Sunday, November 01, 2020

2020 Prediction Blowout Recap, Pt.1

It's been a weird, unprecendented and sometimes-numbing (feel free to insert any other approriately frightful and/or dystopian adjectives) year, not to mention one that was incontrovertibly immune to traditional tennis prognosication.

But, hey, predictions *were* made back in January. And it's time to see which darts managed to hit at least the edge of the ever-changing, suspended and restarted board that served as the playing field for the 2020 WTA season.

Sometimes you're right. Sometimes you're wrong. Especially in the Frankenstein's creature version of a season/year-on-earth that will forever bring forth a parade of oft-nightmarish memories with just the mention of "2020."


That said, here's a look at a few of the hits and misses from Backspin's preseason Prediction Blowout...

First, the 2020 Top 10...

Granted, with COVID and the makeshift ranking formula (counting the 16 best results from March '19 to December '20, with no twice-held tournament during the stretch being counted more than once), the 2020 "Top 10" is a bit of a mess. For the most part, it represents little to (in a few instances) nothing about what's actually happened on the court since January.

The world #1 won 11 matches, played in just one major and hasn't played at all since February. Another "season-ending Top 10er" hasn't played since November -- of 2019 -- and another played the full season without winning a singles title. Meanwhile, a first-time slam champ is barely in the Top 20.

In all, just *eleven* different players have spent time ranked in the Top 10 during the 2020 season (one of the WTA's four multi-title singles champions wasn't one of them, despite having ended '19 at #11), while the rankings were "frozen" during the shutdown (from March until August, a stretch triple the length of a scheduled offseason) for nearly as long as the season has been "live."

[ Personally, I don't believe the tour should even crown an "official 2020 #1," and would be smart to instead extend a version of the current ranking setup (starting from January '20 until the end of next season) and declare a "2020-21 #1" *next* November before (hopefully) returning to the old accounting system in 2022. But that's just me. ]

Of course, that doesn't mean that checking back on Backspin's preseason "temperature spectrum" for 2020's Top 10 contenders -- with the "hottest" the most likely to end the season there -- isn't a valid exercise.

Well, at least, it's not a *total* waste of time.

[2020 Top 10ers in CAPS; week-of-October-26 singles ranking in parenthesis]

S.WILLIAMS(10), Yastremska(29), Kerber(25), KENIN(4)
ANDREESCU(7), BARTY(1), Sabalenka(11), Muchova(27), Rybakina(19)
Anisimova(30), Muguruza(15), BERTENS(9), Bencic(12)
Stephens(39), Keys(16), Konta(14)
=Other Contenders=
Bouzkova(51), Kasatkina(70), Martic(18), Mertens(21), Swiatek(17), Vekic(32), Vondrousova(20)

A few things I said ten months ago...

Naomi Osaka: "even with a pair of slams, we've not yet seen 'Optimum Osaka' over the course of a full season. With new coach Wim Fissette having a history of directing players to their best performances, might it translate to (at least) another major win *and* a season-ending #1 ranking in 2020?"
...we still haven't seen "Optimum O," but her activist/messenger/champion run in New York following the shutdown showed the now three-time slam winner's ability to set goals and fine-tune her focus in order to continue to achieve them.

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this is crazy.

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Elina Svitolina: "she won't likely go title-free again (as she did in '19), but whether she can win titles *and* build upon her two '19 slam semis will determine whether '20 is a step forward, or a step back."
...Svitolina got back on the title train with a pair of wins, but after a 3rd Round AO result (after back-to-back QF in Melbourne) she had another no-show slam exit in the RG quarters against Nadia Podoroska.

Petra Kvitova: "often awesome in spurts, being unable to sustain such brilliance all season long is why Petra's career is still missing even a brief stint at #1. Her first slam win since '14 might take care of that."
...Kvitova performed well in the majors, going 12-3 with QF-4r-SF results (the latter her best in Paris in eight years), but she only barely made it into the Top 10 after going title-free for the first time since 2010, ending what had been the longest active season title streak on tour.

Serena Williams: "rankings are irrelevant to Serena, aren't they? *The* (only real) goal is to get (at least) slam #24. But with the slam-worthy crowd only growing larger, if it doesn't come in '20 will it ever come *at all* for Williams?"
...granted, the circumstances were crazy, but '20 was still Williams' first slam final-free season since 2006 as well as just the third time (w/ '99 and '14) she's exited multiple majors in a season before the Round of 16 in the last 22 years. One is tempted to extend the "#24 Deadline" into '21, at least to include Wimbledon, but with Gen PDQ now fully collectively immersed as major contenders/winners, the clock *may* have already hit 00:00 as Serena is now less than a year from her 40th birthday.

Dayana Yastremska: "with Sascha Bajin now in her corner, she could be ready for her close-up. If so, Ukraine could finally get that first slam champ... but she might not be named Elina."
...the talent is still there, and she may well get "there" before Svitolina, but there's still a lot of work to do with Yastremska. It won't be with Bajin, who was fired during the Restart not long after he'd complimented his *former* pupil (Osaka) after she'd defeated Dayana in Cincy/NYC. Yastremska ended '19 at #22, and reached #21 in January, but never did crack the Top 20. After a Week 2 final in Adelaide (w/ three Top 20 wins), Yastremska was 11-10 the rest of the year (going 2-4 vs. the Top 25).

Sofia Kenin: "already on a steep upward trajectory, Kenin still hasn't won a big title (3 Internationals) or had her true slam breakthrough (QF+). That'll soon change."
...Kenin won her maiden slam at the Australian Open, reached the Round of 16 at all three majors held, and maybe had an even *more* impressive run on the terre battue -- w/ clay hardly being her best surface, she reached a second '20 slam final -- than she had in Melbourne.

Bianca Andreescu: "all things being fine, she'll still be in the Top 10 a year from now and have won a few more (different) big titles. Unlike in '19, though, she's not starting off '20 at 100% health (thanks to her '19 WTAF knee injury).
...aside from everything else (you know, take your pick), 2020 never quite "felt right" as the Canadian failed to ever make her season debut, taking all year to rehab her knee. *Hopefully* this means she'll be fully good-to-go for 2021. (Crossing fingers.)

Ash Barty: "Ash won't lose her head, but backing up such a monster season as hers in 2019 is going to be a tough act for the Aussie to successfully follow."
...Barty opened her year by going 9-2 Down Under, winning a title in Adelaide and reaching the AO semis (the first Aussie to do so since 1984). She only played three more matches before the shutdown, and never left her homeland the rest of the year. Simona Halep (w/ three titles and the pre-RG favorite to take the crown) had the chance to overtake Barty with a different result in Paris, but when she didn't it assured that the Aussie will be the most asterisk-laden "season-ending #1" ever. Barty will essentially be "pressure-free" in '21... and we already know that she reacts pretty well to taking a "hiatus" from tennis. Serena Williams (2013-15) is the only player with back-to-back-to-back #1 seasons since Steffi Graf's fourth straight in 1996.

Aryna Sabalenka: "she's been knocking on the door of something *big* for two seasons now. Does she finally break through it in '20, or slip back down the lane?"
...consider 2020 another "holding pattern" season for Sabalenka, who won two titles (sweeping s/d in Ostrava, giving her another late-year boost of positivity) and will likely finish at #11 for a third straight season (though she's still on the entry list for Linz, and might still overtake #10 Serena). With 1r-2r-3r results in the slams, she remains likely *the* best player (at least untill Coco Gauff catches up to her, and she's gettin' closer all the time) without a major QF result to her credit.

Elena Rybakina: "in stealthy fashion, the Russian-turned-Kazakh crept up into the Top 40 last season. It's time for her to raise a noisier ruckus." a tour-best five final appearances (four in the first two months of the season then one more in September, though with just a lone title), plus a Top 20 ranking, count? Unfortunately, the shutdown clearly stopped Rybakina's momentum cold, and she's still looking for her slam breakthrough (3r-2r-2r in '20, and 4-5 in her career).

Garbine Muguruza: "if the addition of Conchita Martinez can't bring back the "leisurely lethal" Garbi..."
...Muguruza made a triumphant re-entry into 2020, winning 11 of her first 12 matches and reaching the AO final. She was 16-3 before the shutdown, then a respectable 7-3 in the Restart (though her rust was evident in her 2r/3r US/RG results). Her good run in Rome (SF), at least, proved that 2020 (Pt.A) Garbi wasn't just a cameo appearance to remind (then only disappoint) us about Muguruza's continued career possibilities.

Sloane Stephens: "we'll likely find out in '20 whether or not Sloane *really* wants to climb back up to where she belongs (Top 5, at least). For most of the last two seasons, though, all that (sponsored) chocolate milk in her refrigerator has been going to waste."
...though the sample size was small (15 matches), there wasn't a whole lot that we saw *on* court that was particularly encouraging. Stephens went 4-11 and lost, in order over the course of '20, to players ranked #129, #201, #270, #126, #120, #84 and #87. There *was* that three-set loss to Serena in the 3rd Round of the U.S. Open, but is that enough to warrent positive vibes?

Madison Keys: "she could wind up anywhere from #5 to #20." You know, just like *every* year."
...Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Keys had her first non-Round of 16 year in slams since 2014, but she at least opened '20 with a final in Brisbane. Only the altered ranking system kept her in the Top 20 with her 8-5 record, as Keys played (and won) even less than Barty though she participated in three Restart events (incuding both slams).

Alona Ostapenko: "if she keep her service game errors to a (relative) minimum, she could carry over her (2019) 4Q momentum. But that's a BIG "if."
...Ostapenko finally bit the bullet and brought in a big-name coach in Thomas Hogstedt to open her Restart return. It seemed to pay immediate dividends as she more often flashed her old Latvian Thunder form, while also being more "contained" and conservative in her approach. Her Restart Top 10 wins over Bertens and Pliskova (the latter as the #2 RG seed), along with a pre-shutdown win over AO champ Kenin in Fed Cup (and tight double-TB loss to Serena), will have to serve as inspiration for a more extensive "re-introduction" in '21.

After talking about Bianca Andreescu in this space for years, but then pulling back at the last moment and being more conservative that I'd originally planned when it came to predicting her 2019 prospects (due to her injury past), I attempted to not make quite the same mistake twice and immediately tossed out a few (tiered) Mover-and-Shaker picks (i.e. contenders for "2020's Andreescu") to open *this* season's Blowout.

Yastremska (then ranked #22) was the "easy," conventional top-tier choice. That one missed. But Rybakina (then #37) was the "just over your shoulder" selection. That one hit, and could have been huge over the course of a "normal" season. The longshot (and "Player Whose Name You'll Know..." top pick) was Russian Varvara Gracheva.

That one held up it's "Name" part of the deal, as the Hordette cracked the Top 100 in '20 and made her slam debut at the U.S. Open, where she upset Paula Badosa and then rallied from 6-1/5-1 down and saved 4 MP against #30 Kristina Mladenovic en route to the 3rd Round. She lost a close 7-6/6-4 match to #3-seeded Elina Svitolina at Roland Garros.

1.Varvara Gracheva, RUS - the tickets for the Gracheva Train are still affordable heading into '21, so...

2.Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ITA - the 19-year old qualified at the AO to make her slam debut, reached her first tour-level QF in Palermo (where she also reached her first WTA doubles final), played in her biggest singles final (WTA 125 Prague, where she posted clay wins over AK.Schmiedlova and Nadia Podoroska, who'd go on to reach the RG 3r and SF, respectively), went 3-0 in Fed Cup zone play in February, and recorded a pair of Top 50 victories (though Podoroska wasn't one of them, as she was #165 at the time).

3.Liudmila Samsonova, RUS - she opened '20 with a qualifying run that included wins over Mladenovic and Kostyuk, then she upset Stephens in the MD and followed that up with a successful Q-run in Melbourne. While she's still seeking her first slam MD win, the 21-year old was on the front end of several big stories in majors: she was Pironkova's 1st Round opponent in NYC, and took Kenin to three sets in the 1st Round in Paris.

4.Hailey Baptiste, USA - the teenager made her slam debut as a U.S. Open wild card

5.Usue Arconada, USA - an Auckland qualifier, she reached her career high ranking and later made her slam debut as a U.S. Open wild card

Africa/Middle East: Ons Jabeur/TUN - [yes, at #31... though if the category had been expanded to include the Mediterranean region then #22 Sakkari would have come into play]

ARG: Nadia Podoroska - [yes, she's #48; after looking like ARG's best hope in years for, well, a few years, the promise finally paid off with a semifinal run at RG]

BEL: Elise Mertens - [still the top Waffle at #21]

CHN: Zheng Saisai - [third-ranked at #41, behind #34 Wang Qiang and #35 Zhang Shuai]

CRO: Donna Vekic - [second at #32, behind #18 Martic]

CZE: Petra Kvitova - [Petra arguably had the "better" overall season, but came in at #8 behind #6 Pliskova]

FRA: Kristina Mladenovic - [the three-headed battle to be the top-ranked Pastry ultimately left Kiki third at #49 behind #42 Fiona Ferro and #43 Caroline Garcia, after the "live #1" crown literally changed hands on a daily basis during RG]

FRA: [Jr.] Elsa Jacquemot - [she moved into the ITF girls #1 spot w/ her Roland Garros junior title; she could become the third consecutive girls year-ending #1 to hail from France]

IND: Ankita Raina - [yes, #178, though she was #119 pre-shutdown]

ITA: Elisabetta Cocciaretto - [maybe a year or to two early on this one, as she remains fourth behind Giorgi, Trevisan and Paolini at #130, just two spots off her September career-high. It'll happen eventually.]

KAZ: Elena Rybakina - [yep at #19, though she'd likely have been much higher without the pandemic break]

LAT: Alona Ostapenko - [still holding onto the top spot at #44]

MEX: Marcela Zacarías - [Renata Zarazua was the Mexican player who surged, reaching the Top 150 and overtaking the #270's-ish Zacarías]

POL: Iga Swiatek - [#17 and the first Polish slam champ]

RUS: Dasha Kasatkina - [still waiting on the *big * comeback, though she had an encouraging Restart uptick. Dasha is the sixth-ranked Hordette. Ekaterina Alexandrova is first at #33]

RUS: [Jr.] Oksana Selekhmeteva - [four Russian girls rank in the girls Top 15, with #13 Selekhmeteva second behind #6 Polina Kudermetova]

SLO: Kaja Juvan - [her time is coming, but it wasn't *quite* 2020. Juvan is still third in the national ranking (#100) behind Hercog (#52) and Zidansek (#86)]

South America: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL - [#48 Podoroska/ARG lapped the continental field, but the teenager is next in line for a promotion at #180, behind Paraguay's Cepede Royg at #178]

SVK: Viktoria Kuzmova - [not a good season (5-9) but still the top-ranked Slovak at #96]

UKR: Dayana Yastremska - [not yet, as #5 Svitolina remains ahead of her #29-ranked countrywoman]

USA: Serena Williams - [at #10, this would generally be a hit, but...]

USA (non-Williams): Sonia Kenin - [...#4 Kenin's three-title, slam win and two major finals took her all the way to the top of the Bannerette standings]

USA: [Jr.] Alexandra Yepifanova - [she mostly played in ITF challangers, reaching QF in February and October, so at #27 she's slipped behind #7 Robin Montgomery and #10 Alexa Noel]


BLUE=correct prediction
Not as many "hits" as one would like this year, but many were *this chose* to turning blue, and with a normal-length season likely would have. But it is what it is, I guess.

FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 10 JUMPS (i.e. not necessarily season-ending, for all jumps): Sonia Kenin/USA, Karolina Muchova/CZE, Elena Rybakina/KAZ, Dayana Yastremska/UKR

FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 20 JUMPS: Ekaterina Alexandrova/RUS, Amanda Anisimova/USA, Anna Blinkova/RUS, Marie Bouzkova/CZE, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Veronika Kudermetova/RUS, Karolina Muchova/CZE, Elena Rybakina/KAZ, Maria Sakkari/GRE, Iga Swiatek/POL, Dayana Yastremska/UKR, Zheng Saisai/CHN

FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 50 JUMPS: Kristie Ahn/USA, Marie Bouzkova/CZE, Anna Blinkova/RUS, Ana Bogdan/ROU, Jennifer Brady/USA, Caroline Dolehide/USA, Fiona Ferro/FRA, Coco Gauff/USA, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Ivana Jorovic/SRB, Kaja Juvan/SLO, Anna Kalinskaya/RUS, Antonia Lottner/GER, Caty McNally/USA, Greet Minnen/BEL, Jasmine Paolini/ITA, Bernarda Pera/USA, Anastasia Potapova/RUS, Liudmila Samsonova/RUS, Jil Teichmann/SUI, Taylor Townsend/USA, Zhu Lin/CHN

FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 100 JUMPS: Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA, Francesca Di Lorenzo/USA, Leylah Annie Fernandez/CAN, Kaja Juvan/SLO, Tamara Korpatsch/GER, Marta Kostyuk/UKR (she'll make the jump on Monday), Vera Lapko/BLR, Antonia Lottner/GER, Caty McNally/USA, Greet Minnen/BEL, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL, Whitney Osuigwe/USA, Liudmila Samsonova/RUS, Wang Xinyu/CHN, Wang Xiyu/CHN

...JUUUUUST missed this one, as we saw two -- Kenin & Swiatek -- in three slams

...Kenin (AO) and Swiatek (RG)

FIRST-TIME SLAM SEMIFINALISTS: Aryna Sabalenka/BLR, Sofia Kenin/USA, Karolina Muchova/CZE
...Kenin (AO), Brady (US), Swiatek (RG) and Podoroska (RG)

FIRST-TIME SLAM QUARTERFINALISTS: Coco Gauff/USA, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Sofia Kenin/USA, Elena Rybakina/KAZ, Aryna Sabalenka/BLR, Iga Swiatek/POL, Dayana Yastremska/UKR

...Brady (US), Jabeur (AO), Kenin (AO), Kontaveit (AO), Podoroska (RG), Siegemund (RG), Swiatek (RG) and Trevisan (RG)

FIRST-TIME SLAM ROUND OF 16's: Ekaterina Alexandrova/RUS, Anna Blinkova/RUS, Marie Bouzkova/CZE, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Veronika Kudermetova/RUS, Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK, Caty McNally/USA, Greet Minnen/BEL, Whitney Osuigwe/USA, Elena Rybakina/KAZ, Maria Sakkari/GRE, Jil Teichmann/SUI
...Jabeur and Sakkari in Melbourne; Badosa, Ferro, Krejcikova, Podoroska, Siegemund & Trevisan in Paris

NOTABLE FIRST-TIME SLAM 1st ROUND WINNERS: Clara Burel/FRA, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Leylah Annie Fernandez/CAN, Greet Minnen/BEL, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL, Elena Rybakina/KAZ, Wang Xinyu/CHN, Wang Xiyu/CHN
... five of my eight picks were amongst the seventeen -- five AO, five US, seven RG -- who got their maiden slam victories in 2020.

2020 WHEELCHAIR SLAMS: Diede de Groot will win the three slam singles competitions (AO/RG/WI) held in '20, but win only two in doubles (likely teaming again w/ Aniek Van Koot). De Groot will defeat Yui Kamiji in two slam finals. Marjolein Buis, in her final year of WC competition due to a change in eligibility rules, will reach a slam doubles final. Groot took a big step back in '20 after her remarkable '19 season, yet still won one slam singles title (def. Kamiji in the U.S. final) and another in doubles (RG w/ Van Koot). Kamiji swept the other two singles majors in Melbourne in Paris, and joined with Jordanne Whiley to win the AO and U.S. doubles crowns, as well. Buis reached the U.S. Open doubles final w/ de Groot in what did turn out to be her farewell campaign, though it was one that looked far different than she'd thought it would.

2020 SLAM SINGLES FINALISTS: (2 each) Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams; (1 each) Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens
...Kenin (2), Azarenka (1), Muguruza (1), Osaka (1) and Swiatek (1)

2020 ROUND OF 16 AT ALL FOUR SLAMS: Bianca Andreescu, Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams
...Kevin and Kvitova were the only two players to reach the 4th Round at each of the 2020 slams. Bertens, Halep, Jabeur, Kerber, Kontaveit, Mertens, Sakkari and Swiatek all had two each.

2020 QF AT ALL FOUR SLAMS: Serena Williams player reached three slam QF in '20, while Kenin and Kvitova led the tour with two

2020 SLAM DOUBLES TITLES: (1 each) Babos/Mladenovic, Krejcikova/Siniakova, Mertens/Sabalenka, Barty & *someone* (so many possibilities, including Vandeweghe, Azarenka and others)
...Babos/Mladenovic (AO/RG), Siegemund/Zvonareva (US)

2020 SLAM MIXED DOUBLES TITLES: (2) Bethanie Mattek-Sands; (1 each) Latisha Chan, Samantha Stosur
...Krejcikova (AO) won the only MX slam competition held in '20


...the 20-year old claimed the rain-marred $80K in Tyler, Texas, an event which somehow managed to finish on time on Sunday afternoon after the backed-up schedule had earlier caused players to play multiple matches per day late in the week to make up for time lost.

Li mostly avoided the backup associated with long matches, posting straight sets victories during the week over Diane Parry, Paula Kania, Clara Tauson and Greet Minnen to reach the final, where she faced Marta Kostyuk. A week ago, a cramping Kostyuk was forced to retire in the 3rd set in her $80K challenger final against CiCi Bellis, coming up just short of her Top 100 breakthrough. The Ukrainian made up for that this week, climbing to #97 after wins over Veronica Cepede Royg and Sara Errani before getting a SF walkover past (you guessed it) Bellis, who'd had to play a pair of three-setters a day earlier.

Li was finally taken to three sets by Kostyuk, serving out the title on MP #2 in a 7-5/1-6/6-3 final to claim her third career ITF crown and continue the productive trend she's maintained throughout the disjointed 2020 campaign. Li began the year by qualifying for both Auckland and the AO, reaching the 2nd Round in her slam MD debut in Melbourne, then qualified again for the Cincy/NYC tournament and soon after reached the 3rd Round at Flushing Meadows (def. Rus and Riske). She'll climb to a new career high of #100 on Monday.

RISER: María Lourdes Carlé/ARG the shadow of Nadia Podoroska's SF run in Paris, fellow Argentine Carlé has been starring on the ITF circuit in Monastir, Tunisia. The 20-year old reached her third final in five weeks (w/ 2 other SF), defeating Poland's Weronika Falkowska, 20, in a second final to claim her seventh career challenger crown. Carlé's Tunisian run now includes two titles and a 19-4 combined record.

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¡Campeona! ?? Título para @lourdescarle en el W15 de Monastir: 6-4 6-3 a la polaca Falkowska para cosechar su 3er. campeonato del 2020, el 2º en Túnez, y el 7º de su carrera profesional. Realmente extraordinario el desempeño de la deroense de 20 años en el cemento africano, alcanzando 2 trofeos, un subcampeonato y 2 semifinales en 5 semanas de competencia. ?? Esta actuación sobresaliente se reflejará en su ránking: dentro de 2 lunes, Lourdes figurará cerca del top 435 WTA por ocasión inicial, muy meritorio si consideramos que comenzó su gira tunecina 100 puestos más atrás, en el escalón 535. ?? Cabe destacar que con esta conquista, Carlé iguala a Nadia Podoroska como la argentina con más títulos individuales esta temporada (3 cada una, Lourdes obtuvo en Febrero el W15 de Cancún), si bien la rosarina los logró en eventos de mayores puntos y premios. Y es muy rescatable también el récord de Lourdes en finales de singles con un total de 7 ganadas y apenas 3 perdidas. ?Recuerden que, preventivamente, los organizadores de la serie de torneos en Monastir cancelaron por 2 semanas los eventos en la ciudad, así que por el momento Lourdes tendrá un merecido descanso después de 5 semanas intensas en las que jugó 22 partidos en singles (apabullante msrca de 19-3) y 13 en dobles (8-5, con una final disputada). ?? ¡Desde este espacio felicitamos a Lourdes y a su equipo por estos logros que continúan enalteciendo al tenis de mujeres del país! #VamosLourdes?? #VamosChicas?????? ?. ?? Archivo W25 Orlando

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SURPRISE: Erika Andreeva/RUS
...16-year old Russian Andreeva, in just her third pro event (first in '20), picked up her maiden title in the $15K challenger in Pazardzhik, Bulgaria. A winner of a Grade 1 junior event in Pancevo in September, the teenager defeated lucky loser Sofia Milatova (SVK) in a 1-6/6-0/6-2 final.

VETERAN: Kaia Kanepi/ESP
...for the second time in an indoor hard court event this October, 35-year old Kanepi stepped into the winner's circle on Saturday, taking the $25K challenger in Istanbul without losing a set (just as she did two weeks ago in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, FRA). This week, the Estonian's run ended with a 6-3/6-3 win in the final over fellow veteran Vera Zvonareva for her 17th career circuit title, winning in her ninth straight singles final dating back to 2014.

COMEBACK: Alexandra Cadantu/ROU
...the 30-year old Romanian won her first singles title since 2015, and tenth of the career, by picking up a $15K challenger win in Heraklion, Greece with a 4-6/6-3/6-3 victory over countrywoman Andreea Amalia Rosca (who still won the doubles) in the final. Cadantu is a former Top 60 player (and year-end Top 100 from 2011-14) who reached her lone tour-level singles final in Monterrey in 2012, as well as one in a WTA 125 in Bol three years ago. She's currently ranked #267.

FRESH FACES: Alina Charaeva/Oksana Selekhmeteva, RUS/RUS Platja d'Aro, Spain the Russian teenagers claimed their second ITF challenger title in the Restart, adding a $15K crown to the $25K they won in Marbella. The pair won back-to-back match TB in the semis and final to get the win.

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Doubles winners 15k ?????? 4/4 ??

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Both Hordettes have had successful junior careers in both singles and doubles. 18-year old Charaeva just reached the RG girls singles final after knocking off Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva ('20 AO jr. champ), Alexandra Vecic and Polina Kudermetova along the way; while 17-year old Selekhmetova defeated Daria Lopatetska in the same event, and in last year's junior slams handed losses to the likes of Weronika Baszek ('20 AO girls RU) at Wimbledon, then Emma Navarro ('19 RG jr. RU), Elsa Jacquemot ('20 RG girls champ) and Katrina Scott en route to the U.S. Open semifinals, where she nearly defeated eventual champ Maria Camila Osorio Serrano in a three-set encounter..

Charaeva reached the '19 RG girls doubles final, while Selekhmeteva won the '19 U.S. doubles alongside Kamilla Bartone.
JUNIOR STAR: Elsa Jacquemot/FRA a battle for the #1 ranking between both of 2020's junior slam singles winners, as they entered the week less than 30 points apart in the girls rankings, #1 Jacquemot (RG) defeated #2 Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AO) 6-1/4-6/7-6(8) in the Grade 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero event final in Villena, Spain. The Pastry, a late entrant into the event (as a WC) likely due to VJK's Grade 1 title a week ago and renewed push for the top ranking, had reached the final without dropping a set, handling Brit Matilda Mutavdzic in the semis. The title run extends Jacquemot's winning streak to eleven matches and makes her 15-2 in ITF junior competition this season (Andorra's VJK is 22-3, with her own 13-match winning streak now having ended).

Jacquemot also picked up the doubles title along with Romanian Fatima Ingrid Amartha Keita.

DOUBLES: Allura Zamarripa/Maribella Zamarippa, USA/USA
...the California twins, 2021 recruits to play at the University of Texas, won on their *new* home soil "deep in the heart of..." in Tyler, taking the $80K title with a 6-3/5-7 [11-9] win in the final over Poles Paula Kania-Chodun & Katarzyna Piter. The Zamarripas saved a pair of MP in the TB after trailing 9-7.

The twins, alternates for the event, had earlier upset top-seeded Caroline Dolehide/Caty McNally in another match TB (10-4), and later received a walkover into the final from Marta Kostyuk/Clara Tauson when the duo pulled out of their semifinal match-up after the rain delays and stacked scheduling had put the backs of many of the players competing in both singles and doubles against the wall. It's the Zamarripas fourth ITF doubles title.

A word from Jordanne Whiley...


1. $80K Tyler TX 2nd Rd. - Clara Tauson def. Shelby Rogers
...5-7/7-5/6-3. The Dane, who upset world #25 Jennifer Brady in the 1st Round at Roland Garros, struck Bannerette gold again in Texas with a three-set, three-hour-plus victory over #1-seeded Shelby Rogers (#58). Tauson had earlier qualified and posted another MD win over Caty McNally (yet another U.S. player), but her luck (or, more likely, stamina after having to play her QF on the same day as her long 2nd Rounder due to the week's many rain delays) ran out in the QF against the U.S.'s Ann Li. Still, Tauson has put up a 20-5 record in the Restart while raising her ranking from #212 to this week's new career high of #151.

2. Orlando FL Jr. J4 Final - Ashlyn Krueger def. Sarah Hamner
...6-2/6-4. The 16-year old Bannerette, winner of last year's Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl 16s titles, swept the singles and doubles titles at the Grade 4 event held on the USTA National Campus, defeating Hamner in the singles while joining forces with her to take the doubles. Krueger reached the singles and doubles finals at the junior event last week in Atlanta, falling short in both matches.

3. $15K Platja d'Aro ESP Final - Sebastianna Scilipoti def. Amanda Carreras
...6-4/6-4. The 17-year old Swiss picks up her maiden pro title, having avenged her RG 1st Round juniors loss to Alina Charaeva this week by defeating the Russian in the QF, and then getting the win over the Brit in Scilipoti's second Restart challenger final (w/ $15K Varna in September).

HM- $25K Istanbul Final - Jaqueline Cristian/Gabriela Ruse def. Maia Lumsden/Melis Sezer
...6-3/6-4. The all-Swarmette duo won the $25K, claiming their third career ITF crown together while scratching through three match TB during the week before defeating the British-Turkish pair. It's Cristian's tenth career ITF win, and Ruse's eighth. They teamed to reach a tour-level final in Bucharest last season.

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Volleys&kunefe ??????

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1. Istanbul (Soul Cup II) Jr. J3 Final - Brenda Fruhvirtova def. Linda Kilmovicova
...6-2/6-0. The 13-year old on-the-rise Czech claimed her second 2020 junior ITF crown (w/ a Grade 2 in September, when she became the youngest player to win an ITF junior G2+ singles title since Mirjana Lucic in 1995) without dropping a set in Istanbul, defeating the #1, #4, #6 seeds en route to the title. Fruhvirtova allowed as many as three games in just one of ten sets, improving to 16-1 (10-1 in '20) in her upper level junior career. Her only loss came against Daria Lopatetska at this year's Roland Garros.

Brenda's now 15-year old sister Linda is the 18th-ranked junior girl. Prior to Brenda's win last month, it was Linda whose 2019 title in Piestany had made *her* the only 13-year old to have won an ITF junior G2+ event since Marta Kostyuk in 2016.

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Back-to-back. Sister-to-sister. FRUHVIR-TO-VA ????

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Hello guys! As some of you may know, i haven’t been playing competitive tennis for over an year now. I was hoping to play the Fed Cup Finals in Budapest as last event of my carrier, unfortunately the whole situation around covid 19 has changed those plans. After carefully analyzing the various scenarios, i have decided to put an end to my professional tennis career. After almost 15 years of many ups and some downs, i am incredibly grateful for everything this amazing sport has given me. Besides meeting lots of nice and interesting people all over the world, i experienced amazing emotions, starting by winning my first tournament as a small girl all the way to reaching the semifinal of wimbledon in 2017. Even though there obviously were some tough moments with lots of injuries, uncertainties and sacrifices, i wouldn’t wanna miss a single second of his amazing journey. I wanna thank my family for always supporting me, all my coaches for trying to get the best out of me on the court and Kristian Cupak, who made sure i was fit enough to do so and was part of my team for almost my entire career. A special thanks goes to Lotto (clothing sponsor), Yonex (tennis equipment) and all the other sponsors, not to forget the slovak tennis federation who helped me at the beginning of the journey. Last but not least i want to thank all the fans for supporting me in good and not so good times, encouraging me during matches and through the various media channels, they always helped me going the extra step when i thought i couldn’t do it anymore. I’m leaving with a big smile on my face and am very much looking forward to see what the next chapter of my life will hold. Have fun, be well and stay healthy! Slovenska´ verzia v komente ??

A post shared by Magdalena Rybarikova (@magdalena_rybarikova) on

Meanwhile, here's one of the true breaths of fresh air in the sport making the "horrrrrrrrific" decision to post a small tweet on a serious subject involving an ATP player, giving a piece of advice about issuing written public statements vs. releasing those on video, but in doing so also happening to mention *another* player (you know the one) in passing who might have been given similar advice a few months ago during his personal summer folly (or U.S. Open "situation")... only to then be apparently browbeaten (social media style) by the fans of the latter player into deleting and re-posting the advice -- this time without mentioning said "summer folly" player -- and then posting a totally unnecessary apology regarding the whole matter.



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Driving out of lockdown be like.?????? And we are back. Welcome back Melbourne and welcome back Victoria. After being in one of the longest and toughest lockdowns in the world,its been 7 months of lockdown altogether and 4 straight months of a very tough lockdown,we are back out of lockdown with no new cases of Covid for 3 straight days. Well done Melbourne and Victoria for all you have done and all the sacrifices you have made.It’s been lengthy and hard but it’s paid off and it feels so good. Stay safe,continue to wear your masks,stay socially-distant and wash your hands. My heart and thoughts go out to all the countries and communities around the world that continue to fight this pandemic and it’s impacts. As always wheels provided by the amazing team at @mbtoorak ???????????????????????? #lockdown #nomorelockdown #covid_19 #covid #coronavirus #pandemic #happytobeout #happy #free #freedom #thatswhatfreedomfeelslike #wedidit #melbs #melbourne #australia #victoria #weareback #drivingoutoflockdown #driving #mbtoorak #mercedesbenz #mercedesbenzau #mercedes #freedombaby #mymelbourne

A post shared by JELENA DOKIC ???????????? (@dokic_jelena) on



RPM JUNIOR OPEN CZE G1: Kristina Dmitruk, BLR
TRARALGON AUS G1: Polina Kudermetova, RUS
AUST.OPEN JUNIORS: Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, AND
PORTO ALEGRE BRA G1: Matilde Paoletti, ITA
YELTSIN CUP RUS G1: Romana Cisovska, SVK
NONTHABURI THA G1: Anchisa Chanta, THA
PANCEVO SRB G1: Erika Andreeva, RUS
PLOVDIV BUL G1: Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, AND
VILLENA ESP G1: Elsa Jacquemot, FRA






















Be Safe.
And Vote (if you're eligible).
All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

News cycle will be interesting. With all of the mail in ballots, this may not be official for another 7-10 days.

OT- Mookie Betts is the best all around player in baseball.

On your list, Yastremska had kind of a lost season. No explanation for Stephens, and Keys is who she is.

Kuzmova was disappointing.

Hard to be right on anybody from China as Zhang was the only full time participant in the restart.

Stat of the Week- 492- Number of aces for Julia Goerges in 2018.

Karolina Pliskova has the Ace Queen nickname. Serena is probably the ace queen of all time. But at the time she retires, Goerges has 2 of the Top 11 ace seasons in history.

Now, just like the NFL did not count sacks until 1982, which leaves out the Steel Curtain, the Purple People Eaters, and the Fearsome Foursome, the WTA did not count aces as an official stat until 2008.

2008! So that 2002 season for Serena, where she had 61 aces at the US Open isn't reflected. Venus' peak? Not reflected. Her best? 277 in 2009. Even Kr.Pliskova didn't make it, as her best is 372 in 2017. Per match, her numbers are just as good, but doesn't win enough.

Without further ado, your Top 11.

530- Pliskova- 2016
517- Pliskova- 2015
498- Williams- 2015
492- Goerges- 2018
488- Pliskova- 2019
484- Williams- 2012
480- Williams- 2013
457- Bertens- 2019
452- Williams- 2014
452- Pliskova- 2017
412- Goerges- 2017

If you wonder why I waited a week, Goerges turns 32 on Monday. Some high points of her 15 year career include her finishing in the Top 80 for the last 11 years of her career, and finishing with 7 years in the Top 50. Would have been 8, but already took her name off the rankings.

Quiz Time!

A year after Groenefeld walks away, Goerges does the same. Which German did have the best record against?

A.Andrea Petkovic
B.Laura Siegemund
C.Angelique Kerber
D.Sabine Lisicki

Interlude- Rich Eisen raising money for St. Jude's Children's Hospital.


Sharapova vs Russians. Kvitova vs Czech Republic. We knew how that would go. Goerges was the opposite, going .500 or below vs everybody on this list.

Groenefeld stopped playing singles in 2011, so she wasn't used. Goerges broke even at 1-1, which was better than she did against Malek(Maria) 0-1, or surprisingly Witthoeft 0-2.

(B)Siegemund is wrong, but was .500 against her until the very end. Literally. Goerges' 2nd rd French Open loss this year dropped her to 1-2, but will be remembered as her final career match. Her first? A win in Doha vs Agnes Szavay in 2007.

The one person you immediately assume she would have a losing record against is (C)Kerber, and you would be right. Only 1-2, Goerges had a habit of beating Germans on the way to a final, doing so in the Luxembourg SF in 2010, to reach her second career final.

(A)Petkovic is not correct, as she went 2-4. Of course, Goerges beat her in the SF- 2017 Washington. Unfortunately, she then lost the final to Makarova, making this her 6th straight finals loss.

That leaves (D)Lisicki as the correct answer. Tied at 2-2, you know the trend. They met in the Stuttgart QF in 2011, with Goerges winning and eventually reaching the title. She actually won, beating her biggest rival in Caroline Wozniacki. They actually faced of 11 times, with Goerges winning 6-5.

That rivalry played out over 11 years, with Wozniacki winning the last match earlier this year in Auckland. Fitting, as they actually played there 4 times, with Goerges winning one of her Auckland finals vs Wozniacki.

Sun Nov 01, 09:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, it could be a circus on Tuesday night, with a dragged-out aftermath that might make 2000 sound like a children's story.

Quite a difference with Goerges and Groenefeld. While JG is already gone from the rankings, ALG (though she hasn't played a match in '20) is *still* #13 in doubles. And with the rankings the way they are, she may still be there a while.

Quiz: I went with Petko just because I figured they'd played the most. :\

That Metcalf chase down in last week's game might not be *quite* as impressive as Darrell Green chasing down Tony Dorsett -- -- just because Dorsett was considered uncatchable at the time, but the size/speed thing with Metcalf as he closed in with every step was as scary as it was eye-popping.

Mon Nov 02, 12:50:00 AM EST  

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