Sunday, February 18, 2018

Wk.7- Oh! Petra!

Hey, who doesn't like a good revival? Especially if it just might turn out to be *more* fulfilling than the original production.

In Doha, the WTA's transformation into the Petra Tour continued for a *third* boffo week. Of course, we've seen similar versions of this award-winning show before. Petra Kvitova has run roughshod for rounds and weeks on end in the past, firing aces and thudding winners and often leading nearly every available Hall of Famer to arrive to see her in person (usually in London) in order to play homage and gather at the feet of the would-be new leader. They've been wonderful, Petra-affirming moments. Only, eventually, something always went awry.

In seasons past, right when many have expected to see her rise, the asthma-suffering Kvitova has proceeded to go down hard, and sometimes have a tough time getting back up. At some point, she would, and then the same cycle would begin anew. The first occasion happened when she won her maiden Wimbledon title in 2011, then three years later when she reached slam final #2 on the AELTC lawns in 2014. Alas, she's yet to reach a third major final. In fact, she's only gone as far as a slam QF twice in the nearly four years that have passed since she became a multiple slam title winner.

With her current run of near-greatness, might that change -- big time -- in 2018?

With Kvitova probably the most well-liked player on tour, one would be hard-pressed to find a soul who'd ever wish ill will or even truly root against all good things happening for her. That was the case before her home invasion scare in December 2016, and it's surely the case today. But, the question remains. Will this revival, too, be a lavishly-praised short-lived celebration of all things being possible, or something a bit closer to a permanent fixture? Or, at least something nicely, and satisfyingly, positioned somewhere between the two?

If the Czech's health and fitness, which usually go hand-in-hand, can be maintained -- and that has, and likely remains, a bigger "if" than most would wish -- maybe the "Petra era," or one where it *always* seems possible, that so many first envisioned seven (!) years ago very well could come to pass in 2018. We've certainly seen the early signs of what such a reality might be like. And much of the tour would have good reason to shudder, Petra-fied, at the thought, wouldn't they?

No matter what is to come, it's great to be able to enjoy it, and see Kvitova enjoying it, too.

It's a rare occasion when we collectively both realize what we had and nearly lost, as we did when Kvitova's career (or worse) nearly tragically ended fourteen months ago, and *then* get the opportunity to truly immerse ourselves in the experience all over again. Let alone having the revival possess the possibility of being an even *more* enjoyable ride than the original run, as glorious as it felt, could have ever hoped to be in its more innocent form. But, where Kvitova is concerned, we did, and now we are, and we still very well could. It doesn't get much better than that, does it? We -- and she -- know more now than we did before, and that makes it something of a crime to *not* appreciate today, and yesterday and, you know, the last three weeks.

Oh, Petra.

DOHA, QATAR (Premier 5/Hard Outdoor)
S: Petra Kvitova/CZE def. Garbine Muguruza/ESP 3-6/6-3/6-4
D: Gaby Dabrowski/Alona Ostapenko (CAN/LAT) d. Andreja Klepac/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (SLO/ESP) 6-3/6-3

...Kvitova's reign of good-natured, but still oh-so-lethal, dominance continued in Doha. While it often occurred under a bit more harried circumstances than in Saint Petersburg and Prague, where she rarely left any doubt about her conquests, it may have been a more lasting type of accomplishment. While on the edge of seeing exhaustion just around the corner, Kvitova had to battle nearly all week. After a quick 1st Round win over Cagla Buyukakcay (she wasn't ranked high enough to get a bye and didn't get much post-Fed cup rest), she lost the 1st set and had to win in three over Aga Radwanska. She handled #3 Elina Svitolina 4 & 5, then got a bit of a break when #10 Julia Goerges retired in the 2nd set. But the biggest fights were yet to come. #1 Caroline Wozniacki twice served for the match in the 2nd set of their semifinal, but Kvitova took the 2nd and won in three to record her fifth career #1 win (two have been over the Dane). In the final, she again had to come back from a set down vs. #4 Garbine Muguruza, constantly staving off BP chances -- any of which may have led to her doom in the match -- in the 2nd and 3rd sets en route to claiming her 22nd career title.

Kvitova's four Top 10 wins this week give her a total of six (with wins over #6 Alona Ostapenko and then-#10 Mladenovic in Russia) such victories during her 13-match winning streak. After knocking Mladenovic out of the Top 10 two weeks ago, her win in the Doha final will next knock out Goerges (0-2 vs. Petra during this run) on Monday as Kvitova bypasses a return to the Top 20 and jumps from #21 to #10.
RISERS: Garbine Muguruza/ESP and Simona Halep/ROU
...Muguruza had a "Remember me?" sort of week in Doha. She posted wins over Duan Yingying, Sorana Cirstea and Caroline Garcia (winning 11 of 15 games to close out a 3-6/6-1/6-4 victory) before getting a walkover into the final when Halep withdrew with a foot injury. That she didn't ultimately win the title, as she failed to put away a series of BP chances in the 2nd and 3rd sets as Kvitova claimed the lasting headlines, sort of holds the line of the majority of her career. Like the Czech, both have won a pair of slam titles, but only Muguruza has held the #1 ranking. She has an odd standing amongst the all-time WTA #1's. She's won fewer career titles (5) than any of the twenty-four other women to be ranked #1, but six of those (Wozniacki, Safina, Jankovic, Halep, Ivanovic and Pliskova) have failed to win as many majors as she has, and four with many more weeks at #1 (between 51 -- Azarenka -- and 22 -- Austin -- weeks in total at the top) have only won the *same* number of slams as Muguruza, who is likely a good bet to salt away at least one more before she's finished. So that Garbi declared this week, her first since bringing aboard Conchita Martinez as a team member (sort of like what happened last summer at SW19 when the former Wimbledon champ stepped in for an absent Sam Sumyk), a big success as her objective was to get matches and (one expects) prepare for the even *bigger* events a few months from now, is hardly a surprise. Mugu often lurks in the shadows, sometimes playing great and sometimes not, only to emerge in oft-dominant fashion to claim *the* biggest titles on the schedule.

Halep's sudden pull-out following her QF win over CiCi Bellis was a bit of a surprise. Not because we didn't know she was still dragging an injury from Melbourne (in this case, a second one not related to that ankle roll in the early rounds), considering she'd since talked about still playing with pain, but because she'd looked so good all week. Wins over Ekaterina Makarova (3 & love), Anastasija Sevastova (4 & 3) and Bellis (love & 4) had her and others eyeing a possible return to the #1 ranking immediately after Doha, rather than stepping away to rest the injury until at least Indian Wells. Perhaps that's why Halep spoke with an annoyed, frustrated tone when she answered questions about her continuing predicament. Still, with her game so dependent on her feet (with which she's often had injury issues), and with the clay court season (with perhaps her best slam chance in '18) not far off, the Swarmette Queen *must* be secure below the knees if she's to maximize her upcoming spring schedule. So it was must-do decision. At 14-1 on the season (not counting the walkover), Halep is just 45 points behind #1 Wozniacki, and with the Dane deciding not to defend her Dubai final points in Week 8 the Romanian will still (at least temporarily) reclaim the #1 ranking on February 26.

SURPRISE: Mihaela Buzarenscu/ROU
...the 29-year old Swarmette who earned her Ph.D. while she waited out an injury layoff and questioned whether she'd return to the sport, continues to shine in good health and form. In Doha, Dr.Buzanescu knocked off Lesia Tsurenko, then posted her first career Top 10 victory with a win over Alona Ostapenko before falling to Julia Goerges in the 3rd Round. Since starting 2017 at #540, she's won seven ITF titles and reached two more challenger finals, as well as her first on the WTA tour (Week 2 in Hobart), made her tour and slam debut (in the same match at Flushing Meadows, then, reached a semi in her second in Linz last fall)... and will begin the coming week at a new career-high of #39.

VETERANS: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN and Julia Goerges/GER
...though she held onto the #1 ranking (for now) with her semifinal result -- with wins over Carina Witthoeft, Monica Niculescu, and in three sets over Angelique Kerber -- combined with Halep's final four withdrawal, Wozniacki's week will likely be remembered as the one in which her twelve-match semifinal winning streak came to an end at the hands of Kvitova, though the Dane *did* twice serve for the match against the Czech. Wozniacki is the only player to reach tour finals in Doha and Dubai in the same season on two occasions, doing so in 2011 (Dubai W, Doha RU) and again last year (Doha RU, Dubai RU).

Meanwhile, Goerges had another good week (she's 12-3 in '18, and 21-3 since late last season) in Doha, surrounding a victory over Buzarnescu with a virtual "test-run" against the Czech Fed Cup squad should she join Germany's semifinal effort vs. the Maidens this spring. She notched wins over both Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova, only to fall to Kvitova due to her early 2nd set retirement with a hip injury. She stated afterward that she'd been playing with the injury all week, and joked with Kvitova at the net that the Czech made it worse by running her all over the court en route to her SECOND win over the German during Petra's current win streak. Naturally, Kvitova's claiming of the title on Sunday *also* pushes Goerges out of the Top 10 in the new rankings. But, hey, what can you do when Petra is intent on a revival?
COMEBACK: Angelique Kerber/GER
...with her two-win QF run in Doha, Kerber improved her 2018 record to 12-3 (not counting her four-win Hopman Cup effort). The German didn't win her twelfth match a season ago until the round before she fell to Venus Williams in the Miami QF. After a straight sets victory over Sam Stosur, Kerber came back from a set down to defeat Johanna Konta, pushing her record this season after dropping the opening set to 4-1 after going 3-22 in such circumstances during her disappointing '17 campaign. She had an opportunity to add another win to the total in the QF vs. Caroline Wozniacki (or even avoid it altogether, as she *did* serve for the 1st serve). Kerber broke the Dane to open the 3rd and was up 40/love in game #2 only to see the world #1 rally and get the win. Still ranked #9, Kerber is in the third spot behind Wozniacki and Halep in the 2018 Points Race.

FRESH FACES: CiCi Bellis/USA and Anna Blinkova/RUS
...a year ago in Dubai, Bellis recorded her first Top 10 win with a victory over then-#6 Aga Radwanska. Last week she returned to the Middle East in Doha and got her first career Top FIVE win, taking out #5 Karolina Pliskova (the defending champ) in straight sets in a 3rd Round match that followed a successful Q-run and earlier wins over Dasha Kasatkina (2nd set ret.) and Madison Keys (coming back from dropping the 1st set and winning a love 3rd in windy conditions). The (still only) 18-year old ultimately fell in the QF to Simona Halep in two sets, but put enough pressure on the Romanian that she felt additional pain in her injured foot to pulled out of the tournament after the match. Bellis is up to #41 this week, not far off her career-high of #35.

Meanwhile, 19-year old Blinkova served notice to the currently reigning Hordette generation. The Russian qualified in Doha with wins over Jana Fett and countrywoman Ekaterina Alexadrova, then defeated another Hordette in Elena Vesnina in the 1st Round. An upset over Kristina Mladenovic (her first Top 20 win) followed before a tight 7-6(3)/7-5 3rd Round loss to another Pastry, Caroline Garcia. Blinkova, who has opened Week 8 with a Q1 win over #1-seed Denisa Allertova (AO 4th Rd.) in Budapest, will climb thirty-eight spots to #126 on Monday, just twelve spots behind her career-high of #114.

DOWN: Latisha Chan/Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova (TPE/CZE)
...sometimes good individual parts don't always fit together perfectly. While Chan and new partner Hlavackova haven't performed poorly -- though their 2nd Round loss on in Doha to Fed Cup stars Kato & Ninomiya is their worst result in four '18 outings -- the duo's track record so far doesn't show a great deal of promise when it comes to Chan holding onto the #1 ranking she earned while teaming with Martina Hingis last season, and which she finally took over sole possession of from her now-retired partner heading into Week 7 (as the Swiss Miss has continued to allow her results to be accounted for in the rankings... make of that what you will, I suppose). They've gone a combined 8-4 so far, with SF-RU-QF results prior to their early loss last week. A season ago, Chan was 53-7 with Hingis, winning nine titles (and reaching another final) in sixteen events together, with their longest title-less periods being just a pair of two-event stretches (Doha/Dubai and Wimbledon/Toronto). Chan also won a title with her sister Hao-Ching ("Angel"). Latisha hasn't won a tour-level doubles title with anyone other than Hingis or her sibling since 2010, and through two months of the new season as the world #1 that's *still* the case. At some point, with Chan/Hlavackova the #5-ranked duo in the '18 Points Race, the #1 doubles ranking may be "open for business" in a come-one-come-all scenario if Chan doesn't begin to hold onto her collected ranking points. First to challenge could be the "next-up" duo of Makarova/Vesnina, though they will be trying to defend a title in Dubai this week, and also won Wimbledon last summer, and don't pair on a week-in, week-out basis on tour. For the record, Chan's early exit in Doha will allow Hingis to *again* re-claim a portion of the top WD ranking, as they'll be co-#1's yet again in the new rankings.
ITF PLAYER: Rebecca Marino/CAN
...well, once could get used to this, huh? After a five year absence, Marino returned to action three weeks ago. She still hasn't lost. For the third straight week in Antalya, Turkey the Canadian claimed a $15K challenger crown. While her 30-set streak was ended by #1-seeded Ekaterine Gorgodze in the semifinals, Marino improved to 17-0 with wins over the #8, #4 and #7 (Italy's Gaia Sanesi in a 6-2/6-1 final) seeds during the week. Marino has now won 34 of 35 sets during the stretch, and will see her ranking rise to just outside the Top 625.
JUNIOR STAR: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
...the 16-year old, #6-ranked girl didn't compete in Melbourne, but she's been dominating the other junior competition in 2018. In Paraguay's Asuncion Bowl, the #1-seeded Colombian claimed her third consecutive Grade 1 title (after runs at the Coffee Bowl and Barranquilla events in January), extending her winning streak to sixteen matches with victories over the #4 (Hailey Baptiste) and #9 (Katie Volynets) seeds, then Argentina's Ana Geller (the girls #150, and sister of '17 Wimbledon & U.S. Open boys singles finalist Axel) in the 15-year old's first career Grade 1 final.

DOUBLES: Gaby Dabrowski & Alona Ostapenko (CAN/LAT)
...while Dabrowski has already had a banner '18 season in doubles, winning Sydney with Xu Yifan and the AO Mixed Doubles with Mate Pavic (who started *his* season a combined 22-0 in MD/MX before losing in a final this weekend), Ostapenko has used doubles to fill in some of the blanks of his (so far) inconsistent singles performance this season. A week after combining with Anastastija Sevastova to win a pair of deciding doubles matches to lift their country into this spring's WG II Playoffs, Latvian Thunder fell in the 2nd Round in Doha singles, but combined with Dabrowski to get the time on court that her earlier loss caused her to missed out on (always a good thing when a player is a semi-slow out of the gate as Ostapenko has been in '18 after a hectic offseason). The pair lost a set in their opening match against Melichar/Peschke, winning a 10-8 TB to advance, then swept through the field the rest of the way en route to the title. #3-seeds Safarova/Strycova retired just three games into the 1st set, then Dabrowski/Ostapenko handled K.Bondarenko/Krunic, Krejcikova/Siniakova and Klepac/Martinez Sanchez (who'd won three straight 3rd set TB to get to the final) without losing more than seven total games in any match. Their first title as a pair, it's the seventh of Dabrowski career and Ostapenko's third (in three finals). The 25-year old Dabrowski will now become the fourth Canadian woman to reach the WTA Top 10 in singles or doubles, joining Genie Bouchard (#5 WS), Carling Bassett-Seguso (#8 WS), and Jill Hetherington (#6 WD) when she debuts at #8 on Monday.


Once again, it was time for the felines to roam free in Doha...

1. Doha Final - Petra Kvitova def. Garbine Muguruza
In their first meeting in a final, Kvitova staged vs. the Spaniard what was her last of many comebacks during the week. Muguruza raced to a 5-0 lead in the 1st while the Czech was trying to find her serve, as she fired at just a 48% clip (vs. 75% for Garbi) in the set. While she continuously faced danger on serve for the rest of the match, she *always* found a way to prevail. She saved BP and held for 2-1 and 3-2 leads in the 2nd, broke to go up 4-2, then saved BP again in game #7 en route to evening the match with a 6-3 set win. Kvitova improved her serve percentage to 68% in the 2nd, and out-hit Muguruza 16-4 in winners. In the 3rd, it was a similar story. The Czech saved BP for a hold for 2-2, broke Muguruza a game later, then saved BP again in game #6 on her way to finally putting the Spaniard away to pick up her 13th straight victory. She's now 4-1 vs. Muguruza.


2. Doha SF - Petra Kvitova def. Caroline Wozniacki
The Czech and the Dane tangled for 2:35, trading off attempts in the 2nd and 3rd sets to serve out the match. First, Wozniacki served up 6-3/5-4 (a love break), then 6-5, in the 2nd. Kvitova won a TB to force a 3rd set, where she held from 15/30 (even w/ two DF, of the eleven she had on the day) for 4-4, broke a game later, and served for the match at 5-4. She was broken by the Dane, but then broke back a game later and finally served out the match. The win, Kvitova's 12th straight, ended Wozniacki's 12-match semifinal unbeaten streak (it's the first time she failed in an attempt to reach a final since the 2016 U.S. Open vs. Kerber), and improved her head-to-head lead over the Dane to 8-5, with four consecutive wins and a 7-3 mark on hard courts.

3. Doha QF - Caroline Wozniacki def. Angelique Kerber
Wozniacki, on the court when #2 Halep announced she was pulling out of the semifinal she'd just advanced to, retained her #1 ranking for Week 8 while winning a rare match over Kerber in which the German dropped the opening set (she'd been 4-1 in '18, having held MP in her one previous loss vs. Halep in the AO semis), denying her opponent's multiple opportunities to turn the match in her favor. Kerber served for the 1st set, and later served up 1-0, 40/love in the 3rd, only to drop serve. Serving at 3-4, the German was broken again after leading 30/love and reaching GP.
4. Doha 1st Rd. - Monica Niculescu def. Maria Sharapova
The Romanian's frustrating (to her opponents) game ultimately broke the Russian, who committed 52 unforced errors (to 17 for Niculescu), DF'd eleven times, and then withdrew from Dubai with an apparent forearm injury (the same malady that she struggled with for months after her return to action last season).

5. Doha 3rd Rd. - Caroline Wozniacki def. Monica Niculescu
Wozniacki complained to the umpire about Niculescu's grunts during her follow-through swings, accusing her of doing it to intentionally interfere with her own play. Needless to say, the Romanian didn't particularly take too kindly to the notion.

6. Doha 2nd Rd. - Caroline Garcia def. Dominika Cibulkova 6-3/6-7(3)/6-0
Doha 2nd Rd. - Anna Blinkova def. Kristina Mladenovic 6-3/6-3
we got a (semi) dust-up between Wozniacki and Niculescu, but the potential sideshow of the first Garcia/Mladenovic meeting since, well, you know, didn't materialize in Doha. One round away from facing each other, Garcia won 24 of the final 28 points to down Cibulkova, but Mladenovic became the first Top 20 victim of Blinkova.

7. Doha 2nd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Ekaterina Makarova 6-3/6-0
Doha 3rd Rd. - Simona Halep def. Anastasija Sevastova 6-4/6-3
Doha QF - Simona Halep def. CiCi Bellis 6-0/6-4
no wonder Halep was frustrated by having to pull out with her lingering foot injury. Even while pushing things and playing with pain, she'd been in fine form all week, including a thorough take down of Makarova, her "Simona 1.0" nemesis. The Russian frustrated and made the Romanian look for an "escape hatch" from a 6-4/6-0 QF defeat at the Australian Open three seasons ago, then further complicated her psyche in a tight three-setter in Dubai a few months later.

8. Doha 2nd Rd. - Mihaela Buzarnescu def. Alona Ostapenko 6-1/6-3
Doha Final - Gaby Dabrowski/Alona Ostapenko def. Andreja Klepac/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-3/6-3
for the second week in a row, Ostapenko is registered by an opponent as their first career Top 10 victim. For the second week in a row, though, she rebounded by putting up some impressive doubles results.

9. Doha 1st Rd. - CiCi Bellis def. Dasha Kasatkina
...7-5/4-1 ret.
The Russian again failed to gather any positive momentum for her '18 season. Kasatkina opened with back-to-back losses and a 2nd Round exit in Melbourne, but then found her footing with a SF run in Saint Petersburg that included a win over #1 Wozniacki. But she slipped right back down the rabbit hole in Qatar, falling early in the match and then later retiring with a shoulder/nick injury.

10. $25K Perth Final - Irina Khromacheva def. Katy Dunne
After a week playing the role of The Smiter of Aussies on Australian soil -- she defeated Olivia Tjandramulia, Ellen Perez, Jamiee Fourlis and Maddison Inglis -- the Russian defeated a Brit for variety, claiming her sixteen ITF crown (16-4 in finals) with her ninth straight victory (from 2015-18) in a final.

HM- Dubai Q1 - Bernarda Pera def. Marketa Vondrousova
In her first outing since her LL-to-3rd Round run in Melbourne (which included a win over Konta), Pera immediately produced another eyebrow-raising scoreline. It was even more in (AO) character when you consider she trailed the Czech 6-0/2-0, and faced BP for 3-0. Though her run ended a round later with a straight sets loss to Sara Errani.

Did someone say something about an Italian who refuses to give up?

And Karolina found a game that just isn't for her...

1. Doha 1st Rd. - AGA RADWANSKA def. Mona Barthel
It's not as if we just met an umpire named Marija. But, in Doha, Cicak finally proved she isn't necessarily infallible. She called an incorrect score, and Aga only realized it after the game was "over" a few points later. It all got straightened out...

But, Marija (I'm just sayin')...


Don't look now, but...

**WTA TITLES - 2016-18**
7 - Elina Svitolina, UKR [1/5/1]
5 - PETRA KVITOVA, CZE [2/1/2]
5 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN [2/2/1]
5 - Simona Halep, ROU [3/1/1]
5 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE [2/3/0]
4 - Angelique Kerber, GER [3/0/1]
4 - Caroline Garcia, FRA [2/2/0]
4 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK [4/0/0]
4 - Sloane Stephens, USA [3/1/0]

**WTA FINALS - 2015-18**
15 - 5/3/5/2 - Simona Halep (8-7)
15 - 5/8/1/1 - Angelique Kerber (8-7)
15 - 3/2/8/2 - Caroline Wozniacki (6-9)
13 - 6/4/3/0 - Karolina Pliskova (6-7)
11 - 5/5/1/0 - Serena Williams (8-3)
10 - 4/3/1/2 - PETRA KVITOVA (8-2)
10 - 1/3/5/1 - Elina Svitolina (8-2)

Auckland: Julia Goerges, GER (F-Wozniacki)
Australian Open: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (F-Halep)

**DOHA & DUBAI... (since 2001)**
[reached finals at both]
2001 Martina Hingis = Doha W, Dubai W
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova = Dubai RU, Doha RU
2007 Justine Henin = Dubai W, Doha W
2009 Venus Williams = Dubai W, Doha Chsp RU
2011 Caroline Wozniacki = Dubai W, Doha RU
2017 Caroline Wozniacki = Doha RU, Dubai RU
NOTE: 2008 two Doha events (Feb/Oct); 2009-10 Doha only as Oct. WTA Chsp.

**2018 WTA SF**
2 - Julia Goerges, GER (1-1)
2 - Angelique Kerber, GER (1-1)
2 - Elise Mertens, BEL (1-1)

11 - Simona Halep (January) - ended by Wozniacki
10 - Elise Mertens (January) - ended by Wozniacki
10 - Angelique Kerber (January) - ended by Halep

2009 def. Dinara Safina (U.S. Open 3rd)
2011 def. Caroline Wozniacki (WTA Chsp. rr)
2015 def. Serena Williams (Madrid SF)
2016 def. Angelique Kerber (Wuhan 3rd)
2017 def. Caroline Wozniacki (Dohan SF)
[active leaders]
16 - Serena Williams, USA
15 - Venus Williams, USA
7 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
7 - Maria Sharapova, RUS
5 - Elina Svitolina, UKR
4 - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
4 - Garbine Muguruza, ESP
4 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN

[w/ last season w/ title]
72...Serena Williams (2017)
49...Venus Williams (2016)
36...Maria Sharapova (2017)
28...Caroline Wozniacki (2018)
22...PETRA KVITOVA (2018)
20...Victoria Azarenka (2016)
20...Aga Radwanska (2016)
17...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2016)
16...Simona Halep (2018)
15...Jelena Jankovic (2015)
12...Vera Zvonareva (2011)
11...Angelique Kerber (2018)
11...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2017)
11...Patty Schnyder (2008)
10...Elina Svitolina (2018)
10...Roberta Vinci (2016)
9...Sara Errani (2016)
9...Karolina Pliskova (2017)
9...Samantha Stosur (2017)
8...Marion Bartoli (2013)
8...Dominika Cibulkova (2016)
8...Francesca Schiavone (2017)
7...Lucie Safarova (2016)
6...Andrea Petkovic (2015)

2...GABY DABROWSKI, CAN (2-0 + 1-0 MX)
2...Demi Schuurs, NED (2-0)

Coffee Bowl: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Copa Barranquilla: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Traralgon: Liang En-shou/TPE
Prague: Maria Timofeeva/RUS
Australian Open: Liang En-shuo/TPE
Mundial Juvenil: Gabriella Price/USA
Asuncion Bowl: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano/COL
Banana Bowl: [February]
Yeltsin Cup: [February]

Naturally, there was no actual tennis news involving a certain Canadian. But...

Though she's still looking for her first win since the U.S. Open, five years after she preceded Bouchard's own '14 AO semifinal run, it was Sloane following in footsteps this time around...

DUBAI, UAE (Premier/Hard)
2001 Martina Hingis def. Nathalie Tauziat
2002 Amelie Mauresmo def. Sandrine Testud
2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne def. Monica Seles
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2005 Lindsay Davenport def. Jelena Jankovic
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne def. Maria Sharapova
2007 Justine Henin def. Amelie Mauresmo
2008 Elena Dementieva def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Venus Williams def. Virginie Razzano
2010 Venus Williams def. Victoria Azarenka
2011 Caroline Wozniacki def. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2012 Aga Radwanska def. Julia Goerges
2013 Petra Kvitova def. Sara Errani
2014 Venus Williams def. Alize Cornet
2015 Simona Halep def. Karolina Pliskova
2016 Sara Errani def. Barbora Strycova
2017 Elina Svitolina def. Caroline Wozniacki
2001 Basuki/Vis d. Svensson/Habsudova
2002 Rittner/Vento-Kabchi d. Testud/Vinci
2003 Kuznetsova/Navratilova d. C.Black/Likhovtseva
2004 Husarova/C.Martínez d. Kuznetsova/Likhovtseva
2005 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. Kuznetsova/Molik
2006 Peschke/Schiavone d. Kuznetsova/Petrova
2007 C.Black/Huber d. Kuznetsova/Molik
2008 C.Black/Huber d. Zheng Jie/Yan Zi
2009 C.Black/Huber d. Kirilenko/A.Radwanska
2010 Llagostera Vives/Martínez Sanchez d. Peschke/Srebotnik
2011 Huber/Martínez Sanchez d. Peschke/Srebotnik
2012 Huber/Raymond d. Mirza/Vesnina
2013 Mattek-Sands/Mirza d. Petrova/Srebotnik
2014 Kudryavtseva/An.Rodionova d. Kops-Jones/Spears
2015 Babos/Mladenovic d. Muguruza/Suarez Navarro
2016 Chuang Chia-jung/Jurak d. Garcia/Mladenovic
2017 Makarova/Vesnina d. Hlavackova/Peng Shuai
WS: #1 Svitolina, #2 Muguruza
WD: #1 Makarova/Vesnina, #2 L.Chan/S.-Hlavackova

...the draw took a hit with the withdrawals of Halep, Goerges and Keys. Meanwhile, Kvitova is (as of now) still in this draw, but one has to wonder if she'll be up to another full week of action. If she plays, she could face Mladenovic in the 2nd Round, and then Svitolina for a second straight week in the QF. In bottom half, Muguruza/Garcia, too, could cross paths again in a second straight QF.

#6 Kerber d. #1 Svitolina
#5 Garcia d. #7 Konta
#6 Kerber d. #5 Garcia

1993 Zina Garrison def. Sabine Appelmans
1994–1995 - Not Held
1996 Ruxandra Dragomir def. Melanie Schnell
1997 Amanda Coetzer def. Sabine Appelmans
1998 Virginia Ruano Pascual def. Silvia Farina Elia
1999 Sarah Pitkowski def. Cristina Torrens Valero
2000 Tathiana Garbin def. Kristie Boogert
2001 Magdalena Maleeva def. Anne Kremer
2002 Martina Müller def. Myriam Casanova
2003 Magui Serna def. Alicia Molik
2004 Jelena Jankovic def. Martina Sucha
2005 Anna Smashnova def. Catalina Castano
2006 Anna Smashnova def. Lourdes Dominguez
2007 Gisela Dulko def. Sorana Cîrstea
2008 Alize Cornet def. Andreja Klepac
2009 Agnes Szavay def. Patty Schnyder
2010 Agnes Szavay def. Patty Schnyder
2011 Roberta Vinci def. Irina-Camelia Begu
2012 Sara Errani def. Elena Vesnina
2013 Simona Halep def. Yvonne Meusburger
2014–2015 - Not Held
2016 - $100K event
2017 Timea Babos def. Lucie Safarova
1993 Gorrochategui/Vis d. Cecchini/Tarabini
1994–1995 - Not Held
1996 Adams/Graham d. Bobkova/Melicharova
1997 Coetzer/Fusai d. Martincova/Wagner
1998 Ruano Pascual/Suarez d. C.Cristea/Montalvo
1999 Kulikovskaya/Nacuk d. Montalvo/Ruano Pascual
2000 Bacheva/Torrens Valero d. Kostanic Tosic/Nacuk
2001 Husarova/Garbin d. Gubacsi/Zaric
2002 Loit/Barclay-Reitz d. Bovina/Gubacsi
2003 Mandula/Tatarkova d. Martinez Granados/Perebiynis
2004 Mandula/Schett d. Szavay/Nemeth
2005 Loit/Srebotnik d. Dominguez Lino/Marrero
2006 Husarova/Krajicek d. Hradecka/Voracova
2007 Szavay/Uhlírova d. Muller/G.Navratilova
2008 Cornet/Husarova d. Henke/Olaru
2009 Kleybanova/Niculescu d. A.Bondarenko/K.Bondarenko
2010 Bacsinszky/Garbin d. S.Cirstea/Medina Garrigues
2011 Medina Garrigues/Rosolska d. Grandin/Uhlirova
2012 Husarova/Rybarikova d. Birnerova/Krajicek
2013 Hlavackova/Hradecka d. Bratchikova/Tatishvili
2014–2015 - Not Held
2016 - $100K event
2017 S.Hsieh/Kalashnikova d. Ar.Rodionova/Voskoboeva
WS: #1 Rybarikova, #2 Cibulkova
WD: #1 Flipkens/Larsson, #2 A.Smith/Voracova

Of course, what does it matter. They're going to get all of us, anyway.

All for now???


Monday, February 12, 2018

Wk.6- Our Fed Cup Runneth Over

The time has arrived to sort through the highs, lows, resurrections, market corrections and general Czech Maiden-like happenings of the first Fed Cup week of the year.

(As well as at least three "In Rinaldi We Trust" mentions before things are over, as the quota must be filled.)

A quick rundown of some stand-outs from 2018's first batch of Fed Cup results:

1. The Czech Reboot
2. In Rinaldi We Trust: Year 2, Chapter 1 - "So far, so good."
3. Latvians Living on the Edge
4. Aussies, Escaping By the Skin of Their Vegemite-stained Teeth
5. Venus
6. Petra
7. Kiki (for now)
8. Japanese teamwork: all for one, and one for all
9. Never going in against the Italians when Fed Cup death is on the line (ask AMG)
10. Slovaks vs. History (Kuzmova for the win!)
11. German ingenuity (and Jens Gerlach's good fortune)
12. The growing Cult of Sabalenka (even in defeat)
13. Anastasia Myskina, one of the best Saturday FC Captains around

1. Anastasia Myskina, the worst Sunday FC Captain around
2. Belarus: The Year After
3. Better Call Bencic... a time machine
4. Dasha, Dasha, Dasha
5. Lara Arruabarrena's weekend
6. Alize Cornet Pauline Parmentier in French Fed Cup singles
7. Kazakhstan, China... stop me if you've heard this before

Captain Jens Gerlach (GER) = welcome to Thunderdome
Captain Kathy Rinaldi (USA) = "All right, now things get serious."
Captain Petr Pala (CZE) = (Casually brushes the dust off his jacket and stands up straight once again.)
Captain Toshihisa Tsuchihashi (JPN) = teamwork is the best work...but having Naomi would be nice, too
Captain Yannick Noah (FRA) = "I just stand back, cross my fingers, and watch her go."
Captain Matej Liptak (SVK) = "Yeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!"
Captain Tathiana Garbin (ITA) = "You're not an Italian unless you refuse to die."
Captain Ramon Delgado (PAR) = Home is Where the Heart Is
Captain Alicia Molik (AUS) = "Whew!"
Captain Anne Keothavong (GBR) = "If I don't hear the word "Zone" -- or "Ilie" -- again, I'd be fine with that. Thankfully, I might not have to for a while."
Captain Florin Segarceanu (ROU) = Winning Without Insulting Your Opponents
Captain Mikhail Filima (UKR) = "Haha. You thought I was crazy to play a 15-year old in the #1 spot, didn't you? It almost worked."
Captain Tatjana Jecmenica (SRB) = "I may have found a brand new Bracelet!"
Captain Andis Juska (LAT) = "I really thought this was going to be a little easier than *that*."
Captain Gilles De Gouy (POC) = overseeing the ultimate group effort, and with another Tere-Apisah waiting in the wings
Captain Deddy Tedjamukti (INA) = "Hey, we didn't used to be so anonymous. Have you heard of Yayuk Basuki?"
Captain Heinz Gunthardt (SUI) = "Smile and the world smiles with you, and you don't have to win. Plus, we were playing the Czechs, so c'mon, you know?"
Captain Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) = "Dear Garbi..."
Captain Daniel Heryanta Dewandaka (SGP) = "I Dream of Stephanie (Tan)."
Captain Gabor Juhasz (HUN) = "To: Timea ...please call me."
Captain Fernando Roese (BRA) = can someone clone Beatriz, please?
Captain Marcelo Gomez (ARG) = so close, and yet so far. But at least Paula is back.
Captain Dominique Monami (BEL) = "I really thought we might have this. No, I really did. Stop laughing, Kiki."
Captain Paul Haarhuis (NED) = the worm has not only turned, but it may have died
Captain Eduard Dubrou (BLR) = "Sigh. I guess we knew it was our time."
Captain Sylvain Bruneau (CAN) = "No, Genie... you wouldn't have made a difference. Trust me. Now go play yet another exhibition."
Captain Dias Doskarayev (KAZ) = (rolls eyes and walks away)
Captain Shao-Xuan Zeng (CHN) = (silence, with a slightly downturned corner of the mouth)
Captain Iroda Tulyaganova (UZB) = (throws up hands)
Captain Anastasia Myskina (RUS) = "Any Anastasia will do." (apparently) "Hello? Is anyone there? Mary Joe?"

*WEEK 6*

=WG 1st Round=
Germany def. Belarus (H) 3-2
Czech Republic (H) def. Switzerland 3-1
France (H) def. Belgium 3-2
United States (H) def. Netherland 3-1
=World Group II=
Slovakia (H) def. Russia 4-1
Australia (H) def Ukraine 3-2
Romania (H) def. Canada 3-1
Italy (H) def. Spain 3-2
=Zone Promotion Finals=
[Europe/Africa I]: Latvia def. Serbia 2-1
[Europe/Africa I]: Great Britain def. Hungary 2-0
[Americas I]: Paraguay def. Brazil 2-0
[Asia/Oceania I]: Japan def. Kazakhstan 2-1
[Asia/Oceania II]: Indonesia def. Uzbekistan 2-0
[Asia/Oceania II]: Pacific Oceania def. Singapore 2-1

[World Group 1st Round]

Germany def. Belarus 3-2
[Minsk, BLR / HCI]
...the "year after" is quite different, isn't it? The Dutch were Fed Cup's Cinderella story in 2016, until they were upset in the 1st Round in 2017 by the "new" Cinderellas, the Belarusians. BLR managed to go one step further than NED, reaching the final. Playing at home for a fourth straight tie, the Belarusians were the decided favorites this weekend against a German "B" team that didn't include the likes of Angelique Kerber, Julia Goerges, Andrea Petkovic or Sabine Lisicki. So, done and done, right? Ha. You're forgetting that this is Fed Cup. As it turned out, Germany had other ideas about the whole thing, as new Captain Jens Gerlach must have cut some sort of deal with the Tennis Gods.

Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Tatjana Maria (GER)
...with both of Germany's singles players (Maria and Antonia Lottner) going 1-1, the doubles duo of Groenefeld & Maria, playing in her first FC tie since 2011, were called upon to finish off the sole visiting team upset in either WG I or II this weekend. Joined by ALG, present in her twenty-first tie for Germany since 2004, they engaged in a pitched battle with Aryna Sabalenka & Lidsiya Marozava, saving a BP in the final game and finally clinching the tie (and maybe the return of Kerber & Co. in the spring) on their fourth MP in a 6-7(4)/7-5/6-4 victory. Sunday proved to be quite the day for Maria, as *she* (not Serena Williams) proved to be the "mother with the most" in Week 6's FC action, recovering from a tie-opening three-set loss at the hands of Sabalenka to take out Vera Lapko (in her FC singles debut) with a 3rd set bagel to ensure the contest would, at worst, go to the doubles.

Aryna Sabalenka/BLR
...Sabalenka, who went 1-1 in all three of Belarus' 2017 ties, tried with all her might to save the day, throwing everything she had at the Germans in an attempt to have Aliaksandra Sasnovich's back and carry the team the victory. After a pair of three-set wins over Tatjana Maria and Antonia Lottner, she *did* prove that she could go 2-0 in FC singles play over a weekend, but pulling off another three-setter in the deciding doubles proved to be too much to hope for.

Antonia Lottner/GER
...the 21-year old's FC debut proved to be a memorable one, as Lottner took out the Fed Cup Heart Award winner -- and a little bit of the Belarusian team's heart, as well - with a 7-5/6-4 upset victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Match #2. The world #149 returned a day later and made Sabalenka work for three sets to extend the tie before she had to then regroup and play the deciding doubles. With Lottner providing some depth, should all the moons and stars align come April, the Czech Republic vs. Germany semifinal very well could prove to be one for the ages.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich/BLR
...while Sabalenka was the flash and fire of the Belarusian FC effort in '17, Sasnovich was its uncommon heart and soul. It was her never-give-up spirit that carried the club to an unlikely berth in the final, and when she fell by the wayside at the hands of singles newcomer Lottner it was surely a bad omen for the prospects of the entire team effort. In one match, Sasnovich has already equaled her total number of singles losses in six outings during the entire BLR run of a season ago.

Match #2 - Antonia Lottner/GER def. Aliaksandra Sasnovich/BLR
What Sasnovich did to so many top players a year ago, Lottner did to *her* in Minsk. Sasnovich never returned, and the Belarusian team was never quite the same, no matter how hard Sabalenka tried to right the squad's course by shear force of will.

Although the weekend didn't go quite a planned, it's never a bad time for a little Sasnovich charm...

Czech Republic def. Switzerland 3-1
[Prague, CZE / HCI]
...after what amounted to a sabbatical year in '17, the Maidens returned in nearly full force (though Karolina Pliskova's late subtraction from the list of available singles participants, even with all she brings, really barely put a dent in the Czech forces) with an eye on reclaiming the mantle they held in five of the previous six seasons. As long as most (or some) of this weekend's roster returns in the spring, it's a decent bet that the dynasty will continue.

Petra Kvitova/CZE
...welcome back (again), Petra. Playing in her first FC tie since 2016, Kvitova ended her (surprising) four-match Fed Cup losing streak with a three-set win over Czech-Whisperer Viktorija Golubic, then smashed Belinda Bencic on Sunday to clinch the Maidens' tenth straight home tie win and tenth consecutive apperance in the semifinals. Kvitova is now 28-10 in FC singles.

Belinda Bencic/SUI quickly things change. Remember how Bencic ended 2017 on a 28-3 run, and came into '18 on a 15-match winning streak? How about when she went 3-1 in Perth, then knocked off Venus Williams in the 1st Round of the Australian Open? Well, beginning with her loss in straight sets to Luksika Kumkhum in the AO 2nd Round, she's since failed to even win a single set. She's gone six up and six down vs. Kumkhum, then this weekend vs. Strycova and Kvitova, both by 2 & 4 scores, as her two defeats officially did in the Swiss in Prague before Timea Bacsinszky & Timea Bacsinszky scored a dead rubber doubles win to remove the zero from the scoreboard (but even *that* took a 10-8 3rd set TB to get done).
Match #1 - Petra Kvitova/CZE def. Viktorja Golubic/SUI
It's hardly surprising, is it, that Golubic -- who defeated both Pliskova and Strycova in a tie vs. CZE two years ago -- would briefly put an end to SuperPetra's recent rampage through the sport? In the 3rd, the Swiss even climbed out of a 0-3 hole to knot the set at 3-3. But, still, Petra does *not* reside in the "Golubic Zone," she just visits it. Golubic DF'd on BP in game #8, and it was all over a game later.

France def. Belgium 3-2
[La Roch-sur-yon, FRA / HCI] far as true drama is concerned, this may have been the most uneventful all-live, five-match FC World Group tie in memory. All four singles matches were decided in straight sets, with only one of the eight sets even legitimately having the chance to flip either way. In the end, Kiki Mladenovic, continuing to feed off her AO doubles title run and return to the Saint Petersburg singles final, was the only player in World Group I play (Ash Barty did it for AUS in WG II) to have a hand in three live victories in the Pastries' 3-2 win over Belgium.

Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...after her 2 & 4 win over Kirsten Flipkens to knot the tie at 1-1 through Saturday's action, Mladenovic, in typical Kiki-on-top fashion, said, "Pressure is an obstacle I don't fear at all." It was going to be oh so easy to make that comment haunt her, especially so soon after her 15-match losing streak, Saint Petersburg loss to fall to 1-7 in finals in her WTA career, and her not-nearly-as-good-as-you'd-expect 7-6 career FC singles record following this win... but then she went out and dominated on Sunday and carried the Pastries back to the semis, getting the key 6-4/6-4 win over Elise Mertens to take a 2-1 lead in the tie, coming back from 3-0 down in the 2nd to close out the Waffle in straights. So, for now, she's back on steady ground.

Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL
...subbed by Captain Dominique Monami for Flipkens in Match #4 on Sunday, Van Uytvanck proved her worth with an easy win over Pauline Parmentier to force the deciding doubles. She's now gone 10-1 in her last eleven FC singles outings, a run which has included wins over Alona Ostapenko, Heather Watson, Tsvetana Pironkova. Maybe she should have played Match #2, as well?
Pauline Parmentier/FRA
...hey, someone had to play the role of "Alize Cornet" with the original not able to take part in the festivities herself, right? Parmentier notched just three games vs. Mertens in Match #1, then only four against Van Uytvanck in Match #4, as the Waffle forced things to the doubles. Of course, thanks to Mladenovic, it didn't even matter. LOL.

Match #5 - Hesse/Mladenovic (FRA) def. Flipkens/Mertens (BEL)
Once again, as was the case last February, Kiki was able to essentially hoist the entire Pastry team onto her broad shoulders and carry it to victory. But, even with a venue and surface advantage, unless she gets some real help in April it won't likely be this open-and-shut against the U.S. in the semifinals. As remarkable as it seems (and is, when you think about it), Flipkens is now 1-10 in her Fed Cup doubles career. Mladenovic in 10-2.

United States def. Netherlands 3-1
[Ashville, NC USA / HCI]
...Chapter 2 of the "In Rinaldi We Trust" era of U.S. Fed Cup tennis took place in North Carolina, with predictable results. Of course, this time the Bannerettes brought in the reinforcements.

Venus Williams/USA
...Venus notched career FC wins #24 and #25 (sixth in U.S. history) in Asheville, defeating Arantxa Rus in what was the 1000th official singles match in her legendary career, and then clinching Kathy Rinaldi's fourth consecutive tie win with a 7-5/6-2 victory over Richel Hogenkamp. Whether this is both the first *and* last tie Venus plays under Rinaldi remains to be seen, but it should be noted that Williams was part of the selection committee that ultimately chose Rinaldi to replace the lacking stewardship of Mary Joe Fernandez. The difference in the two versions of the U.S. squad is stark, both on the scoreboard and in the togetherness of the rosters. That said, Rinaldi will face a whole new test come the spring, as she figures out a roster that will be able to compete with the Mladenovic-led Pastries in France on what will likely be a clay court surface. But, as always... In Rinaldi We Trust.

Richel Hogenkamp/NED
...while the Kiki Bertens-less Dutch didn't post a win until the dead doubles rubber, Hogenkamp put up a good showing for herself. She pushed Vandeweghe to the edge, in more ways than one, and even gave Venus difficulty in a 7-5 1st set when Williams was seeking to close out the tie. That she didn't manage to get a set off her likely allowed the crowd-pleasing Serena/Venus doubles return that wrapped up the FC weekend.
Match #2 - CoCo Vandeweghe/USA def. Richel Hogenkamp/NED
Hogenkamp had Vandeweghe, seeking her thirteenth consecutive FC win in her first outing since her early loss in Melbourne, on the ropes. After blowing a 4-2 lead in the 1st with a bushel of DF's, Vandeweghe fell behind 6-4/2-0, leading to, well, you know.

The deficit increased to 3-1 before she turned things around. After failing to serve out the 2nd at 5-4, she won the TB 8-6 with a match-leveling ace, and then finally found her form in the 3rd. Still, the Belgian out-pointed her 111-110 in the match. But it's just another experience in Vandeweghe's long and winding FC journey, which now includes having the Williams Sisters cheer her on from the sidelines. "I was a junior hitter, a bench partner and then a player. I've worked my way up and to have them behind you, it gives you goosebumps," she said.

Match #4 - Kerkhove/Schuurs (NED) def. Williams/Williams (USA)
Sure, it was a dead rubber. But Serena, albeit in a bit lesser form than we'll likely see down the line, is officially back... and Kerkhove & Schuurs added their names to the select list of players to have beaten Serena in Fed Cup play. The others: Errani/Pennetta in doubles in '15. And that's it. Only Sara Errani (2015) and Anastasiya Yakimova (2012) have taken *sets* off her in singles.



Slovakia def. Russia 4-1
[Bratislava, SVK / HCI]
...In many ways, Russia's tie with Slovakia can be summed up with this...

A tie that didn't seem as if it'd have much drama suddenly had quite a bit of it on Day 1, only to see the threat of the Russian bear Hordettes suddenly peter out and the Slovaks escape with a rather deceptive-on-the-scoreboard 4-1 win, their first ever against Russia in Fed Cup competition. And, as usual, a questionable call -- whether it *truly* made a difference at all -- from Captain Anastasia Myskina leaves one's eyebrow decided raised.

Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
...she only played one match, but it was a doozy. With SVK already down 1-0 against a Hordette team that arrived in Bratislava with a combined total of one FC singles win in their careers, the prospect of having to stage a comeback from 0-2 down (it *can* happen, as Russia did it vs. Slovakia in 2013) looked very real. Anna Kalinskaya, in her FC singles debut, led the match 7-5/3-1, only to see Rybarikova run off five straight games to force a 3rd set, where the Russian took a break lead at 4-3. At that point, Rybarikova's medical timeout took her off court for treatment on a back injury, while Kalinskaya stayed on court for a leg massage. When the Slovak veteran returned, the momentum permanently swung in her favor. She broke for 4-4, held from love/30 down, and then broke the teenager again to steal the match, save the day, and set the tone for the sort of effort it was going to take to win this tie. The 2:22 match was Rybarikova's first FC singles win since 2008.

Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK
...finally, Backspin's 2018 "Name You'll Know..." honoree gets a signature win. Of course, it took a bit of sweating to get there. Kuzmova may very well be the future of SVK Fed Cup, so it was nice to see her get her chance. But after losing 4 & 2 to Natalia Vikhlyantseva in Match #1, then falling down a set vs. 16-year old Potapova in Match #4, things didn't look particularly good. But the 19-year old pulled her big game together and staged a comeback against Myskina's "substitute Anastasia," making her first FC victory a truly historic one, as it ended the nation's winless streak vs. the Hordettes and gave her her first "remember when..." moment. Her match-ending forehand put-away was downright epic.

Captain Anastasia Myskina/RUS
...the Captaina wasn't supposed to even have a team that would seriously contend in this tie, no matter that the Slovaks had never beaten Russia is three previous attempts. So why does it feel like the Hordettes squandered another one? Myskina's Day 1 choices almost worked to perfection, as Natalia Vikhlyantseva handled a debuting Kuzmova in straight sets, then 18-year old Anna Kalinskaya (in her FC singles debut) nearly took down Rybarikova in Match #2. It was only later when things got a little fishy, as they always seem to with Myskina. After Vikhlyantseva fell to Jana Cepelova, in for the physically compromised Rybarikova, to open Sunday's play, the former Czarina once again turned to Anastasia. Only this, without her favorite Pavlyuchenkova around to choose, she went with 16-year old Anastasia POTAPOVA, in her debut FC match, with Russia's survival in the tie on the line rather than go back to Kalinskaya. Once again, Myskina's gamble failed to pay off. Unlike with the unreliable Pavlyuchenkova, the Wimbledon junior champ, who just posted her first career WTA MD win a week ago, put up a good fight against Kuzmova. Potapova took the 1st set, but ultimately fell in three.

Match #3 - Jana Cepelova/SVK def. Natalia Vikhlyantseva/RUS
While Rybarikova's win over Kalinskaya, and even Kuzmova's over Potapova, will be the matches most remembered from this tie, save a spot for Cepelova's momentum-gathering victory over Vikhlyantseva to open Day 2. Cepelova was the unsung hero of this tie, as her win to give Slovakia a 2-1 lead simultaneously gave Rybarikova's comeback victory staying power *and* allowed Kuzmova a bit of wiggle room one match later. It also put extra pressure on the head of the even more inexperienced Potapova in that match, and maybe led a desperate Myskina down yet another wayward, MJF-like path in choosing to go with the FC newbie in the first place. A week after feeling the pressure in her come-from-ahead loss to Dasha Kasatkina in Saint Petersburg, those slight difference may have ultimately played a small part in Kuzmova's comeback, tie-clinching win. If so, a nod should go to Jana, no stranger herself to fighting through adversity.

Australia def. Ukraine 3-2
[Canberra, AUS / Grass]
...the Aussies, hosting the first FC tie held on grass since 2009, were facing a seemingly overmatched Ukrainian team *without* the likes of Elina Svitolina and Lesia Tsurenko. It's a good thing, too. Otherwise, surely all the old (recent) Australian Fed Cup nightmares would have been resurrected once more. Even as it was, after a woeful weekend from Dasha Gavrilova (who, in an additional feat of strength, even managed to delete her delightful Instagram account while trying to fix a bug, and *then* started to wonder how to get it back), the Aussies had to essentially rely on a single player to pull the team away from the edge, taking things all the way to the deciding doubles before they could breathe easy. Thankfully, they had Ash. Ash Barty, that is.

Ash Barty/AUS
...if the Aussies were looking for a hero in Canberra, Barty easily stepped into the void. After exorcising a few Aussie FC demons with a three-set win over Lyudmyla Kichenok to kick things off, she put to rest (for now) any of Marta Kostyuk's 15-year old dreams by erasing the teenager's upset win over Dasha Gavrilova with a straight sets victory to open Day 2 to secure (at least) that the tie would head to the doubles, where she and Casey Dellacqua could take things in their capable hands. Another Gavrilova loss forced that hand, but it's hard to imagine anyone (maybe even Ukraine's Kichenok twins, their opponents) truly thought such a notion was something that the duo hadn't been looking forward to all along. Barty is now a combined 9-2 (4-1/5-1) in her Fed Cup career.

Marta Kostyuk/UKR
...the 15-year old, on an ongoing Australian field trip that included an AO qualifying run and 3rd Round result followed up by a challenger title, added another Down Under memory as she made her FC debut in the #1 singles slot. Naturally, after being leery of the grass court surface, she defeated Dasha Gavrilova (who lists grass as her *favorite* surface) 7-6(3)/6-3 in her first match, out-hitting the Aussie 20-10 in winners in a match in which they combined for sixteen DF (Kostyuk-9, Gavrilova-7). Wise beyond her years, Kostyuk said what a would-be big-time champion *should* say about it all, refusing to read any fantasy elements into her success. "A fairytale is more like it happened once and you don’t know when it will happen again, so it’s just another great tournament for me," the said. She came back down to earth on Day 2, falling to Barty, a former Wimbledon junior champ herself, 2 & 3. Not that that will really matter in the long run, which looks rosier all the time for this one.

Dasha Gavrilova/AUS
...on the bright side, Gavrilova's 0-2 weekend didn't cost Australia what looked to be a gift-wrapped tie victory. But she's going to need to string together a few victories to fully wash away losing, at home, to a 15-year old (no matter how promising) in her FC debut on *Dasha's* favorite surface, and then turning around a day later and falling to Nadiia Kichenok, who hadn't played a competitive singles match in a year.
Ash Barty & Casey Dellacqua (AUS)
...quite possibly no team this weekend had a better "lifesaver" than Barty/Dellacqua. Even with all of Gavrilova's troubles in Canberra, the belief was always that *two* singles wins was all that was going to be necessary to defeat Ukraine. Not because the Kichenoks were a non-factor, but because it was hard to imagine Barty/Dellacqua losing under such circumstances on this surface, in this venue, on this sort of occasion. When the tie *did* depend on the four-time slam finalists (once at every major, though still maddeningly without a win), things were wrapped up 3 & 4 in sixty-five minutes and all the previous worries were quickly forgotten. They're now 5-1 in FC competition, with five straight wins (the only loss was their FC debut as a duo in 2013, vs. Hlavackova/Hradecka, when Barty was all of 16). On top of all that, this was a nice 33rd birthday present for Casey. The crowd even sang "Happy Birthday" for her.


Match #3 - Ash Barty/AUS def. Marta Kostyuk/UKR 6-2/6-3
Match #4 - Nadiia Kichenok/UKR def. Dasha Gavrilova 4-6/6-2/6-3
Match #5 - Barty/Dellacqua (AUS) def. L.Kichenok/N.Kichenok (UKR) 6-3/6-4
just your typical Aussie Fed Cup day of reckoning. Fist-clenching success, then near-despair... only this time the story had a surprise twist ending that left everyone smiling on their way home.

Romania def. Canada 3-2
[Cluj-Napoca, ROU / HCI] the first post-Nastase (for now, at least) tie, the Romanians started back down the road toward Fed Cup title contention after being so close to taking out the Czechs (something many have said in recent years, but never actually accomplished with a "chosen" Maiden roster since before 2011) two years ago. Fielding a "B+" team, one of several the Romanians said last week that they could form from the nation's talent pool, the Swarmettes experienced barely a blip in taking down Canada.

Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU
...with Simona Halep's pull-out with a lingering ankle injury after her Swarmette Warrior duty in Melbourne, Begu assumed the #1 mantle and carried the day. After taking a little extra time to get a win over Bianca Andreescu in Match #2, she came back on Sunday to clinch the win with a 2 & 4 victory over Katherine Sebov.

Bianca Andreescu/CAN wasn't the weekend of her dreams (a win, or two, a match vs. Simona) that the 17-year old (a combined 7-1 in FC play in '17) may have hoped for, but the Best Canadian Hope put up a good showing against Begu, briefly quieting the partisan crowd by taking a TB to force a 3rd set and fighting through injury to the end.

Match #2 - Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU def. Bianca Andreescu/CAN
Andreescu didn't get on the court for a second match, but she *did* manage to post the "close loss" that seemed to be her destiny here as the Canadian, with Romanian heritage, played in front of a Romanian crowd with her tennis idol, Simona Halep, watching nearby.


Italy def. Spain 3-2
[Chieti, ITA / RCI]
...let it be said. YET AGAIN. You should never, ever count out the Italians. Even when they seem on the verge of irrelevance. Even when they rightly *should* be on the verge of irrelevance. At this point, with Sara Errani hanging on, and a long-awaited NextGen finally starting to stir (21-year Deborah Chiesa emerged this weekend, weeks after Elisabetta Cocciaretto's AO girls semifinal run, and appeared in the dead rubber doubles match on Sunday), maybe Captain Tathiana Garbin (who got a win over new ESP Captain Anabel Medina Garrigues, who she last defeated -- in her only win over her -- in singles almost seventeen years ago) *won't* be just be a temporary placeholder until one of the retired-or-soon-to-be-so Quartet members takes over the reigns a short time down the road.

Sara Errani/ITA the unquestioned leader of the Italian Fed Cup squad, (nearly) Last Quartet Member Standing Errani showed the youngsters what it means to fight like an Italian. After destroying Lara Arruabarrena on Saturday to even the tie, the veteran outlasted Carla Suarez-Navarro 6-3/3-6/6-3 in Sunday's opening match to put Team Italia within a single win of overall victory. Apparently, the NextGen was paying attention, since...
Deborah Chiesa/ITA
...the 21-year old, a two-time ITF champ in '17 currently ranked #179, made her Fed Cup debut a memorable one, clinching Italy's return to the WG Playoffs with a three-set, two and a half hour win over Arruabarrena in which she overcame a 4-1 3rd set deficit, saved MP in the deciding TB and won it 9-7 on her second MP.

Lara Arruabarrena/ESP
...a case can be made that no player had a worse FC weekend (Dasha, put your hand down) than Arruabarrena. When she made her FC debut three seasons ago, the Spaniard's second singles match was an impressively-gained 9-7 3rd set victory over Argentina's Paula Ormaechea. Since then, though, Arruabarrena has gone 0-4 in singles, including a two-match sweep this weekend in Italy. Needing to post just one victory over two days to take things to the doubles, she lost 1 & 1 to Errani on Saturday. Though that was *the* worst singles scoreline of the twenty-nine World Group I and II singles matches contested over the weekend, that her opponent was a Fed Cup stalwart such as Errani lessened the disappointment. But a day later, with Spain trailing 2-1, Arruabarrena fell to the debuting Chiesa, as well. Scrambling after dropping the 1st set to lead 4-1 in the 3rd, she seemed set to carry her weight. Then it all fell apart. Things went to a TB, where Chiesa held a MP at 6-5, only to see Arruabarrena save it to hold her own MP at 7-6. It'd be the last lead she'd lose. Chiesa converted on her second MP at 8-7. In the end, Arruabarrena's performance failed to measure up to the respectable bar she'd set a year ago, when she went 0-2 vs. the Czechs, but at least pushed the likes of the more experienced Pliskova (4 & 5) and Strycova (4 & 4) before going down.
Match #4 - Deborah Chiesa/ITA def. Lara Arruabarrena/ESP
This tie seemed destined to go to the deciding doubles, but then Chiesa earned her Italian Fed Cup merit badge by taking on "the world" and winning, closing out the 2:28 match to move the Italians -- amazingly, yet again, even with something of a skeletal team -- within one victorious tie of returning to the World Group in 2019.

[EUROPE/AFRICA I ZONE - Tallinn, Estonia / HCI] the zone that featured the most "big name" stars, the two nations that were expected to prevail did just that. Oh, but their paths were *quite* different.

=Promotional Playoffs=

Great Britain def. Hungary 2-0
=Promotional Playoff=

Latvia def. Serbia 2-1
Johanna Konta/GBR & Alona Ostapenko/Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) her first FC outing since being on the end of Ilie Nastase's offensive attacks during last spring's tie with Romania, Konta grabbed the leadership role on the British team and didn't blink. In what was an 8-0 week for the Brits, Konta breezed when she should have -- dropping one game to Maria Joao Koehler -- and held firm when she needed to -- winning 4 & 2 sets after dropping the 1st in a TB in the key RR match-up with Anett Kontaveit and the host Estonian squad -- before defeating Fanni Stollar (who'd put up a spotless record in Pool play) 3 & 1 to clinch the PP win over Hungary in the Promotional Playoff.

Playing with a true "one-two" punch for the first time, Latvia seemed to have it made. As it turned out, the nation's FC squad needed *both* Alona Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova to get by, as twice in three ties they had to join forces to win a deciding doubles match to make up for an upset loss suffered by both woman earlier in the day. Ostapenko was the first to stumble, falling to Turkey's Cagla Buyukakcay in the the first round robin tie of the week. Ostapenko & Sevastova then won the doubles 6-1/6-1 over Aksu/Ozgen to pull out the 2-1 victory. After advancing to the Promotional Playoff, it happened again. This time it was Sevastova's loss to Serbian junior Olga Danilovic in the opening PP match that forced Ostapenko into action, first with a 2 & 1 singles win over Dejana Radanovic, then (w/ Sevastova by her side) with a 1 & 2 doubles win over Danilovic/Marinkovic to secure a spot in this spring's WG II Playoffs. Both players' FC duty goes back further than one would likely realize. Sevastova initially played for her country in 2005, but this week's action was her first since 2010; while Ostapenko was called upon early in her career as a 15-year old in 2013. With thirteen singles wins each, they're tied for the most ever by a Latvian in FC competition.

Heather Watson/GBR
...while she did so in Konta's shadow, Watson also went undefeated for Team GBR in Tallinn. She had a bit more difficulty doing so, going 3-0 but twice in three ties dropping more games than Konta, though she was playing the lower-ranked opponent, including being forced to three sets by Hungarian teen Dalma Galfi (the "forgotten" member of Backspin's "Name You'll Know..." club heading into 2017) in the PP's opening match. Still, her efforts prevented doubles specialist Anna Smith (no longer w/ the now retired Jocelyn Rae) and 21-year old Katie Boulter from ever having to do anything other than cheer from their seats on the sideline. Watson is an impressive 28-9 (20-7 and 8-2) in her 30 career FC ties.
Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR and Dejana Radanovic/SRB
...Buyukakcay has racked up a series of "first player from Turkey to..." honors the last couple of seasons, though her results have somewhat leveled off over the last year or so. That changed when she opened up round robin play with a 6-2/3-6/6-3 win over Alona Ostapenko, the first Top 10 win of her career. She added an additional singles victory over Barbara Haas, as well as one in doubles, to increase her career FC record to 37-28 (24-15 singles). Hardly surprisingly, Buyukakcay is Turkey's career leader in singles and overall FC match wins. Pemra Ozgen leads in doubles wins (21) and total ties (50). Buyukakcay stands at 13 and 45, respectively, in those categories.

Radanovic, 21, went 2-0 in RR play in her FC singles debut week (she'd lost a doubles rubber in '17), defeating Viktoriya Tomova (BUL) before falling to a scrambling-to-stay-alive Latvian Thunder in the PP's Match #2. The 21-year old won four ITF challenger titles in 2017.
Olga Danilovic/SRB
...with Aleksanda Krunic not present in Tallinn, and Ivana Jorovic never seeing the court, it was 17-year old Danilovic who pulled heavy duty, playing in six of Serbia's nine total matches. For the most part, she was a better-than-could-have-been-expected weapon for the Bracelettes. Though she was 0-3 in doubles in her FC debut, she went 3-0 in singles, including RR wins over Isabella Shinikova (3rd set TB), Sofia Shapatava (3 & 0) and, in the PP, Anastasija Sevastova. Danilovic's stunning 2 & 4 victory over Sevastova, ranked 289 spots higher than her at #15, is now officially her career zenith. Of course, she's just getting started. As a junior, she's ranked as high as #9 (her current spot), reached last year's U.S. Open singles QF, and has picked up three junior doubles slam crowns ('16 RG, '17 WI & U.S.).

Europe/Africa I Pool A Round Robin Match #2 - Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR def. Alona Ostapenko/LAT
No matter what happened by the end of the weekend, the most significant result in Tallinn was still the one that occurred on Wednesday.


[ASIA/OCEANIA I ZONE - New Delhi, India / HCO] a rematch of last February's A/O Promotional Playoff, a 2-1 victory by Kazakhstan, Japan got a measure of revenge in a total team effort. While winning eleven of twelve matches in four ties spread across the week, each of the four team members had a hand in a least three victories. In the 2-1 win over the Kazakhs in the PP, all four players participated in live matches.

=Promotional Playoff=

Japan def. Kazakhstan 2-1
Miyu Kato/Makoto Ninomiya (JPN) the first Fed Cup tie for both 23-year olds, Kato & Ninomiya went undefeated (3-0) in round robin play, then were thrust into the pressure situation of contesting the deciding doubles in the Promotional Playoff vs. Kazakhstan. They took out the pair of Zarina Diyas & Yulia Putintseva, who'd both played singles earlier in the day, in a 6-4/7-5 match.

Kurumi Nara/JPN, Nao Hibino/JPN & Japan's FC future
...while the doubles team finished off Japan's week, the singles stars got the nation into winning position. 26-year old Nara went 3-0, defeating Diyas to open the PP, while 23-year old Hibino was 3-1, notching a win over Luksika Kumkhum in round robin play before falling to Putintseva in the PP in Japan's only defeat in twelve matches. Kato, too, contributed a singles victory. Meanwhile, the nation's (even younger) top-ranked player (20-year old Naomi Osaka) sat out this tie, while a handful of other Top 200 players -- Risa Ozaki (23), Misaki Doi (26), Eri Hozumi (23) and Mayo Hibi (21) -- also weren't on the roster. Few teams have as many moveable parts to play with as does Captain Toshihisa Tsuchihashi, allowing for success such as this even while not having to depend too heavily on any single player.
Ankita Raina/IND
...the highest-ranked singles player in India (#253), Raina's was her nation's tennis star of the week. The 25-year old posted wins over #81 Yulia Putintseva (KAZ's only loss in RR play) and #120 Zhu Lin while compiling a 4-0 singles record. Her only losses came in doubles, inclduing a deciding doubles match (w/ Prarthana Tombare) vs. the Kazakhs. India's 2-0 sweep of Taiwan in the Relegation Playoff secured the nation's spot the A/O I zone.

Karman Kaur Thandi/IND
...the 19-year old, likely the future of the Indian FC team, posted her first two-week week representing her nation in Fed Cup play. She posted wins over Eudice Chong and Lee Pei-chi in Robin and in the relegation playoff.

...China had a better-than-usual FC roster that included the likes of Wang Yafan and Zhu Lin. Still, the nation lost out on taking Pool 1 due to a 3-0 loss to Kazakhstan.
Asia/Oceania I Pool A Round Robin Match #2 - Ankita Raina/IND def. Yulia Putintseva/KAZ
Fed Cup is often shunted aside and ignored, but for the vast majority of the players involved on all levels of the competition it provides some of the most memorable moments of their entire career. Raina's win over Putintseva had such a moment, notching the biggest win over her career, in her nation's longest-ever FC match (2:53), in front of a home crowd that included her mother.

Asia/Oceania I Promotional Playoff Match #1 - Kumumi Nara/JPN def. Zarina Diyas/KAZ 7-5/6-4
Asia/Oceania I Promotional Playoff Match #3 - Miyu Kato/Makoto Ninomiya (JPN) def. Zarina Diyas/Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4/7-5
after going a combined 5-0 without losing a set during the week, Diyas has a hand in both close losses in the PP, yet again leaving Kazakhstan with a taste of disappointment for another year. It's the only consistent thing about the nation's once-promising Fed Cup prospects.

[AMERICAS I ZONE - Asuncion, Paraguay / RCO]
...the Americas I zone play included a slew of do-or-die moments for the nations leading the charge in the mini-comeback from the continent that has played out over the last season or so, with Brazil and Argentina facing off for a berth in the Promotional Playoff, and then Brazil going up against Paraguay in the Saturday PP tie delayed for hours by rain, and then ultimately decided in a 3:20 singles match between South America's top two ranked players, #59 Beatriz Haddad Maia and #84 Veronica Cepede Royg.

=Promotional Playoff=

Paraguay def. Brazil 2-0
Veronica Cepede Roug/PAR
...VCR suffered the only singles loss by a Paraguayan player (vs. Daniela Seguel in pool play) in front of the home crowd, but she took down the biggest fish in the proverbial pond in an instant classic in the Promotional Playoff vs. Brazil. Her teaming with Montserrat Gonzalez to win a deciding doubles match over Guarachi/Seguel provided the victory that advanced Paraguay into the Promotional Playoff. There, after Gonzalez opened the tie with a singles win, Cepede Royg and Haddad Maia saw their match suspended with the Brazilian leading 4-3 in the 1st set. Hours later, after day had turned into night, Haddad took a late break lead in the 3rd, only to see VCR break back and force a deciding TB (with a rule change, the long, drawn out final sets in FC play are now history). The Paraguayan held triple MP at 6-3, only to see Haddad save all three and hold three MP of her own. The Brazilian DF'd on #3 up 9-8, leading to VCR finally securing the win and clinching the tie victory on MP #4 to take the breaker 11-9, ending a match that lasted 3:20 between the lines, but much longer when you factor in the rain delay.

Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA
...Haddad was tasked with putting the entire Brazilian team on her shoulders in Asuncion, and she nearly pulled it off. She had a hand in recording five of Brazil's seven round robin match wins (3-0 singles, 2-0 doubles), including a three-set deciding doubles victory with Luisa Stefani over Maria Irigoyen/Catalina Pella in the Pool play-ending 2-1 win over Argentina that decided a berth in the Promotional Playoff. In the PP, Haddad had to defeat Cepede Royg to force another deciding doubles clash in a match delayed for hours after a rain stoppage seven games into the 1st set. After saving triple MP, Haddad had three MP of her own. But after double-faulting up 9-8 in the 3rd set TB, the Brazilian didn't win another point.
Montserrat Gonzalez/PAR
...Asuncion-born Gonzalez went 3-0 in singles (and 3-0 in doubles w/ VCR, including a tie-deciding win over Chile to get Paraguay into the PP) during the week for the promoted Paraguayan team, including a 1 & 3 win over Nathaly Kurata in the opening match of the PP vs. Brazil. The 23-year old is now a combined 38-15 in her FC career (19-12/19-3).
Paula Ormaechea/ARG
...having completed her comeback from January '17 wrist surgery, Ormaechea played FC for Argentina for the first time since 2015. She did all that she could in the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to escape Pool play, going 3-0 in singles in round robin play (then adding a fourth win in the 3rd/4th place tie victory over Colombia).

???????? seguimossss #FedCup #VamosArgentina

A post shared by Paula Ormaechea (@paulaormaechea) on

Emiliana Arango/COL
...the 17-year old recorded a round robin win over Chile's Alexa Guarachi, and lost by a respectable 4 & 3 score to Montserrat Gonzalez.


A post shared by Emiliana Arango (@emiarango) on

Americas I Promotional Playoff Match #2 - Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR def. Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA
Who knows what drama may have played out if the old play-it-out 3rd set rule had been around for this one. As it was, it still took 3:20, with Haddad staving off triple MP, then VCR saving three of her own before finally closing out the Brazilians.

Americas I Pool B Round Robin Match #3 - Haddad Maia/Stefani (BRA) def. Irigoyen/Pella (ARG)
Irigoyen had teamed with Stephanie Mariel Petit for a pair of round robin wins earlier in the week, but with a spot in the PP on the line Captain Marcelo Gomez went with Pella, who was coming off a three-set loss to Haddad in Match #2, but had paired with Irigoyen in a deciding doubles win over Brazil in 2016. Ultimately, the rolling of the dice didn't pay off for the Argentines... but the extra court time for Haddad may have helped the Paraguayans prevail in the PP a day later.

[ASIA/OCEANIA II ZONE - Isa Town, Bahrain / HCO] the island nation of Bahrain, situated between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, a collection of NCAA players ultimately battled to the finish, with one of the winning nations (Pacific Oceania) consisting of a combination of teammates hailing from Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, captained by a Tahiti native. Ah, Fed Cup zone play.

=Promotional Playoff=

Indonesia def. Uzbekistan 2-0
=Promotional Playoff=

Pacific Oceania def. Singapore 2-1
Abigail Tere-Apisah/PNG and Beatrice Gumulya/INA recent months, former Georgia State player Tere-Apisah, 25, nearly became the first player from Papua New Guinea to compete in a slam MD, only to lose in the Asia/Pacific Australian Open Wild Card tournament final to teenager Wang Xinyu last December. Over the past week, she led the combined Pacific Oceania team to an Asia/Oceania II Promotional Playoff win over Singapore, defeating Stefanie Tan (ex-TCU) in three sets to force a deciding doubles match, and then teaming with Samoa's Steffi Carruthers there for a 6-1/6-1 victory. Tere-Apisah is the aunt of Violet, who reached the girls doubles final at last month's AO, and the sister of Marcia, who played tennis with her at Georgia State.

27-year old Gumulya (#914), formerly of Clemson University, went 4-0 in Indonesia's journey to the A/O II PP victory, a week highlighted by a 4-6/7-5/7-5 win over Uzbekistan's Sabina Sharipova to clinch in match #2 what was a shutout win (3-0) in the tie.

Stephanie Tan/SGP
...the 27-year old former TCU star lost in three sets to Tere-Apisah while attempting to close out the PP tite for Singapore, then lost again the deciding doubles. But her week was still quite good, and included victories over Ksenia Palkina and Katharina Lehnert.

And, of course, when in Bahrain...

?????? ????

A post shared by Stefanie Tan (@stefanietan_) on

...good Fed Cup weeks have been few and far between for Indonesia the last couple of decades. But, as noted earlier, the nation *did* play in the FC quarterfinals back in 1991, and put up a pretty good fight against a Spanish team that included Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez.
Aldila Sutjiadi/INA
...the 22-year old (#926), a player for the University of Kentucky, went 4-0 in singles play, and notched a winner over veteran Akgul Amanmuradova in Indonesia's successful PP effort against the favored Uzbekistan squad. Sutjiadi is now 9-0 in FC singles for her career, as well as 4-1 in doubles.

Abigail Tere-Apisah/Steffi Carruthers (PNG/SAM)
...aka Steffi Faasusivaitele Hearthington Carruthers, that is. The first Samoan woman in pro tennis, she won two ITF doubles titles in 2015, making her also the first to do so from the nations that make up the Pacific Oceania team. The 24-year old's teaming with Tere-Apisah to win the WG II Promotional Playoff deciding doubles matches over Singapore surely adds another highlight to her career resume.
Asia/Oceania II Promotional Playoff Match #2 - Abigail Tere-Apisah/PNG def. Stefanie Tan/SGP
So close. A win from Tan would have clinched the PP win for Singapore.

18 - United States
10 - Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia
7 - Australia
5 - Spain
4 - Italy
4 - Russia
2 - France
2 - West Germany/Germany
1 - Belgium
1 - Slovakia
1 - South Africa
[Finals since 2010]
5...Czech Republic (5-0)
3...Russia (0-3)
2...Italy (2-0)
2...United States (1-1)
1...Belarus (0-1)
1...France (0-1)
1...Germany (0-1)
1...Serbia (0-1)

=2018 Semifinals (April)=
United States at France
Czech Republic at Germany
=World Group I Playoff Teams (April)=
=World Group II Playoff Teams (April)=
Great Britain

ITF PLAYER: Rebecca Marino/CAN
...after five years away, Marino's return to action has gone rather swimmingly so far. With her second of back-to-back $15K titles in Antalya, the Canadian improved to 12-0 with a 6-1/6-4 victory in the final over Nina Stadler. Now with seven career challenger titles, she hasn't lost in a final for almost eight years. ;)

$25K Grenoble Final - Fiona Ferro def. Eleonora Molinaro
Another of the Pastries not in France to provide assistance to Mladenovic, 20-year old Ferro picked up her first career pro singles title in her fifth final run. 17-year old Molinaro from Luxembourg had been 12-0 in ITF action in '18 (and 4-1 in juniors).

Meanwhile, in Gibbsy Land...

DOHA, QATAR (Premier/Hard Outdoor)
2001 Martina Hingis d. Sandrine Testud
2002 Monica Seles d. Tamarine Tanasugarn
2003 Anastasia Myskina d. Elena Likhovtseva
2004 Anastasia Myskina d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2005 Maria Sharapova def. Alicia Molik
2006 Nadia Petrova d. Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Justine Henin d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2008 Maria Sharapova d. Vera Zvonareva
2009-10 NOT HELD
2011 Vera Zvonareva d. Caroline Wozniacki
2012 Victoria Azarenka d. Samantha Stosur
2013 Victoria Azarenka d. Serena Williams
2014 Simona Halep d. Angelique Kerber
2015 Lucie Safarova d. Victoria Azarenka
2016 Carla Suarez-Navarro d. Alona Ostapenko
2017 Karolina Pliskova d. Caroline Wozniacki
2001 Testud/Vinci d. Boogert/Oremans
2002 Husarova/Sanchez Vicario d. Fusai/Vis
2003 Lee/Prakusya d. Vento-Kabchi/Widjaja
2004 Kuznetsova/Likhovtseva d. Husarova/C.Martinez
2005 Schiavone/Molik d. Black/Huber
2006 Hantuchova/Sugiyama d. Li Ting/Sun Tiantian
2007 Hingis/Kirilenko d. Szavay/Uhlirova
2008 Peschke/Stubbs d. Black/Huber
2009-10 NOT HELD
2011 Peschke/Srebotnik d. Huber/Petrova
2012 Huber/Raymond d. Kops-Jones/Spears
2013 Errani/Vinci d. Petrova/Srebotnik
2014 Hsieh/Peng d. Peschke/Srebotnik
2015 Kops-Jones/Spears d. Hsieh/Mirza
2016 Chan/Chan d. Errani/Suarez-Navarro
2017 Spears/Srebotnik d. Savchuk/Shvedova
WS: #1 Wozniacki, #2 Halep
WD: #1 Makarova/Vesnina, #2 L.Chan/Sestini Hlavackova

...a packed draw. with nine of the Top 10, thirteen of the Top 15 (only #8 Venus and #12 Sloane aren't in Qatar). We could see Wozniacki/Sharapova in the 3rd Round, with Kerber vs. the winner. Svitolina/Kvitova (3rd) vs. Goerges/Ostapenko winner, too. And that's just in the top half. Garcia/Mladenovic (3rd) vs. Mertens/Muguruza, Ka.Pliskova/Keys (3rd) vs. Halep is hanging around, as well. Once again, the #1 ranking is a stake. I was going to do picks this week, but I had second thoughts when I realized that so many contenders were moving over *after* also playing Fed Cup. So I'll wait to do predictions for Dubai next week. I will take on the doubles, though.

#4 Babos/Mladenovic d. #1 Makarova/Vesnina
#3 Safarova/Strycova d. Krejcikova/Siniakova
#4 Babos/Mladenovic d. #3 Safarova/Strycova

All for now.