Monday, May 07, 2007

Wk.18- Turn Out the Lights

Sometimes, timing is everything, isn't it?

First, I'm proud to say that mine was pretty accurate last week, when I essentially said my "final goodbyes" to Kim Clijsters as she returned to action in Warsaw. She lost her opening match, then over the weekend I was alerted by an ever-vigilent e-mail from Tennisrulz Head Honcho Pierre Cantin that she'd up and called it a career -- effective immediately -- nearly six months earlier than previously expected.

There'll be no farewell slam. No spotty farewell tour running the course of the remainder of the '07 season. Just like that, saying "it's been more than fun," Clijsters also said that it is all over. To borrow a phrase, her tennis career has "gone dark."

I must say, as I told Pierre on Sunday, that I actually sort of respect Clijsters more for this act than for many of the other things she's done throughout her career. Sure, she probably should have made this announcement after the Australian Open so that she could have received a proper send-off in Melbourne from the fans who've most closely identified with her on the slam calendar. She enjoyed a heartfelt goodbye moment Down Under, but hardly the sort she would have been the object of had everyone known that her semifinal loss to Maria Sharapova there would bring down the curtain on her slam career. Sporting careers rarely ever end with the star exiting the stage in a shower of confetti and awash in admiration. Even Pete Sampras, who won the U.S. Open title in his final tour match, dragged out his actual retirement announcemnt over most of the following season.

Perfection isn't always pretty, and is even more rare.

Since January, it's been fairly obvious from the swiftly shrinking nature of her proposed '07 schedule that Clijsters' heart wasn't in any long, drawn-out goodbye tour nor a final fist-shaking run at tennis history. That she saw fit to end the charade and quietly close the show rather than glad hand for the sake of glad handing out of some sense of obligation to tournament organizers and/or fans over the next six months is, dare I say it, "admirable."

That sentiment certainly hasn't been common around these parts over the years when it's come to Clijsters, but she does at least deserve a final salute for leaving something of a smile on this ol' grinchy Backspinner's face.

Nice, Kim.

**CLIJSTERS...BY THE NUMBERS** wins losses WTA singles titles
19...weeks as WTA singles #1 (2003=12, 2006=7) WTA doubles titles
10...wins over Justine Henin (vs. 12 losses)
4....weeks as WTA doubles #1 (Aug/Sep '03)
3....weeks as simultaneous s/d #1 (Aug/Sep '03) ITF singles titles ITF doubles titles WTA Chsp. (YEC) titles (2002-03)
2....slam doubles titles ('03 RG/Wimb)
1....slam singles titles (2005 US Open)
1....Jr.slam doubles titles ('98 RG)
1....Fed Cup titles (Belgium '01)


S: Justine Henin d. Alona Bondarenko 6-1/6-3
D: Dushevina/Perebiynis d. Likhovtseva/Vesnina

S: Greta Arn d. Victoria Azarenka 2-6/6-1/7-6
D: Ehritt Vanc/An.Rodionova d. Dominguez-Lino/Parra-Santonja

it's somehow fitting that in the same event that marked the end of Clijsters' career that Henin would end up winning the title as her career forges onward. It was career title #32, just two behind Clijsters.
RISERS: Alona Bondarenko & Edina Gallovits
as Clijsters retired at age 23, 22-year old Ukrainian Bondarenko quietly had her best career week at a large event, defeating Srebotnik, A.Radwanska, Vakulenko and Kuznetsova before finally falling to Henin in the Warsaw final. Meanwhile, Gallovits, 22, continued the rise of the Romanians by claiming her second ITF crown of the season at the Charlottesville $50K event.
SURPRISE: Julia Vakulenko & Nika Ozegovic
maybe qualifier Vakulenko (ironically -- or not -- my Volley pick for the clay court "Surprise" player this quarter) should be called "the last straw," for it was her straight sets defeat of Clijsters in the 2nd Round in Warsaw that sent the Belgian packing for the final time. Vakulenko, also from Ukraine, defeated Elena Likhovtseva, as well, before retiring with a wrist in injury in the QF against fellow countrywoman Bondarenko. Ozegovic, a 21-year old Croat ranked #267, qualified in Estoril and upset Maria Kirilenko in the main draw.
VETERAN: Greta Arn & Nuria Llagostera-Vives

another qualifier, Arn rose above the rest. At 28, she reached her first tour final and became the season's first Q-grad to win a WTA singles title in Estoril with a victory over teenager Victoria Azarenka in the final. Llagostera-Vives won a tour singles title two years ago in Rabat, but she's currently ranked #410. Her ranking is headed north, though, after a win over Estoril's top-seeded Marion Bartoli and a trip to the SF.
FRESH FACEs: Victoria Azarenka & Anastasia Pivovarova

17-year old Belarussian Azarenka's long-awaited arrival may have finally taken significant steps in Estoril. Wins over Razzano, Schiavone, Dulko and Safarova propelled her into her first tour final, where she lost in a 3rd set tie-break to Arn. Pivovarova, 16, is the latest Russian whose name has bubbled to the surface in the challengers as the world's #4-ranked junior won a $10K event in Bournemouth over the weekend.
DOWN: Nadia Petrova
even I don't have the heart to insert Clijsters here. Instead, Nadia gets the hook after her 2nd Round exit at the hands of Mara Santangelo in Warsaw. As she tries to defend her Berlin title this week, she might get an immediate rematch with Santangelo in the Round of 16. After a run to the final in Amelia Island, Petrova's clay "season after" hasn't ignited as it did a year ago. Unless it does soon, she's going need to focus on her "fall back" position of regaining her lost ranking points by making some hay in Paris and London after going winless in the middle two slams a season ago.

1. War 2nd - Vakulenko d. Clijsters
Remember Vakulenko for trivia purposes later.
2. War SF - Henin d. Jankovic
Even while blowing a bushel of break point opportunities, Henin managed to squeak out a win over the never-resting Jankovic. No matter, the Serb appears destined for a Top 5 (or Top 4, with Clijsters' absence) seed at Roland Garros.
3. Est Final - Arn d. Azarenka
Arn hasn't won a slam main draw match since the Australian Open in 2003.
4. War Final - Henin d. A.Bondarenko
The Sunday rain prompted a Monday final, but it only delayed the seemingly inevitable conclusion to the Warsaw event.
5. War SF - A.Bondarenko d. Kuznetsova
Bondarenko nearly blew a 6-2/3-1 lead, and failed to close out the match serving at 5-4. She made up for those missteps by overcoming a 2-0 hole in the tie-break.
6. War QF - Kuznetsova d. V.Williams
One wonders if Kuznetsova left her SF chances on the court versus Venus in the QF.
7. War 1st - Groenefeld d. Kanepi
Sure, Girl Friday went out in the 2nd Round to Henin, but this was her first tour win since the Australian Open. On Monday, she lost to Shahar Peer in Berlin.
8. Est 1st - Ozegovic d. Kirilenko
Maria wonders what hit her quite often these days.
9. Gifu $50K Final - Yung-Jan Chan d. Ayumi Morita
Taiwan's Chan is making more waves than any of the Chinese players this season.
10. Chengdu $25K - Shuai Zhang d. Jing Ren
that being said, these were the two "unknown Cookies" I highlighted as players to keep an eye on at the start of the season.

2...Jelena Jankovic
2...Serena Williams

Sybille Bammer (AUT/26) - Pattaya City
Yaroslava Shvedova (RUS/19) - Bangalore
Roberta Vinci (ITA/24) - Bogota
Tatiana Golovin (FRA/19) - A.Island
Gisela Dulko (ARG/22) - Budapest

**2007 WTA SF**
4...Sybille Bammer (1-3)

Vasilisa Bardina (Hobart) - lost to Chakvetadze
Sorana Cirstea (Budapest) - lost to Dulko

#325 Sorana Cirstea (ROU/Budapest) (L)
#143 Yaroslava Shvedova (Bangalore) (L)

1...Simona Halep (Bucharest)
1...Iona-Raluca Olaru (Torrent)
1...Anamaria-Alexandra Sere (Cairo)
1...Liana-Gabriela Ungur (Vale Do Lobo)

Round of 16: Backspin 49-42
SEMIFINALS: tied 25-25
FINALISTS: Backspin 12-8
CHAMPIONS: Backspin 3-2

2006 FINAL: Petrova d. Henin-Hardenne
2007 TOP: Henin/Mauresmo

Henin d. Li
Jankovic d. Hantuchova
Peer d. Kuznetsova
Petrova d. Santangelo
Vaidisova d. Ivanovic
Hingis d. Schnyder
Chakvetadze d. Safina
Mauresmo d. Vakulenko

Henin d. Jankovic
Peer d. Petrova
Hingis d. Vaidisova
Chakvetadze d. Mauresmo

Henin d. Peer
Hingis d. Chakvetadze

Henin d. Hingis

..."The Queen" (Justine, not Elizabeth -- you can tell because she's not watching the Kentucky Derby nor giving George W. a false sense of importance this week) is going for her fifth straight appearance in a final this season.

Henin def Li
Jankovic def Hantuchova
Kuznetsova def Peer
Santangelo def Petrova
Vaidisova def Likhovtseva
Hingis def Schnyder
Safina def Chakvetadze
Mauresmo def Pennetta

Henin def Jankovic
Kuznetsova def Santangelo
Hingis def Vaidisova
Mauresmo def Safina

Kuznetsova def Henin
Mauresmo def Hingis

Mauresmo def Kuznetsova

2006 FINAL: Peer d. Stosur
2007 TOP: Bartoli/Dulko

Brianti d. Schruff
Dulko d. Castano

Dulko d. Brianti

...Brianti? Yep. I'm going for a wild long shot (no going with a Street Sense-ian co-favorite here, folks). Look at it this way, if I get it right I'll be able to say I picked it. If I don't, I'll say I knew there wasn't much hope in it. Hey, who had Arn winning Estoril last week?

Bartoli(1) def Razzano(7)
Azarenka def Morigami(6)

Azarenka def Bartoli(1)

All for now.


Blogger idiotsgalore said...

so you're gloating now? such an expected behaviour from u

Tue May 08, 12:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Gloating? If you want to believe I'm "gloating," so be it. Obviously, nothing I could ever say would dissuade you from seeing it that way no matter how wrong-headed the belief might be.

Tue May 08, 08:29:00 AM EDT  

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