Monday, February 11, 2008

Wk.6- The Comeback Kids

Paris provided a welcoming stage for a pair of comebacks over the weekend. Comebacks not from oblivion, mind you... but from seasons that had provided far more hand-wringing moments than joyful ones.

AP Photo/Remy de la Mauriniere

Anna Chakvetadze and Agnes Szavay have reason to let out big sighs of relief today. The Russian can smile broader, since she won the meeting between the two in the Paris indoor final on Sunday, but the Hungarian has reason to feel good, as well.

After seeing 2008 arrive on the heels of a horrifying home invasion in Moscow that exerted both a physical and mental toll, Chakvetadze's on-court results did little to lighten her mood in the season's opening weeks. She was handled by Maria Sharapova in an exhibition, then bowed out of the Australian Open in the 3rd Round a year after having reached the QF.

But her victory-clinching singles win in Russia's Fed Cup tie againts Israel might have helped her turn a corner, whether it be because of her teammates' support or her own ability to salt away a big match (or some combination of the two) that set things back to "normal" in the Doll's day-to-day routine.

In Paris, that sense of "moving on" carried over. Wins over Nathalie Dechy, Amelie Mauresmo, Marion Bartoli and Szavay (thanks to the Russian's smart play and big point calm) ran her career record in WTA finals to 7-0.

Another Anna -- Smashnova, not THAT OTHER ONE -- might have reason to worry. Chakvetadze is now more than half way to matching the Israeli's 12-0 record in finals to begin her career.

Szavay didn't win career title #3 over the weekend, but the Valkyrie is slowly but surely regaining her form. After opening the season with a loss to a "lucky loser" at Gold Coast and a 1st Round exit in Melbourne, she managed to finally put away a few wins during Fed Cup play before heading to Paris.

After being pushed by Tathiana Garbin in the early rounds, Szavay proceeded to knock out Daniela Hantuchova and Elena Dementieva to reach the final. Despite uncharacteristically beginning the match on edge against Chakvetadze, she collected herself after falling a set down. The pair went on to contest a fairly entertaining 3rd set.

Szavay put herself in position to become the Chakvetadze's first conqueror in a final, but failed to put away several key points despite working many rallies to her advantage. Consider it a task left uncompleted, but also a sign that the 19-year old is putting things together after a terribly disappointing beginning to 2008.

Rarely is there a Tier II final where both players can be considered "winners" after the final handshake, but this might be one of those instances.


S: Anna Chakvetadze def. Agnes Szavay 6-3/2-6/6-2
D: Bondarenko/Bondarenko d. Hrdinova/Uhlirova

S: Agnieszka Radwanska def. Jill Craybas 6-2/1-6/7-6
D: Chan/Chuang d. Hsieh/King

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Anna Chakvetadze

AP Photo/Remy de la Mauriniere
don't look now, but she's THIS CLOSE (or 136 points, if you want to nitpick the details) to catching a certain Supernova in the rankings.
RISERS: Alona Bondarenko/Kateryna Bondarenko & Agnes Szavay

make way for the Bondarenkos! In a week where the Radwanska and Rodionova sisters failed to win doubles titles, the Ukrainian siblings won their second in a row. Not only that, in between their wins in Melbourne and Paris, they teamed to win the deciding match in the Fed Cup tie with Belgium. So, that gives them a 9-0 (plus two walkovers) mark for '08. Meanwhile, Szavay is now at a career-best #18 in the rankings.
SURPRISES: Vesna Manasieva & Andreja Klepac
18-year old Hordette Manasieva (ranked #149) qualified in Pattaya (notching a win over Iroda Tulyaganova) and upset Angelique Kerber to reach her first career QF. Slovenian world #131 Klepac, 21, reached her second career QF in the same event with wins over U-Rad and Casey Dellacqua.
VETERANS: Jill Craybas & Laura Granville
a pair of American vets who are generally overlooked are coming off pretty good weeks. Craybas, 33, got wins over Olga Savchuk and Akgul Amanmuradova before losing a 3rd set tie-break to A-Rad in the Pattaya final. Granville, 26, won the $75K challenger in Midland, defeating Sandra Kloesel in the final, but maybe more impressively destroying Fed Cup heroine Ashley Harkleroad 6-1/6-1 in the 1st Round.
FRESH FACES: Agnieszka Radwanska & Ekaterina Bychkova

Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images
A-Rad grabbed her second career title (Stockholm '07) with a tight three-set win over Craybas in the Pattaya final a week after putting up somewhat disappointing results in Fed Cup Zone play. World #101 Bychkova upset Yaroslava Shvedova to reach the Pattay SF, her best result since a semi in Tashkent in 2005.
DOWN: Nadia Petrova
last season, Petrova had a decent non-slam season and a woeful run in the slams. So far in 2008, she's reached a Round of 16 in the Australian (sure, she blew a big lead... but it's still a decent result), but is 0-3 everywhere else. In Paris, she failed to defend her sole '07 title when she lost in three sets to Kateryna Bondarenko in the 1st Round. Oh, Nadia.

1. Paris F - Chakvetadze d. Szavay
The Valkyrie didn't seem quite as comfortable on the stage here as she did during the US Open Series last fall.
2. Patt F - A.Radwanska d. Craybas
The American came oh so close to getting her first tour singles title since 2002, in just her second career final.
3. Paris 1st - K.Bondarenko d. Petrova
It'd be nice to be able to put an exclamation point at the end of "Oh, Nadia" at some point this season. Oh, Nadia.
4. Paris QF - Chakvetadze d. Mauresmo
After winning in Antwerp the last three years, Amelie isn't there this week. (Insert your own joke here about what she would have wanted encrusted with diamonds if she'd won this time around.)
5. Paris 1st - Daniilidou d. Azarenka
The wait continues for the Belarusian.
HM- Midland $75K 1st - Tetrault d. Karatantcheva
Even Sesil can't go all night and all day that many weeks in a row. On a different subject altogether, she can't win every tennis match she plays, either. So easy.

Wk.1- -
Wk.2- Anastasia Pivovarova, RUS
Wk.3- Sesil Karatantcheva, BUL
Wk.4- Elena Kulikova, RUS
Wk.5- Sesil Karatantcheva, BUL
Wk.6- Laura Granville, USA

25...Daniilidou, Henin, Li
20...CHAKVETADZE, Sharapova

[18 different nations]
3...United States

17...Maria Sharapova (2003-2008)
10...Anastasia Myskina (1999-05)
9...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002-07)
9...Olga Morozova (1969-75)
8...Elena Dementieva (2003-07)
7...Anna Chakvetadze (2006-08)
7...Nadia Petrova (2005-07)

11...Justine Henin, BEL (10/1)
5....Anna Chakvetadze, RUS (4/1)
4....Jelena Jankovic, SRB (4/0)

ANTWERP, BELGIUM (II-Decoturf Indoors)
07 FINAL: Mauresmo d. Clijsters
08 TOP: Henin/Chavetadze

SF: Henin d. A.Bondarenko; Schnyder d. Chakvetadze
FINAL: Henin d. Schnyder

...maybe I'm not putting Chakvetadze in the final just because I don't want to pick her to finally lose one.

07 FINAL: =new event=
08 TOP: Pennetta/Dulko

SF: Pennetta d. Muller; Errani d. Dulko
FINAL: Errani d. Pennetta

...I'm itchin' to correctly forecast an Errani title in '08, so here it goes. Also, since I'm always off when I predict Pennetta's results, I figure she'll either win the title or lose her first match.

All for now.


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