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Bouchard Revival Continues Into Final

Bouchard Revival Continues Into Final

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

HOBART, Australia – Eugenie Bouchard battled past fellow former Top 10 player Dominika Cibulkova on Friday to reach the final of the Hobart International, her first WTA final since Wuhan in 2014.

The unseeded Bouchard, who had already taken out No.8 seed Alison Van Uytvanck and No.2 seed Camila Giorgi in the last two rounds, won the first set in just 22 minutes and was up a break four times in the second but ended up having to go to a third to edge the No.3-seeded Cibulkova, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

“I’m just happy I got through today,” Bouchard said. “The first set was a great level for me – I can’t remember the last time I played that well. Now the important thing is to keep that consistency. It was hard to keep it up – it’s another lesson I’ve learned, to control my emotions a little bit better.

“I don’t think I held serve in the second set, which is absolutely disgusting – I’m so disappointed in myself for that. But she was really putting pressure on me with her returns out there today.”

The 2014 Wimbledon finalist and former World No.5 has now won six of seven matches to start 2016.

She knew she was feeling good coming into Hobart – she spoke about it in her pre-tournament presser.

“I’m feeling pretty good. I wouldn’t want to play if I was somewhat prepared, so I worked really hard in the off-season to catch up a little bit,” Bouchard said. “I’m just so happy to be back on the court. That’s the most important thing – I’m so grateful and excited to be back playing on the tour again.

“I just love the feeling of playing tennis,” she added. “When you’re forced not to do something you really love, you realize you truly love it, and, for me, I realized how much I truly missed it.”

The other semifinal took place later in the afternoon and lasted 53 minutes, as No.7 seed Alizé Cornet held all seven of her service games and broke five times to beat Johanna Larsson, 6-1, 6-1.

Though Cornet is the higher-ranked of the two, No.42 to No.47, Bouchard leads the Frenchwoman in their head-to-head series, 2-1, winning their last two meetings in a row in straight sets, as well.

Cornet does have more experience in WTA finals though, going 4-5, while Bouchard is 1-3 lifetime.

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Five Thoughts on the AO Draw

Five Thoughts on the AO Draw

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

1. Will Serena Williams be sharp from the start?

The World No.1 hasn’t played a completed match since her loss to Roberta Vinci at the US Open last September, and was forced to withdraw from Hopman Cup due to knee inflammation. But she’s been practicing at Melbourne Park this week and her camp sounds more than confident that she’ll be ready to go on Monday.

All the same, Serena won’t have the luxury of a couple of soft early rounds to find her rhythm. She’s drawn the highest-ranked unseeded player in the first round, the always dangerous Camila Giorgi. Serena is 2-0 against the flat-hitting Italian, but both matches came on clay, Giorgi’s worst surface. And as we’ve seen in the past, when Giorgi finds her rhythm — while simultaneously taking away her opponent’s — she can tough to beat.

From there, Serena’s path gets no easier. She leads the toughest quarter of the draw, which is anchored on the other side by No.5 seed Maria Sharapova. Also looming in her quarter are Caroline Wozniacki, Belinda Bencic, and Apia International Sydney champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

In sum, Serena’s path to the final is projected to go through Giorgi, Jelena Ostapenko, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Wozniacki, Sharapova, and Radwanska. At her best, she’s the overwhelming favorite. But with no data points to start the season, it’s tough to assess her level until she steps on the court.

2. Is the Australian Open Victoria Azarenka’s to lose?

After a frustrating 2015 season, the former No.1 is the talk of the town. She’s a two-time champion in Melbourne and always plays her best tennis in Australia. Thanks to her dominant run to the Brisbane International title, there’s a lot of buzz on the grounds about Azarenka’s prospects.

In a top heavy draw, Azarenka finds herself in the wide-open bottom half of the draw, along with No.2 Simona Halep, No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza, No.6 Petra Kvitova, No.7 Angelique Kerber, and No.10 Venus Williams. With the injury concerns surrounding Halep, Muguruza, and Kvitova, as well has strong win over Kerber in the Brisbane final, Azarenka is the front-runner to get out of the bottom half. She opens her tournament against Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck.

In the event Azarenka faces Serena in the final and gets a chance to avenge her three rough losses to the American last year — all three went three sets and she had match points in Madrid — get ready to see these two stats:

Serena has won her last 15 tournament finals. The last time she lost? 2013 Cincinnati to…Azarenka.

Maria Sharapova

3. Can Maria Sharapova play herself into form?

As with Serena, Sharapova comes into the Australian Open without any matches under her belt. The difference is she has a draw that should get her some straight-forward matches early. Her path to the quarterfinals begins with Nao Hibino and is projected to include Evgeniya Rodina, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Belinda Bencic (or, if she holds her form, Svetlana Kuznetsova). She’s then projected to play Serena in the quarterfinals in a rematch of last year’s final.

If she were drawn in any other quarter she might have been a solid lock for the semifinals, assuming she’s recovered from her left forearm injury. Instead, with a possible quarterfinal match against Serena looming, we are left to ask: is this the tournament Sharapova snaps her streak against her top ranked nemesis?

Sharapova has not beaten Serena in over a decade, losing their last 17 encounters. But as Sharapova has often said, all she can ask of herself is to keep putting herself in the position to test herself against the game’s best.

4. Can Agnieszka Radwanska avoid an early exit?

Radwanska anchors the bottom quarter of the top half of the draw, and she has a very makable draw to the semifinals except for one thing: She may play a resurging Eugenie Bouchard in the second round. As of this writing, Bouchard is into the final of the Hobart International and has arguably been the most consistent player of the first two weeks of the season; she’s the only woman to make back-to-back quarterfinals to start the season. Meanwhile, Radwanska won the Shenzhen Open without having to play anyone ranked in the Top 90; this could be a massive test for her. Radwanska used a strong finish to 2015 capped by lifting the trophy at the WTA Finals in Singapore and has won 22 of her last 26 matches, all in the Asia-Pacific region.

Radwanska has her work cut out with a strong quarter: Kvitova, Sloane Stephens, Roberta Vinci, Carla Suárez Navarro, Andrea Petkovic, and Sam Stosur.

Sloane Stephens

5. Which young gun will be this year’s breakout star?

The Australian Open has seen breakout star after breakout star in recent years. In 2013, it was Sloane Stephens beating Serena to make her first major semifinal. In 2014, it was Bouchard kicking off a monster year at the majors by making the first of three straight major semifinal in Melbourne. Last year, we saw Madison Keys barrel past Kvitova and Venus Williams to make her first final four at a Grand Slam tournament.

While Stephens, Bouchard, and Keys could all make the second week and score some upsets to repeat their feats, two young names pop out as possible semifinal debutantes. Karolina Pliskova rued her underperformance at the majors last year, but she’s as good a pick as any to get out of Simona Halep’s quarter.

Belinda Bencic is also a solid pick, but she’s been drawn into Serena’s quarter and may have to go through Kuznetsova and Sharapova just to get to the quarterfinals, where Serena could be waiting.

The Favorites:

– Serena Williams: Is she fit enough for seven matches on hard courts? Has she put her US Open disappointment behind her? Can she handle the mounting pressure that will come with each win? There are so many questions swirling around Serena’s Melbourne campaign. But she could silence them quickly with an emphatic win on Monday.

– Victoria Azarenka: She’s going to be asked incessantly about her chances in Melbourne and to preview matches that may not even happen. Azarenka needs to stay focused on each match and go about her fortnight in a workmanlike manner. It will be very tempting to get swept up in all the hype.

– Agnieszka Radwanska: She may need the draw to break her way, but Radwanska seems ready for a run. Don’t look now but she’s won four titles in Asia since the US Open, compiling a 22-4 record since. This is the “Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific”. You do the math.

The Next Best Things:

– Maria Sharapova: Any section other than Serena’s and Sharapova would have a solid shot at the final. If the upsets start raining down early, she could take advantage.

– Angelique Kerber: Don’t be thrown off by her retirement in Sydney due to illness. Kerber will be fine for Melbourne. And if she can exact some revenge on either Azarenka or Muguruza in the quarterfinals, the German very well could make her first Slam final.

Daria Gavrilova

Dark Horses:

– Sloane Stephens: The ASB Classic champion looked sharp in Auckland and her straightforward win over Caroline Wozniacki there will be a big confidence booster. This could be the year Stephens pulls together all the elements of her athletic game.

– Carla Suárez Navarro: The Spaniard has a great draw. She’ll play a qualifier in the first two rounds. She’s then projected to play Petkovic (she’s four of their six matches) before getting either Kvitova, who has struggled with illness all month, or Kristina Mladenovic/Dominika Cibulkova. That’s a nice path to the quarterfinals.

– Daria Gavrilova: I’m not ready to crown the young Aussie the 2016 champion, but her first Slam quarterfinal is not out of the question. She loves a big stage and a big crowd, and she’ll surely get one if she plays Kvitova in the second round. Pull off that upset and she’s cleared a nice path to the quarters. That would be a massive result for the 21-year-old.

First week spoilers:

– Camila Giorgi (vs. Serena Williams, first round)

– Daria Kasatkina (vs. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, first round)

– Alison Riske (vs. Belinda Bencic, first round)

– Eugenie Bouchard (vs. Agnieszka Radwanska, second round)

– Alizé Cornet (vs. Simona Halep, second round)

– Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (vs. Garbiñe Muguruza, second round)

For more analysis on the draw, listen to the newest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast:

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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WTA Insider Podcast: AO Draw Preview

WTA Insider Podcast: AO Draw Preview

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Dropshot Podcast: Breaking down the Australian Open draw, are we headed for a Serena vs. Vika final in Melbourne?

On this Dropshot episode of the WTA Insider Podcast, Senior Writer Courtney Nguyen is joined by Web Editor David Kane to analyze the 2016 Australian Open draw, which is notably top-heavy, offering top seed Serena Williams a tricky path to her 22nd major title, and a bottom half that sees one name in particular stand out: Victoria Azarenka.

Nguyen and Kane discuss whether Simona Halep’s decision to play through pain at the Apia International Sydney will impact her chances in Melbourne, Camila Giorgi’s high-risk/high-reward game, Agnieszka Radwanska’s chances for her first major title, and much, much more.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on any podcast app of your choice; reviews are always helpful, so if you like what you’ve heard so far, leave us one.

You can also get new episode alerts by following us on Twitter @WTA_Insider and stay tuned for more podcast episodes on the WTA website at

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Santina Survive For 29th Straight Win

Santina Survive For 29th Straight Win

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

SYDNEY, Australia – Top seeds Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza were trailing by a set and a break when rain interrupted their semifinal match with Yaroslava Shvedova and Raluca Olaru, but turned the tables upon resumption to win, 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 to capture a 29th straight match.

Team SanTina have not lost a match since the Western & Southern Open late last summer, and the reigning Wimbledon and US Open champions have now surpassed Gigi Fernández and Natasha Zvereva’s 1994 record of 28 straight victories and have now begun to chase an even bigger record. Back in 1990, the dynamic duo of Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova won a whopping 44 matches in a row.

“This is something that I dreamed about and I was hoping for,” Hingis told press after the match. “I can only say it over and over again: It’s something that’s a priority. When I was playing singles, singles was the priority. I became No.1 there. For a time, I was No. 1 in both.

“Now I put 100% or 120% into this, and I think I that’s what makes us this great doubles team. The chemistry is amazing. We don’t always play super tennis, but we come out and find a solution. I think that’s what makes us right now the best doubles in the world.”

“Today the girls we were playing, they were playing probably the best I’ve seen them play,” Mirza added. “Slava has won Slams before, and Olaru was playing really well. We had to really put everything that we had and really come out with our A Game when we needed to, especially in that supertiebreak.

“It’s not like because we’ve been winning so much we take it for granted really. We try every time. We’re the hunted. Everyone plays their best against us, and we have to keep playing our best as well to win.”

With titles at the Apia International Sydney and the Australian Open, SanTina could move their streak up to 36 straight, and would likely need at least another two titles to come close to passing such an elusive record.

In the meantime, the top seeds will face the winner of the second semifinal between No.3 seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia, and the No.2 seeds, Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan. The Chan sisters are the last women to defeat Hingis and Mirza together in Cincinnati, but have fallen to the pair four times since then.

The singles matches, however, weren’t able to survive the ensuing rain storms that soaked Sydney. Top seed Simona Halep led Svetlana Kuznetsova 5-4 while qualifier Monica Puig had a massive 4-0 lead on Belinda Bencic before both matches were canceled – to resume on Friday.

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Petra Kvitova: At The Crossroads

Petra Kvitova: At The Crossroads

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Petra Kvitova finds herself caught at the crossroads of two tennis eras – but she quite likes it that way.

The big hitting lefty is not quite in the generation of WTA veterans like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams. But in turn, she’s not in the crowd of new stars likes Garbiñe Muguruza, Simona Halep and fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova who are fast on the rise. Kvitova remains the first and only Grand Slam winner – male or female – born in the 90s.

How does the two-time Wimbledon champion feel about being the most accomplished member of this ‘in between’ group?

“I don’t feel any pressure,” Kvitova told China’s CCTV in Shenzhen. “I know that Serena has been there for a long time – she’s still the biggest champion that we have. And the younger generation is coming up and they are pushing us a lot. I think it’s good that we can see many [new] faces playing so well.

“There’s room in tennis right now – it’s very open. It’s nice to compete and not really be expecting who can win. It’s more difficult and less predictable this way.”

Kvitova experienced first-hand the unpredictability of the emerging younger generation: at last year’s Australian Open, she was stunned by a then 19-year-old Madison Keys in the third round.

The Australian Open is Kvitova’s toughest major: her best results in Melbourne have been an appearance in the quarterfinal in 2011 and in the semifinal in 2012. But if she could choose which of the four slams she’d like to win, the Czech is up for the challenge.

“If I could have another Grand Slam, I would pick either the Australian Open or the French Open,” she said. “At the Australian Open, the hard courts, I just love that Grand Slam a lot. I feel so relaxed in Australia.”

To make that wish come true, Kvitova is facing an uphill climb. She was forced to withdraw from Shenzhen in her first round match and later from Sydney – where she was the defending champion – due to a stomach virus. The last time she played a complete match was at the Fed Cup final, when she helped propel the Czech Republic to victory more than two months ago.

If Kvitova can shake off the off-season rust and beat her lingering illness, the Czech is poised for a deep run in Melbourne – as long as she can make it past the initial hurdles and build up the confidence she needs.

“I don’t really like the beginning of the tournaments, for sure,” Kvitova said. “But that’s how it is – it’s probably normal that I’m improving my game with each match in a tournament.

“And then when the finish line comes, I’m feeling better about my game.”

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