Sunday, November 04, 2018

Wk.44- From the Ash-es of Zhuhai, Barty Rises

In the end, it was Ash Barty who was celebrating a final victory in the Elite Trophy... umm, "event?"

Hmmm, this actually *was* a real live WTA-level tournament, right? Because, you know, at times it sure didn't seem as such. So, it *is* then? Are you sure? Hmmm.

Okay, well, in that case... good on ya, Ash!

S: Ash Barty/AUS def. Wang Qiang/CHN 6-3/6-4
D: Lyudmyla Kichenok/Nadiia Kichenok (UKR/UKR) d. Shuko Aoyama/Lidziya Marozava (JPN/BLR) 6-4/3-6 [10-7]
MUMBAI, INDIA (WTA 125 Series/Hard Court)
S: Luksika Kumkhum/THA def. Irona Khromacheva/RUS 1-6/6-2/6-3
D: Natela Dzalamidze/Veronika Kudermetova (RUS/RUS) d. Bibiane Schoofs/Barbora Stefkova (NED/CZE) 6-4/7-6(4)

...while there was much to pick at and criticize about the so-called "Elite" Trophy tournament in Zhuhai, Barty (though she ultimately benefited from some of the shananigans associated with a tournament whose rules and format often seem to have been scrawled on a dirty paper napkin during dinner the night before the start of play) wasn't one of them.

The Aussie's season-ending title run continued an '18 trend that saw her pick up more and more steam as the year wore on. After opening the season in hit (Sydney RU in Week 2) or miss (four one-win-or-less outings in her first eight tournaments) fashion that showed in her 11-8 tour-event mark through mid-May, the 22-year old finished her season on a 31-11, three-surface run that finished up with a Wuhan SF and her second '18 title (third career) on Sunday in Zhuhai (as well as including WD titles in Montreal and the U.S. Open). In Zhuhai, Barty won her group with the event's usual 1-1 record (doing so by one game, actually), then handled defending champ Julia Goerges (SF) and crowd favorite Wang Qiang (F) in straights to take the title. The result will lift her four spots in the rankings in the season's final week, carrying her past her season-ending finish from a year ago (#17) to a career-best #15. In 2019, she can set her sights on getting the first Top 10 finish for an Aussie since Sam Stosur was #9 in 2012.

At her best with a wind behind her back, the little info nugget pulled out during the final by the match commentators on Sunday proves to be quite a calling card for Barty heading into next season: her 3 & 4 win over Wang means she went 28-1 in '18 after winning the 1st set (her only loss was vs. Serena Williams), and the victory gives her 24 straight wins in such situations.
RISERS: Luksika Kumkhum/THA and Wang Qiang/CHN
...Kumkhum is always a reliable potential upset-maker (see Petra Kvitova), but prior to this weekend her biggest career title was just a $75K challenger back in 2013. Led by a win over Belinda Bencic in Melbourne, Kumkhum posted her best slam result (3rd Rd.) at the Australian Open earlier this year. But she still found herself ranked outside the Top 100 (#103) heading into the week. It all nearly came crumbling down early on, as she was forced to survive teen Indian Pranjala Yadlpalli serving for the match at 6-3/5-3 in the 1st Round in Mumbai. The 25-year old Thai followed up with wins over Barbora Stefkova, #1-seeded Zheng Saisai (in three sets), Margarita Gasparyan and Irina Khromacheva in a three-set final. The title will push Kumkhum all the way up to a career high ranking, as she'll jump twenty-three spots and finish the *official* WTA '18 season ranking period at #80, giving her a second Top 100 season (her first since '14).

In Zhuhai, Wang added yet another notable result within Chinese borders in the Elite Trophy event. Of course, her 1-1 round robin record (and all the total games won stats) actually *eliminated* her prior to the semifinals. But when actual semifinalist Madison Keys (the one player Wang had beaten in rr play) withdrew with a knee injury, the 26-year old crowd favorite was on the receiving end of a sudden call from her agent that told her that her 2018 season *wasn't* over, after all. It was an absurd, anti-results, joke of a move (one, though, remarkably *written in the rules for the event*) befitting the tour's biggest punchline of a tournament, but credit Wang for taking (some, but not full) advantage of a ridiculous situation that didn't automatically advance Garbine Muguruza into the final over her injured would-be opponent in the latter moments of a week-long event. Wang defeated the two-time slam champ 6-2/6-0 to reach her fourth final of the season. She put up a fight vs. Ash Barty in the final, but the Aussie proved too in-form to overcome. Still, her week's work (and unscheduled overtime) improves Wang's 4Q record in Asia to 21-6 in a SF-W-SF-SF-RU-RU stretch (not counting her 5-win Asian Games Gold run before the U.S. Open), 18-5 of it in China, and gives her her first Top 20 ranking. With 2018's official season-ending rankings coming on Monday, she'll finish there, with her shouldn't-have-been final moments ultimately robbing Anett Kontaveit of *her* maiden Top 20 season (by 5 rankings points).

Nothing against Wang, who has proven herself to be a worthy tour star in recent months and a well-received inheritor of Li Na's Chinese tennis throne, but none of the above should have ever happened. Fact is, the tour's "B" season-ending event has already traditionally been the butt of easily-made snide remarks *before* nearly allowing a player eliminated after a week-long round robin competition to possibly *win* the event.

Even before the latest eye-roller...

1) what used to be called the "Tournament of Champions" usually had participants that hadn't actually won any titles

2) it was later moved and re-named the "Elite Trophy" event, which is laughable on a whole other level considering the season's truly "elite" players should be no where near the tournament

3) it has been held *after* the *real* tour season-ending event for years (though that *finally* changes in '19 -- hey, it only took a decade)

4) it continues to include a wild card for a local interest player (Zhang Shuai this year) who didn't qualify (or deserve, really) to be included in the field

5) it has a 12-player, four-group format that rewards mediocrity, and leads to ridiculous situations such as Caroline Garcia this week defeating Aryna Sabalenka in her final rr match, but not only not advancing because she lost *one* too many games during the week, but actually finishing *third* in the group. Of course, *someone* should have informed Garcia going into that match she needed to keep Sabalenka *under* eight total games won if she was going to reach the semis, as she didn't seem to know that for sure afterward. The result? Barty advanced from the group instead, and won the title.

And now we add...

6) after Keys won enough games vs. Wang in their final rr match to advance to the SF over her, she pulled out of the event a day later... and rather than have legitimately qualified semifinalist (the only one, really, since she had the only 2-0 rr mark, and had to save 3 MP in her last match to do it) Muguruza given a walkover to the final, she had to face the eliminated Wang in a "live" match (so does Qiang count as a LL, worth wondering in the moment considering the tour has already been notoriously fast-and-loose with *that* history for decades), and loses it 2 & love. Essentially, the tournament became an exhibition awarding rankings points at that moment, not a real tour-level event, which it *barely* was anyway.

I can understand wanting to give the fans a second singles match on SF day when a player is injured, but it should not *count* in the competition if it involves an already eliminated player, nor should the *extra* ranking points won be included in the added player's season totals. Lucky losers jumping into the opening rounds of a full main draw is one thing, slipping an eliminated player back into the mix a round from the final reaks of amateurish planning.
SURPRISES: Natela Dzalamidze/Veronika Kudermetova, RUS/RUS
...Dzalamidze & Kudermetova have developed quite a just-below-tour-level doubles history together. Since 2015, with their Mumbai WTA 125 Series title this weekend, the Russian duo have gone 2-0 in WTA 125 finals and 8-4 on the ITF level. Their 6-4/7-6 win in the final over Bibiane Schoofs & Barbora Stefkova (the former was attempting to defend her '17 title) was the first together by the Hordettes since they won their second of two $100K challenger events last season. Kudermetova, who won a third 125 title with Aryna Sabalenka in Taipei City in '17, has seen her singles stock rise over the past year (while Dzalemidze has played only a handful of WS qualifying matches, going 1-4). The 21-year old came into the week at #116, with two tour-level QF this season and highlight victories over Anett Kontaveit and Belinda Bencic on the grass at Roslamen this summer, as well as Carla Suarez-Navarro on clay in the spring.

VETERAN: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
...while play was going on in Zhuhai and Mumbai, former slam semifinalist Bacsinszky was winning her first singles title in thirty months ('16 WTA Rabat) at a $25K challenger in Nantes, France. The 29-year old Swiss, ranked #238 following wrist surgery but having recently reached a tour-level SF in Tianjin (a run which included a win over Aryna Sabalenka) and reached an $80K final, took the crown with a 6-4/3-6/6-1 victory over Pastry Amandine Hesse in the final. Bacsinszky's gone 14-4 since mid-September.

COMEBACKS: Garbine Muguruza/ESP, Margarita Gasparyan/RUS and Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
...despite how things ended, Muguruza closed out her oft-underwhelming '18 season on an upswing.

The Spaniard was the only member of the 12-player round robin field in Zhuhai to be undefeated, going 2-0 after saving three MP in her final rr match against Anastasija Sevastova (she'd defeated Dasha Kasatkina earlier). Set to face a physically-limited Madison Keys in the semis, Muguruza was then the victim of a tournament bait-and-switch when Keys withdrew and the ridiculous rules of the "event" (as well as the WTAF, though no one has had the gall to try to pull it off there... yet) allowed the already eliminated Wang Qiang to replace her as if this was, at best, the 1st Round of a regular, full-draw tour event or, at worst, an "official" tournament actually doubling as an exhibition event (ding-ding-ding). Rather than get a break (and a rightful walkover) into the final, Muguruza won just two games against the crowd favorite who's been ripping things up for weeks in China-based tournaments. So, with that, her season was over.

Even with such a disappointing (and slipshod) ending, the week was still a "win" for Mugu, who'd seen her results dip quite a bit since her Roland Garros semifinal run. At one point, she's had four consecutive one-win-or-less events. This two-win week gives her three multi-win tournaments in her last five. Even so, she'll finish the season at #17, her first non-Top 10 campaign since 2014.

In the WTA 125 Series event in Mumbai, Gasparyan's comeback from multiple knee surgeries and near retirement posted another encouraging result. The Russian followed up her W-QF-QF stetch in WTA-level events this fall with a SF in the tour-sponsored challenger, improving her recent run to 12-3. She'll "officially" end the season just at #105, but if she chooses to play another event (just one more match win would likely do it) she could clear the Top 100 barrier and come January be in shockingly fine position to make a BIG move in 2019. Remember, she was outside the Top 1100 in January, in the #700's in April, the #500's in June and barely inside the Top 300 as recently as September. Her last Top 100 ranking came the week of October 10, 2016.
FRESH FACES: Irina Khromacheva/RUS and Pranjala Yadlapalli/IND Mumbai, 23-year old Hordette Khromacheva reached her second WTA 125 Series singles final of the season. The unseeded Russian (#165) won her biggest career title in Anning earlier this year, but after recording wins over Ula Radwanska (3 sets), Valentini Grammatikopoulou (3 sets) and #2-seed Dalila Jakupovic, Khromcheva fell in three sets to #5-seed Luksika Kumkhum in the Mumbai final. A former junior star, Khromacheva reached #1 in 2010, was RU to Ash Barty in the '11 Wimbledon girls final, and went 3-2 in slam junior doubles finals from 2010-12. She's dipped in and out of the Top 100 during her pro career, reaching a career high of #89 last season while contesting much of her career on the challenger circuit, where she's picked up 38 titles (16s/22d). The last two years, she's gone 1-1 in WTA 125 singles finals, and 1-2 in doubles. In April, she won her first tour-level crown in the WD in Bogota with Jakupovic.

Khromacheva will jump 34 spots to #131 on Monday.

19-year old Yadlapalli, at #288 the third-ranked Indian woman in singles behind Ankita Raina and Karman Thandi, made her way through qualifying at the WTA 125 Series event in Mumbai to reach her biggest career main draw. In the 1st Round, she took eventual champ Luksika Kumkhum to three sets in a 6-3/5-7/6-1 loss, though she served for the win at 6-3/5-3 and ultimately got within two points of the upset. A year ago, Kumkham had allowed just two games in a victory over Yadlapalli. The teenager had come into the week with momentum, having won back-to-back $25K titles in Lagos. With this result, she's gone 15-3 in her last five events.

DOWN: Madison Keys/USA
...Keys' injury situation is a constant issue. In between her various ailments, absences or periods of rest, recovery and uncertainty, Keys has managed to win three titles, reach #7, and play in a U.S. Open final and three other slam semis. Her 2018 season ended this week with still more questions.

First, she begged out of next weekend's Fed Cup final because of the condition of her knee. She was scheduled to play in the Elite Trophy "event" in Zhuhai, and told U.S. Captain Kathy Rinaldi she couldn't be certain her health would allow to play both. In lieu of signing up and then pulling out later, she played in China only.

As it turned out, she slipped into the semifinals with her 1-1 round robin mark, winning enough games to win her group (w/ Kasatkina and Wang, both also 1-1). Of course, then she pulled out of the SF with her injured knee, and Wang ended up playing anyway. She'll finish the season at #17 without having reached a final, somehow UP from 2017 when she was #19 after winning Stanford reaching being the runner-up at Flushing Meadows. Her QF-SF-3r-SF slam results in '18 helped A LOT.
ITF PLAYER: Whitney Osuigwe/USA the second leg of the USTA's AO Wild Card Playoff competition series, 16-year old Osuigwe claimed her first pro title in the $80K challenger in Tyler, Texas. The teenager posted wins over Sophie Chang, Kurumi Nara, Caty McNally, top-seeded Belinda Bencic (saving a MP in their SF clash) and then, in a 6-3/6-4 final, comeback-minded Brazilian Beatriz Haddad (whose '18 season has seen the up-and-coming star injured her wrist this past spring, then later her back, and come into the week ranked at #235 after being inside the Top 60 as recently as March, and before this run having gone just 2-7 since her healthy return to the court). Osuigwe, the '17 Roland Garros girls champ and former junior #1, lost to Francesca Di Lorenzo in a $25K final in January in her only previous pro singles final. The Bannerette will jump into the Top 300 for the first time on Monday, maintaining her position (behind Marta Kostyuk) as the second-highest ranked player under 17.

JUNIOR STAR: Eleonora Alvisi/ITA
...with so many of the legendary Italian WTA stars either now retired or slipping from relevance, the NextGen is looking to produce future talent of note. Earlier this season, Elisabetta Cocciaretto reached the AO Girls semis and is currently ranked in the junior Top 20. 15-year old Alvisi is ranked well behind her -- at #155 she's the eight-ranked ITA girl -- but she took a significant step up this past week in Santiago, Chile, reaching her second straight Grade 2 final and claiming her biggest crown while dropping just one set in six matches, defeating the #16, #11, #8 and #1 seeds (Dana Guzman/PER, in the final) en route to the title. Alvisi had previously reached a Grade 5 final in March, and won a pair of Grade 4 titles this summer.

DOUBLES: Lyudmyla Kichenok/Nadiia Kichenok (UKR/UKR)
...the Ukrainian sisters went undefeated (3-0) on their way to the Elite Trophy title, the biggest of their career. The event's #3 seeds, the Kichenoks posted wins over #2-seeded Kato/Ninomiya and one half of last year's defending WD champion team (Jiang Xinyu) in round robin play, then won out over #4 Aoyama/Marozova in a 10-7 match TB in the final. Previously 0-2 in tour-level finals in '18 before this win, the sisters' third career WTA title as a duo ties them for third (w/ the Pliskovas) on the tour's all-time all-sibling title-winning list behind the Williams (22 titles) and Chan (10) sisters. Overall, the Kichenoks are 3-3 in WTA finals together, as well as 22-20 on the ITF circuit.

WHEELCHAIR: Maria Florencia Moreno/ARG
...Argentina's 29-year old Maria Florencia Moreno (WC #17) won her biggest title in four seasons with her 6-1/6-2 victory in the Brazil Open final in Sao Paulo over local favorite Natalia Mayara. The #2 seed, Moreno defeated the #3 (Meirycoll Duval) and #1 (Mayara) seeds en route to the title, improving her season record vs. Mayara to 3-0 after having previously been 0-6 vs. the Brazilian. The winner of a pair of ITF Series 3 titles this spring, this Series 2 win in Moreno's biggest since 2014.


The inspiring visual representation of three-quarters of the WTA storylines in 2018...

Though (unnecessarily) false narratives not need apply...

1. Elite Trophy rr - Dasha Kasatkina def. Wang Qiang
The Russian opened her week by taking this nearly three-hour contest which saw 17 breaks of serve in 27 games. She ended it with a 4 & 4 loss to Aryna Sabalenka, but managed to keep a ranking step ahead of both the Belarusian, Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova and semifinalist Julia Goerges to record her first Top 10 season.

2. Elite Trophy rr - Caroline Garcia def. Aryna Sabalenka
Garcia had held MP vs. Sabalenka in Cincinnati and Beijing, only to eventualy lose both times. That didn't happen here, but the Belarusian sort of "outdid" her anyway. Garcia got the win, but because of a spare drop of service early in the 2nd set (and her inability to break Sabalenka at 6-4/5-3) she failed to secure a berth in the semifinals. Garcia didn't seem to fully know the specifics immediately after the match (she *should* have, though) about just how close she came, but if she'd allowed just seven games in this match the Pastry would have won the group. Instead, eventual champion Barty did. On a side note, Sabalenka fired a 133-mph serve in this one.

3. Elite Trophy rr - Wang Qiang def. Madison Keys
Keys would have automatically reached the SF with a straight sets win, but her edge in games allowed her to coast to a winning loss (yeah, this event) here while nursing her knee injury. As it turned out, she pulled out of that semi and Wang (naturally... yeah, this event) replaced her and ended up reaching the final.

Remind me again why this tournament exists.

4. Elite Trophy rr - Garbine Muguruza def. Anastasija Sevastova
Muguruza saved three MP and reached the SF with the only unblemished (2-0) rr mark, then lost to an already-eliminated player in that match, winning just two games.

What Garbi said (only about this tournament, not the camera).

5. Elite Trophy Final - Ash Barty def. Wang Qiang
By the way, with this result, it's still true that no Chinese woman has won three tour-level titles in a single season. At least Ash ended things with a nice shot...

6. $25K Wirral UK Final - Diana Marcinkevica def. Arantxa Rus
The 26-year old, the THIRD-ranked Latvian on tour, wins career title #7, her first in almost two years and her biggest since 2014. She had to save two MP vs. Rus to do it.

7. $25K Petange LUX Final - Mandy Minella def. Helene Scholsen
After coming up short of winning her first pro title on home soil in the tour-level Luxembourg doubles final, Minella gets one here.

8. $60K Liuzhou CHN Final - Wang Yafan def. Han Na-lae
The 24-year old matches the biggest career title she won at this same event last year. Wang moves up to #73, just two off her career high ranking.
9. $60K Toronto CAN Final - Sharon Fichman/Maria Sanchez def. Maja Chwalinska/Elitsa Kostova
Fichman's first title since her return after two and a half years away from the sport.

10. $60K Canberra AUS Final - Zoe Hives def. Olivia Rogowska
Two consecutive titles Down Under for the 21-year old Aussie.


HM- $15K Monastir TUN Final - Tamara Curovic/Eliessa Vanlangendonck def. Jessie Aney/Olivia Sonnekus-Williams
Finally, it happens. The 21-year old Waffle wins her very FIRST pro title!

1. Elite Trophy Final - LYUDMYLA KICHENOK/NADIIA KICHENOK def. Shuko Aoyama/Lidziya Marazova
...6-4/3-6 [10-7].
The only all-sisters tour-level doubles champions of 2018.

2. Mumbai 125 1st Round - ULA RADWANSKA def. Zhu Lin
Urszula qualified for the Mumbai draw, upset the #7 seed here and took eventual finalist Khromacheva to three sets in the 2nd Round. The 27-year old is currently ranked #363, but was coming in off a $25K semi, and has posted QF, SF and Final results in similar challenger events in 2018. Of course, it all comes just as sister Aga's career seems to figuratively be balancing on the head of a pin.

The hand-eye coordination is still there, though.

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Tennis in flip flops ???????? #holidays

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Hopefully, "goodbye" is still a ways off.

3. $60k Canberra AUS Final - Ellen Perez/ARINA RODIONOVA def. Destanee Aiava/Naiktha Bains
...6-7(5)/6-3 [10-7].
Rodionova finishes the season with back-to-back doubles titles with Perez, who added four consecutive Aussie challenger circuit singles finals (0-4) before falling in the 2nd Round in Canberra.

HM- $25K Petrange LUX Final - ANASTASIA PRIBYLOVA/Nina Stojanovic def. Katarzyna Piter/Chantal skamlova
...2-6/6-2 [10-8].
The Pastry reaches her fourth overall final (1 s/3 d) over the past month. She won a $15K crown with sister Anna in Israel, while this one comes with her "favorite monkey."


Whew! Finally...

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Bye bye season 2018?? Just thankful for everything what happened during this year and it’s wouldn’t be possible without best people behind my back @dehaesphilippe @alextimkovskiy @maros_molnar @linashokh @vikapanteleeva (and my parents??). I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have you in my life and I will always remember how much love, patience and trust you’re giving me everyday. I couldn’t ask for a better team next to me. Thank you guys, I love you. ??? ? ??????? ? ????? ???? ???????????? ????? 2018, ??? ???? ?????, ?? ????? ??? ??????? ?? ?????? ???? ?????? ? ?????????? ?????? (?????? ?????????? ??????) ? ?????????? ?????, ??????? ???????? ?? ?????? ???? ????????, ? ??? ?????? @dehaesphilippe @alextimkovskiy @maros_molnar @linashokh @vikapanteleeva ? ??????? ?? ??? ????????. ? ?????????, ??? ??? ???? ???? ? ???? ????? ? ???????????? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ??? (?? ?????? ???????) ?????????? ? ????? ??????? ????? ??????? ???, ??? ????? ??????. ? ??? ????? ?????, ?????? ??????? ?? ??, ??? ?? ?????? See you all next year In beautiful Australia???? #DD #RussianWall

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2018 has been one crazy year for me. It was filled with highs and lows, plus I had a lot of new emotions overcome me that I never felt before. Personally my only hope every year is that I mature and learn from experiences. I know I’m kinda blabbering but I’d like to end with this- Thank you guys for all your love and support, honestly I feel so lucky and grateful. I hope I can keep growing (not even as a player, as a person) and I hope you guys stick around with me. Love you ?? . 2018???????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????

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7 - Czech Republic
6 - Ukraine
5 - Germany
4 - Belgium, France, Romania, Russia
3 - Denmark, Netherlands
2 - Australia, Belarus, China, Japan, Serbia

#1-5: 9
#6-10: 9
#11-19: 11
#20-29: 8
#30-39: 3
#40-49: 6
#50-59: 1
#60-69: 1
#70-79: 2
#80-89: 1
#90-99: 1
#100-199: 5
#200+: 1

92 - Margaret Court, 1968-76
68 - Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, 1970-80
17 - Kerry Melville-Reid, 1968-79
15 - Dianne Fromholtz-Balestrat, 1973-79
9 - Wendy Turnbull, 1976-83
9 - Samantha Stosur, 2009-17
6 - Jelena Dokic, 2001-11
5 - Alicia Molik, 2003-05
4 - Anne Minter, 1987-89
3 - ASH BARTY, 2017-18
3 - Nicole Provis-Bradtke, 1992-95
3 - Elizabeth Smylie, 1982-87

Newport Beach - Danielle Collins, USA (23/#162)
Zhengzhou - Zheng Saisai, CHN (24/#139)
Anning - Irina Khromacheva, RUS (22/#210)
Bol - Tamara Zidansek, SLO (20/#122
Chicago - Petra Martic, CRO (27/#47)
[WTA 125 finalist w/o a WTA Final]
Newport Beach - Danielle Collins, USA (#162, 23) [W]
Newport Beach - Sofya Zhuk, RUS (#180, 18)
Zhengzhou - Wang Yafan, CHN (#98, 23)
Anning - Irina Khromacheva, RUS (#210, 22) [W]
Bol - Tamara Zidansek, SLO (#122, 20) [W]

#210 Irina Khromacheva, RUS (Anning-W)
#180 Sofya Zhuk, RUS (Newport Beach-L)
#162 Danielle Collins, USA (Newport Beach-W)
#139 Zheng Saisai, CHN (Zhengzhou-W)
#133 Zheng Saisai, CHN (Anning-L)
#125 Sara Errani, ITA (Indian Wells-W)

22 - Serena & Venus Williams, USA
10 - Chan Hao-Ching & Yung-Jan (Angel & Latisha), TPE
3 - Karolina & Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
3 - Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
1 - Chris & Jeanne Evert, USA
1 - Katerina Maleeva & Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, BUL (SUI)
1 - Cammy & Cynthia MacGregor, USA
1 - Aga & Ula Radwanska, POL
1 - Adriana & Antonella Serra-Zanetta, ITA

[TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS, 2009-11 Bali/2012-14 Sofia]
2009 Aravane Rezai/FRA d. Marion Bartoli/FRA
2010 Ana Ivanovic/SRB d. Alisa Kleybanova/RUS
2011 Ana Ivanovic/SRB d. Anabel Medina-Garrigues/ESP
2012 Nadia Petrova/RUS d. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
2013 Simona Halep/ROU d. Samantha Stosur/AUS
2014 Andrea Petkovic/GER d. Flavia Pennetta/ITA
[ELITE TROPHY, 2015-xx Zhuhai, CHN]
2015 Venus Williams/USA d. Karolina Pliskova/CZE
2016 Petra Kvitova/CZE d. Elina Svitolina/UKR
2017 Julia Goerges/GER d. CoCo Vandeweghe/USA
2018 Ash Barty/AUS d. Wang Qiang/CHN
[ELITE TROPHY - Doubles Champions]
2015 Liang Chen/Wang Yafan, CHN/CHN
2016 Ipek Soylu/Xu Yifan, TUR/CHN
2017 Duan Yingying/Han Xinyu, CHN/CHN
2018 Lyudmyla Kichenok/Nadiia Kichenok, UKR/UKR

Lead Tour in Match wins: no (44 is in the Top 10, though)
12+ Top 10 victories: no (9)
3+ wins over #1: no (1)
Reach 6+ finals (a new career high): no (4)
Win 6 titles (a new career high): no (4 - second behind Kvitova's 5)
Reach #1 (hey, why not?): no (#4 is best season-ending ranking, though)
Reach the QF at all four majors (I've never done that): no (1 slam QF)
Win a Premier Mandatory title or the WTA Finals: Yes (WTAF champion)
Reach a slam semifinal (and win it): no
Reach a slam final (and maybe win it): no
Finish '18 in Top 10 (and maybe Top 5): Yes (#4)

1963 United States def. Australia 2-1
1964 Australia def. United States 2-1
1965 Australia def. United States 2-1
1966 United States def. West Germany 3-0
1967 United States def. Great Britain 2-0
1968 Australia def. Netherlands 3-0
1969 United States def. Australia 2-1
1970 Australia def. West Germany 3-0
1971 Australia def. Great Britain 3-0
1972 South Africa def. Great Britain 2-1
1973 Australia def. South Africa 3-0
1974 Australia def. United States 2-1
1975 Czechoslovakia def. Australia 3-0
1976 United States def. Australia 2-1
1977 United States def. Australia 2-1
1978 United States def. Australia 2-1
1979 United States def. Australia 3-0
1980 United States def. Australia 3-0
1981 United States def. Great Britain 3-0
1982 United States def. West Germany 3-0
1983 Czechoslovakia def. West Germany 2-1
1984 Czechoslovakia def. Australia 2-1
1985 Czechoslovakia def. United States 2-1
1986 United States def. Czechoslovakia 3-0
1987 West Germany def. United States 2-1
1988 Czechoslovakia def. USSR 2-1
1989 United States def. Spain 3-0
1990 United States def. USSR 2-1
1991 Spain def. United States 2-1
1992 Germany def. Spain 2-1
1993 Spain def. Australia 3-0
1994 Spain def. United States 3-0
1995 Spain def. United States 3-2
1996 United States def. Spain 5-0
1997 France def. Netherlands 4-1
1998 Spain def. Switzerland 3-2
1999 United States def. Russia 4-1
2000 United States def. Spain 5-0
2001 Belgium def. Russia 2-1
2002 Slovak Republic def. Spain 3-1
2003 France def. United States 4-1
2004 Russia def. France 3-2
2005 Russia def. France 3-2
2006 Italy def. Belgium 3-2
2007 Russia def. Italy 4-0
2008 Russia def. Spain 4-0
2009 Italy def. United States 4-0
2010 Italy def. United States 3-1
2011 Czech Republic def. Russia 3-2
2012 Czech Republic def. Serbia 3-1
2013 Italy def. Russia 4-0
2014 Czech Republic def. Germany 3-1
2015 Czech Republic def. Russia 3-2
2016 Czech Republic def. France 3-2
2017 United States def. Belarus 3-2
2018 CZE vs. USA

18 - United States
12 - Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia
7 - Australia
5 - Spain
4 - Italy
4 - Russia
2 - France
2 - Germay/West Germany
1 - Belgium
1 - Slovakia
1 - South Africa

2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2007 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2008 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2009 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2010 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2011 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2012 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2013 Roberta Vinci, ITA
2014 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2015 Karolina Pliskova, CZE
2016 Caroline Garcia, FRA*
2017 CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
2018 ?
*-non-championship team member

2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2007 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2008 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2009 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2010 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2011 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2012 Lucie Safarova, CZE
2013 Roberta Vinci, ITA
2014 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2015 Karolina Pliskova, CZE
2016 Barbora Strycova, CZE
2017 CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
2018 ?

2007 Madison Brengle
2008 Madison Brengle
2009 Christina McHale
2010 CoCo Vandeweghe
2011 Lauren Davis
2012 Madison Keys
2013 Madison Keys
2014 Sachia Vickery
2015 Irina Falconi
2016 Samantha Crawford
2017 Kayla Day
2018 Taylor Townsend
2019 ?
NOTE: Playoff Tournament 2007-14; combined multi-event results 2015-present

*WTA CAREER SEASON-END TOP 10 RANKINGS, 1975-current (total: 104)*
19 - Martina Navratilova
15 - Serena Williams*
14 - Chris Evert
14 - Venus Williams*
13 - Steffi Graf
13 - Monica Seles
11 - Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
10 - Lindsay Davenport
10 - Gabriela Sabatini
10 - Maria Sharapova*
9 - Manulea Maleeva-Fragniere
9 - Conchita Martinez
8 - Jennifer Capriati
8 - Martina Hingis
8 - Aga Radwanska*
8 - Pam Shriver
[2018 Top 10 - most Top 10 seasons]
8 - Caroline Wozniacki
6 - Angelique Kerber
6 - Petra Kvitova
5 - Simona Halep
3 - Karolina Pliskova
2 - Elina Svitolina
1 - Kiki Bertens
1 - Dasha Kasatkina
1 - Naomi Osaka
1 - Sloane Stephens

Again, more of this BS of giving awards for the semifinals (SEVEN months ago) the week before the final. At this point, what does it matter? Bonus points for three of the four nominees ultimately not being on a roster *for* the final.

FED CUP FINAL = PRAGUE, CZE (Hard Court Indoor)
CZE: Kvitova,Strycova,Siniakova,Krejcikova (Capt: Petr Pala)
USA: Collins,Kenin,Riske,Melichar (Capt: Kathy Rinaldi)

...well, ummm, is the post-game celebration already set up in Prague, with banners, napkins and cups emblazoned with congratulatory expressions in Czech? Because, let's face it, it'll take quite possibly the biggest upset in FC history for the U.S. to retain its title with these rosters. One has to feel for Kathy Rinaldi, who was both caught in no-woman's land *and* possibly blindsided by this situation.

For everyone else the shock was real when these rosters were released, too. (Especially when CZE's originally included Karolina Pliskova, as well.)

A year or two from now, with the likes of a CiCi Bellis back healthy and the new teen corps (Anisimova, Liu, Gauff, Osuigwe, etc.) more seasoned, the U.S. Captain might have been able to cobble together a title-worthy "B" team from the young Bannerette talent pool. At this point in time, though, it's a real long shot to think that the Czechs won't win their sixth FC title in the last eight years (and fourth in a five-year stretch for the second time since 2012).

The Sisters were never going to be here, but hope (always nice, but not a strategy* - *-courtesy of last week's episode of "Survivor") was alive that Madison Keys might be healthy enough to lend a hand. She played in Zhuhai this week, but wouldn't commit to being in shape to play in Prague *after* that and then be forced to pull out late. As it turned out, she played two matches, reached the semis, and pulled out of *that* one. Sloane Stephens looked great in Singapore, but still chose not to return to the FC final after going 0-2 there a year ago and nearly single handedly costing the Bannerettes the title. CoCo Vandeweghe, a stalwart in this Rinaldi FC stretch, played doubles in the WTA Finals, but apparently is no longer the ride-or-die-I'll-always-be-there-for-ya-Cap'n roster volunteer she appeared to be a year ago, either. So...

Both Collins (early on) and Kenin (since the summer) have made good cases for inclusion on this roster, though maybe not in the big-time roles they're being shoved into against the Czechs on the road. Kenin nearly upset Pliskova at the U.S. Open. Both will bring the fire, at least. Meanwhile, Riske's role likely will depend on how well the other two do. Melichar, not FC vet Mattek-Sands, earned the doubles specialist berth with a career year, and if she plays in a "live" match it'll be with a new partner against co-#1's Krejcikova & Siniakova.

The door appeared to be ajar for a fully-stocked U.S. squad to repeat as FC champion after Kvitova went 0-3 in Singapore, and Pliskova lost a 6-0/2-0 lead vs. Stephens in the semis. An outright battle seemed possible. Pliskova's withdrawal gives only a tiny additional ray of hope, as Strycova has starred in FC in her own right. Rinaldi & Co.'s best chance is for the WTAF hangover to linger for Kvitova, and either Collins or Kenin to take advantage and steal a win against her (on Day 1, if they're lucky). Then, maybe, one might have the chance to be one win away from forcing things to a deciding doubles match on Sunday.

A U.S. squad "Hail Mary" chance *is* alive if the Bannerettes can escape Saturday at no worse than a 1-1 tie. The Czech team *has* been forced into the deciding doubles on many occasions during their near decade of dominance, though the Maiden roster depth has usually pulled them through (they're 7-1 in DD matches since 2011).

Of course, I'm picking the Czechs to prevail. I'll give the Bannerettes a win, though, be it in a singles upset or in a dead rubber match. Either 3-1 or 4-1.

LIMOGES, FRANCE (WTA 125/Hard Court Indoor)
2014 Tereza Smitkova/CZE def. Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
2015 Caroline Garcia/FRA def. Louisa Chirico/USA
2016 Ekaterina Alexandrova/RUS def. Caroline Garcia/FRA
2017 Monica Niculescu/ROU def. Antonia Lottner/GER
2014 Siniakova/Voracova d. Babos/Mladenovic
2015 Krejcikova/Minella d. Gasparyan/Kalashnikova
2017 Mertens/Minella d. A.Smith/Voracova
2017 Savinykh/Zanevska d. Paquet/Parmentier
WS: #1 Buzarenscu, #2 Cornet
WD: #1 Buzarnescu/Niculescu, #2 Bacsinszky/Zvonareva

And, finally...

ALSO THIS WEEK: 2018 Rankings Round-Up
COMING SOON: 2018 WTA Year in Review, WTA Yearbook and the initial "Decade's Best (2010-19)" Players of the Decade nomination list

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

I've decided that what happened in Zhuhai is the most ridiculous WTA debacle I can ever recall (and there have been many). Muguruza (who should have been in Singapore, so maybe there's some kind of poetic justice to all this) "should" be sitting around with one of those trophies about now.

I want to say "what were they thinking?" but it seems like thinking wasn't involved.

Sun Nov 04, 07:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Note: You did the readers a big service with both the Fed Cup list and Australia one, ties into what I have.

Stat of the Week-0- The amount of singles titles won by 1972 Fed Cup champs South Africa.

Seeing that the US as only had one singles title this year(Sloane Stephens), it was time to take a look to see if a team with so few wins could possibly win Fed Cup. South Africa is the only one in history to have won with no singles titles, and they only had two doubles titles. Contrast that to Slovakia, who won in 2002 with 2 singles titles. Surprisingly, Hantuchova did not account for both of them, as she only won one, with Martina Sucha the other. They showed their strength in doubles, winning 11 titles, with Husarova Winning the YEC that year with Dementieva.

The US only having 1 title seems low, but it is closer to the new normal than you think. Last year, when we touted Belarus as the most unlikely winner since South Africa if they pulled it off, the stats backed that up. With Azarenka only playing a limited number of tournaments, she did not win any. Neither did the upstarts in Sabalenka, Sasnovich, Lapko, and Marozava. They would have been the first since 1972 to have no titles. And at that point, those 4 had no titles for their career. But they did pick up a doubles title in the last week of the regular season in Luxembourg(Marozava).

This year's current bunch is in the same boat. Riske has 1 title, while Collins, Kenin, and the Czech born Melichar have none. But to show that they may have more of a chance than expected, let's take a look back.

They year after South Africa won, Australia won with their players winning 29 titles-Court and Goolagong finished the season 1 and 2.

Then between 1977-82, the winning squad had at least 25 titles every year, including the record 37(US) in 1980. Sounds insane, but then look at the names-Austin, Navratilova, King, Shriver, Evert Lloyd, Jaeger. The only non big name? Dana Gilbert, yep, Brad's sister. Even more crazy? Until Goolagong won Wimbledon, every event had been won by a US woman.

Since that era ended, the winning squad has been over 20 only 3 times- 1986, 1999 & 2000. 1999 was another US title, and just like the other year, the 23 titles were gobbled up by Hall of Famers. Davenport, Venus, Serena, Seles, Capriati. Then add Frazier, Morariu, Rubin.

The last 10 years,with the sport growing, the average has been 6 titles, which the Czech Republic meets this year with 7.

Lowest amount of singles titles for a winning Fed Cup team:

0-1972 South Africa
1-1985 Czechoslovakia
1-1988 Czechoslovakia
1-2006 Italy
2-2002 Slovak Republic
2-2012 Czech Republic
3-1983 Czechoslovakia
3-1997 France
3-2003 France

Quiz Time!
When Unified Germany won the Fed Cup in 1992, their players won 11 singles titles. Which player did not win a title that season?

A.Stefanie Graf
B.Anke Huber
C.Barbara Rittner
D.Sabine Hack
E.Wilfrud Probst

Obviously (A)Graf is wrong, but this lets me point two things. One is that this is wrong because Graf won at least one title in 14 consecutive years. The other is that she got help. When West Germany won in 1987, their players won a total of 11 titles. Graf won all 11.

(E)Probst is wrong, as she won her second and last title that year.

(C)Rittner is also wrong, as she won the first of her 3 career titles that year.

And (D)Hack is wrong, as she also won her first of 4 career titles that year. Which makes (B)Huber the correct answer. A surprise, as not only was she in the Top 10 for part of the year, she reached 19 finals from 1990-97, but 1992 was the only year out of those in which she didn't reach any.

Sun Nov 04, 08:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

That kitten has no fear.

Random sighting of Wawrinka/Vekic in Wozniacki's pic.

I actually like the idea of Zhuhai. Obviously they need to change some things, but to me it is like NCAA college football bowl games, in which you don't need 40, but you do need enough for the non Power 5 schools to get some notice since they are shut out of the playoff.

Look at it this way. In singles, when is the last time Brazil has had a woman in the post season? Argentina? Sweden? And if I am wrong about Swiatek, Poland once Radwanska retires. Estonia has never had a woman in the Top 10, but Kontaveit participated. Chinese Taipei has never had a woman higher than 23. Hsieh was an alternate. The warmup, if done right, is a showcase for all of those countries without slam winners, for those just trying to sniff the Top 20, and get to have a showcase for once, instead of being the undercard.

Sun Nov 04, 08:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

It was certainly the most easily (and sensibly) avoided. I mean, if you sell these season-ending events as the "biggest" below the majors, how do you allow such a rule to be in place at the semifinal stage?

All respect to Wang (I always feel like I have to say that), but I wonder how much the last second change made the 2 & love scoreline vs. Muguruza almost inevitable?

Ah, I figured SVK in '02 would be somewhere in that mix. ;)

Really interesting FC/title numbers. I'm sure that took some work. :)

(He said, knowing he now has to compile the rankings post this week.)

Quiz: I went w/ Rittner

I'm sure the closer to the weekend we get I'll think the U.S. has more of a chance, with either Collins or Kenin flashing a fiery career moment.

I'll probably just be more wrong, though. :D

Woz/Stan/Vekic - haha. Yeah, I know, that's why I included it without a note (by me or in the tweet), just to see if anyone noticed. :)

Yeah, I'm sure some sort of interesting event could be put together for this spot in the schedule (an under-21 showcase?), but the ToC/ET has just never been it. Maybe have the groups be region-related, with the winner "representing" that part of the world? Something. Anything that makes sense.

Sun Nov 04, 09:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

NOTE: added a Vanlangendonck update to the end of the match list! It took all season long, but finally... ;)

Mon Nov 05, 01:34:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Interesting Ranking Nugget Gleaned From Compiling the Rankings Post...

The two highest-ranked players on tour yet to reach a tour-level singles final in their career?

#36 Danielle Collins and #52 Sonya Kenin, the top two players on the U.S. FC final roster this weekend.

Tue Nov 06, 07:05:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

That is interesting. Also touches on the everybody is included mantra Rinaldi seems to have. Was going to touch on this later in the week, but Collins is the 4th ranked US player, Kenin 6th, and Riske 7th. Venus is 5th. Melichar is 2nd highest doubles player behind injured Vandeweghe.

It does mean than instead of going for the sexy pick(Anisimova), she went by merit, which is going to play well in the long run. Also note that she has played Davis in a previous tie, so she is willing to switch things up on site. Not making a pick yet, as the decision of Strycova/Siniakova in the 2nd singles spot makes a huge difference.

Rinaldi at the very least has a chance, although the whole thing rides on what version of Kvitova we get.

Wed Nov 07, 09:23:00 AM EST  

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