Monday, July 31, 2006

Wk.30- The Return of Killer Kim and Unassailable Anna

Hmmmm... there's something oddly familiar about Kim Clijsters and Anna Smashnova winning titles this weekend.

Of course, if you thought winning the 2005 U.S. Open title would bolster Kim Clijsters' confidence for the 2006 season then you've been severely disappointed for most of the past seven months. This season, Clijsters has appeared to drift in and out of focus, planning her wedding here and talking about retirement there... that is, when she wasn't pondering how little a chance she had to win Roland Garros or some other such tournament. She's certainly been nothing like Amelie Mauresmo, whose taken her career's biggest wins and managed to convince herself they mean that she's capable of winning EVEN MORE.

There's been little thought in these parts that Clijsters was going to be a slam threat in '06. But Stanford, while not completely obliterating it, at least gives that line of thinking a slight pause. Back in North America, Clijsters at times resembled the "Killer Kim" that buzzed through the U.S. Open Series field last summer. Has she finally remembered what she should never have forgotten in the first place? She's probably the best hard court player out there, and if she believes she can win -- no, make that KNOWS she can win -- another Open title then she just might be able to do it. Surely, Patty Schnyder didn't have much doubt about the outcome of their final match on Sunday, but will Clijsters herself feel the same way once play begins in Flushing a month from now?

A year ago, a title in Stanford began the string of three championships that led into Clijsters' U.S. Open victory. One week into the '06 Series, things are looking mighty familiar.... just like the results that occur when Smashnova reaches a WTA singles final.

The 30-year old Israeli vet is still moving forward with one of the more perplexing careers in recent memory. Her win over Lourdes Dominguez-Lino in the Budapest final ran her career record to 12-0 in championship matches. Thing is, you'd think a player with such ability to play her best in important matches might be able to translate it into at least some minor grand slam success since her major debut thirteen years ago.

But, as I noted a few weeks ago, Smashnova might just be the worst slam player ever considering her career-long success elsewhere on tour. As it stands, she's the only player in WTA history with at least ten singles titles who's never once advanced to a slam quarterfinal.

And with her Tier IV clay court win under her belt, Smashnova promptly withdrew from the Tier I hard court event in San Diego this week. Hmmm... maybe things are becoming a little more clear as far as Smashnova's intended career path, huh?

Clijsters, while not the most driven Top 10 player (and certainly not the most single-minded one from Belgium), at least TRIES to grab the big prize. Now, whether she's just started down the path toward her second one... THAT is another story.


S: Kim Clijsters d. Patty Schnyder 6-4/6-2
D: Groenefeld/Peer d. Camerin/Dulko

S: Anna Smashnova d. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino 6-1/6-3
D: Husarova/Krajicek d. Hradecka/Voracova

Philadelphia Freedoms def. Newport Beach Breakers 21-14

...Clijsters' 32nd career title moves her to within one of Venus Williams' career total, and her fourth Stanford title in the last six years didn't come as a result of defeating a bunch of slouches, either. Jelena Jankovic, Vera Zvonareva, Nicole Vaidisova and Patty Schnyder were amongst her victims.
RISERS: Patty Schnyder & Tatiana Golovin never know which Patty you're going to get, but Stanford got the good version last week (well, at least up until the final). The difference between the Schnyder who overcame a game Golovin in the SF and the one who barely mustered much threat at all against Clijsters in the final can't be completely explained away by the change in the level of opponent. Speaking of Golovin, her quest to get back her pre-Miami ankle injury form is continuing on schedule. She defeated Ai Sugiyama and Anna-Lena Groenefeld in Stanford, and had Schnyder's back against the wall for a set and a half before the Swiss vet fought her way back to a victory in the SF.
SURPRISES: Sara Errani & Janette Husarova/Michaella Krajicek.

...19-year old, #177-ranked Errani is another Italian Noodle. In Budapest, she upset Agnes Szavay and Yuliana Fedak on her way to the QF. Husarova & Krajicek, while they didn't double-bagel their opponents like they did in a final last week, won their second straight doubles title of the month in Budapest.
VETERANS: Anna Smashnova & Lisa Raymond
...Smashnova, ranked #63, defended her Budapest title with wins over Eleni Daniilidou, Catalina Castano (who she defeated in the '05 final) and Dominguez-Lino for her 12th career title. That's one more than Sharapova (of cousre, the Supernova's still eleven years younger than Smashnova). Raymond's become the queen of the team titles in '06. She won the Hopman Cup with Taylor Dent back in January, and led the Philadelphia Freedoms to the WTT title on Sunday in a 21-14 victory over Newport Beach. She won both her singles and doubles (with former partner Rennae Stubbs, by the way) matches in the contest.
FRESH FACES: Jarmila Gajdosova & Victoria Azarenka

...Gajdosova recently won her fourth ITF singles title, a tour best in '06. This week, the Slovakian 19-year old reached a career-high singles ranking of #85. Azarenka was named "Rookie of the Year" for the WTT season, where she won 23 of her 38 games played for the Springfield Lasers, the second-best female winning percentage in the league (behind teammate Anastasia Myskina) this year.
DOWN: Daniela Hantuchova
...Wonder Girl goes bust again, this time in the 1st Round in Stanford, by a 2-6/6-0/3-6 score to Shenay Perry. Hard to believe she's STILL only won one singles title in her career... or maybe it isn't so difficult anymore.

1.Bud F - Smashnova d. Dominguez-Lino
...6-1/6-3. Counting Shahar Peer's 3-0 record in finals this year, Israeli players are a sterling 4-for-4 in '06 singles finals.
2.Stan F - Clijsters d. Schnyder
...6-4/6-2. Did Schnyder EVER feel that she had a shot to win this match? She sure didn't look like she did. Proof of Clijsters' lackluster '06 campaign up till now comes in the fact that this is just her second title of the year, with the other coming all the way back in February.
3.Stan QF - Clijsters d. Zvonareva
...6-2/3-6/6-1. Vera has nothing to feel bad about here. She gave Clijsters a good run... and she didn't test positive for testosterone, either. Therefore, Le Tour de Zvonareva continues.
HM- WTT Final - Philadelphia d. Newport Beach
...21-14. Of course, how Newport Beach (and Pete Sampras) legitimately managed to play in a QF Wild Card match with a 6-8 record that was worse than three other non-playoff teams is anyone's guess. Still, Newport won the match, and in the semifinals to advance to the final... where Sampras didn't play. Nothing against Lisa Raymond, but when she's the biggest name in the WTT final then someone's been sold a bill of goods.


1.Kim Clijsters
2.Vera Zvonareva
3.Flavia Pennetta
4.Anabel Medina-Garrigues
5.Anna Smashnova

1.Vera Zvonareva
2.Flavia Pennetta
3.Anabel Medina-Garrigues
4.Tatiana Golovin
5.Na Li
HM-Samantha Stosur

1.Kirsten Flipkens
2.Jarmila Gajdosova
3.Aleksandra Wozniak
4.Nicole Vaidisova
5.Victoria Azarenka
HM-Romina Oprandi

1.Serena Williams
2.Karin Knapp
3.Sara Errani

1.Anna Smashnova
2.Patty Schnyder
3.Severine Bremond

1.Lucie Safarova (FC)
2.Gisela Dulko
3.Daniela Hantuchova

...Flavia Pennetta leads Italy past Spain, and into the Fed Cup final

Vaidisova d. Golovin
...6-1/3-6/11-9. In the Fed Cup World Group Playoff between the Czech Republic and France, Vaidisova gutted out a win to put the Maidens into the lead. Unfortunately...

...Lucie Safarova lost a 9-7 in the 3rd set match to Nathalie Dechy immediately after the Vaidisova win, then got blitzed in a second singles match by Golovin. Despite Vaidisova's performance, the Czechs failed to qualify for the '07 World Group when Bremond/Golovin knocked out Benesova/Peschke in the deciding doubles match.

...Serena Williams played her first match since losing in the 3rd Round in Melbourne, upsetting Anastasia Myskina 6-2/6-2 in the 1st Round in Cincinnati en route to a semifinal result. Of course, she then withdrew from her next event, citing a continued knee problem.

...stepping out of the shadows of their more influential countrywomen, Russian Vera Zvonareva and Belgian Kirsten Flipkens made their presences known in July. Zvonareva continued her recent good form by winning the Cincinnati title without dropping a set (including in her SF match with Serena), while Flipkens stepped in for Justine Henin-Hardenne in the Fed Cup SF and promptly won both her singles matches as the Belgians returned to the FC final.

...the Chinese big red tennis machine, behind the play of Na Li, rolled over another of its goals, wiping out Germany 4-1 in the World Group Playoff to advance to Group I for the 2007 competition.

...Justine Henin-Hardennen pulled out of the Fed Cup SF, citing exhaustion after her Wimbledon final run. After Belgium advanced to the final, it was reported that she wouldn't participate in the final, either. Then, it was reported that she would. Of course, with the final set to take place a week after the U.S. Open concludes, if JHH makes it four-for-four in slam finals in '06, don't be surprised to see her bow out again... and no doubt bear the brunt of anti-Justine/selfish Justine rants once again. Funny how Clijsters got a pass when she refused to play on the Belgian Olympic team a while back because she was going to have to wear a uniform that wasn't provided by her regular sponsor. Hmmm...

...Katarina Srebotnik lost to Vera Zvonareva in straight sets in the Cincinnati final, then faced the Russian yet again just a few days later in the 1st Round in Stanford. She lost in straight sets again.

...Viktoriya Kutuzova beat both Venus Williams and Anna-Lena Groenefeld in WTT action this month. Too bad it was only in sets to five games. But maybe she'll gain some confidence from it anyway, right?

=SOMETHING IN THE AIR?= the four WTA events held in July, three of them saw the defending champion retain her title. Anabel Medina-Garrigues three-peated in Palmero, while Kim Clijsters (Stanford) and Anna Smashnova (Budapest) extended their title streaks to two years.

...Brenda Schultz-McCarthy used to hold the WTA record for fastest clocked serve. Since those days, Venus Williams took the honor and BSM retired. Well, the vet is back, and so is her record. She reclaimed the fastest serve mark in an opening round of qualifying match in Cincinnati, despite losing the match to Julia Cohen.

...the WTA approved limited on-court coaching for events in New Haven and Montreal. Hopefully, the Czarina will show up and take advantage of the rule... Myskina in an animated face-to-face discussion with her coach (rather than the usual ones across a crowded stadium) could be a reality show all its own. Backspin can't wait.

...with two wins in the four events played so far in the 3Q, hopefully I've got a little mojo working with the Royale stepping to the plate again in San Diego.

05 FINAL: Pierce d. Sugiyama
06 TOP: Clijsters/Sharapova
Clijsters d. Jankovic
Hingis d. Jackson
Golovin d. Petrova
Vaidisova d. Hantuchova
Schnyder d. Suarez
Dementieva d. Mirza
Groenefeld d. Safarova
Sharapova d. Zvonareva
Clijsters d. Hingis
Vaidisova d. Golovin
Schnyder d. Dementieva
Sharapova d. Groenefeld
Clijsters d. Vaidisova
Sharapova d. Schnyder
Clijsters d. Sharapova

...I'll stick will Clijsters, hoping she maintains her killer instinct at least for one more week.

Clijsters d. Jankovic
Hingis d. Pennetta
Petrova d. Golovin
Vaidisova d. Hantuchova
Schnyder d. Suarez
Dementieva d. Bartoli
Pierce d. Groenefeld
Sharapova d. Zvonareva
Clijsters d. Hingis
Vaidisova d. Petrova
Schnyder d. Dementieva
Sharapova d. Pierce
Clijsters d. Vaidisova
Sharapova d. Schnyder
Clijsters d. Sharapova

All for now.


Blogger .sg said...

that Gajdosova has a wicked looking forehand - that's a huge western grip!

i wonder if she can hold up on the hard court with that style?

Tue Aug 08, 12:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, at least she held up in Stockholm, winning the doubles title with Eva Birnerova. :)

Mon Aug 14, 06:25:00 PM EDT  

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