Friday, January 30, 2009

The Decade's Best: Australian Open, 2000-09

Who was the Australian Open's top player during the 2000's? Well, I guess we sort of have a pretty good idea about that (hint: she's playing in the final), but who fills out the Top 10 from the last decade in Melbourne?

1. Serena Williams, USA: she won more singles titles (three, and maybe four after this weekend) this decade than anyone. More Doubles titles, too (well, except for her sister Venus, with whom she just teamed to win a third Oz crown). Serena pulled off titles from all angles, as well. She completed the "Serena Slam" with a Melbourne win in 2003, came back from a match point in the SF to win in '05, and then won in '07 while ranked #81 and having two opponents serve for the match against her during the tournament (it's happened once in '09, too). There were some great stories Down Under this decade, but no one authored more of them than Serena.
2. Jennifer Capriati, USA: maybe the most remarkable comeback in tennis history planted its roots in Australia at the start of the decade. Capriati, after having gone from child star to drug arrestee (complete with that famous mugshot), returned to the game and flew higher than ever before. After reaching the SF in '00, she won back-to-back titles in 2001-02 and rose to #1 in the world.
3. Lindsay Davenport, USA: Davenport won her last slam singles title in Melbourne in '00, and reached two more finals during the decade. A doubles force, as well, she reached two Women's finals with Corina Morariu, but lost both times.
4. Justine Henin, BEL: Oz wasn't like Paris for La Petit Taureau, but she did win one title, reached two more finals (infamously retiring vs. Mauresmo in '06) and a SF during the decade's middle years.
5. Maria Sharapova, RUS: the Supernova won the title without losing a single set in 2008, maybe the most dominant performance at the tournament during the 2000's. She was a RU once and reached two other SF.
6. Martina Hingis, SUI: before the decade began, Hingis had won three straight Aussie titles from 1997-99. She didn't win another this decade, but she did extend her finals streak to six seasons from 2000-02. After an early retirement, she returned to the game and reached QF in '06 and '07. An all-around threat, she also won Doubles and Mixed titles.
7. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA: after breaking out with a '99 run to the final that included snarky comments about her (then-considered too) muscular physique and sexual preference, Mauresmo's career belatedly bloomed when she finally won her first slam title in Melbourne in 2006 with style and grace, kicking off what was her career-best season.
8. Kim Clijsters, BEL: no woman reached more Oz SF in the decade (five) than Clijsters, but "Aussie Kim" (a nickname she picked up in Australia when she was engaged to Lleyton Hewitt) never won the title, and reached only one final ('04).
9. Venus Williams, USA: Venus didn't win the Australian, and her only final appearance was in 2003. Still, she reached another SF and won three Doubles titles with her sister Serena.
10. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK: a dual threat, the Slovak won a Mixed title and reached the Doubles final with two different partners. In 2008, she reached her first career slam singles SF. The Australian Open has traditionally been her best major, as she had four Round of 16-or-better results in the decade.

1. Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA/USA: 3 titles
2. Virginia Ruano-Pascual/Paola Suarez, ESP/ARG: one title in two trips to the final
3. Martina Hingis, SUI: won Mixed and Doubles crowns
4. Rennae Stubbs, AUS: won Mixed and Doubles crowns
5. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK: a Mixed title and two Doubles runner-up results

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE: both won back-to-back junior Girls singles titles this decade

Patty Schnyder, SUI: overshadowed by Hingis and unable to win "the big one," Schnyder reached at least the 4th Round in singles from 2003-07.
Anna Kournikova, RUS: won a Doubles title with Hingis, and had 4th Round and QF singles results.
Nathalie Dechy, FRA: she's got a shot at the Mixed title at this Australian. In a 2005 SF, she came within two points in a 2nd set tie-break of upsetting Lindsay Davenport to reach her first and only slam singles final.
Virginia Ruano-Pascual, ESP: a known doubles commodity, she also reached the singles QF in '05.
Corina Morariu, USA: she won a Mixed title, and reached two Doubles finals with Davenport.

Venus Williams, USA: Serena prevented her from grabbing that Oz title in the '03 final.
Kim Clijsters, BEL: if she'd ever won, the Aussies would have considered it something of a "home" victory.
Lindsay Davenport/Corina Morariu, USA/USA: the only team with multiple finals appearances during the 2000's without a title as a duo.

1. Jennifer Capriati's 2001 title
2. Adopted Aussie daughter Jelena Dokic's just-completed run to the QF after nearly a half-decade as a WTA afterthought, as close to Connors-at-the-1991-U.S. Open as things are likely to ever get in Melbourne.
3. Martina Hingis emerges from retirement to reach the QF in 2006.

Amelie Mauresmo finally puts to rest the questions and wins her first slam in 2006

Ranked #81 in '07, Serena Williams survives two opponents (Petrova & Peer) serving for the match against her during the tournament and takes the title, establishing a potential template for her in every slam she's entered ever since... rendering any results she has leading up to a major virtually irrelevant.

Aussie Alicia Molik reaches the QF in 2005, nearly knocking off Davenport before losing in a 9-7 3rd set.
Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko had never won a tour title as an all-sisters doubles team... then they suddenly won the Australian Open title in 2008.

Serena Williams destroys Maria Sharapova 6-1/6-2 in the 2007 singles final
Maria Sharapova wins the '08 crown without dropping a set, continuing what would ultimately be an 18-0 start to her season.

Players who reached Women's Doubles final with multiple partners (2 for each): Daniela Hantuchova, Martina Hingis, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Lisa Raymond
Multiple Doubles finals by teams: Williams/Williams (3), Ruano-Pascual/Suarez (2), Davenport/Morariu (2)
Won both Doubles and Mixed titles: Martina Hingis and Rennae Stubbs
Maria Sharapova was the only Oz junior Girls singles finalist this decade to go on and win the big tournament years later.
In 2002 in Melbourne, Monica Seles reached her final slam SF, nine years after her stabbing in Hamburg.

The quest to rank the Top 20 "Players of the Decade" has reached its first checkpoint. This first cutdown of the original nomination list -- from 104 to 75 -- is rather easy, though.

As of now, no additional players have met the qualifications to be included on the list, though both Dinara Safina (if she wins the Oz singles title) and Sania Mirza (if she wins the Mixed title) could both have their nomination "level" raised before the end of this Australian Open.

Here are the first 29 cuts, with each player placed under their highest-level "qualifying categories," which are listed in descending order of criteria "importance":

Clarisa Fernandez
Fabiola Zuluaga

Shinobu Asagoe
Sybille Bammer
Daja Bedanova
Elena Bovina
Severine Bremond
Sesil Karatantcheva
Michaella Krajicek
Lina Krasnoroutskaya
Petra Mandula
Marta Marrero
Magui Serna
Adriana Serra-Zanetti
Karolina Sprem

Mariaan de Swardt
Kimberly Po-Messerli

Nicole Arendt
Janette Husarova

Barbara Schett
Dominique van Roost

Kristie Boogert
Els Callens
Li Ting
Mariam Oremans
Patricia Tarabini

Casey Dellacqua
Tatiana Perebiynis
Anastasia Rodionova

Here are the players still remaining on the list:

Jennifer Capriati
Kim Clijsters
Lindsay Davenport
Justine Henin
Ana Ivanovic
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Amelie Mauresmo
Anastasia Myskina
Mary Pierce
Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams
Venus Williams

Marion Bartoli
Elena Dementieva
Martina Hingis
Jelena Jankovic
Conchita Martinez
Dinara Safina

Anna Chakvetadze
Nathalie Dechy
Jelena Dokic
Daniela Hantuchova
Elena Likhovtseva
Nadia Petrova
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
Patty Schnyder
Monica Seles
Paola Suarez
Nicole Vaidisova
Zheng Jie

Amanda Coetzer
Silvia Farina-Elia
Tatiana Golovin
Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Julie Halard-Decugis
Anke Huber
Kaia Kanepi
Anna Kournikova
Li Na
Alicia Molik
Shahar Peer
Flavia Pennetta
Agnieszka Radwanska
Lisa Raymond
Virginia Ruano-Pascual
Chanda Rubin
Lucie Safarova
Francesca Schiavone
Meghann Shaughnessy
Carla Suarez-Navarro
Ai Sugiyama
Agnes Szavay
Tamarine Tanasugarn
Nathalie Tauziat
Vera Zvonareva

*YEAR-END TOP 10* (0)

Anabel Medina-Garrigues
Anna Smashnova

Victoria Azarenka
Cara Black
Alona Bondarenko
Kateryna Bondarenko
Liezel Huber
Corina Morariu
Martina Navratilova
Mara Santangelo
Katarina Srebotnik
Samantha Stosur
Rennae Stubbs
Sun Tiantian
Yan Zi

*YEAR-END DOUBLES TOP 10* (+5 - 2)
Chan Yung-Jan
Chuang Chia-Jung
Kveta Peschke



Eleni Daniilidou
Sania Mirza

Until the next cut, during Roland Garros.

All for now.

...Players of the 2000's: Nomination List


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