Monday, October 24, 2011

Wk.42- Her Fourth Time's the Charm

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And then try one more time. Eventually, you might get things right, just like Dominika Cibulkova did in Moscow on her fourth attempt to finally win her maiden WTA singles crown.

A few other random thoughts from the final "regular" week of the WTA's 2011 season:

* -- Well, I hope A-Rad covered her tracks and destroyed any evidence the might implicate her... err, I mean is thanking her lucky stars for Marion Bartoli's "well-timed" viral illness that caused her to suddenly become sick enough to have to pull out of the Moscow QF while standing just three wins from virtually stealing the eighth spot in the WTA Championships field, thus sending the Pole to Istanbul as the final official qualifier.

* -- Anyone else notice any "shades of Wimbledon QF '10" in Kaia Kanepi's squandering of her big opportunity in the Moscow final? Oh, the Estonian didn't fail to convert a bushel of match points like she did against Petra Kvitova last year, but when a player misses an easy overhead when victory is nearly within her grasp, then goes on to lose the match, it's never a good thing.

* -- Bibiane Schoofs. Enough said. And, no, she's not a character on "SpongeBob SquarePants."

* -- Did you know the name Ekaterina Ivanova a few days ago? Queen Chaos probably didn't, either. She does now, though.

* -- Sure, it's "only" the Pan-American Games, but the U.S. grabbing a Gold, Silver and Bronze in women's tennis is still something worth talking about.

* -- First-time singles finalists are 1-10 in 2011, with only Chanelle Scheepers taking advantage of her first-ever chance at tour glory.

* -- Who did Vika pay off to get her Istanbul draw? Coming off a title in Luxembourg, she couldn't have been put into a better grouping for this week.

* -- Who did Caroline cross to get HER Istanbul draw? For a player who has historically had a hard time against Top 5 players, even as the #1-ranked player, she surely isn't getting any favors in her Championships grouping. Of course, one might look at this as a big opportunity, too.

On that note, what else happened the week before Istanbul?

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Premier $1m/hard court indoor)
S: Dominika Cibulkova def. Kaia Kanepi 3-6/7-6/7-5
D: King/Shvedova d. Rodionova/Voskoboeva

LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG (Int'l $220K/hard court indoor)
S: Victoria Azarenka def. Monica Niculescu 6-2/6-2
D: Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova d. Hradecka/Makarova

PAN AMERICAN GAMES (Guadalajara, Mexico
GOLD MATCH: Irina Falconi/USA def. Monica Puig/PUR 6-3/6-2
BRONZE MATCH: Christina McHale/USA d. Florencia Molinero/ARG
DOUBLES GOLD: Irigoyen/Molinero (ARG) d. Falconi/McHale (USA)
DOUBLES BRONZE: Castano/Duque-Marino (COL) d. Pereira/Segnini (BRA)
MIXED GOLD: de la Pena/S.Gonzalez (MEX) d. Koch-Benvenuto/Rivera-Aranguiz (CHI)
MIXED BRONZE: Duarte/Dutra da Silva (BRA) d. Perez/Recarte (VEN)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK wasn't easy, but Cibulkova finally forever put to bed any thoughts that she'll ever again be the highest-ranked woman in tennis without a career singles title. In her fourth WTA final, and second in two weeks, she took down Kaia Kanepi in the week's concluding match after previously seeing the Estonian being an easy overhead away from breaking the Slovak to take a 6-3/6-5 lead and have a chance to serve for a straight sets win and her second career title. Earlier in the week, Cibulkova had also come back from a set and 3-1 deficit against Vera Zvonareva in QF. Set to have her best year-end ranking since she finished #19 after reaching the Roland Garros SF in '08, the #17-ranked Cibulkova might also have a shot at besting her career-best spot of #12 if she can get off to a good start next season.
RISERS: Victoria Azarenka/BLR & Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova (USA/KAZ) year after winning a title this same week in the 2010 season in Moscow, Azarenka got a matching Week 42 trophy from Luxembourg for 2011. It's her third title of the season, and eighth in her career. After going through some recent injury difficulties (what else is new?), will her five-match run last week -- wins over Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, Alberta Brianti, Iveta Benesova, Julia Goerges and Monica Niculescu -- put her in good position for a potentially career-best result in Istanbul this week? She's in a group that consists of two '11 slam champs who've slumped since claiming their big trophies, as well as a potentially-still-hobbled-by-a-sore-ankle Russian, and would seem to have a good shot to at least reach the semis, if not more. Back in Moscow, King and Shvedova won their second event of '11 (it's the Kazakh's third overall title). It's their fourth as a duo over the past two years, but although the Kremlin Cup is a $1 million Premier event it's actually the pair's SMALLEST title to date after they've previously claimed two slams and this year's Cincinnati crown. For their careers, King now has fourteen tour doubles titles, compared to Shvedova's six. They're in Istanbul this week looking to add one more to each's total before the season concludes.
SURPRISES: Bibiane Schoofs/NED & Ekaterina Ivanova/RUS
...move over Reka-Luca Jani? Well, let's not be hasty when it comes to the unofficial "Best WTA Name Game," but the #99-ranked, 23-year old Schoofs certainly is worthy of entry in the field. She's been a winner on the ITF circuit for a few seasons (she's got three '11 titles), but last week was the first time she's made any sort of dent in the collective conscious of the big tour. In Luxembourg, she made it through qualifying with wins over teenyboppers Alison van Uytvanck and Yulia Putintseva, then (more surprisingly) took down U.S. Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber and Rebecca Marino (who'd just upset Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) in the main draw to reach her first WTA QF. Meanwhile, in Moscow, 23-year old Ivanova, one of the lesser-known (and THAT might be stretching it) Hordettes made HER first WTA headlines, as well. After also making it through qualifying (wins over Anastasia Rodionova and Lesia Tsurenko), the #175-ranked Ivanova pulled a big upset when she took down Jelena Jankovic in three sets just days after the Serb has pushed Petra Kvitova in the Linz SF. Of course, the aftereffects of that last fact might have had something to do with this result, but it hardly erases it from the resume of either player.
COMEBACKS: Kaia Kanepi/EST & Sorana Cirstea/ROU
...Kanepi was one overhead away from possibly ending her season on a fabulous note in Moscow. Instead, she'll have to settle for her runner-up result -- in her first final since Palermo '10 -- to Cibulkova, along with good wins over Sara Errani, Francesca Schiavone, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Lucie Safarova. On the ITF circuit, Cirstea, a winner of a WTA crown as a teenager three seasons ago, maintained her perfect (3-0) record in 2011 challenger finals, winning a $50K in Limoges, France while advancing past the likes of Akgul Amanmuradova, Michaella Krajicek, Stefanie Voegele, Paula Ormaechea and Sofia Arvidsson in the final.
VETERANS: Anne Keothavong/GBR & Iveta Benesova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova (CZE/CZE)
...a year ago, current world #93 Keothavong reached the Luxembourg semifinals. She did it again last week, going the "long way around" to do it by making it through qualifying (def. Kutuzova & Hradecka), then getting main draw wins over Mandy Minella, Alexandra Cadantu and Bibiane Schoofs (a true "murderer's row"). It's her first tour semi since that SF at this tournament last season. In the event's doubles competition, Benesova and Zahlavova-Strycova won their fourth doubles title of the season (and ninth overall as a duo). BZS has now bagged fifteen WTA doubles championships in her career, while Benesova has thirteen.
FRESH FACES: Monica Niculescu/ROU & Irina Falconi/USA
...Niculescu's career year continued in Luxembourg, as the 24-year old reached her first tour-level singles final after notching wins over Karin Knapp, Anabel Medina-Garrigues, Lucie Hradecka and Anne Keothavong. Niculescu is the third different Romanian to reach a final in '11, but they've gone a combined 0-4. Meanwhile, at the Pan-American Games, U.S. Open star Irina Falconi claimed both the singles Gold and Doubles Silver (with Christina McHale) in Guadalajara, Mexico. She had wins over Gabriela Dabrowski, Florencia Molinero and Monica Puig in the final.
DOWN: Agnieszka Radwanska/POL
...down, but also lucky. A-Rad seemingly had the #8 spot in the WTA Championships field wrapped up. But then Marion Bartoli won in Osaka. But as long as Radwanska won one match in Moscow, and Bartoli didn't win another title, the Pole was secure. Then she DID lose her first match, falling to Lucie Safarova in the 2nd Round. Meanwhile, La Trufflette was feeling good, talking about loving Moscow and jumping into the QF... but then she pulled out of the event with a viral illness. Thus, Bartoli is the alternate in Istanbul (a role A-Rad has filled in the past, then ended up playing Round Robin matches anyway), while Radwanska sticks in the eight qualifying position. A couple of weeks ago, Agnieszka might have been looked upon as a dark horse in Istanbul. But did she peak in Beijing?
ITF PLAYER: Romina Oprandi/ITA
...the 25-year old Italian reached her fifth consecutive ITF singles final in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She's won three of them, and is currently on a 19-1 run. This weekend, she claimed the crown by knocking off U.S. Open junior Girls champ Grace Min in the 17-year old's first trip to a pro final.
JUNIOR STARS: Natalija Kostic/SRB & Zuzanna Maciejewska/POL
...17-year old Serb Kostic won her second consecutive ITF title (and third of the season) by claiming the $10K in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Meanwhile, 16-year old Maciejewska, as the #12 seed, was the champ at the Osaka Mayor's Cup as she claimed her first career Grade A title.

1. Moscow Final - Cibulkova d. Kanepi
Cibulkova's title makes the Slovak Republic the nineteenth different nation to produce a tour singles champ in 2011, down from twenty and twenty-one the last two seasons.
2. Moscow QF - Cibulkova d. Zvonareva
Since she was gifted a trip to the Tokyo final by Kvitova a few weeks ago, Zvonareva has been roughed up by Radwanska and Ivanovic, then blew a set and 3-1 lead here. Will it prove to be a poor lead-in for Vera into the tour Championships, or is she perfectly set up as an "underdog" in a group that sports Kvitova & Radwanska (both once again), along with Wozniacki?
3. Moscow 2nd Rd - Safarova d. A.Radwanska
To be expected from A-Rad, after she came in on an eleven-match winning streak...and I picked her to win the title.
4. Moscow 1st Rd - Ivanova d. Jankovic
Not the best way for JJ to say goodbye to 2011, but it'll have to do.
5. Pan Am Games Gold Match - Falconi d. Puig
Falconi is the third U.S. woman to win the Pan American Games singles Gold, joining Althea Gibson and Pam Shriver.
6. Lux 1st Rd - Marino d. Pavlyuchenkova
The Canadian had previously lost seven of eight 1st Round matches.
7. Lux Final - Azarenka d. Niculescu
Niculescu is the sixth different Swarmette to reach a WTA singles final since 2007, but they're a combined 3-7 (with two titles won by Alexandra Dulgheru, and one by Cirstea).
8. Pan Am Games Doubles Gold Match - Irigoyen/Molinero d. Falconi/McHale 6-4/2-6/10-6
Molinero lost to Falconi in the singles SF, then McHale in the Bronze Match. But she got some measure of revenge against both in the Doubles Gold final.
9. $25K Seville Final - Reka-Luca Jani/HUN d. Estrella Cabeza-Candela/ESP
Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! The 20-year old Hungarian proved hungry for yet another ITF crown, winning her second consecutive event to tie her for the circuit lead with five on the season.
10. $25K Seoul Final - Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE d. Yurika Sema/JPN 6-1/6-0
$25K Makinohara Final - Karolina Pliskova/CZE d. Erika Sema/JPN 6-7/6-2/6-0
and for the Sisters Special for Week 42, we have the Sema siblings both going home unhappy after losing in separate singles finals. To top things off, one half of another tennis-playing familial combo -- Karolina Pliskova -- did the honors over one of the Semas in the sisters' native Japan, too.

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

8...Caroline Wozniacki (6-2)
6...Petra Kvitova (5-1)
5...Marion Bartoli (2-3)
4...Maria Sharapova (2-2)
4...Vera Zvonareva (2-2)
4...Samantha Stosur (1-3)
24...Caroline Wozniacki (15-9)
12...Vera Zvonareva (5-7)
11...Maria Sharapova (5-6)
10...Serena Williams (7-3)

Caroline Wozniacki - Dubai
Caroline Wozniacki - Indian Wells
Victoria Azarenka - Marbella
Caroline Wozniacki - Charleston
Caroline Wozniacki - Brussels
Caroline Wozniacki - Copenhagen
Roberta Vinci - Budapest
Vera Zvonareva - Baku
Caroline Wozniacki - New Haven
Ksenia Pervak - Tashkent

2...Marina Erakovic, NZL
2...Julia Goerges, GER
2...Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
2...Andrea Petkovic, GER

Alberta Brianti, ITA - Fes
Polona Hercog, SLO - Bastad
Ksenia Pervak, RUS - Tashkent
Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE - Quebec City
Chanelle Scheepers, RSA - Guangzhou
Mathilde Johansson, FRA - Bogota (L)
Rebecca Marino, CAN - Memphis (L)
Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU - Marbella (L)
Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, AUT - Bad Gastein (L)
Ksenia Pervak, RUS - Baku (L)
Petra Cetkovska, CZE - New Haven (L)
Eva Birnerova, CZE - Tashkent (L)
Marina Erakovic, NZL - Quebec City (L)
Galina Voskoboeva, KAZ - Seoul (L)
Chanelle Scheepers, RSA - Guangzhou (W)

[two or more finals]

7...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO (6 doubles/1 mixed)
6...Kveta Peschke, CZE (6/0)
4...Liezel Huber, USA (4/0)
6...Peschke/Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
3...Huber/Raymond, USA/USA
3...Errani/Vinci, ITA/ITA

5...Andrea Benitez, ARG
5...Iryna Bremond, FRA
5...Casey Dellacqua, AUS

[all-time titles]
8...Martina Navratilova
5...Steffi Graf
4...Chris Evert
3...Kim Clijsters *
3...Monica Seles
[championship titles - active]
3...Kim Clijsters, BEL
2...Serena Williams, USA
1...Maria Sharapova, RUS
1...Venus Williams, USA
[all-time finals]
14...Martina Navratilova (8-6)
8...Chris Evert (4-4)
6...Steffi Graf (5-1)
4...Monica Seles (3-1)
4...Martina Hingis (2-2)
4...Gabriela Sabatini (2-2)
4...Serena Williams (2-2) *
4...Lindsay Davenport (1-3)
3...Kim Clijsters (3-0) *
3...Amelie Mauresmo (1-2)
2...Justine Henin (2-0)
2...Tracy Austin (1-1)
2...Maria Sharapova (1-1) *
2...Venus Williams (1-1) *
2...Mary Pierce (0-2)
[2011 field - career WTA singles titles]
24...Maria Sharapova
18...Caroline Wozniacki
12...Vera Zvonareva
8...Victoria Azarenka
7...Agnieszka Radwanska
7...Marion Bartoli (alternate)
6...Petra Kvitova
5...Li Na
3...Samantha Stosur
[2011 doubles field - career WTA titles]
11...Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta
8...Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik
4...Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova
3...Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond

WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Istanbul/hard indoor)
10 Final: Clijsters d. Wozniacki
11 Top Seeds: Wozniacki/Sharapova
10 Doubles Champions: Dulko/Pennetta

#3 Kvitova (2-1)
#1 Wozniacki (2-1)
#8 Radwanska (1-2)
#6 Zvonareva (1-2)
#4 Azarenka (3-0)
#7 Stosur (1-2)
#2 Sharapova (1-2)
#5 Li (1-2)

Kvitova d. Stosur
Azarenka d. Wozniacki
Kvitova d. Azarenka

Next up, part one of the 2011 Backspin Awards. All for now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Todd - whoever wins this championship has brought tennis to the people all week. It's been the best tournament of the year with the best spectators of the year. Lots every day have seen the different matches and there have been plenty of good ones. It could be nice to have two of these tournaments a year where the best eight are competing. I think this sort of tournament is way better than any of the slams. This week has by far been the best tennis week of the year - even if my babe didn't succeed. We have the right finalists and I hope Vika wins.

Sun Oct 30, 04:17:00 AM EDT  

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