Saturday, January 07, 2006

2006 Prediction Avalanche

Ah, it's time for the full rush of pre-season Backspin predictions which will either look very intelligent and well-thought-out at the end of the season, or as stupid as picking Svetlana Kuznetsova to finish 2005 at #1.

First, a look back at the sets of five predictions for Intriguing Questions #2-10.



**BACKSPIN PREDICTIONS**

==IQ #10==
1.Hingis will find things slow going early on as she struggles with her fitness and the ability to play three full, tough sets.
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2.Still, in Melbourne, she'll get her first slam singles match win since the '02 U.S. Open. In fact, she'll get a handful of them at her best slam event.
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3.As the season moves along, Hingis will take advantage of injuries to top players to reach at least the QF of a slam (probably Roland Garros).
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4.She'll add at least two moderately-tiered (III, and maybe a less-populated II) crowns to her career haul of 40 WTA singles titles, winning them on multiple surfaces.
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5.Finally, Hingis will close the year in the Top 30 and start spinning tails to anyone who'll listen about how she'll return to the Top 10 in 2007.
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==IQ #9==
1.Dokic will ride her current run to at least a QF result at one of the pre-Australian Open tuneups, then get at least one match win in Melbourne (her first slam victory since the '03 U.S. Open 1st Round). But her current #349 ranking won't quite rise above #50 in 2006.
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2.Capriati will hover in the #16-#25 range in the back half of the season after winning her first singles title since '03 and getting a couple hardcourt victories over Top 5 players in North America, where she'll regain some of her luster during the U.S. Open Series.
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3.The WTA's "Spice Girls" (or is it "Spice Women" now?) will share a tour-level doubles court again, probably at SW19.
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4.Harkleroad will reach her first career WTA singles final, but won't win it.
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5.Seles will retire (next stop: joining her one-time rival Steffi Graf at her own HOF induction in Newport), as will Rubin (who'll go on to be an ever bigger force for good after her playing days than she has been during them).
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==IQ #8==
1.Mirza will claim two more singles titles in 2006
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2.She'll match her career-best Round of 16 slam result, maybe more than once
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3.At least one win will come over a Top 5 player...
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4. ...and she'll spend the final months of the season edging in and out of the Top 20. In eleven months, Mirza's tennis future will look even brighter than it does right now.
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5.Plus, she'll learn to watch her tongue (a little), but won't lose her refreshing personal honesty (hmmm... maybe she can talk to Sesil about a few things, too, huh?)
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==IQ #7==
1.Groenefeld will win her first three WTA singles titles, one of which will be a Tier I level event
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2.She'll advance to at least a slam QF (and might even play on one of the four biggest Saturday's of the WTA season)
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3.Along the way, she'll finally claim that overdue win over Sharapova, too...
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4. ...as she rises into the Top 10 in singles...
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5. ...and Top 5 in doubles, where she'll help Navratilova win yet another slam crown
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==IQ #6==
1.The Resurrection will be in full swing in '06 as the total number of Maiden appearances in finals will jump from 11 in '05 to more than 15, putting the Czechs in direct competition with the Russians for most on tour
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2.They'll claim at least 11 titles...
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3. ...two of which will go to first-time champ Petra Cetkovska and vet Kveta Peschke (her first since '98)
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4.But the leader of The Resurrection -- Vaidisova -- will climb the mountain quicker than anyone, moving into the Top 10, even ahead of Sharapova at some point during a season...
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5. ...in which she'll claim at least 5 titles and -- I may as well walk the plank on this so I can shout about it if it actually happens -- (drumroll, please)... will reach her first grand slam singles final. (Put that in your pipe and smoke it.)
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==IQ #5==
1.Myskina has already experienced her career-high moment at RG, and in '06 will settle into her career's hand-in-glove position -- good for nipping-at-the-heels of the Top 10 and 2-3 titles. Meanwhile, Petrova, whose varied game is capable of more than she's accomplished to date, will ride her '05 surge to a slam RU result in '06.
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2.Dementieva will win a Tier I title, but inconsistency and poor slam results will make 2006 an ultimately disappointing year for Punch-Sober
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3.Over 25 WTA singles finalists will be Russians, and 10 different Horde members will win titles in 2006, including first-timers Anna Chakvetadze and Ekaterina Bychkova
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4.The number of Russians in the Top 10 will drop to two, Sharapova and Petrova, with Myskina and Dementieva just missing out. Kuznetsova won't "reverse the curse," but she'll slowly regain her footing and begin to somewhat resemble her '04 self again come the U.S. Open Series.
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5.2006 will be another slam-less one for Sharapova, but she'll reach one slam SF (Wimbledon) and win a Tier I before ending an injury-marred year with a title in the WTA Championships. It'll send her into 2007 on an emotional high. She'll turn 20 mid-way through that season and by the time '08 begins, a new tennis phrase (don't say it too loudly, now...whisper if you have to) will enter the lexicon as she revs up to attempt to make history... can you say, "Sharapova Slam?" (Or, around here at Backspin, "Supernova Slam?")
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==IQ #4==
1.It's almost crazy to try to predict what Serena will do. In 2004, I said she'd win two slams and she won zero. In 2005, I said she'd win zero and she blew that one away less than a month into the season. So, I'll bite my lip and do it all over again: no slam for Serena, but she'll reach one slam SF. (Watch, she'll go and defend in Melbourne now.)
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2.Serena will extend her string of seasons with a title to 8, winning a Tier I somewhere along the way, but having a hard time elsewhere as she battles multiple injuries.
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3.Serena's ranking will either hold steady or slightly fall, while Venus improves on her #9 standing...
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4. ...winning a WTA title to stretch her tour-best streak to 9 years...
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5. ...while defending her Wimbledon title and placing #1 in the U.S. Open Series before having her "Summer of Venus" run cancelled in the U.S. Open final.
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==IQ #3==
1.Clijsters will finally get back that #1 ranking sometime in the season's opening months, but she won't hold if for very long.
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2.She won't win a second slam, either, losing in her one slam final appearance.
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3.Clijsters will win more titles and finish higher in the year-end rankings than Hein-Hardenne.
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4.After meeting just once in the last two years, JHH and Clijsters will meet at least three times in '06, with Clijsters winning the "minor" matches, but JHH winning the "biggest"...
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5. ...namely, in a slam final, as JHH will run her career slam title edge over Clijsters to an "untouchable" 5-1.
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==IQ #2==
1.Pierce will get out of the starting gate well in '06, carrying over her success from the final six months of '05
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2.She'll win another Tier I, plus three other titles
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3.She won't make it to #1, but she'll break her previous career-high (#3 in '95) by climbing to #2
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4.Pierce will reach another slam final and have a golden opportunity to salt away that important third title...
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5. ...and the best shot for it to happen will be in Melbourne a few weeks from now. And that's just where it will come, too.
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**PROJECTED 2006 TOP 10**
1.Lindsay Davenport
2.Mary Pierce
3.Kim Clijsters
4.Amelie Mauresmo
5.Justine Henin-Hardenne
6.Venus Williams
7.Maria Sharapova
8.Nicole Vaidisova
9.Nadia Petrova
10.Anna-Lena Groenefeld



Now, here's the avalanche of 2006 predictions that didn't quite make it into the IQ lists:

**WINNERS & LOSERS**
==11 FIRST-TIME TITLEISTS==
Sofia Arvidsson
Viktoria Azarenka
Alona Bondarenko
Ekaterina Bychkova
Petra Cetkovska
Anna Chakvetadze
Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Shuai Peng
Tzvetana Pironkova
Samantha Stosur
Tiantian Sun

==10 FIRST-TIME FINALISTS==
Alexa Glatch
Sesil Karatantcheva
Alisa Kleybanova
Viktoriya Kutuzova
Evgenia Linetskaya
Aiko Nakamura
Camille Pin
Hana Sromova
Agnes Szavay
Roberta Vinci

==FIRST TITLES SINCE...==
1998...Kveta Peschke
2002...Martina Hingis
2003...Jennifer Capriati
2004...Ai Sugiyama

==5 WHO WON'T WIN TITLES==
Jelena Dokic
Vera Dushevina
Ashley Harkleroad
Jelena Jankovic
Francesca Schiavone



**THROUGH THE "IQ" CRACKS**
Ana Ivanovic: AnaIvo will finish 2006 in the Top 15, narrowly missing the Top 10. She'll reach at least two slam QF, be a Tier I RU and win 3 titles.
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Amelie Mauresmo: the YEC title won't mean much. She'll have a solid year, be a Top 5 player and win another Tier I on the European clay. But she won't win a slam, or even make a slam final.
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Lindsay Davenport: the 2006 year-end #1, winner of her long-awaited fourth (and final) slam title, plus a Tier I and a handful of others.
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**EBB & FLOW**
==LATE CAREER SURGE==
Ai Sugiyama

==LATE CAREER SWOON==
Patty Schnyder



**RUSSIAN/CZECH WAVES...**
Svetlana Kuznetsova: quietly, will improve as season progresses, then reach the U.S. Open SF in September.
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Anna Chakvetadze: after missing on picking her as a slam semifinalist last year, she'll make that prediction a good one in 2006
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**...BRIT/AMERICAN RIPTIDES (or not)**
An American under 25 will actually win a tour singles title in 2006
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Riding the coat tails of Andy Murray's feel-good rise, both Elena Baltacha & Anne Keothavong will reach the 3rd Round of Wimbledon
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**ELEVEN MONTHS FROM NOW...**
Lindsay Davenport will be the #1-ranked singles player
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Samantha Stosur will be the #1-ranked doubles player
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Your 2006 grand slam winners (in no particular order): Davenport, Henin-Hardenne, V.Williams and one "dramatic shock" winner coming from the following list:

Mary Pierce
Nicole Vaidisova
Ana Ivanovic
Anna-Lena Groenefeld

One will win a slam, and at least one other will appear in a slam final this year.
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All for now.

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Tomorrow, an early appearance of the "Act 1, Scene 1" regular addition of the weekly WTA Backspin column. (Hint, hint... a Maiden is the star)

On Monday, IQ #1 is "unveiled" in the season's customary weekly slot. (Hint, hint... a Maiden is the star)

4 Comments:

Anonymous Ian said...

Sofia Arvidsson reached her first Tour final at Quebec last year, dude. ;) Or does that not count because Bartoli retired in the semi?

Sat Jan 07, 07:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Damn, I thought I'd checked all of those. :(

I was juggling some of the first titlists/first finalists choices to get the numbers to even out better.

Well, I moved Arvidsson up to first titllist, and moved Linetskaya down to first finalist.

Sat Jan 07, 08:26:00 PM EST  
Blogger thesupernova said...

I can't believe you think that Clijsters won't win a slam! I'm in shock right now.

Mon Jan 09, 12:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I've always liked to go with the contrary opinion on Clijsters, for some reason. She turned me around a bit after winning the U.S. Open, but after she failed to take the #1 ranking on two occasions late in the season last year I smelled blood in the water and just couldn't resist returning to my old ways. :)

Tue Jan 10, 12:18:00 AM EST  

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