Sunday, January 07, 2007

Wk.1 - Act 1, Scene 1 (2007)

Chalk up Round 1 for Backspin, I guess.

The opening week of a new season is always difficult to guage. Are the "established" stars who faltered simply off to slow starts, or is it a sign of a season that won't bring about as many accomplishments as the last? Are the "up-and-comers" who rose to the occasion ready to become stars in their own right, or was this simply a sign of promise rather than a promise of more to come?

So, who was THE star of Week 1 on the "Dorothy Tour?" Hmmm, let's see...

Could it be Nadia Petrova, my 2007 #3 pick who Tennisrulz Head Honcho Pierre Cantin took every opportunity to knock down during our "Backspin Volley" columns? She emerged from Perth as half of the Hopman Cup-winning Russian team, with Dmitry Tursunov.

Or maybe it's Kim Clijsters? Ol' Pierre left her out of his Top 10, while I had her at #4 and in a slam final in '07. She won the Hong Kong exhibition, besting Maria Sharapova in the final.

How about Dinara Safina, the winner of both the singles and doubles at Gold Coast. It should be noted that Monsieur Cantin didn't like the pick of Safina in my 2007 Top 10... but her win this week moves her back into the 10th-ranked position in the new rankings.

Okay, the Week 1 star could also be Jelena Jankovic, who won a title in Auckland over the weekend. Pierre had her in his Top 10, while I didn't. But I'm the only one of the two of us who actually picked her to win the tournament. Alas, he picked Anastasia Myskina, who lost in the 1st Round, injured her toe and will now miss the Australian Open.


Poor, Pierre. He's playing from behind... for now, at least. For while the likes of Safina, Petrova and Clijsters look "blessed" this week, and the Czarina appears "cursed," everything could change in the blink of an eye. (So, of course, I'd thought I'd shout a little about the CURRENT state of things... while I still can.)

Just ask the likes of Sharapova and Justine Henin-Hardenne, the odds-on favorites to battle it out for the #1 ranking throughout the 2007 season. The Supernova struggled a bit in Hong Kong, while Le Petit Taureau pulled out of Sydney and the Australian Open for "personal reasons." Looks like "Henin-Hardenne" (and the JHH shorthard) might soon go by the wayside... leaving just "Henin" in the aftermath of apparent marital difficulties.

But, again, who knows? After all, it's only Week 1.

*WEEK 1 CHAMPIONS*

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA (III-Hard)
S: Dinara Safina d. Martina Hingis 6-3/3-6/7-5
D: Safina/Srebotnik d. Benesova/Voskoboeva

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (IV-Hard)
S: Jelena Jankovic d. Vera Zvonareva 7-6/5-7/6-3
D: Husarova/Suarez d. Hsieh/S.Uberoi

HOPMAN CUP XIX; PERTH, AUSTRALIA (Hard)
FINAL: Russia (Petrova/Tursunov) d. Spain (Medina-Garrigues/Robredo) 2-1

HONG KONG, CHINA (exhibition)
S: Kim Clijsters d. Maria Sharapova 6-3/7-6
D: Clijsters/Wozniacki d. Yan/Zheng

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dinara Safina

...Safina made the most of her second chance in Gold Coast. After defeating Elena Likhovtseva, Maria Kirilenko and Samantha Stosur, she found herself down 6-4/5-1 in the SF to Shahar Peer. Keeping her composure, and being helped mightily by a rain delay, Safina battled back to win the match. Then she outhit -- "Big Babe" style -- Martina Hingis in the final, pulling out big serves when she was facing break points (and took the doubles title, too). Her fifth career title is her first since May '05 in Prague. In the new rankings, she's made up that one-point deficit behind Nicole Vaidisova and is back in the Top 10.
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RISERS:
Nadia Petrova & Jelena Jankovic

...Petrova lost her first Hopman Cup singles match to Alicia Molik, then didn't drop another en route to the title with Dmitry Tursunov. After having a 1-3 career match record against Tatiana Golovin, she settled the score then took care of Anabel Medina-Garrigues in her share of the final against Spain. Petrova got better as the week wore on, and pulled off love sets in two of the last three sets she played. In Auckland, Jankovic won her first singles title since Budapest (also a Tier IV) in May '04. Jankovic didn't show up in Auckland until 24 hours before her first match, so maybe the three hours it took for her to dispatch Vera Zvonareva in the final was her way to countering any lingering arguments that she wanted to beat it out of town as quickly as possible.
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SURPRISES:
Camille Pin & Tathiana Garbin
...25-year old Pastry Pin beat Shenay Perry and Emilie Loit en route to the Auckland SF. While Noodle Garbin, 29, notched wins over Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Severine Bremond and Elena Vesnina to reach the Gold Coast semis.
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VETERANS:
Martina Hingis & Jill Craybas
...surely, Hingis will carry a bit of a chip on her shoulder to Sydney after converting just 4-of-14 break point chances against Safina in the Gold Coast final. Still, a nice start to Year Two of Hingis II. 31-year old Craybas always manages to surprise, even after she's truly made something big of her career the past couple seasons. In Auckland, she reached another SF with wins over Aiko Nakamura, Gisela Dulko and Paola Suarez.
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FRESH FACE:
Shahar Peer
...yes, Peer blew the rain-interrupted SF match against Safina in Gold Coast. But, before that, she'd had a great week with wins over Meghann Shaughnessy, Olga Poutchkova and Ana Ivanovic. Maybe blowing that 6-4/5-1 lead was payback by the tennis gods for her come-from-behind win over Francesca Schiavone after being down 5-1 in the 3rd set at last year's U.S. Open.
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DOWN:
Anastasia Myskina
...evidence of a "Cantin Curse" in '07? Well, just days after touting the Czarina as a Top 10 player for this season, Pierre saw her lose a three-setter to Gisela Dulko in the Auckland 1st Round, then pull out of the Australian Open with an injured toe. You be the judge.
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1. Gold SF- Safina d. Peer
...4-6/7-6/6-1. Of the four tour SF matches in Gold Coast and Auckland, this was the only one that didn't end in a retirement. One could say the drama of Safina climbing out of a 6-4/5-1 hole more than made up for the unfinished matches, but Shahar would simply say that that's just a bunch a crap.
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2. Hong F -
Clijsters d. Sharapova
...6-3/7-6. After going 0-2 against the Supernova in '06, Clijsters turned back the clock. Officially, this match "didn't count"... but it surely puts her right in the middle of the discussion for Melbourne (especially with JHH out).
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3. Auck 1st -
Dulko d. Myskina
...6-1/6-7/6-2. Poor, Anastasia.
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4. Gold F -
Safina d. Hingis
...6-3/3-6/7-5. Safina wasn't a Top 10 player before this match, so Hingis isn't already behind the eight-ball in Top 10 matches again in '07. But just because this wasn't an "official" match against a Top 10er doesn't mean that Martina doesn't get the drift of an all-too-familiar result. Hingis jumped on the prediction bandwagon after the match, saying that Dinara would be "better than her brother."
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5. Auck F -
Jankovic d. Zvonareva
...7-6/5-7/6-3. Zvonareva was RU here last year, too.
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6. Gold 1st -
Garbin d. Groenefeld
...6-7/7-6/6-3. Another season, another bad start on hard courts for Girl Friday.
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7. Hopman RR (IND/CZE) -
Mirza d. Safarova
...6-2/6-2. The Indian Princess got off to a much-improved start to '07 after having ended '06 on an upswing.
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8. Hopman RR (AUS/RUS) -
Molik d. Petrova
...6-2/2-6/6-2. Evidence of the Steamer's eventually triumphant return continue to mount.
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9. Hopman RR (RUS/FRA) -
Petrova d. Golovin
...7-6/6-0. So much for that 3-1 advantage the Frussian Pastry had over Nadia.
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10. Gold QF -
Peer d. Ivanovic
...5-7/6-4/6-4. Lost in the undertow of her SF collapse was Peer's impressive win over AnaIvo. Peer's up to #18 with this result.
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HM- Hong QF -
Dementieva d. Vaidisova
...3-6/6-3/6-2. Vaidisova failed to come through and set up an 'ova vs. 'ova match with Sharapova, then lost in another HK exhibition match to Zi Yan after this one. Worrying about a slide? Don't. She's opened her campaign in Sydney with a 1st Round win over Daniela Hantuchova.
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**CAREER WTA TITLES - RUSSIANS**
15...Maria Sharapova (2003-06)
10...Anastasia Myskina (1999-05)
9....Olga Morozova (1969-75)
8....Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002-06)
6....Elena Dementieva (2003-06)
6....Nadia Petrova (2005-06)
5....Vera Zvonareva (2003-06)
5....DINARA SAFINA (2002-07)

**SHARAPOVA vs. CLIJSTERS**
2003 LA 3r - Clijsters 6-4/1-6/6-1
2003 Lux. SF -Clijsters 6-0/6-3
2005 Miami F - Clijsters 6-3/7-5
2005 US Open SF - Clijsters 6-2/6-7/6-3
2006 SD F - Sharapova 7-5/7-5
2006 WTA YEC RR - Sharapova 6-4/6-4
2007 HOG KONG EX.F - CLIJSTERS -3/7-6



...am I permitted to whine a little about getting 6/8 finalists last week, but only ending up with one champion pick right? After last year's start, though, I'd probably be wise to adhere to the "beggars can't be choosers" line of thinking.

At least I've got an early advantage over Monsieur Cantin:

SEMIFINALISTS: tied 6-6 (of 12)
FINALISTS: Backspin 6-3 (of 8)
CHAMPIONS: Backspin 1-0 (of 4)



...let's see if the advantage holds up for the rest of the "Dorothy Tour" circuit.


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (II-Hard)
06 FINAL: Henin-Hardenne d. Schiavone
07 TOP: Mauresmo/Kuznetsova
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SF: Hingis d. Petrova; Clijsters d. Dementieva
FINAL: Clijsters d. Hingis

...Hingis is probably still fuming a bit over those missed opportunities against Safina. Hmmm, last week Petrova kept up the practice of winning events in the weeks that I don't pick her to do so (actually, I HAD picked Russia in the Hopman Cup, then switched it at the last minute when the Aussies upset the Russians on the opening day of action... real nice move that was on my part)... so maybe she'll end up heading into Melbourne with a head of steam. Still, I'll go with "my gal" Kim.


HOBART, AUSTRALIA (IV-Hard)
06 FINAL: Krajicek d. Benesova
07 TOP: Chakvetadze/Medina-Garrigues
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SF: Chakvetadze d. Molik; S.Williams d. Pennetta
FINAL: Chakvetadze d. S.Williams

...ugh, I dread picking tournaments when Serena is on the comeback trail. It's hard to tell how ready she'll be this week. She's got a good draw to the final, and if she gets that far she'll probably end up winning. Still, I'm picking The Doll... just to be safe in case that "other" Serena shows up.


Sydney:
SF: Mauresmo def Petrova, Clijsters def Kuznetsova
F: Clijsters def Mauresmo

I know...ironic...no further comments :)

Hobart:
SF: Chakvetadze def Kirilenko, S.Williams def Castano
F: Chakvetadze def S.Williams

Return of Serena...close but she'll come up short.


ALSO THIS COMING WEEK:

AUSTRALIAN OPEN QUALIFYING



All for now.

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THIS WEEK: Intriguing Question #2, and "What If Kim Clijsters..."

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