Monday, April 04, 2005

Wk.12/13 - The Backspin Awards, 1Q Edition WTA BACKSPIN April 4, 2005 THE BACKSPIN AWARDS (1st Quarter Edition) by Todd Spiker It's that time of the year again -- time to single out the most outstanding performers of the first quarter of the WTA season: ==PLAYERS OF THE QUARTER== 1.Serena Williams...only one great event to her credit, but it WAS a grand slam. Without it, she wouldn't have done enough to even rank into the 1st quarter's Top 10. Other than Melbourne, she's failed to complete two tournaments due to illness/injury and lost to her sister for the first time in over three years. ====================================== 2.Maria's tempted to think the Supernova hasn't had a great quarter, but that's only because expecations are so very high. In reality, she's won two titles (one her first career Tier I), gone 22-3, made a slam SF and had another Tier I RU. Not bad, and Wimbledon is still over two months away. She'll likely become the first Russian #1-ranked woman before SW19 gets here. ====================================== 3.Kim Clijsters...hard to believe that a month ago there was still a lingering question about whether the Belgian could reclaim her position at the top of the sport's rankings. But that was when she was #133. Two Tier I titles later, she's #17 and has no less than the likes of Martina Hingis predicting that she'll be ranked #1 at the end of the season. Ah, but will the "new" Kim finally get that grand slam title albatross off her back this summer? ====================================== 4.Alicia Molik...the Aussie steamer started the season on a hot string Down Under, and she ends the quarter in the Top 10 in both singles and doubles. Her results have slipped a little lately, but maybe this will finally be the year she comes through on the stage where her game's always seemed well-built to strive -- the grass of the All-England Club. ====================================== 5.Lindsay Davenport...the American is still holding onto #1 (mainly because Amelie Mauresmo seems to be allergic to reclaiming it no matter how many chances she gets) and she DID win one title (Tier II Dubai) this quarter, but it's the image of her final losses to Serena and Sharapova that lingers the longest. ====================================== THE REST: 6.Flavia Pennetta...two titles 7.Amelie Mauresmo...the "anti-#1" 8.Ana Ivanovic...the best Serbian? 9.Dinara Safina...big bro won Oz, she won Paris 10.Conchita final summer of love? ==RISING PLAYERS== 1.Alicia Molik 2.Flavia Pennetta 3.Dinara Safina 4.Nathalie Dechy 5.Shinobu Asagoe 6.Jelena Jankovic 7.Anna-Lena Groenefeld 8.Tatiana Golovin 9.Patty Schnyder 10.Jie Zheng ==FRESH FACES== 1.Ana Ivanovic 2.Evgenia Linetskaya 3.Sania Mirza 4.Maria Kirilenko 5.Nicole Vaidisova 6.Shahar Peer 7.Shuai Peng 8.Vera Douchevina 9.Sesil Karatantcheva 10.Anna Chakvetadze ==SURPRISES== 1.Samantha Stosur 2.Alyona Bondarenko 3.Lourdes Dominquez-Lino 4.Abigail Spears 5.Yuliana Fedak ==VETERANS== 1.Lindsay Davenport 2.Conchita Martinez 3.Virginia Ruano-Pascual 4.Silvia Farina Elia 5.Dally Randriantefy ==DOWNERS== 1.Karolina Sprem 2.Svetlana Kuznetsova 3.Anastasia Myskina 4.Jelena Dokic 5.Na Li ==1st QUARTER'S TOP...== PERFORMANCE: Clijsters sweeps the Tier I's in Indian Wells and Miami, becoming only the second female player to ever do so (Steffi Graf in 1994 & '96). Her fourteen straight wins included six victories over Top 10 players. ====================================== MATCH: Australian Open SF - S.Williams def. Sharapova 2-6/7-5/8-6. Sharapova held three MP, but Serena's triumphant return to the grand slam championship platform could not be stopped. ====================================== UPSET: Bogota SF - Dominguez-Lino d. Zuluaga 7-6/7-6. The three-time defending hometown champ went down to the world #193, in her first trip past the QF in a WTA event. ====================================== CHOKE/COMEBACK: Australian Open 1r - Douchevina d. Craybas 3-6/7-6/6-4. Craybas led 6-3/5-1 and held two MP before the Hordette stormed back. ==1st QUARTER SPECIALS== 2005 TOP SERIES (UPDATE): The Davenport vs. Sharapova series, which began with the Supernova comeback win in the Wimbledon SF last year, produced two more memorable moments. One, Sharapova's victory in the Tokyo final (her first Tier I crown)... and the other the inexplicable 6-0/6-0 thrashing Davenport put on her in the Indian Wells SF a few weeks ago. ====================================== EPIC SERIES (UPDATE): Serena vs. the Supernova III came off in Melbourne, as Serena finally got her revenge for Sharapova's victories at Wimbledon and the year-end Championships. To be continued. ====================================== NEWS: Sania Mirza becomes first Indian champion...Jie Zheng becomes second Chinese champion...Martina Hingis returns (briefly) in Pattaya...Steffi Graf will return to play Team Tennis...Justine Henin-Hardenne (finally) returns in Miami...Jennifer Capriati has shoulder surgery...Monica Seles (still) hasn't announced her retirement...A positive drug test in Belgium...and, last but not least, Venus defeats Serena. And it's only April. ====================================== ====================================== ====================================== ==WEEK 12/13== MIAMI, FLORIDA USA (I-HO) S: Kim Clijsters d. Maria Sharapova 6-3/7-5 D: Kuznetsova/Molik d. Raymond/Stubbs ==PLAYER AWARDS== PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kim Clijsters ...FilaKim strikes again, harder than ever. Career title #23 included wins over Top 10ers Myskina, Dementieva, Mauresmo and Sharapova. She never lost a set (14/14) in Florida -- she's won 34 of 37 sets on the season -- as she extended her season-best WTA winning streak to fourteen matches. ====================================== RISER: Shinobu Asagoe ...the 28-year old Japanese vet continued her under-the-radar 2005 rise, climbing to #26 (one shy of her career-high #25) after a 4th Round run in Miami that included a win over Francesca Schiavone. ====================================== SURPRISES: Catalina Castano & Shahar Peer ...Spaniard Castano upset Paola Suarez and Patty Schnyder (and pushed Venus Williams to three sets) en route to the 4th Round. Qualifier Peer, 17, knocked off Marion Bartoli and got Serena's attention (eliciting a few staredowns and clenched fists in her direction) in the 3rd Round. ====================================== VETERANS: Lisa Raymond & Rennae Stubbs ...Elena Likhovtseva made a little noise in the singles draw, but I'll give the nod to the everything old is new again doubles team of Raymond/Stubbs. "New" because they used to partner all the time, got tired of each other, and now find themselves reconnecting more often all over again. "Old" because Raymond and Stubbs are 31 and 34, respectively -- older than most of their competition, unless she's named Martina. They were RU in Miami, raising Stubbs' doubles ranking to #3, while Raymond edged up to #10. ====================================== FRESH FACES: Ana Ivanovic & Lucie Safarova Miami, Ivanovic, 17, added Nadia Petrova, Nicole Vaidisova and Svetlana Kuznetsova to her growing list of upset victims. Meanwhile, 18-year old Czech Maiden Safarova, from Brno (hometown of recent Hall of Fame electee Jana Novotna, Backspin's all-time favorite player, by the way -- so here's a chance to offer a belated congratulations to the '98 Wimbledon champ on her enshrinement in Newport), added her name to the list of young players to keep an eye on when she won her second ITF crown of the season in Redding. ====================================== DOWN: Vera Zvonareva & Svetlana Kuznetsova least Zvonareva has the Memphis title to soothe her this quarter, but on the whole, the leading edge of the Russian Brigade has been lagging a bit in '05. The Contessova (and the Czarina, too) has often seemed more akin to Vera the Almost this year than the grand slam champ she is, making just one SF on the season. Zvonareva went out in the 2r in Miami in her first action since Memphis, while Kuznetsova went down to another youngster (Ivanovic) in the 4r... though she did rebound with a doubles title. ==LINK OF THE WEEK== ...I talked about the (lack of) young U.S. hopefuls in the Intriguing Question columns back in January. Here's a recent article that touches on the same subject: ==MATCHES== 1r-3r 1.2r - Llagostera-Vives d. Zvonareva ...3-6/6-3/6-1. Maybe Vera will never join her countrywomen in the "big time." On a brighter note, Capriati's extended absence finally bumped Zvonareva up to #10 on Monday. ====================================== 2.2r - Sharapova d. Daniilidou ...6-0/6-4. The Supernova's immediate response to her double-bagel loss in Indian Wells? A 6-0 1st set string that extended into the first few games of the 2nd set. ====================================== 3.1r - Kirilenko d. Chakvetadze ...7-5/6-3. Hordette vs. Hordette, with the Supernovette rising above the fray. ====================================== 4.2r - Henin-Hardenne d. Spears ...6-4/6-3. Queen Justine's first match since the US Open. ====================================== 5.2r - Cohen-Aloro d. Hantuchova ...7-6/6-2. Is Wonder Girl officially in another slump? ====================================== 6.2r - Vaidisova d. Jankovic ...6-2/7-6. Jankovic has lost three straight matches since reaching the Dubai final. ====================================== 7.2r - Ivanovic d. Petrova ...6-4/7-5. Impressive. ====================================== 8.3r - S.Williams d. Peer ...6-3/6-3. It was a straight sets match, but it took 1:30 to play. And Serena was slightly ticked at the thought that Peer might have tried to smack her with a crosscourt forehand shot at the net, too. ====================================== 9.St.Petersberg ITF F - Bychkova d. Laine ...6-1/6-2. The Russian with the dangerous name became the first Hordette to win an ITF title in 2005. 4r-F 1.F - Clijsters d. Sharapova ...6-3/7-5. Tough? Clijsters is 3-0 vs. Sharapova for her career. ====================================== 2.QF - V.Williams d. S.Williams ...6-1/7-6. Venus ends her 6-match losing streak against her sister with her first win since the '01 US Open final (in their first matchup since the '03 Wimbledon final). Venus really needed this win. Let the conspriracy theories commence. ====================================== 3.QF - Sharapova d. JHH ...6-1/6-7/6-2. The Queen vs. The Supernova, Part I. Sharapova led 4-1 in the 2nd and served for the match with a 40-0 lead. The match still went three sets. Justine's heart is right where she left it. ====================================== 4.SF - Clijsters d. Mauresmo ...6-1/6-0. Mauresmo's response to being one win away from playing for the #1 ranking in a final against Sharapova. ====================================== 5.SF - Sharapova d. V.Williams ...6-4/6-3. You'd think Venus would finally admit she was outplayed here. She'd had a good week, and had no reason to be bitter, right? Fat chance. The doozy excuse she came up for this one was that it was fatigue that took her down in a 24-error loss. "Not only did I have to play against my opponent, but I also had to play against me," she said. "That's hard to do the whole match. You know, I have to be kinder to myself." ====================================== HM-4r - Ivanovic d. Kuznetsova ...6-3/3-6/7-5. Even more impressive for Ana Ivo. ====================================== ====================================== ====================================== ==WTA LISTS== **2005 SINGLES TITLES** 2...Maria Sharapova 2...Kim Clijsters 2...Flavia Pennetta **VENUS vs. SERENA** ...Serena leads 7-6 ...9 of 13 won in straight sets ...winner of 1st set is 12-1 ...Venus leads 3-2 in TB sets ...Venus leads 145-142 in total games ...Venus leads 4-3 on hardcourts ...2r-to-SF matches: Venus 4-1 ...Final matches: Serena 6-2 **SHARAPOVA vs. CLIJSTERS** 2003 LA 3rd Rd - Clijsters 6-4/1-6/6-1 2003 Lux. SF - Clijsters 6-0/6-3 2005 Miami F - Clijsters 6-3/7-5 **CAREER WTA TITLES - ACTIVE** 46...Lindsay Davenport 33...Conchita Martinez 31...Venus Williams 26...Serena Williams 23...Kim Clijsters --...[Seles has 53] **LOW-RANKED TIER I CHAMPIONS** #133 Kim Clijsters Indian Wells '05 #58 Iva Majoli Charleston '02 #54 Lisa Bonder Tokyo '83 #38 Kim Clijsters Miami '05 #26 Daniela Hantuchova Ind.Wells '02 **BACK-TO-BACK 2005 TITLES** Flavia Pennetta (Bogota & Acapulco) Kim Clijsters (Indian Wells & Miami) **LONG 2005 WTA WINNING STREAKS** 14...Kim Clijsters (*-current) 12...Maria Sharapova 10...Flavia Pennetta 10...Ana Ivanovic **WEEKS IN SINGLES TOP 10 in '05** [of 13 weeks] 13...Lindsay Davenport# 13...Amelie Mauresmo# 13...Maria Sharapova# 13...Serena Williams# 13...Anastasia Myskina# 13...Elena Dementieva# 13...Svetlana Kuznetsova# 13...Venus Williams# 12...Jennifer Capriati 10...Alicia Molik# 3....Justine Henin-Hardenne 1....Vera Zvonareva# - #-current Top 10 **1Q Won/Loss - 2005 Top 10** 22-3...Maria Sharapova 19-3...Lindsay Davenport 18-5...Amelie Mauresmo 16-5...Alicia Molik 13-2...Serena Williams 13-4...Elena Dementieva 11-5...Svetlana Kuznetsova 10-4...Venus Williams 8-4....Vera Zvonareva 8-6....Anastasia Myskina 3-1....Justine Henin-Hardenne 0-0....Jennifer Capriati ====================================== ====================================== *WEEK 14 PICK* ...Well, Cantin did better on his predictions for the Miami 4th/QF, we tied with SF picks and neither of us got a finalist correct. It's contagious, I guess. I'll go it alone this week, but get ready for Cantin's sure comeuppance when he'll be called upon to pick some of those unpredictable red clay, multi-event weeks coming up. AMELIA ISLAND, FLA USA (II-Green Clay) 04 F: Davenport d. Mauresmo 05 TOP: Davenport/S.Williams ============================ FINAL PICK: Serena def. Venus ...Venus won last time, so Serena should win this one, right? Let even more conspiracy theories be born. LATER THIS WEEK: The Backspin 1Q Quiz All for now.

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