Saturday, April 12, 2008

BV: Second Thoughts, Pt.I

It's never too late (or early) to have second thoughts, so the time for my and Head Honcho Pierre Cantin's annual tradition of trying to right what we put wrong (a WHOLE three months ago!) has arrived with limited fanfare. Why call undue attention to the opinions that we'd already like to forget, I say! This time, our forecasts will most certainly be visions of perfection.

Or not.

Either way, a slight course correction is often necessary whether you're captaining the Titanic or the Spirit of St.Louis. Hopefully, this will be a case similar to the latter.

Or not. Sigh.

Here are my 2008 second thoughts:

( ) - preseason prediction
1. Justine Henin(1)... Roland Garros is her's to win, even if she hasn't exactly looked like the same old La Petit Taureau so far in '08. And speaking of second thoughts, if she had trouble breathing in the Miami heat then maybe she SHOULD seriously think about foregoing the Olympics in polluted Beijing.
Maria Sharapova(3)... so far, so good. Anything she accomplishes during the clay season is icing on the cake since her season's success will be determined by the events AFTER Paris. 2008 could play early host to the Scenario, after all.
Ana Ivanovic(4)... more activity might put her up to #2 if Sharapova were to fail to add another slam, Olympic or YEC title this season. AnaIvo's inability to follow up Indian Wells with a good Miami result makes one wonder, though.
Svetlana Kuznetsova(5)... she HAS to win a final one of these days, right? Right?
Jelena Jankovic(6)... she'll play until she drops, but until that happens she'll maintain a pretty high ranking.
Serena Williams(-)... the All-England Club might be host to a familial showdown for the right to "take the lead" in the eyes of history.
Venus Williams(2)... Wimbledon and Beijing are her "home base" events. If she shows up there, post-"hiatus"/"medical issue," nothing else really matters. Venus stopped playing for rankings long, long ago.
Anna Chakvetadze(-)... does the quietest Russian have a slam final run in her? That's her next logical step, which means she might have found her limits.
Lindsay Davenport(8)... she finally got her first major comeback win in Miami over AnaIvo, then promptly dropped her next match to Dinara Safina and didn't play the Amelia Island SF against Sharapova due to illness. Thus, she's still looking for her first major event breakthrough in Davenport II. Maybe SW19?
Vera Zvonareva(-)... if she can just stay healthy.
Elena Dementieva(-)... is something of a renaissance in store for Punch-Sober?
Agnieszka Radwanska(-)... her movement up the rankings continues, but does the nature of her mental game mean the big hitters will allow her to get only so far?

RG: Henin d. Ivanovic
W: Williams vs. Williams
O: Ivanovic d. Sharapova
US: Sharapova d. Henin
YEC: Sharapova d. Henin
RG: Nadal d. Djokovic
W: Federer d. Nadal
O: Djokovic d. Nadal
US: Djokovic d. Federer
CUP: Federer d. Roddick

1. Even with Venus and Serena not playing in the Fed Cup SF for the US this month, an in-form Davenport could cause the Supernova-less Russians to fall.
2. Don't be shocked if Jankovic doesn't win an actual singles title in '08, even though she won't likely lose her Top 10 status barring a major injury and will continually be looking over the champions' shoulders.
3. Henin will likely still end the season at #1, but she won't be 2008's "Player of the Year." That'll be either Sharapova, Ivanovic or possibly Serena Williams (if she can stay healthy, of course).
4. I want to see a Tamira Paszek vs. Michelle Larcher de Brito match, if only to risk a potential O.D. on teen potential. Living dangerously can be fun.
5. By the end of the summer, the young Romanians will be starting to cause a noticeable stir. Just ask Ivanovic how many headaches the little trouble-makers can cause.
ATP: Being no clay workhorse ala Nadal, there's a good chance that Roger Federer will head into the grass season without a 2008 title under his belt.

1. Henin will win Roland Garros again, but she'll struggle to do so this time.
2. A Williams will win Wimbledon (but I'm not ready to get behind a specific sister just yet).
3. Team China will completely rebound from the '07 Fed Cup screw-up and reach the 2008 final (and no monks will be injured nor human rights violated in the process).
4. Pastries Bartoli, Golovin and Mauresmo will combine for no more than one singles title the rest of 2008.
5. The Paszek-Wozniacki-Azarenka trio will account for at least two QF results in the remaining three slams.
ATP: Rafael Nadal will overtake Roger Federer for the #1 ranking after Roland Garros (if not before). He won't hold onto it for long, though.

The clay season means different things to different players:

MOST IMPORTANT: Vera Zvonareva
the under-the-radar Russian missed most of the clay season last year, spoiling a quarter that began with so much promise with a SF in Charleston. Her best slam result came at Roland Garros (a QF in '03), but she's been nothing short of a disappointment in grand slam play over the last four years. If she can stay healthy and work up a head of steam going into Paris, maybe 2008 in the year she finally breaks through. At 23, the time is right if it's ever going to happen.

(Also: Jelena Jankovic)
LEAST IMPORTANT: Maria Sharapova
yeah, she reached the RG SF last year, but she'd never reached a clay final in her career until Davenport gave her a walkover in the Amelia Island SF this weekend. Thus, her clay season is already an unqualified success no matter what happens between now and the start of grass court season.

(Also: Lindsay Davenport & the Williams sisters)
AnaIvo won Berlin and was a surprise RG finalist a year ago. Now she sports a better game and fitness level. With Jankovic's slam stumbles still present, THIS Serb might sport the best chance in years to threaten Henin's Paris dominance. Still, it probably won't happen.

(Also: Jelena Jankovic, who's always THIS CLOSE to taking a monumental leap... though she usually discovers a way to avoid it becoming a reality)
it was at Roland Garros last year that the Austrian teen served some notice by erasing a 5-0 Henin lead to tie her at 5-5 in the opening set of their 2nd Round match.

(Also: Mariana Duque Marino & the young Romanians Olaru/Gallovits/Cirstea -- and don't look now, but there's another wave of Romanian juniors coming as three of the Top 16 girls are natives, including two sisters named Bogdan)
Stepanek engagement reports. TV commercials. Big match stalls (the most recent her failure to close out a there-for-the-taking match against Kuznetsova in Melbourne). Recent early-round exits (including being served off the court by Alisa Kleybanova in Miami). Vaidisova has reached the SF and QF in her last two Roland Garros appearances, but we are perilously close to the hype officially overwhelming the reality unless the Czech makes an AnaIvo-style breakthrough soon.

(Also: Nadia Petrova, who's still chasing her missed '06 clay season opportunity and finds herself injured yet again, & Amelie Mauresmo, who still hasn't fully recovered from her post-slam champion/post-appendectomy/post-hurried return/on the back side of a career cycle... though her play in A.I. was enough to make one think she's close to doing so)

All for now.

2008 Volleys: #1-5, #6-10

STILL TO COME: Pierre's Second Thoughts


Blogger Ian said...

I thought Roddick wasn't playing the Olympics...

Wed Apr 16, 08:13:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hmmm, just checked. I'd forgotten about that. It seemed like a bad decision at the time, but his results have been pretty good since, so maybe it'll end up working out for him in the end.

Thus, I just switched Roddick's Olympic RU and Nadal's Masters Cup RU predictions.

Wed Apr 16, 09:27:00 AM EDT  

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