Monday, September 17, 2007

Wk.37- 37 Down, 8 To Go

The 2007 season is quickly nearing the homestretch.

Lindsay Davenport is a champion again, while Russia has another Fed Cup title (even the Supernova was there to celebrate)... and with just two months to go before the WTA closes up shop until 2008, it's time to take a quick look at how things stand in the "Ms. Backspin" race.

2001 Jennifer Capriati / USA
2002 Serena Williams / USA
2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne / BEL
2004 Maria Sharapova / RUS
2005 Kim Clijsters / BEL
2006 Amelie Mauresmo / FRA

Truthfully, though, we're not going to need a photo finish like the one we had last season to determine 2007's top player. In fact, the engraving for the trophy can begin right now. But, after that, there's quite a bit of wiggle room.

*TOP PLAYERS OF 2007... as of now*
1. Justine Henin, BEL
the official naming of the first two-time "Ms. Backspin" winner is just a mere formality at this point.
2. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
consistent, but she hasn't been EXCEPTIONAL as often in 2007 as you'd like for your #3-ranked player in the world
3. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
the first Serb to a slam final, one gets the notion that she might be the first to win one, too. Well, unless Djokovic beats her to it.
4. Venus Williams, USA
after sitting out the beginning of the season, she's actually played far more than you realize.
5. Serena Williams, USA
after opening the season on such a high in Melbourne, she's ultimately played far less than we'd have hoped back in January.
6. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
she's putting a nice late-year shine on a season that's seen her rise to #2 in the world.
7. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
always overlooked, but no Russian has accomplished more over the past twelve months than the Doll.
8. Cara Black & Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
the best doubles team in the world.
9. Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur, USA/AUS
had a fast start, but Stosur's injury trouble has contributed to diminishing returns of late.
10. Marion Bartoli, FRA
no matter what, she'll always have SW19... and Pierce Brosnan.
11. Yung-Jan Chan & Chia-Jung Chuang, TPE/TPE
the doubles revelations of the year, but they missed out on that grand slam title in New York.
12. Maria Sharapova, RUS
Oz runner-up. Roland Garros semifinalist. A Tier I winner in San Diego. But #12? The Supernova's current standing is the very definition of "wiggle room."
S.Peer/ISR (2008's big riser?)
A.Mauresmo/FRA (just because of Antwerp)
M.Santangelo/ITA (five doubles titles)
S.Bammer/AUT (though Lindsay is stealing her mother thunder)
G.Dulko/ARG (two titles)
N.Petrova/RUS (Hopman & Fed Cups, plus a title)
A.Radwanska/POL (the first-ever Polish champion)
D.Hantuchova/SVK (finally, another title)
A.Szavay/HUN (2008's "It" Girl?)


S: Lindsay Davenport d. Daniela Hantuchova 6-4/3-6/6-2
D: C.Ji/S.Sun d. Craybas/Grandin

FED CUP FINAL (Moscow, Russia)
Russia def. Italy 4-0

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Lindsay Davenport
a 31-year old mother ranked #234 in the world wins a title in her first singles action in nearly a year. If it was anyone other than a handful of players, it would be a stunning development... but the former world #1 is one of those players, so Davenport's Bali title doesn't necessarily floor anyone. But, still, getting three-set wins over Jelena Jankovic and Daniela Hantuchova probably isn't the road down which most would have thought her first comeback title would have strolled down. Just goes to show you how much of a role injuries have had in Davenport's title drought of nearly two years. As it is, she said this was the first tournament in about that long where she hasn't had some sort of lower-extremity injury to contend with between matches.
RISERS: Svetlana Kuznetsova & Tsvetana Pironkova
the Contessova had a pretty hard-luck year (thanks to a string of big match losses) going up until a few weeks ago. Then, three retirements gave her a title in New Haven, and the quickly dissolving bottom half of the draw presented her with the chance to reach her second US Open final. With momentum going her way, she was the Russian MVP of the Fed Cup final, breezing through Mara Santangelo and then coming back from match point down against Francesca Schiavone to wrap up a shutout of the defending champion Italians. Meanwhile, with Sesil Karatantcheva coming back on tour in '08, fellow Bulgarian Pironkova is starting to make her way through the ranks after that brief, short-lived spark in '05. She just won a $100K ITF event in Bourdeaux, defeating Alize Cornet 6-2/6-3 in the final.
SURPRISES: Sara Errani & Chinmei Ji/Shengnan Sun

Italy's Errani, 20, made it all the way to the Bali SF with wins over Akgul Amanmuradova, Anabel Medina-Garrigues and Aiko Nakamura. Meanwhile, yet another Chinese doubles team emerged less than a year away from the Beijing Olympics. This time it was Chinmei Ji & Shengnan Sun, ranked #93 and #68 in doubles heading into the tournament, who grabbed their first tour crowns with a title in Bali.
VETERAN: Jagger (and his mom Lindsay, too)

FRESH FACE: Sorana Cirstea

three Romanian women have reached at least the SF stage of WTA events this season, but 17-year old Cirstea is the only one to reach a final (in Budapest back in April). She didn't do it again in Bali, but she did qualify and reach the SF with victories over Alina Jidkova, Patty Schnyder and Edina Gallovits (another of those rising Romanians).
DOWN: Jelena Jankovic
Jelena played. Again. She's set to play this week. Again. In the Bali QF, she went out to Davenport in the returning mother's first match against a Top 10 player in nearly a year. With the Serb's 2007 match tally now over 90 matches, will a "Jelena's-About-to-Drop Watch" need to be instituted during the 4th Quarter?

1. Bali QF - Davenport d. Jankovic
The very definition of a statement win, as a totally healthy Davenport proves she can still beat 'em all if her body is right. Think the Williams sisters, without the catty comments if she happens to lose.
2t. FC Final/Match 1 - Chakvetadze d. Schiavone
2t. FC Final/Match 3 - Kuznetsova d. Schiavone
The Fed Cup gods giveth, and they taketh away. In the SF, Schiavone upset Mauresmo and Golovin, erasing a big 3rd set deficit against the latter, to send Italy to the final. In Moscow, she led 3-1 in the 3rd against Chakvetadze on Saturday, and then held a match point against Kuznetsova in their 2:45 meeting on Sunday.
3. Bali F - Davenport d. Hantuchova
What does Lindsay do for an encore?
4. Bali 1st - Davenport d. Daniilidou
Hello, world. Davenport ran off a string of twenty consecutive points in this match during one stretch.
5. Bali 2nd - Cirstea d. Schnyder
Hmmm, did Sorana get any coaching from Rainer? Just checking.
HM- Lleida $10K F - Heidi El Tabakh d. Eva Fernandez-Brugues
Hey, another Canadian champion!=============================

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

28...Greta Arn, Meghann Shaughnessy
27...Emilie Loit, Amelie Mauresmo, Akiko Morigami, Francesca Schiavone, Venus Williams

#325...Sorana Cirstea/ROU (April-Budapest, L)
#176...Greta Arn/GER (May-Estoril, W)
#143...Yaroslava Shvedova/RUS (Feb-Bangalore, W)
#114...Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN (May-Fes, L)
#104...Milagros Sequera/VEN (May-Fes, W)

7...Russia (Chakvetadze, Dementieva, Kuznetsova, Petrova, Safina, Sharapova, Shvedova)
4...USA (Davenport, Shaughnessy, Williams, Williams)
3...France (Golovin, Loit, Mauresmo)
2...Belgium (Clijsters, Henin)
2...Italy (Schiavone, Italy)
2...Serbia (Ivanovic, Janknovic)

1-0....Austria, Poland, Spain, Venezuela
1-1....Hungary, Japan, SLOVAKIA
1-2....Germany, Switzerland
0-1....Belarus, Canada, Czech Republic, India, Israel, Ukraine

2006 FINAL: Kuznetsova d. Mauresmo
2007 TOP: Kuznetsova/Jankovic

Davenport d. Szavay

...Kuznetsova was the pick here. Then, of course, she pulled out after the 1st Round has been played. As a result, I'll go with Davenport, as she could pretty much go through this event playing the same people (Ditty, Daniilidou, Jankovic) she beat in Bali.

2006 FINAL: Hingis d. Poutchkova
2007 TOP: Bartoli/Hantuchova

Bartoli d. Errani
Kirilenko d. Hantuchova

Kirilenko d. Bartoli's become a tradition to pick Mirza to win a singles title at every tournament held in India, and then to watch her walk away with a doubles trophy instead. That was the plan this time around, too, but then a wrist injury forced a late withdrawal by the Princess (yep, that makes two-for-two in original picks pulling out of this week's tournaments). Now I'll go with Kirilenko, who usually raises her game in Asia.

2006 FINAL: Paszek d. Camerin
2007 TOP: Golovin/Bammer

Zvonareva d. Golovin
Dulko d. Shaughnessy

Zvonareva d. Dulko

...hey, at this point, when in doubt, pick a Russian. That is, unless they pull out of the tournament. So far, Vera is still around.

All for now.


Blogger Eric said...

todd, i've read over your post a couple times and i just don't agree with your placement of Venus...i mean a slam title (*fourth* Wimbie!!) and a very strong Open showing (and as you said, Fed Cup heroics) is she not at least tied for 2nd (if not, outright 2nd)...I mean AnaIvo's had a great year, but how does zero slams trump one slam?? isn't that what you used to decide last year's ms. backspin award...mauresmo's 2 slams to henin's 1 and three finals

I somewhat agree with your placement of serena with her lack of play and lack of thought before speaking...however, going by slam titles as king...i would put serena above anaivo too...

jankovic has just played so much high quality tennis (i think jon wertheim said that her extra ranking points this year = a top 40 player's points) that she definitely deserves to be 2 or 3.

for me it's:

have i persuaded you? :)

Wed Sep 19, 01:31:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Now, of course, these are just the "loose" current standings. Surely, Sharapova won't finish as low as #12 on the list, so it goes to figure that many others will move up or down, as well. :)

It's pretty clear that Henin is #1, and the "second tier" includes the Serbs and the Williamses. The order could probably change after every tournament they play. Clearly, Serena hasn't played enough, or all that well since Miami to be in the Top 4 (watch, she'll win the YEC, though, and really make things difficult). I have Jankovic second largely to honor her workhorse season. At first, I was going to list both the Serbs in a tie for second, which maybe would have strengthened the ranking. But, in the end, I separated them and kept Ivanovic barely ahead of Venus. If Venus had made the US Open final I probably would have jumped her to #2.

Last year, it was a case of Amelie or Justine, and since Mauresmo had beaten Henin in the final of both her slam wins I gave it to her. This time around, it's not quite as clear cut, I think (though Venus has beaten Ivanovic twice in slams this year). Plus, Henin/Mauresmo was an either/or comparison, where this is really a case of 3-4 players being thrown into a hat.

But, as far as Ivanovic over Venus:

Ivanovic only had one SF-or-better result in '06, but this season she's had six. A slam RU and SF, a Tier I & II title, a Tier I RU & Tier II SF. Venus won Wimbledon and was in the US Open SF, won a Tier III and had a Tier I SF. Venus had that one monumental result, but I think Ivanovic's season beyond that has been better in terms of results. Still, with SW19 in Williams' pocket, that's just barely so. At the end of the season, if Ivanovic doesn't have another great result, I could see the Wimbledon title ultimately inching Williams ahead of her on the POY list. So, while all your points are true and I don't disagree with any of them, I'm sticking with what I have... at least for now. :)

Anyway, there are still eight (well, seven) weeks left, so this will probably come down to how they perform at the YEC to determine the final standings.

Wed Sep 19, 11:17:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

do you think venus will make it to the YEC? hantuchova is creeping ever closer...

hey, i'm taking a marketing class right now and we were discussing some steps the NHL should take to increase awareness and interest in the sport of hockey...and some of the suggestions my classmates came up with were really similar to those that are being implemented currently in tennis:
1) shorter season to reduce injuries of top players (the ppl who audiences go to see play); shorter season also makes every match worth more (like there's more riding on the outcome of the match)
2) moving the prime sporting events of the sport to different parts of the year so that they don't compete with the traditionally more popular sports


well, i wanted to ask you, a hardcore fan *and* well-read and well-versed person, what you think the wta should do; and what you think of the potential for success for the Roadmap 09 (or whatever they call it) is...

i was thinking that they give automatic berths into YEC for GS winners (like they do on the men's side)...i mean venus or serena not making it dramatically decreases the juiciness of matchups (cuz seriously, hantuchova vs. the top 7 doesn't make me want to what more tennis...can you say blowout?) not to mention the drama...granted, I understand that they want to reward the consistent performers and those who put in the effort to play for an entire season...

also, i always hear about "player commitments" to the tour...and is it possible for serena to play so little and yet meet those requirements...???


Wed Sep 19, 05:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, as far the NHL is concerned, I think the ship has probably sailed as far as becoming a big national sport in the US outside of selective cities (Boston, Chicago, etc.). There's only room for so many sports, and after football/basketball/baseball, Tiger Woods sort of put golf into that #4 slot. Of course, it would help to not be on a network that either most people can't see or can't find (I mean, Versus? Come on. Plus, no longer being on ESPN means the network has reduced its coverage of the sport on Sportscenter and elsewhere... making it even more invisible than it already is.). Really, no sport needs its own NFL/Golf/Tennis-style channel more than hockey.

Oh, and playing that good idea outdoor game, but then having it occur on January 1st, where it'll get ZERO coverage in the US because of all the bowl games sort of sums up how the NHL has painted itself into a corner largely because of its own marketing ineptitude.

That being said, propping up "Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin" as often as possible IS a good idea. (As an aside -- Go Caps!) :D

Well, right now Venus is #8 in the Race with 2190 points, with Bartoli (1802) and Hantuchova (1801) the closest behind her. It'd probably take a big title being won (and maybe another very good result) by either to catch her... and I wouldn't bet on that happening with those two. Would you?

As far as the Roadmap is concerned, it's a nice idea in theory. Ending the season in October is good, but I wonder if the Australian Open should be moved back, and having the season begin in February looked at as the long-term goal? That'd made a 9-month season, which would be just about right.

But the positive effect of lowering the top player event commitment requirement to 11 events is really going to be up to the players themselves. With it where it is now (13?), Jankovic still chose to play pretty much every week. As it is, the only Top 10 players who won't easily play more events than "required" will be Henin (11 so far), Sharapova (11), Venus (10) and Serena (8). The tour can only do so much. At some point, the players have to regulate their own schedules of their own volition if they want to have long and successful careers. Of those four, only Henin has really made a point of reducing her schedule by choice, rather than by injury... and that's happened only because of the problems she had in the past because she pushed her body too far.

I like the idea of having more joint WTA/ATP events, as is included in the plan. Wouldn't it be great if the year-end tournaments could be that way? Right now, both events will be largely ignored (and being in Madrid and Shanghai doesn't help)... but as a best-of-the-best slam-atmosphere celebration of the sport, they could be pumped up as a mini-version of a grand slam.

I'm not sure what the deal is with Serena and the "requirement." She's surely not going to reach that number, but since it's largely (this season, at least) because of injury I guess she has no penalty. And, yes, it would seem logical for all the slam winners to be given automatic berths into the YEC... though most end up qualifying anyway.

Thu Sep 20, 02:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

hantuchova's entering herself in tiny events that she could win and displace venus (OH NO!!)

anywho...i just remember in 05 when both Venus and Serena didn't qualify even though they won slams and justine didn't play and so the YEC's didn't have 3 of the 4 GS champions that year (and then Clijsters went out in RR play...)

and did you know that hockey is more popular than tennis? like 12% of US like hockey while only 3 % like tennis? i thought that might be off because of the recent US open popularity...perhaps tennis has more casual fans??

and wow, nice comments on the sound like my 3AM no're going to have to tell me what you do one day... :)

Thu Sep 20, 10:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

A "nap" from 12-2:30am helps. :D

Thu Sep 20, 03:22:00 PM EDT  

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