2016 Pre-Game Post: Ready, Set... Play
Well... the new season has apparently slipped in through the back door in the middle of the night. Hopefully, no innocents were hurt in the process. So now, please, check your weapons at the door.
Yes, 2016 is here.
We know the latest WTA season is ready to begin because, well... mantras are in place.
On-site practice sessions are underway, and "impromptu meetings" are brief, but exciting.
But what about seeing the sights? Check ✓.
Photobombing some BFFs? Check ✓.
What about a Serena Williams U.S. Open 1st Round Victim Update? Cheeeeck ✓.
Of course, NEW games will also be learned over the course of the long season.
New years eve dinner at the french table learning some new games???? pic.twitter.com/2h6Q6CkgYG— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) December 31, 2015
But, at least, we know that Simona Halep is all smiles again. At least for now.
Hi ?????? pic.twitter.com/4eSNLxZfbz— victoria azarenka (@vika7) December 31, 2015
**HOPMAN CUP CHAMPIONS - since 2001**
2001 Switzerland (Hingis/Federer)
2002 Spain (Sanchez-Vicario/Robredo)
2003 United States (S.Williams/Blake)
2004 United States (Davenport/Blake)
2005 Slovak Republic (Hantuchova/Hrbaty)
2006 United States (Raymond/Dent)
2007 Russia (Petrova/Tursunov)
2008 United States (S.Williams-Shaughnessy/Fish)
2009 Slovak Republic (Cibulkova/Hrbaty)
2010 Spain (Martinez-Sanchez/Robredo)
2011 United States (Mattek-Sands/Isner)
2012 Czech Republic (Kvitova/Berdych)
2013 Spain (Medina-Garrigues/Verdasco)
2014 France (Cornet/Tsonga)
2015 Poland (A.Radwanska/Janowicz)
**CAREER "DOROTHY TOUR" (AUS/NZL) TITLES - active**
8...Serena Williams, USA
3...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
3...Eleni Daniilidou, GRE
3...Patty Schnyder, SUI
2...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2...Petra Kvitova, CZE
2...Aga Radwanska, POL
2...Maria Sharapova, RUS
2...Venus Williams, USA
2...Zheng Jie, CHN
NOTE: Hingis won 5 singles titles
**BACKSPIN WEEK 1 PLAYERS-OF-THE-WEEK**
2002 Venus Williams, USA
2003 Serena Williams, USA
2004 Lindsay Davenport/USA, Eleni Daniilidou/GRE (co-PoW)
2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Lucie Safarova, CZE
2007 Dinara Safina, RUS
2008 Li Na, CHN
2009 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2010 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2012 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Serena Williams, USA
2015 Maria Sharapova/RUS, Simona Halep/ROU (co-PoW)
**CAREER WEEK 1 TITLES - active**
2...Eleni Daniilidou, GRE
2...Patty Schnyder, SUI
2...Serena Williams, USA
2...Venus Williams, USA
1...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
1...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
1...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
1...Kaia Kanepi, EST
1...Petra Kvitova, CZE
1...Aga Radwanska, POL
1...Lucie Safarova, CZE
1...Maria Sharapova, RUS
1...Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
1...Zheng Jie, CHN
NOTE: Srebotnik won 1 singles title
**FINAL 2015 GIRLS TOP 20**
1. Dalma Galfi, HUN
2. Marketa Vondrousova, CZE
3. Katie Swan, GBR
4. Bianca Andreescu, CAN
5. Anna Blinkova, RUS
6. Tereza Mihalikova, SVK
7. Usue Arconada, USA
8. Sonya Kenin, USA
9. Charlotte Robillard-Millette, CAN
10. Kayla Day, USA
11. Miriam Kolodziejova, CZE
12. Anna Kalinskaya, RUS
13. Francesca Di Lorenzo, USA
14. Evgeniya Lavashova, RUS
15. Vera Lapko, BLR
16. Tamara Zidansek, SLO
17. Katharina Hobgarski, GER
18. Zheng Wushuang, CHN
19. Julieta Estable, ARG
20. Pranjala Yadlapalli, IND
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA (Premier $886K/hard outdoor)
15 Singles Final: Sharapova d. Ivanovic
15 Doubles Final: Hingis/Lisicki d. Garcia/Srebotnik
16 Top Seeds: Halep/Muguruza
#3 Sharapova d. Azarenka
#2 Muguruza d. #4 Kerber
#2 Muguruza d. #3 Sharapova
...on the first day of qualifying for 2016 in Brisbane, #1-seeded Tsvetana Pironkova (and #3 Daniela Hantuchova) were both upset, so if that's an omen for what will happen in this event then things could get crazy really fast. There are certainly many opportunities for big names to be shipped out in the blink of a eye here. A year ago, Azarenka opened her season by facing Pliskova. This year, two matches in she could face Halep. Why not? Talk about a quick season barometer. There are some great FIRST Round matches in this event, including JJ/Vinci, Sharapova/Makarova (Sharapova won her first-ever Week 1 title here in '15), Bencic/Errani, Bacsinszky/Pavlyuchenkova (the Swiss def. Kvitova in the Shenzhen SF last year, then lost to Halep in the final), Mladenovic/Cornet and Kerber/Giorgi, with the 2nd Round also making it possible for Week 1 clashes between Muguruza/Schmiedlova and others. So, Sharapova, Halep, Muguruza, Azarenka, Kerber, Bacsinszky, Bencic, JJ, Petko, Cibulkova... sheesh. Needless to say, heading into the Australian Open, this event could give us some IMMEDIATE storylines to chew on next week.
SHENZHEN, CHINA (Int'l $427K/hard outdoor)
15 Singles Final: Halep d. Bacsinszky
15 Doubles Final: Kichenok/Kichenok d. Liang Chen/Wang Yafan
16 Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Kvitova
#1 A.Radwanska d. #7 Diyas
#2 Kvitova d. Babos
#2 Kvitova d. #1 A.Radwanska
...in a "Backspin Special," Aga faces The Bracelet in the 1st Round. Radwanska likely gets past the Serb, and will have a shot to continue the momentum she picked up on the Asian continent to end '15. The Pole has been successful in the season's opening weeks before, winning back-to-back titles in Auckland and Sydney in '13, then the Hopman Cup a year ago. But Kvitova lurks in the bottom half, perhaps looking for a chance to avenge her WTA Finals loss to Aga. I doubt if the Czech is thinking such thoughts, but a rematch would be quite interesting... especially if Aga were to win again.
Oh, and remember, this is Li Na's home tournament, so Petra has her friend (and, likely, the crowd) behind her.
Li Na Kids Day... how perfect is that?
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (Int'l $227K/hard outdoor)
15 Singles Final: V.Williams d. Wozniacki
15 Doubles Final: Errani/Vinci d. Aoyama/Voracova
16 Top Seeds: V.Williams/Ivanovic
#1 V.Williams d. (WC) Schiavone
#2 Ivanovic d. Kovinic
#1 V.Williams d. #2 Ivanovic
...like Radwanska, Venus opened and closed her '15 season with a title. She's in Auckland to defend her first career title there, and enters as the favorite to do it (she faces Kasatkina in her opening match). AnaIvo has performed fairly well on the AUS/NZL circuit of late and she could surely reclaim the crown she won in 2014. Honestly, though, it'd be more interesting to see the likes of a Stephens or Kovinic emerge from the bottom half of the draw. Caro, last year's runner-up, is down there, too. Yep, I'm covering my eyes and pushing wild card Schiavone (who could face Kuznetsova in the 2nd Round... ooooh, boy) into the semis because this is her last chance to put up the sort of result that could assure her of appearing in a record-tying 62nd straight slam main draw in Melbourne. Embrace the drama.
Meanwhile, in Perth, where Radwanska began her '15 season with a title, Gavrilova is set to officially represent her newly official nation of Australia, while Elina Svitolina has the opportunity to grab a little early-season spotlight (with singles matches on tap vs. Serena and Pliskova).
HOPMAN CUP; PERTH, AUS (team exhibition/indoor)
15 Final: POL (A.Radwanska/Janowicz) d. USA (S.Williams/Isner)
FRA (Garcia/de Schepper)
USA d. AUS Green
...but it's difficult to go against Serena, even in a "meaningless" exhibition event. Remember, last year she lost to both Aga and Bouchard (and asked for an espresso while playing Pennetta), yet still made the final with John Isner. Oh, speaking of...
Nope. She's not back. Oh, well.
Anyway, the Americans lost the HC final to the Poles in a deciding mixed doubles match. I like Gavrilova's chances in Group B with Kyrgios, though Murray might be able to carry the Brits to the final like he did in Davis Cup. Either way, the Aussies surely have two excitable duos to give their support. (Hmmm, TWO Australian teams for the first time... why didn't they think of that earlier?)
Well, buckle in. It's all about to get real all over again.
All for now.