Monday, December 22, 2008

ITF Backspin (Wk.51)- The Early Bird Gets the Wild Card

The calendar says it's still 2008, but 2009 actually started lasted week in Australia.

the 25-year old Ex-Debutante got her '09 season off to a good start by winning Tennis Australia's wild card playoff tournament to earn a place in next month's Australian Open main draw. It's the second time she's won the tournament in the last four years (she also won the playoff for the '06 Australian), but hopefully this time it'll help provide a solid base for the continuation of her comeback. Winning five of her six matches during the week, Dokic avenged her Round Round loss to teenager Monika Wejnert by coming back from a set down in the tournament final to defeat her to claim the spot. Dokic worked her way back into the Top 200 this past season with some good work on the challenger circuit. In 2009, she'll be looking to find at least a portion of her old WTA tour success and break back into the Top 100 or 50. If she can stay healthy and maintain her composure (she SOUNDS more mature, but she's always sounded that way during her career, only to often slide back down the proverbial maturity mountain once the you-know-what starts to hit the fan), she might just be a good bet to do it. As always with the Original Jelena, it's best to have low expectations... and hope to be pleasantly surprised.
RISERS: Vitalia Diatchenko/RUS & Urszula Radwanska/POL

U-Rad (l) and Diatchenko (r)
going into the $75K Dubai ITF event last week, the pre-tournament headliners were 2008 circuit title-leader Masa Zec-Peskiric and Urszula Radwanska. As it turned out, 18-year old Russian Diatchenko, went through BOTH of them to win the tournament. With a victory that made her the latest Hordette to reach the Top 200 (#196), Diatchenko wiped out Zec-Peskiric 6-0/7-6 in the 1st Round, then proceeded to upset Anika Kapros, Kira Nagy and Kristina Kucova (in three sets) before going the distance with Radwanska in a 7-5/2-6/7-5 final. It's her second career ITF title. U-Rad didn't win, but one would think that this will be a good result to help gain some momentum for the start of the '09 season.
SURPRISES: The Australian Teenagers
veteran Dokic won the AO wild card playoff, but the new crop of teenaged Sheila's had a very good week. Brittany Sheed, 17, notched wins over Jessica Moore and Olivia Rogowska en route to the QF. Meanwhile, the semifinals included Emelyn Starr, 19, and Isabella Holland, 16. But the biggest star of the bunch was...
FRESH FACE: Monika Wejnert/AUS
not a bad few months for the 16-year old. Since September, Wejnert's gone 10-1 in ITF action, winning her first career circuit singles title in Perth. Then, in the AO wild card playoff, she handed Dokic her only loss (in the Round Robin) and battled all the way to the tournament final, where she took the first set from Dokic in their rematch before the veteran's experience finally won out in the end. While Dokic now finds herself on the opposite end of the age equation than the one she did back when she broke onto the scene in the late 1990's/early 2000's, Wejnert is at the beginning of something that might bear some watching.
VETERAN: Lindsay Davenport/USA
no, she didn't play. And she won't be doing so for a while, if ever again on tour. But Davenport, who'd only just shown her "ummm, maybe I'm NOT retiring, after all" hand a week early by entering next month's Australian Open, pulled out after announcing that she was pregnant with her second little rug rat... err, I mean child. If this is how her career ends, then farewell LD and thanks for the memories. Hmmm, but why do I wonder if we've REALLY seen the last of her?

1. Australian Open Wild Card Playoff Final (AUS) - Jelena Dokic d. Monika Wejnert
Has Dokic finally found the right formula for putting her past behind her?
2. Australian Open Wild Card Playoff Final (USA) - Christina McHale d. Gail Brodsky
The 16-year old won the American contest for the main draw wild card for Oz, building on her junior Orange Bowl success.

**2008 GIRLS TOP 20**
1. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA
2. Arantxa Rus, NED
3. Simona Halep, ROU
4. Elena Bogdan, ROU
5. Laura Robson, GBR
6. Ana Bogdan, ROU
7. Kurumi Nara, JPN
8. Melanie Oudin, USA
9. Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
10. Lauren Embree, USA
11. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
12. Jessy Rompies, INA
13. Sandra Roma, SWE
14. Aki Yamasoto, JPN
15. Lesley Kerkhove, NED
16. Ajila Tomljanovic, CRO
17. Cindy Chala, FRA
18. Viktoria Kamenskaya, RUS
19. Polona Hercog, SLO
20. Timea Babos, HUN

All for now.


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