Saturday, January 30, 2016

To Dream, Perchance to Win

To be or not to be a champion. That was the question for Angelique Kerber heading into the 2016 Australian Open final.

Did the German truly believe it was possible for her to take down Serena Williams as the world #1 was yet again perched on the precipice of history? Had all her work over the past year and, especially, this past offseason, to both mentally and physically improve as well as alter her game style been worth it? Could she make the leap across the great divide and go from being an admirable Top 10 player to a slam title-worthy talent who saw a problem, found a way to solve it, and was now ready to reap the benefits of her decisions on the same grand stages where she'd so often come up short in the past?


Sometimes dreams do come true... if they're given a little nudge in the proper direction.

There was a time when Kerber was a player who was looked upon as one who'd gotten the most out of her abilities. A pair of previous slam semifinal runs and multiple Top 10 seasons spoke to her talent an tenacity, but her defensive-minded game, on-court bouts with angry frustration and a resulting lack of confidence in the biggest moments of her career seemed to have tied a tether to her ankle. She was good... but she had a ceiling through which she could not rise.

Or so it seemed, for she was still capable of dreaming big. REAL big.

A slow start to her '15 season provided a moment of truth. Did she believe she could be something more, or didn't she? She'd lost in eight of her last nine finals, and was soon to slip out of the Top 10. But Kerber had the sense of self to be able to step back and reassess the situation, then make hard decisions based on what she has seen.

It's a skill that isn't a given with all players at or even above her level.

A reconnection with Torben Beltz, her former coach during her best season in 2012, as well as a confidence-boosting and thought-clarifying series of hitting sessions with her idol Steffi Graf, sent Kerber down the correct path once again. The rest was on her racket... and she responded with her best-yet "regular" season, as she won four titles on four different surfaces and finished another year in the Top 10. But her slam results, her worst on average in five seasons, left much to be desired.

She needed to step back and reassess yet again.

Again, Kerber course-corrected. Already fit, she efforted to make herself leaner, keeping her defensive quickness intact but also opening up her game to still more possibilities. She improved her serve, and she began the process of instilling the sort of more aggressive mindset in matches that would be necessary for slam success. She debuted the sharpened style in Brisbane, mowing through the competition until meeting Victoria Azarenka in the final, where she was throttled by the Belarusian when she held back her aggressiveness until it was too late. But when questioned about her commitment to the change, Kerber remained firm in her conviction. When she was nearly dumped out in the 1st Round of this Australian Open, squandering a lead and facing a match point against Misaki Doi, she held firm once again. Playing "with nothing to lose," having already, in her own words, had "one leg on a plane back to Germany," Kerber's dreams and her own reality met to produce the sort of moment that every little girl who picks up a racket places herself in at some point in her early tennis development, hoping to spur herself on to bigger and better things. In the semifinals, her rematch with Azarenka provided the perfect opportunity to prove herself right. This time, The German didn't hold back, and her aggressive game plan provided the first win of her career over the two-time AO champ and a chance to play for her own chance at history against Williams, who seems to be chaperoned by historic achievement every time she steps onto a court.

As it turned out, at age 28, Kerber was finally ready to spark her grand slam dreams into reality. Her 6-4/3-6/6-4 win over Williams allows her to never again have to wonder "what if?" "What if I'd committed? What if I'd tried EVERYTHING to make the dream come true?"

And when it actually does? Well, the feeling can literally sweep someone off her feet.

Rather than Williams being the subject of a series of post-game statistical updates, it's Kerber who now leads off a long parades of "firsts."

The first German to win a slam since Graf in 1999, and the first to do so in Melbourne since 1994. The first lefty to win the AO since Monica Seles in 1996. The first woman to stave off a match point in the first two rounds and go on to win a slam title. The first to take a set off Williams at this Australian Open, the first to defeat her in seven AO finals, and the first to emerge with the victory in a three-set slam final (Serena was 8-0). Her win (Kerber's first over a world #1 in nine tries) makes her the second straight first-time slam champion on tour, the first time that's happened since there were four consecutive first-timers (Li-Kvitova-Stosur-Azarenka) from 2011-12, and it's just the second consecutive stretch of maiden champs since the Russian Tennis Revolution saw three straight Hordettes lift slam trophies during the 2004 season.

Williams knows something about history. She faced off with Kerber looking to claim her seventh AO crown and a twenty-second career slam title, which would tie her with Graf for the most won during the Open era. Her semifinal loss in New York last fall to Roberta Vinci had prevented a Grand Slam season and delayed the moment she was looking for until Saturday, and now the act of setting yet another career benchmark will be delayed once again.

While Kerber, again holding true to her word, hardly seemed to be bothered by the occasion of her "nothing to lose" career moment, Williams was often tight and/or out of tune on the night. She opened the match with a sharp love hold, but it would be the last time in the final in which she would find herself in a "controlling" position. Not backing down from her aggressive approach, Kerber's deep return produced a Williams backhand error and gave the German two break points. Another Williams backhand error handed her the break for a 2-1 lead. With Serena's footwork slow to work itself into form, Kerber pounced again, putting away an overhead to jump up 3-1.

"Come on!," she yelled, sporting a clenched fist.

Williams tried to pump herself up, shouting encouragement to shake herself out of her slow-motion start. She pulverized a Kerber second serve with a forehand down the line to break for 3-3, but couldn't stop the flow of errors from her racket. In all, she'd hit twenty-three (to Kerber's three) in the 1st set. A missed backhand gave Kerber a BP in game #7, and a missed swing volley produced the break that put her up 4-3. After being broken four times in six matches in Melbourne, Williams had already dropped serve twice in the set. Serving at 5-4, Kerber's defensive skills fed Williams multiple opportunities in which to either continue down the wrong path, or right herself in the nick of time. The former option pulled ahead. A netted volley put Kerber up 30/love, and another error helped the German hold at love to take the 1st set 6-4.

Williams was just 2-4 in her previous slam finals in which she lost the opening set.

Still trying to lasso her toss, serve, footwork and forehand into something with which she could work, Williams struggled to stay alive in the match. Her eleventh forehand error pushed Kerber close to yet another break in game #3 of the 2nd, but two solid points from Serena gave her a 2-1 lead. It was enough to provide a mini-surge. A game later, Kerber double-faulted twice, showed her first signs of frustration and began to look to her players box. Williams' long-sought clean game notched a break for a 3-1 lead. As she slowly rounded into form, Serena finally hit her first ace of the match a game later to get to 30/30, then held for 4-1. She won the set 6-3, knotting the match after cutting her unforced error total in the 2nd to five.

Suddenly, the numbers favored Williams, 8-0 in her previous three-set slam finals.

With the final down to a deciding set, once again, Kerber was faced with a choice. Would she continue to hold firm with the belief that an aggressive game was her best bet to win, or hold back and hope? It didn't take long for the answer to become clear. In game #2, Kerber scrambled to return a pair of Williams volleys, then fired a forehand winner down the line to go up 40/love on Serena's serve. She broke her at love to take a 2-0 lead, having won eight of the first nine points of the 3rd set. Williams managed to break back for 2-1, then level things at 2-2 with an ace. But after holding for a 3-2 lead, Kerber's "moment of truth" would come in game #6.

Serving to keep things on serve, Williams fell behind 15/30 after being hit by a ball that bounced off the net cord, setting up a back-and-forth that ultimately told the tale of this match in a nutshell.

In an eleven-minute game, Williams' inability to curtail her errors got her into trouble. An errant forehand put her down 15/40. In all, she'd face five break points in the game, saving two with aces, but also double-faulting twice to give Kerber BP #4 and #5. Williams wasn't able to depend on her fabled serve to clean up the mess and push her over the edge of another career accomplishment. Meanwhile, Kerber was all about sticking her neck out and taking the chances necessary to put a solid roadblock in front of a living legend. Twice she saved Williams game points with gutsy drop shots. Finally, Williams fired a forehand long on the German's fifth BP and Kerber broke to go up 4-2.

Brilliantly backing up the break, Kerber's improved serving produced an ace to take a 40/love lead a game later. She held at love for 5-2. Williams double-faulted to start the next game, but a forehand down the line ended a run of seven straight Kerber points. She held for 5-3, then got back on serve at 5-4 when the German tossed in enough errors to prevent her from serving out the match. Trying to knot the contest, Williams fell behind love/30 in game #10, but pulled out an ace and backhand winner to pull even at 30/30. She reached game point, but made an error off a Kerber return. A netted forehand gave Kerber a match point, and a long volley ended it.

Kerber dropped her racket and collapsed flat on her back at the baseline.

So, "22" will have to wait a while longer. At least Williams seemed to handle this loss better then she did the one to Vinci in NYC. “Everyone expects me to win every match, every day. I’m not a robot,” she said after the match, without a hint of anger, and more than an ounce of acceptance that no one -- not even her -- can win them ALL. The post-match ceremony put on display all the public grace points that, in the eyes of many, have often eluded Serena over the years. She seemed genuinely happy for new world #2 Kerber, even if you know that in the back of her mind she was busy plotting her own next aggressive seizure of power later this season... maybe even more than one, actually.

For the record, Williams' 46 errors (to Kerber's 13) provided an overwhelming obstacle she could not clear, but the German's aggressive game plan (she had 26 winners) never allowed her the opening through which she could slip and find a way to survive and conquer as she has so many times in so many tight slam matches in the past. While Williams' quest is once again a case of wondering when, for Kerber, this result means the "what if?" portion of her career is over. Even Serena recognized the power of Kerber's new positivity.

Kerber's decisions over the past year regarding her career should provide a template for so many other players like her to strive for something bigger. The defensive-minded players who often hold back for fear of making the killing mistake, hoping for an opponent to lose while never trying EVERYTHING to actually win, now have someone whose accomplishments can be pointed toward for inspiration. As we saw in this final, a dash of in-match aggression can put a speedy player with the ability to get every ball back an extra ultra-important and title-deciding advantage, especially if her opponent isn't having an "all-time" day, and ultimately contributes to the overall flow of the match turning in her direction as the pressure mounts on the other side of the net. It happened on Saturday night, as Kerber's game rose and Williams' was unable to follow her. Given more time, Serena may well have turned things around. Kerber didn't offer her such opportunity.

The result was a dream come true for the German. How that she has ALL the facts, and knows what she's capable of, Kerber can be content, for the moment, in the knowledge that she had the courage to make this moment -- the greatest moment of her career -- happen. Her first words to the Rod Laver Arena crowd in the post-match ceremony? With a smile, a simple, "Whew!

It was clear... reality had overtaken the dream.

Sleep tight, Angie... tomorrow is another day in which to shine.

=DAY 13 NOTES= the girls singles final, NextGen Belarusian Vera Lapko joined countrywoman Victoria Azarenka in the junior slam winner's circle, knocking off defending champion (#2 seed) Tereza Mihalikova in straight sets, 6-3/6-4. But it was hardly as easy as the scoreline might suggest.

It took #5-seeded Lapko five GP to finally secure the final game of the 1st set, then she had to battle back from 4-1 down in the 2nd. The set turned with Lapko's break of serve in game #7 for 4-3. Two games later, she jumped up 40/15 on Mihalikova's serve. The Slovak saved both BP, the second with an ace. But Lapko's backhand winner gave her a third opportunity, then Mihalikova's long backhand error gave the Belarusian the chance to serve for the title at 5-4. She netted a backhand on her first MP, then fired a forehand long on her second. On a long deuce rally, Lapko aggressively moved forward and hit three consecutive shots from around the service "T," but wasn't able to put Mihalikova away on the point. Soon, Mihalikova's shots pushed her back, but the Slovak got caught in a vulnerable position near the baseline and Lapko pulled off a nifty slice forehand passing shot to give herself a third MP. Mihalikova sprayed a forehand one point later to end the match. Lapko ended with a 28-16 edge in winners, as Belarus has a junior slam champ for the first time since 2005.

Later, Mihalikova returned to play the doubles final with Russian Anna Kalinskaya against the all-Ukrainian duo of Dayana Yastremska & Anastasia Zarytska. Mihalikova got something of a reprieve there as she and Kalinskaya won 6-1/6-1.

...for more than a decade, Esther Vergeer ruled wheelchair tennis. She won twenty-one slam singles titles, and twenty-one more in doubles. Ranked #1 from 1999 to 2013, she ended her career on an obscene 470-match winning streak. She was 700-25 for her career, and won four consecutive Paralympic Games singles Gold medals. By the time she left the game, the Dutch woman was being mentioned as the most dominant athlete in professional sports.

Since Vergeer exited the competition to replace her as THE best player in the sport has been a game of musical chairs, which multiple players taking their turn in the bright spotlight in round robin-like fashion. Hmm, shades of WTA life in a true post-Serena world?

From 2013 until this before this AO, four different women -- Jiske Griffioen, Yui Kamiji, Aniek Van Koot and Sabine Ellerbrock -- had all picked up two titles in the nine slams singles competitions contested without Vergeer, with Brit Jordanne Whiley arriving in Melbourne as the reigning champ at the U.S. Open. Griffioen's title on Saturday in Melbourne over her doubles partner Van Koot -- the third straight slam singles final contested between doubles partners -- means the 30-year old Dutch woman has now edged slightly ahead of the pack when it comes to "replacing" her countrywoman Vergeer, picking up her third slam crown with a 6-3/7-5 victory.

#1-seed and defending AO champ Griffioen seemed to be coasting to the title today, serving up 6-3/5-2. But the Dutch woman failed in two attempts to serve out the match, despite holding three match points. Up 5-4, Griffioen double-fauled on BP and the set was suddenly knotted at 5-5. But Van Koot couldn't take advantage of her countrywoman's slip, as she also double-faulted on BP one game later. Finally, on her fourth MP, Griffioen won when Van Koot netted a forehand to end a long rally.

With her third slam title in the last four, Griffioen's chances to follow in the footsteps of Vergeer as a Grand Slam (+1, actually, as the singles will be held at Wimbledon for the very first time this summer) winner have now officially been given life. Not only that, but even a "Golden Slam" is possible in a Paralympic year. Later this summer the Paralympics are scheduled to be held in Rio immediately after the U.S. Open, so it doesn't look like the Open's WC competition will be cancelled this summer, as was the case in '12 when the Open's event dates conflicted with the Paralympic tennis competition.

At those '12 Paralympic Games, Vergeer won Gold, while Van Koot took the Silver and Griffioen the Bronze. In doubles, Vergeer won with Marjolein Buis.

Buis was also a champion today, winning the WC doubles with Yui Kamiji, as the #2 seeds defeated the #1-seeded duo of Griffioen & Van Koot 6-3/7-5. For Kamiji, it's her third straight AO doubles title, and her seventh doubles slam crown in the last nine. She won all her previous titles with Whiley. The two didn't play together at this event (probably in some part because she and her AO partner, fellow Brit Lucy Shuker, will likely be a team in Rio), but Whiley has stated that she and Kamiji will pick up their partnership again in the future.

...and, finally, I'll be back with a quick post tomorrow after the men's and mixed finals. Then, later this week, I'll have the season's first monthly awards, as well as a Fed Cup preview.

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: Petko being Petko

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: A shadow being officially escaped...

ell, by one player, at least... so I guess all those Graf numbers will be pulled out again at another future slam(s). Sigh. This is getting a bit repetitive.


...THE MOMENT WHEN ANDREA AND LUCIE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IT WASN'T GOING TO BE THEIR DAY: I mean, at least other than when they learned that Martina & Sania had won their semifinal match, of course.

...REMINDER ON DAY 13: Sometimes winning can be a dirty business...

...LIKE FROM DAY 13: Doing your best Belinda Bencic, "Whaaaaaat?" impression...

...EARLY "MATCH OF THE YEAR" LISTS ON DAY 13: Sure, officially, I'd list the Gavrilova/Mladenovic list as the "best" of this Australian Open. But, keeping to the pattern she established last year, Kerber is "littering up the scorecard" when it comes to Match of the Year nominations once again.

Top early-round match? Kerber/Doi.
Top late-round match? Kerber/Williams.

To be continued, for sure, the next time she hits the court.

...AND-YOU-THOUGHT-YOU-HAD-AN-ODD-DAY? FROM DAY 13: Gordon Reid won the men's wheelchair singles title on Saturday afternoon, then came back in the evening to play the doubles final with Shingo Kuneida. They served up 6-3/5-0, 40/15... and lost.

Hmmm, I wonder which memory will last longer in the crevices of Reid's mind? At least for a few days.

#7 Angelique Kerber/GER def. #1 Serena Williams/USA 6-4/3-6/6-4

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #2 Andy Murray/GBR

#1 Hingis/Mirza (SUI/IND) d. #7 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) 7-6(1)/6-3

#7 J.Murray/Soares (GBR/BRA) def. Nestor/Stepanek (CAN/CZE) 2-6/6-4/7-5

#5 Vesnina/Soares (RUS/BRA) vs. Vandeweghe/Tecau (USA/ROU)

#5 Vera Lapko/BLR def. #2 Tereza Mihalikova/SVK 6-3/6-4

Oliver Anderson/AUS def. #7 Jurabek Karimov/UZB 6-2/1-6/6-1

#2 Kalinskaya/Mihalikova (RUS/SVK) def. #6 Yastremska/Zarytska (UKR/UKR) 6-1/6-1

De Minaur/Ellis (AUS/AUS) def. #8 Klein/Rikl (SVK/CZE) 3-6/7-5 [12-10]

#1 Jiske Griffioen/NED def. Aniek Van Koot/NED 6-3/7-5

Gordon Reid/GBR def. Joachim Gerard/BEL 7-6(6)/6-4

#2 Buis/Kamiji (NED/JPN) def. #1 Griffioen/Van Koot (NED/NED) 6-2/6-2

#1 Houdet/Peifer (FRA/FRA) def. #2 Reid/Kunieda (GBR/JPN) 6-3/3-6/7-5

Backspin's Official Mascot Aussie Unicorn.

1977 Kerry Melville-Reid, AUS
1978 Chris O'Neil, AUS
1979 Barbara Jordan, USA
1980 Hana Mandlikova, CZE
1995 Mary Pierce, FRA
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER

49 - Flavia Pennetta (2015 U.S. Open)
47 - Marion Bartoli (2013 Wimbledon)
45 - Jana Novotna (1998 Wimbledon)
39 - Francesca Schiavone (2010 Roland Garros)
34 - Samantha Stosur (2011 U.S. Open)
33 - ANGELIQUE KERBER (2016 Australian Open)
31 - Amelie Mauresmo (2006 Australian Open)
29 - Jennifer Capriati (2001 Australian Open)
28 - Kerry Melville-Reid (1978 Australian Open)
26 - Lindsay Davenport (1998 U.S. Open)
25 - Victoria Azarenka (2012 Australian Open)

7...Serena Williams (6-1)
4...Maria Sharapova (1-3)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0)
1...Angelique Kerber (1-0)
1...Ana Ivanovic (0-1)
1...Venus Williams (0-1)
1...Dominika Cibulkova (0-1)
NOTE: Hingis (3-3)

33y,6m,6d - Flavia Pennetta, 2015 U.S. Open
29y,347d - Francesca Schiavone, 2010 Roland Garros
29y,9m,3d - Jana Novotna, 1998 Wimbledon
29y,5m,3d - Kerry Melville-Reid, 1977 Australian Open
29y,3m,9d - Li Na, 2011 Roland Garros
28y,9m,5d - Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon
28y,13d - ANGELIQUE KERBER, 2016 Australian

Unseeded - 1978 Chris O'Neil, AUS
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
#7 - 2005 Serena Williams, USA
#5 - 1979 Barbara Jordan, USA
#5 - 2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS
#4 - 1995 Mary Pierce, FRA
#4 - 1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
#4 - 2014 Li Na, CHN

==full list from

[Open era]
1986 U.S. Open - Martina Navratilova (3 = Graf SF)
1991 Aust.Open - Monica Seles (1 = MJ.Fernandez SF)
2002 Aust.Open - Jennifer Capriati (4 = Hingis F)
2003 Aust.Open - Serena Williams (2 = Clijsters SF)
2004 R.Garros - Anastasia Myskina (1 = Kuznetsova 4th)
2005 Aust.Open - Serena Williams (3 = Sharapova SF)
2005 R.Garros - Justine Henin-H. (2 = Kuznetsova 4th)
2005 Wimbledon - Venus Williams (1 = Davenport F)
2009 Wimbledon - Serena Williams (1 = Dementieva SF)
2014 Aust.Open - Li Na (1 = Safarova 3rd)
2016 Aust.Open - Angelique Kerber (1 = Doi 1st)
[pre-Open era]
1923 Aust.Open - Margaret Molesworth (1 = Sylvia Lance SF)
1935 Wimbledon - Helen Wills Moody (1 = Helen Jacobs F)
1946 R.Garros - Margaret Osbourne (2 = Pauline Betz F)
1956 Aust.Open - Mary Carter (1 = Thelma Long F)
1962 R.Garros - Margaret Smith (Court) (1 = Lesley Turner F)

[21-5 career]
2001 U.S. Open - Venus Williams
2004 Wimbledon - Maria Sharapova
2008 Wimbledon - Venus Williams
2011 U.S. Open - Samantha Stosur
2016 Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (3 sets)

[since Azarenka became #1 in January '12]
2012 Miami (Champion: Aga Radwanska)
2013 Wimbledon (Marion Bartoli)
2014 Australian Open (Li Na)
2014 Wimbledon (Petra Kvitova)
2014 Montreal (Aga Radwanska)
2015 Indian Wells (Simona Halep)
2015 Madrid (Petra Kvitova)
2016 Australian Open (Angelique Kerber)

2007 Madison Brengle, USA
2008 Jessica Moore, AUS & Arantxa Rus, NED
2009 Ksenia Pervak, RUS
2010 Karolina & Kristyna Pliskova, CZE/CZE
2011 Japanese girls
2012 Taylor Townsend, USA
2013 Ana Konjuh, CRO
2014 Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
2015 Tereza Mihalikova, SVK
2016 Sara Tomic, AUS

2006 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2007 Shahar Peer, ISR
2008 Casey Dellacqua, AUS
2009 Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
2010 Maria Kirilenko, RUS
2011 An-Sophie Mestach, BEL (jr.)
2012 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
2013 [Fortysomething] Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
2014 [Teen] Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
2015 [Madisons] Madison Keys/USA & Madison Brengle/USA
2016 [NextGen Belarusian] Vera Lapko, BLR

AO: Aniek Van Koot, NED
RG: Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
US: Aniek Van Koot, NED
AO: Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
RG: Yui Kamiji, JPN
US: Yui Kamiji, JPN
AO: Jiske Griffioen, NED
RG: Jiske Griffioen, NED
US: Jordanne Whiley, GBR
AO: Jiske Griffioen, NED

AO: Jiske Griffioen / Aniek Van Koot, NED/NED
RG: Jiske Griffioen / Aniek Van Koot, NED/NED
WI: Jiske Griffioen / Aniek Van Koot, NED/NED
US: Jiske Griffioen / Aniek Van Koot, NED/NED
AO: Yui Kamiji / Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
RG: Yui Kamiji / Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
WI: Yui Kamiji / Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
US: Yui Kamiji / Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
AO: Yui Kamiji / Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
RG: Jiske Griffioen / Aniek Van Koot, NED/NED
WI: Yui Kamiji / Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
US: Jiske Griffioen / Aniek Van Koot, NED/NED
AO: Yui Kamiji / Marjolein Buis, JPN/NED

AO: Karolina Pliskova, CZE
RG: Elina Svitolina, UKR
WI: Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
US: Daria Gavrilova, RUS
AO: An-Sophie Mestach, BEL
RG: Ons Jabeur, TUN
WI: Ashleigh Barty, AUS
AO: Grace Min, USA
AO: Taylor Townsend, USA
RG: Annika Beck, GER
WI: Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
US: Samantha Crawford, USA
AO: Ana Konjuh, CRO
RG: Belinda Bencic, SUI
WI: Belinda Bencic, SUI
US: Ana Konjuh, CRO
AO: Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
RG: Darya Kasatkina, RUS
WI: Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
US: Maria Bouzkova, CZE
AO: Tereza Mihalikova, SVK
RG: Paula Badosa, ESP
WI: Sofya Zhuk, RUS
US: Dalma Galfi, HUN
AO: Vera Lapko, BLR

2001 Petra Cetkovska / Barbora Strycova, CZE/CZE
2002 Gisela Dulko / Angelique Widjaja, ARG/INA
2003 Petra Cetkovska / Barbora Strycova, CZE/CZE
2004 Sun Sheng-Nan / Chan Yung-Jan, CHN/TPE
2005 Victoria Azarenka / Marina Erakovic, BLR/NZL
2006 Sharon Fichman / Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, CAN/RUS
2007 Evgeniya Rodina / Arina Rodionova, RUS/RUS
2008 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova / Ksenia Lykina, RUS/RUS
2009 Christina McHale / Ajla Tomljanovic, USA/CRO
2010 Jana Cepelova / Chantal Skamlova, SVK/SVK
2011 An-Sophie Mestach / Demi Schuurs, BEL/NED
2012 Gabby Andrews / Taylor Townsend, USA/USA
2013 Ana Konjuh / Carol Zhao, CRO/CAN
2014 Anhelina Kalinina / Elizaveta Kulichkova, UKR/RUS
2015 Miriam Kolodziejova / Marketa Vondrousova, CZE/CZE
2016 Anna Kalinskaya / Tereza Mihalikova, RUS/SVK

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #14 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): #7 Angelique Kerber/GER
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.): Final - #7 Angelique Kerber/GER def. #1 Serena Williams/USA 6-4/3-6/6-4
TOP LAVER/MCA NIGHT MATCH: 3rd Rd. - Daria Gavrilova/AUS d. #28 Kristina 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 (NextGen Belarusian): Vera Lapko/BLR
COMEBACK PLAYERS: Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka, CZE/CZE
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, Vandweweghe/USA, Vesnina/RUS

All for Day 13. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

Angelique made 13 unforced errors for the whole match. That's really amazing.

She has the type of game that can really give Serena trouble. She eats and redirects pace so well AND she then generates her own power at opportune times.

Sun Jan 31, 02:48:00 AM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...


I remember when you added Mauresmo to that list 10 years ago, she was second, and 31 appearances felt like a long wait to first win a slam title. Now, she's seventh on that list. The typical career of a tennis player changed a lot this past decade!

(Whew, this makes me realize that your blog has accompanied my life as a tennis fan for more than ten years now. Time flies by! I think I first read it early 2005. The fact that I stayed all along says a lot about the quality of your work and of your writing! Thanks for making my tennis fan experience even better!)

Sun Jan 31, 11:00:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I hope she can keep it up. Considering Kerber's ability to play epic matches, if she can be a deep second week contender at the other slams this year we could see SO MANY classic matches on the big stages. They just follow her around like kittens.

I remember when Novotna topped that list, and it wasn't even close for 2nd (a 17-slam difference w/ Melville-Reid) and whoever was third at the time. It seemed like she'd be up there forever. Go figure. Flavia... watch your back???

Of course, at this point the only player who might be able to pass HER would be JJ... could you imagine if she won one now? That'd be c-razy. Her next slam will be #50. (Of note, though, Caro is up to 36 majors, Aga 40 and Safarova 43... so, maaaaybe?)

Thanks! At some point, time really begins to fly, doesn't it? ;)

Sun Jan 31, 05:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Colette Lewis said...

Kalinskaya didn't win the US Open girls doubles title last September. You must be confusing her with Pospelova.

Wed Feb 03, 11:10:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Thanks, Collette. Yeah, I realized that after the fact when I was looking at the list of girls doubles AO winners and realized that I'd put a check mark beside the wrong winning team in my notebook from last year's Open -- finalists Kalinskaya/Potapova rather than winners Kuzmova/Pospelova. (Shakes head.)

I actually edited that out of this post a couple of days ago (and I don't see it now) -- I remember because I thought, "Well, I'm glad I changed that before Colette caught that error." :)

But I see your comment is from 2/3. Not sure how you were able to still see it there. :\

Wed Feb 03, 10:43:00 PM EST  
Blogger Colette Lewis said...

I was in Midland so didn't read it until today, from my RSS feed. I guess corrections don't register in that format. Next time I'll check the site before offering an unnecessary correction!

Wed Feb 03, 11:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, I see. I thought that might be the reason.

It's all right -- I'm happy that you make a point to catch up when you're away. ;)

Thu Feb 04, 01:29:00 AM EST  

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