Sunday, March 25, 2018

My-oh-my, Miami

Welcome to Miami, Florida. Land of the free (and easy), home of the brave (and crazy), and welcoming of the wild and otherwise woolly.

After an unpredictable two weeks in the desert, through just less than three full rounds, the trip to the opposite coast has already seen the #1 (not just in the women's draw, either... that Roger Federling guy lost again -- geez, what's wrong with him?) and #2 (also the '17 runner-up) unceremoniously ejected. What could happen next?

Well, that might be a stretch. But, then again, we *are* talking about Florida, so who knows? A year ago, remember, we were all introduced to Iggy...

He (and his family) enjoyed the attention, apparently, and have made a few appearances around the grounds this year, as well. Of all the Iggys in the world...

Anyway, here's a quick look back at the past week of play in Miami (and beyond)...

Miami is not Indian Wells. Neither of the finalists from the desert lasted long enough to reach the first weekend in Florida. Dasha Kasatkina (2nd Rd. to Sonya Kenin) has played so much, and so hard, of late that the fact that she managed to go three sets before losing is actually probably a testament to her commitment. I.W. champ Naomi Osaka was the interesting case, as we hardly knew what to expect after her career week in California.

As it turned out, she *did* manage to avoid being overwhelmed, not to mention starstruck (at least until the handshake at the net), as she handled a less-than-average version of Serena Williams in a rather unfortunate, far-too-early 1st Round encounter, winning 3 & 2.

Afterward, Williams immediately left the grounds and skipped the post-match press conference (incurring a minor fine), then released a statement that read: "Every tournament is an opportunity for me to better understand the areas I need to improve to be my best. Naomi played a great match and I learn something each time I play. I look forward to continuing my return by progressing every day. I'm so grateful for my fans who continue to support me every step of this incredible journey."

Somehow I doubt that Osaka would have skipped the presser had she lost (she showed up after losing a round later, despite "having to throw up a lot"). Sometimes the idol can learn a thing or two from the admirer, too. So, in this case, Naomi's "WWSD" notion might need to be accompanied by an asterisk.
Meanwhile, the Indian Wells last-minute-doubles-duo-turned-champions, Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova, went back to their originally-scheduled partners in Miami. It didn't go well. Hsieh and Monica Niculesu lost their 1st Round match to Aleksandra Krunic/Kateryna Bondarenko, 7-5/6-2, while Strycova and Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova fell in *their* first match to Raquel Atawo and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 7-6/7-6.

Last year's Miami doubles champs, Gaby Dabrowski and Xu Yifan? Yeah, they lost their opener, too. The pair fell to Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs, 7-5/7-5.

It just goes to show how difficult the "Sunshine Double" is. Only three women have pulled off winning on both coasts in singles: Steffi Graf (1994 & '96), Kim Clijsters (2005) and Vika Azarenka (2016).

Bethanie Mattek-Sands recently pulled off the "Double" in doubles in 2016, winning both titles with different partners (IW: CoCo Vandeweghe, MIA: Lucie Safarova).
Last year's singles runner-up is out, as well. #2 Caroline Wozniacki dropped her second straight match (that's the first time that's happened since last May - Madrid/Stuttgart) in a late night encounter with Monica Puig. It was a thrilling performance from the Puerto Rican, who came back after dropping the 1st set at love, but it was one that was vastly overshadowed by crass (at best) and inexcusable behavior from an overly pro-Puig crowd, as well as a dereliction of duty when it came to policing it from the chair umpire (Marija Cicak) and tournament security.

Wozniacki blasted the situation after the match...

So far, 2017 singles champ Johanna Konta (who knows a bit about being treated badly and being verbally accosted on a tennis court) is still alive and kicking.

Hopefully, she won't have to take the bridge...

Speaking of the aforementioned Vika, her first appearance in Miami since her title run two years ago could become very interesting very quickly. In the draw as a wild card, she's reached the Round of 16 after handling CiCi Bellis 3 & love, outlasting Madison Keys (up 7-6/2-0 when Keys retired with a leg injury) and Anastasija Sevastova (in three sets). Rather than a match-up with Simona Halep and a shot at her fourth career #1 win (here's a good factoid: all three of her previous wins were over Serena), it'll be an 18th career meeting with Aga Radwanska. Azarenka is 12-5, but lost the last two vs. the Pole in 2014.

Azarenka is a three-time Miami champ, having also won the crown in 2009 and '11.
Not to bury the lede but, yes, Halep once again found her way to the Cliffs of Simona (Miami version) on Saturday.

With this tournament the site of last year's "Miami Ultimatum," when coach Darren Cahill briefly left the Halep team after a particularly "uncompetitive" outing vs. eventual champ Konta. Still working her way back from her various foot/ankle injuries, a tight Halep struggled to get past Oceane Dodin in her first match, ultimately winning a 7-5 3rd. Acknowledging the "tension" she felt, she said she won because she "didn't give up."

Of course, that didn't prevent another puzzling bout with Inner Simona after taking the 1st set from Radwanska, resulting in a poor 2nd. After breaking Aga to start the 3rd, after things went back on serve, the two played fairly evenly until Radwanska managed a late break and served out the match for her first #1 win in six years.

Halep, now 19-3 on the season in singles, *is* still alive in doubles with fellow Swarmette Irina-Camelia Begu.
Meanwhile, finally back in action in Miami was Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Given a wild card in singles -- she reached the Round of 16 in '17, defeating Katerina Siniakova, Elina Svitolina and Anastasia Sevastova -- BMS fell in her opening match to Alize Cornet, her first outing since that horrific injury last summer at Wimbledon. In doubles, with Lucie Safarova still out (but nearly back, as she announced this week), Mattek & Julia Goerges lost in the 1st Round to Halep & Begu, 7-6/7-6.

She also celebrated her 33rd birthday this week.
NOTE: No, Tennis Channel, you don't need to come back ten minutes later and "inform" viewers that Tracy Austin was talking about Jelena Jankovic when she answered a trivia question from Brett Haber with a simple "JJ." If someone was watching TC, I suspect they already knew. If not, don't worry about... they won't likely be back, anyway. That's one of the problems with tennis on U.S. television -- they think *all* their viewers have never viewed the sport before and just happened to stumble unto the telecast (on Tennis Channel? Please.) while switching channels between marches on Washington and the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
So, with the North American hard court season over for some, thoughts turn to the clay. Neither of France's top two ranked women are going in with a head of steam.

Caroline Garcia notched just four games vs. qualifier Alison Riske in her opening match in Miami, after having gotten just two off Angelique Kerber in the Round of 16 in Indian Wells. A year ago, the Pastry went 41-15 from this point forward until the close of the '17 season, including a 15-3 run after the U.S. Open to reach the Top 10. So far, she's 9-7 in '18.

Kristina Mladenovic lost her opening match, as well, falling in three sets to Petra Martic. She and Timea Babos lost a 3rd set TB to Barty/Vandeweghe in their first doubles match. Barely hanging onto her Top 20 ranking, Mladenovic is apparently now dealing with an injury, too.

On the ITF circuit, Slovenia's Dalila Jakupovic swept the titles at the week's biggest event, a $60K challenger in Canberra. The 26-year old defeated 17-year old Aussie Destanee Aiava 6-4/6-4 in the singles final to claim her biggest title (she was RU to Aryna Sabalenka at the WTA 125 Series event in Mumbai last fall), and joined forces with another Aussie, Priscilla Hon, to take the doubles with a 10-7 3rd set TB over Miyu Kato & Makota Ninomiya.

Meanwhile, the latest Grade 1 junior event is set to crown a champion on Sunday. The final at the Perin Memorial in Croatia will be contested between Denmark's Clara Tauson and Ukraine's Viktoria Dema. Both will be seeking her maiden G1 title.

Girls #25 Tauson, 15, is coming off an appearance in the final of the Porto Alegre Grade A tournament in Brazil, where she lost to Canada's Leylah Annie Fernandez. #44 Dema, 17, was an Eddie Herr semifinalist in December, and will be playing in her first career G1 singles final. She defeated #1-seeded Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) in three sets in the semifinals.

UPDATE: Tauson won 6-1/6-2

And in Florida (or, in this case, Louisiana), you get an extra one...

In the Cajun Classic wheelchair event in Baton Rouge, Diede de Groot is playing in Sunday's final with a chance to displace Yui Kamiji as the WC #1.



[First Week Through Saturday]

1. Miami 2nd Rd. - Monica Puig def. Caroline Wozniacki
Puig (currently ranked #82) has recaptured a few whiffs of her Rio magic in her adopted "hometown" of Miami, though her fans there need to act a little less like a stirred-up mob at a Trump campaign rally, and the tournament organizers/security personnel a little less like a GOP House member willing to sit back and watch things burn rather than be confrontational in a "do your job" sort of way. Or something like that. Of note, this is the Rio Gold medalist's first Top 10 win since she defeated Kerber in the Olympic final (she'd also defeated then-#4 Muguruza en route to the medal stand in '16).

2. Miami Q1 - Tereza Martincova def. Sara Errani
Lost in the shuffle of the early stages of the week was what quite possibly will go down as the *biggest* squandered lead of the season, as Errani led Martincova 5-0, Ad-up in the 3rd. The MP ball was called out, but overruled by the umpire. The rest, as they way, was history.

3. Miami 2nd Rd. - Bernarda Pera def. Lara Arruabarrena
Of course, Pera was almost bound and determined to match (or exceed) Errani's "feat." The Bannerette, who made a LL run to the 3rd Round in Melbourne earlier this year, led Arruabarrena 7-5/5-0, and was up 15/40 on the Spaniard's serve. She held four MP in that game, only to eventually see the set go back on serve at 5-4. Finally, on her tenth MP, Pera put the match away and secured her first-ever spot in the Top 100 in the next rankings.
4. Miami 2nd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Oceane Dodin
Speaking of LL, that's what Dodin was in this match. She led Halep 3-1 in the 3rd, causing the Romanian to break a racket and (in this match, but only temporarily for the event) find her form again. My question is this: should a player who *retires* in the final round of qualifying, as the Pastry did, even have been eligible to be a MD lucky loser in the first place, considering she effectively *withdrew* from the tournament by retiring after just one set vs. Alison Riske rather than playing out that match? Personally, I don't think so.

5. Miami 2nd Rd. - Sonya Kenin def. Dasha Kasatkina
After multi-monumental runs in recent weeks, even Robo-Dasha couldn't hold off the inevitable forever.

6. Miami Q1 - Andrea Petkovic def. Sabine Lisicki
...6-4/3-6/3-1 ret.
Meeting in the *first round of qualifying* were countrywomen who've reached, respectively, three slam QF and a SF, and a final, a semi and three quarters. Fortunes change. Lisicki retired with a foot injury. Petko qualified, then lost in the 2nd Round to Gavrilova.
7. Miami 1st Rd. - Johanna Larsson def. Katerina Siniakova
3:00, and a spectator collapsed in the heat.
8. Miami 2nd Rd. - Christina McHale def. Barbora Strycova
Heading into Miami, McHale had fallen all the way down to #91 with three straight losses, a 2-8 record this season, and a 2-10 mark dating back to October. She last finished outside the Top 100 in 2010. Before this victory, McHale had managed a 1st Round win over Kaia Kanepi when the Estonian retired four games into their match. She fell to Garbine Muguruza on Saturday night, but it was still a productive week for the New Jersey native.
9. Miami Q2 - Rebecca Peterson def. Genie Bouchard 6-4/6-3
Miami 1st Round - Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina def. Genie Bouchard/Sloane Stephens 4-6/6-4 [10-6]
it was another short week for Bouchard, who has her Premier Mandatory points haul from her Madrid QF from last spring looming ahead on the schedule. Still the highest-ranked Canadian (#110 in the live rankings on Saturday), she's holding onto a 82-point lead over #127-ranked countrywoman Franckie Abanda.
10. Miami 2nd Rd. - Carina Witthoeft def. Julia Goerges
Witthoeft had lost 18 consecutive vs. Top 20 players, as her win over her countrywoman (#13) gives her the biggest win of her career (and improves her mark to 2-18 vs. Top 20). Goerges led 5-2 in the 1st and served for the set twice.
11. Miami 2nd Rd. - Danielle Collins def. CoCo Vandeweghe
Two Bannerettes going in opposite directions at the moment.
12. $15 Heraklion Final - Emilie Francati/Maria Jespersen def. Emily Appleton/Mia Eklund
...7-5/4-6 [10-8].
The all-Dane doubles combo proved unbeatable in Heraklion. It's the ninth career win for 20-year old Francati, while 26-year old Jespersen, playing in her first pro event in four years after attending the University of Copenhagen, picks up her maiden title. Jespersen qualified in singles and posted a MD win. In her last pro event, a $10K in Copenhagen in August 2014, Jespersen reached the doubles final... with Francati, naturally.

Dubs champs!????????? #FILA #matchymatchy

A post shared by Emilie Francati (@emiliefrancati) on

HM- Miami 2nd Rd. - Viktoria Azarenka def. Madison Keys
...7-6(5)/2-0 ret.
Keys is 5-6 since last year's U.S. Open, with four of those wins coming in Melbourne. Keys' fellow Flushing Meadows finalist, Sloane Stephens, notched a 3rd Round win Saturday night over a retiring Monica Niculescu to give *her* five total wins since the Open, as well.


[First Week Through Saturday]
Sometimes body language tells the story all on its own...

2. Miami 2nd Rd. - VENUS WILLIAMS def. Natalia Vikhlyantseva
Seeking her fourth title in Miami, but first since 2001, Williams had to fight back from deficits of 5-2 (and 2 SP, before breaking the Russian in an 18-minute game for a 6-5 lead) in the 1st, then 4-2 in the 2nd. Venus went 20-1 in her first four appearances in Miami between 1998-01. This win made her 42-13 since.

3. Miami 3rd Rd. - AGA RADWANSKA def. Simona Halep
Since Melbourne, nearly every win has been a struggle for Halep, and nearly every loss a trial. Aga can relate, as she's endured many a frustration while dropping from a perennial Top 10 player to outside the TOP THIRTY in recent weeks. Whether or not she can re-scale the rankings mountain, this is a (recently more and more) rare highlight for the Pole. It's her 49th career Top 10 win, and her first over a reigning world #1 since 2012 (Wozniacki).

4. Miami 2nd Rd. - Elina Svitolina def. NAOMI OSAKA

5. Miami 1st Rd. - Aliaksandra Sasnovich def. KRISTYNA PLISKOVA 1-6/7-6(5)/7-5
Miami 3rd Rd. - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. HSIEH SU-WEI 6-4/1-6/7-6(4)
a tale of two Czech sisters. Kristyna twice served for the match vs. Sasnovich, only to see the Belarusian rally from 5-3 down in both the 2nd and 3rd sets for the win. Later in the week, Karolina nearly squandered a 5-2 lead in the 3rd vs. Hsieh, failing to put away six MP before finally succeeding on lucky #7.

**2018 #1 WINS**
Australian Open Final - #2 Caroline Wozniacki d. #1 Halep
Saint Petersburg QF - #23 Dasha Kasatkina d. #1 Wozniacki
Doha SF - #21 Petra Kvitova d. #1 Wozniacki
Indian Wells SF - #44 Naomi Osaka d. #1 Halep
Miami 3rd Rd. - #32 Aga Radwanska d. #1 Halep

SF - Vitkoria Kuzmova, SVK (Budapest)
3rd Rd. - Bernarda Pera, USA (Australian Open)
2nd Rd. - Wang Qiang, CHN (Dubai)

And, finally... hmmm, I'm not sure if this sort of thing would be considered by most to be a warning about becoming a tennis star, or a reason for some to become one.

All for now.


Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Clara Tauson won 61 62 over Victoria Dema from Ukraine in the grade 1 tournament in Croatia. She's now secure to take part in all junior slams as she's closing in on a TOP 15 place in the rankings. Next she plays FED cup for Denmark in April.

Sun Mar 25, 08:04:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Leif, You have been promoting Tauson for the last year. I am finally getting on board. She shows promise.

Even with Serena lite showing up, Osaka showed some real good signs. When Serena got a should be winner back, Osaka was in correct position, then hit a winner on the next shot.

Only 3 of 8 IW QF are left.

Puig/Collins is the only unseeded R16 match.

Been enjoying Naomi Cavaday's work during Miami, so some(not so) fun facts from the woman who almost beat Hingis at Wimbledon. One of her few Top 100 wins was against #88 Kerber-Auckland 2007. In RR Fed Cup play the same year, she lost to three players that are still relevant-Minella, Larsson, and Radwanska.

Initally retired in 2010, she made a comeback in 2014-15 and lost her last 9 matches. In fact, her last 55 tournaments were either ITF or WTA qualies.

Stat of the Week-11-The number of years running in which the highest ranked American has had the last name Williams.

Since we are still at Miami, in which the last name Williams has won 11 times, Might as well take a look at the highest ranked one the last 11 years. Which of these is not like the other?


Stephens won a slam and still couldn't topple the dynamic duo. And this year is a question mark. Venus has Wimbledon and YEC final points to defend, but can Stephens, Keys or Vandeweghe do enough to overtake her? Don't say Collins, even with the solid last 2 weeks. Should be interesting to see if this streak holds up for another year.

Quiz Time!
Who is the last American to be the highest ranked at the end of the season before the Williams' current streak?

A.Meghan Shaughnessy
B.Jennifer Capriati
C.Lindsay Davenport
D.Monica Seles

Interlude-Federer is skipping the clay season. Before the online comments, I assumed Sharapova would be back for Stuttgart. But the post makes me feel that the coaching change was about an extended break, not about a change in tactics. She may out for the clay season too.

Well, you are probably thinking that this was a trick question, as I have 3 former #1's and Shaughnessy. It isn't. After the Seles and Capriati runs, Davenport was the year end #1 in 2005. However, 2006 is the year in question, one that both Venus and Serena were injured. The USA actually did not anybody in the Top 20, as the Top 2 were Shaughnessy at 37, and the highest one in(C) Davenport at 25.

Sun Mar 25, 07:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, got that quiz right. I *was* wondering if you were trying to pull something, though. ;)

And that 2006 season was the one in which Davenport missed many months with a back injury, too.

Sun Mar 25, 08:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Hi Colt welcome onboard. Clara is now #14 on the juniors rankings a fragrance from #13 so exciting player to follow.
By the way I've just been accredited to "The battle of champions" in Copenhagen on 30th of April between Caroline wozniacki and Venus Williams. Sold out arena with 12000 spectators. One of the matches will be Clara Tauson against another junior. Never been accredited for anything before - ehm - what does it mean and what is expected from me. Anyone knows?

Mon Mar 26, 10:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

It means you have access:)

Should be fun!

Regarding the R16 matchups, it is all about the letter P. Puig, Pliskova, and Petra. They are the ones that have stood out, although Williams/Bertens may have been the most interesting match, and there have been many.

Will also go on record-even if she loses tonight, Kvitova will be #1 near the end of the year. She has that look, and only about 1000 pts to defend from now until Wuhan. And if you are thinking that Halep has an insurmountable 5000 pt lead, she has about 4500 to defend in the same time frame.

Mon Mar 26, 10:41:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

If Azarenka wins her next match, she will be in the Top 100 for the first time in a year. The winner of the Sunshine Double in 2016, she was 17 heading into IW last season, and 48 in Miami. Skipping both, she was 317 after those points came off.

Tue Mar 27, 10:17:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

hi todd, looking back at your prediction, you actually got 5 right out of the 8 quarterfinalists. nice picks. actually got it right that sloane would win over muguruza and kerber too. quite surprised with how easy she won. thought they would be much more difficult to beat.

anyway, i was very impressed with svitolina's win against osaka, thought osaka played very well but svitolina just so solid in defense and played with good angles. good serves too.

very happy that vika got this far, she looks super happy to be able to play.

Wed Mar 28, 03:29:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yes, Sloane seems to be totally out of her funk. And the Muguruza/Kerber wins came after she was maybe a little "fortunate" that Niculescu wasn't able to finish that three-setter vs. Stephens in the 4th. Now we'll see if she can beat Vika in *both* IW and Miami. Vika's looking like she *could* win this whole thing if she can get past Stephens, which I wouldn't have thought two weeks ago, even though we knew all she was missing was match play. Of course, she's going to need be able to close out sets better than, say, she did the 1st vs. Pliskova.

I had 5 of 8 QF but, of course, I harp on that I lost my champion pick in the 3rd Round. Or that I originally had a SF that included Stephens along with Venus & Svitolina, who are also both still alive for the final four... but that I switched Svitolina to Kasatkina. I think that aggravation is why I'm not picking *every* week this season.

It's been a great "getting back on the horse" event for Ostapenko, too. Actually, it'll be an exciting result for whichever player wins the Alona/Elina match-up. This is only their second meeting. Ostapenko won at Wimbledon last year.

Wed Mar 28, 12:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, and MJF *is* back on ESPN in Miami. Not sure if this is a good development, a bad development, or simply the answer to the question, "Is she ever going to return?"

Wed Mar 28, 01:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Ostapenko said, after the 4th round, that she was tired at the beginning of the season, and “not in the matches.” I like her candor. She doesn’t appear tired anymore, so everyone should beware!

Wed Mar 28, 05:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Some quick musings on the Final 4.

Azarenka is going for her first title since Miami in 2016. Statistically, more likely she plays Ostapenko if she makes it. Why? Because Collins has never reached a slam final. 21 of Azarenka's last 22 finals were against a slam finalist. Goerges is the one.

If Collins makes it, statistically Stephens. Obviously this would be her first WTA final, but of the ITF ones(4-4), 7 of 8 have been against another American.

Stephens has 5 titles, and has never lost a final.

Ostapenko has reached 5 finals(2-3). Both Stephens and Ostapenko have reached their 5 finals in the last 3 years.

Wed Mar 28, 10:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I think it was Colt who documented in the first week or two of the season all the crisscrossing across various continents that Ostapenko did back in December/January, so I guess she was fortunate to have even been able to be around .500 in the opening stretch of the season. With all these young players hitting form at the start of the spring, it could be a crazy-competitive next few months.

Wow, Collins is looking really good. At an event of this size, if she goes at least one more round (and it's *already* been quite remarkable, esp. when combined with IW) you'd have to really think hard to come up with a more unexpected result from a player with so little *tour*-level success. She's making Osaka's run in the desert look almost "predictable" in comparison.

Wed Mar 28, 11:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

this tournament is turning out the unexpected... no top 5 players in last 4. but again, fitting to have 3 grand slam winners. i think sloane is playing really well, but it would be amazing if vika or collins to win, what a story that may be.

Thu Mar 29, 12:16:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Also, this is the first semifinal of the season for all four players. Well, TOUR-level, as Collins has won a WTA 125 title.

2013 AO SF - Azarenka 6-1/6-4 (led 6-1/4-2; served 5-3 and 5 MP, break after 12:00, then double medical timeout)
2014 AO 4r - Azarenka 6-3/6-2
2015 AO 1r - Azarenka 6-3/6-2
2018 Indian Wells 3r - Stephens 6-1/7-5
2018 Miami SF - ?

Thu Mar 29, 01:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Nicolas Willy said...

Nice run from Collins, but i think she doesn't have the game for something beyond this run. Her technique is fragile.

Sloane is playing some good tennis at the net, adding a little bit of an extra agression to her game.

Thu Mar 29, 12:02:00 PM EDT  

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