Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2Q Clay Court Awards

The grass court season is too short. Some might say (me, at least) that the 2Q clay season is a week too long (do we really need a clay event between Roland Garros and Wimbledon? There wasn't one inserted into the schedule until last season, after all... right in the middle of the debate about the tour putting on too many tournaments.).

Thus, the juxtaposition of the "Clay Court Awards" and all the grass events currently going on -- less than a week before play begins at the All-England Club -- at the moment is a bit too untidy for Your Friendly Neighborhood Backspinner's taste.

But, alas, the time has (finally) come.

**2Q Clay Court (Week 15-24) Awards*
(#)- 1Q Top Player rank
1. Ana Ivanovic, SRB (2)
...she wasn't exactly the picture of consistency on the clay, but if you claim the Roland Garros title you claim the Roland Garros title and little else matters. So be it.
2. Dinara Safina, RUS (-)
...the tour's only Top 10er in both singles and doubles, she finally looked like the player most everyone once thought she had the talent to be. Sure, it was only in two tournaments but...
3. Jelena Jankovic, SRB (8)
...whether or not she blew what will turn out to be her best shot to ever win a slam will have everything to do with whether or not she continues to take the steps necessary to preserve and protect her career.
4t. Serena Williams, USA (4)
...Serena started the 2Q like a house on fire, but ended it like a Bic lighter thrown on the side of the road.
4t. Maria Sharapova RUS (1)
...she'll have to take solace in the fact that while she didn't claim a second '08 slam in Paris, she DID finally win a clay court title.
6. Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP (-)
...she's emerged in her comeback from injury as maybe the most consistent of all the Spanish players.
7. Vera Zvonareva, RUS (-)
...she didn't rise to the occasion in Paris, but she made great strides and can seriously begin to eye her first-ever season-ending Top 10 finish.
8. Elena Dementieva, RUS (7)
...oh, how things might have turned out differently for her if she'd been able to close out Safina at Roland Garros.
9. Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Virginia Ruano-Pascual, ESP/ESP (-)
...neither player has ever been fully appreciated throughout their careers, so it's a natural that they'd find slam success as a team.
10. Victoria Azarenka, BLR (-)
...she's like a poisonous snake in the weeds -- she's close, and potentially very dangerous.
HM- Katarina Srebotnik/Ai Sugiyama, SLO/JPN (-)
...both had some nice singles results, too (with Srebotnik's Serena upset in Paris the most headline-grabbing).
HM- Cara Black & Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA (HM)
...one slam win away from pretty much locking up the "Best Doubles Team" award for yet another season.

1Q Top 10 not included: #3 Justine Henin/BEL, #5 Flavia Pennetta/ITA, #6 Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR, #9 Anna Chakvetadze/RUS, #10 Lindsay Davenport/USA, HM- Li Na/CHN

1. Dinara Safina, RUS
2. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
3. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
4. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
5. Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
6. Maria Kirilenko, RUS
7. Gisela Dulko, ARG
8. Agnes Szavay, HUN
9. Karin Knapp, ITA
10. Alona Bondarenko, UKR
HM- Chan Yung-Jan/Chuang Chia-Jung, TPE
HM- Peng Shuai/Sun Tiantian, CHN

1. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2. Alize Cornet, FRA
3. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
4. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
5. Kaia Kanepi, EST
6. Petra Kvitova, CZE
7. Petra Cetkovska, CZE
8. Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
9. Chan Yung-Jan, TPE
10. Evgeniya Rodina, RUS
11. Aravane Rezai, FRA
12. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
13. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
14. Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
15. Viktoriya Kutuzova, UKR
HM- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS

1. Simona Halep, ROU
2. Elena Bogdan, ROU
3. Arantxa Rus, NED
4. Polona Hercog, SLO
5. Ksenia Lykina, RUS
HM-Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA

1. Kaia Kanepi, EST
2. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
3. Stephanie Cohen-Aloro, FRA
4. Stefanie Vogele, SUI
5. Bethanie Mattek, USA
6. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
7. Casey Dellacqua/Francesca Schiavone, AUS/ITA
8. Angelika Bachmann, GER
9. Jelena Pandzic, CRO
10. Mathilde Johansson, FRA
HM- Lenka Jurikova, SVK
HM- Karolina Plishkova, CZE

1. Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP
2. Elena Dementieva, RUS
3. Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Virginia Ruano-Pascual, ESP
4. Katarina Srebotnik/Ai Sugiyama, SLO/JPN
5. Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
6. Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
7. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
8. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
9. Patty Schnyder, SUI
10. Emilie Loit, FRA
HM- Akgul Amanmuradova, UZB
HM- Selima Sfar, TUN

1. Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP
2. Virginia Ruano-Pascual, ESP
3t. Iveta Benesova, CZE
3t. Zheng Jie, CHN
4. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
5. Jelena Dokic, AUS
HM- Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
HM- Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN

1. Justine Henin, BEL
2. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
3. Tatiana Golovin, FRA
4. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
5. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
6. Michaella Krajicek, NED
7t. Tamira Paszek, AUT
7t. Sybille Bammer, AUT
9. Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
10. Alicia Molik/Mara Santangelo, AUS/ITA
HM- Shahar Peer, ISR
HM- Serena & Venus Williams, USA (at RG)

1. Jelena Dokic, AUS
2. Petra Kvitova, CZE
3. Petra Cetkovska, CZE
4. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
5. Mariana Duque-Marino, COL
6. Simona Halep, ROU
7. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, CZE
8. Soledad Esperson, ARG
9. Arantxa Rus, NED
10. Chelsey Gullickson, USA
11. Tomoko Yonemura, JPN
12. Viktoriya Kutuzova, UKR
HM- Stephanie Vogt, LIE

Ana Ivanovic becomes the first Serbian female to win a grand slam at Roland Garros
Dinara Safina wins Berlin and reaches Roland Garros final, with a line of conquered foes that included the likes of Henin, Serena and Sharapova
Spanish "B" team upsets China on a hard court in Beijing to reach the Fed Cup final
Maria Sharapova wins her first career clay court title in Amelia Island
Serena Williams extends her winning streak to fifteen matches and three titles in Charleston. She says, "I'm not even reaching my peak yet.

Roland Garros 4th Rd. - Safina def. Sharapova - 6-7/7-6/6-2
...Safina's first escape in Paris, from a 7-6/5-2 hole and two match points.
Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Sharapova def. Rodina - 6-1/3-6/8-6
...in the wind, Sharapova comes within two points of becoming the first #1 seed to be tossed from Paris in the 1st Round.
Fed Cup WG Playoff - Schiavone (ITA) def. Koryttseva (UKR) - 3-6/7-6/7-5
...the veteran Italian overcomes three match points against the FC rookie in a see-saw match.
Fed Cup Group II Playoff - Vogele (SUI) def. Paszek (AUT) - 4-6/6-1/7-5
...Paszek fails to clinch the tie for Austria in Match #4 after saving two match points. Switzerland goes on to easily win the doubles in Match #5 for a 3-2 victory.
Roland Garros SF - Ivanovic def. Jankovic - 6-4/3-6/6-4
...in a battle for the #1 ranking (even if AnaIvo didn't know it at the time), Ivanovic shoves aside her fellow Serb's 3-1 3rd set lead.

In the Fed Cup SF, China squanders what appeared to be an unbeatable advantage against Spain. Meanwhile, the USA is forced to essentially forfeit its match-up with Russia by playing a slew of FC neophytes in place of the injured/disinterested/otherwise engaged top players who decided not to show up. (Yeah, technically, neither of these is a "clay court" award... but, whatever.)

Roland Garros QF - Safina def. Dementieva - 4-6/7-6/6-0
...the Russian Cat has yet another life in Paris, erasing a 6-4/5-2 deficit and two more match points.
Florence $25K F - Dokic def. Hradecka - 6-1/6-3
...the 25-year old Ex-Debutante, ranked #429, wins her first career ITF title and her first singles title of any kind since 2002.
Fes 1st Rd. - Karatantcheva def. Baltacha - 7-5/6-2
...Sesil wins her first tour match since November '05. No word on how she celebrated... but hopefully it won't get her suspended again in a few months.

Berlin 3rd Rd. - Safina def. Henin - 5-7/6-3/6-1
...an "upset" not so much because Safina won, but because of what the loss meant for Henin -- the end of her career.
Fed Cup SF - Suarez-Navarro (ESP) def. Peng (CHN) - 6-3/7-6
...Match #1 signaled the end of China's '08 FC hopes, and the beginning of a nice 2Q run from CSN.
Rome 2nd Rd. - Pironkova def. Ivanovic - 6-4/5-7/6-2
...not because of anything that it ultimately meant. Because, obviously, it turned out to mean absolutely nothing.
Roland Garros 3rd Rd. - Srebotnik def. S.Williams - 6-4/6-4; Pennetta def. V.Williams 7-5/6-3
...it's only the second time EVER that both sisters lost before the 4th Round in the same slam.
Rome 3rd Rd. - Cornet def. Kuznetsova 6-2/6-4; Rome SF - Cornet def. Chakvetadze 3-6/6-4/6-4
...these matches more than any others solidified Cornet's new role as a legitimate player to reckon with on tour.

World #1 Justine Henin makes her stunning retirement announcement at age 25
Kimiko Date-Krumm returns to the ITF tour in Japan at age 37
Characteristically private Venus Williams returns from her brief hiatus, saying she had "issues to resolve" and nothing else. In a nice turn of events, speculation is not rampant.
Ashley Harkleroad announces that she's posed nude for Playboy, raising her profile but sort of putting an ironic twist on the memory of her balking at being forced by her sponsors to wear revealing clothing on the court a while back
Amelie Mauresmo looks like she's playing out the string of her career, but it's hoped she's got at least one more big run left in her
Czarina Anastasia Myskina has a baby boy, Zhenya. It adds another dimension to "The Mind of Myskina," a sorely missed part of Backspin in my opinion, not to mention adding another future mixed doubles partner in the Graf-Agassi/Davenport/Clijsters/Bammer/Myskina Famiy Tennis Invitational set for 2026.
And, finally, don't call her Olga "Poutchkova," call her Olga "Puchkova." No word on the reason for the "switch," but it's probably somewhere in the neighborhood of the sort-of-obvious, more "family-friendly" reason for Vera "Douchevina" becoming "Dushevina" a while back.

Now, on to the grass season. What do you mean the grass season is ALREADY nearly half over?

All for now.

THIS WEEKEND: Bare Bones Backspin & Wimbledon Preview (w/ SW19 Qualifying Awards)


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