Monday, October 06, 2008

Wk.40- A New Calm Amid the Chaos

It's comforting to know that Jelena Jankovic can use the FRONT door, too.

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader

After back-dooring the #1 ranking for the second time in less than two months by being assured of a return to the top spot thanks to Serena Williams' early loss in Stuttgart, Jankovic decided that she simply wasn't satisfied.

Been there. Done that.

The spotlight is great (and oh how she loves being in it), but there's something about THIS Jankovic -- New York Jelena, by way of China and Germany -- that's different. It would have been very easy for her to wrap herself in the #1 ranking and slip up in a match against some very good competition, but Queen Chaos instead resembled a player with a career checklist with just a few entries yet to be checked off. She recognized the moment as an opportunity to prove something to many people... and maybe even herself.

And that's what she did, with the second of back-to-back titles on two continents, with a straight sets win in the final over Nadia Petrova. Hmmm, a Jankovic with real competitive and professional teeth on the court? What a concept.

Once a disaster waiting to happen (remember Perth in January?), Jankovic was still something of a talented and entertaining question mark earlier this season (ask Sofia Arvidsson about that). At the Open in New York, though, she gradually transformed on a round-by-round basis from the court jesteress to a future grand slam champion. As she got fitter and her game became tighter, she reached her first slam final and gave Serena Williams a run for the championship, maintaining a smile on her face even as she seriously got down to business.

She ultimately fell short on Ashe, but a month later we're seeing the fruits of those and earlier labors. Jankovic didn't actually technically pull off the win-and-you're-#1 feat, but it was close enough to count.

Horseshoes, hand grenades and Jelena, I guess.

In 2007 in Stuttgart, Jankovic lost in the SF to her personal White Whale, Justine Henin. Quite fittingly, with La Petit Taureau watching in early retirement (really, how fascinated and amused must SHE be by what's happened in her absence?), Jankovic rose to the top rung of the tournament and the rankings, not necessarily in that order, over the span of a week one year later.

Knock, knock. Who's there?

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader

Queen Chaos, in her new red Porsche Carrera 911. You know, the one she said she wanted because it would match one of her pairs of shoes. No, seriously, that IS what she said after the semifinals.

Ah, what can you say about Jankovic that she doesn't already say about herself? Is there any other player who has quite as much fun being herself on a tennis court as the Divine Miss J?


S: Jelena Jankovic d. Nadia Petrova 6-4/6-3
D: Groenefeld/Schnyder d. Peschke/Stubbs

S: Caroline Wozniacki d. Kaia Kanepi 6-2/3-6/6-1
D: Craybas/Erakovic d. Morita/Nakamura

S: Sorana Cirstea d. Sabine Lisicki 2-6/6-4/7-6
D: Olaru/Savchuk d. Bratchikova/Woerle

Jankovic allowed just two games to Alona Bondarenko in the 1st Round, and won close contests with Vera Zvonareva and Venus Williams before taking out '06 champ Nadia Petrova in straight sets in the Stuttgart final. She's back atop the ranking mountain, and standing there on her own two feet. Yet she'll still need to take advantage of one of her four slam opportunities in '09 to make believers of ALL.
RISERS: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN & Kaia Kanepi/EST

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi
while some of her fellow Z-Girls are still searching for "the knack," Wozniacki has found it. Having never reached a tour singles final when this season began, she's advanced to three in 2008. She's won all three, with the latest being in Tokyo where the 18-year old grabbed wins over Gisela Dulko, Ayumi Morita, Tamarine Tanasugarn, Jarmila Gajdosova and Kaia Kanepi in the final. C-Woz is up to #16 in the rankings. Meanwhile, Kanepi, 23, reached her first tour final since 2006 in Tokyo with wins over Lucie Safarova, Yanina Wickmayer, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Aleksandra Wozniak.
SURPRISES: Sorana Cirstea/ROU & Jarmila Gajdosova/SVK

Cirstea has had an odd season, having gone down in double-bagel losses twice over the course of 2008. But the 18-year old is having the last laugh. In Tashkent, she reached her second career final (becoming the first of the Romanian Swarm to do so this year) and claimed her maiden singles title with wins over the types of young players (much like her) who go to Uzbekistan in October in an attempt to notch a career-first -- including Anna Lapushchenkova, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Magdalena Rybarikova and Sabine Lisicki. Perhaps in a show of solidarity, fellow Romanian Ioana Raluca Olaru teamed with Olga Savchuk to win the Tashkent doubles crown. Meanwhile, Gajdosova, who's still not yet representing Australia, had a wild week in Tokyo. She lost in qualifying, but got into the draw as a lucky loser and notched wins over Mara Santangelo, Shahar Peer and Klara Zakopalova to reach her first career tour SF.
VETERANS: Nadia Petrova/RUS & Venus Williams/USA
too bad Nadia can't convince the powers that be to start the '09 season right now, because if she could she'd likely get off to the good start that eluded her in '08. Having straightened out her game and head (and serve... hmmm, coincidence?), she's playing at a far higher level now than at any other time this season. It didn't help her knock off JJ in the Stuttgart final, but she did get fine wins over Patty Schnyder, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka en route to the final. Venus couldn't defeat Jankovic, either, but her dominating QF win over Dinara Safina is more than enough to make for a successful week (at least for most players not named Williams).
FRESH FACES: Sabine Lisicki/GER & Victoria Azarenka/BLR
Lisicki was a shocking winner over Lindsay Davenport in Fed Cup play early this season, and she's maintained her upward mobility all season and now qualifies as a true player to watch heading into next year. The 19-year old reached her first career tour final in Tashkent (she lost in a 3rd set tie-break) after defeating the likes of Urszula Radwanska and Peng Shuai. While C-Woz has emerged to grab three titles in '08, Z-Girl Azarenka is still seeking her first. She was unlucky enough to run into a dominantly-serving Petrova in the Stuttgart SF, but her big wins in earlier rounds over Agnes Szavay, Agnieszka Radwanska and Elena Dementieva were more than enough to make it a successful week (plus, she's not named Williams).
DOWN: Serena Williams/USA & Nicole Vaidisova/CZE
well, we've been here before, haven't we? Back for the first time since she won the U.S. Open, Serena lost in her opening match to Li Na in Stuttgart and then promptly pulled out of the doubles and this week's Moscow tournament with an ankle injury. As usual, the biggest obstacle for the now-former (and possibly future) #1 is usually Serena. Maybe Vaidisova should just pack it in for '08. She lost to Li in Stuttgart, too (in a 3 & 2 wipeout), then followed up today with another quick loss to Vera Dushevina in Moscow.
ITF PLAYER: Appollonia Melzani/BEL
okay, maybe #657 Melzani wins this over Betina Jozami (who won the week's biggest ITF title in the $50K in Juarez) because it's fun to point out all the young Belgians in the wake of a Henin & Clijsters-less tour. But, really, it probably has a great deal to do with grabbing the chance to talk about a player named "Appollonia," too. I mean, who was the last player you saw named that? It's great. Anyway, the 19-year old's first pro title came in a Porto $10K with a win in the final over Katerina Vankova.

1. Stutt SF - Jankovic d. V.Williams
Oh, this was just your typical, boring Queen Chaos match. It was a somewhat testy affair that began with JJ not being able to find Snezana (she'd forgotten to wish her good luck in the morning), saw her coach Ricardo Sanchez openly holding out a stopwatch trying to catch Venus using up too much time between service points, JJ and Williams nearly pull a Venus/Irina Spirlea and bump into each other while changing sides during the 1st set tie-break, Jelena take the 2nd set with a forehand that clipped a line while she plopped to the court in a split at the baseline, Jankovic have a trainer check her out during the changeover just before Venus served to stay in the match at 2-5 in the 3rd, then ended with the Divine Miss J telling everyone in the arena that she wanted to win the red Porsche because it would match one of her pairs of shoes. Oh, and Venus was 2-for-16 in break point chances, while Jankovic was 4-for-9. It was a classic "New" Jelena match, where she was in command of all her shots, was placing her serve well and managed to tire out an opponent in a long match with her typically extended points. Yep, soooo "boooooring."
2. Stutt 2nd - Li d. S.Williams
Things can turn very fast, can't they? Li has now defeated both Williams sisters this season. The only other player to do so? Jankovic, of course.
3. Stutt Final - Jankovic d. Petrova
JJ (with 8) has now won more career tour titles than AnaIvo (7).
4. Stutt QF - V.Williams d. Safina
It's been a while since Dinara has felt like this. Will it spur her on in Moscow, or put a tint of doubt in her still-a-Safin(a) head?
5. Tokyo Final - Wozniacki d. Kanepi
The three youngest tour singles champions in 2008 are all named "Wozniacki."
6. Tash Final - Cirstea d. Lisicki
Lisicki makes it thirteen first-time singles finalists in 2008.
7. Tokyo 1st - Pavlyuchenkova d. Zheng
I'd suspect that Jie was a bit run down after a few good weeks, but Pavlyuchenkova IS setting herself up to make some noise in '09.
8. Tokyo 1st - Peer d. Date-Krumm
The bigger the tournament for Kimiko, the harder the potential fall. In Tokyo, the equation smacked Date-Krumm in the face.
9. Stutt 1st - Bartoli d. Cibulkova
Dominika, being the way she is, got revenge on Bartoli today by advancing past her in the 1st Round in Moscow when La Trufflette retired down 6-1/4-1.
10. Stutt 1st - Schnyder d. Kuznetsova
The Contessova didn't wait until the final to lose this time.
HM- Tash QF - Cirstea d. Larcher de Brito
It was still The Kid's first tour QF.
HM- Tokyo SF - Kanepi d. Wozniak
This prevented a C-Woz vs. A-Woz showdown.
HM- Moscow 1st - Mauresmo d. Cornet
Apparently, Cornet isn't Cibulkova. Of course, neither is Safina -- Amelie's next opponent.

4...Serena Williams, USA
4...Dinara Safina, RUS
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS
3...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
3...Maria Kirilenko, RUS

3...Serena Williams (Mar-Apr, Bang/Mia/C'ston)
2...Maria Sharapova (Jan-Feb, AO/Doha)
2...Sara Errani (July, Palermo/Portoroz)
2...Dinara Safina (Jul-Aug, L.A./Montreal)

Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR (21, Birmingham)
Alize Cornet, FRA (18, Budapest)
Sara Errani, ITA (21, Palermo)
Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN (20, Stanford)
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (18, Stockholm)

**2008 - 18-YEAR OLD CHAMPIONS**
1 time - Alize Cornet, FRA
1 time - Agnieszka Radwanska, POL

Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP (2008: 1)
Nadia Petrova, RUS (2008: 1)

**2008 WINS OVER #1**
JAN - #5 Sharapova d. Henin (Aust.Open QF)
FEB - #24 Schiavone d. Henin (Dubai QF)
APR - #8 S.Williams d. Henin (Miami QF)
MAY - #17 Safina d. Henin (Berlin 3rd)
JUN - #14 Safina d. Sharapova (RG 4th)
JUN - #133 Zheng d. Ivanovic (Wimb. 3rd)
JUL - #94 Paszek d. Ivanovic (Montreal 3rd)
AUG - #6 Safina d. Jankovic (Olympics QF)
AUG - #188 Coin d. Ivanovic (US 2nd)
OCT - #30 Li d. S.Williams (STUTTGART 2nd)

2000...Lindsay Davenport
2001...Martina Hingis (both at Aust.Open)
2002...Kim Clijsters
2003...Amelie Mauresmo
2004...Lindsay Davenport
2004...Maria Sharapova
2005...Silvia Farina Elia
2006...Jelena Jankovic
2007...Justine Henin (both at US Open)
2008...Jelena Jankovic
2008...LI NA

**2008 SWAPS OF #1 RANKING - 5 TIMES**
[record: 8, in 2002 and 1995)
May 19: Henin to Sharapova
June 9: Sharapova to Ivanovic
August 11: Ivanovic to Jankovic
August 18: Jankovic to Ivanovic
September 9: Ivanovic to S.Williams

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (I-Supreme/Indoor)
07 FINAL: Dementieva d. S.Williams
08 TOP: Jankovic/Safina

Jankovic d. V.Williams
Petrova d. Dementieva
Zvonareva d. Cibulkova
Safina d. Kuznetsova

Jankovic d. Petrova
Safina d. Zvonareva

Jankovic d. Safina

...three in row, in a tournament in Moscow filled with Russians, might be a long shot. But JJ's form and mindset are so good at the moment, it's worth the risk.

V.Williams d. Jankovic
Petrova d. Dementieva
Zvonareva d. Cibulkova
Safina d. Kuznetsova
V.Williams d. Petrova
Safina d. Zvonareva
Safina d. V.Williams

LATER THIS WEEK: The post-U.S. Open Monthly Awards

All for now.

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


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