Sunday, February 25, 2018

Wk.8- Just Do It.

Once more, it's Eli.

At this point, what more can we say about Elina Svitolina? Her defense-to-offense gameplans have proven to have legs, allowing her to rack up titles, finals and top-level wins at a rate as impressive as (more so, really) any other woman on tour since she truly became a *player* in every aspect of the tour's upper echelon during the 2015 season (or 2016, when she got her first two #1 wins). She's a winner (11-2 in career finals), a thinker (honing her problem solving skills during a brief coaching stint with Justine Henin, and never forgetting the lessons learned) and either first or second (or maybe third, depending on your inclination) on nearly every list of the "next" player to stage a major coup d'etat.

But, even with all the precision, grace and calm under pressure that she displays on an abnormally routine basis during the week-in, week-out grind of the long WTA season, Svitolina is still *almost* known as much for her big stage (and seemingly so uncharacteristic, based on the vast store of knowledge accumulated about her elsewhere) collapses at the slams. Her biggest to date: failing to close out Simona Halep in last year's Roland Garros QF despite dominating the Romanian in the 1st set with masterful play, and leading 6-3/5-1, twice serving for the match, and holding a MP in the 2nd set TB. Even worse, rather than steeling herself for a tight 3rd, she fell away and lost the deciding set at love in a mere twenty minutes, beat a hasty retreat into the locker room, then saw Halep go on to squander her own lead in the final vs. a hungry Alona Ostapenko, who waltzed away with the maiden slam title that *both* women still find missing from their resumes some nine months later.

So, while it's time to officially debut the 2018 version of "Elina's To-Do List" (she was pretty efficient when it came to the '17 edition), no matter how many boxes get checked off over the remaining months of this season, it's the "unofficial" checkmark that can only be placed in the space between the Ukrainian's ears on the biggest stages of the sport that will *truly* make a difference when the year is over. Svitolina has progressed, step by step, along the course of her career at an almost untypically measured pace, with her results never getting ahead of her ability to handle them in a professional way. It's likely a great thing for the *whole* of her career, but at some point the biggest boxes will have to be checked. Based on her past results, 2018 may not be where *the* biggest accomplishment that a player can achieve is pulled in by the Ukrainian. She's still a few intermediate steps short of fully building that final bridge, and a leap over a few steps "to the end" would be uncharacteristic for her. 2019 may turn out to be "her turn."


Oh, but wouldn't it be nice if, for once, Svitolina could make the BIG leap all at once, once and for all, rather than gradually getting there, inch by inch, round by round, slam by slam, finally making "The Eli Story" a no-asterisks-necessary, the-waiting-game-is-over, freedom-loving zone?

Of course, not everyone can be Ostapenko, can they? In many ways, that's probably a good thing... though also unfortunate. The Most Interesting Tour in the World wouldn't be as interesting if every player's path was traversed in exactly the same fashion. I mean, so many already *dress* the same on the court. We need a *little* variety.

DUBAI, UAE (Premier/Hard Outdoor)
S: Elina Svitolina/UKR def. Dasha Kasatkina/RUS 6-4/6-0
D: Angel Chan/Yang Zhaoxuan (TPE/CHN) d. Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai (TPE/CHN) 4-6/6-2 [10-6]
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (Int'l/Hard Indoor)
S: Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL def. Dominika Cibulkova/SVK 6-3/3-6/7-5
D: Georgina Garcia Perez/Fanny Stollar (ESP/HUN) d. Kirsten Flipkens/Johanna Larsson (BEL/SWE) 4-6/6-4 [10-3]

...lest we forget in this Month of Petra that Svitolina actually wins more often and at a more ferocious clip than any other player on the WTA tour, the most successful player in Ukrainian tennis history reminded us of that fact this week in Dubai. While she only slightly lags behind Simona Halep when it comes to *slam* frustration, when the subject is consistently putting up superior results on the "regular season" stops along the WTA schedule, she proved yet again that she's got *that* stuff down to a very precise science. Pulling of the second successful title defense of her career, having won back-to-back titles in Baku for her first tour career wins in 2013-14, the 23-year old lost just one set (2nd Rd. vs. LL Wang Qiang) on her way to claiming her second '18 title, the eleventh of her career (she's 11-2 in finals, now having won *seven* in a row) and eighth in just the last three seasons (three more than any other player over the span). Additional wins over Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber (again, as she's now 7-5 vs. the German, but has won the last five) and Dasha Kasatkina in the final allows Svitolina to add her name to a short list that includes only her one-time coach Justine Henin (3 titles) and Venus Williams (2) as the only multiple singles title winners at the event.

RISERS: Dasha Kasatkina/RUS and Naomi Osaka/JPN
...Kasatkina's pre-spring fling continued in Dubai, as the Russian held to form and furiously battled back from the brink of defeat (twice) to reach her third career tour final and climb (finally!) into the Top 20 for the first time in her career, but ultimately showed that while she often wins big, her style of play sometimes makes it difficult to win all the time. After opening with a win over Aga Radwanska, Kasatkina saved two MP and defeated Johanna Konta, took down her "tennis mama" Elena Vesnina (the two shared Dasha's first tour title in doubles in Moscow in '15), then saved three more MP against Garbine Muguruza in the semis to become, at 20, the youngest tour singles finalist so far this year. In the end, though, likely worn down from so much match play, she couldn't offer a great defense against the fresher, better, more advanced, version of herself (Elina Svitolina) that she met in the final, losing 4 & love to close out a very long week. Over the past month, after getting off to a 1-3 start, she's gone 7-3. This is the third straight season in which Kasatkina has posted some eye-opening results in the season's first quarter. In '16, she reached the Saint Petersburg SF, Indian Wells QF and Charleston QF, then last year got into the Doha QF (w/ a defeat of Kerber) and won her first singles title in Charleston. While it raises questions in its current form when it comes to her eventually having the sort of Top 10 potential she flashed when she first bounded onto the scene a few years ago (Fear the Kasatkina!), the Russian's defensive-minded, momentum-driven style *has* lifted her into the Top 20 (at #20) after being trapped in rankings purgatory for nearly two full years, during which she only spent two weeks outside the Top 40, usually finding herself "trapped" between #20-29 since her I.W. QF run in March '16, never slumping too badly for *too* long but never rising high enough to garner top tournament or slam seeding positions that might allow her early-round experiences to be less, umm, time-consuming.

Meanwhile, some early signs of progress in Osaka's pairing with new coach Sascha Bajin appeared in Dubai, as the 20-year old from Japan took a wild card into the tournament and reached the QF after notching straight sets wins over Kristina Mladenovic and Anett Kontaveit. She ultimately went out at the hands of eventual champ Svitolina, but will rise to #44 on Monday, just four spots off her career-best ranking of #40. A little dose of consistency, which should really be the one and only *baseline* (the measurement kind, not the tennis kind) goal for '18 under Big Sascha, and Osaka could be flirting with the Top 25/30 (or better, with one big result) come summertime, enough to possibly be seeded at a slam by the end of '18. Last season, Osaka opened 15-6, then went 4-8, then 6-1, then 2-6. So far, she's 8-4 this season. So let's see how this goes.

SURPRISES: Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL and Georgina Garcia Perez/Fanny Stollar, ESP/HUN
...last September, Van Uytvanck claimed her maiden tour title in Quebec City by defeating Timea Babos in the final nine months after undergoing wrist surgery. Last week in Budapest, she won her second by taking the title at a tournament that Babos won last year. The 23-year old became the second '18 tour champion (after Elise Mertens) to hail from Belgium, as the Waffle essentially ran over the field -- losing just 5 games to Oceane Dodin, 1 to Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6 to Zhang Shuai and 6 to Viktoria Kuzmova -- en route to her second career tour final. She took the title with a 6-3/3-6/7-5 win over top-seeded Dominika Cibulkova. The season's first WTA singles champion to claim a crown while ranked outside the Top 50 (#80), Van Uytvanck will now join the Top 50 (right at #50) in the new rankings, not far off her career high of #41.

In the Budapest doubles, Garcia Perez and Stollar both became maiden tour titles winners in their first appearances in a WTA final. The pair lost just one set all week, the opener in the final vs. #1-seeded Flipkens/Larsson. They ultimately claimed a 10-3 3rd set TB, picking up their second overall title together, having previous combined in yet another event in Hungary (a $25K challenger) in 2016. Additionally over the past year, 25-year old GGP has picked up her biggest singles title (a $60K in January in which she def. Jana Cepelova and Arantxa Rus), as well as three $25K challenger wins, and been a finalist in two more. She also made her tour-level MD debut in Budapest after qualifying with wins over Naomi Broady and Patty Schnyder (losing to Aleksandra Krunic in the 1st Rd.). 19-year old Stollar is the youngest player to win a tour-level title through 2018's first two months.

VETERAN: Angelique Kerber/GER
...while Kerber's week ended with what would have to be considered her worst result of the season, a straight sets semifinal loss in Dubai to Elina Svitolina (her fifth straight defeat at the hands of the Ukrainian, including three when she was ranked #1), she still collected her fourth straight QF+ result of 2018 (W-SF-QF-SF). The last time she strung together a quartet of such results was the summer of 2016 in Montreal (SF), the Olympics (RU), Cincinnati (RU) and the U.S. Open (W). Her wins over Barbora Strycova, Sara Errani and Karolina Pliskova give Kerber a 15-3 mark on the season, tied with Caroline Wozniacki for the most match wins n '18, and behind only the trio of Svitolina, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova as far as overall season win percentage.
COMEBACKS: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK and Mona Barthel/GER
...Cibulkova has struggled with injury and motivation since her amazing late 2016 run that culminated in her career-highlight title in the WTA Finals. Last week in Budapest, after being installed as the #1 seed after countrywoman Magdalena Rybarikova withdrew from the tournament, the 28-year old raced through the draw without losing a set, defeating Fanny Stollar, Kirsten Flipkens and Johanna Larsson (incidentally, all three would go on to reach the WD final), then Mona Barthel to reach just her second final (w/ New Haven last summer) since her big week in Singapore. In a battle in the final, she eventually fell to Alison Van Uytvanck in a 7-5 3rd set. After posting just four QF-or-better results in the seventeen tournaments that followed her WTAF win, Cibulkova has now had four in her last ten, a stretch that began with the final run in New Haven six months ago.

Before she fell to Cibulkova in the semifinals, Barthel had had quite the week. Her best, in fact, since she picked up career title #4 by fully extending a qualifying run until the final weekend last May in Prague for her first singles win since 2014. Since ending 2017 at #48, the 27-year old German had fallen to #74 through 2018's first seven weeks, starting 1-5 after having already ended last season on a 1-9 skid (and gone 2-12 starting with a 2nd Round loss in Eastbourne last summer). In Budapest, she posted wins over Kateryna Kozlova, defending champ Timea Babos and Ysaline Bonaventure.

FRESH FACES: Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK and Sofya Zhuk/RUS
...19-year old Kuzmova is proving to be a quick learner, as well as a resilient competitor. The big-hitting Slovak nearly (shoulda, really) upset Dasha Kasatkina in Saint Petersburg in Week 5 and, much like occurred with Alona Ostapenko when she came oh-so-close to knocking off Karolina Pliskova in the AO and was seemingly all the better for it, has proceeded to pull off a series of career highlights in the weeks since. She immediately followed up with a career highlight weekend in Fed Cup in which she rebounded from a Day 1 loss to stage a comeback from a set down to make first career FC win an historic one by clinching Slovakia's first ever victory over the Russians. In Budapest, she was the tough luck loser of a two and a half hour qualifying match to Ysaline Bonaventure (she'd go on to reach the QF) which included 34 aces (15 from Kuzmova), but then soon after became a lucky loser who ran off MD wins over Sorana Cirstea, Sabine Lisicki and Petra Martic in straight sets to reach her first tour-level semifinal. The first LL to reach a WTA semi since 2015, Kuzmova finally came up short against Alison Van Uytvanck, but will climb from #121 to a new career high of #109 on Monday.

Zhuk, 18, strung together qualifying wins over Alexandra Dulgheru, Camila Giorgi (the Italian retired w/ a set lead) and Wang Qiang (who'd get the only set off Svitolina as a lucky loser) to reach the Dubai MD. She lost in her 1st Round match-up with veteran Carla Suarez-Navarro, but the '15 Wimbledon junior champ will set another career high by climbing to #135. The Hordette is 11-4 in '18 on all levels, including a run to a WTA 125 Series final in January.
DOWN: Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...with so many top players getting off to lightning-fast starts in 2018, the currently glowing dust makes it easy to overlook the fact that Pliskova is not one of them. Since her huge summer-of-2016 run included a U.S. Open final berth and contributed to the Czech reaching the #1 ranking last July, the big wins have been fewer and farther in between for her. Last week in Dubai, she rallied from a set down to defeat Carla Suarez-Navarro, but then lost 4 & 3 to Angelique Kerber, dropping her to a respectable -- but hardly scintillating -- 8-4 on the season. It was a fitting defeat, considering her win over the German in the Cincinnati final two seasons ago signaled a significant upward turn in Pliskova's career. Since then, though, she's gone 0-3 vs. the German, including a loss to her last fall in Tokyo in the closing stages of what was a mostly-forgettable '17 campaign for Kerber. By the end of the '16 season, Pliskova seemed set to join the ranks of first-time slam champions. But the five slams that followed have seen three women win their maiden major titles, while Pliskova has reached just one SF (oddly enough, on clay at Roland Garros, where she'd previously gone just 2-5) and appeared in three (again, respectable, but far from noteworthy) QF. What's happened? After showing great improvement in her on-court movement (still not spectacular, but good enough) in '16, the progress doesn't seem to have continued. Meanwhile, her serve has failed to be the weapon it once was, as well. She still produces good ace totals (though she's significantly behind top acer Julia Goerges in '18 after leading the tour in recent seasons), but they don't often come in the same sort of clutch moments that fueled her '16 success. Pliskova, after gaining momentum and confidence with her Fed Cup heroics, has had far less a presence in the nation's last four ties, as well, and was a late week singles scratch in this season's opening FC weekend earlier this month. Maybe Pliskova is simply lying in wait, though. Though she began last season 15-1 with a pair of title rus, and stood at an overall 23-4 by the end of the North American spring hard court swing, she also had later brief spikes in success on the grass (5-1, though with another early SW19 exit) and during summer hard courts (9-3). Maybe a slow build, rather than a fast sprint that eventually levels off, will play in her favor this time around.

Hi everyone ????? Last days and weeks weren't exactly as I imagined ?? But looking for excuses is not my way. I believe that if I keep working hard the results will come again. I have a great team around me, which I believe in. And thanks everyone for your support, which comes in useful even now when not everything goes as it should.?? I'm going to work hard now and I'm looking forward to the forthcoming tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami ????? Ahoj všichni ????? poslední dny a týdny nebyly úplne podle mých predstav.?? Ale nemám ve zvyku hledat výmluvy. Verím, že když budu tvrde pracovat, výsledky se zase dostaví.?? Mám kolem sebe skvelý tým, kterému verím. A díky všem za podporu, která se hodí i ted, kdy ne všechno jde tak jak má. ?? Jdu makat a teším se na turnaje v Indian Wells a Miami ?????

A post shared by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on

ITF PLAYERS: Gabriella Taylor/GBR and Iga Swiatek/POL
...19-year old Brit Taylor improved to 12-1 in '18 with a title run in the $25K challenger in Perth, picking up her fifth career ITF crown (second this season) with a 6-2/7-5 win over Myrtille Georges in the final. The world #240 has claimed all twelve of her victories via straight set wins, and also ended her '17 calendar year with another title run at a $25K in India that wrapped up just a day before Christmas Eve.

At Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt it was 16-year old Pole Swiatek, back from a seven-month injury break, improving to 4-0 in career singles challenger finals with a 3 & 1 victory over Waffle Britt Geukens in the final. Swiatek, ranked #725, defeated #2-seeded Nuria Parrizas-Diaz in the 1st Round, then the #8 seed in the quarterfinals.

JUNIOR STARS: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL and Lenka Stara/SVK
...once more, the 16-year old Colombian has claimed a Grade 1 title in 2018. Osorio Serrano's win in the Banana Bowl in Brazil is her *fourth* such title run this season as she ran her junior level winning streak to twenty-three consecutive matches dating back to last season's late-year Masters tournament. Osorio Serrano finished things off with a win in the final over Bannerette Alexa Noel by a 6-3/6-4 score, ending a week with saw her win a pair of three-setters en route to the title. She'd been forced to three sets just three times in her previous eighteen wins in her streak.

Meanwhile, at the week's other Grade 1 event, it was yet another Slovak who shined in Week 8 in the Yeltsin Cup at Kazan, Russia. 17-year old Lenka Stara, the #105-ranked girl, knocked off four seeds -- including the top two -- en route to her biggest career title in her first Grade 1 final appearance. After defeating Polina Kudermetova, younger sister of recent Russian Fed Cup roster member Veronika, in the semis, Stara defeated Hordette Kamilla Rakhimova 6-4/3-6/6-1 in front of the #1-seed's home crowd. Rakhimova was last of five Russians that Stara defeated in consecutive rounds en route to claiming the crown.

DOUBLES: Angel Chan/Yang Zhaoxuan, TPE/CHN
...while her sister Latisha sits atop the doubles rankings, the only member of the Chan family to have been crowned a WTA champion through 2018's first two months is Angel. Chan and Yang joined forces to claim their maiden win together in Dubai, the first title won by Angel without her sister by her side since 2015 (w/ Anabel Medina-Garrigues). A pair of victories via 3rd set TB's (1st Rd. vs. Doha finalists Klepac/Martinez Sanchez and in the final over #4-seeded Hsieh/Peng) surrounded a walkover from #3 Safarova/Strycova (Lucie came down w/ an illness, and considering her past history let's hope that's taken care of as quickly as possible) allowed Chan to win career title #14 and Yang #3 (and her biggest). The Chan sisters have played more matches *against* each other (1, at the AO) since their most recent pairing last October (a title run in Hong Kong), and they narrowly missed another match-up in Dubai as Latisha & Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova fell in the 2nd Round to Rosolska/Spears, one round ahead of what would have been a SF with a Chan on both sides of the net. So far in '18, Angel has gone 8-3, while Latisha is 9-5 w/ Hlavackova, including a 1-3 mark in their last four.


This week, Backspin Academy's on-campus Sugarpova Cineplex announced the final showing of our longest (unnecessarily) running flick...

After dragging out the lawsuit filed by Genie Bouchard due to her post-match locker room fall and concussion after a U.S. Open night match in 2015 (!!), the USTA finally got it's day in court... and the organization got exactly what it deserved. Bouchard testified, and the jury wasted little time in ruling (of course) in her favor, deeming that the USTA was "75%" at fault for the accident. A settlement was reached soon afterward, ending one of the most bass-ackwards legal situations in sport in recent memory, as a national tennis organization attempted to drag a player's name through the mud in a vindictive, blame-the-victim fashion that raised serious questions about the legal minds paid to offer opinions about the many possible options that were originally at hand (and continued to be for nearly three years). The USTA *never* should have gone down the road of dragging Bouchard into court for an incident that occurred on tournament grounds, even if *some* blame for certain things that occurred that night may have been considered "cloudy." It always felt like a breach of trust when it came to the organization's relationship with the two pro tours, and that never changed at any step along the way, even as Bouchard's off-court demeanor regarding unrelated issues has often made her appear immature and in possession of questionable judgment since the incident occurred.

As things have played out, as the organization's many wrong-headed decisions of sometimes-incompetence have surfaced in recent years, how the USTA managed to make the *right* decision to hire Kathy Rinaldi to replace Mary Joe Fernandez as Fed Cup Captain has to go down as one of the biggest miracles in recorded history... though maybe the likes of Venus Williams and Chanda Rubin, who were on the nominating committee, elevated the level of decision-making ability in the room enough to prevent another stupid mistake.

Any reasonable person could see that that the USTA should bear most of the responsibility in the Bouchard case, and was insane to have sought to blame a player for doing what she would normally do after a match, no matter the hour or state of the locker room facilities at the time. To attempt to advance the narrative that it was up to the player to know to be wary under such circumstances was, is and will always be more than a bit disgusting. Bouchard didn't make the schedule, and it's up to the tournament machinery to make sure the premises are safe when it's safely assumed that players will be there. Period. Thankfully, after *way* too long, this is finally over.

This is one victory for Bouchard that *all* should be grateful she attained, no matter any differences of opinion with her elsewhere. But, of course, I live in nation where the person in the highest office in land thinks schools should double as the set for a real-life "Die Hard" movie, so whatta I know?

Anyway, in the end, it all set the stage for what had to be a far better birthday than many recent celebrations have been...

1. Dubai 2nd Rd. - Dasha Kasatkina def. Johanna Konta
Over the course of three hours, Kasatkina and Konta tested each other. The Brit won most of the early battles, staving off nine straight BP chances in the first two sets before the Russian finally broke her late in the 2nd. Kasatkina saved two MP, won an 8-6 TB to force a 3rd set, and eventually pulled away as her defense and Konta's UE total (63 to Dasha's 34) ultimately turned things in the Hordette's favor. Kasatkina converted just four of fourteen BP chances on the day, but it was enough to extend what turned out to be an epic week of survival. Still without another semifinal berth since her final four run at Wimbledon last summer, Konta essentially admitted to the pressure of following up such a career-changing home soil result, and accepted the support of those who have stuck with her as she's attempted to find her way through it all and come out on the other side all the better for the experience.

2. Dubai SF - Dasha Kasatkina def. Garbine Muguruza
After going 3:00 vs. Konta, Kasatkina went "just 2:30" in this one, staging another comeback win despite being down a break twice in the 2nd set. Four straight breaks of serve led into the start of the TB, where the Russian started with a DF before then winning a 38-shot rally and saving three MP, including one with a successful replay challenge. She took the breaker 13-11 to force a 3rd. After failing to close out the win, Muguruza then "drifted" toward the finish, dropping serve to open the set, committing too many errors and ultimately notching just a single game in the deciding stanza.

3. Budapest 2nd Rd. - Zhang Shuai def. Jana Cepelova
Cepelova got off to a quick start as she dominated the first set and a half, winning the final four games to close out the 1st, then going up a break in the 2nd, holding two MP. But Zhang got things to a TB, where she went up 4-0 and forced a 3rd set. There, she broke the Slovak's serve three times, finishing off the second of her first back-to-back victories this season. She lost a round later to eventual champion Alison Van Uytvanck, while Cepelova's week was enough to lift her back into the Top 100 in the new rankings.
4. Dubai Q3 - Sara Errani def. Aryna Sabalenka 6-2/1-6/7-6(4)
Budapest Q1 - Roberta Vinci def. Anna Kalinskaya 3-6/6-4/7-6(3)
this could very well be the last time one week will contain a pair of wins from MP down by two of the original members of the Italian Quartet. Errani impressively staged a comeback from 4-1 and 5-3 down in the 3rd vs. Sabalenka, who served for the match and held a MP at 5-4. Errani would go on to get a MD win over Lesia Tsurenko before losing to Angelique Kerber, as she continues to try to recoup the points she lost due to last year's suspension. She'll be up eighteen spots to #125 this week.

In Budapest, aside from celebrating her 35th birthday courtside with a big honking "candle" (that *has* to be a fire hazard) topped cake, Vinci saved a MP at 5-4 in the 3rd vs. Kalinskaya, winning and then reaching the MD with a 2:30 Q2 victory over Vera Lapko. While Errani topped one Belarusian, Vinci then lost to other, falling to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the 1st Round. She'll be ranked #149 this week as she edges closer to her springtime retirement farewell.
5. Dubai 1st Rd. - Ekaterina Makarova def. Anastasija Sevastova
Makarova saved a pair of MP vs. the Latvian, rallying from 6-3/5-3 down to win and knock Sevastova out of the Top 20.
6. Budapest Final - Alison Van Uytvanck def. Dominika Cibulkova
Both women were vying to become the first this season to win a tour-level singles title without dropping a set. Neither did, but at least the Belgian got the trophy.
6. Dubai Final - Elina Svitolina def. Dasha Kasatkina
Even with this loss, Kasatkina is 5-4 in her last nine matches vs. Top 5 players.

7. Dubai Q1 - Lesia Tsurenko def. Duan Yingying
Svitolina won the title, but her Ukrainian countrywoman saved three MP and overcame a 7-5/5-2 deficit (after blowing a 5-2 1st set lead) vs. Duan. So at least there was that.
8. Dubai QF - Garbine Muguruza def. Caroline Garcia
For the second time in two weeks in the Middle East, it was Garbi over Garcia. The Spaniard also authored an impressively quick (Mugu-ese for "straight-sets") elimination of CiCi Bellis, and had Kasatkina on the ropes in the semis. Another step toward Paris, or London, or maybe even New York.

9. Dubai 2nd Rd. - Elena Vesnina def. Alona Ostapenko 6-1/7-6(6)
Dubai 1st Rd. - Nicole Melichar/Kveta Peschke def. Alona Ostapenko/Anastasija Sevastova 6-2/6-3
Vesnina's first Top 10 win of the year, as Ostapenko is on the wrong end of a "first Top 10..." result for the third week in a row. This time, though, her doubles success didn't act as a Plan "B."
10. Dubai SF - Elina Svitolina def. Angelique Kerber
Svitolina's 23rd Top 10 win since 2014.
11. $15K Antalya QF - Nina Potocnik def. Rebecca Marino
After notching a win over the #2 seed (Cristina Dinu), the Canadian's winning streak finally ends at nineteen.
12. $25K Altenkirchen QF - Harriet Dart def. Mandy Minella
In just her second tournament back from having a baby, Minella reached the QF.

HM- $25K Rancho Santa Fe Final - Asia Muhammad def. Kurumi Nara
Saving MP was all the rage in Week 8.


1. Dubai 1st Rd. - Dasha Kasatkina def. AGA RADWANSKA
Even The Rad fears the Kasatkina. The Russian, 2-0 vs. Aga, is immune to the malevolence.
2. Dubai QF - Angelique Kerber def. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
Maybe next time.
3. Dubai 1st Rd. - NAOMI OSAKA def. Kristina Mladenovic
I'm not sure what the ESPNers would have said had this match aired on the network, but they most definitely would *not* have noticed Sascha Bajin cheering on Osaka from the sidelines after this one.

HM- $15K Solarino Final - MICHAELLA KRAJICEK def. Monika Kilnarova
The 29-year old wins her first title since July '16, improving to 17-2 (3-0 WTA/14-2 ITF) in career singles finals.


Apparently, the ESPNers took over Caro's Twitter feed...

**WTA TITLES - 2016-18**
5 - Petra Kvitova, CZE [2/1/2]
5 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN [2/2/1]
5 - Simona Halep, ROU [3/1/1]
5 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE [2/3/0]

**2018 #1 SEED WON TITLE**
Shenzhen - Simona Halep, ROU (F def. Siniakova)
Dubai - ELINA SVITOLINA, UKR (F def. Kasatkina)

**2018 WIN LEADERS**
15-3...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (.833)
14-1...Simona Halep, ROU (.933)
14-2...Petra Kvitova, CZE (.875)
14-2...ELINA SVITOLINA, UKR (.875)
12-3...Julia Goerges, GER (.800)
11-4...Elise Mertens, BEL (.733)

Hobart - Elise Mertens, BEL (F def. Buzarnescu)
Dubai - ELINA SVITOLINA, UKR (F def. Kasatkina)

Auckland: Julia Goerges, GER (F-Wozniacki)
Australian Open: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (F-Halep)
Doha: Petra Kvitova, CZE (SF-Wozniacki)

**2018 TITLES w/o LOSING A SET**
Sydney - Gaby Dabrowski/Xu Yifan, CAN/CHN
Taipei City - Duan Yingying/Wang Yafan, CHN/CHN

#246 Sabine Lisicki/GER (Taipei City)
#152 Wang Yafan/CHN (Taipei City)
#122 Sachia Vickery/USA (Auckland)
#103 Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE (Auckland)
#100 Camila Giorgi/ITA (Sydney)
NOTE: none reached final

**2015-18 SEMIFINALS**
25 - Simona Halep [9/6/7/3]
25 - ANGELIQUE KERBER [8/11/3/3]
23 - Karolina Pliskova [8/6/8/1]
22 - Caroline Wozniacki [7/4/8/3]
21 - ELINA SVITOLINA [6/7/6/2]
19 - Aga Radwanska [8/9/2/0]
17 - GARBINE MUGURUZA [5/3/7/2]
16 - Serena Williams [9/6/1/0]

2008 Quebec City - Angela Haynes, USA
2008 Tokyo - Jarmila Gajdosova, SVK
2012 Fes - Mathilde Johansson, FRA
2012 Stanford - CoCo Vandeweghe, USA (RU)
2012 Linz - Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
2013 Brisbane - Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
2013 Paris - Kiki Bertens, NED
2015 Acapulco - Sesil Karatantcheva, KAZ
2015 New Haven - Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
2015 Quebec City - Naomi Broady, GBR

**MOST 2016-18 WD TITLES**
14 - Latisha Chan (3/11/0), Martina Hingis (5/9 ret.)
10 - Andrea Hlavackova (4/6/0)
9 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (5/4/0), Sania Mirza (8/1/0)
8 - Kiki Bertens (3/4/1), Johanna Larsson (4/4/0)
7 - Timea Babos (0/6/1), Lucie Safarova (4/3/0)
6 - ANGEL CHAN (3/2/1), Ekaterina Makarova (3/3/0), Elena Vesnina (3/3/0)
5 - Gaby Dabrowski (1/2/2), Kristina Mladenovic (4/0/1)

Monique Adamczak, AUS
Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
Duan Yingying, CHN
Nao Hibino, JPN
Dalila Jakupovic, SLO
Jiang Xinyu, CHN
Lesley Kerkhove, NED
Quirine Lemoine, NED
Lidziya Marozava, BLR
Nicole Melichar, USA
Alona Ostapenko, LAT
Nadia Podoroska, ARG
Arantxa Rus, NED
Storm Sanders, AUS
Anna Smith, GBR
Tang Qianhui, CHN
Simona Halep, ROU
Bibiane Schoofs, NED

Coffee Bowl: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Copa Barranquilla: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Traralgon: Liang En-shou/TPE
Prague: Maria Timofeeva/RUS
Australian Open: Liang En-shuo/TPE
Mundial Juvenil: Gabriella Price/USA
Asuncion Bowl: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Banana Bowl: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Yeltsin Cup: Lenka Stara/SVK

2015 Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (won Acap/Mont singles)
2016 Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Arantxa Parra-Santonja, ESP (won Acap/Mont WD)
2017 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (4-time Mont.WS)
2018 ?
[2nd place]
2015 Caroline Garcia, FRA (RU Acap/Mont singles)
2016 Sloane Stephens, USA (Acap) & Heather Watson, GBR (Mont)
2017 Lesia Tsurenko, UKR (Acapulco WS)
2018 ?

Patty's new ball takes up less space, but needs more tender loving care.

Almost there...

2001 Amanda Coetzer def. Elena Dementieva
2002 Katarina Srebotnik def. Paola Suarez
2003 Amanda Coetzer def. Mariana Diaz Oliva
2004 Iveta Benesova def. Flavia Pennetta
2005 Flavia Pennetta def. Ludmila Cervanova
2006 Anna-Lena Groenefeld def. Flavia Pennetta
2007 Emilie Loit def. Flavia Pennetta
2008 Flavia Pennetta def. Alize Cornet
2009 Venus Williams def. Flavia Pennetta
2010 Venus Williams def. Polona Hercog
2011 Gisela Dulko def. Arantxa Parra Santonja
2012 Sara Errani def. Flavia Pennetta
2013 Sara Errani def. Carla Suarez Navarro
2014 Dominika Cibulkova def. Christina McHale
2015 Timea Bacsinszky def. Caroline Garcia
2016 Sloane Stephens def. Dominika Cibulkova
2017 Lesia Tsurenko def. Kristina Mladenovic
2001 Martinez Sanchez/Medina Garrigues d. Ruano Pascual/Suarez
2002 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. Krizan/Srebotnik
2003 Loit/Svensson d. Mandula/Wartusch
2004 McShea/Sequera d. Blahotova/G.Navratilova
2005 Jidkova/Perebiynis d. Andres Rodriguez/Martinez Granados
2006 Groenefeld/Shaughnessy d. Asagoe/Loit
2007 Dominguez Lino/Parra Santonja d. Loit/Pratt
2008 Llagostera Vives/Martinez Sanchez d. Benesova/Cetkovska
2009 Llagostera Vives/Martinez Sanchez d. Dominguez Lino/Parra Santonja
2010 Hercog/Zahlavova-Strycova d. Errani/Vinci
2011 Koryttseva/Olaru d. Dominguez Lino/Parra Santonja
2012 Errani/Vinci d. Dominguez Lino/Parra Santonja
2013 Dominguez Lino/Parra Santonja d. Castano/Duque Marino
2014 Mladenovic/Voskoboeva d. Cetkovska/Melzer (Benesova)
2015 Arruabarrena/Torro Flor d. Hlavackova/Hradecka
2016 Medina Garrigues/Parra Santonja d. Bertens/Larsson
2017 Jurak/An.Rodionova d. Duque Marino/Cepede Royg
WS: #1 Stephens, #2 Mladenovic
WD: #1 A.Smith/Voracova, #2 Adamczak/Dzalamidze

...Stephens finally makes her post-AO return, still seeking her first singles victory since winning the U.S. Open last September. She'll get Pauline Parmentier in the 1st Round, so if she doesn't get it there the "LOL" is on her, I guess.

-new event-
-new event-
WS: #1 Linette, #2 Lepchenko

...still seeking her first '18 win (0-3), Francesca Schiavone faces off with Yanina Wickmayer in the 1st Round.

And, finally...

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

This looks like a week for a first time winner in both singles and doubles.

Osorio Serrano might be a Jr slam pick.

Kasatkina/Muguruza needs to happen at a slam. Even better? Kasatkina might be in the Top 16 by then.

Since you have the Svitolina checklist-I will admit that she will be on the Down List for Indian Wells. Why? Because in a combined 9 trips to IW and Miami, she has never made it past the 4th rd. She may need a SF or better run at one of those before a similar result at a slam.

Stat of the Week-41- The number of wins for Genie Bouchard in her career season of 2014.

This version is all about Genie Bou Bou. Or the fact that Genie had a boo boo, which 2 1/2 years later, is finally settled. So with that weight off of her shoulders, and let's be honest, if you are suing your employer, and still working for them, it isn't easy, should her results improve? Let's look inside the numbers.

To get a baseline, I decided to use 10 tournament blocks. The first will be her 2014 peak, which includes the Wimbledon final. The second will be the 10 right before the injury. Third will be the first 10 after, and the 4th will be her last 10.

2014- 23-9
2015- 6-10
15-16 16-10
17-18 5-10

The 2014 stretch was good, but is better than the numbers suggest. The 10 tourney stretch was from IW through Wimbledon, so her AO SF isn't reflected.

2015 numbers are even worse, as the 10th tourney was the USO in which the incident happened. 3 of those wins were there, so she was actually 3-9 heading in.

Due to her missing the end of 2015, the 15-16 stretch had her playing her best tennis all in 2016, as she reached 2 finals.

2017-18 stretch is bad. 5-10 and mostly living off wild cards.

A total of those numbers runs 50-39. Is that her level? Maybe, but there is one set of numbers I haven't given you.

Immediately after the Wimbledon final, she went 12-12 in her next 10 events, the 12 losses because she went 0-3 at the YEC. This means she was playing .500 tennis while ranked #7 in the world. While troubling then, this is what she needs to shoot for. Being a .500 player last season made you Siniakova. Picked because she went 23-23 without playing any ITF events, she still won 2 titles, and finished in the Top 50(49).

So being around 50 is what is projected. The other intangible factors, like the fact that Sharapova was once her idol, are important, because she will have to make a Sharapova like connection to make it back. No avoiding handshakes, playing Fed Cup for both Olympic eligibility and country unity, helping Canadian tennis at Montreal/Toronto, and Quebec City.

And she is looking for a WC for Indian Wells.

Quiz Time!
1.Genie Bouchard has 1 career title. Where did she win it?


Doubles teams fracturing left and right.

You may be wondering why I gave you that many choices. Well, even though Wimbledon was the obvious no, every choice on the list is one of her career finals, in which she has gone 1-5.

F.Malaysian was not the answer, although relevant for a couple of reasons. Not only was it the last final Bouchard reached, it was a loss to this week's winner in Svitolina, which not only was Elina's 4th career title, but revenge for having lost the Girls Wimbledon final to her in 2012.

So the answer is B.Nuremberg, which not surprisingly was won in the dream season of 2014.

Mon Feb 26, 09:55:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I did at least have Osorio Serrano on my list of Juniors to Watch at the slams in the Prediction Blowout (w/ Carle, Danilovic, Gauff, Juvan, Lansere, Li, Noel, Waltert and Wang Xinyu). So there's that. ;)

Yep, that's why I have Svitolina winning a Premier Mandatory or the WTA Finals *before* winning a slam (or maybe even making a final). Her career patterns just beg for the "middle" step to happen before takes the final one.

Thing is, Bouchard performed mostly badly when she played in and for Canada, and I wonder if that's why she took a step back from all of it.

Ah, I didn't see that news before I posted, but I sort of saw the Chan/Hlavackova break coming, I guess. Hence, listing them in the "Down" category last week. It just wasn't working. Hsieh/Peng are now two-time "divorcees," proving that success doesn't make doubles partners enjoy playing together, I guess. There needs to be some sort of running database that updates these things -- they're too common to catch them in the "tennis news" on a regular basis before it almost feels like "old" news.

Hingis' retirement sort of set off something of a chain reaction of misplaced parts having to fit together. The STILL ranked co-#1 Hingis, I note, yet again. Just sayin'. Hmmm, how many times did Sugar Ray Leonard come out of retirement? (Asking for a friend.)

Guess I'm a Bouchard aficionado, since I got that one. Go figure. :)

Mon Feb 26, 11:02:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

There’s no audio on your videos on my iPad. All other videos on other sites are fine. I just upgraded my software, so I thought it might have something to do with that, but—it turns out I have the same situation on my MacBook. Ideas?

Mon Feb 26, 12:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, I don't know. They work when I click on them. I didn't do anything differently with these than in other weeks (just copied the embed code on Twitter). Does that still happen if you click on the body of the embedded tweet and it takes you to the stand-alone page for it on Twitter (as with the Mattek vid here)? Or is it just not working when you're on the blog?

Of course, though I'm sure you've done it already, you should check to make sure the audio level on the individual embedded tweets is turned up -- I guess that's the equivalent of the "is the TV set plugged in?" troubleshooting listing that just makes you go, "Umm, yeah... I'm not stupid." :D

Of course, a few weeks ago the Instagram embeds were acting strangely and going way over the borders, and some were overlapping each other (and text) in the post, so I had to remove a bunch of them before the final post. I didn't do anything differently then, either, or this week (and they're placing fine again now).

Mon Feb 26, 12:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Little Note: Originally, I was going to include another Bouchard tweet in this post, one she wrote after her initial comments about the verdict. She thanked the juror who'd wished her happy birthday. Probably not shockingly, she deleted that tweet some time afterward. I'm wondering if maybe a lawyer told her that leaving it up probably wasn't the best idea? :\

Mon Feb 26, 01:12:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

And now it's working again--just like that. Go figure.

Mon Feb 26, 08:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

One more day. If the draw goes off as expected, for the first time since the 2016 Australian Open, the Big Three will perform in the same tournament. With all of them unseeded. Ironically, the 4th member at the time(Radwanska) will have one, but barely as she is 32 in the rankings, but probably 31st seed with Peng out and Kuznetsova back.

Sun Mar 04, 02:21:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

The only events in which Serena/Vika/Maria were all entered, but none of them won (since January 2012, when Azarenka first became #1):

2012 Miami (W: Radwanska)
2013 Wimbledon (Bartoli)-"Radwanskian Massacre" event
2014 Australian Open (Li)
2014 Wimbledon (Kvitova)
2014 Montreal (Radwanska)
2015 Indian Wells (Halep)
2015 Madrid (Kvitova)
2016 Australian Open (Kerber)

Hmmm, Simona won the last time they all played and didn't win in the desert. Hmmm. ;)

Sun Mar 04, 04:41:00 PM EST  

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