Monday, October 17, 2011

Wk.41- A Czech for All Seasons

The Czech really knows how to make calendars obsolete.

Petra Kvitova began her 2011 season by winning a title in Week 1 in Brisbane. Down Under, it was summertime. In many other places around the globe, winter had everyone in its icy grip. In February, she ducked indoors and won a title in Paris. Once spring arrived, she went to Madrid and became a champion, then did it again on the grass under the summer sky of London. Last week, as autumn began to dominate the landscape, the 21-year Czech went to Linz and won there, too.

For Kvitova, there is no "favorite" time of the year. She's an equal opportunity champion.

(All right, pardon me for a moment while I send out a personal message.)

Oh, Petra. I knew you could do it. Really, I did. Yeah, I've come to not expect greatness from you EVERY time out, for sure. But, even as you've done battle with your good and evil tennis selves over the past fifteen months, I've never doubted the "white-hat" Petra's ability to win out in the end. Are you sometimes frustrating? Oh, yeeeeeah. But, when you think about it, it's what makes all the successes that much better, you know? I've gone on record that I'm rooting for you take on "Most Favored Player" status in my weekly bit of backspinning and, glory be to Jana (as in "Novotna"), you're doing nothing to send that particular reality off it's intended future path. Good job. Who knows... maybe you'll be getting a "present" from me in a few weeks.

(Okay, now that's taken care of.)

With time running short for her to finally overcome her post-Wimbledon title mini-slump before heading to Istanbul for the Tour Championships, and then leading her Czech teammates into the Fed Cup final, Kvitova seized the opportunity in Austria. Although she's sometimes fallen on her proverbial sword in her on-court attempts to be great, Kvitova has just as often (if not more often than not) shown in 2011 that she has the ability to climb higher than any of the other players in her generation. Usually, whichever result becomes reality is within HER control. In Linz, she proved it once again, grabbing her fifth title of the season and setting aside any of the doubts that might have been creeping into some minds (occasionally, maybe even her's... but only for an instant) about her ability to handle her grand slam-winning success.

Whew! That was (almost) close.

LINZ, AUSTRIA (Int'l $220K/hard court indoor)
S: Petra Kvitova def. Dominika Cibulkova 6-4/6-1
D: Erakovic/Vesnina d. Goerges/Groenefeld

OSAKA, JAPAN (Int'l $220K/hard court outdoor)
S: Marion Bartoli def. Samantha Stosur 6-3/6-1
D: Date-Krumm/Zhang d. King/Shvedova


...for most of last week in Linz, Kvitova was her old "untouchable" self. And, unlike a few weeks ago in Tokyo, she didn't go into a gift-giving frenzy on her way out of the tournament. Rebecca Marino got just four games off her. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner five. Daniela Hantuchova? Only four. In the final, Dominika Cibulkova carved out five. Of course, Kvitova needed to be tested by someone, and it turned out to be Jelena Jankovic in the SF. The Serb won the 1st set, then battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the 3rd to knot the set at three-all. Kvitova's shots didn't suddenly go awry this time, though. Instead, she buckled down simply went on another three-game streak to close out the match. Clean. Solid. Nothing to scowl about. The title is her fifth of the season, just one behind tour leader Caroline Wozniacki. She's the first to win two indoor titles in '11, putting a good step forward toward being able to called the Indoor Player of the Year. She's already the Grass Court Player of the Year, and has a shot to be Fed Cup Player of the Year, as well. Hmmm, what else. Oh, yeah, her sixth career title ties her with Nicole Vaidisova on the all-time Czech title list. It just doesn't get any bigger than that.
RISERS: Marion Bartoli/FRA & Dominika Cibulkova/SVK

...Bartoli has been under the radar for most of 2011, but she's had a very nice season. Her Osaka crown was her second of the year, while her appearance in the final was her fifth such result (only Kvitova and Wozniacki have played in more), and she now finds herself on the cusp of claiming the final spot in next week's WTA Championships field (she'll need to win the title, and hope A-Rad loses early). She won on the grass in Eastbourne early in the summer (defeating Kvitova), but after reaching the Stanford final in July she'd failed to advance past the QF in seven straight events before last week. She gained wins in Japan over Melinda Czink, Vania King (the American had recently gotten her first career Top 10 win at Bartoli's expense) and Ayumi Morita. After rain wrecked the schedule on Saturday, Bartoli had to play both the SF (def. Angelique Kerber) and Final (def. Sam Stosur, as she did in the Eastbourne SF) on Sunday. Apparently, Bartoli is some sort of Ironwoman, too, since she also successfully won both the SF and Final in one day when she was in Eastbourne. Meanwhile, in Linz, Cibulkova once again played the role of a good player who just has never been able to find a way to "get over the hump." Wins over Elena Baltacha, Sara Errani, Anastasia Rodionova and Lucie Safarova put her in her third career final, and her first since 2008. But she fell to 0-3 in those finals, unable to get a set off Kvitova. At least she, as the new world #20, seems unlikely to finish the year as the highest-ranked player without a career title, as #16 Peng Shuai would appear to have that dubious honor wrapped up.
SURPRISE: Evgeniya Rodina/RUS
...that Rodina reached the QF in Linz isn't "surprising," per se, as the Hordette is one of the up-and-coming players on tour. The path she took to get there, though, wasn't exactly "conventional." In qualifying, she advanced through the opening round when Jelena Dokic retired from their match. Two rounds later, Rodina lost to Anna-Lena Groenefeld, but got into the main draw when Andrea Petkovic withdrew from the event. As a Lucky Loser, Rodina won her 1st Round match when Magdalena Rybarikova, also, had to retire. A win over Julia Goerges got the Russian into the final eight. Then, as it should be, after such an odd road to the quarters, the player that Rodina eventually lost to (and this time she meant it) was none other than Queen Chaos herself. Who says the Tennis Gods don't have a sense of humor? Oh, and speaking of you-know-who...
COMEBACK: Jelena Jankovic/SRB
...if her week's work in Linz is any indication, JJ's reconciliation with Ricardo Sanchez seems to have been the best move she could have made for her career. Still, Jankovic seems fated (she's in the field in Moscow this week, so she's still got one final chance) to seeing 2011 be her first title-less season since 2006. Only Maria Sharapova (9 years) and Serena Williams (5) have extended streaks this year longer than the four-straight-years-with-a-title run that JJ sported entering '11, but if she can add a good offseason (hint: no trips to Mexico) to her late-season upswing, she should be able to begin a new streak in '12,and maybe slip in the backdoor as a contender to reach the latter stages of a slam or two, as well. After seeing Kateryna Bondarenko retire from their opening match, Jankovic notched wins over Anne Keothavong and Rodina to reach the SF, where she grabbed the 1st set against Kvitova (the only set the Czech lost last week), before finally falling in three after she'd battled back to tie the stanza after the first six games.
VETERANS: Samantha Stosur/AUS & Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN
...two years ago, Stosur finally put her tour singles final failures behind her by claiming her first tour title in Osaka. Back in town one month after winning her first slam at the U.S. Open, Stosur was in need once again after falling into a post-major title slump following her brilliant NYC run. She didn't win her fourth career title, but she reached the final after notching wins over Noppawan Lertcheewakarn (whew! -- in a 7-5 3rd set), Misaki Doi, Chanelle Scheepers and Zheng Jie (in the SF, played on the same day as the final). All in all, a good rebound... even if she IS now just 3-10 in WTA singles finals. One year after reaching the Osaka singles final as a 40-year old, Date-Krumm's "year after" at the event didn't start out very well, as she lost in the 1st Round to Petra Cetkovska. By Sunday, though, she'd had a pretty good week. Winning the doubles with Zhang Shuai, the 41-year old Date-Krumm became the first fortysomething to win any sort of title on the WTA tour since the supernatural Martina Navratilova, at 49, won a doubles title (Montreal) and the U.S. Open Mixed crown in 2006. Of note, it's only the second tour doubles title of KDK's career, and her first since taking Tokyo with Ai Sugiyama back in 1996.
FRESH FACE: Alison Riske/USA
...the American won the $50K challenger in Joue-Les-Tours, France. After getting victories over Tatjana Malek, Andrea Hlavackova and Michaella Krajicek, the 21-year old defeated veteran Akgul Amanmuradova in a three-set final to pick up her first ITF title of the season.
DOWN: The Germans
...the Germans have been a big story on tour all season, but Week 41 wasn't exactly one that'll go into their memory boxes. First, Andrea Petkovic's tweaking of her months-old knee injury caused her to pull out of Linz, essentially taking her participation in the year-ending WTA Championships next week out of her hands (after she'd had a chance to put herself into the 8th spot if she'd beaten A-Rad in the Beijing final). Now, the only way she'll get to play in Istanbul is if multiple players pull out of the field with injuries. On the court, Sabine Lisicki was knocked out in the Linz 1st Round by Alberta Brianti, while Julia Goerges went down in the 2nd to Rodina (after having barely escaped the 1st Round herself, saving two match points against Anastasija Sevastova). On the bright side, Angelique Kerber managed to reach both the singles and doubles SF in Osaka, while Goerges rebounded to reach the Linz doubles final with Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Naturally, though, the all-German pair lost to a Kiwi and a Hordette.
ITF PLAYER: Casey Dellacqua/AUS
...Casey is positively on fire! The Aussie claimed her fifth challenger of the year (tying her for the circuit lead), and fourth in a row, in the $25K Down Under in Kalgoorlie. After defeating countrywoman Monique Adamczak in the final, Dellacqua is currently on a 20-match winning streak. She and Olivia Rogowska picked up the doubles title, too. It's their sixth ITF win of the season, and this is the third time in '11 that Dellacqua has managed a sweep of both crowns in a challenger event.
JUNIOR STAR: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK
...three weeks ago, the 17-year old Slovak claimed her first G1 event on the junior circuit. This past week, she went to Armenia and won her first career ITF event, a $10K challenger in Yerevan in which she defeated Georgian Tatia Mikadze in the final.

1. Linz SF - Kvitova d. Jankovic
JJ gave Kvitova her best test of the week, but the Czech won to make her 2011 semifinal record 6-1. Her only loss? That ugly implosion against Zvonareva a few weeks ago in Tokyo.
2. Osaka Final - Bartoli d. Stosur
Stosur hit zero aces (w/ 2 DF) and failed to convert either of her paltry two break point opportunities.
3. Linz Final - Kvitova d. Cibulkova
Some serving stats: Kvitova was 67% on her 1st serve, winning 55%, and won 68% on her 2nd. Cibulkova's 1st serve percentage was just 46%. Maybe Kvitova DOES want to be "Ms. Backspin," after all. What Petra Wants, Petra Gets? We shall see.
4. $50K Troy, Alabama Final - Romina Oprandi/ITA d. Varvara Lepchenko/USA
A week ago in Kansas City, it was Lepchenko defeating Oprandi in the final for a $50K title.
5. Linz 2nd Rd - Rodionova d. Pennetta - walkover
Linz Doubles 2nd Rd - Dekmeijere/Martic d. Dulko/Pennetta 3-0 ret.
Dulko & Pennetta qualified for the WTA Championships field and a shot to defend their '10 title. But both are bringing injury questions -- Dulko's lower back, Pennetta's right thigh -- along with them to Istanbul.
6. $25K St.Cugat Final - Reka-Luca Jani/HUN d. Margalita Chaknashvili/GEO
Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! (For the fourth time on the ITF circuit this year.)
7. Pan American Junior Final (Tulsa, Oklahoma) - Taylor Townsend/USA d. Chalena Scholl/USA
The 15-year old (seeded #11), who made some noise at the U.S. Open, knocked off her fellow American, the #14 seed to claim the Grade B1 event.
8. $50K Joue-Les-Tours Doubles Final - Kichenok/Kichenok (UKR/UKR) d. Georgatou/Pavlovic (GRE/FRA)
The Sisters Update continues, with the Ukranian twins -- Nadiya and Lyudmyla -- stepping into the Week 41 spotlight.

**2011 WTA TITLES**
6...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
3...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
3...Roberta Vinci, ITA

**2011 WTA FINALS**
8...Caroline Wozniacki (6-2)
4...Maria Sharapova (2-2)
4...Vera Zvonareva (2-2)

Monterray - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
College Park - Nadia Petrova, RUS
Cincinnati - Maria Sharapova, RUS

10...#1-5 (#4-Kvitova)
9...#11-20 (#11-Bartoli)

**2011 - BY NATION**
[SF - 30 different nations]
20...Czech Republic
[Finals - 26 different nations]
14...Russia (7 wins)
12...Czech Republic (6)
8...Denmark (6)
7...Germany (4), Australia (3), France (2)

#16 - Peng Shuai, CHN
#20 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
#29 - Angelique Kerber, GER
#31 - Petra Cetkovska, CZE
#34 - Monica Niculescu, ROU
#39 - Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
#42 - Christina McHale, USA
#47 - Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
#49 - Petra Martic, CRO
#50 - Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP

41 - Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN (1 Doubles)
38 - Lisa Raymond, USA (3 Doubles)
36 - Kveta Peschke, CZE (2 Doubles)
35 - Kveta Peschke, CZE (4 Doubles)
34 - Liezel Huber, USA (4 Doubles)

[Top 8 Advance to Istanbul]
1. Caroline Wozniacki (7395)
2. Maria Sharapova (6370)
3. Petra Kvitova (5970)
4. Victoria Azarenka (5590)
5. Li Na (5351)
6. Vera Zvonareva (5190)
7. Samantha Stosur (5115)
8. Agnieszka Radwanska (4940)
9. Marion Bartoli (4610)
10. Andrea Petkovic (4580)

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Premier $1m/hard indoor)
10 Final: Azarenka d. Kirilenko
11 Top Seeds: Zvonareva/A.Radwanska
10 Doubles Champions: Dulko/Pennetta

#1 Zvonareva d. #3 Bartoli
#2 A.Radwanska d. Kanepi
#2 A.Radwanska d. #1 Zvonareva

...A-Rad's late-season ride continues, as she wraps up a berth in Istanbul. Final 8 players beware? Of course, this pick likely means that Bartoli will win the title.

LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG (Int'l $220K/hard outdoor)
10 Final: Vinci d. Goerges
11 Top Seeds: Azarenka/Pavlyuchenko
10 Doubles Champions: Bacsinszky/Garbin

#6 Goerges d. #1 Azarenka
#5 Ivanovic d. #3 Lisicki
#5 Ivanovic d. #6 Goerges

...I should probably go with Azarenka, but I'm leary of her recent injury situation. Plus, she could face doubles partner Kirilenko in the QF. AnaIvo and Goerges have been good indoor players in the past, so...

07 Champions: Sequera/VEN (singles), Cravero & Jozami, ARG (doubles)
11 Top Seeds: McHale/Falconi

#3 Duque-Marino/COL d. #1 McHale/USA
#8 Castano/COL d. #6 Alves/BRA
#3 Duque-Marino d. #8 Castano would expect the South American players who dominate the field to dominate the results, as well, but two Bannerettes head up both ends of the draw.

Next up, the "2011 Regional Honors" and "2012 Market Tips." All for now.

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Blogger Zidane said...

Ouch, that mention of Vaidisova winning 6 titles was painful! It seemed like an eternity ago! And it raised a few questions.

First, what the hell happened with Tatiana Golovin? I remember she had injury issues, but has she ever tried a comeback? Because I don't remember hearing or reading about her officially retiring.

Then, how much of the recent WTA weakness in comparison with the ATP can be blamed on the young players first making a name for themselves in 2003-2005 not having much success afterwards? Vaidisova - retired. Golovin - should we check she's still alive? Chakvetadze - a trivia question since her unfortunate home invasion experience. Kuznetsova, Safina, Sharapova and Ivanovic - interesting results in the 2006-2009 period, but they all have been disappointments since while it should be their last great years in normal circumstances. Krajicek - playing ITF. Sprem - haven't heard of her in ages.

Meanwhile, on the side of the ATP, both Djokovic and Murray, first appearing in the 2004-2005 period, became major and consistent stars for many years now. Nadal appeared in 2003-2004, and he sure has taken his place. Gasquet and Monfils have proved quite disappointing, but they are still showing interesting results here and there. And part of this disappointment can be explained by the greatness of the Federer/Nadal/now-Djokovic era.

The 2009-2011 WTA vacuum, in my opinion, is not so much the responsibility of the young generation (Wozniacki, Kvitova, Azarenka, Pavlyuchenkova...) as the women a few years older (Safina, Ivanovic, Kuznet, Sharapova, Vaidisova, Golovin...) who should really be peaking right now. Out of that generation, only Zvonareva seems to have understood. And so it opened the door for many veterans to push in for the greatest moments of their career.

Last, the more I check Ivanovic's career, the more she reminds me of Juan Carlos Ferrero. One Roland Garros title, one or two other Slam final(s), world #1 for a few weeks, and then totally disappearing for a full year before coming back and have a decent results, staying in the #10-30. The difference, it seems, is that tennis fans enjoy the great moments Ferrero still provides us, while we seem to feel disappointment by Ivanovic's underachievement. Again, I guess we would be more disappointed by Ferrero if it wasn't of the great tennis players who took the lead of the ATP when he became disappointing.

Mon Oct 17, 11:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Golovin does not have injury issues. She has a particular type of arthritis in her back that has rendered her unable to play tennis. I don't believe she ever officially retired, but the likelihood that she could return to the tour is very, very small.

Tue Oct 18, 10:09:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Krajicek did manage to reach two tour singles SF this year, so she's still plugging away. Which is sort of why -- just to serve as a virtual "punching bag" -- I guess I try to keep alive the memory of Vaidisova, who just threw up her hands, walked away and got married.

Still, Zidane, it shouldn't be overlooked that that group of players you mentioned, so many of whom have been hit with injuries, won half a dozen slams and reached about as many more slam finals. One wonders how many of the current crop will be able to say that when they reach those players' current ages and look back on what they've accomplished to that point.

Ahh, I miss the old "Good Tatiana vs. Bad Tatiana" discussions... but I guess we've got more than a few similar circumstances with other active players, huh? :)

Tue Oct 18, 02:21:00 PM EDT  

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