Monday, November 10, 2008

Wk.45- Finally a "Championships" Kind of Gal

Venus Williams is a five-time winner of "The Championships" at Wimbledon, but before this weekend she'd not only never won a WTA Championships title... but she'd never even reached the season-ending final.

On Sunday in Doha, she took care of that section of her career resume... and then some.

Of course, one of the reasons that Williams had never won a season-ending Championships (SEC) title was because she'd rarely been physically able to play by the time November rolled around. Before this year, she'd pulled out of the event five of the seven times she'd qualified. In 2008, Serena held up the family tradition -- pulling out after two of her three scheduled matches, and a throttling from Venus in the final two sets of their Round Robin meeting -- while Venus carved out a little more for herself.

Venus nearly pulled off the eye-popping feat of knocking off the top four ranked players in the world as she went 5-0 for the week (only Elena Dementieva's #5 ranking, which was bumped up to #4 after the tournament, prevented it). Of course, unlike her Wimbledon ride this summer when she didn't drop a single set, Venus had to work through a bit more troubled waters in Qatar.

In her first match she had to come back from set points down to knock off #2 Dinara Safina, then she had to go three sets four straight times to win the title with victories, in order, over #5 Dementieva, #3 Serena, #1 Jelena Jankovic and then #9 Vera Zvonareva in a 6-7/6-0/6-2 final. After a last half of a season that saw her win Wimbledon, an Olympic Gold and now a SEC title, a little extra work to prove her point will, in retrospect, make the accomplishment even more rewarding, I'd say.

This time around, Venus, on a ten-match winning streak to end her season, ran across the finish line Usain Bolt style (well, almost), rather than limping, stumbling and pulling up lame (you know, John McCain style).

Even at 28, her career looks like it might have quite a few big, bold moments left to savor... and maybe not just at the All-England Club.


S: Venus Williams def. Vera Zvonareva 6-7/6-0/6-2
D: Black/Huber def. Peschke/Stubbs

even though her play was spotty up until the summertime, Venus ended the season with three titles and a year-end ranking of #6, her best since finishing #2 in 2002.
RISER: Vera Zvonareva/RUS
I'm not sure how many would have predicted Zvonareva making it all the way to the SEC final a week ago, but there's no question that it was a fitting conclusion to a true breakout year that promises still more for her down the line. Four consecutive wins, including one over recent nemesis Jankovic, put her in her fourth singles final of the 4Q (she advanced to a tour-best eight finals in '08), and second consecutive.
SURPRISE: Anne Keothavong/GBR
Laura Robson (more on her in a sec) wasn't the only Brit making tennis news over the weekend. Keothavong, 25, won the biggest title of her career in taking the $100K Krakow event with wins over Vesna Manasieva, Evgeniya Rodina, Maria Elena Camerin and Monica Niculescu.
VETERANS: Cara Black & Liezel Huber/ZIM-USA
the world's best doubles team defended their 2007 SEC title, claiming a tenth '08 title as a duo. No players were more dominant in their field than these two were this season.
FRESH FACE: Edina Gallovits/ROU
Gallovits has been around a little longer than most of her Romanian countrywomen, so the 23-year old is a charter member of the Swarm. She won a $50K in Auburn with a nice string of wins over Alina Jidkova, Madison Brengle, Irina-Camilia Begu, Varvara Lepchenko and Julie Ditty in a three-set final.
DOWN: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS & Dinara Safina/RUS
it's been a long (and very successful, at least in Safina's case) season for both, and they met fatigued and unsurprising ends in Doha. Neither won a match, going 0-3 and dropping six of six sets. Even worse for Kuznetsova, it's the second straight SEC she's gone 0-3, stretching her losing streak in the event to eight matches over the last three years.
ITF PLAYER: Laura Robson/GBR

look out, here she comes... maybe not as fast as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but still impressive. The 14-year old Brit won her first career ITF title in a $10K in Sunderland, making good on her Wimbledon junior title promise. She defeated Samantha Vickers 6-3/6-2 in the final.

1. SEC SF - V.Williams d. Jankovic
It met an earlier end than she might have wished, but 2008 will always be a season to cherish for JJ. Well, at least until maybe 2009.
2. SEC RR Match 8 - V.Williams d. S.Williams
I guess it's a good thing Venus doesn't take it personally when Serena (1-2 since the U.S. Open) loses and then talks about how she didn't even play like a Top 400 player, huh? Anyway, this one makes the loser of the 1st set in the eighteen-match Williams-vs.-Williams series (tied 9-9) now 2-16.
3. SEC Doubles F - Black/Huber d. Peschke/Stubbs
And to the victors go the spoils (hint, hint).
4. SEC Final - V.Williams d. Zvonareva
Hopefully, Vera won't spend too much time in the offseason dwelling on the final two sets, and will instead focus on her sterling Doha play prior to that (including erasing Venus' 1st set lead and 5-1 bulge in the opening set tie-break).
5. SEC RR Match 3 - V.Williams d. Safina
Venus opened up by overcoming a 5-2 deficit and set points, setting the tone for the week for both players.
6. SEC RR Match 2 - Jankovic d. Ivanovic
AnaIvo was 6-1 vs. Jankovic before this match.
7. SEC RR Match 4 - Zvonareva d. Ivanovic
AnaIvo was 3-0 vs. Zvonareva before this match. After losing and having breathing difficulties during the match, she ended her season without playing her third Round Robin contest.
8. SEC RR Match 10 - Zvonareva d. Jankovic
How important was this match? Well, it kept Zvonareva from having to play Venus in the SF.
9. SEC RR Match 12 - A.Radwanska d. Kuznetsova
To add insult to injury, Kuznetsova's third loss was to a player who was an alternate and wasn't even supposed to be playing at all. Good for A-Rad, though.
10. SEC RR Match 11 - Dementieva d. Petrova
Nadia ended up getting an encore match to her Quebec City title when she was a last minute sub for Serena. She almost pulled another one out of her tennis bag, too. She HAS to be itching to begin the 2009 season.

3...Serena Williams (March-April)
3...Jelena Jankovic (September-October)
2...Maria Sharapova (January-February)
2...Sara Errani (July)
2...Dinara Safina (July/August)

[series tied 9-9; Serena 1 walkover win]
98 Aust.Open 2nd - Venus 7-6,6-1
98 Rome QF - Venus 6-4,6-2
99 Miami F - Venus 6-1,4-6,6-4
99 Grand Slam Cup F - Serena 6-1,3-6,6-4
00 Wimbledon SF - Venus 6-2,7-6
01 Ind.Wells SF - Serena walkover
01 US Open F - Venus 6-2,6-4
02 Miami SF - Serena 6-2,6-2
02 R.Garros F - Serena 7-5,6-3
02 Wimbledon F - Serena 7-6,6-3
02 US Open F - Serena 6-3,6-4
03 Aust.Open F - Serena 7-6,3-6,6-4
03 Wimbledon F - Serena 4-6,6-4,6-2

05 Miami QF - Venus 6-1,7-6
05 US Open 4th - Venus 7-6,6-2

08 Bangalore SF - Serena 6-3,3-6,7-6
08 Wimbledon F - Venus 7-5,6-4
08 US Open QF - Serena 7-6,7-6
08 WTA Chsp. RR - Venus 5-7/6-1/6-0

[Ivanovic leads 6-2; Ivanovic 1 walkover win]
05 Zurich 3rd - Ivanovic 6-2/6-1
06 L.A. QF - Jankovic 6-4/7-6
06 Montreal 3rd - Ivanovic walkover
07 Tokyo QF - Ivanovic 3-6/6-4/6-2
07 A.Island QF - Ivanovic 7-5/6-3
07 L.A. SF - Ivanovic 4-6/6-3/7-5 (JJ had 2 MP)
08 Ind.Wells SF - Ivanovic 7-6/6-3
08 Roland Garros SF - Ivanovic 6-4/3-6/6-4
08 WTA Chsp. RR - Jankovic 6-3/6-4

167...Martina Navratilova
154...Chris Evert
107...Steffi Graf
92...Margaret Smith-Court
68...Evonne Goolagong-Cawley
67...Billie Jean King
55...Lindsay Davenport
55...Virginia Wade
53...Monica Seles
43...Martina Hingis
41...Justine Henin

7...Dinara Safina (4-3)
6...Jelena Jankovic (4-2)

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

**MOST 2008 WTA SF**
9...Dinara Safina (7-2)

[since 2001]
2001...Lindsay Davenport (62-9)
2002...Serena Williams (56-5)
2003...Justine Henin-Hardenne (75-11)
2004...Lindsay Davenport (63-9)
2005...Lindsay Davenport (60-10)
2006...Justine Henin-Hardenne (60-8)
2007...Justine Henin (63-4)
2008...JELENA JANKOVIC (65-19)

**2008 WINS OVER #1 PLAYER**
JAN - #5 Sharapova d. Henin (Aust. 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)
OCT - #17 Pennetta d. Jankovic (Zurich 2nd)
NOV - #9 Zvonareva d. Jankovic (SEC rr)
NOV - #8 V.Williams d. Jankovic (SEC rr)

2001...15/49 (.306)
2002...17/67 (.254)
2003...25/64 (.391)
2004...27/64 (.422)
2005...22/67 (.328)
2006...14/64 (.219)
2007...20/64 (.313)
2008...21/67 (.313)

Round of16: Pierre Cantin 81-77
QF: Backspin 80-76
SF: Backspin 46-45
F: Backspin 20-19
W: Backspin 11-6

...aha, I get revenge on Pierre for his thorough pasting of me in the Royale last season. Royale 2009 awaits!

TUESDAY OR WEDNESDAY: Ms. Backspin (with "Top Performance," "Match of the Year," and rankings lists)


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
...Ms. Backspin (this week)
...WTA Yearbook (next week)