Monday, June 15, 2009

Wk.23- A Short List Grows Longer

Last week, Magdalena Rybarikova turned out to a bit more than just the opponent that Jelena Jankovic ran roughshod over in the 2nd Round of Roland Garros a few weeks back.

AP Photo / Simon Dawson

Now, Rybarikova is a first-time WTA singles champion, having won the same Birmingham title that Jankovic herself won two years ago. While admitting to being nervous during a 2nd set tie-breaker that she ultimately won handily, the 20-year old former Wimbledon junior Girls runner-up (2006) still managed to handle the biggest moment of her career to date far better than Li Na did in her sixth career final, winning 6-0/7-6 to bump her ranking into the Top 50 (#42) for the very first time.

But she didn't just become one of the nearly ninety active players with tour singles titles on their resumes, she also added her name to the short list of just eighteen current players who've won grass court WTA titles. With only four weeks, and (at the moment) four tournaments, dedicated to playing on the green stuff, a grass title is the most difficult-to-get leg of any career "surface slam" that a player might endeavor to achieve. Just ask Jelena Dokic, who completed a career surface slam with her Birmingham title in 2002... and has now officially gone seven years without winning another tour crown (and just saw her father sentenced to prison -- but that's another story).

5...Venus Williams, USA
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS
2...Kim Clijsters, BEL
2...Serena Williams, USA
1...Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
1...Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
1...Eleni Daniilidou, GRE
1...Jelena Dokic, AUS
1...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
1...Michaella Krajicek, NED
1...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
1...Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
1...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
1...Lisa Raymond, USA
1...Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
1...Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
1...Klara Zakopalova, CZE
1...Vera Zvonareva, RUS

While I did predict Rybarikova to reach her first career WTA final back in January, who would have thought a couple of weeks ago, after that 6-1/6-2 loss at the hands of Queen Chaos, that the Slovak was THIS CLOSE to becoming a WTA singles titlist?

But, then again, grass court tennis is an exotic beast that can either be the best friend or worst enemy of any given player, isn't it? So don't be surprised if something similar happens at at least one of Week 24's two tour events, as well.


BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND (Int'l $220K/grass)
S: Magdalena Rybarikova def. Li Na 6-0/7-6
D: Black/Huber d. Kops-Jones/Spears

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
Rybarikova didn't just rule Birmingham, she pretty much took on all of Asia, too. Some of her wins last week en route to her first career title included a virtual who's who of players from Asian countries -- Akgul Amanmuradova (UZB), Sania Mirza (IND), Zheng Jie (CHN) and Li Na (CHN).
RISERS: Li Na/CHN & Sania Mirza/IND
a year after countrywoman Zheng reached the Wimbledon SF, Li made a case that she can play on grass, too. In Birmingham, Li got wins of Jarmila Groth, Aravane Rezai and Maria Sharapova to reach the final. Still "recovering" from her win over the Supernova, she didn't show up for the final against Rybarikova until it was too late. Meanwhile, perhaps Mirza's doubles success is helping out her singles. She's still barely keeping her head above water in her attempt to stay in the Top 100, but she has to be encouraged by a SF run in Birmingham that included victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Melinda Czink (not to mention a doubles SF with Chuang Chia-Jung).
SURPRISES: Stefanie Voegele/SUI & Kristina Kucova/Zuzana Kucova, SVK
Swiss Miss Voegele, 19, reached her first career tour QF in Birmingham with wins over Carly Gullickson, Ekaterina Makarova and Naomi Cavaday. In the $50K in Zlin, Czech Republic, another of the seemingly-exponentially-expanding number of all-sisters doubles teams was a big hit. The Slovak sibling duo of Kristina Kucova, 19, and her big sister Zuzana, 26, won the doubles with a win in the final over the NON-sisters team of Nikola/Klaschka.
VETERANS: Cara Black & Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
the clay season is over, and Black/Huber not surprisingly rose to the occasion. The pair's Birmingham win was their fourth of 2009, and the fiftieth Women's Doubles title of Black's career.
FRESH FACES: Yanina Wickmayer/BEL & Urszula Radwanska/POL
Wickmayer didn't get her second title of '09 in Birmingham, but she did get wins over Michaella Krajicek (a previous grass court champion) and Roberta Vinci, then pushed Maria Sharapova to three sets in a QF loss. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Edgbaston draw, U-Rad also reached the QF. She got wins over Maria Kirilenko and Julia Goerges. After that, the Polish teenager jumped over to Eastbourne and qualified for the main draw there with wins over Ayumi Morita, Galina Voskoboeva and Lucie Hradecka.
DOWN: Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS & Nicole Vaidisova/CZE
a year ago, Kudryavtseva upset Sharapova at Wimbledon. So far, her grass court season isn't off to a great start this time around. In Birmingham, she was bounced in the 2nd Round by Rezai, then she had to retire in her Eastbourne qualifying match against Lourdes Dominguez-Lino. Vaidisova has reached the QF at Wimbledon the last two years, two of the few brights spots in the former Top 10er and slam semifinalist's elongated slide from prominance. This weekend, her lack of success spread to grass when she was tossed out in straight sets by Melanie South in Eastbourne qualifying.
ITF PLAYER: Ioana-Raluca Olaru/ROU
Olaru won the clay $100K ITF event in Marseilles, defeating Zuzana Ondraskova, Tathiana Garbin, Andrea Petkovic and Masa Zec-Peskiric along the way.
JUNIOR STARS: Elena Bogdan/ROU & Cristina Dinu/ROU
the Swarm continues to, well, swarm. After a disappointing run in the Roland Garros Girls competition, 17-year old E-Bog played the $10K in Bucharest and knocked off five of her countrywomen to walk away with her first career ITF singles title. Meanwhile, another Romanian, 16-year old Dinu, won HER first career Grade 1 singles title in Offenbach, Germany.

1. Birm Final - Rybarikova d. Li 6-0/7-6
Birm 3rd Rd - Rybarikova d. Zheng 7-6/6-4
consider the Slovak on CHINA'S tennis radar.
2. Birm QF - Sharapova d. Wickmayer
Still, I will not waver on Wickmayer (maybe it's an Henin thing... as Wickmayer HAS received coaching assistance from Carlos Rodriguez). See below.
3. Birm SF - Li d. Sharapova
As this rematch of the Roland Garros 4th Rounder that the Supernova won proved, five matches in six days was just too much too soon for Sharapova so early in her comeback.
4. El Paso $25K Final - Tetreault d. Washington
The Canadian won her second ITF title in three weeks. In other news, I guess we'll have to check the El Paso police blotter to find out the condition of Washington's hotel room after this one.
5. Birm 1st - U.Radwanska d. Kirilenko
Today, Kirilenko was quickly knocked out of Eastbourne in the 1st Round by Elena Dementieva, too.
HM- Birm QF - Rybarikova d. U.Radwanska
A week and a half before play at the All-England Club was set to begin, it was a case of the '06 Wimbledon junior runner-up besting the '07 Wimbledon junior champion.

Brisbane - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (age 19)
Hobart - Petra Kvitova, CZE (age 18)
Bogota - M.J. Martinez-Sanchez, ESP (age 26)
Charleston - Sabine Lisicki, GER (age 19)
Estoril - Yanina Wickmayer, BEL (age 19)
Strasbourg - Aravane Rezai, FRA (age 22)
Warsaw - Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU (age 19)

3...Victoria Azarenka (def. Wozniacki/Safina/S.Williams)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (def. Safina/Safina)

.000 - LI NA (0-2)
.000 - Ekaterina Makarova (0-2)
.250 - Caroline Wozniacki (1-3)
.250 - Dinara Safina (2-4)

3...Nathalie Dechy
3...Nuria Llagostera-Vives
3...Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez
3...Bethanie Mattek-Sands
3...Mara Santangelo

2...Sharon Fichman

EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND (Premier $600K/grass)
08 Final: A.Radwanska d. Petrova
09 Top Seeds: Dementieva/Kuznetsova

A.Radwanska d. Bartoli
Stosur d. Petrova
Stosur d. A.Radwanska was something of a toss-up picking Stosur or Mauresmo in their potential QF matchup. Same with Petrova and Kuznetsova in the same round. As it is, we'll see if Stosur, an Eastbourne semifinalist a year ago, can carry her momentum to her first tour singles title.

08 Final: Tanasugarn d. Safina
09 Top Seeds: Safina/Cibulkova

Tanasugarn d. Safina
Wickmayer d. A.Bondarenko
Wickmayer d. Tanasugarn

...I'll go with Tanasugarn over Safina in the SF, though the world #1 DID reach the final here last season (where she lost to Tanasugarn). I'll stick with Wickmayer as a champion pick for the second straight week.


All for now.


Blogger Kutta said...

Let's see if Amelie gets past Zvonareva tomorrow in the first round...but if she does, NO WAY do I want to see her lose to Stosur, AGAIN!! Amelie used to own this chick and beat her 6-0, 6-0 in '06 Miami followed by a 6-2, 6-4 drubbing in the 2nd round of Wimbly '06. I want those days back!

Mon Jun 15, 11:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

If Mauresmo loses that one to Zvonareva, that'd be a bad loss considering it'll be Zvonareva's first match back in so long.

But if she ultimately does -- this week or otherwise -- lose to Stosur, it'd be wise to remember that Stosur isn't the same player she was back then (and '06 WAS Mauresmo's dream season). Heck, since Stosur's focused more on singles this season you can see how her mindset has improved almost every time out.

Tue Jun 16, 09:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Kutta said...

Well, Amelie did beat Zvonareva but lost to Makarova, so we won't see the Mauresmo-Stosur match after all. It's matches like these that make me wonder why I can't be a Serena or Venus fan instead. Seriously, I don't think either of those girls would lose five set points in a row. They'd probably SAVE five set points in a row and then win the entire thing. Have to admire them for that.

Thu Jun 18, 12:52:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting wimbledon draw. who will win between sharapova and petrova #2? and vs azarenka? possibly serena? nothing much about the semis in that section...

Fri Jun 19, 12:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Topaz said...

I think Sharapova will once again take down Petrova. She is just much mentally tougher than Nadia, and I think Nadia will still be smarting over their last encounter.

Sun Jun 21, 03:37:00 PM EDT  

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