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The 2019 tennis season begins....

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    Players who have not won a Tour level title this year, an incomplete list:-

    In the top 20
    Simona Halep
    Angelique Kerber
    Elena Svitolina
    Sloane Stephens
    Serena Williams
    Anastasija Sevastova
    Caroline Wozniacki
    Anett Kontaveit
    Wang Qiang
    Madison Keys
    Garbine Muguruza
    Caroline Garcia

    Selected others
    Venus Williams
    Maria Sharapova
    Victoria Azarenka
    Mihaela Buzarnescu
    Daria Kasatkina (barely won a match)


      Petra Martic has just beaten Belinda Bencic in the Charleston QF. It will be 16 different champions, then.


        Looking at the WTA Tour wiki pages for the last few years, it seems that that kind of pattern, over a relatively short sample (16 events) might not be such an outlier. The titles do seem to have been very thinly spread over the last four years.

        2018 58 events, 35 different champions, the most being Kvitova with 5
        2017: 59 events, 43 different champions, the most being Svitolina with 5
        2016: 61 events (incl Olymp), 42 different champions, Cibulkova with 4
        2015: 59 events, 37 different champions, Serena Williams with 5

        The last woman to win more than 5 Tour level singles titles in a calendar year was Serena with 7 in 2014. She won 11 in 2013.
        Last edited by Evariste Euler Gauss; 06-04-2019, 11:33.


          Do we think this is a sign of strength in depth, or of weakness at the top?


            Well, I defer to others on here who have far more expertise to judge, but I draw my own conclusions from the fact that Serena, at the age of nearly 37 and after a difficult childbirth, was able to get to two Slam event finals last year. Surely if the competition at the top were as strong as it were in the Noughties, a woman in Serena's circumstances would not have got that far.

            One could draw similar conclusions, of course, about the current strength of the men's game (excluding the Big Three) from the continued dominance of Slam titles by those big three at their advanced ages, especially Federer's. In other words, when they finally throw in the towel, I suspect the overall strength at the top will be substantially less than it was when the Big Three (with Murray the Big Four) were at their peak. There seem to be no real male stars currently between the ages of 23 and 31. Maybe some of the under-23s will develop into stars.


              Tara Moore was losing in her latest match by a score of 6-0, 5-0, with the score in the 12th game at 30-40 on her serve. From match point down she managed to claw her way back and win the set on a tie break and then triumphed in set 3.

              Reminds me of the poker night i was at once where i was down to one chip and somehow clung on, doubled up a few times and eventually ran through everyone.


                Did someone fold a better hand than yours when you were on that last chip? 'cos Moore did something somewhat analogous on the match point against - she tried to smash, it caught the tape which diverted the ball wider but not quite outside the line! She also had a net cord go her way on her own match point. See video here:-
                Someone ask Tara what the next lottery numbers are, please?


                  Moore built on that R1 escape by making the Semis in Sunderland. There she played the top seed for the event, fellow Brit Harriet Dart. Moore won the first set 6-3, but then the double bagel happened after all as she lost the next two 0-6 0-6! I wonder if Dart was telling herself to ‘concentrate’ repeatedly in the last of that run of 12 games...

                  All that reminds me that I haven’t gone through the Challengers for the season to date. I’ll do that... later. But first this:-

                  Originally posted by Janik View Post
                  14 unique tournament winners now on the Women's side after Ash Barty beat Karolina Pliskova in straight sets. Barty's win is part of an interesting stylistic trend on the WTA, more on which when I can access a proper keyboard!
                  As noted up thread we were guaranteed 16 different winners on the WTA when Belinda Bencic lost her QF in Monterrey. The Semi line-up there was pretty ‘name’, Angelique Kerber vs Victoria Azarenka and Magdalena Rybarikova vs Garbine Muguruza [or Angie, Vika, Maggie and Gabby as fanboys-and-girls would have them]. That is three multiple slam champions and former World No.1s plus a Slam Semi-Finalist. The Tournament Director must have been delighted, particularly as his event was nominally the lesser of the two on the WTA that week (an International to Charleston’s Premier).
                  Muguruza beat Rybarikova which was notable as the Spaniard has been really struggling; this was her first final since this same event in 2018 (she was the defending champion in fact). The toher side of the draw saw an longer drought ended as Azarenka beat Kerber in three to reach her first final in over three years, massively disrupted ones of course. As it happens, Azarenka’s last final and tournament win was also against Muguruza (Miami 2016, which completed the Sunshine Double and sent her back into the World’s Top 5 at the time, their only previous meeting). All great, but then sadly it went a bit wrong in the final as Vika pulled something in her calf early in the second set (when already trailing significantly) and had to retire not long afterwards. Not how it was meant to end and fingers crossed its weeks out rather than months.
                  Over in Charleston, there were also some decently famous players in the Semis as Maidson Keys beat Monica Puig and Caroline Wozniacki took down Petra Martic. From a marketing point of view, Keys vs Wozniacki as final in an American tournament gives plenty to work with. For Keys, it was her first final since being beaten as the favourite in the 2017 US Open title match. That suggests there was a significant psychological hit to that loss, though there were niggling injuries through much of 2018. Was beating Wozniacki (in her first final of 2019) the beginning of moving beyond that? We will see.

                  So that was 16 winners from 16. Come this evening we will be up to 18/18 as once again all previous champions were out early from this week’s events in Lugano and Bogata. And not ones anybody would have picked, either.
                  The Lugano event lost its last seed in the QFs when 17 year-old Pole Iga Swiatek beat Vera Lapko. Swiatek, the Wimbledon Girls Singles and French Open Girls Doubles champion last year (she is still #5 on the ITF Juniors rankings), then thrashed big-serving Krystyna Pliskova in the Semis to make her first Tour level final. She is playing Polona Hercog in that currently. Hercog has won WTA tournaments before, but not since 2012. Since then it’s one runners-up effort in Istanbul last April and then this. Big match for both. Hercog is a set up, on serve in the second as of posting this.
                  The same is also true of the finalists in Bogota, one of whom (Amanda Anisimova) is also just 17. It’s her second WTA level final after reaching the title match in Tokyo last year, which she lost. On the other side of the net will be an even less likely player searching for her first Tour level singles title, Aussie Astra Sharma. Sharma, who is 23, is having the season of her life so far having reached the final of the Aussie Open Mixed Doubles with Patrick Smith and also qualified for the Singles for the first time ever and then winning a round (against fellow Aussie Patricia Hon). That was one of four Tour level singles match wins she had in total before this week. She can now add Shelby Rogers, #8 Magda Linette, Sara Errani and #11 Lara Arruabarrena to that list. And possible Anisimova, who is a player with some hype around her. The American (that’s Anisimova, btw) will be the favourite, but who knows given what Sharma has been up to. In the doubles as well, as my caveat of first Tour level singles title is because she and Zoe Hives won the Doubles crown in Bogota yesterday to break her duck in that format.
                  On a side note, that Arruabarrena was seeded at 11 is not indicative of a larger draw (48+) event with 16 seeds, but due to the Bogota tournament being decimated by withdrawals (including some early ones, which upped Sharma from the qualies to the main draw by right). Petra Martic and Tatjana Maria were meant to be numbers #2 and #3 seeds, but backed out after qualifying had started. That saw Dalila Jakupovic and Ivana Jorovic upped to #9 and #10 respectively, but then these two scratched as well! Jakupovic did so after the next in line had already played, leaving the bottom rung of the draw occupied by the fifth of five Lucky Losers to get in, which was all but one of the final qualifying losers. That luckiest of the lucky losers was Sara Errani, who, as alluded to above, reached the QFs off the back of it. Fortunate.

                  That is the general, on the Women’s side, but what about any Brits? Harriet Dart and Katie Swan were involved in Monterrey, but both lost their first matches in Q1 in Swan’s case (disappointing as she was a seed in this) and R1 for Dart, who lost to a pre-injury Jakupovic. Katie Boulter and Heather Watson were also meant to be playing, but continuing the theme both dropped out late with a viral illness and rib injury respectively, resulting in two lucky losers spots. Worrying given that both are in the Fed Cup squad for the big match against Kazakhstan next week.
                  Dart, playing with Savinykh, did win a round of the doubles in Mexico. And against the top seeds no less. But they then lost in the QFs.
                  No Brits were involved on the green clay in Charleston.

                  There were no ATP events last week. It was still blank for the Davis Cup, but that has been murdered.
                  That made this week’s events in Houston and Marrakesh the first since Miami. Cameron Norrie was the #3 seed in Houston, which was an American clay court event like Charleston the previous week for the Ladies (though it’s listed as maroon clay!). He had a bye to R2, but then lost his first match to Janko Tipsarevic, who needed a wild card to enter as his ranking entirely disappeared after missing the entire of 2018 with injury. Jay Clarke and James Ward also lost their opening matches, in their cases in the qualies (Ward was seeded...)
                  The only singles match win for a British man this week went to Kyle Edmund, who beat Ugo Humbert in R1. Like Norrie, Edmund was the #3 seed and like his compatriot Edmund played a wild card in R2 who is rather better than that and is only lowly ranked through injury. In Edmund’s case this was Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. The outcome was the same as Norrie’s.

                  Edmund wasn’t the only British seed in Morocco as the top two pairs in the Doubles were half-British. Jamie Murray was playing with John Peers for the first time in a number of years. They may be wondering why they bothered as, despite being top seeds, they lost in R1. #2 seeds Dominic Inglot and Rohan Bopanna did win their R1 match but lost in the QFs.
                  There were also British seeds in the Doubles in Texas, indeed all-British ones, #3 Bambridge/O’Mara and #4 K.Skupski/N.Skupski. Bambridge/O’Mara lost in R1 but, better news, the Skupski’s have made it all the way to the final! They will play Gonzalez/Qureshi in that later today. They will be looking for their second Tour title together in what is their sixth final (and second of 2019) in tandem. The previous win was in Montpellier last February, so indoor hard rather than outdoor clay!

                  And to bring us fully up-to-date, any Brits playing the two WTA events this week? Er, no.


                    I missed the general ATP update in the post above, didn’t I? Just did the British blokes, and not the overall. So, for the record, w/c 1st April was blank, as this was when the Davis Cup QFs were meant to be. One of two blank weeks on the calendar because of this (the second is after the US Open, i.e. when the Semis were meant to happen), which are the only two empty weeks on either the ATP or WTA Tours.
                    The ATP’s run of singleton champions ended at 19 with Federer winning Miami, but the trend still goes on as all four finalists in this week’s two events, Casper Ruud and Christian Garin in Houston and Benoit Paire and Pablo Andujar in Marrakech, were without titles in 2019. Only Garin had made a final previously, in Sao Paulo, where he beat Ruud in the Semis. And that is the only final either of these two young players (Chilean Garin is 22, Norwegian Ruud is 20) had ever made previously. Ruud, in particular, is someone who has had some hype as a Next Big Thing and this is beginning to deliver on that high promise.
                    Both Paire and Andujar had been in finals and won tournaments before, though surprisingly few in Paire case. Just one pot before today, in Bastad in 2015 and his most recent other final was 18 months ago. But he added to that by beating Andujar 2&3, on what is likely Andujar’s favourite court in the world – the Spaniard was the defending champion in Marrakech (he beat Kyle Edmund in the final a year ago) having also won the same event back-to-back in 2011 and 2012. That accounts for three of his four career titles. Today’s defeat was the first time he has got to the last match in Marrakech and not ended up waving the trophy about.

                    Back to the WTA: Hercog became winner number 17 as she won the final in Lugano in three sets. A pity the youngster Swiatek couldn’t’ add her name to the list... for now. As for Hecog, seven years is a long wait between Tour crowns. Nearly half a lifetime when measured against the girl on the other side of the net!


                      OK, time to deal with the second part of what I said a few weeks back:-

                      Originally posted by Janik View Post
                      14 unique tournament winners now on the Women's side after Ash Barty beat Karolina Pliskova in straight sets. Barty's win is part of an interesting stylistic trend on the WTA, more on which when I can access a proper keyboard!
                      What stylistic trend is that, then? Well, I’m going to come at this in stages.

                      First things first, we need to sort and categorise the basic styles of Tennis player. Of course, some players do not fit neatly into one of these boxes, many use a mix of two or more or are capable of adapting their approach as the circumstances demand, indeed some players (R Federer, A Murray) are generalists to the point where they could play any of the ways listed below if the fancy took them. Adaptation is particularly notable in the dominant style on both the Men’s and Women’s Tours, the Power Baseliners, to the point where variants on the general theme are more readily apparent because it is so common, and therefore there are sub-categories of that.
                      All that said, I think this captures the default approaches for pretty well every player.

                      But those archetypes:-
                      The Power Baseliner – as stated the dominant type on both the Men’s and Women’s Tours these days, to the point where I would split it up into three sub-groups:-
                      First-Strike Tennis – hit the ball heavy and deep, looking for the length just inside the baseline that generates a marginally short ball from the opponent, and then unleash completely on that. Also go massively after the opponents second serve. The most successful style on the WTA, with current World No.1 Naomi Osaka a prominent exponent. But also many others, to name a few notables such as Petra Kvitova, Aryna Sabalenka, Serena Williams (though she is one of the ones who can play any way she likes), Madison Keys, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Jo Konta, Maria Sharapova and on and on down the rankings. Some players playing this way can at times be sneeringly referred to as a TennisBot2000, such is the clear formula involved (a bit of shade more applied to female than male players of this ilk). Also evident on the Men’s Tour with players such as Sascha Zverev, Kevin Anderson, Juan Martin del Potro, John Isner, Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic operating this way.
                      Defensive Counter-Punching – Attempt to stay on the baseline, absorb the opponents power and look to take the ball early from a shot the opponent feels will have done damage, instead putting it back past them with interest before they have recovered their balance. Players need to be superb athletes to play in this way, as foot speed is essential. I would put this as the most successful style on the Men’s game. The leading exponent of it is Novak Djokovic, but I would argue that all of the big four play in this manner as their default setting. Others, such as Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem do likewise. It’s also successful on the Women’s side with Simona Halep probably the most notable example, but also others like Vika Azarenka and Elina Svitolina.
                      The Grinder – players who will. not. miss. Often known as The Wall. Being a superb athlete and mover is a given, as to be successful this way players have to chase everything down but particularly the big shots of First Strike opponents and pop the ball back into court to ask their opponent to hit another winner. And another. And another. Doing this often involves being three metres behind the baseline, which also makes high stamina vital as well as the explosive speed. Gilles Simon is the absolute archetype of this, with his performance where he drew 100 unforced errors from Novak Djokovic (NOVAK DJOKOVIC) in a five set match in Australia probably the epitome in terms of performance. Except, of course, Simon eventually lost that match... Gael Monfils can lapse into this when he is in King Rat mode, whilst on the Women’s side Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki would be leading players identified with the style, though in both cases their Slam title wins have come when they have stepped up their position and hitting somewhat to add more defensive counter-punch to their games.
                      [b]Serve-and-Volley[b] – does exactly what it says on the tin. And also chip-and-charge on the returns. A dying bread on the Men’s tour, and a nearly extinct one on the Women’s. Time was when this was a very successful approach to Tennis for both genders. For the Men that lasted up until early this millennium, with Pete Sampras winning his 7 Wimbledon’s in this style and even Roger Federer first breaking through playing this way (there was some stat that Roger was in behind his first serve in ~85% of the points in his first Wimbledon final but only ~15% in his seventh). Now proponents are limited to minor (but loved!) figures like Mischa Zverev, Dustin Brown, Sergiy Stakhovsky. About the only players I can think of on the Women’s Tour who operate in this way with any regularity are Kirsten Flipkens and Yaroslava Shvedova and neither do it all that much, which is a pity when you consider that Martina Navratilova won 18 Slam titles playing almost exclusively serve-and-volley and Jana Novtona (RIP) and Nathalie Tauziat contested a Wimbledon Final in 1998 with both net-rushing whenever and wherever possible (Tauziat also beat a fairly similar player in the semis that year in Natasha Zvereva).
                      Guile – players who don’t beat their opponent for pace, but beat them by placement and spin. Possibly the most interesting type to watch, as things happen that bit slower so you can see the thought process. It’s also the most similar to the way your average club player plays, as most of us lack the cleanness of ball strike to hit through an opponent so need to work an opening if we want to put the ball away. OK, club players have nowhere near the skill of pros who play the guile game, but it’s somewhat of a facsimile and enough for people to identify with such players. Alive on the Men’s Tour as a variant from players such as Federer and Murray (if he counts as being on the Men’s Tour nowadays...) but it hasn’t been a dominant approach for a male player since Fabrice Santoro retired. And the point of this post is that was felt almost certain to be the case when one of the great female exponents, Agnieszka Radwanska, retired at the end of 2018.

                      Radwanska’s departure was accompanied by many articles saying we will never see her like again and some bemoaning the greyer, less varied place it made the Women’s Tour. It isn’t working out that way at all. As the NY Times noted presciently before the Aussie Open, rather than disappearing, players who finagle their points are more prominent now than less. In addition to the ones noted in the article (Kasatkina, Sevastova, Barty and Hsieh) there is also the year’s breakout star in Bianca Andreescu and the comeback kid, Belinda Bencic, who play in this way. Daria Kasatkina is having a ‘mare of a season (outside the top 100 on the Year To Date rankings) and Anastasija Sevastova a so-so one. Ash Barty, Bencic, Andreescu and Su-wei Hsieh, though, they have all been stellar in their own ways. In fact Barty, Bencic and Andreescu currently sit 4-6 respectively in the Race standings, with Hsieh at 13.
                      Of that group, Hsieh is probably the most extreme in style, and feels much the least likely to win a slam (Bencic being the most conventional and probably still the likeliest to get over the hump first). Hsieh, though, is the player most similar to Radwanska is just having mad skillz and as such seeing her going deep into big tournaments is great news for the sport. Because, let’s be clear, we need variety of styles to keep people engaged, and back-to-back wins in seriously important events like Indian Wells and Miami for players of this type (Andreescu, Barty) are brilliant news for the sport.


                        Right, back to the day-to-day.

                        I never noted who won the finals of last week's events in the Americas, did I? It was Amanda Anisimova in Bogota, beating Astra Sharma from a set down for her first WTA title (so one of the 17 year-olds won). Sharma's run was perfectly timed to get her into the main draw for the French Open, which will come as some significant consolation. Jo Konta and Katie Boulter are the Brits to make the cut, which was already safely assumed.
                        On the Men's side, Christian Garin picked up his first Tour title after three sets against Casper Ruud in Houston. Both were comfortably above the Roland Garros cut anyway, where they will be joined by a British contingent of Kyle Edmund, Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans.

                        Edmund and Norrie were both in Monte Carlo this week for the Masters event, which is the sole Tour level ATP competition this week. Edmund got upped to being seeded (17) after Gael Monfils withdrew but it didn't help as he still landed a very tough R1 match against Diego Schwartzman (particularly on a clay court) and lost in three sets. Things went better for Norrie, who beat Adrian Mannarino and Marton Fucsovics to reach R3. He faced a qualifier, Italian Lorenzo Sonego in that, but sadly lost yesterday.
                        On the Doubles court, J.Murray/Soares were seeded #3 and have lived up to that by making the Semis. Their R1 win was over Inglot/Bopanna. Salisbury/Klaasen were the 8th seeds (which shows how significantly Salisbury has risen in the rankings) but lost in R1 to Albot/Basilashvili. One all-British pair played: Edmund/N.Skupski. They lost in R1 to Sousa/Schwartzman. Kyle must be sick of the sight of Diego!

                        The Women's stuff this Easter weekend is the Fed Cup, which with the murder of the Davis Cup is now the only team tennis in town. The matches break down as follows:

                        World Group Semis
                        France vs Romania
                        Australia vs Belarus

                        Both look potentially excellent ties.

                        World Group play-offs
                        Czech Rep vs Canada
                        USA vs Switzerland
                        Latvia vs Germany
                        Belgium vs Spaind

                        World Group II play-offs
                        Russia vs Italy
                        Japan vs Netherlands
                        Britain vs Kazakhstan
                        Slovakia vs Brazil


                          After the Monte Carlo QFs, there is a 3/4 theoretical chance of yet another first-time champion in 2019 on the ATP Tour. And a vastly higher practical one. That is because Nadal in still in the even and the Monte Carlo Country Club is Rafa's house. Or rather, one of his abodes because, like any self respecting multi-millionaire, he has a pad on the French Riveria, another ultra-flashy crib in Paris and one in Barcelona with a more homely feel that befits the residence located in the important formative place. 11 previous titles in each, which are all record returns for a single player at a tournament. Rafa's Win-Loss in Monaco is now 69-3 and the chances of it not becoming 71-3 and 12 titles feel very slim. If anyone is going to do it, it will surely be Fabio Fognini in the last four rather than Daniil Medvedev or Dusan Lajovic, who are contesting the other Semi. That is because Fognini is one of the very few players to have beaten Nadal on a clay court more than once (indeed there are not that many who have beaten Nadal on clay, period) and is mercurial enough to have self-belief in the scenario.
                          The one player in the Semis with a title already in 2019 is Medvedev. He won the Sofia Open back in February. He is also in his fourth Semi of the year, which either leads the ATP or is pretty close to doing so (I can't be bothered to work it out!). However, winning an International on an indoor hard court doesn't really count for anything in believing Medvedev could topple the King of Clay. Beating Djokovic in the QFs, as he did yesterday, seems a more relevant item, mind.


                            As ever, thanks Janik.


                              Australia vs Belarus 1-1 after the first day. Both top string singles (and top ten players) won their rubber, Sabalenka in three against Stosur and Barty in two against Azarenka. A lot rides on the Barty vs Sabalenka match up tomorrow, but the second string singles will be live. I would completely expect Dasha Gavrilova to play that for the Aussies to keep Stosur fresh for a potentially decisive doubles. I'm less sure what the Belarussians will do as arguably Sasanovich was a better bet than present-day Azarenka for the other singles spot, but they went with Vika. And also their best doubles partnership may well be Sabalenka and Azarenka, rather than anything involving the selected specialist, Marozava.

                              Britain vs Kazakhstan starts at 1:30pm local time with what feels like a must win for Jo Konta against Zarina Diyas.


                                Konta recovered from a very nervy start that had her 5-1 down in the opening set to win in three. Katie Boulter went the other way, starting brilliantly, but then picking up an injury early in the second set. Even after that she built a 4-0 lead in set three and also a 5-2 advantage, but then she clearly got tight and started steering her shots hoping that Putinseva would miss. Bad plan, Putinseva is a scrapper extraordinary. She recovered to 5-5 on the back of Boulter's scared play, then save a match point at 5-6 30-40 and another two from 4-6 in the tie-break before converting her first (or rather Boulter making an unforced error) at 7-6. It will be hard for Annie K to raise Boulter's spirits for tomorrow against Diyas, and that assumes she is fit to play.

                                In the other ties, the two Semis are 1-1 after day one, France-Romania going the same way as Australia-Belarus in both the top strings beating their opposite no.2's.
                                One of the World Group I play-off matches is done as Latvia vs Germany started on Friday. Germany won both strings then (Petkovic bt Ostapenko and Goerges bt Marcinkevica), and won the top string rubber today (Barthel bt Ostapenko) as well to be unassailably 3-0 up. In the other matches, the Czechs are two to the good against a very weakened Canadian team (Muchova bt Marino and Vondrousova bt World No.376 Fernandez), Belgium and Spain are 1-1 after Flipkens shocked Muguruza, Suarez Navarro beating Van Uytvanck to level and USA-Switzerland is soon to get underway in San Antonio.
                                Down to World Group II, and apart from Britain-Kazakhstan all the other matches are 2-0 to the home sides after the first day's play. So that is Russia, Japan and Slovakia in command. All strings in those three matches went with the World Rankings, as indeed did the two in Britain vs Kazakhstan for that matter. In fact, Kirsten Flipkens, Andrea Petkovic and Mona Barthel are the only players to beat someone higher ranked in all the World Group matches so far this round.

                                Meanwhile, in Monte Carlo, Fabio Fognini didn't just beat Rafael Nadal, he ran over him! Which is more than I was willing to give credit for. At one point Fognini won 10 games out of 11 (from 1-3 in set one to leading 6-4 5-0). Given that Nadal had won his previous 25 straight sets on clay, that is pretty stunning. Nadal was also on an 18-match winning streak in Monaco. Now just watch Fognini screw up the final against Dusan Lajovic! It's a first Masters Series final for both men and indeed a first singles Tour level final of any kind for the journeyman Serb, though he does have two previous Doubles finals against his name (1-1).


                                  I have no idea why Buzarnescu is playing singles for Romania - she has won something like 3 matches all year (and all against people ranked well over 100). She's still ranked 30 I think but her ranking must be about to drop off a cliff. Given that Romania have a number of other top 100 players the selection is ridiculous.


                                    I've never watched any of Killing Eve, but I caught Jodie Comer's appearance on The Graham Norton Show this weekend, wondered why she seemed familiar, and realised it's because she bears a very striking likeness to Katie Boulter.


                                      Buzarnescu has been subbed out for the reverse singles. As has Mladenovic for the French. It's Parmentier vs Begu instead. France have to win to keep the tie alive after Halep beat Garcia in a three set near three hour epic in rubber 3.
                                      In the other Semi, Barty trounced Sabalenka, Azarenka did likewise against Stosur, and the same four players took the court for the decisive doubles, which went Australia's way in three.


                                        Parmentier is currently a break up on Begu in the deciding set of that rubber. Could be going the distance like the other Semi.

                                        And talking of going the distance, Britain beat Kazakhstan 3-1 after 4 x 2-1 matches. Katie Boulter was beginning to tot up the unconverted match points again, but found an ace on her third chance to get over the line and put yesterday's near miss immediately behind her. Probably the key moment* in the match was Boulter failing to convert break points to lead 4-0 in the deciding set. That is because the two players who have been up by that score in a third set, Boulter herself yesterday against Putinseva and Putinseva against Konta today, have both lost!
                                        * - actually not the key moment, this is just coincidence but humour me, OK?


                                          Yeah, France-Romania has gone to a deciding doubles. The French team will be Garcia/Mladenovic, who have presumably patched up their differences. Or at least got them to a professionally manageable level. Either that, or French captain Julien Benneteau is taking a considerable gamble with this selection. The Romanian team will be Begu/Niculescu, which is an obvious choice after they beat the World No.1 pair (Krejickova/Siniakova) to win the deciding doubles in the previous round away to the Czech Rep (who, incidentally, thrashed Canada to preserve their top flight status).


                                            This is proving to be a long day for Halep and Garcia


                                              As ad hoc alludes to, it was not Begu/Niculescu for Romania but rather Halep/Niculescu. I must learn not to assume the Fed Cup website is updated promptly and wait until the match is underway before being certain of the nominations! That doubles went over the two-and-a-half hour mark, meaning Garcia and Halep spent well over 5 hours on court across the day, again as referenced above. In the end it was France celebrating, after a 5-7 6-3 6-4 victory. Congratulations to them and all that, but as a neutral it's a little underwhelming. Romania winning it this year was the romantic story, and that died today.
                                              The Romanian captain, Segarceanu, will need to be a strong personality to not question his decisions today. There is no telling if leaving Buzarnescu in for the singles to keep Begu fresh for the doubles (it;'s being reported as an injury to Begu rather than tactics that saw Halep play instead) and a recreation of her effective team with Niculescu would have been more effective. He made he choices he did, and it is what it is.

                                              The final is Australia vs France, then. If the Fed Cup website is to be believe, it will be Australia that hosts it. Might even be on grass, though that is Sam Stosur's worst surface even if it's Ash Barty's best. And it's not alien for either Caroline Garcia or Kiki Mladenovic, either. Also, it is apparently 26 years since Australia were last in the Final, which is an identical time period to Britain's absence from the World Group. Typical bloomin' Aussies, desperately trying to upstage Britain at every opportunity...

                                              On the Men's Tour, Fabio Fognini delivered in the Monte Carlo final, beating Dusan Lajovic 3&4 for the biggest title of his career. I believe that gets him back into the top 10.
                                              Over in the Doubles, J.Murray/Soares were in the Semis the last time I updated on that. They were beaten therein.
                                              Last edited by Janik; 21-04-2019, 21:34.


                                                Other Fed Cup scores:-

                                                World Group play-offs
                                                Belgium 2-3 Spain
                                                Czech Rep 4-0 Canada
                                                Latvia 1-3 Germany
                                                USA 2-1 Switzerland

                                                Garbine Muguruza, who is really struggling this year, lost both her singles matches as Ysaline Bonaventure (world no.122) subbed in for Alison Van Uytvanck and won in three. However Carla Suarez Navarro thumped Yanina Wickmayer in the fourth rubber (also a sub, for Kirsten Flipkens in Wickmayer's case) and then the two Spanish singles players teamed up to beat Bonaventure/Flipkens in three. So at least Muguruza had a 50% contribution towards one point from the weekend. But she desperately needs a reset as the singles losses are mounting up.
                                                Czechia beating Canada was noted above, and no shock at all as the Canadian team was gutted of it's best players. Being 3-0 up allowed skipper Petr Pala to give stalwart Lucie Safarova a swansong in the doubles in what had been announced beforehand as her last ever Fed Cup tie. She and Krejcikova beat the veteran pairing of Dabrowski/Fichman in straight sets.
                                                Latvia-Germany was done and dusted by Saturday night and covered above.
                                                USA-Switzerland was yet to start on Saturday evening UK, so more to cover here. There was a real shock in the first rubber as Viktoria Golubic (WR 80) beat Madison Keys (WR 14) for the loss of just five games. However since then US no.1 Sloane Stephens (WR 8) has sorted things out with four straight sets won against Timea Bacsinszky and Golubic to put the USA 2-1 up. Sofia Kenin (WR 36, the USA are strong currently) has subbed in for Keys in the fourth rubber, and she is currently a set to the good against Bacsinszky. If Kenin completes (she has just gone a break down early in the second set), it will be her first Fed Cup win at the fourth attempt.

                                                World Group II play-offs
                                                Britain 3-1 Kazakhstan
                                                Japan 4-0 Netherlands
                                                Russia 4-0 Italy
                                                Slovakia 3-1 Brazil

                                                Britain-Kazakhstan hogged absolutely all the drama at this level. Whilst the Copper Box crowd was treated to 4 three-setters with dramatic final set comebacks from losing positions in two of them, the other three ties were all done and dusted just about as quickly as practically possible. Netherlands, Italy and Brazil won just one live set between them, which was the first one in the first rubber of the Russia-Italy match.
                                                Last edited by Janik; 21-04-2019, 22:01.


                                                  Aussie Federation confirms that they are hosting the Final on 9-10 November. They haven't been in it since 1993 and haven't won since 1974.


                                                    Kenin beat Bacsinszky in straight sets to complete the USA's win.

                                                    After a few atypical weeks, we are back to two events on both the ATP and WTA for this seven days. The ATP ones are a 500 in Barcelona (one of Rafa Nadal's other 11-title venues) and a 250 in Budapest, whilst on the WTA it's a Premier in Stuttgart and an International in Istanbul.
                                                    Let's start with the British involvement on the WTA because that is easy - there isn't any! Man draw, qualifying, doubles, nadda. Over on the ATP British singles action is confined to Barcelona, and is already half over. That is because Dan Evans lost to Marcel Granollers in the first round of qualifying. Cameron Norrie may well go the same way in the first round of the main draw as he has landed a tough opponent on a clay court, Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The winner of that plays Daniil Medvedev in R2. Good luck, Cameron. I think you'll need it...
                                                    More numerous are British Men's doubles players this week. J.Murray/Soares are #2 seeds in Barcelona, where they are joined by Sailsbury/Klaasen. Three British-flavoured pairs are in action in Budapest, including two all-British teams. Leading the way as top seeds are Inglot/Bopanna (Inglot is actually the defending champion having won the same event last year with Skugor), the Skupski brothers are also seeded at 3 and Bambridge/O'Mara are also involved. They play the #2 seeds in R1.

                                                    On a more general note, the main stories likely from the week are about whether Nadal can extend his record trophy haul for a single event, and in Stuttgart who will exit the tournament as World No.1. That is between the current holder Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova. Both Halep and Kvitova will need very deep runs if they are to take it from Osaka.