Monday, February 18, 2008

Wk.7- Justine Can Go Home Again

No matter what the old axiom says, you CAN go home again.

Well, at least Justine Henin can go back to Belgium.

After winning the small Tier IV clay court event held in Antwerp in her WTA debut at age 16 in 1999, Henin had played there only twice in the past eight years heading into last week's event. While the city's event transformed into the Tier II Proximus Diamond Games, Henin showed up to play just twice (in 2002 and '03), reaching a final and semifinal but never winning another title after becoming the #1-ranked player in the world.

With Kim Clijsters retired, and with herself the only marquee Belgian player left, Henin finally returned. She didn't exactly play her best tennis during the week, struggling with her serve and having to fight back from a set down more than once. But she's #1 by a wide margin for a reason, and her ability to pull herself together well enough to push through the draw only proved it once again.


Career title #41 moved her to within just two crowns of tying Martina Hingis for 10th place on the all-time WTA list, and she improved her 2008 tournament winning percentage to 67%... as in two titles in three tries.

And she didn't even have to buy everyone in the crowd a bottle of champagne, either. Imagine.


S: Justine Henin def. Karin Knapp 6-3/6-3
D: Black/Huber d. Peschke/Sugiyama

S: Flavia Pennetta def. Klara Zakopalova 6-4/5-4 ret.
D: Dekmeijere/Rosolska d. Koryttseva/Schruff

Henin is the first to win multiple titles in 2008, stretching her consecutive seasons with two-or-more titles streak to eight. She's 10-0 in her last ten final appearances.
RISERS: Flavia Pennetta & Karin Knapp

Pennetta, who turns 26 next Monday, won career title #5 in Vina Del Mar when Klara Zakopalova retired with an ankle injury with the Italian veteran just one game from wrapping up the match. Pennetta's fellow Italian, 20-year old Knapp, was the revelation of Antwerp (of course, here's where I have to note that I DID pick her to reach a 2008 final before the season... ha), reaching her first career tour final with wins over Nathalie Dechy, Yaroslava Shvedova (from a set and 3-1 down), Patty Schnyder (down a break 6-5 in the 3rd) and Li Na. In the final, the world #47 finally fell to Henin... but Knapp's Fila outfit somewhat reminded one of another Belgian's common on-court attire, for what it's worth.
SURPRISES: Mariya Koryttseva & Liga Dekmeijere/Alicia Rosolska
Ukraine's Koryttseva reached the Vina Del Mar SF in singles, her best result since her only other SF-or-better RU finish in Kolkata last season. The 22-year old defeated the likes of Castano, Cetkovska and Llagostera-Vives along the way. She was also doubles RU with Julia Schruff. Meanwhile, the Latvian-Polish team of Dekmeijere/Rosolska defeated Koryttseva/Schruff in that Vina Del Mar doubles final, claiming the first career tour titles for both.
VETERANS: Cara Black/Liezel Huber & Klara Zakopalova
after a slow start to their season, the #1-ranked doubles team of Black/Huber finally claimed a maiden '08 season title in Antwerp. Czech Zakopalova, who will turn 26 exactly one day earlier than her Vina Del Mar final opponent Pennetta, reached her first final since 2005 this weekend. Ranked #68 heading into the week, Zakopalova has now reached nine career WTA singles finals, with her loss to Pennetta dropping her to 2-7. She's the only Czech to reach a final so far this season, as Vaidisova has yet to shift herself out of neutral.
FRESH FACES: Timea Bacsinszky & Alisa Kleybanova

in Antwerp, qualifiers Bacsinszky and Kleybanova both forced people to notice them. Swiss Miss Bacsinszky continued her '08 momentum with her first career SF, as the 18-year old notched wins over Govortsova, Ditty and Hantuchova before losing a three-setter to Henin. Hordette Kleybanova upset Agnes Szavay and Kateryna Bondarenko en route to her first tour QF.
DOWN: Peng Shuai
8-8-08 is still a ways off, but for Peng it might as well be a lifetime at the moment. After her 1st Round loss in Antwerp, she's still looking for her first tour victory of the season through four tournaments.

1. Ant F - Henin d. Knapp
What luck Knapp had. Henin waited until the final to play her best match of the week.
2. Vina F - Pennetta d. Zakopalova
...6-4/5-4 ret.
Hmmm, maybe I should claim a portion of Flavia's prize money since she'd surely never have won had I actually picked her to win the tournament. Of course, she DOES play again this week.
3. Ant 1st - Kleybanova d. Szavay
One step forward in Paris, two steps back in Antwerp.
4. Ant 2nd - Arvidsson d. Chakvetadze
Ditto. Seriously, Anna and Agnes' play has had the consistency of blood spatter on a derailing rollercoaster so far this season.
5. Ant SF - Henin d. Bacsinszky
Henin served nine double-faults and had forty-five unforced errors, yet found a way.
6. Ant 1st - Wickmayer d. Peng
Wickmayer's name might not be marquee at the moment, but the mini-Waffle's certainly featured in the coming attractions.
7. Ant 1st - Ditty d. A.Bondarenko 4-6/6-3/6-4.
Ant 2nd - Kleybanova d. K.Bondarenko
Not to disparage J-Ditty or Kleybanova, but A-Bond and K-Bond should be winning more of these matches. Even their doubles run ended in the SF this time around.
8. Ant SF - Knapp d. Li
Li hasn't been quite the same since opening up '08 with a title in Week 1. Here, she led the 2nd set 5-2 and twice failed to serve out to force a deciding 3rd set.
9. Stockholm $25K F - Johanna Larsson d. Barbora Strycova Zahlavova
The 19-year old Swede notched her second straight ITF title in her third final in her last three events.
10. Mallorca $10K F - Polona Hercog d. Stephanie Vogt
The 17-year old from Slovenia has also won back-to-back ITF titles. But, seniority lifts Larsson to "ITF Player of the Week."

167...Martina Navratilova
154...Chris Evert
107...Steffi Graf
92...Margaret Smith-Court
68...Evonne Goolagong-Cawley
67...Billie Jean King
55...Virginia Wade
54...Lindsay Davenport*
53...Monica Seles
43...Martina Hingis

8...JUSTINE HENIN (2001-08)
2...Anna Chakvetadze (2006-07)
2...Elena Dementieva (2006-07)

[last title]
Eleni Daniilidou, GRE [2008]
Jelena Dokic, AUS [2002]
Ana Ivanovic, SRB [2007]
Jelena Jankovic, SRB [2007]
Alicia Molik, AUS [2005]
Dinara Safina, RUS [2007]
Vera Zvonareva, RUS [2006]

2...Polona Hercog, SLO
2...Sesil Karatantcheva, BUL
2...Elena Kulikova, RUS
2...Johanna Larsson, SWE

1970...Evonne Goolagong, Southport/age 18
1971...Chris Evert, St.Petersburg/age 16
1974...Martina Navratilova, Orlando/age 17
1977...Tracy Austin, Portland/age 14
1986...Steffi Graf, Hilton Head/age 16
1988...Arantxa Sanchez, Brussels/age 16
1989...Monica Seles, Houston/age 15
1990...Jennifer Capriati, Puerto Rico/age 14
1993...Lindsay Davenport, Lucerne/age 16
1996...Martina Hingis, Filderstadt/age 15
1998...Venus Williams, Oklahoma City/age 17
1999...Serena Williams, Paris/age 17
1999...Kim Clijsters, Luxembourg/age 16
1999...Amelie Mauresmo, Bratislava/age 20
2003...Maria Sharapova, Tokyo AIG/age 16

1999 (Tier IV/clay) - WON...def. Sarah Pitkowski
2002 (Tier II/carpet) - RU...lost to Venus Williams
2003 (Tier II/carpet) - SF...lost to Kim Clijsters
2008 (Tier II/carpet) - WON...def. Karin Knapp

DOHA, QATAR (I-Hard Outdoor)
07 FINAL: Henin d. Kuznetsova
08 TOP: Ivanovic/Kuznetsova

Ivanovic def. V.Williams
Sharapova def. Kirilenko
Chakvetadze def. Jankovic
Kuznetsova def. Zvonareva
Sharapova def. Ivanovic
Kuznetsova def. Chakvetadze
Sharapova def. Kuznetsova Justine this time around, but a possible A-Rad vs. U-Rad 2nd Round match up could stop traffic in Warsaw.

07 FINAL: Vinci d. Garbin
08 TOP: Pennetta/Cornet

SF: Errani d. Pennetta; Gallovits d. Craybas
FINAL: Errani d. Gallovits

...I'm not going to fall for this trick. Usually, after not picking Pennetta to win a title she claimed, I pick her to win the following week only to see her lose early. So I'm going to stick with the ol' "Errani def. Pennetta" idea from last week. Thus, I'm going to go ahead and congratulate Flavia on her second of back-to-back titles this coming weekend... I'll just assume the check is in the mail.

All for now.


Blogger Eric said...

i get so frustrated rooting for li na

ok, did she have a good week or a bad week?

she beat: chakvetadze, peer, jankovic back to back to back in straights

but then goes down to zvonareva to whom she'd never dropped a set...


this was her chance!

Sat Feb 23, 10:57:00 AM EST  

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