Monday, September 17, 2012

Wk.37- A Festivus for the Rest of Us

Well, as summer drifts away, we're now reaching the autumn of the WTA season, where the only people still around to watch the rising and falling of the "leaves" are the die-hards, not the fly-by-nights.

But, if any of the latter people mentioned above ARE here right now, I'll now provide you all with an abbreviated version of Week 37. In a nutshell, a Romanian FINALLY won a title, and so did a Belgian -- though her name wasn't Justine, Kim or Yanina. Elsewhere, an American sister made her presence felt for the first time in four years, while Venus Ebone Starr Williams lived up to her name yet again... while wearing a single-color dress on a multi-colored WTT court, no less. And, finally, a Canadian took her first tentative steps back to the sport and a 16-year old Croat nearly shocked the world. There, that was for those of you just peeking in for a moment.

The remainder of this post is for the rest of you. Heehee.

S: Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU def. Donna Vekic/CRO 6-4/6-4
D: Kania/Pekhova (POL/BLR) d. Chakvetadze/Dolonc (RUS/SRB)

S: Kirsten Flipkens/BEL def. Lucie Hradecka/CZE 6-1/7-5
D: Malek/Mladenovic (GER/FRA) d. Watson/Rosolska (GBR/POL)

WTT Final (Charleston, South Carolina)
Washington Kastles d. Sacramento Capitals 20-19 (3-5/5-1/2-5/5-4/5-4)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU

...last season, Begu reached two finals and was named "Newcomer of the Year" by the WTA, but after finishing last year at #40, she came into Week 37 sporting a ranking of just #87. Last week in Tashkent, just a couple of weeks after upsetting Caroline Wozniacki in the 1st Round of the U.S. Open, the Romanian ended the Swarmettes' collective tour title drought by winning the first of her career. After early round wins over Akgul Amanmuradova and Alize Cornet, Begu came back from a 5-2 3rd set deficit against Galina Voskoboeva in the QF, weathered the "other" Radwanska (Urszula) in the SF and then ended Donna Vekic's own maiden title dreams in the final. Begu is now back up to #59.
RISERS: Kristina Mladenovic/FRA & Mona Barthel/GER
...Mladenovic, 19, rode a wild card berth in the U.S. Open all the way to the 3rd Round, and she was at it again in Quebec City. After making it through qualifying, the Pastry got main draw wins over Madison Brengle, Annika Beck and Melanie Oudin to reach her first career WTA semifinal. In doubles, she teamed with Tatjana Malek to win her second title of the season, too. Barthel, after having one SF berth in 2011, burst onto the scene in '12 by winning a singles title in Hobart in Week 2. After experiencing a long and somewhat perplexing rocky stretch in the spring, the German finally reached another semi in Week 29 in Bastad. Eight weeks later in Quebec City, Barthel reached another SF with wins over Heather Watson and '11 champ Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova.
SURPRISES: Kirsten Flipkens/BEL & Paula Kania/Polina Pekhova (POL/BLR)

...even with you-know-who gone -- quite literally now, as her name has now been officially removed from the rankings after she'd climbed back into the Top 20 after the Open -- Belgian tennis lives on. In fact, this weekend it even crowned a new champion -- Kirsten Flipkens. The 26-year old, a past Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior champion, has been around for quite a while, but has always been far overshadowed by her countrywoman, and went into last week having never reached a tour final. Earlier this year, she missed eight weeks of action with blood clots that made her fear for her career, so that her maiden career WTA title run in Quebec City led her to call Sunday "the best day of my life" is surely understandable. Flipkens opened the week by taking out top-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, then added wins over Mirjana Lucic, Anna Tatishvili (w/ a retirement), Mona Barthel and Lucie Hradecka in the final. Flipkens is now just the fourth woman to claim both ITF and WTA singles titles during the 2012 season. Meanwhile, in Tashkent, Poland's Paula Kania, 19, and Belarusian Polina Pekhova, 20, teamed to win both their first career tour doubles titles when their opponents in the final -- Anna Chakvetadze and Vesna Dolonc -- were forced to retire due to Chakvetadze's back injury (isn't is always SOMETHING?). Additionally, in singles qualifying, Pekhova got a win over Olga Puchkova, who was coming off her "Last Qualifier Standing" 3rd Round run in Flushing Meadows.
VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA & Lucie Hradecka/CZE
...a week after Serena won her fourth U.S. Open title, Venus was in Charleston, South Carolina leading the Washington Kastles to a second straight World Team Tennis title (and back-to-back undefeated seasons, the only two in the long history of the WTT). With both the semifinals and finals being held this past week, Venus was the anchor in both efforts. In the semis, after dropping the first game of her first-to-five-games match with New York's Ashley Harkleroad, Venus won five in a row to close things out. In a tight final against Sacramento, with the score tied 19-19 and Venus and Coco Vandeweghe playing in a first-to-five tie-break after being knotted at 4-4 through eight games, Williams quickly found herself in a 2-0 hole. Vandeweghe just barely missed a down-the-line winner shot, then double-faulted to tie things again at 2-2. Catching a wave, Venus didn't lose another point, and when Vandeweghe fired a shot long Williams won the TB 5-2, and the match 5-4, giving Washington a 20-19 victory (only the third one-pointer in WTT playoff history). The Kastles are 32-0 over the last two seasons. A bit farther north in Quebec City, Hradecka, after finishing second so many times already (in the doubles finals at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open) this summer, found a way to do it again. After getting wins over qualifier Maria Sanchez and three teenagers -- Eugenie Bouchard, Lauren Davis & Kristina Mladenovic -- the 27-year old reached her fifth career final. After losing in straight sets to Flipkens, though, the Czech is now 0-5 in those matches. The only other active player with a larger oh-fer run in WTA singles finals in Elena Vesnina (0-6).
COMEBACK: Chelsey Gullickson/USA
...before she went off to play college tennis at the University of Georgia, Chelsey Gullickson, then 17 (and, as now, sister of Carly), won her first ITF singles title in the spring of 2008. Ever since, aside from a handful of events in 2010 (which included a tough U.S. Open debut under the lights of Ashe against then-world #1 Caroline Wozniacki), Gullickson has been living the life of a college student-athlete. In 2010, she was even the NCAA women's singles champion. With her college eligibility used up, Gullickson, now 22, was playing in just her second pro event back last week in a $25K challenger in Redding, California. After making her way through qualifying, she ended up winning the tournament, defeating Allie Will 6-3/4-6/6-2 in the final. The match-up with Will was a familiar one for Gullickson, as Will was a college star in her own right at the University of Florida, a fellow Southeastern Conference rival of Georgia, and the NCAA Tournament team champions the last two years. Will , as the #1 seed, reached the singles semis at the most recent NCAA Tournament, at which Gullickson was upset in the 1st Round. Interestingly, though, during Gullickson's NCAA title run in 2010, she actually defeated Will in the 3rd Round. Welcome back, Chelsey.
FRESH FACES: Donna Vekic/CRO & Lauren Davis/USA

...16-year old Vekic, a two-time ITF title winner this season who only recently decided to put junior tennis in her rear view mirror, took the big tour by storm over the past week in Tashkent, and although she came up just short of a truly historic week, she still proved that the WTA isn't necessarily as lethal to teenagers these days as it's often believed to be. The London-based Croat made it through qualifying with wins over Nadiya Kichenok and Monica Puig to reach her first career tour main draw. Once there, she reeled off the first three Top 100 victories of her career over Magdalena Rybarikova, Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino and Bojana Jovanovski -- all three singles title winners on tour in '12. A win in the semifinals over Eva Birnerova, the Tashkent runner-up a year ago, made Vekic the youngest singles finalist on tour since Tamira Paszek (at 15) in 2006. Vekic ultimately lost to Begu in the final, but the tour, as always, welcomes a new young and promising talent. Davis, 18, made it through qualifying in Quebec City, getting a win over veteran Julie Coin. In the main draw, she knocked off Stephanie Dubois and #2-seed Yanina Wickmayer to reach her first career tour quarterfinal.
DOWN: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & Yanina Wickmayer/BEL 2009, Cibulkova (RG) and Wickmayer (US) were surprise grand slam semifinalists. Last week in Quebec City, the were both wild card entries into the draw and were installed as the #1 and #2 seeds, respectively. Cibulkova was ejected in the 1st Round by Karin Knapp, after having served for the match in the 3rd set; while Wickmayer went down in flames against Lauren Davis -- 1 and 1 -- in the 2nd Round.
...experiencing a career resurgence in '12, Hsieh won her first career WTA tour title in March in Kuala Lumpur, and this past weekend picked up the second-biggest crown of her career in the $100K challenger in Ningbo, China. Wins over Duan Ying-Ying, Kurumi Nara, Olga Savchuk and Zhang Shuai in the final paved the way for her second ITF singles title of the year. And while Flipkens' title in Quebec allowed her to join with Hsieh and three others as the only players with WTA and ITF singles titles in '12, Hsieh is still the only woman with WTA and ITF titles in both singles AND doubles this year.
JUNIOR STAR: Kaitlyn McCarthy/USA
...the 14-year old won the Under-18 Canadian World Ranking Event in Montreal. She reached the main draw as a qualifier, upset Romania's Ilka Csoregi (just off her Girls singles QF result at the U.S. Open) in the quarterfinals, then defeated Erin Routcliffe (CAN) in the championship match.

1. Tashkent Final - Begu d. Vekic
After a six-match losing streak in tour singles finals dating back to when Alexandra Dulgheru won a title back in 2010, Begu finally gets the Swarmettes a long-overdue title in her own third attempt over the past two seasons. Vekic is the fifteenth first-time WTA finalist this season, and her loss brings their overall record to 7-8.
2. Quebec City Final - Flipkens d. Hradecka
Flipkens is the thirteenth player this season to defeat a tournament's #1 seed, then go on to win the title.
3. Quebec City 1st Rd. - Flipkens d. Cibulkova
Cibulkova served for the match in the 3rd. Who does Flipkens think she is? Serena?
4. Quebec City 1st Rd. - Bouchard d. Min
The 2012 Wimbledon junior champ defeats the 2011 U.S. Open junior champ.
5. Guangzhou Q1 - Dellacqua d. Yan
Yan Zi makes her return to the tour after taking time off to have a baby. Along with Zheng Jie, Yan was half of China's first-ever grand slam title-winning duo -- the women's doubles champions at the 2006 Australian Open. Now, with Clijsters gone, Yan joins Lindsay Lee-Waters as the only active mothers on tour.
HM- $25K Redding CAL 2nd Rd. - Ishizu d. Marino
After being off tour since February after taking what appeared to be a burnout-averting break, Canada's Rebecca Marino is back. She got a 1st Round win before being ousted by Japan's Ishizu.

Tashkent Q1 - Valentyna Ivakhnenko d. Ludmyla Kichenok
Ivakhnenko might have to get herself to a doctor to get at least one of those pesky Kichenoks removed from her body. After facing off with one (or both) of the Kichenok sisters nine times in either singles or doubles this season on the ITF circuit, Ivakhnenko found herself in the qualifying of the WTA event in Tashkent this weekend. And, lo and behold, who does she draw but Miss Ludmyla Kichenok. Sheesh. The 19-year old Urkainian won, evening her 2012 head-to-head record against the Kichenoks at 5-5.

Hobart - Mona Barthel, GER (age 21)
Paris - Angelique Kerber, GER (24)
Bogota - Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, ESP (19)
Monterrey - Timea Babos, HUN (18)
Kuala Lumpur - Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE (26)
Fes - Kik Bertens, NED (20)
Birmingham - Melanie Oudin, USA (20)
Baku - Bojana Jovanovski, SRB (20)
Quebec City - KIRSTEN FLIPKENS, BEL (26)

**2012 WTA CHAMPS - by career titles**
45...Serena Williams
27...Maria Sharapova
12...Victoria Azarenka
11...Nadia Petrova
10...Agnieszka Radwanska
9...Petra Kvitova
7...Roberta Vinci
6...Sara Errani, Li Na
5...Daniela Hantuchova, Francesca Schiavone
4...Zheng Jie
3...Kaia Kanepi, Tamira Paszek, Magdalena Rybarikova
2...Sofia Arvidsson, Dominika Cibulkova, Alize Cornet, Polona Hercog, Angelique Kerber
1...Lara Arruabarrena-Vencino, Timea Babos, Mona Barthel, Irina-Camelia Begu, Kiki Bertens, Kirsten Flipkens, Hsieh Su-Wei, Bojana Jovanovski, Melanie Oudin

#208 Melanie Oudin, USA (Birmingham - W)
#183 DONNA VEKIC, CRO (Tashkent - L)
#174 Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, ESP (Bogota - W)
#149 Kiki Bertens, NED (Fes - W)

4 - Serena Williams, USA
3 - Angelique Kerber, GER
2 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2 - Olga Govortsova, BLR

Mona Barthel, GER - Hobart (def. Wickmayer)
Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE - Kuala Lumpur (def. Pennetta)
Kiki Bertens, NED - Fes (def. Pous-Tio)
Melanie Oudin, USA - Birmingham (def. Jankovic)
Urszula Radwanska, POL - 's-Hertogenbosch (lost to Petrova)
DONNA VEKIC, CRO - Tashkent (lost to Begu)

Bogota - Lara rruabarrena-Vecina/ESP def. Tatiana Panova/RUS
Monterrey - Timea Babos/HUN def. Alexandra Cadantu/ROU
Kuala Lumpur - Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE def. Petra Martic/CRO
Fes - Kiki Bertens/NED def. Laura Pous-Tio/ESP
Baku - Bojana Jovanovski/SRB def. Julia Cohen/USA
TASHKENT - Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU def. Donna Vekic/CRO
QUEBEC CITY - Kirsten Flipkens/BEL def. Lucie Hradecka/CZE

Kiki Bertens/NED - 2 ITF / 1 WTA
Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE - 2 ITF / 1 WTA
Melanie Oudin/USA - 1 ITF / 1 WTA
NOTE: Hsieh is only player with WTA s/d & ITF s/d titles in '12

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (Int'l $220k/hard outdoor)
11 Final: Martinez-Sanchez def. Voskoboeva
11 Doubles Champions: Grandin/Uhlirova
12 Top Seeds: Wozniacki/Kirilenko

#4 Petrova d. Rybarikova
#2 Kirilenko d. Voskoboeva
#4 Petrova d. #2 Kirilenko

...doubles partners, singles foes? If Caro does well w/o ThoJo this week, is the Swede doomed?

GUANGZHOU, CHINA (Int'l $220k/hard outdoor)
11 Final: Scheepers d. Rybarikova
11 Doubles Champions: Hsieh/Zheng Saisai
12 Top Seeds: Bartoli/Zheng

#1 Bartoli d. #5 Scheepers
#2 Zheng d.l #3 Cirstea
#1 Bartoli d. #2 Zheng

...though I'm sure I'll regret not picking a Chinese player -- Zheng or Peng -- to win this title, as they often have in the past.

All for now.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Nice to see I've "still got it." Two Week 38 picks = one 1st Round retirement + one 2nd Round walkover. Yesss!!! :D

Thu Sep 20, 05:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Yes, yes, yes

She finally did it, and how impressive - to say it in golf language - a club and a ball

61, 60. Kanepi was a shadow of herself, but she was never allowed to be anything else. Carolines first serve was not impressive 50% BUT the impressive thing was she won 94% of them, and just before it ended there was a stat saying that she returned 97% of all balls. It was an agressive Woz we saw today, with almost everything working as planned - so Tokyo wait and see. Good luck in Tokyo you deserve it and welcome back as we knew you.

Sun Sep 23, 12:36:00 AM EDT  

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