Sunday, September 17, 2023

Wk.37- The Good Ship Barbora

Barbora Krejcikova hangs two... as in titles in San Diego.


SAN DIEGO CAL, USA (WTA 500/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Barbora Krejcikova/CZE def. Sofia Kenin/USA 6-4/2-6/6-4
D: Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova (CZE/CZE) def. Danielle Collins/CoCo Vandeweghe (USA/USA) 6-1/6-4
OSAKA, JAPAN (WTA 250/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Ashlyn Krueger/USA def. Zhu Lin/CHN 6-3/7-6(6)
D: Anna-Lena Friedman/Nadiia Kichenok (GER/UKR) def. Anna Kalinskaya/Yulia Putintseva (RUS/KAZ) 7-6(3)/6-3
LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA (WTA 125/Red Clay Outdoor)
S: Marina Bassols Ribera/ESP d. Zeynep Sonmez/TUR 6-3/7-6(6)
D: Amina Anshba/Quinn Gleason (RUS/USA) def. Freya Christie/Yuliana Lizarazo (GBR/COL) 6-3/6-4
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA (WTA 125/Red Clay Outdoor)
S: Astra Sharma/AUS def. Sara Errani/ITA 0-6/7-5/6-2
D: Angelica Moratelli/Camilla Rosatello (ITA/ITA) def. Valentini Grammatikopoulou/Anna Siskova (GRE/CZE) 7-5/6-4


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Barbora Krejcikova/CZE
...well, I guess when Krejcikova rights the ship, SHE RIGHTS THE SHIP. Or, in this case, *ships*.

After starting the 2023 season at 15-5, defeating the top three players in the world while winning in Dubai, the '21 Roland Garros champ was back in the discussion when it came to the players contending for big titles. But aside from a lone run to the Birmingham final, the Czech struggled through a mediocre-to-bad stretch from April through August, going 10-11, posting just one slam win in the year's final three majors and leaving New York having lost four straight (and 5 of 6), with her early-season success becoming harder and harder to recollect.

Worse yet, the slump carried over to Krejcikova's doubles partnership with Katerina Siniakova, as the two recorded just a single win in slam play after taking the AO crown in January, and were a virtual non-entity this summer.

*ALL* that changed in San Diego.

Opening with straight sets wins over Anhelina Kalinina and Beatriz Haddad Maia, Krejicikova outlasted Danielle Collins in three to reach her 11th career tour final (5 in the last 12 months). There, she won a back-and-forth affair with Sofia Kenin, staving off four BP at 4-4 and then closing out the title with a break of serve in the following game to pick up career title #7. The run will return Krejcikova to the singles Top 10 (doing sense a favor by finally knocking down "Example 1a" -- Caroline Garcia -- in the mythical running "WTA Top 10").

But Krejcikova wasn't finished, as she and Siniakova won the doubles title later in the day on Saturday. Krejcikova joins Nao Hibino (Prague) as the only players to sweep the s/d titles in an event this season.

RISERS: Emma Navarro/USA and Zhu Lin/CHN
...the 2021 NCAA singles champ (Virginia), 22-year old Navarro reached her second tour SF (w/ Bad Homburg '23) in San Diego after making her way through qualifying and then posting MD wins over Jasmine Paolini, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Maria Sakkari (winning a 3rd set TB for her maiden "Top 10" victory). She lost in three sets to Sofia Kenin.

Navarro previously reached five ITF finals (3-2) in '23, and will now crack the Top 50 (#49) for the first time.

In Osaka, Zhu produced her fifth SF+ tour-level result of the season, reaching her second '23 final (Hua Hin title) with wins over both of the young Chinese Wangs (Xiyu in the 1st Rd., Xinyu in the SF), Momoka Uchijima and Elli Mandlik. Seeking her second WTA title, Zhu fell in straights in the final to Ashlyn Krueger, but she'll inch up two spots on Monday to #31, a new career high.

SURPRISES: Mai Hontama/JPN, Marina Bassols Ribera/ESP and Zeynep Sonmez/TUR
...Hontama, 23, took her Osaka wild card and used it to play her way into her maiden tour-level semi, posting wins over Jang Su-jeong, Nadia Podoroska and Arianne Hartono before a loss to eventual champ Ashlyn Krueger.

Over the past year, Hontama has claimed her two biggest singles titles in $60K (November) and $40K (March) challengers. She'll climb 33 spots to #143 on Monday, with an eye on her previous career high of #126.

In Ljubljana (SLO), 23-year old Spaniard Bassols Ribera picked up her biggest career title, winning her first '23 singles title of any kind at the WTA 125 event.

Bassols Ribera had to survive her opening match of the week, seeing Lola Radivojevic serve for the match in the 3rd set. The Spaniard ultimately won a deciding TB, then didn't drop a set the rest of the way, ending things with a 6-0/7-6(2) victory in the final over Zeynep Sonmez.

She'll climb to a career high #112.

In the same Ljubljana 125, rising Turk Sonmez reached her biggest career final after posting straight sets upsets over Katarzyna Kawa and Tamara Zidansek before falling in two to Bassols Ribera.

The 21-year old will crack the Top 150 for the first time at #146, adding another milestone to a season that has already seen her made her Top 200 breakthrough, win her biggest title ($40K), and make her WTA MD (Rosmalen) and slam qualifying debuts (WI/US).

Sonmez's four-win week pushes her over 50 wins in a season for the first time in her career.

VETERAN: Danielle Collins/USA
...Collins was a threat in both the singles *and* doubles draws in San Diego, reaching her second '23 semi (w/ Austin) after posting victories over Louisa Chirico, Alona Ostapenko (from 6-2/2-0 down, and 3-1 in the 3rd) and Caroline Garica, the latter her 12th career Top 10 win, garnered just under the wire as Barbora Krejcikova's title run (which included a win over Collins from a set down) finally moves the Pastry down to #11 on Monday.

Collins' other Top 10 win in '23 came vs. current #9 Maria Sakkari, *still* holding onto her own Top 10 standing seemingly against all rhyme and reason nine months into the season.

Teaming with CoCo Vandeweghe in the latter's final tournament, Collins also played into the doubles final (the second of her career, having won Charleston w/ Desirae Krawczyk earlier this year), but fell to Krejcikova/Siniakova.

COMEBACKS: Sofia Kenin/USA and Astra Sharma/AUS, was this the "first straw?"

Famously (or maybe infamously, in Kenin's case), Coco Gauff's 1st Round loss at Wimbledon to the former AO champ earlier this summer was "the last straw" that led the eventual U.S. Open winner to "see the light" and alter course by bringing in a new coaching team. One had to wonder how Kenin viewed all of this (and her "adjacent" role in it) from afar, but maybe we got a bit of a taste this week in San Diego as she reached her first tour final since Roland Garros in 2020.

Ranked #93, 90 spots below fellow Bannerette Gauff, Kenin strung together defeats of Veronika Kudermetova, Katie Volynets, Anastasia Potapova and Emma Navarro to reach her eighth career tour final. She then engaged in a back-and-forth battle with Barbora Krejcikova, with her inability to convert any of four BP chances at 4-4 in the 3rd proving to be the final pivot point as the Czech held serve and then broke Kenin to secure the title.

Kenin's last WTA title remains three and a half years in the rear view mirror (Lyon in March '20), but she'll be almost back in the Top 50 on Monday, jumping 40 spots to #53.

Meanwhile, Sharma is back in the Top 150 after taking home the WTA 125 title in Bucharest.

A former Vanderbilt product from Australia, Sharma has won a tour title (Charleston 250 in '21) and reached another final (Bogota RU '19), but after ranking as high as #90 in April of last year saw a quick fall once her title points fell away. By last summer, Sharma was in the #200s, and fell as low as #285.

She's gradually built her way back this season, reaching $40K and $60K finals this spring/summer. In Bucharest, arriving on a four-match losing streak (and w/ a #216 ranking) that had followed an 11-2 ITF summer run, Sharma battled through a pair of three-hour matches against Ana Bogdan (3:37) and Anna Bondar (3:03) that ended with 7-5 sets, defeated Jaqueline Cristian to reach her biggest final since April '21, then rallied from dropping a love 1st set to defeat Sara Errani 0-6/7-5/6-2 to claim the title.

32-16 on the year, Sharma will climb nearly 70 spots to #148.

FRESH FACES: Ashlyn Krueger/USA and Wang Xinyu/CHN
...19-year old Krueger became the sixth different Bannerette to win a tour singles title in '23, and the ninth overall maiden WTA champion this season, with a week in Osaka that included wins over Kateryna Baindl, Jessika Ponchet, Anna Kalinskaya, Mai Hontama (in Krueger's first tour-level semi) and Zhu Lin in a 6-3/7-6 final.

Krueger won her first WTA 125 challenger in June, and will jump 50 spots on Monday, climbing in a shot from #123 to a new career high of #73.

Wang failed to reach the final in Osaka, falling in the semis (second of '23, third of her WTA career) to Zhu, but the 21-year old's week (fresh off her U.S. Open Round of 16) included wins over Jil Teichmann and Yulia Putintseva that will help lift her to a new career high ranking of #37.

Since the schedule turned from grass to summer/fall hard courts, Wang has gone 15-4.
...Naef, 18, continues to post encouraging resuts in a year in which she's already won a pair of ITF titles, qualified at SW19 and collected tour-level victories over Venus Williams, Ashlyn Krueger and Dayana Yastremska.

In Le Neubourg, France, the Swiss teen won her biggest career title at the $80K challenger, taking a three-set final over Hordette Alina Korneeva. In the final set TB, Naef led 5-1, only to see Korneeva hold 2 MP at 6-5 and 7-6 before Naef swept the final three points to win 4-6/6-2/7-6(7) for career title #6.

She'll crack the Top 150 on Monday, climbing all the way to #125.


DOUBLES: Barbora Krejickova/Katerina Siniakova, CZE/CZE
...suddenly, all is right in Krejcikova's (and Siniakova's) world, as the San Diego singles champion followed up her Saturday afternoon solo title by finishing off another in doubles in the evening.

The Czechs came into San Diego having gone just 2-4 since winning Indian Wells (part of their 11-0 start to '23), with Siniakova's #1 WD ranking going away when they failed to defend their U.S. Open title. They stood just fifth in the WTA season Points Race. But they rallied to reel off four wins this past week, finishing with a 6-1/6-4 victory over Danielle Collins & CoCo Vandeweghe (the latter in her final tournament), to become the first team to win a third title in '23.

Having also won in Birmingham with Marta Kostyuk this summer, Krejickova's fourth WD crown puts her atop the tour's season standings, while lifting the pair to 3rd place in the live Race, *and* rocketing Siniakova *back* into the #1 ranking.

...Kamiji came up short yet again in a slam final vs. Diede de Groot in New York, but it didn't take long for her to get back into the winner's circle, taking a Series 2 title in Osaka against an all-Japanese field this weekend.

Her 6-1/6-2 win in the final over Manami Tanaka finished off a three-win week that improved her mark vs. non-de Groot competition to 42-1 in '23 (and 85-2 the last two seasons).


1. San Diego 1st Rd. - Alona Ostapenko def. Ekaterina Alexandrova
...7-6(3)/6-7(6)/7-5. Any time Latvian Thunder shows up you're liable to get a barn burner, and this one was another that just about took out the entire farm.

Ostapenko led 7-6/4-0, had a MP at 5-3, and served at 5-4 (love break). Soon Alexandrova held a SP at 6-5, but Ostapenko forced a TB. Knotted at 6-6, Alexadrova swept the final two points to win 8-6 and force a decider.

Cue other side of the coin.

In the 3rd, Alexandrova led 5-2 and twice served for the win, but Ostapenko swept the final five games, winning 13 of the last 14 points.

In the end, Ostapenko led the winners tally 53-48, while converting 7 of 21 BP to Alexandrova's 6 of 13.


2. San Diego Final - Barbora Krejcikova def. Sofia Kenin
...6-4/2-6/6-4. Kenin's true shot came late, with a 15/40 lead at 4-4 in the 3rd. But Krejcikova buckled down and saved four BP in a 10+ minute game.

Predictably, the match then ended when *Krejcikova* was able to get the break a game later to close out her title run.

3. San Diego 2nd Rd. - Danielle Collins def. Alona Ostapenko
...2-6/6-3/6-4. You knew *someone* would be roaring when this one was over.

After prevailing in a crazy one over Alexandrova, Ostapenko let a 6-2/2-0 lead -- and 3-1 edge in the 3rd -- slip away here as Collins was on her way to her biggest SF since her SF in San Diego *last* year.

4. Bucharest 125 1st Rd. - Ana Bogdan def. Nuria Brancaccio
...5-7/7-5/6-3. Brancaccio led 7-5/5-2, and twice served for the match, including up 5-4, 40/love with three MP. At 5-5, Brancaccio led 15/40 on Bogdan's serve, but the Romanian saved three BP and took a 7-5 set. The Italian led 3-1 in the 3rd, as well, but Bogdan swept the final five games.

After surviving here, Bogdan was ousted a round later in 3:37 by Astra Sharma via a 7-5 3rd set. Oh, well.
5. Osaka Final - Ashlyn Krueger def. Zhu Lin
...6-3/7-6(6). Krueger is the 11th teenage singles finalist on tour in '23, and the eighth to be crowned champ (the fourth not named Coco).

6. Bucharest 125 Final - Astra Sharma def. Sara Errani
...0-6/7-5/6-2. Errani, at 36 and albeit at a lower level than earlier in her career, proves that there *is* tennis life after war with the Alphabets (2017-18).

Though the Italian's last WTA title came in 2016, she's since won two 125 crowns in five finals (2 RU in '23). Errani won a $60K title in March, and was ranked as high as #69 in June. Her February-through-July Top 100 stretch was her first since 2018. She'll be #104 on Monday.

7. San Diego Final - Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova def. Danielle Collins/CoCo Vandeweghe
...6-1/6-4. Collins/Vandeweghe won three straight MTB to reach the final in Vandeweghe's career send-off.

Vandeweghe, Kathy Rinaldi's first MVP as the U.S. Fed Cup captain, has interviewed to replace her to head the BJK Cup squad.
8. Ljubljana 125 1st Rd. - Marina Bassols Ribera def. Lola Radivojevic
...1-6/6-1/7-6(5). Bassols Ribera's title run nearly ran off the tracks at the first stop, as Radivojevic served for the match at 6-5 in the 3rd before the Spaniard won a deciding TB.
9. Bucharest 125 Final - Angelica Moratelli/Camilla Rosatello def. Valentini Grammatikopoulou/Anna Siskova
...7-5/6-4. The Italians, tour-level RU in Palermo this year, win their biggest title. Both will crack the doubles Top 100 this week.

Moratelli/Rosatello have reached five ITF finals since May of last year, winning four titles, including a $60K earlier in '23.

Rosatello also qualified to reach the singles MD.
10. Ljubljana 125 1st Rd. - Miriam Bulgaru def. Kaja Juvan
...6-4/6-3. Off her fifth career upset of a seeded player at a slam, and 3rd Round U.S. Open run, Juvan's attempt to rejoin the Top 100 (she arrived at #106) comes up short with a loss to the #201-ranked Romanian, whose SF run will result in a new career high rank of #183.

Juvan falls to #109.
11. San Diego 2nd Rd. - Anastasia Potapova def. Ons Jabeur
...6-4/7-6(4). Where there's a will there's a way, but after Jabeur's draining Open run this was fairly predictable.

12. San Diego QF - Danielle Collins def. Caroline Garcia
...6-2/6-3. Garcia notched a win over Sloane Stephens in SD, but still has yet to reach a SF since playing in the Monterrey final (her second in the early months of '23) in the first week of March.

She finally slips to #11 on Monday, ending a 53-week Top 10 run.
13. San Diego QF - Emma Navarro def. Maria Sakkari
...6-4/0-6/7-6(4). Sakkari narrowly avoids another semifinal loss.
14. San Diego 2nd Rd. - Aliaksandra Sasnovich def. Belinda Bencic
...6-3/3-6/6-2. While the Swiss still ranks highly in many season stats, 2023 has been something of a tale of two seasons for Bencic. A 20-5 start -- with two titles, a third final and AO 4th Rd. -- has been followed by an 11-8 stretch with zero finals, a period propped up by a pair of slam Round of 16 runs (WI/US).
15. Guangzhou Q1 - Ma Yexin def. Jil Teichmann
...6-2/4-6/6-2. After a loss to the #282-ranked Ma, Teichmann stands at 20-25 on the season. Her Q1 loss ties her worst result of the season, matching her one-and-done in U.S. Open qualifying last month.


1. Osaka Final - Anna-Lena Friedsam/Nadiia Kichenok def. Anna Kalinskaya/Yulia Putintseva
...7-6(3)/6-3. Friedsam (career #4) and Kichenok (#9) win their maiden title as a pair in their second '23 final (Linz) appearance.
2. Osaka 1st Rd. - Panna Udvardy def. Tatjana Maria
...2-6/6-4/7-6(5). Maria held two MP on Udvardy's serve at 6-5 in the 3rd, and led 5-1 in the deciding TB. The Hungarian swept the final six points of the match.

3. $25K Leiria POR Final - Francisca Jorge/Matilde Jorge def. Sofia Costoulas/Jenny Duerst
...7-5/7-6(5). Portugal's Jorge sisters claim their 13th overall challenger title as a duo, improving to 5-5 in '23 finals.

The latest...

A lot of predictability here as, finally, an actual ruling comes down -- albeit about 3-6 months later than anticipated -- and the 126-page report (sheesh, talk about justifying your existence) looks clearly stacked against Halep. Did anyone expect something other than that? I mean, it *is* sort of their job, right? Once Halep tested positive, the original agencies were *never* going to overturn any suspension. It was always going to come down to an appeal to an independent Alphabet (Court of Arbitration for Sport, aka CAS) for the final *final* ruling (and-this-time-we-mean-it).

Often, a four-year suspension (they actually tried to make it *six*) is cut to two, or maybe 18 months, with Halep already effectively having served close to a year since the original provisional suspension. Best case scenario, she has a *shot* to return late summer/early fall of '24? We'll see, but some wording in the current ruling has led some to wonder if the odds are stacked against her even for that.

If Halep's contention is true that the agency's doctors sided with her argument *until* her name was attached to the proceedings (then 2 of 3 changed their ruling), this *could* finally be the case that pulls the curtain back on the Alphabets' tactics. Hmmm. A martyr for justice for all?

As usual, the most "interesting" development in all this is the response from the outside, as the judge/jury/executioners man their social media posts with the certainty akin to the tides, then the Serena Cult weighs in about how "23" should magically be made into "24" based on a positive test three years after the slam final in question (you know, sort of how the Sharapova suspension magically "invalidated" a result from a *decade* earlier because somehow Williams was wronged by all the attention that Sharapova received). This time, though, the story's actors in question revealed themselves to be what has either always been known (in one case) or potentially expected (in the other).

Not a good look in either case. Not that it'll matter.

Then the apologists took their swing (the equivalent of "He meant to post 'Covfefe' -- I can't believe you don't know that!").

Others showed that they've learned nothing...

Some showed that, yes, they *can* think before they speak...

And others reminded us that this story has been played out over and over and over again over the years, with only the always-questionable "Watchers" the common denominator. But who watches the Watchers? Maybe we'll find out at the end of *this* one. But probably not. Halep, no matter the outcome, will always be a target of the usual suspects. It's just a matter of whether she'll get a chance to have a final Act on the court, in court, or off it.

To be continued...







4 - Coco Gauff (Auckland/Washington/Cincinnati/US)
4 - Iga Swiatek (Doha/Stuttgart/Roland Garros/Warsaw)
3 - Aryna Sabalenka (Adelaide 1/Aust.Open/Madrid)
2 - Belinda Bencic (Adelaide 2/Abu Dhabi)
2 - BARBORA KREJCIKOVA (Dubai/San Diego)
2 - Petra Kvitova (Miami/Berlin)
2 - Elena Rybakina (Indian Wells/Rome)
15 - 1/2/8/4 - Iga Swiatek
8 - 3/2/0/3 - Aryna Sabalenka
7 - 1/5/1/- - Ash Barty (ret.)
5 - 0/1/0/4 - Coco Gauff
5 - 3/0/2/0 - Simona Halep
5 - 0/4/1/0 - Anett Kontaveit (ret.)

Nao Hibino, JPN [Hiroshima]
Aryna Sabalenka, BLR [Ostrava!!!]
Ash Barty, AUS [Stuttgart]
Coco Gauff, USA [Parma]
Barbora Krejcikova, CZE [Roland Garros]
Ash Barty, AUS [Adelaide]
Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA [Nottingham]
Nao Hibino, JPN [Prague]
Barbora Krejciova, CZE [San Diego]

Zhu Lin, CHN - Hua Hin (29/#54)
Alycia Parks, USA - Lyon (22/#79)
Marta Kostyuk, UKR - Austin (20/#52)
Lucia Bronzetti, ITA - Rabat (24/#102)
Katie Boulter, GBR - Nottingham (26/#126)
Maria Timofeeva, RUS - Budapest (19/#246)
Zheng Qinwen, CHN - Palermo (20/#26)
Arantxa Rus, NED - Hamburg (32/#60)
Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ITA - Lausanne (22/#42)
ASHLYN KRUEGER, USA - Osaka (19/#123)

18 - Linda Noskova, CZE (Adelaide 1 - L)
18 - Coco Gauff, USA (Auckland - W)
18 - Linda Noskova, CZE (Prague - L)
19 - Maria Timofeeva, RUS (Budapest - W)
19 - Noma Noha Akugue, GER (Hamburg - L)
19 - ASHLYN KRUEGER, USA (Osaka - W)
19 - Coco Gauff, USA (Washington - W)
19 - Coco Gauff, USA (Cincinnati - W)
19 - Coco Gauff, USA (US Open - W)
20 - Zheng Qinwen, CHN (Palermo - W)
20 - Marta Kostyuk, UKR (Austin - W)

#508 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (Strasbourg, d. Blinkova)
#246 - Maria Timofeeva, RUS (Budapest, d. Baindl)
#136 - Nao Hibino, JPN (Prague, d. Noskova)
#126 - Katie Boulter, GBR (Nottingham, d. Burrage)
#123 - ASHLYN KRUEGER, USA (Osaka, d. Zhu)
#102 - Lucia Bronzetti, ITA (Rabat, d. Grabher)

1998: Venus Williams (Memphis)
1998: Tara Snyder (Quebec City)
1999: Serena Williams (Paris Indoors)
1999: Corina Morariu (Bol)
2000: Meghann Shaughnessy (Shanghai)
2001: Meilen Tu (Auckland)
2002: Jill Craybas (Tokyo JO)
2006: Vania King (Bangkok)
2012: Melanie Oudin (Birmingham)
2014: Madison Keys (Eastbourne)
2014: CoCo Vandeweghe (Rosmalen)
2014: Alison Riske (Tianjin)
2015: Sloane Stephens (Washington)
2016: Irina Falconi (Bogota)
2016: Christina McHale (Tokyo JWO)
2017: Lauren Davis (Auckland)
2019: Sofia Kenin (Hobart)
2019: Amanda Anisimova (Bogota)
2019: Jessica Pegula (Washington)
2019: Coco Gauff (Linz)
2020: Jennifer Brady (Lexington)
2021: Danielle Collins (Palermo)
2021: Ann Li (Tenerife)
2022: Bernarda Pera (Budapest)
2023: Alycia Parks (Lyon)
2023: Ashlyn Krueger (Osaka)

3 - Desirae Krawczyk, USA
3 - Luisa Stefani, BRA
3 - Aldila Sutjiadi, INA
3 - Taylor Townsend, USA
2...Aoyama/Shibahara, JPN/JPN
2...Gauff/Pegula, USA/USA
2...Kato/Sutjiadi, JPN/INA
2...Krawczyk/Schuurs, USA/NED
[2020-23 - individuals]
8 - Shuko Aoyama (1/5/0/2)
8 - Hsieh Su-wei (4/2/0/2)
8 - Desirae Krawczyk (2/2/1/3)
8 - Elise Mertens (1/4/2/1)
8 - Ena Shibahara (1/5/0/2)
[2020-23 - duos]
8...Aoyama/Shibahara (1/5/0/2)
5...Gauff/Pegula (0/0/3/2)
5...Hsieh/Strycova (4/0/-/1)
4...Siegemund/Zvonareva (1/0/2/1)

*MOST DIFF. #1's IN A SEASON (CAPS: 1st-time #1)*
1975: 1 = EVERT
1976: 2 = Evert-GOOLAGONG
1977: 1 = Evert
1978: 2 = Evert-NAVRATILOVA
1979: 2 = Navratilova-Evert
1980: 3 = Navratilova-AUSTIN-Evert
1981: 1 = Evert
1982: 2 = Evert-Navratilova
1983: 1 = Navratilova
1984: 1 = Navratilova
1985: 2 = Navratilova-Evert
1986: 1 = Navratilova
1987: 2 = Navratilova-GRAF
1988: 1 = Graf
1989: 1 = Graf
1990: 1 = Graf
1991: 2 = Graf-SELES
1992: 1 = Seles
1993: 2 = Seles-Graf
1994: 1 = Graf
1995: 3 = SANCHEZ VICARIO-Graf-Seles
1996: 2 = Graf-Seles
1997: 2 = Graf-HINGIS
1998: 2 = Hingis-DAVENPORT
1999: 2 = Davenport-Hingis
2000: 2 = Hingis-Davenport
2001: 3 = Hingis-CAPRIATI-Davenport
2002: 4 = Davenport-Capriati-V.WILLIAMS-S.WILLIAMS
2003: 3 = S.Williams-Clijsters-HENIN
2004: 3 = Henin-MAURESMO-Davenport
2005: 2 = Davenport-SHARAPOVA
2006: 4 = Davenport-Clijsters-Mauresmo-Henin
2007: 2 = Henin-Sharapova
2008: 5 = Henin-Sharapova-IVANOVIC-JANKOVIC-S.Williams
2009: 3 = Jankovic-S.Williams-SAFINA
2010: 2 = S.Williams-WOZNIACKI
2011: 2 = Wozniacki-Clijsters
2012: 3 = Wozniacki-AZARENKA-Sharapova
2013: 2 = Azarenka-S.Williams
2014: 1 = S.Williams
2015: 1 = S.Williams
2016: 2 = S.Williams-KERBER
2017: 5 = Kerber-S.Williams-KA.PLISKOVA-MUGURUZA-HALEP
2018: 1 = Halep-Wozniacki
2019: 3 = Halep-OSAKA-BARTY
2020: 1 = Barty
2021: 1 = Barty
2022: 2 = Barty-SWIATEK
2023: 2 = Swiatek-SABALENKA

*MOST DIFF. WD #1's IN A SEASON (CAPS: 1st-time #1)*
1985: 2 = Navratilova-SHRIVER
1986: 2 = Shriver-Navratilova
1987: 1 = Navratilova
1988: 1 = Navratilova
1989: 1 = Navratilova
1990: 3 = Navratilova-SUKOVA-NOVOTNA
1991: 4 = Sukova-Novotna-G.FERNANDEZ-ZVEREVA
1992: 5 = Novotna-NEILAND-Zvereva-SANCHEZ VICARIO-Sukova
1993: 3 = Sukova-Zvereva-G.Fernandez
1994: 2 = G.Ferandez-Zvereva
1995: 3 = Zvereva-Sanchez Vicario-G.Fernandez
1996: 1 = Sanchez Vicario
1997: 3 = Sanchez Vicario-Zvereva-DAVENPORT
1998: 4 = Zvereva-Davenport-HINGIS-Novotna
1999: 5 = Zvereva-Novotna-Hingis-Davenport-KOURNIKOVA
2001: 2 = Sugiyama-Raymond
2002: 2 = Raymond-SUAREZ
2003: 4 = Suarez-CLIJSTERS-Sugiyama-RUANO PASCUAL
2004: 2 = Suarez-Ruano Pascual
2005: 2 = Ruano Pascual-C.BLACK
2006: 3 = C.Black-STOSUR-Raymond
2007: 4 = Stosur-Raymond-C.Black-L.HUBER
2008: 2 = C.Black-L.Huber
2009: 2 = C.Black-L.Huber
2012: 4 = L.Huber-Raymond-ERRANI-VINCI
2013: 2 = Vinci-Errani
2014: 4 = Errani-Vinci-PENG-HSIEH
2015: 3 = Errani-Vinci-MIRZA
2016: 2 = Mirza-Hingis
2019: 4 = Krejcikova-Siniakova-MLADENOVIC-STRYCOVA
2020: 3 = Strycova-Hsieh-Mladenovic
2021: 6 = Hsieh-SABALENKA-MERTENS-Mladenovic-Krejcikova-Siniakova
2022: 3 = Siniakova-Mertens-GAUFF
2023: 3 = Siniakova-Gauff-PEGULA








Yep, still weird to see Magic say "my..."






All for now.


Thursday, September 14, 2023

2023 3Q Awards: Match Compendium


1. Montreal QF - Elena Rybakina def. Dasha Kasatkina
...5-7/7-5/7-6(8). Imagine if Kasatkina had a serve.

Rybakina's serve was off here, opening the door for the Russian to stretch this one out for nearly three and a half hours. Kasatkina twice served for the match, once each in the 2nd (where she held a break lead on four different occasions) and the 3rd, but it was almost as predictable as the sunrise that she wouldn't be able to put it away. She didn't. Kasatkina immediately gave away a 4-3 break lead in the decider, then again failed to serve out the match at 6-5.

In the deciding TB, Rybakina held triple MP at 6-3, but two return game UE left an opening for Kasatkina, who ran around to hit an all-or-nothing forehand off a Rybakina second serve on MP #3 a game later. Her shot caught the corner and it was 6-6.

The Hordette's great defense then got her a MP chance at 8-7, but Rybakina saved it with a big serve, then finally converted on MP #5 at nearly 3 a.m. Montreal time.


2. Cincinnati SF - Coco Gauff def. Iga Swiatek
...7-6(2)/3-6/6-4. A true hallmark moment for Gauff, who notches her first win in eight tries (0-14 sets) vs. Swiatek and her first over a world #1 via a MP (her previous win over then top-ranked Barty came w/ a retirement).

Showcasing the confident and aggressive mindset already instilled by her new coaching combo of Pere Riba/Brad Gilbert, Gauff overcame some tough moments on serve by not backing down. Swiatek served for the 1st at 5-3, but Gauff took her first career set from the Pole with a 7-2 TB win.

After seeing Swiatek knot the match, Gauff held firm in two late service games in the 3rd, either of which could have turned the tide to the world #1. Having broken to lead 4-3, Gauff lost a love/40 lead and stared down a BP, but clutch and heady serving (a great slicing 2nd serve) got the hold. Serving at 5-4, with two MP at 40/15, Gauff again found herself down BP. After missing out on MP #3 (which she'd reached w/ an ace), Gauff finally put away MP #4 on a Swiatek error.

Will we remember this as the moment that changed everything?

After what happened in New York, perhaps so.

3. US Open 3rd Rd. - Ons Jabeur def. Marie Bouzkova
...5-7/7-6(5)/6-3. Another night, another operatic Ons Jabeur struggle en route to a triumphant conclusion featuring the Tunisian staggering off the stage to thunderous hails of admiration. Until next time.

This time it at Flushing Meadows, it was Bouzkova who engaged in the ongoing battle with the #5 seed. The dance lasted three sets and just under three hours. Jabeur arrived at less than 100%, still carrying a cough and congestion after seemingly often being on her last legs at moments during her first two Open matches; while the Czech was slowed by a leg injury that nonetheless didn't prevent her from finding her way to Jabeur's shots and pushing the Tunisian to the edge once again.

Up 5-2 in the 1st, Bouzkova held a SP at 5-3, then couldn't serve out the set a game later. With Jabeur serving to force a TB, she flew the second of back-to-back overheads to fall down SP. She saved it, but then DF'd two points later and Bouzkova took the lead in the match.

Jabeur held the early lead in the 2nd, going up 4-2, and serving for the set at 5-4. She couldn't put the set away, nor convert two BP at 5-5 to get another chance. In the ensuing TB, Bouzkova led 4-2, and got within two points of victory at 5-5. Jabeur won 7-5 to knot the match.

Jabeur took at 2-0 lead in the 3rd, gave the break back in game 3, then rallied from 40/love down to win five consecutive points and re-take a break lead at 4-2. She served for the Round of 16 at 5-3, taking a 40/15 lead. Bouzkova got the game back to deuce, but Jabeur finally closed it out on MP #3, winning to reach her third straight slam 4th Round.

Jabeur's 56 winners were often cancelled out by 63 UE, but once again she dragged her ailing self over the finish line and lived to fight another day.

4. Warsaw QF - Laura Siegemund def. Lucrezia Stefanini 7-6(5)/5-7/6-3
Warsaw SF - Laura Siegemund def. Tatjana Maria 5-7/6-3/6-4 her first of two matches on the tournament's final Saturday, Siegemund won a 3:26 encounter over Stefanini.

The German rallied from 5-3 back in the 1st, saving a SP to take the match lead. She then turned a 5-2 deficit into a 5-5 tie in the 2nd, but Stefanini forced a 3rd. There, after the two exchanged breaks of serve, Siegemund took a tight 3-3 set and ran off the final nine points to get the win.

Siegemund wasn't finished on Saturday, as her make-up QF was followed by a 2:56 SF win over Maria for a 6:22 day (w/ a date with Iga in the final, in Poland, her "reward" for the effort... she won 1 game).
5. Washington 1st Rd. - Marta Kostyuk def. Bianca Andreescu
...2-6/6-3/7-6(5). Another Andreescu loss that (probably) needn't have been.

After recovering from an early break in the 3rd, then another break disadvantage at 4-2, Andreescu grabbed the lead and had three MP on Kostyuk's serve, one at 5-4 and two more at 6-5.

Kostyuk held and forced a TB, where she led 3-1, then 5-2, before Andreescu held two to close to within 5-4. A Kostyuk DF knotted the score at 5-5, then she *nearly* DF'd again a point later. But the shot stayed in the service box, and the Ukrainian earned the point to reach MP. An Andreescu error ended it a point later.

6. US Open 2nd Rd. - Ons Jabeur def. Linda Noskova
...7-6(7)/4-6/6-3. Fighting the illness that made her Open run a dramatic tightrope walk, Jabeur squanders a 4-2 lead in the 1st, then rallied from 5-3 down in the TB to win 9-7 on her third SP.

After Noskova took a 5-1 lead in the 2nd, winning the set 6-4, the Czech took a break lead in the 3rd at 3-2. But Jabeur surged with her back against the wall, winning 12 of 14 points to lead 5-3. Jabeur put the teenager away, closing the match with a hold on her fourth MP.

7. US Open 2nd Rd. - Alona Ostapenko def. Elina Avanesyan
...6-3/5-7/7-5. On Court 11 while Wozniacki/Kvitova were dueling on Ashe, Ostapenko led 6-3/3-0 and 5-2, then served for the match at 5-3. Then an Ostapenko match broke out.

As Avanesyan edged closer, Ostapenko held a GP for a 6-5 lead but dropped serve again. Avanesyan finally won her fifth straight game, converting on SP #4 to take the 2nd set.

Ostapenko went out to another 5-2 lead in the 3rd, and served at 5-3 again. After being broken again, the Latvian had a pair of MP at 5-4, but the Russian held for 5-5. Finally, Ostapenko got the match-closing break two games later, after having handed Avanesyan 79% of her total points (80 of 101) in the match via unforced errors (vs. her 51 winners).

8. Palermo Q1 - Mia Ristic def. Cagla Buyukakcay 6-7(4)/7-6(8)/7-5
Palermo Q2 - Mia Ristic def. Kathinka Von Deichmann 1-6/7-6(2)/7-6(3)
...the 17-year old Serb (#443), the European 16u champ last year, had a heck of a time making her maiden WTA MD, but darned if she didn't earn it. It took a combined 7:35, and saw her save 4 MP, over two qualifying matches.

Against Buyukakcay, Ristic had squandered a 5-2 1st set lead, failing to convert 3 SP and losing a 3-1 TB edge, falling 7-4. The Serb turned around a 4-2 deficit in the 2nd to force another TB. She led there 4-1, but faced a MP at 7-6 before winning 10-8. Down an early break in the 3rd, Ristic saved 3 BP at 5-5, then broke the Turk for the win.

A day later, the teenager went another 3:23 vs. Von Deichmann, rallying from 6-1/5-2. After winning a 7-2 2nd set TB, Ristic was down a break at 2-0 in the 3rd, then trailed 5-4 and was triple MP down at 40/love. She got the break for 5-5, then finally won a 7-3 TB to reach the MD.

She lost there to Dayana Yastremska, but after a weekend like *that* who really cares, you know?

9. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Venus Williams def. Veronika Kudermetova
...6-4/7-5. A great statement of relevance from Venus, who recorded her first Top 20 win since 2019, or another sign of Kudermetova's "still-not-ready-for-primetime" status? The Hordette led 4-1 in the 1st and 5-1 in the 2nd, likely knowing full well that her chances of victory would increase by quite a few percentage points should she push Williams to a 3rd set.


10. Montreal 3rd Rd. - Liudmila Samsonova def. Aryna Sabalenka
...7-6(2)/4-6/6-3. Samsonova posts her first QF+ result in a 1000-or-bigger event all season, notching her fourth career Top 10 win (and the biggest).

And she ended it with a cheeky drop shot on MP, too.

11. Montreal SF - Jessie Pegula def. Iga Swiatek
...6-2/6-7(4)/6-4. Seven months after getting her first win over #1 Swiatek in a "made-up" team event in Australia, Pegula gets a *real* one in perhaps the best week of her career.

The two traded off breaks in the 2nd, with Swiatek twice squandering break leads (2-0 and 3-1) early, then Pegula (at 4-3 and 5-4) doing so late. Swiatek seemed to put her foot down -- '22 U.S. Open style -- late in the set, forcing a TB and then rallying from 4-2 back, sweeping the final five points to play into the 3rd set for a third consecutive match during the week.

There, Swiatek led 2-0, and was up a break twice before finally cracking mid-set. Down 4-2, Pegula ran off the final four games as Swiatek's error totals climbed at precisely the wrong time.

It's Pegula's second career #1 win (she's now 2-5 in her career vs. #1 players).

12. Montreal 2nd Rd. - Elena Rybakina def. Jennifer Brady
...6-7(3)/7-6(5)/6-3. Brady didn't get the even bigger win than her earlier 1st Round upset of Ostapenko, but she led Rybakina 4-2 in the 1st set TB when rain pushed the conclusion from Tuesday night to Wednesday afternoon. There she broke back vs. Rybakina late in the 2nd and forced a TB, where the Kazakh edged her out and then pulled away from an on-serve 3rd at the mid-way point.

13. US Open Q2 - Fiona Crawley def. Timea Babos 6-2/3-6/7-6(10-5)
6-2/3-6/7-6(10-5). In an oft-interrupted match that saw the players battle the weather (and then the scheduling) as much as each other, Babos rallies from 6-2/3-1 back to take things to a 3rd. There the Hungarian vet led 3-0 before wild card Bannerette Crawley won five of six games. Play was suspended on Thursday at 5-5 in the deciding 10-point TB, and then (rather than open Friday play) the two had to wait around for other matches to finish to resume the contest. Once they did, Crawley swept all five points to win 10-5 and advance.

14. US Open Q3 - Tatiana Prozorova def. Tamara Zidansek
...7-6(11)/3-6/7-6(10-8). 19-year old Hordette Prozorova battles back on multiple occasions to win the 3:29 match and set up her slam MD debut. She saved 8 SP in the 1st (3 from 40/love down in game 12, then 5 more in a 13-11 TB win) and then a MP (on serve at 6-5) in the 3rd before winning another TB (10-8).

15. Budapest Q1 - Anna Siskova def. Lena Papadakis 2-6/7-6(6)/6-1
Budapest Q2 - Anna Siskova def. Maria Timofeeva 6-1/3-6/7-6(5)
...Siskova, a #377-ranked Czech, won from 6-2/3-1 down vs. Papadakis, who served at 6-5 in the 2nd set and led 6-1 (5 MP) in the eventual TB. Siskova swept the final seven points to win 8-6, then ran away with the 3rd set at 6-1.

Against #246 Timofeeva, it was Siskova who prevailed after trailing 4-2 in the 3rd, pulling away in a 5-5 TB to win 7-5.

While Timofeeva went on to take the singles title as a LL, Siskova notched her first WTA MD win, as well, in her debut match (def. Evgeniya Rodina), but also ended up playing for a title in the doubles with Jessie Aney. Unlike Timofeeva, though, Siskova came up short.


*CARO 2.0: Act I*

Montreal 1st Rd. - Caroline Wozniacki def. Kimberly Birrell 6-2/6-2
Montreal 2nd Rd. - Marketa Vondrousova def. Caroline Wozniacki 6-2/7-5
...did someone day "comeback?"

In her first outing in 44 months (and two kids) since a pre-pandemic Australian Open 3rd Round loss to Ons Jabeur in 2020, Wozniacki makes it look routine.

She didn't win her 2nd Round match, falling to Wimbledon champ Vondrousova 6-2/7-5, but only after the Dane pushed the Czech mid-way into the 2nd set, reaching BP at 3-3 before Vondrousova gathered herself and righted the proverbial ship.


Washington SF - Maria Sakkari def. Jessie Pegula
...6-3/4-6/6-2. Sakkari led 6-3/4-1, and was two points from 5-1 on Pegula's serve, but a little frustration opened the door for a swoon and the Greek proceeded to drop serve twice and lose five consecutive games to end the set as Pegula won it 6-4.

Sakkari reclaimed a lead at 4-2 in the 3rd. She staved off a BP in game 7, held and then broke Pegula to avoid falling to 0-6 in '23 singles semis.

It answerered the question of what it takes for Sakkari to get over *one* late-event hump -- Jessie Pegula on the other side of the net.

Sort of like how it was in Guadalajara last season, when having Sakkari on the other side of the net in the final allowed *Pegula* to "get off the schneid" and win her first tour singles title in three years.

*WTA THUNDERDOME, episode 53*

Montreal 2nd Rd. - Danielle Collins def. Maria Sakkari
...6-4/6-2. So, where were all the calls for Sakkari to be banned? That's what I want to know.

Instead, many people whined and complained about Collins' language while giving a pass (again) to Sakkari, this time for needlessly hitting a ball into the stands after a fault. Of course, Sakkari also sometimes like to yell into people's faces after a point, but will complain when an opponent yells "in her direction" after a point.

Here's a brilliant concept: both *could* have gotten a code warning. Sakkari *definitely* should have.

Maybe the new WTA theme should be, "Are You Not Entertained?"


Montreal 1st Rd. - Madison Keys def. Venus Williams
...6-2/7-5. In only their second match since meeting in the Montreal 3rd Round in 2016, Keys improves her record vs. Venus to 4-2, but only after Williams saved seven MP in game 10 of the 2nd after Keys had led 5-4, 40/15. She finally put the win away on MP #9 two games later.


US Open Q2 - Dayana Yastremska def. Genie Bouchard
...6-1/4-6/6-4. There's something about not shaking the hand of the player who was a gloating, unremitting a-hole (as is her style) when she actually managed to beat you a few months ago.

Unlike with the many other instances of post-match snubs at the net, this one was very well-earned.


US Open 2nd Rd. - Caroline Wozniacki def. Petra Kvitova
...7-5/7-6. In a night match on Ashe, Wozniacki (in the sixth match of her comeback) pulls off her biggest win so far vs. the #11-ranked Kvitova in the 15th meeting between the two (the first since 2018).


And, thus, Latvian Thunder is reborn...

US Open 4th Rd. - Alona Ostapenko def. Iga Swiatek
...3-6/6-3/6-1. Ostapenko seemed confident heading into her Round of 16 match with #1 Swiatek. Of course, the Latvian *always* gives off that vibe, as she knows that if she hits her shots there are very few opponents who can keep up with her. Her 3-0 mark vs. the Pole didn't hurt, either, and it was surely a stat that Swiatek herself knew going in, taking away the (sometimes decisive, and crippling) pre-match edge in confidence that she so often enjoys (it's not Serena-esque, but as close to it as you'll see on the tour in '23).

Coming into the night not only having played three straight three-setters in New York, but *seven* straight this summer, Ostapenko was never going to worry about falling behind and/or dropping the 1st set (which she did). Some Swiatek opponents almost accept their fate after such a thing. Not the Latvian. She knew that an aggressive game that robs the Pole of time to prepare for shots, and an opponent that doesn't back down and has the ability to out-hit her are all ingredients for a win over a suddenly-uncomfortable Swiatek (she said it before the match, in fact). And, needless to say, Ostapenko checked *all* those boxes.

What happened in the final two sets, especially the 3rd, was a case of Ostapenko gradually taking the racket out of Swiatek's hands, rushing her replies, robbing her of her rhythm and finishing off rallies in just a handful of shots (rarely more than three). Pushing the match into a 3rd set (her eighth straight), Ostapenko essentially dared Swiatek to take the match away from her. And she came up well, well short.

Ostapenko quickly grabbed a double-break lead, and led 5-0. Deliving a bagel set *to* Swiatek seemed possible, but the world #1 (for a few more minutes, anyway) managed to get on the board with a break in game 6 as Ostapenko served for the match. Though the familiar look of "panic" on the Pole's face when confronted with an unrelenting foe who doesn't genuflect before her never really occurred, it was clear that she had no answer for Ostapenko other than to hope that Ostapenko starting missing shots in bunches. Which *can* happen, of course, so even as Ostapenko was very nearly *home* one couldn't immediately *expect* that the match was over. With Alona, you never really know, you know?

But Ostapenko finished off Swiatek with a love break. She'd already crossed over around the net post to shake Iga's hand before the Pole had even walked half way back to the service box on her side of the court. This was Alona's moment, and she wasn't waiting for anyone. While many may have been surprised by the outcome, at least in the final set, Ostapenko seemed to have expected it all along.

1. Cleveland 1st Rd. - Aliaksandra Sasnovich def. Emma Navarro
...3-6/6-4/7-5. Clocking in as a nominee for Comeback of the Year in the match department, Sasnovich rallied from 5-0 down in the 3rd -- with Navarro serving for the match three times, including when leading 5-2, 30/love -- to win the final seven games. Navarro held a BP in game 12 to force a TB, but couldn't grab the last life preserver.

Things didn't turn out well for Navarro, but at least she has those great, very unique, court backdrops by which to remember Tennis in the Land, right?

2. US Open SF - Aryna Sabalenka def. Madison Keys
...0-6/7-6(1)/7-6(10-5). Sabalenka opened this match noticeably tight, while Keys let loose like a performance sports car. The soon-to-be new #1 never got things straight in the set, losing it at love as Keys coasted into the 2nd.

Keys led 4-2 in the 2nd. But, as they say, no one can turn a Keys match quicker than Keys... well, I think *I've* said that over the years, or thought or alluded to it on a number of occasions. And that's what happened as Keys served for the final at 5-4.

Traditionally, errors can flow off of Keys' racket in bunches just like the winners had for most of this match, and such a stretch came at the worst moment possible. A DF put Keys down love/40. Forehand error, and a break. More errors came in Sabalenka's service game. The Belarusian's ace sealed a second straight love game, a 12th consecutive point and a 6-5 lead.

Suddenly serving to stay in the set, Keys fell behind 15/40 a game later. A series of nerve-less serves got the hold, but Sabalenka ran away with a 7-1 TB to tie the match and send things, improbably, to a deciding 3rd set.

Sabalenka's DF and two forehand errors in game 6 gave Keys the break lead at 4-2. But one good turn deserves another, and Sabalenka grabbed a 15/40 lead in the next game. When Keys couldn't get back a big return, the set was back on serve. After a DF to open game 8, Sabalenka battled from behind, saving a pair of BP, to hold for 4-4.

Things calmed down over the next few games. Keys held from 30/30, then Sabalenka fired an ace to tie things at 5-5. Keys went up 40/love, and edged ahead again. Down 6-5, serving to stay in the match and force a match TB, Sabalenka held at love, closing with back-to-back aces.

As occurred to end the 2nd, Sabalenka quickly ran away from Keys in the breaker, taking a 4-0 lead and never really looking back. Well, except for maybe when she took a 7-3 lead and thought the match was over, forgetting that it was a first-to-10 MTB. No matter, she reached MP at 9-3. It took three attempts, but Keys' long return finally ended it as Sabalenka took the TB 10-5 (combined score of the two TB: Sabalenka 17-6) to reach her second '23 slam final as she became just the second to reach both the AO/US finals in a season in the past decade (w/ Angelique Kerber, who swept the titles in '16). She avoids falling to 1-6 in career slam semis, while dropping Keys to 1-5..


3. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Ons Jabeur def. Anhelina Kalinina
...6-3/6-7(2)/7-6(2). While Jabeur went out in the QF (after incurring a foot injury), her first match since her loss in the Wimbledon final saw her experience both ends of the comeback spectrum.

Jabeur served at 6-3/5-4, only to be broken on BP #4 of game 10 by Kalinina; only to then rally from 5-1 and 15/30 down in the 3rd with the Ukrainian serving for the match at 5-2 and 5-4.

4. US Open Q2 - Elsa Jacquemot def. Diana Shnaider
...6-7(5)/7-5/6-3. Jacquemot advances after saving *seven* MP in the 2nd set. Shnaider led 7-6/5-3, holding two MP on the Pastry's serve, then found herself at triple MP at 5-4, 40/love. Jacquemot ultimately saved five MP in the game, as Shnaider went on to lose seven straight games (to 0-3 in the 3rd) before falling 6-3 in the decider.

5. US Open 1st Rd. - Elise Mertens def. Mirjam Bjorklund 3-6/6-3/7-6(3)
US Open 2nd Rd. - Elise Mertens def. Danielle Collins 3-6/7-6(7)/6-1
...two years ago, Mertens earned this space's "Zombie Queen" honor after falling behind Rebecca Peterson 6-3/5-3 in the 1st Round. The Swede twice served for the match, holding five MP in the set, then a sixth in the 3rd, before Mertens rallied to win in 3:40.

This year, the #32-seeded Belgian saved three more MP against another Swede in the 1st Round, serving down 4-5, love/40 in the 3rd set vs. Bjorklund before winning five consecutive points to hold, then taking a 10-3 TB to advance.

Two days later, she was at it again, battling Collins to within an inch (and two MP) of her Open life, trailing the Bannerette by a set and a break twice in the 2nd, then staring down two MP at 6-5 and 7-6 in the ensuing TB. Mertens won it 9-7, then took off in the 3rd.
6. Lausanne 1st Rd. - Elisabetta Cocciaretto def. Celine Naef 3-6/7-6(1)/6-2
Lausanne SF - Elisabetta Cocciaretto def. Anna Bondar 6-7(3)/7-6(6)/7-5
...Cocciaretto's title run almost didn't happen (x 2).

Naef led the Italian 6-3/5-3, and was a deuce on serve in game 9. At 6-5 in the 2nd, the Swiss teen had a MP on Cocciaretto's serve. Cocciaretto won a 7-1 TB.

Naef held a break edge at 1-0 in the 3rd, but the Italian controlled things down the stretch.

As it turned out, Cocciaretto wasn't even the *only* time the Italian's tennis life in Lausanne hung by a thin thread, as Cocciaretto battled Bondar two rounds later for 3:34, after a suspension due to rain just one game into the 3rd.

The Italian had led the 1st set 5-2, and served at 5-3, but ultimately had to save a SP down 5-6 to Bondar. The Hungarian won a 7-3 TB, then took a 3-0 lead in the 2nd. Cocciaretto surged ahead this time, failed to convert on two SP at 5-4, then had to save a MP at 5-6 in the TB before winning it 8-6. The 3rd set avoided the severe momentum shifts, but Cocciaretto's break of Bondar's serve ended the match in game 12.
7. US Open 3rd Rd. - Caroline Wozniacki def. Jennifer Brady
...4-6/6-3/6-1. The Comeback Bowl.

Injuries kept Brady out for nearly two years, while Wozniacki was out for three and a half after retiring and having two children. But while Brady's comeback includes the component of her having to prevail over her own body, that was never really in the conversation when Wozniacki announced her return this summer. Fitness and stamina were never an issue, and was often her greatest advantange, during her first career.

Brady seemed well-equipped to win this match, as she took advantage of a few more errors than anticipated from Wozniacki (who was moving forward quite a bit), pulling away late in the 1st and then serving up 6-4/2-0, 40/15. But that was when the Dane tightened up her game, while Brady began to show signs of being winded. Surely that caught Wozniacki's eagle eye, too.

A DF and UE from Brady opened the door, and Wozniacki shouldered her way through. After firing a forehand winner to get the break of serve, Wozniacki spent the rest of the match playing to what was her longtime career edge. Her consistency wore down the waning Brady, while Wozniacki (an *actual* marathoner, remember) seemed to barely be breaking a sweat. Brady's 40/15 lead in game 5 nearly went away, as well, but she recovered from deuce and held for 3-2. But two games later Wozniacki got the break to take a 4-3 lead.

She took the set 6-3, then grabbed a quick 3-0 lead in the 3rd, running off with a three-set victory, keeping her game in order down the stretch without needing to take too many chances.

8. Hamburg 2nd Rd. - Noma Noha Akugue def. Storm Hunter
...0-6/7-6(2)/6-4. NNA's debut run would have been deemed a success if it'd just stopped here, but it was ultimately built upon the German chasing down Storm Hunter in the 2nd Round.

After dropping a love set to the Aussie, the teenager stormed (no pun intended, I suppose) back. After losing a 3-1 lead, Noha Akugue saw Hunter lead 5-3, hold 2 MP, and twice serve for the match. But she couldn't put in away, NNA broke to start the 3rd, and the German's week continued into the QF (and, ultimately, the final).

9. Montreal Q2 - Danielle Collins def. Emina Bektas
...7-5/6-7(10)/7-5. After just one break of serve over the first two sets, there were six in twelve games in the 3rd.

Collins held four MP in the 2nd set TB, but Bektas claimed a 12-10 win, then led 5-3 in the deciding 3rd. She served for the win at 5-4, but Collins broke Bektas in her last two service games and advanced to the MD.
10. US Open Q3 - Kaja Juvan def. Himeno Sakatsume 2-6/7-6(6)/6-4
...2-6/7-6(6)/6-4. Juvan was looking to continue to rebound from a trying year, and does so here by rallying from 6-2/4-2 and saving five MP in the 2nd set TB, reaching her fourth U.S. Open MD, but the first after having to go through qualifying.

Juvan would ultimately reach the 3rd Round, upsetting #29 Elisabetta Cocciaretto in the 1st Round (her fifth career 1st Rd. slam upset of a seeded player) matching her career best slam result.
11. Stanford 125 SF - Wang Yafan def. Momoko Uchijima 6-3/5-7/7-5
Stanford 125 Final - Wang Yafan def. Kamilla Rakhimova 6-2/6-0
...Wang lost a 6-3/3-1 lead, ultimately saving MP down 5-4 in the 3rd. But she held serve, broke to take a 6-5 lead on Uchijima, and then served out the win at love.

The rest, as they say, was history, as Wang took the title.
12. Warsaw Q2 - Jana Fett def. Natalija Stevanovic 6-2/6-7(4)/7-6(5)
Warsaw 1st Rd. - Linda Noskova def. Jana Fett 4-6/7-6(4)/6-3
...Fett led Stevanovic, off her Wimbledon 3rd Round result as a qualifier, by a 6-2/6-5 score, but was broken when serving for the match. The Croat then lost a 4-2 TB lead, dropping the final five points.

Stevanovic led 3-0 in the 3rd, and led 5-3 with 3 MP on Fett's serve, then served for the win at 5-4 and 6-5. Taken to a TB, the Serb led by a mini-break at 4-3 before Fett nipped her via a 7-5 score.

Bring on a belated rematch with Wozniacki! Somewhere? Sometime?

Well, Noskova then did what Stevanovic couldn't, turning Fett's 6-4/2-0 lead into a comeback victory. The teen Crusher surged ahead at 5-3, won a TB and then closed things out in the 3rd.
13. US Open 3rd Rd. - Zheng Qinwen def. Lucia Bronzetti
...6-3/4-6/6-4. Bronzetti led 4-2 in the 3rd, but Zheng would not be denied and swept the final four games. She joined Wang Xinyu in the Round of 16, the first time two CHN players reached the U.S. Open 4th Round in the Open era.

Zheng would play into her maiden slam QF.

14. Prague 2nd Rd. - Anna Karolina Schiedlova def. Wang Xiyu
...4-6/6-2/7-6(6). Wang went up a double-break at 3-0 in the 3rd, led 5-3 and served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 before Schmiedlova was able to get things to a deciding TB. Again, Wang walked up to the finish line, holding double MP at 6-4, but AKS rallied once more, sweeping the final four points to win 8-6.
15. Prague 2nd Rd. - Linda Noskova def. Ankita Raina
...1-6/7-5/6-1. Noskova's home run -- to the final, and maybe more -- included a comeback from 6-1/3-1 down vs. the Indian. Raina served for the match at 5-4, but ultimately lost nine of ten games to end the day.


*AN ALL-AROUND MESS (and it had nothing to do with Simona Halep)*

Budapest 1st Rd. - Amarissa Toth def. Zhang Shuai
...6-5 ret. Sometimes, maybe *everyone* has something to atone for.

So, here we are, with the big (mostly overwritten) controversy of just one WTA week this summer, a tale which proved that a version of HawkEye for clay courts is desperately needed by next year, that the tour collectively loves Zhang Shuai, and that the WTA players almost en masse (and some media members, aka "journalists") are a disingenuous bunch who have spent years bemoaning the abuse that players receive on social media and during press conferences, but when the tables are turned have no problem taking a context-free video clip and using it as the basis to bully, belittle and diminish a fellow player that 99.999% of them have never met (and likely never will) or even heard of before essentially calling for her (in one case) to be banned from the sport (for breaking not one actual rule) and then tried at The Hague for something akin to crimes against humanity. Or so it seemed.

Essentially, in the fairy tale version of what happened in the Zhang/Toth match, Zhang was outrageously robbed of an ultra-important point by a linesperson, chair umpire and tournament that worked in perfectly planned unison to ignore and refuse to acknowledge her pleas of unfair treatment in an act of favoritism in support of a local Hungarian player. While Zhang was arguing the call, the player (Toth) rubbed out the mark in question while the judgment was still in dispute -- an affront to sports(wo)manship that should be dealt with in the harshest way possible -- and then gloated about her actions and stood by with a wicked smile on her face, twirling an invisible villain's moustache while Zhang fretted and ultimately retired after being ignored while nasty fans jeered and atrocious match commentators showed hatred for the well-loved Chinese veteran. Upon hearing of the retirement, Toth taunted Zhang over the win and proceeded to make a scene worthy of a playground scourge.

Of course, hardly any of what actually happened was remotely like that, but the social media world -- led by WTA players themselves -- sure acted as if the fanciful tale was incontrovertibly true.

After the initial "video evidence" went out over Twitter (or whatever it's called now), tour players took to their phones en masse and led a worldwide witchhunt against Toth, effectively creating a social media mob of bullies which one after another piled on, declaring her not fit for the WTA tour and the most unsporting athlete ever, with at least one (Maria Sakkari) saying that she should be "banned" from the sport, and others promising that she'd be shunned by all players, etc., thereby encouraging the usual trolls of the environment to double and triple down with that and worse. After Toth's initial comments about the incident were released, Dasha Kasatkina tweeted out the icon of a rat (and didn't back down when challenged in the comment section about such an unwise action). Sports Illustrated/Tennis Channel/"60 Minutes" journalist Jon Wertheim called Toth's actions "repugnant," and labeled her a "cheater." And so on.

Since most everyone was too busy bullying and trying to cancel Toth while either misrepresenting or not even bothering to know the actual chronological events, here's a quick recap of the match by trusted WTAB commenter/commentator/researcher/quizmaster Colt:

"Zhang came into this on a 12 match losing streak, and did not play anywhere close to her best. Got up 2-0, with little drama, but was unhappy over a minor line call.

The drama starts at 3-3, when Zhang played a point off the baseline that looked in. She lost the point, then argued the call.

Toth, now leading at 4-3, stopped play when Zhang hit a ball out that was not called. Toth correctly got point. Zhang was angry, and played her best 2 games of the match to go up 5-4.

At 5-5 15-15, all hell broke loose. Zhang hit a ball that looked in, but was called out. To this point, Zhang was wrong on the other 3 calls, so she thought she was wronged on a fourth and started screaming at the umpire, the crowd, then asked for a supervisor. A random from the crowd yelled "time violation", which she should have gotten, but did not. After the supervisor comes out, they talk, and eventually play resumes.

[TS - I'll add here that the chair umpire did "inspect" the mark, as is seen in the video, but did not overrule -- right or wrong -- the initial line call that went against Zhang.]

Zhang then plays a point. After that point is when Toth erases the mark, which causes Zhang to complain loudly again and gesture to the crowd. She hits the net with her racket. She gets broken to go down 5-6, calls out the trainer, and retires within 2 minutes. She then shakes the umpire's hand, then Toth's, which is when both arms are victoriously raised.

Zhang then yells some more toward the crowd before walking off."

All right...

1) it looked like a bad call, and the umpire didn't have the guts to overturn it (which is just a confirmation of the desperate need for some version of HawkEye on clay to end this staring-at-smudges-in-the-dirt ridiculousness).

2) getting robbed on a call isn't anything new, and it's happened to many players, often in situations which seemed just as clear-cut -- and maybe even more so -- than the one in question that went against Zhang. The match wasn't called, the game went on, and the world didn't end. All three -- well, two and a half -- went the other way this time around.

3) the tournament didn't help things with some of its post-incident comments, including one that seemed to accuse China (?) of interfering in the snafu,. Additionally, no one can really control the fans' reactions (see RG/WI).

4) a whole lot of people, from players (Sakkari, who embarrassed herself and should be offering up an apology, as well) to some big name media members (Wertheim, who should know not to throw around words like "cheating," especially when there was nothing of the kind that went on) have a lot to answer for, but surely won't.

It was ironic that Victoria Azarenka declared Toth's actions to be "another level of unsportsmanlike" (huh?), considering the considerable (overblown) hell that she's often received at times for her in-match actions over the course of her career. And wasn't Kasatkina upset about being booed by spectators in Paris because they didn't fully understand -- or didn't care about -- the intricacies of the situation that had played out before them?

I guess their mirrors were broken that week, for how else would the total lack of reflection be so publicly obvious, right? Hmmm.

Truthfully, it's difficult to not lose a great deal of respect for the likes of those players and some media members who chose this moment to, as they say, "show their ass." We'll see what comes out when some of those same players are faced with overly vociferous online or press conference critics, or bristle at the actions of an opponent that they think is making a scene about a line call (cough-cough... does Alona get a pass now?), or when an opponent accuses their own celebrations of being too "in-their-face" or believes them to be attempts at intimidation.

Did half the tour just have their Mladenovic-esque "LOL" moment, or a Bouchard-like "something about..." incident that colors every potentially hypocritical word that comes out of their mouth from here forward? We'll see.

5) clearly everyone loves to jump in with opinions while not even bothering to know what they're really commenting on. The original video that everyone reacted to was a bit misleading, as it left out that a full point was played between the two distinct parts of the incident, WHICH CHANGES THE CONTEXT OF EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED. The issue of the mark had been decided, but Zhang still wanted to have the call changed? We (and she) know that's not how it works. The different scores were there on the screen, but no one wanted to notice. They were too busy firing off their poison pen tweets. The "horrendous" wiping of the mark by Toth was, while needlessly brash, not wrong, per se, as far as the rules are concerned. It *was* time to move on, and clearly Zhang (even after playing a point) was not going to.

6) after Zhang retired, after reading how much "gloating" and "repugnant sportsmanship" (sic) Toth had shown, when I first saw the video I was expecting to see Toth yelling and running around at the moment of the handshake... but all she did was quickly raise her arms (it looks worse in the still freeze-frame than in real time video, as Zhang likely didn't even see it) then look into the crowd to her people (in the world #548's home event). She might not want to raise her hands so quickly after a retirement in the future, but this was hardly your "usual" retirement in which a player is *physcially injured* and can't go on. While one might deem her raised arms as "immature," I've seen far worse... and probably from some of the veteran players who thought it was the worst thing they'd ever seen, too. And here is where we note that Toth is quite literally a tour neophyte, having spent her brief career to this point in the juniors (she was in the junior RG doubles final just two years ago) and in challengers. This was her maiden WTA MD match... and just the third *ever* in a tour event, with the other two being Q1 losses in Budapest in 2021-22.

7) much was said the next day about the players' reactions being "a great thing" or a "great day" for the WTA. Hmmm, it *does* show how much everyone adores Zhang, yes (and that's nice)... but it also showed players using the support of one player as a means to try to cancel, bury and publicly intimidate another player that they DON'T EVEN KNOW AT ALL (while operating w/ half the facts). I guess if you're "proud" of that, the bar is set very low... but, then again, only a handful of players (Cornet and a few others) bothered to show even an inkling of concern about Peng Shuai, and don't dare ask them about any friends/favorites on the ATP tour who express misogynistic views or are accused of assault.

As with so many things, the actual situation is complicated and not as cut-and-dry as we'd like, and if professional athletes are going to personally disparage one of their own, at the very least they should respect their sport and those in it enough to have at least a closer-to-complete grasp of the inciting incident if they're going to lend their name to the pitchfork-and-torch carrying mob that they essentially gave the greenlight to with their own comments.

8) lastly, but maybe most importantly, one has to wonder about Zhang. It was clear she needed to take at least a short break from tennis to get her head right (after a 16th straight loss in Montreal, Zhang withdrew from the U.S. Open, where she'd reached the Round of 16 in '22). What's going on with her off-court surely seemed to not only be impacting her on-court results but her mental state *during* matches. This was a panic attack of her own making, after all. Arguing a call for reportedly 7-10 minutes, playing on, then arguing it again (after she just won a point to even the game score, so any dispute over the call was by then moot) and than quitting the match (the smartest move she made) is, if not a cry for help then a sign that she was handling things progressively worse and not better. All these so-called great friends needed to first see that she was okay rather than point accusing fingers. But maybe everyone was too busy having "fun" -- and inadvertently providing cover to the non-playing trolls on social media who don't need much of a push to begin with to attack young female athletes who can't fight back -- to make that the #1 priority.

Kateryna Baindl, after defeating Toth, probably best walked that line.

Later, after being villified by her would-be peers (and the mob they'd inspired) for more than 24 hours, Toth issued a video apology. That shouldn't have been necessary in the first place, but then the mob questioned the "tone" of the Hungarian's words.

Ah, sometimes you *want* Nick Kyrgios as the focus of such an incident. You know, the old saying about a broken clock being correct twice a day. In this case, Kyrgios-like comments/actions both during and after the match would have somehow felt "right."

Perhaps the most eye-rolling reaction to it all came from Wertheim, who "accepted" the apology and declared it was "time to move on." I guess that's what you do when you're a "journalist" but wrongly declare a professional athlete a "cheater" without any real knowledge of any "cheating" that took place (because it never did). Move along everyone... nothing to see here. Yeah, okaaaay.

In the end, the whole thing said a great deal about the women's tennis tour. Hardly any of it good, and most of it quite disgusting. Unfortunately, it joins a long list of things that have occurred in 2023 either off the court or linked to non-tennis events that have painted the tour, its players, its fans as well as any number of controlling authorities/agencies as either short-sighted, hypocritical, fraudulent, suspicious, mean-spirited or, you know, just poorly run.

2023 has been sold as the 50th anniversary season of the WTA, as well as being a celebration of the 50th year of equal pay at the U.S. Open. Fact is, though, this season has been one that has very rarely been one to be "proud" of.


US Open SF - Coco Gauff def. Karolina Muchova
...6-4/7-5. Just one game into the 2nd set of the opening Open semis, climate protesters decided were allowed to take over the tournament, as the three attention-getters were surrounded by security and law enforcement (Gauff told her coaches officials said they were "negociating, like it's a hostage situation"), with one apparently refusing to leave his seat (literally glueing his bare feet to the floor... rolls eyes) once everyone showed up.

Climate protesters ran roughshod, ridiculously throwing confetti and puzzle pieces all over the place at this year's Wimbledon, too.

Because, you know, protesting at "soft-target" tennis matches is surely going to end the use of fossil fuels. (Fact is, these sort of stunts only make the cause seem unserious and the protesters laughingstocks and easy targets for those on the *opposite* side of the issue, likely setting back the whole movement they seek to bring attention too... like the idiots who throw paint on priceless art.)

I'd say, at the very least, it's time for a temporary jail to be built beneath Ashe, like at the old Vet in Philadelphia... or for tickets to clearly state you'll be dragged down the aisle by your feet if you decide that you're going to try and become a star tonight. Of course, that may not have have applied here, eh? Hmmm, am I wrong to think they should have just ripped his bare feet off the concrete and chalked it up as a "protester occupational hazard?" (Too harsh?)

44 minutes after the whole embarrassing delay began, the players returned and, after a short warm-up, resumed the action around five minutes later.

1. Warsaw 2nd Rd. - Rebecca Sramkova def. Karolina Muchova
...7-5/3-6/7-5. In a match-up of the world #18 vs. #174, things were going as one would expect, with Muchova pulling away after dropping the 1st set, winning 11 of 14 games and leading 5-1, 40/15 in the 3rd. The Czech held four MP in the game, only to be broken and then be shut out the rest of the way. She served for the match again at 5-3, but dropped serve at 15.

The chances weren't over the for the RG finalist, either. Muchova held a GP at 5-5, but was broken for a third straight time, then a BP at 5-6 before Sramkova held to secure the win.

The Slovak's only other career Top 50 wins came vs. then-#12 Petra Kvitova in Prague two years ago, and #49 Sara Errani in 2017 Fed Cup action.

Muchova rebounded by the end of the 3Q, reaching her second '23 slam semifinal at the U.S. Open.

2. Montreal 1st Rd. - Jennifer Brady def. Alona Ostapenko
...7-6(7)/0-6/7-6(8). A thunderous upset and a sign that Brady's comeback could get *real* very quickly, or just your typical Ostapenko match?

Ostapenko led #561 Brady, in just her fifth match back since injuring her foot in '21 (vs. Ostapenko in Cincinnati, no less), 4-2 in the 1st, and had a pair of SP in the TB. Brady won it 9-7. After the usual Ostapenko rebound -- a love 2nd set -- the Latvian ran her game streak to 9 and led 4-1 in the 3rd. She held three BP for 5-1 lead. But Brady twice held to stay in the match, then overcame a 3-1 deciding TB deficit, saving two MP at 7-6 and 8-7, and winning 10-8.


3. Washington 1st Rd. - Hailey Baptiste def. Karolina Pliskova
...6-1/0-6/6-3. Local favorite Baptiste (#204), who'd qualified with wins over Alycia Parks and Peyton Stearns, records the second biggest win of her career over #23 Pliskova, behind only her upset of then-#17 Madison Keys in the same Washington event four years ago.
4. Washington Q1 - Clervie Ngounoue def. Anna Blinkova
...6-3/6-2. The Wimbledon girls' champ, with a qualifying WC, comes back strong in her hometown event in Washington, knocking off #37 Blinkova for her first match win in any tour-level event (she'd only previously played in U.S. Open qualifying in '21, falling to Mayar Sherif in the opening round).

5. US Open Q1 - McCartney Kessler def. Yuan Yue 4-6/6-2/7-6(10-4)
...the former Florida Gator proves the USTA's wild card distribution was pretty on-point this year, as four of the Bannerette WC (Kessler, Scott, Crawley and Glozman) notched opening round wins, three (all but Glozman) played in the final round and one (Crawley) reached the MD.

HM- US Open Q1 - (WC) Valerie Glozman def. (PR) Olga Govortsova 4-6/7-6(5)/6-1
...a year ago, at 15, Easter Bowl champ Glozman notched a Q1 U.S. Open win. At 16, and now a two-time Easter Bowl champ, Glozman did it again in this year's qualifying vs. 34-year old Govortsova.

In just her third singles match this season, Govortsova held two MP at 6-4/6-5, 15/40 on Glozman's serve, but the teeneger won a TB and ran away with the 3rd.




All for now.