Sunday, June 26, 2005

Wk.25 - Courting a Collision?

Half way through the season's third grand slam, it's time to take a breath and survey the landscape.

From Justine Henin-Hardenne's early ouster to Serena Williams' ultimately losing battle against her own body, with Martina Navratilova's comments about the state of Maria Sharapova sandwiched somewhere in between, SW19 hasn't been wanting for headline-grabbing stories in 2005.

Now, about the landscape at intermission:

==Section 1==
#1-seed Lindsay Davenport is still the favorite here, with the rematch of her Paris battle with #15 Kim Clijsters the next big match up on the schedule. Davenport won on the red clay, by far her worst surface, so Clijsters (who won a grass tune-up just a week ago) will now have to attempt to flip the tables right back on a surface that favors the American's heavy groundstrokes and serve. Even with #5 Svetlana Kuznetsova (4r vs. Maggie Maleeva) the likely QF opponent,
the Davenport/Clijsters winner should take the first SF berth... and ride it all the way to the final.
==Section 2==
Someone will have to "overcome" to take the second semifinal spot in this section. #3 Amelie Mauresmo should prevail (over #13 Elena Likhovtseva, then vs. the winner of the #6 Elena Dementieva/#6 Anastasia Myskina match-up) and live up to her seeding. But, remember, we are talking about the most striking slam headcase in the sport... so don't be surprised if one of the three Russians, though none particularly grasscourt-loving, sneak through.
==Section 3==
With #4 Serena Williams out, the third berth in the semis seems tailor-made to be filled by the remaining member of the family, #14 Venus. It's hard to believe Jill Craybas will qualify to join the elite ranks of Sanchez Vicario, Graf, Hingis, Clijsters & Davenport (all former or current #1's) by defeating both sisters in the same event. That'd likely leave #12 Mary Pierce (vs. #26 Flavia Pennetta) as Venus' final obstacle. The edge in the match-up surely would go to Venus, though Pierce's improved fitness (and, as a result, better movement on the surface that's generally bedeviled her in her career -- it took her fourteen years to claim her first grass title, a year ago in the Netherlands) has already brought her within one win of matching her career-best Wimbledon result, a QF in '96.
==Section 4==
#2 Maria Sharapova looks like a lock for the final semifinal berth. #16 Nathalie Dechy shouldn't pose too much of a problem, and despite the lurking nature of the versatile #8 Nadia Petrova (vs. Kveta Peschke), any quarterfinal match will simply be a warm-up for the Supernova's chance to play for an opportunity to defend her '04 championship.

==THE FAVORITES== and focused, her shot at first slam since '00 is firmly on her racket.
Sharapova...her comfort level has been greatly aided by the All-England Club air/aura

V.Williams...will pre-tournament Wimbledon website kiss-up article end up being prophetic? Will probably have to beat Sharapova to get to the final.
Clijsters...quietly moving through draw, but will have to take a large bite out of an in-form Davenport in what might be the "most important" match of the tournament, outside of the final. But considering her slam past, maybe Kim should be the next category.

Mauresmo...I've said Wimbledon is probably her best shot at finally (some day) winning a slam, but I still don't think I believe it's possible.
Kuznetsova...hasn't been able to beat top players in '05, something she'll have to do (a few times, in fact) to last much longer.
Petrova...hard to believe her first career title would be THIS one.

==GREAT SLAM RESULTS IN PAST...but not on grass==
Pierce...hey, who needs a grass court tune-up?
Myskina...the Czarina has been hot and cold over the past week, but before this past week she'd been pretty much ONLY ice cold.
Dementieva...I picked Punch-Sober to make the Australian and Roland Garros finals, both of which she fell far short of. I didn't predict her to do much at Wimbledon, so...

Likhovtseva...on second thought, maybe she DOES have a chance, then.

Maleeva...this is the fourth time in the last five years she's made the Wimbledon Round of 16. She's never advanced to the QF.
Pennetta...this is already the deepest the Italian has ever lasted in a slam draw.
Dechy...vs. Sharapova. Enough said.
Peschke...a career-best slam result at age 29.
Craybas...I mean, come on, what are the odds?

...all in all, as long as Davenport gets past Clijsters, it looks like she and Sharapova are on a collision course for a #1 vs. #2 battle in the final, with the American getting a shot to avenge her set-and-a-break-up (before the rains came) collapse in last year's SF.



PLAYERS OF THE FIRST WEEK: Lindsay Davenport & Maria Sharapova far, living up to their seeds with ease.
RISERS: Eleni Daniilidou & Flavia Pennetta
...Eleni the Greek christened the tournament and broke the ladies' draw in half by knocking out Roland Garros champ JHH in the 1st Round. Pennetta ended Daniilidou's run in the 3rd Round en route to her own best-ever slam result.
SURPRISES: Jill Craybas & Kveta Peschke
...after beginning her grand slam year by blowing a 6-3/5-1 (with two MP) lead in the Australian 1st Round vs. Vera Douchevina, the 30-year old Craybas more than made up for it with her upset of Serena in the 3rd Round on Saturday (after earlier wins over Ashley Harkleroad & Marion Bartoli). Peschke, 29, is the last remaining Czech in her best-ever slam, after wins over Vera Zvonareva & Conchita Martinez.
VETERANS: Lindsay Davenport & Mary Pierce
...both have carried over their Paris momentum. Davenport doing so was expected, but Pierce getting the best of youngsters Safarova and Ivanovic was maybe somewhat less so, considering the surface.
FRESH FACE: Angela Haynes a tournament in which several African-Americans not named Williams (Washington, Perry & Jackson) made some noise, maybe the most impressive was the one who didn't actually win a match. The 20-year old Compton Sequel nearly became the Compton Comet in a three-setter against Serena Williams in the 1st Round (winning a 14-12 opening set TB, at least), displaying an energetic on-court persona that we'll hopefully see more of come the hardcourt season.
DOWN: Justine Henin-Hardenne & Serena Williams
...the "loaded" bottom half of the draw turned out to have a few more empty chambers than it first appeared.

First, Martina Navratilova on Sharapova, from one year ago: here at MSNBC.

Then, Martina last week on Sharapova: here at Fox Sports.

...Navratilova was all smiles about the developments at SW19 a year ago, but twelve months later things have changed a little. She stated this week that she doesn't think the Russian is as focused on tennis as she should be, and that she hasn't backed up her Wimbledon title.

With a #2 ranking and six additional titles (including the WTA Championships & a Tier I), it's arguable whether Martina's assessment is a fair one. But with Sharapova's inability to grab the #1 ranking in '05, or reach another slam final, it's at least an understandable commentary... although Martina's standards ARE exceedingly high, coming as they are from a woman who won 167 titles (18 of them slams) during her Hall of Fame career. Still, it should be noted that Navratilova, who won her first slam at age 21, was able to devote herself 100% to her tennis during her heyday largely because she was ignored by many of the same advertisers (at the time, they preferred the more "consumer-friendly" Chris Evert to endorse their products) who now flock to Sharapova.

Considering the amount of things on Sharapova's plate, her success since winning Wimbledon has been admirable. Prolonging and promoting the image what made Sharapova such a boon to the sport a year ago, at least at this point in time, precludes the same single-minded devotion to the game tha Navratilova displayed. Sharapova has been as or more successful than any other player at juggling her on and off-court demands, maintaining a strong presence in both arenas (unlike, say, the absent-more-times-than-not Williams sisters).

A second Wimbledon title would make it difficult to find fault with the Sharapova formula, so the quest to prove herself all over again could take on additional depth as next weekend approaches.


Monday: #10 Schnyder (Ant.Serra-Zanetti)
Tuesday: #31 Medina-Garrigues (Srebotnik)

The Americans
...Mashona Washington (def.#28 Frazier), Laura Granville (def. Koukalova), Jamea Jackson (def. Marrero), Shenay Perry (def. Tanasugarn) and Jill Craybas (def. #29 Bartoli, #4 S.Williams).

1.3rd - Myskina d. Jankovic
...6-0/5-7/10-8. These two took turns trying be considered for both the Comeback of the Year and Choke of the Year as Myskina led 6-0/5-3 with a match point, then saw Jankovic take control and lead 5-1 in the 3rd set. At the end of the 2:43 match, Myskina won 10-8 in the 3rd while converting 9 of an amazing 33 (!!) break point chances in the match.
2.1st - Daniilidou d. JHH
...7-6/2-6/7-5. So, she's human after all.
3a.1st - S.Williams d. Haynes
...6-7(12)/6-4/6-2. She teetered against the world #104.
3b.2nd - S.Williams d. Santangelo
...4-6/6-3/6-2. She tottered against the world #124.
3c.3rd - Craybas d. S.Williams
...6-3/7-6. And she finally fell to the world #85.
4.1st - Myskina d. Bohmova
...5-7/7-6/6-4. Myskina's OTHER comeback came in her escape from a 5-7/1-4 hole (as well as a 0-3 deficit in the 3rd) on Day One.
5.2nd - Sharapova d. Karatantcheva
...6-0/6-1. Will Sesil forever be paying for one slip of the tongue?
6.1st - Tanasugarn d. Sprem
...6-2/6-2. A year ago, many thought Sprem had the makings of something big. Hasn't happened so far.
7.1st - Ant.Serra-Zanetti d. Schnyder
...6-4/6-7/6-3. First seed (#10) out.
8.1st - A.Bondarenko d. Golovin
...6-3/3-6/7-5. And so ends a disappointing grass season for the Frussian Pastry.
9.3rd - V.Williams d. Hantuchova
...7-5/6-3. At least Wonder Girl showed a little life this week.
10.1st - Jankovic d. Chakvetadze
...6-4/6-2. Pierre picks Anna for a QF. I go for a SF. She loses in the 1st Round. Should have seen that one coming.

...the Czarina, on blowing a 6-0/5-3 lead against Jankovic in the 3rd Round, then finding herself down 1-5 in the final set: "Almost the whole 3rd set I was thinking about what I did wrong. But then after 5-1, I realized that I'm playing the 3rd set, so maybe it's something new I should do to win." Hard to argue with Anastasia's assessment of the situation, isn't it? She won the set 10-8 in the 2:43 match.



3...United States
1...Czech Republic

**OVER 29s**

**UNDER 20s**
19-Kuznetsova (turns 20 on Monday)

All for now.


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