Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Master List, version 4.0


Time for some quick mid-offseason value judgments... again.

For the past three seasons, I've looked at the Backspin "Grand Slam Master List" rankings as something of a "viability chart" when it came to the possibility of figuring out which players might have the ability to rise to the highest positions -- at least as far as the Round of 16 or QF -- in the upcoming season's four very biggest events. Well, that and it seemed like a half-decent way of passing the time between WTA seasons.

As it's turned out, of the 176 players included on the 2012-14 Master Lists (54, 53 & 69 entries to start each the last three seasons), eleven of the twelve slam winners were listed in the Top 8 (excluding only Marion Bartoli, #11 before her Wimbledon '13 win), with only one other champ (#8 Kvitova at Wimbledon this past year) listed outside the Top 6. Prior to this past season, fourteen of the sixteen slam finalists were also Top 6 players on the ML, before all four runners-up in the just concluded, and sometimes-oddly unpredictable, '14 campaign that saw three first-time major finalists (Cibulkova, Halep & Bouchard) emerge, as well as another (Wozniacki) who hadn't reached such a level in five years.

Subtract Wimbledon from the mix, and all nine slam champs, and fifteen of eighteen slam finalists were Top 6 players on the preseason Master List from 2012-14.

Eighty-eight of the ninety-six slam quarterfinalists during the three-years were included on the lists prior to the season, including 30-of-32 in each of the past two seasons.



A few ML numbers from 2014:

Slam Winners (4): ##1, #3, #4, #8
Runners-up (4): #12, #16, #20, #27
Semifinalists (8): #7, #12, #19, #20, #20, #36, #46, #47
Quarterfinalists (16): #2, #2, #6, #9, #10, #10, #12, #14, #14, #18, #19, #21, #32, #52, unlisted (Zahlavova-Strycova), unlisted (Bencic)
Unlisted Round of 16 results(11): Bencic (US), Bertens (RG), Dellacqua (AO/US), Diyas (WI), Krunic (US), Lucic-Baroni (US), Parmentier (RG), Smitkova (WI), Tomljanvoic (RG), Zahlavova-Strycova (WI)

Attempting to do it all again a few weeks before the first ball will be struck in 2015 competition is, as always, an inexact "science." So, this is just an of-the-moment, "most likely to seriously contend (or star)," anything-but-objective ranking, of course. Still, as it has been interesting in the past to try to "crunch the numbers" and put together a list, the additional intrigue in compiling a follow-up is comparing how the perception of some players has changed in twelve months time.

The listing of Genie Bouchard at #20 last year seemed to be a far-from-conservative assessment after she'd been the final player to make the list in 2013. But after the Canadian reached her first slam final and two additional major semis in '14 it seemed like her ML spot was "undershot" a bit. The danger in '15 is wondering if she'll be able to live up the standards she set last season, and risk undershooting her ML standing once again. On the other hand, Garbine Muguruza's #52 listing after missing half the '13 season with an ankle injury worked out well, as the Spaniard reached her first career slam Round of 16 and quarterfinal, upsetting Serena Williams at Roland Garros. On the other hand, ML #2 Victoria Azarenka's season was mostly scuttled due to injury, though she did reach a pair of slam QF. Meanwhile, the confidence in the notion that Sam Stosur, armed with a new coach after a late '13 upswing, would have a slam surge proved to be misguided, as the Aussie was listed at #5 but advanced to just one major Round of 16.

Once again, this year's list is a bit longer (jumping from the low 50's from 2012-13, to 69 in '14 and now 81, all in an attempt to plug any possible holes, but maintain a little discretion and not wanting to list EVERY player imaginable). Still, of course, it's always a raw guess when it comes to possibly including the "lower-ranked" players that will put up surprise 4th Round or QF results in the slams (as much of an admirer of her as I already was a year ago, I still didn't include Aleksandra Krunic on the 2014 list, though, of course, she makes her long-awaited debut in '15). Which "unlisted" names will rise for surprising slam runs in the coming year will first begin to come into focus in just a few weeks in Melbourne. Career-bests surely await... for SOMEONE, and probably a few someones.

Which ML "usual suspects" to leave off, as well, is a roll of the dice. Last year's dropping of Tsvetana Pironkova proved to be a "stroke of brilliance," as she failed to advance past the 2nd Round at any slam in '14, but she DID shine where she hadn't before -- winning her first WTA singles title at the beginning of the season.

You're welcome, Tsvetana. No need to thank me. Haha.

A few traditional inclusions once again drop off this year. We'll soon see what the repercussions for THOSE players will turn out to be.

So, let's begin the 2015 Master List (with last year's # in parenthesis):

1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Maria Sharapova (4)
3. Simona Halep (12)

...once again, green is for "go." But, for 2015, Serena has some company. A year ago, with the prediction of a true Grand Slam season for Williams waiting in the wings, the then-and-still #1-ranked player was all alone in this category because she was the only "sure thing" on the board. Naturally, it took Serena until the U.S. Open to put up her first '14 slam Round of 16 result. Still, she ultimately did so, won the event and closed out another top-ranked year. I guess that's something of a definition of a "sure thing," huh? So far, all four ML's have been topped by Williams, with her eventual retirement probably being the only thing that will extricate her from the position. She's joined by just two players here, though there's no real guarantee to be made that ANY player (Serena included) is a "lock" to WIN at least one major title in '15. But Sharapova (three straight RG finals, with two titles) and Halep (working with a new Romanian coach, and being consulted by the Russian's former advisor) would seem the best bets to produce consistently good, if not one or more great, slam performances in the upcoming season. Both have potential injury traps -- Sharapova's long history of shoulder issues, and Halep nagging back and lower body ailments that play against her good movement-insistent game -- to contend with, but it's easier to believe that these two level-headed and super-competitive woman will find a way to succeed than is the case with any of the other players potentially in the conversation. In fact, they might just meet (again) to decide a major title.

4. Victoria Azarenka (2)
5. Petra Kvitova (8)
6. Caroline Wozniacki (16)

...Azarenka returns with an eye on redemption in '15. Most likely, her best chance to grab a third slam crown will come on the hard courts in either Melbourne or New York. Before her injury-plagued '14 campaign, Vika had reached four straight hard court slam finals, winning the Australian Open in 2012 and '13. Her earlier-than-necessary shutdown of her most recent season has given her a little extra time to get healthy and prepare for another run, and as long as she can stay on the court she's easily the most dependable she'll-put-up-multiple-deep-slam-runs player in '15 aside from Serena. Still, the injury issue, which she'd seemingly put behind her until it came back with a vengeance last season, prevents her from maintaining her "green level" standing. Kvitova would seem to be a lock to at least score big at Wimbledon, but, remember, this is another "year after" season that she has to conquer. Plus, she very nearly went out early at the AELTC last season against Venus Williams, so she still has a few minor "prove it" hurdles to clear before earning "green" status. The Dane was the most upwardly-mobile player on tour over the last third of the season, and will be looking to carry over her success. She only has one career SF result in the AO, but one would think if she can arrive in Melbourne in good form in the only slam where the normal wear-and-tear of the season doesn't apply (and where her superior fitness in the extreme heat can play even more into her favor), then she might have a shot to contend for that maiden slam win that eluded her when she was ranked #1.

She's certainly hard a work trying to make it happen.

Offseason training! #gymtime #video #keepgettingbetter

A video posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on



7. Eugenie Bouchard (20)
8. Aga Radwanska (7)
9. Ana Ivanovic (32)
10. Andrea Petkovic (36)
11. Ekaterina Makarova (19)
12. Angelique Kerber (9)
13. Garbine Muguruza (52)

...all the "pinkies" have experienced grand slam "moments," but only one won has won a major (and she hasn't reached a slam semifinal in the twenty-six majors she's played since). Bouchard was well-positioned on the ML a year ago, considering she'd only played in three slam main draws, winning four matches, prior to '14. She probably should be in the blue section for '15, but her late season bouts with dealing with the new level of expectation and pressure (particularly in Montreal), as well as lingering injuries (see Singapore, and her IPTL withdrawal) that cut her practice time, carved away at her confidence and produced a few ugly results, give one at least a slight bit of pause since she has so, so much to defend in '15 following her incredible series of slam breakouts last season. Not that coming in at #7 is low, by any stretch. Just a wee bit conservative. Radwanska wouldn't have ranked so high on this list if not for her recent addition of Martina Navratilova to her coaching team. The somewhat odd combination -- a big-serving and physical lefty with an aggressive net game teaming with a baseliner Pole with a severely wanting second serve and a knack for long points, clever strategy and mindboggling angles and spins? -- might not turn Aga into the slam champ she nearly was two seasons ago, but their dual affinity for the All-England Club might push her deep into the fortnight in London, and that's enough to rate high on this list. As good as AnaIvo's '14 season was, the '08 RG champ didn't have a truly great year at the majors aside from her upset of Serena in Melbourne. But her full, consistent campaign should give her the momentum to rectify that in '15. Petko proved she could stay healthy last season, and even reached her first slam semifinal. The latter might not happen again, but if the former can (shhh... and cross those fingers) then it's not out of the question we see both once again. Remember, she was a three-time slam quarterfinalist in the 2011 season. Makarova reached her first career slam semifinal in New York, but can she string together enough great results to be a constant slam threat in '15? She's nearly climbed into the Top 10 (#11), so her draws should improve and she might not have to take down quite as many big names to have consistent slam success in the new year. Kerber has reached at least the Round of 16 at ten of thirteen slams, starting with her surprise run to the U.S. Open semis in 2011. Muguruza, while dipping in and out at times in '14, showed a propensity to shine on the big stage against big names, and that should serve her well in the coming slam season. She might very well be able to put together the best run at a major by a Spaniard since the Sanchez/Martinez era.

14. Sara Errani (10)
15. Belinda Bencic (--)
16. Sabine Lisicki (6)
17. Flavia Pennetta (14)
18. Venus Williams (33)
19. Karolina Pliskova (--)
20. Lucie Safarova (47)
21. Peng Shuai (46)
22. Carla Suarez-Navarro (18)

...as usual, it's a zesty (as in orange zest... get it?), intriguing mix on this level of the list. Errani's ranking continues to slide a little bit each season since her topping out at a season-ending #6 in '12, but she's a consistent slam performer, having put up QF results last season in Paris and NYC. 17-year old Bencic makes a super-high debut after her U.S. Open quarterfinal, while Lisicki's love affair with Wimbledon always gives her a chance to rise well above the crowd on the grass. Pennetta, at 32, had her first two slam QF season in '14; while Venus proved her continued worth at 33 by giving Kvitova her biggest challenge in the early rounds at Wimbledon. If she'd managed to take down the Czech, well, who knows what might have happened in London. The big-serving Pliskova has yet to advance to her first slam Round of 16 (that'll soon change), and that's the only thing keeping her from climbing a little higher on this list (that'll change soon, too). Safarova held a match point against eventual AO champ Li, and reached her first slam semi at SW19. Peng advanced to the final four in New York, and is now the Chinese #1. Not having to compete against the still-thriving legacy of Li, might Peng feel less pressure in '15, or more? Will her now-defunct doubles partnership with Hsieh Su-Wei, and all the confidence-building success it brought her, work for or against her, as she maybe focuses even more on her singles? Without a doubt, the Chinese vet is one of the most intriguing WTA stories of all heading into the new season. Meanwhile, CSN has set or equaled event career-bests at three slams in the last two seasons, though she's yet to slip into a semifinal and could be passed by doubles partner Muguruza as the highest-ranked Spaniard this season.

23. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (28)
24. Madison Keys (31)
25. Jelena Jankovic (13)
26. Alize Cornet (44)
27. Dominika Cibulkova (27)
28. Svetlana Kuznetsova (21)

...now begins the process of filling out this fourth Master List. Any of these "red zone" players could ultimately make deep Final 8 or better runs at slams, but they're just not quite "trustworthy." Most have signifigant strikes against them, too, in the coming season. Creeping age (Jankovic), youth (Keys), inconsistency (Pavlyuchenkova, Kuznetsova & Cibulkova, the latter of which reached the AO final in '14, though it was a little difficult to remember it by season's end) or just plain ol' "French-ness" (Cornet) and all that goes with it. A year ago in this section, I said of a certain Canadian, "Maybe the most intriguing player here is Bouchard, making a huge leap from her (nicely-timed, I think, in her first year as a pro) inclusion on last year's list at #53 by jumping up to the Top 20. The Canadian could very well have one of the sort of slam showcases this year that propelled Sloane Stephens onto the overall sports radar last year." Well, that all worked out pretty well. But is there another would-be-showcase waiting in the red zone for 2015? Hmmm, maybe Keys (working with Lindsay Davenport and Wim Fissette this season), or possibly a newly slam-consistent Pavlyuchenkova.

29. Zarina Diyas (--)
30. Samantha Stosur (5)
31. Camila Giorgi (26)
32. Aleksandra Krunic (--)
33. Kaia Kanepi (24)
34. Annika Beck (34)
35. Casey Dellacqua (--)
36. Sloane Stephens (11)
37. Tsvetana Pironkova (--)
38. Caroline Garcia (--)
39. Katerina Siniakova (--)
40. Taylor Townsend (--)
41. Roberta Vinci (15)

...there are a whole lot of interesting second week slam prospects here, from promising youngsters (Beck) to longtime vets (Stosur, still doing enough at the end of the season to warrant a little optimism, just nowhere near as much as last year) and players on the edge of something really good, but maybe not quite there yet (Giorgi & '14 U.S. Open sensation Krunic). Kanepi is always a slam QF waiting to happen, or a quick 1st Round exit. Diyas is someone to keep an eye on, having quietly reached a Round of 16 and squelched a developing story (Bellis in NYC) in her first season of slam activity. Pironkova returns after a one year absence from the ML, while teenagers Siniakova and Townsend make their debuts. Garcia could make a big jump up this list a year from now, but as '15 begins she's coming off three 1st Round slam exits a year ago. Dellacqua is always surprising, and the soon-to-turn 30-year old Aussie is coming off the best slam season (two Round of 16's) of her career. Vinci, at least in singles, feels like she's just holding on, but I'll cut her some slack and keep her here and away from the "catch-all" group that follows. Oh yeah, and "Current" Sloane is here, too, equaling Stosur's fall of twenty-five spots on this list over the course of the past year.

42. Kirsten Flipkens (22)
43. Tereza Smitkova (--)
44. Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova (--)
45. Coco Vandeweghe (--)
46. Kristina Mladenovic (69)
47. Laura Robson (37)
48. Klara Koukalova (--)
49. Monica Niculescu (54)
50. Jana Cepelova (--)
51. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (--)
52. Anna Schmiedlova (--)
53. Heather Watson (--)
54. Ana Konjuh (--)
55. Yaroslava Shvedova (42)
56. Vera Zvonareva (35)
57. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (--)
58. Maria Kirilenko (23)
59. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (--)
60. Anna-Lena Friedsam (--)
61. Kiki Bertens (--)
62. Elena Vesnina (25)
63. Elina Svitolina (49)
64. Donna Vekic (55)
65. Carina Witthoeft (--)
66. Evgeniya Rodina (--)
67. Michelle Larcher de Brito (--)
68. Ajla Tomljanovic (--)
69. Vitalia Diatchenko (--)
70. Denisa Allertova (--)
71. Barbora Krejcikova (--)
72. Alison Riske (43)
73. Shelby Rogers (--)
74. Vicky Duval (62)
75. Luksika Kumkhum (--)
76. Timea Bacsinszky (--)
77. Andreea Mitu (--)
78. Anna Tatishvili (--)
79. CiCi Bellis (--)
80. Francoise Abanda (--)
81. Jelena Ostapenko (--)

...seven layers deep into this Master List, we start to hunt around and try to catch a wave, or roll the dice on a few prospects. I might be a bit optimistic on the returning-from-wrist-surgery Robson (dropping only ten spots from '14), but it's a long slam season. Vandeweghe (who jokingly pointed out the other day that SHE hasn't hired a new coach, so she might have to change her hair color to "remain relevant" this offseason) might have a second week run in her, while Duval is readying to return after successful Hodgkin's treatment. Of course, I have to include a few junior prospects (newly-assured ITF girls #1 Bellis, along with Abanda and junior slam champ Ostapenko). I generally have a player in this range that I take a bit of a slam flier on that has turned out well. In 2013, it was the then-mostly-off-the-radar (despite a Wimbledon 4th Rd.) Camila Giorgi, who came in at #45 in the season in which she caused a ruckus at the U.S. Open and reached the Round of 16. Muguruza was last year's version of Giorgi, placing at #52 after missing time with injury in '13. She reached the 4th Round in Melbourne, then the QF in Paris. This year's version? Hmmm, possibly another #52 -- Schmiedlova, who defeated Venus in Paris last season before ultimately losing to, you guessed it, Muguruza.

As things turned out, as Pironkova was the last player left off the list a year ago, the "honors" this season go to Jarmila Gajdosova (who nearly returned to the list after a two-year absence) and Jamie Hampton (who may just never be healthy enough), dropped out after a high placement of #30 a year ago.

Of course, with the 37 risers to the list, 25 were removed. That list includes a pair of retired slam winners in Li Na and Marion Bartoli (included last year, you know, just in case she staged a comeback), as well as past slam achievers Francesca Schiavone, Daniela Hantuchova and Zheng Jie. Regretfully, I dropped off Monica Puig, despite being a first-time tour title winner in' 14, as well. A pair of Backspin favorites -- Nadia Petrova and Jelena Dokic, both with uncertain/unknown futures -- were also bid adieu... but, you know, there's always a small bit of hope around HQ for a change in fortunes.

PLAYERS RETURNING TO THE LIST AFTER A ONE-YEAR ABSENCE: Klara Koukalova (#51 in '13), Tsvetana Pironkova (#33 in '13) and Heather Watson (#52 in '13)

PLAYERS RETURNING TO THE LIST AFTER A TWO-YEAR ABSENCE: Caroline Garcia (#32 in '12) and Casey Dellacqua (#50 in '12)

PLAYERS REMOVED FROM THE LIST SINCE LAST YEAR: #3 Li Na (retired), #17 Marion Bartoli (still retired), #29 Francesca Schiavone, #30 Jamie Hampton, #38 Alisa Kleybanova, #39 Karin Knapp, #40 Andrea Hlavackova, #41 Nadia Petrova, #45 Sorana Cirstea, #48 Daniela Hantuchova, #50 Julia Goerges, #51 Zheng Jie, #53 Bojana Jovanovski, #56 Petra Cetkovska, #57 Stefanie Voegele, #58 Mandy Minella, #59 Monica Puig, #60 Ayumi Morita, #61 Zhang Shuai, #63 Jelena Dokic, #64 Lauren Davis, #65 Ashleigh Barty, #66 Tamira Paszek, #67 Romina Oprandi, #68 Paula Ormaechea

So, the fourth official Grand Slam Master List will now be filed away in a cabinet somewhere deep in the bowels of the Navratilova Library of Records on the grounds of Backspin Academy, along with 2012's now-even-more-rare, already-fading copy of the original list. Naturally, this little "gem" will be pulled out on at least four occasions over the course of the next year, just to see who is exceeding their offseason expectations, or failing to come close to living up to them. Next December, the names will be taken down and reshuffled once more... and, as we stand today, even Citizen Anna doesn't know which players will have suddenly risen close to near the top of the list by then. Well, at least I don't THINK she knows. QC? Hmmm... she probably knows. But good luck trying to figure out from her who they might be.

All for now.










Read more...

Friday, December 05, 2014

2014 WTA Yearbook


The time has come. (As always, thoughts and words brought to you free of charge.)

=2014=

Hmmm... the new "official" motto for Backspin?

And away we go...



Our Beloved Backspin Academy

Heavy wears the Presidential crown.

Wow, the past term's Backspin Academy Student Council election campaign was quite the wild contest. Over the years, the BSA government has been the place for great political power experimentation. We've entertained and adopted the notion of power-sharing set-ups, in-name-only leaders serving at the behest of more "legitimate" power brokers lurking in the shadows of the Rectangular Office in Henin Hall, and even seeming dictatorships in which swift justice was served out against anyone who dared to challenge the reigning President's comfortability in the big chair.

This year, we saw a more Schizophrenic governing situation develop.

As things turned out, the Academy's incumbent student council President held onto power from the first day of the term until the last, but her campaign was hardly a masterpiece. In fact, by her long-held standards, it was quite disappointing in the arenas where she's traditionally shined the brightest. While she took care of the office's day-to-day duties until late summer, making the sure the buses ran on time and the potholes were filled, the council members who -- even if only in their political dreams -- were jockeying to replace her performed daring feats at the biggest campaign rallies of the year held in Melbourne, Paris and London. In contrast, the President consistently flamed out at those very same important events. While her presidential title remained securely in place throughout, some might have said that she appeared to be more a "figure-head" than a full-fledged leader ready to shepherd a student body seeking to change the world.

But, of course, those people failed to remember just who the Academy's student President actually IS, and how her history of drifting into and out of absolute power meant that she was capable of once again seizing total control at any moment.

And that's what she did in New York, winning the last huge debate of the campaign and, in turn, picking up enough confidence-inspired momentum, support and votes to carry her through until the end of the term, even if she did potentially need an inadvertent helping hand from a fairly new big-stage political operative hailing from Romania, whose admirable refusal to step aside and not participate in an otherwise "meaningless" squabble in Singapore provided just enough wiggle room for the President to complete her successful re-election bid.

Flaws and all, it was quite the historical victory. Until this campaign, Academy election results have unofficially adhered to a model that embraced term limits of the one-year variety. Winning back-to-back elections is no easy feat, as the attempt is a trail traditionally littered with injury, fatigue and, sometimes, lingering cases of ennui that make long-term governance by a sole individual a rarely-seen phenomenon. Madam President surely suffered from most, if not all, of those maladies over the course of this election cycle. Thus, her fourth, but first consecutive, term in the office won't likely be equaled for a very long time.

*HONOR ROLL OF BELOVED CLASS PRESIDENTS*
2001 Jennifer Capriati
2002 Serena Williams
2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2004 Lindsay Davenport
2005 Kim Clijsters
2006 Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Justine Henin
2008 Serena Williams
2009 Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Sara Errani & Roberta VInci
2010 Caroline Wozniacki
2011 Petra Kvitova
2012 Victoria Azarenka
2013 Serena Williams
2014 Serena Williams


In the latter stages of her current term, the President was seen around and off campus with a very familiar face. A former Class President, in fact.



The very public Best Friends Forever display has led to rumors that the President might be seeking to groom her replacement, hoping to retain a little influence down the line even if she herself fails to, a year from now or later, fashion a fifth presidential election victory of her own. The Danish former class leader wasn't especially viewed as a Council leader with great power and aggression in her previous stint in the top spot, so she surely could learn a great deal from our respected Madam President. Only time will tell.

Future generations will surely be entertained by the tale, but we'll have to wait a while to see the truth with our own eyes. Who knows? Maybe the former class President who returns to power in 2015 won't even be the one from Denmark... but someone who hails from a different European nation.

Hmmm.

=STUDENT COUNCIL=
CLASS PRESIDENT: Serena Williams

CO-PRESIDENTS OF THE COURT OF HISTORICAL OPINION (four is Grand): Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci

VICE PRESIDENT: Maria Sharapova (not-totally-loyal #2 for a full decade)

CO-PRESIDENTS PRO TEMPORE: Petra Kvitova & the Czech Fed Cup team

FORMER CO-PRESIDENTS PRO TEMPORE WHO VACATED THEIR POSITION: Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai
CO-VALEDICTORIANS: Jordanne Whiley & Yui Kamiji

Co-SALUTATORIANS: Dominika Cibulkova, Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard & Caroline Wozniacki
CLASS TREASURER: Eugenie Bou-... hmmm, let's hold off on that appointment for now

HOLDOVER CLASS TREASURER: Marion Bartoli (our 2013 office holder has graciously decided to work on a part-time basis until someone else learns the ropes)

CLASS TREASURER-IN-TRAINING (with cake, or without): Belinda Bencic

FUTURE CLASS TREASURER... on second thought, scratch that: Sloane Stephens
SCHOOL ESPRIT COORDINATORS: Alize Cornet, Carolina Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic, Virginie Razzano & Amelie Mauresmo
SCHOOL SPIRIT COORDINATOR (PJ Party Wednesdays Rule!!!): Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic, Julia Goerges & Anna-Lena Groenefeld

STUDENT/WORLD'S OLDEST PROFESSIONAL LIAISONS?: Aga & Ula (umm, first names only, to protect the innocent??)

The Yearbook staff is only joking, of course.
Personae Non Gratae AT STUDENT COUNTIL MEETINGS (but on the road back to a full-force return): Victoria Azarenka

BELATEDLY WELCOMED BACK TO CAMPUS (after a LOOOOOONG trip abroad): Ana Ivanovic

INSPIRATIONAL ADVISOR: Li Na


"I just follow my heart." - Li Na



"When I think of power I think of Serena. When I think of focus I think of Sharapova. When I think of heart and guts I think of Azarenka." - Chris Evert

Backspin Academy's humble and hardworking staff occasionally undergoes some upheaval, but the student body (which sometimes includes a few of our instructors, who pull double duty in order to show how much they care) is generally pleased with those entrusted with molding their impressionable minds like the blocks of clay that they are.

First off, we are happy to report that, after quite a few terms after which we recounted how many of the Academy's friends gently (and sometimes not so gently) urged one member of our staff to allow his pupil/daughter/student assistant to work with another professor without him personally lingering in the background, Mr. P-Woz and his offspring Caro did indeed test the waters of alternative education in an attempt to allow her to spread her wings. After stints under the tutelage of visiting Professors Sanchez, Johansson and Hogstedt, as well as great personal change away from her studies, young Caro returned to her roots at BSA with a greater knowledge and perspective gained from her time on her own.

We are happy to report that Caro's grades improved markedly upon her return, as well as her work habits, techniques and standing within the BSA community (after it had been slightly damaged since her successful early days on campus). In fact, she is quite possibly our best all-around, most versatile student (no one has more extracurricular activities on her Academy resume!) on campus. It has all produced a moment of great redemption for both the Professor and his daughter, though some argue that the REAL reason for her resurgence has been the shedding of an unnecessary and ultimately damaging appendage that caused young Caro to lose her focus for quite a few terms, as her drop in grade point average perhaps-not-so-coincidentally coincided with the affair in question.

On the bright side, the Dane's "borrowed" clubs were returned to the Academy golf team.



Of course, one change often begets another, and the case holds true here, as well. Professor Hogstedt is now free to serve as a consultant during part of the upcoming term for an enterprising young student from Romania, who herself has chosen to exit the year-long program hosted by Professor Fissette in order to learn from one of BSA's newest instructors, Victor Ionita, who just so happens to hail from her native country.

Meanwhile, several other young students have moved on from their past instructors, as well, including one of our stand-outs this term, Miss Bouchard (formerly Professor Saviano's steadfast, though often feisty, charge); while Miss Keys has seen fit to spend a little time being mentored by one of BSA's past stars (and former Class President!), Mrs. Davenport (as well as Professor Fissette). We're all hoping that it provides young Madison with a strong base from which to improve her work even more next year. We have great optimism for her future.

For the second straight year, BSA has seen the exit of one of our most well-liked, and recently epicly successful graduate students. A year after Mademoiselle Bartoli walked through the Academy's front gate, the wonderful Li Na did the same. We are all better for having known her, but poorer for seeing her go.




We are all sure that we will see Na again, though in a somewhat different capacity, but we'll still long for her humorous asides and winning personality. Of course, now we're all wondering on whom she'll try out all her fabulous jokes about her husband Dennis! From top to bottom, we've all been a wonderful audience over the years. Oh, well. Hopefully, Na will see fit to drop in once in a while, just to show how easily she can still make us smile.



While we reveled in the return of past Academy stars Vaidisova, K.Bondarenko and Cavaday, as well as the additional workload picked up by a pair of Russian students, both Ms. Rodina and Diatchenko, of course, at the close of many academic sessions, we're always forced to bid adieu to some of our longstanding campus personalities. It's just a way of life at BSA. Amongst the heartfelt goodbye moments this year were send-offs for the aforementioned Li, as well as long-time students named Arn, Barrois, Burdette, Castano, Dubois, Haynes, Kremer, Jones, Jugic-Salkic, Melzer (formerly Benesova), Meusburger (though she'll return for one more class in Melbourne), Safina (yes, she's been living off-campus for a while now, but she finally made her permanent departure official this past term), Martinez-Sanchez and Shaughnessy. We still hope that each and every one return to our warm embrace some wonderful day in the future, just as will be the case in the coming term when we welcome back student Duval with open arms after her brief -- and thankfully successful! -- medical leave.

Unfortunately, the same will not be said for our beloved former student Baltacha. Or, as we all came to know her, our "Bally." The Brit passed away after being trapped in the clutches of a dastardly illness this past term, moving us all and, quite simply, breaking our hearts. We may never fully recover from the loss. But won't forget her, either.





Meanwhile, naturally, Professor Date-Krumm continues to amaze us with her longevity and creative energy. Somehow, everyone figures that she'll outlast us all. Well, excluding long-time Traveling Dean Emeritus Navratilova, that is.

"A lot of things that happen throughout the year, and some things are super frustrating that I don't want to deal with half the time. But you have to be patient; otherwise things will not happen." - Sloane Stephens

=FACULTY, STAFF, DEPARTMENT HEADS & APPOINTEES=
ACADEMY DEAN EMERITUS (celebrating her 41st year of living the dream): Billie Jean King (with Freedoms-loving Vika Azarenka, of course)

TRAVELING Co-DEANS EMERITUS: Martina Navratilova & Chris Evert (with our Class President!)

LEGENDARY Co-DEAN ON ADMINISTRATIVE SUSPENSION FOR CONDUCT DETRIMENTAL TO THE ACADEMY: Shamil Tarpischev

EXPERT GUIDANCE COUNSELOR (for everyone willing to listen): Amelie Mauresmo

GUIDANCE COUNSELOR (breaking long-overdue ground): Gala Leon Garcia

GUIDANCE COUNSELOR (the "We." in "Me. Mine. Alone. Myself. I. One. Solo. Unaccompanied."): Patrick Mouratoglou
GUIDANCE COUNSELOR ("Ahhh, this porridge is just right."): Sven Groeneveld

LOYAL GUIDANCE COUNSELOR (still proving that it CAN all work out fine in the long run with an equally loyal Petra): David Kotyza
SLINGIN' GUIDANCE COUNSELOR: David Taylor Miles McLagen Simon Rea
FORMER GUIDANCE COUNSELOR (who fulfilled the promise of one more big grand slam close-up for his only post-La Petit Taureau advisee): Carlos Rodriguez

"It's not like a surprise to me. I expect good results like this. So for me, it was like, 'Okay, good. It's a step in the right direction. I get to play in the (Wimbledon) final.'" - Genie Bouchard

SUDDENLY & UNEXPECTEDLY FORMER GUIDANCE COUNSELOR: Nick Saviano
FORMER/CURRENT GUIDANCE COUNSELOR/MAN OF 1000 FACES: Piotr Wozniacki/Victor Krasan/Victor Wozniacki

FORMER & CURRENT GUIDANCE COUNSELOR (looking for lightning to strike twice): Melanie Molitor

BACK FROM VOLUNTARY SABBATICAL: Nicole Vaidisova
BACK FROM FORCED SABBATICAL (and better than ever): Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova
AUSSIE ON INDEFINITE LEAVE: Ashleigh Barty
AUSSIE HOPEFULLY SOON TO BE SEEN AROUND CAMPUS AGAIN: Jelena Dokic (maybe, pretty please?)
AUSSIE RUSSIAN HOPEFULLY SOON TO BE SEEN AROUND CAMPUS AGAIN: (Oh) Nadia Petrova
ANOTHER FORMER STUDENT STRIVING TO PASS ON HER KNOWLEDGE TO THE NextGen: new '14 Russian Fed Cup captain Anastasia Myskina & assistant coach Anna Chakvetadze
24-HOUR MEDICAL STAFF: anyone in Jamie Hampton's shadow
THANKFULLY BACK: The Shorts

THANKFULLY HISTORY: The Wrist Brace

THANKFULLY (finally) HER-STORY (and in the Top 100): Aleksandra "The Serbian Good Luck Charm/The Bracelet" Krunic

SIMONA THEN and NOW:

YEARBOOK PHOTO EDITOR/PAPARAZZI ("past"): Caroline Wozniacki

YEARBOOK PHOTO EDITOR/PAPARAZZI ("present, and future?"): Caroline Wozniacki (or maybe they're just "good friends")

MARCELA ZACARIUS, XIMENA HERMOSO, VICTORIA RODRIGUEZ & RENATA ZARAZUA INTRODUCE...: Ana-Sofia Sanchez, Alejandra Cisneros, Camila Fuentes & Carolina Betancourt
ACADEMY HISTORIAN: Bud Collins (always and forever)
SOCIAL MEDIA DIRECTOR/"Selfie Queen": Eugenie Bouchard

ETIQUETTE SCHOOL DIRECTOR: Alize Cornet [position temporarily vacant - BSA Etiquette School Director was suspended for delayed Centre Court etiquette]

LUNCH LADY (Cheesecake Factory style): Aga Radwanska

LUNCH DOUGHNUT LADY: Aga Radwanska

(DELIGHTFULLY BLUNT) COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: Sania Mirza
CO-GROUP COMMUNICATION DIRECTORS: The Czechs & The Poles


(EYE-ROLLING AND SIGH-INDUCING) COMMUNICATIVE ESPN COMMENTATOR: L.Z. Granderson

(MAYBE A BIT OVERLY) COMMUNICATIVE TENNIS CHANNEL COMMENTATOR: Rennae Stubbs
INTRICATELY-COMMUNICATIVE ESPN COMMENTATOR: Pam Shriver

"She speaks the way she plays right now -- with great clarity. She knows what she's about. She's very comfortable, even though she doesn't have much experience in life terms. She's the real deal, isn't she?" - Pam Shriver, on Genie Bouchard

WONDERFULLY COMMUNICATIVE HUMAN (FORMERLY???) WITH AN EVIL ENTITY AS AN ALTER EGO: Agnieszka Radwanska

"OTHER" FED CUP STARS OF THE YEAR: Andrea Hlavackova & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova (the Czechs who made November happen... in February)

SUBSTITUTE FED CUPPER OF THE YEAR: Andrea "The Wonderfully Off-Center Tone Setter" Petkovic

(STILL THE) BEST FED CUP CROWD SURFER: Aga Radwanska

SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: The eleven students representing eleven different nations in the term-ending Best Grade Point Average list... the Academy is so proud of its diversity
SCHOOL OF (MISSED IT BY ONE VOTE) INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Andy Murray
SCHOOL OF RADWANSKIAN MASSACRES ON INTERNATIONAL STAGES - ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY: The Rad, on June 26 at Wimbledon


SCHOOL OF CONTINUING TO LIVE WITHOUT FEAR: Alisa Kleybanova
SCHOOL OF LEARNING TO LIVE WITHOUT FEAR: Vicky Duval & Catalina Castano

"Sometimes I turn into kind of a beast. My evil twin comes on court." - Jelena Jankovic

SCHOOL OF LIVING WITHOUT FEAR (and being Jankovician): JJ, of course


SCHOOL OF INNOCENT, POTENTIALLY CONTROVERSIAL -- and now forgotten -- COMEDY REVOLVING AROUND YOUR BFF: Caroline Wozniacki in Brazil, as "Serena"

(Wince-inducing) SING-ALONG LEADER: Victoria Azarenka (maybe Gael can celebrate his birthday alone)



"I think it's very French. I love it."
Jelena Jankovic, on her Roland Garros dress


SCHOOL OF BUSINESS & DESIGN: Serena Williams Signature Fashion show

SCHOOL OF BUSINESS & SWEETS: Maria Sharapova

SCHOOL OF BUSINESS, BRITS & SWEETS: SugarRobsonPova

ON MEDICAL LEAVE (but soon better able to shoot from the hip again... hopefully): Jamie Hampton
ADVANCED SCHOOL OF EXTREME METEOROLOGY: Maria Sharapova

INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL OF METEOROLOGY: Tornado Alicia Black & Hurricane Black
REMEDIAL SCHOOL OF ENTOMOLOGY: Kimiko Date-Krumm (unwilling star "Attack of the Killer Bees")

SCHOOL OF IMPERSONATION-IS-THE-MOST-SINCERE-FORM-OF-FLATTERY?: Maria Sharapova & Eugenie Bouchard



SCHOOL OF IMPERSONATION-IS-THE-MOST-SINCERE-FORM-OF-FLATTERY... or maybe something else?: Maria Sharapova & Eugenie Bouchard


SCHOOL OF MIXED MESSAGES IN MONTREAL: Maria Sharapova and Maria Genie Maria & Genie fan


"Best friend on tour? I don’t have one. I don’t think the tennis tour is the place to have friends. For me, it’s all competition. And I think it’s important to just remember that we’re going to play against each other. It’s not like we’re teammates. To me, it’s kind of more competitive." - Genie Bouchard

*ACTING DEPARTMENT HEADS & SELECTED CLASS INSTRUCTORS*
UNORTHODOX RUSSIAN: Svetlana "Four Year Droughts Be Damned" Kuznetsova
CONVERSATIONAL SERBIAN: Ana Ivanovic

CONVERSATIONAL MANDARIN (class closed next term): Li Na

CONVERSATIONAL MANDARIN (new class!): Peng Shuai (professor cancelled - medical) Wang Qiang (another Gold Medalist added to the BSA faculty!)


"You cannot lose a match like this. I'm really an idiot." - Flavia Pennetta

(Situational) ITALIAN LEADERSHIP: Karin Knapp
ITALIAN PSYCHOLOGY: Camila Giorgi
ITALIAN/ANNE WHITE FASHION FUSION: Camila Giorgi

(OH SO) FRENCH-101: Alize Cornet

GERMAN-131: Sabine Lisicki

GERMAN TOURISM: Andrea Petkovic [South Carolina course - ask office for syllabus]

RUSSIAN TOURISM: Maria Kirilenko (required reading: "Welcome to Sochi")

GOOD CZECH, BAD CZECH, GREAT CZECH: Petra Kvitova
CONVERSATIONAL (NATIVE-BORN) KAZAKH: Zarina Diyas

SIGN LANGUAGE: The Genie Army

SIGN (OF-AFFECTION) LANGUAGE: Aga Radwanska & Aleksandra Krunic


WHEN IN ROME (or Tashkent)...: Katerina Siniakova & Aleksandra Krunic

INTRODUCTION TO MONTENEGRIN: Danka Kovinic
INTRODUCTION TO NEW BRITISH HISTORY (from the inside): Amelie Mauresmo (the hottest course this term -- even Professor Murray signed up!)
(Future) AMERICAN FED CUP HISTORY?: Fed Cup Captain Kathy Rinaldi? (we're crossing our fingers)

THE FUTURE OF NORTH AMERICA-101: Sloane Stephens Eugenie Bouchard
THE FUTURE OF NORTH AMERICA-102: Madison Keys
THE FUTURE OF NORTH AMERICA-103??: CiCi Bellis
THE FUTURE OF NORTH AMERICA CANADA: Francoise Abanda

WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN INDIA (and the world): Sania Mirza
TURKISH HISTORY: Ipek Soylu

LATVIAN HISTORY: Jelena Ostapenko
THAI ARCHEOLOGY: Tamarine Tanasugarn
MODERN ANCIENT JAPAN: Kimiko Date-Krumm
THE FUTURE OF CHINA: Xu Shilin
TRAVELING THE WORLD (and heading Down Under): Ajla Tomljanovic
BELGIAN BARBIE SELFIES: Kim Clijsters

LEGENDARY BARBIE (and even-more-legendary friend): Martina Navratilova & Kim Clijsters

NON-BARBIE POST-MOTHERHOOD SUCCESS (with few fewer pats on the back): Cara Black, Kateryna Bondarenko & Evgeniya Rodina
THE COLOR OF MONEY: Serena Williams

DRIVER'S EDUCATION (also a prerequisite for Circus Clown Training-101): Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci

CRICKET-101: Ana Ivanovic

CRICKET-102: Serena & Venus Williams

AEROBICS ("Sweatin' to the Oldies" cassette required): Maria Sharapova

PRINCIPLES OF TABLE HOCKEY: Aga Radwanska

INTRODUCTION TO POLICE FORCE TACTICS: Victoria Azarenka

BAND CAMP: Petra Kvitova

LI(ght) READING: Petra Kvitova

NAME-DROPPING: Petra Kvitova

MEDIA RELATIONS: Maria Sharapova

POLE DANCING-1 on 1: Aga Radwanska

THE ART OF INTERRUPTION: Victoria Azarenka

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! @kennacolbs turkey leg in my face literally 😂😂😂

A video posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on


"SO YOU WANT TO ATTEND A BALL?": The Radwanskas

"SO YOU WANT TO BE A MEDIC?": Maria Sharapova

CHARM SCHOOL DIRECTOR: Li Na (lifetime appointment)

THE ART OF TEAMWORK: The Czech Maidens


"For three years I've been playing in Strasbourg. They just don't like me there. I don't know how it can be possible, but apparently, they just don't like me." - Alize Cornet

Our students always tell us that they truly enjoy our award-winning lecture series. Here's a preliminary look at our upcoming jam-packed schedule:

*GUEST LECTURERS*
"Dealing with Expectations That Scrape the Sky, Part 4: RedemptionJay": Petra Kvitova, hungry to win more games at the AELTC

"Dealing with Expectations Personal Aspirations That Scrape the Sky": Eugenie Bouchard
"Preventative Medicine, Smart Body Management & You": Victoria Azarenka Replacement Speaker: Andrea Petkovic (shhh... don't publicize it TOO much, though)
"Better Late Than Never": Peng Shuai Carla Suarez-Navarro

"I'm not looking for anyone to believe in me or anything like that. You have to believe in yourself these days. I have nothing to prove, nothing to hide, nothing to lose." - Venus Williams

"A Williams' Work is Never Done: The Story Continues": Venus Williams

"What Do You Do Next When, in What Might Your Best-Ever Chance for Greatness, You Just Miss?": Lucie Safarova, with a "My Wonderful Summer Trip to London" postscript
"Convincing Yourself is STILL the Hardest Part": Samantha Stosur [Note: speaker will not present speech in Osaka]

"How to Resurrect a Formerly Promising Career": Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

"Fire a Another Coach, Lose a Fiance, Win a Title, Gain a BFF, Reach a Big Final, Run a Marathon, Do a Triathlon and Regain Lost Ground in Record Time: The Story of My Year": Caroline Wozniacki
"27 (in a row) is the Loneliest Number: The Quest for the Summer of BrengleFly": Madison Brengle
"All Right... Next!": Radek Stepanek (still lurking looking for his next production, following his previous one-man shows: "Martina & Me," "Nicole & Me" & "Petra & Me"), with a follow-up by Taylor Swift, "It wasn't you, it was me. Psych!"
"It's Not as Easy as You'd Think... just ask me": Camila Giorgi
"My Day in Acapulco with Grigor": Genie Bouchard

"What's Yours COULD Be Mine... one day": Genie Bouchard

"Keeping Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies Closer": Maria Sharapova

"Promising Yourself that Second-Best is Never Enough (no matter how often the Tennis Gods try to convince you otherwise)": Angelique Kerber

"My first few months I don’t think has been great at all." "I have a couple words to describe it, but I think that would be really inappropriate, so I’m going to leave it at that." - Serena Williams

"All the Words That Aren't Fit to Print": Serena Williams
"No, We Aren't Long-Lost Siblings": Alize Lim & Kristen Kreuk (co-speakers)

"Dangling Your Meat on a Hook": Jelena Jankovic

"Pride in Being Picky (in the name of Romania)": Simona Halep

"The Success of the 'Bring Back the Shorts!' Campaign (though a little more tangible success would be nice, too)": Diane Dees

"(Untitled)": Mystery speaker (either Maria Sharapova or Naomi Broady)

"Embracing the Drama": Alize Cornet & Jelena Jankovic (back after a five-year absence!)
"Embracing the Dane, version 2.0": Todd Spiker
"Embracing the Entity": Aga Radwanska (only scheduled when Vika Azarenka is in attendance)

"Embracing the Golden Age of the Hordettes": Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova & Svetlana Kuznetsova

"(Untitled)": Maria Sharapova & Naomi Broady

"Telling Everyone It Doesn't Matter Because You've Got Time (then grabbing a racket and proving the former): An Oral Essay": Sloane Stephens (with a supportive introduction by Caroline Wozniacki)
"An Indoor Room with a View": Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
"When You Least Expect It, Expect It": Tsvetana Pironkova (audience must turn back to podium before speaker will begin)
"Back to the Beginning": Klara Koukalova Zakopalova Koukalova
"Nothing Lasts Forever": Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai

"Argo's Got Nothing on Arnon: How I Married a Hollywood Tycoon, Israeli Spy & Arms Dealer": Amanda Coetzer

"How the Sports Media Views Women's Tennis": Stacey Allaster

"How Women's Tennis Actually Is": Stacey Allaster

"The Tale of the Spanish Giant": Garbine Muguruza

"Before I felt very small, but today I thought, 'I’m not going to feel very small.'" - Garbine Muguruza


"Signs of a Tennis Apocalypse & Us: A First-Person Account": L.Z. Granderson & Hannah Storm (speakers will appear together at podium only when every other possible speaker has finished, gone home, gone to bed, passed out or decided to "take a weekend" in North Korea)




"I think everyone in general plays the match of their lives against me. So every time I step on the court, I have to always be a hundred times better. If I'm not, then I'm in trouble. If I'm not playing a great, great match, these girls when they play me, they play as if they're on the ATP Tour, and then they play other girls completely different. It's never easy being in my shoes." - Serena Williams

Our student body is a talented crop, and always on the look-out for rewarding extracurricular activities to take up their valuable time.

=CLUB HEADS=
(She Comes By It Naturally) DRAMA CLUB: Alize Cornet (shockingly deposing JJ in a tight vote)
(Expected Coaching) DRAMA CLUB: Ana Ivanovic
(Russian) DRAMA CLUB: Russian Tennis Federation (revolving chairs and club members, both active, protesting and/or suspended)
(Relationship) DRAMA CLUB: Caroline Wozniacki
DOG PARK CLUB: Serena Williams & Dominika Cibulkova


DOG SLED CLUB: Genie Bouchard

ARTFUL NUDE MODELING CLUB: Venus Williams

COMMERCIAL FAUX NUDE MODELING CLUB: Li Na

SHEER BODYSUIT MODELING CLUB: Elena Vesnina

BACK TO THE FUTURE CLUB: Sloane Stephens, remembering ye olden days when she performed better in the "big tournaments" than Simona "small tournaments" Halep

FOODIE CLUB: Aga Radwanska & Genie Bouchard


LIVING WITH ANGLOPHILES IN AMERICA CLUB: Jocelyn Rae & Anna Smith
CAROLINA PANTHERS FAN CLUB: Laura Robson

ZOMBIE CLUB: Flavia Pennetta & Kirsten Flipkens

GLEE CLUB: Victoria Azarenka, self-appointed club leader (club has since been disbanded)
HERPETOLOGY CLUB: Gabriela Dabrowski

LEPIDOPTERY CLUB: Aga Radwanska

PALEONTOLOGY CLUB: Caroline Wozniacki

FLORICULTURE CLUB: Venus Williams & Aga Radwanska

MAGAZINE CLUB: Li Na, Elena Vesnina, Genie Bouchard & The Radwanskas

CHEESECAKE QUEEN CLUB: Aga Radwanska

FLUSHIES, CHARACTERS & MASCOTS CLUB: Sorana Cirstea & Victoria Azarenka



MOMS & DAUGHTERS CLUB: Vicitoria Azarenka & mother Alla (awwwwl)

COSPLAY CLUB: Genie Bouchard

ROAD TRIP CLUB: Taylor Townsend & Jelena Jankovic

SIGHTSEEING CLUB: Donna Vekic

BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB: Martina Navratilova & Kim Clijsters, characters in the Robert B. Parker novel, Silent Night
ANTI-SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY CLUB: U.S. Fed Cup coach un-extraoidanaire Mary Joe Fernandez
SHAKESPEARE JANKOVICIAN CLUB: Jelena Jankovic

SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING RED CARPET CLUB: Aga & Ula Radwanska, and Kristyna & Karolina Pliskova


TIME TRAVEL CLUB: "Future Sloane" Stephens: Future Top 50er?
IMPROMPTU SPEECHMAKING CLUB, MASTER CLASS: Li Na

"Make me rich." - Li Na, to her agent
"You're a good guy. And lucky...because found me." - Li Na, to her husband

[Yearbook note: when the Russian Chess Club was in danger of being disbanded due to a lack of recent interest from the Hordettes two years ago, the Bannerettes agreed to step in to provide a little international competition. Last year, the Canadians decided they wanted part of the action, too. The Russians and Americans have since decided to pare the club roster down to ONLY members from their two nations... we're not certain if this is a sign of poor relations down the road, but we're keep an eye out.]

=RUSSIAN/AMERICAN CHESS CLUB=
Co-CHAIRWOMEN: Maria Sharapova & Serena Williams (though Maria hasn't defeated Serena in a chess match in over a decade now)
Co-ASSISTANTS TO THE CHAIRWOMEN: Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina

THE NEXT BIG THINGS?: Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend & CiCi Bellis
STAR-CROSSED: (oh) Nadia Petrova and Melanie Oudin
RESURRECTED FROM LENIN & GRANT's TOMBS: Svetlana Kuznetsova (in D.C.), Vitalia Diatchenko & Evgeniya Rodina

NEW CHESS MASTER STRATEGIST: Anastasia Myskina
EMERGING FROM THE MIST: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
EMERGING FROM THE HAZE, THEN RECEDING SLIGHTLY BACK INTO IT: Maria Kirilenko

FULL OF LIFE: Venus Williams

UNDERRATED BACK BENCHER: Alison Riske
UTILITY PLAYERS: Raquel Kops-Jones & Abigail Spears

POCKET HORDETTE: Valeria Solovyeva
POCKET BANNERETTE: Lauren Davis
HARDLY-CAVALIER U-Va. CAVALIER: Danielle Collins

FAITHFUL AND ENGROSSED GIRLFRIEND/FAN: Maria Sharapova

FAITHFUL BFF (and popcorn provider): Serena Williams

BACK, BUT SUDDENLY FINDING EVEN LESS ROOM ON THE ALL-CANADA TEAM: Aleksandra Wozniak
BACK, AND HOPING FOR A BETTER TERM in 2015: Vera Zvonareva & Bethanie Mattek-Sands
SECRET WEAPONS: Alla Kudryavtseva & Shelby Rogers
MISSED MOST: Jamie Hampton
MOST OFFICIALLY WELCOMED: Anna Tatishvili
TOWERING ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN PRESENTING: Maria Sharapova (with Floyd Mayweather)

FOR NextGen HONOR AND COUNTRY: U.S. Junior Fed Cup Team & Russian ITF World Junior Championship Team
CLASSICALLY FOR HONOR AND COUNTRY... at the last minute: Elena Vesnina & Ekaterina Makarova

BEST FORMER PARTNERS: Alla Kudryavtseva & (former Hordette) Anastasia Rodionova
NCAA PHENOM: Jamie Loeb
BLACK HAT: Shamil Tarpischev
MIXED DOUBLES: Maria Sharapova & Grigor Dimitrov (on loan from Bulgaria)

NextGen: Tornado Black, Elizaveta Kulichkova, Darya Kasatkina, Katerina Stewart, Michaela Gordon, Caroline Dolehide & Varvara Flink
CAPTURING GREATNESS IN A BOTTLE...not: U.S. Fed Cup Team
MAKING IT OFFICIAL IN '14: Dinara Safina

WELCOMED BACK WITH OPEN ARMS IN '15: Vicky Duval

"I think the sport brings so many opportunities to women. It's brought me so many things in my life and my career. I don't regret any step I have taken. On one hand, sometimes I wake up and think, 'Well, I don't wish this on my kids!' But then when I'm playing the matches, I'm in front of thousands of people and the experience that the sport brings, I think, 'Of course I want my kids to do this." - Maria Sharapova



Our list of past Prom Queens (& one temporary King) is quite star-studded:

2004 Maria Sharapova
2005 Nicole Vaidisova
2006 Nicole Vaidisova
2007 Agnes Szavay
2008 Caroline Wozniacki
2009 Melanie Oudin
2010 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
2011 Caroline Wozniacki
2012 "WoziRoy"
2013 Eugenie Bouchard


=JUNIOR/SENIOR PROM COMMITTEE & HONOREES=
PROM QUEEN: Belinda Bencic

QUEEN'S COURT: Annika Beck, Jana Cepelova, Zarina Diyas, Caroline Garcia, Madison Keys, Barbora Krejcikova, Vicky Duval, Ana Konjuh, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Monica Puig, Shelby Rogers, Anna Schmiedlova, Katerina Siniakova, Elina Svitolina, Taylor Townsend, Donna Vekic
LADIES-IN-WAITING & THEIR JUNIOR QUEENS COURT: Ana Konjuh & CiCi Bellis

JUNIOR LADIES-IN-WAITING: Francoise Abanda, Tornado Black, Marie Bouzkova, Jana Fett, Varvara Flink, Dalma Galfi, Paula Badosa Gibert, Barbara Haas, Ivana Jorovic, Anhelina Kalinina, Darya Kasatkina, Jelena Ostapenko, Kristina Schmiedlova, Iryna Shymanovich, Xu Shilin, Ipek Soylu, Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov

PARTY-CRASHERS: Danielle Collins, Jamie Loeb, Julia Elbaba, Jennifer Brady, Robin Anderson, Lynn Chi, Kristie Ahn, Hayley Carter

LONG-AWAITED, BUT BELATED RETURN: The Spanish
BACK FOR MORE: (former Prom Queen & recent Prom Advisor) Nicole Vaidisova

BEST DANCE PARTNER: Kristina Mladenovic
SENIOR-LEVEL DANCE PARTNERS: Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik
FORMER SENIOR-LEVEL DANCE PARTNERS: Sania Mirza & Cara Black (with our Traveling Dean Emeritus)

REUNITED SENIOR-LEVEL DANCE PARTNERS: Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka
FORMER DANCE PARTNERS: Caroline Wozniacki & Rory McIlroy, Victoria Azarenka & Redfoo, Petra Kvitova & Radek Stepanek, Maria Kirilenko & Alex Ovechkin
NEWLY-INTENDED DANCE PARTNERS: Michaella Krajicek & Martin Emmrich

OH, NOOOOOOOOO! NOT AGAIN!!!: Lucie Safaraova and... Radek Stepanek!

DANCE PARTNERS (FOR INTERNATIONAL TEAM COMPETITIONS): Eugenie Bouchard & Milos Raonic

DANCE PARTNERS (FOR ENDORSED COMPETITIONS ONLY): Jerzy Janowicz & Aga Radwanska

DANCE PARTNERS ("DANCING WITH THE POLISH STARS" DISCO COMPETITIONS ONLY): Marta Domachowska & Jerzy Janowicz

DANCE PARTNERS (FORMER WORLD CHAMPIONS DIVISION): Roger Federer & Victoria Azarenka

DANCE PARTNERS (WIMBLEDON CHAMPIONS PARTY): Novak Djokovic & Petra Kvitova

OFFICIAL DANCE PARTNERS: Iveta Melzer & Jurgen Melzer
HOPEFULLY-NEVER-SEEN DANCE PARTNERS: Eugenie Bouchard & Justin Bieber
PLATONIC/PROFESSIONAL DANCE PARTNERS: Kristina Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor
DANCE PARTNERS (SOLO/DUET FUSION): Maria Sharapova & Maria Sharapova

SENIOR-LEVEL (DANCE) MARATHONER: Caroline Wozniacki
COLLEGE DANCE-OFF WINNER (TAG-TEAM DIVISION): UCLA Bruins
LUCK-LESS WALLFLOWERS: Serbian Fed Cup Team
SCHEDULED PROM ADVISORS: Marion Bartoli & Li Na
CHAPERONS: Martina Hingis, Donald Young, Nenad Zimonjic & Daniel Nestor
HOPING TO MAKE A CAMEO APPEARANCE: VesnaRoo! (ALL couples are welcome at BSA's activities)


"You know, he's kind of been in trouble recently." "I'm not associated with that at the moment. But, you know, if he cleans up his image." - Genie Bouchard, on Justin Bieber



"Me.Mine.Alone.Myself.I.One.Solo.Unaccompanied." - Serena Williams, on Twitter

=CLASS FAVORITES=
MOST WELL-LIKED: Li Na
STILL THE FUNKIEST & MOST WELL-LIKED, at Backspin HQ: Vika "Still the Face of Backspin" Azarenka
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED, age 20+: Eugenie Bouchard
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED, under age 20: Madison Keys
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED, age 18 and under: Belinda Bencic
POWER DUO ONCE MORE: Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai (in Paris in '14)

POWER DUO NO MORE: Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai (everywhere else in '15)
ORIGINAL SWISS MISS: Martina Hingis
NEW SWISS MISS: Belinda Bencic
UNDETERRED SWISS MISS: Timea Bacsinszky
LEAST PUBLICIZED SWISS MISS: Stefanie Voegele
JUNIOR SWISS MISS: Jil Belen Teichmann

NEW NADIA: Nadia Podoroska
NEW SERBIAN JJ: Jovana Jaksic
"IN" SISTERS: Karolina & Kristyna Pliskova

"OUT???" SISTERS: Ula & Aga Radwanska

UNDERRATED SISTERS: Chan Hao-Ching & Yung-Jan

LATEST UKRAINIAN SISTERS: Lyudmyla & Nadiia Kichenok

ALWAYS CLASSIC SISTERS: Venus & Serena Williams

PERSONALITY PLUS, circa 2012: "Future Sloane" Stephens
PERSONALITY MINUS, circa 2013: "Current Sloane" Stephens
PERSONALITY PLUS, early 2014: Eugenie Bouchard
PERSONALITY NEUTRAL, late 2014: Eugenie Bouchard
PERSONALITY PLUS, always: Jelena Jankovic & Andrea Petkovic
BEST VICTORY LEAP: Serena Williams

BEST VICTORY CLIMB: Casey Dellacqua
BEST VICTORY COLLAPSE: Petra Kvitova

GOOD MOVE: moving Fed Cup final weekend back a week
BAD MOVE: the Fed Cup final weekend coincides with the early matches of the ATP World Tour Finals, leading to apocalyptic FC final "coverage" on Tennis Channel
GOOD MOVE: the Tournament of Champions event is eliminated for 2015...
BAD MOVE: ...only to be replaced by a similar "Elite Trophy" event for players ranked #9-19 and various doubles teams (well, at least the event won't be laughed at for not always including actual "champions" in the field)
GOOD MOVE: the IPTL finding a way to make the sport fun and entertaining, for players as well as fans

OBVIOUS FACT: you'd be smiling, too, if you were being paid six to seven figures to play in matches in which it doesn't matter whether or not you actually win
BAD MOVE: anyone thinking the IPTL mindset will carry over to actual matches with meaning. That sort of mindset in a professional player usually results in a career very similar to that of Gael Monfils... fun to watch, but ultimately meaningless and filled with empty calories
GOOD BIRTHDAY: Aga Radwanska

BAD HAIR DAY: Aga Radwanska

GOOD BALL RETRIEVER: Gladys Knight

EVEN WORSE HAIR DAY: Caroline Wozniacki

GOOD BIRTHDAY: Genie Bouchard

BAD HOMECOMING: Genie Bouchard in Montreal

NATION-HOPPERS: Ajla Tomljanovic & Sesil Karatantcheva
ITALIAN STILL ENDEARING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS (especially in Indian Wells): Flavia Pennetta

ITALIANS GIVING GOOD GOOFY FACE: Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci

BEST REAL WORLD MANEUVERING: Amelie Mauresmo

QUIETEST TOP 20/20 HONOR ROLL STUDENTS: Carla Suarez-Navarro & Garbine Muguruza
FORMER #1 STUDENT FINALLY THINKING LIKE A TOP 5 PLAYER AGAIN: Ana Ivanovic
FORMER #1 STUDENT FINALLY THINKING LIKE A #1 AGAIN: Caroline Wozniacki
QUIETEST FED CUP ACHIEVERS: Kiki Bertens & Amy Bowtell
LATE BLOOMERS: Alison Riske & Maria-Teresa Soler-Espinosa
LATE BLOOMING FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Ana "Would You Like a Bag of Cocktail Peanuts?" Ivanovic


(NEW) TOP-RANKED CHINESE: Peng Shuai
MOST LIKELY TO CONTEND FOR SOUTH AMERICAN SUPREMACY: Argentina vs. Brazil
NextGen CZECH MAIDENS FIGHTING FOR A '15 BREAKOUT: Katerina Siniakova & Barbora Krejcikova
NextGen CZECH MAIDENS FIGHTING FOR A '16 BREAKOUT: Tereza Smitkova & Denisa Allertova
NextGen JUNIOR CZECH MAIDENS FIGHTING FOR A '17-'18 BREAKOUT: Marie Bouzkova & Marketa Vondrousova
FAVORITE NAME (but only if you say it three times fast): Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani!
FAVORITE HEROINE: "Citizen Anna" is the new black

MOST BELOVED CHARACTER: ol' QC... the end is still the beginning, and the beginning is still the end
FAVORITE UNSEEN CAVE KIDS: "Carlo" and "Carlita" ("Carl & Carla" wanted to keep the kids out of the public eye while they were little... but Carl IS a doting cave-dad)

STILL A HORROR FOR THE WORLD?:

HOPE FOR THE WORLD?:

MOST HOPEFUL -- or scariest? -- REALIZATION: Serena Williams lost in Melbourne, Paris and London to Ana Ivanovic, Garbine Muguruza and Alize Cornet... A.G.A. Oh.Our.Gods.
TOGETHER AGAIN FOR ANOTHER ROUND: Serena Williams & Jelena Jankovic


"You can take more time, it's yours." - Jelena Jankovic, to Serena Williams in Dubai, who'd held up the Serb's serve for a moment
"Do you really want to do this again, Jelena?" - Serena Williams, referencing previous "issues" between the two in Rome (2010) and Charleston (2013)




MAYBE NOT SO LOST A CAUSE, AFTER ALL: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

STILL ON THE FENCE: Dominika Cibulkova & Nicole Vaidisova 2.0

STOSUR ON A ROLL: Sam Stosur

DREAM TEAM: Caro, Aga & Serena

DREAM TEAM (CANADIAN EDITION): Roger, Genie & Rafa

CZECH via ELLE: Petra Kvitova

BELARUSIAN via GROENING: Petra Kvitova

"STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS" WTA TIE-IN:

BEST (Future?) TOURNAMENT TIE-IN: "The Sugarpova Open"

BEST CELEBRITY WIMBLEDON FAN (Bouchard Division): Jim Parsons


BEST CELEBRITY WIMBLEDON FANS (runners-up): David Beckham & Shaquille O'Neal


BEST MARATHON FINISH LINE GREETER: Serena Williams

MOST CROPPED IMAGE:


POLLY WANT A VIKA?:

INTERNATIONAL TENNIS IN DRESS CLOTHES AND HEELS LEAGUE (ITDCHL) SIGN-UPS: Ipek Soylu & Emily Webley-Smith

WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE...?: Aravane Rezai & Jelena Dokic
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS...?: Victoria Azarenka... oh, there she is

NEW/OLD KIDS: Venus Williams & Martina Hingis

MOST GLAM LI: Li Na

KIDS: Laura Robson, Petra Kvitova, Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova & Aga Radwanska

SHORT-LIVED FASHION DO: Aga Radwanska at the U.S. Open

SHORT-LIVED REALITY TV DON'T: Serena Williams keeping up with Kim Kardashian

STILL THE UNINVITED GUEST: Victoria Azarenka in Melbourne
GETTING A WARMER RECEPTION: Victoria Azarenka in New York, as long as she never serenades everyone again

PLAYER-UMPIRE DON'T: Caroline Wozniacki, for believing that she could ever win an argument with Eva Asderaki; and Asderaki, for not trying hard enough to look like she's sincerely concerned about what the Dane is saying




"She's loyal and is fun to hang around. That's something that I think is very important in a friend." - Caroline Wozniacki, on Serena Williams

*BACKSPIN ACADEMY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS FEATURE PRODUCTIONS*
...our plucky performers are always tirelessly working to entertain the student body and faculty throughout the calendar year, with the long-running "The Many Faces of Caroline" the most lauded production since the establishment of our performing arts curriculum. After a one year break two terms ago, our signature show returned in 2013 for a limited test run.

Well, we are proud to report that "The Faces of Caro" -- as most of our students call it -- was fully revived, with a reinvigorated cast , in 2014 and enjoyed the same sort of rave reviews it received during its original run. Or, dare we say it, even better ones. The star was more focused and aggressive in her artistic decisions this year... and some believe her performance could very well continue to improve in the next term! Needless to say, we are all positioned on the edge of our seats in anticipation.

Filling some of the void over the last two seasons for the oft-absent "TMFoC" was its sister show, "The Many Faces of Vika." The people in the know on campus just loved it, and we were all expecting something great once again this term. But after the star of the production was forced to take several medical leaves during the theatre season, the production was shuttered. We hope that it will return in the near future.

Of course, not all our "replacement" or "short-run" shows can be immediately successful. Some were highly anticipated, but either quickly lost their original steam, or failed to grip the audience as everyone had hoped.



Hey, no one is perfect.

But while we'll be on the look-out for new and terrific ideas to grace our stage in the future, we're just tickled pink, blue and gold to have Caro -- and all her faces -- back. And we're happy to announce the show is already booked for a year-long run in 2015 at the newly-named WTA Tour Theatre!



A few highlights from the past term's production:









Coming in 2015...

Maybe. Well... it COULD happen. Possibly. Or not.



Yeah, probably not.



*ATHLETICS*
...we love our sports at Backspin Academy, and some say we love our awards even more. So, here are a few of the highlights and lowlights from the past season of competition:

=BACKSPIN ACADEMY ALL-STAR TEAMS=
*ALL-BEAUTIFUL*
Aleksandra Krunic earns U.S. Open fame, a WTA doubles titles, Top 100 ranking and contract from Octagon

=============================
THAT Petra

=============================
The United Colors of Robson

=============================
Serena vs. Vika in Brisbane

=============================
Sara Errani's eyes, Year 3

=============================
Agnieszka Radwanska's brain
=============================
Maria Sharapova's competitiveness

=============================
Jana Cepelova's competitiveness in Charleston
=============================
Czechs at Wimbledon
=============================
In-Form AnaIvo

=============================
More Bouchard sisters than you can shake a racket at

Even...
=============================
Vika's BIG racket

=============================
The Logo: Jerry West (NBA) and Maria Sharapova (WTA...one day?)


=============================
Marion Bartoli's Schwings

=============================
Kristina Barrois' fairy tale career ending in Luxembourg
=============================
Words of Wisdom

=============================
Old Country Maria

=============================
Peng Shuai's trip to the U.S. Open semifinals

=============================
Classic Simona

=============================
Vika

=============================
Vika-in-slow motion

It's Sunday! Enjoy urself 😁 and do what u like 😍😍😍

Video, jonka Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) julkaisi


=============================
Sharapova vs. Halep
=============================
Vika def. Sloane

=============================
La Trufflette's Return to SW19


=============================
The New Annual Tradition of Rooftop Pool Selfies in Singapore

=============================
The Pride of Romania in Singapore
=============================
The Dane of Odense in Singapore
=============================
Petko in Charleston
=============================
Patience being a virtue. Maybe.


=============================
The Czarina, back at the Parisian scene of the crime (10-year anniversary)

=============================
Sharapova in Sochi

=============================
The Return of Martina: Here, There & Everywhere



=============================
Turkish "It" Girl Ipek Soylu

=============================
"Sabineldon"

=============================
Yui Kamiji

=============================
The Magic of Li

=============================
Casual press conference attire

=============================
Alize

=============================
Amelie.
=============================

"It's great sometimes to get knocked down because you have to get back up. I love getting back up. I love the challenge." - Serena Williams

*ALL-UGLY*
Peng Shuai's exit from the U.S. Open semifinals

=============================
U.S. Fed Cup coaching decisions
=============================
Serena's pre-U.S. Open slam year
=============================
Elle magazine confuses Bouchard with Sharapova in photos in issue containing an interview with the Canadian

=============================
The Aussie Extreme Heat
=============================
The lack of a roof on any U.S. Open courts... for a little while longer
=============================
Genie Bouchard's finish in Singapore, and the bad aftertaste it left

=============================
Serena vs. Sharapova (10-year anniversary)
=============================
The Serbian, Slovak & Chinese Fed Cup teams
=============================
Jamie Hampton's ailing (insert currently appropriate body part)
=============================
Serena's exit from the Wimbledon doubles



=============================
Sloane Stephens vs. Caroline Wozniacki ("Current" lost 6-1/6-0, and scored just five points in the 2nd set)
=============================
Jelena Ostapenko vs. Varvara Flink in the December '13 Eddie Herr semifinals
=============================
Azarenka's chances to win "Belarusian Idol" after, well, you know
=============================



And, finally, while the coast appeared to be relatively clear in '14, there are still pockets of Rad paranoia around campus. While some point to the lack of a closing punch from the entity's human (sometime-)host during most of the now-concluded term...



...still others wonder if the past year might have been a "set up" season during which we all let down our guard, leaving us susceptible to another lethal surprise attack like the one we saw at the All-England Club in 2013. Some groups have even used the aforementioned "A.G.A." -- the combined first name initials of Serena's conquerors in Melbourne, Paris and London this past term -- as "a secret sign" that foretells future doom.



But, of course, we don't really believe in that sort of thing. Ummm. No, we don't believe in it at all. But, well, just in case, we thought it'd be wise to refresh our memories about the layout of Radwanska Abbey. You know, just in case Citizen Anna needs our help down the line.



Of course, that's how things were a couple of years ago. They may have changed since then. Gulp. Oh, how we all wish that SOMEONE would just say something to make us forget the past and truly believe that things will be okay in the future.



Well, I guess that's about as much assurance as we need.

Thanks again, Na.



Whew! If you made it this far, congratulations. Hopefully, there was something here for everyone. If not, well, it wasn't for a lack of trying.

All right, it's finally time to go. So, from Backspin HQ, located on the top floor of Henin Hall, to be continued...


Res Ipsa Loquitur.

All for now.

Read more...