Monday, November 13, 2006

Wk.45- A Final Poke in the Eye of Convention

Is this what vindication looks like?

Certainly while watching Justine Henin-Hardenne return from a two-month layoff to grit her way to her first WTA Championship title, knocking off a previously streaking Maria Sharapova in the SF and finally besting Amelie Mauresmo in a major '06 final, you got the feeling that Le Petit Taureau believed she had something to prove.

Maybe she did, too. At least to herself.

JHH didn't know precisely what to expect from her still recuperating (as that funky calf bandage reminded everyone) body when she arrived in Spain. But by becoming the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1993 (and only the fifth ever) to reach the finals of all four slams and the YEC in a single season (remember, she was also in the Fed Cup final) and claiming the year-end #1 ranking for the first time since 2003, JHH managed to not only answer any of the lingering questions she may have had about herself in Madrid... but also find a measure of vindication after all the abuse she took in '06, beginning with the unruly uproar over her retirement in the Australian Open final all the way back in January. Now, she's only a Wimbledon title (she's been RU twice) away from becoming the only player who's not the mom or dad of Jaden and Jaz Agassi to claim all four slams, the YEC and an Olympic singles Gold Medal in a career.

Hmmm, goals are good... even for someone who's already accomplished so much.

S: Justine Henin-Hardenne d. Amelie Mauresmo 6-4/6-3
D: Raymond/Stosur d. Black/Stubbs


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Justine Henin-Hardenne
...after missing the YEC the past two years due to injury/illness, JHH made a triumphant return, winning her tour-leading sixth title of the season. Maybe most impressively, she handled Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the SF.
RISERS: Samantha Stosur & Nadia Petrova
...Stosur defended the YEC Doubles title she won with Lisa Raymond a year ago, giving the team ten titles on the season. Now Slingin' Sammy can work on getting that (2007 prediction alert!) first tour singles title next year. After opening with a dominating win over Mauresmo in Madrid, Petrova failed to reach the SF, but the entire experience has to be looked upon as a celebration of a career year that could actually be improved upon in '07 if she can put together the deep run in a slam that eluded her this year.
SURPRISE: Jelena Dokic
...before this weekend, Dokic hadn't reached the SF of an actual event since February '04 in Tokyo. She finally did it again in Ismaning, Germany. Sure, Tokyo was a Tier I and this was a $10K challenger, but still.
VETERAN: Lisa Raymond
...the YEC Doubles co-champ was the only American amongst the sixteen women assembled for singles & doubles action in Madrid. Hey, one-for-one! In the words of Borat, "High five!"
FRESH FACES: Aleksandra Wozniak and Raluca Olaru
...Canadian teen Wozniak followed up her Quebec City QF with a great week in the Pittsburgh $75K, winning the title when Victoria Azarenka retired in the final. Before that, though, she got wins over Laura Granville, Bethanie Mattek, Ashley Harkleroad and Olga Poutchkova (3-6/7-5/7-5 in the QF). In Toronto, Romanian Olaru knocked off another Quebec City star, doubles champ Carly Gullickson, in the final of the $25K challenger.
DOWN: Svetlana Kuznetsova
...considering all her Spanish connections, one would have expected the Contessova to be a bit more on top of things in Madrid. After an opening Round Robin win over Elena Dementieva, she failed to get a single set off either Kim Clijsters or Maria Sharapova.

And additionally...
kudos to Serena Williams, who'll soon take off for a 5-day trip to Senegal, where she'll hold tennis clinics at the invitation of the U.N. Office of Sport for Development and Peace. The invitation was offered after Williams attended the U.N.'s first Global Youth Leadership Summit in New York last week. In the words of Borat... nah, one reference is enough.

1. YEC SF - JHH d. Sharapova
...6-2/7-6. Sharapova's 19-match winning streak is abruptly halted. Wither the Sharapova Scenario? At least for now.
2. YEC F - JHH d. Mauresmo
...6-4/6-3. Henin-Hardenne appeared in the finals of her last seven events, going back to May (eight if you count the Fed Cup).
3. YEC Doubles F - Raymond/Stosur d. Black/Stubbs

...3-6/6-3/6-3. Black has been part of the YEC Doubles RU five of the last six years, including the last three with Stubbs.
4. YEC SF - Mauresmo d. Clijsters
...6-2/3-6/6-3. What a great result for Mauresmo after her poor and injury-hampered last half of the season. Just to have a shot to defend her '05 YEC title was quite an accomplishment... and that she fought to get that shot might say a great deal about her "year-after" prospects in '07.
5. YEC RR - JHH d. Hingis
...6-2/6-7/6-1. Henin-Hardenne had some trouble closing out her matches in the early-going in Madrid, as her blown 6-2/5-2 lead here attests.
6. YEC RR - Petrova d. Mauresmo
...6-2/6-2. Mauresmo rebounded from her listless opening performance in Madrid. She seemed truly ticked off about it, too... which could explain what she did the rest of the tournament. Again, that might be a good sign for '07.
7. YEC RR - Mauresmo d. Hingis
...3-6/6-1/6-4. It turned out to be a SF-or-bust match, and Hingis wasn't quite up to the task.
8. YEC RR - Mauresmo d. JHH
...4-6/7-6/6-2. Henin-Hardenne lost here, but after she won the rematch in the final she talked about how much confidence she gained from getting so close. Too bad she didn't get "second chances" in Melbourne and SW19, as well, huh?
9. Manila $10K F - Tan d. Vijuksanaboon
...Stacey Tan, a 15-year old American, won her first career title in the relative obcurity of this little $10K.
10. Pittsburgh $75K F - Wozniak d. Azarenka
...6-2,ret. In 2007, though, Azarenka is going to be right at the top of all the "Potential Breakout Star" lists.

[of 45]
34...Amelie Mauresmo
7....Kim Clijsters
3....Lindsay Davenport
1....Justine Henin-Hardenne

[of 45]
22...Samantha Stosur
19...Lisa Raymond/Samantha Stosur (co-#1's)
4....Cara Black

6...Justine Henin-Hardenne
5...Maria Sharapova
5...Nadia Petrova
4...Amelie Mauresmo
3...Svetlana Kuznetsova
3...Kim Clijsters
3...Marion Bartoli
3...Shahar Peer
2...Elena Dementieva
2...Martina Hingis
2...Michaella Krajicek
2...Anabel Medina-Garrigues
2...Meghann Shaughnessy
2...Jie Zheng
2...Vera Zvonareva

10...Justine Henin-Hardenne (6-4)
7...Maria Sharapova (5-2)
7...Nadia Petrova
7...Amelie Mauresmo (4-3)
5...Svetlana Kuznetsova (3-2)
5...Kim Clijsters (3-2)
4...Marion Bartoli (3-1)
4...Martina Hingis (2-2)

34...Russia (19 titles)
15...Belgium (9)
13...France (7)
9....Italy (1)
5....Israel (4)
5....China (3)
5....USA (3)
5....Spain (2)
5....Switzerland (2)
3....Czech Republic (2)

*MOST 2006 WTA SF*
13...Maria Sharapova (7-6)
13...Svetlana Kuznetsova (5-8)
12...Justine Henin-Hardenne (10-2)
10...Amelie Mauresmo (7-3)
10...Kim Clijsters (4-6)
9....Nadia Petrova (7-2)
8....Patty Schnyder (2-6)
7....Martina Hingis (4-3)
7....Elena Dementieva (3-4)
7....Nicole Vaidisova (1-6)


12...Czech Republic

7...Justine Henin-Hardenne (May-Nov)*
3...Amelie Mauresmo (Jan-Feb)
3...Justine Henin-Hardenne (Jan-Feb)
3...Maria Sharapova (Feb-Mar)
3...Nadia Petrova (Apr-May)
3...Nadia Petrova (Oct)
*-current (JHH also in Fed Cup final during span)

0 Champions, 3 RU, 6 SF
6 Champions, 8 RU, 11 SF
11 Champions, 4 RU, 20 SF
15 Champions, 18 RU, 30 SF
9 Champions, 8 RU, 36 SF
19 Champions, 15 RU, 30 SF

19...Maria Sharapova (Aug-Nov)*
17...Justine Henin-Hardenne (May-Jul)
16...Amelie Mauresmo (Jan-Feb)
15...Nadia Petrova (Apr-May)
*-Sharapova had w/o "loss" after 8 wins

10...Lisa Raymond
10...Samantha Stosur

6....Zi Yan
6....Jie Zheng
4....Kveta Peschke

8...Venus Williams (1998-05)
7...Serena Williams (1999-05)
4...Anastasia Myskina (2002-05)
3...Alicia Molik (2003-05)
3...Lindsay Davenport (2003-05)

2...Lindsay Davenport (2004-05)
2...Venus Williams (2004-05)
2...Nicole Vaidisova (2004-05)

4th Rounders:
Pierre 31-22
Quarterfinalists: Backspin 23-22
Semifinalists: Pierre 49-42
Finalists: Backspin 21-17
Champions: Backspin 10-8
4th Rounders:
Pierre 70-66
Quarterfinalists: Backspin 50-45
Semifinalists: Pierre 39-34
Finalists: Backspin 16-14
Champions: Pierre 5-3

...I'll get you next year, Head Honcho.

All for now.



Was Henin-Hardenne's YEC win enough for her to swipe away the Miss Backspin title from Mauresmo? Find out later this week, as Backspin's POY is crowned.

And don't forget to vote for the 2006 Tennisrulz Awards.


Blogger thesupernova said...

first - you can never have too many Borat references, that movie rocked:) high five
second - i'm really hoping sammy will win her first singles title next year and im really hoping its in new haven (where i met her and lisa this year, both were wicked nice) so i can see it in person.
third - so much for the russian not being able to match their 2004 success, even if they only had 1 slam, 19 titles...not too shabby:)

keep up the excellent work.

Tue Nov 14, 08:06:00 PM EST  

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