Monday, September 16, 2019

Wk.37- The Tour That Never Sleeps (aka #TheyGotTheBeat)

While the men's tour slept in the week after the U.S. Open, with no tournaments scheduled immediately after the final slam of the season, the WTA tour...

Saw its latest major champion honored both on the road...

As well as back at home...

As a former champion announced her return...

Last year's new champion hit the re-set button (again)...

And the reigning Wimbledon champ made it official that the band indeed *was* gettin' back together next year...

Oh, yeah... and there were *three* tournaments on the schedule, too.

ZHENGZHOU, CHINA (Premier/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Petra Martic/CRO 6-3/6-2
D: Nicole Melichar/Kveta Peschke (USA/CZE) def. Yanina Wickmayer/Tamara Zidansek (BEL/SLO) 6-1/7-6(2)

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN (Int'l/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Nao Hibino/JPN def. Misaki Doi/JPN 6-3/6-2
D: Misaki Doi/Nao Hibino (JPN/JPN) def. Christina McHale/Valeria Savinykh (USA/RUS) 3-6/6-4 [10-4]

NANCHANG, CHINA (Int'l/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Rebecca Peterson/SWE def. Elena Rybakina/KAZ 6-2/6-0
D: Wang Xinyu/Zhu Lin (CHN/CHN) def. Peng Shuai/Zhang Shuai (CHN/CHN) 6-2/7-6(5)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Karolina Pliskova/CZE
...already one of just two players (w/ Ash Barty) to have won titles on three different surfaces in '19, and back at #2 in the rankings following the U.S. Open, Pliskova took the season title lead by winning #4 (15th career) in the inaugural Zhengzhou event in China. It's the Czech's first WTA title in China (after losing in finals in Zhuhai and Tianjin in 2015 and '18, respectively), though she *did* win an ITF challenger there back in 2013. She's now picked up WTA crowns in twelve different nations.

In Zhengzhou, she lost just one set all week, defeating Polona Hercog, Sofia Kenin (who forced a 3rd set), Ajla Tomljanovic and Petra Martic 3 & 2 in the final.

RISERS: Rebecca Peterson/SWE and Ajla Tomljanovic/AUS
...Swede Peterson became the season's 13th first-time tour singles champ in Nanchang, reeling off victories over Jana Fett, Magda Linette, Nina Stojanovic and Elena Rybakina to keep her 2019 surge going into the fall. The 24-year old has become a reliable potential upset-maker over the course of the year, defeating the likes of Yulia Putintseva (RG), Sloane Stephens (Washington), Johanna Konta (Cincinnati) and Monica Puig (U.S.), and even pushing Serena Williams (Miami) to three sets, while recording MD wins in three majors (6 of 7 over two seasons).

Peterson will rise from #78 to #52 this week, matching her career high ranking.

Meanwhile, in Zhengzhou, Tomljanovic reached her first career Premier level singles semifinal (her third WTA semi of the season), recording her second Top 10 win of '19 (def. #8 Kiki Bertens in the 2nd Rd.). Recovered from her shoulder issues of 2016-17, the Aussie has put together a second straight solid campaign in '19 and is looking to finish off her second consecutive Top 50 season this 4Q. After inching up from #46 to #42 on Monday, she's bearing down once again on the career best standing of #39 she attained this spring.

SURPRISES: Nao Nibino/JPN and Nina Stojanovic/SRB Hiroshima, Hibino accomplished the first singles/doubles title sweep of the season, winning career singles title #2 (her first since she won in Tashkent in just her second career tour-level MD in October '15) *and* doubles win #2 (first since '17). Ranked #146, Hibino tied for the lowest ranked champion (Jil Teichmann in Prague) of 2019 with wins over Leylah Annie Fernandez, Zarina Diyas, top-seed (and defending champ) Hsieh Su-wei, Mihaela Buzarenscu and countrywoman Misaki Doi in the final. She teamed with Doi to win the doubles over Christina McHale & Valeria Savinykh. The 24-year old will jump to #87 in the new rankings.

After missing the first three months of the '19 season, 23-year old Stojanovic arrived in very good form and has maintain it through the summer. After reaching a pair of tour-level singles QF in Nuremberg (May) and Jurmala (July), she claimed her first WTA doubles title (Jurmala) and won a $50K challenger (equaling her other two such titles for a career best win). After failing to qualifying for the U.S. Open -- though she got as close to a major MD as she's ever been, falling in the final Q round to Taylor Townsend -- she won another $60K during the second week of play at Flushing Meadows, and followed it up this week by reaching her first WTA semifinal in Nanchang after posting wins over #2 seed Wang Yafan, Sam Stosur and Kateryna Kozlova.

Unfortunately, all her recent good results left her with leg/groin injuries as her Nanchang run came to an end. Still, she'll be at a new career high of #110 on Monday.

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Great win today ? #wta @lottosport

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VETERANS: Petra Martic/CRO and Misaki Doi/JPN
...Martic's run in Zhengzhou, highlighted by a win over Aryna Sabalenka (and then another in the semis over Kiki Mladenovic), put the 28-year old into her first career Premier final, and second overall of 2019. Healthy after years of injury struggles, she's had the best slam season of her career (posting 12 wins, double her highest output in any other season) while reaching the second week (QF-4r-4r) at the last three majors, recorded her biggest career win (#2 Ka.Pliskova at RG), and finally won her maiden tour title (Istanbul in April). After her loss to Pliskova in the final on Sunday, Martic will stay at #23 in the rankings, but she's just 67 points behind reclaiming the career high position (#20, currently held by Sofia Kenin) she reached in July.

After seeing her results dip the last two seasons, when she finished outside the Top 100 after finishing inside the number four times between 2012-16, Doi has worked her way back up the tour rankings in 2019. In Hiroshima, she knocked off Sara Sorribes Tormo and Veronika Kudermetova to reach her first tour-level singles final since February '16 in Kaohsiung (a loss to Venus Williams). In her third career final, the 28-year old fell to countrywoman Nao Hibino, but the two joined forces to win the doubles, Doi's first tour WD crown since winning in Istanbul in 2014 with Elina Svitolina. She'll climb back into the Top 100 on Monday, going from #107 to #83.

COMEBACK: Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...Mladenovic picked a good week to have her best result in ages, as coach Sascha Bajin's old job suddenly opened up again when Naomi Osaka dumped Jermaine Jenkins as coach after just seven months (not that Big Sascha would be likely to bail on a new charge in favor of another, ala Kamau Murray vis-a-via Monica Puig and Sloane Stephens earlier this summer). Still, it was pretty good timing for the Pastry, who'd reached QF on three different surfaces since hiring coaching free agent Bajin this spring before a 1-4 mini-skid to end the North American hard court schedule.

On the heels of her 1st Round upset of Angie Kerber at the U.S. Open, Mladenovic recorded Zhengzhou wins over Duan Yingying, Caroline Garcia (it says something about where Kiki *currently* is that that one didn't have the same tabloid-y feel it would have a year ago) and Elina Svitolina (her third Top 10 win of '19) to reach her first tour-level singles SF since her Saint Petersburg final appearance in February 2018.

Meanwhile, after they avoided each other in draws for so long, now Mladenovic and Garcia can't get away from each other. They could meet again in the 2nd Round in Osaka.
FRESH FACES: Elena Rybakina/KAZ and Veronika Kudermetova/RUS
...Russian-born Kazakh Rybakina, 20, reached her second final of the summer (after the red clay in Bucharest) this weekend on hard court in Nanchang, but wasn't able to get her second title. After wins over Wang Xinyu, Viktorija Golubic and Peng Shuai she put up just two games against Rebecca Peterson. A winner of three HC challenger titles in the season's opening months, Rybakina made her slam debuts in Paris and New York in recent months. She'll break the Top 50 barrier for the first time after this result, going from #69 to #49.

Meanwhile, 2019's (still) Russian revelation Kudermetova reached her second tour-level (w/ Rosmalen) semi in Hiroshima, as the 22-year old got wins over Varvara Lepchenko, Christina McHale and Laura Siegemund. The older of the Kudermetova sisters (Polina reached the girls singles QF and doubles SF at Wimbledon this summer), Veronika has made her debut at all for majors this year (w/ 3r/2r results in Paris and London), won a WTA 125 title in March and made her Top 50 breakthrough this month. She'll be at #46 on Monday.

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Place to remember. Hiroshima????????#06.08.1945

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DOWN: Angelique Kerber/GER
...Kerber, having won just one match since her runner-up result in Eastbourne (and falling the 2nd Round of her Wimbledon title defense), took a wild card into the Zhengzhou event, hoping for a rebound. Instead, she drew the dangerous Alison Riske, who won a nearly three-hour battle in which included twenty breaks of serve (10 each) and Kerber holding a MP in the 3rd set tie-break. The German, down to #15 after her #2 finish in '18 (similar to slip from #1 to #21 in 2016-17), has lost five straight matches, falling in three sets on four occasions during the streak.
...the 28-year old won her circuit-leading seventh 2019 title in the $25K challenger in Pula, Italy over Italian teen Elisabetta Cocchiaretto, 6–3/6–7(5)/6–4. 21-2 since the last week of July (all on the ITF level save for a Q1 U.S. Open defeat), Rus has been victorious in seventh straight singles final appearances since an early season loss loss in January. She also reached the doubles final along with Gabriella Taylor.

JUNIOR STARS: Clara Tauson/DEN and Vanessa Ong/USA
...Tauson, the 16-year old Dane who opened '19 by winning the Australian Open junior title, is still the #4-ranked girl though she hasn't played a junior level match since May. This week in Meitar, Israel she claimed her fourth ITF circuit title of the year, matching her biggest career crown ($60K Shenzhen in March) by knocking off three seeded players -- #6 Myrtille Georges, #4 Isabella Shinikova and #2 Katharina Hobgarski in the final -- en route to improving her overall 2019 mark in pro events to 36-10 (she's 12-1 in junior play).

In Lawrence, Kansas, 17-year old Bannerette Ong picked up her first pro title in a $15K challenger. The UCLA commit had never advanced past the QF in a pro event before this week, but she qualified and then wrapped up her maiden win with a 6-0/7-5 victory in the final over Anastasia Nefedova.

DOUBLES: Nicole Melichar & Kveta Peschke, USA/CZE Zhengzhou, two of their four matches were decided by match tie-breaks, but the top-seeded pair of Melichar/Peschke outlasted the field. Their 6-1/7-6(2) defeat of Yanina Wickmayer & Tamara Zidansek in the final gave the duo their third title of the season, good for a tie for second place on tour in '19 behind Hsieh/Strycova (w/ 5). Melichar/Peschke have picked up five titles together since the spring of last year.
WHEELCHAIR: Diede de Groot/NED, the week after the U.S. Open wheelchair competition, the U.S. Open USTA Wheelchair Championships were held in St.Louis. Got it? Anyway, the results from the 20-player draw event this week were similar to those at Flushing Meadows, as de Groot defeated Yui Kamiji in the final in three sets, winning 6-4/4-6/6-3 (after winning 4-6/6-1/6-4 a week ago). De Groot defeated Aniek Van Koot in the semis, while Kamiji handled Jordanne Whiley, who didn't get to play in New York.

De Groot & Van Koot took the doubles in a walkover in the final over KG Montjane & Lucy Shuker, after having defeated Kamiji/Whiley in the semis.


1. Zhengzhou 1st Rd. - Alison Riske def. Angelique Kerber
Kerber's fifth straight loss, and fifth straight three-set defeat, as well. She's lost seven of her last eight three-set matches, going 2-8 in such contests beginning with her Indian Wells defeat by Bianca Andreescu, before which she'd been 3-2 in '19 three-setters.

This one lasted 2:53, had ten breaks of serve (each!) and saw Kerber rally from 3-1 down in the 3rd to hold a MP at 6-5 in the deciding TB, only to see Riske sweep the final three points of the match. The Bannerette had 50 winners vs. 49 UE's. There was a possible "Part Deux" set up between these two in Osaka, but Nicole Gibbs' 1st Round win over Riske allows Kerber to go, "Whew!" for one of the rare times in recent weeks.

2. Zhengzhou 2nd Rd. - Elina Svitolina def. Yulia Putintseva 3-6/6-1/7-6(5)
Zhengzhou QF - Kristina Mladenovic def. Elina Svitolina 6-4/4-6/6-3
played on the same day, Svitolina survived physically, but not long enough to reach the semis. In match #1, she staged a comeback from 5-3 down in the 3rd, then 5-1 in the deciding TB, to win in 2:33.

Oh, Putintseva...

Later in the day, Mladenovic/Svitolina included an 18-deuce, 42-point game early on, though Mladenovic eventually lugged the whole thing over the finish line after 2:44...

Despite her two slam semis, newly-25 year old Svitolina still hasn't reached a final in 2019 after going 9-0 in championship matches in 2017-18 (winning the WTAF, four Premier 5 and two more Premier crowns). After posting 5, 11 and 9 the last three years, she's got *one* Top 10 win this season. While she's got big points coming off this fall, could she still record her third straight Top 10 season without winning a title, or even playing in a final?
3. Hiroshima Final - Nao Hibino def. Misaki Doi
The first all-Japanese final on tour since 1997. And if you were thinking that one *had* to include a Date, or maybe a Sugiyama, you'd be wrong. It was when Naoko Sawamatsu defeated Yuka Yoshida in Jakarta.
4. Hiroshima 1st Rd. - Nao Hibino def. Leylah Annie Fernandez
LAF might be taking Bianca's results to heart.

Meanwhile, why can't we have nice vending machines like this in the U.S.? Yeah, nevermind... I guess I already know the answer to that.

5. Redding $25K Final - Emina Bektas/Tara Moore def. Catherine Harrison/Paige Hourigan
Well, ain't thatta a...?

HM- Zhengzhou 1st Rd. - Ajla Tomljanovic def. Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove
After Kerkhove's marriage, can we just stick with the original? Although I guess LPK isn't so bad, even if it does sound a little like the shorthand moniker for a serial killer or something.

1. Zhengzhou Final - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. Petra Martic
Not *that* Petra, *that* Petra.

In any event, Pliskova's win makes her the ninth active player with 15 tour titles. Can you name the other eight? [answer below]
2. Seoul Q1 - Destanee Aiava def. URSZULA RADWANSKA
The Aussie trailed 6-1/5-1 and saved 4 MP... only to the fall to countrywoman Priscilla Hon in the next round and fail to reach the MD.

IMPROMPTU QUIZ ANSWERS: S.Williams (72), V.Williams (49), Sharapova (36), Wozniacki (30), Kvitova (27), Azarenka (20), Halep (19), Kuznetsova (18) and Pliskova (15). Well, unless you count JJ (also 15), or even the not-quite-active-YET Clijsters (41), but is that even right or fair?

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Tennis, anyone? ??

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4 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE [Brisbane,Rome,Eastbourne,Zhengzhou]
3 - Ash Barty, AUS [Miami,Roland Garros,Birmingham]
3 - Bianca Andreescu, CAN [Indian Wells,Toronto,US Open]

1.000 = Yastremska, UKR (2-0)
1.000 = Teichmann, SUI (2-0)
1.000 = Keys, USA (2-0)
0.800 = KA.PLISKOVA, CZE (4-1)
0.750 = Andreescu, CAN (3-1)
0.750 = Barty, AUS (3-1)
0.667 = Kenin, USA (2-1)

*WTA FINALS = 2015-19*
22 - 5/3/5/6/3 = Halep (11-11)
21 - 6/4/3/2/5 = KA.PLISKOVA (12-9)
18 - 5/8/1/2/2 = Kerber (9-9)
18 - 3/2/8/4/1 = Wozniacki (8-10)
17 - 4/3/1/5/4 = Kvitova (13-4)
16 - 5/5/1/2/3 = S.Williams (8-8)

Hobart - Sonya Kenin, USA (20/#56)
Acapulco - Wang Yafan, CHN (24/#65)
Indian Wells - Bianca Andreescu, CAN (18/#60)
Bogota - Amanda Anisimova, USA (17/#76)
Istanbul - Petra Martic, CRO (28/#40)
Prague - Jil Teichmann, SUI (21/#146)
Rabat - Maria Sakkari, GRE (23/#51)
Nuremberg - Yulia Putintseva, KAZ (24/#39)
Bucharest - Elena Rybakina, KAZ (20/#106)
Lausanne - Fiona Ferro, FRA (22/#98)
Washington - Jessica Pegula, USA (25/#79)
Bronx - Magda Linette, POL (27/#80)

*2019 #1 SEED WON TITLE*
Brisbane - Arya Sabalenka, BLR
Budapest - Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL
Nuremberg - Yulia Putintseva, KAZ
Nottingham - Caroline Garcia, FRA
Jurmala - Anastasia Sevastova, LAT

Sydney, AUS - Ash Barty
Charleston, USA - Madison Keys [W]
Prague, CZE - Karolina Muchova
Strasbourg, FRA - Caroline Garcia
's-Herto, NED - Kiki Bertens
Bucharest, ROU - Patricia Maria Tig
Jurmala, LAT - Anastasija Sevastova [W]
Washington, USA - Jessica Pegula [W]
Toronto, CAN - Bianca Andreescu [W]
Cincinnati, USA - Madison Keys [W]
U.S. Open - Serena Williams

5...USA - Anisimova,Kenin,Keys,Pegula,Riske
2...BEL - Mertens,Van Uytvanck
2...CHN - Wang Yafan,Zheng Saisai
2...CZE - Kvitova,Ka.Pliskova
2...FRA - Ferro,Garcia
2...JPN - HIBINO,Osaka
2...KAZ - Putintseva,Rybakina
2...SUI - Bencic,Teichmann

[won title]
Rabat: Maria Sakkari, GRE [QF-Mertens]
[didn't win title]
Brisbane: Aliaksandra Sasnovich, BLR [2r-Svitolina] - lost in QF
Saint Petersburg: Donna Vekic, CRO [QF-Kvitova] - lost in F
Indian Wells: Belinda Bencic, SUI [4r-Osaka] - lost in SF
Bucharest: Patricia Maria Tig, ROU [2r-Sevastova] - lost in F
U.S. Open: Belinda Bencic, SUI [4r-Osaka] - lost in SF

Lausanne, SUI - [FRA] = Ferro def. Cornet
[WTA 125]
Anning, CHN - [CHN] = Sai.Zheng def. Sh.Zhang

5...Groenefeld/Schuurs, GER/NED (0-5)
4...Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE (4-0)
4...Chan/Chan, TPE/TPE (3-1)
3...Mertens/Sabalenka, BEL/BLR (3-0)
3...Babos/Mladenovic, HUN/FRA (2-1)
3...Dabrowski/Xu, CAN/CHN (1-2)

72 - Jurak/Martinez-Sanchez (35/37) = Bronx
70 - Melichar/Peschke (26/44) = San Jose
68 - Melichar/Peschke (25/43) = Brisbane
67 - Hradecka/Klepac (34/33) = Cincinnati

#2 - Ash Barty, AUS (Birmingham)
#3 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (Stuttgart)
#3 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (Eastbourne)
#4 - Naomi Osaka, JPN (Australian Open)
#7 - Kiki Bertens, NED (Madrid)
#7 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (Rome)
#7 - Simona Halep, ROU (Wimbledon)
#8 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (Brisbane)
#8 - Kiki Bertens, NED (Saint Petersburg)
#8 - Ash Barty, AUS (Roland Garros)
#9 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (Sydney)
#11 - Anastasija Sevastova, LAT (Jurmala)
#12 - Ash Barty, AUS (Miami)
#13 - Aryna Sabalenka, BLR (Shenzhen)
#14 - Julia Goerges, GER (Auckland)
#15 - Bianca Andreescu, CAN (U.S. Open)
#18 - Madison Keys, USA (Charleston)
#18 - Madison Keys, USA (Cincinnati)
#19 - Garbine Muguruza, ESP (Monterrey)
#21 - Elise Mertens, BEL (Doha)
#27 - Bianca Andreescu, CAN (Toronto)
#28 - Caroline Garcia, FRA (Nottingham)
#30 - Sonya Kenin, USA (Mallorca)
#39 - Yulia Putintseva, KAZ (Nuremberg)
#40 - Petra Martic, CRO (Istanbul)
#42 - Dayana Yastremska, UKR (Strasbourg)
#45 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (Dubai)
#47 - Dayana Yastremska, UKR (Hua Hin)
#50 - Alison Van Uytvanck, BEL (Budapest)
#51 - Maria Sakkari, GRE (Rabat)
#55 - Zheng Saisai, CHN (San Jose)
#56 - Sonya Kenin, USA (Hobart)
#60 - Bianca Andreescu, CAN (Indian Wells)
#61 - Alison Riske, USA (Rosmalen)
#65 - Wang Yafan, CHN (Acapulco)
#76 - Amanda Anisimova, USA (Bogota)
#79 - Jessica Pegula, USA (Washington)
#80 - Magda Linette, POL (Bronx)
#82 - Jil Teichmann, SUI (Palermo)
#89 - Polona Hercog, SLO (Lugano)
#98 - Fiona Ferro, FRA (Lausanne)
#106 - Elena Rybakina, KAZ (Bucharest)
#146 - Jil Teichmann, SUI (Prague)

30 - Goerges
29 - Kvitova,Sevastova
28 - Hercog,Kvitova,Martic,Riske
27 - Bertens (2),KA.PLISKOVA (3),Halep,Linette
26 - Ka.Pliskova
25 - Garcia,Muguruza,Pegula,Sai.Zheng
24 - HIBINO,PETERSON,Putintseva,Van Uytvanck,Wang Yafan,Keys (2)
23 - Barty (2),Mertens,Sakkari
22 - Barty,Ferro,Teichmann
21 - Bencic,Osaka,Teichmann
20 - Kenin (2),Rybakina,Sabalenka
19 - Yastremska,Andreescu (2)
18 - Andreescu,Yastremska
17 - Anisimova

All for now.