Monday, February 13, 2006

Wk.6-Amelie and the Belgian Offensive

Time for a little fun with facts and opinions.

OPINION: Mary Pierce should have retired in the Paris Indoors final against Amelie Mauresmo on Sunday (apparently, she IS at least somewhat hobbled by yet another nagging injury at the moment)... you know, just to screw with the minds (and I use that word reservedly) of all the people who capriciously decide that one complaint of a stomach ache wipes out years of tooth-and-nail on-court battling. But maybe that's just a passive-aggressive idea that, if everyone cooperated, could turn ALL tennis aficionados against EVERY PLAYER on tour. Yippee! It shouldn't be too difficult to accomplish, since so many are so easily transformed into the hating public, anyway, as we've learned with such crystal-clear comprehension so far in 2006.

Speaking of passive-aggressive actions...

FACT: This week in Antwerp, Kim Clijsters is providing attending fans with 20,000 bottles of champagne, at $36 each (guess we now know where all that money went that should have gone to her coach, huh?). Pardon me while I kneel to kiss the feet of Nice Kim (welcome back, ol' Insincere Nickname Hall of Fame charter inductee)... after all, that IS the purpose of this opportunistic -- err, I mean "magnanimous" -- act, isn't it? To perpetuate the ever-present existence of that halo hovering just above Nice Kim's dome cap. Hmmm, and she does it in light of that "other" Belgian's crucifixion scenario in Australia. Coincidence? Not likely.

Okaaaaay, Kim. We get it. You're supposed to be "the nice one," while mean ol' Justine will spit in your eye and steal your dog (and who knows what she'd do to your drink) if you don't keep an eye on her. Does anyone have a bucket I can puke in?

Oh, well. Backspin can revel in the knowledge that at least this space will remain a sensible voice amongst the cacophony (emphasis on the "phony") of tennis opinions out there so far in '06.

**WEEK 6**

S: Amelie Mauresmo d. Mary Pierce 6-1/7-6
D: Loit/Peschke d. Black/Stubbs

S: Shahar Peer d. Jelena Kostanic 6-3/6-1
D: T.Li/Sun d. Yan/Zheng

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Amelie Mauresmo
...don't look now, but Overlooked Amelie has won four of her last five tournaments going back to Philadelphia last year. Her second win at the Paris Indoors was her 21st career WTA crown, and brings her to within just 43 points of Kil... err, I mean Nice Kim. Even better, the combo of French & Russian dressing -- Vera Dushevina, Dinara Safina, Tatiana Golovin and Mary Pierce -- DIDN'T include any menu entries that remotely resembled retirements... no matter how delicious another one would have been.
RISERS: Ting Li/Tiantian Sun & Tatiana Golovin
...Li/Sun knocked off Oz titlists Yan/Zheng in the all-Chinese Pattaya City doubles final. Meanwhile, the Frussian Pastry looks like she might have put her disappointing 2005 season behind her. Golovin reached the Paris SF, gaining wins over Sania Mirza and Nadia Petrova before pushing Mauresmo to the edge of defeat.
SURPRISES: Jelena Kostanic & Aleksandra Wozniak

...Kostanic hadn't made a WTA singles final since 2003 in Helsinki, until Pattaya City. A win over Noodle Maria Elena Camerin, and another in the SF against Emma Laine, put her in position for a RU finish against Shahar Peer. 18-year old Canadian teen Wozniak qualified in Pattaya, then the Canuck struck again with a main draw upset of Na Li.
VETERAN: Mary Pierce
...Pierce didn't reach her first of five 2005 finals until Roland Garros, so at least she's ahead of the pace so far in '06. She lost in the Paris final to Mauresmo, and might be facing another series of "injury watches," but last week still has to be considered a positive development.
FRESH FACES: Shahar Peer & Tszvetana Pironkova
...Israeli Peer, 18, reached her first WTA final in Pattaya City, and wasted no time grabbing her first title (well, she did have to endure a 90-minute rain delay) with a win over Kostanic. Pironkova's Melbourne exploits weren't a fluke, and she's now going about the rest of 2006 trying to prove it. In Paris, she qualified and took out Lucie Safarova by a 6-2/2-6/6-0 score. So far so good.
DOWN: Vera Zvonareva & Anna-Lena Groenefeld
...Zvonareva won four straight matches to reach the Auckland final in Week 1, and has gone 0-4 ever since. Last week, she lost in the Pattaya 1st Round to Paola Suarez. It's a good thing Groenefeld has her doubles to get her some match play, because it isn't working out in singles. After getting smoked by Stephanie Foretz in Paris last week, she's 1-4 in WTA/ITF matches (and 1-7 overall).

1.Patt.Doubles F - T.Li/Sun d. Yan/Zheng
...3-6/6-1/7-6. Whether or not the Cookies will ever produce a slam singles contender is a question mark, but (not surprisingly, when you think about it) China has already proven adept at outnumbering the field in doubles, as this all-Chinese final attests.
2.Paris F - Mauresmo d. Pierce
...6-1/7-6. All French all the time. Mauresmo is winning easy ones as well as close ones now.
3.Patt F - Peer d. Kostanic

...6-3/6-1. So, has Peer surpassed Smashnova as the top player from Israel yet?
4.Paris SF - Mauresmo d. Golovin
...6-7/7-5/6-2. Not sure whether it says more about Golovin that she nearly took out Mauresmo in straights, or that Mauresmo toughened up and prevented it from happening.
5.Paris 1st - Foretz d. Groenefeld
...6-1/1-6/6-0. Altogether now... C-U-R-S-E!! Sorry, Anna-Lena.
HM-Paris QF - Schnyder d. Dementieva
...6-3/6-3. Obviously, Patty caught Dementieva on one of those bad days she talked about in Tokyo.


**2006 WTA SF**
2...MAURESMO (2-0)
2...Henin-Hardenne (2-0)
2...PEER (1-1)
2...Hingis (1-1)
2...KOSTANIC (1-1)
2...Sharapova (0-2)

17...Michaella Krajicek (Hobart)
18...Lucie Safarova (Gold Coast)

Marion Bartoli (21, Auckland)

11...MAURESMO (JANUARY-current)
10...Henin-Hardenne (January)

[in chronological order]
Martina Navratilova
Pam Shriver
Helena Sukova
Jana Novotna
Gigi Fernandez
Natasha Zvereva
Larisa Neiland
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
Lindsay Davenport
Martina Hingis
Anna Kournikova
Corina Morariu
Lisa Raymond
Rennae Stubbs
Julie Halard-Decugis
Ai Sugiyama
Paola Suarez
Kim Clijsters
Virginia Ruano-Pascual
Cara Black


05 F: Mauresmo d. V.Williams
06 TOP: Clijsters/Mauresmo
SF: Clijsters d. Pierce; Mauresmo d. Petrova
FINAL: Mauresmo d. Clijsters

...gee, those two months out went awfully fast for Clijsters, didn't they? What a weird event to forecast. Clijsters is back early, but is it too early? Will Pierce play, or pull out at the last minute? Venus already withdrew after the draw was made. And is Mauresmo tired yet? Meanwhile, lurking in the draw, if all those others aren't prepared, is Dementieva.

=new event=
06 TOP: Mirza/Peer
SF: Mirza d. Laine; Peer d. A.Bondarenko
FINAL: Mirza d. Peer

...rather than this month's stop in India being in Mirza's hometown of Hyderabad (where she won the title in' 05), it's in Bangalore. Will it make a difference? Sania hasn't exactly been on point so far this season, but I'm hardly going to pick against her here no matter the pressure (and there's bound to be a good bit of it when your image is in the tournament logo) she'll likely feel to "repeat."

(NOTE: the original logo for the Bangalore tournament featured an image of Mirza, but it was replaced with a more "unbiased" one without the Indian Princess after play began)

All for now.


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