Monday, August 22, 2016

Wk.33- A Czech Learns to Balance

And the Most Interesting Tour in the World gets interestinger and interestinger...

But, in thumbnail sketch form, I suppose Week 33 could effectively be summed up with this:

But, really, let's talk about the Czech. No, not THAT one. Or THAT one, either. And while that OTHER one on the tip of your tongue DID have a great week, too, there was still ANOTHER that had an ever better one.

And it might even have a few lasting repercussions.


We ARE talking about a Czech, after all.

S: Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Angelique Kerber/GER 6-3/6-1
D: Sania Mirza/Barbora Strycova (IND/CZE) d. Martina Hingis/CoCo Vandeweghe (SUI/USA) 7-5/6-4

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...while Pliskova entered play in Cincinnati with fourteen tour singles finals to her credit (including at hardly-small events such as Stanford and Sydney), the Czech has never really been able to truly put in the sort of performance that might legitimize her as the future slam winner that her big-serving (she took her tour-leading ace total over 400 for the season this past week), sometimes-crisp-as-a-potato-chip-and-clean-as-a-whistle game, at times, hints could one day be her reality. Her clutch Fed Cup performances in recent outings have provided a supportive training ground for such a future, but Pliskova has steadfastly "refused to go there" when it's mattered most. Before her big-time Premier 5 win this weekend, Linz (an International level event, just like all her other titles) had been the biggest of her five career crowns, and her futile attempts to escape the 3rd Round of a slam draw have only served to provide a lengthy list of reasons (and jokes) revolving around Pliskova's "unfitness" for the sort of success we've seen the likes of Kerber and Muguruza grab on major stages in 2016.

But maybe something has changed.

While her sister Kristyna spent the weekend posting, umm, a somewhat "awkward" photo (at least for some of her fans) on Instagram, Karolina was sounding and playing like a player who'd discovered a "key of knowledge." Gliding her way to the Cincy title -- losing just a single set all week (to Sveta, so it's sort of a rite of passage) -- while everyone's focus was on Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, Pliskova was noticably confident and speaking with the conviction of an athlete tired of missing out, and desiring something more. After wins over Jelena Ostapenko, Misaki Doi, Svetlana Kuznetsova and (easily, in windy conditions) Garbine Muguruza, Pliskova diplomatically "approved" of Kerber's potential rise to #1 with a win in the final against her, but made it clear that she had no intention of rolling over and letting it happen, saying that she'd "do everything in my power to stop her in doing that right now."

And then she went out and did just that.

Hmmm. A Pliskova speaking decisively and carrying a big stick. And, for once, she'll enter a slam playing well AND not having played herself out by playing too much. Much like could be the case with Halep in New York, the less travel and absence of Rio from her recent schedule could prove to be a secret weapon at the Open, where some schedule-heavy (and highly-ranked) players might ultimately feel the pinch before the curtain goes down on this summer hard court season. Of course, even with this result, it would STILL be a somewhat crazy tact to think that Pliskova will suddenly now become a major slam player one week from now. That would be something of a shock... but, in a way, oh-so-very-Czech.

Either way, Cincinnati could be a truly significant step toward her getting there... maybe... someday... whenever that may be.
RISERS: Timea Babos/HUN, Dasha Gavrilova/AUS and Nicole Gibbs/USA
...Babos has been undertaking a steady climb up the WTA rankings ladder since the season began. The Hungarian ended '15 at #85, concluding her season with a WTA 125 Series title in Taipei. She entered last week just below her career-high ranking at #41 after a season highlighted by a singles final in Florianopolis, Round of 16 in Miami and Wimbledon doubles runner-up result. Coming off an unfortunate run-in with Good Petra in Rio (1 & 2, ouch), Babos qualified in Cincinnati with wins over Evgeniya Rodina and Jennifer Brady, then added still more stabilizing results to her big game (with nearly 200 aces, she's in the Top 7 on tour) with wins over Louisa Chirico, Belinda Bencic and Dominika Cibulkova en route to the QF. Her week will lift her to a career-high #33 on Monday, good enough to slip in just under the wire (w/ Azarenka's absence, and possibly a few more) for a U.S. Open seed.

Few tennis players -- or athletes, in general -- seemed to have as good a time (largely, as just an out-and-out fan) in Rio than Gavrilova, who seemed to show up at pretty much every venue to cheer on her fellow Aussies and the rest of the world's best. Her good attitude provided some nice karma as she (still with a hint of longing for her Rio days and nights) arrived in the U.S. ready to jump back into the North American hard court season. After having gone out in the 1st Round at the Olympics, Cincinnati qualifying wins over Mona Barthel and Naomi Osaka got her into the MD, where she followed up with even better victories over Caroline Garcia and Elina Svitolina.

Meanwhile, fresh off her Female MVP turn with the Orange County Breakers of World Team Tennis (who play in the WTT final later this week), Gibbs rode the momentum to a three-win qualifying run in New Haven this weekend in which she won 27 of 31 games. She notched a double bagel, a short 3-1 win over a retiring Kateryna Bondarenko and a final round victory vs. Evgeniya Rodina (which included her third Q-rounds bagel set) on Sunday.
SURPRISES: Misaki Doi/JPN and Martina Hingis/CoCo Vandweghe (SUI/USA)
...the results from these honorees weren't "surprising" in and of themselves. It's just the way they came about that caused a raised an eyebrow or two.

Doi fell in the final round of Cincinnati qualifying to young Russian Varvara Flink, squandering a 6-0/5-2 lead and failing to convert a MP. But #1-seeded Serena Williams' late withdrawal put the Japanese woman into the MD as a lucky loser, with a 1st Round bye, no less. She took advantage, putting up a win over Christina McHale before losing to eventual champ Karolina Pliskova a round later. It was enough to raise Doi's ranking from #38 to #32, earning her an eleventh hour U.S. Open seed a week from this Monday. Does Serena get a thank-you note?

Meanwhile, in the doubles draw, Hingis teamed up with the bigger-serving Vandeweghe in her first post-Sania tour event. And then they waited... and waited. They had a 1st Round bye, then were given walkovers by Bertens/Larsson and Errani/Suarez-Navarro to reach the semifinals. Finally, Julia Goerges & Karolina Pliskova (who, quite frankly, had other fish to fry) saw fit to actually make the pair PLAY a match. They won it, 1 & 4. The result pushed Hingis & Vandeweghe into their first final after having barely had enough time to recognize the back of their new partner's head. Finally, in a bit of Tennis Gods-generated fun, Hingis faced off with Mirza (and Barbora Strycova) for the title. After getting off to a 5-1 lead, though, Hingis/Vandeweghe lost in straight sets. Hmmm, maybe after a little (any?) practice, things will go a bit more smoothly. But, CoCo beware, Martina does not suffer losing with her doubles partners for long. So, you know, you've been warned... so get your snide tweets ready for the occasion when it arrives, just in case.
VETERANS: Angelique Kerber/GER and Barbora Strycova/CZE
...oh, she was close. Oh, so close. But she'll get another chance. Umm, right? Right? Hmmm.

When Serena Williams pulled out of the Cincinnati draw, Kerber's task was clear and unambiguous -- win the title and she'd be linked (yet again) with Steffi Graf, becoming the first German woman in nineteen years to top the rankings (in 1997, when Graf was replaced at #1 by, wait for it... a sixteen year old Martina Hingis), AND keep safe her countrywoman's record of 186 consecutive weeks at #1 (Serena entered the week w/ 183). After arriving from her Silver medal run in Rio, it would have been easily forgiven had Kerber been bounced early. But she battled her way to the doorstep of history, taking out Kristina Mladenovic, Barbora Strycova (w/ a tight 2nd set), Carla Suarez-Navarro (after losing the 1st) and Simona Halep (after almost blowing a set and 4-0 lead) to reach her sixth final of the season. In the final, her eleventh match in thirteen days, though, whether it be because of long-overdue fatigue, a realization of how close she was to a stupendous career achievement or, quite simply, an in-form, well-rested (a true rarity) Karolina Pliskova who was finally ready to ride her talent to a big title, Kerber was simply not the same player on Sunday that she'd been the past two weeks, and most of the '16 season.

Still, with a 19-4 mark in her last five events, Kerber now heads to New York, where she'll either be primed for her first deep Open run since her 2011 semifinal, or her heavy summer workload will lead to the sort of disappointing slam result she experienced throughout the '15 season, before pulling her game and mindset together to win her maiden slam crown, reach a second major final and play for Olympic Gold this year.

The 2016 WTA season has belonged to Kerber, but whether her inability to maneuver her way past one additional obstacle will go down as a forever career "what if?" will be determined by what comes next. It all starts (again) in one week.

As for Strycova, well, as she said in Cincinnati, "The older I get I feel awesome!"

Enjoying the Sunset #travel #newcity #newchallenges #lookingforwardforthesunrise #cincinatti ??

A photo posted by Barbora Strycova?? (@barborastrycova) on

The Czech has good reason to smile. After all, along with her Fed Cup success, in the season in which she turned 30, Strycova has reached two singles finals (including both WS and WD in Birmingham), reached her second career slam Round of 16 (AO), won the doubles Bronze medal in Rio (w/ Lucie Safarova) and earned her first Top 20 singles ranking just as play began in Cincinnati.

It has been a fairytale!!???????? with @lucie.safarova

A photo posted by Barbora Strycova?? (@barborastrycova) on

Last week, she knocked off Genie Bouchard and Sam Stosur in singles, pushed Angelique Kerber and, in a perfectly sweet right-place-at-the-right-time-to-showcase-her-skills moment, took Martina Hingis' place as Sania Mirza's doubles partner. The new duo coasted all the way to the doubles title, never losing a set in their very first tournament together.

Oh, and another photo from Rio (which only goes to prove that, sometimes, a slight twist of an ankle makes all the difference)...

COMEBACK: Aga Radwanska/POL
...Aga didn't have a particularly brilliant week, at least not by the (new-ish) standards she set for herself last fall. But after her long, wild and crazy series of adventures getting to and in Rio it would surely rank as "good enough" to simply land on her feet on stable ground while being something resembling on schedule would be an improvement. Let alone not being involved in any frightening transportation incidents, nor feel woefully unprepared for what is supposed to be one of the highlights of her athletic life and, largely as a result, seeing that experience snuffed out almost before it'd even begun. As it was, Radwanska arrived in Cincinnati (check), got herself into a passable practice routine (check) and then went out and extinguished Andrea Petkovic's hopes for an extended week of play (allowing the German just one game), and followed up by tossing Johanna Konta out onto the street via a love 3rd set. She was up 4-0 in the 1st vs. Simona Halep in the 3rd Round, too, but soon saw it all slip away in a straight-sets loss to a player whose Olympic absence shielded her from any of the potential difficulties that Aga herself walked right into. So... it wasn't a perfect week, but it was surely a welcome one. And it was just enough to nudge her past Halep into a Top 4 seed for the Open, too. Bam.

FRESH FACES: Donna Vekic/CRO, Louisa Chirico/USA and Maria Sakkari/GRE
...this week's FF's, though they're all essentially the same age, find themselves at different stages of their careers.

Vekic hit the "big time" early, reaching her first final (at age 16) in her tour MD debut in Tashkent in 2012. Two years later, she won her first title. She's climbed as high as #62, and reached four tour singles finals during her career. But her early success has been more elusive as she's left her teen years behind. Now 20, Vekic entered the week ranked #121 and riding a seven-match losing streak dating back to the grass season. Earlier in the year, Vekic endured another eight-match slide. But, in Cincinnati, the Croat captured at least a little of her old success in a bottle. She ended her losing streak with qualifying wins over Varvara Lepchenko (in two TB's) and Mariana Duque. In the MD, she upset #25-ranked Ana Ivanovic, notching her best win in over two years, since defeating then-#21 Roberta Vinci at Wimbledon (her previous most recent best victory had been over #24 Sorana Cirstea in Birmingham in '13, en route to an appearance in the final). Vekic will jump to #106 in the new rankings.

Chirico, also 20, has only recently experienced her first sparks of success as a pro. A 15-7 clay court mark this spring was highlighted by a 3rd Round in Charleston (def. Lucie Safarova) and a qualifier-to-semifinalist run in Madrid that included big victories over Monica Niculescu, Ana Ivanovic (why am I not surprised?) and Dasha Gavrilova. She came into this weekend's New Haven qualifying rounds without a win since her 1st Round Roland Garros victory over Lauren Davis in an 8-6 3rd set (following another Q-run), having lost four straight singles matches (and was even 0-3 in doubles!). But the New York native put together a successful run to the MD with wins over Davis (almost three months since her last defeat of her fellow Bannerette), Sorana Cirstea and Lesia Tsurenko.

Unlike the other two, Sakkari, a year older at 21, is still looking for her true "breakout" result. But the excitable Greek has been getting close. She reached the semifinals of a WTA 125 Series event in Carlsbad last November, then began 2016 with a Q-run in Melbourne and her first career MD slam win in the AO 1st Round over Wang Yafan. She then pushed Carla Suarez-Navarro to three, but didn't get the big upset of a seed. An Istanbul tour-level QF followed, as well as a narrow miss at grabbing her biggest career title when she lost in a $50K singles final. At Wimbledon, she qualified for the third time in four majors, and again put up a 1st Round win (Zheng Saisai). She pushed eventual semifinalist Venus Williams to three sets in the 2nd Round, but again failed to lock away the career-changing takedown. But the quest continues. In New Haven, coming in at a career-high #96, she's made it through qualifying with wins over Catarina Witthoeft, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Camila Giorgi.
DOWN: Serena Williams/USA Ana Ivanovic/SRB and Belinda Bencic/SUI
...whew! Serena, after pulling out of Cincinnati with that lingering shoulder issue, narrowly missed out on losing her #1 ranking (does Pliskova get a thank-you note?), and with her 184th straight week at #1 officially arriving on Monday thanks to Kerber's defeat in thef inal. Williams is now assured of at least tying Steffi Graf's all-time mark mid-way through the U.S. Open with week #186. Taking over the top spot all by herself, though, will take some work in Flushing Meadows.

So, where else to look for a "bad" week? Well, how about The Newlywed, AnaIvo? Her 1st Round loss to #121 Donna Vekic (actually her "best" loss, as far as ranking, in seven defeats at the hands of players with triple-digit standings over the past two seasons) drops the Serb to 15-15 on the season, and it's been two months (in Mallorca) since she posted a win. Ivanovic hasn't had more than two victories in row since last October, when she had a good week in Beijing that included wins over the likes of Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova en route to the semifinals. Aside from that single sterling week, Ivanovic has gone 19-19 over the last calendar year. Down to the #31 in new rankings on Monday, Ivanovic will skate through to a seed at the Open, but unless she improves her standing at least ten places by the end of the season (she might have a shot, since the fall indoor season always offers her an opportunity... though she'll have those Beijing points to defend, remember) she's on pace to have her worst ranking season since 2004.

Bencic is now more than a full year past her brilliant run to the Rogers Cup title in Toronto, and her bevy of lingering injuries (which cost her the Olympics) are now beginning to send her back down the rankings she rose through over the course of last season. She went into Cincinnati, after being in the Top 10 as recently as right before Wimbledon, having fallen out of the Top 20 for the first time since the week before her title run in Canada last summer, and her 2nd Round, straight sets loss to qualifier Timea Babos won't help her NYC prep (so she's giving it another go in New Haven). Two years ago, at 17, Bencic scored her first (and, so far, only) QF result at a slam at the U.S. Open. It's difficult seeing her getting anywhere close to such a finish this year.
ITF PLAYER: Anna Blinkova/RUS
...the 17-year old Hordette, the 2015 Wimbledon girls runner-up and '16 Junior Masters champ (def. Usue Arconada, Kayla Day and Katie Swan), grabbed her second and biggest career title at the $25K challenger in Westende, Belgium. Blinkova (WTA #380) knocked off the #5 and #4 seeds en route to her second pro final, where she took out #2-seeded Greek Valentini Grammatikopoulou, 19, in straight sets. She defeated Grammatikopoulou in her previous ITF singles final, as well, a three set win in a $10K in Stuttgart in January.
JUNIOR STARS: Kayla Day/USA and Olesya Pervushina/RUS
...a week ago, 16-year old Day won the USTA 18s National Championship, earning her a MD wild card into the upcoming U.S. Open. Perhaps still on a high from that result, the #5-ranked junior went to New Haven (as a wild card) and very nearly made her way through qualifying there. She handled Naomi Broady 2 & 3 in her opening match, took the Venus-conquering (but, not surprisingly, very little since) Kirsten Flipkens in three sets in her second and battled Anastasija Sevastova for a well-earned spot in the MD before falling in three sets. With all the pull-outs and "neverminds" (see Karolina P.) when it comes to the field, though, Day still got in as a lucky loser. She'll face qualifier Ana Konjuh in the 1st Round.

Meanwhile, Pervushina, the #2-ranked junior, lifted her career pro challenger mark in singles finals to 4-0 by claiming her biggest title yet in the $25K event in Leipzig, Germany. The 16-year, who was the girls #1 in June, grabbed her third '16 title with victories over Marie Bouzkova, Irina Maria Bara, Arantxa Rus and Julia Grabher in the final. The final three victories came in three-setters.
DOUBLES: Sania Mirza/Barbora Strycova (CZE) far, so good, for at least one half of the former Dream Team.

In the week after the announcement of the end of the legendary-though-short-lived partnership, Mirza teamed with Strycova for the very first time and surged all the way to the final without dropping a set (def. the defending champion Chan sisters in the semis), allowing Sania to meet up with, yep, you guessed it -- Hingis. Naturally. While Mirza/Strycova had to win four matches to reach the stage, Hingis and her new partner (CoCo Vandeweghe) did the same while winning just one (after a 1st Round bye and back-to-back walkovers). Mirza and Hingis met in the Roland Garros Mixed final earlier this year, with the Swiss Miss denying the Indian Princess the crown, but Sania turned the tables this time as she and Strycova rebounded from a 5-1 1st set deficit (saving 3 SP) to win 7-5/6-4 to fully run the proverbial table in their first tournament together. Sort of like what happened with Mirza and Hingis when they first teamed up in the spring of last year. Does this mean that Mirza/Strycova are the new "it" team? Well, nothing was promised heading into this event, but one would think that the two vets might not seek to mess with such instant success. At least not immediately.

At any rate, though the two said in Rio they plan to team up for the WTA Finals in Singapore (we'll see, I say), Mirza has essentially shed her Hingis shadow with this win, as she now re-takes sole possession of the #1 ranking for the first time since Hingis joined her there in January of this year. The first Indian to ever be ranked #1, Mirza has held a share of the top doubles ranking since April '15, a 72-week stretch (as of Monday) that is the fifth-longest unbroken streak in tour history (and just one week from tying Arantxa Sanchez for the fourth-best).

The Pica homecoming...

And a Rio (and "Rio") postscript. Go figure.

1. Cincinnati SF - Kerber d. Halep
While Kerber may have more noticably hit the physical wall in the final, a case could be made that Halep pushed her up against it in the semi. Up 6-3/4-0, Kerber saw Halep up her game and finish strong, while she held on for dear life at the end of a two-week, two-continent marathon that would bring her up to the edge of a Gold medal and the #1 ranking, yet keep both feats ever-so-tantalizingly out of reach. Halep battled back to 4-3 and held BP to get back on serve. Kerber, still KNOWING what to do even if all her moving parts weren't operating in their usual unison by this point, held and soon served for the match at 5-4. Pulling ahead from 30/30, the German broke a racket string on MP, only to see Halep fire a ball out on the very next swing. Still, even with the loss, Halep highlighted her 2nd set fight after the match, providing further proof that she's learning (has LEARNED... or is that TOO optimistic?) to focus on the positive and learn from her mistakes rather than endlessly beat herself up to no end while angrily lamenting them. This might be very good.

Still all-in (well, at least until we see how Serena's shoulder is, I guess).
2. Cincinnati Doubles Final - Mirza/Strycova d. Hingis/Vandeweghe
It just HAD to work out this way, didn't it? With Mirza & Strycova dominating the field to reach the final, while Hingis/Vandeweghe floated along above the draw while playing just one match. Even a 5-1 1st set lead, and three SP, weren't enough to hold back Mirza & Strycova, two players with definitive minds of their own who could form one of the most intriguing, interesting and entertaining duos (on and off court) if this pairing takes hold beyond this summer try-out phase.
3. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Cibulkova d. Larsson
Larsson was cut no slack on her 28th birthday. After defeating Irina-Camelia Begu earlier in the day, the Swede was sent out again in the evening as the tournament tried to catch up after a series of rain-delays. Up until midnight, Larsson was leading the Slovak, having come back from 4-0 down to take the 1st set and taking a 3-1 lead in the 2nd. But once Larsson's birthday was officially over at 12:01 a.m., it was Cibulkova's time to shine. She reeled off five of six games to take the 2nd, then saved two MP in the 3rd en route to the win.
4. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - McHale d. Sai.Zheng 6-2/6-2
Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Tsurenko d. Sh.Zhang 6-3/6-3
in the 1st Round in Rio, Zheng upset A-Rad, while Zhang took out Bacsinszky. Ohio is a long way from Brazil.
5. Cincinnati Q2 - Flink d. Doi
Wild card Russian Flink made the comeback from 6-0/5-2 to take out #1 Q-seed Doi, but Flink was ousted in the 1st Round while Doi entered the MD as a lucky loser in Serena Williams' #1 seed slot, complete with 1st Round bye, and won her match to reach the 3rd Round. Ah, tennis.
6. Cincinnati Q1 - Konjuh d. Shvedova 5-7/6-2/7-6(7)
Cincinnati Q1 - Larsson d. Sasnovich 6-7(7)/7-6(7)/6-1
Konjuh saved a MP, while Larsson saved two.
7. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - King/Niculescu d. Garcia/Mladenovic
...3-6/6-2 [10-4].
The Pastries are 4-4 since winning in Paris to finish off the clay season with a 21-1 mark.
8. $10K Sezze Final - Maria Marfutina d. Bianca Turati
The 19-year old Hordette wins her second straight challenger, claiming her third 2016 title.

You, too, can be a soon-to-be Tennis Hall of Famer...

You, too, can be a WTT MVP...

You, too, can be Sloane's non-athletic bestie...

Knowledge for life.

1. Cincinnati Final - KAROLINA PLISKOVA d. Kerber
Having already met in two finals (Birmingham and Stanford, both going to Kerber) last season, these two were familiar with their opponent's game. But it was Pliskova who jumped out on top and stayed there. She broke the German in the opening game and soon led 4-0. Kerber pulled to 4-3, holding from love/30, but after getting a visit from coach Jiri Vanek, Pliskova pulled her game and thoughts together and won eight of nine games. She broke to take the 1st set at 6-3, then broke for 2-0 in the 2nd. Delivering clean blows to Kerber's #1 hopes, she served at 5-1, ending things on her second MP with an ace. She's the first Czech woman to lift the Cincy title trophy.

2. Cincinnati 3rd Rd. - AGA RADWANSKA d. Konta
Imagine what Aga could do if she actually looked at the ball when she hit it...

3. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Petkovic d. Safarova 6-4/6-7(4)/6-2
Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - AGA RADWANSKA d. Petkovic 6-0/6-1
after taking three hours to dispense of Safarova earlier in the day, Petko was no match for Aga's unique brand of torture.

4. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Ostapenko d. ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA 1-6/7-6(6)/7-6(5)
New Haven Q1 - Kontaveit d. ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA 0-6/6-3/7-5
well, at least AKS is consistently winning 1st sets before losing now, right? Sigh. Against Ostapenko, Schmiedlova had a 6-1 and two-break lead, including two MP at 5-4 in the 2nd. In the 3rd, AKS came back from 0-2, love/40 to lead 5-2 and serve for the match, only to drop serve twice in a row and lose the deciding TB to the Latvian. In New Haven, the Slovak took the 1st set in twenty minutes, only to ultimately lose to Kontaveit in an 11-9 TB after having a MP.

5. Cincinnati QF - Halep d. AGA RADWANSKA
Radwanska led 4-0 in the 1st, only to see the Romanian charge back and serve at 5-4, holding a SP. She didn't manage to hold, but broke and got another chance two games later. In an ironic twist, she stole the set from Radwanska with a deft drop shot from the baseline.

Halep won twelve of the final fourteen games.
HM- Cincinnati QF - KAROLINA PLISKOVA d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
The only singles set Pliskova lost all week, but she won to hand Sveta just her sixth loss in twenty-two three-setters in 2016.

Happy monday and have a wonderful week #aloha

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Chef and sous chef ??

A video posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Flash back Friday to a special day! #Beijing #1 Photo credit @cw_tennis

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

When adidas and New Balance meet...

Maria, walking toward a one-way traffic sign, with a summer "Citizen Anna hat," would make for a perfectly Sharapovian Instagram photo... if not for that stray jogger in the background. Bah!


A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

14 - Serena Williams [7/5/2]
8 - Simona Halep [2/3/3]
6 - Angelique Kerber [0/4/2]
6 - Maria Sharapova [4/2/0]
6 - Petra Kvitova [3/3/0]
5 - Aga Radwanska [1/3/1]
5 - Venus Williams [1/3/1]

**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)

17...Serena Williams (14-3)
13...Simona Halep (8-5)
9...Venus Williams (5-4)
8...Maria Sharapova (6-2)
8...Petra Kvitova (6-2)

**2014-16 MOST WTA FINALS**
3 - Serena Williams (May/July, 2-1)
2 - Serena Williams (Jan/Mar - 0-2)
2 - Victoria Azarenka (Mar/Apr - 2-0)
2 - Simona Halep (July - 2-0)
2 - ANGELIQUE KERBER (August, 0-2)

8...S.Williams vs. Azarenka (SW 5-3)
6...S.Williams vs. Sharapova (SW 6-0)
4...Azarenka vs. Sharapova (VA 3-1)

16 - Victoria Azarenka (Mar/May)
13 - Simona Halep (Jul/Aug)
12 - Kiki Bertens (May/Jun)
10 - Aga Radwanska (Jan)

186 - Steffi Graf
184 - SERENA WILLIAMS (active)
156 - Martina Navratilova
113 - Chris Evert

181...Martina Navratilova
145...Cara Black
134...Liezel Huber
73...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
72...SANIA MIRZA (active)
70...Roberta Vinci
64...Virginia Ruano Pascual
61...Samantha Stosur

**2016 WTA WD FINALS**
8...SANIA MIRZA, IND (6-2)
6...Caroline Garcia, FRA (4-2)
6...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (4-2)
4...Xenia Knoll, SUI (2-2)
4...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS (2-2)
4...Elena Vesnina, RUS (2-2)

2012 Vicky Duval
2013 Sachia Vickery
2014 CiCi Bellis
2015 Sonya Kenin
2016 Kayla Day

Danielle Collins, USA (NCAA champion)
Lauren Davis, USA
Kayla Day, USA (USTA 18s champion)
Sonya Kenin, USA (USTA WC Playoff Challenger champion)
Vania King, USA
Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
Virginie Razzano, FRA

Lucie, recently showing signs of competing for the Silver (at least) in the Sharapova Instagram-lympics...

Serena Williams' 2015 U.S. Open 1st Round Victim Update #543: shutting up and running

Swan on a swan...

Swanning around ??

A photo posted by Katie Swan (@katieswan99) on

15 Final: Kvitova d. Safarova (Kvitova 2014-15 champ)
15 Doubles Final: Goerges/Hradecka d. Chuang/Liang
16 Singles Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Vinci

#6 Kvitova d. #1 A.Radwanska
Vesnina d. #2 Vinci
#6 Kvitova d. Vesnina

...she's back.

With the points-doubled-with-three-events rule once again in effect, the U.S. Open Series title is still in play. The current Top 4:

1. Johanna Konta (220 points, w/ points doubled w/ 3 events)
2. Simona Halep (145, 2 events)
3. Karolina Pliskova (115, 2 events)
4. Angelique Kerber (115, 2 events)

Only Radwanska (tied for 10th w/ 40 points, but in her third Series event in NH, so her points will double) could gain enough points to catch Konta, with a title running earning 70 to give her 110, doubled to 220. I'm not sure what the tie-breaker would be, though.

Intrestingly, if Pliskova hadn't pulled out of this event, the 2015 "champion" of the Series (but more worthy of it this year) could have won it again by winning two matches in New Haven to reach the QF. But perhaps that's something an un-balanced Karolina would have done, but not the one who showed up in Cincinnati. Truthfully, she's better off not heading to Connecticut.

Maybe this IS a turning point, after all.

Of note, with all the other previous withdrawals, Pliskova's pull-out means the tournament has to go back beyond the final qualifying round to find a lucky loser to take her place in the draw... depending on who's still in town on Monday and hasn't already left for NYC. It should be Q2's highest-ranked loser Varvara Lepcheko... unless, well, you know, she's already gone.



And, finally, it goes without saying that now we can, indeed, see it from here...

All for now.


Blogger Nick at Nite said...

So Pliskova is halfway to overtaking Anabel Medina Garrigues as the player with the most WTA titles without ever reaching a slam quarterfinal (6 titles to AMG's 11). And AMG at least made some slam 4th rounds. Granted, Pliskova's got a lot of time to overcome that hurdle, but one to watch perhaps...

Mon Aug 22, 02:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Kerber had a Serena type week. Didn't have her A game and still reached the final.

Can't really remember a year like this rankings-wise. Serena has been the #1 for all 4 slams, but with a different person in the 2 slot:

Plus, it should be noted that although unlikely, it is possible for Muguruza to be #1 by just reaching the final.

Mon Aug 22, 02:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, yes. That reminds me, since I mentioned it during Wimbledon I have to be prepared to post the Pliskova Slam Futility Update (when necessary) starting with this slam. Just in case. ;)

Truthfully, I sort of figured Pliskova would be even closer to double-digit titles by this point, with 3-4 (or 5) added by this time in the '16 season, rather than the two she now has. Still time left in the season to get back "on schedule," though.

And with the several ways being listed how Kerber could get to #1 during the Open (what with Serena defending SF points, about 400-500 more than AK is, I think), pretty much every one of them require Williams to reach at least the semis or final, or win the title to keep the top spot... which is pretty much her target result going into the event, anyway. So, business as usual.

Also, Serena has the shot to become the first player since Henin (2006) to reach the finals of all four slams in the same season. Williams didn't even do that before Henin did, as she didn't play the AO in '02, then started her Serena Slam I (2002-03) at the next major. And, of course, her loss to Vinci in NYC last year kept her from playing in all four in '15.

Mon Aug 22, 04:08:00 PM EDT  

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