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Ranking Watch: Belinda's Big Leap

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Top seed at the St. Petersburg ladies Trophy, Belinda Bencic not only walked away with the runner-up trophy to 2015 US Open finalist Roberta Vinci, but the Swiss star became the 116th player in WTA history to make her Top 10 debut.

With her semifinal win over former junior rival and fellow ranking mover Daria Kasatkina, Bencic moved up to No.9 in the world less than three years after capturing back-to-back junior Grand Slam titles at the French Open and Wimbledon, and a little over two years after her WTA-level breakthrough at the 2014 US Open, where she upset former No.1 Jelena Jankovic to reach the quarterfinals.

With six different players made their Top 10 debut in 2015, Bencic is the first to do so this year, and the youngest by four years to join a club where the average age is 26.7.

Bencic is also the fifth Swiss woman to earn a Top 10 WTA Ranking, joining Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, Martina Hingis, Patty Schnyder, and Timea Bacsinszky – who entered the Top 10 last fall. While Maleeva-Fragniere cracked the Top 10 in May 1984 while representing Bulgaria; she later changed nationalities in 1990 when she was also ranked in the Top 10.

In the last 20 years, 10 players have made their Top 10 debut before their 19th birthday:

PLAYER

TOP 10 DEBUT

AGE

Belinda Bencic

February 15, 2016

18

Caroline Wozniacki

May 18, 2009

18

Nicole Vaidisova

August 7, 2006

17

Maria Sharapova

July 5, 2004

17

Svetlana Kuznetsova

June 7, 2004

18

Jelena Dokic

October 8, 2001

18

Kim Clijsters

June 11, 2001

18

Serena Williams

April 5, 1999

17

Anna Kournikova

June 22, 1998

17

Venus Williams

March 30, 1998

17

Martina Hingis

October 7, 1996

16

Who else made great strides last week in St. Petersburg and Kaohsiung?

Daria Kasatkina (+18, No.63 to No.45): Despite losing to Bencic in the semifinals, the 2014 French Open junior champion continues her stellar start 2016, taking out Kirsten Flipkens and Dominika Cibulkova to break the Top 50 for the first time in her young career.

Hsieh Su-Wei (+16, No.81 to No.65): The two-time doubles Grand Slam champion and former World No.23 in singles had an impressive week at the Taiwan Open, reaching the semifinals and losing to eventual champion Misaki Doi.

Laura Siegemund (+10, No.87 to No.77): Out to prove her run to the third round of the Australian Open was no fluke, the German veterean pulled off a dramatic upset over Kristina Mladenovic to reach the round of 16 in St. Petersburg as a lucky loser.

Misaki Doi (+9, No. 61 to No.52): The woman that nearly derailed eventual Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the first round, Doi reached the final in Taiwan, pushing Venus Williams in a hard-fought opening set en route to a career-high ranking.

Anastasija Sevastova (+8, No.103 to No.95): The comeback continues for the former World No.36, who returned to tennis at the start of 2015 after nearly two years away; Sevastova returns to the Top 100 for the first time since January of 2012.

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Wozniacki In Body Paint For SI Swimsuit

Wozniacki In Body Paint For SI Swimsuit

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Caroline Wozniacki joined a number of megastar athletes, including Ronda Rousey and Lindsay Vonn, in newsstands this week for the 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

The World No.19 made the trip to the island of Petit St. Vincent in the Caribbean to take part in the annual shoot and for this year’s issue, Wozniacki was photographed in a different kind of swimsuit – she wore a body-painted swimsuit inspired by For Love and Lemons. The body paint alone took about 15 hours to complete.

“I had a blast, this was so much fun!” Wozniacki said of the photoshoot. “I love my body paint. This has been such an unbelievable experience.”

It’s not the first time Wozniacki has donned a swimsuit for SI – she made her swimsuit issue debut last year.

Check out a behind-the-scenes video of the shoot and the best pictures below, courtesy of SI.com:

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki

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Notes & Netcords: February 15, 2016

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

THE WINNERS:

No.2 seed Roberta Vinci won the battle of youth vs. experience at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, defeating 18-year-old Belinda Bencic 6-4, 6-3 for her 10th career title, and her first on the WTA Premier level. Vinci had previously announced plans to retire after this year but with another title under her belt, the veteran was singing a slightly different tune when asked if she planned to play a few more years.

“No, two, three years, no,” said Vinci. “One more, but maybe. Why not?”

Read the match review and watch highlights.

Taiwan Open top seed Venus Williams defeated the always-dangerous Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-2, to win her 49th career title. Williams didn’t lose a set through five matches in Kaohsiung, and will hold on to her current ranking of No.11 by virtue of winning the title.

“I’ve had so much success in Asia,” Williams said after the match, having won her last two titles at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and the Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai. “I feel like it’s very lucky to play here.”

Read the match review and watch highlights.

GAME, SET MATCH: WTA Insider

Game: Veterans hold off the youth brigade.

There has been much talk about the 2016 setting up as a year of transition on the WTA, with more and more new and young faces making a splash at the season’s early tournaments. But when it comes trophies, the veterans continue to reign supreme. This week it was Venus Williams putting a winless January behind her to win her first title of the season (and 49th overall) at the Taiwan Open. And she did it without dropping a set.

Over at the inaugural St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, Roberta Vinci was putting her own retirement announcement in doubt, as she took out Ana Ivanovic and top-seed Belinda Bencic to win her first title in nearly three years. At the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai last year, the 33-year-old Italian told reporters 2016 would be her final season. But as she continues to play the best tennis of her career – she’s up to No.12 and a Top 10 debut is calling her name – she told me the idea of hanging up her racket at the end of the year isn’t on her mind. She just wants to enjoy what she’s doing right now.

Set: Belinda Bencic and Daria Kasatkina lead the teen bump.

At the start of last week, the stories going into the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy and Taiwan Open surrounded the youth on display at both tournaments. For the most part, those stories held up. 18-year-old Belinda Bencic did well in her first tournament as a top seed, advancing to the St. Petersburg final and ensuring a Top 10 debut on Monday. Her junior rival Daria Kasatkina justified her hype as well, making her second WTA semifinal in her last five events. Kasatkina will move up to a career-high No.45 on Monday. Bencic and Kasatkina are the only two teenagers in the Top 50.

Over in Taiwan, 19-year-old Elizaveta Kulichkova has already made five WTA quarterfinals in her short career, after beating No.68 Zarina Diyas to make the quarterfinals in Kaohsiung.

Get to know Kasatkina and Kulichkova in the WTA Insider Podcast.

Match: Hingis and Mirza chasing Novotna and Sukova.

By winning the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza extended their streaks to 40 consecutive wins and nine straight titles. Their last loss came at the Western & Southern Open in August, where they fell to Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Chan (who won their first title of the year this weekend at home at the Taiwan Open). Hingis and Mirza are four wins away from catching Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova’s streak of 44 in 1990. What’s additionally impressive about Hingis and Mirza’s streak is that they’ve done it during the super tie-break era of doubles, which make the margins of victory so much smaller. Of their 40 straight wins, six came down to a super-tiebreak

But – and I say it again because we get asked this a lot – the longest doubles streak is still a long ways off. Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver won 109 straight matches between April 1983 to July 1985.

More on the SanTina Streak, which both women admit, they’re very well aware of.


RANKING MOVERS:
Notable singles ranking movers for the week of February 15, 2016.

Daria Kasatkina (RUS), +18 (No.63 to 45): 18-year-old Kasatkina makes the week’s biggest ranking jump – after being named one to watch at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, she lived up to the hype by making the quarterfinals. She now reached a career-high ranking of No.45, breaking into the Top 50.  

Hsieh Su-Wei (TPE), +16 (No.81 to No.65): Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei found inspiration from playing in front of a home crowd at the Taiwan Open, reaching the semifinals to jump up 16 ranking spots. 

Misaki Doi (JPN), +9 (No.61 to No.52): Doi’s appearance in the Taiwan Open final boosted her ranking nine spots and puts her within striking distance of the Top 50.

Anastasija Sevastova (LAT), +9 (No.103 to No.95): Playing in the sixth WTA main draw tournament since her return to tennis last January, Sevastova’s run to the quarterfinals at the Taiwan Open sends her ranking back in the Top 100.

Belinda Bencic (SUI), +2 (No.11 to No.9): Bencic was the No.1 at a WTA tournament for the time in her career, and with her run to the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy final she is now into the WTA Top 10.


UPCOMING TOURNAMENTS:

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Premier | $1,734,900 | Hard, Outdoors
Monday, February 15 – Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rio Open
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
International | $226,750 | Clay
Monday, February 15 – Sunday, February 21, 2016

Qatar Total Open
Doha, Qatar
Premier | $2,517,250 | Hard, Outdoors
Sunday, February 21 – Saturday, February 27, 2016

Abierto Mexicano TELCEL
Acapulco, Mexico
International | $226,750 | Hard, Outdoors
Monday, February 22 – Saturday, February 27, 2016

TOP 20 PLAYER SCHEDULES:

1. Serena Williams – Doha
2. Angelique Kerber – Doha
3. Simona Halep – Dubai, Doha
4. Agnieszka Radwanska – Doha
5. Garbiñe Muguruza – Dubai, Doha
6. Maria Sharapova – Doha
7. Flavia Pennetta – (retired)
8. Petra Kvitova – Dubai, Doha
9. Belinda Bencic – Dubai, Doha
10. Lucie Safarova – Doha
11. Carla Suárez Navarro – Dubai, Doha
12. Venus Williams –
13. Roberta Vinci – Dubai, Doha
14. Karolina Pliskova – Dubai, Doha
15. Victoria Azarenka –
16. Timea Bacsinszky – Doha
17. Ana Ivanovic – Dubai
18. Svetlana Kuznetsova – Dubai, Doha
19. Caroline Wozniacki – Doha
20. Jelena Jankovic – Dubai, Doha


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!
Best wishes to those celebrating birthdays this week:

Annika Beck (GER) – February 16, 1994
Carina Witthoeft (GER) – February 16, 1995
Cara Black (ZIM) – February 17, 1979
Madison Keys (USA) – February 17, 1995
Roberta Vinci (ITA) – February 18, 1983
Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) – February 20, 1994

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Vinci Takes St. Petersburg Title

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – No.2 seed Roberta Vinci won the battle of youth vs. experience at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy, defeating 18-year-old Belinda Bencic – who is poised to crack the Top 10 next week – 6-4, 6-3 for her 10th career title, and her first on the WTA Premier level.

Vinci had overcome a thrilling quarterfinal encounter against the big-serving Timea Babos and turned around a lop-sided head-to-head against former No.1 Ana Ivanovic just to reach the final, but the 32-year-old showed few signs of fatigue on Sunday, hitting 32 winners to just 12 errors.

By winning her semifinal against former junior rival Daria Kasatkina, Bencic was assured of a Top 10 debut heading into the championship match, and though she struck 17 winners of her own, she only converted two of six break point opportunities, and was undone by Vinci’s 25 forays to the net – 17 of which ended in favor of the Italian.

“Roberta played amazing today and throughout this tournament,” Bencic said, addressing the champion. “I gave everything I could but today you were much better!”

“It wasn’t easy,” Vinci said during her on-court interview. “It was a tough match; Belinda is a great player, so it’s tough to play against her. She only missed a few balls, so I had to stay focused every single point.

“But I served so good today, so I think that was the key to my victory.”

Having earned a career performance at last year’s US Open – where she ended World No.1 Serena Williams’ quest for the Calendar Year Grand Slam to reach her first major singles final – Vinci had previously announced her intention to make 2016 her last season, but with another title under her belt, the veteran was singing a slightly different tune when asked if she planned to play a few more years.

“No, two, three years, no. One more, but maybe. Why not?”

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Venus Captures 49th Title In Kaohsiung

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan – Taiwan Open top seed Venus Williams survived a topsy-turvy opening set against the always-dangerous Misaki Doi to defeat the Japanesewoman, 6-4, 6-2, to win her 49th career title.

“I’ve had so much success in Asia,” Williams said after the match, having won her last two titles at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and the Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai. “I feel like it’s very lucky to play here.”

The American appeared to have things under control from the outset, but Doi, who held a match point against eventual Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in their Melbourne first round, rebounded in style to win four straight games and lead Williams by a break.

“My opponent was incredible today. I was leading in the first set and then suddenly she was leading!”

That proved to be the last major momentum swing, however, as the former No.1 swept the final three games to take the first set and drop just two more to win the final in just under 90 minutes.

“It’s fun to win a final that was such a challenge, and I appreciated her game.”

Williams didn’t lose a set through five matches in Kaohsiung, and will hold on to her current ranking of No.11 by virtue of winning the title. A fan favorite in Taiwan, she was happy to be celebrating Valentine’s Day at a tournament where she could truly feel the love.

“Of course, I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a win; that’s the best way! I made so many wonderful moments and memories that I’ll be bringing a lot of love back with me to the States.

“The last five days were so exciting, just to feel the enthusiasm and to play great tennis every day. It was perfect week for me and the tournament did an amazing job with everything; the players and fans felt so welcome, so it was perfect.”

Doi had come into the match hoping to win her second career titles – having won her first last fall at the BGL BNP Luxembourg Open – but nonetheless finds herself just outside the Top 50 thanks to her run in Taiwan.

In doubles, hometown favorites Chan Yung-Jan and Chan Hao-Ching won their first title of 2016, defeating Japanese duo Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato, 6-4, 6-3. The Chan sisters roared into the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global last year as Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza’s closest competitors, and remain the last team to defeat Santina, who currently ride a 40-match winning streak – the longest since 1990 (Jana Novotna, Helena Sukova).

More to come…

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