Wednesday, January 27, 2016

AO 10 - A German Grows in Melbourne

While Victoria Azarenka may have been the player everyone was talking about heading into today's quarterfinal match-up with Angelique Kerber, it was the German who'd ultimately left the best impression when it was over.

In truth, maybe the worst thing that happened to Azarenka on Day 10 was that she defeated Kerber in a Week 1 final in Brisbane, while the experience of losing that match served to provide her opponent with the kick in the butt that she sorely needed.

Heading into Day 10, two-time AO champ Azarenka was riding high. A nine-match winning streak and eighteen-set run gave the renewed and reinvigorated Belarusian a spotless '16 ledger that had her as the odds-on favorite (oh, I'm sorry... are we still allowed to use that phrase?) as the only player in the draw who could give Serena Williams a real run for the title. Meanwhile, Kerber had barely survived her first match in Melbourne last week, staring down a match point in the 1st Round against Misaki Doi. With a 0-6 head-to-head record (and even a 0-1 mark as juniors) against Azarenka, Kerber knew she was going to have to employ new tactics if things were going to be any different this time.

In Brisbane, after a '15 season in which she played consistently on the regular tour (winning four titles) only to come up well short in the majors (failing to reach even a Round of 16 for the first time since '10) she'd reached the final while having committed to attempting to play a more aggressive style after building a Top 10 career as a get-to-everything defender who usually chose to outlast an opponent during long points rather than beat them to the punch. But against Azarenka in their last meeting, she felt as if she'd held back. At least until it was too late, leading her to then be TOO quick on the trigger in search of winners while trying to stage a massive comeback against an in-form Vika. She knew she couldn't allow things to get to that stage this time around.

In today's quarterfinal, Kerber followed her plan right from the start, playing aggressively out of the box and quickly jumping on a slow-starting Azarenka, who struggled with her consistency and allowed too many errors to infiltrate her game. While the German surged ahead (going up 40/love on Azarenka's serve in game #1), the Belarusian seemed to be a step behind. Breaking Azarenka at love, Kerber then saved a break point and held for 2-0. It took six points for Azarenka to finally score a point on serve, leading her to shout "Come on!"

Her own urging seemed to immediately help, as Azarenka then moved Kerber from corner to corner on the next point. But Azarenka's issues with an even weaker than usual second serve began to flare up, a situation which would ultimately lead to her becoming tentative on her first serve in order to avoid having to hit a second. The problem played right into the "sweet spot" of Kerber's game plan, as long as she remembered Brisbane and stuck to it. Moments after Vika has seemed to have turned a corner, the German jumped on an Azarenka second serve and carved out another break point opportunity. Kerber's running forehand crosscourt pass got her a third BP chance in the game, then Azarenka's double-fault provided the double-break lead that made the score 3-0. Kerber didn't hit her first unforced error until game #4, but her ace gave her a game point, which she put away with a crosscourt forehand winner to go up 4-0.

The plan was working perfectly. But then it hit a snag.

Up 30/15 on Azarenka's serve, Kerber missed three backhand returns and Vika grabbed some momentum with a 4-1 hold, then broke for 4-2 with a low volley drop shot. After nearly squandering a 40/love lead in game #7, Azarenka held in a deuce game to close to 4-3. Having seemingly weathered the Kerber storm, Vika went up 30/love on Kerber's serve and held two BP. But Kerber buckled down, firing multiple aces in the game, winning a 23-shot rally and holding in a five-deuce game for 5-3. Still harboring hopes of stealing the set, Azarenka battled back from love/40 to get to deuce, but then fired a backhand long on Kerber's fourth BP as the German took the set 6-3.

Azarenka grabbed an early break lead in the 2nd, but even as she led throughout the set and was seemingly coasting toward knotting the match, she still wasn't serving well. Kerber just wasn't fully taking advantage of it, as the memory of Brisbane was beginning to slip away. Struggling to maintain her form for the first time in '16, Vika managed to hold for 3-1 and 4-2 (saving two BP in the latter game), keeping one step ahed of the German. Barely. But only because Kerber wasn't pressing the issue.

Hitting out on her groundstokes during her return game, Azarenka broke Kerber to go up a double-break at 5-2, then her passing shot put her up triple set point at 40/love on serve one game later. But then Kerber, Brisbane, her game plan and Azarenka's holding-on-by-her-fingertips game on this day all collided. When the dust settled, the German was all that was left standing.

Kerber saved all three SP, as Brisbane was suddenly clear again and her aggression finally went wild before it was too late. Her four consecutive winners unsettled Azarenka, who when double-faulted on BP to close the gap to 5-3. Hitting bigger than ever, Kerber's point streak hit seven before Azarenka showed a small sign of recovery. But then Kerber upped her aggressive tactics again and held for 5-4. Serving for the set a second time, the Belarusian went up 40/15. A long backhand failed to secure SP #4, while Kerber's crosscourt backhand winner thwarted attempt #5. Azarenka's mid-court backhand went wide and Kerber had a BP. Then, off a net cord, Azarenka chose to guide her shot crosscourt into Kerber's lefty forehand rather than go down the line. Kerber zinged her own forehand winner down the opposite line to break for 5-5.

The memory of Brisbane was now beginning to be joined arm-in-arm by another one for Kerber -- one which featured new success against a longtime, troublesome foe. She just had to lock those arms together for good.

As Kerber's game was rising, Azarenka's continued to slip. Overcooked shots and a backhand return error led to Kerber holding to take a 6-5 lead. Rather that wait for her opponent to make a mistake, Kerber kept firing away with the finish line in sight. It only caused more errors to come off Azarenka's racket. A long ball put her down 15/30, and another gave Kerber her first match point. Unlike with the MP that Doi held against her, Kerber would only need one. Her crosscourt forehand landed in the short court, and Vika couldn't quite reach it, sending a weak reply into the net as Kerber claimed a fifth straight game and won 6-3/7-5 to reach her first career AO semifinal, and the third of her slam career.

In all, Kerber fired thirty-one winners in the 21-game match, allowing things to play out just how she'd planned -- well, without the 5-2 2nd set deficit and having to save five SP, I mean -- after having seen things go quite awry a few week ago against Azarenka. The loss, which might have led a less determined player to crawl back into their game's previous (safer) incarnation, instead invoked a response from Kerber that made her even more determined to see things through when she got a second chance. And look at the dividends of such a mindset. Other players should take note, and apply the same sound philosophy to their own games.

Meanwhile, Azarenka took the blame for her inadequacies on this day, and congratulated Kerber on her success. Surely, the former #1 can see the progress she's made this January, though it's obvious that more work must be done. She should have at least forced a 3rd set today, and it should be noted that these late-match issues troubled her last season, as well (see her matches vs. Serena). Match toughness is sometimes the last guest to arrive at the party, and Azarenka had pretty much been her own dance partner all season long until today. Maybe as Brisbane ultimately helped Kerber, Melbourne will make Azarenka a better player down the road in '16, as well. She surely leaves Australia with reason to be encouraged.

Suddenly, Kerber is one win away from a slam final. And, let's be clear, she's now reached this stage at three different slams, so she's hardly the "surprise" she's already been labeled by some. I mean, SOMEONE did pick her a month ago to reach her maiden slam final in '16, after all -- though he maybe didn't quite expect her to check the box SO quickly! -- so it's hardly far-fetched that she's here.

Assured of having an opponent with "nothing to lose" in her next match, Kerber now faces another test. If she can continue to remember Brisbane, though, things just might continue to work out for her in Melbourne. And beyond.

...the second quarterfinal on Wednesday was a TRUE match-up of unexpected success stories. Unseeded Johanna Konta was looking to become the first British woman to reach a slam semifinal in thirty-three years (Serena hadn't quite yet reached the "terrible twos"), and the first in Melbourne in thirty-nine (KDK was seven years old) after having kicked things off in Round 1 with a win over Venus Williams; while qualifier Zhang Shuai was looking to extend the sort of sports run that they make movies about. Zhang came to Melbourne on an eleven-match losing streak, sporting a 0-14 slam MD match record and having brought her parents to Australia expecting this to be the final tournament of her career... well, at least before she qualified (but only after seeing Virginie Razzano fail to serve out their match in the final round), upset #2 Simona Halep in the 1st Round and then pushed her sudden AO winning streak to seven matches while becoming just the fourth different Chinese woman (Li, Peng and J.Zheng) to reach a slam QF.

So, either the world #47 or #133 was going to uphold the recent tradition of unexpected Australian Open semifinalists. It was just a matter of which one it'd be.

In truth, it didn't take long to see which player was going to bring her best today. Konta, Sydney-born to Hungarian parents who moved the family to the U.K., got and early break for 2-1 in the 1st set and consistently showed a steady presence throughout the set. She was nearly pristine on serve, while Zhang didn't hit her first winner until game #6. A second break gave Konta a 5-2 lead before she finally began to feel the occasion as she served for the set. Playing tight, Konta couldn't put away three set points in a nine-minute game that saw her broken for 5-3. With the Brit serving for the 1st a second time, Zhang once again reached break point and it looked like back-to-back sets on Laver might include 5-2 collapses.

But, finally, Konta put away the set on her sixth set point with a big serve up the middle that Zhang could only stretch for and frame the ball off her racket. Konta won the set 6-4, and carried over her game's level into the 2nd.

Consistently serving better than Zhang, placing balls well and outplaying her opponent on the big points, Konta got a break of serve in the opening game and never relinquished her lead. She won 6-4/6-1, finally putting things away with a net cord ball that plopped into Zhang's court on match point.

While Zhang's amazing story comes to an end, Konta's may only be just beginning. Kerber is the favorite in the semi, but if Konta's nerves hold yet again she won't likely be an easy out. the junior singles Round of 16, #1-seed Bianca Andreescu withdrew with, apparently, various injuries. Her exit pushed Aussie wild card Baijing Lin into the QF, while Andreescu's situation also removed Charlotte Robillard-Millette (the #3 singles seed who lost in the 1st Round) totally out of the event as the two Canadians were also the top-ranked doubles duo. Not only that, but the last remaining Canadian girl #15 Katherine Sebov lost to #4 Anna Kalinskaya of Russia today. (Felix Auger-Aliassime also lost his boys QF match, too, so it wasn't a banner day for junior Maple Leaf Crew.)

Elsehwere, Aussie qualifier Sara Tomic defeated Karman Thandi 3-6/7-5/7-5 after the Indian served for the match twice, once each in both the 2nd and 3rd sets. Tomic will face fellow Australian Lin. While Vika is gone, fellow Belarusian, #5-seed Vera Lapko, survives in the girls draw, as does yet another Swiss Miss -- #9 Rebeka Masarova. Others advancing to the Final 8 include #8-seeded Hordette Anastasia Potapova, #16 Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine and the defending '15 girls champ, #2-seeded Slovak Tereza Mihalikova.

...the first major finalists were determined on Wednesday, as the semifinal match between Wang Yifan & Zheng Saisai and Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka -- interrupted due to rain with the Czechs leading 2-1 in the 3rd set -- eventually saw H & H advance to their fifth career slam final as a duo. They've won two slam titles as a duo in Paris and New York, as well as now having reached finals in Melbourne and London (and had a second RU in NYC, too).

They'll next play the victorious team that emerges from the marquee WD match under the lights. Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza play in the concluding night match on Laver on Wednesday against Julia Goerges & Karolina Pliskova.

...three of the four mixed doubles QF were contested on Day 10, as the #2, #3 and #4 seeds were all sent packing, including Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Bob Bryan (BMS and Mike Bryan won the RG MD last year) at the hands of Vandeweghe/Tecau.

Of course, this leaves the match-up that everyone wants to see -- Sania vs. Martina -- in the final QF to be played on Day 11, as the Dream Teamers got a day off after pulling double duty in WD and MX yesterday. Of course, Ivan Dodig and Leander Paes will have something to say about all this, too. But we know whose names will be in the headlines tomorrow, no matter what happens on the court.

...wheelchair action got underway on Wednesday in Melbourne, and we've already had a big name go down as U.S. Open champ Jordanne Whiley lost to Dutch Marjolein Buis in three sets.

Played on Court 10, Whiley dropped the 1st set, but forced things to a 3rd. With Buis serving for the match at 5-3, the Brit broke her serve and seemed to be back in the swing of things. But serving at 5-4 to knot the score, she missed a simple volley in the middle of the court at 15/15, dumping the ball into the net and hardly being able to believe that she could fail to pull off the shot. Perhaps still thinking about miss, she fired a forehand long on the next point to fall down double MP, then hit another wide shot in a short rally to end the match. Whiley angrily smacked a ball into the nearby corner wall, then rolled to the net and exchanged a handshake with Buis that was so brief that it made the Radwanska/Lisicki encounter in the '13 Wimbledon semifinals seem like a warm conversation.

In the other WC QF matches, #2-seed Yui Kamiji, who a year ago came to Melbourne as the reigning champ in six of the seven slam WS/WD disciplines and was looking to make it a perfect 7-of-7 by picking up the only slam title she'd never won at the AO. She ended up losing to Jiske Griffioen in the final. Today Kamiji defeated '14 AO champ Sabine Ellerbrock, keeping her own elusive AO quest alive and well. She'll next face '13 AO champ Aniek Van Koot in the semis, with #1-seeded Griffioen possibly up next in a rematch in the final. Griffioen, a two-time slam winner in '15, defeated the other Brit in the draw, Lucy Shuker, in her opening match today.

=AO WC CHAMPS - post-Vergeer=
2013 Aniek Van Koot, NED
2014 Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
2015 Jiske Griffioen, NED
2013 Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
2014 Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2015 Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR

...and, finally, the rosters for next week's opening Fed Cup weekend are starting to be released.

At least one group surely stirs the imagination. Yep, the entire Swiss gang is scheduled to attend vs. Germany.

The same can't be said for Poland, as when you subtract Captain Tomasz Wiktorowski you apparently also lose the Radwanskas. Of course, it should be noted that Aga IS a bit preoccupied THIS week, and many deep-run AO contenders fail to show up on the opening FC weekend. So, make of that what you will.

Of course, the story with this tie is that it'll take place in Hawaii vs. a still-unnamed U.S. team. "Captain" Mary Joe Fernandez is set to announce the roster on Thursday in Melbourne, so we'll see just which players get to attempt to prevent another FC debacle on home soil under MJF's watch. We can probably assume we won't see the injured Madison Keys now against the likes of Poland's underrated singles players Paula Kania and Magda Linette, so might Sloane Stephens, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and/or at least one Williams (Venus, again?) come to save the "Captain's" peg leg from being kicked out from under her yet again?

One thing is for sure, while this tie once again seems to be the U.S. team's to lose, if there's a way to screw this up, Mary Joe will find a way. Rest assured.

Meanwhile, the Czech roster vs. Simona-less Romania is here. No Lucie, as expected... but there is a Petra, a Pliskova and a Strycova.

Think the Romanians might be questioning that indoor hard court surface choice right about now?

...SERIOUSLY??? FROM DAY 10: The Australian Open official Twitter page using the Monfils leap latest act of stupidity as its current header photo. Hmmm, I wonder why he continues to do things like that? Case in point. I believe I had that.

..."REALITY BITES, HUH?" A DAY AFTER DAY 9: Sometimes respect hurts. Just a little.

..."WHEW!" FROM DAY 10: You never know what's going to happen when Rennae Stubbs walks onto a court with a microphone, but sometimes it turns out okay.


..."HYPOCRISY, THY NAME IS YOU" FROM DAY 10: The absurd notion of the Tennis Channel pre-show crew following up a report on Kei Nishikori and the Japanese journalists who follow him around with condescending, "how quaint"-styled comments regarding how they show favoritism and "live and die" by his results, since the rule "in these parts" is "no cheering in the press box."

Ummm, over the past year or so, hasn't Tennis Channel been the home of commentators who pull double-duty as employees of many of the players whose matches are being covered, with the likes of Lindsay Davenport (Madison Keys), Justin Gimelstob (John Isner) and Paul Annacone (Sloane Stephens) appearing on air while still actively serving as coaches, discussing the matches of upcoming opponents, potentially gaining insight through the coverage/cameras/microphones that they might not otherwise possess, etc.?

I know I'd prefer the honesty of the Japanese journalists, rather than, at best, insincere impartiality. But maybe that's just me.

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #4 Aga Radwanska/POL
#7 Angelique Kerber/GER vs. Johanna Konta/GBR

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB def. #7 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#3 Roger Federer/SUI def. #6 Tomas Berdych/CZE
#23 Gael Monfils/FRA vs. #13 Milos Raonic/CAN
#2 Andy Murray/GBR def. #8 David Ferrer/ESP

#1 Hingis/Mirza (SUI/IND) vs. #13 Goerges/Ka.Pliskova (GER/CZE)
#7 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) def. #15 Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai (CHN/CHN)

Mannarino/Pouille (FRA/FRA) vs. #7 J.Murray/Soares (GBR/BRA)
Nestor/Stepanek (CAN/CZE) vs. #16 Cuevas/Granollers (URU/ESP)

#1 Mirza/Dodig (IND/CRO) vs. Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND)
#5 Vesnina/Soares (RUS/BRA) def. #4 Srebotnik/J.Murray (SLO/GBR)
Klepac/Huey (SLO/PHI) def. #3 YJ.Chan/Bopanna (TPE/IND)
Vandeweghe/Tecau (USA/ROU) def. #2 Mattek-Sands/B.Bryan (USA/USA)

(WC) Baijing Lin/AUS vs. (Q) Sara Tomic/AUS
#4 Anna Kalinskaya/RUS vs. #5 Vera Lapko/BLR
#9 Rebeka Masarova/SUI vs. #16 Dayana Yastremska/UKR
#8 Anastasia Potapova/RUS vs. #2 Tereza Mihalikova/SVK

Oliver Anderson/AUS vs. (WC) Max Purcell/AUS
#15 Kenneth Raisma/EST vs. #5 Chung Yunseong/KOR
#6 Alex De Minaur/AUS vs. #3 Stefanos Tsitsipas/GRE
#7 Jurabek Karimov/UZB vs. 13 Yosuke Watanuki/JPN

#6 Yastremska/Zarytska (UKR/UKR) w/o #1 Andreescu/Robillard-Millette (CAN/CAN)
Cho/Miyamoto (JPN/JPN) def. #8 Aikawa/Muramatsu (JPN/JPN)
Fourlis/Ingils (AUS/AUS) def. #5 Thandi/Yadlapalli (IND/IND)
#2 Kalinskaya/Mihalikova (RUS/SVK) def. Antonitsch/Udvardy (AUT/AUT)

Benchetrit/Furness (FRA/FRA) def. Noguchi/Tanaka (JPN/JPN)
#8 Klein/Rikl (SVK/CZE) def. Raisma/Siimar (EST/EST)
De Minaur/Ellis (AUS/AUS) def. Horie/Kuhn (JPN/GER)
(WC) Jones/Purcell (AUS/AUS) def. Matuszewski/Zuk (POL/POL)

#1 Jiske Griffioen/NED def. Lucy Shuker/GBR
Marjolein Buis/NED def. Jordanne Whiley/GBR
Aniek Van Koot/NED def. Kgothatso Montjane/RSA
#2 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER

Gordon Reid/GBR def. #1 Shingo Kunieda/JPN
Gustavo Fernandez/ARG def. Adam Kellerman/AUS
Joachim Gerard/BEL vs. Maikel Scheffers/NED
#2 Stephane Houdet/FRA def. Nicolas Peifer/FRA

#1 Griffioen/Van Koot (NED/NED) vs. Whiley/Shuker (GBR/GBR)
Montjane/Ellerbrock (RSA/GER) vs. #2 Buis/Kamiji (NED/JPN)

#1 Houdet/Peifer (FRA/FRA) vs. Kellerman/Scheffers (AUS/NED)
Fernandez/Gerard (ARG/BEL) vs. #2 Reid/Kunieda (GBR/JPN)

**CAREER SLAM SF - active**
20...Maria Sharapova (10-10)
19...Venus Williams (14-5)
7...Victoria Azarenka (4-3)
6...Jelena Jankovic (1-5)
5...Ana Ivanovic (3-2)
5...Svetlana Kuznetsova (4-1)
5...Petra Kvitova (2-3)
4...Samantha Stosur (2-2)
4...Vera Zvonareva (2-2)

**SLAM SF in the 2010's - by nation**
16 - Russia, UNITED STATES (S.Williams)
8 - China, Italy
7 - Belarus, Czech Republic
6 - GERMANY (Kerber)
5 - Belgium, POLAND (A.Radwanska)
4 - Denmark
3 - Australia, Canada, Romania
2 - France, Serbia
1 - BUL, ESP, GBR (Konta), SVK, SUI

**SLAM SF in the 2010's**
10...Maria Sharapova (6-4)
7...Victoria Azarenka (4-3)
6...Li Na (4-2) - ret.
5...Petra Kvitova (2-3)
4...Caroline Wozniacki (1-3)
3...Kim Clijsters (2-1) - ret.
3...Vera Zvonareva (2-1)
3...Genie Bouchard (1-2)
3...Sara Errani (1-2)
3...Simona Halep (1-2)

**CAREER AO SF - active**
7...Maria Sharapova (4-3)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0)
2...Venus Williams (1-1)
2...Vera Zvonareva (0-2)
1...Dominika Cibulkova (1-0)
1...Ana Ivanovic (1-0)
1...Genie Bouchard (0-1)
1...Kimiko Date-Krumm (0-1)
1...Daniela Hantuchova (0-1)
1...Jelena Jankovic (0-1)
1...Madison Keys (0-1)
1...Petra Kvitova (0-1)
1...Ekaterina Makarova (0-1)
1...Patty Schnyder (0-1)
1...Sloane Stephens (0-1)
1...Nicole Vaidisova (0-1)
1...Caroline Wozniacki (0-1)
1...Zheng Jie (0-1)
ALSO: Hingis (6-0)

2007 Serena Williams, USA*
2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS*
2009 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2010 Serena Williams, USA*
2011 Li Na, CHN
2012 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2013 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2014 Li Na, CHN *
2015 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2016 Serena Williams, USA
* - won title

2015 Venus Williams/USA & Martina Hingis/SUI
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER

2011 Andrea Petkovic, GER
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 Laura Robson, GBR
2014 Li Na, CHN
2015 Genie Bouchard, CAN
2016 "The Dasha Show" (Gavrilova, AUS)

Unseeded - 2000 Jennifer Capriati, USA
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA (W)
Unseeded - 2010 Zheng Jie, CHN
Unseeded - 2015 Madison Keys, USA
Unseeded - 2016 Johanna Konta, GBR
Wild Card - 2010 Justine Henin, BEL (RU)
#32 - 2004 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
#30 - 2014 Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
#29 - 2013 Sloane Stephens, USA
#22 - 2004 Patty Schnyder, SUI
#20 - 2014 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (RU)
#19 - 2005 Nathalie Dechy, FRA
#16 - 2010 Li Na, CHN
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA (W)
#11 - 2012 Kim Clijsters, BEL
#10 - 2000 Conchita Martinez, ESP
#10 - 2007 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
#10 - 2015 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS

1997 U.S. Open - Venus Williams
1999 U.S. Open - Serena Williams (W)
2004 Wimbledon - Maria Sharapova (W)
2004 U.S. Open - Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2007 Roland Garros - Ana Ivanovic
2008 U.S. Open - Jelena Jankovic
2009 U.S. Open - Caroline Wozniacki
2010 Roland Garros - Francesca Schiavone (W)
2010 Roland Garros - Samantha Stosur
2010 Wimbledon - Vera Zvonareva
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova (W)
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka (W)
2012 Roland Garros - Sara Errani
2012 Wimbledon - Agnieszka Radwanska
2013 Wimbledon - Sabine Lisicki
2014 Australian Open - Dominika Cibulkova
2014 Roland Garros - Simona Halep
2014 Wimbledon - Genie Bouchard
2015 Roland Garros - Lucie Safarova
2015 Wimbledon - Garbine Muguruza
2015 U.S. Open - Roberta Vinci
2016 Australian Open - A.Kerber or J.Konta
NOTE 1: first-time finalists in 4 consecutive, and 7 of last 9 slams
NOTE 2: M.Hingis, 1997 Australian (W)

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #14 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2 - Virginie Razzano/FRA d. #6 Francesca Schiavone/ITA 6-1/4-6/6-1 (ends streak of 61 con. slam MD)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): #7 Angelique Kerber/GER d. Misaki Doi/JPN 6-7(4)/7-6(6)/6-3 (saved MP)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF):3rd Rd. - Daria Gavrilova/AUS d. #28 Kristina Mladenovic/FRA 6-4/4-6/11-9
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): xx
TOP LAVER/MCA NIGHT MATCH: Nominee: 3rd Rd. - Gavrilova/AUS d. #28 Mladenovic/FRA 6-4/4-6/11-9
FIRST VICTORY: #6 Petra Kvitova/CZE (def. Q/Kumkhum, THA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #17 Sara Errani/ITA (lost 1st Rd. to Gasparyan/RUS)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Australia (1-8 in 1st Rd.; only AUS-born in 2nd Rd. is a Brit)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Daria Gavrilova/AUS (4th Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Johanna Konta/GBR
IT (??): Nominee: Sh.Zhang/CHN, S.Tomic/AUS
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Sh.Zhang/CHN, Hlavackova/Hradecka, Y.Kamiji/JPN (WC)
CRASH & BURN: #2 Simona Halep/ROU (lost 1st Round to Q/Zhang Shuai, CHN - first Top 2 AO seed out in 1st since Ruzici/ROU in '79)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Monica Puig/PUR (2nd Rd. - saved 5 MP vs. Kr.Pliskova/CZE, who set WTA record w/ 31 aces in match)
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: Hingis/Mirza, C.Vandeweghe, A.Klepac, E.Vesnina

All for Day 10. More tomorrow.


Blogger jo shum said...

Kerber played incredible. Super agreesive Abd solid, the best I have seen her play.

Still a bit disappointed in vika, cos she didn't give her best effort. It's one thing losing giving it all, it's another when simply not taking the chances

Wed Jan 27, 06:52:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Stat of the Day-0. WTA titles won by Johanna Konta. This is more a reflection on the Women's game, when a hot player in recent years(Wozniacki, Halep, Kvitova) suck up 6 titles in a year. So a non or 1 title winner showing up in a slam SF happens more than ever. Konta's run started by beating Venus in the 1st round. And judging by this list of recent SF with 0/1 title, you will see that 16 years after winning Wimbledon, The Olympics and the US Open, Venus is still making people relevant. Listed in order is how many titles player had at time of SF, signature win, and date of 1st title.

Konta 0- 16 AO- V.Williams-1st rd- n/a
Muguruza 1- 15 W- Wozniacki- 4th - 10/15
Keys 1 -15 AO - V.Williams- QF- n/a
Peng 0- 14 US-Not giving her a signature win, but pointing out who she played in order-Zheng, A.Radwanska, Vinci, Safarova, Bencic, Wozniacki(L)- n/a
Bouchard 1- 14 W - Kerber- QF- n/a
Bouchard 1- 14 F - Kerber- 4th- n/a
Bouchard 0- 14 AO - Ivanovic- QF- 5/14
Flipkens 1- 13 W- Kvitova -QF- n/a
Stephens 0- 13 AO- S.Williams- QF- 8/15
Kerber 0 - 11 US- A.Radwanska -2nd- 2/12
Pironkova 0- 10 W V.Williams -QF- 1/14
Kvitova 1- 10 W- Azarenka- 3rd - 1/11
Wickmayer 1- 09 US- Kvitova-4th - 10/09
Stosur 0- 09 F- Dementieva- 3rd- 10/09
Cibulkova 0- 09 F- Sharapova- QF - 10/11

Wed Jan 27, 10:35:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I said something a few weeks ago about how we'd see in the early weeks which players used their offseason break the best, and it's pretty clear that Kerber is on -- and maybe at the top of -- that To-Do list.

1. Decide that you're not one to rest on your laurels after the best "regular" season of your career -- because there is MORE that can be done, and won ✓
2. Sure, you're in great shape -- but get in EVEN BETTER shape ✓
3. Devise a new game plan and/or tactic that will make you a player opponents dread to face ✓
4. Commit to actually UTILIZING said game plan/tactic when the real matches start (especially the BIGGEST ones) ✓
5. Follow through on #4 ✓
6. Reap the benefits (and don't let one loss cause you to reconsider the intelligence of #3) ✓
7. Become the best player that you CAN be, as of today (because you can always STILL get better tomorrow, too) ✓
8. Cross your fingers ✓

Really, it's all followers of players ask for, and it's really all the players need to ask of themselves. Still, most players don't make it down to #8.

Wow, I'm not sure if that says more about Venus, the impact of Sjogren's, her advancing age (just because that HAS to be mentioned any time Venus' name comes up -- it's a law or something) or the players who climbed over her to make a name for themselves.

Thanks for compiling these things every day -- I never know what gem is going to land on the stoop every morning. :)

Wed Jan 27, 12:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Thanks for the kind words. I think, just like in the case of the Kvitova/V.Williams match at Wimbledon, that people are raising their game, and that she is still a good measuring stick. Saw the stat somewhere else that the last 8 people to beat Nadal in a slam lost the next round-in Stan's case-the next tournament, but Venus probably has more losses to people(before a final) that win tournaments than anybody. Obviously Serena has something to do with that.

PS. One stat I didn't fit in yesterday regarding former #1's. Jankovic 0-10 vs Henin. The USO meltdown from 2006 was the 2nd match.

Wed Jan 27, 02:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Aha! Pulled out an old list about Venus and this subject!

At both Wimbledon and U.S. Open, for many years, the champion went through Venus, or she won it herself:

1998 lost to Novotna QF (champ)
2000 Champion
2001 Champoin
2002 lost to Serena F (champ)
2003 lost to Serena F (champ)
2005 Champion
2007 Champion
2008 Champion
2009 lost to Serena F (champ)
2014 lost to Kvitova 4r (champ)
2015 lost to Serena 4r (champ)

1997 lost to Hingis F (champ)
1998 lost to Davenport SF (champ)
2000 Champion
2001 Champion
2002 lost to Serena F (champ)
2005 lost to Clijsters QF (champ)
2007 lost to Henin SF (champ)
2008 lost to Serena QF (champ)
2009 lost to Clijsters 4r (champ)
2010 lost to Clijsters SF (champ)

Wed Jan 27, 04:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Is Stober with Kerber now? Bc the effects are certainly showing. He's so good at getting players in better shape. See: Kvitova.

Wed Jan 27, 09:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Aga looks seriously fit.

And Serena's crop top is growing on me. I think that it's the skirt that's the problem. It's too big and long. She should have paired it with shorts. White shorts. I'm still curious how they constructed the crop top so that it's tight on the bottom.

The things you think about during a one-sided match.

Wed Jan 27, 10:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

That australia poem in the commercial about birds or whatever creeps me out. It needs a soundtrack in the background to make it less eerie. And maybe a different voice. And definitely a faster pace.

And this heineken "moderate drinkers wanted" business is ludicrous. If you drink, you drink. Moderation?!? Wut.

Wed Jan 27, 10:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

She was working with his last fall, but apparently isn't anymore. Courtney of WTA Insider had mentioned him still working with her a couple of weeks ago, but then soon after amended that.

She's certainly seemed to work on fine-tuning her fitness (which was already good), though. You can sort of tell just by looking at her face, actually.

Wed Jan 27, 10:58:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha! Yeah, I mentioned that bush birds thing in the Like/Dislike section on the Serena/Maria match post. After you hear it EVERY commercial break... :((((

Wed Jan 27, 11:00:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Who the heck is Jason Goodall? I thought I knew all the ESPN talking heads.

Wed Jan 27, 11:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

These adidas kits look good for once.

Where in the world did Konta come from...I wonder what was holding her back before her run.

Wed Jan 27, 11:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Jason Goodall is one of the most respected tennis commentators in the world. He and and the equally respected Robbie Koenig have been a commentating team for a long tome.

Thu Jan 28, 12:01:00 PM EST  

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