Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 BSA's: Performance & Match Lists

The WTA season is over, but there are still things that remain to be quantified... like the best performances and matches of the year.

"I've never played better." - Serena Williams, at the Olympic Games


1. If there was a centerpiece to Serena Williams' dominating summer, it was her rambling, running-roughshod-over-the-field road to the Olympic singles Gold Medal, which made her just the third player -- man or woman -- to achieve a "Career Six Pack," with all four slam titles, an Olympic singles Gold and YEC crown in her win column. Serena never lost a set, and dropped serve just once, en route to the one major singles crown she'd never claimed. She defeated past and current #1's Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka, then finishing things off in the Gold Medal match with an emphatic 6-0/6-1 destruction of another ex-#1, Maria Sharapova. After the final, Serena said she'd never played better. She was probably right.
2. Victoria Azarenka, dominates the first third of the 2012 season, winning four straight titles and twenty-six consecutive matches, the longest season-opening winning streak since 1997. In Melbourne, donning white shorts and sporting a willingness to put a foot to the neck of an opponent and step down hard, she became the twenty-first world #1 in tour history by defeating Maria Sharapova in the final to win her maiden slam crown, becoming the first woman to jump from #3 directly into the top spot.

"What happened?" - Victoria Azarenka, to the Friends Box, after winning her maiden slam crown in Melbourne

3. Serena Williams sweeps through the Year-Ending Championships in Istanbul without dropping a set, notching wins over the world's #1 and #2 -- Azarenka and Sharapova, respectively -- and ending her season on a 12-match winning streak.
4. Maria Sharapova puts her hard-earned clay court prowess on full display, winning three clay titles and completing a "Career Grand Slam" with her first Roland Garros title. In Stuttgart, she defeated the likes of Petra Kvitova, Sam Stosur and Victoria Azarenka (after "the bump"). In Rome, she defended her title, coming back from 6-4/4-0 deficit and MP down against Li Na in the final. In Paris, Kvitova fell once again, along with surprise RG finalist Sara Errani.

"I thought when I won Wimbledon at 17, that would be the most treasured moment in my career. But when I fell down on my knees today, I realized this is extremely special, even more so." - Maria Sharapova, after winning in Paris

5. Without Ana Ivanovic (absent) or Jelena Jankovic (injured after Day 1), the task of getting Team Serbia through the Fed Cup 1st Round falls on the shoulders of Bojana Jovanovski. On Day 2, BoJo defeats Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens to send the tie to the doubles, then teams with Aleksandra Krunic for another win to send Serbia -- winning its third straight tie in a deciding doubles match -- to its first ever FC semifinal. The Serbs would go on to advance to the final.
6. Serena Williams wins Wimbledon, defeating the world's #2, #3 and #4 (after twice escaping defeat against Yaroslava Shvedova & Zheng Jie) to claim her fifth career SW19 crown two years after winning her last slam title there in '10. It's her first major title since she experienced life-threatening medical emergencies off the court. She also wins the doubles title with sister Venus.
7. Coming to North America with a sub-.500 career record on the continent, Petra Kvitova (briefly) shakes off her season-long inconsistency to win titles in Montreal and New Haven to claim the U.S. Open Series crown.
8. Sara Errani reaches both the singles and doubles finals at Roland Garros, defeating two ex-RG champs in her singles runner-up performance and taking the doubles title with Roberta Vinci.
9. Agnieszka Radwanska wins the biggest title of her career in Miami, defeating Maria Sharapova and opening the "bottle" to unleash "The Radwanska" on an unsuspecting tennis public.
10. Serena Williams wins Charleston without dropping a set, winning 24-of-27 games in the semifinal and final. It's her first clay court title since 2008.
11. Tamira Paszek wins Eastbourne, coming back from 6-4/4-0 down in the semifinals vs. Marion Bartoli, and then saving five MP vs. Angelique Kerber in the final. Soon afterward at Wimbledon, Paszek wins from two MP down against Caroline Wozniacki in the 1st Round, then survives Yanina Wickmayer serving for the match in the 3rd Round, too.
12. Serena Williams wins on the blue clay in Madrid, defeating #1 Azarenka and #2 Sharapova, and extending her clay court winning streak to thirteen.
13. Li Na wins Cincinnati for her first tournament title since taking Roland Garros in '11, and does so in her maiden event under the watchful eye of new coach Carlos Rodriguez.
14. Nadia Petrova wins three singles titles after turning 30, defeating three Top 10 players en route to taking the biggest title of her career in Tokyo, and then ending her season with a Tournament of Champions crown in Sofia.
15. Sara Errani sweeps the singles and doubles titles at both Acapulco and Barcelona.
16. Three weeks after countrywoman Laura Robson became the first Brit to reach a WTA singles final in twenty-four years, Heather Watson does her one better by winning the title in Osaka.
17. Venus Williams wins Luxembourg for her first title in over two years, and her first since her Sjogren's Syndrome diagnosis. Said Serena, "My eyes are watering up because I am so proud of my sister."
18. Angelique Kerber wins her first career title at the Paris Indoors, notching wins over Marion Bartoli and Maria Sharapova. She's the first German to win the title since Steffi Graf in 1995.
19. Angelique Kerber wins career title #2, defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the Copenhagen final in front of the Dane's hometown crowd.
20. Victoria Azarenka has a 4Q resurgence, winning back-to-back titles in Beijing and Linz without dropping a set, then wrapping up the year-end #1 with a semifinal result at the YEC.
21. After a long, disappointing season, former #1 Caroline Wozniacki surges in the 4Q, winning in Seoul and Moscow as she manages to finish the season in the Top 10.
22. Coco Vandeweghe reaches the Stanford final (eventually losing to Serena) as a "Lucky Loser," climbing into the Top 100 and gaining direct entry into the U.S. Open main draw.
23. Melanie Oudin wins her first career title as a qualifier in Birmingham. At #208, she's the fifth-lowest ranked champion in the history of the WTA tour.
24. Mona Barthel qualifies in Hobart, then defeats defending champ Jarmila Gajdosova and #1 seed Yanina Wickmayer on her way to her first career singles title.
25. Magdalena Rybarikova wins Washington, D.C., defeating the #1, #2 and #3 seeds on her way to the title.
HM- In the debut events in the tour's new $125K WTA Challenger Series, Kristina Mladenovic sweeps the singles and doubles titles in the inaugural stop in Taipei, then one week later in Pune, India, 18-year old Elina Svitolina defeats 42-year old Kimiko Date-Krumm in the final, preventing the Japanese vet from becoming the oldest WTA singles champ ever, while herself becoming the youngest tour champ since 2008.

[In a Category All Its Own]
Serena Williams pulled off a "Serena Summer" run that rivals her "Serena Slam" turn in 2002-03, as she became the first woman to ever sweep the Wimbledon, Olympics, U.S. Open and Year-Ending Championships titles in a single season. She also won the doubles at Wimbledon and the Olympics with sister Venus.


1. Italians Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci become the most dominant, all-surface, consistently-in-the-draw doubles team on tour. Their eight titles come on red clay (4), blue clay (1), hard courts (2) and grass (1), including appearances in slam finals in Melbourne, Paris and New York, with wins coming at both Roland Garros and the U.S. Open. Additionally, both spent time as the doubles #1 during '12, with Vinci landing there near the season's conclusion and securing the year-end top spot.
2. The Czech Republic defends the Fed Cup. One year after going on the road to win the FC title for the first time as an independent nation, the Maidens did it all over again in 2012. Only this time the team's home fans got to experience the thrill first-hand. After a combined 11-3 score through three rounds of ties, the Czechs took home the title again by taking down the Serbs in the final in Prague. Rising from her bronchitis sick bed for the final weekend, Petra Kvitova (a consistently dominating FC force in her career) provided an inspirational Day 1 win over Serbia's Jelena Jankovic, while Lucie Safarova (with a sub-.500 record, never a dependable FC participant in the past) rose to the occasion and went 2-0 in singles with victories over Ana Ivanovic and JJ, the latter to clinch the championship.
3. Once again proving there is no better women's doubles team on earth (and maybe ever), especially on grass, the Williams Sisters spend their summer winning their fifth Wimbledon crown, then follow it up by taking their third career Doubles Gold at the London Olympics.
4. After no team had been able to pull off an undefeated season since the founding of World Team Tennis in 1974, the Washington Kastles have now pulled off back-to-back undefeated (16-0) campaigns. The '12 championship came down to the wire, though, as the score was tied 19-19, with Washington's Venus Williams and Sacramento's Coco Vandeweghe tied at 4-4 in the concluding first-to-five-games set. Playing a first-to-five-points tie-break, Vandeweghe took a 2-0 lead. But then Coco missed a down-the-line shot and double-faulted, giving Venus and the Kastles new life. Williams completed a five-point sweep to take the TB 5-2 and claim the title (her third as a member of a WTT club) for the Kastles.

5. On the road in Moscow, with Jelena Jankovic leading the way, the Serbian Fed Cup team upends the Russians in a semifinal match-up to reach the nation's first ever FC final.
6. The Florida Gators defend their NCAA women's team crown. Lauren Embree is named Most Outstanding Player.
7. The U.S. Junior Fed Cup team -- Taylor Townsend, Gabby Andrews & Louise Chirico -- defeat the Russians 3-0 to take the crown, completing a 14-0 sweep of matches throughout the week.

1. Eugenie Bouchard sweeps both Girls crowns at Wimbledon, becoming the first-ever junior slam singles champion from Canada.
2. American Taylor Townsend sweeps the Girls singles and doubles at the Australian Open. Townsend ultimately won three of the four junior Girls slams doubles titles (two w/ Gabby Andrews, one w/ Bouchard) in 2012.
3. As a wild card, Samantha Crawford wins the U.S. Open Girls singles, giving the event its second straight American champ after Grace Min took the title in '11. Crawford also made it through qualifying to get into the Open's women's main draw.
4. Germany's Annika Beck concludes her junior career by winning the Girls title at Roland Garros. After winning six professional ITF titles, the 18-year old finishes the season as the WTA's #78-ranked player, making her the youngest player in the year-end Top 100.

"Today I laid a golden egg." - Yaroslava Shvedova, after winning 24-of-24 points in a set, achieving a "Golden Set"

[Special Mention]
1. In the 3rd Round at Wimbledon, Yaroslava Shvedova completes a rare "Golden Set" -- winning all 24 points in a set -- against Sara Errani in her 6-0/6-4 victory. How rare? Well, she's believed to be the first woman to EVER do it in the WTA... and the only man to have done it on the ATP tour was Bill Scanlon in 1983.
2. "The Radwanska's" existence is made public.

3. Kim Clijsters' crowd-pleasing, if not ultimately title-grabbing, doubles performances at the U.S. Open following the final loss of her singles career (to Laura Robson).
4. At the London Paralympics, Esther Vergeer sweeps the singles and doubles Wheelchair Golds. It's the Dutch woman's fourth straight Gold in singles (she ran her match winning streak to 470), and her 3rd career Gold (w/ a Silver) in doubles.
5. Kazakhstan's tennis recruiting efforts. After luring Russians Ksenia Pervak and junior Yulia Putintseva into the fold, the burgeoning (albeit still on "simmer") tennis power's top five ranked players -- the highest-ranked being the aforementioned Shvedova -- all formerly represented either Russia or Bulgaria.

2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne = U.S. Open
2004 Maria Sharapova = Wimbledon
2005 Kim Clijsters = North American hardcourt season
2006 Maria Sharapova = U.S. Open
2007 Justine Henin = U.S. Open
2008 Venus Williams = Wimbledon
2009 Serena Williams = Wimbledon
2010 Serena Williams = Wimbledon
2011 Petra Kvitova = Wimbledon
2012 Serena Williams = Olympics

1. Miami 4th Rd. - Victoria Azarenka d. Dominika Cibulkova
An ultra-aggressive Cibulkova dominates the early going, blasting winners and taking a 6-1/4-0 lead. She served at 5-2, but blinked just enough to allow Azarenka to begin to climb back into the match without ever having to resort to the energy-sapping, crowd-testing histrionics that often accompanied her pushbacks in the past. Cibulkova never collapsed, coming within two points of the win on five different occasions, and fighting until the match's closing moments (narrowly missing on a blazing passing shot attempt on the final point). But Azarenka got win #26 in a row, the hard way... but there would be no #27 in the Belarusian #1's season-opening streak.
2. Australian Open QF - Mirza/Vesnina d. Huber/Raymond
A disputed double-bounce on match point -- the umpire didn't see it, and Huber refused to admit it happened -- set off a near-rumble as it lit a fire under the always-combustible Vesnina, leading to an "oops, did I almost bean you with that shot?" moment. Mirza and her Russian partner eventually won on their eighth match point. Somewhere, Cara Black smiled.

"We won the match, like, twice!" - an angry Elena Vesnina, after she and Mirza defeated Huber/Raymond

3. Rome Final - Maria Sharapova d. Li Na
It wasn't a masterpiece, but it was certainly memorable. The crazy rematch of last year's RG semifinal between Li, the '11 winner in Paris, and Sharapova, the eventual '12 champ, included fireworks, helicopters, planes, sirens, cheering soccer fans and rain delays. But what was actually happening ON the court, though, was even nuttier. Li led 6-4/4-0, winning 21 of 27 points during one stretch. But she double-faulted to break herself and the battle for survival was on. After an animated courtside session with her husband/coach Jiang Shan, Li saw Sharapova follow up Li's six-game run with an eight-game streak of her own. Sharapova led 4-1 in the 3rd, and held a point for 5-1. Then it was the Russian's turn to suffer through a case of nerves and iffy play. She was clearly rattled as her play slipped and the rain became more and more steady. Soon, Li led 6-5 and Sharapova was forced to save a match point. Sharapova held serve on the slippery court to force a title-deciding tie-break, which didn't take place until after a two-hour rain delay. Sharapova quickly grabbed a 3-0 tie-break advantage, but Li bounced back to get back on serve at 4-3. Finally, after 2:52 of action over a five-hour stretch, Sharapova defended her Rome title when Li fired a shot wide. The constantly-shifting nature of the contest was evident in the final stats, as the pair combined for 41 winners, but 115 errors.
4. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Serena Williams d. Zheng Jie 6-7/6-2/9-7
Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Serena Williams d. Yaroslava Shvedova 6-1/2-6/7-5
sometimes there's a fine line between brilliance and disaster on a tennis court. When it comes to Serena Williams, successfully walking that tightrope usually results in a grand slam singles title. Before this Wimbleond, six of Serena's previous thirteen major wins came in slams which included matches in which she either came back from match point, a huge deficit or saw her opponent serve for the match. Thanks to a serve that colored over all her game's early cracks at SW19, Williams never allowed herself to quite fall into such a potentially-dire situation en route to slam win #14, but, in the heat of battle during both these matches, there was surely just as much chance that she'd lose to either Zheng or Shvedova as she would defeat them. History sometimes turns on a dime... and Serena is the WTA's longtime treasurer of precious currency.
5. WTA RR - Victoria Azarenka d. Angelique Kerber
Holy baloney! What a match this was in the closing days of the 2012 season! Azarenka overcame a never-give-up Kerber, saving two match points in a 3+ hour match to move within one win of securing the year-end #1 ranking and, maybe more impressively, once again showing that the fits of anger that used to bedevil the Belarusian no longer foreshadow a crash-and-burn meltdown. In fact, one could say that Vika used her anger and frustration at various points in this battle (oh, her poor innocent racket!) to get herself untracked and back into the match. There was, quite frankly, nothing won easily in this high-quality contest which pretty much had it all, including long rallies, marathon games, Kerber forcing Azarenka into being TOO aggressive and the German pulling out a lethally effective serve up the "T." In the 1st set, which ended with a 24-point tie-break in which Azarenka led 6-2, only to see Kerber storm back and convert on her fifth SP -- after having saved five SP for Vika -- and win 13-11. Serving for the match at 5-3 in the 3rd, Vika fell behind love/30, as Kerber was pumping her fist and seemed ready to peel back the world #1 yet again. Facing a BP, Azarenka's serve was called out, then overruled and declared in (and an ace) by the chair umpire, only to be reversed via replay. Kerber went on and got the break for 5-4. But Vika was through playing. She quickly went up 40/15 on Kerber's serve in the next game, buried a forehand down the line on her first MP of the day, then reacted like she'd just reached a slam final (well, maybe a semifinal). Azarenka went on to secure the #1, though she didn't reach the YEC final for a second straight year. Still, she showed that the "it" factor she'd flashed so often in the season's 1st Quarter was still alive and well in the season's closing moments. That's probably good news for '13 for the reigning "face of Backspin."
6. Australian Open SF - Maria Sharapova d. Petra Kvitova
For once, the hype lived up to the reality, as the Wimbledon '11 final rematch showed just how tough things can be at the top of the "new" WTA. In the end, Sharapova was the best on the big points, going 5-for-5 on break point attempts and surging past the Czech in the final games after an important replay reversal helped her avoid disaster when down 4-3 in the 3rd.

7. U.S. Open Final - Serena Williams d. Victoria Azarenka
In seven of her fifteen grand slam title runs, Serena has either faced match point or seen an opponent serve for a match en route to the title. Here, it was Azarenka serving up 5-4 in the final set of the first three-set Open final since 1995.

8. Osaka Final - Heather Watson d. Chang Kai-Chen
Watson held a MP in the 2nd set, but double-faulted. In the 3rd, she found herself down 5-3 and was forced to save four MP. Ultimately, she won in 3:11 to give Great Britain its first women's tour singles champion in twenty-four years.
9. U.S. Mixed Doubles 2nd Rd. - Makarova/Soares d. Clijsters/B.Bryan
Clijsters' career officially comes to a close on Court 17, after having saved four match points and pulling off one brilliant lob in the closing moments of an "MVP" career.
10. I.W. 2nd Rd. - Victoria Azarenka d. Mona Barthel 6-4/6-7/7-6
Stuttgart QF - Victoria Azarenka d. Mona Barthel 6-4/6-7/7-5
Barthel seemed to be carrying a Vika magnet in her tennis bag during the first half of 2012, during which she faced off with Azarenka four times. She went 0-4, but showed the sort of mettle that got her maiden tour singles title in the season's opening weeks. In Indian Wells, she overcame a 6-4/5-1 Azarenka lead to eventually serve for the match on two different occasions in the 3:00 match. The Stuttgart match went three hours, as well.
11. Roland Garros 3rd Rd. - Kaia Kanepi d. Caroline Wozniacki
Kanepi, never known for her great nerves when it's come to closing out an opponent in a big match (see Kvitova at Wimbledon, circa 2010), nearly let this one get away. Twice. She led 6-1/5-1, and held two match points at 5-2 in the 2nd about the time that Wozniacki took after the chair umpire after he refused to change a line call (as it turned out, the Dane was right about the call being wrong). But then Wozniacki went on a 14-point run and got back into the match. Kanepi led 5-1 in the 3rd, as well, but it was still a struggle. Finally, as she served for the match for a FIFTH time and, on match point #5, finally closed out the 2:55 match. Basking in the warm embrace of the crowd, Kanepi drew a heart in the clay with her racket to show her appreciation for the support.
12. Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Chrisina McHale d. Johanna Konta
Konta, playing in her first Wimbledon under her new colors, won the 1st set. But McHale battled back and seemed like she'd cruise past a nervous Konta. It didn't happen, though, for the American, seeded at a slam for the very first time. She was up a break in the 3rd, and twice served for the match. After failing to close things out, moments later, McHale had to hold just to stay in the match at 7-7. That's when play was stopped. One day later, McHale faced down her match-closing her demons once again. This time, though, she won. On her third chance to serve out the match, after having broken Konta to take a 9-8 lead, she quickly fell down love/40. But it was at that point that McHale steadied herself, while Konta was the one who saw a few additional errors creep into her game. McHale's five-point winning streak finally ended the match.
13. Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - Sloane Stephens d. Petra Cetkovska
Proof that "Future Sloane" and "Current Sloane" might finally cross paths one of these day. But it won't be an easy transition. Stephens blew many chances to go up two breaks in the 1st set in this one, and had to save two MP in the tie-break. In the 3rd, she fell down love/30 in four consecutive service games, but overcame her worst tendencies and won all four, as well as the match. For once.
14. Wimbledon QF - Angelique Kerber d. Sabine Lisicki
Less than two weeks after failing to convert five match points in the Eastbourne final, Kerber failed on three attempts in the 2nd to put away a straight sets win over countrywoman Lisicki. Fighting herself and her memory of what could be again, Kerber twice lost break advantages in the 3rd set. But, with Lisicki serving for the match at 5-3, Kerber broke her and never looked back. Fittingly, after blowing the 5 MP in Eastbourne, Kerber put this match away at Wimbledon on MP #5.
15. Wimbledon Final - Serena Williams d. Agnieszka Radwanska
A point from a 6-1/5-3 lead, Serena saw The Radwanska swoop in to push the final to a 3rd, and get Agnieszka to within a set of the #1 ranking. In the end, though, Serena's serve was too good for either of them to deal with... especially the ace-ace-ace-ace game #5 of the final set.

16. Indian Wells 3rd Rd. - Nadia Petrova d. Samantha Stosur
Stosur's 2011 U.S. Open title run went through Petrova on a particularly dramatic night in NYC, but Nadia has gone 2-0 against the Aussie on hard courts ever since. In this one, Petrova ended the 1st set with three straight aces, but failed to close things out in straights when she couldn't convert a MP in the 2nd. She finally did on MP #3 in the deciding TB, ending the 2:47 contest and proving how good she CAN be. Of course, while Petrova won three titles in '12 to Stosur's zero, the Aussie still finished ahead of the Russian in the year-end rankings.
17. Eastbourne 1st Rd. - Tsvetana Pironkova d. Agnieszka Radwanska
The Pironkova vs. The Radwanska. Sort of the WTA's version of an classic monster movie.
18. Olympics 3rd Rd. - Maria Sharapova d. Sabine Lisicki
In the third All-England Club match-up between these two in a little over a year, Sharapova gets revenge for the German's Round of 16 win at this year's Wimbledon, then goes on to finally win her long-coveted Olympic Medal -- a Silver. Still, the highlight here is Lisicki's 10-8 1st set tie-break win on her fourth set point, after having saved three earlier Sharapova SP.
19. Montreal Final - Petra Kvitova d. Li Na
After having failed to close out several past matches with Li, Kvitova overcomes a 3-1 (and BP for 4-1) 1st set deficit, winning her first title since the WTA Championships at the end of 2011.
20. Palermo 2nd Rd. - Alexandra Cadantu d. Alize Cornet
Cadantu led 6-3/4-1 and held 5 MP at 5-4, but Cornet forces a 3rd. The Swarmette wins in 3:17.
HM- Birmingham 2nd Rd. - Jelena Jankovic d. Melanie South
After floundering following her Fed Cup SF heroics, JJ let her Queen Chaos flag fly again in Edgbaston. In her first match, she fought off two set points in the 2nd while taking a break (and running into the backcourt) as she was chased around the court by a bee. In her next match, she got a walkover. Then, after a series of rain-outs, she was forced to play two matches on Sunday, then contest the final on a Monday. JJ ultimately lost to Melanie Oudin, as the American kicked her career up a few notches three years after she'd first started her breakout summer in '09 by upsetting Jankovic at Wimbledon. Ah... it was such a delight to have just a little of the lovely "madness" back.

1. 's-Hertogenbosch 2nd Rd. - Francesca Schiavone d. Irina-Camelia Begu
Down 6-0 in the 3rd set tie-break, Schiavone won six straight points to save five MP, then staved off two more later in the TB. She ultimately won 10-8, showing that, even in a mostly-lackluster season, there's still some drama left inside the feisty Italian's heart.
2. Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Victoria Azarenka d. Alberta Brianti
From the start, it was obvious that Vika's trip to Paris was going to lead to a springtime of discontent. The world #1 trailed 7-6/4-0, with points for 5-0, to the Italian vet. As she had against Dominika Cibulkova in Miami, Azarenka found a way to win, avoiding the earliest exit EVER by a woman's #1 seed at Roland Garros. Eventually, though, she got her wings clipped in the Round of 16 by, naturally, Cibulkova. What goes around comes around.
3. Eastbourne SF - Tamira Paszek d. Marion Bartoli 4-6/7-5/6-4
Eastbourne Final - Tamira Paszek d. Angelique Kerber 5-7/6-3/7-5
Paszek came back from a 6-4/4-0 deficit against Bartoli, the saw Kerber lead 5-3, 40/love and faced five MP in the 3rd one match later.
4. Charleston 2nd Rd - Nadia Petrova d. Jill Craybas 2-6/7-6/6-2
Tokyo QF - Nadia Petrova d. Sara Errani 3-6/7-5/6-3
Craybas served at 6-2/6-5. Errani was up a set and 4-1. Oh, Nadia! Some of us knew she still had it in her all along. No, really... we DID. We were just afraid to say it out loud.
5. NCAA Women's Final - Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) d. Mallory Burdette (Stanford)
In an all-Cardinal match-up, Gibbs surged back from a 6-2/4-1 deficit, and Burdette was twice two points from the championship. In another sort of "comeback," the two teammates later came together to claim the doubles title.
6. Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Tamira Paszek d. Caroline Wozniacki
After come-from-behind wins in Eastbourne over the world #9 and #8, Paszek came to London and did it again to the world #7. After failing to convert five set points of her own in the 1st, Paszek saved two match points in the 2nd, then outlasted the Dane in a 3:12 match. It was Wozniacki's first opening round slam loss since her debut at Roland Garros in '07, but she'd go on to lose in the 1st Round at the U.S. Open two months later, as well.
7. Paris QF - Marion Bartoli d. Roberta Vinci
La Trufflette never gives up or gives in. Just ask Vinci. The Italian led this match 6-1/4-1 then, after Bartoli surged to take the 2nd, led 5-2 in the 3rd, as well. Bartoli still found the energy to win.
8. Sydney QF - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Caroline Wozniacki
Maybe only one player with Polish heritage at a time is allowed to claim a suite on the WTA's top floor. If so, maybe this is where C-Woz and A-Rad performed the "key exchange." In the 2nd, after coming back from 4-1, Wozniacki served for a straight sets win. She couldn't put the match away. Then, battling an injured wrist, she saw Radwanska come back to get her first career win over a world #1.
9. Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Petra Kvitova d. Francesca Schiavone
Kvitova was 0-for-10 in break point attempts in the 1st, and was down a break in the 2nd. But after a rain delay at 4-4, and a mini-sit in from Schiavone over the court conditions, Kvitova returned to win nine of the last eleven games.
10. Doha 2nd Rd. - Lucie Safarova d. Caroline Wozniacki 4-6/6-4/7-6
Montreal SF - Li Na d. Lucie Safarova 3-6/6-3/7-5
against C-Woz, Safarova trailed 4-5, love/40 on serve in the 3rd. She won. She led Li 5-1 in the 3rd. She lost. The reason why Safarova's solid Fed Cup play in '12 was anything but a "given."
11. Miami 3rd Rd. - Venus Williams d. Aleksandra Wozniak
A-Woz served for the match at 5-4, 30/love in the 2nd. After saving a MP, Venus climbed back in and ultimately won in 3:00.
12. Miami 1st Rd. - Alisa Kleybanova d. Johanna Larsson
After ten months away and treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma, the Russian returns. Everyone is happy for her. Probably even Larsson.

"For everyone else it's just the 1st Round, but for me it's very emotional. I'll always remember it -- it will always be the first match of my comeback." - Alisa Kleybanova

1. Sydney SF - Li Na d. Petra Kvitova
Dredging up memories of her blown lead to Li last year at Roland Garros (a loss that essentially prevented the Czech from finishing '11 at #1), then-world #2 Kvitova goes off the rails after taking a 6-1/3-1 lead, then sees Li take control again. If Kvitova had won the title in Sydney, she'd moved into the #1 spot. After seeming "fated" to rise to #1 early in '12, Kvitova came up short of grabbing #1 again in the AO and, after an inconsistent season, finished at #8.
2. Miami 1st Rd. - Heather Watson d. Sorana Cirstea
Down 5-0 in the 3rd, the Brit saved two match points and went on to victory. Some might say this was but a prelude to greater things that would soon come for Watson.
3. Fed Cup 1st Round - Francesca Schiavone/ITA d. Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR
Schiavone wins this 3:00 contest after seeing K-Bond serve with a 7-6/5-1 lead. From that moment in the match, the Italian won twelve of the next thirteen points. The rest was history.
4. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Peng Shuai d. Jelena Jankovic
JJ served for the match at 7-5/5-4, but served two DF and was broken a love. Up 6-3 in the 3rd set TB, the Serb had five MP. Still, she lost. It was the fifth time in 2012 that Jankovic lost a match after holding match point.
5. I.W. 2nd Rd. - Angelique Kerber d. Sloane Stephens 6-2/5-7/6-4
Carlsbad 1st Rd. - Melanie Oudin d. Sloane Stephens 1-6/7-6/6-0
New Haven 2nd Rd. - Marion Bartoli d. Sloane Stephens 6-1/0-6/6-3
Sloane Stephens has all the makings of a "Future" star, but it'll only happen if she learns how to avoid choking away so many potentially big wins. Right on cue, she had more than a few of those "Current Sloane" moments in the '12, including being up a set and 5-2, then serving for the match against Kerber in Indian Wells, failing to put away two MP vs. Oudin in Carlsbad, then losing the 3rd set at love, and winning nine straight games vs. Bartoli in New Haven to take a 3-0 3rd set lead, only to lose the final six games of the match. And I'm not even listing her 3rd Round U.S. Open exit at the hands of Ana Ivanovic in another coulda-woulda-shoulda defeat that left Stephens 0-10 for her career vs. Top 15 opponents. Thankfully, "Future Sloane" knows how this will turn out. As for the rest of us, it's mighty frustrating to watch.
HM- Australian Open 4th Rd. - Kim Clijsters d. Li Na
For a bit, it seemed like Clijsters might be destined to defend her AO title. After coming back to win after falling behind Li 6-4/3-1, then being down quadruple match point (at 6-2) in the 2nd set tie-break, it was an easy assumption. Of course, had Li gone down the line with a drop shot retrieval up 6-5 in the TB rather than right to Clijsters, who promptly lobbed over the Chinese vet to save her fourth straight MP, the Chinese vet's storyline in Melbourne might have played out very differently Down Under. Oh, well. There's always 2013... with Carlos Rodriguez in her corner.

1. Roland Garros 1st Round - Virginie Razzano d. Serena Williams
When it comes to Serena and Paris, it's always something. Williams entered having won 17 straight clay matches in the spring, and was 46-0 in 1st Round slam matches in her career. Razzano, one year after playing in Paris a week after the death of her fiance/coach, was barely into her comeback from a hip injury. After taking the 1st set, Serena led 4-0 and 5-1 in the 2nd set tie-break. And then the figurative roof caved in. Serena stopped play two points from the win to have chair umpire Eva Asderaki check a mark on the baseline, only to have the call go Razzano's way. Then things really got crazy. Soon afterward, Asderaki called for a re-play of a point that seemed to be set to be won by Serena and give her a match point, saying that a linesperson had obviously missed a call. Actually, the linesperson hadn't, and play should never have been stopped. Serena's errors in the face of Razzano's aggression ended up leading to six straight points won by the Frenchwoman to knot the match, then, after a fit of crying by Williams during the changeover, seven more points to open the 3rd. Razzano soon led the set 4-0. Then things got even crazier. Asderaki, who famously enforced the "hindrance rule" on Williams at last year's U.S. Open, began using it to re-play and then take away points from Razzano for gasping in pain from cramps after hitting shots, including one nearly-farcical moment when she awarded a point to the American with the Pastry serving for the match up 5-3, 30/30 to give Serena a break point to get back on serve. It didn't matter. In a 25-minute, 12-deuce game that included five break points and eight match points, Razzano (and the partisan crowd) pulled out the game to take the 2:47 match... and maybe inadvertently provide Williams with what seemed at the time to be an almost-too-good-to-be-true vengeful mindset for her upcoming trip to London. And it was just that... in London (not once, but twice), then Flushing Meadows and Istanbul, too, as Williams rebounded with the greatest summer-to-autumn run in WTA history.

"This completely feels like the perfect place to retire." - Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open

2. U.S. Open 2nd Rd. - Laura Robson d. Kim Clijsters 7-6/7-6
U.S. Open 3rd Rd. - Laura Robson d. Li Na 6-4/6-7/6-2
a star is born. As impressive as the eighteen year old's win over Clijsters was, her no-letdown win over Li one round later was even more so. Before knocking out the former grand slam winners, and ending KC's 22-match U.S. Open winning streak (on the very day I named her Backspin's 10th Anniversary MVP, no less... or should I say, "naturally?"), Robson had just one Top 25 win in her career.

"I want to say thanks to Kim for being such a good role model to me for so many years." - Laura Robson, after ending Clijsters' singles career

3. Australian Open 4th Rd. - Ekaterina Makarova d. Serena Williams
The Russian is no stranger to pulling off big upsets, but surely even she never foresaw holding Serena to five games, tying her lowest-ever total in a slam loss. Perhaps the win spurred her to a great season, as she finished in the year-end Top 20 for the first time in her career.
4. Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Elena Vesnina d. Venus Williams
From the start, Venus just wasn't there. She opened with five straight service faults, and fell behind 5-0 in the 1st. With her noticeable fatigue, listlessness and lethargy, her day-to-day "questionability" due to her Sjogren's Syndrome was put on full display for all to see. Her long trudge back to the locker room was arguably one of the saddest sights ever seen at a tennis tournament. But this WAS Venus we were talking about... she ended up cobbling together a damn-good season from this point forward.

"I don't have time to be negative. It doesn't feel good." - Venus Williams, after her Wimbledon singles loss... but before sweeping the Wimbledon and Olympics doubles crowns, and winning her first singles title in two years in Luxembourg

5. Miami QF - Caroline Wozniacki d. Serena Williams
Sure, Serena, being Serena, said afterward that she only gave about "20%" of her normal self, but even such a post-match putdown won't erase from the books the Dane's first career win over a Williams Sister.
6. Roland Garros 4th Round - Dominika Cibulkova d. Victoria Azarenka
Earlier in Miami, Cibulkova held a 6-1/4-0 lead over Azarenka. Five times the Slovak came within two points of winning the match, but the Belarusian stormed back to get the last of her 26 consecutive wins to open the '12 season. The two were slated to meet again in Rome, but Azarenka withdrew with an injury. Cibulkova finally got her rematch in Paris, and the wobbly Vika that Dominika nearly toppled in Florida showed up again. Cibulkova went up 6-2/4-2 this time, but didn't take a step back, taking out the frustrated, racket-breaking RG #1-seed in a match in which the cooler exterior of the calm, slam-winning Vika was totally tossed aside and (temporarily) replaced by the too-emotion version of herself that, like Azarenka on this day, often couldn't find a way to avoid a moment like this one.
7. Eastbourne 1st Rd. - Ekaterina Makarova d. Petra Kvitova
See entry #3 above.
8. U.S. Open 1st Rd. - Irina-Camelia Begu d. Caroline Wozniacki
Maybe Wozniacki's knee injury was bad enough to play on her mind. But that or not, the '09 Open runner-up and 2010-11 world #1 just wasn't present for this one.
9. Miami 2nd Rd. - Garbine Muguruza d. Vera Zvonareva 6-4/6-3
Miami 3rd Rd. - Garbine Muguruza d. Flavia Pennetta 6-2/1-6/7-6
a wild card well utilized, both by the Miami tournament AND the young Spaniard. Of course, at the time, we didn't know how disappointing (Pennetta) and abysmal (Zvonareva) the seasons of these two vets would ultimately become.
10. Beijing 2nd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Petra Kvitova 6-3/6-2
WTA RR - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Petra Kvitova 6-3/6-2
after being bounced by CSN a month earlier, Kvitova suffered her first indoor hardcourt loss since 2010 at the YEC in Istanbul by the very same score. She then promptly withdrew from the event, and was bedridden with bronchitis.
HM- Roland Garros 1st Round - Francesca Schiavone d. Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3/6-1
Pune SF - Kimiko Date-Krumm d. Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-4/5-7/6-4
yeah, yeah. These aren't UPSETS. But it is sort of unexpected when Schiavone and KDK's combined age of 72 (43 of the women in the singles draw in Paris had not yet been born when Date-Krumm made her tour debut in '89) ends up being trumped by the combined age of 77 when the Japanese vet faced off with Tanasugarn a few months later.

[Best Post-Match Moment of the Year?]


All for now.


Blogger Galileo said...

surely azarenka taking out stosur in the us open is worthy of a mention....and what about stosurs loss to someone awful in the semis of osaka (cant even remember who). That was an upset/choke. Oh also, Kanepi at brisbane? Brilliant performance. What about Li Nas
early losses at roland garros and wimbledon? And I was expecting a big upset of kuznetsova..normally is :). Other than those trivial details...great article!

Thu Nov 22, 11:09:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, I can't list EVERY match, of course. Although, of the things you mentioned there, the Azarenka/Stosur match probably could have been included. A brief rundown:

US Open QF - Azarenka d. Stosur 6-1/4-6/7-6(5)
...Stosur takes her first-ever set off Vika, then twice fights back from a break down in the 3rd. Azarenka takes a 4-1 lead in the deciding tie-break, only to see Stosur get things back to 5-5 before the world #1 secures the TB, the match and her top ranking.

The others:

Osaka SF - Chang d. Stosur 6-4/4-6/7-6
...honestly, I didn't really have any notes from that match, so I'm not sure if the details warranted more notice.

Kanepi in Brisbane
...the Estonian's first career Premier title comes with wins over the likes of Pavlyuchenkova, Petkovic, Schiavone and Hantuchova. Kanepi was out so much this season, you sometimes forget what she accomplished when she was healthy.

RG 4th Rd. - Shvedova d. Li 3-6/6-2/6-0
...Shvedova, the '10 RG quarterfinalist who had to qualify to reach the main draw, takes out the defending champ. An upset, but Shvedova's skills and history (if not ranking at the time) surely made this a probable tough match.

Wimb 2nd Rd. - Cirstea d. Li 6-3/6-4
...but Li lost in the 2nd Round at SW19 in '11, too.

A Kuznetsova upset
...hmmmm, even with a notable start, it almost feels like Sveta didn't even play in '12. But, looking back, you might include Jankovic's defeat of Kuznetsova (in Moscow) in the Fed Cup semis to seal Serbia's first trip to the final.

But, you know, even with 50+ matches and 20+ performances, some things are going to be overlooked. :)

Thu Nov 22, 01:05:00 PM EST  
Blogger Galileo said...

oh yeah yeah was really nothing..just a couple of things came to mind...i miss sveta :(

Thu Nov 22, 02:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

Holding babies like this, sharapova has a nice political career ahead if she wants to!

Thu Nov 22, 03:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yuri & Yelena are jealous... hmmm, but are they REALLY? :D

Thu Nov 22, 05:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

The choke of 2012 that stays on my mind is Li against Clijsters at the Australian Open. That was really hard to watch, and I think I might have yelled at Li while it was going on. A couple of Kvitova's meltdowns made me cringe, too.

I can't really decide what I think the match of the year was (I never can, except for that epic A.O. match last year), and of course, I didn't see all of them. But Vika def. Domi in Miami was thrilling, Vika def. Kerber in Istanbul was high, high quality. The Rad def. Maria in Miami wasn't too trashy, either.

This is a great summary.

Thu Nov 22, 07:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Thanks, Diane. Now... gulp... onto the Yearbook. ;)

Thu Nov 22, 07:37:00 PM EST  

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