Sunday, February 18, 2024

Wk.7- 3-ga






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*WEEK 7 CHAMPIONS*
DOHA, QATAR (WTA 1000/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Iga Swiatek/POL def. Elena Rybakina/KAZ 7-6(8)/6-2
D: Demi Schuurs/Luisa Stefani (NED/BRA) def. Caroline Dolehide/Desirae Krawczyk (USA/USA) 6-4/6-2




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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Iga Swiatek/POL
...Doha isn't Paris, but Swiatek is treating it as such, as she picked up her third straight singles title in the event this week while becoming the first woman to lift the falcon trophy three times.

Previously, Anastasia Myskina (2003-04), Maria Sharapova (2005, '08), Victoria Azarenka (2012-13) and Petra Kvitova (2018, '21) won the title twice as the event has evolved from Tier III to 1000 status over the past 22 years.

Once again, Swiatek didn't lose a set in the desert, extending her Doha streak to 23 sets with wins over Sorana Cirstea (1 & 1), Ekaterina Alexandrova (5 games), Victoria Azarenka (4, including the last 10) and Elena Rybakina in a 7-6/6-2 final that ended the Kazakh's recent domination of the series (3-0 in '23). Swiatek had to rally from double-break down in the 1st, saving a SP, before winning a 10-8 TB.



Swiatek is now 18-4 in career tour finals, and has a 1000 crown in hand less than two months into the season. After claiming the first three 1000 titles on the schedule in '22 (and four of the first five), she didn't win her first (and only) title at that level last season until the fall in Beijing. Doha was a 500 event in '23.

Since falling in the U.S. Open 4th Round last summer, briefly losing her #1 ranking to Aryna Sabalenka, Swiatek has gone 23-2. She's 22-1 in her last 22 outings.
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RISER: Elena Rybakina/KAZ
...fresh off her title run in Abu Dhabi, Rybakina became the first woman to follow up a title/final result in that U.A.E. event with another in Doha.

The Kazakh, after a much-needed bye, was dominant vs. Zhu Lin (losing 3 games) before a short bad patch (after being up 4-0 in the 2nd set TB and having a MP) vs. Emma Navarro forced her to win in three sets. Rybakina rallied from 4-2 back in the 1st to take out Leylah Fernandez in straights, then defeated Anastasia Palvyuchenkova in two to reach her second final in two weeks (third of '24).

Carrying a nine-match winning streak into the weekend, the final proved to be a series of missed opportunities for Rybakina to truly pressure Swiatek and see if she'd crack (again) when having to play from behind vs. a power player. In the 1st, she lost a double-break lead, failed to serve out the set at 6-5 and left a SP dangling in the TB. She also whacked her shin with her racket while serving (drawing blood and maybe losing her momentum after a brief MTO), and stepped on her racket in the TB to help set up Swiatek with a double-SP situation. It still took the Pole four to secure the 1st set.



After not converting two BP early in the 2nd, then losing her own serve a game later, too many UE and an unwavering Swiatek sealed Rybakina's fate as she failed to notch her fourth straight victory over the world #1.

Rybakina has her Indian Wells title and Miami finalist points to defend soon, but has shown improved defense and more in-game variety in the season's first two months that would seem to indicate that she's both well-positioned and well-equipped to contend on all surfaces for the remainder of the season, as long as the illness/schedule-induced fatigue that slowed her down last year doesn't recur.
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SURPRISE: Danielle Collins/USA
...a "surprise" only because Collins had not let up a bit even *after* announcing that '24 would be her final season on tour.

Making it through qualifiying for the second straight week in the desert, Collins followed up her Abu Dhabi 2nd Round result (w/ wins over Osaka and L.Fruhvirtova, and a three-set loss to Rybakina) with a QF run in Doha that included straight sets wins over Laura Siegemund, Veronika Kudermetova, Marie Bouzkova and Katerina Siniakova. It's her first QF result since a SF in San Diego last September.

She lost out to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, falling short of a second match-up with Rybakina in just over a week, but her 10-5 start to the season has her back inside the Top 50.


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VETERANS: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS and Victoria Azarenka/BLR
...a year ago, Pavlyuchenkova was ranked #730 (just a week earlier, it was #844) as she slowly made her way back from a 2022 knee injury. Last season saw the veteran Russian reach a tour-level SF (Tokyo) and Roland Garros QF as she finished at #59.

Pavlyuchenkova has been collecting match wins thus far in '24 with a QF in Adelaide and SF in Linz before coming to Doha and reaching her first 1000 SF since 2021 (just her fourth overall). Wins over Dasha Kasatkina, Marta Kostyuk (ret.), Marketa Vondrousova and Danielle Collins (her first in four meetings) put her a win away from her second biggest career final behind her RG runner-up in '21.

It never came, as Pavlyuchenkova fell to the still-chugging Rybakina train in straight sets, but (w/ a 12-5 season mark) she'll climb back into the Top 25 on Monday, her best ranking in nearly two years (May '22).



It was another good week for Azarenka, who improved to 9-3 on the season and continued her mastery of Alona Ostapenko, but it was also another instance of the former #1 hitting a ceiling and crashing out in such a sudden, pessimistic way that one has to strain to not allow *that* moment to outweigh the optimism that came before it.

Azarenka posted wins in Doha over Magdelana Frech, Wang Xiyu and Ostapenko, handing the Latvian her *third* loss of the season (she's 14-0 against everyone else in '24) to remain undefeated in their career series (5-0). After holding a BP for a 5-3 1st set lead vs. Iga Swiatek in the QF (the Pole held for 4-4), Azarenka's level of played dropped after the moment was lost. She seemed to be bothered by some sort of injury, and Swiatek swooped in to take the momentum, winning the 2nd set and not losing another game in a 6-4/6-0 win.

Azarenka's SF-4r(AO)-QF results this season are unquestionably good, with two of her three losses coming against the world's #1 and #2-ranked players. But, then again, Azarenka began *last* year 10-4, only to be nagged by small injuries (she had three walkover/ret. exits in the season's back-half) the rest of the way en route to a 13-15 finish (23-19 overall).


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COMEBACKS: Karolina Pliskova/CZE and Naomi Osaka/JPN
...Iga Swiatek may have won the title in Doha, but a case could be made that no one week's was more impressive than Pliskova's.

Rarely (never?) has the whack-a-doodle (i.e. detrimental if not downright dangerous) WTA scheduling been more apparent than in the week of Pliskova. On Sunday, she won a title (her first in four years) in Romania in a final that began at 7 p.m., and if Ana Bogdan had managed to push things to a 3rd set Pliskova likely would have missed her flight to Doha for Week 7. As it turned out, Pliskova literally had to run to catch her 10 p.m. flight from Cluj to Qatar, a mere eight air-hours away. She arrived at 7 a.m., and was on the court that night at 7:30.

She lost the 1st set to Anna Kalinskaya, and was down love/40 in the first game of the 2nd, but Pliskova rallied to win. She saved 13 of 16 BP in all, and had 19 aces. A day later, she nearly squandered a 6-1/4-1 lead vs. Anastasia Potapova, failed to serve out the match in the 2nd and fell behind 4-2 in the 3rd. Potapova had 3 GP for 5-2, but Pliskova won the last four games to advance.

Finally, with that, she got a well-deserved day off. Ha! I'm kidding. Of course she didn't. This is the WTA -- she was back out on the court a day later, playing for the seventh straight day.

Again, Pliskova fell behind (this time vs. Linda Noskova) by a 6-3/4-2 score. The Czech teen served for the match at 5-4, but Pliskova again turned things around and won in three (her third three-set match in three days in Doha) to reach her first 1000 QF since 2022 (Toronto). She finally got that "break" (well, sort of) when Naomi Osaka came around a day later (match #8 in 8 days). At least Pliskova got off the court in straight sets, coming back from 2-0 down in both and winning a pair of TB to reach her first 1000 SF since 2021 (Montreal).



Don't worry, though, Pliskova didn't have to play a *ninth* match in nine days. Well, she would have had to, but chose not to. With #1 Swiatek waiting for her, Pliskova withdrew with a lower back injury. Of course, if a lower back injury was Pliskova's *only* ailment at that point I suppose she should count herself as lucky.

It'd be a crazy situation if, you know, it wasn't what the tour asked players to do *all the time*. Pliskova just built the rickety tower a bit higher becasue she refused to lose. While her two-week, nine-win run shows that winning can indeed become a sudden habit (Pliskova hadn't won back-to-back matches since last April), it also proves that the WTA tour has little real interest in protecting its players.

Credit to Pliskova for trying to ride the wave, giving her all, and almost pulling it off. Hopefully it won't derail her results for the next month.

In the meantime, she'll be back up to #36 on Monday.

Meanwhile, the more Osaka plays, the more her game and match fitness rounds into shape. After coming to Doha with a 1-3 mark in her post-motherhood comeback, she strung together victoriess over Caroline Garica (her first Top 30 win of the season) and Petra Martic, her first consecutive wins in nearly two years (Miami '22).

A walkover from Lesia Tsurenko put Osaka into her initial QF of the season, where she lost for the second time this year to Karolina Pliskova, dropping a pair of tie-breaks in a two-setter after having held early break leads over the Czech in both sets.

As the winter hard court season hurtles toward the spring, there's still a chance that Osaka might be able to post a deep run in one or both ends of the Sunshine Double events before the long clay/grass stretch that will come immediately after. Once April gets here, if history is any indication, Osaka won't likely be a truly relevant on-court topic of conversation (off-court, who knows?) until the summer HC season and U.S. Open.


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FRESH FACE: Jessica Bouzas Maneiro/ESP
...in Morelia, Mexico, Bouzas Maneiro continued on her hot streak since her unfortunately early exit from AO qualifying (she fell to Ankita Raina in the Q1 after having led 5-3 in the 3rd and holding a MP).

The 21-year old Spaniard posted wins in this week's $50K challenger from a set down over Fernanda Contreras (QF) and Julie Niemeier (SF), then outlasted Hailey Baptiste in the final.

After dropping a 13-11 1st set TB (after trailing 5-1 in the breaker, JMB held a SP at 7-6 before Baptiste won on her 10th SP), Bouzas Maneiro rallied to win the 2nd 6-1. After twice falling down a break in the first half of the 3rd, Bouzas saved 3 MP at 5-4, and a fourth at 6-5 before holding to force a deciding TB. She raced to a 5-0 lead, and won it 7-1.

The win gives Bouzas Maneiro an 11th career ITF crown, six of which have come since May (along with a RU in a career-best $100K final in August). She's already 2-1 in '24 finals, all in her last three events, including a best-so-far $75K crown last month. The Spaniard is 15-3 on the year, 14-1 since the loss to Raina in Melbourne. She'll surge to a new career high of #116 on Monday.

Winning the title on Saturday, Bouzas became the first player this season to win a second challenger title. On Sunday, she was joined by Lucija Ciric Bagaric (CRO) and Cristina Dinu (ROU) as two-time '24 ITF winners.
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DOWN: Ons Jabeur/TUN, Coco Gauff/USA and Caroline Garcia/FRA
...not everyone could live a Pliskovian life in Week 7, as others who arrived in Doha after having been given time to rest (some far more than others) still managed to put in appearances that were only of the cameo variety.

On the heels of her tearful exit at the hands of Beatriz Haddad Maia in Abu Dhabi, Jabeur won just five games in her 2nd Round opener against Lesia Tsurenko (the Ukrainian's first Top 10 win in five years), falling to 2-3 on the season. Jabeur is 5-7 since winning a title in Ningbo last September.

Apparently playing through knee injury, she withdrew from Dubai.

Garcia lost for the third straight time, falling to 5-5 in '24 with a 1st Round loss to Naomi Osaka in Doha. Garcia defeated Osaka in the 1st Round of the Australian Open last month. Since going 3-0 in United Cup action in Week 1, Garcia has gone 2-5 (2-6 with her Sunday exit in Dubai to Ashlyn Krueger).

Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic also lost their 1st Round doubles match in Doha.

Hitting the court for the first time since the AO semifinals, Gauff lost 6-2/6-4 to Katerina Siniakova in her Doha opener. After a 10-0 start to '24, Gauff has lost two straight. It's her first loss to a player ranked outside the Top 10 since Wimbledon (the "last straw" defeat at the hands of Sofia Kenin).
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ITF PLAYER: Julia Avdeeva/RUS
...21-year old Hordette Avdeeva picked up her biggest career title in the $75K in Altenkirchen (GER), cracking the Top 200 for the first time after posting wins over three seeds -- #6 Polina Kudermetova (1r), #3 Marina Bassols Ribera (QF) and #1 Oceane Dodin (SF) -- and then defeating one of the best indoor hard court performers in the sport, Alison Van Uytvanck, in a 6-4/6-4 final under the roof.

Avdeeva lost to Van Uytvanck in a $25K final last October. This is her third career challenger win.


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JUNIOR STARS: Monika Stankiewicz/POL and Antonia Vergara Rivera/CHI
...in Cairo, another Pole-vs.-Kazakh match-up in a big final saw the former emerge victorious.

Poland's Stankiewicz defeated Kazakh Sofja Zhiyenbayeva in the final to claim her second career J300 crown. The 17-year old champ came in ranked at #27 in the junior rankings.

In Lima, Chilean Vergara Rivera (jr #42) won her first J300 crown. The 17-year old (#3 seed) upset #1 Maya Crossley in the semis, then won a three-setter in the final over unseeded 14-year old Brazilian Victoria Luiza Barros (who'd defeated the #4 and #5 seeds).
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DOUBLES: Demi Schuurs/Luisa Stefani, NED/BRA
...ten events into the 2024 season, twenty different women have taken home shares of the year's ten tour-level doubles titles. In Doha, Schuurs & Stefani joined the growing crowd. If you count the AO mixed event, it's *21* different women's champions. At this point last season, two had lifted multiple titles (including Stefani, who'd won two WD and the AO MX).

The pair picked up their first title as a pair, dropping no sets all week while posting a win over top-seeds Hsieh/Mertens (QF) before handling Dolehide/Krawczyk 6-4/6-2 in the final.

Schuurs gets career title #18, but her first 1000 since 2020. She won in Doha (as a 500) three years ago with Nicole Melichar-Martinez, and was a finalist alongside Anna-Lena Groenefeld in 2019. It's WTA win #9 for Stefani.
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WHEELCHAIR: Diede de Groot/NED
...de Groot continued to roll in Rotterdam, winning a Series 1 crown on home soil with a 7-5/7-5 victory in the final over Jiske Griffioen, handing her doubles partner loss #10 in her now 138-match winning streak.

As of the final, 1101 days clear of her most recent loss, De Groot has won the singles title at her last 36 ITF, slam and Paralympic events.



Of course, with the event in the Netherlands, we got Esther Vergeer in the post-match...



De Groot also maintained her undefeated season record in doubles, combining with Griffioen to win their second title of the year with a 6-0/6-4 victory in the final over fellow Dutch duo Lizzy De Greef & Aniek Van Koot. De Groot is 8-0 in doubles this season (w/ one title with Van Koot), giving her a combined 19-0 mark in '24.


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1. Doha Final - Iga Swiatek def. Elena Rybakina
...7-6(8)/6-2. Rybakina led 3-1 in their head-to-head series (3-0 in '23), but this was her and Swiatek's first meeting in a singles final.

The 90-minute 1st set proved to be an adventure for both, especially Rybakina, who held a two-break lead, served for the set at 6-5 and held a SP in the tie-break, but also bloodied her shin with a follow-through swing *and* stepped on her own racket the middle of a point before Swiatek finally converted on her own fourth BP of the breaker.

Playing in windy conditions, the Kazakh had handled the wind and Swiatek early on, building a double-break lead at 4-1. But she hit her shin on the follow-through swing of a serve, drawing blood and precipitating a medical time out at 30/30. Rybakina dropped the next two points, the lost her break lead two games later. Swiatek saved a BP to hold for 5-4, but Rybakina got back her edge on her third BP of game 11. Up 6-5, she couldn't serve out the set.



In the TB, Swiatak took and lost a 4-2 lead, but held double SP at 6-4 after Rybakina lost a point in which she reached low to retrieve a ball and stepped on the frame of her racket, giving her no chance to stay in the rally. But Swiatek failed to convert either SP, nor did Rybakina when she held her own SP at 7-6. Eventually, the world #1 finally took the set at 10-8 on SP #4. It was Swiatek's 22nd consecutive set won in Doha, and Rybakina's third loss in the four TB she's played this season.



Having failed to force Swiatek to play from behind vs. a big-hitting foe in the 1st (the narrative of an Iga match often changes drastically in those circumstances), Rybakina couldn't regain the lead in the 2nd. She didn't convert either of two BP in game 2, then saw Swiatek convert on her fourth of game 3. Too many UE and less-than-stellar serving (54% 1st serve) from Rybakina didn't provide much competition down the stretch (save for some impressive defensive gets to keep a few rallies alive), as the Pole went into Frontrunner mode.



Swiatek broke for a 5-2 lead, then quickly served out the title and her 23rd consecutive set in the event. No other woman has won the Doha event three times, while Swiatek has now done it three years in a row.


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2. Doha 2nd Rd. - Linda Noskova def. Maria Sakkari
...3-6/7-6(2)/7-5. Just call it "Maria's last straw" match, as Sakkari finally parted ways with coach Tom Hill after nearly six years (albeit about two years late) following what was her third straight loss this season. She held a MP at 5-3 in the 2nd.

Noskova, who recorded her fifth career Top 10 win, is the first player this season to win two tour-level MD matches after being MP down (def. Babos in Brisbane).


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3. Doha 2nd Rd. - Katerina Siniakova def. Coco Gauff
...6-2/6-4. Siniakova's ninth Top 10 win, but first since BJK Cup Finals RR play in '22 when she knocked off... hmmm, Coco.

The Czech rallied from 4-0 down in the 2nd set here.


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4. Doha 3rd Rd. - Elena Rybakina def. Emma Navarro
...6-1/6-7(6)/6-4. Like so many of the recent players to make great college-to-WTA transitions, Navarro fights until the end. This time, it nearly paid off against a choppy Rybakina.

Rybakina, who committed 45 UE on the day, led the 2nd set TB 4-0 and held a MP, but was forced to a 3rd, where a late DF when she was serving for the match at 5-4 nearly put things into reverse again. She saved a pair of BP and secured the win.


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5. Doha 3rd Rd. - Victoria Azarenka def. Alona Ostapenko
...6-0/6-3. Ostapenko is 0-3 vs. Azarenka this season, but 14-0 against everyone else. Vika is 5-0 in their career head-to-head.

Clearly, Ostapenko is getting frustrated with the situation, as she tried to pull a hit-and-run (or tap-and-run) at the net rather than shake hands (a devolution from their previous post-match meetings).



Vika was having none of it, and quickly pivoted from *almost* sticking out her arm to shake hands to getting an "are-you-kidding-me?" look on her face when she saw Ostapenko stick out her racket to looking away entirely (with a "well-I'm-not-tapping-rackets-either then" imaginary thought bubble over her head) and pointing toward the chair umpire. And she did it all, quite literally, in mid-stride.

It may have been Vika's most impressive defense-to-offense transition of the entire week.


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6. Doha 2nd Rd. - Lesia Tsurenko def. Ons Jabeur
...6-3/6-2. Tsurenko upsets Jabeur in two quick sets, getting her first Top 10 win (#9) since 2019 (vs. Osaka in the Brisbane SF).



Naturally, Tsurenko being Tsurenko, she failed to post for her *next* match, pulling out with an elbow injury.


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7. Doha 1st Rd. - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Dasha Kasatkina
...6-2/7-6(2). Well, Dasha didn't "die" making the Abu Dhabi-to-Doha transition, but only lasted two sets in her match the day after she lost a Sunday final. She trailed fellow Hordette Pavlyuchenkova 6-2/4-1 before fighting back to make things interesting, leading 6-5 in the 2nd before dropping the TB.
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8. Dubai Q1 - Eva Lys def. Jaqueline Cristian
...3-6/7-6(3)/6-2. You can take the Romanian out of Cluj, but the can't take the Cluj out of-... umm, well, maybe you can.

Cristian was 3-1 in this year's Transylvania Open, but is 2-6 elsewhere this season.
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9. $15K Monastir TUN Final - Tereza Valentova def. Ren Yufei
...6-3/6-2. Another week, another Crusher champion.

Valentova, 16, picks up her maiden pro singles title. She also won the doubles for career WD title #2.


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10. $15K Manacor ESP Final - Rebecca Munk Mortensen def. Natalia Szabanin
...6-4/4-6/7-6(5). The 18-year old Dane (#674) wins her third pro title, rallying from 4-1 down in the 3rd to do it.
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HM- $35K Antalya TUR Final - Cristina Dinu def. Carson Branstine
...6-0/3-0 ret. Thankfully, it doesn't appear as if this is any sort of re-injury of anything for the oft-sidelined Branstine. It just seems like the Canadian's overloaded match schedule through the first two months of '24 finally caught up with her. She's already gone 23-4 in ITF Q/MD matches, including 17-2 in her last 19.

Dinu picks up her second challenger title of the season.
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1. Doha 1st Rd. - Karolina Pliskova def. Anna Kalinskaya 2-6/7-6(3)/6-4
Doha 2nd Rd. - Karolina Pliskova def. Anastasia Potapova 6-1/5-7/6-4
Doha 3rd Rd. - Karolina Pliskova def. Linda Noskova 3-6/7-5/6-1
...Pliskova's wild-and-woolly week in the desert, which began less than 24 hours after picking up a title in Cluj, included three early escapes.

She trailed Kalinskaya 6-2, and love/40 on serve in the opening game of the 2nd. The Czech rallied to hold, saved 13/16 BP on the day and served up 19 aces.

Pliskova led Potapova 6-1/4-1, and had a GP for 5-1. She served for the match at 6-5. But then Potapova forced a 3rd set, where she led 4-2 and held 3 GP for a 5-2 edge. Pliskova swept the final four games.



Against countrywoman Noskova, Pliskova trailed 6-3/4-2 in her seventh match in seven days. Noskova served at 5-4, but again Pliskova swept the closing games and then ran away with the 3rd.
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2. Doha QF - Karolina Pliskova def. Naomi Osaka
...7-6(6)/7-6(5). In her eighth match in eight days, Pliskova overcame an early break deficit in both the 1st and 2nd sets (2-0 in each) to get her second win over Osaka this season, and her ninth straight overall.


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3. Doha SF - Iga Swiatek walkover Karolina Pliskova
...Pliskova finally calls "uncle!" to avoid playing for a *ninth* straight day, going out with a lower back injury (though it was probably a "take your pick" situation).

It's the second walkover she's handed Swiatek since losing that 6-0/6-0 final in Rome to the Pole back in 2021. Pliskova has yet to beat her in three actual matches, though she did force a 3rd set last year in Stuttgart (on indoor clay) and they played a 1st set TB set last summer in Montreal.
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HM- Doha 3rd Rd. - Leylah Fernandez def. Zheng Qinwen
...7-5/6-3. Fernandez went out in the QF to Rybakina in straights (after leading the 1st 4-2), but had a good week with victories over Liudmila Samsonova, Paula Badosa and Zheng.

The Zheng win is the Canadian's sixth career Top 10 victory. *Half* came during her surprise run to the U.S. Open final in 2021, and this was actually Fernandez's *first* career win over a Top 10 player in a *regular* tour event (the previous five included the 3 in NYC, and 2 more in BJK Cup).
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Not really a surprise. Hmm, or is it? Sakkari has seemed to put loyalty and familiarity over on-court results for a while, as this is a long overdue move. So maybe it *is* a surprise.

By the way, the "six great years" that included 125 straight weeks in the Top 10 (another Sakkari run which mercifully, for everyone involved, finally ends on Monday) would seem to mean quite a bit more *should* have been expected when it comes to tangible results.

The pair combined to win just two singles titles separated by more than four years (Sakkari's career high-point came with a Guadalajara 1000 win that saw her defeat #11 Caroline Garcia in the SF, but with her other four wins coming vs. players with an average rank of #126), and along with a career slam year in 2021 (2 SF, but also 1r/2r exits) there were just five total second week runs in 19 slam MD appearances together (going 10-9 as a Top 8 seed since the start of '22, with 3rd Rd.-or-earlier exits in the last eight). With Hill as her coach, Sakkari was 8-21 in SF and 2-6 in finals, including a 1-12 SF/F stretch after winning the '19 Rabat crown.

The bar doesn't seem to be set *too* dauntingly high for whomever comes in next, with a fit, ultra-competitive Top 20 talent (though she'll surely dip back into the Top 10 as soon as others' points fall off and/or injuries crop up... see below) on hand to work with.

And (get this), it's a Greek tennis tragedy for February...



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*RECENT WTA THREE-PEATS*
[singles]
2012-14 U.S. Open - Serena Williams
2012-14 WTA Finals - Serena Williams
2012-14 Stuttgart - Maria Sharapova
2013-15 Miami - Serena Williams
2022-24 Doha - IGA SWIATEK (active)
[doubles]
2012-14 Washington - Shuko Aoyama
2016-18 Linz - Johanna Larsson
2017-19 WTA Finals - Timea Babos
2021-23 Palermo - Kimberley Zimmermann (active)
[mixed]
2019-21 Australian Open - Barbora Krejcikova

*2020-24 WTA SINGLES TITLES*
18 - 1/2/8/6/1 = IGA SWIATEK
9 - 3/2/0/3/1 = Aryna Sabalenka
8 - 1/5/2 = Ash Barty (ret.)
7 - 0/3/2/2/0 = Barbora Krejcikova
6 - 0/1/0/4/1 = Coco Gauff
6 - 1/0/1/2/2 = Elena Rybakina
[2020-24 - hard court]
10 - IGA SWIATEK (0/1/5/3/1)
7 - Aryna Sabalenka (3/1/0/2/1)
6 - Ash Barty (1/3/2 ret)
5 - Anett Kontaveit (0/4/1/0 ret)
5 - Barbora Krejcikova (0/1/2/2/0)
4 - Coco Gauff (0/0/0/3/1)
4 - Dasha Kasatkina (0/2/2/0/0)
4 - Elena Rybakina (1/0/0/1/2)


*MOST WTA FINALS - 2020-24*
21 - 1/2/9/8/1 = SWIATEK (18-3)
17 - 3/3/3/6/2 = Sabalenka (9-8)
15 - 5/0/3/4/3 = RYBAKINA (6-9)
12 - 1/7/4/0 ret...Kontaveit (5-6-1)
12 - 0/3/6/3/0 = Jabeur (5-7)
11 - 0/4/3/4/0 = Krejcikova (7-4)
10 - 0/4/2/2/2 = KASATKINA (4-6)

*MOST TITLES WON W/O DROPPING A SET - 2020s*
8 - IGA SWIATEK, POL (2024:1)
3 - Coco Gauff, USA (2024:1)
2 - Ash Barty, AUS
2 - Anett Kontaveit, EST
2 - Bernarda Pera, USA
2 - Aryna Sabalenka, BLR (2024:1)
2 - Liudmila Samsonova, RUS

*SWIATEK vs. RYBAKINA*
2021 Ostrava!!! QF (hci) - Swiatek 7-6(5)/6-2
2023 Australian Open 4r (hc) - Rybakina 6-4/6-4
2023 Indian Wells SF (hc) - Rybakina 6-2/6-2
2023 Rome QF (rc) - Rybakina 2-6/7-6(3)/2-2 ret.
2024 Doha F (hc) - Swiatek 7-6(8)/6-2

*2020s REPEAT WTA WS CHAMPS*
[2020]
Karolina Pliskova - Brisbane
Kiki Bertens - Saint Petersburg
[2021]
Ash Barty - Miami
[2022]
Leylah Fernandez - Monterrey
Iga Swiatek - Rome
[2023]
Iga Swiatek - Doha
Tatjana Maria - Bogota
Iga Swiatek - Stuttgart
Iga Swiatek - Roland Garros
Ekaterina Alexandrova - Nottingham
Elise Mertens - Monastir
[2024]
Coco Gauff - Auckland
Aryna Sabalenka - Australian Open
Iga Swiatek - Doha

*CAREER WTA TITLES - active*
49 - Venus Williams
31 - Petra Kvitova
30 - Caroline Wozniacki
24 - Simona Halep
21 - Victoria Azarenka
18 - IGA SWIATEK
17 - Karolina Pliskova
17 - Elina Svitolina
14 - Aryna Sabaleka
14 - Angelique Kerber

*STATUS OF WTA (OFFICIAL) COACH OF THE YEAR WINNERS*
2018 Sascha Bajin (Osaka)...fired in 2019
2019 Craig Tyzzer (Barty)...Barty retired early 2022
2020 Piotr Sierzputowski (Swiatek)...replaced to start 2022
2021 Conchita Martinez (Muguruza)...ended partnershp in late 2023
2022 David Witt (Pegula)...fired early 2024
2023 Tomasz Wiktorowski (Swiatek)...active partnership

*2020-24 WTA DOUBLES TITLES*
16 - Katerina Siniakova (1/6/6/3/0)
13 - Barbora Krejcikova (1/5/3/4/0)
10 - Elise Mertens (1/4/2/2/1)
9 - Hsieh Su-wei (4/2/0/2/1)
9 - Laura Siegemund (1/0/3/5/0)
8 - Shuko Aoyama (1/5/0/2/0)
8 - Desirae Krawczyk (2/2/1/3/0)
8 - DEMI SCHUURS (2/2/1/2/1)
8 - Ena Shibahara (1/5/0/2/0)
8 - LUISA STEFANI (1/1/2/3/1)
7 - Jessie Pegula (0/0/5/2/0)
7 - Vera Zvonareva (1/0/2/4/0)

*2024 TOP JUNIOR EVENT CHAMPIONS*
TRARALGON AUS J300: Emerson Jones/AUS
AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Renata Jamrichova/SVK
SAN JOSE CRC (COFFEE BOWL) J300: Shannon Lam/USA
BARRANQUILLA COL J300: Jeline Vandromme/BEL
CAIRO, EGY J300: Monika Stankiewicz/POL
LIMA, PER J300 (INKA BOWL): Antonia Vergara Rivera/CHI





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This was *way cool* when I posted it last year, and it still is.




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All for now.

Read more...

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Wk.6- Rybakina Pops More Buttons

Like magic...







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*WEEK 6 CHAMPIONS*
ABU DHBAI, UAE (WTA 500/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Elena Rybakina/KAZ def. Dasha Kasatkina/RUS 6-1/6-4
D: Sofia Kenin/Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA/USA) def. Linda Noskova/Heather Watson (CZE/GBR) 6-4/7-6(4)
CLUJ-NAPOCA, ROMANIA (WTA 250/Hard Court Indoor)
S: Karolina Pliskova/CZE def. Ana Bogdan/ROU 6-4/6-3
D: Caty McNally/Asia Muhammad (USA/USA) def. Harriet Dart/Tereza Mihalikova (GBR/SVK) 6-3/6-4
MUMBAI, INDIA (WTA 125 Challenger/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Darja Semenistaja/LAT def. Storm Hunter/AUS 5-7/7-6(6)/6-2
D: Dalila Jakupovic/Sabrina Santamaria (SLO/USA) def. Arianne Hartono/Prarthana Thombare (NED/IND) 6-4/6-3




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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Elena Rybakina/KAZ
...button-down no more (at least when it comes to lifting titles), Rybakina kept pace in Abu Dhabi not only with the likes of 2024's *first* two-time champ (Alona Ostapenko) but also her *own* early-season self.

After opening '24 with a Brisbane title and 6-match winning streak, Rybakina had lost twice in her last three outings (including in that 42-point TB at the AO) when she arrived in Abu Dhabi. Given a 1st Round bye, but little in the form of "a good hand" after that, she nonetheless pounded her way to her second title of the season and seventh of her WTA career.

After dropping the 1st set in her opener vs. the dangerous Danielle Collins, Rybakina lost just six total games in the final two sets. After a win over Cristina Bucsa, she ousted Liudmila Samsonova (who led their head-to-head 4-0) in another three-setter to reach the final, the 16th of her WTA career (*half* of which have come in Jan./Feb. events, and 10 in tournaments that kicked off in a season's first three months).

Only Elena's good friend Dasha Kastakina stood between her and another title, but the Russian had had a glorious week-long run in the desert and was knotted at 2-2 (w/ three 3-setters) in their career series.

It was perhaps here that Rybakina got a bit of a break, as Kasatkina had played a long SF a day earlier, and that likely prevented her from bringing *all* of the game she'd shown in the previous rounds along with her to the final. Rybakina won 6-1/6-4, wrapping things up just in time for both to race off to Doha and pretty much immediately be forced into action there (in Kasatkina's case, on Monday).

While there is no marketing plan for the WTA tour, there -- as always -- also remains little real effort to give its athletes a physical break on a week-to-week basis, either. But I guess we've all come to expect that, on both fronts, after so many years of frustration, right?

Rybakina will move past Jessie Pegula and back to her more-rightful #4 slot in the rankings on Monday.


===============================================



RISERS: Dasha Kasatkina/RUS, Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA and Ana Bogdan/ROU
...in many respects, Kasatkina had one of the best, most masterful weeks of her career in Abu Dhabi, serving well, controlling rallies, winning big points and taking one marathon match vs. a big-hitting opponent who has often specialized in winning just those type of long affairs. But, in the end, she still came up just short.

Kasatkina's run, which ended in her 15th career tour final (second in a 500 event already in '24), included victories over Diane Parry, Ashlyn Krueger, Sorana Cirstea (allowing just 2 games in a brilliant display) and Beatriz Haddad Maia (an exhausting, three-hour drama that had both leaning on each other at the net when it was over). But after playing some of her best tennis ever all week, Kasatkina simply could not take down the tall tree that was Elena Rybakina, who won 1 & 4 to drop Kasatkina to 0-4 in four 500 finals (all lost in straights) since the start of last season.



Not to be deterred, Kasatkina vowed to use her disappointment as fuel for the rest of '24.



Haddad Maia had quite the eventful week in Abu Dhabi, as well, matching her '23 final four run by posting her biggest SF result since playing in her maiden slam semi last spring in Paris (she'd since won the second-tier season-ending Elite Trophy crown).

Wins over Wang Xiyu and Magda Linette (at 3:42, the longest match on tour so far in '24) preceded the Brazilian's tenth career Top 10 victory over Ons Jabeur (who was in tears late, whether it be because of injury, frustration or both). Haddad Maia finally lost in what was another marathon in a fine battle against Dasha Kasatkina in the semis that left both players exhausted, but only allowed one to advance.



The win over Linette was Haddad Maia's fourth match of 3:30 or longer the last two seasons, including 2023's longest (3:51 vs. Sorribes Tormo at RG).



Save for one year (2022), the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca has been blessed to have native daughters putting on great week-long runs in the event. In three of its four editions, including this second staging of the event in just four months, a Romanian has reached the singles final. In this case, it was Bogdan, who played into the second tour final of her career (w/ '22 Warsaw).

Sporting an eye-catching leopard print top (someone had to make up for Jaqueline Cristian's continued noncompliance with the "costume code"), Bogdan (a '23 quarterfinalist) hit her way into the final with wins over Alycia Parks, Erika Andreeva, Arantxa Rus (she was two points from defeat four times in the 3:28 battle) and the aforementioned Cristian to reach the final. In a (recently) rare all-thirtysomething final, Bogdan (31) led Karolina Pliskova (31) by a 3-0 score in the 1st, but the Czech moved to where the Romanian couldn't follow and won her first tour title in three and a half years in straight sets.


===============================================
SURPRISES: Harriet Dart/GBR and Cristina Bucsa/ESP
...another good week for Dart, who had already reached her biggest career singles final last month in a WTA 125 in Canberra. In Cluj, the 27-year old Brit qualified, then posted MD wins over Anna Bondar and Elisabetta Cocciaretto, winning the latter from a set and double-break (twice) down. A win over Nuria Parrizas Diaz, who'd beaten her in the Canberra final, put Dart into her first career tour-level semi. She'd been 0-5 in WTA quarterfinals.

Dart fell in the SF to Karolina Pliskova, but will return to the Top 100 on Monday.



Dart also had a shot at her first tour-level WD title in the Transylvania event, but she and Tereza Mihalikova fell in straight sets in the final (Dart's third at the WTA level) to Caty McNally/Asia Muhammad. Dart won her biggest WD title along side Muhammad in a 125 challenger in '21.

In Abu Dhabi, Bucsa became the second lucky loser to play into the QF this season (Hobart/Viktoriya Tomova) after three won titles in 2023.

The Spaniard lost in qualifying to Linda Noskova, but got into the 1st Round as a "double replacement" after the MD withdrawals of Jasmine Paolini and then Zhu Lin. She posted wins over Wang Xinyu and Heather Watson before falling to Elena Rybakina.



Since she played so late in the week, though, Bucsa had to withdraw from this week's Doha qualifying, as she'd been scheduled to play her first match there just a handful of hours after her match with Rybakina.
===============================================



VETERANS: Karolina Pliskova/CZE, Sorana Cirstea/ROU and Storm Hunter/AUS
...maybe Pliskova *does* have another good run in her.

The veteran Czech came into the week ranked as low as she'd been in a decade, having lost in the 1st Round in three of the last four majors (and the 2r in the other), having not played in a singles final since 2021 (Toronto) nor won a title since taking the pre-pandemic crown in Brisbane back in 2020. She was just 1-3 on the season, with her only win coming in her Week 1 opener in a three-set win over Naomi Osaka (Osaka's only three-setter thus far in '24).

All that changed in Cluj-Napoca.

There, the former world #1 and slam finalist ran off wins over Sinja Kraus, Camila Osorio, Sara Erani and Harriet Dart to reach her 33rd career tour final in the Transylvania Open 250 event, the site of her smallest final since 2018. Career win #17 (nudging her over .500 in WTA finals) came after rallying from 0-3 down in the 1st vs. crowd favorite Ana Bogdan and winning in straight sets, claiming the event without dropping a set.

At 31, Pliskova is so far the oldest and (at #78) the second-lowest ranked champion of the nine WTA singles champs crowned so far in 2024. She'll be at #59 on Monday.



Along with several others in Week 6, Cirstea finally sunk her teeth into the '24 season by getting on the board with a few wins.

In Abu Dhabi, the 33-year old Romanian put her 0-3 season mark behind her -- after a trio of three-set defeats -- with nice victories over Caroline Garcia (almost Top 20) and #9 Maria Sakkari, her 20th career Top 10 victory. She fell to Dasha Kasatkina in the QF, but she'll bump up four spots to #22.



Cirstea has another shot to finally make her Top 20 debut, or at least match her career high, after having been at #21 in 2013-14. She'll be just 246 points behind #21 Garcia on Monday, and a bit more away from #20 Elina Svitolina. Both Cirstea (1r/2r) and Garcia (2r/1r) had similar results last year in Doha and Dubai, and neither are defending much. Garcia opens vs. Naomi Osaka, while Cirstea has already defeated Sloane Stephens in a Sunday 1st Rounder (Iga will be up next in the 2nd).



Hunter ended '23 as the WTA's doubles #1, but '24 has been more about her singles.

The 29-year old qualified at the Australian Open and reached her first slam 3rd Round, and in this week's WTA 125 in Mumbai, India she reached the biggest final of her career (her previous best was a win in $60K events in 2019 and '23).

After getting past Fanny Stollar, Laura Pigossi and Katie Volynets, things didn't end the way Hunter wanted vs. Darja Semenistaja in the final. The Aussie served for a straight sets win, and held a MP in a 2nd set TB, but ultimately lost to the Latvian in three. Still, Hunter is 8-2 in singles on the season (she's just 4-1 in WD, where she's ranked #3), and will jump 24 spots to #126. Her career-high is #119 in 2021.

India's Prarthana Thombare reached the doubles final, as well.
===============================================
COMEBACKS: Anastasija Sevastova/LAT and Liudmila Samsonova/RUS
...in Cluj, Sevastova appeared in a WTA MD match for the first time since the 2022 Australian Open, exiting to become a first-time mom before returning to action late last fall (going 4-2 in ITF challengers, including a win over future AO semifinalist Dayana Yastremska). She played all the way into the QF, her first since Eastbourne in '21.

The Latvian recorded wins over Andreea Mitu and Elina Avanesyan before going out to Romanian Jaqueline Cristian. She'll rise from #656 to #482 in the new rankings.



Samsonova came into Abu Dhabi still looking for her first win of the season in Week 6, being 0-3 w/ 1st Rd. losses to Mirra Andreeva, Laura Siegemund and Amanda Anisimova.

A year after reaching the tournament final, the Hordette found her footing by stringing together three wins in the U.A.E., allowing just one game vs. Lesia Tsurenko, four to Anhelina Kalinina and then out-hiting Barbora Krejcikova to reach her first SF since defeating Elena Rybakina in the Beijing final four last October.

Waiting for her there was, naturally, Rybakina once again. Despite holding a 4-0 edge in their head-to-head, Samsonova dropped the opening set vs. the Kazakh at love, then fell in three after rallying to take the 2nd.


===============================================



FRESH FACE: Darja Semenistaja/LAT
...it's been a pretty good two weeks for Latvian women's tennis. Alona Ostapenko won in Linz, Anastasija Sevastova returned to the WTA for the first time in two years this week in Romania, and Semenistaja claimed her biggest singles title yet, picking up steam as she continues a lower-level run that is becoming more and more serious.

The 21-year old -- at #121, the *other* Latvian who entered the week in the Top 200 -- claimed a WTA 125 crown in Mumbai, India on Sunday, posting wins over Panna Udvardy, Amandine Hesse, Polina Kudermetova, Arianne Hartono and Storm Hunter in a three-set final. Hunter had served for the match in the 2nd set, and held a MP in the TB, before Semenistaja forced a 3rd and won it 6-2.

The win improves Semenistaja's pro singles final record to 16-1 (15-1 ITF, including four wins in '23 and one last month), with all of the finals having been played since the summer of 2021. She's 15-4 on the season so far.

With Ostapenko flying high, Sevastova back and Semenistaja rising, might a legit comeback by the Latvian BJK Cup team be on the horizon? Ostapenko and Sevastova used to form a great one-two punch, and having a true *#3* on the squad could be quite beneficial. With Sevastova's absence, Latvia fell back down into Europe/Africa zone play.

Semenistaja will climb to #112 on Monday as she angles to become the other Latvian in the Top *100* by the time spring gets here. She'll only be 75 points behind Monday's #100, Camila Osorio.


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DOWN: Maria Sakkari/GRE and Veronika Kudermetova/RUS
...in lieu of bonking the Transylvania Open's social media team for a *second* straight season, or the WTA (again) for *this* time seeing the ATP completely lap the women's tour's marketing efforts of the entire 2020s (and a bit earlier) with a single five-minute video, I'll go with these two.

Sakkari ended 2023 on a five-match losing streak, including going 0-3 in the Tennis Gods-forsaken WTA Finals Cancun. The Greek was just 4-6 after winning her first title in four and a half years in the Guadalajara event in September. She opened '24 by going 3-0 in the United Cup "fake" event last month (Iga went 5-0, then lost in the AO 3rd Round, so...), but was ousted in the 2nd Round in Melbourne by Elina Avanesyan.

In her first action since that early loss -- which came after three straight 1st Rd. exits to close out the '23 slam season -- Sakkari recorded just three games in a 2 & 1 defeat at the hands of Sorana Cirstea, continuing the backslide-or-run-in-place pattern that has characterized the vast majority of her results over the last few seasons.



Still, Sakkari will appear in the Top 10 on Monday for the 125th consecutive week, the second-longest streak on tour behind only Aryna Sabalenka (169, though with two major titles, a slam RU and five other semis, plus a run in the #1 ranking and 9 additional tour crowns in *her* stretch, as opposed to the lone title and a pair of slam semis three years ago during that of Sakkari). Since that two-slam SF season in '21, Sakkari has gone 10-9 in majors (Sabalenka is 40-6 over the same span).

While Jessie Pegula surprisingly parted ways this week with coach David Witt, who has helped guide her to a consistent Top 5 presence (though coming up short at slam time), Sakkari continues on her long run with Tom Hill despite her career freeze-frame status.

Also in Abu Dhabi, while countrywoman Liudmila Samsonova finally got her '24 season pointed in the right direction with a SF result, Kudermetova failed to break out of her early season rut.

Arriving at 2-3 on the season, with an AO 1st Rd. loss, the Hordette fell in the 1st Round to Heather Watson. Since she won a title in Tokyo last October (her first since '21), Kuderemetova has gone 4-7.

Oops, make that 4-8, as she's already out of Week 7 Doha courtesy of a 1st Round loss to Danielle Collins.
===============================================



ITF PLAYER: Rebecca Marino/CAN
...the 33-year old Marino is back in the winner's circle, dropping just one set en route to her biggest singles title ever in her biggest final appearance in 13 years. The Canadian's title run in the $100K challenger in Irapuato, Mexico comes 13 years after her runner-up result in her lone tour-level final in Memphis back in 2011.

Marino soundly handled Jule Niemeier 6-1/6-2 in the final, though the young German completed a second straight good week (combined 7-4) after qualifying and reaching the 2nd Round in tour-level Linz last week and this week winning a trio of three-setters (including a 3rd set TB vs. Whitney Osuigwe in the SF) to reach her biggest final since winning a WTA 125 crown in the summer of '22 (just weeks before her Wimbledon QF).
===============================================
JUNIOR STARS: Maya Joint/AUS and Laura Samson/CZE
...while it wasn't "A Spike Lee Joint," a Maya Joint joint broke out in Burnie, Australia this week, as she joined Jannik Sinner as the latest redhead to step into a Down Under winner's circle.

The 17-year old became the youngest Aussie to win the $75K challenger event, defeating 19-year old Aoi Ito from Japan in a 1-6/6-1/7-5 final to pick up her maiden pro singles title.

It's been quite a few months for the wonderfully-named junior, who last September claimed her first J300 crown (in Houston), announced her NCAA commitment to the Texas Longhorns tennis program (we won't hold that against her, or do the "Horns Down!" thing... well, at least not "in print") in November, won her first pro WD title that same month, and then entered the girls' Top 20 rankings just last month.

Joint will jump 113 spots to #333 in the pro rankings.



Meanwhile, 15-year old Samson (who for some reason seems to have decided against using the 'ova-ized version of her name, a move which at the very least might allow her to avoid all those "are you related to Liudmila?" questions down the line) kept up the, "Another week, another Crusher title" era on the ITF circuit.

The Czech picked up her maiden pro title in her first pro final in the $15K in Monastir, Tunisia, defeating German Selina Dal 6-1/6-3 to take the crown.


===============================================
DOUBLES: Sofia Kenin/Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA/USA
...playing together for the first time in almost three years, Kenin & Mattek-Sands claimed their second title together with a run in Abu Dhabi.

Of course, "run" is debatable, considering the pair received walkovers in both the QF *and* SF (their final opponents got a SF pass, too), but they did defeat Linda Noskova & Heather Watson in straight sets in the final to get the crown, adding it to a title they won together in Beijing in 2019 (a few months *before* Kenin's AO singles win).

Kenin improves to 3-0 in career tour WD finals, while Mattek-Sands is now 29-18 over her long, often injury-interrupted time on tour. A previous '24 finalist in Auckland, the veteran's win makes her the oldest title winner on tour this season. Two-time AO title winner Hsieh Su-wei had just turned 38 when she won the WD/MX in Melbourne, while Mattek-Sands will turn 39 next month.


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1. Abu Dhabi Final - Elena Rybakina def. Dasha Kasatkina
...6-1/6-4. Kasatkina expressed frustration during the AO when Australian TV showed her a Zverev night session match rather than one featuring Rybakina, who'd been playing at the same time. In Abu Dhabi, she got a close-up look at the Kazakh's game.

After barely making it through her semifinal, and surely not 100% ready to truly challenge Rybakina so soon afterward, Kasatkina probably would have felt more comfortable watching it from the hotel room, though.

Kasatkina barely gets time to breathe, and will be playing in Doha on Monday. Even before she'd played this final, the Hordette had pointed out how the packed-together tour/event scheduling of matches doesn't exactly allow the players to be able to present their best selves at every stop (well, as usual, she was a little more blunt about it).



Meanwhile, Elena didn't call out any clown cars, but also did her part (w/ a smile) to point out the situation.


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2. Cluj 2nd Rd. - Harriet Dart def. Elisabetta Cocciaretto
...5-7/7-5/6-3. Down 7-5 and a double-break in the 2nd set -- on two different occasions, at both 3-0 *and* 4-2 -- Dart rallies for the win. She saved a pair of BP in game 3 of the 3rd, then broke the Italian at love in game 4. The two exchanged breaks late, then Dart finally served out the match (saving a BP) at 6-3.

Add this match to a lengthening list of missed opportunities for Cocciaretto in '24, as she'd already lost a pair of matches this season (in Hobart and Linz) in which she'd held a MP.
===============================================



3. Abu Dhabi SF - Dasha Kasatkina def. Beatriz Haddad Maia
...6-3/4-6/7-6(2). en route to her other '24 final in Adelaide, Kasatkina coasted to the final match on the back of consecutive walkovers in the QF/SF. She made up for it here, winning an exhausting three-hour battle with the Brazilian.


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4. Cluj 1st Rd. - Jaqueline Cristian def. Marina Bassols Ribera
...6-3/6-2. Once again, as she did last year, Cristian eschews a caped entrance into the arena, following the lead of the Transylvania tournament, which has now fully lost the narrative of what made it a unique and fun entity a few seasons ago, rather than just an event with a unique color scheme and nice fan support.

Unlike last year, even after the win, Cristian didn't pull the cape out of the bag, either.



Turned out, it was right on brand for the WTA's unofficial "(Lack of) Marketing Week."
===============================================
5. Cluj QF - Ana Bogdan def. Arantxa Rus
...3-6/7-6(6)/7-6(5). Bogdan, two points from the loss four times, surges late in both TB (from 6-6 and 5-5, respectively) to get the win in 3:28 to become the fourth different Romanian to reach the singles semis in the four-year existence of the event.


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6. Mumbai 125 Final - Darja Semenistaja def. Storm Hunter
...5-7/7-6(6)/6-2. Two weeks, two big runs by Latvians.

While Alona Ostapenko's came at the tour-level Linz event, Semenistaja's comes in a 125 challenger. It's still the biggest title of her career, despite seeing Hunter serve for the match in the 2nd set and hold a MP in the TB.
===============================================
7. Cluj SF - Ana Bogdan def. Jaqueline Cristian
...6-3/3-6/6-4. After consecutive years with all-nation semis in the event (RUS in '22, GER in '23), Bogdan wins the first all-ROU semifinal in Cluj, joining Simona Halep (2021) and Gabriela Ruse (2023) as home-grown singles finalists in Transylvania.

Maybe if Cristian had brought her cape?
===============================================
8. Cluj 1st Rd. - Ana Bogdan def. Alycia Parks
...7-5/7-5. With Cristian going the "plain" route, a nod to Bogdan for dressing up the place from her opening match forward.

Meanwhile, after going 22-5 indoors (and winning a tour title in Lyon last year) from 2020-23, Parks is 0-2 under the roof this season.


===============================================
7. Cluj 1st Rd. - Anastasija Sevastova def. Andreea Mitu
...6-2/6-3. Sevastova's first WTA MD match since the '22 Australian Open, after which she had a baby that December.

Her nearly two-year absence was the second extended leave of her career, as Sevastova previously retired from May 2013 until January '15.


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10. Mumbai 125 1st Rd. - Sahaja Yamalapalli def. Kayla Day 6-4/1-6/6-4
Mumbai 125 1st Rd. - Shrivalli Rashmikaa Bhamidipaty def. Nao Hibino 2-6/6-1/7-6(5)
...good morning, Mumbai.

The week's 125 event began with big upsets by Indian wild card Yamalapalli (#336 over #1-seeded Day) and qualifier Bhamidipaty (#520 over #2 seed Hibino).



Mumbai 125 2nd Rd. - Polina Kudermetova def. Sahaja Yamalapalli 1-6/6-3/7-5
Mumbai 125 2nd Rd. - Alina Korneeva def. Shrivalli Rashmikaa Bhamidipaty 5-7/6-4/6-4
...the two didn't just go away quietly in their follow-up matches, either. Both pushed their Russian opponents to tight 3rd sets before finally going out.

Another Indian WC, Rutuja Bhosale, also posted a 1st Round win. She pushed #8 Katie Volynets to three sets in the 2nd Round after dropping a 10-8 1st set TB.
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11. Cluj Final - Caty McNally/Asia Muhammad def. Harriet Dart/Tereza Mihalikova
...6-3/6-4. McNally wins her eighth tour title with a sixth different partner, while Muhammad gets #9 with a seventh different player by her side.

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12. Abu Dhabi 1st Rd. - Liudmila Samsonova def. Lesia Tsurenko
...6-0/6-1. Samsonova gets her maiden '24 win, while Tsurenko loses her second straight match by a frigthening scoreline. In her previous outing, she'd lost 6-0/6-0 to Aryna Sabalenka at the Australian Open.

Tsurenko got on the board again on Sunday in Doha, defeating Turkey's Zeynep Sonmez 7-5/6-3 in the 1st Round.
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13. Abu Dhabi 2nd Rd. - Sorana Cirstea def. Maria Sakkari
...6-2/6-1. Cirstea how has 20 Top 10 wins (per an original WTA tweet) in her career (though her Wikipedia page list would make this #21), but such results haven't consistenly flowed from the Romanian's racket.

Per the Wikipedia list, Cirstea had 13 from 2008-13, but then just *three* from 2014-22. Over the past year (since I.W.) she's had *five*.
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14. $100K Irapuato MEX 1st Rd. - Marina Melnikova def. Anna Gabric 6-7(8)/7-6(5)/6-2
...6-3/6-2. It. Is. Never. Over.

Gabric led 7-6/5-0. She never had a MP.


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1. Cluj Final - Karolina Pliskova def. Ana Bogdan
...6-4/6-3. In three years out of four, the Cluj event has seen a Romanian reach the singles final. With Bogdan's loss, they've so far gone 0-3.

The home contingent (so far) only has Irina Bara's doubles crown in the inaugural '21 edition to show for their often-stunningly good efforts.

Maybe you-know-who could change the Romanians' title luck in Transylvania. But, of course, her fate is still not in her hands.
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2. Abu Dhabi 1st Rd. - Danielle Collins def. Naomi Osaka
...7-5/6-0. Qualifier Collins sweeps the final 9 games, dropping Osaka to 1-3 on the season in her comeback (her previous losses came vs. Pliskova and Garcia, the latter being whom she'll also play in the Doha 1st Rd.).

Collins lost in the 2nd Round to Elena Rybakina, then qualified once again this weekend in Doha, defeating Kimberly Birrell (3rd set TB) and Laura Siegemund to pick up her fourth and fifth match wins in about a week's time.

Collins picked up a sixth in early action on Sunday in Doha, knocking off #13-seeded Veronika Kudermetova in straights in the 1st Round.
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3. $35K Wesley Chapel USA SF - Sophie Chang def. Lia Karatantcheva
...6-1/6-0. Lia -- 20-year old sister of Sesil -- reaches her first pro singles SF, after getting wins over Grace Min and Katrina Scott. She's ranked #525.

Sesil, 34, played as recently as last year's U.S. Open qualifying after having returned to the court last season for the first time since 2019. She fell in the opening round to Arianne Hartono, her sixth straight loss in what was a 1-8 season. Going back to '19, she's gone 1-13 in her last 14 pro matches.

Their other tennis-playing sister, Gabriel (now 23, and not "Gabriela"), last played a pro match in 2017. She's currently a part of the D2 college tennis team at Francis Marion in South Carolina.
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HM- Doha 1st Rd. - Erika Andreeva def. Diana Shnaider
...7-6(2)/6-4. A big win for the *older* of the Sisters Andreeva, knocking off Hua Hin champ Shnaider for her second career win in a 1000 event (w/ Miami '23).
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Meanwhile...



Imagine if people in charge of things were this persistent about issues that were of great importance.

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I talked about the ATP's dropping of the first part of a new marketing campaign here. Needless to say, I enjoyed it... almost as much as stepping on and all over the WTA's own years-long (lack of) marketing effort and/or incompetence/disinterest in that area.



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This sounds a bit ridiculous. So Monfils gets punishes for a playful accident, where seemingly *both* were involved, while the head honcho bears *no* responsibility? "Rules are rules," but this doesn't sound anything like Djokovic firing a ball that accidentally hits someone or anything such as that.



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Hmmm, did he retweet something about Buffalo choking in the playoffs yet again? (Gratuitous Buffalo Bills shot #56, appropriately coming on Super Bowl Sunday, no less.)

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*2024 WTA SINGLES TITLES*
2 - Alona Ostapenko = Adelaide 500/Linz 500
2 - ELENA RYBAKINA = Brisbane 500/Abu Dhabi 500
[2020-24]
17 - 1/2/8/6/0 = Iga Swiatek
9 - 3/2/0/3/1 = Aryna Sabalenka
8 - 1/5/2 = Ash Barty (ret.)
7 - 0/3/2/2/0 = Barbora Krejcikova
6 - 0/1/0/4/1 = Coco Gauff
6 - 1/0/1/2/2 = ELENA RYBAKINA

*MOST WTA FINALS in 2024*
2 - Alona Ostapenko (2-0)
2 - ELENA RYBAKINA (2-0)
2 - Aryna Sabalenka (1-1)
2 - DASHA KASATKINA (0-2)
[2020-24]
20 - 1/2/9/8/0 = Swiatek (17-3)
17 - 3/3/3/6/2 = Sabalenka (9-8)
14 - 5/0/3/4/2 = RYBAKINA (6-8)
12 - 1/7/4/0 ret...Kontaveit (5-6-1)
12 - 0/3/6/3/0 = Jabeur (5-7)
11 - 0/4/3/4/0 = Krejcikova (7-4)
10 - 0/4/2/2/2 = KASATKINA (4-6)

*TWO 30+ PLAYERS IN WTA FINAL - 2014-14*
2014 Miami - S.Williams (32) d. Li (32)
2014 Quebec City - Lucic-B.(32) d. V.Williams (34)
2015 U.S. Open - Pennetta (33) d. Vinci (32)
2016 none
2017 Aust.Open - S.Williams (35) d. V.Williams (36)
2017 Ind.Wells - Vesnina (30) d. Kuznetsova (31)
2018 Wimbledon - Kerber (30) d. S.Williams (36)
2019 none
2020 none
2021 Nottingham - Konta (30) d. S.Zhang (32)
2022 none
2023 none
2024 Cluj-Napoca - Pliskova(31) d. Bogdan(31)

*MOST 2024 WTA TITLES w/o LOSING A SET*
1 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA (Cluj-Napoca)
1 - Elena Rybakina (Brisbane)
1 - Aryna Sabalenka (Australian Open)

*BEST CLUJ-NAPOCA RESULTS BY ROMANIANS*
2021: (RU) Halep; (QF) Cristian
2022: (best 2r: Ruse)
2023: (RU) Ruse, (QF) Bogdan
2024: (RU) Bogdan, (SF) Cristian

*2024 LOW-RANKED SEMIFINALISTS - #100+*
#195 Dasha Saville (Hobart)
#108 Diana Shnaider (Hua Hin)-W
#103 HARRIET DART (Cluj-Napoca)

*CAREER WTA TITLES - active*
49 - Venus Williams
31 - Petra Kvitova
30 - Caroline Wozniacki
24 - Simona Halep
21 - Victoria Azarenka
17 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA
17 - Elina Svitolina
17 - Iga Swiatek
14 - Aryna Sabaleka
14 - Angelique Kerber
[FINALS]
83 - Venus Williams (49-34)
55 - Caroline Wozniacki (30-25)
42 - Petra Kvitova (31-11)
42 - Simona Halep (24-18)
41 - Victoria Azarenka (21-20)
33 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA (17-16)
31 - Angelique Kerber (14-18)
30 - Vera Zvonareva (12-18)

*CAREER WTA HARD COURT TITLES - active*
31 - Venus Williams
24 - Caroline Wozniacki
20 - Victoria Azarenka
20 - Petra Kvitova
13 - Simona Halep
12 - Aryna Sabalenka
11 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA
11 - Elina Svitolina
10 - Iga Swiatek
[2020-24 - overall]
9 - Iga Swiatek (0/1/5/3/0)
7 - Aryna Sabalenka (3/1/0/2/1)
6 - Ash Barty (1/3/2 ret)
5 - Anett Kontaveit (0/4/1/0 ret)
5 - Barbora Krejcikova (0/1/2/2/0)
4 - Coco Gauff (0/0/0/3/1)
4 - Dasha Kasatkina (0/2/2/0/0)
4 - ELENA RYBAKINA (1/0/0/1/2)

*CAREER WTA TITLES*
[CZE - active]
31 - Petra Kvitova
17 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA
7 - Barbora Krejcikova
5 - Katerina Siniakova
[KAZ - all-time]
7 - ELENA RYBAKINA
2 - Yulia Putintseva
1 - Zarina Diyas
1 - Elena Likhovtseva (later RUS)
-
NOTE: Yaroslava Shvedova 1 as RUS; 0-1 in finals as KAZ
NOTE: Ksenia Pervak 1 as RUS; never in final as KAZ

*2024 WTA CHAMPIONS BY RANKING*
#2 - Aryna Sabalenka (Australian Open)
#3 - Coco Gauff (Auckland)
#4 - Elena Rybakina (Brisbane)
#5 - ELENA RYBAKINA (Abu Dhabi)
#12 - Alona Ostapenko (Adelaide)
#12 - Alona Ostapenko (Linz)
#31 - Emma Navarro (Hobart)
#78 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA (Cluj-Napoca)
#108 - Diana Shnaider (Hua Hin)

*2024 WTA CHAMPIONS BY AGE*
31 - KAROLINA PLISKOVA (Cluj-Napoca)
26 - Alona Ostapenko (Linz)
26 - Alona Ostapenko (Adelaide)
25 - Aryna Sabalenka (Australian Open)
24 - ELENA RYBAKINA (Abu Dhabi)
24 - Elena Rybakina (Brisbane)
22 - Emma Navarro (Hobart)
19 - Coco Gauff (Auckland)
19 - Diana Shnaider (Hua Hin)

*2024 BEST WTA QUALIFIER RESULTS*
SF - Yuan Yue - Hobart (25, #73)
SF - Dayana Yastremska - Aust.Open (23, #93)
SF - HARRIET DART - Cluj-Napooca (27, #103)*
-
* - first-time WTA SF

*2024 WTA WD FINALS - INDIVIDUALS*
2 (1-1) = Lyudmyla Kichenok
2 (1-1) = BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS
2 (1-1) = Alona Ostapenko
2 (0-2) = Guo Hanyu
2 (0-2) = Jiang Xinyu
2 (0-2) = HEATHER WATSON

*2024 OLDEST WTA WD/MX FINALISTS*
38 - BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS (Abu Dhabi -W)
38 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Auckland -L)
38 - Hsieh Su-wei (Australian Open -W)
38 - Hsieh Su-wei (AO Mixed -W)
36 - Sara Errani (Linz-W)

*DOHA/DUBAI ACCOMPLISHMENTS*
[reached AO-Doha-Dubai Finals; since 2001]
2001 Martina Hingis - AO RU, Doha W, Dubai W
[reached Doha-Dubai Finals; since 2001]
2001 Martina Hingis - Doha W, Dubai W
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova - Dubai RU, Doha RU
2007 Justine Henin - Dubai W, Doha W
2009 Venus Williams# - Dubai W, Doha (WTA Chsp.) RU
2011 Caroline Wozniacki - Dubai W, Doha RU
2017 Caroline Wozniacki - Doha RU, Dubai RU
2021 Garbine Muguruza - Doha RU, Dubai W
2023 Iga Swiatek - Doha W, Dubai RU
--
NOTE: 2008 two Doha-Feb. & Nov.(WTA Chsp.)
# - 2009-10 Doha only as Oct. WTA Chsp.






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Priorities...




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All for now.

Read more...