Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wk.18-.now for All (The 2nd Annual Backwards Backspin)

.now for All

Henin-Hardenne d. Petrova
Petrova d. Groenefeld
Henin-Hardenne d. Mauresmo
Petrova d. Safina
Groenefeld d. Schnyder
Henin-Hardenne d. Kuznetsova
Mauresmo d. Hingis


Mauresmo def Schnyder

Mauresmo def Kuznetsova
Schnyder def Petrova

Mauresmo def Dementieva
Kuznetsova def Henin-Hardenne
Schnyder def Groenefeld
Petrova def Hantuchova


06 TOP: Mauresmo/Petrova
05 FINAL: JHH d. Petrova

...because of the slight delay in posting this week's column, I've already missed on my Prague prediction before I even officially made it, what with Safarova going out to Magadalena Ryberikova (She's Slovakian, but other than that she was a total "mystery" woman going in.) in the 1st Round. Unofficially, I'll go with Bondarenko now to (hopefully) check off one of those pre-season first title predictions.

FINAL: Safarova d. A.Bondarenko
SF: A.Bondarenko d. Camerin; Safarova d. Sprem
06 TOP: Bartoli/Safarova
05 FINAL: Safina d. Ondraskova

...This week in Berlin, the Battle Royale picks up once again between Tennisrulz head honcho Pierre Cantin and Backspin, as I try to escape the pathetic 0-for-11 streak I'm currently mired in in this space. Maybe I'm the one who's cursed this year. How else do you explain that last week I actually predicted three of the four Warsaw & Estoril finalists, but still somehow ended up without a correct winner? (By the way, that makes it seven straight events with either my pick or the eventual champion matching up with my finalists predictions... all without the stars aligning and giving me a "win.") Needless to say, that means I'm going back to my old stand-bys for this week's picks -- Queen Justine and a Czech.

**WEEK 19 - BATTLE ROYALE, and my growing discontent**


**2006 TITLISTS**
(consecutive years with WTA titles)
8 years...Amelie Mauresmo (1999-06)
8 years...KIM CLIJSTERS (1999-06)
6 years...Justine Henin-Hardenne (2001-06)
4 years...Maria Sharapova (2003-06)
3 years...Anabel Medina-Garrigues (2004-06)
2 years...Michaella Krajicek (2005-06)
2 years...Nadia Petrova (2005-06)
2 years...Lucie Safarova (2005-06)
2 years...JIE ZHENG (2005-06)


2...JIE ZHENG (2005-06)
1...Na Li (2004)
1...Zi Yan (2005)

51...Lindsay Davenport
40...Martina Hingis
33...Venus Williams
26...Serena Williams
25...Justine Henin-Hardenne
22...Amelie Mauresmo



HM--War QF - Kuznetsova d. V.Williams
...6-4/6-2. Venus won the Warsaw title in 2004. But why quibble? At least one sister is actually playing tennis again.
5.Est.Doubles F - T.Li/Sun d. Dulko/Sanchez Lorenzo
...6-2/6-2. When the Chinese win, they don't skimp on the titles.
4.War 2nd - V.Williams d. Hingis
...4-6/7-5/6-4. Some things never change, huh? Martina must think so, considering this first matchup with Venus since Hamburg '02 turned out like so many of their matches before the end of Hingis I.
3.Est F - Zheng d. N.Li

...6-7/7-5 ret. When Li faces her fellow Cookies in big matches it seems like it's always something. Almost a year ago in the Rabat SF, Li retired against Zheng with a nasty ankle injury. This time around, it was heat illness that ended the battle to become the first Chinese woman to win a second career WTA singles title. On a side note, Li advanced past Ana Ivanovic in the Berlin 1st Round today when the Serbian teen retired after winning the opening set at 6-1. (The tennis gods have quite the sense of humor, don't they?)
2.War F - Clijsters d. Kuznetsova
...7-5/6-2. A few weeks ago, Kuznetsova was looking like she could be THE force during the EuroClay season. Of course, that was before she sort of became the #2 Russian contender behind Nadia Petrova. Now, Clijsters moves ahead of her. And probably Henin-Hardenne, as well. Then there's Amelie Mauresmo, too. Still, remember that Kuznetsova has held match point against the last two Roland Garros champions. But she didn't win either of those matches against Myskina or JHH in Paris, did she? Hmmm.
1.War 1st - A.Radwanska d. Myskina
...6-4/4-6/6-4. No result sent a mini-shockwave through scoreline watchers more than the Polish 17-year old's upset of the '04 RG champ in her WTA main draw debut. Of course, the Myskina of '06 isn't the Czarina of '04. Still, impressive.


DOWN: Jelena Jankovic
...Jankovic's '06 swoon continued with a 1st Round Warsaw loss to Anna Chakvetadze. It puts her season won/lost record at 1-9 (1-10 with her loss to Srebotnik in Berlin). It used to be that JJ was overshadowed by that other Jelena. Now, though, no matter how many opening round losses she has, Jankovic can take solace in the fact that she's NOT that other Jelena, whose troubles she wouldn't wish on a monkey on a rock (thank you to David Letterman for that one).
FRESH FACES: Anna Chakvetadze & Romina Oprandi

...the latest Muscovite to shake things up in '06 is Chakvetadze, 19, who knocked out Jankovic, Hantuchova and Ivanovic en route to the Warsaw SF, where she was thoroughly outclassed by a lady from St.Petersburg, Svetlana Kuznetsova. 20-year old Oprandi continued her ITF mastery, winning her third title of the season, defeating Petra Cetkovska in the $25K Antalya-Manavgat and taking the doubles title, too. Technically, #145 Oprandi continues the Italian surge, even if she is Swiss-born and didn't officially represent Italia until 2003.
VETERAN: Elena Likhovtseva
...yet another Russian, as the oldest of the Hordettes got a clay win over Medina-Garrigues in Warsaw, and took the doubles title with Myskina.
SURPRISE: Agnieszka Radwanska
...the '05 Wimbledon junior champion made her WTA main draw debut as a 17-year old wild card, and all she did was upset Myskina and Koukalova before going out in the Warsaw QF to Elena Dementieva. Her current #207 ranking will surely be a temporary one.
RISERS: Jie Zheng & Ting Li/Tiantian Sun

...finally, the Chinese stormed the WTA border last week in Estoril. It was a long time coming, considering before the all-Cookie Zheng vs. Li final not a single '06 singles semifinalist had come from behind the Great Wall. The always overlooked Zheng became the first two-time WTA titlist with her win and, after such a horrid start to her season, left Portugal with a 9-1 mark in her last ten matches (and she just "upset" Nathalie Dechy in Berlin, too). Ting Li (Sr.) and Tiantian Sun, often overlooked themselves in favor of Yan/Zheng since that Chinese pair won the Australian Open in January, managed to beat their countrywomen to a second '06 doubles title.
...is Clijsters' 2006 slumber over? Warsaw was her first title of the season. But after Flushing Meadows, a Tier II doesn't quite mean as much anymore, does it? Still, 31 career titles is nothing to sneeze at.


D: T.Li/Sun d. Dulko/Sanchez Lorenzo
S: Jie Zheng d. Na Li 6-7/7-5 ret.

D: Likhovtseva/Myskina d. Medina-Garrigues/Srebotnik
S: Kim Clijsters d. Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5/6-2


Maybe it's the May doldrums? It's been almost a year to the day since the first "Backwards Backspin," and yet another week has arrived without a truly compelling storyline to center this latest column around (thus, making it perfectly suited for a gimmicky David Blaine-esque trick in order to push through a thoroughly uninspiring week of results with minimal boredom). Enjoy, or at least survive it with me.

Wk.18-.now for All (The 2nd Annual Backwards Backspin)
TUESDAY, MAY 9, 2006


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