Monday, August 08, 2005

Wk.31-Simply, a Woman Named Mary

Mary Pierce has served notice. She's back, and not just for some two week-long "memories tour" in Paris, either.

Since her Roland Garros runner-up performance, Pierce has put up a career-best quarterfinal result at Wimbledon, helped France advance to the Fed Cup final, and now made her 2005 North American hardcourt debut by snaking her way through the San Diego draw to earn her first Tier I crown since 2000.

Being 30, Pierce must have felt the "pressure" to live up to her "brilliant" USTA nickname. You haven't heard it yet? Oh, then let me be the first to enlighten you... it's "The Veteran," obviously the result of one of the US Open Series marketing firm gurus' all-night skull sessions. "The Veteran." How quaint. Not "Proud Mary," apparently for fear that the moniker might turn off any of the Creedence Clearwater Revival (or Tina Turner) haters out there. Not something with a link to her French connections, maybe because they thought American fans might confuse her with Gene Hackman. But "The Veteran." Well, I suppose it's "technically" accurate.

Pierce doesn't need to be singled out by her "advancing" age. Quite simply, it's enough for her to be known as "a woman named Mary" so soon after her career seemed to be spinning its wheels and heading for oblivion (and questions about whether her career was Hall of Fame-worthy)... and that's something for her to be proud of. Be proud, Mary.

Hmmm, a veteran previously hampered with injuries putting up good results on hardcourts in August. Sound familiar? Exactly. Lindsay Davenport followed the same pattern a year ago, going from retirement talk to four titles and the #1 ranking. Pierce isn't quite on that level, at least not yet, but her San Diego title raised her ranking to #11 and she'll be in L.A. this week to try to take Step Two.

Can anyone else feel a sense of deja vu coming on?

S: Mary Pierce d. Ai Sugiyama 6-0/6-3
D: Martinez/Ruano-Pascual d. Hantuchova/Sugiyama



...Pierce's first title since winning her first crown on grass in June '04 was the 17th of her career (tying her with fellow Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo), and fourth at a Tier I.
RISER: Ashley Harkleroad
...not long ago, everyone was wondering where American Splendor was and whether those rumors of her retirement were really true. Well, here she is, wrapping up what has been a very successful summer. She qualified for Wimbledon in June, won her first ITF title in three years in July (at Louisville), and has begun August by taking a $75K event in Washington D.C. Harkleroad told the Washington Post, "The most challenging thing about coming back has been doing it. I've just had to tell myself it is going to take a while. If I hadn't got off to a strong Wimbledon, who knows where I would have been." Well, no matter. We know where she is now.
SURPRISE: Mashona Washington
...a year ago, Washington made the QF at Stanford and New Haven and defeated Maria Sharapova on U.S. hardcourts. This year, the 29-year old lost in the 1st Round in Stanford, but rebounded with victories over Karolina Sprem and Vera Zvonareva in San Diego.
VETERANS: Ai Sugiyama & Conchita Martinez/Virginia Ruano-Pascual
...Sugiyama's had a slow '05, but had her best week with a San Diego RU in both singles (after a win over Svetlana Kuznetsova) and doubles. Martinez/VRP teamed to win their second Tier I title of the season (individually, doubles #1 VRP has three Tier I crowns in '05).
FRESH FACES: Shuai Peng & Anna Chakvetadze
...Peng, 19, had a true breakthrough week in San Diego, reaching a Tier I SF after wins over Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva & Kim Clijsters, handing the Belgium her first hardcourt loss since the 2003 U.S. Open final. Chakvetadze continued this season's upward climb by knocking off Tatiana Golovin, Iveta Benesova & Elena Likhovtseva en route to the QF (where she was the last Russian standing).
DOWN: Svetlana Kuznetsova
...speaking of the Russians, the Horde's SF-less streak continued in San Diego. Dementieva, Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova were all knocked out in the 2nd Round, but I'll give the award to the Contessova (though she made the 3rd Round, losing to Sugiyama) simply because this surely wasn't the start she envisioned to the warm-up period that will precede her attempt to defend her U.S. Open title in a few weeks. She'll get another chance this week in Los Angeles.


1.SD QF - Peng d. Clijsters
...6-4/6-4. Sure, Clijsters' game was more off than usual (she even hit a ball off the court in frustration). But that takes nothing away from the task well completed by Peng, who let an upset over Davenport get away from her at Roland Garros.
2.SD Final - Pierce d. Sugiyama
...6-0/6-3. I dare anyone to watch this match and not pencil in Pierce near (or at) the top of the list of U.S. Open favorites. Go ahead, I dare you (and don't mind the six match points Pierce lost before finally putting Sugiyama away).
3.Wash.DC $75K Final - Harkleroad d. Poutchkova
...6-2/6-1. Harkleroad's victories are coming more often, and with more force.
4.SD 3rd - Sugiyama d. Kuznetsova
...2-6/6-4/6-3. The Contessova had 69 unforced errors.
5.SD 2nd - Peng d. Dementieva
...7-5/6-4. Dementieva's serve was broken seven of eleven games by Peng.
HM- SD 2nd - Mirza d. Petrova
...6-2/6-1. The Indian Princess' win over the Empress was impressive all by itself, but the scoreline makes one hope for the possible 3rd Round matchup in L.A. against Sharapova this week, just to see what might happen if the Supernova isn't in form. (Whew, three nicknames in one long sentence!)

...keep up to date on the U.S. Open Series, and have a gander at some of those "brilliant" nicknames at the official U.S. Open Series site


...ah, back to the "land of Williams." The vitals:

EPISODE THEME: The Sisters and time management.

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Venus, shopping for a new Mercedes, samples both barbecue and sour cream & onion-flavored potato chips while she and Isha sit inside a showroom's $140,000 car.

EXTRACURRICULARS: Venus & Serena do a TV commercial shoot for McDonald's, then race off to make a Tennis & Learning Center awards ceremony honoring mom Oracene (who doesn't appear in the episode, by the way).

ACTUAL TENNIS: Venus & Serena participate in Fed Cup practice. Two weeks after her ankle injury, Serena isn't healthy enough to play and is ruled out of competition by FC coach Zina Garrison.

VENUS BEING VENUS: She realizes she can't be a guest on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show because she's just too busy, with all the practicing and work at V-Starr Interiors she has to catch up on.

JACKIE THE DOG UPDATE: Jackie was nowhere to be seen, but Jackie the Human was. JtH, a family friend, meets Serena's challenge when, after Serena bets him he can't do it, he successfully approaches a woman at the McDonald's shoot and manages to get her phone number within thirty seconds.

NEXT WEEK... Serena is ready to "cut loose" her boyfriend, and there's a family crisis.



5...Virginia Ruano-Pascual
4...Cara Black
4...Elena Likhovtseva

32...Conchita Martinez (Pattaya)
30...Mary Pierce (San Diego)
29...Anna Smashnova (Modena/Budpest)


==BATTLE ROYALE... royal failures==

...whatever the key is to making good 3Q predictions, Pierre & I have yet to stumble upon it. We were shut out of a single freakin' correct SF prediction in San Diego.

=WEEK 32=
04 F: Davenport d. S.Williams
05 TOP: Sharapova/Kuznetsova
SF: Sharapova d. Pierce; Clijsters d. Kuznetsova
FINAL: Clijsters d. Sharapova

...Sharapova sees her first WTA action since Wimbledon, while Clijsters tries to put the Peng upset behind her and regain her Stanford momentum. Oh, and there's this woman named Mary in the draw, too.

04 F: Molik d. Perebiynis
05 TOP: Myskina/Douchevina
SF: Douchevina d. Srebotnik; Garrigues d. Myskina
FINAL: Douchevina d. Garrigues

...this tournament's draw looks like it belongs to a clay court event, but it actually IS a hard court one. I'll try one more time to will Elle Dolce to her first career title, but if she faces Myskina in the final I figure she'll crumble under the pressure of facing the Russian leading lady in a such a big moment.

SF: Sharapova def. Pierce; Clijsters def Likhovtseva
F: Sharapova def Clijsters

I have been wrong many times lately but I feel confident that this is the time Maria Sharapova will make history, as she will become the first Russian to ever reach the top rankings. Sure she could reach it without going past the semis, but I think she'll finish off in beauty.

SF: Srebotnik def Douchevina; Myskina def Loit
FINAL: Myskina def Srebotnik

As much as I'd like to see Anastasia arrive early in Toronto (I will be there from Saturday to Tuesday), I think I'll miss her arrival because of a great result in Stockholm.


All for now.


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