Wk.16- Sign o' the WTA Times
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life...
on the Most Interesting Tour in the World
You'd think that the reigning Australian Open champion defending a title for the first time in her career... in Germany... against a fellow German... and picking up a second brand new Porsche -- not exactly the kind you'd find in a second hand store -- for her personal collection would be THE biggest story on the WTA tour in Week 16.
You'd think so.
But, for Turkey, that was but a footnote to an historic weekend where not one...
The best day of my life! One of my dreams came true, won WTA title at home?????? pic.twitter.com/vX9EZyO3ED— Çagla Büyükakçay (@CaglaBuyukakcay) April 24, 2016
...but TWO players rose to the occasional in the tour's only stop in their country to produce a series of chapters that won't easily ever be topped in the nation's ever-expanding tennis biography...
...nor on tour this entire season by too many other nations along for the ride along Route WTA's gloriously scenic journey through 2016.
For once, the Turks got to say, "let's go crazy" and party like it's 1999.
Of course, on the Most Interesting Tour in the World, these sort of things are to be expected. On this trip, the persistent question isn't "Are we there yet?"
It's "What's next?"
*WEEK 16 CHAMPIONS*
STUTTGART, GERMANY (Premier $694K; RCI)
S: Angelique Kerber/GER def. Laura Siegemund/GER 6-4/6-0
D: Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA/FRA) d. Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND) 2-6/6-1 [10-6]
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (Int'l $227K; RCO)
S: Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR def. Danka Kovinic/MNE 3-6/6-2/6-3
D: Andreea Mitu/Ipek Soylu (ROU/TUR) w/o Xenia Knoll/Danka Kovinic (SUI/MNE)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Angelique Kerber/GER
...all right, Take 2? Last spring, Kerber began the clay court season by looking for all the world like a potential Queen of Clay. She won in Charleston, then backed that title run up by picking up her first career crown in Stuttgart. While a possible run in Paris ultimately fizzled out for the German, as she went 1-2 in the Rome/Madrid swing, pulled out of the Nurnberg semis and then lost in the 3rd Round of Roland Garros to Garbine Muguruza, Kerber's early clay court spring turned out to be the opening salvo of what has been a remarkable year. Since her title in South Carolina just over a year ago, she's won six times, claimed her maiden slam crown and climbed as high as #2 in the rankings. After winning in three sets in her opening match last week over Annika Beck, Kerber's superior standing in the draw became clearer and clearer with each outing as she knocked off Carla Suarez-Navarro, Petra Kvitova and then Laura Siegemund in the final to defend a singles title for the first time in her career. Will such a result lead to her first real run for the Couple Suzanne Lenglan in Paris, where she's only reached one QF (2012)? Stay tuned. But, as of today on the clay, Nothing Compares to U, Angie.
RISERS: Laura Siegemund/GER & Danka Kovinic/MNE
...Kerber was ultimately crowned champion for the second straight year in Stuttgart on Sunday, but it was another German who drove the story all week long. Siegemund, 28, became the first qualifier to reach the final (without losing a set through seven matches) as she rode a game style with very Radwanskian and Vinci-like undertones to a career week that included an opening round win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova that was followed by back-to-back-to-back Top 10 victories over Simona Halep and, incidentally, BOTH Vinci and Radwanska. Siegemund had never advanced past the QF in a tour-level event before this week, and her only Top 10 victory had come last fall over Timea Bacsinszky in Luxembourg, when the Swiss was forced to retire with a knee injury. Ironically, Bacsinszky's recent "second career" rise, when she went from beginning to plan out her after-tennis life to finding one-more-try success once she's shed all the pressurized baggage that had doomed her young career, in many ways resembles that of Siegemund.
Siegemund was a successful junior, winning the Orange Bowl 12s title in 2000 but soon finding it difficult to live up to German tennis' post-Graf expectations in a "baby you're much too fast" example of pressure and hype clashing with reality. She made her WTA qualifying debut in 2003, but didn't play in her first tour-level main draw until 2010. A knee injury in 2012 left her questioning a full-time tennis future. During her time out, she studied for a psychology degree (she finished #1 in her class a year later) and got her trainer certification, eyeing a potential future in coaching. Slowly, though, the success arrived once she returned to the court, armed with the knowledge that hard work is often its own reward (and sometimes just a prelude to something even greater). In 2014, she finished in the Top 200 for the first time. Last year, she put up her first Top 100 season, qualifying for her first slam MD (Wimbledon), winning her biggest title ($100K), reaching two tour-level QF, picking up three WTA doubles crowns and getting that first Top 10 win over Bacsinszky. This season, she's upset Kiki Bertens and #19-seed Jelena Jankovic for her first slam match wins in Melbourne en route to the 3rd Round, qualified for Indian Wells (losing to Serena in the 2nd Rd.) and recently advanced to her first Premier QF in Charleston.
Not that any of ALL that -- some of it highlighted here -- prevented Tracy Austin and Ted Robinson from acting on Tennis Channel this weekend as if the German had been dropped from the sky by aliens, never before heard from or seen by anyone until the last few days in Stuttgart. If your only connection to any coverage of the sport came this weekend from TC, you would have wondered how a player who has "only played in the lower level events" had somehow managed to climb to even #71 heading into this past week, let alone the notion that, while Siegemund's name hasn't exactly been written by skywriters above Route WTA over the past year, she HAS been making progress for quite some time now (I picked her to reach her maiden tour final in my preseason predictions, so her results were attention-worthy if anyone chose to pay attention -- and, hey, now I can at least check that one off my list!).
Motivational self-help messages for Laura Siegemund. She needs them. Set and a break down. pic.twitter.com/L8JH7DbpD4— DavidLaw (@DavidLawTennis) April 24, 2016
Of course, the lack of actually bothering to do even the slightest bit of background research won't be an excuse from tennis commentators regarding Siegemund now. The German will jump up to a new career high of #42 on Monday, and that post-playing career future (just throwing something against the wall here -- might it possibly one day include a stint as Germany's Fed Cup Captain?) looks like it'll definitely be pushed back a few additional years now.
In Istanbul, Kovinic became the third player this season to reach both the singles and doubles final in the same event. Unfortunately for her, she became the second player in '16 to fail to walk away with a title in either, as the Montenegrin lost out to Turkey's Cagla Buyukakcay in three sets in a final that was assured of the winner becoming the very first WTA singles champ in her respective nation's history. Kovinic put up successive wins over Kurumi Nara, Tsvetana Pironkova, Maria Sakkari and Kateryna Kozlova en route to her second career tour final ('15 Tianjin). She'll jump from #60 to #47 on Monday, one off the career-high she set in February.
SURPRISES: Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR and Kateryna Kozlova/UKR
...Cagla has simply owned this category this season. This week, during which she knocked down a handful of still more career and Turk-best moments, is already the fourth time she's been listed as a "Surprise" in 2016. This time, though, it comes after something truly special, as she pulled off what will go down as one of most heartwarming accomplishments this season.
Playing in her Istanbul hometown, Buyukakcay rode the wave of her own tennis momentum and the support of the crowd to her first career tour singles semifinal, final and maiden title with wins over Marina Melnikova, Sorana Cirstea, Nao Hibino, Stefanie Voegele and Danka Kovinic in a 3-6/6-2/6-3 final. She's the first Turkish woman to accomplish any of those feats in WTA history. The 26-year old now rises into the Top 100 for the first time and is assured of appearing in her first slam main draw in Paris. Now everyone has to learn how to spell her name. Ha -- I got a head start on that one!
22-year old Ukrainian Kozlova hasn't let her brief suspension last season hold her back. Since her return to action last August, she's qualified for the U.S. Open, reached a WTA QF in Tashkent, a $100K semi, a 125 Series QF (which included a win over Danka Kovinic) and a '16 QF in St.Petersburg (MD wins over Barbora Strycova and Elena Vesnina, and a Q-win over Laura Siegemund). The world #129 was at it again in Istanbul, reaching her first career tour-level SF with victories over Alexandra Dulgheru, Kirsten Flipkens and Anastasija Sevastova.
VETERAN: Aga Radwanska/POL
...no player on tour has been more consistent since last fall than Radwanska. Already back to #2, her semifinal run in Stuttgart -- which included wins over Andrea Petkovic and Karolina Pliskova -- was her ninth SF-or-better result in her last eleven tour events. But she's developing a bit of glass ceiling for herself, it seems. Since winning the title in Shenzhen in Week 1, she's lost four straight semifinals, has often found herself unable to follow-up a hard-fought win (see Vinci in Miami, Pliskova this past week) with another victory, and sometimes appears physically tired and/or is "out-Radwanska'd" by the likes of a Timea Bacsinszky (Miami) or Laura Siegemund (Stuttgart). If she's going to find a way to ever slip into the dream winner's circle at a slam -- and considering her ongoing form, the next two majors might be the last best chances she'll ever have -- she's going to have to find a way to maintain her earlier level of play at the end of the week when the matches and stakes are that much bigger.
COMEBACKS: Petra Kvitova/CZE and Sorana Cirstea/ROU
...since she seems to be pertually bursting in through the out door, then going back the way from which she came soon after, you take signs of resurgence wherever you can get them with Kvitova. The Czech's first semifinal result of 2016 will officially be more remembered for a nice three-setter vs. Angelique Kerber and a three-set takedown of Garbine Muguruza (which included a dominant love 3rd set that had the Spaniard and Sam Sumyk once again in an exasperating public exchange during a coaching visit) than that she opened the week by dropping a 6-2 1st set vs. Monica Niculescu (arriving after a tough Day 2 loss on FC weekend) and having to save three MP to avoid another one-and-out disaster. At least Petra is learning to "embrace the rollercoaster experience"... and isn't that the first step in recovery?
Thanks for riding the Petra rollercoaster. Hope you enjoyed the ride ?? pic.twitter.com/749Rnpjpie— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) April 21, 2016
Somewhat under the radar, Cirstea is looking like she'll be in the running for the honor of producing one of 2016's best season-long ranking climbs. The 26-year Romanian fell all the way to #244 at the end of 2015, and she'll have already climbed over a 100 spots come Monday when she comes in at approximately #131. The comeback has been fueled by a 15-3 run in ITF/WTA events held in Brazil earlier this year (she reached back-to-back $25K finals, winning one, and reached a tour semi in Rio), as well as a $50K semifinal earlier this month. Last week, Cirstea made it through qualifying and opened MD play with a win over Istanbul defending champ Lesia Tsurenko.
FRESH FACES: Maria Sakkari/GRE and Ipek Soylu/TUR
...20-year old Sakkari has finally given Greek tennis its first legitimate threat since the career peak of Eleni Danillidou in the early 2000's. She continued to rise up the tour ranks in Istanbul, making it through qualifying and then posting main draw wins over top-seeded Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Hsieh Su-wei to reach her first WTA singles quarterfinal. Earlier this season, Sakkari qualified in Melbourne (her second straight successful slam Q-run) and notched her first career MD win in a major (then pushed Carla Suarez-Navarro to three sets in the 2nd Round), extending a steady incline in results that has included eleven ITF singles finals in 2014-15 (she won seven, including a 3-0 mark last season), a semifinal result in the WTA 125 Series event in Carlsbad last November and a $50K Osprey semifinal run earlier this year which included a win over Francesca Schiavone. Having already reached a career-high singles ranking earlier this month, Sakkari is set to do so again on Monday as she jumps from #127 to inside the Top 120.
Meanwhile, Buyukakcay wasn't the only Turkish player giving the Istanbul crowd something to cheer about last week. While 20-year old Soylu lost in the 1st Round in singles, she stuck around all week in doubles, teaming with Andreea Mitu to reach her first tour-level final. Like Buyukakcay, Soylu was set to face off with Danka Kovinic, who'd advanced to the championship with Swiss Xenia Knoll. Unlike her Turkish countrywoman, though, Soylu didn't get the "full championship experience," as Kovinic pulled out of the doubles final after losing in singles, handing both Mitu & Soylu their first career tour titles. Of course, I suppose Soylu could have just tried to play two sides of the net in the final, considering she's partnered with BOTH Mitu and Knoll in the city. She and Knoll teamed together to win a previous title in Istanbul, winning on hard court in an ITF $25K challenger in November 2014.
Note: Knoll is playing doubles with The Bracelet in Week 17 in Rabat.
DOWN: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK and Simona Halep/ROU
...the latest chapter of the Schmiedlova Mystery arrived just a few days after the Slovak picked up her first match win in two months last weekend in Fed Cup play. After a Saturday victory, her only win since the previous FC weekend in February, she was replaced in the singles lineup on Sunday (by Jana Cepelova, who lost) though she apparently wasn't injured. She still celebrated as Slovakia defeated Canada, and the hope was that a successful weekend might finally put an end to her '16 funk. When Victoria Azarenka pulled out of this past week's Istanbul event, The Artist Formerly Known as Schmiedy became the #1 seed... and, unfortunately, she then picked up right where she'd left off before her brief bit of FC-related good news. Schmiedlova's 6-2/6-3 1st Round loss to qualifier Maria Sakkari gives her eight first match losses in her nine WTA appearances this season, including seven in a row. 3-10 overall in '16, she's now 1-9 in tour events, with all her losses being of the straight sets variety. So much for Fed Cup weekend "jump-starting" her season. One suspects that this is what it sounds like when doves cry.
Speaking of a player searching for an elusive boost. I think everyone would like to tell Simona, "I feel for you." But no matter how much support she has, she's going to have to figure this thing out for herself. Halep's opening match 2nd Round loss to Laura Siegemund in Stuttgart, while it doesn't seem so harsh now in retrospect after the German's career-best week, is still another troubling case of the Romanian going out in rather routine fashion. After rolling her ankle but managing a Day 1 win over Andrea Petkovic last week in Fed Cup, Halep played the next day but managed to get just four games off Angelique Kerber. She got just three off Siegemund. And it can't be chalked up to just being "a German thing," either. As she did on FC weekend, she didn't admit to her ankle being a big problem. But something was limiting her movement, and she did leave the court in Stuttgart with a trainer for treatment on some issue. All in all, this is starting to look an awful lot like last spring's clay season, which turned out to be pretty much a wash-out for Halep, and essentially set her up for an injury-filled, angst-ridden and psychologically challenging final six months of the season. Oh, Simona.
Gracias a todos por el aguante. Muy Feliz de haber vuelto a ganar estas semanas!!???????????? pic.twitter.com/nf2MUjUYJQ— Paula Ormaechea (@paula_ormaechea) April 24, 2016
ITF PLAYERS: Paula Ormaechea/ARG, Rebecca Peterson/SWE and Taylor Townsend/USA
...suddenly, Ormaechea is on fire. The 23-year old Argentine, a former Top 60 player currently ranked #341, picked up her third straight challenger title in the $10K event in Baura, Brazil. Incredibly, her 15-0 run comes directly on the heels of a 3-13 stretch and being without a MD victory since July before the first of her trio of title runs. The #1 seed last week, Ormaechea notched wins over the #4 and #8 seeds before defeating fellow Argentinian, #2-seeded 18-year old Julieta Estable, in a 1-6/6-3/7-5 final.
The final name on the board belongs to Rebecca Peterson. I go 1-on-1 with the Hardee's Pro Classic champ tonight @ 9 pic.twitter.com/3SkhfyPnPj— Justin McNelley (@Justin_WSFA) April 24, 2016
In the $50K challenger in Dothan, Alabama it was 20-year old Swede Peterson who was the last woman standing. Her run to career title #9 -- which matches the one she won in Macon, Georgia in October for her biggest ever -- began with a win over Jovana Jaksic and ended with one against Taylor Townsend in the final. Townsend's recent upswing in results continued, as well, as she followed up her successful Indian Wells qualifying attempt and $25K semifinal with a run that included wins over Claire Liu, Alexandra Panova and Alla Kudryavtseva. She leads the USTA's "Playoff" race for a berth in the Roland Garros main draw. The Bannerette also won her third ITF doubles title of the month with Asia Muhammand, defeating Caitlin Whoriskey & Keri Wong in the final.
JUNIOR STARS: Rebeka Masarova/SUI, Katerina Zavatska/UKR and Jaimee Fourlis/AUS
...#13-ranked Swiss junior Masarova, the #1-seed at the Beaulieu-sur-mer event in France, is set to meet #15-seeded Ukrainian Zavatska in the final with the ultimate 16-year old winner claiming the first Grade 1 title of her career. Masarova reached two Grade 1 finals last season, and reached the Australian Open girls semis in January before winning a Grade 2 event in March. Her path to the final has included wins over the #9, #10 and #16 seeds at the event. Junior #62 Zavatska is playing in her third consecutive final, having won nine straight matches while winning a Grade 2 title a week ago in the wake of her run to the Grade 1 Perin Memorial final (a loss to Elena Rybakina) earlier this month.
I'm not sure if weather has caused this event's final to be pushed back to Monday or not, as I can't find the results anywhere. So I'll update the post with the winner later.
UPDATE: Zavatska grabbed her first career Grade 1 title with a 6-7(2)/7-6(5)/6-2 win over Masarova on Monday. She's 15-1 in junior action in 2016.
In the Gallipoli Youth Cup, 16-year old Aussie Fourlis claimed the title at the Grade 4 event. The girls' #63 was the #1 seed at the event, where she defeated the #4 and #8 seeds to reach the final, then knocked off #3 Himari Sato of Japan to take the crown. The teenager picked up her first pro title in February with a win at a $25K challenger in Perth.
DOUBLES: Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA/FRA)
...at least for the Pastries, the Fed Cup spirit from last weekend lived on in Week 16. Garcia & Mladenovic added the Stuttgart title to the one they won in Charleston two weeks ago, extending their winning streak to eight matches a week after clinching France's berth in the FC final with a deciding doubles victory over the Netherlands. Garcia & Mladenovic's 10-6 match TB win in the final over Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza added the co-#1's names to a list of big-time duos that that have fallen this season to the French women that already included the likes of Mattek-Sands/Safarova, Kasatkina/Vesnina, Groenefeld/Peschke and Dellacqua/Stosur. 2-2 in '16 finals, including a loss in Sydney to Hingis/Mirza, the Pastries are now behind only the world #1's totals in titles (4) and finals (5) this season.
The doubles champions don't win cars. Caroline wasn't too upset about that, though. For now. Just as long as she doesn't expect a little red corvette to ever roll onto the court in Stuttgart.
1. Stuttgart Final - Kerber d. Siegemund
...6-4/6-0. Siegemund led 4-2 before Kerber seized control, becoming the first opponent to frustrate Siegemund all week. After dropping the 1st set, the qualifier left the court with a trainer and when she returned was never able to solve the riddle of her defending champion countrywoman. Kerber sweep the final ten games of the match, ending Siegemund's very long -- but even more rewarding -- week. For she has proven that she can indeed dream of and make a reality a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom.
2. Istanbul Final - Buyukakcay d. Kovinic
...3-6/6-2/6-3. In a first-ever tour final match-up between and a Turk and a Montenegrin -- adding a 19th and 20th different nation represented in WTA singles finals in the first sixteen weeks of 2016 -- Buyukakcay made all her dreams comes true, and by doing so in her hometown probably thought up a few on the fly that hadn't even legitimately occurred to her as being truly possible until sometime late in the week. Of course, with Buyukakcay's emotional completion of her journey when she finally converted her fifth MP, Kovinic was left to lament what might have been.
Las lágrimas de Cagla Buyukakcay. Y así han estado muchos turcos en el estadio. El tenis es capaz de unir a un país. pic.twitter.com/OwyCkCgWMa— Tenis Break (@Tenis_Break) April 24, 2016
Joy for Buyukakcay, but heartbreak for Kovinic. Have to feel for her ?? pic.twitter.com/9VSRqyJJiI— Max (@MGLovesTennis) April 24, 2016
3. Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Kvitova d. Chirico 6-0/6-0
Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Kvitova d. Niculescu 2-6/7-6(5)/6-2
Stuttgart SF - Kerber d. Kvitova 6-4/4-6/6-2
...you never really knew which Petra you'd get in Stuttgart (so... just like everywhere, I guess). Petra did such a Batdance all over Chirico that she no longer knew up from down, while Niculescu, who upset Kvitova in Fed Cup play in February, very nearly took down the Czech once again. The Romanian held three total MP at 6-2 and 6-5 in the 2nd set before Petra's rollercoaster finally swung back around and left Niculescu stranded while Kvitova hopped off and beat a path to what would be her first SF result of '16, where Kvitova was finally overtaken down the stretch by the eventual champ.
4. Stuttgart QF - Kvitova d. Muguruza
...6-1/3-6/6-0. Kvitova's wild swings of fortune on match day are hardly foreign agents to the Spaniard, who can seemingly go from a happy-go-lucky future slam champ one moment to a sullen, cranky, back-talking brat the next. Just ask Sam Sumyk, who got to publicly live out his personal coaching nightmare in the changeover area in yet another "session" with Muguruza. Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if he dropped "act your age not your shoe size" on her, you know, just to see what would happen?
Sumyk to Muguruza: Don't be scared of the power.— ?MARXIST-iPHONEIST? (@is0lation_) April 22, 2016
Muguruza back @ him: Stop saying that I'm scared! I'm not scared at all.
Sam just didn't know how good he had it with Vika. Seriously, this relationship can't last much longer, can it?
5. Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Siegemund d. Halep
...6-1/6-2. Sigh, Simona. Here we go again? On the bright side: to Siegemund is now a thing.
How to Siegemund--a brief guide to dealing with life's more difficult stuff https://t.co/PsRuBDFaxx— Diane Elayne Dees (@WomenWhoServe) April 24, 2016
6. Stuttgart Q1 - Ankita Raina d. Tena Lukas
...6-7(4)/7-6(2)/7-5. India's highest-ranked singles player -- hint, hint -- saves a MP. She'd go on to lose to Kristyna Pliskova one Q-round later.
7. Stuttgart Q3 - Chirico d. Giorgi 6-3/6-3
Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Beck d. Giorgi 6-4/6-2
...first the hot war with the Italian tennis federation, and now this.
8. Stuttgart Final - Garcia/Mladenovic d. Hingis/Mirza
...2-6/6-1 [10-6]. Hingis/Mirza are now 13-2 in finals. The previous loss was also on clay (in Rome), and Mladenovic (only w/ Babos by her side) was on the other side of the net THAT day, as well.
9. Istanbul 1st Rd. - Cirstea d. Tsurenko 6-3/6-4
Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Petkovic d. Mladenovic 6-2/6-4
Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Niculescu d. Garcia 6-2/6-2
Istanbul 1st Rd. - Mitu d. Wickmayer 7-5/6-4
Istanbul 1st Rd. - Pironkova d. Sasnovich 6-2/6-2
Istanbul 1st Rd. - Sevastova d. Krunic 6-0/6-0
Prague Q1 - Kuzmova d. Golubic 7-5/6-4
...the first match after a Fed Cup weekend can be a real you-know-what for some players. Et tu, Golubic?
10. Istanbul 1st Rd. - Kozlova d. Dulgheru
...6-7(4)/7-6(2)/6-1. Kozlova's SF run almost wasn't. She blew a 5-0 1st set lead, dropping the opening set to the Romanian and then having to win a tie-break to push things into a 3rd.
11. $10K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Katie Boulter d. Anastasia Pribylova 4-6/6-3/7-5
$10K Heraklion Final - Freya Christie/Chanel Simmonds d. Valeria Savinyk/Alyona Sotnikova 6-4/6-0
...more entries in Britain's New Power Generation! 19-year old Boulter, a former Top 10 junior, wins her second career ITF title (first since '14), while 18-year old Christie grabs doubles title #4.
12. Prague Q1 - Amandine Hesse d. Klara Koukalova
...6-4/0-6/7-6(3). Is the Czech's career about to take a very long nap under the cherry moon? At 34, Koukalova is now down to #117, and she hasn't finished any season ouside the Top 120 since 2001. This loss gives her six straight defeats, and she's without a tour-level MD win since July.
HM- Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Friedsam d. Konta
...6-3/6-3. It wasn't a great week for EVERY Brit, though. For Konta, it was just another Manic Monday.
1. Stuttgart QF - Aga Radwanska d. Karolina Pliskova
...6-2/7-6(8). Aga won in two, winning her eleventh and twelfth consecutive sets vs. the Czech. But game #11 of the 2nd set, and the eventual tie-break, made this match something more than a "routine" victory. Serving at 5-5, Radwanska survived a 15-minute, twelve-deuce game in which she saved seven break points (Pliskova missed on second serve returns more than once) before finally holding on her own seventh game point on, naturally, a net cord dribbler. In the TB, Pliskova's fight was admirable, if too late. On Radwanska's first MP at 6-5, the Czech shot a forehand winner up the line, then she fired a saving ace on MP #2. After Radwanska's return winner on a Pliskova second serve gave the Pole MP #3 at 8-7, Pliskova blasted a backhand winner. Aga's volley winner brought MP #4 at 9-8, where Pliskova finally brought things to a close with a forehand into the net.
Aga Radwanska vs Karolina Pliskova Full Stuttgart HD Highlights. (GREENFORD)https://t.co/7Zpww53phC— #TeamAga (@TeamAgnieszka) April 23, 2016
2. Istanbul 1st Rd. - Sakkari d. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2/6-3
Istanbul 2nd Rd. - Sakkari d. Hsieh Su-Wei 6-3/6-4
...the Greek's career-best QF run was built upon the backs of tennis sisters.
3. Stuttgart SF - Siegemund d. Aga Radwanska
...6-4/6-2. By the time Siegemund had locked away her third straight Top 10 win, and her seventh consecutive straight sets victory of the week, her run was hardly a surprise. Showing no hint of nerves, the German played as if she'd been in these sort of situations her entire tennis life. Of course, even while the continuation of her tennis career wasn't a sure thing not that long ago, such a reaction isn't super shocking from a player working on a sports psychology degree and writing a bachelor thesis about "choking under pressure." Unlike Dinara Safina, who once noted, "The more you know, the less you sleep," Siegemund seems to fall on the, "The more the know, the less you fear" side of the psychological divide.
Well done Czech Fed Cup Team to reach another finals!!! Simply the best! ???????????? pic.twitter.com/M092UjORoI— lucie safarova (@luciesafarova) April 18, 2016
4. Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Karolina Pliskova d. Safarova
...7-6(4)/4-6/7-5. Not long after Safarova posted U Got the Look-style congratulations to Pliskova and the rest of the Czech Fed Cup team, she was taken out by Karolina, who fired 16 aces and overcame failing to convert a MP and Safarova getting back on serve late in the 3rd set. Safarova, while her doubles success (she reached the semis w/ Sabine Lisicki, making her 10-3 this season) has come swiftly in her return to action, has yet to find her footing in singles. She's now 0-5 on the season, but at least this was her first three-setter of 2016.
5. Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Aga Radwanska d. Petkovic
...1-6/6-1/6-2. Much like Halep after her slip and fall vs. Petko in Fed Cup, the German, while apparently not seriously injured, wasn't quite the same after yet another likely-unsettling brush with injury.
One of those days?? https://t.co/yWKJm9yT1T— Andrea Petkovic (@andreapetkovic) April 22, 2016
6. $25K Nanning Final - Liu Chang/Varatchaya Wongteanchai d. Lykina/Webley-Smith
...6-1/6-4. Wongteanchai, 26, picks up her 31st career ITF doubles crown, and her second of '16.
7. $10K Antalya Final - Shymanovich/Drew d. Tayisiya Morderger/Yana Morderger
...3-6/6-1 [10-2]. No, the Morderger twins aren't the hallway girls from "The Shining" all grown up, they're 19-year old Germans who very nearly came away with their first career ITF doubles title in Antalya. Instead, the event honor when to Iryna Shymanovich (who also won in singles) and Jazzamay Drew, a 21-year old Brit who has to be on the short list for the best first name in the sport.
Fresh ???????????? pic.twitter.com/YA8zp965nh— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) April 20, 2016
**2016 WTA FINALS**
3 - Victoria Azarenka (3-0)
3 - Sloane Stephens (3-0)
3 - ANGELIQUE KERBER (2-1)
2 - Dominika Cibulkova (1-1)
2 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (1-1)
2 - Genie Bouchard (0-2)
2 - Serena Williams (0-2)
**2016 WTA DOUBLES FINALS - DUOS**
5...HINGIS/MIRZA, SUI/IND (4-1)
4...GARCIA/MLADENOVIC, FRA/FRA (2-2)
2...Chan/Chan, TPE/TPE (2-0)
2...Hozumi/Kato, JPN/JPN (1-1)
2...Mattek-Sands/Safarova, USA/CZE (1-1)
2...Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja, ESP/ESP (2-0)
**2016 YOUNGEST SINGLES FINALISTS**
18y,8m,3w - Jelena Ostapenko (Doha-L)
18y,11m - Belinda Bencic (St.Petersburg-L)
21y,5m,1w - DANKA KOVINIC (Istanbul-L)
21y,5m,3w - Elina Svitolina (Kuala Lumpur-W)
**2016 SINGLES/DOUBLES FINALIST**
Brisbane - Angelique Kerber, GER [L/L]
Doha - Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP [W/L]
Istanbul - DANKA KOVINIC, MNE [L/L]
**2016 BEST QUALIFIER RESULTS**
Sydney - Monica Puig, PUR (22/#94) - Kuznetsova
Charleston- Elena Vesnina, RUS (28/#85) - Stephens
Stuttgart - LAURA SIEGEMUND, GER (28/#71) - Kerber
Auckland - Tamira Paszek, AUT (25/#172)
Brisbane - Samantha Crawford, USA (20/#142)
Kuala Lumpur - Zhu Lin, CHN (22/#190)
**2016 WTA CONSECUTIVE DOUBLES FINALS**
4 - Jan-Feb - Hingis/Mirza (W-W-W-W)
3 - Mar-Apr - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (W-W-L) #
2 - Feb - Chan/Chan (W-W)
2 - Feb-Mar - Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (W-W)
2 - Apr - Mattek-Sands/Safarova (W-L) #
2 - Apr - GARCIA/MLADENOVIC (W-W) #
**2016 MATCH WINS OVER CURRENT/FORMER #1-RANKED PLAYERS**
3 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE (all 3 over Ivanovic)
2 - Angelique Kerber, GER
2 - Yulia Putintseva, KAZ
2 - Elena Vesnina, RUS
**2016 LOW-RANKED WTA FINALISTS**
#170 Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP (Bogota-L)
#132 Francesca Schiavone, ITA (Rio-W)
#131 Shelby Rogers, USA (Rio-L)
#118 CAGLA BUYUKAKCAY, TUR (Istanbul-W)
**2016 - MOST DIFFERENT ITF SINGLES CHAMPIONS**
It was great support from beautiful kids from Avcilar and Esenyurt schools. They were my lucky charms ?????? pic.twitter.com/cW0c2xFAy3— Çagla Büyükakçay (@CaglaBuyukakcay) April 19, 2016
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (Int'l $427K/RCO)
15 Final: Ka.Pliskova d. Hradecka
15 Doubles Final: Bencic/Siniakova d. K.Bondarenko/Hrdina
16 Singles Top Seeds: Kuznetsova/Safarova
#1 Kuznetsova d. #5 Strycova
#3 Ka.Pliskova d. Hradecka
#1 Kuznetsova d. #3 Ka.Pliskova
...of course, considering the success rate of my picks this season (my Kovinic in Istanbul selection was the latest cut off at the pass in the final), I suspect this is a Kuznetsova Curse situation. Or maybe a secondary jinx will reverse the curse this week?
RABAT, MOROCCO (Int'l $227K/RCO)
15 Final (Marrakech): Svitolina d. Babos
15 Doubles Final (Marrakech): Babos/Mladenovic d. Siegemund/Zanevska
16 Singles Top Seeds: Bacsinszky/Makarova
#1 Bacsinszky d. Parmentier
#8 Putintseva d. #2 Makarova
#1 Bacsinszky d. #8 Putintseva
...it's about time for Timea to love her job AND pick up some hardware, too, don't you think?
And, finally, the WTA reacts...
Chills everywhere https://t.co/FBxfDUb9np— Madison Keys (@Madison_Keys) April 22, 2016
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain."