Wednesday, April 17, 2019

John Farley Spotlight WTA: 18 Different Winners - The Stats

Eighteen different WTA players have won each of the first 18 tournaments of the 2019 season. 18 different sets of lips kissing those trophies. Here are some stats that put a personality on this streak:

A Two-Year Perspective:
  • The first 18 tournaments of 2017:  Different winners except 3: Karolina Pliskova won in both Brisbane and Doha, Johanna Konta won in both Sydney and Miami, and Elina Svitolina won in both Dubai and Taipei City (replaced in 2019 by Hua Hin).
  • The first 18 tournaments of 2018:  Different winners again except 3: Elina Svitolina in both Brisbane and Dubai, Petra Kvitová in both St Petersburg and Doha, and Elise Mertens in both Hobart and Lugano.
  • Elina Svitolina was double winner in both 2017 and 2018 through the first 18 tournaments but has not reached a final in 2019.


  • In addition to all the winners of the first 18 tournaments being different players, all the runners-up (17 of 18) were different except Petra Kvitová, who was a finalist in both Melbourne and Dubai.
  • 5 players were both winners (w) and runners-up (ru) during the streak (different tournaments that is): Bianca Andreescu (w: Indian Wells, ru: Auckland),  Ashleigh Barty (w: Miami, ru: Sydney), Sofia Kenin (w: Hobart, ru: Acapulco), Petra Kvitova (w: Sydney, ru: Melbourne and Dubai), Karolina Pliskova (w: Brisbane, ru: Miami).

Rankings: (Note: The rankings used were the rankings of the players at the time of the tournaments of course, not the current rankings.)
  • Average ranking for winners: 34. 
  • Average ranking for runners-up: 49
  • In 7 of the 18 tournaments (approx. 40%), the lower ranked player beat the higher ranked player. They just so happened in 7 successive tournaments: Doha: (Elise Mertens/Simona Halep), Dubai (Belinda Bencic/Petra Kvitová), Budapest (Alison van Uytvanck/Marketa Vondrousova), Acapulco (Yafan Wang/Sofia Kenin), Indian Wells (Bianca Andreescu/Angelique Kerber), Miami (Ashleigh Barty/Karolina Pliskova), Charleston (Madison Keys/Caroline Wozniacki).
  • Winners:
    • Only 4 were in the top ten.
    • Only 5 were in the ranking range 11-20.
    • Therefore, 50% of the winners (9) were outside the top 20.
    • The range outside the top 20 was: 21 (Elise Mertens) - 89 (Polona Hercog). In fact 8 of the 9 were 45 or higher.
    • If you remove the four top ten winners from the calculations, the average ranking of the remaining winners is 42.
  • Runners-up:
    • Only 5 were in the top ten.
    • Only 2 were in the range 11-20.
    • Therefore, 61% of runners-up (11) were outside the top 20.
    • The range outside the top 20 was: 30 (Donna Vekic) - 152 (Bianca Andreescu).
    • There were two other runners-up outside the top 100 - Iga Swiatek at 115 and Astra Sharma at 138.
    • If you remove the five top ten runners-up from the calculations, the average ranking of the remaining runners-up is 66.

  • Winners:
    • Average age was 23
    • Three were teenagers:  Amanda Anisimova (17),  Dayana Yastremska (18), and Bianca Andreescu (18), with 3 recently graduated from the teenage years - Aryna Sabalenka and Sofia Kenin at 20 and Naomi Osaka at 21.
    • The range was: 17 (Amanda Anisimova) - 30 (Julia Goerges).
    • 7 of the 18 (approx. 40%) were 25 or older. 
  • Runners-up:
    • Average age was 25
    • Three were teenagers, Iga Swiatek (17), Bianca Andreescu (18), and Marketa Vondrousova (19).
    • The range was:  17 (Iga Swiatek) - 31 (Angelique Kerber)
    • 10 of the 18 (approx. 55%) were 25 or older.

Country Representation:
  • There were 19 different countries represented among the winners and runners-up.
  • 14 of the countries are from Europe (Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine), 2 each from North America (Canada, United States) and Asia (China, Japan), and Australia.

The Takeaway:

They stand at each end of the court
Two women who define the sport
By their play have it positioned
At a new level of competition

Anyway, that's how I see it.


Author's Notes:
  • My pick for the "Aryna Sabalenka" of 2019 - Iga Swiatek from Poland, reigning Wimbledon Junior's Champion and runner-up in Lugano, Switzerland.
  • To be fair, I should note that in the 21 ATP tournaments this year each was won by a different player except for Roger Federer's winning in both Dubai and Miami.
  • Here are the tournaments, winners, and runners-up:
The First 18 Tournaments of 2019
 Tournament Winners and (Runners-up) - WTA

1. Brisbane – Karolina Pliskova (Lesia Tsurenko)
2. Auckland – Julia Goerges (Bianca Andreescu)
3. Shenzhen – Aryna Sabalenka (Alison Riske)
4. Sydney – Petra Kvitova (Ashleigh Barty)
5. Hobart – Sofia Kenin (Anna Karolina Schmiedlova)
6. Australian Open – Naomi Osaka (Petra Kvitova)
7. Hua Hin – Dayana Yastremska (Ajla Tomljanovic)
8. St. Petersburg – Kiki Bertens (Donna Vekic)
9. Doha – Elise Mertens (Simona Halep)
10. Dubai – Belinda Bencic (Petra Kvitova)
11. Budapest – Alison van Uytvanck (Marketa Vondrousova)
12. Acapulco – Yafan Wang (Sofia Kenin)
13. Indian Wells – Bianca Andreescu (Angelique Kerber)
14. Miami – Ashleigh Barty (Karolina Pliskova)
15. Charleston – Madison Keys (Caroline Wozniacki)
16. Monterrey – Garbine Muguruza (Victoria Azarenka)
17. Lugano – Polona Hercog (Iga Swiatek)
18. Bogota – Amanda Anisimova (Astra Sharma)

Friday, January 11, 2019

John Farley Spotlight WTA: The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Out of the Gates in 2019

At the end of the 2018 tennis season I featured three young Belarusian players - Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich. and Vera Lapko - in an article entitled, "The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Showcasing Young Climbers of 2018."  Now, two weeks into the 2019 season and on the cusp of the Australian Open in Melbourne, let's check in and see how they are coming out of the starting gates of the 2019 season after extraordinary performances in 2018.

Aryna Sabalenka:

Coming into 2019 with a ranking of  #13 off two WTA titles in Connecticut and Wuhan, Sabalenka took the trophy in Shenzhen beating Alison Riske in a tough 3-set final, knocking out Maria Sharapova along the way. With that win she has risen to #11 in the world and set the stage for some real tennis poetry with the possibility after winning in Shenzhen - the first tournament of the year  - of very elegantly punctuating her year by winning the WTA Final in Shenzhen - the last tournament of the year. Go get it tiger.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich:

Sasnovich came into the year with a career-high ranking of #30. She made it to the quarterfinals in Brisbane and the semifinals in Sydney. In Brisbane she avenged her loss last year in the final by beating  #4 Elina Svitolina in the 2nd round and then, after getting through the qualies where she beat the Olympic Gold Medal winner, Monica Puig, she continued her "slaying" of top ten players kicking off the main draw in Sydney with a big win over #10 Daria Kasatkina. Two weeks in and already two top-ten wins. I would say Sascha has come out of the gates on fire.

Vera Lapko:

Although she only made it to the 2nd round at the Hobart International, losing to a very "in-form" Dayana Yastremska, in the first round she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 23 points above her, a former Juniors #1 who has reached the quarterfinals in all of the Grand Slams. This was a big win for her and no doubt a confidence booster knowing that she can definitely compete on a very high level with the best players. Now ranked at #63 in the world, she is poised to move into the top 50 in singles.

The Triumvirate in Melbourne

So now onto the Australian Open where will see if our trio can maintain their momentum. Sabalenka is seeded #11, in the third quarter of the draw, and will open against a qualifier, Anna Kalinskaya, #167. She'll face either Katie Boulter or Ekaterina Makarova in round two. Petra Kvitová and Caroline Wozniacki are the top seeds in her quarter of the draw. Sasnovich, who at #33 in the rankings just missed getting seeded, in the 4th quarter of the draw, will open against the tricky slicer, Kirsten Flipkens #49. Sloane Stephens and Angelique Kerber are the top seeds in her quarter of the draw. Lapko is also in the 3rd quarter and opens against Johanna Larsson of Sweden, ranked at #75.

Obviously, as you can see, I’m a big fan of this trio: their youthfulness, their athleticism, their competitive spirit. And I’m excited to see how deep they’ll go into the Melbourne fortnight. I’m hopeful that at least two of the three will make it to the second week of the tournament, which is a big deal by the way, in terms of prestige, ranking points, and significant Australian bucks. It would be a huge step if one or more makes the semifinal or final. Each one of our trio has generated significant  momentum to start the season. Now let's see if they can keep it as they head to the serving line in Melbourne.

Anyway, that's how I see it.


I've included below the link to my post: The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Showcasing Young Climbers of 2018 and clips of Sabalenka in Shenzhen and Brisbane.

The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Showcasing Young Climbers of 2018

Aryna Sabalenka vs Alison Riske, Shenzhen Open 2019

Aliaksandra Sasnovich vs Elina Svitolina, Brisbane 2019

Saturday, December 22, 2018

John Farley Spotlight WTA: Farley's 20 Predictions for 2019

I don't normally predict. I don't want to presume to be some tennis pandit who looks perspicacious at the start of the year and then ends up with egg on his face at the end, if anybody cares to check. I don't mind the egg even though I'm a vegetarian, it's just that the whole exercise is so futile. But I have this impulse at the end of this year to predict a few things for 2019. So here we go:
  1. Bethanie Mattek-Sands will be on the short list for Mad Magazine's Best Dressed Women of 2019.
  2. Having given up the reigns of the USTA, Katrina Adams will take up the Luge and prepare for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
  3. Aryna Sabalenka will end the year among the top five and will win the US Open. Why, among the other Slams, the US Open? She did well in Flushing Meadows last year, she likes the hard courts with her two titles in 2018 coming on hard courts at the Opens in Connecticut and Wuhan, and she is young and strong and will still have the vitality by September to take on the field.
  4. Georgina Garcia Perez will find a Dmitry Tursunov and end the year inside the top 50.  She's 6' 2" and has a big game. She is currently at 124, up 120 ranking points above her 2017 year-end ranking.
  5. Justin Gimelstob will avoid Halloween trick or treating.
  6. Elina Svitolina will win a Grand Slam and end the year #1.
  7. The new deal between the WTA and Tennis Channel, "geo-blocking" the US subscribers, is going to bomb for the WTA. (I watch the WTA events on computer, so what I'm describing here is a digital guys experience.) I hope I'm wrong, but it seems to me that after so many years of the WTA playing second fiddle to the ATP via Tennis Channel (TC), and finally, after the many delays to launch WTATV and have its own media platform so that it could have exclusive control over WTA programming, that the WTA would never relinquish that autonomy and again put itself in a subordinate position where the whims of Tennis Channel could create WTA viewer horrors like TC cutting away from a WTA match at championship point to an ATP match so that Brad Gilbert courtside could tell us how many shirts Rafa goes through on an afternoon match in Melbourne. I realize there is a lot of money talking here, but does the WTA really trust TC to give its subscribers the same high quality, comprehensive coverage they were getting through WTATV?  Also, consider the following:
    1. According to an announcement to US WTATV subscribers, the WTATV content will be picked up on TC Plus. As any TC Plus subscriber knows, only some of tournament content is broadcast on TC Plus. The other "juicier" content, like big name match-ups and the "business end" rounds for example, often air on TC not on TC Plus. I would imagine this would be especially true for the 4 Premier Mandatory Tournaments and the Premier 5s. So, if you only have a TC Plus subscription and not also a TC provider, you're screwed. The new deal might be different, but I doubt it. 
    2. ESPN does the same thing to its ESPN+ subscribers. At the Slams, 3 of which are covered by ESPN (not the French?), you can get the early rounds and most of the matches on ESPN+, but some of the higher-profile matches and, again, the business-end tournament matches (semis, finals) will only be available on ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3. For that you need a provider, an additional subscription. 
    3. So... unless Tennis Channel changes the way it presents WTA content over its linear and digital platforms, the WTA is going to find itself wishing it had retained its autonomy and not got lured into the TC buck.
  8. Camila Giorgi, having risen to #26 in 2018, in her dainty, mother-made outfits and Sergio, her coach/father, who was once described by a tennis commentator as, "a combination of Jerry Garcia and Grouch Marx," will continue to entertain. (Outside of Sabalenka, there is no player I like to watch more than Giorgi.)
  9. Garbine Muguruza and Sam Sumyk will part ways.
  10. To avoid embarrassing elocutional problems for commentators, the 127th ranked player from Greece, Valentini Grammatikoloulou, will be required by the WTA to shorten her name to "Valentini G." (And you thought Pavlyuchenkova was a toughie)
  11. Angelique Kerber will enter the Guinness Book of World Records for saying the English word "amazing" over 37 times in a two-minute on-court interview.
  12. Belarus will win the Fed Cup if they can knock out Germany in February.
  13. On-court coaching dialogue profanities will proliferate increasing brand entertainment value much to the delight of the sponsors.
  14. The WTA Sports Science and Athlete Assistance Program will include the technology of Transcendental Meditation in its offerings for player development.
  15. Racquet Magazine will become 'The New Yorker" of tennis magazines, intelligently including submissions by John Farley and more wary of submissions by Andrea Petkovic.
  16. Inspired by the mockumentary 7 Days in Hell, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, to dispel its stuffy image, decides for the Wimbledon Championship to allow 'streaking," but only if the streaker, if wearing anything, wears white.
  17. Rule Changes: 
    1. Because the WTA dress rules for 2019 addressed only below-the-waist garments, for example, allowing leggings below the knee or above the knee, with or without a skirt, and compression shorts, in an effort to "give our players the chance to be who they want to be" the WTA will make rule changes regarding what the women wear on top, allowing Madonna-type cone bras and metal breastplates. 
    2. If a player is out of competition due to pregnancy resulting in Quintuplets, she is allowed as many years as it takes to get the last child out of the house to use her special ranking. 
    3. Because of the rule change for 2019 decreasing the number of toilet breaks from 2 to 1 for an entire match, there will be a disturbing increase in the number of retirements by players who "just had to go to the bathroom."
  18. Over the next two years Serena will win 2 Grand Slams and surpass the ho #$/%*&ic Margaret Court. Her best shot - Wimbledon. Next best - Australia.
  19. Fulfilling the original vision of its founder, Billie Jean King, the WTA will acquire a major sponsor that will allow it to position itself with complete technological autonomy, with parity, and with an increasingly global reach.
  20. The 2019 WTA tennis year, driven by the loft of so many good players' visions of conquest and the incarnations of compelling, unfolding dramas from previous years, has the potential of an unheard-of 95% from Rotten Tomatoes.

Anyway, that's how I see it.

P.S. If you're gonna throw egg at me January 1, 2020, make it poached on gluten-free bread, lightly toasted.

For those who celebrate it
 Merry Christmas
and a 
Very Happy New Tennis Year

Saturday, December 8, 2018

John Farley Spotlight WTA: Amanda Anisimova - Showcasing Young Climbers of 2018

It happens sometimes you put on a match and you see a player for the first time and immediately you sense something special. Maybe it's from a strut, that signature swagger of an athlete exuding power and confidence or just from some cogent intangibles that haven't yet crystalized into a concept you can clearly articulate. But you know she's got it. I saw it in Garbine Muguruza even before she beat Serena at the French Open in 2014. I saw it in Aryna Sabalenka before both she and her Belarus compatriot Aliaksandra Sasnovich took out Sloane Stephens, at the time the reigning US Open winner, in the 2017 Fed Cup Final, almost upsetting the USA. Those are the two who most strongly come to mind. Now there is another who I feel has got it - Amanda Anisimova.

I don't remember when I first saw her, but I do remember I had that feeling about this 2018 climber who was only 16 at the time. Let's throw the spotlight on some major milestones and highlights in her rise:
  • She was ranked 761 at end of 2016, but climbed quickly to end 2017 at 192.
  • The first American finalist at the 2016 French Open Juniors in 14 years, where she was the #2 seed.
  • As a junior she was ranked as high as #2 in the world.
  • In her Grand Slam debut into a main draw, she lost in the first round of the 2017 French Open, but became the youngest player to participate in the main draw since 2005.
  • Capped her juniors career by winning the Grand Slam title at the 2017 US Open, not dropping a set.
  • A member of the US team that won the 2017 Junior Fed Cup.
  • At the 2018 Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open, she became the youngest player to reach the 4th round since 2005, where she defeated Pauline Parmentier for her first WTA match win before upsetting #23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and then #9 Petra Kvitová who was on a 14-match win streak - her first victory over a top 10 player.
  • On the strength of this performance, she was awarded a wild card into the Miami Open, where she won her opening match against Wang Qiang despite injuring her foot in the third set. She was forced to withdraw from the tournament where she was scheduled to play Garbine Muguruza in the second round. The foot injury kept her out of action for four months.
  • Returning from injury in San Jose, she beat Wang Qiang again in the first round before losing to an in-form Mihaela Buzarnescu.
  • During the 2018 US Open Series in Cincinnati, she took out Timea Babos and Petra Martic before falling to Elina Svitolina who was ranked #7 at the time.
  • In the Hana-Cupid Japan Women's Open (where did they get that name?) in Hiroshima, she became only the 2nd qualifier to reach the final of a WTA tournament in 2018.(the other was Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Brisbane). She lost to Su-Wei Hsieh in the final, but did not drop a set through the main draw getting there.
She will end the year 2018 #98 in the world, up 84 points from her 2017 year-end ranking of 192.
Now, still only at 17 years of age, under the WTA eligibility rules, she may be limited to the number of tournaments she can play in 2019, but no doubt she'll make the most of them. From both the forehand and backhand sides, she can produce blistering baseline shots that catch you by surprise with their accuracy and pace. With an imperturbable match demeanor that belies her mere 17 years, she carries onto court that charming, youthful obliviousness to the possibility of defeat. All that makes her dangerous, and if they haven't done so already, the rest of the field should take note.

Anyway, that's the way I see it.

Here are some highlights from Amanda Anisimova's victory over Petra Kvitová at Indian Wells 2018:

Monday, November 5, 2018

John Farley Spotlight WTA: The Young Belarus Triumvirate - Showcasing Young Climbers of 2018

In case you didn't notice there are three young Belarusian players who have made a charge up the rankings in 2018. They are Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and Vera Lapko. I suppose it is possible if you were hunkered down in a snow-blown tent somewhere near the North Pole without a smart phone or any kind of communication device including Arctic pigeons not to have heard of Aryna Sabalenka. And I suppose it's possible if you are only a casual observer of the WTA tennis scene not to have noticed the gradual, but steady rise of Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who will go into 2019 knocking on the door of the top 25. And even if you are tuned into the women's tennis scene, you may not have noticed the progress in 2018 and potential big game of Vera Lapko. So, I will tell you:

These are the three young women who carried Belarus through the maze of zones and groups to reach the Fed Cup final in 2017 and did well enough in 2018 to qualify for the World Group in 2019 - Belarus's third straight year in World Group. Among the 105 nations competing in Fed Cup, Belarus is ranked #3, only behind the Czech Republic and the USA. Belarus kicks off their 2019 Fed Cup campaign in Germany, Feb, 9,10. and it will be the rising-level games of this triumvirate that Belarus will count on to get past Germany and possibly on to anther final.

Each of these young women has her own story played out in ITF events and WTA qualies and main draws on courts from Minsk to Madrid, from Brisbane to Beijing, from Wuhan to the Western and Southern Open:

Aryna Sabalenka:

Back in January, 2018, I wrote about Aryna Sabalenka just before the Australian Open when she was playing in Hobart and getting some double-takes from tennis fans worldwide: "I feel she has the potential to be one of the best in this new generation of women, perhaps even the next great player in the women's game. And she's only 19. My God...Her's is not just another blip on the tennis radar. It is a robust signal that's saying... 'I'm coming.'"

Well, she has come and in a thunderously big way. Counseled intelligently by her new coach, Dmitry Tursunov, who brought craft to her big game, Sabalenka, now 20, will end this year, 2018, at #11 in the world and #11 on the Porsche Race to Singapore, almost making it to Singapore as an alternate. The trip that took her from #78 in the world at the start of the year to this year-end career high of #11, a climb of 66 points through tough opposition, featured five quarter finals - Shenzhen, Hobart, 'S-Hertogenbosch, Beijing, and Tianjin; One semi-final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati; and four finals - Lugano, Eastbourne, the Connecticut Open in New Haven, and Wuhan.

Now giving all this some chronology for the drama for the cresting of the year-end momentum: In Eastbourne she beat Julia Goerges, Karolina Pliskova (#7), and Aga Radwanska. Moving from the grass to the hard courts of the US Swing, she really began to motor in Cincinnati where she took out Johanna Konta, Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova (#8), and Caroline Garcia (#5). In the stop before in Montreal at the Rogers Cup, she beat Caroline Wozniacki (#2). Rolling now into New Haven, where she wins her maiden WTA Title, she takes out Julia Goerges (#9) again and Carla Suarez-Navarro in the final. She kicks off the Asian Swing in Wuhan where she picks up her second WTA Title of the year, cruising through Dominica Cibulkova and Ashleigh Barty, upsetting Elina Svitolina (#6), and then beating Anett Kontaveit in the final. In Beijing she takes out Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Garcia, (# 8), makes a quarter-final run in Tianjin, and then ends the year seeded  #3 at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, where she was the only player to beat the eventual and well-deserved winner, Ashleigh Barty.

During this hot run from Eastbourne she beat top-ten players 8 times including Karolina Pliskova and Caroline Garcia each twice. Although she didn't make it beyond the first round in the first three slams of the year - the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon, once she got into high gear in Cincinnati and New Haven, she made a march to the second week of the US Open where she knocked out Petra Kvitová (#5), only to be halted by the eventual grand slam winner, Naomi Osaka. And for the record it should be noted that Aryna Sabalenka was the only player to take a set off Osaka during the tournament and was up 4-1 in the third before faltering. One commentator felt that the winner of the US Open would come out of that R16 match. She was right.
Poised at #11, she is ready to raid the ranks of the top ten in 2019. With that tiger tattoo on her left forearm and an indomitable spirit, I see her advancing with the same ferocity we see in her shots. Go Tiger!

Aliaksandra Sasnovich:

Aliaksandra Sasnovich first came to my attention in Belarus's semi-final victory over Switzerland in their 2017 Fed Cup tie. In her singles wins over Victoria Golubic and Timea Bacsinszky, she elegantly moved around the court imparting her own court craft and the Minsk crowd energy into every point and shot. I saw something special there in this 23 year-old Belarusian who was only ranked #96 in the world at the time. I made a mental note to keep my eye on her, but it was Aryna Sabalenka who was mostly grabbing my attention.

And I kept my eye on her as she masterfully put away Sloane Stephens (#13) at the 2017 Fed Cup final which the USA won in a deciding doubles match, and she then went on in 2018 to rise to a year-end ranking of #30. This is how she got there.

First, like all players she paid her dues. Some history: On the ITF pro circuit main draws she was 113-49 with 11 ITF single titles earning her way into WTA tournaments. Starting the year 2017 at #121 in the world, she made her way through qualification rounds to the quarter finals in Budapest, R64 in Miami losing to Jo Konta, and after her semi-final run at Biel, Switzerland, where she took out the alternately brilliant and awful but always fun to watch Camila Giorgi in the quarters, she had raised her ranking to qualify for the main draws at the slams: Roland Garros - loss to Shuai Zhang R64, Wimbledon - tough first round draw and loss to Jelena Ostapenko, US Open: loss to Ashleigh Barty R64. Losing early, yes, but she had earned the right to be there. She finished off the 2017 regular season with a quarter-final run at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow where she took out Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic before losing to Daria Kasatkina. And then the Fed Cup victory over reigning US Open Champ Sloane Stephens at the Fed Cup final. The stage was set for her rise up the rankings in 2018.

Ranked #87 in the world, Aliaksandra Sasnovich blew into Brisbane and blew away the field - three in the qualies, then Kristina Mladenovic (#11), Anett Kontaveit, Alize Cornet, and Anastasija Sevastova (#16) before losing to Elina Svitolina (#6) in the final.  Not a bad way to kick off the year and with 660 more ranking points and over $100,000 in prize money, she headed to Melbourne.

She has a very charming, disarming, kind of innocently funny way about her which came out in her on-court interviews during the Brisbane run. She endeared herself to me. She was now on my radar, if only for the laughs at interview time.

Driven by a persistent, imperturbable court demeanor, she slowly but steadily made her way up the rankings in 2018. She reached the third rounds at Melbourne Park and Indian Wells where she lost to Caroline Wozniacki in a tight 3-setter. After getting bogged down a bit in the clay-court season, she rebounded at Wimbledon, reaching the second week, knocking out Petra Kvitová (#7) and Daria Gavrilova before losing to Jelena Ostapenko. Back in the USA, having gone through the qualies, she reached the quarter finals in New Haven, beating Mladenovic again along the way before losing to Caroline Garcia (#6) in 3 close sets.

Now, having risen to #37, she got knocked out in the third round of the US Open by the eventual winner Naomi Osaka but not before beating Belinda Bencic and Daria Kasatkina (#11) in the first two rounds. The Asian Swing didn't swing her way, but she capped off her 2018 season with a quarter-final run at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, knocking out #10 Kiki Bertens, and setting the stage for what I believe will be a 2019 that could see this 24 year-old Belarusian among the top twenty in the world.

Vera Lapko:

I don't remember the tournament where Vera Lapko first got my attention, but I do remember noticing in this 6'0" Belarusian player a power and a poise that belied her young age of 20. I could see that these basic elements of the game were yet undeveloped in her, but I could also see the potential she possessed for making a major climb up the rankings in both singles and doubles which she has been successfully balancing.

Some stats: At the end of 2016 and 2017 her singles and doubles rankings, respectively were 131,102 and 318,283. She now, at the very end of 2018, has a singles ranking of 65 and a doubles ranking of 93. During 2016 and 2017 she amassed 6 ITF single titles and 7 ITF doubles titles. Although during 2018 she put her attention mostly on WTA tournaments, along the way she picked up 2 more ITF single titles, was a runner-up in one, and made a quarter-final run in another.

The highlights of her rise and achievements in 2018 include:

  • She had a stellar year in doubles reaching the finals in Lugano (partnered with Sabalenka) Ghangzhou, and Luxembourg. She had a semi-final run at the Indian Wells Oracle Challenger Series and made the quarters in St Petersburg and Tashkent. She also was instrumental in Belarus's deciding doubles match victory in Fed Cup over Slovakia that further cemented their place in the World Group for 2019.
  • Slowly grinding her way up the singles rankings often through the qualies amid some direct entries into main draws, she moved into the top 100 from #102 at the start of the year and continued to climb. This climb featured: a semi-final run in Lugano where she took out Anett Kontaveit and Kirsten Flipkens before losing to Elise Mertens, in Nottingham she beat Jana Fett in the first round before losing to Donna Vekic, taking her to a second set tie-break, in San Jose she beat Shuai Zhang in round one before losing to Danielle Collins in 3 sets, in Linz she knocked out the tough Beinda Bencic before losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 3 close sets, 7-5, 6-7(4), 3-6. She ended her year with a quarter-final run in Luxembourg, taking out Carina Witthoeft and Pauline Parmentier before falling to a resurgent Belinda Bencic.
  • In the Slams: Her achievements here were modest but encouraging. Singles: Although she did not make it out of the qualies at Melbourne or Roland Garros, by Wimbledon she had the ranking for the main draw beating Christine McHale in the first round before losing to Julia Goerges in 3 sets. At the US Open she took out Kateryna Bondarenko before losing to Elise Mertens in the second round. Doubles: Although her team did not make it beyond the first round at RG (loss to the #1 doubles team - Krejcikova and Siniakova), Wimbledon, and the US Open, over the year she had raised her doubles ranking from 283 to 93, a rise of 190 points. Progress.
Reaching the singles quarter-final in Luxembourg combined with her doubles final showing there has established a strong foundation for Vera Lapko to take on 2019. She has her doubles ranking inside the top 100 and a strong singles ranking at #65 in the world. At only 20 years old, she has a big game and has established herself on the tour as a formidable opponent.

My prediction is that in 2019 this triumvirate will continue to triumph. Aryna Sabalenka will craftily blast her way into the top ten and will be on many short lists for winning slams in 2019. Aliaksandra Sasnovich can surprise and rebound when she's down a few games or a set.  Slowly, but unrelentingly, I see her taking her maturing game and imperturbable court demeanor into the top 25, even into the top 20 by the end of the year. I see Vera Lapko to be on the threshold of a breakthrough to a consistently higher level of play. We saw that kind of breakthrough with Sabalenka this year. With such a breakthrough, only what awaits her are more breakthroughs, which could take her inside the top 40 and beyond.

For each of these players individually and for the prospects for Belarus in the Fed Cup for 2019, the future looks very bright.

Anyway, that's how I see it.


1. Here is the post on Aryna Sabalenka I wrote back in January of 2018:

Aryna Sabalenka - January Post, 2018

2.  A clip to give you a flavor of the charming personality of Aliaksandra Sasnovich:

3. To give you a look at the big game of Vera Lapko, here is a clip of her in that semi-final against Elise Mertens in Lugano, Switzerland:

Monday, July 30, 2018

John Farley Spotlight: A Package for Superior Performance for the Professional Tennis Player

I have written six blog posts on the benefits of the technology of Transcendental Meditation for the professional tennis player from six different angles of consideration. As a convenience, I am presenting all of them here in this single post in the order in which I published a "Package for Superior Performance for the Professional Tennis Player." Own the knowledge in each of these six presentations and you will be a better tennis player and a more integrated human being. It's as simple as that. I will introduce each presentation with an excerpt from the relevant post.

Number One: Tennis, Peak Performance, and Transcendental Meditation

"The message then to every player on the WTA is that to "own the zone" your brain has to perform in a more refined and a more sophisticated way. This is the key. Greater sophistication and refinement of neurophysiological functioning is at the basis of the elegance of movement, which is the ultimate expression of the experience of peak performance or being in the zone."

Tennis, Peak Performance, and Transcendental Meditation

Number Two: Combating the Toll of the Tennis Tour: A Performance Enhancing Technology (PET)

"A higher level of brain integration creates a higher level of psychophysiological resilience which enables the rhythms of the physiology to adjust quickly to the circadian rhythms of the environment, creating a synchrony that results in a more consistent, higher level of performance."

Combating the Toll of the Tennis Tour: A Performance Enhancing Technology (PET)

Number Three: Fitness From the Inside Through Transcendental Meditation

"'Fitness from the Inside' is created by accessing the innate, inner intelligence of the body through the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM), a Technology of Consciousness. During the process of transcending during TM, conscious mind becomes consciousness, the deepest level of our own being. It is from this deepest level of our own being where we can most profoundly enliven this inner intelligence that conducts the evolution, development, and healing of the entire physiology."

Fitness from the Inside through Transcendental Meditation

Number Four: Why Every WTA Touring Player Should Learn Transcendental Meditation

"From the deep rest gained through the natural, effortless practice of Transcendental Meditation these impressions can be quickly dissolved, body vitality quickly restored, resulting in a more refined level of psychophysiological functioning that puts every player on the serving line the next time more mentally free and physically refreshed. This is the systematic technology for player recovery that has been missing from tennis."

Why Every WTA Touring Player Should Learn Transcendental Meditation

Number Five: Reversal of Aging: The Tennis Player and Transcendental Meditation

With the technology of Transcendental Meditation in her bag, as they say, each day that player will  be culturing a physiology, a level of perceptual motor performance that is operating continuously from a younger biological age, making her game sharper with each match and with each tournament and, at the same time, establishing the basis for a longer and possibly less injury-prone career.

Reversal of Aging: The Tennis Player and Transcendental Meditation

Number Six: The Professional Tennis Player and the State of Enlightenment

"Enlightenment is the natural state of human life. In the state of enlightenment the question of "who am I" is answered. You come to realize that you are not the adoption of some external persona you have perhaps identified yourself with, but you are a fully realized self, established in an unbounded field of pure intelligence, pure consciousness, pure energy, and bliss."

The Professional Tennis Player and the State of Enlightenment

After reading all of these presentations, you can clearly see that the integration of the technology of  Transcendental Meditation into the world of professional tennis will create a paradigm shift in the conception and in the scope of the application of Sports Science. It is the merger of the traditional applications of Sports Science and the Science of Consciousness. This is the ultimate package for superior performance in tennis.

Anyway, that's how I see it.

Monday, July 23, 2018

John Farley's Spotlight: The Professional Tennis Player and the State of Enlightenment

The gaining of enlightenment is the purpose of our existence. Each of us has his or her role to play in this grand theater of life. You have chosen to be a professional tennis player. Playing out this role, which is natural for you, while embracing the highest wisdom available in this life, will take you to the state of enlightenment.

Enlightenment is the natural state of human life. In the state of enlightenment the question of "who am I" is answered. You come to realize that you are not the adoption of some external persona you have perhaps identified yourself with, but you are a fully realized self, established in an unbounded field of pure intelligence, pure consciousness, pure energy, and bliss. For it is your birthright as a human being to live a life blissful in nature and cosmic in scope. By blissful I mean a life of inner fulfillment, not dependent on external circumstances. By cosmic I mean a fully expanded consciousness, the realization and establishment of full mental potential.

Enlightenment is not based on a mood of the mind, it is a state of the nervous system cultured over time through the process of transcending which completely removes the blocks from the nervous system while producing unbounded awareness. It is important to understand the state of enlightenment can only come from the purification of the nervous system through the process of transcending which gives deep rest to the entire system. It is possible for some of the very evolved among you to spontaneously slip in and hold the state of enlightenment, but this is rare. The nervous systems of most players and most people in general require repeated experiences of transcending to purify their nervous systems to gain enlightenment.

This path to the full state of enlightenment is enlightening itself because with each experience of transcending your consciousness is more expanded and your nervous system more free of stress. This changes your relationship with experience toward one of greater understanding and greater appreciation. Therefore, life becomes more elegantly dynamic, more fulfilling, moving every day to a higher stage of development.

The initial conditions required for reaching the state of enlightenment are transcending and action. The transcending comes from the technology of Transcendental Meditation. The action is simply what you do every day - brush your teeth, hit some tennis balls, eat lunch, work out at the gym, travel to your next tournament, and maybe, if all goes well, come home with a trophy. The combination of transcending through the effortless technique of Transcendental Meditation and your normal, natural routine is the key. With transcending comes an infusion of consciousness into the nature of the mind and deep rest to the nervous system. The action you do stabilizes and integrates the infusion of consciousness creating a more profound level of wholeness in the neurophysiology, elevating you to a more expanded, higher level on the path. And on it goes, moving you every day to a higher and higher stage of development. Eventually a time comes when the full state of enlightenment is gained.

The practice of Transcendental Meditation produces a unique style of functioning of the nervous system called "Restful Alertness," in which the attention system is fully alert while the mind and body are quiet, deeply restful. It is the experience of being awake and rested at the same time -wakefulness and silence together. As your practice of Transcendental Meditation advances, the nervous system, given to experience these two qualities simultaneously again and again from your daily meditations, gets cultured to maintain this experience even in the midst of dynamic activity outside of meditation. Action in silence - this is a hallmark of growth to enlightenment - playing your game, serving, returning, and running down balls - all in an inner environment of silence.

These increasingly dynamic conditions for your growth toward enlightenment - the expansion of consciousness, a more stress-free nervous system, action in silence - and the increasing fulfillment of experience that are more and more defining your life, do not mean you will be free of the ride life takes us on - its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its losses and its gains. These are all a natural part of life. But what it does mean is that you will have a different relationship with this ride. Not based upon some mood of the mind as I said, this change in relationship has its foundation in a natural, increasingly higher-order level of functioning of the neurophysiology, the development of a resilience and an inner silence that allows you to navigate the ride with more balance and equanimity.

This wisdom of how to gain enlightenment and joyously live your full potential is what has been missing from life. Without it, the consciousness tends to narrow over time while the physiology, unable to release the deeper stresses that it picks up, becomes more vulnerable to illness and injury. With it, your consciousness expands, freeing you from the smallness of thinking and making you more creative, while the physiology, with the deeper blocks of stress removed each day, becomes stronger and more resilient. With it, you create for yourself, as a professional tennis player and athlete, the mind-body coordination that can take you to the finals of grand slams. With it, you increase your chances every day of walking onto court and playing "in the zone." With it, you have a better chance of remaining injury-free and enjoying a longer, healthier career. With it, you will begin to enjoy more each moment of your life. Embracing this wisdom, you will have set yourself on a path of increasing fulfillment and happiness, on and off the court.

You have chosen in this theater of life a court stadium as your setting and a professional tennis player as your role. Then play it every time for an award winning performance. You are a cosmic being, unbounded and blissful in your true nature. Gain the state of enlightenment and live that reality. Be it. It will transform not just your game, but your entire life. Then you'll know who you truly are and what you are capable of. Maybe you didn't know before how to gain it....... but now you know.

Anyway, that's how I see it.

Note from Author:

All of what I imparted to you above is a knowledge most fortunately shared with me by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I learned this knowledge from personal discussions with Maharishi, from his lectures, video tapes, books, and from other teachers of Transcendental Meditation over a period of almost 50 years. I am eternally grateful to Him for blessing me with this wisdom. As He has passed it on to me, I am passing it on to you.