Monday, September 15, 2008

Wk.37- Four of a Kind

Autumn is almost officially here, and now what could be claimed to be the fourth (and final) chapter of this summer's grand "putting things in order" novela has occurred.


PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/Getty Images

In a season of change on both the women's and men's tours, the last few months have displayed a definite fondness for "age-old wisdom." First, the "greatest female grass court player alive" won her fifth Wimbledon. Then, "the most talented female player" won the U.S. Open for her ninth career slam crown and returned to #1, and possibly the "Greatest of All Time" won his thirteen slam title in New York, as well. In between, the "deepest talent pool" in women's tennis swept the medal stand in Beijing.

This weekend, Russia once again flaunted the nation's throng of female stars, winning a fourth Fed Cup title in five years with yet another team lineup, sweeping through the Spaniards in Madrid on their chosen red clay court.

*BACKSPIN's 2008 RUSSIAN FED CUP MVPs*
1st Round vs. Israel: Maria Sharapova
Semifinal vs. United States: Anna Chakvetadze
Final vs. Spain: Svetlana Kuznetsova

Even with only one grand slam winner (now out for the rest of her season with injury) hailing from Russia in '08, and the first-ever in '04 announcing she'd never return to the sport (preferring to say what's on her Mind on Russian TV), there's no disputing the stranglehold the remaining Hordettes still have on the overall landscape of the sport: Five are in the Top 9, seven in the Top 20, nine in the Top 50, fifteen in the Top 100 and twenty-seven in the Top 200.

This season, seven different Russian women have won thirteen tour singles titles from a group of twenty-seven finalists and forty-three semifinalists (all tour best totals, nearly doubling or tripling the nearest nation's accomplishments). Only once in the past five seasons, since the breakthrough year of '04 when Russians won three slams, the SEC and a first Fed Cup title, has the country not led the tour outright in season titles and finalists (tying with the U.S. with seventeen finalists in '05).

*MOST 2008 CHAMPIONS*
13...Russia
7...United States
*DIFFERENT SINGLES CHAMPIONS*
7...Russia
3...United States
*FINALISTS*
27...Russia
9...United States
*SEMIFINALISTS*
43...Russia
18...France

Years ago, the Russian revolution was an idea with the promise of a long, multifaceted future. Now, it's almost taken for granted. Today, granted it's in a country that pretty much ignores the sport after the U.S. Open ends, I know I had to search with a fine-tooth comb to even find a mention of the Fed Cup final in the USA TODAY and local Washington/Baltimore newspapers. There was probably more press about Anna Kournikova appearing on the cover of Maxim for the umpteenth time a few months ago.

As it is, Maria Sharapova won't be seen on the court again until 2009, and even if this summer's most spectacular Russian were to put on a 4Q run that took her to #1 I wonder if it'd get little more than a cursory note in the major American sports media coverage... and, even then, the first line would invariably refer to the player in question as "the sister of" before listing any of her individual achievements.

Oh, well. At least people who KNOW know. The rest will pay attention again when the Supernova is healthy.

*WEEK 37 CHAMPIONS*

FED CUP FINAL (Madrid - RCO)
Russia def. Spain 4-0

BALI, INDONESIA (III-HCO)
S: Patty Schnyder def. Tamira Paszek 6-3/6-0
D: Hsieh/Peng d. Domachowska/Petrova



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
...
Kuznetsova took her turn as the lead player on Team Russia, defeating both of Spain's top two singles players in their own backyard. In what was the clinching match, she dropped the 1st set against Anabel Medina-Garrigues then proceeded to do precisely what she hasn't been able to do as an individual singles player for nearly two years -- close out a player in a deciding match. Maybe her new coaching arrangement with Olga Morozova, who had a hand in guiding Elena Dementieva from "Punch-Drunk" to "Punch-Sober" a few seasons ago, will get her back to a place her talent says she rightfully should be.
=============================
RISER: Vera Zvonareva/RUS
...
Zvonareva led off the Fed Cup final with her match against AMG, winning in straight sets and thereby never allowing the Spanish crowd to get a toe-hold inside either her or Kuznetsova's mind.
=============================
SURPRISE: Marta Domachowska/POL
...
after a bit of a reawakening at the Austrialian Open (Round of 16), Domachowska finally found some follow-up success in Bali,, where she got a win over Jill Craybas to reach the QF. She also reached the doubles final with Nadia Petrova.
=============================
VETERANS: Patty Schnyder/SUI & Nadia Petrova/RUS
...
for the first time since the summer of 2005, Schnyder won a singles title. After dropping seven straight finals (often in fairly high-tiered events), Sneaky used the momentum gathered from wins over the likes of Yuan Meng, Domachowska and Petrova to handle Tamira Paszek in the Bali decider. Always an enigma, on and off court, the now nearly 30-year old Schnyder has managed to never fall far enough off the radar to NOT be a potential "surprise" winner at any event outside of the slams. With her affinity for strong closes when much of the action moves indoors next month, we might not have heard the last of her in '08, either. Meanwhile, Petrova didn't reach the Bali final, but her SF result got her back into the Top 20, and her doubles RU with Domachowska was a nice added bonus. She might get a shot at AnaIvo this week in Tokyo.
=============================
FRESH FACES: Tamira Paszek/AUT & Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU
...
while 2008 has been a disappointment for Paszek, who's been THIS CLOSE to some big wins this season (think 12-10 vs. Jankovic in Melbourne, then 10-8 vs. Schiavone in London SW19), she's occasionally been able to overcome her inexperience and not-quite-right form and remind everyone why even Justine Henin once said she was a future Top 5 player. Last week in Bali was one of those times. The 17-year old notched big wins over Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Sara Errani, Flavia Pennetta and Daniela Hantuchova before finally running out of gas in the final against Schnyder. Still, Paszek hadn't gone as deep in a tournament since a SF in Week 1 of this year, and this single result lifted her ranking from #85 to #63. On the ITF circuit, another Romanian teen, 18-year old Begu swept the singles and doubles in a $10K in Budapest for her second consecutive challenger title.
=============================
DOWN: Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN
...
last week was sort of a mixed bag for Wozniak. After losing in the 1st Round in Bali to Jill Craybas, her record since she won the Stanford title fell to 3-5. But by the end of Monday, she found herself in the Tokyo Tier I draw after making in through qualifying with wins over Vania King and Kimiko Date-Krumm.
=============================
ITF PLAYER: Masa Zec-Peskiric/SLO
...
the 21-year old grabbed her third straight ITF crown -- tying for the circuit lead with her fourth on the season -- with a win over Klaudia Boczova in the $25K Sarajevo final.
=============================


1. FC Match #3 - Kuznetsova d. Medina-Garrigues
...5-7/6-3/6-4.
The Contessova can carry a team on her back, but her own career expectations have been a little more troublesome.
=============================
2. Bali Final - Schnyder d. Paszek
...6-3/6-0.
Sneaky Patty has nearly slipped through the Top 10 back door. She's up to #11.
=============================
3. Bali SF - Paszek d. Hantuchova
...6-2/5-7/6-4.
This was Hantuchova's first SF since reaching the Australian Open final four in the first month of the season. Paszek probably would have found a way to lose this one earlier in the year.
=============================
4. Fed Cup Match #1 - Zvonareva d. Medina-Garrigues
...6-3/6-4.
In the tough lead-off position. Zvonareva didn't allow the home crowd to get behind AMG. If she'd lost, the Fed Cup might have come down to the doubles match.
=============================
5. Athens $100K F - Dominguez-Lino d. Cirstea
...6-4/6-4.
LDL had a better week than Team EspaƱa, winning here with additional victories over Bychkova, Voskoboeva and Rybarikova.
=============================
6. Tokyo Q2 - Date-Krumm d. Dellacqua
3-6/6-3/6-3.
Tokyo Q3 - Wozniak d. Date-Krumm
...6-1/6-1. It was a tough qualifying tournament (Srebotnik had to go through it), but Date-Krumm accounted pretty well for herself. With a less-loaded field at the lower-tiered tour-level Tokyo event in a few weeks, maybe she'd have a better chance for a huge result.
=============================
7. Rousse $25K F - Lenka Wienerova d. Ksenia Pervak
...6-4/6-4.
The 20-year old Slovak won her third ITF title of the season.
=============================



**2008 OLDEST CHAMPIONS**
31y,8m,3w - Lindsay Davenport (Memphis)
31y,7m - Lindsay Davenport (Auckland)
31y,2m - Tamarine Tanasugarn ('s-Hertogenbosch)
29y,9m - PATTY SCHNYDER (BALI)
28y,3w - Venus Williams (Wimbledon)

**LONGEST SINCE LAST TITLE**
5y,4m,2w - Tamarine Tanasugarn - 's-Hert. (Feb. 03 - Hyderabad)
3y,4m - Li Na - Gold Coast (Sept. '04 - Guangzhou)
3y,1m,3w - PATTY SCHNYDER - BALI (JUL '05 - CINCINNATI)

**CAREER WTA TITLES - ACTIVE**
55...Lindsay Davenport (2 in 2008)
37...Venus Williams (1)
32...Serena Williams (4)
24...Amelie Mauresmo (last in '07)
19...Maria Sharapova (3)
11...PATTY SCHNYDER (1)
10...Elena Dementieva (2)
9...Svetlana Kuznetsova (last in '07)






TOKYO, JAPAN (I-Hard Outdoor)
07 FINAL: Hingis d. Ivanovic
08 TOP: Jankovic/Ivanovic
=============================

=QF=
Jankovic d. Kuznetsova
Dementieva d. Srebotnik(Q)
Safina d. Sugiyama
Petrova d. Kirilenko

=SF=
Jankovic d. Dementieva
Safina d. Petrova

=FINAL=
Jankovic d. Safina

...the first test to see if New York Jelena translates well in Asia, and whether "The Trouble with Ana" still persists after a drop to #3 in the rankings. I'm taking a Jelena-centric view this week, with Ivanovic stumbling one more time (losing early, to either Petrova, Kirilenko or A-Rad) before finally climbing to her feet.


GUANGZHOU, CHINA (III - Hard Outdoor)
07 FINAL: Razzano/Obziler
08 TOP: Zvonareva/Schnyder(w/d)
=============================

=SF=
Zheng d. Zvonareva
Peng d. Domachowska

=FINAL=
Zheng d. Peng

...it would at least get the Chinese fans excited. Obviously, Zvonareva would be the favorite here, but I'm banking on the usual Fed Cup Hangover.


**TOKYO**
=QF=
Jankovic d. Kuznetsova
Wozniacki d. Cornet
Safina d. Sugiyama
Ivanovic d. A.Radwanska
=SF=
Jankovic d. Wozniacki
Safina d. Ivanovic
=FINAL=
Jankovic d. Safina


All for now.

3 Comments:

Blogger leia said...

I'm actually scared when people pick JJ to win. That ALMOST ALWAYS guarantees heartache for JJ fans hahaha.

Tue Sep 16, 12:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Milos said...

leia i must agree with you on this :) i'd take jelena's chances as the underdog anytime, but as the favorite? hm... lets hope the NY jelena "translates to asia"...

Wed Sep 17, 01:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Things will get stirred up again during indoor season. They always do--on the men's side, too. As you say, Todd, always good for Patty; she lost Linz last year to her old rival, Hantuchova. End-of-season injuries will be a factor, too.

Sat Sep 20, 01:18:00 PM EDT  

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