Aces and Faults: Serena rebounds at Stanford, Milos Raonic wins Citi Open
Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Serena Williams and Milos Raonic were among the tournament winners.
Serena Williams: Our last visions of Williams were of her teetering and tottering before retiring from doubles competition at Wimbledon last month. Those have now been replaced by a delighted Serena, triumphant again at the Bank of the West Classic, hugging a gigantic stuffed bear. Such are the highs and lows of following the world No. 1. Williams extended her Stanford winning streak to 13 matches (she won the title in 2011 and '12 before missing last year's tournament), losing only one set on her way to her fourth title of the season.
Here are highlights from her best win of the week, a 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals:
Milos Raonic: The most surprising thing about Raonic's run to the Citi Open crown was not that it was his first title of the season or that it featured the first all-Canadian final in ATP history. Rather, it was hard to believe that this was his first final of the season, given his consistency and gradual improvement. He is back up to his career high of No. 6 after beating Vasek Pospisil 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday, Raonic's sixth title overall and fourth on North American soil.
Highlights from the historic final:
Svetlana Kuznetsova: The Russian won her first title in four years, defeating Kurumi Nara 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the Citi Open final.
"It feels like it's been too long," said Kuznetsova, a former U.S. Open and French Open champion. "When you've won Grand Slams, not winning tournaments is hard, but you just keep trying your best every time you play."
With her 14th title, the 29-year-old Russian climbed to No. 23 in the rankings.
David Goffin: The undersized Belgian is on a 20-match winning streak after rallying past Dominic Thiem 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 at the Kitzbuehel Cup for his first title. The 23-year-old broke his left wrist last fall and won just two ATP tour-level matches heading into Wimbledon. He lost to Andy Murray in the first round but is unbeaten since, with 15 victories coming at the Challenger level. Ranked No. 106 a month ago, Goffin has risen to No. 48. It's been an impressive turnaround from a player who turned heads two years ago by making the fourth round of the French Open as a qualifier.
Highlights from the final:
Vasek Pospisil: While Raonic made the Citi Open final without facing an opponent in the top 40, Pospisil upset No. 5 Tomas Berdych and No. 14 Richard Gasquet to make his first singles final. That's a great result for a player who has struggled with a back injury throughout the season.
Dominic Thiem: The 20-year-old Austrian was excited to reach his first ATP final, on home soil, but he couldn't stop the streaking Goffin. Thiem had three solid wins, though, ousting Jiri Vesely, Marcel Granollers and Juan Monaco without losing a set. Let's see if he can translate his clay success to hard courts for the remainder of the season.
Varvara Lepchenko: She knocked out No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets en route to the Stanford semifinals and was just a point away from her first final. Lepchenko, 28, led Angelique Kerber by a set and a break and served for the match twice. She earned a match point on Kerber's serve, but muffed an easy backhand return into the net. The nerves got the better of her and Kerber's resilience prevailed. That's a big opportunity lost, but this was a strong overall performance for Lepchenko, who is back in the top 50. She dedicated the week to a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer.
Sabine Lisicki: The German set a WTA record with a 131 mph serve in her first-round loss to Ivanovic in Stanford.
Naomi Osaka: The 16-year-old from Japan has a game and a personality that has made us sit up and take notice. Very curious to see how the next few years of her career pan out — she's decided to skip juniors and is still playing under age restrictions. Big game.
Donald Young: Say hello to the new No. 2 American. A tip of the crooked hat to Young, who, after falling out of the top 200 last year, has marched back up by working his way through Challengers and qualifying of tour events. The 25-year-old has done this the right way, and it all paid off last week with his first ATP 500-level semifinal, in Washington, D.C.
Sloane Stephens: She split with Paul Annacone, hired Thomas Hogstedt and got bageled in the third set by Christina McHale in the first round of the Citi Open. As Stephens would say, It is what it is. Just gotta get back to it next week.
John Isner: Coming off his Atlanta title, Isner lost to Steve Johnson 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (6) in his opening match at the Citi Open. He then blasted the tournament -- which is owned by his management company, Lagardere -- for his court assignment, describing his placement on Court 2 as "bull----." Isner isn't necessarily wrong. It's odd to see a U.S. tournament put the American No. 1 on an outer court. But TV pulls the scheduling strings and Isner wasn't the main attraction during the windows in which he would have preferred to play. Regardless, it never looks good to criticize court assignments after a loss.
Agnieszka Radwanska: It's hard to know what is going on with Radwanska these days, but she's in a funk. In her last four tournaments she has lost to No. 72 Ajla Tomljanovic, No. 26 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova and No. 59 Lepchenko.
Dominika Cibulkova: The Australian Open finalist has been MIA since the start of the clay season. The defending Stanford champion lost to Garbine Muguruza in straight sets in the first round. She's now lost in the first round in four of her last six tournaments. This comes after making the quarterfinals or better at six of her first eight events this year.
Tomas Berdych: He's lost to a player ranked outside the top 10 in his last five tournaments, including Pospisil in straight sets last week.
Benoit Paire: Here's a tip for not just athletes, but just everyone: If you're going to call someone names within earshot, you better make sure they don't speak your language.
Photo of the week
In case you missed it ...
- Taylor Townsend, 18, and Tornado Alicia Black, 16, qualified for the Citi Open. Townsend added to her pro wins, defeating Julia Goerges 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the first round. Black lost to Zarina Diyas 6-4, 6-0.
- Serena has played five three-set matches this season. Three of them have been against Ivanovic.
- Pospisil beat Gasquet at the Citi Open last week and drew him in the first round of singles and doubles in Toronto this week.
- This was just the second time in nine appearances that Venus Williams did not reach the Stanford final. She lost to Andrea Petkovic in the quarterfinals.
- In the middle of her press conference after the quarterfinals, Petkovic dissolved into an incredible fit of laughter that lasted nearly a minute and drove her to tears. She said she was just exhausted from her match before quipping, "Maybe because I know maybe I have to play Serena in the next round."
- Nothing snaps you back into U.S. Open mode like opening the draw sheets for the Rogers Cup. After three weeks of mid-level tournaments, it's time to see the big names in action.
- It's hard not to give Victoria Azarenka a shot to win every match she plays, regardless of rust. Her competitive instincts are just top notch. As I wrote after watching her raise her level against Venus before losing 6-4, 7-6 (1), "Grit grows no rust." That was a great battle. If you missed it, pull up the video.
- The news of Rafael Nadal's withdrawal from Toronto and Cincinnati, and Li Na's withdrawal from the entire U.S. Open swing, came as a shock. Nadal is in a race against time to get ready to defend his U.S. Open title. The bigger concern is Li. She cited a knee injury, but this is undoubtedly a tough time for her emotionally as well after her split with coach Carlos Rodriguez. Can she find the motivation to keep playing? Her next tournament is in her hometown of Wuhan, followed by the China Open in Beijing.