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Roundtable: Analyzing ATP and WTA storylines from the season so far

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Stanislas Wawrinka surprised everyone by beating Rafael Nadal in the final of the 2014 Australian Open. (David Callow/SI)

Stanislas Wawrinka surprised everyone by beating Rafael Nadal in the final of the 2014 Australian Open. (David Callow/SI)

With the first three-plus months of the 2014 tennis season behind us, I’ve asked Ricky Dimon of The Grandstand, Lindsay Gibbs of The Changeover, Erik Gudris of Tennis Now and Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times to reflect on what’s happened so far, and look ahead to what’s to come. Be sure to check out our winners and losers of the season so far for the ATP and the WTA, and check back to read Part II of the roundtable.

What has been the most significant development, result or storyline so far?

Erik Gudris: It’s been a busy first quarter that gave us Stanislas Wawrinka’s first ever major title, Novak Djokovic bouncing back to win the Indian Wells/Miami double, Serena Williams winning Miami though giving us a few unexpected losses and the recent surge of some young WTA players all with bright prospects moving ahead.

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  • Published On Apr 17, 2014
  • Best matches, best Tweeter, biggest bummer: Early-season offbeat awards

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    Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic pushed each other to the limit in their five-set quarterfinal match at the Australian Open. (Getty Images)

    Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic pushed each other to the limit in their five-set quarterfinal match at the Australian Open. (Getty Images)

    Before the clay-court season heats up, Beyond The Baseline is taking stock of the year in tennis so far. We’ve already covered the winners and losers for the ATP and WTA. Here’s a look at more highlights and lowlights from the first three months of the season.

    Best ATP match: Stanislas Wawrinka d. Novak Djokovic, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open

    Once again at the Australian Open, these two played an unforgettable five-set match, and this year, Wawrinka earned his revenge. Will these guys end up playing the match of the year at the Australian Open for the second season in a row?

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  • Published On Apr 11, 2014
  • Early-season WTA winners and losers

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    (Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

    Following her Australian title, Li Na earned career-best results in Indian Wells and Miami. (Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

    Before the clay-court season heats up, Beyond The Baseline is taking stock of the year in tennis so far. Here’s a look at the WTA Tour winners and losers from the first three months. Click here for the ATP breakdown.

    Winners

    Li Na: Li took advantage of a favorable draw — she didn’t face a top-20 player — to win the Australian Open. The most impressive and encouraging thing about her season, though, is that she hasn’t experienced a letdown like she did after winning her first major, the 2011 French Open. After a brief blip in the Middle East, the 32-year-old rebounded in North America by matching or surpassing her career-best results at two big tournaments, making the semifinals at the BNP Paribas Open (where she lost to eventual champion Flavia Pennetta) and the final of the Sony Open (where she lost to No. 1 Serena Williams). That latter match, a 7-5, 6-1 defeat, may have shown that Li is a long way from No. 1, but her early-season performance leaves no doubt that she’s a solid No. 2.

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  • Published On Apr 10, 2014
  • Who should play Billie Jean King in the new Battle of the Sexes movie?

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    (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

    The casting call is still out for someone to play Billie Jean King alongside Will Ferrell, who will play Bobby Riggs. (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

    The news that Will Ferrell will play Bobby Riggs in a new movie about the 1973 Battle of the Sexes has left everyone pondering one obvious question: Who will play Billie Jean King?

    Holly Hunter played the tennis icon in the 2001 made-for-television movie When Billie Beat Bobby, and she did a fine job capturing King’s athleticism and youthful spunk. But the film wasn’t an outright comedy, and with Ferrell playing Riggs and his production company behind the new film, you have to think they’re going the comedy route, a la Ferrell’s other sports-themed movies like Semi-Pro, Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory.

    With that in mind, here are our suggestions for the Billie Jean King casting call:

    Kate McKinnon

    The obvious heiress-apparent to Kristen Wiig at Saturday Night Live (more on her later), and hands-down the funniest current cast memberer on SNL, McKinnon already has her BJK audition tape ready to go. She did a wonderful impression of King during a recent Weekend Update segment before the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Just listen to her say “Trouble? I come from trouble, Seth.” That is such a Billie Jean King way to say a very Billie Jean King line.

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  • Published On Apr 04, 2014
  • Venus Williams battles through to face Eugenie Bouchard at Family Circle Cup

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    Venus Williams is the only American to make it to the third round at the Family Circle Cup. (J Pat Carter/AP)

    Venus Williams is the only American to make it to the third round at the Family Circle Cup. (J Pat Carter/AP)

    CHARLESTON, S.C. — Venus Williams battled through illness and a foot blister on Wednesday, rallying from a break down in the first and second sets to beat Chanelle Scheepers 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Family Circle Cup.

    Williams, who arrived here with what she described as “a bug,” hasn’t had an easy pass through the early rounds. She edged Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 in her opener, Williams’ third consecutive three-set match.

    “I’m still dealing with the bug, but my goal is just to hang in there until it hopefully goes away and then I can just continue to play my way into the tournament and play stronger,” Williams said. “But it’s definitely a challenge.”

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  • Published On Apr 02, 2014
  • Elina Svitolina surprises No. 5 seed Sloane Stephens at Family Circle Cup

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    (Mic Smith/AP)

    Elina Svitolina won 78 of 140 total points played against Sloane Stephens. (Mic Smith/AP)

    CHARLESTON, S.C. — Elina Svitolina celebrated her first week as the highest-ranked WTA teenager by upsetting No. 18 Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Family Circle Cup on Wednesday.

    Ranked No. 35 and gradually improving, Svitolina fended off two comeback attempts from the fifth-seeded Stephens — who was down 1-5 in the first set and an early break in the second — to earn her fourth victory over a top-20 player this season. The 19-year-old from Ukraine avenged a straight-set loss to Stephens at the Australian Open and continued to build on her promising play from the BNP Paribas Open (where she lost a third-set tiebreaker to No. 11 Ana Ivanovic in the second round) and Sony Open (where she pushed No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska to three sets in the fourth round) over the last month.

    Get to know Elina Svitolina, the WTA’s highest-ranked teenager

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  • Published On Apr 02, 2014
  • Q&A with Elina Svitolina, 19, the WTA’s highest-ranked teenager

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    Elina Svitolina

    Elina Svitolina has climbed to No. 35 since ending the 2012 season at No. 156. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    While the English-speaking media has focused on Sloane Stephens, Eugenie Bouchard, Laura Robson and Madison Keys as the top prospects of the WTA’s Generation Next, Elina Svitolina has quietly compiled a résumé worth recognizing.

    The 19-year-old Ukrainian won a 125K Series title in India in 2012 and the Baku Cup in 2013, making her the only teen with a title in the last two years. (She’s also won six ITF titles.) The 2010 junior French Open champion improved her ranking by 116 spots last season to finish at No. 40, and this week she supplanted Keys, 19, as the top-ranked teenager after making the fourth round of the Sony Open.

    Before the Miami tournament, Svitolina lost to No. 11 Ana Ivanovic in a third-set tiebreaker in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open. Here are highlights of that match (via TheMsharapova2):

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  • Published On Apr 01, 2014
  • WTA rankings: Maria Sharapova falls to three-year low of No. 9

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    Maria Sharapova

    Maria Sharapova is ranked as low as ninth for the first time since 2011. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

    Maria Sharapova slipped to No. 9 in this week’s WTA Tour rankings, her lowest position in three years.

    Sharapova’s two-spot dip came after she lost to Serena Williams in the semifinals of the Sony Open, where the Russian was a finalist the previous three years. Petra Kvitova (No. 6) and Angelique Kerber (No. 7) both passed Sharapova, who has yet to make a final in five tournaments this year in her return from a shoulder injury that ended her 2013 season in August.

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  • Published On Mar 31, 2014
  • A Fan’s View: Li Na

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    Li Na

    Li Na has nine career titles, including the 2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open. (Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

    Li Na may be one of tennis’ most beloved characters, but her fans certainly need to learn to manage stress and have patience. Her game is volatile (as is her temper), and her streaks of exemplary play and absolute disaster can give you whiplash. What has it been like to sit shotgun on the Li bandwagon all these years? I caught up with Chris Ng, one of the most devoted fans of the two-time Grand Slam champion I know, to discuss his love for all things Li. Chris, a Canada-based fan, grew up learning that single-handed is the only way to hit a backhand, and you can find him playing on the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) tour. Follow Chris on Twitter at @Ratazana

    SI.com: What is it about Li that makes you a fan?

    Ng: I grew up learning to play tennis in Hong Kong during the Michael Chang era, so Li was an obvious choice for an Asian fan. I first noticed her after the wave of Chinese players breaking through around the time of the 2006 Australian Open doubles win by Yan Zi and Zheng Jie. Out of Zheng, Peng Shua and Li, Li’s aggressive baseline game was more appealing to me based on my own game.

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  • Published On Mar 20, 2014
  • WTA rankings: Caroline Wozniacki plunges to six-year low

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    Caroline Wozniacki

    Caroline Wozniacki has fallen to No. 18 in the WTA rankings. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

    Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki tumbled to 18th in this week’s WTA Tour rankings, her lowest position since 2008.

    The 23-year-old Dane’s six-spot drop came after she lost to Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-1 in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open, where Wozniacki was defending finalist points from last year. Wozniacki fell to 8-5 in 2014, with her best result a semifinal appearance at the Dubai Championships.

    Also last week, Wozniacki — the year-end No. 1 in 2010 and ’11 — reportedly split with her second coach since January. A Danish newspaper reported that she is no longer working with Michael Mortensen, who joined her team after Wozniacki parted ways with Thomas Hogstedt following a three-month stint.

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  • Published On Mar 17, 2014


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