Monday, February 25, 2008

Wk.8- Qatting a Wide Swath

Whether or not the Sharapova Scenario is yet in effect, the Supernova has surely cut a fairly wide swath for herself through the WTA field so far this season.


Her 2008 reign of terror continued last week in Qatar.

Still undefeated in matches that count, Maria Sharapova ran her '08 WTA/Fed Cup record to 14-0 with career title #18 in Doha, the newest Tier I event on the WTA schedule. Fellow Hordette Vera Zvonareva managed to win a set from her in the final (no small feat, considering the Russian's only lost one other set all season), but it proved to be but an inconvenient blip on the Supernova's radar in a 6-1/2-6/6-0 steamrolling victory.

After enduring a psychologically trying, injury-marred 2007 campaign, which found its nadir in New York with the '06 champ being bounced from the US Open in the 3rd Round by a rather "disrespectful" Agnieszka Radwanska, Sharapova has nursed her injured shoulder and confidence back to health. Since then, she's 18-2 and has reached three consecutive finals, beginning with the season-ending championships in Madrid last November. She's already won twice as many titles in 2008 as she did in all of 2007, and has won 28 of the 30 sets she's played this year (taking six of them at love).

Oh, and A-Rad got "her's" last week in Doha, too.

Of course, even while she's been the class of the tour in this still-in-its-infancy season, Sharapova stands at just #5 in the rankings, with top-ranked Justine Henin far ahead on the computer. But even while she's 11-1 herself in 2008, Henin is 0-1 against Sharapova this year. The Belgian's pair of titles have come in Tier II events, while Sharapova has claimed a slam and, now, a Tier I.

Give the edge to Maria. So far...since Henin could push her title count to three this week in Dubai.


DOHA, QATAR (I-Hard Outdoor)
S: Maria Sharapova def. Vera Zvonareva 6-1/2-6/6-0
D: Peschke/Stubbs d. Black/Huber

S: Nuria Llagostera-Vives def. Maria-Emilia Salerni 6-0/6-4
D: Benesova/Mattek d. Kostanic-Tosic/Muller

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Maria Sharapova
Sharapova's win over Zvonareva shouldn't be overlooked, for the Russian has been one of the more successful of her countrywomen against the Supernova. Had Zvonareva won, she would have knotted the career record between the two at 4-4.
RISERS: Vera Zvonareva & Li Na
Zvonareva won the battle with Li in the Doha SF, but both had successful weeks. Zvonareva knocked out Top 20er's Safina and Bammer en route to her second final this season (she lost in a walkover to Daniilidou in Hobart), while Li notched wins over THREE Top 20 players in Chakvetadze, Peer and Jankovic.
SURPRISES: Maria-Emilia Salerni & Carla Suarez Navarro
24-year old Argentine Salerni reached her first career tour singles final in Bogota with wins over Cornet, Camerin and her fellow Surprise honoree. #159-ranked Suarez Navarro, 19, of Spain qualified and defeated Mattek, Gallovits and Castano to reach her first career SF.
VETERANS: Nuria Llagostera-Vives & Kveta Peschke/Rennae Stubbs

Spaniard Llagostera-Vives, 27, won in Bogota to claim her first title since 2005. Ranked as high as #35 that season, she embarked on a comeback last season after a wrist injury sidelined her during the 2006 campaign. After qualifying last week, the then #114-ranked vet's win gave her two career WTA crowns. Meanwhile, Kveta Peschke, 32, and Rennae Stubbs, 37 next month, won the season's first Tier I doubles title in Doha. It was Stubbs' 59th career title, further solidifying her #12 spot on the all-time WTA list.
FRESH FACES: Caroline Wozniacki & Dominika Cibulkova

Denmark's Wozniacki and Slovakia's Cibulkova both reached the Doha QF after pulling off a string of upsets. C-Woz took out Chan Yung-Jan, Marion Bartoli and Anabel Medina-Garrigues, while Cibulkova's results were even more spectacular. "All" she did was defeat Lucie Safarova, Patty Schnyder and Venus Williams (6-3/6-3!!).
DOWN: Amelie Mauresmo
Mauresmo's long road back continues to drag on and on like a cross-country trip to visit "those" relatives. After having already dropped out of the Top 20 after not seeking to defend her Antwerp title, she bowed out in the Doha 2nd Round to Tamarine Tanasugarn last week. Her highest-ranked victim this year has only been ranked #36 (the second-highest is #68), and this week she could face Sharapova in the 2nd Round in Dubai.
ITF PLAYER: Regina Kulikova, RUS
one Russian Kulikova has already made some waves on the ITF tour this season, and now there's another. 16-year old Elena has claimed two challenger titles, and then last week 19-year old Regina won the $25K event in Clearwater, Florida. Combined, the two have won 19 straight matches. even more than one Sharapova.

1. Doha F - Sharapova d. Zvonareva
Zvonareva seems past the emotional meltdowns that used to plague her, but going out with a 3rd set bagel isn't exactly coming up big in the clutch, either.
2. Bog F - Llagostera-Vives d. Salerni
Three qualifiers (incuding Llagostera-Vives) and one unseeded player (Salerni) reached the SF in Bogota.
3. Doha SF - Sharapova d. A.Radwanska
Sweet redemption for the Open collapse. Well, almost.
4. Doha 1st - Peer d. Klepac
Peer became the first Israeli to play a match in the Gulf region.
5. Doha 1st - Sugiyama d. Szavay
It's been either feast for famine so far this season for Szavay. She reached the final in Paris, but has been dumped out in the 1st Round in her other four events. For a moment, it appeared as if her "breather" this week in Dubai was going to be Sharapova in the 1st Round. But the Supernova pulled out with a cold, so Agnes gets an unexpected opportunity. Let's see if she takes advantage of it.
6. Doha Doub 1st - Morita/Niculescu d. Yan/Zheng
Kleybanova/Voskoboeva d. Peng/Sun
...6-4/7-5. Hmmm, maybe we shouldn't speak TOO SOON about China's "great" hopes for a Women's Doubles medal in Beijing.
7. Doha 1st - Garbin d. U.Radwanska
So much for that all-Radwanska 2nd Round novelty.
8. Doha 1st - Medina-Garrigues d. Petrova
...6-2/1-2 ret.
Petrova was battling gastritis and was just too sick too go on. Backspin knows the feeling, Nadia.
9. Doha 3rd - Bammer d. Kuznetsova
How's that plan to catch Justine going, Svetlana?
10. Bog QF - Llagostera-Vives d. Errani
This was the second consecutive week that Llagostera-Vives emerged from qualifying to knock out Errani in the main draw.
11. Doha 2nd - Sugiyama d. Morita
Morita was appropriately respectful to her Japanese elder Sugiyama. But that might not last for much longer.
12. Bog 1st - Jozami d. Pennetta
Pennetta's usual rollercoaster result trend continues.
HM- Memph Q1- Sromova d. Karatantcheva
Ah, more time for Sesil to peruse the "selections" at the local corner store in downtown Memphis.
HM- Doha 3rd - A.Radwanska walkover Ivanovic
...AnaIvo's ankle prevented this match from taking place, thus avoiding any pesky fires at the Polish embassy had A-Rad actually been able to win the match outright.

2...Justine Henin (2-0)
2...VERA ZVONAREVA (0-1, + w/o loss)

3...LI NA (1-2)
2...Justine Henin (2-0)
2...Ana Ivanovic (1-1)
2...Flavia Pennetta (1-1)

[last title]
Gisela Dulko, ARG [2007]
Tatiana Golovin, FRA [2007]
Maria Kirilenko, RUS [2007]
Anne Kremer, LUX [2007]
Li Na, CHN [2008]
Mirjana Lucic, CRO [1998]
Agnieszka Radwanska, POL [2008]
Virginie Razzano, FRA [2007]
Martina Sucha, SVK [2004]
Agnes Szavay, HUN [2007]
Klara Zakopalova, CZE [2005]

177...Martina Navratilova
112...Rosie Casals
106...Pam Shriver
101...Billie Jean King
80...Natasha Zvereva
76...Jana Novotna
68...Gigi Fernandez
68...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
68...Helena Sukova
66...Larisa Neiland
65...Lisa Raymond*

11...Lindsay Davenport
10...Justine Henin
8...Serena Williams
6...Amelie Mauresmo
6...Venus Williams

34...Virginia Ruano-Pascual (Hobart)

DUBAI, UAE (II-Hard Outdoor)
07 FINAL: Henin d. Mauresmo
08 TOP: Henin/Kuznetsova

SF: Henin d. Ivanovic; (Q)A.Radwanska d. Kuznetsova
FINAL: Henin d. (Q)A.Radwanska

...seriously, how odd is it that A-Rad, a Top 20 player, was forced to qualify in Dubai right after reaching the SF in Doha? There was hope here for a Gulf-set Part II of what could be a Henin/Sharapova tête-à-tête throughout 2008... but Sharapova's late withdrawal puts those plans on hold.

07 FINAL: Loit d. Pennetta
08 TOP: Pennetta/Cornet

SF: Pennetta d. Cirstea; Errani d. Meusburger
FINAL: Pennetta d. Errani

...for the third week in a row, Pennetta is a #1 seed. After winning in Vina del Mar, then exiting in the 1st Round in Bogota, Acapulco serves as the rubber result (insert own Sesil joke here). But I'm not going to go with Errani for a third straight week, though I DO notice that Llagostera-Vives isn't in her path this week. So, maybe the chances of her winning a title are better. If so, I'm going to miss the boat.

07 FINAL: V.Williams d. Peer
08 TOP: V.Williams/Golovin

SF: V.Williams d. Davenport; Peer d. Golovin
FINAL: V.Williams d. Peer

...a week after losing to Cibulkova, Lindsay looms large in the SF for Williams. But I'll go with Venus to defend anyway.

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

That's a great photo! I wanted to see her drive off on it, but she didn't.

If she stays healthy (and she's sick as I write this, but it's just a cold), I think she's going to kick some serious butt this season.

Tue Feb 26, 12:17:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I remember either last year or the season before, I think it was Petrova who'd gotten a car when she won a tournament. She was driving it around during the post-match ceremony, and the way it was lurching around I was almost certain she was going to run someone over.

Can you imagine the headlines the next day?

"Tennis Player Wins Tournament, Cripples Ball Boy" :D

It'd be great for "Henin vs. Sharapova, Sharapova vs. Henin" to be a season-long storyline.

Tue Feb 26, 01:39:00 AM EST  

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