Thursday, July 12, 2007

WTA Backspin Grass Court Awards

In the first week of July in 2002, "Backspin" essentially began its run by presenting the first of what would become annual Grass Court Awards. Five years later... the beat goes on.

*TOP GRASS COURT PLAYERS*
1. Venus Williams/USA


...
sorry, Hank. But Venus is engaged to the All-England Club.
=============================
2. Justine Henin/BEL
...
still looking for that career slam. Hmmm, if history holds to the norm, Venus and Serena will be in bad form at the even-numbered 2008 Wimbledon. It might be La Petit Taureau's best shot. (Of Note: While "Le Petit Taureau" is actually grammatically correct, I've pulled a "Douchevina to Dushevina" move and amended my favorite Backspin nickname to "La Petit Taureau" for aesthetic purposes. Plus, maybe an alteration was in order considering the new "peaceful" Justine who's made her debut this season, right?)
=============================
3. Marion Bartoli/FRA
...
may she never be confused for a Noodle again.
=============================
4. Jelena Jankovic/SRB
...
a disappointing Wimbledon (remember, she lost to "La Trufflette," too), but Birmingham gave her titles on four different surfaces in 2007.
=============================
5. Ana Ivanovic/SRB
...
the coolest Serb on the court. Well, at least the one who's not named Novak.
=============================
HM- Cara Black/ZIM & Liezel Huber/RSA
...
move over, Lisa & Sam.
=============================

*RISERS*
1. Marion Bartoli/FRA
2. Jelena Jankovic/SRB
3. Ana Ivanovic/SRB
4. Yung-Jan Chan/TPE & Chia-Jung Chuang/TPE
5. Anna Chakvetadze/RUS
6. Nadia Petrova/RUS
7. Elena Vesnina/RUS
8. Angelique Kerber/GER
9. Mara Santangelo/ITA
10. Katarina Srebotnik/SLO
HM- Su-Wei Hsieh/TPE


*FRESH FACES*
1. Tamira Paszek/AUT
2. Michaella Krajicek/NED
3. Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS
4. Urszula Radwanska/POL
5. Olga Govortsova/BLR
6. Aravane Rezai/FRA
7. Agnes Szavay/HUN
8. Madison Brengle/USA
9. Ayumi Morita/JPN
10. Casey Dell'Acqua/AUS
HM- Evgeniya Rodina/RUS


*SURPRISES*
1. Laura Granville/USA
2. Nika Ozegovic/CRO
3. Naomi Cavaday/GBR
4t. Katarzyna Piter/POL
4t. Anna Fitzpatrick/GBR
6. Bojana Jovonovski/SRB
7. Melanie South/GBR
8. Yvonne Meusburger/AUT
9. Katie O'Brien/GBR
10. Gail Brodsky/USA
HM- Stephanie Vogt/LIE


*VETERANS*
1. Venus Williams/USA
2. Cara Black/ZIM & Liezel Huber/RSA
3. Patty Schnyder/SUI
4. Lisa Raymond/USA
5. Milagros Sequera/VEN
6. Ai Sugiyama/JPN
7. Elena Likhovtseva/RUS
8. Virginia Ruano-Pascual/ESP
9. Akiko Morigami/JPN
10. Hana Sromova/CZE
HM- Kristina Brandi/PUR


*COMEBACK PLAYERS*
1. Venus Williams/USA
2. Patty Schnyder/SUI
3. Alicia Molik/AUS
4. Virginia Ruano-Pascual/ESP
5. Elena Likhovtseva/RUS


*DOWN*
1. Amelie Mauresmo/FRA
2. Martina Hingis/SUI
3. Severine Bremond/FRA
4. Jamea Jackson/USA
5. Nicole Vaidisova/CZE
HM- Anastasia Myskina/RUS & Vera Zvonareva/RUS
(Hall of Fame: Anna Smashnova)


MOST SCINTILLATING PERFORMANCE: Sure, Venus Williams winning her fourth Wimbledon title was the BIGGEST ultimate result of the grass court season, but it was her 6-1/6-3 Round of 16 destruction of Maria Sharapova -- in which she never faced a break point on serve -- on Centre Court that was the moment when Venus went from a barely-alive zombie moving at a snail's pace to one of those "28 Days (or whatever) Later" types who could outrun the entire tournament field.

MOST FANTASTIC (albeit somewhat biased) PREDICTION: Before play began at Wimbledon, Richard Williams actually announced to everyone who wanted to listen that Venus was going to win the tournament. Funny thing is, he's pulled this sort of Nostradamus act before.

BEST JUDGE OF TALENT BY A RUSSIAN NAMED OLGA: Last year, after a 6-0/6-0 skunking by Marion Bartoli in Quebec City, Olga Poutchkova was the subject of world wide tennis fan guffaws when she said that she was surprised that the Frenchwoman hadn't already won a grand slam. Less than a year later, Bartoli upset the world #1 and #3 and reached the Wimbledon final. Not a grand slam title run, mind you, but vindication for the eye for talent sported by the Russian teenager.

SPEAKING OF EYES FOR TALENT: Earlier this year, Justine Henin was pushed to three sets by young Austrian shotmaker Tamira Paszek. Afterward, she said she thought the teenager would be a Top 5 player some day. After the 16-year old currently ranked #35 upset Tatiana Golovin and Elena Dementieva to reach the 4th Round at Wimbledon, Justine's talent eye isn't looking too shabby, either.

*BEST MATCH*
Eastbourne F - Henin d. Mauresmo
...7-5/6-7/7-6.
Henin was up a break in the 2nd, but Mauresmo battled back to take the set. Mauresmo was up a break in the 3rd and served at 5-4, but lost her edge in crunch time in this grass court rematch of the '06 Wimbledon final.

*THE BIGGEST UPSET...until the next one*
Wimbledon SF - Bartoli d. Henin
...1-6/7-5/6-1.
Bartoli was a Top 20 player, and a semifinalist at two grass tune-up events, so maybe this one wasn't as monumental an upset-for-the-ages as some tennis commentators would have everyone believe. But, still, unless you were named Olga or Bartoli, you probably would have had no reason to think the #18-seed was going to take out the world #1 on the biggest stage in the sport.

DEJA VU: In 2005, Serena Williams "shocked" the tennis world with a triumphant return to the WTA spotlight when she won the Australian Open. Five months later, sister Venus did the same thing at Wimbledon. Two years later, the exact same story developed. See you in 2009?

DEJA VU, DEJA VU: In 2005, Venus Williams claimed the Wimbledon Ladies title, while a Radwanska (Agnieszka) won the Girls crown. This year, Venus won again... and was joined in the winner's circle by another Girls title-winning Radwanska sister, this time A-Rad's little sis Urszula.

*BIGGEST LOSS THAT RESEMBLED A CHOKE*
Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Vaidisova d. Mauresmo
...7-6/4-6/6-1.
A year after winning SW19 and erasing so many doubts, Mauresmo returned from her appendectomy surgery to collapse at the All-England Club. She blew a 5-3, then 6-3 lead in the tie-break, advantage in the 1st set. Then, with the match knotted at two sets, the defending champion put on a listless final set performance where her only moment to remember came when she uncharacteristically fired a ball into the stands in anger.

*AND IF IT WASN'T A CHOKE, THEN WHY WAS IT CONTAGIOUS?*
Wimbledon QF - Ivanovic d. Vaidisova
..4-6/6-2/7-5.
After getting a "free ride" from Mauresmo, Vaidisova squandered it just one round later. Up 5-3 in the deciding set, she held three match points on Ivanovic's serve -- including a short court setter that she dumped into the net with a nervous forehand -- before collapsing at an even more disadvantageous moment than Mauresmo had. In the end, Vaidisova double-faulted on Ivanovic's second match point.

*BIZARRO MATCH OF A MATCH-UP OF PAST 2007 BIZARRO MATCH VICTIMS*
Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Schnyder d. Pin
...6-1/4-6/8-6.
In Melbourne, Camille Pin lost to Maria Sharapova in the 1st Round in the Aussie Extreme Heat, 9-7 in the 3rd. In Paris, Patty Schnyder lost to Sharapova in an 8-6 3rd set after having held two match points. At Wimbledon, Sharapova's '07 slam victims met... and Pin blew a match point, freeing up Schnyder for what would eventually be her best SW19 result (4th Rd.).

WELL, THAT EXPLAINS A LOT: Anna-Lena Groenefeld's free-fall from Top 20 player-on-the-rise to out-of-the- Top-100 vexing afterthought was at least given some context after she lost at Wimbledon. After her exit, she talked about her troubles with ex-manager/coach Rafael Font De Mora, who she said has taunted her during matches, given away tips on how to beat her to her opponents and generally messed with her head and confidence. Apparently, the two are now engaged in legal action each other.

"WAKE HER UP WHEN IT'S OVER... OOPS, THAT WAS AN AWFULLY QUICK CAT NAP, WASN'T IT?": 15-year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another talented Russian whose had a brilliant junior career, made her grand slam main draw debut at Wimbledon amidst talk that she might be able to challenge Daniela Hantuchova in their 1st Round meeting. Hantuchova won 6-0/6-1 in 40 minutes. The jump from junior to the "big time" rarely has looked so daunting... and made Tamira Paszek's immediate success appear more impressive.

**VOGUE**
...on the days when rain was the main story at Wimbledon, fashion became the big issue. No one had a problem with Maria Sharapova's classic "Swan Lake" inspired dress.


While nearly everyone had to scratch their head about how Tatiana Golovin managed to get her bright red knickers past the Wimbledon fashion police's dress code.


HISTORY CHANGER: In the 1st Round of Wimbledon, Alla Kudryavtseva had Venus Williams teetering on the edge of oblivion, getting to within two points of knocking her out of SW19 barely before the tournament had begun. Of course, Venus won.

HISTORY CHANGER: THE SEQUEL: In the 3rd Round, Akiko Morigami served at 5-3 in the 3rd set against Venus. Venus won the final four games of the match.

HISTORY CHANGER: THE TRILOGY: No, this one didn't include Venus. But in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, Jelena Jankovic led her opponent 3-2 in the 3rd set when rain interrupted the match. Once play resumed, Jankovic failed to win another game. Her opponent? Marion Bartoli, who went on to upset Justine Henin and reach her first slam final.

*MOST DRAMATIC MOMENT*


Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - S.Williams d. Hantuchova
...6-2/2-6/7-6.
Like a racehorse limping down the back stretch with the track ambulance in hot pursuit, Serena Williams looked like a goner against Wonder Girl after plopping down onto the grass in pain. But the rains came, and the rest was history. Well, for a couple more days, at least. Still, few will remember that Serena lost her next match.

**BARTOLI NEVER DIES**
...of course, the most fun story to come out of the grass court season was Marion Bartoli saying that seeing the "beautiful" Pierce Brosnan in the stands after she lost the 1st set to Henin inspired her to victory, for she didn't want to look bad in front of one of her favorite actors. Hmmm, this all leads one to wonder what would have happened had she seen any of the other 007's in attendence during the match. Would Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton (yeah, as if Dalton's Bond could inspire anything other than an early bedtime)or Daniel Craig have resulted in a La Petit Taureau win rather than one by La Trufflette? Maybe next time they meet, Justine should ask Pam Shriver, wife of Lazenby, if he'd like a seat in the Friends Box. You know, just in case.





*2007 WEEKS AT #1*
[SINGLES]
20..JUSTINE HENIN/BEL
7...Maria Sharapova/RUS
[DOUBLES]
13..L.Raymond/USA & S.Stosur/AUS (co-#1)
11..Lisa Raymond/USA
3...CARA BLACK/ZIM

*2007 WEEKS IN TOP 10*
[out of 27 weeks]
27...JUSTINE HENIN/BEL
27...MARIA SHARAPOVA/RUS
27...SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA/RUS
27...AMELIE MAURESMO/FRA
24...Martina Hingis/SUI
23...JELENA JANKOVIC/SRB
22...NADIA PETROVA/RUS
22...NICOLE VAIDISOVA/CZE
18...Kim Clijsters/BEL
12...ANNA CHAKVETADZE/RUS
12...Elena Dementieva/RUS
9....ANA IVANOVIC/SRB
8....SERENA WILLIAMS/USA
8....Dinara Safina/RUS
3....Patty Schnyder/SUI
1....Daniela Hantuchova/SVK

*MOST 2007 SURFACE TITLES*
4...Jelena Jankovic [HARD/G-CLAY/R-CLAY/GRASS]
3...Justine Henin [2 HARD/2 R-CLAY/GRASS]
2...Anna Chakvetadze [HARD/GRASS]
2...Venus Williams [HARD/GRASS]

*2007 TOP 10ers - Won/Lost*
54-13...Jelena Jankovic
38-4....Justine Henin
36-10...Anna Chakvetadze
36-12...Ana Ivanovic
36-12...Svetlana Kuznetsova
32-16...Daniela Hantuchova
31-13...Dinara Safina
27-9....Nicole Vaidisova
26-5....Serena Williams
26-8....Maria Sharapova
26-12...Nadia Petrova
25-10...Amelie Mauresmo
24-13...Patty Schnyder
21-10...Elena Dementieva
20-9....Martina Hingis
14-4....Kim Clijsters

*JUNIOR TOP 10*
[as of July 9]
1. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS
2. Urszula Radwanska/POL
3. Anastasia Pivovarova/RUS
4. Ksenia Milevskaya/BLR
5. Madison Brengle/USA
6. Nikola Hofmanova/AUT
7. Julia Cohen/USA
8. Alize Cornet/FRA
9. Ksenia Pervak/RUS
10. Ksenia Lykina/RUS





Backspin's Prediction;
Pierre Cantin's Prediction

*SEMIFINALS*
RUSSIA at UNITED STATES
...a tough task for the Russians just became a whole lot better looking with Serena dropping out, Russia wins 3-2!...I'll stick with Venus finding a way to win both her singles matches, which would mean the Serena-less team only has to win one of three matches. USA 3-2
FRANCE at ITALY
...home crowd advantage for Italy won't be enough, France wins 3-2...Schiavone's had very little to smile about since she spear-headed Italy's Fed Cup title last year. I'll go with Mauresmo leading the way away from the French clay. FRA 3-2.

*WORLD GROUP I PLAYOFFS*
ISRAEL at AUSTRIA...Israel 4-1; Austria 3-2
CHINA at BELGIUM...China 3-2; China 5-0
GERMANY at JAPAN...Germany 3-2; Germany 4-1
CZECH REPUBLIC at SPAIN...Czech Rep. 3-2; Czech Rep. 3-2

*WORLD GROUP II PLAYOFFS*
UKRAINE at AUSTRALIA...Ukraine 3-2; Ukraine 3-2
CANADA at ARGENTINA...Argentina 3-2; Argentina 5-0
TAIWAN at CROATIA...Croatia 3-2; Taiwan 3-2
SERBIA at SLOVAKIA...Serbia 3-2; Serbia 4-1


All for now.

2 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

All the 2007 Grand Slam winners so far are repeats of 2005- the Williams and Henin...but of course the pattern won't continue in New York barring some really strange happenings with Ms. Clijsters. Also notice the Russians seem to dominate in even years (2004/6) but fall away in odd years (2005/now)...although they did win the FedCup in 2005 so that should help your prediction

Sat Jul 14, 11:46:00 AM EDT  
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