Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wk.29- Game of (Ms.Backspin) Thrones

Who will sit on Backspin's "Iron Throne" at the end of 2017? Well, suffice to say, the competition is complicated. And crowded.

But I shall nonetheless endeavor to attempt to produce an up-to-the-minute standings update reflecting where things stand (more or less) as we enter the heart of the summer, a week away from the official start of the North American hard court season...

1. Jelena Ostapenko, LAT: leading the charge of Generation PDQ, she could change the (sometimes unkind) definition of "first-time slam champ" that has developed in recent years
2. USA & BLR Fed Cup Teams: unlikely champions in January, one will be left standing in November. With the right combination of players (Vika, CoCo, Venus?), the final could be "appointment viewing."
3. Y.Chan/Hingis, TPE/SUI: Chan was a March "pick up" after a slow start for Hingis, and the new duo has been nearly unbeatable. But they haven't won a slam. If they claim the Open title, they'll be true "Ms.B" contenders. But only then.
4. Garbine Muguruza, ESP: now she has to embrace the very idea of occupying the throne
5. Elina Svitolina, UKR: Still the top "regular season" player, she needs a true slam breakout run in New York to rise much higher than this
6. Venus Williams, USA: a two-time slam finalist, Venus hasn't yet won a title in '17. Details, details...
7. Karolina Pliskova, CZE: she's got the #1 ranking, now she has to eliminate any of the, "Yeah, but..." whispers that would grow louder if her hard court summer is a lacking one
8. Mattek-Sands/Safarova, USA/CZE: respect must be given to the only two-time 2017 slam champs (on the women's side, anyway) this season, even if their campaign has already come to an end
9. Serena Williams, USA: she last played six months ago, but she's never dropped out of the headlines or conversation. That won't help her win another "Ms.Backspin" crown, but she's still in the running for a "top tier" finish when it comes to MVP.
10. Johanna Konta, GBR: with the hard court season upon us, the Brit seems destined to rise quite a bit on this list by the end of the summer, if things go according to plan
11. Simona Halep, ROU: so close, and yet so far. But still so close. Yet still so far. But...
12. Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS: the big-title hoarding Hordettes have a new Wimbledon title on the shelf, but they're just 2-2 in '17 finals
13. Barty/Dellacqua, AUS/AUS: back where they belong, but they need a BIG title

A Backpin Baker's Dozen (or so) seems a nice collection of nominees, but don't forget those still on the cusp of climbing the mountain, even if such a standing now pretty much rules out true year-end contention. That list includes...

Victoria Azarenka, BLR = we'll see what the summer/fall brings us (and then there's the FC final)
Kiki Bertens, NED = multiple singles & doubles titles
Diede de Groot, NED (WC) = the start of something big
Yui Kamiji, JPN (WC) = missed out on an historic season, but still on course for a great one
Anett Kontaveit, EST = a late add after this week's results
Petra Kvitova, CZE = see Vika (minus the FC final)
Kristina Mladenovic, FRA = Sigh. I suppose...
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS = she DOES have two titles
CoCo Vandeweghe, USA = the Open and FC final will determine her finish
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN = a win in a final would be a big help here

And, now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

S: Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU def. Julia Goerges/GER 6-3/7-5
D: Irina-Camelia Begu/Raluca Olaru (ROU/ROU) d. Elise Mertens/Demi Schuurs (BEL/NED) 6-3/6-3
S: Kiki Bertens/NED def. Anett Kontaveit/EST 6-4/3-6/6-1
D: Kiki Bertens/Johanna Larsson (NED/SWE) d. Viktorija Golubic/Nina Stojanovic (SUI/SRB) 7-6(4)/4-6 [10-7]
=Americas II (Panama City, Panama/RCO)=
PP: Puerto Rico def. Ecuador 2-0
PP: Guatemale def. Peru 2-1
=Asia/Oceania II (Dushanbe, Tajikistan/HCO)=
PP: Hong Kong def. Uzbekistan 2-1

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Kiki Bertens/NED and Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU
...after twenty-eight weeks of action that saw just one woman (Ash Barty in Kuala Lumpur) sweep both the singles and doubles titles at any event, it happened TWICE this weekend.

In Gstaad, a year after falling at the last hurdle in the tournament's singles final, Bertens claimed her fourth career tour singles title (all on clay, as are all five of her WTA finals to date) by nearly sweeping through the week without dropping a set. The Dutch woman, who'll return to the Top 30 on Monday, dropped the 2nd set of her final win over Anett Kontaveit, but had gotten to that point without a single smudge on her record while recording victories over Aleksandra Krunic, Anna Zaja, doubles partner Johanna Larsson and Sara Sorribes-Tormo. Not only did Bertens take home the singles crown, but she and Larsson teamed up to take the doubles, as well, keeping up what has been a fine, under-the-radar, partnership over the last two and a half seasons.

The same happened with Begu in Bucharest, only she DID take her singles crown without dropping a set. Straight sets wins over Ivana Jorovic, Jaqueline Cristian, Pauline Parmentier, Carla Suarez-Navarro and Julia Goerges in the final allowed the Romanian to lift career title #4, including one each in the last three seasons. Oddly enough, it's Begu's first tour title on clay, despite her being such a clay court achiever last spring. Remember, in the '16 clay spring, she was a true revelation, going 13-6, including posting big SF (Rome) and QF (Charleston/Madrid) results leading into a Round of 16 run in Paris. This year, though, she wasn't as successful on the dirt, going just 9-6 (w/ another Charleston QF and Istanbul SF, but being tripped up in the 3rd Round in Madrid and 1st Round at RG). This week, though, managed to set her record straight, and will jump her ranking from #58 back up to a more presentable #38 on Monday. She was as high as #22 last August.

Begu also grabbed the doubles win with fellow Swarmette Raluca Olaru. It's the first title for the pair as a duo, but it's the fifth of Begu's career. Olaru has seven (including another earlier this season in one of her two '17 WD finals with Olga Savchuk).
RISERS: Anett Kontaveit/EST and Ana Bogdan/ROU
...the rise of the big-hitting Kontaveit continues. The add-on titles will come later. The 21-year old Estonian reached her third final of the season in Gstaad, on her third different surface. She's the only player who can say as much in '17. A runner-up on the indoor hard court in Biel, then a winner on the grass at Rosmalen, Kontaveit reached her first clay court final in Switzerland after posting wins over Martina Trevisan, Anna Kalinskaya, Carina Witthoeft and Tereza Martincova. She managed to force clay court mistress Kiki Bertens (4 tour titles) to three sets in the final, but ultimately fell 6-1 in the 3rd. She'll make her Top 30 debut on Monday.

In Bucharest, Bogdan maintained the tradition of Swarmettes performing well in front of the partisan crowd. The 22-year old reached her second career tour SF (Florianopolis '16) after an impressive run of victories over countrywoman Sorana Cirstea, Cagla Buyukakcay and #1-seeded Anastasija Sevastova (her first Top 20 win). She lost in three to Julia Goergoes after having claimed the opening set, but the result continues to push forward the incremental progress the 24-year old Romanian has shown over the past year, as she qualified at three straight slams (US-AO-RG) and has lifted her ranking from a 2016 season-ending rank of #118 to a new career high of #104 on Monday.

SURPRISE: Tereza Martincova/CZE the immediate follow-up to the Czech Maidens' disappointing Wimbledon (none reached the 3rd Rd.), Martincova was the "Maiden with the Mostest" in Week 29. The 22-year old, ranked #140, was the surprise achiever in Gstaad, knocking off Irina Khromacheva, #1-seeded Caroline Garcia and Antonia Lottner (who'd taken out the defending champ) en route to the semifinals, equaling her previous best tour finish last September in Quebec City. She fell to Anett Kontaveit, but after a '17 season which has seen her play a qualifying-round heavy slate (15-13 in WTA events), her 3-1 week (she'd been 1-2 in tour-level MD matches in '17 prior to last week) was a surely a building block, collecting-the-fruits-of-her-labor moment (even if she did get her MD spot due to the absence of the injured Bethanie Mattek-Sands) as she heads into the back end of the summer schedule. She'll climb significantly in the rankings on Monday, blowing past the career high (#135) she set in June and going all the way up the #116. Martincova has improved her season-ending ranking every season since 2011, and after a #159 finish in '16 she's well on her way to continuing that streak.

Thank you ?? everyone .. and everyone here in Gstaad amazing fans here for me .. really ??????.. #semifinal#wta#player#thankyou#fans#best#

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VETERAN: Julia Goerges/GER
...Goerges' talent has never been in question, though consistency in results has never really been her strong suit. So that her appearance in the Bucharest final is her second such result in a month is surely a good sign. It's been five years since the German reached multiple singles finals in a season (2012), and those occurred around a nearly eight-month gap in the schedule.

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The 28-year old is still in search of her first title since 2011. After reaching her first final since January of last year a month ago on the grass in Mallorca, just her second tour singles final since 2012, Goerges took to the red clay in Romania quite well as she went through the "A"-team (literally, see...?) of Alexa Glatch, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Alexandra Dulgheru and Ana Bogdan to reach her eighth career WTA final, only to fall 3 & 5 to crowd favorite Irina-Camilia (no "A") Begu. She's back in the Top 40 this week after not finishing a season there since 2012.
COMEBACKS: Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU and Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN
...everything is always just a little more fun when Dulgheru is around. Just ask Genie Bouchard. Or, on second thought, don't.

The "heart of Swarmette tennis," Dulgheru has had to deal with injuries her entire career, including with her knee (2012), wrist (2013) and then knee (July '16 surgery) again. The 28-year old, two-time tour title winner, Fed Cup star and ex-#41 (2011) returned from her latest break in mid-January after sitting out the last half of the 2016 season. Dulgheru arrived in Bucharest -- where she was born and resides -- off a 12-2 ITF run that included a $25K title, and proceeded to post there Q-round wins to reach her first tour-level MD since last year's RG, then knocked off Sesil Karatantcheva (her first WTA MD win since the '16 AO) and Ekaterina Alexandrova to reach her first QF since her run in Auckland at the start of last season. She lost to Julia Goerges, but will see her ranking jump from #294 to #218 as she (hopefully) continues to find her way back into the mix.

Happy to be playing in my hometown, at #brdbucharestopen!

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Meanwhile, before (and now after? hmmm.) there was Bouchard, there was Wozniak who rekindled her nation's faint tennis embers about a decade ago. From 2007-09, A-Woz reached three WTA singles finals, winning Stanford in 2008 to become the first Canadian to win a tour title in twenty years. She reached the Round of 16 at Roland Garros in '09 and climbed as high as #21 in the rankings, but injuries have been a constant obstacle to overcome in the years since, especially shoulder surgery in 2014. Gradually working her way back, the now 29-year old Wozniak (#319) this past week reached and won her first singles final since 2012 ($100K Nassau) at the $25K challenger in Gatineau, Quebec, defeating Aussie Ellen Perez 7-6(4)/6-4. Wozniak's list of matches for the week read like a multi-generational tennis flow chart, as it included wins over the likes over 21-year olds Perez and Mayo Hibi (#3 seed), teenagers Katie Swan and Priscilla Hon, and 34-year old Elena Bovina (yes, she's still at it -- the world #957, a three-time WTA title winner in 2002-04, even defeated '99 Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson, 36, in a "time machine" qualifier).

FRESH FACES: Antonia Lottner/GER and Sara Sorribes Tormo/ESP
...Lottner doesn't have time for the sort of "piddlin'" early-round victories that generally make up the foundation-building period of a young player's tour-level career. The 20-year old German notched her first career WTA MD victory a few weeks ago at Rosmalen over #1-seeded Dominika Cibulkova. In Gstaad, she finally got her second... upsetting defending champion Viktorija Golubic, winning 5-7/6-4/7-6(5) over the Swiss in her home event. Lottner followed it up with a three-set win over veteran Swiss Patty Schnyder before eventually falling in a 7-5 3rd set to Tereza Martincova. After a week of going from qualifier (she posted a win over another Swiss player, Xenia Knoll, as well as Anastasia Potapova, who returned very quickly from that Wimbledon knee injury scare) to first-time tour quarterfinalist, the German will rise to a career-best #139.

Also in Gstaad, another 20-year old, Sorribes-Tormo belatedly picked up where she left off when she reached the semifinals in Bogota in April. The Spaniard went just 4-11 on all levels since that run in Colombia, but arrived in Switzerland off a $100K QF result in France that included back-to-back-to-back three-setters (though one ended in a retirement by her opponent). Once there, she won out over Evgeniya Rodina in her fourth straight match to head into a 3rd set (getting her first tour-level MD win since April in Istanbul), then reeled off straight sets wins over Louisa Chirico and Tamara Korpatsch to reach her second semifinal of the season. She lost to eventual champ Kiki Bertens, but will jump eleven spots in the rankings to #86, seven off her career high of #79 in May.
DOWN: Caroline Garcia/FRA, I wonder what Chris Evert and/or Jason Goodall would call Garcia's results THIS week?

Remember, last summer, in the midst of a career season, ESPN's Evert said the Pastry wasn't "having a very good season," but just recently at Wimbledon both she and Goodall continually called her '17 campaign "great," no matter that her results this season (other than in Paris & London) have considerably paled in comparison to her '16 efforts. Last week, as the #1 seed in Gstaad, newly-minted Top 20er Garcia fell in the 2nd Round to #140 Tereza Martincova 5 & 6, giving her eight exits in the 2nd Round or earlier so far this season. In a season that has seen her take some time out due to injury (back), endure the Fed Cup squabbles and (by choice) post no confidence/momentum-building doubles results, Garcia is now 16-12 in non-slam matches (she was 22-12 at this point a year ago), though her 9-3 slam mark (vs. 2-3) just about makes up for the two singles titles ('16) to zero ('17) comparison between the two seasons.
ITF PLAYERS: Zhang Shuai/CHN and Sofya Zhuk/RUS
...the week before she assumes the role of the top seed at this week's WTA event in Nanchang, Zhang made good use of her time in Astana, Kazakhstan. The 28-year old, ranked #28, picked up her third career $100K challenger title (her biggest wins aside from her one WTA win in '13) with victories over Olga Ianchuk, Marie Bouzkova and Waffle Ysaline Bonaventure in a 6-3/6-4 final.

In Bursa, Turkey, 17-year old Zhuk claimed the biggest title of her career with a 4-6/6-3/7-6(5) victory in the $60K challenger final over Ipek Soylu. Career ITF title #6 will lift the '15 Wimbledon junior champ to a new career high ranking of #142 (up a big 44 spots from a week ago).

60k winner??

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JUNIOR STARS: Helene Pellicano/MLT and Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA
...and now we turn to Malta. No, really.

15-year old Pellicano is Malta's first tennis star, and she's got the resume to prove it. In 2015, she became the first from the tiny Southern European island nation (pop. approximately 500K) to win a European Junior Masters title, and in '16 broke more new ground by winning the European Championship and becoming the #1-ranked 14s girl on the continent. Training out of Italy, Pellicano has come oh-so-close to putting up big event 1st Round wins over notable junior stars since last fall, but "settled" for close defeats, including a three-set loss to Carson Branstine (Eddie Herr) and a 5 & 4 defeat at the hands of Sofia Sewing (Orange Bowl) last year, then additional matches this season against Alexa Noel (5 & 6, Ascunsion Bowl), Hailey Baptiste (3 sets, Porto Alegre GA) and Emily Appleton (5 & 3, Perin Memorial G1).

Participating in ITF pro draws in recent weeks, the junior #294 qualified in back-to-back $15K/$25K events, reaching a QF. Last week, in the $15K challenger in Don Benito, Spain, the teenager was granted a wild card and reached her first pro semifinal in just her third MD appearance, losing to eventual champion Lisa Sabino 6-3/6-3.

There. Now -- unlike some ESPNers who shall remain nameless -- if Pellicano does something of note down the line in her pro career, we can say that we HAVE heard of her. Shall we call her the Maltese Falcon?

In the first big post-Wimbledon junior event, the Grade 1 City of Wels Junior Grand Prix in Austria was claimed by 16-year old Italy's Cocciaretto (jr. #101), who defeated Slovenia's Nika Radisic (17, #87) in straight sets to claim her biggest career title. Cocciaretto has gone 11-2, with a title and SF result, in back-to-back-to back Grade 1 clay events this summer.

DOUBLES: Kiki Bertens & Johanna Larsson (NED/SWE)
...the second half of Bertens' two-title winning week included the seventh doubles title run put together during their lucrative three-season partnership (though they did play two events as a pair in 2013-14, one tournament each season).

After reaching the Gstaad final without losing a set, Bertens/Larsson had to go to a 10-7 3rd set TB to win out over Viktorija Golubic & Nina Stojanovic. Now 7-2 in tour finals, the Dutch-Swedish pair, the only team to defeat the (for now) top-ranked duo of Mattek-Sands/Safarova since March (in the 1st Round in Madrid, as Team Bucie went 11-1 during the stretch), have been a consistent threat, now having won multiple titles in each of their three seasons as regular partners, including claiming three straight titles in the period that stretched between 2016 (2 wins to end the season) and '17 (won Auckland). Their seven wins places them fifth on the list of "active/current" (though the definition of that changes greatly in WD) pairs behind the Williams Sisters (22), Team Bucie (11), Makarova/Vesnina (10) and the Chans (9).
FED CUP ZONE MVPs: Monica Puig/PUR, Zhang Ling/HKG and Melissa Morales/GUA Zone II Fed Cup action, Puig (as usual) led the charge of the Puerto Ricans. Only this time they made it over the finish line. A 2-0 Promotional Playoff win over Ecuador lifts the nation into Americas I for 2018. Puig provided the clinching PP win, a love & 3 victory over Camila Romero, which finished off an unbeaten week for the Rio Gold medalist which included just four lost games in three singles matches.

In Asia/Oceania, Hong Kong took out Uzbekistan in the Promotion Playoff as teenager Eudice Chong joined with Katherine Ip to defeat Nigina Abduraimova & Akgul Amanmuradova 6-7(1)/6-3/6-3 in the deciding doubles to clinch the 2-1 win. But I'm going with Zhang Ling -- the all-time FC leader in pretty much every category for Hong Kong -- as the week's MVP, as she completed a 4-0 week in singles which included a tie-saving Match #2 win over Sabina Sharipova (4 & 1) in the PP that evened the tie after Amanmurdova had defeated Chong in the opening match.

In the other (rain-marred) Americas II PP, Morales had a hand in both of the points in Guatemala's 2-1 win over Peru, opening with a singles victory over Ferny Angeles Paz, then joining with Daniela Schippers to defeat Bianca Botto & Anastasia Iamachkine 6-3/7-5 in the deciding doubles.


It's that time of year...

1. Gstaad 1st Rd. - Patty Schnyder def. Amra Sadikovic
In a match-up of two wild card Swiss who've since returned to the sport after having announced their retirement, 38-year old Schnyder notched her first MD tour-level victory since Miami in 2011. After saving four MP in the 2nd set TB, Sneaky Patty won on her own seventh MP. She lost in three sets in the 2nd Round to Antonia Lottner, but Schnyder will be up to #233 in the new rankings. She's 1-1 in two $25K ITF finals this season, having retired with the 2-0 lead in the 3rd set in her sole loss.

Patty Schnyder beat Amra Sadikovic 6-4 6-7 7-6 #1round #gstaad #pattyschnyder #victory #wta #tennis

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2. Gstaad Final - Kiki Bertens def. Anett Kontaveit
Fans traditionally get their money's worth on this event's final day. In the 25-year history of the Gstaad WTA tournament -- which had a 20-year hiatus from 1995-2015 -- this is the sixteenth three-set final, including the seventh consecutive, and tenth in the last eleven.

3. Bucharest Final - Irina-Camelia Begu def. Julia Goerges
Swarmettes have now taken the title singles title in three of the four years of the Bucharest Open's existence, with Begu following in the footsteps of 2014 and '16 champion Simona Halep.
4. Gstaad 1st Rd. - Antonia Lottner def. Viktorija Golubic
After her first career WTA MD win was over a #1 seed (Cibulkova) on the grass, the young German makes her second over a defending champion on the clay. Golubic is the eighteenth of the twenty players to attempt, but fail, to defend a WTA singles title in 2017. She's just the third to fall in a 1st Round match, following Falconi (Bogota) and Vandeweghe (Rosmalen).
5. Gstaad 1st Rd. - Anna Kalinskaya def. Rebeka Masarova
Golubic wasn't the only Swiss player to come up a bit short in Gstaad after a successful '16 run. A year ago, a then 16-year old Masarova reached the semifinals in her debut tour event. She put up a fight in the three-setter, but ultimately couldn't overcome squandering a 5-2 1st set lead over the Hordette. Kalinskaya finally won on her seventh MP.
6. Gstaad QF - Kiki Bertens def. Johanna Larsson 6-4/6-4
Gstaad WD Final - Bertens/Larsson def. Golubic/Stojanovic 7-6(4)/4-6 [10-7]
all's well that ends well, as Bertens "made up" for her defeat of her doubles partner in singles by joining with her to take the title over Golubic/Stojanovic. Bertens lost to Golubic in the '16 singles final at the event. So, revenge is a dish best served cold, too.
7. Gstaad 2nd Rd. - Antonia Lottner def. Patty Schnyder
The qualifier takes out the vet, but an attentive Patty had other things on her mind, as well.

8. $15K Targu Jiu WD Final - Samantha Harris/Belinda Woolcock def. Federica Bilardo/Michele Alexandra Zmau
...0-6/6-4 [10-4].
The all-Aussie NCAA duo of Harris (Duke) and Woolcock (recent Florida grad) take out the Italians to win a title in Romania. For Harris, it's her second career challenger WD crown, but it's 2017 NCAA Team Championship MVP Woolcock's first pro title of any kind. She'd been building momenutm, having already reached an ITF singles QF and another doubles final earlier in July.
HM- $60K Stockton Final - Sonya Kenin def. Ashley Kratzer
In a clash of 18-year old Bannerettes, Kenin completes her sweep of the singles/doubles titles at the event, taking the early lead in the USTA's Wild Card Challenge for a berth in the Open women's MD. Kenin, the 2015 U.S. Open girls runner-up, won the multi-tournament WC competition last summer.


Yep, it's *this* time of the year, too. (Geez, Jada is catching up to Kim in height... so her "accessory" days are numbered.)

But when will it be *this* time of the year in the U.S.? Seems long overdue, frankly.

1. $80K Olomouc Final - Bernarda Pera def. KRISTYNA PLISKOVA
The 22-year old Bannerette, after losing four of five '17 finals coming in, grabs the title after taking out both the #1 (Pliskova) and #2 seeds (Hogenkamp) in the event. The Czech had been looking to add an ITF crown to the WTA and 125 Series championships she's claimed in the last ten months (a stretch during which she matched her best slam result with a 3rd Rd. in Melbourne and set a series of new career high rankings, the latest being her #37 standing on Monday). It doesn't quite measure up to her twin's #1 spot on the computer, but at least she's she's got some talking points for the conversation.




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People call me a golden retriever or labrador ...Swipe! Swipe! Swipe! This one is for you @melomizzolo ??

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One day. Two editorials. Three vintage @Porsche cars. It was a good day ??

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Sydney - Johanna Konta. GBR
Hobart - Elise Mertens, BEL
Australian Open - Serena Williams, USA
Bogota - Francesca Schiavone, ITA
[Biel - Marketa Vondrousova, CZE] #
Nurnberg - Kiki Bertens, NED
# - lost no sets in MD, lost 2 in Q-rounds

4 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (4-0)
4 - Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (1-3)
4 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (0-4)
3 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (3-0)
3 - Johanna Konta, GBR (2-1)
3 - Simona Halep, ROU (1-2)

*2017 FINAL WIN PCT. - mult.finals*
1.000 - Elina Svitolina (4-0)
1.000 - Karolina Pliskova (3-0)
1.000 - KIKI BERTENS, NED (2-0)
1.000 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2-0)
0.667 - Johanna Konta (2-1)
0.000 - Caroline Wozniacki (0-4)
0.000 - JULIA GOERGES (0-2)
0.000 - Venus Williams (0-2)
0.250 - Krisitna Mladenovic (1-3)
0.333 - Simona Halep (1-2)
0.333 - ANETT KONTAVEIT (1-2)

Budapest - Timea Babos, HUN (W)
Stuttgart - Laura Siegemund, GER (W)
Prague - Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
Nottingham - Johanna Konta, GBR

Kuala Lumpur - Ash Barty/AUS (W/W)
Istanbul - Elise Mertens/BEL (L/L)
Birmingham - Ash Barty/AUS (L/W)
Mallorca - Anastasija Sevastova/LAT (W/walkover)

NR - Maria Sharapova/RUS (Stuttgart)
#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

5 - Y.Chan/Hingis (1 HC/2 RC/2 GR)
3 - Mattek-Sands/Safarova (1 HC/1 RC/1 GC)
3 - Barty/Dellacqua (1 HC/1 RC/1 GR)
2 - Makarova/Vesnina (1 HC/1 GR)

2013 Shelby Rogers
2014 Nicole Gibbs
2015 Samantha Crawford
2016 Sonya Kenin
2017 ?

And Martina gets her bobblehead... at least I THINK that's supposed to be Martina. Ummm.

BASTAD, SWEDEN [Int'l/Red Clay]
16 Singles Final: Siegemund d. Siniakova
16 Doubles Final: Mitu/Rosolska d. Kerkhove/Marozava
17 Top Seeds: Wozniacki/Sevastova

#1 Wozniacki d. #5 Suarez-Navarro
#3 Garcia d. #2 Sevastova
#1 Wozniacki d. #3 Garcia

Knoll/Krunic d. #3 Mertens/Schuurs

16 Singles Final: Duan d. King
16 Doubles Final: Liang Chen/Lu Jingjing d. Aoyama/Ninomiya
17 Top Seeds: Zhang Shuai/Peng Shuai

#1 Sh.Zhang d. #3 Kr.Pliskova
#2 Peng d. #5 Duan
#2 Peng d. #1 Sh.Zhang

Hozumi/Ozaki d. #2 Aoyama/Chang

And, finally, a sad goodbye to Peter Doohan, the author of maybe THE true Wimbledon upset of recent vintage when he knocked off the "unbeatable" two-time defending champ Boris Becker (age 19) in 1987.

All for now.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 Grass Court Awards

Wimbledon is over. And the grass court season, too. So it's time for a quick review of the top performers on the lawns...

1. Garbine Muguruza, ESP
...lifting her game, and keeping her frustrating "alternate" self at bay while putting together her third slam final run in the last three years, Muguruza became the first Spanish woman to win Wimbledon since 1994, when her coach for this Wimbledon, Conchita Martinez, was the unexpected champion. With her second major win serving as a reminder of how just how special a talent she truly is, will Garbi finally embrace her position and now produce similar results on the regular tour?
2. Martina Hingis, SUI (w/ Chan Yung-Jan/TPE & Jamie Murray/GBR)
...the Swiss Miss, 36, was the thirtysomething woman who walked away with a title at this year's Wimbledon, picking up her sixth mixed doubles crown while partnering Jamie Murray. The title run made up for her and Chan's shocking meltdown in the women's doubles QF at SW19 after leading by a double-break at 4-1 in the 3rd vs. Groenefeld/Peschke, then never winning another game. The loss proved to be Hingis' only defeat on the grass this summer, as she and Chan had swept both the Mallorca & Eastbourne titles before arriving at the All-England Club. She ends up with a combined record of 15-1 over the past month.
3. Venus Williams, USA
...she didn't get the storybook ending of a sixth SW19 Ladies crown, but the 37-year old's appearance in her second 2017 slam singles final officially moves the living legend out of the role of simply being a nostalgia-laced centerpiece at season's celebratory dinner. While she hasn't collected the hardware that a certain Swiss tennis legend (no, not that one... the OTHER one... yeah, HIM) has this season, both have proven themselves to be genuine forces to contend with (yet again) in what most might have thought not that long ago would by now be their post-tennis lives.

4. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
...her Wimbledon was a disappointing one, but the Eastbourne champ still made off with the #1 ranking after Angelique Kerber was mercifully relieved of the responsibility (and can maybe now get back to being Angie again), then Simona Halep (sigh) came up two points shy of clutching the brass ring herself in the Wimbledon QF. Now what will the Czech do when there's a "1" next to her name when she returns to the summer hard court season where she truly changed the trajectory of her career last year?

Photo shooting ??#1

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5. Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS
...a year ago, Vesnina reached the Wimbledon singles semifinals. This year, she and Makarova bull-rushed their way to the doubles title while dropping just one set along the way, becoming the first Russians to lift the SW19 winner's trophy after completing the first double-bagel slam WD final win in forty-six years. They're now three-quarters of the way to a Career Doubles Slam, and if they pick up that needed win in Melbourne they'd become the first women's duo to ever claim titles at all four majors, the Olympics and WTA Finals.
6. Johanna Konta, GBR one put in more work this grass season than Konta, who played all three tune-up weeks -- reaching the Nottingham final and Eastbourne semis -- and then put on the first run to the Wimbledon semis by a British woman since 1978. A true future contender for the title, she'll now carry her momentum to a service on which she's ever better -- hard courts.

7. Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
...Konta may have been a grass court workhorse, but Rybarikova compiled an 18-1 record on all levels this grass season, hitting full stride after her comeback from two '16 surgeries. She won a pair of $100K challengers, reached the Nottingham semis and then put on a magical run to the Wimbledon final four (after never advancing past the 3rd Round in her previous 35 slams) after knocking out would-be #1 Karolina Pliskova in the 2nd Round.

8. Petra Kvitova, CZE
...while she wasn't up to a Wimbledon run despite her role as "favorite" in the Serena-less draw, Petra was still the feel-good story of the grass court season. She won Birmingham in just her second event back from offseason hand surgery after that home invasion knife attack, and managed to legitimately bring out the good in pretty much everyone simply by just showing up. May it be the opening chapter of another lovely story.

9. Anett Kontaveit, EST
...the big-hitting Estonian picked up her first career tour title at Rosmalen, took down Daria Kasatkina at Wimbledon and had Caroline Wozniacki on the ropes at SW19 before squandering a big lead (twice serving for the match) in the 3rd Round.

FIRST WTA TITLE!!!! ?????? @ricohopen #adidastennis #babolat

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10. Donna Vekic, CRO
...finally coming into her own after failing to follow up her early-career teen success, the Croat picked up her first WTA title since 2014 in Nottingham, winning in a three-set final (7-5 3rd) over Johanna Konta in what turned out to be the first of TWO battles against the Brit this grass season (she fell in a 10-8 3rd set in a 3:10 2nd Rounder at SW19, a contest that included nearly 100 combined winners).

2nd @wta title !!! So happy!! ??????????????

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HM- Diede de Groot, NED
...the 20-year old would-be wheelchair superstar finally made her Wimbledon debut, and all she did was dominate the field (losing just fourteen games while never dropping a set) en route to the singles title to pick up first career slam crown, then come within a set of sweeping the event with a victory in the doubles, as well. Oh, well. There's 2018 for that. Or 2019, or 2020, or...


Jelena Ostapenko/LAT, Caroline Garcia/FRA and Shelby Rogers/USA
Ana Konjuh/CRO, Ash Barty/AUS and CiCi Bellis/USA
Arina Rodionova/AUS, Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR and Makoto Ninomiya/Renata Voracova (JPN/CZE)
Anastasija Sevastova/LAT, Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS and Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
Victoria Azarenka/BLR, Petra Martic/CRO and Polona Hercog/SLO
Claire Liu/USA, Ann Li/USA and Kaja Juvan/SLO
Barty/Dellacqua (AUS/AUS), H.Chan/Niculescu (TPE/ROU) and Bellis/Vondrousova (USA/CZE)
Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
Dominika Cibulkova/SVK, Kristina Mladenovic/FRA and Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA

1.Donna Vekic, CRO
2.Maria Sakkari, GRE
3.Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
1.Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
2.Zarina Diyas, KAZ
3.Heather Watson, GBR
4.Tatjana Maria, GER
5.Monique Adamczak/Storm Sanders, AUS/AUS
=FED CUP (Zones)=
1.Valentini Grammatikopoulou, GRE
2.Alexandra Perper, MDA

All right, summer hard court season... whatta YOU got?

...the fortnight came to a close with the Mixed Doubles final on Centre Court. A year ago, Heather Watson (w/ Henri Kontinen) claimed her first slam title under the same circumstances, and was back to attempt to finish off the first successful defense of a slam MX crown since 1997.

But it wasn't meant to be, as top seeded Martina Hingis & Jamie Murray won 6-4/6-4, though the win DID still produce a British champ in the form of the older Murray brother, who won a previous SW19 Mixed title with Jelena Jankovic back in 2007. For Hingis, it's career slam title #23 (5-12-6), tying her with Venus Williams amongst active WTA players, while her sixth MX win puts her in sole possession of first on the active women's list, as well as in a third place tie (w/ Margaret Court) behind Martina Navratilova (10) and Billie Jean King (7) in the Open era. the girls doubles final, the all-Sweet 16 Serbian/Slovenian pair of Olga Danilovic & Kaja Juvan prevented a Bannerette sweep of the titles, defeating #4-seeded Caty McNally & Whitney Osuigwe 6-4/6-3. It's Daniliovic second slam GD title, having won in Paris last year, while for Juvan this title was a nice rebound after her 1st Round loss in singles following her appearance in the Roehampton final (losing to Claire Liu, who'd go on to win at SW19, too) the week before junior play began at Wimbledon. Juvan reached the girls doubles semis (w/ Iga Swiatek) at the AELTC last year.

...there was no U.S. sweep of the junior titles, and there is no "Strawberry Slam" for Diede de Groot, either. At least not this year... but give her time, this was only her first Wimbledon.

In the wheelchair doubles final, Yui Kamiji & Jordanne Whiley claimed their fourth straight SW19 crown with a 2-6/6-3/6-0 (what is it with love close-out sets in the women's finals at this Wimbledon?) victory over #2-seeded de Groot and fellow Dutch Marjolein Buis.

Wimbledon champions!!!!!!!!!! ???????? #4inarowbaby

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For Kamiji, it's career slam #15 (4 WS/11 WD), while Whiley has ten (1 WS/9 WD). They've won nine slams doubles crowns and two WC Masters as a duo. this week's ITF action, two red clay $100K challengers were contested. Jana Cepelova defeated Danka Kovinic in the Budapest final, picking up the biggest singles title of her career. Of note: the Slovak defeated Garbine Muguruza in the 2nd Round of last year's Wimbledon. When you think about it, then, this weekend sort of defines Cepelova's career, in an odd (and almost cruel) way.

????Winner 100k ITF Budapest!!????

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Johanna Larsson took home the title in the $100K Contrexville, France challenger, defeating Tatjana Maria in the final. It's the Swede's biggest title since she won the tour-level event in Bastad in 2015.

Elswhere, on the Sister Watch, Olga Ianchuk got the win at the $25K Moscow tournament, defeating Hordette Valentyna Ivakhhenko in a 7-5 3rd set tie-break in the final.

In Winnipeg, 18-year old Bannerette Caroline Dolehide claimed career title #3 (and was a WD RU) with a victory in the $25K challenger final there over Mayo Hibi of Japan.

Thank you Canada ????????

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And in the $15K event in Catanhede, Portugal, 22-year old Irish NCAAer (Univ. of Miami) Sinead Lohan picked up her second ITF singles crown, defending the title she won a year ago with a win over Brit Alicia Barnett in the final. After dealing with a foot injury last season, Lohan is looking for a bounce back senior campaign this coming season.

IS IT JUST ME? ON DAY 13: ...or does the new Wimbledon boys champ sort of resemble what it'd look like if Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg had a baby?


HMMM... ON DAY 13: Either very cute... or like a scene from "The Shining" X 2.

"Come play with us."

"Redrum"..."Federer"... not that many letters off, you know. "Here's Rogie!"

LIKE ON DAY 13: Vergeer congratulating de Groot...


THE TRUTH ON DAY 13: The real big news that had everyone on the edge of their collective seats on Sunday was the announcement of the thirteenth Doctor Who on BBC to come *after* the men's final...

And after so much handwringing...

Just kidding...

Cue the "end of the universe"...

Good thing there's a Doctor around to help, I guess.

...and, finally...

16 Singles Final: Halep d. Sevastova
16 Doubles Final: J.Moore/Varat.Wongteanchai d. Cadantu/Piter
17 Top Seeds: Sevastova/Suarez-Navarro

#1 Sevastova d. Sasnovich
#7 Begu d. #8 Maria
#1 Sevastova d. #7 Begu

Mertens/Schuurs d. Piter/Zanevska

16 Singles Final: Golubic d. Bertens
16 Doubles Final: Arruabarrena/Knoll d. Beck/Rodina
17 Top Seeds: Garcia/Bertens

#1 Garcia d. #6 Witthoeft
#2 Bertens d. #4 Barthel
#1 Garcia d. #2 Bertens

Bertens/Larsson d. Knoll/Komardina

#14 Garbine Muguruza/ESP def. #10 Venus Williams/USA 7-5/6-0

#2 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) def. #9 H.Chan/Niculescu (TPE/ROU) 6-0/6-0

#1 Hingis/J.Murray (SUI/GBR) def. Watson/Kontinen (GBR/FIN) 6-4/6-4

#3 Claire Liu/USA def. Ann Li/USA 6-2/5-7/6-2

Danilovic/Juvan (SRB/SLO) def. #4 McNally/Osuigwe (USA/USA) 6-4/6-3

Diede de Groot/NED def. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER 6-0/6-4

Kamiji/Whiley (JPN/GBR) def. #2 Buis/De Groot (NED/NED) 2-6/6-3/6-0

2006 Yan Zi & Zheng Jie, CHN
2007 Cara Black, ZIM
2008 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2009 Serena & Venus Williams, USA
2010 Vania King & Yaroslava Shvedova, USA/KAZ
2011 Kveta Peschke, CZE
2012 Lisa Raymond, USA
2013 Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2014 Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
2015 Sania Mirza, IND
2016 Heather Watson, GBR
2017 Yui Kamiji & Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR

2014 AO: Kristina Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor, FRA/CAN
2014 RG: Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Jean-Julien Rojer, GER/NED
2014 WI: Samantha Stosur & Nenad Zimonjic, AUS/SRB
2014 US: Sania Mirza & Bruno Soarex, IND/BRA
2015 AO: Martina Hingis & Leander Paes, SUI/IND
2015 RG: Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Mike Bryan, USA/USA
2015 WI: Martina Hingis & Leander Paes, SUI/IND
2015 US: Martina Hingis & Leander Paes, SUI/IND
2016 AO: Elena Vesnina & Bruno Soares, RUS/BRA
2016 RG: Martina Hingis & Leander Paes, SUI/IND
2016 WI: Heather Watson & Henri Kontinen, GBR/FIN
2016 US: Laura Siegemund & Mate Pavic, GER/CRO
2017 AO: Abigail Spears & Jean Sebastian Cabal, USA/COL
2017 RG: Gaby Dabrowski & Rohan Bopanna, CAN/IND
2017 WI: Martina Hingis & Jamie Murray, SUI/GBR

*SLAM MX TITLES - active*
5...Katarina Srebotnik, SL
3...Sania Mirza, IND
3...Samantha Stosur, AUS
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2...Liezel Huber, USA
2...Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2...Serena Williams, USA
2...Venus Williams, USA
2...Vera Zvonareva, RUS
[Open era]
10 - Martina Navratilova
7 - Billie Jean King
6 - Margaret Court
5 - Cara Black
5 - Lisa Raymond
5 - Anne Smith
5 - Katarina Srebotnik
5 - Helena Sukova
5 - Wendy Turnbull

2009 Korie Homan/Esther Vergeer (NED/NED)
2010 Esther Vergeer/Sharon Walraven (NED/NED)
2011 Esther Vergeer/Sharon Walraven (NED/NED)
2012 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek van Koot (NED/NED)
2013 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek van Koot (NED/NED)
2014 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley (JPN/GBR)
2015 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley (JPN/GBR)
2016 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley (JPN/GBR)
2017 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley (JPN/GBR)

2002 Elke Clijsters & Barbora Strycova, BEL/CZE
2003 Alisa Kleybanova & Sania Mirza, RUS/IND
2004 Victoria Azarenka & Olga Govortsova, BLR/BLR
2005 Victoria Azarenka & Agnes Szavay, BLR/HUN
2006 Alisa Kleybanova & Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS/RUS
2007 Anastasia Pavlychenkova & Urszula Radwanska, RUS/POL
2008 Polona Hercog & Jessica Moore, SLO/AUS
2009 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn & Sally Peers, THA/AUS
2010 Timea Babos & Sloane Stephens, HUN/USA
2011 Eugenie Bouchard & Grace Min, CAN/USA
2012 Eugenie Bouchard & Taylor Townsend, CAN/USA
2013 Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova, CZE/CZE
2014 Tami Grende & Ye Qui Yu, INA/CHN
2015 Dalma Galfi & Fanni Stollar, HUN/HUN
2016 Usue Arconada & Claire Liu, USA/USA
2017 Olga Danilovic & Kaja Juvan, SRB/SLO

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #6 Johanna Konta/GBR
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #14 Garbine Muguruza/ESP
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): #14 Garbine Muguruza/ESP
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Petra Martic/CRO def. #1q Aleksandra Krunic/SRB 3-6/7-6(4)/7-5 (saved 6 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #6 Johanna Konta/GBR def. Donna Vekic/CRO 7-6(4)/4-6/10-8 (3:10; nearly 100 total winners)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - #15 Garbine Muguruza/ESP def. #1 Angelique Kerber/GER 4-6/6-4/6-4
TOP LATE-RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): Mixed Doubles SF - H.Chan/Niculescu d. Ninomiya/Voracova 7-6(4)/4-6/9-7 (2:58)
FIRST VICTORY: Wang Qiang/CHN (def. K.Chang/TPE)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Roberta Vinci/ITA (1st Rd. - lost to Kr.Pliskova/CZE)
REVELATION LADIES: GBR (two women -- Konta & Watson -- in 3rd Rd. for first time since '86; WC Boulter played well vs. McHale)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: CZE (0-6 2nd Rd., including"co-favorites" Kvitova & Ka.Pliskova w/ two other seeds; first time no Czechs in Wimb. 3r since '09, second time since '04)
LAST WILD CARDS STANDING: Heather Watson/GBR and Zarina Diyas/KAZ (3rd Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Johanna Konta (in SF, best British result since 1978)
IT ("Next WC Great?"): Diede de Groot/NED
Ms.OPPORTUNITY: Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
COMEBACK: Victoria Azarenka/BLR
CRASH & BURN: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS (1st Rd. loss to Ar.Rodionova after having 7 MP, one year after Wimb. QF and "Career QF Slam" completed at this year's AO; won two titles '17)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Arina Rodionova/AUS (1st Rd. - qualifier saved 7 MP vs. Pavlyuchenkova; won 9-7 3rd for first career GS MD win; lost 2nd Rd.)
DOUBLES STAR(s): Yui Kamiji & Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR (4th consecutive Wimbledon WC Doubles title)
VETERAN PLAYER (KIMIKO CUP): Venus Williams/USA (37 - oldest finalist since 1994)
June 26 official: Eastbourne DC Dominika Cibulkova loses opening match to WC Heather Watson; 4 LL's win MD matches (one LL vs. LL match-up); LL Tsvetana Pironkova advances to 2nd Rd. w/ 1st Rd. bye when Petra Kvitova withdraws, gets 2nd Rd. win
Day 3 observed: On "Flying Ant Day," newly-emerged insects swarm the AELTC grounds. Meanwhile, six women's seed fall, including two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
"Alternate" Rad Day (Day 4): In muggy conditions, four women's seeds (and four men's) fall, including "favorite" #3 Karolina Pliskova, as no Czech woman reach the 3rd Round for the first time in eight years. Bethanie Mattek-Sands suffers a devastating knee injury. Aga Radwanska saves two MP vs. Christina McHale to advance.

All for Wimbledon.