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Old 10-11-2016, 06:52 AM   #121
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more pics on my blog: Maria Sharapova Joins Other Legends Of Tennis At WTT Smash Hits Charity Event

Maria Sharapova


On a night when legendary tennis players Billie Jean King, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova were on the court, along with stars Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis, all eyes were on Maria Sharapova at the 2016 World Team Tennis Smash Hits Charity Event in Las Vegas. Still banned from WTA events due to her ITF suspension, this is as close to seeing Masha in any sort of on-court competition as fans will get until she returns to the tour in April 2017. No matter, it was just fun to see Sharapova out there, and playing mixed doubles with John McEnroe against a team of Andy Roddick and Martina Navratilova. Masha looked good. She had a terrific time laughing with her tennis peers. I canít wait until she is back on a regular basis.

Mark Philippoussis, Maria Sharapova, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe and Taylor Johnson


















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Old 10-22-2016, 01:46 AM   #122
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more pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Preview

Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova


Ah, my love/hate relationship with the WTA Finals. On the one hand, it’s probably my favorite event outside of the Olympics and US Open. But it also means the end of the year is near. And what a year it has been. I would never have guessed back on January 1st that Angelique Kerber would end the season as the world #1, Player of the Year and reach 3 Major finals, winning 2. Yet that’s exactly what happened. Even if Serena Williams had chosen to play the 2016 WTA Finals in Singapore, Angie would still have been the top seed. Let me take a quick look at a few of the qualifiers for Singapore and assess their chances.

Madison Keys


With Angie being the top seed, I guess I should start with her, right? Haha! This must be your first time reading one of my tennis posts. Of course I am starting off with my two favorite players in the draw, Madison Keys and Simona Halep. Maddie’s problem is that she is in the Red Group with two players that have a style that frustrates her, Kerber and Halep. I would favor her to get out of the White Group and into the semifinals, but in the Red Group she will need to bring her A game to Singapore to get out of the round robin stage.

Simona Halep with 2016 Diamond ACES Award, given due to her off-court and charitable
activities promoting the game



Simona Halep once gave Serena Williams her worst ever loss at the WTA Finals. I don’t know if Simona will need that level of effort when she faces Angelique Kerber in the round robin of Red Group play, but it wouldn’t hurt. While fans still await Halep’s breakthrough to win a Major, a title at the WTA Finals would be nice until then…much like what Agnieszka Radwanska did in Singapore last year.

Garbine Muguruza


Garbine Muguruza is my new Petra Kvitova. The reigning Roland Garros champion can be brilliant, as she was in Paris, or go on walkabouts, as she does from time to time. Of all the players in Singapore this year, I have to admit, Madison Keys fan that I am, Garbine Muguruza is the most talented player in the draw. The problem is, like Petra, Garbi doesn’t always show it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mugu win this or lose all 3 of her initial White Group round robin matches.

Karolina Pliskova


The woman who aced Serena out of the 2016 US Open, Karolina Pliskova, has the biggest single weapon at this year’s WTA Finals, her serve. She led the tour in aces this year. Her court coverage and movement has improved, but it is still a weakness. She is a future Major winner, in my opinion. I just don’t think this is the year she wins the WTA Finals.

Johanna Konta with 2016 Most Improved Player trophy


Johanna Konta, the 2016 Most Improved Player winner, might be new to the party…but don’t for a second think she can’t win this. Jo isn’t my top betting pick to take the title…that would be Angie or Simona, but I would call her my top darkhorse. She was completely worthy of Most Improved Player…and there is still room to grow. A title here in Singapore would make me wonder if next year she could duplicate what Angie did this year.

Angelique Kerber with 2016 Player of the Year award


What else is there to say about what Angelique Kerber, the 2016 WTA Player of the Year, did this season? I almost feel like she could have won both Player of the Year and Most Improved. She was already a top 10 player, sure…but it was amazing to see where she was and where she went to in her game this year. I would say Singapore is hers to win or lose, except that she did show some signs of vulnerability in recent weeks. It’s one thing to chase #1 and get there. It’s another to stay there and defend your ranking.

Agnieszka Radwanska


The 2015 Singapore champion is back. Then again, why wouldn’t Agnieszka Radwanska be back. She just keeps going and going. She has yet to capture that elusive Major title, but she did win her biggest title here last year. I didn’t think she would take the title last. I will not make the mistake of underestimating the little Tennis Ninja again. It’s so wide open this year with no Serena, no Sharapova, no Azarenka and no Kvitova. I will not say anybody is incapable of winning.















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Old 10-24-2016, 04:55 AM   #123
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more pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Day One: Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber Open With Wins

Simona Halep


Day one of the 2016 WTA Finals thankfully is over. I always have mixed emotions when two of the players on my current tennis fandom Mt. Rushmore play. In this case it was my top favorite, Madison Keys, taking on Simona Halep (the other two on my current Mt. Rushmore are Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova, both of whom, for different reasons, are not in Singapore). So while I applaud Halepeno for her 6-2 6-4 victory, itís tough to see Maddie open up round robin play in a hole. Although Agnieszka Radwanska won Singapore last year with 2 losses in round robin play, thatís not an ideal plan to try to qualify for the semifinals with multiple losses. What Aga did was the exception, not the rule. Keys must win against Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday and should root for Simona to beat Angelique Kerber. Angie outlasted Domi in their opening round robin match, 7-6 (5) 2-6 6-3. If Keys and Halep win their matches Tuesday, it opens the possibility of both of them making the semifinals out of the Red Group if Maddie can go on and defeat Kerber on Thursday. Hereís hoping that scenario comes to fruition.

3 SIMONA HALEP d. 6 Madison Keys, 6-2 6-4

w/Martina Navratilova










1 ANGELIQUE KERBER d. 7 Dominika Cibulkova, 7-6 (5) 2-6 6-3










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Old 10-25-2016, 12:28 AM   #124
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more pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Day Two: Karolina Pliskova, Svetlana Kuznetsova Win Three-Set Battles

Karolina Pliskova


Before I give a few quick thoughts about the two opening White Group matches on day two of the 2016 WTA Finals, I have to comment on the Johanna Konta situation. When I did my WTA Finals preview post, Konta was in. But a last minute tournament win by Svetlana Kuznetsova knocked Jo out of the Singapore draw. All that is fair and square. No issues. The problem I have is that the WTA should have a week in between the final qualifying tournament and the Tour Finals. That way you donít have a player, in this case Johanna Konta, go through all the media pomp and circumstanceÖand then have to get airbrushed out of the official photo. This was a bad look that the WTA should not let happen again.

ÖnowÖ

Sveta showed tremendous heart, and endurance, having flown in from her tournament win in Moscow to take down defending Singapore champion Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets, 7-5 1-6 7-5. Iím not sure if Iím more impressed by Kuznetsovaís resilience or her quick thinking, giving herself a haircut on-court after her ponytail kept getting in her way. Aga won this event with 2 round robin losses last year. Itís probably not a good idea to try that route again. She will need to beat both Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova. Those two also played a three set seesaw battle. Ultimately, Garbi couldnít hold on to a 5-2 third set lead as Pliskova won the struggle, 6-2 6-7 (4) 7-5. From a personal fanís perspective, Iíd like to see Karolina and Mugu make the semis from the White Group. They both need wins on Wednesday for that possibility to stay alive.

8 SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA d. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska, 7-5 1-6 7-5








4 KAROLINA PLISKOVA d. 5 Garbine Muguruza, 6-2 6-7 (4) 7-5








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Old 10-25-2016, 11:40 PM   #125
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More pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Day Three: Madison Keys Wins, Still Alive For Semis; Simona Halep Falls To Kerber

Madison Keys


Iíve made no secret of my hope that Madison Keys and Simona Halep make the semifinals of the 2016 WTA Finals out of the Red Group. Unfortunately, there is only one scenario in which that can happen. Maddie took care of Dominika Cibulkova 6-1 6-4 on day three, but Simona fell to Angelique Kerber, 6-4 6-2. That leaves Angie at 2-0, Simona at 1-1, Maddie at 1-1 and Domi at 0-2 so far in round robin play. On Thursday, Maddie plays Angie while Simona plays Domi. Based on tiebreaker rules, for Halep and Keys to both advance, each has to win their match on Thursday in straight sets. Even though Halep should be favored to beat Cibulkova, Domi plays her very well. That could go three sets. And if Simona does manage to beat Domi in straight sets in Thursdayís first match, Angie will know she needs to at least win one set against Maddie to advance. It will be tough enough for Keys to try to beat world #1 Kerber. If Angie knows she needs to put her foot on the gas, it will be extremely difficult on Maddie. But these are the kind of matches that can be career breakthroughs.

DOUBLES DRAW CEREMONY

Team Bucie (Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova)


The Chan Sisters (Yung-Jan [Yongran] & Hao-Ching)


Martina Hingis, Sania Mirza and Ekaterina Makarova


1 ANGELIQUE KERBER d. 3 Simona Halep, 6-4 6-2








6 MADISON KEYS d. 7 Dominika Cibulkova, 6-1 6-4






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Old 10-27-2016, 12:31 AM   #126
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more pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Day Four: Garbine Muguruza Eliminated From Semifinal Contention; Svetlana Kuznetsova First To Qualify

Garbine Muguruza


While I am unabashedly rooting for Madison Keys and Simona Halep to advance to the semifinals from the Red Group at the 2016 WTA Finals, in the White Group it was all about Garbine Muguruza for me. Well, Garbi will make it to the semifinals of the year-end tournamentÖone day, just not this year. After Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Mugu 7-6 (1) 6-3 and the indefatigable Svetlana Kuznetsova took down Karolina Pliskova, 3-6 6-2 7-6 (6), Garbi cannot advance to the semifinals, regardless of the outcome of her upcoming match on Friday with Sveta. In fact, that match means nothing to either of them. Kuznetsova, 2-0 in round robin play so far, is already guaranteed to make the semis. The winner of the Agnieszka Radwanska v Karolina Pliskova match will join Sveta. As I said on the eve of play starting, Mugu is the new Petra Kvitova. When she is at her best she is nearly unbeatable, but we so rarely see that side of her. She could have won this event or lost all three of her round robin matches. Since Sveta has nothing to play for Friday, I imagine Garbi will win their match and avoid an 0-3 round robin record as Kuznetsova conserves energy for the semifinal round.

8 SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA d. 4 Karolina Pliskova, 3-6 6-2 7-6 (6)








2 AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA d. 5 Garbine Muguruza, 7-6 (1) 6-3






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Old 10-28-2016, 12:35 AM   #127
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more pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Day Five: Team Bucie Advances To Semifinals In Doubles; Madison Keys Ousted In Singles

Team Bucie


And so ends my 2016 tennis season as a fan. Ok, not really. But it feels like a lot of wind was let out of my balloon as Madison Keys, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza all failed to get out of the round robin stage at the 2016 WTA Finals. As a lifelong tennis fan, Iíll still watch the rest of the singles play, but my hardcore rooting interest now turns to doubles. Help me, Team Bucie. Youíre my only hope. Oh my, they almost crashed out of Singapore, too. Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, aka Team Bucie, had to fight off 3 match points against them to finally eliminate Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova in a super tiebreak 5-7 7-6 (6) [10-2]. I say they are my only fandom hope, but there is another. The Chan Sisters, Hao-Ching and Yung-Jan (Yongran), also play on Friday. But they have a tough task taking on the reunited Team Santina, Sania Mirza and Hall of Famer Martina Hingis. I hope the Chan sisters prevail. However, even if they donít I still have Team Bucie at least making it to Saturdayís semifinal stage.

I usually focus on the winners in the picture and video section, but since this is the last Iíll see of Maddie and Simona in WTA sanctioned play until January, Iím just going to post their photos along with Team Bucie. Iíll get back to the singles semifinalists Saturday.

THE CHAN SISTERS PHOTOSHOOT










WTA LEGENDS AMBASSADORS

Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Mary Pierce, Monica Seles, Iva Majoli and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario


3 SIMONA HALEP lost to 7 Dominika Cibulkova, 3-6 6-7 (5)






6 MADISON KEYS lost to 1 Angelique Kerber, 3-6 3-6




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Old 10-28-2016, 11:40 PM   #128
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more pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Day Six: Goodbye, Garbine (and the Chan Sisters, too)

Garbine Muguruza


I bid goodbye already to Madison Keys and Simona Halep, two of my top favorites at the 2016 WTA Finals. They are officially gone, and after day six so is Garbine Muguruza. Well, really she was eliminated from semifinal play a few days ago. Her match against Svetlana Kuznetsova on Friday was meaningless to both of them. No matter the outcome, Sveta is heading to the semis while Mugu is heading home. That Garbi won 3-6 6-0 6-1 just means Kuznetsova wasnít willing to expend any energy she will need on Saturday. It has been a rough WTA Finals as a fan for me. All of my top favorites are either not here or not advancing. The Chan sisters, Yung-Jan (Yongran) and Hao-Ching, also bowed out to Team Santina, Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis. So as I did yesterday, I will focus the photo and video section on my top favorites and return to the winners after the semifinals have been played. All I have left in Singapore are Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Go Team Bucie!

HAO-CHING CHAN/YUNG-JAN CHAN lost to Sania Mirza/Martina Hingis, 6-7 (10) 5-7




5 GARBINE MUGURUZA d. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, 3-6 6-0 6-1






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Old 10-29-2016, 10:49 PM   #129
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more pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Day Seven: Elena Vesnina/Ekaterina Makarova Advance To Doubles Final, Will Play Team Bucie

Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova


As all my rooting favorites fell in singles at the 2016 WTA Finals and my attention turned to my two favorite doubles pairs, Team Bucie and the Chan sisters, I overlooked another duo for whom I root, Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova. With their 3-6 6-2 [10-6] victory over Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, Kate and Elena will advance to the championship match against Team Bucie, who knocked out top seeded doubles team Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, 6-3 7-5. In a match between the reigning US Open champions, Team Bucie, and the reigning Olympic Gold Medalists, Vesnina and Makarova, Iím Team Bucie all the way. However, I will still be happy should Kate and Elena take the title.

3 BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS/LUCIE SAFAROVA d. 1 Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic, 6-3 7-5






7 DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA d. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, 1-6 7-6 (2) 6-4






1 ANGELIQUE KERBER d. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2 6-1






4 EKATERINA MAKAROVA/ELENA VESNINA d. 2 Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza, 3-6 6-2 [10-6]




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Old 10-30-2016, 06:33 PM   #130
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more pics and video on my blog: 2016 WTA Finals Day Eight: Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina Win Doubles Title

Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina


The 2016 WTA Finals might have disappointed me in singles, but at least the doubles championship featured my favorite duo, Team Bucie, against another of the top pairs, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. So while I was pulling for Team Bucie, a 7-6 (5) 6-3 title victory by Kate and Elena is still cause to celebrate. It was the reigning Olympic womenís doubles Gold Medalists taking out the reigning US Open womenís doubles champions. Right now, womenís doubles is in a good place, even without the Williams sisters playing on any consistent basis outside the Majors. Team Bucie, Makarova/Vesnina, Garcia/Mladenovic and whomever pairs with Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis going forward give the WTA storylines and personalities that I hope they promote more in 2017. There is a lot of exciting tennis happening in doubles!

SINGLES FINAL

7 DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA d. 1 Angelique Kerber, 6-3 6-4










with Monica Seles




DOUBLES FINAL

4 EKATERINA MAKAROVA d. 3 Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova, 7-6 (5) 6-3












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