Monday, August 03, 2009

Wk.30- And La Trufflette Shall Lead Them?

A month into the 3rd Quarter, have we learned anything about how this year's U.S. Open might play out?

Umm, well, no. Not really. Pretty much, all perceptions are in a holding pattern.

Dinara Safina has won a 3Q hard court title, but she's yet to follow through on her pre-slam success for a FULL two weeks at an actual slam. Serena Williams didn't look like much of a world-beater in Stanford... but the most important word in that statement is "Stanford," which is a full continent away from New York. Venus COULD be ready to put on a run at Flushing Meadows a year after her sister prevented such a thing in the QF, but the fact remains that she hasn't reached a U.S. Open final since 2002 (and yesterday couldn't complete what would have been a devastating week-long display in Stanford).

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova is back and says she's "100%," but her destruction at the hands of Venus in California hints that she's something less than that, at least when it comes to stamina and match toughness against top players in back-to-back matches. Svetlana Kuznetsova's health might be an issue. Victoria Azarenka hasn't even played a match since Wimbledon (but her first one could be a doozy of a battle, as I'll drop a note about later), and '08 Open runner-up Jelena Jankovic continued her running-in-quicksand season by failing to convert two match points in Stanford against Marion Bartoli, who went on to win the tournament. And then, of course, we're still a week away from the sure-to-be-heralded return of Kim Clijsters in Cincinnati.

Maybe by the time the first ball is struck at Arthur Ashe Stadium later this month, the North American hard court circuit will have given us a few more "concrete" answers about who'll be the players-to-watch in NYC. Barring any wild and crazy developments, though, I'm still standing by the Serena, Azarenka, Sharapova pool as the one that'll contain the eventual Open champion (with Venus and Elena Dementieva remaining just outside the circle).

But who knows?

**July Awards / Week 27-30**
1. Marion Bartoli/FRA

...this season, La Trufflette has as many hard court titles as #1 Safina, as many overall titles as the #'s 2 & 3 Williams sisters, has an equal win percentage in finals to #4 Dementieva's and saved two match points in Stanford against #5 Jankovic. Plus, she leads the tour in visits to/from the trainers (just ask Virginie Razzano). It's hard to beat that combination.
2. Dinara Safina/RUS
...she's still waiting to make her North American hard court circuit debut, but she's got a 3Q title, not to mention a cute new U.S. Open Series ad (see below).

1. Agnes Szavay, HUN
2. Samantha Stosur, AUS
3. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
4. Sara Errani, ITA
5. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
6. Andrea Petkovic, GER
7. Vera Dushevina, RUS
8. Ioana-Raluca Olaru, ROU
9. Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
10. Lucie Hradecka, CZE

1. Stefanie Voegele, SUI
2. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
3. Petra Martic, CRO
4. Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
5. Zarina Diyas, KAZ
6. Ellen Allgurin, SWE
7. Ksenia Pervak, RUS
8. Monica Niculescu, ROU
9. Urszula Radwanska, POL
10. Liga Dekmeijere, LAT

1. Yulia Putintseva, RUS
2. Elora Dabija, ROU
3. Maryna Zanevska, UKR
4. Heather Watson, GBR
5. Anna-Lena Friedsam, GER
HM- Elena Bogdan, ROU

1. Andrea Petkovic, GER
2. Lucie Hradecka, CZE
3. Vania King, USA
4. Alberta Brianti, ITA
5. Patricia Mayr, AUT
6. Vesna Manasieva, RUS
7. Mariya Koryttseva, UKR
8. Stacey Tan, USA
9. Kristina Barrois, GER
10. Neuza Silva, POR

1. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
2. Nuria Llagostera-Vives/MJ Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
3. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
4. Sybille Bammer, AUT
5. Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA
6. Venus Williams, USA
7. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
8. Rossana de los Rios, PAR
9. Patty Schnyder, SUI
10. Elena Dementieva, RUS

1. Agnes Szavay, HUN
2. Alona Bondarenko/Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
3. Sania Mirza, IND
4. Rossana de los Rios, PAR
5. Sesil Karatantcheva, KAZ
HM- Kirsten Flipkens, BEL

1. Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
2. Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
3. Serena Williams, USA
4. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
5. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
HM- Sorana Cirstea, ROU

1. Julia Goerges, GER
2. Valerie Tetreault, CAN
3. Sania Mirza, IND
4. Sarah Gronert, GER
5. Ayu-Fani Damayanti, INA
6. Georgie Stoop, GBR
7. Andrea Hlavackova, CZE
8. Arantxa Parra-Santonja, ESP
9. Irina Falconi, USA
10. Sandra Zahlavova, CZE
HM- Ekaterina Bychkova, RUS & Cindy Chala, FRA

Marion Bartoli overcomes two match points in the Stanford QF against Jelena Jankovic, then goes on to defeat Venus Williams in the final

Stanford QF - Bartoli d. Jankovic
Once again, Jankovic (who served at 6-5 in the 2nd) has one of those matches that was in her pocket... then it wasn't.
Stanford QF - Stosur d. S.Williams
Stosur's singles match-closing ability has come a long way in the last year.
Budapest 2nd Rd - Szavay d. Garbin
Garbin served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd. Szavay went on to win her first title in two years.

Stacey Allaster (as WTA CEO)
Monica Seles (as a Hall of Famer)
Alicia Molik (or, should I say "back?" As a doubles specialist. Hey, the more the merrier, right?)
Nathalie Dechy (as an active player, but "in" as a soon-to-be mother)
Jelena Dokic (for a little while, thanks to mono and doctor's orders)
Anne Keothavong (she can't blame the LTA for the knee injury that's ended her season)
Kim Clijsters (Cincinnati is still a week away... but the first-ever Backspin Kim Clijsters Quiz drops in the next few days)
Nicole Vaidisova (when you go from slam semifinalist -- two points from a finalist -- to an opening round qualifying loser against a wild card ranked #584 in thirty months, the straw on the camel's back just crippled the poor creature)

A few weeks ago, I ranted about the fumbled opportunity to promote the game's players as living-and-breathing individuals during the ongoing U.S. Open Series ad campaigns. Then, this weekend, that's just what happened. During the Stanford coverage on ESPN (too often tape-delayed, but that's another rant altogether), the "It Must Be Love" campaign shifted to a more personality-driven series of ads. Amongst those glimpsed: Ana Ivanovic talking about how looking good isn't more important than playing well (hmm, I'm not sure I'm TOTALLY buying that argument from AnaIvo, of all people... but that's a future rant I'll leave to Diane -- haha, don't take that the wrong way, of course), a teeny-tiny Novak Djokovic pounding shots from the baseline before he was grade school age and a brilliant little gem that centered around Dinara Safina weighing her love of chocolate cake against her love of winning tennis matches. Now that's more like it! Hopefully this is the beginning of an ongoing campaign worthy of discussion (and maybe a joint WTA/ATP series of ads that could promote the sport year-around).


STANFORD, CALIFORNIA USA (P-$700K/hard outdoor)
S: Marion Bartoli def. Venus Williams 6-2/5-7/6-4
D: Williams/Williams d. Chan/Niculescu

ISTANBUL, TURKEY (I-$220K/hard outdoor)
S: Vera Dushevina def. Lucie Hradecka 6-0/6-1
D: Hradecka/Voracova d. Goerges/Schnyder

Bartoli was the runner-up in the U.S. Open Series race a year ago, and she sits atop the '09 standings after her Stanford title, the fifth singles crown of her career (and second this season). She had a very "connected" week in California. Not only did she handle Venus in the final, but she did the same to sister Serena-conquering Sam Stosur in the SF after overcoming two match points against JJ in the QF and knocking out JJ-conquering (at Wimbledon) Melanie Oudin in the 2nd Round.
RISERS: Vera Dushevina/RUS & Samantha Stosur/AUS
better late than never. Dushevina, 22, finally got her first career tour title in Istanbul. The "Forgotten Hordette" got wins over Anabel Medina-Garrigues and Timea Bacsinszky before destroying Lucie Hradecka in the final. Earlier this year in Sydney, Stosur failed to put away Serena after holding match points. In Stanford, she took out Williams in three sets (and got victories over Dominika Cibulkova and Monica Niculescu, too) en route to the SF.
SURPRISE: Lucie Hradecka/CZE & Andrea Hlavackova/CZE
last week in Bad Gastein, Czechs Hradecka and Hlavackova won a doubles title as a team. This week they had separate success in singles. In Istanbul, Hradecka reached her third career final, losing to Dushevina after having gotten wins over two Germans (Goerges & Petkovic) and a Pole (Domachowska) earlier in the tournament. Meanwhile, Hlavackova won a $25K ITF event in Bad Saulgau, Germany. Also of note, Hradecka won the Istanbul doubles title with Renata Voracova.
VETERAN: Venus Williams/USA
before ultimately falling to Bartoli in the final, though she battled back and made a match of things even though the Pastry had multiple opportunities to grab a huge lead and close out the match earlier than she did, Venus was looking like an unstoppable force in Stanford. After Alla Kudryavtseva fell by the wayside, Williams destroyed Sharapova (2 & 2) and Dementieva (love & 1) and seemed to be primed to kick off a Summer of Venus run to a championship. Maybe next time.
FRESH FACE: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
the latest version of the "Swiss Miss" (well, her and Stefanie Voegele), recently-turned-20 Bacsinszky reached her second SF in three weeks with Istabul wins over Polona Hercog, Mariya Koryttseva and Urszula Radwanska.
DOWN: Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN
a year ago in Stanford, A-Woz became the first Canadian WTA singles champ in two decades. This time around, she went out in three sets in the 1st Round to Daniela Hantuchova. Not an unpredictable result, but it DID show once again just how unpredictable Wozniak's results generally are.
ITF PLAYER: Georgie Stoop/GBR
so they threw a $25K hard court event in Vigo, Spain and somehow the Brits stole the show. Go figure. There were four British players in the main draw and, aside from Jade Curtis, they just couldn't seem to avoid each other. Katie O'Brien took out Amanda Carerras in the 1st Round, but countrywoman Georgie Stoop stole the ultimate glory by defeating O'Brien in the all-UK final 7-5/6-2.
a week ago, Dabija won the European Junior Championships. This time around, it was a $10K ITF pro event in Onesti, Romania. Add another Swarmette to the ever-lengthening list of Romanian players to keep to a close eye on.

1. Stan QF - Bartoli d. Jankovic
Rather than the Frenchwoman, would we be talking about the "return" of Queen Chaos today had she been able to put away one of those two match points in this one? Oh, if "if's" and "but's" were candy and nuts, Jelena would have a full tummy (and maybe a stomach ache).
2. Stan Final - Bartoli d. V.Williams
Bartoli had to work longer than she needed to, having served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd, but she held on and is now just on the outskirts of the Top 10 in the third quarter of the most under-the-radar very good season on tour this year.
3. Stan QF - V.Williams d. Sharapova
Sharapova went three sets to take out Sugiyama, and handled Petrova in two. In her first tour meeting with Venus in over two years, Sharapova was pretty well schooled by Williams, though. She still has a ways to go, but almost a month to get there to have an impact in New York.
Stan QF - Stosur d. #1 S.Williams
Still, a month out, you'd be crazy not to like Serena's chances to repeat at the Open.
Stan 1st - Hantuchova d. ('08 champion) Wozniak
The former Wonder Girl is always lurking, but she can rarely string together more than two big wins. In Stanford, she got this one and a win over A-Rad, but couldn't get past the QF.
Stan Doub SF - Chan/Niculescu d. #1 Black/Huber
Chan and Niculescu are good doubles players, but they shouldn't be beating Black & Huber on hard courts. Backspin's 2008 co-Players of the Year are just not quite up to their previous level in '09. Hmmm, I wonder if the Williams sisters will actually play enough to overtake them in the season Points Race? After winning Stanford, they're currently only 1200 points back.
5. Istan Final - Dushevina d. Hradecka
In her fourth final since 2005, the OTHER Russian named Vera is belatedly triumphant.
HM- Istan SF - Hradecka d. Petkovic
It's a good sign for Petkovic that she followed up her first career title in Bad Gastein with a SF in Istanbul, since you'll often see a satisfied, distracted and tired first-time champ quickly dumped out in the opening round of her next tournament.

3...Victoria Azarenka
2...Elena Dementieva
2...Vera Zvonareva
1...Petra Kvitova
1...Amelie Mauresmo
1...Dinara Safina
1...Serena Williams
1...Venus Williams

1.000 - Victoria Azarenka (3-0)
1.000 - Vera Zvonareva (2-0)
1.000 - Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez (2-0)
0.667 - MARION BARTOLI (2-1)
0.667 - Elena Dementieva (2-1)
0.667 - Serena Williams (2-1)

2...Germany (Lisicki/Petkovic)
2...France (Cornet/Rezai)
2...Romania (Cirstea/Dulgheru)
1...Belarus (Azarenka)
1...Belgium (Wickmayer)
1...Canada (Wozniak)
1...Czech Republic (Kvitova)
1...Denmark (Wozniacki)
1...Italy (Errani)
1...Slovak Republic (Rybarikova)
1...Spain (Martinez-Sanchez)
1...Ukraine (K.Bondarenko)

16...Dinara Safina (2002)
16...Maria Sharapova (2003)
17...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002)
18...Anastasia Myskina (1999)
18...Vera Zvonareva (2003)
18...Maria Kirilenko (2005)
19...Elena Bovina (2002)
19...Anna Chakvetadze (2006)
19...Yaroslava Shvedova (2007) [now representing KAZ]
21...Elena Dementieva (2003)
22...VERA DUSHEVINA (2009)
23...Nadia Petrova (2005)

4...United States
2...Italy nations

4...Svetlana Kuznetsova
4...Venus Williams
3...Victoria Azarenka
3...Serena Williams
# - '09 wins over Clijsters, Ivanovic, Jankovic, Mauresmo, Safina, Sharapova, S.Williams or V.Williams

JANUARY: Serena Williams, USA
FEBRUARY: Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
MARCH/ARPIL 1: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
APRIL 2: Italian Fed Cup Team
MAY/pre-RG: Dinara Safina, RUS
JUNE/pre-Wi: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
JULY: Marion Bartoli, FRA

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA USA (P-$700K/hard outdoor)
08 Final: Safina d. Pennetta
09 Top Seeds: Safina/Zvonareva

Safina d. Stosur
Wozniacki d. A.Radwanska
Azarenka d. Cibulkova
Petrova d. Schiavone

...there's a potentially star-lit 2nd Round matchup in the offering in L.A. between Sharapova and Azarenka. Sharapova just got crushed by Venus in Stanford, and is still somewhat new to playing back-to-back weeks in her comeback. Azarenka (who just slipped behind Wozniacki in the rankings today) hasn't played since Wimbledon. But Azarenka loves hard courts, so I'll go with her to win and, thus, eventually take this spot in the QF.

Safina d. Wozniacki
Azarenka d. Petrova

...though C-Woz vs. the A-Train WOULD be a nice "the future is now" matchup to get everyone's attention on the weekend.

Safina d. Azarenka

...I like Azarenka's Open chances better, though, so if this final happens I might be pulling for the opposite result from the one I picked (well, then again).

All for now.


Blogger xyz1903319 said...

maria sharapova isn't playing cincy?

Sun Aug 09, 12:08:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hmmm, I don't see her in the draw.

Mon Aug 10, 12:16:00 PM EDT  

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