Monday, March 07, 2005

Wk.9 - Of Heavy Balls & Blisters WTA BACKSPIN March 7, 2005 OF HEAVY BALLS & BLISTERS by Todd Spiker Week 9 has passed, after having further proved the headline-grabbing abilities of the Williams sisters... again, as more often than not of late, more for their various ailments and complaints than actual victories. What a perfect time for some more "Random Spins": VENUS WILLIAMS: I joked last week that maybe Venus' Monday 7-5/7-6 1st Round loss to Silvia Farina Elia in Dubai was "because of a hangnail." As it turned out, I wasn't far off the mark. Truth sometimes IS funnier than fiction, or is it just "sad?" After losing to SFE for the first time, Venus blamed it all on a blister on her right palm. "It normally would have been a quick match," she said. "She (SFE) really doesn't have the weapons to hurt me. The blister was really a factor." And if it wasn't, Venus surely could have found something else on which to lay the blame rather than commend her veteran opponent for one of her better career moments. Next time, she'll blame her failure on a curse or something. Well, no, probably not.. I mean, no one EVER does that, right? (More on that, and Serena, soon.) PRINCESS SANIA: The Indian Princess seems to have been emboldened by her title in Hyderabad. In her first action since, she accepted a wild card into the main draw of Dubai. After fighting for a three-set win over Jelena Kostanic, the 18-year old found herself a point from going down 0-5 to Svetlana Kuznetsova when the Indian turned her ankle. She returned to win twelve of the next fourteen games and take out the Contessova in straight sets. Her week ended with a quick SF loss to Jelena Jankovic, but it's difficult not to be more and more impressed with her development as the matches become bigger and bigger. THE CONTESSOVA: What of Kuznetsova? In her first match since the drug story-strewn Australian, she blew that big lead against Mirza and lost in straights. Could it have been the "heavy balls" used in Dubai, as Serena would later use as her crutch? If so, at least the Contessova didn't create a mini-firestorm of her own (maybe Melbourne taught her a lesson?) by saying it. She DID rebound by reaching the doubles final with Alicia Molik. WONDER GIRL: If Daniela Hantuchova has been aiming to peak heading into Indian Wells, three years after her breakthrough title there, she seems to have put herself in position to attain that goal (too bad she might meet the Supernova in the 4th Round). Her straight sets win over the hot Molik last week puts her side-by-side with Jankovic as the young momentum-carriers to watch over the next two weeks. JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE: Wonder what the Queen is doing right about now? Her continued absence finally dropped the former #1 out of the Top 20 on Monday. NA LI: Finally, Li showed some staying power outside of China in Dubai. She advanced through qualifying for the second straight week, then knocked off Ai Sugiyama in the 1st Round. She hasn't made a big move yet in '05, but she's 15-6 in main draw & qualifiying matches. SHEILA SAMMIE: Samantha Stosur was the belle of January with back-to-back singles RU in Australia. After having lost twice in Acapulco, she followed that week up by falling in the Q2 to Cara Black in Dubai. It was nice while it lasted. And last, but not least... SERENA WILLIAMS: Who can ever overlook Serena? Even when she has a bad week, she makes sure she's the one everyone is talking about when everything's finished. Unfortunately, Dubai maintained the pattern that Williams has followed since her breathtaking Australian Open run... she failed to finished the event. A few weeks ago, it was flu that stopped her in her tracks. In Dubai, it was a strained shoulder tendon. Or maybe it was the balls the tournament used. At least that's what she blamed her injury, which led to her retirement at 0-6/3-4 to Jankovic in the SF, on. She said she'd hurt herself hitting the "heavier" balls, the same ones other players have expressed a dislike for in the past. Of course, none of them found a way to hurt themselves and used them as a scapegoat for a loss to yet another young player on the rise. But, that's the Serena way, isn't it? Generally, when all parts are working properly, Serena DOES win... but that's become an increasingly rare occasion. Her "full" return to the top of the sport has always been dependant on her body holding up. So far, she's already registered a walkover and a retirement -- and it's only March. Still, watch her be ready for her attempt at a four-peat in Miami in two weeks time. For a closer look at Serena's complaints about the Dubai balls, and the WTA's quick counterpunch to the charges, take a look at this link:;_ylc=X3oDMTBpb3M3YzRkBF9TAzkIODYyNTg0BHNlYwN0bQ--?slug=afp-tennisuaeusawilliams&prov=afp&type=lgns It's always something. ==WEEK 9 CHAMPIONS== DUBAI, UAE (II-HO) S: Lindsay Davenport d. Jelena Jankovic 6-4/3-6/6-4 D: Ruano-Pascual/Suarez d. Kuznetsova/Molik ==PLAYER AWARDS== PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Lindsay Davenport ...the #1 player finally got her first title of the year in Dubai, overcoming a bad cold by winning anyway. Plus, she didn't blame her close wins on her obvious energy-sapping illness, either. Imagine that. ====================================== RISER: Jelena Jankovic ...the 20-year old (as of last Monday) Serb had been one of the more disappointing players of '05, until last week. She caught fire with wins over Suarez, Farina Elia, Mirza and Serena before pushing Davenport to a 6-4 final set in the final. She's now in the Top 20 for the first time. ====================================== SURPRISE: Laura Granville ...the 23-year old American, a one-time Top 30 player back in '03, is on her way back. She's already won two ITF titles in '05, just a few months after reaching the Vancouver WTA final late last season. Thing is, while she's 10-0 in ITF matches this year, she's 0-4 in WTA events. ====================================== VETERANS: Lindsay Davenport & Silvia Farina Elia ...SFE deserves some credit for her first win over Venus in ten matches, considering Miss Williams will never deem to give it. ====================================== FRESH FACE: Sania Mirza ...the Indian Princess continues her rise, with her victory over #7 Kuznetsova last week ranking as her career-best. She's up to a career-best #77. ===================================== DOWN: Venus & Serena Williams ..."will" is for the willlld and wacky variety of excuses the sisters come up with to hang their losses on, "iam" is for the two words (I am) that never pass through their lips when they look for a person to blame, "s" is for the you-who-what storm they tend to create in their path when things don't go their way. Some players are good winners, AND good losers. Some simply defy description. ==LINK OF THE WEEK== ...more Princess Sania, who's quickly becoming a Backspin favorite. Here's another link about Mirza's growing influence, on both boys and girls, on the growth of the sport in India. ==MATCHES== 1.1r - Farina Elia d. V.Williams ...7-5/7-6. The details: SFE went up 4-1 in the 1st, and nearly blew the lead. But didn't. SFE led 5-2 in the 2nd, and nearly blew the lead. But didn't. After the 8th MP, Venus was in position to make excuses. She didn't miss the opportunity, either. ====================================== 2.F - Davenport d. Jankovic ...6-4/3-6/6-4. Davenport is steady, but never spectacular. At least she didn't quit here like she seemed to do in the Melbourne final. ====================================== 3.2r - Mirza d. Kuznetsova ...6-4/6-2. A point from 0-5, and a turned ankle later, the Princess blew out the Contessova. How can you not like this girl? ====================================== 4.QF - Schnyder d. Myskina ...6-7(0),7-6(2),6-1. This match crystalizes the Czarina's season -- so much promise, in the end, amounting to nothing. Myskina gradually faltered and fell after blowing a MP in the 2nd set. ====================================== 5.SF - Davenport d. Schnyder ...4-6/7-5/6-1. Surprisingly, before this, Davenport had lost two of the three times she'd played the Swiss lefty since '02. Maybe battling a bad cold helped her forget about those past matchups. ====================================== 6.SF - Jankovic d. S.Williams ...6-0/4-3 ret. At 0-6, who couldn't smell a match-halting moment on the horizon? ====================================== 7.1r - Hantuchova d. Molik ...7-6/6-2. Wonder Girl squashes the Steamer. ====================================== 8.2r - Jankovic d. Farina Elia ...4-6/7-5/6-1. SFE led here 6-4/5-3. The tennis gods giveth, and they taketh away. ==WTA LISTS== **MOST 2005 WTA FINALS** 3...Davenport (1-2) 2...Sharapova (2-0) 2...Pennetta (2-0) 2...Mauresmo (1-1) 2...Molik (1-1) 2...Stosur (0-2) **CAREER WTA TITLES - active** 46...Davenport 33...Martinez 31...V.Williams 26...S.Williams 21...Clijsters 19...Henin-Hardenne 16...Mauresmo 16...Pierce 14...Capriati 10...Maleeva **700 CAREER WINS** 1442...Martina Navratilova 1304...Chris Evert 900....Steffi Graf 839....Virginia Wade 759....Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 720....Conchita Martinez 704....Evonne Goolagong-Cawley (Davenport has 647) **2005 FINALISTS BY COUNTRY** 6...USA (4 wins) 4...Russia (4) 4...Australia (1) ===================================== ===================================== **WEEK 10/11 "FACE-OFF"** ...why am I not surprised that I picked Serena to win Dubai, and she leaves early (again) with another ailment? I already had eight wins at this time last season, but in '05 I have a measly three in eighteen events. Meanwhile, as he "delightedly" pointed out this week, Mister Cantin is 3-for-3 (even I'd forgotten about him picking the Australian correctly). So, to try to confuse the tennis gods, we'll both pick Indian Wells and see what happens: INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA (I-HO) 04 F: JHH d. Davenport 04 TOP: Davenport/Mauresmo ==============================
#1 Davenport d. #10 Likhovtseva
#3 Sharapova d. Vaidisova
#5 Kuznetsova d. #3 Dementieva
#2 Mauresmo d. #23 Martinez

#1 Davenport(1) def Bartoli(22)
#2 Sharapova(3) def Vaidisova
#3 Kuznetsova(5) def Golovin(14)
#4 Clijsters def Martinez(23)

Sharapova d. Davenport
Mauresmo d. Kuznetsova

Sharapova(3) def Davenport(1)
Kuznetsova(5) def Clijsters

Sharapova d. Mauresmo

...when in doubt, pick the Supernova. Words to live by, for me, thus far in '05.

Sharapova(3) def Kuznetsova(5)

Now, please give me a chance to brag a little. Just wondering how a 3/3 average goes up against 3/18? You know, I'm starting to feel bad for my friend Todd, poor guy, he keeps getting it wrong... Anyway, I'll move on to another subject as I'm sure M. Spiker is now grinching his teeth (now before he brings it up, yes he is ahead of me in tennis-pool, but not for long and anyway, these predictions on the world reknown Backspin column are what really count right?) Well if this tournament goes as planned, a lot of surprises including a win by Kim Clijsters against Amelie Mauresmo among other things! But in the end, I think Sharapova will be up to the challenge with a good shot at making a #1 spot within sight!


If Pierre does it again, I refuse to even touch Serena's attempt to win Miami for a fourth straight year. Either that, or I'll just have to copy his
picks, I guess.

All for now.


Post a Comment

<< Home