Wk.10- Of Close Calls & Czech Falls
A near-miss. A big (but not exactly head-scratching) upset. And a slew of Bannerettes inserting their names into the WTA conversation. In other words, it's time for a quick mid-Indian Wells check-in.
(HALF-WAY) PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT: Victoria Azarenka/BLR
...the #1 player in the world in still in this event, and has managed to keep her 2012 resume clean of any losses through 19 matches. But it wasn't easy. Living up to the champion role she's placed herself in this season, Azarenka pulled through, then looked none the worse for wear one round later. After essentially breezing past young German Mona Barthel in their two previous meetings this season, things didn't go quite as smoothly when the Belarusian met her for Part 3 of their early-season trilogy. In fact, she barely got out of the match with her life. Barthel served for the match twice, but Azarenka's experience (and Barthel's comparable lack of it) showed down the stretch. One round later, Vika handled Svetlana Kuznetsova 1 & 2. Oh, and she gets a few extra points here for agreeing to the crowd (and tour) pleasing doubles pairing with Petra Kvitova. Oh, and speaking of...
RISERS: Christina McHale/USA & Vania King/USA
...the Czech didn't compete for POW with her doubles partner because, well, her singles participation in Indian Wells came to an abrupt end in I.W. on Sunday night thanks to Christina McHale. Well, as is usually the case, Kvitova had something to do with it, as well. But while Barthel didn't take full advantage of her shot against Azarenka, McHale did with her's against the Czech. Down a set, the American saw Kvitova's game undergo one of its error-prone "drifts," and pounced. She took the 2nd, then broke Kvitova in Game 4 of the 3rd. In Game 8, Kvitova's back-to-back double-faults put her two breaks down and that was all she wrote. Meanwhile, if King hadn't come down with the stomach virus that also took down Vera Zvonareva and Gael Monfils, McHale might have met her in an All-American Round of 16 match. As it is, King will have to be content with her earlier wins over Acapulco champ Sara Errani and the quickly-diminishing-in-status Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
SURPRISE: Jamie Hampton/USA
...no woman has made a bigger splash in I.W. than the 22-year old Hampton. An ITF star in the past, she's carried over her success to the big tour this season. Already, after being included in the draw as a wild card, she's taken out the likes of Polona Hercog, '10 champ Jelena Jankovic and Jarmila Gajdosova. Next up, A-Rad.
VETERAN: Li Na/CHN
...she's back, and in good form. Of course, that could change at any moment. But, as things stand, her wins over Galina Voskoboeva and Zheng Jie have put her into the Round of 16 -- and maybe made her the favorite to reach the SF.
COMEBACK: Francesca Schiavone/ITA
...by the time you read this, Francesca might be gone from the tournament (depending on which Lucie Safarova shows up on Monday). But, no matter, the thirtysomething has to be feeling pretty good about her straight sets defeat of Lesia Tsurenko, the same young Ukrainian who crushed her in maybe the Upset of the Year (so far) in Fed Cup play last month.
FRESH FACES: Lauren Davis/USA & Sloane Stephens/USA
...beware the American teens. They can tweet, and they can play tennis pretty well, too. Both got wild cards into the main draw. Davis opened with an upset of Kuala Lumpur runner-up Petra Martic before losing to Nadia Petrova. Meanwhile, after Azarenka had called Stephens "one of the nicest, bubbly girls out on tour," saying, "she is so much fun and free-spirited, and I absolutely love how she is always smiling," the American showed she had game, then that she still has some things to work on. She took out Aleksandra Wozniak in three sets, then led Angelique Kerber by a set and 5-2 score in the 2nd Round. She served for the match, but eventually squandered the lead. "Merry Tweeter" Stephens tweeted recently that "Big things will happen!" She might be right, but not yet.
DOWN: Petra Kvitova/CZE
...it's sometimes an "either/or" situation with Kvitova. This was one of the "or's," I guess. With precious little match play since the Australian Open, it's tempting to pin her come-from-ahead loss to McHale on the fact that she's yet to really get into any sort of groove during the '12 season. Well, that, and her obvious difficulties with her asthma, which is making the conditions in North America seem like they're going to continue to be an issue for her for quite some time. That said, if she's going to follow up her Wimbledon title with a second slam she can't always be one swing (or one breath) away from a disaster-waiting-to-happen.
ITF PLAYER: Maryna Zanevska/UKR
...the 18-year old Ukrainian made it three straight ITF singles titles with her win over Diana Marcinkevica in the final of the $10K in Dijon, France.
JUNIOR STAR: Sabina Sharipova/UZB
...a Girls quarterfinalist at this year's AO (she lost to eventual champ Taylor Townsend), the 17-year old Uzbeki with the familiar-but-not-really name won the G1 event in Nondhaburi, Thailand. She defeated Canada's Carol Zhao in the final.
[I.W. Week 1 - Wednesday-Sunday]
1. IW 2nd Rd - Azarenka d. Barthel
...6-4/6-7/7-6. Mona has proven to be a Vika magnet in '12. After this 3:00 match, she might be thinking that her fourth attempt might be a charm for her.
2. IW 2nd Rd - McHale d. Kvitova
...2-6/6-2/6-3. After a win over the world #3, McHale is running out of higher-ranked players she can defeat to get her "best ever" win. Hmmm, well, she COULD meet #1 Azarenka in the semis, though.
3. IW 2nd Rd - Schiavone d. Tsurenko
...6-2/6-4. Take that, missy! "Great Mandula's Ghost" (I'll explain that in the "All-Time Backspin Team" post, which I'm pushing back a day or two) does NOT reside here.
4. IW 1st Rd - Dulko d. Dokic
...1-0 ret. Hmmm, even the mention of the entity that haunted Jelena a decade ago has managed to make another loss appear on her ledger. This was a quick one, too, as the Aussie went out with a right wrist injury. She said months ago that she wanted to get back into the Top 20. Her chances aren't looking very good.
5. IW Doubles 1st - Bacsinszky/Brianti d. Kuznetsova/Zvonareva
...6-1/6-4. The AO champs didn't last very long in their "follow-up" event.
6. IW 2nd Rd - Wozniacki d. Makarova
...6-2/6-0. Impressive. If a few more big names fall, maybe that ranking-fall-avoiding title defense isn't out of the question.
7. Ascuncion G1 Jr. Final - Chalena Scholl d. Beatriz Haddad Maia
...6-2/6-1. The American liked beating up on the Brazilian in last week's Uruguay Bowl final so much that she did it again (and even better) this weekend in Paraguay.
8. $25K Fort Walton Beach Final - Madison Brengle d. Tereza Mrdeza
...6-4/3-6/6-3. While her American counterparts were having so much fun in Indian Wells, the two-time Girls slam RU (both times in '07) was winning a challenger title.
8. IW 1st Rd - Dominguez-Lino d. Lisicki
...6-1/6-4. Speaking of best laid plans...
**BACKSPIN PLAYER-OF-WEEK WINNERS**
Week 1 - Petra Kvitova, CZE
Week 2 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Week 3/4 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (AO)
Week 5 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (FC)
Week 6 - Angelique Kerber, GER
Week 7 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Week 8 - Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
Week 9 - Sara Errani, ITA
Week 1 - Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
Week 2 - Grace Min, USA
Week 3 - Lauren Davis, USA
Week 4 - Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
Week 5 - Sofia Kvatsabaia, GEO
Week 6 - Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU & Olga Govortsova, BLR (co-POW)
Week 7 - Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR
Week 8 - Annika Beck, GER
Week 9 - Maryna Zanevska, UKR
Week 10 - Maryna Zanevska, UKR
Off-Season - Ashleigh Barty, AUS
Week 1 - Sachia Vickery, USA
Week 2 - Daria Salnikova, RUS
Week 3 - Krista Hardebeck, USA
Week 4 - Taylor Townsend, USA (AO)
Week 5 - Irina Khromacheva, RUS
Week 6 - Yulia Putintseva, RUS
Week 7 - Ashleigh Barty, AUS
Week 8 - Ashleigh Barty, AUS
Week 9 - Chalena Scholl, USA
Week 10 - Sabina Sharipova, UZB
All for now.