Monday, August 22, 2005

Wk.33-Nice, Kim

On Sunday, Kim Clijsters took on and defeated Justine Henin-Hardenne in the U.S. Open final.

Yeah, yeah. I know it was actually the final of Toronto, but come on, at this point is there any other final match-up that you'd put your money on happening in Flushing Meadows come September 10 than Henin-Hardenne vs. Clijsters? You can be assured that the Open prediction that'll be coming from this corner on the weekend will include an all-Belgian final... only with a different result, since we know that Nice Kim wouldn't emerge the victor over JHH on THAT big of a stage.

But, for what it was, Clijsters' Toronto title effectively wrapped up her dominant North American hardcourt tuneup season. The final numbers: a 16-1 record and three singles titles. So good has been her August, which was one bad night in the presence of Shuai Peng from being a picture of absolute perfection, that she'll go into New York as the pick by many to walk away with her first slam crown. Can you say "pressure?"

That's why I'd still stick with the Queen, barring any troubling stories this week about her feeling "fatigued" after returning in Toronto following eight weeks away from the tour. Le Petit Taureau, even while having an up and down week as she battled the expected rust on her game, managed to defeat the world #3 (Mauresmo) and reach a Tier I final.

With Lindsay Davenport only now returning in New Haven this week (at least at last report), Venus M.I.A. for most of the month, Serena and the Supernova hurting, Kuznetsova looking nothing like a defending champ, and Mauresmo being Mauresmo, the path to another Clijsters vs. Henin-Hardenne final would seem bereft of any obviously menacing obstacles (unless Mary Pierce recaptures her San Diego form, and her multiple withdrawals from tournament draws since then weren't worrisome developments).

Now, all that's left is a draw that will make it possible.

S: Kim Clijsters d. Justine Henin-Hardenne 7-5/6-1
D: Groenefeld/Navratilova d. Martinez/Ruano-Pascual


...hmmm, that makes it six titles on the season. No one has more (or even as many as five, for that matter). A 6-0 record in finals. Three Tier I crowns, the most on tour in '05. A WTA-best 48 tour wins. She's already up to #4 in the rankings, too. A good bet for Player of the Year? Maybe, but finally getting that elusive slam title would certainly solidify Clijsters' campaign... Nice Kim can only play around in the water on a flooded court (as she did in Toronto last week) for so long before that tremendous hole in her resume is unable to be hidden from prying eyes.
RISER: Gisela Dulko
...the 20-year old Argentine who took out Martina Navratilove at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2004 has been picking up some impressive scalps on hardcourts of late. In Toronto, she knocked out the disappointing pair of Tatiana Golovin and Svetlana Kuznetsova en route to the QF. On Sunday, she easily handled (6-2/6-4) a returning Alicia Molik in early 1st Round action in New Haven.
SURPRISE: Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Martina Navratilova
...the 20-year old German/48-year old Czech-born American duo finally charted their first doubles title as a team this weekend in Toronto. That either would be successful isn't a surprise, but that they'd finally meld together perfectly (upsetting #1-seeded Black/Stubbs in the QF, then Martinez/Ruano-Pascual in the Final) at a Tier I, getting Navratilova her first title of 2005 and setting yet another oldest-WTA titlist record, wasn't exactly expected. Now, the Kuznetsova/Groenefeld comparison is just one big fortnight from becoming complete. It's not likely to happen in New York (or is it?), but ALG can dream, can't she? Backspin can, too.
VETERANS: Martina Navratilova & Conchita Martinez
...Navratilova is just two months from her 49th birthday, meaning she's older than both the Toronto singles finalists -- JHH & Clijsters -- COMBINED, with almost four years to spare. Martinez made the doubles final, and also knocked off Navratilova's doubles partner Groenefeld and Dinara Safina in singles.
FRESH FACES: Petra Cetkovska & Monica Niculescu
...Czech Maiden Cetkovska, 20, won her second of back-to-back ITF titles in Kedzierzyn (Poland), giving her four challenger crowns on the season. Also winning her fourth ITF title of the 2005 season was Romania's Niculescu, 17, in Coimbra.
DOWN: Serena Williams
...Serena came, barely conquered Stephanie Cohen Aloro... and then withdrew from the tournament. As chronicled in the Williams sisters' "For Real" reality series, Serena's April ankle injury has now turned into a knee injury that's officially threatening to derail her Flushing Meadows fashion show at Arthur Ashe Stadium next week. For the record, Serena has been in "action" at seven events in 2005. She won the Australian, of course, and made the Miami QF. But she's also retired from two matches, had walkovers in two other tournaments, lost in the 3rd round at Wimbledon, and failed to win a match in Rome just five weeks after her initial ankle injury.


1.Tor F - Clisjters d. Henin-Hardenne
...7-5/6-1. Nice Kim is now 10-9 career vs. JHH, finally gaining an edge over her fellow Waffle in their first matchup since the 2004 Aussie Open final.
2.Tor 3rd - Dulko d. Kuznetsova
...7-6/7-6. The Contessova played on despite a lower back injury. She still lost, then withdrew from New Haven. Her tuneup for her U.S. Open title defense officially ends with a 2-3 record.
3.Tor 3rd - Pennetta walkover S.Williams, will there be an Aneres-designed outfit debuted at Flushing Meadows or not?
4.Tor Doub.F - Groenefeld/Navratilova d. Martinez/VRP
...5-7/6-3/6-4. On October 18, Navratilova will turn 49.
5.Tor 1st - Jidkova d. Hantuchova
...6-4/4-6/4-4 ret. Just a few days after her L.A. RU, Wonder Girls retires at 4-4 in the 3rd set against qualifier Jidkova. One step forward, two steps back?
HM-Tor SF - JHH d. Mauresmo
...7-5/3-6/6-1. JHH, after two months off, was able to outlast the world #3. Of course, it WAS Mauresmo... so make of it what you will.
HM-Tor QF - JHH d. Vaidisova
...7-5/7-6. A nice outing for Darth Vaidisova, but to make her next big move she'll have to start winning matches like this one.




==2005 FINALS==
6...Clijsters (6-0)
6...Davenport (2-4)
5...Henin-Hardenne (4-1)

==2005 TIER I TITLES==


12...Russia (6 titles)
12...USA (5)
11...Belgium (10)

Stanford - Clijsters d. V.Williams
San Diego - Pierce d. Sugiyama
L.A. - Clijsters d. Hantuchova
Toronto - Clijsters d. JHH

377...Steffi Graf
331...Martina Navratilova
262...Chris Evert
209...Martina Hingis
178...Monica Seles
82....Lindsay Davenport
57....Serena Williams
45....Justine Henin-Hardenne
22....Tracy Austin
17....Jennifer Capriati
12....Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
11....Venus Williams
5.....Amelie Mauresmo


...keep up on official U.S. Open news at the tournament website. The draws take place on Wednesday, and will be found HERE.


...the final two episodes of "Venus & Serena: For Real" were a worldwide tour of all that is Williams.

In New York City, an annoyed Venus waits... and waits... and waits... for Serena to show up at a booksigning. What's the holdup? A bad practice running long... and an impromptu decision to film an ad-libbed movie scene with John Leguizamo.

In L.A., Lyndrea Price finally performs her debut show... with Venus taking a turn at singing backup.

In Europe, the clan heads to Rome. Riding around the city, Isha manages to spot a McDonald's. Venus & Serena's plans to buy an apartment are abandoned when the asking price is too high... then an angry Oracene, left behind at the hotel because she was 45 minutes late (does it run in the family?), shows up and shoots the sisters a look that would frighten an unborn child. Later, at a restaurant, Oracene refuses to eat the food she says isn't worth the time... then the bill comes, and it's apparent to everyone that the Williams clan is being overcharged. The bill is eventually paid, but only after Serena argues with the owner in makeshift Italian.

On the court, Serena plays for the first time in five weeks. But with her injured ankle leading to an injured knee, she goes down in her first match to Francesca Schiavone. (Back in the REAL real world, Serena withdrew in Toronto after one match, then pulled out of New Haven, too.)

In the end, Venus goes on to win Wimbledon (Serena's unceremonious ejection, though, isn't mentioned). And the world awaits their next move...


==BATTLE ROYALE the wire==

...Pierre won the Clijsters vs. JHH battle in Toronto (must be some Canadian advantage, I guess), thereby tying me in the Champions picks (2-2) in the Royale. I still hold an advantage in Finalists (6-5), while the Holy Webmaster leads in Semifinalists (18-13). Looks like this Royale won't be settled until after the U.S. Open.

04 F: Bovina d. Dechy
05 TOP: Davenport/Mauresmo
SF: Schnyder d. Petrova; Mauresmo d. Dementieva
FINAL: Mauresmo d. Schnyder

...Davenport returns, and not picking her to win feels like I'm falling into an easy trap. But I'm doing it anyway. I'll bite my tongue and take Mauresmo, figuring she'll peak before a slam... as usual.

04 F: Likhovtseva d.Benesova
05 TOP: Morigami/Smashnova
SF: Mirza d. Morigami; Benesova d. Smashnova
FINAL: Mirza d. Benesova's a teeny-tiny little event (a 16-player draw), so maybe the Indian Princess can make like it's the hometown event she won in Hyderabad back in February and win again. (Yeah, I know I'm stretching with that reasoning... unless Mirza DOES win, that is.)

Pierre Cantin:

SF: Davenport d. Petrova; Mauresmo d. Dementieva
FINAL: Davenport d. Mauresmo

04 F: Likhovtseva d.Benesova
05 TOP: Morigami/Smashnova
SF: Morigami d. Mirza; Safarova def Benesova
FINAL: Morigami def Safarova

Well well well, the final stop before the real action begins! And yeah after making my predictions, I took a look at Todd's ones and to my surprise he did not even put Lindsay Davenport in the semis... quite a prediction, I'd say we might have someone looking like a fool just before the start of the US Open. Then again, I've been wrong a few times in the past so maybe he'll surprise us all again! By the way, I'll be in New York reporting every evening as in previous years, for the 6 first days of the tournament, so be sure to check out Tennisrulz for our previews and upcoming columns! May the best man win!


U.S. Open previews are coming soon!! The draw takes place on Wednesday. All for now.


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