Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wk.2- Bare Bones Backspin I

The Australian Open is less than twenty-four hours away, and there will soon be other fish (no, not Mardy) to fry. So, it's time to slip a Bare Bones Backspin under the rabbit-proof fence before the first ball is struck.


S: Elena Dementieva def. Dinara Safina 6-3/2-6/6-1
D: Hsieh/Peng d. Dechy/Dellacqua

S: Petra Kvitova def. Iveta Benesova 7-5/6-1
D: Dulko/Pennetta d. Bondarenko/Bondarenko

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Elena Dementieva/RUS
two straight titles, ten straight wins, back-to-back wins over the #2 and #3 players in the world. Pre-Melbourne momentum is great, but there IS the risk of peaking too early... then finding herself running on fumes in the Australian heat.
RISERS: Petra Kvitova/CZE & Dinara Safina/RUS
well on her way to becoming the top Czech player in the world, 18-year old Kvitova is sporting her first-ever tour singles title after her trip to Hobart. Meanwhile, Nicole Vaidisova is licking the wounds of a 1st Round exit, and is suddenly unseeded at the Australian Open. Safina is playing well as the season opens, but she was before Roland Garros and the U.S. Open last year, too. So far, the always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride scenario is continuing, as she's reached two finals in '09 (the Hopman Cup and Sydney), and twice been unable to close the deal.
SURPRISE: Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL
not really the "surprise" winner for upsetting Patty Schnyder and reaching the QF in Hobart, as she's always a potential upset winner waiting to send a top seed packing, but more for effectively being the "last Bulgarian standing" thanks to Sesil Karatantcheva's announcement that she has reached a deal to play under the flag of Kazakhstan in exchange for some financial stability and security. Now, the SECOND-best "Bulgarian" is ranked some 400 spots behind Pironkova on the WTA computer.
VETERANS: Iveta Benesova/CZE & Ai Sugiyama/JPN
Benesova reached her seventh career final in Hobart, but failed to secure a second title which would have been her first since 2004. Meanwhile, Sugiyama reached the Sydney SF (partially thanks to a QF walkover past Svetlana Kuznetsova), and could be a 3rd Round stumbling block in Melbourne for Jelena Jankovic should the top seed not be quite ready for action next week.
FRESH FACES: Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK & Urszula Radwanska/POL
Slovak Rybarikova, 20, upset top-seeded Flavia Pennetta in Hobart and reached her second career SF. Radwanska qualified in Hobart with wins over Francesca Schiavone and Stephanie Dubois, then knocked off Aleksandra Wozniak in the 1st Round. It's a good thing her week started well, since it ended with her coming up one win short of qualifying for the Australian Open when she lost to Dubois in a quick rematch.
DOWN: Agnes Szavay/HUN & Nicole Vaidisova/CZE
ugh, here we go again. Szavay's 1st Round-losing ways continue to be difficult for her to shake off. After going 0-2 in the Hong Kong exhibition in Week 1, she lost to Anne Keothavong in her first match in Hobart. Now, she's off to Melbourne to play Galina Voskoboeva. 0-4 wouldn't be a surprise. After a decent first week, Vaidisova was bounced in the Hobart 1st Round by Mara Santangelo after managing to win just two games off the Italian.
ITF PLAYER: Gabriela Paz/VEN or Sharon Fichman/CAN
they'll be facing off in the final of the $25K in Boca Raton, Florida. To the winner goes the spoils (even more spoiled than usual).
JUNIOR STAR: Ksenia Kirillova/RUS
the 15-year old Hordette won the Grade 1 event in Traralgon, Australia with wins over Isabella Holland (who was granted a wild card into the AO draw), world junior #1 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Ksenia Pervak in the final (in a walkover, since Kirillova's fellow Russian was off to participate in Oz qualifying -- where she lost her first match to Kimiko Date-Krumm).

Sydney Final - Dementieva d. Safina
Dementieva made comments about Safina currently being the best player on tour. Thing is, Elena has two '09 titles while Safina has been RU twice. Of course, in two weeks that might mean nothing.
Syd SF - Dementieva d. S.Williams
In the end, Serena was probably glad she didn't have to play an extra match and a half in the heat. The Melbourne field might wish she had.
Hobart Final - Kvitova d. Benesova
Here's where I make note that through two weeks of the 2009 season two of my pre-season first-time titlist predictions have already been checked off.
Syd 1st - Wozniacki d. Cibulkova
Of course, I'm still waiting on Cibulkova to become the third player checked off the list.
Syd QF - S.Williams d. Wozniacki
This a rare match that was good for both players. Serena got some good match play in and won a close battle, while C-Woz's game continued on an incline that might prove beneficial next week (she opens with Shahar Peer in the 1st Round).
Syd 1st - S.Williams d. Stosur
Yeah, Sammy blew a big opportunity to win the match, choking away match points TWICE with double-faults. But another "crime" might have been a wrong call by the chair umpire on an apparently-obvious let serve that was called good, giving Stosur an uncontested shot for the point when Serena was serving for the match at 6-5 in the 2nd. Stosur went on to win the game and the tie-break, then raced to a 3rd set lead before losing.
Hob 1st - Keothavong d. Szavay
If it's the 1st Round you know it's time to call the bellhop to pick up Agnes' bags and have them in the lobby, ready for her departure, once she arrives back at the hotel.
Hob 2nd - Rybarikova d. Pennetta
Does any player who could actually be a Top 10er in a few weeks lose more often in the 1st Round -- especially when she's a #1-seed -- than Pennetta? At least she rallied to win the doubles. She needed the work, considering she's going to want to win a few AO matches in order to get a shot at yet another win over Venus (they could meet in the Round of 16).
Hob 1st - Santangelo d. Vaidisova
How's that wrist, Nicole?

**2009 CHAMPIONS -- BY AGE**
27...Elena Dementieva, RUS (Sydney)
27...Elena Dementieva, RUS (Auckland)
19...Victoria Azarenka, BLR (Brisbane)
18...Petra Kvitova, CZE (Hobart)

All for now.

SUNDAY: Australian Open Preview
MONDAY: "The Daily Backspin: Oz Edition" begins


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