Sunday, April 29, 2018

Wk.17- To Zig and to Zag on Red Clay

Just when the 2018 season zigs, it suddenly zags.



Surely, you had Pauline Parmentier winning a title this weekend. I mean, she could never go a *full* decade without lifting a trophy, right? Turns out, she got it done with just less than three months to spare.

And while Karolina Pliskova and CoCo Vandeweghe playing in a final wouldn't generally cause anyone to blink an eye, most weren't likely expecting both big hitters to put on such impressive, oft-superior runs in a clay court event this week. But that's exactly what happened.



If those two are hitting stride now, where will they be a few months from now? Considering the roll that the Czech got on two seasons ago en route to the U.S. Open final and #1 ranking, and that Vandeweghe is already a two-time slam semifinalist herself, while they've been somewhat hiding in the weeds for the majority of this season, they could both play a *big* role in what remains of it.

But, of course, while the 2018 season zags, it could just as easily zig one again. So, check back later.



*WEEK 17 CHAMPIONS*
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (Int'l/Red Clay)
S: Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. CoCo Vandeweghe 7-6(2)/6-4
D: Raquel Atawo/Anna-Lena Groenefeld (USA/GER) d. Nicole Melichar/Kveta Peschke (USA/CZE) 6-4/6-7(5) [10-5]
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (Int'l/Red Clay)
S: Pauline Parmentier/FRA def. Polona Hercog/SLO 6-4/3-6/6-3
D: Liang Chen/Zhang Shuai (CHN/CHN) d. Xenia Knoll/Anna Smith (SUI/GBR) 6-4/6-4


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...Pliskova, less than fleet-footed, isn't particularly known for her clay court prowess. But the Czech's title run in Stuttgart isn't her *first* on clay, as she won one other on the surface (Prague '15) and three of her twenty career finals (all since 2013) have come on the dirt. Also, in one of the most forgotten great results over the past year, she reached the semis at Roland Garros (remember that?) eleven months ago after having won just two matches in five previous visits to Paris.

After a year of consistent, if unspectacular, serving and results, Pliskova finally has hit something resembling a significant upswing over the past ten days. While she didn't go undefeated in the Czech Republic's Fed Cup tie in Stuttgart last weekend, she *did* post possibly the weekend's key result with her dominating win over Angelique Kerber on Day 1. Whatever confidence she picked up there was surely stoked by a 1st Round win this week, on clay, over Kiki Bertens. A win over Veronika Kudermetova preceded a tough three-setter vs. Alona Ostapenko (Latvian Thunder took the only set Pliskova dropped all week, but suffered a late 3rd set break that gave the eleventh-hour momentum to the Czech), and a 4 & 2 win over Anett Kontaveit to get Pliskova into her first final since she won on the grass at Eastbourne last summer. While CoCo Vandeweghe had been *the* headlining form player all week, it was Pliskova, in a potential Fed Cup final match preview (though surely not one again on clay), who prevailed in a nearly two hour, two set match, firing eleven aces to claim her tenth career WTA title. Pliskova has now won four consecutive finals since losing the '16 U.S. Open final to Kerber. She'd only won consecutive finals once (both late in the '14 season) before in her career.

Bonus: maybe this will be the prompt that'll finally push Karolina into getting her driver's license...


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RISERS: CoCo Vandeweghe/USA, Caroline Garcia/FRA and Anett Kontaveit/EST
...a week after being grounded in Fed Cup (seeing her 13-match streak ended by Kiki Mladenovic, then joining Bethanie Mattek-Sands in a dead rubber doubles match loss that ended BMS' undefeated Fed WD run), Vandeweghe unexpectedly took flight in Stuttgart. Sporting the more "chill" on-court attitude preached by coach Pat Cash, Vandeweghe calmly reached her first career clay court singles final while dropping just one set in wins over the tournament's defending champion (Laura Siegemund) and three Top 10 players -- Sloane Stephens (who won just one game), Simona Halep (CoCo's third #1 win) and Caroline Garcia. She finally fell in two tight sets in the final against another Top 10er, Karolina Pliskova, but her week more than re-set a season which had seen her go just 1-3 in non-Fed Cup matches. While Vandeweghe's prospects for the rest of the clay season will still likely raise a crooked eyebrow (she's 2-6 at RG), such a reawakening surely seems like good news as she eases into the grass and hard court seasons this summer where her expectations will be higher, not to mention her participation in a second straight FC final in November.

Finals, clay court things ??????#BethanieMadeMeDoIt

A post shared by CoCo Vandeweghe (@cocovandey) on



Garcia was a workhorse in Stuttgart, going three sets in a trio of matches while downing the likes of past (Maria Sharapova), future (Marta Kostyuk) and current (Elina Svitolina, coming back from 7-6/3-0 down) Top 10ers before finally hitting a wall against Vandeweghe. Still, the week produced the Pasty's first semifinal of 2018 as, after going 7-6 in the weeks following her Australian Open Round of 16 run in January, she is finally beginning to again resemble the resilient, no-excuses player who put on such a late-stage run in '17 to slip into the Top 10 before the close of the season.



Kontaveit has already make it clear that she's an all-surface player, having reached singles finals on hard court, grass and clay last season, as well as a formidable player in important matches, reaching the Round of 16 in her U.S. Open debut in '15 and then doing the same in her third AO appearance earlier this year, notching three Top 10 wins over the past year (the first came over Garbine Muguruza in Stuttgart last April) and going 11-3 in ITF finals in her career. The 22-year old Estonian tailed off toward the end of her long season in '17, closing on a 2-8 skid after having burned (too?) hot during a 44-11 run before losing in the Gstaad final to Kiki Bertens last July. Kontaveit came into Stuttgart on a four-match losing streak (and 1-6 stretch), but rebounded by saving two MP in the 1st Round against Kristina Mladenovic, advancing past an injured Angelique Kerber when the German retired after dropping the match's first eight games, then outlasting Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets to reach her first semifinal since last year's Gstaad run. She lost to eventual champ Karolina Pliskova, but will climb back into the Top 30 on Monday, moving up two spots to #29, just two off the career high she set a season ago.


===============================================
SURPRISE: Pauline Parmentier/FRA
...either way, the Istanbul final was going to produce a third career title (and one a long time coming) for SOMEONE. As it turned out, it was Parmentier who picked up the win with a three-set victory over Polona Hercog, winning her first tour title in nearly a decade. Her last title run came in July 2008 in Bad Gastein, a drought that is the third-longest period between titles in WTA history.



It would have been difficult to forecast the 32-year old Pastry's banner week, but it's clear now that her two straight sets, but hard-fought, losses to Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys in last week's Fed Cup semifinals finally allowed something to click again for the veteran. She'd come into the week ranked #122, sporting a 2-15 mark this season (1-6 in WTA MD matches) and having lost thirteen sets in a row. After opening with a win over Turkey's Ayla Aksu, Parmentier upset Yulia Putintseva, Caroline Wozniacki (the Dane retired after the 2nd, handing the Pastry her first career Top 10 win in her sixteenth try), and Irina-Camelia Begu before knocking off Hercog. This wasn't just Parmentier's first title since her '08 win in Bad Gastein, it's her first final since then and just her fourth semi-or-better WTA result during the 9-year, 9-month span. Now 3-0 in career WTA finals, she'll climb into the Top 100 in the new rankings.
===============================================
VETERANS: Raquel Atawo/Anna-Lena Groenefeld (USA/GER)
...Atawo & ALG took the Stuttgart crown by dismissing both the #1-seeds (Klepac/Martinez-Sanchez) and a defending champ (Ostapenko, w/ Savchuk in the QF), as Atawo (who won the title w/ Ostapenko a year ago) became the first woman to successfully defend a tour doubles title in 2018. Only Nadia Podoroska, in Bogota, had managed to even return to a final. The duo won 3rd set TB's in their first (vs. Adamczak/L.Kichenok) and last (vs. Melichar/Peschke) matches of the week to become the oldest (Atawo-35, ALG-32) doubles championship team this season. It's Atawo's eighteenth career title and her sixth consecutive win in a final (4 w/ Spears, 1 w/ Ostapenko), while Groenefeld picks up #16, but her first without having fellow finalist Peschke on *her* since 2010. ALG/Peschke went 4-7 in finals between 2012-17.


===============================================
COMEBACKS: Polona Hercog/SLO and Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
...Istanbul finalist Hercog had been seeking her first tour-level singles crown since defending her Bastad title in 2012. The 27-year old returned to action at last year's Roland Garros after a nine-month absence, and soon after reached the career slam best-tying 3rd Round at Wimbledon as a qualifier. She's since worked her way back into the Top 100 (#75 this week) while grabbing six ITF titles, and in Istanbul put up victories over Aryna Sabalenka, Kateryna Bondarenko, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sakkari before falling to Parmentier in her fifth career WTA final (all have been on clay). She'll jump to #62 on Monday.



Hmmm, don't count out Sveta just yet.



After being off tour since October and having surgery on her left hand, Kuznetsova's return last month has been a slow-building process. She dropped her first two matches in straights to Aryna Sabalenka (Indian Wells) and Zarina Diyas (Miami) before finally managing a set vs. Mona Barthel (Lugano) in a three-set loss. Last week in Istanbul, she made a bigger leap. The #2 seed in the event, she posted a straight sets win over Wang Qiang, and took out Viktoriya Tomova in three. In the QF, her best result since Cincinnati last August, she took Hercog to three sets. She served for the match at 5-4 in the final set, only to see Hercog sweep the final three games to win 7-5. Soon to turn 33, Kuznetsova is coming off back-to-back high-ranking seasons (#9 in '16, #12 in' 17), but the up-and-down nature of her career arc says, if we're lucky, she's likely got one final extended stretch of good results in her (but maybe nothing resembling consistency surrounding it, whenever it may occur). With so many of the tour's former champions, some for reasons beyond their control and others due to more "natural" ones, taking quite a time to find their way back into relevant positions in the rankings, it should be noted that Kuznetsova is still holding onto a Top 30 ranking as we head into the spring/summer slam season. Could we soon be approaching that "stretch" I was just talking about? She has points to defend soon in Madrid (SF), RG (4th), Eastbourne (QF), and Wimbledon (QF).
===============================================
FRESH FACES: Maria Sakkari/GRE and Veronika Kudermetova/RUS
...fresh off her Backspin FC MVP run for Greece in zone play last week, Sakkari reached her second career tour-level semi in Istanbul. The 22-year old posted wins over former champ Cagla Buyukakcay, Aleksandra Krunic (ret.) and Arantxa Rus before losing to Polona Hercog a round short of reaching her maiden tour final. Sakkari had a hard time getting out of the gates this season, dropping her first five matches and going 2-8. But her 5-2 record in Indian Wells and Miami seems to have gotten her back on course. Those results, combined with her FC and Istanbul wins, give her an 11-3 mark in her last fourteen. She'll climb to a new career high of #42 this week.

A post shared by Maria Sakkari (@sakkattack7) on



Kudermetova qualified in Stuttgart with victories over Magdalena Frech and Varvara Lepchenko, then upset Carla Suarez-Navarro in the 1st Round. She fell in the 2nd to eventual champ Karolina Pliskova, but pushed the Czech to a 1st set TB before bowing out. The 21-year old Hordette, who led Russia to a Junior Fed Cup title in 2013, won a $25K title in March. She'll jump twenty-seven spots to a new career high of #166 in singles on Monday, and is pushing close to her first Top 50 appearance in the doubles rankings, as well.

Thank you Stuttgart?? this was a good week ?? #Stuttgart

A post shared by Veronika Kudermetova?? (@v.kudermetova) on


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DOWN: Maria Sharapova/RUS and Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...it was one year ago in Stuttgart that Sharapova made her return from suspension to promising results, getting wins over Roberta Vinci, Ekaterina Makarova and Anett Kontaveit before losing in three sets in a SF match-up with one of her most vocal detractors, Mladenovic. Who could have known what the next twelve months would have for both?

Sharapova has flashed her old form on occasion (def. Halep in the U.S. Open 1st Round nighttime showcase, winning a title in Tianjin, opening '18 with a Shenzhen SF), but she's been bedeviled by injuries (often a lingering forearm soreness) that have never quite allowed her comeback to pick up steam. She returned to Germany with a new/old coach, well-traveled Swede Thomas Hogstedt (whose previous stints included one with Sharapova from 2010-13). Her 1st Round loss to Caroline Garcia in three sets (losing an 8-6 2nd set TB that could have closed out the match) now gives her a full year of results to gauge her progress, and it's nothing if not spotty. Her three-match losing streak (her first in fifteen years) is now four (tying her career high from '03 -- and she never lost so many consecutively in her brief 2001-02 junior career, either), and she'll fall outside the Top 50 on Monday. Having recently celebrated her 31st birthday, she's now officially seeking what would be considered a "late"-career resurgence.

Mladenovic backed up much of her bluster over the last season and a half, winning her maiden tour title, reaching the Roland Garros QF, briefly landing in the Top 10, winning an Australian Open doubles crown, and successfully putting the French Fed Cup team on her back on multiple occasions. But she's also dealt with lingering injuries, lost four straight finals (she's now 1-7 in her career), and seen her in-match confidence waver as she suffered through a 15-match losing streak. After a stretch that seemed to right the ship earlier this year, the tide has recently turned again. She went into FC play on a three-match losing streak, then played three poor singles sets out of five for France in the FC semis as the Pastries went down to the Bannerettes. Looking to defend her Stuttgart final points from last year, Mladenovic let another one get away in a 1st Round match against Anett Kontaveit, failing to convert two MP in the 2nd and not serving out the win in the 3rd. The 3:09 defeat will knock her out of the Top 20, and she's staring down another big points defense in Madrid ('17 RU) right around the corner.
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ITF PLAYERS: Mariana Duque Marino/COL and Zheng Saisai/CHN
...a week after losing to Taylor Townsend in the $80K Dothan final, Duque went one better by picking up the title in Charlottesville, defeating Anhelina Kalinina (who'd defeated Townsend in the semis, though the Bannerette's run essentially secured her Roland Garros MD wild card via the USTA's challenger playoff system) 0-6/6-1/6-2 in the final. The Colombian's previous wins had come at the expense of Jamie Loeb, Grace Min, Sophie Chang and Jen Brady. It's Duque's biggest singles title since her tour-level win in Bogota in 2010. Meanwhile, Kalinina, who'd been seeking her fourth '18 title and seventh straight win in a final, falls to 21-4 for the season, during which the Urkainian has played exclusively throughout the southern U.S. in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia.



Zheng followed up her WTA 125 win in Zhengzhou with a $60K title run in Quanzhou, defeating Jacqueline Cako, Han Xinyun (ret.), Naomi Broady and Liu Fangzhou (6-3/6-1 final). It's the 24-year old's ninth career ITF win (and 11th pro title with her two WTA 125's).


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JUNIOR STAR: Eleonora Molinaro/LUX
...a week after playing "little sister" to Mandy Minella in Luxembourg's Fed Cup effort, 17-year old Molinaro carried over her nearly peerless '18 form to the junior level.



In Beaulieu-sur-mer, France, Molinaro claimed her first career Grade 1 title (in her second '18 G1 final) without dropping a set, defeating #2-seed Elisabetta Cocciaretto in the QF and Varvara Gracheva in a 7-6(2)/6-4 final, two weeks after defeating the Russian in a G2 semi. Gracheva, the '16 Eddie Herr G1 runner-up, had earlier defeated #1-seed Naho Sato (and a few weeks ago got a G1 win over Clara Tauson at the Banana Bowl). Molinaro is a combined 47-5 this season, going 23-2 in juniors (with five straight finals, winning G1, G2 and G4 titles), 3-1 in Fed Cup, and 21-2 (2-2 in finals) on the ITF challenger level.
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DOUBLES: Liang Chen/Zhang Shuai (CHN/CHN)
...Liang & Zhang claimed the Istanbul crown without dropping a set, as the 29-year olds defeated Xenia Knoll & Anna Smith 6-4/6-4 in the final. This is the fourth time the two have teamed up in doubles, but the first time in four years. The other two times came in 2005 (when they also partnered up in a junior event). Liang's title is the sixth of her career, while it's the fifth for Zhang (her first since '14).


===============================================


And baby makes a mother/child doubles duo in about sixteen years...




1. Stuttgart QF - Caroline Garcia def. Elina Svitolina
...6-7(4)/6-4/6-2.
For all her perceived mental toughness and problem-solving skills, Svitolina loses an abnormal number of matches in which she holds leads but can't close the door. Her loss to Simona Halep in Paris last spring immediately springs to mind, but her recent history with Garcia probably should, too. This is the Ukrainian's third consecutive meeting vs. the Pastry in which she won a 1st set TB but lost the match. She led Garcia 7-6/3-0, and converted just two of fifteen BP chances in the match.
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2. Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Anett Kontaveit def. Kristina Mladenovic
...5-7/7-6(3)/7-6(5).
While Garcia was snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in Stuttgart, Mladenovic was on the opposite end of that equation. She held two MP in the 2nd set, and served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd, ultimately losing to Kontaveit (52 winners) while battling herself (29 W/39 UE) on the stats sheet in the 3:09 contest.
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3. Istanbul Final - Pauline Parmentier def. Polona Hercog
...6-4/3-6/6-3.
Parmentier and Hercog pretty well acted out the old "thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat" cliche immediately after MP on this one, as the Pasty finished off one of the more improbable title runs in recent memory nearly a full decade after she won her last title.


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4. Stuttgart 1st Rd. - CoCo Vandeweghe def. Sloane Stephens 6-1/6-0
Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Madison Keys 7-6(7)/5-7/6-4
...
the players who provided all three points in the U.S.'s Fed Cup semifinal over France failed to get out of the 1st Round days later, while Vandeweghe followed up her winless FC weekend with one of the best performance weeks of her entire career, though she didn't end up with a title. Go figure (or maybe that's just how the-week-after-Fed-Cup ALWAYS seems to go).
===============================================
5. Stuttgart 1st Rd. - Angelique Kerber def. Petra Kvitova
...6-3/6-2.
Immediately after losing to Petra in FC by a 6-2/6-2 scoreline in Stuttgart, Angie does this. (Throws up hands.)
===============================================
6. Istanbul QF - Irina-Camelia Begu def. Donna Vekic
...5-7/7-6(1)/6-1.
Vekic twice served for the match, and held a MP at 6-5 in the 2nd, only to DF.
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7. Istanbul QF - Pauline Parmentier def. Caroline Wozniacki 4-6/6-3 ret.
Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Garbine Muguruza 7-5 ret.
Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Anett Kontaveit def. Angelique Kerber 6-0/2-0 ret.
...
after being taken to three sets by Sara Errani a round earlier, Wozniacki goes out with an abdominal injury. Muguruza's seven-match winning streak ends due to a lower back issue, while Kerber's thigh injury sent her out without much of a fight.
===============================================
8. Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Caroline Garcia def. Marta Kostyuk
...6-1/3-6/7-5.
The 15-year old pushed Garcia in just her second career match against a Top 10 player. She's since hit something of a wall in Prague qualifying, falling in the opening round to Gabriela Ruse, though even there she battled back from 5-0 down in the 3rd to win three games and force the Romanian to make four MP attempts to close out the match. Still, the Ukrainian is 21-7 for the season, with an Australian Open Q-run and 3rd Round result, three $60K finals (1-2), her Fed Cup debut and her first WTA MD win last week (def. Antonia Lottner after another successful qualifying run). Just nineteen months after she played her first pro match in an ITF challenger in Kharkiv, Ukraine in August '16, she'll be up to #134 in the new rankings.


===============================================
9. Istanbul 1st Rd. - Priscilla Hon/Nicole Geuer def. Aryna Sabalenka/Maria Sakkari
...3-6/7-6(3) [12-10].
The gloriously perfect pairing of Sabalenka & Sakkari lasted just one match, but it still produced this...


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10. Stuttgart 2nd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Magdalena Rybarikova 4-6/6-2/6-3
Stuttgart QF - CoCo Vandeweghe def. Simona Halep 6-4/6-1
...
Halep managed to turn back one slam semifinalist's set and a break lead, but she couldn't do it in back-to-back matches, as Vandeweghe posted her third career #1 win, and third consecutive over three different #1's since the start of last season.


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11. $25K Weisbaden Final - Kathinka von Deichmann def. Katarina Zavatska
...6-3/6-2.
Two weeks after clocking her maiden tour-level MD win (over Siegemund in Lugano), the 23-year old from Liechtenstein picks up her thirteen career challenger title.
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12. $25K Pula Final - Jaimee Fourlis def. Anastasia Grymalska
...6-4/4-6/6-0.
The 18-year old Aussie wins her third career challenger crown (second of '18).

THIRD 25K TITLE ??????#yay

A post shared by Jaimee Fourlis (@jaimeefourlis_) on


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1. Stuttgart Final - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. CoCo Vandeweghe
...7-6(2)/6-4.
Pliskova is the seventeeth active player with double-digit singles titles (tying soon-to-retire Roberta Vinci), one behind the likes of Kerber, Pavlyuchenkova, Schnyder and Svitolina.


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2. $25K Obidos Final - ARINA RODIONOVA def. Pemra Ozgen
...6-3/6-2.
Another sister champion in Week 17, Rodionova gets her first singles title since 2016.
===============================================
3. $25K Obidos SF - ARINA RODIONOVA def. ULA RADWANSKA
...6-1/6-2.
Ula lost a rain-delayed singles final (to Katie Boulter) on Monday, then picked right up where she'd left off the rest of the week, reaching the semis in her follow-up tournament in Obidos.
===============================================
HM- Istanbul 1st Round - Donna Vekic def. AGA RADWANSKA
...6-1/2-0 ret.
While her sister's fortunes are turning upward, Aga's bend back in the opposite direction as she was forced to retire with a back injury in her first outing since her loss in Miami to Vika Azarenka. After winning two matches in each of her first three events of '18, she's gone 3-5 since. After seeing her string of Top 10 seasons end at six in '17 (year-end #28), Radwanska will be at #30 in the new rankings.


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1. CZE Fed Cup Team: make that six finals in eight years
2. Karolina Pliskova, CZE: once again, Fed Cup has lifted her to another level
3. Kiki Bertens, NED: it's clay season, so Kiki is a champ (this time in Charleston)
4. Petra Kvitova, CZE: unlike Pliskova, Petra didn't carry over her FC momentum to a tour-level event. BFD, right?
5. Elise Mertens, BEL: Lugano champ, and the Belgian FC team's bellwether
HM- USA Fed Cup Team: In Rinaldi They Still Trust (we'll see if it holds up after the Czechs come calling, though)

[FED CUP]
1. Petra Kvitova, CZE
2. Sloane Stephens, USA
3. Viktoria Kuzmova, SVK
4. Alona Ostapenko, LAT
5. Miyu Kato/Makoto Ninomiya, JPN
6. Vera Lapko/Lidziya Marozava, BLR
7. Elise mertens, BEL
8. Genie Bouchard, CAN
9. Bianca Andreescu/Gaby Dabrowski, CAN
10. Simona Halep, ROU
11. Ash Barty, AUS
12. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
13. Madison Keys, USA
14. Garbine Muguruza, ESP
15. Johanna Konta, GBR
16. Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL
17. Kurumi Nara, JPN
18. Maria Sakkari, GRE
19. Ons Jabeur, TUN
20. Chanel Simmonds, RSA
HM- Emilie Francati/Maria Jespersen, DEN
[captain]
1. Sylvain Bruneau, CAN
2. Kathy Rinaldi, USA
3. Toshihisa Tsuchihashi, JPN
4. Petr Pala, GER
5. Florin Segarceanu, ROU
6. Andis Juska, LAT
7. Matej Liptak, SVK
8. Tatiana Poutchek, BLR
9. Jens-Anker Andersen, DEN
10. Rene Plant, RSA
HM- Helen Asciak, MLT

RISERS: CoCo Vandeweghe/USA, Caroline Garcia/FRA, Timea Babos/HUN and Ana Bogdan/ROU
SURPRISES: Daniela Seguel/CHI, Dalila Jakupovic/SLO, and MEX players (R.Zarazua/V.Rodriguez/A.S.Sanchez/G.Olmos)
VETERANS: Garbine Muguruza/ESP, Pauline Parmentier/FRA, Julia Goerges/GER and Anastasija Sevastova/LAT
COMEBACKS: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK, Iga Swiatek/POL, Stefanie Voegele/SUI and Kristyna Pliskova/CZE
FRESH FACES: Anett Kontaveit/EST, Aryna Sabalenka/BLR, Fanny Stollar/HUN and Vera Lapko/BLR
JUNIOR STARS: Emiliana Arango/COL, Clara Tauson/DEN, Eleonora Molinaro/LUX and Hurricane Tyra Black/USA
DOUBLES: Atawo/Groenefeld (USA/GER), Kudryavtseva/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) and Flipkens/Mertens (BEL/BEL)
ITF/WTA 125: Zheng Saisai/CHN, Taylor Townsend/USA and Varvara Flink/USA
DOWN: Maria Sharapova/RUS, Yulia Putintseva/KAZ and Peng Shuai/CHN
MOST IMPROVED: Sachia Vickery/USA, Bernarda Pera/USA, Wang Yafan/CHN and Ankita Raina/IND
[FED CUP]
RISERS: BEL FC and AUS FC
SURPRISES: Lesley Kerkhove/NED, SVK FC and MLT FC
VETERANS: Anastasija Sevastova/LAT and Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
COMEBACKS: Dasha Gavrilova/AUS, CZE FC and ROU FC
FRESH FACES: Montserrat Gonzalez/PAR and Chiraz Bechri/TUN
JUNIOR STARS: Eleonora Molinaro/LUX, Claura Tauson/DEN and Francesca Curmi/MLT
DOUBLES: Simmonds/Le Roux (RSA) and Grammatikopoulou/Sakkari (GRE)
DOWN: Angelique Kerber/GER, Sam Stosur/AUS and RUS FC
MOST IMPROVED: Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK, Maria Sakkari/GRE and Ons Jabeur/TUN
















Went to Uzbekistan for dinner ?? woooot

A post shared by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on












**WTA SINGLES TITLES - LAST 3 SEASONS**
8 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (1/5/2)
6 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE (2/3/1)
5 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (2/1/2)
5 - Simona Halep, ROU (3/1/1)
5 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (2/2/1)
5 - Sloane Stephens, USA (3/1/1)

**ALL-TIME WTA - TIME BETWEEN TITLES**
16y,4m - Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (1998 Bol-->2014 Quebec City)
13y,1m - Kimiko Date-Krumm (1996 San Diego-->2009 Seoul)
9y,9m,1w - PAULINE PARMENTIER (2008 BAD GASTEIN-->2018 ISTANBUL)
9y,3m,2w - Kateryna Bondarenko (2008 Birmingham-->2017 Tashkent)
8y,8m,3w - Jelena Dokic (2002 Birmingham-->2011 Kuala Lumpur)
8y,8m,3w - Barbara Rittner (1992 Schenectady-->2001 Antwerp)
8y,5m,1w - Klara Zakopalova (2005 Portoroz-->2014 Florianopolis)

**CONSECUTIVE YEARS WITH WTA SINGLES TITLE - active**
11 years - Caroline Wozniacki (2008-18)
8 years - Petra Kvitova (2011-18)
6 years - Simona Halep (2013-18)
6 years - Elina Svitolina (2013-18)
6 years - KAROLINA PLISKOVA (2013-18)
5 years - Garbine Muguruza (2014-18)
--
NOTE: S.Williams w/ 11-year streak (2007-17)

**CAREER WTA SINGLES TITLES - ACTIVE**
[w/ last season w/ title]
72...Serena Williams (2017)
49...Venus Williams (2016)
36...Maria Sharapova (2017)
28...Caroline Wozniacki (2018)
22...Petra Kvitova (2018)
20...Victoria Azarenka (2016)
20...Aga Radwanska (2016)
17...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2016)
16...Simona Halep (2018)
15...Jelena Jankovic (2015)
12...Vera Zvonareva (2011)
11...Angelique Kerber (2018)
11...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2017)
11...Patty Schnyder (2008)
11...Elina Svitolina (2018)
10...KAROLINA PLISKOVA (2018)
10...Roberta Vinci (2016)

**LOW-RANKED FINALISTS IN 2018**
#183 Stefanie Voegele, SUI (Acapulco: L/Errani)
#132 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, SVK (Bogota: W/Arrubarrena)
#122 PAULINE PARMENTIER, FRA (ISTANBUL: W/Hercog)

**2018 ALL-UNSEEDED PLAYERS FINAL**
Sydney: Kerber/GER def. Barty/AUS
ISTANBUL: PARMENTIER/FRA def. HERCOG/SLO

**SELECTED CAREER TOP 10 WINS**
23 - Elina Svitolina
21 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA
16 - COCO VANDEWEGHE
14 - CAROLINE GARCIA
13 - Madison Keys
12 - Belinda Bencic
12 - Genie Bouchard
11 - Kristina Mladenovic
11 - Sloane Stephens
10 - Dasha Kasatkina
7 - Alona Ostapenko

**2018 DEFEATED #1 SEED & DC - DOUBLES**
[won title]
Indian Wells: Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE [2r-L.Chan; F-Makarova/Vesnina]
STUTTGART: ATAWO/GROENEFELD, USA/GER [SF-Klepac/MJMS, 2r-Ostapenko]
[didn't win title]
Hobart: Kudermetova/Sabalenka [QF-Olaru/Savchuk] - lost SF
Taiwan City: Hibino/Kalashnikova [SF-A.Chan] - lost F
Dubai: Hsieh/Peng [SF-Makarova/Vesnina] - lost F
Monterrey: Savinykh/Sizikova [QF-Hibino] - lost SF

**2018 OLDEST FINALISTS**
[singles]
32 - PAULINE PARMENTIER, FRA (ISTANBUL-W)
[doubles]
42 - KVETA PESCHKE, CZE (STUTTGART-L)
37 - Katarina Srebotnik, SLO (Charleston-W)
36 - Katarina Srebotnik, SLO (Saint Petersburg-L)
35 - MJ Martinez Sanchez, ESP (0-3 in finals)
35 - RAQUEL ATAWO, USA (STUTTGART-W)
33 - Vera Zvonareva, RUS (Saint Petersburg-W)
32 - Kirsten Flipkens, BEL (1-1 in finals)
32 - Hsieh Su-wei, TPE (1-1 in finals)
32 - Andreja Klepac, SLO (Charleston-L)
32 - Peng Shuai, CHN (Dubai-L)
32 - ANNA-LENA GROENEFELD, GER (STUTTGART-W)

**OLDEST DOUBLES DUO CHAMPIONS - since 2014**
72 - Groenefeld & Peschke (2017 Prague)
71 - Peschke & Srebotnik (2014 Rome)
70 - Williams & Williams (2016 Wimbledon)
70 - Spears & Srebotnik (2017 Doha)
67 - ATAWO & GROENEFLED (2018 STUTTGART)
66 - Kops-Jones (Atawo) & Spears (2015 Linz)
66 - Jurak & An.Rodionova (2017 Acapulco)

**2018 GRADE 1/A/SLAM JUNIOR CHAMPS - through Week 17**
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: Hurricane Tyra Black/USA
Beaulieu-sur-Mer G1: Eleonora Molinaro/LUX








PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (Int'l/Red Clay)
=WS FINALS=
2010 Lucie Hradecka def. Ajla Tomljanovic 6–1, 7–6(4) (ITF)
2011 Magdalena Rybarikova def. Petra Kvitova 6–3, 6–4 (ITF)
2012 Lucie Safarova def. Klara Zakopalova 6–3, 7–5 (ITF)
2013 Lucie Safarova def. Alexandra Cadantu 3–6, 6–1, 6–1 (ITF)
2014 Heather Watson def. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 7–6(5), 6–0 (ITF)
2015 Karolína Pliskova def. Lucie Hradecka 4–6, 7–5, 6–3
2016 Lucie Safarova def. Samantha Stosur 3–6, 6–1, 6–4
2017 Mona Barthel def. Kristyna Pliskova 2–6, 7–5, 6–2
=2017=
QF: Barthel d. Giorgi
QF: Strycova d. Siniakova
QF: Kr.Pliskova d. Haddd Maia
QF: Ostapenko d. Konjuh
SF: Barthel d. Strycova
SF: Kr.Pliskova d. Ostapenko
F: Barthel d. Kr.Pliskova
=WD FINALS=
2010 Lykina/Zec Peskiric d. Cetkovska/Hrdinova (ITF)
2011 Cetkovska/Krajicek d. Lee-Waters/Moulton-Levy (ITF)
2012 Cornet/Razzano d. Amanmuradova/Dellacqua (ITF)
2013 Voracova/Zahlavova-Strycova d. Falconi/Hrdinova (ITF)
2014 Hradecka/Krajicek d. Hlavackova/Safarova (ITF)
2015 Bencic/Siniakova d. K.Bondarenko/Hrdinova
2016 Gasparyan/Hlavackova d. Irigoyen/Kania
2017 Groenefeld/Peschke d. Hradecka/Siniakova
=2017=
SF: Hradecka/Siniakova d. Atawo/Voracova
SF: Muhammad/Rosolska d. Groenefeld/Peschke
F: Groenefeld/Peschke d. Hradecka/Siniakova
=======================================
'18 TOP SEEDS
WS: #1 Ka.Pliskova, #2 Kvitova
WD: #1 Dabrowski/Xu Yifan, #2 Sestini-Hlavackova/Voracova

...the Pliskovas face off in the 1st Round (their only tour-level match-up was in the '13 Eastbourne qualifying final, won by Kristyna -- Kaorolina leads 5-3 in their ITF match-ups), with the winner likely getting Fed Cup star Viktoria Kuzmova, with defending champion Mona Barthel a possible match-up in the QF. Meanwhile, Dasha Gavrilova meets fellow Aussie Sam Stosur in the opening round, while Petra Kvitova gets fellow Maiden Tereza Smitkova as she tries to begin a new wins-over-Czechs streak after her recent loss to Kristyna Pliskova. LATE NOTE: Ka.Pliskova withdrew, leaving the event w/o a top seed. Sasnovich takes her place at the top of the draw as the #9 seed.



RABAT, MOROCCO (Int'l/Red Clay)
=WS FINALS=
2001 Zsofia Gubacsi def. Maria Elena Camerin 1–6, 6–3, 7–6(5)
2002 Patricia Wartusch def. Klara Koukalova 5–7, 6–3, 6–3
2003 Rita Grande def. Antonella Serra Zanetti 6–2, 4–6, 6–1
2004 Emilie Loit def. Ludmila Cervanova 6–2, 6–2
2005 Nuria Llagostera Vives def.Zheng Jie 6–4, 6–2
2006 Meghann Shaughnessy def. Martina Sucha 6–2, 3–6, 6–3
2007 Milagros Sequera def. Aleksandra Wozniak 6–1, 6–3
2008 Gisela Dulko def. Anabel Medina Garrigues 7–6(2), 7–6(5)
2009 Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Ekaterina Makarova 6–0, 6–1
2010 Iveta Benesova def. Simona Halep 6–4, 6–2
2011 Alberta Brianti def. Simona Halep 6–4, 6–3
2012 Kiki Bertens def. Laura Pous Tio 7–5, 6–0
2013 Francesca Schiavone def. Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6–1, 6–3
2014 Maria Teresa Torro Flor def. Romina Oprandi 6–3, 3–6, 6–3
2015 Elina Svitolina def. Timea Babos 7–5, 7–6(3)
2016 Timea Bacsinszky def. Marina Erakovic 6–2, 6–1
2017 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Francesca Schiavone 7–5, 7–5
=2017=
QF: Pavlyuchenkova d. Davis
QF: Errani d. Gavrilova
QF: Schiavone d. Maria
QF: Lepchenko d. Bellis
SF: Pavlyuchenkova d. Errani
SF: Schiavone d. Lepchenko
F: Pavlyuchenkova d. Schiavone
=WD FINALS=
2001 Svensson/Bacheva d. Salerni/MJ Martinez
2002 Wartusch/Mandula d. Dulko/Martinez Granados
2003 Salerni/Dulko d. Tatarkova/Nagyova
2004 Bartoli/Loit d. Srebotnik/Callens
2005 Loit/Strycova d. Domínguez Lino/Llagostera Vives
2006 Yan Zi/Zheng Jie d. Harkleroad/Mattek
2007 Mirza/King d. Vanc/An.Rodionova
2008 Cirstea/Pavlyuchenkova d. Kleybanova/Makarova
2009 Kleybanova/Makarova d. Cirstea/Kirilenko
2010 Benesova/Medina Garrigues d. Hradecka/Voracova
2011 Hlavackova/Voracova d. Bratchikova/S.Klemenschits
2012 Petra Cetkovska/A.Panova d. Begu/Cadan?u
2013 Babos/Minella d. Martic/Mladenovic
2014 Muguruza/Oprandi d. Piter/Zanevska
2015 Babos/Mladenovic d. Siegemund/Zanevska
2016 Knoll/Krunic d. Maria/Olaru
2017 Babos/Hlavackova d. Stojanovic/Zanevska
=2017=
SF: Babos/Hlavackova d. Gavrilova/Krunic
SF: Krejcikova/Kudryavtseva d. Stojanovic/Zanevska
F: Babos/Hlavackova d. Stojanovic/Zanevska
=======================================
'18 TOP SEEDS
WS: #1 Mertens, #2 Cibulkova
WD: TBD

...if it happens, all eyes will be on the Mertens/Siegemund 2nd Rounder. Dominika Cibulkova makes her return (she's played one match since her Budapest final run in late February) , while Timea Bacsinszky tries to post her first singles victory since since last year's Wimbledon.



ANNING, CHINA (WTA 125/Hard Court)
=WS FINALS=
2014 Zheng Saisai def. Jovana Jaksic 6–2, 6–3
2015 Zheng Saisai def. Han Xinyun 6–4, 3–6, 6–4
2016 Zhang Kailin def. Peng Shuai 6–1, 0–6, 4–2, ret.
2017 Zheng Saisai def. Zarina Diyas 7–5, 6–4
=2017=
QF: Arina Rodionova d. Fett
QF: Diyas d. Grammatikopoulou
QF: Yang Zhaoxuan d. Han Xinyun
QF: Zheng Saisai d. Gao Xinyu
SF: Diyas d. Ar.Rodionova
SF: Zheng Saisai d. Yang Zhaoxuan
F: Zheng Saisai d. Diyas
=WD FINALS=
2014 Han Xinyun/Zhang Kailin d. Varat.Wongteanchai/Zhang Ling
2015 Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai d. Yang Zhaoxuan/Ye Qiuyu
2016 Wang Yafan/Zhang Kailin d. Varat.Wongteanchai/Yang Zhaoxuan
2017 Han Xinyun/Ye Qiuyu d. Thombare/Xun Fangying
=2017=
SF: Thombare/Xun Fangying d. Sun Xuliu/Wang Yafan
SF: Han Xinyun/Ye Qiuyu Adamczak/Chan Chin-wei
F: Han Xinyun/Ye Qiuyu/Thombare/Xun Fangying
=======================================
'18 TOP SEEDS
WS: #1 Wang Yafan, #2 Wickmayer
WD: #1 Jakupovic/Khromacheva, #2 Han Xinyun/Ye Qiuyu

...Chinese players have swept every title awarded at this tournament since it began in 2014.


All for now.

7 Comments:

Blogger colt13 said...

Re-Pliskova not having a license: She actually "won" the Porsche parking challenge one year, but as a passenger.

Cibulkova and Bacsinszky are both in the bottom half in Rabat. More likely someone with very few, if any titles reaches the final.

With all of these slumping players reaching or winning finals, guess I should pick Watson, who is a former winner in Prague. Kuzmova on the short list too.

Was going to pick Vondrousova, but she pulled out of the draw. She is like Keys to me, tough to pick because of her lack of durability, but has only had one ret/WO in the last year. Keys the same amount.

On the other hand, Muguruza has been involved in 8, going 3-5.

Ka.Pliskova pulled out, so still no sister matchup on WTA level.

Stat of the Week-9- The amount of Czech finalists in the 8 years as both ITF/WTA event.

They have had a finalist every year except 2014, in which Heather Watson d AK Schmiedlova, a match that is being repeated this week. Initials used because 2014 was when Kristina Schmiedlova won one of her 2 ITF titles.

Quiz Time!
3 Czech women have won the title in Prague. Which one did not?

A.Petra Kvitova
B.Karolina Pliskova
C.Lucie Hradecka
D.Lucie Safarova


Interlude-No Up/Down side now, but there will be one later this week as Madrid has a Saturday start.

The other thought? Halep's movement was a bit slower than usual in the Vandeweghe match. Curious if that becomes a thing. The one matchup I do want to see? Muguruza/Halep on clay. Happened once 3 years ago, and Halep won, but H2H is 4-1 Muguruza.

Answer
It isn't Safarova, who is a 3 time winner, nor is it Pliskova, although it was her sister who reached the final last year.

It is not 2 time finalist, one time winner Hradecka, leaving(A) Kvitova, the 2011 finalist as your answer.

Mon Apr 30, 08:03:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Quiz: argh. I was trying to remember if I'd seen Hradecka in there as a singles winner in the former champions list, as I remember her being in a few finals. Wasn't sure about Kvitova, but went with the odds that she *had* been. Was wrong. :(

Oh, great... the fabled Saturday start. Love those. :\

Feelin' a Cult of Kuzmova developing in the HQ halls. :)

Mon Apr 30, 11:57:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, speaking of Madrid -- Vika's back (and traveling). So away we go...

Mon Apr 30, 12:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Up Side-The Rooster Edition.

1.Azarenka-She's back! Admittedly, the last 2 times she has done this, she has played better in the 2nd tournament. So winning one match here, the doing better in Rome and France is plausible. To show how times change, from the beginning of the 2015 season through the 2015 US Open, Azarenka played 13 tournaments. Since then? 13 tournaments, which is ONE MORE than Serena.
2.Halep- The current 2 time champ, and prohibitive favorite. If she wins, she would not be the first Romanian to have won a title 3 times, that would be Ruzici, who won Kitzbuhel 3 times. Actually, to make this more confusing, she actually won the Austria tournament 4 times, once while played in Bregenz. If you don't remember either one, no surprise, as they played in 7 locations, last in 2015 as Bad Gastein.
3.Konta- Has a winnable first round in Rybarikova, and a qualifier if she wins that. Plus she knows she needs work, and is in doubles, which is even more notable as her opponent is the home country's own Medina Garrigues w/Parra Santonja.
4.Kostyuk- Counting ITF's, she is 20-6 on the season. Has 2 Top 40 wins-Peng/Cornet, plus Gavrilova in Fed Cup. May only win a round, but better on her still young body, as she turns 16 next month, not to have to play qualies for once.
5.Keys- I know, she reached the Rome final, not Madrid. But she has a good draw until she reaches Halep, who she is 1-5 against. One odd fact? Of her 7 career finals, she has reached more outside of the US- 4.

Fri May 04, 09:34:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Down Side.

1.Siegemund-She came back too soon. I had this planned, and the fact that the draw is out, and she isn't in it, makes this prudent. 5-5 since her comeback, and 2 of those 5 losses are due to retirement. She isn't Muguruza , so that is a HUGE red flag. In fact, before her injury last year in Nurnberg, Siegemund had not retired in a match since 2004.
2.Strycova- The wheels on the bus...have fallen off. 6 straight losses, and has to play Suarez Navarro, who ranked 25th, might be too much. Why? Because Strycova's highest ranked win this season is Kasatkina-24.
3.Buzarnescu- Down for Madrid, only because as of this writing, she has reached the final in Prague. Winning her first title the same week as her birthday means she may not even show up, nor would I blame her.
4.Muguruza-I admit that I get heavy handed about her retirements. But she made it here, while Vondrousova and Kerber did not. But on this list, because like Vinci in Rome, Muguruza hasn't played her best here.
5.Begu-With a different draw, she would have been a SF pick. Romanians do well here, but has Ostapenko 1st rd, Sharapova/LL(probably) in the 2nd, and is in a small section where Vandeweghe might be the favorite. A US woman on clay? Kiki Vandeweghe was born in Germany, so not that foreign.

Fri May 04, 09:45:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Barty/Vandeweghe back together.

The one weird thing about Halep that I couldn't fit? If she reaches the final, the ranking may matter more than you think. The highest ranked player she has beaten in a final? #9-Kerber-Doha 2014, and #9 Kvitova-Connecticut 2013.

Fri May 04, 09:48:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Though I didn't think she'e "officially" retired, I didn't realize AMG was planning on coming back to play any events. Wonder if she'd ever consider putting herself on the ESP Fed Cup roster in a pinch?

Of note: Kasatkina has now lost three straight clay court matches, including this past week in Prague to a lucky loser. ;(

Fri May 04, 12:41:00 PM EDT  

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