Sunday, March 05, 2006

Wk.9-Backspin's Girls Make Good

Ah, the sun shines on "The Girls of Backspin" today (pardon me while I bask in their magnificence)... isn't it great?

Without question, Le Petit Taureau has established herself as this space's pre-eminent "#1 gal," as the skies are never brighter than when the diminutive one emerges with a victory to wag under the noses of her detractors. But scrawled right under JHH's name on the Backspin dinner party invitee list are most assuredly "Girl Friday," Anna-Lena Groenefeld, and the "most cherished Russian" herself, Nadia "Scarlett" Petrova.

Needless to say, it was an exciting week. So good, in fact, that I got off my butt enough to post this week's column on Sunday rather than Monday.

Let's see... my tennis week that was: it started with finally being able to recieve The Tennis Channel (hoo-rah!), then ended with both -- count 'em, BOTH! -- Petrova and Groenefeld winning singles titles. Petrova knocked off the tour's hottest player in Doha to take her second career WTA crown, then ALG finally got on top of what had been an atrocious start to her season by gaining her maiden title in Acapulco.

The 20-year old German entered the week just outside the Top 20... and if she turned the corner on the Mexican red clay then 2006 still might just be her big breakout year. Aha! Maybe Anna-Lena isn't cursed, after all. (Whew! Backspin heaves a big sigh of relief.)

As for Petrova, she was never cursed. She just needed a shot a confidence, and got it courtesy of a title-winning turn in Linz last October. The shortened learning curve that's resulted (she noted after her win in the final over Amelie Mauresmo that she now not only realizes that she must be more aggressive when a big match is in the balance, but she's also learned how to follow through with the thought) is already paying dividends.

Hmmm, could a stint as the top-ranked Russian in the world be far behind?

Yes or no... if things get much better around here than Week 9, Tennisrulz Head Honcho Pierre Cantin might find me huddled up in a corner, laughing uncontrollably, and unable to post the latest edition of Backspin.

But what are the chances of it getting any better than this? (Hopefully, for the sake of "Backspin's Best Gals," it's more likely than anyone would ever imagine.)


DOHA, QATAR (II-Hard/Outdoor)
S: Nadia Petrova def. Amelie Mauresmo 6-3/7-5
D: Hantuchova/Sugiyama d. T.Li/Sun

S: Anna-Lena Groenefeld d. Flavia Pennetta 6-1/4-6/6-2
D: Groenefeld/Shaughnessy d. Asagoe/Loit

...could Petrova finally see her potential becoming reality? Shrugging off last week's early loss in Dubai and following it up with a Tier II crown and a win over the world #2 (who would have been #1 if she'd won the match) is certainly a good sign.
RISERS: Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Flavia Pennetta
...not only did ALG win her first title (hey, that checks off another of those pre-season predictions!), but she won the Acapulco doubles with Meghann Shaughnessy, too. As it turned out, Girl Friday had more singles victories (5) last week than she'd had in her previous five 2006 outings combined. Meanwhile, Pennetta pulled off back-to-back Bogota/Acapulco finals appearances for the second straight year. Thing is, last year she won both matches. This time around, she went 0-2 (making her 0-3 in finals this season). It's still a nice accomplishment, though.
SURPRISES: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez & Maret Ani

...MJMS, a 23-year old Spaniard ranked #334 took out Zuzana Ondraskova and Iveta Benesova in Acapulco, then nearly upset Pennetta (winning the 1st set, then taking the 2nd into a tie-break -- which she dropped, then was bageled in the 3rd) in the QF. Estonian Ani, 24, reached her first career SF in Acapulco with wins over Laura Pous Tio and Anna Smashnova.
VETERAN: Ai Sugiyama
...the 30-year old Japanese vet took out Anastasia Myskina in three tough sets en route to the Doha SF, and won the doubles title with Daniela Hantuchova.
FRESH FACE: Jarmila Gajdosova

...the 18-year old Slovak (ranked #121) gets the nod for her recent back-to-back ITF titles in Australia (in Sydney & Gosford). The wins continued a 2006 surge that's already included successful qualifying turns in Gold Coast (where she pushed eventual champ Lucie Safarova to three tight sets) and Melbourne.
DOWN: Jie Zheng
...after being bageled in the 1st Round in Doha by Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Cookie is still looking for her first WTA singles win in 2006.

1.Doha F - Petrova d. Mauresmo

...6-3/7-5. Mauresmo finally ran out of gas, one match short (again) of the #1 ranking that she continues to maintain doesn't really mean that much too her. By the way, she's right -- in a sense, slam titles ARE more important.
2.Acap F - Groenefeld d. Pennetta
...6-1/4-6/6-2. Pennetta's third straight trip to the Acapulco final was a letdown for the second time. Groenefeld, who finally won her first WTA title on her fourth trip to a final, is already the sixth first-time champion (in sixteen events) in 2006. At this time last year, there'd been just three, and there were only ten all season long.
3.Doha QF - Hingis d. Kuznetsova
...7-6/6-2. The Swiss Miss is 15-1 vs. players outside the Top 10.
4.Doha SF - Mauresmo d. Hingis
...6-2/6-2. And 1-5 against Top 10ers.
5.Doha 1st - Na Li d. Zvonareva
...6-4/6-4. Six consecutive losses for Vera Z.
6.Doha 1st - Kuznetsova d. Zheng
...6-0/6-1. A glimpse of the "old" Kuznetsova. But, to touch on something I neglected to mention last week... really, Contessova, you should make an effort to dress up a LITTLE at post-event trophy celebrations. In Dubai, while partner Petrova (the two were RU's to Schiavone/Peschke) walked out onto the court in a crisp-looking warmup jacket, you come out in ratty-looking blue jeans and a sweat-stained gray t-shirt to greet all the Dubai royals? It wouldn't exactly be a social faux paus to look reasonably presentable under such circumstances. Just a thought.
7.Doha 2nd - Na Li d. Hantuchova
...4-6/7-6/6-1. A squandered 2nd set lead spelled doom for Wonder Girl. Nice week for Li, though.
8.Doha 2nd - Hingis d. Schiavone
...6-1/6-2. Obviously, Schiavone isn't Top 10 material yet.
9.Acap 1st - Garbin d. Dominguez-Lino
...6-3/6-4. Oh, the week after your first WTA title can be quite a letdown. Right, Lourdes?
10.Las Vegas $75K F - Shenay Perry d. Emma Laine
...6-1/6-4. The Tennis Channel actually provided some coverage of this match. Well, that is, when they weren't showing Gael Monfils playing paddle tennis (????) on an outside court.


Gold Coast - Lucie Safarova (Schnyder)
Bogota - Lourdes Dominguez-Lino (Pennetta)

4...Amelie Mauresmo (3-1)
3...Justine Henin-Hardenne (2-1)



**WEEK 10/11 - BATTLE on!**

...the time has come. The time for the first 2006 "Battle Royale" with Tennisrulz Head Honcho Pierre Cantin. Last year, we split out two face-offs, with the combined stats looking like this:

4th ROUNDERS: Cantin 31-22
FINALISTS: Backspin 21-17
CHAMPIONS: Backspin 10-8

"Battle Royale I, 2006 Edition" will include both the Indian Wells and Miami events that take place in March.

05 F: Clijsters d. Davenport
06 TOP: Henin-Hardenne/Davenport

=4th Round=
Henin-Hardenne d. Sugiyama
Golovin d. Laine
Dementieva d. N.Li
Frazier d. Kirilenko
Groenefeld d. Bartoli
Sharapova d. Medina-Garrigues
Myskina d. Safina
Davenport d. Hingis
Henin-Hardenne d. Golovin
Dementieva d. Frazier
Groenefeld d. Sharapova (ah, revenge for last year's "near-miss" retirement loss in Moscow)
Davenport d. Myskina
Henin-Hardenne d. Dementieva
Davenport d. Groenefeld
Henin-Hardenne d. Davenport

...Backspin's good times continue?

4th round:
Henin-Hardenne def Sugiyama
Golovin def Pennetta
Benesova def Dementieva
Kirilenko def Ondraskova
Smashnova def Dechy
Sharapova def Peer
Myskina def Safina
Hingis def Davenport

Henin-Hardenne def Golovin
Kirilenko def Benesova
Sharapova def Smashnova
Hingis def Myskina

Henin-Hardenne def Kirilenko
Hingis def Sharapova

Henin-Hardenne def Hingis

All for now.


NEXT WEEK: with Indian Wells at it's mid-way point, the regular Backspin takes a hiatus. But it'll be substituted with a special edition. Come on back to see what it's about!


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