AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 1 OOP

by Karen 



Get ready for 2 weeks of sleepless nights, copious amounts of coffee and telling your boss that you had a really bad night due to anything that your brain can think to make up.  It is time for the Australian Open.  Watching a tournament where the time zones are 16 hours apart shows without a shadow of a doubt how dedicated tennis fans are to their sport.  

The top half of the women’s draw starts play on Monday (Sunday evening in the US part of the world).  While the day’s play is usually met with lots of anticipation, I am interested to see how the Australian Open’s new edict that court assignments will be based on player popularity will play out. 

Most people might not remember but prior to the start of the AO, the organisers announced that court assignments will be based on public perception, i.e, if you are popular you get on the large show courts, if you are not, then you end up all the way out in never never land.  I spoke to a tennis buddy of mine when this was announced and I am of the view that the women will suffer as a result of this.  Already, there are signs that this might be the case with Margaret Court sounding off about the state of women’s tennis.  Frankly, the AO had no reason to institute this edict, as most large tournaments have for years pushed the women off onto side courts and placed men, some of whom fans have never heard of on the main show courts.  This has been done especially if it is a local player with some potential.

Rod Laver Arena
Kvitova v. Khumkum (has Petra fully recovered from whatever ails her?)
Williams (S) v. Giorgi (is Serena ready to defend or will the Italian rise to the occasion?)
Krystina Pliskova v. Samantha Stosur (no drama here)
Margaret Court Arena
Gavrilova v. Hradrecka (is Lucie ready to use that big game again?)
Radwanska (Aga) v. McHale (a title win, does that say confidence for McHale?)
Hibino v. Sharapova (the youngster should give Pova a work out.  How is the forearm?)
Hisense Arena
Stephens v. Wang (confidence in spades from both women, should be good)
Putinseva v. Wozniacki (not as much drama as most folks expect)
Show Court 2
Tomljanovic v. Bondarenko (time for Alja to step up)
Suarez Navarro v. Golubic (the Spaniard & the Swiss & not FeDal)
Show Court 3
Bouchard v. Krunic (Is Genie rested enough?)
Kuznetsova v. Hantuchova (one with a title, the other in the wilderness)
Show Court 5
Ostapenko v. Hsieh (one with drama, the other one under the radar)
Show Court 6
Errani v. Gasparyan (the wily vs the big hitter)
Kulichkova v. Petkovic (who knows with this one)
Show Court 7
Rybarikova v. Wickmayer (no clue)
Bencic v. Riske (one retired, the other got to a final.  Who takes it?)
Show Court 8
Nara v. Dodin (time for one of these women to make waves)
Watson v. Babos (is Watson up for the task against the big hitter?)
Show Court 10
Radwanska (U) v. Konjuh (what should be a huge battle))
Court 13
Sakkari v. Wang (no clue as to who gets this one, going with Wang)
Paszek v. Vnci (Paszek plays well Down Under & she has confidence in spades right now)
Court 14
Pavlychenkova v. Davis (Pavs could win.  Pavs could lose)
Tatishvilli v. Falconi (both women MIA from warm up tournaments)
Court 15
Gibbs v. Koukalova (the qualifier & the Czech)
Duque-Marino v. Han (the veteran and the youngster)
Court 19
Mladenovic v. Cibulkova (how well is Cibulkova feeling after her epic Hobart match?)
Sasnovich v. Rodina (this could be really good)
Court 20
Kasatina v. Schmiedlova (is Anna-K healthy?)
Linette v. Puig (Pica Power lives) 
Court 22
Dominguez-Lino v. Friedsam (Friedsam should win this easily)
Niculescu v. Pereira (forehand slices and high loopy balls all day long) 

Match that makes you want to smash your tv

Niculescu v. Pereira
Pavlychenkova v. Davis

Match that makes you ask, what are you doing aka Upset Special
Kvitova v. Khumkhum 
Bouchard v. Krunic

Match of the Day 
Mladenovic v. Cibulkova 
Paszek v. Vinci

AUSTRALIAN OPEN WOMEN’S DRAW PREVIEW

by The Spin Team




The Australian Open Draw is out and as usual there is the weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth.  My fave got a crappy draw.  The tournament is playing favourites with so and so, etc. Etc. Etc.

This year the Spin Team has a new member in Stephanie Neppl (you can read more of what Steph has to say about women’s tennis on her blog ohttp://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com) or you can follow her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/StephintheUS ) one of the most dedicated and strongest advocates for women’s tennis that I know.  Steph will be contributing to the Spin Team and for her first post she will be giving us her draw breakdown.  The Spin Team also welcomes back Patrick (@TWMasterAce), perhaps one of the few men out there in tennis land who is also completely dedicated to women’s tennis and he will also be providing his analysis of the year’s first Grand Slam.

As usual, me your friendly neighbourhood blogger will be giving my draw analysis and will be back each day to give the team’s daily picks, what to watch and where and perhaps even give a post match wrap up of the previous day’s events.

The Australian and French Open have become 2 of my favourite Slams for the reason that they start on a Sunday and so I can sit back and enjoy serious tennis watching from the comfort of my living room and without the hassle of having to get up and go to work.  Another reason I love the Australian Open is that you go to bed and there is tennis on.  You wake up and there is still tennis on.  Its like watching tennis 24/7.

This year, as a result of my constant barrage of emails (that is my story and I am sticking to it), ESPN has now made available to those of us in the Caribbean and Latin American markets, ESPNPlay, an online version of ESPN3 and WatchESPN, which is available to persons in the US and the African Sub-continent.  This is a great addition for someone like me who watches a lot of tennis as I no longer have to depend on Tennis Channel or ESPN2 to watch tennis as ESPNPlay will allow me to stream from every televised court at this year’s Australian Open.  As a result, look forward to more match reports from the Spin.

Steph’s Picks 

Breaking down the Aussie Open draw

We’re back! I’m so excited to see how this year’s WTA season rolls on. Last year, Serena and Venus were the stories, and I for one am thrilled they are on different halves of the 2016 Australian Open. It certainly helps that Venus is the #8 seed!

So…the draw. 

Top quarter: 
Serena (1) gets Giorgi, who Venus needed three sets to get past here a year ago.  Serena got a lot of young talent in her section including Ostapenko, Konjuh and Kasatkina, who just beat Venus in Auckland last week. I think Serena will meet either Errani (17) or Wozniacki (16) in the fourth round and even though neither Serena nor Maria have played a WTA match in 2016, I think they will meet in the quarters. Bencic (12) is in Maria’s section but I am not sure I trust her just yet in a big slam match.

Quarterfinal: Serena (1) vs Maria (5)

Second quarter:
Aga Radwanska (4) is coming off a WTA Finals tourney and a Shenzhen win this year. I still have trouble predicting how she will do, and the same goes with the other top seed here, Petra Kvitova (6). Petra’s still battling mono and she’s been ill this year with a stomach thing. Sloane Stephens (24) is coming off a win in Auckland and Suarez Navarro (10) hasn’t been too fab in singles for awhile. Vinci (13) has had some good wins in 2016 and seems to be on a high yet from her US Open run. Bouchard, Cibulkova and Gavrilova are also floating here as is Puig who is having a great run in Sydney. Tough section to call! 

Quarterfinal: Radwanska (4) vs. Cibulkova (unseeded)

Third quarter:
Garbine’s section – that feels odd to say! But the Spaniard (3) has some tough players in her section including possible fourth round opponent, and two-time AO winner, Vika (14). Garbine also could face the tricky Lucic-Baroni, Caroline Garcia or Mona Barthel in the first few rounds. Meanwhile, Angelique Kerber (7) made a lot of noise last year but had an abysmal year at the slams. I like her draw and think she has a great shot to make it far. I can’t say the same about the other high seed in Kerber’s section, Timea Bacsinszky (11), who has had two bad losses to start the year. And what to think of Svitolina (18) who took Serena to three sets in 2015? 

Predictions:  Angelique Kerber (7) vs Victoria Azarenka (14)

Fourth quarter:
Simona Halep (2) has been battling an achilles injury for ages but I think she’s been handed a pretty friendly draw up to the possible quarters. She could get Ivanovic or Keys in the fourth round and I think she’ll get through especially given Ana’s slip in form, and what to make of Keys who made the semis last year? The other top seed here is the legend herself, Venus Williams. Venus starts with Johanna Konta who made a big run up the rankings last year. She could face Sabine Lisicki (30) in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round. 

Quarterfinal: Simona Halep (2) vs Venus Williams (8)

Predicions:
Semis:
Serena d Radwanska
Venus d Vika

Final: Serena d. Venus

Who will use the SABR and against which player:
Halep will do this versus Cornet in the second round and Alize will yell.

Seeded Players to lose 1st Round:
I could see Keys going out to Diyas with her lack of match play and injuries. II think Schmiedlova will have her hands full with Kasatkina. Lisicki could also be knocked out by Cetkovska, who beat Wozniacki at the US Open last fall.

Surprise Run:

In the past few years we’ve had Sloane Stephens, Genie Bouchard and Madison Keys make big runs to the semifinals. So which youngster is going to make a run this year? I think someone may surprise us from the Aga/Petra quarter. Daria Gavrilova, a new Australian, could make her way through that section and I think she may give the Aussies something to really cheer for on the women’s side. 

First round match to watch:

Caroline Wozniacki vs Yulia Putintseva. I mean, it’s Poots. 

Spin’s Picks

Serena Williams Quarter

On the basis of accomplishments, this is not a bad draw for Serena. However in terms of potential minefields and distractions, it could have its potential downfalls.  After the horror show that was the US Open, look for Serena to try to regain her confidence against an Italian.  I think for right now any Italian will do and who better than Giorgi.  On a personal note, I actually like when Serena gets tricky draws as it keeps her mind much more focused on the job at hand.   Look for her to deliver in her opening round match.   This quarter is littered with talent, but fortunately for Serena talent without the results to back it up.  


Serena Williams

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Simona Halep Quarter

How fortituious is it that at a time when Simona is struggling with an injury, she should have a pretty good draw which could see her defending her quarter final points from last year.  There is really no one in this quarter who should trouble the No. 2 seed. Venus Williams is in that section of the draw but apart from Venus, most of the players in this section are either slumping (Keys) or not on form (Lisicki/Makarova).  The player who might sneak through this section is Karolina Pliskova.  However, I don’t think that will happen.  

Who will get there?

Simona Halep 
Venus Williams

Aga Radwanska Quarter (yes its a thing)

Since winning the YEC, Radwanska has not lost a match.  She backed up her YEC title by winning the title in Shenzhen and she seems more confident than ever.  However, the same thing that has plagued Radwanska before will continue to plague her and that is her inability to hit through bigger hitters on Tour. That will not change at this Slam.  Her draw is fairly easy and she could come through for a possible meeting with Serena in the semifinals.  However, before she does that, she has some potential tricky opponents.  

Who will get there?
Aga Radwanska 
Sloane Stephens 

Garbine Muguruza Quarter

The final quarter belongs to the No. 4 seed, Spain’s Muguruza.  This section of the draw has been the hardest to call for me.  At first blush it would be easy to insert Muguruza and Kerber as the section’s quarterfinalists, but then you look and see someone like Azarenka, a 2 time champion of this event and you think, maybe something different will happen.  

Who will get there?

Garbine Muguruza/Victoria Azarenka

Angelique Kerber

Which top seed will exit early and potential opponent

Elina Svitolina to lose to Victoria Duval

Caroline Garcia losing to Strycova

First round matches to watch?

Wozniacki v. Poots
Van Uvytanck v. Azarenka (upset special)
Who will use the SABR and against which top player?
Giorgi or Ostapenko against Serena Williams

Who will have a surprise run?
Carla Suarez-Navarro

Please note that this post will be updated with TWMasterAce’s picks later today 

@TWMasterAce picks.  Master Ace has never been big on words and so he has summarised what he thinks are the Week 1 matches to see.  

Potential week 1 matchups to see:

Serena Williams vs Camila Giorgi – 1st round

Victoria Duval vs Elina Svitolina – 1st round

Venus Williams vs Johanna Konta – 1st round

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Eugenie Bouchard – 2nd round

Alize Cornet vs Simona Halep – 2nd round

Victoria Azarenka vs Samantha Crawford – 2nd round

Dominika Cibulkova vs Petra Kvitova – 3rd round

WTA 

QF 1 : Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova

QF 2 : Agnieszka Radwanska vs Dominika Cibulkova

QF 3 : Angelique Kerber vs Victoria Azarenka

QF 4 : Venus Williams vs Simona Halep

SF 1 : Serena Williams vs Agnieszka Radwanska

SF 2 : Victoria Azarenka vs Simona Halep

F : Serena Williams vs Victoria Azarenka

W: Victoria Azarenka

CHANGING THE GAME

by Karen 

There I was watching a match between Simona Halep and Caroline Garcia, a match to which I already knew the result but as I had not stayed up to watch the match, and because I like to watch both women play, I took the opportunity to watch the match to see if Halep had recovered from her injury in Brisbane and whether Garcia had learned anything from her play in Hopman Cup.  I am still thinking about those questions. 

What struck me though while watching the match was listening to the commentary during the match.  There wasn’t anything being said that I had not heard before but I thought to myself while Halep was receiving treatment on her leg, whether an on court interview with Garcia would not have been been something for the commentary team to do at this point.  It was the end of the second set, Garcia had just won it and her opponent seemed to be suffering the effects of a injury.  

 I know most of you are thinking, are you mad, but bear with me for a minute, what if, there was a way to draw the casual fan into the sport of tennis, would it be such a bad thing to have the commentator come over and interview Garcia about the fact she was able to take a set off the No. 2 player in the world and how does she feel going into a third set, or perhaps interview Halep and ask her about the injury that is being worked on and if she thinks it will affect her in the third set?  

I know that ESPN’s adventure into interviewing players during a match met with a chorus of nos (even from me), but I thought to myself, if we as fans could bring something to tennis that would draw in the casual fan, what would it be.  The responses were interesting. 

Tennis fans speak



I am not that big a fan of the doubles game, only watching when Venus and Serena are playing, but I think it would be a really good way of promoting the team aspect of tennis and perhaps getting more casual fans to see how exciting tennis can be when played with a partner.  In addition to showing more doubles, one of my tennis buddies thought getting rid of John McEnroe might be the way to go, that and silencing the sport, while someone else felt that grunting should be banned.  I am going to assume that when hard core fans speak about grunting then they are referring to both the men and women.  


Another fan was of the view that the time between sets could be extended to take account of injuries and give players a chance to speak with their coaches etc.   While I am not against the extended time between sets, the issue of players getting cold and the need to possibly have a warm up to commence the next few sets might make this a bit unwieldy. 


For years Martina Navratilova has been advocating for the removal of the let serve.  This tennis fan thinks we should go a bit further and get rid of the second serve altogether.  I don’t mind this idea at all. It is either get rid of the second serve (I mean who needs 2 chances to get their lives together) or remove the time between first and second serves. 


For years, tennis surfaces were quick.  Wimbledon was the home of the big servers.  Hard courts were quick and clay was slow.  Now, with all surfaces playing relatively the same way, there is a lack of variety in the sport these days.  The diversity is so very lacking that you can’t tell one player different from another, especially on the men’s side.  I suspect if Indian Wells and Miami started playing like hard court tournaments and not like pat of the Road to Roland Garros, that might be a first step. 

While writing this I am watching AO qualifying and one of the things that the commentators are doing is reading tweets from fans who are making suggestions as to who either Vanni or Evans could win their first round qualifying match.  I think that is a very good way of involving fans into the sport, whether casual or hard core.  People always want to get their opinions out and how many times have we been watching a match and someone in the stands is shouting coaching advice to players.  Make that a part of every tennis match.  Many times you are watching a match and their is an on court coaching session and no one has any idea what is being said.  How about getting fans to do the translation.  If you know what was said, tweet to the commentators and commentators will read your tweet or if it is on Tennis Channel or ESPN, they can put your tweet on the crawl at the bottom of the screen. 

Another thing that could be done is umpires would give a short explanation when certain decisions were made in a match.  Who can forget the hindrance call to end all hindrance calls.  Have the umpire take to the microphone and inform fans of the reason for the hindrance, citing the section of the rule book to which the hindrance applies.  It will give people a chance to understand why certain decisions have been made. 

How about changing the scoring in tennis?  Many times I am being asked by casual fans why is the tennis scored like that.  I have to admit that I sometimes can’t answer that question, but why not have it be 15, 30, 45, game. 

What change would you bring to tennis to get the casual fans to the sport.  Sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.  

WTA PREVIEW … WEATHER LOOKING GOOD

by Karen
I do hope that everyone had a fantastic Christmas and all the best for the New Year.
What a start to the 2016 tennis season.  After the revelation that was 2015, 2016, leap year that it is decided that there was only one way to keep interest alive in the WTA and that was to showcase the depth of talent that abounds in WTA Land. 

We had winners, resurgent careers, how the hell did she do that moments.  

Before the Spin Team provides its preview, a look at our Week One winners:



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What else is there to say about Victoria Azarenka, but welcome back.  Vika put on a performance in Brisbane that brought the nostalgia with fans from her heyday in 2011 and beyond.  Raising the Brisbane trophy for the second time, Team Vika had many reasons to celebrate.  The 3 year drought has ended and how?  Vika put on a dominating performance against Angelique Kerber.  The Spin Team welcomes back Vika to the winners circle and hopes she stays awhile



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Sloane Stephens.  One time heir apparent to the Legend that is Serena Williams also put on one of the more focused displays that I have ever seen.  Her first set performance against the wall that is Wozniacki shows the depth of talent that this particular young woman has.  Not only did Sloane complete her semifinal match against Wozniacki, but she went out a few hours later and completely annihilated Julia Georges to capture her second WTA title from as many starts.  Are we looking at this era’s Anna Chakvetadze.  If anyone can recall AnnaC won her first 4 Tour titles from as many starts.  The difference being that all of AnnaC’s first set of titles came at the Tier 1 level.  Taking nothing away from Sloane but she is really looking good. 

Over in Shenzhen, Aga Radwanska put on a clinic (assuming, as I did not see the match) against Alison Riske. 



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Congratulations to all the winners.  

The WTA Tour 

The new tennis season has just started and at the time of writing this preview, the Tour has become the Walking Wounded with many of the top players already succumbing to injuries during their first few matches.  Many are using this as a way to ridicule the fitness of the top women, but I suspect it has more to do with players either saving themselves for the big one, that is the Australian Open, or ensuring that they are 100% fit and ready to compete over the next 10 months.
The list of players who have already sent in a doctor’s note are as follows:
Serena Williams – withdrew from Hopman Cup with knee inflammation
Maria Sharapova – withdrew from Brisbane with a right forearm strain
Simona Halep – withdrew from Brisbane with a left foot injury
Garbine Muguruza – retired from her match in Brisbane with a left foot injury
Lucie Safarova – withdrawn from all tournaments including the Australian Open with an undisclosed illness
Petra Kvitova – retired down a set in Shenzhen citing illness
Ana Ivanovic – after losing in the first round at Brisbane, withdrew from the doubles tournament citing headaches.  She has since received a WC entry into Sydney.
Samantha Stosur – after losing in Brisbane, it was reported that Stosur is having issues with her wrist which might require cortisone shots to ease the pain.
Serena has indicated that her knee just needs a few days’ rest and that she will be fine for the Australian Open.  Sharapova has indicated that she hurt her arm during practice and as many folks know both Halep and Muguruza have had reoccurring foot injuries which have kept them out of tournament for extended periods of time.
While most of these ladies will no doubt be back on court and competing at the Australian Open, I am a bit concerned about Safarova.  Many will recall that Safarova had one of her best years on Tour last year, winning 2 Grand Slam titles in doubles and making the final of the French Open, where she won a set.   Since then, apart from playing in the YEC, Safarova has not done much of anything else as she has not only been hospitalized, but it seems that whatever it is that ails her has not gone away in the off season.  I do hope that she is getting the best medical treatment around and this is not something that has not been caught, diagnosed and treated by her doctors. 

Update

Since writing the above about Safarova, news has come that she has been diagnosed with rheumatic fever.  The Spin Team wishes Lucie a speedy recovery. 

If you have not done so already, tune in to the RealzTennisPodcast.  The Realz gang wrapped up the 2015 season and gave a sneak peek of what to expect from the gang in 2016.  

If you have questions that you would like us to address during each week’s podcast, feel free to hit up any member of the gang on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments section.   

THE REARVIEW MIRROR & THE WINDSHIELD

by Karen 


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As I sit here looking back at my notes over the past year, (many of which makes absolutely no sense to me right now), to put down my thoughts on the year that was women’s tennis, I have abandoned that particular project half way and instead am reflecting somewhat on the challenges facing the sport as we head into 2016.  


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One question that I keep pondering is: Are tennis players pricing themselves out of the market? Did their recent demands for pay increases and a slice of the pie have a negative impact on broadcasting rights for the sport to fans around the world? I ask this due to two recent events that have taken place that has been met with little or no fanfare by tennis media and indeed by tennis fans.  The first piece of news from earlier in the year concerned ESPN’s decision deciding that it was no longer financially feasible to continue to broadcast the year’s second Major, the French Open.  Now, news has come that the BBC will no longer be broadcasting the Australian Open.  

While there are many who will poo poo this news because Tennis Channel in the US and Sky and Eurosport are picking up where both ESPN and the BBC have fallen off, I don’t believe that this does bodes well for tennis and in particular women’s tennis.  While many will say that ESPN’s decision to no longer broadcast the French Open stems in part from a drop in earnings, so much so that they are making whole departments redundant, the fact remains that at the present, tennis is not drawing in the numbers in ratings nor in advertising dollars.  


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ESPN, which for years has touted itself as the world leader in sports has been going through what can only be called a financial crisis. An article written in the middle of last year provided an analysis of the drop in subscribers and the decisions that ESPN has taken and will be taking to boost revenue.  While tennis is not specifically mentioned in the article, powerhouse sports like football and basketball are being mentioned and when those sports are causing ESPN issues, then what about tennis, a sport that does not garner the ratings that basketball and football generate?

Why are these things important and how will the decision by ESPN and the BBC to no longer broadcast the French and Australian Opens respectively impact women’s tennis? Women’s tennis and in particular Serena Williams drove traffic towards tennis this year with her quest to be the first player to win the Calendar Year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf did so in 1988.  While she was not successful in this endeavour, the fact that even mainstream media covered her attempt made everyone want to be a part of tennis for a few months. While no one knows what will happen in 2016, for a moment in time, women’s tennis ruled the roost.  With the continuing rise in prize money for players and as players clamouring for even more of the pie, tournaments are going to find it increasingly difficult to meet the demands of players. Media are going to be hesitant about paying big money in order to broadcast tournaments which fail to attract advertisers. Fans are going to have to be satisfied with barely getting any coverage on their tv.  In such a scenario it will be the women’s game that suffers.  

The narrative that drives tennis has always been that the men’s game is more popular than the women’s game.  Already the Australian Open has taken the view that court assignments and the cost of tickets will be based on the popularity of a particular player.  To that end, look for most of the women’s matches to be played on either outside courts away from the cameras or played at a time of day when most people are not interested in sitting in the hot sun to watch a match.  


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I don’t know what the solution to this problem will be, but maybe the time has come for players to start playing a more integral role in their sport. The women’s game has already started to do this by ensuring that their players are available to do media, and the various activities that the women take part in to ensure that the game is being promoted more and more.  While some of the younger generation are not as media savvy and/or media friendly as those who have gone before, they are, with the help of the WTA making an effort in promoting the sport.  However, is there more that can be done, not only by the WTA, but by the women themselves?  I don’t really know the answer to this question, but one thing I have always been advocating is that the women need a tv deal of their own.  While the Perform deal has brought more women’s tennis to online viewers, in terms of tennis on tv, the quantity and sometimes the quality is still too low. 


The Rear View Mirror
It has been a phenomenal year for the WTA. The marketing blitz that accompanied Serena Williams’ quest to achieve the Calendar Year Grand Slam.  While Serena was not successful, the stories that surrounded her quest put women’s tennis on the spotlight in a way that the WTA could not pay.  Below are some of the more seminal events that took place in 2015:
Stacey Allaster
After heading up the WTA since 2009, Stacey Allaster abruptly tendered her resignation from the WTA citing wanting to spend more time with her family.  Quicker than you could say what, her replacement was found and confirmed [insert name of replacement].  The first order of business of the new head of the WTA seems to be moving away from the Tour’s move into Asia and bringing the Tour back to Europe.  It remains to be seen how this pans out.
Breakout – WTA Rising Stars Rising
2015 saw the full thrust of the WTA’s Rising Star promotion.  Belinda Bencic, Anna Schmiedlova, Sloane Stephens (who has risen, fallen and is apparently rising again), Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova gave the WTA new life and hope.  Their play over the year made many people stand up and take notice.
The Stars
The stars of the WTA, led by Serena continued their leadership roles.  Maria Sharapova lost her crown in Stuttgart.  However, players such as Venus Williams, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, the resurgent queen of Asia that is Jelena Jankovic really stepped up to the plate.

There were some stars who did disappearing acts over the 2015 season, namely Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic who either seemed to be burnt out or played with injury.  One hopes that these two women will put their health before anything else. 
From Whom Much is Expected
Simona Halep is someone from whom much is expected.  For whatever reason Simona does not seem to have the same mind set as the rest of us.  While she won her biggest title to date at Indian Wells, her play at the Majors has been nothing short of dismal.  One hopes that she not only finds the right coaching situation but that her mind becomes more focused.  The same can also be said of Angelique Kerber who seems to fall apart at the first sign as does her countrywoman Sabine Lisicki.
Bouchard and the USTA


No year end review could be given without talking about Eugenie Bouchard and her lawsuit against the USTA for negligence.  As that matter is still before the Court, we will refrain from discussing it at this time. Suffice it to say that both parties have come out with guns blazing and from where I am sitting this is definitely not a good look for the sport.
Scandals, Scandals and More Scandals
Donna Vekic was at the center of a firestorm between 2 ATP players (or is 3).  While many of us thought it was a storm in a teacup, feminist tennis media were up in arms over this.  Where I come from I have a different take but seeing as Ms. Vekic got her man I will make no further comment.  I wish her happiness, but as we say in my side of the world “the same knife that stick sheep stick goat”.


THE WINDSHIELD

While writing this, the tennis season has already begun.  Qualifying play is going on in Brisbane where the top seed is Simona Halep.  The draw is a very good one and I am hoping to see some great tennis as the season starts.  Auckland’s qualifying draw has also begun and Venus Willliams is back to defend her title.  

Hopman Cup is also poised to start on Monday our time and Serena Williams is pairing up with Jack Sock for the USA. 

Sloane Stephens announced recently that she is no longer working with Nick Saviano. As of the time of writing no new coach has been announced. 

The Realz Tennis Fans podcast will be back on Sunday. Remember to send us any questions by tweeting us @realtennisfanz