by Karen 

A few days ago one of my tennis buddies said to me that she felt like something was going to happen at Wimbledon.  She said either Serena will lose early or Fed will go out early.  Neither player lost in the first round but in the case of Serena she struggled mightily with nerves in her first set against the unheralded Gasparayan.  In the second set she did not have to play pretty tennis but she did what needed to be done in order to move on.
The same cannot be said for the hot and cold Simona Halep (seeded No. 3) who went out in spectacular fashion to Jana Cepelova who notched just her second win of the season.  This was by any account a really weak effort by Halep.  Not only did she have semifinal points to defend at this tournament, but she had a really good opportunity to work her way through her side of the draw with a potential semifinal against Petra Kvitova.  That is not to be and I am hopeful that Halep will take these early losses at the Major events as a sign that her game and mental attitude needs a  lot of work.
After her loss to Lucic-Baroni in Paris, she indicated that she was trying to do too much off the ground.  She subsequently fired her coach and commenced working with Darren Cahill.  While she did not have a lot of match time on the grass (losing to Mladenovic in Birmingham), she seems to have not learned from her French Open failure as on the two occasions that she has lost, she has lost matches playing hit hard tennis and when that does not work, hit it even harder.  Someone needs to tell her that that is not her game and she should go back to working the point until she finds an opening and then finish with her kill shot. 
Halep losing was not the only top seed going out on the women’s side.  As Genie Bouchard said in her post match press conference, “I believe that the world has now come to an end”.  I don’t think I would be that dramatic, but I do believe that the alarm bells that have been ringing all year are now pealing and as a result Bouchard will need to take a step back and evaluate her game as well as the team around her.  I don’t know if the problem lies with her coach, but one thing that has struck me about Bouchard this year is the weight loss that for me has taken away her weight of shot.  Before the start of this year’s tournament, I watched last year’s final and Bouchard had stronger legs and a bigger physique.  She had well developed muscular arms and legs and this is one of the reasons why she was able to win as many matches as she did last year.   This year she is significantly thinner and I don’t know if the two go hand in hand but it is hard to ignore that particular glaring fact.
As I opined earlier, this so-called sophomore slump of Bouchard is not a slump but an indicator of the kind of player that she really is.  I don’t know whether adding back the muscle that she has undoubtedly lost will help her cause but it could not hurt her to try something new.   With Halep and Bouchard losing early, the draw has opened up significantly for a fair number of players to take advantage.  
At the close of play today, Madison Keys, one of the players who could benefit from the loss of Halep and Bouchard was locked in a 3 set battle with Stefanie Voegele. 
News came today that the doubles team of Venus and Serena have withdrawn from the Championships. No word as to the reason behind the withdrawal but hopefully it is because both women have realized that they will need to be in peak optimum condition in order to win this title.  
Tomorrow’s Day 3 OOP sees 32 matches from the top half of the women’s draw which features both Williams Sisters and Sharapova.  Also in action will be Ana Ivanovic and Sloane Stephens.  The Spin’s Picks are highlighted below.
Court Assignment
Williams (S) v. Babos
No. 1
Hantuchova v. Watson
No. 2
Sharapova v. Hogencamp
Williams (V) v. Putintseva
No. 3
Mattek-Sands v. Ivanovic
No. 12
Radwanska (U) v. Stosur
Errani v. Krunic
No. 18
Bencic v. Friedsam
Flipkens v. Azarenka
Court 8
Ziyas v. Sasnovich
Stephens v. Davis
No. 16
Tsurenko v Begu
No. 17
Pliskova v Vandeweghe
Ostapenko v Mladenovic
Hsieh v Safarova
From the Commentary Booth

Most of what I have been listening to has been very good commentary so far.  Perhaps this is because I have had the distinct pleasure of getting streams that have European commentators who know not to talk during points, or who only speak when they have something of value to add to the tennis.  Unfortunately, this ended today while I was watching the Keys/Voegele match. 

I believe the commentary team was made up of  Doug Adler and Jeff Tarango.  For the first time in a long while I wanted to verbally abuse someone on social media.  Luckily for me, I did not. Below are a series of tweets which told the story about the men in the booth:

No clue who is playing 

Being the ultimate Monday Morning Quarterback 

Killing me softly 

Trashing Lindsay Davenport 

Needs to be fired 

We all wondered who Vergeller or Vergulla was

We were in Pain 

People want him to seek employment elsewhere 

Don’t forget the screamingly obvious commentary 

See or heard something in the commentary booth that you want to share, hit me up on Twitter or in the comments.  


by Karen 

Wimbledon Day One has come and gone and the matches have been as exhilarating as we thought they would be. 
First up how great was Venus Williams today?  If you have not seen the match, get yourself to YouTube or hope that Tennis Channel features this match during Wimbledon Primetime.  It was Venus at her absolute best.  I watched this match at work on the BBC feed and at one point neither commentator had words to describe what Venus was doing out there.  It was just a commanding performance.  It reminded me and many other tennis fans just how much we truly loved seeing Venus at Wimbledon.   The match stats tell you everything you need to know about how efficient Venus was out there today.  If she never plays like this again for the rest of the year, I can say that I am ecstatically happy about this particular performance 

 A good tennis friend of mine tweeted that Venus was Petra’ing.  I had to remind her that Venus invented this kind of tennis.

In other news, Lucie Safarova avoided the upset bug and pulled through in 3 tough sets against Alison Riske.  Belinda Bencic also had to go 3 sets and must be thanking her lucky stars that if not for Pironkova’s untimely injury she would have been out in the first round.  Margarite Gasparan reminded us of the depth of talent on the WTA Tour as she went up an early break against Serena Williams playing brilliant tennis, but like many before her, was unable to sustain that level of play over the match and lost in straight sets. 
Some players are trying to find their grass legs and this was obvious from the many long matches that were played today.  Karolina Pliskova managed to eke out a 3 set win. Carla Suarez-Navarro was the first top seed out of the tournament but I doubt if we can call that an upset. 

Tomorrow sees the first match from the reigning champion on the women’s side, Petra Kvitova as she opens up her title defence against Kiki Bertens.  If Kvitova is not on her game she could see herself facing the exit.  Last year’s finalist Eugenie Bouchard also begins her debut as well as Laura Robson and Caroline Wozniacki. 

Court Assignment
Bertens v. Kvitova
No. 1
Cepelova v. Halep
No. 2
Makarova v. Vichery
Wozniacki v. Zheng
No. 3
Rodina v. Robson
Duan v. Bouchard
No. 12
Watson v. Garcia (continued from Day 1)
Radwanska (A) v. Hradecka
Gajdosova v. Lisicki
No. 18
Witthoeft v. Kerber
Kuznetsova v. Siegemund
No. 4
Arruabarrena v. Parmentier
Mitu v. Govortsova
No. 5
Pavlyuchenkova v. Barthel (match of the day)
Knapp v. Rybarikova
No. 6
Pliskova (Kr) v. Smitkova
Siniakova v. Allertova (Darkhorse pick to do damage)
No. 17
Doi v. Svitolina
Larsson v. McHale
No. 8
Linette v. Nara
No. 9
Puig v. Nicolescu
No. 10
Lucic-Baroni v. Shvedova
Karatantcheva v. Soler-Espinosa
No. 11
Maria v. Jovanovski
Wickmayer v. a Kulichkova
No. 15
Muguruza v. Lepchenko
Peraira v. Giorgi
No. 16
Paszek v. Dellacqua
Jankovic v. Vesnina
No. 17
Tomljanovic v. Koulakova
Keys v. Voegele (Voegele may pull the upset in this one)
Bacsinszky v. Georges
Konjuh v. Cornet



by Karen 

Ready, Play.  These words while not unique to the sport of tennis has a special ring to it when said by the umpires at The Championships, Wimbledon. 

This year’s Championships have not yet begun and already controversy is in the air with regard to the scheduling of matches during the opening day.  Day 1 starts with the top half of the group.  As is the norm, last year’s Gentlemen’s Champion Novak Djokovic opens play on Centre Court.   The rest of the day’s proceedings are following the Wimbledon pattern of scheduling 2 men’s matches on Centre Court and No. 1 Court and only 1 women’s match.  Last year they strayed from this and scheduled 2 women’s matches on the 2 main show courts.  One can only hope that this year will not be any different. 

Order of Play – Day 1 

Maria Sharapova v. Joanna Konta 

Serena Williams v. Margarita Gasparyan

Riske v. Safarova (potential upset special)
Watson v. Garcia 

Brengle v. Williams (V)

Kontaveit v Azarenka 

Hercog v. Davis 

Bencic v. Pironkova – Match of the day
Rogers v. Petkovic 

Suarez-Navarro v. Ostapenko

Hantuchova v. Cibulkova

Pliskova v. Falconi
Errani v. Schiavone 

Babos v. Cetkovska 
Dulgheru v. Mladenovic

Gavrilova v Begu 

Jankovic v. Lucic-Baroni 
Gallovits-Hall v Radwanska (U)


Van Uutvanck v. Mattek-Sands
Gibbs v. Tsurenko

Pennetta v. Diyas 

Flipkens v Beck 
Dellacqua v. Shvedova 

COURT NO.  15 
Vandeweghe v Schmiedlova (SVK) 
Zhu v Sasnovich 

Hogenkamp v Wang 
Erakovic v Putintseva 

Mariana Duque-Marino v Naomi Broady 
Barbora Strycova v Sloane Stephens (could be an upset) 

Where to Watch The Championships 

If you are living outside the United States and Canada and do not have access to WatchESPN or ESPN3, you can subscribe to bet365.com and have the ability to watch all match courts all the time.  There is a fee (US$10.00) and it is a betting website but you do not need to bet.  Unfortunately, there are no replays so if you snooze you lose. 

There is also the always reliable livescorehunter.com  for those of you who do not wish to subscribe. 

I hope you enjoy the next 2 weeks because I most certainly will. 


The foremost topic that will be on everyone’s lips is can she do it?  She is already half way there and there are many who believe that if not now, then it will never happen.  We are of course talking about Serena Williams’ chase into history to complete the calendar year Grand Slam and be two-thirds of the way through to tying Steff Graf’s record.  Winner of the Australian and French Open, Serena has not won Wimbledon since her return from life threatening injuries in 2012.   She seems to be on a mission to accomplish these milestones and as a fan of the women’s game, I am slowly rooting her on.

Can Venus raise Venus Rosewater dish one more time?  At 35 years young, Venus has accomplished so much in her career. After a fast start in 2015, she has tapered off somewhat with some quite disappointing results.  However, I am looking forward to seeing her on her beloved grass. I would have loved to see her play a warm up tournament as she has not played a competitive match since losing early at the French.  If the seeds hold, she is scheduled to meet her sister in the fourth round. 

News broke early this week that current Wimbledon title holder, Petra Kvitova has withdrawn from the Aegon Championships at Eastbourne with a sore throat.  While I am not too concerned as to whether Petra will be ready for her Wimbledon title defence, I can’t help but think that she needs some match play heading into Wimbledon.  Petra, like Venus has not played a competitive match since losing in the fourth round at the French.  As most people know last year Kvitova played Wimbledon with her right leg taped, but she was able to power her way through and claim her second Wimbledon title.  There is really no one on her side of the draw who could cause her problems, but look for the consistent Nara to cause her problems and could possibly pull the upset.  

Simona Halep is once again coachless, choosing to let her Romanian coach go after losing in the quarter-finals of Birmingham to Kristina Mladenovic.  Halep will be “coached” by Darren Cahill during the Championships.  A semifinalist last year, Halep seems to be struggling not with the pressure of performing but with the pressure of expectations.  I believe that Simona is one of those players who just wants to get out on court and play tennis.  The peripheral things that attend being a top player seem to be more of a distraction for her.  Here’s hoping that she is able to maintain her focus during the 2 weeks of the Championships. She is on the bottom half of the draw and is scheduled to face Petra Kvitova in the semifinals if the seeds hold.  The most dangerous players on her side of the draw is Sabine Lisicki and Svetlana Kuznetsova.  

Maria Sharapova has not played a match since being ousted in the fourth round at the French Open. Since winning the title here in 2004, Sharapova has only made one other final and that was a losing effort to Petra Kvitova in 2011. Sharapova has a tricky draw but I don’t see anyone who could cause her any difficulties.  She is scheduled to face Johanna Konta who lost to Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals of Eastbourne this week.  Konta picked up an injury during that match and if she plays as well as she did in Eastbourne, look for her to give Sharapova some trouble in the early goings.   The most dangerous player in Sharapova’s section of the top draw are Zarina Diyas, Daria Gavrilova (who has caused her trouble in the past) and the always dangerous Flavia Pennetta.  Sharapova is on the top half of the draw with Serena Williams and if seedings hold they could meet in the semifinals.  

Can Eugenie Bouchard recapture the magic of 2014 once she steps on the lawns of SW19.  A former junior champion here, it could be that the sight of her biggest failure and also her biggest accomplishment could either make her rise up or she will continue in the doldrums with her game.  Bouchard has found herself in the bottom half of the draw in the same quarter as last year’s champion, Petra Kvitova.  She has a very tough draw and with her confidence at an all time low, she could find herself searching for answers after her first round match.  Look for an early exit.  
Who will be the breakout star of the Championships.  At the Australian Open it was Madison Keys who aced her way to the semifinal.  At the French, it was the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova who found her way to the final and eventually ended up winning a set in a very memorable final.  Lucie Safarova and her pick up partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands would come back to win the women’s doubles title, making them half way to winning a calendar year Grand Slam in doubles.

Madison Keys has claimed to love the grass.  Can she make magic happen at the Championships this year?  Last year she earned her first WTA title by defeating Angelique Kerber in one of the best finals of the year.   Keys suffered an injury last year during her match against Shvedova.  Hoefully she is healthy for a run at the Championships. She has had a disappointing grass outing this season, losing her opening match to Belinda Bencic in straight sets. 

Sloane Stephens has been playing inspired tennis.  She has still not regained the form that took her to the semifinals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon 2 years ago, and it remains to be seen whether she is ready to take that next step.  The next few weeks and months will answer those questions.
Without further ado, here are the Spin’s list of Contenders, Pretenders and Maybes for the third Major of the tennis season, The Championships, Wimbledon


·         Serena Williams (has not won here since 2012)
·         Simona Halep (last year’s semifinalist and can play on grass)
·         Petra Kvitova (2x champion. Does she really need match play to win a third title?)
·         Madison Keys (failed to defend her Eastbourne title, but hopefully with a few wins in the early rounds she should have her groove back)
·         Angelique Kerber (finally won a title on grass playing inspired tennis.  Can she back it up at a Major)
·         Ana Ivanovic (made the semis here in 2007.  Not much is expected here)
·         Belinda Bencic (a former junior champion here.  Loves the grass & plays well on it)
·         Sloane Stephens (former semifinalist, trying to find her way back to the top of the game)
·         Karolina Pliskova (big serve & ground strokes but needs to schedule better)
·         Kristina Mladenovic (made the semis in Birmingham and loves the big stage.  Can she repeat her FO performance here?)
·         Maria Sharapova (former champion & semifinalist.  Has not been a feature on fast surfaces but this is Wimbledon)
·         Garbine Muguruza (has played well on the big stage.  Has not done much on the grass before this)
·         Camila Giorgi (won her first title this season on grass. Fell to Gavrilova in Eastbourne.  Needs the rest)
·         Ekaterina Makarova (has been struggling this season since losing in the semis in Australia.  Game is suited to the green stuff)


·         Victoria Azarenka (made the semifinals here twice.  Game not suited for grass. Pulled out of Eastbourne with recurring foot injury)
·         Svetlana Kuznetsova (has been playing solid tennis.  Made the quarters here in 2008)
·         Alize Cornet (pulled one of the biggest upsets at Wimbledon by taking out Serena last year.  Has not been much of a factor this year)
·         Eugenie Bouchard (the trials of Sisyphus are many and so are the trials of Bouchard. Playing in Eastbourne this week)
·         Lucie Safarova (Made the semis here last year which is her best showing. Doubtful she can back it up again this year)



Williams v. Bencic
Diyas v. Pliskova
Wozniacki v. Halep 
Keys v. Svitolina


Williams v. Pliskova
Halep v. Keys


Williams over Halep 


Recently Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, 2014’s WTA break out player has come under increased scrutiny as a result of her very poor performances this year.  Of her most recent 11 events, Bouchard has lost in the first round 10 of 11 of those times.  One word that keeps coming up each time Bouchard loses is the inevitable sophomore slump.  I have been hearing this for quite some time and so I thought I would do some research on this, what I would term recent event, to see whether this sophomore slump has always been around or is it something of more recent persuasion.
Once I decided to undertake this venture, I was about to start with the reigning No.1, Serena Williams and track her results after her breakout win at the US Open in 1999.  While that may have been a good starting point, I thought that it would probably be best to lead with someone who was more recent, and that would be Maria Sharapova who won her first Grand Slam in 2004 at Wimbledon.  However, I don’t think that would have done the job that I was trying to do.   I thought, therefore, that I would go back to 2000 and to the time of Lindsay Davenport, track the women who lost to the eventual champions of Grand Slams in that year and see what their results were on the WTA Tour (not the ITF Tour) after their break out season.  As such, this analysis will not go on the record of the women who won Grand Slams but rather the women who did not.  Neither Bouchard, and to a lesser extent Sloane Stephens have won a Slam and so the moniker of sophomore slump would abound to them.
Grand Slam winners 2000-2015

2000 Davenport Pierce Williams (V) Williams 
2001 Capriati Capriati Williams (V) Williams (V)
2002 Capriati Williams (s) Williams (V) Williams (S)
2003 Williams (s) Henin Williams (S) Henin
2004 Henin Myskina Sharapova Kuznetsova
2005 Williams (s) Henin Willams (V) Clijsters
2006 Mauresmo Henin Mauresmo Sharapova
2007 Williams (s) Henin Williams (V) Henin
2008 Sharapova Ivanovic Williams (V) Williams (S)
2009 Williams (s) Kuznetsova Williams (S) Clijsters
2010 Williams (s) Schiavone Williams (S) Clijsters
2011 Clijsters Li Na Kvitova Stosur
2012 Azarenka Sharapova Williams (S) Williams (S)
2013 Azarenka Williams (s) Bartoli Williams (S)
2014 Li Na Sharapova Kvitova Williams 
2015 Williams (s) Williams (s)

Grand Slam finalist 2000-2015

Hingis Martinez Davenport Davenport
Hingis Clijsters Henin Williams (S)
Hingis Williams (V) Williams (S) Williams (V)
Williams (V) Clijsters Williams (V) Clijsters
Clijsters Dementieva Williams (S) Dementieva
Davenport Pierce Davenport Pierce
Henin Kuznetsova Henin Henin
Sharapova Ivanovic Bartoli Kuznetsova
Ivanovic Safina Williams (S) Jankovic
Safina Safina Williams (V) Wozniacki
Henin Stosur Zvonreva Zvonreva
Na Schiavone Sharapova Williams (S)
Sharapova Errani Radwanska Azarenka
Na Sharapova Lisicki Azarenka
Cibulkova Halep  Bouchard Wozniacki
Sharapova Safarova

I looked at the above list, stretching back to January 2000 and while many of these players who lost in Grand Slam finals were already Grand Slam champions in their own right, there are many in the above list who would go on to have great careers, especially following their turn as a Grand Slam finalist.
The question to be asked then is why does the media, and to some extent tennis fans, attempt to explain a slump of today’s players as a sophomore slump.  A sophomore slump is defined as an “instance in which a second effort fails to live up to the standards of the first effort”.   In the circumstances a true definition of sophomore slump should not apply to Eugenie Bouchard or Sloane Stephens. While many persons in the media and tennis fandom tend to use performances at Grand Slams to determine whether a player has performed admirably or not, I tend to go by their week in/week out performances as that is usually a better benchmark of a player’s consistency, and it gives a better overall impression of how that player will deal with success if and when it happens on the Grand Slam stages.
Some will undoubtedly argue that the 2000s were a golden age for women’s tennis.   To counter those arguments I looked at data from 1990 onwards and the results were almost the same in terms of the results of players who were runners up in Grand Slam matches.
From 1990 to 1999, the players who contended for Grand Slams included the likes of Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Conchita Martinez, amongst others.  These women not only contended for Major titles, but they also competed day in and day out on the regular women’s Tour.  They posted significant results, won the big titles and competed week in and week out with regular results.
Of course when one looks at data, it will no doubt give you whatever it is that you are looking for.   To help me to understand why these 2 women have failed so spectacularly to back up their results, I took a look back at their early results at the start of their careers.
Before she had her breakout season in 2014, the below were the results of Eugenie Bouchard (as per the WTA website):
Eugenie Bouchard (25 February 1994)
·         2013 – Breakthrough first Top 50 season (finishing No.32); runner-up at Osaka (l. to Stosur); SF twice at Strasbourg (l. to Cornet) and Québec City (l. to Safarova); QF twice at Charleston and Tokyo [Pan Pacific]; reached 3r once (Wimbledon) and 2r seven times (incl. Roland Garros, US Open); fell 1r four times and in qualifying five times (incl. Australian Open); made Top 100 debut on April 8 (after Charleston; rose from No.114 to No.95) and Top 50 debut on September 16 (after Québec City; rose from No.53 to No.46).
2012 – QF at Washington DC (l. to Stephens); reached 2r three times; fell in qualifying three times; won four singles titles and one doubles title on ITF Circuit; also part of historic junior duo at Wimbledon in 2012, winning girls’ title while Filip Peliwo won boys’ title (no Canadian had ever won a junior Grand Slam singles title before).
2011 – Played first three WTA main draws, reaching 2r once (College Park) and falling 1r twice (Toronto, Québec City); won two singles titles on ITF Circuit.

  • 2010 – Fell in WTA qualifying once (Montréal).
  • ·         2009 – Fell in WTA qualifying once (Toronto).
  • ·         2008 – Played first WTA qualifying (Montréal).
The results of Sloane Stephens (20 March 1993) are not much better
·         2012 – First Top 40 season (finishing No.38); SF twice at Strasbourg (l. to Schiavone) and Washington DC (l. to Rybarikova); reached 4r once (Roland Garros), 3r four times (incl. Wimbledon and US Open) and 2r four times (incl. Australian Open and Indian Wells – l. to Kerber 26 75 64; led 62 51 w/mp); fell 1r six times (incl. Carlsbad – l. to Oudin 16 76(6) 60; held 2mp at 6-4 in second set tie-break) and in qualifying three times; made Top 50 debut on July 9 (after Wimbledon; rose from No.59 to No.49); missed all post-US Open competition w/left abdominal injury (withdrew from Seoul, Beijing, Osaka and Luxembourg).
2011 – First Top 100 season; QF at Carlsbad; reached 3r once (US Open) and 2r twice; fell 1r five times (incl.Roland Garros) and in qualifying seven times (incl. other two majors); made Top 100 debut on September 12 (after US Open; rose from No.106 to No.89); withdrew from Guangzhou and Osaka w/left wrist injury; was youngest player in year-end Top 100 (at No.97; only 18-year-old, all other players 19 or older).
·         2010 – Played first three WTA main draws (2r twice, 1r once); fell in qualifying three times (incl. US Open).
·         2009 – Fell in WTA qualifying three times (incl. US Open).
·         2008 – Played first WTA qualifying at Miami and US Open; won one doubles title on ITF Circuit.
·         2007 – Played first events of career on ITF Circuit in Brazil.
Compare the results above to those of the following players who made the quarter-final or later in ITF events:
Garbine Muguruza (8 October 1993)
2013 – Excellent first half of season but missed second half w/ankle injury; first half highlighted by SF at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (l. to Flipkens) and 4r finishes at Indian Wells (l. to Kerber) and Miami (l. to Li); reached 2r five times (incl. Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon); fell 1r four times (incl. Charleston – l. to Pegula 67(2) 64 75; held mp at 5-4 third set) and in qualifying four times; won first WTA doubles title at Hobart (w/Torró-Flor); withdrew from Birmingham w/right ankle injury; set career-high No.53 on July 15; underwent right ankle surgery on July 2 and missed rest of season (withdrew from all tournaments rest of year – incl. US Open).
2012 – QF at Fès; reached 4r once (first WTA main draw at Miami – by beating No.9 Zvonareva in 2r, was equal-fastest to beat a Top 10 player; Andrea Leand and Julie Coin also beat Top 10 players in their second WTA main draw matches); and 2r once; fell 1r five times (incl. US Open) and in qualifying nine times (incl. Roland Garros, Wimbledon); won one singles title on ITF Circuit; made Top 100 debut on July 23 (rose from No.106 to No.95).

2011 – Won four singles titles on ITF Circuit.
2010 – Won one singles title on ITF Circuit.
2009 – Won one singles title and one doubles title on ITF Circuit.
2008 – Made first appearance in WTA qualifying at Barcelona.
Elina Svitolina (12 September 1994)
2013 – Breakthrough first Top 50 season (finishing No.40); won one WTA title at Baku (d. Peer in final); SF at Bad Gastein (l. to Hlavackova); reached 2r five times (incl. Roland Garros, US Open); fell 1r 11 times (incl. other two majors) and in qualifying three times; fell in RR at Sofia (as alternate – went 0-2 in RR); having started year at No.131 in the world, made Top 100 debut on February 18 (rose from No.102 to No.87) and Top 50 debut on July 29 (after Baku; rose from No.71 to No.49); won two singles titles and one doubles title on ITF Circuit.
2012 – Played first three WTA main draws, falling 1r at Baku, US Open and Moscow; fell in qualifying twice (Roland Garros, Wimbledon); won one WTA 125K Series singles title; won two singles titles on ITF Circuit.
2011 – Fell in WTA qualifying three times (incl. Roland Garros); won two singles titles on ITF Circuit.
2010 – Continued to play on ITF Circuit in Ukraine.
2009 – Continued to play on ITF Circuit in Ukraine.
2008 – Played first event of career at ITF/Kharkiv 2-UKR.
The difference in the career arc of Stephens/Bouchard and Muguruza/Svitolina and the success that they have had can be summed up in 3 letters … ITF.  Both Svitolina and Muguruza have had great success playing ITF sanctioned events.  These events, as most tennis fans know are what players who are coming back from injury (Vaidisova) have done in order to get match tough.  For those players who are trying to build their games, the ITF circuit is a great way to compete outside of the limelight, work on issues with their game and build confidence.  
It is interesting that during Stephens’ slump in 2014, at no point did she play an ITF event to build confidence.  She continued to play regular WTA Tour events.  As someone once said, losing does not beget winning.  Losing begets losing.
While some will put this losing streak that has seemed to engulf Bouchard down to the proverbial sophomore slump, it could possibly be that she was not very good to begin with.  Prior to her run to the semifinal o f the Australian and French Open and the final of Wimbledon, I would argue that these were fluke occurrences and not the consistency that one would expect from a top player.  The same guidepost could also be used to describe Sloane Stephens.  In contrast to Bouchard and Stephens, the consistency displayed by Simona Halep is more akin to a player who has some amount of consistency in her game to remain a top player for a long time and indeed contend for Grand Slams on the big stages.  In addition to Halep, players such as Karolina Pliskova who has moved up the rankings by her week in and week out performances on the WTA Tour shows someone who will not hide from the big times when they come her way.
As I opined earlier in this post, losing does not beget winning.  Losing begets losing.  When players are not used to competing week in and week out, when they are not used to engaging mentally to win big points in matches, then the moniker of sophomore slump should not really apply to them.
While penning this article I was reminded by my editor that sometimes players who have had a breakout season and are unable to replicate those results is usually as a result of injuries.  As such, in an effort to be fair to both Bouchard and Stephens I did some research on any news reports of reported injuries. After her 2013 season when she reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Stephens had wrist injuries which required her to be off Tour for a few weeks.  In terms of Bouchard she seems to have suffered multiple injuries since her Wimbledon final effort last year, the most significant of which was a knee injury.  Perhaps it is the case that the effort that it took for both women to have their breakout seasons impacted them negatively in the physical sense and this could possibly have some impact on their results in the following year.  However, while I believe that injury may have an impact, I just believe that neither woman has developed the consistency in their games to have the moniker of sophomore slump attributed to them.


by Karen

Up a set and 4-1 and with 2 game points to go up 5-1, Serena Williams would, in her own words choke and lose the second set. She started badly in the third set going down an early break to Lucie Safarova.  On her next service game Serena engaged in her own version of on court coaching.  She berated herself. Asked some tough questions, which were sprinkled with some choice words as to her performance.  She would not lose another game.   I guess in some cases on court coaching really does work.

Serena has now won 20 Grand Slam singles title.  2 less than Steffi Graf and 4 behind Margaret Court.  She told Mary Carillo that she is already thinking about Wimbledon.  Her coach indicated that one of the goals that he has for here and which he thinks is something she can do is win a true calendar year Grand Slam.  She is half way there.






by Karen 

Before I start out on the incredible journey of 2 women who in their own way are trying to make history, I just have a few thoughts on what happened on social media during Serena Williams’ semifinal against Timea Bascinszky of Switzerland. 

Before the match even started there were tweets from notable tennis personalities who have absolutely no agenda stating that Serena Williams was ill.  BBC tennis tweeted that Jana Novotna had told them that she had seen Serena and that she looked ill. 

On Eurosport TV, commentators indicated that during Serena looked really ill during her warm up and that she had aborted her morning practice session as she was coughing up her lungs.  What does this have to do with what will happen on Saturday?  One of Serena’s colleagues, Ms. Tara Moore (current rank unknown) had this to say

And then there was this gem 

One of the reasons why I have no idea what Ms. Moore’s ranking is, its because she is not listed on the WTA’s website which I think lists the top 100.  Luckily for Ms. Moore, her colleague, Laura Robson gave her a lesson in fighting until the last point, something I don’t think Ms. Moore will ever get. 

Apart from the ridiculous nature of her tweets, Ms. Moore seems to not get the point that this is a Grand Slam.  There are not many players who have won these.  Ms. Williams has won 19 and she is going for history. History that will no doubt put women’s tennis on the map if she is able to pull it off.  Clearly, Ms. Moore, though she says she is a fan of Serena, is apparently only a fan when it suits her.  How could you not appreciate a player who was dead on her feet, battling through to win a match at this level?  How could you not stand and applaud this person, no matter how you feel about her and say too good?  I have to say that Ms. Moore is not the only person whose comments on social media during Serena’s match puzzle me.  I am trying to figure out where is the lack of sportsmanship that was being displayed.  Did Serena play slow between points?  Did she take a medical time out when she should not have?  Did she call for the doctor repeatedly knowing full well that the doctor could not give her any medication?  What exactly did Serena do during her match against Timea to make people question her sportsmanship?  

This issue of sportsmanship in tennis deserves its own column, but frankly, I don’t think I undestand this penchant for villifying a player who pulls a Houdini because her opponent fell for the rope a dope (if indeed that even happened).  I could swear that they taught mental stuff during tennis camp. In any event, Serena Williams is into the French Open women’s final and she will face Lucie Safarova. 


Serena Williams

How she got here – 

1st round – Andrea Hlavackova
2nd round – Anna-Lena Friedsam
3rd round – Victoria Azarenka 
4th round – Sloane Stephens
quarter -final – Sara Errani 
semifinal – Timea Bascinzsky

There are scenic routes and then there is the Serena Scenic Route.  Apart from her straight sets win against her first round opponent (Hlavackova) and her quarter final opponent (Errani), Serena has battled her way through 3 set match after 3 set match, coming from a set and a break down in each of those matches.  However her biggest win really came in the semifinals when once again battling a game opponent and illness, Serena came once again from a set down to make her second French Open final in 3 years and a chance to make history by being the first player in over 20 years to win the Australian and French Open back to back.  Even more significant, it would be three quarters of the way through another Serena Slam or half way to a true calendar year Grand Slam. 

Lucie Safarova

How she got here – 

1st round – Pavlychenkova
2nd round – Kurumi Nara
3rd round – Sabine Lisicki
4th round – Maria Sharapova
quarter-final – Garbine Muguruza
semifinal – Ana Ivanovic

Never dropping a set.  Playing aggressive  focused tennis, Safarova has shed the name “Almost” and has really embraced the big stage. Her path to the final is not only incredible in the fact that she has not dropped a set, but also the fact that she is also playing doubles and has made her way to the semifinals of that event. 

Who Will Win 

How do you bet against a proven champion.  Once Serena gets to this stage of a Grand Slam event, she has only lost on 4 occassions.  Commentators love to say that players who get to this stage of an event of a Grand Slam have nothing to lose and that they will swing for the fences. Case in point was Francesca Schiavone who won the French Open in 2010 and Samantha Stosur who won the US Open in 2011.  On both occassions both players closed their eyes and played their best tennis.  If Safarova wants a chance to have her name in the history books, this is what she will need to do.  Close her eyes and swing for the fences. 

Serena is playing for history.  We saw how she faced down history last year when she was looking to tie with Martina and Chris Evert.  She finally cleared that hurdle and to surpass those 2 legends, she played brilliant tennis in Australia.  Next on her to do list is Steffi Graf.  Her coach has said that the calendar year Grand Slam is doable.  I think Serena believes that as well.  

The head to head is decidedly in Serena’s favour but Lucie will no doubt close her eyes and swing for the fences.  However, history is on the line and that is why we will see final day Serena on Saturday to take her 20th Grand Slam title.