Thursday, June 11, 2009

2Q Clay Court Awards

We're nearly half-way through the 2009 season and rather than knowing more than we did five and a half months ago, we keep getting new bits of information that disprove everything we THOUGHT we knew.

Since the start of April, Dinara Safina put some teeth into her #1 ranking, even as her critics were nipping at her heels, then almost ruined all her built-up good will by failing to show up in the Roland Garros final. Meanwhile, Svetlana Kuznetsova changed coaches... again. But this time it worked. So far, at least. The Russians were upended in the Fed Cup SF... while the under(wo)maned American team won and will be playing for the title later this year. Victoria Azarenka looked like a future great champion, but then periodically began to revert back to her childhood, resurrecting the petulant being who is quite likely the only person who could prevent her from winning a slam within the next two years.

Not only that, in the past few months, one former #1 won a title and seemed to get her groove back... then drifted back into the racket-wielding peloton. Another fell out of the Top 10, while still another briefly dropped out of the Top 100. At the same time, still another went on a four-match losing streak, publicly attacked WTA policy, snarkily questioned the current #1 and accused an opponent of cheating.

Well, at least no one can legitimately say that the tour is boring.

**2Q Clay Court Awards / Week 14-22*
1. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
...with a sophomore slam title five years in the making, suddenly the Contessova seems to be the most healthy, mentally and physically, and put-together of all the Russians. Hmmm, I'm not sure if that says more about her or the rest of the Hordettes.
2. Dinara Safina, RUS
...the best laid plans of mice and Dinara often go awry in the end. Who knows if she'll get another chance in '09 to erase her grand slam final memory from Paris.
3. Italian Fed Cup Team
...down goes Russia! Down goes Russia! Quite handily, too.
4. Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Virginia Ruano-Pascual, ESP/ESP
...they barely registed as a force going into Paris, but when you win the big prize you get all the accolades.
5. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...C-Woz didn't enter the clay season being thought of as a clay threat, but back-to-back green clay finals (with one title) in North America, then another in Madrid, finally pushed her into the Top 10 (she's currently #9) before she left Paris as a disappointed Dane.
6. Samantha Stosur, AUS
...clay should be Slingin' Sammy's worst surface, but she just reached her first slam SF at Roland Garros. As she's still finding her way as a successful singles star, hopefully the law of averages won't mean she does WORSE than expected on the grass.
7. Aravane Rezai, FRA
...she won her first title, and tied Virginie Razzano as the "Last Pastry Standing" at Roland Garros.
8. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
...the counter puncher/groundstroker reached her first slam SF in Paris. Not as good as another recent diminutive lady who used to routinely shine at Roland Garros, but good.
9. Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Nadia Petrova, USA/RUS
...the pair won two titles (Mattek-Sands added another with Racquel Kops-Jones) and defeated the Williams sisters in Paris.
10. Sabine Lisicki, GER
...she started the clay season looking like an instant star in Charleston, but was quickly struck down by injuries. To be continued.

Kuznetsova vs. Safina - the Russians met in a trilogy of clay court finals, with Kuznetsova winning the first and third. So, should Safina consider herself the "Empire Strikes Back" of this series? You know, the second installment being the best and all.

1. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2. Samantha Stosur, AUS
3. Aravane Rezai, FRA
4. Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Nadia Petrova, USA/RUS
5. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
6. Agnes Szavay, HUN
7. Victoria Azarenka/Elena Vesnina, BLR/RUS
8. Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai, TPE/CHN
9. Alona Bondarenko, UKR
10. Elena Vesnina, RUS
11. Li Na, CHN
12. Virginie Razzano, FRA
13. Marion Bartoli, FRA
14. Melinda Czink, HUN
15. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
16. Jarmila Groth, AUS
17. Gisela Dulko, ARG
18. Klaudia Jens/Alicja Rosolska, POL
19. Lucie Safarova, CZE
20. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
HM- Mariya Koryttseva, UKR & Jelena Dokic, AUS

1. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2. Sabine Lisicki, GER
3. Sorana Cirstea, ROU
4. Alexa Glatch, USA
5. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
6. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
7. Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
8. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
9. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
10. Vitalia Diatchenko, RUS
11. Petra Martic, CRO
12. Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR
13. Madison Keys, USA
14. Alisa Kleybanova, RUS
15. Viktoriya Kutuzova, UKR
16. Ayumi Morita, JPN
17. Lenka Wienerova, SVK
18. Olivia Rogowska, AUS
19. Polona Hercog, SLO
20. Tatjana Malek, GER
HM- Ksenia Lykina, RUS & Monica Niculescu, ROU

**JUNIORS - 2Q.1**
1. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2. Mallory Cecil, USA (Duke Univ.)
3. Daria Gavrilova, RUS
4. Chelsey Gullickson, USA (Univ. of Georgia)
5. Timea Babos, HUN
6. Richel Hogenkamp, NED
7. Yulia Putintseva, RUS
8. Christina McHale, USA
9. Silvia Njiric, CRO
10. Bianca Botto, PER
11. Chanel Simmonds, FRA
12. Laura Vallverdu, USA (Univ. of Miami)
13. Julia Cohen, USA (Univ. of Miami)
14. Lauren Embree, USA
15. Beatrice Capra, USA
HM- Valeria Solovieva, RUS & Ksenia Pervak, RUS

1. Samantha Stosur, AUS
2. Vania King, USA
3. Roberta Vinci, ITA
4. Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ
5. Vera Dushevina, RUS
6. Lucie Hradecka, CZE
7. Anne Keothavong, GBR
8. Racquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears, USA
9. Kristina Barrois, GER
10. Jarmila Groth, AUS
11. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
12. Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
13. Galina Voskoboeva, KAZ
14. Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
15. Anastasija Yakimova, BLR
HM- Eva Fernandez-Brugues, ESP & Liga Dekmeijere, LAT

1. Francesca Schiavone, ITA (Fed Cup only)
2. Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Virginia Ruano-Pascual, ESP
3. Samantha Stosur, AUS
4. Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Nadia Petrova, USA/RUS
5. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
6. Liezel Huber, USA
7. Serena Williams, USA
8. Amelie Mauersmo, FRA
9. Roberta Vinci, ITA
10. Nadia Petrova, RUS
HM- Klara Zakopalova, CZE, Tathiana Garbin, ITA & Nuria Llagostera-Vives/Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP

1. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2. Maria Sharapova, RUS
3. Agnes Szavay, HUN
4. Daniela Hantuchova/Ai Sugiyama, SVK/JPN
5. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
6. Marta Domachowska, POL
7. Laura Granville, USA
8. Kim Clijsters, BEL (exhibition)
9. Jelena Dokic, AUS
10. Zuzana Ondraskova, CZE
HM- Kirsten Flipkens, BEL

1. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2. Iveta Benesova/Kveta Peschke, CZE
3. Alize Cornet, FRA
4. Elena Dementieva, RUS
5. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
6. Patty Schnyder, SUI
7. Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
8. Maria Kirilenko, RUS
9. Serena Williams, USA
10. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
HM- Vera Zvonareva, RUS & Kaia Kanepi, EST

1. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2. Alexa Glatch, USA
3. Liezel Huber, USA
4. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
5. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
HM- Sabine Lisicki, GER

**ITF PLAYERS - 2Q.1**
1. Melanie Oudin, USA
2. Maria Irigoyen, ARG
3. Han Xinyun, CHN
4. Daria Kuchmina, RUS
5. Duan Ying-Ying, CHN
6. Laura Granville, USA
7. Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
8. Timea Babos, HUN
9. Amanda Carreras, GBR
10. Darya Kustova, BLR
11. Maria Elena Camerin, ITA
12. Arina Rodionova, RUS
13. Anastasiya Yakimova, BLR
14. Polona Hercog, SLO
15. Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
16. Zhang Shuai, CHN
17. Karolina Sprem, CRO
18. Kristina Antoniychuk, UKR
19. Andrea Petkovic, GER
20. Valerie Tetreault, CAN

Jankovic gets her groove back in Marbella, but only briefly
A judge orders Zina Garrison's discrimination suit against the USTA to be settled between the two parties. Garrison's USA Fed Cup teams went 5-5 in five seasons, while Mary Joe Fernandez's "B" teams reached the FC final in her first year as sole head coach
Ekaterina Makarova reached her first two tour singles finals in back-to-back weeks... but went 0-2

Svetlana Kuznetsova wins Roland Garros, defeating the #1 (Safina) and #2 (Serena) players along the way
Dinara Safina reaches four consecutive clay court finals, winning two... although the only thing anyone will ever remember is her NON-performance in the RG final
Sabine Lisicki bursts to the front of the class in Charleston
Alexa Glatch's Fed Cup debut consists of a 2-0 singles record as she carries the USA to a surprise berth in the final (all right, TECHNICALLY, this isn't a CLAY court performance)
World #201 Alexandra Dulgheru qualifies in Warsaw, then goes on to win the tournament in her first appearance in the main draw of a WTA event
Virginia Ruano-Pascual wins her seventh career RG doubles crown, repeating as Women's Doubles champion with Anabel Medina-Garrigues
Team Italia upsets Russia, winner of four of the last five titles, in the Fed Cup semifinals
Duke Freshman Mallory Cecil is a member of the NCAA title-winning Blue Devils Women's Doubles team, then wins the NCAA Women's Singles Championship a week later

Rome SF - Safina d. V.Williams
A match that showcased the best and worst of Safina as she caromed between blowing leads and then putting together brilliant points to level things mere moments later. After saving four break points in the final game, Safina finally won the three-hour match on her third match point.
Roland Garros QF - Kuznetsova d. S.Williams
Maybe the most important match in Kuznetsova's career? Once we see what happens next, we'll have a better idea.
[Fed Cup]
SF - Huber/Mattek-Sands (USA) d. Benesova/Peschke (CZE)
The Czechs led the tie 2-1, but lost their advantage. In the deciding doubles rubber, they again led by a 6-2/5-2 score and held a match point. This time, Peschke hit one wild shot and both she and Benesova collapsed in front of their home fans. Had they held up, the Czech Republic would have reached its first FC final since the separation of Czechoslovakia. As it is, it's the U.S.'s first appearance since 2003.
[Drama-101... even if the level of play was often "pass/fail"]
Charleston SF - Wozniacki d. Dementieva
Both Wozniacki and Dementieva struggled to maintain a high level of play throughout, but the actual battle against each other was top notch. Dementieva erased a 5-2 2nd set deficit, but scrambling C-Woz (after a visit from dad between sets) finally edged ahead of the Russian for good on her fifth match point.
[Most Controversial... but it's Serena in Paris, so what else is new?]
Roland Garros 4th Rd. - Serena Williams d. Martinez-Sanchez
Years after Justine Henin refused to admit she'd waved to ask for Williams to delay her serve, MJMS refused to admit that a Williams shot hit her arm (and Serena should have been awarded a point). After the match, Williams called the Spaniard a "cheater" and continued her "How to Win Friends and Influence People" talking tour through the WTA over the past few months.

Serena questions Dinara Safina's #1 ranking. That it's probably not wise to do so during what's traditionally HER worst portion of the season, while Safina is reaching the final of nearly every tournament SHE plays, doesn't enter Williams' mind.
Serena complains about the WTA policy that forces injured players to play certain events or be fined. A "dead person" could be fined by the WTA, she says.
Serena loses her fourth straight match, the longest losing streak in her career.
Serena relents and says Safina "deserves" to be #1. After all, she sarcastically notes, she's "won four tournaments."
Serena accuses Martinez-Sanchez of "cheating" during their Roland Garros match.
Serena reaches the RG QF, where she loses a three-setter to Kuznetsova. She doesn't give Kuznetsova any real credit for defeating her. The Russian goes on to win the tournament.

Roland Garros 3rd Rd. - Azarenka d. Suarez-Navarro
As Azarenka threatened to emotionally melt into a squawking puddle that would immediately be soaked up by the red clay, CSN raced to a 7-5/4-1 lead. After hitting all the errors out of her racket, Azarenka charged back to win the 2nd set and force the match to be completed the next day due to darkness. Less than twenty-four hours later, she won easily and eventually reached her first career slam QF.
Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Diatchenko d. Johansson
Any time a player saves seven match points and comes back to win, you know the Tennis Gods had wagered a bit of "Cloud Cash" on the outcome.
Ponte Vedra Beach SF - Wozniacki d. Vesnina
Vesnina served at 5-2 in the 3rd and held two match points. Several Shakespearean moments later, including two match points on Wozniacki's serve (one a net cord that plopped back onto the Russian's side of the court), the Dane won the match on her OWN third match point.
Roland Garros 2nd Rd. - Sharapova d. Petrova
Sharapova's victory after trailing 4-2 in the 3rd wasn't a surprise. But consider, if she'd lost this match and didn't get the additional match play en route to the QF after her ten-month layoff, what kind of shot would she have to continue her momentum in London starting in about a week? After surprise success in Paris, she's in a far better position for SW19. If she'd lost here, would that STILL be the case?

*IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN...or Jelena Dokic*
Soon after her QF run in Melbourne, Dokic misses time with Sports Fatigue Syndrome
In an interview, Dokic alleges past physical abuse by her father Damir
In Serbia, Damir is arrested and jailed for making threats against an Australian official. Guns and bombs are found in his home.
Dokic, rising in yet another slam, throttles #4-seed Elena Dementieva for more than a set in the 2nd Round in Roland Garros
Dokic is forced to retire from the Dementieva match with a back injury, leading 6-1/3-4.

=The Good=
In Warsaw, Anne Keothavong becomes the first British woman to reach a WTA tour SF on clay since Jo Durie in 1983
Mary Joe Fernandez names Alexa Glatch to the U.S. Fed Cup team before the SF tie agaist the Czech Republic
Svetlana Kuznetsova joines forces with Larisa Savchenko (Neiland)
14-year old Madison Keys is awarded a wild card entry into the Ponte Vedra Beach main draw. In her WTA debut, she upsets Alla Kudryavtseva.
Kimiko Date-Krumm wins a $75K challenger event in Morzon, her first tennis title outside of Japan since she won the WTA tour-level event in San Diego in 1995

=The Bad=
Vera Zvonareva tears ankle ligaments in Charleston
Russia plays a slumping Anna Chakvetadze in the first rubber of the Fed Cup SF tie against Italy. She is blown out by Flavia Pennetta, and the Russians are never able to climb out from the first-day hole.

=The Long-Awaited=
Kim Clijsters returned to action in the exhibition held to honor the first in-match closing of the Wimbledon Centre Court roof. Paired with Tim Henman, she won a single-set match against Andre Agassi & Steffi Graf. Then, she won a 6-4 singles match set against Graf. Having decided to return to the tour while training for this exhibition, she's set to return to the WTA during the North American hard court season.

=The Loud=
Michelle Larcher de Brito's long shrieks during-and-after her groundstrokes ruffled many a feather in Paris, including Aravane Rezai's. Just wait until she hits the All-England Club and Wimbledon, for which she was just given a wild card into the main draw.

=And the Ugly=
Victoria Azarenka pouts, screams, slams and squawks her way to the Roland Garros QF. Still, her talent and grand slam potential are too overwhelming NOT to admire.

Ponte Vedra Beach 1st Rd. - Keys d. Kudryavtseva
The 14-year old, the first full-time resident of the Evert Academy in Florida, averaged 101 mph on her serve. Her idols are Venus and Serena.
Marbella 1st Rd. - Zakopalova d. S.Williams
The spring of Serena's clay court discontent began here.
Charleston 3rd Rd. - Lisicki d. V.Williams
Hmmm, when does Wimbledon start again?

Wimbledon's Centre Court... with the roof closed on a rainy day
Jelena Jankovic... Orbit gum's "smile ambassador" for Serbia
Speaking of, even though Queen Chaos' special brand of chaos has been largely absent in '09, she gets the last word here. Talking about her lost 5-4 3rd set lead in her 3-6/6-0/9-7 4th Round loss to Sorana Cirstea at Roland Garros: "I should have won. I had 30/love, and what more can I ask for? All of a sudden, point by point, the game went in her favor and everything got complicated."

Still the mistress of understatement (and overstatement, for that matter) we know and love. Ahh, maybe there's hope for her yet.

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

My money is still on Lisicki. Here's hoping she gets healthy and stays healthy. She has added so much to her game, including a great attitude. Go Sabine!

To me, Woz is a question mark. She makes it so far, and then--it's not quite enough. Kind of reminds one of JJ, yes?

Is there hope for said JJ? I hope so.

Fri Jun 12, 10:29:00 PM EDT  

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