Monday, May 28, 2018

RG.2- Passably Pojding in Paris

A year ago, Petra Kvitova didn't have to wait long to make her return to the court, as she was the first woman to record a 1st Round victory on Day 1. The Czech has to wait an extra day this time around. After an unexpected delay while a wayward 1st set caused one eye to pop open on the seemingly-rotting corpse of Bad Petra, Kvitova was back to doing what she's done so early and often in 2018.

Namely, winning.

A lot has changed in the sixteen months since the home invasion that sent Kvitova into emergency hand surgery in December 2016. Her comeback has, though she was at or near the top of the list already, managed to make her an even more beloved figure on the WTA tour. With five singles titles under her belt in the twelve months since her return to the sport, including a tour-best four in '18, as well as the news of her previously on-the-lam assailant having apparently finally been captured in the Czech Republic, #8-seeded Petra arrived in Paris on a two-title, 11-match winning streak on clay and looking fitter and more able to compete for the Roland Garros crown than at maybe any other time in her entire career (even when she reached the semis in '12).

But Veronica Cepede Royg didn't really care about all that on Monday.

The #87-ranked 26-year old from Paraguay, who reached the Round of 16 at RG last year, was the dominant player in the opening set of her 1st Round match with Kvitova today. When the Czech double-faulted to drop serve in game #8, VCR served for the set at 5-3, holding at love and taking the match lead while having yet to face a break point. She'd reached such a position despite serving at just a 55% clip. Cepede Royg lost just seven points on serve, while committing only two unforced errors (vs. Kvitova's 17 in nine games).

But once she'd experienced a Bad Petra flashback, Great Petra made her triumphant return.

Kvitova jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the 2nd, taking the set 6-1 while cutting her errors nearly in half (9), winning 82% of her first serve points and converting both BP she held. The 3rd set saw the match tighten yet again. But Kvitova never faced a BP in the set (or even went to deuce on serve), finally fired more winners than errors (13/9) in a set on the day and, after failing to convert an earlier BP, broke VCR for a 6-5 lead on BP #2 in the set. She served out the match to win 3-6/6-1/7-5 and record her 22nd career RG match (one win short of tying the U.S. Open as the Czech's second most-successful major behind Wimbledon). In the end, Kvitova finished with 30 winners to 35 unforced errors.

All right... next?

...Victoria Azarenka's clay expectations were never high this spring, as she was finally heading out of the U.S. for the first time in nearly a year due to her long custody battle over son Leo, her relative lack of match play (just 11 matches in '18 heading into RG, and six of those coming during her SF run in Miami), and the way she went out in her last pre-Paris match, a love & 3 defeat at the hands of Naomi Osaka in Rome. Additionally, Roland Garros has traditionally been her worst slam (her 21-10 mark there before this year isn't bad, but it's her least successful ledger at the four majors), and she'd only won two matches there since her 2013 semifinal run, missing the event altogether in 2014 and '17.

As it turned out, she gave Katerina Siniakova a good run today, only to fall 7-5/7-5 to the Czech. Neither dropped serve in the 1st set until Siniakova broke Azarenka to take the stanza, then she came from a break down three times in the 2nd, winning four of the final five games to record her first career MD win in Paris.

So, rather than the possible Ostapenko/Azarenka clash in the 2nd Round, it'll be Siniakova/Kozlova. And...

All true, but it should also be noted that Makarova, while not expected to do much at this RG, *has* reached slam semis in Melbourne and New York, as well as a QF in London. The rest are far more inexperienced (#26 Strycova and Putintseva *do* have one slam QF apiece) when it comes to that sort of big stage success. The Russian is not.

...after putting on a run to the final in Stuttgart, with big wins over the likes of Sloane Stephens, Simona Halep and Caroline Garcia, #15 CoCo Vandeweghe's clay season didn't exactly maintain that momentum. After posting four wins in her first clay event, she lost her next two matches in straight sets in Madrid and Rome. But she got right back on the proverbial horse in Paris on Day 2, picking up her second win this spring over Laura Siegemund (she defeated the back-from-knee surgery German in three sets early in her Stuttgart run) via a 6-4/6-4 scoreline. Vandeweghe came in with just a 2-6 career mark in Paris.

Add another first to #29 Mihaela Buzarnescu's career resume, as in her first career slam MD singles win, courtesy of a 6-3/6-3 victory over Vania King.

Belinda Bencic, last seen in Indian Wells and probably last remembered for her 1st Round upset of Venus in Melbourne, finally returned to the court today. Her meeting with a qualifier -- who turned out to be Italy's Deborah Chiesa -- seemed a rather soft spot in the draw from which a surprise might emerge. That could still happen, but it won't be Chiesa doing the surprising. The Italian had five MP in the 2nd set, three in a row at one point, but couldn't secure her first career MD win. The pair traded breaks often, but it was Bencic's hold for 5-4 in the 3rd that proved key. Ultimately, she won the match with a break of Chiesa's serve in game #12. After it was over, a relieved Bencic collapsed onto the court in celebration of her 3-6/7-6(2)/7-5 win after finally closing things out on her own fourth MP.

#2 Caroline Wozniacki, in her first slam match as a major champion, took out Danielle Collins in straight sets, eliminating from the race one of the six women in contention for the #1 ranking at this Roland Garros.

Although, Karolina *did* post a win today over fellow Czech Barbora Krejcikova.

...Andrea Petkovic, after spending some time sitting on a bench near a river and seeing a bearded guy in a Bob Dylan T-Shirt, some supermodels and a Prince Harry double, finally showed up in Paris and today took down #29 Kristina Mladenovic, 7-6(10)/6-2, running her record against the Pastry to 5-0. Mladenovic had four SP in the 2nd, including serving back-to-back double-faults on SP in the tie-break.

Mladenovic will fall outside the Top 50 once Roland Garros concludes. With Stuttgart and Madrid finals, and RG quarterfinal, from 2017 now off her record, she's gone 19-31 (3-1 FC) over the past 12-month stretch.

...with so many regular doubles combos kaput, in limbo or temporary suspension, it should be noted that many of the top singles players pulling extra duty in the WD draw are now through with singles after just two days of play. Mladenovic is seeded #1 with Timea Babos. Both have already ended their singles run. As has Venus Williams, who's signed up with Serena. Elena Vesnina, who lost today to Bernarda Pera, will have the full attention of sudden partner Alona Ostapenko, and vice versa. They're the #11 seeds.

And, in case you were wondering, Demi Schuurs' spinning wheel of doubles partners, has landed on "Elise Mertens." The #12 seeds, the duo combined to win a title earlier this season, but that doesn't make the Waffle special. Schuurs has won four titles with four different partners in 2018, including two (Ash Barty and Katarina Srebotnik) the last two weeks.

...late in the day, one of this season's best clay courters was dangling by the end of a thread as the aforementioned #16 Mertens faced off with Varvara Lepchenko. Lepchenko saved four SP in the 1st, then served for the match up 7-6(9)/5-4. But the Belgian got the break, then won a 7-4 TB to force a 3rd set. She led 3-0 when play was finally suspended.

In the two matches left over from Sunday, qualifier Alexandra Dulgheru took a 6-3 3rd set from Christina McHale to advance, while the all-Pastry wild card battle saw Pauline Parmentier maintain her edge over Chloe Paquet to get the win. Parmentier is the only wild card to advance thus far, but four have yet to play a 1st Round match. At least one more will move on, as Taylor Townsend and Myrtille Georges will play an all-WC match tomorrow.

In all, five qualifiers reached the 2nd Round on Monday. Caroline Dolehide defeated Viktorija Golubic, Rebecca Peterson knocked off Hsieh Su-wei, Mariana Duque Marino upset #20 Anatasija Sevastova and Georgina Garcia Perez eliminated lucky loser Dalila Jakupovic to advance, making the women's LL crew 0-2 at this Paris, while (so far) six qualifiers are into the Final 64. Richel Hogenkamp is still to play. The Dutch woman's match with Maria Sharapova never got started today before play was suspended. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Mississippi's Arianne Hartono defeated Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey for the NCAA women's singles championship, becoming the first Rebel to claim the title.

LSU's Jessica Golovin & Eden Richardson claimed the doubles national championship.

...LIKE ON DAY 2: You know you're staring down a tough moment with determination when you're pulling out Gandhi quotes for inspiration.

...EYE ROLLING ON DAY 2: Why, I'm shocked (!!!) that someone would say something in Serena's defense -- which is easy regarding this issue -- while *also* needlessly and misleadingly taking the discussion in the direction of a world-vs.-Serena argument. That NEVER happens. Except, you know, when it does far more often than it needs to.

What Chrissie said.

For the record, Vika, who was #5 when she played her last match before having *her* baby, was ranked #683 and unseeded at Wimbledon in her first slam back. The rule hurts both the returning mothers as well as -- certainly in the case of Serena's comeback -- the other players in the draw. Williams' current standing surely isn't any sort of prejudiced attack on her specifically.

But, of course, what do facts mean nowadays?

...LIKE ON DAY 2: Garbi and Lisa.

...and, finally, it's Memorial Day in the U.S., so that means a few graveyard strolls are in order. From this morning...

And, Hezekiah...

Sheesh... 1885 seems like yesterday.

3rd Rd. - Bernarda Pera, USA (AO)
1st Rd. - Viktoriya Tomova, BUL (AO)
1st Rd. - Dalila Jakupovic, SLO (RG)
1st Rd. - Arantxa Rus, NED (RG)

[recent singles winners]
2009 Mallory Cecil, Duke
2010 Chelsey Gullickson, Georgia
2011 Jana Juricova, California
2012 Nicole Gibbs, Stanford
2013 Nicole Gibbs, Stanford
2014 Danielle Collins, Virginia
2015 Jamie Loeb, North Carolina
2016 Danielle Collins, Virginia
2017 Brienne Minor, Michigan
2018 Arianne Hartono, Mississippi
[recent doubles winners]
2010 Hilary Barte / Lindsay Burdette (Stanford)
2011 Hilary Barte / Mallory Burdette (Stanford)
2012 Mallory Burdette / Nicole Gibbs (Stanford)
2013 Kaitlyn Christian / Sabrina Santamaria (USC)
2014 Maya Jansen / Erin Routcliffe (Alabama)
2015 Maya Jansen / Erin Routcliffe (Alabama)
2016 Brooke Austin / Kourtney Keegan (Florida)
2017 Francesca Di Lorenzo / Miho Kowase (Ohio State)
2018 Jessica Golovin / Eden Richardson (LSU)
[overall singles champions by school]
14 - Stanford
4 - Florida
3 - Georgia
2 - California, Duke, Virginia
1 - Baylor, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi, San Diego, UCLA, USC, Wake Forest
[most singles titles]
2 - Sandra Birch, Stanford
2 - Danielle Collins, Virginia
2 - Patty Fendick, Stanford
2 - Nicole Gibbs, Stanford
2 - Laura Granville, Stanford
2 - Amber Liu, Stanford
2 - Lisa Raymond, Florida
[recent team champions]
2009 Duke
2010 Stanford
2011 Florida
2012 Florida
2013 Stanford
2014 UCLA
2015 Vanderbilt
2016 Stanford
2017 Florida
2018 Stanford
[most team titles]

TOP QUALIFIER: Francesca Schiavone/ITA
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU d. Tamara Korpatsch/GER 6-1/5-7/7-6(7) (from MP down and 5-2 in the 3rd for final qualifying berth)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST VICTORY: Ekaterina Makarova/RUS (def. Zheng Saisai/CHN)
FIRST SEED OUT: #9 Venus Williams/USA (1st Rd/lost to Wang Qiang/CHN)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Into 2nd Rd.: Dolehide/USA, Dulgheru/ROU, Frech/POL, Garcia Perez/ESP, Peterson/SWE
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Into 2nd Rd.: Parmentier/FRA
LAST PASTRY STANDING: In 2nd Rd.: Cornet, Parmentier
IT "??": xx
CRASH & BURN: Nominee: #5 A.Ostapenko/LAT (defending champ; lost 1st Rd. to #66 Kozlova -- first RG DC out 1st Rd. since '05)
ZOMBIE QUEEN OF PARIS: Nominee: Bencic (saved 5 MP vs. Chiesa in 1st Rd.)
Légion de Lenglen HONOREE: xx

All for Day 2. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Mon May 28, 08:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I was thinking, just the other day: Could Demi Schuurs be the new Mladenovic? "Schuurs and Anybody" is turning into quite a team.

(above post deleted b/c of spelling issues)

Mon May 28, 08:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ha! I did that three times on one comment yesterday, but since I can "delete comment forever" I left no evidence behind. ;)

Mon May 28, 10:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

#RG18 QFs: Kozlova, Siniakova, Makarova, Strycova, Putintseva, Brady, Marting, Wang

Just for fun, I will handicap that group:
1.Siniakova-The most likely if she can keep her emotions in check. Arguably with Putinseva, the only one on this list that hasn't reached her prime.
2.Martic- The new Makarova, just pencil her in for 3rd or 4th rd before tournament starts
3.Putinseva- The proverbial wild card. the most talented woman here, but rain delays and held over matches will affect her momentum more than most.
4.Makarova-Questionable health, but obviously wants to prove she can go farther than Vesnina-already has.
5.Wang-Needs more belief, her game is good.
6.Kozlova-If she were completely healthy, she would be higher.
7.Brady- Journeywoman with a decent draw.
8.Strycova- Had to beat someone without clay play to end her streak. Could win one more, but no QF.

Stat of the Day-1- Wins for Venus Williams on clay in 2018.

She normally gets a pass for lack of match play, but this was a huge red flag coming in. You see, for a season in which she played on clay, as she skipped 2011 after playing through the abdominal injury in Australia, this is the lowest total for her since she did not win any in 1996(0-1).

But it wasn't always that way. In a microcosm of her career, her best two years on clay were 2002(14-2), and 2004(17-2). Each time, she lost to the eventual winner at the French-S.Williams-2002-F/Myskina-2004-QF.

Tue May 29, 08:43:00 AM EDT  

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