Top 30 in 2018: Women 25-21

No. 25: Dominika Cibulkova
The 29-year-old Slovak has played so many tournaments, with winning 446 and 280 losses. Can she eventually hit 1,000 total? Possibility, for sure, but she will need more than a few years more on tour. Sure, she isn’t tall, but is super intense when on court. She is still swift, she celebrates and she can yell. Her serve is marginal, but both her forehand and backhand can be deep. She believes in herself, most of the time, and when she isn’t playing well, she will still try and try again. Cibulkova did reach the 2014 final at the Australian Open. Can she do it again next month? You have to give her an opportunity, at least a little bit.   

No. 24: Mihaela Buzarnescu
What a year by the 30-year-old, who was out for years because she had a shoulder and knee injuries. In July, she won San Jose and upended Elina Svitolina at Roland Garros and Birmingham. She is a big hitter and he’s hitting her stride. Buzarnescu started the year ranked No. 59, and now she is close to reach the top 20, or even further. Not bad. Good, in fact. 

No. 23: Carla Suarez Navarro
The 30-year-old veteran had a fine year. Yes, the Spaniard won’t be able to win a Slam, but she is always out there, trying, re-tooling her tactics. Years ago, this one-hander was way back behind the court. For sure, she was very steady. But, in order to upend the most important players, she had to run forward. She didn’t do it enough, but only once in a while. Now, she can attack while remaining steady. Suarez Navarro has been around for 15 years. Give her another five years, because clearly, she loves playing the sports, win or lose.

No. 22: Jelena Ostapenko
At times, the Latvian is so, so good. In 2017, she won Roland Garros, moving quickly and blasting off of both sides, nailing on top of the lines. Sure, she can rack up a ton of errors. But, when she is excited and thinking on court, she can lock in. However, this season Ostapenko dropped, and she lost a number of important matches starting in August. Good thing she reached the semis at Wimbledon, but she lost in the first round in Paris to Kateryna Kozlova. She wasn’t there. The 21-year-old is still young, so in 2019, she will play great at times, but still, she has more things to improve, and to figure it out. 
No. 21: Anett Kontaveit
The Estonian had some terrific wins, outside in the Grand Slams, but she did reach in the final in Wuhan, upsetting the 2017 US Open champ Sloane Stephens and she finally lost to the young riser Aryna Sabalenta. In Rome, she knocked off Venus Williams and Carolina Wozniacki before she went down to Elina Svitolina. Kontaveit can be very aggressive, and she can crack her forehand, but on court, she can get alarmed and she can totally lose it. The 22-year-old should get better next year, and improve her backhand and net play. If she does, she can reach the top 10 in 2019, at some point. And then?   

2017 top players: women’s 26-30 will review 2017’s top 30 women and men, our annual feature.

No. 26: Dominika Cibulkova
Domi entered the year and it looked like she could actually win a major. That didn’t happen. The long-time veteran can’t figure out how to mix up her shots and strategy. She has to, because if she can’t, she will never win a Grand Slam.

No. 27: Shuai Peng
Shuai has been around for a solid 15 years, and she is very steady and she can move forward. Her weakness is mental; she backs off when it is very close. At this point, it is better for her to focus on doubles.

No. 28: Aga Radwanska
That was a bad year by Aga, who has reached No. 2, and she has come pretty close at the Slams. Overall, she has improved a tremendous amount, but her forehand is still mediocre and that really hurts. Maybe she can pull out of this funk in 2018, but the clock is ticking. She may retire soon.

No. 29: Petra Kvitova
Props for Petra to come back after she was attacked at her home at the end of 2016. The Czech returned in late in May and, as she says, she has to start all over again. The two-time champion Kvitova has a tremendous amount of work ahead, but she is a darn good player, and she will come back eventually.

No. 30: Lucie Safarova
Lucie is another player who was injured and it took her a long time to get more healthy. The Czech has reached the final at Roland Garros a couple years ago, and she can be a big hitter. And she loves to rush at the net and put away the ball. Plus, she has won a number of huge events in doubles. She will rise again in 2018.

Who’s hot! Sharapova, Nadal voted sexiest again

nadal_300Thanks to our very loyal and active readers and for the thousands of votes we received. We love the responses.

Maria Sharapova is on a roll, winning now for the third straight year. However, boyfriend Grigor Dimtrov, who was voted sexiest last year, came in second. He lost out to three-time winner Rafa Nadal, who also was the hottest in 2011 & 2012.

Tennis’ hottest couple, Maria Sharapova and Grigor Dimtrov, won it in 2014.

The awards were named for Ivanovic and Safin whose notable sexiness helped them capture the awards for the first five years of the poll, 2005-2009. They were declared ineligible after the awards were named for them.

Results of all seven 2014 awards are listed below:

Male Player


Rafael Nadal 35%
Grigor Dimitrov 23%
Roger Federer 12%
Feliciano Lopez 8%
Novak Djokovic 6%
Ernests Gulbis 6%
Nick Kygrios 4%
Tommy Haas 3%
Fabio Fagnini 2%
Ryan Harrison 1%

Female Player


Maria Sharapova 35%
Eugenie Bouchard 17%
Victoria Azarenka 13%
Caroline Wozniacki 12%
Serena Williams 8%
Maria Kirlenko 6%
Alize Lim 5%
Dominika Cibulkova 2%
Karolina Pliskova 2%
Sloane Stephens 1%

ATP Coach of the Year


Magnus Norman /
Stan Wawrinka
Stefan Edberg /
Roger Federer
Michael Chang /
Kei Nishikori
Toni Nadal /
Rafael Nadal
Boris Becker /
Novak Djokovic
Goran Ivanisevic /
Marin Cilic

WTA Coach of the Year


Carlos Rodriguez /
Li Na
Patrick Mouratoglou /
Serena Williams
Wim Fissette /
Simona Halep
Sven Groeneveld /
Maria Sharapova
Nick Saviano /
Eugenie Bouchard
David Kotyza /
Petra Kvitova

ATP Breakthrough Kid of the Year
(24 or younger)


Kei Nishikori 65%
Grigor Dimitrov 15%
Dominic Thiem 8%
Milos Raonic 6%
David Goffin 6%

WTA Breakthrough Kid of the Year
(21 or younger)


Eugenie Bouchard 49%
Belinda Bencic 23%
Garbine Muguruza 16%
Zarina Diyas 6%
Madison Keys 6%

Tweeter of the Year


Laura Robson 30%
Roger Federer 19%
Stan Wawrinka 15%
Tomas Berdych 12%
Serena Williams 8%
Caroline Wozniacki 6%
Maria Sharapova 5%
Andy Murray 3%
Eugenie Bouchard 2%
Grigor Dimitrov 1%

Happiness is no tennis at the dinner table

Li IW 12 TR MALT0574

‘Li Na, Li Na, do this Li Na.’

FROM THE ROGER’S CUP IN TORONTO – Li Na and her husband Dennis don’t talk tennis at the dinner table. Or at least away from tennis sites. That’s likely why every time she talks about him she does so with a smile on her face. “Out of the tennis court we never talk about tennis, so that’s why we can keep a long marriage.”

LI had another reason to smile on Thursday after she edged Ana Ivanovic 3-6 6-1 7-6 (5) in a match that for little while appeared to be in the Serbian’s hands, but once again she could not find a way to best a top player and went down. She was up 5-2, served for the contest at 5-3, but then Li began to deliver hammer shots with her devastating backhand crosscourt and down the line, with slice and body serves and some deep and impossible to touch forehands. Ivanovic did not choke the match, but she could not seem to bring her ‘A’ game when it mattered most. At 5-5 in the tiebreaker, Li nailed a forehand crosscourt winner. On match point with the ball into her favored forehand side, Ivanovic flew one long.

Li’s coach of one year now, Carlos Rodriguez is not with her on tis trip, but they are communicating via email. He will be in Cincinnati with her next week. Having Rodriguez around has even helped her marriage and how Dennis deals with her on court when Carlos isn’t around.

“Every time [Carlos] was like say, Relax.  I say, I already relaxed.  He say, No, you should even more.  I was like, Okay.  But it’s very tough, because my husband also is my ex‑coach.  Sometimes he also has some idea, but if he say something I didn’t want listening all the time. So now I think he got a little bit smart.  If he want to do something he talk to Carlos, and then Carlos talk to me.  I was like, Okay, I have to do that because Carlos say I have to do.  Because if like two coaches say the different thing, it was a little bit of a fight because I didn’t know which one I listen.  Now I think they do pretty good job.  They make together first and then say, Li Na, you have to do this.  Li Na, you have to do that.  Same like here, because Carlos is not here, but my husband always say, Oh, Carlos say you should… So I was like, Okay.”

Li one of the WTA’s most endearing characters. She has a terrific sense of humor and enjoys a good laugh even at her own expense. She will have another tough contest in the next round when she faces Bank of the West Classic Classic champion Dominika Cibulkova who took down  Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-3 7-6. Domi has her grove back and she will be more than pleased to play powerball with Li.

Two other women who can smack the ball moved ahead and will face off. Defending champ Petra Kvitova muscled up and took a  6-3, 6-3 victory over SoCal Open victor Sam Stosur, who looked a little fried. Kvitova knew that so she made sure to hang tough in long rallies. But she does not feel she can take that kind of risk against Sorana Cirstea who had perhaps had the best  18 hours periods of her life when she fought off two match points against Caro Wozniacki in a three hour match that ended at almost midnight and then came back on Thursday afternoon and took out Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-4.

“I think I made a huge step forward today by backing up the win from yesterday, because I think this was one of the issues in the past,” Cirstea said. “I would have a good win but then I couldn’t really back it up.

Now I feel I’m more solid, and I’m taking every match the same and not focusing so much, ‘Oh, I just had a big win.’ I’m like, ‘Today is a new day, new match.’ I just have to do the same things I’m doing every single day. This kind of mentality, it’s helping me.”

Marion Bartoli retired down 7-6 1-0 to Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia and either has an  abdominal injury or she just exhausted from Wimbledon. Read here.

Serena Williams smoked  Kirsten Flipkens 6-0 6-3 and showed the Belgium just how hard it is to best two sisters in one event: Flipkens was the one who beat Venus Williams in round one.

Agnieszka Radwanska played the big points better than Sloane Stephens in a 6-1 7-6 win and said the young American just needs more experience.

Sara Errani is less than thrilled with Alize Cornet but beat her anyway France 7-5 7-6.   Read about their ‘Vamos v Allez’  tiff here.


Another double bagel for Radwanska over Cibulkova in BOW final?

Radwanska Stanford 13 TR MALT3445


By Matt Cronin

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC AT STANFORD, DAY 6 – Partly due to necessity, players sometimes rewrite their own personal histories in order to be able to move ahead with their careers after devastating defeats. After she bested Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-0 in the semifinals of Stanford and discussed a possible meeting in the final with  Agnieszka Radwanska, Dominika Cibulkova reflected back on the 2013 Sydney final, when the Pole blistered her 6‑0, 6‑0 to win the title.

At Stanford, Cibulkova commented that if one had seen the first set, you could see it was closer than the score indicated and to some degree that was true, but I sat courtside that warm night in Sydney and it wasn’t that close. In fact, Radwanska played incredibly well and Cibulkova imploded to the point of no return and had a mental collapse that belies her immense talent and at times, an enormous amount of self belief against other members of her generation. Here is what I wrote then:

“Lots of things are going to have to change for Dominica Cibulkova in the next few days after Aga Radwanska blistered her 6‑0, 6‑0 to win the [Sydney] title. The Slovakian was ridiculously erratic early and then she became scared and then she couldn’t keep a ball in the court of any  kind. You could tell that the super steady Radwanska – who seemed to read where she was going all night long – felt a little bad for her, but as Radwanska said later, this is tennis and in tennis things happen and you never ever take your foot off the pedal, even when you can sense your foe’s meltdown and all you have to is get the ball back in the court.

 “In the beginning I think she wanted too much,” Radwanska said. “Then I think in the beginning also a little bit nervous.  This is a final, so it’s always a little bit different than the ones before.  I think in the second set she really didn’t know what to do.  I think I was just playing at same level whole match, and that’s it. It’s always a little bit different because in your head it’s just like, I just lost set 6-0 and I have to win the game.  It’s always tough to play with this feeling.  I think she also had those thoughts in her head and it’s always a little bit harder…Too many mistakes from her.”’

 More than too many mistakes as Cibulkova, who had played so brilliantly in taking out Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani and Angie Kerber, fell into a black hole of erratic and nervous play which she might not get out in Melbourne. She had no defense and her money shot, her forehand, disappeared. How bad was it? Listen to her:

 “When I lost that 1‑0 again in the second set, I just completely kind of break down and stop thinking about what I have to do and how to play well.  I was just thinking, Oh, my God, what is happening? I was not choking, but I was starting to think about the score,.  Until then I had some strategy that I want to do.  And then after 6‑0, 1‑0, 2‑0, I was like, Oh, my God, what is happening?  Now it’s like the score that didn’t want to be in.  After I stopped thinking and I was just thinking about the score all the time.  After I just wanted to stay in a rally with her, but it’s just not something I’m used to d.  I’m just start to play with less power, and that’s not where I feel comfortable. Then I just didn’t want to do the mistakes and then I was doing even more mistakes.  It was just like this, going round [in a spiral]. I knew that she would not give my one easy ball, and it was making my frustration even bigger.

How often does a world No. 15 lose to a world No. 4 6-0, 6-0 in a final. Hardly ever. How often does the notable player who was double bageled, come back at a Slam a few days later and go on a major run? Has it ever happened?

While Cibulkova chances of reaching the second week of Melbourne may have totally disappeared, Radwanska, who went off into the Sydney night in search of  big piece of cheesecake, is feeling very good about herself.

Radwanska did not end of having a great Aussie Open [Li Na, whom she had beaten in the Sydney semis,  punched her out in the quarters], and true to the projection Cibulkova had a disastrous Aussie Open, falling to [who?] qualifier Valeria Savinykh in the second round. Sometime after that she watched the first set of her loss to Radwanska so she could learn form her mistakes. That’s a great idea as it shows she’s not hiding from what has occurred. But I am by no means convinced she can turn things around on Sunday in Palo Alto as on Saturday I could hear her voice quiver a bit – not because she thinks that Radwanska can wipe her off the court if she herself plays well,  but because she fears playing so badly and nervously again. Hopefully for fans both will bring their best because it could be a cracker of a final. After Radwanska’s clinical 6-3 6-2
win over  Jamie Hampton in the semis, the Pole is looking confident again, so she will enter the final a substantial favorite and should she win the title, perhaps she will be able to forget her emotionally devastating loss to Sabine Lisicki in the Wimbledon semis, a   Grand Slam she admits was on her racket.


Cibulkova playing a “little bit smarter”


Cibulkova Stanford 13 TR MALT1772

Domi is hoping to someday match the feats of jr. rivals Azarenka and Wozniacki

By Matt Cronin

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC AT STANFORD – Dominica Cibulkova will likely face this question every year for the rest of her career: why have two women whom she faced off against in the juniors, Victoria Azarenka, and Caroline Wozniacki, been able to reach No.1, and she hasn’t? The Slovak was born in 1989, the same year that Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Sabine Lisicki and Yanina Wickmayer were. Right behind them 1990 babies Wozniacki and Sorana Cirstea, whom she also saw plenty of in the juniors and will play in Bank of the West semis.

Given how hard she hits the ball, it would be ridiculous to say that because Cibulkova is short that she is always facing an uphill battle power- wise. She can crack groundies with anyone and is pretty fast. Clearly, at 5-foot-3, her serve will never be a big weapon, but her first serve is very decent. Radwanska faces the same challenge and her overall results have been better than Cibulkova’s. Even Lisicki just reached a Slam final. So perhaps “Domi’s” lack of a big title is in her head.

“Tennis at this level is 80 percent mental so when you are well prepared mentally, you handle it better on court,” Cibulkova said. “Sometimes my emotions go through me and then I don’t play the same tennis, or when it’d starting to get tight I start to think more, so maybe I go for too much because I want to go against the emotions. What I need to get into the top 10 is to play the same level.”

Cibulkova pulled off a fine 7-5, 6-3 win over Urszula Radwanska in the quarters, who pulled muscle in her right ankle in the third game of the second set. The younger Radwanska is a tougher out than she used to be, and is more than just a  counterpuncher, but she prefers longer points while Cibulkova likes to slug it out – for the most part. She can play more patiently at times and with the help of her coach Matej Liptak, made a strategic shift to go down the line more rather than constantly going crosscourt.

“She’s really good at reading the game and what I did good was changing, so she couldn’t read it and didn’t know what to do anymore.”

Cibulkova, who understands Polish, heard Radwanska complaining about the court (“it’s to fast,” it’s too fast”) and knew she had a mental edge. She can hit flat and through the court. But in order to close out the match, she had to mix it up. However, she does not think she’s peaked intellectually as a player.

“I wouldn’t say a much smarter player,” she said.

Cibulkova needs to be though if she going to realize her top-10 dreams. She has had an up and down season, mostly due to injury, but she has cracked the top 15 before and is chock full of ambition. She is still often caught in between being a first strike demon and being more of a  conservative player. Working the points more would benefit her, but when she gets on a  roll she can’t resist going for the corners. Sometimes, like for abut half of her win over Radwanska, her balls kiss them.

Cibulkova does admit that she still does compare herself to her peer group from the juniors, but not in negative way where she gets depressed because she hasn’t had their success, but in a more a positive way where she treats them just like she did when they traded strokes as kids—as equals. She will surely do the same when she plays another slugger in Cirstea on Saturday afternoon.

“Of course that why when I am going to play against Caroline or Azarenka and they were No. 1, I’m not playing against No.1, but someone I’ve known since juniors,” she said.