Monday, November 14, 2016

Wk.45- The Luxury of a Secret Weapon

Wouldn't it be great if we all had a full-proof Secret Weapon safely tucked away in our back pocket for when times get tough?

You know, just like the Czech Maidens do.

Of course, the Czech Republic, which this weekend became the first nation to win three straight Fed Cup titles since Spain from 1993-95, and which can now positively state that its fifth win in the last six years is the most dominant run of extended FC hegemony since the great U.S. squads of the late 1970's and early 1980's, sometimes seems as if it has more weaponized parts than Captain Petr Pala could ever possibly know what to do with.

They're "The Interchangeables."

Petra Kvitova or Lucie Safarova, who spearheaded the first half of the nation's two-part multiple-title run, aren't able to go? Well, then Karolina Pliskova can become the team leader, as happened in 2015, a year BEFORE she reaches her first slam final and has her initial Top 10 season. Kvitova plays, but goes 0-2, as she did in the 1st Round vs. Romania back in February? Pliskova takes up the slack and goes 2-0, then teams with Barbora Strycova (the aforementioned Secret Weapon) in the deciding doubles. Pliskova has an imperfect weekend, as she did in the semifinals in the spring vs. Switzerland? Well, then just insert Strycova into a singles slot (naturally, she got a win), then fill her expected doubles spot with Lucie Hradecka (then still half of a long-time excellent duo with non-roster member Andrea Hlavackova), who then teamed with Pliskova to win another deciding doubles match.

Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

This weekend, the details changed, as they often do, when the Czech Maidens faced off in Strasbourg with the French, led by Captain Amelie Mauresmo and her two-headed inspiration monster, Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. But while the specifics may have been different, the end result was the same: another 3-2 win that came down to the deciding doubles, the nation's seventh in fifteen ties during their five title seasons since 2011. Even more impressive, six of those going-the-distance wins have come on the road, including all three of the nation's wins this season.

This time around, Pliskova went to the proverbial mat (for nearly four hours) to get a win on Day 1, only to see Kvitova fail to follow suit immediately afterward. A day later, Pliskova wasn't able to win another three-setter, and Kvitova was a last minute switch-out for Strycova, who employed her unique brand of fire and in-your-face intensity to defeat a player (Alize Cornet) against whom she was 1-5 in her career, then came back less than an hour later and teamed with Pliskova to win ANOTHER deciding doubles match, her fifth such doubles win during this historic run. A Top 20 player herself in both singles and doubles in 2016, maybe Bara's not so "secret" a weapon any longer.

2011 SF def. Belgium (Benesova/Strycova)
2011 Final def. Russia (Hradecka/Peschke)
2014 1st Rd. def. Spain (Hlavackova/Strycova)
2015 Final def. Russia (Ka.Pliskova/Strycova)
2016 1st Rd. def. Romania (Ka.Pliskova/Strycova)
2016 SF def. Switzerland (Ka.Pliskova/Hradecka)
2016 Final def. France (Ka.Pliskova/Strycova)

The Czech victory prevented Mauresmo from becoming the fourth woman -- Margaret Court, Billie Jean King & Chris Evert -- to win a Fed Cup championship as both a player and a captain, while Pala became the all-time leader in captain wins in FC history. At this point, saying the Czechs are "dressed to kill" come Fed Cup weekend is a bit of an understatement.

Every Fed Cup run has its "star," be it the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Flavia Pennetta, Kvitova or Pliskova in recent years. For the Czechs in 2016, the face of this title season is that of Strycova.

In 2017, which Czech might step to the forefront? When The Interchangeables are involved, just about anything -- or anyone -- is possible.


FED CUP FINAL; Strasbourg, France (Hard/Indoor)
#1: Ka.Pliskova/CZE d. Mladenovic/FRA 6-3/4-6/16-14
#2: Garcia/FRA d. Kvitova/CZE 7-6(6)/6-3

#3: Garcia/FRA d. Ka.Pliskova/CZE 6-3/3-6/6-3
#4: Strycova/CZE d. Cornet/FRA 6-2/7-6(4)

#5: Ka.Pliskova/Strycova (CZE) d. Garcia/Mladenovic (FRA) 7-5/7-5
CZE def. FRA 3-2

It takes two teams to make a great #FedCupFinal. Bien joué, France ???? ?? #FedCup #TeamFranceTennis

A photo posted by Fed Cup (@fedcuptennis) on

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Barbora Strycova, CZE
...fourteen years ago, Strycova made her FC debut as a 16-year old vs. Canada in a 1st Round tie in which she had a hand in both the first and last points in a 5-0 victory. Since then, she's played in nine of the fifteen ties won by the Czech Republic during their five championship seasons over the last six years, assuming a huge role in some of the greatest wins during the run. But Sunday was the now 30-year old's TRUE moment in the spotlight. Lucie Safarova wasn't on the roster, Petra Kvitova went winless, and Karolina Pliskova wasn't able to put the team up 2-1 in her early match on Day 2. But, have no fear, it was Strycova's turn to come to the rescue. She provided the guts for two straight wins, in singles and doubles, that pulled the Maidens out of a 1-2 hole, putting her official stamp on this '16 title season of which she's been the heart and soul, part of two deciding doubles victories, with a singles win in the semis that helped the Czechs survive the unexpected sneak attack of one Viktorija Golubic, and then pulling the team up from the depths of defeat this weekend.

Sometimes, good things come to those who wait... be it five matches, or fourteen years.

RISERS: Caroline Garcia/FRA and Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...there was a reason Garcia won the 2016 Fed Cup Heart Award, and she very nearly put the French squad on her back and carried it to the title this weekend. As it was, the Czechs' Secret Weapon proved to be too much overcome in the deciding doubles. But, make no mistake, as the Pastries wouldn't have reached the final without Garcia's Amelie Mauresmo-inspired and Kristina Mladenovic-accompanying heroics this season, things wouldn't have gotten to the doubles without her, either. With France's collective back against the wall on Day 1, Garcia followed up Mladenovic's opening match marathon loss to Pliskova by taking out Petra Kvitova in straight sets. Against Pliskova on Day 2, she outlasted the Czech in three sets and set things up for the nation's first FC title in thirteen years. But it wasn't meant to be, as she and Mladenovic fell to 4-1 in FC doubles (and Garcia to 5-1).

Pliskova was hardly the player on Day 2 that she was on Day 1, but that was to be expected after outlasting Mladenovic in a 3:48 instant classic that included a 16-14 3rd set the once again showed just how much showing her FC mettle has helped the U.S. Open finalist take such a big step in her singles career over the past year. Of course, if her run at Flushing Meadows this past summer is any indication, the likes of ESPN's commentators (which includes multiple former FC captains) and others will find no room to even mention her important contribution to the squad's success (and vice versa). Still, even while not quite at the level she was on Saturday, Pliskova pushed Garcia to three sets before losing on Sunday. Then, in the doubles, while Strycova starred, it was Pliskova's consistent groundstrokes from the backcourt that allowed her partner to patrol the net, and Pliskova's own great hands and net reactions provided a few of the most exciting points of the entire weekend. This was the fourth straight 3-2 tie won in the doubles for the Czech Republic, and Pliskova has been on the court for all four clinching victories.


SURPRISES: Andreea Mitu/ROU and Denisa Allertova/CZE
...neither Mitu nor Allertova had the seasons in 2016 that might have been expected from them following career years in 2015. But the $25K challenger in Bratislava provided the opportunity for both women to belatedly produce some worthy recent results.

25-year old Mitu entered the week ranked #246, after having ended '15 at #94, while a #95-ranked season has followed one in which she was #63 last year for Allertova. Mitu, the #7 seed, posted wins over Kristina Schmiedlova, Fiona Ferro, Tamara Korpatsch, Bibiane Schoofs, and top-seeded Allertova in a 6-2/6-3 final to claim her first singles crown since February of last year. She's now won fourteen career singles titles on the ITF circuit. For her part, Allertova, 23, reached her thirteen career ITF final (9-4; with a 0-1 mark in WTA finals) -- her first since last August -- with wins over Magdalena Pantuckova, Diana Marcinkevica, Arantxa Rus (via retirement... sigh), and Tereza Smitkova.
VETERAN: Zhang Shuai/CHN
...back where, unbeknownst to her at the time, her resurgence began last November, Zhang defended the $100K challenger title she won in Tokyo one year ago. Even with last year's win, the Chinese vet still arrived Down Under in January thinking her tennis days were numbered. As it turned out, she'd already had the foreshadowing experience that would see her lift her ranking from #186 to back inside the Top 30, as an Australian Open quarterfinal run drastically changing her career and life plans. Last week, the 27-year old defeated the likes of Hiroko Kuwata, Aryna Sabalenka, Luksika Kumkhum, Peng Shuai and Dalma Galfi in a come-from-behind 4-6/7-6(2)/6-2 win in the final, claiming a prize which, as far as size, is behind only the WTA and WTA 125 titles she won in 2013.

...days after being awarded the WTA's Breakthrough of the Month award for her (long-awaited) maiden tour singles title in October, Peng followed up with another nice run in the $100K challenger in Tokyo. The 30-year old put up wins over Julia Boserup, Risa Ozaki (ending her two-straight title run) and Jang Su-Jeong before dropping a 7-6 3rd set in the semifinals to countrywoman Zhang Shuai, who'd go on to defend her title at the event.

FRESH FACES: Irina Khromacheva/RUS and Dalma Galfi/HUN
...under the radar, 21-year old Hordette Khromacheva has had quite the season. Even before this past week, the Russian had climbed high enough to garner her first career Top 100 (#93) finish, then she showed up Pune, India, and took home both the singles and doubles titles at the $25K challenger there. A 6-1/6-1 win over Riko Sawayanagi in the final gives Khromacheva thirteen career ITF titles, with a 5-0 mark in finals this season alone. She also picked up her twentieth career circuit doubles title, teaming with Aleksandrina Naydenova to reach the winner's circle.

Meanwhile, 18-year old Galfi -- last year's junior #1 -- reached the biggest final of her career at the $100K challenger in Tokyo, impressively stringing together victories of Mayo Hibi, Nao Hibino, Jana Fett, and Tatjana Maria before losing in a three-set final to Zhang Shuai. The Hungarian drops to 7-1 in career pro singles finals, but will leap into the Top 200 next week after beginning the tournament ranked #272.

DOWN: Petra Kvitova/CZE and Alize Cornet/FRA
...even Petra's "Pojd!" shoes couldn't help her in Strasbourg.

Whatever compliments and accolades go the way of the Czech Maidens as a result of a fifth Fed Cup title in the last five years, a special footnote should be attached to the feat that reminds everyone that they managed to make it through three rounds of 2016 FC play without the help of a single point from the only Czech to win a grand slam singles crown over the past eighteen years (1999-today). Tasked with possibly putting the Czech squad up 2-0 in Day 1, Kvitova was simply outplayed by Caroline Garcia, who knotted the tie at 1-1 with a straight sets win. The loss dropped Kvitova, once a Fed Cup goddess, to 0-3 in FC singles in 2016, and gives her a four-match losing streak in the blue, red and white dating back to the 2015 final. Kvitova was riding a 21-2 FC stretch heading into Day 2 of last year's final vs. Russia. She lost that Sunday to Maria Sharapova, and hasn't notched a win for the Czech Republic since.

But the Interchangeables are so deep, it didn't even matter in 2016.

Meanwhile, Garcia's wins over Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova, and Captain Mauresmo's decision to save Kristina Mladenovic for a possible deciding doubles match one day after the Pastry had battled cramping during her almost-four four battle with Pliskova, provided Alize Cornet with a chance to be the hero. With France a win away from the nation's first FC title since 2003, and with Barbora Strycova a last-minute replacement for Kvitova, Cornet seemed a good bet... and Strasbourg girded for the virtual earthquake that might occur should the most dramatic of Pastries provide the clinching point. She sported a 5-1 record vs. Strycova. But her FC history is checkered, to say the least. 3-12 in singles during her career, Cornet had been passed over by Mauresmo in the past in tight situations. Usually, the French Captain knows which buttons to push in order to get the best out of her roster, but Cornet has been a steadfastly resistant convert when it comes to results, and that didn't change on Sunday. Strycova jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the 1st, then rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the 2nd on her way to a straight sets victory that did indeed send things to the doubles, where Garcia & Mladenovic fell 7-5/7-5 to Strycova & Pliskova.
ITF PLAYER: Beatriz Haddad/BRA 2016 nears its end, Brazil is getting a good look at the player who may be the nation's future in women's tennis. 20-year old Haddad, a week after picking up her biggest career title in a $50K challenger in Scottsdale, Arizona, moved east and grabbed another at the $50K in Waco, Texas. Haddad strung together wins over Bianca Andreescu, Jennifer Elie, #1-seeded Samantha Crawford, and Grace Min in a 6-2/3-6/6-1 final.

... ???? Foco, determinação, atitude , treino, objetivos, soltura, paciência, tranquilidade, comprometimento, raça , perseverança , amor, força, paz, , derrotas, , coragem, voos , trens vitorias, estrategia, luta, cabeça, carinho, respeito e principalmente, ALEGRIA todos os dias... Assim resume nossa gira de 3 meses com o genio @paulorfisiotenis .... Sem isso nada seria possivel, agradeço a minha familia que sempre esta do meu lado em todos os momentos, minha equipe @tennisroute , @duda.tennisroute @joaozwetsch @alextennisroute @carloscosta.tennisroute @gui.tennisroute @zequigiusti @adriano.tennisroute @julianodemoliner @tepedinof @biancabastosfisio , @carladipierro @danigiuntini ao Gando (#fazuminstagramgando!) cada um sabe sua importancia! Agradeço em especial ao @thiagomonteiro94 , pela força sempre e pela pessoa que voce é! Agora aproveitar as ferias e seguir firme para a pre temporada???????????? #correios #estacio #estacionoesporte #cbt #cob #asics #head #solinco #tennisroute #funnytennis #daybyday #USA #ferias #feliz #champion #??

A photo posted by biahaddadmaia (@biahaddadmaia) on

Min had reached the final after defeating Kristie Ahn, Varvara Flink (who retired after just one game), Sesil Karatantcheva, and Robin Anderson. The 22-year old Bannerette, now 2-4 in '16 ITF finals, only needed to win the final over Haddad to claim the USTA's multi-challenger playoff for a main draw wild card berth into the 2017 Australian Open. As it is, 17-year old U.S. Open girls champ Kayla Day, who would have lost out on a tie-breaker vs. Min based on their current WTA rankings, will make her Melbourne MD debut in January.

Min also had to deal with this last week:

NSFW: Normally, for those of us on tour, we joke about this and compare hate mail to see who's insults were more original. But in the wake of this election, with racism and sexism and elitism and all the dividing 'isms' shadowing the things we say and do, it's hard to make the same joke and pretend it's not a collective reflection of a terribly archaic way of thinking (or not thinking). This guy was generous enough to include all my qualities in his work: race, gender, looks, body, mind. It's so easy to say this behind a username, but when it's wedged in a joke from someone you know, it somehow becomes palatable. And somehow you take it with a grain of salt. And it shouldn't be that way. I know this is an inkling of what people face day-to-day, especially women, and in that, women of color/LGBTQ. This is NOT a sympathy post. I have Pad Thai in front of me and the luxury of 'block this user'. I am fine. But this is not most people's realities, and it's becoming increasingly obvious that most manifestations of this language are preached, accepted, and believed. The worst perpetrators being those who stay silent in their acknowledgment. I won't be that person, you heard it here first. Side note: he deleted all his comments after I won the match bc he's ballsy like that.

A photo posted by Grace Min (@graciemin) on

JUNIOR STAR: Gabriella Taylor/GBR
...the 18-year old Brit reached her third straight ITF challenger final in the series of $10K events played in Heraklion, Greece. But Taylor fell in the championship match to Romanian Raluca Georgiana Serban, 6-4/7-5. Taylor's three-event run has included a 12-3 record, with trips to the three finals without having lost a set in any of the tournaments, but she's won just one of the six sets and five games she's played in their week-concluding matches. Still, she's lifted her ranking into the Top 400 and would seem, at the very least, to have a shot to make her slam MD debut next summer at Wimbledon via a possible wild card offered up by the AELTC. Of course, one can never count on such things.
DOUBLES: Michaella Krajicek/NED and Taylor Townsend/USA
...Krajicek's doubles dominance on the fall ITF circuit continued in Waco, Texas. The 27-year Dutch veteran claimed her fifth consecutive title, running her winning streak to twenty matches, when Mihaela Buzarnescu & Renata Zarazua were unable to play in the final. The walkover handed the crown Krajicek & Taylor Townsend (picking up her second win with Krajicek in this stretch). Krajicek's other titles in this five-event streak were with Maria Sanchez (2) and Gabriela Dabrowski (1).

Meanwhile, Townsend is currently in the middle of a streak of her own. The 20-year old Bannerette has picked up eight ITF doubles crowns in 2016 -- five with Asia Muhammad, two with Krajicek and another with Ingrid Neel -- and now has claimed titles in three straight tournaments.

Venus & Serena in Compton...

Aga in the mountains...

And Cadet Candidate Stewart on Veteran's Day...

Caroline Garcia celebrates her victory on the opening day of the 2016 #fedcupfinal #tennis #FedCup

A photo posted by Fed Cup (@fedcuptennis) on

1. FC Match #2 - Caroline Garcia d. Petra Kvitova
We've seen Peak Petra. Well, this was Peak Garcia. Pulling together all her talent and utilizing her special connection with Captain Mauresmo for all it was emotionally worth (psssst, you know, Caro... Amelie isn't coaching anyone at the moment -- I'm just sayin'), Garcia was the one who looked like a two-time slam champ. In the 1st, the Pastry expertly held from 4-5 and 5-6 down to force a TB, which she won 8-6 on her second SP opportunity. In the 2nd, Garcia raced to a 4-1 lead. Kvitova held from love/40 down to close to 4-2, then broke Garcia's serve a game later. But the Frenchwoman immediately got the break back, then served for the match at 5-3. After failing to convert on her first MP, then saving two BP, Garcia closed out the match on MP #2, dropping Kvitova to 0-3 in FC play in '16, while Garcia went to 5-1 with her win over Pliskova a day later.
2. FC Match #4 - Barbora Strycova d. Alize Cornet
In a battle of replacement noms -- Strycova for Kvitova, Cornet for Mladenovic -- the Czech wasn't bothered by her career 1-5 record vs. the Pastry, taking down Cornet with the FC title on the line and dropping the Frenchwoman's career FC record to 3-13. The Czech ran away with the 1st set, but had to overcome a 4-1 deficit in the 2nd. She served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5, only to see Cornet force a TB that Strycova won 7-4.

3. $100K Tokyo QF - Dalma Galfi d. Jana Fett
Galfi won here, but Fett will join her as a name to watch in 2016. Back from an early season wrist injury, the 20-year old Croat played one match between January and October, but is still ranked in the Top 200. It was less than one year ago that Fett knocked off Naomi Osaka in Tokyo when both were ranked outside the Top 150. Osaka was healthy in 2016, and finished at #40. Fett was not. So... maybe 2017?)
4. $10K Stellbosch Final - Chanel Simmonds d. Margarita Lazareva
The South African wins her second straight challenger title.
5. $10K Vinaros Final - Andrea Gamiz d. Jessika Ponchet
Another win for a young South American, as the 24-year old Venezuelan picks up her second title of the season.

HM- $10K Hammamet Final - Katharina Hobgarski d. Carolina Meligeni Alves
The 19-year old German improves to 6-0 in '16 challenger finals.


Likely the best personal highlight package ever for a player ranked #276 in the world...

#whatilivefor ??????????????? #tennis #education #family ?? @magdalenapantuckova

A video posted by Gabriela Pantucková (@gabrielapantuckova) on

Clijsters has a third child. Soon after, Henin announces that a second child is coming. It's just how the Belgian tennis world (still) works.

1. FC Match #1 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA d. Kristina Mladenovic
In an instant classic, the two friends battled in a match which both had to know might not only go down as THE signature contest of the final, but the one that could determine which nation would ultimately lift the Cup. Things didn't start out in classic fashion, as Mladenovic had a pair of DF in the final game of the 1st set, including on set point. In the 2nd, Pliskova had three DF of her own in game #6, but managed to save two BP, only to break herself on her fourth DF of the game to fall behind 3-4. After the two exchanged breaks, Mladenovic finally held to send things to a 3rd set. The Pastry saved a BP game #2, only to see Pliskova break to take a 4-2 lead four games later. The Czech ultimately led 5-2. Then, quite simply, it all went down in Strasbourg. Eight consecutive times, Mladenovic held serve with the match on the line, from down 2-5, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8, 8-9, 9-10, and 10-11. When Pliskova served for the match at 5-3, the Czech was broken, but she pulled out two big serves at 30/30 hold for 9-8. During the changeover, Captain Mauresmo added another line to her job description (which already included "Pasty whisperer," master strategist, etc.) when she took to oiling up and massaging the legs of a cramping Mladenovic. Kiki saved two MP in game #18, the second with an ace, and was soon treated by an actual trainer as the match time hit 3:00. The Pastry broke Pliskova to take a 12-11 lead. She served for the match, but was unable to secure the hold. Pliskova then proceded to save a BP and hold for 13-12, while Mladenovic held two more times with the match on the line. Cramping badly, though, Mladenovic fell behind love/40 as she tried to hold yet again when down 14-15. Finally, she was unable to do so, as Pliskova outlasted her when Mladenovic's forehand sailed long to end the marathon match. After fighting but not being able to quite get over the finish line in several matches at the WTA Finals in Singapore, Pliskova did so on this occasion, finding a way to record what turned out to be a key point in the tie in a 3:48, "four-and-a-half-set" match that will go down as one of the most memorable of the entire season.

2. FC Match #3 - Caroline Garcia d. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
It looked as if Garcia was going to be the star of the weekend, following up her straights sets win over Kvitova by jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the 1st vs. Pliskova en route to taking the opening set, then solidly holding serve in the 3rd while the Czech struggled to do the same. Finally, the Pastry got the break for 5-3, then served out the match to put France up 2-1 in the best-of-five tie.

3. FC Match #5 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA/Strycova d. Garcia/Mladenovic
The calm of Pliskova meshed perfectly with Strycova's fire, while her deep groundstrokes from the backcourt masterfully set up her veteran partner's net play. Overall, the Czechs saved six of eight BP in the match, but the Pastries threatened to push things to a 3rd set and bring to the fore their home court (and crowd) advantage. The two exchanged breaks in the middle of the set, then Garcia saved three BP and held in an 11-minute game. But in game #11, after Mladenovic had taken a 30/love lead, the Czechs carved out a BP chance. While Strycova was the star in the match, it was Pliskova who chased down a short ball at the net, putting up a backhand lob, then digging out a volley at her feet that just got over the net for a winner that even she could barely believe she'd pulled off to secure the break for a 6-5 lead. With Strycova serving for the Cup, everything came together. A Pliskova volley winner, a Strycova serve that Garcia couldn't keep in the court and, finally, on MP #2, a Pliskova volley through the vacant middle of the court off a Garcia return. The Czech win ended the French duo's undefeated (4-0) FC history, and clinched the champion nation's fourth straight tie victory via a deciding doubles triumph.

HM- $10K Antalya Final - TAYISIYA MORDERGER d. Dana Kremer
The 19-year old German, the world #842, wins her second career ITF title. It's her first since 2013.


A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

When they let kids into a winery...??

A video posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

2000 United States d. Spain 5-0
2001 Belgium d. Russia 2-1
2002 Slovakia d. Spain 3-1
2003 France def. United States 4-1
2004 Russia def. France 3-2
2005 Russia def. France 3-2
2006 Italy def. Belgium 3-2
2007 Russia def. Italy 4-0
2008 Russia def. Spain 4-0
2009 Italy def. United States 4-0
2010 Italy def. United States 3-1
2011 Czech Republic def. Russia 3-2
2012 Czech Republic def. Serbia 3-1
2013 Italy def. Russia 4-0
2014 Czech Republic def. Germany 3-1
2015 Czech Republic def. Russia 3-2
2016 Czech Republic def. France 3-2
17...United States
2...Germany/West Germany
1...South Africa

7...Isabella Shinikova, BUL
6...Ayla Aksu, TUR
5...Jaqueline Adina Cristian, ROU
5...Kamila Kerimbayeva, KAZ

2007 Madison Brengle
2008 Madison Brengle
2009 Christina McHale
2010 CoCo Vandeweghe
2011 Lauren Davis
2012 Madison Keys
2013 Madison Keys
2014 Sachia Vickery
2015 Irina Falconi #
2016 Samantha Crawford #
2017 Kayla Day #
#- awarded via multi-event playoff

Technically, there are still three WTA-sponsored events on the 2016 schedule, but they aren't full-fledged tour-level affairs. They're WTA 125 Series challenger events in Taipei and Limoges (this coming week), as well as Honolulu, Hawaii (the week after). As of today, Kristina Mladenovic sits atop the Taipei singles draw, with the likes of Naomi Broady and the Chan sisters (in doubles) amongst the players looking to get in just a little bit more tennis before the their offseasons begin. Caroline Garcia and Alize Cornet are (for now) "scheduled" to be the top two seeds in Limoges. But, of course, all that is subject to change.

Of course, with the Rankings Round-Up posted, there are still a few more rounds to go in the 2016 review, as well, including this week's final "Ms. Backspin" rankings and other player lists, with the Top Performances and Match lists still to come, along with the annual catch-all that is the wild-and-woolly WTA Yearbook. Come December, the look ahead to the 2017 season begins, as well as the first-ever "The Long, Long Overdue Serena Williams Quiz."

And, finally, after a crazy week in these United States, a nation turns its lonely eyes to... "Schoolhouse Rock?" Well, not really. But sort of. Maybe. I don't know, I just think that I've always managed to feel a little better about almost anything, and see things with more clarity, after listening to a few selections from the brilliant Saturday morning series that taught at least one lucky generation of kids (including a certain Backspinner), in three-minute installments, about how a bill becomes a law, "Mother Necessity," interjections and, in maybe the creative team's best overall work, U.S. history.

Looking back at a few of my old favorites, it was easy to feel a bit of old patriotic spirit stirring. It was almost a hopeful feeling, in fact. Or maybe it was just nostalgia for what made this country great in the first place, and has kept it centered, sometimes in spite of itself, for nearly 250 years... but which, at the moment, seems to threaten to crack at the seams every other day. The intrinsic ideals that helped to build the nation, while hardly perfect and guilty of quite a few shameful acts throughout its history, have been those that were at least come by with general sincerity, given life both in mind, as well as action. Notions about inclusivity, understanding, and appealing to the aspiring traits of any and all individuals because, in the end, a united people was the ultimate goal of and the foundation for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. All the people.

Somewhere along the way, some have lost sight of many of those founding ideals, which makes "essential" a few reminders from the "Schoolhouse Rock" archive to serve as one part salve, one part antidote, and many more parts simply serving as an opportunity to gather together the strands of history -- accompanied by a few catchy lyrics set to music -- in an effort to keep alive the hope that, at our center, we'll continue to find ways to be worthy of our better angels, and not consumed by our worst.


All for now.


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