Monday, September 25, 2006

Wk.38- That Time of Year

After the U.S. Open, and before the year-ending Championships, youth tends to flourish on the WTA tour. It happened again last week.

In the 4th Quarter, with more events regularly on the schedule (three events last week, three more this week) -- most of them lesser-tiered ones -- and fewer big names in action to fill out the draws thanks to the upcoming end of the tiring long season (and the need for top players to be rested for the YEC), these final months have often turned into the proving ground for future stars. The last few seasons, young players have often managed to get their first tastes of success at this time of year.

A few recent highlights:

...Maria Sharapova won her first two career titles

...Nicole Vaidosova won title #2, and Na Li won her first

...Vaidisova won back-to-back-to-back crowns, while Maria Kirilenko and Michaella Krajicek won their firsts

This weekend, 15-year old Austrian Tamira Paszek continued the tradition by winning her maiden championship in Portoroz, Slovenia just a few weeks after competing in (and losing, by the way) the U.S. Open Girls final. Meanwhile, in Kolkata, India, 18-year old Russian Olga Poutchkova reached her first tour final.

With the likes of Anna Chakvetadze and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (the girl who beat Paszek in the Open's Girls final, and the world junior #1) still seeking their first WTA crowns, who's to say they won't soon take part in this annual late-season ritual before 2006 closes out?

So keep an eye out. Shooting stars often shine for the first time just before the tour turns down its lights for another season.

*WEEK 38*

S: Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Amelie Mauresmo 6-4/6-0
D: Ruano-Pascual/Suarez d. Chakvetadze/Vesnina

S: Martina Hingis d. Olga Poutchkova 6-0/6-4
D: Huber/Mirza d. Beygelzimer/Fedak

S: Tamira Paszek d. Maria Elena Camerin 7-5/6-1
D: Birnerova/Loit

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Svetlana Kuznetsova
...her second title in as many weeks gives the Contessova three for the season and eight for her career. Her victory in the rain-marred Beijing final over Amelie Mauresmo was her third win over the world #1 in 2006.
RISERS: Shuai Peng & Sania Mirza

...Peng is still hovering just slightly above .500 for the season after her SF run in Beijing, but wins over Kirilenko and Ai Sugiyama are at least going to give her some hope that 2007 will finally see her pull together all that promise she showed in 2005. As for Mirza, '06 has been nothing like her '05, either. But her SF result in Kolkata was her best singles result of the season, and she picked up her second doubles title (last week and earkier in Bangalore, both with Liezel Huber) in this year's two tour events in India.
SURPRISES: Maria Elena Camerin & Iroda Tulyaganova
...perhaps Italy's Camerin was inspired by her countrywomen's Fed Cup win? Her RU in Portoroz was her first trip to a WTA singles final since 2001 in Casablanca. Tulyaganova hasn't had much of a presence on tour the past few seasons after reaching the Top 20 in 2002. She entered last week ranked #342, but qualified and advanced all the way to the SF in Kolkata. It's her best tour result since 2003.
VETERANS: Martina Hingis & Virginia Ruano-Pascual/Paola Suarez
...Hingis won her second title of the second in Kolkata, erasing at least some of the memory of her 2nd Round ouster from the US Open. A Tier IV crown is not exactly what she came out of retirement for, but points are points when it comes to qualifying for the YEC. She's got a shot at another Tier IV this week in Seoul. Now that Suarez is healthy again, the magic of VRP/Suarez is showing signs of being reignited. The duo's crown in Beijing was their second in the past few months, joining their Los Angeles title.
FRESH FACES: Tamira Paszek & Olga Poutchkova

...Paszek was just glad that Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was nowhere to be seen. The 15-year old Austrian lost at both Roland Garros and the US Open to the Russian junior #1 in the Girls event in tight three-set matches. Safely tucked away on the actual women's tour, she got her first career title in Portoroz. As a qualifier, she entered the event ranked #259. Eight matches later, she became the third lowest-ranked women's player to win a WTA singles title, knocking off Iveta Benesova, Emilie Loit and Camerin along the way. Russian Poutchkova, 18, followed up her Bali QF with her first tour final in Kolkata. She lost rather quickly to Hingis, dropping the 1st set at love, but don't expect this to be her final opportunity to join the list of Hordettes with titles to their credit.
DOWN: Amelie Mauresmo
...sure, Mauresmo defeated Lindsay Davenport in the Beijing QF and her RU result increased her lead in the rankings over #2 Henin-Hardenne (though with YEC title points to defend, that race might come down to the final week of the season, even with JHH out three weeks with her knee injury and maybe not getting back into action UNTIL the week of the WTA Championships), but the scoreline in her loss to Kuznetsova included yet another love set lost. What's the deal with this odd trend, anyway?

1.Beij F - Kuznetsova d. Mauresmo
...6-4/6-0. Mauresmo has now been bageled in four sets by three different players (Kuznetsova, Sharapova & Serena) in her last two tournaments.
2.Kol F - Hingis d. Poutchkova
...6-0/6-4. Eight different Russians have now advanced to WTA singles finals this season.
3.Por F - Paszek d. Camerin
...7-5/6-1. A few weeks after losing a junior slam final, Austrian Paszek became the lowest-ranked qualifier to ever win a WTA singles title... and was the lowest-ranked female EVER to win a WTA event that wasn't held in her home nation.
4.Por SF - Paszek d. Loit
...4-6/2-0 ret. Needless to say, Paszek made the most of her "second chance."
5.Kol SF - Hingis d. Mirza
...6-1/6-0. An inglorious end -- at least in singles -- to one of the rare good weeks in '06 for the Indian Princess.
6.Beij 2nd - Peng d. Kirilenko
...5-7/6-4/6-2. Peng is the first player this season to record two wins over defending tournament champions.
7.Beij 2nd - Sugiyama d. Vaidisova
...6-4/1-6/6-3. The Dynamova really doesn't need a strong finish to validate her potential as she did at the end of '05. Still, even though the events were small, she's going to soon lose her points for those three titles she picked up in last season's closing weeks. A late-year swoon could cost her her Top 10 ranking.
8.Beij 1st - Davenport d. Chakvetadze
...7-6/3-6/7-5. Another close loss to a top player for Chakvetadze. She might not have that first career title to prove it, but she's made great strides in '06. Hmmm... maybe the timing is just about right for her to take care of that.
9.Kol 1st - Dellacqua d. Sprem
..2-6/7-6/6-2. Maybe the Aussies could have used Dellacqua in that Davis Cup SF, huh? Yeah, she wouldn't have won anything... but, then again, neither did any of the men in the 5-0 loss to Argentina.

17...Michaella Krajicek (Hobart, January)
17...Nicole Vaidisova (Strasbourg, June)

#579...Angelique Widjaja (2001 Bali) (WC)
#285...Fabiola Zuluaga (2002 Bogota) (WC)

5...Justine Henin-Hardenne
4...Amelie Mauresmo
4...Nadia Petrova
3...Maria Sharapova
3...Shahar Peer

3...Justine Henin-Hardenne
2...Maria Sharapova
2...Elena Dementieva
2...Jie Zheng

3...Mauresmo (Jan-Feb, Australian-Paris-Antwerp)
3...Petrova (Apr-May, A.I.-Charleston-Berlin)
2...Henin-H. (June, R.G.-Eastbourne)

...the season-long attempt to finally reach double-digits in champion picks continues, but at least the trek is one champion less thanks to Martina Hingis' title last week. Of course, being ever so grateful, I don't pick Hingis to win again this week.

05 FINAL: Clijsters d. Groenefeld
06 TOP: Dementieva/Petrova
SF: Dementieva d. Schnyder; Petrova d. Safina
FINAL: Dementieva d. Petrova

...could Girl Friday regain her mojo by following up her '05 RU with something better here? At least it's not an outdoor hardcourt event, so maybe there's a shot.

05 FINAL: Yan d. Llagostera-Vives
06 TOP: Jankovic/N.Li
SF: Chakvetadze d. Jankovic; N.Li d. Medina-Garrigues
FINAL: Chakvetadze d. N.Li

...Chakvetadze is due to pick up her first title, and I've heard that this IS the time of the year for such things, after all.

05 FINAL: Vaidisova d. Jankovic
06 TOP: Hingis/Kirilenko
SF: Hingis d. Sugiyama; Zvonareva d. Bartoli
FINAL: Zvonareva d. Hingis

...why not make it three-for-three for the Hordettes? It's not like giving my picks a theme is going to render my '06 prediction record a disappointing mess... that boat sailed somewhere in Europe in the early spring.

All for now.


STILL TO COME: Maria Sharapova Quiz


Post a Comment

<< Home