2017 top players: women’s 11-15


TennisReporters.net will review 2017’s top 30 women and men, our annual feature.

No. 11: Kristina Mladenovic
As the Frenchwoman said, she was great from January through June, and then, she totally collapsed. She says that the pressure came on and she couldn’t shake it. She couldn’t think anymore, and she became very frustrated. In the first five months, she was unbelievably good, on hard courts and on clay. She is super strong, plays with a lot of variety, either way back on the baseline and putting away at the net. If Kiki gets her head on straight, she could actually reach the Grand Slam final. If not, she can disappear once again.

No. 12: Svetlana Kuznetsova
The Russian has been playing for eons, having won the US Open in 2004 when she was very young, confident and she believed in herself. That was 13 years ago and now, she plays tournament after tournament, playing fantastic, and the next week, she gets mentally down and then she plays flat. That is Sveta, who loves to talk —which is a very good thing — but she got hurt towards the end of the year and now, she cannot go to Australia in 2018. Hopefully, she will returns in February, and she will be fresh. And maybe next year, she will win her third Grand Slam [she also won Roland Garros, on clay, in 2010] and then, she will be thrilled and continuing on forever. There is no doubt that she will become a coach someday.

No. 13: Sloane Stephens
A couple years after she started on the WTA Tour in 2010, the American looked like she would win a major pretty soon. She was so fast, so steady, and pretty smart overall. But then when she was close to winning the Slams, at the Aussie and Wimbledon, she backed off. Then she fell down mentally. Hello, 2016! She underwent surgery and could not play for nine months. When she returned, and for the first time, she went for it. She had an amazing summer, and eventually, she won the US Open. After that, she was exhausted and failed to win a match in Asia, and even at the Fed Cup final. In 2018, she can certainly win another Grand Slam. She is that good. 

No. 14: Julia Goerges
What a great year by the German, who did very little against the big guns before this year. In 2017, she raised her head and rarely backed off. Another veteran, she realized that if she can actually push forward, be aggressive, and be patient, then she would have a legitimate chance to go deep. And she did. Can she crack the top 10 for the first time? Sure she can. She wants it badly.

No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The “other” Russian is another veteran, who plays great at times, and then she gets down on herself and she checks out. However, in 2017, she finally became more consistent, which is why now, at four different Grand Slams, she has reached the quarters. In 2018, perhaps she will reach the semis for the first time? Hmmm


Pavlyuchenkova to face Venus: ‘I want to do even better’

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 2009. Photo: Mark Lyons

Australian Open, Jan 22 ­– Svetlana Kuznetsova has been there before, losing early, or winning a whole thing. She won a spectacular victory, overcoming the intense Jelena Jankovic. But on Sunday, she froze, and lost against another veteran, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“I was very tired, but I was really tight. Definitely I was not the freshest, but still, I was okay,” Kuznetsova said. “I know I still have to improve on a lot of different things in the game to get decent level, and I was a little bit too tight.”

More than a few years ago, the Russian Pavlyuchenkova looked like she was going to win a major, someday. Since then, she has looked very decent, but not great. The good thing is that she has managed to reach the quarterfinals, but she has yet to reach the semis. Good, but not fantastic.

“I have a lot of memories, because won it twice in juniors and was showing some good tennis, also in the pros, but never achieved something, like, big here. It’s one of my favorite Grand Slams. I’m super excited.  I want to do even better.”

Pavlyuchenkova has played nine years at the WTA Tour. The 25-year-old reached No. 13 back in 2011. She can be aggressive, but she is a little slow.

In 2013, she felt great. In the off season in November and December 2012, she worked out with Serena Williams. She really likes Serena, and in Brisbane to start the new season in 2013, and they played each other in the final (Serena won).

Then at the AO, all hell broke loose.

“I was super frustrated. We have played finals in Brisbane against each other. I was in such good form,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “So I was looking forward for Australian Open, and then I arrived here and I was so strong, and I lost to the girl (Lesia Tsurenko 7-5 in the third).. That was super frustrating for me. I think I didn’t handle it. I was really down. The next couple of tournaments and couple of months didn’t go so well, because mentally I was just not there.

“That was pretty much my mistake before. I think I could kill myself after one or two matches, and then just kind of skip the rest of the tournaments, the next ones, where now I’m trying to work hard, show good tennis, enjoy, and don’t take it so, so serious. Maybe that’s the key.”

The key is that she will have to be super patient against the 36-year-old Venus Williams in the quarterfinals. They have played five times, three wins by Williams and two by Pavlyuchenkova. It’s been pretty close.

Maybe the tide will turn for the Russian.

“I can’t compare myself to Venus and Serena. I remember I was a little girl holding the racquet was bigger than me, and they were ready to play in finals of a Grand Slam. I can’t compare myself to them, but at the same time I kind of also feel experienced. We have had some matches with Venus before. I played her before, so I know how it feels to play against her, but they are still playing. Let’s see who’s gonna win.”

So much smarter: Kuznetsova wins the title in Sydney

Sveta is primed to upset Vika.

APIA INTERNATIONAL SYDNEY, Jan. 15, 2016 – Svetlana Kuznetsova has been around for a very long time, with 2004 the first year she served notice on the tennis world.

She lost early in New Zealand, losing in the second round, and she was not considered the favorite at Sydney. But she got her feet wet, took out Sabine Lisicki and Sara Errani, and on Friday, she had to knock out two competitions to win the title, No. 2 Simone Halep and Monica Puig.

On a bizarre day on Thursday, it was hot and sunny in the morning, but then the whipping rain came and pretty much wiped out play. Halep was on serve 5-4 in the first set. In the other semis, Puig was up 4-0 over Belinda Bencic.

On Friday, the rain was coming in and out, so the women came on court ASAP. Bencic said she was ill and she was throwing up, so she was retired down 6-0. But even though Halep has been a little bit afraid due to her sore Achilles Heel, she wanted to run around as fast as she could. The Romanian fought very hard, but the Russian won the match 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3. Kuznetsova has so much variety. She twisted, she sliced, she spun and she blasted inside the lines.

A few hours later, she and Puig went on court and before the youngest competitor new it, she was gone, 6-0, 6-2. Kuznetsova was in the zone. These days, she is so much smarter than she used to be.

“I’m mature. I know how to listen to myself,” the 30 year old said. “That’s probably the biggest improvement. I just listen to myself. Because sometimes you look for other people to tell you what to do or kind of expecting the opinion of somebody. What’ most important is what you are inside, what you feel like and what’s important to you. When you know more or less yourself, you don’t get angry when you don’t do so well. Just some balance which is within you. This is what I feel, and I feel that my game is in different stage. I can do this different variety, whatever it is, of my shots because I’m able to. So I kind of analyze more myself.”

Back in 2004, few people knew who Kuznetsova was outside of Russia, but once people saw her, they could see how powerful she was and how much spin she put on the ball. At Roland Garros, she was running around, slicing, chopping, and rolling his thunderous forehand. In the fourth round, she held a few match points against the No. 5 Anastasia Myskina, but she could not push her way. Her now very good friend Myskina won the tournament, and it looked like Kuznetsova was down in the dumps, but after a few weeks later, the then 19-year-old picked up where she left off.

At the US Open, she was a thoroughbred, streaking past Mary Pierce, Nadia Petrova, Lindsay Davenport and Elena Dementieva to win the title. She had risen quickly.

However, in the next year, she began to slump because there was too much pressure, too soon. Too many people were talking about her and she didn’t like it. It took her four years to rise up again. In 2008, she reached five finals, including Sydney. She wasn’t totally there yet, but she was much more consistent. In 2009, she took off, winning Roland Garros.

How good was she in Paris? She knocked off Aga Radwanska, Serena Williams (7-5 in the third set), Sam Stosur (another dramatic three sets) and Dinara Safina to snare the crown. She knew exactly what she wanted to do.

But the reality is that since then, she has been pretty darn good, but overall, she has not been great. She has won 15 singles title and 16 doubles title, which is just fine, but she has been so unpredictable. Look at the 30-year-old in 2015: in the first four months, she didn’t win three matches in a row until May, when reached the final in Madrid, stunning Lucie Safarova and Maria Sharapova. She looked terrific, moving fast, mixing it up, and smacking her balls deep and skipping around. In the final, her legs were gone and she couldn’t move against Petra Kvitova.

But it looked like she was going to charge again.

Kuznetsova has a load of experience, but she can drop off fast. That she did, for no reason at all. She lost early at Wimbledon and at the US Open. Kuznetsova didn’t go deep either in Asia. She was getting a little tired and ready for the season to end. But the tournament directors asked her to come to Moscow. She hemmed and hawed. She decided to go and all of a sudden, she was happy. Who knows why? She wasn’t glum as she had a huge smile on her face when she won the event.

Moscow get my confidence in the end of the year, so probably that’s why also an easier start this year,” she said. “I still remember the feeling playing good and comfortable against players on the court. To explain something why it’s really hard. First of all, I didn’t want to play Moscow. I was in China three, four weeks. I was just like, Oh, my God. I can’t wait until this season will be over. But then I came back home and I was like, ‘Okay, it’s one of my favorite events. I would like to play it. Last moment I decide, Okay, I’ll play.’

Then when I get win and win and win, and when you win, and then they offer me to go to Zhuhai [in China] to play. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll go to Zhuhai.’ So in end of year I was just going with the flow. Whatever wind was blowing I was going. So it just happen like that. I don’t know. I just decided that it’s easier for me than force something.”

Kuznetsova says that she played too many events last year. She wants to be calmer and not be playing every week. We will see. But, when she on, she can be lethal and she will battle until the last ball. Remember the 2011 Australian Open? In the third round against Francesca Schiavone, she survived 6-4 1-6 16-14 after holding six match points and finally winning after four hours, 44 minutes. She just wouldn’t give up.

Kuznetsova has yet to win the Australian Open, but she has reached the quarters three times. She has a very tough draw. She has to face with the former No. 4 Daniela Hantuchova in the first round. She might have to face Bencic in the third round, and maybe have to go up against her friend, Maria Sharapova, in the fourth round. If she shocks Sharapova, then she might face Serena in the quarters. Wow, now that would be difficult, but whomever she plays, she just likes to strike the ball.

I never dream of winning one. I never thought winning one,” she said. “It just happens behind hard work, effort, and just having pleasure playing tennis. To me. I’m not saying it’s good way for somebody else. If I have this opportunity and I can take it, I would love to. I would be extremely happy. If not, my life not going to end on it. But still, I love the game. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. It’s great I can still win titles.
I don’t feel old at all.”


The Picks, Madrid, May 8: Maria Sharapova vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Serena Williams vs. Petra Kvitova

Sharapova IW 15 TR MALT6619


Who is more tired? Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova? Serena won a marathon 7-6 in the third set over Victoria Azarenka and then crushed the rising Spaniard Carla Suarez. Sharapova outlasted

Caroline Garcia 7-5 in the third and then outhit Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 in the third. Kuznetsova won three matches that went on and on, as the former two-time Slam champion overcame Garbine Muguruza 7-5 in third, survived over Sam Stosur 7-6 also in the third, and then got through over Lucie Safarova 7-6 in the third. The Czech Kvitova bested Olga Govortsova 6-4 in the third and then she beat CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3 in the third.

So who will have her rubbery legs?

Perhaps against Kuznetsova, who has fought so hard and really mixed it up and also pounded her forehands into both corners, but eventually, you cannot run forever day after day and if she goes more than an hour and a half, she will grow very tired, very fast. Over the past two year she has been up and down, partially because she wasn’t playing the right way and she was an emotional mess. But she has rediscovered her ship and she is happy again. She seems to know her right strategies.

But Kuznetsova cannot jump on the balls super early and knock her socks off. Sharapova can though and she looks pretty darn good again. She was hurt in Miami, now saying that she should not have played at all, but her bum leg feels better and here, she has been moving quite well. She loves clay these days, actually likes to slide even though she is tall and can tangle up, and she likes to set up her shots and when she is ready, she will rip it. Sharapova will kiss the lines and win in straight sets.

Kvitova has yet to beat Serena in five matches – surprise, surprise — and perhaps one day, she will, like on grass when she has won two Grand Slams at Wimbledon. The lefty does have a huge first serve swinging out wide, and she smoke her forehand and backhand, but she can get in trouble when she can pull her out way wide and get caught.

Serena is better overall, with her serves and her strokes. Yes, Azarenka can stay in there against Serena, but Kvitova has yet to prove that she can return super hard and stick in there, both in front and behind. Kvitova wants to eventually become No. 1, but she has months ahead to go and if she ever manages to do it she has to improve everywhere. She cannot go into a walk-about against the other top opponents. She will play tough and it will be close in the first set, but Serena will edge her and run past her in the second set.

Serena vs. Maria again? Excited on clay? Why yes.


Aussie Open Day 8 Picks

Milos will take on Murray

Milos wants his 4th crack at Federer



What a tough call Caroline Wozniacki versus Svetlana Kuznetsova is to open Monday

Wozzy Wozzy, Wozzy, Oh no, Oh no, Oh no

wozniacki asian swing 12

FROM THE APIA SYDNEY INTERNATIONAL – Deep in the first set of her 7-6, 1-6, 6-2 loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round, Caroline Wozniacki engaged in a sharp, hard-hitting rally where she had her money shot, her two-handed backhand lined up to end the rally, and she plunked it into the net. She then threw her racket angrily on the ground, knowing that yet another opportunity had been lost.

The likeable Dane is once again in a tough spot in her now not-so-young career. She

Fed Cup, Monte Carlos semis preview

Ivanovic and Jankovic will try and lead Serbia to its first final.



Even though Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has a 3-0 record against Jelena Jankovic, I

The Brisbane Caucuses: Early returns

Serena's troublesome ankle is acting up again.

How much is to be made of the first four days of the new season, when some of top players are still resting (i.e. Novak Djokovic and Victoroa Azarenka) and others are playing an exhibition (the oh-so-fun Hopman Cup.) Perhaps not that much, but given how many excellent players are competing, it’s worth taking a quick look at the what has befallen some in the first week of 2012 season.


Serena Williams wrenched her left ankle in a win over Bojana Jovanowski and is now questionable for the Australian Open. Given how fit she looked coming into the year, that’s awful news for Serena, who has been the most dominant player at the Australian Open over the past decade and who really needed matches after not having played since the US Open. It’s too early to tell whether she’ll heal quickly and be able to make a strong charge Down Under, but the video of her re-injuring that chronically problematic ankle did not look good

Ana Ivanovic has been a fixture Down Under since the off-season, which she spent with boyfriend and golfer Adam Scott. She won her first match, and then let go of a 3-0 lead in the third set against Kim Clijsters. Ivanovic’s three-set record since 2008 has been nearly miserable and whether its fitness or confidence ,she must turn that around because there is no way in creation that she going to run thorough the field in Melbourne without dropping a set.

Sam Stosur isn’t making too much of her loss to Iveta Benasova, and I wouldn’t either, because the Czech is very tricky and streaky player who is capable of bothering the top women. But Stosur better turn on the jets next week in Sydney, because she needs positive momentum going into her home Slams, where she’s never played her best.

Vets Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone will face off in the Brisbane quarters, which will be a good indication of where their levels are.

It’s hard to tell whether Andy Murray‘s knee is really bothering him, or whether he just needed to shake the rust off in two long victories. If his knee is bothering him, his Aussie Open chances will obviously be dimmed. If it’s OK, then once again he’ll enter the tournament as a top 5 favorite.

The question on everyone’s mind is whether his new coach Ivan Lendl can help him win a major. Lendl seems to think so and with a certain amount of star power, will certainly deflect some attention from Murray himself, but really, is it Lendl’s legendary work ethic, conditioning and dedication that Murray needs, or some technical and strategic help. To me, he has almost all the necessary tools to win a Slam except a big enough forehand and decent enough second serve. Then off course, there is his willingness to cut loose on the bog points against the Big 3. Lendl, who has never coached a pro, can certainly help him with the latter, but with the former, I’m just not sure. A swing and positioning coach might do a better job.

Murray’s former coach, Miles Maclagan, who likes to work his students hard, is coaching Marcos Baghdatis and the early returns are good after the Cypriot bested Kei Nishikori. He’ll play Murray in the quarters, which should be a fascinating match up.

Aussie Bernard Tomic has caught fire and is actually capable of winning the tournament. Imagine the attention he’ll get if he pulls off the feat. The tricky Radek Stepanek will test Alex Dolgopolov’s fitness and brain.


It’s been a grey windy and sometimes-windy week in New Zealand so it’s really hard to gage how well anyone is playing. Julia Georges is sick, Peng Shuai was said to look super rustym while Sabine Lisicki and Flavia Pennetta march on. Built the biggest surprise of this week was Svetlana Kuznetsova smoking Christina McHale 6-1, 6-1, after the young Amercian had beaten her twice last year. Kuznetsova appears motivated again which could make her very dangerous. Also watch out for Jie Zheng, who has one more good season left in her if healthy.


Rafa Nadal says his problematic shoulder is feeling better after he warms-up, which is good news for the Spaniard’s fans. He has added a bit of weight to his Babolat AeroDrive Pure racket, presumably to amp up his serve and presumably his groundies a bit. He is strong enough to handle the extra weight and retain his remarkably quick swing speed. Whether it will affect his play in the short term remain to be seen, but at the very least he was willing to make a change and if he gets in a groove, it may give him confidence that he has a secret new weapon to face off against Novak Djokovic.

Roger Federer and Jo Tsonga could face off in the semis, which I believe would be the fifth time they clashed in the past seven months. Jo needs a win this time around. Gael Monfils, who played a ton of exos in the off-season, is also still alive.


This is the weakest event of the three ATP 250s, but Milos Raonic is in the draw, which makes it super interesting as he’s now had enough months to recover from his elbow injury and could put himself in prime position for the Aussie Open assault with a good week. Young Indian Yuki Bhambri won a match and will face top seed Janko Tipsarevic, while Spain’s Nicolas Almagro is the second seed and is looking to establish his Davis Cup chops. Sam Querrey fell in the first round, but something tells me he’ll be heard from in the next three weeks.

WTA 2011Review, No

Kim played brilliantly Down Under, but then the injury bug bit her again.


In some ways, this list is more intriguing than the top 10, because it contains four Grand Slams winners, as well as three ex number ones, and three up and comers. All 10 are capable of finishing 2012 ranked in the top 10, but at least four of the veterans could slide out of the top 20. A couple of the younger players may have peaked, too.

11. FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: As Pennetta said, when Francesca is motivated, she

US Open: grading the pros


This was written before the women