Sunday, June 26, 2016

Wk.25- Hickory, Dickory, Dock. The Slovak Ran Up the Clock.

One final look-in before it starts all over again...

S: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK def. Karolina Pliskova/CZE 7-5/6-3
D: Darija Jurak/Anastasia Rodionova (CRO/AUS) d. Chang Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan (TPE/TPE) 5-7/7-6(4) [10-6]

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
...what was earlier this season a "comeback" story from Achilles' surgery is starting to resemble something more. Cibulkova's run to the Eastbourne title will likely go down as one of her most satisfying accomplishments. After putting down an irritable Jelena Ostapenko in her first match, Cibulkova overcame two sisters (Kateryna Bondarenko and Aga Radwanska, the latter after a rain suspension set the stage for a two-day comeback from a set and a break down and various other tight spots), blew out Monica Puig in her second match of the day on Friday and then took out arguably the best (at least the "most accomplished") grass court player (Karolina Pliskova) of the month June in the final. It was the Slovak's first career grass final, and she's now the only player on tour this season to have reached singles on hard, clay and grass courts. After not really knowing what we'd get from Cibulkova this season, she's answered quite a few of those questions -- quite loudly, in fact -- with two titles, four finals and, as of Monday, a return to the Top 20.

RISERS: Karolina Pliskova/CZE, Johanna Konta/GBR and Monica Puig/PUR
...unlike with her "farcical" U.S. Open Series "championship" last summer, one could actually argue that Pliskova was the Player of the Month for the pre-Wimbledon grass season. Throughout the three weeks, the Czech belatedly broke out of her season-long lull with a singles title in Nottingham, doubles title in Birmingham and singles final this weekend in Eastbourne(ham) -- yeah, I know I did that in the SW19 preview post, but it still makes me chuckle... so there. Might she FINALLY be ready for a slam run? Yeah, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Right now, she can just be content with a great week of wins over Daria Gavrilova, Misaki Doi, Elena Vesnina and Johanna Konta.

Meanwhile, Konta missed out on becoming just the second British woman in the Eastbourne event's 42-year history to reach the final (w/ Virginia Wade), but the Top 20er is still set to be the first British woman seeded at Wimbledon since 1984 (Jo Durie). Her semifinal run this past week included wins over Lesia Tsurenko and Ekaterina Makarova, as well as a 2nd Round upset of none other than Petra Kvitova via a 3rd set bagel.

Puig's breakout season continued. After reaching the Sydney final as a qualifier in January, she qualified (her fourth successful Q-run of '16) and reached the semis in Eastbourne. MD wins over Naomi Broady, Ana Konjuh, Caroline Wozniacki and Kristina Mladenovic put the Puerto Rican into her third semi of the season. Also a semifinalist in Nottingham this month, Puig is 10-3 on the grass. She showed an affinity for the surface right from the start of her WTA career, actually, reaching the Round of 16 in her Wimbledon debut in 2013. After going just 15-23 in WTA main draw matches a season ago, Puig is already 27-15 this year and has raised her ranking nearly sixty places to a new career-high of #36 heading into SW19.

SURPRISE: Susanne Celik/SWE
...while Caroline Wozniacki's ranking has been slipping in '16, fellow Scandinavian Celik has been having a career year. Already having set a career-high ranking mark earlier in June, the 21-year old Swede took home her third 2016 challenger crown with a $25K final win over Uzbekistan's 32-year old veteran Akgul Amanmuradova this weekend. Celik is 33-11 so far this season.

And, no, that's not a tournament official posing with Celik (right). That's Amanmuradova. She's six-foot-three. Celik is, well, NOT six-foot-three. Obviously (and she sees to recognize that fact, too).
VETERANS: Elena Vesnina/RUS and Ekaterina Makarova/RUS
...the recent Roland Garros doubles finalists flashed their singles form in Eastbourne.

Vesnina, the one-time nearly Top 20 (#21 in '13) singles player, continues to re-build her solo career after a disappointingly "off" year in 2015. After ending last season at #111, the Russian has battled her way back into the Top 50 after this week. The 29-year reached the Eastbourne QF with wins over Heather Watson, defending champ Belinda Bencic and Madison Brengle.

Two-time slam singles semifinalist Makarova, 28, joined her partner in the final eight with wins over a Wimbledon WC (Tara Moore) and two SW19 seeds (#6 Roberta Vinci & #32 Andrea Petkovic). It was her first three-win week since Miami, following a 4-5 clay court season, and she will now edge her back into the Top 35 on Monday.
COMEBACK: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...back from her ankle injury, Wozniacki has been employing a bit more aggression on the grass and her form and results have seemed to improve with every match. In Eastbourne, she knocked off Alize Cornet and Sam Stosur, then pushed Monica Puig to three sets in the 3rd Round. She'll need all of that improvement and more in the Wimbledon 1st Rounder vs. Kuznetsova, one suspects.

FRESH FACES: Katharina Hobgarski/GER and Hanna Chang/USA Kaltenkichen, Germany it was 19-year old Hobgarski claiming her first career ITF singles title. The world #578 defeated fellow German Lisa Matviyenko 3 & 3 in the final, as well as picking up her third career doubles crown (and second in two weeks).

In the $10K Sanju challenger in South Korea, 18-year old Bannerette Chang also won her first title. Chang, a Pepperdine tennis recruit, defeated Korean Choi Ji-Hee in the final. Chang has split her time between pro events and juniors this season. She reached the Easter Bowl girls semis in April, a few months after narrowly losing to Julia Boserup in a 3rd set TB in a $25K pro event. While Chang was winning here this week, Boserup was busy qualifying for Wimbledon in Roehampton.
DOWN: Victoria Azarenka/BLR
...once again there were a lot of choices here. From the continued devolution of the standing of Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Bad Petra's latest stumble (a 3rd set bagel -- ouch), to Hingis/Mirza's false start and a bevy of Eastbourne losses by British Crumpets (Christie, Dunne & Burrage in the Q1, Robson in the Q2 and Watson, Broady and Moore in the 1st Round). But I'll go with a player who didn't play at all. Actually, we haven't seen her at all since Roland Garros, and won't for a while still. She's even disappeared from social media over the past month.

So, with Vika's absence from Wimbledon due to a knee injury, BOTH her clay and grass seasons were a wash this season after her tour-leading performance on hard courts in the 1st Quarter of the year. Even with all her injuries in recent years, Azarenka has still only actually skipped two slams since she debuted at the Australian Open in 2006. The 2014 Roland Garros, and now the 2016 Wimbledon. Now the focus goes to a return to hard courts and rediscovering her best-hard-court-player-on-tour form there. Well, hopefully.
ITF PLAYERS: Jil Teichmann/SUI and Rebecca Sramkova/SVK
...for the second straight week, 18-year old Teichmann grabbed a $25K title in a French challenger. This week it was in Perigueux, with the #309-ranked Swiss putting away career title #3 with a win in the final over Spain's Olga Saez Larra.

Meanwhile, a week after going from qualifier to (seven match wins later) losing out in the $50K Ilkley grass final to Evgeniya Rodina (and, possibly, also a Wimbledon MD wild card invitation), 19-year old Slovak Sramkova moved back to red clay and won a $25K crown in Rome with a 6-1/6-1 victory over Reka-Luca Jani. It's her fourth career ITF title (her second career-best $25K of '16) and she's now sporting a new career high ranking of #206 on Monday.

JUNIOR STAR: Wiktoria Kulik/POL
...the 17-year old Pole swept the titles at the Grade 2 M-Tech Junior Cup on red clay in Germany. The #2 seed, Kulik won the doubles with Tunisia's Chiraz Bechri, and defeated 15-year old Ukrainian Oleksandra Andrieieva in a 7-6/6-0 final. Andrieieva had defeated Kulik in a three-set QF match at a Grade 2 event in Romania in April. Earlier this spring, Kulik was a finalist in a G1 in Casablanca, as well as a semifinalist in another G1 in Berlin, where she lost in three sets to eventual Roland Garros champ (and spring clay court juggernaut) Rebeka Masarova.
DOUBLES: Darija Jurak/Anastasia Rodionova (CRO/AUS) and Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan (TPE/TPE)
...Jurak & Rodionova took down the "big guns" in Eastbourne, disabling the Dabrowski/Kasatkina and #1 Hingis/Mirza threats early on, then took out Groenefeld/Peschke (the 40-year old Slovenian returned to action this spring for the first time since February '15, when she'd seemingly retired -- but apparently not -- and had been 3-4 with ALG and Strycova before winning one match and getting a walkover last week) in the semis. The pair finished up by battling back from a set and a break down in the final to take out the #2-seeded Chan sisters. At a combined age of 66 (Jurak-32, Rodionova-34), they're tied with AMG/Parra-Santonja as the oldest doubles champions on tour this season. This is Jurak's third career title and second in 2016, while it's Rodionova's tenth, but first since 2014.

This was the Chan sisters' first final since winning back-to-back titles in Kaohsiung and Doha in February, and Yung-Jan's third straight Eastbourne final appearance. The sisters teamed to win the title in 2014, while Yung-Jan was runner-up with Zheng Jie last year.

Limbering up for the latest WADA-sponsored (though I'm sure Maria will get the bill... since they apparently know EXACTLY how much money she makes) hoop-jumping-through competition...

Hey, when you have some spare time on your hands, you find yourself in new places doing new things...

Student ?? ??

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

Snooze button mood ??

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

1. Eastbourne 3rd Rd. - Konta d. Kvitova
Oh, Petra. The Czech had to battle back from a 5-2 1st set deficit to avoid dropping the opener vs. Konta, but with a strapped thigh possibly hindering her movement she gradually went away as the match progressed as Kvitova shook hands with yet another opponent experiencing a "career moment" at her expense in 2016.

2. Eastbourne 3rd Rd. - Puig d. Wozniacki
Puig fired 52 winners. Next up: trying to stir the masses by taking out Konta at Wimbledon on Day 2.
3. Eastbourne 3rd Rd. - Makarova d. Petkovic
A bad afternoon for Petko that at least got a little "better" when she was bumped up to the #32 seed at Wimbledon due to Azarenka's withdrawal earlier in the day.
4. Eastbourne 1st Rd. - Ostapenko d. Kasatkina
Yeah, I mentioned this one last week. But how can I not at least give all the "background noise" (and the Latvian's "interesting" week) its due?

5. $25K Baton Rouge 1st Rd. - Huber/Manasse d. Cako/Lao 6-3/7-5
$25K Baton Rouge 2nd Rd. - Herring/Perez d. Huber/Manasse 7-5/7-6(1)
yes, THAT Huber. Playing in her first match since the 2014 Wimbledon, 39-year old Liezel Huber teamed with Maegan Manasse for doubles last week in Louisiana. Herring/Perez went on to win the title.
6. 6. Eastbourne 2nd Rd. - Wozniacki d. Stosur
Wozniacki's first Top 20 win of the season. This was the fourth time these two have met in this tournament, with the Aussie winning in '08 and now Wozniacki taking the honors in '09, '14 and '16. Stosur still leads the career head-to-head 6-4, but the Dane is 4-1 since falling in the WTA Championships in 2010. While Caro is having some quick success with new coach David Kotyza on the grass (he DOES know something about what a good grass court player looks like, I guess), Stosur is now sans David Taylor after her great run in Paris. She'll be working with Andrew Roberts through SW19.

7. $10K Cantanhede Final - Sinead Lohan d. Victoria Bosio
Ireland-born University of Miami (Fla.) sophomore Lohan, who just reached the NCAA woman's singles semis, claims her first pro singles title in Portgual, defeating top-seeded Bosio of Argentina.


Barbora takes the Challenge. Of course, in this case, it seems to be more of a "challenge" than it has been for others. But, hey, it's Bara... so it doesn't matter!

Hmmm, is Caroline trying to out-zebra Kiki OFF the court?

1. Eastbourne QF - Cibulkova d. Aga Radwanska
Talk about a sense a deja vu. In Paris, Aga led Pironkova by a set and 3-0 when the rain suspended play. She returned two days later and lost to the Bulgarian. In Eastbourne, she led Cibulkova by a set and 2-0. After a brief interruption, Cibulkova got on the board, but Radwanska was still up a break at 3-2 when the match was suspended. The next day, the Slovak broke to get back on serve, Aga failed to convert a BP to go back up a break at 5-4 and lost the 2nd set. In the 3rd, she had points for a 3-1 lead, but failed to take that opportunity, as well, and saw Cibulkova sweep the remaining four games to get the victory (and go on to take the title).
2. Eastbourne Final - Cibulkova d. Karolina Pliskova
Suddenly, Cibulkova has the most match wins (30) on tour this season, is tied for the tour lead with the most finals (4) and semifinals (5), and is just one behind Stephens and Azarenka's tour best with two 2016 singles titles. How the heck did that happen?
3. Eastbourne 1st Rd. - Gavrilova d. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova
If we're counting -- and I guess we are, no matter how ugly it gets -- that's fourteen straight WTA/WTA 125 event losses for AKS, and a 1-15 non-Fed Cup (2-1) mark for 2016. Fourteen of those tournament losses have been in straight sets. The one set she won? In the 1st Round vs. eventual RG champ Garbine Muguruza in Paris. Go figure. Hmmm... should Simona just tank the 1st set of their Wimbledon opener for good luck?
HM- Eastbourne QF - Jurak/Anastasia Rodionova d. Hingis/Mirza 6-3/6-3
Eastbourne Final - Jurak/Anastasia Rodionova d. Chan Hao-ching/Chan Yung-Jan 5-7/7-6(4) [10-6]
so many sisters! What was more impressive? Taking out Hingis/Mirza in straights, or the comeback from a set and a break down (two points from defeat) vs. the Chans?

The return of the "The Terrible Twosome," ready to lay waste to a town under the cover of darkness (after Wimbledon, of course)...

I've missed these random dinners!!! ?? @serenawilliams

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Our yearly Eastbourne height difference photo ?? @daria_gav

A photo posted by Naomi Broady (@naomibroady) on

Boomeranging with this one ?? @stormcsanders

A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

And he's done it again! Qualified for @Wimbledon 3 years in a row and all in 5! #proud ??? @LukeSaville18

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

**2016 WTA TITLES**
3 - Victoria Azarenka [Brisbane,Indian Wells,Miami]
3 - Sloane Stephens [Auckland,Acapulco,Charleston]
2 - Dominika Cibulkova [Katowice,Eastbourne]
2 - Caroline Garcia [Strasbourg,Mallorca]
2 - Angelique Kerber [Australian,Stuttgart]

**2016 WTA FINALS**
4...Serena Williams, USA (1-3)
3...Victoria Azarenka, BLR (3-0)
3...Sloane Stephens, USA (3-0)
3...Angelique Kerber, GER (2-1)
2...Caroline Garcia, FRA (2-0)
2...Madison Keys, USA (1-1)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (1-1)
2...Genie Bouchard, CAN (0-2)
2...Alison Riske, USA (0-2)
2...Barbora Strycova, CZE (0-2)

5...Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (4-1)
5...Angelique Kerber, GER(3-2)
5...Aga Radwanska, POL (1-4)
4...Serena Williams, USA (4-0)
4...Caroline Garcia, FRA (2-2)

**2014-16 WTA FINALS**
16 - Serena Williams (13-3)
12 - Angelique Kerber (6-6)
11 - Simona Halep (6-5)

2 - Caroline Garcia, FRA = Red Clay,Grass
2 - Angelique Kerber, GER = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Sloane Stephens, USA = Hard,Green Clay

3 - DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA, SVK = Hard,Red Clay,Grass
2 - Angelique Kerber, GER = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Madison Keys, USA = Red Clay,Grass
2 - Alison Riske, USA = Hard,Grass
2 - Sloane Stephens, USA = Hard,Green Clay
2 - Barbora Strycova, CZE = Hard,Grass
2 - Serena Williams, USA = Hard,Red Clay

Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (last title: 2016)
Andrea Petkovic, GER (2015)
Nicole Vaidisova, CZE (2006)
ALSO: Maria Kirilenko/RUS (2013)

Nurnberg - Kiki Bertens, NED
Sydney - Monica Puig, PUR
Charleston - Elena Vesnina, RUS
Stuttgart - Laura Siegemund, GER
Rabat - Marina Erakovic, NZL
Strasbourg - Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, CRO
Auckland - Tamira Paszek, AUT
Brisbane - Samantha Crawford, USA
Kuala Lumpur - Zhu Lin, CHN
Madrid - Louisa Chirico, USA
Eastbourne - Monica Puig, PUR

35 - Martina Hingis, SUI (5 titles)
33 - Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP (3)
33 - Arantxa Parra-Santonja, ESP (3)
33 - Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP (1)

7...Hingis/Mirza (5-2)
6...Garcia/Mladenovic (4-2)
3...Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (3-0)
2...CHAN/CHAN (2-1)

66 - Medina-Garrigues/Parra-Santonja (33/33) - 3 titles
66 - JURAK/RODIONOVA (32/34)
64 - Hingis/Mirza (35/29) - 5 titles
62 - Chuang/Jurak (31/31)

And, finally...

A two-part Francesca interlude...

All for now. Day 1 awaits.


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