Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wk.2- Henin. Justine Henin.

Blame it on 007.

With each passing tournament, it's becoming more and more clear just how fluky an accomplishment it was that Marion Bartoli accomplished on semifinal day at Wimbledon last summer. With a nice assist from a healthy wind and the "inspiring" presence of Pierce Brosnan (not to mention quite possibly some magic mirrors), she found a way to defeat Justine Henin.

Simple enough, right? It was just a single match.

But no one has been able to match her feat since. Not Serena. Not Venus. Not Maria. Not a solitary player through 28 matches and six tournaments stretched out over the six-plus months that have followed. With her win in Sydney this week, Henin opened even wider what is now a ridiculous 2620-ranking point chasm between her and world #2 Svetlana Kuznetsova, her victim in the final match of her latest display of just-find-a-way-to-get-it-done expertise.

And, remember, Henin's personal life was in flux at this time a year ago, so she's now adding points to that total without having to defend any results from '07. Her closest competitor on the WTA computer can't close out a big match. Her most talented foe has a hard time staying healthy (and has lost to her at three straight slams). Her most frequent opponent is 0-9 against her and sports a mental block as big as Henin is slight in size. If she manages to stretch the streak to 35 matches two weeks from today, she'll match the longest this decade (Venus in '00) and her opponents will need passports just to peek over her shoulder..

Is all this Marion and Pierce's fault? Well, maybe not.

After all, Henin had a fifteen match winning streak going before that loss to La Trufflette at the All-England Club, meaning she's 43-1 in her last forty-four matches. So neither Brosnan nor Bartoli should be scolded by the WTA field for the "monster" they've inadvertantly created. In the end, they just proved that Henin is indeed human (i.e. beatable, under the right circumstances)... which, when you think about, makes the rarified position she's carved out for herself above every other female player on earth all the more astounding.

Of course, being "beatable" is one thing. Everyone CAN lose. Finding a way to make it happen? Now that's become quite a feat over the last year, and so far an impossible one since early July.

On to Melbourne.


S: Justine Henin def. Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6/6-2/6-4
D: Yan/Zheng d. Perebiynis/Poutchek

S: Eleni Daniilidou walkover Vera Zvonareva
D: Medina-Garrigues/Ruano-Pascual d. Daniilidou/Woehr

make it forty career titles, with at least one in each of the past eight seasons. Oh, and her career weeks at #1 are now in the triple-digits.
RISERS: Ana Ivanovic & Yan Zi/Zheng Jie

after a poor performance in the Hong Kong exhibition, AnaIvo rebounded by reaching the Sydney SF before going down to Henin in three sets. In the new rankings, she's climbed to #3, one spot ahead of Jelena Jankovic. Yan & Zheng, with Beijing getting closer and closer, are completely healthy and starting to resemble their '06 selves again. After reaching the Gold Coast final in Week 1, they won in Sydney in Week 2.
SURPRISES: Eleni Daniilidou & Ashley Harkleroad
Daniilidou is one of the more overlooked players on tour, so anytime she wins a title -- and Hobart was the fifth of her career -- it FEELS like a surprise even if it probably shouldn't. The 25-year old Greek knocked off #1-seed Alona Bondarenko last week, then got a break when she picked up the title when Vera Zvonareva pulled out of the final with an ankle injury. She also reached the doubles final. Harkleroad qualified in Hobart, then reached the SF for her best result since reaching the Auckland final in 2004.
VETERANS: Flavia Pennetta & Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Virginia Ruano-Pascual
Pennetta had a fine Week 2, knocking off Agnieszka Radwanska, Sania Mirza and Jelena Dokic in Hobart to reach the SF. The Spanish duo of AMG & VRP won the Hobart doubles.
FRESH FACES: The Romanians: Sorana Cirstea, Raluca Olaru & Edina Gallovits
a trio of Romanians notched some big wins last week in Hobart Cirstea double-bageled Catalina Castano and upset Urszula Radwanska in qualifying, while Olaru knocked off Peng Shuai in the 1st Round. But Gallovits lasted the longest, reaching the QF after qualifying and taking out Olga Govortsova. Meanwhile, Monica Niculescu qualified for the Australian Open, too.
DOWN: Anna Chakvetadze & Cara Black/Liezel Huber
it just hasn't been a very good year so far for the Doll. Never mind the off-court incident itself, but her own play (possibly partly because of the trauma and lingering injuries related to the robbery) can't be helping to take her mind off things. In Sydney, she was ousted in the 1st Round by Katarina Srebotnik. Meanwhile, the computer might say that the Black/Huber team is the world's best doubles combo, but their results so far in '08 don't back it up. In Sydney, the pair went down to Molik/Sun in the QF a week after being blitzed by Safina/Szavay.

1. Sydney F - Henin d. Kuzentsova
Kuznetsova's quest to catch Henin is off to a "bang-up" start after she squandered a 3-0 (with a BP for 4-0) lead in the 3rd set. With her back to the wall, Henin pulled out a big serve (and would do it again later when the Russian had two BP for 5-3) and took control of the important points from the opening shot. Henin couldn't have asked for a better tune-up for Melbourne.
2. Sydney SF - Henin d. Ivanovic
Blue court. Blue sidelines. Blue signage. Blue outfits on BOTH Henin and Ivanovic. Who do you blame for the headache?
3. Sydney 1st - Srebotnik d. Chakvetadze
Dark clouds, man. Dark clouds.
4. Sydney 2nd - Jankovic d. Golovin
This is the INJURED Jelena? Can you say, "The Oscar goes to...?"
5. Sydney QF - Vaidisova d. Jankovic
Vaidisova also got a win over Hantuchova, while Radek reached the SF in the men's Sydney event.
HM- Hob 1st - Lapushchenkova d. K.Bondarenko
There was a chance for an all-Bondarenko QF in Hobart. But after Kateryna lost in the 1st Round, #1 seed Alona lost in the 2nd. Oh, well.

[last title]
54...Lindsay Davenport [08]
36...Venus Williams [07]
28...Serena Williams [07]
24...Amelie Mauresmo [07]

**RECENT #1 vs. #2 MATCH-UPS**
Aust.Open F - #1 S.Williams d. #2 V.Williams
Filderstadt F - #1 Clijsters d. #2 Henin-H.
Aust.Open F - #1 Henin-H. d. #2 Clijsters
Filderstadt F - #2 Davenport d. #1 Mauresmo
Athens F - #1 Henin-H. d. #2 Mauresmo
Antwerp F - #2 Mauresmo d. #1 Clijsters
Sydney F - #1 Henin d. #2 Kuznetsova

All for now.


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