Monday, August 15, 2016

Wk.32- Pica, For the People

Well, now that was something, wasn't it?

They call it #PicaPower. And, in Rio, it turned out to be an all-consuming (well, all-GOLD consuming, at least) force.

Whoosh! Go figure.

WS: Monica Puig/PUR def. Angelique Kerber/GER 6-4/4-6/6-1
Bronze: Petra Kvitova/CZE def. Madison Keys/USA 7-5/2-6/6-2
WD: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS) d. Timea Bacsinszky/Martina Hingis (SUI) 6-4/6-4
Bronze: Lucie Safarova/Barbora Strycova (CZE) d. Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka (CZE) 7-5/6-1
MX: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Jack Sock (USA) d. Venus Williams/Rajeev Ram (USA) 6-7(3)/6-1 [10-7]
Bronze: Lucie Hradecka/Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Sania Mirza/Rohan Bopanna (IND) 6-1/7-5

...just call her The Legend. I mean, that's what she is. In Puerto Rico, for sure, for the rest of her life and for generations thereafter. But also in Olympic lore. For, really, who could have ever predicted that Puig would emerge from Rio with a Gold medal hanging from her neck? Even for those who'd previously acknowledged her very under-the-radar breakout season, it wasn't even in the "remotely possible" category of potential storylines at this point a week ago.

But Puig changed all that. And while she seemed amazed by her accomplishments immediately following each of her big victories in Brazil, she never once betrayed any notion that what was taking place on court -- while it was taking place on court -- was anything other than a predictable outcome.

And that speaks volumes about why Puig is now the most unlikely tennis Gold medalist ever (even more surprising than Nicolas Massu was back in 2004).

Puig's Bronze medal run at the Pan-American Games was the highlight of what was a disappointing 2015 season, her follow up to a '14 campaign in which she won her maiden title and rose as high as #41 in the rankings. She finished last season at #92. So, the Puerto Rican's rise to #34 heading into Rio (she was at a career-best #33 in July), on the back of her second career final (in Week 1), three other semifinals and a pair of 3rd Round slam results in Melbourne and Paris, had already made '16 a memorable one for the 22-year old.

But Puig had a BIG rabbit left to pull out of her hat.

In Rio, all Puig did was ride her fiery, aggressive game to five straight wins that got progressively more astounding -- largely because one had to figure her dream week would eventually run out of gas -- as the week went on. I mean, don't they always? Down went Polona Hercog and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets. "All right, fine, that's nice," was the thought. But then Puig took out #4-ranked RG champ Garbine Muguruza -- her first career Top 5 win -- 6-1/6-1. Bam (but, still, one figured that'd be her Rio highlight). Next up, Laura Siegemund was held to the same two measly games in an all-unseeded QF, then two-time slam winner Petra Kvitova went down in three sets. Puig, amazingly, had reached the Olympic final, as the lowest-ranked woman to ever play for singles Gold. But it HAD to end there, right? I mean, such things just don't happen.

But in Rio they did.

Against #2-ranked AO champ Angelique Kerber, Puig's calm in the face of monumental history being on her racket carried the day. She ended Kerber's spotless Rio set record in the 1st set, then pulled away in the 3rd, taking a 5-0 lead before Kerber threatened to make things interesting in the final moments. Puig's medal makes her the first athlete representing Puerto Rico to win Olympic Gold, and the first to ever claim a tennis medal (Puerto Rican Gigi Fernandez -- a Hall of Famer -- won two WD Golds in the 1990's while representing the U.S., something which many from the nation apparently have never forgiven her for... though it was the only way she was ever going to win a medal, without another viable Puerto Rican around to partner her at the time).

As far as the actual tennis is concerned, though, we may have not only witnessed the Performance of the Year, but also one for the tennis ages. Two Top 5 wins, victories over three players who have won a combined four slams, including two who are reigning 2016 major champions, is quite the feat for a player who came into the Olympics with just a single tour title (won two years ago) to her credit.

Throughout 2016, it was easy to chart how many fans Puig was picking up with every gutsy performance and breakout result. But this is an entirely different animal of another stripe. Now she's a legend, for a Puerto Rican homeland that's been experience great economic troubles, but also for every player out there who can dare to dream, never question it, and even have a little fun with the notion along the way.

Remember, there's an aptly-named (BEFORE the trip to Rio, remember), four-legged member of the Puig household who also has a small, dog-eared stake in the #PicaPower legend...

Yup, stuff just got r-e-a-l.
RISERS: Angelique Kerber/GER, Madison Keys/USA and Elina Svitolina/UKR
...seriously, has Kerber had a SEASON or what? After being a dominant force on the "regular" tour last season, but coming up short in the slams and other "major" competitions, the German has put together a '16 campaign in which she's won the Australian Open, reached the Wimbledon final and, now, reached the Olympic Gold Medal Match, as well. And she might not finished yet, either.

Kerber hadn't dropped a set en route to the Rio final, taking out the likes of Mariana Duque, Genie Bouchard, Sam Stosur, Johanna Konta and Madison Keys. In the Gold Match vs. Monica Puig, the two split the first two sets, even while the German seemed to be hampered by possibly a lower back injury which was first hinted at mid-way through the 1st. Still, it was Puig's aggression and calm play in the face of what might have been an overwhelming moment down the stretch for, well, almost ANYONE else that ruled the day. In the final game of the match, Kerber threatened to extend Puig's wait, which may have ultimately played havoc with history. But the Puerto Rican saved six BP in the final game, finally holding serve on her fourth MP.

But, hey, this is the Olympics. While losing is immediately disappointing, ultimately, Silver shines, too.

Now, Kerber heads to Cincinnati, where she's expected to play (which could be "interesting," what with a possible Olympic "hangover" and potentially lingering back issue at hand), as she very well could snatch the #1 ranking away from Serena by this time next week. Williams will need to reach the QF to assure the top spot heading into the U.S. Open and keep her weeks-at-#1 streak alive. But if she doesn't, and Kerber wins the title, the German's epic season suddenly becomes, well, more "epic-er." Considering the intangibles in play, it probably won't happen... but after these Olympics, who's to really say what's possible and what isn't?

Meanwhile, it was an Olympic week of close-but-no-cigar, umm, medal for both Keys and Svitolina.

Keys put in good work, albeit with extra long hours, early on with wins over Danka Kovinic, Kristina Mladenovic (in 3), Carla Suarez-Navarro (in 3) and Daria Kasatkina to become the eighth different U.S. woman to reach the singles medal round since 1988. But, in her fourth semifinal of the season, Keys failed to convert any of her ten BP chances and fell to Kerber in straight sets. In the Bronze match, Keys couldn't secure two set points in the 1st vs. Petra Kvitova, either. It proved to be a key moment, as the 21-year old won the 2nd, only to see her own errors dig a multi-break hole for herself in the 3rd that was too deep from which to escape. Still, she made Kvitova work to win the Bronze, making her take four MP opportunities before grabbing the final spot on the medal stand.

While Keys left Rio with an aftertaste of disappointment and without a medal, once again, her performance on a big stage should provide a stronger foundation on which to build the next four years of her career. Come Tokyo, maybe Serena Williams' assertion that Keys will one day be ranked #1 will have come to pass, and she'l head into the next Olympics as one of the favorites to come away with what eluded her this time around.

One of the key components of Justine Henin's take on the current crop of players challenging Serena is that too many of them enter into their matches with the world #1 without the confidence that they CAN indeed defeat her. Surely, Henin's coaching stint with Svitolina, which included enough early moments of success for the Ukrainian to see fit to never doubt the Hall of Fame Belgian's wisdom, has included a touch of that mixed in with the usual game style conversations and strategic tips. As it turned out, Rio provided a nice proving ground for all of the above. Svitolina's wins over Andrea Petkovic and Heather Watson set up a 3rd Round match with, naturally, Williams herself. Serena was "off," and possibly nursing the same (or worsening) shoulder injury that precipitated her Montreal withdrawal. But Svitolina, 0-4 vs. Williams and coming off winning just two games against her at Roland Garros, was on her game early in the match, and never cracked under the pressure of the moment. After being up a set and a break at 3-1, the score tightened to 3-3, but Serena's DF-filled (5) game #7 ultimately tipped the proceedings all the way in Svitolina's favor. After going up a break, she held at love for 5-3 en route to a 4 & 3 victory. Unfortunately, the thrill was short-lived, as Svitolina fell in straight sets one round later to Petra Kvitova. But the memory of her win over Williams will linger longer, and is the proper stepping stone to give her the boost to go from being a Top 20 player to possibly pushing for a Top 10 spot by this time next year.
SURPRISES: Laura Siegemund/GER and the WTT's San Diego Aviators and Orange County Breakers usual, Siegemund operated under the Olympic radar in Rio. While Angelique Kerber was the only German to medal, Siegemund's breakthrough year added yet another successful chapter as she reached the QF with wins over Tsvetana Pironkova, Zhang Shuai and the Venus-conquering Kirsten Flipkens before falling in the unseeded Final Eight match-up with Monica Puig, one victory short of the medal round. Still, her 2016 season has still included Siegemund's first tour final and maiden title, as well as a career-high ranking that leaves her behind only Kerber in Germany.

Meanwhile, while the heart and soul of the Washington Kastles (Hingis, Paes, Venus and, for at least one or two days each summer, Serena) was off playing in Rio, the team's five-year World Team Tennis reign came to an end under a different regular season format than in previous seasons. Rather than fourteen matches, each team played twelve. Rather than four teams reaching the postseason semifinals from two conferences, only the top two WTT teams advanced to the final, to be held in two weeks. The teams that advanced? The San Diego Aviators (featuring Shelby Rogers, Ryan Harrison and Raven Klaasen) and the Orange County Breakers (they played as the Austin Aces last year, reaching the league final, and were led this year by Nicole Gibbs, Alla Kudryavtseva and Dennis Novikov). Both squads finished 8-4, while Washington finished third in the league standings at 7-5.
VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA, Timea Bacsinszky/Martina Hingis (SUI) and Lucie Hradecka/CZE the start of the week, things looked bleak for Venus. Playing with a viral illness, the player who arguably loves the Olympics more than any other (and that's saying something, considering the reactions of most of the tennis medals winners at these games), was dumped out of the 1st Round of singles on Day 1, then she and Serena lost their first Olympic doubles match ever on Day 2. After at first being noncommittal about playing Mixed Doubles, thinking she'd be busy in the other two draws, Venus teamed up with Rajeev Ram (himself a late addition to the team) and very nearly wrote what could have been a storybook ending (but don't be sure, for Tokyo could well see her yet in '20) to the greatest-ever Olympic tennis career. After saving two MP in the 1st Round vs. Bertens/Rojer, the U.S. duo went all the way to the Gold Medal Match, where they won the 1st set and held a 6-3 lead in the 3rd set TB vs. Mattek-Sands/Sock. A win would have given Venus a record fifth tennis Gold, and made her the only player to win Gold in singles, doubles and mixed. But it wasn't meant to be. Still, Venus is still tied with Serena with the most tennis Golds (4), and her Silver medal matches 1920's star Kitty McKane's record of five career Olympic tennis medals. As usual, with Venus, we really didn't have reason to worry.

And while there may be some argument about whether or not Venus loves her Olympic participation MORE than any other player on tour, one should probably take a look at her extended reaction to winning the semifinal contest over Mirza/Bopanna, which simply assured her of a fifth medal and another shot to play for Gold. It's priceless, really.

As was the case with Venus, Rio didn't look good for either of the Swiss, either. Hingis lost her expected doubles partner when Belinda Bencic's wrist injury knocked her out of action, then Roger Federer's Olympic absence took away that expected dream pairing for the Original Swiss Miss, as well. Stan Wawrinka begged off, too, then skipped the games entirely. Hingis ended up not playing MX at all, then announced mid-week that her and Sania Mirza's 17-month partnership (93-16 overall, 14-3 in finals, w/ three slam wins) was over.

Bacsinszky, meanwhile, skipped the opening ceremonies because she had a Day 1 match last Saturday, which she then promptly lost to Zheng Saisai after having held MP. So, while they weren't exactly the Olympic savior either was expecting, both Hingis and Bacsinszky played that role for each over to the hilt over the course of play in Rio. The pair lost just one set en route to the semis, taking out Gavrilova/Stosur, Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe (CoCo's big serve must have impressed Martina -- they're now set to team up heading into the Open) and the Chan sisters. In the SF, the Swiss faced down MP -- literally, as a Hingis shot hit Andrea Hlavackova in the face to save the match -- and went on to win, assuring Hingis of her first Olympic medal, one of the few things to elude her in her Hall of Fame career. Like Venus, the storybook ending didn't include Gold, as the Swiss were outplayed by the more experienced-and-in-sync Russian duo of Makarova & Vesnina, but that's one thing that great about the Olympics -- one needn't WIN the final match to come away a "winner."

After losing the doubles final in London four years ago, Hradecka once again found herself up against the notion of just missing out on something bigger at a second straight Olympic games. She and Hlavackova held MP in the WD semis vs. Hingis/Bacsinszky, lost, and then fell in straight sets in the Bronze match to Safarova/Strycova despite serving for the 1st set vs. their countrywomen. Hradecka also reached the Mixed semis (after finishing up a QF match after 1 a.m. on the same night as the WD semi loss), but lost with Radek Stepanek to eventual Gold winners Mattek-Sands/Sock. But the Czech duo DID manage to claim Bronze at the eleventh hour, taking out Mirza/Bopanna in straights (denying Sania her first Olympic medal), as Hradecka became the fourth different Maiden to take home hardware from these games.
COMEBACKS: Petra Kvitova/CZE, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK and Laura Robson/GBR
...suddenly, when no one could rightly have been REALLY expecting it, Good Kvitova came out to greet the neighbors in Rio. Ranked outside the Top 10 and not on the tip of anyone's tough as a potential Olympic medalist after a disappointing first seven months of '16 that saw her reach just one semifinal, the Czech donned her nation's colors and suddenly found her game. Down went Timea Babos, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova (in a tough one in which Bad Petra was successfully held at bay) and Elina Svitolina (2 games lost!), Kvitova reached the medal round. After being outplayed by eventual Gold medalist Monica Puig, she rebounded to take the Bronze match from Madison Keys and lead the way for the Maidens' three-medal haul in Rio (one each in WS, WD and MX). Kvitova joins Jana Novotna ('96 Bronze) as the only Czechs to pick up Olympic medals in women's singles. Of course, it should be noted that with the east coast summer humidity hitting the U.S. heavy and hard at the moment, the rest of the North American hard court season might not be a "walk in Olympic park" for Petra. But, right now, that's the last thing on her mind.

Early on in Rio, Schmiedlova showed still more signs that she may finally be finding her way through the dastardly fog of a 2016 campaign that has seen her ranking fall from #26 to #59 (not nearly as bad as one might expect, though, truthfully -- she even inches up the #57 this week). She actually put up a very nice win in singles, taking out Roberta Vinci, and even claimed the opening set vs. Ekaterina Makarova in the 2nd Round before falling in three.

Meanwhile, Robson's tough journey through the tennis wilderness found a path back to civilization this past week. Results have been slow to come in the (still only) 22-year old Brit's comeback from 2014 wrist surgery, but this summer has produced tangible evidence of good health AND improvement. A tight three-set loss to countrywoman Tara Moore in the Sacramento $50K last month was viewed from here as either a sign that Moore had officially "surpassed" Robson on the Crumpet Tennis Pyramid, or a hint that maybe Robson was getting "close" to something good. Apparently, it was the latter. Another three-set loss vs. Chanel Simmonds soon followed in a $25K on Forth Worth, but then last week happened. In a $25K challenger in Landisville, Pennsylvania, #285-ranked Robson swept both the singles and doubles titles. She came back from a set down to defeat Ksenia Lyskina in the 1st Round, survived a rematch with Moore (dropping the 1st set, but seeing Moore retire in the 2nd due to heat illness), then didn't lose another set the rest of the tournament. Down went An-Sophie Mestach, Rebecca Sramkova and Julia Elbaba. The latter came in a double-bagel final, a perfect complement to a no-sets-loss doubles title run with 18-year old Brit Freya Christie. Both were Robson's first titles since wrist surgery. Actually, her last pro singles title came in 2008 (in a $10K challenger four months after she was crowned the Wimbledon girls champ), but this was her first appearance in a singles final of any sort since September 2012, the year before the Brit reached her career-high of #27 prior to her wrist injury in her first match of the 2014 season. After missing a year and a half, Robson returned to action during the summer of '15.

FRESH FACE: Daria Kasatkina/RUS
...the Russian teen may not have had the sort of true "breakout" week in Rio that SOME were hoping for, but Kasatkina still managed to make her debut on another major stage an impressive one. As she's done in her four slam debuts (reaching the 3rd Round at each) and Fed Cup (recording the only win in Russia's disastrous 1st Round tie vs. NED in February), Kasatkina simply found a way to push herself forward in the draw. After staging a 1st Round comeback in Rio vs. Ons Jabeur (the Tunisian led 6-3/3-1 and served for the match), she followed up with wins over Zheng Saisai and Sara Errani before being dominated by Madison Keys in the QF. Still, Kasatkina was the last Hordette standing in singles, the only teen to go so far, and added a QF in doubles with Svetana Kuznetsova, as well. Come 2020, she might just be the best Russian hope for a medal in Tokyo.

And, of course, you just knew the paths of the Dashas HAD to cross while in Rio, right?

???? ???? = ?

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

DOWN: Serena Williams/USA and Garbine Muguruza/ESP
...the wonderful craziness that occurred in the women's Olympic singles draw couldn't have taken place without the "help" of Serena and Garbi, the winners of the last two slam titles.

After seeming to be on course in the early rounds for at least a legitimate run toward becoming the first repeat Olympic singles champion, Williams saw it all come tumbling down in Rio. After Venus fell in singles on Day 1, the Sisters lost their first Olympic WD match (they're now 15-1) on Day 2 of play. Two days later, Serena, looked way out of sorts and likely played with a shoulder injury (we'll see what impact this will have on her upcoming week in Cincinnai, as well as the return to the scene of her failed Grand Slam attempt in NYC) that at one point saw her have FIVE double-faults in a singles game. She fell to Elina Svitolina in the 3rd Round. With yet another big event loss to still another player, has the Williams aura and/or confidence taken still another blow since her loss to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semis last year? Or was this just a case of injury and an in-form Svitolina producing one of "those results" we saw so much of in Rio? We shall see. She'll be in Cincinnati this week, attempting to defend her '15 title as a wild card entry, as well as hold onto her #1 ranking (she'll need to at least reach the QF to assure that she'll hold off Angelique Kerber, with Steffi Graf's nearly-matched record of 186 straight weeks at #1 hanging in the balance).

Meanwhile, with Serena out, the door seemed wide open for Muguruza to advance through the top half of the draw and have a shot at Spain's first-ever Gold in women's singles. She dropped a total of six games through the first two rounds... and then WON just two vs. Monica Puig in the 3rd. The Roland Garros champion has gone 3-3 since winning in Paris, and the wait is now officially on to see if we won't see THAT Garbi again until fall, just as happened last year after she reached the Wimbledon final. Muguruza went 2-4 last summer in her SW19 runner-up aftermath before ending her '15 season on a 12-2 run that included a title, two finals and a starring role in the WTA Finals.
ITF PLAYER: Richel Hogenkamp/NED
...the 24-year old Dutch, best known for her epic Fed Cup win over Svetlana Kuznetova (she took a 10-8 3rd set in 4:00, the longest ever FC match) in February, picked up her ninth career challenger title, her first since 2014, in the $25K in Koksijde, Belgium. Hogenkamp picked up a QF win over Arantxa Rus and reachd the final by allowing just nine games through four matches. She defeated Pastry Oceane Dodin in three sets to claim the crown.

JUNIOR STARS: Bianca Andreescu/CAN and Ukraine ITF World Junior 14s Team
...girls #8 Andreescu has been experiencing a few firsts on the tennis courts this summer. Just a few weeks ago, the 16-year old notched her first career win at a WTA event in Montreal qualifying. This past week, the Canadian swept the titles at the $25K challenger in Gatineau, Quebec. As a singles wild card, she notched a win over Lauren Albanese and twice came back from a set down to reach her first career final, where she defeated Ellie Harbauer in straights, converting all eight of her BP opportunities on the day. In singles, she teamed with best friend Charlotte Robillard-Millette to win the first pro doubles crown for either teen. The duo knocked off the #2 and #4 seeds, the latter coming in the final, where they won a 10-6 3rd set TB to defeat Mana Ayukama & Samantha Murray, coming back from a set down to pull off the feat.

A week ago, the 14s junior squad from Ukraine took home the nation's first title in a decade at the ITF World Junior championships.

Playing in the competition in Prostejov, Czech Republic, the Ukrainian girls faced off in the final against the junior Bannerettes of the U.S., a meeting of the runners-up from the past two years (UKR '14, USA '15). After Alexa Noel put the U.S. up 1-0 with a three-set win over Daria Snigur, Marta Kostyuk (the Eddie Herr 14s champ from last year -- a year after current Wimbledon junior champ Anastasia Potapova won the same crown -- and the highest-ranked player in the event, at #115) defeated Whitney Osuigwe 6-3/6-0 to send things to the deciding doubles match. There, Kostyuk teamed with Dasha Lopatetska to defeat Noel/Osuigwe in a 10-6 3rd set TB to claim the title.


Russia, the two-time reigning ITF World Junior 14s champions, defeated the Czechs to claim third place in the event.

DOUBLES: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS), Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA and Lucie Safarova/Barbora Strycova (CZE)
...don't look now, but, after not finally rejoining forces until the spring following injuries and scheduling questions that kept them apart for over eight months, Makarova/Vesnina might just be the having THE best season of any doubles duo in 2016. Hingis/Mirza burned bright at the start of the season, only to burn out and (this past week) come apart entirely (though they still plan to play together at the WTA Finals), while the Garcia/Mladenovic combo has been sterling largely only in Fed Cup play and on clay, it's been the Russians who have been able to pull it together over the long haul. Always a big event pair, Makarova & Vesnina added Olympic Gold (a first for a Russian pair) in Rio to their career haul, doing so without dropping a set. Four years after losing to the Williams Sisters in the London QF, Wins over the likes of Muguruza/CSN, Safarova/Strycova and Bacsinszky/Hingis got them title #8 as a duo, their second straight after also winning in Montreal. For the season, they're a combined 24-4, with four finals (Rome, RG before the most recent two), nine straight wins and a 13-1 mark since losing in the final in Paris. Echoing the words of countrywoman (and '08 singles Gold medalist) Elena Dementieva, the three-time slam WD/MX winner and '16 Wimbledon singles semifinalist Vesnina declared this win the greatest accomplishment of her tennis career.

On the final day of tennis competition in Brazil, Venus Williams was denied her record fifth career Olympic tennis Gold... but at least Mattek-Sands and her star-spangled socks were the beneficiary of the denial of history, so at least something good came of it. BMS and Jack Sock lost just one set -- the opening set of the final vs. Venus & Rajeev Ram -- en route to the top spot on the medal stand, claiming just the second Mixed Doubles Gold since 1924 (Vika Azarenka & Max Mirnyi won in '12 in the competitions return to the Olympics in London after an 88-year absence). After losing the 1st set via a TB, BMS/Sock took the 2nd 6-1 and won an alternating-momentum 10-7 TB (3-0 for Mattek-Sands/Sock, then six straight for Venus/Ram, then six straight the other way) to claim Gold.

On Saturday, Safarova/Strycova, who'd turned over the doubles draw with their Day 2 win over Venus & Serena in the 1st Round, closed out their time in Rio by winning the, see-this-is-why-we-dominate-Fed-Cup, four-Maiden-strong doubles Bronze Medal Match over 2012 Silver medalists Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka, who'd been the hard-luck losers to Bacsinszky/Hingis (particularly Hlavackova, whose orbital bone was broken by a Hingis shot to the face on the Czech duo's MP) in the semifinals.


Hey, there's another tennis player in my nature photo...

She's got moves like Cicak...

[Rio Day 3+]

1. Rio Olympics Gold Medal Match - Puig d. Kerber
Rather than feel the pressure, Puig got stronger as the match progressed. After a slow start in the 2nd, she saved BP to avoid falling down a double-break at 3-0, then calmed her game and soon afterward broke the German to even things at 4-4. Kerber broke back for 5-4 and served out the set, but the less experienced big match player seemed the more stable and consistent force in the 3rd. Kerber, while her defense remained nothing short of stellar, had a few brain lapses in key moments, including breaking herself with a bad drop shot for 4-0 after having been up 40/15. Love/40 up on Puig's serve in game #7, the German missed on an easy overhead to even the game at deuce, allowing Puig's fight to ultimately stave off six BP before winning on MP #4 when Kerber pushed a forehand wide.

2. Rio Olympics 2nd Rd. - Keys d. Mladenovic
At least Kiki had a better time of things in singles than she did in doubles (losing in the 1st Round in both WD and MX, with the former coming equipped with a wardrobe snafu and rant against the French tennis federation). But, still, this one goes down as something of a lost opportunity. Mladenovic served for the 1st, only to see Keys steal it in the closing games. She served for the 2nd set, too, but ultimately went to a TB and had to come back from 4-1 down, winning the last six points to force a 3rd. The second-longest Olympic women's match at 3:14 ended with Mladenovic failing to secure the 3rd set TB after leading 5-3.
3. Rio Olympics 3rd Rd. - Puig d. Muguruza
And, here, Puig's victory over Muguruza at once seemed monumental in its brief moment in time. But things would only get better for Puig.

Rio Olympics SF - Puig d. Kvitova
Kvitova opened the match the winning twelve of the first fifteen points and taking a 3-0 lead, but the unbowed Puig managed to take the set in what turned to be a very familiar scenario for a three-set Kvitova loss.

4. Rio Olympics Bronze Medal Match - Kvitova d. Keys 7-5/2-6/6-2
Rio Olympics WD Bronze Medal Match - Safarova/Strycova d. Hlavackova/Hradecka 7-5/6-1
Rio Olympics MX Bronze Medal Match - Hradecka/Stepanek d. Mirza/Bopanna 6-1/7-5
needless to say, the Czechs ruled the Bronze medal matches in Rio. And now Lucie S. can compare medals with Bethanie... the countdown to the inevitable Instagram post begins now.
5. Rio Olympics SF - Kerber d. Keys
Hopefully, Keys will hold onto her Rio experience and overall success (including, in a way, her five saved MP vs. Kerber), rather than her 0-for-10 BP stat in this match and failed SP's in the 1st vs. Kvitova in the Bronze Match.

6. Rio Olympics 3rd Rd. - Konta d. Kuznetsova
Kuznetsova's quest to finally earn an Olympic medal soon ended with a QF loss in WD, but she "left her mark" in this one vs. the Brit in a defeat in which she won the 1st set, and led in both the 2nd and 3rd before losing both. Sveta was up a break at 3-2 in the final set, but then lost three straight games as Konta served for the match at 5-3, She failed to secure the hold, but came back from love/40 down in game #11 to hold for 6-5, winning five straight points, the final two with aces. In game #12, Kuznetsova denied two MP at 6-5 and held a GP to force a deciding TB, only to see Konta win on MP #3. Oh, Sveta.
7. Rio Olympics WD SF - Bacsinszky/Hingis d. Hlavackova/Hradecka
The medal rounds are serious business. See? No, really... can you still see, Andrea?

8. Rio Olympics WD QF - Safarova/Strycova d. Errani/Vinci
Is this the last time we'll see the Italians side-by-side until they are (maybe) enshrined in Newport based on their Career Doubles Slam and overall Fed Cup history?
9. Rio Olympics 2nd Rd. - Kerber d. Bouchard
Following her pattern, Bouchard followed up her 1st Round win over Stephens by taking a 4-1 1st set advantage vs. Kerber, but then losing eleven of the final thirteen games.
10. Rio Olympics MX 1st Rd. - Pereira/Melo d. #1 Garcia/Mahut 7-6(4)/7-6(1)
Rio Olympics MX 1st Rd. - Vinci/Fognini d. #2 Mladenovic/Herbert 6-4/3-6 [10-8]
well, the French mixed duos at least SEEMED to be title contenders when it all started.

11. $25K Koksijde Final - Demi Schuurs/Steffi Distelmans d. Basak Eraydin/Ilona Kremen
Schuurs picks up her fourth '16 title with a third different partner. The other wins came in $100K, $75K and $50K challengers.
12. $10K Moscow Final - Amina Anshba/Angelina Gabueva d. Ani Amiraghyan/Daria Lodikova
16-year old Russian junior (#6) Anshba reaches her third straight ITF final with fellow Hordette Gabueva, winning her second doubles title during the stretch. She also won her maiden singles crown in a $10K last month, in between junior title runs in which she posted wins over girls #3 (RG jr. champ) Rebeka Masarova (twice) and #2 Olesya Pervushina

Rodionova dreams...

And dreamy dance moves by Venus...

[Rio Day 3+]

1. Olympics 3rd Rd. - Svitolina d. SERENA WILLIAMS
Svitolina played within herself and didn't crack under the pressure of who her opponent was (and still is). But, of course, all anyone will remember here is how Williams, after breaking to get back on serve at 3-3 in the 2nd set, double-faulted and fell behind love/30 in game #7. In the most un-Serena-like game imaginable, Williams would hit an ace to go up 40/30, then a DF, then an ace, than another DF. Another DF put her BP down, and another (her fifth in the game) gave the Ukrainian back the break advantage. Importantly, though, Svitolina then held at love, while Williams followed up by going down love/40 with still another DF. Svitolina won on her third MP.
2. Olympic MX 1st Rd. - VENUS WILLIAMS/Ram d. Bertens/Rojer
...6-7(4)/7-6(3) [10-8].
Venus' road to Rio redemption began in the 1st Round of Mixed Doubles, when she and Ram saved two MP in the 2nd set, then jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the 3rd set TB, holding on to prevent Williams from going winless at these Olympics.
3. Olympic MX Gold Medal Match - Mattek-Sands/Sock d. VENUS WILLIAMS/Ram
...6-7(3)/6-1 [10-7].
It didn't end the way she might have hoped, but if this IS Venus' Olympic swan song, then it turned out a great better than it LOOKED like it was going to, didn't it? And that's something to feel good about.

4. Olympics 2nd Rd. - SERENA WILLIAMS d. Cornet
Cornet came in having won three straight vs. Serena (all back in 2014), and Williams had to save two SP vs. the Pastry at 4-5 in the 1st set this time around. Serving up 6-5, Serena was broken at love and double-faulted on BP (foreshadowing the Svitolina loss). Williams took the 1st set in 1:17. But, really, the "highlight" of this one may have been Mary Carillo mentioning Cornet and "the vapors" in the same sentence during NBC's coverage on Bravo.

5. Olympics 2nd Rd. - Makarova d. ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA
I'm sure it means SOMETHING thak AKS' best 2016 results have come in Fed Cup and Olympic play, but I'm not really sure what it is.

Me and my buddy Teddy just finished yoga #goodmorning #namaste

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Good morning! Watermelon fever ???? #jetlag

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Bonding time with little fella ?????? #wearebestfriendsforever?

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Good job neighbours! ?? @waterpoloaus #oneteam ????

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Another great experience at the Olympics! #Rio2016 #gymnastics

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Unreal atmosphere! Enjoyed supporting @dolphinsaus tonight! Good luck to @travismahoney in 200 IM in a few days!

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Mirror mirror, this time from the #NBA offices in #NYC

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

1988 Steffi Graf, West Germany
1992 Jennifer Capriati, USA
1996 Lindsay Davenport, USA
2000 Venus Williams, USA
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne, Belgium
2008 Elena Dementieva, Russia
2012 Serena Williams, USA
2016 Monica Puig, Puerto Rico
1988 Gabriela Sabatini, Argentina
1992 Steffi Graf, Germany
1996 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain
2000 Elena Dementieva, Russia
2004 Amelie Mauresmo, France
2008 Dinara Safina, Russia
2012 Maria Sharapova, Russia
2016 Angelique Kerber, Germany
1988 Manuela Maleeva, Bulgaria & Zina Garrison, USA
1992 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain & Mary Joe Fernandez, USA
1996 Jana Novotna, Czech Republic
2000 Monica Seles, USA
2004 Alicia Molik, Australia
2008 Vera Zvonareva, Russia
2012 Victoria Azarenka, Belarus
2016 Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic
[4th place]
1996 Mary Joe Fernandez, USA
2000 Jelena Dokic, Australia
2004 Anastasia Myskina, Russia
2008 Li Na, China
2012 Maria Kirilenko, Russia
2016 Madison Keys, USA

1988 Pam Shriver / Zina Garrison, USA
1992 Mary Joe Fernandez / Gigi Fernandez, USA
1996 Mary Joe Fernandez / Gigi Fernandez, USA
2000 Serena Williams / Venus Williams, USA
2004 Li Ting / Sun Tiantian, China
2008 Serena Williams / Venus Williams, USA
2012 Serena Williams / Venus Williams, USA
2016 Ekaterina Makarova / Elena Vesnina, Russia
1988 Jana Novotna / Helena Sukova, Czechoslovakia
1992 Conchita Martinez / Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Spain
1996 Jana Novotna / Helena Sukova, Czech Republic
2000 Kristie Boogert / Miriam Oremans, The Netherlands
2004 Conchita Martinez / Virginia Ruano Pascual, Spain
2008 Anabel Medina-Garrigues / Virginia Ruano Pascual, Spain
2012 Andrea Hlavackova / Lucie Hradecka, Czech Republic
2016 Timea Bacsinszky / Martina Hingis, Switzerland
1988 (co) Steffi Graf / Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, West Germany
1988 (co) Liz Smylie / Wendy Turnbull, Australia
1992 (co) Natalia Zvereva / Leila Meskhi, Unified Team
1992 (co) Rachel McQuillan / Nicole Provis, Australia
1996 Conchita Martinez / Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain
2000 Els Callens / Dominique van Roost, Belgium
2004 Paola Suarez / Patricia Tarabini, Argentina
2005 Yan Zi / Zheng Jie, China
2012 Maria Kirilenko / Nadia Petrova, Russia
2016 Lucie Safarova / Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic

2012 Victoria Azarenka / Max Mirnyi, Belarus
2016 Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Jack Sock, USA
2012 Laura Robson / Andy Murray, Great Britain
2016 Venus Williams / Rajeev Ram, USA
2012 Lisa Raymond / Mike Bryan, USA
2016 Lucie Hradecka / Radek Stepanek, Czech Republic

5...Kitty McKane, GBR (1-2-2)
4...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, ESP (0-2-2)
4...Serena Williams, USA (4-0-0)
4...Reggie Doherty, GBR (3-0-1)
4...Charles Dixon, GBR (1-1-2)
4...Gunnar Setterwall, SWE (0-2-2)

5...Venus Williams, USA (Rio)
4...Serena Williams, USA
4...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, ESP
3...Mike Bryan, USA
3...Mary Joe Fernandez, USA
3...Fernando Gonzalez, CHI
3...Steffi Graf, FRG/GER
3...Conchita Martinez, ESP
3...Andy Murray, GBR (Rio)
3...Rafael Nadal, ESP (Rio)
3...Jana Novotna, TCH/CZE
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Bob Bryan, USA
2...Juan Martin del Potro, ARG (Rio)
2...Elena Dementieva, RUS
2...Roger Federer, SUI
2...Gigi Fernandez, USA
2...Zina Garrison, USA
2...Lucie Hradecka, CZE (Rio)
2...Goran Ivanisevic, CRO
2...Nicolas Massu, CHI
2...Miloslav Mecir, TCH
2...Virginia Ruano Pascual, ESP
2...Jack Sock, USA (Rio)
2...Helena Sukova, TCH/CZE
2...Todd Woodbridge, AUS
2...Mark Woodforde, AUS
[other actives w/ 1 medal]
Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (Rio)
Julien Benneteau, FRA
Novak Djokovic, SRB
Richard Gasquet, FRA
Martina Hingis, SUI (Rio)
Andrea Hlavackova, CZE
Steve Johnson, USA (Rio)
Angelique Kerber, GER (Rio)
Petra Kvitova, CZE (Rio)
Marc Lopez, ESP (Rio)
Ekaterina Makarova, RUS (Rio)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA (Rio)
Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
Florin Mergea, ROU (Rio)
Max Mirnyi, BLR
Daniel Nestor, CAN
Kei Nishikori, JPN (Rio)
Leander Paes, IND
Monica Puig, PUR (Rio)
Rajeev Ram, USA (Rio)
Laura Robson, GBR
Lucie Safarova, CZE (Rio)
Jack Sock, USA (Rio)
Maria Sharapova, RUS
Radek Stepanek, CZE (Rio)
Barbora Strycova, CZE (Rio)
Horia Tecau, ROU (Rio)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, FRA
Elena Vesnina, RUS (Rio)
Stan Wawrinka, SUI
Zheng Jie, CHN
ALSO: Haas,M.Kirilenko,N.Petrova,Zvonareva

**2016 WTA FINALS**
5 - Serena Williams, USA (2-3)
4 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (2-2)
3 - Simona Halep, ROU (3-0)
3 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (3-0)
3 - Sloane Stephens, USA (3-0)
3 - Madison Keys, USA (1-2)

**2016 WTA SF**
6 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (4-2)
5 - Serena Williams, USA (5-0)
5 - MONICA PUIG, PUR (2-3)
5 - Aga Radwanska, POL (1-4)
4 - Simona Halep, ROU (3-1)
4 - Kiki Bertens, NED (2-2)
4 - Caroline Garcia, FRA (2-2)
4 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (2-2)

Daria Kasatkina, RUS - Auckland [1st-V.Williams; lost 2nd]
Ana Ivanovic, SRB - Dubai [2nd-Halep; lost QF]
Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS - Miami [4th-S.Williams; lost final]
Pauline Parmentier, FRA - Katowice [1st-AK.Schmiedlova; lost SF]
ELINA SVITOLINA, UKR - Rio Olympics [3rd-S.Williams; lost QF]

Kaohsiung - Chan/Chan, TPE/TPE
Acapulco - Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja, ESP/ESP
Madrid - Garcia/Mladenovic, FRA/FRA
Strasbourg - Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja, ESP/ESP
Mallorca - Dabrowski/Martinez-Sanchez, CAN/ESP
Montreal - Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS
Florianopolis - Kickenok/Kichenok, UKR/UKR

2006 Ukraine
2007 United States
2008 United States
2009 United States
2010 United States
2011 Serbia
2013 United States
2014 Russia
2015 Russia
2016 Ukraine


15 Final: S.Williams d. Halep
15 Doubles Final: Chan/Chan d. Dellacqua/Shvedova
16 Singles Top Seeds: S.Williams/Kerber

...the Cincy draw is still something a "work in progress," with a few qualifying matches to finish and qualifiers/LL's to be placed, as well as (likely) a few straggling Rio arrivals still possibly pulling out (or doing the old one-and-out dance). But since I'm still officially "all-in on Simona," I suppose I'm obligated to pick a certain Romanian to win here no matter how things shake out.

Speaking of which...

Looking at the U.S. Open Series standings, it appears as if that stupid if-you-play-three-events-you-triple-your-points rule will determine the winner yet again (really, it should have at least been removed from the equation in an Olympic year, with players a bit "occupied" in the middle of the summer). Currently, Halep leads Johanna Konta 100-95, but with the Brit currently in the Cincy draw (and Halep not playing New Haven) she's really the only player of significance at this point who'll play in three USOS events leading into the final week before the U.S. Open.

So, unless Konta loses early this week, even if Halep wins the title (she'd go to 200 points, but they wouldn't double since it's only her second USOS event), going undefeated in the Series while winning two Premier 5 events vs. Konta's one lower-level Premier win in Stanford, Konta would win due to her points being doubled (already at 190 without doing anything, as long as she plays one Cincinnati match, and earning 15 more points -- doubled to 30 -- with just one win to reach the Round of 16 to get her to 220, out of reach of the Romanian).

Why is it so difficult to get this right? It seems like it should be pretty simple. Of course, it's still better than the joke standings of '15, when Pliskova won while actually winning nothing, just because she played in more tournaments than any of the actual singles champions in the Series. But still...

And, finally...


All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Puig's star turn reminiscent of Bencic in Toronto. Took out the current AO and FO champs, plus former Wimbledon champ. She was going to be one of my Open picks anyway, the theory being to pick the Puerto Rican girl in New York, because she would be unseeded and on an outside smaller court it would look like Baghdatis in Australia. Or Halep everywhere. Should be a fun summer.

Williams took a WC, so we will get one full match, but not convinced that her or Kerber stays in all week.

Mon Aug 15, 10:35:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, there are just so many issues with this tournament this year. Practically anything could happen.

(And in a week where #1 is legitimately up for grabs, too.)

Mon Aug 15, 12:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Cibulkova said today that she feels rested and different this year, and thinks she can overcome her Cincinnati Curse (my words, not hers). Something to think about.

Mon Aug 15, 04:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

As much talk as there about Kerber being #1 if she wins her next to matches, the Halep/Kerber match could make the US Open a free for all. Meaning that if Halep wins Cinci, 5 women would have a chance to be #1 after the Open.

Halep has to win because she has as many points coming off as Serena, Muguruza and Kerber much less. Radwanska is the wild card as she is in the New Haven draw as of now.

Sat Aug 20, 11:02:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home