Monday, August 01, 2005

Wk.30-There She Goes Again

It's July awards week, so I'll go ahead and get to last week's odds and ends right off the bat.

S: Kim Clijsters d. Venus Williams 7-5/6-2
D: Black/Stubbs d. Likhovtseva/Zvonareva
S: Anna Smashnova d. Catalina Castano 6-2/6-2
D: Loit/Srebotnik d. Dominguez-Lino/Marrero

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kim Clijsters she goes again, positioning herself as one of the so-called "favorites" heading into a grand slam. Clijsters' third career Stanford title (tying her for the tour lead with four crowns this season), and however many more she'll pick up in August, will no doubt lead her to be chosen to be the Flushing Meadows champion by many (maybe even Holy Webmaster Cantin?). But, we've seen this before. She won Indian Wells and Miami before this year's Roland Garros... then lost in the 4th Round there. She won Eastbourne before Wimbledon, then lost in the 4th Round again. In 2003, her last full season on tour, she won Sydney before the Australian (where she made the SF), Rome before Roland Garros (RU), Rosmalen before Wimbledon(SF) and both Stanford and L.A. before the U.S. Open (she lost in the final to Henin-Hardenne, right after the supposedly worn-out JHH had outlasted Capriati in that epic SF). Clijsters always cruises into a slam as a favorite, then has to charm (& squeegee) her way out of being dubbed a Mauresmo-esque big stage con two weeks later. She usually pulls if off, and likely will again come September. She noted on Sunday that she hopes to make another grand slam final, unwittingly once again exposing herself by not instead stressing actually WINNING one. So be it. Nice Kim is what she is... as what she did (and Venus Williams didn't -- more on that later) after the Stanford final once again highlighted. And I guess, in the end, that's not so bad. Just so long as it's also remembered what she ISN'T, as well.
RISERS: Patty Schnyder & Anna-Lena Groenefeld
...we'll see what Sneaky/Streaky Patty is made of this week. She came within a believed-ace in the Stanford SF from advancing to back-to-back hardcourt finals, and now comes to San Diego with her five blown match points against Venus fresh in her mind... which, to put it kindly, can get a bit dodgy at times. Backspin's latest Girl Friday, 20-year old German Groenefeld, proved to be Curse-proof last week, having the fortune to be playing an injured Davenport in the 2nd Round (ALG led 5-0 before Davenport retired with her bad back) and the fortitude to follow it up with a win over Nathalie Dechy for a trip to the SF. (Oh, just to point out a completely meaningless observation, has anyone noticed how much this girl's features bring to mind some odd amalgam of Jelena Dokic & Elena Bovina? Just wondering.)
SURPRISE: Catalina Castano
...the 26-year old Colombian, #89 in the world, made it all the way to her first career WTA final in Budapest, where she had the bad luck to face the buzzsaw (at least in finals) named Smashnova.
VETERAN: Anna Smashnova
...sure, it's SUPPOSED to be hardcourt season, but 29-year old Smashnova has been the queen of the clay for the past month. Her Budapest win gave her two titles in July, and eleven in her career(where she's still holding onto that pristine 11-0 record in finals).
FRESH FACE: Laura Pous Tio
...the 20-year old Spaniard, who's won two ITF titles this season, advanced to her second 2005 WTA SF in Budapest, knocking out Mariana Diaz-Oliva and #1-seed Katarina Srebotnik along the way.
DOWN: Lindsay Davenport
...Davenport's attempt to return from her Wimbledon back injury proved to be short-lived. It lasted all of five games before she had to back out (no pun intended) of her 2nd Round match against Groenefeld. She withdrew from this week's event in San Diego, too. As it is, she's holding onto a 23-point lead over #2 Maria Sharapova (who's also sidelined with a bad back). But with Davenport likely not being up to defending (not well, at least) most, if not all, of her 2004 hard court titles, the Supernova might just become the first Russian #1 without even having to step onto a court.

1.Stanford SF - V.Williams d. Schnyder
...2-6/7-6/6-2. Schnyder served at 6-5 in the 2nd, and led 40-0. She even thought she'd served an ace to win the match, and ran toward the net which her fist clenched... then she heard the "out" call. She never recovered. In the end, after five blown match points and a TB that saw her fall behind 5-0, Schnyder had found a way to maintain her very blemished 0-6 career record against Venus. One can argue that Schnyder SHOULD have won with that would-be ace (ESPN failed to show a replay -- so who can tell if the call was correct), but the fact is that streaky Sneaky had a handful of opportunities to put Venus away and failed to do so.
2.Stanford F - Clijsters d. V.Williams
...7-5/6-2. Anyone who said that Venus neglecting to mention Davenport while addressing the fans after the Wimbledon final was acceptable because she was "so excited" should explain why she did the same thing with Clijsters after losing to her in Stanford. Then, following the script to a "t," Clijsters took the microphone and the first words out of her mouth were to congratulate Venus on her great week and another appearance in the final. If it was anyone else but Venus, one might think the player would feel a wee bit small after such a moment. But we ARE talking about Venus, so she probably didn't even notice her faux paus. Oh, and for the record, Venus excused this loss by talking about her "lack of energy" because, as she happily pointed out, she "usually beats" Clijsters. As a result, Venus is hereby dubbed "Ferris" (for the king of coming up with original excuses for his absences from school, Ferris Bueller, from the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," available at your local DVD rental store) for her ability to always come up with a new excuse.
3.Bud F - Smashnova d. Castano
...6-2/6-2. And here everyone thought Sharapova's record in finals was something to behold.
4.Stanford 2nd - Groenefeld d. Davenport
...5-0 ret. Davenport's 2004 North American success looks to have been turned on it's ear. If she can't pull off the US Open, Venus or JHH's chances of grabbing a second 2005 slam might just shoot up like a heroin junkie.
5.Stanford 1st - Shaughnessy d. Zvonareva
...6-3/1-6/7-6. Shaughnessy had to qualify, then fight off a match point, but she refused to lose to Vera the Almost for a second time in two weeks.
HM--Black/Stubbs d. Likhovsteva/Zvonareva
...the two oldest 2005 doubles titlists, Stubbs and Els Callens, both won their titles while partnering with Black. Conincidence?


In the World of Williams, it's mid-April and the sisters are a study in contrasts.

While Venus heads to Charleston, Serena stays behind to nurse her injured ankle in West Palm Beach. While Serena pays little attention to the rehab instructions from her trainer, Venus works out like a madwoman. While Serena acts the businesswoman in her "Aneres" (Serena spelled backward) clothing offices, Venus steps on the back of her trainer's heels as they walk down the sidewalk ("like a four-year old," in the words of the annoyed trainer). While Serena does a photoshoot with a "Fellini-esque" photographer, Venus defeats Denisa Chladkova at night then states her dislike for having to play at 1pm the next day to accomodate TV coverage (she shows them all when she loses to Tatiana Golovin). Watching the episode, it's fairly obvious that Serena handles not playing at all far better than the mopey Venus handles losing, especially when she feels she "let Serena down."

Ah, but once again, the stars of "For Real" were Jackie (who's a girl dog, not a boy as I said last week -- my mistake) and Isha, the Williams family's resident Yoda. Instead of munching on turkey, this week Jackie saw fit to attack the inflatable sharks that accompanied Serena in the pool during her photoshoot. Isha, for her part, let loose with these sage-like quotes: "Do whatever it is that you do when you do what you do," and, "Limbo is a sure-fire way to be a loser."

Next week: shopping, and eating potato chips in a $100,000 car.




6...Davenport (2-4)
4...Henin-Hardenne (4-0)
4...Clijsters (4-0)
4...Sharapova (3-1)
4...V.Williams (2-2)



[all vs. Lindsay Davenport]
Jan. - Aust.Open Final - #7 S.Williams
Feb. - Tokyo TPP Final - #4 Sharapova
Mar. - Ind.Wells Final - #133 Clijsters
Apr. - Charleston Final - #43 Henin-H.
May - R.Garros QF - #23 Pierce
Jul. - Wimbledon Final - #16 V.Williams
Aug. - Stanford 2nd - #39 Groenefeld


==JULY AWARDS (Wk.27-30)==

1.Kim Clijsters
2.Anna Smashnova
3.Patty Schnyder
4.Anastasia Myskina
5.Anabel Medina-Garrigues
HM-Akiko Morigami

RISER: Patty Schnyder
SURPRISE: Bethanie Mattek
VETERAN: Anna Smashnova
FRESH FACE: Agnes Szavay
DOWN: Lindsay Davenport

...Martina Hingis in WTT action. Sure, it's not the WTA, and they only play sets (to 5). But Hingis' 6-1 singles/13-0 doubles mark is worth noting. Who cares if she never plays a real tournament again -- she was still impressive.
...Fed Cup SF (Russia/USA) - Myskina d. V.Williams 5-7/6-4/6-2. Myskina followed up her string of Wimbledon comebacks with yet another in a match that pretty such sealed the fate of the Americans (even though it was the first match of the tie).
...Stanford SF - V.Williams d. Schnyder 2-6/7-6/6-2. Five blown match points, three after leading 40-love, are impossible to overlook.
...the Czarina in Fed Cup play. Myskina might not have been successful in court in July, but on the court she made her return to her Russian teammates a fruitful one by reassuming her leadership role and taking Team Russia back to the Fed Cup final.
...Louisville $50K Final - Ashley Harkleroad d. Severine Beltrame 4-6/7-5/6-0. American Splendor gets her first title in three years.
...Anna-Lena Groenefeld. ALG opened July by leading Germany through Fed Cup action for the second time this season, then ended it with a win over #1 Davenport and a SF appearance in Stanford.
...Modena QF - Agnes Szavay d. Francesca Schiavone 6-2/6-4. One of the world's top juniors gets her first big win on the women's tour.
...Hingis vs. Navratilova. Hingis never faced the woman she was named for in her WTA career (who'd have thought the elder Martina -- twice the younger's age -- would have been the last one standing?), but they finally faced off in WTT action. Hingis won 5-0.
...all by the WTT. First, getting Hingis & Steffi Graf to play (along with the likes of Navratilova, Kournikova, Venus & Sharapova) was a masterstroke. Getting addition TV coverage on ESPN, too, was icing on the cake. Having Hingis, Kournikova, Sharapova (maybe) & Navratilova all on teams in the playoffs in September? Priceless.
...I still can't abide by the USTA's poor attempt at "corporate" nicknames, or the overselling of the blue courts (though they DO look nice -- but that's not really the point).
#1...loss to Myskina (Fed Cup). Venus targeted her tough transition from grass to clay court for this one, as well as a court with "tough-footing" and that caused the balls to dig into the surface a bit too much for her liking.

#2...loss to Clijsters (Stanford). Fatigue/low energy.
ODD STAT OF THE MONTH: the six WTA events that took place in July, no Russian advanced to a SF (Sharapova at Wimbledon doesn't count, since SW19 began in June). It's the first time not a single member of the Horde achieved such a result during a month since March 2003.



...I'm holding a slight lead over Pierre (or he has a slight lead over me -- it depends on how you look at it, I guess) in the second Battle Royale.

Backspin: 7/3/1
P.Cantin: 10/1/1

**WEEK 31**
04 F: Davenport d. Myskina
05 TOP: Kuznetsova/Dementieva
SF: Clijsters d. Schnyder; Kuznetsova d. Petrova
FINAL: Clijsters d. Kuznetsova

...Clijsters extends her pre-NY tease?

SF: Clijsters d. Schnyder; Hantuchova d. Petrova
FINAL: Clijsters d. Hantuchova


All for now.


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