Friday, December 12, 2008

Players of the 2000's: Nomination List



Well, as difficult as it is to believe, the first decade of the 21st century is nearly over. The upcoming season will be the tenth since we ushered in the year 2000. Where does the time go, huh?

Why, it seems like only yesterday that Martina Hingis was looking to four-peat in Melbourne. Hmmm, that was less than a year after she was upset by Jelena Dokic in London, which was WAY back when. It surely wasn't THAT long ago that Venus Williams not only hadn't yet won her first Wimbledon, but was still slam-less for her career. Ummm, and had just watched Serena win her FIRST slam in New York. Geez, looking back, 2000 was also a full year BEFORE Jennifer Capriati completed her comeback by winning the first two slams of 2001.

I guess, in retrospect, maybe it HAS been a long time. Sometimes nine years can seem to go by in a veritable blink of an eye, and at others it can feel like a lifetime ago. Or both.

To kick-off the series that will appear periodically in this space throughout 2009, I thought it'd be best to put together a "nomination list" that includes all the WTA players who deserve to be under consideration for Backspin's "Players of the Decade." Well, it's more of an "honor roll," really, since the vast majority of the women mentioned below have no chance to rank very highly on the final list. But their individual achievements during the span DO deserve to be highlighted, even if only for a brief moment (which will occur when they're "officially" eliminated from contention).

So, how did these nominations come about? It was actually quite easy. I started with all the players who've won grand slam singles titles during the decade (only twelve), then worked down the list from there. Thus far, 104 players have met the "criteria" for inclusion on the master list, but more could pick up their Honor Roll "prerequisites" before the end of the upcoming season to make the final cut.

The first pruning of the list will occur around the Australian Open, after which I'll also compile a Top 10 list to highlight the players who most brought their "A" games to Melbourne over the most recent 10-year span. I'll do the same for each of the four slams as the season progresses, then count down the Top 20 players of the 2000's after the U.S. Open until the final weeks of the 2009 season.

Without further ado and explanation, here are all the nominated players to date, placed in the highest of their "qualifying categories," which are listed in descending order of criteria "importance" (or at least something resembling it).

*GRAND SLAM SINGLES CHAMPION* (12)
Jennifer Capriati
Kim Clijsters
Lindsay Davenport
Justine Henin
Ana Ivanovic
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Amelie Mauresmo
Anastasia Myskina
Mary Pierce
Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams
Venus Williams


...four Americans, three Russians, two Belgians, two Pastries and one Serb (so far).

*GRAND SLAM SINGLES RUNNER-UP* (+6)
Marion Bartoli
Elena Dementieva
Martina Hingis
Jelena Jankovic
Conchita Martinez
Dinara Safina


...at least one, and maybe two, might take their qualifying level up a notch by the end of '09.

*GRAND SLAM SINGLES SEMIFINALIST* (+14)
Anna Chakvetadze
Nathalie Dechy
Jelena Dokic
Clarisa Fernandez
Daniela Hantuchova
Elena Likhovtseva
Nadia Petrova
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
Patty Schnyder
Monica Seles
Paola Suarez
Nicole Vaidisova
Zheng Jie
Fabiola Zuluaga


...a few surprises here. Not for being slam semifinalists, but for having done so in SINGLES.

*GRAND SLAM SINGLES QUARTERFINALIST* (+38)
Shinobu Asagoe
Sybille Bammer
Daja Bedanova
Elena Bovina
Severine Bremond
Amanda Coetzer
Silvia Farina-Elia
Tatiana Golovin
Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Julie Halard-Decugis
Anke Huber
Kaia Kanepi
Sesil Karatantcheva
Anna Kournikova
Michaella Krajicek
Lina Krasnoroutskaya
Li Na
Petra Mandula
Marta Marrero
Alicia Molik
Shahar Peer
Flavia Pennetta
Agnieszka Radwanska
Lisa Raymond
Virginia Ruano-Pascual
Chanda Rubin
Lucie Safarova
Francesca Schiavone
Magui Serna
Adriana Serra-Zanetti
Meghann Shaughnessy
Karolina Sprem
Carla Suarez-Navarro
Ai Sugiyama
Agnes Szavay
Tamarine Tanasugarn
Nathalie Tauziat
Vera Zvonareva


...Vera would surely like to do a bit better than a slam QF in '09. Yep, both Kournikova and Sesil both reached slam QF this decade.

*YEAR-END TOP 10* (0)
--

*EIGHT-OR-MORE WTA SINGLES TITLES* (+2)
Anabel Medina-Garrigues
Anna Smashnova


...I didn't realize AMG was so close to joining Smashnova as the only players in WTA history with ten-or-more singles titles but ZERO slam singles QF appearances. Medina-Garrigues has eight career titles at the moment.

*DOUBLES/MIXED SLAM CHAMPION* (+15)
Victoria Azarenka
Cara Black
Alona Bondarenko
Kateryna Bondarenko
Mariaan de Swardt
Liezel Huber
Corina Morariu
Martina Navratilova
Kimberly Po-Messerli
Mara Santangelo
Katarina Srebotnik
Samantha Stosur
Rennae Stubbs
Sun Tiantian
Yan Zi


...Navratilova wouldn't just qualify for the 2000's, but the 70's, 80's and 90's, too.

*YEAR-END DOUBLES TOP 10* (+5)
Nicole Arendt
Chan Yung-Jan
Chuang Chia-Jung
Janette Husarova
Kveta Peschke


...I was a little surprised that Peschke has never won a slam doubles title. For some reason, I thought she had.

*OLYMPIC SINGLES QF-OR-BETTER* (+2)
Barbara Schett
Dominique van Roost


...anyone else have fond memories of van Roost, the face of Belgian tennis BEFORE Justine & Kim?

*OLYMPIC DOUBLES MEDALIST* (+5)
Kristie Boogert
Els Callens
Li Ting
Mariam Oremans
Patricia Tarabini


...Callens, another (mostly) pre-Waffles Belgian name of note.

*SLAM DOUBLES/MIXED RUNNER-UP* (+5)
Eleni Daniilidou
Casey Dellacqua
Sania Mirza
Tatiana Perebiynis
Anastasia Rodionova


...just under the wire. I'm glad Daniilidou at least reached a Mixed final, because her ability to qualify otherwise would likely be nil (unless I lowered the qualifications to five singles titles) and she really SHOULD be on this list.



*POTENTIAL 2009 QUALIFIERS?*

The Honor Roll is at 104, but will surely grow before the end of the 2009 season. Aside from the players who might emerge from the woodwork with their first slam QF or slam doubles final, who are the top "established" players who've yet to meet the requirements for inclusion in the "Players of the Decade" race, but are THIS CLOSE to doing so?

Here are a few, with their most likely avenue for qualification:

Maria Kirilenko: with five titles, three more in '09 would qualify her

Caroline Wozniacki: she needs five more titles to reach eight in the decade, but has a better shot at ending the season in the Top 10 (she currently stands at #12). She might have a good chance to qualify as a first-time slam quarterfinalist, as well.

Alize Cornet: she's #16 in the rankings (so the Top 10 isn't TOO far off), and is looking for her first slam QF.

Dominika Cibulkova: #19 in the rankings, but will most likely be banking on her first run in a slam to make the Honor Roll.

Elena Vesnina: at #18, she's the highest-ranked doubles player who hasn't qualified.

I'll update the list whenever someone new "makes the grade." Until next time...

All for now.



2009 PREVIEW SERIES:
...All-Decade Nominations
...Most Intriguing Question
...Volley #8-10
...Prediction Blowout
...ATP Top 10 Picks
...Volley #5-7
...Intriguing 75: Region-by-Region
...Volley #1-4
...What If?
...1st Qtr. Preview
...Week 1 Picks