Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wk.6- Veni, Vidi, Vinci

Viva Italia, but... whew!

A quick rundown of some stand-outs from 2013's first weekend of Fed Cup action:

1. Or is it "familiar?" For the fifth straight year, Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic have advanced and will do battle in the semifinals. For the Hordettes, this weekend's action earned them a seventh straight final four berth.
2. Petra Kvitova, starting slowly (again), but finding a way through the darkness to stage a pair of comebacks, save a match point, and lead the two-time defending champions Czech back to the semis.
3. Canada, Croatia, Great Britain and Spain flashing an abundance of young talent.
4. Argentina and Brazil, even in defeat, showing that South American women's tennis might not be dead in the wake of Gisela Dulko's retirement, after all.
5. Kazakhstan officially beginning its climb up the Fed Cup ladder.
6. Russia, even with its three participating singles players having a combined career FC singles record of 3-6 AFTER advancing to the semis, showing that it still has the deepest roster of talent on tour.
7. Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci needing every last bit of confidence built up by their (now) 28-match clay court winning streak to help the Italians advance in a deciding doubles match against what was SUPPOSED to be an "overmatched" U.S. team.
8. Aleksandra Krunic backers being able to say, "I told you so."

1. Sam Stosur. Need I really say more? I think you can guess the rest.
2. Injuries, injuries, injuries... and cramping. Before (Serena, Current Sloane, AnaIvo & JJ), in spite of (Jovanovski, Date-Krumm) and during (Cibulkova, Vinci & Ormaechea), issues of health all played havoc with how this weekend's FC ties MIGHT have otherwise turned out.
3. Serbia: The Year After

*ONE THAT RAISES A FEW QUESTIONS ABOUT KARMA... for everyone accept Amelie*
After nine years in the Fed Cup hinterlands, Marion Bartoli -- after missing last year's Olympics due to a coaching dispute with the French Federation -- was finally able to reach an agreement with new French coach Amelie Mauresmo to participate this weekend. Naturally, La Trufflette then came down with the flu and withdrew from action the day before the start of France's World Group II tie against Germany. Of course, the French lost six straight sets and were quickly eliminated, and will now be forced into a springtime WG II Playoff to avoid falling into 2014 zone play. One might say that this is karma biting back at both the French Federation AND Bartoli for failing to come to their collective senses earlier so that the nation's best player could actually represent France in international competition. Pity poor Amelie, the eventual voice of reason in the entire mess, as she was ultimately caught in the middle despite her good work and rare common sense. But maybe her GOOD karma will pay off down the line... for everyone

*AND ANOTHER THAT I'LL CONTINUE TO HARP ON... even as I'm pleased to see at least a little movement in the direction of my opinion*
For a few seasons in this space on the first FC weekend of the year, I've commented on how great it would be if the Fed Cup adopted the same rule that Davis Cup uses regarding doubles matches. Namely, that each tie's doubles match be moved from the #5 to #3 position, making it a viable match in EVERY tie, not to mention allowing all team members to contribute in a "live" rubber and bringing about some interesting coaching decisions, since top singles players would be potentially-necessary doubles team choices while still possibly having to play an additional singles match later. In this weekend's eight five-match ties in WG I and II, three (ITA/USA, RUS/JPN & SWE/ARG) came down to a deciding doubles match. While those matches are exciting, I've always longed for the sort of dramatic winner-take-all singles matches that would occur if the FC adopted the DC format. This year, though, at least there HAS been one change -- the decision was made to move the doubles match up from #5 to the #4 dead rubber position if the first three singles matches are won by the same nation. It's the same rule that's applied in Davis Cup. Not TOTALLY what I've been hoping for, but it's a start.

Small steps. Small steps.

*WEEK 6*

=1st Round=
Czech Republic (H) def. Australia 4-0
Italy (H) def. United States 3-2
Russia (H) def. Japan 3-2
Slovak Republic def. Serbia (H) 3-2
=World Group II=
Switzerland (H) def. Belgium 4-1
Sweden def. Argentina (H) 3-2
Spain (H) def. Ukraine 3-1
Germany def. France (H) 3-1
=Zone I Promotion Finals=
[Europe/Africa]: Poland def. Croatia 2-1
[Europe/Africa]: Great Britain def. Bulgaria 2-0
[Americas]: Canada def. Brazil 2-1
[Asia/Oceania]: Kazakhstan def. Uzbekistan 2-1
=Zone II Promotion Finals=
[Asia/Oceania]: Indonesia def. Hong Kong 2-0

[1st Rd. MVPs]
Roberta Vinci/ITA (overall P.O.W.)
...of course, the weekend surely didn't start out this way. With Italy up 1-0, Vinci cramped up in Match #2 against Varvara Lepchenko, losing her one set advantage and seemingly set to go down to ignominious defeat when she fell down 5-1 in the 3rd. But then Vinci battled back to 5-5. She lost the set at 7-5, but then came back on Sunday and, after Sara Errani lost to Lepchenko to put Team Italia's collective back against the wall at 2-1, Vinci had sufficiently recovered overnight to win a three-setter against Jamie Hampton AND come back in the deciding doubles match (w/ Errani) to defeat Liezel Huber & Lepchenko in straight sets and send Italy back to yet another FC semifinal. After a career of playing 3rd or 4th fiddle to other, more accomplished countrywomen at FC time (visible in the nearly-30 year old's -- her birthday is on Feb. 18 -- comparably miniscule 2-4 career singles record), Vinci took the leadership role from the #2 singles position this weekend. Her win with Errani added on to the world doubles #1's string of "oh's," as in a career 18-0 FC doubles record, including 6-0 with Errani, and now 28-0 doubles run on clay with her partner that extends back nearly two years.
Petra Kvitova/CZE
...really, the story of the CZE/AUS 1st Round tie was Sam Stosur's inability to play with a lead. But, if you're looking for an MVP for the two-time defending champion Czech it would have to be Kvitova, the only player to notch two victories in the 4-0 win over Australia. She hardly cruised to victory, though. On Day 1, she overcame a 4-2 1st set deficit against Czech-born Jarmila Gajdosova to win in straights. On Day 2, against Stosur, she fell behind 6-2/5-4 and saved a match point to avoid a straight sets loss to the Aussie. She came back to take the 2nd in a tie-break (after falling behind 2-0), then saved two break points in the opening game of the 3rd. It was Stosur's last squandered lead, as Kvitova raced to a 5-0 lead before weathering a late, no-more-pressure-involved rally from the Aussie to take the deciding set 6-4 and clinch the Czech team's advancement to the FC final four. Kvitova is now 18-5 in career FC singles matches, 12-1 in her last thirteen. Next up: the Italians.
Ekaterina Makarova/RUS's a good thing the Russians have such a deep pool of talent from which to pluck members of its roster. It surely needed everyone to take down a Japanese team that came THIS CLOSE to advancing to its first FC semifinal since 1996. After Elena Vesnina, a late replacement for Maria Kirilenko, opened Day 2 with a loss to Ayumi Morita (who'd defeated Makarova on Day 1), Makarova came to the rescue to erase the Hordettes' 2-1 deficit. She took out Kimiko Date-Krumm, who played despite an Achilles injury after being inspired by Morita's spirited on-court work, in straights, then joined with Vesnina in the deciding doubles match to defeat Misaki Doi & Morita (ending her fourteen straight FC singles/doubles winning streak) to reach a seventh straight semifinal.
Daniela Hantuchova/SVK
...with Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic out with injuries, and Bojana Jovanovski battling a back injury that greatly hampered her serve, the Slovaks seemingly had an easy path back to the FC semis. What is it they say about "if's and but's" and "candy and nuts?" After Hantuchova put SVK up 1-0 on Day 1, and Dominika Cibulkova served for a straight sets win over Vesna Dolonc, it looked like it'd be a drama-free weekend. But Cibulkova failed to close things out, then suffered severe cramping and had to be wheeled off the court, retiring while holding a 6-4/5-4 lead. With Hantuchova having retired from a singles match last week, suddenly everything was thrown up into the air. Jana Cepelova replaced Cibulkova on Day 2, but had to survive a 3:18 match against BoJo, winning an 11-9 3rd set in a contest which saw Jovanovski commit 79 errors while battling her back injury. With things starting to get complicated, and Serbian "good luck charm" Aleksandra Krunic waiting in the wings for yet another potentially tie-deciding doubles match, FC vet Hantuchova took things into her own hands and defeated Dolonc 6-3/6-2 to seal a win for the Slovaks, who'll face off with the Russians in the semis. Hantuchova is now 29-12 in her FC singles career.

Romina Oprandi/SUI #67 Oprandi, playing in her hometown of Bern in her first career FC tie after years of playing under the comparably-loaded Italy, almost single-handedly demoralized and defeated the Belgians in the first Fed Cup action of the official post-Henin, post-Clijsters (and this time they mean it!) era. After Yanina Wickmayer defeated Stefanie Voegele to give BEL a 1-0 lead, Oprandi took out Kirsten Flipkens 3 & 3, dropping the vet to a career 8-15 in FC play, then opened Day 2 by destroying Wickmayer 6-2/6-2. The Belgians didn't even bother with running Flipkens out yet again, making youngster Alison Van Uytvanck a late replacement. Voegele clinched with a straight sets win, but it's difficult to not at least give Oprandi a little credit for having previously turned over the Belgians' FC plans.
Sofia Arvidsson & Johanna Larsson, SWE has been the case with Sweden's FC efforts for years, it was all about Arvidsson and Larsson. After Day 1, that didn't seem as if it'd be a good thing. The longtime stalwarts went 0-2 against the Argentines, winning no more than three games in four of the five sets they played against Paula Ormaechea and Florencia Molinero. But on Day 2, the veterans' experience came to the forefront. Needing to go 3-0 to advance, Arvidsson battled Ormaechea into a 3rd set retirement (the Argentine went out with a torn ligament... so sad), then Larsson knocked off Molinero 3 & 2. The wins ran the pair's career FC singles record to 57-35. But they weren't finished. Teaming up, they also won the doubles, defeating Maria Irigoyen & Mailen Auroux 6-4/6-4 to complete the on-the-road comeback from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in the weekend's final FC match (and handing me my only prediction miss in eight picks this weekend... grrrr).
Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP
...with a team filled with relative youngsters, but with all-time Spanish great Conchita Martinez acting as coach, 31-year old LDL opened up Spain's tie with Ukraine by sweating out a 5-7/6-2/8-6 Day 1 win over young Elina Svitolina to give ESP a 1-0 lead. After that, things fell into place as the singles victories were split between teammates Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (20) and Silvia Soler-Espinosa (22).
Julia Goerges/GER
...when Marion Bartoli pulled out of this French-based tie with the flu a day before the start of play, you sort of knew the Pastries were in for trouble. The combined FC singles record of Goerges (2-5) and Sabine Lisicki (4-5) gave rise to SOME questions, but the Germans quickly dispelled any worries by sweeping through three singles matches without dropping a set. Goerges went 2-0, doubling her career FC win total and clinching the German advancement in France (hmmmm) with a win over Pauline Parmentier on Sunday.

[Zone Play MVPs]
Agnieszka Radwanska/POL
...A-Rad was expected to lead Poland out of Europe/Africa I zone play, and that's precisely what she did... with a little unexpected, and wished-to-be unnecessary, help from her sister Urszula. Aga went 3-0 in Pool singles play without losing a set, getting wins over Sorana Cirstea and Shahar Peer. But Ula's loss forced her into doubles action against Israel (on Israel's home court). The Radwanska's won there, but in three sets. In the Promotional Playoff, after Ula had lost to young Croat Ana Konjuh, A-Rad defeated Donna Vekic to keep Poland alive, then teamed with her sister again to win the tie with a doubles victory, this time in straights sets. Agnieszka is now 28-6 in FC singles play, and 34-7 overall.
Laura Robson/GBR the star of Judy Murray's British charges, Robson went 3-0 in singles and 2-1 in doubles play, in which she and Johanna Konta actually notched a double-bagel victory, though it was Heather Watson who provided the clinching Promotional Playoff win over Tsvetana Pironkova as GBR defeated the Bulgarians 2-0.
Eugenie Bouchard/CAN
...the 18-year old went 4-0 in Americas I zone play, giving her a 5-1 career FC mark. In the Americas Promotional Playoff, after Sharon Fichman went down in three sets to Brazil's Paula Cristina Goncalves in the opening match, it was Bouchard's win over Teliana Pereira that allowed the tie to go to a deciding doubles match, won by teammates Sharon Fichman & Gabriela Dabrowski.
Ksenia Pervak/KAZ
...while Yaroslava Shvedova went 1-2 in singles this week, FC newbie Pervak went 3-0 and kept the favored -- and hosting -- Kazakhs a step ahead in Asia/Oceania I zone play.
Ayu-Fanti Damayanti/INA Asia/Oceania Zone II play, Damayanti, 24, led an Indonesian team that went 17-0 through Pool and Promotional Playoff action. Entering with a 20-14 career singles/doubles record, Damayanti was 5-0 (s) and 3-0 (d) this week. Also under consideration here was Lavinia Tananta, 25, who was 4-0/4-0.

Lucie Safarova/CZE
...over the past year, Safarova has managed to morph from a will-she-or-won't-she-show-up "question mark" into a Fed Cup "money player." Before 2012, she was 5-9 in career FC singles matches, but compiled a 3-0 mark last year during the Czechs' second of back-to-back championships, starring in the final against Serbia while Kvitova wasn't quite up to her normal team environment standards after coming back from bronchitis. On Saturday, after Kvitova led off with a win, Safarova engaged in a tie-defining match with Aussie Samantha Stosur. Safarova came back from 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 1st set deficits, a set point in the tie-break, and seized upon on a distracted Stosur in a 2nd set tie-break to end with four straight points won after the Aussie's poor replay challenge. With her failure against Safarova fresh in her mind, Stosur choked even worse on Day 2 versus Kvitova as Australia went down in flames in a (literally) sweeping loss. On a four match FC winning streak, Safarova now stands at 9-9 in her career under the Czech flag.
Varvara Lepchenko/USA her Fed Cup debut, Lepchenko was very nearly the star of the show in Team USA's road trip to Italy. On Saturday, she took down a cramping Roberta Vinci in three sets, and then Sara Errani in straights one day later to give the Bannerettes what turned out be a very surmountable 2-1 lead. Teamed with Liezel Huber, going for her fifth career FC tie-clinching win, Lepchenko wasn't able to put a cherry on her Sunday sundae, going down 6-2/6-2 to the world's top-ranked doubles team of Errani/Vinci, who proved that at least by teaming up they could finally defeat the American.
Ayumi Morita/JPN
...if the Japanese, in their first World Group tie since 2007, had been able take down the Hordettes in Russia it would have all for the glory of Morita. A small wrecking ball during JPN's climb up the FC ladder, Morita (who, you might remember, put up a nice fight against Serena Williams in Melbourne a few weeks ago) entered with a twelve-match singles/doubles winning streak in Fed Cup play. After upsetting the likes of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in a pair of straight sets wins, the streak stood at fourteen as the Japanese led 2-1. In the end, Makarova swooped in and Russia advanced, ending Morita's streak in the deciding doubles match to prevent Japan from reaching its first FC semifinal since 1996.

Donna Vekic/CRO says something about your nation's young talent when the Croatian team's 16-year old "leader" ended up being arguably outshown by her even younger teammate. While Ana Konjuh ended up with the better overall record, Vekic was 3-0 for her part en route to leading Croatia out of Europe/Asia I zone Pool play and into the Promotional Playoff against Poland. Vekic's only loss of the week came there. But it was to A-Rad, the highest-ranked player in action this week, so she surely has nothing to hang her head about.
Sharon Fichman & Gabriela Dabrowski, CAN
...despite playing with one of the youngest teams on the court this week, Canada (on the heels of the men's team's big upset of Spain in Davis Cup play last weekend) advanced out of Americas I zone play, combining for a match record of 10-1. Of course, it was that tenth win that was the most important, though, as Fichman (3-1 in singles) dropped the team's first match all week to begin the Promotional Playoff against Brazil. After Bouchard kept the Canadians alive, Fichman returned and teamed with Dabrowski to clinch the team's advancement. Fichman/Dabrowski were 3-0 in doubles this week.
Heather Watson/GBR
...while Robson went undefeated in singles play, Watson had one blemish -- a Pool play 6-1/6-4 loss against Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito. She rebounded well, going a combined s/d 3-0 and finishing off Tsvetana Pironkova after falling a set down to clinch Britain's advancement out of Europe/Africa I zone play.
Wang Qiang/CHN
...Wang, 21, came up one match short of claiming China's wild card tournament "title" and a berth in the main draw at this year's Australian Open. But she put up good results in extensive action during Asia/Oceania I zone play this week, as China's main stars were once again unavailable for FC duty. China failed to advance out of zone play, but finished in 3rd place as Wang went 3-1 in singles, notching wins over Chang Kai-Chen, Akgul Amanmuradova and Nudnida Luangnam.

Ana Konjuh/CRO
...Croatia came within a deciding doubles match from advancing past the heavily-favored Poles in the Europe/Africa I zone Playoff, but the 15-year old Australian Open Girls champ -- and junior #1 -- more than held her own all week. In her FC debut, Konjuh ran off four straight victories (thee singles/one doubles), including a 3rd set tie-break win over Urszula Radwanska in the Promotional Playoff.

Jana Cepelova/SVK
...the 19-year old was pressed into action on Day 2, with the score knotted at 1-1, after Dominika Cibulkova's cramps-related retirement on Saturday. With just a single FC singles win to her credit -- a 3rd set retirement against Safarova in 2011 -- Cepelova came in and battle Bojana Jovanovski for 3:18, winning an 11-9 3rd set to set up Hantuchova's clinching singles win one match later.
Team Brazil
...women's tennis in South America has been nearly fading to black since Gabriela Sabatini retired, and with Argentina's Gisela Dulko now cooling her heels in retirement, the most successful player on the continent over the last decade is no more. On Sunday, Argentina blew a 2-0 lead on home court against Sweden and failed to advance to the WG I Playoffs this spring. Still, the Argentines are at least on the rise.... but South America should have more than one "average" nation for women's tennis, don't you think? Especially with the Olympics coming to the continent in 2016. Enter the host nation of those games -- Brazil. Yes, the Brazilians seem to be building, well, something. Brazilians have become something of a force on the ITF circuit, though they've yet to make a dent on the regular tour. But this week the FC team of Teliana Pereira, Paula Cristina Goncalves, Beatriz Haddad Maia and Laura Pigossi went 9-2 and took the favored Canadian team to a deciding doubles match in the Americas I zone Promotional Playoff in Colombia, losing out in a tight 7-6/7-5 match. With so many good men's players hailing from South American nations, one would like to think that women's tennis could at least become something more than an afterthought there. Maybe the recent resurgence of Brazil, the home of seven-time (4 U.S./3 Wimbledon) slam champ Maria Bueno, is the start of something, though maybe not "big," at least "better."

Galina Voskoboeva/KAZ
...the 28-year old Kazakh never played a singles match during this week's Asia/Oceania I zone action, but she went 2-0 in doubles, including a win the Promotional Playoff (w/ Shvedova) that edged Kazakhstan past Uzbekistan.

Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
...Shvedova was the most experienced singles player (7-3 in her FC career) on Kazakhstan's FC team this week. But after winning her first match 6-1/6-1, then taking a love set to begin her second, she squandered her one-set lead in a loss to Luksika Kumkhum (THA). In the Asia/Oceania I Promotional Playoff, in Kazakhstan, she failed to clinch the tie victoyr in a three-set loss to Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova. Through eight matches, KAZ was 6-2, with both losses coming via Shvedova's 1-2 singles mark. But Shvedova turned herself from possible goat to heroine in one fell swoop, teaming with Galina Voskoboeva to get the deciding doubles win over UZB.
Radwanska/Radwanska, POL
...the Radwanska sisters came into this week having only played as a doubles duo in FC action twice in their careers. But when Ula lost matches to Julia Glushko (vs. ISR in the final tie of Pool play) and Ana Konjuh (vs CRO in the Europe/Africa I Promotional Playoff), the sisters were forced into action in order to keep heavily-favored (mostly because of Aga) Poland's hopes alive. They prevailed both times
Aleksandra Krunic/SRB, technically, she didn't get an official win. But Krunic, part of more than one of those Serb doubles teams that put together tie-saving victories as Serbia climbed up the FC ladder and into the nation's first-ever final last year, wasn't even put on the Serbian team for this weekend. Only after both Jelena Jankovic & Ana Ivanovic pulled out with injuries did she get the call, and only then as a possible member of a doubles duo with Vesna Dolonc, the same player -- with no FC history, as she only recently represented Russia -- who'd been originally placed on the team instead of her. As it turned out, Dolonc got a "victory" over Dominika Cibulkova when the Slovak had to carted off the court with cramps while leading 6-4/5-4, then lost 3 & 2 to Daniela Hantuchova to hand the tie to SVK. Though the dead rubber doubles matches wasn't played, for some reason, the Serbs (Krunic/Dolonc) were awarded a walkover "win" -- maybe because the Serbs didn't want to just cancel the match, as occurred in a few other FC ties this weekend -- to make the final score 3-2.

Samantha Stosur/AUS
...oh, Sam. Oh, poor Sam. Really, though, who else is there to blame for all this other than Ms. Stosur herself? After winning the U.S. Open title in 2011, it was legitimately surmised that it might stoke her confidence and make her a "changed" player for the rest of her career. Umm, nope. So far, she's still been a mess in any match played in Australia. She's yet to win another singles title, with the two-year anniversary of her last coming up this September. Going into this weekend in the Czech Republic, though, at least she had a six-match non-Australian soil Fed Cup singles winning streak going. Well, so much for that... and welcome back to the old, lead-choking Sam we used to know and grew so frustrated with. Against Lucie Safarova, she blew 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 1st set leads, double-faulted on set point and handed the tie-break away with errors... then became rattled after a poor replay challenge in a second tie-break and failed to win another point from that moment in a 7-6(6)/7-6(3) loss. Against Petra Kvitova, with the Aussies still holding out hope for a comeback, she held a match point for a 6-2/6-4 win, but squandered another lead. She led 2-0 in a 1st set break, but lost it 7-3. She had two break points in the opening game of the 3rd set, but failed to convert and soon found herself in a 5-0 hole. Finally, with no pressure, she rallied and made things close at 6-4. But, really, so what? Stosur will soon be playing some doubles with old partner Lisa Raymond. Hopefully, she'll have some success and get her confidence going a bit. Otherwise, is it wrong to wonder if any Sam even remotely resembling the '11 Open champ might be "lost" forever? Yeah, I know... THAT player has likely already gone extinct.
Team Serbia
...the "year after" is already getting sticky. First, JJ talks of not wanting to play FC anymore. Then Aleksandra Krunic, a key player in SRB's rise to the 2012 final, is left off the team in favor of never-done-a-thing-in-FC-and-new-Serb Vesna Dolonc. JJ subsequently pulls out of this weekend's World Group tie with the Slovak Republic due to injury, followed by Ana Ivanovic. At least new #1 singles position player Bojana Jovanovski plays, but she does so with a motion-limiting back injury and goes 0-2. Still with a shot to remarkably send things to a deciding doubles match, Dolonc is defeated handily by Daniela Hantuchova. As it turns out, the only "wins" in Serbia's 3-2 loss came via a retirement (while leading 6-4/5-4) from Cibulkova and a dead rubber doubles walkover at the end of play. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.
Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
...a straight sets Day 1 loser against Romina Oprandi to fall to 8-15 in her FC career, and then substituted for by teenager Alison Van Uytvanck on Day 2 with the Belgians desperately needing a win to stay alive in their tie versus Switzerland. Where's Kim when you need her?
Anna Kremer/LUX
...the 37-year old, ranked #682 in the world, has been a FC fixture for Luxembourg since she debuted at age 15 in 1991. Her nomination for play this past week in Europe/Africa I zone play was her record 68th Fed Cup appearance. Through the years, she's notched FC wins over the likes of Katarina Srebotnik, Anna Smashnova, Monica Niculescu, Tsvetana Pironkova, Petra Martic and others. But, needless to say, Kremer did NOT have a good week. She went a combined 0-5 in singles and doubles in Pool play, dropping her career FC record to 44-27 and forcing Luxembourg to play in E/A I's relegation playoff. There, at least, Kremer notched a clinching singles win allow LUX to finish 13th and avoid relegation to Zone II.

ITF PLAYER: Lauren Davis/USA
...maybe one of these days, it'll be Davis taking part in a big Bannerette Fed Cup weekend. As it was, the 19-year was instead winning her third career ITF challenger -- and the biggest of her career so far -- at the $100K in Midland, Michigan. After wins over Alexa Glatch, Alla Kudryavtseva and Monica Puig, Davis defeated Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic in the final.

1. WG 1st Rd - Safarova/CZE d. Stosur/AUS
Stosur came in sporting a six-match FC winning streak outside of Australia. When she took 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 leads in the 1st, she seemed set. But, come on, this is Sam. The 1st set ended up lasting eighty-two minutes, included three ten-minute games and went to a tie-break. There, Stosur led 6-4, double-faulted at 6-5, then committed two back-to-back errors to end the set. In the 2nd tie-break, at 3-3, she stopped a point to challenge a call and -- wouldn't you know it -- she was wrong and lost the point. She never won another.
2. WG 1st Rd - Kvitova/CZE d. Stosur/AUS
Finally, Petra found a player more willing to go on walkabout than even she has on occasion over the last two seasons. Stosur held a MP for a 6-2/6-4 win. When she failed you get it, who COULDN'T have guessed how this one would turn out?
3. WG 1st Rd - Cepelova/SVK d. Jovanovski/SRB
In 3:18, and with a back injury, BoJo still nearly puts the Serb team on her back once again. Unfortunately for her, her ailing back wasn't strong enough.
4. WG 1st Rd - Dolonc/SRB d. Cibulkova/SVK
The crazy spirit of Queen Chaos lived... at least for a day.
5. WG 1st Rd - Kvitova/CZE d. Gajdosova/AUS
Czech-born Gajdsova actually led the 1st set 4-2 before Kvitova realized who she was, where she was and what she was playing for. Too bad she can't pretend and do that ALL season.
6. WG 1st Rd - Vinci/ITA d. Hampton/USA
Once more, Hampton pushes a higher-ranked player to three sets but simply -- at least, physically, what with her chronic back issues -- doesn't have the goods to finish the deal, even against a 29-year old vet who was beset by cramps one day earlier. Meanwhile, in Doha, Vika dreams of seeing her reflection in her second Australian Open trophy.
7. E/A I Pool - Robson/Konta (GBR) d. Simic/Kajtazovic (BIH)
Britain's first double-bagel in FC play in eleven years.
8. Doha Q1 - Bychkova d. Black
Yes, THAT Black. Playing singles. Considering there were quite a few usually-doubles specialists in the Doha singles qualifying -- Spears, Uhlirova & Husarova, for example -- I'm figuring that what with all the FC play this weekend, the organizers were short of players to fill out the Q-draw and quite a few slots opened up for the "Doublettes."

1. E/A I Pool - Radwanska/Radwanska (POL) d. Glushko/Peer (ISR)
And in Israel, too, with the winning team advancing to the Promotional Playoff. Oh, The Radwanska is so cruel.
2. E/A I Playoff - Konjuh/CRO d. U.Radwanska/POL
Ana... what have you done?!?!?!
3. E/A I Playoff - Radwanska/Radwanska (POL) d. Jurak/Konjuh (CRO)
Well, Ana... you should have known not to mess with The Radwanska. Or Aga and/or Ula, either, for that matter.

17...United States
2...Czech Republic
2...West Germany/Germany
1...Slovak Republic
1...South Africa
1...Slovak Republic
1...United States
2...Czech Republic

=2013 Semifinals=
Czech Republic vs. Italy
Russia vs. Slovak Republic
=World Group I Playoffs=
United States
=World Group II Playoffs=
Great Britain

DOHA, QATAR (Premier $2.369/hard outdoor)
12 Final: Azarenka d. Stosur
12 Doubles Champions: Huber/Raymond
13 Top Seeds: Azarenka/S.Williams

#1 Azarenka d. #12 Kirilenko
#4 A.Radwanska d. #5 Kerber
#3 Sharapova d. Kuznetsova
#2 S.Williams d. #7 Kvitova
#1 Azarenka d. #4 A.Radwanska
#2 S.Williams d. #3 Sharapova
#2 S.Williams d. #1 Azarenka

...just about anyone that is anyone is here. But, after how many players broke down during FC action, one wonders how much attrition will have occurred in THIS draw by the end of the week.

CALI, COLOMBIA (WTA $125/red clay outdoor)
12 Final ($100K ITF): Dulgheru d. Minella
12 Doubles Champions: Knapp/Minella
13 Top Seeds: Minella/Arruabarrena-Vecino

#3 Cadantu d. #1 Minella
(WC) Dulgheru d. #5 Torro-Flor
(WC) Dulgheru d. #3 Cadantu the third-ever $125K WTA Challenger series stop, Dulgheru's comeback from surgery on both knees continues. This would be a good place for it to reach a new high point, too, as she won this title last year BEFORE surgery, when this tournament was a $100K event on the ITF circuit.

All for now.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, looks like Current Sloane reverted back to Former Sloane in Doha today.

Against Zakopalova, she failed to convert four match points, and twice served for the match. She lost a 2nd set tie-break which she led 5-4, and another in the 3rd that was tied at 5-5. In 2:45, she lost 4-6,7-6(5),7-6(5), and the loss means she won't face Sharapova in the next round.

Wed Feb 13, 02:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Caroline doing what she should on Valentines day - win - congrats to her and another Foster's on it's way.
It was a windy court which spoiled good play together with a Mona who played next to herself and a Caro who made a lot of errors. The wiser player won the match which despite the "bad" play was quite exciting to watch. Caroline has to up her game against Aga.

Another thing why are there no hawkeye apart from centre court. With all the petro dollars behind this tournament it can't be the money. I think there were quite a few wrong decisions which went against both Barthel and Wozniacki. The last thing Piotr should have been ordered from the court arguing with the umpire - sorry but so are the rules - only following the rules are getting a little sloppy these days. Pull yourself together WTA.

Thu Feb 14, 09:45:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Vika looking good. Double bagels. Feel for Mchale, some good games. Can't stop smiling, in the very windy conditions, everyone comes out like vika, with the pants under the skirt. Even kvitova is playing with it on, somehow just doesn't look as nice though. I'd say bring on the style! And today with an extra top on. She just doesn't care, so casual.

Who's that guy commentating on on sharapova's match, kept saying that Maria takes more than 30 sec between serve and how she is not penalized. ;o

Thu Feb 14, 11:41:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, maybe Kvitova turned some sort of corner on Fed Cup weekend, after all. Oh, not when it comes to falling behind. She did that again today vs. Petrova. But, as she did vs. Gajdosova and Stosur this weekend, she once again found a way to come back.

Down 6-4/3-1, Kvitova saved 5 BP at 2-3 down and saved a four-deuce game. In the 3rd, she was once again down 3-1. Still, she won 4-6/6-4/6-3.

Of course, it WAS against Nadia. So who really knows if it means anything.

Thu Feb 14, 04:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Has anyone seen Serena play? Is she hampered by her AO injuries? Tomorrow's match against Kvitova will be a test.

Fri Feb 15, 12:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Nice advertisement for Doha tournament. All quarter finalists are top 10 players and if everything works out all semi finalists may be top 1,2,3,4 seeds! I don't remember seeing that happened for a very long time in WTA.

Fri Feb 15, 04:13:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Whew... Kvitova loses 4-1 3rd set lead vs. Serena. One step forward, two steps back.

Jo -

Just checked, it actually happened three times last season: Acapulco (Wk.9), Stuttgart (Wk.17) and in the WTA Championships. In the latter two, the top four seeds -- as they would be in Doha -- were also the top four ranked players in the world at the time.

Fri Feb 15, 02:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

By the way, here's the link to the video of Piotr Wozniacki arguing with the chair umpire but not being asked to leave the court the other day during the Barthel match.

Fri Feb 15, 03:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, and with Serena's win vs. Kvitova she'll reclaim the #1 spot on Monday -- to become the oldest WTA #1 ever -- no matter what happens over the weekend.

Fri Feb 15, 04:20:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Yes, I found no fault with Caroline's actions...but the umpire really was harassed into making a call which is entirely inappropriate. he should have been asked to leave and been fined. regardless of the "correctness" of the call, it doesn't make the tour look good to have such influenceable officials.

caveat: i don't think the call affected the outcome of the match either way.

Fri Feb 15, 05:27:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Hey Todd,

Did you (or anyone else) see/record the Serena/Petra match? Could you do a brief recap? How was the on court interview? I heard it was emotional?


Fri Feb 15, 05:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Eric, the match was amazing (see my blog for a quick review). And yes, Serena cried during the interview. She was just filled with joy.

Fri Feb 15, 09:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Here's the link to Diane's recap, by the way.

Fri Feb 15, 11:26:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Oh mine oh mine! Beating serena in the final. I think she should always have her pants on. Lucky charm. I thought she would have a chance if she could get the first set. Well, second set bound to have a dip. Yuck, 39% first serve. But I knew she would come back on third set, as she always says its a new set, everything starts over again. So so happy for her. The AO final boosted her belief. I wasn't sure if she could actually serve it out, but. Wonder US open final was at the back of her mind......

Sun Feb 17, 01:04:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, although she hasn't beaten Serena in a while, I think Azarenka is really the only player on tour -- when Sharapova loses to Williams, it's rarely close -- that going into a match with Serena has reason to believe she actually has a decent chance to win. She might not have done if often, but she usually has chances. This time, Azarenka took advantage of them (though Vika's failure to challenge that Serena 1st serve that was actually out very well could have come back to haunt her).

Sun Feb 17, 03:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

If Azarenka keeps playing like this, it will be hard for anyone but Serena (oh, and Petra, should she again accept the assignment!) to beat her on a hard court.

Winning that second major gave her a big boost, too, and probably more so because she did it under such difficult circumstances.

I'm still liking Li for the French Open.

Sun Feb 17, 04:26:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Diane - the French Open is like 5 years away.

Sun Feb 17, 05:12:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Oops, posted too soon.

That's such a bold statement. :)

Sun Feb 17, 05:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Eric, I wait all year for the French Open--I'm prepared!

Sun Feb 17, 09:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

From twitter:

A player 31 or older (Serena, Benneteau, Nalbandian, Haas, Castano) made all 5 finals (incl Cali 125k) this week. They all lost.

Maybe it was the stars aligning for Vika? You know Aga was the one who brought down the Russian meteorite.

Sun Feb 17, 09:36:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

eric, i really do think the stars lined up for vika this early 2013. i wouldn't think she could have beaten serena at brisbane yet. and a loss in early year would have bad taste for the rest of the year. in AO if they were to meet, i think vika might have a chance, but still favoured serena as vika wasn't playing her best tennis. i still credit her weathering AO final which toughened her mind, knowing full well she came out of an impossible hole from crowds and li. till this point, i am still amazed (and puzzled) at how she pulled it through. incredible fighter.

this time, she is riding on her second major, already proved she is worthy. she brought new elements of her game in doha (which she said she would after AO with what she practiced in off season), playing more agressively and moving forward. her serve also improved, i am pretty sure she hit the serve harder/faster than she did at AO.

hard court is where she thrives and that's the one place which she has a real chance against serena. but i also think it's overdue, going back to 2x at AO and last year US open where she was leading. this time she proved she is hard to beat with her new found mental strength, even against serena. both players played well, with +3 differentials. even when serena looked to have more errors but she also had more winners (not played as bad as she claimed). impressive for vika to hit positive differential against serena, more impressive for me is that she actually played the big points better.

RG... seems very far away. but can't wait to see if maria will get motivated again in what is her best surface (really, who would have thought). i think li, serena and vika all have a fair chance.

Sun Feb 17, 10:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I love this quote from Bodo:
Azarenka may fall to No. 2 on Monday, but she’s a better player than she was for most of the time when she was on top, and everyone—including Serena—will have to come to grips with that reality in the coming months.


So true. Azarenka has hit another gear following her second AO title.

Mon Feb 18, 12:30:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Jo - I agree with everything you said :)

Mon Feb 18, 12:31:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Sloane Stephens lost first round to cirstea with +50 errors and 15 winners..... What happened to her? My bet is now she has expectation on herself after the AO run, and just unable to swing as freely as before. The burden of expectation.

Mon Feb 18, 08:48:00 AM EST  

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