Thursday, December 14, 2006

#9: Who Might Loathe 2007?

Yesterday was about the good, but with every yin there's a little yang to balance things out. 2007 could turn out to be great for any (but not all) of these players, but some will have to cheat fate and turn the tide of history to make it so.

IQ #10 was optimistic, but #9 is presented through a pessimist's eyes. For sure, every top player could be unknowingly teetering on the edge of oblivion. But even when bad times come as a seeming surprise, hindsight often shows there were potentially dire warning signs that things were about to go horribly wrong. Today, Backspin tries to get ahead of the game, for on the dark side of the world, everyone has something to worry about:


==The Top 10==
#1 Justine Henin-Hardenne: The only way to top a season in which she finished #1 and reached the finals of all four slams, the YEC and Fed Cup would be to win at least half of the grand slams. Even Le Petit Taureau might not be able to string together back-to-back monster seasons.
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#2 Maria Sharapova: All signs appear to point up for the Supernova, but isn't she due for an off season? (I know, that's not a truly pessimistic view, but with the Scenario potentially on deck in '08, I'm afraid that bringing up the bad might turn it into reality... plus, I get the sneaky suspicion that Pierre and I might be about to paint a great big target on Sharapova's back when we make our Top 10 picks in a couple weeks, anyway.)
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#3 Amelie Mauresmo: Sure, Mauresmo looked like she still had the drive to achieve at the YEC in Madrid at the end of her two-slam championship season, but that was a last gasp final week push. After reaching her career goal (twice), she might not have it in her, at 27-turning-28, to construct another superior campaign (remember how she fell off late and lost her #1 ranking?) when she has nothing more to prove.
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#4 Svetlana Kuznetsova: Was her lack of a finishing push in Madrid a sign of bad times to come?
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#5 Kim Clijsters: Oh, if only Clijsters had attacked her career with the mindset that she had something to prove, huh? Now, THE END could be just one bad turn of that left wrist away. Unless -- egads! -- she's not a woman of her word.
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#6 Nadia Petrova: What if '06 was her best shot at a breakout slam, and she missed out?
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#7 Martina Hingis: Hingis beat most of the players she should have last year, but was 5-12 against the Top 10ers. How's that any different from the end of Hingis I? And the competition will only get tougher if Venus & Serena return.
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#8 Elena Dementieva: If she hasn't improved the serve by now, it's obvious that Dementieva isn't going to at all. And, at age 25, her career might only go downhill from here.
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#9 Patty Schnyder: Will The White Mile distract the already most wildly unpredictable Top 10 player? After all, a mile is very long, especially if it is a white one.
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#10 Nicole Vaidisova: That 1-6 record in semifinals last year isn't exactly something to be proud of, now is it? The "next step" make take an extra year.
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==#'s 11-20==
#11 Dinara Safina: Come on, she's Marat's sister, so practically anything could happen. Look further for the proof of the loopy nature of this family than the fact that Dinara's career-best ranking year in '06 took place in a season in which the four-time WTA titlist didn't actually win a title.
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#12 Jelena Jankovic: Jankovic looks like a slam contender at times, then at others she melts like a sand castle at high tide (see last year's U.S. Open). Is that the makings of a consistent Top 10 player?
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#13 Ana Ivanovic: She won the U.S. Open Series because of her title in Montreal, but that was the only event AnaIvo reached the SF in all season.
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#14 Anna Chakvetadze: The Doll's not a power player, so everything depends on her brain being in tune and focused enough to come up with the Hingisian tactics of "Little Babe Tennis" on gameday. And how many 19-year olds do you know who don't have a few lapses in concentration along the way?
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#15 Francesca Schiavone: If Schiavone was going to ever win a singles title wouldn't she have done it by now? As it is, she's 0-8 in finals and things are getting late in the game for a 26-year old whose main asset is her athleticism to find a way over new hurdles. She's not Navratilova, after all (even if she does remind you of Martina when she walks around the court sometimes).
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#16 Anastasia Myskina: The Czarina is the queen of highs and lows. She's not going to win back the "top Russian" title, so will the indifference that creeped into her game in '06 slowly consume her career in '07?
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#17 Marion Bartoli: Olga Poutchkova might think Bartoli's a potential slam champion, but does anyone else really buy into that? Yeah, I didn't think so.
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#18 Daniela Hantuchova: Sometimes it's all a mirage, and a promising player isn't up to ever reaching her potential. At 19, Wonder Girl was a player on the rise. At 23, she might just be forever branded as a player who never came close to living up to the hype.
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#19 Anna-Lena Groenefeld: How much of a blow did her confidence take during her 2-5 and 4-13 stretches to began and end her '06 season? If she starts out in a rut again in '07, will that season-saving 22-9 middle stretch be pulled out of Girl Friday's tennis bag again?
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#20 Shahar Peer: She was 3-0 in finals last year, but what are the odds that her final winning streak gets to 12 like that of fellow Israeli Anna Smashnova? (Yeah, I know that's another stretch... but that's because I really do think Peer could make a big move next year.)
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==And a few more, just because they're difficult to ignore==
Sesil Karatantcheva: Another year without tennis for Sesil, as an '08 return still seems so far away. At least she'll have twelve months to prepare her intentional/unintentional comedy routines for her future post-match press conferences.
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Maria Kirilenko: Is Maria K. more Anna K. than Maria S. when it comes to winning? The younger Hordettes are ganging up behind her, and it could be that the Kournikova-esque spotlight might be more appealing for this attractive blonde Russian than the one that Sharapova shines under.
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Vets Who Can See the End: By the end of '07, the likes of (expecting) Davenport, (injured) Pierce, (trapped in limbo) Capriati and (she didn't actually retire, she just faded away) Seles -- winners of a total of 17 slam titles -- might have officially put away their rackets. All-time slam participant Amy Frazier (71 slams over a 20-year span) is already set to bow out before '08.
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Shuai Peng: After falling from #37 to #56 in what was supposed to be her breakout season of '06, maybe the "most talented" of the Cookies is never going to walk the straight Chinese line and put it all together on the court.
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Sania Mirza: Since I'm saving one "gem" who's begging to be included on this list for "IQ #8," I'll do just as good by bringing up the player whose game and quick rise somewhat resembled that of Jelena Dokic. Both hit the crap out of the ball, were internet friendly and magnets for controversy... and their games limited and one-dimensional. Maybe '05 was all there was for Mirza. Consistency separates champions from potentially talented but spotty pretenders. Dokic succumbed to the game's pressures, let her game and confidence go to seed, and seems unwilling or unable (or both) to do anything about it. Maybe Princess Sania is too much like the Debutante in enough wrong places to ever have another go around in the spotlight. (Okay, so maybe that one DID end up being a little more about Dokic than Mirza.)

PREDICTION DART BOARD:
1) Davenport will have a baby (all right, that's a cheat)
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2) Mirza won't return to the Round of 16 at a slam in' 07
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3) Sharapova and Henin-Hardenne will divvy up the four slam championships
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4) Clijsters will win a Tier I title, and maybe even two, but still retire with so much left on the table
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5) Hingis will reach the Australian or Roland Garros SF (and maybe both)
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6) Vaidisova will still be seeking that first slam final by the end of '07. One more year, Nicole.
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7) Hantuchova won't win her first title since '02, and Schiavone won't win her first title since, well, the beginning of time
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8) Jankovic won't win anything bigger than a Tier III crown, but she'll briefly rank in the Top 10
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9) Peer will again win multiple titles, and get one enormous upset at a slam
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10) Kirilenko will prove to be more like Anna... getting seen, but not lifting trophies
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So, who might loathe 2007? Any, and all. Certainly, a year from now, a handful of these players will be looking forward to '08 with the hope that it'll erase all the bad mojo picked up in '07. The upcoming season will tell the tales, of both good and bad.

All for now.

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UP NEXT: Speaking of bad, stay tuned for "Intriguing Question #8," a cautionary tale about a lady who just can't seem to make a good decision to save her life, or her career.

2 Comments:

Blogger tennisfan said...

never said anything good about kim, and now wishing for injury upon her. really an idiot, arent u

Fri Dec 15, 12:02:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Where exactly did I do that? I think you're reading into what I said the things that you want to believe I think. I never wished her an injury, I just stated the truth... another bad wrist injury that takes her out for months on end could end her career if she does indeed retire at the end of 2007. Is that not true? Of course it is.

Plus, if you notice, the entire column is supposed to be about the bad things that could come about for all the players mentioned... not all the nice things that could happen in a perfect world.

Actually, I predicted Clijsters to win at least one Tier I title in her final season. But, then, I suspect you probably didn't read down that far, did you?

Don't worry, though, Kim will show up again a little farther down the "IQ" line.

Fri Dec 15, 07:52:00 PM EST  

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