Monday, October 15, 2007

Wk.41- How Smart We Were / How Dumb We Were

Yes, it's that time of the year again. Time to begin the long (well, actually it's pretty short -- about a month) final march to the conclusion of the season. Hence, the opening edition of Backspin's annual season-ending series. To kick things off, let's ponder the highs and lows that were the pre-season predictions made by Moi and Monsieur Pierre Cantin.

First up, look at how smart we were:

I said:
...that Agnieszka Radwanska would win her first WTA singles title (she won in Stockholm), while sister Urszula would claim a junior slam (which she did at Wimbledon)
...that Tatiana Golovin would finally win her first WTA singles title(in fact, she's won two)
...that Victoria Azarenka, Sybille Bammer, Vasilisa Bardina, Yung-Jan Chan and Aravane Rezai would become first-time tour singles finalists, while Mariya Koryttseva, Raluca Olaru and Aleksandra Wozniak would appear in their first tour SF's
...that Anna Chakvetadze would win three singles titles (she's got four) and reach a slam SF (US Open)
...and that Sania Mirza's singles ranking would improve by some twenty spots (the 2006 year-end #66 is currently #30)

He said:
...Jelena Jankovic and Martina Hingis would both win Tier I titles
...Svetlana Kuznetsova would finish the year at #3 (she's currently #2)
...that Anna Chakvetadze would reach a slam SF and two slam QF (which is precisely what she did)
...and that Justine Henin would win her second US Open title

All right, so we also had our bad moments...

Ummm, I "sort of" said that...
...Olga Poutchkova and Jamea Jackson would win their first WTA singles titles, while Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova would reach a tour final before Sesil Karatantcheva returned in '08 (Poutchkova had that horrendous losing streak, Jackson struggled to return from hip surgery and Pironkova's best result was a SF in Stockholm)
...neither Daniela Hantuchova nor Francesca Schiavone would win singles titles (they did)
...Nadia Petrova would reach a slam final and finish at #3 (uh...nope)
...Kim Clijsters would end her final season at #4 (I should have known not to place any faith in her giving it one big final effort, I guess)
...Maria Sharapova and Nicole Vaidisova would play two meaningful matches against each other (the Supernova's shoulder and Vaidisova's mono means we're STILL waiting)
...Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, while spending time in the Top 10, wouldn't finish the year there (right now, they're both in the Top 5)

Of course, while he didn't make that many predictions, Pierre, too, was far from perfect. He said that...
...Maria Sharapova would win two slam titles
...there would be just one American woman ranked in the Top 50 (both Williams sisters are in the Top 10)
...Anastasia Myskina would finish 2007 ranked #9 (she was hurt in Auckland in January, and only played a single match at Roland Garros the rest of the season... then recently cut her thigh with a skate blade while participating in a TV ice skating show). Get well soon, Czarina.

Of course, while we both predicted such great results from Chakvetadze, neither of us had the Doll in our year-end Top 10. In retrospect, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Then, there's that nasty little bit about both Pierre and I predicting Sharapova to finish the season at #1... which, as figured at the time, pretty well assured that the "Kuznetsova Curse" would be transferred over to another Russian.

Sure, we both amended our error and correctly re-picked Justine Henin as the 2007 #1 following the 1st Quarter, but the damage had already been done and the Supernova was well on her way to her worst-ever season.

Hmmm, maybe we need an official witch doctor to erase the lethal properties of the Curse. (Well, either that, or we could use it for no good and intentionally try to sabotage an unsuspecting, innocent lass... darn it, too bad Kim's off adding to the population, huh?)

Maybe we'll do better in 2008?


MOSCOW, RUSSIA (I-Supreme Indoor)
S: Elena Dementieva def. Serena Williams 5-7/6-1/6-1
D: Black/Huber d. Azarenka/Poutchek

S: Flavia Pennetta def. Yung-Jan Chan 6-1/6-3
D: T.Sun/Yan wo Morita/Namigata

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Elena Dementieva

hmmm, how many out there had already written off ol' Punch-Sober? Not I, I must say. Not after so much experience at being set straight by the leggy Russian, who'd often pull off a superb run right when it was least expected. (All right, all right... neither Pierre nor I picked Dementieva to be in the '07 Top 10 at the start of the year, but could you really blame us?) Elena provided another sober reminder of her resiliency in Moscow, winning a surprising title in her third trip (2001 & 2004) to her hometown Kremlin Cup's final. Her Moscow victims included the likes of Molik, Schnyder, Azarenka, Safina and Serena as she claimed her second career Tier I crown and second singles title (with Istanbul) of the season. On her 26th birthday (today, the 15th!), one of her presents was a return trip to the Top 10 -- by a slim margin of just a single point over #11 Marion Bartoli -- for the first time since March.
RISERS: Dinara Safina & Tiantian Sun/Zi Yan
it wasn't a bad week in Moscow for the Safin family. Marat won the men's doubles, while Dinara knocked off fellow Hordettes Anna Chakvetadze and Vera Zvonareva en route to a singles SF. Meanwhile, Sun & Yan are developing into just as potent a doubles force as Yan/Zheng were in times past. The Chinese duo teamed up in Bangkok for their second straight title as a pair (and Yan's fifth overall in '07), after having won in Tokyo. For Yan, it was her third title in three weeks, along with her Guangzhou win with Shuai Peng. Of course, this Thailand title came after a walkover in the final. It was sort of a theme with Yan all week, as in singles she advanced past Jelena Jankovic when the Serb retired from their 1st Round match, then she reached the SF after getting a walkover against Vania King in the quarters.
SURPRISES: Yung-Jan Chan & Yi-Miao Zhou

Taiwan's 18-year old Chan, the world #97, took advantage of a well-chosen wild card entry to reach her first career tour final in Bangkok, getting wins over Wozniak, U-Rad and Yan. After a few weeks where both she and regular doubles partner Chia-Jung Chuang had some success independent of one another, they're both together again this week in Zurich. Meanwhile, could the SECOND generation of Chinese stars be on the way? Well, that was a 16-year old Cookie named Yi-Miao Zhou who won a $25K event in Beijing over the weekend, so the hardly-surprising notion of another wave of Chinese women arriving on the WTA's shores appears to be well on its way to becoming reality.
VETERANS: Flavia Pennetta & Cara Black/Liezel Huber
in Bangkok, Pennetta notched her first tour singles title since 2005, and her first on hard court after three previous wins on red clay. Victories over Shahar Peer, Venus Williams and Yung-Jan Chan in the final pushed her 4Q record to a quite nice 13-3. Black & Huber won in Moscow, their seventh title of the year and a second Tier I to go along with a pair of slam crowns in the Australian and at Wimbledon.
FRESH FACES: Victoria Azarenka & Olga Brozda
Azarenka is still looking for her first tour singles title, but she reached the Moscow doubles final with Tathiana Poutchek and followed up her Tashkent RU with a singles QF and big wins over Sybille Bammer and Maria Sharapova. Poland's Brozda, 21, is having quite a stretch on the ITF circuit. She won her second straight event in Volos over the weekend, giving her a 22-2 record with three titles and a RU over the last two months. She's also won back-to-back doubles titles, and reached five straight doubles finals.
DOWN: Maria Sharapova & Anna Chakvetadze
Sharapova's cursed 2007 season was dealt another blow in Moscow as she was dumped out in her first match by Azarenka. Worse yet, with her 2006 championship points in Zurich (from which she's pulled out with continued shoulder problems) and Linz set to come off her computer ranking over the next two weeks, she could soon find herself with her worst ranking since before she won Wimbledon in' 04. A year ago, Chakvetadze seemed to stun herself when she won the Kremlin Cup. This time around, she lost in the 2nd Round to Dinara Safina. Since her US Open SF and Fed Cup win, she's just 1-3 and hasn't advanced past the 2nd Round in any event.

1. Mos F - Dementieva d. S.Williams
Prior to this, the last time Serena lost in a final was the 2004 YEC to Maria Sharapova. As for Dementieva, only she, Henin and Chakvetadze have followed up multiple tour title seasons in '06 by adding at least two more crowns in '07. In one fell swoop, Punch-Sober turned a mediocre season into a pretty good one that might turn out to be her fifth consecutive to end with her residing in the Top 10.
2. Mos 2nd - Azarenka d. Sharapova
Pierre should be receiving that angry phone call from Yuri any day now.
3. Bang F - Pennetta d. Chan 6-1/6-3.

4. Bang SF - Pennetta d. V.Williams
Venus held three sets points here. This type of thing has become something of a trend for Williams of late.
5. Bang 1st - Yan d. Jankovic
...4-6/7-6 ret.
JJ went out with heat illness here. Thankfully, Zurich is indoors... but she could meet you-know-who in the SF again.
6. Bang 2nd - U.Radwanska d. Razzano
Razzano had won back-to-back titles coming in, but she couldn't edge past U-Rad, who reached her first tour singles QF.
7. San Francisco $50K - Harkleroad d. Rao
Nice to see Ashley's still plugging away.
8. Rockhampton $25K F - Erakovic d. Ferguson
It was the 19-year old, Split, Croatia-born Kiwi over the 21-year old Aussie to win her first ITF title of the season.

16...Maria Sharapova (2003-07)
10...Anastasia Myskina (1999-05)
9....Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002-07)
9....Olga Morozova (1969-75)
8....ELENA DEMENTIEVA (2003-07)
7....Nadia Petrova (2005-07)
6....Anna Chakvetadze (2006-07)
5....Dinara Safina (2002-07)
5....Vera Zvonareva (2003-06)

**BEST 2007 FINAL WIN PCT - 2+**
100%...Anna Chakvetadze (4-0)
89%....Justine Henin (8-1)
75%....V.Williams (3-1)

17...Victoria Azarenka (Estoril RU)
17...Sorana Cirstea (Budapest RU)
18...Agnieszka Radwanska (Stockholm W)
18...Agnes Szavay (Palermo W)

**MOSCOW FINALS, 2000-present**
2000 Martina Hingis d. Anna Kournikova
2001 Jelena Dokic d. Elena Dementieva
2002 Maggie Maleeva d. Lindsay Davenport
2003 Anastasia Myskina d. Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Anastasia Myskina d. Elena Dementieva
2005 Mary Pierce d. Francesca Schiavone
2006 Anna Chakvetadze d. Nadia Petrova

**ZURICH FINALS, 2000-present**
2000 Martina Hingis d. Lindsay Davenport
2001 Lindsay Davenport d. Jelena Dokic
2002 Patty Schnyder d. Lindsay Davenport
2003 Justine Henin-H. d. Jelena Dokic
2004 Alicia Molik d. Maria Sharapova
2005 Lindsay Davenport d. Patty Schnyder
2006 Maria Sharapova d. Daniela Hantuchova

2006 FINAL: Sharapova d. Hantuchova
2007 TOP: Henin/Kuznetsova

Henin d. Hantuchova
Jankovic d. A.Bondarenko
Ivanovic d. Peng(Q)
S.Williams d. Kuznetsova

Henin d. Jankovic
S.Williams d. Ivanovic

Henin d. S.Williams

Henin d. Hantuchova
Jankovic d. A.Bondarenko
Ivanovic d. Bartoli
S.Williams d. Kuznetsova

Henin d. Jankovic
S.Williams d. Ivanovic

Henin d. S.Williams

All for now.


Blogger Eric said...

interesting how serena went out yesterday with a right-adductor strain and today dementieva went out with a left-adductor strain...

put the two together and you've got the ultimate server, one of the best returners, and one set of healthy legs :)

Wed Oct 17, 12:11:00 PM EDT  

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