Sunday, November 08, 2020

2020 Prediction Blowout Recap, Pt.2

All preseason predictions are interesting. But some are more interesting than others.

A concluding look back at some of the predictions for the 2020 WTA season made before, well, you know.

"I hereby declare all preseason Blowout predictions to have been correct, as I do not accept ANY results (i.e. any accumulation of games, points or matches that produce a reality that I don't like) that imply otherwise.

That said, of course, I *do* choose to accept all results when said accumulations *favor* my predictions and confirm my infallibility. ANYTHING ELSE IS A FRADULANT RESULT THAT I WILL CHALLENGE IN EVERY COURT OF LAW!


Being wrong is for suckers and losers. Everyone says so."


First, the preseason awards & watch lists...


NEWCOMERS OF THE YEAR: Fiona Ferro/FRA, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Kaja Juvan/SLO, "McCoco" (Gauff/McNally, USA/USA), Caty McNally/USA (singles), Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL, Elena Rybakina/KAZ, Wang Xinyu/CHN, Wang Xiyu/CHN
...quite a bit of success here, with many of the picks having career years, even under trying circumstances.

Ferro climbed past the likes of Garcia, Mladenovic and Cornet to become the new French #1, rising as high as #42, recording two Top 20 wins (Rybakina & Kontaveit), winning the Palermo title and reaching the Roland Garros 4th Round while going 8-1 in the Restart. Gracheva cracked the Top 100, and made her slam MD debut in New York with wins over Paula Badosa and #30-seed Kristina Mladenovic (rallying from 6-1/5-1 down and saving four MP against the Pastry). Juvan shined on big stages, qualifying at the AO and posting MD wins at the U.S. and RG (def. Kerber), as well as upsetting Venus Williams (and Podoroska in qualifying) in Acapulco, and Marketa Vondrousova (and soon-to-be-RG-quarterfinalist Martina Trevisan, in qualifying) in Palermo en route to her Top 100 breakthrough. McNally qualified in Melbourne and defeated Sam Stosur in the AO 1st Round, then reached the U.S. Open 3rd (a career slam best) with wins over Viktoria Kuzmova and #21-seed Ekaterina Alexandrova. Rybakina climbed into the Top 20 with a tour-best five singles finals and one WTA title, while Wang Xiyu reached her first tour-level semifinal in Acapulco.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS: Anna Blinkova/RUS, Marie Bouzkova/CZE, Caroline Dolehide/USA, Fiona Ferro/FRA, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Kaja Juvan/SLO, Veronika Kudermetova/RUS, Antonia Lottner/GER, Dana Mathewson/USA (WC), Greet Minnen/BEL, Elena Rybakina/KAZ, Liudmila Samsonova/RUS, Raluca Serban/CYP, Iga Swiatek/POL, Zhu Lin/CHN
...Swiatek was the Restart's breakout would-be superstar, sweeping through Roland Garros without dropping a set (led by a demolition of Simona Halep in the Round of 16 one year after taking just one game off the Romanian in the same spot) and reaching the Top 20. She'd also reached her first AO 4th Round at the start of the year. Bouzkova reached her maiden tour singles final in Monterrey, breaking into the Top 50 in a season highlighted by three Top 20 wins (over Kvitova and Konta, the latter twice). Kudermetova, laying down a path down which her younger sister Polina will soon follow, reached the Top 40 and recorded two Top 10 victories (both over Pliskova in the Restart). The Russian also reached the Hobart semis in January after having posted an upset win over soon-to-be AO finalist Garbine Muguruza.

SURPRISE PLAYERS: Paula Badosa/ESP, Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA, Greet Minnen/BEL, Jasmine Paolini/ITA, Nadia Podoroska/ARG, Liudmila Samsonova/RUS
...Podoroska was the biggest mover, putting on a stunning run to the Roland Garros semis as a qualifier (def. #5 Elina Svitolina in the QF) -- an Open era first in Paris -- as she climbed into the Top 50 after starting the year at #255. She also won three ITF titles. Badosa rose into the Top 70 from #95, reached the Istanbul semis and upset Sloane Stephens en route to the Australian Open Round of 16. Cocciaretto reached her first tour-level QF in Palmero (where she also reached her first WTA WD final), reached her biggest final in the WTA 125 Prague (def. AK.Schmiedlova and Podoroska), qualified in Melbourne to reach her first slam MD and then got her first slam win at RG. Paolini was improved, making her slam MD debut in Paris, just as Minnen did in Melbourne (where the Waffle posted a 1st Rd. win). Samsonova upset Stephens in January and took eventual RG finalist Sofia Kenin to three sets in her opening round match in Paris.

COMEBACKS: Katie Boulter/GBR, Dasha Kasatkina/RUS, Angelique Kerber/GER, Dasha Lopatetska/UKR, Sania Mirza/IND (d), Garbine Muguruza/ESP, Alona Ostapenko/LAT, CoCo Vandeweghe/USA
...Mirza (back from having a baby to win a doubles title in Hobart) and Muguruza (reaching the AO final, Shenzhen & Rome semis as she returned to the Top 15 after slipping to #36 in '19), are easy "hits." The others didn't have *huge* results, but Boulter reached her first singles final ($15K) since last year's back injury, Kasatkina reached her first tour semi since '18 and showed flashes of her old Top 10 self during the Restart, Kerber had a pair of slam Round of 16 runs, Lopatetska returned from knee surgery, and Ostapenko recorded three Top 10 wins (her most since '17, including upsets of AO champ Sofia Kenin in Fed Cup and #2-seed Karolina Pliskova at RG) while showing some of her old Latvian Thunder magic (w/ a hint of much-needed "conservatism") under new coach Thomas Hogstedt in the Restart. Vandeweghe returned from foot surgery, but thus far her best result has been a QF in the WTA 125 in Newport Beach. Her season ended in September when she underwent hand surgery

ITF ACHIEVERS: Indy De Vroome/NED, Raluca Serban/CYP, Mayar Sherif/EGY, Clara Tauson/DEN
...Tauson had more ITF success, winning a pair of titles, but her season highlight was qualifying for Roland Garros and then upsetting U.S. Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady in her slam MD debut. Meanwhile, Sherif won her seventh and eighth ITF crowns since the start of 2019, but her tour-level success heavily outweighed that, as in Prague (via qualifying) she became the first Egyptian woman to reach a WTA singles MD since 1999, where she lost to Laura Siegemund in three sets. Sherif then she did the same at RG (becoming the first from Egypt to record a slam singles win) to go down in history as the maiden woman from her nation to play in a slam MD match. She pushed #2-seed Karolina Pliskova to three sets.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Linda Fruhvirtova/CZE, Elsa Jacquemot/FRA, Polina Kudermetova/RUS, Robin Montgomery/USA, Katrina Scott/USA, Oksana Selekhmeteva/RUS, Alexandra Yepifanova/USA
...While Linda F. is a Top 20 junior and reached the AO girls doubles semis, her younger sister Brenda probably got the most attention over the course of '20 (which included an upset win over Katerina Siniakova during a shutdown event). Jacquemot won the Roland Garros girls title and is the junior #1, while Kudermetova reached the semis of the same event and is #6. The Russian also reached the Australian Open girls QF after winning Grade 1 Traralgon. Montgomery and Scott both made their slam debuts as wild cards at the U.S. Open, with Scott getting a win over Natalia Vikhlyantseva and taking Amanda Anisimova to three sets in the 2nd Round. Montgomery reached the Australian Open girls QF. Selekmeteva (jr. #13) won her first two pro doubles titles alongside fellow Hordette Alina Charaeva in the fall. Yepifanova played little on the junior level, but won the shutdown Battle of Boca exhibition tournament.

DOUBLES DUOS/INDIVIDUALS TO WATCH: Shuko Aoyama/Ena Shibahara (JPN/JPN), Hayley Carter/Luisa Stefani (USA/BRA), Caroline Dolehide/Usue Arconada (USA/USA), Coco Gauff/Caty McNally (USA/USA), Alexa Guarachi/CHI, Giuliana Olmos/Desirae Krawczyk (MEX/USA), Wang Xinyu/CHN
...Aoyama/Shibahara won Saint Petersburg, and both (#21/#23) reached career highs. Carter/Stefani played in two Restart finals (1-1, winning Lexington) after having claimed the WTA 125 Newport Beach title pre-shutdown, and reached the U.S. Open QF. Both set career ranking (#31/#32) highs. Gauff/McNally reached a career women's level slam best Australian Open QF, but somewhat underachieved otherwise. Guarachi set a career high (#26) and reached three finals with Kaitlyn Christian and Krawczyk (Istanbul title, RG runners-up). Krawczyk & Olmos won Acapulo as a pair, with both (#25/#26) reaching career ranking highs.

NCAA CHAMPION WATCH: Katrina Jokic/Georgia (SRB), Ashley Lahey/Pepperdine (USA), Anna Turati/Texas (ITA)
...Lahey was the ITA #1 when the NCAA's spring season was halted due to the pandemic. Turati was ranked in the Top 5 in March.

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These past few days I’ve been feeling a lot of love, especially from my school. People I look up to have been reaching out to say well done... and I wanted to give a little response. I’ve learned throughout the past 4 years that tennis isn’t such an individual sport after all. The importance of the team of coaches, trainers, professors, school presidents, church leaders, friends, and family cannot be understated. The success I enjoyed this last year had nothing to do with a random acquisition of skill that I didn’t have before. It was the culmination of four years of learning from incredible people what it really means to be a Pepperdine wave. Their passion, persistent support (through all the wild ups and downs), exemplary actions, patience, kindness, and leadership helped me attain a mindset full of gratitude, faith, and passion. And that mindset allowed me to train and perform with enthusiasm and love I haven’t felt since I started when I was 5 years old. Pepperdine believes in training students to live lives of purpose, to serve, and to lead... And I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who embody that motto. I am honored to have worn the Pepperdine jersey for these past 4 years and to have represented such a special place. Thank you to everyone who has helped me learn and grow on this incredible journey. #wavesupforever —- swipe to see where it all began ?? @perstavie @billingham88 @ steve Potts @pepperdine @pepperdinewaves @pepperdinesportsperformance @jim_gash @professors @lembree888 @mar1277 @al.sturgeon @treeton_allison @ Ron Phillips

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FIRST-TIME WTA CHAMPIONS: Ekaterina Alexandrova/RUS, Anna Blinkova/RUS, Marie Bouzkova/CZE, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Veronika Kudermetova/RUS, Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK, Caty McNally/USA, Anastasia Potapova/RUS, Iga Swiatek/POL, Ajla Tomljanovic/AUS, Natalia Vikhlyantseva/RUS, Tamara Zidansek/SLO
...Alexandrova (Shenzhen) and Swiatek (Roland Garros) claimed their maiden tour crowns, joining Jennifer Brady (Lexington) and Patricia Maria Tig (Istanbul) as first-timers in 2020. There were fifteen maiden champs during the full 2019 WTA campaign.
FIRST-TIME WTA FINALISTS: Anna Blinkova/RUS, Marie Bouzkova/CZE, Jennifer Brady/USA, Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA (WTA 125), Danielle Collins/USA, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Kaja Juvan/SLO, Veronika Kudermetova/RUS, Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK, Vera Lapko/BLR, Caty McNally/USA, Taylor Townsend/USA, Wang Xinyu/CHN, Wang Xinyu/CHN, Katarina Zavatska/UKR
...Bouzkova (Monterrey) and Brady (Lexington) did reach tour-level finals for the first time, as did Leonie Kung (Hun Hin) and Leylah Fernandez (Acapulco). Cocciaretto reached a career-best WTA 125 final in Prague, where she lost to fellow first-timer Kristina Kucova. First time WTA finalists were 1-4 in '20 (only Brady won), a year after maiden finalists went 7-6 in '19.

FIRST-TIME WTA SEMIFINALISTS: Kristie Ahn/USA, Lizette Cabrera/AUS, Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA, Caroline Dolehide/USA, Leylah Annie Fernandez/CAN, Varvara Gracheva/RUS, Han Na-lae/KOR, Kaja Juvan/SLO, Greet Minnen/BEL, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL, Jasmine Paolini/ITA, Bibiane Schoofs/NED, Taylor Townsend/USA, Wang Xinyu/CHN, Wang Xiyu/CHN
...Fernandez (Acapulco) and Wang Xiyu (Acapulco) were joined as first-time tour semifinalists by Leonie Kung (Hua Hin), Renata Zarazua (Acapulco), Arantxa Rus (Monterrey) and Nadia Podoroska (Roland Garros). None went on to win a title, while just two reached the final (Kung and Fernandez, the latter in an event that had three first-time semifinalists)

...'20 AO quarterfinalist Ons Jabeur (#31) is the highest ranked player without a career singles title heading into Linz, with Collins (#45) second.

...Danielle Collins (#45), a former slam semifinalist ('19 AO) and quarterfinalist ('20 RG) is the highest-ranked player who's never reached a WTA singles final. #48 Nadia Podoroska is next.

2020 SINGLES TITLE LEADER: Naomi Osaka (singles); Sofia Kenin (singles+doubles)
...Kenin was the first player to win a second '20 title (adding Lyon to the Australian Open), but Simona Halep's win in Rome gave her a tour-leading three for the season. The Romanian will at least tie for the most, as only Aryna Sabalenka (now w/ 2, tied with Kenin and Elina Svitolina) could catch her with a season-closing title run in Linz in the final WTA event of the year.

2020 MATCH WIN LEADER: Sofia Kenin
...going into the final event of the season in Linz, Kenin stands in a tie for third (w/ 24) in match wins in 2020 with Aryna Sabalenka. Elise Mertens (30) is the current leader, with Elena Rybakina (29) second. Simona Halep (23) is fifth. Mertens and Sabalenka are the top two seeds in Linz.


Simona Halep will finish 2020 three-quarters of the way to a Career Slam
...not in 2020. Halep reached the semis in Melbourne, then skipped the U.S. Open. She was the favorite in Paris, then Iga Swiatek showed up in the Round of 16.
Naomi Osaka wins five titles (1 major), plays in two slam finals, reaches the second week of Roland Garros and Wimbledon for the first time, and is the season-ending #1
...she did win major #3 in New York, but didn't play RG and Wimbledon was cancelled. She exited in the 3rd Round of her title defense in Melbourne, and is #3 for the second straight year.
FIRST-TIME HIGH PREMIER CHAMPION: Sofia Kenin, Angelique Kerber (0-7 in P5/PM finals), Dayana Yastremska
FIRST-TIME PREMIER CHAMPION: Marie Bouzkova, Karolina Muchova, Alison Riske, Iga Swiatek
...only three high Premier events (Doha/Rome/Cincy-NYC) were played in '20, with Sabalenka, Halep and Azarenka, respectively, adding to their career totals. The other Premier events were claimed by Ka.Pliskova, Barty, Bertens, Halep, and Sabalenka. All had won previous Premier titles. Swiatek was a first-time singles champion, but she didn't win a Premier event. Instead, it was Roland Garros. Yastremska reached a Premier final in Adelaide.
Serena Williams will go down to the wire on career slam #24 (in a classic 3rd set after failing to convert a MP), but will finally get it done this summer. [SIDE NOTE: if she doesn't win it in 2020, she never does.]
...Williams didn't win #24, with her U.S. Open semi her best result in three slam outings. But she didn't get a shot at Wimbledon, where she's reached the final in each of her last four appearances. On that note, and with the extenuating circumstances of '20, one is tempted to extend the "deadline" into 2021, at least to include that "missing" chance in London before Serena turns 40 next September.

Ash Barty posts her best career Australian Open (QF to date) and Wimbledon (4r) results, but doesn't reach the second week at Roland Garros or the U.S. Open. She win 3+ titles in both singles and doubles (a slam in the latter), as well as her first Olympic medal.
...after winning a title in Adelaide, Barty had her best AO with a semifinal run that was the top result by an Aussie woman in Melbourne since 1984. She didn't play after the shutdown, ending the year (and holding her #1 ranking w/ the alterated accountability system) with just fourteen matches (11-3) under her belt.
Bianca Andreescu records her first career #1 wins, reaches a high ranking of #2, plays in her second slam final (and the second week at every major), and wins at least one high Premier title
...Andreescu never returned in '20 after her November '19 knee injury, but has declared herself "100% healthy" and ready for 2021.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (career titles: 12) will win career title #13, becoming the only current player in tour history with so many titles but zero slam semifinal results (a distinction previously held by only Elina Svitolina, until 2019)
...the Russian won multiple matches in just one of her eight '20 tournaments, but it was an Australian Open QF run that gave her three such results in Melbourne in the last four years. She finished her season at 9-8, ranked just inside the Top 40.
Sam Stosur wins her most women's doubles titles in a season since she took home five in 2007
...Stosur played doubles in just four events (going 3-4, including a 1st Rd. AO exit), then never played in the Restart after taking the rest of the season off after she and her partner welcomed a new baby.

Garbine Muguruza will win 3+ titles in a season for the first time, and reaches her fourth career slam final
...Mugu didn't win a title, but *did* reach her fourth slam final, falling to Sofia Kenin in three sets in the AO championship match.
Sofia Kenin wins her biggest career title in the 1st Quarter of '20, reaches her first slam semifinal by the end of spring, is the highest-ranked U.S. women during the summer, and ultimately leads the tour in match wins and overall (s/d) titles as she finishes off her first Top 10 season in the fall
...Kenin's maiden slam title at the Australian Open surely qualifies as a career high, though her Roland Garros final may have been even "more impressive" on a surface on which she'd had little success. She ended her season as the top U.S. woman at #4, won two titles (tied for second behind Halep) and her 24 match wins are tied for third heading into the season's final event in Linz (which she isn't playing).
=2020 Over/Under=
18 = Kim Clijsters Total Matches Played in 2020 (UNDER)...UNDER: she was 0-3 as injuries and shutdown limited her comeback opportunities
16 = Maria Sharapova Total Match Wins (OVER)...UNDER: she was 0-2 before her post-AO retirement
14 = Bianca Andreescu Total Tournaments (PUSH)...UNDER: 0
A WTA player will be defaulted from a slam singles match
...I'd used "Top 20 WTA player" for this pick prior to 2020.
Does Djokovic's U.S. Open default count for at least "half-credit?"

Kim Clijsters records a Top 10 win, but retires from at least two events
...see above
Monica Puig's Olympic Gold medal defense ends before the 3rd Round
...maybe next year. Puig didn't begin her season until the Restart, and then didn't get a win (0-3) once she had.
Camila Giorgi is passed by at least one other Italian in the singles rankings during 2020 just #75, Giorgi is still the top-ranked Italian, ahead of #84 Martina Trevisan and #94 Jasmine Paolini. Look out for Elisabetta Cocciaretto in '21.
Elina Svitolina win 3+ titles (2 high Premier), and records her seventh career #1 win She doesn't reach another slam semifinal.
...Svitolina won a pair of International titles in Monterrey and Strasbourg, and reached the QF at Roland Garros. For the first time since 2013, she didn't record a Top 10 win.
Margarita Gasparyan will defeat Elina Svitolina in their first meeting since the Russian retired, after having held a commanding lead, from their 2nd Round match at Wimbledon last year. Svitolina went on to reach her first career slam semifinal at the AELTC.
...they never met, as the Russian was just 5-11 on the year.

Petra Kvitova reaches her first Wimbledon QF since winning the title in 2014. She's joined in the Last Eight by fellow Czechs Karolina Pliskova (a career best at SW19) and Karolina Muchova (her second QF in two Wimbledon MD appearances). Only Muchova reaches the semis.
...Wimbledon wasn't held, but Kvitova reached the QF in Melbourne, the semis in Paris (her best RG result since '12) and 4th Round in New York. No other Czech reached the QF stage at a major, with Karolina Pliskova going just 4-3 (3r-2r-2r). Pliskova just parted ways with coach Daniel Vallverdu.
Aryna Sabalenka reaches her first two slam QF (and first semi), wins multiple titles in Asia-based events, matches her best career win (Premier 5), wins her second WD slam, and finishes the year in the Top 10 in both singles and doubles
...Sabalenka did no better than the 3rd Round (RG) in any major, but won two titles in Doha and Ostrava (the former a Premier 5 event, matching her best career win), and still has Linz left on her schedule this week. She and Elise Mertens reached the RG semis, and won a tour title in Ostrava. Sabalenka will finish in the Top 10 in doubles, and is #11 in singles heading into Linz.
Kristina Mladenovic wins her first WTA singles title since 2017, sweeping the singles/doubles at the event
...Mladenovic did no better than the 2nd Round in singles in any event, going 8-10, but picked up a pair of slam doubles crowns (AO/RG) with Timea Babos.
Belinda Bencic wins two singles titles once again, but none are higher than an International level event (she won a Premier & Premier 5 in '19)
...Bencic was 8-8 in '20, with three WTA QF results in Adelaide (Premier), Saint Petersburg (Premier) and Doha (Premier 5).
Jil Teichmann reaches her first hard court WTA singles final (12 of her 13 WTA/ITF finals have come on clay, with her only HC final at a 2014 $10K challenger in her first final as a pro at age 17)
...Teichmann did reach her first hard court final in Lexington, losing to Jennifer Brady.
The U.S., with a deep and versatile bench of players to choose from (even if the "top" players don't play), wins Captain Kathy Rinaldi a second Fed Cup title in the "new" event's debut in Budapest this spring.
[SIDE NOTE: the U.S. is nearly upset by the Latvians in February's qualifying round tie in Everett, Washington] the only (then) Fed Cup tie played in 2020, the U.S. edged out Latvia 3-2 in the deciding doubles in the qualifying round of the "new" event. Serena Williams won a two-TB affair over Alona Ostapenko to give Kathy Rinaldi's squad a 2-0 lead, but Ostapenko came back a day later to upend AO champ Kenin, while Anastasija Sevastova upset Williams. Kenin & Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Ostapenko/Sevastova in straights to get the "W."
Alona Ostapenko win three titles, including Premier crowns in both singles and doubles (sweeping one event). She returns to the singles Top 20.
...Ostapenko reached the QF in Strasbourg and posted three Top 20 wins (#8 Bertens, #4 Pilskova at RG, and #18 Martic) in the Restart under new coach Thomas Hogstedt. She reached the WD final at Premier 5 Strasbourg with Gaby Dabrowski, dropping a 10-2 match TB, as well as the AO quarterfinals.
A Belgian upsets a Top 5 player at a major (the Waffle in question is *not* Elise Mertens), but Mertens *did* defeat #4 Kenin at the U.S. Open.
Sloane Stephens makes one deep slam run, and plays in the final of a high Premier event. She fails to reach a semifinal in any other event.
...Stephens won multiple matches in just one event (U.S. Open), posting 1r-3r-2r results in the majors and going just 4-11 overall.
Kiki Bertens wins her first career WTA grass court title, and advances to the Round of 16 for the first time in a hard court major
...the grass season never happened, but Bertens finished her third consecutive Top 10 season, reaching the Round of 16 at the Australian Open in January, her best result at a hard court slam. She had Achilles surgery after the season and will miss the Aussie swing in '21.
A French girl will top the season-ending junior rankings for a third straight year, following Clara Burel (2018) and Diane Parry (2019)
...Roland Garros girls champ Elsa Jacquemot took over the #1 junior ranking after her win in Paris, and in the fall staved off an attempt by #2 Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AO jr. winner) to overtake her for the top spot in a recent high-level junior final.

At least one junior slam singles crown will be won a Russian, the first claimed by a Hordette since '16
...only two junior slam competitions were held, but Alina Charaeva reached the RG girls final. Polina Kudermetova reached the SF in Paris, and QF in Melbourne.

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Elena Rybakina wins multiple titles, posts at least one QF+ result at a major, records at least three Top 10 wins (one over a Top 5 player at a slam), spends time in the Top 10 herself, and is the tour's Newcomer of the Year or Most Improved Player winner
...Rybakina led the tour with five finals, but only won one. She never made it past the 3rd Round of a major, but did record two Top 10 wins during the season (def. #7 Kenin and #3 Pliskova), reached the Top 20 and is surely in the mix for awards such as Newcomer and Most Improved.
The U.S. produces its most different tour singles titles champions in a season since 2000 (when eight different Bannerettes won WTA events), and has more combined singles titles in '20 than any other nation
...three different U.S. women (Brady, Kenin & S.Williams) won titles, a tour best in the shortened season, with the four total titles (heading into Linz) tied for the tour lead with Romania.
Venus Williams will be shut out as far as singles titles for the fourth straight season, but will reach her first final since 2017 and play in a headlining slam Round of 16 match vs. a reigning slam champ (as well as her *second* face-off with Coco Gauff in a major). After ending 2019 at #53, she'll play in a medal match at the Tokyo Olympics, and be seeded at the U.S. Open at age 40.
...again, Venus won no titles and really had little success at all. She was 1-8 on the season, with her only victory a 1st Round win over Azarenka in Lexington one round before falling to Serena in three sets in the 2nd. She was 0-3 in slams (her first winless year in the majors ever, since her '97 slam debut), and recorded losses to players ranked #125, #199 and #161 (Kaja Juvan, and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the latter two). Williams has gone 7-11 in slams since her 20-4 run in 2017 (RU-4r-RU-SF). Venus turns 41 next June.
In a grass court event, CoCo Vandeweghe reaches her first tour singles final since ankle surgery.
...Vandeweghe's return from her ankle injury limited her to just ten matches (4-6), with her best result a QF at the pre-shutdown WTA 125 tournmanet in Newport Beach in late January. Her season ended before the Restart (after having played WTT) with a hand injury.
Iga Swiatek records a win over a former slam winner at a major, then another over a former slam finalist in her very next slam event. At the end of the season, continuing the tradition established by countrywoman Aga Radwanska, she wins her *second* straight Shot of the Year award.
...Swiatek reached the Round of 16 at the AO (though not w/ a win over a former slam finalist and/or winner). She got that -- 4x -- in Paris, defeating Marketa Vondrousova (1r), Genie Bouchard (3r), Simona Halep (4r) and Sofia Kenin (F) en route to winning her first WTA title *and* maiden slam.
Three Czechs will be simultaneously be ranked in the singles Top 10. None will reach #1 during the 2020 season.
...Pliskova and Kvitova finished the season there, while (again) neither managed to make it to the top of the rankigs.
Genie Bouchard wins a WTA 125 singles title, her first pro singles title of any kind since 2014
...not quite, but the Canadian finally began to get some legitimate traction in what had become a disappointing comeback attempt. Lifting her ranking from #224 to #140 over the course of the season, Bouchard reached WTA QF in Auckland and Prague, then reached her first tour-level singles final since 2016 with her runner-up result in Istanbul. She dropped a 3rd set TB to Patricia Maria Tig. She ran into the Swiatek buzzsaw in the 3rd Round in Paris, but still posted her best slam result since 2017 (AO 3r) and her best in Paris since her SF in 2014. An injury ended her '20 campaign in the fall, but by then she'd put up encouraging 15-8 numbers.

At least one former slam singles finalist announces her intention to make a comeback in 2021
...with so many comebacks of late already, the possibilities are dwindilng. But, just to throw it out there, with Poland now with a grand slam singles champ, there *is* another Pole out there who once reached a slam final who is no longer pregnant, as well as still young enough to dream (31) just months after a 33-year old Bulgarian recent new mother returned from a three-year absense to reach a slam QF. Just sayin'.
Coach of the Year candidates: Sascha Bajin (Yastremska), Wim Fissette (Osaka), Alex Kenin (Kenin), Conchita Martinez (Muguruza)
...along with the likes of a Michael Geserer (Brady), Piotr Sierzputowski/Daria Abramowicz (Swiatek) and Thomas Hill (Sakkari), names such as Fissette (Osaka won the U.S. Open), Kenin (Sofia took the AO) and Martinez (Mugu reached the AO final and returned to the Top 20) are surely on the Coach of the Year short list of nominees.
A woman representing Mexico will play a main draw slam singles match. Yes, the Blowout prediction tradition continues. (And, just you wait, *one* day...)
...FINALLY! Renata Zarazua, who sparked by also reaching a tour SF in Acapulco, qualified at Roland Garros to become the first Mexican woman to reach the MD of a major since 2000. Her 1st Round win over Jacquemot made her just the third Mexican woman to ever win a slam MD match. Said Zarazua, " I'm having a dream here in Paris."

After using this for a few years, now I'm to have to come up with another ongoing prediction heading into 2021. Hmmm...


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Mayar Sherif/EGY the final weeks of this unique year, Sherif's remarkable 2020 rise continued in Charleston with her biggest career title in the week's $100K challenger, the 24-year old Egyptian's eighth circuit win since the start of the '19 season. Sherif qualified for the MD, then knocked off Kristina Kucova, Caroline Dolehide, Misaki Doi (ret.) and Katarzyna Kawa in a 6-2/6-3 final to finish off her seventh victory of the week.

The title is Sherif's ninth career ITF crown, and her second of the year. She'll rise 32 spots on Monday to a new career high of #132 after having started the season just inside the Top 200, a breakthrough she made in '19 that was a first for a woman from Egypt. Earlier this season, she also became the first from her nation to reach the MD (via qualifying) of a tour-level event (Prague) since 1999, then qualified at Roland Garros to become the first to ever play in a MD slam match. After starting 2020 at 1-4, Sherif turned the proverbial corner when she claimed a pre-shutdown $25K title. From that point until now, she's put together a 21-5 run (15-5 in the Restart).

Sherif also reached the doubles final this week while playing with Astra Sharma, falling to Kawa & Frech.
VETERAN: Federica Di Sarra/ITA
...Di Sarra has been the biggest under-the-radar success story of the Restart on the ITF circuit. The 30-year old Italian picked up her third 2020 title this weekend in the $15K in Ortisei, Italy while knocking off three countrywomen -- Anna Turati, Lisa Pigato and Stefania Rubini -- and then handling Liechtenstein's Kathinka von Deichmann 6-3/6-3 in the final to improve her Restart mark to an impressive 18-2. Di Sarra also reached the doubles final with Finland's Anastasia Kulikova.

With her eighth career challenger crown, Di Sarra (#335) continues to edge closer to matching the career high (#305) she set *ten* years ago in 2010.

FRESH FACE: Iryna Shymanovich/BLR
...the 23-year old Belarusian denied Bannerette UNC product Jessie Aney her first pro singles crown, winning her own first circuit title in two years at the $15K Sharm El Sheikh challenger to improve her career ITF final record to 10-3 (w/ 7 consecutive victories) via a 6-3/7-5 scoreline.

JUNIOR STARS: Sarah Hamner/USA and Alina Charaeva/RUS
...a week ago, 17-year old Hamner qualified and reached the final of the Grade 4 junior event in Orlando (J4), losing to Ashlyn Krueger. This week in Daytona Beach, she took the step not taken. Again winning three qualifying matches, Hamner went on to win eight matches over the course of the week, claiming 16 of the 17 sets she played as she defeated the #3, #4 (Chelsea Fontenel, in the final) and #5 seeds, as well as Krueger (with whom she won the doubles last week) in the QF, though she dropped a set to her fellow Bannerette in the match. Hamner didn't also find her way into another doubles final, losing in the 2nd Round, but she's 15-1 in singles over the past two weeks with her first two ITF junior champion trophies on the shelf.

In Lousada, 18-year old Hordette Charaeva followed up her second Restart ITF women's doubles title alongside Oksana Selekhmeteva from last week with a semifinal run in singles in the $15K challenger in Portugal. Charaeva, the girls runner-up at Roland Garros just last month, has gone 12-5 in challenger events during the Restart (along with her junior 5-1 run in Paris) while posting RU-QF-2r-QF-SF results.
DOUBLES: Magdalena Frech/Kararzyna Kawa, POL/POL
...having already picked up an $80K challenger win in Mercer in October, Poles Frech & Kawa bettered that result with a title run at the $100K in Charleston. The pair opened with an upset win over top-seeded Gauff/McNally via a 10-3 match tie-break in the 1st Round, then ended the week by winning another (10-2) over Astra Sharma & Mayar Sherif in the final.

For 22-year old Frech, her fourth ITF title matches her career best result (on the grass in Manchester $100K three seasons ago), while 27-year old Kawa's 15th career circuit win is singularly her biggest ever.

1. $100K Charleston 1st Rd. - Magdalena Frech/Kararzyna Kawa def. Coco Gauff/Caty McNally
...7-5/3-6 [10-3]. While "McCoco" got off to good start in 2020, going 5-2 and reaching the AO quarterfinals, they've gone 4-5 in the Restart. Four of the five losses this summer/fall came in match tie-breaks.
2. Linz Q1 - Sabine Lisicki def. Bibiane Schoofs
...7-5/6-3. The 31-year old German's road back from her latest injury continues this week in Linz in just her second event of 2020, as she posted her first win of any kind in a WTA event since last year's Wimbledon qualifying rounds. Lisicki lost in the final Q-round to Tereza Martincova, 2-6/6-1/6-3.

Lisicki won three matches in early September in the Prague WTA 125, reaching the 4th Round, but hasn't played in a tour-level MD match since Nuremberg in May '19, with her last win coming in September '18 (def. Zvonareva in Guangzhou).
3. Linz Q2 - Jana Fett def. Irina Bara
...6-1/4-6/6-2. The Croatian reaches her first tour-level MD since Nanchang last September.

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4 - Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
3 - Maria Carle, ARG
3 - Nadia Podoroska, ARG
3 - Zheng Qinwen, CHN

*2020 $100K FINALS*
Midland, USA (hci) - Shelby Rogers/USA (#138) w/o Anhelina Kalinina/UKR
Cairo, EGY (hci) - Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU (#118) def. Lesia Tsurenko/UKR
Nicholasville, USA (hci) - Olga Govortsova/BLR (#188) def. Claire Liu/USA
Charleston, USA (gco) - Mayer Sherif/EGY (#164) def. Katarzyna Kawa/POL











A reminder that 2020 is still 2020 for a couple more months...








Be Safe.
All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

I don't expect Trump to ever go to jail, but he may live in exile like other dictators do.

I see you snuck a tweet from ex Washington Mystic Stacey Dales.

Bouchard and Errani helped themselves immensely during the restart.

Pliskova is switching coaches again?

Linz looks like chalk, Sabalenka and Mertens expected to have a good week.

Craig Tiley said some interesting things about the Aussie Swing. Mentioned that they are willing to hold events after the AO into late February.

Who is POY? Recency bias may make Osaka the front runner, but I have her at 3. The criminally underrated Kenin should be 2, with 2 slam finals and having won Lyon.

So who does that leave? Halep, who went 23-3, and could have won 2 slams. Also was consistent in both halves. But can she win without winning a slam? It has happened. Once.

That would be Tracy Austin in 1980, who won 16 events, including the Finals, but only played 2 slams.

Stat of the Week- 24- Number of events won by Martina Hingis in 1997-1999.

Naomi Osaka won a slam for the 3rd year in a row. Since Serena played her first slam in 1998, there have been 6 women to have won a slam in 3 consecutive years. There are also 4 women who won 3 or more slams who don't meet that criteria in Venus, Capriati, Sharapova and Kerber.

Titles 3 year slam stretch*

Note, Serena will be listed for each block.

25 - 2012-2014 Williams
24 - 1997-1999 Hingis
23 - 2013-2015 Williams
20 - 2005-2007 Henin
17 - 1998-2000 Davenport
17 - 2003-2005 Henin
15 - 2004-2006 Henin
14 - 2014-2016 Williams
9 - 2007-2009 Williams
9 - 2008-2010 Williams
8 - 2015-2017 Williams
7 - 2009-2011 Clijsters
6 - 2018-2020 Osaka

Osaka's low total is partially due to this season, but has a Serena like tendency to play better at slams and premier events.

Clijsters total is unique in that the only event she won in 2 of those seasons was a slam. In fact, every event she won in her 2nd stint was in this block.

Speaking of 2nd stints, only Osaka and Serena have not retired and made a comeback.

Like Clijsters, Hingis came back 3 times, but that 3 year block represents over half of her career titles.

What else can be said about Serena? That 2012-2014 block was incredible. Also shows how tough this is to do, as her 2002-03 doesn't even count as she didn't win a slam in 2001 or 2004.

Sun Nov 08, 09:04:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Quiz Time!

West German Claudia Kohde-Kilsch won 25 doubles titles. With whom did she win the most titles?

A. Stefanie Graf
B. Eva Pfaff
C. Helena Sukova
D. Hana Mandlikova

Interlude- Dog and human doing yoga- I think.


Seemingly random, but it isn't. When Goerges retired, the WTA put out a tweet that she was one of three Germans to have reached the Top 15 in singles and doubles. Listed were:


1/3 Graf
4/3 Kohde-Kilsch
9/12 Goerges

They corrected this, as it left out the still ranked Groenefeld- 14/7.

So I went down the rabbit hole.

Kohde-Kilsch had serving issues in singles during this time, but still found quality teammates for doubles. One was(D)Mandlikova as they teamed up at the beginning of her doubles peak in 1984. They reached 5 finals together, winning 2. One of 3 Czech women to win a title with Kohde-Kilsch.

(B)Pfaff is wrong, though she is one of 4 Germans to have won with her. Only 3 wins in 9 finals, but I will explain why soon. Just missed the cutoff for inclusion on that list as her career high in singles was 17, while she did better in doubles at 16.

The next was a fake choice, as (A)Graf actually never played a WTA event with her. Only team events like Fed Cup, and the 1988 Olympics, where in a year in which Graf won everything, they lost the SF to Sukova/Novotna, then lost to the duo in Fed Cup the next year. This means that the Germans who won titles were Pfaff, Bunge, Hanika, and Silke Meier.

There is one answer left. As much as Kohde-Kilsch made her mark in doubles, at one time, she was the highest ranked singles player in West Germany's history. That lasted 6 months, then Graf passed her. Interestingly enough, Kohde-Kilsch hit her career high in doubles the same week Graf became #1 in singles back in 1987.

Reached 4 slam SF and 5 slam QF in singles. The correct answer is(C)Sukova, who was her primary partner in doubles from 1984-1988. Which happens to be the 5 years that she ended the year in the Top 10 in doubles. They had 14 titles, but 26 losses.

How can I call a team with that many losses good? Basketball fans know of the 1980's Cleveland Cavaliers, who beat almost everybody except Michael Jordan's Bulls. Still good, even though they didn't get that signature win.

Kohde-Kilsch went 2-6 in slam finals, and played Navratilova/Shriver in 7 of them. Same for the year end tournament, in which she reached the final 5 times, winning 0, losing 4 times to the above group.

One last tidbit. After she retired, she played 4 events over a 3 year period with her sister Katrin.

Sun Nov 08, 09:39:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

That's a good idea from Tiley, and a sign of the still-in-flux nature of the post-January schedule, too.

It'll be interesting to see the WTA's PoY winner, because I could even see Iga winning there, though I wouldn't have her in the Top 2 (or maybe 3?).

I'm breaking up all the other 2020 awards into two parts (pre-shutdown and Restart), but I'm not sure about "Ms.Backspin." I think I'll still list the top player for both parts, but I might combine them for the "Ms.B" list to get a single honoree. Kenin's overall numbers and results would be hard to beat, I think. If Halep could have won in Paris...

Quiz: I remembered Graf/CKK winning an Olympic medal together, but I figured the most likely was Sukova just because of her huge doubles career.

Mon Nov 09, 09:02:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Thanks for promoting my microchap!

And what a great intro :D

Mon Nov 09, 10:28:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Tue Nov 10, 09:11:00 PM EST  

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