Monday, September 22, 2008

Wk.38- The Beat Goes On... and Jelena is still #2

The beat goes on... the beat goes on.

Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images

No, I'm not talking about Jelena Jankovic, though I could be after Queen Chaos' latest star-crossed attempt to claim the #1 ranking in anything other than a bye week after a particularly odd WTA computer ranking computation error. But we ARE talking Whirling Dervish here, so...

No, I'm referring to the Hordettes. Again. Yep, a week after claiming a fourth Fed Cup title in five years, the Russian state continued to maintain hegemony over the sport this weekend by producing two WTA singles titlists, a RU, a doubles champ and three ITF tournament victors for good measure.

4...Dinara Safina
3...Maria Sharapova
2...Elena Dementieva
2...Vera Zvonareva
2...Maria Kirilenko
1...Anna Chakvetadze
1...Nadia Petrova
Doha - Sharapova d. Zvonareva
Dubai - Dementieva d. Kuznetsova
Berlin - Safina d. Dementieva
Olympics - Dementieva d. Safina
Tokyo - Safina d. Kuznetsova
4...Elena Kulikova
2...Nina Bratchikova
2...Elena Chalova
2...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
2...Ksenia Pervak
2...Natalia Ryzhonkova

China has proven to be a good stomping ground for Vera Zvonareva of late. Hot off winning the Bronze in Beijing, she won her second '08 title in Guangzhou on Sunday. In Tokyo, Dinara Safina continued her summer march (on the #1 ranking?) by grabbing another title on the final weekend before the beginning of Autumn. On the ITF circuit, Elena Kulikova, Ekaterina Ivanova and Marina Melnikova put a fitting finishing touch on Russia's championship tennis weekend (the men couldn't keep up the pace in the Davis Cup SF, but whatever) with singles crowns of their own.

Of course, for every Russian yin there must be a yang, as well.

Safina's victim in the Tokyo final was none other than Svetlana Kuznetsova, who dropped to 0-4 in singles finals in 2008. Ever since she won back-to-back titles in Bali and Beijing in September '06, the Contessova is 1-9 in singles finals, with the one win coming when Agnes Szavay retired in the '07 New Haven final after losing a lead as she battled against her injury. So, this week marks the second anniversary of the last time Kuznetsova actually won a title by converting a match point. And this is a player who nearly became #1 a few weeks ago? I'm not sure if that says more about Kuznetsova's consistency or the tour's jumbled upper echelon.

Oh, and what about Jelena? Well, after losing to Kuznetsova in the Tokyo QF, she's back in action in Beijing this week... the same place where she managed to reach #1 for that single seven-day stretch after the tour's pre-Olympic bye week last month. She reached the final in Beijing a year ago, too.

Hmm, could this week bring the re-appearance of "Beijing Jelena?"

Of course, who knows if that's a good thing or bad, considering Jankovic lost that Beijing final a year ago, and was dropped in the Olympics in the QF (by Safina) as the reigning #1-ranked player, one match before the Medal round. Why... why... that's just so very...

(wait for it, here it comes)

...Jankovician, isn't it?

There. I guess that takes care of my Queen Chaos fix for the week (well, almost).


S: Dinara Safina def. Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1/6-3
D: King/Petrova d. Raymond/Stosur

S: Vera Zvonareva def. Peng Shuai 6-7/6-0/6-2
D: Koryttseva/Poutchek d. Sun/Yan

Safina didn't have to bother with any death-defying moments in Tokyo that would use up what remains of her '08 Cat lives. Instead, she buzzed through the draw -- especially in the SF & Final vs. Petrova and Kuznetsova, where she put up a 24-5 advantage in games -- in Tokyo to claim her fourth title of the season, and third Tier I since the start of the summer. I was going to say that her '08 run reminds me of the one that Jelena Dokic pulled off in 2001, when she emerged to win two Tier I titles, reach the final of another and finish with the best year-end ranking of her career. But with seven finals in her last nine events, a new #3 ranking and a real shot at the year-end #1 spot, Safina has outdistanced the Still-Trying-to-be-the-Debutante's season... and might end up putting together the best non-slam-winning back half of a season in women's tennis history when all is said and done.
RISERS: Vera Zvonareva/RUS & Peng Shuai/CHN
considering it was a case of a Top 10 player claiming a Tier III in Guangzhou in the same week that a Tier I was being contested, maybe this was a case of Zvonareva's abilities exceeding her own personal expectations. Then again, one COULD say that Zvonareva made a few Chinese fans by playing there rather than in Japan... of course, defeating Zheng Jie in the semis and Peng in the final just a month after knocking off Li Na in the Olympic Bronze Medal match in Beijing could make it all a wash, at best. Speaking of Peng, she reached her second final in her last four events, taking out Mara Santangelo, Jill Craybas and Camille Pin before losing to Zvonareva.
Patty Schnyder was the original #2 seed in the Guangzhou draw., but she withdrew after winning in Bali. She was replaced by Marta Domachowska, who also pulled out. Enter Camille Pin, who assumed the draw of a #2 seed and rode it all the way to the SF after wins over Alla Kudryavtseva and Arantxa Rus.
VETERANS: Katarina Srebotnik/SLO & Nadia Petrova/RUS
after amazingly having to qualify to get into the Tokyo draw, Srebotnik had quite a week. She notched wins over Caroline Wozniacki, Francesca Schiavone and Elena Dementieva (giving her four Top 10 wins in '08) to reach the SF. She could get a shot at Top 10 win #5 this week in Beijing against Jankovic, if she manages to win her 1st Round match and get a Top 20 victory over Daniela Hantuchova, as well. Meanwhile, Petrova is trying to pack as many good results as she can into what remains of the season. She reached the Tokyo singles SF with wins over Ana Ivanovic and Agnieszka Radwanska. In doubles, she and Vania King upset top-seeded Srebotnik/Sugiyama early on, then won the title with a win in the final over Raymond/Stosur. In the twelve grand slam or Tier I doubles championships played so far this season, this makes the ninth different team to walk away with a title.
FRESH FACES: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & Arantxa Rus/NED

Cibulkova hasn't yet advanced past the 2nd Round in her two most recent events, but the two wins she HAS gotten over the past week were quite dramatic, tightrope-walking affairs. Just ask Amelie Mauresmo, the victim of back-to-back 1st Round comebacks by the Slovak. In Tokyo, Mauresmo was up a set and a break and held four match points, only to see Cibulkova charge back to win. She lost in her next match to Safina. Today in Beijing, Cibulkova and Mauresmo met again. Mauresmo led 6-3/4-3 on a blustery day that saw serving become an ordeal for both players. Mauresmo double-faulted to lose the 2nd set, then continued to falter in the 3rd after taking a 3-1 lead there. By the end, she'd thrown in thirteen double-faults and Cibulkova had survived yet another three-setter at the veteran's expense. She'll either face Anna Chakvetadze or Iveta Benesova next. In Guangzhou, Dutch teen Rus showed that maybe her early exit in the U.S. Open juniors was partly due to disinterest. After qualifying for the Tier III event, she upset Yanina Wickmayer and Gisela Dulko to reach her first tour QF. Welcome to the big league... or at least the "minor" league.
DOWN: Ana Ivanovic/SRB & Agnes Szavay/HUN
whatever has been ailing AnaIvo the most since Paris, she's yet to conquer it. With a tough draw in Tokyo, a deep run wasn't really expected. And it didn't happen, either, as once again she couldn't find a way to pull ahead for good in a long match, losing a three-setter to Nadia Petrova in her first match back since being bounced by Julie Coin in New York. Meanwhile, Szavay continued to put together her own personal "who's who" list of opponents she's lost to in '08. Big, small, well-regarded, little-known, seen-her-best-days, someone-to-watch. Agnes has lost to 'em all this season in her twenty-one defeats. In the 1st Round in Tokyo, it was youngster Ayumi Morita who did the deed in three very close sets. It was the ninth time the Hungarian has gone one-match-and-out in tournaments this season. Next up? Yaroslava Shvedova in Beijing. Anyone for ten?
ITF PLAYER: Nuria Llagostera-Vives/ESP
by winning a $100K event in Sofia, the 28-year old Spaniard joined Tamarine Tanasugarn as the only two players who've won singles titles on both the ITF and WTA tours this season. Actually, one could make a legit case that the competition in this one wasn't much less than the tour event in Guangzhou, as Llagostera-Vives got wins over Yuliana Fedak, Sorana Cirstea, Mathilde Johansson and Tsvetana Pironkova.

1. Tokyo 1st Rd - Cibulkova d. Mauresmo
Beijing 1st Rd - Cibulkova d. Mauresmo
...3-6/6-4/6-3. If Amelie were a different person she might want to punch Dominika right about now. As it is, she's probably wanting to punch herself. Still, Cibulkova is THIS CLOSE to cementing her presence in the Top 20 for a good long while, and getting a win in either of these matches would have been viewed as a very good result for Mauresmo. At least she's close to being consistently competitive with top (or close to it) players again, which she wasn't at all just a few months ago.
2. Tokyo Final - Safina d. Kuznetsova
This wasn't a good ending to a very good week for Kuznetsova. It began with a Fed Cup-winning afterglow nudging her to victories over Li, Jankovic and Srebotnik. Safina is now tied with Kuznetsova with nine career singles titles.
3. Tokyo 2nd Rd - Petrova d. Ivanovic
The many moods of AnaIvo's game at the moment are pretty evident in the scoreline. The former #1 is now down to #4.
4. Tokyo 1st Rd - Kuznetsova d. Li
At least the Contessova got a little Olympic revenge.
5. Guangzhou Final - Zvonareva d. Peng
Zvonareva (as did Kuznetsova, for a while) defied the Fed Cup Hangover conventional wisdom with this one. Meanwhile, Peng is one of those players who's managing to carve out some encouraging results at the end of a season that's been fairly lean when it comes to singles highs.
6. Tokyo 2nd Rd - Jankovic d. Pennetta
Things seemed so rosy for Jelena early on last week. After this match, Pennetta pulled out of the doubles with plantar fasciitis.
7. Tokyo 1st - Morita d. Szavay
Hmmm, "M" for Morita. The 2008 Szavay Index is getting crowded. She's down to #26 after spending the first thirty-seven weeks of the season in the Top 20.
8. Tokyo QF - Kuznetsova d. Jankovic
"New York Jelena" would have won this one. Of course, "Final Svetlana" would have lost this one, as well. Maybe, for just a moment, NYJ's head was back in that delightful little SoHo boutique... and that was enough to let this one -- and yet another shot to become #1 with a winning statement -- slip away.
9. Tokyo SF - Safina d. Petrova
Sheesh, Dinara.
10. Karshi $25K Final - Elena Kulikova d. Nikola Hofmanova
One of the ITF-winning Hordettes, 17-year old Kulikova has won four circuit titles in 2008.

**WTA TITLES - 2007-08**
12...Justine Henin (10/2)
6...Serena Williams (2/4)
5...Jelena Jankovic (4/1)
5...Ana Ivanovic (3/2)
5...Anna Chakvetadze (4/1)

4...Serena Williams (GS - 2 Tier I - Tier II)
4...DINARA SAFINA (3 Tier I - Tier II)
3...Maria Sharapova (GS - Tier I - Tier II)
3...Agnieszka Radwanska (Tier II - Tier III - Tier IV)

**2008 WTA FINALS**
5...Serena Williams (4-1)
5...VERA ZVONAREVA (2-2 + L)
4...Elena Dementieva (2-2)

**2008 WTA SF**
9...Elena Dementieva (4-5)
8...Jelena Jankovic (2-5 + W)

2...United States

**2008 TIER I FINALS**
CAPS: Russians
Indian Wells - Ivanovic def. KUZNETSOVA
Miami - S.Williams def. Jankovic
Charleston - S.Williams def. ZVONAREVA
Rome - Jankovic def. Cornet
Montreal - SAFINA def. Cibulkova

11...Lindsay Davenport
10...Serena Williams
6...Maria Sharapova
6...Amelie Mauresmo
6...Venus Williams
3...Jelena Jankovic
3...Ana Ivanovic

0-2...Victoria Azarenka
0-2...Dominika Cibulkova

48...Sanchez = Arantxa-Emilio-Javier
32...Richey = Nancy-Cliff
31...Austin = Tracy-Jeff
24...Safin(a) = Marat-DINARA

BEIJING, CHINA (II-Hard Outdoor)
07 FINAL: Szavay def. Jankovic
08 TOP: Jankovic/Ivanovic

Jankovic d. Li
Ivanovic d. Kuznetsova

Jankovic d. Ivanovic

...picking JJ to win is loaded with danger (for everyone), but here it goes again.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (IV - Hard Outdoor)
07 FINAL: V.Williams def. Kirilenko
08 TOP: Kirilenko/Peer

Kirilenko d. Kanepi
Paszek d. Peer

Kirilenko d. Paszek

...Paszek is setting herself up to get a running start in '09, while Kirilenko looks to add Korea to her list of Asian countries (also China and India) where she's won tour titles.

All for now.


Blogger xyz1903319 said...


are you surprised that ana beat cornet?

ana is one of my favorites but i thought she would lose that match.. hmm..

as for zheng, how far do you think she can go (rankings, other tournaments, possibly win a tier 1or soemthing)?

Sun Sep 28, 11:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, I did have Ivanovic beating Cornet last week. For one, because Cornet isn't quite as good on hard courts as she is on clay at the moment, but also because I thought Ivanovic should be getting closer to regaining her form from earlier this this year. I sort of thought she'd seize upon the opportunity to erase the Wimbledon loss to Zheng, but it just didn't happen. Overall, I thought her results were at least somewhat encouraging in Beijing... of course, for a player who's been ranked #1 for three months this season, a win over a Top 20 player and close loss to one in the Top 30 SHOULD be considered a disappointment, but it's been so long now since she had a good result that there's a bit of a grasping at straws thing going on there. :)

Zheng's Beijing results put her up to a career-best #26, and with good health there's no reason why she can't be a Top 20 and Top 15 player, for sure. She's a fighter, as her results this summer and early fall have shown, though she's probably not the most talented of the Chinese players (I'd always thought she was the most underated and underappreciated -- until Wimbledon, at least). That'd be Li Na. She'd be more likely to win a Tier I-type tournament, but she's injured quite a bit and has never been as consistent a player as Zheng has been throughout their careers. Of course, Zheng was the first Chinese player to reach a slam SF... so who's to say? If she can get into the Top 15-20 range and get decent draws, maybe she CAN slip into a final in a high-level event. If it was a packed event, I'd think it'd be difficult for her to defeat three or four highly-rated players in a row to take a title of that size, but at that point, I suppose anything could happen.

Mon Sep 29, 11:25:00 PM EDT  

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