Sunday, May 13, 2018

Wk.19- To Pojd is to Live

It's raining Petra. Again. Is she pojding her way to Paris?

Generally, one doesn't have to look too far to find Czechs on the WTA tour, but hardly anyone really saw them coming on with such a head of steam heading into this clay season. Of course, the hottest racket of all the Maidens at the moment, that of Petra Kvitova, is pretty hard to miss these days.

Everyone has known for quite a while what the two-time Wimbledon champ can do on grass, as well as on indoor hard courts. While she hasn't been a hopeless case on clay throughout her career -- two previous Madrid titles and a Roland Garros semifinal six years ago attest to that -- but what Kvitova has done on the surface this spring is a different "kettle of fish," from dominating the Germans on indoor red clay in Stuttgart to playing often peerless tennis in front of her home nation fans in Prague, then shining once again this past week in Madrid by knocking off, in succession, upset-minded Dasha Kasatkina, fellow 2018 clay court "thug" Karolina Pliskova and the red dirt loving Dutch woman Kiki Bertens in the final.

While Kvitova's Fed Cup prowess was a continuation of a longtime theme, and her win in the Czech Republic the latest stop on her heartwarming whistlestop campaign, Madrid may have been an even more important litmus. While she was in dominant form at times, Kvitova also had to fight to win her second straight clay title, coming back from a set down against Anett Kontaveit in the 3rd Round and then battling Bertens for nearly three hours in her final dramatic act of the week, winning her eleventh match in thirteen days, and turning the momentum back in her favor in the final two games after Bertens had gotten a late break to get the deciding set back on serve in the tiring battle.

Would Kvitova have won such a match in the not too distant past, when she's been plagued by asthma-related difficulties in long matches, many played in the heat and/or under such taxing circumstances as those encountered vs. Bertens. So many of her previously similar matches left her doubled over and forced to accept defeat? The Czech has already put together a career-best 14-match winning streak on hard court this season, and now she's not far off from doing the same (if not for an immediately-after-Fed Cup weekend opening match loss in Stuttgart that she'd probably been best to skip altogether, she'd already be at thirteen in a row) on the most labor-intensive surface that the sport offers.

The popular notion is that Kvitova's brush with near-tragedy in December 2016 has produced a new inner reservoir from which to pull, but the fact is that she's also notably fitter than she was in her previous incarnation as a player, and thereby slightly quicker and with more agility around the court. It has to play a part in what we've witnessed this season, which is decidedly going down the path, should it continue on the course it has thus far, to eclipse her previous "career year" of 2011. While the intangible benefits associated with her heart and mental outlook surely play a part in what Petra is doing, it's worth noting that even while she returned to tennis without fully being able to grip a racket with her once nearly destroyed hand, Kvitova is *physically* a better version of herself between the lines, too. Back nearly a year since she returned to action at Roland Garros last spring following her long rehab, Kvitova's Madrid title gives her five so far in her comeback, more than any other player during the same span. Her four titles in 2018 lead the WTA.

Granted, without Serena Williams and with lesser versions (or extended absences) of some of the era's best players during the same stretch, *every* accomplishment on tour over the last year and a half is open to being viewed askance by some but, at least in the case of Madrid, Kvitova *does* have a clay court win over Serena, at this very tournament three years ago via a 6-2/6-3 score. So while Serena remains a question mark until she gets to the "100%" level of health that she says she desires to reach before she'll make her latest return (checking watch, and wondering how long it is before the grass season begins), at the moment, Petra is the currently the tour's "gold standard" until and unless circumstances change.

So, I guess the bulk of the tour has been warned. The rest is up the them.

MADRID, SPAIN (Premier Mandatory/Red Clay)
S: Petra Kvitova/CZE def. Kiki Bertens/NED 7-6(6)/4-6/6-3
D: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS/RUS) d. Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic 2-6/6-4 [10-8]

...while she'll only be #8 on Monday, and second in the Points Race, Kvitova is leading the tour in almost all the other categories that matter. She tops the list (alone or with company) when it comes to titles (4), finals (4), semifinals (4), wins (30), matches (36), Fed Cup win percentage (100% at 4-0), consecutive titles (2 - twice), long match win streak (14 - and she's on another 11-match run now) and striking fear in the hearts of opponents between the lines while also earning their hugs off the court.

Career title #24 ties Kvitova with the late Hall of Famer Jana Novotna, just recently honored in Prague (where Petra also won the title), on the all-time WTA Czech champions list. Her wins over Lesia Tsurenko, Monica Puig, Anett Kontaveit, Dasha Kasatkin, Karolina Pliskova and Kiki Bertens (three of them title winners in '18) brings her one victory away from a second 12+ match win streak this season. Since 2009, just two other women have managed two such runs in a calendar year: Serena Williams (3 runs each in 2012, '13 and '15) and Vika Azarenka (2 in '12).

To date, Kvitova's best season was 2011. She won six titles that year, including her first Wimbledon, finished at #2 and led the Czechs to the first of their five recent Fed Cup crowns. They'll go for #6 in the fall, having returned to the final on the strength of Kvitova's undefeated FC season. Madrid was the third title she claimed in the '11 season, while this year it's her fourth. She broke into the Top 10 (at #10) for the first time after her first Madrid title, while she'll be at #8 on Monday after winning her third at the event.

So, she's ahead of her previously established pace. Let's see where she goes from here.

RISERS: Kiki Bertens/NED, Karolina Pliskova/CZE and Caroline Garcia/FRA Madrid, all three women are building toward what they hope will be more success at Roland Garros in a few weeks. Each have already had their moments there in recent seasons.

Bertens was a maiden slam semifinalist in Paris in 2016, and has once again shown this spring just how much of a force she is on clay. Already the Charleston champ in '18, the Dutch women put together another final run in Madrid with wins over Maria Sakkari, Anastasija Sevastova, world #2 Caroline Wozniacki (Bertens' biggest career win, and first over a Top 10er since '16 -- hardly surprisingly, all have come on clay), Maria Sharapova and #7 Caroline Garcia. In her seventh career tour final (again, all on clay, just like eight of her eleven finals on the ITF circuit), she gamely battled Petra Kvitova for nearly three hours, fighting through pain but unable to finally get the better of the Czech in the end. Still, she's 10-2 on clay this season and will rise to a new career high of #15 on Monday.

Pliskova continued to build upon her clay court resume in Madrid. A semifinalist in Paris year, the Czech carried over the momentum she achieved with her Fed Cup performance and title run in Stuttgart, extending her clay court winning streak to nine matches with victories over Elena Vesnina, Victoria Azarenka (in three sets, playing past midnight), Sloane Stephens and world #1 (and two-time defending Madrid champ) Simona Halep, the latter her first #1 win in some twenty months. As so many have, Czech or otherwise, Pliskova fell to eventual champion Petra Kvitova in the semis, but her '18 clay court record now stands at 10-2. Already admirably consistent this season, having won multiple matches in six of her eight events, Pliskova is threatening to become something more this spring. 16-4 after her 8-4 start (somewhat deceptive since she was 4-1 at the AO alone), she'll be amongst the favorites for a deep run at Roland Garros, though one wonders if her biggest slam push in '18 will come *after* Paris.

See you tomorrow at Manolo Santana ? @mutuamadridopen

A post shared by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on

Meanwhile, the play of Garica, two years beyond her RG doubles title and a year off her QF run in singles, is starting to take on a very familiar feel. Her wins over Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Martic, Julia Goerges and Carla Suarez-Navarro before finally falling to Bertens in the semis gets her season mark to 17-10, but the notion that we're in the midst of the early stages of a surge similar to the one she experienced last year are hard to overlook.

Garcia was a bit wobby out of the gates in the opening months of '18 following the multi-month run to end last season that took her to new singles heights. She posted a Round of 16 result in Melbourne, but it came between a pair of one-and-done performances. Since the schedule shifted over to clay, though, she's been stringing together productive weeks. Her final four week in Madrid gives her three consecutive two-plus wins events, and back-to-back (w/ Stuttgart) semis. 8-3 on clay (7-2 in her EuroClay campaign), Garcia has looked more and more confidant in recent weeks and has managed to put herself in a position comparable to where she was when she took off of a year ago, only she's done it a few weeks earlier than in '17. She was 10-8 heading into Madrid last season (13-9 this year), then lost in the 1st Round there and the 2nd Round in Rome. She went 37-12 the rest of the way, posting QF (RG) and 4th Round (SW19) slam results, winning consecutive big titles (Wuhan/Beijing) in the fall, qualifying for the WTA Finals and finishing in the Top 10. The quieter, more personally subtle of the two leading Pastries on tour, Garcia has climbed higher and won bigger in singles than her former doubles partner, Kristina Mladenovic. While Kiki's success has usually been witnessed via loud, bombastic moments of brilliance that are often difficult for her to replicate consistently, Garcia proved last year that she was capable of building one good result upon another bigger one en route to achieving things that had seemed out of reach at the start of the season. She grew into something *more* in the closing months of '17, and it was clear that her realistic career goals were finally ready for an upgrade. Now with both feet into her '18 season, how high can Caro fly now that she has a better idea of what she's capable of?
SURPRISE: Bernarda Pera/USA
...having climbed into the Top 100 for the first time this season, 23-year old Pera's breakthrough campaign was highlighted in January by her 2nd Round upset of Johanna Konta at the Australian Open as a lucky loser. Arriving in Madrid having lost three straight clay court matches since reaching the QF in Charleston, Pera made it through qualifying with wins over Istanbul finalist Polona Hercog and Sachia Vickery, then won a three-setter in the MD over Lugano finalist Aryna Sabalenka to set up another encounter with Konta. She proceeded to take down the Brit again in straight sets, then pushed Carla Suarez-Navarro to three sets in the 3rd Round. Despite losing in Rome qualifying this weekend (she was a late alternate after Monica Niculescu withdrew) to Natalia Vikhlyantseva in three sets, she'll make another monumental ranking leap on Monday, rising twenty-three spots to a new career high of #74.

VETERAN: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
...though she's never advanced as far as the semifinal stage there, CSN has a history of good performances on home soil in Madrid. Past Top 10 wins over Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki were already part of a four-year run of 3rd Round or better (w/ a QF in '15) results since 2014, along with another over then #9 Sam Stosur in '13. This week, she added another QF finish after posting wins over Barbora Strycova, Elina Svitolina (her second win over the world #4 this year, and her eleventh career Top 5 victory) and Bernarda Pera, the latter two spirited three-set affairs. The 29-year old was finally knocked out by Caroline Garcia, ending the latest uptick in her results in what has become a back-and-fourth campaign. She had six straight losses dating back to last season when she began '18 at 0-2, only to reach the QF in Melbourne. Since another QF run in Indian Wells, she'd lost three straight tour-level matches prior to this week.

All of the feels @carlasuareznava!! ??

A post shared by WTA (@wta) on

COMEBACK: Maria Sharapova/RUS
...on clay was where Sharapova changed the course of her post-shoulder surgery career, becoming arguably the tour's best player on the surface over a multiple season stretch from 2011-14 after having previously compared her movement on the dirt to "a cow on ice." None of her first twenty-five finals were on clay, and just two of thirty-three from 2003-10. From 2011-15, though, eleven of her twenty-five finals were. Overall, she's gone 11-2 in those matches. Might her second comeback finally gain traction, consistency and (maybe most importantly) health on the clay, spurring her on to being something more than the high profile (mostly) early-round attraction that she's been over the past year?

In Madrid, Sharapova ended her four-match losing streak and won three matches in a single event for the first time since Week 1 in Shenzhen. Straight sets wins over Prague finalist Mihaela Buzarnescu, Irina-Camelia Begu (she won 19 straight points in one stretch) and Kristina Mladenovic (in their first meeting since the Pastry won a three-setter last year in Stuttgart after bad-mouthing Sharapova's return to the sport leading into the contest) to reach the QF will be enough to lift her ranking twelve spots this week and back into the Top 40. But the Russian's issues with winning three-setters continued vs. Kiki Bertens, as she lost after having taken the 1st, falling to 0-4 this season in three-set matches. From 2012-14 she won twenty-two straight three-setters on clay, and was 49-18 in all three-setters from 2012 until her '16 ban. She's gone 5-7 in such matches since she returned. Still, even with a barely above average 8-5 record on dirt the last two seasons, Sharapova is now 73-12 on the surface since 2012.

FRESH FACES: Dasha Kasatkina/RUS and Katie Swan/GBR
...Kasastkina's fortunes had taken a slight downturn since her recently impressive, though title-free, runs in Saint Petersburg (SF), Dubai (RU) and Indian Wells (RU). She came to Madrid on a three-match losing streak. But the Russian, who celebrated her 21st birthday during the week, reclaimed her momentum with straight sets wins over Wang Qiang and Sorana Cirstea, then took down #3 Garbine Muguruza in three sets to record her fourth Top 3 win of the season, her seventh in the past sixteen months, and her eleventh career Top 10 victory overall (six have come in '18). She failed to crack the Kvitova wall in the QF, losing 4 & 0, but after back-to-back 1st Round exits in Madrid, a final eight result is a welcome present wrapped up with a nice (just not truly *expensive*) bow. Now Kasatkina will head to Rome looking to turn around her career history (3r & 1r) there, as well.

Happy to report this week that she's finally serving without pain, 19-year old Brit Swan, a '15 AO girls finalist, showed what she can do under such circumstances, winning her sixth career ITF crown in six circuit finals, winning a 6-2/6-3 match over Spain's Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov (the former Oklahoma State player was playing in her first final since 2015) to add the $25K Monzon (ESP) title to her recent pair of semifinalist in two other $25K challengers.

Monzon $25k winnerr???? #vamosss @dveronelli #havannets

A post shared by Katie Swan (@katieswan99) on

DOWN: Elina Svitolina/UKR and Simona Halep/ROU
...last year's two most high profile tough-luck players at last year's Roland garros, Svitolina and Halep came to Paris in '17 as the two "most likely" first time slam champs in the draw. They'll return their this year with clay court (and grand slam) demons still left to slay.

The two split the Madrid and Rome titles last season, with the Romanian successfully defending in Spain, then Svitolina defeating her in the final in Italy, coming back from a set down and pulling away after a progressively-more-compromised Halep rolled her ankle late in the opening set. They faced off again in Paris, with the Ukrainian dominating early by jumping out 5-0 in the 1st set and leading 6-3/5-2, twice serving for her first spot in her first slam semi and holding a MP. Halep won the 2nd set TB, then dispatched a collapsing Svitolina in a bagel 3rd set. Simona would go on to lose to Alona Ostapenko in the final, taking the 1st and then squandering a 3-0 lead in the 2nd and 3-1 advantage in the 3rd set as the Latvian beat them both into the slam winner's circle.

Neither produced a path-building foundational result in Madrid just weeks before heading off to France to take another shot there.

Madrid has never traditionally been very kind to Svitolina. Her 1r-2r-2r-1r results there prior to this year didn't offer up great confidence for a breakthrough (though she'd been just 1-3 in Rome before winning there in '17, defeating Pliskova, Muguruza and Halep en route, before all three would eventually ascend to #1 before the end of the season), and it didn't come later, either. A tough three-set loss in the 2nd Round to Carla Suarez-Navarro ended her brief stay.

Having already successfully defended one title (Dubai) this year, she'll now try to do it again in Rome.

Meanwhile, #1 Halep is trying to finally capture her "moment" on the big stage. In Melbourne, her fight was the story of the women's draw, but she still came up short in the singles final, just as she has on two occasions in Paris. Seeking her third straight Madrid crown, she looking strong early on, dropping just one game vs. Ekaterina Makarova, ending Elise Mertens' undefeated clay campaign (18-0 s/d combined) and taking down Kristyna Pliskova, a win that secured her #1 ranking for another week due to Caroline Wozniacki's 3rd Round loss. But it was the *other* Czech twin that ended the Romanian's hopes for a three-peat, as Karolina's suddenly-lethal-on-clay game pressured her into far too many errors (26 vs. 11 winners) for her liking in the QF. Now with just one title to her credit over the past twelve months (Shenzhen in January) despite a level of consistency that has gotten her the top ranking, she'll head to Rome to try and collect one crown that slipped through fingers last year, hoping to garner the sort of momentum that might put her in position to finally put away another that she also came perilously close to winning in her most recent attempt.

ITF PLAYERS: Rebecca Peterson/SWE and Katie Boulter/GBR
...In Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France it was Peterson who grabbed the biggest title of her career at the $100K challenger. The 22-year old Swede reached her first tour-level SF in Acapulco in March, didn't drop a set all week while taking down Amandine Hesse (double bagel), Tamara Korpatsch, Daniela Seguel, Ons Jabeur and Dayana Yastremksa in the 6-4/7-5 final. The winner in her last five singles finals dating back to June 2015, Peterson will climb into the Top 100 for the first time on Monday.

On the same weekend that Katie Swan won a challenger crown on Saturday, the other British Katie matched her one day later. 21-year old Boulter's win in the $60K Fukuoka tournament in Japan, via a 5-7/6-4/6-2 victory over Ksenia Lykina in the final, gives her two title runs in the last month and a record of 12-2 since the start of April. She jumps twenty-four rankings spots with the win, to a new career high of #152 that makes her the new fourth-highest ranked Brit after Konta, Watson and Broady.

JUNIOR STARS: Yasmine Mansouri/FRA and Liang En-shuo/TPE Casablanca, Morrocco at the Grade 1 Mediterranée Avenir event, Pastry Mansouri defended the biggest title of her junior career with a 1 & 3 win in the final over Burundi's Sada Nahimana to repeat as tournament champion. The 16-year old, the #90-ranked girl, had lost in the QF of the G1 Beaulieu-Sur-Mer event two weeks ago and fell in the 1st Round at the Australian Open. 17-year old Nahimara (#52) hadn't lost a set all week and was playing in her third straight junior singles final (the previous two at Grade B2 and Grade 2 tournaments). She defeated Mansouri in the opening round of last year's Wimbledon girls qualifying tournament in a 9-7 3rd set.

3.13 Yasmine Mansouri - Beaulieu-sur-mer juniors 2016

In Goyang, South Korea junior #2 Liang, who became Taiwan's first girls slam singles champ in January in Melbourne (she swept both titles, coming back from MP down in the 1st Round and SF in singles), reached her biggest pro singles final. In just the ninth pro event (six coming in the last year) of her career, the 17-year old defeated #3-seed Ulrikke Eikeri in the 2nd Round before falling 3 & 3 to #2 Mayo Hibi in the final. Her only other pro singles final came in a $15K last October, where she was also the doubles champion.

DOUBLES: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS and Kaitlyn Christian/Sabrina Santamaria, USA/USA
...look out, here come the Russians.

While Makarova & Vesnina aren't the #1-ranked doubles players in the world (Latisha Chan is for now, but she hasn't been nearly as effective w/o Martina Hingis by her side in '18), they lead the 2018 Points Race and only extended their lead over the #2 duo, Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic, by taking a 10-8 3rd set TB to defeat them in the Madrid final on Saturday. Babos/Mladenovic had defeated the Hordettes for the AO title, 6-4/6-3, in Melbourne when Makarova/Vesnina were seeking to complete a Career Doubles Slam (and to become the first duo to win all four majors, the year-end championships and Olympic Gold). Though they're now 19-5 on the season, this is the Russians' first title since Toronto last summer. Three of their five losses in '18 have come to eventual tournament champions, including two defeats in finals in the AO and at Indian Wells (Hsieh/Strycova), as well as another in the Miami SF (Barty/Vandeweghe).

Christian & Santamaria, whose partnership goes back to their USC days when they were NCAA doubles champions in' 13, continue to make big strides this season. Already first-time tour level finalists in Acapulco earlier this season, as well as champions in $100K (Midland) and $25K (Rancho Santa Fe) events in the U.S., the duo claimed the title at another $100K in Cagnes-sur-mer, France with a 10-7 3rd set TB win over Vera Lapko & Galina Voskoboeva. Aside from the three wins with Christian this season, Santamaria has also reached two others finals with different partners (Emma Laine and Cornelia Lister) in recent weeks.


1. Madrid Final - Petra Kvitova def. Kiki Bertens
With both seeking their second clay title of '18, Kvitova and Bertens battled through fatigue and aching bodies for nearly three hours before the Czech once again emerged as the Madrid champ for a third time. Bertens held break advantages in both the 1st and 2nd sets, but her inability to take the initial match lead ultimately proved her undoing when couldn't overtake Kvitova in the deciding set. With Kvitova serving up 4-2 in the 3rd, Bertens got things back on serve with a break in game #7. But Petra was not to be denied, immediately breaking back a game later and holding serve to finish things off.

2. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Dasha Kasatkina def. Garbine Muguruza
The Russian was back on the job, knocking off one of the tour's highest ranked players, but also having difficulty putting away the match's biggest points and making herself work longer and harder than might have been necessary. In the two most recent matches between them, Kasatkina and Muguruza split, with both winners coming back from MP down to prevail. So you expected that things would get interesting here at some point. Kasatkina won 16 of 22 points to end the 1st, then lost a 4-2 lead in the 2nd. Muguruza broke to lead 5-4, then saved a BP while knotting the match by converting on her second SP attempt. Kasatkina again jumped to a lead in the 3rd, breaking for 3-1 and holding to go up 4-1. But with eight BP chances to take a 5-1 lead, the Russian saw Muguruza hold in a 20-minute, 28-point game, then quickly break to get things back on serve at 4-3. But the Russian stopped the slide a game later, breaking on her *first* BP chance in game #8, then saving a BP and serving things out a game later.

3. Madrid 2nd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro def. Elina Svitolina
In their third meeting of '18, CSN took down the world #4 for a second time. On a court named for Spanish great Arantxa Sanchez, CSN led 2-0 in both the 1st and 2nd sets, only to see the Ukrainian win six straight games to take the 1st, then break the Spaniard when she served for the 2nd at 5-3. CSN took a 5-1 lead in the 2nd set TB, and won it 7-3. Neither player faced a BP through the first eight games of the 3rd before Suarez-Navarro finally broke Svitolina to go up 5-4. She closed out the win despite falling on her butt at the baseline in the middle of a rally on MP.


4. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Maria Sharapova def. Kristina Mladenovic
Mladenovic, who managed to not say anything incendiary leading into this one, broke Sharapova to open the match, but it was the Russian's day from there forward as she got the win in her first meeting with the Pastry since their headlining contest last year in Stuttgart. Of course, Mladenovic hass gone through a LOT since that one... some good, but a great deal far from it, which may explain her more judicious approach this time around.

And even I agree with her on this...

5. Madrid 2nd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Elise Mertens
Halep ends Mertens 13-match winning streak and undefeated clay campaign. It was hardly an unexpected result, as Halep was the far more fresh of the two. Meanwhile, the heavy recent workload of Mertens likely makes this a blessing in disguise for the Belgian, who'll also now skip Rome due to a bacterial infection.

6. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Kiki Bertens def. Caroline Wozniacki
Wozniacki's chances to reclaim the #1 ranking on Monday ended with this loss, which concluded with Bertens taking the final ten points. While the clay isn't the Dane's best surface, she *did* manage a nice Houdini act comeback vs. Ash Barty (who likely enjoys the surface even *less* than Caro), erasing a 4-2 deficit in the 3rd set to down the Aussie.
7. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro def. Bernarda Pera
CSN's celebration was probably the biggest that Pera has ever seen from an opponent after beating her. Even she didn't seem to know what to do with it all at the net.

8. Madrid QF - Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic def. Ash Barty/CoCo Vandeweghe
...6-3/3-6 [11-9].
After having already lost to Mladenovic three times in recent weeks (singles and doubles in Fed Cup, then again in singles in Madrid), CoCo was on the wrong side of a scoreline involving Kiki yet *again.*
9. $15K Antalya Final - Elizabeth Halbauer def. Mariam Bolkvadze
The 20-year old Bannerette wins her second straight challenger title, and third of 2018. On a 13-1 run, she's now 20-3 since March.
10. $60K Lu'an Final - Harriet Dart/Ankita Raina def. Liu Fangzhou/Xun Fangying
To top off a week that included the announcement that she'll make her slam singles debut in RG qualifying later this month, 25-year old Indian #1 Raina won her 13th career ITF doubles title in her first pairing with Britain's Dart.

HM- $15K Tacarigua Final - Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez def. Andrea Renee Villarreal
We've seen more and more players representing Mexico producing results of note in 2018, so it's worth mentioning that TWO of the nation's players faced off for the title in this challenger in Trinidad and Tobago. 19-year old Portillo Ramirez picked up her first career title, defeating #1-seeded Emily Appleton in the QF along the way, while also taking the doubles trophy along WITH Appleton. Villarreal, 24, defeated Portillo Ramirez in the qualifying of the $25K Pelham challenger last month.

1. Madrid SF - Petra Kvitova def. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
Something had to give, as both came in riding nine-match clay court winning streaks. Since losing to Karolina's twin Kristyna, Kvitova has won three straight over fellow Czechs. She's 27-1 vs. Maidens since 2012.

2. Madrid 2nd Rd. - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. Victoria Azarenka
Azarenka played and won her first match in Europe (over Krunic) since Wimbledon, then took Pliskova past midnight in their second (I.W. - Vika in straights) '18 match-up. She's been cleared and is set to play on the continent through the grass court season.
3. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Simona Halep def. KRISTYNA PLISKOVA 6-1/6-4
Madrid QF - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. Simona Halep 6-4/6-3
Halep couldn't complete the Tour de Pliskova, as Karolina notches her second career #1 win (first since defeating Serena at the U.S. Open in '16), her sixth over a Top 3 player, and 23rd overall Top 10 victory.

HM- Madrid QF - Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova/Barbora Strycova def. LATISHA CHAN/Bethanie Mattek-Sands
...6-4/1-6 [10-6].
Chan went 9-5 with Hlavackova earlier this season during their short-lived partnership. She's gone 5-3 with other partners since, though she'll maintain her #1 ranking this week. But the title run from co-#2's Makarova/Vesnina brings the Russians that much closer to breathing down her neck. If they get to #1, they'd be the first Hordettes to do so since Anna Kournikova in 1999-00.

Speaking of...

#tbt #37weeks ????

A post shared by ?? Anna ????? (@annakournikova) on


The WTA's "Blindfold Challenge" segments are funny, and showcase the fearlessness of the players when it comes to being unafraid to look foolish. That said, the ATP tour would likely *never* do such a thing in a promotion, nor would many of the players be willing to go along with it. Thus, I'm not sure if this makes the segments a good idea from the WTA tour, or something quite less than that.

Keep(y)ing up with @wta players at All Access Hour @mutuamadridopen ??????

A post shared by WTA (@wta) on

Everytime I see Vika on the court now, the first thought that invariably leaps into my head is how skinny she is.

@vichka35 is back at the @mutuamadridopen ????

A post shared by WTA (@wta) on

?? this ??. Shadows of Madrid. See you next year ????????

A post shared by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

Doha (HC) - #21 Kvitova/CZE d. #4 Muguruza/ESP
Ind.Wells (HC) - #44 Osaka/JPN d. #19 Kasatkina/RUS
Miami (HC) - #12 Stephens/USA d. #5 Ostapenko/LAT
Madrid (RC) - #10 KVITOVA/CZE d. #20 BERTENS/NED
[doubles champions]
Doha - Dabrowski/Ostapenko, CAN/LAT
Indian Wells - Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE
Miami - Barty/Vandeweghe, AUS/USA

**2017-18 WTA TITLES**
7 - Elina Svitolina (5/2)
4 - Karolina Pliskova (3/1)
4 - Elise Mertens (1/3)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki (2/1)
3 - Kiki Bertens (2/1)
3 - Garbine Muguruza (2/1)
3 - Julia Goerges (2/1)

14 - Kvitova, Feb/Mar (12+2FC) - ended by Anisimova
13 - Mertens, Apr/May (11+2 FC) - ended by Halep
11 - Halep, January - ended by Wozniacki
11 - KVITOVA, APR/MAY (9+2 FC) - active

**2018 WTA FINALS**
3 - Elise Mertens, BEL (3-0)
2 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (2-0)
2 - Simona Halep, ROU (1-1)
2 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (1-1)
2 - Garbine Muguruza, ESP (1-1)
2 - Julia Goerges, GER (1-1)
2 - Timea Babos. HUN (1-1)
2 - Dasha Kasatkina, RUS (0-2)
2 - Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU (0-2)

Petra Kvitova, February (Saint Petersburg/Doha)
Elise Mertens, Apr/May (Lugano/Rabat)

**2018 WINS OVER WTA #1**
Australian Open Final - #2 Wozniacki d. Halep
Saint Petersburg QF - #23 Kasatkina d. Wozniacki
Doha SF - #21 Kvitova d. Wozniacki
Indian Wells SF - #44 Osaka d. Halep
Miami 3rd Rd. - #32 A.Radwanska d. Halep
Stuttgart QF - #16 Vandeweghe d. Halep

Stuttgart: CoCo Vandeweghe, USA [QF-Halep,2r-Siegemund; lost in F]
Madrid: KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE [QF-Halep; lost in SF]

167...Martina Navratilova
154...Chris Evert
107...Steffi Graf
92...Margaret Smith-Court
72...Serena Williams
68...Evonne Goolagong
67...Billie Jean King
55...Virginia Wade
55...Lindsay Davenport
53...Monica Seles
49...Venus Williams
43...Justine Henin
43...Martina Hingis
41...Kim Clijsters
36...Maria Sharapova
33...Conchita Martinez
30...Tracy Austin
29...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
28...Caroline Wozniacki
27...Gabriela Sabatini
27...Hana Mandlikova
25...Amelie Mauresmo
24...Jana Novotna
21...Pam Shriver
20...Victoria Azarenka
20...Aga Radwanska
NOTES: Hall of Famer, active

**WTA SF - 2015-18**
26...Simona Halep - 9/6/7/4
25...Angelique Kerber - 8/11/3/3
25...KAROLINA PLISKOVA - 8/6/8/3
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
17...PETRA KVITOVA - 5/6/2/4
16...Serena Williams - 9/6/1/0
15...CAROLINE GARCIA - 2/4/7/2

3...Klepac/Martinez-Sanchez (0-3)
2...Garcia Perez/Stollar (1-1)
2...Kudryavtseva/Srebotnik (1-1)
2...Melichar/Peschke (1-1)
2...Krejcikova/Siniakova (0-2)

2016 (2)
#7 V.Williams, #8 Vinci
2017 (3)
#1 Kerber, #2 Kerber, #2 Halep
2018 (6)
#1 Wozniacki, #2 Wozniacki, #3 Muguruza, #3 Muguruza, #8 V.Williams, #10 Kerber

**2018 $100K FINALS**
Midland, USA - Brengle/USA (#88) d. Loeb/USA (#153)
Khimki, RUS - Lapko/BLR (#111) d. Potapova/RUS (#238)
Cagnes-sur-Mer, FRA - Peterson/SWE (#113) d. Yastremska/UKR (#180)

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
Mediterranee Avenir G1: Yasmine Mansouri/FRA

I don't know if this counts as an attempt at an ad by Genie, an attempt to gain a sponsorship, or neither. But I do know that her "return" to the ITF circuit last week began with a 1st Round walkover in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France.

And the new week starts like this...

ROME, ITALY (Premier 5/Red Clay)
1999 Venus Williams def. Mary Pierce 6–4,6–2
2000 Monica Seles def. Amelie Mauresmo 6–2,7–6(4)
2001 Jelena Dokic def. Amelie Mauresmo 7–6(3),6–1
2002 Serena Williams def. Justine Henin 7–6(6),6–4
2003 Kim Clijsters def. Amelie Mauresmo 3–6,7–6(3),6–0
2004 Amelie Mauresmo def. Jennifer Capriati 3–6,6–3,7–6(6)
2005 Amelie Mauresmo def. Patty Schnyder 2–6,6–3,6–4
2006 Martina Hingis def. Dinara Safina 6–2,7–5
2007 Jelena Jankovic def. Svetlana Kuznetsova 7–5,6–1
2008 Jelena Jankovic def. Aize Cornet 6–2,6–2
2009 Dinara Safina def. Svetlana Kuznetsova 6–3,6–2
2010 Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez def. Jelena Jankovic 7–6(5),7–5
2011 Maria Sharapova def. Samantha Stosur 6–2,6–4
2012 Maria Sharapova def. Li Na 4–6,6–4,7–6(5)
2013 Serena Williams def. Victoria Azarenka 6–1,6–3
2014 Serena Williams def. Sara Errani 6–3,6–0
2015 Maria Sharapova def. Carla Suarez Navarro 4–6,7–5,6–1
2016 Serena Williams def. Madison Keys 7–6(5),6–3
2017 Elina Svitolina def. Simona Halep 4–6,7–5,6–1
QF: Halep d. Kontaveit
QF: Bertens d. Gavrilova
QF: Muguruza d. V.Williams
QF: Svitolina d. Ka.Pliskova
SF: Halep d. Bertens
SF: Svitolina d. Muguruza (ret)
F: Svitolina d. Halep
1999 Hingis/Kournikova d. Fusai/Tauziat
2000 Raymond/Stubbs d. Sanchez Vicario/Serna
2001 Black/Likhovtseva d. Suarez/Tarabini
2002 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. C.Martínez/Tarabini
2003 Kuznetsova/Navratilova d. Dokic/Petrova
2004 Petrova/Shaughnessy d. Ruano Pascual/Suarez
2005 Black/L.Huber d. Kirilenko/Medina Garrigues
2006 Hantuchova/Sugiyama d. Peschke/Schiavone
2007 Dechy/Santangelo d. Garbin/Vinci
2008 L.Chan/Chuang d. Benesova/Husarova
2009 Hsieh/Peng d. Hantuchova/Sugiyama
2010 Dulko/Pennetta d. Llagostera Vives/Martinez Sanchez
2011 Peng/J.Zheng d. King/Shvedova
2012 Errani/Vinci d. Makarova/Vesnina
2013 Hsieh/Peng d. Errani/Vinci
2014 Peschke/Srebotnik d. Errani/Vinci
2015 Babos/Mladenovic d, Hingis/Mirza
2016 Hingis/Mirza d. Makarova/Vesnina
2017 Hingis/L.Chan d. Makarova/Vesnina
SF: Makarova/Vesnina d. Babos/Hlavackova
SF: L.Chan/Hingis d. Mirza/Shvedova
F: L.Chan/Hingis d. Makarova/Vesnina
WS: #1 Halep, #2 Wozniacki
WD: #1 Makarova/Vesnina, #2 Sestini-Hlavackova/Strycova the draw as a wild card (she'll face a qualifier, with the winner getting Wozniacki), Roberta Vinci is set to end her tennis career this week in Rome, where she reached four WD finals (three straight w/ Sara Errani in 2012-14, going 1-2) despite never doing much there (one 3rd Rd. in nineteen Q/MD apperances) in singles.

#1 Halep d. #5 Ostapenko
#4 Svitolina d. Kontaveit
#1 Halep d. #4 Svitolina

#3 Babos/Mladenovic d. #2 Sestini-Hlavackova/Strycova

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

In golf, Saturday is moving day, for tennis, this is moving week, as this is the last week to lock in a seed for the French.

Although 32nd seed is important, lets start at the top. Number 1 is in play this week, and for confidence reasons, this means more for Halep. These two, plus Muguruza are locked in for a quarter. But it is unlikely there will be a Svitolina quarter, which is a blessing in disguise. Having won Rome last year, she drops to 8, and it is more likely that Pliskova/Ostapenko get the #4 seed, with Garcia/Svitolina longshots. With Svitolina not having her own section, it is unlikely that her brick wall in Garcia shows up in it, as she is 0-3 in the last year.

Mertens is in the 16 spot, but not playing, and Bertens has pts do defend, so is likely to be in the 17-24 bracket.

Now there are 350 pts for SF, and 190 for QF, so anybody less than 190 pts out of 32nd has a legit shot. That means everybody down to Sabalenka at 44, has a legit shot. Also note that the person at 32 is Cornet, and she isn't playing this week. So 30-35 as of now? Kontaveit, Buzarnescu, Conet, Martic, Makarova, Cibulkova.

Doubles asking questions left and right.
V.Williams/Keys playing doubles, first time Venus has played with someone other than Serena since Wozniacki in 2008. Does this mean Serena is in? Or out?

Medina Garrigues in doubles again.

As of this writing, Krunic in 3rd set vs Vinci. She already ended Date-Krumm's career, is Vinci next?

Stat of the Week-7- The amount of WTA titles won by Italy's 2000 Fed Cup team.

Ah, 2000. The last year in which none of the Fab Four participated. That squad was led by current captain Tathiana Garbin(1), and the others were Rita Grande(3), Silvia Farina(3), and Giulia Casoni(0).

The difference between then and now? Each member of the Fab Four has more singles titles than this group had combined. In fact, then Fed Cup Captain Raffaella Reggi had the most titles with 5. Compare that to this group in which Schiavone(8), Errani(9), Vinci(10), and Pennetta(11), gave them a chance almost everywhere.

Quiz Time!
Silvia Farina Elia was the highest ranking Italian in singles at 11. Each of the Fab Four reached the Top 10. Who had the highest ranking?

More Up/Down side which has some wild predictions.

The Italians do everything with synergy, so here goes. The 2015 US Open finalist Vinci was the lowest ranked one at 7. 2015 US Open winner Pennetta reached 6. 2012 French Open finalist Errani reached 5. So Schiavone, the 2010 French Open winner is your answer, as she made it to #4.

Mon May 14, 09:06:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Up Side

1.Bertens- Baseball fans remember a pitcher named Tom Seaver, who had a live arm, but was known for his leg drive. This is who I think of when I see Bertens on clay. Especially on the backhand side, she uses her legs to drive through the ball better than anyone. Contrast that to the successful style of Sharapova, who is all arm and shoulder. Not expecting a win in Rome, but enough matches to get her to pull out of Nurnberg-Bertens, Goerges, Zhang only Top 32 still in that draw.
2.Vesnina/Makarova-Two years after Olympic glory, and 5 after their first slam-2013 French, the duo has a chance to be #1. And the fact that they beat Babos in the final last week means that Babos cannot be. But is Makarova healthy? She pulled out of singles after the draw was made.
3.Azarenka-Knowing her history, I can't pick her to get past the QF at the French. But she is playing well enough here to go deep. Only fitting, as her last clay final was in Rome, 5 years ago. Surprisingly, she only has 1 title on clay(Marbella 2011), as she has gone 1-6 in finals.
4.Ka.Pliskova-Navratilova, Novotna, Sukova. Serve and volley is in a Czech's DNA. More obvious at Stuttgart, using that plus the Serena/Venus method of getting the big serve, then following in a weak return plays to her strength. Already has more wins on clay this season than last.
5.Mladenovic-Garcia has been overshadowing her, but is on the side of the draw in which she can do some damage. 3 of the Clay 4-Bertens/Kasatkina/Svitolina are in the same section, so somebody different has to make the SF.

Mon May 14, 09:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Down Side.

1.Sharapova-Actually played the best tennis since the Halep match/US open run. But on the down list because the fact that she lost to Bertens, and has points to defend, means that she is 43 in live ranking. Is in good enough form to reach the 2nd week, but is in danger of having to play a seed early.
2.Kvitova-Player of the Year. Only on this list because she pulled out of Rome, which was the smart play. Starting to look like a career year, as the only time she has ever won more than 4 tournaments in a season was 2011, when she won 6. But she has never been this good this early, as her 4th title that year was Wimbledon. One of the favorites at the French.
Riske-36th at this time last year, and already lost in qualies, extending her current losing streak to 4. It is actually her second 4 match streak in the last year, which is worse when you realize she also has had 2 5 match streaks. NCAA Basketball talks about sos-strength of schedule, and penalizes teams for sub-100 losses. in the last year, Riske has 9! The kicker is that the lowest ranked player she played in the last year was a coming off of injury Stephens at 336. Stephens lost to Riske.
4.Italy-At least the fans can cheer for Vinci as she rides off into the sunset. And for Knapp also. But they have been woeful in Rome. 0-7 last year between qualies and the main draw, and 1-5 so far this year. And the one was Giorgi beating another Italian in Chiesa. In a storied tournament in which women from Hungary(Temesvari), Bulgaria(Maleeva), Yugoslavia(Jausovec/Seles), and others have won, Reggi in 1985 is the only Italian to have won in the Open Era. Before that? Annelies Ullstein-Bossi in 1950!
5.Halep-What is the difference between Rome and Madrid? The language? Not the architecture, as they are both beautiful. But Romanians act as though Madrid is their playground. Rome is a different story. Even moreso than Italy, Romania has not had success here. Halep reached the final last year, and Ruzici 3 times before that. But a Romanian has never won in Rome. Combine that with Halep's current play, which is 12-5, but was better on hard. Halep hasn't reached a final on clay this season, which if that holds, would only be the 2nd time since 2010 that she hasn't- 2015 was the year in question. She is the trendy pick to be one and done at the French. A risky pick, but she isn't Sharapova, who can scrape through a couple of rounds and get knocked out in the 3rd. She is all or nothing, to the point that she has lost in the 1st round in 1/3 of her slams.

Mon May 14, 09:43:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Krunic = Going Away Bracelet?

Quiz: Ah, I went with Errani sneaking in there as maybe the most unexpected highest-ranked of the four. :(

And L.Chan loses today, so it looks like #1 will change hands *very* soon. Oh, Martina.

Mon May 14, 11:37:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Very soon is on pause, as Vesnina/Makarova pulled out.

Also, French Open wild cards should be out tomorrow or the next day.

Mon May 14, 06:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Still just a matter of time, though. ;)

Though I don't know how the numbers will work on out Monday, considering Chan won Rome last year, while Makarova/Vesnina were only defending finalist points (and trailed Chan by just 230 heading into this week).


Mon May 14, 08:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

"Still just a matter of time, though. ;)"

And Makarova/Vesnina just split!

I would analyze this more, but am in shock. Being that the French is a mandatory, it is possible for them to tie for the #1 spot with different partners. But L.Chan, Babos, Makarova, Vesnina can all gun for #1 separately.

French Open seed update. Ostapenko is 4 as of now, Pliskova will be no better than 5. If Ostapenko wins her next match, Svitolina is out of the running.

Sakkari and Sharapova still alive for #31 & 32(or better) seeds.

Thu May 17, 08:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

That's just crazy. I mean, really.

Although, I remember them taking what turned out to be a temporary "break" a while back when Makarova was having injury issues, and then they came back together soon afterward. I don't know if they ever got into it then, but it seemed like Makarova wasn't willing to fully commit to playing both s/d while Vesnina didn't want to risk NOT playing if she had to pull out, so they played apart for a while. Hopefully, that's the case here again, as Makarova has had some injury issues of late, and they'll re-join forces during the summer. (Crossing fingers, as they're one of the few identifiable doubles duos left right now, until Safarova gets back.)

If that's not the case, though. That's some craaaaazy timing.

Thu May 17, 12:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, finally saw the full Pliskova video. While she was right to be angry with the umpire, that attack on the chair (and the damage it caused) was uncalled for. Honestly, she probably should be suspended for that.

She's lucky the flying pieces of plastic didn't hit Sakkari in the face.

Thu May 17, 12:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Katya and Elena split? I didn’t see THAT coming at all :(

The Plisko thing is shocking, and yes, suspension seems like the appropriate consequence. I also feel for her; the umpire was totally incompetent. But you can’t attack the umpire’s chair.

Thu May 17, 07:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

From what I've read it might be linked to the whole injury/illness indecision and, therefore, might just be temporary. Either way, though, one or both (or someone else) will likely get to #1 since Chan's track record w/o Hingis doesn't seem to give much hope to her keeping many of her points as things go along.

Not to be flip about it, but at least now if anyone accuses her of playing without emotion from here on out Pliskova only has to ask, "Have you seen the video?" :\

Maybe extenuating circumstances will allow her to get off with "only" a significant fine, but I wonder.

Also, interesting to see that the ruling by an independent tribunal went Cornet's way and she won't be the latest sacrificed to the oft-insane rulings of the ITF anti-doping officials.

Reading the details (a broken intercom and an ITF official trying -- but not really very hard -- to contact Cornet played a big part) in the New York Times article just proved once again how much of a mess the whole system is. Every ruling shouldn't *have* to be course-corrected to give the players a fighting chance, but it appears that every one *has* to be because the anti-doping program rules are seemingly designed to pull "gotcha's" on the athletes so the program can produce occasional "pelts" that justify the program's existence, even though the whole thing usually just serves to prove how unfit the process is.

Thu May 17, 10:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Don't get me started on the ITF and WADA--you know how I feel. I'm glad Alize doesn't have to go through that any longer.

Thu May 17, 11:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Hope you saw the "dropshot festival" last night between Sevastova and Wozniacki - never seen so many dropshots in one match before - good too.

Fri May 18, 02:45:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Fri May 18, 05:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

So, I guess Pliskova got a "four-digit" fine and (apparently) no suspension.


I say sneak out of town as quickly as possible and hope no one notices until you're out of reach of the long arm of the law. ;)

Fri May 18, 08:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

My understanding is that the umpire was also penalized with some type of suspension. Pliskova is doubling her fine and giving the overage to a charity.

Fri May 18, 09:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yes, I saw about Pliskova and the charity (a good move). Hadn't seen about the umpire. Also a good move, to say the least.

Sat May 19, 01:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

So after all the twists and turns of the week:

Sharapova will be seeded. 28 instead of 29 due to Radwanska's 47 consecutive slam streak ending.

Svitolina is the 6 seed today, 4 if she beats Halep.

Safarova and Kozlova in draws next week, trying to get off the no clay list.

Clay Big 4(Bertens/Halep/Svitolina/Kasatkina) will have title #2 this season, still behind the 6 projected.

Sat May 19, 04:34:00 PM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home