Saturday, May 23, 2020

Un moment triste

Centre Georges Pompidou (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)
The French Open is my favorite major. I've never attended it, and when I was in Paris, I didn't even go to the Roland Garros site (I'm not sure why), though I did attend the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters event. But I love watching it.

Part of the reason that I love watching the French Open is that I simply enjoy watching clay court tennis. Also, I was a huge fan of Chris Evert's, and so watching the French Open was always very exciting for me. In 1985, when Evert made her Roland Garros "comeback" against Martina Navratilova (I was a fan of Navratilova's, too), I was in Chicago with a friend, and we were staying at the home of a very rigid, unpleasant person. (This was via one of those organizations in which people swap dwellings for visits--we had already vacated the first one, it was so terrible. I should add that I had nothing to do with this.)

It was our last day in Chicago, and our host insisted we go to a local festival. I announced that I was staying in the apartment, which didn't go over well with her at all, and probably didn't go over well with my friend, either. But I wanted to see the French Open final. I was so glad I stayed! It was an electrifying match (I have it on DVD), and it gave Evert a renewed clay court star status.

Evert won the French Open seven times, and would have undoubtedly won it a few more times had she not been playing World Team Tennis, whose matches occurred simultaneously with the French Open for a while (reason number 100-something why we cannot compare eras).

Suzanne Lenglen won the French Open four times when it was a French-only event, but only twice after it became an international event, i.e., a major. Steffi Graf holds the recond for most French Open victories; she won it six times. Justine Henin won it four times, as did Helen Wills Moody.

French women who won the French Open when it ceased to be a French-only event:
Suzanne Lenglen (2)
Simonne Mathieu (2)
Nelly Adamson Landry (1)
Francoise Durr (1)
Mary Pierce (1)

Perhaps the most dramatic French Open victory of recent times belongs to retired Italian player Francesca Schiavone. In 2009, Schiavone was defeated in the first round by Australian Sam Stosur. In 2010, the two met in the final, with Stosur generally favored to win (but not by this writer). The Australian had done a lot of heavy lifting throughout the tournament, defeating Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic (and--as a historical footnote--qualifier Simona Halep, in the first round). Never had Stosur looked so strong.

But Schiavone, who had brought her Fed Cup coach along to guide her, appeared as though her entire professional life had been merely a preparation for this moment. Using her signature slice, and some expert volleying and a lot of spin, the Italian player won in straight sets, ending the match with a dramatic tiebreak, in which she put on a virtual clay court clinic.

Schiavone's kissing the clay turned into an iconic photograph, and it was a pleasure to share her joy over the victory. She would reach the final again in 2011, too, but would be defeated by Li Na.

I feel compelled to mention Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the French Open only once (2009), but who, arguably, should have won it a few times. Kuznetsova was in one other Roland Garros final--2006, and she lost that to Jusine Henin. She also reached the semifinals in 2008, but lost to countrywoman Dinara Safina. The Russian's clay game is excellent, but she was able to hold the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen only once.

It is a reasonable expectation that recent champions Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep will win the event a second time (and it would be splendid to see them together in a final); I would like to see Alona Ostapenko win it again.

In "normal" times, the French Open would begin this weekend. As it is, we must be content with watching classic matches and reminiscing about our favorite champions. It's a sad time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

On not watching tennis

This isn't my first time to not watch tennis. There was a period, after the Graf-Seles era, when I grew tired of watching and moved on to other things. Gradually, I was lured back in by Martina Hingis, and--also gradually--my fixation with women's tennis became stronger than it had been before.

Several years ago, I decided to severely limit my ATP viewing because I refuse to watch players who consider me inferior because of my gender. This eliminates my watching some of the top (and sadly, most popular) players in the world, as well as many others. (The all-around bigots--the ones who are racist and anti-LGBTQ--repel a lot of viewers, but the sexist ones always get a pass--but not from me. So no Rafa, no Novak, etc.)

I also can't get too interested in Tennis Channel's summaries of recent years and recent tournaments; I'm happier when I don't listen to most of that group. And there are few matches that I want to re-watch, at least, in total; I'm just not a re-watch kind of person, though--once in a while--I'll take a look.

It's sad, though, to have no live WTA matches to watch, and to have no majors to which I can look forward. I don't care for Wimbledon, but I'm sorry, for the players' sake, that it was canceled. I'm sad if any major is canceled. I know that the French Open--my favorite of the four majors--is scheduled, but I'll believe it when I see it.

It's good that lower-ranked players are going to get some financial relief. It isn't easy, being a journeywoman. There is relatively little compensation for all the hard work, and there are so many expenses. This long haitus could break some players' careers if no relief is provided.

I sometimes marvel at the stamina of the tennis journeywoman: She has to travel all over the world, just like the higher-ranked players. Sometimes, she can stay in the homes of fans, but she can't count on that. She has to eat well and do her best to stay healthy; no physio staff travels with her. She has to have a coach. If she's lucky, a competent family member is available It can be a tough life.

For many years, professional tennis players have had to deal with viruses that run rampant through certain tournaments, or with food poisoning. One of my hopes is that the current health crisis will create a climate in which the players' physical health can be better protected in the future. I think especially of players whose health is already somewhat compromised and hope that things can change.

I'm using what used to be my tennis-viewing time to do other things--write more poetry and do more yoga. Tennis viewing gets in the way of my starting some new activities I think I might like, but when the tour resumes play, my best guess is that I'll get hooked all over again.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Charleston on my mind

The Great Lawn (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)
There are people who cannot imagine a year without Christmas, and people who cannot imagine a year without Mardi Gras. And then there are those of us who cannot imagine a year without Charleston, but in 2020, we have one. The tournament, celebrating its 20th anniversary of being held on Daniel Island (it was previously
held on Hilton Head Island), would have begun today. Instead, it is yet another victim of COVID-19.
View from Althea Gibson Club Court (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)

The decision to cancel the tournament was a necessary one, and—while no cancellation comes at a “good” time—it is especially unfortunate that this one came during a major year of commemoration. Entered to compete were the likes of world number 1 Ash Barty, Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep (her first time to enter), defending champion Madison Keys, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, Garbine  Muguruza, Kiki Bertens, and many more stars.and many other WTA stars and rising stars.

The tournament had also introduced a new website, a new mobile app, a new sustainability initiative, and electronic line calling.

I’ve attended the Charleston tournament—formerly the Family Circle Cup; now the Volvo Car Open—for fifteen years, and I sometimes still struggle to explain to people what makes it so wonderful. Yes, the grounds are beautiful, with the pond and the palmetto trees and the iconic Althea Gibson Club Court. And yes, the event is run with great care and precision, thanks to Tournament Director Bob Moran and Tournament Manager Eleanor Adams and a great staff. Also, the weather is generally just right for tennis and tennis viewing.
Althea Gibson Club Court (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)
But there are intangibles and almost-intangibles that make the tournament special even beyond its physical beauty and its expert organization and execution. For those of us who comprise the tennis media, there are the incredible volunteers who magically meet our needs before we even express them. One of those is Lynn, famous for her “She-e-e’s he-e-re!” announcement right before a player departs the cart and enters the Media Center for a press conference. Some of us count on hearing that call to action for an entire week in April.

And there are the fans, who—unlike fans in most venues—find the humor in everything, including things that trigger boos from “normal” fan crowds. Charleston is the proud location of what is surely the greatest WTA racket break of all time, performed—of course—by Vera Zvonareva. It was 2010, and Zvonareva contested the final against Sam Stosur, who trounced her, 6-0, in the opening set, then went up 3-0 in the second set. The Russian player then destroyed her racket with great style, both smashing it and throwing it, and once it was done for, kicking it while the crowd cheered.




A few years ago, Yulia Putinseva began yelling in the middle of her match on Billie Jean King Court. What did the fans do? They enthusiastically yelled along with her, in a kind of wild woman call-and-response. Because that’s how Charleston fans are. And they love doubles; there is usually standing room only at the doubles courts.

Patty Schnyder (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)
Charleston is also the city that made Patty Schnyder a tennis rock star. The Swiss player—who made it to the final twice but, sadly, never won the title—was simply beloved by the Charleston crowd, who always cheered loudly for her no matter whom she played. One of my fondest memories of Patty in Charleston was having her yell at me repeatedly during a match because her coach was nowhere to be found and she had to yell at someone. I was happy to oblige.

Also burned in my mind was watching Schnyder dismantle Aga Radwanska on green clay. It was a tricky, masterful performance (against a trickster in her own right), in which the Swiss star slid from the baseline to the net, in an “only Patty” twist on clay court sliding.

And then there was Jankovic. JJ was always at her best in Charleston (she won the tournament in 2007), whether she was doing hilarious joint interviews and stunts with her pal Andrea Petkovic, playing some hilarious doubles with Petko as her partner, or giving press conferences that had me in tears, I laughed so hard.
Andrea Petkovic & Jelena Jankovic (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)

It was in Charleston that Jankovic announced, without emotion, that “My hair is like concrete.” and it was in Charleston that she draped a large towel around her shoulders, entered the press conference area, and declared herself a superhero.

The players always look forward to playing at the Volvo Car Open because they are treated like the special people that they are, and they also get to explore the city’s outstanding restaurants.

Normally, on this day, I'd be frantically checking off my list of things I have to do before I leave for Charleston on Sunday. Today, though, I'm checking off my list of chores that will keep me busy while I'm trapped in my house during the national health crisis. The weather is beautiful, which helps. And this, too, shall pass--but, for me, it just isn't April without Charleston.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coping without tennis

In 2005, we (I was married at the time) had to evacuate our home because of Katrina. It was difficult to find a place that would accept us with our pets, but we found one in central Louisiana. I was blogging for Mother Jones at the time, so I had an ongoing project that kept me occupied. I was also writing parodies (a long-time interest of mine), so that, too, kept me occupied.

Cooped up in an old, once-grand hotel in a small room with two cats would have been difficult enough on its own, but of course, we were watching the news and seeing and hearing horrific things that I will never be able to erase from my mind. We also didn't know if we would have a house to which we could return (our house was safe from water, but not from wind).

Our hotel room had a poor excuse for a television, but at least we had a television. And we had the U.S. Open. Never had I been so happy to watch the U.S. Open (this would happen all over again several years later when we had to evacuate to Birmingham because of Hurricane Isaac). My writing kept me busy, yes, but I was writing about exceedingly unpleasant things. Tennis--not for the first time in my life--saved me from further despair.

The Bailey Hotel (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)

People who do not follow any sports have no idea about the emotional outlet that is provided by watching and following professional and collegiate sports. Right now, sitting in my house, about 40 miles from New Orleans, I'm having a lot of Katrina-like feelings. And while it's a lot more comfortable here than it was in that hotel in Bunkie (where we were treated with great kindness), I have no live tennis to watch. I'm not much of a classic tennis viewer, though I tune in from time to time, so that is a limited outlet for me.

There is also an irony. I frequently think (sometimes with guilt) about ways that I could use my time if I weren't watching so much tennis. Now I have that time, but I can't leave the house except to walk and go to the grocery store. There is no Charleston (more on that in another post), and there is no French Open, and those are my two favorite tournaments.

Not being able to watch tennis is, of course, a petty complaint within the context of a national crisis, especially this crisis, which is made worse every day by a complete lack of leadership. But during times of crisis, all forms of entertainment become very important, as do all forms of art. We do what we can to promote our emotional health and to escape from our fears.

I miss the WTA. In the meantime, I'm finally watching Gilmore Girls (why did it take me 20 years?!), which is making me laugh every day, and helping to keep me sane. Tennis will return, and when it does, we will all have a fresh appreciation of the tour, it's amazing depth, and it's collection of wonderful characters.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Sharapova, the wounded warrior, retires from professional tennis


 

Maria Sharapova--having sustained the wounds of a chronic shoulder injury, incompetent medical care, and a "scandal" in which facts were easily exchanged for sensationalism and mob rule--announced her retirement from professional tennis today. The 32-year-old five-time major champion and Career Slam holder said to Vanity Fair:

"Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain—to compete on a different type of terrain."

The Russian star shot to fame in 2004 when, at age 17, she defeated Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final, and went on to defeat her again in the WTA Finals that year. Maria and her father had left Russia for the United States when she was a little girl so that she could fulfill her tennis potential. She didn't know the language or the culture, and she had to live without her mother while her father scrapped a living for them and helped her find coaches and facilities. There is no doubt that this difficult situation helped to toughen her.

And tough she was. Known for her serve (that would falter following a shoulder injury and a botched treatment that very likely led to her continued vulnerability) and her blazing groundstrokes, Sharapova was equally known for her mental toughness and fighting spirit. She was able to pull herself together when things went wrong on the court, and she possessed the kind of steely determination that defines truly elite athletes.

In 2006, Sharapova won the U.S. Open, defeating Justine Henin in the final (and wearing a fabulous “little black dress” that sparkled), and then having the trophy lid fall off and almost hit her in the head during the awards ceremony. Then, in 2008, she won the Australian Open, defeating world number 1 Lindsay Davenport in the second round, and Ana Ivanovic in the final.

In April of 2008, Sharapova tore her right rotator cuff, yet her doctors failed to detect the tear. (How doctors could fail to detect a rotator cuff tear remains a mystery.) She continued playing for three more months, not realizing what the problem was. During this time, of course, her injury became much worsse. To make matters worse, this was the second shoulder injury of her career. She finally went to a doctor who diagnosed her correctly, and she underwent surgery. But her problems continued. Sharapova went to Arizona to do her rehab, but it was unsuccessful, so—after playing some more with an injured shoulder—she had to undergo rehab a second time.

Sharapova was never the same after that. Her serve, once the foundation of her game, turned into a shower of double faults. Even the mentally strong Maria struggled mightily with her toss and with her service motion (something similar happened to her countrywoman, Elena Dementieva, who had a good enough serve until she had to have shoulder surgery). But she forged on—did she ever. In 2011, she returned to the top10, but she still had a problem to solve.

Sharapova’s problem was to find a way to win big with a modified skill set that included better movement and footwork, and she solved it in a way that surprised just about everyone—she solved in on clay, where everything was slowed down somewhat. No one, least of all Maria, ever expected her to win the French Open, but in 2012, she did just that, defeating Sara Errani in the final, and thus becoming only the tenth woman to hold a Career Slam. My post about the final is probably my all-time favorite of the many tennis blog posts I’ve written. The occasion had a kind of magic about it, even more so—in my opinion—than the 2004 Wimbledon victory or the glamorous 2006 U.S. Open achievement.

That year, Sharapova also won a silver medal at the Olympic Games.

In 2013, Sharapova launched Sugarpova, a candy company featuring whimsically designed gummy candies. The company has since expanded to include chocolate confections. Sharapova would go on to win the French Open again in 2014, this time, defeating Simona Halep in what the Russian star described as the toughest major final she had ever played.

The injuries continued, and the shoulder became more vulnerable as the years went on, although Sharapova continued to play at a very high level. Then, in 2016, the five-time major champion announced that she had been suspended by WADA for doping. I’m not going to go into the Meldonium affair here, other than to say that I stand today where I stood when it happened:

Having read the full report and the results of all the not-very-scientific-at-all studies, having consulted medical and pharmaceutical specialists, and having looked at the suspicious timing and heard the atrocious words of Craig Reeedie, my conclusion remains—that Sharapova was in error, but not nearly so much as her accusers and her punishers (not to mention some of her peers and numerous members of the sports media and the public). Both WADA and the ITF were, in my opinion, much more at fault than Sharapova.

And as of this writing, there are still no valid scientific studies that indicate that Meldonium is a performance-enhancing substance.




Sharapova, having had her suspension shortened from 24 months to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (who found no significant fault on her part), returned to the tour in 2017 and won her first title in two years in Tianjin. She continued to struggle with injuries, especially those involving her right shoulder.

In 2017, Sharapova’s autobiograpny, Unstoppable: My Life So Far was published. In it, she reveals that she had postponed her retirement because of the ITF ban. The book is personal and entertaining, and reflects a lot of the “edge” that is a highlight of the Russian’s personality.

That edge includes a sharp wit. “Isn’t she back in Poland already?” and “Check her blood pressure” remain my two favorite Sharapova verbal shots.

No review of Sharaapova’s career would be complete without discussing her professional relationship with Serena Williams. Though sometimes called a “rivalry,” it was anything but—Sharapova never defeated Williams again after the 2004 Wimbledon and WTA Finals. The other 19 times they played each other, Williams won. Among those losses to Williams were the 2007 Australian Open final, the 2012 Olympic Games, the 2012 WTA Finals, the 2013 French Open final, and the 2015 Australian Open final.

In addition to her losses to Williams at the above-listed majors, Sharapova also lost the 2011 Wimbledon final to Petra Kvitova, and the 2012 Australian Open final to Victoria Azarenka. She lost the WTA Finals in 2007 to Justine Henin.

Sharapova also had a hard-luck run in Miami, never winning the tournament, but making it to the final five times. The most memorable of those, for me, was the 2012 final. I was on Daniel Island at the time, covering the Family Circle Cup, and several of us headed to the on-site bar to watch the match. I was a fan of Aga Radwanska, and I watched with rapt attention as the tricky Polish player known as The Ninja dismantled Sharapova’s game and defeated her 7-5, 6-4. But nothing I can say about that match could ever come anywhere close to Todd Spiker’s unforgettable take, which you can read here.

Maria Sharapova won 36 singles titles and spent 21 weeks as the world number 1. She played on the Russian Fed Cup team in both 2008 (when Russia won the championship) and 2011, and in the 2011 final, she defeated both Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova, though the Czech Republic went on to win the championship. In 2014, Maria was the first of a succession of torch-bearers at the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games in Sochi.

Sharapova founded the Maria Sharapova Foundation to help children throughout the world achieve their goals, and to fund Chernobyl-related projects.

Like so many elite athletes, Maria Sharapova’s career presents us with some significant “what if?”s. What if she hadn’t sustained a shoulder injury? What if, when she had her second shoulder injury, she hadn’t been under the care of incompetent professionals? What if she hadn’t experienced the ITF ban?

We cannot answer these questions, of course, and even if we could, it would be nothing more than an intellectual exercise. What we do know is how the arc of Sharapova’s long career played out, both on and off the court. Maria brought excitement and a fierce intensity to the tour, and she became an international celebrity, which—in turn—brought attention to the tour and to the sport of tennis. Also, owning a Career Slam, five major singles titles, 36 total singles titles, a Fed Cup championship, and an Olympic silver medal isn’t too shabby, by any standard.

When I saw Sharapova at a press conference in Cincinnati last year, she appeared so world-weary, and I suspected a retirement announcement would come soon. When it did come, today, she said: “Tennis showed me the world—and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth.”

Maria Sharapova will undoubtedly continue to thrive as an entrepreneur and as an activist in her foundation. I suspect there are also other paths that she’ll take, and I look forward to learning what they are. I’ll miss her fighting spirit, her wit, and her one-of-a-kind persona. People are overly fond of saying that a retirement is the “end of an era,” but in Maria’s case, I think that it truly is the end of an era—and what an era it was.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Kenin, Ostapenko, Sevastova--a recipe for Fed Cup thrills

 

Toward the end of last year, Alona Ostapenko began to look like herself again. Now, teamed with coach Marion Bartoli, the 2017 French Open champion is looking more herself than ever (that includes the parts that need work, but I'll maintain hope about those), and she was in full flight this weekend in Everett, Washington when Latvia faced off against the USA in Fed Cup World Group competition.

Ostapenko lost her singles rubber against Serena Williams, but the scoreline--7-6, 7-6--says a lot. The Latvian star's other single rubber was against Australian Open champion and world number 7 Sofia Kenin. I had been looking forward to this. Just last week, I wrote that Kenin reminded me of Ostapenko in that they both have an automatic reset button when things go wrong on court. This is a mental gift that many players just can't seem to attain.

 

Ostapenko won that rubber, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. The talented Anastasija Sevastova lost to Kenin in straight sets, but came back the next day to defeat Serena Williams (her first-ever Fed Cup singles loss) 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in a real thriller. But in the deciding doubles rubber, the USA--represented by Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands--handily defeated Ostapenko and Savastova 6-4, 6-0.

Here are the results of the other World Group ties:

Belarus def. Netherlands, 3-2
Russia def. Romania, 3-2
Germany def. Brazil, 3-0 (4-0 with dead rubber)
Spain def. Japan, 3-0 (3-1 with dead rubber)
Switzerland def. Canada, 3-1
Belgium def. Kazakhstan, 3-1
Slovakia def. Great Britain, 3-1

There were some notable upsets. Sara Sorribes Tormo defeated world number 10 Naomi Osaka 6-0, 6-3. Afterwards, Osaka remarked that “For me, I’m kind of dealing with some stuff and I couldn’t mentally get into the match. It’s sort of… my fault.” Also upset was world number 5 Belinda Bencic, who lost in straight sets to 17-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez.

Those of us who live in the USA were out of luck--all ties outside the U.S. were blocked on Fed Cup TV (which we didn't need to watch the USA tie). I'm still waiting to hear back on whether the April ties will be blocked, so I don't know whether to cancel my subscription (which was useless this weekend).

I'm also not at all thrilled with the new format, and doubt that I ever will be.

Finally, there was this!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

My Australian Open top 10




Here are my top 10 Australian Open happenings and phenomena, in ascending order:

10. Australia on fire: The horrible bush fires preceded the Australian Open, and there was talk of postponing the tournament. The atmosphere received the second-worst rating that can be given, and Victoria’s chief health officer called the overnight air quality in Melbourne “the worst in the world.” Nevertheless, after a brief delay, qualifying began, and—sure enough—three of the players sustained significant problems with coughing and weakness.

The atmosphere cleared in time for the main draw to begin, and players contributed to the cause by pledging money for every ace and/or double fault they hit. Simona Halep did something different; not a big producer of aces, the Romanian instead agreed to chip in money every time she gave coach Darren Cahill the evil eye. Halep made it all the way to the semifinals, and the relief fund thereby gained an extra $20,000.

9. The second time is harder: Defending champion and 3rd seed Naomi Osaka lasted until the third round, when she was upset by Coco Gauff in straight sets.

8. The party ends too soon: World number 1 Ash Barty, playing before her home crowd (which isn’t an easy thing to do) looked for all the world like she might just grab the trophy on the final weekend. She knocked out the likes of Polona Hercog, Elena Rybakina, and an in-form (until the second set) 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova. But then Barty ran into one Sofia Kenin, and—though they were both beset by what appeared to be a case of nerves—it was Kenin who figured out how to make the best of a bad situation, defeating Barty 7-6, 7-5 in the semifianls.

7. It’s so dark, I can’t see the women:
No big women’s matches were played at night. On a personal, self-serving level, I benefited from this because I was able to watch all of the big WTA matches. But there was absolutely no excuse for this kind of scheduling.

6. New partner, same trophy:
Barbora Krejcikova defended her mixed doubles title, this time with partner Nikola Mektic. Last year, the Czech doubles star won the trophy while playing with Rajeev Ram.

5. As good as it gets:
4th seed Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza put on the best show of the tournament in their semifinal. Someone had to lose, and that was Halep, but the quality of play by both opponents was exceedingly high.

4. The upset of the tournament:
Most fans probably didn’t see it; most fans proably didn’t even think about it. But Zhenzhen Zhu, playing in her first major, upset top seed and all-around major wheelchair tennis threat Diede De Groot in the quarterfinals. De Groot’s defense was stunning—she saved eight match points—but toward the end of the match, her serve let her down. Then De Groot and her partner, Aniek Van Koot, the top doubles seeds, lost the doubles final to Yui Kamiji and Jordanne Whiley.

Kamiji swept the tournament, also winning the singles championship by defeating Van Koot in the final.

3. It was so much fun, we did it again: 2018 champions and 2nd seeds Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic won the Australian Open doubles championship again, this time by defeating top seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova in the final. This is the team’s third major championship; they also won the 2019 French Open.

2. Do do that Mugu that you do so well:
She’s……back! Two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza, who has been wandering around in who-knows-what shadow world for a couple of years, entered this year’s Australian Open in a not very auspicious way—she had the flu. Indeed, it looked as though she would have to retire after the first set of her opening round. But Muguruza, back from a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in the off-season, found a way to carry on, and carry on she did. In fact, she almost won the tournament. And though her loss in the final has to hurt deeply, the good news is that Mugu has returned to the top of the WTA mountain, where she belongs.

1.“What? Like, it’s hard?”: During the tournament, U.S. commentators barely acknowledged that Sofia Kenin existed. They just carried on with their Coco mantra, even after the teen phenom was out of the tournament (courtesy of Kenin). Then, when Kenin upset world number 1 Ash Barty, everyone had to take notice. A top junior who faded once she entered the tour, Kenin was determined to find her way, and find her way she did. The 21-year-old came to Melbourne with a good serve, a great drop shot, a very poor memory regarding errors and misfortune, and a tenacity and self-belief that should be the envy of all of us.

Kenin lost the first set of the final, and while that would serve as the kiss of death to almost any other first-time finalist, to Kenin, it was no big deal. She faced down Garbine Muguruza and took advantage of a letdown in the Spaniard’s energy, something many first-time finalists are not able to do, simply because they are overcome by the occasion. Kenin won the final 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. When the rankings are published tomorrow, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin will be the world number 7. Take notice.