Monday, October 03, 2016

Wk.39- Good Golly, Miss Petra

Autumn is defined as a period of transition, when the shedding of leaves from the trees and cooler temperatures help set the stage for a relative period of "calm" that presages the coming winter, when ends will dominate beginnings and despair often overshadows the hope and spark of life that won't return again until the oh-so-far-off arrival of spring.

But not on the Most Interesting Tour in the World. For, when it comes to the WTA, the fall is all about rebirth.

In Week 39, it even led to the late-year emergence of the rarest of elusive beings. We call her Great Petra.

Really, it should come as no surprise that Petra Kvitova would find another version of her by-now-legendary Hall of Fame-ish form in Wuhan. After all, she'd won there before. In 2014, in the inaugural edition of the tournament held in the capital of the Hubei province. Wuhan, you see, isn't just the most populous city in central China, it's also the hometown of Chinese tennis goddess and multiple slam winner Li Na, who just happens to be a great friend of the Czech. Even before the start of play in the tournament, Kvitova was already "feeling the Na."

And, by the end, she still had her on her mind. And why not? The tournament WOULDN'T exist if not for Li's tremendous impact on the sport and her country.

After a week in which she was nearly unassailable -- she lost but one set, in an epic encounter with world #1 Angelique Kerber which resulted in the German losing for the first time since she climbed the ranking mountain -- Kvitova left a trail of awe-inspired opponents and fans shaking their heads. Johanna Konta, Kvitova's fourth victim, said that "sometimes you're just going along for the ride" when Petra is rolling. Victim #5, Simona Halep, noted that Kvitova, "didn't miss. It was tough to do something else." Dominika Cibulkova, victim #6 who fell in quick order in the final, noted that the Czech "didn't even let me play. You have to be very lucky and play very good to beat her when she plays like this."

Kerber uttered similar convictions, though one suspects her own blossoming confidence prevents her from fully admitting that it might have been IMPOSSIBLE to defeat Kvitova on a day in which the sunshine of her talent hovered above her like a halo for an entire match. After all, Angie has already defeated a player this year who carries along with her similar "you can't ever" notations in the match notes. And, if nothing else, the German has learned in 2016 that NOTHING is impossible.

But, you know, still... sometimes it CAN almost seem as if Kvitova isn't even playing the same sport as her opponent when their levels of competence fail to totally line up on occasion. Of course, we've seen such things before in other arenas...

...but it's not an entirely common occurrence at the top of the WTA power pyramid.

So, add "Great Petra of Wuhan" to the list of players who have sought and found rebirth and/or life in the autumn of a tennis season. Last year at this time, we saw Aga Radwanska take the first steps that would lead to her returning to the Top 3. Same with Venus Williams and her re-emergence as a Top 10 player, Garbine Muguruza taking rather large steps that would lead to a Roland Garros title this past spring and the seeds being planted to Sveta Kuznetsova's Top 10 rebirth, as well. Continuing the WTA tradition, this late 4Q summer and early fall, along with Kvitova, we've seen Caroline Wozniacki's comeback pick up steam, Jelena Jankovic rediscover a bit of her old self, three players become maiden tour singles champions and another reach her first final.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can really know -- or expect -- Kvitova's play this week to lead HER toward great things in 2017. I mean, SHE doesn't, so how can we? Especially when she utters the sort of things she eventually did at the end of this weekend.

The truth is that the ability for a player to make such a statement after the way she played over the past week is probably a clue to why Kvitova plays the way she so often does over the general course of the season and her career. It's why frustration runs high with "Petra-ites," who know what she's capable of, and have come to realize, like Petra, that the rollercoaster ride will likely never end. But, I suppose, such is the pact made when a confounding player -- especially a Czech one, or one from France, for that matter -- is involved. Of course, it's one thing for fans and followers to say such things, but another when the player herself does, isn't it?

It's why the sort of player that someone such as Kerber has made herself into exists, and why Kvitova will likely never resemble her between now and the end of her career. Still, while some may marvel at her candor and honestly, it's hard to believe that any player should ever allow themselves to admit to such things, especially at a moment when they should be the furthest thing from her mind.

But nothing HAS to make actual sense... it just is.

Good golly, Miss Petra. Good golly, indeed.

WUHAN, CHINA (Hard/Outdoor)
S: Petra Kvitova/CZE def. Dominika Cibulkova/SVK 6-1/6-1
D: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE) d. Sania Mirza/Barbora Strycova (IND/CZE) 6-1/6-4

S: Kristyna Pliskova/CZE def. Nao Hibino/JPN 6-3/2-6/6-3
D: Raluca Olaru/Ipek Soylu (ROU/TUR) d. Demi Schuurs/Renata Voracova (NED/ROU) 7-5/6-3

FED CUP 16s FINAL (Budapest, HUN)
Poland def. United States 2-1

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Petra Kvitova/CZE title #18 -- and her second in three years in Wuhan, where she's 12-1 -- came for Kvitova at the end of a week where she was rarely challenged. Mostly because no one could. Jelena Ostapenko got just four games off her, same as Elina Svitolina. World #1 Angelique Kerber battled for three sets, but still couldn't tear down the Czech wall. The win only further emboldened her, just as was the case with her Bronze medal effort in Rio, which Kvitova admitted this week "redeemed" her season and has allowed her to play with less pressure (she's gone 13-3 since).

Johanna Konta grabbed seven games in the QF, but Simona Halep (3) and Dominika Cibulkova (2) only got five COMBINED in the semis and final. Kvitova fired 28 winners in BOTH of her final two matches. The title run ends a long (13-month) drought for the Czech, who reached her first final since the WTA Finals last November, and put an end to her 0-3 stumble in semifinals this season heading into Wuhan. Kvitova is back up to #11 in the new rankings, but still has some work to do if she's going to manage to wrap up 2016 with her sixth consecutive Top 10 season.
RISERS: Kristyna Pliskova/CZE and Denisa Allertova/CZE
...Great Petra of Wuhan wasn't the only Czech shining in Week 39, as both Pliskova and Allertova stepped up in Tashkent, as well.

The notion that the proverbial rising tide lifts all (similar) boats is alive and well on the WTA tour. Much like the success of players of a certain nation will often spur similar results from fellow countrywoman, the Pliskova twins are proving that blood is just as thick as national waters. Granted, the huge-serving-but-inconsistent Kristyna has sparked at times in '16 like never before, but what she's done since Karolina put on a show in New York City is "next step" stuff. On the same weekend that her twin played in the U.S. Open final, Kristyna won the biggest title of her career in the WTA 125 Series event in Dalian. Sure, that one had a bit of an "asterisk" attached, as the Czech won the final when Misa Eguchi retired in the final after being injured when leading 5-2, 30/love in the 3rd set. Kristyna didn't need such "dark luck" this time around. As the #100-ranked player, she knocked off Sara Sorribes-Tormo, Kurumi Nara, Irina Khromacheva, Kateryna Kozlova and defending champ Nao Hibino in a three-set final to claim her maiden tour crown in her first appearance in a tour-level final. She even reached the doubles semis with Amra Sadikovic. With this win, combined with the 125 Series victory and a $50K challenger title back in February, Pliskova is just the second player (Zhang Shuai '13) to collect one of all three titles in a single season since the (almost-tour-level-but-not-quite) 125 Series was instituted in 2012.

After winning the Tashkent crown, Kristyna had the usual "Pliskovian" reaction (i.e. not much of one at all, at least to the naked eye) to her greatest career moment, but the sly acknowledgement of the situation that some might have to her really-it-runs-in-the-family stoicism should be enough to lead any worry-warts to clam up if they have a problem with the fact that she didn't see fit to do somersaults or back-flips after converting MP.

A bit unhappy face but inside happyyy?????? #first

A photo posted by Kristyna Pliskova (@kristynapliskova) on

Also in Tashkent, 23-year Allertova was the third Czech Maiden to post at least a semifinal result this week. After rising to a career-high of #55 back in March, Allertova has seen her ranking slip (to #114 last week) as her results have dipped and her points for a Guangzhou final appearance last fall fell off her totals. But she began her climb back up in Uzbekistan with her third career tour-level semifinal (one each season from 2014-16) with wins over the likes of Patricia-Maria Tig and Kirsten Flipkens before losing to defending champ Nao Hibino.
SURPRISES: Kateryna Kozlova/UKR and Irina Khromacheva/RUS Tashkent, 22-year old Kozlova posted her second career (and second in '16, w/ Istanbul) WTA semifinal result with wins over Donna Vekic, Sofia Shapatava and Stefanie Voegele. The Ukrainian, who's also had tour-level QF in Rosmalen and St.Petersburg in '16, as well as a nice three-setter vs. Venus Williams at the U.S. Open, will rise from #98 to a new career-best standing of #91 on Monday.

In the same Tashkent event, 21-year old Khromacheva reached her second QF (w/ Gstaad) on tour this season while getting past Tereza Martincova and Naomi Broady. The tour-level success of the Russian, a former junior #1 in 2010, is coming after several years of fine-tuning on the ITF circuit. 8-1 in challenger finals since 2014, Khromacheva has put away four such titles this season alone. She'll climb into the Top 100 for the first time on Monday, settling in at #96.
VETERANS: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK, Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS and Barbora Strycova/CZE
...Cibulkova has had some marathon sessions on the court in 2016, and her collective time in Wuhan was no different.

With great grit and determination (shocker), the Slovak battled all week long, being forced to play two matches in one day and late into the night just to reach her seventh tour-level semi (behind only Kerber's ten). Still, she came back with still more to reach her fifth final on tour this season and second (w/ Madrid) high level Premier championship match in '16 after missing so much time a year ago with her Achilles' injury. Wuhan wins over Alize Cornet, Laura Siegemund, Karolina Pliskova (2 & 2), Barbora Strycova (after being down a break at 4-3 in the 3rd, and experiencing cramping) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (in three sets, of course) left her with little more to give in the final vs. Kvitova. Not that it might have mattered much. Cibulkova's wins over Pliskova and Kuznetsova give her five Top 10 victories this season. She'll return to the Top 10 herself on Monday at #8, and keeps alive her hopes of playing in her first WTA Finals competition.

WUHAN FINALS!!! no more words needed ?????????????????????????????? #fighter #POMEEE

A photo posted by Dominika Cibulkova (@domicibulkova) on

Because Kuznetsova is "the way she is," with weekly (matchly, setly, weekly, gamely and sometimes pointly) fluctuations a "normal" occurrence, it's difficult to see her in a "comeback" position, as she never really goes away. It's usually a matter of how close she happens to be at the moment. But the last twelve months DO constitute what should be considered something of a comeback. It was almost one year ago when the Russian began her thirtysomething surge. She was ranked outside the Top 30 at the 2015 edition of Wuhan. Soon afterward, she won the Kremlin Cup, her first singles title in more than a year and only her second since 2010. 2016 has seen her win again in Sydney in Week 2 and reach the Miami final. Last week in Wuhan, ranked at #10, she saw Belinda Bencic retire from their 1st Round match, then notched wins over Madison Brengle, defending champ Venus Williams and Aga Radwanska (saving MP) to secure her fourth Top 10 win of the season to reach the semis. Her win over Venus, coupled with her Miami upset of Serena, gives her wins over both Sisters in the same season for the first time in her career (also of note, at 31, she's the oldest player to pull off the feat, and the third to do it '16 -- more than in any other season since the Williamses both appeared regularly on tour in 1997).

???? ? ? ????? ))) ????????? ????? 2- ????? China, stop number 2 - Beijing @chinaopen #sk27

A photo posted by ???????? ?????????/Kuznetsova (@svetlanak27) on

To keep the "comeback" storyline going, take note that Kuznetsova is looking for her first season-ending Top 10 ranking since 2009. She hasn't finished in the Top 20 since 2011, finishing between #21-28 the last three campaigns.

Meanwhile, Strycova was again pulling double duty quite successfully in Wuhan. She and Sania Mirza reached their third final in four events as a duo, though they lost to Mattek-Sands Safarova to fall to a combined 15-2. In singles, the 30-year old Czech put up her best result since reaching the Birmingham final. She got wins over Sara Errani, Misaki Doi and Jelena Jankovic.

But this is the WTA tour. There's no time to pat oneself on the back. The long season continues this week in Beijing...

Keeptraveling Tokio,Wuhan #nextstop #beijing #backpacking #planeview #nowiev #smogonly #blueskycoming ??????

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

...could it be? Yes, it is. Arantxa Rus... how ya been, gurl?

Before Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, there was Rus. A good young player who suddenly experienced a sudden and steep fall for a variety of reasons. In her case, from the pressure of playing after early success to a losing streak and resulting loss of confidence, and even a diagnosis of glandular fever, for good measure. In 2011-12, it was Rus, not Kiki Bertens, who was the Dutch player stepping into the spotlight. From 2011-12, she reached a slam Round of 16 (RG '12) and two 3rd Rounds ("11 RG/'12 WI), becoming the first player from her nation in nineteen years to reach the 4th Round in Paris. Over those two seasons, she put up wins over the likes of Kim Clijsters, Sam Stosur, Elena Vesnina, Barbora Strycova, Caroline Garcia, Julia Goerges, Misaki Doi and a young Elina Svitolina. She finished 2011 at #84 and 2012 at #68, ranking as high as #61. But since that good stretch, Rus hasn't won a MD match at a slam in four years. Her season-ending ranking has fallen from #68 to #160 to #230 and #289 in recent campaigns.

In 2016, though, Rus has been working hard to slowly climb back up the tennis ladder. Having recently reunited with coach Ralph Cook, who'd been with her during her previous career highs, the now-25 year old, ranked #237 heading into Week 39, went to Hua Hin, Thailand and claimed her first singles title of any kind since October '13, defeating Nicha Lertpitaksinchai in back-to-back tie-breaks after falling behind 6-3/5-2 in the final. It's the next logical step in a season in which the Dutch woman has been making gradual progress since the year's opening weeks, as she reached a $25K final in February and followed up with a $50K semi (June) and a pair of $25K semis (July/August) before recently making her way through qualifying in the WTA-level event in Seoul (her first MD appearance in a tour event since July '15). Rus' title run this week makes her 48-20 in all singles matches this season, with her 18-1 mark in qualifying rounds a hint at both her ongoing standing, as well as the hard road she's had to take to reclamation.
FRESH FACES: Nao Hibino/JPN, Daria Kasatkina/RUS and Louisa Chirico/USA 2015, Hibino jumped from the pack of good-but-not-exactly-overly-distinguished Japanese players (in the pre-Osaka era, at least) by winning her first tour title in Tashkent in just her second career WTA MD appearance. One year later, after not posting a tour-level SF result since her title run last October, Hibino returned to defend her title and made it all the way to the final -- defeating Risa Ozaki, Lesia Tsurenko (ret.) and Denisa Allertova -- without dropping a set before falling to Kristyna Pliskova in three. The 21-year old is just the sixth player to reach the final as a singles DC in 2016 (only Kerber and Serena, at Stuttgart and Wimbledon, respectively, managed to win).

Meanwhile, while so many young players have made big moves this season, two of the better known and biggest-achieving have yet to follow in Hibino's footsteps when it comes to winning their maiden titles, or even reaching their first tour-level finals. But, make no mistakes, the likes of Kasatkina and Chirico are names to keep an ever-alert eye on as we head into the 2017 season in a few short months. Both were sparking yet again over the past week.

19-year old Kasatkina qualified in Wuhan, taking out veterans Lucie Hradecka and Pauline Parmentier before posting MD wins over Julia Goerges and Chirico herself. The Hordette lost in the 3rd Round to Madison Keys in three sets. The result was her best since falling in the Olympic QF to Keys (in straights), kicking off what turned out to be a four-match losing streak. Kasatkina will jump from #28 to #24 on Monday, matching her career-best ranking.


A photo posted by Louisa Chirico (@louisachirico) on

Before losing to Kasatkina, 20-year old Chirico had also qualified in Wuhan, coming back from a set and 4-0 down in a 2nd set TB vs. Marina Erakovic, then upsetting fellow Bannerette Christina McHale to reach the MD. Once there, she posted another win over Timea Bacsinszky. She made her way through qualifying for this week's event in Beijing, as well, taking out Zhu Lin and Monica Niculescu en route. She jumps from #74 to a career-best #63 on Monday.

Kasatkina and Chirico are set to face off against each other again in the 1st Round in Beijing, and will have probably already finished up before you read... this.
DOWN: Martina Hingis/SUI and CoCo Vandweghe/USA, how's the new partnership going? So far, not all that great.

Since the announcement of the end of her partnership with Sania Mirza, Hingis has watched from afar as the (still) doubles #1 has carried on rather well without her, going 19-2 (15-2 w/ Barbora Strycova, 4-0 w/ Monica Niculescu), winning three titles and reaching two additional finals, including this week in Wuhan. A year ago, Hingis/Mirza claimed the tournament's WD title, with Hingis winning it for a second straight year. The Swiss Miss arrived in China with another shot (after coming up 5 points short at Flushing Meadows) to reclaim the top ranking, but, ummm, no. While Mirza went to the final with Strycova, Hingis & Vandeweghe lost in the 2nd Round in their opening match vs. Krunic/Siniakova. The latest defeat makes the pair a combined 5-3 (Hingis went an additional 2-1 w/ Jankovic in Guangzhou), with no titles to their credit and their only final appearance coming after getting a bye and two walkovers (and just one actual victory) in Cincinnati, where, naturally, they ultimately fell vs. Mirza/Strycova.

But at least Martina had SOMETHING to celebrate this past week...

The same can't be said for Vandeweghe. HER birthday isn't until December. But, in truth, her on-court woes haven't been confined to doubles. Since she started her new partnership with Hingis, CoCo has gone just 1-5 in singles. In fact, after winning her opening round match in Cincinnati, she's now dropped five straight, with two losses coming in the past week (Wuhan 1st Rd. vs. Mladenovic, and Beijing 1st Rd. vs. Wozniacki this weekend). After having reached a career-high of #29 in July, and being the #28 seed at the U.S. Open, she's already set to drop to #40 in the rankings on Monday. She finished the 2015 season at #37, after being #40 in '14.

The duo have been installed as the #7-seed in Beijing, and could possibly face Mirza/Strycova in the QF. If they manage to last that long (they could play Goerges/Ka.Pliskova in the 2nd Rd.).
ITF PLAYER: Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL
...the 22-year old Waffle picked up her second $50K challenger title of the season in Las Vegas, matching her Stockton, California win in July as the second-biggest crown in her entire career (after a WTA 125 Series title in Taipei in November '13). Van Uytvanck, the #1 seed at the event, took down a wave of youngsters, starting with '16 U.S. Open girls champ Kayla Day and '14 winner Marie Bouzkova, followed by '12 AO junior winner Taylor Townsend, '15 Wimbledon girls doubles champ Fanni Stollar and '14 U.S. Open girls runner-up Sonya Kenin (17 and, at #244, a WC in the event) in a 3-6/7-6(4)/6-2 final.

JUNIOR STARS: Polish Junior Fed Cup Team
...look out, here comes the NextGen Poles! And we may have Aga "the Polish Li Na?" Radwanska to thank for it.

It's been eleven years since the Radwanska sisters brought Poland a junior Fed Cup title, and as the competition was playing out in Budapest this past week it was Aga's name that was being passed around. 14-year old Polish #2 singles player Maja Chwalinska, a small player who sports crafty and intelligent skills ala you-know-who, said, "I think that we will all keep working hard and play, play, play," adding, ""Maybe we will be like Agnieszka Radwanska in the future, but we will see."

And then the junior Poles went out and more than lived up to the Radwanska legend.

The #4-seeded Polish squad, after taking out #5 Canada in round robin play to reach the semis, eliminated the #1-seeded Russians (who'd gone 9-0 without losing a set in RR action) when Iga Swiatek teamed with Chwalinska to defeat juniors #2 and #3 Anastasia Potapova & Olesya Pervushina 1 & 3 to reach the final. There, they faced off with the #2-seeded U.S. squad. In the opening singles match, #10-ranked junior Claire Liu (who went all week without her lost luggage after the team flew in from the U.S. training site in Spain) knocked off #93 Chwalinska, but then #12 Swiatek upset #4 Amanda Anisimova to force a deciding doubles match. There it was once again the duo of Chwalinska/Swiatek that thrived, handling Liu (the Wimbledon girls doubles champ) & Caty McNally 4 & love to clinch the title. For the week, Swiatek went 9-0 in singles and doubles action.


A season ago, the U.S. squad also took a 1-0 lead in the final (vs. CZE), but failed to secure the title. Meanwhile, the Polish team came into the week as the youngest squad in the field, with every member of the roster having been born in 2001.

#teambucie champions in Wuhan!!! #wuhanopen #title #amazing #happy #pojd ?????????????? @matteksands

A photo posted by Lucie Safarova (@lucie.safarova) on

DOUBLES: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE) and Raluca Olaru/Ipek Soylu (ROU/TUR)
...with Hingis/Mirza kaput (except for a possible let's-get-the-band-back-together performance in Singapore... maybe), the race for "best doubles duo" is on. While Garcia/Mladenovic threw their towel into the ring during the clay season, and Makarova/Vesnina did the same in Rio, the finally-healthy Dynamic Duo of Mattek-Sands/Safarova (aka "Bucie") has asserted their potential dominance ever since. A tremendous big-event pair, they've added a third slam crown at the U.S. Open (w/ past wins in Melbourne and Paris) and now have a trio of big Premier titles with their run in Wuhan (w/ Toronto and Miami). In their last two events, they're 11-0 and have claimed their sixth and seventh wins as a pair (and second and third of 2016). They didn't lose a set all week in China, finishing off things with a 1 & 4 victory over Mirza/Strycova in the final. For Mattek, it's her 21st tour-level win (she also won in Indian Wells w/ Vandeweghe this past spring), while Safarova has eleven. The Czech is 11-2 in tour-level WD finals, including 11-1 since 2012 (and 7-1 w/ BMS).

Maybe the key to their success is their unique training tactic?

#tbt #usopen #teambucie That's how you warm up on the final day! ?????????? #champions #2016 ????

A video posted by Lucie Safarova (@lucie.safarova) on

In Tashkent, Olaru & Soylu claimed the title in their first tour-level event together. In their only other teaming, they reached the final of the WTA 125 Series event in Bol in June. Last week, they didn't drop a set, finishing things off with a victory over Schuurs/Voracova in the deciding match.

For Soylu, it's the continuation of what has been a career year that has taken place in the shadow of her fellow Turk Cagla Buyukakcay's own best-ever season. This is the 20-year old's second WTA WD title this season, having claimed her maiden crown in Istanbul (the same event in which Buyukakcay became the first-ever singles champ from Turkey, of course). She's also won a pair of ITF doubles titles in '16 (she should now climb into the Top 100 for the first time), as well as making it through singles qualifying at Roland Garros (Buyukakcay got the first MD slam win by a Turk in Paris, though) and reaching a $50K WS final in Zhuhai last month (Cagla wasn't there that week). Meanwhile, 27-year old Olaru picks up her fifth career WTA title, but her first since Linz '14. She also won in Tashkent back in 2008, claiming her first tour title. The Romanian, a good junior player who topped out at #4 and reached both the girls singles and doubles finals at RG in 2005, is strictly a doubles player now. Her one singles match this season, an opening round loss in qualifying in Bol, is her only solo effort since April '15, with her last singles win having come two full years ago (and her last WTA MD win being all the way back in 2010).

Opening xfactor night with my song ??

A video posted by Jordanne Whiley (@jordanne_joyce) on

1. Wuhan 3rd Rd. - Kvitova d. Kerber
In something akin to her '15 pattern rather than '16, Kerber takes part in another glorious match, but ultimately comes up short in 3:20 just a few weeks after she ousted Kvitova in the Round of 16 en route to the U.S. Open title. In the 90-minute 1st set, Kerber saved four SP before taking a 12-10 TB; while Kvitova later saved seven BP to hold for 5-3 in the 3rd. Kerber responded by saving three MP from love/40 down (after which Petra started cramping), six overall, and five in the final game before the Czech finally closed out the third-longest WTA match (but not Fed Cup) in '16 -- behind the 3:28 Begu/Vandeweghe and 3:24 Sh.Zhang/Wozniacki contests, and tied with Wuhan's other 3:20 marathon between Siegemund & Kovinic.

While this win lifted Kvitova's career mark vs. world #1's to 4-4, it dropped Kerber to 6-1 vs. lefties in '16.
2. Wuhan QF - Halep d. Keys
Halep maneuvered her way through to the semis, but was cut down there by the Kvitova buzzsaw. Still, it was a good week that saw her show no signs of trouble with her recent hamstring injury, as well as manage to survive (barely) her first-ever doubles pairing with Jelena Ostapenko. Yes, the Latvian was technically on Si-mo-na's side, but she still somehow managed to clock the Romanian upside the head with a shot that caused enough temporary damage to force them to retire after just four games from their 1st Round match.

Oh, and Simona had a birthday, too.

Yet, the quest for perfection continues... well, at least in all areas other than maybe juggling.

3. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Wozniacki d. Siniakova
The Dane got about as much out of herself as she could after a quick turnaround following her Tokyo title, including a 1st Round win over Sam Stosur and another against the young Czech that was the 500th "W" of her career.

Celebrating my 500th career win today! @wuhanopen #china

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

5. Wuhan Final - Kvitova d. Cibulkova
Cibulkova registered just one point in the first four games.
6. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Kerber d. Mladenovic
She had to fight a little, but this was Angie's first official match win as the world #1.

7. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Jankovic d. Muguruza
JJ's last Top 5 win? Over Kvitova at Wimbledon in 2015.

8. Tashkent 1st Rd. - Shapatava d. Buyukakcay
Though she became the latest to fall to a lucky loser in 2016, Buyukakcay still got to celebrate her birthday (27) a few days later.

9. Tashkent 2nd Rd. - Voegele d. Schiavone
...6-2/3-2 ret.
Francesca first played the Tashkent event sixteen years ago.

10. $25K Brisbane Final - Lizette Cabrera d. Viktoria Kuzmova
In her hometown, the 18-year old Aussie takes her second title in two weeks, defeating the U.S. Open girls runner-up.

11. Beijing 1st Rd. - Makarova d. Vesnina
Come on, now. This match-up is just unfair.
12. Beijing 1st Rd. - Putintseva d. Ostapenko
Ostapenko blows a 5-3 3rd set lead. Maybe she should have tried clocking Putintseva in the head. Oh, that would have been a show with everlasting repercussions, huh? I mean, just the handshake was EPIC.

Oh, if looks could kill, Jelena would be a serial killer by now. You know, I think she's going to take up a special place in a Backspinner's heart before it's all said and done.
13. $10K Tiberias Final - Melis Sezer d. Vlada Ekshibarova
Finally, a Turk succeeds in the shadow of Ipek Soylu, rather than the other way around. Sezer has claimed back-to-back challenger titles.
14. $10K Charleston 1st Rd. - Elizabeth Mandlik d. Akiko Okuda
The 15-year old daughter of Hall of Famer Hana Mandlikova, in just her second pro event, won three qualifying matches to reach the MD, then grabbed her first official victory. She lost a round later to the event's #2 seed (17-year old fellow Bannerette Nicole Coopersmith, who go on to win the title). Mandlik won a trio of Grade 4 junior events earlier this year.

Of course, I can't mention Hana without also mentioning Jana, the player at the heart of my all-time favorite tennis moment. Ever.

15. Beijing Q1 - Siniakova d. Cepelova
...3-0 ret.
Oh, no. Not this again.

1. Tashkent Final - KRISTYNA PLISKOVA d. Hibino
Pliskova is the fifteenth (including one qualifier) unseeded champion in fifty-three tour events this season. Five have come in the 4Q alone.

2. Wuhan QF - Kuznetsova d. AGA RADWANSKA
Aga is still looking for her first '16 4Q title after taking three a season ago. She held a MP in the 2nd set TB here vs. Kuznetsova.
3. Wuhan 3rd Rd. - AGA RADWANSKA d. Wozniacki
Playing each other for the second straight event, Aga gets a 4Q split. They could meet again in Beijing.
4. Wuhan 3rd Rd. - Kuznetsova d. VENUS WILLIAMS
Somehow these two last met SEVEN years ago in the '09 WTA Championships. This win made Sveta the only player this season with two wins over tournament defending champions in 2016. The other? Over Serena in the 4th Round in Miami.

5. Tashkent 1st Rd. - Sakkari d. ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA
Alright, who talked about her win last week and jinxed her? (Crickets.)
6. $10K Chisinau Final - MARYNA KOLB/NADIYA KOLB d. Kapshay/Shakhraychuk
...5-7/7-5 [10-6].
The Ukrainian sisters win their second career title together in their fifteenth overall final. They're 1-2 in 2016.
7. $25K Stillwater Final - Danielle Collins d. CAROLINE DOLEHIDE
...1-0 ret.
The 22-year old NCAA champ and Collegiate Invitational winner wins her first ITF challenger since her pre-U-Va. days in 2011. Dolehide, who'd played eight matches in eight days, retired after dropping the opening game.


The plight of Charlie...

And, yes, we should apparently know something official about Sharapova's standing sometime this week.

**2016 WINS OVER #1**
JAN - Australian Open F - #6 Kerber d. #1 S.Williams
MAR - Indian Wells F - #15 Azarenka d. #1 S.Williams
MAR - Miami 4th - #19 Kuznetsova d. #1 S.Williams
JUN - Roland Garros F - #4 Muguruza d. #1 S.Williams
AUG - Olympics 3rd - #20 Svitolina d. #1 S.Williams
SEP - U.S. Open SF - #11 Ka.Pliskova d. #1 S.Williams
SEP - Wuhan 3rd - #16 Kvitova d. #1 Kerber

Doha - Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
Indian Wells - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Miami - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Madrid - Simona Halep, ROU
Rome - Serena Williams, USA
Canada - Simona Halep, ROU
Cincinnati - Karolina Pliskova, CZE
Wuhan - Petra Kvitova, CZE
Beijing - xx
[most finals]
2-0...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2-0...Simona Halep, ROU
1-1...Serena Williams, USA
0-2...Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
0-2...Madison Keys, USA
Doha - Chan/Chan, TPE/TPE
Indian Wells - Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe, USA/USA
Miami - Mattek-Sands/Safarova, USA/CZE
Madrid - Garcia/Mladenovic, FRA/FRA
Rome - Hingis/Mirza, SUI/IND
Canada - Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS
Cincinnati - Mirza/Strycova, IND/CZE
Wuhan - Mattek-Sands/Safarova, USA/CZE
Beijing - xx

Bogota - Irina Falconi, USA (25/#92)
Istanbul - Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (26/#118)
Gstaad - Viktoriya Golubic, SUI (23/#105)
Bastad - Laura Siegemund, GER (28/#40)
Stanford - Johanna Konta, GBR (25/#18)
Nanchang - Duan Yingying, CHN (27/#163)
Tokyo - Christina McHale, USA (24/#53)
Quebec City - Oceane Dodin, FRA (19/#132)

**2016 WTA FINALS**
7...Angelique Kerber (3-4)
5...Serena Williams (2-3)
4...Karolina Pliskova (2-2)
3...Simona Halep (3-0)
3...Victoria Azarenka (3-0)
3...Sloane Stephens (3-0)
3...Madison Keys (1-2)

Sydney - Svetlana Kuznetsova (SF/Halep)
Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (F/S.Williams)
St.Petersburg - Roberta Vinci (F/Bencic)
Indian Wells - Victoria Azarenka (F/S.Williams)
Charleston - Sloane Stephens (SF/Kerber)
Nurnberg - Kiki Bertens (2nd/Vinci)
Roland Garros - Garbine Muguruza (F/S.Williams)
Eastbourne - Dominika Cibulkova (QF/A.Radwanska)
Stanford - Johanna Konta (F/V.Williams)

Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (S.Williams/F)
Charleston - Sloane Stephens (Kerber/SF)
Prague - Lucie Safarova (Ka.Pliskova/SF)
Roland Garros - Garbine Muguruza (S.Williams/F)
New Haven - Aga Radwanska (Kvitova/SF)
Guangzhou - Lesia Tsurenko (Jankovic/F)
Tokyo TPP - Caroline Wozniacki (A.Radwanska/SF)
ALSO: C.Garcia (Strasbourg - w/o Stosur/QF)

7 USA: Falconi,Keys,McHale,Stephens,Vandeweghe,S.Williams,V.Williams
4 CZE: KVITOVA,Ka.Pliskova,KR.PLISKOVA,Safarova
3 ESP: Arruabarrena,Muguruza,Suarez-Navarro
3 FRA: Cornet,Dodin,Garcia
3 ITA: Errani,Schiavone,Vinci
22 - United States (10 wins)
10 - Germany (4)
5 - Romania (4)
5 - France (3)
5 - SLOVAKIA (2)

Australian Open - Serena Williams (lost to Kerber)
Stuttgart - Angelique Kerber (def. Siegemund)
Roland Garros - Serena Williams (lost to Muguruza)
Wimbledon - Serena Williams (def. Kerber)
Guangzhou - Jelena Jankovic (lost to Tsurenko)

1997 Lindsay Davenport
1998 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (Sydney), Martina Hingis
1999 Steffi Graf (Sydney)
2000 Lindsay Davenport
2001 Martina Hingis (Australian)
2002 Kim Clijsters (WTA Chsp.)
2003 Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Lindsay Davenport (L.A.)
2004 Maria Sharapova
2005 Silvia Farina Elia
2006 Jelena Jankovic
2007 Justine Henin (U.S.)
2008 Jelena Jankovic, Li Na
2009 Kim Clijsters (U.S.), Elena Dementieva
2010 Jelena Jankovic (Rome)
2011 Samantha Stosur
2012 Angelique Kerber
2013 Sabine Lisicki
2014 Ana Ivanovic
2015 -
2016 Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova (U.S.), Svetlana Kuznetsova

**MOST WTA FINALS (ACTIVE), 3 seasons: 2014-16**
17 - 7/5/5...Serena Williams (14-3)
16 - 4/5/7...Angelique Kerber (6-10)
15 - 5/6/4...Karolina Pliskova (5-10)
13 - 5/5/3...Simona Halep (8-5)
9 - 4/4/1...PETRA KVITOVA (7-2)
9 - 4/3/2...Venus Williams (5-4)
8 - 5/3/0...Maria Sharapova (6-2)
8 - 2/4/2...Aga Radwanska (6-2)
8 - 3/0/5...DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA (3-5)

**2016 WTA SF**
10 - Angelique Kerber (7-3)
7 - Aga Radwanska (2-5)
6 - Serena Williams (5-1)
6 - Karolina Pliskova (4-2)
6 - SIMONA HALEP (3-3)
5 - Monica Puig (2-3)
4 - Madison Keys (3-1)
4 - Kiki Bertens (2-2)
4 - Caroline Garcia (2-2)
4 - Elina Svitolina (2-2)

7...Hingis/Mirza (5-2)
7...Garcia/Mladenovic (4-3)
4...Makarova/Vesnina (2-2)
3...Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (3-0)
3...Chan/Chan (2-1)

2003 Netherlands d. Canada
2004 Argentina d. Canada
2005 Poland d. France
2006 Belarus d. Russia
2007 Australia d. Poland
2008 United States d. Great Britain
2009 Russia d. Germany
2010 Russia d. China
2011 Australia d. Canada
2012 United States d. Russia
2013 Russia d. Australia
2014 United States d. Slovakia
2015 Czech Republic d. United States
2016 Poland d. United States

Naomi Osaka has joined Twitter!

Meanwhile, sometimes the fall IS about endings and such...

BEIJING, CHINA (Premier Mandatory/Hard)
15 Final: Muguruza d. Bacsinszky
15 Doubles Final: Hingis/Mirza d. Chan/Chan
16 Singles Top Seeds: Kerber/Muguruza

#1 Kerber d. #3 A.Radwanska
#4 Halep d. #9 Kuznetsova
#1 Kerber d. #4 Halep

...although, Aga IS due for a big result in Asia.

Meanwhile, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas...

And the same goes for a Rodionova and bath time for elephants in Thailand...

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

A.Chak looks younger now than when she played.

Kr.Pliskova is up to 66. This tour is so stacked, that puts her about 100 pts in front of Nicole(I should play every US event) Gibbs, and 100 behind Cornet.

Mirza/Strycova still alive with 1000 pts up for grabs this week.

Stat of the Week-15- The number of slam winners that have been 6th or lower in the race at this point of the season the last 20 years. Muguruza, ranked 4th, but 6th in the race, with Cibulkova a close 7th, is an interesting case.

Regarding the 15 in question, Kim Clijsters seems to be the dividing line-and not in a good way. Once you see the list, you will see that starting with Clijsters, everybody in Muguruza's situation retired, was a part timer, or a one slam winner. The other half before Clijsters? The Williams sisters section.

Li-No ranking-2014(Retired)
Graf-No ranking-1999

Special honor goes out to the 1998 slam winners, as all 4 were ranked in the Top 4-Hingis, Davenport, Novotna, Sanchez-Vicario.

Mon Oct 03, 11:14:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I hope Mirza/Strycova can qualify for Singapore. You know... just to see what would happen next.

(Palace intrigue.) ;)

Mon Oct 03, 12:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Petra is confounding. What she said was almost a cry for help (not conscuious). There have been so many signs that something is wrong. I worry about her.

Mon Oct 03, 10:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Diane, Interesting take on Petra. Statistically, she falls in line with the outliers that won slams-Pierce, Kuznetsova, Mandlikova, but I will save that for another time.

You sort of get the feeling that Petra is the version of the 7ft basketball player that plays because he is good, and can set up the rest of his life, not because he loves the game. I almost feel as though she wants to find her version of Bastian(Ana's husband), so she would have an excuse to give up the sport.

My prediction? She's already been on tour 10 years, so 1 more slam, and 3 years tops.

Tue Oct 04, 11:46:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I hear you, and that wouldn't surprise me. Without stating them (out of respect for her privacy), there have always been signs that Petra needs more than just coaching. I aldo suspect that many of her medical issues are manifestations of other issues. I really hope she gets all the assistance she needs. She's a terrific player, and a gem. (Reason for hope?--her footwork has gotten much better lately!)

Tue Oct 04, 03:28:00 PM EDT  

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