Monday, January 17, 2005

Wk.2 - The Waltzing Mathilda Oz Preview WTA BACKSPIN January 15, 2005 THE WALTZING MATHILDA PREVIEW: Curse vs. Destiny? by Todd Spiker I'll switch around and put the week's awards first, then end things with the Australian Open preview. ==WEEK 2 CHAMPIONS== SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (II-HO) S: Alicia Molik d. Samantha Stosur 6-7/6-4/7-5 D: Stewart/Stosur d. Dementieva/Sugiyama (w/o) ===================================== HOBART, AUSTRALIA (V-HO) S: Jie Zheng d. Gisela Dulko 6-2/6-0 D: Yan/Zheng d. Medina-Garrigues/Safina ===================================== CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (V-HO) S: Ana Ivanovic d. Melinda Czink 7-5/6-1 D: Garbin/Krizan d. G.Navratilova/Pastikova ===================================== AUSTRALIAN OPEN QUALIFYING Qualifiers: Sesil Karatantcheva, Michaella Kraijicek, Jessica Kirkland, Nan-Nan Liu, Angela Haynes, Ting Li, Elena Baltacha, Zuzana Ondraskova, Zsofia Gubacsi, Anastasia Yakimova, Meilen Tu, Aiko Nakamura ==PLAYER AWARDS== PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Alicia Molik & Jie Zheng ...Molik won her fifth career title in taking the all-Aussie Sydney battle with Samantha Stosur. So far, she's won all eight of her matches in '05 and is hoping that she'll be able to challenge to become the first Aussie women's champ in Melbourne since 1978 (Chris O'Neil). Zheng, world #82, became the second of the Chinese women to claim a WTA singles title. She won Hobart, knocking off Na Li -- the first Chinese champ, in '04-- in the SF. She also took the doubles with fellow Cookie Zi Yan. ===================================== RISERS: Samantha Stosur & Gisela Dulko ...Stosur got two walkovers in the Sydney QF/SF to get to her second straight 2005 singles final, but her win over Tatiana Golovin and tight three-setter against Molik in the final proved that luck wasn't involved (she won the doubles, too). Her Melbourne reward? Amelie Mauresmo in the 1st Round. Dulko was 0-4 in Hopman Cup singles, but she didn't let it get her down. In Hobart, the 19-year old (she turns 20 on January 30) Argentine made it all the way to her first WTA singles final before finally wiping out against Zheng. The player best known for defeating Martina Navratilova twice in grand slam matches last year, is now poised to enter the Top 30 for the first time. ===================================== SURPRISE: Melinda Czink & Yuliana Fedak ...Czink's week in Canberra probably even surprised her. First, she lost in the qualifying final to Ana Ivanovic. But when Katarina Srebotnik pulled out of the main draw, "lucky loser" Czink, world #128, got a second chance. She almost pulled off a miracle, getting all the way to the final before finally losing... again, to Ivanovic. Ukrainian Fedak, 21, beat a string of veterans (Pratt, Tanasugarn, Farina Elia) en route to a SF in the same Canberra event. ===================================== VETERAN: Kveta Peschke ...with Lindsay Davenport pulling out of a QF match with bronchitis, there weren't many great exploits by vets this week. So the elder stateswoman of the Czech contingent, 29-year old Peschke, gets the nod for wins over Sucha and Medina-Garrigues along her path to the Hobart QF. She'll face off against Anastasia Myskina in the 1st Round in Melbourne. ===================================== FRESH FACES: Ana Ivanovic & Shuai Peng ...17-year old Serb Ivanovic qualified in Canberra and then took her momentum all the way to her first WTA title (knocking off Czink twice along the way). Ranked #100, and a star on the ITF tour in '04 with a 34-match winning streak, Ivanovic becomes the first player to check off one of the Backspin Quick Pick Predictions (I picked her to win her first title). Thanks, Ana... at this point, I need all the help I can get (more on that later). 19-year old Cookie Peng was this week's Russian slayer, as the Sydney qualifer took out both Myskina and Nadia Petrova on the way to the SF. She could face Venus Williams next in the Australian 2nd Round. ===================================== DOWN: Anatasia Myskina ...the Czarina has bounced back from worse things than her opening match loss to Peng in Sydney (does Chakvetadze at Wimbledon ring a bell, or maybe JHH in Athens?). Still, tossing in a 6-winner/33-unforced error effort less than a week before a slam can't do wonders for her confidence, can it? ==LINK OF THE WEEK== Read about Sesil Karatantcheva, the "devilish" Australian Open qualifier who'll finally get another chance to "kick (the Supernova's) ass off" in the 1st Round:,0,6072116.column?coll=sfla-sports-tennis ==KUZNETSOVA CURSE/TENNISRULZ JINX UPDATE== ...the Contessova didn't play last week, but she'll open up her Aussie Open campaign (as the #5 seed) against American qualifier Jessica Kirkland. So, we'll see if the Jinx has legs. The Curse certainly does. My champion predictions are currently riding an 0-for-7 slide, as I pulled another 0-fer this past week (0-3). Hmmm... Head Honcho Cantin says he thinks the blame should be shared. But, come on, WE know who the REAL culprit is, right? Afterall, this type of thing didn't happen until he took me up on the offer to include his Top 10 picks in the Backspin season preview. Coincidence? You be the judge. I'm just kidding, of course... well, kind of. ==MATCHES== 1.Syd F - Molik d. Stosur ...6-7/6-4/7-5. After back-to-back walkovers, Stosur was shocked to learn she'd actually have to PLAY for the title. ===================================== 2.Canb F - Ivanovic d. Czink ...7-5/6-1. Czink failed to become the first LL to win a WTA title since Kay McDaniel in Atlanta in 1980. "Who?," you ask? Exactly. ===================================== 3.Hob F - Zheng d. Dulko ...6-2/6-0. Shuai Peng, Zi Yan, Ting Li, Nan-Nan Liu and Tian Tian Sun... the pressure has now shifted to your collective shoulders. ===================================== 4.Syd 2r - Peng d. Myskina ...6-1/6-3. 33 unforced errors? Channeling Marat, are we, Anastasia? ===================================== 5.Syd QF - Peng d. Petrova ...6-3/4-2 ret. One Russian is the start of a trend. Two is a jinx. Oh, wait... that's something else. Umm, let me see... oh, I know. Bravo, Shuai! ===================================== 6.Syd 1r - Daniilidou d. Martinez ...3-6/6-4/6-4. A return to the land of the living... for both of them. ===================================== 7.Syd 2r - Zuluaga d. Zvonareva ...7-6/6-3. Vera the Almost hasn't even lived up to her nickname so far in 2005. ===================================== 8.Hob SF - Zheng d. Na Li ...3-6/6-4/6-0. Looks like Zheng learned something about finishing off opponents after crashing out of Athens after holding a big lead against Sugiyama. ===================================== 9.Hob 2r - Vaidisova d. Safina ...6-1/4-6/6-3. Just a little update on Darth's progress. She has a good shot to get to the 3rd Round in Melbourne and face Davenport. ===================================== 10.Hob 1r - Casey Dellaqua d. Jidkova ...7-5/6-4. If it's January, you can count on a nice win by an Aussie wild card. ===================================== HM-Syd Doub.1r - Huber/McShea d. Hantuchova/Navratilova ...6-3/6-4. Not a great start for the Wonder Girl/Wonder Woman team. ==LISTS== **2005 WTA SINGLES FINALISTS** Average Rank of Champions: #59 Average Rank of Runners-Up: #65 Current #59 (Jan.10): Samantha Stosur Current #65 (Jan.10): Katarina Srebotnik **2005 FINALISTS BY COUNTRY** 3...Australia (1 win) 1...Switzerland, Slovenia, China, Serbia (each with 1 win) 1...Japan, Argentina, Hungary (0 wins) **MOST SINGLES TITLES - 2004/05* 7...Davenport (7/0) 5...Mauresmo (5/0) 5...Sharapova (5/0) 5...Henin-Hardenne (5/0) 4...Molik (3/1) ===================================== ===================================== ===================================== ==WALTZING MATHILDA PREVIEW== Holy dooley! It's grand slam time already? Well, as you'll see, I've got my trusty Aussie slang dictionary by my side, so if any of you "Lucky Country" natives spot a linguistic mistake you can just blame Pierre (sorry, force of habit). In Austra-logical order... ==DAYS 1-4== =FIRST SEED OUT?= It's always a true contest to see which seeded Sheila will be the first to be up a gum tree. Most likely to go on walkabout in the first two days, in order of probability: (Seeds #17-32) #32 Benesova (vs.Ivanovic) #26 Hantuchova (vs.Morigami) #27 Smashnova (vs.Sanchez-Lorenzo) #30 Pennetta (vs.Mandula) (Seeds #1-16) #11 Petrova (vs.Razzano) #16 Sugiyama (vs.Sucha) #9 Zvonareva (vs.Liu) #8 V.Williams (vs.Daniilidou) #12 Schnyder (vs.Fedak) #2 Mauresmo (vs.Stosur) #3 Myskina (vs.Peschke) #4 Sharapova (vs.Karatantcheva) ===================================== =UPSET QUEENS= So, who'll claim the title as the fair dinkum "Upset Queens" of the early days of Melbourne action? I'll give it a burl with some possibilities: THE SERBS: Ivanovic vs. Benesova, Mamic vs. Likhovtseva THE SHEILAS: Pratt vs. Jankovic, Adamczak vs. Sprem, Stosur vs. Mauresmo THE COOKIES: Liu vs. Zvonareva, Zheng vs. Safina, Peng vs. V.Williams (2r), Na Li vs. Sharapova (3r) THE PASTRIES: Razzano vs. Petrova, Cohen Aloro vs. Pierce THE MAIDENS: Peschke vs. Myskina, Vaidisova vs. Davenport (3r), Koukalova vs. Raymond (2r) ===================================== =STOP-THE-PRESSES EARLY MATCHUPS= A few potential corkers: 1st Rd. - Sharapova vs. Karatantcheva 1st Rd. - Mauresmo vs. Stosur 2nd Rd. - V.Williams vs. Peng 2nd Rd. - Dementieva vs. Chakvetadze 2nd Rd. - Zvonareva vs. Douchevina 2nd Rd. - Sugiyama vs. Linetskaya 2nd Rd. - Sprem vs. Weingartner ===================================== ==DAYS 5-6== =MATCHES THAT COULD CHANGE THE TOURNAMENTS= Things generally are fairly quiet in the early days, but every once in a while a top seed faces an underdog who becomes a walloper. So, av-a-go-yer-mug, and one of these players could become a first week headliner, and everything that follows their big moment could be entirely different: 1st Rd. - Karatantcheva d. Sharapova? 1st Rd. - Kirkland d. Kuznetsova? 1st Rd. - Martinez d. Davenport? 1st Rd. - Stosur d. Mauresmo? 2nd Rd. - Safina/Zheng d. Mauresmo? 2nd Rd. - Chakvetadze d. Dementieva? 3rd Rd. - Vaidisova d. Davenport? 3rd Rd. - Ivanovic/Kirilenko d. Mauresmo? 3rd Rd. - Na Li d. Sharapova? 3rd Rd. - Hantuchova d. Dementieva? ===================================== ==DAYS 7-10== =MISS OPPORTUNITY IS...?= Who'll take advantage of the early exits of some of the favorites to achieve their career's greatest grand slam success? A few potential Miss O's: Alicia Molik: the Aussies would surely crack a fat if the #10-seed feeds off an unhealthy Davenport's inability to last long in the scorching heat. Tatiana Golovin: if Dementieva and/or Myskina falter, the Frussian Pastry could make the SF...or better. Samantha Stosur: it's up to her, but she'd have to take a huge bite out of the draw with an upset of Mauresmo in the 1st Round. But when Sammy baby is lucky enough to get two straight walkovers to reach a final last week, something must be going her way. Sesil Karatancheva: if she pulls off the big upset of the Supernova, a new star will officially be born. ===================================== ==DAYS 11-13== =OZ SEMIFINAL/FINAL STATS= ...the #1-seed has won the last three Australian Opens. #1 has faced #2 in the final the last two years. 2004, the SF included #22 and #32-seeded players ...the #1-seed has reached the final for five straight years, and eight of the last ten ...the last three slam champs of '04 were seeded #6, #13 and #9. The average seed of the finalists in the last three slams was #7. ===================================== LAST SEPPO STANDING?: you'd be tempted to say #1 Davenport, but Serena Williams' draw is so favorable it's hard to pick against her. F.I.G.J.A.M. WITH THE BEST SHOT AT TAKING THE TITLE: Serena, again ===================================== =ALTERNATE UNIVERSE SEMIFINALS= Vaidisova/Golovin/Sharapova/Kirilenko ...the "Girls Night Out" version of Oz, with the ankle-biters inheriting the earth. Of course, the chances of that combo happening isn't worth a zack. =DREAM FINALS= ...the matchups that stand out like dog's balls Sharapova vs. Dementieva or Myskina (Supernova vs. Spartak) Molik vs. Sharapova (the only women to ever beat the Supernova in a pro singles final) Serena vs. Venus (for old time's sake) Kuznetsova vs. Myskina (a new Horde combination) Molik vs. Stosur (for the Aussies, at least) ===================================== =MAURESMO'S GRAND SLAM GAMBIT=, will Amelie be apples? If so, she'd better be on her game early (and she's yet to even play in' 05), as Stosur comes up first. Next would be either Zheng or Safina, then maybe Ivanovic or Kirilenko. The QF? Probably, Serena. And only then would she get the chance to bail up against one of the big-time Russians. And she'd STILL need another win to take the title after that. Hmmm, she'll have a better shot at Wimbledon. ===================================== ==BACKSPIN OZ PICKS== =4th Rd.= #1 Davenport d. Weingartner #10 Molik d. #8 V.Williams #3 Myskina d. #14 Schiavone #6 Dementieva d. #12 Schnyder #5 Kuznetsova d. #17 Zuluaga #4 Sharapova d. #15 Farina Elia #7 S.Williams d. #25 Maleeva #2 Mauresmo d. #21 Frazier =Quarters= #10 Molik d. #1 Davenport #6 Dementieva d. #3 Myskina #5 Kuznetsova d. #4 Sharapova #7 S.Williams d. #2 Mauresmo =Semis= #6 Dementieva d. #10 Molik #5 Kuznetsova d. #7 S.Williams Okay, now for the moment of truth. Here's where I decide whether to play chicken with the Kuznetsova Curse/Tennisrulz Jinx. Do I stick with the Contessova and risk the end of the Curse being beyond the black stump if she loses? Or do I accept the role of the cowardly drongo and play mind games with fate, thinking that picking against her will turn back the #1-ranking jinx Cantin & I put on Kuznetsova a few weeks ago? Come on, now. What do you THINK I'm going to do? If Kuznetsova rages on to this point, I couldn't help playing the odds that she'll be the one leaving Melbourne grinning like a shot fox. So, I'll make it official: =FINAL= #5 Kuznetsova def. #6 Dementieva I may end up mad as a cat snake two weeks from now, but so be it. If that's the case... poor, Contessova. Somebody might need to be sacrificed to get the tennis gods back on her side (hmmm... considering Serena's comments about virginity this past week, maybe she'll volunteer for the volcano leap? Just tossin' it out there.). Curse, or destiny. Which will win out? Stay tuned. Hooroo (that's Aussie for "all for now," as far as I can tell from my trusty little handbook... of course, if I'm wrong... well, you know the drill).

All for now.

Pierre Cantin's Oz preview can be found on Tennisrulz.


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