Sunday, November 18, 2018

2018 Blowout Recap: The Good, the Bad and the Predictable

Sometimes you're right. Sometimes you're wrong. A look at the hits and misses from the preseason predictions...

In January, it's always a game of "what are the chances?" When it came to the season-ending 2018 Top 10, I put twenty-seven names into the proverbial hat and ranked them from most likely to least likely (by "temperature" spectrum position, or something like that). The results...

GREEN = 2018 season-ending Top 10er
BLUE = Top 20
ORANGE = Top 50
RED = Outside Top 50

HOT (3): Halep, Svitolina, Muguruza
WARM (4): Wozniacki, Ka.Pliskova, Ostapenko, S.Williams
COMFORTABLE 1 (5): Sharapova, V.Williams, Barty, Garcia, Vandeweghe
COMFORTABLE 2 (4): Bencic, Mladenovic, Kvitova, Goerges
COOL (4): Konta, Stephens, Keys, A.Radwanska
??? (7): Sabalenka, Osaka, Kerber, Kasatkina, Kuznetsova, Bacsinszky, Azarenka

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Simona Halep) “We should see pretty quickly whether or not ending the year at #1 and spending an entire offseason atop the rankings has "permanently" fortified the Romanian's confidence. If she could hit the ground running in January it may just put enough wind in Halep's sails to make coach Darren Cahill's job a whole lot easier, as well as lift her to the sort of grand career heights that have so far eluded her."
WHAT HAPPENED: From the start, Simona had her eyes on the prize. Halep swept the singles and doubles titles in Week 1 in Shenzhen, and while she was ultimately the runner-up at the Australian Open her marathon matches (and nasty ankle turn in a Match of the Year candidate vs. Lauren Davis) she was arguably THE story of the the tournament (and was voted the tour Player of the Month in January, not AO champ Wozniacki). Whether or not her confident warrior run in Melbourne was the key to her success, Halep's newly-ingrained never-quit persona won out over the course of the season, as she finally lifted her maiden slam crown in Paris, was a MP away from a Montreal/Cincinnati sweep, and completed the second of back-to-back #1 seasons, holding the spot for all but four weeks in' 18. A back injury ended her season early, and will have to be watched as we edge closer to '19, a season during which Halep will be without Darren Cahill, who recently announced a coaching hiatus.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Elina Svitolina) “The Ukrainian's game, and career, has usually resembled a long, well thought out march to a previously designated destination. Thus far, Svitolina has yet to make the sort of HUGE leap that characterized, say, Alona Ostapenko's slam-winning campaign last year. ... That'll come, most likely this year. Svitolina's career path says a final four slam result is on the agenda in '18. A bit more, say reaching #1 or winning a major, might be considered a case of her taking the rare 'extra' step. Will that have to wait until 2019."
WHAT HAPPENED: Svitolina didn't get over the slam hump (an AO QF was her best result at a major), but after an uneven season her Trust the Process mantra proved a useful tool down the final stretch. After winning three Premier titles by the end of spring, the Ukrainian's results tailed off as the summer progress, but she buckled down again late just as her continued standing in the tour's upper echelon openly questioned. She toughed-out an undefeated week in Singapore to close out '18 with her biggest career title at the WTA Finals, perhaps giving her the jolt of adrenaline that will finally put her over the top in '19. A year ago, Wozniacki did the same and then claimed her first major at the AO. So... you know, I'm just sayin'.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Garbine Muguruza) “Contrary to her sometimes up-and-down 'contact level' on game days on occasion, none of the new twentysomething generation of slam/#1 challengers seems more composed on the big stage than Muguruza. ... Somewhat shockingly, '17 (w/ Wimbledon and Cincinnati wins) was the first season in which Muguruza has won multiple singles crowns. If Garbi indeed is what she seemed to be transforming into by the end of last season then she should match, and likely outpace, that total in the upcoming season, and a Top 10 finish would be as easy as 1-2-3."
WHAT HAPPENED: Muguruza's '18 campaign was disappointing. She reached a slam SF at Roland Garros but was ousted in the 2nd Round in the other three (a step back in consistency from her four career-best four 4th Rd.+ results in '17), and won just a single small title, falling outside the Top 10 (#18) for the first time since 2014. Of course, the First Rule of Mugu is that nothing good or bad lasts forever (or very long at all), so a major rebound in '19 would be no shock to anyone.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Caroline Wozniacki) "Even while ending her '17 season on a high note with a WTA Finals title, Wozniacki has opened herself up to questions about whether or not she'll have the 'follow-through' to carry over her momentum to even greater heights in '18. After seeing added aggression instilled into her game style after hiring Sascha Bajin as a co-coach/hitting partner, and pulling off six of her eleven career Top 3 wins (and all three over #1's) during the season, the Dane parted ways with the former Serena/Vika team member at the end of the season. Will she have the mind to continue with the new style aspects that (finally) put a charge into her longtime game, or will she slip back into her old (too) defensive habits? ... There's no reason, as long as she avoids injury, to think Wozniacki will fall off in '18, but it's easy to see changes off the court proving to be a hindrance to lifting her game even higher."
WHAT HAPPENED: The questioning of the Bajin-less and newly-engaged Wozniacki's focus and drive proved unfounded. With her more aggressive approach still in play, she blasted out of the '18 gate with an Australian Open title run, her first at a major, and briefly returned to #1. She won in Eastbourne, but her summer dragged to a close (she won just five more slam matches after Melbourne) as she experienced lingering aches and injury, finally explained with a pre-U.S. Open diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. With the question of what was wrong finally answered (and treatment begun), she won big again in Beijing in the fall, and finished at #3 for the second straight year.

AUS: Ash Barty [yes]
BLR: Aryna Sabalenka [yes]
CAN: Bianca Andreescu [after another injury-plagued season, #2 CAN behind Bouchard]
CHN: Zhang Shuai [#2 CHN behind the 4Q-surging Wang Qiang]
CRO: Ana Konjuh [elbow surgery knocked her out of Top 400; Petra Martic edged out Donna Vekic for Croatian #1]
CZE: Karolina Pliskova [Top 10, but #2 Czech behind Kvitova]
FRA: Caroline Garcia [yes]
GER: Angelique Kerber [yes]
IND: Karman Thandi [IND #2 behind Ankita Raina]
ITA: Sara Errani [suspended, exonerated but suspended longer anyway, she was still the ITA #2 behind Camila Giorgi]
JPN: Naomi Osaka [yes]
KAZ: Zarina Diyas [#2 Kazakh behind Yulia Putintseva]
MEX: Marcela Zacarias [#4 Mexican, with Renata Zarazua the #1 for '18... psssst, look out for Giuliana Olmos in '19]
RUS: Maria Sharapova [Russian #2 behind Kasatkina]
South America: Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA [injured, but still the South American #3 behind Duque and Cepede Royg]
SRB: Aleksandra Krunic [yes]
SUI: Belinda Bencic [yes]
SWE: Rebecca Peterson [yes - I consider this one of my pat-on-the-back picks, since she climbed from #196 to #55 over the course of the year]
TUR: Ipek Soylu [a disappointing season, she's the Turkish #6; Basak Eraydin is #1]
USA: Serena Williams [no 24th slam, but still the U.S. #2 behind Sloane]

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Karolina Pliskova) “she didn't take that "next step" as she failed to match or best her U.S. Open final berth in any of the majors. Her serve was still, especially in the absence of Serena Williams, the tour's biggest ace producer, but she admittedly struggled to perfect it all season long and it never performed as consistently lethal a weapon. As a result, Pliskova didn't FEEL as impactful a presence on tour in '17 as her stats say she *should* have been. She seemed a decent bet to win her maiden slam heading into last season, but with quite a few additional contenders in the mix heading into '18 she seems a bit less a good bet to achieve the same this time around.
WHAT HAPPENED: The Czech's serve again was something less than lethal for much of the year (she finally was surpassed as the Ace Queen by Julia Goerges). But a coaching change brought aboard Rennae Stubbs (w/ part-timer Conchita Martinez) led to a late summer resurgence that included a U.S. Open QF, Tokyo title, Tianjin final and WTAF semi. She should be overwhelmingly back in in the maiden slam champ mix for '19.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Alona Ostapenko) “She's had a busy offseason. She's been treated like a s-t-a-r, inked her name to many lucrative deals, and hired a new coach (David Taylor). Can Ostapenko back it up again? She'll never be perfect. Her game style won't allow for that. But she hates losing nearly as much (or more?) as she loves winning, and that's never a bad mindset for a player with the sort of weaponry Alona can pull out in the heat of battle, whether she's in the lead or trailing on the scoreboard. Of course, her serve will need to be improved for her to reach her full potential, but she's unquestionably a player to be feared... and one who'll be on the winning side even more often in '18 than she was in '17."
WHAT HAPPENED: Ostapenko took a step back in '18, but the season wasn't without its high points, including a Premier Mandatory final in Miami (where she recorded her only two Top 10 wins on the year), Wimbledon SF and Fed Cup heroics. She climbed to #5, but ultimately replaced Taylor with Glenn Schapp in season that saw her serve often become more of a liability than it previously was (a troublesome problem since she's shown no path toward deviated from her hit-first-and-ask-questions-later style for anything resembling a "Plan B") as she finished outside the Top 20 and wasn't even the highest ranked Latvian (that'd be Anastasija Sevastova).

FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 10 JUMPS (i.e. not necessarily season-ending): Ash Barty/AUS, Julia Goerges/GER
...Goerges reached the Top 10 in August, finishing #14, while Barty ended the season at a career-best #15
FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 20 JUMPS: Dasha Kasatkina/RUS, Anett Kontaveit/EST, Elise Mertens/BEL, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Aryna Sabalenka/BLR, Maria Sakkari/GRE, Laura Siegemund/GER
...Kasatkina (Top 10), Kontaveit, Mertens, Osaka (Top 5) and Sabalenka all reached the Top 20, while Sakkari reached a career-high #29
FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 50 JUMPS: Ekaterina Alexandrova/RUS, Bianca Andreescu/CAN, Anna Blinkova/RUS, Jennifer Brady/USA, Duan Yingying/CHN, Jana Fett/CRO, Viktorija Golubic/SUI, Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA, Aleksandra Krunic/SRB, Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK, Aryna Sabalenka/BLR, Natalia Vikhlyantseva/RUS, Marketa Vondrousova/CZE
...Krunic, Sabalenka and Vondrousova all reached the Top 50. Kuzmova got as high as #54, and Duan #60.
FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 100 JUMPS: Franckie Abanda/CAN, Destanee Aiava/AUS, Bianca Andreescu/CAN, Amanda Anisimova/USA, Anna Blinkova/RUS, Kayla Day/USA, Dalma Galfi/HUN, Miyu Kato/JPN, Sonya Kenin/USA, Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK, Rebecca Sramkova/SVK, Wang Yafan/CHN, Maryna Zanevska/BEL
...Top 100 rankings were achieved by Anisimova, Blinkova, Kenin, Kuzmova and Wang Yafan

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Serena Williams) “If it was anyone else, the take-it-slow approach would be the norm, but Williams will surely be picked by many to defend the AO crown in a few weeks that she won a year ago when she was (secretly) already pregnant. And she very well could do it. If not, one would expect she'll return to the slam winner's circle at least once before the end of 2018. She's still Serena, remember."
WHAT HAPPENED: Serena skipped the AO, but eventually returned and reached the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals. She's still seeking slam #24 as the battlefield moves to 2019. The competition is thick, and talented, and a return to the slam winner's circle isn't necessarily a stone cold given eventuality, but, well, she is *still* Serena. So...

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Maria Sharapova) “Whether or not she'll be able to get back to slam-winning form (she hasn't played her most favorable slam, RG, since 2015, remember) is a question, but anything resembling a normal season should bring the Top 10 back into the conversation, as well as a handful of titles."
WHAT HAPPENED: Sharapova was still carrying injury questions through '18. She didn't reach a final for the just the second season since 2003, but posted her best post-suspension slam result (a RG QF, as well as her second straight U.S. Round of 16) and raised her ranking from #60 to #29. Whether she's capable of staying on the court for long enough stretches to discover the form (physically, but also mentally, an area in which the Russian has been surprising less-than-ideal at times since her return) necessary to once again become a legit slam title threat remains to be seen.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Venus Williams) “It's hard to imagine Venus having a *better* season in 2018 than she did in '17, though she *did* somehow fail to win a title during the eleven-month stretch. Still, this year she'll have to defend points from a pair of slam finals, a major semi and a runner-up at the WTAF. And, of course, she'll also turn 38 in the middle of the season, and at some point that'll have to mean that Williams begins to display a more mortal-seeming drop-off in form as she carries on deeper into advanced tennis age."
WHAT HAPPENED: Hardly unexpectedly, Venus wasn't able to defend all her big point totals from a season ago, but she also didn't replace them with many new top-level results. She didn't reach a final for the first time since 2013 (her title drought could reach three years in February) and put up 1r-1r-3r-3r slam results a year after F-4r-F-SF. It was the worst four-major combined season result of her long career. She had zero Top 10 wins after posting seven in '17. At #40, she'll likely be unseeded at the AO. In the past, one might say that that's when she'd be her most dangerous. In 2019, though, it might be a case of maintaining a level high enough to make worthwhile one final Olympic appearance in Tokyo in '20.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Ash Barty) “The Aussie may turn out to be the player who'll take the biggest wrecking ball to the Top 10 in 2018. Barty's '17 season felt more like a preview of even bigger things to come than simply a nice comeback story from a player who felt the need to bow out of the sport for a while *before* she really saw her career take root on the WTA tour. Aggressive and with a killer instinct, the Barty Party could be this year's Latvian Thunder."
WHAT HAPPENED: Barty is still seeking big-time slam success (3r-2r-3r-4r), but '18 was her best overall season so far. She won two titles (including that Elite Trophy thing), her first slam WD crown, had her biggest win (#3 Kerber), best ranking (season-ending #15) and was Top 10 (#7) in doubles, one of two players (w/ Mertens) in the Top 20 in both. In fact, she spent all but two weeks in such a position, far more than any other player. Bigger things are still to come. In fact, I'll reserve the right to repeat those words from last preseason come the Prediction Blowout for 2019.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Caroline Garcia) “One would expect such a level of play (Garcia's '17 4Q run, with Beijing & Wuhan titles) might be a bit difficult to replicate over the course of a long season, so we shouldn't be too disappointed if Garcia simply manages to maintain the position she scrambled into in the fall rather than climb even higher up the WTA ladder. That said, her '17 experiences should at least produce one deep slam run now that the space between her ears has caught up with the rest of her. If not, '18 won't have provided Garcia with the gains she should now expect to come her way."
WHAT HAPPENED: Garcia didn't *break out* with a spectacular season, but she was mostly steady all year, with 2 slam Round of 16's, 10 QF+, 3 SF+ and (finally) reached her first '18 final in Tianjin (taking the title) in the fall. She finished at #19, nowhere near ending on a high the way she did in '17, but it was a good next step -- a decent stab at proving that she can be consistent over the course of a full season.

NEWCOMERS OF THE YEAR: Destanee Aiava/AUS, Anna Blinkova/RUS, Jaimee Fourlis/AUS, Jiang Xinyu/Tang Qianhui (CHN)(d), Sonya Kenin/USA, Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK, Vera Lapko/BLR, Antonia Lottner/GER, Anastasia Potapova/RUS, Dayana Yastremska/UKR, Sofya Zhuk/RUS
...Yastremska won her maiden WTA title and Potapova reached two finals, while Kuzmova, Blinkova, Lapko and Kenin finished in the Top 100. Jiang/Tang successfully defended their Nanchang title. Zhuk reached a WTA 125 final, while Lottner upset Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Fed Cup play. Fourlis won multiple ITF titles. And, yep, that's Original Anna with Kenin from a post from the Bannerette from earlier this year... all right, raise your hand if you feel really old looking at those pics.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS: Bianca Andreescu/CAN, Julia Boserup/USA, Naomi Broady/GBR, Oceane Dodin/FRA, Duan Yingying/CHN, Jana Fett/CRO, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Aryna Sabalenka/BLR, Wang Qiang/CHN, Carina Witthoeft/GER
...Osaka was a breakout slam champ, Sabalenka nearly reached the Top 10 (#11) after ending '17 at #78, and Wang repeated as Asian Games Gold Medalist and became a star while posting SF-W-SF-SF-RU-RU 4Q results in Asia on her way to a Top 20 ranking. Fett held a 5-1 3rd set lead and 2 MP vs. eventual AO champ Wozniacki in the 2nd Round. Broady fired 20+ aces in back-to-back matches in Monterrey.
SURPRISE PLAYERS: Storm Sanders/AUS (d), Bianca Andreescu/Carson Branstine (CAN)(d), Gao Xinyu/CHN, Han Xinyun/CHN, Dalila Jakupovic/SLO, Ivana Jorovic/SRB, Miyu Kato/JPN, Rebecca Peterson/SWE, Rebecca Sramkova/SVK
...Jakupovic was a tour semifinalist (Bogota), had her first Top 100 season and won her biggest title ($60K). Kato was a Fed Cup star (and tour titles in Toklyo) along with doubles partner Makoto Ninomiya. Peterson reached a tour SF in Acapulco, won a $100K crown and became the Swedish #1. Jorovic, too, won a career-best $100K title.
COMEBACKS: Australian FC Team, Belinda Bencic/SUI, Magarita Gasparyan/RUS, Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA (d), Anna Karolina Schmiedova/SVK, Laura Siegemund/GER, Ajla Tomljanovic/CRO-AUS, Taylor Townsend/USA, Jordanne Whiley/GBR (WC)
...Gasparyan returned from three knee surgeries to win her first singles title since '15 and climb from outside the Top 1000 to the Top 100. Schmiedlova ended her own nearly three year tour title drought and had her first Top 100 campaign since being #26 in '15. Mattek-Sands won the U.S. Open mixed titles with Jamie Murray. The Aussies defeated the Ukrainians in WG II play, and the Dutch in the World Group Playoffs to reach the '19 World Group (they'll face the U.S.). Bencic reached the Wimbledon Round of 16, won an $80K title and was nominated for the tour's "Comeback Player of the Year," while Tomljanovic reached her first two WTA singles finals since shoulder surgery, and Siegemund rebounded from her knee injury to win a tour-level WD crown and $25K singles title. Townsend won three ITF challengers and was the WTT Female MVP.
ITF ACHIEVERS: Kayla Day/USA, Irina Khromacheva/RUS, Rebeka Masarova/SUI, Marta Paigina/RUS, Rebecca Sramkova/SVK, Katerina Stewart/USA, Iga Swiatek/POL, Maryna Zanevska/BEL, Sofya Zhuk/RUS
...Swiatek went 4-0 in ITF finals (she's now 7-0 career) and won the Wimbledon juniors. Sramkova was 2-2 in ITF finals. Khromacheva was 1-1 in WTA 125 finals and won a $25K crown. Masarova returned from injury to win a $15K in September in just her second event back. Stewart's post-Army cadat career picked up a $15K win in March. Zanevska won a $50K, while Zhuk reached a 125 final.
NAMES TO WATCH IN THE JUNIOR SLAMS: Maria Carle/ARG, Olga Danilovic/SRB, Coco Gauff/USA, Kaja Juvan/SLO, Sofya Lansere/RUS, Ann Li/USA, Alexa Noel/USA, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL, Simona Waltert/SUI, Wang Xinyu/CHN
...Gauff won the RG juniors and reached #1, the youngest ever (14 yr., 4 mo.) to do so, and led the U.S. to the Fed Cup 16s title. Juvan swept the Youth Olympic Golds in singles and doubles. Osorio Serrano won four Grade 1 titles, reached the U.S. Open girls SF and Junior Masters final, won Bronze at the Youth Olympics and picked up her maiden pro ITF title in the fall. Wang Xinyu reached the AO/WI girls semis, won a pair of girls doubles slams (AO/WI), Youth Olympics doubles Bronze and her maiden pro singles crown ($25K). Noel swept the s/d at the Grade 1 Astrid Bowl, was RU to Osorio in the G1 Banana Bowl, and reached the Roehampton QF (def. eventual SW19 girls champ Wang Xiyu). Meanwhile, Danilovic won a Fed Cup Heart award, and famously became the first lucky loser to win a tour-level WTA singles title at the Moscow Cup.
NCAA CHAMPION: Ingrid Neel, Florida [to watch: Ashley Lahey/PEPPERDINE, Sinead Lohan/MIAMI, Ena Shibahara/UCLA]
...Neel turned pro in January after her freshman year. In the spring, Lahey was the runner-up at the NCAA Championships to Mississippi's Arianne Hartono (NED).

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On CoCo Vandeweghe) “CoCo's '18 season very well could prove to produce fewer HUGE headline-worthy finishes (though she's likely got a few of those in her, too -- she's got three legit slam final opportunities, two on hard court, on which she's already reached a pair of SF, as well as on her *best* surface, grass), but with more solid overall results that allow her a chance to match the Top 10 finish she only barely achieved at the end of '17."
WHAT HAPPENED: Though she had a good doubles season, winning Miami and U.S. Open crowns (w/ Barty), Vandeweghe was nagged by injuries for much of second half of the season (choosing to play through them, with not-very-good results -- losing nine straight to end the season). By the end, she'd dropped all the way out of the Top 100.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Petra Kvitova) “After her '17 campaign was more about the notion that she was back at all than how much she won, in '18 she'll be more expected to string together the sort of good results she was able to occasionally post after her return last year."
WHAT HAPPENED: Kvitova, already welcomed back to the tour last year, was welcomed back into the winner's circle in '18. Many times, sometimes after *scary good* week-long runs. She led the tour with five titles, winning on hard, clay and grass courts, had seven Top 10 wins (her most since '13) and, though she was too ill to play in the final, led the Czechs throughout the season in their sixth Fed cup winning run in eight years. But Kvitova came up woefully short in the slams, with 1r-3r-1r-3r results, the first season of her career without at least one Round of 16, and seemed to tire down the stretch, losing her last five (and going 1-6 back to her U.S. Open exit).

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Julia Goerges) “She finally broke through the tape in the closing weeks of '17, winning her first titles since 2011 and achieving a career-high ranking. But the balance of her career has been marked by inconsistency, so it'd be no surprise to see a slight slip (possibly after a Top 10 run) back into the #20's this season."
WHAT HAPPENED: Goerges bookended her season with singles titles (Week 1 Auckland/Week 42 Luxembourg), reached her first slam SF (Wimbledon) and recorded her first Top 3 win (Wozniacki) since 2012. The German made her Top 10 debut in August, then settled in at a season-ending #14 once her big final weeks results from '17 came off her points total.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Johanna Konta) “No steep drop off should be anticipated in '18, but the thought here is that Konta will have a hard time fighting off the horde of Top 10 contenders breathing down her neck, finishing between #11-15 once the dust has settled next fall."
WHAT HAPPENED: The fall was bigger than anticipated, as Konta slipped all the way to #39, switched coaches yet again (giving her four since '16), followed up the Wimbledon SF year with 2r-1r-2r-1r results in the slams, and had zero Top 10 victories (after getting 11 in 2016-17, and 14 since '15). Konta reached just one final (Nottingham), but her only other SF+ finish was her season-concluding outing at the Kremlin Cup, so at least she ended on a high note. The Brit, with a little of the pressure back home off her shoulders after such a blow to her level of expectation is in serious need of a rebound in' 19. Is it possible she may even no longer be the top ranked British woman by this time next year?

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Sloane Stephens) “Stephens was a non-factor after winning the U.S. Open, and struggled to get out of her own way in the Fed Cup final, nearly costing Team USA the title. ... She's got half a season (and 4Q) without any points to defend in '18, so a return to the Top 10 would seem a certainty. Finishing the year there, though, is another question entirely if The Future is only a New York state of mind."
WHAT HAPPENED: Once again, Stephens shined in the U.S., winning Miami. But she proved she could win away from home, too, reaching the Roland Garros and WTA Finals championship matches (and Montreal, as well), though she lost all three. She led the U.S. back into the Fed Cup final, though she chose not to help in the defense attempt in Prague. Stephens' eight Top 10 wins account for nearly half her career total (17), and she finally made her Top 10 debut, climbing as high as #3 before a #6 finish.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Madison Keys) “Until she goes multiple months without wrist soreness, though, it's hard to *expect* a *full* season of high level (and Top 10 rank producing) results from her."
WHAT HAPPENED: Keys -- stop me if you've heard this before -- experienced another injury-impacted season during which she was usually either out injured, back from injury or hoping to be able to play without a lingering injury getting worse and taking her out again. A year after winning in Stanford and reaching the U.S. Open final, Keys didn't reach a final in '18, but managed to keep her Top 20 ranking by shining in the big events the *did* play, including SF at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open, an Australian Open QF (and a Cincinnati QF and Charleston SF, too).

...the world #1 finally checked "major title winner" off her career wish list
...after twice getting within a round of a slam final in '17, Vandeweghe had just one match win in the majors this season
FIRST-TIME SLAM SEMIFINALISTS: Ash Barty/AUS, Caroline Garcia/FRA, Elina Svitolina/UKR
...Svitolina got the closest with a QF in Melbourne. I'll likely be picking two of these three here again for '19.
FIRST-TIME SLAM QUARTERFINALISTS: Ash Barty/AUS, Julia Goerges/GER, Dasha Kasatkina/RUS, Anett Kontaveit/EST, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Aryna Sabalenka/BLR
...Osaka won the U.S. Open, Goerges reached the Wimbledon semis and Kasatkina had her first two QF, while the other three came up a match short of the quarterfinals
FIRST-TIME SLAM ROUND OF 16's: Ash Barty/AUS, CiCi Bellis/USA, Jana Fett/CRO, Ons Jabeur/TUN, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Aryna Sabalenka/BLR, Maria Sakkari/GRE, Laura Siegemund/GER, Katerina Siniakova/CZE, Donna Vekic/CRO, Marketa Vondrousova/CZE
...Barty, Osaka, Sabalenka, Vekic and Vondrousova were first-time 4th Rounders. Siniakova was a match short in each of the final three majors of '18, but one would hope the clutch nature of her Fed Cup heroics will help push her over that hump next season.
FIRST-TIME WTA CHAMPIONS: CiCi Bellis/USA, Jana Fett/CRO, Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA, Ons Jabeur/TUN, Aleksandra Krunic/SRB, Tatjana Maria/GER, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Yulia Putintseva/KAZ, Shelby Rogers/USA, Aryna Sabalenka/BLR, Maria Sakkari/GRE, Natalia Vikhlyantseva/RUS
...Krunic, Maria, Osaka and Sabalenka all won their maiden titles. Jabeur and Sakkari reached finals, but lost.
FIRST-TIME WTA FINALISTS: Ekaterina Alexandrova/RUS, Bianca Andreescu/CAN, CiCi Bellis/USA, Jennifer Brady/USA, Jana Fett/CRO, Ons Jabeur/TUN, Tatjana Maria/GER, Maria Sakkari/GRE, Wang Qiang/CHN
...Alexandrova, Jabeur, Maria, Sakkari and Wang all reached their first finals. Maria and Wang were first-time champs (while Alexandrova won a WTA 125 Series challenger).

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Aryna Sabalenka) “Looking for an Ostapenko-like smash who might shock the world and obliterate -- Kool-Aid Man style -- a slam wall? Maybe Sabalenka will be ready for such a star turn. Her Fed Cup heroics looked to be just scratching the surface, but can she maintain control of her powerful, though oft-wild, game long enough for a deep run at a major?"
WHAT HAPPENED: One of the Gen PDQ stars of the season, Sabalenka raised the level of her big game as the season progressed. After Wimbledon, she won two titles (the biggest a Premier 5 in Wuhan), got seven of her eight Top 10 wins of the season, reached her first slam Round of 16 (at the U.S. Open, after going 0-3 in the other majors) and nearly climbed into the Top 10, finishing at #11. Rather than create an Ostapenko-like boom in '18, she'll now be looking to craft an Osaka-esque one in '19 after barely coming up short in the "Boom-shaka-Osaka" match-up between the two at Flushing Meadows this year.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Naomi Osaka) “Powerful and with more personality than consistency at the moment, Osaka is a diamond that could prove to be HUGE if someone can find a way to polish her game to its potentially shiniest form. It may never FULLY happen, but Bajin, in his first solo coaching gig, now gets a chance to help make it so. If Osaka can "pinish," their teaming could prove to be one of the biggest stories of 2018."
WHAT HAPPENED: Well, Osaka was surely the author of the biggest breakout campaign of 2018, as she became a worldwide star *and* maiden slam champion. Her Indian Wells title in the spring proved that the addition of Bajin was well on its way to solving the mystery of unlocking the great promise of the Japanese star, and her title run at the U.S. Open changed her life forever (her win could turn out to be the most lucrative in tennis history, with the bonanza of major Japanese endorsement deals, as well as her many U.S. ties offering her a chance to become a "name" brand across the Pacific, as well). Her rise could alter the tennis landscape for multiple generations. Not only could *she* elevate to the top of the sport, but the Asian tennis boom (which produced its biggest previous star in a late-in-career Li Na) that is already in full swing now has the sort of talented young superstar who could light the fuse on what could be a region-wide horde of new talent. Just in time for an Olympic spotlight in Tokyo in 2020, too, in a year during which Naomi could very well reach #1 (if she doesn't jump ahead and do it *next* year, that is). The Great Wave of Osaka has only just arrived, but it effects may be felt for quite a while.

WHAT I SAID THEN: (On Dasha Kasatkina) “She produced some of her best results in '17, but sacrificed consistency along the way. Bridging the gap between the two will tell the difference between whether she'll be a player who can contend for deep slam runs, or if she'll simply be a constant "regular tour" threat who spends her career ranked between #11-20."
WHAT HAPPENED: The swashbuckling Russian shotmaker finally found the formula for year-round success in '18, though there's still room for *more* improvement next season. Kasatkina was a title winner at the Kremlin Cup, reached the Indian Wells final and had back-to-back slam QF results in Paris and London. At her best vs. top players, she recorded seven Top 10 wins, including five against the Top 3 (giving her six such wins the last two seasons). Dasha slipped into the Top 10 for the first time in the closing weeks of the season, and with the recent retirement of Aga Radwanska could be in store for quite a few Shot of the Month/Year honors in her future.

Serena Williams wins (at least) one major crown, matching (or surpassing) Margaret Court's all-time mark of 24
...Serena lost a pair of straight sets slam finals to Angelique Kerber (Wimbledon) and Naomi Osaka (U.S. Open). To be continued...
World #1 Simona Halep wins three singles titles, and for the first time in her career reaches at least the Round of 16 at all four slams in a season
...Halep won three titles (including RG). She didn't reach the Round of 16 at all four majors, but she *did* reach two slam finals (AO/RG) in a season for the first time in her career. She came within a 3rd Round MP at Wimbledon of reaching the 4th Round at *three* slams.
Alona Ostapenko wins her first career Premier Mandatory/Premier 5 title, and reaches the singles Top 3. She posts wins over two different #1's on the season, and has at least one SF-or-better result at a major.
...Latvian Thunder reached her first PM final in Miami, but lost to Sloane Stephens. She ranked as high as #5 in March. She didn't defeat a #1, recording only two Top 10 wins (Kvitova and Svitolina, both in Miami) this season, but she *did* reach the Wimbledon semis.
Garbine Muguruza becomes the first non-Williams/Sharapova/Belgian to win a third career major title since Jennifer Capriati (AO '02) and reclaims the #1 ranking from Halep, but she doesn't match her '17 feat of 4th Round-or-better results at all four majors
...Mugu reached the semis at Roland Garros, but exited in the 2nd Round at the other three slams. The Spaniard didn't become the first non-Williams/Sharapova/Belgian in sixteen years to win a third major... but Angie Kerber did.
Elina Svitolina notches wins over at least two different #1's for a third consecutive season and has 10+ Top 10 wins for a second straight year. She picks up her fourth & fifth career Premier Mandatory/Premier 5 titles.
...Svitolina's #1 wins total dropped to just one (Halep in Rome), but it was her sixth overall since 2016. She had nine Top 10 wins, second behind only Kiki Bertens (12) on tour in '18 (she had four by the end of May, but had to wait until October to get the other five). She won her fourth career high Premier title (Rome), as well as her biggest crown yet at the WTA Finals.

Petra Kvitova returns to the Top 10, and wins two singles titles
...the Czech returned to the Top 10 in February, finishing #7, and led the tour with five titles.
Caroline Wozniacki leads the tour in singles titles, but fails to advance beyond the QF in a slam. The Dane returns to #1 for the first time since 2012, but doesn't finish 2018 there.
...Wozniacki tied for third on tour with three titles, and won her maiden slam at the Australian Open. Her other best slam result was a Round of 16 in Paris. She *did* return to #1 for the first time in six years, but only for the four weeks immediately following Melbourne. She finished at #3 for the second straight season.
Venus Williams wins two singles titles and reaches another slam final
...Venus went title-less, final-less and never advanced past the 3rd Round in a major. She finished at #40.
Caroline Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic meet in a singles final. For the season, Kiki (1-3 in '17) posts a winning record in finals, while Garcia has the worse winning percentage in finals of the two Pastries, but ultimately claims more singles titles in '18.
...the former doubles partners got within one round of meeting in singles on four different occasions (including in three straight events -- New Haven/U.S. Open/Wuhan), but the match failed to become a reality each time. Kiki was 0-1 in singles finals, while Garcia won in her only appearance.
Maria Sharapova returns to the Top 10 and wins three singles titles
...the 31-year old Russian got as high as #21 in the summer, but didn't play after the U.S. Open and finished at #29. She failed to reach a final, falling in the Shenzhen and Rome semis.
Julia Goerges wins a Premier 5 title
...the German won International level titles in Auckland and Luxembourg, and was a Charleston (Premier) finalist. Her best Premier Mandatory/Premier 5 result was a QF in Dubai, but she *did* reach the Wimbledon and Elite Trophy semis.
Sloane Stephens wins one title and reaches two slam QF, but finishes the season outside the Top 15
...Stephens won just one title, but it was a big one (Miami). She came up a match short in three other top events -- RG, Montreal and the WTAF. Her Roland Garros runner-up result was joined by a U.S. Open QF in her title defense attempt. She fell in the 1st Round in Melbourne and Wimbledon. She was #3 in July, and completed her first Top 10 season with a #6 ranking.
Karolina Pliskova finally reaches her first QF at Wimbledon, as well as the SF at another slam
...she didn't reach the QF at SW19, but her Round of 16 result is her best ever at Wimbledon. She reached QF at the Australian and U.S. Opens, as well.
Jo Konta wins two or more hard court titles, but has just one QF+ result at a major
...Konta reached just one final (Nottingham), and was only 2-4 overall in the majors after reaching a SF (AO/WI) in both of the last two seasons.
Ash Barty sweeps the S/D titles at at least one event, and wins two+ Premier level singles titles
...she never swept both titles, but Barty won two in singles (one in Zhuhai to close out the WTA schedule, and reached a Premier final in Sydney) and four (all big: Miami/Rome/Montreal/U.S.) in doubles with three different partners.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova wins one singles title (a successful title defense), but ends '17 outside the Top 20
...Pavlyuchenkova won in Strasbourg (not a title defense), and slipped to #42, her worst finish since 2008.
CoCo Vandeweghe wins her biggest career title (any Premier). She leads Team USA back to the Fed Cup final, but the Bannerettes fail to repeat.
...a whole lot of "conditional" prediction success here. CoCo reached a Premier final in Stuttgart which would have given her her biggest singles title, but she lost to Pliskova. She *did* win her biggest doubles title at the U.S. Open, though. Her Fed Cup winning streak ended at thirteen in April (w/ a loss to Mladenovic), but she *did* contribute a singles win vs. the NED in the 1st Round and the U.S. returned to (and lost) the FC final, though CoCo (w/ a lingering injury since summer) wasn't on the roster.
The Czechs reclaim the Fed Cup championship
...okay, sure, this was an easy prediction. But the Maidens can't win *every* year. I mean, they've lost TWICE in eight years, right?
Madison Keys wins just one title. She has no slam QF+ results, but reaches the Round of 16 at at least two majors. She ends '18 as no better than the fourth-highest ranked U.S. woman.
...well, Keys didn't reach a final, but she posted two SF and a QF at the majors. She maintained her TOp 20 standing, finishing as the third-ranked Bannerette behind Stephens and S.Williams.
Belinda Bencic returns to the Top 15, and wins two or more tour-level titles. The Swiss reaches at least one slam QF, and posts multiple victories over Top 2 players (one at #1) in a season for the first time.
...the Swiss returned to the Top 40, but her only title came on the ITF circuit (she reached the tour-level Luxembourg final). Her Wimbledon Round of 16 run was her best at a major since the '16 AO. She recorded two Top 10 wins at slams -- #5 Venus at the AO, #6 Garcia at SW19.
Laura Siegemund's return from knee surgery results in two clay court singles titles
...the German won an ITF clay court singles crown, and a tour-level WD title. She reached back-to-back tour singles QF on clay in Bucharest and Moscow.
Angelique Kerber wins her first singles title since the '16 season, and pulls off her second career #1 win (the other was over Serena in the '16 AO final)
...Kerber opened her season with a title in Sydney, and reached the AO semis (holding 2 MP vs. Halep). Later, she won career slam #3 at Wimbledon. Her six Top 10 wins didn't include a #1 victory, but she *did* defeat a trio of Top 5 players and finished at #2.
Aga Radwanska wins her first title since '16, but does not return to the Top 10
...Aga never rose above #28, and reached just one semifinal (Eastbourne, easily her season high point with wins over Babos, Gavrilova and Ostapenko). Her win over Simona Halep in Miami was her first over a world #1 since 2012 (and her 49th and last Top 10 victory). After finishing at #75, her worst season since 2005, Radwanska went public with info concerning a foot injury that jeopardized her tennis future. She retired a few weeks later. At least now I won't be tempted to predict such a fate for her in '19, as I've maintained a personal ban on such prognostications in this space for quite a while.
Sorana Cirstea wins her first tour-level singles title since 2008
...nope. The Romanian's best results were QF in Nuremberg and Bucharest.
Francesca Schiavone wins a clay court title, and returns to the Top 75
...the Italian played just a dozen matches (3-9). She last occurred in July, and Schiavone came to New York during the U.S. Open to officially announce her retirement. She plans to get into coaching.
Margarita Gasparyan returns to the Top 150 following knee injury, reaches a tour-level QF (or better), and qualifies at a slam
...the Russian was one of 2018's least noticed success stories (can she still qualify for NEXT year's "Comeback Player" award?). After three knee surgeries, she was ranked outside the Top 1100 in January, then proceeded to make her "final" attempt to return to tennis an ever-expanding phenomenon. An ITF final in May was followed by her first WTA MD since '16 in July, a slam MD appearance (via a protected ranking) at the U.S. Open (a tough two-setter vs. Kerber), her first tour-level MD win since her return in September, a stunning run to her first title in three years at Tashkent, followed by two more WTA QF, and back-to-back 125 Series SF that lifted her ranking into the Top 100 in her season-closing event. She even threw in her maiden Top 10 win (over Kiki Bertens in Linz), for good measure. This was my favorite prediction "hit" of the season. And the Czarina liked it, too...

Vera Zvonareva climbs back into the Top 75, posts her first Top 10 win since 2011, and reaches a slam Round of 16
...the former world #2 didn't reach the Top 75, but she qualified for two slam MD (getting a U.S. Open win, her first in NYC since 2011). The Hordette nearly returned to the Top 100 after a season that included a tour level QF (Kremlin Cup) and 125 semi, as well as two doubles titles (Saint Petersburg and Moscow). My oh-so-random "first Top 10 win since..." prediction suddenly grew full-on legs (long Czech ones, in fact) when Zvonareva upset #5 Pliskova at the Kremlin Cup in the fall.
Genie Bouchard wins two WD titles, but never posts better than a tour-level QF in singles. She falls outside the Top 100, and at some point is the third-ranked Canadian before 4Q results lift her back to second. of the most multi-faceted predictions, and much of it played out. Bouchard didn't win a doubles title, and she actually reached a pair of tour-level SF in Gstaad and Luxembourg. The snaking ranking path almost totally stuck to the script, though, as Bouchard fell outside the Top 100 (Jan.), slipped into the #3 (and #4) ranked Canadian spot, but re-assumed the top national spot this summer.
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova reaches a tour-level singles semifinal
...and she won it (in Bogota), as well as the next match to claim her first title since 2015.
The longest women's slam match ever is played (with or w/o Kuznetsova and/or Schiavone) (Sveta's absence and Francesca's retirement didn't help), but the Halep/Davis 3:44 Australian Open marathon was the third-longest ever Down Under, as well as the longest of the season until Siniakova/Kenin matched it on Day 2 of the Fed Cup final to close out the '18 season.
At least one Career Doubles Slam is completed (Makarova/Vesnina need an AO title, while Mattek-Sands/Safarova are a Wimbledon short)
...Makarova/Vesnina reached the AO final, but lost to Babos/Mladenovic. Mattek-Sands returned to the scene of her audibly horrific knee dislocation in '17, but she and Safarova lost in the 1st Round. The Russians will likely get another shot, but not in '19 as Vesnina is pregnant (Makarova could still hold up her end, though). Team Bucie won't. Safarova will retire after the Australian Open. New mother Sania Mirza needs only a RG win to complete the set, while a slew of Career Mixed Slams are in play in '19 (Srebotnik and Mirza both need Wimbledon, while Mattek-Sands is an AELTC title away from becoming the first to win all four slams and MX Olympic Gold).
2018 SLAM SINGLES FINALISTS: (2) Muguruza, (1 each) S.Williams, V.Williams, Halep, Ostapenko, Vandeweghe and Sharapova or Kvitova
...Halep (2), S.Williams (2), Kerber (1), Osaka (1), Stephens (1) and Wozniacki (1).
2018 SLAM DOUBLES TITLES: (2) Mattek-Sands/Safarova, (1 each) Makarova/Vesnina and Siniakova & *someone* (likely Hradecka or Krejcikova)
...Siniakova won back-to-back slams with Barbora Krejcikova at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Makarova/Vesnina were RU in Melbourne. Babos/Mladenovic (AO) and Barty/Vandeweghe (US) won the two remaining majors.
2018 SLAM MIXED DOUBLES TITLES: (1 each) Timea Babos, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, CoCo Vandeweghe
...Mattek-Sands won the U.S. Open with Jamie Murray, while Babos was the RU at the AO. The other three '18 MX champs were Gaby Dabrowski, Latisha Chan and Nicole Melichar.
A South American girl reaches a junior slam singles final for the first time since 2008 (U.S.: Gabriela Paz/VEN). The last winner from the continent was Maria-Emilia Salerni (ARG) at the 2000 U.S. Open. Three South Americans -- Emiliana Arango, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano and Maria Carle -- ranked between #9-13 in the season-ending 2017 junior rankings.
...Osorio Serrano made it back-to-back years with South American semifinalists in the U.S. Open girls competition. She also reached the Youth Olympic semis and Junior Masters final. If the 16-year old Colombian plays a full junior slam schedule in '19 the drought since Salerni could very well end soon.
"NAME YOU'LL KNOW..." by the end of 2018: Viktoria Kuzmova
...after nearly defeating Dasha Kasatkina on Russian soil in Saint Petersburg, Kuzmova clinched Slovakia's first ever FC victory over Russia in her Fed Cup debut, reached her maiden WTA semifinal (as a LL) in Budapest (and another at Rosmalen), notched her first slam MD victory in Paris, and claimed her biggest career titles at $60K and $100K (2, tops on the circuit) challengers. She rose from #132 to #56 during the season.

2018 Wheelchair singles slam titles: Diede de Groot and Yui Kamiji with two each. Kamiji wins Wimbledon, making her the first woman to have won all eight WC slam crowns. (A mark de Groot matches by the end of 2019, though she comes one match from doing it *this* season -- she currently owns the Wimbledon WS and U.S Open WD titles.) Groot won three (AO/WI/US), with Kamiji taking the other (RG). Kamiji fell short of the final in her attempt to claim her first Wimbledon crown, meaning de Groot (who also won her first AO/US singles and RG/WI doubles crowns this year) could become the first to win all eight majors title if she takes the AO doubles and RG singles before Kamiji gets another shot in London. De Groot played in both the finals in '18 that she's yet to win, so she was *two* matches away from collecting all eight by the end of '18. The Dutch 21-year old has played in the finals of thirteen of the sixteen slam WS/WD draws in which she's appeared in her career.
Breakout '18 Fed Cup stars: Marketa Vondrousova/CZE and Rebecca Sramkova/SVK
...Kuzmova was the new SVK Fed Cup star in '18, while Vondrousova's services weren't needed for the title-winning Czechs this time around. Along with Siniakova, though, she's part of the dynasty's future.
Name Game: Belgium's Eliessa Vanlangendonck wins her first ITF singles and doubles titles
...the 21-year old Waffle *did* win her first pro title this fall, taking the $15K Monastir doubles in her seventh career WD final. She's still seeking her first singles final, going 0-4 in '18 semis to drop to 0-9 at the stage for her career. She ended the season at career highs in both rankings.

Sometimes yes. Sometimes. no.

'Nuff said.

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Stat of the Week- 30- The amount of titles won by the Top 10 in 2012.

With Radwanska's retirement, let's take a look back at 2012, the year she reached the Wimbledon final. With the Big 3 in full force, they took 16 titles, but the rest weren't too shabby.

Top 10-titles 2012-In order of ranking:

If you are wondering how it compares to another random year, say this one, they only came away with 26 titles in 58 events.

Top 10-2018 titles:

But this doesn't tell the whole story. If you look at our current crop, very few of them had won a title, and it took some(Osaka) until this year to win one. Take a look at when the current Top 10 won their first titles.

First title:
Halep-2013 Nuremberg
Kerber-2012 Suez
Wozniacki-2008 Stockholm
Svitolina-2013 Baku
Osaka-2018 Indian Wells
Stephens-2015 Washington
Kvitova-2009 Hobart
Pliskova-2013 Malaysia
Bertens-2012 Fes
Kasatkina-2017 Charleston

Shows how much things change. hardly any of the youngsters had won a tournament, and hardly any of the veterans won in 2018.

Quiz Time!
One of the announcers on Radwanska's tribute clips referred to her as Lady Aga. She doesn't have a poker face as she sometimes admired her own shots. Could you blame her? Radwanska lasted long enough to have played 7 women while they were #1. Which players did she beat when they were #1. Multiple answers accepted.

A.Serena Williams
B.Victoria Azarenka
C.Caroline Wozniacki
D.Justine Henin
E.Dinara Safina
F.Angelique Kerber
G.Simona Halep

I am going out of order. Since multiple answers are accepted, that means more than one. Which was not the case until 2018. (G) Halep is one of the correct answers, as in a rather odd twist of fate, beating Halep was the last on court Top 10 win in her career, as she later beat Kvitova due to WO. Her career record vs Halep 1-0 #1/6-5 overall is the only one of this group in which she has a winning record.

Now time to take out the obvious bookends. (D)Henin & (A)Williams are wrong. Henin was the first #1 she played, and all of the matchups were as such, going 0-2/0-2. Williams was not the most prolific matchup, but the one that incurred the most losses, going 0-6/0-10. In a cruel twist, she played the role of the 1980's Cleveland Cavaliers, to the Big 3's Chicago Bulls, in the fact that at her peak, she was blocked by them at every turn. She only won one set off Williams in her career, and that was in the Wimbledon final.

It is also not (B) Azarenka. Azarenka went 0-5/5-13, making this matchup the most of all of the #1's over the course of a career.

It is not (E)Safina, although she is another player that Radwanska would beat when she wasn't #1. 0-1/1-2, so not much of a rivalry.

Also not (F)Kerber, though she ends up with a .500 record overall, 0-1/6-6.

That leaves (C)Wozniacki as the other. 1-2 vs #1, but 6-11 overall.

As the stats show, not elite. But very few are. But what she does have is the 2015 YEC title, won Miami, and countless Shot of the Month titles. The greatest player in Poland's history will not be forgotten.

Sun Nov 18, 06:57:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

You didn't see Buzarnescu coming? I kid, but this is a good read. Two people stand out. Bencic for the Top 15 prediction, and I think we have gotten to the point that like Puig, even when she plays well, her body won't hold up at the end of the week. So between 20-30 seems to be her new ceiling.

The other, and I haven't given up on her, is Kayla Day. I made a Yoan Moncada sized whiff on her----how do you strike out 217 times and only hit 17 homers? Starting to feel that she is going to be Alexa Glatch, talented, but going to get jumped by the next US wave.

Technically, nobody jumped into the provisional AO field through results. Pegula and Stollar needed a title, and neither got one. Niculescu probably gets in because of Radwanska's retirement. Qualies made moves. 4 women who were probably out, are safely in- Davis, Lisicki, Osuiqwe, Sebov.

Sun Nov 18, 06:57:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And those title lists would have still another layer if the relatively title-light Muguruza had remained in the Top 10 this year.

Quiz: I said just Wozniacki and Halep (but I also looked through Aga's career numbers when doing this recap, so I got a head start). ;)

Ah, that's why there was a discrepancy in the career Top 10 wins for Aga (I was wondering) -- the Kvitova win was a walkover and didn't officially count. I slightly edited that note in the post since I'd not noticed that. 49, not 50.

Yeah, the Bencic prediction stands out like a sore thumb (though, really, a Top 40 ranking is pretty good considering she was mostly invisible all season) because it was made when she was on such a lower level tear in the final months of '17 (playing then, naturally, after missing most of the season due to injury). She wasn't able to carry it over.

Another person of note in '18 that wasn't mentioned at all in the Blowout: Bertens.

Some notes on this week's results, since there's no recap:

1) Andreescu, finally healthy (for now) got her first title of the year at the $25K in Oklahoma

2) Buis/Van Koot def. Hunt/Mathewson to win the Wheelchair Doubles Masters

3) Yet another $15K ITF title for Fernanda Brito (it'll be interesting to see how she handles the new ITF rankings points set up in '19 -- I believe the $15K points will only count in the "ITF Rankings" and not for the WTA... though I'm still not sure exactly what that'll mean in the big picture).

4) Good result for Lisicki in the WTA 125 in Taipei, reaching the final, though losing to Kumkhum

5) Raina & Thandi won the Taipei 125 doubles title, the biggest ever for both

6) Sunday evening Peng (back from suspension for that "doubles partner bribe" thing) is playing Lauren Davis, finally doing *something* after such a long drought since that Halep loss in Melbourne, in the Houston 125 final. According to Colette Lewis' tweet, Davis wins the USTA AO Wild Card Playoff with the title, while Osuigwe gets it if Peng wins.

7) And, finally, that Elton John commercial -- essentially a 2:20 biopic -- might be the best one I've ever scene. Even the "Making Of" video (The Boy and the Piano) is great.

Sun Nov 18, 08:54:00 PM EST  

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