Monday, February 28, 2005

Wk.8 - A Very Russian Winter WTA BACKSPIN February 28, 2005 A VERY RUSSIAN WINTER by Todd Spiker After some uncharacteristically shaky play Down Under, the Horde (save the Czarina) shaped up a bit in February. Four weeks of action produced four Russian championships from three different players (the Supernova, as usual, just had to set herself apart by claiming two). With four titles claimed by Russians thus far in '05 -- Italy is the only other nation with more than one (both by Flavia Pennetta), the WTA landscape is starting to look a little more familiar. So, was Melbourne simply an aberration? A mirage? Is the stage being set for another three-slam year? Time will tell, but as for February... **PLAYERS OF THE MONTH** 1.Maria Sharapova 2.Flavia Pennetta 3.Amelie Mauresmo 4.Dinara Safina 5.Sania Mirza RISER: Flavia Pennetta SURPRISE: Alyona Bondarenko VETERAN: Conchita Martinez FRESH FACE: Sania Mirza DOWN: Karolina Sprem *PERFORMANCE OF THE MONTH* Dinara Safina in Paris ...she defeated Sprem, Golovin and Mauresmo for her third career title, and the biggest (Tier II) so far. *MATCH OF THE MONTH* Tokyo TPP Final - Sharapova d. Davenport ...6-1/3-6/7-6. Nobody puts losses behind them quicker than the Supernova. A week after letting match points for an Oz final appearance slip away, she claimed her first Tier I title on her fourth MP. *CHOKE OF THE MONTH* Antwerp Final - Mauresmo d. V.Williams ...4-6/7-5/6-4. Williams served at 5-4 in the 2nd set, and was up 4-2 in the 3rd. Afterward, she talked about a potential stomach muscle injury. On Monday, she followed up this match with a loss in straights to Silvia Farina Elia in Dubai. Maybe she had a hangnail this time? *COMEBACK OF THE MONTH* Conchita Martinez in Pattaya ...the vet won her first singles title in nearly five years (her 33rd overall), defeating Anna-Lena Groenefeld in a three-set final. *BREAKOUT OF THE MONTH* Sania Mirza in Hyderabad ...the Indian Princess came to her hometown and became the first from her country to win a WTA crown. The 18-year old isn't sleeping on her success, either (listening Ms.Sprem?). She ended the month on Monday by fighting for a three-set win in Dubai over Jelena Kostanic. *UPSET OF THE MONTH* Bogota SF - Dominguez-Lino d. Zuluaga ...7-6/7-6. Zuluaga had won three straight titles in her hometown tournament, but she couldn't get past a world #193 who'd never been past a WTA QF before the day she upset the Colombian. *REAWAKENING OF THE MONTH* Vera Zvonareva in Memphis ...while she isn't quite Rumpelstilskin, Zvonareva awakened from a month-long sleep to finally get her 2005 tennis legs by successfully defending her title from '04. *"BEST SEASON SERIES" NOMINEE* Dinara Safina vs. Tatiana Golovin ...tied 1-1 in February *TOP FEBRUARY STORIES* 1.Russians Rule in Winter 2.Princess Sania Claims Her Crown 3.Legit Comebacks: Martinez & Hantuchova 4.Legit Comeback (so far): Kim Clijsters 5.Corrupted "Comeback": Martina Hingis ====================================== ====================================== ==WEEK 8== DOHA, QATAR (II-HO) S: Sharapova d. Molik 4-6/6-1/6-4 D: Molik/Schiavone d. Black/Huber ================================= ACAPULCO, MEXICO (III-RC) S: Pennetta d. Cervanova 3-6/7-5/6-3 D: Jidkova/Perebiynis d. Andres-Rodriguez/Medina-Garrigues ==PLAYER AWARDS== PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Maria Sharapova & Flavia Pennetta ...the Supernova showed she has a long memory, upping her record against Molik to 2-0 since losing to her in the Zurich final last October. After defeating the Aussie in Doha, Sharapova's now an impressive 13-1 in pro finals (9-1 in WTA events). Meanwhile, Pennetta made it 2-for-2 in '05 red clay events, winning her second title in as many weeks in Acapulco. She's not in Sharapova's class, but she seems to have gotten the hang of these finals. After going 0-2 in finals to start '04, she's now won in her last three appearances. ====================================== RISERS: Alicia Molik & Daniela Hantuchova ...Molik didn't win Doha, but she got a huge win over Mauresmo to climb to a career-best #8 singles ranking. Then, she won the doubles with Francesca Schiavone to move to #10 in doubles (knocking off #1 Ruano-Pascual/Suarez along the way). Wonder Girl is gaining some momentum as Indian Wells (where her lone WTA title was claimed in '02) approaches, "upsetting" the likes of Maggie Maleeva, Elena Bovina and Conchita Martinez en route to the Doha SF. ====================================== SURPRISE: Antonella Serra-Zanetti ...Pennetta wasn't the only Italian who faired well in Acapulco. Serra-Zanetti, 24, didn't match her career-best WTA result ('03 Casablanca RU), but she did manage to advance to the SF. ====================================== VETERANS: Conchita Martinez & Dally Randriantefy ...Martinez, nearly 33, got the week's biggest upset in Doha with a 2nd Round win over Anastasia Myskina en route to the QF (and it wasn't even a clay event!). Madagascar's Randriantefy turned 28 last week in Mexico, and celebrated with wins over Angela Haynes and Emilie Loit to reach the SF, her best career WTA result. ====================================== FRESH FACES: Maria Kirilenko & Kristina Barrois ...the Supernovette qualified in Doha with a win over Samantha Stosur, then upset Patty Schnyder on the way the QF. Meanwhile..."Kristina who?" is the first thing that comes to mind with Barrois, right? Well, I agree. But the 23-year old German has already won three ITF titles this season (the 2004 ITF title co-leader was Mirza with six), so she might be someone to keep an eye on. ====================================== DOWN: Anastasia Myskina & Samantha Stosur ...the Czarina was the two-time defending Doha champ, then she got bounced in straight sets by Martinez in the 1st Round. She's now 5-4 in WTA matches in '05. As for Stosur... well, she's out of Australia and things aren't going nearly as well. Last week, she lost twice in Doha -- in the final qualifying round (to Kirilenko) and then again in the 1st Round (to Sugiyama) as a lucky loser. ==LINK OF THE WEEK== ...this week's entry is the first '05 nominee for "Name of the Year." The 24-year old American in question, ranked #478, lost in the second round of qualifying last week in Acapulco. Her name: Kaysie Smashey. Here's her WTA bio: ==MATCHES== 1.Doha F - Sharapova d. Molik ...4-6/6-1/6-4. Sharapova is now tied for the most WTA titles ever won by a Russian woman (9). ====================================== 2.Doha SF - Molik d. Mauresmo ...7-6/6-1. The Steamer's best career win prevented Mauresmo from swiping #1 away from Davenport...but, as noted before, #1 isn't her "main concern." Obviously. ====================================== 3.Doha 2r - Martinez d. Myskina ...6-4/7-5. Anastasia...wake up! ====================================== 4.Acap F - Pennetta d. Cervanova ...3-6/7-5/6-3. Pennetta's undefeated on red clay, with a 10-match winning streak. ====================================== 5.Doha 2r - Kirilenko d. Schnyder ...6-0/1-6/6-2. When will the first Supernova vs. Supernovette final take place? ====================================== HM--Doha SF - Sharapova d. Hantuchova ...6-2/6-4. HM--Doha 2r - Hantuchova d. Bovina ...6-0/3-6/6-3. Has it already been three years since Wonder Girl was christened the "next big thing" in Indian Wells? ====================================== ====================================== ==WTA LISTS== **SHARAPOVA IN PRO FINALS** 9-1...WTA 4-0...ITF **MOST CAREER TITLES - RUSSIANS** 9...Olga Morozova (1969-75) 9...Maria Sharapova (2002-05) 9...Anastasia Myskina (1999-04) 5...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002-04) **MOST 2005 SINGLES TITLES** 2...Maria Sharapova 2...Flavia Pennetta **MOST SINGLES TITLES - 2004/05** 7...Sharapova (5/2) 7...Davenport (7/0) 6...Mauresmo (5/1) 5...Henin-Hardenne (5/0) **2005 LONG WTA WINNING STREAKS** 10...Flavia Pennetta (February-current) 10...Ana Ivanovic (January) **2005 AVERAGE W/RU RANKINGS** JANUARY: 50.3/54.0 FEBRUARY: 34.7/58.3 **BACK-TO-BACK WTA FINALS** =January= Samantha Stosur (0-2) =Jan/Feb= Lindsay Davenport (0-2) =February= Amelie Mauresmo (1-1) Flavia Pennetta (2-0) **2005 TOP 10 SINGLES/DOUBLES** [simultaneous Top 10 rankings] Svetlana Kuznetova (8 weeks) Alicia Molik (1 week) ====================================== ====================================== ==WEEK 9 WHISPERS== ...hmmm... wonder if Sharapova and Pennetta would have won last week if I'd put my name on the picks? Still, I DID pick two winners last week... even if Pierre gets the "credit." This week, I go for three in a row, while Myskina and Kuznetsova try to make it five straight weeks with a Russian champion. I guess I'd better just pick someone before the spirits get wind that it's my voice returning to this section this week, so... DUBAI Final - Serena Williams def. Lindsay Davenport Hope that worked. All for now.

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