October 17, 2014

Eleventh Hour Surge

The 2014 WTA season is close to wrapping up, but that hasn't stopped a couple young and largely unknown players from making some big statements at the last events of the year. And while they might not all be able to ultimately bring home the trophies, a couple might have successfully put their names on the map to stay.

More than a couple seeds had trouble gaining traction in Luxembourg, with German favorite Andrea Petkovic falling in the first round and several others not doing much better. Wimbledon Cinderella Barbora Zahlavova Strycova was one of just two seeds to reach the quarterfinals, and the only one to make it farther. A lot of that upheaval came at the hands of young Denisa Allertova, a young Czech who, at #145 in the world, is only a hair off her career high ranking. She has had quite a year on the ITF Tour though, picking up seven titles on that circuit this year, notching wins over the likes of Ksenia Pervak, Andrea Hlavackova and Lesia Tsurenko. She still had to qualify for Luxembourg, but she really made the most of her entry -- after stunning former All England runner-up Sabine Lisicki in the second round, she followed up by taking out fifth seed Varvara Lepchenko one match later. She finally ran out of steam today, winning just a game off Annika Beck in the semis, but with such a strong finish to the season, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot more of her in the next.

Meanwhile in Moscow another couple upstarts caused a stir. Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova had a Singapore alternate ticket in her sites, and all she needed was one more win to secure her spot. But Vitalia Diatchenko had other plans -- playing in her hometown, the Russian qualifier held strong after losing the first set and took out the recent top ten star in the second round. She even pushed compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to the limit today, forcing the sixth seed to three sets before ultimately losing their quarterfinal meeting. Another qualifier, though, had slightly better luck -- Katerina Siniakova, who'd only won one main draw match at the WTA level all year, followed a one-sided defeat of Elena Vesnina in her opener by slaying this season's giant-killer Kristina Mladenkovic. Earlier today she came back from a set down against rising star Camila Giorgi to reach her first career semifinal. She'll meet Pavs for a spot in the final, certainly no easy challenge, but the way she's playing, there's no reason we can't see her pull off yet another upset.

Sure, at this point these ladies' efforts may seem like "too little, too late," but some big results as they close out 2014 could give them real momentum as they prep for the new year. After all we've seen plenty of big talent emerge this season, and if this week's standouts can keep it up, they might just be the highlights of 2015 too.

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