Sunday, January 28, 2018

January, We Hardly Knew Ye

So, here we are, one month into 2018.

January has already produced three players with double-digit winning streaks, a maiden slam title, at least three legitimate contenders for "Match of the Year," and the in-the-clubhouse (and pretty secure about it, if she should say so herself) leader for the biggest in-match comeback of the season. #1 has faced off with #2 for the first time in three seasons, with the two then swapping rankings. And 15-year old made her presence felt in a major.

The Dane is Great. Angie is back. Si-mo-na's warrior side is lit. Heck, even the wheelchair tennis tour has officially started down a potential future to be highlighted by the sport's first true, long-running head-to-head slam rivalry.

And Serena and Vika haven't even played a match that counts yet, while all four of 2017's slam winners have barely been recognized as having been competitively included in the new season through the first month of 2018.

Considering what's still left on the table, 2018 *has* to have only even better things to come from here, right? Which is saying something after the quick, high-level beginning we've just witnessed.

Celebration day today????

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1. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...given time, even the Dane found her way into the "she-needs-to-improve-her-forehand-and-serve-and-be-more-aggressive-if-she's-ever-going-to-win-a-major" camp. The result: the best stretch of quality results of Wozniacki's career, her maiden slam title in Melbourne and a return to the #1 ranking after a six-year absence. Like Misaki Doi (2016) before her, Jana Fett's name (for now, until further notice) becomes a memorable "What If...?" subject in tennis history as the player who held a 5-1, 40/15 lead over the Dane in the AO 2nd Round, only to see her squandered lead morph into Wozniacki's moment of destiny. On a side note, and somewhat lost in the shuffle, Caro's win over then-#1 Simona Halep in the final means she's posted four #1 wins since last fall (after having previously had none in her career) and seven Top 3 victories over the last two seasons (her other career five came between 2009-15)
2. Simona Halep, ROU
...has a player *ever* given so much, or come so close, finding a way to fight and survive until the very bitter end... yet still come away with nothing to show for it, *and* got knocked from her #1-ranking position? While Halep's eleven-match winning streak to start the season, highlighted by her ankle-rolling-and-heart-in-throat start and eventual five-MP-saving-in-two-different-matches journey to the final in Melbourne has left her in the position of being the latest hard-luck, star-crossed Fan Favorite without a slam title, she's now earned the ultimate respect of her peers and backing of anyone who enjoys seeing a good story get the grand ending it deserves. Halep won her first event (Shenzhen) as the world #1, and only went down when the forces of seven kingdoms (plus or minus a couple of flying dragons) converged as one against her -- or at least it seemed that way -- in her first slam as the top seed. As the new #2, she now has another battle to fight. She should be up to it. To be continued in Paris...

3. Angelique Kerber, GER
...after a season of discontent, Angie is back. The '16 #1 ended last season outside the Top 20 and without a title in over a year. One month into 2018, she's combined her know-how from two years ago with the that's-over-now sense of survival from her disappointing '17 to create a sense of freedom that allowed her to win her first fourteen matches of the year (10 WTA, 4 Hopman Cup), claim the Sydney title and reach the AO semis, coming within two MP attempts vs. Halep of playing in another slam final and maybe *she* being the toast of the sport (along with that Federling guy) all over again. Oh, well. Just like Caro a while back, Kerber has time. She's got the rest of the year to give everyone a sense of deja vu.

4. Elise Mertens, BEL
...what a difference a year makes. Last January, Mertens was playing in Hobart qualifying, then having to decide if she wanted to retire due to "injury" so that she could try to qualify for her maiden AO main draw. She stayed in Hobart, won her first tour title and missed the '17 AO, but finished the season in the Top 40. She returned Down Under in '18, defended her Hobart crown, took the doubles, too, and finally made her Melbourne debut a memorable one... knocking off two seeds (Gavrilova and Svitolina) and advancing to her first slam semifinal by showing a fearless just streak this side of Latvian Thunder. She finally felt the pressure of the big stage in the semifinals, but she's now a Top 20 player with seemingly even bigger things in her future.

5. Diede de Groot/NED and Yui Kamiji/JPN
...buckle up, because this could be epic. With the retirement of Jiske Griffion, 21-year old de Groot and 23-year old Kamiji are now the dominant #1 and #2 -- or it is #2 and #1? -- players on the WC tour. They've met in back-to-back slam singles finals, splitting them, and in the last four s/d slam championship matches (Kamiji 3-1). de Groot has played in six straight slam s/d finals, and swept both titles in 2017's season-ending Masters events. Kamiji has won more slam singles titles (5) and been in more finals (9) than any other player since the 2012 retirement of Esther Vergeer, and by the end of '17 should be able to say she's won more total slam crowns, as well (with 17, she's one behind Griffioen, with Vergeer's astounding 46 atop the all-time list). She could become the first woman to complete the FULL set of eight slam s/d titles in her career with a singles win at Wimbledon. Well, unless de Groot successfully defends her title at SW19 this summer and, come 2019 (or '20) makes her OWN run at becoming the first to do it.

I wish the AO highlights of the final contained, you know, a few more actual points. But it's worth a look just to see de Groot's emotional response to converting MP. (If you have access to ESPN's online catalog of replays, you might want to check out the 46-shot rally between the two at 4-4 in the 1st set TB.) De Groot, especially, is an exciting player to watch. She can seemingly hit any shot -- forehand or backhand -- for a winner, though her style *does* lead to quite a few errors, as well (hmmm, sounds like a thumbnail sketch description of about a third, or more, of the WTA tour, huh?)


6. Elina Svitolina, UKR: had a great start (Brisbane champ), but went down badly again in a major (QF to Mertens, 6-4/6-0, fighting a hip injury).
7. Julia Goerges, GER: extended her season-closing '17 winning streak to 15, handed Wozniacki her only '18 loss in the Auckland final, but lost in the AO 2nd Round
8. Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic, HUH/FRA: Kiki is in the throes of a 15-match singles losing streak, but found success by rekindling her old doubles partnership with Babos, picking up the AO crown and denying Makarova/Vesnina a Career Slam
9. Belinda Bencic, SUI: the queen of the '18 exhibitions (winning the Hopman Cup and Kooyong), Bencic won the big 1st Rounder in Melbourne over Venus, but then barely posted in the 2nd
10. Demi Schuurs, NED: won Week 1 & 2 doubles titles with th 'ertens Gang -- as in Bertens AND Mertens
11. Marta Kostyuk, UKR: the 15-year old, the '17 AO Jr. champ, qualified and became the first player born in 2002 to play in a slam MD, then gave reason to bring up Martina Hingis' 1996 exploits (and those of Lucic in '97, and Sesil in '05) by advancing into the 3rd Round in Melbourne
12. Liang En-shuo, TPE: after winning the Traralgon Grade 1 tune-up event, Liang became the first girl representing Taiwan to win a junior singles slam title (saving MP in the 1st Rd. and SF), Liang doubles up by sweeping the doubles, too

RISERS: Aliaksandra Sasnovich/BLR and Karolina Pliskova/CZE
SURPRISES: Sachia Vickery/USA and Bernarda Pera/USA
VETERANS: Hsieh Su-wei/TPE and Mihaela Buzarnescu/ROU
COMEBACKS: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP and Ajla Tomljanovic/CRO-AUS
FRESH FACES: Ash Barty/AUS and Naomi Osaka/JPN
JUNIOR STARS: Wang Xinyu/CHN and Clara Burel/FRA
DOUBLES: Gaby Dabrowski/CAN
ITF: Anhelina Kalinina/UKR
DOWN: Sloane Stephens/USA and Kristina Mladenovic/FRA (singles)
MOST IMPROVED: Jana Fett/CRO and Denisa Allertova/CZE

1. Australian Open SF - Simona Halep def. Angelique Kerber
Two warriors, brought to their knees by the never-say-die competitiveness of the other. Halep served at 5-3 in the 3rd set, but Kerber saved two MP. Then it was Simona's turn, saving two Kerber MP. Nearly half an hour after she'd had a chance to finish off the match the first time around, Halep won on her fourth MP of the day to reach her third career slam final. She had 50 winners in the match, and admitted to being proud of herself for persevering beyond reason for about the millionth time at this AO.
2. Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Lauren Davis
In 3:45, the third-longest AO women's match ever (tied for the most ever in total games), Halep wins her Warrior masterpiece against a game Davis in a battle that, quite literally, was decided by a toenail. In the 2:22 3rd set, Halep faced triple MP at love/40, escaping with a combination of her own guile and Davis' toenail coming off at just about the WORST MOMENT EVER ("Atta boy!," said the ball that rolled under Ana Konjuh's feet, from it's current home at the end of a dangling string in a garage outside London). On her fourth attempt to serve out the match, Halep finally prevailed. Afterward, she said, "I'm almost dead."
3. Australian Open 4th Rd. - Angelique Kerber def. Hsieh Su-wei
Faced with an opponent in Hsieh who twisted the former #1 into a soft pretzel with her varied series of drop shots, slip-sliding forehand slices, hooks, flat change-of-direction winners down the line, angled brain-twisters, curling hand-cuffers, and, of course, her more "normal" corner-to-corner groundstrokes that served to leave her perpetually out of position for most of two full sets, Kerber was bewitched, bothered and bewildered almost to the point of being on the brink of defeat. Almost. As a tiring Hsieh hit the physical wall in the 3rd, Kerber finally hit *her* stride and pulled away.
4. Australian Open 1st Rd. - Andrea Petkovic def. Petra Kvitova
Petkovic led 4-0 in the 3rd set, and held three MP (two in a row), only to see Kvitova find a way out of the deep hole. She battled back and eventually found herself serving for the match at 6-5, but fell behind 15/40 and then double-faulted two points later as the score was knotted at 6-6. Three games later, Kvitova got the break to get a second chance to serve out the match at 8-7, only to fail to do so and drop serve yet again. Finally, down MP at 8-9, Kvitova DF'd to end the match. Ouch.
5. Sydney 1st Rd. - Angelique Kerber def. Lucie Safarova
Surviving two rain stoppages, going a set and a break down, and saving two MP in the tie-break. So *that's* what it took to turn Angie around. Why couldn't the Tennis Gods have just told us that *last* year?
6. Australian Open 4th Rd. - Elise Mertens def. Petra Martic
Mertens' path to the semis was paved by her early round night session win over Dasha Gavrilova (in which she won a set after trailing 5-0), and her big-hitting victory over Martic. Up 4-0 in the 1st, the Belgian saw the Croat (in her third slam Round of 16 in the past year) knot the score at 4-4. After failing to convert a SP at 6-5, Mertens won the TB, then took break leads at 3-2 and 5-4 (w/ 2 MP), only to be broken to get things back on serve. Finally, she broke back and won on MP #3.
7. Tennis Australian Jr. W.C. Playoff Final - Jaimee Fourlis def. Destanee Aiava
The Aussie teens battled for nearly three and a half hours to earn a spot in this year's AO main draw. Aiava went on to get *her* berth by winning TA's regular WC Playoff event, then pushed Halep to the edge of destruction (and the edge of her foot, as well, as she badly rolled her ankle in her hard-fought 7-6(5)/6-1 win in which the teen had two SP in the 1st).
8. Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Caroline Garcia def. Marketa Vondrousova
Though her banner season-closing finish is now a few months old, Garcia is still officially on the leading edge of a wonderful run of confidence-building (and rankings-climbing) results. Czech teen Marketa Vondrousova forced the Pastry to work overtime here, staging a rally from 4-1 down to steal the opening set in a tie-break, only to see Garcia stage a comeback of her own in the 3rd. Down an early break in the deciding set, Garcia got back on serve mid-way through and ultimately won the 2:29 contest.

1. Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Caroline Wozniacki def. Jana Fett
The escape that made her eventual title run possible. Early on, 2014 AO girls finalist Fett (in just her second career slam MD match) controlled the flow and direction of the match, dictating play with her power, and serving big while Wozniacki was seemingly forgetting about her new, more forward, aggressive style of play. The Dane's 2nd set moment of truth presented her with the chance to show that *could* diagnose her difficulties and change course. In the aftermath of dropping the 1st, she began to move forward and take balls earlier, knotting the match. But rather than go away herself, Fett stood up. Not holding back, she regained control of the match in the 3rd. Hitting and serving big, she pressured the once-again-off-message Wozniacki into more producing more errors. The frustrated Dane's fifth double-fault of the match broke her own serve and she was down 5-1. Fett took a 40/15 lead on serve and held double match point. And then she finally started to show her nerves. Fett continued to go for big first serves, but started missing them. Her deep groundstrokes started landing shorter in the court, and Wozniacki began to take advantage, allowing her experience advantage to take hold. With the Croat starting to resemble the big stage newcomer she was, Wozniacki knew what she needed to do: hit the ball deep in the court to prevent Fett's power from bailing her out of a rally, and try to never fire a ball outside the lines. Luckily for Wozniacki, she's always been expert at both. Refusing to miss, Wozniacki saw the match come right back to her, and served out the win to produce a result that turned out to be THE biggest of the entire women's competition.
2. Australian Open 1st Rd. - Zhang Shuai def. Sloane Stephens
Even while riding a seven match losing streak since defeating Madison Keys in the U.S. Open final, Stephens began her first post-Future Sloane slam looking like she'd finally turned a corner. She took the opening set 6-2, then overcame a break disadvantage (down 3-0) in the 2nd to serve for the match at 5-4. But once Zhang got the break, everything changed. The '16 AO quarterfinalist pushed things to a tie-break, won it 7-2, then jumped on her discouraged opponent early in the 3rd. She won the first seven points, and eight of nine to take a 2-0 lead, then coasted to the win, making Stephens the First Seed Out of Melbourne and dropping her to 0-8 since picking up that eye-popping big check last September.
3. Australian Open 4th Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro def Anett Kontaveit
Seeded for the first time (#32) at a major, Kontaveit showed why she's a player to watch, only to falter when things mattered the most. With her maiden QF within reach, she led 6-4/4-1, with a double-break advantage, only to see the aggression she'd used to take the lead wane and her error total climb as CSN reeled off five straight games to even the match. Kontaveit managed to carve out another opportunity in the 3rd, breaking the Spaniard for 5-4 and serving for the match. But, again, she played a bad game as Suarez-Navarro mostly simply played steady shots (that one-handed backhand is always reliable and a joy to watch) and allowed her to err. CSN got the break, backed it up with a love hold for 6-5, then forced Kontaveit to hold to stay alive again two games later. Finally, a long Kontaveit forehand on CSN's third MP completed the comeback, sending her to her sixth career slam QF.
4. Australian Open Q1 - Caroline Dolehide def. Conny Perrin
Perrin led 5-0 and 6-2 in the deciding TB, only to see 19-year old Dolehide save five MP and record her first career slam match win.
5. Australian Open Q1 - Irina Bara def. Sesil Karatantcheva 7-5/3-6/7-5
Australian Open Q1 - Daniela Seguel def. Jamie Loeb 3-6/7-5/6-3
Bara trailed Sesil 5-2 in the 3rd, and was down 5-4, love/30. Meanwhile, Seguel survived three MP and saw Loeb serve for the match in the 2nd set. Both lost in the next round, but the result was still the best at a major for either woman, as Bara matched her Q2 result at last year's U.S. Open and Seguel reached the second round in a slam qualifying draw for the very first time.

1. Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Bernarda Pera def. Johanna Konta
Still trying to find some sort of consistent run of results since her career-altering final four run in front of a home British crowd at Wimbledon last year, Konta never really had things in order. Meanwhile, lucky loser Pera edged ahead in key moments of both of the match's two sets. At 4-4 in the 1st, she went up love/40 on Konta's serve, got the break and then served out a 6-4 set. After getting the break for a 4-3 lead in the 2nd, she held serve and then had three MP chances on Konta's serve. The Brit managed to extend the match with a hold, but Pera finally served out the biggest win of her career on MP #5, becoming the first LL to reach the 3rd Round in Melbourne since 1997.
2. Australian Open Q1 - Marta Kostyuk def. Arina Rodionova 4-6/6-3/6-3
Australian Open 1st Rd. - Marta Kostyuk def. Peng Shuai 6-2/6-2
Kostyuk's AO ride began with a victory over veteran Aussie Rodionova, who got *her* first career slam MD wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, only to fall in her hometown to the 15-year old, who'd gotten a Q-round WC due to winning the '17 AO Girls title. After winning two more three-setters to reach the MD, Kostyuk knocked off a seed, #25 Peng, and advanced all the way to the Round of 16, where she lost to countrywoman Elina Svitolina.
3. Auckland QF - Sachia Vickery def. Aga Radwanska 6-2/6-2
Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Hsieh Su-wei def. Aga Radwanska 6-2/7-5
2018 is supposed to be different for Aga, right. Well, it hasn't looked all that different, so far. She even lost an "all-magician" battle to Hsieh, which is just, well, wrong on some Radwanskian level, you know? Outside the Top 30, Radwanska has now reached the Round of 16 just once in the last five majors.

On to February, which will have a lot to live up to.

...the mixed doubles champs were crowned on Sunday, as Gaby Dabrowski & Mate Pavic (who also won the men's doubles, *and* a pair of titles the first two weeks of the season, with Oliver Marach... so, it's good to be him at the moment) defeated Timea Babos (who was going for a WD/MX sweep of her own) & Rohan Bopanna, 2-6/6-4 [11-9].

Canadian Dabrowski has now won a pair of mixed titles, having claimed the Roland Garros crown in '17 with, of all people, Bopanna. the biggest ITF challenger of the week, Spain's Georgina Garcia Perez defeated Arantxa Rus 2 & 0 in Andrezieux-Boutheon, France to claim her tenth career title.

Last year's NCAA women's #1 Francesca Di Lorenzo, 20, defeated last year's junior #1 Whitney Osuigwe, 15, in a 6-2/1-6/6-4 final to claim the $25K Wesley Chapel event in Florida. It matches the former Ohio State Buckeye's previous biggest career title (Winnipeg '16), and is her third overall.

...the WTA 125 Series event in Daytona Beach, two-time (2014 & '16) NCAA champion Danielle Collins claimed the biggest title of her pro career with a 2-6/6-4/6-3 over '15 Wimbledon girls champ Sofya Zhuk.

Misaki Doi & Jil Teichmann took the doubles.

..."Oh, okay..." ON DAY 14:

If she'd won I was going to compare her run to Justine Henin's at the '03 U.S. Open (def. Clijsters and Capriati on the final weekend), or maybe the Athens Olympics (when she has that bad virus). Would have been fairly apt, I think.

...LIKE ON DAY 14: (snicker)

...LIKE ON DAY 14:

Hmmm, so is the Federling guy a threat to Court's total of 24 slams, too?


...THOUGHT ON DAY 14: I think we should take Wozniacki's lead and always refer to the women's AO singles trophy as "Daphne."

...LIKE ON DAY 14: Coming soon...

When u forget to grow up

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...COMING EVEN SOONER ON DAY 14: Like, uh, sometime in the next week (if she's lucky)...

...THOUGHT ON DAY 14: Goolagong's old Fila outfit here would be a look good for some of today's players. (Hint, hint.)

...OF NOTE ON DAY 14: For what it's worth, the effort *can* be made, at least. I suppose.

...REMEMBRANCE ON DAY 14: I was in gym class, eyeing the little TV in the coaches' room off to the side of the basketball court. They were just showing the open ocean as they searched for signs of debris.

...and, finally...

2003 (ITF) Evgenia Linetskaya d. Tatsiana Uvarova
2004 (ITF) Anastasia Yakimova def. Emma Laine
2005 (ITF) Ekaterina Bychkova def. Emma Laine
2006 (ITF) Alberta Brianti def. Alla Kudryavtseva
2008 (ITF) Magdalena Rybarikova def. Anna Lapushchenkova
2009-14 NOT HELD
2015 (ITF) Alona Ostapenko def. Patricia Maria Tig
2016 Roberta Vinci def. Belinda Bencic
2017 Kristina Mladenovic def. Yulia Putintseva
2003 (ITF) Fattakhetdinova/Fokina def. Bulykina/Yaryshka
2004 (ITF) Goloviznina/Kulikovskaya def. Kustova/Tartarkova
2005 (ITF) Bratchikova/Makarova def. Kosminskaya/Kudryavtseva
2006 (ITF) Pavlyuchenkova/Solonitskaya def. Beygelzimer/Kudryavtseva
2008 (ITF) Frankova/Pavlyuchenkova def. Bratchikova/Davydova
2009-14 NOT HELD
2015 (ITF) Golubic/Sasnovich def. Foretz/Vrljic
2016 Hingis/Mirza def. Dushevina/Krejcikova
2017 Ostapenko/Rosolska def. Jurak/Knoll
WS: #1 Wozniacki, #2 Ostapenko
WD: #1 Dabrowski/Xu Yifan, #2 Atawo/Groenefeld

...well, now we'll see whether or not Kiki's doubles title run in Melbourne will immediately tranfer over to her singles. She's the defending Saint Petersburg champ, and after a 1st Round bye she'll face either Cibulkova or Cirstea. Hmm. Her section includes Vekic, Siniakova, Makarova and Pavlyuchenkova. Hmmm. She could face Wozniacki (who *is* playing, apparently) in the semis. Hmmmm.

In bottom the half, Goerges, Garcia (oh my), Bacsinszky (welcome back!), Kvitova, Vesnina, Zvonareva (yes!) and Ostapenko (didn't Kiki once disparage her online, too? Not that that makes her unique.) will battle it out. If Mladenovic manages to defend, or even reach the final, it will be a MAJOR accomplishment with this draw, assuming everyone is ready, willing and able to play so soon after a slam.

TAIPEI CITY, TAIWAN (Int'l/Hard Indoor)
2016 Venus Williams def. Misaki Doi
2017 Elina Svitolia def. Peng Shuai
2016 Chan/Chan def. Hozumi/Kato
2017 Chan/Chan def. Hradecka/Siniakova
WS: #1 Peng Shuai, #2 Zhang Shuai
WD: #1 Babos/A.Chan, #2 Kato/Ninomiya

...Bouchard will attempt to end her singles slide in the 1st Round vs. Zhu Lin (a win might get her #1-seed/'17 finalist Peng in Round 2). Sabine Lisicki returns to action for the first time in 2018, and could face Sam Stosur in the 2nd Round.

In doubles, Angel Chan will team with AO champ Babos in her attempt to defend the title she's won the last two years with her sister Latisha (yeah, I'm still getting used to using those names, but the more you do it...).

#2 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. #1 Simona Halep/ROU 7-6(2)/3-6/6-4

#5 Babos/Mladenovic (HUN/FRA) def. #2 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) 6-4/6-4

#8 Dabrowski/Pavic (CAN/CRO) def. #5 Babos/Bopanna (HUN/IND) 2-6/6-4 [11-9]

#2 Liang En-shuo/TPE def. Clara Burel/FRA 6-3/6-4

#1 Liang En-shuo/Wang Xinyu (TPE/CHN) def. #7 V.Apisah/Sun (PNG/SUI) 7-6(4)/4-6 [10-5]

#2 Diede de Groot/NED def. #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN 7-6(6)/6-4

#1 Buis/Yamiji (NED/JPN) def. #2 de Groot/van Koot (NED/NED) 6-0/6-4

And with those seven words...

Sunday 😅

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No belly whacker ??????? #dashadiving

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2006 Yan Zi & Zheng Jie, CHN/CHN
2007 Liezel Huber, USA
2008 Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR/UKR
2009 Sania Mirza, IND
2010 Cara Black, ZIM
2011 Gisela Dulko & Flavia Pennetta, ARG/ITA
2012 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2013 Jarmila Gajdosova, AUS
2014 Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2015 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Lucie Safarova, USA/CZE
2016 Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza, SUI/IND
2017 Abigail Spears, USA
2018 Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic, HUN/FRA

2011 Katarina Srebotnik & Daniel Nestor
2012 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Horia Tecau
2013 Jarmila Gajdosova & Matthew Ebden
2014 Kristina Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor
2015 Martina Hingis & Leander Paes
2016 Elena Vesnina & Bruno Soares
2017 Abigail Spears & Juan Sebastian Cabal
2018 Gaby Dabrowski & Mate Pavic

**SLAM MX TITLES - active*
5...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
3...Sania Mirza, IND
3...Samantha Stosur, AUS
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2...Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2...Serena Williams, USA
2...Venus Williams, USA
2...Vera Zvonareva, RUS
1...Elena Bovina, RUS
1...Casey Dellacqua, AUS
1...Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova, CZE
1...Lucie Hradecka, CZE
1...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
1...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
1...Laura Siegemund, GER
1...Abigail Spears, USA
1...Elena Vesnina, RUS
1...Heather Watson, GBR

TOP QUALIFIER: Marta Kostyuk/UKR (first player born in 2002 in slam MD)
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #21 Angelique Kerber/GER
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #17 Madison Keys/USA
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): #2 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN & #1 Simona Halep/ROU
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1 - Caroline Dolehide/USA def. Conny Perrin/SUI 5-7/6-3/7-6(7) (trailed 5-0 and 6-2 in the deciding TB, saved 5 MP to record first career slam match win)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Andrea Petkovic/GER def. Petra Kvitova/CZE 6-3/4-6/10-8 (Petko up 4-0 in 3rd, 3 MP saved by Kvitova; Kvitova for match at 6-5 and 8-7)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd. - #1 Simona Halep/ROU def. Lauren Davis/USA 4-6/6-4/15-13 (3:45; 3 MP saved from triple MP down; served out on fourth try in the 2:22 3rd set)
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): SF - #1 Simona Halep/ROU d. #21 Angelique Kerber/GER 6-3/4-6/9-7 (saved 2 MP after served for match and had 2 MP of own; on MP #4)
FIRST VICTORY: Duan Yingying/CHN (def. Duque-Marino/COL)
FIRST SEED OUT: #13 Sloane Stephens/USA (1st Rd. - lost to Zhang Shuai; 0-8 since winning U.S. Open)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: USA (women lose first eight 1st Rd. matches, go 1-9 on Day 1, 3/4 of '17 U.S. Open all-Bannerette semifinalists ousted)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Denisa Allertova/CZE (in 4th Rd.) (LL: Bernarda Pera/USA - 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Olivia Rogowska/AUS (2nd Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
IT (Teen): Marta Kostyuk/UKR
CRASH & BURN: Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe & Venus Williams, USA (3 of 4 '17 U.S. Open semifinalist lose on Day 1)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (2nd Rd. - Fett/CRO served up 5-1, 40/15 in 3rd set; 2 MP saved; down break at 4-3 in 3rd set in Final vs. Halep/ROU)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Elise Mertens/BEL (def. Gavrilova in 2nd Rd. in AO nighttime debut)
DOUBLES STAR: Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic, HUN/FRA

All for Day 14. All for this AO. All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

That Fila outfit is so nice, and yes! someone take the hint. Simona, imo, is a Fila natural. My favorites are Fila and Lacoste, but Lacoste doesn’t look good on many players. I have to say, Vesnina looked great at the AO, but I still miss seeing her in her Lacoste kits.

Mon Jan 29, 01:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Who knew that when Pavic won with Siegemund, that he would be the next Nestor/Paes?

Stat of the Week-16-The amount of women in the singles draw at the French in 2007, Wozniacki's first, and the 2018 AO.

16 sounds like a low number, but in reality, once you add in missing players like S.Williams and Azarenka, injured ones like Kuznetsova and Bacsinszky, ones that didn't get through qualies like Schnyder, and doubles specialists like L.Chan and Krajicek, it is about 32, or 1/4 of the field still making a living 11 years later.

Quiz Time!
Of those 16 players, which slam winner went farthest in 2007?

While you think of the answer, think of how Rinaldi will use her roster. Serena, Venus and Coco are the 3 so far. Keys should be the 4th, but don't quote me on that. Thing is, this looks like a potential 3-0 tie, which brings up the question? How you keep everybody happy, and let them get their work in? Answer? Put Vandeweghe in the #2 slot. Serena/Coco play on day 1, then replace Serena with Venus on day 2. Each plays one live rubber. Plus if this goes sideways, Serena can play doubles without having to play twice. Less worried about Venus, who would be willing to go twice, as she is not on the list for Doha or Dubai. Hopefully Keys id the 4th, because you are going to need her at some point, extremely unlikely that Serena/Venus play every tie.

B.Even pre-shoulder injury Sharapova showed proficiency on the clay, reaching the SF, then losing to Ivanovic.

Mon Jan 29, 09:26:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Surprisingly, a premier the week after a slam, so here we go.

5 On the Up Side

1.Zvonareva-What country is St. Petersburg in? Getting a helping hand never hurts, as this is Zvonareva's first premier since Miami 2015.
2.Wozniacki-Dreams can come true. Has reached her final in her last 3 events, something she also did in 2010 and 2011.Not a pick to win this week, mainly for the fact that I don't expect her to stay in the draw. A match or two, then withdrawal due to a "right shoulder injury", you know, from picking up the
3.Bacsinszky-Last year's French Open SF, she couldn't build on it since she has been out since Wimbledon. But she's back.
4.Mladenovic-Not a true up, but two things went right. One is that she is back in the Top 10, if only for a week. The other is that she has a bye, so automatically is in the 2nd round.
5.Jovanovski Petrovic-The Serb returns! Not Jelena, but Bojana, who already lost in qualies, but had been out for a lot longer than you think. Last event? St. Pete 2016. Last win? Carlsbad 2015.

Mon Jan 29, 09:37:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Down Side.

1.Kr.Pliskova-Already lost in qualies,she is 8-10 since her bout with a metal fan last year. Either in need of a coaching change, hopefully to one no Czech player has already had.
2.Puig-The aggressive game she showed in the 2016 grass season and the Olympics is a distant memory. Stosur exposed the current problem in her game. That is that Puig let others dictate. Stosur would use that slice backhand, which is a good shot for her, then Puig would respond in kind, and dump it into the net. Puig won, but it took her a set and a half to stop playing Stosur's game. Stosur is barely Top 50 right now, and Puig won't beat anyone in the Top 20 playing that way. In fact, after getting 4 Top 20 wins at the Olympics, she only has 2 since. Ironically enough, the two? The person she beat in the SF-Kvitova in 2016, and the F-Kerber in 2017.
3.Cornet-Actually one of the favorites this week, but on the list because she may have a truncated season due to a suspension. Needs to stack up the points now, lest she become....
4.Errani-Sitting at 146 in the rankings. Actually 16-7 since her return, but the Errani/Dominguez Lino type clay courter is becoming less relevant. You either have the Sharapova/Bertens type, the big 6 ft bombers with movement, or the defense to offense of Halep/Svitolina. The spinners are few and far between, and the amount of doubles played at her peak adds to an odometer that has some mileage on it.
5.Bouchard-Not a down, but a sideways. She actually is doing what she should, playing the week after a slam, and taking advantage of a weaker field. However, even though the cutoff for the MD was 129, she took another WC, which means she entered late, as the cutoff would have gotten her in then. Want an obscure reference? 1980 AL Rookie of the Year Joe Charboneau went from 23 HR and 87 RBI, to being out of the league 3 years later. Fun fact? Second in the NL ROY vote the same year? Bill Gullickson-Carly and Chelsey's dad. 2014 is long enough ago that it seems like an outlier compared to the rest of her career. Without some wins, and quick, she is in danger of fading away.

Mon Jan 29, 10:00:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hard to believe (or not, really) that I don't recall ESPN ever even bringing up the fact that the (then) #1 player in the world was playing in a logo-less outfit and, sometimes, a hat with "AO" on it -- and getting more screen time than anyone, too, making it such a lost opportunity for someone. When Cahill's involvement in adidas' player development program (which I'd forgetten about) was brought up once during one of her matches, I thought they'd surely say something then, but, no. Hmmm, maybe if David Lee has worn an adidas shirt w/ "Where's Simona?" on it it would have brought it into the conversation? Just a thought. :\

By the way, after the original post, I added the tweet with the photo of Halep in the hospital. Not sure if that was something that should have been released, though, even if it apparently *was* ok'd by Cahill. If it wasn't something of a personal invasion, it surely did walk right up to the line (Cliffs of Simona-like) and hover over the edge.

Another interesting note about Wozniacki is that since winning her first title the next season in 2008, she's now the only player of that group who has won at least one title every season since then. That's 11 straight seasons. Though, of course, Serena could extend HER streak to 12 years with a title in '18. Still, at the moment only four other women (Navratilova-21, Evert-18, Graf-14 and Sharapova-13, whose streak was only stopped by her suspension) have longer streaks in tour history.

QUIZ: I went with Stosur to a QF (she was 3rd Rd. in '07, and didn't her back-to-back SF/F run until '09-'10).

I wonder what might happen if CoCo still isn't well come FC week (she said the other day that she's still sick, but was looking to play FC)? Of course, with a non-MJF Captain, I suspect all options will be entertained and a workable decision on all those things you mentioned will happen. In Rinaldi We Trust, Year 2. ;)

"Daphne reps" are the best reps. :)

Well, I suppose we should all be happy that Bojana actually made it to the correct Saint Petersburg, and didn't end up in Florida. As some might remember, her sense of direction isn't always perfect.

(On Kr.Pliskova): "Either in need of a coaching change, hopefully to one no Czech player has already had."
...heehee :D

Ah, a rare reference to ages-ago Backspin fave Carly "The Natural" Gullickson. And her dad played for the Expos... who are now the Nationals (so, her name can always elicit a smile at HQ). ;)

Mon Jan 29, 11:16:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

I almost referenced Bojana's sense of direction, also the fact that she was born too early for notoriety, as she was born on Dec. 31.

Also, you mentioned how different this year has been, so I will ad this:

Porsche Race Rankings-Jan. 29

Mon Jan 29, 12:35:00 PM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

First nice logo. Second is it normal for a slamwinner to take part in a tournament in the week after a slam or is Caroline one of few - just asking. Btw there is a ceremony Wednesday 18.00 local time where they will celebrate #1 in St. Petersbourg.

Tue Jan 30, 07:10:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Can't think of it happening TOO often, but I'm sure it's occurred on occasion. With the #1 ranking, maybe the ceremony is one of the reasons she decided to go.

Wed Jan 31, 11:47:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Serena famously played Bastad a couple of years back, plus Novotna went home and won Prague in 1998.

The streak is over! Mladenovic not only won the match, but won the first set for only the 2nd time in her last 16 matches, the other was Sasnovich, who she had already played during the streak.

Thu Feb 01, 10:06:00 AM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

According to Patrik wozniacki she's playing St.Petersbourg also because not playing Dubai where she has some runner up points to defend. She played well today against Wimbledon junior winner of 2016 - 10 years after Carolines own Wimbledon junior slam. Well the Russian has definitely a good play but wasn't allowed anything today 60, 61 to Caroline - no jetlag there ;)

Thu Feb 01, 03:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Maybe Caroline wanted to win yesterday but her body didn't - the final in AO finally catched up with her. Little sad to watch the match which went ok until the middle of first set then the precision faded quietly and errors began. In the net, too wide, too long a serve % of 79 fell to a match % of 49 and 35 UE. Her forehand made most of her 14 winners. I saw fatique at it's worth. If you didn't see the match and think she tanked I say no Caroline never tanks. It reminds me of the Doha final last year where she had to play two matches the day before the final and there her body also resisted functionallity - well not as much as yesterday but. Next stop Doha and the Indian Wells.

Sat Feb 03, 02:16:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Bunch of storylines for the week still open.

Kvitova looking for the 2nd title since her comeback.

Mladenovic looking to defend St.Petersburg. If she does, she stays in the Top 10, if not, Goerges makes it for the first time. Mladenovic also going into February with no wins, and possibly winning a title? Her partner Babos did that last year at Budapest.

Babos also with a chance to win a singles title after the YEC and AO in doubles.

Kozlova looking for her first title, which brings the question-What happened to Ukraine's Fed Cup team? Kozlova isn't on it, which wouldn't be a shock if it was Svitolina, Tsurenko, Bondarenko and Savchuk, but none of them are.

Sat Feb 03, 02:01:00 PM EST  

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