Sunday, May 20, 2018

Wk.20- A Tale of Two

Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep's paths are crossing more and more, at ever more important times. After another face off between the two on a big clay court stage, the Ukrainian will head into Paris in high spirits.

But one gets the idea that if either is to finally experience a breakthrough that leads to a maiden slam title run in Paris in a few weeks time, it very well could come at the expense of the other.

Arguably (or not), Svitolina and Halep are the two most accomplished players on tour without a slam singles win. While Halep has won more titles (16 to 12), climbed higher in the rankings (#1 vs. #3) and shined brighter at the slams thus far (3 slam finals, 2 SF and 5 QF vs. 3 QF), she's also butted her head against the major title (and major moment) ceiling enough times over the course of her career to have scars from the experience. While she's done well to cover over many of them, they're still there, and will continue to linger in the background of her psyche until she finally lifts one of the four biggest trophies in the sport. If she ever does, that is.

Svitolina has yet to get as close to such a win as Halep has, though it would seem to be a logical development in her career in the near future. But can we be SURE of that?

Look around, there are even more Latvian Thunder-esque teenyboppers bouncing around the tour now than there were a year ago, each one of them looking to swipe the hoped-for glory of players who've been seeking it for many years and take it home as an early-career present to themselves on which to build their bright future.

Svitolina, for her part, has gradually worked her way up the latter, perfecting many of the attributes of a champion, while still striving to eradicate her sore spots. Once she gets into position to be one win away from a title, she's about as spot-on as any player on tour. Her 6-0/6-4 win over Halep in the Italian Open final in Rome on Sunday, which finished off her second successful title defense of the season (and third of her career), gives her a 12-2 record in WTA singles finals for her career, including an eight-match final winning streak that has remained spotless since she first reached the Top 10 early in the '17 season. In fact, she's 16-0 in SF/F matches during the span. Her win over Halep was her sixth over a world #1 since her upset of Serena Williams at the Rio Olympics in the summer of '16.

She knows how to win, but she's still stuck in the same "waiting room" next to Halep when it somes to the majors.

Over the past two seasons, it's been at this time of year that their paths have intersected. Over the stretch, Svitolina has gone 4-1 against the Romanian, including defeating her to claim both her Rome titles, last year coming back from a set down to defeat Halep after she'd slowed down after rolling her ankle, then this time around dominating her, though Halep again was treated for a medical issue (lower back) during the match. But when their slam dreams were on the line in Paris in last year's version of Roland Garros, it was Halep who hustled to win from behind, overcoming a 6-3/5-2 deficit, and Svitolina twice serving for her maiden slam semifinal berth and holding a MP, before the Ukrainian eventually collapsed in an ugly 3rd set lost at love. It would have been seen as THE stepping stone victory of Halep's career had SHE not gone on to also lose a set and 3-0 lead (then 3-1 advantage in the 3rd) vs. Alona Ostapenko in the final.

World #1 Halep hasn't beaten Svitolina since that win in Roland Garros, losing three straight to the world #4. Svitolina has won five titles over the past year, while Halep has just one. But the Romananian has also gone on to again roll her ankle at the Australian Open, yet survive being multiple MP down in two matches en route to the final, where she lost in three to Caroline Wozniacki. Svitolina, for all she's accomplished, has still yet to reach a slam semifinal.

While their paths have been different, their ultimate goals remain the same.

Will Halep's frustrating, hard-knock road get her into the slam winner's circle first, or will Svitolina's patient, mostly steady and lacking in many CRUSHINGLY emotional losses (with one exception) approach prevail? Could another near-miss in Paris become a whispering albatross on HER shoulder as time goes on?

Svitolina would certainly have to feel good heading into Paris with another Rome title under her belt, but Halep knows this is precisely where she found herself a year ago, only this time she'll be seeded #1 and with a handful of clutch moments upon which to draw and (with luck) drown out some of the noise between her ears left over from her less desirable "Cliffs of Simona" moments for which she's so known.

Their stories are just two of many heading into the season's second major, but they very well could turn out to be the most compelling... especially if one woman's dreams stand squarely in the way, on the other side of a single net, of that of the other.

It's happened before. It very well could happen again, and soon.

If so, may the best woman (on that particular day) win... or, you know, ultimately be the one to go on and fall to the latest member of Generation PDQ looking to hog the spotlight.

ROME, ITALY (Premier 5/Red Clay)
S: Elina Svitolina/UKR def. Simona Halep/ROU 6-0/6-4
D: Ash Barty/Demi Schuurs (AUS/NED) d. Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova/Barbora Strycova (CZE/CZE) 6-4/6-4

...Svitolina is SO close to taking her place as a full-fledged member of the tour's elite corps of slam contenders. She's got the brains, maturity, variety and improving on-court movement to threaten anyone. Hence all her #1 (6), Top 5 (15) and Top 10 (24) wins and sterling record in tournament finals. Not too many players successfully defend title these days, but she's already done it TWICE in 2018. Svitolina's run in Rome this time around included wins over Petra Martic, Dasha Kasatkina (after dropping a love 1st), Angelique Kerber (her sixth straight over the German since late '16, three when she was ranked #1), Anett Kontaveit and Simona Halep in a rematch of last year's Italian Open final.

2016 Serena Williams (Olympics 3rd Rd.)
2016 Angelique Kerber (Bejing 3rd Rd.)
2017 Angelique Kerber (Brisbane QF)
2017 Angelique Kerber (Fed Cup WG PO)
2017 Simona Halep (WTA Finals rr)
2018 Simona Halep (Rome Final)

Of course, before heading off to Paris, Elina had to first pose for photos with a bunch of naked guys...

RISERS: Alona Ostapenko/LAT and Dasha Gavrilova/AUS
...we'll soon see how Ostapenko will handle heading to Paris as the defending Roland Garros champion. Thus far, it's been an up-and-down season for Latvian Thunder, as a slow start was bolstered by a doubles title, some strong Fed Cup play and a singles final in Miami. She's had a similarly slow-building clay season, with a 2-0 Fed Cup record joined by a single win in Stuttgart and none in Madrid. Last week in Rome, Ostapenko defeated Zhang Shuai, came back from a set down against Johanna Konta and then battled Maria Sharapova for three sets in a 3:11 3rd Round match in which she had to battle against serving woes while still competing down to the wire in the top match of the week.

In all, it was both an encouraging and exasperating affair for AO. After squandering four 1st set SP, she denied Sharapova when she served for the set, committed two DF when twice up a mini-break in the TB, then saved a SP en route to taking the 1st, after all. In the 2nd, she broke the Russian to get back on serve at 4-3, only to give the break back a game later as Sharapova soon knotted the match. In the 3rd, Sharapova was two points away from the title before Ostapenko got back on serve, but she nearly blew a 40/15 lead when down 4-5 (forcing her to save two MP) before getting the hold, only to then drop the match by being broken in the 12th game of the 7-5 set. The loss dropped her to 5-3 on clay this season. After injuring her leg while doing an on-court leg split at the end of a point vs. Sharapova, Ostapenko still came back later and joined with Sorana Cirstea to defeat Babos/Mladenovic and reach the semis. Doubles seemed to spark Ostapenko's singles play earlier this year, and her good results have given her the chance to play with Elena Vesnina at this year's RG, as the Russian's "alternate" partner while whatever needs to be worked out with Ekaterina Makarova works itself out (or doesn't work itself out... who's to know?). Either way, Ostapenko's result here will lift to another new career high of #5.

Meanwhile, Gavrilova once again found success in Rome, picking up a Top 10 win at the Italian Open for a fourth straight year. Three years ago she defeated #7 Ana Ivanovic en route to the semifinals as a qualifier, then she followed up with a win over #5 Simona Halep a year later, then #8 Svetlana Kuznetsova (in a QF run) in '17. This time around, after a win over Natalia Vikhlyantseva (ending her 3-match clay court losing streak), Gavrilova downed #3 Garbine Muguruza in the 2nd Round, saving two MP in a 3:08 match that finished up after 2 a.m.. It was the Aussie's first Top 5 win since 2016 (Kerber/Hong Kong), and first over a Top 10 player since last summer in New Haven (Radwanska). Her run ended when she was forced back out onto the court the next afternoon, where she lost to Maria Sharapova in straight sets. The two-win week was Gavrilova's first since her Acapulco semifinal (her second in her first three events of '18) the first week of March. A year ago she reached the Strasbourg final (losing to Sam Stosur), and she's the #2 seed behind countrywoman Ash Barty this week.

SURPRISES: Danielle Collins/USA, Isabelle Wallace/AUS and Raveena Kingsley/USA just her second clay event of the season (after a 1st Round loss in Madrid last week following a successful Q-run), Collins reached the Rome MD after yet another trip through qualifying that included wins over Varvara Lepchenko and Prague semifinalist Camila Giorgi. Her MD win over Sorana Cirstea was the first of her career in a tour-level clay event. She lost a round later to Dasha Kasatkina, but she'll climb to yet another career high (#44) this week. The former NCAA champ is 25-8 overall in '18, after having ended '17 on a 20-5 run.

And after her tennis was over...

How do y’all do your off days!? ????????????????? #YOLO

A post shared by Danielle Collins (@danimalcollins) on

The last of eight wild card berths into the Roland Garros main draw was determined in Paris on Sunday with the eight-woman playoff put together by Tennis Australia. Winning the spot was the 21-year old, Scotland-born Wallace, who is now in her second stint representing Australia (AUS 2011-13, GBR 2013-15, AUS 2015-present) after originally moving Down Under at age 10. A one & love win over Destanee Aiava was followed by a three-set defeat of Lizette Cabrera to reach the playoff final, where she defeated Olivia Rogowska 6-1/5-7/6-3. After a breakout '17 campaign in which she went 5-0 in ITF finals, Wallace will make her slam debut at RG in about a week.

In Gothenburg, Sweden it was 19-year Kingsley picking up her maiden pro singles title in a $15K challenger. The Bannerette, an LSU signee a couple of years ago (though she never attended the university), reached the Top 300 in '16, but injuries have slowed her progress ever since. She entered the week ranked #761 after having played just one other match in '18. This week, though, she knocked of #5-seeded Karen Barritza, #3 Irina Ramialison before offing #4 Mirjam Bjorklund in the 6-2/6-4 final. Of some note, Kingsley's final match of last season came in a $25K event in Oklahoma last November, losing the then #179-ranked Danielle Collins in the 1st Round.

VETERAN: Simona Halep/ROU was both a good and disappointing week for Halep. Returning to the site of her Rome final loss to Elina Svitolina a year ago, she once again managed to do enough to hold onto her #1 ranking (and #1 seed for a second straight slam) with wins over Naomi Osaka (losing 1 game), Caroline Garcia and Maria Sharapova, prevailing in three sets for her second straight win over the Russian since losing to her in the 1st Round of the U.S. Open last summer. In a final rematch with Svitolina, though, she was curiously tentative in the 1st set, losing it at love in less than twenty minutes, was met with a "you figure it out" response from coach Darren Cahill as things were sliding away, was treated for a lower back injury in the 2nd set, and was ultimately outclassed by the Ukrainian in a love & 4 loss that still leaves her with just a single small title (Shenzhen in January) in her column over the course of the 12-month span for which she's ranked #1. She's 1-6 since her last big title run in Madrid last spring though, granted, the stretch includes two slam finals, as well as big event runner-up results in Rome (2), Cincinnati and Beijing. But, as usual, Halep's season will be determined by how things go in her quest for an elusive maiden slam crown. She was the "performer of the event" in Melbourne, but ultimately came up short in the final vs. Caroline Wozniacki. "Part Deux" debuts in about a week.

COMEBACK: Maria Sharapova/RUS
...things are looking up for Sharapova. After an encouraging QF run in Madrid that included a win over Kristina Mladenovic and a three-set loss to Kiki Bertens, the Russian doubled down on her success in Rome, reaching the semifinals of the event she won in 2011, '12 and '15.

But maybe more important than her end result was how she got there. After months of stop-and-start periods interrupted by injury, as well as a not-unrelated string of three-set defeats (0-4 in '18), Sharapova was finally healthy enough to reel off four wins in a week for the first time since her only post-suspension title run in Tianjin in October. She also notched her first three-set win since Beijing last fall with a 1st Round victory over Ash Barty, then got another (def. Dominika Cibulkova) one round later and, after a straight sets shutdown of Dasha Gavrilova, still *another* three-set victory in the QF over Alona Ostapenko, the defeat of whom in an ultra-exciting 3:11 contest gave Sharapova her first Top 10 of the season. That win qualified her for a seed at Roland Garros one year after the French Federation denied her a wild card entry into the event. She finally fell against Simona Halep, dropping her second in a row to the world #1 since defeating her in the 1st Round of the U.S. Open last year, but only after pushing her to three sets at the end of a week that saw her rack up more than a dozen hours on the court.

If she's finally healthy, the past two weeks could prove to be a turning point for Sharapova as she tries to climb back up the WTA ladder. Naturally, the possible moment comes just as Serena Williams is edging her way back on tour. Some things just never seems to change, huh?

FRESH FACES: Anett Kontaveit/EST and Maria Sakkari/GRE
...a year ago, 22-year old Kontaveit qualified at the Italian Open and notched her first career #1 win over Angelique Kerber in the 2nd Round en route to the QF, then a few weeks later made her Top 50 debut. This week the Estonian finally completes a push into the Top 25 following a semifinal run in Rome that included straight sets wins over CoCo Vandeweghe and Svetlana Kuznetsova, then then back-to-back Top 10 victories in straights over Venus Williams (she also defeated her in Madrid) and Caroline Wozniacki, her third and fourth Top 10 wins of 2018. She ultimately fell in two in the SF against defending and eventual repeat champ Elina Svitolina, but heads to Paris with a 9-4 mark on clay this season, as well as a 7-3 overall '18 mark vs. Top 20 players.

Fresh off a Fed Cup starring role and Istanbul semifinal, with a brief appearance in Madrid (a loss to Kiki Bertens) acting as a palate cleanser, Sakkari (gravity-defying hair bun and all) was back at it in Rome. A week after losing to Bertens, she defeated the Dutch woman in three sets in the 1st Round, then followed up with her first career Top 5 victory over Karolina Pliskova, a win marred by a poor performance by the chair umpire late in a 7-5 3rd set and a destructive one from the Czech (literally, as in a jagged hole beaten in the umpire's chair by a racket after the match). The 22-year old Greek lost to Angelique Kerber in the 3rd Round, but will make her Top 40 debut this week.

She also was the winner of what could very well turn out to be the point of the month...

DOWN: Latisha Chan/TPE
...Chan will narrowly hold onto her #1 doubles ranking this week, but only because of the withdrawal of Makarova/Vesnina from the Rome doubles draw due to Makarova's illness. The surprise of the Russian duo appearing on the Roland Garros participants lists with *different* partners could prove to help the Taiwanese veteran hold on for a little longer, as well, but whether it be Makarova, Vesnina or another of the women ranked behind Chan in the doubles rankings, her exit from the top spot seems imminent. With titles in Mallorca, Eastbourne, Cincinnati, the U.S. Open, Wuhan and Beijing (all won with Martina Hingis in '17), as well as another in Hong Kong with her sister Angel, still to be defended, Chan could be looking at her worst season-ending doubles finish since 2014 (she was #36, followed by by #7, #12 and #1 finishes from 2015-17) unless she finds some consistent success, or at least a consistent partner.

2017 Rome champ Chan's 1st Round loss with Bethanie Mattek-Sands (the pair went out in the QF in Madrid), currently without regular parnter Lucie Safarova, is but the latest hit to her season, which began with a new (but ultimately short-lived) partnership with Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova. They went 9-5 (w/ one final appearance) before ending things, and Chan (also 3-2 with her sister) is just 14-9 on the season after posting a 53-7 mark with Hingis (w/ nine titles) alone last season.
ITF PLAYERS: Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK and Vera Lapko/BLR
...the now 20-year old Kuzmova continues to make a name for herself in 2018. After having already been a Fed Cup star, Budapest semifinalist and won her biggest pro singles title ($60K Shenzhen in March) this year, the Slovak added a few more lines to her career bio this week. As an unseeded member of the draw in the $100K challenger in Trnava, Kuzmova thrilled the Slovak crowd by storming to another biggest career crown, defeating Ons Jabeur then knocking off four straight seeds -- #5 Madison Brengle, #1 Johanna Larsson, #8 Ekaterina Alexandrova and #3 Veronica Cepedge Royg in a three-set final -- en route to the title. After hovering just outside the Top 100 in recent weeks, Kuzmova will finally make the official leap for the first time on Monday.

19-year old Lapko, too, has seen her career grow in leaps and bounds this season. A tour singles semifinal run (and doubles final) in Lugano was followed by a starring role in Belarus' Fed Cup win last month. She kept her roll going with a career-best $100K title run in Khimki, Russia and $100K doubles final in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France. This week, she claimed the title at the $60K Saint-Gauden event in France, her sixth career ITF win, with a 6-2/6-4 victory in the final over Quirine Lemoine, who has hit the ground running in '18 after being out since mid-September (the 26-year old Dutch woman, playing in her biggest career final, has gone 15-4 since returning to the court in March). Lapko will rise to a career-high #77 on Monday.

JUNIOR STARS: Zheng Qinwen/CHN, Liang En-shuo/TPE and Emma Raducanu/GBR Santa Croce, Zheng (jr. #18) picked up her second Grade 1 event win of the year, following up her Nonthaburi run (and Sarawak G1 semi) in March with a title in Italy. The 15-year old #2 seed, she defeated Malta's Helene Pellicano in the QF, then took down #16-seeded Pole Stefania Rogozinska Dzik in a 5-7/6-1/6-2 final. The 16-year old Pole, who'd posted a pair of G2 finals in '18, had never before won more than two matches in a G1 or larger event before upsetting #1-seed Lulu Sun and last week's G1 finalist Sada Nahimana this week.

A runner-up in her first pro singles final in Goyang a week ago, AO junior singles/doubles champ Liang reached a second straight final in the $25K challenger in Incheon, South Korea, picking up her first pro singles title and climbing 300 spots in the next rankings to reach #603 on the WTA computer. The 17-year old defeated Korea's Han Na-lae 6-2/0-6/7-5 in the final.

Meanwhile, 15-year old Toronto-born Brit Raducanu won her maiden pro singles title in just her third career event, taking the $15K Tiberias title in Israel without losing a set in her six matches, defeating Helene Scholsen 7-6(3)/6-4 in the final. She's 13-2 this season in pro events and 20-0 on the junior circuit, where she won four titles (G2/G3) and entered the week as the #52-ranked girl.

DOUBLES: Ash Barty/Demi Schuurs, AUS/NED
...with other doubles duo in decline, a period of interruption or kaput (who can ever know?), might we have the beginnings of a new "power twosome?"

With the retirement of Casey Dellacqua, 22-year old Barty is without the main partner she's had throughout her pro career. Unlike some players who've had singles success, which Barty has increasingly had over the past year, the Aussie has seemed to thrive and feed off playing BOTH disciplines, sweeping both titles last year in Kuala Lumpur and reaching dual finals in Birmingham. In March, she joined with CoCo Vandeweghe in Miami to win her first WTA title without Dellacqua by her side (they were 5-7 in career tour-level finals, going 0-4 in the slam championship matches, coming up one win short of winning all four majors in something that I suppose could be called a "Career Doubles Runner-Up Slam"), but Vandeweghe, while a good doubles player, may not be up to committing to regular doubles outings while her singles career takes precedent. 24-year old Schuurs, a doubles specialist who hasn't played a singles match since 2015, came into Rome having reached eight tour finals with five different partners, winning a pair of '18 titles with Kiki Bertens and Elise Mertens.

In their first event together this week, Barty & Schuurs claimed the Italian Open crown, defeating the likes of Prague champs/Stuttgart finalists Melichar & Peschke, winning a pair of 3rd set TB's over Kudryavtseva/Voracova and Gavrilova/Hsieh, then taking out Cirstea/Ostapenko (SF) and Hlavackova/Strycova (F) in straight sets to emerge as champs. Schuurs' three-title season now stands alone atop the 2018 WTA heap.

While they'd never played together before (and never even faced off in juniors, though they're only two years apart), Barty & Schuurs have been familiar opponents in the past. This year alone, Barty/Dellacqua faced off with Schuurs twice, losing to her (w/ Bertens) in Brisbane, then defeating her (w/ Mertens) in Melbourne. Last year, Schuurs (w/ Mertens at Wimbledon, and Flipkens in New Haven) went 0-2 vs. the pair, after having also lost (w/ Wacanno) to them in another match back in 2014.

With a series of one-off or first-time duos winning several big titles in '18, the usual series of break-ups (Hsieh/Peng, again), Latisha Chan set to lose her #1 ranking and having had a difficult time finding a consistently successful partnership after Martina Hingis' retirement, Mattek-Sands' injury and Safarova's illness issues having put Team Bucie sightings on the endangered tour species list over the past year, and now potential new #1's Makarova/Vesnina, a week after winning Madrid, signing up for Roland Garros with different partners (whether it's a true "split," or simply a temporary result of a combination Makarova's physical questions and Vesnina's desire to *definitely* be able to have a partner for Paris remains to be seen), there is a decided "power vacuum" in women's doubles at the moment.

Enter Ash & Demi?

Behind the eyes, you could see it even then. Vinci was *always* Vinci.

1. Rome QF - Maria Sharapova def. Alona Ostapenko
One of those situations where all the hype was worth it. In their first meeting, the two RG champions, one past and one reigning, battled for 3:11 (tied for the longest clay match this season with Mladenovic/Kontaveit in Stuttgart) in a back-and-forth battle that was in question until the final game. Ostapenko nearly blew a 5-2 1st set lead, failing to secure four SP on Sharapova's serve and ultimately seeing the Russian serve for the set at 6-5, then hold a SP at 6-5 in the TB before the Latvian (who'd twice DF'd when up 3-1 and 4-3) took the breaker 8-6. Ostapenko threatened to erase Sharapova's break lead in the 2nd, only to hand it back after getting things back on serve at 4-3. Sharapova maintained a similar break lead at 4-2 in the 3rd, and got within two points of the win at 5-3 while Ostapenko dealt with a leg injury that occurred when she did a rare (for her, at least) end-of-point split. The 20-year old saved two MP down 5-4 and managed to get things to 5-5, only to see Sharapova get the break to close the match two games later.

In the end, Sharapova won 128 points to Ostapenko's 126, while the Latvian led 34-32 in winners (and had 61 UE's to the Russian's 49). Needless to say, anyone who lists Sharapova as a potential RG "dark horse" will be using her performance in this one as their proverbial leg to stand on.

2. Rome 2nd Rd. - Dasha Gavrilova def. Garbine Muguruza
The Aussie saves two MP (Garbi DF'd on the first) and overcomes a 4-0 3rd set deficit to take out the world #3 in 3:08, closing out the match after two o'clock in the morning. "Challenge accepted... signed, the U.S. Open."
3. Rome SF - Simona Halep def. Maria Sharapova
Hopefully Halep got all the "mojo" she'll need for Paris from this one, because she didn't seem to have much more to give in the final. Her come-from-behind win over a surely-tiring Sharapova -- all three of their clay match-ups have gone three sets, with their '14 meetings in Madrid and Paris going to Maria -- featured a Halep break for a 3-1 lead in the 3rd, then a quickly dropped serve that allowed the Russian air to breathe once again. Sharapova held for 4-4 from a love/30 hole, but Halep's break two games later closed out the match and set off a truly epic Si-mo-na celebration.

It's Halep's second straight win over Sharapova, both since her 1st Round U.S. Open loss under the lights on Ashe. She's still just 2-7 in the h2h, though.

4. Rome Final - Elina Svitolina def. Simona Halep
The 19-minute 1st set was ugly, with Halep winning just eight total points and 15% of her 1st serve points, committing 11 UE's and having zero BP opportunities. She rebounded somewhat in the 2nd, but after falling down a break at 2-1 her only highlight was probably a hold in a game in which she staved off a Svitolina BP for a 5-2 lead.

5. Rome QF - Elina Svitolina def. Angelique Kerber
By now, Angie surely sees visions of Elina in her nightmares, right?
6. Rome 1st Rd. - Aleksandra Krunic def. Roberta Vinci 2-6/6-0/6-3
Rome 1st Rd. - Dominika Cibulkova def. Francesca Schiavone 6-1/6-7(5)/6-2
Rome 1st Rd. - Timea Babos def. Sara Errani 6-3/7-6(6)
eight months after being sorry to be the player to end Kimiko Date's career in Tokyo, Krunic finds herself in the same positin with Vinci in Rome.

Call it the oddity of the sport, or maybe it's just Italian synchronicity, but it seems sort of fitting that the two remaining members of the Quartet also bowed out in Rome in the opening round. One last time, they were one for all, and all for one. In that way, they'll always live on as a multi-headed bundle of emotions, camaraderie and success (hint-hint, HoF).

7. Rome 1st Rd. - Maria Sharapova def. Ash Barty
She'd go on to get two more during the week, but this was Sharapova's first three-set win since October. She won 22 consecutive three-setters on clay from 2012-14.
8. Japan Open Final - Yui Kamiji d. Sabine Ellerbrock
Wheelchair #1 Kamiji takes another title without losing a set, running her springtime winning streak to twelve matches and three titles since her AO final loss to Diede de Groot, who briefly overtook her for #1 at the end of March and herself has won eleven straight singles matches. Kamiji is also riding a 13-win, three-title doubles streak having not lost since the U.S. Open semifinal last summer. With Kamiji the reigning '17 RG champ, the #1 ranking will be in play once again in Paris.

9. Rome 3rd Rd. - Alona Ostapenko def. Johanna Konta
Konta posted wins over Rybarikova and Hsieh before taking the 1st set from Ostapenko, making this the first two-win event for the Brit since Miami.
10. $100K Santa Croce G1 Final - Yasmine Mansouri/Diane Parry def. Viktoriya Kanapatskaya/Oksana Selekhmeteva
...6-2/2-6 [10-6].
A week after her $100K singles win in Morocco, Mansouri wins the doubles side of the equation with fellow Pastry Parry in Italy

Hmmm, how about, "If that's all you were going to get, I say you should have REALLY gotten your money's worth... but that's just me."

1. Rome 2nd Rd. - Maria Sakkari def. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
A great win for Sakkari, but one that will be remembered for umpire Marta Mrozinska wrongly failing to overturn a clear line call. Still, though she had a right to be frustrated and angry, Pliskova's act of attacking the umpire's chair with her racket following the match, smashing a hole in its side as Sakkari winced and did her best to avoid any shrapnel was a step too far.

As things turned out, Pliskova was issued a "four-digit" fine, which she doubled and is giving to charity, while the umipre has been barred from working Roland Garros or Wimbledon. How Pliskova, no matter the circumstances, managed to avoid even a brief suspension is a little baffling, as neither tour can condone such blatant disrespect, property destruction and potentially-dangerous actions from a player on a court. There's an indefinable "imaginary" line that is nonetheless very recognizable when it's crossed by a player (see Jared Donaldson, who also got off lucky), and if such behavior is normalized, well, to offer some form of comparison, we've been getting an almost daily, first-hand crash course in the exasperating brushing off of degenerating values here in the U.S. for over two years now, and no one wants to try to guess where things might go in THAT area when we look into the future on that front, either.

I'm just sayin'.

At least no one can continue to wrongly say that Karolina doesn't play with any noticeable emotion anymore, though. So there's that.
2. Rome 2nd Rd. - VENUS WILLIAMS def. Elena Vesnina
While Vesnina served for the match here, Venus notched her first win over her since 2015, after back-to-back losses to the Russian in Miami (2016) and Indian Wells (2017). Vesnina also defeated Williams at Wimbledon in 2012, and Cincinnati in 2013.
3. Rome 3rd Rd. - Anett Kontaveit def. VENUS WILLIAMS
Kontaveit's second win over Venus in TWO weeks. That can't be a club with TOO many members over the course of a two-decade career, can it?
4. Rome 1st Rd. - NAOMI OSAKA def. Victoria Azarenka
Ummm. Yeah. Off to RG.
...3-6/7-5 [13-11].
Kichenok on Kichenok crime, with a Rodionovan accomplice.

I can't prove it, but I'm almost certain that the auditory qualities related to listening to Simona Halep say her own name on a continual loop MUST have the ability to hypnotize an individual.

Question: Does Simona Halep have kids?
Answer (by Simona Halep): "As far as I know, no."

**2018 WTA TITLES**
4 - Petra Kvitova, CZE
3 - Elise Mertens, BEL

**2018 WTA FINALS**
4 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (4-0)
3 - Elise Mertens, BEL (3-0)

Elise Mertens, BEL - Hobart 2017-18
Elina Svitolina, UKR - Dubai 2017-18
Lesia Tsurenko, UKR - Acapulco 2017-18
[lost in final]
Shenzhen - Katerina Siniakova, CZE
Saint Petersburg- Kristina Mladenovic, FRA

2 - Elise Mertens = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Petra Kvitova = Hard,Red Clay
[finals on most surfaces]
2 - Julia Goerges = Hard,Green Clay
2 - Elise Mertens = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Petra Kvitova = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Mihaela Buzarnescu = Hard,Red Clay
2 - Kiki Bertens = Green Clay,Red Clay
2 - ELINA SVITOLINA = Hard,Red Clay
2 - SIMONA HALEP = Hard,Red Clay

**2015-18 WTA FINALS**
16 - 5/3/5/3 - SIMONA HALEP (8-8)
15 - 5/8/1/1 - Angelique Kerber (8-7)
15 - 3/2/8/2 - Caroline Wozniacki (6-9)
14 - 6/4/3/1 - Karolina Pliskova (7-7)
12 - 4/3/1/4 - Petra Kvitova (10-2)
12 - 1/3/5/3 - ELINA SVITOLINA (10-2)
11 - 5/5/1/0 - Serena Williams (8-3)
[2015-18 SF]
27 - SIMONA HALEP - 9/6/7/5
25 - Angelique Kerber - 8/11/3/3
25 - Karolina Pliskova - 8/6/8/3
22 - Caroline Wozniacki - 7/4/8/3
22 - ELINA SVITOLNA - 6/7/6/3

3...DEMI SCHUURS, NED [Brisbane,Hobart,ROME]
2...Gaby Dabrowski, CAN [Sydney,Doha]
2...Elise Mertens, BEL [Hobart,Lugano]

3...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS (1-2)
3...Elena Vesnina, RUS (1-2)
3...Andreja Klepac, SLO (0-3)
3...Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP (0-3)

Fiona Ferro/FRA (21)
Myrtille Georges/FRA (27)
Amandine Hesse/FRA (25)
Chloe Paquet/FRA (23)
Pauline Parmentier/FRA (32)
Jessika Ponchet/FRA (21)
Taylor Townsend/USA (22)
Isabelle Wallace/USA (21)

2016 Arina Rodionova
2017 Jamiee Fourlis
2018 Isabelle Wallace

Doha - Petra Kvitova, CZE
Indian Wells - Naomi Osaka, JPN
Miami - Sloane Stephens, USA
Madrid - Petra Kvitova, CZE
Rome - Elina Svitolina, UKR
Canada - x
Cincinnati - x
Wuhan - x
Beijing - x
Doha - Dabrowski/Ostapenko, CAN/LAT
Indian Wells - Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE
Miami - Barty/Vandeweghe, AUS/USA
Madrid - Makarova/Vesnina, RUS/RUS
Rome - Barty/Schuurs, AUS/NED
Canada - x
Cincinnati - x
Wuhan - x
Beijing - x

**2018 WEEKS AT #1**
1/1: Simona Halep
1/8: Simona Halep
1/15: Simona Halep
1/22: Simona Halep
1/29: Caroline Wozniacki
2/5: Caroline Wozniacki
2/12: Caroline Wozniacki
2/19: Caroline Wozniacki
2/26: Simona Halep
3/5: Simona Halep
3/12: Simona Halep
3/19: Simona Halep
3/26: Simona Halep
4/2: Simona Halep
4/9: Simona Halep
4/16: Simona Halep
4/23: Simona Halep
4/30: Simona Halep
5/7: Simona Halep
5/14: Simona Halep
5/21: Simona Halep



And Alize Cornet prevails thanks to a reasonable, independent tribunal in the latest attempt by the sport's we'll-bend-over-backwards-to-try-to-punish-a-player-no-matter-to-what-lengths-we-must-go, self-aggrandizing "anti-doping" agencies, who proved once again in this case that they're more about overzealously dispensing punishment to justify their own existance than actually bothering to determine whether or not such justice might need be dispensed in the first place.

1987 Carling Bassett def. Sandra Cecchini 6–3,6–4
1988 Sandra Cecchini def. Judith Wiesner 6–3,6–0
1989 Jana Novotna def. Patricia Tarabini 6–1,6–2
1990 Mercedes Paz def. Ann Grossman 6–2,6–3
1991 Radka Zrubakova def. Rachel McQuillan 7–6(3),7–6(3)
1992 Judith Wiesner def. Naoko Sawamatsu 6–1,6–3
1993 Naoko Sawamatsu def. Judith Wiesner 4–6,6–1,6–3
1994 Mary Joe Fernandez def. Gabriela Sabatini 2–6,6–4,6–0
1995 Lindsay Davenport def. Kimiko Date 3–6,6–1,6–2
1996 Lindsay Davenport def. Barbara Paulus 6–3,7–6(6)
1997 Steffi Graf def. Mirjana Lucic 6–2,7–5
1998 Irina Spirlea def. Julie Halard-Decugis 7–6(5),6–3
1999 Jennifer Capriati def. Elena Likhovtseva 6–1,6–3
2000 Silvija Talaja def. Rita Kuti-Kis 7–5,4–6,6–3
2001 Silvia Farina Elia def. Anke Huber 7–5,0–6,6–4
2002 Silvia Farina Elia def. Jelena Dokic 6–4,3–6,6–3
2003 Silvia Farina Elia def. Karolina Sprem 6–3,4–6,6–4
2004 Claudine Schaul def. Lindsay Davenport 2–6,6–0,6–3
2005 Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Marta Domachowska 6–4,6–3
2006 Nicole Vaidisova def. Peng Shuai 7–6(7),6–3
2007 Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Amelie Mauresmo 6–4,4–6,6–4
2008 Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Katarina Srebotnik 4–6,7–6(4),6–0
2009 Aravane Rezai def. Lucie Hradecka 7–6(2),6–1
2010 Maria Sharapova def. Kristina Barrois 7–5,6–1
2011 Andrea Petkovic def. Marion Bartoli 6–4,1–0 ret.
2012 Francesca Schiavone def. Alize Cornet 6–4,6–4
2013 Alize Cornet def. Lucie Hradecka 7–6(4),6–0
2014 Monica Puig def. Sílvia Soler Espinosa 6–4,6–3
2015 Samantha Stosur def. Kristina Mladenovic 3–6,6–2,6–3
2016 Caroline Garcia def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6–4,6–1
2017 Samantha Stosur def. Dasha Gavrilova 5–7,6–4,6–3
QF: Peng d. Rogers
QF: Stosur d. Suarez-Navarro
QF: Garcia d. Kr.Pliskova
QF: Gavrilova d. Barty
SF: Stosur d. Peng
SF: Gavrilova d. Garcia
F: Stosur d. Gavrilova
1987 Novotna/Suire d. Horvath/Mesker
1988 Bollegraf/Provis d. Byrne/Thompson
1989 Paz/Wiesner d. Gregory/Rush Magers
1990 Provis/Reinach d. Jordan/Smylie
1991 McNeil/Rehe d. Bollegraf/Paz
1992 Fendick/Strnadova d. McNeil/Paz
1993 Stafford/Temesvari d. Hetherington/Rinaldi
1994 Lori McNeil/Stubbs d. Tarabini/Vis
1995 Davenport/MJ.Fernandez d. Appelmans/Oremans
1996 Basuki/Bradtke d. Werdel Witmeyer/Whitlinger Jones
1997 Sukova/Zvereva d. Likhovtseva/Sugiyama
1998 Fusai/Tauziat d. Basuki/Vis
1999 Likhovtseva/Sugiyama d. Fusai/Tauziat
2000 Jeyaseelan/Labat d. Grant/Vento
2001 Farina Elia/Tulyaganova d. Coetzer/McNeil
2002 Hopkins/Kostanic d. Dhenin/Matevzic
2003 Jeyaseelan/Matevzic d. Granville/Kostanic
2004 McShea/Sequera d. Krizan/Srebotnik
2005 Andres Rodriguez/Ehritt-Vanc d. Domachowska/Weingartner
2006 L.Huber/Navratilova d. Muller/Vanc
2007 Yan Zi/Zheng Jie d. Molik/Sun Tiantian
2008 Perebiynis/Yan Zi d. L.Chan/Chuang
2009 Dechy/Santangelo d. Feuerstein/Foretz
2010 Cornet/King d. Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova
2011 Amanmuradova/Chuang d. Grandin/Uhlirova
2012 Govortsova/Jans-Ignacik d. Grandin/Uhlirova
2013 Date-Krumm/Scheepers d. Black/Erakovic
2014 Barty/Dellacqua d. Bua/Seguel
2015 Chuang/Liang d. N.Kichenok/Zheng Saisai
2016 Medina Garrigues/Parra Santonja d. Irigoyen/Liang
2017 Barty/Dellacqua d. Chan/Chan
SF: Chan/Chan d. Skamlova/Waccano
SF: Barty/Dellacqua d. Aoyama/Yang Zhaoxuan
F: Barty/Dellacqua d. Chan/Chan
WS: #1 Barty/#2 Gavrilova
WD: #1 A.Chan/Yang Zhaoxuan, #2 Aoyama/Voracova

2013 Simona Halep def. Andrea Petkovic 6–3,6–3
2014 Genie Bouchard def. Karolína Pliskova 6–2,4–6,6–3
2015 Karin Knapp def. Roberta Vinci 7–6(5),4–6,6–1
2016 Kiki Bertens def. Mariana Duque Marino 6–2,6–2
2017 Kiki Bertens def. Barbora Krejcikova 6–2,6–1
QF: Bertens d. Riske
QF: Doi d. Svhedova
QF: Krejcikova d. Witthoeft
QF: Cirstea d. Putintseva
SF: Bertens d. Doi
SF: Krejcikova d. Cirstea
F: Bertens d. Krejcikova
2013 Olaru/Solovyeva d. Groeefeld/Peschke
2014 Krajicek/Ka.Pliskova d. Olaru/Peer
2015 A.Chan/Medina Garrigues d. Arruabarrena/Olaru
2016 Bertens/Larsson d. Aoyama/Voracova
2017 Melichar/A.Smith d. Flipkens/Larsson
SF: Melichar/Peschke w/o Chuang/Doi
SF: Flipkens/Larsson d. Klepac/Martinez Sanchez
F: Melichar/A.Smith d. Flipkens/Larsson
WS: #1 Stephens, #2 Goerges
WD: #1 Melichar/Peschke, #2 Flipkens/Larsson


All for now.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Wk.19- To Pojd is to Live

It's raining Petra. Again. Is she pojding her way to Paris?

Generally, one doesn't have to look too far to find Czechs on the WTA tour, but hardly anyone really saw them coming on with such a head of steam heading into this clay season. Of course, the hottest racket of all the Maidens at the moment, that of Petra Kvitova, is pretty hard to miss these days.

Everyone has known for quite a while what the two-time Wimbledon champ can do on grass, as well as on indoor hard courts. While she hasn't been a hopeless case on clay throughout her career -- two previous Madrid titles and a Roland Garros semifinal six years ago attest to that -- but what Kvitova has done on the surface this spring is a different "kettle of fish," from dominating the Germans on indoor red clay in Stuttgart to playing often peerless tennis in front of her home nation fans in Prague, then shining once again this past week in Madrid by knocking off, in succession, upset-minded Dasha Kasatkina, fellow 2018 clay court "thug" Karolina Pliskova and the red dirt loving Dutch woman Kiki Bertens in the final.

While Kvitova's Fed Cup prowess was a continuation of a longtime theme, and her win in the Czech Republic the latest stop on her heartwarming whistlestop campaign, Madrid may have been an even more important litmus. While she was in dominant form at times, Kvitova also had to fight to win her second straight clay title, coming back from a set down against Anett Kontaveit in the 3rd Round and then battling Bertens for nearly three hours in her final dramatic act of the week, winning her eleventh match in thirteen days, and turning the momentum back in her favor in the final two games after Bertens had gotten a late break to get the deciding set back on serve in the tiring battle.

Would Kvitova have won such a match in the not too distant past, when she's been plagued by asthma-related difficulties in long matches, many played in the heat and/or under such taxing circumstances as those encountered vs. Bertens. So many of her previously similar matches left her doubled over and forced to accept defeat? The Czech has already put together a career-best 14-match winning streak on hard court this season, and now she's not far off from doing the same (if not for an immediately-after-Fed Cup weekend opening match loss in Stuttgart that she'd probably been best to skip altogether, she'd already be at thirteen in a row) on the most labor-intensive surface that the sport offers.

The popular notion is that Kvitova's brush with near-tragedy in December 2016 has produced a new inner reservoir from which to pull, but the fact is that she's also notably fitter than she was in her previous incarnation as a player, and thereby slightly quicker and with more agility around the court. It has to play a part in what we've witnessed this season, which is decidedly going down the path, should it continue on the course it has thus far, to eclipse her previous "career year" of 2011. While the intangible benefits associated with her heart and mental outlook surely play a part in what Petra is doing, it's worth noting that even while she returned to tennis without fully being able to grip a racket with her once nearly destroyed hand, Kvitova is *physically* a better version of herself between the lines, too. Back nearly a year since she returned to action at Roland Garros last spring following her long rehab, Kvitova's Madrid title gives her five so far in her comeback, more than any other player during the same span. Her four titles in 2018 lead the WTA.

Granted, without Serena Williams and with lesser versions (or extended absences) of some of the era's best players during the same stretch, *every* accomplishment on tour over the last year and a half is open to being viewed askance by some but, at least in the case of Madrid, Kvitova *does* have a clay court win over Serena, at this very tournament three years ago via a 6-2/6-3 score. So while Serena remains a question mark until she gets to the "100%" level of health that she says she desires to reach before she'll make her latest return (checking watch, and wondering how long it is before the grass season begins), at the moment, Petra is the currently the tour's "gold standard" until and unless circumstances change.

So, I guess the bulk of the tour has been warned. The rest is up the them.

MADRID, SPAIN (Premier Mandatory/Red Clay)
S: Petra Kvitova/CZE def. Kiki Bertens/NED 7-6(6)/4-6/6-3
D: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS/RUS) d. Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic 2-6/6-4 [10-8]

...while she'll only be #8 on Monday, and second in the Points Race, Kvitova is leading the tour in almost all the other categories that matter. She tops the list (alone or with company) when it comes to titles (4), finals (4), semifinals (4), wins (30), matches (36), Fed Cup win percentage (100% at 4-0), consecutive titles (2 - twice), long match win streak (14 - and she's on another 11-match run now) and striking fear in the hearts of opponents between the lines while also earning their hugs off the court.

Career title #24 ties Kvitova with the late Hall of Famer Jana Novotna, just recently honored in Prague (where Petra also won the title), on the all-time WTA Czech champions list. Her wins over Lesia Tsurenko, Monica Puig, Anett Kontaveit, Dasha Kasatkin, Karolina Pliskova and Kiki Bertens (three of them title winners in '18) brings her one victory away from a second 12+ match win streak this season. Since 2009, just two other women have managed two such runs in a calendar year: Serena Williams (3 runs each in 2012, '13 and '15) and Vika Azarenka (2 in '12).

To date, Kvitova's best season was 2011. She won six titles that year, including her first Wimbledon, finished at #2 and led the Czechs to the first of their five recent Fed Cup crowns. They'll go for #6 in the fall, having returned to the final on the strength of Kvitova's undefeated FC season. Madrid was the third title she claimed in the '11 season, while this year it's her fourth. She broke into the Top 10 (at #10) for the first time after her first Madrid title, while she'll be at #8 on Monday after winning her third at the event.

So, she's ahead of her previously established pace. Let's see where she goes from here.

RISERS: Kiki Bertens/NED, Karolina Pliskova/CZE and Caroline Garcia/FRA Madrid, all three women are building toward what they hope will be more success at Roland Garros in a few weeks. Each have already had their moments there in recent seasons.

Bertens was a maiden slam semifinalist in Paris in 2016, and has once again shown this spring just how much of a force she is on clay. Already the Charleston champ in '18, the Dutch women put together another final run in Madrid with wins over Maria Sakkari, Anastasija Sevastova, world #2 Caroline Wozniacki (Bertens' biggest career win, and first over a Top 10er since '16 -- hardly surprisingly, all have come on clay), Maria Sharapova and #7 Caroline Garcia. In her seventh career tour final (again, all on clay, just like eight of her eleven finals on the ITF circuit), she gamely battled Petra Kvitova for nearly three hours, fighting through pain but unable to finally get the better of the Czech in the end. Still, she's 10-2 on clay this season and will rise to a new career high of #15 on Monday.

Pliskova continued to build upon her clay court resume in Madrid. A semifinalist in Paris year, the Czech carried over the momentum she achieved with her Fed Cup performance and title run in Stuttgart, extending her clay court winning streak to nine matches with victories over Elena Vesnina, Victoria Azarenka (in three sets, playing past midnight), Sloane Stephens and world #1 (and two-time defending Madrid champ) Simona Halep, the latter her first #1 win in some twenty months. As so many have, Czech or otherwise, Pliskova fell to eventual champion Petra Kvitova in the semis, but her '18 clay court record now stands at 10-2. Already admirably consistent this season, having won multiple matches in six of her eight events, Pliskova is threatening to become something more this spring. 16-4 after her 8-4 start (somewhat deceptive since she was 4-1 at the AO alone), she'll be amongst the favorites for a deep run at Roland Garros, though one wonders if her biggest slam push in '18 will come *after* Paris.

See you tomorrow at Manolo Santana ? @mutuamadridopen

A post shared by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on

Meanwhile, the play of Garica, two years beyond her RG doubles title and a year off her QF run in singles, is starting to take on a very familiar feel. Her wins over Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Martic, Julia Goerges and Carla Suarez-Navarro before finally falling to Bertens in the semis gets her season mark to 17-10, but the notion that we're in the midst of the early stages of a surge similar to the one she experienced last year are hard to overlook.

Garcia was a bit wobby out of the gates in the opening months of '18 following the multi-month run to end last season that took her to new singles heights. She posted a Round of 16 result in Melbourne, but it came between a pair of one-and-done performances. Since the schedule shifted over to clay, though, she's been stringing together productive weeks. Her final four week in Madrid gives her three consecutive two-plus wins events, and back-to-back (w/ Stuttgart) semis. 8-3 on clay (7-2 in her EuroClay campaign), Garcia has looked more and more confidant in recent weeks and has managed to put herself in a position comparable to where she was when she took off of a year ago, only she's done it a few weeks earlier than in '17. She was 10-8 heading into Madrid last season (13-9 this year), then lost in the 1st Round there and the 2nd Round in Rome. She went 37-12 the rest of the way, posting QF (RG) and 4th Round (SW19) slam results, winning consecutive big titles (Wuhan/Beijing) in the fall, qualifying for the WTA Finals and finishing in the Top 10. The quieter, more personally subtle of the two leading Pastries on tour, Garcia has climbed higher and won bigger in singles than her former doubles partner, Kristina Mladenovic. While Kiki's success has usually been witnessed via loud, bombastic moments of brilliance that are often difficult for her to replicate consistently, Garcia proved last year that she was capable of building one good result upon another bigger one en route to achieving things that had seemed out of reach at the start of the season. She grew into something *more* in the closing months of '17, and it was clear that her realistic career goals were finally ready for an upgrade. Now with both feet into her '18 season, how high can Caro fly now that she has a better idea of what she's capable of?
SURPRISE: Bernarda Pera/USA
...having climbed into the Top 100 for the first time this season, 23-year old Pera's breakthrough campaign was highlighted in January by her 2nd Round upset of Johanna Konta at the Australian Open as a lucky loser. Arriving in Madrid having lost three straight clay court matches since reaching the QF in Charleston, Pera made it through qualifying with wins over Istanbul finalist Polona Hercog and Sachia Vickery, then won a three-setter in the MD over Lugano finalist Aryna Sabalenka to set up another encounter with Konta. She proceeded to take down the Brit again in straight sets, then pushed Carla Suarez-Navarro to three sets in the 3rd Round. Despite losing in Rome qualifying this weekend (she was a late alternate after Monica Niculescu withdrew) to Natalia Vikhlyantseva in three sets, she'll make another monumental ranking leap on Monday, rising twenty-three spots to a new career high of #74.

VETERAN: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
...though she's never advanced as far as the semifinal stage there, CSN has a history of good performances on home soil in Madrid. Past Top 10 wins over Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki were already part of a four-year run of 3rd Round or better (w/ a QF in '15) results since 2014, along with another over then #9 Sam Stosur in '13. This week, she added another QF finish after posting wins over Barbora Strycova, Elina Svitolina (her second win over the world #4 this year, and her eleventh career Top 5 victory) and Bernarda Pera, the latter two spirited three-set affairs. The 29-year old was finally knocked out by Caroline Garcia, ending the latest uptick in her results in what has become a back-and-fourth campaign. She had six straight losses dating back to last season when she began '18 at 0-2, only to reach the QF in Melbourne. Since another QF run in Indian Wells, she'd lost three straight tour-level matches prior to this week.

All of the feels @carlasuareznava!! ??

A post shared by WTA (@wta) on

COMEBACK: Maria Sharapova/RUS
...on clay was where Sharapova changed the course of her post-shoulder surgery career, becoming arguably the tour's best player on the surface over a multiple season stretch from 2011-14 after having previously compared her movement on the dirt to "a cow on ice." None of her first twenty-five finals were on clay, and just two of thirty-three from 2003-10. From 2011-15, though, eleven of her twenty-five finals were. Overall, she's gone 11-2 in those matches. Might her second comeback finally gain traction, consistency and (maybe most importantly) health on the clay, spurring her on to being something more than the high profile (mostly) early-round attraction that she's been over the past year?

In Madrid, Sharapova ended her four-match losing streak and won three matches in a single event for the first time since Week 1 in Shenzhen. Straight sets wins over Prague finalist Mihaela Buzarnescu, Irina-Camelia Begu (she won 19 straight points in one stretch) and Kristina Mladenovic (in their first meeting since the Pastry won a three-setter last year in Stuttgart after bad-mouthing Sharapova's return to the sport leading into the contest) to reach the QF will be enough to lift her ranking twelve spots this week and back into the Top 40. But the Russian's issues with winning three-setters continued vs. Kiki Bertens, as she lost after having taken the 1st, falling to 0-4 this season in three-set matches. From 2012-14 she won twenty-two straight three-setters on clay, and was 49-18 in all three-setters from 2012 until her '16 ban. She's gone 5-7 in such matches since she returned. Still, even with a barely above average 8-5 record on dirt the last two seasons, Sharapova is now 73-12 on the surface since 2012.

FRESH FACES: Dasha Kasatkina/RUS and Katie Swan/GBR
...Kasastkina's fortunes had taken a slight downturn since her recently impressive, though title-free, runs in Saint Petersburg (SF), Dubai (RU) and Indian Wells (RU). She came to Madrid on a three-match losing streak. But the Russian, who celebrated her 21st birthday during the week, reclaimed her momentum with straight sets wins over Wang Qiang and Sorana Cirstea, then took down #3 Garbine Muguruza in three sets to record her fourth Top 3 win of the season, her seventh in the past sixteen months, and her eleventh career Top 10 victory overall (six have come in '18). She failed to crack the Kvitova wall in the QF, losing 4 & 0, but after back-to-back 1st Round exits in Madrid, a final eight result is a welcome present wrapped up with a nice (just not truly *expensive*) bow. Now Kasatkina will head to Rome looking to turn around her career history (3r & 1r) there, as well.

Happy to report this week that she's finally serving without pain, 19-year old Brit Swan, a '15 AO girls finalist, showed what she can do under such circumstances, winning her sixth career ITF crown in six circuit finals, winning a 6-2/6-3 match over Spain's Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov (the former Oklahoma State player was playing in her first final since 2015) to add the $25K Monzon (ESP) title to her recent pair of semifinalist in two other $25K challengers.

Monzon $25k winnerr???? #vamosss @dveronelli #havannets

A post shared by Katie Swan (@katieswan99) on

DOWN: Elina Svitolina/UKR and Simona Halep/ROU
...last year's two most high profile tough-luck players at last year's Roland garros, Svitolina and Halep came to Paris in '17 as the two "most likely" first time slam champs in the draw. They'll return their this year with clay court (and grand slam) demons still left to slay.

The two split the Madrid and Rome titles last season, with the Romanian successfully defending in Spain, then Svitolina defeating her in the final in Italy, coming back from a set down and pulling away after a progressively-more-compromised Halep rolled her ankle late in the opening set. They faced off again in Paris, with the Ukrainian dominating early by jumping out 5-0 in the 1st set and leading 6-3/5-2, twice serving for her first spot in her first slam semi and holding a MP. Halep won the 2nd set TB, then dispatched a collapsing Svitolina in a bagel 3rd set. Simona would go on to lose to Alona Ostapenko in the final, taking the 1st and then squandering a 3-0 lead in the 2nd and 3-1 advantage in the 3rd set as the Latvian beat them both into the slam winner's circle.

Neither produced a path-building foundational result in Madrid just weeks before heading off to France to take another shot there.

Madrid has never traditionally been very kind to Svitolina. Her 1r-2r-2r-1r results there prior to this year didn't offer up great confidence for a breakthrough (though she'd been just 1-3 in Rome before winning there in '17, defeating Pliskova, Muguruza and Halep en route, before all three would eventually ascend to #1 before the end of the season), and it didn't come later, either. A tough three-set loss in the 2nd Round to Carla Suarez-Navarro ended her brief stay.

Having already successfully defended one title (Dubai) this year, she'll now try to do it again in Rome.

Meanwhile, #1 Halep is trying to finally capture her "moment" on the big stage. In Melbourne, her fight was the story of the women's draw, but she still came up short in the singles final, just as she has on two occasions in Paris. Seeking her third straight Madrid crown, she looking strong early on, dropping just one game vs. Ekaterina Makarova, ending Elise Mertens' undefeated clay campaign (18-0 s/d combined) and taking down Kristyna Pliskova, a win that secured her #1 ranking for another week due to Caroline Wozniacki's 3rd Round loss. But it was the *other* Czech twin that ended the Romanian's hopes for a three-peat, as Karolina's suddenly-lethal-on-clay game pressured her into far too many errors (26 vs. 11 winners) for her liking in the QF. Now with just one title to her credit over the past twelve months (Shenzhen in January) despite a level of consistency that has gotten her the top ranking, she'll head to Rome to try and collect one crown that slipped through fingers last year, hoping to garner the sort of momentum that might put her in position to finally put away another that she also came perilously close to winning in her most recent attempt.

ITF PLAYERS: Rebecca Peterson/SWE and Katie Boulter/GBR
...In Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France it was Peterson who grabbed the biggest title of her career at the $100K challenger. The 22-year old Swede reached her first tour-level SF in Acapulco in March, didn't drop a set all week while taking down Amandine Hesse (double bagel), Tamara Korpatsch, Daniela Seguel, Ons Jabeur and Dayana Yastremksa in the 6-4/7-5 final. The winner in her last five singles finals dating back to June 2015, Peterson will climb into the Top 100 for the first time on Monday.

On the same weekend that Katie Swan won a challenger crown on Saturday, the other British Katie matched her one day later. 21-year old Boulter's win in the $60K Fukuoka tournament in Japan, via a 5-7/6-4/6-2 victory over Ksenia Lykina in the final, gives her two title runs in the last month and a record of 12-2 since the start of April. She jumps twenty-four rankings spots with the win, to a new career high of #152 that makes her the new fourth-highest ranked Brit after Konta, Watson and Broady.

JUNIOR STARS: Yasmine Mansouri/FRA and Liang En-shuo/TPE Casablanca, Morrocco at the Grade 1 Mediterranée Avenir event, Pastry Mansouri defended the biggest title of her junior career with a 1 & 3 win in the final over Burundi's Sada Nahimana to repeat as tournament champion. The 16-year old, the #90-ranked girl, had lost in the QF of the G1 Beaulieu-Sur-Mer event two weeks ago and fell in the 1st Round at the Australian Open. 17-year old Nahimara (#52) hadn't lost a set all week and was playing in her third straight junior singles final (the previous two at Grade B2 and Grade 2 tournaments). She defeated Mansouri in the opening round of last year's Wimbledon girls qualifying tournament in a 9-7 3rd set.

3.13 Yasmine Mansouri - Beaulieu-sur-mer juniors 2016

In Goyang, South Korea junior #2 Liang, who became Taiwan's first girls slam singles champ in January in Melbourne (she swept both titles, coming back from MP down in the 1st Round and SF in singles), reached her biggest pro singles final. In just the ninth pro event (six coming in the last year) of her career, the 17-year old defeated #3-seed Ulrikke Eikeri in the 2nd Round before falling 3 & 3 to #2 Mayo Hibi in the final. Her only other pro singles final came in a $15K last October, where she was also the doubles champion.

DOUBLES: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS and Kaitlyn Christian/Sabrina Santamaria, USA/USA
...look out, here come the Russians.

While Makarova & Vesnina aren't the #1-ranked doubles players in the world (Latisha Chan is for now, but she hasn't been nearly as effective w/o Martina Hingis by her side in '18), they lead the 2018 Points Race and only extended their lead over the #2 duo, Timea Babos & Kristina Mladenovic, by taking a 10-8 3rd set TB to defeat them in the Madrid final on Saturday. Babos/Mladenovic had defeated the Hordettes for the AO title, 6-4/6-3, in Melbourne when Makarova/Vesnina were seeking to complete a Career Doubles Slam (and to become the first duo to win all four majors, the year-end championships and Olympic Gold). Though they're now 19-5 on the season, this is the Russians' first title since Toronto last summer. Three of their five losses in '18 have come to eventual tournament champions, including two defeats in finals in the AO and at Indian Wells (Hsieh/Strycova), as well as another in the Miami SF (Barty/Vandeweghe).

Christian & Santamaria, whose partnership goes back to their USC days when they were NCAA doubles champions in' 13, continue to make big strides this season. Already first-time tour level finalists in Acapulco earlier this season, as well as champions in $100K (Midland) and $25K (Rancho Santa Fe) events in the U.S., the duo claimed the title at another $100K in Cagnes-sur-mer, France with a 10-7 3rd set TB win over Vera Lapko & Galina Voskoboeva. Aside from the three wins with Christian this season, Santamaria has also reached two others finals with different partners (Emma Laine and Cornelia Lister) in recent weeks.


1. Madrid Final - Petra Kvitova def. Kiki Bertens
With both seeking their second clay title of '18, Kvitova and Bertens battled through fatigue and aching bodies for nearly three hours before the Czech once again emerged as the Madrid champ for a third time. Bertens held break advantages in both the 1st and 2nd sets, but her inability to take the initial match lead ultimately proved her undoing when couldn't overtake Kvitova in the deciding set. With Kvitova serving up 4-2 in the 3rd, Bertens got things back on serve with a break in game #7. But Petra was not to be denied, immediately breaking back a game later and holding serve to finish things off.

2. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Dasha Kasatkina def. Garbine Muguruza
The Russian was back on the job, knocking off one of the tour's highest ranked players, but also having difficulty putting away the match's biggest points and making herself work longer and harder than might have been necessary. In the two most recent matches between them, Kasatkina and Muguruza split, with both winners coming back from MP down to prevail. So you expected that things would get interesting here at some point. Kasatkina won 16 of 22 points to end the 1st, then lost a 4-2 lead in the 2nd. Muguruza broke to lead 5-4, then saved a BP while knotting the match by converting on her second SP attempt. Kasatkina again jumped to a lead in the 3rd, breaking for 3-1 and holding to go up 4-1. But with eight BP chances to take a 5-1 lead, the Russian saw Muguruza hold in a 20-minute, 28-point game, then quickly break to get things back on serve at 4-3. But the Russian stopped the slide a game later, breaking on her *first* BP chance in game #8, then saving a BP and serving things out a game later.

3. Madrid 2nd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro def. Elina Svitolina
In their third meeting of '18, CSN took down the world #4 for a second time. On a court named for Spanish great Arantxa Sanchez, CSN led 2-0 in both the 1st and 2nd sets, only to see the Ukrainian win six straight games to take the 1st, then break the Spaniard when she served for the 2nd at 5-3. CSN took a 5-1 lead in the 2nd set TB, and won it 7-3. Neither player faced a BP through the first eight games of the 3rd before Suarez-Navarro finally broke Svitolina to go up 5-4. She closed out the win despite falling on her butt at the baseline in the middle of a rally on MP.


4. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Maria Sharapova def. Kristina Mladenovic
Mladenovic, who managed to not say anything incendiary leading into this one, broke Sharapova to open the match, but it was the Russian's day from there forward as she got the win in her first meeting with the Pastry since their headlining contest last year in Stuttgart. Of course, Mladenovic hass gone through a LOT since that one... some good, but a great deal far from it, which may explain her more judicious approach this time around.

And even I agree with her on this...

5. Madrid 2nd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Elise Mertens
Halep ends Mertens 13-match winning streak and undefeated clay campaign. It was hardly an unexpected result, as Halep was the far more fresh of the two. Meanwhile, the heavy recent workload of Mertens likely makes this a blessing in disguise for the Belgian, who'll also now skip Rome due to a bacterial infection.

6. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Kiki Bertens def. Caroline Wozniacki
Wozniacki's chances to reclaim the #1 ranking on Monday ended with this loss, which concluded with Bertens taking the final ten points. While the clay isn't the Dane's best surface, she *did* manage a nice Houdini act comeback vs. Ash Barty (who likely enjoys the surface even *less* than Caro), erasing a 4-2 deficit in the 3rd set to down the Aussie.
7. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro def. Bernarda Pera
CSN's celebration was probably the biggest that Pera has ever seen from an opponent after beating her. Even she didn't seem to know what to do with it all at the net.

8. Madrid QF - Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic def. Ash Barty/CoCo Vandeweghe
...6-3/3-6 [11-9].
After having already lost to Mladenovic three times in recent weeks (singles and doubles in Fed Cup, then again in singles in Madrid), CoCo was on the wrong side of a scoreline involving Kiki yet *again.*
9. $15K Antalya Final - Elizabeth Halbauer def. Mariam Bolkvadze
The 20-year old Bannerette wins her second straight challenger title, and third of 2018. On a 13-1 run, she's now 20-3 since March.
10. $60K Lu'an Final - Harriet Dart/Ankita Raina def. Liu Fangzhou/Xun Fangying
To top off a week that included the announcement that she'll make her slam singles debut in RG qualifying later this month, 25-year old Indian #1 Raina won her 13th career ITF doubles title in her first pairing with Britain's Dart.

HM- $15K Tacarigua Final - Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez def. Andrea Renee Villarreal
We've seen more and more players representing Mexico producing results of note in 2018, so it's worth mentioning that TWO of the nation's players faced off for the title in this challenger in Trinidad and Tobago. 19-year old Portillo Ramirez picked up her first career title, defeating #1-seeded Emily Appleton in the QF along the way, while also taking the doubles trophy along WITH Appleton. Villarreal, 24, defeated Portillo Ramirez in the qualifying of the $25K Pelham challenger last month.

1. Madrid SF - Petra Kvitova def. KAROLINA PLISKOVA
Something had to give, as both came in riding nine-match clay court winning streaks. Since losing to Karolina's twin Kristyna, Kvitova has won three straight over fellow Czechs. She's 27-1 vs. Maidens since 2012.

2. Madrid 2nd Rd. - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. Victoria Azarenka
Azarenka played and won her first match in Europe (over Krunic) since Wimbledon, then took Pliskova past midnight in their second (I.W. - Vika in straights) '18 match-up. She's been cleared and is set to play on the continent through the grass court season.
3. Madrid 3rd Rd. - Simona Halep def. KRISTYNA PLISKOVA 6-1/6-4
Madrid QF - KAROLINA PLISKOVA def. Simona Halep 6-4/6-3
Halep couldn't complete the Tour de Pliskova, as Karolina notches her second career #1 win (first since defeating Serena at the U.S. Open in '16), her sixth over a Top 3 player, and 23rd overall Top 10 victory.

HM- Madrid QF - Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova/Barbora Strycova def. LATISHA CHAN/Bethanie Mattek-Sands
...6-4/1-6 [10-6].
Chan went 9-5 with Hlavackova earlier this season during their short-lived partnership. She's gone 5-3 with other partners since, though she'll maintain her #1 ranking this week. But the title run from co-#2's Makarova/Vesnina brings the Russians that much closer to breathing down her neck. If they get to #1, they'd be the first Hordettes to do so since Anna Kournikova in 1999-00.

Speaking of...

#tbt #37weeks ????

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The WTA's "Blindfold Challenge" segments are funny, and showcase the fearlessness of the players when it comes to being unafraid to look foolish. That said, the ATP tour would likely *never* do such a thing in a promotion, nor would many of the players be willing to go along with it. Thus, I'm not sure if this makes the segments a good idea from the WTA tour, or something quite less than that.

Keep(y)ing up with @wta players at All Access Hour @mutuamadridopen ??????

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Everytime I see Vika on the court now, the first thought that invariably leaps into my head is how skinny she is.

@vichka35 is back at the @mutuamadridopen ????

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?? this ??. Shadows of Madrid. See you next year ????????

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Doha (HC) - #21 Kvitova/CZE d. #4 Muguruza/ESP
Ind.Wells (HC) - #44 Osaka/JPN d. #19 Kasatkina/RUS
Miami (HC) - #12 Stephens/USA d. #5 Ostapenko/LAT
Madrid (RC) - #10 KVITOVA/CZE d. #20 BERTENS/NED
[doubles champions]
Doha - Dabrowski/Ostapenko, CAN/LAT
Indian Wells - Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE
Miami - Barty/Vandeweghe, AUS/USA

**2017-18 WTA TITLES**
7 - Elina Svitolina (5/2)
4 - Karolina Pliskova (3/1)
4 - Elise Mertens (1/3)
3 - Caroline Wozniacki (2/1)
3 - Kiki Bertens (2/1)
3 - Garbine Muguruza (2/1)
3 - Julia Goerges (2/1)

14 - Kvitova, Feb/Mar (12+2FC) - ended by Anisimova
13 - Mertens, Apr/May (11+2 FC) - ended by Halep
11 - Halep, January - ended by Wozniacki
11 - KVITOVA, APR/MAY (9+2 FC) - active

**2018 WTA FINALS**
3 - Elise Mertens, BEL (3-0)
2 - Elina Svitolina, UKR (2-0)
2 - Simona Halep, ROU (1-1)
2 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (1-1)
2 - Garbine Muguruza, ESP (1-1)
2 - Julia Goerges, GER (1-1)
2 - Timea Babos. HUN (1-1)
2 - Dasha Kasatkina, RUS (0-2)
2 - Mihaela Buzarnescu, ROU (0-2)

Petra Kvitova, February (Saint Petersburg/Doha)
Elise Mertens, Apr/May (Lugano/Rabat)

**2018 WINS OVER WTA #1**
Australian Open Final - #2 Wozniacki d. Halep
Saint Petersburg QF - #23 Kasatkina d. Wozniacki
Doha SF - #21 Kvitova d. Wozniacki
Indian Wells SF - #44 Osaka d. Halep
Miami 3rd Rd. - #32 A.Radwanska d. Halep
Stuttgart QF - #16 Vandeweghe d. Halep

Stuttgart: CoCo Vandeweghe, USA [QF-Halep,2r-Siegemund; lost in F]
Madrid: KAROLINA PLISKOVA, CZE [QF-Halep; lost in SF]

167...Martina Navratilova
154...Chris Evert
107...Steffi Graf
92...Margaret Smith-Court
72...Serena Williams
68...Evonne Goolagong
67...Billie Jean King
55...Virginia Wade
55...Lindsay Davenport
53...Monica Seles
49...Venus Williams
43...Justine Henin
43...Martina Hingis
41...Kim Clijsters
36...Maria Sharapova
33...Conchita Martinez
30...Tracy Austin
29...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
28...Caroline Wozniacki
27...Gabriela Sabatini
27...Hana Mandlikova
25...Amelie Mauresmo
24...Jana Novotna
21...Pam Shriver
20...Victoria Azarenka
20...Aga Radwanska
NOTES: Hall of Famer, active

**WTA SF - 2015-18**
26...Simona Halep - 9/6/7/4
25...Angelique Kerber - 8/11/3/3
25...KAROLINA PLISKOVA - 8/6/8/3
22...Caroline Wozniacki - 7/4/8/3
21...Elina Svitolina - 6/7/6/2
19...Aga Radwanska - 8/9/2/0
18...Garbine Muguruza - 5/3/7/3
17...PETRA KVITOVA - 5/6/2/4
16...Serena Williams - 9/6/1/0
15...CAROLINE GARCIA - 2/4/7/2

3...Klepac/Martinez-Sanchez (0-3)
2...Garcia Perez/Stollar (1-1)
2...Kudryavtseva/Srebotnik (1-1)
2...Melichar/Peschke (1-1)
2...Krejcikova/Siniakova (0-2)

2016 (2)
#7 V.Williams, #8 Vinci
2017 (3)
#1 Kerber, #2 Kerber, #2 Halep
2018 (6)
#1 Wozniacki, #2 Wozniacki, #3 Muguruza, #3 Muguruza, #8 V.Williams, #10 Kerber

**2018 $100K FINALS**
Midland, USA - Brengle/USA (#88) d. Loeb/USA (#153)
Khimki, RUS - Lapko/BLR (#111) d. Potapova/RUS (#238)
Cagnes-sur-Mer, FRA - Peterson/SWE (#113) d. Yastremska/UKR (#180)

Coffee Bowl G1: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Copa Barranquilla G1: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Traralgon G1: Liang En-shou/TPE
Prague G1: Maria Timofeeva/RUS
Australian Open GA: Liang En-shuo/TPE
Mundial Juvenil G1: Gabriella Price/USA
Asuncion Bowl G1: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Banana Bowl G1: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Yeltsin Cup G1: Lenka Stara/SVK
Porto Alegre GA: Leylah Annie Fernandez/CAN
Nonthaburi G1: Zheng Qinwen/CHN
Sarawak Chief Minister's Cup G1: Naho Sato/JPN
Perin Memorial G1: Clara Tauson/DEN
Trofeo JCF G1: Diane Parry/FRA
U.S. Int'l Spring Chsp G1: Hurricane Tyra Black/USA
Beaulieu-sur-Mer G1: Eleonora Molinaro/LUX
Mediterranee Avenir G1: Yasmine Mansouri/FRA

I don't know if this counts as an attempt at an ad by Genie, an attempt to gain a sponsorship, or neither. But I do know that her "return" to the ITF circuit last week began with a 1st Round walkover in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France.

And the new week starts like this...

ROME, ITALY (Premier 5/Red Clay)
1999 Venus Williams def. Mary Pierce 6–4,6–2
2000 Monica Seles def. Amelie Mauresmo 6–2,7–6(4)
2001 Jelena Dokic def. Amelie Mauresmo 7–6(3),6–1
2002 Serena Williams def. Justine Henin 7–6(6),6–4
2003 Kim Clijsters def. Amelie Mauresmo 3–6,7–6(3),6–0
2004 Amelie Mauresmo def. Jennifer Capriati 3–6,6–3,7–6(6)
2005 Amelie Mauresmo def. Patty Schnyder 2–6,6–3,6–4
2006 Martina Hingis def. Dinara Safina 6–2,7–5
2007 Jelena Jankovic def. Svetlana Kuznetsova 7–5,6–1
2008 Jelena Jankovic def. Aize Cornet 6–2,6–2
2009 Dinara Safina def. Svetlana Kuznetsova 6–3,6–2
2010 Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez def. Jelena Jankovic 7–6(5),7–5
2011 Maria Sharapova def. Samantha Stosur 6–2,6–4
2012 Maria Sharapova def. Li Na 4–6,6–4,7–6(5)
2013 Serena Williams def. Victoria Azarenka 6–1,6–3
2014 Serena Williams def. Sara Errani 6–3,6–0
2015 Maria Sharapova def. Carla Suarez Navarro 4–6,7–5,6–1
2016 Serena Williams def. Madison Keys 7–6(5),6–3
2017 Elina Svitolina def. Simona Halep 4–6,7–5,6–1
QF: Halep d. Kontaveit
QF: Bertens d. Gavrilova
QF: Muguruza d. V.Williams
QF: Svitolina d. Ka.Pliskova
SF: Halep d. Bertens
SF: Svitolina d. Muguruza (ret)
F: Svitolina d. Halep
1999 Hingis/Kournikova d. Fusai/Tauziat
2000 Raymond/Stubbs d. Sanchez Vicario/Serna
2001 Black/Likhovtseva d. Suarez/Tarabini
2002 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. C.Martínez/Tarabini
2003 Kuznetsova/Navratilova d. Dokic/Petrova
2004 Petrova/Shaughnessy d. Ruano Pascual/Suarez
2005 Black/L.Huber d. Kirilenko/Medina Garrigues
2006 Hantuchova/Sugiyama d. Peschke/Schiavone
2007 Dechy/Santangelo d. Garbin/Vinci
2008 L.Chan/Chuang d. Benesova/Husarova
2009 Hsieh/Peng d. Hantuchova/Sugiyama
2010 Dulko/Pennetta d. Llagostera Vives/Martinez Sanchez
2011 Peng/J.Zheng d. King/Shvedova
2012 Errani/Vinci d. Makarova/Vesnina
2013 Hsieh/Peng d. Errani/Vinci
2014 Peschke/Srebotnik d. Errani/Vinci
2015 Babos/Mladenovic d, Hingis/Mirza
2016 Hingis/Mirza d. Makarova/Vesnina
2017 Hingis/L.Chan d. Makarova/Vesnina
SF: Makarova/Vesnina d. Babos/Hlavackova
SF: L.Chan/Hingis d. Mirza/Shvedova
F: L.Chan/Hingis d. Makarova/Vesnina
WS: #1 Halep, #2 Wozniacki
WD: #1 Makarova/Vesnina, #2 Sestini-Hlavackova/Strycova the draw as a wild card (she'll face a qualifier, with the winner getting Wozniacki), Roberta Vinci is set to end her tennis career this week in Rome, where she reached four WD finals (three straight w/ Sara Errani in 2012-14, going 1-2) despite never doing much there (one 3rd Rd. in nineteen Q/MD apperances) in singles.

#1 Halep d. #5 Ostapenko
#4 Svitolina d. Kontaveit
#1 Halep d. #4 Svitolina

#3 Babos/Mladenovic d. #2 Sestini-Hlavackova/Strycova

All for now.