Monday, April 18, 2016

Wk.15- Dominance vs. Destiny on Deck

In Fed Cup, everyone can hear you scream...

A quick rundown of some stand-outs from 2016's second week of Fed Cup action:

1. When a player goes from "Who?" to "Oh, HER!" in forty-eight hours

2. When tennis provides us with a real-life example of the old saying about "even a broken clock being correct twice a day"

3. When a player can be just so darn exciting that it's easy to forgive a few "issues" and enjoy the ride along with her anyway
4. The Bracelet. Even in defeat.
5. Captain Mauresmo

6. When there's a legitimate hope that this might become the first chapter of a new "Battle of the Tennis Generations" rivalry to keep a close eye on

7. Francoise Abanda. Even in defeat.
8. A win from Schmiedy!

9. Whoever comes up with those Fed Cup Twitter things...
10. That by this time next year, we could be making legit -- and competitive -- comparisons between Petra Kvitova's past Fed Cup dominance and the current "reign" of Garbine Muguruza


1. When Lindsay Davenport and Mary Carillo can start giddily throwing around the word "genius" while talking about Mary Joe Fernandez after she manages to not sabotage the U.S. team's efforts after they never once uttered a peep the last 3-4 years when pretty much every move she made more resembled the textbook definition of the OPPOSITE of "genius." (See below.)
2. Watching Sam Stosur once again crumble into a million little pieces under the weight of accomplishing something on a tennis court in Australia. (See above.)
3. The Polish Fed Cup Team without Aga
4. The Bracelet. In defeat.
5. Conceding that sometimes the end of an era isn't pretty. Just ask the Italians.

Simona Halep... or, maybe the latest "Halepology-101" class. This weekend, the Swarmette Queen nearly blew a big lead, but then didn't. She rolled an ankle and injured herself, but played the next day anyway. But she then lost a huge match in swift fashion. Was the biggest issue her opponent, or her? Below the knees, or above the ears?

So... ummm, what does it all mean for her immediate future?


And, of course...

FRA Captain Amelie Mauresmo - destined to one day be the last one standing, and now closer than ever
NED Captain Paul Haarhuis - hey, no one's perfect... not even (look above you)
CZE Captain Petr Pala - "What, me worry?"
ESP Captain Conchita Martinez - "2017, here we come!"
RUS Captain Anastasia Myskina - "In Kasatkina I trust. In Kasatkina I trust. In Kasatkina I..."
TPE Captain Wang Shi-ting - chillin', waiting for the Chan sisters
ARG Captain Maria-Jose Gaidano - just honored to be here, and glad to see that Paula O. is winning again

BLR Captain Eduard Dubrou - "Aliaksandra is great, but I can count on you in '17, right, V?"
SUI Captain Heinz Guenthardt - "I didn't just miss out on my best chance to ever knock off the Czechs, did I?"
GER Captain Barbara Rittner - "Now, if we'd done this last year..."
BEL Captain Ann Devries - "Thank you for the gift, Aleks. I like good luck bracelets."
CAN Captain Sylvain Bruneau - seeking cloning technology in order to field an all-Abanda team
DEN Captain Kenneth Carlsen - "If ony Caro hadn't turned her ankle."
UKR Captain Mikhail Filima - See how much fun you could have had, Elina?"

SRB Captain Tatjana Jecmenica - "Where's Ana? What? No... seriously?"
SVK Captain Matej Liptak - "What do you mean, 'Schmiedy wants to talk?'"

ROU Captain Alina Cercel-Tecsor - "Can we get Kiki Bertens to switch countries?"
AUT Captain Jurgen Waber - "Whew! That was far closer than it should have been."

ITA Captain Corrado Barazzutti - "We'll always have the Quartet. Past tense."
AUS Captain Alicia Molik - "Oh, crap."
POL Captain Klaudia Jans-Ignacik - it's hard to be a playing captain when half your team doesn't show up

USA Captain Mary Joe Fernandez - what sort of deal did she make with the Tennis Demons, anyway?

*WEEK 15*

Czech Republic def. Switzerland (H) 3-2
France (H) def. Netherlands 3-2
=World Group Playoffs=
Belarus def. Russia (H) 3-2
United States def. Australia (H) 4-0
Germany def. Romania (H) 4-1
Spain (H) def. Italy 4-0
=World Group II Playoffs=
Belgium def. Serbia (H) 3-2
Slovakia (H) def. Canada 3-2
Taiwan def. Poland (H) 4-1
Ukraine (H) def. Argentina 4-0
=Zone II Promotion Finals=
[Europe/Africa]: Bosnia/Herzegovina def. Denmark 2-1
[Europe/Africa]: Austria def. Lithuania 2-0
[Asia/Oceania]: Philippines def. Singapore 2-0
=Zone III Promotion Finals=
[Europe/Africa]: Luxembourg def. Moldova 2-0
[Europe/Africa]: Norway def. Macedonia 2-0

France def. Netherlands 3-2 [Trelaze, FRA / RCI] the Destiny vs. Cinderella match-up of the weekend, French Captain Amelie Mauresmo outdueled Dutch head Paul Haarhuis by, essentially, having faith in her original decisions and allowing her Pastry charges to spread their wings and fly unfettered on Day 2... all the way into France's first Fed Cup final since 2005.

Dutch FC legend (it's now official) Kiki Bertens handled her business in singles by putting NED up 2-1 with straight sets wins over both Caroline Garcia (Day 1) and Kristina Mladenovic (in Day 2's "Battle of the Kikis"), but with the Netherlands one win away from a ninth consecutive tie win and the nation's first final since 1997 (a loss to France) Haarhuis replaced Richel Hogenkamp (one day after her birthday loss to Mladenovic) with Arantxa Rus in the #4 singles match vs. Garcia. Mauresmo had remained firm in her choice of Garcia keeping her place in the order after some had wondered whether Alize Cornet might get the call. Her move worked out, while Haarhuis' did not (essentially, he threw up a moonball like he did in his famous U.S. Open match with Jimmy Connors... which only served to play right into the opponent's hands).

Garcia rebounded from her Day 1 stumble with a straight sets win that picked up the momentum that Mladenovic had gotten rolling and carried it into the deciding doubles. There, Garcia & Mladenovic teamed to win their second ('15 1st Rd. vs. ITA) tie-clinching FC doubles match (both also have a third deciding doubles victory with different partners), coming back from a set down against Bertens/Hogenkamp with a thrilling display of shot-making and competitiveness that lit up the partisan crowd in Trelaze.

France's last FC title came in 2003 (led by Mauesmo and Mary Pierce), followed by back-to-back final losses to the most recently dynastic Fed Cup nation -- Russia. Well, that is, until the current Czech run. One year after the Maidens eliminated the Pastries 3-1 in last year's semifinals, the Czechs will be waiting for Mauresmo, Kiki, Caro & Co. once again come November.

Caroline Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic, FRA [Overall FC II co-MVPs]
...Olympic year doubles duo (and Charleston champs) Garcia & Mladenovic were always the well-placed ace up Mauresmo's sleeve. Both woman may be questionable clutch players in their WTA singles careers, but they're both totally different beasts in the French colors. Put them together on the same side of the court and you stand a pretty good chance of getting what we saw in the deciding doubles here. An in-your-face, chesty, crowd-stoking, fist-shaking combination of grit, athleticism and French style capable of overwhelming and intimidating an opposing duo while an arena full of supporters have their back at every turn. The Czechs are going to be an angry bear to wrestle to the ground come this fall, but at least the French team will have the benefit of a home court advantage. It just might be enough to fulfill some Fed Cup destiny.
Kiki Bertens/NED
...she extended her career FC singles record to a remarkable 15-1, but her second career doubles loss (6-2) proved to be the deciding point in the tie. She'll always have the "Miracle in Moscow," and the scrappy Dutch squad will be back for more in 2017's World Group.
Match #5 - Garcia/Mladenovic (FRA) d. Bertens/Hogenkamp (NED)
The Pastries began to seize control of this match early in the 3rd set. At 1-1, when a Bertens shot went wide and produced a service break, Garcia did a sideways frog hop as the ball hit the dirt. Bertens fired a ball into the stands in frustration. One game later, Mladenovic battled to hold after saving six break points, overcoming colliding with Garcia at mid-court while they simultaneously reached for a high volley on GP #1, before finally backing up the break on GP #2 for a 3-1 lead. Two games later, Hogenkamp's missed overhead at 30/30 caused her to slam her racket to the crowd. Garcia's hold gave France a 4-2 lead, and the Pastries never looked back. Brilliant shots and overflowing emotion ruled the final games of the tie, as the French duo finally put a stake through the heart of the remarkably resilient Dutch team. Finally out on a limb too far, the Dutch pair were broken at love to end the match, with Mladenovic adding the final touch with a crushing forehand put-away at the net... and then the celebration began.

Czech Republic def. Switzerland 3-2 [Lucerne, SUI / HCI]
...everyone came to Lucerne expecting to talk about the Czechs, but ended up raving about Viktoriya Golubic. The least conspicuous member of the Swiss team very nearly put the entire effort on her shoulders and brought down the Czech juggernaut. As it turned out, the Maidens advanced to a fifth FC final in six years (they've gone 4-0 in the others). But this particular weekend journey back was hardly one that anyone saw coming.

Playing without Petra Kvitova or Lucie Safarova on the Czech roster, and 1st Round MVP Belinda Bencic absent from that of the Swiss, the pressure seemed to logically shift to the next-highest ranked Swiss player, Timea Bacsinszky. But the charming former Queen of Mexico who included a six-match FC winning streak in her recent comeback story, failed badly in the effort. She went 0-2 on the weekend, dropping to 0-4 in '16 Fed Cup singles, and then was replaced in the deciding doubles by 23-year old Golubic, who'd teamed with her last spring to defeat Poland (in a 9-7 3rd set) and get the Swiss into the '16 World Group. Oh, yeah. About her.

Going into the weekend, the 23-year old world #129 was looked upon as an end-of-the-bench player. But after she took out Karolina Pliskova (who'd led 6-4/4-2) in her FC singles debut, then came back on Day 2 and staved off elimination by defeating Barbora Strycova in three sets to send things to the doubles, we now know that the depth on the Swiss roster might just make the nation a legit title threat next season. Ultimately, with usual doubles "secret weapon" Strycova spent from singles, Czech Captain Petr Pala looked without hesitation to Lucie Hradecka (hardly a slouch herself -- the Czech roster has roots so deep that they seem to reach to the earth's core, as a title contender or two could be put together from the Maidens NOT in Lucerne) for the deciding doubles match. She teamed with Pliskova to defeat Golubic & Martina Hingis by a surprisingly easy 6-2/6-2 score.

While the Czechs have been the Fed Cup's dominant nation of late, they've often been forced to win the final match of the weekend in order to advance. This was their third consecutive 3-2 tie clinched in the doubles, with Pliskova having a hand in all three. Next year, maybe we'll even see a Pliskova/Pliskova combination on tap, what with Kristyna's own improving career standing.

Now the Czechs will attempt to become the first team to three-peat as FC champions since Spain won from 1993-95. The most recent previous three-timer before that was the pre-"Velvet Divorce" run by Czechoslovakia from 1983-85. The last time a team won more consecutive titles than that was when the U.S. won seven in a row from 1976-82.

Viktorija Golubic/SUI's not often that the "MVP" performance comes in what is ultimately a "losing" effort, but this is surely one of those. Anonymous no longer, Golubic is THE reason this tie ultimately became such a close contest. Her comeback from a 6-4/4-2 deficit vs. Pliskova -- who led the Czechs in their last two tie wins while Kvitova and Safarova were either sidelined or out of form -- was a legitimate star turn, while her win over Strycova on Day 2 likely assures that Captain Heinz Gunthardt won't hesitate to call upon her again in the future when the Swiss team has their back against the wall.

Barbora Strycova/CZE
...usually Strycova doesn't see the court in a live match until the deciding doubles, but she was the first Maiden up in Match #1 on Saturday. She destroyed Bacsinszky 6-2/6-0, but failed to clinch the tie in Match #4 when Golubic forced a 3rd set by winning an 8-6 tie-break and went on to handily take the deciding set 6-1. Oh, well. She still gives a mean tour.
Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
...she left the court in tears after her destruction by Strycova in Match #1 (she's lost four consecutive times to Strycova without winning a set), and didn't hide from her inability to get the job done. She gave a better accounting in Match #3 vs. Pliskova, but still lost in straights. Still, as expected, Bacsinszky was there on the sidelines cheering on Golubic in the deciding doubles.
Lucie Hradecka & Karolina Pliskova, CZE
...the Czechs just don't seem to break a sweat when it comes to pushing things to the deciding doubles in a tie. They've "been there, done that" so often in their run that it seems odd when they actually manage to clinch a win in the singles. This time, Pala called upon THIS duo to take the Czech machine one additional round. Who knows who might get the tap on the shoulder come November.

Match #2 - Golubic/SUI d. Ka.Pliskova/CZE 3-6/6-4/6-4
Match #4 - Golubic/SUI d. Strycova/CZE 3-6/7-6(6)/6-1
what a way to make an entrance. Pliskova's own unsteadiness -- 57 UE's, including a dumped overhead that handed the Swiss a MP -- helped in the comeback in Golubic's first match. But the gutsy 8-6 tie-break win to prevent Strycova from clinching the tie stands on its own. Pity she couldn't have had a bit more to give in the doubles, but that loss won't dim the memory of her overall weekend performance one bit.

Belarus def. Russia (H) 3-2 [Moscow, RUS / HCI]
...the marque match-up of this tie was always going to be the first of what is hopefully many match-ups between Victoria Azarenka and Daria Kasatkina, and it turned out to be an intriguing preview of the future. But it was the match that followed it on Sunday that was necessary for Belarus to make Fed Cup history, and Russian tennis to officially move into a "new era."

In February, with Azarenka absent and Olga Govortsova ultimately taking a backseat, Aliaksandra Sasnovich led Belarus past Canada. In Moscow, she was faced with Kasatkina in the 18-year old's FC singles debut. She pushed her to three sets, but ultimately lost. After Azarenka contributed her second of back-to-back weekend points on Sunday with a three-set, 2:14, experience-wins-out victory over the teenager, Sasnovich was called upon to clinch yet another tie win for Belarus. It was hardly easy. Captain Anastasia Myskina opted to stick with Margarita Gasparyan rather than break the glass on Charleston runner-up Elena Vesnina, and the Hordette youngster very nearly rewarded her with a win. She took the opening set from Sasnovich, then battled back from 5-3 down in the 3rd to get back on serve at 5-5 before Sasnovich swept the final two games to send Belarus into the World Group for the first time in its history.

Meanwhile, Russia loses its third straight tie and, less than a year after playing in the Fed Cup final, now falls out of World Group I for the first time since 1997.

Victoria Azarenka/BLR
...Vika did was she had to do, knocking off both of Russia's promising newcomers. She hasn't lost in her last fifteen matches, and has now won twelve straight in Fed Cup. Her last last FC loss came in 2010 to Austria's Sybille Bammer.
Aliaksandra Sasnovich/BLR
...just call her "the Belarusian closer," as the 22-year old was on the court to clinch a second tie in 2016.

Daria Kasatkina/RUS
...the 18-year old took her maiden turn in the #1 singles spot for Team Russia, getting a win in her solo debut vs. Sasnovich, pushing Azarenka to three sets in a loss, and then picking up a "dead rubber" doubles victory to close out the weekend. 2016 has been a devastating FC year for the Hordettes, but Kasatkina has masterfully staked her claim to the #1 singles spot for the next decade. And that's a good foundation upon which to build the next generation of Russian tennis. In this season's two ties, Russia has picked up a total of three points. Kasatkina had a hand in all of them.
Match #3 - Azarenka/BLR d. Kasatkina/BLR
After pulling out a tight 2nd set, Azarenka quickly grabbed a 3-0 lead in the 3rd. So, when do we get Azarenka/Kasatkina II?

Match #4 - Sasnovich/BLR d. Gasparyan/RUS
The last time Russia played a World Group II tie was 1997. That year, in her SW19 debut, 16-year old Anna Kournikova reached her first and only slam singles semifinal at Wimbledon in just her fourth career slam main draw appearance.

United States def. Australia 4-0 [Brisbane, AUS / RCI] a true spread-the-wealth weekend (every team member had a hand in a point), the Bannerettes pulled off a road upset on clay vs. an Australian team that simply refused to get out of its own way. Going in, I'd noted the depth on the squad put together by Mary Joe Fernandez, the second straight tie in which the U.S. Captain hadn't managed to sabotage her own team's efforts via roster decisions made before the first ball had been struck. In Brisbane, she even played a series of not-necessarily-obvious hunches about which players to play. Normally, such a thought would give you shivers and you'd have to avert your eyes to avoid the eventual MJF-inspired carnage, but this time they all worked out in her favor. Believing that the U.S. might find a way to scratch out a win in this tie wouldn't have been a HUGE reach a few days ago. But a 4-0 sweep? Obviously, there was something more at play here. Mostly, it's name was Sam Stosur, the "anti-MVP" of this tie.

Daria Gavrilova made her FC debut against an in-form Madison Keys in Match #1 and was simply outplayed from start to finish. The new Aussie was obviously dealing with a case of nerves, but even if she hadn't she might not have been able to compete against THIS Keys. Match #2 featured MJF's first hunch, going with Christina McHale (playing well, under-the-radar, since January, she'd been left off several rosters by Fernandez in the past and didn't have a Fed Cup win since since '12) vs. Stosur, rather than the higher-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe. Stosur was in command in the 1st set, and was in position late in the 3rd to knot the tie. But McHale remained steady, while the Aussie did what she often does -- begin to misfire in ways that are sometimes painful to watch. As I said after Day 1, you get the feeling that if MJF had put up a cardboard cut-out of Lauren Davis on the other side of the net Stosur STILL would have eventually started firing balls ten feet over "her" head out of bounds. McHale held on as Stosur collapsed in a hail of errors to get her first win in five matches against the veteran. On Sunday, with Stosur in line for Match #3, MJF changed gears again and pulled Keys (supposedly because of the fear that Stosur would attack her backhand -- and injured wrist -- with high-bouncing balls) in favor of Vandeweghe, 0-3 in FC singles in her career. Again, Stosur looked to be in control, only to gradually cede it to her opponent, leading 6-2/2-0, then 5-4 in the 2nd. At 5-5, she went from game point to being broken and her second collapse in a 24-hour period was a "go." Vandeweghe began to fight back (even while missing 1st serves, which Stosur didn't make her pay for), mostly just by keeping balls in the court and allowing Stosur to self-destruct yet again. She more than obliged. Vandeweghe's win clinched the tie without the Aussies putting a single point on the board, then she and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (I.W. champs) combined to finish off the sweep with a doubles win that put a red, white & blue bow on the Brisbane choke-fest.

Before the weekend, I was prepared to not blame MJF for a U.S. loss (for once), but after the way the win played out I'm still not prepared to offer up a great deal more than a light pat on the back. Truthfully, if Stosur hadn't been, well, so Stosur-like, MJF's decision to replace Keys with Vandeweghe could have (and maybe should have) blown up in her face. If Stosur had put away a quick win, which she appeared about to do mid-way through the 2nd set, she would have handed off great momentum to Gavrilova and a pumped-up crowd (which worked well for her in Melbourne), and then a rested and newly-confident Stosur could have returned with Casey Dellacqua for doubles with the score at 2-2. Things might have gone very differently had Stosur held her nerves in check in Match #3.

As it turned out, though, Fernandez rolled the dice and won. Twice. After already having called her longtime friend Mary Joe a "great" FC coach earlier in the weekend (not sure what that was based on other than their friendship), Tennis Channel's Lindsay Davenport and Mary Carillo (who at least admitted to not having initially agreed with MJF's calls on McHale and CoCo) actually used the word "genius" in relation to Fernandez's weekend decisions. Now, while I've come to something of a "truce" with the U.S. Captain as far as criticizing her moves of late (because her '16 rosters have actually given her the versatility to make moves like the ones she made this weekend, which her original picks have made impossible in past seasons), I can still point out a case of going waaaaaay over the line in praise when I see it. MJF deserves credit for making her calls (since they worked out), but it shouldn't really be coming most loudly from people who chose to conveniently ignore her often astoundingly bad decisions in the past because it might have been awkward and uncomfortable when they saw each other soon afterward. Coming from the likes of the many commentating FoM's (Friends of Mary Joe), the praise is more than a little self-serving, hollow and pointless.

I'm just sayin'.

Christina McHale/USA
...choosing McHale for a match on clay probably shouldn't have garnered as many raised eyebrows as it did, but the question remains why MJF never included McHale in the playing mix in recent clay court ties in which the U.S. bench was ridiculously short of players with clay court experience. Still, that's not McHale's fault. She was finally given a chance here and she took full advantage. Her improved results in '16 are one of the season's most under-reported good stories, but her one weekend outing in Brisbane (no matter how her opponent played) at least serves to give her some overdue credit. While MJF didn't single anyone out as an MVP of this tie, I really think McHale fits the bill. Four years after her last FC win, she set the tone -- and planted the latest wicked seed of doubt in Stosur's psyche -- for the U.S.'s best Fed Cup effort in quite a while.
Madison Keys/USA and CoCo Vandeweghe/USA 2014, Keys and Vandeweghe won their maiden tour singles titles on grass on the very same weekend. Once again, they rose to the occasion within hours of each other. Well, Madison did. CoCo just had a nice view of a train wreck.

Samantha Stosur/AUS
...really, what else can be said? Other than that, at age 32, Sam's chances of turning this particularly horrible memory around exist within a decidedly short window. Maybe if the Aussies could ask -- beg -- to never host another tie...
Match #2 - McHale/USA d. Stosur/AUS
At 3-3 in the 3rd, Stosur held in an eight-deuce game in which she saved six BP (McHale was 0-for-8 in the set at that point), only to eventually give away the break that she'd avoided a few games later with a slew of errors that put the Bannerette up 6-5. McHale herself has often had a difficult time closing out big matches, but she easily held her nerve and served things out.

Match #3 - Vandeweghe/USA d. Stosur/AUS
If anyone was capable of back-to-back chokes on Fed Cup weekend at home it was Stosur. It actually happening, though, is never something you can predict. Well, then again... maybe you can. I wish I had. Drat!

Germany def. Romania 4-1 [Cluj-Napoca, ROU / RCI]
...for all the impact that a great Fed Cup crowd can have, it can sometimes have the opposite affect in some cases because of the pressure it puts on players who are not only playing for themselves and their teammates, but the raucous fans in the stands who are living and dying with every point, too. Some players perform better out of a sense of obligation. Others, well, we know what happens to them. Simona Halep has already experienced the bad side of this equation in her FC history, and this tie provided her with the opportunity to balance her ledger (this time with her parents in the stands to lend even more pressure support). But, as seems to so often be the case her these days, the results were a bit inconclusive.

After a near miss vs. the Czechs in the 1st Round, the Swarmettes were looking to hold onto their position in the '17 World Group, while the Germans were trying to do the same after consecutive disappointments after reaching the semifinals last year. Halep's February come-from-ahead loss to Karolina Pliskova ultimately was the key in a 3-2 loss that went to deciding doubles, and she avoided a repeat on Day 1 vs. Andrea Petkovic this time out. After leading 6-4/3-1, Halep served for the match in the 2nd set and fired back-to-back DF and was broken. She battled back to lead 5-3 in the 3rd, as well, but squandered a 30/15 lead and was broken again. But her immediate break back saved the day, as she won in 2:49 to knot the tie after Angelique Kerber has opened things with a win over Irina-Camelia Begu. Halep turned her ankle during the Petkovic match, but was back for Match #3 vs. Kerber, rather than possibly being substituted for by, say, Alexandra Dulgheru. When she quickly went down 6-2/6-2, whether her injury or the moment played as big a part in the result as Kerber was, as we've come to expect with the Romanian over the last two seasons, simply the price of doing business. With Kerber already 2-0 on the weekend, Petkovic needed to avoid going 0-2 in her attempt to clinch the tie vs. Monica Niculescu. Heading into Sunday having lost four of her last five FC matches in singles/doubles, things didn't look good for Petko. The tricky Niculescu was on fire early, taking the 1st at love, then held two MP at 6-5 in the 2nd set. But the German pushed things to a tie-break, won it 7-1 and took an early break lead in the 3rd en route to a win that erases at least a few lingering bad FC memories.

As for Halep, to be continued...

Angelique Kerber/GER
...the German seems to have found a way to maneuver her way through her post-Melbourne funk. Her Miami semifinal was followed up with another in Charleston (ended by illness), and now a sterling FC weekend in which she dropped just nine games in two matches in what was arguably the "best performance" of the entire weekend.
Andrea Petkovic/GER
...after fighting back but losing to Halep, another loss to Niculescu would have been an additional layer of disappointment to add to the introspective German's set of life experiences. As it is, she turned it into an affirming situation by the time she was through. Of course, she'll take the good with the bad and ultimately be all the better for it. "I've had a lot of setbacks in my career, a lot of injuries," she said. "I've always fought back and it's what makes me as a character. I find a lot of energy in these situations..."
Match #2 - Halep/ROU d. Petkovic/GER 6-4/6-7(5)/6-4
Match #4 - Petkovic/GER d. Niculescu/ROU 0-6/7-6(1)/6-3
like the tide, Petko sometimes recedes, but she soon returns to shore, often more powerful than ever.


Spain def. Italy 4-0 [Lleida, ESP / RCO]
...what might have been optimistically viewed as a case of Italy getting the old gang back together for one final celebratory weekend eventually turned into a case of "you can't go home again."

Camila Giorgi's hot war with the Italian tennis federation left her out of this tie (and many, many more for quite a while), but the offshoot was that the roster's Quartet number was three strong, with Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani and Francesca Schiavone appearing together for the first time since the 2012 semifinals. But then Errani was pulled from Day 1 with a leg injury. Schiavone replaced her and took Garbine Muguruza to a 1st set tie-break, but was then stung in the face by an insect, dropped the TB and never won another game. Charged with righting the Italian course, Vinci was then crushed 1 & 1 in sixty-three minutes by Carla Suarez-Navarro, then opened Day 2 by losing 2 & 2 to Muguruza. Just like that, the party was over. Things didn't get any better in the "dead rubber" doubles, as that match (w/ Karin Knapp & Schiavone) ended via retirement after just two games. Italy thus drops to World Group II for the first time since 1998. It'd be easy to say that this truly IS the end of Italy's competitve FC era, with Vinci and Schiavone both near retirement, Errani within sight of 30, Giorgi's future unclear and seemingly little in the way of young up-and-comers in the pipeline. The ranking drop-off from #105 Schiavone is steep, with the next Italian registering in the #260's, and only one Italian is in the girls Top 100 (though #102 Ludmilla Samsonova recently won back-to-back Grade 2 titles). Still, good results could persist for the few more years if Giorgi eventually returns to the fold.

Of course, this sort of blowout really isn't anything new to Spain's opponents in FC play the last two years. This is the third straight 4-0 win for the Spaniards, who will return to World Group I next February with a very real chance to be title contenders as long as Muguruza & CSN are committed to playing all season long.

Garbine Muguruza/ESP
...her sweep of Schiavone and Vinci give Muguruza a 6-0 career Fed Cup singles mark, and the dominating nature of these two wins fits in rather nicely with her other victories. She's yet to lose a set in FC singles play, and her TB vs. Schiavone was the first time an opponent won more than four games in a set. And it isn't as if she's racked up wins vs. virtual "lightweights" in zone play, either. Her wins have come against the likes of a slam winner (Schiavone), finalists (Vinci, Halep and Jankovic) and a former world #1 (JJ), as she surely looks like she could play the role of "Petra" in a Spanish title run.
Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
...and if Muguruza is "Petra," then she needs her "#2," ala Lucie Safarova. CSN only played one match this weekend, but her destruction of Vinci was the most impressive performance in the entire tie.
Roberta Vinci/ITA
...with her 0-2 weekend, Vinci is now 5-7 in career FC singles. At least she didn't have to play doubles and further damage her 18-1 mark there.
Match #1 - Muguruza/ESP d. Schiavone/ITA
The moment when your weekend begins with being stung in the face by an insect, and things only get progressively worse from there.

Belgium def. Serbia 3-2 [Belgrade, SRB / RCI]
...the good luck powers of the Serbian Good Luck Charm were already going to be tested vs. the deep Belgian team, and that was before an injured Jelena Jankovic joined the "Fed Cup retired" (rolling eyes and shaking head, in case you can't tell) Ana Ivanovic on the sidelines. Still, Aleksanda Krunic's dogged ability to give her all on the court still gave the Serbs a decent chance vs. the Waffles. And, boy, did The Bracelet give it a go. It looked like she was going to singlehandedly carry the Serbian squad (at least) into the deciding doubles. But then it all went horribly wrong.

In the opening match of the tie, Krunic defeated Kirsten Flipkens in straight sets, coming back from 4-1 down in the 2nd and saving two SP before winning 6-4/7-6(6) to run her FC singles winning streak to six matches, and her overall FC mark in singles and doubles to 8-1 in her last nine outings. After Jovana Jaksic fell to Yanina Wickmayer in straights, Krunic returned in fine form. She jumped out to a 6-1/3-0, two-break lead on Wickmayer. She led 5-3 and served for the match at 5-4, with the chance to give Serbia a 2-1 lead and force Flipkens, with a horrible career FC mark, to win to keep Belgium alive. But then it all came tumbling down. Wickmayer changed her tactics and forced Krunic out of her game by forcing her to hit high-bouncing balls, and the comeback began. Krunic got to BP at 5-5 in the 3rd, but failed to get the break. Ultimately, the Waffle wore her down and claimed the 2:32 match 1-6/7-5/8-6. "I played very well for a long time in this match but when Yanina upped the tempo, I started to struggle,” said Krunic. “Obviously, I have to be more consistent. There is no use firing on all cylinders for a set and a half and then running on empty when it’s time to wrap up the match. It will be a very useful experience as I have rarely played several matches in a row at this level. At 6-1/3-0 down, she started playing as if she had nothing to lose, and she didn’t. She was stronger and braver at crunch points and won the match deservedly.”

But the Serbs weren't finished yet. 18-year old Ivana Jorovic still had a shot to force the deciding doubles with a win over 30-year old Flipkens (10-19 in singles, 1-8 in doubles in her FC career). Jorovic held two SP in the 1st vs. the vet, but lost an 18-point TB as Flipkens clinched the win. The Serbs got a "dead rubber" doubles win to tighten up the final score.

Yanina Wickmayer/BEL
...Wickmayer was simply the best player in the tie, though it still took a drastic mid-match correction to stem the nearly-overwhelming Krunic tide. Add Alison Van Uytvanck to this team in '17, and the Waffles might have a decently solid 1-2 punch that could have them contesting the WG Playoffs at this time next year.
Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
...she ultimately blew a lead in a key home match that would have put the Serbs up 2-1 in the tie, but the smallest Serb shouldn't have to pull the ENTIRE weight of the Serbian Fed Cup team, should she? JJ at least tries to help, even if her body isn't always willing. That's more than can be said for others. Even with her first major defeat, Krunic's career FC mark now stands at 6-3 in singles, 5-3 in doubles.
Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
...her win over Jorovic to secure Belgium's spot in WG II next February is Flipkens' biggest FC victory since defeating Barbora Strycova in the 2011 semifinals to force a deciding doubles vs. the Czechs. Being the "Secret Weapon," of course, Strycova then joined Iveta Benesova to send the Maidens to the final, where they won the first of their four titles in the last five years.

Match #3 - Wickmayer/BEL d. Krunic/SRB
So close, but yet so far. Long live The Bracelet.

Slovakia def. Canada 3-2 [Bratislava, SVK / RCI]
...once Genie Bouchard's abdominal injury forced her out of this tie, Canada's weekend was just about maintaining some semblance of competitiveness against the far more experienced (Aleksandra Wozniak excluded, of course) Slovak squad.

19-year old Francoise Abanda did her part, once again showing herself to be worth keeping an eye on as she took Katowice champ Dominika Cibulkova to three sets in Match #1. Canada's all-time FC leader Wozniak also extended Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to three sets, but AKS got a much needed win to put the Slovaks up 2-0. One would have thought that this would be reason for the Slovak team to celebarte -- Schmiedy is back! But, no. Instead, Captain Matej Liptak replaced her in Match #3 on Sunday with Jana Cepelova. Unlike with MJF, this hunch didn't out so well. Rather than clinch the tie, Cepelova lost in straights to Abanda, giving Cibulkova the chance to finish Canada off with a 2 & love win over Wozniak.

Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
...a week after winning a singles title, Cibulkova went 2-0 in Bratislava to notch career FC wins #19 and #20 and extend her current winning streak to seven matches.
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK
...Schmiedlova's win over Wozniak was her first victory since her Day 1 win vs. Australia back in February. Not only that, but her 1st set win over Wozniak ended her twelve-set losing streak and was the first time she'd won the opening set of any of her twelve singles matches in 2016. Of course, her reward was to take a seat on the bench on Day 2. Maybe that's why she looked a little bit distracted in the post-match photo?
Francoise Abanda/CAN
...unlike another Canadian, Abanda is the picture of reliability at Fed Cup time. This is the third straight tie in which she's won a singles match. She's put up wins over Cepelova, Irina-Camelia Begu and Olga Govortsova the last two years, but has been THIS CLOSE to so much more. She's gone three sets with Cibulkova, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Alexandra Dulgheru, and even held her own vs. Karolina Pliskova in a 6-2/6-4 loss in her FC debut.

Charlotte Robillard-Millette/CAN
...sure, the match was a "dead rubber" doubles contest, but at least it provided the opportunity for 17-year old CRM to make her Fed Cup debut. Teaming with Sharon Fichman, the teenager defeated Jana Cepelova (oh, the indignity for poor Jana after she'd already lost once on Sunday) and Tereza Mihalikova (also making her debut) 6-3/0-6 [10-8]. Speaking of Mihalikova, I guess we sort of knew before the start of play that she wasn't going to hit the court quite yet in a match that truly counted. Call it an educated guess.
Match #2 - AK.Schmiedlova/SVK d. Wozniak/CAN
It's been so long since I've seen Schmiedlova's name BEFORE "d." that that really doesn't look right.

Taiwan def. Poland 4-1 [Inowroclaw, POL / HCI]
...while the Taiwanese team was completely turned over from the one that had advanced out of zone play in February into the World Group Playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Polish roster was virtually overturned just a few days before the start of play in Inowroclaw. And in the Land of Opportunity, there was no Aga to be a Polish queen.

Injured Aga Radwanska and Magda Linette's replacement on the Polish roster last week by the debuting twosome of Magdalena Frech and Katarzyna Kawa opened the door wide for Taiwan, itself sporting a roster of singles players -- Hsu Ching-wen and Lee Ya-Hsuan -- without a FC win between them heading into this tie. Poland's #1 singles slot was filled by Paula Kania, an underrated tour player but one without a Fed Cup win to her credit. Ummm, it didn't work out so well. World #151 Kania opened with a straight sets loss to #353 Hsu in the 19-year old's FC debut. #485 Frech, 18, picked up the slack with a Match #2 victory over #186 Lee, who then turned around and dueled with Kania in the first match of Day 2. In 2:35, Kania saved a MP at 6-5 in the 3rd set, then had two MP of her own before 20-year old Lee battled back to win a decisive 9-7 set. With Poland now officially on the ropes, Frech was called back into action. Still smarting from her three-set match from Saturday (she needed leg massages during changeovers to get through the contest), the teen was taken out by Hsu in another three-setter that clinched the win for Taiwan, sending the nation into World Group in '17 for the first time ever... where, one would expect, the Chan sisters will reunite with the squad that will attempt to follow in the Netherlands' footsteps as Fed Cup's reigning Cinderella squad.

Meanwhile, Poland has low lost four straight ties since playing in the 1st Round at the start of the 2015 season.

Hsu Ching-wen/TPE
...Hsu notched two key wins in her Fed Cup debut -- the a-win-here-is-now-officially-in-play upset of Kania in Match #1, and then the clincher over Frech a day later.

Lee Ya-Hsuan/TPE
...while Hsu collected two points, Lee orchestrated her one in the most memorable match of the tie, the 2:35 upset of Kania in which she saved two MP and won a 9-7 final set.
Magdalena Frech/POL a matter of a few days, Frech went from spectator to very nearly Poland's saving grace.
Paula Kania/POL
...perhaps it was far too much to ask of Kania to lead the entire Polish team to victory, but one might have expected at least one victory from the highest-ranked player in the tie.
Match #1 - Hsu Ching-wen/TPE d. Kania/POL
Hsu lost to Kania 1 & 1 in a $50K challenger in January. This one went a bit differently.

Match #3 - Lee Ya-Hsuan/TPE d. Kania/POL
Lee held a MP at 6-5 in the 3rd, then Kania had two at 7-6. Finally, Lee prevailed in 2:35 in the longest final set (16 games) of the FC weekend.


Ukraine def. Argentina 4-0 [Kiev, UKR / HCO]
...this tie was always going to be a tough sell, and it turned out to not even be as close as all that. Through four matches, the Ukrainian team dropped a total of fourteen games on the weekend, just ten of those coming in the three singles match-ups.

Elina who?

Lesia Tsurenko/UKR
...Tsurenko has led the way for Ukraine in Fed Cup action this saeson. Her two singles victories this weekend gives her a perfect 5-0 FC mark in 2016 after having previously been just 4-9 in her career.
Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR
...having not played Fed Cup since 2012, Bonderenko has returned in '16 with a vengeance. Her tie-opening singles win over Maria Irigoyen and "dead rubber" doubles victory makes her 7-0 in FC this season (4-0 singles, 3-0 doubles). 10-9 in singles, she's now 12-0 in career doubles matches.
Match #2 - Tsurenko/UKR d. Podoroska/ARG
As it turned out, Podoroska winning four games in a set WAS an, "Oh, Nadia!!" moment. Or as close to it as Argentina got in this tie.

=Promotional Playoffs=
Bosnia/Herzegovina def. Denmark 2-1
Austria def. Lithuania 2-0
Barbara Haas/AUT & Dea Herdzelas/BIH
...Haas went 3-1 in singles for the week, including defeating Dea Herdzelas in singles, then joining with Sandra Klemenschits in doubles to finish off a come-from-behind 2-1 Pool win over Bosnia/Herzegovina that provided just enough for Austria to slip into the Promotional Playoff ahead of Liechtenstein. Once there, the Austrians swept Lithuania.

#337 Herdzelas, 18, defeated Stephanie Vogt in the key 2-1 win over Liechtenstein that allowed BIH to win Pool B. In the Promotional Playoff, Bosnia/Herzegovina came from 0-1 down to defeat the Caro-less Danes, with Herdzelas winning back-to-back matches in singles and doubles. She was 3-1/2-1 for the week.

Ema Bugic Bucko/BIH
...the world #657's win over Kathinka von Deichmann (LIE) in the first tie of Pool play set the stage for BIH's 2-1 win that both allowed the nation to win the Pool AND allow the Pool's deepest team -- Austria -- to advance to the PP over that same Liechtenstein squad.
Tamira Paszek/AUT
...Paszek went 2-1 in singles play, notching her first singles win in Fed Cup competition since 2007 when she -- get this, you just can't make this stuff up -- defeated Sam Stosur and Alicia Molik in straight sets in the FC quarterfinals in a tie held in, yep, Australia.

Emilie Francati/DEN
...the Danish team didn't have the services of the injured Caroline Wozniacki, but 18-year old Francati very nearly led them to a win in the Promotional Playoff anyway. Ranked #745, her win over Burgic Bucko gave Denmark a 1-0 lead over the Bosnians in what turned out to be a 2-1 loss. She's a combined 6-1 (3-0/3-1) in career FC action.
Pool B RR Match #1 - Von Deichmann/LIE d. Haas/AUT 1-6/6-4/6-3
Pool B RR Match #2 - Vogt/LIE d. Paszek/AUT 2-6/6-1/6-3
Pool B RR Match #3 - Vogt/von Deichmann (LIE) d. Grabher/Klemenschits (AUT) 7-5/6-7(5)/6-4
if Vogt and von Deichmann had played like THIS all week, when they swept the best team in the entire Europe/Africa II zone, then #2-seeded Liechtenstein maybe wouldn't have finished 4th in Pool B.

=Promotional Playoff=
Philippines def. Singapore 2-0
Katharina Lehnert/PHI
...the 22-year old German-born Filipino never lost a set while guiding the Philippines into the Promotional Playoff vs. Singapore. Once there she defeated Stefanie Tan in 2:32 to clinch a 2-0 victory. 4-0 in singles for the week, Lehnert is now 7-0 in singles in her FC career, as well as 3-1 in doubles.
PP Match #2 - Lehnert/PHI d. Tan/SIN
Tan was a 2015 Big 12 Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year for TCU.

=Promotional Playoffs=
Luxembourg def. Moldova 2-0
Norway def. Macedonia 2-0
Mandy Minella/LUX and Melanie Stokke/NOR
...Minella, 30, led Luxembourg's advancement out of Zone III with singles wins over Ons Jabeur and Maria Sakkari, as well as two key deciding doubles matches (w/ Claudine Schaul) over Tunisia and Greece to secure two of the nation's three Pool play wins.


A photo posted by Mandy Minella (@mandyminella) on

Stokke, 19, went 4-0 in singles and teamed with Ulrikke Eikeri in a deciding doubles win over Montenegro that allowed Norway to slip into the Promotional Playoff. She's a combined 19-6 in singles(10-4)/doubles(9-2) in her FC career.
Ulrikke Eikeri/NOR her first Fed Cup action since 2012, she went a combined 6-1 in singles/doubles for the week, losing only to MNE's Danka Kovinic. Along with Stokke, Eikeri provided the deciding doubles win over Montenegro that propelled Norway into the Promotional Playoffs.
Claudine Schaul/LUX
...the 32-year old who once defeated Lindsay Davenport to win a WTA title in Strasbourg back in 2004 (in her only tour-level singles final) teamed with Minella for two deciding doubles matches for Luxembourg. 39-38 in her combined Fed Cup career, she's behind only current Captain Anne Kremer (61-57) in the nation's all-time FC stats.
Pool D RR Match # 3 - Eikeri/Stokke (NOR) d. Kovinic/Veselinovic (MNE)
The reason the host Montenegrins failed to play in the Promotional Playoffs.

**2017 FED CUP**
=World Group=
Czech Republic
United States
=World Group II=

2004 RUS d. FRA 3-2
2005 RUS d. FRA 3-2
2006 ITA d. BEL 3-2
2007 RUS d. ITA 4-0
2008 RUS d. ESP 4-0
2009 ITA d. USA 4-0
2010 ITA d. USA 3-1
2011 CZE d. RUS 3-2
2012 CZE d. SRB 3-1
2013 ITA d. RUS 4-0
2014 CZE d. GER 3-1
2015 CZE d. RUS 3-2
2016 Czech Republic vs. France

Yeah, there was other tennis going on in Week 15. But let's make this short 'n sweet, okay?

S: Irina Falconi/USA def. Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP 6-2/2-6/6-4
D: Lara Arruabarrena/Tatjana Maria (ESP/GER) d. Gabriela Ce/Andrea Gamiz (BRA/VEN) 6-2/4-6 [10-8]

...the #92-ranked Bannerette became 2016's maiden first-time finalist, and picked up career title #1 with weekend wins over a pair of Spaniards, Lara Arruabarrena (SF) and Silvia Soler-Espinosa (F). The 25-year old, who burst onto the radar with a 3rd Round effort at the U.S. Open in 2011, hit a career-high of #64 last season and had her first season-ending Top 100 (#73) finish in four years. Prior to last week, her best tour results were a SF in Washington in 2011, and two QF in Birmingham ('12) and last year in this same Bogota event, where she also reached the doubles final in '15. Falconi jumps to #67 in the new rankings.

RISER: Alexandra Panova/RUS
...always a tennis landmine waiting to explode on an unsuspecting opponent, Panova blew up #1-seeded Elina Svitolina's trip to Colombia. The '12 Bogota finalist, the Russian took out the Ukrainian in a rain and darkness-delayed 1st Round match that took place over two days and saw Panova save five MP. She ultimately reached the QF.

SURPRISES: Paula Cristina Goncalves/BRA and Catalina Pella/ARG #238 Goncalves, a doubles champ in Bogota last year, returned and reached her first tour-level singles semi this time around with wins over Veronica Cepede Royg, Tatjana Maria and Alexandra Panova.

23-year old Pella made it through qualifying and then knocked off #2 seed and defending champ Teliana Pereira in the 1st Round to notch her first career tour win in her maiden main draw. She went on to reach her first tour QF.
VETERAN: Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP
...28-year old Soler-Espinosa, who came in ranked #170, was a tour finalist in Strasbourg in 2014. She reached her second career final in Bogota with wins over Tereza Martincova, Anna Tatishvili, Amra Sadikovic and Paula Cristina Goncalves.
COMEBACK: Amra Sadikovic/SUI her first WTA main draw since 2013, the Swiss who retired in 2014 and spent fourteen months as a coach, put up a QF result in Bogota and notched wins over Patricia-Maria Tig and Rebecca Peterson.

FRESH FACES: Sachia Vickery/USA and Dalma Galfi/HUN
...20-year old Floridian Vickery reached her third career tour QF with a win over veteran Lourdes Dominguez-Lino in Bogota.

17-year old reigning U.S. Open girls champ Galfi reached the singles SF at the $10K challenger in Heraklion (she already has five ITF titles), and won the doubles with Cristiana Ferrando in a 14-12 match tie-break to claim career title #3.
DOWN: Elina Svitolina/UKR and Teliana Pereira/BRA
...Svitolina didn't play Fed Cup for Ukraine this past weekend, but it turned out that she ended up being available after being upset as the #1 seed in the 1st Round in Bogota by Alexandra Panova, squandering five MP in the oft-interrupted, two-day match in the process.

Last year in Bogota, Pereira became the first Brazilian to win a tour singles title in twenty-seven years. This year, as the #2 seed, she was dumped out in the 1st Round by #274-ranked qualifier Catalina Pella to fall to 1-9 in 2016.
ITF PLAYERS: Wang Qiang/CHN and Barbora Stefkova/CZE
...Wang, 24, didn't lose a set all week while coasting to her twelfth career ITF title at the $50K challenger in Shenzhen. 7-1 in finals since 2014, Wang defeated Japan's Mayo Hibi 6-2/6-0 in the final.

In Instabul, Czech Barbora Stefkova swept the singles and doubles at the $50K challenger. The 21-year old is 8-2 in career singles finals, and ran off wins last week over Basak Eraydin, Ivana Jorovic, Alexandra Cadantu, Lina Gjorcheska and Anastasia Pivovarova in the final. Stefkova lost to Pivovarova in a $25K final in March, winning a total of exactly fifteen games from the Russian in both encounters.

JUNIOR STARS: Georgia Andreea Craciun/ROU and Olesya Pervushina/RUS
...#23 junior Craciun, 16, won the Grade 2 Plovdiv event in Bulgaria, her second G2 title in '16 in her third such final this season. The #1 seed, the Swarmette defeated qualifier Maryna Chernyshova in the final. The 16-year old qualifier from Ukriane, the #344-ranked girl, defeated the #4, #5 and #2 seeds en route to the final. A finalist in a Grade 4 event in August, Chernyshova had gone 1-4 since before putting together seven straight victories in Plovdiv.

Pervushina, 15, won her second career ITF singles title at the $10K Pula challenger, defeating Kristina Schmiedlova (sister of AKS) and Bianca Turati en route. The Russian won her other title in a $10K in November, and this was her first pro event since then, so she's actually won two straight stretched out over about five months. After winning Grade 1 junior events in Ecuador and Venezuela in Jauary, Pervushina reached the Yeltsin Cup girls semis in February, losing there to eventual champ Elena Rybakina.
DOUBLES: Lara Arruabarrena/Tatjana Maria (ESP/GER)
...the top seeds in Bogota, Arruabarrena and Maria combined for their first title as a duo, winning match tie-breaks over Nicole Melichar/Rebecca Peterson in the QF and South American pair Gabriela Ce & Andrea Gamiz in the final. It's the sixth career title for Arruabarrena, while it's Maria's second. Arruabarrena also reached the singles semifinal.


1. Bogota 1st Rd. - Panova d. Svitolina
In a 2:40 match that was actually stretched out over two days, with stoppages for both rain and darkness on Day 1, Panova takes out the #1 seed after returning for Day 2 leading Svitolina 7-5/1-5. The Ukrainian battled back to hold two MP at 6-5, 40/15 on Panova's serve, then three more up 6-3 in the deciding tie-break. The Russian swept the final five points.
2. Bogota Final - Falconi d. Soler-Espinosa
Three different Bannerettes have won a total of five singles titles this season, but none of them have been claimed by anyone named Serena.
3. $25K Pelham Final - Grace Min d. Bernarda Para
Min wins her second straight title, defeating Indy De Vroome, #1-seed Alla Kudryavtseva and Lauren Albanese.
4. $10K Lins Final - Paula Ormaechea d. Harmony Tan
The Argentine's comeback continues with her second title in two weeks.
5. $25K Pelham Q1 - Gail Falkenberg d. Rosalyn Small 6-0/6-1
$25K Pelham Q2 - Taylor Townsend d. Gail Falkenberg 6-0/6-0
69-year old Falkenberg, known on the ITF circuit as "The Legend," defeats 22-year old Small, ending her own 32-match losing streak at the expense of a player who'd already lost twenty-two straight, setting up a match with 19-year old old Townsend that lasted just thirty-six minutes as Falkenberg won twelve points.

A walk-on player at UCLA in the 1960's, Falkenberg, a college coach at Central Florida in the 1990's who turned pro at age 38, last won a match in 1998. She won a qualifying match at the Australian Open in 1988, and once lost to a 13-year old Jennifer Capriati. "And my game gives the kids more trouble than the older players, believe it or not," she said. Retirement isn't on the immediate horizon, either. "I'd love to be playing -- and win -- at 70," she told the Wall Street Journal. "I'm six months away from that."

Bogota 1st Rd. - Catalina Pella d. Pereira
In her tour MD debut, #274-ranked qualifier Pella -- sister of ATP player Guido, a finalist in Rio earlier this year -- knocks out the defending champ in 2:20. This is why Brazilian women's tennis just can't have nice things.

Sharing is caring, in this case stealing #bigfork

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Beach waves ????

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Have a good week everyone ?? #Monday

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Rio - Shelby Rogers/USA
Acapulco - Jelena Ostapenko/LAT

#132 Francesca Schiavone/ITA - Rio (W)
#131 Shelby Rogers/USA - Rio
[low semifinalists]
#238 Paula Cristina Goncalves - Bogota
#199 Sorana Cirstea/ROU - Rio
#190 Zhu Lin/CHN - Kuala Lumpur
#172 Tamira Paszek/AUT - Auckland

CHAMPION - 2 (A.Radwanska,V.Williams)
FINALIST - 3 (Bencic,S.Williams-2)
SEMIFINAL - 2 (Halep,Kerber)
QUARTERFINAL - 1 (Gavrilova - WTA 125)
4TH ROUND - 1 (S.Williams)
2ND ROUND - 4 (Azarenka,Errani,Halep,Kerber)
1ST ROUND - 4 (Pereira,Svitolina,Vinci,V.Williams)

3...ITA (Errani,Schiavone,Vinci)
2...USA (FALCONI,Stephens,V.Williams)

15 Final: Kerber d. Wozniacki
15 Doubles Final: Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Garcia/Srebotnik
16 Singles Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Kerber

#1 A.Radwanska d. Pavlyuchenkova
#3 Muguruza d. #2 Kerber
#3 Muguruza d. #1 A.Radwanska

...if this past weekend tuned up Garbi and Angie for dueling great clay court runs, the fun could begin right here.

15 Final: Tsurenko d. U.Radwanska
15 Doubles Final: Gavrilova/Svitolina d. Buyukakcay/Jankovic (Svitolina 2014-15 champ)
16 Singles Top Seeds: AK.Schmiedlova/Wickmayer

#5 Kovinic d. Larsson
#2 Wickmayer d. #3 Tsurenko
#5 Kovinic d. #2 Wickmayer

...if all things were "normal," circa 2015, this would be a good spot for #1 seed AKS to finally right her season and take a title. Maybe she will do just that, but I'll follow the trend and say she'll just get a win or two (which would still represent her best outing of '16), and go with Kovinic to become a first-time champ.

And, finally, after a long weekend, it's time for yoga. Caroline...

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

"In Fed Cup, everyone can hear you scream..."


My concern about the French team is that it's composed of two players, and what if something happens to one of them? Cornet should be a huge asset in FC singles play. She has the talent, and she has the fight of two players. Something needs to be done to get her head to work at these competitions. As it is, she's a wasted resource.

Surely Captain Mauresmo can get a handle on this. I mean, she got Bartoli's head to shut up!

Mon Apr 18, 02:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, that's why I was a little surprised that some wondered if Mauresmo might play Cornet over Garcia on Sunday. I don't think people had a very good knowledge of her FC history, especially her being pulled herself on Day 2 last year after a poor Day 1 match.

But Mauresmo did have her back on the roster, so maybe she'll figure out the right spot down the line where she can thrive. She's just a LITTLE bit good at hunches like that. ;)

Mon Apr 18, 09:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

True. If she were just anybody....but she's Alize Cornet the French fighter! Should be able to do this for the team.

By the way, the coach Threat Level chart is wonderful :)

Mon Apr 18, 11:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Thanks. ;) It's actually making me learn who many of the Captains are, too, since only a few names ever really come up otherwise on a regular basis.

For example, I found out this weekend that TPE's Captain is Wang Shi-ting, who I remember as a player from a good long while ago. Of course, back then they'd "Westernize" her name and put the surname last, which made any on-air mention of her a potential announcer disaster-in-the-making if they weren't careful. ;)

Tue Apr 19, 12:34:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

i like the passion french team has displayed. czech making final is expected. swisse team had such an opportunity, only if timea could calm her nerves.

kasatkina is quite impressive. no fear.

kerber and muguruza are playing well. interesting to see who can win out in stuttgart. indoor clay is of fast speed?

Wed Apr 20, 05:57:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I believe it is in Stuttgart, though I think the outdoor event Madrid is considered the fastest of them all (Kvitova won that one last year, so that might be a clue).

Wed Apr 20, 03:02:00 PM EDT  

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