Ekaterina Makarova, playing in Charleston for the first time in five years, leads this year's field at the Family Circle Cup, which will be held April 4-12. Makarova, who is number 9 in the world, will be joined by defending champion and world number 10 Andrea Petkovic. The 56-player field is made up of 43 direct entries, 8 qualifiers and 5 wild cards. Qualifying takes place April 4-5, and the wild cards will be announced at a later date.
Makarova, a consistent threat at majors, made it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the semifinals at the U.S. Open in 2014. Her number 9 ranking is a career-high for her.
Petkovic made a major comeback from injury last season, with her Charleston win serving as a high point in the long comeback process. The German player, who was seeded 14th, defeated former Charleston champion Sabine Lisicki, former finalist Lucie Safarova and 6th seed Genie Bouchard in her 2014 Family Circle Cup run. Petkovic recently won the Diamond Games in Antwerp.
Safarova, ranked number 11 in the world, has made a strong showing in Charleston for some time, and in the last year or so, has become more and more of a threat on the tour, as well as in Fed Cup competition. The Czech star was the singles runner-up in 2012, and she won the doubles title in both 2012 (with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) and 2013 (with Kiki Mladenovic). Safarova, who won Doha earlier this season, will be playing in Charleston for the fifth time in her career.
Also contending for the title are world number 14 Sara Errani, world number 15 Angelique Kerber, and the recently rejuvenated Jelena Jankovic, who was the runner-up this past weekend in Indian Wells. Jankovic won the Charleston title in 2007 and was the runner-up in 2013. Last year, she and Andrea Petkovic provided unparalleled entertainment when they teamed as doubles partners.
Former Family Circle Cup champions Sam Stosur (2010) and Sabine Lisicki (2009) will be competing, as will Jana Cepelova, who made a surprise run to the final last year, defeating Serena Williams along the way. Other players of interest include Belinda Bencic, Mona Barthel, Sloane Stephens, Heather Watson, Lesia Tsurenko, and Taylor Townsend. Tsurenko recently made a very strong showing in Indian Wells, defeating Andrea Petkovic, Alize Cornet and Genie Bouchard.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Moment of victory for @BNPParibasOpen champ @Simona_Halep! http://t.co/1mtURDgk88 #WTA #tennis pic.twitter.com/zxsGkfDKng
— WTA (@WTA) March 22, 2015
Simona Halep is the new Queen of the Desert. Her coronation, however, was a shaky, exhausting affair. Halep won the 2015 BNP Paribas Open title by defeating Jelena Jankovic 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. It's the 3rd seed's biggest title ever, but she won it by playing some of her most uninspiring tennis. Her victory, however, puts her in the number 1 spot on the Road To Singapore.
Halep looked sluggish and flummoxed by Jankovic in the first set, when the 18th seed was forcing her to go for shots that resulted in repeated errors. Jankovic took that set with ease, all the time hitting a barrage of beautiful overheads that gained her point after point. In the second set, Jankovic was up a break on three different occasions, and served for the match at 5-4.
But Halep wouldn't let go, and won the set 7-5. By this time, Jankovic had resorted to the version of herself that mutters and complains and nitpicks at whatever is handy. The final set began with steady play from both opponents, but then turned into a series of service breaks. Halep finally held for 5-3, but was broken--not at all surprisingly--when she served for the match. But she broke back for the victory when Jankovic collapsed, double-faulting on match point.
It was a final and JJ was in it, so of course, there was so much more going on. Chip Brooks was the Serb's coach for the match, and their conversations were something to cringe over. Halep had to take a medical timeout because of a problem with her foot. The chair umpire got mixed up and called a double fault after a first serve. Halep's coach refused to go through with his interview with Pam Shriver when he discovered that--oh my goodness!--there was a microphone involved.
Not many things went right, as Jankovician chaos reigned over the proceedings. However, I should also point out that Jankovician cheer reigned over the trophy ceremony, as JJ explained that she and Simona were "running like dogs," and that she was grateful to the physios for doing her hair.
Of course, the twists and turns started before the match even began, with world number 1 Serena Williams having to withdraw from her semifinal against Halep. Williams, who had not played in Indian Wells in 14 years, was forced to withdraw because of a right knee injury. The top seed herself made the announcement to the crowd at the conclusion of the Jankovic-Lisicki semifinal.
Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, playing together for the first time, won the doubles title. Hingis and the Forehand of Fire upset 2nd seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-4. The champions didn't drop a set throughout their stay in Indian Wells. The pairing of Hingis and Mirza had the look of success before they even took to the court, and with a start like this, one can only imagine what's next for them.
The news about Serena dominated, but there was other big news: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci announced that they have split. We should probably never be shocked by the dissolution of any doubles team, but it was hard not to be stunned by this announcement. Errani and Vinci comprise the number 1 doubles team in the world, and they've ended the past three years with that ranking. In their official statement, the Italians--who are also best friends--had this to say:
"We invested lots of energy, both mental and physical, to achieve our goals, which we are very proud of, therefore we now feel the need to rest and catch our breath.
"It's our common purpose to start new individual career paths and set brand new goals to try to reach, also for you to enjoy and take pride in."
Thursday, March 19, 2015
"A desert is a place without expectation."
Yesterday, when world number 1 Serena Williams defeated a red-hot Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets at the BNP Paribas Open, she said repeatedly that she hadn't expected to get this far in the tournament. In fact, this "I didn't think I would get this far" phrase has been one of Williams' favorites for the past year or so.
I, for one, don't believe a word of it. Serena Williams' return to Indian Wells, while it may represent a turning point in her sorrow and anger over an incident that occurred many years ago, also represents an opportunity for her to win a huge event she hasn't been available to win in a long time. The top seed is there grab a big trophy, as well she should be.
But while Williams' stated expectations don't really jive with reality, other expectations really have been turned over in the desert in the past several days:
2nd seed Maria Sharapova was taken out in the 4th round by a clearly emotional Flavia Pennetta, the tournament's defending champion. A sometimes-crying Pennetta lost the first set, but then--in true Fighting Italian style--got herself together and dismantled Sharapova.
British number 1 Heather Watson upset 2014 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round. Watson, however, then went out to Carla Suarez Navarro in the next round.
Elina Svitolina eliminated Ekaterina Makarova, Belinda Bencic beat comeback player Caroline Wozniacki, and the tour's other comeback player, Ana Ivanovic, was defeated by Caroline Garcia.
Lesia #Tsurenko is the 1st qualifier to make the QF here since '04. Thanks to her confidence: http://t.co/3bpraFOXXS pic.twitter.com/vT9MWNO16Q
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 18, 2015
Very notable is qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, who--so far--has beaten 9th seed Andrea Petovic, 20th seed Alize Cornet and 6th seed Eugenie Bouchard. Now she faces Jelena Jankovic, who--out of nowhere--has returned to vintage JJ form in the desert. Tsurenko's run could very well end today, but what a stunning run it has been. (Note: Tsurenko rolled her ankle during her match against Bouchard, an accident I thought might lead to her retirement. It didn't. Bouchard was also injured, but tennis commentators seem to have forgotten that it was an injured Tsurenko who beat an injured Bouchard.)
Serena Williams herself had to put up a big fight in the first round against the ever-problematic Monica Niculescu. Since then, Williams has had it pretty easy.
Monday, March 9, 2015
2 weeks, 2 titles! @TimiBacs captures @Abierto_MTY title! Battles past Garcia 46 62 64--> http://t.co/EyX1tp6w0Z #WTA pic.twitter.com/XnPs9obr7O
— WTA (@WTA) March 9, 2015
Timea Bacsinszky knows how to make a comeback. Perhaps she spent some time at the Flavia Pennetta Academy of Just Try To Keep Me Down, or perhaps she just really, really knew she could do it. The talented Swiss player, whose career was very significantly set back by injury for a long time, punctuated her return these past two weeks in Mexico by winning both the Acapulco and Monterrey titles.
But that's just the beginning of the story. Both times, Bacsinszky had to beat Caroline Garcia in the final. She handled Garcia easily in Acapulco, but the situation was different in Monterrey, where both a tougher version of the Frenchwoman and a four-hour rain delay complicated matters.
Garcia, playing the kind of tennis that first attracted the attention of fans a few years ago, took the first set 6-4. Garcia looked full of confidence, but then went down 1-3 in the second set. That's when the rain began to pour, and--as we all know--a rain delay almost always favors the mentally steadier of two players. That would be Bacsinszky, and sure enough, the Swiss player returned to the court at 11:30 p.m. and won the second set 6-2. She would go on to win the third, 6-4.
Bacsinszky's double victory marks the first time a player has won the two Mexican tournaments back-to-back since Monterrey was added to the tour in 2009.
In the doubles final, Gabriela Dabrowski and Alicja Rosolska defeated Anastasia Rodionova and Arina Rodionova 6-3, 2-6 10-3. The Monterrey title is the first for Dabrowski and Rosolska as a team.
Meanwhile, at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur, top seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated Alexandra Dulgheru 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to win the title. Chen Liang and Wang Yafan won the doubles title, defeating Yulija Begelzimer and Olga Savchuk 4-6, 6-3, 10-4 in the final. Chen and Wang saved six match points in their quarterfinal match against Han and Namigata. They won that match 4-6, 6-1, 15-13.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
werk that sombrero RT @AbiertoTelcel: La campeona del #AMT2015, Timea Bacsinszky: pic.twitter.com/lxT4bSQQOh
— Victoria Chiesa (@vrcsports) March 1, 2015
Friends Caroline Garcia and Timea Bacsinszky played each other for the first time today, in the Acapulco final, and Bacsinszky emerged the champion with a decisive win of 6-3, 6-0 over Garcia. The Swiss player, whose career has been significantly hampered by injury over the last several years, will be ranked number 31 in the world when the rankings are published tomorrow.
This is Bacsinszky's second WTA singles title.
The doubles final was an upset, even though a number 2-seeded team beating a number 1-seeded team doesn't sound like much of an upset. But the top seeds were Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. They were defeated 7-6, 5-7, 13-11 by Lara Arruabarrena and Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor.
"I'm so happy to win the title. It's been a long time. I'm happy at the way season has progressed." @luciesafarova pic.twitter.com/lhm88CVHsP
— Tennis (@tennis_photos) February 28, 2015
At the conclusion of today's Doha final, there was a fireworks display that occurred as part of the trophy ceremony. The smiling face of Lucie Safarova, surrounded by shimmering streaks of fireworks, stood out against the sky. Safarova was not the lefty Czech who was top-seeded; rather, she was the lefty Czech who was unseeded.
In the course of her Doha run, Safarova defeated Sam Stosur, Ekaterina Makarova, Andrea Petkovic, Carla Suarez Navarro, and finally, Victoria Azarenka (6-4, 6-3). Makarova, Petkovic and Suarez Navarro were seeded 5th, 6th and 9th, respectively. The Doha win marks Safarova's first premier-level title, but the run was no surprise, given the improvement she has made in the mental part of her game. Wild card Azarenka was dealing with a leg injury, which didn't help her cause, but nothing should really be taken from Safarova and her amazing Doha win.
When the rankings are published tomorrow, Lucie Safarova will be number 11 in the world.
Top seed Petra Kvitova was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Suarez Navarro, and defending champion Simona Halep withdrew before the tournament began.
Top doubles seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Sania Mirza lost the doubles final to 4th seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, who defeated them 6-4, 6-4.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
.@Simona_Halep captures 1st @DDFTennis title! Battles past Pliskova 64 76(4)--> http://t.co/CcoqWFDLey #WTA #tennis pic.twitter.com/zPB3Mwjy4R
— WTA (@WTA) February 21, 2015
Halepmania reigned in Dubai this past week, as crowds of spectators loudly and frequently screamed the Romanian player's name throughout her matches. Halep, the top seed in Dubai, won the title--her tenth--when she defeated a red-hot Karolina Pliskova in the final yesterday. The win didn't come easily for Halep, who had to serve for the match three times, while holding match points in her first two attempts. All credit to Pliskova, who hung in nicely, but it was Halep's own shaky mentality that almost did her in.
Halep's 6-4, 7-6 victory puts her back in the number 3 position in the rankings. Pliskova, meanwhile, served notice to the tour that she's a true threat. Her win over Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals was notable, and the "rising star" match was a good one. But perhaps no match in Dubai could top the quarterfinal that Halep played against Ekaterina Makarova. The match-up itself was entertaining, and both players gave spectators a little bit of everything.
Kristina Babos and Kiki Mladenovic won the doubles title. The team of "Mladenovic and Anybody" is capable of winning--and has won--many titles, but this was the first time that Mladenovic won a title with her (more or less) regular partner. It took the Frenchwoman a long time to settle on a partner, and in Babos, she chose a life-long friend. Babos and Mladenovic defeated Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro in the Dubai final.
Meanwhile, in Rio, Sara Errani got something she really needed--another title. Errani, the top seed, beat Anna Schmiedlova in today's final. Schmiedlova had never before been to a WTA final. Errani had a somewhat thrilling ride to the final: She saved three match points against wild card Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarterfinals.
Top seeds Irina-Camelia Begu and Maria Irigoyen had to retire during the doubles title, which went to their opponents, Ysaline Bonaventure and Rebecca Peterson.
Halep, who is the defending champion in Doha, has withdrawn from the tournament because of rib and ankle injuries she says were troubling her in Dubai.
Top Doha qualifying seeds Belinda Bencic and Mona Barthel both went out in the first round of qualifying. The main draw top seed is Petra Kvitova.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
#trophyselfie no.1/2015 pic.twitter.com/uimbWsaLos
— Andrea Petkovic (@andreapetkovic) February 15, 2015
Yesterday, I tweeted that I wished the Petko vs. BZS match in Antwerp were the final. Well, that's exactly what it turned out to be. Andrea Petkovic won the Diamond Games today when her opponent in the final, Carla Suarez Navarro, withdrew because of neck pain.
This, of course, isn't how anyone wanted it to be--not the fans, not the WTA, not the tournament staff, not Petkovic, and certainly not Suarez Navarro. Petko had to play her heart out in the semifinals against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, whose defense was sometimes breathtaking. Petkovic beat BZS 7-6, 7-6. For her part, Suarez Navarro made easy work of defeating Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals.
The crowd who showed up for the final saw a brief exhibition match between Petkovic and tournament director Kim Clijsters; Clijsters won.
Petkovic will re-enter the Top 10 this week. In early April, she she'll be in Charleston to defend her 2014 title.
Top seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Arantxa Parra Santoja won the Antwerp doubles title, defeating wild cards An-Sophie Mestach and Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4, 3-6, 10-5 in the final. Van Uytvanck also had a wild card in singles and took champion Petkovic to three sets in the second round. The match lasted three hours and 19 minutes, and Petkovic had to save eight match points.
Meanwhile, Daniela Hantuchova won the title in Pattaya City for the third time. Hantuchova had to knock off Marina Erakovic and Ajla Tomljanovic in the semifinals and the final, respectively. Hantuchova saved two match points against Erakovic.
Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Jung-Jan won the doubles title, beating Shuko Aoyama and Tamerine Tanasugarn.
Things got off to a thrilling start in Dubai. Flavia Pennetta saved four match points to defeat Julia Goerges. This was Pennetta's first win of the 2015 season. "...I've been trying to find my good tennis," the Italian said, "but it's not coming. But I have to play with what I have now."
And--surprise!--Alize Cornet needed three hours and eleven minutes to defeat Kirsten Flipkens in a match that had my head spinning. Cornet was in full French opera mode, cracking her racket, screaming, and moaning over the fact that she had no challenges remaining when she really needed them. I'd have moaned, too. All of the non-contested points would have gone the Frenchwoman's way. I'm with Mary Carillo--players should be able to challenge as many times as they want to. Turning line call accuracy into a game doesn't appeal to me, especially when the line judges have a mediocre success rate (which is always being bragged about--talk about lower your expectations).
At any rate, After taking the first set 6-0, Cornet went on to lose the second set in a tiebreak, as Flipkens finally got into the match. The third set was all drama all the time, and a lot of fun; Cornet won it 6-3. Afterwards, she said "I was tired, I was sweating, I was dead...."