Jonathan and James recorded right after this year's disappointing Oscars telecast and open this episode with their thoughts on it, before segueing into Fresh Off The Boat's tennis episode. Tune in to hear their thoughts on Dominic Thiem, the uncertainty surrounding tennis in February, and the #SeeWhatHadHappenedWas segment on Djokovic's retirement in Dubai.
Week eight of the 2016 tennis season continued to produce unusual results in tennis. We witnessed more of the upsets that have become commonplace on both tours in recent weeks: Santina, Halep, Kvitova, and Djokovic all suffered early exits. For Hingis/Mirza and Djokovic, their losses put a halt to the two most impressive week-to-week streaks in tennis. Carla Suarez Navarro scored the biggest win of her career, while Dominic Thiem and Pablo Cuevas backed up their strong play in recent weeks with another title. Marcos Baghdatis returned to the top 40, and Sergiy Stakhovsky exited the top 100. Finally, Federer went to the Oscars, and Cornet announced she'll be out for six months rehabbing a back injury.
Carla Suarez Navarro won the biggest title of her career in Doha and secured a new career high ranking of #6 in the process. Her title run included a 6-2 6-0 dismantling of Aga Radwanska in the semifinal, before mounting a comeback against 18-year-old Ostapenko in the final. For Suarez Navarro, 27, it was just the second WTA title of her career after winning the Portugal Open in 2014, improving her record in WTA finals to 2-8. After making three finals between February and May last year, Suarez Navarro will now look to back up this strong start to 2016 with a better finish than she managed in 2015. After reaching the final in Rome last year, she made only two quarterfinals the rest of the season.
MY 2 CENTS
The top seeds on the WTA Tour have experienced a rough go of it in recent weeks. In Dubai, all of the top eight seeds lost their opening matches. This week in Doha, Kerber, Halep, Kvitova, and Safarova all lost before the quarterfinals. Rather than decry the inconsistency of the tour's top players, it might be better to celebrate the opportunities that have been created for lower ranked players to enjoy some success. In the past three weeks, the tour's winners have included: Venus Williams, Errani, Vinci, Schiavone, Stephens, and Suarez Navarro. We've also seen young players like Ostapenko, Osaka, and Rogers make deep runs. The tour has benefited from enthralling matches across the board. February was a strange month in tennis to be sure, but it might be best to embrace the uncertainty it's provided, knowing that the season has many months left to produce late-round top seeded blockbusters.
Can you believe the 2016 tennis season is already seven weeks old? The WTA and ATP had stops in Rio (joint), Marseille, Delray Beach, and Dubai this past week, and produced unseeded winners in all five singles events. In other words, things were a bit wacky this week in tennis.
Here's the rundown: Kyrgios wins his first ATP title, Cuevas claimed the Rio title with five wins versus lefties (including Nadal), the top eight seeds in Dubai all lost their first matches, Schiavone returns to the top 100 with a Rio title, Errani wins Dubai, Vinci hits top 10 for first time in her career, and Querrey spoils del Potro's Cinderella comeback in Delray Beach.
Let's dig a bit deeper.
Week seven was all about the Italians on the WTA circuit: Sara Errani won her ninth career singles title in Dubai, Francesca Schiavone claimed her seventh in Rio de Janeiro, and Roberta Vinci made her debut in the WTA top 10. Despite losing her opening match in Dubai, Vinci jumped three spots to #10, mostly on the strength of her title run the week before in St. Petersburg. The news of Vinci's top 10 arrival also coincided with her 33rd birthday. Vinci, who famously ended Serena Williams' quest for the calendar year Grand Slam at the U.S. Open last year, continues to reach new heights in her career; she adds top 10 player to a resume that already included Grand Slam singles finalist and 5-time doubles champion.
MY 2 CENTS
Francesca Schiavone joins Venus Williams as the only players over the age of 35 inside the WTA top 100. With her title in Rio, Schiavone jumps 38 spots in the rankings to #94. Williams and Schiavone also share the distinction of being title-winning 35-year-olds this year. Schiavone reached her career high of #4 five years ago, but began the season outside the top 100 for the first time since 2000. Due to her depressed ranking, Schiavone was forced to enter qualifying at the Australian Open. Her failure to reach the main draw resulted in her first absence at a Grand Slam since 2000 Wimbledon. Winning Rio now gives Schiavone a good chance of gaining direct entry into the French Open. With Schiavone and Venus Williams winning titles in back-to-back weeks, perhaps this will serve as a reminder that the old guard on the WTA still has lots to offer the sport.
Jonathan and James return to recap the tennis happenings since the Australian Open. They also weigh in on Justin Gimelstob's appearance on Beyond the Baseline, hosted by Jon Wertheim. Shifting to pop culture to close the show, Beyonce, Super Bowl 50, Grammys, Taylor Swift, and Cam Newton feature during The Rant.
The main purpose of this weekly series is for readers to easily catch up on anything they might have missed in tennis. With that in mind, here goes for week six: Venus wins her 49th career title, Kei gets his fourth on the trot in Memphis, Taylor Fritz busts out in a big way, Thiem beats Rafa in the semis then backs it up by winning the Buenos Aires title, SanTina's unbeaten streak continues, Bencic breaks into the top 10 for the first time, Klizan and Vinci win the biggest titles of their careers, Ash Barty makes a winning return, and Monfils' futility in ATP finals continues.
Exhausted? Take a breather and let's delve a bit deeper.
A pair of Frenchmen -- Nicolas Mahut and Gael Monfils -- take the spotlight this week. Gael Monfils' loss in the Rotterdam final leaves his career record in ATP finals at 5-18. That is a poor output by any metric. The list of opponents who have beaten him in finals indicate many missed opportunities: Klizan, Ljubicic, Montanes, Stepanek, Melzer, and Petzschner. Still, this was a positive week for Monfils, as he rises two places in the rankings to #16, continuing his solid start to 2016 after making the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
Nicolas Mahut rises to #40, a mere four spots away from reaching a new career high. His success in Rotterdam was twofold; he made the semifinals in singles and then won the doubles title. With Jack Sock out of action last week, Mahut borrowed Vasek Pospisil to take the doubles event. The 2015 U.S. Open doubles champion (with Herbert) rises three spots in the doubles rankings to #13.
MY 2 CENTS
One of the bigger stories on the ATP Tour this week was Taylor Fritz making his big breakthrough in Memphis. While Fritz had a great tournament, caution should be exercised in making any definitive statements about his prospects going forward. So many times we've seen the progress of young talent crushed under the weight of expectation and media pressure. American men's tennis has been starved of Grand Slam talent since Andy Roddick's retirement, and even longer since the Sampras-Agassi era ended. We've been hearing about the so-called "next wave" of American tennis players for 15 years now, and Fritz now assumes the mantle of the "one to watch." Hopefully, he will be able to manage the added spotlight that comes with his meteoric rise up the rankings. He began the year ranked #174 and is now, at #102, on the cusp of breaking into the top 100 for the first time. Going back another year, he began 2015 ranked #1151.
After a furious two weeks of tennis coverage during the Australian Open, things were understandably more subdued in the tennis world last week. With no WTA events on the docket, the women dispersed all over the globe to play Fed Cup. Meanwhile, ATP players took their talents to Montpellier, Quito, and Sofia. Week five of the 2016 season also brought some eye-opening announcements: the welcomed returns of Juan Martin Del Potro, Ashleigh Barty, and Juan Monaco; and the not-so-small matter of Roger Federer's knee surgery.
Venus Williams and Martina Hingis played key roles in victories by the United States and Switzerland teams in Fed Cup last week. Both players excelled as they aimed to fulfill Olympic eligibility requirements for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Who would have thought they'd both still be competing for gold medals 19 years after playing in the 1997 U.S. Open final? Yet, Williams is still a force in singles, and Hingis is in the midst of one of the all-time great runs of success on the doubles circuit, ranked #1 alongside Sania Mirza. What Williams and Hingis have achieved in the past 12 months is nothing short of remarkable.
Learn more about the format and rules used in Fed Cup.
MY 2 CENTS
Ashleigh Barty announced her return to the WTA Tour last week. You might recall that Barty stepped away from the game at 17 to try her hand at cricket in the local leagues of Australia. Still only 19, the 3-time Grand Slam doubles finalist has decided to give tennis a go again. Barty tells WTA Insider, Courtney Nguyen, that her success in tennis came too quickly for her. Maybe she'll find even more success this time around. Maybe her tennis career will never truly develop. Maybe Barty will return to cricket at some point, or do both. Whatever comes her way, Barty seems determined to decide things on her own terms this time around. Her announcement is a wonderful bit of news to cap a great week of women's tennis.
Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic are the 2016 Australian Open singles champions. The former comes as a bit of a surprise, while the latter's title defence felt like a formality once Stan Wawrinka bowed out in the fourth round. Kerber's eventful route to the title saw her one point away from a straight-set, first round exit, only to beat the two favourites on her way to the title. Djokovic overcame a five-set tussle against Simon in the fourth round -- one of the most bizarre matches of the tournament -- before blitzing his way through Federer and Murray.
This Week in Tennis brought us surprising runs in the women's draw, Serena's 18th consecutive win over Sharapova, the rise of Milos Raonic, another Djokovic-Federer meeting, a Murray (doubles) Slam title, drama galore, and history deferred.
CHAMPIONS (Click on title of event for the completed draw)
Singles: (7) A Kerber d. (1) S Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4
Doubles: (1) M Hingis/S Mirza d. (7) A. Hlavackova/A Hradecka 7-6 6-3
Mixed: (5) E Vesnina/B Soares d. C Vandeweghe/H Tacau 6-4 4-6 (10-5)
Junior (5) V Lapko d. (2) T Mihalikova 6-3 6-4
The many narratives in the women's draw trumped anything on offer by the ATP: surprising runs, Serena's bad day, Angie's next step, Azarenka's resurgence, Maria's continued failure against Serena. The WTA shone brightly at the Australian Open. Aside from Milos Raonic's great run to the semifinals and Djokovic's continued dominance, there wasn't much new and interesting on the men's half of the draw. The WTA Tour is currently benefiting from a wealth of depth in the top 100; gone are the days when top players could show up at a Grand Slam expecting to play themselves into form during the first few rounds. The tournaments had by Zhang Shuai, Johanna Konta, and Naomi Osaka show that all the top women have to be ready from the get-go.
"Kerber's Surprise and Dependable Djokovic"
Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic are your 2016 Australian Open singles champions! The fortnight in Melbourne delivered everything you could wish for across the tennis spectrum: upsets, fascinating narratives, resurgent players, great tennis, and two deserving champions. Listen along as James Rogers and Jonathan Newman recap the more notable bits on The Body Serve Tennis Podcast. This episode also features the debut of a new segment called "The Rant."
Listen along with the timestamps below: