Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Wk.27 - Mid-Season Musings

...as the WTA season reaches its (arbitrary) half-way point, a few short thoughts on the upcoming 3rd quarter, and the remainder of 2005:


1.Venus Williams... will it continue to be the "summer of Venus?" We'll soon find out how much Williams wants her rediscovered success, and whether she missed it enough to do all she'll have to in order to maintain it. Her first post-Wimbledon effort in the Fed Cup semis left a great deal to be desired, but it's the North American hardcourt circuit that'll be her true proving ground, not a red clay court in Russia. Venus has traveled this road before, sweeping both Wimbledon and the US Open in 2000 and 2001. Last year, only Lindsay Davenport kept her from a truly big-time hardcourt season of her own (two tough losses to the '05 Wimbledon RU paved the way for Davenport's great success). With Davenport not likely to match her four-title hardcourt success again, the door might be ajar for Venus to step through yet again.
2.Lindsay Davenport... speaking of the world #1, she'll have a great deal to live up to after her dream hardcourt season of 2004. A year later, the reigning US Open Series champ will also be dealing with a back injury that she hopes doesn't linger through the summer. A slip could cost her #1, but it's the Open that she has her sights set on after another near-miss at a slam (coming within a match point of taking the Wimbledon crown). She surely won't defend all four of her '04 hardcourt titles, but after possibly peaking too soon a year ago (she made the SF at Flushing Meadows) she might get the timing just right this time around.
3.Maria Sharapova... what's this? Is it really "quiet" on the Supernova front? Surely, Sharapova isn't as busy at this time of the year as she was a season ago. So, hold on tight, tennis will likely receive more of her focus. With Davenport's back against the wall, Sharapova will play more (and better) leading into the US Open and might just be able to make another run at the #1 ranking.
4.Anastasia Myskina... the Czarina has been beset by poor play, family worries and just a general disinterest in the game for most of this season. But there are signs of a reawakening taking place. Her Wimbledon comebacks, coupled with her team-leading Fed Cup play (a win over Venus!) this weekend, might signal that the 2003 US Open quarterfinalist's prospects are trending up for a surprising hardcourt season. Keep an eye on her.
5.Svetlana Kuznetsova... the Contessova's had a down year since winning the US Open. From the year starting with the story of a failed drug test to her continued difficulties with defeating other Top 10 players (even holding, and failing to convert, a match point against the eventual Roland Garros champ -- for the second straight year), Kuznetsova has yet to follow up her grand slam breakthrough with another big-time run. Could good memories cause it to finally happen at the scene of the crime in Flushing Meadows?


JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE & KIM CLIJSTERS... for the first time since 2003, the Belgians will have a healthy, full-time presence on the hardcourts. It goes without saying that the Queen will likely be a force in North America, having won two Tier I's and the US Open (with that classic win over Capriati in the SF) in 2003, and then the Athens Gold a year ago. Clijsters, too, was a dominant force in '03, winning two titles in the 3Q and making the '03 Open final.

SERENA WILLIAMS... of course, Serena might be a non-factor. But if she's physically able, it'll be interesting to see the effect on her of Venus' Wimbledon win. She does have a flair for the dramatic, after all. Plus, everyone will be waiting with bated breath to see what fashion monstrosity she'll hoist upon Flushing Meadows this year (unless she follows the unadorned Venus' lead from the Wimbledon final, that is).


ANA IVANOVIC... everything's up, up, up for AnaIvo, who'll be looking to build a late-season foundation on which to build her campaign to rise into the Top 10 next year.

AMELIE MAURESMO... in 2004, Mauresmo skipped France's Fed Cup final appearance in favor of preparing to make a run at a slam title in Melbourne. How'd that go, Amelie? Oh, I see. Suffice to say, with France back in the FC final, she'll probably be taking a different route to end 2005.

ALICIA MOLIK... 2005 held such great promise for the Aussie Steamer. A Top 10 ranking and QF run in Melbourne had things looking only up, then a balance-corrupting inner ear infection wrecked everything. She's played just 23 matches on the season, just one more than the perpetually-injured Serena. Molik's brief return on the grass was just that. Now, simply being able to consistently return to the court at all will allow her to keep a hopeful eye toward another Melbourne run come January.

ANNA-LENA GROENEFELD... a 20-year old with powerful and aggressive groundstrokes. A doubles partner of Martina Navratilova. Sound familiar? Just like Kuznetsova, ALG (who's three inches taller than the Contessova) is being groomed for something greater. Ranked #36 and having made her first WTA singles final earlier this season, Groenefeld has twice led the German team through Fed Cup rounds in '05. She might be the long-awaited, post-Graf German threat.

JENNIFER CAPRIATI... she'd hoped to make it back from shoulder surgery in time for the US Open, but now that's in question. Maybe she'll just have to start 2006 with a totally fresh slate.


ANGELA HAYNES... that Wimbledon 1st Round match against Serena has whetted the appetite for more substantial Angela sightings.

ELENA BOVINA... has any of the Russians (even Vera Zvonareva) been any more invisible than Bovina in 2005? Hampered by injuries all season, she's yet to even make a SF. Last hardcourt season, she picked up her biggest career title the week before the US Open in New Haven.

JELENA DOKIC... don't expect to see the Debutante in Oz come January. In fact, don't expect to see too much of her at all, certainly not in WTA events. Not when the former Top 5 player is being bounced out of challenger events in the 1st Round.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA... she's still looking for her first doubles title of the season (and another record for "oldest" WTA titlist, of course).

MARTINA HINGIS... is her World Team Tennis participation just a fun lark, or a prelude to another comeback try?

1.Justine Henin-Hardenne
2.Maria Sharapova
3.Venus Williams
4.Lindsay Davenport
5.Kim Clijsters
6.Amelie Mauresmo
7.Ana Ivanovic
9.Serena Williams
10.Flavia Pennetta
HM-Mary Pierce & Black/Huber


Russia def. USA 4-1
France def. Spain 3-1

FINAL: Russia vs. France (at Paris, Sept.17-18)

Russia: Anastasia Myskina
France: Amelie Mauresmo
Austria: Tamira Paszek
Belgium: Kim Cijsters
Germany: Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Italy: Francesca Schiavone
China: Na Li
Indonesia: Wynne Prakusya
Japan: Akiko Morigami
Thailand: Suchanan Viratprasert


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Anastasia Myskina
...she reassumed the leadership role of the Russian team, defeating Venus Williams in the opening match, and sending the Horde back to the Fed Cup final. Waiting there for the defending champions will be '04 RU France.
RISERS: Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Akiko Morigami
...ALG, 20, won two singles matches over Karolina Sprem and Jelena Kostanic, and one in doubles, to power the Germans past Croatia in the Group I Playoffs. In the Group II Playoffs, Japan's Morigami took care of Bulgaria's Sesil Karatantcheva and Maggie Maleeva in a 4-1 win for the Rising-Sunners.
SURPRISE: Sandra Kloesel
...a last minute replacement for Julia Schruff, Kloesel played her first-ever singles match in Fed Cup competition. She made it count, with her win over Kostanic providing the clinching point for Germany over Croatia.
VETERANS: Martina Hingis & Els Callens
...even though she's just 24, ex-Golden Child Hingis counts as a veteran. She made her WTT debut last week, going 4-1 in singles sets (5-0 in doubles) with wins over Martina Navratilova and Jamea Jackson. Her loss came against Meghann Shaughnessy, who, incidentally, played a singles set against the ATP's Brian Valhaly (she lost 5-1). Next week, Steffi Graf makes her WTT debut. Meanwhile, Callens joined with Clijsters in the deciding doubles match (a win over Diaz Oliva/Dulko) in the 3-2 Group I Playoff between Belgium & Argentina.
FRESH FACE: Tamira Paszek
...the 14-year old, Wimbledon junior RU just a week ago, put the Austrian team on her back in the Group I Playoffs against Switzerland with two singles wins, Her bag might have said "AUT," but Paszek's a worldly soul. She was born in Tanzania to an Austrian mother and African father. She grew up in Kenya and Canada, then finally moved to Austria. To be continued...
DOWN: Venus Williams & Jelena Kostanic
...the Fed Cup website said that Venus reverted to "the inconsistency of the previous two years," spraying balls often in her opening match loss against Myskina. After the match, Venus actually said that the Czarina played well. What is this? A "new" Venus? No, wait. She also said, "The change of surface was tougher than I expected. It's a tough court to play on, hard to find your footing, and the balls dig in. They did their own grave." Ah, there's the Venus we know. In her second match, Williams defeated Elena Dementieva... but with Davenport and Serena out with injuries, it was the opening loss that sealed the fate of the American team. In the Group I Playoffs, Kostanic, after carrying the Croatian team last time out, went 0-2 versus Germany to balance things out this time.

...in case you missed it, the Backspin 2nd Quarter Quiz is finally a reality. You can test yourself HERE.


1.Fed Cup SF - Myskina (RUS) d. V.Williams (USA)
...5-7/6-4/6-2. The Czarina's got this comeback thing down to a formula right now.
2.WTT - Hingis (NYS) d. Navratilova (BOS)
...5-0. They never played each other in singles as pros. Hard to believe that that's a little surprising, considering Hingis is 24 and her namesake Navratilova is 48. Better late than never.
3.Fed Cup Group II PO - Morigami (JAP) d. Karatantcheva (BUL)
...2-6/7-6/6-0. Sesil had never lost a Fed Cup match during her 2004-05 participation before this. After this heartbreaker, the opening match of the Japan/Bulgaria matchup, she lost another to Aiko Nakamura.
4.Fed Cup Group I PO - Clijsters/Callens (BUL) d. Diaz Oliva/Dulko (ARG)
...6-4/3-6/7-5. Whew! That was a close one for the Waffles.
5.Fed Cup Group I PO - Schiavone/Vinci (ITA) d. Vaidisova/Peschke (CZE)
...6-4/6-4. The other deciding doubles match of the weekend, as Italy edged the Maidens 3-2.



**TOP 10 PLAYERS - 2005 W/L**
41-7...Maria Sharapova
36-6...Lindsay Davenport
33-13..Patty Schnyder
32-9...Amelie Mauresmo
32-13..Nadia Petrova
27-2...Justine Henin-Hardenne
26-7...Venus Williams
25-11..Svetlana Kuznetsova
23-9...Elena Dementieva
17-5...Serena Williams
17-12..Vera Zvonareva
16-7...Alicia Molik
14-12..Anastasia Myskina
0-0....Jennifer Capriati

[of 27]
27...Lindsay Davenport(*)
27...Maria Sharapova(*)
27...Amelie Mauresmo(*)
27...Svetlana Kuzntsova(*)
27...Elena Dementieva(*)
27...Serena Williams(*)
27...Anastasia Myskina(*)
22...Alicia Molik
18...Venus Williams(*)
13...Jennifer Capriati
10...Nadia Petrova(*)
9....Justine Henin-H.(*)
6....Vera Zvonareva
3....Patty Schnyder
(*)-current Top 10

**2004 U.S. OPEN SERIES**
1.Lindsay Davenport
2.Amelie Mauresmo
3.Elena Likhovtseva
4.Elena Bovina
5.Venus Williams



...the ol' Holy Webmaster is up for another battle to try to even things up. So, here we go:

--new event--
TOP SEEDS: Schiavone/Pennetta
SF: Ondraskova d. Kostanic; Pennetta d. Parra
FINAL: Pennetta d. Ondraskova

...hey, I thought this was supposed to be hardcourt season. Oh, well. Schiavone is the #1 seed, but she usually dips a bit coming off the high of playing Fed Cup. So, I'll go with Pennetta to win title #3 on the season. Of course, Pennetta just finished joining Schiavone in that Italian win over the Czechs. But Schiavone's never won a WTA title... Pennetta has three (so far). There has to be a reason, right?

Pierre Cantin:
SF: Schiavone d. Kostanic; Pennetta d. Loit
FINAL: Pennetta d. Schiavone

...Well, this is a new beginning for me. I have to admit, I really got kicked around badly in the grass season, but I'm now ready to take on Todd. And while hard court season only starts one week from now, this will be enough to give a serious warning of what to expect for this summer... poor Todd. He has no idea what consequences re-inviting me here will have.


Interesting. All for now.


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