Monday, October 15, 2012

Wk.41- Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk...and The Radwanska

Vika won again, but can she win EVERYTHING? Even a "Backpin 2012 MVP" honor?

Well, as promised when I put together this space's all-time "MVP" list a few months ago, it's now time for the first-ever listing of the people, curses and Things that have helped to shape THIS season of Backspin shenanigans:

*THE MVPs - 2012 version*
25. Li Na & Carlos Rodriguez: (2013 "mover-and-shaker" frontrunners)
24. The Pironkova: not quite as lethal as The Radwanska
23. Wozniacki's "Oxygen": the less said the better
22. Angelique Kerber: the Combustible German
21. Caroline's 'Roo: still M.I.A.
20. "Sugarpova!": greatest product name ever?
19. "Yuri & Yelena": what happens to them now, Maria? Did they even get to sample some Sugarpova candy?
18. Venus Williams: not done yet
17. Sara Errani: and don't call her just a "claycourt specialist"
16. Ricardo Sanchez: first w/ Caroline, then Nadia!
15. Vesnina vs. Huber: Smackdown: Doubles Edition
14. Nadia Petrova: Oh, Nadia? Yes... oh, Nadia!
13. "The Kuznetsova Curse": it continues to linger (hmmm... and where's Sveta?)
12. The Bannerettes: what's that? Is is... hope for U.S. tennis?
11. Petra Kvitova: VERY disappointingly low
10. "Future Sloane": I await her future dispatches from... well, the future
9. Maria Sharapova: the world's best... claycourter/candy seller?
8. Kim Clijsters: the All-Time MVP. Yep, amazingly, I'm still fine with it.
7. Hannah Storm: what a slam without a little Storm-bashing?
6. Jelena Jankovic: nothing big (though the FC final looms). Rivers-into-apple-sauce ALERT!
5. Caroline Wozniacki: Hope. "Oxygen." Despair. Underwear. Anger. Hope? (to be contd.)
4. Serena Williams: Hello, world. Remember her?
3. Carl & Carla: the wedding invitations have been delivered!
2. Victoria Azarenka: with apologies to Petra, Backspin has likely found its funky new standard-bearer
1. The Radwanska: I fear the surface of Its dark powers has only been scratched

I'd have been afraid to go with anything different. There are always innocent melons that have to be protected, after all.

S: Victoria Azarenka/BLR def. Julia Goerges/GER 6-3/6-4
D: Groenefeld/Peschke (GER/CZE) d. Goerges/Zahlavova-Strycova (GER/CZE)

OSAKA, JAPAN (Int'l $220K/HCO)
S: Heather Watson/GBR def. Chang Kai-Chen/TPE 7-5/5-7/7-6
D: Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) d. Date-Krumm/Watson (JPN/GBR)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Victoria Azarenka/BLR says something about both how well Azarenka BEGAN 2012, and how easily she's moved through her post-U.S. Open outings, that the world #1's actions can be picked apart -- even a little -- at the moment. After all, her win in Linz means she's on an eleven-match winning streak, and is 13-0 (exactly half-way to her 26-0 run that started '12) in the 4Q if you remove one walkover elimination from the equation. With her second tournament title in two weeks in which she failed to drop a set, she extended her set-winning streak to 27. Career title #14 ties her with Jennifer Capriati on the WTA's all-time list, her sixth championship of the season ties her for the tour lead with Serena Williams, and her title run in Austria added Europe to a list of '12 title sites that already included cities in Australia, North America, Asia and the Middle East. Not only that, her nine singles finals this season are the best by any woman on tour since Justine Henin reached eleven in 2007. But her inability to succinctly close out opponents in her last two finals, against Maria Sharapova in Beijing and Julia Goerges this weekend, alone causes her to remain a few ticks below the level of play she displayed during her ridiculously good start to '12. She led 5-0 against Goerges in the 2nd set, only to love four straight games and admit afterward that she essentially let up because she thought the match was safely in hand. That simply will not do, Vika.
RISERS: Julia Goerges/GER & Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears (USA/USA)
...a week ago in Beijing, Goerges put together back-to-back wins for the first time since the Olympics and moved back into the Top 20 in the rankings. Last week in Linz, she won four -- over Daniela Hantuchova, Romina Oprandi, Sofia Arvidsson and Kirsten Flipkens -- to reach her second final of the season (and reached the doubles final, too). Although, it has to be noted that Vika felt so comfortable with her big lead on the German, that the Belarusian chose to coast to the finish line in the final, making things far more interesting than they should have been. In Osaka, Kops-Jones and Spears claimed their fourth singles title of the season, moving to within 32 points of catching the all-Hordette team of Kirilenko & Petrova for the fourth and final berth in the Doubles draw at next week's WTA Championships. Both teams are in Moscow this week, and could face each other in the semifinals.
SURPRISES: Chang Kai-Chen/TPE & Misaki Doi/JPN
...two years ago, 21-year old Chang won her first career tour doubles title in Osaka. This weekend, her participation in the HP Japan Women's Open once again proved to provide her with a career first. This time, the world #134 strung together big wins over Christina McHale, Casey Dellacqua, Laura Robson and #1-seeded Samantha Stosur to reach her first career WTA singles final, going 4-0 in tie-break sets along the way, including three 3rd set breakers. She likely should have become the tour's eleventh first-time champion of '12, too. But after surviving a Heather Watson match point in the 2nd set, then going up 5-3 in the 3rd and holding four match points of her own, Chang failed to win her fourth 3rd set tie-break of the week, going down to Watson in 3:11. Meanwhile, 21-year old Doi, the world #123, a lower-level Fed Cup force for Japan the last few years, reached her first tour semifinal in the same Osaka event, getting wins over Julia Cohen, Olga Puchkova and Chanelle Scheepers.
VETERANS: Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE & Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Kveta Peschke (GER/CZE)
...Hsieh's remarkable rise through the rankings continues. In recent weeks, the Taiwanese vet has won both a WTA (in Guangzhou, her second tour title of the season) and $100K ITF event (Ningbo), and she maintained her pace last week with a second straight $100K win in the event held in Suzhou, China. She had wins over a recent WTA finalist, 16-year old Donna Vekic, in the semis, then Duan Ying-Ying in the final. After entering 2012 having never finished a season ranked higher than #79 (in 2008) -- with her second-best finish at #140 in '06 -- Hsieh now finds herself nipping at the heels of the Top 20 at #25. In Linz, we got another preview of perhaps one of NEXT season's most successful doubles partnerships. Just a few weeks after coming together to reach a Premier-level final in Tokyo, Groenefeld & Peschke returned to win the title in Linz, defeating another German/Czech combo (Date-Krumm/Goerges) in the final. The win simultaneously lifted ALG's doubles ranking into the Top 20 and proved to Peschke (w/ career title #24) that there is indeed WTA life for her once Katarina Srebotnik is off enjoying her retirement.
COMEBACK: Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
...the Belgian's brush with potentially career-ending blood clots earlier this year seems to have lit a fire under her since she returned to action (after seeing her friend Kim Clijsters walk away, it should be noted). She won her first career title in Quebec City back in Week 37, and pushed her way through to her third '12 semifinal berth last week in Linz. Flipkens qualified with wins over Karin Knapp, Vera Dushevina and Jana Cepelova, then got main draw wins over Alize Cornet, Mallory Burdette and Ana Ivanovic.
FRESH FACES: Heather Watson/GBR & Marcela Zacarius/MEX

...among the young Brit talents, Laura Robson has always garnered more attention than Watson, who actually managed to pass by her slightly younger countrywoman in the rankings last season. Robson was the U.S. Open's "It" Brit during the first week of play in NYC, then three weeks ago became the first woman from her country to reach a tour singles final in twenty-two years when she was the runner-up in Guangzhou. Maybe Watson decided that it was time for her to get HER'S in Osaka. The 20-year old matched Robson's final run with wins over Polona Hercog, Anabel Medina-Garrigues, Pauline Parmentier and Misaki Doi, but then trumped her by overcoming four match points after going down 5-3 in the 3rd set in the final against Chang Kai-Chen, charging back to win the 3:11 match in a final tie-break to become the first British champ since Sara Gomer in Aptos in 1988. She was also the doubles runner-up. "I've worked so hard for this moment my whole career. That's why I practiced so hard, ran all those miles and lifted all those weights, for moments like this," said Watson. "Britain has been breaking quite a few records recently, so I'm happy I could break another one today. I'm proud to do this for my country." Meanwhile, while a slew of young Americans and Canadians have given North American tennis a shot in the arm throughout this season, the under-the-radar, over-the-border results of a surprising group of young Mexican players has gone largely unnoticed. Fittingly, in a $10K in Mexico City, the Mexican player who's had some of the most compelling moments in '12 -- 18-year old Marcela Zacarius -- claimed her first career challenger title with a win over countrywoman Victoria Rodriguez in the final. Zacarius knocked off another intriguing Mexican, Ximena Hermoso, in the semifinals, and then partnered with her to claim the doubles crown.
DOWN: Ana Ivanovic/SRB, Francesca Schiavone/ITA & Samantha Stosur/AUS
...Week 41 wasn't a good one for some recent slam champs. Two-time Linz champ, and '08 Roland Garros winner, Ana Ivanovic (who has won five of her eleven career titles at indoor events) was ridden out of this year's event in Austria in the QF by Kirsten Flipkens, losing the match-concluding 2nd set at love. '11 U.S. Open champ Stosur, the '09 Osaka winner and '11 runner-up, went out there this year to WTA semifinal neophyte Chang Kai-Chen in the Final Four, dropping the Aussie's record in semis to 1-4 this season. Also in Osaka, '10 RG winner Francesca Schiavone, lost rather routinely in the 1st Round to Olga Puchkova, then did so again today in Moscow against Urszula Radwanska, dropping her season record to 22-25, with a 2-8 slide since summer. The 32-year old, the only of these former slam champs to actually win a title this year (in Strasbourg), is the lowest-ranked of the trio at #34.
ITF PLAYER: Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor/ESP
...Torro-Flor, 20, has been the queen of the ITF circuit in 2012. Last week in the $25K Sant Cugat challenger in Spain, the Spaniard put away a string of countrywomen -- including Laura Pous-Tio, Arantxa Parra-Santonja & Estrella Cabeza-Candela -- to win her circuit-best seventh singles title in her seventh final appearance of the season. She nearly carried over her momentum and qualified for this week's Kremlin Cup, but lost in the third round of Moscow qualifying today to Vesna Dolonc.
JUNIOR STAR: Francoise Abanda/CAN the B1 Pan-American Closed Championships in Tulsa, 15-year old Abanda completed a wild week with a win in the final against fellow a Canadian, 17-year old Carol Zhao. Abanda received two walkovers during the week, then had to survive a crazy match against Zhao before lifting the tournament trophy. First, she recovered from Zhao serving for the 1st set at 6-5, then blew her own set and 3-1 lead in the 2nd. In the 3rd, she held a two-break lead at 4-1, only to see Zhao come back to tie things at 4-4. Abanda failed to serve out the match at 5-4, but still managed to edge out Zhao in the end. Colette Lewis has a great recap of the final over at Zoo Tennis.

1. Osaka Final - Watson d. Chang
Not to sound like a broken record, but I fear The Radwanska is planning something big. How else can you explain my correctly predicting that the tour's first British champ in twenty-four years would be delivered by the WTA stork in Osaka, but then having it turn out to be WATSON rather than my pick of Robson? Bad things, man. I smell bad things comin'.
2. Linz Final - Azarenka d. Goerges
Once again, Vika grabbed an opponent by the throat in the 2nd set (going up 5-0) after having taken the 1st, then loosened her grip and allowed her to make things interesting. That sort of this-one's-over-so-I-can-coast-to-the-finish mentality needs to be eradicated, and quickly. Said Azarenka, "At 5-0 it felt like such a comfortable lead. I think I won seven games in a row at that point. But then Julia just went for her shots, and I kind of misjudged the situation. I felt like the match was already in my hands, but Julia is such an unpredictable player, and the momentum can turn around really quickly with her, and it did. I wasn't really expecting to have such a change. I'm glad I stayed in the moment. I did the right things at that moment to finish the match and I'm very happy I managed to win today." Azarenka's late 4Q surge has so far been glorious, but with the Tour Championships next up in Istanbul, we need to see the FULL return of the show-no-mercy, step-on-her-neck-and-crush-the-opponent's-windpipe Vika if she's going to leave '12 on Cloud 9. Maybe it's time to pull The Shorts out from the back of the drawer?
3. Osaka QF - Chang d. Robson 6-4/3-6/7-6
Osaka SF - Chang d. Stosur 6-4/4-6/7-6
over the last two years at the U.S. Open, Robson and Stosur have a 14-2 record in main draw matches. Chang is 2-2 there for her entire career. In case you didn't know already, Osaka isn't Flushing Meadows. End of Geography lesson.
4. Osaka 1st Rd - Tanasugarn d. Shvedova
With this win over #28-ranked Shvedova, Tammy put up her best win since defeating then-#16 Marion Bartoli in 2010, also in Osaka.
5. Linz QF - Flipkens d. Ivanovic
Unfortunately, the bagel is a typical final set score for an off-form AnaIvo, who fluctuates from "Oh, I remember THAT Ana" to "What the hell was that?" form. Overall, she's been shutout in four sets this season. Sometimes, it's hard to believe Ivanovic is a former #1, former slam champ and is CURRENTLY almost a Top 10 player.
6. $50K Joue-Les-Tours Final - Puig d. Koehler
The 19-year old Puerto Rican finally notched her first challenger win of '12 (and the fifth of her career), stringing together wins over Alexandra Panova, Irina Khromacheva, Olga Savchuk and An-Sophie Mestach before defeating Maria Joao Koehler in the final.
7. $25K Troy, Alabama Final - Dubois d. Fichman
Just like in Tulsa, it was an all-Canadian final.
8. Linz SF - Azarenka d. Begu
The Romanian, a title-winner in Tashkent a few weeks ago, actually lost in qualifying, but reached the semis as a Lucky Loser. Of course, she was back in qualifying this weekend in Luxembourg, where she was forced to retire from a match against Irina Khromacheva.
HM- Luxembourg Q3 - Dushevina d. Keothavong
Keothavong couldn't carry over the British wave created by Watson on Sunday, and instead fell victim to the low tide established by Andy Murray in Shanghai (wasting 5 MP vs. Djokovic... did the Olympics and/or the Open mean nothing?).

1. Moscow Q1 - Kristyna Pliskova d. Lyudmyla Kichenok 6-2/6-3
Moscow Q2 - Kristyna Pliskova d. Nadiya Kichenok 6-4/1-6/6-2
Kristyna took care of BOTH Lyudmyla and Nadiya, but it didn't help her to qualify at the Kremlin Cup. She lost in the third round of Q-play.
2. Moscow Q3 - Anastasia Rodionova d. Puchkova
...6-0/3-0 ret.
No worries. Anastasia took care of the Sister Quota for Moscow, though.
3. $25K Troy 2nd Rd - Fichman d. Chalena Scholl 6-2/6-1
$25K Troy QF - Fichman d. ChiChi Scholl 6-3/6-4
again, defeating TWO sisters proved to be a bit of a curse, as Fichman eventually lost in the final to countrywoman Stephanie Dubois.
4. $25K Troy Doubles Final - Gabuer/Arina Rodionova d. Fichman/Pelletier
Hmmm, also yet again, it was a Rodionova who emerged to trump the accomplishments of a "sister killer."

6...Serena Williams, USA
4...Sara Errani, ITA
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS
3...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL

1.000 - Serena Williams (6-0)
1.000 - Petra Kvitova (2-0)
1.000 - Nadia Petrova (2-0)
1.000 - Hsieh Su-Wei (2-0)
0.800 - Sara Errani (4-1)
0.667 - Kaia Kanepi (2-1)
0.600 - Agnieszka Radwanska (3-2)
.000 - Marion Bartoli (0-2)
.000 - JULIA GOERGES (0-2)
.000 - Jelena Jankovic (0-2)
.000 - Maria Kirilenko (0-2)
.000 - Flavia Pennetta (0-2)
.000 - Yanina Wickmayer (0-2)
.250 - Li Na (1-3)
.375 - Maria Sharapova (3-5)

4 - Jan-Mar - Victoria Azarenka (Sydney>Australian>Doha>Indian Wells)
3 - Jun-Aug - Serena Williams (Wimbledon>Stanford>Olympics)
2 - Apr-May - Sara Errani (Barcelona>Budapest)
2 - Apr-May - Serena Williams (Charleston>Madrid)
2 - May-Jun - Maria Sharapova (Rome>Roland Garros)

Doha - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Indian Wells - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Budapest - Sara Errani, ITA
Brussels - Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
Stanford - Serena Williams, USA
Palermo - Sara Errani, ITA
Seoul - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
Beijing - Victoria Azarenka, BLR

Brisbane - Kaia Kanepi/EST d. Daniela Hantuchova/SVK
Bogota - Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino/ESP d. Alexandra Panova/RUS
Memphis - Sofia Arvidsson/SWE d. Marina Erakovic/NZL
Monterrey - Timea Babos/HUN d. Alexandra Cadantu/ROU
Fes - Kiki Bertens/NED (Q) d. Laura Pous-Tio/ESP
Bastad - Polona Hercog/SLO d. Mathilde Johansson/FRA
Guangzhou - Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE d. Laura Robson/GBR

#208 Melanie Oudin, USA - Birmingham (def. Jankovic)
#183 Donna Vekic, CRO - Tashkent (lost to Begu)
#174 Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, ESP - Bogota (def. Panova)
#149 Kiki Bertens, NED - Fes (def. Pous-Tio)
#134 Julia Cohen, USA - Baku (lost to Jovanovski)
#134 CHANG KAI-CHEN, TPE - OSAKA (lost to Watson)

Auckland - Flavia Pennetta, ITA (L/L)
Bogota - Alexandra Panova, RUS (L/W)
Acapulco - Sara Errani, ITA (W/W)
Charleston - Lucie Safarova, CZE (L/W)
Barcelona - Sara Errani, ITA (W/W)
Roland Garros - Sara Errani, ITA (L/W)
's-Hertogenbosch - Nadia Petrova, RUS (W/L)
Wimbledon - Serena Williams, USA (W/W)
Palermo - Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE (L/W)
Olympics - Serena Williams, USA (W/W)

8...Sara Errani, ITA (8+0)
8...Roberta Vinci, ITA (8+0)
6...Lisa Raymond, USA (5+1)
5...Liezel Huber, USA (5+0)

237 - Martina Navratilova
200 - Liezel Huber *
163 - Cara Black *
137 - Lisa Raymond *
124 - Natasha Zvereva
111 - Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
87 - Paola Suarez *
80 - Gigi Fernandez
68 - Helena Sukova
67 - Jana Novotna
65 - Virginia Ruano Pascual
61 - Samantha Stosur *
48 - Pam Shriver
45 - Ai Sugiyama
35 - Martina Hingis
32 - Lindsay Davenport
24 - Gisela Dulko *
18 - Flavia Pennetta *
14 - Julie Halard-Decugis
10 - Anna Kournikova
10 - Kveta Peschke *
10 - Katarina Srebotnik *
8 - Serena Williams *
8 - Venus Williams *
7 - Corina Morariu
6 - Sara Errani *
4 - Kim Clijsters
4 - Larisa Savchenko Neiland
3 - Rennae Stubbs
1 - ROBERTA VINCI * (the new #1, and the third Italian to rise to the top!!!)
* - active

**2012 ITF $100K FINALS**
CALI - Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU d. Mandy Minella/LUX
MIDLAND - Olga Govortsova/BLR d. Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
NASSAU - Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN d. Alize Cornet/FRA
CAGNES-SUR-MER - Yulia Putintseva/RUS d. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner/AUT
PRAGUE - Lucie Safarova/CZE d. Klara Zakopalova/CZE
MARSEILLE - Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP d. Pauline Parmentier/FRA
BIELLA - Johanna Larsson/SWE d. Anna Tatishvili/GEO
BIARRITZ - Romina Oprandi/SUI d. Mandy Minella/LUX
BUCHAREST - M-T.Torro-Flor/ESP d. Garbine Muguruza/ESP
OLOMOUC - M-T.Torro-Flor/ESP d. Alexandra Cadantu/ROU
ASTANA - Maria Joao Koehler/POR d. Marta Sirotnika/RUS
VANCOUVER - Mallory Burdette/USA d. Jessica Pegula/USA
NINGBO - Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE d. Zhang Shuai/CHN

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Premier $740K/hard indoor)
11 Final: Cibulkova d. Kanepi
11 Doubles Champions: King/Shvedova
12 Top Seeds: Stosur/Bartoli

#4 Ivanovic d. #1 Stosur
#3 Wozniacki d. #2 Bartoli
#3 Wozniacki d. #4 Ivanovic least this time there isn't a SECOND Dane around that The Radwanska can use to get inside my head. Hmmm, but there IS an Urszula.

LUXEMBOURG, LUXEMBOURG (Int'l $220K/hard indoor)
11 Final: Azarenka d. Niculescu
11 Doubles Champions: Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova
12 Top Seeds: Vinci/Goerges

V.Williams d. Martic
#2 Goerges d. (WC) Flipkens
V.Williams d. #2 Goerges

...Venus was looking pretty good the last time we saw her. Here's to hoping she's feeling well this time around, too. Total shot in the dark, though, I know.

All for now.


Blogger jo shum said...

yes.. that 5-0 up was glaringly scary in vika's last game. (i remember justine had those moments too, letting opponents back in.) not sure you notice, vika always almost throws out a df in the last game of the match if she is serving out. but i am glad she had the moments with goerges, then it should serve her well in the memory bank that she knows too well she made that mistake and was lucky to pull it through in 2 sets (no doubt she would win though).

i have belief in her after watching her for a year, she learned from her mistakes and rectified the next tournament. she learned after US open that she is essentially at a higher level than the rest except serena, but even that she can dance with her. her serves had improve since then, better placement, more confident (it was quite an horror in RG and a bit in wimby) she also learned that she really needed to jump start quickly which she did so efficiently in beijing and linz to take early leads. now.. she just needs to adjust her closing game. her AO win was different, she was fearless as an underdog and got carried the momentum to the next few tournaments. her mind was not as solid, just that her game was that good (and still is, which is quite impressive to last till year end).

i thought kerber is playing this week? i don't know how she is going to bounce back from the 06 03 match in beijing. she seemed to run out of steam in Q4, i feel that she may not be able to perform too well in istanbul.

Tue Oct 16, 07:20:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

A fresh comment from the semifinals in Moscau. Finally after 2 hours and 35 minutes the grinding game was over and what a meal they made up for us. 18 breaks - record?, 44 rally - record?. Caroline 33 winners but also 46 unforced errors - wow a good match. Also appreaciated by the audience and the commentators on Eurosport - the English really liked it. Congrats to both Scandinavians for a brilliant fight. Now she goes for a win tomorrow.

Sat Oct 20, 07:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Congrats to Caroline for a splendid win - you both honoured the tennis game. I can't get away from all the breaks that have been in Carolines game:

Break Points Won:

vs Stosur 8/12
vs Arvidsson 10/17
vs Cibulkova 8/12
vs Radwanska 6/9


Quite impressive so her whole ballgame has been better except for finishing the points! But as long as she breaks back I can live with it but it takes a shot at my nerves every time ;-)

Sun Oct 21, 08:23:00 AM EDT  

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