Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Mastering the Art of Being Swell in Indian Wells

It's time to head for the desert. Great backdrops are NOT optional.

A post shared by CiCi Bellis (@cicibellis) on

A year ago, as everyone convened in Indian Wells, we were talking about suspensions and meldonium at the start of the fortnight, then sexist comments made by the tournament director at the conclusion. There will surely be SOMETHING unforeseen injected into the discussion over the next two weeks, but as the first event in the bi-coastal North American hard court swing that consumes the March calendar blasts the season into the springtime portion of the schedule, we've actually got GOOD things to toss around.

From the returns of Serena Williams and Madison Keys, to the attempts by the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svito-

(Wait, what? Oh, for crap's sake.)

Of course, with Serena "defending" finalist points from a year ago, this means...

Like I said, there's always something.

Now, where was I?

From the returns of Simona Halep and Madison Keys, to the attempts by the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina to maintain their post-Melbourne glow. From Venus Williams' follow-up to her throwback performance Down Under, to (now) former (but soon to be again) #1 Angelique Kerber's efforts to get her season on the straight and narrow, Indian Wells is rife with juicy storylines to ponder and watch play out.

By the time we're finished, hopefully, not too many bodies will be strewn acorss the various courts, outlined in tennis balls, waiting for a proper investigation into the crime(s) that resulted in such carnage.

But it seems par for the course that there will be at least a few.

This is STILL a nice, feel-good start to things under the California sun. Karma, baby.

We've already had some tennis played in the desert, as the qualifying rounds put the finishing touches on a field that saw #3-seed Karolina Pliskova move into Serena's vacated #1 slot at the top of the main draw.

1. Q2 - Risa Ozaki def. Samantha Crawford
Ozaki trailed 5-1 in the 3rd, then strung together five straight games to serve for the match at 6-5. Naturally, she was broken. But she won the deciding breaker. Her "reward?" Countrywoman Naomi Osaka in the 1st Round.
2. Q1 - Sachia Vickery def. Elise Mertens
The last time these two met, Week 2 in Hobart, Vickery "won" the battle to retire from their match in the opening games, meaning the Bannerette was able to head to Melbourne for AO qualifying, while the Belgian had to stick around for the rest of the tournament. Vickey didn't make it to the MD in Melbourne, but Mertens -- "forced" to play on and skip the AO -- went on to win her maiden tour singles title. Here, in a plotline reversal, both WANTED TO WIN, but both nearly lost. Mertens battled back from 5-2 down in the 3rd to force a deciding TB, only to lose it. Vickery lost her next match.
3. Q2 - Jacqueline Cako def. Natalia Viklyantseva
The Russian has had a difficult time following up her surprise run in Saint Petersburg. Here, she led 6-4/3-2, up a break, only to fall to the wild card Bannerette.
4. Q2 - Magda Linette def. Nao Hibino
Kudos to both for scurrying from their runs in Malaysia to make it on time for I.W. qualifying. These two met in the Kuala Lumpur semifinal this weekend, with Hibino getting the win. The Pole flipped the script this time.
5. Q2 - Francesca Schiavone def. Elitsa Kostova
Almost a "classic" scoreline, but proof that the soon-to-depart Italian won't be going away without winning a few more fights.
6. Q1 - Varvara Lepchenko def. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova
Oh, Schmiedy.
7. Q1 - Mona Barthel def. Maria Sanchez 6-2/7-5
Q1 - Anette Kontaveit def. Claire Liu 6-2/6-1
on Sunday, Sanchez defeated Liu in the final of the pre-qualifying Challenge tournament to earn a WC berth into the Q-rounds. As it turned out, Liu got a WC into qualifying, anyway. Neither won a match. Meanwhile, Barthel and Kontaveit both won a second match to reach the MD.

1989 Manuela Maleeva/BUL d. Jenny Byrne/AUS
1990 Martina Navratilova/USA d. Helena Sukova/TCH
1991 Martina Navratilova/USA d. Monica Seles/YUG
1992 Monica Seles/YUG d. Conchita Martinez/ESP
1993 Mary Joe Fernandez/USA d. Amanda Coetzer/RSA
1994 Steffi Graf/GER d. Amanda Coetzer/RSA
1995 Mary Joe Fernandez/USA d. Natasha Zvereva/BLR
1996 Steffi Graf/GER d. Conchita Martinez/ESP
1997 Lindsay Davenport/USA d. Irina Spirlea/ROU
1998 Martina Hingis/SUI d. Lindsay Davenport/USA
1999 Serena Williams/USA d. Steffi Graf/GER
2000 Lindsay Davenport/USA d. Martina Hingis/SUI
2001 Serena Williams/USA d. Kim Clijsters/BEL
2002 Daniela Hantuchova/SVK d. Martina Hingis/SUI
2003 Kim Clijsters/BEL d. Lindsay Davenport/USA
2004 Justine Henin/BEL d. Lindsay Davenport/USA
2005 Kim Clijsters/BEL d. Lindsay Davenport/USA
2006 Maria Sharapova/RUS d. Elena Dementieva/RUS
2007 Daniela Hantuchova/SVK d. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
2008 Ana Ivanovic/SRB d. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
2009 Vera Zvonareva/RUS d. Ana Ivanovic/SRB
2010 Jelena Jankovic/SRB d. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
2011 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN d. Marion Bartoli/ITA
2012 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. Maria Sharapova/RUS
2013 Maria Sharapova/RUS d. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
2014 Flavia Pennetta/ITA d. Aga Radwanska/POL
2015 Simona Halep/ROU d. Jelena Jankovic/SRB
2016 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. Serena Williams/USA
[doubles champions]
1989 Hana Mandlikova & Pam Shriver
1990 Jana Novotna & Helena Sukova
1992 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch & Stephanie Rehe
1993 Rennae Stubbs & Helena Sukova
1994 Lindsay Davenport & Lisa Raymond
1995 Lindsay Davenport & Lisa Raymond
1996 Chanda Rubin & Brenda Schultz-McCarthy
1999 Marthina Hingis & Anna Kournikova
2000 Lindsay Davenport & Corina Morariu
2001 Nicole Arendt & Ai Sugiyama
2002 Lisa Raymond & Rennae Stubbs
2003 Lindsay Davenport & Lisa Raymond
2004 Virginia Ruano Pascual & Paola Suarez
2005 Virginia Ruano Pascual & Paola Suarez
2006 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2007 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2008 Dinara Safina & Elena Vesnina
2009 Victoria Azarenka & Vera Zvonareva
2010 Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik
2011 Sania Mirza & Elena Vesnina
2012 Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond
2013 Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina
2014 Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai
2015 Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza
2016 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & CoCo Vandeweghe

6...Lindsay Davenport (2-4)
3...Kim Clijsters (2-1)
3...Steffi Graf (2-1)
3...Maria Sharapova (2-1) *
3...Serena Williams (2-1) *
3...Martina Hingis (1-2) *
3...Caroline Wozniacki (1-2) *
2...Martina Navratilova (2-0)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0) *
2...Mary Joe Fernandez (2-0)
2...Daniela Hantuchova (2-0) *
2...Ana Ivanovic (1-1)
2...Jelena Jankovic (1-1) *
2...Monica Seles (1-1)
2...Amanda Coetzer (0-2)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (0-2) *
2...Conchita Martinez (0-2)
* - active

[to March 13]
257 - Serena Williams
163 - Simona Halep
88 - Garbine Muguruza
77 - Aga Radwanska
66 - Angelique Kerber
33 - Svetlana Kuznetsova
33 - Madison Keys
27 - Karolina Pliskova
24 - Dominika Cibulkova
3 - Elina Svitolina

[to March 13]
473 - Aga Radwanska
319 - Petra Kvitova
286 - Serena Williams
264 - Angelique Kerber
164 - Simona Halep
109 - Karolina Pliskova
91 - Garbine Muguruza
76 - Venus Williams
62 - Victoria Azarenka
55 - Svetlana Kuznetsova
52 - Timea Bacsinszky
44 - Madison Keys
41 - Johanna Konta
38 - Dominika Cibulkova
30 - Elena Vesnina
29 - Elina Svitolina
22 - Caroline Wozniacki
19 - Barbora Strycova
4 - Samantha Stosur

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier Mandatory/hard outdoor)
16 Final: Azarenka d. S.Williams
16 Doubles Final: Mattek-Sands/Vandeweghe d. Goerges/Ka.Pliskova
17 Top Seeds: #3 Ka.Pliskova/#2 Kerber

#3 Ka.Pliskova d. Bencic
#10 Svitolina d. #32 Lucic-Baroni
#5 Cibulkova d. #17 Strycova
#11 Konta d. #8 Kuznetsova
#13 Wozniacki d. Osaka
#28 Mladenovic d. Davis
#12 V.Williams d. #6 A.Radwanska
#2 Kerber d. #14 Vesnina

...Pliskova didn't exactly inherit an easy draw in Serena's spot in the top half of the draw. She'll likely face Puig first, then Begu and (if Belinda can right herself and get TWO tour-level MD wins, which would be her first in '17) the winner of a possible all-Swiss 3rd Rounder between Bencic and Bacinszky. She has to do it sometime, right? Meanwhile, was Muguruza (with the likes of Bellis/Flipkens and Lucic in her early-round path) and her "tennis ball body outline" an omen for what is about to happen to her in the desert? One thing that results from Serena moving out of the draw is that we might get an early-season "reckoning" match between Pliskova and Svitolina.

Keys sits atop the bottom half of the draw, where Pliskova had originally been positioned. But she hasn't played yet in '17, so one wonders if her consistency will arrive on time (of course, in a possible 3rd Rounder vs. Osaka, both players might be fighting that particular demon in what could be a headlining match). Wozniacki will be put to the test in this section vs. power players galore, but may be able to feed them enough shots to win the match-day war of attrition. '15 champ Halep will have to be on her game quickly to survive, with Riske, and Mladenovic/Bouchard in her path in the early rounds. Some other possible match-ups in the bottom half: Radwanska/Konjuh (again), Venus/CoCo (again) and Kerber/Petkovic.

#3 Ka.Pliskova d. #10 Svitolina
#11 Konta d. #5 Cibulkova
#13 Wozniacki d. #28 Mladenovic
#2 Kerber d. #12 V.Williams

...Svitolina is 0-5 vs. Pliskova, including a straight sets loss to the Czech in Week 1 in Brisbane. Of course, this match would provide the Ukrainian a chance for another "first" in her career. When healthy, Konta has often been lethal on hard courts over the past year. Will Kerber's serve, a nagging liability all season, hold up long enough for her to get this far?

#3 Ka.Pliskova d. #11 Konta
#13 Wozniacki d. #2 Kerber

...U.S. hard courts is where Pliskova truly began to take flight last summer. Her return will be a test of how she plays with good memories on her mind AND expectations on her shoulders. The Dane reached the I.W. final three out of four years from 2010-13, winning in 2011.

#3 Ka.Pliskova d. #13 Wozniacki

...a great U.S. hard court companion piece to her Cincinnati crown from last year, a run here could signal that Pliskova is just about ready for something bigger.


We're just here for the food ... @lucie.safarova ???????? thanks @tasteoftennis ??

A post shared by MATTeK-SaNDS (@matteksands) on

#1 Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. #4 Mirza/Strycova
Hradecka/Siniakova d. #2 Makarova/Vesnina

...while Vika Azarenka was busy winning the "Sunshine Double" with I.W. and Miami singles titles last year, Mattek-Sands pulled off the same feat in doubles. She took this title with CoCo Vandeweghe, then Miami with regular partner Safarova.

#1 Mattek-Sands/Safarova d. Hradecka/Siniakova

...it's only right that Lucie gets a chance to experience the thrill this year, right?

Here are ATP Backspin's Galileo West's picks:

[4th Rd.]
Pliskova [3] d. [15] Bacsinszky
Svitolina [10] d. [7] Muguruza
Pavlyuchenkova [19] d. [33] Kasatkina
Kuznetsova [8] d. [11] Konta

...Pliskova is the biggest seed in the top half with Serena’s shock withdrawal. Muguruza just has question marks all over her right now. Svitolina right now is playing like one of the top five players in the world, don’t forget. Kuznetsova is usually ripe for the upset, but there’s nobody in her section that can do that. After eight years of never getting past round three, surely this is her year.

[4th Rd.]
Wozniacki [13] d. [9] Keys
Halep [4] d. [16] Stosur
V. Williams [12] d. [6] Radwanska
Kerber [2] d. [14] Vesnina

...Normally I’d take Keys, but Woz is in form, and Keys is returning. Stosur can play on these courts and there’s nobody threatening around her. Halep should bounce back soon. Radwanska has been nowhere this season, while Williams is on top form. Kerber has no pressure, which has to help.

Pliskova [3] d. [10] Svitolina
Kuznetsova [8] d. [19] Pavlyuchenkova
Wozniacki [13] d. [4] Halep
Kerber [2] d. [12] Williams

...Without Serena, there are three big seeds in the top half. Kuznetsova directly benefits from that, as does Pliskova. This isn’t one of those crazy pick-Sveta-at-all-costs things [like usual]. Look at the draw. Pliskova leads Svitolina 5-0 in the head-to-head. At this point you have to trust the Woz a shade more than you do Halep. Kerber has started to find a bit of form recently and she has made two semi-finals here before.

Pliskova [3] d. [8] Kuznetsova
Kerber [2] d. [13] Wozniacki

...Pliskova is too good right now. The draw looks set-up for her and she will take advantage. She will be world number one before next year’s out. This is part of her push to that ranking. Who remembers this?

Yes, that was the moment this BACKSPINNER lost all respect for the Woz. Unable to win normally, and outclassed by the German ,she resorted to the highest low tactic of them all. Hardly fitting for a former world number one. I cannot bring myself to pick the Dane. I just can’t.

Pliskova [3] d. [2] Kerber

...Pliskova wins this one surprisingly comfortably. She begins to make serious ground on the top two.

All for now.


Blogger colt13 said...

Love the pic of the toddler facepalm.

Since this is only a 96 player draw 3/4 of a slam, you get 3/4ths of a list.

7.5 on the Up Side
1.Wozniacki-Benefits most from Serena's withdrawal, as this year's Big Four were all in the top half. Also doesn't have to face Serena(1-10), who has so much intel on her it is as if her phones have been tapped. Too soon? Woz, a 3 time finalist(1 title) also handles the IW wind better than most.
2.Ka.Pliskova-Has the talent to win, but what will the wind do to her ball toss? With that said, Pliskova has played IW 5 times, and each time has either equalled or improved from the previous year. Reached the SF last year. Also got a break when she got moved as there was a possible 3rd round matchup with her sister.
3.Svitolina-This low because she actually went to Kuala Lumpur, although as the defending champ, I can't argue with the one round and out. Also now in the same quarter with Pliskova, so one is guaranteed not to make the SF.
4.Konjuh-She's ready for her breakout. 20-10 starting from the USO, 3-4 vs top 20. Has a clean enough style to hit through the wind.
5.Kasatkina-Last year's QF, when she lost to Ka. Pliskova, has a possible 2nd rounder against Krystina. Has a bad draw, but still worth following. Best player never to have reached a final. But has reached 2 SF and 8 QF in less than 2 full years on tour.
6.Bencic-Another player with a bad draw. But the Chans did it at Taipei City, as did Babos at Budapest. What did they do? Win a title without previously winning a match in their discipline all season. It will be curious to see if Bencic shows up in March Madness mode, and what I mean by that is that with her live ranking at 140, she probably will need a SF run to keep herself out of qualies(SF would get her back to 70). So win and she's in tournaments, if not she's on the bubble. Note:Not in the MD of Miami yet, though Serena's withdrawal gets her close.
7.Vesnina-An odd pick, seeing that she is an underwhelming 6-10 there. But 4 of those losses(Makarova, Bartoli, Wozniacki, Azarenka) were to women in the Top 11 at the time. In a quarter where the only women ranked higher than 11 are Kerber and Radwanska, it is possible that she won't have to face either one.
7.5.Davis-Well, she is half the size of a regular player. I'm kidding, she's 5-2. She does have an improving game, to the point that she is not only a threat to win low level tourneys, but to reach the QF at one like this. Plus this format, in which she gets a match before playing a seed, is beneficial.

Wed Mar 08, 12:32:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

7/5 on the Down Side.

1.Kuznetsova-2 time finalist, but that was some time ago. Similar to the USO, Sveta is the elite player most affected by the wind, especially on overheads. R16 or QF at best, though I think Giorgi(0-2) takes her out.
2.Keys-Not really a down, just tempering expectations. Only Serena comes off a layoff and wins, best case scenario is that she pulls a Voskoboeva and loses because she is rusty, but not injured.
3.Suarez Navarro-Can almost cut and paste from Keys here, as she only has one win this year. Her loss to Kato(201) was the first loss to someone outside the Top 200 since Kleybanova(254) in 2013.
4.Halep-7-7 since the USO, she has not won back to back matches since Wuhan last fall. If the knee is a problem, this is a bad court for it. Also the 3rd person from the 3rd qtr, which was the weakest by far(on current results) before Wozniacki got moved.
5.Errani-Name the players Italy has in the Top 100. Vinci, Giorgi, Errani. Actually no. Just the first two as Errani is down to 104. Out of the Top 100, where she had been since Sept 2007. Starting from Madrid last year she is 10-17, and probably not completely healthy.
6.Bertens-2-6 on the season, but there is a silver lining. Take out qualies, and she was only 5-7 before the clay season last year.
7.Jankovic-Supposedly not healthy(foot), she has a matchup against Venus if she can get past Falconi. And though she leads the H2H 7-6, they have only played once the last 4 years.
7.5.Cornet-Mainly because she's not here. Unknown if she will be back for Miami.

Wed Mar 08, 01:10:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ha. I get the sense that I'll get a lot of use out of her over the course of a long season. ;)

Hit & Miss comments on your comments (chronological):

Well, I figure it'll be something that derails Pliskova, considering BOTH Galileo and I curs-... I mean picked her. The wind is as good a culprit as any.

Yeah, I ultimately didn't pick it because I wonder if Konjuh gets past Peng (if the vet is healthy), but if the Croat gets yet another shot at Aga(3rd Rd.), I'll probably favor her.

I've got a good feeling about Davis here, as well. Someone unexpected will likely reach at least the Round of 16. Last year it was Bondarenko, Gibbs and Rybarikova.

Coming back from a layoff, the worst sort of player Keys could play would be Wozniacki, who'd force her to be consistent. And they could meet in the 4th Round, if Keys gets past the very-similar-to-herself Osaka, that is.

I do not have good feeling at all about Simona here. :(

Wed Mar 08, 01:46:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

I forgot to add on Davis- starting with Washington last year 34-11.

Instead of Konjuh, I was on the fence about Mladenovic. Can picture both a flameout or a final.

Wed Mar 08, 03:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Vekic playing the Cornet role this week, hopefully the Halep match will be good.

Kr. Pliskova learned from the Kerber match. She's using that similar redirecting forehand, which is becoming a huge weapon for her.

Sat Mar 11, 11:30:00 AM EST  

Post a Comment

<< Home