Saturday, October 28, 2006

How Smart We Were... How Dumb We Were

Has the season really gone by so fast? Were Tennisrulz Head Honcho Pierre Cantin and I really that smart about how some things would play out in 2006... but just as dumb about so many others? Well, yes... and, unfortunately, yes.

First, some of the good news:



...I predicted first career titles for Anna Chakvetadze, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Alona Bondarenko, Tiantian Sun and Sofia Arvidsson.
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...I predicted a first career final appearance for Aiko Nakamura
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...Daniela Hantuchova, Jelena Jankovic, Francesca Schiavone, Jelena Dokic and Vera Dushevina really DIDN'T win a tour singles title between them
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...and Martina Navratilova DID win three titles, two in Doubles and a Mixed title at the U.S. Open
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...while Groenefeld did manage to reach that slam QF that I was hoping for, at Roland Garros
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...perseverance finally paid off, as his pick of Amelie Mauresmo claiming her first slam title came true.
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...as predicted, Elena Dementieva won her first career Tier I title
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...Nicole Vaidisova DID reach the Top 10 and make a big run in a slam (Roland Garros SF). She's currently #11, but still has a shot to finish 2006 in the Top 10.
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...Pierre said that Marta Domachowska would reach the Top 50 (she was as high as #37 in April) and win her first title. Well, she WAS RU in Memphis to Arvidsson.
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...the belief that Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters would team up to help Belgium in the Fed Cup came true in the SF.
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With the good also comes a taste of the bad:


...I said that Venus Williams could defend her Wimbledon title. I really should have know better, right?
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...I thought Sania Mirza would win a pair of titles. Instead, she was shut out and saw her results slide.
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...thinking that the Czech Maidens would make a big leap in '06 didn't pan out. Rather than the 15 finalists and 11 titles, both up slightly from their '05 numbers, they only had 3 and 2 even with Nicole Vaidisova's great progress.
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...thinking that Jennifer Capriati's shoulder would heal, I figured she'd end the year somewhere between #15-25.
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...and I stood firm in the notion that Amelie Mauresmo wouldn't win a slam title. I was wrong TWICE on that one.
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...though I loved the creativity of Pierre's prediction that eight different women would play in the four slam finals, he was just a "tad" off as JHH played in all four, and faced off against Mauresmo in two of them. Of course, it's been almost 30 years (1977) since the all-different-faces combination has actually happened.
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...like me, he had Capriati healthy and in the Top 30.
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...too bad JHH & Clijsters couldn't team up in the Fed Cup final, for then they probably would have forced a change in category for PC's pick of Belgium to win the FC title.
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...he also missed on the notion that Groenefeld wouldn't reach the Top 15 during the season (she did) or win her first title (she swept both the singles and doubles in Acapulco). Obviously, I enjoyed that he missed this one.
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...according to Pierre, Clijsters was going to dominate the rankings and play more matches than any player in the Top 10. Whoops.
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Whew! How about a few more good ones:



...I picked Slingin' Sammy Stosur to finish the year as the doubles #1. She was the sole #1 for 22 weeks this season, and has been co-#1 with partner Lisa Raymond for the past 16.
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...Clijsters DIDN'T win another slam, and only held onto the #1 ranking for a short time after reclaiming it for seven weeks from January to March.
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...woo-hoo! I actually said that an American under 25 would win a singles title in 2006. Thank you, Vania King.
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...some Russian hits: there were over 25 Russian finalists (33, counting the all-Russian Linz final), Dementieva won her first Tier I, and Nadia Petrova DID indeed become the top-ranked Hordette for a while during the Euro clay season.
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...I was right in thinking Vaidisova would become a Top 10er, though I just missed on that grand slam final (grrrrr... Roland Garros near-miss), that Shahar Peer would become the top Israeli (she won three titles), Le Petit Taureau would win a slam and Martina Hingis would reach a slam QF (in Oz, as it turned out).
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...Pierre had Hingis reaching the Top 20 (close enough), and continuing to struggle with her consistency against power players (4-10 vs. Top 10ers).
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...he also picked her to win a slam doubles title, which she did in Melbourne by claiming the Mixed title with Mahesh Bhupathi.
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...he had Sharapova winning four titles (she had four going into Linz), including Wimbledon (the U.S. is still slam #2).
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...and he was right about four Americans being ranked in the Top 50, though I doubt he figured that none of them would be named Williams. The four as of this past week: #18 Davenport, #37 Shaughnessy, #46 Perry, #47 Jackson.
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Okay, here's another small dose of medicine:



...I had Lindsay Davenport as the year-end #1, and Mary Pierce as #2. Yikes.
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...I didn't have Hingis in the Top 10, either. But while Pierre had her in Top 20, I was only willing to go with Top 30.
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...I thought the Spice Girls team of Hingis/Kournikova would return in doubles. Despite rumors of such a thing during the summer, it never became a reality. Oh, well... there's always 2007.
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...and, of course, I had Sesil Karatantcheva reaching her first career final. More on this one in a bit.
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...Pierre said Serena Williams would win four titles and a slam, and Venus would win four titles of her own. Neither won any.
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...Jelena Dokic most definitely DID NOT finish her season ranked just outside the Top 100. At last glance, she was just outside the Top 600.
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...Victoriya Kutuzova didn't reach the Top 40. Most recently, she was at #104. There's always next season, though.
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...Pierre, too, was sucked in by the thought that Pierce would continue her late '05 upswing. She didn't get that Top 10 ranking and two titles. Instead, she tore up her knee in Linz and will miss at least six months... that is, if she EVER comes back at this point.
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...and he said that Davenport would announce her retirement after the U.S. Open, then go out with a title at the YEC. Well, the latter won't be happening... though one never knows if he was just a few months off on the retirement announcement.
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And what about those Top 10 predictions?

**TOP 10, as of October 22**
1.Amelie Mauresmo
2.Justine Henin-Hardenne
3.Maria Sharapova
4.Svetlana Kuznetsova
5.Nadia Petrova
6.Kim Clijsters
7.Elena Dementieva
8.Martina Hingis
9.Patty Schnyder
10.Dinara Safina

**BACKSPIN's TOP 10**
1.Lindsay Davenport
2.Mary Pierce
3.KIM CLIJSTERS
4.AMELIE MAURESMO
5.JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE
6.Serena Williams
7.MARIA SHARAPOVA
8.Nicole Vaidisova
9.NADIA PETROVA
10.Anna-Lena Groenefeld

**PIERRE's TOP 10**
1.KIM CLIJSTERS
2.MARIA SHARAPOVA
3.JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE
4.Serena Williams
5.Lindsay Davenport
6.AMELIE MAURESMO
7.Nicole Vaidisova
8.Anastasia Myskina
9.Venus Williams
10.ELENA DEMENTIEVA


...we both placed five correctly in the Top 10, with #11 Vaidisova still possibly being able to push it to six... we both had Clijsters, JHH, Mauresmo and Sharapova... neither of us had Hingis, Kuznetsova, Safina or Schnyder... incorrectly named Top 10ers were Davenport, Vaidisova (for now) and Serena... I judged Myskina pretty well at #15, while a bit biased Pierre had her at #8... but he had Dementieva there while I didn't, though I matched him with my Petrova pick (oh, Pierre of little faith... and in a Russian, to boot).

Oh, and what about that "Kuznetsova Curse?" Well, we both stayed away from the Contessova after the dual #1 picks in '05 set the stage for a step-back season for her. Without our "interference," she reached a slam final and bounced back up to #4. The Curse is reversed.

But who did it fall on in '06? Well, Pierce and Davenport are obvious choices since Venus & Serena don't exactly need any "anti-help." Also, as much as Pierre blessed Amelie & Martina, he did kind of curse Clijsters... and if she'd actually seriously hurt herself again this week (she bruised her tailbone after stumbling over her dog Diesel while kicking a soccer ball in a garden with her fiance), after injuring her wrist in PC's neighborhood in Montreal (vs. Quebec-born Stephanie Dubois, no less) she'd be the prime candidate for the 2006 booby prize... ah, but there's one more candidate.

I may have put a small blessing on Petrova & Stosur for '06, but what of Sesil? I'd say a two-year drug suspension (hmmm, wasn't there a rumor about a Kuznetsova drug test at the start of '05, too?) before the season even officially began kind of makes the Belgian teen untouchable in the "cursed" department.



Goodbye "Kuznetsova Curse"... hello "Karatantcheva Curse." Oh, it's always something, isn't it?


All for now.

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2006 SEASON REVIEW EDITIONS OF WTA BACKSPIN:
...Revolving Doors
...Intriguing Answers: A Swiss Miss, a Near-Miss & a Big Hit

STILL TO COME:
...More Intriguing Answers: starring Amelie, Justine & Maria
...2006 Backspin Awards
...2006 Miss Backspin
...2006 WTA Yearbook

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