Wednesday, January 09, 2008

BV '08: #1-5

Now's the time when Tennisrulz Head Honcho Pierre Cantin and I pretend that we can look into the hazy mist and see the future... all the while hoping we don't cut off our noses to spite our mothers' faces because they stepped on a crack and broke the back of the neighbor's black cat.

But enough with the mixed-up curses, turned-around jinxes and stalling tactics:

Todd - Gold
Pierre - Green

3. Maria Sharapova, RUS
4. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
5. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS

3. Lindsay Davenport, USA
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
5. Serena Williams, USA

TODD SPIKER: Kuznetsova put herself into position to have a superior year in 2007. She ended up finishing at #2, but only won one title (on a retirement) to go along with Russia's Fed Cup crown. Just winning a few more big matches will keep her in the top tier of players, but she'll have to dredge up her '04 US Open self to ever be considered in contention for the "game's best" moniker, no matter how much Roger enjoys her game.

PIERRE CANTIN: The Cursed One still has one of the very best all-around games in tennis and I think her consistency will pay off. Other than Justine, she is the top player when you consider all surfaces in my opinion. She might not dominate on any of them, but can reach semis or finals in all slams.

TS: Of course, now she says she's skipping the early rounds of Fed Cup to focus on catching Henin in the rankings. Ummm, considering she's about 2400 points behind her (about the same distance between #2 Kuznetsova and #21 Alona Bondarenko!), her best chance of accomplishing that feat would seem to be hiring someone to lock Justine in her hotel room the morning before she can play her first match at every tournament between now and Roland Garros, forcing a series of defaults that will have the entire world talking.

PC: Haha, yeah, I don't think there's any way that could happen without your scenario or maybe more probably a Henin injury. Kuznetsova just doesn't seem to be able to play her best in big matches.

TS: Hmmm, remember the Kerrigan-Harding fiasco? Or she could get Anna C. to trick Justine into housesitting for her one weekend. But I'm going a little far afield, aren't I. Nevermind. Sorry about that. (wink)

Umm... I see we've finally got our first Williams sister at #5 on your list.

PC: Serena...can she return to the top of women's tennis? Simply put...yes!

TS: She looked in very good spirits in Perth. That can't be a good thing for the rest of the field at the Australian.

PC: Obviously Serena will have a big challenge on her hands and lots of pressure when she'll head to Melbourne in a few days, but in the past it's not something that has scared her at all. I still think Serena is a great competitor, the best in the game with Justine Henin. So my prediction is basically that she will be healthy enough to compete in 12-13 events which would be enough for top 5 in the world.

TS: So you're taking the optimistic view on Serena's health for '08. I can see that happening... umm, but I could also see her getting hurt in practice this weekend and everyone witnessing another will-she-or-won't-she Melbourne drama, too.

PC: Haha, yes obviously with both Williams sisters, everything is possible and for those 2, the possibilities are beyond both of our imaginations I think.

TS: Oh, I could imagine some pretty wild things if given the opportunity, you know. Ha.

Anyway, I under picked AnaIvo last year, and there is an urge to overcorrect things and pick her TOO high this time around. But I'm going to control myself. So I'm splitting the difference and keeping her right where she ended '07 since she still has to get over a propensity to come up way short (hmmm, like another "nice" Belgium player... interesting) in her ultimate slam elimination matches. She might not be able to defend her Roland Garros RU points, but bettering her Oz (3rd Rd.) and US Open (4th) results should make up for that. Plus, there's the extra Olympic points in play, too.

Oh, and I noticed that in the Prediction Blowout you picked Ivanovic to possibly win the US Open and reach the SF in Beijing. Haha... maybe you'll be right, but I'll benefit since I picked her to finish higher in the rankings than you did.

PC: Yes, maybe a bit inconsistent on my part, but it's partially hedging my bet, and also betting on a major loss of points on clay!

TS: You're also being the optimist on Davenport's comeback, I see. It's off to a good start so far with the Auckland title under her belt.

PC: Optimistic? Probably. But I think Lindsay has always been one of the most impressive players on tour and she'll be a force to be reckoned with in 2008. She might not play tons of events but she's always been great in slam events and will probably be able to cause a lot of surprises, especially in Australia if handed a decent draw.

TS: Although she'll be in a tough spot there since her ranking isn't going to be very high going in, and she'll probably draw a biggie in the first week. I would consider picking her to win it, but that prospect will likely scare me away.

PC: Hmmm yes, I think everything depends on the draw, but she can go all the way I agree. I'm surprised you're not giving her more of a shot for the year. She's already pretty close from getting into the major events so I don't think the low ranking will have much impact. Now… I see you have Maria at #3??? Interesting pick. Obviously I have not mentioned her yet so she is either in my 2 top spots or I've caused an even bigger surprise than last year's Clijsters absence from my top 10. I'm a little surprised you've underestimated Maria though.

TS: Well, I AM picking Sharapova to possibly reach two slam finals (and maybe win one)... it's just that I think my Top 2 might be able to have even BIGGER seasons than that.

I guess we'll soon find out if the Supernova really did rediscover her serve and confidence in Madrid. Problem is, since Sharapova won the US Open fifteen months ago, the Williams sisters have charged back, the Serbs have risen, and Henin has managed to somehow get better. Now, Davenport and Mauresmo are on the comeback trail. Things are getting mighty crowded.... Final ranking aside, Sharapova's goal is going to be winning slam #3 sometime in 2008, and maintaining her serve mechanics (and staying healthy) will likely allow her to be one win away from another major title at least once this season.

Hmmm, but based on your quick jump to the Supernova's defense, now I'm thinking that we may NOT be forcing a player to model clothes with target-like patterns on the back this season, after all. Very interesting. Justine may get to breath a sigh of relief after all, since...

1. Justine Henin, BEL
2. Nadia Petrova, RUS
2. Venus Williams, USA

TS: Haha, just kidding there about Nadia, Pierre. As much as it pains me not to stick her in at #10 just to do it, I have to be realistic... or at least be content to keep pre-season expectations low, just in case. (I'm not expecting the Czarina to show up on your list, either, of course.)

PC: Hahaha!! Indeed, would be tough to get Czarina in there even with the best will in the world. Although to my defence, she was injured last year and there is no way I could have predicted that. What happened to Nadia was a lot more predictable... haha!

TS: All... right...

(Remaining strong... will not fire back. Breathe. In... out.)

It's always a gamble to ever predict a good season from Venus or Serena, what with so many variables at play. But it's a decent bet that at least one will hold things together enough over the course of the season to finish in the Top 10, if not Top 5. By virtual coin flip, I'll go with Venus because she'll be the favorite at Wimbledon if she's able to walk through the front gate come late June (of course, that doesn't mean she'll win anything in early July, though)... oh, and because she's the subject of this year's edition of "What If" (yes, a shameless plug... look for it after the Australian Open).

PC: Haha, anyone who's missed the past 10 years of tennis would not be able to understand how our picks can make sense…but yeah, I think we both agree that one of them will have a decent to great year, but which one of the two? That remains to be seen… I'm betting on Serena, just more dedication in my opinion.

TS: Beware the trick knee, though.

Speaking of... barring injury, it's difficult seeing La Petit Taureau dropping any more than one spot in the rankings in '08, so I'll keep her at #1 (it'd be her fourth year-end top ranking in six years). And, even with the Curse lurking in the shadows (come on, Pierre... don't do it to her!), the feeling here is that Justine could overcome it even if she's saddled with the chore.

1. Maria Sharapova, RUS
2. Justine Henin, BEL

TS: Aha!! Justine is saved!! Hallelujah!! Of course, not that I was worried that she couldn't triumph over any stupid curse.

PC: Hahahaha, wow, finally some excitement. :)

TS: At least now I won't have to keep my head on a swivel all year. I really thought you were going to stick with Henin, but instead you chose to spare Justine the awful specter of the Kuznetsova Curse.

PC: I think the curse effect had been proved and with 2007 being such a tough year on a personal level, it would not have been fair for us to put her through a curse as well… glad we agree to disagree on this.

Justine... how can I not pick her for 2008 after the way she dominated last year? Indeed, it's hard to justify, and I think Justine will still have a terrific year. I don't have much to say about it.

TS: I'm just glad that money I sent got deposited into your account in time to cause you to change your mind. Oops... did I just let that one slip? Of course, I meant to ask why you decided to stick it out with Sharapova as your #1 for a second straight year rather than, say, taking a chance with Serena over Henin? (Honestly, that's REALLY what I was trying to say.)

PC: Do I learn from my mistakes? Apparently not. I think a healthy (compared to 2007) Maria Sharapova will be on top of the women's game and win at least one more slam, maybe 2. Will Maria prove me wrong?

TS: Well, if she does... it'll be all YOUR fault. I wipe my hands clean of any of the pitfalls that the Supernova might encounter in 2008. Haha.

PC: Ok, I stand ready to take all credit if Maria can pull this one off. I'm betting on her being strong especially from January-March, pull off Wimbledon and a strong hard court season to edge out Justine.

TS: Certainly a plausible scenario.

Of course, don't be surprised if all this means the 2008 #1 player in the world will be... Amelie Mauresmo. It would just be perfectly fitting, wouldn't it?

PC: Worse thing is…we both know it could happen… or is it all that bad? I think 2008 could be the most exciting year in a long time.

TS: Even if we did just curse TWO players rather than the usual one. But, of course, that COULDN'T happen, right?

PC: Nah.

TS: If you say so.


1. Justine Henin, BEL
2. Venus Williams, USA
3. Maria Sharapova, RUS
4. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
5. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
6. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
7. Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
8. Lindsay Davenport, USA
9. Agnes Szavay, HUN*
10. Shahar Peer, ISR*

1. Maria Sharapova, RUS
2. Justine Henin, BEL
3. Lindsay Davenport, USA
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
5. Serena Williams, USA
6. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
7. Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
8. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS*
9. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA*
10. Jelena Jankovic, SRB

*-unique to list

.......all right, here's our CYA picks for our "Second Ten" players who were considered for our Top 10 picks, but came up a little short:

Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
Tatiana Golovin, FRA
Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
Amelie Mauresmo, FRA (she scares me, though)
Tamira Paszek, AUT (if I really wanted to be bold I'd have put her at #10, but I couldn't pull the trigger)
Nadia Petrova, RUS :(
Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
Dinara Safina, RUS
Serena Williams, USA (coin flip loser)
Vera Zvonareva, RUS

PC: We talked about it briefly, but I can't believe you do not have Mauresmo on your list… when has a healthy Mauresmo been outside the top 5 (let alone the top 10) lately? Unless you have a little voodoo doll???

TS: I'm already on record for the potential stupidity of that choice. But I changed it after the fact, then she's surely tear up her knee or something within 48 hours and miss the ENTIRE SEASON. I'll simply have to reside in my own slop on that one... should it turn out to be that, of course.

20-Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
19-Vera Zvonareva, RUS
18-Dinara Safina, RUS
17-Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
16-Nadia Petrova, RUS
15-Elena Dementieva, RUS
14-Tatiana Golovin, FRA
13-Marion Bartoli, FRA
12-Venus Williams, USA
11-Agnes Szavay, HUN

TS: Hmmm, I like the Valkyrie at #11. I'm a bit disappointed to not at least see Peer in here somewhere. (I'm with reader Diane... her willfulness will lead the way.)

PC: Hmm yeah, I just don't think Peer can last all that long the way she plays…of coruse I might be wrong, but I'm comfortable with my pick so far.

.......and what about the "Sorry, Charlies," the players who were considered for both lists, but didn't make either?

Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Marion Bartoli, FRA
Elena Dementieva, RUS (all good things must come to an end sometime)
Sania Mirza, IND (a late scratch, she was replaced by Zvonareva on my Second Ten list)
Lucie Safarova, CZE
Patty Schnyder, SUI

Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Marion Bartoli, FRA
Sania Mirza, IND
Tamira Paszek, AUT
Patty Schnyder, SUI

TS: All right, I think we covered all our bases. Well, at least until something happens that is such a spin out that NO ONE saw it coming (yeah, I'm practicing my Aussie slang for the Oz Daily Backspin).

PC: Can't wait to see the draw coming out…didn't this off-season pass by even faster than usual???

TS: Yeah, I guess. But I spent the offseason trying to lobby Rand McNally to declare Portugal part of South America. So I'm not sure.

PC: Huh?

TS: Inside joke. Hahahahaha...

All for now.


Blogger Zidane said...

Could the Australian Open draw have been more exciting? The perspective of a Sharapova/Davenport duel in the SECOND round makes me shake! And the winner possibly facing Henin in the quarters...

Fri Jan 11, 12:10:00 AM EST  

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