Sunday, May 15, 2016

Wk.19- To Win, Perchance to Dream

After twice coming up short in clay court finals in recent weeks, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza pulled out all the stops to improve their luck in Rome. Really, ALL of them...

It's a good thing, too, since the women's doubles has been getting short-shrifted even more than usual of late. The Madrid event treated the competition as an afterthought, not even providing a live coverage feed of the final. Rome wasn't a great deal better, as more attention and respect (the Williams Sisters' brief cameo appearance excluded) was given to the men's doubles quarterfinals -- even typing that makes me yawn... I mean, does the notion of having to watch those matches at any event other than a slam rank just ABOVE or BELOW having a chipmunk's whiskers pulled off by a pair of pliers on the Universal Unnecessary Torture Scale? -- than the entire WD event.

Yeah, I know.

It's an ironic turn of events, considering the women's doubles has often been the most interesting aspect of the Most Interesting Tour in the World over the past year, providing so much drama and star power with teams like Hingis/Mirza being challenged and bolstered by the likes of duos such as Mattek-Sands/Safarova, Garcia/Mladenovic, the Chan sisters, Hlavackova/Hradecka and others. In the last few weeks, Hingis & Mirza have battled and lost in finals on their worst surface against the Pastries, who put together a three-event clay court title and Fed Cup tie-clinching run of fifteen straight victories (second in '16 only to the world #1's two season-spanning 41-match streak earlier this year) that was finally stopped this past week in the Rome QF.

As a result, Hingis & Mirza didn't get the opportunity to see if a third go at Garcia/Mladenovic would prove to be a charm, but their win in the final over Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina (now back as a forceful pair on tour) ended the Dream Team's partnership-long five tournament championship drought and rewarded them with their fourteenth title and their first red clay win since joining forces fourteen months ago.

They'll now head to Paris with surface confidence (literal and specific) in their attempt to win their fourth straight slam crown, something which hasn't been accomplished since Venus and Serena won four straight from Wimbledon '09 to Roland Garros '10. Hingis herself won an actual Grand Slam during the '98 season with two different partners (Jana Novotna and Mirjana Lucic), and won a fifth straight slam with a third (Anna Kournikova) in '99. The last duo to complete a single season WD Grand Slam (which is alive for AO champs Hingis/Mirza) were Martina Navratilova & Pam Shriver in 1984.

Surely, THAT attempt -- and the efforts to thwart it, quite possibly by the two Frenchwomen -- will be given the respect it deserves at Roland Garos.

Well, to win, perchance to Dream.

S: Serena Williams/USA def. Madison Keys/USA 7-6(5)/6-3
D: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND) d. Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS/RUS) 6-1/6-7(5) [10-3]

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza (SUI/IND)
...yeah, Serena won a major title. But, as was the case last week with Halep in Madrid, she didn't face a Top 10 player en route to a Premier title (and saw only one opponent ranked in the Top 20, though Madison Keys will return at #17 on Monday). So while Garcia/Mladenovic won PoW honors for Week 18, Hingis/Mirza must claim the same for Week 19.

Playing in their third straight clay final, and a tour-best seventh overall final this season (as well as at twelve of their last fifteen events), the Dreamers claimed in Rome what eluded them a year ago when they lost in the final to Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic. After dropping just the second and third finals of their partnership to the Pastries in Stuttgart and Madrid, Hingis/Mirza improved their record in finals to 14-3 with a match tie-break win over Makarova/Vesnina in the championship match.

Hingis' 55th career tour WD title ties her with Wendy Turnbull for fourteenth on the all-time tour list, while Mirza's 37th lifts her out of a tie for twenty-third with Katarina Srebotnik (just one behind Ai Sugiyama and Lindsay Davenport).
RISERS: Garbine Muguruza/ESP, Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU and Daria Gavrilova/AUS
...after a disappointing 2nd Round exit in Madrid, Muguruza arrived in Rome sporting an 8-8 2016 WTA record, but rediscovered her lethal form just in the nick of time in the early rounds. She dropped but a single game to Ekaterina Makarova, then just five to Jelena Ostapenko. A straights sets win over Timea Bacsinszky put the Spaniard in her first semifinal of the season. Once there, the rain-marred match against Madison Keys featured too many double-faults and a failure to take advantage of break point opportunities that could have allowed Muguruza to test herself in the final against childhood idol Serena less than a year after the two met in the Wimbledon final (and less than two years after Muguruza upset her at Roland Garros). Oh, well.

As it is, this will have to do for Muguruza's quality Paris prep. Hopefully, it was enough. Now, off you go, Garbi.

One is tempted to say that Begu's quite remarkable spring is a "surprise." But, really, she's been working on this major surge for about seven months now. She won a tour title in Seoul last fall, climbed to a career-best #25 in October and finished the '15 season at #31, eleven spots better than her #42 finish in 2014. In Miami a few months ago, the Swarmette notched wins over Maria Sakkari, Sabine Lisicki and Kristyna Pliskova to reach the 4th Round. She upped her game even more in Charleston, defeating Caroline Garcia, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Monica Puig en route to the QF. A week ago, she was a Premier Mandatory level quarterfinalist for the first time in Madrid with victories over Genie Bouchard, Garbine Muguruza and Christina McHale (and took the only set of the week -- at love, no less -- off countrywoman Simona Halep). Rather than simply be satisfied with that run, Begu came to Rome and put up her first career Premier semifinal with a win over Margarita Gasparyan and the ultra-rare "Azarenka/Kasatkina" back-to-back sweep (sure, Vika was injured, but still...) before defeating Misaki Doi for good measure. She even reached the doubles semifinals with Monica Niculescu. Whew!

It was her singles result, though, that couldn't have been better timed. She'll rise from #35 to #28 on Monday, assuring her of a just-under-the-wire seed for Paris. Now, let's hope she didn't peak too soon to be a poke-your-head-out-of-the-weeds-and-she'll-bite-it-off factor in Paris. You know, and put together the sort of quality run about which Tennis Channel commentators will say totally shocks them to no end because they'll likely have no working knowledge of what Begu has been doing this spring. Yeah, one of those.

Meanwhile, a year after going from qualifier to semifinalist in Rome (w/ wins over the likes of Bencic, Ivanovic, Bacsinszky and McHale), Gavrilova was back at it again a week following a Madrid QF run that saw her knock off foes such as Watson, Svitolina and Kvitova. While she didn't match her previous results this week, the Aussie still defeated Sabine Lisicki and then took out Madrid champ Simona Halep for her second Top 10 win in less than a week's time.

Unfortunately, the failure to retain all her Rome '15 points means that Gavrilova will drop from #32 to outside the Top 40 on Monday, depriving her of a seed at Roland Garros a week from now. But that just means she'll be one of the most dangerous unseeded floaters in Paris, where an advantageous draw could allow her to pull off an early round upset and "takeover" an ousted seed's "more favorable" road to what would be her second second week result in a slam this year.

SURPRISES: Madison Keys/USA and Christina McHale/USA
...even Keys would probably have laughed if you'd told her not that long ago that she'd reach the Rome final. "Yeah, THAT Rome," you'd tell her. "Yes! The one on CLAY! Madison, stop laughing."

Whether Keys' recent addition of Thomas Hogstedt to her coaching team played the key (no pun intended) role, or if it was her simple decision to accept that she has to take this part of the year more seriously and can't just look past the clay season with her mouth open and watering at the prospect of the upcoming grass and hard court circuit, the 21-year old's run to the Rome final is arguably (or maybe it's not even arguable, actually) more surprising and impressive than her semifinal result at the Australian Open last season. The Bannerette put up wins over Andrea Petkovic, Petra Kvitova (w/ three match-ending aces), Timea Babos, Barbora Strycova and Garbine Muguruza en route to the biggest final of her career. She even managed to force Serena Williams into a 1st set tie-break in the championship match.

Of course, don't expect Keys (or anyone else... save for maybe someone on Tennis Channel who'll probably highlight her good form rather than talk about a more likely title contender) to be mapping out the logistics for a title run in Paris. This result was just a filling appetizer for Keys before she attacks a full summertime meal.

Keys wasn't the only young Bannerette making waves in Rome. Of course, McHale's been making a habit of marking every month with a scent of success. In January, she won a $50K title in Hawaii to claim her first singles title of any kind since 2011. In February, she reached the semifinals at the WTA level event in Acapulco. In March, it was wins over Caroline Garcia and Garbine Muguruza in Indian Wells (and a three-set loss to Serena in Miami). April arrived and McHale was upsetting Sam Stosur to spearhead Team USA's Fed Cup win over Australia. A week ago, May began with a win in Madrid over Karolina Pliskova. But, apparently, the Bannerette wasn't satisfied with that, so she's already adding to May's list of accomplishments, adding a Rome qualifying run and 2nd Round win over Ana Ivanovic -- McHale's third Top 20 win in 2016 -- on her 24th birthday before another loss to Serena (but not before McHale came within two points of taking the 1st set off the world #1).

But even with her confidence level likely higher than it has been in some time, McHale is going to have to buck her own history in Paris. She's just 2-6 there in her career, with both wins coming in 2012 when a 3rd Round run (she had three of her five career such slam results that season) featured wins over Kiki Bertens and Lauren Davis before a three-set loss to defending RG champ Li Na. Illness and injury have dogged her ever since, but she finally seems to have come out on the other end of the proverbial tunnel on all that. In her words, "Knock on wood."


VETERANS: Serena Williams/USA, Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS and Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
...Serena's run of straight sets wins over Anna-Lena Friedsam, Christina McHale, Svetlana Kuznetsova (allowing the Russian just two games after losing to her in Miami), Irina-Camelia Begu and Madison Keys was nice, but it won't be long remembered as a fabled run. If she goes on to win her fourth RG title, though, we'll be able to look back and see that she maybe finally got her '16 season started heading on an upward trajectory in Week 19 with her fourth career title run in Rome.

Williams may never get another chance at the Grand Slam that narrowly eluded her in 2015, but she's still got quite a few big numbers in her sights. She heads to Paris looking for an Open era record-tying 22nd slam title, but it doesn't end there. Her latest title run means she's now one of just five women with 70 tour singles titles, and the five match wins she picked up in Rome pushes her career total to #755 and moves her past Lindsay Davenport into sixth place on the Open era list. A trip to the RG semis will move her to fifth ahead of Arantxa Sanchez (759).

She's less than two months away from her 300th overall week in the #1 ranking, behind only Steffi Graf (377) and Martina Navratilova (331), and after Roland Garros will be just three and a half months away from breaking Graf's mark for consecutive weeks (186) in the top spot.

And, of course, she's got some famous friends, too... not that she makes a big deal about it, even when it comes to casual conversations with her big sister.

Kuznetsova wasn't able to repeat her Miami upset of Serena in the Rome QF, but the Russian notched nice wins over Caroline Garcia, Samantha Stosur and Daria Gavrilova to reach the final eight and give herself a 6-2 spring clay court record heading into Roland Garros, having reached a final, SF and QF in three of her last four events (as well as claiming a title in Sydney in January).

Bacsinszky's Fed Cup season (0-4) has been something better left forgotten, but since finally moving past her late '15 knee injury the Swiss has really started to put up nice results again as she heads into a huge back-to-back slam stretch where she'll be called upon to try to defend (at least some of) the points she picked up with a Roland Garros SF and Wimbledon QF last year. Rome wins over Yanina Wickmayer, Lesia Tsurenko and '15 finalist Carla Suarez-Navarro gives her a 14-3 record (and Rabat title) in tour events after going 5-5 in her first ten WTA matches.
COMEBACKS: Genie Bouchard/CAN, Galina Voskoboeva/KAZ and Vitalia Diatchenko/RUS
...Bouchard's 2016 results have somewhat ping-ponged between very encouraging and eyebrow-raisingly disappointing this season, as her 2016 ledger has gone something like this: QF-RU-2nd-3rd-RU-3rd-1st-2nd-1st-3rd. While her ranking (#46) barely has her in the Top 50, and her recent results seem to be going in the wrong direction, the general gut feeling is that the Canadian's improved fitness, (hopefully) passed post-concussion issues and overall better attitude has her going in the right direction again. While she only reached the 3rd Round in Rome, her week included wins over Jelena Jankovic and Angelique Kerber, the latter of which was Bouchard's first Top 10 victory since 2014. Still, putting up just one game in her eventual loss to Barbora Strycova once again leaves one scratching their head.

Meanwhile, the $25K challanger in La Marsa provided two comeback stories. In singles, as well as in doubles.

Voskoboeva, 31, suffered through a remarkable 22-month marathon of a recovery from stress fractures and a foot injury that finally saw her return to the sport in February after having not played since March 2014. The former world #42, who'd also missed seven months to a shoulder injury in 2011, arrived back on the scene without a ranking. Heading into Week 19, she was #688 in singles and #290 in doubles, so her runs to finals in both disciplines is quite an accomplishment. In her first singles final since September 2011 (RU in the tour-level Seoul event), Voskoboeva lost to Russian Victoria Kan (with her third title of '16, the Hordette has won 19 of 20 matches), while she and Vitalia Diatchenko combined to defeat Kan and Sabina Sharipova in a 12-10 match tie-break to take the Kazakh's first doubles title since winning in the WTA's Acapulco event with Kristina Mladenovic in '14.

Galina's run was made even more memorable by the clever acquaintance she made in La Marsa.

Before teaming with her to win the doubles title, Voskoboeva defeated Diatchenko in the singles QF. The Russian, you might remember, was the subject of last year's Serena Williams U.S. Open 1st Round Victim Update in this spot following Diatchenko's 6-0/2-0 ret. defeat at Flushing Meadows. Well, the Hordette -- ranked #224 after being at #86 during the Open -- finally returned this past week from the foot injury she suffered in New York. The 25-year old clocked two victories, including in the 2nd Round over Argentina's Nadia Podoroska, en route to her best singles result since winning a $50K grass challenger in Surbiton (def. Paszek, Broady and Osaka) last June. Her doubles win was her first since a $75K with Alexandra Panova in 2014.

FRESH FACES: Jelena Ostapenko/LAT and Marie Bouzkova/CZE
...less than two years after winning junior slam titles, Ostapenko and Bouzkova have moved on to bigger and better things.

In Rome, 2014 junior Wimbledon champ Ostapenko, 18, ended her three-match losing streak since reaching the Katowice semifinals (her second SF-or-better result in '16, along with a final in Doha), reaching the 3rd Round with victories over Kristina Mladenovic and Monica Puig. The result lifts the Latvian's ranking from #39 to #36, a new career high, but it won't likely be enough for her to steal one of the final seeds for Roland Garros.

In the Torneo Internacional de Tenis Femenino Conchita Martínez $10K challenger held in Monzon, Spain -- birthplace of the former slam champ -- 17-year old '14 U.S. Open girls winner Bouzkova picked up her seventh career ITF crown with a 6-4/6-4 win over Pastry Jessika Ponchet in the final. The Czech is 20-3 on the season, having climbed into the Top 300 for the first time and already won three titles this year.

Her 2016 has, quite simply, been littered with highlights:

DOWN: Caroline Garcia/FRA and Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...while the Pastries have been nearly untouchable in doubles (especially on clay, though they had their 15-match winning streak ended in the Rome QF by Hlavackova/Hradecka), their singles results have been quite a bit more wanting. First, though, let's start off with good news. Kiki had a birthday this past week.

All right. Now for the rest of the story.

Both Garcia (to Kuznetsova) and Mladenovic (Ostapenko) lost their opening singles matches in Rome. For Garcia, it's the sixth time in her eleven '16 tour-level events in 2016 that it's happened. Mladenovic's numbers are even worse -- nine in thirteen, after finally notching a WTA clay win in 1st Round play in Strasbourg on Sunday in a 7-5 3rd set over Madison Brengle. While Garcia's 1-4 mark in her last five non-Fed Cup matches is bad, it's nothing compared to her doubles partner's four straight WTA losses and 1-8 record in her previous nine before the win over Brengle. Garcia is a sub par 10-11 in WTA action this season (not counting her 3-1 FC mark), but compared to Mladenovic's 5-12 (w/o 2-2 in FC) output she's having a "great" season in singles.

Thing is, both ARE capable of so much more. Just last spring, Mladenovic reached the Strasbourg final (her first tour-level singles final), while Garcia reached back-to-back finals in Acapulco and Monterrey (finishing second to Timea Bacsinszky in the first Queen of Mexico contest). While the guts and glory they've shown in Fed Cup has been wonderful, something more should be expected when they don't have their nation's name emblazoned on their back.

#53 Garcia joins #28 Mladenovic in playing the week before Roland Garros in Strasbourg. But only in singles, not doubles. These two are France's best hope for a second week slam contender over the next five years (though Alize Cornet couldn't be ruled out for one mind-blowingly emotional run, I suppose). If they remain a doubles duo, one would think they might be able to bask in some non-Fed Cup glory at some point. But they're a LONG way from anything close to that without having the other by her side (and Amelie a few feet away).
ITF PLAYER: Katerina Siniakova/CZE
...another good result from one of the NextGen Maidens, as 20-year old Siniakova followed up her Madrid qualifying run with the biggest title of her career at the $100K challenger in Trnava, Slovenia. The former girls #2 and three-time junior doubles slam champ put together an impressive unseeded run this past week, putting up victories over #2-seeded Istanbul champ Cagla Buyukakcay, #5 Kristyna Pliskova, #4 Zarina Diyas and #3 Anastasiya Sevastova in a 7-6(4)/5-7/6-0 final that improved her still spotless career record in ITF singles finals to 7-0.
JUNIOR STARS: Eva Guerrero Alvarez/ESP and Kayla Day/USA the Santa Croce (ITA) Grade 1 event, 16-year old Guerrero (junior #69) lost just one set en route to claiming her first G1 title. The #16-seeded Spaniard posted wins over the #4, #14 and #7 seeds before upending #6-seeded Brit Emily Appleton 6-1/6-1 in the final. Her only lost set came in the 1st Round to unseeded Wiktoriya Kulik, the Polish teen who just days earlier had reached a G1 final in Casablanca. Guerrero, who won a Grade 2 title at the beginning of April, reached her only other G1 final one year ago this month in the Trofeo Juan Carlos Ferrero event where she lost to Swiss Rebeka Masarova after having put up victories over Sofya Zhuk (who'd go on to win junior Wimbledon) and Katharina Hobgarski.

16-year old Day, the #6-ranked girl, reached the first pro singles final of her career in the $25K in Naples, Florida. A run that included upset victories over #5 Gabriela Ce, #2 Michelle Larcher de Brito and #4 CiCi Bellis was ended in the title-deciding match by Russian wild card Valeria "The Pocket Hordette" Solovyeva, who picked up her first singles title since 2010.
DOUBLES: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS/RUS) and Demi Schuurs/Renata Voracova (NED/CZE)
...the all-Hordette duo of Makarova/Vesnina didn't add a title in Rome to their career big-event haul as a team, but a week after reaching the Madrid semis (losing to eventual champs Garcia/Mladenovic) the Russians did one round better with their first final since last year's Wimbledon, losing to Hingis/Mirza in a 3rd set TB after previous victories over the likes of Bertens/Larsson (in a 12-10 TB), Klepac/Srebotnik and Hlavackova/Hradecka.

The Dream Teamers -- Martina Hingis, in particular -- have been the Achilles' heel of Makarova/Vesnina when it comes to major titles. The Russians have won five titles at the U.S. Open, Indian Wells, Roland Garros, Beijing and Moscow, but their numbers were so close to being even more impressive if not for the current world #1's. The pair also lost to Hingis/Mirza last season in finals in Indian Wells, Miami and Wimbledon and to Hingis (w/ Flavia Pennetta) in 2014 in championship matches in Miami and at the U.S. Open.

In the $50K Saint-Gaudens challenger, 22-year old Schuurs and 32-year old Voracova teamed up to win the title in their very first event together. A win in the semifinals over Cepede Royg/Goncalves preceded a 6-1/6-2 victory in the final over Nicole Geuer & FC hero Viktoriya Golubic for the duo, who'd actually faced off as opponents a week ago when Schuurs paired with Andreea Mitu to also win the $100K challenger in Cagnes-sur-Mer. They defeated Voracova & Klaudia Jans-Ignacik 6-0/6-1 in the semifinals. The win is Schuurs' 18th on the ITF circuit (to go w/ two WTA crowns), as the Dutch player has now reached three straight finals after having suffered through a 2-9 strech from August until earlier this month, a freakishly bad run that began soon after she'd also reached three finals (winning two) over a five-event stretch of WTA/ITF events last season. Hopefully, history won't now repeat itself. As for veteran Voracova, this was her 56th career ITF doubles title (she has nine WTA and a WTA 125 crown, as well), but her first since winning a $50K event with Laura Siegemund last June.

Vandaag finale dubbel gewonnen 6-1 6-2, BAM! ???? @ $50.000 Saint Gaudens ??

A photo posted by Demi Schuurs (@demischuurs) on


A year ago, a certain Russian was celebrating in Rome...

Over the past week, she had to settle for simple reminders of what once was while she waits for word on when it can be again.

1. Rome 2nd Rd. - Gavrilova d. Halep
In a match that saw a rain delay after Halep had knotted things by taking the 2nd set, Gavrilova got the best of the Romanian when play resumed. Days later, I still haven't decided whether Halep's post-match comments were an example of good common sense, or a sign that she's far from ready to put up a fight in Paris.

I mean, on the surface, it seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to say. But if Halep suffers another early exit in Paris it'll be very easy to read between the lines that she wasn't in the correct mindset, even after a title run in Madrid, after losing on a red clay surface in Rome that is much closer to what she'll see at Roland Garros.

Looking at the actions of a few other players this week, I'm even more dubious about Halep's words falling on the "good" side of the ledger...
2. Rome 2nd Rd. - Bouchard d. Kerber
Bouchard led 6-1/3-0, but Kerber forced a 3rd set and lost in a tight finish. Rather than shrug it off, on the same day on which Halep lost, Kerber spoke of needing to be ready for Paris.

Kerber has since pulled out of Strasbourg with a shoulder injury, giving her more reason to have downplayed her defeat in Rome. She didn't, but Halep did.
3. Rome 3rd Rd. - Begu d. Azarenka
Meanwhile, Azarenka was coming off an injury that forced her mid-tournament withdrawal in Madrid. Still, she wanted to try to play this week in order to be ready for Roland Garros. She felt pain again, but finished the match.

Of course, no one is ever going to question Azarenka's desire and passion to win, as often and as big as possible. As for Halep... hmmm, well, we'll see.
4. Rome 1st Rd. - Ostapenko d. Mladenovic
Before she was taking jabs at a certain Russian while her back was turned, Mladenovic was doing it with Ostapenko in Week 1 after the Latvian's on-court near-throwdown with Naomi Broady.

The teenager finally had her say in Rome, and ended things with emphasis.

Meanwhile, another -- who'll suddenly be ranked #24 on Monday -- waits her turn while she deals with the unruly ranking Gods. Right?

Give it time.
5. Rome 1st Rd. - Stosur d. Riske
Stosur didn't have the week in Rome that she did in Madrid, but she saved a MP on her way to a comeback win over Riske.
6. Rome 1st Rd. - Puig d. Svitolina
Since Justine Henin can't do everything for Svitolina on the clay, one has to wonder if the Ukrainian's stay in Paris might be a brief one. Although, it should be noted that her only slam QF came at Roland Garros a year ago. But she's 1-3 this clay court season.

7. Rome 1st Rd. - Tsurenko d. Goerges
Goerges served for the match in the 2nd set, and one could make a case that maybe Tsurenko's last-second backpedal might have helped to induce the German's DF on match point in the 3rd. Hmmm.


8. Rome 2nd Rd. - Konta d. Vinci
Konta's latest Top 10 win gives her a career 5-4 mark. But will this be Roberta's final appearance in Rome?

Konta will likely be back next year. But she still did her best to enjoy some time away from the court, and pick up a souvenir.

8. $50K Saint-Gaudens Final - Irina Khromacheva d. Maria Sakkari
The 21-year old Russian wins her eleventh career ITF title, her third in 2016 alone.
9. $25K Gyor Final - Reka-Luca Jani/Ana Vrljic d. Vanda Lukacs/Chantal Skamlova
Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani!

It's career ITF doubles title #23 for the 24-year old Hungarian.

10. $10K Antalya Final - Ayla Aksu d. Sarah Lee
The 19-year old Turk picks up her second straight title, depriving L.A. native and former Michigan Wolverine Lee of her maiden singles title. Lee, 22, grabbed the doubles crown with Ashley Mackey, her second title of '16. Surely, everyone is happy for her. Because, you know, nobody doesn't like Sara(h) Lee.

HM- $10K Pula Final - Olesya Pervushina d. Corinna Dentoni
Pervushina, 16, picks up her second straight ITF title and the third of her career.

The NextNextNext Generation of tennis stars is already getting crowded.

And I know just the person who could (hopefully) not make them all dress the same.

1. Rome Final - Serena Williams d. Keys
In the first all-U.S. final in Rome since 1970, Williams wins her sixteenth consecutive match over a fellow Bannerette (since losing to Venus in Montreal in '14). Meanwhile, Keys adds an entry to the short list for Answer of the Year.

In some ways, it's a peek under the covers of the American psyhe, circa 1984, too. "Madison" (Daryl Hannah) in the movie "Splash" chose her name from a Madison Avenue sign.

I can't (and don't want to) imagine what the names of the 21 or 22-year old Bannerettes in 2038 will tell us about the U.S. in 2016.
2. Rome 1st Rd. - Friedsam d. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-4/7-5
Rome 2nd Rd. - Serena Williams d. Friedsam 6-4/6-3
Friedsam had luck with one sister (of course, who HASN'T gotten the best of AKS in 2016?), but two was just asking for WAAAAY too much.

3. Rome 1st Rd. - Venus Williams d. CoCo Vandeweghe 6-4/6-3
in her first red clay match since last year's Roland Garros (1st Rd./lost to Stephens), Venus gets her first win on the surface since last year in Rome (def. Svitolina).

Rome 2nd Rd. - Babos d. Venus Williams 6-7(5)/7-5/6-4
of course, at this point Venus has little real chance to last deep into the week at a big red clay event, but she'd never allow that to lead her to not try, or even fight for nearly three hours in an ultimately losing effort that proves once again just how much the 35-year really does love to play tennis.
4. Rome 1st Rd. - Klepac/Srebotnik d. Serena Williams/Venus Williams
Playing doubles together for the first time since the 2014 U.S. Open, the Sisters set the stage for a possible reappearance at Wimbledon, as well as having a go at a fourth Olympic Gold Medal run in Rio this summer. They both have singles Golds, too.

5. Rome 3rd Rd. - Serena Williams d. McHale
Serena's one "shaky" outing of the week, where McHale served two in the tie-break with a chance to claim the opening set. She didn't get it, and neither did anyone else the rest of the week, either.
6. Rome QF - Serena Williams d. Kuznetsova
Miami? What happened there? Oh, yeah. Well, it didn't happen again.
7. $10K Bol Final - Gabriela Pantuckova d. Kathinka von Deichmann
A week after losing to her maiden title-winning teenage sister Magdalena in another final in Bol, 21-year old Gabriela picked up career win #6. Von Deichman had defeated Magdalena in the semifinals, preventing back-to-back all-Pantuchova finals in Croatia.
8. $10K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Sara Tomic d. Anna Morgina
The 18-year old Aussie wins her second pro singles title. Tomic & Morgina teamed up the take the doubles crown.

Another Caro coaching change? Well...

Finally, a suitable use for Gael Monfils' skill set!

**MOST WTA FINALS in 2016**
3 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (3-0)
3 - Sloane Stephens, USA (3-0)
3 - Angelique Kerber, GER (2-1)
3 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (1-2)
2 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (1-1)
2 - Genie Bouchard, CAN (0-2)

[w/ titles in '16]
11...Maria Sharapova
10...Anabel Medina-Garrigues
7...Sara Errani
7...Martina Hingis
7...Venus Williams

Brisbane - Victoria Azarenka
Shenzhen - Aga Radwanska
Auckland - Sloane Stephens
Kaohsiung- Venus Williams
Miami - Victoria Azarenka
Rome - Serena Williams

14 yrs - Vinci (32) d. Bencic (18) - St.Petersburg
13 yrs - S.WILLIAMS (34) d. KEYS (21) - Rome
12 yrs - Schiavone (35) d. Rogers (23) - Rio
11 yrs - V.Williams (35) d. Doi (24) - Kaohsiung

18y,8m,3w - Jelena Ostapenko (Doha-L)
18y,11m - Belinda Bencic (St.Petersburg-L)
21y,3m - MADISON KEYS (Rome-L)
21y,5m,1w - Danka Kovinic (Istanbul-L)
21y,5m,3w - Elina Svitolina (Kuala Lumpur-W)

3 - Sloane Stephens, USA (3-0)
2 - Genie Bouchard, CAN (0-2)
1 - Venus Williams, USA (1-0)
1 - Irina Falconi, USA (1-0)
1 - Monica Puig, PUR (0-1)
1 - Alison Riske, USA (0-1)
1 - Shelby Rogers, USA (0-1)

Dominika Cibulkova, SVK [Hard,Red Clay]
Angelique Kerber, GER [Hard,Red Clay]
Sloane Stephens, USA [Hard,Green Clay]

Stuttgart (GERMANY) - Kerber d. Siegemund
Rome (UNITED STATES) - S.Williams d. Keys

35y,8m - Francesca Schiavone, ITA (Rio, d. Rogers) [oldest by one day]
35y,8m - Venus Williams, USA (Kaohsiung, d. Doi)
34y,7m,3w - SERENA WILLIAMS, USA (Rome, d. Keys)
32y,362d - Roberta Vinci, ITA (St.Petersburg, d. Bencic)
30y,6m,3w - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (Sydney, d. Puig)

**2016 #1 SEEDS WON TITLE**
Shenzhen - Aga Radwanska, POL (def. Riske)
Kaohsiung - Venus Williams, USA (def. Doi)
Prague - Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (def. Erakovic)
Rome - Serena Williams, USA (def. Keys)

1442...Martina Navratilova
1309...Chris Evert
902...Steffi Graf
839...Virginia Wade
759...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
753...Lindsay Davenport
739...Conchita Martinez
720...Venus Williams #

7...HINGIS/MIRZA (5-2)
5...Garcia/Mladenovic (3-2)
2...Chan/Chan (2-0)
2...Hozumi/Kato (1-1)
2...Mattek-Sands/Safarova (1-1)
2...Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (2-0)

4 - Hingis/Mirza (3-0, Jan/Feb) #
3 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (2-1, Mar/Apr)
3 - Garcia/Mladenovic (3-0, Apr/May)
3 - HINGIS/MIRZA (1-2, Apr/May)
#-also 5 con. to end 2015

Midland, USA - Naomi Broady/GBR def. Robin Anderson/USA
Anning, CHN - Zhang Kailin/CHN def. Peng Shuai/CHN
Cagnes-Sur-Mer, FRA - Magda Linette/POL def. Carina Witthoeft/GER
Trnava, SLO - Katerina Siniakova/CZE def. Anastasija Sevastova/LAT

With Rome, you get Flavia!

15 Final: Stosur d. Mladenovic
15 Doubles Final: Chuang/Liang d. N.Kichenok/Sai.Zheng
16 Singles Top Seeds: Errani/Stephens

Puig d. #3 Stosur
#8 Babos d. #4 Mladenovic
#8 Babos d. Puig

...just the usual shot in the dark.

15 Final: Knapp d. Vinci
15 Doubles Final: HC.Chan/Medina-Garrigues d. Arruabarrena/Olaru
16 Singles Top Seeds: Vinci/Siegemund

#8 Putintseva d. #6 Doi
#2 Siegemund d. McHale
#2 Siegemund d. #8 Putintseva

...the German needs some hardware to commemorate her clay court season.


And, finally, more Wisdom of Gibbsy...

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

The favorite of Nation of Lost Souls is France. Looking at the seeds as of today, France only has Mladenovic. This actually shouldn't be a shock, as France hasn't had more than 2 seeds at the French since 2009(Bartoli, Mauresmo, Cornet). But the poor form should have people worried. Of the 4 in the Top 100(plus 6 WC in main draw) Mladenovic hasn't won back to back matches since the AO, Cornet since Hobart, which she won. On the other hand, Garcia has actually won back to back 3 times this year, including the quirky run in Monterrey in which 3 beat 3 qualifiers to reach the SF. The last of those wine was against Parmentier, whose season has slipped under the radar. Even with playing 2 ITF events, she, like Garcia has won back to back 3 times in a WTA main draw. Monterrey was one. Also, another similarity between the 2 is that the both played the slumpbuster aka AK Schmiedlova in a tournament which they went back to back.

This is about Seeds, and Schmiedlova fell out, but needs to be mentioned because of the weirdness of her year. She has only won 1 match, and it was against someone now in the Top 10-Bacsinszky. Not only that, it is her only 3 set match! But explain this, She wins 13 games against Timea, 9 vs Brengle, 7 vs Muguruza and 6 vs Kasatkina. Yet 1 vs Bertens, 1 vs Puig, 2 vs Parmentier, then 3 in a rematch vs Puig.

Mon May 16, 10:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

The "Mystery of Schmiedlova" is quite the perplexing series this season... ;)

Mon May 16, 11:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Qualy draw is out. Chirico,Buyukakcay, Cirstea and Tig Top 4 seeds. They have to win out, or at least reach the final round to be LL.

However, #10 Davis & #6 Siniakova are next in if somebody pulls out before tomorrow. So regarding the question marks-here are the last time they played, and last time they won back to back matches.

Bencic- Charleston- St. Petersburg
Wozniacki-Miami- Monterrey
Allertova-Miami- Indian Wells
Knapp- Rome-n/a but started season at Miami
Crawford- Charleston- ITF Osprey

Mon May 16, 01:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

=RG MD Wild Cards=
Tessah Andrianjafitrimo/FRA (17, slam debut)
Oceane Dodin/FRA (19, 3 con.slam WC/2 con.RG WC)
Myrtille Georges/FRA (25, slam debut)
Amandine Hesse/FRA (23, 2 con.RG WC)
Alize Lim/FRA (25, 3 con.RG WC)
Virginie Razzano/FRA (33, 2 con.RG WC)
Arina Rodionova/AUS (26, RG debut)
Taylor Townsend/USA (20, USTA PO winner; RG 3rd Rd. in '14)

...interestingly, while I've got the spelling of Andrianjafitrimo's name down cold, I have to think for a few seconds for "Myrtille Georges." For what it's worth. ;)

Mon May 16, 03:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

It is official-Davis in, Bencic out, Niculescu gets a seed.

Tue May 17, 10:10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

And Wozniacki out, but Siniakova already played and won 1st rd qualy match. Ostapenko now 32nd seed.

Tue May 17, 01:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

The Qualy draw has different seedings than the French Open entry draw?

I'm not saying this the right way... What I mean is by xx/xx/xx date, Davis was seeded higher than Chirico, Buyukakcay, Cirstea and Tig...which is why she was next in? But when they made the Qualie draw, they used rankings from a different date? That seems unfair to other ppl in teh qualy draw...

LIke in the SIniakova case...she took out a player that could still be in the qualy draw.

Or am I misunderstanding the process?

Wed May 18, 12:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Not sure exactly how they seed the Q's and such, but I figure the original Q-draw was based either on last week's rankings or the week before. The MD seeds are based on Monday's rankings, so I'm guessing that's what they'll use for insertions into the MD now (via LL or otherwise).

Wed May 18, 11:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Yes, the qualies go by the current rankings, so Chirico had a good week at the right time and got #1 seed. In terms of the MD, they go by 6 weeks ago, while the Q goes by 4. So even though Davis' ranking slipped, she was locked in.

The LL is a lottery because of the Gimelstob Rule-so instead of the highest ranked player in qualies being able to tank and automatically get a spot, they now take the 4 highest ranked losers for the final round of qualies and draw for the spot, or spots.

Thu May 19, 09:40:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Qualies are over-LL will either be Kozlova, Mitu, Kucova, or Soler-Espinosa.

Fri May 20, 10:39:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

It ended up being SSE.

Fri May 20, 05:08:00 PM EDT  

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