Sunday, August 20, 2017

Wk.33- Sweet Embraceable Mugu

Opportunity springs eternal on the WTA tour. Simona Halep knows all about it. But Garbine Muguruza knows all about seizing it. And, maybe more importantly, embracing it.

Es miooo!!!!!! It's mine!!!!!!!???????????????????????????????????????????? #champion

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While Muguruza didn't have a perfect week -- which actually was one point away, three times, from ending early in the 3rd Round against Madison Keys -- but she built success upon success as the week went along in Cincinnati. By the time she was finished, she'd taken onto her shoulders the heart of all of Spain (wearing a ribbon to honor the victims of the terror attack that struck Barcelona) and gone on to defeat the world #1 (Karolina Pliskova) and stop the world #2 (Halep) from succeeding her atop the singles rankings, becoming the first player in nearly five years to defeat the top two ranked players in the world in the same event. The result will move her to #3 in the rankings, and #1 in the 2017 points race... and puts the ACTUAL #1 ranking realistically within her grasp.

"I like the big matches. I believe I play well there," Muguruza said. "When I was little girl I was dreaming to be there. That's where I belong."

The Spaniard, though she's been known to "sweat the small stuff" to her own detriment at times, is a player who has often played her best when the pressure was greatest, winning two slam titles, and defeating BOTH Williams Sisters while doing it, too. Halep, though, hasn't quite mastered the art of embracing *her* opportunities. At least not all the way until the end, which has turned more bitter than sweet because of own very human foibles. A perfectionist at heart, the Romanian surely knows in her head how she *wishes* things to go. But, so far, it's been her "alternate" reality that has played out. When she's played for a slam title, which she's done twice and lost both times, and when she's had the #1 ranking within a match win of becoming a reality, which has happened on more than one occasion in 2017 (including when both were at stake in Paris, and she led by a set and 3-0 in the RG final). Rather than bask in the limelight of a great career achievement clutched with both her hands on Sunday, Halep once again found herself apologizing when it was all over. Again.

Finding herself one win away from being the #1-ranked player in the world, Halep essentially failed to post on gameday. In just :56, she was ushered off the stage by Muguruza by the frightfully devastating score of 6-1/6-0. And it really wasn't even that close. In thirteen games, the Romanian had just six winners, but thirty-one unforced errors... or, an average of almost two and a half a game, when her opponent only usually needed four points to lock away a game. And it didn't take long for Halep to commit to this not being her day, either.

That just can't happen. Not to a two-time slam finalist. Not after all the (mostly successful) attempts to "reset" her mind this season. Not after seeing the house cave in on her so many times in similar circumstances, yet always finding a way to push back and get yet another chance.

The thing is, after struggling with expectations (from outside and within), Halep has indeed made great progress this season. Her brief split with coach Darren Cahill set her on the correct course, and she's learned to bounce back from her bad moments. Case in point: after a no-show in the Toronto SF vs. Elina Svitolina, Halep was in fine form in Cincinnati. Well, until she wasn't. And she REALLY wasn't. At some point, you have to wonder if such losses might begin to injure Halep's psyche more than winning the matches to get into position for such achievements actually help her. But we don't appear to be at that point just yet, and might not for quite a while. And that's good news.

After all, while the Spaniard's "innards" aren't quite as unstable as Halep's when the pressure is greatest, Muguruza's path to her current position surely hasn't always been a pretty one. In fact, while the Romanian's partnership with Cahill has generally seemed a hand-in-glove combo (even the "split" seems more a genius coaching tactic than anything, largely because Halep reacted to it precisely how Cahill hoped she would), Muguruza and Sam Sumyk have often existed, usually in full view of the public during in-match coaching timeouts, like oil and water. Or maybe oil and those poor, cute little ducklings that get covered in the stuff when there's an ocean freighter spill. Exactly which of the two was the "oil," and which was the "duckling" in the equation is left up for debate, but Muguruza, aggressive, forward-moving and confident this summer, is surely beginning to resemble the player her talent said she could be a few years ago. So, on some level, all those awkward moments have proved to be "worth it."

So Halep should take heart, and keep working toward the same goal. If it was *too* easy she might get bored, right?

She'll be just five points behind Pliskova in the rankings come Monday, the closest the top two players have been in eight years. And with the Czech having to defend runner-up points at Flushing Meadows, Halep is still likely to take the top spot at some point before the end of the season. But whether or not she can hold onto (and embrace) it might be determined by *how* she gets it. Does she get it by default, backing into #1 because of the failures of the other contenders, or does she take it. She's had many opportunities to do the latter this season, but the reality is that the former is probably more likely to occur.

But Halep can still change that. It's up to her.

Well, unless maybe Muguruza takes the power it out of her hands. In fact, if it continues a few more weeks, the Spaniard's solidifying summer might ultimately play the role of spoiler for more players than just one too-hard-on-herself Swarmette.

Yep, the Most Interesting Tour is stirring yet again. A slam must be right around the corner.

S: Garbine Muguruza/ESP def. Simona Halep/ROU 6-1/6-0
D: Chan Yung-Jan/Martina Hingis (TPE/SUI) d. Hsieh Su-Wei/Monica Niculescu (TPE/ROU) 4-6/6-4 [10-7]

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Garbine Muguruza/ESP
...after opening her run in Cincinnati with wins over Beatriz Haddad, Muguruza's week got *really* interesting. She saved three MP vs. Madison Keys, she went 2:45 against Svetlana Kuznetsova, ended her 0-6 run vs. #1 Karolina Pliskova, and then was the latest to thwart #2 Simona Halep's dreams of reaching the #1 ranking. Her victories over the top two players in the world in the same event marks the 35th time it's happened in tour history. The last time was in 2012 (by Serena, the most recent of twelve such occasions when one of the Sisters pulled it off), and the last time a non-Williams did it was in 2009 (Kuznetsova).

It's been almost two years since the Spaniard reached or won a non-slam event (Beijing '15), but her win here will surely place her in the select group of "favorites" at the Open as she (at the very least) tries to round out her slam season by putting up 4th Round-or-better results at all four majors for the first time (so, no, I *haven't* forgotten about my preseason prediction). Since her Wimbledon title run, Muguruza has reached the Stanford SF, Toronto QF and now won in Cincy. 16-2 since the start of play at SW19, she's gone 25-6 since her springtime three-match losing streak.

With so much in question heading into Flushing Meadows, might Muguruza be the player most willingly providing answers this summer? And, if so, does it mean Muguruza is about to develop a healthy appetite for apples? BIG apples. Stay tuned.
RISER: Simona Halep/ROU
...hmmm, but is she really? I guess so. Truthfully, I just couldn't put her in the "Down" category for a second straight week after she followed up a Premier 5 semifinal in Toronto with a Premier 5 final in Cincinnati, even if she did waste *yet another* win-and-you're-in invitation to take the #1 singles ranking. Simona is still the "heart of Backspin," after all, even if she's prone to producing more than a bit of angina.

Setting aside how her week ended vs. Muguruza, it should be noted that Halep *did* reach the final without dropping a set, putting up wins over Taylor Townsend, Anastasija Sevastova, Johanna Konta (ah, they met yet again, but this time she won, though it took six MP to finally put away the Brit in straights) and Sloane Stephens to reach her fourth final of the season. Her 1-3 mark in those finals, much like the even worse mark of a certain Dane in '17, is like a horn blaring across the countryside on what is otherwise a nice summer day. If you just block out all the annoying noise, everything would be perfect. But most beings with full hearing can't do such a thing. And for Simona Halep, who'd likely re-wash a full load of clothes because she forgot to turn *one* sock inside out, it's a situation that she'll likely still be thinking about on what would be considered by everyone else to be a *quiet* afternoon.

So, that she hasn't yet been mentally overloaded by her string of failed attempts to assume the #1 ranking (much like Caro and her many final appearances this season, no matter all the "L" results), and continues to put herself in position to get another chance, has to be looked at as a "glass half full" situation as she head to New York City. At least, for now.

In a few weeks, though... well, let's hope she crosses that bridge before the rest of us have to.

SURPRISES: Aleksandra Krunic/SRB and Arina Rodionova/AUS
...meanwhile, in Bracelet Land.

What she said...

Yes, Krunic made some news last week, and it isn't even Fed Cup time. Though it is nearly U.S. Open time, and she's made some headline there, too.

In Cincinnati, tiny fightin' Serb Krunic qualified with victories over Sorana Cirstea and Francesca Schiavone, then left a certain Latvian thunderstruck by winning twelve of fifteen games to close out a 4 & 2 victory. She lost in the 2nd Round to Carla Suarez-Navarro, but will climb to #77 in the rankings, just nine spots (and a little over 100 points) from overtaking #68 Jelena Jankovic to become the top-ranked Serb for the first time in her if-you-haven't-been-paying-close-attention-you've-missed-something-really-fun career.

In New Haven, while others (including herself, actually) were taking part in qualifying for this coming week's event at Yale, Rodionova was *also* busy adding yet another entry to her summer campaign for "most improved player." Even before this weekend, the 27-year old Aussie had already qualified for Wimbledon and gotten her first career slam MD win (saving 7 MP vs. Pavlyuchenkova), reached two WTA doubles finals and her first tour-level singles QF (Nanchang) and reached a career high ranking of #130. While her New Haven run ended via a three-set loss in the opening round against Kristyna Pliskova, Rodionova still managed to have banner weekend since she won Tennis Australia's three-round playoff tournament to win the final WC into the U.S. Open main draw. Actually, Arina only had to play *two* matches, as she got a walkover from Priscilla Hon (who was busy reaching the QF of the $100K in Vancouver), then staged a comeback to defeat 17-year old Destanee Aiava (up a break at 2-0 in the 3rd before Rodionova ran off six straight games) in the semis, then took out 19-year old Lizette Cabrera in the playoff final.

Guess who just won the wildcard into the US Open ☝️ #timetowine #happydays #3rdmaindrawslam #goodyear

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VETERAN: Julia Goerges/GER, which player is the *true* German (on the women's side, at least) to watch at the U.S. Open? The defending champ, or Goerges?

Round ?? @cincytennis #teamjule ??: @jimmie48tennis

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There she goes again. Already one of the hottest players of the spring/summer, Goerges' QF run in Cincinnati will lift her into a seed for the U.S. Open eight months after she ended 2016 with her fourth straight season-ending ranking between #50 and #75. Last week she put up two Top 10 wins -- over Radwanska and Svitolina -- in the same event for the first time since 2011 in Stuttgart, when she had three (def. Azarenka, Stosur & Wozniacki). While her win over Svitolina was her first Top 5 victory in over two years, Goerges' loss to Sloane Stephens ended any hope of a FOURTH spot in a final in six events. But she still added another Final 8 result to her season total, giving her seven QF in 2017.
COMEBACK: Sloane Stephens/USA
...well, this has a familiar ring to it.

Seriously, has anyone ever climbed the rankings as quickly as Stephens has the last few weeks without having a result come at a slam, or having even played in a singles final during the stretch? As recently as two weeks ago, she was ranked outside the Top 900. Back-to-back Premier 5 semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati have lifted her to, at first, #151, and now #83 come Monday. So much for looking to utilize that injury protected ranking or a wild card to get into tournaments this fall, I guess. Last week, Stephens was at it again. No, I mean literally... she defeated both Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova AGAIN, just like she did in Canada, on her way to the Cincy final four, playing without the pressure of expectations (or points defenses), and with her on-court weapons fully charged. Additional wins over Ekaterina Makarova and Julia Goerges put Stephens into that second straight semi, where she was rolled over by an in-form (well, that didn't last, did it?) Simona Halep 2 & 1.

Next scheduled appearance: as a "suddenly-super-floater" in the U.S. Open main draw.
FRESH FACE: Taylor Townsend/USA
...the 21-year old had quite the productive week. Not only did she make her way through Cincinnati qualifying with wins over Irina-Camelia Begu and Carina Witthoeft (saving two MP and winning 13/15 games to end the match), then followed up with a MD win over Monica Puig, but she was also given a wild card into the U.S. Open MD by the USTA. Townsend came into 2017 having not posted a WTA MD win since last year's Roland Garros, and that win had been her only such victory since the '15 Indian Wells, where she knocked off Bethanie Mattek-Sands not long after having reached her career high ranking of #94 that February. She slumped and fell all the way out of the Top 300 by the end of 2015.

Townsend has seen something of a turnaround in '17, or at least the early stages of a possible one. She's had MD tour-level wins in Acapulco and Roland Garros, as well as putting together a successful qualifying run in Miami and then knocking off Amanda Anisimova and Roberta Vinci. Within that mix of results, she also reached a $25K challenger final in Florida in May. A two-time junior slam singles finalist (winning the AO title in '12, losing Wimbledon in '13), she's yet to record a 1st Round win at the U.S. Open, having three times lost in qualifying and in the 1st Round in 2014 and '16.
DOWN: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO
...the 35-year old Croat's semifinal runs in Melbourne and Charleston seem so long ago now. But, then again, in "Lucic time," they're barely a blip on the timeline, aren't they?

Still, the seven months that have followed Lucic's first slam semifinal in eighteen years have surely seen the "cooling down" process take hold. After starting '17 on a 17-7 sprint that included there SF and a QF in a five-event stretch, her 1st Round Cincy loss to Carla Suarez-Navarro is her sixth straight defeat. Her last win came via a retirement against Maria Sharapova in the 2nd Round in Rome, and she's gone just 2-8 since her Charleston SF loss to Latvian Thunder. After spending one week in the Top 20 (the first of her career) earlier this year, Lucic has now dropped out of the Top 30. She'll still get an Open seed, though... and she seems to specialize in shocking the world in majors. Hopefully we won't have to wait until 2035 for her to do it again.
ITF PLAYERS: Marina Zanevska/BEL and Maria Teresa Torro-Flor/ESP
...Zanevska picked up her biggest career title at the $100K in Vancouver, the last of the North American ITF challenger events leading into the U.S. Open. The 23-year old Ukrainian-born Belgian Waffle opened with a win over Arina Rodionova (who had a very busy week, playing here, and in both New Haven qualifying and Tennis Australia's U.S. Open wild card playoff), and followed it up with victories over Martina Trevisan, Priscilla Hon, Jana Fett and Danka Kovinic in a three-set final. It's Zanevska's fifteenth career ITF win, as she leveled her overall mark in $100K finals, having lost (to Caroline Garcia) in her only other appearance in 2013.

In Montreaux, Switzerland, 25-year old, oft-injured Spaniard Torro-Flor moved into a circuit-leading season tie with Russian Polina Monova by claiming her fifth ITF title of 2017. Her 4-6/6-1/6-2 win over Italy's Deborah Chiesa gives MTTF eighteen career ITF crowns (to her one WTA win in Marrakesh in '14). A Top 50 player three years ago, Torro-Flor ended last season outside the Top 450 after missing three months during the spring and struggling to find her footing after her return. With nearly months of solid play behind her, she's raised her ranking back into the Top 250 with this win.
JUNIOR STAR: Sofya Lansere/RUS
...the 16-year old Hordette, a semifinalist in the girls singles at Wimbledon earlier this summer, reached both the singles QF and doubles final in just her second career pro event at the $15K challenger in Moscow. Her appearance in the event was her first in a pro tournament since she played in the same tournament a year ago. The #21-ranked junior (she's yet to earn a WTA ranking) lost in the QF to Kazakh Anna Danilina, who like Lansere was born in Moscow, but notched a 1st Round win over fellow Russian Alena Tarasova. Why mention that, you ask? Well, because Lansere also got a 1st Round win over Tarasova last year in this tournament. Two of her three career pro singles wins have come against her. Go figure.
DOUBLES: Chan Yung-Jan/Martina Hingis (TPE/SUI)
...while they're still seeking their first slam title together, Chan & Hingis have been just this side of dominant since they teamed up earlier this season. In Cincinnati, they picked up their sixth '17 title in their sixth final appearance, finishing off a week that included a 10-7 3rd set TB win over Atawo/Vandeweghe in the 2nd Round (Hingis was the Cincy RU w/ CoCo in '16), as well as victories over the #5 (Babos/Hlavackova) and #3 (Safarova/Strycova) seeds, then a 10-7 TB win over unseeded Hsieh/Niculescu in the final. The opening set the pair lost in the final was the only one they dropped all week en route to what was their fourth high-level Premier title this year. Overall, they're 37-6 as a duo, 30-4 in non-slam events, and a somewhat-less-eye-popping 7-2 in majors. The result boosts the vets -- Hingis turns 37 next month -- into first place in the Doubles Points race for the season. Of some note, if Hingis were to find her way to a season-ending #1 finish, it'd be a first in her Hall of Fame career. While she's been the doubles #1 for 66 weeks, and simultaneously singles/doubles #1 for 29, she's never finished a season higher than #2. She was #2 in 1998, '99 and '15, and #3 in '97 and '00. Twice her doubles partners -- Anna Kournikova in '99 and Sania Mirza in '15 -- have finished seasons at #1 to her #2.


Kayla Day, USA - the 17-year old won the '16 U.S. Open girls title, and gets her second '17 slam WC (after having won the USTA's AO Playoff Challenge earlier) here, as well as her second straight golden ticket into the U.S. Open MD. She got her maiden slam win in the 1st Round last year over Madison Brengle.
Amandine Hesse, FRA - the 24-year old Pastry receives her second '17 slam WC (w/ RG), looking to improve her career 1-2 MD record at majors. She's 0-1 (2014) at the U.S. Open.
Sonya Kenin, USA - the 18-year is an Open WC for the third straight year, having earned her way in each time: '15 USTA 18s champ, then the USTA's WC Playoff Challenge winner the last two years. Kenin won the $60K Stockton challenger with a victory over fellow Open WC Ashley Kratzer in the final, and was a finaliast at $60K Lexington. She's 0-2 in her U.S. Open MD career.
Ashley Kratzer, USA - the 18-year old Californian makes her slam debut after winning the USTA's 18s National Championship in San Diego.
Brienne Minor, USA - the 19-year old from Illinois is the reigning NCAA women's singles champ, winning the title in her sophomore season at Michigan to become the first African-American NCAA singles champ (and the first woman) since Arthur Ashe in 1965.
Arina Rodionova, AUS - the winner of Tennis Australia's WC playoff tournament, she's now tasked with adding another chapter to a career-best summer run that was highlighted by her saving 7 MP vs. Pavlyuchenkova and getting her first career MD win at a major at Wimbledon.
Maria Sharapova, RUS - the 30-year old Russian will play her first slam match since the '16 AO (QF), having missed seven of the last eight majors due to injury or suspension. Champion in 2006, she last played the U.S. Open in 2014 (4th Rd.), and has been in the Open draw just one other time since 2012. She has six match wins in 2017.
Taylor Townsend, USA - Backspin's 2016 U.S. Open Q-Player of the Week, Townsend is 4-8 in slam MD in her career: 4-4 in Paris, 0-4 elsewhere


Farewell, Little MO...

1. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Ekaterina Makarova def. Angelique Kerber
Muguruza got the honors at the end of the weekend, but these two stood out during the week for their knock-down, drag-out dramatic battle in the heat. Kerber, still looking for that big win that might right her course for the remainder of the '17 season, is still in search of that elusive "W." She led 2-0 in the 3rd, only to see Makarova charge back to take a 5-2 lead. After saving a MP, the German took things to a deciding tie-break, which she led 3-0.

But the Russian, even while taking a MTO in the breaker, battling a thigh injury, cramping so bad that she went down on the court at one point and facing a Kerber who simply wouldn't give up or give in (aka pulling off a "reverse Simona"), persevered. Ultimately, on her eighth MP, D.C. champ Makarova put the match away with a drop shot.

In the aftermath, she and Elena Vesnina pulled out of the doubles competition, and she lost her next match against Sloane Stephens. Kerber, set to begin her defense of her U.S. Open title in a week, will have to do so from outside the Top 4 seeds. With Muguruza's run, she'll fall out of the Top 5 on Monday.
2. Cincinnati 3rd Rd. - Garbine Muguruza def. Madison Keys
In an earlier "do-over" of the Stanford semi lost by Muguruza (3 & 2) vs. an in-form Keys, the Spaniard finally notched her first win in four tries against the Bannerette, saving three MP and going on to become the third woman this year to win a tour-level singles title after having been a point from defeat.
3. Cincinnati Final - Garbine Muguruza def. Simona Halep
Muguruza now has more "regular season" tour titles (3) than she does slam wins. Still, 2017 is the very first two-title campaign for the two-time slam champ.

4. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Sloane Stephens def. Lucie Safarova 6-4/7-6(5)
Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Sloane Stephens def. Petra Kvitova 6-2/6-3
Stephens and left-handed Czechs haven't mixed particularly well the last two weeks. Well, at least they haven't where the Czechs are concerned. Safarova and Kvitova went a combined 0-4 vs. Stephens in Toronto and Cincy.
5. Cincinnati QF - Lucie Safarova/Barbora Strycova def. Ash Barty/Casey Dellacqua
The win that pushed Safarova into the doubles #1 ranking, past injured regular partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands. She's the 35th woman to hold the spot, and the fifth Czech -- after Martina Navratilova (who did it while representing the U.S.), Helena Sukova, Jana Novotna and Kveta Peschke. The last to rise so high, Peschke, did so in 2011.

When your nieces bake you a surprise cake of #1! ??????????????

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6. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Petra Kvitova def. Anett Kontaveit
Kontaveit led 6-1/4-2, and served to make it 5-3. Still, Kvitova, who'll try to win her fourth New Haven title this week, lost in the 2nd Round for the fourth time in her five '17 events, including three consecutive since Wimbledon. But after all she went through to just get back here, Petra isn't about to get down...

7. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Elena Vesnina def. Caroline Garcia
Vesnina fell to Wozniacki in the 2nd Round, and withdrew from doubles after Makarova's marathon win over Kerber. But at least her comeback from a 4-2 deficit in the 3rd vs. Garcia (who had 3 BP chances at 4-4) made it something other than a totally "lost" week.

8. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Madison Keys def. CoCo Vandeweghe
Vandeweghe has dropped three straight matches on summer hard court, but two of those have come against an in-form Keys. We'll see in NYC if that makes a difference, I guess.

9. Cincinnati 3rd Rd. - Julia Goerges def. Elina Svitolina
The seventh Top 5 win of the German's career, this is her first since 2015 (RG - Wozniacki). Even with this loss, if Muguruza hadn't won the title, Toronto champ Svitolina would have climbed to #3.
10. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Lesia Tsurenko def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Pavlyuchenkova led 7-5/4-1, but this defeat wasn't even her "most squandered" match this week in Cincinnati (see below).
11. Cincinnati 1st Rd. - Aleksandra Krunic def. Alona Ostapenko
The Bracelet found herself down 0-3, love/40 in the 1st set after winning just four of the first twenty points. But a three-ace game got her on the board, and she went on to win twelve of the final fifteen games. The frustrated RG champ has now lost three straight, including back-to-back HC losses to the #87 and #70-ranked players in the world.

And since she does prefer "Alona" over "Jelena" -- holding to the Sofia-umm-no-it's-actually-"Sonya" Kenin rule -- I suppose it should be that from here on out.

On the cover of @pastaiga_magazine #me#onthecover#magazine#pastaiga#model#makeup#riga#latvia#2017

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???????? #photoshoottime#great#photo#loveit#curlyhair#model#latviangirl#riga#latvia#2017

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12. $15K Graz Final - Astra Sharma def. Vendula Zovincova
The 21-year old Aussie (and Vanderbilt product) takes home her third career ITF title, her second this season.
13. $15K Graz Final - Anna Bondar/Reka-Luca Jani def. Jana Jablonovska/Natalia Vajdova
Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani!

The 26-year old Hungarian is now 23-23 in her ITF doubles final career.
14. Cincinnati QF - Garbine Muguruza def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
Yeah, Sveta looks like she's getting prepared for her usual slam experience, as this one lasted 2:45. And she talked about...


A post shared by ?? Anna ????? (@annakournikova) on


"I used to think I'd want to retire when I have kids, but no. I'm definitely coming back. Walking out there and hearing the crowd, it may seem like nothing. but there's no better feeling in the world."

1. Cincinnati SF - Garbine Muguruza def. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
Muguruza's fourth #1 win of her career was her second over a different top-ranked woman (after def. Kerber at Wimbledon) this season, making her just the second woman to do that (Svitolina '16) since 2011. It ended her sixth match losing streak to the Czech, and prevented a final match-up between the world #1 vs. #2 Halep for the top spot on the WTA computer.

2. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - Ash Barty def. VENUS WILLIAMS
The Aussie's first Top 10 win allows her to move past countrywoman Sam Stosur (who announced she'll miss the U.S. Open) in the singles rankings. At #42, she'll still be behind top-ranked Australian Dasha Gavrilova at #26. Meanwhile, the loss knocks Venus out of a Top 8 seed for Flushing Meadows.
3. Cincinnati 2nd Rd. - HSIEH SU-WEI/Monica Niculescu def. Kristina Mladenovic/Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
...6-7(4)/7-5 [10-8].
It was a "double choke" week for the Russian, as in addition to her squandered singles match she and Mladenovic led 7-6/5-3, 30/15 here before dropping their second of their three summer hard court matches as a duo.
4. Cincinnati Final - CHAN YUNG-JAN/Martina Hingis def. HSIEH SU-WEI/Monica Niculescu
Hingis' only loss in a WD final this season, while partnering Timea Bacsinszky in Biel, was to Hsieh/Niculescu in April.
5. $15K Oldenzaal Final - CHIARA SCHOLL def. Albina Khabibulina
25-year old "ChiChi" wins career ITF title #7.
6. $15K Oldenzaal Final - Deborah Kerfs/CHIARA SCHOLL def. Paula Ormaechea/Ana Sofia Sanchez
And Scholl sweeps the titles at the Dutch challenger. This was just the second event back from wrist surgery for Ormaechea, and her first doubles action since the opening week of December last year. The 24-year old Argentine was a Top 60 player in 2013.
7. $25K Nonthaburi Final - Chan Chin-Wei/Choi Ji-hee def. VARATCHAYA WONGTEACHCHAI/VARUNYA WONGTEANCHAI
...2-6/6-1 [13-11].
The Thai sisters are now 4-5 in ITF doubles finals. As Varatchaya has gone on to some modest singles success of late, this was their first final as a duo since January '15.
Pliskova's first match back from going up against that fan -- the kind with the blades, not the ones with the "Go Kristyna" banners -- and losing. She went on to qualify for the MD, getting Q3 win over Carina Witthoeft on Sunday. Rodionova was freed up to compete in and win Tennis Australia's U.S. Open wild card tournament.
9. Cincinnati 3rd Rd. - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. Camila Giorgi 6-3/4-6/6-0
Cincinnati QF - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. Caroline Wozniacki 6-2/6-4
Pliskova's Friday in Cincinnati, her third 2-0 this season. The other two times (Doha & Eastbourne) she went on to win the title, though.

10. New Haven Q1 - Vera Zvonareva def. ANASTASIA RODIONOVA 2-6/6-3/6-1
New Haven Q2 - Magdalena Rybarikova def. Vera Zvonareva 7-5 ret.
in her sixth event back, Zvonareva gets her first win at a tour event since 2015 before retiring after a tight 1st set vs. the Wimbledon semifinalist. The Russian won a $15K challenger title last month.


Surely better than those awful black-and-yellow adidas getups we've seen the last few weeks...

Chakvetadze sighting! Steeeee-rike!

Exiting moment )) yessss!

A post shared by Anna Chakvetadze (@achak87) on

A Personal Note

A post shared by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

2 - Elina Svitolina, UKR = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE = Hard,Grass
2 - Katerina Siniakova, CZE = Hard,Red Clay

*WINS OVER WORLD #1 & #2 IN EVENT - since 2007*
2007 Miami - S.Williams (#2 Sharapova/#1 Henin)
2008 WTA - V.Williams (#2 Safina/#1 Jankovic)
2009 R.Garros - Kuznetsova (#2 S.Williams/#1 Safina)
2010 Sydney - Dementieva (#2 Safina/#1 S.Williams)
2010 WTA - Clijsters (#2 Zvonareva/#1 Wozniacki)
2012 Madrid - S.Williams (#2 Sharapova/#1 Azarenka)
2012 WTA - S.Williams (#1 Azarenka/#2 Sharapova)
2017 CINCINNATI - MUGURUZA (#1 Ka.Pliskova/#2 Halep)

Taipei City - Elina Svitolina, UKR (4 MP - QF/Jabeur)
Prague - Mona Barthel, GER (3 MP - Q2/Paolini)

[won title]
[didn't win title]
Alison Riske - Shenzhen [QF-A.Radwanska] = RU
CoCo Vandeweghe - Australian Open [3r-Kerber] = SF
Kristina Mladenovic - Stuttgart [2r-Kerber] = RU

.000 - Wozniacki (0-6)
.000 - Goerges (0-3)
.000 - Hibino (0-2)
.000 - V.Williams (0-2)
.333 - Kontaveit (1-2)
.250 - HALEP (1-3)
.250 - Mladenovic (1-3)

*2015-17 WTA FINALS*
14 - 5/8/1...Kerber (7-7)
13 - 6/4/3...Ka.Pliskova (6-7)
12 - 5/3/4...HALEP (7-5)
11 - 3/2/6...Wozniacki (3-8)
11 - 5/5/1...S.Williams (8-3)
9 - 1/3/4...Svitolina (7-2)

*2017 WTA SF*
6 - Caroline Wozniacki (6-0)
6 - Elina Svitolina (5-1)
6 - SIMONA HALEP (4-2)
6 - Johanna Konta (3-2+L)
21 - SIMONA HALEP [9/6/6]
21 - Angelique Kerber [8/11/2]
19 - Elina Svitolina [6/7/6]
18 - Aga Radwanska [8/9/1]
17 - Caroline Wozniacki [7/4/6]
16 - Serena Williams [9/6/1]

NR - Maria Sharapova/RUS (Stuttgart)
#934 Sloane Stephens/USA (Toronto)
#340 Jana Fett/CRO (Hobart)
#254 Barbora Krejcikova/CZE (Nurnberg) - RU
#233 Marketa Vondrousova/CZE (Biel) - W
#168 Francesca Schiavone/ITA (Bogota) - W
#158 Ash Barty/AUS (Kuala Lumpur) - W

2014 Serena Williams (RG QF)
2016 Serena Williams (RG F)
2017 Angelique Kerber (Wimbledon 4th)
2017 Karolina Pliskova (Cincinnati SF)

2008 Dinara Safina (3)
2009 Venus Williams (2)
2010 Samantha Stosur (2)
2011-15 = none
2016 Elina Svitolina (2)
2017 Garbine Muguruza (2)*
*- def. Kerber (Wimbledon), Pliskova (Cincinnati)

8...CHAN YUNG-JAN (6-1+W)
5...Ash Barty (3-2)
5...Casey Dellacqua (3-2)
5...Ekaterina Makarova (3-2)
5...Elena Vesnina (3-2)
5...Andrea Hlavackova (2-3)

38-6 - Chan Yung-Jan (6 titles)
3-1 - Timea Bacsinszky
2-2 - CoCo Vandweghe
1-1 - Belinda Bencic

15-6 - Barbora Strycova (1-1 finals)
4-0 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands (1-0 finals)
3-1 - Peng Shuai
2-1 - Kirsten Flipkens
2-4 - Yaroslava Shvedova
1-0 - CoCo Vandeweghe
1-1 - Andrea Hlavackova
1-1 - Monica Niculescu

177 - Martina Navratilova
112 - Rosie Casals
106 - Pam Shriver
101 - Billie Jean King
80 - Natasha Zvereva
79 - Lisa Raymond
76 - Jana Novotna
69 - Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
68 - Helena Sukova
68 - Gigi Fernandez
66 - Larisa Savchenko Neiland
60 - Rennae Stubbs
60 - Cara Black

1984 Martina Navratilova, USA (former TCH)
1985 Pam Shriver, USA
1990 Helena Sukova, TCH
1990 Jana Novotna, TCH/CZE
1991 Gigi Fernandez, USA
1991 Natalia Zvereva, USSR/BLR
1992 Larisa Neiland, LAT (former USSR)
1995 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, ESP
1997 Lindsay Davenport, USA
1998 Martina Hingis, SUI
1999 Anna Kournikova, RUS
2000 Corina Morariu, USA
2000 Lisa Raymond, USA
2000 Rennae Stubbs, AUS
2000 Julie Halard-Decugis, FRA
2000 Ai Sugiyama, JPN
2002 Paola Suarez, ARG
2003 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2003 Virginia Ruano Pascual, ESP
2005 Cara Black, ZIM
2006 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2007 Liezel Huber, RSA/USA
2010 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Venus Williams, USA
2010 Gisela Dulko, ARG
2011 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2011 Kveta Peschke, CZE
2011 Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
2012 Sara Errani, ITA
2012 Roberta Vinci, ITA
2014 Peng Shuai, CHN
2014 Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE
2015 Sania Mirza, IND
2017 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2017 Lucie Safarova, CZE

Dubai - Elina Svitolina, UKR
Indian Wells - Elena Vesnina, RUS
Miami - Johanna Konta, GBR
Madrid - Simona Halep, ROU
Rome - Elina Svitolina, UKR
Toronto - Elina Svitolina, UKR
Cincinnati - Garbine Muguruza, ESP
Wuhan - (Sept.)
Beijing - (Oct.)
Dubai - Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS
Indian Wells - Y.Chan/Hingis, TPE/SUI
Miami - Dabrowski/Xu Yifan, CAN/CHN
Madrid - Y.Chan/Hingis, TPE/SUI
Rome - Y.Chan/Hingis, TPE/SUI
Toronto - Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS
Cincinnati - Y.Chan/Hingis, TPE/SUI

No, it's not tennis, but it's surely somewhat addictive. I know I've been sidetracked a bit of late by SafariLive on YouTube, which (often) features the beautiful young leopard named Tamba...

They feature two live (then achived) three-hour, multiple-guide African safari rides every day, and you never know what you might see. This one from earlier this week was quite something. From the "elephant pool party" (00:25), to the three successive (and successful) hunts by one of the lion prides (1:41, 2:03 and 2:21) -- just for the sake of doing it, it seems, as the fields are currently full of migrating wildebeest, zebras and gazelles -- and the many sit-besides with the always curious Tamba (1:04, 1:21, 1:34, 1:49 & 2:34), whose actions often remind you so much of a house cat it's spooky, it was a fascinating look-in on the peaceful, sometimes lighthearted, always beautiful, but also brutal aspects of animal life in the wild.

16 Singles Final: A.Radwanska d. Svitolina
16 Doubles Final: Mirza/Niculescu d. K.Bondarenko/Chuang
17 Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Cibulkova

Kontaveit d. Gavrilova
#3 Kvitova d. #2 Cibulkova
#3 Kvitova d. Kontaveit

#2 Barty/Dellacqua d. #1 Mirza/Niculescu

ALSO: U.S. Open qualifying

All for now.