Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wk.25- And We Have Another

Likes blades of grass, the first-time champions just keep popping up all over the place.

Not to mention Swiss champions. And teen champions. And...

EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND (Premier $665.9K/Grass)
S: Belinda Bencic/SUI def. Aga Radwanska/POL 6-4/4-6/6-0
D: Garcia/Srebotnik (FRA/SLO) d. YJ.Chan/J.Zheng (TPE/CHN) 7-6(5)/6-2

FED CUP - AMERICAS II ZONE (at Dom.Republic)
Ecuador d. Guatemala 2-0
Peru d. Trinidad & Tobago 2-0

...the 2013 Wimbledon girls champ, Bencic has good feelings about playing tennis on the grass. The last few weeks, that notion has only strengthened. She reached the final in Rosmalen (the second of her career) two weeks ago, losing to Camila Giorgi. Last week in Eastbourne, she was at it again. A win over Mona Barthel was teamed with a straight sets take down of defending champ Madison Keys. Genie Bouchard retired in their 3rd Round match, then Bencic took out Brit Johanna Konta before #2-seed Caroline Wozniacki (the TOP seed after Petra Kvitova's withdrawal) retired just three games into their semifinal. In her third career final, the 18-year old used her own bag of tricks and good variety to defeat Aga Radwanska at her own game, taking a love 3rd set to win her maiden title and become the second teenager to take home a tour singles championship in 2015. She's the third first-time champ this grass court season alone (after Giorgi and 17-year old Ana Konjuh). In all, the New Swiss Miss, even with two retirements in the mix, put up a Top 5 win (Caro), two more over players in the Top 20 (Genie, Aga) and another (Keys) over a player who'd just dropped out of the Top 20 a few days earlier. Bencic is also the second Swiss player to win a tour singles title this season, joining Timea Bacsinszy. She'll have her work cut out for her in London, as she'll face The Pironkova in the 1st Round. NOTE: Bencic was the "First Seed Out" in the year's opening slam in Australia.


RISERS: Sloane Stephens/USA & Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...suddenly, with little fanfare, Stephens is stirring. Before Roland Garros, she reached her first tour semifinal since January '13, then forced Serena Williams to three sets -- and didn't collapse and just go away in that deciding stanza -- in Paris. Last week in Eastbourne, she reached another semi after knocking off Naomi Broady, Carla Suarez-Navarro (her first Top 10 win since '13), and Heather Watson before getting a walkover from Daria Gavrilova. In the semis, she took Aga Radwanska to three sets. She's got a tough 1st Round match-up (Strycova) at Wimbledon, but for the first time in quite a while Sloane looks to legitimately be heading in the right direction. Hmmm, just as Bouchard's fortunes have reversed, too. Coincidence, or just the typcial cycle? In the same event, Wozniacki put together an impressive week to reach the semifinals after getting wins over Jarmila Gajdosova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Andrea Petkovic. But she retired just three games into that SF with Belinda Bencic, citing the desire to keep a back injury from hampering her chances at Wimbledon, the only slam at which she's failed to reach the QF in her career.

SURPRISES: Johanna Konta/GBR & Daria Gavrilova/RUS-AUS
...Konta is quickly becoming a Brit of note. The former Aussie qualified in Paris, and her QF run in Eastbourne is her second such result during the three-week grass tune-up season. Already having been given a Wimbledon wild card, Konta got wins last week over Zarina Diyas, Ekaterina Makarova (her first Top 10 win), and Garbine Muguruza (Top 20) before losing in three sets to eventual champion Belinda Bencic in her first career Premier QF. Now Konta will open Wimbledon with a Centre Court match against none other than Maria Sharapova. So... she's officially "big time." Gavrilova's path is rarely straight (see her qualifier-to-semis run in Rome, which ended up being slowed by an abdominal injury), and it was downright crooked in Eastbourne. But it's a Gavrilovian trait to find a way through, and she did again. She allowed Laura Robson just one game in the Brit's first match in seventeen months in the opening round of qualifying, only to then lose to Marina Erakovic. When #1 seed Petra Kvitova withdrew due to illness, Lucky Loser Gavrilova filled her spot in the draw, getting a 1st Round bye. She then won her 2nd Rounder vs. Camila Giorgi, saving 2 MP, and followed up by conquering a second Italian in Sara Errani, winning a three setter. And then the abdominal injury forced her to pull out of the event. The Russo-Aussie will be under serious consideration for the WTA's Most Improved Player award for '15 -- she's jumped from #233 to #39 in six months -- but you have to wonder just how much higher she can climb if she can just get over this injury and play the sort of unrestrained tennis the 21-year old former junior #1 (2010) played while upsetting Maria Sharapova in Miami (one tournament after taking Simona Halep to three sets in I.W.) earlier this year.

VETERANS: Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL & Andrea Petkovic/GER
...the grass season is here, so you know that Pironkova has to be in the news. At Eastbourne, she not-surprisingly put together a QF run with wins over Marina Erakovic, Sam Stosur and Dominika Cibulkova before, also not surprisingly, losing there to Aga Radwanska. As adept as The Pironkova (no evil entity required... just pure Bulgarian) is on the green stuff, she's only been able to take out Radwanska once on the surface in four tries. Petkovic isn't exactly in her comfort zone on the grass, but she did reach the 3rd Round at SW19 in 2014 and can at least post a few wins if she's playing well. In Eastbourne, she had a very good week, putting up wins over Caroline Garcia (who'd win the doubles) and Coco Vandeweghe (who won a grass title in '14).
COMEBACKS: Aga Radwanska/POL & Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
...A-Rad's week didn't end as well as it started, but considering her recent results she could head into SW19 with far less momentum than what she picked up with her run to the Eastbourse final, her first deciding match on tour since she won the title in Montreal last August. Radwanska reached the semifinals without losing a set against the likes of Irina Falconi, Birmingham finalist Karolina Pliskova and grass court maven Tsvetana Pironkova. She was forced to three by Sloane Stephens in the semis, then forced a 3rd in the final against Belinda Bencic. Alas, the Pole lost the set a love. Meanwhile, Cibulkova returned from leg surgery to play in her first matches since February. A 1st Round victory over young Brit Harriet Dart was followed up by an even more impressive win over Lucie Safarova before she lost to Pironkova in the 3rd Round.


FRESH FACE: Giuliana Olmos/MEX
...there are more and more Mexican players making noise on the ITF circuit, and Olmos -- a USC Trojan in her Senior year -- is the latest. The 22-year old, ranked #661 in the world, won her third of four June $10K challenger events in Manzanillo, Mexico. Olmos has gone 15-1 while winning the three titles, including notching two good wins over Chile's Fernanda Brito. This past week, she defeated the #4 and #6 seeds en route to the final, losing a total of three games between the 2nd Round and the semis. In the final, she outlasted countrywoman (and ex-Texas A&M Aggie) Nazari Urbina in a 7-5 3rd set.

DOWN: Madison Keys/USA
...a year ago, Keys won her first career tour title in Eastbourne. Since then, she's become a bonafide star Down Under with her AO semifinal run, garnering Kvitova-like praise from all corners about how good she COULD be. But a mere hours after posted a story about John McEnroe and Chris Evert tabbing the American as the post-Serena "Wimbledon successor," Keys was dumped out of her first match by Belinda Bencic by a 6-2/6-2 score. Just a few weeks ago in Paris, Keys had defeated the Swiss teen love & three at Roland Garros. Since her run in Melbourne, Keys has gone a respectable 10-6 overall, including reaching the Charleston final (losing to Kerber after holding a 4-1 3rd set lead), but she's been way, way under the radar otherwise. A week ago, her ranking slipped out of the Top 20. A case can surely be made that less attention might be better for the barely 20-year old Bannerette, considering the immediate slides of so many other young players who have made big slam runs the last couple of seasons and immediately saw their public stature explode. Keys has mostly stayed away from the hype, though there were some recent photos released from a photo shoot with Interview magazine. But with so small a track record early in a player's career, sometimes it'd hard to tell whether or not such periods are merely a slight dip in results, or the beginning of what will be a career that never rises above and rarely matches that early success. It's likely that the former is the case with Keys. But, really, who's to know?

ITF PLAYER: Irina Khomacheva/RUS
...there wasn't a grass court challenger this week, but 20-year old Hordette Khromacheva did sweep the singles adn doubles titles at the $25K clay event in Moscow, which matches the biggest title of her seven career crowns. The Russian put up victories over Polina Lykina, Olga Puchkova, Denis Khazaniuk and countrywoman Valentyna Ivakhnenko in the final.

JUNIOR STAR: Tamara Zidansek/SLO
...Slovenia's Zidansek, the #22-ranked girl, won her second straight ITF singles event in the $10K challenger in Telavi, Georgia. After she took out the #1 (Mariam Bolkvadze) seed in the semis, she defeated #3-seeded Belarusian Sadafmoh Tolibova in straight sets in the final.

DOUBLES: Caroline Garcia/Katarina Srebonik (FRA/SLO)
...after previously reaching two finals and a pair of semifinals this season, Garcia & Srebotnik finally notched their first title run as a duo in Eastbourne. The big "get" was a semifinal victory over Hingis/Mirza, but it took another over Chan Yung-Jan & Zheng Jie to get to lift the bigger hardware and pick up a nicer check. 34-year old Srebotnik has now won thirty-six career doubles crowns, while this is 21-year old Garcia's second.

FED CUP MVPs: Bianca Botto/PER & Charlotte Roemer/ECU
...Peru and Ecuador won in Americas II zone play and will be promoted to Americas I for 2016. Botto and Roemer led the way. World #234 Botto, 24, raised her career FC singles record to 17-3 last week, including providing the clinching win in the promotional playoff vs. Trinidad & Tobago. Roemer, 21, is ranked just #995, but she led Ecuador's undefeated week, playing a part in four (3 singles, 1 doubles) of her nations eight wins in eight matches during the action in the Dominican Republic.


This will mean more if Sabine actually DOES make the final at Wimbledon.

1. Eastbourne 2nd Rd. - Gavrilova d. Giorgi
Oh, no. Here we go again. Finally winning a singles title didn't stop Giorgi from slipping back into an old habit, as she had two MP in the 2nd set tie-break.
2. Eastbourne 2nd Rd. - Errani d. Strycova
Sure, the Czech SHOULD win this match-up. And she had her chances. Strycova led 4-2 in the 3rd and held two MP in the deciding tie-break in what turned out to be a loss that took 3:05.
3. Eastbourne 2nd Rd. - Bouchard d. Riske 7-6(5)/6-3
Eastbourne 3rd Rd. - Bencic d. Bouchard 6-4/3-0 ret.
the first good result from Bouchard in months was followed up by a retirement with an abdominal injury, making her a perfect question mark heading into SW19. At least she's not above recognizing the levity of her current situation.

Plus you know, it helps us forget about this development...

4. Eastbourne 2nd Rd. - Stephens d. Suarez-Navarro
Now that was a longer wait than anyone would have anticipated two years ago, isn't it?

5. Eastbourne 3rd Rd. - Wozniacki d. Kuznetsova


Sharapova... glam, and making memories.

Sharapovian choices...

And... here's Nadia!

1. Eastbourne QF - Aga Radwanska d. Pironkova
The WTA's resident Monster Movie Matinee showed that Aga, for one, isn't intimidated or vexed by the presence of the Bulgarian on the other side of the net in a grass court match. The Pole is now 11-2 vs. Pironkova, 3-1 on grass, with all three wins coming in straight sets.

2. Easbourne SF - Aga Radwanska d. Stephens
Sure, Aga eventually won. But when the seagull swooped down at her -- on Radwanskian Massacre Day, no less -- when she began her service game at the start of the 3rd set, I think we sort of knew that the hex might have been put on her for the final. Bad for her... but I guess it means the world is safe from a malevolent uprising waged in her name.

3. Eastbourne Final - Bencic d. Aga Radwanska
This was Aga's second loss this (w/ Nottingham SF vs. Niculescu) grass season that ended with her losing a love 3rd set.


While it's raining, no time wasted #gym #work #sw19

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Got caught in the air #AirVika #allwhite #wimbledon anything weird in this picture? ??????????

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

Hmmm... Genie wouldn't... you KNOW, would she? Either way, it was probably good that Caro didn't turn her back on her when they were near the edge.

Sleep tight ????

A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

Katowice - Anna Schmiedlova (SVK, age 20, #67)
Bogota - Teliana Pereira (BRA, age 26, #130)
's-Hertogenbosch - Camila Giorgi (ITA, age 23, #35)
Nottingham- Ana Konjuh (CRO, age 17, #87)
Eastbourne- Belinda Bencic (SUI, age 18, #30)

17 - Ana Konjuh, CRO (Nottingham)
18 - BELINDA BENCIC, SUI (Eastbourne)
20 - Anna Schmiedlova, SVK (Katowice)
20 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (Marrakech)
22 - Heather Watson, GBR (Hobart)

79 - Lisa Raymond, USA
60 - Cara Black, ZIM
53 - Liezel Huber, USA
44 - Martina Hingis, SUI

Acapulco - Sesil Karatantcheva, BUL (SF)
Brisbane - Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS (QF)
Katowice - Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS (QF)
Eastbourne - Daria Gavrilova, RUS/AUS (QF)
ALSO: 2nd Rd. (6), 2nd Rd. w/ 1st Rd. walkover (1)

Oh, for the love of art...

Oh, Serena...

Swimming... Not my thing... Lol working on my dive.

A video posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

And Nicole learns at the knee of Obi-Wan... err, I mean Billie Jean.

All for now. Day 1 of Wimbledon awaits.


Blogger Hoergren said...

I watched the Eastbourne final and it must have been a strange feeling to Aga to play herself. To me it loked like that same tricky ways to play - Aga was best though but my Bencic has learned a lot since the double bagel against Caroline in Istanbul last year.

By the way it would be a nice birthday gift to Caroline to win on the 11th of July when she turns 25 - and with this draw everything is possible - me thinks.

Mon Jun 29, 04:15:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm. July 11th, huh? Wow, you're really thinking BIG. It would be fun (and I guess this site's "storytime" segment would have a new chapter that would write itself, too). :)

Mon Jun 29, 12:28:00 PM EDT  

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