Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Day of the Dane

Caroline Wozniacki was right all those years ago when she was questioned about her lack of a slam title, and owning of a game that didn't quite seem up to acquiring one anytime soon. The Dane said, "I've got time." Time to play. Time to recalibrate. Time to perfect, tighten and make sharp any lingering dull edges. After all these years, she's finally gone and done it.

As they say Down Under... good on ya, Caro.

On a humid night in Melbourne, it was a certainty that one of two women -- one the current #1, the other a former and maybe future top-ranked player -- would finally see her career moment of truth come to pass, cleansing her past of a last remaining blemish and bringing to a definitive end an until-now elusive personal quest. Becoming the newly-crowned champion of the Australian Open would effectively close the book on a personal tennis history pockmarked and defined by "coming up short" often enough that the practice had come to define them, dwarfing all their many successes and sentencing them to "asterisk" status rather than being recognized as a player who'd been proven to be something, and someone, worthy of being called "great."

Not that it was going to be easy. In fact, it was always going to be anything but -- their respective histories told us (and them) that, so why should this old-chapter-closing/new-door-opening aspect of their journeys be any different?

While both Wozniacki and Simona Halep had been in slam finals before, it was the Romanian who'd had the opportunity to see what she was missing close-up. So close that she actually though that the prize might be hers. While the Dane lost in straight sets in U.S. Open finals to Kim Clijsters (2009) and Serena Williams ('14), Halep has gone three sets in Paris. Twice. To Maria Sharapova ('14) in a match the Russian declared one of her toughest slams finals, and just last year being on the wrong end of Alona Ostapenko's coming out party despite having held a set and 3-0 lead on the Latvian, then another 3-1 advantage in the 3rd.

In order to change the first line of their career bios, though, both women had to come to realize over the course of time that neither could get *there* from what was, at the time, *here*. Something had to change. Both had to first remedy the one aspect of their games that consistently held them back.

For Wozniacki, it was a lack of willful aggression woven into her fitness & defensive-oriented style, an aspect made even more potent over the last season and a half due to an improved forehand, serve and willingness to move in from behind the baseline and take the initiative rather than wait out an error from her opponent, a tact which had often allowed *their* games to dictate the outcome of the most important points. The situation led to a seemingly endless public dissection (dubbed "Wozniology-101," in these parts) of her aims, distractions and frustrating resistance to do *everything* -- sometimes the *one* thing -- she could do to seize the moment that she'd once insisted she "had time" to figure out how to claim. For Halep, her biggest obstacle was the space between her ears, made a liability because of, until over the last year, a smothering perfectionist trait that made her her own worst enemy, and often led to negative thoughts and her giving up as leads and matches slipped away on the game's biggest stages, rather than accepting her mistakes, regrouping and coming back at her opponent with more heart, guile and desire than she had before. Usually, stuck in development hell, the Romanian found her way to what this space has always referred to (for far too long) as the fabled "Cliffs of Simona," where Halep's grandest slam hopes often went to die simply because she flung herself over the side rather than hold on for dear life and fight, fight, fight.

Both came into 2018 off seasons in which they proved, maybe especially to themselves, that they *were* capable of making the necessary changes that could allow for their slam dreams to come true. Wozniacki, her increased level of aggression enhanced by a season of work with "assistant coach/hitting instructor extraordinaire" Sascha Bajin, led the tour in wins and matches, picked up her biggest career title at the WTA Finals and came into this AO ranked #2 after a combination of lingering injury and a lack of focus (or so it seemed, at least, with her growing off-court stardom and notoriety) had seen her drop as low as #74 late in 2016. Meanwhile, Halep had managed to find the better angels of her true tennis self last season, taking to heart coach Darren Cahill's pleas to always give her all, no matter the frustrations (he briefly walked away from his duties last spring after believing she'd "given up" in an important match in Miami, forcing her to commit to the change or start all over again with someone else). The Cahill gambit worked, as Halep, after much trial and error, found it within herself to finally win a "one match from the #1 ranking" contest and ended the season atop the WTA rankings.

But, still, one demon remained for both. One that could only be slain on site in either Melbourne, Paris, London or New York.

With their AO paths unnaturally littered over the two weeks, both woman had still more tests to pass to even get the opportunity to play for the title. In fact, it was an almost every round occasion. In the 1st Round, Halep badly rolled her ankle against Destanee Aiava, putting in doubt her further participation in the first slam of the season (her first as a #1 seed), though she'd go on to labor another 10+ hours on the court to reach the final. In the 2nd Round, Wozniacki staged a comeback from 5-1, 40/15 down (2 MP) to Jana Fett. In the 3rd Round, Halep battled for 3:45 against Lauren Davis, surviving being triple MP down to win a 15-13 deciding 3rd set. Then, in the semifinals, Halep again had to fight back -- vs. '16 AO champ Angelique Kerber -- after being two MP down to survive once more. Both more than earned their spot in the final. Both were proud of the progress they'd made. But only one would be rewarded with shiny hardware and a soft spot on which their career could finally land, while the other would exit ever closer to glory, but still empty-handed.

Their face-off in the AO final was their seventh meeting (Caro led 4-2), but their first ever meeting in a major, as well as a singles final. With a maiden slam title and the #1 ranking at stake, no less. So, you know... no biggie.

After opening the set with a hold, Wozniacki quickly took a love/30 lead on Halep's serve. She moved forward to put away a forehand to reach double break point, and took a 2-0 lead. The advantage held up for the majority of the set, as the Dane's usual get-to-everything defense was stellar and she remained incredibly tidy on in her new-and-improved service game (she came in having lost serve just once in the previous three rounds), offsetting the awakening of Halep's aggressive forehand and back-to-back love holds from the Romanian after dropping her initial effort.

Wozniacki hadn't faced a BP and had won thirteen of sixteen 1st serve points when she stepped up to serve for the set at 5-2. But with the Romanian portion of the crowd making their presence known, Wozniacki seemed to be irritated by the noise. She proceeded to fail to get back a big Halep forehand and fell behind love/30, and her third consecutive error (after had just six in the first seven games) put her down triple BP. She saved two, one with an ace, but another rally dominated by the Romanian's forehand ended with a Wozniacki error as the set went back on serve at 5-4. Halep fired a pair of aces and once again held at love (she led 12-5 in winners). The tenth game was followed by two more easy holds from both women and things were set to be decided via a tie-break, the first between the two in their head-to-head series.

After the Romanians chanted "Si-mo-na! Si-mo-na! Si-mo-na!" before the TB started, Wozniacki grabbed a quick mini-break lead at 2-0. Halep fired an ace to avoid a deeper hole, but Wozniacki's incredible defense and serving didn't allow her to recover in the short window of the TB as she had in the overall set. The Dane took another 5-2 lead, but this time Halep couldn't reverse the tide, as Wozniacki served out the 1st, taking the breaker at 7-2.

With twenty of the last twenty-four AO women's finals having been won by the player who took the opening set, Wozniacki now found herself in the lead role. But if we've learned anything from watching Halep -- aka "New Simona" -- at this AO it's that she's no longer programmed to consider mentally quitting when the going gets tough. Already physically pushed to the limit on multiple occasions through the first six rounds of play, the Romanian would be so once again as the Extreme Heat policy was in effect on this Melbourne summer evening.

Wozniacki's love hold for 1-1 in the 2nd gave her a 13-point win streak on serve (it'd ultimately reach 16), but it was Halep's eleven-minute hold a game later that proved to be the key game in the set. Saving four break points, Halep finally stayed a step ahead of the Dane on the scoreboard in the 2nd by utilizing a drop shot to convert on her second game point chance. After game #5, Halep called for a trainer, who checked her blood pressure, as the Romanian's 12-plus hours on court at this tournament seemed to finally be catching up with her. But as sea gulls squawked overhead, Halep put her head down and hoped for an opening. And then it arrived just in the nick of time.

Up love/30 on Wozniacki's serve, Halep began grasping at her left thigh (the same leg on which she'd rolled her ankle six matches ago). As occurred near the end of the 1st set, Wozniacki played her only bad game of the set. She'd escaped the moment earlier, but not this time. A forehand error put her down 15/40, then Halep broke with a forehand down the line to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the set. From love/30 and 15/40 down, the Romanian saved back-to-back BP, then failed to put away a set point by misfiring on a shot into an open court behind Wozniacki. After missing out on a second SP chance, and saving a third BP, Halep knotted the match on SP #3 by getting Wozniacki on the run and finally putting a ball just out of her reach up the middle of the court as the Dane scrambled in vain to chase it down. With the 6-3 2nd in hand, after the Romanian saved all seven of the BP she faced in the set, the final went to the 3rd -- the third deciding set situation of this AO for both Halep and Wozniacki.

After both players left the court for ten minutes, as allowed between sets under the Intense Heat policy, viewers immediately searched for clues about whether -- or which of -- the players might emerge more refreshed. Halep, for one, seemed to be searching for one last burst of energy, as her proverbial tank had alreadly seemingly been near empty for at least a week's time. She failed to convert two GP chances in the second game, then pulled a backhand wide and found herself BP down. Wozniacki took advantage of a soft second serve and fired a deep return that Halep hit wide, getting the break to lead 2-0.

Then, Wozniacki suddenly became engaged in a long service game much like Halep's from the 2nd set. Only she wasn't able to lock away the hold. Halep led 15/40, but the Dane saved both BP with big serves. Halep seemed to sense that this might be her last stand, and she managed to fight off two Wozniacki GP (and avoided a third w/ a successful replay challenge), finally converting on her sixth BP of the game with a Wozniacki DF, getting things back on serve at 2-1 at the end of the 12-minute game.

In the aftermath of game #3, Halep immediately fell behind love/40 with a series of tired serves, as Wozniacki broke for a 3-1 lead. But Halep's "SuperGnat" tendencies returned a game later, as she found still more reserves inside her body to put all she could into her ground strokes and carve out love/30 and 15/40 leads, then saw Wozniacki spray a forehand as things went back on serve at 3-2. The Romanian then won a 17-shot rally for 15/15 and fired an ace to lead 40/30 en route to holding for 3-3. Before serving in game #7, Wozniacki put out a call for a trainer to look at her left knee, then saw Halep fire a backhand return down the line to take a love/30 lead. The Dane got to GP, but ended the game with back-to-back forehand errors to drop serve and fall behind 4-3.

Wozniacki came out of the medical time out showing no ill effects of her dropped serve and, in fact, may have gotten the final surge of energy that Halep had previously been seeking out. She went up love/30 on Halep's serve, breaking on her second BP to knot the score at 4-4. It was the sixth break of the set, after the two had combined for just three in the first two. Thus, it would be Wozniacki's hold for 5-4 that proved to be key, as it forced Halep to hold (something she'd done just once in the set). After Halep successfully challenged the chair umpire's incorrect overrule of a long Wozniacki shot on the baseline, the Romanian led 30/15. But she double-faulted away the next point, giving away any momentum she'd gained just moments before. The Dane's brilliant defense kept a rally alive that Halep had appeared about to win on multiple occasions a point later, the Wozniacki fired a winner behind the Romanian to reach match point.

One point away from the greatest, belatedly career-defining win of her tennis lifetime, the Dane was about to be the previously slam-less and star-crossed player who'd bask in the light under the Melbourne stars. Halep netted a backhand to end the match's final rally, and it was over. Finally. All of it (at least for one of them). With a 7-6(2)/3-6/6-4 victory, Wozniacki completed a sweep of the final three games to become the first Danish slam singles champion, and simultaneously remove her name from atop the list of the best players to have never won a major. She's no longer the woman with the most singles titles and the most weeks at #1 who's never won a major title. That's over -- she'll return to #1 for the first time in six years on Monday.

While "New" Simona was the continuing story of the women's competition in Melbourne, "New" Caro was the one who celebrated at its conclusion.

Sweet, Caroline.

Of course, while the Dane floated on air, Halep covered her head in a towel, once again having to mentally pound out an internal deal between her head and heart after coming agonizingly close to ending her career-long slam drought. Again. Halep finished just two points behind Wozniacki (110-108) in the match stats, and more than proved her mettle as a fighter over the course of this AO. Her heart guided her through a thicket of drama, pain, mental fatigue and exhaustion to get this far, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath her feet one more time. While she smiled and put up a brave face, you know how much this latest bit of deja vu had to sting. Meanwhile, seemingly everyone was expressing how much they hurt *for* her. Even Wozniacki offered her apologies to Halep for winning the match, as surely everyone else will for quite some time upon sighting the 26-year old Romanian.

But Simona can't afford to be sad for long. After earning her warrior shield and armor at this slam, she's grown in stature in the eyes of all, title or no title.

It may take a while to fully digest it, but Halep may have seen the seed she planted last season for a future grand slam title run show its first signs of flowering during these past two weeks. Having come so close to slam glory, even closer than she did last year in Paris, Halep should be emboldened by her efforts in Melbourne rather than discouraged by the notion of them having gone for naught. The quicker she realizes that -- and she *will*, if she hasn't already, even if it does come after a lot of rest and maybe a few frustrated tears, shouts and various items tossed about -- the sooner it may be *she* who's lifting a slam championship trophy. If she can gather her forces for another (maybe a bit less drama-filled ongoing) battle, maybe it'll even be the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen just a few months from now.

I've said before that Halep's rocky, sometimes heartbreaking quest for a slam title reminds me most of that of the late, great Jana Novotna. The Czech, too, had to endure a series of near misses before finally, at long last, getting to experience *her* greatest moment. And it was well worth it, made even more meaningful by the pain and hurt so publicly experienced on the road to getting there. That moment for Novotna came in her fourth slam singles final. Halep's next final would be *her* fourth, as well.

I'm just sayin'.

But while Halep will continue to seek out her destiny, after a Melbourne experience that began with a Destanee but didn't change her own, Wozniacki's story has changed forever as she moves forward with a much lighter load on her shoulders and pysche, and the knowledge that she was correct all along. All else is in the past. Poof! Up in smoke. All the questions. All the snickering. Gone! All the eye-rolls and negativism. All the raised eyebrows and questions about whether the Family Wozniacki (well, father Piotr) would ever open its arms and accept an extra set of eyes (well, they did for a while... but Bajin was still gone by the start of '18, having played his role well). Yesterday's laments.

"All" it took was one gloriously grand moment to turn a career that would have been considered an "underachieving" one without a major title into a Hall of Fame-worthy entity in an instant. Why, it's exciting enough -- and so much of a relief -- to make a 27-year old wrap her arms around a shiny stand-in for Daphne Akhurst as if it was the security blanket she'd wanted all along but was afraid to admit she'd ultimately feel incomplete without.

After all these years, Caroline has arrived. Finally, the Dane is great.

...the girls singles champion, just as would be the case later in the day when the women's final was completed, had to save multiple MP en route to the title. #2-seeded Liang En-shuo saved a MP in the 1st Round, then two more in yesterday's semifinal. Today, the 17-year old defeated Pastry Clara Burel 6-3/6-4 to become the first player representing Taiwan to win a girls singles slam.

In the doubles final, Liang returned to win title #2, teaming with Wang Xinyu (CHN) to defeat Violet Apisah & Lulu Sun (PNG/SUI) 7-6(4)/4-6 [10-5]. While Liang joins Latisha Chan and Wang Shi-ting as girls double slam champs from Taiwan, China's Wang joins countrywoman Sun Shengnan and Ye Quiyu. day after they met in the wheelchair doubles final, #1 Yui Kamiji and #2 Diede de Groot faced off in the singles championship in Melbourne. It was the fourth consecutive slam s/d final in which they've been on opposing sides of the net, perhaps the beginning of a very long stretch of two-headed -- Evert/Navratilova or Federer/Nadal-like -- slam dominance never seen on the WC tour, which was dominated by de Groot's Dutch countrywoman and mentor Esther Vergeer for a decade before her retirement at the end of 2012. Unless another young superstar emerges (most of the other slam contenders -- van Koot, Buis and Ellerbrock -- are veterans), or new mother Jordanne Whiley comes back ever better than she was before, they could be either/or slam champs for the next five years (or longer?).

Heading into today, Kamiji had swept all three slam finals in which she'd met de Groot, taking titles in the Wimbledon doubles, U.S. singles and yesterday's AO doubles.

In the 1st set, with Kamiji serving up a break at 4-3, de Groot got the break back with a series of clean winners from both wings. The Dutch woman played mostly right on the baseline, while her Japanese opponent was well behind her own, often obscured in the shadows of MCA not far from the linespeople and back wall. But Kamiji got things back on serve after saving a set point and served for the 1st at 6-5. Kamiji reached SP when de Groot came into the court on a return, only to see the ball fired behind her and out of reach. She saved the SP with a deep forehand past Kamiji in the shadows, then another when she put away a high bouncing ball at the net. She broke with a forehand winner to force a tie-break.

After Kamiji took a 1-0 mini-break lead by hitting a shot directly back at the right-handed de Groot, who wheeled backwards but couldn't do it fast enough to avoid being eaten up by the ball. She was only able to raise the racket above her head and make contact, losing the point without offering a true swing. The 21-year old did a 360-degree twirl in her chair in frustration. For the rest of the TB, de Groot would take the advantage with a flash of groundstroke power, only to give it right back soon afterward with an error. Rolling across the backcourt, she reached a ball and fired a clean crosscourt winner to get the mini-break back a point later, and then took Kamiji's second service point, as well. She grabbed a 3-1 lead with an angled forehand winner from the center of the baseline, but then double-faulted it back on point #5 and missed a forehand long into an open court at the end of a side-to-side rally to make it 3-3. A crosscourt backhand return winner put her up her 4-3 again, only to see her commit a forehand error moments later. In maybe the key (and surely the best) point of the TB, Kamiji's wide lefty backhand ended a 46-shot rally, leading the assembled crowd to give the pair the loudest, must sustained applause of the match. Once again, a de Groot backhand error a point later erased the lead, but a forehand down the line ended another rally to give her a second SP at 6-5. De Groot then missed on a long forehand. But Kamiji's long return gave de Groot a third SP chance, one which she finally capitalized on with a backhand crosscourt return winner to take the TB at 8-6 to end the 56-minute set. The two evenly split the 84 points of the set, 42-42.

In the 2nd, again, de Groot grabbed the lead, then had to fight off a Kamiji comeback attempt. With a double-break lead at 3-0, de Groot fell behind love/30 in game #4 before ultimately seeing Kamiji's big return into the corner (and de Groot's netted backhand) end a four-deuce game that got back one of the breaks. With her lead cut to 3-2, de Groot double-faulted (her 8th of the match) to make the score 15/15, and things might have gotten a bit nervy. But she stopped the slide, sweeping the remaining points in the game, ending with a clean backhand winner to lead 4-2. In game #7, back-to-back winners down opposing lines put the Dutch woman up 15/40 on Kamiji's serve, and a third fired behind her opponent got the break for 5-2 and a chance to serve for her first Australian Open title.

But de Groot fell behind 15/40, then missed on a backhand when she swing at a ball in the air from the baseline, netting it see her lead slip to 5-3. After leading 30/love, Kamiji's DF and error got de Groot within two points of the title. Rolling to reach one ball outside the doubles alley on her right side, de Groot then caught up with another on the far side of the court one stroke later in the really. But, with Kamiji falling behind in the exchange and only able to float a ball down the middle, de Groot missed an easy forehand, then another down the line a point later, as Kamiji pulled to within 5-4.

Serving for the match a second time, de Groot took control. Up 30/love, she fired a forehand winner to reach triple MP. Kamiji saved a MP with a big forehand crosscourt return, but then missed a backhand return down the line on the second. The error ended the 7-6(6), 6-4 match and de Groot ripped off her visor, threw it to the court and yelled, "Come on!" She out-hit Kamiji 36-19 in winners, overcoming her 23-13 disadvantage in unforced errors, twice as many DF and 56% First Serve percentage.

This is de Groot's second career slam singles title, having won her first at Wimbledon last summer. She's now reached the finals of both singles and doubles at the last three slams, as well as both parts of the year-end Masters events last fall. She's won five of the eight matches (Wimbledon W/L, U.S. L/W, Masters W/W, Australian W/L), losing the other three to Kamiji. With three of the biggest five WC singles titles currently in her column, de Groot very well may rise to #1 for the first time after this slam. If not, she has to be very close to doing so.

Until they meet again... (And they will, too.)

*CAREER WC MAJOR TITLES - slams/Paralympics/Masters YEC*
[Yui Kamiji]
AO S: 2017
AO D: 2014,15,16,18
RG S: 2014,17
RG D: 2014,17
WI S: [SF-2017]
WI D: 2014,15,16,17
US S: 2014,17
US D: 2014
PA S: [QF-2012]
PA D: [QF-2012]
MA S: 2013
MA D: 2013,14
[Diede de Groot]
AO S: 2018
AO D: [RU-17,18]
RG S: [QF-17]
RG D: [SF-17]
WI S: 2017
WI D: [RU-17]
US S: [RU-17]
US D: 2017
PA S: [SF/4th Place-2016]
PA D: [RU/Silver-2016]
MA S: 2017
MA D: 2016,17

...after last night's women's doubles final, participants Timea Babos (w/ Rohan Bopanna) and Ekaterina Makarova (w/ Bruno Soares) both returned to the courts for the mixed semis. Makarova lost for a second time, as Gaby Dabrowski & Mate Pavic advanced to the final. Dabrowski won last year's Roland Garros MX title with Bopanna, and will now go against him in her attempt to claim career mixed crown #2. Babos/Bopanna defeated the duo of Martinez-Sanchez/Demoliner. Babos previously reached a MX slam final in 2015 at Wimbledon with Alexander Peya

If Babos picks up title #2 it will make this the second consecutive slam in which a woman swept both the WD and MX competitions, as Martina Hingis did it as the U.S. Open last summer. the WTA 125 Series event in Newport Beach, California Ajla Tomljanovic has reached the semis and will face former NCAA champ Danielle Collins. The other semi features a pair of qualifiers, former Wimbledon junior champ Sofya Zhuk and Mayo Hibi. The winner will claim the biggest title of her career.

In doubles, Misaki Doi (hmm, shades of Mladenovic?) has been struggling in singles for a while now, but has reached the doubles final with Jil Teichmann.

...LIKE ON DAY 13: Since no one at ESPN is *ever* going to mention his name...

...REALIZATION ON DAY 13: Well, now Jana Fett's name will be known forever, I guess.

Next up for Fett: Saint Petersburg qualifying (Q1 vs. Sesil Karatantcheva).

...LIKE ON DAY 13: AnaIvo, gettin' her star on...

...LIKE ON DAY 13:

Eventually, Jana would have her day, though.

...LIKE ON DAY 13: The Bannerettes didn't win a junior slam this time around, but the baton was passed...

...ACKNOWLEDGMENT ON DAY 13: ESPN was remarkably light on David Lee mentions (well, for them, at least... there were still too many for a network that needn't think people are watching tennis in the wee small hours of the morning because of a former NBA player that many sports fans had barely heard of until recently), so I'll throw a photo in here...

...and, finally, coming soon...

Welcome home momma

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

#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

#5 Babos/Bopanna (HUN/IND) vs. #8 Dabrowski/Pavic (CAN/CRO)

#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

Let’s walk off the jetleg! ???? #monaco #beach ????

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

2015 AO: Serena Williams, USA
2015 RG: Serena Williams, USA
2015 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2015 US: Flavia Pennetta, ITA (ret.)
2016 AO: Angelique Kerber, GER
2016 RG: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2016 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2016 US: Angelique Kerber, GER
2017 AO: Serena Williams, USA
2017 RG: Alona Ostapenko, LAT
2017 WI: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2017 US: Sloane Stephens, USA
2018 AO: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN

29...Serena Williams (23-6)
16...Venus Williams (7-9)
10..Maria Sharapova (5-5)
4...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-2)
4...Victoria Azarenka (2-2)
3...Angelique Kerber (2-1)
3...Garbine Muguruza (2-1)
3...SIMONA HALEP (0-3)

8...Serena Williams (7-1)
4...Maria Sharapova (1-3)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0)
2...Venus Williams (0-2)
1...Angelique Kerber (1-0)
1...Dominika Cibulkova (0-1)
1...SIMONA HALEP (0-1)

2010 Roland Garros - Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2011 Roland Garros - Li Na, CHN
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova, CZE
2011 U.S. Open - Samantha Stosur, AUS
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 Wimbledon - Marion Bartoli, FRA
2015 U.S. Open - Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2016 Australian Open - Angelique Kerber, GER
2016 Roland Garros - Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2017 Roland Garros - Alona Ostapenko, LAT
2017 U.S. Open - Sloane Stephens, USA
2018 Australian Open - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
NOTE: 6 first-timers in last ten slams

1977 Kerry Melville-Reid, AUS
1978 Chris O'Neil, AUS
1979 Barbara Jordan, USA
1980 Hana Mandlikova, CZE
1995 Mary Pierce, FRA
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER
2018 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN

[Open era]
1986 U.S. Open - Martina Navratilova (3 vs. Graf in SF)
1991 Aust.Open - Monica Seles (1 vs. MJ.Fernandez in SF)
2002 Aust.Open - Jennifer Capriati (4 vs. Hingis in Final)
2003 Aust.Open - Serena Williams (2 vs Clijsters in SF)
2004 R.Garros - Anastasia Myskina (1 vs. Kuznetsova in 4th)
2005 Aust.Open - Serena Williams (3 vs. Sharapova in SF)
2005 R.Garros - Justine Henin-H. (2 vs. Kuznetsova in 4th)
2005 Wimbledon - Venus Williams (1 vs. Davenport in Final)
2009 Wimbledon - Serena Williams (1 vs. Dementieva in SF)
2014 Aust.Open - Li Na (1 vs. Safarova in 3rd)
2016 Aust.Open - Angelique Kerber (1 vs. Doi in 1st)
2018 Aust.Open - Caroline Wozniacki (2 vs. Fett in 2nd)
[pre-Open era]
1923 Aust.Open - Margaret Molesworth (1 vs. Sylvia Lance SF)
1935 Wimbledon - Helen Wills Moody (1 vs. Helen Jacobs F)
1946 R.Garros - Margaret Osbourne (2 vs. Pauline Betz F)
1956 Aust.Open - Mary Carter (1 vs. Thelma Long F)
1962 R.Garros - Margaret Smith (Court) (1 vs. Lesley Turner F)
[recent additional slam title run "close calls"]
2007 AO: S.Williams saw Petrova (3rd Rd.) and Peer (QF) serve for the match
2007 WI: V.Williams saw Morigami (3rd Rd.) serve for match, 2 pts. from loss vs. Kudryavtseva (1st)
2009 AO: S.Williams saw Kuznetseva (QF) serve for the match
2010 AO: S.Williams trailed 6-4/4-0 in QF vs. Azarrenka, who served for the match twice
2011 RG: Li trailed Kvitova 3-0 in 3rd (4th Rd.)
2012 US: S.Williams down 5-4 in 3rd w/ Azarenka serving for match (Final)
2013 AO: Azarenka down a break in 3rd vs. Hampton (3rd Rd.)
2013 RG: S.Williams down break in 3rd vs. Kuznetsova (QF)
2015 RG: S.Williams trailed Bacsinszky 6-4/3-2 w/ break (SF), 2-0 in 3rd vs. Safarova (F)
2015 RG: S.Williams trailed Bacsinszky 6-4/3-2 w/ break (SF), 2-0 in 3rd vs. Safarova (F)
2016 WI: S.Williams down break in 3rd vs. McHale (2nd Rd.)
2016 US: Kerber trailed Ka.Pliskova 3-1 in 3rd (Final)
2017 RG: Ostapenko trailed Halep 6-4/3-0 & 3 BP for 4-0 (Final)
2017 US: Stephens trailed Sevastaova 3-1 in 3rd (QF)

2003 Kim Clijsters, BEL [won U.S. Open in 2005]
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS [0-3 in slam finals]
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN [won Australian Open in 2018]
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB [0-2 in slams finals]
2004 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA [won Australian Open in 2006]
2017 Karolina Pliskova, CZE [0-1 in slam finals]
2017 Simona Halep, ROU [0-3 in slam finals]

49 - Flavia Pennetta (2015 U.S. Open)
47 - Marion Bartoli (2013 Wimbledon)
45 - Jana Novotna (1998 Wimbledon)
43 - Caroline Wozniacki (2018 Australian Open)
39 - Francesca Schiavone (2010 Roland Garros)
34 - Samantha Stosur (2011 U.S. Open)
33 - Angelique Kerber (2016 Australian Open)
31 - Amelie Mauresmo (2006 Australian Open)
29 - Jennifer Capriati (2001 Australian Open)
28 - Kerry Melville-Reid (1978 Australian Open)
26 - Lindsay Davenport (1998 U.S. Open)
25 - Victoria Azarenka (2012 Australian Open)
23 - Sloane Stephens (2017 U.S. Open)
22 - Kim Clijsters (2005 U.S. Open)

33y,6m,6d - Flavia Pennetta, 2015 U.S. Open
29y,347d - Francesca Schiavone, 2010 Roland Garros
29y,9m,3d - Jana Novotna, 1998 Wimbledon
29y,5m,3d - Kerry Melville-Reid, 1977 Australian Open
29y,3m,9d - Li Na, 2011 Roland Garros
28y,9m,5d - Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon Open
28y,13d - Angelique Kerber, 2016 Australian Open
27y,6m,2w - Caroline Wozniacki, 2018 Australian Open
26y,7m - Amelie Mauresmo, 2006 Australian Open
26y,5m,2w - Samantha Stosur, 2011 U.S. Open

[won Girls & Women's titles]
Evonne Goolagong (1970 Jr.; 1974-77 Women's)
Chris O'Neil (1973 Jr.; 1978 Women's)
Victoria Azarenka (2005 Jr.; 2012-13 Women's)
Lindsay Davenport (1992 Jr. RU; 2000 Women's Champ)
Maria Sharapova (2002 Jr. RU; 2008 Women's Champ)
Caroline Wozniacki (2006 Jr. RU; 2018 Women's Champ)

2017 Toronto QF - Karolina Pliskova
2017 Tokyo SF - Garbine Muguruza
2017 WTA Finals rr - Simona Halep
2018 Australian Open Final - Simona Halep
2010 WTA Finals SF - Vera Zvonareva
2014 WTA Finals rr - Maria Sharapova
2017 Eastbourne QF - Simona Halep
2009 Charleston SF - Elena Dementieva
2014 WTA Finals rr - Petra Kvitova
2015 Stuttgart SF - Simona Halep
2017 Miami SF - Karolina Pliskova
2017 WTA Finals SF - Karolina Pliskova

2002 Wimbledon - #2 S.Williams def. #1 V.Williams
2002 U.S. Oopen - #1 S.Williams def. #2 V.Williams
2003 Australian Open - #1 S.Williams def. #2 V.Williams
2004 Australian Open - #1 Henin-H. def. #2 Clijsters
[2004 Athens Olympics Gold - #1 Henin-H. def. #2 Mauresmo]
2013 Roland Garros - #1 S.Williams def. #2 Sharapova
2013 U.S. Open - #1 S.Williams def. #2 Azarenka
2015 Australian Open - #1 S.Williams def. #2 Sharapova
2018 Australian Open - #2 Wozniacki def. #1 Halep

2004 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
2005 Nathalie Dechy, FRA
2006 Martina Hingis, SUI
2007 Serena Williams, USA
2008 Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
2009 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2010 Zheng Jie, CHN & Li Na, CHN
2011 Li Na, CHN
2012 Sara Errani, ITA
2013 Sloane Stephens, USA
2014 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2015 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
2016 Johanna Konta, GBR
2017 CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
2018 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN

*WTA FINALS - 2015-18*
15 - SIMONA HALEP, ROU (8-7)
15 - Angelique Kerber, GER (8-7)
13 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (6-7)
11 - Serena Williams, USA (8-3)
10 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (8-2)
8 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (6-2)
8 - Aga Radwanska, POL (6-2)
8 - Venus Williams, USA (4-4)
8 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (4-4)

72 - Serena Williams, USA
49 - Venus Williams, USA
36 - Maria Sharapova, RUS
20 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
20 - Petra Kvitova, CZE
20 - Aga Radwanska, POL
17 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
16 - Simona Halep, ROU

21...Martina Navratilova, 1974-94
18...Chris Evert, 1971-88
14...Steffi Graf, 1986-99
13...Maria Sharapova, 2003-15
11...Serena Williams, 2007-17 (streak active at end of '17)
11...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, 2008-18 (streak active in '18)
11...Evonne Goolagong, 1970-80
11...Virginia Wade, 1968-78

2001 Jelena Jankovic/SRB d. Sofia Arvidsson/SWE
2002 Barbora Strycova/CZE d. Maria Sharapova/RUS
2003 Barbora Strycova/CZE d. Victoriya Kutuzova/UKR
2004 Shahar Peer/ISR dd. Nicole Vaidisova/CZE
2005 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. Agnes Szavay/HUN
2006 A.Pavlyuchenkova/RUS d. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
2007 A.Pavlyuchenkova/RUS d. Madison Brengle/USA
2008 Arantxa Rus/NED d. Jessica Moore/AUS
2009 Ksenia Pervak/RUS d. Laura Robson/GBR
2010 Karolina Pliskova/CZE d. Laura Robson/GBR
2011 An-Sophie Mestach/BEL d. Monica Puig/PUR
2012 Taylor Townsend/USA d. Yulia Putintseva/RUS
2013 Ana Konjuh/CRO d. Katerina Siniakova/CZE
2014 Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS d. Jana Fett/CRO
2015 Tereza Mihalikova/SVK d. Katie Swan/GBR
2016 Vera Lapko/BLR d. Tereza Mihalikova/SVK
2017 Marta Kostyuk/UKR d. Rebeka Masarova/SUI
2018 Liang En-shuo/TPE d. Clara Burel/FRA

AO: Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
RG: Dasha Kasatkina, RUS
WI: Alona Ostapenko, LAT
US: Maria Bouzkova, CZE
AO: Tereza Mihalikova, SVK
RG: Paula Badosa, ESP
WI: Sofya Zhuk, RUS
US: Dalma Galfi, HUN
AO: Vera Lapko, BLR
RG: Rebeka Masarova, SUI
WI: Anastasia Potapova, RUS
US: Kayla Day, USA
AO: Marta Kostyuk, UKR
RG: Whitney Osuigwe, USA
WI: Claire Liu, USA
US: Amanda Anisimova, USA
AO: Liang En-shuo, TPE

1989 RG: Wang Shi-ting [doubles]
2004 AO: Latisha Chan (Yung-Jan) [doubles]
2017 AO: Liang En-shuo
2018 AO: Liang En-shuo [doubles]
2004 AO: Sun Shengnan [doubles]
2014 WI: Ye Qiuyu [doubles]
2018 AO: Wang Xinyu [doubles]

2006 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2007 Shahar Peer, ISR
2008 Casey Dellacqua, AUS
2009 Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
2010 Maria Kirilenko, RUS
2011 An-Sophie Mestach, BEL (jr.)
2012 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
2013 [Fortysomething] Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
2014 [Teen] Genie Bouchard, CAN
2015 [Madisons] Madison Keys/USA & Madison Brengle/USA
2016 [NextGen Belarusian] Vera Lapko, BLR
2017 [Party] (Ash) "Barty Party"
2018 [Teen] Marta Kostyuk, UKR

2010 Jana Cepelova / Chantal Skamlova, SVK/SVK
2011 An-Sophie Mestach / Demi Schuurs, BEL/NED
2012 Gabby Andrews / Taylor Townsend, USA/USA
2013 Ana Konjuh / Carol Zhao, CRO/CAN
2014 Anhelina Kalinina / Elizaveta Kulichkova, UKR/RUS
2015 Miriam Kolodziejova / Marketa Vondrousova, CZE/CZE
2016 Anna Kalinskaya / Tereza Mihalikova, RUS/SVK
2017 Bianca Andreescu / Carson Branstine, CAN/USA
2018 Liang En-shuo / Wang Xinyu, TPE/CHN

2002 Esther Vergeer, NED
2003 Esther Vergeer, NED
2004 Esther Vergeer, NED
2005 Sharon Walraven, NED
2006 Esther Vergeer, NED
2007 Esther Vergeer, NED
2008 Esther Vergeer, NED
2009 Esther Vergeer, NED
2010 Korie Homan, NED
2011 Esther Vergeer, NED
2012 Esther Vergeer, NED
2013 Aniek van Koot, NED
2014 Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
2015 Jiske Griffioen, NED
2016 Jiske Griffioen, NED
2017 Yui Kamiji, JPN
2018 Diede de Groot, NED

25 - Esther Vergeer, NED [9-6-0-10]...[14+4]
5 - Yui Kamiji, JPN [1-2-0-2]...[1+0]*
4 - Jiske Griffioen, NED [2-1-1-0]...[3+1]
3 - Monique Kalkman, NED [0-0-0-3]...[2+1]
2 - DIEDE DE GROOT, NED [1-0-1-0]...[1+0]*
2 - Daniela Di Toro, AUS [0-0-0-2]...[0+0]
2 - Sabine Ellerbrock, GER [1-1-0-0]...[0+0]*
2 - Maaike Smit, NED [0-0-0-2]...[1+1]
2 - Chantal Vandierendonck, NED [0-0-0-2]...[1+0]
2 - Aniek van Koot, NED [1-0-0-1]...[1+0]*
1 - Marjolein Buis, NED [0-1-0-0]...[0+0]*
1 - Jordanne Whiley, GBR [0-0-0-1]...[0+0]*

*WC SLAM SINGLES FINALS - post-Vergeer, 2013-18*
9 - YUI KAMIJI, JPN (5-4)
7 - Aniek Van Koot, NED (2-5)
6 - Jiske Griffioen, NED (4-2)-ret.
6 - Sabine Ellerbrock, GER (2-5)
1 - Marjolein Buis, NED (1-0)
1 - Jordanne Whiley, GBR (1-0)

**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...Gaby Dabrowski, CAN [to play final vs. Babos]
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: Nominees: Babos, Babos/Mladenovic

All for Day 13. January Players-of-the-Month tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Should we get Leif a defibrillator? Enjoy the win!

So a woman with a 15 match losing streak teamed up with one who went 2-13 at one point last year, and won a title? Amazing.

Wozniacki pulling a Clijsters and Mauresmo. Exactly like Mauresmo, winning the YEC, then getting her slam in the next tournament.

Interesting how S.Williams is all over the close calls list.

Stat of the Day-1-You know why! First slam for Wozniacki, first slam by a woman from Denmark, the new number 1.

The key to this match? Wozniacki won the physical points. Seemingly every point that went over 10 shots was an advantage, as she either hit a winner, or Halep made an error.

The other good thing? Not the serve, which was good, but less puff/moonballs, and more shots with a purpose.

The positive for Halep? This could have gotten away from her early. At 2-5, 30-30, we were 2 pts away from Caroline stomping on her. But she fought back.

The negative? You play better people in finals, and in all of her slams, people have used her retrieving skills against her. Each of those third sets have had a game, but fading Halep, not able to capitalize on the chances she had.

Sat Jan 27, 12:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ha! Yes, the Nordic Outpost will be "Open 24 Hours" with continuous celebrations all weekend. Carl might even show and take a few out for some elking. I think someone might have been planning for this for a while. :)

And Novotna did the whole YEC(97)-before-slam(98) thing, too. Can't forget The Late, Great... ;)

Oh, I was going to include in the post a mention that 11 of Serena's 23 wins are on the MP or "close call" list, which is sort of remarkable.

Would have been interesting to see how (long?) the 3rd might have gone had Halep not had the ankle, and 15-13, and 9-7, and... but that's the way it goes, and why it pays to be as economical as possible.

Sat Jan 27, 03:20:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Well the Nordic outpost survived - no heartattack - but a certain feeling of joy and relief on behalf of Woz. I now understand how nervy a game it must have been and how nervy a game tennis is - well that's why I like womens tennis. Like Forrest Gump's Life is a box of chokolates..... you sometimes are surprised of the result and the way the result is made. Ostapenko would never have won FO if she hadn't had the day and Halep a mental breakdown like Caroline nearly experienced in second match. What I was and still is blown away by is how popular a win this is. Much of the time since - after I'd my own article ready for the mag I'm writing for - has been reading comments, newsarticles, seen interviews, pictures small video clips, reseen some highlights and the ceremony - which is the most emotional I've seen in the years I've been following tennis - I've been feeling this relief and sort of fatique in a good way. And Colt I know she'll never be a hardhitter and thanks for that, but she knows how to beat anyone on the day. So I must conclude Wozniacki 2.0 is there and I just wonder what that will bring. First I don't think she'll stop untill she's 29 (so this and next year). Second I think we will experience what the title will boost. So thank you for your sympathy - I'm back and I think my Top 12 list of the greatest on the 2017 tour from December is quite good - and if you didn't see it here it is again with comments:

1. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN - workforce 1 - rolemodel - consistent
2. Simona Halep, ROU - workforce 2 - rolemodel - consistent
3. Alona Ostapenko, LAT - vulcano or NOT - Ferrari or Food wagon
4. Elina Svitolina, UKR - the upcoming girl - had a great year
5. Karolina Pliskova, CZE - ace queen - but anything else depending on it.- don't think she'll get as high as this in 2018
6. Venus Williams, USA - when she plays it's always great - and always given her best - because she likes to play
7. Garbine Muguruza, ESP - with 5 retirements in 2017 you can't get any higher. Roller coaster player. NOT consistent.
8. Caroline Garcia, FRA - exiting player but has she the long time durabillity? If she'll reach the top - if not she'll fall heavily.
9. CoCo Vandeweghe, USA - will be US new force even before the Williamses retire. Playing well and all the way.
10.Julia Goerges, GER - deserved comeback will have a great 2018 - she's playing excellent tennis again - watch out for her.
11.Sloane Stephens, USA - great comeback and she plays well again. But has she durabillity. If - she'll be back in the top.
12.Ash Barty, AUS - look out for this great youngster and her stubborn playwise. Never gives up before the fat lady sings.

Sun Jan 28, 03:11:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Go and see this new version of Sweet Caroline song by a Danish singer (I know he's miming to this)

Sun Jan 28, 03:30:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Great to see you made it, Leif! Was a little bit worried when we didn't hear from you all day on Saturday. :P

Sun Jan 28, 01:57:00 PM EST  

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