Sunday, January 05, 2014

Wk.1- Act 1, Scene 1 (2014)

Hmmm, what is Aga so happy about?

Well, it wasn't about winning the Hopman Cup title for Poland. Because that didn't happen. Oh, but have no fear, the first champions of 2014 HAVE been crowned.

Not surprisingly, one of them is named Serena Williams. Also not surprising was that she had to go through world #2 Victoria Azarenka in order to raise her latest trophy, the 58th of her career. Their meeting in the Brisbane final marked the seventh #1-vs.-#2 WTA tour match-up since the start of the 2013 season, and the eleventh such meeting between a world #1 and #2 since 2012. Prior to this recent run, there'd been just one 1-vs.-2 clash in the previous three seasons combined, and only two in five years.

Needless to say, it's working out better for everyone involved for things to be the way they are now. (Even Vika, who admitted last week that her rivalry with Serena, though she's still on the short end of the relationship, is good for her both as a player, as well as a person.)

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova is back, and looking no worse for wear (or inactivity). Same for the aforementioned Aga Radwanska, whose vacation time with Ula over the winter did her some good after she'd appeared to be something of a shell of herself at the Tour Championships last October. In all, six tennis-playing sisters competed in Week 1 finals, though only two left with big smiles on their faces.

Oh, yeah, and Alize Cornet proved that one need not to actually win matches to become a champion.

As for the rest...

S: Serena Williams/USA def. Victoria Azarenka/BLR 6-4/7-5
D: Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova (RUS/AUS) d. Mladenovic/Voskoboeva (FRA/KAZ)

S: Li Na/CHN def. Peng Shuai/CHN 6-4/7-5
D: Niculescu/Zakopalova (ROU/CZE) d. N.Kichenok/L.Kichenok (UKR/UKR)

S: Ana Ivanovic/SRB def. Venus Williams/USA 6-2/5-7/6-4
D: Fichman/Sanchez (CAN/USA) d. Hradecka/Krajicek (CZE/NED)

France (Cornet/Tsonga) def. Poland (A.Radwanska/Panfil)


...umm, who else? Once again, Serena conquered all, including the world's #4 (Sharapova in the SF) and #2 (Azarenka in the final). While the two players in question were both competitive and good -- albeit straight set -- matches resulted, Williams now stands a combined 29-5 against the women. Additional victories over Andrea Petkovic and Dominika Cibulkova (at least the Slovak didn't have to endure a double bagel like Aga served her last year in Week 1) runs Serena's current win streak to twenty-two. She's won four straight titles, reached seven consecutive finals (going 6-1, losing only to Vika in Cincinnati last summer) and has won at least one title in each of the last eight seasons (only Sharapova has a longer current streak of consistency). One week from now Williams will be lining up in Melbourne for her first battle in her attempt at slam title #18. Pity the poor woman who'll be on the other side of the net.
RISERS: Agnieszka Radwanska/POL & Vania King/USA

...even if she was literally dancing up a storm during the week in Perth, A-Rad didn't walk off with a Hopman Cup title for Poland on the weekend. But it wasn't due to her lack of effort, or individual success. One year after she opened '13 by taking the Week 1 title in Auckland, Aga went 4-0 in singles this past week, getting wins over Flavia Pennetta, Eugenie Bouchard and Sam Stosur in round robin play, then another over Alize Cornet in the final against France. After filling in more-than-admirably for an injured Jerzy Janowicz, Team Aga partner Grzegorz Panfil couldn't take down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, then the Polish duo lost the deciding mixed doubles match. Meanwhile, in Shenzhen, Vania King continued her "late" career resurgence with a trip to the semifinals following wins over Petra Martic, Sara Errani (after saving two match points and getting her biggest win ever in just her second career scalping of a Top 10 player, along with that of then-#10 Marion Bartoli in Seoul in '11) and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova. Unfortunately, the Bannerette awarded a walkover to her opponent (one of two semifinalist Americans this week to do so, as Jamie Hampton did the same in Auckland), Peng Shuai, due to a thigh injury.
SURPRISES: Alize Cornet/FRA & Sharon Fichman/Maria Sanchez (CAN/USA)

...the surprise isn't really that Cornet is part of a Hopman Cup winning team, but that she did so by going 1-3 in singles, with her only win (over Anabel Medina-Garrigues) coming in a "meaningless" tie with Spain after France had already qualified for the final. Sure, Cornet held up her end in what turned out to be many important mixed doubles matches, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the lead dog for the team this week, quite possibly signaling that he might rebound rather well in '14 after being hampered by a few injuries last season. It's France's first Hopman title, after runner-up results in '98 and '12 with teams led by eventual slam winners Amelie Mauresmo and Marion Bartoli. In Auckland, Canada's Fichman qualified in singles with wins over Renata Voracova, Kristina Barrois and Richel Hogenkamp, then upset Sorana Cirstea in the 1st Round. Later, she and Bannerette Maria Sanchez were the surprise doubles champs, with both collecting their maiden tour titles.
VETERANS: Li Na/CHN & Jelena Jankovic/SRB

...well, make that TWO titles (so far) since Li joined together with Carlos Rodriguez in a new coach/pupil relationship at the end of 2012. Both have come in the two tour events held in Shenzhen during the span. As the defending champ, Li's return to the winning circle was rarely questioned, as she took out Vera Zvonareva (in her first action since the '12 Olympics), Monica Niculescu, Annika Beck and then Peng Shuai in just the second all-Chinese tour singles final (Na was in the first, too). Li has now reached back-to-back finals, following up with this result after her runner-up Istanbul at the Tour Championships at the end of last season. Career title #8 ties her with Kimiko Date-Krumm for the most by any Asian woman. Meanwhile, Jankovic proved that her 2013 resurgence won't be the final positive note in her career bio. After upsetting Vika Azarenka in the WTA Championships last season, she very nearly did so again in the Brisbane semifinals. After wins over Francesca Schiavone, Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber (from 0-1 down) set up another match with the Belarusian, JJ managed to dominate a poor-serving, error-prone Vika in the 1st set and nearly went up a break in the 2nd (she led love/40 on Azarenka's serve in Game #1). But, as has often been the case of late when it comes to Jankovic and high-level opponents, she wasn't able to hold onto her advantage. Vika led 5-1 in the 3rd before more serving woes got JJ back in the match, but it was all too little, too late. Still, it's apparent she didn't rest on her laurels in the offseason and her return to the Top 10 hasn't satiated her desire for something more at this point in her career (she turns 29 next month). Good for us!
COMEBACKS: Ana Ivanovic/SRB & Venus Williams/USA

...with these two being the Auckland finalists, the winner in their match-up was certain to have something of a "resurrection" tag attached to her title run. Venus, 33, failed to reach a final last year, but came into this season speaking highly of her excitement and preparation. Turned out, she wasn't kidding. She took out Andrea Hlavackova, Yvonne Meusburger (from a set down) and Garbine Muguruza before getting a break from Jamie Hampton when her fellow American pulled out of their semifinal with a hip injury (should I now herald the institution of an, "Oh, Jamie" lament?) to reach her first final since Luxembourg in 2012. AnaIvo has been unsuccessfully questing for another WTA title since she took the Tournament of Champions to end the 2011 season. In Auckland, things finally fell her way. Wins over Alison Riske, Johanna Larsson, Kurumi Nara and Kirsten Flipkens put her into just her second final since that title run in Bali. But, against Venus, it wasn't an easy get. Ivanovic led 6-2/4-2 and held a match point, only to see Williams battle back to force a 3rd set. The Serb prevailed there to win career title #12, one fewer than countrywoman Jelena Jankovic.
FRESH FACES: Eugenie Bouchard/CAN & Lauren Davis/USA Week 1, 19-year old Genie Bouchard got a chance to visit the Perth Zoo, made some new friends, and accounted pretty darn well for herself to begin a season at the end of which a great deal many more people around the world may know her name and face. While Hopman Cup partner Milos Raonic -- expected to be a Top 10er in '14 -- didn't quite fully live up to his end of the deal in round robin play, Bouchard did. She went 2-1, getting wins over veterans Sam Stosur and Flavia Pennetta and pushing world #5 Aga Radwanska to three sets. If things fall right, and they just might, the Canadian will get another shot at the Pole this week (2nd Round) in Sydney. Meanwhile, while Team Genie has reason to smile after the HC, Team Sloane saw their star retire from her final match due to a wrist injury that she'll continue to rest this week heading into her semifinal defense in Melbourne. So, through one event of the new season, the weekly scoring chart reads like this: Genie 1, Sloane 0. To be continued. In Auckland, and already in Week 2 in Sydney, Lauren Davis has started to remind everyone why she was the offseason name on everyone's lips a couple of seasons ago. First, Davis knocked off Kiwi crowd favorite Marina Erakovic in the 1st Round, then took out the latest Kid Dynamite, Ana Konjuh, who'd upset the #1 seed, in the 2nd to reach her fifth career tour-level quarterfinal. After losing to Jamie Hampton (who then withdrew before the SF -- d'oh!), Davis went to Sydney and qualified with wins over Timea Babos, Misaki Doi and Chanelle Scheepers. She faces another crowd favorite, Aussie Jarmila Gajdosova, in the 1st Round there.
DOWN: Samantha Stosur/AUS, the Italians & Simona Halep/ROU
...well, I guess seeing Stosur in the "Down" category as the tour makes its annual stop Down Under should just be a given, right? Sigh. Armed with new coach Miles Maclagan, and playing in the less pressurized Hopman Cup team event, Sam still managed to disappoint, going 0-3 against Genie Bouchard, Flavia Pennetta and Aga Radwanska. She's the #1 seed this week in Hobart. Oh, boy. It wasn't a good first week for the Italians, either. Auckland #1 seed Roberta Vinci lost to junior star Ana Konjuh in her tour debut in the 1st Round, Pennetta had to pull up in Perth with wrist issues (again), Francesca Schiavone (in what could be her final season?) began '14 with a straight sets loss in Brisbane, Karin Knapp lost her 1st Rounder in Auckland after leading Julia Goerges 4-2 in the 3rd set, and Sara Errani failed to convert two match points in the 2nd Round in Shenzhen on her way to a loss against Vania King. Already, in Sydney, Errani has taken out Vinci in another 1st Round match. Do Fed Cup hangovers last two months? In another early Week 2 match, on-the-cusp-of-the-Top-10 Simona Halep opened up her season with a straight sets loss in Sydney to Madison Keys. Not exactly the sort of warm-up the Swarmette was looking for heading into the first slam of a season that she's being called upon to back up her regular tour success with a big stage breakout result. But, the even-more-promising Keys, too, started slowly with a 1st Round loss to Stefanie Voegele last week, and Halep rebounded from some poor late summer/early autumn results in '13 to grabs titles in Moscow and Bali in the 4Q. So... all is still "calm." For now, at least.
ITF PLAYER: Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS the only challenger event of the week, the 17-year old Hordette won the $25K event in Hong Kong, following up a semifinal victory over top-seeded Pauline Parmentier with a win in the final over Zarina Diyas. For Kulichkova, a former junior #3 who reached the AO Girls semis last year, it's her third career ITF singles crown.
...the winner of both hard court junior slams (AO/US) last year, former Girls #1 (she ended '13 at #2) Konjuh made her tour debut courtesy of a wild card into the Auckland main draw. Matched up with the #1-seeded Roberta Vinci, the thought was that it would likely be a simple learning experience for the Croat. Well, yeah... if you count the 16-year old's upset of the 30-year old Italian Fed Cup star as just a one-time moment in the sun. It'll probably just be her first. Still, Lauren Davis, another youngster made sure Konjuh didn't get a big head by taking her out in three sets in the 2nd Round.

1. Brisbane SF - S.Williams d. Sharapova
Sharapova was up 3-1 in the 2nd, but still couldn't force a 3rd set. In fact, she's only managed to do that once in her last ten meetings with Serena... though this WAS her second tie-break during that stretch. Williams is now 15-2 against the Russian, with fourteen straight wins as the ten-year anniversary of Maria's last win over her arrives this October. Oh, well. At least she looked good in her first week back from the shoulder injury that ended her '13 season prematurely. And, remember, she was historically dominant through five rounds of last year's Australian Open.
2. Brisbane QF - Azarenka d. Voegele 6-4/6-7(9)/6-1
Brisbane SF - Azarenka d. Jankovic 1-6/6-3/6-3
while Vika, as usual, managed to right the ship and bring as good a game as she was able against Serena, both these earlier wins had the familiar air of some of her wins at last year's Australian and U.S. Opens, with the drifting-in-and-out of service form, scrapping resurgences and the art of finding a way to win matches when everything isn't quite in 100% working order. Azarenka took six set points to win the 1st set against Voegele, then held six match points in the 2nd but failed to convert any. Finally, on MP #8, she advanced, only to muddle her way through an awful 1st set against JJ in the semis. She managed to pull the match back from the edge, but barely escaped giving away a 5-1 3rd set lead before sweating out another win. Ah, the drama of it all. Even Leif, the chief of Backspin's Nordic Outpost, noted to me afterward that it was quite a sight to see, but great fun (of course, maybe Caro's engagement to Rory just meant he was in a particularly good mood? Haha! Just joking, Leif.) On Queen Chaos' typically entertaining muttering to/conversation with the person stationed in the player's box as her substitute coach for the match, Leif felt for him. "Poor man," he said.

I think we can all sympathize.
3. Shenzhen Final - Li d. Peng
Li retired against Zheng Jie in the tour's only other previous all-Chinese final, so this was a nice historical rebound, eight years in the making. Peng could use one of those. She's now 0-6 in WTA singles finals, 1-6 against Li head-to-head, and 0-5 against her in China. Ouch. (Or, as Li might react... worth a good slap to Peng's noggin, though I doubt that Shuai would have as much fun with the notion as Na might.)
4. Auckland 1st Rd. - Konjuh d. Vinci 3-6/6-4/6-2
Brisbane 1st Rd. - Jankovic d. Schiavone 6-2/7-6
Hopman rr - Bouchard d. Pennetta 4-0 ret.
Auckland 1st Rd. - Goerges d. Knapp 4-6/7-6/7-6
Shenzhen 2nd Rd. - King d. Errani 2-6/7-6/6-3
apparently, the Italians haven't yet arrived in 2014.
5. Shenzhen 1st Rd. - Li d. Zvonareva
Welcome back, Vera!
6. HC rr - Bouchard d. Stosur 4-6/6-2/6-3
HC rr - Pennetta d. Stosur 6-4/6-4
HC rr - A.Radwanska d. Stosur 3-6/6-4/6-3
Sammy slings it again. And not in a good way. At least she went three sets twice.
7. Auckland Q1 - Ishizu d. S.Jones 4-6/7-6/7-4
Auckland Q2 - Ishizu d. Rezai 3-6/6-3/7-6
after losing to Ishizu, Kiwi-turned-Aussie Jones retired from tennis. See ya, Sacha. Hopefully, Aravane didn't get any ideas.
8. Brisbane 2nd Rd - Sharapova w/o Barty
Hobart Q2 - Bains d. Pereira 6-3/6-3
after qualifying with wins over Julia Glushko and Kiki Bertens, and upsetting Daniela Hantuchova in the 1st Round, Barty withdrew with a left abductor tear. Sigh. On the bright side when it comes to a young Aussie, 16-year old Naiktha Bains (ranked outside the Top 1000) made something of a name for herself in Hobart, even if her qualifying attempt did eventually come up short.
9. Hopman rr - Kvitova d. Stephens
...6-3 ret.
Hmmm, maybe Current Sloane was replaced with Future Sloane after her time in Perth had ended? We -- and she -- could do worse.
10. Brisbane 1st Rd. - Barty d. Hantuchova 6-3/7-5
Sydney 1st Rd. - Tomljanovic d. Hantuchova 6-4/7-5
remember when Hantuchova was the "Wonder Girl" who got these sort of wins? Now...

1. Brisbane Final - S.Williams d. Azarenka
Again, Vika cleaned up her game vs. Serena, but every crack showed, and meant something, too. Two double-faults led to Serena's break for 4-3 in the 1st, then Williams fired two aces to take the set. Azarenka held to prevent a 0-3 hold in the 2nd, broke to level things at 2-2, then got a net cord dribbler to fall her way to get a break point for 4-2. A Williams error gave Vika the lead, but things were soon knotted again at 4-4, and when another net cord dribbler DIDN'T go Azarenka's way you could sort of see the writing on the wall. Because of that unlucky dribble, Vika didn't get a break point shot for 5-4, then soon saw Williams break HER for 6-5. In the final game. Serena opened with (naturally) two aces, then soon after ended things with back-to-back unreturnable serves. This is Williams forty-first career over a player ranked #1 or #2 in the world, and the straight sets nature of the victory ends Azarenka's streak of managing to stretch Williams to three sets in their three previous meetings on hard court (during which Vika went 2-1).
2. Auckland Final - Ivanovic d. V.Williams
If Venus had won it'd been just the second time that both she and Serena won tour singles titles in the same week. It last happened in 1999, when Venus won in Oklahoma City (def. Coetzer), while Serena took the Paris indoors (def. Mauresmo). It was Serena's very first tour title.
3. Thailand exhibition - Azarenka d. S.Williams
Unfortunately for Vika, it didn't count.
4. Brisbane Q1 - Kudryavtseva d. Ar.Rodionova 5-7/6-4/6-4
Brisbane Q3 - Kudryavtseva d. An.Rodionova 6-4/6-3
Curse of the Rodionovas, as Kudryavtseva lost in the 1st Round to Pavlyuchenkova? Ummm, maybe not. Alla teamed up with Anastasia to take the doubles title. Win/win.
5. Brisbane Doubles Final - Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova d. Mladenovic/Voskoboeva
See? Last year, Rodionova won this title with Cara Black. Mladenovic seems to lose more often with Voskoboeva than any other partner.
HM- Shenzhen 1st Rd. - Cepelova d. L.Kichenok 4-6/6-3/6-1
Shenzhen 2nd Rd. - Li d. N.Kichenok
Shenzhen Doubles Final - Niculescu/Zakopalova d. Kichenok/Kichenok 6-3/6-4
suffice to say, Lyudmyla and Nadiya almost soothed their singles wounds with doubles salve. But not quite. Thus, they didn't become the tenth all-sisters team to win an Open era tour title. Last year, the Chans took the crown in Shenzhen.

And introducing...

**HOPMAN CUP CHAMPIONS - since 1999**
1999 Australia (Dokic/Philippoussis)
2000 South Africa (Coetzer/W.Ferreira)
2001 Switzerland (Hingis/Federer)
2002 Spain (Sanchez-Vicario/Robredo)
2003 United States (S.Williams/Blake)
2004 United States (Davenport/Blake)
2005 Slovak Republic (Hantuchova/Hrbaty)
2006 United States (Raymond/Dent)
2007 Russia (Petrova/Tursunov)
2008 United States (S.Williams-Shaughnessy/Fish)
2009 Slovak Republic (Cibulkova/Hrbaty)
2010 Spain (Martinez-Sanchez/Robredo)
2011 United States (Mattek-Sands/Isner)
2012 Czech Republic (Kvitova/Berdych)
2013 Spain (Medina-Garrigues/Verdasco)
2014 France (Cornet/Tsonga)

2002 Venus Williams, USA
2003 Serena Williams, USA
2004 Lindsay Davenport/USA, Eleni Daniilidou/GRE (co-PoW)
2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Lucie Safarova, CZE
2007 Dinara Safina, RUS
2008 Li Na, CHN
2009 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2010 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2012 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Serena Williams, USA

**MOST WTA FINALS - 2012-14**
14...Maria Sharapova (5-9)
9...Agnieszka Radwanska (6-3)
9...Sara Errani (5-4)
9...LI NA (3-6)


5...Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova (SW 5-0)
4...Victoria Azarenka vs. Maria Sharapova (VA 3-1)

2006 Estoril - Zheng Jie def. Li Na (ret.)
2013 Shenzhen - Li Na def. Peng Shuai

**LONG WTA WIN STREAKS - 2005-14 (10 seasons)**
34...Serena Williams, 2013
32...Justine Henin, 2007-08
26...Victoria Azarenka, 2012
24...Justine Henin-Hardenne, 2005
22...SERENA WILLIAMS, 2013-14 (current)
22...Kim Clijsters, 2005

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (Premier $710K/hard indoor)
13 Final: A.Radwanska d. Cibulkova
13 Doubles Final: Petrova/Srebotnik d. Errani/Vinci (Srebotnik 2012-13 champion)
14 Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Kvitova

#1 A.Radwanska d. #4 Jankovic
#2 Kvitova d. Kuznetsova
#2 Kvitova d. #1 A.Radwanska

...Aga won two titles to begin 2013, and this is her only chance to keep one of them. Though I wonder about Kvitova in the Aussie heat, I'll go with her mostly because of the potentially treacherous road A-Rad would have to travel to reach the final: Bouchard in the 2nd Round, then Keys (who'd get yet another shot at the Pole), Jankovic or Kerber. In Kvitova's territory, Stephens (wrist) pulled out of the bottom half, while newly-engaged Wozniacki (in her first '13 action after missing Week 1 w/ a shoulder), Errani and Kuznetsova (who knows???) are the biggest obstacles for Petra.

AFTER-POST NOTE: Bouchard just went out to qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands, while Kuznetsova fell to lucky loser Varvara Lepchenko... but I'll stick with my picks.

So, just in case she's not in the same sort of mood by the end of Week 2, a little more Dancin' Aga:

HOBART, AUSTRALIA (Int'l $250K/hard outdoor)
13 Final: Vesnina d. Barthel
13 Doubles Final: Muguruza/Torro-Flor d. Babos/Minella
14 Top Seeds: Stosur/Flipkens

#4 Pavlyuchenkova d. Beck
#3 Vesnina d. (Q) Muguruza
#4 Pavyuchenkova d. #3 Vesnina

...hmmm, Stosur is the #1 seed. In Australia. Scratch her name out. Vesnina finally broke her long title-less streak at this event last year, and she very well could defend. Still, I'll go with Pavlyuchenkova to do what she often does... play her best tennis BEFORE a slam.


Later this week, Anna, The Rad (and QC) return, along with the Australian Open preview.

All for now.


Blogger jo shum said...

saw a bit of hopman cup. cornet was so passionate, she looked like she won the slam, while tsonga was the good guy not wanting to disappoint her. haha. aga was good, a few tough matches and all won.

bouchard lost in sydney to mattek-sands, a bit strange there.

halep, one match is hard to judge. but i wonder if there is more pressure to start 2014 after her breakthrough year. which way will she go, like vika or kvitova from 2011-2012.

looks like sharapova is playing well, but against serena with 7 dbs, it was a lost opportunity.

Mon Jan 06, 03:56:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I'm sure it was a great moment for Cornet. It might be her biggest career moment, when get down to it.

(Side note: Cornet lost today in three sets to McHale, so she's now 1-4 in singles... a pretty mean feat to pull off when the season is only about ten days old.)

Yeah, it's hard to gauge these week-before-a-slam results. It's probably why the players who end up winning these events usually don't win the slam that starts a few days later -- the real contenders are in the slam city, practicing for that.

Plus, players who played well in Week 1 often go out early in Week 2 (Aga being a rare exception last year). And, right on cue, Bouchard is out, along with JJ. And more are probably sure to follow, too.

Of course, Pavlyuchenkova is already out, as well. Did she think she was in Melbourne? So the Hobart pick is already dead. Maybe I SHOULD have gone with Vesnina to defend?

(Eek, what a wild thought I just had. What if Stosur wins it? Can you imagine if... naaaah.) ;)

Mon Jan 06, 12:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

My gut feeling is that Halep will struggle for a while and then pull herself together. Once the confidence button is pushed, she's generally good to go. Must feel strange, though, finally meeting so much of that potential (I am a long-time fan).

Stosur win Hobart? Only if The Rad, caught up in some machination or other, wills it. She barely got past Brengle. But let's say that fate twists in such a way that she does win it--will it make a difference to her state of mind when she gets to Melbourne?

Mon Jan 06, 01:39:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

if stosur wins hobart.... interesting thought, will make things interesting. can go either way too, if she wins, people will start talking about finally getting chances in melbourne, and hence the pressure :) i remember some seasons ago they used to promote stosur so much in all the ads and in AO materials. now no more.

Mon Jan 06, 10:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

btw love the new section of vika - pic of the week. ^^

Mon Jan 06, 10:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

One wonders if Halep will pick up things early enough to become the first Romanian in the Top 10 since Spirlea. Hope so. She has hardly any points to defend until spring, so she could move up... but then she has a ton of them to back up later in the year in order to stay there.

Hmmm, it'd be nice if she could pick up something extra at the slams by just going a round (or maybe two in one or two?) deeper into the draw to make up for probably not being able to win six titles again.

I've got a good Vika pic in my back pocket. It'll be in the next Anna chapter, but I think it'll make a vPOW appearance, too. :)

Tue Jan 07, 12:24:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

and just when you said aga is the exception to wk1 wk 2 rule, she fell off in round 2. a lot of good angles by mattek-sands.

Tue Jan 07, 12:57:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

As expected, the rush to Melbourne is on: Aga, Peng and Wozniacki are now all finished for Week 2.

I feel good about the Kvitova pick, though. She nearly double-bageled McHale today. Of course, it is Petra... so who knows what might happen the next few days.

Tue Jan 07, 12:56:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And in Hobart, Stosur comes back from a 5-2 3rd set tie-break deficit, saves a match point and takes out Mladenovic.

Elsewhere on the grounds, defending champ Vesnina retires in the 3rd set against a qualifier.


Meanwhile, in Sydney, The Pironkova is lurking...

Wed Jan 08, 01:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

kvitova said she has worked on her movement in the off season, looks like it's paying off already. could be an interesting 2014 for her.

Wed Jan 08, 03:20:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I know she had been working with Stepanek's trainers in the offseason. Maybe the key to better fitness for many of the WTA players is to find a way to hire people who'd previously worked for ATP players.

Sort of makes you want to see that possibility of slam best-of-five matches -- at least from the 4th Round or QF forward -- for the women become a reality because the top WTA players would have to make a point to up their fitness level significantly in order to be prepared.

Wed Jan 08, 12:51:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And... you can't take the Petra out of the Kvitova.

Sydney SF: Pironkova d. Kvitova 6-4/6-3

Yes, Pironkova served well and played a good match, but, as usual in a Petra loss, Kvitova's errors mounted and eventually couldn't be overcome. Then, the match ended when Kvitova stopped play and challenged a Pironkova ball that had been called in on the baseline. Replays showed the call was correct... so, game-set-match. And Pironkova advances to her first career final after her eighth tour-level appearance in a semifinal.

I guess I'm already being made to regret letting the Bulgarian slip all the way off the Grand Slam Master List.

Should have known.

Thu Jan 09, 12:36:00 AM EST  

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