Monday, July 10, 2006

2006 Grass Court Awards

Amelie Mauresmo came to London, saw her opportunity and conquered her infamous nerves to forever change the perception of her career. Years from now, when she steps up to the microphone during her induction ceremony at the tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, this Wimbledon title will be the one that will be first referenced when we're reminded why she's there.



But what else happened on the grass this season?


**TOP PLAYERS**
1.Amelie Mauresmo... now, things REALLY will never be the same.
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2.Justine Henin-Hardenne... close doens't count for Le Petit Taureau.
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3.Zi Yan & Jie Zheng... whoa! Hold up on that annointing of Lisa Raymond & Sam Stosur as the best doubles team in the world.
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4.Kim Clijsters... it's not something that can be said with total certainty until after the U.S. Open, but if Clijsters can't return to New York "the year after" with an authentic belief that she can win THAT tournament then she's going to retire with just a single grand slam title to her credit.
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5.Maria Sharapova... the Supernova is the most consistent of all the top players, but that consistency isn't supposed to include consistently losing in grand slam semifinals. She needs to have reached a second major final by this time next year.
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**RISERS**
1.Zi Yan & Jie Zheng
2.Na Li
3.Jelena Jankovic
4.Vera Zvonareva
5.Shuai Peng
6.Daniela Hantuchova
7.Ana Ivanovic
8.Dinara Safina
9.Flavia Pennetta
10.Romina Oprandi
HM- Nathalie Dechy

**FRESH FACES**
1.Jamea Jackson
2.Michaella Krajicek
3.Caroline Wozniacki
4.Agnieszka Radwanska
5.Magdalena Rybarikova
6.Urszula Radwanska
7.Tamira Paszek
8.Shenay Perry
9.Tszvetana Pironkova
10.Vasilisa Bardina
HM-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova & Yun-Jan Chan

**SURPRISES**
1.Severine Bremond
2.Jamea Jackson
3.Tszvetana Pironkova
4.Urszula Radwanska
5.Melanie South & Sarah Borwell
H-Sybille Bammer

**VETERANS**
1.Virginia Ruano-Pascual & Paola Suarez
2.Ai Sugiyama
3.Brenda Schultz-McCarthy
4.Nicole Pratt
5.Tamarine Tanasugarn
HM-Meilen Tu

**DOWN**
1.Venus Williams
2.Maria Sharapova
3.Kim Clijsters
4.Jelena Dokic
5.Anna-Lena Groenefeld
HM-Francesca Schiavone & Patty Schnyder


**TOP PERFORMANCE**
...Amelie Mauresmo at Wimbledon, without all the demons

**GREAT SWING, BAD FOLLOW THROUGH**
...Justine Henin-Hardenne won ten grass court matches in a row heading into the Wimbledon final, but the most important match was the one she lost

**NOW WE KNOW WHAT WE MISSED**
...a year ago, the Chinese Tennis Federation kept all its players out of SW19 in order to participate in the Asian Games. The Cookies arrived en masse in '06, with three reaching the 3rd Round, Na Li becoming the first Chinese player to reach a slam QF, and Zi Yan & Jie Zheng winning their second slam doubles title of the season.

**BEST MATCH**
Eastbourne Final - Henin-Hardenne d. Myskina
...4-6/6-1/7-6. The Czarina, after having been up a break twice earlier in the 3rd set, was forced to save three match points at 5-4, 0/40 a few moments later. She pushed the match to a deciding tie-break, then finally fell to JHH on a fourth MP.

**BIGGEST COMEBACK**
Wimbledon 2nd - V.Williams d. Raymond
...6-7/7-5/6-2. Venus trailed 6-7/2-5 and was two points from defeat before flipping the switch and leaving Raymond behind like roadkill. For what good it did, though, since Venus just lost in the next round instead.

**TOP UPSET**
Birmingham SF - Jackson d. Sharapova
...6-4/6-4. As it turned out, it WAS a sign that this year's Wimbledon was not going to be the Supernova's cup of tea.

**THE QUEEN OF MEANINGLESS RESULTS**
...in Eastbourne, Nathalie Dechy upset Amelie Mauresmo 3-6/6-2/6-3 in the 2nd Round. Dechy went on to lose in the 1st Round at Wimbledon, while Mauresmo, well, you know...

**AN EXPERIENCE OF MILLENNIAL DIMENSION**
...when Venus lost to Jelena Jankovic in the 3rd Round, it meant that for the first time since 1999 neither of the Williams sisters would be in the women's singles final.

**BIGGEST CHOKE**
Eastbourne QF - Kuznetsova d. Groenefeld
...5-7/7-5/7-6. Girl Friday simply ran off into a ditch in this one. She led 4-2 in the 2nd, but lost it. She led 4-2 in the 3rd, and served at 5-4 40/15 with three match points. She double-faulted and threw in some bad errors... and then it all slipped away. She didn't respond very well in her next match, either, as she was upset in the 1st Round of Wimbledon by Pironkova. Speaking of...

**TWO SLAMS ARE BETTER THAN ONE**
Wimbledon 1st - Pironkova d. Groenefeld
...3-6/6-3/6-1. ALG's big serve produced just two aces, but seven double-faults, in the three-setter. Not that it's a huge shock that Pironkova would pull off a big slam upset, since she did it to Venus in Melbourne in January, too.

**SMARTEST FASHION SENSE**
...Bethanie Mattek managed to out-headline Venus, fashion-wise, in their Wimbledon meeting, thanks to her soccer-meets-1970's-rollerskater costume. Of course...



**WORST FASHION SENSE**
...that doesn't mean the get-up actually LOOKED good, though.

**SHE'S IN VIRGINIE'S NIGHTMARES, TOO, I BET**
...at Roland Garros, Virginie Pichet beat Kirsten Flipkens in the final round of qualifying, only to have the Belgian make the main draw as a lucky loser. In their 1st Round meeting in Paris, Flipkens won. The two met again in the opening round of Wimbledon qualifying. Yep, Flipkens won again.

**IT MUST BE SOMETHING ABOUT BELGIANS**
...Flipkens wasn't the only Belgian in a series of Roland Garros/Wimbledon matchups, as the two main Waffles -- Justine Henin-Hardenne & Kim Clijsters -- met twice in slam SF. Needless to day, Clijsters is the one having the bad dreams about those meetings.

**IT MUST BE SOMETHING ABOUT RUSSIANS, TOO**
...Mashona Washington managed to avoid upsetting Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros despite leading 5-2 in the 3rd set. At Wimbledon, Washington blew a set and a break lead against another Russian, Dinara Safina, and again lost in three sets.

**IT'S NOT FEDERER/NADAL, BUT IT HAS ITS MOMENTS**
...Mauresmo vs. Henin-Hardenne, 5-5 overall and 2-1 Mauresmo (2-0 in slams) in '06, has developed into quite an interesting little series this season, especially since it looks like the two are destined to finish the year ranked #1 and #2. Who it is that'll end up on top of the rankings, though, might just come down to part three of a grand slam trilogy between the two in New York.

**IT'S NOT "RogerSlam," BUT IT'S SOMETHING**
...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has won a share of all three of this year's junior girls doubles titles.

**IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY**
...Michaella Krajicek, little sister of '96 Wimbledon champ Richard, won the grass court tune-up event in the Netherlands.

**DITTO**
...Dinara Safina, sister of so-good-yet-so-frustrating Marat, reached the same final in the Netherlands. She lost it, then narrowly escaped defeat in her first two Wimbledon matches against Jill Craybas and Mashona Washington. After living to play another day, she then lost to Ana Ivanovic in the 3rd Round.

**OF COURSE...**
...Safina DID last longer than Krajicek at Wimbledon. Michaella lost in the 1st Round to Samantha Stosur.

**SMARTEST MOVE (FINALLY)**
...after no Americans reached the Wimbledon QF for the first time since 1911, the USTA announced that the national headquarters would soon move to the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Florida. Dormatory-style housing will be provided for twenty players ages 14 to 18 on the grounds, which includes fourteen clay courts and nine hard courts. Meanwhile, some small points of light ARE breaking through with the "Americanas," as Jamea Jackson was the biggest surprise of the 2nd Quarter, Shenay Perry reached the women's Round of 16 at Wimbledon, and 16-year old Alexa Glatch won her first ITF singles title after returning to action following a scooter accident that broke bones in her arm late last year.

**MISSED OPPORTUNITY**
...Venus Williams' failure to reach the women's singles final prevented her from making a plea for equal pay for the women at SW19 in front of everyone that mattered on the final Saturday.

**FAILED FISH STORY... err, I MEAN OPPORTUNITY**
...Sesil Karatantcheva, who upset Venus at Roland Garros last year, failed to get her two-year drug ban overturned when a panel didn't believe her positive result came about because she was pregnant-and-16 at the time of the test.

**NO WILLIAMES, BUT RADWANSKAS?**
...are the Radwanska sisters trying to step into the Williams breach at Wimbledon? Last year, Agnieszka won the Girls title. This year, she reached the main draw Round of 16, while unseeded Urszula made the Girls SF.

**BETTER LATE THAN EARLY?**
...Severine Bremond, at 26, became the first qualifier to reach the Wimbledon QF since 1999. Back then, Jelena Dokic (16) and Alexandra Stevenson (18) did it... then gradually become WTA nonentities over time. Bremond's doing it all in reverse, and maybe that's the best way to go. This year, Stevenson defeated Dokic again... in the first round of Wimbledon qualifying.

**THE HARSHER SIDE OF TENNIS LIFE**
...Indonesia officially forfeited the Fed Cup match with Israel, not wanting to travel there

**THE LIGHTER SIDE OF TENNIS LIFE**


...but Sharapova didn't look. Honest. At least that's what she said.

**AND, AS ALWAYS (BUT NO LONGER)...**
...Martina Navratilova, at 49, said that this will be her last Wimbledon as a player. It's been 33 years since she debuted at the All-Enland Club in 1973. She leaves with 20 career Wimbledon titles, tied with Billie Jean King for the most ever. What will we do without her next year? Marvel at the career longevity of Nicole Pratt? Yeah, it doesn't quite have the same zip to it, does it?

=============================



...Fed Cup action consumes the upcoming weekend. Here are some picks (hopefully, I'll get the 3Q off to a decent start.)

**SEMIFINALS**
Italy def. Spain, 3-2
...in penalty-kicks, with Anabel Medina-Garrigues head-butting Francesca Schiavone.

Belgium def. USA, 4-1
...there'll be no American Miracle this time around. Late in the week, Justine Henin-Hardenne was replaced on the Belgian roster by Leslie Butkiewicz. I'll still stick with the same result, but I'll make it 3-2. It all depends on Kim Clijsters now... the same Clijsters who nearly punted the QF meeting with Russia before JHH righted the ship.

**WORLD GROUP PLAYOFFS**
Japan def. Austria, 4-1
...it's Barbara Schwartz vs. the entire Japanese tennis federation

Czech Republic def. France, 3-2
...is Mauresmo REALLY going to play in this? (On second thought, make it Nathalie Dechy head-butting Nicole Vaidisova.)

China def. Germany, 4-1
...the Cookies dunk the Germans.

Russia def. Croatia, 5-0
...Hordettes taking out their frustration.


All for now.

4 Comments:

Blogger Topaz said...

Yup, as much as I wish it weren't true, I have to agree with your Fed Cup prediction for the US girls. But for all the whining about the future of American tennis, I think there are several promising women coming up, and the tie will give two of them some great experience.

And still...you never know. That's why they play the matches!

Tue Jul 11, 09:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Jamea Jackson already proved herself in Europe on both clay and grass this summer. I like Vania King, too (and she's part of that Fed Cup SF roster, as well). I'm hoping Chelsey Gullickson has some singles success... if only so I can refer to her and her sister Carly as "The Naturals" since their father was a pro baseball player. :)

Also, Alexa Glatch has already made some waves since returning to action a few weeks ago, winning her first ITF title.

Of course, here, so much of the media attention dries up if an American isn't #1 or #2. Already this week, USA TODAY seemed bewildered by the fact that the Wimbledon men's final ratings were up over last year's... since Andy Roddick -- an AMERICAN -- was in the final last year, but this year it was JUST two players from Switzerland and Spain. Hello, it's a good thing that viewers were clued in enough to realize that Federer vs. Nadal was a bonafide sports "happening" that deserved to be paid attention to. No one was questioning the popularity of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA playoffs... even though their top player was, oh my, a GERMAN, were they?

(Of course, the same section of USA TODAY that was perplexed by ratings for the men's final also attributed the high ratings for the golf tournament on ABC to its World Cup final lead in... not to the fact that Tiger Woods was in contention for the title until the final hole.)

The problem is that so many of the sports media voices come from people who don't even watch tennis. On Monday, one of the reporters on ESPN's "Around the Horn" was still accusing Nadal of being a "one-surface wonder" 24 hours after he played in the Wimbledon final, and a few months after he defeated Federer on hard courts. So, what can you do?

Wed Jul 12, 01:45:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hmmm, Henin-Hardenne is replaced by Leslie Butkiewicz on the Belgium team for this weekend. Maybe the Americans DO have a shot, after all. It'll all depend on Clijsters. Uh-oh.

Thu Jul 13, 06:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Topaz said...

Yup, our chances just got a bit better! It will exciting to watch...thank goodness for The Tennis Channel. Maybe a US win will help alleviate my team's loss in the VA districts this week!

And, I had wondered what happened to Alexa Glatch...I just read earlier this week that she had been injured. It would be great to see her out and playing on the tour again.

Right now the Fed Cup draw has Vania and Mashona for what very well might be the deciding doubles rubber. Given Mashona's recent doubles success with Mattek, that's a good move, and hopefully a very strong team.

Fri Jul 14, 07:11:00 PM EDT  

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