Monday, March 06, 2023

Wk.9- The Bearable Lightness of Being

WTA 2023, Chapter 9.

Let there be light...


MONTERREY, MEXICO (WTA 250/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Donna Vekic/CRO def. Caroline Garcia/FRA 6-4/3-6/7-5
D: Maria Paulina Perez/Yuliana Lizarazo (COL/COL) def. Kimberly Birrell/Fernanda Contreras (AUS/MEX) 6-3/5-7 [10-5]
AUSTIN (TX), USA (WTA 250/Hard Court Outdoor)
S: Marta Kostyuk/UKR def. Varvara Gracheva/RUS 6-3/7-5
D: Erin Routliffe/Aldila Sutjiadi (NZL/INA) def. Nicole Melichar-Martinez/Ellen Perez (USA/AUS) 6-4/3-6 [10-8]


...Vekic almost gave up, but never did. And now she's back in the game.

After undergoing knee surgery after the '21 Australian Open, Vekic struggled for large chunks of two seasons to rehab, get in shape and stay on the court. She nearly threw up her hands and retired. A surprise title run in Courmayeur late in the '21 season kept her head in the game, but it was nearly a year after that before the Croat finally began to again resemble the player who'd reached a slam QF in '19 (U.S.) and climbed into the Top 20.

Last fall in San Diego, Vekic reached her biggest career final in three years and posted Top 10 wins over Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka before falling to Iga Swiatek. The run proved to her that she was close, and she's carried over her momentum into '23, going undefeated in United Cup play (3-0), reaching her second career major QF in Melbourne, following up with a tour-level QF in Linz, and then perservering in Monterrey until Caroline Garcia finally blinked and broke in the closing moments of the final.

Wins over Lesia Tsurenko (ret.), Emma Navarro, Ysaline Bonaventure (who'd fought off 9 BP and 2 MP in the 3rd to reach a deciding TB) and Zhu Lin preceded Vekic's 11th career final.

There, Vekic jumped out to a set and a break lead, then just tried to survive the onslaught of Garcia's serving and aggressive play. She couldn't even carve out a BP for nearly two full sets, while knocking down numerous Garcia BP (8 in the 3rd alone) without giving up ground on the scoreboard. Garcia held from love/30 down late in the 3rd, knotting the score at 5-5. But Vekic didn't lose another point, holding at love and then breaking the Pastry to seal the crown on her first BP since the start of the 2nd set.

Vekic's 4th career tour title lifts her to #23 on Monday, her highest ranking since 2020 after ending the last two seasons outside the Top 60. 14-2 on the new season, Vekic is finally healthy in body, and clearly fine-tuned in mind (w/ new co-coach Pam Shriver seemingly adding all her Hall of Fame experience to the mix to immediate success).

They say good things come to those who wait, and there are numerous quotes about how sweat creates success. If it's all true, then Vekic might have even bigger things coming just around the corner.


RISERS: Caroline Garcia/FRA and Zhu Lin/CHN
...Garcia came to Monterrey with a feeling of unfinished business, and she left with the same notion of coming up just short.

In between, through, the Pastry once more proved why she's arguably been the top women's tour player not named Iga over the past year, reaching her sixth final since last June (Swiatek has reached five over the same stretch) and 16th overall in her career after stringing together wins over Kaja Juvan, Nuria Parrizas Diaz, Mayar Sherif and Elise Mertens.

Garcia lost the 1st set in the final vs. Donna Vekic but, after dropping serve in the first game of the 2nd, her serve became the match's dominant force. She faced zero BP over her next nine service games (while holding 13 on Vekic's in the 2nd/3rd), but the Croat's resilience proved an even greater asset. As she'd opened the 2nd set, Garcia ended the final game of the 3rd by dropping serve (this time at love) as Vekic pulled away in the final moments to get the win.

The loss leaves Garcia a two-time finalist, two-time semifinalist and (still) *zero* time champion in Monterrey since 2015.

Also in Monterrey, Zhu's quick '23 start (Hua Hin W, AO 4r, Auckland QF) continued with a semifinal run on the heels of her 1st Round exit in Merida. The 29-year old got past the likes of Anna Bondar, Rebecca Marino and Caroline Dolehide before Vekic proved to be too much in a straight sets defeat. She'll crack the Top 40 for the first time on Monday, climbing into slam/1000 seed range at #33.

SURPRISES: Ysaline Bonaventure/BEL and Peyton Stearns/USA
...having been on tour for nearly a decade, Bonaventure has become the classic "late bloomer." Having made her slam debut (AO '19) at age 24 and recorded her first slam MD win at 26 (U.S. '20), last year (at 28) she cracked the Top 100 for the first time, and in January reached her maiden tour-level SF in Auckland. This week in Monterrey, the Belgian reached the QF after posting wins over Despina Papamichail and Kamilla Rakhimova, then nearly staged a successful comeback against Donna Vekic.

Bonaventure rallied to push the match to a 3rd set, breaking in game 11 and holding to take the 2nd, and with the Croat looking to take a late lead twice saved a pair of BP in game 7 (down 4-3) and 11 (down 6-5, so 2 *match* points) to push the match to a deciding TB. Vekic won it 7-5, but Bonaventure will still rise to a new career high of #84.

Back in Austin, where last year she emerged to become the NCAA women's singles champion while playing for Texas, Stearns took her MD wild card and used it to knock down a few more firsts in her pro career.

Having made her slam MD debut at last year's U.S. Open, Stearns has won four ITF titles since turning pro, including two in '23 (w/ a career-best $60K in February). This week, the world #137 recorded her first tour-level MD win in a 3:22, three-TB match against Katie Boulter, then followed up with a win over Mirjam Bjorklund to reach her first WTA singles QF.

Stearns lost to fellow Bannerette Katie Volynets in straights, but will come in at #126 on Monday. She'll be included in the Indian Wells MD via a wild card berth.
VETERANS: Danielle Collins/USA and Sara Errani/ITA
...Collins has slipped down the rankings this season as her '22 AO finalist points fell away, but Austin saw her begin the process of reclaiming at least some of her lost ground, reaching the QF by posting wins over Magdalena Frech, Caty McNally and Anna Kalinskaya, coming back from a set down vs. the Russian.

A straight sets loss to Marta Kostyuk prevented Collins from reaching her second semifinal (w/ San Diego) since falling to Ash Barty in Melbourne last year, but she'll climb from #38 to nearly back into the Top 30 (#31) heading into Indian Wells.

Meanwhile, in Arcadia, California, 35-year old Errani claimed her first ITF singles title since 2019. After defeating 17-year old Petra Marcinko in a three-set SF on Saturday, the Italian on Sunday received a walkover in the $60K final from Arantxa Rus.

Errani's wins this week were her first in MD play in *any* event since November, as her late career competition has often taken place in tour-level and slam qualifying rounds, as well as ITF challengers, over the last few years. This title will lift her back into the Top 100 for the first time since 2018. Errani hasn't finished a season there since 2016, after Top 10 finishes in 2012-13 and Top 20 years in 2014-15 before a protracted fight against a doping suspension took place over the 2017-19 seasons, which proved to be so frustrating that she nearly retired.

At her career peak, Errani reached the Roland Garros singles final in 2012, two other slam semis ('12 US/'13 RG) and won a Career Doubles Slam with Roberta Vinci (winning 5 majors from 2012-14).

COMEBACK: Varvara Gracheva/RUS
...last year showed that even a player who has shown consistent promise, as Gracheva did while reaching the 3rd Round at 5 majors between the '20 U.S. and '22 RG, isn't immune from a spine-tingling skid.

Gracheva reached a career high of #59 last season, but between June and the U.S. Open she also lost ten straight matches. That #59 ranking in July had fallen outside the Top 100 by October, and even after reaching a tour-level QF in Chennai and posting SF/QF results in 125 events late in the year the Hordette nonetheless opened '23 at #100.

Gracheva showed early on that this season would likely be different, notching her first career Top 10 win at the Australian Open over countrywoman Dasha Kasatkina in the 1st Round. Some six weeks later in Austin, up to #88, the 22-year old kicked off her week with an upset of top-seeded AO semifinalist Magda Linette, then followed up with wins over Anna Blinkova and Sloane Stephens to reach her second WTA semifinal. She rallied from 4-2 down in the 3rd set against Katie Volynets to reach her maiden tour final, where Marta Kostyuk was waiting for her.

While Gracheva had a chance to serve the match into a deciding 3rd set, it was the Ukrainian who proved to be the more resilient player in the contest, recording her maiden tour title with a straight sets win over the Russian in a match-up that will surely earn at least a small footnote in modern tennis history when it comes to how things shake out between athletes when their respective nations are literally at war with one another.

Kostyuk has attempted to get Russian players banned from *all* tour events, of course, and after at first refusing to even play any opponent from the nation (after surely realizing *that* was pretty detrimental to her own efforts) has gone the emotionless no-handshake-but-racket-tap route. Today, Gracheva simply went to the changeover area as Kostyuk celebrated after MP and the two never met for even a racket tap, though there did seem to be a slight nod of acknowledgement as Kostyuk walked past.

Naturally, some accused Kostyuk of being disrespectful, while others blamed Gracheva of the same. Welcome to 2023.

After having come into Austin at 7-8 on the season, Gracheva leaves Texas with an 11-9 mark, a ranking back in the Top 70 (#66) and, for the first time in a while, with some needed momentum to carry her through the upcoming weeks and months.

FRESH FACES: Marta Kostyuk/UKR and Katie Volynets/USA
...Kostyuk's rise felt inevitable by the time 2022 had started. It may have occurred right on schedule last year, but the real world complicated matters (and still does) for the Ukrainian when Russia invaded her nation and Vladimir Putin attempted to claim it as his own in an old school Soviet sort of move. Unfortunately, it's not the first time such a thing happened and the repercussions ultimately extended to the world of tennis, and it surely won't be the last.

With Elina Svitolina off tour while she was pregnant (but doing much public work in support of Ukraine), it was Kostyuk who took on the role as the most outspoken active player on the subject of Russia, Russian (and Belarusian) tennis players, the WTA tour and whether the various groups could (or should) coexist on the court while the war was taking place. Kostyuk has often seemed to push (or go over) some lines when it's come to how reasonable some of her assertions have been when it comes to how athletes should act and what they should say when their government/military runs afoul of international notions of peace and understanding, but she never stopped playing.

While 2022 didn't see the *expected* gains from her on the court, Kostyuk still played well enough to retain a Top 70 year-end ranking (down 20 spots from the end of '21). After opening '23 with a qualifier-to-QF run in Adelaide she reached the AO 3rd Round, then Hua Hin QF. She truly hit her stride this past week in Austin, though, reaching her maiden final with wins over Dalma Galfi, Madison Brengle, Anna-Lena Friedsam and Danielle Collins while dropping just one set.

In the final, Kostyuk's final hurdle proved to be a Russian, because *of course* it would be. Varvara Gracheva fell in straight sets, after having served for the 2nd, and the Ukrainian lifted her first tour singles title trophy, which she unsurprisingly dedicated to those fighting and dying for Ukraine's right to exist.

Kostyuk will rise from #52 to a new career high on Monday, cracking the Top 40 (at #40) with an eye on a potential seed come the majors of the spring and summer.

The fighting continues back home, but so does Kostyuk's rise on the tennis tour. What she might do without carrying the additional psychological weight, and perhaps with a burst of national pride and confidence if things ultimately continue to seemingly go Ukraine's way, is a story that would garner much attention and likely only gain steam over time. But, for now, we wait.

The list of Bannerettes making moves on tour continues to grow, and Volynets added her name to the group in Austin in Week 9. The 21-year old (#92) opened with a win over Alison Riske-Amritraj, then rallied from 5-0 down in the 3rd, saving a MP, to defeat Anastasia Potapova. A win over Stearns put the Californian into her first tour-level SF.

Volynets had an opportunity to play all the way into her maiden final, but lost a 4-2 3rd set advantage over Varvara Gracheva, dropping the final four games of the match. She'll still rise to a new career high of #75, and she'll be in the Indian Wells MD with a WC (for a third straight year).

DOWN: Alycia Parks/USA and Jule Niemeier/GER
...turns out, things aren't always easy on the WTA tour.

A few weeks ago, Parks looked like an instant star, taking her first tour title in Lyon with an upset of Caroline Garcia in a tense, nip-and-tuck final in which neither player seemed capable of dropping serve. Well, we *know* that Garcia is capable of breaking serve against top-tier players and stringing together good results at multiple events. Parks has yet to prove her own such abilities since seizing the spotlight.

In Merida, she struggled to defeat Fernanda Contreras in three sets despite dominating on serve, and ultimately fell to Rebecca Peterson in the 2nd Round. Moving on to Austin, Parks again served up a storm, including putting in 14 aces and winning 75% of her first serves in her 1st Round match against Mirjam Bjorklund. But she was undone by too many DF (11), too many unforced errors and (again) an inability to consistently break the serve of her opponent, losing in three to notch a *second* straight loss to a Swedish player.

I don't know who the last player was on tour able to say *that*, but I suspect it's been a while. It may or may not have involved either Sofia Arvidsson (who retired in 2016) or Johanna Larsson (2020). If not, the drought could extend back to the tour run of the likes of Asa Svensson (2004) or, hmm, Catarina Lindqvist (1992)?

Meanwhile, Niemeier's '22 season saw the German make her slam debut, reach the Wimbledon QF and U.S. Open Round of 16 (and take a set off Iga Swiatek), notch her first Top 10 win, crack the Top 100 and win a WTA 125 crown. So far, 2023 hasn't gone as well.

In Monterrey, Niemeier won just a single game against Caroline Dolehide, who handed her a third straight defeat and dropped her to 2-6 on the season.

Niemeier will drop out of the Top 70 on Monday.

ITF PLAYER: Jaqueline Cristian/ROU
...let the comeback of The Countess begin.

Last year in Doha, Cristian's flight up the WTA rankings was thwarted by a scary injury. You remember... with shades of the fearful fate of countrywoman Mihaela Buzarnescu, one match after she'd entered the Doha MD as a LL and posted her first career Top 20 win (def. Rybakina) with her maiden MD victory in a WTA 1000 event, Cristian led Dasha Kasatkina before suffering a knee injury that required surgery and kept her out until the U.S. Open.

She quickly won an $80K challenger event in September, and this week in Trnava (SLO) added a $60K crown with a fabulous game of keep-away against Oceane Dodin (the '23 ITF title leader with 3) in the final. The Romanian won in straights via two TB victories, but had to fight off nine total SP held by the Pastry to do so.

Dodin led by a break twice in the 1st, holding 2 SP, then took a 6-2 lead in the TB before Cristian staved off 5 more SP. In the 2nd, Dodin led 5-3, held 2 more SP, then had an early mini-break lead (2-0) in the TB before Cristian ultimately closed out the 7-6(7)/7-6(4) victory for her 12th career challenger crown.

Cristian entered the week ranked #266 (she'd just entered the Top 60 prior to her injury), and will nearly climb back into the Top 200 (#202) with her title run.

JUNIOR STAR: Sara Saito/JPN a match-up of two of the most high-achieving juniors (w/ apologies to AO girls' champ Alina Korneeva) of the last few months, #1-seeded Saito defeated #2-seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon (PER) in a 7-6/7-5 final to claim the J300 title in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The two (both ranked in the girls' Top 8) came into the match with a combined winning streak of 23 matches (Saito 9, LPA 14) and having won three J300 crowns in '23. 16-year old Saito won the J1 College Park and JA Osaka titles late last season.

DOUBLES: Erin Routliffe/Aldila Sutjiadi, NZL/INA Austin, #2-seeded Routliffe/Sutjiadi took out the #3 (Friedsam/N.Kichenok) and #1 seeds (Melichar-Martinez/E.Perez, in a 10-8 MTB in the final) to claim their first tour title as a pair in the inaugural edition of the new tour event. They'd had to survive an early MTB in the 2nd Round over wild cards Charlotte Chavatipon & Sabina Zeynalova to advance deep into the competition.

It's the third career title for both women, and Sutjiadi's second this season (Auckland w/ Miyu Kato) after claiming her maiden WTA crown less than a year ago in Bogota (w/ Astra Sharma).



1. Monterrey Final - Donna Vekic def. Caroline Garcia
...6-4/3-6/7-5. Vekic grabbed the 1st and opened the 2nd with a break. Then things got really tough.

After falling down a set and a break, Garcia threatened to run away with the title on the back of her service game. After Vekic converted her first BP in the 2nd, the Croat didn't see another for a very long time. Garcia held serve with little incident nine straight times without facing a BP. But Vekic staved off 8 BP in the 3rd, never giving Garcia the edge as she battled to keep a game ahead on serve on the scoreboard.

Vekic finally pressured Garcia's serve in game 10, but the Pastry held from love/30 down. As it turned out, though, Vekic's best act was her final one.

After the disappointment of failing to reach BP, the Croat held at love and then raced to a love/40 lead on a Garcia's serve at 6-5. She converted her second of two BP chances in the 2nd/3rd sets to claim the title by closing on an eight-point winning streak.

In an "interesting" note, the women's set of four WS/WD finals on Sunday had dueling 3pm/5pm-ish starts (Eastern time) in each event in Austin and Monterrey, but while the latter played the doubles final first the former went the other way. The scheduling -- coordinated from above or not -- prevented the two women's singles finals from starting simultaneously. Nice concept.
2. Austin 2nd Rd. - Katie Volynets def. Anastasia Potapova
...5-7/6-2/7-5. Potapova led 5-0 in the 3rd, twice served for the match, and held a MP on Volynets' serve at 5-1.

But Volynets swept the final seven games en route to her maiden WTA semifinal.

As this week's Tennis Channel guest broadcaster Andrea Petkovic later said of this match, "Tennis is a wonderland."

3. Austin Final - Marta Kostyuk def. Varvara Gracheva
...6-3/7-5. It wasn't exactly a masterpiece, but the 13-breaks-in-21 games Austin final ultimately completed the path to the long-expected (eventual) tour title from Kostyuk in a match-up of first-time finalists.

Gracheva had the opportunity to serve out the 2nd set, but failed to do so, then saw Kostyuk pull out all stops (including an underhand serve on a second serve to hold late in the set) en route to her first tour singles crown. That she did it against a Russian will prove to be a footnote in tennis history for the Ukrainian, who dedicated her win to those fighting (and who have died) for Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression.

If this match has occurred at some point in '22, one wonders if Kostyuk might have gone a bit further in her words during the trophy ceremony, but in '23 she refrained from publicly singling out her opponent during her speech after they hadn't conversed in any meaningful way at the close of the match. After last year having stated that she didn't think players from Russia should be allowed to play at all by the WTA, and having not backed off that assertion, this at least *felt* like a good better course of action when dealing with a fellow athlete and tour member.

As bad as things are, they can *always* be worse.

4. Austin 1st Rd. - Peyton Stearns def. Katie Boulter
...7-6(5)/6-7(2)/7-6(5). It took 3:22, and thrice failing to serve out the match (at 5-4 and 6-5 in the 2nd, then 5-3 in the 3rd), but Stearns records her first tour-level MD win, doing so in her former college stomping ground of Austin.

5. Austin 1st Rd. - Mirjam Bjorklund def. Alycia Parks
...6-4/4-6/6-4. Parks fires 14 aces, and wins 75% of her first serves. But also has 11 DF, and is just 2-for-11 on BP chances as she falls to a second Swede is as many matches.

6. Monterrey 1st Rd. - Gabriela Ruse d. Camila Giorgi
...6-4/7-5. The Merida champ extended her first trip to Mexico a few additional days. She didn't get a win, but is likely still smiling... or maybe getting ready to challenge anyone who says it'll again take her *years* to follow up on a tour title run.

7. Monterrey 1st Rd. - Kamilla Rakhimova def. Katerina Siniakova
...7-6(6)/2-6/7-6(5). Coming off a $60K title and a successful qualifying run (during which Kimberly Birrell served for the match against her), Rakhimova was forced to TBs in both the 1st and 3rd after having held 4-1 and 3-1 leads, respectively, but managed to take both sets via TB to notch her eighth straight win (closing the match on a disputed line call at MP).

8. Austin 1st Rd. - CoCo Vandeweghe def. Robin Montgomery
...6-2/6-7(3)/7-6(3). Lucky loser Vandeweghe led by a set and a break, but qualifier Montgomery pushed things to the 3rd. Vandeweghe led 4-1, but Montgomery rallied and served for the match at 6-5 before the former slam semifinalist ('17 WI/US) broke and then took the deciding TB.
9. Monterrey QF - Elise Mertens def. Elisabetta Cocciaretto
...6-2/6-2. Mertens, ranked down at #42, reaches just her second SF (Monastir title in Oct.) since August '21.

Mertens had opened the week with a 1st Round win over Diana Shnaider, who was "moonlighting" from her "regular job" as an N.C. State freshman in her first pro event since the Australian Open.

Shnaider has already won multiple ACC Freshman Player of the Week awards for the Wolfpack, as well as an outright ACC Player of the Week honor. Days after falling in Monterrey, Shnaider suffered her first career NCAA defeat (to Georgia Tech's Carol Lee).

10. $60K Trnava SLO Final - Greet Minnen/Yanina Wickmayer def. Sapfo Sakellaridi/Radka Zelnickova
...6-4/6-4. In recent weeks, Wickmayer had now picked up three ITF doubles titles (2 $60K, 1 $40K) and reached an ITF singles final ($40K).

Already this season, fellow Waffle Minnen has won two singles challengers (and reached a third final) and two doubles crowns.
11. $60K Arcadia (CAL) USA SF - Arantxa Rus def. Diane Parry
...6-3/6-2. Not the *full* uptick in momentum that the Pastry was hoping for, but Parry's "week after" (her maiden WTA WD title in Merida) produced some much needed results in singles, as she ended her 4-match losing streak and posted three victories to reach her first SF on any level since her maiden tour final four in Granby last August.
12. $25K Toronto (ONT) CAN Final - Katherine Sebov def. Himeno Sakatsume
...6-4/7-6(4). The 24-year old Canadian (Backspin's AO Qualifying Player of the Week as she reached her maiden slam MD) picks up her third pro title, improving to 8-2 on the year (21-4 since late last October).


1. Austin 1st Rd. - Erika Andreeva d. Harriet Dart
...7-6(4)/3-6/7-6(3). Dart held two MP at 5-3 on Andreeva's serve in the 3rd, then served for the match a game later. At 5-5, Andreeva saved a pair of BP, then soon after claimed the TB to win four of the final five games in the match.

2. Austin 2nd Rd. - Anna-Lena Friedsam def. Erika Andreeva
...7-5/6-7(2)/7-6(8). Friedsam ultimately won the 3:11 match after Andreeva had led 5-2 in the 3rd and served for the win at 5-3. The Hordette got within two points of victory in two different games before the exciting deciding TB, where she then saved a Friedsam MP at 7-6 with a lob from *behind* "AUSTIN" on the court (see in the video), held a MP of her own at 8-7 (she missed on a passing shot) and then saw the German win on her own second MP when Andreeva failed to keep her down the line shot inside the court's boundaries.

3. Monterrey 2nd Rd. - Mayar Sherif def. Wang Xinyu
...3-6/7-6(6)/6-4. Wang twice held break leads in the 2nd, at 4-3 and 6-5, but Sherif saves two MP (at 6-4) in the TB and then goes on to win the 3rd set, properly following up her 1st Round win over Camila Osorio.


4. Monterrey Final - Maria Paulina Perez/Yuliana Lizarazo def. Kimberly Birrell/Fernanda Contreras
...6-3/5-7 [10-5]. The all-Colombian pair claim their maiden tour titles in their first WTA final, winning a MTB over Birrell & Contreras (who matched Giuliana Olmos in 2018 by becoming the second Mexican to reach the Monterrey WD final, though so far none have won the title).

Perez/Lizarazo also knocked off the Mexican pair of Zacarias/Zarazua in the 1st Round, before getting a walkover into the final from top-seeded Bondar/Ruse. The duo previously teamed to win a $25K challenger crown in October.

While Perez and Lizarazo *dressed* like sisters in the final, they're not. In fact, Maria Paulina won four ITF titles with her twin sister Paula Andrea between 2013-18.

5. $40K Astana KAZ Final - Polina Kudermetova def. Darya Astakhova
...6-2/6-3. The 19-year old Hordette grabs her biggest career title, improving to 8-1 in career ITF finals.

Kudermetova, who made her slam MD debut in Melbourne as a qualifier in January, cracks the Top 150 (#146) for the first time on Monday. Her sister Veronika is #11 (and #4 in doubles).
HM- $60K Arcadia (CAL) USA Final - Francesca Di Lorenzo/Christina Rosca def. Rina Saigo/Yukina Saigo
...6-1/6-1. The former NCAAers (Di Lorenzo/OHIO STATE, where she was a women's doubles national champion, and Rosca/VANDERBILT) combine to defeat the Japanese sisters. It's Di Lorenzo's first pro title since 2019.



Jose Feliciano's national anthem before a World Series game in 1968 was apparently incredibly "controversial." It's actually quite lovely.

Some 1980s songs you don't hear very often (if ever) anymore, so let's change that...

Meanwhile, not "forgotten," but how can I pass on essentially the sister song of "Simply Irresistible," right?




Zhu Lin, CHN - Hua Hin (29/#54)
Alycia Parks, USA - Lyon (22/#79)
MARTA KOSTYUK, UKR - Austin (20/#52)
Cristina Bucsa, ESP - Lyon
Wu Fang-hsien, TPE - Hua Hin
Liudmila Samsonova, RUS - Dubai
Diane Parry, FRA - Merida
Luisa Stefani, BRA (Australian Open)

Linda Noskova, CZE (#102/18 = Adelaide 1)
Rebeka Masarova, ESP (#130/23 = Auckland)
Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ITA (#67/21 = Hobart)
Alycia Parks, USA (#79/22 = Lyon)-W
Zhu Lin, CHN (#54/29 = Hua Hin)-W
MARTA KOSTYUK, UKR (#52/20 = Austin)-W
VARVARA GRACHEVA, RUS (#88/22 = Austin)
Leylah Fernandez, CAN (Auckland)
Wu Fang-hsien, TPE (Hua Hin)-W
Liudmila Samsonova, RUS (Dubai)-W
Diane Parry, FRA (Merida)-W
Luisa Stefani, BRA (Australian)-W

17 - Linda Noskova, CZE (Adelaide 1-L)
18 - Coco Gauff, USA (Auckland-W)
20 - MARTA KOSTYUK, UKR (Austin-W)

Lyon, FRA - Caroline Garcia
Adelaide 1, AUS - Storm Hunter

*MOST WTA SF in 2023*
2 - Aryna Sabalenka, BLR (2-0)
2 - Iga Swiatek, POL (2-0)
2 - Belinda Bencic, SUI (1-0+W)
2 - Coco Gauff, USA (1-1)
2 - Jessie Pegula, USA (1-1)
2 - ZHU LIN, CHN (1-1)
2 - Veronika Kudermetova, RUS (0-1+L)
2 - Maria Sakkari, GRE (0-2)

Auckland - Ysaline Bonaventure, BEL (28/#95)
Lyon - Alycia Parks, USA (22/#79) = W
Austin - KATIE VOLYNETS, USA (21/#92)

*2023 #1 SEED RESULTS*
Adelaide 1 - Jabeur (SF-Noskova)
Auckland - Gauff (W)
Hobart - Bouzkova (2r-Blinkova)
Adelaide 2 - Swiatek w/d
Australian Open - Swiatek (4r-Rybakina)
Hua Hin - Andreescu (SF-Tsurenko ret.)
Lyon - Garcia (F -Parks*)
Abu Dhabi - Kasatkina (QF-Q.Zheng)
Linz - Sakkari (SF-Martic)
Doha - Swiatek (W)
Dubai - Swiatek (F -Krejcikova*)
Merida - Linette (QF-Peterson)
Austin - Linette (1r-Gracheva)
Monterrey - Garcia (F-Vekic*)
* - won title

[1st place]
2015 Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
2016 A.Medina-Garrigues/A.Parra-Santonja, ESP
2017 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
2018 Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
2019 Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2020 Heather Watson, GBR
2021 Sara Sorribes Tormo, ESP
2022 Sloane Stephens, USA
2023 Donna Vekic, CRO
[2nd place]
2015 Caroline Garcia, FRA
2016 Sloane Stephens, USA & Heather Watson, GBR
2017 Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
2018 Giuliana Olmos, MEX
2019 Maria Sanchez, USA
2020 Renata Zarazua, MEX
2021 Leylah Fernandez, CAN
2022 Leylah Fernandez, CAN
2023 Camila Giorgi, ITA
2020 Giuliana Olmos, MEX
2021 D.Krawczyk/G.Olmos, USA/MEX
2022 K.Christian, USA & C.Harrison/S.Santamaria, USA/USA
2023 Fernanda Contreras, MEX
2021 Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2022 Jessie Pegula, USA
2023 (TBD)
2023 nominating events: Merida & Monterrey
Not included: San Luis Potosi 125, Guadalajara

*INDIAN WELLS FACTS 1989-present*
[Most Singles Titles]
2 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2 - Kim Clijsters, BEL
2 - Lindsay Davenport, USA
2 - Mary Joe Fernandez, USA
2 - Steffi Graf, GER
2 - Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
2 - Martina Navratilova, USA
2 - Maria Sharapova, RUS
2 - Serena Williams, USA
[Consecutive Titles]
2 - Martina Navratilova (1990-91)
[Most Finals]
6 - Lindsay Davenport (2-4)
3 - Victoria Azarenka (2-1)
3 - Steffi Graf (2-1)
3 - Maria Sharapova (2-1)
3 - Serena Williams (2-1)
3 - Martina Hingis (1-2)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki (1-2)
3 - Svetlana Kuznetseva (0-3)
2 - Kim Clijsters (2-0)
2 - Mary Joe Fernandez (2-0)
2 - Daniela Hantuchova (2-0)
2 - Martina Navratilova (2-0)
2 - Ana Ivanovic (1-1)
2 - Jelena Jankovic (1-1)
2 - Monica Seles (1-1)
2 - Amanda Coetzer (0-2)
[Consecutive Finals]
3 - Lindsay Davenport (2003-05)
2 - Martina Navratilova (1990-91)
2 - Monica Seles (1991-92)
2 - Amanda Coetzer (1993-94)
2 - Lindsay Davenport (1997-98)
2 - Svetlana Kuznetsova (2007-08)
2 - Ana Ivanovic (2008-09)
2 - Caroline Wozniacki (2010-11)
2 - Maria Sharapova (2012-13)
[Consecutive Match Wins]
10 - Martina Navratilova (1990-91)
[Unseeded Singles Champions]
1999 Serena Williams, USA
2005 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2018 Naomi Osaka, JPN
2019 Bianca Andreescu, CAN (WC)
[Youngest Singles Champions]
17y,166d - Martina Hingis (1998)
17y,169d - Serena Williams (1999)
18y,90d - Monica Seles (1992)
18y,274d - Bianca Andreescu (2019)
[Oldest Singles Champions]
36 - Martina Navratilova (1991)
35 - Martina Navratilova (1990)
32 - Flavia Pennetta (2014)
[Only 8/33 Champions Have Won Not Slam Titles]
1989 Manuela Maleeva, BUL
1993 Mary Joe Fernandez, USA
1995 Mary Joe Fernandez, USA (2)
2002 Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
2007 Daniela Hantuchova, SVK (2)
2009 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2010 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2017 Elena Vesnina, RUS
2021 Paula Badosa, ESP
[Only 5 Champions Have Not Reached Slam Finals]
1989 Manuela Maleeva, BUL
2002 Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
2007 Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
2017 Elena Vesnina, RUS
2021 Paula Badosa, ESP
[Only 8 Finalists Have Not Reached a Slam Final]
1989 Manuela Maleeva (best slam: SF)
1989 Jenny Byrne (3rd)
1997 Irina Spirlea (SF)
1993/94 Amanda Coetzer (SF)
2002/07 Daniela Hantuchova (SF)
2018 Dasha Kasatkina (SF)
2021 Paula Badosa (QF)
2022 Maria Sakkari (SF)
[Only 2 Finalists Have Not Reached a Slam SF]
1989 Jenny Byrne (3rd)
2021 Paula Badosa (QF)
[Most Titles]
7 - Lisa Raymond, USA
6 - Lindsay Davenport, USA
3 - Martina Hingis, SUI
3 - Hsieh Su-wei, TPE
3 - Elena Vesnina, RUS
2 - Elise Mertens, BEL
2 - Sania Mirza, IND
2 - Virginia Ruano Pascual, ESP
2 - Samantha Stosur, AUS
2 - Rennae Stubbs, AUS
2 - Paola Suarez, ARG
2 - Helena Sukova, CZE
2 - Natasha Zvereva, BLR
[Most Titles - duos]
2 - Davenport/Raymond, USA/USA
2 - Davenport/Zvereva, USA/BLR
2 - Ruano Pascual/Suarez, ESP/ARG
2 - Raymond/Stosur, USA/AUS
[Consecutive Titles]
1994-95 Raymond/Davenport, USA/USA
1997-98 Davenport/Zvereva, USA/BLR
2002-03 Lisa Raymond, USA
2004-05 Ruano Pascual/Suarez, ESP/ARG
2006-07 Raymond/Stosur, USA/AUS

TRARALGON AUS J300: Melisa Ercan/TUR
BARRANQUILLA COL J300: Lucciana Perez Alarcon/PER
LIMA, PER J300 (INKA BOWL): Lucciana Perez Alarcon/PER
CAIRO, EGY J300: Federica Urgesi/ITA
CAIRO, EGY J500: Federica Urgesi/ITA





No, not Bono. LBJ with a mullet.




Not Jon Bon Jovi and James Caan. Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford with mullets.





Not Daniel Radcliffe. Harry S. Truman with a mullet.




Not Leonard Nimoy. Zachary Taylor with a mullet.





All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Hmmm, that Sharapova quote makes me think of Ja Morant or Brandon Miller.

Actually saw a BJK Cup commercial for USA in Delray Beach next month.

Love the IW stats.

Does last weeks Krejcikova/Swiatek match predict the next RG winner?

Wanted Kostyuk to face Volynets just so there wasn't an extra layer of drama. Gracheva seems to be friendly at net to most, including Kostyuk in the past, so I think she avoided it so Kostyuk would not have to make a choice.

Stat of the Week- 129- The number of finals matches in which there have been bagels since the start of 2003.

I wanted to go back 20 years, so stats first, then the notes.

2003-2023 Most Bagels in Finals:

11- S.Williams
5 - Swiatek
5 - Henin
4 - Muguruza
4 - Mauresmo
4 - Clijsters

2003-2023 Most Bagels Eaten in Finals:

5- Cornet
3- Zakopalova
3- Mauresmo
3- Halep
3- Davenport
3- Zvonareva
3- Sharapova

2020 only had 1, Halep getting Pliskova after the restart. 2023 and 2010 are next lowest with 2.

On the other end of the spectrum are 2003, 2008, 2012, and 2022 with 9. 2008 is the only year in which 9 different women did so.

2013 Serena is the only one to have done it 4 times in one season.

2022 Swiatek did it 3.

There are 9 instances where someone won a set with a bagel and lost, the most famous being Serena/Henin- Miami 2007.

Dementieva- Bovina and Arruabarrena- Niculescu are the only matches in which both ate a bagel.

We had 4 double bagels. Swiatek/Pliskova is the last, Bartoli/Poutchkova was the first.

Only 6 were on grass, but two of the bloodiest ones were on this surface, Williams/Sharapova at the Olympics, and Kvitova/Bouchard.

Quiz Time!

True or false- Serena gave out 11 bagels to 11 different women?

Interlude- Dance Break- From We Married as a Job.


This is easy, false because the law of averages means that Sharapova should have had this happen twice, which she did at the Olympics in 2012 and at Miami the next year.

The others? Jankovic, Cirstea, Li, Errani, Halep, Suarez Navarro, Safarova, Safina, Davenport.

Mon Mar 06, 09:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

7.5 On the Up Side- Desert Edition.

1.Swiatek- I hate going chalk, but she is the defending champ. That may not mean much, as nobody has repeated since Navratilova in 90-91. Doesn't have a great draw, but much better than say, Collins.
2.Pegula- Miss 1000 is here. Beating Swiatek is a problem, getting to the SF is not. Will need some help, but nobody expects an American to win this on the women's side. It hasn't happened since Serena in 2001, though Davenport fed Hingis the last bagel in a final back in 2000.
3.Badosa- 2021 winner tries to recapture the magic. 2022 Sydney title is her last final. Ranking is at 22, which is the lowest it has been since she won here ranked 27.
4.Bencic- Has she overplayed? If close to 100%, she could be the first Swiss to walk away with the title here since Hingis in 1998. Has a very tough draw.
5.Krejcikova/Siniakova- The doubles draw is not out yet, but there are seemingly no former winners as current teams in the field. So the 2019 finalists come in as heavy favorites.
6.Austin City Lights- Stearns reaches 1st QF, Volynets 1st SF, Gracheva 1st F, Kostyuk 1st title. Expectations with Volynets' hammy wrapped and Gracheva in Q, but this was the start of something big, or at least medium.
7.Karma- The tennis gods are undefeated. After Errani/Rus F did not happen in a 60K, guess who could meet in the final round of IWQ?
7.5- Finalists- Sucks for Gracheva, but Q not starting until today meant no SE spot even though she reached the final. The fans get a treat, as other 2023 finalists Masarova and Peterson also join the fray.

Mon Mar 06, 09:32:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

7.5 On the Down Side.

1.Parks- She got direct entry, so why is she here. Remember when Bertens got 78% of her points from clay? Parks REALLY needs to prove she can get it done outdoors. In the last 52 weeks on both ITF and WTA level: 19-2 indoors, 14-25 outdoors. Epic fail if she doesn't sign up for Stuttgart.
2.Osorio- Rank down to 100, which is 36 spots below injured Saville. I actually like her recent play, with a recent SF in Lyon. What is dragging her down is a 1-8 stretch in the middle of last season, where she went 0-4 on grass.
3.Riske-Amritraj- On a streak that is worse than Stephen Strasburg's health. Fun fact: Chris Sale has actually pitched less innings since the start of 2020. Anyway, Riske-Amritraj is on a 1-10 streak, with #489 Alana Parnaby the only win. Seeded in 6 of those events, can she do enough to get into her beloved grass fields?
4.Fernandez- Has her foot injury from last year set her back? Drops to 49 before IW points come off. Only Top 40 win this season is against struggling Cornet. 25% percent of her wins have come against Austrian #1 Julia Grabher.
5.Bronzetti- Gracheva came out of a rough patch, when will Bronzetti? On a 6 match losing streak, and hasn't won in a regular event as all 3 wins this year were in United Cup.
6.Pavlyuchenkova- This actually makes sense, to pull out of IW and Miami and use PR for the clay season. Has IW SF in 90 and QF in 17, but normally doesn't put up good results there. R16 in Miami is best, way back in 2011.
7.Zidansek- Recently reached SF at 40K and QF at last WTA event in Hua Hin. So why is she here? She was seeded! 19 to be exact. Has dropped from 22 to 132 in the last 12 months. At least she is healthy.
7.5. Muguruza- On a 6 match losing streak, and 19 spots below Kerber, who just had a baby. Realistically, being a former slam winner and a former number 1 means that she can take off the time she needs, and still be able to play almost anywhere when she is ready to come back. Here's hoping that she wants to in 2023.

Mon Mar 06, 09:51:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

That it does, unfortunately. :/

BTW, I re-worked and added to to what I've used before and will have a similar list for Miami. ;)

Yeah, I agree about Gracheva. And even in a *regular* situation, when a player celebrates a tournament title, the opponent is often left in that what-do-I-do? zone, anyway. A real no-win situation this time.

Pretty impressive that Swiatek is *already* that high that bagel list.

Quiz: it's Serena... so I figured, "Why not?" and didn't even think about the numbers. :( Look before you leap.

Vid: very Tik-Toky *before* TikTok. (Hey, there's Waldo.) :)

I'm going to pick IW in the Comments tomorrow, but I had in the Blowout that Iga wouldn't defend *either* IW or Miami, so...

(Plus, since last year I picked her to win both, my contract w/ the Tennis Gods probably says I have to find two new champion picks in there somewhere this time around.)

Tue Mar 07, 12:06:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

(changed out a few so to not have *all* seeds in Round of 16)

#1 Swiatek d. Raducanu (had #13 Haddad)
#19 Keys d. #5 Garcia
#14 Azarenka d. (PR) Vondrousova (had #28 Bouzkova)
#25 Martic d. #21 Badosa
#7 Sakkari d. #11 Kudermetova
#3 Pegula d. #24 Ostapenko
#9 Bencic d. #6 Gauff
#2 Sabalenka d. #16 Krejcikova
#19 Keys d. #1 Swiatek
#14 Azarenka d. #25 Martic
#7 Sakkari d. #3 Pegula
#9 Bencic d. #2 Sabalenka
#14 Azarenka d. #19 Keys
#9 Bencic... err, make that... #7 Sakkari d. #9 Bencic
#14 Azarenka d. #7 Sakkari

Tue Mar 07, 06:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Hmmm, Azarenka is the only multiple time winner in the field.

Only unseeded I have in R16 are Fruhvirtova, Muchova, Marino and Raducanu.

Wed Mar 08, 10:12:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Once again, we learn the lesson: It can always get worse--Patrick McEnroe is the new president of the ITHOF.

Fri Mar 10, 10:40:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


BTW, I sort of *knew* my Vika pick was doomed once Muchova came back to defeat Putintseva in the 1st Rd.

Hmmm, I *did* "sort of" say that I was "kind of" picking Sabalenka to win *either* IW or Miami after the AO. (Yeah, I'm grasping at straws here!) :)


And it still doesn't explain why P.McEnroe has recently been a regular panelist on CNN the last few weeks. And not talking about sports and/or tennis, either... regular topics like politics and cultural things in the news. It's strange.

Sun Mar 12, 03:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I didn't know that about CNN (don't watch it), but nothing surprises me anymore. Do you remember when John had that news commentary show on one of the networks? (I forget which one.) It was terrible.

Sun Mar 12, 06:37:00 PM EDT  

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