Saturday, May 27, 2006

Wk.21-She Lives, After All

Contrary to the evidence presented through most of the first twenty weeks of the 2006 season, Nicole Vaidisova apparently IS still a player going places on the WTA Tour.

Injury, inconsistency and (to varying degrees) youth served to waylay the early season goals of the 17-year old Czech, but she never lost her Top 20 ranking despite a mediocre 10-7 record (and no appearances in finals) up until last week. But will the title-winning sojourn to Strasbourg turn out to be the turning point in Vaidisova's season?

Well, if nothing else, career title number six at least allowed the hoped-for Supernova-in-training to stake out some new ground. It was her first clay title, and the first WTA tour crown she's ever won in the first half of the season. So 2006 didn't get off to that hoped-for quick start, but Vaidisova is still ahead of her previous seasons' pace.

May: 1
August: 1
October: 4

Who knows, maybe the girl still has a slam run in her for this year, after all. She could face #1-ranked Amelie Mauresmo in the Round of 16 in a rematch of Vaidisova's 4th Round no-show in Melbourne this past January.

If the meeting comes off, will things be any different this time around? Maybe not, but at least Vaidisova finally has something to hold up as evidence of her potential after quite a few months of (expected, though not necessarily uncalled for) raised eyebrows from her critics. Strasbourg isn't exactly the type of "prize-winning pelt" that Vaidisova is looking for, but it'll do.

For May 27, anyway.


S: Nicole Vaidisova d. Shuai Peng 7-6/6-3
D: Huber/M.Navratilova d. Muller/Vanc

S: Shahar Peer d. Anastasia Myskina 1-6/6-3/7-6
D: A.Bondarenko/Yakimova d. Mirza/Molik

Victoria Azarenka, Yulia Beygelzimer, Eva Birnerova, Alberta Brianti, Clarisa Fernandez, Su-Wei Hsieh, Sandra Kloesel, Anda Perianu, Virginia Pichet, Aravane Rezai, Julia Vakulenko, Galina Voskoboeva (qualifying loser into draw: Kirsten Flipkens)

...the 19-year old Israeli won her third title of the season (and second this month) in Istanbul, defeating top-seeded Anastasia Myskina in a 3rd set tie-break in the final.
RISERS: Shuai Peng & Jelena Jankovic
...Peng continued the Chinese onslaught this clay season, reaching the Strasbourg final and getting wins over Gisela Dulko and Anabel Medina-Garrigues. Jankovic's rebound from her previous 10-match losing streak continued with a SF result in Strasbourg, as wins over Na Li and Anna Smashnova puts her record at 6-2 in her last eight.
SURPRISES: Alicia Molik & Clarisa Fernandez

...Molik's return to the tour is going along fairly smoothly, even if it's not exactly following the Hingis pattern of success. She's still 0-2 in singles, but pushed Tamira Paszek to three tight sets in the 1st Round in Istanbul, and reached the doubles final with Sania Mirza. Not bad for a player who was expecting to sit out the entire season less than six months ago. 2002 Roland Garros semifinalist Clarisa Fernandez, 24, is still trying to reclaim her past glory (she's just 5-10 in main draw slam matches outside of that one year in Paris), and she'll get another shot next week after making it through qualifying.
VETERAN: Martina Navratilova
...less than five months from her 50th birthday, Navratilova won her 176th career doubles title (with Liezel Huber) in Strasbourg. Needless to say, she once again broke her own WTA age record (last set in Toronto with Anna-Lena Groenefeld).
FRESH FACES: Nicole Vaidisova & Victoria Azarenka

...Vaidisova's title-winning run included wins over Jie Zheng, Jelena Jankovic and Shuai Peng. Meanwhile, 16-year old Belarussian Azarenka qualified for Roland Garros, becoming the only female or male to make it through the qualifying draws for both the Australian Open and RG this season.
DOWN: Patty Schnyder
...Schnyder's curiously bad spring on the red clay continued in Strasbourg, as she lost in the 2nd Round to Martina Muller.

1.Stras Doub.F - Huber/Navratilova d. Muller/Vanc
...6-2/7-6. This was Martina's 176th career doubles title, but do you know when her first one came? (Get ready for this.) It was in Dallas, in 1974. Yes... 32 years ago.
2.Istan F - Peer d. Myskina
...1-6/6-3/7-6. Not a bad result for the Czarina, but a Tier III RU is a far cry from her Roland Garros title just two years ago (or, in more stark terms, 30 years after Martina's first doubles title).
3.Stras F - Vaidisova d. Peng
...7-6/6-3. With Safarova's results dipping a bit on the clay, is Vaidisova looking to re-assume her Best Young Czech title?
4.Istan 1st - Paszek d. Molik
...5-7/6-4/6-4. Step by step.
5.RG Q3 - Anda Perianu d. Edina Gallovits
...3-6/6-1/6-4. The Romanian 25-year old, and former Oklahoma University star, hits the main draw, hoping to make a name for the burgeoning Romanian contingent ready to make a mark on the big tour. Her victim here was Gallovits, another Romanian.
HM-RG Q3 - Virginie Pichet d. Kirsten Flipkens
...5-7/6-2/8-6. This match was so good that they'll essentially play a "do-over" in the 1st Round of the main draw. So much for the home country looking out for your best interests, huh, Virginie?


4...Nadia Petrova
3...Amelie Mauresmo
2...Justine Henin-Hardenne

(3+ finals)
1.000...Nadia Petrova (4-0)
1.000...SHAHAR PEER (3-0)
0.750...Amelie Mauresmo (3-1)

17...Michaella Krajicek (Hobart)
17...NICOLE VAIDISOVA (Stasbourg)
18...Shahar Peer (Pattaya)
18...Lucie Safarova (Gold Coast)
18...Maria Sharapova (Indian Wells)

112...Rosie Casals
106...Pam Shriver


All for now. Roland Garros preview coming soon. The Daily Backspin begins after play in Paris on Sunday.


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