Sunday, April 16, 2017

Wk.15- Still the Most Interesting Tour in the World

All right, WTA. We get it. You're STILL the Most Interesting Tour in the World.

2017's embarrassment of tennis riches continues to rain down stories from the sky, each one as worthy as the next. This week we got a pair of singles champions separated by a nineteen-year age gap. Of course we did.

This whole extended plotline is getting so head-spinning that even the WTA tour couldn't contain it this week, as Vicky Duval wove her own little tale on the ITF circuit in her comeback after a nine-month absence.


A post shared by Vicky Duval (@vicky_duval95) on

Meanwhle, many of 2017's potentially biggest stories are still waiting to begin. Remember, we're a week and a half away from the return of Maria Sharapova, and about four months from seeing Vika Azarenka in Stanford, with maybe even Petra Kvitova wielding a racket sometime in between, or a short while later. If we're lucky. And, oh, in case we've forgotten, Serena is still at 23, waiting for the 24 bus to arrive... and we're not far away from it being that time, either. I'm just sayin'.


S: Marketa Vondrousova/CZE def. Anett Kontaveit/EST 6-4/7-6(6)
D: Hsieh Su-Wei/Monica Niculescu (TPE/ROU) def. Timea Bacsinszky/Martina Hingis (SUI/SUI) 5-7/6-3 [10-7]
S: Francesca Schiavone/ITA def. Lara Arruabarrena/ESP 6-4/7-5
D: Beatriz Haddad/Nadia Podoroska (BRA/ARG) def. Veronica Cepede Royg/Magda Linette (PAR/POL) 6-3/7-6(4)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Francesca Schiavone/ITA
...we sort of knew, right? I mean, maybe not that Schiavone would be able to produce a week, at nearly age 37, where she was able to turn back the clock, jump into another available seat on the WTA Veterans-with-Verve Train, and win a clay court title without dropping a set -- as she just did in Bogota -- but that the soon-to-retire Italian likely had at least few remaining eleventh hour surprises left to pull out of her tennis bag in the final clay court campaign of her two-decades long career.

A week after giving #1-ranked Angelique Kerber a battle in Charleston, #168-ranked Schiavone, a former Roland Garros champ (2010), slam runner-up (RG '11), world #4 and Fed Cup winner, took the gift of a farewell wild card into the red clay event and proceeded to win ten straight sets to claim career title #8 and become just the fourth different woman in tour history (w/ Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Kimiko Date) to win a singles title after her 36th birthday. Her week included victories over Patricia Maria Tig, Dalila Jakupovic, #1-seeded Kiki Bertens (Schiavone's first win over a top seed since...wait for it...2008, when she upset Justine Henin in the Dubai QF), Johanna Larsson and, in the final, Lara Arruabarrena, sweeping the final four games of the 2nd set as the Spaniard struggled with a leg injury after having led 5-3, held four SP and served to force a deciding 3rd. In all, Schiavone took down the #1, #3 and #4 seeds in the tournament, and will now climb to #104, that much closer to assuring her spot in what will be her 17th and final RG.

In her final season, it can't get much better than a run like this for Schiavone, right? Hmmm, unless this title run ISN'T her FINAL big run in 2017. After what we've already seen through the first (less than) four months of this season, who's to say what might happen over the next few weeks? Of course, what are the odds that that Francesca could TOP this? Then again, imagine if we'd actually placed some odds on MOST of the things that have happened so far this season...

So, never say never.


RISERS: Lara Arruabarrena/ESP, Aliaksandra Sasnovich/BLR and Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
...Arrurabarrena, a three-time Bogota champ (singles in '12, doubles in '14 and '16), didn't end her return to the event in the manner in which she'd hoped, but (as long as she's healthy going forward) has to look upon her first clay court experience of '17 as a very encouraging development just weeks after her game also produced a 4th Round result on hard court in Miami that included wins over Natalia Vikhlyantseva, Irina-Camelia Begu and Madison Keys. Last week, the 25-year old Spaniard knocked off Conny Perrin, Irina Khromacheva, Aleksandra Krunic and countrywoman Sara Sorribes Tormo (winning six straight games to erase a 4-0 3rd set deficit) to reach her third career tour singles final. There, after dropping the 1st set to Francesca Schiavone, Arruabarrena seemed destined to force things to a 3rd set, leading 4-2 with a BP for 5-2 in the 2nd, holding four SP and serving for the set. But she was hampered in the closing games by a mobility-limiting left thigh injury that played right into Schiavone's hands, and ultimately lefta severely disappointed Arruabarrena wondering what might have been. But she wasn't so disappointed that she couldn't still dream...

She'll rise to a new career-high of #59 on Monday.

In Biel, 23-year old Sasnovich made her way through the qualifying rounds, then put up MD wins over Pauline Parmentier (LOL... that'll make more sense a little later), Viktorija Golubic and Camila Giorgi to reach her first tour semifinal since she reached the Seoul final in September 2015. She'll rise from #108 to #96 in the new rankings, just a short distance behind her career-best of #92.

Sasnovich will next lead the Belarus Fed Cup team in the nation's historic Fed Cup semifinal opportunity against Switzerland.

Look out, here comes The Bracelet?

From off her Charleston qualifying run, and a week before her return to the Serbian Fed Cup team (vs. AUS in the WG II Playoffs), Krunic went to Bogota and put up her first tour-level QF result since last April in Rabat (when she also won the WD w/ Xenia Knoll). Wins over Mariana Duque and Silvia Soler Espinosa preceded a tight three-set loss to Lara Arruabarrena, and finally got the 24-year old world #132 off the 2017 snide with her first WTA MD wins of the season.

Next stop: Zrenjanin.
SURPRISE: Dalila Jakupovic/SLO
...a week after reaching the Monterrey doubles final (her first on tour), 26-year old Jakupovic continued her springtime uptick by posting a 1st Round singles win in Bogota over defending champion Irina Falconi. The Slovene lost in her next match to eventual champ Francesca Schiavone, but she'll move forward in the season in a better position than she's ever found herself during her career. She'll rise to a new career-best singles ranking of #133 (she's the #2-ranked player from Slovenia behind Polona Hercog) a week after reaching a new career-best doubles (#155) standing, and just months after putting up her first season-ending Top 200 rankings in both disciplines in 2016. It's been a good calendar year for Jakupovic. Not only did she upset Schiavone in their previous '17 meeting in Taipei City, as well as take Samantha Stosur to three sets in the same event, but last spring/summer she put together a 37-11 stretch in a series of $25K challengers from April to the start of the U.S. Open that included two singles titles, four other finals, and three additional semifinal results.
VETERAN: Barbora Strycova/CZE
...Strycova seemed in good position to compete for her first tour-level singles title since 2011 (Quebec City) in Biel. The #1 seed, she notched wins over Marie Bouzkova, Carina Witthoeft and Julia Goerges (ret. in the 3rd set), reaching the final four at the event along with three others ranked #99, #108 and #233 on the WTA computer, with none of them ever having won a WTA singles title, and two having never reached a final during their careers. But a week before Strycova will NOT be assuming the lead role on the Czech Fed Cup squad (even without the likes of Kvitova, Ka.Pliskova or Safarova in the mix), she fell to a fellow Maiden who WILL be on the CZE roster set to face the Bannerettes in Florida, 17-year old qualifier Marketa Vondrousova, who took her out in straight sets.


COMEBACKS: Vicky Duval/USA and Camila Giorgi/ITA
...another of 2017's latest feel-good stories didn't even take place on the regular tour in Week 15. In the $80K challenger in Indian Harbour Beach, California, we were treated to another comeback from Duval. After previously returning to action after being diagnosed and treated for lymphoma, the 21-year old (#896) this time played her first live matches since last year's Wimbledon. She opened against fellow on-the-comeback-trail Ajla Tomljanovic, getting the victory for her first match win since the 2015 U.S. Open qualifying rounds. Ultimately, Duval destroyed top-seeded Genie Bouchard love & 3 (her first Top 60 win since '14) to reach the semifinals, where she couldn't combat the power game of 15-year old Amanda Anisimova. Needless to say, though, after this week she's currently a strong "Vicky Duval" on the Extra scale.

On a scale from 1 to Vicky Duval, how extra are YOU?

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Meanwhile, Giorgi seems to have slipped well below the radar over the last season or so. After five consecutive Top 100 campaigns, including back-to-back Top 35 finishes from 2014-15, the Italian came into the week ranked #98. In Biel, she reached her second QF of the season, defeating Antonia Lottner and Carla Suarez-Navarro, the latter in three sets, before falling to Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The week lifts Giorgi to 7-5 on the season, with the majority of that total (3 wins) coming during her January semifinal run in Shenzhen, though two of her previous losses came via a retirement and a three-set defeat defeat at the hands of Timea Bacsinszky in Melbourne.

FRESH FACES: Marketa Vondrousova/CZE, Anett Kontaveit/EST and Sara Sorribes Tormo/ESP
...apparently, the floodgates are now open, and the teens are rushing through! In Biel, yet another star was born. And this one we didn't see coming... well, at least not so soon.

A week after 19-year olds Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko faced off for the Charleston title, 17-year old Vondrousova set the bar even higher by lowering the "age requirement" to enter the WTA winner's circle a little bit more, becoming the season's seventh first-time champ by claiming the title in just her second tour-level event, less than two years after claiming a pair of slam girls doubles titles and becoming the #1-ranked junior, and just three seasons after reaching the girls singles semis at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2014. Ranked #233, the Czech had to get through qualifying first in the new indoor hard court Swiss event. After winning the required three matches (dropping two sets), she ripped off MD victories over Lina Gjorcheska, Annika Beck, fellow Fed Cupper (next weekend vs. the U.S.) Kristyna Pliskova, and then another countrywoman, #1-seeded Barbora Strycova, denying the 31-year old a chance to play for her first singles title in six years. In the final, the teenager -- powerful, long-legged, agile... AND a lefty -- eliminated Anett Kontaveit in straights, completing her MD sweep of five opponents without losing a set.

Two months from her 18th birthday, Vondrousova is the youngest tour singles champ since Ana Konjuh won Nottingham in 2015 (just under 17 years, six months, the Croat had been the youngest since 2006), while her #233 standing makes her the lowest-ranked winner since 2007, and the fifth-lowest ranked ever on tour (not including the various unranked winners who came out of retirement/injury to put up quick title runs). The Czech teen will nearly cut her ranking in half on Monday, when she'll jump a whopping 116 spots to #117.

2015: Nao Hibino wins Tashkent in second career WTA MD
2016: Rebeka Masarova reaches Gstaad SF in tour debut
2017: Jana Fett reaches Hobart SF in tour debut
2017: Marketa Vondrousova wins Biel in second career WTA MD

Kontaveit, while she didn't take home her first tour title, still reached her maiden singles final. The 21-year old Estonian put up wins over Heather Watson, Evgeniya Rodina, Elise Mertens and Aliaksandra Sasnovich to improve upon the two semifinal results she produced last season. After arriving in Biel ranked at #99, she'll jump to #74 on Monday, just one off her career high standing.

A week after downing Genie Bouchard on hard court in the opening round in Monterrey, 20-year old Sorribes (#93) reached her first career tour-level semifinal on the red clay of Bogota. Wins over two of next week's Fed Cup semifinal Czechs (Denisa Allertova and Katerina Siniakova) and a 7-5 3rd set tie-break defeat of Magda Linette advanced the Spaniard to the final four. Unfortunately, she missed out on becoming yet another first-time '17 singles finalist when she couldn't hold onto her 4-0 3rd set lead over countrywoman Lara Arruabarrena. Still, Sorribes will jump to a new career-high rank of #82 on Monday. Next she'll lead -- with the absence of the likes of Muguruza, CSN and Arruabarrena -- the Spanish FC team into next weekend's World Group Playoff clash with France.

DOWN: Belinda Bencic/SUI and French Fed Cup Team
...Bencic was one of the Swiss players thrilled to play the WTA's new Biel hard court event in Switzerland, held one year after Gstaad's clay tournament had ended an eight-year tour absence in the country following the demise of the Zurich Open in 2008. But even a trip back home couldn't cure what ails the 20-year old, now ranked outside the Top 125 barely a year after she'd been ranked in the Top 10 early in what turned out to be an injury-plagued and disappointing '16 season. Bencic put up just four games in her 1st Round loss to Carina Witthoeft, falling to 4-9 in '17, and 8-21 since reaching the Rosmalen grasscourt semis last June. She's next set to play in the Fed Cup semis in Minsk vs. Belarus, a follow-up to her season high point of providing the clinching point in Switzerland's 1st Round win over France.

Speaking of the Pastries, little did we know -- or, honestly, I guess we really did -- that with the absence of Amelie Mauresmo the French Fed Cup efforts would return to the previous "banana-peel"-worthy level of shenanigans. Before Mauresmo, who'd led the team to a title in 2003 as a player, was installed as Captain of the French squad in '13, the nation had become a disappointment (a combined 8-9 from 2005-12) that couldn't even make peace with and corral its top-ranked player (Marion Bartoli) to suit up for the tricolour. Mauresmo brought Bartoli aboard, and by 2016 had developed a winning team atmosphere, bringing a can-do clarity to the careers of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, as well as teaming the two as a doubles duo that would power the squad to the '16 finals and themselves to a Roland Garros doubles title. When it was announced that Mauresmo would step down from her Captain role in '17 while pregnant, it immediately didn't bode well for continued French FC success, as her guiding hand had seemed to be the sole reason the Pastry circus had been shut down. Throw in a new FFT president, and the stage was set.

Garcia announced that she wouldn't play FC in '17, choosing to focus her mind on singles following what had been a career-best year. Without Garcia (who last year went 5-1 in singles and 2-1 in doubles, with a hand in seven of the nation's nine points en route to the final), the French team couldn't even force things to the deciding doubles vs. Switzerland in February in a 4-1 loss that set up this coming week's World Group Playoff tie with Spain. Not long afterward, after teaming together on the regular tour and Olympics (when a uniform snafu nearly got them disqualified in Rio, and lit the fire of Mladenovic's ire at the federation), the Garcia/Mladenovic team broke up, as Garcia pulled the plug, again citing her singles desires. With next weekend's rosters being set this week, Garcia reiterated that she wouldn't be playing vs. SUI, now citing a back injury.

"Teammates" Mladenovic, Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier, in a seemingly coordinated act of Twitter trolling, all tweeted "LOL" in response...

...which grew still more hair when the FFT and Captain Yannick Noah nonetheless announced Garcia as a member of the roster set to face the Spanish squad.

Finally, after a few days of bad headlines, talk of a threat of tournament suspensions for Garcia by new FFT president Bernard Giudicelli (who has stated that players MUST "be at the disposal" of the Davis and Fed Cup teams or face consequences per new federation regulations, including suspensions of up to five years, or having to prove that they are not fit to participate), and accusations of childish behavior by the majority of the French team (LOL), the federation finally replaced Garcia with Oceane Dodin (who had expressed little desire to join the team in February) after Garcia's injury was "confirmed" by a Federation doctor.

Speaking of the possible sanctions he essentially threatened to levy against Garcia, Giudicelli said, "It is a change of epoch," adding, "It's probably something new for our players, but that's what it's going to be like now." When the issue came up prior to Davis Cup play, Captain Yannick Noah spoke of not wanting to "force" players to play, yet he still announced Garcia as part of the team even after her injury announcement, essentially forcing her "prove it" hand in the matter.

As things stand, the French may catch a break vs. Spain, as Garbine Muguruza announced that a tendon injury will keep her out of the tie (joining Carla Suarez-Navarro and Lara Arruabarrena on the sidelines), so it's possible (likely?) that the Pastries could ultimately be back in the World Group mix next year, with another shot at the title, possibly even with a returning Mauresmo to steward the effort. Well, if she can stand to hold her nose long enough to wade through the "federation first, players' rights be damned" rules of the new "epoch," that is.

Even after all this, Garcia still says that winning a Fed Cup is a career goal, though maybe not THE most important one. She's even said she'd play if France is in the '18 World Group, especially if the rumored new 16-team "tournament" format debuts next season. If not, she'd likely only consider a limited role. Really, it's difficult to not come to respect Garcia even more after this week, as the young French woman who so diplomatically and professionally handled the whole Olympic uniform controversy last summer -- as opposed to Mladenovic, who came unglued and haphazardly shot from the hip with little regard to repercussions or reactions, much as she did with her questionable past comments about Maria Sharapova in the wake of her original suspension, as well the doubles team break-up earlier this season -- emerged from the week a bit banged up, but also once more showed far greater maturity in the matter that nearly all others involved...

ITF PLAYERS: Olga Govortsova/BLR and Zarina Diyas/KAZ
...Govortsova, in the lead-up to her roster role in Belarus' Fed Cup semifinal tie vs. Switzerland next weekend, picked up her biggest singles title since 2012 ($100K Midland) in the $80K Indian Harbour Beach challenger in Florida. The 28-year old posted wins over Jamie Loeb, Aleksandra Wozniak, Madison Brengle, Ons Jabeur and 15-year old Amanda Anisimova in the final, 6-3/4-6/6-3. Three of her matches went three sets, including the championship match against the junior Bannerette, as Govortsova erased a 3-1 3rd set deficit and swept the final five games to grab the trophy. She'd played only two singles matches in 2017 heading into the event, losing them both, and had gone winless since reaching the semis of the WTA 125 Series event in Taipei in November (she reached two $50K finals, winning one, in August/September). The win is the veteran's sixth career ITF title. She went 0-4 in WTA singles finals from 2008-13.

In Nanning, China, Diyas became the latest player to find success in a '17 comeback attempt. The 23-year old Kazakh missed the back half of last season with a wrist injury, with her layoff causing her ranking to fall to #148 after #34 ('14) and #52 ('15) finishes the previous two seasons. She started this season by dropping her first four matches, and was just 2-5 heading into last week. But, ranked at #242, she reeled off five straight wins in Nanning to claim her sixth career ITF title (she's 0-1 in career tour-level finals, losing in Osaka in '14), defeating Lee Ya-Hsuan 2 & 3 in the final. She'll stay in China and move up a level in the coming week, playing in 2017's first WTA 125 Series event in Zhenghou.
JUNIOR STAR: Amanda Anisimova/USA
...the #5-ranked girl, big-hitting 15-year old Anisimova is already showing promise in professional tournaments. In the $80K Indian Harbour Beach challenger, she took the early lead in the USTA's race for a WC berth into the Roland Garros MD (she was the junior RU in '16) by putting on a run to the final that included victories over Tara Moore, An-Sophie Mestach, Renata Zarazua and the returning Vicky Duval. In the final against veteran Belarusian Olga Govortsova, Anisimova claimed the 2nd set to force a 3rd, where she led 3-1, only to drop the final five games of the match. This was her second pro final in '17, as she fell in the $25K Curitiba decider in a three-setter against fellow junior (and '16 SW19 girls champ) Anastasia Potapova in March. Anisimova will jump 170 spots to #309 in the new rankings.

Had a great week getting to the finals at Indian Harbour 💪😜 #80k

A post shared by Amanda (@amandaanisimova) on

DOUBLES: Hsieh Su-Wei/Monica Niculescu (TPE/ROU) and Beatriz Haddad/Nadia Podoroska (BRA/ARG)
...well, Hsieh & Niculescu sort of spoiled the Swiss party. In the debut edition of the Biel event, no Swiss players managed to win a title, though the doubles duo of Timea Bacsinszky & Martina Hingis DID reach the final, rekindling their Rio Silver medal-winning magic a week before they very well could be joining forces again in a deciding doubles match that would put Switzerland into the nation's first Fed Cup final since 1998 (yep, Martina was there). But, THIS weekend, it was the veteran, non-Swiss duo that celebrated.

Hsieh/Niculescu reached the final without dropping a set, eliminating two teams featuring Swiss players (In-Albon/King in the 1st, Golubic w/ Kr.Pliskova in he SF) before downing Bacsinszky/Hingis, coming back from losing the 1st set and winning in a 10-7 super tie-break. 31-year old Hsieh picked up career title #19, while Niculescu, 29, now has eight.

And they got to hunt Easter eggs, too.

In Bogota, the 20-year old pair of Haddad & Podoroska kept things South American, returning the title to the continent after a one-year absence (Haddad won in '15 with countrywoman Paula Cristina Goncalves) and becoming the third all-S.A. duo (w/ Montalvo/Suarez '00) to win since the tournament debuted in 1998. The wild card team defeated #3-seeded Irigoyen/Kania in the QF, survived a 10-6 3rd set TB vs. Pella/Seguel in the semis, then defeated Cepede Royg/Linette in straights in the final. It's Haddad's second tour title (both in Bogota), while Podoroska picks up her first. In early March, in singles, Hadded picked up an ITF $25K singles crown (her 7th) with a win in the final over this week's Biel star, Marketa Vondrousova, and actually picked up the doubles win there, as well, while Podoroska's lower level success inclues a career 8-2 ITF singles final record.


Speaking of South Americans, here's Argentina's Paula Ormaechea... either continuing her rehab on her wrist, or maybe doing a bit of low-impact "lightsaber training"...

Twelve weeks y asi estamos ????????????

A post shared by Paula Ormaechea (@paulaormaechea) on

Meanwhile, we have a new "Best Trophy" leader on tour. Congrats Claro Open Colsanitas...

1. Bogota Final - Francesca Schiavone def. Lara Arruabarrena
In her 19th career final, Schiavone scrambled in the 2nd set to put away a straight sets win against an ailing Arrubarrena. The Spaniard led 4-2, had a BP for 5-2, three SP at 5-3, then served for the set at 5-4 and held a fourth SP. But with her left leg slowing her down significantly, Arruabarrena saw Schiavone take charge and sweep the final four games to secure the win. The Italian is now 7-1 in singles finals starting with her Kremlin Cup win in Moscow in 2009, after beginning her career by going 0-8 (and 1-10) in tour finals. Not surprisingly, her last seven finals have come on clay, and nine of eleven. She's gone 7-2.


2. Biel Final - Marketa Vondrousova def. Anett Kontaveit
Hmmm, did Vondrousova just blow up all those "In Rinaldi We Trust" thoughts for next weekend? It'll be CZE (w/ Siniakova, Kr.Pliskova, Allertova & Vondrousova) vs. USA (Vandeweghe, Davis, Rogers & Mattek-Sands) on green clay in Florida for a berth in the FC final. Seriously, this result almost sorta makes Pala look like a genius... or at least he's in the running, depending on what happens next week, considering this was an indoor hard court event. Was he even considering the 17-year old for a bigger role than "bench warmer/emergency replacement" in her FC debut, and will Biel now alter his previously planned course?
3. $80K Indian Harbour Beach 1st Rd. - Vicky Duval def. Ajla Tomljanovic
Two comeback-minded wild cards, two we're-pulling-for-her storylines, and one tight match that would have brought a smile even if the result had been reversed. Tennis, 2017.

By the way, before this match, a quick Twitter search involving BOTH Duval and Tomljanovic had to go all the way back to 2014 to find a hit.
4. Biel SF - Marketa Vondrousova def. Barbora Strycova
Strycova's post-match handshakes are almost always subjected to examination, and some wanted to analyze this one, too.

5. $80K Indian Harbour Beach 1st Rd. - Genie Bouchard def. Brianna Morgan
So, #1-seeded Genie dropped down to the ITF level to get some game action, her lowest level event participation in four years, and nearly got far more than she bargained for against the qualifier.
6. $80K Indian Harbour Beach QF - Vicky Duval def. Genie Bouchard
And then this happened, as the world #56 falls to #896, in her third match back after a nine-month absence. Bouchard never held serve against Duval, and won just 30% of her 1st Serve points. Since reaching the semifinals in Sydney in January, the Canadian has gone 4-6. Oh, and the Bouchard v. USTA case appears headed for trial, too. So there's that.
7. Bogota SF - Lara Arruabarrena def. Sara Sorribes Tormo
Arruabarrena won the final six games vs. countrywoman Sorribes to reach career final #3, her second in Bogota.

8. $15K Hammamet Final - Panna Udvardy def. Audrey Albie
The 18-year old Hungarian wins her second career title (and sweeps the WD w/ Brit Maia Lumsden), denying the Pastry her second title in two weeks.

9. $25K Irapuato Final - Deniz Khazaniuk def. Sofya Zhuk
The 22-year old gets her first career $25K title (after winning seventeen $10K crowns between 2011-16)... but it takes a pre-match walkover from the 17-year old Hordette to do it. At #245 next week, Khazaniuk is closing in on Julia Glushko in the race to be the highest-ranked Israeli.

10. $25 Santa Margharita di Pula 1st Rd. - Petra Martic def. Daniela Hantuchova
Another quiet loss for the 33-year old Slovak (34 next weekend), not long after she fell in the opening round of qualifying in Indian Wells, the same tournament she won twice in 2002 and '07. Interestingly, the players she defeated in those two finals in the desert fifteen and ten year ago were, respectively, Martina Hingis and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Both of those players are still ranked in the Top 10 in their preferred tennis discipline, while Hantuchova will clock in at #226 this week, sandwiched between Lu Jiajing and Shuko Aoyama. A week ago, Hantuchova DID reach the semis at another $25K Pula event, and is 7-7 overall in 2017. But the same player who managed to convince Hingis to come out of retirement to be her doubles partner in '13 (after less-than-brilliant success, the pairing ended... but kicked off Hingis' super-successful post-HoF enshrinement WD career) has played just one WD match since last year's Wimbledon, and hasn't won a doubles title since 2011 despite reaching twenty-one WD finals between 2000-11, winning nine and completing a Career Mixed Slam now TWELVE years ago. To each her own, but it IS highly interesting that, despite her incredibly diminished singles returns (unlike, say, Schiavone), Hantuchova seems fully committed to playing out the string and traveling the world as a singles player rather than going the route of other players her age and taking up the doubles racket more often than not. Fascinating.

When in #Italy ???????? #nofilter needed ????

A post shared by Daniela Hantuchova (@danielahantuchovaofficial) on


Hmmm, maybe THIS is why the rekindled King/Shvedova pairing was so easily interrupted for a clay court stint for the Kazakh as Martina Hingis' "other half"...

1. Biel QF - Marketa Vondrousova def. KRISTYNA PLISKOVA
I'm sure the Czech Fed Cup supportive sense of togetherness that didn't break through following this one will be more tangible next week in Florida, when Marketa and Kristyna will be playing on the same team.

2. Biel Final - HSIEH SU-WEI/Monica Niculescu def. Timea Bacsinszky/Martina Hingis
...5-7/6-3 [10-7].
Hsieh beats Hingis to the punch, becoming the fifth woman to win multiple tour-level WD titles in 2017.
3. $25K Irapuato 2nd Rd. - MARI OSAKA def. Jovana Jaksic
Naomi's 21-year old sister -- ranked #621 -- continues to put up results in lower-level ITF challengers. Her QF here is added to her pair of SF results already in 2017.

The future of Japanese tennis?

Or maybe a new idea for one of those Japanese game shows?

My little ?? Leo(Simba) Purest and most genuine sound in the entire ?? is to hear him laugh! #lovemyboy #KingLeo

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Tranquility in the morning! My happy place! @adidas

A post shared by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

We all can't wait to welcome @desaiava as a new Fed Cup team member #51! Don't worry we are not crazy ??

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Auckland - Lauren Davis, USA (23/#61)
Shenzhen - Katerina Siniakova, CZE (20/#52)
Hobart - Elise Mertens, BEL (21/#127)
Saint Petersburg - Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (23/#51)
Kuala Lumpur - Ash Barty, AUS (20/#158)
Charleston - Daria Kasatkina, RUS (19/#42)
[first-time finalists]
Hobart - Elise Mertens, BEL (#127/21) [W]
Saint Petersburg - Yulia Putintseva, KAZ (#34/22)
Kuala Lumpur - Ash Barty, AUS (#158/20) [W]
Charleston - Daria Kasatkina, RUS (#42/19) [W]

39 - Billie Jean King (1983 Birmingham)
38 - Kimiko Date-Krumm (2009 Seoul)
37 - Martina Navratilova (1994 Paris Indoors)
37 - Martina Navratilova (1993 Oakland)
36 - Martina Navratilova (1993 Los Angeles)
35 - Francesca Schiavone (2016 Rio)
35 - Venus Williams (2016 Kaohsiung)
35 - Helga Niessen Masthoff (1977 Monte Carlo)
35 - Venus Williams (2015 Elite Trophy)
35 - Serena Williams (2017 Australian)
35 - Venus Williams (2015 Wuhan)
35 - Marie Pinterova (1981 Japan Open)
[2017 oldest singles champs]
35 - Serena Williams, USA (A.O.)
30 - Elena Vesnina, RUS (I.W.)
[2017 oldest finalists]
36 - Venus Williams, USA (A.O.-L)
35 - Serena Williams, USA (A.O.-W)
[2017 youngest finalists]
19 - Ana Konjuh, CRO (Auckland-L)
19 - Jelena Ostapenko,LAT (Charleston-L)
19 - Daria Kasatkina, RUS (Charleston-W)
20 - Katerina Siniakova, CZE (Shenzen-W)
20 - Ash Barty, AUS (K.Lumpur-W)

[not including unranked players]
#579 Angelique Widjaja (2001 Bali) (WC)
#285 Fabiola Zuluaga (2002 Bogota) (WC)
#259 Tamira Paszek (2006 Portoroz) (Q)
#234 Lindsay Davenport (2007 Bali)
#208 Melanie Oudin (2012 Birmingham) (Q)
#205 Kumiko Okamoto (1989 Tokyo) (Q)
#201 Alexandra Dulgheru (2009 warsaw) (Q)
#201 Petra Langrova (1988 Paris) (Q)
[2017 low-ranked]
#158 Ash Barty/AUS - Kuala Lumpur (W)
#127 Elise Mertens/BEL - Hobart (W)
#106 Nao Hibino/JPN - Kuala Lumpur
[low-ranked since 2012]
#208 Melanie Oudin, USA (2012 Birmingham)
#182 Peng Shuai, CHN (2016 Tianjin)
#174 Lara Arruabarrena, ESP (2012 Bogota)
#163 Duan Yingying, CHN (2016 Nanchang)
#158 Ash Barty, AUS (2017 Kuala Lumpur)
#149 Kiki Bertens, NED (2012 Fes)
#132 Francesca Schiavone, ITA (2016 Rio)
#132 Oceane Dodin, FRA (2016 Quebec City)

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]
19 - Daria Kasatkina, RUS (Charleston)

**18 and UNDER TITLES, since 2012**
2 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (2015)
1 - Timea Babos, SUI (2012)
1 - Ana Konjuh, CRO (2015)
1 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (2013)
1 - Donna Vekic, CRO (2014)
[WTA 125]
1 - CiCi Bellis, USA (2016)
1 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (2012)
[since 2007]
5 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (2008-09)
2 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (2015)
2 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (2010-11)
2 - Aga Radwanska, POL (2007)
2 - Agnes Szvay, HUN (2008)
1 - Timea Babos, HUN (2012)
1 - Sorana Cirstea, ROU (2008)
1 - Alize Cornet, FRA (2008)
1 - Ana Konjuh, CRO (2015)
1 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (2009)
1 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (2013)
1 - Donna Vekic, CRO (2014)
[WTA 125]
1 - CiCi Bellis, USA (2016)
1 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (2012)

**WTA FINALS 2015-17 - under 40 combined**
2017 Charleston: Kasatkina (19) d. Ostapenko (19) = 38
2017 BIEL: VONDROUSOVA (17) d. KONTAVEIT (21) = 38
2015 Tashkent: Hibino (20) d. Vekic (19) = 39
2015 Quebec City: Beck (21) d. Ostapenko (18) = 39

Sydney - Johanna Konta. GBR
Hobart - Elise Mertens, BEL
Australian Open - Serena Williams, USA
NOTE: Vondrousova (Biel) no sets lost in MD, lost 2 in Q-rounds

3 - CZE (Ka.Pliskova,Siniakova,Vondrousova)
3 - RUS (Kasatkina,Pavlyuchenkova,Vesnina)
2 - UKR (Svitolina,Tsurenko)
2 - USA (Davis,S.Williams)

Hobart: Elise Mertens, BEL QF-Bertens)
Dubai: Elina Svitolina, UKR (SF-Kerber)
Acapulco: Lesia Tsurenko, UKR (SF-Lucic)
Indian Wells: Elena Vesnina, RUS (4r-Kerber)
Monterrey: A.Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (F-Kerber)

Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (last: 2016)
Kimiko Date, JPN (2009)
Karolina Pliskova, CZE (2017)
Samantha Stosur, AUS (2015)

15 - Nicole Vaidisova (2004)
17 - Daja Bedanova (2000)
18 - Lucie Safarova (2005)
18 - Petra Kvitova (2009)
20 - Karolina Pliskova (2013)
20 - Katerina Siniakova (2017)
21 - Iveta Benesova (2004)
22 - Kveta Peschke (nee' Hrdlickova) (1998)
23 - Klara Koukalova (2005)
23 - Kristyna Pliskova (2016)
25 - Barbora Strycova (2011)

3...Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2...Chan Yung-Jan, TPE
2...Alicja Rosolska, POL
2...Lucie Safarova, CZE
1+1.Abigail Spears, USA (WD+MX)

Elena + cute fuzzy baby creature = good Instagramming

ZHENGHOU, CHINA [WTA 125 Series] (Hard)
16 Singles Final: Anastasia Pivovarova def. Lu Jingjing (ITF $50K event)
16 Doubles Final: Xun Fangying/You Xiaodi d. Amanmuradova/Moncova (ITF $50K event)
17 Top Seeds: Peng Shuai/Wang Qiang

#1 Peng Shuai d. #5 Hibino
#3 Duan Yingying d. #2 Wang Qiang
#1 Peng Shuai d. #3 Duan Yingying

...the first WTA 125 Series event of the season takes place in a week when the regular WTA tour goes dark. Peng has already climbed into the Top 40 since opening the year ranked outside the Top 100. After getting an Australian Open win over Daria Kasatkina, reaching a final in Taipei City (w/ wins over Siniakova, Stosur and Safarova) and winning five matches in Indian Wells and Miami (including defeats of Aga Radwanska and Caroline Garcia), she's got a real shot at seeds in Paris and London.

After coming together for another special occasion in Biel...

Will Martina and Timea be dancing NEXT weekend? Stay tuned...

I'll be back later with a Fed Cup semifinals (and WG Playoffs) preview.

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Peng should be in the Top 20 by the USO, only 142 pts to defend from now through the USO.

24 of 32 participants in Zhengzhou are from China or Japan.

19 yr old last week, 17 yr old this week. I would say pick the 15 yr old, but there aren't any. Hanyu Guo(18) & Jaqui Kang(19) are the only teens in the draw.

Stat of the Week-8- The amount of tournaments it took for Ana Ivanovic to win a title after she became #1.

This seems like a long time for a first time #1, and it was. Sharapova also took 8 tournaments, but going into this year, they were the only first time #1's in history(of 22)to take that long. That includes the curious saga of Goolagong Cawley, who didn't realize she was number 1, Then took 1 1/2 yrs to get her first title. She had won 6 tournaments in 1976 to reach the top spot, then only played 3 more times that year as she was pregnant. Came back in 77 and won before her 8th tourney(*4th or 5th-unclear in one if she was only in doubles).

But that has changed, as Kerber is at 12 and counting. The thing is that without Serena/Vika/Maria, you would think that this is the time for her stats to be better. And they are, but out of curiosity, take at the look at her last 12 tournaments, and the last 12 with all 4.

Current 12
Slam Titles-0
Slam Finals-0

So she has reached QF or better in half of her events.

Serena/Vika/Maria 12
Slam Titles-1
Slam Finals-1

Extremely top heavy as the 16 AO represents almost everything. Also note that the 4 of them play in events together so rarely in recent years(for various reasons) that this 12 tourney stretch is from 2014 AO through 2016 AO.

So she's slumping in terms of being #1, but taking advantage of those draws every other time out.

Quiz time-The 12 tournament stretch evaluated started with the 2014 AO. All 4 were ranked in the Top 10 then. What were their rankings?

Bonus Quiz-Fed Cup is coming, and since Schiavone won this week, she brings to mind the Big Four from Italy(Schiavone, Pennetta, Vinci, Errani). There have been many players named to Italy's team since 2005. Some have managed to play doubles. But there have only been 5 other women in the last 12 years to play in singles. Who are they?

Williams 1
Azarenka 2
Sharapova 3
Kerber 9.

Karin Knapp-08,14
Camila Giorgi-15,16
Mara Santangelo-06,07
Maria-Elana Camerin-05
Tathiana Garbin-05,07(Current Captain)

Mon Apr 17, 11:59:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Also.. 7 - the number of years it took AnaIvo to reach another slam semifinal after winning RG and becoming #1. ;)

The Kerber stats: hey, the Most Interesting Tour in the World (even if some things don't always make total sense to mere humans) :)

You know, I've kept track of what happens in events that include all of the Serena/Maria/Vika trio (the former WTA "Big 3," at least, for a few blinks) for a while, and it's been SO LONG since I've added (and few and far between) anything to that list. Soon, hopefully.

1. Almost. I had Serena #1, Vika #2 and Kerber #9... but Sharapova #4 (I was thinking maybe Aga broke them up from being 1-2-3)

2. I had Giorgi, Knapp and Garbin, but my other two were Farina Elia and, maybe, one of the Serra-Zanetti sisters possibly in some dead rubber match back in 2005 or something, but now I think they were probably both out of the game by then. Should have had Santangelo. :(

Mon Apr 17, 01:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

I assumed Camerin would have been the hardest one, as I mostly think of her as a doubles player.

Have to tweak you a little, so ponder this. Are the playoff version of the Washington Capitals equal to Heather Watson at a slam? Doesn't matter how big the lead is, there will always be drama getting to the finish line.

Tue Apr 18, 12:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Maybe even more like Jana Novotna at a slam, if she'd been trapped in amber sometime before the '98 Wimbledon. I'm not sure anyone has really expected a HUGE amount out of Watson at a big event, unlike Jana and a certain red-white-and-blue uniformed group with skates and sticks. For the Caps at Stanley Cup playoffs time, it's ALWAYS the 1993 Wimbledon final. But there's not a Duchess' shoulder to cry on when they choke yet again.

The thing about the Capitals and their sorry SC history (except for the fluke that was the 1998 playoffs, when they actually won a series as a #4 seed while ALL THREE higher seeds lost, allowing them to slip into the final... and be swept, of course) is that they'd probably be in an even WORSE position if they were UP 2-0, 2-1 or 3-1 in the series. No team has blown more playoff series of that magnitude. Ever. In any sport. E-v-e-r.

The funny thing is that not only were many local sports media members actually saying that, yeah, they ARE clearly the best team in the NHL and will just brush off the Leafs as if they were nothing, but that they WOULD win the Cup this time, totally ignoring the history (even Tony Kornheiser... who was the one who originally dubbed the Caps "choking dogs" oh so many years ago). During the game the other night one of the local game commentators was noting some stat that they were so great in during the regular season they weren't doing nearly as well vs. Toronto. I was like, "Yeah, because these are the playoffs, not the regular season." It's been that way for about, oh, thirty years.

They're only down 2-1 in a Best-of-7, but the collective sense of doom has already set in. As it should.

But at least there are the Wizards (at least they UP their game in the playoffs), the Nats (though they have a certain Caps-like quality about them come postseason time) and (maybe) the Redskins (but no one dare hold there breath there, either).

D.C. sports -- where every team is a division champ or has been in the last two years, but still nothing ever much gets accomplished -- lament over. ;)

Tue Apr 18, 01:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

"Their" breath. See, the choking is contagious.

Tue Apr 18, 01:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Surprising or ?
Serena pregnant

Wed Apr 19, 11:47:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, not really "surprising," I guess.

Interesting that she'll (for now) return to #1 on Monday, interesting to see how the confirmed absence of Serena for the remainder of the season will alter the landscape and mindset of the rest of the tour, and, I suppose, interesting that she just happened to make the announcement on a certain Russian's 30th birthday. If that was a coincidence, wow... if not, congrats on the subtle poke. Hmmm, does that count as another "unofficial W" in the head-to-head? ;)

Now I guess the questions will be about whether she plans to return, even if it were for just another season. I suspect she would, but you never know. A comeback and another slam run that adds her name to the list that only includes Clijsters (so far) would just be another chapter in her legacy, and possibly a natural exit point, as well.

Wed Apr 19, 12:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Fave tweets so far

Tweet: Serena Williams won a Grand Slam while pregnant. I can hardly work a desk job after eating a burrito. Life comes at you fast.

Tweet: Until a Man can win a championship while pregnant...Serena Williams will be hands down the greatest athlete of all time.

Tweet: serena williams really announced her pregnancy on maria sharapova's 30th birthday

Wed Apr 19, 03:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

So she'll come back aged 38? Or on the brink of it. I would imagine she'd be ready for Wimbledon next year. With a ranking of, what, 30 or 40? I just don't know. She could easily do it. And she didnt retire. But what if the year gives Kvitova and Azarenka time to be ready? And this's Sharapova's best chance to win a couple more slams. It also opens the door for players like Halep, Muguruza and, honestly, Venus too. Kerber should be able to become a consistent world number one.

Those are my rambling thoughts. I truly believe we'll see Serena play again but I do not think she'll win another slam. In singles.

Wed Apr 19, 06:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

@colt. Todd's love of Jana Novotna is above my love of Kuznetsova. :) Tbh the Redskins all time NFL team is probably somewhere in the top five or six. Being a sports fan in that city is a real mixed bag obviously. You know youll always have some kind of success in the reg season. But playoffs? Also Bryce Harper is an ass.

Wed Apr 19, 07:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Actually, he's really not. Harper is always described as quite the good and respectful guy by anyone who actually spends time around him, rather than opponents or outside media sources or fans who, quite honestly, made up their minds on how he supposedly was starting when he was on the cover SI at age 16, then played along like sheep as ESPN did a masterful job of popularizing the labeling of him as this or that (usually negative) by, egads, pointing out that he was ultra competitive, as if that was a bad thing. They have to try to make someone a villain, even if it's not true. And, really, he isn't.

Don't always believe the agitators. He has a certain flair, for sure, which will always rub some people the wrong way. But he's what you really want a big-time athlete to be -- talented, clutch, dramatic, and with a desire to win and make a name for himself all at once.

Wed Apr 19, 07:55:00 PM EDT  

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