Monday, September 29, 2008

Wk.39- Snezana's Daughter Can Get There From Here

Sometimes, against all laws of nature and excited expectation, a watched Dervish does indeed whirl.

In the post-La Petit Taureau era, the journey of the Divine Miss J has become Backspin's preoccupying diversion. Week 39 was no different as, more than a month after she briefly rose to #1 while waiting for Olympic play to begin in Beijing, Jelena Jankovic returned to the city
to become the latest player to shut down Svetlana Kuznetsova in a singles final. In chilly weather that forced her to wear black tights under her New York Jelena outfit throughout the match, JJ managed to pull off the potential fashion disaster with Jankovician aplomb. Oh, and win the match by a 6-3/6-2 score.


Thus, Queen Chaos finally did what she hasn't been able to do since leaving Rome in May -- win a title. Of course, her accomplishment didn't return her to the top ranking in women's tennis. Defending runner-up points in the tournament from 2007, the best she could manage was to get within just twenty-one points of Serena Williams (she'd been 206 back last week). This week, all the participants in the Race for #1 meet up in Stuttgart (JJ, Serena and Dinara Safina, who's just 344 points behind) with the shot to make yet another big move.

In August, Jankovic rose to #1 without having reached a grand slam final (she finally did that just weeks later) or beaten a Top 5 player in a year (she still hasn't, with wins over #6 and #7 her best so far). She battled to a measure of previously unprecedented respect in NYC at the start of September, though didn't join fellow Serbs Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic as a grand slam champion. Of course, that doesn't mean the third-highest level (for now) Fantastovic member can't beat them to the punch and become the first Serbian season-ending #1, now does it?

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

Speaking of AnaIvo, Beijing Jelena needed only to look at the opposite end of the draw in China to be reminded how the pressure of expectation and a niggling injury can alter the perception of a grand season in just a few months time. (What might have happened since early June to the two female Serbs -- and maybe even Safina -- had Ivanovic KNOWN she was playing for #1 in that semifinal back in Paris could almost fill a "What If" column at this point.) After another loss in China that could only serve to remind Ivanovic of the stuck-in-reverse mode her results have been trapped in since she won Roland Garros, Jankovic is surely the Serb smiling the most as the 2008 finish line comes into view.

AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Because of the smile that's launched a thousand stories, there's no such thing as the loneliness of the long-distance Dervish. Jankovic will likely get another shot to pull off the win-and-she's-#1 feat (maybe by the end of the week?), as her Stuttgart SF from a year ago is her last big defending result of the season (she's qualified for the SEC, where she went 0-3 a year ago).

For the time being, JJ will have to be content with the knowledge that she's CLOSE. She's STILL #2, but she's closer to #1... even if she IS looking over her shoulder at a hard-charging #3. With six weeks to play, she's answering more questions than she's raising. Surely, that's proof that the Jankobot-5200 is swiftly outgrowing its original programming.

What comes next is certainly not to be missed.

(Whew! That was exhausting, but I THINK I got just about all of Jelena's many '08 nicknames in there.)


S: Jelena Jankovic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3/6-2
D: Medina-Garrigues/Wozniacki d. Han/Xu

S: Maria Kirilenko d. Samantha Stosur 2-6/6-1/6-4
D: Chuang/Hsieh d. Dushevina/Kirilenko

Jankovic notched three Top 15 wins (Hantuchova, Zvonareva and Kuznetsova) and one over a recent title-winner (Wozniak) en route to the Beijing win. Oh, and Mama Snezana... are you sure Jelena was born on February 28, and not the 29th? I mean, it would explain a lot.
RISERS: Maria Kirilenko/RUS & Zheng Jie/CHN

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
Kirilenko's Asian Magic continued in Seoul, where she grabbed her fourth tour title in the past fifty-three weeks with wins over Lucie Safarova, Pauline Parmentier, Kaia Kanepi and Sam Stosur. She also reached the doubles final with fellow Hordette Vera Dushevina. Meanwhile, Zheng proved that her Wimbledon upset over Ivanovic was hardly an isolated incident, as she did it again in three sets in Beijing, where she reached the QF with additional wins over Ai Sugiyama and (easily) Agnieszka Radwanksa. She's at a career-best #26 in the rankings.
SURPRISES: Kaia Kanepi/EST & Samantha Stosur/AUS
well, the results of these two weren't really a SURPRISE, per se. But they qualify enough to be included here (plus, I don't want to overload the other categories). Kanepi reached the QF at Roland Garros, but she's still searching for her first tour title. She's getting closer. In Seoul, she reached the SF, where she lost to Kirilenko in a 6-4 3rd set. In the same tournament, similarly WTA singles title-less Stosur lost to Kirilenko in a three-setter, as well. Only she did it in the final, after getting wins over youngsters (Erakovic, Lisicki & Makarova) and a veteran (Craybas). This was her first singles final since finally overcoming health problems to return to the tour earlier this season.
VETERANS: Anabel Medina-Garrigues/ESP & Jill Craybas/USA
AMG was a dual threat in Beijing, reaching the QF in singles, defeating doubles partner Caroline Wozniacki and Agnes Szavay, and winning the doubles with C-Woz. She's now up to a career-best #5 in the doubles rankings. Craybas got a win over the disappointing Shahar Peer and advanced to her third singles SF of the season.
FRESH FACES: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & Ekaterina Makarova/RUS
after polishing off Amelie Mauresmo for a second straight week, Cibulkova also got a win over Anna Chakvetadze in Beijing. Makarova, who's been making inroads all season long, reached the Seoul QF with wins over Tamira Paszek and Klara Zakopalova.
DOWN: Ana Ivanovic/SRB
AnaIvo was a little better in Beijing, but not enough. She got a win over Alize Cornet, but was forced to re-live her crushing Wimbledon experience when Zheng Jie knocked her off yet again in the QF. The former world #1 slipped one more spot on Monday, to #5 on the WTA computer.
ITF PLAYER: Roberta Vinci/ITA
the Italian vet won the $75K in Shrewsbury, knocking off Alberta Brianti, Kristina Barrois and Maret Ani in the British event.

1. Beij QF - Zheng d. Ivanovic
At least Ivanovic managed to stay in this one for nearly three hours. I suppose that's progress.
2. Beij Final - Jankovic d. Kuznetsova

Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images
Please, someone buy Svetlana some new sweats... no player should have to look like a couch potato DURING a match. Of course, since it was a final, Kuznetsova couldn't help but look out of place. She's now 0-5 in 2008, and has lost ten of her last eleven finals. Jankovic committed just eight unforced errors to Kuznetsova's twenty-eight in the match.
3. Seoul Final - Kirilenko d. Stosur
India. Check. China. Check. Korea. Check. This week, Maria tries to take care of Japan on her career-long Asian Title Tour.
4. Seoul 1st - Makarova d. Paszek
It recently appeared that THAT Paszek was finally gone. But she's baaaaack!
5. Beij 1st - Szavay d. Shvedova
At least Agnes didn't go one-and-out again. Instead, she went two-and-out.
6. Beij 2nd - Cibulkova d. Chakvetadze
Wake Anna when 2008 is over and feed her an apple pie. (Elvis reference.)
7. Shrewsbury $75K 2nd - Robson d. U.Radwanska
In her second pro event, Robson also got a win over Tzipora Obziler. She eventually lost in the SF.
8. Beij 1st - Zheng d. Radwanska
Is the long season finally catching up to A-Rad?

4...Dinara Safina, RUS
4...Serena Williams, USA
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS
2...Elena Dementieva, RUS
2...Justine Henin, BEL
2...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
1...Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
1...Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
1...Alize Cornet, FRA
1...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
1...Li Na, CHN
1...Venus Williams, USA
1...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
1...Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
1...Vera Zvonareva, RUS

4...Serena Williams
4...Dinara Safina
3...Maria Sharapova
3...Agnieszka Radwanska

**2008 WTA FINALS**
7...Dinara Safina (4-3)
5...Serena Williams (4-1)
5...Vera Zvonareva (2-2 + L)
4...Elena Dementieva (2-2)

3-0...Maria Sharapova
3-0...Agnieszka Radwanska
2-0...Sara Errani
2-0...Lindsay Davenport
2-0...Caroline Wozniacki
2-0...Justine Henin

9...Cara Black [8/1]
8...Liezel Huber [8/0]

Anna Chakvetadze, RUS (2008: 1)
Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN (last: 1996)
Ana Ivanovic, SRB (2008: 2)
Vera Zvonareva, RUS (2008: 2)
Eleni Daniilidou, GRE (2008: 1)
Jelena Dokic, AUS (last: 2002)

07 FINAL: Henin def. Golovin
08 TOP: S.Williams/Jankovic

S.Williams d. Dementieva
Safina d. Jankovic

Safina d. S.Williams

...Safina has had a week off, while Serena (and Venus, too) hasn't played since the U.S. Open. Queen Chaos is there, as well. If this final DID play out this way, it would give Safina wins over four different reigning #1's during the season, two more than any other woman in any other season in WTA history

TOKYO, JAPAN (III - Hard Outdoor)
07 FINAL: Razzano def. V.Williams
08 TOP: Wozniacki/Medina-Garrigues

Kirilenko d. Wozniacki
Kanepi d. Stosur

Kirilenko d. Kanepi'd be a rematch of this weekend's Seoul SF, and Kirilenko would tie for the tour lead with four titles (unless Serena or Safina wins in Stuttgart).

07 FINAL: Parmentier def. Azarenka
08 TOP: Peng/Govortsova

Amanmuradova d. Peng
Larcher de Brito d. Olaru

Larcher de Brito d. Amanmuradova

...yeah, it's a bit of a wild stab in the dark to go with the The Kid to win her first tour title, but isn't that what late-season Tier IV tournaments in Uzbekistan are for?

All for now.

NEXT WEEK: Post-U.S. Open Monthly Awards

...Revolving Doors - WTA '09 Guide Preview (this week)
...Intriguing Answers (Top 20 & More)
...Backspin Awards
...Ms. Backspin
...WTA Yearbook


Blogger leia said...

Always fun reading your posts that have JJ as subject.

So funny I actually said (to my friends) that had JJ been born on feb 29th it would really, really make sense. Haha.

The Beijing final was the best I have ever seen her play. More winners, more smart points. Hope this continues...

Wed Oct 01, 05:25:00 AM EDT  

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