Monday, February 20, 2006

Wk.7-Woman of a Thousand Faces

Take a second to study this picture taken after Sunday's final in Antwerp. Look at the woman on the right. I think she might be a cleverly disguised impostor.

Or, at the very least, this person who's currently calling herself "Amelie Mauresmo" has mastered the art of the "quick-change."

Through the years, the "real" Mauresmo has been a choke artist... but also an artiste. She's been a young player who generated controversy for being "too manly" on the court... but also a maturing, and disarmingly charming, personality off it. At one time, she was a former #1-player without a slam title to her credit... but now she's a #2-ranked player with an Austalian Open championship. And she's currently eyeing Kim Clijsters and the seemingly inevitable "changing of the guard" that could take place at the top of the rankings before the end of the 1st Quarter.

Make no mistake, for all the headlines grabbed by a certain Miss Hingis, and all the internet hits generated by Maria you-know-who, 2006 has most assuredly been Mauresmo's personal playground.

Who knew a November win over Ai Sugiyama in the 2nd Round in Philadelphia would unleash the string a performances we've seen even since? Five titles in six events. A 23-2 record, and current 15-match winning streak. A WTA Championships crown. The Aussie Open. And, soon, the #1 ranking since Clijsters (probably, at least) can't be expected to repeat her Indian Wells/Miami double-Tier I title performance that kicked off her comeback a year ago come March. Either Mauresmo has made one whopper of a deal with the tennis gods (if so, I hope she checked the fine print on that contract), or we might be looking at an impostor. This just can't be the same Mauresmo, right?

(Has anyone seen the TV Show "Invasion"? Maybe she's one of those hybrids... though that's just a wild theory, I admit.)

Maybe we'll find out if... umm, "Mauresmo"... really is superhuman this week in Dubai when she goes for her FOURTH -- already! -- title on the season. (And looky-looky at who she could face in the semifinals... hint, hint... it could be a Pepto Bismal Moment Redux, if you get my drift.)

Good luck, "Amelie"... if that IS your REAL name. But, remember, Backspin's keeping a sharp eye out for any "clues" to this WTA mystery. Stay tuned.


S: Amelie Mauresmo d. Kim Clijsters 3-6/6-3/6-3
D: Safina/Srebotnik d. Foretz/Krajicek


S: Mara Santangelo d. Jelena Kostanic 3-6/7-6(5)/6-3
D: Huber/Mirza d. Rodionova/Vesnina


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Amelie Mauresmo
...the hits keep coming. Three titles in 2006 to run her career total to 22. And again, no one retired -- not Benesova, Schnyder, Petrova nor Clijsters -- en route to the championship, either.
RISER: Shuai Peng, she didn't play last week. But her desire for some independence from the Chinese Tennis Federation, and the right to set her own training regimen and schedule, as well as split her prize money so she can pay her own way, is a revolutionary -- but not unexpected -- act. Peng has re-stated that she remains a part of the nation's squad, and will join it in the goal of striving for Olympic success in Beijing in two years. The Chinese will likely try to make it look like they aren't bending (hence, Peng's loyalty statement), but they will. A little, at least. They aren't stupid. 2008 is getting close, and they have to recognize that, right now, Peng is the best of the Cookies, the one with the biggest game, and the one with the most potential to grab a BIG title down the line... something hinted at with Peng's upset of Clijsters in San Diego before last year's U.S. Open. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole doesn't exactly foster the most success, so expect the hole to undergo a little restructuring behind the scenes over time. Transitions of Communist systems, even within the sports establishment, take time, and are always undertaken in a way so that there is as little public egg on the Federation's face as possible. At the start of last season, in an Intriguing Question column, I wondered who'd be the "Chinese Natasha Zvereva" who would seek to break free of the Soviet-styled Chinese system. Looks like it might be Peng (though it should be noted that Na Li has echoed at least some of the same sentiments). Consider it a first step toward greater Chinese tennis success down the line.
SURPRISES: Mara Santangelo & Maria Elena Camerin

...there was some big Italian news last week, and it had nothing to do with cross country skiing. Yes, the Noodles are becoming more and more delicious all the time. Italian 24-year old Santangelo won her first career WTA title with a comeback win in the Bangalore final against Jelena Kostanic. Meanwhile, countrywoman Camerin handled Pattaya City champ Shahar Peer a quick loss in India en route to a QF finish.
VETERAN: Eleni Daniilidou
...maybe Eleni the Greek thought the Athens games were back on last week. She's been decidedly unspectacular since her hometown Olympics, but did manage a doubles SF in Antwerp, as well as a win over Klara Koukalova (and QF result, before losing to Elena Dementieva), in Antwerp.
FRESH FACE: Vania King

...American tennis ingenues have been as difficult to find as Bode Miller Olympic medals lately, but maybe 17-year old King is ready to move into the void (along with junior doubles partner Alexa Glatch?). Her SF run in Bangalore was the best finish by ANY American woman so far in 2006 (thought I'd get that in before Davenport plays this week), and she's poised to enter the Top 100 (she's #107). Just ask Nicole Pratt if the kid's any good. She beat the Aussie vet 6-0/6-1 last week.
DOWN: Sania Mirza
...when you're part of the tournament logo (or at least you were... funny how that changed on the event website after the tournament began, isn't it?), you'll not supposed to lose in the 2nd Round, as Princess Sania did in Bangalore to Camille Pin. To her credit, and no doubt the tournament organizer's great relief, she did rally to take the doubles title with Liezel Huber... Mirza's first since sweeping the Hyderabad singles & doubles a year ago.

1.Ant F - Mauresmo d. Clijsters
...3-6/6-3/6-3. Clijsters said it's "a miracle" that she's as healthy as she is considering her Melbourne ankle injury. The bigger miracle might have been that the projected #1 vs. #2 matchup actually happened. It's only the fourth time the top two ranked players have met in a non-exhibition situation over the last three seasons.
2.Bang F - Santangelo d. Kostanic
...3-6/7-6/6-3. Jelena Kostanic is NOT Janica Kostelic, apparently. The Croatian's now lost back-to-back finals. But, still, she's made twice as many WTA singles finals in the last ten days than she'd made in her entire career beforehand.
3.Bang 2nd - Pin d. Mirza
...1-6/7-5/6-2. Mirza's now #36, but she's going to have to pick things up if she's to avoid some serious ranking hit soon. She plays Hingis in the 1st Round in Dubai, so...
4.Bang Doub.F - Huber/Mirza d. Rodionova/Vesnina
...6-3/6-3. And the consolation prize goes to Sania. Oh, and Liezel, too.
5.Ant 2nd - Clijsters d. Golovin
...4-6/7-6/7-5. After this match, Clijsters' bribe... err, I mean gift... of 11,000 bottles of champagne were distributed to the fans in attendence. They should have given them out before the match if they really wanted everyone to have a good time at the Diamond Games facility.
HM- Bang 1st - A.Bondarenko d. K.Bondarenko
...6-4/7-5. With the Williams sisters disappearing like a drawing on an Etch-a-Sketch, this is as good a Sister vs. Sister match as the WTA has to offer. Not sure if that's a good thing, or a bad one.


**#1 vs. #2 - 2003-06**
Aust.Open F - #1 S.Williams d. #2 V.Williams
Filderstadt F - #1 Clijsters d. #2 Henin-Hardenne
Aust.Open F - #1 Henin-Hardenne d. #2 Clijsters
Filderstadt F - #2 Davenport d. #1 Mauresmo
Athens Olympic F - #1 Henin-Hardenne d. #2 Mauresmo

9...Clijsters (9/0)
7...MAURESMO (4/3)
6...Davenport (6/0)
5...Henin-Hardenne (5/1)

Marion Bartoli (21, France) - Auckland
Shahar Peer (18, Israel) - Pattaya

5...France (4 titles)
3...Belgium (1)
3...Italy (1)
2...Czech Republic (1)
2...Russia (1)
2...Croatia (0)

3...MAURESMO (Clijsters-2,Henin-Hardenne)
3...Henin-Hardenne (Hingis,Davenport,Sharapova)

15-1...Amelie Mauresmo
11-4...Nadia Petrova
10-1...Justine Henin-Hardenne
9-2....Kim Clijsters
9-3....Elena Dementieva
9-5....Patty Schnyder
7-2....Maria Sharapova
4-1....Lindsay Davenport
4-2....Mary Pierce
0-1....Venus Williams


05 F: Davenport d. Jankovic
06 TOP: Mauresmo/Davenport
SF: Mauresmo d. JHH; Davenport d. Sharapova
FINAL: Davenport d. Mauresmo

...Mauresmo has to lose sometime, and maybe it'll be in her potential SF rematch with Henin-Hardenne (hmmm... I wonder what Backspin's mood will be next week if is IS?). Of course, I'm picking against it to leave open the possibility of talking about underestimating Queen Justine, blahblahblah. You know the drill.

05 F: Zvonareva d. Shaughnessy
06 TOP: Vaidisova/Groenefeld
SF: Vaidisova d. Domachowska; Frazier d. Arvidsson
FINAL: Vaidisova d. Frazier

...Zvonareva's actually won this title the last two years, but she's in Dubai this week (yeah, as if she'd three-peat if she was in Tennessee instead). I was ready to try to will Stosur into another final, but then she went and lost to Ashley Harkleroad on Monday (oh, Sammmmmy).

05 F: Pennetta d. Dominguez-Lino
06 TOP: Pennetta/Dulko
SF: Castano d. Pennetta; Loit d. Dulko
FINAL: Castano d. Loit

...oh, no. The first clay event of '06. Cover your eyes on these predictions. I know I'll be doing it... probably by Thursday. Interesting logo, by the way.

All for now.


Oh, it's been suggested that an occasional picture of a skimpy bikini-clad Sharapova -- even for no apparent reason -- wouldn't be a bad thing. So... I offer this as a parting shot:


Blogger thesupernova said...

the copa loga looks like the back of one of the garbage pail kids. very very strange.
nice maria pic:)

Tue Feb 21, 09:49:00 AM EST  
Blogger Andrew said...

Are you sure you haven't cursed Vaidisova :)

Wed Feb 22, 11:35:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, Groenefeld went out early in Memphis, too... so a German trumps a Czech. Or is that just an old WWII reference? :)

Seriously, I figure Vaidisova's due an early loss. She's been pretty consistent in early round matches going back to the end of last season. But, if it becomes a trend...

(Speaking of which, Zvonareva lost in the 1st Round AGAIN in Dubai. That's five straight losses since she made the Auckland final in Week 1.)

I figured Bogota would be the difficult-to-pick tournament this week, but all four of my SF picks there are still alive. In Memphis, the players who would've been my original picks (Vaidisova-Shaughnessy-Bychkova-Stosur) ALL lost in the 1st Round. Go figure. :(

You know, I'm going to have to start a list of players Backspin has effectively "blessed," just to go along with those who've been "cursed." :)

Wed Feb 22, 04:27:00 PM EST  
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