Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Month BSA's: 1.35 Billion Li Na Fans Can't Be Wrong


Well, the first month of 2014 action is in the books. No matter if there are a few days left in January, it's still time for the monthly Backspin Awards to rear their ugly -- umm, or should I say "SpongeBoby, SquarePantsy?" -- heads.



Hmmm, you'll notice that neither Li Na nor Stan Wawrinka were "touched by the Sponge"... so maybe he's the source of some new curse of which we've yet to scratch the surface?

Oh, well. That's a time-consuming examination/investigation for later, I suppose.

**FIRST-MONTH TOP PLAYERS - WK. 1-4**

1. Li Na, CHN
...with good humor, (comical post-match) grace and in-game aggression buoyed by a new confidence (not to mention a little well-timed good fortune, as the Tennis Gods pushed that Lucie Safarova attempt at a winner on match point in the AO 3rd Rd. a few inches long), Li added yet another influential chapter to what could very well turn out to be a Hall of Fame career. Slam title #2 came in her third attempt at a successful Australian Open final, no matter that her draw never included an actual Top 20 foe. After seeing her chances fall by the wayside last year in Melbourne after a series of badly-timed and poorly-landed falls in the final against Vika Azarenka, Li was due a break or two. Almost already forgotten is her Week 1 title defense in Shenzhen, a tournament -- much like that growing number of them dotting the WTA schedule -- that likely wouldn't exist if not for her own success the last few years. In the end, her sense of humor is an added bonus... but it's impossible to think about Li without smiling because of it.
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2. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
...with a bigger racket, the same out-sized ferocity and a new-found calm in the clutch, the shortest woman on the WTA tour showed that size both does and doesn't matter on the WTA tour. Nowhere near the discussion of AO dark horses before the tournament began, Cibulkova dominated her opponents (finishing them off in easy final sets that often went her way by 6-0 or 6-1 scores) and yet still managed to sneak up on and knock out four Top 20 players, including #3 Maria Sharapova and #5 Aga Radwanska, on her way to her first career slam singles final.
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3. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
...with a rediscovered forehand that rekindled dreams are made of, AnaIvo shined in January like she hasn't since, well, she became both #1 and a Roland Garros champion back in 2008. In Auckland, she claimed her first title since 2011, avoiding what has become common for her in recent seasons -- a 3rd set collapse. After being forced to three sets after holding a match point in the 2nd set against Venus Williams, Ivanovic won the title to prevent the first weekend in which both Williams Sisters won a title since 1999. At the AO, AnaIvo upset Serena Williams -- getting her first win after going 0-4, losing all eight sets, in their career head-to-heads -- and reached just her second slam QF since winning in Paris nearly six years ago.
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4. Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
...having not won a doubles title in nearly a year (Paris Indoors '13), with their singles games in slumps and their #1 doubles ranking seemingly on borrowed time, the Italians emerged from the pack and reclaimed what was theirs. Warming up with a trip to the Sydney final, Errani & Vinci returned to the AO final, as well. After overcoming a 5-2 3rd set deficit, they defended their Aussie title and managed to fight off the growing pack of teams looking to knocked them from atop their doubles perch. For this week, at least.
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5. Serena Williams, USA
...Serena suffered a back injury in Melbourne and went down at the hands of Ana Ivanovic in the 4th Round, extending her AO title-less stretch to four years. But, in Week 1, Williams still got her '14 season off to a great start, defending her Brisbane title and getting wins over both Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, giving her a combined 29-5 career mark against the pair.
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6. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
...A-Rad went 3-0 in Hopman Cup exhibition play in Week 1, ultimately seeing Poland lose in the final to France. But she came into Melbourne with a five-match tour-level losing streak dating back to the final two events of '13. After getting a break in the AO's first week, as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova succumbed to the intense weather conditions, Aga vanquished recent nemesis Azarenka with a brilliant performance in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, it took too much out of her and, as happened in the Wimbledon semifinals last summer, she failed to take advantage of a slam draw that opened up and seemed to give her a golden opportunity to reach her second slam final.
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7. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
...entering '14 as last season's tour Newcomer of the Year, 19-year old Bouchard -- the highest-ranked teenager in the world -- more than lived up to advance expectations. Taking advantage of a good draw, she showed impressive control of her nerves in just her fourth slam appearance, knocking off crowd favorite Casey Dellacqua under the lights on Laver, then upsetting Ana Ivanovic to reach her first career slam semifinal, matching North American counterpart Sloane Stephens' result from a year ago. In the new rankings, Team Genie's heroine is literally breathing down the neck of Team Sloane's Commander, as Bouchard is just one spot behind Stephens on the WTA computer at #19. One can sense that a battlefield promotion will soon be in order for Private Genie.
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8. Garbine Muguruza, ESP
...the hard-hitting 20-year old Spaniard showed great promise early last season, but missed the last half of the year after undergoing ankle surgery following Wimbledon. She returned to action this month, and all she did was make it through qualifying in Hobart and ultimately win eight matches for the week as she claimed her maiden tour title. In Melbourne, she extended her winning streak to eleven, reaching her first slam Round of 16 before being outsmarted there by Radwanska. Join the list, Garbi.
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9. Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
...always viewed as a dangerous floater in any draw, capable of taking down any player at any given moment if given the chance and she has the inclination, Pironkova has had one of the more frustrating careers of recent times. Heading into Sydney qualifying in Week 2, she was ranked outside the Top 100 and had never reached a tour final, going 0-7 in career semis. Operating just out of sight, she changed all that in the span of eight days. Winning eight matches in those eight days, including three over Top 10 players (Errani, Kvitova and Kerber), Pironkova finally won her first career title. Of course, her stay in the AO draw was short-lived, as she exited in the 2nd Round against Sam Stosur (6-2/6-0), but the Bulgarian has still managed to add another tantalizing chapter to a career that is still nearly impossible to figure out.
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10. Monica Niculescu & Klara Zakopalova, ROU/CZE
...the Romanian/Czech pair opened the season with back-to-back doubles titles, and both added good singles results to their 2014 ledger, as well. Niculescu reached the 3rd Round at the Australian Open, while Zakopalova reached the singles final at Hobart.
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HM- Victoria Azarenka, BLR
...Vika didn't become the first woman in fifteen years to three-peat as AO champion, but before she was "Radwanska'ed" out of the tournament she put to rest the overblown Melbourne controversy from a year ago by easily dispatching Sloane Stephens in the Round of 16 in a rematch of their '13 semifinal. In Week 1, she opened her season with a run to the Brisbane final, her first since the U.S. Open. Of course, just as she did in New York, she lost there in a match against Serena Williams.
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"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

*RISERS*
1. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
3. Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL

4. Monica Niculescu & Klara Zakopalova, ROU/CZE
5. Angelique Kerber, GER
6. Simona Halep, ROU
7. Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina, RUS/RUS
8. Karin Knapp, ITA
9. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
10. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
11. Stefanie Voegele, SUI
12. Alize Cornet, FRA
13. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
14. Monica Niculescu, ROU
15. Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
16. Vesna Dolonc, SRB
17. Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
18. Elena Vesnina, RUS
19. Sloane Stephens, USA
20. Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS

*FRESH FACES*
1. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
2. Gargine Muguruza, ESP
3. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
4. Annika Beck, GER
5. Madison Keys, USA
6. Belinda Bencic, SUI
7. Ana Konjuh, CRO
8. Lauren Davis, USA
9. Elina Svitolina, UKR
10. Sharon Fichman & Maria Sanchez, CAN/USA
11. Kurumi Nara, JPN
12. Alison Riske, USA
13. Ajla Tomljanovic, CRO
14. Zarina Diyas, KAZ
15. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
16. Anna Schmiedlova, UKR
17. Carina Witthoeft, GER
18. Ipek Soylu, TUR
19. Katerina Siniakova, CZE
20. Duan Ying-Ying, CHN
21. Allie Kiick, USA
22. Ashleigh Barty, AUS
23. Gabriela Dabrowski, CAN
24. Sachie Ishizu, JPN
25. Ysaline Bonaventure, BEL

*SURPRISES*

1. Luksika Kumkhum, THA
2. French Hopman Cup team
3. Estrella Cabeza-Candela, ESP
4. Olivia Rogowska, AUS
5. Olga Govortsova, BLR
6. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, AUT
7. Viktorija Golubic, SUI
8. Alexandra Panova, RUS
9. Katarzyna Piter, POL
10. Storm Sanders, AUS
11. Shahar Peer & Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ISR/ESP
13. Lyudmyla Kichenok, UKR
13. Irena Pavlovic, FRA
14. Rika Ozaki, JPN
15. Abigail Spears, USA

*VETERANS*
1. Li Na, CHN
2. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
3. Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
4. Serena Williams, USA
5. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
6. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
7. Casey Dellacqua, AUS
8. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
9. Zheng Jie, CHN
10. Venus Williams, USA
11. Lucie Safarova, CZE
12. Yvonne Meusburger, AUT
13. Samantha Stosur, AUS
14. Sania Mirza, IND
15. Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
HM- Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA & Lucie Hradecka, CZE

*COMEBACKS*

1. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
3. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
4. Heather Watson, GBR
5. Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
HM- Jarmila Gajdosova, AUS & Vitalia Diatchenko, RUS

*JUNIOR STARS*
1. Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
2. Jana Fett, CRO
3. Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
4. Francoise Abanda, CAN
5. Sun Ziyue, CHN
6. Anhelina Kalinina & Elizaveta Kulichkova, UKR/RUS
7. Ivana Jorovic, SRB
8. Varvara Flink, RUS
9. Olivia Hauger, USA
10. Anastasiya Kornadina, RUS
11. Kimberly Birrell, AUS
12. Naiktha Bains, AUS
13. Fiona Ferro, ITA
14. Alejandra Cisneros, MEX
15. Hurricane Black, USA

*ITF PLAYERS*
1. Laura Siegemund, GER
2. Anna Tatishvili, GEO
3. Vitalia Diatchenko, RUS
4. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
5. An-Sophie Mestach, BEL
HM- Tara Moore, GBR & Sherazed Benamar, FRA

*DOWN*
1. Petra Kvitova, CZE
2. Roberta Vinci, ITA
3. Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai, TPE/CHN
4. Laura Robson, GBR
5. Sara Errani, ITA
6. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
7. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
8. Ashleigh Barty & Casey Dellacqua, AUS/AUS
9. Jamie Hampton, USA
10. Kaia Kanepi, EST

"My heart has no limits." - the message written in Chinese on the shirt worn by Li Na in the Australian Open final

**TOP PERFORMANCES**
#1 - Li Na wins her first Australian Open title in her third final appearance
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#2 - Tsvetana Pironkova qualifies, reaches her first final and claims her maiden career tour singles title in Sydney, winning eight matches in eight days and notching wins over Top 10ers Errani, Kvitova & Kerber.

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#3 - Serena Williams defends her Brisbane title, winning her fourth straight tournament and getting wins over Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka
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#4 - Back from summer '13 ankle surgery, Spaniard Garbine Muguruza qualifies and wins her first tour title in Hobart
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#5 - Ana Ivanovic wins the title in Auckland, defeating Venus Williams in the final to claim her first singles title since 2011
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HM - Li successfully defends a singles title for the first time in Shenzhen, winning an all-Chinese final against Peng Shuai
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[Best Non-title winning Performance]
Dominika Cibulkova defeats four Top 20 players, including two in the Top 5 (Sharapova & Radwanska), to reach her first career slam singles final

[Doubles]
#1 - Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci defend their Australian Open title, winning their fourth slam crown in the last eight majors
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#2 - Monica Niculescu & Klara Zakopalova are the first duo to win two titles in 2014, opening the season with back-to-back titles in Shenzhen and Hobart
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#3 - Kristina Mladenovic wins the Australian Open Mixed title with Daniel Nestor, winning her second slam crown with the veteran Canadian in the last three majors

[Team]
Team France -- Alize Cornet & Jo-Wilfried Tsonga -- wins a first Hopman Cup title, after having runner-up results in 1998 (w/ Mauresmo) and '12 (Bartoli).


[Fans]
Genie's Army


[Junior]
Elizaveta Kulichkova, in her final junior event before turning professional, sweeps the girls singles and doubles competitions at the Australian Open. She's the first Hordette junior champ since 2010 (Daria Gavrilova - U.S. Open), and the first in Melbourne in seven years (Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2006-07).

[Set]
Classic Aga. Agnieszka Radwanska dominates two-time defending champ Victoria Azarenka in the 3rd set of their Australian Open quarterfinal, ending the Belarusian's 18-match Melbourne streak by bageling her 6-0, using her entire arsenal of clever, tricky, did-you-just-see-that?, yes-I-did-but-I-don't-believe-it shots, leaving Vika a frustrated spectator and everyone else in awe. In essence, Azarenka was simply "Radwanska'ed."


[Post-Match Ceremony]
As usual, Li Na.


*MEMORABLE MATCHES*
Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Samantha Stosur
...6-7(8)/6-4/6-2.
Melbourne's stifling weather finally broke on a day that included stoppages of play because of heat, lightning and rain. Under the lights, AnaIvo and Stosur played like they hadn't spent most of the seasons since they won their slam titles searching in vain for what it was that got them their trophies in the first place. In a high-quality match that was won, not lost, the most memorable moment came when a sudden downpour broke out in the middle of a point at 7-7 in the 1st set tie-break. After failing to get the point (which she'd lost) replayed, Ivanovic lost the TB 10-8 when play resumed. But instead of sulking and going away, Ivanovic dug in and pulverized Stosur's serve the rest of the match. On match point, she put things away by slugging her 32nd forehand winner.
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Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Maria Sharapova d. Karin Knapp
...6-3/4-6/10-8.
In a match played under Extreme Heat conditions in the final set, with the roof open because the mysterious threshold wasn't met until the 3rd had already begun, Sharapova held on for dear life against the feisty (is there any other kind?) Italian. After committing a double-fault and three errors to break herself to lose the 2nd, Sharapova held three match points at 5-3 in the 3rd, only to eventually have to hold on pressurized service games at 5-6 and 6-7 to stay in the match. Finally, she got a break for 9-8 in the 3rd, then served out the final game (despite three more DF) to win the 3:28 match on MP #4.
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Australian Open QF - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Victoria Azarenka
...6-1/5-7/6-0.
After having lost five consecutive straight-set matches to Azarenka, Radwanska ends Azarenka's 18-match AO winning streak with a brilliant 3rd set display of every shot in her bag of tennis tricks. It's an instant classic -- capable of inspiring shock, awe and fear in anyone who dares to watch.

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Brisbane SF - Victoria Azarenka d. Jelena Jankovic
...1-6/6-3/6-4.
JJ was a point away from being up a set and a break at 6-1/0-0, 40/love. Within minutes, she was out of replay challenges for the match and was arguing with the umpire, the player's box and maybe even the buzz of an insect next to her ear (or maybe there was just a sound inside her head). Azarenka led 5-1 in the 3rd before service troubles made things interesting, but she ultimately pulled out the match.

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Auckland Final - Ana Ivanovic d. Venus Williams
...6-2/5-7/6-4.
Venus saves a match point and comes back from 5-3 in the 2nd set to force a 3rd, but AnaIvo finds her way to her first title in over two years.
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Australian Open 1st Rd. - Madison Keys d. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner
...6-2/6-7(8)/9-7.
After erasing a 5-2 2nd set deficit, Keys hold three match points in the tie-break, only to lose 10-8 and go to a 3rd. Coming back from a break down in the final set, she wins on her fifth MP to finally end the 2:30+ match.
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Australian Open 1st Rd. - Ekaterina Makarova d. Venus Williams
...2-6/6-4/6-4.
Venus held break point for a 4-2 lead in the 2nd, and was up a break at 3-0 in the 3rd. But she's unable to hold the advantage, as Makarova adds an AO win over a second Williams Sister (she def. Serena in '12) to her career resume. Williams ends with 56 unforced errors (vs. 50 winners), and eight double-faults.
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Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Daniela Hantuchova d. Karolina Pliskova
...6-3/3-6/12-10.
In 3:15, Hantuchova outlasts the Czech, winning on her fifth match point.
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Australian Open QF - Eugenie Bouchard d. Ana Ivanovic
...5-7/7-5/6-2.
After breaking to get back on serve at 4-3 in the 2nd, Ivanovic is treated for a hip injury. Rather than become tentative, the composed Bouchard ups her aggression and makes Genie's Army proud in Melbourne by reaching her first career slam semi in the Australian Open debut.

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Brisbane QF - Victoria Azarenka d. Stefanie Voegele
...6-4/6-7(9)/6-1.
Azarenka fails to convert six match points in the 2nd. Finally, #8 proves to be the charm in the 3rd.
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Australian Open 1st Rd. - Belinda Bencic d. Kimiko Date-Krumm
...6-4/4-6/6-3.
In her grand slam debut, the 16-year old defeats the 43-year old. So much for respecting your tennis elders.
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"Agent, make me rich." - Li Na

*COMEBACKS-R-US*
Australian Open 3rd Rd. - Li Na d. Lucie Safarova
...1-6/7-6/6-3.
On match point at 6-5 in the 2nd, Safarova had an open shot down the line for a winner. Li was thinking about her plane reservations for a flight out of Melbourne. But the Czech missed the shot. The rest is history. Li is the first woman to come back from match point in the tournament to win a slam since Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2009 (SF vs. Dementieva).
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Australian Open Doubles Final - Errani/Vinci d. Makarova/Vesnina
...6-4/3-6/7-5.
At 5-2 down in the 3rd, the Italians looked about to be dethroned as AO champs. But... no. Imagine, had the Hordettes played in the Fed Cup final last year, the whole thing could have come down to a title-deciding match between these same two teams. Well, at least we got to see it SOMEWHERE.
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Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Galina Voskoboeva
...7-6/3-6/8-6.
CSN comes back from 4-1 and 5-2 down in the 3rd. Voskoboeva, who served for the match at 5-3, is broken in her final three service games in the 3:11 tussle.
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Hobart 2nd Rd. - Samantha Stosur d. Kristina Mladenovic
...6-4/2-6/7-6(7).
Stosur, showing rare fortitude in a match on Aussie soil, wins after being down 5-2 in the 3rd set tie-break and saving a match point against the Pastry, who's far less of a sure thing in the clutch when she doesn't have a doubles partner by her side.
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Shenzhen 2nd Rd. - Vania King d. Sara Errani
...2-6/7-6/6-3.
Errani's singles struggles continue, as she opens her 2014 season by failing to convert two match points in the 2nd set tie-break and losing to the Bannerette.
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$50K Ankara Final - Vitalia Diatchenko d. Marta Sirotkina
...6-7/6-4/6-4.
In the closing weeks of 2013, the Russian, in her first singles action in thirteen months (after having played just five matches following an eight-month absence following a knee injury in Moscow in October '11), wins the challenger title.
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*COUGH, COUGH... COUGH, COUGH*
Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Sloane Stephens d. Ajla Tomljanovic
...3-6/6-2/7-5.
For once, it isn't Current Sloane who loses her nerve down the stretch. Of course, that almost wasn't the case, as Stephens blew a 3-0 3rd set lead after an hour-and-a-half lightning/rain delay, and then held a break point for 4-0. Tomljanovic served for the match at 5-4, but saw the American up her aggression before the Croat double-faulted on break point. Stephens then held for 6-5, and converted on her only match point.
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Australian Open 2nd Rd. - Zheng Jie d. Madison Keys
...7-6(5)/1-6/7-5.
Keys erased a 4-1 1st set deficit, and served for the set at 5-4 and 6-5 before losing the tie-break. In the 3rd, the American held a two-break, 4-1 lead, only to be broken in three of her final four service games.
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*ANYONE FOR AN UPSET...or four?*

Australian Open 1st Rd. - Luksika Kumkhum d. Petra Kvitova
...6-2/1-6/6-4.
Playing with two hands from both sides, the 20-year old world #88 from Thailand shocked and flummoxed Kvitova. Facing a Top 10 player for the first time in her career, Kumkhum was broken when serving for the match at 5-3 in the 3rd, but then pivoted and easily broke the Czech in the next games to take the match. It's the first time Kvitova has exited in the 1st Round at a slam since her opening match loss at the U.S. Open the same summer she'd won Wimbledon in 2011.
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Australian Open 4th Rd. - Ana Ivanovic d. Serena Williams
...4-6/6-3/6-3.
AnaIvo outhits (leading 23-5 in groundstroke winners) Williams, limited on serve and in her movement while playing with a back injury. The Serb's forehand leads the way, as the twenty winners from that wing help produce her most thrilling slam result since winning Roland Garros in 2008.
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Auckland 1st Rd. - Ana Konjuh d. Roberta Vinci
...3-6/6-4/6-2.
The 16-year old 2013 AO & US Open junior champion, Konjuh made her tour debut in Week 1. All she did was begin her WTA career with a victory over the #1-seeded, nearly-Top 10 ranked Italian.
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Australian Open 4th Rd. - Dominika Cibulkova d. Maria Sharapova
...3-6/6-4/6-1.
Sharapova's long, hot, tense trip Down Under finally comes to an end. After winning the 1st set, Sharapova was treated for a hip injury and then immediately fell behind 5-0 in the 2nd. She battled back to 5-4, then lost seven of the final eight games of the match.


**By the Numbers...**
0-6... Peng Shuai's record in career WTA singles finals after her loss to Li Na in the Shenzhen final
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2... number of the four slam Wheelchair titles contested since Esther Vergeer played her last match that have been won by Australian Open champion Sabine Ellerbrock (GER). The other two were won by Aniek van Koot (NED), who defeated Ellerbrock in last year's Australian and U.S. Open finals.
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2 & 2... the number of all-Chinese tour singles finals in WTA history, as well as the number of them that Li Na has appeared in. She lost in the 2006 Estoril final to Zheng Jie.
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3... the total number of Romanians who have ever appeared in the WTA singles Top 10 now that Simona Halep is the new #10. The last was Irina Spirlea, who made her Top 10 debut in 1996.
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3... since January 2012, when Vika Azarenka won the AO and became #1, the number of events entered by the "Big 3" of Azarenka, Serena Williams & Maria Sharapova, but not won by any of them. It's happened in Miami '12 (when the existence of The Rad was made known, as A-Rad won the title), Wimbledon '13 (site of "The Radwanskian Massacre," and Marion Bartoli's career moment) and now the Australian Open '14 (where Aga "Radwanska'ed" two-time defending champ Azarenka in the QF, but Li emerged with the title.).
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4... the number of appearances in grand main draws it took for Eugenie Bouchard to reach her first major semifinal, the quickest of any active woman other than Venus Williams (in her third slam in 1997).
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4... consecutive sweeps of the girls singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open, as Elizaveta Kulichkova followed in the footsteps of An-Sophie Mestach (2011), Taylor Townsend (2012) and Ana Konjuh (2013)
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5 & 5... total games allowed by Victoria Azarenka in her 2013 AO semifinal match vs. Sloane Stephens, as well as their 2014 AO Round of 16 rematch.

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8 & 8... wins recorded by Tsvetana Pironkova and Garbine Muguruza in Week 2 when both made it through qualifying and then won their first career titles in Sydney and Hobart, respectively
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12-0... Li Na's record so far in 2014

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13 for 17... total number of partners used by Kristina Mladenovic while winning seventeen professional doubles titles -- 7 WTA, 7 ITA, 1 WTA 125 & 2 Mixed Slams -- during her career, from 2009 to '14. Her seven WTA-level crowns have been won with seven different partners.
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14... consecutive times Serena Williams has defeated Maria Sharapova after her win over the Russian in the Brisbane semifinals
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25... Serena Williams' 2013-14 winning streak ended by Ana Ivanovic in Melbourne. It's the third-longest win streak on tour over the past decade, behind only Justine Henin's 32-match run from 2007-08 and Serena's own 34-match streak last season.
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27... number of year age difference between Kimiko Date-Krumm (43) and her 1st Round opponent at the Australian Open, Belinda Bencic (16). You can fit a whole Pironkova into that age gap!
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32... combined age of 31-year old Li Na's first two opponents at the Australian Open, Bencic and Ana Konjuh (both 16)

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311... number of consecutive weeks Aga Radwanska has held a Top 20 ranking, now the longest active streak on tour since retired Marion Bartoli fell off the singles rankings at the start of 2014
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"She's a genius!" - Pam Shriver, on Aga Radwanska, during her AO QF match vs. Azarenka

Meanwhile...

=SPEAK...=


=...SEEK...=


=...AND YOU SHALL FIND=


Introducing...

=WOZ-i-RING!=


=and VESNAROO!=


And, finally, rather than spend time with SpongeBob, Li Na was buddying up with the Australian Open's 380 ball kids before the start of the tournament...



Hmmm... a case of "spongy karma" at work? Well, you be the judge:



I'm just sayin'...


All for now.

13 Comments:

Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Wow they were not amused - Zvonareva and Makarova - first time I've seen both players in a match NOT shaking hands with the umpire. There were some questionable decisions in the match where the umpire overruled the line judges but i didn't see it THAT bad. Wonder if the players are fined afterwards - anyone know this?

Wed Jan 29, 04:21:00 AM EST  
Blogger Omair Malik said...

I thought Zvonareva did shake hands with the umpire.

Wed Jan 29, 04:34:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Well it was videoed from behind and to me it didn't look like she did - I might be wrong - hopefully - but Makarova didn't. Both players were rather angry during the game both on themselves and the judges. Well nevermind - Zvonareva is not there yet.

Wed Jan 29, 06:54:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

"You can fit a whole Pironkova into that age gap!" Made me laugh out loud.

Wed Jan 29, 12:10:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha. I got quite a chuckle out of the Pironkova/Kerber photo... I should have given it the title of "Guess which player won, and which one lost". ;)

Hmmm, Mladenovic def. Halep in the 1st Round in Paris. A good win for Kristina/Kiki, but so far in '14 it looks like Halep has totally flipped -- now she does poorly in regular events, but well in the slams. Sheesh... balance Simona, balance.

Wed Jan 29, 02:22:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

News from Leif's Nordic Outpost: Wozniacki Fires Hogstedt (translated)

I guess Midge is back.

Wed Jan 29, 05:10:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Simona must be attending the Sloane Stephens Academy for Upward Mobility.

Wed Jan 29, 08:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Carolines new coach Michael Mortensen actually my choice last summer - funny enough - well good luck to her, and may the good spirits be with them.

Thu Jan 30, 02:07:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

you seem to be having some trouble with your website... hope it's not a hassle to resolve.

Sat Feb 01, 11:52:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm???

What are you referring to, Eric? I haven't been online all day, so this is the first time I'm checking it (about four hours after your comment). It seems fine, and I don't see any issues. It is all right on your end?

Maybe there was an overall issue with Blogger earlier today?

Sat Feb 01, 04:11:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

Apparently you don't see it, Todd, but from readers' perspective, your blog is currently very messy. Every picture and piece of background has been replaced by Photobucket "Look who's popular" ads. Just finding the link to the comment section was difficult.

Good luck arranging that!

Sat Feb 01, 05:35:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I think everything is fixed now, but I need someone to tell me since I guess I can't see it on my end.

(Note to self: when you have an old account with an old email address in you profile, make sure you update said email address so that you get the email warning when something is going to happen to the aforementioned account you, you know, actually receive it in your Inbox.)

By the way, thanks all, for telling me there was a problem. ;)

Sat Feb 01, 07:48:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

Yes, it's fine now.

Sat Feb 01, 10:51:00 PM EST  

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