Monday, October 27, 2008

Wk.43- Championis Contagiosis?

Maybe, just maybe the reports of the death of Ana Ivanovic's champion's heart were greatly exaggerated.


On Sunday, Ivanovic won her third title of '08 in Linz with a dominating performance in the final against Vera Zvonareva, winning 6-2/6-1. As the WTA season is but two weeks from completion, it's hard not to look at AnaIvo's victory, her first since winning Roland Garros and becoming #1 in June, as a late-year re-affirmation that her camaign's first half exploits weren't some weird dream sequence cooked up to allow her to maintain some sort of entertainment-value parity with fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic (more on her in a moment).

Now, no matter what happens next week in the season-ending championships in Doha, Ivanovic will be able to head into 2009 on an upswing, something which didn't seem in the cards the last few months as she went 5-6 after winning Roland Garros (3-6 after surviving the "Kiss of Life" match at Wimbledon) and lost five consecutive three-set matches starting with her upset by Julie Coin at the U.S. Open. Now, counting her SF run in Zurich only days before heading off to Linz, Ivanovic has won six of her last seven.

Ivanovic didn't handle the triple-whammy she encountered this summer very well at all. Check that, she didn't not handle it "very well" -- let's face it, she was downright atrocious at it. Increased expectations, a thumb injury and that confidence-whipping string of upset losses knocked her from #1 to #5 and made you wonder if we might be witnessing the beginning of something awful (hello, "Wonder Girl II," or maybe "Vaidisova II"... or has that original yet to be green-lighted?).

But scratch all that now.

Hmmm, I wonder if AnaIvo's "comeback" had anything to do with her sitting back and watching Jankovic run off three straight titles and re-claim the #1 ranking (which she'll carry into the offseason, so says the WTA). Might watching her countrywoman handle the pressure so well have made Ivanovic look in the mirror and ask, "If she can do it, why can't I? I beat HER in Paris."

Novak Djokovic's Melbourne success seemed to begat Ivanovic's in Paris, which begat New York Jelena's late-year run, it could be theorized, as each was inspired by the other's accomplishment. Just as with the Russians (but unfortunately wasn't totally the case with the Belgians), the Serbs' individual successes have the ability to spur even greater accomplishments within the whole group as time goes by. If it continues, it'll be a great thing for them, not to mention pretty lucky for us.

Either way, it looks like there's still a chance for a 1-2 Serbian finish in the 2008 WTA rankings if things fall right in Doha. If it doesn't happen... well, then that'll be just another thing for them to shoot for in 2009.


S: Ana Ivanovic def. Vera Zvonareva 6-2/6-1
D: Srebotnik/Sugiyama d. Black/Huber

S: Elena Dementieva def. Caroline Wozniacki 2-6/6-4/7-6
D: Cirstea/Erakovic d. Dushevina/Koryttseva

it's been a long few months for AnaIvo, but now she's on a bit of a roll with an eighth career singles title in Linz after getting three Top 20 wins over Flavia Pennetta, Agnieszka Radwanska and Vera Zvonareva.
RISERS: Vera Zvonareva/RUS & Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
throw out the roughing-up in the Linz final and Zvonareva did enough all week to solidify a year-end Top 10 ranking in her own head (which is probably most important) with wins over Nuria Llagostera-Vives, Alize Cornet and Marion Bartoli (love & 1). Wozniacki lost her first WTA singles final in four tries, but the new #13-ranked player continued her climb up the sport's ladder. Before pushing Elena Dementieva to the edge in a third-set tie-break in the final, C-Woz had a Luxembourg run that included wins over Timea Bacsinszky, Peng Shuai, Anabel Medina-Garrigues and Li Na.
SURPRISES: Alize Cornet/FRA & Marina Erakovic/NZL
Cornet breezily moved through the clay season like the wind, but had since hit a bit of a road block on the hard court circuit. She seems to have found a loophole in the indoor season, though, if her Linz wins over Zheng Jie and Maria Kirilenko en route to the QF are any indication. Meanwhile, Erakovic continued to back up her surprising early-season singles success with some doubles hardware as she won the Luxembourg doubles with Sorana Cirstea, her third 2008 tour doubles crown with three different partners.
VETERANS: Elena Dementieva/RUS & Katarina Srebotnik/Ai Sugiyama, SLO/JPN
ignore Punch-Sober at your own risk, as prove to once again be the case in Luxembourg. Fresh off her Moscow disappointment, Dementieva grabbed her third '08 title (and 11th in her career) by bageling Amelie Mauresmo in a 2nd set, defeating Sorana Cirstea and outlasting Caroline Wozniacki in 3rd set tie-break in the final. Srebotnik/Sugiyama won't end the season as the #1-ranked doubles team, but they beat the team that will -- Black & Huber -- in the Linz final for their third title as a combo this year, tying them for the most by any team that doesn't include players named Cara or Liezel.
FRESH FACES: Alexa Glatch/USA & Sorana Cirstea/ROU
Alexa could get used to this. A week after winning one $50K event, Cali Girl won another in Saguenay with wins over the likes of Aniko Kapros and Alberta Brianti. After that scooter-related injury break set her back about a year or so ago, it looks like she's finally back on course (oh, and pardon all the "Buy Now" stickers on her tennis bag). A few weeks after claiming her first WTA singles title, Cirstea continued to impress. In Luxembourg, she upset Sara Errani and Daniela Hantuchova to reach the singles SF, then won the doubles with Erakovic.
DOWN: Agnes Szavay/HUN
well, at least Szavay's Linz 1st Round conqueror was more of a "name player" (Pennetta) than many of those who ushered her out of events throughout this long season.
ITF PLAYER: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS
look out, here she comes. The Next One won a $100K in Poitiers with an impressive string of victories over Maret Ani, Yaroslava Shvedova, Lucie Safarova and Julie Coin in the final. It's Pavlyuchenkova's third ITF title of the season and makes one wonder how high she might climb in '09. Sure, she's only 17 and ranked #56, but a then 17-year old Wozniacki went from #64 at the end of '07 to her current #13 over the past year. Pavlyuchenkova turns 18 next July, just like C-Woz did this past July.

1. Linz SF - Ivanovic d. A.Radwanska
AnaIvo served at 5-3 in the 3rd and nearly blew it again, which would have changed her current;y-optimistic storyline immensely.
2. Linz Final - Ivanovic d. Zvonareva
Apparently, as it turned out, she may have gotten a large dose of confidence from putting away A-Rad in that semi.
3. Lux Final - Dementieva d. Wozniacki
C-Woz is still primed to be a key mover-and-shaker as '09 beckons.
4. Lux 1st - Medina-Garrigues d. Ruano-Pascual
AMG didn't show much mercy to her doubles partner, did she?
5. Glasgow $25K Final - Begu d. P.Mayr
The Romanian grabbed her fourth ITF title of the season, one off the circuit lead.
6. Tapei $100K Final - Gajdosova d. Dentoni
The Almost-Aussie gets her biggest title to date.
7. Augusta $25K Final - S.Gumulya d. Luzhanska
Sandy, one of the Indonesian Gumulya sisters, won in Georgia with wins over Americans Coco Vandeweghe and Audra Cohen.
8. Linz Doubles Final - Srebotnik/Sugiyama d. Black/Huber
And Cara & Liezel leave the "Ms. Backspin" door slightly ajar for Serena in Doha.
9. Lux 1st - Benesova d. Robson 1-6/6-2/6-3; Quebec City Q1 - Kapros d. Larcher de Brito 6-2/6-2
even phenoms have rough outings sometimes. Still, Robson's taking Benesova to three sets isn't bad at all.
10. Lux QF - Dementieva d. Mauresmo
Though quite symbolic, a love set isn't exactly the send-off to her season that Amelie was hoping for.
HM - Pretoria $10K - Swanepoel d. Lobbinger
Timing isn't everything. Within days of the Regional Honors being posted, South Africa finally found a young champion in 17-year old Pretoria native Swanepoel in her hometown event.

**2008 WEEKS AT #1**
[52 weeks, as of week of Dec. 29]
19...Justine Henin, BEL
12...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
4...Serena Williams, USA
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS

4...Dinara Safina
3...Maria Sharapova
3...Maria Kirilenko
2...Vera Zvonareva
1...Nadia Petrova
1...Anna Chakvetadze

3...Jelena Jankovic (3-0)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (0-2)

**2008 WTA SF**
11...Jelena Jankovic (5-5 +W)
9...Dinara Safina (7-2)
7...Svetlana Kuznetsova (5-2)
7...ANA IVANOVIC (4-3)

19...United States

9...Cara Black/Liezel Huber
3...Chan Yung-Jan/Chuang Chia-Jung
2...Alona Bondarenko/Kateryna Bondarenko
2...Serena Williams/Venus Williams

07 FINAL: Davenport d. Vakulenko
08 TOP: Pennetta/Bammer

Petrova d. Lisicki
Groenefeld d. Dubois
Craybas d. Wozniak
Bammer d. Mattek

Petrova d. Groenefeld
Bammer d. Craybas

Petrova d. Bammer

...maybe the third time (in a row will be the charm for the "Petrova to win" pick? ALG is an intriguing option, but she didn't show very well against Mauresmo last week. Hmmm, is it possible for there to be TWO Canadians in the semifinals? Man, seeing that "Davenport d. Vakulenko" line for the '07 final is sort of sad now (mostly for what happened to Vakulenko this season, since she seemed to so be on the cusp of something bigger at this time a year ago).

Petrova def Ditty
Groenefeld def Tanasugarn
Wozniak def Arvidsson
Mattek def Puchkova
Petrova def Groenefeld
Mattek def Wozniak
Petrova def Mattek

LATER THIS WEEK: 2008 Backspin Awards

All for now.

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


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