Monday, June 13, 2005

Wk.23 - A Supernovian Harbinger?

Is history repeating itself?

A year ago, a 17-year old Maria Sharapova went to Birmingham and
walked away with the title, defeating Tatiana Golovin in the final.
Two weeks later, she was spotted lifting up the famed golden plate on
Centre Court of the All England Club... and the landscape of the WTA
Tour was markedly altered.

Last week, the now-18 and #2-ranked Supernova was again in Birmingham.
Again, she faced and defeated Golovin (this time in a semifinal).
Again, she walked off with another grass court championship, her tenth
tour title overall (making Sharapova the winningest Russian woman in
tennis history). A week from now, she'll begin her defense of her
maiden grand slam crown at Wimbledon.

Could the Birmingham repeat be a harbinger for what could be fated to
occur just around the corner at SW19? It's something to think about.

S: Maria Sharapova d. Jelena Jankovic 6-2/4-6/6-1
D: Hantuchova/Sugiyama d. Daniilidou/Russell


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Maria Sharapova
...her tenth career title moved her out of the Russian tie for first
with Olga Morozova and Anastasia Myskina. Birmingham is Sharapova's
third title of 2005, all coming on three different surfaces (carpet,
hard & grass).
RISER: Jelena Jankovic've got to give a hand to the #20-ranked 20-year old Jankovic.
It seems like every time she's challenged for national supremacy by
fellow Serb Ana Ivanovic (#21) she proceeds to pull out a great
result. It happened again in Birmingham with a trip to the final.
SURPRISES: Laura Granville & Milagros Sequera
...the 24-year old Granville is the template for the "new" American
presence on tour: a player capable of some good wins (such as
Granville's last week over Alicia Molik & Tamarine Tanasugarn), but
one from which you never really expect much. Hence, when she has a
good week (as Granville did had with a SF run) it can't help but be a
bit of a surprise. As for Sequera, being from Venezuela you'd expect
her to be claycourt-savvy and a bit of a klutz on the grass, right?
Then how do you explain last week's victories over Lisa Raymond and
Elena Baltacha, two players who are generally comfortable on the
VETERAN: Ai Sugiyama
...the nearly 30-year old Japanese vet must have been inspired by the
other vets' exploits at Roland Garros. With some help from Daniela
Hantuchova, the one-time doubles #1 finally got her first title of the
season, knocking off Eleni Daniilidou & Jennifer Russell in the final.
FRESH FACE: Anna Chakvetadze she prepares for her first appearance in the Wimbledon main
draw, the '03 Wimbledon Girls' runner-up got some good work in
Birmingham. The 18-year old Chakvetadze knocked off fellow Russian
Evgenia Linetskaya and Japanese vet Shinobu Asagoe en route to the
quarterfinals, where she lost to Golovin.
DOWN: Alicia Molik
...the Steamer finally returned to the tour after battling an inner
ear infection for months. Her welcome back party wasn't as festive as
she'd hoped, though, as she lost her opening match in straight sets to


1.Final - Sharapova d. Jankovic
...6-2/4-6/6-1. One note as far as Sharapova's Wimbledon hopes: she
defended her Birmingham title, but was forced to go three sets three
times (vs. Stosur, Daniilidou & Jankovic). So her form might not be
quite as pristine as it was at this time twelve months ago. Of
course, at this time in 2004 she'd only won one title. Birmingham was
her third win already in 2005.
2.SF - Sharapova d. Golovin
...7-5/6-1. The Frussian Pastry managed to pull out the opening set
against Sharapova in the final a year ago.
3.2nd - Granville d. Molik
...6-4/6-2. It's still nice to have the Steamer back.
4.2nd - Parra-Santonja d. Hantuchova
...6-4/6-7/7-6. Call it the "Sequera Principle" -- meaning, shouldn't
it have been Hantuchova pulling out this tight match against a
5.3rd - Sharapova d. Stosur
...6-3/3-6/6-1. She's no longer making singles finals as she did in
January, but Sammy is at least showing some signs of a "second act" to
her 2005 season.

1.Justine Henin-Hardenne...28 matches, 27 wins. 4 titles, 2 Tier I's,
1 slam. Question: Can she effectively take care of herself
physically for the next six months so that she'll be able to claim the
#1 ranking at season's end?
2.Maria Sharapova...even with the past year's success, she has
something to prove at Wimbledon. Question; Did her chance to become
#1 this season pass her by on the European clay?
3.Virginia Ruano-Pascual/Paola Suarez... they've traded off or shared
the doubles #1 ranking for all but four weeks since September '03.
Question: Can the duo add the one slam title that has eluded them at

4.Kim Clijsters...she's made a wonderful comeback, but has still been
trumped by JHH once again. Question: Did her latest slam collapse at
RG mean the "new" Kim is just like the "old?"
5.Serena Williams...her Oz title showed what she's still capable of
accomplishing when she puts her mind to it, but it's her ONLY
highlight in an otherwise bleak season. Question: Will Serena only
focus on four more weeks in 2005, at Wimbledon and the US Open?
(Unless you count the time it'll take to plan her Flushing Meadows
wardrobe, of course.)
6.Lindsay Davenport...her gritty RG performance speaks well of her
chances to grab one more slam at Wimbledon or the US Open. Question:
If she doesn't win a slam but remains #1 , is her career over or will
retirement be delayed for yet another season?
7.Alicia Molik...the inner ear infection disrupted what had been a
brilliant beginning to her season. Question: How long will it take
for her to return to form?
8.Ana Ivanovic...every year at least one teen emerges, and Ana Ivo is
2005's "It" girl. Question: Was her slightly-surprising RG QF run a
taste of things to come?
9.Amelie Mauresmo...her RG failure was so expected that hardly anyone
noticed or cared. Question: A former junior champ there in '96,
should Mauresmo see Wimbledon as her best chance at winning a slam?
Honorable Mention: Patty Schnyder, Mary Pierce, Nadia Petrova, Flavia Pennetta


4...Justine Henin-Hardenne
3...Maria Sharapova

9...Justine Henin-Hardenne (5/4)
9...Lindsay Davenport (7/2)
8...Maria Sharapova (5/3)
7...Amelie Mauresmo (5/2)
4...Alicia Molik (3/1)
4...Kim Clijsters (2/2)

10...Maria Sharapova (2003-05)
9....Olga Morozova (1969-75)
9...Anastasia Myskina (1999-04)
5...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002-04)
4...Elena Dementieva (2003-04)
4...Dinara Safina (2002-05)

[singles W/L in the 2000s]
2002...1-1 (grass)
2003...2-5 (0-3 clay/2-2 grass)
2005...Eastbourne 1r vs. Schaul



...well, Holy Webmaster Cantin doesn't have much chance to win this
thing if we continue to pick the same champions, now does he? Still,
with four event draws remaining in this Europe-based battle, things
can still tighten up considerably. How things stand:

Slam 4r: tied 10-10
Slam QF: Backspin leads 7-5
SF: tied 15-15
Finalists: Backspin leads 8-4
Champions: Backspin leads 5-3

Here it goes...

04 F: Kuznetsova d. Hantuchova
05 TOP: Mauresmo/Kuznetsova
SF: Ivanovic d. Hantuchova; Clijsters d. Kuznetsova
Final: Clijsters d. Ivanovic many if's and but's here. Obviously, everything changes if
Mauresmo gets revenge on Ana Ivo in their potential 2nd Round
rematch... or if Kim's injury flares up... or if Molik regains her
form... or if defending champ Kuznetsova doesn't have a twinge of
panic somewhere along the line in her first action since blowing two
match points against JHH at Roland Garros. It's a grass tune-up,
though, so unexplainable results go with the territory.

04 F: Pierce d. Koukalova
05 TOP: Dementieva/Petrova
SF: Navratilova d. (no, just kidding)... Groenefeld d. Dementieva;
Petrova d. Safarova
Final: Petrova d. Groenefeld 48-year old Martina, the draw's not exactly filled with grass
court expertise a year after Mary Pierce, of all people, managed to
win her first grass title ever at this tournament. Results could be
even more unpredictable this time around. Petrova has to win a title
sometime, right? So why not now?

Pierre's Picks:

Hmmm, well I'm not catching up much the past few weeks. So, hopefully my choices will be different this week (I actually write this before seeing Todd's column). And this is the final step before the Big Event.

SF: Mauresmo d. Hantuchova; Clijsters d. Kuznetsova
FINAL: Clijsters d. Mauresmo

SF: Dementieva d. Groenefeld; Petrova d. Safina
FINAL: Petrova d. Dementieva


Next week: Wimbledon preview

All for now.


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