Nastase’s Fed Cup appeal reduces sanctions


Tennis legend and former Romanian Fed Cup captain Ilie Nastase appealed the sanctions heaped on him by the International Tennis Federation in the wake of last April’s behaviour during a tie against Great Britain to an independent tribunal.

And he ended up with a lighter sentence, but also a lighter wallet.

The list of Nastase’s transgressions was long that weekend. It included a racially insensitive comment about Serena Williams’s (then unborn) baby. Not stopping there, Nastase also made inappropriate, sexually suggestive comments to Great Britain Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong.

Added to that, the 71-year-old also made abusive and threatening comments to a British journalist. And then, there was the inappropriate behaviour on court during the actual matches. The arbitrator considered those the most serious.

All of his targets (including the journalist) were women with the exception of tie supervisor Andreas Egli.

The original suspension handed down by the ITF banned Nastase from “acting in an official capacity” at any ITF-related events for three years, through Dec. 31, 2020. Nastase also was denied access or accreditation to any ITF events through Dec. 31, 2018. He also was assessed a $10,000 fine.

After hearing the case, an independent tribunal called Sport Resolutions fattened the fine by another $10,000. But it reduced the length of the suspensions by eight months each.

Now, those dates are April 23, 2020, and April 23, 2018.

Timely decision during Fed Cup week

NastaseThe timing of the release of the decision on an appeal filed last Aug. 11 is … interesting.

This week, the Romanian Fed Cup team is hosting Canada in its World Group II first-round tie. The tie, which is taking place Cluj-Napoca, Romania is the Fed Cup team’s first tie since that dramatic weekend last April.

As a result, all of the participants, mainly the Romanian players, will have to react to Wednesday’s decision. It’s a week when they should be focusing on winning and advancing to a World Group I playoff tie.

The hearing took place in London on Dec. 13, with Nastase accompanied by four lawyers (three of them women). 

He had two witnesses, one of them his lifelong friend Ion Tiriac. For the ITF, Andreas Egli, the ITF supervisor for the tie, also was heard.

Denials and “mitigating circumstances”

If you read the complete decision, the language Nastase used towards Egli, and the implied threat that he wouldn’t get out of the country, are pretty shocking.

And, as outlined in that decision, Nastase continued to deny he said certain things. Or, he claimed he said them in a different language than he did. And then when that was challenged, the Romanian said he couldn’t remember what he said.

It sounds like it was quite a hearing.

The suspension did not prevent Nastase from attending any ATP, WTA or even Grand Slam events, which don’t fall under the ITF’s jurisdiction. And while some annual invitations were rescinded, he did attend his great friend Tiriac’s tournament in Madrid.

Nastase even was involved in the trophy ceremony when fellow Romanian Simona Halep won the title last May. Which was awkward, although seemingly not for his countrywoman. He also showed up at the ATP Tour event in Bastad, Sweden.

The French Open declined to send him an invitation to his favorite tournament. Wimbledon also took a pass.

He’s really, really sorry

In his concluding remarks to the panel, Nastase expressed “what the Tribunal considered to be genuine remorse for his conduct and said in substance that leaving his beloved sport on such a note would be very difficult personally and would constitute a black mark on his career that he wishes were not there.”

The Tribunal believed the words were genuine and sincere. But it, but could not “excuse behaviour that is not acceptable according to the applicable standards and especially unworthy of someone who has been the number one tennis player in the world, among other accomplishments.”

Tiriac testified that Nastase “is not a racist person, as evidenced by his actions over his long career.” 

It’s hard to fathom that Nastase would make an appearance in Cluj-Napoca this weekend. But you never know.

Florin Segarceanu is currently the Fed Cup captain.

First Slam – and top spot – for patient Wozniacki


MELBOURNE, Australia – No matter how the Australian Open women’s singles final ended Saturday night, one player was going to be devastated.

And the other would be over the moon, hugging Daphne.

It was a gripping match with umpteen changes of momentum. There was some great play, and some nervous play. After two weeks of a tough physical grind, the heat and humidity that lasted into the night was a factor.

No one in Rod Laver Arena or watching at home knew who the winner would be until the final moments. That no doubt included the players themselves. So the elation and the disappointment were only magnified by the suddenness with which it came upon them.

In the end, it was Caroline Wozniacki, 12 years into a hugely successful career that was lacking just that one piece of hardware, who earned the Daphne Akhurst Trophy as the newly crowned Australian Open champion.

And it was Romania’s Simona Halep who must continue to believe that her time to be a Grand Slam champion will also come one day.


The 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4 victory took two hours and 49 minutes. And if the tears the rarely emotional Wozniacki displayed in victory will be remembered so, too, will the grace shown by Halep as her tennis heart suffered a couple more nicks.

“She was better. And she was fresher. She had actually more energy in the end,” said Halep, who had a well-deserved cry afterwards but was more than composed by the time she came in for her press conference.

Back to No. 1 – with a twist

Wozniacki had spent more weeks than anyone as the No. 1 ranked player in the world – 67 – without winning that elusive first major.

Of all the narratives in tennis, the notion that a player’s career, one that includes all that time in the top spot and 28 titles, could be a disappointment by any measure might be the most ludicrous one. And yet, it has persisted.

But now, Wozniacki has firmly shut the door on it. You would hope.

“Honestly, I think that’s one of the most positive things about all of this. I’m never going to get that question again. I’m just waiting for the question, When are you going to win the second one?” she said. “Right now I’m just happy I have this one, and I’m going to really enjoy this moment.”

Not only is Wozniacki now a Grand Slam champion, she also will be back in the No. 1 spot on Monday – exactly six years after the last time she held that spot.

“I think it’s pretty incredible, and I think I need to take it in, realize what happened. I’m usually not an emotional person. So for me to start shaking and crying on court was pretty different for me,” Wozniacki said during one of the multiple live television interviews that followed the trophy ceremony.

“I knew today was either going to be an incredible day, or a day I was going to be really sad leaving the court. It was my day today.”

Second chances maximized

Both women saved match points to get to this final, meaningful showdown.

Wozniacki was almost out – should have been out, really – in the second round to Croatia’s Jana Fett. Somehow, from 5-1, 40-15 down in the third set she came back to win. It takes some luck, sometimes.


Halep nearly packed her bags twice.

Against Lauren Davis in the third round, she saved match points and won it 15-13 in the third set after three hours and 45 minutes. And then, in a blockbuster of a match against 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in the semifinals, she escaped again and won it 9-7 in the third set.

That was another gruelling two hours, 20 minutes’ worth of wear and tear on a body that was already battered, after Halep rolled her ankle in her first-round win over Australian wild card Destanee Aiava.

Her determination in getting all the way to the end seemed to presage that perhaps, just maybe, this might be her time, in her third Grand Slam finals attempt.

But to somehow decide who deserved it more, of the two women, is a debate for which there was no answer.

“I obviously feel very sad for her, but at the same time, you know, I’m very happy for myself. I can only imagine. But I didn’t want to think too much about how it would feel to win before the match because that’s like in case I don’t, it’s going to hurt even more,” Wozniacki said. “I’m sure she’s – it must be hard for her right now.”

Great start for Wozniacki

Wozniacki began the match looking every bit like a player who was going to go after the win, in a way she never had before.

But it lasted only a set, and after that, it was Halep, down in the score, who emerged the winner.

“After the first set, I just was out. I don’t know what happened. No energy, no power. But then I just said that I have to hit all the balls, and then I could take the second set,” Halep said. “I came back in the third set, but when I had to serve for 5-3, the gas was gone, so I couldn’t make it. It’s a bit sad.”

Most of the points followed a similar pattern. Whichever player was able to get the other moving from corner to corner by changing the direction of the ball and going down the line got the advantage in the point. In the first set, Halep was doing most of the running. In the second, Wozniacki was the one defending. And that was out of necessity for Halep; given how she was feeling, she knew that she didn’t have the fuel to run her way to the title.


The heat and humidity meant that the rule for the women players allowing a 10-minute break before the third set, subject to one of the players making the request.

Wozniacki said it was Halep who asked for me. That wasn’t surprising, since the Romanian appeared to be close to cramping, and barely managed to serve the set out.

“I wasn’t going to take it, I thought maybe I can keep pushing on and she’ll be more tired than me,” Wozniacki said. “But once she did I thought, it could be good, to resettle, refocus.”

Halep wasn’t sure it helped.

“Was really good when I was staying in the air-conditioning in the locker room. But I feel that was a little bit too much and maybe cut me a little bit. But I needed it for the breathing, for the head, because I had headache during the match,” Halep said.

Physical battle to the end

Both took medical timeouts. For Halep, at 2-3 in the second set, it was more of a medical issue as she had her blood pressure checked and dealt with a headache and dizziness.


In the third, it was Wozniacki who had some tape applied below her left knee.

There were only three breaks of serve in the first two sets. By the third, survival time, there were six breaks in the first eight games.

After a fortnight in the heat, six previous matches, and with all that was at stake, it’s asking a lot for two players to produce their best tennis.

They didn’t, but they gave everything they have and all of their heart and desire.

“I was thinking, If I am tired right now, I know one of my strengths is my speed, obviously my fitness, I know she’s tired, too, so… Every time I was like, Oh, I can’t do this anymore, I’m exhausted, and we were playing all these crazy long rallies, I was thinking, Okay, I’m looking over there, she looks a little tired, she must be feeling the exact same way or maybe more tired than me,” Wozniacki said.

And in the end, on the final two points, it was Wozniacki’s well-polished defence and determination that won her the two biggest points of her life.

Heart kept beating, body wore out

And in the end, it wasn’t Halep’s nerves, or her mind, that got the best of her, it was her body.

“I felt ready. But the body was not ready because I had so many long matches. The muscles were tired. The feet were not good enough. But mentally I was ready. I feel that I can face any challenge. And I can play against anyone. I can win against anyone. But just sometimes is not how you want because you cannot physically do it,” she said.

Halep wanted to hit more winners, as she did against Kerber. She wanted to come to the net more. But the body wouldn’t allow it. Considering she practiced little more than 15 minutes a day the entire tournament because of the ankle – just enough to make sure she kept feeling the ball, the tennis was there.

“I‘m leaving Australia with many good thoughts and many positive things because what I’ve done these two weeks I never did, me, in the past. So it’s okay.”

Halep won’t be headed to the WTA Tour event in St. Petersburg, Russia next week, as scheduled. She’ll head home, have a series of MRIs not only on the ankle, but also on her feet. Her right foot, especially, has a swollen tendon and she said that also was causing her a lot of pain.

Wozniacki also is entered in St. Petersburg. There’s a pretty good chance that she, too, will take a pass and bring Daphne home.


No. 1 and No. 2 in women’s Oz final


MELBOURNE, Australia – Battling their nerves and casting aside the untimely memories of other opportunities not taken, No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki reached the Australian Open women’s singles final Friday.

For Wozniacki, the heavy favorite against unseeded Belgian Elise Mertens, the nerves came when she served for the match in the second set. She flinched.

“I got really tight at 5-4. Couple of double faults. I thought after the two good first serves I said, ‘Calm down, it’s all good.’ And all of a sudden it wasn’t good any more,” said Wozniacki, who nevertheless got the second set into a tiebreak and won the match 6-3, 7-6 (2).

“I think that’s the one that’s been most disappointing to me throughout my career. I’ve had many bad losses, many great wins. That’s one of the ones that hurt extra because it was going into the finals of a Grand Slam. I felt like I was playing better on the day. I felt like it was my time to get there,” Wozniacki said of the 2011 semifinal against Li Na of China.

Wozniacki served for the match in that one, but ended up losing.

” I think that’s why it hurt extra that I lost that day, especially with being one point away. I think if you ask any player, they always have one or two matches that they’ll think back on that hurt extra.”

Mertens will jump into the top 20 for the first time on the strength of her effort in Melbourne. Wozniacki will look to get back to No. 1.

As expected, a close battle

Halep was facing a player much like herself in Angelique Kerber of Germany. But there was one big difference: Kerber has the experience of winning a Grand Slam in her muscle memory. Halep’s memories are of having those opportunities, to win a major or get to No. 1, and letting them slip away.

For her, the nerves moment came when she served for the match in the third set.

Halep’s second serve wobbled in at 66 mph, and after a momentous rally – at 26 shots, the longest of the match – Kerber broke her to stay alive.

Halep was up a set and 3-0 against 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko at the French Open last spring, and flinched then. She’d be forgiven if those thoughts went through her head anew. Which they did.

But she hung tough. She didn’t wait for Kerber to wobble when the German had two match points of her own at 6-5 in that set. Halep went after it, and she was rewarded.

“I try to hit the ball. Not to be scared that I am two match balls down. And I think I played pretty well those balls. I was not afraid of losing, so maybe that’s why I was– I won those balls, and then I got the confidence back that I’m still alive and I can do it,” Halep said.

The start of the match did not presage a barnburner. Halep was up 5-0 after just 13 minutes, winning 20 of the first 25 points. Kerber then won 12 of the next 13 to get herself into it.

But Halep took the first set. After that, it was a two-woman sprint to the finish line, with a few side trips along the way.

Both players were more fearsome when they were trailing than when they were leading. And in the end, Halep’s higher level of willingness to pull the trigger on bigger shots, while Kerber contented herself with defending when she was ahead, won it for her.

Winners, winners everywhere for the winner

Halep had 50 winners and 50 unforced errors in the match – big numbers for anyone. And especially big numbers for her.

“I cannot believe, actually,” Halep said. “But I was aggressive. I had this in my mind, and I wanted to finish the points quicker, but was not that easy with her. She’s moving very well.”

The Romanian didn’t remember ever hitting that many winners in a match. “And I hope is not the last,” she said, smiling.

Despite the ankle issue Halep has been managing since she rolled it in the first round, And despite having a three-hour, 45 minute marathon against American Lauren Davis, won 15-13 in the final set after saving two match points, she had the fresher legs in the end.

That was a little surprising, considering Halep had spent 3 1/2 hours more on court during the tournament than Kerber did.

But Kerber’s 2018 season has started with so much winning – at Hopman Cup, in winning the tuneup event in Sydney the week before the main event. So she was a little short in that area.

It especially showed on her serve. The German doesn’t use her legs nearly as much as she should on the serve. But by the third set of this match, she wasn’t using them at all even if she was running every ball down with her very big heart.

“I think when I was warming up this morning I was feeling okay. … Of course I was not physically, like, on my 100 per cent because I played so many matches before,” Kerber said. ” Now you can say maybe it would be better to not (play) Sydney or whatever, but, I mean, I get so (much) confidence from Sydney from the last few weeks, so you never know what’s happen if I’m not winning Sydney, if I’m in the semis here.”

All those possibilities down to two

The list of contenders in the field to start the tournament, players who had a legitimate shot at a deep run in the women’s draw, was a lengthy one.

It included US Open champion Sloane Stephens, Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza, Ostapenko, and 2017 finalist Venus Williams. And yet, in the end, it is the two top-ranked players in the world who will fight for the title Saturday night.

The final four were the best players, on form, going into the semifinals. Kerber and Mertens, who both played Hopman Cup, were 14-0 and 11-1 coming in to Thursday. Halep was 10-0, winning the title in Shenzhen, China to open the season. Wozniacki was 9-1, losing in the final in Auckland. 

Week off pays dividends

Billie Jean King has been around all fortnight, as the tournament celebrates the 50th anniversary of her Australian Open title. She will hand out the previous trophy to a first-time Slammer Saturday night. Will it be Wozniacki?

In the end, the two players who didn’t play a tournament the week right before the Australian Open were left standing. Both also saved match points early on in the tournament, making the rest of the fortnight a bonus.

And now, those two will play for major stakes on Saturday.

The winner will be the No. 1 player in the world on Monday. And the winner also will pack her first Grand Slam singles trophy in her carry-on luggage when she leaves town.

The last time that happened at the Australian Open was in 1980, when Hana Mandlikova (later an Australian citizen) defeated Aussie Wendy Turnbull.

Halep, Kerber handle big hitters in Aussie quarters


MELBOURNE, Australia – On this day, at least, the great movers outfoxed the big hitters.

And so world No. 1 Simona Halep and former No. 1 Angelique Kerber will square off in an Australian Open semifinal on Thursday that may well turn out to be the defacto final, without taking anything away from the two other contenders.

Kerber had a surprisingly easy time of it with No. 17 seed Madison Keys, dispatching the 22-year-old American 6-1, 6-2 in 51 minutes.

Keys, one of the most powerful servers in the game, didn’t tally a single ace. Much of the credit for that must go to Kerber.

The German lefty, who turned 30 during this tournament, arguably is playing as well as she did in 2016 when she won two majors and made the final of a third. Actually,  she might well be playing even better.

“She takes time away, especially with her forehand down the line. So what might be considered a ‘safe ball’ against some people isn’t, because you know you’re going to be on the run. And she will come forward, and she just does a really good job of balancing getting every ball back but also putting you in a bad position,” Keys said.

“I think she definitely played one of the more aggressive, probably more aggressive than any other time that we have played each other. I mean, she was coming forward. She was hitting winners. I really didn’t have an answer for anything today.”

After a roll, Halep on a roll


As for Halep, who began her Australian Open campaign by rolling her ankle in her first-round victory, the road may have had more challenges than she had hoped for. But she made it.

Her effort against No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova in a 6-3, 6-2 win was, in some ways, a mirror image of Kerber’s effort against Keys.

Halep won twice as many points when returning Pliskova’s big serve as Pliskova did returning hers.

No. 2 seed Wozniacki, after an early-morning win over Carla Suárez Navarro, will face unseeded Elise Mertens in the other semifinal.

Pliskova who briefly was world No. 1 last year, doesn’t move as well as Keys. But she’s a little older and perhaps still a little better with the shot selection under duress. She also is more outwardly calm on the court, although Keys is making good strides in that area.

But as with Keys against Kerber, the Czech also had no answers against Halep. She got off to a roaring start, winning the first three games. And then … pffffft.

“I think she just plays always good against me, so I don’t know where is really the problem. So I need to change something maybe for next time. … I don’t think I was playing that bad after (going up 3-0). We were just going through the rallies. I think she’s reading my game pretty well,” Pliskova said.

“My serve is not that effective on her. She returns pretty well. She’s strong on the backhand side. I think there is couple of, you know, moments and points where I can for sure play better.”

Kerber a bad matchup for big-hitter Keys

Pliskova said that Halep just likes her game – even in practice. She said the Romanian likes her pace, uses it to her advantage. And she doesn’t hit it hard herself, which makes the Czech have to try to create the pace herself. “She just use my (pace). Then in the end, I’m the one who is running,” she said.

Keys looked poised for an even deeper run here. But she ran into a full-form Kerber, against whom she has taken just two sets in what is now eight consecutive losses.


“I know I’m good from the defense, and this is what makes me strong also that I know that I can run, that I can bring a lot of balls back. But on the other side I know that I have to try to improve my game, as well. I know that I can play aggressive. I show this so many times during my practices. Now I just try to do it also during the matches,” Kerber said. “I think this is what was the goal for this season, and I try to improving it in every single match.”

The head-to-head between Kerber and Halep was heavily weighted towards Halep early on. But the two met five times during Kerber’s golden 2016 year – once in Fed Cup, once at Wimbledon, twice during the North American hard-cour summer, and then at the WTA Tour finals in Singapore at year’s end.

Halep managed just one victory, in the semifinals in Montreal.

They haven’t played each other since.

This is, by a long way, the biggest occasion in which they have faced each other.

Halep win sets Australian Open record


MELBOURNE, Australia – The questions about world No. 1 Simona Halep’s injured ankle will have to be answered another day.

Because after a three-hour, 45-minute victory over American Lauren Davis in the third round of the Australian Open Saturday, she said she couldn’t even feel it.

Halep dodged a major orange cone in her quest for her first Gand Slam title Saturday. The heart and legs and defense of Davis were nearly enough to beat her. And not so long ago, the Romanian might have given up and given in.

But she didn’t.

The 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 win, during which she saved three match points when down love-40, at 10-11 in the third, was a monumental step forward in the shoring up of perhaps her weakest asset – her competitive confidence.

Praise for the speedy Davis

“I gave everything I had today, and actually, I’m really proud that I could stay there and win it. It was not easy at all. She played great,” said Halep, who praised the 24-year-old Davis’s short-angle backhand, and her defensive skills.

“I think today she played the highest level in tennis, and her backhand was just too good sometimes. She was moving very fast. She was moving well. I knew that. But I played against her in Indian Wells a few years ago, and it was easier, the score and the match. But she improved a lot, and I can say that she’s a great athlete and also player. She stayed there mentally strong, so many, many congrats to her.”

Three hours and 45 minutes? A saving grace was that it wasn’t played in the intense heat of Thursday and Friday.

Halep said that instead of getting tight when facing those three match points, her arm actually relaxed a little. And she was able to produce some good serves and get herself out of trouble.

Davis first messed up her big toe at that point – and then on the second toe on the same foot, Halep was able to take advantage of the medical timeouts to calm herself down and catch a second wind.

Between the two of them, they ran nearly six miles. The defence – especially from Davis, who time and time again made Halep hit one more ball – was scintillating.

“I have never played a match like that before where it went so long in the third set. We were both fighting our hearts out, and, I mean, every point was just super long,” Davis said. “I mean, I got to the point where I was so tired where I just told myself to swing and move, and, I mean, for the most part it was very effective. Because I didn’t really feel any pressure or anything.”

Ankle fitness to be determined

For Halep, it was the first career “overtime” match in Grand Slam play. Davis had one previous experience, losing 8-6 in the third set to fellow American Louisa Chirico at the French Open in 2016.

Halep applauds her opponent off the court after a great display of stamina and defence in a losing cause.

Halep said the ankle, sprained in her first-round match, was painful. It appeared to hamper her somewhat going to the corners of the court. But it held up for three hours and 45 minutes and 48 games – the most games ever in a women’s match at the Australian Open.

Other than that, the Romanian felt pretty good afterwards. How the ankle might pull up Sunday, or Monday when she plays the winner of Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka in the fourth round, she couldn’t predict.

For Davis, as discouraging as it might be to have nothing to show for all that hard work, it was a very good tournament.

She’s listed at 5-foot-2, and that might be generous. But she considers the relatively undersized Halep a role model. The match was more impressive for the defense on both sides than it was for big-time shotmaking. 

Sometimes, watching two great defenders can be as entertaining as watching two attacking players.

“I have always looked up to Halep, because she’s probably like two inches taller than me. She’s an incredible player,” Davis said. “She uses her speed to take time away and rush her opponent. She’s super agile and dynamic around the court. That’s exactly how I play.”

Slump-busting tournament for Davis

While the slumps suffered by France’s Kristina Mladenovic and Canada’s Genie Bouchard have received a lot more traction, Davis has been mired in a brutal patch of career.

During a couple of medical timeouts, Davis’s grimaces said it all about the foot issues she was dealing with to try to fight for the victory against Halep.

She was at a career-high ranking of No. 26 going into last year’s French Open. She went out in the first round of the main draw of 11 of her 13 tournaments the rest of the way. She didn’t have any losses to massive outsiders. But still, she was making losing a habit.

Davis decided to take a different approach coming into this Australian Open. The change in mindset paid dividends immediately, despite the defeat.

“Throughout my career I have always struggled with being so critical and being hard on myself. So I made, like, a commitment to myself before this tournament that I’m going to be my own best friend and just my greatest supporter, and accept all that God has to give me. I mean, I showed myself what I’m capable of,” she said. 

“I think it’s normal, honestly, for a lot of athletes. We look at failure as a negative, and, like, say, you miss a shot by an inch and you do everything right. A lot of people consider that as a failure. But looking at it, like you did everything right for the most part, it’s all about changing the way you see things and changing your perspective,” she added.

In both her first two matches, Davis lost the first set but came back to win the next two – and the matches – in emphatic fashion. Her score against former top-10 player Andrea Petkovic of Germany in the second round was 4-6, 6-0, 6-0.

She’ll leave Australia with an indelible memory, an improved ranking and – just like Halep – a renewed sense of what she can do, when her back is against the wall.

Out of doubles, Bouchard has Halep Thursday


MELBOURNE, Australia – Genie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens couldn’t re-create the doubles magic they conjured up at the WTA Tour event in D.C. last summer.

And so, not shockingly, they went down 6-4, 6-4 to the No. 2 seeds, Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

The Can-American pair, both now with Nike and sharing an agent in John Tobias, had love-30 on too many return games to count.

But they couldn’t finish off enough of those game thanks, mostly, to their opponents’ superiority at the net.

And so US Open champion Stephens’s run in Melbourne has resulted in a first-round loss in singles, and then a first-round loss in doubles. 

For Bouchard, a big challenge awaits Thursday night: a second-round singles match against the world No. 1, Simona Halep of Romania.

What is this, 2014 or something?

It’s a matchup that is SO very 2014.

The two met three times that season, and haven’t met since. And the results of the three matches were a microcosm of Bouchard’s best season.

The two played at Indian Wells, in the round of 16. That match was less than two months after the Canadian’s breakthrough semifinal here in Melbourne. And while Bouchard played well, Halep was just that little bit better in a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 victory.

A few months later, at Wimbledon, it was the Canadian who came out on top in the semifinals, to reach her first and only Grand Slam final.

But there were certainly some mitigating circumstances. Halep was a long way from 100 per cent.

She had suffered a thigh strain in the third round and it was bad enough that she had it heavily wrapped even in practice.

The two warmed up for the match at the same time, at Aorangi Park. And Halep barely moved even then. 

Bouchard might have won the match anyway, as high as her confidence was at the time. But it was emblematic of the kind of serendipity that followed Bouchard around like a loyal puppy dog during that brief period of her career.

The third meeting between the two came at the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore to close out the season.

By then, things were already getting complicated in the Bouchard camp. Longtime coach Nick Saviano took his leave shortly after the event, in which Bouchard didn’t win any of her three matches in pool play. Her hitting partner at the time, Tom Burn, also was gone in short order. Things were fairly tense.

Halep won that one, 6-2, 6-3.

There was some added intrigue for this one after Halep rolled her ankle during her first-round win over Aussie teenager Destanee Aiava.

Halep said afterwards it was about the fifth time she had rolled that ankle. It’s a vulnerable area, which is why she always has both ankles taped.

It didn’t swell up, but the Romanian said it usually didn’t; but the ligaments take a beating.

“I felt a big pain on court …  I just want to wait for tomorrow to see how I wake up. From my experience, I feel that is nothing broken, but still the pain was big. I have to see with the doctors,” she said Tuesday.

Will the ankle be a factor?

Halep is still wearing adidas shoes although, now that her contract with them has expired, the logos are whited out or obscured. So it wasn’t because of a sudden change of footwear after four years.

It wasn’t the first time Halep has rolled that ankle. But the sharp pain was definitely a concern even if the world No. 1 got through her first-round match.

Bouchard put together a solid match against Océane Dodin in the first round. But Halep is at a different level and in recent situations similar to this one, that big opportunity has created big-opportunity nerves that haven’t allowed Bouchard ot seize the moment.

If you overthink this a little, the ankle roll can create a sort of parallel with that match at Wimbledon back in 2014. But only if Halep hasn’t fully recovered. And nobody wishes that on her.

The diagnosis, according to Romanian TV, is a Grade 1 sprain with some stretching of the ligaments. So, not the worst. But not great.

The 7 p.m. match is scheduled on Margaret Court Arena (3 a.m. Thursday EST).

Halep, Siniakova in Shenzhen singles and doubles final


It’s a rare thing when two players square off in both the singles and doubles finals at a tournament.

But world No. 1 Simona Halep and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic will do that on Saturday at the Shenzhen Open.

Halep defeated her doubles partner, Irina-Camelia Begu, in the semifinals on Friday.

Siniakova, who is the No. 1 seed in the doubles with countrywoman Barbora Krejcikova, dropped 10 aces in a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over Maria Sharapova.

It’s only the second career doubles final for Halep. Her doubles ranking stands at No. 146. And that is more than respectable for how little she actually plays.


As it happens, the only other time the Romanian did reach a doubles final, she also was going for the double.

Second try at the double

At the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2016, Halep defeated Angelique Kerber to win the singles title. The outstanding Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina defeated Halep and countrywoman Monica Niculescu in the doubles final.

That was a pretty good run.

Siniakova, who is still just 21, has two doubles titles on her resumé. And, as the defending champion in Shenzhen, her first career WTA Tour title, she has done a great job in defending the points.

Siniakova defeated both Johanna Konta and Halep during that 2017 Shenzhen run.


(Photos courtesy of the Shenzhen Open)

Sources: Halep parting ways with adidas


Simona Halep is the No. 1 player on the WTA Tour.

She was voted Fan Favorite on Friday for the first time.

But as of right now, industry sources tell Tennis.Life the 26-year-old Romanian doesn’t have a clothing sponsor for 2018.

Unless something gets done at the very last minute, Halep and adidas are parting ways at what is approaching the peak of Halep’s career. She goes into 2018 one of the favorites to pull off a Grand Slam title for the first time.

Manager Virginia Ruzici responded to a request for comment from Tennis.Life about adidas not renewing Halep’s deal.

She didn’t confirm it. Nor did she claim it inaccurate.

“No comment” Ruzici wrote via e-mail, adding she would be in touch when she had something to add.

Halep joined the adidas family in April, 2014, premiering the clothes at a Fed Cup tie between Romania and Serbia.

Until then, she had been sponsored by Lacoste. But she left them mid-season although reportedly on good terms.

Heightened expectations

Tennis.Life was told that the biggest issue was bad timing, and a gap in the evaluations from both sides of Halep’s worth.

The Romanian’s representatives (mentor Ion Tiriac is believed to be involved on that side) had a number in mind, commensurate with their player’s new status as the top-ranked player in the world.

The adidas offer didn’t reflect the same reality. Nothing original there; that’s basically every negotiation, ever.

But when they came back without having found much greener grass elsewhere, the German company already had allocated its 2018 sponsorship budget. 

Halep is still training in adidas gear, although nothing she didn’t already have. Whether or not that’s significant will be revealed soon enough.

Where this leaves her for 2018 is unclear.

We’ll have to see what Halep shows up in when she arrives in Shenzhen in two weeks, to begin her campaign – or perhaps even in Thailand, where she’s scheduled for an exhibition Dec. 23-24. Halep has entered the doubles in Shenzhen with countrywoman Irina-Camelia Begu.

Who knows? The two sides might be able to work out some sort of last-minute, bonus-based deal for the season. All options are on the table at this point. The challenge, at this late stage, is that every other company has already spent its 2018 budget, too.

Halep’s wardrobe changes

However it turns out, it won’t be the first kit change for Halep during her career.

Here are a few different looks she’s had since 2010.

At Indian Wells in 2014, Halep was still wearing Lacoste. A month later, she debuted her her adidas garb during a Fed Cup tie. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)
At the Australian Open in 2010, Halep wore Fila. By Paris in the spring, she’d made a change. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)
At the 2010 French Open, Halep sported Lotto. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)
At the US Open in 2011, Halep wore adidas for the first time. She returned to them midway through 2014. But Tennis.Life has learned that won’t be the case going forward. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Halep upsets Radwanska for “Fan Favorite”


For the last six years, fans of Polish player Agnieszka Radwanska have mobilized the popular vote for the WTA Tour’s Fan Favorite of the year.

This year, there’s a new queen of the faves.

World No. 1 Simona Halep has beaten out Radwanska and all other contenders to win the award for the first time.

It’s not quite clear in the release, but Radwanska appears to have finished as the runner-up.

Maria Sharapova, who returned from a 15-month doping suspension at the end of April, finished third. She and Elena Dementieva are the only other winners of the award since its inception.

It’s all good for Radwanska. She extended her streak of “Shot of the Year” awards to five with another win this year.

WTA Rankings Report – Oct. 9, 2017


The big news is that for the first time in her career, Romania’s Simona Halep is ranked No. 1.

She’s the fifth WTA Tour player to hit the top spot this season after Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Garbiñe Muguruza.

With the top four separated by about 700 points, and with all the points on offer at the year-end championships in Singapore, there is every change the group may be shuffled a bit before the 2017 season is said and done.

She’s the first Romanian woman to hold the top spot, and the 25th in the history of the WTA Tour rankings.

In another milestone effort, France’s Caroline Garcia jumps into the top 10 for the first time in her career. And, according to many, it’s long overdue given her talent level.

Garcia put in yeoman’s work in winning the Premier 5 event in Wuhan two weeks ago, and backing it up with a win in the Premier Mandatory tournament in Beijing last week.

On the Upswing

rankingsCaroline Garcia (FRA): No. 15 —————> No. 9 (the best two weeks of her career, and a well-deserved jump into the top 10 for the first time)

Barbora Strycova (CZE): No. 29 —————> No. 26

Daria Kasatkina (RUS): No. 34 —————> No. 29

Sorana Cirstea (ROU): No. 44 —————> No. 37

Varvara Lepchenko (USA): No. 67 —————> No. 60

Christina Mchale (USA): No. 71 —————> No. 65

Lara Arruabarrena (ESP): No. 90 —————> No. 80

Maria Sharapova (RUS): No. 104 —————> No. 86 (no more discussion of Slam wild cards as she jumps back into the top 100)

Asia Muhammad (USA): No. 144 —————> No. 133

Vera Lapko (RUS): No. 199 —————> No. 167 (career high for the 19-year-old, who win the $25K ITF in Clermont-Ferrand).

On the Downswing

rankingsJohanna Konta (GBR): No. 7 —————> No. 10

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL): No. 11 —————> No. 18 (That’s an awfully low number for the perennial top-10 player)

Shuai Zhang (CHN): No. 26 —————> No. 31

Catherine Bellis (USA): No. 40 —————> No. 44

Yulia Putintseva (KAZ): No. 47 —————> No. 54

Roberta Vinci (ITA): No. 88 —————> No. 99

Road to Singapore rankings


There’s one spot left in the singles for Singapore. And it’s Caroline Garcia’s to win and Johanna Konta’s to lose. Garcia, due to play in Tianjin this week, begged off after her busy Asian swing. Konta, who pulled out of Hong Kong, has the Moscow Premier next week to try to nail it down.

The tournament has said it won’t give Garcia a wild card, preferring to dispense them to Russian players.


Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and Chinese partner Yifan Xu, along with veteran duo Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic (who is 42!) qualify for Singapore. 

There is spot left, which likely will go to Maria José Martínez Sánchez and Andreja Klepac.

Points to defend this week

Caroline Wozniacki – 280 points

Dominika Cibulkova – 280 points

Peng Shuai – 280 points

Kristina Mladenovic – 180 points

Alison Riske – 180 points

Viktorija Golubic – 180 points

Jelena Jankovic – 110 points

Danka Kovinic – 110 points

Svetlana Kuznetsova – 110 points

Madison Keys – 110 points

(For the complete WTA Tour rankings picture, click here)