Thursday, December 13, 2012

2013 Preview: The Blowout

How much can happen over the course of one WTA season? Well, consider 2012.

One year ago today, the eventual year-end #1 was ranked #3 and had yet to win a grand slam singles title. But, in 2012, she did. Meanwhile, last December, the current #2 had been slam-less for four years. By the end of the season, she'd become the first player to win a slam crown following career-threatening shoulder surgery AND spent some time at #1.

Ah, but it doesn't end there.

Twelve months ago, the world #3 at the end of '12 was ranked outside the Top 10, had only recently experienced two life-threatening medical emergencies, and hadn't won a slam since 2010. By the end of the year, she'd won two majors and was once again proclaimed "the best in the world," no matter her ranking.

And I can keep going, too.

At this time a year ago, the current #4 had never reached a slam final in her career, something which changed last season, and #5 was chilling out down at #32 in the rankings. 2012's eventual #6-ranked player was thirteen spots behind her at #45.

But things can go the other way, as well.

The reigning #1 player in the world at the end of 2011 fell out of the Top 10 entirely in 2012, and had to scrape and claw in the final weeks of the season to just barely jump back in; while the former #2, who was just 115 points behind in the rankings, seemed "destined" to soon be atop the game -- but she never crossed that short bridge last season and saw her season-ending standing tumble to #8. And what of last year's world #10? Well, she suffered through an injury-marred '12 campaign that cost her much of her season and dropped her all the way out of the Top 100.

So, obviously, quite a bit can happen in just one little WTA season. But after back-to-back seasons played host to both a multi-tiered youthful uprising AND the rising-from-the-"ashes" of some of the sport's greatest names, is 2013 likely to feature still more far-reaching and delightful happenings, or is it more likely to provide some memory-making depth and meaning to the dueling realities we've seen come about over the last two years? Or is something totally different about to happen?

Hey, it's the WTA -- any scenario, good or bad, is probably equally possible.

In 2012, a "Big Three" -- Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams -- developed, assuming the top three spots in the rankings, grabbing all four slam titles, sweeping the London Olympic singles medal stand and both final slots in the year-ending WTA Championships. One potential storyline for the it'll-be-here-before-you-know-it season is that those same three women will continually knock heads on (and sometimes off) the courts in 2013, trading the #1 ranking back and forth and creating the sort of headlines that have been reserved for the ATP's own "Big Three" as they dominated the men's tour's major titles in recent seasons. But, of course, nothing is ever a certainty. One bad step on the court -- or in a German restaurant, for that matter -- and the entire course and trajectory of a season and/or career can change dramatically. Who knows, maybe even that formerly "destined" future #1, Petra Kvitova, will see fit to make it a "Big Four" in 2013 and begin to turn everything in women's tennis on its head... just as it seemed as if she would do a year ago.

[ And, no, I'm not going to mention the ongoing evolution of The Radwanska's "Plan" here. Of course, neither you or I, nor any of the women on the WTA, should ever consider themselves safe from the force of It's menacing intentions this coming year. But the best said about all that the better, I've been led to believe. ]

Now, when it comes to trying to predict 2013's season-ending Top 10, as I've made a point to mention the last few years, I must now say that my official stance -- as a way to avoid poking Backspin's old "Kuznetsova Curse" with a sharp stick -- is to be against assigning any possible year-end positions for any of the players, and simply go the alphabetical route. After being beaten over the head with The Curse for years (the last straw being to pick Juan Martin del Potro to be the men's #1 in 2010, only to see his career take a two-plus year hit after a wrist injury soon afterward), I learned my lesson. Predicting a year-end #1 is like putting a bull's eye square on the back of an innocent, unsuspecting young (or veteran) woman... and why make things THAT easy for any trouble-making alter egos like The Rad, or whatever else lurks in the shadows of the WTA tour that we don't even know about yet?

So, here's an early prediction of eleven potential Top 10-ranked players for 2013 ('12 ranks in parenthesis), with Top 10 Repeats & Top 10 Climbers highlighted accordingly:

Victoria Azarenka, BLR (1): Heavy wears the crown? Or maybe not. As 2012 wore on, the Belarusian proved to be more well-equipped -- both on and off-court -- than the other young players who have risen to #1, or challenged for it, in recent seasons. Quite possibly, it's because Vika is more comfortable in her own shoes -- and hoody, and shorts, or tights, or anything else she slips on -- than any women's #1 since Serena Williams when she was dominating the tour AND sitting atop the rankings a few years ago. Azarenka is surely the most funky #1 we've seen, and that it-grows-on-you-pretty-quickly quality helped her to outrun the "Whack-a-Vika" sentiment that coursed through the WTA's veins at times in '12, to the point of winning the tour's own Diamond ACES Award for "going above and beyond in promoting the sport" by the end of the season. That willingness to be in-your-face when she needs to be served her well last year, as she stood up to the notions of several players, as well as the Powers That Be -- including tour CEO Stacey Allaster -- and their whispers-then-shouts about possibly attempting to curtail the noisy play that has become her signature. With a "good luck with that" and a few other well-timed verbal jabs, with a bump thrown in for luck, Vika proved that she's no pushover and isn't afraid of anything. And she'll need that personality trait with Serena breathing down her neck -- "just" 1195 points behind, but with few early points to defend -- in the rankings, as Azarenka prepares to defend all the ranking advantages she earned during her 26-match, four-title, Australian Open-winning stretch at the beginning of 2012. Barring something shocking, Vika isn't likely to be a wire-to-wire world #1 in 2013. She's going to lose the spot. To Serena (who said last month it was just "a matter of time" before she'll be #1 again), and maybe even Maria Sharapova, too. But that doesn't mean she can't get it back. She did it last season, falling out of the top spot after the clay court season, but getting it back and then surging late in the season to wrap up the year-end #1 spot with two 4th Quarter titles and knowing-and-doing what she had to in Istanbul to conclude her season atop the WTA mountain. No matter where she lands in the rankings by the end of this season, it would seem as if it would take a long injury absence -- something she's avoided so far, even with all her niggling ailments -- to knock her entirely out of the Top 10. I mean... she's no Dane.

Angelique Kerber, GER (5): Kerber is a virtual living model of German tenacity and determination. And at this time in history, only good things can come from such traits. And they just might by the end of the 2013 season, too. It seems hard to believe now that just sixteen measly months ago, Kerber was a "shocking" U.S. Open semifinalist as the #92-ranked player in the world. People bandied around things like "fluke," "flash in the pan" and "Cinderella" in relation to her at the time. Boy, were those people wrong! (He said, neglecting to mention that HE was one of those people, too.) Flash-forward to today, and Kerber has two tour singles titles to her credit, another slam semifinal (this time at SW19), victories over both Serena AND Venus Williams (the only player to pull off the still-impressive feat -- going on nearly fifteen straight years now -- last season), the title of the top-ranked German in the world and a year-end rank of #5. Kerber is capable of hunkering down in a match and turning it into a marathon game of chicken, forcing her opponent to take it from her or else be run into the ground on the strength of multiple 30-shot rallies. In some cases, as in her instant classic against Azarenka in Istanbul in November, the opponent does just that. But Kerber is über-determined and never gives up, even if she does get frustrated and angry at times (see Eastbourne vs. Paszek), and that will continue to win her a lot of matches, some of them against very, very good players. As '12 went along, Kerber, while limited in some areas of her game compared to the Big 3, looked more and more like a player on the cusp of something bigger. At this point, she's no longer a "Cinderella." She's a legit force to contend with at the season's top events. In a 2013 season that seems destined to see the slams split up between the top three players (along with possibly a couple of former slam champs), if there's going to be a first-time major winner over the next twelve months, it's most likely to be Kerber.
Petra Kvitova, CZE (8): after rising to the occasion so often in 2011, not least of all at the All-England Club, Kvitova rarely did so last season. Oh, the Czech had some high moments. She reached two slam semis, won the U.S. Open Series with her first-ever stretch of good play in North America, carried the Czech Fed Cup team to the final, then climbed off her sick bed (bronchitis) there to provide a huge singles win as the Maidens defended their title. But, still, 2012 -- for Petra -- was a disappointment, filled with illness and near-misses, and not a single week at #1, despite opening the season just 115 points behind then-top ranked Caroline Wozniacki. As the season ended, Kvitova was #8 and 5510 points out of the top spot, with the likes of Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams -- just to name two with a combined 19 slam crowns to their names -- between her and top-ranked Azarenka. But Kvitova has gone down this road before. She won her first career singles title in January 2009, but she failed to win another over the next twenty-three months before finally notching career win #2 in January 2011. Finally ready for the "next step," she won five more titles that season, including Wimbledon, and was the WTA's "Player of the Year." 2012, like 2010, was about the shy Kvitova finding her way in her suddenly-changing life. By the end of the season, she was visably more comfortable with everything that comes with being a top player, with her developing proficiency in English serving as a metaphor for a young woman getting it more and more right as each day goes by. In other words, everything is still there for Kvitova to grab. Although the Czech didn't "live up," she was able to put herself into position to meet her promise last season. In fact, she was the conversion of a few break points from quite possibly having a season equivalent to Maria Sharapova's in 2012 (losing to the Russian in three big matches in which she was 5-for-30 on break point opportunities). Will she be able to better handle, mentally and physically, all those expectations that scrape the sky in '13 and convert the sort of big points that eluded her this time around? In the suddenly ultra-competitive and high-quality upper tier of the WTA, it won't be easy. Kvitova might not win a second slam in '13, but that doesn't mean she won't get "back in the game."
Li Na, CHN (7): even in retirement, can the memory of Justine Henin continue to linger in the air above the now Clijsters-less WTA tour? Well, that'll be determined by just how well Li's season goes under the watchful eye of Carlos Rodriguez, Henin's longtime coach. Li's abilities to go from defense to offense, and back again, within a single point are why she's been able to be the most successful Chinese woman ever on the women's tour, becoming a superstar in Asia after reaching the Australian Open final and winning Roland Garros in 2011. But as winning and fun as Li often is when she's not holding a racket, her various coaching situations have sometimes failed to get the best out of her, as she's bounced back and forth between being forced to have her husband play the additional role of coach by necessity, and then often having to have him stop playing the dual role, also by "necessity." Li has usually thrived in the immediate aftermath of her coaching changes (doing so in spectacular style two seasons ago), and THAT consistent and emotionally-even Li resurfaced again after Rodriguez came aboard in North America last summer as she won in Cincinnati, her first tournament with Rodriguez and her first title since taking the crown in Paris. But by the time the WTA Championships rolled around, slight cracks in the veteran's on-court exterior were starting to show again. Will a full offseason of preparation with Rodriguez sure them up? Li certainly seemed excited about her immediate future with her new coach in the closing months of 2012, and that would SEEM to bode well. With the new season opening Down Under, leading up to the "Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific" in Melbourne, we might get a good idea in just a few weeks about what sort of Li Na we're going to be getting in 2013.
Andrea Petkovic, GER (126): Petkovic is smart, funny, outgoing... and a pretty damn good tennis player, too. The tour would be so much fun if she was in the mix at the biggest events, as she was in 2011, so maybe that's why I'm letting my heart take over and including her in this list of eleven players for the 2013 Top 10. Oh, if she's healthy, I have no doubt that she COULD be there by the end of next season. But that's a big "if" after injuries just about destroyed her '12 campaign. The German ended '11 at #10, but found herself outside the Top 100 eleven months later. She may never get back to where she once belonged, but here's to hoping that the answer to one of the coming season's mysteries will be that she CAN bring a bit of her magic back to the tour. She ended her season with semifinal berths in Luxembourg and Pune, her first Final Four results since her knee and ankle injuries earlier in the year. Here's to hoping it was the start of something nice all over again.
Nadia Petrova, RUS (12): oh. What is Nadia doing here? Well, I GUESS I know. It makes sense. I mean, she WAS one of the hottest players on tour over the last half of the season, in both singles AND doubles. And she DID win three singles titles after turning 30 years old, including the season-ending Tournament of Champions, and took a doubles medal at the Olympics before ending THAT part of her season with a title, as well, at the WTA Championships. She finished the year at #12 and was looking better than she has in years. Ah, but there's the rub. She might be looking better than she has since, say, the last time she finished in the Top 10 back in 2006. But, of course, that was the same season in which Petrova's talent, expectations and "bad luck" collided to provide one of the most heartbreaking pre-slam injuries (during practice, no less) in recent memory, when the Russian (a semifinalist in Paris in '05) was injured right before Roland Garros after having dominated the EuroClay season. Petrova never went away over the last few years, having dropped outside the year-end Top 20 only once since '03 (#29 in '11), but she was always just injured enough or crumbled in the clutch just often enough to perpetually be on "the outside looking in" at the biggest on-court parties on tour. In 2012, though, as has been the case with many players around her age in recent seasons, she experienced something of a "rebirth." The all-court game, the power both off the ground and on serve, and her doubles-inspired ability at the net never left Petrova, but last year she was healthy enough -- mentally and physically, as her head and body have often been her undoing -- to take advantage of her skills. On its surface, it seems a special form of lunacy to think that new coach Ricardo Sanchez, known mostly in WTA circles for his success as the nutty coach of the even-nuttier Jelena Jankovic for a few crazy-assed, chaotic (and successful) seasons a few years ago, was the final, essential piece that was needed to make the Petrova Puzzle whole. In a way, the Spaniard's presence in Petrova's usually star-crossed corner was just what the doctor ordered -- oops, I hope bringing up a medical professional doesn't stir up Nadia's bad karma. Hmmm, see? I just can't talk about Petrova without worrying that The Curse is sneaking up on her. Oh, Nadia... please don't make me regret this prediction.

Agnieszka Radwanska, POL (4): no, that's not a photo of Aga and her sister Ula shopping for melons for The Radwanska to practice eviscerating before one of the sisters faces off with an opponent... at least I don't THINK so. [TRUTH: they were actually participating in a food-for-the-needy event, just so that The Rad doesn't ruin their ENTIRE reputation around here.] Over the past season and a half, Agnieszka has truly grown up as player, looking to get the most out of her talents, and developing and mixing in an improved serve and willingness to go for winners into her defensive-oriented and masterfully clever and vexing gameplans. Yeah, it'd be nice if she was a bit more diplomatic with some of her opponents (well, Vika and Maria) off the court... but A-Rad is still generally considered one of the most-liked players on tour by her fellow players, so her alter ego's evil side doesn't seep into her consciousness ALL the time. Since the middle of '11, the Pole has climbed the WTA rankings (#2 at one point in '12), knocking down new career-best doors at seemingly every turn. During the summer, in her first career slam final at Wimbledon (against Serena!), Radwanska came within a set of winning the title and actually becoming the #1-ranked player in the world. Sure, as in seasons of old, A-Rad can still be hit off the court by a consistent power player, but she forces that sort of player to be just that -- powerful, but also consistent. Some aren't always up to the task (Sharapova in Miami), while some usually are (Azarenka and Serena were 8-0 against her last season). Thus, even with her game's improvements, winning a slam is still a tough feat for her, since she'd likely have to defeat two or three of those kinds of players in a row -- a difficult task with the narrow margin of error that her general lack of power creates on gameday in the latter stages of a slam. But, much like the similarly defensive Kerber, Radwanska is pesky enough to survive deep into a slam, and with the right breaks might just find herself in position to have a shot to win one down the line. And if the fate of the world comes down to just one single match, never count out The Radwanska... or the supersmart Aga.
Maria Sharapova, RUS (2): by most standards, Sharapova had a magnificent comeback season in 2012. After all, she finally reclaimed some of the things -- namely, a slam title and (briefly) the #1 ranking -- that she'd seemingly lost, perhaps forever, when she was forced to undergo shoulder surgery in 2008. After working to reclaim something resembling the consistent serve on which her entire game used to pivot, the Russian enjoyed the fruits of her years of labor last season. Having to improve other parts of her game, such as her on-court movement and overall athleticism, to compensate for what her shoulder injury robbed from her, Sharapova, even without the serve that is the same overpowering lethal weapon it was when she was a teenager, is arguably a better player now than she was pre-surgery. She's certainly a more well-rounded one, as her title at Roland Garros proved. In wrapping up her Career Grand Slam in Paris, Sharapova did something that seemed impossible years ago -- she proved that she can beat anyone on clay. In fact, what used to be her worst surface might have morphed into her best at age 25. Of course, as competitive as she is, Sharapova can't possibly overlook all the titles she left on the edge of the table in 2012. Remember, even with all her success last year, she was 0-5 in hard court finals (as opposed to 3-0 on clay), and lost big-time finals in Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami, as well as at the Olympics and in the WTA Championships. So, after some wondered not long ago how much she had left in her heart and racket, there's no reason why Sharapova can't have a BETTER season in 2013 than she did last year. Of course, getting back to all those finals won't be easy. But Maria is already talking about wanting to get back to #1 and staying there... so it looks as if she's got her mind set on trying.
Samantha Stosur, AUS (9): well, 2012 seemed to provide enough evidence to lead one to believe that winning the U.S. Open in 2011 didn't really change Stosur or her career all that much. She's still talented enough to win titles, though she didn't win a single one last season (making her the only Top 10er who could sport such a "feat" on her '12 ledger). She's still good enough to contend for a slam in either Paris or New York, too, though her best result at either last year was a semifinal at Roland Garros. With the Aussie, as with anyone not named Serena, winning a slam title is an unexpected luxury that can never be counted on to arrive once, let alone twice in a tennis lifetime. Stosur probably won't get another in '13, and may never do so. But she's finished in the Top 10 three years in a row now, and since she's likely to get at least ONE tour title this coming season, thinking she'll make it a four-year run doesn't seem like too much of a stretch.
Serena Williams, USA (3): with the soaring dominance that Williams displayed over the back-half of the 2012 season, 2013 might end up becoming a live-action version of a scenario I'd likely dub something along the lines of "Serenativity Unbound." While she ended last year as the #3-ranked player, Serena became the first person in history to sweep the titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the WTA Championships AND the Olympics in a calendar year. I opened last year's Serena section of the "Prediction Blowout" with the lines, "Serena is Serena. And until evidence proves otherwise, she'll always be Serena." By the end of '12, Serena was as "Serena" as she'd been since her SerenaSlam run in 2002-03. Healthy, fit and with her old aura firmly in place all over again, there's really no reason to believe that she won't be adding to her career haul of fifteen slam singles crowns. It's just a matter of HOW MANY. One? Two? Three? Gulp. Four? Any and all options are definitely in play. Serena says she's "playing for history" now. Well, with that being the case, it's probably wise to go ahead and mention that Martina Navratilova once won six consecutive grand slam titles. You know, just in case there's reason to be talking about that come late summer '13.
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (10): in 2012, everything we thought we knew about Wozniacki fell by the wayside. Well, not all of it. I mean, she's STILL not slam-worthy. That hasn't changed, but at least now her current ranking (#10, rather than #1) speaks to that fact. But what I'm talking about is that last year at this time, when Wozniacki was still sitting (precariously) atop the rankings, the thought of her developing enough of an inconsistency streak in her game to drop her from the Top 5, let alone the Top 10 (which she fell from for two months in '12 after having ended her 173-week attendance streak there) seemed an impossibility. A title-winning machine prior to last year, holding or sharing the year-ending tour lead in titles three straight seasons, it took the Dane until Week 38 to win her first in 2012. And she needed every last one of the two fourth quarter titles she did win, as well as her improved overall results, to slip back into the Top 10, too, as she finished just 25 points ahead of #11 Marion Bartoli. But after being passed by by her fellow twentysomethings both in the rankings and the grand slam arena, after taking a stab at altering her game enough to contend, Wozniacki seems to have decided to mostly go back to her old ways, with only a few modest, occasional improvements. After working her way through both Ricardo Sanchez and Thomas Johansson as coaches in '12, she's now back with her father Piotr, while expressing an expectation to work with some of the adidas Player Development coaches during the upcoming season. “I feel like [my dad] knows me so well, and he knows my game so well, and he knows what I can and cannot do,” she recently said. “I feel comfortable with the game I’m playing and obviously you can always improve in some ways, but I should never go away from the game style that has given me success.” In other words, the search for Caroline's "proverbial 'roo," as well as the answer key to ace the exam in Wozniology-101, looks like it might be a neverending quest. Literally. The Dane is obviously content to settle into what looks to be her "appropriate" place in the WTA universe, as a likely Top 10 player (a return to her former regular-tour self should allow her to bank a few more titles in '13) who guts out a few big wins each season against highly-ranked players, has fun (even if her sense of humor might rub a few people the wrong way, as during her recent exhibition binge when she imitated Serena's "unique body shape" -- see below) and doesn't drift into total irrelevancy, though never manages to make the leap to being truly "important" (on the court, at least) in the grand scheme of the WTA. And that's fine... just so long as she doesn't revert back to her overly defensive, bite-the-head-off-the-questioner form anytime anyone mentions that she still hasn't won a slam, and wonders if she really cares if she ever does. I'm just sayin'.


* - Marion Bartoli, FRA (11): somewhat disappointing '12 makes a redemptive '13 surge a real possibility
* - Sara Errani, ITA (6): she has so many points to defend, one has wonder if she can hold onto enough to stay in the Top 10
* - Sabine Lisicki, GER (37): the German's up-and-down career would indicate that '13 might be another "up" year
* - Venus Williams, USA (24): her health will always be an issue, but her back-half of '12 showed that she can still be a title-winning tour presence

* - Ana Ivanovic, SRB (13): still a question mark, but finished #13 in '12, with signs of getting her footing for first time in four years
* - Kaia Kanepi, EST (19): if she could ever stay healthy, she WOULD be a Top 10 threat. A BIG "if," though.
* - Maria Kirilenko, RUS (14): blooming late, with still more room to improve

2013 SURPRISE/MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS: Camila Giorgi/ITA, Bojana Jovanovski/SRB, Petra Martic/CRO
2013 COMEBACK PLAYERS: Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU, Sabine Lisicki/GER, Flavia Pennetta/ITA, Andrea Petkovic/GER
TEN POSSIBLE FIRST-TIME CHAMPIONS: Chang Kai-Chen/TPE, Camila Giorgi/ITA, Simona Halep/ROU, Urszula Radwanska/POL, Laura Robson/GBR, Arantxa Rus/NED, Sloane Stephens/USA, Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP, Donna Vekic/CRO, Elena Vesnina/RUS
TWELVE POSSIBLE FIRST-TIME FINALISTS: Annika Beck/GER, Mallory Burdette/USA, Camila Giorgi/ITA, Varvara Lepchenko/USA, Christina McHale/USA, Garbine Muguruza/ESP, Paula Ormaechea/ARG, Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL, Arantxa Rus/NED, Sloane Stephens/USA, Stefanie Voegele/SUI
NCAA CHAMPION: Beatrice Capra, Duke; Stanford (team)
JUNIOR SLAM CHAMPIONS: Barbara Haas/AUT, Anett Kontaveit/EST, Antonia Lottner/GER, Marcela Zacarius/MEX
[also considered]: Francoise Abanda/CAN, Belinda Bencic/SUI, Anna Danilina/KAZ, Vicky Duval/USA, Allie Kiick/USA, Ana Konjuh/CRO, Katerina Siniakova/CZE

#1-RANKED SINGLES PLAYERS DURING SEASON: Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova & Serena Williams
#1 RANKED DOUBLES PLAYERS DURING SEASON: Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani, Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka
TOTAL WEEKS FOR AT #1 DURING 2012 SEASON: Azarenka (22), Sharapova (4), S.Williams (26)
YOUNGEST IN TOP 50: Laura Robson/GBR
YOUNGEST IN TOP 100: Donna Vekic/CRO
OLDEST IN TOP 100: Venus Williams/USA
TOP 20 JUMPS: Christina McHale/USA, Urszula Radwanska/POL, Laura Robson/GBR, Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ, Sloane Stephens/USA
TOP 50 JUMPS: Timea Babos/HUN, Camila Giorgi/ITA, Jamie Hampton/USA, Kristina Mladenovic/FRA, Arantxa Rus/NED
TOP 100 JUMPS: Eugenie Bouchard/CAN, Mallory Burdette/USA, Karolina Pliskova/CZE, Kristyna Pliskova/CZE, Donna Vekic/CRO, Zheng Saisai/CHN

Kim Clijsters plays doubles with Kirsten Flipkens in at least one tour event
Dinara Safina (officially) retires
Kimiko Date-Krumm announces that 2014 will be her final season
Caroline Wozniacki will once again be the champion of New Haven
Jelena Dokic reaches the second week at a slam
The Williams Sisters face each other in their first official match since 2009
Francesca Schiavone's longest-active women's slam appearance streak (now at 49) will end
Hannah Storm says something that grinds the nerves of SOMEONE around here
Nicole Vaidisova plays... somewhere (maybe in an exhibition), raising questions about a possible return to the WTA in '14. And, yes, I know I predict this EVERY year… but I think I’m going to keep on doing it until it happens, or maybe when Vaidisova is somewhere around Date-Krumm’s age.

AO: S.Williams d. Li (SF: Azarenka/Kvitova)
RG: Li d. Sharapova (SF: Petrova/Errani)
WI: S.Williams d. Kvitova (SF: Sharapova/Lisicki)
US: Azarenka d. Kerber (SF: S.Williams/Sharapova)
WTA: Sharapova d. Kvitova
FC: Czech Republic def. Russia

Of course, I could be waaaaaay off.

All for now.

ATP Backspin’s Galileo West now offers some alternate predictions:


Kiki Bertens/NED, Laura Robson/GBR, Garbine Muguruza/ESP, Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS

Kerber will win Miami or Indian Wells. Whichever one she wins, at the other one she'll go out before the quarters.
Kuznetsova comes back and plays some bizarre, but effective, tennis, wins a title and ends up at around 15 or 16 in the world
Venus and Serena play the Wimbledon Ladies Singles final and the Ladies Doubles. Venus wins both, defeating her sis in a classic and ending her long grass winning streak.
Wozniacki gets to less than 3 finals and falls out of the Top 15
Urzsula Radwanska finishes the season ranked higher than 20
There will be a Brit in the fourth round of at least 3 slams
Serena goes through the year without controversy
Three times in the past four years Stosur has reached the semis of the French. No one else has come close to that. She finally wins the French Open this year, but only if she doesn't run into any Italian underdogs in the latter stages.
Recently, Mauresmo got a job as a part-time advisor to Azarenka. I think one or two of the old guard, such as Davenport, Hingis, Capriati, Myskina, etc. will also do that or something similar.



Blogger Overhead Spin said...

I love the Venus prediction for Wimbledon. Make it happen tennis gods.

I am not sold on Kerber. Everyone kept talking about her 100+ plus match wins in 2012, but the thing that people forget to mention is that she does not win the matches that she is supposed to win. Compare her match wins to Serena's. Serena won 54 matches this season and ended up with 7 titles. Kerber won 80+ plus matches and ends up with 2 titles.

What will define Kerber for me will be her ability to at least get to the finals of tournies rather than falling in the quarters and semis as she did for most of this season.

As for Stosur. 3 titles. 3. If this had been Wozniacki people would have been calling for a coaching change & talking about what she needs to do. I wonder when people will realise that whatever it is that David Taylor is teaching her is not really working.

Fri Dec 14, 12:55:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I think so much -- if not all -- of Stosur's problems have always originated between her ears. Occasionally, she'll overcome it, but it still plays a big part in her results. To her credit, she DID manage to win the Open... though that result is looking even more like an aberration now than it did at the time.

Fri Dec 14, 03:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger Karen said...

Todd, it was an aberration. I recall when Stosur made the final of the FO, people said that clay was her best surface because it was slow and that it took her heavy FH top spin to new heights. Then when she won the USO it was because hard courts were her surface and that her heavy FH top spin was made for the surface. I mean WTF? The fact of the matter is that she got a very tired Serena and she played as if her her whole life depended on it. That is it. She goes through a whole season not even winning a title. She was in events where she was the only top 10 player and still did not win the title (Osaka).

As I write this I saw a tweet that David Taylor has stepped down as Captain of Australia's FC team. Nuff said

Sat Dec 15, 07:32:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, while Stosur gets come credit, I think it's pretty clear that that was the worst performance Serena has ever had in a slam final.

Sat Dec 15, 11:55:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I didn't realize Taylor had resigned his Fed Cup position. I wonder what's next. Stosur is so inconsistent. Occasionally, she's "switched on," and does everything right, but--with all her skills--it generally doesn't take that much to figure her out. What an odd career she's had (so far).

Sat Dec 15, 06:29:00 PM EST  
Blogger ajp77 said...

Ivanovic will be in top 10 for sure, too much talent just not enough stability mentally. Shes working on it before the FO to ensure a positive result.

Sat Apr 27, 02:15:00 PM EDT  

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