Monday, April 10, 2017

Wk.14- Cheer the Kasatkina

Daria Kasatkina has been lurking in the WTA shadows for a while now, biding her time. Finally, in Charleston, the Russian teenager stepped out into the light. It may be difficult to remove her from the spotlight now. Let's hope, at least.

It didn't take long for some of us to be willing to jump onto the Kasatkina bandwagon a few seasons ago. The look of determination in the '14 Roland Garros girls champion's eyes when she made her slam debut at the U.S. Open in 2015, as a "lucky loser" of all things, was more than enough. As she carved her way through the main draw's early rounds, striking "fear" with wins over fellow generational stars Dasha Gavrilova (who'd not long afterward become her good friend and half of the Dashas doubles duo) and Ana Konjuh en route to a 3rd Round result cast the likeable Hordette in the very best kind of "fearsome" light. She went on to end that season by heading home and scurrying to the Kremlin Cup singles semis AND winning the doubles with countrywoman Elena Vesnina in her first tour-level final appearance. Sporting a 7-0 record in ITF singles finals, Kasatkina burst into 2016 with an upset of Venus Williams in Week 1, then proceeded to reach the 3rd Round in her debut at the other three majors, as well as reaching the Indian Wells final eight, taking eventual Charleston champ Sloane Stephens to a 7-5 3rd set in the QF last spring, pushing Venus again (10-8 in the 3rd) at Wimbledon and climbing into the Top 25 by August. Ending the season still seeking her first tour-level singles final, which seemed a mere formality by this point, 2017 seemed set up to be her breakout year.

But then the new season's opening months began to play out. At times, the variety-filled game, fight and fearlessness were there, as in an early January battle with Garbine Muguruza, and two wins over Angelique Kerber; but weaved between those results were the sort of moments that didn't seem to be part of the Kasatkina oeuvre the past two seasons, as the Russian's "second time around" on tour didn't go nearly as smoothly, raising tiny little doubts about her progress, and quite possibly causing her to ask questions, as well. A 1st Round loss in her return to Melbourne, her second straight one-and-out defeat at a major, was an occasion that suddenly made her 1st Round upset in New York last summer maybe be a sign of something to ponder in retrospect, rather than being a simple aberration. After having shown great ability to build upon good wins and create her own momentum, she seemed to gain little forward motion from her best '17 moments, but did appear to "hit pause" following her setbacks. Kasatkina came to Charleston on a four match losing streak, having uncharacteristically dropped bagel sets in three of her previous four matches.

But, finally, Charleston, in her return to the clay surfaces where she finds the most comfort and which allow her to construct points and play the defense-to-offense style that she prefers, Kasatkina found her way over multiple obstacles, growing back her possibly (slightly, and temporarily) flagging confidence. While she and the rest of the field dealt with the wind, rain, hail and lightning that plagued the early rounds, Kasatkina found herself again on the court. She got past Danka Kovinic in the 1st Round, took the opening set at love and downed Monica Puig in three, then made her way past (now) BFF Gavrilova by bageling the Aussie (rather than the other way around) in the 3rd set. Irina-Camelia Begu next went out in straight sets, then the 19-year old overcame the potentially mind-bending tactics of Laura Siegemund, from her array of drop shots to her expert attempt to "weaponize" the existing medical time-out rules just as the match was slipping away in the final set. After dropping the 1st set vs. the veteran German, Kasatkina heeded the advice of coach Vladimir Platenik, who'd alerted her to a habit of failing to aggressively take advantage of her in-point opportunities to put away a player that he felt she was clearly better than, if she'd only believe it herself and then take the appropriate actions to prove it.

The tactic worked, and the confidence-instilled Kasatkina didn't blink. Not for the rest of the tournament... except for when it came to wiping the tears from her eyes after claiming her maiden tour singles title, that is.

After dropping six games in the opening set of the semifinal against Siegemund, Kasatkina won the next four sets while losing just seven combined games, finishing off the German 2 & 1 to finally reach her first final, then handling Jelena Ostapenko 3 & 1 in the tour's first all-teenager face-off for a singles crown in eight years.

Back in the Top 30, and with a significant weight lifted from her shoulders, perhaps Kasatkina can now move forward newly assured of her future place in the game once again. Sometimes all it takes for a young player with big intentions (or an older one, see Kerber '16) to take the necessary leap forward toward achieving her goals is to win. Just win. And more victories will soon come along for the ride.

For a brief time in recent weeks, fear OF "the Kasatkina" was nearly replaced by fear FOR her. Now, though, it's time to cheer. If she hadn't already made that easy for those not in the know about her play, her heartfelt reaction to her victory in Charleston likely brought aboard large numbers of others for the ride. Go ahead, join in... there's room.

Now that Kasatkina believes again... well, maybe the Fear will regularly fill the stifling air once more.

S: Daria Kasatkina/RUS def. Jelena Ostapeno/LAT 6-3/6-1
D: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE) d. Lucie Hradecka/Katerina Siniakova (CZE/CZE) 6-1/4-6 [10-7]
S: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS def. Angelique Kerber/GER 6-4/2-6/6-1
D: Nao Hibino/Alicja Rosolska (JPN/POL) def. Dalina Jakupovic/Nadiia Kichenok (SLO/UKR) 6-2/7-6(4)

...sometimes it's easy to forget that young players still have to work through things before they finally realize that, yes, they ARE capable of all those things they dreamed about as a little kid. Even Kasatkina wasn't likely immune to doubt, no matter how little of it she showed when she first burst onto the WTA scene less than two years ago. In Charleston, the 19-year old learned to believe again, but also to cope and overcome. And those last two abilities will probably come in handy quite often down the road... like, maybe at some point in every match.


RISERS: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS and Shelby Rogers/USA
...all hail the third annual "Queen of Mexico": Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Of course, the OTHER Russian singles champ of Week 14 likely had an advantage in claiming Backspin's annual Acapulco/Monterrey combo crown, considering she's essentially owned the Monterrey event for years. Already a three-time champion -- winning in 2010, '11 and '13 -- #2-seeded Pavlyuchenkova took out the #5 (Timea Babos), #3 (Caroline Garcia, with her first QF/SF result of '17) and #1 (Angelique Kerber) on her way to her ninth career tour singles title, this time taking the title for the first time on Monterrey's shiny new stadium court. Despite having a generally more consistent '16 campaign after focusing on her fitness, the Russian failed to reach a final last season. Still, she maintained her #28 ranking, finishing in the #26-28 range for the fourth straight year. Already this year, though, her work has given her a boost, as she's completed a Career QF Slam with her best AO result in January, won her first singles title since Linz '15, and notched her 26th Top 10 and first ever #1 victory with her win over Kerber in the final. She'll climb to #16 on Monday, edging closer to the career high of #11 she set in 2011.

In Charleston, hometown favorite (and former tournament ballgirl) Rogers finally put up the sort of result that the fans have long hoped for, reaching her first QF at the event after having previously gone 2-7 (1-4 in MD) in seven appearances. And she didn't do anything quietly in #MsRogersNeighborhood, either, winning in a 3rd set tie-break over Veronica Cepede Royg to start off her week, taking out top-seeded Madison Keys (1 & 1 after dropping the 1st set) and Naomi Osaka, then claiming an opening set TB vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni before finally faltering in the QF vs. the Croatian vet. Rogers will climb to #51 in the rankings, close to her career-high of #48, with her return to Paris after her '16 RG quarterfinal a little over two months away.

SURPRISE: Julia Boserup/USA
...25-year old Californian Boserup has seen her career grow in significant ways over the past year, including her best slam result ('16 Wimbledon 3rd Rd.), first AO MD win (2017), first tour-level SF (Quebec City '16) and highest season-ending ranking (#122 in '16). In Monterrey, Boserup put up wins over Nao Hibino and Tereza Martincova, her first multiple MD wins at a tour-level event since her SF in Quebec last September. Her week will move her to a career-best #86, putting her in (early) good position to seek her first season-ending Top 100 finish.

VETERAN: Angelique Kerber/GER
...for a bit, it looked as if Kerber might have finally found in Monterrey the elusive "it" that she's been chasing all season, and the consistency to spread it out over an entire tournament, from start to finish. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be. After dropping the opening set of her 1st Round match to Francesca Schiavone, the world #1 (though, honestly, through the first three-plus months of the season, it's in "numbers only") took the 2nd at love and then proceeded to reel off a string of eight consecutive sets en route to her first final of the season (the 25th of her career), taking out Mandy Minella (allowing four games), defending champ Heather Watson and Carla Suarez-Navarro (whose own SF run ended a string of four straight losses in her injury-related slow start in '17). But then she met Monterrey savant Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who ended the streak then took the final set 6-1 after Kerber had come back strong in the 2nd to extend the match. With the absence since the AO of Serena Williams, Kerber remains #1, with a small 225-point lead on the still-idle world #2 and with just one noteworthy clay court result to defend this spring (her Stuttgart title run, after which she went 0-3 on the surface in '16). While she's still searching for her first title since winning the U.S. Open last September, Kerber DOES seem to be slowly regaining her form. With her Monterrey runner-up, after her 4-4 start to '17, she's gone 12-4 in her last four events. And she's more often resembling the player who was in the middle of a career year twelve months ago, too...

And Angie's got the "moth vote" wrapped up, should she need it...

COMEBACKS: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO and Laura Siegemund/GER says something that Lucic-Baroni's presence in the latter stages of tour events no longer seems like the lovely novelty it was back in January, both about her as well as a tour where multiple generations are now co-existing in virtually equal numbers in an ever-more-fascinating continuing story. I mean, it now only brings a slight chuckle -- rather than a mouth-agape reaction -- when we learn this:

Lucic's Charleston run produced her third '17 semifinal, with victories over Mona Barthel, Kiki Bertens and Shelby Rogers getting her to -- while still a new career high -- within a virtual eyelash of her first Top 20 ranking, which she would have achieved if she'd managed to come all the way back vs. Jelena Ostapenko in her three-set SF loss this weekend. The Croat will be #21 on Monday. Perhaps her biggest headache-inducer in 2017? Umm, well, maybe teenagers... not unlike many other thirtysomethings now closer to 40 than 30. With her loss this week, Lucic is now 0-2 vs. Ostapenko (w/ Auckland) this year, and was also upset by the even younger Kayla Day in Indian Wells.

While Siegemund's run in Charleston ended at the same semifinal stage as that of Lucic, the German didn't arrive on Daniel Island with anything resembling the momentum the Croat had. She was an atrocious 1-7 on the season, was facing losing her '16 Charleston QF points, and had to be looking with relish at the clay court season with the hope that it'd turn around her '17 campaign. It likely did, but it was almost a disaster. As it turned out, she survived a string of grueling matches, blown leads, edgy games(wo)manship and, of course, drop shots (lots of them). Siegemund barely escaped her 1st Round match against an injured Lesia Tsurenko, twice failing to serve out the win and edging by the Ukrainian in 3:19. Against Venus Williams a round later, she failed to convert a MP in the 2nd set, then had to save two in the 3rd before getting the win with another (in the usual barrage) of her patented drop shots. Straight sets wins over Lucie Safarova and Anastasija Sevastova preceded her three-set SF loss to Daria Kasatkina, when the Russian battle back from dropping the 1st set to take control and get the win (avoiding being tripped up by Siegemund's, ahem, "well-timed" medical timeout late in the 3rd set).

FRESH FACES: Jelena Ostapenko/LAT and Fanny Stollar/HUN
...Ostapenko's gunning, go-for-broke style of play wouldn't necessarily seem to translate exceptionally well to clay surfaces, but the 19-year old Latvian still managed to advance on the Charleston green clay to her third tour-level final on a third different surface, after reaching the same stage on indoor carpet (Quebec City '15) and hard court (Doha '16). But after advancing past Ana Bogdan, Maria Sakkari, Fanny Stollar (ret.) and Caroline Wozniacki, Ostapenko allowed her nerves to cause her to blow a lead vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the semis. She served for the match in the 2nd set, getting to within two points of the win, only to see the 35-year old vet run off a string of points and push things to a 3rd. She raced out to a 4-1 lead in the final set, the held on to reach another final. She could never quite get on top of Daria Kasatkina once she got there, though, and will have to seek to complete her maiden title quest elsewhere. Meanwhile, we'll get more of what Ostapenko regular offers -- the good, the sometimes "bad" and, well this, too...

Hungary's big-serving Stollar, 18, didn't post her first career tour-level MD match win until February, but in Charleston she found her way through qualifying -- allowing just two games to Teliana Pereira, then def. Grace Min -- before posting MD victories over Asia Muhammad and I.W. champ Elena Vesnina in a pair of tie-breaks. She was forced to retire vs. Ostapenko in their 3rd Round match, but will jump some seventy spots in the new rankings to a career-high #212.


DOWN: Sania Mirza/Barbora Strycova (IND/CZE) the season has gone on, and the duo of Mirza/Strycova have failed to lift a doubles crown, it was easy to wonder just how much longer the partnership might last. Neither Mirza nor Martina Hingis like to lose, and don't suffer through stints with partners that don't help lift them to the highest ground for very long. It might have been why they were such a good pair themselves, though not destined to be a long-term team. Finally, last week, after the Indian-Czech pair had lost in the Miami final, meaning they'd failed to win a title in eight straight tournaments dating back to '16, after winning two in their first three last fall, the end was indeed announced. They're calling it a mutual decision based on Strycova's desire to play singles and her exhaustion over doing both. Well, that's probably at least some part of it (wink, wink). They went 30-9 in their partnership, 15-6 in 2017. Hingis/Mirza failed to win the title at four straight tournaments -- and nine of ten -- when their coming end was announced during the Olympics last year. Mirza will team up with Yaroslava Shvedova, who'd only this year finally reconnected with former partner Vania King, for the clay season. Mirza/Shvedova won in Washington in 2011 as a pair. With Strycova off this past week, Mirza teamed with Andrea Hlavackova in Charleston, getting by one WS finalist (Kasatkina, w/ Gavrilova) in the 1st Round, but falling to eliminate the other (Ostapenko, w/ Atawo) in their next match. The result means it's been thirteen weeks since Mirza won a title, in Week 1 in Brisbane with Bethanie Mattek-Sands, as she's gone 20-7 on the season and slippped to the bottom of the doubles Top 10 after opening the season ranked #1.
ITF PLAYER: Petra Martic/CRO
...Lucic-Baroni isn't the only Croatian on the comeback trail in 2017. While Martic isn't in the process of completing a two decades-long journey, she did finally return from her '16 back injury in this week's $25K challenger in Pula, Italy. Playing for the first time since last year's Wimbledon, the 26-year old made it through qualifying and won the event title, losing just one set in seven matches and putting up victories over Kaja Juvan, Bernarda Pera, Viktoria Kamenskaya, Olivia Rogowska and Kathinka von Deichmann in a 6-4/7-5 final. It's Martic's first ITF title since 2013. A former world #42 in 2012, when she reached her only career slam Round of 16 in Paris, she was ranked #157 when she fell in the opening round of SW19 qualifying to Ula Radwanska last summer, and her absence had dropped her to #659 heading into Pula.

Here she is during her recent training to get back on the court (looks like she did things right!):


JUNIOR STARS: Olga Danilovic/SRB & Lea Boskovic/CRO Danilovic (#15 Jr.) claimed her first career Grade 1 title at the Trofeo Juan Carlos Ferrero tournament in Villena, Spain. The 16-year old Serb, who also won the doubles with Irina Cantos Siemers, defeated last week's Perin Memorial G1 champ, Eva Guerrero (#2 seed, Jr.#26), in a 7-5/6-3 final, handing the Spaniard her first loss in fifteen junior matches this season (Guerrero had lost one set in two weeks en route to the final). For Danilovic, it was a case of finally "getting over the Grade 1" hump, as she had come close to such G1 wins in 2016, falling in the Roehampton semis to Anastasia Potapova and Repentigny final to Iga Swiatek, as well as the semis of this same JCF event. She recently won a pair of low level ITF challengers titles in November and March.

A week ago, Boskovic lost in the Perin Memorial G1 event final to Guerrero, and this week the 17-year old stayed home in Croatia and won her first pro singles title at the $15K Tucepi challenger. In one of the events that will likely be a part of the ITF's proposed "Transitional Tour" in '19 designed for young players to gain entry points into larger ITF events, the unseeded Boskovic knocked off the #7, #4 (Magadlena Pantuchova), #6 (Sabrina Santamaria) and #3 (Lenka Juricova, in the final) seeds to take the singles crown, going three sets to win 6-3/1-6/6-1 in the championship match.

Is it just me or does she slightly resemble a young Vika?

DOUBLES: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova (USA/CZE) and Nao Hibino/Alicja Rosolska (JPN/POL)
...the current run of this duo, and Mattek-Sands specifically, since the start of last year's U.S. Open is as somewhat under-reported as it is admirable, especially with the chaotic atmosphere that exits on the doubles tour as far as the current pairings, which saw two more teams go kaput this week, at least for the clay season, as Mirza/Strycova and King/Shvedova brought down the curtain. Team Bucie advanced to the Charleston final without dropping a set, then overcame a game-but-inconsistent Hradecka/Siniakova to put away their tenth title as a pair with a 10-7 super tie-break win in the final. With the title, they're 13-2 on the season, with two titles, and 31-3 since the start of last summer's Open, winning five titles (including two consecutive slams) during the stretch. BMS has truly taken off since winning Olympic Mixed Doubles Gold with Jack Sock in Rio. Throw in her results with other partners, and the period that has lifted her to the #1 ranking includes a 36-3 record, finals in seven of nine events and six titles (a tour-best three in '17). Both woman have won in Charleston before, with Mattek taking the title in '09 with Nadia Petrova (w/ RU in '11 with Meghann Shaughnessy, and last year w/ Safarova), and Safarova doing so in 2012 (w/ Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) and '13 (Kristina Mladenovic), along with a trip to the singles final in 2012, as well. BMS is now 25-12 in career WTA WD finals, while Safarova is a super-impressive 14-3.

And while I'm at it, Safarova (seriously) posts the best coffee/dinner photos. She does it quite a bit, and you'd think she couldn't keep making them visually interesting. But she does...

There is always time for good coffee! ??#coconutmilkcappucino #coffeewithlucie #budapest

A post shared by Lucie Safarova (@lucie.safarova) on

In Monterrey, top-seeded Hibino & Rosolska took the title, dropping their opening set in the 1st Round against Jacqueline Cako/Jamie Loeb, then winning eight straight sets en route to the title, including a 6-2/7-6(4) victory in the final over Dalila Jakupovic/Nadiia Kichenok. For Hibino, it's the 22-year old's maiden WTA doubles title in her first final (she won in singles in Tashkent in '15, and has reached two additional WS finals), while 31-year Rosolska now has seven, including her second in Monterrey. She won the '15 title while partnering Gaby Dabrowski.


It seems like a lifetime ago at the moment, but Sloane Stephens was actually the reigning Charleston champ until Sunday. Back to promote her shoe drive and participate in other tournament events, Stephens has also been going the commentator route on Tennis Channel while recovering from her foot injury, and doing it quite well. Her gift for gab makes her a natural, after all. Hopefully, she won't have second thoughts about her playing career once she gets healthy, and doesn't lose the focus she'd seemingly found around this time last season, having won three titles already in '16 when she won in Charleston (and four in less than a year's time). Her post-tennis future would seem to be quite apparent now, should she choose to go that route... but it can wait for a while, right?

Hmmm, that's sort of a very different Current Sloane vs. Future Sloane discussion, isn't it?

And since we're talking (Commander) Sloane, here's an Anna, too. Not The Citizen, but...

#Weekend ??????

A post shared by ?? Anna ????? (@annakournikova) on

1. Charleston Final - Daria Kasatkina def. Jelena Ostapenko
In a match-up, respectively, of the 2014 Roland Garros girls champ vs. the Wimbledon junior champ from the same season, the Russian's clay court affinity was maybe enough to provide the edge that played out in the match. In the second match-up of title-less finalists this season (after Mladenovic/Putintseva in Saint Petersburg), Kasatkina became the sixth maiden singles champ on tour this season, and the first Hordette since Margarita Gasparyan in Baku in 2015.

2. Charleston Final - Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova def. Lucie Hradecka/Katerina Siniakova
...6-1/4-6 [10-7].
With so many partnerships ending or being abbreviated "experiments" in '17, these two duos would seem poised to benefit (along with the likes of Makarova/Vesnina) when it comes to collecting points for Singapore. The Czechs have yet to win a title in '17, and are what appears to be a "mediocre" 10-6 overall. But they've reached three finals together (Taipei City, I.W. & C'ston) since the end of the AO, and their losses have come at the hands of Team Bucie, the Chan sisters, Y.Chan/Hingis (2) and Groenefeld/Peskhe. The probably won't be called upon to help the Czech Republic defend the Fed Cup, but they look to be the most solid, all-Czech doubles team on a weekly basis on the regular tour.

3. Monterrey Final - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Angelique Kerber
Pavlyuchenkova's ninth career title ties her on the all-time Russian list with "old school" Hordette Olga Morozova, leaving her one away from becoming the eighth with double-digit tour singles crowns. She also defeated Kerber in the '13 Monterrey final.
4. Charleston 1st Rd. - Laura Siegemund def. Lesia Tsurenko
Turning around your season isn't supposed to be easy. Just ask Siegemund. Coming in on a 1-7 season slide, after falling from a break down in the 3rd, she twice failed to serve out the match against a limping Tsurenko before finally taking out the Ukrainian in 3:19.
5. Charleston QF - Jelena Ostapenko def. Caroline Wozniacki
A win here would have lifted Wozniacki back into the Top 10, but that'll have to wait. She's at #11 this week, after posting her seventh QF+ result in eight '17 events.

6. Charleston 2nd Rd. - Shelby Rogers def. Madison Keys
This one didn't count as a Top 10 win for Rogers -- it would have been her third, and second of '17 -- but a few days later, as of Monday, that would change as #11 Keys moves back to #10 as Venus slips to #12.


7. Charleston 2nd Rd. - Fanny Stollar def. Elena Vesnina
Since winning the Indian Wells title, Vesnina has gone 0-2. But at least her losses haven't been the blink-and-you-missed-it variety that often follow career-best title runs. In Miami, she dropped a 7-5 3rd set to Ajla Tomljanovic, and then came up on the short end of a pair of tie-breaks here against the teen qualifier.

8. Charleston SF - Daria Kasatkina def. Laura Siegemund 3-6/6-2/6-2
Charleston SF - Jelena Ostapenko def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-3/5-7/6-4
it took some doing, but the nineteen year olds managed to set up the first all-teen final on tour since 2009 (Wickmayer def. Kvitova in Linz, six months after teenagers Lisicki and Wozniacki had faced off for the Charleston crown). Kasatkina had to bounce back following a poor 1st set after which her coach implored her to play more aggressively -- she did, and ultimately won 2 & 2 -- while Ostapenko had to overcome her own nerves after she failed to serve out the match in the 2nd.

9. Charleston 1st Rd. - Andrea Hlavackova/Sania Mirza def. Dasha Gavrilova/Daria Kasatkina 1-6/6-3 [10-3]
Charleston 3rd Rd. - Daria Kasatkina def. Dasha Gavrilova 6-3/4-6/6-0
the Dashas weathered the early storms of Charleston together, both literally and figuratively. After falling in doubles, they faced off in a Battle of Dashas in singles. Kasatkina got the best of her friend, bageling her in the 3rd... but all was right once the final ball had been struck.

10. Monterrey 1st Rd. - Sara Sorribes def. Genie Bouchard
Are things starting to get turned around backwards again for Bouchard?

11. $15K Dijon Final - Diana Marcinkevina/Rebeka Masarova def. Victoria Muntean/Anastasia Zarytska
Masarova, the '16 RG junior champ and '17 AO girls runner-up, picks up her first career pro title.
12. Bogota Q1 - Montserrat Gonzalez def. Dayana Yastremska
16-year old '16 Wimbledon girls finalist Yastremska battles Gonzalez, but can't hold onto her 3rd set lead, nor a 4-1 deciding tie-break advantage.
13. Bogota Q2 - Beatriz Haddad def. Teliana Pereira
While Haddad was already ranked #157 and Pereira #204, might this 2:56 all-Brazilian battle serve as the "unofficial passing of the torch" from the two-time tour title winner to the current highest-ranked Brazilian in the WTA?
14. Charleston 2nd Rd. - Lucie Safarova def. Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Sometimes, it just has to happen. Safarova leads the head-to-head vs. fellow Team Bucie-er 4-1, 2-0 (w/ Wimbledon '16) since they joined forces on the doubles court.
15. $25K Sharm El Shiekh Final - Margarita Skryabina def. Sarah-Rebecca Skulic
...2–6/6–2/3–0 ret.
The 17-year old Hordette picks up her first pro title.
HM- Charleston 3rd Rd. - Shelby Rogers def. Naomi Osaka
About that odd almost-handshake/sorta hug/whatever-that-was at the conclusion of this match...


Because Charleston is annually the site of many great Petko/JJ moments, though not as many as had been hoped for this year with the German's injury, which forced her out of a potential doubles pairing with her Serbian buddy...

1. Charleston 2nd Rd. - Laura Siegemund def. VENUS WILLIAMS
After barely escaping the 1st Round, the emboldened German carried over her clay court bag of relentlessness (and oodles of drop shots) over and through Venus in the 36-year old former Charleston champ's (2004) '17 clay court debut. After failing to convert MP in the 2nd set, Siegemund saved two Williams MP in the 3rd before putting away her first Top 10 win since running off three of them en route to the Stuttgart final last spring.

2. Monterrey Final - Nao Nibino/Alicja Rosolska def. Dalila Jakupovic/NADIIA KICHENOK
Kichenok is the sixth different WTA sister -- after both Chans and Rodionovas, and Hsieh Su-Wei -- to reach a tour-level doubles final this season. Only she and Arina Rodionova have failed to walk away with the title.
3. $15K Tucepi QF - Lea Boskovic def. MAGDALENA PANTUCKOVA 6-2/6-3
$15K Tucepi SF - Lenka Jurikova def. GABRIELA PANTUCKOVA 7-5/7-5
ultimately, Boskovic defeated Jurikova in the final. So, to answer the great Pantuckova sister question, I guess beating Magdalena prepares you better than beating Gabriela?
4. Charleston 1st Rd. - Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Kveta Peschke def. CHAN HAO-CHING/CHAN YUNG-JAN
...1-6/7-6(2) [10-6].
With Martina on holiday, the Chan sisters reunited in South Carolina, but failed to get out of the 1st Round.
5. Charleston 3rd Rd. - Caroline Wozniacki def. ANASTASIA RODIONOVA
This was actually the Dane's SECOND match of the day, as weather delays forced her to double up. She took out Annika Beck in the 2nd Round a few hours earlier.
HM- $25K Santa Margherita 1st Rd. - Olga Saez Larra def. ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA 6-2/6-3
Biel Q1 - Antonia Lottner def. ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA 7-5/6-4
sigh. Since AKS reached the semifinals of the $25K challenger in Moscow in a long-awaited uptick in results, she's lost five of her last six matches. She's 7-10 this season on all levels, and is barely holding onto a Top 250 ranking.

We don't often get to see Mexico's Renata Zarazua featured in a series of WTA tweets (in fact, I'd say this was likely the very first occasion), so taking full advantage...

(Tip-in: she's got her racket twirl down, though it wasn't quite enough to take out the Pastry)

Just wanna go back to sleep

A post shared by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

17 - Donna Vekic, CRO (Kuala Lumpur)
19 - Madison Keys, USA (Eastbourne)
19 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (Baku)
17 - Ana Konjuh, CRO (Nottingham)
18 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (Eastbourne)
18 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (Toronto)
19 - Oceane Dodin, FRA (Quebec City)
[WTA 125: 17 - CiCi Bellis, USA = Honolulu]

**WTA FINALS 2015-17 - under 40 combined**
2015 Tashkent: Hibino (20) d. Vekic (19) = 39
2015 Quebec City: Beck (21) d. Ostapenko (18) = 39

19y,2w - Ana Konjuh, CRO (Auckland-L)
20y,8m - Katerina Siniakova, CZE (Shenzen-W)
20y,10m - Ash Barty, AUS (Kuala Lumpur-W)

Auckland - Lauren Davis, USA (23)
Shenzhen - Katerina Siniakova, CZE (20)
Hobart - Elise Mertens, BEL (21)*
Saint Petersburg - Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (23)
Kuala Lumpur - Ash Barty, AUS (20)*
*-first-time finalists

Auckland - Lauren Davis/USA (W)
Shenzhen - Katerina Siniakova/CZE (W)
Hobart - Elise Mertens/BEL (W)
Saint Petersburg - Kristina Mladenovic/FRA (W)
Saint Petersburg - Yulia Putintseva/KAZ (L/0-1)
Kuala Lumpur - Ash Barty/AUS (W)

QF: Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR (Hobart)
2nd Rd: Sachia Vickery/USA (Hobart)
2nd Rd: Donna Vekic/CRO (Saint Petersburg)
2nd Rd: Evgeniya Rodina/RUS (Indian Wells)

1 - DARIA KASATKINA (1-0/Charleston)
1 - Elena Vesnina (1-0/Indian Wells)
1 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (0-1/Indian Wells)

3 - RUSSIA (Kasatkina,Pavlyuchenkova,Vesnina)
2 - Czech Republic (Ka.Pliskova,Siniakova)
2 - Ukraine (Svitolina,Tsurenko)
2 - United States (Davis,S.Williams)

35 - Maria Sharapova (2003-15)
17 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002-16)
16 - Elena Dementieva (2003-10)
13 - Nadia Petrova (2005-12)
12 - Vera Zvonareva (2003-11)
12 - Dinara Safina (2002-09)
10 - Anastasia Myskina (1999-05)
9 - Olga Morozova (1969-75)
8 - Anna Chakvetadze (2006-10)

**2017 WTA SF**
4 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (2-2)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (3-0)
3 - Johanna Konta, GBR (2-1)
3 - Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (2-1)
3 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (2-1)

**2017 WTA DOUBLES**
[titles - individuals]
2 - Chan Yung-Jan, TPE
[finals - duos]**
3...Hlavackova/Peng (1-2)
2...Olaru/Savchuk (1-1)
2...Makarova/Vesnina (1-1)
2...Mirza/Strycova (0-2)

**WTA FINALS - 2015-17**
12 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (5-7)
11 - Serena Williams, USA (8-3)
8 - Simona Halep, ROU (6-2)
8 - Aga Radwanska, POL (6-2)
8 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (3-5)

**GIRLS TOP 20 - April 3 rankings**
1.Anastasia Potapova, RUS
2.Rebeka Masarova, SUI
3.Olesya Pervushina, RUS
4.Kayla Day, USA
5.Amanda Anisimova, USA
6.Marta Kostyuk, UKR
7.Kaja Juvan, SLO
8.Amina Anshba, RUS
9.Claire Liu, USA
10.Iga Swiatek, POL
11.Carson Branstine, CAN
12.Emily Appleton, GBR
13.Wang Xiyu, CHN
14.Taylor Johnson, USA
15.Olga Danilovic, SRB
16.Whitney Osuigwe, USA
17.Ellie Douglas, USA
18.Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, ESP
19.Bianca Andreescu, CAN
20.Jodi Anna Burrage, GBR

**"QUEEN OF MEXICO" WINNERS - Acapulco/Monterrey**
2015 Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (swept Acap/Mont WS)
2016 Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja, ESP (swept Acap/Mont WD)
2017 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (4-time Mont WS)
[2nd place]
2015 Caroline Garcia, FRA (RU Acap/Mont WS)
2016 S.Stephens, USA (Acap WS) & H.Watson, GBR (Mont WS)
2017 Lesia Tsurenko, UKR (Acapulco WS)

Biker Bacsinszky?

????????????????? ?? by @bennytachephotographe

A post shared by Timea Bacsinszky (@timea.official) on

Chakvetadze sighting!

BIEL, SWITZERLAND (Int'l/Hard Indoor)
16 Singles Final: -new event-
16 Doubles Final: -new event-
17 Top Seeds: Strycova/Suarez-Navarro

Kr.Pliskova d. #1 Strycova
#3 Babos d. #2 Suarez-Navarro
Kr.Pliskova d. #3 Babos

...a bit of a flier here with Pliskova, with an indoor hard court event early in the clay season. An interesting match-up: a possible 2nd Rounder between #1 Strycova and WC Bencic in front of the Swiss crowd, and in a possible Fed Cup final opening match preview if things shake out the right way in Week 16's semifinals.

Bacsinszky/Hingis d. #3 Olaru/Savchuk

...hey, why not? The event takes place at the Swiss Tennis Center in Roger Federer Allee. So...

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (Int'l/Hard Outdoor)
16 Singles Final: Falconi d. Soler-Espinosa
16 Doubles Final: Arruabarrena/Maria d. Ce/Gamiz
17 Top Seeds: Bertens/Siniakova

#1 Bertens d. Cepede Royg
#2 Siniakova d. #4 Arruabarrena
#1 Bertens d. #2 Siniakova's clay season, so it's time for Bertens to get on with it.

#4 Arruabarrena/Duque d. #1 Krunic/Siniakova South America, (at least in doubles) keep in (somewhat local... at least where Duque in concerned).

And, finally, just because...

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

I was very impressed by a couple of things: Dasha actually listens to her coach and takes his advice seriously. Also, she thinks quite strategically about every match and every opponent. There's a real "tennis intelligence" going on there. Too bad that the stadium announcer, the emcee and everyone on Tennis Channel mispronounced her name; I wish these players would speak up about that.

The Charleston crowd loves Shelby, of course, but that's a generous, savvy crowd, and they went crazy for Siegemund (an unbelievably exciting player on clay) and they also really liked Ostapenko, and--of course--Lucic-Baroni. Ostapenko was fighting nerves all week, but she held it together until the final. Funny--everyone with whom I spoke said "Ostapenko" or even "Ostapenko in two." I told them to get ready to be wrong :D

Mon Apr 10, 08:45:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Siegemund looked like she was wearing stuff from the Mattek-Sands collection. In the non Radwanska portion of the tour, has the best drop shot this side of Lisicki.

A Petra Martic reference? You must have known what was coming, as I expected you to go all in on Russia, so I went the other way.

Stat of the Week-7- The amount of titles won by women from Croatia since Majoli's French Open win in 1997.

Lucic-Baroni reached another SF this week. Regarding the French, Serena and Muguruza would be the big favorites. But in the rest of the Top 10, only Halep, and arguably Cibulkova would consider the French their best slam. With Lucic-Baroni not being favored in her previous slam runs to the SF, this is one in which both by talent and ranking, she is in the next group, along with Stosur, Bertens, possibly Mladenovic, and the lower ranked Safarova(28), making her the first legit contender from Croatia since Iva. Only seems right, as in it's former life(Yugoslavia), they turned out Monica Seles.

So who won those 7? Listed are the record in finals:
Lucic-Baroni 2-1. I didn't forget her other title, but her first Bol win and Strasbourg final were BEFORE Majoli's win.
Silvija Talaja 2-3.
Majoli 1-0. Relevant this week as it was Charleston 2002. Also 8-0 in finals.
Donna Vekic 1-3.
Ana Konjuh 1-1.

Quiz time:
1.Lucic-Baroni is now ranked 21. Since the Majoli era ended, who has been the highest ranked woman from Croatia? And did they ever reach the Top 20?

2.When Majoli won Charleston in 2002, she was one of 4 past or future French Open champs to reach the quarters. Who were the other 3?

3.Since Kasatkina won in her last month as a teen, how many of the Croatian women walked away with titles as a teen?

1.Since Talaja reached the most finals in this group, she would have been a good guess, as she got to a career high of 18. But she missed by 1, to somebody I haven't mentioned yet. Mainly because she never won a WTA title. No, not Kostanic-Tosic, although she has the same 0-3 record in finals. It is Karolina Sprem, who reached 17, and is one of a small group-small in that there are only 2 other members- Petra Martic(0-1) and Ajla Tomljanovic(0-1) that reached finals in the dark ages between 2002-2014 when nobody from Croatia won a title.

Tomljanovic actually counts, as she is CRO for the regular tour, but AUS for the slams-for now. Actually less confusing than the Rodionovas listed as AUS/RUS. Fun fact: An. Rodionova had 2 MD wins at Charleston. First time she had did that since Charleston in 2012, when she then lost to 87th ranked Venus Williams.

2. S.Williams, Myskina and Capriati. But none of them reached the final. That was the still active Patty Schnyder.

3. 4 of 5. Konjuh and Vekic's titles are listed by Todd, and Konjuh still hasn't turned 20, so that was easy. Lucic famously won the first event she entered at 15. And Majoli was only 19 when she won the French, which sometimes gets overlooked because she beat a 16 yr old Hingis. Talaja reached the Bol final as a teen, but couldn't pull it off.

Mon Apr 10, 11:23:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

One "funny/interesting/hypocritical" thing about that, during the final (or semis) on TC this weekend, Carillo noted how she goes to the ITF awards ceremony every year and sees all these young European players whose names she's going to have to learn to pronounce. Or not, I guess. :\

Yeah, I know Ostapenko has a certain "reputation," but she truly did come off as not only an exciting player but a rather giggly, nice one, as well. Of course, between the lines she's got a snarl, which is fun, even if it might rub some the wrong way (Kiki, Broady, etc.). I'm sure there was a bit of eye-rolling in many corners when her first words in the ceremony were about how in the final she'd played as awful as she had the whole tournament. But, hey, that's how she felt, and she was honest enough to just blurt it out rather than simply throw out compliments like a robot. Charm can be being "polite" and "gracious," but there's a certain charm in being true to oneself, as well, no matter what feathers it might ruffle. Ostapenko, between the lines and soon after, doesn't seem to mind ruffling (sort of like Vika around 2011-13), and does it in a way that feels honest in the moment (something that some of, say, Vandeweghe's more calculated, intentionally chesty -- like the thing w/ Sharapova at Wimbledon in '15 -- reactions often lack, or at least "feel" like they do).

I think the knee sock look will now always and forever bring to mind BMS. :)

Lucic is going to be a fascinating watch the entire rest of the season. Melbourne sure doesn't look like it's going to be an aberration, and might just her first chapter to a totally unexpected '17.

1.I was seriously drawing a blank on Croatian players, though Kostanic did come to mind for some reason when you were talking about the Croatian title winners before the quiz. Should have thought of Sprem. I just felt like I was totally forgetting someone big. Although, if one was in the mood for "cheating" (or a sneaky "end run" around the rules), I would go with Dokic here, who reached #4. I know she never actually represented Croatia (one of the possible few nations she didn't, really, as she went from being "Yugoslavian" to playing for Australia, to Yugoslavia, then Serbia, then Australia again), but she WAS born in Osijek, Croatia and has a Croatian mother. So, that was my back door "alternative facts" answer, I guess. ;)

2.I went with Serena, Capriati and Schiavone, with Myskina and Pierce as my backups. I'd originally had Myskina, but switched to Francesca. Should have went with my original thought. :(

3.Yeah, because of my list I had Konjuh and Vekic, and of course Lucic. Hadn't thought to add Majoli. (Though, of course, if you wanted to include Dokic here, too...) :D

Mon Apr 10, 01:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Dokic certantly put a twist on things.

According to ESPN, the Kasatkina/Ostapenko final was the first on at Charleston to have 2 unseeded players in the final since Majoli/Schnyder.

Mon Apr 10, 01:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Yes, Majoli/Schnyder was 2002; brief history of that on WWS on 4/8.

I do wish Ostapenko had congratulated Dasha--that was a painful omission--the rest of it was, as you said, the blunt truth. But other that that moment, Jelena was delightful all week--a giddy kid.
I had more problems with Venus saying she "won" her match against Siegemund, but everyone gave Venus a pass. She appeared to just be undone by that whole experience. Most thrilling match of the week, too.

Mon Apr 10, 04:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I suppose Venus has earned the right to occasionally look at some things through V-colored glasses, though, right? Ha. ;)

Mon Apr 10, 04:41:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hey, it's me playing the part of Colt, I guess, w/ "The Stat of the Week That I Neglected to Include in the Post." ;)

* - Pavlyuchenkova's title run in Monterrey also ended her streak of ten straight QF defeats dating back to the start of the '16 season (0-7 in '16, 0-3 in '17). And it took a 7-5 3rd set over Babos last week to finally advance, too.

And while I'm at it...

16-Dinara Safina (2002)
16-Maria Sharapova (2003)
17-Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002)
18-Elena Likhovtseva (1993)
18-Anastasia Myskina (1999)
18-Vera Zvonareva (2003)
18-Maria Kirilenko (2005)
18-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2010)
19-Daria Kasatkina (2017)
19-Elena Bovina (2002)
19-Anna Chakvetadze (2006)
20-Alisa Kleybanova (2010)
20-Ksenia Pervak (2011)
20-Margarita Gasparyan (2015)
21-Elena Dementieva (2003)
22-Vera Dushevina (2009)
22-Ekaterina Makarova (2010)
22-Alla Kudryavtseva (2010)
23-Nadia Petrova (2005)
26-Elena Vesnina (2013)

Tue Apr 11, 04:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

That is a good stat. Well played :)

I will go Soviet Union and mention Zvereva(18), just so I can mention that she lost her first 10 singles finals. Which doesn't really even matter as she was a trailblazer, and HOF for doubles.

Wed Apr 12, 10:37:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, yes. While that list isn't a "complete" one, as it doesn't include the 1960/1970's Soviets, or Zvereva, but I think I'll at least add her to it for the next time I use it. I always seem to have left her off some of those Russian lists, since she was a little early for "the Revolution" and represented the USSR, then didn't any longer once the political dust settled. But she WAS an important figure (notably, for her demand to keep her prize money), so I'll make that change. As you noted, her first title came at 18, and it was in 1990.

Wed Apr 12, 12:41:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

So, CZE (w/ Siniakova, Kr.Pliskova, Allertova & Vondrousova) vs. USA (Vandeweghe, Davis, Rogers & Mattek-Sands)... it may be time to invoke the "In Rinaldi We Trust" clause in the U.S. Fed Cup charter.

If the Czechs advance with this "B" team -- talented, but very young and/or inexperienced, especially for an important road tie -- then the rest of the FC nations should really worry about the future.

Wed Apr 12, 01:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Obviously the rosters are still fluid, but this, along with the Ukraine/Germany matchup, and GB/ROU may be won by the coaches more that the players.

If Rinaldi has the guts, being that this is on clay, I am not opposed to going on day 1-Rogers vs Siniakova, and Mattek-Sands vs Pliskova, then using Vandeweghe for day 2.

For CZE, except for injury, I don't see a scenario in which Siniakova or Pliskova don't get all the live rubbers. But they need to line up Siniakova vs Vandeweghe on day 1.

Wed Apr 12, 02:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Galileo Sutherland-west said...

Zvereva was only 18 in 1990? So she was a kid when she lost to Graf 6-0, 60 in 32 minutes in that FO final? That couldve had a huuuuge impact on her mentally. It would have done for me. She only won 13 points. You can watch whole thing on youtube if, like me, youre a masochist.

Wed Apr 12, 06:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, the clay might minimize Vandeweghe's role, and Kr.Pliskova isn't exactly gearing up for that by playing an indoor hard court event this week, either. Though since it's green clay, maybe it'll be a court more suited to the U.S. players.

Zvereva was just a month past her 17th birthday in the '88 RG final. Oh, that Graf loss was u-g-l-y.

Credit to Zvereva though for reaching another final almost immediately after that in Eastbourne (def. by Navratilova), as well as two more that season (Sabatini & Navratilova). Less than a year later, she faced Graf in another final in Hilton Head -- she lost 1 & 1.

Of "some" note, the first tour singles final lost by Zvereva was in 1986 (she was 15)... to Kathy Rinaldi. ;)

Wed Apr 12, 06:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

A little great news
Caroline Wozniacki and Sascha Bajin will work together for the rest of 2017 … by: @CamiNorgaard @mikkelasferg

Thu Apr 13, 04:30:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Very good Caro news (of course, it seemed an obvious move, but I guess you never know...). ;)

Thu Apr 13, 12:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Galileo Sutherland-west said...

Update on the beautiful logos. I'm now the proud owner of several Svetlana Kuznetsova drawings. They take pride of place as my phone's wallpaper. (Finally getting fair payment for all my work. Ha!) We're auctioning off the Aga ones.

Thu Apr 13, 05:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

As much as this week was about the bookends-Schiavone 2nd oldest in the upcoming Top 150, and Vondrousova the 2nd youngest-US players Venus and Day are the 1st, Sorribes Tormo jumped out most to me this week. Jumping on the Tormo train-even with that 3rd set collapse.

Sun Apr 16, 12:53:00 PM EDT  

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