led 3-1 in the 1st, only to see Muguruza's power, speed and touch (after an on-court visit from Sam Sumyk) turn things around and force a TB in which Aga held a two mini-break lead at 3-0 and 4-1 before the Spaniard won six of seven points to grab the set. While a tiring Muguruza labored in the 2nd, Radwanska emptied her bag of tricks, producing a deftly angled backhand drop shot and an ace on back-to-back points, then breaking serve with two volleys and taking the 2nd. Aga was up a single break at 4-1 in the 3rd, only to see the Spaniard find a second wind and pull out a big serve to get to 4-4. But Radwanska, always serving to take the lead, held down the stretch, forcing Muguruza to do the same a game later. Up 40/15 at 6-5 on her opponent's serve, A-Rad won on her second MP to end the 2:30+ match. Needless to say, it all a treat.

3. WTAF rr - Aga Radwanska d. Halep
Halep needed to win just one set to eliminate Radwanska and essentially send herself to the semifinals. After seeing the Pole hold in an eleven-minute game for 5-4, Halep saved two set points a game later. After Radwanska saved a break point at 5-5, things went to a tie-break, where Halep led 5-1. Then the entire tournament changed. Radwanska reeled off six straight points to stay alive in the event and win the 1st set, putting away a lob and high backhand volley combo that gutted the Romanian.

After Darren Cahill failed to urge Halep to "inspire" him between sets, Radwanska upped her aggression and produced quite possibly her best set of tennis since she destroyed Vika Azarenka in that magnificent set in Melbourne twenty-one months ago. Running Halep all over the court, and then mentally beating her down with "oh-no-she-didn't" shots seemingly every few minutes, Aga fittingly notched career win #500 with a very uncommon, but wonderfully aggressive, statline: 30 winners, 26 unforced errors.
It was her only round robin win, but after Sharapova defeated Pennetta in straight sets she slipped into the semifinals. The rest is Singapore history. In a switch from last year, when Halep's failure to LOSE a set in her final RR match allowed eventual champ Serena Williams to reach the final four, the tournament's championship indirectly went through Halep's racket again this time out. A year ago, though, her actions were commendable. This time, not so much... either during this match, or after it.
4. WTAF 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 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. Maria went on to hold serve and win on her third MP. The question last week was whether this would be a tone-setting match for both for the week, or an opening salvo that would seem quaint by the end of the tournament. As it turned out, it did set the tone for Sharapova's competitive week... but it more importantly set the stage for Radwanska's magic carpet ride.

5. WTAF rr - Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan d. Mattek-Sands/Safarova
Sister/Sister officially give rise to the notion that THEY -- not the Dynamic Duo -- may be the tour's second-best doubles team heading into '16.
6. WTAF SF - Hingis/Mirza d. Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan
The Chans aren't the BEST team because, well, you know. Mirza absolutely dominated this one at times... and Hao-Ching and Yung-Jan have the bruises to prove it. Without good reflexes, things might have been even worse.

7. $100K Poitiers 1st Rd. - Dodin d. Kristyna Pliskova
All right, Karolina... you're up next this week in Zhuhai.

8. WTAF rr - Pennetta d. A.Radwanska
On a better note, the final victory.


Guess who/it!

I was something ???????? #halloween

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Vika, of course. The apple lover (the kind you eat, not the i-thingy people)...

Coming to Big ?? prepared ??

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on


Blonde, blonder, blondest ???????????? ??Trio #BFFS

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

and Shake Deliverer.

Sister time.

Brah ?

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Dasha (aka "Frenchie.")

#Halloween2015 ??

A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on


A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

[singles finals]
1972 Chris Evert d. Kerry Reid
1973 Chris Evert d. Nancy Richey
1974 Evonne Goolagong d. Chris Evert
1975 Chris Evert d. Martina Navratilova
1976 Evonne Goolagong d. Chris Evert
1977 Chris Evert d. Sue Barker
1978 Martina Navratilova d. Evonne Goolagong
1979 Martina Navratilova d. Tracy Austin
1980 Tracy Austin d. Martina Navratilova
1981 Martina Navratilova d. Andrea Jaeger
1982 Sylvia Hanika d. Martina Navratilova
1983 Martina Navratilova d. Chris Evert-Lloyd
1984 Martina Navratilova d. Chris Evert-Lloyd
1985 Martina Navratilova d. Helena Sukova
1986a Martina Navratilova d. Hana Mandlikova
1986b Martina Navratilova d. Steffi Graf
1987 Steffi Graf d. Gabriela Sabatini
1988 Gabriela Sabatini d. Pam Shriver
1989 Steffi Graf d. Martina Navratilova
1990 Monica Seles d. Gabriela Sabatini
1991 Monica Seles d. Martina Navratilova
1992 Monica Seles d. Martina Navratilova
1993 Steffi Graf d. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1994 Gabriela Sabatini d. Lindsay Davenport
1995 Steffi Graf d. Anke Huber
1996 Steffi Graf d. Martina Hingis
1997 Jana Novotna d. Mary Pierce
1998 Martina Hingis d. Lindsay Davenport
1999 Lindsay Davenport d. Martina Hingis
2000 Martina Hingis d. Monica Seles
2001 Serena Williams w/o Lindsay Davenport
2002 Kim Clijsters d. Serena Williams
2003 Kim Clijsters d. Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Maria Sharapova d. Serena Williams
2005 Amelie Mauresmo d. Mary Pierce
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne d. Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Justine Henin d. Maria Sharapova
2008 Venus Williams d. Vera Zvonareva
2009 Serena Williams d. Venus Williams
2010 Kim Clijsters d. Caroline Wozniacki
2011 Petra Kvitova d. Victoria Azarenka
2012 Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova
2013 Serena Williams d. Li Na
2014 Serena Williams d. Simona Halep
2015 Aga Radwanska d. Petra Kvitova
[doubles champions]
1973 Rosie Casals / Margaret Court
1974 Billie Jean King / Rosie Casals
1979 Francoise Durr / Betty Stove
1980 Billie Jean King / Martina Navratilova
1981 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1982 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1983 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1984 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1985 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1986a Hana Mandlikova / Wendy Turnbull
1986b Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1987 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1988 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1989 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1990 Kathy Jordan / Liz Smylie
1991 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1992 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario / Helena Sukova
1993 Gigi Fernandez / Natalia Zvereva
1994 Gigi Fernandez / Natalia Zvereva
1995 Jana Novotna / Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1996 Lindsay Davenport / Mary Joe Fernandez
1997 Lindsay Davenport / Jana Novotna
1998 Lindsay Davenport / Natasha Zvereva
1999 Martina Hingis / Anna Kournikova
2000 Martina Hingis / Anna Kournikova
2001 Lisa Raymond / Rennae Stubbs
2002 Elena Dementieva / Janette Husarova
2003 Virginia Ruano-Pascual / Paola Suarez
2004 Nadia Petrova / Meghann Shaughnessy
2005 Lisa Raymond / Samantha Stosur
2006 Lisa Raymond / Samantha Stosur
2007 Cara Black / Liezel Huber
2008 Cara Black / Liezel Huber
2009 Nuria Llagostera-Vives / Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez
2010 Gisela Dulko / Flavia Pennetta
2011 Liezel Huber / Lisa Raymond
2012 Maria Kirilenko / Nadia Petrova
2013 Hsieh Su-Wei / Peng Shuai
2014 Cara Black / Sania Mirza
2015 Martina Hingis / Sania Mirza

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 - Anna Kournikova
2 - Jana Novotna
2 - Nadia Petrova
2 - Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
2 - Samantha Stosur

**2015 WTA TITLES**
5...Serena Williams, USA
4...Angelique Kerber, GER
3...Simona Halep, ROU
3...Petra Kvitova, CZE

3...Simona Halep, ROU
3...Serena Williams, USA
2...Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
2...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2...Petra Kvitova, CZE
2...Venus Williams, USA

Angelique Kerber, GER
Aga Radwanska, POL
Anna Schmiedlova, SVK

**2015 WTA FINALS**
5...Serena Williams (5-0)
5...Angelique Kerber (4-1)
5...Simona Halep (3-2)
5...Karolina Pliskova (1-4)
4...Timea Bacsinszky (2-2)
4...Belinda Bencic (2-2)

69 - Serena Williams
47 - Venus Williams
35 - Maria Sharapova
23 - Caroline Wozniacki
17 - Victoria Azarenka
17 - Petra Kvitova
15 - Ana Ivanovic
15 - Jelena Jankovic
15 - Svetlana Kuznetsova
NOTE: Hingis w/ 43 singles titles

**WTA SINGLES TITLES - since 2012**
30 - Serena Williams [7-11-7-5]
11 - Simona Halep [0-6-2-3]
11 - Maria Sharapova [3-2-4-2]
10 - AGA RADWANSKA [3-3-1-3]
10 - Petra Kvitova [2-2-3-3]
9 - Victoria Azarenka [6-3-0-0]
7 - Angelique Kerber [2-1-0-4]

2 - Timea Bacsinszky (Acapulco/Monterrey)
2 - Simona Halep (Dubia/Indian Wells)
2 - Angelique Kerber (Charleston/Stuttgart)
2 - Serena Williams (Roland Garros/Wimbledon)
2 - Aga Radwanska (Tianjin/WTA Finals) *active*
5 - Hingis/Mirza (US-Guangzhou-Wuhan-Beijing-WTAF) *active*
5 - Sania Mirza (US-Guangzhou-Wuhan-Beijing-WTAF) *active*
4 - Martina Hingis (US-Guangzhou-Wuhan-Beijing)
3 - Hingis/Mirza (Indian Wells-Miami-Charleston)
2 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Sydney-Australian Open)
2 - Babos/Mladenovic (Marrakech-Rome)
[WTA + WTA 125 doubles]
2 - Zheng Saisai (Nanchang 125-Stanford)

**2015 ITF $100K 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
SEP- Biarritz, FRA Laura Siegemund/GER d. Romina Oprandi/SUI
OCT- Nanjing, CHN - Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE d. Yulia Putintseva/KAZ
OCT- Poitiers, FRA - Monica Niculescu/ROU d. Pauline Parmentier/FRA
NOV- Ariake, JPN - x

["Tournament of Champions"]
2009 Aravane Rezai, FRA
2010 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2011 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2012 Nadia Petrova, RUS
2013 Simona Halep, ROU
2014 Andrea Petkovic, GER
["Elite Trophy"]
2015 ??

2002 (9) Serena Williams, Venus Williams
2003 (10) Kim Clijsters
2004 (7) Lindsay Davenport, Amelie Mauresmo
2005 (9) Kim Clijsters
2006 (7) Justine Henin-Hardenne
2007 (10) Justine Henin
2008 (4) Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina, Serena Williams
2009 (3) Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, Serena Williams
2010 (5) Kim Clijsters, Caroline Wozniacki
2011 (6) Petra Kvitova
2012 (7) Serena Williams
2013 (11) Serena Williams
2014 (7) Serena Williams
2015 (5) Serena Williams
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (3)
Maria Elena Camerin, ITA (all with 2)
Jelena Dokic, AUS
Gabriela Paz, VEN
Karolina Sprem, CRO
Julia Vakulenko, ESP (ex-UKR)
Jelena Dokic, AUS (all with 3)
Mathilde Johansson, FRA
Johanna Larsson, SWE
Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU (all with 2)
Marina Erakovic, NZL
Romina Oprandi, ITA (now SUI)
Anastasiya Yakimova, BLR
Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP (4)
Mariana Duque-Marino, COL (all with 2)
Reka-Luca Jani, HUN
Shelby Rogers, USA
Arantxa Rus, NED
Aliaksandra Sasnovich, BLR
Denisa Allertova, CZE (4)
Daria Kasatkina, RUS (3)

Time flies...

20 years ago I played my first professional Tennis match. I was 14. I was scared. I was not prepared for the stage. But determined I went on. Butterflies consumed my stomach leaving no space for me to eat to prepare for my match. Less than an hour later I left the court devastated in defeat. A 6-1, 6-1 loss to than Annie Miller. Basically she crushed me. Not only did I look like a novice but I looked like I did not belong anywhere on the court. However born with an innate insatiable desire to never quit I knew I would return. I would come back. I could not predict that I would win 21 Grand Slam titles and be number one in the world even 20 years later, but I did predict I would never give up. And I did not. (Oh and by the way I am still going). Now I tell you this: never give up on your dreams. It may not happen when you want it to but one day your knight in shining armor (your dream) will come true if you keep going. I leave you with this. Be positive. Be kind. And above all be humble. Xxx S

A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

Faster for some than others...

But Sisters are forever... as well as just a plane trip away. (But not until after Venus takes care of a little late-season business in China.)

THIS week's Elite 8... err, I mean "Elite" 12. Though, really, this isn't a bad singles group at all. Three of the four groups has a former #1.

Elite Trophy; ZHUHAI, CHINA (HCI)
14 Final (Tour.of Champions): Petkovic d. Pennetta
14 Doubles Final: not held
15 Singles Top Seed (Group A): #1 V.Williams (#7 Keys,#12 Zhang Saisai)
15 Singles Top Seed (Group B): #2 Suarez-N. (#8 Svitolina,#10 Petkovic)
15 Singles Top Seed (Group C): #3 Ka.Pliskova (#6 Errani,#9 Jankovic)
15 Singles Top Seed (Group D): #4 Vinci (#5 Wozniacki,#11 Kuznetsova)

#1 V.Williams d. #10 Petkovic
#9 Jankovic d. #5 Wozniacki
#1 V.Williams d. #9 Jankovic

...this would seem to be about who WANTS it the most at the end of a long season. Venus sure seems to, and JJ has been in good late-year form in Asia. Caro? Who knows? Petko won last year's "second" season-ending event, but she's been spotty heatlh and form-wise in recent weeks.

Doubles Top Seed (Group 1): #1 Jans-Ignacik/Klepac (#4 Liang Chen/Wang Yafan,#5 Kichenok/Kichenok)
Doubles Top Seed (Group 2): #2 Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (#3 Dabrowski/Rosolska,#6 Xu Shilin/You Xiaodi)
15 Doubles Top Seeds: #1 Hingis/Mirza, #2 Mattek-Sands/Safarova

#4 Liang Chen/Wang Yafan (WC) d. #2 Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja

...when in China...

Also, the Regional Honors post is up this week, so I'll include this link since I can't seem to prevent Blogger from sometimes only displaying one post at a time.

Of course, we KNOW who deserves the last word.

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

Agree totally about Halep. And that psychological pain/physical pain cycle will only increase in intensity if she doesn't find a way out of this funk. I think that cycle inhibits Kvitova, too, but at least Petra has some huge successes to remind her of what she's capable of doing.

And speaking of--by the third set of the Singapore final, that thigh looked pretty bad. Aga wisely forced her to repeatedly go for volleys she couldn't possibly get over the net; she could no longer bend or squat, and being tall became a liability. Hope she's okay for Fed Cup; two weeks of rest should help.

You wonder about Kat Adams, too, huh? Moonlighting USTA staff....

Tue Nov 03, 09:32:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I just found the whole Adams thing strange. I mean, her voice is so indispensable that no one else could fill that role? She was always okay as a commentator, but nothing more than that. I might even prefer MJF over her (bite my tongue).

Even Trump is no longer hosting "The Apprentice" while he's running for national office. And, yes, I understand that comparing the mess that is the GOP presidential nomination race to the USTA hierarchy is a stretch... well, then again, maybe not. ;)

Sort of makes me wonder if more thinking should be done about why Adams was so involved in the U.S. Open trophy presentation now. At the time, it seemed as if it was as a stand-in for Graf since Serena wasn't around. But...

She's either a little TOO secure in her position, or not secure at all, I guess.

Tue Nov 03, 12:32:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

I totally jump in your outfit protest bandwagon! You'll make this a thing, right?

On another note, I disagree that the calendar needs to be shortened, or at least I need to be convinced. Based on an ATP/WTA comparison, it appears to me that it's much more a mismanagement issue (from both the WTA and players) than a duration issue. The ATP had a similar problem, which appears to have been corrected once they moved Madrid to the middle of the year, on clay. For the last couple of years, unless my memory is mistaken, the top men (except Nadal, but his body doesn't count) have been consistent up to the end of the year.

Wed Nov 04, 03:47:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha. I'm sure it won't be the last time I mention/gripe about it. I mean, there were ONLY eight players -- no one should have looked like a mirror image (at least that won't happen in Rio next summer). Of course, I'm sure this will be like my annual Fed-Cup-should-move-the-doubles-to-the-#3-match diatribe/recommendation, doomed to be a "they really should..." argument every season.

Well, I agree that the players often paint themselves into a corner with their schedule and/or preparation (or lack of such) for the rigors of a long season. Radwanska seems to have learned SOMETHING, at least, considered she seemed able to call upon her game at the end of the year this time around, while two years ago she was operating on something less than fumes.

This year was sort of an odd example, maybe, with SO MANY top players limping down the stretch. It sort of made the issue stand out more than it might have otherwise. An overreaction of needlessly slashing the schedule wouldn't be good, either. Hopefully there's middle ground.

Of course, some of the players sort of give away their advantage in the issue when they complain about seasons being too long, and then they jump into an offseason schedule (as happened last year w/ the IPTL). A few of the players who had to end their seasons early, or were the worse for wear in the closing month or so played in that league last year. Coincidence? Maybe, but maybe not.

Wed Nov 04, 12:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

I can't wait for your December predictions. I have already bought Gabi's stock.

I was so happy for Radwanska, though I really thought Gabi was so close to winning this! The doubles were fantastic...go Hingis and Mirza, to bad they can't compete together for the Olympics. I too was surprised that Adams was commentating, but I appreciated her as a doubles commentator. Wish I could see this week's tournament...

Wed Nov 04, 09:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yes, and to think she's climbed as high this year while winning just a single title (and that wasn't until mid-October). Hard to imagine she won't win at least three over the course of '16 with Sumyk.

Thu Nov 05, 12:12:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


* - so, Halep goes with Cahill full-time for 2016. Because it's been a combo that's worked so well since she started to do a bit with him starting it the spring, I guess. (There's sarcasm there, even if it wasn't as apparent since this is "just" the comments section... haha.)

Of note, when the stories of Halep using Cahill more came out in May she said that he had helped her improve her confidence. Umm, all right. Well, that has certainly continued in the six months since. Or not.

Cahill seems like a very capable coach, but Halep's going to need to be willing to listen if a difference is going to be made. That sure didn't seem to be the case in Singapore.

We'll see... but it's hard not to wonder if she'll be making another "coaching announcement" at about this time next year, and that it might not be her first during 2016, either.

* - just to mention, the USTA's wild card playoff tournament for a spot in the 2016 AO main draw is underway. The "three-event playoff" includes challengers in Macon, Waco (this week) and Scottsdale. Last week, Anna Tatishvili took the lead with a runner-up result.

48...Anna Tatishvili
29...Julia Boserup
15...Jennifer Brady
15...Nicole Gibbs

Of course, total points might not even matter in this thing, as history has shown us. Only two events will count toward the standings, go the possibility for USTA-style chaos is present once again.

In case it comes into play (or, more accurately, SHOULD come into play, but may actually only highlight what's wrong w/ the rules), a few head-to-heads took place in Macon:

SF: Tatishvili d. Boserup
QF: Boserup d. Gibbs

Katerina Stewart is bit farther down the standings. Part of me would like to see her get the WC -- with "worse" overall results -- over another player who was better over the full three events. You know, just to even things out after she was robbed of a RG WC in the spring under the same circumstances.

But that'd just be perversely wrong, right? But, we ARE talking about the USTA, so...

Thu Nov 05, 03:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger Boy Interrupted said...

Re: Kerber's comments that the RR scenario that she had to win only one set perturbed her, I found that quite illogical, silly if i may say. I mean correct me if am wrong, but as a tennis player, you are supposed to win not one, but TWO sets each time you are on court. IF anything, this scenario should make you more relaxed, in the sense of even if you have a bad start and lose the first set, it's ok, you can still qualify (and also incidentally win your match by winning the next two sets)
I love watching Angie play, and I sure hope you will make it a point to talk about the EPIC 3 setters she was involved in this year, but this was poor sore loser attitude from her part. Not to mention that Lucie did play some brilliant tennis in this match

Thu Nov 05, 04:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I doubt that Kerber would have said anything if she'd, you know, actually advanced to the playoffs.

Oh, I think she'll have quite a few entries (all very high ones, too) on the Matches of the Year list. ;)

Thu Nov 05, 05:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Great personally written account of her season by Vika on, by the way. You don't normally see such a thing done by the athlete themself. I wonder if her new reps w/ IMG are behind this (if so, good move... to too many casual fans over the years, she's been "the noise" and little else, as those people have missed out on things, I think)? Here it is (as well as in the sidebar to the left).

Fri Nov 06, 05:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Thought you'd find this interesting...

Fri Nov 06, 08:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha, yeah, I had a link about that up in the Links of the Moment the other day. I guess I pushed it out when I added a few news things earlier. Of course, the security cam showed that Serena exaggerated just a wee bit on a few things in her telling of the story, but she essentially paid respect to the superhero aspect of it all, so a little embellishment is fine. Fact is, she got her phone back. :)

Fri Nov 06, 11:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I found Vika's essay somewhat vague and a bit provocative. It didn't really clear anything up for me. Petko, on the other hand, put it all out there. Petkovic is a rather dark person whose demons are never far away from her, but she doesn't deny them. It's kind of strange that she's a professional athlete, and it didn't surprise me to hear her say she wonders what else she could be doing. The woman is an absolute treasure, and I hope she sticks around.

Fri Nov 06, 11:50:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I do wish that she'd gone a bit more into the Sumyk situation, but it's a decent start if, as she noted, she may do something like this again.

Oh, and the Italian veteran ranks will officially shrink a little more next year, as Vinci says the '16 season will be her last.

One has to wonder if Schiavone might join her soon afterward (if not before), as well.

Hope Petko can find her peace. And, selfishly, hope she continues to play, too. ;)

Sat Nov 07, 02:49:00 PM EST  

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