Monday, October 01, 2018

Wk.39- It Could Have Been Aryna

Clear a path. Here comes Boom-Boom...

WUHAN, CHINA (Premier 5/Hard Court)
S: Aryna Sabalenka/BLR def. Anett Kontaveit/EST 6-3/6-3
D: Elise Mertens/Demi Schuurs (BEL/NED) d. Andrea S.-Hlavackova/Barbora Strycova (CZE/CZE) 6-3/6-3
S: Margarita Gasparyan/RUS def. Anastasia Potapova/RUS 6-2/6-1
D: Olga Danilovic/Tamara Zidansek (SRB/SLO) d. Irina-Camelia Begu/Raluca Olaru (ROU/ROU) 7-5/6-3
JUNIOR FED CUP 16s (Budapest/Red Clay)
F: USA (Gauff/Noel/C.Ma) def. UKR (Lopatetskaya/Kostenko/Rublevska) 2-1
3rd: SVK def. RUS 2-0

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Aryna Sabalenka/BLR could have been Aryna. When Belarusian Boom faced off with Naomi Osaka in their "Boom-Shaka-Osaka" Round fo 16 U.S. Open clash in New York, the notion was alive that the winner might then become *the* Generation PDQ entrant in the mix for a first-time deep at the year's final slam. As it turned out, Osaka's game was the more consistent and mature of the two. She won in three sets. Having not lost a set in the tournament prior to facing Sabalenka, Osaka didn't lose another afterward, either, and went on to claim her maiden slam title. Had things gone differently, though, it could have been Aryna.

After all, the Belarusian had been *the* breakout star of the summer hard court season, posting six Top 10 wins and becoming a first-time tour champ in New Haven, while (though still with an occasional slip) learning on the job how to corral her power, keep her head straight, construct better points, rely on her serve (though not *exclusively*) to get her out of jams and, finally, to mold herself into an early version of the sort of awesome winner her game says she *could* ultimately become.

Well, we're a few weeks past the U.S. Open now. Sabalenka saw what happened to Osaka (the actual stuff, not the ridiculous crap), and at some point had to wonder, "could it have been me?"

In Wuhan, with her potential future playing out in her mind's eye, we may have gotten a true Sabalenkan glimpse of things to come.

The 20-year old opened with a pair of three-set wins over Carla Suarez-Navarro and Elina Svitolina, but after nearly bageling the Ukrainian in the final set Sabalanka never looked back, flipping the switch on what coach Dimitry Tursonov might call her "beast mode" as she swept through Sonya Kenin, Dominika Cibulkova, Ash Barty and Anett Kontaveit, extending her set-winning run to nine on her way to lifting her second career tour singles title trophy, both coming in her last four events. Her win over Svitolina was her seventh Top 10 win of the season, behind only Kiki Bertens' ten, and she'll now climb to a new career high of #16.

2018 is almost over. Flashfoward to 2019... as it's already been on two occasions with her PDQ cohorts, it might just *be* Sabalenka.

RISERS: Anett Kontaveit/EST and Wang Qiang/CHN
...Kontaveit has been a talented player looking to make "the big step" for the better part of two seasons now, and maybe the recent moving on from Glenn Schapp to Nigel Sears as her coach will ultimately have the same sort of "magical" impact that the Big Sascha/Naomi combo has in '18. So far, it's already produced the biggest final of her career. Described by Sears as a combination of an aggressive ball striker and counterpuncher, the 22-year old Estonian's varied results have shown hers to be a game readily able to win on any surface, in any circumstance. Her final run in Wuhan is the fourth of her career, with each match taking place in different playing conditions. Last season, she reached an indoor hard court final in Lugano, another on the grass at Rosmalen, and a third on red clay in Gstaad. This week's event final (her biggest yet, in a Premier 5) was held on outdoor hard court.

Kontaveit's week opened with her seventh Top 10 win of '18, a defeat of Sloane Stephens after she'd found herself down 6-4/4-3, 40/love. She came back with additional victories over Donna Veckic, Zhang Shuai, Katerina Siniakova and Wang Qiang before being simply overpowered by Aryna Sabalenka in the final. The Estonian will jump six spots to a new career high of #21.

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FINAL ?????????? @wuhanopen

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It had to end sometime for Wang Qiang, but what a ride it's been.

It just so happened that Wang's run of brilliance on Chinese soil came to an end at the hands of Kontaveit in the Wuhan semis when the 26-year old, who'd become the first from her nation to ever advance so far in the event in front of a home crowd, was forced to retire in the 2nd set, unable pull off a win in her eleventh match in twelve days. Wang's previous wins ove Maria Sakkari, Tokyo champ Karolina Pliskova (at #7 her biggest career win), Dasha Gavrilova and Monica Puig had run her winning streak in China to fourteen matches. She'll climb to yet another career high (#28) this week, as she's once again in the draw in Beijing (and set to play Ostapenko).

SURPRISES: Olga Danilovic/Tamara Zidansek (SRB/SLO) and Kateryna Kozlova/UKR Moscow in July, 17-year old Danilovic became the youngest tour singles champion of 2018. This weekend in Tashkent she because the youngest doubles champ, winning her maiden WTA WD crown two and a half months earlier in life than Nanchang champ Tang Qianhui had when she won her second career title earlier this year. After falling in the 2nd Round in singles, to the player she'd beaten to win her first WS crown (Anastasia Potapova), the Serb teamed with 20-year old Zidansek (also a maiden champ, adding a tour-level WD title to the 125 Series event she won in Bol w/ Magda Linette in June) to finish out the week on a winning note. They survived a pair of 3rd set TBs -- 1st Rd. vs. Geuer/Schoofs, SF vs. #2-seeded Hibino/Kalashnikova -- and then defeated #1-seeds Begu & Olaru in straight sets in the final to claim the crown. Danilovic/Zidansek (combined 37 years) are the second youngest tour champions of '18, behind Tang & Jiang Xinyu (19, combining for 36).

Also in Tashkent, Kozlova added a semifinal result to the maiden final run she pulled off in Taipei City in February. She opened with a win over top-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu and followed up with additional victories over Fiona Ferro and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova before eventually falling to Potapova. The 24-year old Ukrainian's season highlight was her Roland Garros 1st Round upset of defending champion Alona Ostapenko.
VETERANS: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS
...when Cibulkova is fired up and on a roll almost anything is possible (see 2016's WTA Finals), but she's now approaching what would be a two-year title drought if she doesn't notch a win before the end of the season. If that plays out, it would prove to be a career long title-less period come the start of '19, topping the 25-month stretch between career wins #4 (March '14) and #5 (April '16). The 29-year old Slovak didn't reach her third '18 final (after Budapest and Strasbourg) in Wuhan, but she did run off a series of nice wins over Monica Niculescu, Simona Halep (her fifth career #1 victory) and Dasha Kasatkina before losing to a hungry Aryna Sabalenka in the QF.

Also in Wuhan, Pavlyuchenkova also didn't win a title (incidentally, if she had it'd have made her the only WTA player in history with 13 tour singles titles but no slam semifinal results -- all 39 other women with that many titles have at least one), but she had one of her best weeks of the season, notching three Top 20 wins over Anastasija Sevastova, Kiki Bertens and Petra Kvitova en route to her third QF of the year (her lone '18 title came in Strasbourg). She lost to Ash Barty, and has already exited in the 1st Round in Beijing, courtesy of Sloane Stephens, who recorded her first 4Q win in Asia since 2015.
COMEBACK: Margarita Gasparyan/RUS 2015 and into the '16 season, Gasparyan looked to be heading the next wave of Hordette stars. At 21, armed with a rare one-handed backhand, she'd climbed into the Top 50, won a tour singles title (and three WD crowns) and been the victor in her first nine ITF finals, as well as having reached a slam Round of 16 ('16 AO) in just her third try. But a knee injury in the summer of '16 nearly brought an end to it all. She missed sixteen months, underwent three surgeries and very nearly was forced to retire. She finally returned last October. In January, she was ranked outside the Top 1100. By spring, she'd reached her first post-surgery final in a $25K challenger in Spain. She made her MD tour return (her first since Wimbledon '16) in Nanchang (while ranked #499) in July, knocked off Hsieh Su-wei in New Haven qualifying in August, then pushed Angelique Kerber in the 1st Round of the U.S. Open in what served as something of a second "coming-out party." Last week, all the work and progress came together, well, perfectly.

Ranked #299 and in the MD via her protected ranking, which was set to run out soon, the 24-year old Russian displayed the perseverance on the court that helped her maneuver over the rocky terrain that she encountered off it for much of the last two years. A straight sets 1st Round win over Sabina Sharipova was followed by a trio of three setters. Gasparyan recovered from a 0-4, love/30 3rd set deficit vs. Tatjana Maria, winning a 3rd set TB to reach her first WTA QF since the 2015 Kremlin Cup. Next was a comeback win from a set down vs. Fanny Stollar, followed by survival (7-5 3rd) in a SF match in which Mona Barthel served for the match. In her first WTA final since her Baku win in August '15, Gasparyan allowed just three games to countrywoman Anastasia Potapova in the tour's 29th all-Russian singles final. Gasparyan will return to the Top 200 this week for the first time in almost twenty-one months.

FRESH FACES: Anastasia Potapova/RUS, Katerina Siniakova/CZE and Ash Barty/AUS of these days, Potapova will likely *fully* escape the lingering shadow of Olga Danilovic, the fellow 17-year old she met in the Moscow River Cup final in July in the youngest tour singles final in thirteen years. While Potapova picked up her maiden tour doubles title in that event, it was only after Danilovic has defeated her to become a maiden *singles* champion. It looked like Potapova was finally going to "out-do" the Serb this past week in Tashkent. After qualifying and coming back from a set down vs. Stefanie Voegele, she defeated Danilovic in the 2nd Round in their first match-up since their final clash, then advanced to her second career tour final (still six months before her 18th birthday) by posting additional wins over Dalila Jakupovic and Kateryna Kozlova. While she fell in the final to fellow Hordette Margarita Gasparyan, Potapova will join Danilovic as first-time Top 100 players this week, even passing her by the rankings (though just barely, as she moves from #132 to #93, while Danilovic improves from #101 to #97). But, again, it's the Serb who left this early-career watershed event for the two teenagers with a title, having picked up her maiden WD crown along with Tamara Zidansek. One of these days.

In Wuhan, Siniakova had what has often been a "typical" week for her, as the Czech showed grit and flash but, in the end, still came up short. After qualifying with wins over Jil Teichmann and fellow Maiden Marketa Vondrousova, Siniakova knocked off Kristina Mladenovic, then saved a MP and dethroned defending champ Caroline Garcia before offing former finalist Garbine Muguruza. But a magnificent run to a title in the event -- ala Garcia last year, and Sabalenka this -- wasn't in the cards, as she fell to Anett Kontaveit in the QF. She's since qualified in Beijing, as well. Siniakova will jump seven spot to #40 this week, just four off her career high.

Barty advanced one round deeper in the draw in Wuhan than Siniakova, reaching her fifth '18 semifinal while posting wins over Johanna Konta, Zheng Saisai, Angelique Kerber and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The victory over the #3-ranked German was her first Top 10 win of the season and the biggest of her career. She notched three Top 10 victories en route to the Wuhan final a year ago meaning four of her five career victories have come in the event.
DOWN: Elina Svitolina/UKR and Petra Kvitova/CZE
...Svitolina continues to "trust the process," even as her on-court results continue to gently swirl downward in the closing weeks of 2018. The Ukrainian announced that Nick Saviano will serve as a coach through the end of the season, but what she's produced while he's been around hasn't exactly looked like any sort of "light bulb over her head" sort of moment. Well, unless what Saviano has seen leads him to hint that maybe Svitolina's "process" isn't necessarily trustworthy *enough* to overlook how her figurative standing on tour (though not ranking, yet) has fallen over the past year. In Wuhan, Svitolina fell in the 2nd Round to eventual champ Aryna Sabalenka. On it's face, that's no red flag, but yet another blindside in a 3rd set (this one a 6-1 loss) *is* a continuation of a big event trend for the world #5. Svitolina lost the 1st set despite having led 4-2, and only narrowly avoided another final set show-me-the-door bagel, getting on the board vs. the Belarusian only after falling into a 5-0 hole. In Beijing, she's already out, as well, blowing a 6-0/4-1 lead over Aleksandra Krunic and falling to the Serb in a 3rd set TB.

As Svitolina soon heads into an offseason where some decisions will have to be made (coaching and otherwise), it's worth noting that there's a fine line between trusting a process and turning a nifty renovation-and-improvement project into a messy game of Pick-up-Stix that requires a far longer period of clean-up.

Meanwhile, Kvitova has always been a big fan of playing in China, and her past results have usually shown us why. The Czech has reached four tour finals in China during her career, winning three titles, including twice (2014 and '16) in Wuhan. Her career mark in the latter event was 13-2 before she fell in three sets this week to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the 3rd Round. She then followed up that result with a 1st Round exit in Beijing at the hands of Dasha Gavrilova, 6-2/6-1. Kvitova will likely lead the tour in singles titles this season (her total of five is two up on anyone in the field), but her woeful slam performances (a combined 4-4, with two 1st Round losses, giving her just one QF result at a major over the last three years) and back-half slip (after a 36-7 start, she's gone 10-8) aren't exactly putting a final polish on one of 2018's best stories. Of course, there's always the Fed Cup final for that.
ITF PLAYER: Asia Muhammad/USA
...Muhammad's career year added yet another winning chapter on Sunday in Templeton, California when the 27-year old grabbed her third ITF singles title of the season at the $60K challenger. After defeating the likes of Giuliana Olmos, Katherine Sebov, and Madison Brengle en route to her tenth career circuit final, Muhammad won out over Sesil Karantcheva 2-6/6-4/6-3 to win her second $60K event of 2018.

On Sunday evening, after winning the singles, Muhammad joined once again with Maria Sanchez to contest the doubles final against Quinn Gleason and Luisa Stefani. The pair had already won a $100K title, reached a 125 Series final and won a tour crown in Quebec City in recent months, and their 6-7(4)/6-2 [10-8] victory added yet another triumphant chapter to Muhammad's '18 campaign.
JUNIOR STARS: USA Junior Fed Cup (16s), Wang Xiyu/CHN and Clara Burel/FRA
...the rivalry between the U.S. and Ukrainian junior girls led to yet another showdown in the Junior Fed Cup final in Budapest. After splitting a pair of final meetings in the ITF World Junior 14s championships the last two years, with the players just a little bit older the two nations met up again to determine the FC 16s team title after a week of play on red clay. After Lyubov Kostenko defeated Alexa Noel 4 & 1 in the opening match, Coco Gauff knotted the tie with a 6-1/4-6/6-0 win over Dasha Lopatetskaya, who'd upset her in the U.S. Open girls QF earlier in September. It set up a final battle on the dirt, and what a clash it turned out to be, as Gauff & Noel battled from behind to defeat Kostenko/Lopatetskaya in an 11-9 deciding TB, overcoming 4-1 and 8-6 deficits and saving a MP. The win is the fifth in the competition's history for the U.S. (two in a row, and three in five years), as the Junior Bannerettes denied Ukraine what would have been its first crown.

17-year old U.S. Open girls champ Wang Xiyu continued to show herself to already be someone not to be overlooked, as well as a potential legitimate force very soon. Already a two-time ITF champ (in three finals) this summer, Wang qualified in Wuhan (def. Viktoria Kuzmova, as well as a retiring Vania King), posted her first career WTA Premier-level MD win (in just her sixth tour-level MD appearance) over Bernarda Pera, then gave world #13 Dasha Kasatkina all she could handle in the 2nd Round. The lefty teenager led the Russian 5-2 in the 3rd set, and served at 5-4, 30/love before dropping thirteen straight points. She broke to force a deciding TB, but fell to the 21-year old after having held four MP. She'll climb into the Top 200 for the first time this week (#181), making her one of seven players under 18 ranked in the Top 200 (w/ Anisimova, Potapova, Danilovic, Kostyuk, Swiatek and Juvan).

In Clermont-Ferrand, France, 17-year old Burel, the girls runner-up at both the AO and U.S. Open (losing to Wang Xiyu) this year, reached her maiden pro singles final. The #8-ranked junior (#952 WTA) had lost her last five matches on the pro level, but rattled off three consecutive wins -- def. fellow Pastry Margot Yerolymos, #6 Marina Melnikova, receiving a walkover from #2 Richel Hogenkamp and advancing past #3 Myrtille Georges -- before falling to #4-seeded Lesley Kerkhove 6-3/4-6/6-4 in the final.

In the same event, '18 girls SW19 runner-up Leonie Kung (SUI), 17, teamed with Isabella Shinikova to take the doubles title.
DOUBLES: Elise Mertens/Demi Schuurs, BEL/NED, which is the top doubles duo of 2018? Babos (world #1) & Mladenovic, who won the AO? Krejcikova/Siniakova, who lead the points race and won two majors? Barty/Schuurs, the only duo to win *two* top level Premier events? Barty/Vandeweghe, the Miami & U.S. Open champs? Or, umm, maybe Mertens/Schuurs, who this weekend in Wuhan became the only pair to win *three* titles on the season?

While the Belgian-Dutch pair haven't won a major in '18, their Hobart, Rosmalen and Wuhan title runs (as as well as finals in Birmingham and Cincinnati -- giving them five total final appearances, more than any other twosome) at least place them in the discussion. Their most recent title-winning week included a pair of 3rd set TB wins (2nd Rd. vs. L.Kichenok/Srebotnik, SF vs. Aoyama/Marozava) before a straight sets defeat of Hlavackova/Strycova. In all, it's their fourth win (in seven finals) over the last two seasons. Mertens' fourth '18 WD title combines with three singles wins, while Schuurs leads the tour with seven doubles titles, including three at Premier 5 events.

WHEELCHAIR: Marjolein Buis/NED
...a week after falling in the Sardinia Open final to Giulia Capocci, Buis rebounded to take the Series 2 crown at the French Riviera Open. The world #7, Buis maintained her perfect career mark against Dana Mathewson, defeating the Bannerette 3-6/7-5/3-2 (ret.) in the final to improve her head-to-head edge to 9-0. WC #12 Mathewson, who teamed with Charlotte Famin to defeat Buis & Katharina Kruger in the doubles final, had previously defeated #1-seeded Kruger in the semis before falling to #2 Buis.



The Most Interesting Tour's official spirit-anthem-singer...

The offseason game of musical coaching chairs sees its first movement?

1. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Dasha Kasatkina def. Wang Xiyu
The incoming corps of youthful GenPDQ members might be even more impatient than the original wave. U.S. Open girls champ Wang surely sent a shot across the bow of the whole "senior" group with this match in which she led world #13 Kasatkina 5-2 in the 3rd set. The 17-year old served up 5-4, 30/love and ultimately held four MP, as Kasatkina struggled to gain a bit in the Race for Singapore as Stephens, Svitolina, Pliskova and Bertens (all directly ahead of her in the standings) lost early in Wuhan. The Russian has already exited in Beijing, falling to Laura Siegemund 6-3/4-2 (ret. w/ illness) in her opening match, ending her Singapore hopes.

It might not be long before Wang turns this result around.

2. Wuhan Final - Aryna Sabalenka def. Anett Kontaveit
Belarusian Boom. Boom-Boom. I think they might have Backspin Nickname Legs.

3. Tashkent Final - Margarita Gasparyan def. Anastasia Potapova
My preseason predictions for Gasparyan included a return to the Top 150 and a tour-level QF+ result. "Check" on the first (#138 this week), and second. Time to start counting the hits and misses soon, I guess.

4. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Katerina Siniakova def. Caroline Garcia
After failing to convert a MP in the 2nd set, then squandering a break lead in the 3rd, Garcia's first big points defense from her brilliant 2017 4Q run in Asia knocks her from #4 to #8 in the rankings, and next up is her Beijing title run cache (remember, she won BOTH Wuhan and Beijing last year). Without a title in '18, this year has become something of a "settling" one for Garcia. Not a disaster (11 multiple-win events, 2 SF, 7 QF and a pair of slam Rd. of 16's), but one lacking a huge signature moment (zero finals, just two Top 10 wins).
5. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Aryna Sabalenka def. Elina Svitolina 6-4/2-6/6-1
Beijing 1st Rd. - Aleksandra Krunic def. Elina Svitolina 6-0/4-6/7-6(4)
getting blitzed by Boom-Boom is forgivable, but blowing a 6-0/4-1 lead (even vs. The Bracelet) is the sort of result that will greatly test The Process this offseason (and early in '19).

6. Wuhan 3rd Rd. - Katerina Siniakova def. Garbine Muguruza
If Garbi is going to look this badass in opening ceremonies, she needs to start winning big again just to keep the momentum going.

Wuhan wins over Van Uytvank and Golubic, both and in straight sets and with a bagel, were a good start. But, still.
7. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Dominika Cibulkova def. Simona Halep 6-0/7-5
Beijing 1st Rd. - Ons Jabeur def. Simona Halep 6-1 ret.
while Halep's goal is to finish the season as #1 again -- joining Evert, Navratilova, Graf, Seles, Hingis, Davenport, Henin, Wozniacki and S.Williams with back-to-back #1 campaigns -- one wonders if it could be a waiting game to which she might not be able to contribute many (if any) points at the end of a long, physically grinding season. Her back locked up during a practice (w/ Kvitova) before play in Wuhan, and it was still bothering her as play opened up this weekend in Beijing.

8. Wuhan 1st Rd. - Anett Kontaveit def. Sloane Stephens 4-6/7-5/6-4
Beijing 1st Rd. - Sloane Stephens def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-7(8)/6-4/6-4
was losing after leading Kontaveit 6-4/4-3, 40/love the final Asian straw from Sloane? The defeat dropped her to 0-8 on the continent in the 4Q the last two years. Finally, this weekend in Beijing she got her first late season win in Asia since 2015, coming back from seeing Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova holding a BP for a 3-1 3rd set lead to win the final set 6-4 over the Russian.

9. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Monica Puig def. Caroline Wozniacki
It took a while (6 SP in the 1st, 7 MP in the 2nd), but Puig eventually got her second '18 win over the Dane, joining Kasatkina and Bertens with multiple season wins over the AO champ.

10. Tashkent 2nd Rd. - Margarita Gasparyan def. Tatjana Maria
The Russian's title run wouldn't have happened had she not overcome being two breaks down (0-4, love/30) in the 3rd vs. the German. She finished off Maria with a MP lob, and the rest was history.
11. Wuhan 2nd Rd - Sonya Kenin def. Julia Goerges
Kenin's week (which included a Q-run, allowing just two games to Hsieh Su-wei in the 1st Round and this, her second career Top 10 win) wasn't enough to get her into the overcrowded Fresh Faces category, but it's worth noting. She's up to a career-high #51 this week... and she went sightseeing, too.

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What a view of The Great Wall ??

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12. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Duan Yingying/Wang Yafan def. Ash Barty/CoCo Vandeweghe
...3-3 ret.
Ending Barty's 11-match WD winning streak.
13. Wuhan 2nd Rd. - Angelique Kerber def. Madison Keys
...6-0/4-1 ret.
Keys retires with a knee injury, as Kerber improves to 8-2 in their head-to-head. It seems ages ago that the Bannerette was actually healthy for half a dozen tournaments in a row, doesn't it?

14. Wuhan 1st Rd. - Dasha Gavrilova def. Alona Ostapenko
Some questions need to be answered, and decisions made, where Latvian Thunder is concerned this offseason.

15. $15K Antalya QF - Romina Oprandi def. Eleni Daniliidou
Yes, Daniliidou *is* still an active player. The 36-year old, ranked #1046 last week, produced her first 2-win MD result since July '16 (her most recent QF) in a $10K challenger in Schio, Italy.

HM- Beijing 1st Rd. - Mihaela Buzarnescu/Monica Niculescu def. Angel Chan/Yang Zhaoxuan
She's baaaaaack.


Well, until, well... you know.

1. $15K Chomomorsk UKR Final - MARYNA KOLB/NADIYA KOLB def. Alexandra Perper/Anastasia Vdovenco
The Ukrainian siblings grab their fifth career ITF title as a duo.

2. $25k Pula ITA Final - TAYISIYA MORDERGER/YANA MORDERGER def. Cao Siqi/Ma Shuyue
...6-7(0)/7-6(9) [12-10].
And twiiiins. The 21-year old Germans win their sixth career crown.

3. $25k Obidos POR SF - Greet Minnen def. ULA RADWANSKA
Ula (now #371) posts her third SF+ challenger result of the season, all of them coming in Obidos since the spring. To get here, the 27-year old defeated 37-year old Alexandra Stevenson (!), who'd previously recorded her first MD singles victory since last October.
HM- $15K Hilton Head USA Final - BIANCA TURATI def. Michaela Bayerlova
The recent NCAA #1 picks up her third '18 title (5th career), and improves to 34-9 in pro singles matches this season. Bianca's twin sister (and University of Texas teammate) Anna is 0-1 in ITF WS finals in '18.


Swiss Martina, behaving like an active player...

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Hiking in the colourful fall nature! ????????????

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?? #trusttheprocess ??

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#187 - Olga Danilovic/SRB (Moscow RC)
#132 - Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK (Bogota)
#128 - Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS (Washington)
#122 - Pauline Parmentier/FRA (Istanbul)
[since 2012]
#299 - MARGARITA GASPARYAN [2018/SEP - TASHKENT def. Potapova]
#233 - Marketa Vondrousova [2017/APR - Biel def. Kontaveit]
#208 - Melanie Oudin [2012/JUNE- Birmingham def. Jankovic]
#187 - Olga Danilovic [2018/JULY- Moscow RC def. Potapova]
#182 - Peng Shuai [2016/OCT - Tianjin def. Riske]
[all-time - not including unranked winners]
#579 Angelique Widjaja, INA (2001 Bali - WC)
#285 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL (2002 Bogota - WC)
#259 Tamira Paszek, AUT (2006 Portoroz - Q)
#234 Lindsay Davenport, USA (2007 Bali - PR)
#233 Marketa Vondrousova, CZE (2017 Biel - Q)
#208 Melanie Oudin, USA (2012 Birmingham - Q)

17 - Amanda Anisimova, USA (Hiroshima-L) - 17,2w
17 - Anastasia Potapova, RUS (Moscow RC-L) - 17,4m
17 - Olga Danilovic, SRB (Moscow RC-W) - 17,6m,1w
19 - Aryna Sabalenka, BLR (Lugano-L)
17 - OLGA DANILOVIC, SRB (WUHAN-W) - 17,8m,1w
17 - Tang Qianhui, CHN (Nanchang-W) - 17,10m,3w
19 - Fanny Stollar, HUN (Budapest-W)
19 - Fanny Stollar, HUN (Rabat-L)
19 - Vera Lapko, BLR (Lugano-L)
19 - Vera Lapko, BLR (Guangzhou-L)
19 - Aryna Sabalenka, BLR (Lugano-L)
19 - Anna Blinkova, RUS (Rabat-W)
19 - Jiang Xinyu, CHN (Nanchang-W)
[young WD finalist duos]
36 - Jiang (19) & Tang (17) = Nanchang (W)
38 - Blinkova (19) & Stollar (19) = Rabat (L)

34 - Moscow River Cup = Danilovic (17) d. Potapova (17)
40 - Indian Wells = Osaka (20) d. Kasatkina (20)
41 - Lugano = Mertens (22) d. Sabalenka (19)

2003 Doha - Myskina d. Likhovtseva
2004 Doha - Myskina d. Kuznetsova
2004 Roland Garros - Myskina d. Dementieva
2004 U.S. OPen - Kuznetsova d. Dementieva
2004 Hasselt - Dementieva d. Bovina
2004 Moscow - Myskina d. Dementieva
2006 Indian Wells - Sharapova d. Dementieva
2006 Miami - Kuznetsova d. Sharapova
2006 Moscow - Chakvetadze d. Petrova
2006 Linz - Sharapova d. Petrova
2007 Hobart - Chakvetadze d. Bardina
2008 Doha - Sharapova d. Zvonareva
2008 Dubai - Dementieva d. Kuznetsova
2008 Berlin - Safina d. Dementieva
2008 Beijing - Dementieva d. Safina
2008 Tokyo - Safina d. Kuznetsova
2009 Auckland - Dementieva d. Vesnina
2009 Sydney - Dementieva d. Safina
2009 Stuttgart - Kuznetsova d. Safina
2009 Rome - Safina d. Kuznetsova
2009 Roland Garros - Kuznetsova d. Safina
2009 Toronto - Dementieva d. Sharapova
2010 Kuala Lumpur - Kleybanova d. Dementieva
2010 Istanbul - Pavlyuchenkova d. Vesnina
2010 Tashkent - Kudryavtseva d. Vesnina
2011 Baku - Zvonareva d. Pervak
2015 Moscow - Kuznetsova d. Pavlyuchenkova
2017 Indian Wells - Vesnina d. Kuznetsova
2018 Tashkent - Gasparyan d. Potapova
12 - Elena Dementieva (6-6)
10 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (5-5)
7 - Dinara Safina (3-4)
5 - Maria Sharapova (3-2)
4 - Anastasia Myskina (4-0)
4 - Elena Vesnina (1-3)
2 - Anna Chakvetadze (2-0)
2 - Alisa Kleybanova (2-0)
2 - Nadia Petrova (0-2)
2 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (1-1)
1-0: Gasparyan,Kudryavtseva,Zvonareva,
0-1: Bardina,Bovina,Likhovtseva,Pervak,Potapova,Zvonareva

7-1 - CZE
4-5 - ROU
3-1 - FRA,NED
3-4 - RUS
2-0 - SRB
2-3 - BLR
1-0 - SWE,TPE
1-1 - HUN
1-2 - LAT
1-8 - USA
0-2 - CRO

6 - Simona Halep, ROU (3-3)
5 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (5-0)
4 - Kiki Bertens, NED (3-1)
3 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (3-0)
3 - Elise Mertens, BEL (3-0)
3 - Naomi Osaka, JPN (2-1)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (2-1)
3 - Sloane Stephens, USA (1-2)
3 - Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU (1-2)
[worst win pct. - multiple finals]
0.000 = Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (0-2)
0.000 = Dasha Kasatkina, RUS (0-2)
0.000 = Alja Tomljanovic, AUS (0-2)
0.000 = Serena Williams, USA (0-2)
0.333 = Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU (1-2)
0.333 = Sloane Stephens, USA (1-2)

3 = GER (Goerges,Kerber,Maria)
3 = RUS (GASPARYAN,Kuznetsova,Pavlyuchenkova)
2 = BEL (Mertens,Van Uytvanck)
2 = CZE (Kvitova,Ka.Pliskova)
2 = FRA (Cornet,Parmentier)
2 = ROU (Buzarnescu,Halep)
2 = SRB (Krunic,Danilovic)
2 = UKR (Svitolina,Tsurenko)

RU: Gstaad - Mandy Minella, LUX (32/#226)
RU: Wimbledon - Serena Williams, USA (36/#181 = #25 seed)
SF: Taipei City - Sabine Lisicki, GER (28/#246)

*2018 WTA SF*
8 - Simona Halep, ROU (6-1+L)
6 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (5-1)
6 - Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU (3-3)
5 - Elise Mertens, BEL (3-2)
5 - ASH BARTY, AUS (2-3)
5 - Angelique Kerber, GER (2-3)
5 - Julia Goerges, GER (2-3)
5 - Anastasija Sevastova, LAT (2-3)

*CAREER #1 WINS - active*
16 - Serena Williams, USA
15 - Venus Williams, USA
7 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
7 - Maria Sharapova, RUS
6 - Elina Svitolina, UKR
5 - Petra Kvitova, CZE

4...Babos/Mladenovic (2-2)
4...Krejcikova/Siniakova (2-2)
4...Klepac/Martinez-Sanchez (1-3)
3...Makarova/Vesnina (1-2)
3...Melichar/Peschke (1-2)
5...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS (2-3)

Timea Babos, HUN = (1/2)
Ash Barty, AUS = (1/4)
Kiki Bertens, NED = (3/1)
Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU = (1/1)
Simona Halep, ROU = (3/1)
Hsieh Su-wei, TPE = (1/1)
Tatjana Maria, GER = (1/1)

Anna Blinkova, RUS
Naomi Broady, GBR
Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU
Choi Ji-hee, KOR
Georgina Garcia Perez, ESP
Alexa Guarachi, CHI
Simona Halep, ROU
Han Na-lae, KOR
Irina Khromacheva, RUS
Desirae Krawczyk, USA
Anastasia Potapova, RUS
Bibiane Schoofs, NED
Sara Sorribes Tormo, ESP
Fanny Stollar, HUN
Latish Chan, TPE
Nicole Melichar, USA

2000 Czech Republic d. Hungary
2001 Czech Republic d. Poland
2002 Belarus d. Czech Republic
2003 Netherlands d. Canada
2004 Argentina d. Canada
2005 Poland d. France
2006 Belarus d. Russia
2007 Australia d. Poland
2008 United States d. Great Britain
2009 Russia d. Germany
2010 Russia d. China
2011 Australia d. Canada
2012 United States d. Russia
2013 Russia d. Australia
2014 United States d. Slovakia
2015 Czech Republic d. United States
2016 Poland d. United States
2017 United States d. Japan
2018 United States d. Ukraine
4 - RUS
3 - CZE

Doha (HC) - #21 Kvitova/CZE d. #4 Muguruza/ESP
Indian 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
Rome (RC) - #4 Svitolina/UKR d. #1 Halep/ROU
Montreal (HC) - #1 Halep/ROU d. #3 Stephens/USA
Cincinnati (HC) - #17 Bertens/NED d. #1 Halep/ROU
Wuhan (HC) - #17 Sabalenka/BLR d. #27 Kontaveit/EST
Beijing (HC) -x

Doha - Petra Kvitova, CZE
Indian Wells - Naomi Osaka, JPN
Miami - Sloane Stephens, USA
Madrid - Petra Kvitova, CZE (2)
Rome - Elina Svitolina, UKR
Montreal - Simona Halep, ROU
Cincinnati - Kiki Bertens, NED
Wuhan - Aryna Sabalenka, BLR
Beijing - x
Doha - Dabrowski/Ostapenko, CAN/LAT
Indian Wells - Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE
Miami - Barty/Vandeweghe, AUS/USA
Madrid - Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS
Rome - Barty/Schuurs, AUS/NED
Montreal - Barty (3)/Schuurs, AUS/NED
Cincinnati - Hradecka/Makarova (2), CZE/RUS
Wuhan - Mertens/Schuurs (3), BEL/NED
Beijing - x

Jules (Pulp Fiction) & Brett

New 2.0 sport: Arena Racquetball, maybe?

Tick-tock, HoF...

BEIJING, CHINA (Premier Mandatory/Hard Court)
2004 Serena Williams d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2005 Maria Kirilenko def. Anna-Lena Groenefeld
2006 Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Agnes Szavay d. Jelena Jankovic
2008 Jelena Jankovic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Aga Radwanska
2010 Caroline Wozniacki d. Vera Zvonareva
2011 Aga Radwanska d. Andrea Petkovic
2012 Victoria Azarenka d. Maria Sharapova
2013 Serena Williams d. Jelena Jankovic
2014 Maria Sharapova d. Petra Kvitova
2015 Garbine Muguruza d. Timea Bacsinszky
2016 Aga Radwanska d. Johanna Konta
2017 Caroline Garcia d. Simona Halep
2004 Gagliardi/Safina
2005 Llagostera Vives/Vento-Kabchi
2006 Ruano Pascual/Suarez
2007 Chuang Chia-jung/Hsieh Su-wei
2008 Medina-Garrigues/Wozniacki
2009 Hsieh Su-wei/Peng Shuai
2010 Govortsova/Chuang Chia-jung
2011 Peschke/Srebotnik
2012 Makarova/Vesnina
2013 Black/Mirza
2014 Hlavackova/Peng Shuai
2015 Hingis/Mirza
2016 Mattek-Sands/Safarova
2017 L.Chan/Hingis
WS: #1 Halep, #2 Wozniacki
WD: #1 Babos/Mladenovic, #2 S.-Hlavackova/Strycova

And, finally...

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Just putting it out in the universe-Gasparyan-Suarez Navarro has never happened.

Getting close to Fed Cup time, and might as well try to guess how the rosters will turn out.

More intrigue on both sides this year, so lets start with the machine that is the Czech Republic. With Safarova out, I assume the first 3 will be Pliskova, Kvitova, Strycova. Pliskova probably has earned the #1 spot, plus Kvitova has hit the wall after only playing 1/2 the season last year.

So what about the 4th spot? Hlavackova Sestini hasn't played well enough to earn it. And though it is likely to be the safe and less arguable pick in Siniakova, I would, in case of emergency, rather break the glass on Vondrousova, who already has Fed Cup experience, and who I trust more in a singles match than Strycova. Both Kvitova and Pliskova have been replaced due to illness over the years, Pliskova this year, and it is more likely they need another strong singles player.

The US is a mess. Although it seems that I am repeating myself from last year, they actually have more problems. Serena and Venus are presumed out. Stephens is the clear #1, even though her career late season struggles are a problem. Keys probably will be your #2, but just gave a walkover to Sevastova. Vandeweghe is injured, isn't in form, but earned a spot off of last year. For fun, let's say that just one of them(Keys) makes it. Two spots left open. Mattek-Sands is on Rinaldi's short list, but shouldn't be. Collins was hotter going into the April tie than she is now, but may get the 3rd spot by default.

This leaves the 4th spot, and here is where things get interesting. I kid, they already were. Bellis is still injured, so is Rogers, and Davis, who actually played Fed Cup earlier this year, isn't in consideration. King probably would be, but retired from her last match. So one person I think will go, probably as the 4th, but possible as a hitting partner just to simulate Kvitova, is Lepchenko. It isn't 2012, but she has done enough to warrant consideration.

The other hitting partner? Hopefully Anisimova. Admittedly, I skipped over the 7th ranked American in Kenin, to pick Anisimova, who is 11th, but might as well get her acclimated, as she may be important for the next 15 years.

Either way, in an evenly matched tie, Pala and Rinaldi's decisions may mean the difference between the title or being the also ran.

Mon Oct 01, 09:51:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Stat of the Week-1750- The highest amount of points one can accumulate the rest of the season.

Caroline Dolehide is not going to Zhuhai. That on the surface doesn't shock you, but at 121 in the live rankings, it does mean that everybody above her mathematically still has a chance to reach Zhuhai.

Beijing is worth 1000 pts, and for instance, if Laura Siegemund won, which would be an upset, she would go from 115 to 27, which would put her in sniffing distance.

Next week's 3 events are all worth 280 to the winner, and the final week's biggest tournament is Moscow, which is 470.

Quiz Time!
Wang Qiang is currently the #1 ranked woman from China. If she holds that spot through the end of the year, it will be the 5th consecutive year in which a different woman has held the top spot. Which one of these women did not hold the top spot in that time frame?

A. Zhang Shuai
B. Zheng Jie
C. Zheng Saisai
D. Li Na
E. Peng Shuai

Coming up, the penultimate Up/Down Side.

(E) Peng is probably the wrong answer for the wrong reason. You see, her career ranking of 14 was in August 2011, when she didn't win a title, but to that point had reached 1 final, 4 SF, and 5 QF. Then you think of her 2014 US Open SF. Then realize that it was the year that Li won Australia, so she ended up the top player in 2014 only playing have the season, ending up at 9. Peng would have to wait until 2017, when she finished 27.

(A) Zhang is also not the answer, as she was the #1 in 2016, finishing at 24.

So Zheng is the answer. But which one? Saisai jumps out first as her career high is 60. But Saisai was the highest ranked player in 2015 at 70.

(B)Zheng Jie is your answer, but she actually was the number #1 player once. You may have forgotten, as it was way back in 2003 at 93. Number 2 on the singles titles list with 4, that number holds some significance as during the Li era, she was the #2 player SEVEN times(04, 05, 06, 08, 09, 10, 12).

Mon Oct 01, 10:16:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Up Side.-The three days late edition.

1.Kerber-POY? This week's pick, with Kvitova hitting the wall, and Halep's recent struggles, winning Beijing and/or the YEC could push her over the top.
2.Vekic-On a 13-6 run, Vekic is between Cornet and Azarenka on the body language scale. In other words, be aware that when you watch Vekic, she looks like she is in pain 3 games in, then stays out for another two hours. may have taken her longer than expected to find consistency, but titles and slam QF are in her near future.
3.Buzarnescu- She's back. Won in doubles and lost in singles. The 8 week break might have done her body(not the ankle) some good, but now has a small chance to make it to Zhuhai. 15 in the rankings when hurt, she has dropped down to 22, so she isn't in, but last year's pullouts got the 22nd ranked player in. Also reached SF at Linz last year, so should have good vibes if sh goes back.
4.Kasatkina-May be the player most able to change the course of her career in the next month. Losing to Siegemund eliminated her from Singapore, but if you remember, Zhuhai should be a goal after both Dasha's were the first two out last year. The Russian gets to go to Moscow, where she should be a favorite. No joke, as in her short career, she already has reached a SF and final there. She just has to avoid Goerges, who she has lost to the last two years. If she doesn't win Moscow, she will attempt to be the first player since Ana Ivanovic in 2011 to win the runner up tournament without having won a title that season. And it is fair to say that Kasatkina should be in better game shape than Ivanovic was, as she didn't make the field on points, but because of the WC received as the previous year's winner.
5.Hsieh- Even though she is on a 3 match losing streak, she is still 25th in the race. You kind of feel that she is this year's Rybarikova, in that this may be her one and only shot, and she would appreciate it.

Mon Oct 01, 10:30:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

5 On the Down Side.

1.Vandeweghe-Last time she will appear during the regular season, though I have the right to vent if she plays Fed Cup. Bad joke of the week? How does Coco spell her real first name? Collllllllleen! That's right, obviously injured Vandeweghe is on a 9 match losing streak. Ranked 16 when she lost to Krunic, she is now 50, and while the pain seemed to be manageable in doubles, only covering half the court, she is now retiring there too. Hopefully she shuts it down.
2.Stephens-Should I take a shot at Todd? Stephens is sort of like the Washington Nationals-she can't close in October. I kid, but as Todd mentioned earlier, she just got her first win in Asia since 2015. She is trying to have her first winning record after the US Open since 2013, when she went 7-4, winning at least one match in Tokyo, Beijing, Linz, and Luxembourg. The one thing that may save her YEC chances is that Svitolina isn't doing any better.
3.Halep-3 days ago, she would not have been on this list. But now with a 4 match losing streak, and list of lingering injuries, there are red flags, not just about this season, but her career. Not really a leap, because the injuries have come in a year in which she really hasn't overplayed. She has only played 48 matches this year, after 62, 59, 64, 57, 62 the last 5 years. And Jabeur did the perfect thing for somebody with a bad back, put the ball short and forced Halep to bend to get it. This isn't going to get better overnight, and she entered Moscow-twitter pointed out for the bonus money.
4.Babos-Since reaching the Monterrey final she is 4-14. Ended a 5 match losing streak when she beat Hsieh, a streak that could have been 11, except for the fact that she beat doubles partner Mladenovic after losing the first 5. Even with that, goes in as the YEC favorite, with Mertens/Schuurs a close second.
5.Brady-Journeywoman has 5 WTA MD wins this year. Has played qualies in 8 events, plus played 8 ITF events. Ranking down to 97, and will need to play some 125K events to stay seeded for 2019 AO.

Mon Oct 01, 10:49:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

As far as Fed Cup, at least CZE has a pool of riches to pick from at the moment and it's just a matter of Pala's preference (Siniakova, Vondrousova, Strycova, or even Krejcikova to play WD w/ Siniakova). Because of all the factors you mentioned, Rinaldi's in more of a bind. Stephens has at least gotten a win in Beijing, so one would think she's a given. The injuries to Keys and Vandeweghe (the latter could at least maybe be there for WD w/ Mattek-Sands) throw a real wrench into things.

One person you sort of bypassed that I think could factor prominently, though, is Kenin. I think she could be a "gut pick" for Rinaldi. She's playing well, and had leads in both sets vs. Pliskova at the U.S. Open (a match which Rinaldi watched from the stands, it should be noted). Even if Kenin isn't quite ready for that stage (though she hasn't blinked at the Open the last two years), it'd set her up for a bigger role in '19 and beyond.

Anisimova is an intriguing regular roster option, though, if both Keys and CoCo aren't physically able to be counted on.

QUIZ: misread the question at first, as I was going with Zheng Saisai, but when I realized it was for such a short time frame I figured it must be Zheng Jie since her best results were a while ago and she hasn't been seen for so long(she had a baby, but I don't think she every *officially* retired, though at this point that's probably the reality).

How long before Wang Xiyu is the CHN #1, I wonder?

Hmmm, with "Ms.Backspin" thoughts wandering, and Simona ailing, I wouldn't rule out Osaka as a late rush legit candidate if she would, say, win Beijing and the WTA Finals (or maybe just Singapore -- the I.W/U.S/WTAF triple would be quite a grab, and she'd be Top 4/5), factoring in the added significance of her results into the mix (for the present and future of the sport).

Yeah, the Nats sort of screwed up this past week. They won too many games, finishing at 82-80 (they played better once their playoff hopes were basically nil, naturally). Really, they were so topsy-turvy an 81-81 mark seemed like their (fitting) destiny for months. And now the Harper-to-be-or-not-to-be offseason (and the debate over which is the best course to take) officially begins. Harper's final home game being called in the 8th due to rain with him on deck for his last at bat, then his final road game seeing him open the 9th inning with a double only to then be stranded at 2nd at the end of a 12-0 loss, was all sort of poetic.

Mon Oct 01, 12:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Simona ailing is a POY problem. Even with the great year, can someone win it without having a win after the USO?

And in agreement about Osaka. If she pulls off Beijing, she just might be the frontrunner.

Mid-week YEC/Zhuhai update.

YEC-Pliskova is at 8, only other players alive are #9 Bertens, #10 Sabalenka, #11 Mertens, and since she is still alive in Beijing, #17 Sevastova.

The intrigue is if history repeats itself. In 2012, Kvitova withdrew from the YEC, yet played Fed Cup the next week. Not entirely convinced the she plays YEC this year.

Zhuhai field also cut. 12 participants, but only 11 get in directly, with one WC. Garcia last in, others listed are within range-Ostapenko, Kontaveit, Suarez Navarro, Buzarnescu, Wang, Cibulkova, Tsurenko. Plus two still alive in Beijing in Siniakova and Zhang.

With Serena unofficially out, there will be another spot open, plus the WC that everybody expects to go to Wang might end up opening up.

Thu Oct 04, 01:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, it's not so tough if almost every *other* even semi-legit candidate isn't really doing much in the 4Q (where players generally fall into two quarters -- those who've had great years and are physically dragging ass to the finish, or ones who've been spotty and are looking to roll into the next season with a lot of momentum).

Kerber, Kvitova and Svitolina didn't make a case for a come-from-behind POY run. Wozniacki still might, but even with Beijing and WTAF titles it'd be hard to overlook that she pretty much disappeared for most of the year after the AO.

Osaka is the one exception, but I'd have to see titles at both Beijing and Singapore to consider her for the top spot, and even then it might be only for #2 (which would still be a HUGE step-up run in one season).

Even with a blank 4Q, Halep's been #1 for all but four weeks, won a slam, reached another major final, swept the s/d at a small event (Shenzhen), reached the Rome F and IW SF, led ROU into the Fed Cup '19 WG and came within a MP of sweeping Montreal *and* Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks. It's a hard overall season resume to top, I think.

I'd be fun to see Osaka try to do it, though. ;)

A "Boom-Shaka-Osaka II" final this weekend would be a big step toward it.

Thu Oct 04, 09:22:00 PM EDT  

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