Monday, May 02, 2005

Wk.17 - Allez Justine! Allez April! WTA BACKSPIN May 2, 2005 ALLEZ JUSTINE! ALLEZ APRIL! by Todd Spiker Without further ado... the Backspin award winners for April (Wk.14-17): **PLAYERS OF THE MONTH** 1.Justine Henin-Hardenne 2.Lindsay Davenport 3.Elena Dementieva 4.Lucie Safarova 5.Tatiana Golovin RISER: Elena Dementieva SURPRISE: Virginie Razzano VETERAN: Lindsay Davenport FRESH FACE: Lucie Safarova DOWN: Anastasia Myskina **PERFORMANCE OF THE MONTH** ...Queen Justine wins Charleston & Warsaw. JHH entered April with just four matches under her belt on the season, and having gone without winning a WTA title since March '04. She leaves it with an eleven-match winning streak, two titles, three Top 10 wins and a look about her that says we might see her lifting her fourth grand slam singles trophy come Roland Garros. **MATCH OF THE MONTH** ...Fed Cup 1st Round - Elena Dementieva def. Francesca Schiavone 4-6/6-7/6-0. The defending champion Russian team found itself with its back against the wall, as Schiavone held four match points to put the Horde down 2-1 in the best-of-five 1st Round tie. With the Czarina, Supernova and Contessova out of the picture, Punch-Sober assumed the leadership role and led the troupe out of the darkness... demolishing Schiavone in a love-set 3rd. **CHOKES OF THE MONTH** ...on the court, Schiavone in the above match. Off it, Venus Williams and her tireless ability to always find an excuse for each entry on her lengthening list of defeats. **COMEBACK OF THE MONTH** ...the solidification of the Belgians' return to dominance. In a bit of "anything you can do, I can do better," Kim Clijsters' pair of Tier I crowns in March was followed by Justine Henin-Hardenne's two titles (a Tier I & II) in April. This week in Tier I Berlin, they could meet in the SF in a "rubber match." **BREAKOUT OF THE MONTH** ...the coming wave of Czech Maidens finally resulted in a 2005 WTA title in Estoril, as 18-year old Lucie Safarova grabbed her first championship. **UPSET OF THE MONTH** ...Amelia Island QF - Silvia Farina Elia def. Serena Williams 5-7/7-6 ret. Serena led 7-5/5-4 before spraining her ankle, then held a match point at 6-3 in the 2nd set TB. **TOP 2005 SERIES UPDATE** ...Silvia Farina Elia vs. the Williams sisters. SFE's win over Serena in A.I., coupled with her upset of Venus in Dubai earlier this year, means she's one of six players to pull the Williams two-fer in a season since 2000. The others are all either former/current world #1's (Davenport, Hingis, Clijsters, Mauresmo), or soon-to-be top players (Sharapova, who should rise to #1 this spring, possibly as early as next week). **SUB-HEADLINES** 1.Russian Freeze-Out: Myskina & Zvonareva slump ====================================== 2.Sanja Ancic burns up ITF circuit in Croatia ====================================== 3.Teens Bacsinszky, Azarenka, Larsson & Karatantcheva star in Fed Cup play ====================================== 4.Dokic & Harkleroad begin long roads back ====================================== 5.Davenport wins 23rd straight Fed Cup match ====================================== and, of course... 6.Serena Williams out with injury (again) ====================================== ====================================== **WEEK 17 CHAMPIONS** WARSAW, POLAND (II-Red Clay) S: Justine Henin-Hardenne d. Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6/6-2/7-5 D: Perebiynis/Strycova d. Jans/Rosolska --------------------------------------- ESTORIL, PORTUGAL (IV-Red Clay) S: Lucie Safarova d. Na Li 6-7/6-4/6-4 D: Ting Li/Tian Tian Sun d. Krajicek/Nagyova **PLAYER AWARDS** PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Justine Henin-Hardenne far, Le Petit Taureau is two-for-two on the clay and is a win this coming week in Berlin away from cementing herself as the Roland Garros favorite. Her 21st career title came at the end of an eleven-match winning streak, including a victory in the Warsaw final over Kuznetsova, who she'd gone 1-4 against in their last five matchups. ====================================== RISER: Na Li & Elena Bovina ...Li didn't finally get that much-needed title outside of China, but she defeated Dinara Safina en route to the Estoril final, where she lost a tight three-setter. There's always this week in Morocco, though. Fresh off of stepping in to get the clinching Fed Cup win for the Russians, Bovina continued her minor upward momentum last week with a victory over Daniela Hantuchova and a QF result in Warsaw. ====================================== SURPRISE: Olga Savchuk ...the Ukrainian qualified in Estoril, then knocked out #1 seed Flavia Pennetta in the 1st Round. ====================================== VETERAN: Anna Smashnova ...not really any smashing veteran performances last week, so let's go with the 28-year old Israeli for her Warsaw win over Klara Koukalova and pushing of Kuznetsova to three sets (even if she did lose the deciding set at love). ====================================== FRESH FACES: Lucie Safarova & Ana Ivanovic ...back in January, I devoted one of the Intriguing Questions for '05 to the Czech Maidens. As it turned out, it wasn't Nicole Vaidisova who broke out first this season, but it was instead 18-year world #155 Safarova. After qualifying in Estoril, she upset old (Ruano-Pascual, Diaz-Oliva), young (Dulko, Krajicek) and rising (Na Li) stars alike on her way to her first career WTA title. She's also the first this year to win both ITF and WTA crowns on the season, having already won two challenger events in '05. Meanwhile, Ana Ivo continued to make her case for being the best Serbian on tour. In Warsaw, she tossed aside Sucha (6-0/6-0!), Zvonareva and Dechy, then gave JHH a heck of a fight, too. Ivanovic is 23-6 on the season and is looking like a lock for a Top 20 (or better) ranking. ====================================== DOWN: Vera Zvonareva ...after losing to Ivanovic in the 2nd Round in Warsaw, Vera the Almost ran her everywhere-but-Memphis record to 5-7 on the season. With her one good week factored in, she's a respectable 10-7. But that won't keep her in the Top 10 for much longer. **MATCHES** 1.Warsaw F - JHH d. Kuznetsova ...3-6/6-2/7-5. JHH outlasted the Contessova, who was bothered by a thigh injury and a Belgian who just wouldn't give in. Kuznetsova simply matched her '04 Warsaw RU performance, but she leaves Poland on a high note, having experience her best sustained level of play all season. ====================================== 2.Estoril F - Safarova d. Na Li ...6-7/6-4/6-3. It wasn't a slam, but qualifier Safarova did have to string together seven straight wins to take her maiden title. ====================================== 3.Warsaw SF - Kuznetsova d. Clijsters ...2-6/6-2/6-3. Nice Kim's 17-match streak comes to an end, preventing the first Kim-Justine matchup since the Oz final in 2004. ====================================== 4.Warsaw SF - JHH d. Ivanovic ...6-4/7-5. The girl is never an easy out. Sorry Jelena J, but Ana Ivo will be the top-ranked Serb at the end of the season. ====================================== 5.Warsaw 2r - Ivanovic d. Zvonareva ...6-2/6-4. Vera won't be the top Russian, though. I know... shocking, isn't it? ====================================== 6.Warsaw 2r - Bovina d. Hantuchova ...6-4/4-6/6-3. Wonder Girl, 11-8 on the season, is keeping her head above water. Barely. ====================================== 7.Estoril 1r - Alyona Bondarenko d. Dokic ...6-2/3-6/6-2. The Debutante is even considering playing challengers now. ====================================== 8.Rabat Qual.1 - Dokic d. Carolina Maheiros ...6-0/6-1. Not a challenger, but Maheiros is world #969. If Dokic had lost this one, she might have just retired on the spot. ====================================== 9.Warsaw QF - JHH d. Schnyder ...6-1/6-2. Patty didn't like Justine's shouts of "Allez!" Of course, they probably wouldn't have been so prevalent had Schnyder not lost 1 & 2. ====================================== ====================================== ==LISTS== **2005 BACK-TO-BACK TITLES** Flavia Pennetta (Feb>>Bogota/Acapulco) Kim Clijsters (Mar>>Indian Wells/Miami) Justine Henin-H. (Apr>>Charleston/Warsaw) **LONGEST WTA WINNING STREAKS** 17...Clijsters, March-April 12...Sharapova, February-March 11...Justine Henin-Hardenne, April-* - (*)-current **2005 FIRST-TIME WTA CHAMPS** Jie Zheng (Hobart, age 21) Ana Ivanovic (Canberra, age 17) Sania Mirza (Hyderabad, age 18) Lucie Safarova (Estoril, age 18) **QUALIFIER AS CHAMPION** Ana Ivanovic (Canberra, #100, Q) Lucie Safarova (Estoril, #155, Q) **LOW-RANKED 2005 TITLEISTS** #155...Lucie Safarova (Estoril) #134...Sania Mirza (Hyderabad) #133...Kim Clijsters (Indian Wells) #100...Ana Ivanovic (Canberra) **LOW-RANKED 2005 FINALISTS** #193...Lourdes Dominguez Lino (Bogota RU) #155...Lucie Safarova (Estoril W) **2005 RUSSIAN FINALISTS** 3...Sharapova (2-1) 1...Zvonareva (1-0) 1...Safina (1-0) 1...Dementieva (0-1) 1...Kuznetsova (0-1) ====================================== ====================================== ==WEEK 18 BACKSPIN BATTLE ROYALE== rehabilitation continues. Queen Justine's title this weekend gives me two wins in the last three WTA events (and 4-of-8 since late February). With Holy Webmaster Cantin back starting this week for the balance of the clay court season, the Backspin Battle Royale begins now. For the record, Pierre is 3-for-5 in limited action (I was 2-for-5 in those events, by the way... with Serena's win in Oz the difference-maker). Okay, let's see what happens. Here are my picks: BERLIN, GERMANY (I-Red Clay) 04 F: Mauresmo d. V.Williams 05 TOP: Sharapova/Mauresmo ---------------------------- SF: JHH d. Clijsters; Petrova d. Bovina FINAL: JHH d. Petrova ...Mauresmo's first big defense of her Berlin/Rome title combo of '04. She missed Fed Cup and Warsaw with an injury, and the pressure's on... and you know what that means. Meanwhile, Sharapova is playing to become the first Russian female world-#1 this week, but she might meet JHH in the QF. Sure, the Supernova beat the Queen in their only career matchup in Miami in March... but that was on a hardcourt, and this is red clay (a surface on which she's yet to win a WTA title). JHH has already reclaimed her role as "best claycourter" in '05, earning two titles while still not quite having a totally sound game after her long absence. If she's still improving, well... how could I pick against the Queen? RABAT, MOROCCO (IV-Red Clay) 04 F: Loit d. Cervanova (Casablanca) 05 TOP: Na Li/Llagostera-Vives -------------------------------- SF: Zheng d. Na Li; Llagostera-V. d. Sanchez Lorenzo FINAL: Zheng d. Llagostera-Vives know it's a virtual crapshoot when Llagostera-Vives is the SECOND seed! The best bet is probably one of the Cookies, Zheng or Li. If it's neither, then Rabat will produce one of those un-predictable results so common on Tier IV red clay events.

Here are Pierre's picks:

SF: Clijsters d. Henin-Hardenne; Mauresmo d. Bovina
FINAL: Clijsters d. Mauresmo

SF: Li d. Zheng; Loit d. Pin
FINAL: Li d. Loit

Funny how Todd is not bringing up his whole yearly stats but only talking the last few weeks as well as comparing my record with his by only talking about his success during those same weeks. Please don't take his excuses, we all know Todd has been improving but he's got far to go. This week, interesting top of the draw in Berlin, Amelie Mauresmo must have a nice smile hidden when she sees those players in the first half of the draw (Sharapova, Clijsters, JHH, Kuznetsova)... it should be interesting, but might the best man win right?:) Good luck Todd!


Hmmm... very interesting. (I'll have you know, though, that I make that comment not knowing what Pierre predicted -- I won't know until the column's posted). Needless to say, I hope I win. Ha. Allez! All for now.


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