Sunday, October 29, 2017

Wk.43- The Singapore Flyer

While it's been easy for many to criticize and sometimes even marginalize the Dane for much of the past decade (Yikes! Has it been that long? Yes, it has.), don't count out Caroline Wozniacki. Not yet. And certainly not now.

Hands up if you've just won the biggest title of your career! ??

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In what could turn out be a watershed moment in her career, Wozniacki experienced a range of tennis experiences at the WTA Finals in Singapore. She was imperious early on, almost embarrassing the likes of Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep, then blinking in the heat of battle vs. Caroline Garcia and failing to win the group in a last moment switcheroo. She pulled a match back from a potentially perilous place in the semis against Karolina Pliskova, then raced to a commanding lead in the final vs. Venus Williams, only to see the 37-year old legend threaten to stage an equally legendary comeback. Williams, for her part, opened her week with a disappoint performance against Pliskova, but rebounded with victories over the reigning Roland Garros and Wimbledon champs, as well as the hottest player in Asia (Garcia) in the 4Q to become the oldest woman to reach the WTA Finals singles championship match.

With a 7-0 record against Wozniacki, Venus was surely the "favorite" heading into the final. But the Dane isn't quite the same player she was they last met in 2015. Sporting a bigger serve, more forward movement and a willingness to pick her moments to be aggressive and emphatically end the long rallies that her speedy defense prolongs. And on a court that was said all week to be playing slower than the faster courts preferred by Williams, perhaps it was Wozniacki who should have been tapped as the player to beat.

The Dane was on her game from start. She twice took a break lead in the 1st set, at 3-1 and 5-3, though Williams managed to get things back on serve a game later on both occasions. Finally, Wozniacki broke Williams to take the set 6-4 as Venus' fourth forehand error in the game set the stage for the Dane's near-rush to the finish.

As Wozniacki's preferred long rallies were punctuated by errors from a tired Williams, Caro built a seemingly insurmountable 5-0 lead in the 2nd set. She twice served for the match, at 5-1 and 5-3, but as her game dipped just a bit, and Venus upped her own (especially on serve, firing more body shots and preventing the Dane from taking an early advantage in the rallies), things got tighter and tighter. Williams' forehand pass left Wozniacki flat-footed at the net and got the break to close within 5-4, as the Singapore fans in the stands in exploded and wondered if Venus might be about to stage an epic comeback in the Williams family tradition.

But it wasn't meant to be. At least not for Venus.

Williams got within 30/15 of a hold to knot the score in the 2nd, but Wozniacki's marathoner fitness and groundstroke consistency regained the advantage. After being unable to put away her first match point, the Dane got another after winning a typically long crosscourt rally. When Williams wasn't able to put away two volleys, Wozniacki moved forward on a short ball and reached down to dig out a low backhand and send it down the line for the match-ending winner.

She tossed her racket in "look what I won!" fashion, picking up her biggest career title to close out a season that might arguably be considered better than any of her multi-title grabbing #1 campaigns earlier in her career. Consider, along with her #3 finish -- her best since back-to-back #1 seasons in 2010-11 -- she recorded the first three #1 wins of her career (over three different #1's, no less) and six of her eleven career Top 3 victories.

Still, though, much of the discussion of the Dane's season has been about what she didn't do. On the heels of her U.S. Open SF last year, she had just one QF or better slam result in '17, and lost in the 2nd Round in her New York follow-up. She lost her first six finals (she's now won two straight, so we can move on there), preventing her from getting the respect her last year of results and the potentially reputation-altering improvements in her game has rightly earned. While she's been moving back into the Top 10 and reaching more finals (8) than anyone else on tour this season, the headlines were grabbed by two first-time slam winners, three maiden #1's, pregnant former #1's, new mother former #1's, returning-from-suspension former #1's, turning-back-the-clock former #1's, ridiculously improbable comeback stories, the resurgence of Bannerette tennis, and so on and so son.

But as the season winds to it's inevitable conclusion, there's the Dane. Sitting at #3 in the world, she'll be back at the top of the conversation when the 2018 season rolls around. Well, that is, unless we'll be talking more about the return of still more #1's or someth-... oh, yeah. Hmmm, well, still, Caro has earned a mention. Now it'll be up to her how much of the discussion she can force to be focused on her as the next season plays out.

As Wozniacki received the Billie Jean King Trophy from Kim Clijsters (who defeated her in the '10 YEC final), Backspin couldn't help but have a slight "Barbie & Midge" flashback. So sue me.

But while the also (one-time) notoriously slam-less Clijsters ultimately had to retire, become a mother, and then return without the same pressure of expectation hanging over her head to finally stage what turned out to be a run a three "second career" major title runs, Wozniacki has never left the scene. Oh, she came perilously close. Or at least it felt like it, as "retirement" talk was floated not that long ago and her attention seemed to wander away from the court for a bit. It was only sixteen months ago, remember, that a string of disappointing results and injuries knocked her all the way down to #74 heading into last year's U.S. Open, and it was difficult to be sure if she'd ever *truly* be back at the top of the game, or ever hope to challenge for that long-awaited slam crown.

Even after Singapore, no future slam run by the Dane is assured by any means. But, still, a WTA Finals (or "Championships") title run, though not always the case, *has* previously been used as a gateway to elusive slam success by players similarly dogged by a failure to "win the big one" in the majors.

Jana Novotna, after a trio of slam final losses (including her infamous SW19 "choke" in '93), won the 1997 WTA Championships crown to claim her biggest title. Eight months later she won Wimbledon. Bedeviled by the lack of a slam title (and a certain German), Gabriela Sabatini claimed the YEC title in 1988, Steffi Graf's "Golden Slam" season. By the end of 1990, the Argentine had claimed her lone slam win at the U.S. Open, defeating Graf in the final. As it was for the two most slam title-challenged members of that tennis generation, could this WTA Finals prove to be the prelude to something bigger for the Dane, who fills a similar role for her own WTA generation?

Maybe. But first, maybe we should wonder aloud about what's happened that has allowed Wozniacki to find herself in this position heading into 2018? (Yes, I suppose it's something of another blast from the past -- a little "Wozniology-101," or maybe "102," for the senses.)

As things have played out over the past year and half, it could be that the doubt she heard from many corners last season about her present and future might have served as something of an "I'll show them" inspiration. The opening half of 2016 was first extended period in which injury truly hampered her game and curtailed her results, and the possibility of slipping into perceived "irrelevance" (think a certain Canadian right about now, until further notice) could have been the inciting incident that pulled her back up the ladder. Once healthy in the summer of '16, she staged an unexpected semifinal run at Flushing Meadows that lit the fuse on the rankings climb that followed.

Then again maybe the key moment was, in an odd twist of fate, the pregnancy of Vika Azarenka that freed up hitting-partner-extraordinaire/assistant-coach Sascha Bajin (former longtime Serena team member) to be brought aboard the Wozniacki family team in a role in which few have prospered nor lasted long in the past. There's a danger in giving Bajin's presence too much credit in the Dane's long-awaited (though she'll sometimes still slip, as she did vs. Garcia in her only Singapore defeat) willingness to improve her serve and add increased and well-time aggression to the consistent, brilliant defensive style that got her to #1 for 67 weeks in 2010-11 and has kept her within shouting distance of the top of the sport for a decade.

While many players have displayed a penchant for capitalizing on a sudden moment of opportunity (see Ostapenko in Paris), some have often failed to do so when things have seemed to be most in their favor (see Aga Radwanska in multiple slams, and Halep on quite a few occasions, as well). The Dane, though, is an encouraging pattern in recent seasons, has managed to thrive the most in her post-#1 campaigns when things looked to be turning against her.

While Wozniacki has a tendency to be extremely touchy and lash out at odd moments (see her slight griping about crowd noise with chair umpire Marija Cicak on Sunday right when it looked as if Venus might knot the score in the 2nd set) when she's feeling pressure in a match, she's also shown an admirable ability to display renewed focus and tenacity when circumstances turn against her. We saw it in her immediate tennis reactions to off-court upset when, in her post-Rory McIlroy engagement period in mid-2014, she (briefly) changed tactics and displayed the sort of game style and results that many had longed for since she first "entered the arena" by assuming the #1 ranking without the presence of a slam title on her resume. She put together a banner summer and unexpectedly reached her first slam final in five years at the U.S. Open, then trained and returned to the city to run the New York Marathon two months later. Both showed what she could do when she put her mind to something, and held firm to it without any fall back to previous habits. For a while, anyway.

It took her flirting with falling out of the Top 100 to make the changes that seem to be more full-fledged and with focused intent. The result was a season that, with the WTA Finals win, can't really be critiqued in any lasting, negative way.

But, what comes next?

Will Wozniacki's role as the ultimate 2017 Singapore Flyer leave her satisfied, or will it whet her appetite for a renewed quest for the one career resume item that she has failed to gather? While it may not technically be "the most important" result in a player's career, the lack of a slam title in Wozniacki's case will always be used as an anchor attached to her reputation and possible career legacy. Until it isn't, that is. And there's only one way remove the easy target on her back, and officially provide the brick and gold paint necessary to mark an unquestioned future path to Newport. With a few more wins in 2017, Woziacki might have finished the season as #1. But she's been there, done that. The next door the Dane must knock on can only be found in four cities in the world: Melbourne, Paris, London and New York. While her standing in the era is assured, as she's accomplished too much to be ignored, her place in the history of the game (still) depends on her next move.

Again, just look at Barbie... err, I mean Clijsters. When she first retired, the first line of her career bio was about what she had *not* done. By the time she retired a second time, her rise to #1 without a slam and (eventually edited) legacy as a good, but not-able-to-be-called-great, slam-less player had almost been forgotten. Even I made peace with her past... and, believe me, that took some doing. The Barbie/Midge, Kim/Caro link used to have a derogatory association around here, where both of them were concerned. But, with the arrival of retrospection in 2017, maybe the truth is that it was just ahead of it's time.

While the Belgian re-wrote an epitaph for a career she'd never lived, turning it into a veneration of the one she eventually did, the same could very well happen with Wozniacki. If the Dane continues on her current path, the comparisons between the two -- Kim & Caro, Barbie & Midge -- could still prove to have unforeseen positive undertones that were never intended on this side of the discussion.

Oh, those crazy Tennis Gods. It'd be just like them to pull a trick and treat us -- or pull a treat and trick me, I guess -- with something like that, wouldn't it?

S: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. Venus Williams/USA 6-4/6-4
D: Timea Babos/Andrea Hlavackova (HUN/CZE) d. Kiki Bertens/Johanna Larsson (NED/SWE) 4-6/6-4 [10-5]
Marta Kostyuk/UKR def. Kaja Juvan/SLO 6-4/6-3

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...after getting off to an impeccable start in Singapore, winning 24 of 28 games in her first two matches vs. Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep, Wozniacki briefly looked to be in danger of squandering her roll. Caroline Garcia, who beat her to the punch in a short stretch when the Dane was noticeably tentative and eschewed her otherwise well-time aggressive tactics, staged a comeback in the final round robin match, erasing a 5-3 3rd set lead to win and ultimately take the #1 spot in the group. Wozniacki, with the prospect of losing her third straight set on the racket of Karolina Pliskova when the Czech held six SP in the 1st set of their semifinal, appeared to have quite possibly reached the end of her dominant WTA Finals run. But after converting on her own sixth SP, Wozniacki wrapped up the match in straights and a day later nearly ran Venus Williams out of the final, leading 6-4/5-0. After stopping the bleeding at the last possible moment, the Dane claimed the title without having to witness the full Venus aura overwhelm the arena, winning 6-4/6-4.

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With career title #27, Wozniacki ties Hana Mandlikova and Gabriela Sabatini for nineteenth on the all-time tour title list. Hmmm. Mandlikova and Sabatini ranked high (#1 and #2 for me) on the recent Backspin Courts of Appeals discussion of the best players to never be ranked #1. Former #1 Wozniacki, though, would have to be under consideration in the discussion of the best players to never win a slam.

But, as she noted quite a few years ago now, and has turned out to quite possibly be right, she's got time to change that.

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RISER: Caroline Garcia/FRA
...the 4th Quarter's 2.0 version of Garcia -- the one that never saw a scoreboard deficit that wasn't doubling as a mountain worth climbing, who routinely displays her ability to stand her ground and fight even harder when thing gets tougher, and who readily admits that her late '17 surge is the result of a lot of work *and* because "I don't care what people think anymore" -- once again found herself in the spotlight in Singapore. The Pastry opened with a RR loss to Halep, but then took flight. She came back from 5-3 3rd set deficits to defeat both Svitolina and Wozniacki, then virtually stole the Red Group #1 spot away from the Dane when Halep failed to claim it with win in her own round robin finale. In the semis, she battled Venus Williams for three sets before the veteran was able to take her out. Garcia's late year rush and Top 10 finish has turned out to be the perfect gift that we didn't even know we wanted (or needed) at the end of what was already a season filled with stories of redemption and revelation. Her display of perseverance, sheer athleticism, backbone and glorious composure in the face of the outright disrespect of others has surely made her an unexpectedly uncommon favorite in this space from here on out.


SURPRISE: Clara Tauson/DEN
...the 14-year old Dane (jr. #79) made her ITF debut a month ago in a $15K in Antalya, Turkey. Tauson qualified and won four consecutive straight sets matches to reach the semifinals. This week she popped up again in another $15K in Stockholm. Again, she qualified, and again she reeled off a string of straight sets wins (6), this time to reach her first career final. She fell to 21-year old Swede Jacqueline Cabaj Award, who picked up her third season win, by a 6-4/6-0 score, but now stands at 10-2 on the circuit, with two encouraging results, before she's even earned her first pro ranking. Had Clauson won, at 14 years and 311 days she'd been the youngest pro singles champion of 2017, besting Marta Kostyuk (also in the news for Week 43, by the way) by eight days compared to when the Ukrainian won her maiden challenger crown in May.

VETERAN: Venus Williams/USA
...Venus had a hard time finding her game in her opening RR match in Singapore vs. Karolina Pliskova but, as she has so often in 2017, she quickly found a way to turn back the clock and post a few more classic performances en route to becoming at 37 the oldest woman to reach the singles final at the year-ending tour championships. After outslugging RG champ Alona Ostapenko in a three-setter, Williams defeated SW19 champ Garbine Muguruza in a "virtual QF" round robin finale, then became the one player that Caroline Garcia couldn't stage a comeback victory march against in the semis to reach her first YEC final since 2009. She ultimately didn't have enough left in reserve to survive the long rallies favored by a now more-willing-to-be-aggressive Wozniacki, but it didn't stop her from staging one final edge-of-your-seat comeback after falling behind 6-4/5-0, getting to 5-4 and within two points of holding to even the set before the Dane finally closed out the match.

While Williams earned some Player of the Year consideration (and what will be a high "Ms.Backspin" finish) with her flashback '17 campaign, she failed to win an actual singles title for the first time since 2013. Her three losses in major finals (AO-WI-WTAF) are her most in a season since she dropped the first three legs of the original Serena Slam in 2002, but her results nonetheless made her the most consistent performer on tour in the season's biggest events this year. She'll be rewarded for that with her first Top 5 finish 5 since 2010.

Now we'll wait and see if she'll be in Minsk for the Fed Cup final.

But, have no fear, Venus isn't going anywhere. While fellow 37-year old Martina Hingis announced her (third) retirement from the sport this week, Venus made it clear that she has no inclination to announce her first anytime soon. Though she was talking (sort of, at least) about her run in this tournament, her post-semifinal comments apply to the continued extension of her part in the "Williams era," as well.

COMEBACKS: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK and Vicky Duval/USA
...both Schmiedlova and Duval have been on the comeback trail in 2017, AKS from an on-court slump that overwhelmed her '16 season and Duval from her 2014 Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis. They met in the final of an $80K challenger in Macon, Georgia (US) this weekend. The 23-year old Slovak won 6-4/6-1, staging a(nother) comeback after dropping the first four games, to take her third ITF crown on the season, and her biggest since her tour-level win in Bucharest in 2015. AKS posted additional wins last week over Katerina Stewart, Grace Min, Stefanie Voegele and Rebecca Peterson in the tournament whose MD was headed by Francesca Schiavone (lost 2nd Rd. to Sesil Karatantcheva).

The former world #26 two years ago this month (after having just scratched the surface of her potential with 3rd Round AO/RG/US slam results in 2014-15), Schmiedlova had slipped 200 spots to #226 at the end of last season, but steadily worked her way back up while traversing the ITF circuit in '17, earlier winning a pair of $25K titles. With this week's work, she's compiled a 39-23 all-level mark this season and will rise a whopping 49 spots on Monday to #132.

The radiantly-positive Duval, 21, encountered her health issues before she'd really gotten her footing as a pro, though she'd climbed as high as #87, shined under the U.S. Open night session lights and even qualified for Wimbledon in '14 after learning of her diagnosis (and then upset a seed, Sorana Cirstea, in the 1st Round). When she's been able, Duval has continued to play, often advancing further into draws than likely she'd even expected, only to be forced to retire late in the week after her court time began to pile up. She reached her first singles final in three years last month in Lubbock, Texas, losing to fellow cancer survivor Alisa Kleybanova (but winning the doubles title w/ her to claim her first crown in nearly four years). A wild card in Macon, Duval got victories over Ulrikke Eikeri, Danielle Collins, Ajla Tomljanovic and Kayla Day. 25-11 in '17, she'll climb nearly 70 spots in the new rankings, getting inside the Top 240.

FRESH FACE: Alona Ostapenko/LAT 20, closing out her breakthrough season as the youngest player to qualify for the year-ending championships since Wozniacki in 2010 (a 20-year old Bouchard qualified in '14, but was older than both), Ostapenko only notched a single win in round robin play, and it came in a "meaningless" final day match-up with an already-advanced Karolina Pliskova. But the RG champ never looked anything other than up to the task during her week in Singapore. While she lost in straights to Garbine Muguruza, Ostapenko made a late change that caused the Spaniard to sweat out a ("match-saving?") 2nd set stretch and feel fortunate that she did. The Wimbledon champ never won another match, while Ostapenko went on to battle Venus for over three hours, saved a 2nd set MP and pushed things deep into the 3rd before falling 7-5 even while firing nearly 50 aces on the day. The 3 & 1 victory over Pliskova saw Ostapenko notch 25 winners in just 16 games en route to her fourth career Top 5 win. She may have only gone 1-2 on the week, but it sure didn't feel that way. In fact, it felt more like a mouthwatering preview of the future, for Latvian Thunder could be heard saying, "I'll be back" as she exited her maiden WTA Finals.

DOWN: Karolina Pliskova/CZE, Garbine Muguruza/ESP, and Simona Halep/ROU
...five of the eight players that made up the field in Singapore have spent time in the #1 ranking, but none of the three who've held the position during the 2017 season reached the final (Venus was last #1 in 2002, while for Wozniacki it was in 2011). Two didn't even make it out of round robin play.

Pliskova was dominant on serve in the early going in round robin play, defeating Venus and Muguruza by identical 2 & 2 scorelines, with the latter giving the Czech her 20th career Top 10 win. Ultimately, she won the White Group and was the only player of the four to win more total games (28-20) than she lost. But with a shot at year-end #1 within her reach with a title run, she failed to secure six SP opportunities in the 1st set in a back-and-forth struggle with Wozniacki in what turned out to be a straight sets SF defeat. Actually, the best thing that may have happened for Pliskova in Singapore was her what-the-heck decision to have Rennae Stubbs serve as her coach for the week, including filling the role during changeover calls. The relationship seemed easy and productive, and might be well worth exploring more in 2018. Darren Cahill has shown with Halep that it's possible to maintain a commentating role along with a coaching one and thrive in both. It might be time to see if lightning could strike with yet another Aussie in a similar capacity.

Muguruza, too, got off to a winning start in Singapore. She was awarded (though a bit early, if not premature) the tour's Player of the Year honors, then jumped on Ostapenko in her opening round robin match, leading 6-3/5-1 before the Latvian surged and made it a battle just to serve out the match at 5-4. She did, but Muguruza didn't win another set, falling 2 & 2 to Pliskova and then 5 & 4 to Venus in a virtual QF match-up for a birth in the semis. The Spaniard was broken by Williams to end the 1st set, and was up a break twice in the 2nd. She's gone 2-4 at the last two WTA Finals since going 3-0 in RR play in her '15 debut (she fell in the SF), when she also reached the doubles final, but will still finish the season at #2 behind Halep.

Ah, but what to make of Halep's week? In her first event since taking over the #1 ranking, she arrived in fine spirits. She opened with a straight sets victory over Caroline Garcia. But then she was throttled by Wozniacki, and was never able to get her game going (though she did have more winners that UE's) in the round robin final match vs. Elina Svitolina, even with a semifinal berth at stake, along with her possible opportunity to finish as the year-end #1. The match was over in 1:10, along with the Romanian's season. Funny thing, though. Halep was still in fine spirits after the match, and didn't seem bothered by the loss. One might look at that as slightly troubling, but Halep has beaten herself up over far less in the past, and it was more a case of her feeling relief at the end of a pressure-packed season filled with lows and highs that nonetheless saw her reach an important career goal. Ultimately, Pliskova's semifinal loss preserved Halep's year-end #1 ranking, giving her another "Swarmette first" for her career resume, as well as possibly even a small sign that, for once, maybe the fates are learning how to shine on rather than plot against her. Hopefully it'll be a practice that'll carry over into 2018.

@simonahalep is the year-end World No.1 for 2017! ??

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ITF PLAYER: Mihaela Buzarnescu/ROU
...the 29-year old Romanian's merry month continued in Poitiers, France. The recent Linz semifinalist grabbed the title at the $100K challenger, tying for the season circuit lead with her sixth singles title of the season while picking up the biggest of her twenty-one career ITF crowns. The #5-seed in the tournament, Buzarnescu posted wins over Anna Blinkova, #3 Ekaterina Alexandrova, #1 Tatjana Maria and #4 Alison Van Uytvanck in the final. She also reached the doubles final with Nicola Geuer, falling to Belinda Bencic & Yanina Wickmayer. After finishing 2016 at #351, Buzarnescu will jump another seventeen spots in the rankings this week to another new career high of #72.

JUNIOR STAR: Marta Kostyuk/UKR
...Elina Svitolina may not have gone on a title run in the WTA's elite eight-player late-season event, but her fellow Ukrainian Kostyuk did.

The 15-year old completed a perfect 5-0 match record, 10-for-10 sets, week in Chengdu to win the third edition of the Junior Masters. Kostyuk's season began with a Traralgon final appearance and Australian Open girls singles crown, and also included an additional Grade 1 title, a U.S. Open girls doubles win and her maiden pro title run in a $25K challenger in the spring. In China, after a 3-0 round robin performance, she defeated Argentina's Maria Carle (who served for the 2nd set) in the semis to set up a meeting in the final with Kaja Juvan (def. #1 Whitney Osuigwe in the SF). Kostyuk notched her second defeat of Juvan in a matter of days, adding a 6-4/6-3 victory to the 6-2/7-6 win she'd posted over the Slovenian in RR play.

Then Marta pulled a Monfils... well, except for the winning a big title part, I mean.

DOUBLES: Timea Babos/Andrea Hlavackova (HUN/CZE)
...while their final opponents (Bertens/Larsson) came in still riding an eleventh hour surge that saw them win 4Q titles in Seoul and Linz to get to the #11 spot in the Doubles Points Race and qualify for Singapore (after injury and duplicate partners knocked out three higher ranked duos) then knocked off defending champs Makarova/Vesnina in the semis, the even better late '17 stretch from Babos & Hlavackova ultimately prevailed. The Hungarian-Czech pair had already won fall titles in Quebec City, Tashkent and Moscow, as well as reaching the Beijing final. But after knocking out top-seeded Y.Chan/Hingis, their Beijing (and only 4Q) conquerors, in the semis to end the career of the Swiss Miss, it seemed their "right" to lift the doubles crown. It took a 10-5 3rd set TB, but it did prove to be the case.

The pair's fifth consecutive final is the longest streak by any duo in '17 (only Chan Yung-Jan's personal five-event final streak, four with Hingis and one with sister Hao-Ching, equaled it this year), and their five titles are behind only the nine won by Chan/Hingis. They've gone 18-1 since their U.S. Open QF defeat. For Babos, it's the biggest of her sixteen tour doubles titles, while it's the veteran Hlavackova's biggest since her last of three slam titles (2 WD/1 MX) came in 2013.

So long, Martina. Again. I think.

1. WTA Finals rr - Caroline Garcia def. Elina Svitolina
A classic Garcia 2.0 win, the second at the expense of Svitolina this fall. After failing to close out the 1st after serving up 4-3, then leading 5-2 in the TB, serving two at 5-4, holding SP at 6-5 and 7-6, and badly missing a swing volley, Garcia fell down a break early in the 2nd and briefly was brought to tears during a changeover sesssion with her father.

But rather than go away, the Pastry dug in and won four consecutive games, taking a 5-2 lead and holding to win the 2nd at 6-3 from love/40 down. Svitolina led 2-0 in the 3rd, and broke for a 5-3 advantage (winning a game that included two wonderful backhand passing shots). But, again, Garcia refused to give in. She broke at love and held to knot things at 5-5, then denied a GP and broke again on BP #3 two games later. The Pastry served out the win to take the 2:44 battle, holding a 58/31 W/UE ratio (vs. Svitolina's 33/22), and staying alive in group play.


2. WTA Finals rr - Caroline Garcia def. Caroline Wozniacki
After a slow start vs. an in-form Wozniacki, Garcia 2.0 stabilized and pulled out another win that she wouldn't have gotten a year ago, finding a way to take away the momentum of the match with greater aggression and, for really the only time all week, making the Dane blink in the face of pressure. Wozniacki breezed through the love 1st set in :22, firing balls deep and keeping Garcia on her heels while winning 24 of 31 points. After failing to convert two BP in game #3, Garcia took the advantage in game #5 and served out the 2nd set on her second attempt. Wozniacki was up a break in the 3rd, and served for the match at 5-4. But on a point that featured her great defense and athleticism, Garcia moved forward to put away an overhead to end a point in which Wozniacki failed to seize the initiative, carving out a third BP in game #10. A backhand error from the Dane a point later tied the score at 5-5. Holding from love/40, Garcia took her first lead in the match a game later, then a Wozniacki DF gave her a MP. On MP #2, Wozniacki's forehand sailed long and Garcia stayed alive once more, even with the Dane winning more points (93-87) on the day. Halep's loss in the next match not only got Garcia into the semis in her WTA Finals debut, but this victory stole the group win from Wozniacki, as well. Not that that ultimately mattered to Caro... the Danish one, I mean.

3. WTA Finals rr - Elina Svitolina def. Simona Halep
With the eliminated Svitolina with nothing to play for other than making up for her self-described "brainless" week (a blowout loss to Wozniacki and squandered lead vs. Garcia), and Halep needing a win to reach the semifinals, of course, it would be the Ukrainian who dominated from the outset. She led 3-0. Down 5-3, Halep led 15/30 on Svitolina's serve with a chance to challenge, but a routine error broke the moment, and two points later she was SP down. Svitolina DF'd on her first, but converted on SP #2. Halep broke from 40/love down to lead 2-0 in the 2nd, but immediately gave the break back a game later. Svitolina's break for 4-3 from 40/15 down paved the final path to the end of a 1:10 match that allowed the Ukrainian to end her career season on a positive note, making 2017 her second straight season with wins over multiple different #1-ranked players. Halep, even while far from her best, had more winners than UE in the match. The top-seeded Romanian's absence (along with that of Muguruza) meant this was the first YEC in which no top two seed reached the SF since 2011, and just the second such occasion since 1994.

Garcia reached the semis with this result, and Svitolina seemed more than ready to (at the very least... but really more) take up the Pastry on her pre-match offer/reward of a drink for a match win.

4. WTA Finals rr - Caroline Wozniacki def. Simona Halep
Wozniacki won the first seven games here after having closed out Svitolina with a love set in her previous RR match. It was the Dane's third #1 win of the season. All came over different players (w/ Pliskova and Muguruza), making her the first to do that since Dinara Safina in 2008.
5. WTA Finals Final - Timea Babos/Andrea Hlavackova def. Kiki Bertens/Johanna Larsson
...4-6/6-4 [10-5].
Babos is the first Hungarian to win a YEC title, while, more than a bit surprisingly, Hlavackova is the first Czech to pick up the doubles crown at the event since Jana Novotna in 1997.

6. $15K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Sandra Samir def. Emile Francati 6-3/6-3
$15K Stockholm Final - Jacqueline Cabaj Awad def. Clara Tausen 6-4/6-0
Denmark had the chance for *three* singles titles this weekend but, with the losses by Wozniacki's 20 and 14-year old countrywoman & girl, "settles" for just the one.
7. $25K Obidos Final - Katie Swan def. Katie Boulter
...5-0 ret.
Swan wins the all-Brit, all-Katie battle to move to 5-0 in career ITF singles finals as Boulter is forced to retire.

8. $15K Heraklion Final - Anna Bondar def. Reka Luca Jani 6-2/6-3
$15K Heraklion Final - Anna Bondar/Reka Luca Jani def. Michaela Boev/Anna Ukolova 6-4/6-2
Reka Luca Jani! Reka Luca Jani! Reka Luca Jani! Sort of. Half-sort-of.


1. WTA Finals rr - VENUS WILLIAMS def. Alona Ostapenko
After their straight sets affair in the Wimbledon QF, 2017 needed a great Williams/Ostapenko clash more than we knew, and we got one in Singapore. The 20-year old RG champ led 5-3 in the 1st, only to see the player who made her own YEC debut in 1999 (when Alona was 2) win four straight games to take the lead in the match. No matter, Latvian Thunder just proceeded to save a MP at 5-4 in 2nd and stage her own comeback, winning a TB to send things to the 3rd set. There, six consecutive breaks of serve came before Ostapenko held from love/40 down for a 5-4 lead. Two games later, Williams broke on her fourth BP of game #11 and then served out the 3:13 multi-generational classic. Venus fired 26 winners vs. 29 UE's, while Ostapenko stood at 48/40. To be continued... hopefully.

2. WTA Finals Final - Caroline Wozniacki def. VENUS WILLIAMS
Wouldn't you know that this final, between 27-year old Wozniacki and 37-year old Williams, is not only the second oldest championship match-up on tour in '17 (behind only the Serena/Venus AO final), but also the one with the fifth-largest age gap between the finalists. Thank you for your participation in such stats, Ms. Williams.

With the lowest seeded pairing -- #5 Venus vs. #6 Caro -- in a YEC final since 2008 (#7 Venus def. #8 Zvonareva), and with the two having combined for just one title during the season, it's also fitting that the winner would become the fifth different woman to win one of the season's five biggest titles (slams + YEC) in '17, making this just the second season (w/ 2005) in which it's happened. Venus' near-comeback to knot things in the 2nd after trailing 6-4/5-0 will likely be a largely forgotten footnote to Wozniacki's finest moment to date, with her first win over Williams coming in their eighth career meeting. Caro noted after the match that "8" is her lucky number, and if it didn't happen here then it might never happen at all.

Of course, at one point in time, who would've ever guessed...

3. WTA Finals SF - Caroline Wozniacki def. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
In their sixth meeting of the year, Pliskova pushed the Dane's back against the wall but couldn't get in anything more than a glancing blow despite half a dozen opportunities. Fresh off her RR loss to Garcia, Wozniacki fell behind 4-2 in the 1st set to the Czech, who broke her at love to take a 5-3 lead. But Wozniacki broke right back at love, then saved three SP to hold for 5-5 in an 11-minute game. In the TB, the Dane led 6-1, only to see Pliskova save five SP of her own, firing an ace to tie things at 5-5 and going on to hold SP's #4, #5 and #6. A big serve got Wozniacki her own sixth SP, and the Czech's backhand error to end a long rally gave the Dane a 12-10 TB win to bring the nearly 90-minute set to a close.

Four of the first five games of the 2nd set featured additional breaks, but Wozniacki's break for a 5-3 lead proved to be the last straw. She served out the match to advance to her first YEC final since 2010, knotting her season series with Pliskova at 3-3, and eliminating the Czech from the year-end #1 competition, giving the spot to Simona Halep and making her the 13th woman (the Romanian's lucky number is 13) to achieve the feat.

4. WTA Finals rr - VENUS WILLIAMS def. Garbine Muguruza
Not the way Garbi might have liked to end things. She came to Singapore with a shot at year-end #1, but saw her run ended after being broken to lose the 1st set, then twice failing to hold onto break leads in the 2nd.

5. WTA Finals QF - CHAN YUNG-JAN/Martina Hingis def. Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Kveta Peschke 6-3/6-2
WTA Finals SF - Timea Babos/Andrea Hlavackova def. CHAN YUNG-JAN/Martina Hingis 6-4/7-6(5)
Hingis announced her retirement prior to the start of doubles play. She'd told Chan about her plans before they began a partnership that turned out to be the tour's most successful in '17, as they'll finish as the year-end co-#1's, giving the 37-year old Swiss Miss her *very first* #1 doubles season. That will have to suffice for a fairytale ending to Hingis' third career stint, as it came to a sudden end vs. the eventual WTAF champs in the semis in a loss that ended the duo's 19-match winning streak, Chan's own 23-match WD run, and Hingis' 24 straight combination WD/MX stretch that began with her final slam win (one supposes) at the U.S. Open with Jamie Murray by her side.
6. WTA Finals SF - VENUS WILLIAMS def. Caroline Garcia
Venus finally solved the Riddle of Garcia, pulling away in a 3rd set locked at 3-3, taking a 5-3 lead and actually holding it against the Pastry. Not that it was an open and shut case. Serving for the match, Williams fell behind love/40, but pulled herself out of the hole (at one point with an ace on BP that she was only given credit for after using a rare replay challenge), winning the final point with power groundstrokes that brought the 2:30 contest to a close, and the curtain down on Garcia's career reputation-altering fall.
...6-4/4-6 [10-4].
2-2 in a pair of challenger events this month, the Ukrainian sisters are playing doubles together for the first time since 2011. Of course, that's largely because Alona was retired from October '11 until August '16. They lost in the 2nd Round.

Meanwhile, Countess Dracula... err, I mean Sorana Cirstea takes in a match...

My pumpkin ???? I love you so much @leoamac7 ?????????????

A post shared by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

No days off. Need to catch up to my training partners tho!

A post shared by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Whoopsie doopsieeee ??

A post shared by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on


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[singles finals]
1972 Chris Evert d. Kerry Reid
1973 Chris Evert d. Nancy Richey
1974 Evonne Goolagong d. Chris Evert
1975 Chris Evert d. Martina Navratilova
1976 Evonne Goolagong d. Chris Evert
1977 Chris Evert d. Sue Barker
1978 Martina Navratilova d. Evonne Goolagong
1979 Martina Navratilova d. Tracy Austin
1980 Tracy Austin d. Martina Navratilova
1981 Martina Navratilova d. Andrea Jaeger
1982 Sylvia Hanika d. Martina Navratilova
1983 Martina Navratilova d. Chris Evert-Lloyd
1984 Martina Navratilova d. Chris Evert-Lloyd
1985 Martina Navratilova d. Helena Sukova
1986a Martina Navratilova d. Hana Mandlikova
1986b Martina Navratilova d. Steffi Graf
1987 Steffi Graf d. Gabriela Sabatini
1988 Gabriela Sabatini d. Pam Shriver
1989 Steffi Graf d. Martina Navratilova
1990 Monica Seles d. Gabriela Sabatini
1991 Monica Seles d. Martina Navratilova
1992 Monica Seles d. Martina Navratilova
1993 Steffi Graf d. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1994 Gabriela Sabatini d. Lindsay Davenport
1995 Steffi Graf d. Anke Huber
1996 Steffi Graf d. Martina Hingis
1997 Jana Novotna d. Mary Pierce
1998 Martina Hingis d. Lindsay Davenport
1999 Lindsay Davenport d. Martina Hingis
2000 Martina Hingis d. Monica Seles
2001 Serena Williams w/o Lindsay Davenport
2002 Kim Clijsters d. Serena Williams
2003 Kim Clijsters d. Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Maria Sharapova d. Serena Williams
2005 Amelie Mauresmo d. Mary Pierce
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne d. Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Justine Henin d. Maria Sharapova
2008 Venus Williams d. Vera Zvonareva
2009 Serena Williams d. Venus Williams
2010 Kim Clijsters d. Caroline Wozniacki
2011 Petra Kvitova d. Victoria Azarenka
2012 Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova
2013 Serena Williams d. Li Na
2014 Serena Williams d. Simona Halep
2015 Aga Radwanska d. Petra Kvitova
2016 Dominika Cibulkova d. Angelique Kerber
2017 Caroline Wozniacki d. Venus Williams
[doubles champions]
1973 Rosie Casals / Margaret Court
1974 Billie Jean King / Rosie Casals
1979 Francoise Durr / Betty Stove
1980 Billie Jean King / Martina Navratilova
1981 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1982 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1983 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1984 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1985 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1986a Hana Mandlikova / Wendy Turnbull
1986b Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1987 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1988 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1989 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1990 Kathy Jordan / Liz Smylie
1991 Martina Navratilova / Pam Shriver
1992 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario / Helena Sukova
1993 Gigi Fernandez / Natalia Zvereva
1994 Gigi Fernandez / Natalia Zvereva
1995 Jana Novotna / Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1996 Lindsay Davenport / Mary Joe Fernandez
1997 Lindsay Davenport / Jana Novotna
1998 Lindsay Davenport / Natasha Zvereva
1999 Martina Hingis / Anna Kournikova
2000 Martina Hingis / Anna Kournikova
2001 Lisa Raymond / Rennae Stubbs
2002 Elena Dementieva / Janette Husarova
2003 Virginia Ruano-Pascual / Paola Suarez
2004 Nadia Petrova / Meghann Shaughnessy
2005 Lisa Raymond / Samantha Stosur
2006 Lisa Raymond / Samantha Stosur
2007 Cara Black / Liezel Huber
2008 Cara Black / Liezel Huber
2009 Nuria Llagostera-Vives / Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez
2010 Gisela Dulko / Flavia Pennetta
2011 Liezel Huber / Lisa Raymond
2012 Maria Kirilenko / Nadia Petrova
2013 Hsieh Su-Wei / Peng Shuai
2014 Cara Black / Sania Mirza
2015 Martina Hingis / Sania Mirza
2016 Ekaterina Makarova / Elena Vesnina
2017 Timea Babos / Andrea Hlavackova

14...Martina Navratilova (8-6)
8...Chris Evert (4-4)
7...Serena Williams (5-2)*
6...Steffi Graf (5-1)
4...Monica Seles (3-1)
4...Martina Hingis (2-2)
4...Gabriela Sabatini (2-2)
4...Lindsay Davenport (1-3)
3...Kim Clijsters (3-0)
3...Evonne Goolagong (2-1)
3...Amelie Mauresmo (1-2)
3...Maria Sharapova (1-2)*
2...Justine Henin (2-0)
2...Tracy Austin (1-1)
2...Petra Kvitova (1-1)*
2...Mary Pierce (0-2)

5 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (5-0)
5 - Simona Halep, ROU (1-4)
4 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (3-1)
4 - Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (1-3)
4 - Julia Goerges, GER (1-3)
[Finals 2015-17]
14 - Angelique Kerber (7-7)
13 - Simona Halep (7-6)
13 - Karolina Pliskova (6-7)
11 - Serena Williams (8-3)
9 - Elina Svitolina (7-2)
8 - Petra Kvitova (6-2)
8 - Aga Radwanska (6-2)
8 - Dominika Cibulkova (4-4)

71 years - Australian Open - S.Williams(35) d. V.Williams(36)
64 years - WTA Finals - Wozniacki(27) d. V.Williams(37)
61 years - Indian Wells - Vesnina(30) d. Kuznetsova(31)
61 years - Bogota - Schiavone(36) d. Arruabarrena(25)
61 years - Rabat - Pavlyuchenkova(25) d. Schiavone(36)

*2017 WTA SF*
7 - Simona Halep, ROU (5-2)
7 - Alona Ostapenko, LAT (3-4)
7 - Garbine Muguruza, ESP (2-5)
6 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (5-1)
6 - Julia Goerges, GER (4-2)
6 - Johanna Konta, GBR (3-2+L)
5 - Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (4-1)
5 - Elise Mertens, BEL (2-3)
5 - Lucie Safarova, CZE (1-4)
[SF 2015-17]
22 - Simona Halep (9/6/7)
22 - Angelique Kerber (8/11/3)
19 - Elina Svitolina (6/7/6)
19 - Aga Radwanska (8/9/2)
16 - Serena Williams (9/6/1)
15 - Garbine Muguruza (5/3/7)
13 - CAROLINE GARCIA (2/4/7)
13 - VENUS WILLIAMS (5/3/5)
13 - Dominika Cibulkova (1/9/3)
13 - Petra Kvitova (5/6/2)

AO: Serena Williams
RG: Justine Henin
WI: Venus Williams
US: Kim Clijsters
WTA: Amelie Mauresmo
AO: Serena Williams
RG: Alona Ostapenko
WI: Garbine Muguruza
US: Sloane Stephens
WTA: Caroline Wozniacki

3 - CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (Pliskova/TOR, Muguruza/TOK, Halep/WTAF)
2 - Garbine Muguruza (Kerber/WIMB, Pliskova/CIN)
2 - CoCo Vandeweghe (Kerber/AO, Pliskova/US)
[recent seasons]
2008 Dinara Safina (3 diff #1 wins)
2009 Venus Williams (2)
2010 Samantha Stosur (2)
2011-15 - none
2016 Elina Svitolina (2)

*2017 WINS OVER #1*
Brisbane 2nd Rd - #14 Svitolina d. #1 Kerber
Sydney 2nd Rd - #26 Kasatkina d. #1 Kerber
Australian Open 3rd Rd - #35 Vandeweghe d. #1 Kerber
Miami QF - #12 V.Williams d. #1 Kerber
Monterrey Final - #16 Pavlyuchenkova d. #1 Kerber
Fed Cup WG PO - #13 Svitolina d #1 Kerber
Rome 2nd Rd - #68 Kontaveit d. #1 Kerber
Roland Garros 1st Rd - #40 Makarova d. #1 Kerber
Eastbourne QF - #7 Konta d. #1 Kerber
Wimbledon 4th Rd - #15 Muguruza d. #1 Kerber
Toronto QF - #6 Wozniacki d. #1 Ka.Pliskova
Cincinnati SF - #6 Muguruza d. #1 Ka.Pliskova
U.S. Open QF - #22 Vandeweghe d. #1 Ka.Pliskova
Tokyo TPP SF - #6 Wozniacki d. #1 Muguruza
Wuhan QF - #10 Ostapenko d. #1 Muguruza
Beijing 1st Rd - #29 Strycova d. #1 Muguruza (ret.)
WTA Finals rr - #6 Wozniacki d. #1 Halep
WTA Finals rr - #4 Svitolina d. #1 Halep
[most wins]
3 - Elina Svitolina, Caroline Wozniacki
2 - Garbine Muguruza, CoCo Vandeweghe
1 - 8 players

2017 Karolina Pliskova (Toronto QF)
2017 Garbine Muguruza (Tokyo SF)
2017 Simona Halep (WTA rr)
2010 Vera Zvonareva (WTA SF)
2014 Maria Sharapova (WTA rr)
2017 Simona Halep (Eastbourne QF)
2009 Elena Dementieva (Charleston SF)
2014 Petra Kvitova (WTA rr)
2015 Simona Halep (Stuttgart SF)
2017 Karolina Pliskova (Miami SF)
2017 Karolina Pliskova (WTA SF)

4...Kerber (3) vs. Ka.Pliskova (1)
2...Bacsinszky (2) vs. Garcia (0)
2...Errani (1) vs. A.K. Schmiedlova (1)
2...Ka.Pliskova (2) vs. Wozniacki (0)
2...A.Radwanska (1) vs. Bencic (1)
2...A.Radwanska (1) vs. Konta (1)
2...Svitolina (2) vs. Wozniacki (0)
2...S.Williams (1) vs. Kerber (1)
2...S.Williams (1) vs. Muguruza (1)
2...V.WILLIAMS (1) vs. WOZNIACKI (1)

11 - Chan Yung-Jan, TPE
9 - Martina Hingis, SUI (+2 MX)
4 - Kiki Bertens, NED
4 - Johanna Larsson, SWE
4 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
[doubles finals - duos]
9...Y.Chan/Hingis (8-0+W)
6...Barty/Dellacqua (3-3)
5...Makarova/Vesnina (3-2)
5...Hradecka/Siniakova (0-5)

1975 Chris Evert, USA
1976 Chris Evert, USA
1977 Chris Evert, USA
1978 Martina Navratilova, CZE
1979 Martina Navratilova, CZE
1980 Chris Evert-Lloyd, USA
1981 Chris Evert-Lloyd, USA
1982 Martina Navratilova, USA
1983 Martina Navratilova, USA
1984 Martina Navratilova, USA
1985 Martina Navratilova, USA
1986 Martina Navratilova, USA
1987 Steffi Graf, FRG
1988 Steffi Graf, FRG
1989 Steffi Graf, FRG
1990 Steffi Graf, GER
1991 Monica Seles, YUG
1992 Monica Seles, YUG
1993 Steffi Graf, GER
1994 Steffi Graf, GER
1995 (co) Steffi Graf, GER and Monica Seles, USA
1996 Steffi Graf, GER
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
1998 Lindsay Davenport, USA
1999 Martina Hingis, SUI
2000 Martina Hingis, SUI
2001 Lindsay Davenport, USA
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2004 Lindsay Davenport, USA
2005 Lindsay Davenport, USA
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2007 Justine Henin, BEL
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2011 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Serena Williams, USA
2015 Serena Williams, USA
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER
2017 Simona Halep, ROU

1984 Martina Navratilova
1985 Pam Shriver
1986 Martina Navratilova
1987 Martina Navratilova
1988 Martina Navratilova
1989 Martina Navratilova
1990 Helena Sukova
1991 Jana Novotna
1992 Helena Sukova
1993 Gigi Fernandez
1994 Natalia Zvereva
1995 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1996 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
1997 Natalia Zvereva
1998 Natalia Zvereva
1999 Anna Kournikova
2000 Ai Sugiyama
2001 Lisa Raymond
2002 Paola Suarez
2003 Paola Suarez
2004 Virginia Ruano-Pascual
2005 Cara Black
2006 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2007 Cara Black & Liezel Huber
2008 Cara Black & Liezel Huber
2009 Cara Black & Liezel Huber
2010 Gisela Dulko
2011 Liezel Huber
2012 Roberta Vinci
2013 Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci
2014 Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci
2015 Sania Mirza
2016 Sania Mirza
2017 Chan Yung-Jan & Martina Hingis

2015 Xu Shilin, CHN
2016 Anna Blinkova, RUS
2017 Marta Kostyuk, UKR

["Tournament of Champions"]
2009 Aravane Rezai, FRA
2010 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2011 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2012 Nadia Petrova, RUS
2013 Simona Halep, ROU
2014 Andrea Petkovic, GER
["Elite Trophy"]
2015 Venus Williams, USA
2016 Petra Kvitova, CZE

Hmmm, this would be a good season-long follow-up to the Racket Challenge. They could even auction off the drawings for charity or something.

The WTA needs to take a look at this when considering the tour's next player promotional campaign, which *should* focus on the personalities of the players rather than the latest by-now-cliched variation on its usual strong-is-beautiful, beautiful-is-strong theme.

16 Singles Final: Kvitova d. Svitolina
16 Doubles Final: Soylu/Xu d. Yang/You
17 Top Seeds: Mladenovic/Vandeweghe/Stephens/Pavlyuchenkova

(1) Mladenovic
(2) Vandeweghe
(3) Stephens
(4) Pavlyuchenkova
(5) Sevastova
(6) Vesnina
(7) Goerges
(8) Kerber
(9) Barty
(10) Rybarikova
(11) Strycova
(12) Peng
(Alt.) Sh.Zhang
(Alt) Duan

Lu Jingjing/Zhang Shuai
Duan Yingying/Han Xinyun
Jiang Xinyu/Tang Qianhui (WC)
Liang Chen/Yang Zhaoxuan (WC)

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

12 On the Up Side-Zhuhai Edition

Almost seems anticlimatic, but there are some stories to be told. Listed will be the players Top 30 wins, as everybody in the field as of this writing is.

1.Goerges-10- The favorite, as she won her last tournament. Also, Wozniacki led the tour in hardcourt wins, then won the YEC. Goerges leads the group. Player to avoid-Stephens 1-5.
2.Vandeweghe-10- Playing for her first title of the year. Also playing for the lead Fed Cup slot. Player to avoid-Rybarikova 0-3
3.Strycova-14- Not a typo. Has been solid all year. One of 3 players here(Goerges, Pavlyuchenkova) with over 40 wins. 8 QF or better runs. Player to avoid-Kerber 1-6
4.Pavlyuchenkova-12- Arguably the most talented player here. Has a problem with flopping when expected to do well, and is in the group most up for grabs with Kerber and Barty. Player to avoid-Goerges 2-4.
5.Barty-9-All of those after the French. The biggest wildcard here, as she has played the fewest h2h than any here. Along with Vesnina, the only one who had to travel from the YEC. Player to avoid- Pavlyuchenkova 0-2.
6.Kerber-2-The former #1 with the lowest total. Trying to end the year on an up note with a title. The metrics say 2 years left in this career, so enjoy her while she's still around. First year end Top 100 ranking was in 2007, and the last 5 have been in the Top 10. Player to avoid- Pavlyuchenkova 5-5.
7.Mladenovic-11-But none since the French. I actually had her going farther, but don't like the group she is in. Also has the dubious distinction, even as the highest ranked player here, of being the only player .500 or below vs everybody in the field-hasn't played Barty/Peng. Player to avoid- Vandeweghe 1-4.
8.Peng-8-Just solid. Deserves to be higher on this list, but is in Vandeweghe's section. Player to avoid-Sevastova 0-4.
9.Rybarikova-3- May get a win, but think the season has caught up to her. Not a shock, as she crammed a lot into a truncated season. Player to avoid- Peng 0-2.
10.Stephens-7-Yes, I would not mind being wrong here. Especially since she is the opposite of Mladenovic, being .500 or better vs everybody except Vandeweghe. But like the Power 5 college football team that shoots for a BCS bowl, but gets in the John Hancock Sun Bowl, there are questions if the motivation is there. Vandeweghe and Kerber want a title. Others like Mladenovic and Barty want to use this as a stepping stone. But Stephens has the slam. So is this Fed Cup tuneup, or should she just have taken a 0 pointer? Player to avoid- Vandeweghe 1-3.
11.Vesnina-7-Hasn't closed the season well in singles, and had a shock loss in doubles. Where is her head at? Player to avoid-Pavlyuchenkova 0-4.
12.Sevastova-8-Struggled down the stretch. Along with Stephens and Mladenovic, the 3rd player in this field that hasn't had a win since the USO. Player to avoid-Pavlyuchenkova 0-5.

Mon Oct 30, 11:50:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

In the words of Imagine Dragons "You made me a, you made me a believer, believer." I believe in Wozniacki winning a slam in 2018, although I have about 20 people on that list.

The Venus/Caro throwback pic is cool.

Puig/Sharapova doing good things.

Last time Venus reached more than one slam in a season? 2003. Last time Venus reached a slam other than Wimbledon? 2003. Last time Venus reached 2 or more slams and YEC final in same year? Never.

One more fun fact about 2003? Venus actually did not finish in the Top 10. She finished 11th, which makes Serena the only active player left.

Ostapenko will beat Venus next time.

Stat of the Week-5- Out of the last 8 years in which someone who finished the previous year outside of the Top 10 won the YEC-and that would have applied to Williams too.

It seems shocking, but it shouldn't be. Svitolina and Garcia went from Zhuhai to YEC. Kerber fell off. In fact, the ending numbers that made the field? 4,6,7,14,17,19,23,44. And I think that type of fluctuation will be the norm. If you are curious who the others were-Cibulkova-38, S.Williams-12, Kvitova-34, Clijsters-18.

If you are looking for a YEC favorite for next year that fits the criteria, go Serena(of course), Mladenovic, Vandeweghe and Keys.

Quiz Time!
True or false- Caroline Wozniacki has a positive h2h vs Martina Hingis?

Answer-False. Obviously the two biggest stories of the week, I linked them together to point out something. Hingis leads 2-0, but that isn't the most interesting thing. Hingis finished in the Top 10 8 times. Wozniacki is close to the Hall Of Famer as 2017 will be her 7th.

Does Wozniacki merit Hall of Fame consideration? Since Hingis retired and is already in, the only person with more weeks at #1 not in is Serena.

Mon Oct 30, 12:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I went with true, largely because I figured they'd maybe only played once or twice (correct), but since it was in Hingis' second career stint I thought maybe Caro had won (wrooong). ;)

I should do a "Hall of Fame Or Not" post sometime, because there are so many players active right now who are riding the Newport fence. Stosur. Wozniacki. Errani/Vinci (as a doubles duo, which is how Fernandez/Zvereva made it in... though I really like the notion of the ITA Fed Cup quartet of those two + Pennetta and Schiavone being a group entry). Some would say Kuznetsova is in question, but I think the Top 10 seasons, two slams and Fed Cup history opens the doors wide.

As far as recently retired players, Li's numbers aren't huge overall, but the two slams and her important place in the Chinese/Asian tennis landscape likely gets her in. It'll be interesting to see if, say, Dementieva ever gets in. If she does, it would be easier for many of the current era players without HUGE signature slam results to get a pass.

(Of course, C.Martinez's overall numbers and contributions -- and she WON a slam -- should get her in, too, but she's been eligible for about seven years and is still left out.)

Wozniacki's numbers as far as weeks at #1 and her total titles (which should still go up significantly) make her an easy case, or at least it would if she just had one slam win. Like I said, the lack of a slam (and game style for much of her career) makes it easy for people to hang her "has not's" around her neck like an anchor. The WTAF win is a big help, though. A major would make her a slam dunk -- no one could argue vs. a player w/ 30+ titles, two #1 seasons and wins at the YEC and a major.

Mon Oct 30, 01:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Add Mauresmo to that list. She (surprisingly) went without a major, won the WTA Finals in 2005, then won 2 majors in 2006 (def. Henin at AO and Wimbledon).

I’m not feeling it for Wozniacki, but what do I know? 🤔

Mon Oct 30, 06:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, I should have included Mauresmo with Novotna and Sabatini!

Still think Wozniacki has her best shot at the U.S. Open. This year would have been a great opportunity, but she just didn't have the tournament one would have expected. I wonder if she might have less focus after this title, though. That's maybe where Bajin being on the team could keep things going forward, I guess.

Mon Oct 30, 08:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Yeah a good week for Caro and now she's engaged. This weelend has been great for the other Dane to mention - Carla Tauson. She played her 10th ITF senior match today and won her first ITF title in Stockhom 2 after runner up in Stockholm 1 and a semifinal in Antalya. She's now (Monday #754 in the rankings). I think it's a player to have in mind for mentioning - still 14 yo

Sun Nov 05, 08:51:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Clara Tauson sorry but I also have to get used to her name ;)

Sun Nov 05, 01:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


("The junior Dane"... that covers it.) :)

Sun Nov 05, 04:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

I've just been corrected with the number of matches on ITF senior tour - it's 12-2 so the socalled experts were wrong - again. Btw as 13 yo she became Danish senior champion. Please don't refer her as the new Wozniacki - your idea with the junior Dane is fine. She's playing different and in a more boyish way.

Sun Nov 05, 05:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

15-2 if you count qualifying. ;)

Sun Nov 05, 07:08:00 PM EST  

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