Monday, October 10, 2016

Wk.40- Aga Gets Her Asian Groove Back

Now, that's more like it.

BEIJING, CHINA (Hard/Outdoor)
S: Aga Radwanska/POL def. Johanna Konta/GBR 6-4/6-2
D: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE) d. Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA/FRA) 6-4/6-4

...finally, in Beijing, Aga got her Asian groove back.

Aga and the continent have a history, remember, and a good one at that. Nine of her now twenty career titles have some in Asia, as well as eleven of her appearances in finals. She kicked it up to another level last fall, winning in Tokyo, Tianjin and at the WTA Finals in Singapore to secure her biggest career crown. Then she opened 2016 with a title in Shenzhen, China. But Radwanska was a little slower off the mark this fall, with good-but-not-great QF and SF results (and a 4-2 record) in Tokyo and Wuhan. Right on cue, though, she lifted her game in Beijing. She didn't lose a set all week, winning her tour-leading third tournament in such a fashion this year after being the only player to do it twice in '15 (only one other player has won multiple crowns w/o dropping a set over the same stretch), by taking out Wang Qiang, Ekaterina Makarova, Caroline Wozniacki, Yaroslava Shvedova, Elina Svitolina and Johanna Konta. Her third overall title of the season puts her in a five-way tie for the tour lead in 2016.

While Radwanska isn't particularly known for her clutch, big match play, this title run gives her a career 20-7 mark in tour singles finals, including a current 6-0 run. Also, she's now on a short list with players named Serena, Vika and Maria as the only players with three Premier Mandatory titles to their credit.

RISERS: Johanna Konta/GBR, Madison Keys/USA, Elina Svitolina/UKR and Dasha Gavrilova/AUS
...Beijing produced an embarrassment of riches when it comes to this category.

First off, Konta reached her first career Premier Mandatory final on the back of wins over Anastasija Sevastova, Timea Babos, Karolina Pliskova ('16 Top 10 win #6), Zhang Shuai (winning the final twelve games after falling behind 4-0), and Madison Keys (Top 10 win #7). The result kept alive her hopes of joining the WTA Finals field in Singapore, as well as making her just the fourth Brit -- and the the first in 32 years -- to find herself in the singles Top 10.

Keys reached her fifth semifinal of the season with wins over Duan Yingying, Kristina Mladenovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova, the latter coming just a few months after she lost to the Czech in the Bronze Medal Match in Rio. Keys jumps up to a new career-high of #7 in the new rankings.

Svitolina's own fifth semifinal result of the season included wins over Tatjana Maria, Sabine Lisicki, and Dasha Gavrilova. But the centerpiece of the Ukrainian's week was her upending of #1-ranked Angelique Kerber in the 3rd Round for her second win over a reigning #1 (Serena in Rio) this season, making her the first to put up wins over different #1's in the same season since 2010. The win over Kerber was Svitolina's fourth Top 10 victory of the season, as well as her third over a tournament #1 seed in 2016 (a tour best). She reached the semis without dropping a set, but fell in straights to eventual champion Aga Radwanska. Also with a win over a #3-ranked Garbine Muguruza in Tokyo a few weeks ago, Svitolina is up to #15 in the new rankings, one off the career-high she set in March.

Somewhere, Justine Henin is smiling.

And, finally, Gavrilova battled her way to the QF, her first such tour-level singles result since Madrid, and just her second since reaching the final eight in Hong Kong one year ago. The Aussie posted victories over Christina McHale, Timea Bacsinszky, and Caroline Garcia in Beijing, dropping just one set en route before losing 7-6/6-1 to Svitolina.

SURPRISES: Tatjana Maria/GER and Gabriela Dabrowski/Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez (CAN/ESP)
...Maria, 29, saw her year-end ranking settle in the #200's in 2013-14 as she was pregnant, gave birth in December '13, and then began her comeback the following season. In 2015, she made it all the way back, matching the career-best season-ending ranking (#68) that she'd set back in 2009, as well as putting up her best-ever (Wimbledon 3rd Rd.) slam result. This year, though, the German's higher-flying results have come back down to earth. Other than a semifinal result in a $100K challenger in May, and a successful Q-run at SW19, Maria's singles results haven't been much to get excited about this year. After getting a 1st Round win over Jelena Jankovic at Roland Garros, in fact, her "biggest" moment of 2016 likely came one round later in Paris, when she lost to Alize Cornet, got bent out of shape over the Pastry's on-court antics and even threatened a lawsuit of some sort over the whole thing. Maria hasn't won a tour-level MD match since, so I guess CAS hasn't been the only entity to recently make a "ruling"... the Tennis Gods have spoken quite loudly, as well.

That said, coming into Beijing at #114, Maria did manage to string together a pair of good Q-round wins, defeating Naomi Osaka 2 & 1 in the teenager's first outing since her final in Tokyo, and then adding a win over veteran Lucie Hradecka, as well. She claimed just two games in her 1st Round meeting with Elina Svitolina, though.

Meanwhile, no one was talking about the Dabrowski/MJMS doubles duo heading into Beijing, but they very nearly played the role of spoilers in the event. They notched win over Mirza/Strycova (ending their Singapore hopes) and Goerges/Ka.Pliskova to reach the semifinals, where they took the lone set that Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Lucie Safarova have lost since the start of the U.S. Open, only to lose a 14-12 3rd set tie-break to come up just short of the final.

VETERANS: Zhang Shuai/CHN and Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
...finally making her way back to her hometown, Zhang put on a nice show for the fans in Beijing. Wins over the likes of Sam Stosur, Alison Riske and (rather easily) Simona Halep put the Chinese vet, who was a step away from retirement earlier this year before her QF run in Melbourne, into another meaningful quarterfinal -- her first at a Premier Mandatory event. Zhang has so far lifted her ranking from #186 to a new career-high of #27 (on Monday, topping her #30 standing in 2014) this season, and her Beijing wins over Halep and Stosur (she's beaten both twice in '16) are added to other upset victories this year over Madison Keys, Timea Bacsinszky and Caroline Wozniacki.

Meanwhile, Shvedova's sneaky good season continued in Beijing, as she also reached the QF with wins over Carla Suarez-Navarro (dealing a blow to the Spaniard's WTA Finals hopes), Belinda Bencic and Alize Cornet. The 29-year old's win over #10 CSN was her first Top 10 victory since taking out Suarez-Navarro's countrywoman, Garbine Muguruza, in Cincinnati last season. Shvedova will move from #39 to #32 on Monday. She's still a ways off from her career-high (#25 in'12), but she's assured of her (at least a tad surprising) ninth Top 100 season in the last ten years. The Kazakh's doubles prowess has never been under the radar, though, as she's had three Top 10 season finishes there. She entered this past past week at #11, but she & Timea Babos fell in the 2nd Round in Beijing to Bacsinszky/Ostapenko.
COMEBACKS: Peng Shuai/CHN and Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...Wozniacki, in the middle of an uplifting (but tiring) Asian swing highlighted by her title in Tokyo, didn't quite replicate her earlier success in Beijing, but she put up good wins over CoCo Vandeweghe and Roberta Vinci to set up her third meeting in three weeks with Aga Radwanska. After notching a win en route to her title run in Tokyo, she dropped her second in row in the series this time around as Radwanska won in straights and didn't drop a set all week long en route to her own title. The Dane's quest for a Top 20 return will have to wait, as she'll remain at #22 on Monday, but she's set to play for a fourth straight week in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Peng's late-season return to form continued to lead her to put up intriguing results in both singles and doubles. Granted a wild card into the singles MD in Beijing, she opened with an upset of #13 Venus Williams. It's the 30-year old's best win since her semifinal run at the U.S. Open in 2014, when she notched wins over then #5 Aga Radwanska and #15 Lucie Safarova, and led #11 Wozniacki 7-6/4-3 before issues with the heat caused her to collapse and be wheeled off the court after being forced to retire. Peng lost to Caroline Garcia in the 2nd Round after saving three MP to force a 3rd set TB that went the Pastry's way at 7-4. In doubles, she & Christina McHale upset #2-seeded Makarova/Vesnina and reached the QF a week after putting up a SF result in Wuhan.

FRESH FACES: Dalma Galfi/HUN and Francoise Abanda/CAN
...the NextGen muscle-flexing on the challenger circuit picked up still more steam in Week 40. Not only did a teenager add to her ongoing winning streak (see below), but two of the biggest events of the week were also claimed by rising newcomers.

In Toowoomba, Australia, '15 Wimbledon girls champ Galfi ran her career mark in ITF singles finals to 6-0 with her first title of the season. The 18-year old Hungarian lost just one set all week (vs. Asia Muhammad in the semis), putting an official stamp on wins over the likes of Storm Sanders, Miyu Kato, and Katy Dunne in a 6-2/6-4 final. She also claimed the doubles title, the fourth of her career, with fellow teenager Viktoria Kuzmova ('16 U.S. jr RU) by her side, defeating Gabriela Ce & Tereza Mihalikova ('15 AO jr. champ) in the final round. When her new points are added, Galfi will climb inside the Top 250 for the first time.

In Redding, California, 19-year old Abanda added a third challenger title (second in '16) to her career total, all having coming in $25K events in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Sunday's win came in a three-set final over top-seeded Bannerette Sachia Vickery in which Abanda came back from losing the opening set to claim a 3-6/6-4/6-4 victory.

DOWN: Garbine Muguruza/ESP and Venus Williams/USA was about this time of year that both of these players began their late '15 push. The momentum led Muguruza into the slam winner's circle in Paris and lifted her to the #2 ranking, while Venus reached the Wimbledon semis and returned to the Top 10. But unless something additional happens in the final weeks of this season, they'll get no such bounce heading into 2017.

The Spaniard, who won the Beijing title last season (after having reached the Wuhan final), did manage to avenge her U.S. Open loss to Anastasija Sevastova this week, as well as knock off Yulia Putintseva, but she failed to come close to defending her title. Instead, she lost in the 3rd Round to Petra Kvitova, winning just five total games, and seeing the Czech win eighteen of twenty-three points on SECOND serve in the match. She'll slip outside the Top 5 (to #6) in the new rankings, and now looks to be a good bet to accomplish the "feat" of finishing 2016 (a year in which she won a major at Roland Garros, in her only appearance in a final this season) with a lower ranking than she had in '15 (when she topped out with a slam runner-up result at Wimbledon). In a way, that possibility is a perfect example of the Kvitova-esque nature of Muguruza's bob-and-weave, week-to-week results, and well as why she's hot on Petra's heels for the title of "Most Frustrating Player" on The Most Interesting Tour in the World.

Meanwhile, Venus entered the week having fallen out of the Top 10 for the first time in seventeen weeks. Then she was upset in the Beijing 1st Round by Peng Shuai. Veteran Peng, making a nice 4Q comeback run, came in ranked #223, and her win makes her the first player with a ranking in the #200's to defeat Venus. Ever. Williams did lose to an unranked Kim Clijsters (an "exception" to the ranking rule if there ever was one) at the U.S. Open in 2009, but other than than her worst loss to a ranked player prior to this past week had been to a #143-ranked Petra Kvitova in Memphis in 2008. After putting up a string of great 4Q results a year ago -- Wuhan title, Hong Kong semi and Zhuhai title -- Venus had lost three of her last four matches, starting with her defeat at the hands of Karolina Pliskova at Flushing Meadows, before putting up a win in the 1st Round of this week's event in Hong Kong.
ITF PLAYER: Katharina Hobgarski/GER
...the 19-year old German has been positively on fire on the ITF circuit. In Hammamet, Hobgarski won her fourth straight $10K challenger, defeating Slovak Barbara Kotelesova in the final to complete a no-sets-lost week that runs her current winning streak to twenty matches. She's won forty of forty-three matches during her four-event sprint, raising her '16 record in singles finals to 5-0 and once again setting herself up for a new career-high ranking come Monday. She entered this past week at #444, and will now climb to #415. She was at #533 when her current run started.
JUNIOR STARS: Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK and Francesca Di Lorenzo/USA (Ohio State)
...since her appearance in this summer's U.S. Open girls final, Kuzmova has had a regular presence in the latter stages of every challenger event she's entered. The big-serving 18-year old went from Flushing Meadows to Lubbock, Texas, where she won the biggest singles title of her career at at $25K challenger, then headed off to Australia and reached the final of another $25K in Brisbane. Last week, the Slovak was in Toowoomba. She "only" reach the QF in singles, but still just couldn't help herself, substituting great solo success with a run to a doubles title (the biggest of her career) with Dalma Galfi.

Meanwhile, the player who was my 2015-16 pick for NCAA WS champion -- Ohio State's then-freshman Francesca Di Lorenzo -- didn't quite rise so high over the course of the season, but she did reach #2 in the women's singles rankings and claimed quite a few first-ever accomplishments for the school in her very first year on the Buckeye roster. Well, she's already off to a quick start in her sophomore year (and, yes, I'll be picking her as the NCAA #1/champion again for 2016-17), this weekend winning her second career ITA crown by taking the Riviera All-American title in Pacific Palisades, California, with a 6-4/6-3 win over UCLA's Ena Shibahara, a freshman who had to participate in pre-qualifying just to reach the MD and ultimately won ten matches in an eight-day stretch. #3-seeded Di Lorenzo defeated #1-seed Hayley Carter (North Carolina), the NCAA Championships runner-up to Danielle Collins earlier this year, to reach the final.


DOUBLES: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE)
...with Hingis/Mirza in the past (except for a Singapore reunion, which should happen now that Mirza/Strycova have failed to qualify for the WTA Finals field), Mattek-Sands/Safarova and Garcia/Mladenovic are left to battle it out for the "Doubles Duo of the Year" crown. Well, the ACTIVE duo, at least. The contest became a living entity in Beijing, as the two teams faced off for the title.

It was the Dynamic Duo -- Team Bucie -- that emerged victorious, completing their week's work with a straight sets win to claim their third consecutive title and run their current match win streak to sixteen. Mattek-Sands & Safarova have now combined in '16 to win three big Premier titles (and BMS has an additional fourth, w/ CoCo Vandeweghe), as well as the U.S. Open (where they also defeated the Pastries in the final). They had their seventeen-set winning streak (w/ one 3-1 set when Halep was clocked by an Ostapenko shot and forced to retire in Wuhan) in the semifinals by Dabrowski/Martinez-Sanchez, but rebounded by forcing a 3rd and winning a 14-12 TB to reach their ninth overall final (8-1, and 4-1 vs. Garcia/Mladenovic) as a pair.

With four titles each, both duos are still behind Hingis/Mirza (5) for the most on tour this season, but Garcia/Mladenovic's appearance in the championship match did manage to break their tie with the former world co-#1's with their eighth final in 2016.


Petra in a bottle... err, with a bottle... or, asking for a bottle...

Spittin' images of one another, huh? (And, for that, I guess one can forgive the Bieber part in all this.)

1. Beijing 3rd Rd. - Svitolina d. Kerber
Svitolina's second win over a world #1 this season featured the Ukrainian erasing break disadvantages in both sets, and saving nine of eleven BP opportunities on her serve.

2. Beijing SF - Keys d. Kvitova
Keys ends Kvitova's eight-match winning streak, saving three BP to hold for 4-3 in the 3rd, then saving four more while coming back from love/40 two games later to hold for 5-4. Of course, this came after Keys had lost a 6-3/4-2 lead and saw Kvitova force that 3rd set. With this result, Keys improves to 17-5 in three-setters in '16, after having been 19-25 prior to this season.

And, of course, you (once again) needed a program to tell the players apart from their outfits.

Really, this has to stop.
3. Beijing 3rd Rd. - Kvitova d. Muguruza
Muguruza was the defending champ in Beijing, and this loss drops her to #6 in the rankings.

4. Beijing 3rd Rd. - Sh.Zhang d. Halep
Simona hit a DF on SP in the 1st. I guess we'll now find out if her abilities to forget things like this really HAVE improved.
5. Beijing 1st Rd. - Strycova d. Siegemund
Strycova led 4-0 in the 2nd, only to have to come back from a break down at 4-5 to escape with a 7-5 set win to force a 3rd, where she also recovered from being down a break.
6. Beijing 2nd Rd. - Dabrowski/MJMS d. Mirza/Strycova
...4-6/6-1 [10-4].
Mirza/Strycova's loss led to the qualification of Babos/Shvedova, Hlavackova/Hradecka and Chan/Chan for Singapore. And, in a round-about way, maybe Hingis/Mirza, too.
7. Beijing 1st Rd. - Konta d. Sevastova
The Latvian is 1-3 since the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Her final win during her NYC run? Over Konta in the Round of 16.
8. $10K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Dea Herdzelas d. Anna Morgina
One week after losing to the Russian in a $10K final in Sharm El Sheikh, the 19-year old Bosnian gets her revenge in another final in the same city.
9. $10K Mexico City Final - Emina Bektas d. Victoria Rodriguez
A former Michigan Wolverine, 23-year old Bektas wins her first ITF singles title since 2013. She also won the doubles (her sixth career win) with Jessica Wacnik, defeating a duo that also included Rodriguez.
10. $10K Tarakan Final - Kaitlyn Christian d. Haruka Kaji
The 24-year old former USC star picks up her first career pro singles title.
HM- Beijing 2nd Rd. - Cornet d. Cibulkova 6-2/5-7/6-2
Beijing 2nd Rd. - Keys d. Mladenovic 7-5/6-4

Plus, she has a long memory, too. So, Domi and Kiki, the countdown-to-confrontation begins...

Big carrot in little China...

And, meanwhile, Genie...

1. Beijing 1st Rd. - Peng d. VENUS WILLIAMS
In a career that stretches back to Oakland in 1994 (so, parts of 23 seasons), Venus has now lost seven matches (not counting the loss to an unranked Kim Clijsters) to players with triple-digit rankings. Seven. That's all.
2. Beijing Final - AGA RADWANSKA d. Konta
And she finishes it off with an ace... naturally.

3. Beijing 1st Rd. - KAROLINA PLISKOVA d. Safarova
The now #5-ranked Pliskova is 4-2 vs. Czechs this season. 2-1 vs. Safarova.
4. Beijing 2nd Rd. - KAROLINA PLISKOVA d. Kasatkina
The Czech comes back from 3-1 down in the 3rd, and saves a MP.
5. Beijing 3rd Rd. - Konta d. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
Konta broke the 0-for-5 headlock that Pliskova had on their career head-to-head. By the way, Karolina had a little bit more to say about her twin's reaction to her first career title, too.

6. Beijing 3rd Rd. - AGA RADWANSKA d. Wozniacki
Aga wins the rubber-match in their three-matches-in-three weeks round robin, winning her second in a row over the Dane after having lost four straight. She also dropped five consecutive in match-ups between 2008-11. Caro now leads the series 9-6. Check out this 36-shot rally...

So, it's come to this. Down to #150 after finishing 2015 at #26, AKS fell in the opening round of Linz qualifying on Sunday. It's going to be a long, tough road back to level in 2017... but it can't get here fast enough for the Slovak.
8. $10K Bol Final - GABRIELA PANTUCKOVA d. Nina Potocnik
A member of the OTHER Czech sister set, 21-year old Gabriela P. picked up her third '16 title.

HM- $10K Ramat Hasharon QF - Marta Paigina d. LINA GLUSHKO
Julia's 16-year older sis reaches her second pro QF. Paigina went on to win the title.

And, so, how was your week?

Really, it all boiled down to a few important statements from CAS...

Of course, not that any of that will matter to some, most of whom would have held up a ruling from CAS that didn't strike down and criticize most of the ITF's arguments -- actually, all those that were intended to truly cut and damage her the most -- as vindication for continued attacks against and suspicion about the Russian. But, really, at least in an American landscape populated by a certain orange politician and his followers' pathological aversion to facts, figures and anything resembling introspection and various other thought processes, I suppose it's no surprise that the likes of the usual suspects in ESPN's Basket of Tennis Commentating Deplorables would choose the occasion of a ruling "in favor" of Sharapova -- which is what it was, no matter how many wish to refer to the fact that she was STILL guilty of a doping violation, no matter that the ruling stating that "under no circumstances" should she considered an "intentional doper" and bore no "significant fault" beyond her poor system of checking unclear warnings about the use of previously legal medications -- to NOW speak out against her after talked around the subject for seven months.

First, Chris McKendry complained about Sharapova sponsor Head tweeting congratulations for her return to the sport. Some wished to call the move the work of a "poor sponsor." Fact is, Head WAS the one sponsor that stood by Sharapova from the start and didn't cowardly run for cover at the first sign of trouble... which sounds an awful lot like a GOOD sponsor that chose to trust a client and have their back, I'd say.

While one could quibble with the word "congratulations" (as some learned this week in the U.S., words do matter... to some, at least), it's a lazy point of contention when the real topic of discussion should have been what was judged to be the ITF's attempts to scuttle the career of a future Hall of Famer based on a faulty logic, poor science, bad administrative skills, and the strong possibility (though some might argue the point due to a "lack of fully-backing evidence") of targeting certain a athlete(s) in a virtual "speed trap" with the hopes of publicly flexing its muscles and exercising its authority, only to be caught in the effort and called out by a higher authority for such actions... and what influence such thankfully-not-unchecked power could have on players with far less ability and will to fight back as Sharapova possesses. But, you know, that would mean doing something other than tweeting the first thought that pops into one's mind, and we know the ESPNers are incapable of such things.

Of course, McKendry at least had a right to raise an eyebrow. Pam Shriver, truthfully, just embarrassed herself.

First, she attacked the "ungratefulness" of Sharapova defending herself after receiving some measure of vindication (apparently, when many of the things you said in your own defense are backed up by a higher body of power, you're supposed to be silent and kiss the collective ass of the lesser organization that tried to railroad you... who knew?).

Screw that. I say shout it early, often and loud, from the highest point in the land. Within reason, at least, for an acceptable period of time (say, about 24-48 hours... which is just about how long Sharapova did it), when you're more-than-justifiably angry AND relieved, before setting it aside and deciding to move on.

And, by the way, if Shriver had managed to break away from her intense following of the tennis tour... (sorry, I have to wipe away the tears about that fantasy-world possibility... all right, I'm better now)... she'd have noticed that Sharapova NEVER STOPPED practicing. I noted it often here, and Alla Kudrytseva did last week, as well.

Then Shriver proceeded to start spreading suspicion about any three-set losses Sharapova might suffer 6-7 months from now, apparently referring to the possible athletic "benefits" of Meldonium that were noted (w/ little real evidence, and mostly conjecture that was useful in the attempt to determine why the drug was placed on the banned list to begin with) when she was originally suspended.

So, I guess we've got a series of innuendo-laced commentary from Shriver to look forward to next year whenever Sharapova loses a three-set match or two. So that'll be nice. Days after the CAS statement, in truly Trumpian all-right-let-it-go-already fashion, Shriver retweeted a Sharapova article that had the headline "Sharapova has no shame." So, I suppose it's already started... or never really ended.

Of course, leave it to Pam to still manage to pull out a groaner that you can't help but laugh at...

Seriously, Pammy? Really? That's all you've got? Hilarious. Yeah, I know, she wasn't TRYING to be funny there... that's what made it so humorous.

Actually, though, it was quite sad.

But, hey, at least it made me realize that I've been wrong about Shriver the last few years, when I came to actually look at her as an entertaining (and harmless) port in the horrific ESPN storm. Actually, my original assessment of her poor commentating skills and even worse judgment close to a decade ago was indeed correct. Right on the money, in fact.

So, at least there's that.

Thankfully, Shriver's former doubles partner isn't as judgmental, easily swayed by false "facts," or "all-knowing"...

Whew! And, with that, I'm glad I won't be talking about all this crap again for a while.

It has been a beautiful few days since I heard the news. I'm coming back and I can't wait!! #Grateful

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

A free minute in #NYC

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

3 - Angelique Kerber, GER
3 - Simona Halep, ROU
3 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
3 - Sloane Stephens, USA
2 - Serena Williams, USA
2 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE
2 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2 - Caroline Garcia, FRA
[hard court]
3...Victoria Azarenka
2...Angelique Kerber
2...Sloane Stephens

Brisbane - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Shenzhen - Aga Radwanska, POL
Auckland - Sloane Stephens, USA
Kaohsiung- Venus Williams, USA
Miami - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Rome - Serena Williams, USA
's-Hertogenbosch - CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
New Haven- Aga Radwanska, POL (2)
[last two seasons]
5...Aga Radwanska (2 in '15, 3 in '16)
2...Sloane Stephens (1/1)

**2015-16 WTA SF**
18...Angelique Kerber (8/10)
16...AGA RADWANSKA (8/8)
15...Serena Williams (9/6)
15...Simona Halep (9/6)
14...Karolina Pliskova (8/6)
10...Caroline Wozniacki (7/3)

Simona Halep, ROU
Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
Genie Bouchard, CAN
Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
Lucie Safarova, CZE
Garbine Muguruza, ESP
Karolina Pliskova, CZE
Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
Belinda Bencic, SUI
Roberta Vinci, ITA
Madison Keys, USA
Johanna Konta, GBR #
#- previous GBR Top 10 debut: Virginia Wade (1975), Sue Barker (1976), Jo Durie (1983)

**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
OCT- Beijing 3rd - #19 Svitolina d. #1 Kerber

2008 Dinara Safina (3 diff. #1's)#
2009 Venus Williams (2)
2010 Samantha Stosur (2)
2011-15 - none
2016 Elina Svitolina (2)
#- only player w/ three W's over three diff. #1's in a season

NR - Kim Clijsters (2009 U.S. Open 4th)
#223 Peng Shuai (2016 Beijing 1st)
#143 Petra Kvitova (2008 Memphis 1st)
#140 Sonya Jeyaseelan (1999 A.Island 2nd)
#125 Barbara Schwartz (1999 RG 4th)
#119 Kateryna Bondarenko (2015 Istanbul 1st)
#115 Nathalie Dechy (1997 Toronto 1st)
#109 Olga Puchkova (2013 Florianopolis SF)
#98 Sesil Karatantcheva (2005 RG 3rd)
#96 Elena Vesnina (2016 Miami 2nd)
#95 Aga Radwanska (2006 Luxembourg 2nd)
#94 Tsvetana Pironkova (1994 Aust.Open 1st)
#94 Elena Makarova (1997 Filderstadt Q1)
#91 Magdalena Grzybowska (1997 Wimbledon 1st)
#90 Veronika Martinek (1996 A.Island 1st)

7...Hingis/Mirza (5-2)
4...Makarova/Vesnina (2-2)

4 - Jan-Feb - Hingis/Mirza (4-0)
3 - Mar-Apr - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (2-1)
3 - Apr-May - Garcia/Mladenovic (3-0)
3 - Apr-May - Hingis/Mirza (1-2)
3 - Sep-Oct - MATTEK-SANDS/SAFAROVA (3-0) (active)

20...Martina Hingis (Jan/Feb)
19...Hingis/Mirza (Jan/Feb)
15...Garcia/Mladenovic (Apr/May)
13...Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Mar/Apr)
13...Makarova/Vesnina (Aug/Sep)
12...Sania Mirza (Aug/Sep)

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 - Aga Radwanska, POL
[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 - Mattek-Sands/Safarova, USA/CZE

Naomi Osaka is still on Twitter...


A photo posted by Naomi Osaka "Nao-chi" ????? (@naomiosakatennis) on

Meanwhile, a new era has arrived in Italian Fed Cup lore (well, at least until one of the Quartet eventually takes over the duties at some point, I guess)...

And, no, I couldn't let the OTHER FC changing of the guard go by without a mention...

"Eight years of service." Whew, talk about faint praise. But, then again, what could really be said about nearly a decade of underachievement, poor roster-building, even worse in-the-heat-of-the-battle decisions, and a decided lack of knowledge or interest in knowing the pros and cons of the games of members of her own rosters OR those of other nations?

"Thank you for occupying the chair on the side of the court, Mary Joe. Because, otherwise, umm, you know, it'd been empty." Oh, and one more time, for old time's sake...

I'm sure, though, while she managed to finally be a "competent" Captain in '16 (though the bar WAS The Donald-like low), the truly horrid nature of the MJF regime will soon be forgotten, and know-nothings and/or F.O.M's (Friends of Mary Joe, of which there are many in too many positions of influence, if not power) will soon talk about how great a "leader" she was. Sort of like a past U.S. president of recent vintage. And, following that line of thought, I guess that means that her successor will blamed for all her losses, while MJF is given some sort of shiny plaque next summer at Flushing Meadows in Katrina Adams' latest photo op, as everyone will gather in New York to remember her "defining moment" (i.e. when she wasn't a TOTAL embarrassment in a leadership role). So, yeah, I guess we have that to look forward to, as well.

Of course, now the "search" for a replacement begins. Will the USTA turn to a legend (like Navratilova, in one's dreams), a judgmental know-it-all who never saw an MJF decision that she didn't agree with (Davenport), someone who paid their dues with great success while working with the current NextGen stars (Kathy Rinaldi), or a recent player with a good working knowledge of the current tour (Raymond) and (hopefully) a respect for the importance of roster versatility and doubles skills on a Fed Cup weekend.

Well, it's the USTA... so it'd be best to lower expectations, and maybe even anticipate the worst (Captain J-Cap?). That might be the only way the ACTUAL choice is palatable.

Speaking of choices, the TWD premiere is coming up soon...

I'm still going with Michonne as Negan's victim, largely because Glenn (the victim in the comic) is too easy a choice, and because there'd be a fan revolt if it was Daryl. She seems to check all the boxes for a death that would be a shattering and crushing blow to multiple characters, as well as fans.

But what do I know?

15 Final: Jankovic def. Kerber
15 Doubles Final: Cornet/Shvedova d. Arruabarrena/Klepac
16 Singles Top Seeds: Kerber/V.Williams

#1 Kerber d. Mladenovic
#3 Konta d. #2 V.Williams
#1 Kerber d. #3 Konta

...time for Angie to get on the case in the fight for season-ending #1.

LINZ, AUSTRIA (Int'l/Hard Indoor)
15 Final: Pavlyuchenkova def. Friedsam
15 Doubles Final: Atawo/Spears d. Hlavackova/Hradecka
16 Singles Top Seeds: Muguruza/Cibulkova

#3 Keys d. #1 Muguruza
#5 Pavlyuchenkova d. #7 Kasatkina
#5 Pavlyuchenkova d. #3 Keys

...she's not been playing well of late (5-6 since the Olympics), but the Russian's last three titles (and four of her last five finals) have come at indoor events, including in Linz last fall. Hence, the slightly-a-hunch (or stab in the dark) pick here.

15 Final: A.Radwanska d. Kovinic
15 Doubles Final: Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai d. Jurak/Melichar
16 Singles Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Kuznetsova

#1 A.Radwanska d. #3 Vesnina
#2 Kuznetsova d. #6 Putintseva
#1 A.Radwanska d. #2 Kuznetsova

...having gotten it rolling again, we'll see if Aga can add a title defense to the ball of wax. Also, Sveta deserves to (at least) reach the final this week, really, just because the other day she uttered her very own version of Dinara Safina's legendary "the more you know, the less you sleep" line. Of course, in Sveta's world it goes something like this: "All the life for me is mental."

And while all that has been happening, what's Serena been up to, you wonder? Well...

Not Sorry @beyonce

A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

The recap of the 2016 season begins later this week, with a look back (and assessment... some good, some bad) of all those preseason predictions I made.

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Unlikely, but Sharapova mathematically could be seeded at the French. 32nd ranked player at ranking time this year(Kasatkina) had 1538 pts. Even though I don't expect her to hit the ground running, winning either Rome/Madrid and reaching the final of the other would be enough. Has to be said, because others besides Serena-Hingis 06, Clijsters 09, have come back fast.

Probably the best year end race I can remember, although when you have 50% of your race pts from 1 tournament(Muguruza) this late in the season, that is a red flag.

Stat of the Week-2712- The amount of points Vera Zvonareva picked up after the US Open in 2008. Watching this year's race brings up one of the best closing stretches ever. 14th going into Wimbledon, she really didn't do much in the summer, either winning one or no matches in 5 of the 6. The one being the Olympics where she lost in the SF.

But after the open is when she made her move, winning Guangzhou, reaching the finals of Moscow and Linz, plus reaching the Beijing SF. This got her to the championships, where she lost to Venus Williams in the finals.

More impressively, she kept that play in the beginning of 09, reaching the AO SF, plus winning Pattaya City and Indian Wells, before her ankle injury in Charleston derailed her.

Mon Oct 10, 11:40:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And, remember, though it didn't have the overall results or longevity of KC 2.0, Henin's comeback was one of those others you mentioned -- reaching the Brisbane and AO finals in her first month back in 2010.

Mon Oct 10, 11:14:00 PM EDT  

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