Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wk.39- Anna-way She Goes

Oh, if only I could always mention something here one day and then see it actually come true just a few days later.

Last week, hoping to spark up some good karma, I threw out the notion that the air seemed just about right for Anna Chakvetadze to finally win her first WTA tour singles title... and -- voila! -- it happened.

Imagine that.

At 19, less than two months older than fellow Russian Maria Sharapova, Chakvetadze has mostly seemed a defensive player in the early stages of her career... though her nice groundstrokes always hinted that she might be underselling her own abilities while hanging back and choosing to wait for her opponent to make a mistake. But 2006 has seen her career take a significant upswing as she's begun to add more aggressive, offensive-minded shots to her repertoire.

After beginning the year by being dropped 2 & 1 by Nicole Vaidisova in the 2nd Round of the Australian Open, then suffering through a hard-luck clay season (save for a nice QF run in Warsaw in which she beat the likes of Hantuchova, Jankovic and Ivanovic), Chakvetadze's game seemed to come of age on the North American hard courts. In San Diego, she upset Petrova and Ivanovic, then took Vaidisova to three sets in the QF. In Montreal, it was Dushevina, Petrova, Dechy and Peer who fell before that unfortunate retirement against Hingis in the SF. She reached the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open (her best slam yet), knocking off Alona Bondarenko and Victoria Azarenka along the way to round out a 3rd Quarter in which she seemed to increase her tennis knowledge exponentially with nearly every match.

The experience has quickly paid off in September. In Beijing, she pushed Davenport to a 7-5 3rd set... then went to Guangzhou last week and notched her first tour title. Currently #23, she's one more big week away from her first Top 20 ranking.

16...Dinara Safina (2002)
16...Maria Sharapova (2003)
17...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002)
18...Elena Likhovtseva (1993)
18...Anastasia Myskina (1999)
18...Vera Zvonareva (2003)
18...Maria Kirilenko (2005)
19...Elena Bovina (2002)
21...Elena Dementieva (2003)
23...Nadia Petrova (2005)

With Kirilenko's disappointing results over the past year, and Dushevina still being title-less to date, Chakvetadze has taken the lead role amongst the group of non-Horde "tweeners" who began to arrive on the scene after the first wave of Top 10/20 Russians, and who are just ahead of the Poutchkovas and Pavlyuchenkovas that are just now on the cusp of hitting the big time.

Hmmm, speaking of... you know, Poutchkova hasn't won her first title yet, either. She could potentially meet Azarenka (not Russian, but no matter) in the Tashkent final this weekend in what would be a battle for another maiden career title.

It IS that time of year, remember... but can karma possibly offer up a second helping of goodness?


S: Alona Bondarenko d. Francesca Schiavone 6-3/6-2
D: Peschke/Schiavone d. Groenefeld/Huber

S: Anna Chakvetadze d. Anabel Medina-Garrigues 6-1/6-4
D: T.Li, Sr./Sun d. King/Kostanic

S: Eleni Daniilidou d. Ai Sugiyama 6-3/2-6/7-6
D: Ruano-Pascual/Suarez d. Chuang/Diaz Oliva

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Anna Chakvetadze

...in Guangzhou, the 19-year old dispatched fellow Russian Olga Poutchkova in the QF, outlasted a retiring Jelena Jankovic (heat illness) in the SF and then took out veteran Anabel Medina-Garrigues (who was going for her third '06 title) in the final. Unlike some players who shall remain nameless (okay... her initials are F.S.), Anna C's WTA finals record is now a spotless 1-0.
RISER: Alona Bondarenko

...the 22-year old from Ukraine couldn't stop smiling and laughing to herself during the post-match ceremony in Luxembourg after winning her first career WTA singles title. Maybe she knew she'd made off like a bandit at the expense of a handful of players who'd missed out -- to varying degrees -- on opportunities to take her down earlier in the week. En route to her second career final ('05 Hyderabad), Bondarenko took out Mary Pierce, Katerina Srebotnik, Nathalie Dechy and Kveta Peschke before knocking Francesca Schiavone's (hmmm... F.S.?) record in finals to 0-8. Peschke held a match point in the SF, but Bondarenko survived and became only the second woman (Anna Smashnova) to pick up both ITF and WTA singles titles this season.
SURPRISE: Tzipora Obziler
...the 33-year old Israeli, who played tennis at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, advanced to her first career tour SF in Guangzhou after picking up her first Top 20 victory in the QF over Na Li. She's now at a career-high #105.
VETERANS: Eleni Daniilidou & Virginia Ruano-Pascual/Paola Suarez
...Daniilidou hadn't won a singles title since January '04 in Auckland, thus picking up her fourth career title in Seoul wasn't exactly expected. Included in her impressive string of victims were Jamea Jackson, the Veras Dushevina & Zvonareva, Marion Bartoli and Ai Sugiyama. Also in Seoul, the VRP/Suarez team picked up a second doubles title in two weeks. In singles, Ruano-Pascual reached the SF with wins over Lucie Safarova, Angelique Widjaja and Sania Mirza.
FRESH FACES: Anna Chakvetadze & Agnieszka Radwanska
...the Polish 17-year old up-and-comer's game isn't exactly built to excite the masses (at least it didn't me in the SF match against Schiavone that I watched), but she's shown herself to be a tough competititor this summer. In Luxembourg, Radwanska qualifed and then upset Mara Santangelo, Venus Williams and Elena Dementieva... so she's got something good workin' for her, that's for sure.
DOWN: Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Nadia Petrova
...ALG was a RU in Luxembourg a year ago, but was dumped out in the 1st Round this time by Karin Knapp 6-0/6-4 to continue her severe downswing on hardcourts this season. Meanwhile, Petrova bowed out against Nathalie Dechy in the 2nd Round in the same event, and now finds herself having to fight to reach the YEC even after her superior spring in Europe. These two will meet in the 2nd Round in Stuttgart, by the way.

1.Lux SF - A.Bondarenko d. Peschke
...6-3/5-7/7-5. Why Peschke hasn't made a final since '99 was apparent when she blew a 5-2 lead in the 3rd set (she served at 5-3, and held a match point).
2.Lux F - A.Bondarenko d. Schiavone
...6-3/6-2. It looked like her Fed Cup experience was going to power Schiavone to her first (and long past due) singles title. But, no. Hello, 0-8 career record in final matches. Hmmm, come to think of it, Schiavone DID lose to Henin-Hardenne, and then was on the good side of the Belgian's injury in the deciding doubles match... so maybe she really DIDN'T gain any confidence from winning the Fed Cup that'll translate to her singles results... she just had a good old time. Nothing more. Nothing less.
3.Seoul F - Daniilidou d. Sugiyama
...6-3/2-6/7-6. Sugiyama hadn't won a title in 21 months, but Daniilidou's 33-month drought trumped her in the final.
4.Guang F - Chakvetadze d. Medina-Garrigues
...6-1/6-4. Chakvetadze is the sixth different Russian to win a tour title in' 06. No other nation has more than two different champions.
5.Lux 1st - V.Williams d. Ivanovic
...6-3/6-4. Venus noted that she'd only had two weeks of practice before returning with this win.
6.Seoul 2nd - Mirza d. Hingis
...4-6/6-0/6-4. Mirza won the rematch of the Kolkata SF.
7.Guang 1st - Molik d. King
...6-7/6-3/7-5. The Steamer won the rematch of the U.S. Open 1st Round match.
8.Guang 1st - Poutchkova d. Yan
...2-6/6-3/6-3. The Russian's three-week uprising continued with a win over the '05 champion. Ultimately, she lost in a three-setter to Chakvetadze in the QF.
9.Lux 2nd - Schiavone d. Vinci
...6-2/6-1. These two teamed just a few weeks ago to win that #5 match in the Fed Cup final.
10.Lux 2nd - A.Radwanska d. V.Williams
...6-3/6-0. Urszula's sister upset Serena's sister, who had more than two weeks of practice before playing this one.

[by age]
15...Tamira Paszek (Portoroz)
18...Shahar Peer (Pattaya)
20...Anna-Lena Groenefeld (Acapulco)
21...Marion Bartoli (Auckland)
22...Sofia Arvidsson (Memphis)
24...Mara Santangelo (Bangalore)
24...Lourdes Dominguez-Lino (Bogota)

6...Lisa Raymond/Samantha Stosur
6...Zi Yan/Jie Zheng

.000 Flavia Penentta (0-3)
.000 Anastasia Myskina (0-3)
.000 Jelena Kostanic (0-2)
.000 Dinara Safina (0-2)
.000 Patty Schnyder (0-2)

Italian Fed Cup squad

1.Svetlana Kuznetsova (3Q: Sharapova)
2.Francesca Schiavone (in Fed Cup)
3.Anna Chakvetadze
HM- Virginia Ruano-Pascual/Paola Suarez

1.Anna Chakvetadze (3Q: Pavlyuchenkova)
2.Olga Poutchkova
3.Tamira Paszek
HM- Agnieszka Radwanska

RISER: Alona Bondarenko
SURPRISE: Mara Santangelo (in Fed Cup)
VETERANS/DOUBLES TEAM: Ruano-Pascual & Suarez
DOWN (player): Ana Ivanovic
DOWN (team): Belgium Fed Cup squad

Fed Cup Final Match #4 - Santangelo d. Flipkens
...6-7/6-3/6-0. In her FC debut, Santangelo substituted for Flavia Pennetta. She lost the 1st set, then battled back against Flipkens on the Belgian's home court, forcing an already-injured JHH into the deciding doubles match that she couldn't finish. Viva Italia!

Even with three first-time champions in the month, I'd say 18-year old Olga Poutchkova "broke out" more than anyone. She's won three ITF titles in '06, but she hasn't claimed a WTA singles title... yet. (But that could be remedied soon.) In September, she bounded onto the tour and quickly added her name to the long list of Russians worth noting in any main draw. She upset Ivanovic and reached the Bali QF, was RU in Kolkata, and then knocked out defending champ Yan in Guangzhou while reaching another QF.

...hoping for a little more good karma.

2005 F (Filderstadt): Davenport d. Mauresmo
2006 TOP: Mauresmo/Kuznetsova
SF: Mauresmo d. Peer; Kuznetsova d. Safina
FINAL: Kuznetsova d. Mauresmo

...Kuznetsova has Mauresmo's number in '06. This would be her fourth win over her this season.

2005 F: Vaidisova d. Golovin
2006 TOP: Bartoli/Sugiyama
SF: Safarova d. Daniilidou; Medina-Garrigues d. Sugiyama
FINAL: Safarova d. Medina-Garrigues

...Safarova started '06 strong. Maybe she can finish it strongly, as well, and forget about all the squishiness that's taken place in the middle.

2005 F: Krajicek d. Amanmuradova
2006 TOP: Camerin/Vesnina
SF: Azarenka d. T.Sun; Poutchkova d. Tanasugarn
FINAL: Azarenka d. Poutchkova

...does karma call twice?

All for now.


ALSO: Test your Supernova knowledge in "The (Long Overdue) Maria Sharapova Quiz".


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