Monday, September 24, 2012

Wk.38- It's All About Seoul

Oh, yeah. I remember her.

Yep, that WAS Caroline Wozniacki smiling for all the right reasons this weekend in Seoul. She'd gone to Japan sans recent coaching addition Thomas Johansson, whose tough-but-realistic approach had produced inconsistent recent results on tour, but whose attempts to put a little aggression into the Dane's game have been exactly the sort of demanding attention she's needed since more powerful players (along with a very determined German and one exquisitely intelligent and clever Pole) passed her by in the rankings. As it happened, it worked out pretty well for her, as she finally notched her first singles title of 2012 after having led the WTA (or shared the honor) in each of the last three seasons.

"Today I did well at turning defense to offense and offense to defense. That’s actually a strength of mine," Wozniacki noted after her latest -- but first in thirteen months -- winning moment. “I’m very pleased with how everything turned out.”

Does a win in a small tournament in Seoul cure all the ills that have led the Dane to fall from #1 to #11 since the start of this season? No, of course not. But at this point, it's about building a foundation from which Wozniacki can begin to map out a return to relevance that has nothing to do with her golf-playing boyfriend, her underwear line, brief foray into music or whatever tour activity she's enlisted by Stacey Allaster to play a role in. And Seoul is a good start.

As the women's tour has picked up a great number of new personalities (and re-enlisted a couple "old" ones) over the course of 2012, one thing that could make the mix even better would be for the former #1 to be injected back into the WTA's bloodstream with a bit more potency than she had the first time around. And, perhaps a bit selfishly, Midge's quest to finally transform into a full-fledged "Barbie" would be quite fun to talk about over the long haul.

So, I'm all in... as long as Caro is, too.

Wozniacki has recently been non-committal about her and Johansson's future coaching relationship, wanting to weigh her options before deciding her future course. That being the case, one could look at Seoul as one of two things: proof that their relationship is starting to bear fruit, or that she's capable of winning without him. Personally, I'm hoping that she'll see truth in the former notion, but fear she might attempt to cling to the latter and embark down yet another dead end.

"I just want to build up for the next season. And it's been a long season so I want to have a holiday and relax," said the Dane.

Meanwhile, we wait.

S: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. Kaia Kanepi/EST 6-1/6-0
D: Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) d. Amanmuradova/King (UZB/USA)

S: Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE def. Laura Robson/GBR 6-3/5-7/6-4
D: Tanasugarn/Sh.Zhang (THA/CHN) d. Gajdosova/Niculescu (AUS/ROU)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN

..."Ah, so that's how it feels to win," Wozniacki must have been thinking on Sunday in Seoul. She hadn't won a title since claiming her fourth straight in New Haven last summer. The 19th tour singles title of her career didn't manage to get her back into the Top 10 (she's still #11), and it didn't change the fact that she's now just three more wins from becoming the player with the most singles titles -- but still no slams -- in WTA history. But reeling off wins against progressively tougher opponents -- Arantxa Rus, Caroline Garcia, Klara Zakopalova, Ekaterina Makarova & Kaia Kanepi -- in Korea, ending with her most dominating performance (a near-double bagel of Kanepi) should do loads for her on-court confidence, which has been lacking for much of this past season no matter how much bluster -- remember, "I can win Wimbledon?" -- Wozniacki has attempted to show off it. She's already opened this week with another three-set win over Bojana Jovanovski in the 1st Round in Tokyo, which sports a much tougher field than Seoul. She doesn't need to win in Japan to keep her roll going, but at least a semifinal berth -- as the #10 seed -- would surely signal the real possibility of a season-ending surge the Dane desperately needs.
RISERS: Urszula Radwanska/POL & Varvara Lepchenko/USA her sister Aga's results have lagged over the summer, Ula's have picked up. Maybe it's something about a Radwanska needing a certain amount of air to breath... or possibly the world's supply of melons dwindling as the weather begins to turn with the seasons? Whatever the reasons, Urszula has kept the family name alive, posting wins in Guangzhou over Melinda Czink and defending champ Chanelle Scheepers to produce her third SF-or-better result of the season, and her second in the past two weeks. Lepchenko had reached four career tour QF without having been able to break through to her first career SF until last week in Seoul. Wins over Camila Giorgi, Anabel Medina-Garrigues and Tamira Paszek took care of that, and her efforts awarded her with her first-ever Top 20 ranking this week.
SURPRISES: Raquel Kops-Jones & Abigail Spears, USA/USA the season has progressed, while the American duo of Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond's results have often come up short, that of their countrywomen Kops-Jones & Spears have soared. Since the start of summer, they've now won two titles. First in Carlsbad, and then last week in Seoul, where they knocked off defending champs Grandin/Uhlirova in the SF before defeating Amanmuradova/King in the final. It's the pair's fourth career tour title as a team.

...I think it pretty much goes without saying that Hsieh has locked up the "Most Improved Player" award for 2012. Hsieh entered this season by no means a newcomer to the tour after a more than a decade-long career which had seemingly seen her singles career peak years ago (she'd only finished in the Top 100 once, back in 2008). All that's changed this season. She started the season by pulling off her best singles result in a decade, then she won her first career tour singles title at age 26 back in March. The only player with singles and doubles titles on both the WTA tour and ITF circuit this season, a week ago, Hsieh claimed a $100K challenger in China. Last week in Guangzhou, where she won the doubles title in '11, she carried over her momentum and claimed her second WTA singles title, taking out "It" Brit Laura Robson in a three-set final. She's now up to a career-best ranking of #39, and her days of living outside the Top 100 are long gone. Well, at least for the foreseeable future.
...much like last year, Kanepi has seemingly been a part-time player in 2012, but when she's been healthy enough to be in action she's been quite good. Good enough to win two singles titles and raise her ranking into the Top 15. Last week in Seoul, back from dealing with her latest ailment (an Achilles injury), she got wins over Galina Voskoboeva, Kiki Bertens and Varvara Lepchenko to reach another final. She barely registered even one game against Wozniacki in the championship match, but after overcoming so many hurdles, why quibble with imperfection at this moment in time?
FRESH FACES: Laura Robson/GBR & Heather Watson/GBR's a British Invasion! Robson has been the talk of the tour since she took out Kim Clijsters and Li Na in back-to-back matches at the U.S. Open. She continued to break down British women's tennis barriers last week in Guangzhou, where she rode victories over Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, Zheng Jie, Peng Shuai and Sorana Cirstea to becoming the first British woman to reach a tour singles final since Sara Gomer in 1988. Robson is now at a new career-best rank of #57 (and climbing). After Robson's run, Watson picked up the Team GB baton in Tokyo, advancing through qualifying with wins over Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino and Andrea Hlavackova, followed up by a 1st Round win on Monday over Sabine Lisicki.
DOWN: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP
...a year ago at this time, MJMS was winning a singles title in Seoul. Last week, she was far more familiar with losing. After getting a walkover advancement past Nadia Petrova in the 2nd Round, Martinez-Sanchez failed to defend when she lost in the singles quarterfinals to Ekaterina Makarova. On Sunday, she was also knocked off in the 1st Round of action in Tokyo, then she and Nuria Llagostera-Vives lost in their opening doubles match on Monday, too.
...the Roland Garros junior champ won her fourth ITF title of the season at the $75K event in Shrewsbury, GBR. She notched wins over Marta Domachowska and Aravane Rezai before taking out Stefanie Voegele in the final.
JUNIOR STAR: Belinda Bencic/SUI
...lookie here! We've got a new Swiss Miss! In the recent U.S. Open Girls competition, the 15-year old from Switzerland lost a close 2nd Round match -- 6-7/6-3/5-7 -- to eventual champ Samantha Crawford, and she was a junior doubles runner-up at the Open and Wimbledon, as well. This past weekend in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, though, Bencic -- the #10-ranked junior -- put aside any notions of "almost," winning both her first singles and first doubles crowns in a pro event. She defeated Oman's Fatma El Nabhani in the singles final.

1. Seoul Final - Wozniacki d. Kanepi
Apparently, "22" is the magic number. Caro is 22 years old, and Denmark is the 22nd different nation this season to claim a tour singles title. In fact, more singles titles (10) by more different same-aged women (6) have been claimed by 22-year olds this season than any other age.
2. Guang Final - Hsieh d. Robson
Hsieh is the eleventh unseeded, non-qualifier, champion of 2012 -- more than any crowned champions who've sported any other seeds (there have been seven champs seeded both #1 and #2, respectively).
3. Guang 1st Rd - Chang (LL) d. Bartoli 4-3 ret.
Seoul 2nd Rd - Martinez-Sanchez walkover Petrova
naturally, because they were the players I "Kuznetsova Cursed" in the Backspin Picks segment last week.
4. Seoul SF - Wozniacki d. Makarova
Many of the chapters of the 2000's Russian Revolution have seemingly come to a natural end in 2012. So far in '12, Russians have won just four titles, the lowest total since the Revolution's "unofficial" beginning in 2002. There were six Hordette title winners that season, up from zero in '01, a number surpassed in each of the nine following seasons until this year (so far, at least). Additionally, there have been no all-Hordette finals this year. The only other time that's happened since 2003 was during the '05 season.
5. Guang SF - Robson d. Cirstea
Cirstea has reached more semifinals (4) than any other Swarmette this season. Unfortunately, for her, she's 0-4 in those matches.
6. $75K Albuquerque Final - Maria Sanchez d. Lauren Davis
The 22-year old Bannerette knocks off her teenage fellow American, after getting previous wins over ChiChi Scholl, Sachia Vickery, Irina Falconi and Michelle Larcher de Brito. She also took the doubles title with Falconi.
7. Guang Doubles Final - Tanasugarn/Sh.Zhang d. Gajdosova/Niculescu
Gajdosova was playing with a heavy heart, as she'd learned on the Friday before the final that her mother had died. With her family's backing in Australia, she stayed in China and finished out the tournament. She talks about her experiences on the WTA's website.

1. Guang SF - S.Hsieh d. U.Radwanska 6-1/3-6/6-0
Guang Doubles 1st Rd - Tanasugarn/Sh.Zhang d. E.Sema/Y.Sema 6-1/6-2
to win WTA titles in Week 38, would-be champions had to go through sisters.
2. $75K Shrewsbury Doubles Final - Dolonc/Voegele d. Ka.Pliskova/Kr.Pliskova 6-1/6-7/15-13
$25K Yoshkar-Ola Final - Margarita Gasparyan d. Nadiya Kichenok 7-5/7-6
ditto for ITF champions.

**MOST SINGLES TITLES - last 3 seasons**
10...Serena Williams (2/2/6)
9...Victoria Azarenka (2/3/4)
8...Petra Kvitova (0/6/2)
7...Maria Sharapova (2/2/3)
6...Agnieszka Radwanska (0/3/3)

**CONSECUTIVE SEASONS w/ TITLE - active streaks**
10 years - Maria Sharapova, 2003-12
6 years - Serena Williams, 2007-12
5 years - CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, 2008-12
4 years - Victoria Azarenka, 2009-12
4 years - Roberta Vinci, 2009-12
NOTE: Vera Zvonareva has won titles from 2008-11

**WTA FINALS - 2011-12**
12...Victoria Azarenka (7-5)
11...Maria Sharapova (5-6)
9...Serena Williams (8-1)
9...Petra Kvitova (8-1)
7...Li Na (3-4)
7...Marion Bartoli (2-5)
7...Agnieszka Radwanska (6-1)

6-0...Serena Williams
2-0...Petra Kvitova
4-1...Sara Errani
3-1...Agnieszka Radwanska

**2012 - #1 SEEDS WON TITLE**
Doha - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (def. Stosur)
Indian Wells - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (def. Sharapova)
Budapest - Sara Errani, ITA (def. Vesnina)
Brussels - Agnieszka Radwanska, POL (def. Halep)
Stanford - Serena Williams, USA (def. Vandeweghe)
Palermo - Sara Errani, ITA (def. Zahlavova-Strycova)
Seoul - CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, DEN (def. Kanepi)

**ALL-UNSEEDED (non-Q) FINALS in 2012**
Brisbane - Kaia Kanepi/EST def. Daniela Hantuchova/SVK
Bogota - Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino/ESP def. Alexandra Panova/RUS
Memphis - Sofia Arvidsson/SWE def. Marina Erakovic/NZL
Monterrey - Timea Babos/HUN def. Alexandra Cadantu/ROU
Bastad - Polona Hercog/SLO def. Mathilde Johansson/FRA
GUANGZHOU - Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE def. Laura Robson/GBR
NOTE: all four semifinalists were unseeded in Bogota & Memphis

11...Radwanska & Radwanska (4-6 +W) *
8...Williams & Williams (6-1 +L) *
3...HSIEH & HSIEH (2-1)
1...Chan & Chan (0-1)
* - both sisters have reached '12 finals

15...United States
14...Czech Republic
11...France, Poland, Romania
DIFFERENT NATIONS w/ FINALISTS: 2010 (32), 2011 (31), 2012 (31)

21...Pam Shriver
19...Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere
16...Elena Dementieva
15...Dianne Fromholtz-Balestrat

TOKYO, JAPAN (Premier $2.168m/hard outdoor)
11 Final: A.Radwanska d. Zvonareva
11 Doubles Champions: Huber/Raymond
12 Top Seeds: Azarenka/Sharapova

#1 Azarenka d. #7 Li
#2 Sharapova d. #4 Kvitova
#1 Azarenka d. #2 Sharapova

...although, I WILL leave open the possibility that I maybe SHOULD have picked a surging Wozniacki instead of Li for one semifinal berth. I'll stick with not putting the slumping #4-seed -- and defending champ -- A-Rad there, though.

All for now.


Blogger Eric said...

Kerber for most improved??

Mon Sep 24, 11:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Kerber is a good pick Eric. Tood you can revise your picks already - Kvitova lost to Petra ;-). I totally agree with your thoughts about Caroline, and I was very pleased to see the final in Seoul who showed some of the improvements in action - so good luck to Caroline.

Tue Sep 25, 12:36:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Erhm - sorry for the misspelling Todd.

Tue Sep 25, 12:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Well, Kerber reached a slam SF last year, so even though what she's done this season wasn't exactly expected, I think it's more on those of us who didn't see it coming than a case of her making such huge strides. She DID do it over the course of an ENTIRE season in '12, though.


Well, I've already cursed Bartoli and Petrova too many times in Kvitova's section. Errani has a pretty clean record. Ha! Well, until I just mentioned her here, that is!

Tue Sep 25, 04:11:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

saw that in talking about possible rivalries in belgium. quite funny.

'There’s no word yet on the gender of Henin’s child. It’s probably better for everyone that the age difference between Clijsters’ daughter, Jada, and Henin’s coming child will be great enough to ensure that they play junior tennis in different age groups.'

Tue Sep 25, 10:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Tue Sep 25, 11:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Hannah Storm, eat your heart out.

Peerakiat Siriluethaiwattana

Thu Sep 27, 01:45:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, three champion picks over the last two weeks = 1 retirement and 2 walkovers.

Yeah! I'm still battin' 1.000 !!!

Thu Sep 27, 05:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

i have a feeling that vika is still not over the emotional output of US open. it's been a long journey for her this year, pretty much able to go deep in any tournaments when she holds up (and what a difference comparing to last year). i think she will save her energy for istanbal though.

so... A-Rad defending the crown? i actually think stosur really has a chance, now that she beat sharapova, she must have added the belief that she can win. and it's tokyo, no one is watching that closely.

Thu Sep 27, 10:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

oh nadia?!

Fri Sep 28, 02:41:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

Wow a-rad is impressive! How did she do a drop shot in a returning game?!
She is so much more aggressive and definitely the best defensive player today.
Todd, she is definitely what you wanted Caro to be a year ago. An improved version, and keeps improving!

Fri Sep 28, 12:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I guess a little bit of rest was all that Aga needed. :)

Fri Sep 28, 03:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Aga's got her Asian on!

Fri Sep 28, 04:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Now no continent is safe from You-Know-What! :D

Fri Sep 28, 05:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm... Petrova almost made Aga cry in the post-match ceremony.

Nadia had better watch her back tonight! That's not a shadow in the corner... it's The Radwanska.


Sat Sep 29, 01:00:00 PM EDT  

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