Saturday, May 27, 2006

Roland Garros Preview: History 101, circa 1939

Move over, Ms. Westacott, you may soon have some unexpected company.

In 1939, Westacott won the Australian Open singles title, and became the last in a line of nine different women's champions over a span of nine grand slam tournaments. In two weeks, another woman could very well join her in the history books.

'37 Australian: Nancye Wynne
'37 Roland Garros: Hilde Sperling
'37 Wimbledon: Dorothy Round
'37 U.S.: Anita Lizane
'38 Australian: Dorothy Bundy
'38 Roland Garros: Simone Mathieu
'38 Wimbledon: Helen Wills-Moody
'38 U.S. Alice Marble
'39 Australian: Emily Westacott

'04 Roland Garros: Anastasia Myskina
'04 Wimbledon: Maria Sharapova
'04 U.S.: Svetlana Kuznetsova
'05 Australian: Serena Williams
'05 Roland Garros: Justine Henin-Hardenne
'05 Wimbledon: Venus Williams
'05 U.S.: Kim Clijsters
'06 Australian: Amelie Mauresmo
'06 Roland Garros: ??

It could be that the second ninth champion will be "Scarlett" herself, the player who lists "Gone With the Wind," the tale of the fictional Southerm American heroine, as her favorite novel (hence, the Backspin nickname). In a recent interview, the erstwhile star of this year's Paris production described the novel as "a great history of a woman and what she went through and how hard she fought."

In 2006, Nadia Petrova has shown that she knows all about fighting hard to get what is her's. Tara doesn't border Amelia Island, Charleston or Berlin, but maybe Nadia simply senses that she and Miss O'Hara have something in common... and it could lead her to feel a delightful shiver down her spine two weeks from now, one that signals that she shares something with Ms. Westacott, as well.

You know, the movie version of "Gone With the Wind" was released in 1939...

...the same year that Westacott completed the nine-in-nine run. Coincidence? Maybe not. Destiny COULD be at work here, though, right?

Who knows if Petrova is truly destiny's darling. But, when in doubt, go with history, I always say. And as God is her witness, Nadia will never go hungry again.



16...Victoria Azarenka, Belarus
19...Aravane Rezai, France

26...Alberta Brianti, Italy
26...Sandra Kloesel, Germany

**2005 FINAL FOUR**
#10 Justine Henin-Hardenne (W)
#21 Mary Pierce (RU)
#7 Nadia Petrova (SF)
#16 Elena Likhovtseva (SF)

[Section 1]
#7 Schnyder vs. Krajicek
#16 Vaidisova vs. Domachowska
#18 Likhovtseva vs. Sprem
#22 Sugiyama vs. Daniilidou
#29 Arvidsson vs. Vento-Kabchi
[Section 2]
#9 Schiavone vs. A.Bondarenko
#14 Safina vs. Zvonareva
[Section 3]
#30 Koukalova vs. Garbin
#32 Dulko vs. Beygelzimer
[Section 4]
#21 Dechy vs. Foretz
#23 Golovin vs. Zheng



**4th Round**

#1 Mauresmo d. #16 Vaidisova
#11 V.Williams d. Vakulenko
#14 Safina d. #4 Sharapova
#8 Kuznetsova d. #17 Pennetta
#5 Henin-Hardenne d. #19 Ivanovic
#3 Petrova d. #13 Groenefeld
#12 Hingis d. #6 Dementieva
#2 Clijsters d. Castano

...Vaidisova gets a second chance in a 2006 slam 4th Round against Mauresmo. The result won't likely be much different from Melbourne, but what an introduction to the big time an upset would be here... Vakulenko? Yes, I'm going with the qualifier (she did take out Romina Oprandi, who nearly upset Kuznetsova in Rome, in the Q's) over Patty Schnyder in this spot. Sneaky has just been too much of a disappointment on the clay in '06, and her best RG result is only a QF all the way back in '98. Dicey pick, still (and I'm not even mentioning Venus, who lost to Karatantcheva in the 3rd Round here a year ago)... Sharapova hasn't played since April 1, and is hoping she won't be the fool against Safina... Kuznetsova has held match points in the 4th Round against the last two (Myskina & JHH) eventual RG champions. Pennetta won't likely make in three... Petrova vs. Groenefeld again? Sorry, Anna-Lena ('03 RG Jr. champ, by the way), Backspin has bigger fish to fry here. I'm just holding my breath that Petrova doesn't get caught by Akiko Morigami in the 1st Round while looking ahead as a favorite. Morigami nearly upset Clijsters on clay in Rome... meanwhile, Hingis motors along.


#1 Mauresmo d. #11 V.Williams
#8 Kuznetsova d. #14 Safina
#3 Petrova d. #5 Henin-Hardenne
#12 Hingis d. #2 Clijsters

...I'm sooo tempted to pick Venus here, but try as I might I just can't do it (which, of course, means Williams will probably win)... Petrova vs. JHH would have been my final if the draw has cooperated, but now I have to go against Queen Justine on the clay. Still, JHH hasn't exactly been the clay workhorse coming into Paris that she was a year ago, has she? Petrova has, though... Clijsters seems a bit adrift on the clay. Plus, the last #2-seed to win in Paris was Graf in 1995.


#8 Kuznetsova d. #1 Mauresmo
#3 Petrova d. #12 Hingis

...could Kuznetsova's match point string go to three against Mauresmo, who's never made the Roland Garros final? No #1 seed has won in Paris since Graf in 1996... Petrova might be one too many Top 10ers for Hingis to contend with to break The Martina Code.


#3 Petrova d. #8 Kuznetsova

Scarlett over the Contessova in another all-Russian slam final, but the first since the '04 U.S. Open. I've invested too much time in Petrova the last few months to blink now.

Read Tennisrulz head honcho Pierre Cantin's full Roland Garros preview here. Hint, hint... our picks aren't that different, but he has far more confidence in Schnyder, and far less in Petrova (not so surprising, really).

Hopefully, Scarlett will continue to prove me right about her. So far, 2006 has been quite the validation. Nadia gives a damn, and Ms. Westacott might be about to be linked with her in history forever.


DAY 1 on the show courts:

Sunday, May 28

**CHATRIER** 11:00 Start

Women's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) vs. Dinara Safina (RUS)[14]

followed by
Men's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Roger Federer (SUI)[1] vs. Arnaud Clement (FRA)

Women's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Amelie Mauresmo (FRA)[1] vs. Meghann Shaughnessy (USA)

Men's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Jose Acasuso (ARG)[26] vs. Fabrice Santoro (FRA)

**LENGLEN** 11:00 Start

Men's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Tomas Zib (CZE) vs. Tommy Robredo (ESP)[7]

followed by
Women's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Aurelie Vedy (FRA) vs. Marion Bartoli (FRA)[25]

Men's Singles - 1st Rnd.
David Nalbandian (ARG)[3] vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)

Women's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Maria Sharapova (RUS)[4] vs. Mashona Washington (USA)

All for now. The Daily Backspin begins on Sunday.


ALSO: Men's RG picks on ATP Backspin.


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