Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wk.1- Act 1, Scene 1 (2016)

The 2016 season is off to a rollicking start. Everywhere you looked in Week 1, something was happening... or not happening. Yep, the WTA already has all its bases covered and the rackets haven't even needed to be re-strung yet.

A quick glance back at the proceedings so far shows that Simona Halep is still smiling (maybe because she still hadn't played a match at this point?)...

Other big-namers have played little, if they've played at all.

Dasha Gavrilova made the very most of her first effort as a full-blooded Aussie...

Vika was busy dabbing...

And making a new friend...

Meanwhile, THEY were at it again...

Oh, and not that long after this happened...

All THIS happened.

But more on that in a bit.

S: Victoria Azarenka/BLR def. Angelique Kerber/GER 6-3/6-1
D: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND) d. Angelique Kerber/Andrea Petkovic (GER/GER) 7-5/6-1

S: Aga Radwanska/POL def. Alison Riske/USA 6-3/6-2
D: Vania King/Monica Niculescu (USA/ROU) d. Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai (CHN/CHN) 6-1/6-4

S: Sloane Stephens/USA def. Julia Goerges/GER 7-5/6-2
D: Elise Mertens/An-Sophie Mestach (BEL/BEL) d. Danka Kovinic/Barbora Strycova (MNE/CZE) 2-6/6-3 [10-5]

HOPMAN CUP (Perth, AUS; Exhibition; HCO/HCI)
S: Australia/Green (Gavrilova/Kyrgios) d. Ukraine (Svitolina/Dolgopolov) 2-0

"My dreams come true when I step on the court."
- Vika Azarenka

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Victoria Azarenka/BLR
...well, well, well. Is the old Vika back? After showing flashes of her former self in '15, Azarenka put on a full week-long performance that woke up the echoes last week in Brisbane. At 19, she'd taken the title at the tournament in the first women's competition held there in '09, and last week she swept through the event without dropping a set to claim her first singles title since winning in Cincinnati in the summer of '13. Her total of seventeen games lost tied Serena Williams' tournament record. Azarenka's week included dropping the first two games of her 1st Round match against Elena Vesnina, then winning twelve straight. After that came quick decisions over Ysaline Bonaventure (in for Simona Halep, who withdrew), Roberta Vinci (1 & 2), the previously-on-fire Sam Crawford (love & 3) and even Angelique Kerber (3 & 1) in the final. As clean as her week was, Azarenka's post-match routine was just as on point. Taking a cue from the NFL's Cam Newton and others, Azarenka picked up the habit of post-match "victory dabbing" throughout the week, and even joined in for a "group dab" with the ball kids after the final.

Not only that, but she made a little girl named Steph's day by pulling her (in her Vika headband) out of the stands after the final and having her join her for the entie post-match ceremony. The newest member of Team Vika followed along in her footsteps in true "mini me" style, and even got to do the traditional signing of the glass in front of the on-court camera.

Hmmm, with so many questions surrounding so many players heading into Melbourne, it shouldn't go unmentioned that Azarenka is a two-time champion at the season's first slam, right? I mean, I'm just sayin'.

RISERS: Sloane Stephens/USA & Daria Gavrilova/AUS
...well, if the Future is (almost) now, then Stephens has a pretty good command of things at the moment. After finally winning her first career title last summer in Washington D.C. without dropping a set, Stephens came through in Auckland last week to win her second, once again without dropping a set. She'd gone into Week 1 having only recently announced that Nick Saviano, her former coach who'd returned in '15 and helped her raise her game after a subpar '14 campaign, would no longer be working with her, so what we'd get from Stephens in the early going of '16 was anyone's guess. But with the very calm Kamau Murray in her corner, things seem to be going rather well so far. After wins over Polona Hercog and Carina Witthoeft, Stephens slowed the impressive rolls of Naomi Broady (saving two SP in the 1st) and Caroline Wozniacki (finishing up their rain-interrupted semi before competing in the final, and ending the Dane's up-till-then impressive week), then handled Julia Goerges in understated fashion to take the title. She didn't "turn tuna into lobster" (as she deemed her first title run) with this win, but it's obvious that Stephens could get used to this.

Meanwhile, in Perth, new Aussie Gavrilova was busy endearing herself to an entire nation, not to mention anyone else who hadn't yet had contact with the Eternal Sunshine of the Gavrilovian Mind. Between moments of fighting and smiling, the 21-year old teamed with Nick Kyrgios on the Australian Green team (there was also a Gold duo comprised of Lleyton Hewitt and Jarmila Gajdosova Groth Gajdosova Wolfe... all right, it's just "Wolfe" now, but she changes her name so often it's hard to keep up) to become the first home team to win the title in seventeen years. Gavrilova went just 1-2 in round robin singles play, defeating Sabine Lisicki but losing to Caroline Garcia and Heather Watson, the latter defeat after leading 4-2 in the 3rd and serving for the match. But Kyrgios' 3-0 singles mark, and their mixed doubles combo, carried the Aussies through. Gavrilova often joked about being along for the ride as Kyrgios sometimes dominated play in the doubles, but it was the former Hordette who single-handedly saved a MP in the final RR match vs. the Pastries (down 9-8 in a 3rd set tie-break) with a strong volley up the middle that was followed by a deft crosscourt drop volley winner that gave the duo a life line, preventing the British team of Watson and Andy Murray from automatically advancing to the final with an Australian Green team loss. Gavrilova/Kygrios didn't lose another point in that match (winning the TB 11-9 to finish off a 3-0 record in RR play), nor another match in the event as they swept the singles in the final against Ukraine, with Gavrilova impressively defeating Elina Svitolina in straight sets in the lead-off match.

Omg! No words! So happy!!!!!!! Best week of my life!

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

The win is Australia's first in Perth since 1999, when a 15-year old Jelena Dokic teamed with Mark Philippoussis to take the title. That result came just after the '98 season in which Dokic was the #1 junior in the world and won the U.S. Open girls crown, and was five months BEFORE her history-making 1st Round upset of #1-ranked Martina Hingis in the opening round at Wimbledon later in the '99 season.
Come on, now. You didn't think I was going to pass on a chance to shine a little classic Backspin spotlight on the one-and-only Fair One, did you?

SURPRISES: Naomi Broady/GBR & Alison Riske/USA
...suddenly, Laura Robson is feeling a bit like an "afterthought" in British women's tennis, isn't she? From Heather Watson to Johanna Konta, with junior Katie Swan coming up behind them, the Brits are starting to populate the tour like they haven't in quite a few generations. Even Tara Moore won a $10K challenger this first weekend of the '16 season. Broady added her name to that list in '15, and built up a few more layers in her story in Week 1 in Auckland. Already once a controversial figure a few years ago when she had her funding pulled due to supposedly questionable photos posted on social media, Broady found herself smack in the middle of a headline-grabbing situation last week, as well. But, on the whole, Broady's time in New Zealand was about some very good tennis on her part. Using her height to her advantage by upping the power on her serve led to some good results in the back half of '15, including a $25K title, $75K final and first-ever career tour level semi in Quebec City. Broady launched her '16 campaign by surviving the Q-rounds (winning an 8-6 3rd set TB over Magdalena Rybarikova in the final round), then catching fire in the main draw. She upset Ana Ivanovic for her first Top 20 win, firing fourteen aces in two sets, in the 1st Round. Against Jelena Ostapenko in the 2nd Round, though, was where her week was elevated to something greater (or devolved into tennis reality TV, depending on your point of view). The teenage Latvian led by a set and 5-2, and held two MP. Broady saved both. In the ensuing TB, either in desperation, frustration or by sheer "accident" Ostapenko's racket went flying at a ball that she was unable to reach, then bounced up and hit a ball boy. Broady immediately protested to the chair umpire that her opponent should be defaulted for the incident. The rules essentially say as much, though the chair umpire didn't see fit to "pull the trigger," giving Ostapenko the benefit of the doubt (which Broady did not) largely, one would suspect, because there was a legitimate question about the nature of the "accidental" slip/intentionally frustrated toss actions by Ostapenko and, one might consider, maybe because she was up a set and had just held MP a few minutes earlier and, truth be told, it felt a bit desperate the way that Broady (literally bringing herself to tears) pleaded for the default and even called out a tournament official to argue for it.

As things turned out, Broady finished off the TB, recovered from a 5-1 3rd set deficit and fired 21 aces to win the match as Ostapenko failed on three occasions to serve out the victory. Then, at the net, Broady sparked a confrontation with Ostapenko after the Latvian complained about her earlier reaction, leading to the Brit yelling in her direction in the changeover area and the two continuing to verbally go back-and-forth after a tournament official acted as an unofficial physical buffer between the two. After the match, fellow players stood behind Broady while commenting on issues they'd had with Ostapenko during her first season on tour last year, while Ostapenko took to social media to air her own grievances.

Whether the Latvian deserved to be defaulted, or whether Broady's over the top reaction during and after the match was warranted, the match will surely be one of the most memorable of the year (and it's only Week 1!). Broady lost a round later in the QF to Sloane Stephens, but she'll rise to a career-best #112 this coming week.

In Shenzhen, Riske reached her second career final, her first since winning in Tianjin in October 2014, before Aga Radwanska put a swift end to any dreams of something more. After finishing in the Top 50 in 2014, the American nearly finished outside the Top 100 after slumping in 2015. Wins over Annika Beck, Hsieh Su-Wei, Johanna Konta and Timea Babos in Week 1 gives some hope for a rebound season, though. Riske now heads to Melbourne looking to end her string of five straight 1st Round losses in slams (after she'd reached at least the 3rd Round in her previous five in 2013-14).
VETERANS: Aga Radwanska/POL & Angelique Kerber/GER
...while all the other top seeds were falling in Week 1, Shenzhen #1 Radwanska coasted through the week without losing a single set, extending her Asian reign for one more week before heading Down Under to Melbourne. Essentially, it was a continuation of the remarkable run the Pole put together to end her '15 season, which culminated in a career-best title run at the WTA Finals. Last week, wins over Alekandra Krunic, Zhang Shuai, Wang Qiang, Anna-Lena Friedsam and Alison Riske pushed Radwanska's late '15/early '16 record in Asia to 21-4, with four titles (three consecutive). Three of those four title runs have come without Aga dropping a set. The win lifted her past Maria Sharapova to #4 in the rankings, possibly giving her an advantage in the AO draw. Melbourne will be her next stop, too, as she's joined the crowd in pulling out of the Sydney draw.

In Brisbane, Kerber arrived in great shape and with a more aggressive game plan than her usual chase-down-everything defensive style of seasons past. It worked great for a while, as she downed Camila Giorgi (w/ a love 3rd set), Madison Brengle (love 2nd), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (straight sets) and Carla Suarez-Navarro to reach her sixth final in the last ten months. In the final against Vika Azarenka, though, the German was surprisingly shipped off rather quickly. The two have combined for some great matches before (including a Match of the Year candidate at last year's U.S. Open), but this one wasn't another, as Azarenka won 3 & 1 and out-hit the German, whose extra aggression only led to a higher number of unforced errors than is normal for her. But her final result of Week 1 won't deter Kerber, as she remained confident that the style is worth sticking with. After winning four straight finals last season (after having lost four in a row), Kerber has now lost two straight (w/ Hong Kong last fall). Normally, that might be a cause for concern. But in Kerberese, considering she combined her best-ever "regular" season with her worst slam campaign since 2010 last year, maybe this is a good sign that the German's grand slam prospects are going to look much brighter in '16 that they did season ago. Kerber's run in singles wasn't her only achievement last week, as she and Fed Cup (and Rio Olympic doubles partner?) Andrea Petkovic teamed to reach the final. It was Kerber's first doubles final since 2008, and Petko's first since '09.

COMEBACKS: Julia Goerges/GER & Tamira Paszek/AUT
...Goerges added Michael Geserer to her coaching team in the offseason, and the move seems to have worked pretty well if we're to judge by her results in Week 1. In Auckland, the German reached her first tour final since 2012 (Linz) with wins over Lucie Hradecka, Barbora Strycova, Nao Hibino and Tamira Paszek. After ending last season at #50 (she finished in the #70's in 2013-14), former Top 15er Goerges has already shaved off seven ranking spots in '16 as she'll be up to #43 next week. One of Goerges' victims in New Zealand, Paszek, is staging her comeback from even farther out. Her semifinal run, her first since she defeated Angelique Kerber in the Eastbourne final in 2012, came after she made her way through qualifying (w/ wins over Mandy Minella, Monica Puig and Kurumi Nara) and then knocked off a string of veterans in Francesca Schiavone, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kirsten Flipkens. The 25-year old Austrian, who was ranked as high as #26 in 2013, came into the week at #172, but will enter Week 2 as #126. Earlier in her career, the once up-and-coming Paszek reached the U.S. Open 4th Round at age 16 in 2007, and the Wimbledon QF in both 2011 and '12.

FRESH FACES: Samantha Crawford/USA & Daria Kasatkina/RUS
...there were several young players who put their names in the headlines last week, but Crawford and Kasatkina stood out the most. For both, it was another step in the progression of their careers. Crawford, 20, was a junior achiever, winning the Eddie Herr championships in 2010, then the U.S. Open girls title in 2012. She came into 2016 having won back-to-back USTA playoff races for wild card berths into last year's U.S. Open and this month's Australian Open. But none of that made what the world #142 did last week in Brisbane any less surprising, nor how easily she did it any less shocking. Armed with a big serve and flat, powerful groundstrokes that brought to mind Petra Kvitova at her best, the Bannerette came into Week 1 with just two main draw wins in her tour career. But after opening the WTA season by upsetting Brisbane's #1 Q-seed Tsvetana Pironkova on Day 1 of qualifying, then notching two more wins to reach the MD (the last, an 18-ace triumph over Oceane Dodin), Crawford put up three straight sets MD wins to reach her first career semifinal. The first win was against Aussie junior Priscilla Hon, but the last two came over Belinda Bencic and Andrea Petkovic, the latter a love & 3 lesson in domination that left the German searching for answers as the American officially registered one of those (in Breaking Bad language) "say my name" sort of performances that will forever remind everyone of what she's capable of doing on her best day. Her run was emphatically ended by eventual champ Azarenka, as likely fatigue, the moment and a surging Belarusian combined to finally push Crawford into a place from which she couldn't hit herself out. But, make no mistake, no one will fail to see her coming again. Ever. Crawford is up to #107 in the latest rankings.

Meanwhile, Kasatkina continues to show the fight she exhibited while making a lucky loser run to the U.S. Open 3rd Round last summer, then finishing up 2015 at #71 in the tour rankings and winning her first career WTA doubles title in Moscow. The 18-year old, the 2014 Roland Garros girls champ, opened her '16 campaign by pulling off the biggest win of her career to date, a maiden Top 10 victory over... wait for it... top-seeded and defending champ Venus Williams, who is nearly twice the Russian's age (there's a 17-year difference). Kasatkina wasn't able to follow up her win, losing her next match in three sets to Nao Hibino and then retiring in the second Q-round in Sydney. This won't be the last we hear of her, though. Not by a long shot.

DOWN: Ana Ivanovic/SRB & Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
...oh, there were so many to choose from here. What with Serena Williams' knee flaring up and forcing her out of the Hopman Cup, Simona Halep's Achilles' heel leading to her pulling out of Brisbane, Petra Kvitova's illness (oh no, not again) leading to a retirement in Shenzhen and a pull-out for Week 2, Garbine Muguruza's plantar fascia issues leading to a retirement in Brisbane (and a no-show in Sydney) and Maria Sharapova's forearm soreness (which also cropped after her long layoff late in '15) also forcing HER out of Brisbane, one would need to just put on a blindfold and head off in ALL directions to play a quick, multi-turn game of Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Most-Disappointing-Player-in-Week-1. But I'm not going with any of those players, and instead look at the results of two players that may be true "red flags" for disappointing seasons rather than just the slow starts that the aforementioned players will likely encounter.

Last year, Bacsinszky opened her break-out season with a semifinal win over Kvitova and a runner-up result in Shenzhen. The revelatory result kicked off a great year for the Swiss. After SF and QF runs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, respectively, last year, though, Bacsinszky had an atrocious summer hard court season before rebounding slightly at the very end of the year before ending her season a week early with an injury. She opened '16 with a quick 2 & 1 loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Brisbane, and has already lost her 1st Round match in Sydney in three sets to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. The Swiss has a lot of points to defend and a great deal more pressure of expectation in '16 than she did a year ago, and now she enters Melbourne still without a match win on the season. January set the tone for her '15 campaign. Hopefully, it hasn't already done so for 2016, as well.

Meanwhile, AnaIvo has often performed quite well in January. She won Auckland in '14 and reached the AO Round of 16 after knocking off Serena. Last year, she played in the Brisbane final, falling to Sharapova. This year, she was the first MD victim of Naomi Broady in Auckland, out-hit by the Brit, who notched her first career Top 20 victory over the Serb, and contributing to her own demise (back-to-back DF ended the 1st set) along the way. She's already out of Sydney, as well, dropping her early 1st Round match to Karolina Pliskova 6-4/6-2. Of course, it goes without saying... Nigel Sears, watch your back. (And that goes for all the other current/temporary members of Team Ana, as well... nothing lasts forever, of course, but your current roles are surely more precarious than most.)
ITF PLAYER: Viktoriya Golubic/SUI
...while Bacsinszky and Belinda Bencic saw their seasons get off to a slow start, Golubic joined the likes of fellow Swiss stars Martina Hingis, Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer on the positive side of the '16 ledger after the first week of action. The 23-year old swept the singles and doubles titles at the $25K challenger in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. Career titles #21 (8th singles) and #22 (14th doubles) came with the #4-seeded Golubic taking out the #2-seeded Luksika Kumkhum in the semis and the #3 Risa Ozaki in the final. She claimed the doubles crown with Stephanie Vogt.

JUNIOR STAR: Amanda Anisimova/USA the Grade A Coffee Bowl event in Costa Rica, 14-year old Anisimova continued her rise with a run to the title that concluded with a 6-2/6-2 win in the final over fellow Bannerette Hurricane Tyra Black. Late last season, Anisimova reached the Eddie Herr semis (def. Bianca Andreescu and Michaela Gordon) and won the Grade A Abierto Juvenil event in Mexico in a week-long performance that included an early win over Kayla Day and a victory in the final over Katie Swan (last year's AO girls finalist).

DOUBLES: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND) & Vania King/USA
...well, there they go again. The Dream Team began 2016 the same way they ended 2015. By winning, and winning and winning. Hingis and Mirza swept through the Brisbane field, dropping just one set along the way (to Bencic/Mladenovic, ending a 15-set winning streak), and then defeating the "worst doubles team ever" (that'd be Kerber/Petkovic, who self-deprecatingly called themselves that) in the final. The four new wins extended the DT's winning streak to twenty-six matches (the longest on tour since HoFers Gigi Fernandez & Natasha Zvereva won 28 straight in 1994) and six consecutive titles. Their most recent lost came in Cincinnati last summer, but they're still a LONG way from the WTA's Open era record for consecutive victories... that'd be 109 by Navratilova/Shriver, a streak that stretched over three seasons from 1983-85. Yeah, I think we can assume that that one's "pretty safe." Right? Either way, this win was actually a title DEFENSE by Hingis, who won in Brisbane last year with Sabine Lisicki. This coming week, the duo will try to defend Mirza's '14 win in Sydney with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Yep, in case you couldn't tell, we're still about a month and a half away from the one-year anniversary of the Dream Team's first pairing in Indian Wells last spring, so there's still time to add to the ten titles they've already won as a duo before then. If they manage to win in Melbourne, they'd head to Paris in the spring looking for a "Dream Slam" with a fourth consecutive major crown. Hingis last won the Australian Open in 2002 (and at Roland Garros in '00), while Mirza has yet to win the women's doubles at either slam.

Meanwhile, the comeback of Vania King continued in Shenzhen. The former doubles #3 and two-time slam champ missed the first eight months of last season while waiting out an injury, but the 26-year old is now back full-time on tour. She notched a singles victory last week over Stefanie Voegele, but she shined -- as usual -- the brightest on the doubles courts. Teaming with Monica Niculescu, the duo knocked off #2-seeded Chuang/Kalashnikova in the 1st Round, then went on to take the title over the all-Chinese team of Xu Yifan & Zheng Saisai, who combined to win WTA titles in Stanford and Tianjin last season. It's King's fifteenth career tour doubles title, but her first since winning Bogota in April '14 with the now retired Chanelle Scheepers.


1. Hopman Cup rr - Australia Green d. France
...6-4/2-6 [11-9].
With a loss meaning that Great Britain would advance to the final rather than them, the Australian Green team of Gavrilova and Kyrgios faced MP against Garcia/de Schepper at 9-8 in the deciding tie-break in the final, late night round robin match in Perth. Authoring another signature moment of her young pro career, Gavrilova slugged a volley down the middle, then deftly placed a crosscourt drop volley just barely over the net and inside the line to pull the Aussies back from the brink of defeat. Garcia, who'd managed to get back the Kyrgios serve, could hardly believe it. The Green Team won the next two points to take the match (with Kyrgios single-handedly playing all the nearly half a dozen shots on Australia's own MP to put away the win), then swept both singles matches in the final against Ukraine to become the first home nation duo to win the HC since 1999.

2. Auckland 1st Rd. - Paszek d. Schiavone
Schiavone came to Auckland ranked outside the automatic entry net that would get her into the AO draw to tie Ai Sugiyama's WTA record of 62 consecutive slam MD appearances, so she needed a big week. But in her opening match, a 3:00 tussle with Paszek that saw the Italian overcome a 4-1 3rd set deficit, breaking to get back on serve at 4-3 only to give the break back before holding BP on the Austrian's serve again at 5-3. Paszek won the fight and argument filled contest that also included a nifty tweener shot at the net from Schiavone in the closing moments, as the loss prevented a 2nd Round rematch between the 35-year old Italian and her oft-brilliant longtime opponent Svetana Kuznetsova, as well as leaving her STILL on the outside looking in at Melbourne (even with Lucie Safarova announcing she'll miss the AO, Schiavone is still too far back at #115). Unless Tennis Australia gives her a wild card (there are still two potential berths left to hand out), it looks like Schiavone will have to go through qualifying to make history. If the AO was a USTA event, there would be no chance of Francesca getting the free pass (remember the refusal to give Vicky Duval a MD wild card at the U.S. Open last summer? Yeah, well Duval is actually in the AO draw with a protected ranking next week. So there.), but maybe the Aussies will see the benefit of bringing positive attention to an event.
3. Auckland 2nd Rd. - Hibino d. Kasatkina
Kasatkina led 5-3 in the 3rd, and twice was two points from victory in the the closing games of the match. But Hibino, one of the young Japanese players who won maiden tour titles in '15, pulled out the win while saving eleven of sixteen BP opportunities held by the Russian on the day.
4. Brisbane Final - Azarenka d. Kerber
This one won't be on any Match of the Year lists, but it finished off Azarenka's first no-sets-loss title run since she won in Linz in 2012. Azarenka put up 23 winners to just nine unforced errors in the match, while Kerber, due to her extra aggressive mindset and being forced to go for winners while trying to battle her way back, put up an uncharacteristic 27 UE's. Even with their history of exciting matches, Vika now leads the German 7-0 in their head-to-head match-ups.
5. Hopman Cup Final (Match #1) - Gavrilova d. Svitolina
Gavrilova was 1-2 in RR singles, while Svitolina was 3-0. But with the pressure on, Gavrilova lifted her game to put Australia up 1-0 in the final. Down 6-1 in the 2nd set TB, the Aussie saved five SP and closed out the match in straight sets. Gavrilova led 27-11 in winners, and converted 20 of 21 net points.
6. Shenzhen 1st Rd. - Zheng Saisai d. Kvitova
...6-2 ret.
Tennis magazine's current 2016 preview issue notes that the Czech has "the highest ceiling and the deepest floor on tour." Yep, that sounds like Good/Stereo Petra and Bad/Mono Petra all right.

7. Brisbane Q1 - Crawford d. Pironkova 7-6(1)/6-4
Brisbane 2nd Rd. - Crawford d. Bencic 7-5/7-5
Brisbane QF - Crawford d. Petkovic 6-3/6-0
Brisbane SF - Azarenka d. Crawford 6-0/6-3
it was quite a week for Crawford, from start to finish.

8. Brisbane 2nd Rd. - Lepchenko d. Muguruza
...7-6(9)/1-0 ret.
Lepchenko got into something of an unofficial feud with Rennae Stubbs over her celebratory reaction to defeating Muguruza via retirement, while the Spaniard was still being treated on the court.

9. Brisbane QF - Suarez-Navarro d. Lepchenko
Lepchenko got less flack for being on the other side of the net when another Spaniard locked away her 400th career singles victory a round later.
10. Shenzhen 1st Rd. - Bouchard d. Vekic
This was Bouchard's first completed match since her U.S. Open slip and fall. I'm sure the USTA will see fit to eventually use it -- and her first QF result since last year's AO -- against her.

11. Auckland SF - Stephens d. Wozniacki 6-2/7-6(3)
Auckland Final - Stephens d. Goerges 7-5/6-2
Stephens first had to finish off Wozniacki (who'd reached the semis without dropping a set, and putting up three bagel sets vs. her previous opponents) in the morning before taking on Goerges in the final. Worked out pretty well.
12. Hopman Cup rr - Garcia d. Watson 6-3/5-7/6-3
Hopman Cup rr - Garcia d. Gavrilova 6-4/7-6(3)
the Pastry went 3-0 in singles in Perth, but the French team went 0-3. She's stayed perfect (so far) in Sydney, too, winning her 1st Round match over '16 doubles partner Kristina Mladenovic.

13. Hopman Cup rr - Watson d. Gavrilova
Watson and Andy Murray failed to reach the final (barely), but the Brit didn't let this match get away like she did the one against Serena at Wimbledon last year. Gavrilova saved 2 SP in the 1st set to grab the match advantage, winning ten of twelve points (going up 6-0 in the TB). But Watson didn't go away. Instead, she overcame a 4-2 3rd set deficit, and Gavrilova serving at 5-3, 30/15. Watson closed out the match with a love hold. This, as well as another win over Sabine Lisicki and a three-setter with Garcia, didn't lead to greater things in Perth, but it could down the line in 2016.

14. Hopman Cup rr - Svitolina d. Duval
Duval was a late replacement for Serena in the opening U.S. match in Perth. After Williams retired from the second women's singles match, Duval returned to play a good three-setter against Karolina Pliskova (losing 4-6/6-1/6-4). It's good to have her back.
15. Brisbane 1st Rd. - Vinci d. Jankovic 3-6/6-2/6-4
Brisbane 2nd Rd. - Vinci d. Cibulkova 6-1/6-1
the U.S. Open finalist, in what she has said is likely her final season, got off to a quick start before being crushed by the Dane in the QF.
16. Brisbane 1st Rd. - Medina-Garriges/Parra-Santonja d. Martinez-Sanchez/Husarova
The average age in this doubles affair was 35, with the all-33 Spaniards facing off with 33-year old countrywoman MJMS and 41-year old Husarova. MJMS began her doubles comeback in recent months by winning a $50K challenger in Ankara late in 2015. It was her first title of any kind since winning Eastbourne in 2012.
17. Hobart Q1 - Cepede Royg d. Jovanovski
Hey, it had to happen to someone in 2016, right?
18. Brisbane Final - Hingis/Mirza d. Kerber/Petkovic
Kerber came oh-so-close to major things on multiple occasions in Brisbane. Including Petko's lovely ear.


Oh, that's so Maria-on-Instagram, isn't it?

Getting lost in the small streets of #Melbourne. #Travel #instadaily

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

Hmmm, maybe other players need to start making extra versions of themselves, too. Just in case the wear and tear gets to be too much. I hear those 3D printers are remarkable contraptions.

1. Shenzhen 2nd Rd. - Naomi Broady d. Ostapenko
It's not the Zapruder film, but Ostapenko's "magic racket" -- and the crazy things that took place afterward -- surely produced the most controversial moment of Week 1.

2. Auckland 1st Rd. - Kasatkina d. Venus Williams 6-7(4)/6-3/6-3
Auckland 1st Rd. - Naomi Broady d. Ivanovic 7-5/6-4
the upset knives were out early in Auckland, as the last two winners of the event were sent packing. It was Kasatkina's first Top 10 victory, and Broady's first over a Top 20 player.

3. Shenzhen Final - Aga Radwanska d. Riske
The only players who have won more titles since 2014 than Aga are named Serena, Maria and Petra. And those last two only have ONE more title each.
4. Hopman Cup rr - Wolfe d. Serena Williams
...7-5/2-1 ret.
It's worth noting that at last year's Hopman Cup, Serena lost to both Bouchard and Radwanska, and asked for an espresso while struggling to defeat Pennetta. She still won three slams.
5. Shenzhen 1st Rd. - Aga Radwanska d. Krunic
I'd say this was something of a "Backspin Special." There was no such thing as a "winner" or "loser" here.
6. Auckland QF - Stephens d. Naomi Broady
Broady had two SP in the 1st, the second coming up 6-5 in the TB with two serves on her end. Rather than serve it out, the Brit saw Stephens take both points then serve out the set herself at 8-6. I guess Broady found her ceiling.
7. Shenzhen 1st Rd. - Dabrowski/Rosol d. Anastasia Rodionova/Arina Rodionova 6-3/7-6(6)
Shenzhen 1st Rd. - Atawo/Cornet d. Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan 7-6(3)/3-6 [10-5]
Auckland QF - Irigoyen/Krejcikova d. Lyudmyla Kichenok/Nadiia Kichenok 7-5/6-3
all-sisters doubles teams were NOT all the rage in Week 1 of 2016. A year ago, the Kichenoks won the title in Shenzhen.

To be part of "the family," respect to the ENTIRE family must be paid.

Watch, Caro will go and win...

**HOPMAN CUP CHAMPIONS - since 2001**
1999 Australia (Dokic/Philippoussis)
2000 South Africa (Coetzer/Ferreira)
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)
2016 Australia/green (Gavrilova/Kyrgios)

8...Serena Williams, USA
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

**CAREER WEEK 1 TITLES - active**
2...Eleni Daniilidou, GRE
2...Patty Schnyder, SUI
2...Serena Williams, USA
2...Venus Williams, USA
1...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
1...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
1...Kaia Kanepi, EST
1...Petra Kvitova, CZE
1...Lucie Safarova, CZE
1...Maria Sharapova, RUS
1...Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
1...Zheng Jie, CHN
NOTE: Srebotnik won 1 singles title

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)
2016 Victoria Azarenka, BLR

**WTA FINALS - 2014-16**
12...Serena Williams (12-0)
11...Karolina Pliskova (3-8)
10...Simona Halep (5-5)
8...Maria Sharapova (6-2)
8...Petra Kvitova (6-2)
7...Ana Ivanovic (4-3)
7...Venus Williams (4-3)

**MARTINA HINGIS - most titles w/ partners**
11...Anna Kournikova (1999-02)
10...SANIA MIRZA (2015-16)
8...Jana Novotna (1997-99)
3...Leander Paes(2015 Mixed)
3...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1997)
3...Helena Sukova (1996,98)

Meanwhile, everyone is heading to Melbourne...

15 Final: Kvitova d. Ka.Pliskova
15 Doubles Final: Mattek-Sands/Mirza d. Atawo/Spears
16 Singles Top Seeds: #1 Halep/#4 Kerber (#2 A.Radwanska & #3 Kvitova w/d)

#5 Ka.Pliskova d. Jankovic
(WC) Pironkova d. AK.Schmiedlova
#5 Ka.Pliskova d. (WC) Pironkova of now, Kerber is one of the few top-seeded players still in this draw, and the only one who also put in heavy duty work in Week 1 (reaching singles AND and doubles finals), so I'm ruling her out in the picks because it's hard to imagine she'll ultimately stick it out all week and still be playing just days before the start of play in Melbourne. Simona Halep is supposed to make her '16 debut, but she's got a difficult road without match play. And, of course, this is the event where Tsvetana Pironkova has made her way through qualifying to win the title and reach the semis the last two years. This time around, as she should have a year ago as the DC, she got a wild card into the main draw and has already won her 1st Round match. But I'll go with Pliskova, who reached the final a year ago and lost out to Kvitova in two tie-breaks sets in the best two-set match of the entire season.

15 Final: Watson d. Brengle
15 Doubles Final: Bertens/Larsson d. Diatchenko/Niculescu
16 Singles Top Seeds: #2 Giorgi/#3 Cibulkova (#1 Stephens w/d)

(Q) Osaka d. Watson
#3 Cibulkova d. Bouchard
(Q) Osaka d. #3 Cibulkova

...why not? With Stephens' withdrawing from the draw after her title run in Auckland, the race to the winner's circle here is more than a little wide open.


2015 Q's: Denisa Allertova, Stephanie Foretz, Richel Hogenkamp, Lucie Hradecka, Ons Jabeur, Tatjana Maria, Petra Martic, Alexandra Panova, Ula Radwanska, Evgeniya Rodina, Anna Tatishvili, Renata Voracova


And on that note... well, wait...

Okay, on THAT note... it's time to go.

All for now.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

No huge shock, as the last two AO wild cards went to Aussies (Storm Sanders and Kimberly Birrell), so Schiavone (as the #7 Q-seed) will have to make it through qualifying to tie Sugiyama's record of 62 straight slam MD appearances.

Tue Jan 12, 11:48:00 AM EST  

Post a Comment

<< Home