Sunday, April 01, 2018

Wk.13- Back to the Future Sloane

Miami + Future Sloane = a winning sequel

Yes, "Future Sloane" Stephens looks to be back. Finally. It took a while for the reigning U.S. Open champ to escape the shadow of her potential-confirming major title run last summer at Flushing Meadows, as her "long-awaited" return to form became a reality over the two weeks in the friendly confines of her native Florida. Not that a slump in the immediate wake of such a career-changing result is an anomaly. Truth is, it's become an unfortunate, but somewhat expected, development. So much so that when Alona Ostapenko won Roland Garros last year, then put up a QF result at Wimbledon a little over a month later, it was hailed as an impressive feat nearly equal to (or seemingly so) her title run.

Stephens' post-NYC drought, though, got a bit extreme. She didn't win another match last season after winning the Open, going 0-6 in the 4Q without even claiming a single set in WTA play, then losing a pair of three-setters in the Fed Cup final versus Belarus, single handedly putting in jeopardy the goals of what had previously been an amazingly smooth transition under the stewardship of new captain Kathy Rinaldi (ultimately, CoCo Vandeweghe came to the rescue to win the title). The streak extended to eight matches in January, as Stephens won just three games in her '18 debut in Sydney, then was dumped out in the 1st Round (though at least she won a set) by Zhang Shuai at the Australian Open. After putting in so much work to get back from early '17 foot surgery, then building one success upon another last summer as she climbed from a ranking outside the Top 900 to inside the Top 15 after winning the U.S. Open, much of the fight -- or maybe the know-how and want-to when it came to taking the chances necessary to win -- had disappeared from the Stephens game. It was something that we'd seen before, before she missed so much time due to injury and after she'd gotten close to great success in 2013 but couldn't gather the forces (many of the mental) necessary to take the next step, falling into the #30's after climbing as high as #11. At one point, Chris Evert openly wondered whether Stephens was no longer giving her all because of fear: the thought of giving it everything she had and *still* not reaching her career goals was simply too devastating to contemplate, so she held back, freezing up when the moment was at its biggest. Despite having reached a slam semifinal in '13, mid-way through the '15 season she'd still never reached a tour singles final, having lost six straight semifinals.

Just as she'd finally started to get over that "hump," securing her first four titles in less than the span of a year from 2015-16, she lost the majority of last season with the foot. She did television and lived the life of a non-active player. It could have made her realize that she didn't need tennis, or it could have made her hungry to regain what she'd lost. After her slowly-building-then-suddenly-exploding comeback last summer, Stephens found herself in another "how-much-do-you-want-it?" position. As the winless weeks had turned into months, the notion had began to creep into the equation that maybe, just maybe, Sloane was "satisfied" with her one slam and wasn't sure she wanted to do what was necessary to make last summer a foundation for the *rest* of her career rather than a solitary, though spectacular, moment in time.

But she *did* want more, and she *was* willing to go about working her way back to where she was nearly six months earlier.

In Acapulco, Stephens notched her first win in months, taking down Pauline Parmentier hard (LOL), 6-4/6-0. A round later, she battled back to defeat Arantxa Rus, who'd served for the match in the 2nd set and held a MP. Sloane saved it and then bageled the Dutch woman in the 3rd. She lost a round later, but she'd gotten the "scent" back, and soon she was on a familar path yet again. She won just one match in Indian Wells, but it was a thorough defeat of Victoria Azarenka, who'd owned her in Australia for three years running from 2013-15, taking a trio of dominant straight sets victories in Melbourne. A loss to the streaking Dasha Kasatkina ended Stephens' run in the desert, but the defeat of Rus and her spell-breaking win over Azarenka *felt* like they'd turned the tide.

And, lo and behold, they had.

After a win in the Miami 2nd Round over Ajla Tomljanovic, Stephens found herself in a few sticky situations along the way, but her ability to hold her ground, remain confident, and use her quickness to play good defense with a few opportunistic offensive flourishes thrown in for good measure, allowed her to seize control of matches in which she'd looked to be on wobbly ground after slow starts. Her near three-hours of taking on the tricky game of Monica Niculescu proved to be Sloane's proving ground. She ultimately won that one when the Romanian retired in the 3rd set, but after being close to being out the door she was all that much stronger for it the rest of the way. During her losing streak, she'd likely have lost that one. But not now. She'd worked to hard to make that so.

Stephens handled Garbine Muguruza (3 & 4, for her fifth career Top 5 win, and her biggest win since her Toronto run last summer, when she was ranked #934), Angelique Kerber (1 & 2), Azarenka once again (coming back from a set and a break down) and Ostapenko (so, four straight slam winners, two of them reigning champs, and three former #1's) to become the last women's champion in the long Key Biscayne era of the Miami Open, as the tournament moves to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens in 2019.

The title run finally lifts Stephens into the Top 10 (#9) 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. In taking her biggest career title outside of the U.S. Open, she improved to 6-0 in tour singles finals. With her wins in this tournament, Stephens is now 12-2 in her last last fourteen WTA SF/F matches after having been been plagued by those first six SF defeats (from 2012-15) before reaching and winning her first final in Washington in 2015.

Years ago, the promising talent that Stephens showed on the court led to the notion around these parts of a "Future Sloane" that symbolized what was possible, and the "Current Sloane" that simply wasn't yet up to taking on and completing such a Herculean task. It was quite a battle between "the two Sloanes." For the "good" Sloane to win out it took the slow process of learning how to win, then the long process of coming back from a serious injury, ultimately culminating in a slam title that proved those "Future" notions to have been accurate. After another brief interlude, Stephens is now back where she left off in New York... in position to utilize all her experiences to formulate a career that may just reach many of the potential long-term heights that seemed within her grasp a few years ago.

If she's truly ready, willing and able, the Future may not only be now... it could be unlimited.

MIAMI, FLORIDA USA (Prem.Mandatory/Hard Outdoor)
S: Sloane Stephens/USA def. Alona Ostapenko/LAT 7-6(5)/6-1
D: Ash Barty/CoCo Vandeweghe (AUS/USA) def. Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova (CZE/CZE) 6-2/6-1

...With Stephens less than 350 points behind #8 Venus Williams, the possibility of someone not named Williams being the top-ranked Bannerette at the end of the season is a legitimate possibility. Sloane, while she had many points to defend late in the summer, has none to back up until 3Q hard courts. Venus has a Rome QF, RG 4th Round and Wimbledon final still counting toward her ranking between now and then, and then a U.S. Open SF and WTAF runner-up result after that. As Colt pointed out this week in the Backspin comments section, either Venus or Serena has been the highest ranked U.S. woman at the close of every season since 2007. The last not named Williams to be top-ranked was Lindsay Davenport (#25) in '06, when the sisters were injured and finished at #48 and #95, respectively.

Championship mood.

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RISERS: Alona Ostapenko/LAT and Diede de Groot/NED
...after crisscrossing continents in the weeks leading up to and into January, Ostapenko placed her own back against the wall to start off 2018. She's finally admitted to being tired during the stretch, something which showed in her results. She wasn't necessarily "off," just not quite "all there." With her season finally starting to settle, the 20 year old's new teaming with coach David Taylor, and her attempts to remain more "calm" during matches, began to bear fruit in south Florida. Though she'd managed to (at least) cobble together a 7-8 record, Doha doubles title, some big Fed Cup wins (she was a Fed Cup Heart nominee) and two victories in Melbourne while operating on something *less* than a full tank of energy, nothing compared to the rumbles of the old Latvian Thunder that we saw and heard in Miami. Yes, she was still streaky, and her second serve begs opponents to attack it like an Achilles heel, but she won five matches over the course of the two weeks, including a pair of Top 10 victories (over Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina, the former in a match that lasted until around 1 a.m. and the latter in a pair of TB sets), good wins over Timea Babos and Beatriz Haddad, and the sort of momentum-stopped defeating of the surprising Danielle Collins that one should expect from a reigning slam champ and Top 5 player as Ostapenko advanced to her biggest final other than last spring's Paris run. After dropping the opening set TB vs. Stephens in their first career meeting in the final, Ostapenko fell off significantly in the 2nd en route to a 7-6(5)/6-1 loss. Still, despite such a disappointing effort, her attempts to remain calm and positive on court could even be seen during the trophy ceremony, as she maintained a good attitude even while watching her opponent (with whom she played doubles earlier this year in Sydney) celebrated. She was amusingly less amused under such circumstances earlier in her career. I guess pocketing a RG title will do that for ya, huh?

Meanwhile, last weekend "Diede the Great" lived up to the destiny (at least one of the first aspect of it), as the 21-year old reigning Wimbledon, Australian Open and Masters champ finally rose to #1 in the wheelchair rankings for the first time with her sweep of the singles and doubles titles at the Cajun Classic in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. De Groot didn't have to face (now) #2 Yui Kamiji in the event, though, defeating China's Zhu Zhenzhen in the final to win her eleventh straight singles match.

After losing eleven of her first thirteen meetings against the Japanese star, de Groot has defeated Kamiji in their last three match-ups, including in the AO final in January.

SURPRISES: Danielle Collins/USA and Wang YafanCHN
...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 (from a set down), Monica Puig (from a set down) and then childhood idol Venus Williams 2 & 3 (!!) in the QF. In the semis, she held a SP against Alona Ostapenko in the 1st, but after failing to put it away saw the Latvian take the TB to win the set and go on to overpower her in a straight sets victory. After being ranked #119 at the start of the "Sunshine" stretch of the schedule, then jumping to #93 after Indian Wells, Collins will leap all the way to #53 on Monday. She's 17-3 overall (including a title run in a WTA 125 event in January) since losing in AO qualifying, and 28-6 since November.

After countrywoman Wang Qiang put together a Round of 16 run in Indian Wells, Wang Yafan did the same (only as a qualifier) in Miami. The 23-year old posted wins over Duan Yingying and Franckie Abanda in the Q-rounds, but truly hit her stride in the main draw, taking out Marketa Vondrousova in a 3rd set TB, upsetting an ill Carla Suarez-Navarro, defeating Alison Riske in another deciding TB (after struggling to close her out, twice serving for the match and failing to secure a handful of MP) before pushing Angelique Kerber in a three-set loss, taking the 1st via another TB before being unable to put away still another TB in the 2nd before the German pulled away in the 3rd set. She'll break into the Top 100 for the first time on Monday, rising twenty-eight spots to #97.

VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA and Angelique Kerber/GER search of her fourth Miami title, Williams came up three wins short. But that doesn't mean she didn't put in all sorts of work getting even that close. Fresh off her semifinal run in Indian Wells, Venus notched three match wins in Miami (giving her 64 stretched over 22 years), but had to stage comebacks in each and every one. Against Russian qualifier Natalia Vikhlyantseva in the 2nd Round, Williams erased 5-2 (1st set, w/ 2 SP) and 4-2 (2nd) deficits to win in straights, then followed up by saving three MP vs. Kiki Bertens to win in three sets, then take out down defending champ Johanna Konta after once again dropping the 1st set. She was ultimately upset by the playing-yet-another-match-of-her-life qualifier Danielle Collins, but still again proved that age (now 37, with 38 just around the corner in June) is but a number and that while the new generation of WTA stars are flexing their muscles more and more, the previous generation (actually, more like the one *before* that) is still a threat to contend for every big title on the schedule.

After a season of discontent in 2017, Kerber has maintained her early season '18 consistency even while not having reached a final since her Week 2 title run in Sydney. After posting six QF-or-better results last season, she's advanced that far in all six of her tournaments this year, winning at least three matches in five events, with her Miami final eight result being her latest effort. Wins over Johanna Larsson, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (ending her three match losing streak vs. the Hordette) and Wang Yafan (in three tight sets) pushes her season record in WTA events to 21-5 through the first thirteen weeks (not counting her Hopman results). Excluding her 1-1 Fed Cup record last April, it took her until Madrid (May) to play so many matches last year, and Wimbledon to reach the same win total. 9-19 vs. the Top 50 a year ago, she's already 14-5 in 2018.
COMEBACKS: Victoria Azarenka/BLR and Monica Puig/PUR
...two years ago, when Azarenka pulled off the rare "Sunshine Double" by sweeping the Indian Wells and Miami titles, the former #1 was back up to #5 in the rankings. A whole lot has happened since then, not the least of which (but not the most, either) was Vika becoming a mother. But *this* March, which began with Azarenka returning to the tour after a nine-month, "custody battle-mandated" absence that brought her to Indian Wells as a #204-ranked wild card, ended on the hopeful note that the Belarusian's 93-spot jump in the rankings on Monday will have her back inside the Top 100 at #93, combined with the hope that a custody agreement may finally allow her to soon fully rejoin the tour.

After winning just one match before falling to Sloane Stephens in the desert, Azarenka, quite possibly fitter than she was even during her run at #1, finally began to truly look like her old self in Miami. Yes, her streakiness and inability to smoothly close out opponents when she's holding a big lead will continue to be a benchmarks that will need to be surpassed as she picks up more and more matches during her latest comeback bid, but it's also true that up until Stephens seized control of their semifinal match this week, which Vika had led 6-3/2-0, Azarenka actually looked more than capable of winning her fourth Miami Open title in just her second event back. While advancing to the semis after allowing just three games to CiCi Bellis, outlasting an injured (and retiring) Madison Keys, defeating Anastasija Sevastova in three sets, then Aga Radwanska 2 & 2 and Karolina Pliskova in straights, Vika had an 11-match (three-year) winning streak in the tournament. Rather than dwell on the ten-game losing skid that doomed her effort vs. Stephens, it's best to focus on that.

Still, Azarenka's path remains the most mysterious of any of the one-time "Big 3" of the WTA tour. The successful return of Serena Williams has felt destined to occur since it was announced it was a coming attraction, and Maria Sharapova eventually finding consistency (and health) is still a notion that can't be summarily extinguished no matter how difficult things have been for the Russian of late. But the trials and tribulations of Azarenka have left her still-unsure fate dangling for quite a while. At the end of the "Sunshine" swing, though, things look as optimistic as they have in quite some time. Though, as always, it's best not to assume anything when it comes to Azarenka's immediate future, as even after her Miami run she was unable to say when her next tournament would be, though she hopes a ruling *will* soon come that will allow her to travel freely, and not force her to have to decide to play ITF events in North America in lieu of a WTA schedule if she wants to play *at all*. "I don't think I'm going to go back to ITF level, with all due respect. I have done that before," she said. "I'm keeping my hopes up. I just don't want to talk too much, because my words are always used against me."

In truth, not much brain power has been spent thinking about what might happen on tour should *Azarenka* regain her foothold, largely because it's been too difficult a thing to invest anything in while knowing so little about what her future truly holds. Miami showed us that an in-form and reinvigorated Vika could prove to be quite a bit story indeed. On the court. Meanwhile, the interminable wait for the mess *off* it to be cleaned up continues.

Puig didn't reach the latter stages of her "hometown" event, becoming the 4th Round victim of Danielle Collins (in a three-setter) in Miami, but her reclaiming of at least a bit of her old Rio Olympic mojo was one of the big stories of the first week of the event. In between wins over Sam Stosur and Maria Sakkari, the Puerto Rican took down Caroline Wozniacki in a night match unfortunately most remembered for the poor behavior of a partisan crowd. Still, the win over the world #2 was Puig's biggest -- and first over a Top 10 player -- since she defeated Angelique Kerber in the Gold Medal Match in the summer of 2016.
...on the heels of great breakout performances from young countrywomen Amanda Anisimova, Caroline Dolehide, Sachia Vickery and Danielle Collins in Indian Wells, 19-year old Kenin took her turn in Miami. Entering the event having just recently risen into the Top 100, Kenin made her way through qualifying and then backed up her MD appearance by posting wins over Stefanie Voegele and the previously streaking Dasha Kasatkina. In the 3rd Round, she took Petra Kvitova to three sets before finally going out. She's up to another career high (#85) in the new rankings.

DOWN: Johanna Konta/GBR
...Elina Svitolina was a potential listing here, as the #4-ranked Ukrainian has now allowed two more Premier Mandatory events to go by without not only picking up her biggest career title, but also not advancing to a final (her 2015 SF in Beijing remains her best "big event" result), so that item on her '18 "To-Do List" remains unchecked. After defeating Naomi Osaka, Dasha Gavrilova (after losing the 1st set) and taking out Ash Barty in straights (after being down 4-1 in the 1st) in the Round of 16, she dropped a pair of tie-breaks to Ostapenko in the QF. That that is *still* her best career result during the IW/Miami swing kept her from making an appearance. Although, it is worth noting that the #5-ranked Latvian is now just 19 points behind her in the singles rankings (and would have passed her by had she won the Miami final).

So, instead, the nod goes to Konta, the defending Miami champ who was knocked out in the 4th Round by Venus Williams, winning just three total games in the 2nd and 3rd sets after having taken the 1st vs. the veteran. Her two wins *do* lift her over .500 in WTA matches (8-7, not counting her 3-0 record in FC zone play) this season, she drops eight spots to #22 in the new rankings with the loss of her championship points haul. It's the first time she's been ranked outside the Top 20 since May 2016.
ITF PLAYERS: Anna Blinkova/RUS and Andreea Amalia Rosca/ROU the $60K in Croissy-Beaubourg, France, Blinkova claimed her biggest career title. The 19-year old, who began March by winning a $60K doubles title in Zhuhai, ended it by... well, not having to play the final. After a week that saw the Hordette advance to the final with wins over Ula Radwanska (a LL), Tamara Korpatsch and Magdalena Frech, Blinkova was granted a walkover (and the title) in the championship match by Karolina Muchova, the 21-year Czech qualifier who'd been set to seek her first singles title since 2016.

In Antalya, 19-year old Rosca took over the circuit season lead with her fourth singles challenger title of the season, taking the crown without losing a set and defeating Russia's Varvara Flink 3 & 4 in the final. The Romanian, who improved to 29-3 for the season, has won a total of six ITF titles since early December. After being ranked #919 at the end of the '17 season in November, she's nearly set to break into the Top 400 for the first time. She'll be at a career high of #404 on Monday.
JUNIOR STARS: Olga Danilovic/SRB, Diane Parry/FRA and Katie Volynets/USA
...rain pushed back the final stages of last weekend's $25K challenger in Pula, Italy into early days of this past week. When the red clay dust had (dried and) settled, 17-year old Danilovic (the #9 Jr.) had picked up her third career ITF crown and posted wins over Patty Schnyder (SF) and Federica Di Sarra (F). As it turned out, it was just the first component of a great week for the Serb, who also picked up her first Fed Cup Heart Award honor for her debut FC performance in February (3-0 in singles), when she very nearly led the Bracelettes out of zone play.

Danilovic was honored for her FC performance along with Kiki Mladenovic (my FC PoW for the opening '18 weekend), Monterrat Gonzalez (I'd had Veronica Cepede Royg as Paraguay's MVP, but since the award isn't necessarly "results"-based it's not a *bad* win... though considering VCR defeated Beatriz Haddad in an epic FC encounter to clinch a win over Brazil in the Promotional Playoff, perhaps *she* should have been the member of the Paraguayan team going up against the also-nominated Haddad in the voting) and Yulia Putintseva. Ah, and THAT's the one I take issue with.

Granted, the FC Heart Award was chosen via online voting (why that took place more than a month *after* the performances is another thing), and the honoree's squad actually advancing isn't a prerequisite for being nominated, but I still can't condone Putintseva being honored over more deserving players from the same Asia/Oceania zone in which she performed. The Kazakh had a good week overall, but was an A/O I nominee over India's Ankita Raina (who had possibly her career week, which included a win *over* Putintseva) and as the winner over fellow nominee Kurumi Nara, despite the Japanese player leading Japan to a zone win finished off by a victory in the Promotional Playoff over Kazakhstan in a tie in which Putintseva was part of the losing doubles duo in the deciding match. Nara should have been a easy victor in the head-to-head voting, as Putintseva's main reason for inclusion, based on the FC site write-up was that she played SO MANY matches. Seems like a faulty reason for such an honor to me, for what it's worth.

At the Trofeo Juan Carlos Ferrero event in Spain, 15-year old French Pastry Diane Parry claimed her first career Grade 1 title. Parry, the #10 seed and #52-ranked girl, was coming off having lost to Belarus' Viktoriya Kanapatskaya in a Grade 2 final in Benicarlo last week. After upsetting #2-seeded Paula Arias Manjon in the QF, Parry took down #7-seed Kanapatskaya in a 6-0/6-2 final. The Belarusian had been riding a nine-match winning streak and was looking to win her third G1 title in three career G1 events (she won the doubles in both of her previous outings). Parry is being coached by former French player Julie Coin.

At Indian Wells, 16-year old Volynets won the Grade B1 (Closed) Easter Bowl championship's 18s title. The #15 seed, she defeated fellow Bannerette Alexa Noel (#1 seed) in a three set final that saw Noel take the 1st, then Volynets admirably hold on in a long, six-deuce game up 5-3 in the 2nd, saving multiple BP to secure the set on her fourth SP. While Volynets had remained positive during the game and saw it pay off, Noel went the opposite way in the 3rd. Armed with a big serve but rarely utilizing it, Noel often showed poor footwork and sported a relentlessly negative disposition as she quickly fell behind 2-0 and saw the set slipping away. She even went off the rails emotionally for a moment, double-faulting to fall behind 4-1, then arguing the call and saying, "cheat, cheat, cheat," garnering a code violation from the umpire. If there's a "Cliffs of Noel" in the desert, needless to say, she found the most dangerous spot and took a dive over the edge. For Volynets, it's her biggest career title, and a well-earned honor after having lost early to big-name players in big events in recent outings, including Coco Gauff (U.S. Open QF), Whitney Osuigwe (Pan American Chsp. QF), Clara Tauson (Orange Bowl 1st Rd.) and Clara Burel (Eddie Herr 1st Rd.) late last season, and Camila Osorio Serrano (Asuncion Bowl QF) earlier this year.
DOUBLES: Ash Barty/CoCo Vandeweghe, AUS/USA
...with regular partner Casey Dellacqua back home in Australia, Barty teamed up with the rare "alternate" teammate and walked off with the *very* last title handed out by the Miami Open in Key Biscayne, finishing off the all-Czech pair of Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova (who'd won three 3rd set TB to get there, and saved four MP vs. the Chans in the QF) 6-2/6-1 in the WD final *after* the men's singles champion had been decided. The formidable Ash/CoCo team took out the majority of the contending duos in the draw, including #4-seeded Babos/Mladenovic (3rd set TB), King/Srebotnik and #1 Makarova/Vesnina (3rd set TB). While this was Barty's first tour-level WD final *without* Dellacqua (they're 5-7, plus 1-1 on the ITF circuit dating back to the '12 season), Vandeweghe has reached four WTA finals with four different partners, including Bethanie Mattek-Sands ('16 IW win), Martina Hingis ('16 Cincy RU) and Abigail Spears ('17 Stanford win).


1. Naomi Osaka, JPN
...technically, Stephens' month was equivalent (at least), but Osaka made the biggest splash in March
2. Sloane Stephens, USA much for that post-slam funk

3. Danielle Collins, USA
...a Round of 16 as a wild card in Indian Wells, then a semi as a qualifier in Miami. Hel-lo.

4. Dasha Kasatkina, RUS
...she seemed almost unbeatable in Indian Wells, until she finally was
5. Venus Williams, USA
...her 7-2, SF/QF IW/Miami combo were her best "Sunshine" results since, well, her QF/SF output one year ago

RISERS: Alona Ostapenko/USA, Sachia Vickery/USA and Karolina Pliskova/CZE
SURPRISES: Wang Qiang/CHN and Wang Yafan/CHN
VETERANS: Angelique Kerber/GER, Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP and Petra Martic/CRO
COMEBACKS: Vika Azarenka/BLR, Monica Puig/PUR and Serena Williams/USA
FRESH FACES: Amanda Anisimova/USA, Sonya Kenin/USA and Caroline Dolehide/USA
JUNIOR STARS: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL, Clara Tauson/DEN and Naho Sato/JPN
DOUBLES: Hsieh Su-wei/Barbora Strycova (TPE/CZE) and Ash Barty/CoCo Vandeweghe (AUS/USA)
ITF: Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK, Dalila Jakupovic/SLO and Maryna Zanevska/BEL
WHEELCHAIR: Diede de Groot/NED
DOWN: Garbine Muguruza/ESP, Maria Sharapova/RUS and Johanna Konta/GBR

1.Danielle Collins, USA
2.Naomi Osaka, JPN
3.Sachia Vickery, USA
4.Bernarda Pera, USA
5.Viktoria Kuzmova, SVK
6.Sonya Kenin, USA
7.Caroline Dolehide, USA
8.Oceane Dodin, FRA
9.Wang Yafan, CHN
10.Maria Sakkari, GRE
HM-Natalia Vikhlyantseva, RUS

[Miami Sunday-to-Sunday]
1. 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 recent weeks. What would prove to be the calling card of her title run was perhaps highlighted most fabulously here, as 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.
2. Miami 4th Rd. - Angelique Kerber def. Wang Yafan
Three months into 2018, Kerber's win here doubled her 2017 total number of wins in matches in which she lost the opening set. This was her sixth such win this season after going 3-22 last year.

3. Miami 4th Rd. - Alona Ostapenko def. Petra Kvitova 7-6(4)/6-3
Miami QF - Alona Ostapenko def. Elina Svitolina 7-6(3)/7-6(5)
Latvian Thunder's 7th and 8th career Top 10 wins, with the victory over #4 Svitolina being her 5th Top 5 win. All have come in Premier 5 or bigger events, with the previous four being over Halep ('17 RG), Svitolina ('17 Wimb.), Muguruza ('17 Wuhan) and Pliskova ('17 WTAF).

4. Miami Final - Sloane Stephens def. Alona Ostapenko
Stephens had just six winners, but she commanded the action once she grabbed control of the match by taking the opening set TB. Ostapenko's UE's nearly doubled her winner total here. Just for comparison, her stats were 54/54 in her three-set win over Halep in last year's Roland Garros final.

5. $60K Croissy-Beaubourg Final - Anna Kalinskaya/Viktoria Kuzmova def. Petra Krejsova/Jesika Maleckova
Kalinskaya & Kuzmova claim their second $60K challenger title of the season. Two weeks ago, Kuzmova defeated Kalinskaya in a $60K singles final.

6. $25K Pula Final - Mandy Minella def. Deborah Chiesa
In her fifth tournament back since having a baby, 32-year old Minella wins her first title since 2016 (when she won a $75K in Albuquerque and WTA 125 Series event in Bol), taking out Italy's surprise Fed Cup heroine from earlier this season.

7. $15K Heraklion Final - Emilie Francati/Maria Jespersen def. Michaela Boev/Ioana Gaspar
The Danes pick up their second challenger title in as many weeks.

Same thing, different day!???????? #backtobackchamps #matchymatchy ?????????

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8. $25K Kofu Final - Luksika Kumkhum def. Bianca Andreescu
Andreescu, having often played with a heavily-bandaged leg early this season, before the past week had only played three matches since the first week of February, nearly causing her to slip out of the Top 200. But the 17-year old Canadian -- the fifth-highest ranked player under 18 on the WTA computer (and third-youngest in the Top 200 behind Anisimova and Kostyuk) -- was finally back in full form this past week. She dropped just one set en route to her first final since since defeating Bernarda Pera in a $25K event exactly one year ago. Meanwhile, Kumkhum swept the singles *and* doubles titles in Kofu, finally posting a good result after failing to follow up (going just 4-3 since) her qualifying run and 3rd Round result (def. Larsson & Bencic) in Melbourne.
HM- Miami Final - Ash Barty/CoCo Vandeweghe def. Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova
Hmmm, have Hsieh & Strycova started a "non-regular partners" doubles champions trend in the big events? Non-regulars Dabrowski & Ostapenko also won the season's other high Premier event in Doha in February (though Babos/Mladenovic *did* win the AO).

[Miami Sunday-to-Sunday]
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Miami 4th Round - VENUS WILLIAMS def. Johanna Konta
Their series had been tied 3-3 before this one, with the Brit winning three straight on hard courts in 2016-17 (including in the Miami semis a year ago en route to the title). But Venus' victory is her third straight over Konta, with the wins all coming over the past year on three different surfaces (red clay, grass and hard).
4. Miami QF - Danielle Collins def. VENUS WILLIAMS
Lately, both Williams Sisters have been facing (and losing to) players who considered them their idols growing up. I guess it just goes with the territory, eventually.

Respect to a tennis legend. #MiamiOpen

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5. $15K Sharm El Sheikh Final - Mariam Bolkvadze/Barbora Stefkova def. MARIA PAULINA PEREZ/PAULA ANDREA PEREZ
The 22-year old Colombian twins fall to 3-6 in career ITF doubles finals as a pair.


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8 - Elina Svitolina [1/5/2]
5 - Petra Kvitova [2/1/2]
5 - Caroline Wozniacki [2/2/1]
5 - Simona Halep [3/1/1]
5 - Karolina Pliskova [2/3/0]
4 - Angelique Kerber [3/0/1]
4 - Caroline Garcia [2/2/0]
4 - Dominika Cibulkova [4/0/0]

**MOST WTA FINALS - 2015-18**
15 - Simona Halep (8-7)
15 - Angelique Kerber (8-7)
15 - Caroline Wozniacki (6-9)
13 - Karolina Pliskova (6-7)
11 - Elina Svitolina (9-2)
11 - Serena Williams (8-3)
10 - Petra Kvitova (8-2)
9 - Dominka Cibulkova (4-5)
8 - Aga Radwanska (6-2)
8 - Venus Williams (4-4)
8 - Kristina Mladenovic (1-7)
7 - Garbine Muguruza (4-3)
7 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (4-3)
7 - Julia Goerges (3-4)
6 - Caroline Garcia (4-2)
6 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (3-3)
6 - Madison Keys (2-4)
6 - Timea Babos (2-4)

20 - Naomi Osaka (I.Wells-W) - 20,5m
20 - Dasha Kasatkina (Dubai-L) - 20,9m,2w
20 - ALONA OSTAPENKO (MIAMI-L) - 20,9m,3w
20 - Dasha Kasatkina (I.Wells-L) - 20,10m,1w
[WTA 125]
18 - Sofya Zhuk (Newport Beach-L)

2008 [1] A.Radwanska
2009 [3] Azarenka,Wozniacki,Pennetta
2010 [3] Li,Stosur,Schiavone
2011 [2] Kvitova,Petkovic
2012 [2] Kerber,Errani
2013 [1] Kirilenko
2014 [3] Halep,Cibulkova,Bouchard
2015 [6] Makarova,Suarez-Navarro,Safarova,Muguruza,Ka.Pliskova,Bacsinszky
2016 [4] Bencic,Vinci,Keys,Konta
2017 [5] Svitolina,Ostapenko,Garcia,Mladenovic,Vandeweghe
2018 [2] Goerges,Stephens

**U.S. TOP 10ers - by debut year**
1975 Chris Evert
1975 Martina Navratilova (as Czech, later USA)
1975 Billie Jean King (also year-end #1 pre-computer rankings)
1975 Nancy Richey
1976 Rosie Casals
1977 Kathy May
1977 Kristien Shaw
1978 Tracy Austin
1980 Kathy Jordan
1980 Andrea Jaeger
1980 Pam Shriver
1981 Barbora Potter
1983 Zina Garrison
1984 Bonnie Gadusek
1984 Kathy Horvath
1984 Lisa Bonder
1986 Kathy Rinaldi
1988 Lori McNeil
1989 Stephanie Rehe
1989 Mary Joe Fernandez
1989 Monica Seles (as Yugoslav, later USA)
1990 Jennifer Capriati
1994 Lindsay Davenport
1996 Chanda Rubin
1998 Venus Williams
1999 Serena Williams
2016 Madison Keys
2017 CoCo Vandeweghe
2018 Sloane Stephens

**SELECTED CAREER TOP 5 WINS (w/ #1 wins)**
14 - Svitolina (5)
8 - Ka.Pliskova (1)
7 - Bencic (0)
6 - Kasatkina (2)
6 - Mladenovic (0)
5 - Keys (0)
5 - STEPHENS (1)
4 - Garcia (0)
4 - Puig (4)
3 - Osaka (1)
2 - Bouchard (0)

#246 Sabine Lisicki/GER (Taipei City)
#183 Stefanie Voegele/SUI (Acapulco)-RU
#152 Wang Yafan/CHN (Taipei City)
#139 Rebecca Peterson/SWE (Acapuclo)
#122 Sachia Vickery/USA (Auckland)
#121 Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK (Budapest)
#103 Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE (Auckland)
#100 Camila Giorgi/ITA (Sydney)

Doha - Petra Kvitova, CZE
Indian Wells - Naomi Osaka, JPN
Miami - Sloane Stephens, USA
Madrid - x
Rome - x
Canada - x
Cincinnati - x
Wuhan - x
Beijing - x
Doha - Dabrowski/Ostapenko, CAN/LAT
Indian Wells - Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE
Miami - Barty/Vandeweghe, AUS/USA
Madrid - x
Rome - x
Canada - x
Cincinnati - x
Wuhan - x
Beijing - x

NR - Kim Clijsters (2009 U.S. Open 4th)
#223 Peng Shuai (2016 Beijing 1st)
#143 Petra Kvitova (2008 Memphis 1st)
#140 Sonya Jeyaseelan (1999 A.Island 2nd)
#125 Barbara Schwartz (1999 RG 4th)
#119 Kateryna Bondarenko (2015 Istanbul 1st)
#115 Nathalie Dechy (1997 Toronto 1st)
#109 Olga Puchkova (2013 Florianopolis SF)
#98 Sesil Karatantcheva (2005 RG 3rd)
#96 Elena Vesnina (2016 Miami 2nd)
#95 Aga Radwanska (2006 Luxembourg 2nd)
#94 Tsvetana Pironkova (1994 Aust.Open 1st)
#94 Elena Makarova (1997 Filderstadt Q1)
#91 Magdalena Grzybowska (1997 Wimbledon 1st)
#90 Veronika Martinek (1996 A.Island 1st)

Sydney - Ash Barty, AUS (L)
Saint Petersburg - Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS (L)
Saint Petersburg - Vera Zvonareva, RUS (W)
Budapest - Fanny Stollar, HUN (W)

2...Klepac/Martinez-Sanchez, SLO/ESP (0-2)
2...Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS (0-2)

**EASTER BOWL (CLOSED) Jr.18s CHAMPIONS - since 2008**
2008 Melanie Oudin
2009 Christina McHale
2010 Krista Hardebeck
2011 Kyle McPhillips
2012 Taylor Townsend
2013 Mayo Hibi (JPN)
2014 CiCi Bellis
2015 Claire Liu
2016 Alexandra Sanford
2017 Claire Liu
2018 Katie Volynets

**2018 GRADE 1/A/SLAM JUNIOR CHAMPS - through 2Q**
Coffee Bowl G1: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Copa Barranquilla G1: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Traralgon G1: Liang En-shou/TPE
Prague G1: Maria Timofeeva/RUS
Australian Open GA: Liang En-shuo/TPE
Mundial Juvenil G1: Gabriella Price/USA
Asuncion Bowl G1: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Banana Bowl G1: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Yeltsin Cup G1: Lenka Stara/SVK
Porto Alegre GA: Leylah Annie Fernandez/CAN
Nonthaburi G1: Zheng Qinwen/CHN
Sarawak Chief Minister's Cup G1: Naho Sato/JPN
Perin Memorial G1: Clara Tauson/DEN
Trofeo JCF G1: Diane Parry/FRA
U.S. Int'l Spring Chsp G1: (April)
de Beaulieu-sur-Mer G1: (April)
Mediterranee Avenir G1: (May)
Santa Croce G1: (May)
Trofeo Bonfiglio GA: (May)
Astrid Bowl G1: (June)
Roland Garros: (June)
Offenbach G1: (June)
Allianz Kundler German Juniors G1: (June)
Roehampton G1: (July)
Wimbledon: (July)

**"QUEEN OF MEXICO" WINNERS - Acapulco/Monterrey**
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 ?
'18 NOMINEES #1: Acapulco WS (W: Tsurenko 2 con. titles, RU: Voegele)
'18 NOMINEES #2: Acapulco WD (W: Maria/Watson)

Well, so much for...


1973 Rosie Casals d. Nancy Richey 3–6, 6–1, 7–5
1974 Chris Evert d. Kerry Melville 6–1, 6–3
1975 Chris Evert d. Martina Navratilova 7–5, 6–4
1976 Chris Evert d. Kerry Reid 6–2, 6–2
1977 Chris Evert d. Billie Jean King 6–0, 6–1
1978 Chris Evert d. Kerry Reid 6–2, 6–0
1979 Tracy Austin d. Kerry Reid 7–6(3), 7–6(7)
1980 Tracy Austin d. Regina Marsikova 3–6, 6–1, 6–0
1981 Chris Evert d. Pam Shriver 6–3, 6–2
1982 Martina Navratilova d. Andrea Jaeger 6–4, 6–2
1983 Martina Navratilova d. Tracy Austin 5–7, 6–1, 6–0
1984 Chris Evert d. Claudia Kohde-Kilsch 6–2, 6–3
1985 Chris Evert d. Gabriela Sabatini 6–4, 6–0
1986 Steffi Graf d. Chris Evert 6–4, 7–5
1987 Steffi Graf d. Manuela Maleeva 6–2, 4–6, 6–3
1988 Martina Navratilova d. Gabriela Sabatini 6–1, 4–6, 6–4
1989 Steffi Graf d. Natasha Zvereva 6–1, 6–1
1990 Martina Navratilova d. Jennifer Capriati 6–2, 6–4
1991 Gabriela Sabatini d. Leila Meskhi 6–1, 6–1
1992 Gabriela Sabatini d. Conchita Martinez 6–1, 6–4
1993 Steffi Graf d. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 7–6(8), 6–1
1994 Conchita Martinez d. Natalia Zvereva 6–4, 6–0
1995 Conchita Martinez d. Magdalena Maleeva 6–1, 6–1
1996 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario d. Barbara Paulus 6–2, 2–6, 6–2
1997 Martina Hingis d. Monica Seles 3–6, 6–3, 7–6(5)
1998 Amanda Coetzer d. Irina Spirlea 6–3, 6–4
1999 Martina Hingis d. Anna Kournikova 6–4, 6–3
2000 Mary Pierce d. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6–1, 6–0
2001 Jennifer Capriati d. Martina Hingis 6–0, 4–6, 6–4
2002 Iva Majoli d. Patty Schnyder 7–6(5), 6–4
2003 Justine Henin d. Serena Williams 6–3, 6–4
2004 Venus Williams d. Conchita Martinez 2–6, 6–2, 6–1
2005 Justine Henin d. Elena Dementieva 7–5, 6–4
2006 Nadia Petrova d. Patty Schnyder 6–3, 4–6, 6–1
2007 Jelena Jankovic d. Dinara Safina 6–2, 6–2
2008 Serena Williams d. Vera Zvonareva 6–4, 3–6, 6–3
2009 Sabine Lisicki d. Caroline Wozniacki 6–2, 6–4
2010 Samantha Stosur d. Vera Zvonareva 6–0, 6–3
2011 Caroline Wozniacki d. Elena Vesnina 6–2, 6–3
2012 Serena Williams d. Lucie Safarova 6–0, 6–1
2013 Serena Williams d. Jelena Jankovic 3–6, 6–0, 6–2
2014 Andrea Petkovic d. Jana Cepelova 7–5, 6–2
2015 Angelique Kerber d. Madison Keys 6–2, 4–6, 7–5
2016 Sloane Stephens d. Elena Vesnina 7–6(4), 6–2
2017 Dasha Kasatkina d. Alona Ostapenko 6–3, 6–1
QF: Lucic-Baroni d. Rogers
QF: Ostapenko d. Wozniacki
QF: Siegemeund d. Sevastova
QF: Kasatkina d. Begu
SF: Ostapenko d. Lucic-Baroni
SF: Kasatkina d. Siegemund
F: Kasatkina d. Ostapenko
1973 Durr/Stove d. Casals/King
1974 Casals/Morozova d. Gourlay/Krantzcke
1975 Goolagong Cawley/Wade d. Casals/Morozova
1976 Kloss/Boshoff d. Kuykendall/Ziegenfuss
1977 Casals/Evert d. Durr/Wade
1978 King/Navratilova d. Guerrant/Stevens
1979 Casals/Navratilova d. Durr/Stove
1980 Jordan/A.Smith d. Reynolds/P.Smith
1981 Casals/Turnbull d. Jausovec/Shriver
1982 Navratilova/Shriver d. Russell/Ruzici
1983 Navratilova/Reynolds d. Jaeger/P.Smith
1984 Kohde-Kilsch/Mandlikova d. Hobbs/Walsh
1985 Fairbank/Shriver d. Parkhomenko/Savchenko
1986 Evert/White d. Graf/Tanvier
1987 M.Paz/Pfaff d. Garrison/McNeil
1988 McNeil/Navratilova d. Kohde-Kilsch/Sabatini
1989 Mandlikova/Navratilova d. Daniels/W.White
1990 Navratilova/Sanchez Vicario d. M.Paz/Zvereva
1991 Kohde-Kilsch/Zvereva d. Daniels/Gregory
1992 Sanchez Vicario/Zvereva d. Savchenko-Neiland/Novotna
1993 G.Fernandez/Zvereva d. Adams/Bollegraf
1994 McNeil/Sanchez Vicario d. G.Fernandez/Zvereva
1995 Arendt/Bollegraf d. G.Fernandez/Zvereva
1996 Novotna/Sanchez Vicario d. G.Fernandez/MJ.Fernandez
1997 MJ.Fernandez/Hingis d. Davenport/Novotna
1998 Martinez/Tarabini d. Raymond/Stubbs
1999 Likhovtseva/Novotna d. Schett/Schnyder
2000 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. C.Martinez/Tarabini
2001 Raymond/Stubbs d. Ruano Pascual/Suarez
2002 Raymond/Stubbs d. Fusai/Vis
2003 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. Husarova/C.Martinez
2004 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. Navratilova/Raymond
2005 C.Martinez/Ruano Pascual d. Benesova/Peschke
2006 Raymond/Stosur d. Ruano Pascual/Shaughnessy
2007 Yan Zi/Zheng Jie d. Peng Shuai/Sun Tiantian
2008 Srebotnik/Sugiyama d. Gallovits/Govortsova
2009 Mattek-Sands/Petrova d. Dekmeijere/Schnyder
2010 Huber/Petrova d. V.King/Krajicek
2011 Mirza/Vesnina d. Mattek-Sands/Shaughnessy
2012 Pavlyuchenkova/Safarova d. Medina Garrigues/Shvedova
2013 Mladenovic/Safarova d. Hlavackova/Huber
2014 Medina Garrigues/Shvedova d. Chan/Chan
2015 Hingis/Mirza d. Dellacqua/Jurak
2016 Garcia/Mladenovic d. Mattek-Sands/Safarova
2017 Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Hradecka/Siniakova
SF: Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Groenefeld/Peschke
SF: Hradecka/Siniakova d. Atawo/Ostapenko
F: Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Hradeckva/Siniakova
WS: #1 Garcia, #2 Kvitova
WD: #1 Dabrowski/Xu Yifan, #2 Mattek-Sands/Sestini-Hlavackova

...a year ago, Kasatkina defeated Ostapenko in the first all-teen tour final since 2009. Only Dasha returns, and could face fellow Indian Wells finalist (and tweener pupil) Naomi Osaka in the QF. They're both in the bottom half of the draw with Petra Kvitova and Julia Goerges. The top half is headed up by top-seeded Caroline Garcia (vs. '14 champ Petko in the 2nd Rd.?), as well as Miami champ Stephens ('16 Chas. champ) and Madison Keys ('15 RU).

2009 Marion Bartoli d. Li Na
2010 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Daniela Hantuchova
2011 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Jelena Jankovic
2012 Timea Babos d. Alexandra Cadantu
2013 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Angelique Kerber
2014 Ana Ivanovic d. Jovana Jaksic
2015 Timea Bacsinszky d. Caroline Garcia
2016 Heather Watson d. Kristen Flipkens
2017 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Angelique Kerber
QF: Kerber d. Watson
QF: Suarez-Navarro d. Cornet
QF: Garcia d. Boserup
QF: Pavlyuchenkova d. Babos
SF: Kerber d. Suarez-Navarro
SF: Pavlyuchenkova d. Garcia
F: Pavlyuchenkova d. Kerber
2009 Dechy/Santangelo d. Benesova/Strycova
2010 Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova d. Groenefeld/King
2011 Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova d. Groenefeld/King
2012 Errani/Vinci d. Date-Krumm/Zhang Shuai
2013 Babos/Date-Krumm d. Birnerova/Tanasugarn
2014 Jurak/Moulton-Levy d. Babos/Govortsova
2015 Dabrowski/Rosolska d. Rodionova/Rodionova
2016 Medina Garrigues/Parra Santonja d. Martic/M.Sanchez
2017 Hibino/Rosolska d. Jakupovic/N.Kichenok
SF: Hibino/Rosolska d. Weinhold/Whoriskey
SF: Jakupovic/N.Kichenok d. Khromacheva/Stojanovic
F: Hibino/Rosolska d. Jakupovic/N.Kichenok
WS: #1 Muguruza, #2 Rybarikova
WD: #1 Hibino/Jurak, #2 Irigoyen/Kato

...'17 champ Pavlyuchenkova (naturally) is injured and won't be able to make an attempt at Monterrey title #5. Muguruza is the #1 seed, but this event seems "below" her. If she were to reach the final it'd be her first at an International level event since 2014. Her last seven tour singles finals have come in designated Premier-5 events or higher. Of note, the 1st Round includes a match-up between Ajla Tomljanovic and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. If AKS were to get the win, it'd be her first in the MD of a tour-level event since October 2016.

Still to come: "Ms.Backspin" leaders, and 1st Quarter Highlights

And, finally, introducing the new USTA President...

April Fools!

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Like the clip of the Williams Collins handshake. Pure class.

As much as Stephens deserves credit for her improved play, how about showing some love for Kamau Murray. Their gameplans have been excellent.

The Stephens/Ostapenko final in Miami was the first since S.Williams(13' US)/Li(14' AO) in 2014 to have 2 current slam champs.

Weird thing from Charleston? Russia only has 2 women(Kasatkina/Vikhlantseva) in the draw, but 3 born there representing other countries-Gavrilova(AUS), Krunic(SRB), Kenin(USA).

Since I have 2 topics, one on this post, one below, plus Up/Down side-Charleston is a premier.

The Perfect Storm, or why Danielle Collins should be on the Fed Cup team vs France.

A month ago, that would have sounded crazy, but like Lepchenko in 2012, or Siegemund in 2016, making runs to the Olympics out of nowhere, Collins may have had perfect timing.

There are 5 woman in the A group, those who are the obvious choices for the 4 woman team. They are Venus, Serena, Coco, Sloane, and Madison. Going by current form, Serena is probably the one to drop, but instead of Rinaldi even having to consider that, assume the Serena has done her yearly bit, and will miss this. Venus normally takes an April break, so I don't expect to see her either.

That leaves three, and since Keys retired in her last match, although she is playing at Charleston, she would be iffy.

So that leaves Sloane as your #1, and Coco as your #2. Mattek-Sands has not won a match yet in her comeback, so she might be on the short list, but isn't a lock. Rogers was at the last tie, but an injury that has forced her out of Miami and Charleston makes her a no go.

Davis was on the team for the last tie, but the fact that her 2017 IW/Miami points rolled off make her the 19th ranked American, right below Gibbs and Townsend. So no chance.

So who gets the other two spots? The 5th ranked American is Catherine Bellis, so put her on. The 6th? None other than Danielle Collins.

If this happens, especially after this weekend, to see Stephens and Vandeweghe handle singles, and the live doubles, with Bellis/Collins getting a dead rubber only, barring illness.

Quiz Time!
Fed Cup is approaching. In regards to USSR/Russia, who leads them in total wins?

A.Elena Likhovtseva
B.Elena Makarova
C.Elena Dementieva
D.Larisa Savchenko
E.Svetlana Kuznetsova

Well, the answer isn't Makarova, Likhovtseva, or Dementieva. Dementieva does hold the record for most singles wins with 22, but all 3 are tied for 3rd with 26.

The answer also isn't Kuznetsova, who is 2nd in singles wins with 21, and 2nd in total wins with 27. The answer is(D) Savchenko, the doubles leader with 23, and the overall leader with 40.

Sun Apr 01, 09:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Todd, I blame you for this:)

Recently, Todd made a post referencing the players waiting to make the Hall Of Fame. Since Russia doesn't have a female in as of yet, though Sharapova should eventually rectify that, let's take a look a 3 players in 6 year blocks, and their shot of getting in.

Player A
Other Slam Finals-2
Other Slams/Doubles-4
Other Finals-18
Year End Top 10-5
Career High-2
Doubles Titles-6
Other Doubles Finals-12
Fed Cup-3 Titles

Player B
Other Slam Finals-2
Other Slams/Doubles-0
Other Finals-9
Year End Top 10-5
Career High-3
Doubles Titles-2
Other Doubles Finals-3
Fed Cup-1 Title

Player C
Other Slam Finals-0
Other Slams/Doubles-0
Other Finals-3
Year End Top 10-0
Career High-3
Doubles Titles-2
Other Doubles Finals-0
Fed Cup-2 Finals

Player A is Kuznetsova(2004-2009). She is borderline, but has Fed Cup wins, slams, and a decent amount of titles. The doubles numbers could have been much different, as the team of Likhovtseva/Kuznetsova lost to Ruano Pascual/Suarez in 3 slam finals in 2004.

Player B is Dementieva(2003-2008). I could not mention the Olympic Gold, as that would have given it away. She also has a silver from 2000. It is going to be tough for her to get in.

Player C? Is it Myskina? Safina? No, I was deceptive, mainly to point out the problem. It is also Kuznetsova(2010-2015). Now, you may think that there are other supposed locks who have had lulls. For instance, Venus. Now it may be true that her peak was her 2000-08 years, she has 7 singles slams, a boatload of doubles, #1 ranking, and an overall period of dominance, one of which was the 35 match winning streak that encompassed her winning Wimbledon, US Open and the Olympics in 2000. Ironically, she was never #1 in that stretch.

Kuznetsova might need to have one final act. She may not have to win another slam, but another premier title, and eventually retiring while in the Top 10 might get her over the hump.

One other interesting thing about Kuznetsova and Dementieva's Fed Cup participation? In the 4 years that they won, they were never on the same roster in the final:

2004-Kuznetsova, Zvonareva, Likhovtseva, Myskina.
2005-Dementieva, Myskina, Safina, Duchevina.
2007-Kuznetsova, Vesnina, Petrova, Chakvetazde.
2008-Kuznetsova, Zvonareva, Makarova, Vesnina.

Sun Apr 01, 09:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Up Side.

1.Bertens-Back to clay. 43-11 the last 2 years on it, 2 titles should be expected this year. And for the clay Big 4(Bertens, Kasatkina, Halep, Svitolina), the over/under for titles should be 6 during this clay season, including those played after the French. And if you think that number is high, 6 is the total the 4 won last year.
2.Siegemund-In 2012 & 2014, Sharapova went 38-2 on clay. Siegemund wasn't that good, but 37-11 hits the spot. The knee brace is a little troubling, but if she can make it through the clay season with the same amount of points as last year, that includes the French, which was 0, she won't have anything to defend until March 2019.
3.Larsson-Could go on either list. 1-11 vs the Top 50 in the last year, she now goes on her favorite surface. I would not expect a title, but a few wins over higher ranked players wouldn't be a surprise.
4.Fett-In Monterrey, and in the half of the draw that looks like a wet paper towel. If not Fett, there may be a surprise finalist from the bottom half. And maybe the top, if Muguruza plays the way she did in Miami.
5.Haddad Maia-Seems ready for a breakout.

Sun Apr 01, 10:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Down Side.

1.Mirza-This is not because of her play, but because she isn't playing. Her injury puts the end to an era, as she falls out of the Top 20 this week for the first time since May 2011.
2.Pavlyuchenkova- The slumping Russian was going to be my pick this week, as she has won Monterrey 4 times. But out with injury, I now have no clue what event will get her back on track.
3.Watson-Won 6 matches in Hobart to reach SF. Has now lost her last 6 matches.
4.Rybarikova-1-4 in her last 5 matches, 2-9 vs Top 30 since beating Pliskova at Wimbledon. Also one of the Dubious Five-The 5 seeds who lost their first match at both IW and Miami, along with Strycova, Keys, Kuznetsova, Kontaveit.
5.Rogers-Hometown girl is out of Charleston, and is 0-2 on the season. 1-5 since Tokyo. Supposedly still doing press for the tournament, so maybe we get an update.

Sun Apr 01, 10:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yes, I should have mentioned Murray in connection to the upward movement in Stephens' results the last few years. They've been a very good fit, which as we often see isn't a given on tour. Not for long, at least. Maybe after pulling Sascha into the Osaka storyline so much in recent weeks I subconsciously didn't want to make it feel as if I've started giving more credit to the coach over the player on too many occasions?

Oh, good Russia-related (but not *that* kind of Russia-related) item! ;)

Collins should surely be considered by Rinaldi, but I wonder if that the SF vs. France is on indoor clay might make the next week or two *more* important when it comes to building the roster's bench? Maybe not, since Collins was very good during last spring's U.S. clay court challenger swing (reaching three finals, winning one). Still, assuming she doesn't have a setback, I'd expect Mattek-Sands to be there for the doubles. After MJF made so many mistakes when it came to not thinking about a Match #5 possibility, I'd think/hope Rinaldi would be on top of that aspect and at least not be forced to pull two singles players' names out of a hat for a big doubles match. She might suddenly develop a Mary Joe-like painted-on-mustache if that were to happen. :)

QUIZ: I had Sveta. :/

I will say that, while she didn't have a GREAT result in recent years, Kuznetsova did make enough of a resurgence that she returned to the Top 10 over the last two years. I still think she'll be in the HoF, but one more big run *would* erase any lingering doubts, or at least make her not have to wait quite a few additional years before she finally was chosen.

I'm interested to see what Mugu's motivation will be in Monterrey. As I noted in the post, she only really seems to get up for the biggest events, and it's not as if she's coming in with a head of steam.

"2.Pavlyuchenkova- The slumping Russian was going to be my pick this week, as she has won Monterrey 4 times. But out with injury, I now have no clue what event will get her back on track."
...probably the one you'd least expect, since that's her career pattern :)

I hope Fett can post a big result soon to fully get the taste of the Wozniacki match from Melbourne out of her mouth.

Sun Apr 01, 11:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

After her third title in a week - 2 single and 1 double - Clara Tauson has risen/wll rise to #9 in the junior rankings - pretty good me thinks.

Mon Apr 02, 02:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

25-2 combined singles/doubles since late February. ;)

Mon Apr 02, 05:27:00 PM EDT  

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