Monday, June 16, 2008

Wk.24- A Bond-ing Experience

Hear it clearly, the Bondarenkos are now a TWO title-winning WTA family.


Two seasons ago, then-22 year old Alona won her first tour singles title in Luxembourg. This weekend, 21-year old Kateryna followed suit in Birmingham with six main draw wins over the likes of Anne Keothavong (of note since this was a grass event in England, of course), Slingin' Sammy Stosur, Melinda Czink, Petra Cetkovska, Marina Erakovic and fellow first-time finalist Yanina Wickmayer in the deciding match.

Was it all a bit of a surprise? Sure, and K-Bond herself expressed such thoughts about her maiden title finally coming on a grass surface after the three-hour final was finally complete, with her winning 7-6/3-6/7-6. But was it really?

Remember, Kateryna was a junior champ at Wimbledon in 2004, where she defeated people named Peer, Krajicek and Ivanovic along the way, so this little outcome might not be quite the bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky that it could appear to be at first glance.

Plus, it can be said that 2008's initial first-time WTA titlist of the season was one of the players I picked to win her first career title this year during my pre-season prediction phase, so I'm happy about that... at least enough to give K-Bond the opening slot in this week's Backspin and thereby delaying the Clay Court Awards until tomorrow.


S: Kateryna Bondarenko def. Yanina Wickmayer 7-6/3-6/7-6
D: Black/Huber d. Bremond/Ruano-Pascual

S: Maria Kirilenko def. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez 6-0/6-2
D: Dominguez-Lino/Parra-Santonja d. Llagostera-Vives/Martinez-Sanchez

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
hmmm, K-Bond is helping me out in a lot of ways. I seem to remember that Pierre Cantin and I did a little "Either/Or" test during the '08 Preview Series where one of the questions was "Alona or Kateryna," with no framework for what the "winning" answer would be. He picked Alona. I picked Kateryna. (Yeah, we both picked "Marat" over "Dinara," too -- so take it for what it's worth.) Their Sisters Bondarenko doubles titles (including one in Oz) are a wash. A-Bond DOES have those K-Swiss ads in her favor and is still ranked higher (she was briefly in the Top 20, but is now #29 while Kateryna is up to #45), but she's yet to reach a singles SF on tour this year. K-Bond just won a title. Ace! So, it's AD-Backspinner a few weeks before the "mid-way" point of the 2008 season. Thanks, Kateryna. I was beginning to worry. Hey, maybe which one is having a better year will give them something to... umm, "talk" about... between points at SW19. Hopefully, they won't raise their voices TOO loudly.
RISERS: Maria Kirilenko, RUS & Bethanie Mattek, USA

okay, maybe it's a bit of a "cheat" to win a clay event in what's supposed to be the first week of grass court season (Davydenko won on the ATP tour, too, so maybe it's a Russian thing), but kudos to Kirilenko for clocking her second title of the season in Barcelona. It wasn't like Kirilenko played a bunch of scrubs, either. She defeated two momentum-gathering Spaniards (Suarez-Navarro and Martinez-Sanchez) on home court, as well as the event's RU from a year ago (Gallovits). Meanwhile, Mattek might just make a name for herself for something other than what she's wearing after all. She's put together some good results this season. An ITF title, two tour doubles titles, a career-best #67 ranking and a SF result last week (her first since 2005) in Birmingham in which she took out young players Jarmila Gajdosova and Aravane Rezai, veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn and supposed-would-be-superstar Nicole Vaidisova.
SURPRISES: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP & Melanie South, GBR
it took a while, but Martinez-Sanchez finally made it to a WTA singles final. Of course, being back in Spain probably helped, since the 25-year old's RU result in Barcelona this weekend tops her previous career best of a 2001 SF in Madrid. She lost to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario then, and Maria Kirilenko this time around -- but not until she'd defeated Aleksandra Wozniak, Pauline Parmentier, Lucie Safarova and Nuria Llagostera-Vives. And if it's grass season, you know the Brits are going to come out of the forest to pull off a few upsets. Last week in Birmingham it was South that did the trick, taking out Sybille Bammer and Aiko Nakamura on her way to the QF.
VETERANS: Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA & Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
apparently, Black & Huber are going to live their '08 season according to the "quantity" over "quality" way of life. They haven't win either slam so far this year, but their Birmingham title was the duo's fourth of the season. That's twice as many as any other team, and three of the four have come on different surfaces. Meanwhile, 37-year old Date-Krumm's Japanese ITF comeback finally resulted in a title. She won a $10K in Tokyo with a win over Shiho Akita in the final. Her last title? It was also in Tokyo, in the WTA-level Japan Open in 1996.
FRESH FACES: Yanina Wickmayer, BEL & Marina Erakovic, NZL

whether 18-year old Wickmayer is Justine Henin's "heir apparent" ("The Wafflette?) might be up for debate, but she's the best ACTIVE Belgian player in the world (hmmm, Kirsten Flipkens won an ITF title this weekend, too) and her results just keep getting better. In Birmingham, she reached her first career tour final and battled K-Bond for nearly three hours (losing two tie-breaks) despite injuring her knee in the 2nd set. Still, wins over Casey Dellacqua, Michaella Krajicek, Melanie South and Bethanie Mattek are sure to set her up for a potential early round upset win at SW19 if the draw gives her something reasonable to work with... and she handles her knee properly, even if it includes pulling out of her commitment to play in the Netherlands this week. Meanwhile, Kiwi Erakovic's quest for an Olympic bid seems to have turned out to be a successful one after a string of good results. A week ago, she wrapped up a grass court title with a challenger win in Surbiton. Last week, she notched wins over Sania Mirza, Yaroslava Shvedova and A-Bond to reach her third WTA SF of the season. She's yet to reach her first final... but give her time.
DOWN: Marion Bartoli, FRA
La Trufflette is dealing with a ton of points to defend this grass season, and is faced with trying to do it with a lack of conditioning and an injured wrist holding her back. After reaching the '07 Birmingham SF, she went out in the 2nd Round last week. She was in the semis in Eastbourne a year ago, too, before reaching the Wimbledon final. She fell out of the Top 10 on Monday. Look out below.
ITF PLAYER: Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
how about this? Could Girl Friday be on her way back? She won a $75K in Zlin, Czech Republic over the weekend, getting wins over Nika Ozegovic, Renata Voracova and Zuzana Ondraskova. In the final, she bested Jelena Kostanic-Tosic, the same player who'd beaten her in her last outing a month ago. This is ALG's first title since taking the WTA level Acapulco event in February 2006.

1. Birm F - K.Bondarenko d. Wickmayer
It took until mid-June for the season's first first-time champion to be crowned -- and it took a match-up of two first-time finalists to get it done.
2. Barc F - Kirilenko d. Martinez-Sanchez
Look out above, there's another Maria in the Top 20.
3. Birm 2nd - Krajicek d. Poutchek
Michaella finally gets her first win of the season. She lost soon afterward, but rebounded on Monday with another win in 's-Hertogenbosch.
4. Birm QF - Mattek d. Vaidisova
It's the scoreline that's the most vexing.
5. Birm 1st - Cirstea d. Morita
After getting bageled herself so often of late, this one must have felt a bit refreshing for the Romanian.
6t. Birm 2nd - South d. Bammer 6-3/7-5
Birm 2nd - Tanasugarn d. Paszek 6-1/6-0
Bammer has been almost as disappointing this season as she was surprising a season ago. Fellow Austrian Paszek has just been a different player since she blew that Fed Cup match in April. Coincidence?
8. Barc 1st - Llagostera-Vives d. Peer
Nuria ended up making it to the SF. She kept her clothes on, too... as far as I know.
9. Birm 1st - Rao d. Kvitova
Rao, who's now representing India, reached the 3rd Round. She outlasted Sania Mirza.
10. Barc 2nd - Kirilenko d. Suarez-Navarro
Close but no cigar for CSN. Not sure how the experience will help her do something with that Wimbledon wild card she just received, though.

3...Maria Sharapova, RUS
3...Serena Williams, USA
2...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2...Justine Henin, BEL
2...Lindsay Davenport, USA
2...Flavia Pennetta, ITA

3-0...Maria Sharapova
3-0...Serena Williams
2-0...Agnieszka Radwanska
2-0...Flavia Pennetta
2-0...Lindsay Davenport
2-0...Justine Henin

JAN - Hobart - Eleni Daniilidou (won singles)
FEB - Memphis - Lindsay Davenport (won s/d)
APR - Estoril - Maria Kirilenko (won s/d)

Antwerp - Karin Knapp, ITA (20, #47) - L
Bogota - Maria-Emilia Salerni, ARG (24, #88) - L
Memphis - Olga Govortsova, BLR (19, #49) - L
Acapulco - Alize Cornet, FRA (18, #52) - L
A.Island - Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (18, #34) - L
BIRM. - K.BONDARENKO, UKR (21, #69) - W

#114 Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP (Bogota)
#72 Lindsay Davenport, USA (Auckland)
#62 Gisela Dulko, ARG (Fes)

#132 Iveta Benesova, CZE (Estoril) - L
#114 Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP (Bogota) - W

5...United States

07 FINAL: Henin d. Mauresmo
08 TOP: Kuznetsova/Bartoli

Mauresmo d. Petrova
Davenport d. South

Mauresmo d. Davenport

...there were a few anxious moments on Monday for Mauresmo against fellow Pastry Alize Cornet, but she survived. She's on the far tougher side of the draw -- with Kuznetsova, Zvonareva and Petrova, but I'll take a shot that she finds her game one year after losing to Henin in that great Eastbourne final.

07 FINAL: Chakvetadze d. Jankovic
08 TOP: Dementieva/Chakvetadze

Dementieva d. Srebotnik
Erakovic d. Krajicek

Dementieva d. Erakovic

...maybe the Kiwi's Olympic bid will inspire her still further and she'll reach her first WTA final after failing in three SF trips so far in '08. I'd like to have picked Wickmayer to reach at least another SF, but after she injured her knee in her final against K-Bond on Sunday, I got cold feet. Of course, it might not matter since Safina could upset the entire cart if her clay run carries over to the grass.


All for now.

TOMORROW: Clay Court Awards
THIS WEEKEND: Wimbledon Preview & a very special "Bare Bones Backspin" (w/ a celestial guest)


Blogger Diverti-te said...

Alona won her first WTA title in Luxembourg back in 2006 instead of Warsaw in 2007.

Tue Jun 17, 12:57:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, she was in the final in Warsaw last year. I guess I was thinking it was far more recent than that, so I just looked at her stats from '07 and saw that she'd been in that final and that it was the one she won.

Wow, it's coming up on two years since she won a title. That's kind of surprising.

Tue Jun 17, 08:45:00 AM EDT  

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