Monday, October 20, 2008

Wk.42- Two Against One?

"Ms. Backspin" may have been close to wrapped up in Zurich over the weekend. But Jelena, Dinara, Serena, Venus and Ana had nothing to do with it.

World #2 Dinara Safina and #3 Serena Williams didn't even play last week. Roland Garros champ Ana Ivanovic dropped out of action in the Zurich semifinals, after her first encouraging week since she won in Paris. #1 Jelena Jankovic saved the world from implosion by losing in the 2nd Round, while Wimbledon champ Venus Williams won the title... but it was only her second on the season, hardly enough to qualify for any legit player-of-the-year consideration.

No, it was the OTHER champions at the final Zurich Open who solidified their candidacy, as world co-#1's Cara Black and Liezel Huber, after falling a match short last week in Moscow, took the doubles title to add another layer to their domination of the discipline in 2008. It's Black's tenth doubles title (nine with Huber, plus a Mixed title at the U.S. Open, where she swept both competitions) of the season, and Huber's ninth. Both numbers are the most by any players on either the men's or women's tours this year. The next closest? Rafael Nadal, with eight singles titles (so far).

Oh, the two haven't wrapped up anything yet. I mean, other than the world year-end #1 ranking, that is. Not that that was in question for quite some time, considering they lead #3 Katarina Srebotnik by a "mere" 1845 points and have compiled a 62-13 record this season.

I've always "sort of" been against crowning a doubles team as Player(s) of the Year, but the singles competition has been so muddled in '08 that it's rarely been more appropriate. The world #1 didn't win a slam, and neither did #2. Three of the four slam winners pretty much are ruled out as possible POY either because of inconsistency. lack of overall results or an injury-related slump/absence. Only Serena would seem a real contender to head off Black/Huber at the pass with a SEC title in Doha next month to grab "Ms. Backspin."

But, come on, we're talking about Serena. As far we know, she might end up being too injured to even make a real go of it there.

So, in honor of the former domination by the "late, lamented" La Petit Taureau, it would seem a proper "tribute" might be to honor the most dominant women in the sport as the true "Ms. Backspins" for this truly odd season. Serena still has a shot... but, with three weeks to go, it looks like it's two against one.

Of course, Serena's beaten longer odds than that before, hasn't she?


S: Venus Williams def. Flavia Pennetta 7-6/6-2
D: Black/Huber d. Groenefeld/Schnyder

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA

the yellow brick road is all mapped out for the first shared "Ms. Backspin" award to become a reality. The Emerald City... err, I mean Doha awaits.
RISERS: Flavia Pennetta/ITA & Anabel-Medina-Garrigues, ESP
Pennetta and AMG are friends, and it was too bad for them that they had to face each other in the Zurich semifinals. But after wins over Li Na, Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka, Medina-Garrigues surely had a successful week anyway. As for Pennetta. Well, she seems to be just getting started four months away from her 27th birthday. Pennetta's goal of becoming the first Italian woman in the Top 10 continued to keep pace with possibility and opportunity in Zurich, even if she didn't manage to get a third '08 win over Venus Williams in the final in just the second Tier II final of her career. Always under the radar throughout her career, Pennetta's two-season long comeback from a wrist injury and personal/emotional conflict (hey, who needs Moya anyway?) has managed to hit all sorts of highs this season. She reached her first Tier II-or-better final in L.A., her first slam QF at the U.S. Open and a new career-high of #14 in today's new rankings. Since going 23-23 to start the '07 season, she's gone 48-23 since... and she's been doing it in recent weeks while battling plantar fasciitis in her foot. She probably won't get much attention heading into '09, but she'll surely be someone that quite a few Top 10ers are going to be looking out for over their shoulders.
SURPRISES: Petra Kvitova/EST & Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Patty Schnyder, GER/SUI
Kvitova has had quite a busy past week. First, she qualified in Zurich, getting wins over Tsvetana Pironkova and Groenefeld, then reached the main draw QF with victories over Patty Schnyder and Sofia Arvidsson. After that, she entered Linz qualifying and managed to make it through that today with a final round defeat of Jill Craybas. Meanwhile, two of Kvitova's fallen foes, Groenefeld and Schnyder, rode their Zurich doubles wild card all the way to the final, upsetting the likes of Peschke/Stubbs, Yan/Zheng and Srebotnik/Sugiyama along the way. Black/Huber was just too steep a mountain to conquer, though. But, can you blame them? One more win and they would have completed the most remarkable single-event doubles run of the season.
VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA & Julie Ditty/USA

AP Photo/KEYSTONE/Alessandro Della Bella
Venus, at least on some level, finally made her '08 season about something other than Wimbledon and the Olympics, winning her second singles title of the season in Zurich with wins over Alona Bondarenko, Francesca Schiavone, Ana Ivanovic and Pennetta. Appealing to "the Jelena crowd," she hugged her dad (and her dog) after claiming the title. Meanwhile, a few months before she turns 30, American Julie Ditty continued to work her own brand of magic in the challengers. In a $50K in Lawrenceville, Georgia she reached the singles final (losing to Shenay Perry) and won the doubles crown with Carly Gullickson. It's Ditty's 34th career USTA circuit singles or doubles title, extending her all-time record.
FRESH FACES: Ana Bogdan/ROU & Alexa Glatch/USA
ah, the first post-slam "Bogdan Watch" has arrived. Okay, sure, technically I'm celebrating this junior accomplishment by Ana Bodgan a week late, but the rise of the Romanians is a nice thing to report no matter the promptness (or lack thereof). Bogdan grabbed her first Grade A win as a junior at the Osaka Mayor's Cup a week ago, defeating '07 champ Kurumi Nara in the final and losing just a single set all tournament. In the Toronto $50K, Alexa Glatch continued the '08 surge of the young Americans, taking the title with a win in the decider over Canadian Stephanie Dubois.
DOWN: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK & Agnes Szavay/HUN
it was the unfortunate "usual" for both these two last week in Zurich. Hantuchova was ousted in the 1st Round by Maria Kirilenko, dropping her to 14-17 since reaching the Australian Open SF in January. Szavay fell in her Zurich 1st Round match to Marion Bartoli, something which she's become irritatingly accustomed to this season. Of her twenty-four tournaments, she's reached one final, one SF and four additional QF. But she's also gone one-match-and-out eleven times, and didn't make it past the 2nd Round sixteen times. Ouch. Hantuchova won her 1st Round match in Luxembourg over Pauline Parmentier today, while Szavay is set to face Flavia Pennetta in Linz.
ITF PLAYER: Mara Santangelo/ITA
the Italian won the $100K in Ortisei, her second $100K title in 2008. She defeated the likes Akgul Amanmuradova, Andrea Petkovic, Romina Oprandi, Nathalie Dechy and Kristina Barrois along the way.

1. Zurich 2nd - Pennetta d. Jankovic
In Stuttgart, Pennetta led 3-1 in both sets in a straight sets loss to Jankovic. In Zurich, she had better luck. Back in February, after having played nearly every week of the season, Jankovic said, "For some reason, I feel tired." After this loss, she said, "I didn't have any gas left in the tank," after winning twelve straight matches and three consecutive titles. I guess that's progress, right?
2. Zurich SF - V.Williams d. Ivanovic
After reaching her first SF since winning Roland Garros after getting wins over Marion Bartoli and Petra Kvitova, one wonders if AnaIvo is finally healthier and feeling more confident... or was inspired, not to mention made sick and tired, by watching Jankovic lift so many trophies?
3. Zurich Final - V.Williams d. Pennetta
Well, when was the last time a player not named Serena defeated Venus four times in a row anyway?
4. Zurich 2nd - Azarenka d. Niculescu
Maybe Niculescu asked her doubles partner Sorana Cirstea about mentally coming back from double bagel losses? Of course, before this the Romanian had had a pretty good week, getting wins over Kateryna Bondarenko, Anna Chakvetadze and Cirstea herself.
5. Zurich 1st - A.Bondarenko d. Cornet
A-Bond saved five match points.
6. Zurich 1st - Azarenka d. Mauresmo
Mauresmo has lost in the 1st Round in three of her last four tournaments.
7. Luxembourg Q1 - Vedy d. Karatantcheva
Wonder which has felt longer -- Sesil's two years out or this first season back?
8. Zurich 2nd - V.Williams d. A.Bondarenko
The Williams sisters have combined to go 8-0 against the Bondarenkos and Radwanskas in 2008.
9. St.Louis $10K Final - Lindsey Hardenbergh d. Anda Perianu

The 18-year old American, and University of Virginia star, made her USTA circuit debut in St.Louis. All she did was make it through qualifying, upset #1-seed Allie Will in the 1st Round and then knock off #3-seed Perianu in the final to make her first pro event surely one to remember

**2008 WEEKS AT #1**
19...Justine Henin, BEL
12...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
4...Serena Williams, USA
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS
42...Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA (co-#1's)

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

**2008 WTA FINALS**
7...Dinara Safina (4-3)
6...Jelena Jankovic (4-2)
6...Vera Zvonareva (2-3 +L)
5...Serena Williams (4-1)
5...Svetlana Kuznetsova (0-5)
4...Elena Dementieva (2-2)

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

3...A.Medina-Garrigues/V.Ruano-Pascual, ESP/ESP
3...Chan Yung-Jan/Chuang Chia-Jung, TPE/TPE

8...Justine Henin, 2001-08
3...Elena Dementieva, 2006-08
2...Jelena Jankovic, 2007-08
2...Serena Williams, 2007-08
2...Ana Ivanovic, 2007-08
2...VENUS WILLIAMS, 2007-08
2...Lindsay Davenport, 2007-08
ALSO: Anna Chakvetadze, 2006-07

34...Russia (16 champions)
9...Serbia (6)
7...ITALY (4)
7...France (2)

LINZ, AUSTRIA (II-Hard Indoor)
07 FINAL: Hantuchova d. Schnyder
08 TOP: Ivanovic/Zvonareva

Petrova d. Cibulkova
Schnyder d. Zvonareva

Petrova d. Schnyder

...well, after the worst picks in the history of picks last week for Zurich (my semifinalists went a combined 0-4), I couldn't do any worse this time around, right? We'll see, since I'm picking the exact same final (and three of the four same semifinalists).

07 FINAL: Ivanovic d. Hantuchova
08 TOP: Dementieva/Chakvetadze

Dementieva d. Errani
Wozniacki d. Li

Dementieva d. Wozniacki

...Wozniacki was my other ill-chosen Zurich semifinalist. (Who says I'm stubborn?)

LATER THIS WEEK: the elongated season review continues with the "2008 Regional Honors"

All for now.

...Revolving Doors - WTA '09 Guide Preview
...Intriguing Answers, Pt.1
...Intriguing Answers, Pt.2
...The Best of Jankovic 2008
...Regional Honors(this week)
...Backspin Awards (coming soon)
...Ms. Backspin (coming soon)
...WTA Yearbook (coming soon)


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