Tuesday, April 03, 2018

1Q BSA's: Hello From the Other Side

Every new WTA season brings with it a period of uncertainty. As it spreads out over the opening months of the calendar, we wonder whether it will it rise, or possibly fall? Will it fastforward us to the future, or trap us in the mire of what once was, or might have been?

Well, 2018's opening quarter greeted us with...

* - a 15-year old becoming a sudden star while winning main draw matches at a major
* - meanwhile, a Romanian dragged her body through two full weeks of a grand slam, fighting tooth, nail and injured ankle with every ounce of energy she had until she quite literally had no more... and was essentially carried off on her proverbial shield THIS close to winning the final battle, clearing the way for the celebration of...
* - a maiden slam winner being crowned over seven years after she first rose to the #1 ranking


* - Angie and Petra were welcomed back to where they once belonged
* - so were the Czech Maidens (ooh... did you hear the collective groan from, well, pretty much *every* other nation?)
* - Serena came back. And Vika, too.
* - the NextGen stars flexed their new muscles, winning big titles (or coming close) and soothing any lingering doubts about whether the future is in good (and exciting) hands
* - speaking of the "Future"... yeah, *she* came back, too

At the end of the first three months of the season...

* - fifteen different players have already been ranked in the top 10 through fourteen weeks
* - the Top 20 includes three Bannerettes NOT named Williams (but one that still is), as well as a Belgian not named Kim or Justine
* - there is just one Russian in the Top 20 (and she's not named Maria or Sveta), but there are *two* Latvians
* - and while Latvian Thunder herself didn't rumble as loudly as she's able, she surely appears to be revving up for something big

And we're just gettin' started.

2018. You had us at hello.

1. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...though she's gone just 6-4 since rallying in Melbourne from 5-1 and two MP down in the 3rd set en route to winning the Australian Open, the Dane pretty much *has* to end the 1st Quarter keeping the "Ms.Backspin" throne warm. Her long-awaited maiden slam title run, not to mention a (brief) return to the #1 ranking after a record-breaking stint (312 weeks) out of the top spot, affords her that, at least. Whether she'll be there in future updates remains to be seen..
2. Petra Kvitova, CZE
...once again stirring the imagination -- winning two straight titles, 14 consecutive matches, rejoining the Top 10, and reclaiming her spot as the Czech Maidens' top Fed Cup assassin -- SuperPetra graced us with an extended stay in the season's opening months barely a year after it all flashed before her eyes.

3. Elina Svitolina, UKR
...still seeking her slam breakthrough, the Ukrainian remains a consistent force on the "regular" tour schedule. Proving her longtime ability to, "Just win, baby," Svitolina opened the season at 9-0 and has already collected multiple singles titles in the 1Q for a second straight year, extending her seasons-with-a-title run to six in a row.

4. Simona Halep, ROU
...Halep was swept the singles and doubles at an event, proved her heart in multiple knock-down-drag-out battles, put up the best winning percentage (19-3, .864) on tour, and regained (after letting it slip away for a few weeks) the #1 ranking. Still, the "slam-less" label will continue to nip at her heels until she finally dons her cape and emphatically kicks out the teeth of her ongoing "nemesis."

5. Angelique Kerber, GER
...a season after falling from #1 to outside the Top 20, the biggest non-injury/retirement related fall for a season-ending #1 ever, Kerber has rediscovered much of her 2016 zing. Leading the tour in match wins (21), she's reached at least the QF in all six of her '18 tournaments, ended a 16-month title drought, and returned to the Top 10 in the 1st Quarter.

6. Dasha Kasatkina, RUS
...two finals, nearly ranked in the Top 10, with a #1 win and three victories over Top 3 players (five over Top 10), a never-say-die attitude and with nearly every shot in the "How-To" tennis manual at her finger tips, the Russian was often a stunning presence in the season's opening months. Once she masters the ability to finish off her week-long (or longer) works of art with a signature, big title-winning flourish she'll be the creator of too many masterpieces to hang in a single art gallery. Then, everyone will shudder.

7. Naomi Osaka, JPN
...finally finding the song to the key of her tennis life since joining forces with new coach Sascha Bajin, Osaka took the tour by storm in Latvian Thunder-like fashion in Indian Wells. The idea of learning what she was *truly* capable of was an interesting notion to ponder back in January, but who would have thought she'd start begin to turn it all into a new reality *this* quickly?


A post shared by Naomi Osaka ????? (@naomiosakatennis) on

8. Diede de Groot, NED
...Australian Open champion. New wheelchair #1. The next age is officially upon us.

9. Czech Fed Cup Team
...after a year of well-deserved rest, the *true* Maidens are back where they belong.

10. Elise Mertens, BEL
...anyone for a little "Belgian Rumble?" Showing a fearless side that was positively revaletory, Mertens followed up her successful Hobart title defense by becoming the latest first-time slam semifinalist at the Australian Open.

HM- German Fed Cup Team
...2016's FC Cinderella Dutch squad reached the semis, then was upset in the 1st Round by 2017's Cinderella group of Belarusians, who reached the final. In 2018, Germany's Cinderella "B"-team took down Belarus in the 1st Round, and could be joined by reinforcements come the semifinals stage this month. Hmmm, if things continue along this current path...


And we can't forget about...

Sloane Stephens, USA
After a brief interlude, The Future is Back.

Time to celebrate! @sloanestephens raise that ?? high! #MiamiOpen

A post shared by ?? Miami Open ?? (@miamiopen) on

1.Petra Kvitova, CZE
2.Elina Svitolina, UKR
3.Simona Halep, ROU
4.Sloane Stephens, USA
5.Danielle Collins, USA
6.Karolina Pliskova, CZE
7.Alona Ostapenko, LAT
8.Timea Babos, HUN
9.JPN Fed Cup Team
10.Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL
11.Lauren Davis, USA
12.SVK Fed Cup Team
13.Wang Yafan, CHN
14.Wang Qiang, CHN
15.PAR Fed Cup Team
HM-Anett Kontaveit, EST

1.Dasha Kasatkina, RUS
2.Naomi Osaka, JPN
3.Diede de Groot, NED (WC)
4.Elise Mertens, BEL
5.Ash Barty, AUS
6.CiCi Bellis, USA
7.Viktoria Kuzmova, SVK
8.Marta Kostyuk, UKR
9.Amanda Anisimova, USA
10.Aryna Sabalenka, BLR
11.Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
12.Sonya Kenin, USA
13.Caroline Dolehide, USA
14.Natalia Vikhlyantseva, RUS
15.Rebecca Peterson, SWE
16.Elena Rybakina, RUS
17.Anastasia Potapova, RUS
18.Anna Blinkova, RUS
19.Vera Lapko, BLR
20.Sofya Zhuk, RUS
HM-Carina Witthoeft, GER

1.Danielle Collins, USA
2.GER Fed Cup Team
3.Sachia Vickery, USA
4.Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU
5.Bernarda Pera, USA
6.Denisa Allertova, CZE
7.Luksika Kumkhum, THA
8.Kristie Ahn, USA
9.Georgina Garcia Perez/Fanny Stollar, ESP/HUN
10.POC Fed Cup Team
HM-Katie Boulter, GBR

1.Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2.Angelique Kerber, GER
3.Julia Goerges, GER
4.Venus Williams, USA
5.Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
6.Hsieh Su-wei, TPE
7.Petra Martic, CRO
8.Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
9.Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
10.Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU
HM-Aga Radwanska, POL

1.Rebecca Marino, CAN
2.Angelique Kerber, GER
3.Sara Errani, ITA
4.Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
5.Victoria Azarenka, BLR
6.CZE Fed Cup Team
7.Stefanie Voegele, SUI
8.ITA Fed Cup Team
9.Ajla Tomljanovic, AUS
10.Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
11.Mona Barthel, GER
12.Timea Bacsinszky/Vera Zvonareva, SUI/RUS
13.Vania King, USA
14.Zarina Diyas, KAZ
15.Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
16.GBR Fed Cup Team
17.Sabine Lisicki, GER
18.INA Fed Cup Team
19.Mandy Minella, LUX
20.Paula Ormaechea, ARG
HM-Serena Williams, USA

1.Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, COL
2.Liang En-shuo, TPE
3.Olga Danilovic, SRB
4.Clara Tauson, DEN
5.Naho Sato, JPN
6.Clara Burel, FRA
7.Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ITA
8.Wang Xinyu, CHN
9.Jamiee Fourlis, AUS
10.Destanee Aiava, AUS
11.Maria Lourdes Carle, ARG
12.Emiliana Arango, COL
13.Wang Xiyu, CHN
14.Leylah Annie Fernandez, CAN
15.Gabby Price, USA
16.Alexa Noel, USA
17.Katie Volynets, USA
18.Dalayna Hewitt, USA
19.Zheng Qinwen, CHN
20.Diane Parry, FRA
21.Lenka Stara, SVK
22.Maria Timofeeva, RUS
23.Fiona Crawley, USA
24.Simona Waltert, SUI
25.Ana Geller, ARG
HM- Viktoriia Dema, UKR

1.Gaby Dabrowski, CAN
2.Demi Schuurs, NED
3.Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic, HUN/FRA
4.Hsieh Su-wei/Barbora Strycova, TPE/CZE
5.Ash Barty/CoCo Vandeweghe, AUS/USA
6.Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS
7.Gaby Dabrowski/Xu Yifan, CAN/CHN
8.Alona Ostapenko, LAT
9.Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova, CZE/CZE
10.Marjolein Buis/Yui Kamiji, NED/JPN (WC)
HM-Andreja Klepac/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, SLO/ESP

1.Johanna Konta, GBR
2.BLR Fed Cup Team
3.Maria Sharapova, RUS
4.Latisha Chan/Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova, TPE/CZE
5.Genie Bouchard, CAN
6.Samantha Stosur, AUS
7.CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
8.Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, CRO
9.Elena Vesnina, RUS
10.Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
11.Garbine Muguruza, ESP
12.Madison Keys, USA
13.Dasha Gavrilova, AUS
14.Caroline Garcia, FRA
15.Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS

1.Danielle Collins, USA
2.Naomi Osaka, JPN
3.Viktoria Kuzmova, SVK
4.Sachia Vickery, USA
5.Caroline Dolehide, USA
6.Bernarda Pera, USA
7.Wang Yafan, CHN
8.Sonya Kenin, USA
9.Denisa Allertova, CZE
10.Wang Qiang, CHN
11.Jana Fett, CRO
12.Maria Sakkari, GRE
13.Sofya Zhuk, RUS
14.Natalia Vikhlyantseva, RUS
15.Richel Hogenkamp, NED
16.Oceane Dodin, FRA
17.Deborah Chiesa, ITA
18.Magda Linette, POL
19.Ankita Raina, IND
20.Jasmine Paolini, ITA

1.Andreea Amalia Rosca, ROU
2.Rebecca Marino, CAN
3.Gabriella Taylor, GBR
4.Madison Brengle, USA
5.Anna Kalinskaya/Viktoria Kuzmova, RUS/SVK
6.Nastja Kolar, SLO
7.Marta Kostyuk, UKR
8.Rebecca Sramkova, SVK
9.Dalina Jakupovic, SLO
10.Maryna Zanevska, BEL
HM-Anhelina Kalinina, UKR

=FED CUP (February)=
1.Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2.Ash Barty, AUS
3.Petra Kvitova, CZE
4.Alona Ostapenko/Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
5.Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Tatjana Maria, GER
6.Venus Williams, USA
7.Amandine Hesse/Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
8.Aryna Sabalenka, BLR
9.Sara Errani, ITA
10.Irinia-Camelia Begu, ROU

RISERS: Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR, Kurumi Nara/JPN and Jana Cepelova/SVK
SURPRISES: Deborah Chiesa/ITA, Ankita Raina/IND and Abigail Tere-Apisah/PNG
VETERANS: Johanna Konta/GBR and Beatrice Gumulya/INA
COMEBACKS: Tatjana Maria/GER and Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
FRESH FACES: Antonia Lottner/GER, Montserrat Gonzalez/PAR and Marta Kostyuk/UKR
JUNIOR STARS: Olga Danilovic/SRB and Emiliana Arango/ECU
DOUBLES: Ash Barty/Casey Dellacqua (AUS), Miyu Kato/Makoto Ninomiya (JPN) and Lesley Kerkhove/Demi Schuurs (NED)
DOWN: Lara Arruabarrena/ESP, Dasha Gavrilova/AUS & Aliaksanda Sasnovich/BLR
MOST IMPROVED: Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK and Richel Hogenkamp/NED

1. THE MONTH OF PETRA: Kvitova wins 14 straight matches, leading the Czechs back to the Fed Cup semis and claiming titles in Saint Petersburg and Doha, resurrecting the gasps of awe and possibilities of a "Petra era" first experienced during her SW19 runs in 2011 and '14.
2. THE DAY OF THE DANE: Expelling Jana Fett's name to the annals of slam "What If...?" scenarios, Caroline Wozniacki overcomes a 5-1, 40/15 deficit in the Australian Open 2nd Round, then turns the Croat's squandered lead into her personal moment of destiny, going on to defeat #1 Simona Halep in the final and finally claim her maiden slam title in Melbourne, returning to the #1 ranking after a six-year absence.
3. THE ROAD TO OSAKA: After an early career filled with promise but weighed down by inconsistency, Naomi Osaka finds her way to her maiden tour title in Indian Wells with a previously unseen level of calm while stacking up victories over the likes of Maria Sharapova, Aga Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep and Dasha Kasatkina. The youngest I.W. champ since Ana Ivanovic in 2008, and the first unseeded winner since Kim Clijsters in '05, Osaka is also the first Japanese player to reach a Premier Mandatory final, and the lowest-ranked (#44) Premier Mandatory champion.

4. BACK TO THE FUTURE SLOANE: having survived an eight-match losing streak after her U.S. Open title run last year, Sloane Stephens regains her "Future" form in Miami, handling the likes of Garbine Muguruza (3 & 4), Angelique Kerber (1 & 2), Vika Azarenka (coming back from a set and a break down) and Alona Osapenko (so, four straight slam winners, two of them reigning champs, and three former #1's). The title run finally lifts Stephens into the Top 10 for the first time, making her the third Bannerette to break the barrier in the last three seasons after what had been a 17-year drought of U.S. newcomers following the rise of the Williams Sisters.
5. RETURN OF THE KERBERNATOR: After suffering through a disappointing '17 season, Angelique Kerber heads to Sydney and saves two MP vs. Lucie Safarova in the 1st Round, then goes on to claim her first singles crown since defeating Karolina Pliskova in the '16 U.S. Open final.

6. AT LONG LAST, ONCE AGAIN, IT'S KIKI: Despite riding a 15-match losing streak, and heading an inexperienced and (mostly) inconsequential group of additional Pastries, Kristina Mladenovic has a hand in all three of France's points (including a straight sets win over Elise Mertens and yet another deciding doubles triumph) in a 3-2 Fed Cup 1st Round victory over Belgium that sends the French squad back to the semifinals.

7. SI!-MO!-NA!: one could scarcely think how Week 1 could have gone any better for Simona Halep than it did in Shenzhen. One year after the Swarmette Queen began what would turn out to be her #1-ranked season with a 2nd Round loss in Shenzhen to Katerina Siniakova, Halep opens '18 by sweeping the singles and doubles titles at that very same Shenzhen event with a three-set win in the final over the very same Siniakova, finishing off the Czech with a 3rd set bagel.
8. HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO: Ash Barty fills the Aussie Fed Cup tennis vacuum, exorcising a few Australian FC demons on home soil by having a hand in all three points in a 3-2 WG II win over Ukraine. She's now a combined 9-2 (4-1/5-1) in her FC career.
9. ELI DOES IT AGAIN, AND AGAIN: Elina Svitolina opens her season with a Week 1 title run in Brisbine, notching a pair of Top 10 wins (Jo Konta and DC Karolina Pliskova), then in February defends her Dubai title, dropping just one set and defeating Angelique Kerber (SF) and Dasha Kasatkina (F) as she improves her career record in finals to 11-2
10. WAFFLES AND VEGEMITE??: returning Down Under a year after claiming her maiden tour title in Hobart, Belgium's Elise Mertens successfully defends her singles crown, and takes the doubles, too. Then she heads to Melbourne and knocks off two seeds (Gavrilova and Svitolina) to advance to her first slam semifinal by showing a fearless streak just this side of Latvian Thunder.
HM- GOERGES GORGES ON GREATNESS: having ended '17 on a nine-match, two-title winning streak, Julia Goerges carries over her roll into '18, winning a third straight singles crown in Auckland, defeating Caroline Wozniacki for her first Top 3 win since 2012.

????5?? #teamjule

A post shared by Julia Goerges?????? (@julia.goerges) on


Respect must to paid to the one and only "¡Sombrerenko!"...

THE (NEW) QUEEN OF MEXICO?: A year after dropping no sets and just 19 games en route to the title, Lesia Tsurenko won ten of eleven sets while successfully defending her Acapulco crown. The 28-year old Ukrainian knocked off the #2 (Mladenovic) and #3 (Gavrilova) seeds, then overcame a 7-5/4-2 deficit vs. Stefanie Voegele in the final.

1. SIMONA THE WARRIOR: has a player ever given so much, or come so close, finding a way to fight and survive until the very bitter end... yet still come away with nothing tangible to show for it than Simona Halep at this year's Australian Open? While Halep's eleven-match winning streak to start the season, highlighted by her ankle-rolling-and-heart-in-throat start and eventual five-MP-saving-in-two-different-matches journey to the final in Melbourne left her in the position of being the latest hard-luck, star-crossed Fan Favorite without a slam title, her journey earned her the ultimate respect of her peers and backing of anyone who enjoys seeing a good story get the grand ending it deserves. Halep won her first event (Shenzhen) as the world #1, and only went down when the forces of seven kingdoms (plus or minus a couple of flying dragons) converged as one against her -- or at least it seemed that way -- in her first slam as the top seed. Having regained the #1 since the AO, she'll soon have another big-stage battle to fight. She should be up to it. To be continued in Paris...
2. THE FIELD(s) -- save one -- FEARS THE KASATKINA: Dasha Kasatkina saved five MP over two matches -- 2 vs. Johanna Konta in the 2nd Rd., 3 vs. Garbine Muguruza in the SF -- to reach her third career tour final in Dubai, making her the youngest '18 WTA singles finalist (at 20), and (finally) crack the Top 20 for the first time in her career, though she lost to Elina Svitolina in the final when the Ukrainian did just about everything a little better than her. In Kasatkina's next event, she was at it again, showing nearly every shot in the book and staging yet another value-your-lives run that saw a handful of top-ranked players made to look anything but when placed on the opposite side of the net from the Russian. She knocked off four straight previous slam champions in Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, and Venus Williams (in 2:48) before coming up short once more when she finally seemed to hit the wall against the consistent power of Naomi Osaka in the final (though only after having performed in the role of unofficial "tweener coach" to her eventual opponent a few weeks earlier).

Since the start of the 2017 season, Kasatkina's top-level "hit list" looks like this: #1 Kerber, #1 Wozniacki, #2 Kerber, #2 Halep, #2 Wozniacki and #3 Muguruza. Yet she's only claimed one singles title over the stretch.
3. DAWN OF THE DANIMAL? Danielle Collins' mad March dream was a bicoastal endeavor. Entering March as the #119-ranked player in the world, she utilized a wild card berth and advanced all the way to the Indian Wells Round of 16 (def. Madison Keys along the way). In Miami, she followed up by winning seven total matches while going from qualifier to semifinalist, the first such climb in the history of the tournament. The former University of Virginia star knocked off a two-time slam semifinalist (CoCo Vandeweghe), a Gold Medal winner (Monica Puig) and then childhood idol Venus Williams to reach the semis. When it was all over, Collins was nipping at the heels of a Top 50 ranking.

HM- WELCOME BACK, VIKA: two years after she pulled off the rare "Sunshine Double" by sweeping the Indian Wells and Miami titles, former #1 Victoria Azarenka finally returned to the scene this March after becoming a mother and engaging in a protracted (and ongoing) custody battle that made her a ghost on tour for the previous nine months. She notched a win in the desert, but recaptured some of her old magic in Florida. Leaner than she was even during her run at #1, Vika finally began to truly look like her old self in Miami (though with a streakiness and inability to smoothly close out opponents that eventually ended her run), putting up wins over Aga Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova before squandering a set and a break lead over eventual champ Sloane Stephens in the semifinal and appearing to physically struggle through the final set. Her month of work lifted her ranking over 100 spots and back into the Top 100, though her immediate future schedule on tour is still an open, lingering question.


1. HISTORY DENIED: In the Australian Open women's doubles final, Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina were seeking to become the seventh women's duo to finish a Career Doubles Slam, the second to pull off a Career Golden Doubles Slam (slams+Olympic Gold) and the first (Pam Shriver and Gigi Fernandez did it individually) to complete a "Super Slam" (slams+Olympic Gold+WTAF). But it wasn't meant to be. The Hordettes were outplayed by Timea Babos & and an in-form Kristina Mladenovic, who'd previously been on the wrong end of doubles history when they lost in the '14 Wimbledon final to Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci as the Italians completed *their* Career Doubles Slam. History didn't repeat itself, as the Russians fell 6-4/6-3.

💥GRAND SLAM CHAMPS 🏆#4😘❤️ #AusOpen #heretocreate 💥 📸 @cocodubreuil

A post shared by Kristina Mladenovic (@kristinamladenovic93) on

2. THE SPARE PARTS CREWS: In a first-time, last-second, pairing, the "Spare Parts Crew" of Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova proved to be better than the other regular doubles teams that made up the majority of the doubles draw in Indian Wells. The veteran pair of Hsieh, recently broken up (again) with Peng Shuai, and Strycova, a great doubles player but almost always a "fill-in/part-time" WD partner rather than half of a long-term pair, proved that two players who don't fill any sort of traditional "power" role *can* be a successful doubles combo. They took out established pairs in the desert, including the top three seeds (#2 Chan/Chan, #3 Dabrowski/Xu and #1 Makarova/Vesnina), the defending champ (Latisha Chan, who won in '17 w/ Hingis), as well as another first-time vet duo of King/Srebotnik while sweeping through their QF-SF-F matches in straight sets.
3. TWO LATVIANS ARE BETTER THAN ONE: Playing with a true "one-two" punch for the first time, Latvia seemed to have it made. As it turned out, the nation's Fed Cup squad needed *both* Alona Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova to just survive, as twice in three ties they had to join forces to win a deciding doubles match to make up for an upset loss suffered by both woman earlier in the day. Ostapenko was the first to stumble, falling to Turkey's Cagla Buyukakcay in the the first round robin tie of the week. Ostapenko & Sevastova then won the doubles 6-1/6-1 over Aksu/Ozgen to pull out the 2-1 victory. After advancing to the Promotional Playoff, it happened again. This time it was Sevastova's loss to Serbian junior Olga Danilovic in the opening PP match that forced Ostapenko into action, first with a 2 & 1 singles win over Dejana Radanovic, then (w/ Sevastova by her side) with a 1 & 2 doubles win over Danilovic/Marinkovic to secure a spot in this spring's WG II Playoffs.

1. ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS: The girls Australian Open 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 the semis. In the final, 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 her nation.

2. FROM THE HEART OF COLOMBIA: Suddenly, Colombia has a junior star. 16-year old Camila Osorio Serrano has been ripping through tournament draws all season. In 2018's first three months, during which she didn't compete in the AO, she went 29-1 (31-1 dating back to '17, with 23 in a row overall), winning four Grade 1 events and a Closed B1 South American tournament to become the first Colombian girl to ever reach the junior Top 5, and just the third Colombian junior (after boys Alejandro Falla and Juan Sebastian Gomez) to ever do it.

Campeona Asunción bowl Grande @nicomejia00 felicidades!! #vamospormasssss????

A post shared by Camila Osorio (@_camilaosorio_) on


THE LONG ROAD BACK: Canada's Rebecca Marino returned in fine form from a five-year absence brought on by depression. The 27-year old announced her intention to return last October, but saw administrative regulations delay her comeback by three months. Finally, in her first tournament of any kind since playing a tour-level event in Memphis in 2013, she hit the court in a $15K in Antalya, Turkey. Marino made her way through qualifying, ultimately winning seven matches without dropping a set, including a 6-3/6-3 win in the final over Romanian Christine Ene to claim her sixth career ITF crown, her first since 2012. A Top 40 player in 2011, Marino reached a WTA singles final that season, finished as runner-up to Magdalena Rybarikova in an event in Memphis that February. Despite seeing her winning streak end at nineteen matches, Marino has so far claimed three titles in six 2018 events.

WHEELCHAIR TENNIS' VERSION OF "MARTINA & CHRIS?": One day after they met in the AO 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'd been on opposing sides of the net, perhaps the beginning of a long period of the sort of two-headed -- Evert/Navratilova or Federer/Nadal-like -- slam dominance never before 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 the AO singles finals, Kamiji had swept all three slam finals in which she'd met de Groot, taking titles in the '17 Wimbledon doubles and U.S. singles, then the '18 AO doubles. This time, though, "Diede the Great" finally got hers, winning a 7-6(6), 6-4 match. After converting MP, de Groot ripped off her visor, threw it to the court and yelled, "Come on!"

De Groot has played in six straight slam s/d finals, and swept both titles in 2017's season-ending Masters events. Kamiji has won more slam singles titles (5) and been in more finals (9) than any other player since the 2012 retirement of WC legend Esther Vergeer, and by the end of '18 should be able to say she's won more total slam crowns, as well (with 17, she's one behind Griffioen, with Vergeer's astounding 46 atop the all-time list). She could become the first woman to complete the FULL set of eight slam s/d titles in her career with a singles win at Wimbledon. Well, unless de Groot successfully defends her title at SW19 this summer and, come 2019 (or '20) makes her OWN run at becoming the first to do it. De Groot, especially, is an exciting player to watch. She can seemingly hit any shot -- forehand or backhand -- for a winner, though her style *does* lead to quite a few errors, as well (hmmm, sounds like a thumbnail sketch description of about a third, or more, of the WTA tour, huh?). In March, de Groot finally displaced Kamiji as the #1-ranked player in the world.

So... game on.

1. Australian Open SF - Simona Halep def. Angelique Kerber
Two warriors, brought to their knees by the never-say-die competitiveness of the other. Halep served at 5-3 in the 3rd set, but Kerber saved two MP. Then it was Simona's turn, saving two Kerber MP. Nearly half an hour after she'd had a chance to finish off the match the first time around, Halep won on her fourth MP of the day to reach her third career slam final. Credited with 50 winners in the match, the Romanian admitted to being proud of herself for persevering beyond reason for what seemed to be just about the millionth time over the span of two weeks in Melbourne.

2. Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Lauren Davis
In 3:45, the third-longest AO women's match ever (tied for the most ever in total games) and the longest of the 2017 1st Quarter, Halep wins her Warrior masterpiece against a game Davis in a battle that, quite literally, was decided by a toenail. In the 2:22 3rd set, Halep faced triple MP at love/40, escaping with a combination of her own guile and Davis' toenail coming off at just about the WORST MOMENT EVER ("Atta boy!," said the ball that rolled under Ana Konjuh's feet at Wimbledon in 2016, from it's current home at the end of a dangling string in a garage outside London). On her fourth attempt to serve out the match, Halep finally prevailed. Afterward, she said, "I'm almost dead."
3. Indian Wells SF - Dasha Kasatkina def. Venus Williams
In their third three-setter in three career matches (this one went 2:48), Kasatkina physically wore down Venus (17 years her senior) beneath the nighttime sky in an instant desert classic. After dropping the 1st set, the Russian led 3-1 in the 2nd, but had to hold a key 13-minute, 22-point game for 5-3 to avoid giving Venus true hope that she could finish things off in two. Despite showing pretty much all the shots in her arsenal -- slices, solid forehands, jumping backhands, drop shots, backhand flicks down the line and into the corner -- Kasatkina found herself down 4-5 in the 3rd, and love/30 when she flubbed a shot into the net on a short ball. But rather than have her evening be defined in a negative way by the moment, she made it a foundation from which to build a winning exit strategy in the match. She won the next four points to hold, and 8/9 to close out the match. Venus contributed with back-to-back DF to break herself to give the Hordette a 6-5 lead that she didn't reliquish. In the end, Williams' 49/63 winner/UE stats didn't hold up against Kasatkina's (33/35), and the Russian's seventh break (on her 19th BP) to her own six (12 BP) proved to be just enough to get the victory.
4. 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, as she would go on to save 3 more MP vs. Garbine Muguruza in the semis and reach the final.
5. Doha Final - Petra Kvitova def. Garbine Muguruza
In their first meeting in a final, Kvitova staged vs. the Spaniard what was her last of many comebacks during the week. Muguruza raced to a 5-0 lead in the 1st while the Czech was trying to find her serve, as she fired at just a 48% clip (vs. 75% for Garbi) in the set. While she continuously faced danger on serve for the rest of the match, she *always* found a way to prevail. She saved BP and held for 2-1 and 3-2 leads in the 2nd, broke to go up 4-2, then saved BP again in game #7 en route to evening the match with a 6-3 set win. Kvitova improved her serve percentage to 68% in the 2nd, and out-hit Muguruza 16-4 in winners. In the 3rd, it was a similar story. The Czech saved BP for a hold for 2-2, broke Muguruza a game later, then saved BP again in game #6 on her way to finally putting the Spaniard away to pick up her second straight title.

6. Doha SF - Petra Kvitova def. Caroline Wozniacki
The Czech and the Dane tangled for 2:35, trading off attempts in the 2nd and 3rd sets to serve out the match. First, Wozniacki served up 6-3/5-4 (suffering a love break), then 6-5, in the 2nd. Kvitova won a TB to force a 3rd set, where she held from 15/30 (even w/ two DF, of the eleven she had on the day) for 4-4, broke a game later, and served for the match at 5-4. She was broken by the Dane, but then broke back a game later and finally served out the match. The win ended Wozniacki's 12-match semifinal unbeaten streak, making it the first time she failed in an attempt to reach a final since the 2016 U.S. Open vs. Kerber.
7. Indian Wells 2nd Rd. - Petra Kvitova def. Yulia Putintseva
There she goes again. Kvitova's career-record 14th straight win was a doozy. She trailed Putintseva 4-2 in the 3rd, and won despite 18 (!!) DF, 78 UE's to go along with her 66 winners, and a 3:17 running time that made it the longest non-slam match on tour this season.
8. Australian Open 4th Rd. - Angelique Kerber def. Hsieh Su-wei
Faced with an opponent in Hsieh who twisted the former #1 into a soft pretzel with her varied series of drop shots, slip-sliding forehand slices, hooks, flat change-of-direction winners down the line, angled brain-twisters, curling hand-cuffers, and, of course, her more "normal" corner-to-corner groundstrokes that served to leave her perpetually out of position for most of two full sets, Kerber was bewitched, bothered and bewildered almost to the point of being on the brink of defeat. Almost. As a tiring Hsieh hit the physical wall in the 3rd, Kerber finally hit *her* stride and pulled away.
9. Australian Open 1st Rd. - Andrea Petkovic def. Petra Kvitova
Petkovic led 4-0 in the 3rd set, and held three MP (two in a row), only to see Kvitova find a way out of the deep hole. She battled back and eventually found herself serving for the match at 6-5, but fell behind 15/40 and then double-faulted two points later as the score was knotted at 6-6. Three games later, Kvitova got the break to get a second chance to serve out the match at 8-7, only to fail to do so and drop serve yet again. Finally, down MP at 8-9, Kvitova DF'd to end the match. Ouch.
10. Fed Cup Americas I Promotional Playoff Match #2 - Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR def. Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA
Cepede Royg and Haddad Maia saw their match suspended with the Brazilian leading 4-3 in the 1st set. Hours later, after day had turned into night, Haddad took a late break lead in the 3rd, only to see VCR break back and force a deciding TB (with a rule change, the long, drawn out final sets in FC play are now history because, you know, who wants drama?). The Paraguayan held triple MP at 6-3, only to see Haddad save all three and hold three MP of her own. The Brazilian DF'd on #3 up 9-8, leading to VCR finally securing the win and clinching the tie victory on MP #4 to take the breaker 11-9, ending a match that lasted 3:20 between the lines, but much longer when you factor in the rain delay. Naturally, somehow the ITF saw fit to nominate Haddad for the Americas Zone Fed Cup Heart Award, not Cepede Royg, though the Brazilian was out-voted for the honor by... Montserrat Gonzalez, VCR's teammate. Some things boggle the mind.

11. Fed Cup 1st Round Match #5 - Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Tatjana Maria (GER) def. Aryna Sabalenka/Lidsiya Marozava (BLR)
With both of Germany's singles players (Maria and Antonia Lottner) going 1-1, the doubles duo of Groenefeld & Maria were called upon to finish off the sole visiting team upset in either of WG I or II's opening '18 weekend. Maria, playing in her first FC tie since 2011, and ALG, present in
her twenty-first tie for Germany since 2004, engaged in a pitched battle with the Belarusians with a semifinal berth on the line, saving a BP in the final game and finally clinching the tie (and maybe the return of Kerber & Co. in April?) on their fourth MP.

12. Miami 3rd Rd. - Venus Williams def. Kiki Bertens
Venus survives a wild one in 2:56. She led Bertens 5-0 in the 1st, holding two SP, only to shockingly see the Dutch woman win seven consecutive games to steal the set. Williams went up 2-0 in the 2nd, but Bertens surged again and led by a break before Venus bounced back to knot the match. In the 3rd, it was Bertens who grabbed a big lead, going up 4-1 and holding three MP -- two at 5-3, 40/15 and another a game later -- before being felled down the stretch by a steadier Venus and, most frustratingly, forearm cramping that got so bad that at one point she couldn't even hold onto her racket, seeing it fly across the court when swinging at a Williams serve.

Indian Wells 1st Rd. - Serena Williams def. Zarina Diyas
Sorry, Zarina. It had to be *someone* who drew the short straw. Of course, Serena Williams, back after a 404-day absence -- which included motherhood, a(nother) brush with death, and a wedding -- will take a bit of time to round into shape. But her Indian Wells wins over Zarina Diyas and Kiki Bertens did little to dissuade anyone from the notion that it's just a matter of *when* and not *if* it will happen during the 2018 season. A serving of strawberries, cream and slam #24 would surprise no one. If not then, maybe she'll take another bit out of the Big Apple.

Indian Wells 3rd Rd. - Venus Williams def. Serena Williams
Seventeen years after the controversial semifinal walkover, the Sisters finally meet in Indian Wells in the 29th edition of their historic on-court series. Though by the end of the summer it might be a different story once Serena has a few months under her belt, it should have hardly come as a surprise that Venus would prevail over her little sister for the first time in nearly four years (Montreal '14) at this point in Serena's comeback. Of course, Serena *did* manage to delay the "inevitable" a little bit, as Venus failed to serve things out at 5-2 (w/ a MP), stringing together a Serena passing shot/Venus missed sitter/DF stretch to drop serve, then had to stave off another BP in the 5-4 game before finally closing things out.

So you can say you knew her when...
Fed Cup World Group II Match #4 - Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK def. Anastasia Potapova/RUS
Kuzmova may very well be the future of SVK Fed Cup, but after losing 4 & 2 to Natalia Vikhlyantseva in Match #1, then falling down a set vs. 16-year old Potapova in Match #4, things weren't looking particularly good for the 19-year old in her debut FC singles weekend. But she pulled her big game together and staged a comeback against Russian Captain Myskina's "substitute Anastasia," making her first FC victory a truly historic one, ending her nation's winless history vs. the Hordettes with an epic forehand put-away.

1. Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Caroline Wozniacki def. Jana Fett
The escape that made her eventual maiden slam title run possible. Early on, 2014 AO girls finalist Fett (in just her second career slam MD match) controlled the flow and direction of the match, dictating play with her power, and serving big while Wozniacki was seemingly forgetting about her new, more forward, aggressive style of play. The Dane's 2nd set moment of truth presented her with the chance to show that *could* diagnose her difficulties and change course. In the aftermath of dropping the 1st, she began to move forward and take balls earlier, knotting the match. But rather than go away herself, Fett stood up. Not holding back, she regained control of the match in the 3rd. Hitting and serving big, she pressured the once-again-off-message Wozniacki into more producing more errors. The frustrated Dane's fifth double-fault of the match broke her own serve and she was down 5-1. Fett took a 40/15 lead on serve and held double match point. And then she finally started to show her nerves. Fett continued to go for big first serves, but started missing them. Her deep groundstrokes started landing shorter in the court, and Wozniacki began to take advantage, allowing her experience advantage to take hold. With the Croat starting to resemble the big stage newcomer she was, Wozniacki knew what she needed to do: hit the ball deep in the court to prevent Fett's power from bailing her out of a rally, and try to never fire a ball outside the lines. Luckily for Wozniacki, she's always been expert at both. Refusing to miss, Wozniacki saw the match come right back to her, and served out the win to produce a result that turned out to be THE biggest of the entire women's competition.

2. Dubai SF - Dasha Kasatkina def. Garbine Muguruza
After going 3:00 (and saving 2 MP) vs. Johanna Konta earlier in the week, 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. Sydney 1st Rd. - Angelique Kerber def. Lucie Safarova
As was the case with her career-transforming Australian Open title run in '16, Kerber's appearance in Sydney was almost over before it'd hardly even begun. With the ghost of Misaki Doi surely floating by, the German scratched out tangible evidence of her turnaround after a forgettable '17 campaign, surviving two rain stoppages, going a set and a break down, and saving two MP in the tie-break vs. the Czech in her opening match, then going on to win the title.

4. Miami SF - Sloane Stephens def. Victoria Azarenka
After losing her first three meetings with Azarenka from 2013-15, Stephens achieved a "Sunshine Sweep" of Vika in their two matches in Indian Wells and Miami. In the second, in what would prove to be a calling card of her title run, Stephens got off to a slow start but then was not to be denied once she got her teeth into the match. Azarenka led 6-3/2-0, and had managed to fight her way back to GP after falling behind love/40 on serve at 2-2. But Stephens held on to get the break in the 12-minute game, and went on to win ten straight games, coasting to the finish and preventing Vika from getting the chance to play for her fourth Miami title.
5. Taipei City 1st Rd. - Sabine Lisicki def. Zhang Yuxuan
Sure, it was #246 vs. #360, but it was Lisicki's first match back from her latest injury (knee), and she had to battle back from 5-1 down, and double MP, in the 3rd set to get the win en route to what turned out to be a season-opening semifinal result.
6. Acapulco 2nd Rd. - Sloane Stephens def. Arantxa Rus
One round after polishing off her winning touch with her first win (after going 0-8) since her U.S. Open triumph, Stephens had to prove that she still wanted it enough to fight for it. She did, overcoming Rus serving for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd, then saving a MP down 6-5 in the TB. Come the 1st of April, Stephens was the Miami champ and ranked in the Top 10 for the first time. Her March run may not have been possible without this confidence-building February victory.
7. Acapulco Final - Lesia Tsurenko def. Stefanie Voegele
Having won sixteen straight sets (and led 5-0 when her opponent retired in another) over a two-year span in Acapulco, Tsurenko dropped the opening set in the '18 final vs. first-time tour finalist Voegele, and trailed 7-5/4-2. She broke the Swiss and served for the 2nd set at 5-4, only to see her opponent get back on serve and eventually get within three points of the title. But the Ukrainian took a 7-2 2nd set TB, then took a 3-1 lead in the 3rd. Again, Voegele broke to get back on serve in game #5, but Tsurenko turned it on late to successful defend her title.
8. Fed Cup 1st Round Match #2 - CoCo Vandeweghe/USA def. Richel Hogenkamp/NED
Hogenkamp had Vandeweghe, seeking her thirteenth consecutive FC win in her first outing since her early loss in Melbourne, on the ropes. After blowing a 4-2 lead in the 1st with a bushel of DF, Vandeweghe fell behind 6-4/2-0, leading to, well, you know.

The deficit increased to 3-1 before she turned things around. After failing to serve out the 2nd at 5-4, she won the TB 8-6 with a match-leveling ace, and then finally found her form in the 3rd. Still, the Belgian out-pointed her 111-110 in the match. But it's just another experience in Vandeweghe's long and winding FC journey, which now includes having the Williams Sisters cheer her on from the sidelines. "I was a junior hitter, a bench partner and then a player. I've worked my way up and to have them behind you, it gives you goosebumps," she said.
9. Australian Open 4th Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro def Anett Kontaveit
Seeded for the first time (#32) at a major, Kontaveit showed why she's a player to watch, only to falter when things mattered the most. With her maiden slam QF within reach, she led 6-4/4-1, with a double-break advantage, only to see the aggression she'd used to take the lead wane and her error total climb as CSN reeled off five straight games to even the match. Kontaveit managed to carve out another opportunity in the 3rd, breaking the Spaniard for 5-4 and serving for the match. But, again, she played a bad game as Suarez-Navarro mostly simply played steady shots (that one-handed backhand is always reliable and a joy to watch) and allowed her to err. CSN got the break, backed it up with a love hold for 6-5, then forced Kontaveit to hold to stay alive again two games later. Finally, a long Kontaveit forehand on CSN's third MP completed the comeback, sending her to her sixth career slam QF.
10. Australian Open Q1 - Caroline Dolehide def. Conny Perrin
Perrin led 5-0 and 6-2 in the deciding TB, only to see 19-year old Dolehide save five MP and record her first career slam match win.
11. 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 we see two original members of the Italian Quartet come back from MP down to win in the same week. 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. In Budapest, 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 the other, falling to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the 1st Round.
12. Miami QF - Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova def. Angel Chan/Latisha Chan
...2-6/6-4 [13-11].
Joining forces after the end of world #1 Latisha's partnership with Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova, the sisters went just 3-2 in Indian Wells and Miami. In the desert, they lost a 10-7 3rd set TB in the 2nd Round to eventual champions Hsieh/Strycova. In Florida, they lost an 8-2 lead in another 3rd set TB, failing to convert any of four MP, before losing 13-11 to Krejcikova/Siniakova.

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.

1. Indian Wells 3rd Rd. - Amanda Anisimova def. Petra Kvitova
The recipe for eliminating a Petra with a 14-match head of steam included, other than (understandable) fatigue on the Czech's side of the net, a big-hitting 16-year old wild card thoroughly enjoying her first experiences on a big stage. Anisimova failed to serve out the match at 5-3 in the 2nd, but then broke Kvitova to close the door, becoming the first 16-year old to reach the Round of 16 in the desert since 2005.


A post shared by Amanda (@amandaanisimova) on

2t. Germany def. Belarus 3-2 [at Minsk, BLR]
...the "year after" is quite different, isn't it? The Dutch were Fed Cup's Cinderella story in 2016, until they were upset in the 1st Round in 2017 by the "new" Cinderellas, the Belarusians. BLR managed to go one step further than NED, reaching the final. Playing at home for a fourth straight tie, the Belarusians were the decided favorites weekend against a German "B" team that didn't include the likes of Angelique Kerber, Julia Goerges, Andrea Petkovic or Sabine Lisicki. So, done and done, right? Ha. You're forgetting that this is Fed Cup. As it turned out, Germany had other ideas about the whole thing, as new Captain Jens Gerlach must have cut some sort of deal with the Tennis Gods.

Fed Cup 1st Rd. Match #2 - Antonia Lottner/GER def. Aliaksandra Sasnovich/BLR 7-5/6-4
what Sasnovich did to so many top players a season ago while leading a Cinderella Belarus squad to the '17 final, FC debutante Lottner did to *her* in Minsk in the Belarusian's '18 FC opener. Sasnovich never returned on the weekend, and Belarus was never quite the same, no matter how hard Aryna Sabalenka tried to right the squad's course by shear force of will. Germany won the deciding doubles, as the nation's "B"-team completed the biggest upset of this year's FC 1st Round, defeating Belarus 3-2.
3. Indian Wells 2nd Rd. - Sachia Vickery def. Garbine Muguruza
In Vickery's first event as a Top 100 player, she got the biggest win of her career, becoming the second straight Muguruza opponent to come from behind to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against the Spaniard. In Dubai, Muguruza twice held a break lead vs. Dasha Kasatkina in the 2nd set and had three MP in the TB, only to lose it 13-11 and then "wander off" while the Russian ran away with the 3rd. Against Vickery, she led by a set and 3-0, and had six points for a 4-0 lead, but she failed to convert any, and saw Vickery storm back and level the match. Back-to-back DF in game #4 of the 3rd handed Vickery a 3-1 lead, and she never looked back. Muguruza, as per usual, seemed, umm, something less than interested in Sam Sumyk's coaching advice during a changeover visit late in the match. For all intents and purpose, it was already over.

4. Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Bernarda Pera def. Johanna Konta
Still trying to find some sort of consistent run of results since her career-altering final four run in front of a home British crowd at Wimbledon last year, Konta never really had things in order against the "lucky loser." Pera edged ahead in key moments of both of the match's two sets. At 4-4 in the 1st, she went up love/40 on Konta's serve, got the break and then served out a 6-4 set. After getting the break for a 4-3 lead in the 2nd, she held serve and then had three MP chances on Konta's serve. The Brit managed to extend the match with a hold, but Pera finally served out the biggest win of her career on MP #5, becoming the first LL to reach the 3rd Round in Melbourne since 1997.
5. Miami QF - Danielle Collins def. Venus Williams
Collins' mad March dream not only carried over on the opposite coast from her Round of 16 result in Indian Wells, but it actually got even better as the two-time NCAA champ won seven total matches while going from qualifier to semifinalist, the first such climb in the history of the tournament. The former University of Virginia star knocked off Irina-Camelia Begu, CoCo Vandeweghe, Donna Vekic, Monica Puig and then childhood idol Venus Williams (!!) in the QF.

Respect to a tennis legend. #MiamiOpen

A post shared by ?? Miami Open ?? (@miamiopen) on

6. Indian Wells 1st Rd. - Naomi Osaka def. Maria Sharapova
One of the key advances necessary for Osaka's career to take an upturn was always her ability to be more consistent, which is surely tied into her not allowing negativity to slip into her thought process. Whether it's because of the presence of new coach Sasha Bajin or Osaka's own maturation process, or some combination of the two, there certainly seems to be something different about her these days, and it was quickly apparent in her first step toward what turned out to be a title run in Indian Wells. Her quick leads in both sets over Sharapova were impressive, but what was even more so was how she held on and claimed both after the Russian had twice leveled things at 4-4. Even Osaka noted how in the past she'd likely had been unable to halt either slide.
7. Saint Petersburg 2nd Rd. - Elena Rybakina def. Caroline Garcia
The Garcia 2.0 that we saw in the closing weeks of 2017 wasn't in evidence here, as the Pasty twice led by a set and a break, failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the 2nd, couldn't convert a MP and dropped a TB she led 3-0 and 4-1 as the #450-ranked Russian teen forced a 3rd set and won it in another TB to notch her first career Top 10 win.

8. Fed Cup WG II Match #4 - Deborah Chiesa/ITA def. Lara Arruabarrena/ESP
This tie seemed destined to go to the deciding doubles, but then Chiesa earned her Italian Fed Cup merit badge, closing out this 2:28 match to move the Italians -- amazingly, yet again, even with something of a skeletal team -- within one victorious April tie of returning to the World Group in 2019.
9. Australian Open Q1 - Marta Kostyuk def. Arina Rodionova 4-6/6-3/6-3
Australian Open 1st Rd. - Marta Kostyuk def. Peng Shuai 6-2/6-2
Kostyuk's AO ride began with a Q-round victory over veteran Aussie Rodionova, who got *her* first career slam MD wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, only to fall in her hometown to the 15-year old, who'd gotten a Q-round WC due to winning the '17 AO Girls title. After winning two more three-setters to reach the MD (becoming the first player born in 2002 to do so), Kostyuk knocked off a seed (#25 Peng) and advanced all the way to the Round of 16 (the youngest there since 1996), where she lost to countrywoman Elina Svitolina.
10. Fed Cup Europe/Africa I Pool A Round Robin Match #2 - Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR def. Alona Ostapenko/LAT
No matter what happened by the end of the weekend, as Latvia scrambled to win a Promotional Playoff and advance to the WG Playoffs, the most significant result in Tallinn was this one. Buyukakcay has racked up a series of "first player from Turkey to..." honors the last couple of seasons, though her results have somewhat leveled off over the last year or so. That changed when she opened up round robin play with a 6-2/3-6/6-3 win over the reigning Roland Garris champ, recording the first Top 10 win of her career.
11. Acapulco 1st Rd. - Renata Zarazua def. Kristyna Pliskova 6-3/6-4.
Acapulco 1st Rd. - Ana Sofia Sanchez/Renata Zarazua def. Kristyna Pliskova/Stefanie Voegele 4-6/6-4 [10-8]
the 20-year old Mexican (#253) notches her first WTA MD win and her maiden career Top 100 victory over Pliskova in front of a home crowd, then returned later in the day (w/ Ana Sofia Sanchez) and, not showing much hospitality, beat her in doubles, too. "...and don't come back, either."

12. Fed Cup World Group II - Marta Kostyuk/UKR def. Dasha Gavrilova/AUS
Gavrilova's "favorite" surface is grass. 15-year old Kostyuk (the '17 AO Jr. champ) admitted her leeriness of it during the week. Yet, in her FC debut, the Ukrainian, fresh off a breakout AO performance and ITF title run in Australia, hit double the number of winners (20-10) as Dasha, adding yet another wonderful experience to Australian memory wall.
HM- Miami 1st Rd. - Naomi Osaka def. Serena Williams
I.W. champ Osaka, just days after winning in the desert, was called upon to cross the continent and face none other than Serena Williams in Miami. With both players experiencing totally foreign circumstance, no one knew what to expect. As it turned out, Osaka managed 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 in a rather unfortunate, far-too-early encounter.

Of course, sometimes body language tells the story all on its own...


When the TRUE Fed Cup Heart Award "winner" upset the player who would somehow win the ACTUAL Fed Cup Heart Award...

Fed Cup Asia/Oceania I Pool A Round Robin Match #2 - Ankita Raina/IND def. Yulia Putintseva/KAZ
Fed Cup is often shunted aside and ignored, but for the vast majority of the players involved on all levels of the competition it provides some of the most memorable moments of their entire tennis lives. Raina's win over Putintseva was such a moment, as she notched the biggest win over her career in her nation's longest-ever FC match (2:53), in front of a home crowd that included her mother.

More than a month later, Raina has maintained her feel-good Fed Cup momentum...

And, finally, at long last, we celebrated the curtain dropping on a nightmarish midnight movie after a run that was, at various turns, mean-spirited, ignorant, interminable and, quite frankly, *always* totally unnecessary...

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Azarenka got 3 Top 20 wins in Miami, the same amount Sharapova has in the last year. Both of them need to thank Sevastova, who lost to Azarenka once, and Sharapova twice.

Azarenka's ranking is still in the danger zone. High enough to get into the French, but unlikely that she plays. With Mallorca and Wimbledon points off, she would be around 140, which will make it a struggle to get into most US events.

No quibbles with the list, although my order would go as such.


Just like with the year end list, the fact that someone like Svitolina can have multiple titles and not be listed shows how good this year has been.

Wed Apr 04, 12:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, all things being equal, I tend to agree with Kvitova at #1. But, as I noted, while her overall might not be the "best," I put Wozniacki there because she *did* win the only slam and returned to #1 (for a while), so I thought she'd at least earned the right to "keep the throne warm" at the first check point of '18. From here forward in the "Ms.B" race the playing field will be fully level, though.. ;)

Wed Apr 04, 03:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I'm thinking of opening a betting tent on Daniel Island. People laugh at my "crazy" predictions, and I've been right every time. This morning, I called Goerges in straight sets and got some eyerolls, but here we are, 7-6, 6-3. I actually think Julia is the one most likely to win the tournament (which I said before it began, what with Siegemund just coming back after a year). But Sevastova and Garcia are also possibilities.

Thu Apr 05, 01:03:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

"Welcome to the crazy women's tennis tour." ;)

Thu Apr 05, 03:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...


Thu Apr 05, 03:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

You can't pick on Myskina anymore. In a curious bit of timing, Igor Andreev is the new Fed Cup captain.

Fed Cup rosters should be up next week.

Sat Apr 07, 02:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

What an out-of-the blue pick. Thanks for posting--I was wondering who it would be.

Sat Apr 07, 02:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And the mustache looks for a new host... ;)

Would have been fun had it been Safina (or Safin... or both?).

I saw talk of the roster being Vesnina, Makarova, Pavlyuchenkova and maybe Potapova vs. Latvia. Of course, the *Latvian* roster is going to be *very* important. Assume you-know-who #1 and #2, but you never know, I guess.

It's probably best for Myskina to go out now than to have the team lose yet again and fall into zone play for the first time in 21 years *totally* on her watch. It's too bad things played out the way they did. She was such a good FC *player*, and stepped into a bad situation as captain after all the controversy a few years ago. But, really, her gameday decisions sometimes were enough to make MJF's head spin. She *did* have Russia in the '15 final, but her roster then sort of built itself since everyone was getting Rio eligible.

Sat Apr 07, 06:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Canadian FC roster for Montreal (vs. UKR) announced: Andreescu, Abanda, Dabrowski... and Bouchard.

Oh, no.

It'll be real interesting to see where Bouchard is placed in the pecking order, because her history (recently in FC, and especially on Canadian soil) says she should probably be no better than a bench player in the tie, though she's still (technically) the top-ranked player on the roster. Who wants to make a bet she plays #1 singles? That could be a fatal mistake for Team Canada's chances.

Sun Apr 08, 02:35:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

It depends on matchups, but Abanda/Bouchard should start, Dabrowski for doubles, and Andreescu on 2nd day.

In a perfect world, they would be facing Svitolina/Tsurenko, with Kostyuk/Bondarenko the backups. Kozlova is injured, Tsurenko gave w/o in singles and doubles this week, so Kichenok x2, and Yastremska should be on the short list.

Re Russia-Assuming Pavs is out, have no clue if there is a favorite of Andreev. So Vesnina, Makarova, Potapova, Blinkova seems like the choices going on previous matchups, though Vikhlantseva would be an inspired choice.

Sun Apr 08, 03:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

One of the sneaky fun things about Fed Cup: trying to first-guess (then second-guess, if necessary) the captain's roster building skills and gameday "gut instincts."

Sun Apr 08, 03:39:00 PM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home