Sunday, March 06, 2016

Wk.9- A Month of Gains, a Week of Loss

It was a week of loss and gain on the tennis tour...

But before we get to all that, with the month-long, two-event U.S. hard court swing set to begin, here's a quick, thumbnail look back at the top players from the last month (or so) of action since the Australian Open.

**TOP PLAYERS - WK. 5-9**
1. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP: the Doha champ claimed her biggest-ever title and climbed to a new career-high ranking (#6)
2. The Chan sisters: titles in Kaohsiung and Doha solidified their position as the #2 doubles duo
3. The Italians: Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani and Francesca Schiavone all won singles titles over a two-week stretch
4. The New Queens of Mexico: veterans Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Arantxa Parra-Santonja swept the Acapulco and Monterrey titles in Mexico
5. The Dream Teamers: Hingis & Mirza won in St.Petersburg, but their 41-match win streak was brought to an unceremonious end by Russians in Dubai
6. Elina Svitolina, UKR: three events with Justine Henin has produced a semifinal and her fourth career singles title
7. Venus Williams, USA: her slow '16 start was left behind with yet another title run in the inaugural event in Kaohsiung
8. Sloane Stephens, USA: Stephens' teaming with Kamau Murray continues to bear fruit as she became the first player with two singles wins in '16 with a title run in Acapulco
9. Heather Watson, GBR: the gains of fellow Brits have been consistent topics in '16, but Watson's Monterrey title preserves her position as the biggest achiever (so far) of her nation's comeback generation of WTA stars
10. Caroline Garcia, FRA: the Pastry has yet to post a title in '16, but she's always just on the cusp. Two runner-up results (Dubai doubles, Monterrey singles) and a semi (Dubai singles) kept up the trend.

1. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
2. Belinda Bencic, SUI
3. Kiki Bertens, NED
4. Caroline Garcia, FRA
5. Garbine Muguruza, ESP
6. Richel Hogenkamp, NED
7. Samantha Stosur, AUS
8. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, BLR
9. Venus Williams, USA
10. Barbora Strycova, CZE
HM- Annika Beck, GER & Martina Hingis, SUI

RISERS: CoCo Vandweghe, USA & Zheng Saisai, CHN
FRESH FACES: Jelena Ostapenko, LAT & Daria Kasatkina, RUS
SURPRISES: Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR & Han Xinyun, CHN
VETERANS: Barbora Strycova, CZE & Aga Radwanska, POL
COMEBACKS: Genie Bouchard, CAN & Sorana Cirstea, ROU
DOWN: Petra Kvitova, CZE & Simona Halep, ROU
ITF: Naomi Broady, GBR & Chantal Skamlova, SVK
JUNIORS: Sofya Zhuk, RUS & Tereza Mihalikova, SVK
DOUBLES: Chan/Chan, TPE & Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja, ESP
DOUBLES (FED CUP): Ka.Pliskova/Strycova, CZE & Bencic/Hingis, SUI

**By the Numbers...**
0... Top 100 players on the Dutch roster that upset the Russians in Moscow in the Fed Cup 1st Round. Three of Russia's four members were in the Top 50, and the fourth would be a few weeks later.
0-2... Petra Kvitova's singles record in her career-worst Fed Cup weekend vs. Romania
0-2 and 0-2... Caroline Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic's record in 2016 doubles finals, and Garcia's '16 mark in singles semis
0-8... The combined singles record of the Top 8 seeds in Dubai
1.. Match points saved by Francesca Schiavone en route to the Rio title
1-5... Genie Bouchard's career record in tour singles finals
3... Number of 18-year olds (Belinda Bencic, Daria Kasatkina & Jelena Ostaenko) simultaneously in the Top 50 in February, the most since 2009
3-0... Acapulco champ Sloane Stephens' record in tour singles finals
4-0 and 4-0... Hingis/Mirza's record in 2016 doubles finals, and Elina Svitolina's career record in WTA singles finals
5... Match points saved by Chuang Chia-Jung/Darija Jurak en route to the Rio doubles title
8 and 8... Consecutive Fed Cup semifinal appearances by the Czech Rebublic, and consecutive FC ties won by the Netherlands
8 and 8... Long active doubles winning streaks on tour, by both the Chan sisters and Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja
18... Consecutive singles wins over fellow Czechs by Petra Kvitova
19-2... Venus Williams' career Fed Cup singles record
33... The age of Roberta Vinci when she made her Top 10 singles debut, the oldest ever for a WTA player
41... Consecutive match winning streak by doubles duo Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza that was ended in February
66... The combined age of "Queens of Mexico" Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Arantxa Parra-Santonja, the Acapulco and Monterrey doubles champions
79... Career WTA singles titles won by Kaohsiung champion Venus Williams
159... Consecutive weeks Serena Williams has been ranked #1 heading into Indian Wells
290... Consecutive weeks in the Top 20 streak of Caroline Wozniacki that came to an end in February
4:00... Length of longest-ever Fed Cup match played between Richel Hogenkamp (NED) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
60 of 65... Singles games won by Monica Puig in Americas II zone action in Week 5 during Puerto Rico's ultimately unsuccessful bid for promotion
1998... 2016 FC semifinalist Switzerland's last Fed Cup final four appearance
2009... The last time an 18-year old (Caroline Wozniacki) made her Top 10 debut before Belinda Bencic did so in February

A more thorough recap, of course, will come in the Quarterly BSA's following the Indian Wells/Miami swing. As for Week 9...

S: Elina Svitolina/UKR def. Genie Bouchard/CAN 6-7(5)/6-4/7-5
D: Varatchaya Wongteanchai/Yang Zhaoxuan (THA/CHN) d. Liang Chen/Wang Yafan (CHN/CHN) 4-6/6-4 [10-7]

S: Heather Watson/GBR def. Kirsten Flipkens/BEL 3-6/6-2/6-3
D: Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Arantxa Parra-Santonja (ESP/ESP) d. Petra Martic/Maria Sanchez (CRO/USA) 4-6/7-5 [10-7]

...three events under the wing of Justine Henin have now produced a semifinal in Dubai and Svitolina's fourth career tour singles title this weekend in Kuala Lumpur. The 21-year old Ukrainian didn't face a murderer's row of opponents (Miyu Kato, Risa Ozaki -- who went down in a love 3rd set, Kristina Kucova and Zhu Lin) en route to the final, but she rose above the fray and then staged a comeback in her last match of the week against Genie Bouchard. After failing to serve out the 1st set at 5-3 vs. the Canadian and dropping the opener in a tie-break, Svitolina found herself down 7-6/4-2 before doing a bit of problem-solving during a match interrupted more than once by rain. "During the match, I tried to change something in my game plan. I tried to adapt. When I'm not winning, why should I do the same thing?" Oh, amen to that... though Elina had a bit of difficulty following such a course of action vs. Naomi Osaka in Melbourne, so maybe LPT has already begun to ingrain a new philosophy that Svitolina is comfortable adjusting to. Still, despite forcing a 3rd set, Svitolina saw Bouchard emerge from a rain delay with a chance to serve out the match at 5-4 in the final set. She was broken at love, then Svitolina saved a BP on her own serve a game later before running off the final games of the match to win a 7-5 set. She's now 4-0 in her career head-to-head vs. Bouchard, with three of the contests going the distance. She's also 4-0 in career tour finals, and will move up to a new all-time high of #14 in the rankings on Monday.

There's at least one person that Elina didn't want to celebrate with, though.

RISERS: Heather Watson/GBR, Caroline Garcia/FRA and Naomi Broady/GBR
...Laura Robson was at the leading edge of the current generation of British women putting up the best results seen on tour since the 1970's, but it's been Watson who's been the most successful, even as she's been passed in the rankings by Johanna Konta and is now looking over her shoulder at a charging Naomi Broady. In 2009, Watson won the U.S. Open girls title, then followed up by reaching the WTA Top 100 (2011) and Top 50 (2012), becoming the first British woman in twenty-four years to win a tour singles title four seasons ago in Osaka. Despite dealing with glandular fever and injury in 2013-14, Watson opened 2015 with a second title in Hobart (the first Brit to do that since 1985) and rose to a career-high #38. Even while she notched her first Top 10 win (Radwanska in Indian Wells) and nearly upset Serena Williams at Wimbledon (coming within two points in the 3rd Rd.) last season, she'd still dropped from a 2015 season-ending #54 to #84 in 2016's opening months after failing to defend her Hobart title (QF) and losing her 1st Round matches in Melbourne and Acapulco. The third title run of Watson's career this past week in Monterrey, though, accomplishes a great deal toward making up that lost ground. The Brit's wins over Misaki Doi, Polona Hercog, Caroline Wozniacki, Caroline Garcia and Kirsten Flipkens in a three-set final will raise her ranking to around #66 on Monday.

Left in Watson's wake in the semis was Garcia, who once again had a nice week but ultimately failed to go home with any real hardware (or a big check) to commemorate the occasion. The 22-year old Pastry, a finalist at both Mexican events in Acapulco and Monterrey a year ago, advanced all the way back to the semis without dropping a set in the latter tournament this time around, knocking off Petra Martic, Julia Glushko and Pauline Parmentier before being run out of the country 1 & 2 by Watson. Garcia has reached a pair of 2016 semifinals, but she's also the only player to go winless in multiple SF berths this season. She slips from #38 to #41 on Monday, but at least can feel far better about her follow-up trip South of the Border than the woman to which she lost both those 2015 finals, Timea Bacsinszky, can about where she currently stands one year later. The 2015 Queen of Mexico, dealing with a slump and injuries (not necessarily mutually exclusive maladies, of course), officially drops out of the Top 20 this week with the subtraction of both her championship points totals. She'll slip from #14 to #21 on Monday, replaced in the Top 20 by one Jelena Jankovic, who edges up a single spot.

Meanwhile, in Kuala Lumpur, Broady was one of three British woman to put up good results in Week 9 (along with Watson, Johanna Konta also reached the QF in Monterrey -- giving Week 9 the most Brits in WTA quarterfinals in a single week since 1978). One week after her Auckland antagonist, Jelena Ostapenko, reached the Doha final and won the tour's "Breakthrough Performance of the Month" honor, 26-year old Broady reached her second career tour SF with victories over Klara Koukalova, Yang Zhaoxuan and Sabine Lisicki, coming back from 5-4 down in the 3rd vs. the German to win eleven straight points and twelve of thirteen to advance. She lost her semifinal to Genie Bouchard, but rises twenty ranking spots to #76 on Monday.

SURPRISES: Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR and Varatchaya Wongteanchai/Yang Zhaoxuan (THA/CHN)
...a week after she surged into the 3rd Round in Doha with a career-best win over #12 and defending champ Lucie Safarova, Buyukakcay put up the first tour-level singles QF result of her career in Kuala Lumpur. Before losing to Genie Bouchard, the Turk recorded victories over Laura Siegemund and Chang Kai-Chen, and will now climb the WTA rankings once again. She'll be up to #120 on Monday, as her results have lifted her forty-two spots over the last two weeks.

Also in Kuala Lumpur, Wongteanchai & Yang were the surprise doubles champions, as both women played in their first tour final as well as picked up their maiden title with a victory over the defending champion duo of Liang Chen & Wang Yafan in a 10-7 3rd set tie-break. Of course, the pair do have a history of doubles success one level down on the ITF circuit. For 26-year old Wongteanchai this was her 31st career pro doubles title in 56 finals (including going 4-4 with sister Varunya), while 21-year old Yang has now won eight titles in nineteen finals. As a duo, their only previous final came in the WTA 125 Series event in Hua Hin last November... where they lost to Liang & Wang.

VETERANS: Kirsten Flipkens/BEL and Pauline Parmentier/FRA
...30-year old Waffle Flipkens continues to hang around, even while the groundbreaking fellow Belgians of her generation are either long since retired and/or back on tour in only a coaching capacity. But Flipper remains, having made a comeback from life-threatening blood clots, and she may just get something of her own yet. At #73, she battled all the way to the Monterrey final this past week, taking down Francesca Schiavone, NextGen Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck, Johanna Konta and Anett Kontaveit to reach her first final in nearly three years (2013 's-Hertogenbosch). She lost in three sets to Heather Watson, failing to add career title #2 to the one she won in Quebec City in 2012. After finishing '15 at #94, Flipkens is up the #58 in the new rankings.

In Monterrey, 30-year old Pastry Parmentier, an occasional tour-level achiever who actually won two singles titles in 2007-08, made her way through qualifying with wins over Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Richel Hogenkamp and Kiki Bertens. In the main draw, the world #116 upset Anasastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Monica Puig en route to her first tour-level singles QF since Baku in July 2014. Parmentier lost in the QF to countrywoman Caroline Garcia. Speaking of which, who says any lingering good Fed Cup feelings from February are all dried up come March?


COMEBACKS: Genie Bouchard/CAN and Nicole Gibbs/USA
...with her concussion behind her (or is it?) and in better fighting shape, Bouchard has often had the look of a player with something to prove in the early months of 2016. In Kuala Lumpur, the 22-year old raced to her second final this season without dropping a set against the likes of Kurumi Nara, Cagla Buyukakcay and Naomi Broady. But she failed to close the deal in her sixth career final, squandering a 7-6/4-2 lead over Elina Svitolina and failing to serve out the match up 5-4 in the 3rd set. Bouchard is now 1-5 in her career singles finals, but she'll jump from #52 to #42 in the new rankings. Still, she's got a bit of work to do if she's going to move into seeding range for Paris and London a few months from now.

Two-time NCAA champion Gibbs' move up the WTA ladder hit a bad spot last season, as she followed up her first career Top 100 season in '14 by rising to a career-best #84 in March but then suffering through a prolonged downturn that saw her win just two main draw tour matches through July, and just one after the Australian Open until she returned to the site of her college success at Stanford, where she put up a 1st Round win over Caroline Garcia. Gibbs, with 1st Round exits at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, slipped to around #150 in the late summer/early fall before rallying in the closing months with a pair of $50K semifinals, a $50K runner-up and a berth in the Carlsbad WTA 125 final in November. Still, she finished last season at #119 and was forced into the Q-Rounds in Melbourne. She won three matches to reach the AO main draw, where she notched a 1st Round win over Klara Koukalova. In Monterrey, Gibbs celebrated her birthday in the same week in which she qualified with victories over Renata Zarazua and Mandy Minella, then completed upsets of Danka Kovinic and Christina McHale (who retired down 3-0 in the 3rd in a 2:25 match) to reach the QF, her best tour result since a QF in Seoul in September '14. Gibbs is back in the Top 100 in the new rankings.

Happy birthday to me ??????. #thanksmonterrey

A photo posted by Nicole Gibbs (@gibbsyyyy) on

FRESH FACES: Zhu Lin/CHN and Anett Kontaveit/EST #190 Lin was maybe the least-known of the players included in last year's Rising Stars competition in Singapore (well, except for being somewhat infamous for not acknowledging a ball had bounced twice on her side of the net in an Indian Wells match vs. Francesca Schiavone last March), but last week the 22-year old began the process of making her inclusion look like a foreshadowing stroke of genius. She'd already notched a qualifying round win over Elena Vesnina in Melbourne earlier this season, though she eventually came up one win short of reaching her first Australian Open main draw, then last week in Kuala Lumpur, Zhu make it through the Q-rounds and then racked up three more wins over Alexandra Panova, Zariya Diyas and countrywoman Wang Qiang to reach her first career tour level semifinal (and QF, for that matter). Zhu is the only Chinese woman to reach a tour semi so far in 2016, and the first to do so since Zheng Saisai did so in Auckland in January '15. In fact, to go a few steps further, Zhu is just the second Chinese semifinalist since Peng Shuai reached the '14 U.S. Open semis in the wake of Li Na's retirement earlier that summer. Zhu will be up to #155 on Monday.

Meanwhile, 20-year old Kontaveit reached her first career WTA semifinal in Monterrey with wins over Acapulco finalist Dominika Cibulkova, #1-seeded Sara Errani and Nicole Gibbs to reach the final four without dropping a set. She lost there in straights to Belgian vet Kirsten Flipkens. On Monday, the result will lift the Estonian from #91 to #73, a new career high.

DOWN: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK
...I suppose you have to applaud both Hantuchova and coach Carlos Rodriguez for sticking together through the thick and the very, very thin than has followed the initial success that came with their pairing at the start of last season. The veteran Slovak won a title in Pattaya City last February, her first since 2013. But little has gone right since. Ultimately, even with the title, her ranking fell to a season-ending #81 in '15, her worst finish since 2000. Since last summer, the results for the soon-to-be-33 year old former slam semifinalist ('08 AO) have been positively atrocious. Hantuchova hasn't posted a main draw tour victory since last July, and last week dropped her opening match in Kuala Lumpur to Kurumi Nara in a 6-4/6-7(4)/7-6(10) battle that lasted 3:19 (the longest WTA match of the year so far), included a suspension due to the heat after the 2nd set and saw the Slovak squander a 5-3 3rd set advantage during which she served for the match at 5-4 and held three MP in the 22-point deciding tie-break. In all, Hantuchova is 3-5 in all singles matches in '16, with her trio of victories all coming in Sydney qualifying in Week 2 (though they were good straight sets victories over the likes of Jelena Ostapenko, Irina Falconi and Lauren Davis), and 0-3 in doubles, as well. She's still a big name, though, and has been given a wild card into the MD in Indian Wells, where she won the two biggest (in '02 and '07) of her seven career tour titles. In the likelihood of another early exit, Hantuchova has also been granted a wild card into the San Antonio 125 Series event which begins play during the second week of action in Indian Wells. But what about what lies ahead?

Hantuchova enters next week ranked #181. So Paris might present an old/new experience for the Slovak in a few months time, should her current downward path not take a dramatic upturn. Her only season finish lower than her current ranking came in her maiden year on tour in 1999, when she was #201 as a 16-year old. So, in keeping with the hope that has been expressed in this space on more than one occasion over the past few months, it wouldn't be a huge shock if by the end of 2016 Rodriguez might be totally free to take on a new pupil. More specifically, one whose last name also begins with an "H" and an "a," and who has also won just three total singles matches thus far this season. I'm just sayin'.
ITF PLAYERS: Anastasia Pivovarova/RUS
...the 25-year old Hordette started her week in Mildura, Australia by lounging on the grass courts and hoping for the best while enjoying the wonderful conditions.

She ended it by standing upright on the turf and lifting the championship trophy for the $25K challenger, her first singles title since 2014 and her biggest since 2011.

Entering last week at #354, the former junior star (she reached #2 in '07) retired in 2012 due to injuries before returning to the sport in '14 following a 17-month absence. Progress has been somewhat slow, as her best results produced just a 1-1 record in a pair of $10K finals in 2014, but no final appearances last season (the best she could do was a pair of $25K semis). In recent weeks, Pivovarova reached another $25K semi in Perth, and followed that up with a title run in Mildura that included wins over Freya Christie, Storm Sanders, Sara Tomic and Czech Barbora Stefkova in 6-4/4-6/7-5 final. It's the Russian's eighth career title, and her biggest since a $50K win in Saint-Gaudens in May 2011.
JUNIOR STARS: Morgan Coppoc/USA and Dayana Yastremska/UKR
...16-year old Coppoc, an early University of Georgia recruit out of Oklahoma, won the Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay, defeating fellow 14-year old Bannerette Caty McNally 6-4/0-6/7-5 in the final. It was the first G1 final for both girls.

In Brazil, 15-year old Ukrainian Yastremska won the $25K challenger in Campinas. The #19-ranked girl (#1077 WTA), Yastremska grabbed her maiden pro title in her very first final, defeating Jil Teichmann, Conny Perrin, Catalina Pella and Alize Lim (6-4/6-4 in the final) en route to the championship. Yastremka reached the junior singles QF and doubles final in Melbourne in January. And, yes, she was actually born in the year 2000. So it's come to that. Of course, how do you think Lim feels about the youth of her opponent? I bet she never imagined that, at the young age of 25, she'd ever lose to a player a decade younger than herself.
DOUBLES: Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Arantxa Parra-Santonja (ESP/ESP)
...what Bacsinszky did in singles a year ago, AMG & APS did in doubles this season. Namely, swept the Acapulco and Monterrey titles to earn the Queen(s) of Mexico crown for the next twelve months. The 33-year old pair went through last week's tournament without dropping a set, then reached the Monterrey final in the same fashion. Once there, the Spaniards dropped the opening set to Petra Martic (0-3 in WTA doubles finals going in) and Maria Sanchez (the three-time All-American and former NCAA #1 from Southern Cal, who won a tour doubles title in Auckland two seasons ago) before staging a comeback that resulted in a 4-6/7-5 (10-7) victory to claim their third title as a duo in their sixth final together over the past year. Medina-Garrigues has collected 27 career WTA doubles titles, while Parra-Santonja now has ten.


Speaking of an Alize. The trip down the road back has already begun...

But the same can't be said for Maria. Not yet.

If ever, I suppose. We shall see on Monday.

1. KL Final - Svitolina d. Bouchard
Showing the art of bouncing back is indeed in her genes, Svitolina rebounded from failing to serve out the 1st set at 5-3, falling behind 7-6/4-2 and seeing Bouchard served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd, breaking the Canadian at love the saving a BP on her own serve one game later en route to sweeping the final games of the rain delay-marred match to secure career title #4 (4-0 in finals) and drop Bouchard to 1-5 in championship matches.
2. KL 1st Rd. - Nara d. Hantuchova
In a 3:10 match suspended in midstream due to the heat, Hantuchova failed to hold onto a 5-3 3rd set advantage, as she was broken while serving up 5-4 and couldn't convert on three MP in the deciding tie-break. The Slovak vet hasn't won a tour-level MD match since last July.

3. Mont Final - Watson d. Flipkens
The Belgian erased a 3-0 3rd set deficit to knot things at 3-3, but the Brit surged one final time. Flipkens was 2-0 in head-to-head matches against Watson heading into this match, but when Watson is chasing down everything and having her way she's not exactly an "easy out." Just ask Serena.


4. KL 1st Rd. - Chang d. Vinci
World #153 Chang knocks off top-seeded Top 10er Vinci, who finally got a short work week after playing in seven of the season's first nine weeks. Of course, for Chang, this sort of upset is nothing -- she defeated then-#1 Dinara Safina in 2009 when she was ranked #132.
5. Mont 1st Rd. - Glushko d. Dulgheru
The less-heralded Romanian whose 2016 season is ALSO having a hard time getting cleanly out of the gates. A finalist a year ago in Kuala Lumpur, Dulgheru went to Monterrey this year and fell to the Israeli in just fifty-two minutes. The Swarmette's erratic outing was her first match back since missing time with a bad knee following the Australian Open. 3-3 on the season after finishing 2015 at #57, Dulgheru's ranking plummets from #67 to #93 on Monday.
6. Mont Q1 - Davis d. Chirico
A week after winning the opening set of her 1st Round match against Sloane Stephens (who went on to take the Acapulco title), Chirico grabs the opening set (and a break lead in the 2nd) in her first Q-match against Davis. She lost this match, as well.

7. Mont QF - Watson d. Wozniacki
Wozniacki won the Kuala Lumpur title this week last year, but was outclassed by Watson after opening with Monterrey wins over Olga Govortsova and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Thus, we're nearly there... to the point where we officially declare the summer '14 Wozniacki -- the post-McIlroy surge of freedom, aggression and great results (she reached the U.S. Open final and returned to the Top 10, remember) version of Caro -- a never-to-return, short-term mirage.

Since then, Wozniacki has returned to her non-aggressive (now non-tennis, spotlight-loving) "comfort zone" from which no coaching advice, lingering muscle memory or, you know, simple acknowledgement that she was a much better player eighteen months ago BECAUSE she wasn't afraid to change up her gameday approach, can ever hope to reclaim her tennis soul. We may not have OFFICIALLY reached the point of no return... but you can just about see it from here.

The Dane is down to #25 in the new rankings and, if this isn't it, one has to wonder just when (or IF) the "break the glass" moment will (ever) occur for Caro.
8. $10K Macon Final - Claire Feuerstein d. Vesna Dolonc
The Serbian Bad Luck Charm, ranked #1292 and back on tour in just her second event of the year, falls in her first final since July 2012. Dolonc's last main draw singles win had come in a $50K challenger in February of last year. She'd played just six total matches since that event before winning four last week.
9. $10K Sharm el-Sheikh Final - Viktoria Kuzmova d. Varvara Flink
For the third straight week, 19-year old Flink reached a challenger final in search of her maiden pro title. And for the third straight week, she leaves the week still searching.
10. BNP Paribas Challenge Final - Townsend d. Kenin
In the tournament to win a wild card berth in the Indian Wells qualifying draw, 19-year old Townsend finally found some light at what has turned out to be a fairly long, dark tunnel over the last year. The #6 seed defeated #1 Mandy Minella, #4 Lauren Embree and #7 Sonya Kenin en route to the win that wrapped up a good week for a Bannerette who entered the week all the way down at #379. Townsend ended 2014 at #102 after reaching the Roland Garros 3rd Round and winning a pair of $50K titles. She battled back from a 0-3 3rd set deficit against 17-year old Kenin to crack the I.W. Q-draw.


Even when she doesn't play, Radwanska is always there. Watching, amazing... and dreaming of cheesecake.

1. KL QF - Naomi Broady d. Lisicki
From 5-4 down in the 3rd, Broady reeled off eleven straight points and twelve of thirteen to close out the German, who might need to ramp up the training regimen.

2. KL 2nd Rd. - Kristina Kucova d. Hsieh Su-Wei
Kucova won the battle of "lower tier" tour sisters, eventually reaching the QF before falling to Svitolina.
3. KL Final - Varatchaya Wongteanchai/Zh.Yang d. Liang/Ya.Wang
...4-6/6-4 (10-7).
Varatchaya joins Venus, Aga and the Chan sisters on the list of WTA sisters with 2016 tour titles. Betcha didn't see that one coming a week ago, huh?

Weightlifting career? ??

A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

And it was a week chocked full of birthdays in the family...

Happy birthday to my little bro! #13 #teenagedirtbag

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

2015 Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (Acap/Mont singles)
2016 Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Arantxa Parra-Santonja, ESP/ESP (Acap/Mont doubles)
[2nd Place]
2015 Caroline Garcia, FRA (Acap/Mont singles RU)
2016 Sloane Stephens/USA (Acapulco) & Heather Watson/GBR (Monterrey)

**2016 WTA FINALS**
2...Sloane Stephens, USA (2-0)
2...Angelique Kerber, GER (1-1)

Sydney - Kuznetsova/RUS d. (Q) Puig/PUR
Dubai - Errani/ITA d. Strycova/CZE #
Rio - Schiavone/ITA d. Rogers/USA *
Monterrey - Watson/GBR d. Flipkens/BEL
* - all SF unseeded; # - all QF unseeded

**2016 WTA SF**
3...Aga Radwanska, POL (1-2)
2...Angelique Kerber, GER (2-0)
2...Sloane Stephens, USA (2-0)
2...Belinda Bencic, SUI (1-1)
2...Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (1-1)
2...Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP (1-1)

#199 Sorana Cirstea/ROU - Rio
#190 ZHU LIN/CHN - Kuala Lumpur
#172 Tamira Paszek/AUT - Auckland
#162 Petra Martic/CRO - Rio
#142 Samantha Crawford/USA - Brisbane
#132 Francesca Schiavone/ITA - Rio (W)
#131 Shelby Rogers/USA - Rio (RU)

**2015/16 WTA SF**
11...Aga Radwanska, POL (8/3)
10...Angelique Kerber, GER (8/2)
10...Simona Halep, ROU (9/1)
10...Serena Williams, USA (9/1)
8...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (7/1)
8...Karolina Pliskova, CZE (8/0)
7...Sara Errani, ITA (6/1)
7...Maria Sharapova, RUS (7/0)

Sydney - Monica Puig, PUR (#94) - lost to Kuznetsova
Auckland - Tamira Paszek, AUT (#172)
Brisbane - Samantha Crawford, USA (#142)
Kuala Lumpur - ZHU LIN, CHN (#190)

[4 titles]
Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (2014)
Kaia Kanepi, EST (2013)
Sabine Lisicki, GER (2014)
Karolina Pliskova, CZE (2015)
Aravane Rezai, FRA (2010)
Magdalena Rybrikova, SVK (2013)
Katarina Srebotnik, SLO (2005)
Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA (2010)
Yanina Wickmayer, BEL (2015)
Zheng Jie, CHN (2012)
[3 titles]
Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (2015)
Mona Barthel, GER (2014)
Klara Koukalova, CZE (2014)
Michaella Krajicek, NED (2006)
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, CRO (2014)
Tamira Paszek, AUT (2012)
Sloane Stephens, USA (2016)
NOTE: w/ year of last title

Meanwhile, seeking angelic intervention of the Prague variety...

Even angel u can meet while walking in beatiful Prague?? #twoangels????

A photo posted by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on

I'll be back after the Indian Wells draw is made with a preview of the first of the back-to-back two-week events that kick off the North American spring circuit as, one year after Serena Williams made her return to the event, Venus follows suit by rekindling her relationship with the tournament this time around.

And, of course, it goes without saying that it was a sad week for tennis due to the passing of Hall of Fame writer/commentator/all-around personality Bud Collins.

The leading, super-enthusiastic voice of tennis on NBC in the U.S. during the years when I first began to follow the sport, Collins string of oft-hilarious, always-memorable monikers is likely the early germinating agent of this spot's longtime penchant for assigning nicknames to some of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) WTA stars (here's where I once chronicled the whole lot of them -- though I stopped updating the lists a while ago). For every La Petit Taureau, Belgian Barbie, Punch-Drunk, or Supernova this side of a Hordette, Bracelet and Dream Teamer there was likely the lingering memory of Collins extolling the virtues of a Fraulein Forehand or Barcelona Bumblebee. He made the game fun, and meaningful. Many have been described as "one of a kind," but he truly was.

If the USTA has any true feel for the game, the newly-built "Grandstand" court -- sometimes called the People's Court -- should one day bear his name.

May we all don our loudest pants in tribute.

All for now.


Blogger Unknown said...

Genie is not quite over her concussion. :(

Mon Mar 07, 12:51:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, I hadn't seen that. Although, maybe she should just decide to not mention that after she suffers a loss at the end of a good week. It makes it easy for some to label it as "excuse-making," no matter how legitimate it is.

Mon Mar 07, 01:17:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Todd, you have a future career as Genie's PR manager.

I think that if she were announcing her retirement or even a goodbye tour, she would have timed it with a media blitz for a new product. She and Max are just savvy like that.

Or she could have done it at Indian Wells since she lives close by... Something feels weird about it.

And maybe it is 3PM EST...bc journalists are getting ready now...according to twitter. I swear I read PST.

Maybe she's changing her name to ChocoPova.

I feel like she'd pull a Henin/Graff though. When the feeling is gone, it's gone. She's not going to stick around for the heck of it. She plays to win.

Part of me is hoping for an absolutely ridiculous she's an alien.

Mon Mar 07, 02:47:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I think it says a lot about the women's game when you can look at a qualifying draw and see a ton of recognizable names in it. Look at Indian Wells Q Draw. There are several ppl who have won titles and lots of up and comers.

I don't know if it's because of greater media attention in tennis or what...but seriously, I think there's only a couple names I haven't heard of before, which is rare. (OK, so there's only one name - Raveena Kingsley...but still...some of the other names are really well known).

Mon Mar 07, 02:52:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I was wrong - it is 3PM EST.

Mon Mar 07, 02:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Sharapova really got out ahead of this story. It's a good move. Of course, she has a lot to lose -- on and off court -- if she's not in control of the release of the news of the failed drug test.

Couldn't have handled this any better, really. (Other than not clicking on that link, of course.)

Mon Mar 07, 03:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

As with everything, she handled it with a lot of class.

If Marin Cilic and Troicki can get reduced sentences, then Sharapova should too.

Actually, I forgot if Troicki got a reduced sentence...

Nothing like a scandal to humanize someone who seems to have it all. I hope that she is able to return to the game and end on her own terms.

Mon Mar 07, 08:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

It *is* interesting that out of all the drugs the doctors could have given her, they gave her something that wasn't approved by the FDA...

But these types of situations also show how the rich and powerful handle things differently. She has a team around her to tell her how to deal with things... probably hired a focus group too to help her sound out the impact of her statement.

Mon Mar 07, 09:01:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I don't see how they could give Sharapova a lesser sentence if so many athletes have tested positive. If they give her a pass, all the other athletes would use her as an example.

Mon Mar 07, 09:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, but the team she's hired has now failed her monumentally on two occasions. First when the doctors misdiagnosed the shoulder injury that nearly ended her career, and now here when no one else was on top of the new banned substances list that included something she'd been taking for a decade.

It really shouldn't come down to whether or not a player checks a new list she gets in an email a week before the start of a new season. Really, shouldn't that sort of email also be forwarded to a doctor/professional, since they would (or should) be more aware and up to date on such things, anyway?

The FDA is so corrupt/easily influenced by drug companies that I'd never use its approval or lack thereof as a gauge on anything, really.

At any rate, she'll have to be (probably) fined and (surely) suspended just because other players have been for similar mistakes/accidents with treatment even while under a doctor's care and they can't make an exception because of who she is. I just hope they don't try to "pull a Tom Brady" and try to punish her MORE harshly for something that's essentially inconsequential to prove that they're not "soft" on the top players.

In the end, though, it's her responsibility to make sure this doesn't happen -- or hire the people to do it. If she gets the same sort of 6-month suspension that others have, she'll miss the Olympics. It's a tough lesson to learn.

Tue Mar 08, 01:49:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

What Todd said about FDA--means nothing--less than nothing. Same with that 4-6 wk. "course of treatment" fake issue. Thousands of people (myself included) have taken 4-6 wk. course of tx meds for years.

Tue Mar 08, 08:48:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

so how long is she off the tour because of the failed test? it's a weird thing to happen to her. and looks like all the brands are quite distanced for now.

Wed Mar 09, 01:08:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Unknown, Jo. The process begins soon. She could get as much as 4 yrs. (extremely unlikely) or as little as zero, if she can get a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE). Retroactive TUE is tricky, but it can be done in some cases. She is likely to get 2 yrs. (standard if the player is judged to have made a mistake and was not trying to cheat the system), if the ITF is in a mood to punish her--which she can appeal and maybe get cut to 1 year.

Wed Mar 09, 10:16:00 AM EST  

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