Sunday, April 08, 2018

Wk.14- Clay Court Kiki is Queen Kiki

It's clay season. Do you know where Kiki is? Well, you should.

Hint: This week she was in Charleston. Hence...

While she's often played the role of an all-surface Fed Cup heroine to great effect during her career, never doubt that Kiki Bertens relishes the arrival of clay season in a fashion similar to a little kid who can't sleep on the eve of FILL IN THE BLANK (family vacation, Christmas, the last day of school), when their overexcited head is filled with notions of all the great things surely to come. For the 26-year old Dutch woman, just like her younger counterparts, she simply can't wait to get to the good stuff. As it turned out, nothing could stop her this week in Charleston.

Not an odd coaching situation. Not an injury. Not a backed-up weekend schedule. Not staring down a MP against a slam singles finalist. Not... well, you get the idea.

Working with a different coach (that of her traveling partner, Aleksandra Krunic -- Bertens' 2nd Round opponent in Charleston, no less) while her regular one was away for personal reasons, Bertens barely skipped a beat. In fact, with her favored surface beneath her feet as she glided from one round to the next, Kiki thrived at every turn. Eventually.

Hmmm, so does this mean the Bracelet is now crossing national lines when it comes to bringing good luck to the players around her? (Askin' for a friend.)

Bertens notched wins over Veronica Cepede Royg, Krunic, Fanny Stollar and Alize Cornet to reach the semis, advancing there after wrapping up her QF versus the Pastry in three sets while dealing with a hip injury that could have proved to be worrisome had she been made to work overtime on court. But after avoiding such a fate against Cornet, winning a 7-5 2nd set to wrap up the win, she got the additional gift of an extra day of rest (thanks again, Aleks?) and rehab due to rain that washed out her scheduled Saturday semi against Madison Keys. Still, Bertens faced the prospect of having to play *two* matches in a single day on Sunday in order to win the title.

Hey, no problem. Eventually.

Sure, Kiki failed to convert two MP in the 2nd in the Keys match, after having erased Madison's 5-3 lead in the set. She then saw the Bannerette, a former Charleston finalist in '15, win a TB to force a 3rd set, where she grabbed the lead and twice served for the match (at 5-4 and 6-5), holding a MP. But it didn't matter. While Keys watched it all slipping through her fingers, Bertens dug in. She pushed things to a deciding TB, which she won 7-5 to advance to her sixth career tour singles final. All have been played on clay.

Though she'd endured a long three-setter, while final opponent Julia Goerges had played just a bit more than a set earlier on Sunday (the resumption of her own SF, suspended after eight games on Saturday), it was *Bertens* who was the fresher, dominant force, wiping away the German in an hour, winning 6-2/6-1 in the most lopsided final at the event in six years (Serena d. Safarova 0 & 1 in '12) to grab career WTA title #5.

What's next? Why, more clay, of course. Well, that and a nice drive during which she might contemplate the potential for even *greater* things to come.

And that's just fine. Clay Court Kiki has every right to dream big.

S: Kiki Bertens/NED def. Julia Goerges/GER 6-2/6-1
D: Alla Kudryavtseva/Katarina Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) d. Andreja Klepac/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (SLO/ESP) 6-3/6-3
MONTERREY, MEXICO (Int'l/Hard Outdoor)
S: Garbine Muguruza/ESP def. Timea Babos/HUN 3-6/6-4/6-3
D: Naomi Broady/Sara Sorribes Tormo (GBR/ESP) d. Giuliana Olmos/Desirae Krawczyk (MEX/USA) 3-6/6-4 [10-8]

...after not having recorded a Top 20 win since 2016, the wins over Keys and Goerges gave Bertens two Top 15 victories... on Sunday.

By the way, 2016 was the season in which Kiki reached her only career slam singles semi at, where else, Roland Garros.

I'm just sayin'.
RISERS: Garbine Muguruza/ESP, Timea Babos/HUN and Ana Bogdan/ROU Monterrey, Muguruza came out of her shell. After an underwhelming North American hard court swing in Indian Wells and Miami, the #3-ranked Spaniard stuck around for one more go on the surface in Monterrey in one of her ultra-rare appearances in an International-level tournament. She last played in such an event in 2016 (it ended in a retirement, which many of Garbi's "less important" events tend to do), with her last final coming in 2014 *before* her breakout Top 3 campaign a season later. She hadn't won such a title, usually confining her best moments to the season's biggest events, since her maiden tour crown in Hobart four seasons ago. All that changed in Mexico, though. After knocking off a local favorite (Renata Zarazua), the Spaniard advanced to the final (her second of '18) with wins over Alison Riske, Ajla Tomljanovic and Ana Bogdan, sweeping every set and losing a combined fifteen games over the four rounds of play. After dropping the 1st set and falling down a 2nd set break to big-hitting Timea Babos, a former champion at the event, one wondered if she'd really want to work to rally for the win. But she did. Her 3-6/6-4/6-3 comeback win gives her six career WTA titles, even if this one *is* a "step down" from her last four, which have included two slams, a Premier Mandatory and a Premier 5 win.

If Mugu is jumping for joy like *that* after winning *this* title, is that a good sign for things to come later this summer? Hmmm.

Muguruza's opponent in the Monterrey final was looking to win her second title in a season for the first time in her career. A win from Babos would have given her a sidekick for her Taipei City win in February, and made her a two-time Monterrey champ (her maiden tour title came in this event six years ago). Still, her wins over Marie Bouzkova, Naomi Broady (despite 20 aces from the Brit), Monica Puig and Sachia Vickery will lift the 24-year old five spots into the Top 40 (#39) as she continues to chase down the career-best #25 ranking she held a year and a half ago.

Also in Mexico, Bogdan reached her second career tour-level semifinal, saving a MP in the 1st Round against Victoria Rodriguez, then getting wins over Sara Sorribes Tormo and I.W./Miami breakout Danielle Collins (2 & 4). The Swarmette had only played one Fed Cup doubles match since early February, but aside from this week's result her '18 campaign has seen her put up her best slam result (AO 3rd Rd, def. Mladenovic and Putintseva) and *twice* break her career high ranking mark. She rose to #85 in early March, and this week will go from #90 to #76 in the new rankings.

Hear the roar @anabogdan1 ????#AbiertoGNPSeguros #EstadioGNP #Viviresincreíble

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SURPRISES: Bernarda Pera/USA, Ana Sofia Sanchez/MEX and Victoria Rodriguez/MEX
...the merry 2018 experience of Pera added another wild chapter in South Carolina. Of course, what else is new? The Bannerette has seen it all this season, and the year is only three months old.

The 23-year old burst onto the scene in '18 by winning two MD matches at the Australian open as a lucky loser, defeating Anna Blinkova and Johanna Konta. In her next event in Doha, she *lost* to Konta. This week, en route to her first career tour-level QF, Pera, naturally, *defeated* a LL (Dayana Yastremska). In Dubai, she lost to Sara Errani, while this week she defeated the Italian vet, who was cramping (and even serving underhanded to try to survive). So far this year, the Bannerette has played "turn back the clock" matches against Patty Schnyder (winning in the AO Q's) and Vera Zvonareva (losing in I.W. qualifying), while also defeating NextGeners Marta Vondrousova (Dubai Q's) and Jana Fett (I.W. Q's). In Charleston, she added a win over one former tournament finalist (Jana Cepelova '14), while losing to another (Madison Keys '15). Against Keys, Pera saved two MP and forced a 3rd set, led 4-2, but ultimately fell in a two hour-plus contest.

In the end, a week that *could* have been so much more, but still turned out to be quite significant, will lift Pera's ranking into the Top 100 for the first time, as she'll jump from #101 to a new career high of #89.

Tune in next time for another episode of "As the Pera Turns."

Meanwhile, in Monterrey, the 2018 caravan of Mexican tennis players posting surprising results continued. A few weeks ago, Renata Zarazua upset Kristyna Pliskova in the 1st Round of Acapulco singles, then joined with Sanchez to take out the Maiden in the 2nd Round of doubles, as well. The strikes continued in the season's second event in Mexico, as wild card Sanchez became the only one of the four local players to record a 1st Round win in Monterrey, defeating Usue Arconada in three sets. She lost a round later to Sachia Vickery, but will climb twenty-two spots to a new career high of #280 on Monday (60 spots behind Zarazua, who'll also be at a career high of #220). Rodriguez, the third-highest ranked Mexican player, didn't get a singles win, though she had maybe the most impressive showing. V-Rod had her maiden WTA MD win, and her first over a Top 100 player, on her racket in the 1st Round versus eventual semifinalist Ana Bogdan, erasing a 5-3 3rd set deficit to force a deciding TB, then leading it 4-0 and holding a MP before the Swarmette battled back to get the win.

Moving on, both Rodriguez and Zarazua have both made it through qualifying for the coming week's event in Bogota.
VETERANS: Julia Goerges/GER, Alize Cornet/FRA and Anastasija Sevastova/LAT
...back on track after dealing with a hip injury after the Australian Open, Goerges picked up where she left off at the end of '17 and beginning of the new season, when she put together the best, most consistent run of her career, winning her third straight singles title in Auckland (and extending her winning streak to 15 matches). After escaping a close opening match against Kristie Ahn in Charleston, coming within two points of defeat, Goerges was simply too good for the likes of recent NextGen heroines Naomi Osaka and Dasha Kasatkina to handle. After the resumption of her rain-suspended semifinal against Sevastova on Sunday, Goerges pulled away and handled the Latvian in two on Sunday. Playing in her seventh final since last summer, even with it being her second outing of the day (her opponent had played a *full* three set match earlier in the morning, and was dealing with an earlier injury, as well), it was expected that Goerges would be fresh and in form for the championship match. That wasn't the case, though. She could simply never get her footing, falling in an hour to Kiki Bertens, 6-2/6-1. Still, it was a fine week for the German, and further proof that if she could catch a wave of momentum she'd be just as capable of many other 30-ish veterans in recent season who've found amazing slam success in the latter stages of a career. Thus far, Goerges has failed to reach the QF stage at a major in forty MD appearances, falling in the Round of 16 on five occasions.

Cornet has continued putting one step in front of the other since learning she was facing (and contesting) a suspension due to missing three "unannounced controls" at home in '17 because of reasons she said the ITF didn't want to hear about. After getting off to a 4-3 start -- with wins over Caroline Garcia, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Julia Goerges -- it became public that the Pastry could be hit with a penalty that would essentially wreak havoc with '18 season. She went just 3-5 in the immediate aftermath. She rebounded well on the clay in Charleston, posting wins over Kateryna Bondarenko, Polona Hercog and (again) Garcia en route to the QF, giving her a 6-6 mark since her 3rd Round result in Melbourne. Cornet's case was to be presented in a hearing in March, but no news of any sort about a decision has been released to date.

Sevastova has rebounded well from a slumping finish to '17, which began with her lost 3rd set lead at the U.S. Open against eventual champion Sloane Stephens in the QF. That loss was the first of four straight defeats, a streak which finally ended at the season-ending Elite Trophy event in Zhuhai with wins over Stephens and Barbora Strycova before a SF loss to another eventual champion, Julia Goerges. In '18, the Latvian opened with a SF in Brisbane, and has posted wins over Naomi Osaka (Doha) and Goerges (Indian Wells). In Charleston, she reached another semi after victories over Caroline Dolehide (a tough one that earned the Bannerette a sturdy handshake at the net even in a losing effort), Ash Barty and Kristyna Pliskova. Then, once again, Goerges came a-callin'. Knotted at 4-4 when rain suspended play on Saturday, when the match was resumed mid-day Sunday after the three-set Bertens/Keys match the German was virtually untouchable. After winning a 1st set TB, Goerges took control and closed things out in two. While she didn't reach her first final since winning on the grass in Mallorca last summer (when she won her first tour WS title in seven years), and didn't match that other Latvian's '17 Charleston final run, Sevastova this week will still equal the career high rank of #15 originally achieved last October.

COMEBACK: Kristyna Pliskova/CZE
...Pliskova's 2018 hadn't been going well. She came to Charleston with a 4-7 season record, 2-6 since her Week 1 QF in Shenzhen (when she'd defeated Alona Ostapenko and Ana Bogdan in her first two matches). The slump included a 1st Round loss in Acapulco to #253 Renata Zarazua (who also defeated her in doubles w/ countrywoman Ana Sofia Sanchez). Safely away from the week's other tour event in Mexico, Pliskova notched wins over countrywomen Katerina Siniakova and Petra Kvitova (ending her 24-match win streak vs. Czech, and getting her second Top 10 win of the year to go with the one over Latvian Thunder), then defeated Elena Vesnina in three sets to get to the QF. After such a great week, she lost 4 & love to Anastasija Sevastova.

Not the preferred way to close things out, but it was still something positive for Kristyna as she heads off to Europe for a few months.

Europe tomorrow finally???????

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FRESH FACES: Fanny Stollar/HUN and Sachia Vickery/USA
...add 19-year Stollar's name to the lengthening list of NextGen players grabbing headlines in 2018. Before her breakout week, the Hungarian had already picked up her maiden tour title earlier this year, winning the Budapest doubles with Georgina Garcia Perez after having never previously won any pro title bigger than a $25K challenger. Though she's won just one $10K crown in singles, she took the '15 Wimbledon girls doubles with Dalma Galfi, and has ranked as high as #96 in doubles in '18. Now the singles #219, Stollar's run to the Charleston 3rd Round included her fourth and fifth career MD tour wins, which came exactly one year after she'd posted #2 & #3 (Asia Muhahammad and then-#14 Elena Vesnina) in the same event. Her other win was in her home event in Budapest last year (vs. Danka Kovinic). Last week, she qualified after saving a MP vs. Jil Teichmann in her first Q-round match, winning on her own fifth MP, and made the most of her escape, eventually putting up MD wins over Francesca Di Lorenzo and Johanna Konta (3 & 4, two months after she'd beaten Stollar 3 & 1 in Fed Cup play). She'll rise just a few ranking spots this week, but her career high of #201 (last May) isn't far off.

Worth a read when we might forget the trials and efforts that even a talented young player such as Stollar must experience as she builds what she hopes will be a successful career on the tennis tour...

Meanwhile, Vickery's "Wakanda Forever Tour" staged another show in Monterrey, as the #91-ranked Bannerette knocked off Irina Falconi, local favorite Ana Sofia Sanchez and #2-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova. In her second tour-level SF of the year (more than any other U.S. player, by the way), she went three sets against #4-seed Timea Babos, jumping out to a 5-0 lead en route to taking the 1st set before the Hungarian found her game and closed her out 2 & 2. The week, which will lift Vickery to yet another career high of #75, adds an additional highlight to a season that has already included a semi in Auckland (and win over Aga Radwanska) as a qualifier, and another qualifying run that ended in the 3rd Round in Indian Wells after victories over Genie Bouchard and Garbine Muguruza.

DOWN: Petra Kvitova, CZE
...while Johanna Konta's slip continued in Charleston, as she was upset by Fanny Stollar in the 2nd Round to fall to 6-7 in tour-level matches since her season-opening QF result in Sydney, I won't go with her again after doing so following her failure to defend her Miami crown.

So, it's Petra.

The Czech isn't particularly known for her clay court results, though she *has* won a title in Madrid (2015) and reached the Roland Garros semis (2012). Either way, it *was* a bit of a surprise to see her drop her opening clay court match of '18 in Charleston, largely because her opponent was a Czech. Kvitova hadn't lost to one of her countrywomen since 2012 (Andrea Hlavackova), putting together a 24-match (and 19-set) winning streak vs. fellow Maidens. Kristyna Pliskova ended that with her 1-6/6-1/6-3 win over Kvitova, though only after Petra had saved six match points and was threatening to make a competition of things despite falling down 5-2 in the 3rd. She's gone 2-3 since winning a career best fourteen in a row earlier this season.

She discovered a great t-shirt, though...

ITF PLAYER: Luksika Kumkhum/THA
...for the second straight week, 24-year old Kumkhum downed 17-year old Canadian Bianca Andreescu in a $25K challenger final. A week ago, she won in Kofu, Japan, while this week it was Kashina. This weekend's 6-3/7-6 win was slightly closer than the 6-3/6-3 victory of a week ago, and gives the Thai #1 fifteen career ITF crowns. She lost just one set in her combined two week run (during which she also won a doubles title in Kofu). Meanwhile, though she didn't get a title in recent weeks, Andreescu, who'd not lost a set en route to either final, is finally healthy again and obviously rounding into form. If she *does* end up as the highest-ranked Canadian by season's end (as *someone* predicted back in January), this may turn out to be where the '18 season turned in her favor.

Here's another tale of the efforts and sacrifices of a player, even the best in her country, has to live the life of a tennis pro...

JUNIOR STARS: Clara Tauson/DEN and Hurricane Tyra Black/USA
...early in the week, business wrapped up in the Grade 2 Florence final in Italy, as the 15-year old Dane recovered from a love 1st set to record her second straight junior title run, and eleventh consecutive match win in singles with a 0-6/6-4/6-1 win over Eleonora Molinaro. She also claimed the doubles crown, giving her a combined 25-2 s/d record since late February.

In Carson, California, 17-year old Black claimed her first career Grade 1 title (she hadn't reached a G1 final since January 2016 at the Coffee Bowl, where she lost to Amanda Anisimova) at the U.S. International Spring Championships. The #13 seed, Black upset #1-seeded Margaryta Bilotkin (UKR) in the semis, then staged a comeback in the final against #13 Georgia Drummy of Ireland (who'd defeated Katie Volynets in the 3rd Rd. and Hailey Baptiste in the semis). Drummy saved a BP in the 1st and claimed the match lead, but saw Black put on a late surge in 2nd to take it and level the contest, then win the 3rd at 6-1. Volynets, winner of last week's singles title at last week's Easter Bowl, got some measure of revenge on Drummy, defeating her in the final to win the doubles crown with Natasha Subhash.

DOUBLES: Alla Kudryavtseva/Katarina Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) and Naomi Broady/Sara Sorribes Tormo (GBR/ESP) Charleston, in winning her first doubles title with Kudryavtseva (who won the ninth of her career), 37-year old Srebotnik (a 2008 Chas. WD winner w/ Ai Sugiyama) added another item to an under-the-radar long list of career accomplishments that *might* very well make her a Hall of Famer one day, or at least kick off an interesting discussion. This past week, the pair won a 10-8 3rd set TB over Melichar/Peschke (the latter of *that* duo has won more WD titles w/ Srebotnik than anyone) to start their run, which also included a victory over #2 seeds Mattek-Sands/Sestini-Hlavackova and *two* wins on Sunday after Saturday's doubles rain-out, concluding with a straight sets conquest of Klepac/Martinez Sanchez (now 0-3 in '18 championship matches) in the final. The other time Kudryavtseva & Srebotnik played together this season they reached the final in Saint Petersburg, but they won't likely join forces again, having already committed to playing with other partners the rest of the year. So, the trend of "makeshift" pairs winning '18 doubles crowns continues.

As I pointed out in my recent Hall-of-Fame-or-not? post, Srebotnik has a sneaky decent case for Newport. Her 38th career doubles title moves her just three behind active (but injured) leader Sania Mirza's 41. The Slovenian won four singles titles early in her career (including being one of six players in tour history to win in her debut tournament, in Estoril in '99 -- the same year Justine Henin did the same thing in Antwerp), but has since evolved into a doubles specialist, reaching #1 in 2011. She's won one WD slam ('11 Wimbledon w/ Peschke), but her calling card might be her five mixed titles. If she could win at Wimbledon she'd complete a Career Mixed Slam.

In Monterrey, Broady/Sorribes Tormo were both crowned first-time tour champs, taking the crown while dropping just one set all week. It came in the final against Giuliana Olmos (the first Mexican player to reach a final in the event) & Desirae Krawczyk, who were also both seeking their maiden WTA titles. The winning pair took a 10-8 deciding TB to end the week, with their biggest win at the event likely being their defeat of #2-seeded Irigoyen/Kato in the QF, though it was Broady's singles exploits that garnered the most attention. She lost in the 2nd Round, but only after posting 20+ aces in back-to-back matches.

1. Monterrey 1st Rd. - Ana Bogdan def. Victoria Rodriguez
More than a month after Renata Zarazua upset Kristyna Pliskova in the 1st Round in Acapulco, her countrywoman Rodriguez nearly did the same to Bogdan in Monterrey. Coming back from 5-3 down in the 3rd, Rodriguez led 4-0 in the deciding TB and had a MP, only to come up just short of her first WTA MD win.

2. Charleston QF - Madison Keys def. Bernarda Pera
Keys led 6-2/6-5, 40/15 before squandering her lead (and two MP) as Pera won the TB to force a 3rd set, then took a 4-2 lead there. Keys ultimately prevailed after being extended a needlessly additional hour of play on court, and said that she'll surely remember the fight she showed in this one in a tight match later this year.

Apparently, though, any of Keys' lessons learned about not squandering opportunities didn't last until the end of the weekend.

Charleston SF - Kiki Bertens def. Madison Keys
After having managed to avoid a total collapse vs. Pera, Keys flipped the script (x 2) vs. Bertens. After dropping the 1st set, Keys led the 2nd 5-3, only to see Bertens win three straight games and hold two MP at 6-5. Bertens failed to convert either, though she had a chance on #2 and hit the ball almost directly to Keys at the net for the put-away volley rather than going for an outright winner that likely would have ended the match. Keys took control in the TB, and raced to a lead in the 3rd. She served for the match and held a MP at 5-4, but was broken, then failed to serve things out again at 6-5. The Dutch woman won the deciding TB 7-5 to prevent Keys from reaching her second Charleston final in four years.

3. Monterrey Final - Garbine Muguruza def. Timea Babos
If Muguruza had won in straights she'd have become the first '18 singles champion to have done so without losing a set. As it is, she's just the third #1 seed -- Halep in Shenzhen, Svitolina in Dubai -- to take a title this season, and she maintains her spotless career record vs. Babos. She's 4-0 vs. the Hungarian in tour-level encounters, 1-0 on the ITF circuit, and even 1-0 in juniors (that one was back in 2010).

?? #Monterrey

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4. Charleston 1st Rd. - Laura Siegemund def. Natalia Vikhlyantseva
She lost a round later to Naomi Osaka, but Siegemund's comeback from knee surgery took yet another small/large step in Charleston.

5. Charleston Q1 - Fanny Stollar def. Jil Teichmann 7-5/4-6/7-6(10)
Charleston 2nd Rd. - Fanny Stollar def. Johanna Konta 6-3/6-4
the #219-ranked teenager saves 2 MP in the 3rd set TB vs. Teichmann, winning in 2:27 on her 5th MP, then takes out the '17 Wimbledon semifinalist and former (just nine months ago) #4-ranked player in the world.
6. Charleston Q1 - Claire Liu def. Patty Schnyder
You could fit a whole Fanny Stollar between the birthdays of Liu (17) and Schnyder (39), and have some elbow room for the Hungarian to be comfortable, too.

Cheesin cause tennis and barbecue, what more could you want?

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7. Charleston QF - Julia Goerges def. Dasha Kasatkina
All good things must come to an end, even for much-loved defending champions.

8. Charleston 1st Rd. - Sara Errani def. Genie Bouchard
With her ranking plumeting and her string of wild cards bound to run out soon, Bouchard is doing, really, the only thing she can if she wants to ever find her way back.


And we shall see if the "Genie Curse" continues on Canadian soil in a couple of weeks...

9. Charleston 3rd Rd. - Alize Cornet def. Caroline Garcia
The difference in Garcia this year as compared to last can be seen in just her record in three-setters. In 2017, she was 16-5 in such matches, including 6-1 in her final seven as she put on a remarkable run to the Top 10. With this loss to Cornet, she's 3-3 in 2018.
10. Charleston Final - Kiki Bertens def. Julia Goerges
What seemed set to be an intriguing final turned out to match the Brisbane (Svitolina d. Sasnovich 2 & 1) and Saint Petersburg (Kvitova d. Mladenovic 6-1/6-2) finals as the most lopsided on tour in 2018.


HM- $15K Antalya SF - Varvara Flink def. Eliessa Vanlangendonck
21-year old Waffle Vanlangendonck qualified in Turkey, defeated #2-seeded Dea Herdzelas and put up her sixth career SF-or-better result in an challenger. All have come since last June.

The tale of the lost fist bump...

1. Charleston 2nd Rd. - KRISTYNA PLISKOVA def. Petra Kvitova
A sure-fire resume-building result for Pliskova, who ended Kvitova's 5+ year, 24-match, 19-set streak of success vs. fellow Czechs. Of course, it wasn't "easy." She led 5-2 in the 3rd, and with a history that includes such high profile losses as her own vs. Monica Puig in Melbourne in '16 (Kristyna had 31 aces and 5 MP) and Dominika Cibulkova in Indian Wells last year (she led 6-2/4-2 and served for the match w/o having faced BP all day, only to lose the match in three, failing to convert a MP), *no* match is *ever* over until it, you know, actually is. Kvitova saved six MP before Pliskova finally converted on #7 when Petra sailed a return long.

2. Monterrey 1st Rd. - Ajla Tomljanovic def. ANNA KAROLINA SCHMIEDLOVA
Seeking her first tour-level MD win since 2016, AKS forced a 3rd set TB and had three MP, up 6-3 with two serves, only to see Ajla the Aussie sweep the last five points to close her out. Sigh.

But it did mean Schmiedlova could get to Bogota a little earlier and meet up with some friends...

2600 m closer to the stars ??

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3. Monterrey 1st Rd. - NAOMI BROADY def. Carol Zhao
Broady fires 21 aces, tying the career high mark she set in Auckland in 2016. She's tied for tenth (with the sixth-highest total) in a match in WTA history. This was the Brit's first MD tour win of 2018.

Monterrey 2nd Rd. - Timea Babos def. NAOMI BROADY
Broady has 20 aces, but drops to 5-9 overall in 2018.

4. Charleston 3rd Rd. - Julia Goerges def. NAOMI OSAKA
Well, Naomi was likely tired (and otherwise) at this point.

5. Charleston Q1 - Sophie Chang def. ARINA RODIONOVA 4-6/7-6(5)/7-6(2)
Charleston Q1 - Kayla Day def. ANASTASIA RODIONOVA 7-6(4)/6-7(0)/6-4
tie-breaks just weren't on the side of the Rodionova sisters in Charleston. Though they were quite the striking twosome at the players party.

#rockstarwannabe ???? @volvocaropen #party #charleston

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...7-5/1-6 [10-7].
When two Kichenoks and a Rodionova get together, you never know what'll happen (on Route 66, in Vegas, or South Carolina).

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas???????????? #lasvegas #roadtrip

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Of course, sadly missing from this year's Charleston event was JJ (and, no, Tennis Channel, it's not necessary to tell anyone who "JJ" is). Petko needs her Queen Chaos/partner in crime (& laugh)...

Though she's ranked #1, Simona is still adding new skills... though posting videos isn't one of them. But don't worry, she's got friends.

7 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (5/2)
3 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (1/2)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (2/1)
3 - Julia Goerges, GER (2/1)
3 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (3/0)
3 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (3/0)

**2018 WTA FINALS**
2 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (2-0)
2 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (2-0)
2 - Simona Halep, ROU (1-1)
2 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (1-1)
2 - TIMEA BABOS, HUN (1-1)
2 - Dasha Kasatkina, RUS (0-2)

Australian Open - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (2 MP - 2r/Fett)
[2015 titles, w/ # MP saved]
Belinda Bencic, SUI (1)
Sara Errani, ITA (3)
Camila Giorgi, ITA (3)
Daniela Hantuchova, SVK (2)
Jelena Jankovic, SRB (1)
Andrea Petkovic, GER (8)
Venus Williams, USA (1)
[2016 titles, w/ # MP saved]
Lara Arruabarrena, ESP (2)
Angelique Kerber, GER (1)
Francesca Schiavone ITA (1)
Sloane Stephens, USA (1)
[2017 titles, w/ # MP saved]
Mona Barthel, GER (3)
Caroline Garcia, FRA (1)
Garbine Muguruza, ESP (3)
Elina Svitolina, UKR (4)
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (2)

**2018 WTA FINALISTS BY COUNTRY - w/ titles**
4 (3) - UKR
3 (2) - CZE,GER
3 (1) - ROU
2 (2) - BEL
2 (1) - DEN,ESP,HUN
2 (0) - RUS
1 (1) - JPN,NED,USA

4 - Simona Halep, ROU (2-1+L)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (2-1)
3 - Dasha Kasatkina, RUS (2-1)
3 - Angelique Kerber, GER (1-2)

8 - GER
7 - ROU
6 - USA
5 - UKR

**2015-18 WTA SEMIFINALS**
26 - Simona Halep [9/6/7/4]
25 - Angelique Kerber [8/11/3/3]
23 - Karolina Pliskova [8/6/8/1]
22 - Caroline Wozniacki [7/4/8/3]
21 - Elina Svitolina [6/7/6/2]
19 - Aga Radwanska [8/9/2/0]
18 - GARBINE MUGURUZA [5/3/7/3]
16 - Serena Williams [9/6/1/0]
15 - Petra Kvitova [5/6/2/2]
14 - JULIA GOERGES [0/4/7/3]
14 - Dominika Cibulkova [1/9/3/1]
14 - Venus Williams [5/3/5/1]
13 - Caroline Garcia [2/4/7/0]
12 - Kristina Mladenovic [3/3/5/1]
11 - Alona Ostapenko [1/2/7/1]
11 - MADISON KEYS [2/6/2/1]
11 - Johanna Konta [0/5/6/0]

36 - Katarina Srebotnik (Saint Petersburg-L)
33 - Vera Zvonareva (Saint Petersburg-W)
32 - Kirsten Flipkens (Budapest-L)
32 - Hsieh Su-wei (Dubai-L, I.W.-W)
32 - Peng Shuai (Dubai-L)

10 - Kveta Peschke (2010-12,14)
4 - Tina Krizan (2098-01)
4 - Nadia Petrova (2008,13)
4 - Ai Sugiyama (2007-08)
3 - Shinobu Asagoe (2004-06)
3 - Emilie Loit (2005)
2 - Dinara Safina (2006-07)
2 - Nenad Zimonjic (MX 2006,10)
1 - Bob Bryan (MX 2003)
1 - Caroline Garcia (2015)
1 - Laura Golarsa (1999)
1 - Anna-Lena Groenefeld (2009)
1 - Jelena Jankovic (2013)
1 - Alla Kudryavtesva (2018)
1 - Daniel Nestor (MX 2011)
1 - Piet Norval (MX 1999)
1 - Mara Santangelo (2007)
1 - Abigail Spears (2017)
1 - Asa Svensson (2003)

2...Krejickova/Siniakova, CZE/CZE (0-2)
2...Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS (0-2)

Georgina Garcia Perez, ESP (Budapest)
Simona Halep, ROU (Shenzhen)
Bibiane Schoofs, NED (Auckland)
Fanny Stollar, HUN (Budapest)

41 - Sania Mirza, IND
28 - Latisha Chan, TPE
28 - Kveta Peschke, CZE
27 - Sara Errani, ITA
26 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
25 - Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova, CZE
25 - Roberta Vinci, ITA
24 - Samantha Stosur, AUS

Sydney - Ash Barty, AUS (L)
Miami - Sloane Stephens, USA (W)
Saint Petersburg - Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS (L)
Saint Petersburg - Vera Zvonareva, RUS (W)
Budapest - Fanny Stollar, HUN (W)
Miami - CoCo Vandeweghe, USA (W)

Timea Babos = S: Taipei City...D: Australian Open
Simona Halep = S: Shenzhen...D: Shenzhen
Elise Mertens = S: Hobart...D: Hobart
[w/ 125 singles]
Sara Errani, ITA = S: I.W. 125...D: Auckland

**"QUEEN OF MEXICO" WINNERS - Acapulco/Monterrey**
2015 Timea Bacsinszky, SUI (won Acap/Mont singles)
2016 A.Medina-Garrigues/A.Parra-Santonja, ESP (won Acap/Mont WD)
2017 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (4-time Mont.WS)
2018 Lesia Tsurenko, UKR (2 con. Acapulco WS)
[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 Giuliana Olmos, MEX (first MEX player in MONT.WD final)

Meanwhile, Backspin's Fed Cup mustache is suddenly without a current "home"...

While it would have been fun, say, had someone like Dinara Safina (or brother Marat... or both?) stepped in, it's difficult to not see this as a necessary move. Russia faces Latvia in two weeks, seeking to avoid falling into zone play for the first time since 1997. The Hordettes, remember, often led by Myskina as a player (along with Sveta Kuznetsova) won four FC titles in six years between 2004-08. They were the Czech Maidens before the Czech Maidens were the Czech Maidens.

If the Russians lose, at least now it won't *all* be on the shoulders of the first Russian woman to win a slam singles crown (2004 RG -- here's the "Time Capsule" for that win, though Photobucket's ransom scam currently has the post photo-less, as I haven't had reason to go back and replace everything there with new images to this point).

It's too bad things played out the way they did. An early Backspin fave years ago, Myskina stepped into a bad situation as the leader of the Russian squad after all the controversy that swirled around Shamil Tarpischev and the federation, which included a boycott by almost all of the top players. But, really, her gameday decisions sometimes were enough to make even MJF's head spin (which is saying somethin'). She *did* have Russia in the '15 final, but her roster then sort of built itself since everyone was getting Rio-eligible.

Myskina has stated that "family reasons" played a part in her resignation, but with the announcement being timed as it was leads one to believe the losing had *more* to do with it. Maybe the "Mind of Myskina" can one day take up residence on the tour sidelines as a personal coach for one of the young Hordettes. It'd be great to hear her during coaching timeouts, even if we didn't know what she was actually saying. As has always been the case with Myskina, the emotions were the currency of the moment, not the language.

1998 Paola Suarez def. Sonya Jeyaseelan 6–3, 6–4
1999 Fabiola Zuluaga def. Christina Papadaki 6–1, 6–3
2000 Patricia Wartusch def. Tathiana Garbin 4–6, 6–1, 6–4
2001 Paola Suarez def. Rita Kuti-Kis 6–2, 6–4
2002 Fabiola Zuluaga def. Katarina Srebotnik 6–1, 6–4
2003 Fabiola Zuluaga def. Anabel Medina Garrigues 6–3, 6–2
2004 Fabiola Zuluaga def. Maria Sanchez Lorenzo 3–6, 6–4, 6–2
2005 Flavia Pennetta def. Lourdes Domínguez Lino 7–6(4), 6–4
2006 Lourdes Dominguez Lino def. Flavia Pennetta 7–6(3), 6–4
2007 Roberta Vinci def. Tathiana Garbin 6–7(5), 6–4, 0–3 ret.
2008 Nuria Llagostera Vives def. Maria Emilia Salerni 6–0, 6–4
2009 María Jose Martinez Sanchez def. Gisela Dulko 6–3, 6–2
2010 Mariana Duque Marino def. Angelique Kerber 6–4, 6–3
2011 Lourdes Dominguez Lino def. Mathilde Johansson2–6, 6–3, 6–2
2012 Lara Arruabarrena def. Alexandra Panova 6–2, 7–5
2013 Jelena Jankovic def. Paula Ormaechea 6–1, 6–2
2014 Caroline Garcia def. Jelena Jankovic 6–3, 6–4
2015 Teliana Pereira def. Yaroslava Shvedova 7–6(2), 6–1
2016 Irina Falconi def. Silvia Soler Espinosa 6–2, 2–6, 6–4
2017 Francesca Schiavone def. Lara Arruabarrena 6–4, 7–5
QF: Schiavone d. Bertens
QF: Larsson d. Errani
QF: Arruabarrena d. Krunic
QF: Sorribes Tormo d. Linette
SF: Schiavone d. Larsson
SF: Arruabarrena d. Sorribes Tormo
F: Schiavone d. Arruabarrena
1998 Husarova/Suarez d. Mazzotta/Sysoeva
1999 Papadaki/Noorlander d. Montalvo/Suarez
2000 Montalvo/Suarez d. Kuti-Kis/Mandula
2001 Garbin/Husarova d. Montalvo/Suarez
2002 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. Krizan/Srebotnik
2003 Srebotnik/Svensson d. Krizan/Perebiynis
2004 Schwartz/Wohr d. Medina Garrigues/Parra Santonja
2005 Gagliardi/Pisnik d. Kurhajcova/Strycova
2006 Dulko/Pennetta d. Szavay/Wohr
2007 Dominguez Lino/Suarez d. Pennetta/Vinci
2008 Benesova/Mattek d. Kostanic Tosic/Muller
2009 Llagostera Vives/Martinez Sanchez d. Dulko/Pennetta
2010 Dulko/Gallovits d. Savchuk/Yakimova
2011 Gallovits/Medina Garrigues d. Fichman/Pous Tio
2012 Birnerova/A.Panova d. Minella/Voegele
2013 Babos/Minella d. Birnerova/A.Panova
2014 Arruabarrena/Garcia d. King/Scheepers
2015 Goncalves/Haddad Maia d. Falconi/Rogers
2016 Arruabarrena/Maria d. Ce/Gamiz
2017 Haddad Maia/Podoroska d. Cepede Royg/Linette
SF: Haddad Maia/Podoroska d. Pella/Seguel
SF: Cepede Royg/Linette d. Khromacheva/Stojanovic
F: Haddad Maia/Podoroska d. Cepede Royg/Linette
WS: #1 Maria, #2 Linette
WD: #1 Hibino/Kato, #2 Jakupovic/Khromacheva

...16-year old junior star Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, the first Colombian girl to rank in the Top 5, will make her tour MD debut here (vs. Blinkova), after Q-round losses the last two years ('15 Perrin, '16 Abanda). Meanwhile, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova will give it another go at trying to notch her first tour-level MD win since 2016. She'll play Irina Falconi ('16 champion). A win would likely lead to a face-off with Ajla Tomljanovic, who saved three MP while denying the Slovak a 1st Round win this past week in Monterrey. Ten of the twenty Bogota singles champs have hailed from South America, though just one since 2011 (Pereira '15).

Francesca Schiavone won this title a year ago, but isn't in the draw this year. Ranked #94, the Italian hasn't posted a WTA MD win since last year's Wimbledon, or any singles victory since a 1st Round at an $80K in October. After an offseason injury, she's gone 0-5 in '18, all on hard courts (most recently a three-setter in I.W. qualifying). But she's getting ready for yet another clay campaign...

2017 Marketa Vondrousova def. Anett Kontaveit 6-4, 7-6(6)
QF: Strycova d. Goerges
QF: Vondrousova d. Kr.Pliskova
QF: Kontaveit d. Mertens
QF: Sasnovich d. Giorgi
SF: Vondrousova d. Strycova
SF: Kontaveit d. Sasnovich
F: Vondrousova d. Kontaveit
2017 Hsieh Su-wei/Niculescu def. Bacsinszky/Hingis [Biel]
SF: Bacsinszky/Hingis d. Knoll/Schuurs
SF: Hsieh/Niculescu d. Golubic/Kr.Pliskova
F: Hsieh/Niculescu d. Bacsinszky/Hingis
WS: #1 Mladenovic, #2 Mertens
WD: #1 Flipkens/Mertens, #2 Rosolska/Spears

...the tournament moves from an indoor hard court in Biel to an outdoor clay surface in Lugano. Siegemund is here. After facing a qualifier, she could get #1-seeded Mladenovic in the 2nd Round.

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Ahn/Perry was cute.

Clay Big 4(Bertens/Kasatkina/Halep/Svitolina) 2018 titles-1 - Target 6+

14 women in Lugano are ranked higher than Bogota's #1 seed Maria.

Excited to see Osorio Serrano in the main draw.

Stat of the Week-4- The amount of women in the Top 8 as of 4/3/17 that qualified for the YEC.

Using last week's numbers because I wanted to show the numbers before the clay season started.

The 8 that were in position at this time last year?
Karolina Pliskova
Johanna Konta
Caroline Wozniacki
Serena Williams
Venus Williams
Elina Svitolina
Elena Vesnina
Svetlana Kuznetsova

The one thing that might surprise you? That only one of the 4 that made their way to the YEC would have eligible for Zhuhai-Muguruza at 12, and in a similar position at 11 this year.

The other 3? Garcia-26, Halep-36, Ostapenko-48, so don't give up on your favorites just yet.

Not saying that they will make it, but some notable ones this year that are 48 or below? Vickery-48, Vesnina-61, Bertens-68(though she just got a boost), Sharapova-73, and Vandeweghe-179.

With 4 of 8 making it last year, which 4 will drop now? 8 in position now are as follows- Wozniacki, Halep, Kerber, Svitolina, Kvitova, Osaka, Pliskova, Kasatkina.

Because Osaka has not reached the Top 20, she could fall here, but still be 15 at the end of the year. Kasatkina is the only other possible first time YEC participant, and her slam results may make the difference between this or Zhuhai, a tournament she barely missed last year.

Quiz Time!
Kiki Bertens has won all of her career titles on clay. Who is the active leader in clay titles?

A.Sara Errani
B.Maria Sharapova
C.Serena Williams
D.Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Kuznetsova is not the answer, but needed to be a choice because of who won this week. A two time finalist, and one time winner of the French, she only has 3 titles on clay, out of her 17. But even stranger? Muguruza is thought of as a clay courter, but out of her 10 finals, the French is the only clay final she has ever been in. Which means she has been in more grass finals as a 2 time Wimbledon finalist.

It isn't Errani, who goes Star Trek on us as 7 of 9 titles are on clay. Oddly enough, Schiavone and the retired Pennetta also have 7. Vinci only has 6, stuck because she lost to both Errani and Schiavone in clay finals, Pennetta loss was on hard.

It also isn't Sharapova, who has 11 titles, but deserves mention, because not only is she second on the active list, she did not play a clay final until her 19th final.

C.Serena is your answer with 13, just one of the many stats that she leads in. Venus isn't that far behind with 9, but she won't play enough to catch up.

Sun Apr 08, 11:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

One player I'd watch as far as falling out of the 8 might be Pliskova, who's been consistent but not particularly great in '18 so far.

Quiz: aha, I knew that one was Serena because I almost used that as a list this week.

And with players like Vinci, Jankovic and Schiavone higher than Bertens on the active clay title list, she may or may not move up the list even w/o winning another title over the next year.

Sun Apr 08, 11:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Agree on Pliskova, she has had her B game all year.

And Jankovic has an announcement coming up, although it isn't until May.

One quirky thing about the Charleston SF group? At this point last year, all of them had won each of their titles on one surface, Bertens, Goerges, Sevastova on clay, and Keys on grass. Then Sevastova and Goerges met in Mallorca, Keys won Stanford, and Goerges won 3 hardcourt events.

That just leaves Bertens. The slacker. Hmmm, Den Bosch is on grass, isn't it?

Mon Apr 09, 09:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Fed Cup rosters...

USA:Stephens, Keys, Vandeweghe, Mattek-Sands
FRA(H): Mladenovic, Parmentier, Hesse, TBD (what else is new?)
...on indoor clay, so the U.S. has to scrape out two wins (w/ maybe neither vs. Kiki) to take advantage of a BMS/CoCo doubles duo. Stephens' form bodes well, but she hasn't played on clay since RG 2016.

GER(H): Goerges, Kerber, Maria, Groenefeld
CZE: Kvitova, Ka.Pliskova, Strycova, ??
...big time. When was the last time a Czech "A"-team was defeated? 2013 SF vs. Italy. Could happen again here, though.

BLR(H): Sasnovich, Sabalenka, Lapko, Marozava
SVK: Kuzmova, Cepelova, AK Schmiedlova, Sramkova
...chance for BLR to rebound. So, the SVK effort is *already* on Kuzmova's shoulders, I guess.

ROU(H): Halep, Begu, Cirstea, Buzarnescu
SUI: Bacsinszky, Golubic, Teichmann, ??
...hopefully, a healthy Simona. And *definitely* a partisan crowd. Too bad Martina couldn't keep playing FC.

NED: Kerkhove, Lemoine, Schuurs, de Vroome
AUS(H): Barty, Gavrilova, Stosur, Aiava
...NED playing with a hand and a half behind its collective back. Hmmm, Dellacqua *could* have made this home tie her career finale. Big edge to AUS, but we've said *that* before (though maybe not w/ Ash in the singles mix).

ITA(H): Errani, Paolini, Chiesa, Pieri
BEL: Mertens, Van Uytvanck, Flipkens, Bonaventure
...I guess you can't really underestimate the Italian team any longer. Have home court advantage here.

RUS(H): Pavlyuchenkova, Makarova, Vesnina, Vikhlyantseva
LAT: Ostapenko, Sevastova, Marcinkevica, Vismane
...good rosters. Russia's is deeper, but Pavlyuchenkova is a huge question mark.

JPN(H): Osaka, Nara, Kato, Ninomiya
GBR: Konta, Watson, Smith, Taylor
...this could be good. Will Osaka feel the pressure? Konta's best work in '18 may have been FC in February.

UKR: Tsurenko, K.Bondarenko, Savchuk, ??
CAN(H): Bouchard, Abanda, Andreescu, Dabrowski much rope will Genie be given, as Abanda and Andreescu have been impressive in their short FC history? Is Tsurenko 100%?

ESP(H): Muguruza, Suarez Navarro, Arruabarrena, Martinez Sanchez
VEN: Cepede Royg, M.Gonzalez, Giangreco Campiz, Escauriza
...if Spain had this roster all the time it'd be a threat for a deep run.

Wed Apr 11, 01:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, there will be a WTA singles semifinalist in Bogota from the foursome of Arango, Paolini, Zarazua and Schmiedlova in one section, and another from Jakupovic, Kostova, Herazo Gonzalez and Linette.

Yep, it's clay season (or, as far as AKS in concerned, 2015).

Thu Apr 12, 12:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Fed Cup comments in a couple of days.

Both tournaments have gone off the rails in a good way, so might as well post this-with the French Open entry list locked as of Monday, if Schmiedlova wins her next match(reaches final), she would be directly in the main draw. Only fitting since her biggest win was there.

Fri Apr 13, 02:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And now I can check off one of those preseason predictions (AKS to a WTA SF), too. :D

I don't think I've ever seen two tournaments in the same week hit with so many rain delays. They even played a few of the newly-outdoor event matches in Lugano on an indoor court to catch up the schedule. One of them was the one Siegemund retired from (haven't heard anything, but hopefully nothing serious).

Fri Apr 13, 05:15:00 PM EDT  

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