Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wk.8- 28 Days

There were only twenty-eight days in February, but who'd have thought that SO MUCH could have been crammed into those short four weeks?

**February Awards - Weeks 5-8*
1. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
...she'll always have Paris. Not the French Open, mind you, but the '09 Open GDF SUEZ that propelled her back into the WTA spotlight after it had appeared that her playing days might nearly be numbered.
2. Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
...the most dominant force is tennis is this team, lifetimes ahead of their peers on the computer and already holding two titles in 2009. Black has been the doubles #1 for 87 straight weeks, joined by Huber for the past 69. For her part, Huber added "U.S. Fed Cup heroine" to her resume, as well, in February after leading the American team to a stirring win over Argentina.
3. Italian Fed Cup team
...Italians don't like Pastries. At least not in Fed Cup play.
4. Venus Williams, USA
...her "leadership" might have been wanting in Dubai, but her playing ability wasn't. After sweeping through the biggest non-slam event so far in '09 in the Peer-less U.A.E. hardcourter, she did a quick turnaround and won a clay event in Mexico a week later.
5. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP 26, she finally won her first WTA singles title in Bogota, and added back-to-back doubles titles to provide some nice balance on her trophy mantle.
HM- Victoria Azarenka, BLR far, Azarenka has been THE young player to watch in '09. Title #2 came in Memphis, and now there's even more intriguing "What If?" questions about that match against Serena she had to retire from in the Melbourne heat.
HM- Flavia Pennetta, ITA
...she led Team Italia's Fed Cup bloodbath victory over the French to start the month, then reached her sixth straight Acapulco final to end it.

1. Kaia Kanepi, EST
2. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
3. Elena Vesnina, RUS
4. Virginie Razzano, FRA
5. Shahar Peer, ISR
6. Anne Keothavong, GBR
7. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
8. Sania Mirza, IND
9. Gisela Dulko, ARG
10. Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
HM- Petra Kvitova, CZE & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE

1. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2. Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
3. Melanie Oudin, USA
4. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
5. Alisa Kleybanova, RUS
6. Sabine Lisicki, GER
7. Urszula Radwanska, POL
8. Patricia Mayr, AUT
9. Mathilde Johansson, FRA
10. Ioana-Raluca Olaru, ROU
HM- Tatjana Malek, GER & Ksenia Pervak, RUS

1. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
2. Anne Keothavong, GBR
3. Patricia Mayr, AUT
4. Julie Ditty, USA
5. Masa Zec-Peskiric, SVK
6. Mervana Jugic-Salkic, BIH
7. Greta Arn, HUN
8. Vitalia Diatchenko, RUS
9. Emilie Loit, FRA
10. Katalin Marosi, HUN
HM- Chanelle Scheepers, RSA & Maret Ani, EST

1. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2. Cara Black & Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
3. Venus Williams, USA
4. Liezel Huber, USA
5. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
6. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
7. Nuria Llagostera-Vives/MJ Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
8. Elena Dementieva, RUS
9. Natalie Dechy, FRA
10. Julie Ditty, USA
HM- Francesca Schiavone, ITA & Iveta Benesova, CZE

1. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2. Julia Vakulenko, UKR
3. Sania Mirza, IND
4. Jelena Dokic, AUS
5. Michaella Krajicek, NED
HM- Karolina Sprem, CRO & Julia Schruff, GER

1. Lucie Hradecka, CZE
2. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
3. Julia Vakulenko, UKR
4. Abigail Spears, USA
5. Katie O'Brien, GBR
6. Tatjana Malek, GER
7. Karolina Sprem, CRO
8. Anastasiya Yakimova, BLR
9. Zhou Yi-Miao, CHN
10. Julie Coin, FRA
HM- Sandra Soler-Sola, ESP

1. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2. Liezel Huber, USA
3. Petra Kvitova, CZE
4. Melanie Oudin, USA
5. Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR

1. Chelsey Gullickson, USA (Univ. of Georgia)
2. Paola Cos, USA
3. Elena Bogdan, ROU
HM- Blanka Szavay, HUN

Amelie Mauresmo gets three Top 10 wins (including vs. #3 & #4) en route to winning Paris, her first title in two years
Italy defeats France 5-0 in Fed Cup 1st Round action, with Flavia Pennetta defeating Team France's top two players, Mauresmo and Alize Cornet
Team USA erases 1-2 deficit to defeat Argentina in the Fed Cup 1st Round with a come-from-behind win by Melanie Oudin and doubles victory by the team of Huber/Ditty in Mary Joe Fernandez's debut as head coach
Venus Williams wins back-to-back titles on hard court (Dubai) and red clay (Acapulco) as she returns to the Top 5
Victoria Azarenka (Memphis) and Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez (Bogota) sweep singles and doubles titles in a single event

[The Best of Times...]
Paris Final - Amelie Mauresmo d. Elena Dementieva
Mauresmo blows a match point, but doesn't let the entire ball of wax slip away.
[The Worst of Times...]
Fed Cup 1st Rd - Pennetta (ITA) d. Mauresmo (FRA)
Mauresmo blows a set and a break lead, Pennetta is fined for an obscene gesture and France's hopes fall to pieces.
[The Sign o' the Times...]
Dubai SF - Venus Williams d. Serena Williams
It'll end up being the most ignored, least "important" should-have-been-big match of the year for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with tennis (or, at least, shouldn't).

Dubai 2nd Rd. - Virginie Razzano d. Dinara Safina
Razzano does this occasionally. Safina was due. The scoreline was an eyebrow-raiser, though.
Asia/Oceania Fed Cup Round Robin - Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. Tamarine Tanasugarn (THA)
Turning around her recent history, STOSUR was the one who reeled off the final twelve games to win the match. For once, she learned how the other, more affluent half lives.
Fed Cup 1st Rd. - Melanie Oudin (USA) d. Betina Jozami (ARG)
Down a set, then a break in the 3rd, the 17-year old making her FC debut got the U.S. to the deciding doubles match (and, ultimately, a SF meeting with the Czechs this spring).

In Pattaya City, Sania Mirza reached her first WTA singles final since 2007
Julia Vakulenko won the Rancho Mirage $25K title and reached another final the following week (lets just try to forget that she had to retire from the second one... again).
The Wimbledon Centre Court roof is scheduled to be tested for the first time in May... and Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters will be there to see if everything is up to snuff.
Amelie Mauresmo won her first title since she claimed that diamond-encrusted racket in Antwerp in 2007
Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, 26, won her first WTA singles title EVER
Jelena Dokic played Fed Cup for Australia for the first time since 2000. She went 3-0 in the #2 singles slot.
Both Clijsters and Justine Henin announced separate plans to take part in exhibitions later in the year
Anne Keothavong became the first Top 50 British woman since 1993

Henin and Carlos Rodriguez are starting up a tennis academy in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida

Mary Joe Fernandez's chess moves proved to be the cure for the U.S.'s Fed Cup woes. Faced with another "B" team situation, she added up-and-comer Melanie Oudin to the team. Oudin got the key singles victory when the American team was staring down elimination. Then, charged with replacing an injured Bethanie Mattek, MJF added veteran (but FC newbie) Julie Ditty to the roster, hurting the team's singles prospects if another injury were to occur, but providing Liezel Huber with a great doubles partner. In the end. the Huber/Ditty team closed out the tie with Argentina with a win that completed a 3-2 victory.

1. The U.A.E. does not grant Israeli Shahar Peer a visa for the tournament in Dubai
2. The WTA goes on with the tournament, acting as if the situation caught everyone by total surprise and nothing could be done
3. The WTA players fail to back a boycott, or even a strong statement of support for Peer or any other player who might one day find herself in a similar situation. Venus Williams says the players could not back out of the tournament because it would harm the sponsors.
4. Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram is granted a visa to participate in the ATP Dubai event taking place the following week.
5. The WTA fines the Dubai event a record $300K and awards Peer (and doubles partner Anna-Lena Groenefeld) prize money and ranking points, and stresses that the tournament COULD be scratched from the schedule in 2010 if "assurances" aren't met that would prevent a similar situation from occurring again. The moves fails to move the tour into the "vertebrate" classification on the evolutionary chart.
6. Andy Roddick pulls out of the ATP event in protest of the denial of Peer an entry visa. Roddick would have been the tournament's defending champion. ATP "leaders" Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are mum, pulling out of Dubai with legitimate injuries.
7. Venus Williams wins the tournament, and mentions the "brave" Peer in the post-match ceremony, saying how she wished she had been there. She notes that she had to mention it because she wishes to stand up for what is "right."
8. ATP player Dudi Sela blames Peer partly for the controversy, saying that she applied for her visa too late.
9. Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska's father complains that his daughters weren't treated by the Dubai organizers as well as the likes of Venus Williams had been.
10. With the curtain having been pulled back to reveal the tour's lack of forethought and/or backbone and the players' disinterest in the plight of one of their own (just weeks after so many complained loudly about the new schedule not allowing them to enter some of the tournaments they wished to play), the WTA crosses its fingers and hopes that it never has to discuss this topic ever, ever, ever again.

Sometimes you're better off not knowing the truth, I guess. Imagine what we'd have learned if February had been TWENTY-NINE days long.

Small favors, huh?


S: Venus Williams def. Flavia Pennetta 6-1/6-2
D: Llagostera-Vives/Martinez-Sanchez d. Dominguez-Lino/Parra-Santonja


AP PHOTO / Alexandre Meneghini
well, after being denied it last week, Venus ended up winning a P.O.W. award anyway. It wasn't easy getting that second straight title, though. Moving from hard courts to clay, she struggled through three-setters against defending champ Nuria Llagostera-Vives, Greta Arn and Agnes Szavay before finding her rhythm against Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova in the SF. She then wiped out her usual nemesis, Flavia Pennetta, in the final, allowing just three games to grab her 41st career title. Williams is now tied with Justine Henin on the all-time list, just two behind Martina Hingis.
RISERS: Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE & Nuria Llagostera-Vives/Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP
Strycova is one of the players leading the Vaidisova-less Czech Maiden surge in '09. In Acapulco, she reached the SF with wins over Andreja Klepac, Carla Suarez-Navarro and Maret Ani. Meanwhile, after Bogota champ MJMS lost in the 2nd Round to Petra Cetkovska in Acapulco, she rebounded to claim a second doubles title in two weeks with Llagostera-Vives (Black/Huber is the season's only other multiple title winning team).
SURPRISE: Agnes Szavay/HUN
it was quite a week for Szavay. After failing to make it through qualifying in Acapulco, her (temporary) tennis epitaph was likely being written in pencil in more than a few places and she was going to have to field suggestions about how to reverse this downturn that has now lasted more than a year. But then something surprising happened. She got into the main draw as a lucky loser and regained a bit of her formerly-magic touch. After a close one with youngster Anna Orlik, she defeated Roberta Vinci and took eventual champ Venus to three sets in the QF. After barely holding onto her Top 30 ranking and looking like a precipitous drop was imminent, Szavay is actually moving UP the rankings this week (yeah, it's only one spot, from #28 to #27, but it's SOMETHING to grab hold of). Finally, is there some light at the end of the tunnel?
VETERANS: Flavia Pennetta/ITA & Iveta Benesova/CZE
for the sixth straight year, Pennetta reached the Acapulco final. But she lost for the fourth time (after wins in '05 and '08). Victories over Mariya Koryttseva, Pauline Parmentier, Petra Cetkovska and Benesova finally got her on the board with some good non-Fed Cup results, even if her noncompetitive loss to Venus in the final had to leave a bad taste in her mouth. Benesova reached the SF after notching victories over Olga Savchuk, Klara Zakopalova and Mathilde Johansson.
FRESH FACE: Mathilde Johansson/FRA
two weeks ago, the 23-year old Pastry had never reached a tour QF in her career. Now she's reached two. After attaining her career-best result a week ago in Bogota, Johansson matched it in Acapulco by way of a win over veteran Rossana de los Rios and a walkover past Tathiana Garbin. She's now at a career-best #64.
DOWN: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
this was originally going to go to Szavay, but she pulled her own butt out of the fire and shoved CSN's into it. Things haven't been going so swimmingly for Suarez-Navarro since her star turn in Melbourne. She had a bad Fed Cup weekend, then retired from a match in Bogota with an elbow injury. In Acapulco, she was shoved out of the tournament in unceremonious straight-sets fashion by Strycova. Whether it's the injury or the typical inconsistency of a young player that's the issue will have to be determined later.
Coin's U.S. Open win over AnaIvo last year has "reimagined" her entire career. She just won her second ITF title since her moment in the sun, unfortunately when Yanina Wickmayer (who was going for a second straight challenger title) was defaulted from the Clearwater $50K final while leading the match (apparently, when ball and linesperson meet bad things happen, like losing all your potential points and prize money). Before that, Coin had gotten wins over Ekaterina Bychkova and Evgeniya Rodina to get there.
JUNIOR (Exempt Project) STAR: Elena Bogdan/ROU
the ITF's Junior Exempt Project allows year-end Top 10 Girls to gain main draw berths in challenger events, and 16-year old E-Bog took advantage of the program to get into the $50K Biberach event in Germany last week. She didn't get a win, but she did lose a close one to Karin Knapp (who was ranked as high as #35 a year ago) 6-4/7-6.

1. Acap Q3 - Arn d. Szavay 1-6/7-5/6-2
Acap QF - V.Williams d. Szavay 6-2/5-7/6-1
Oddly enough, the set scores in both of Szavay's Acapulco losses were the same, but in different orders. But while the loss to countrywoman Arn was a potential confidence-buster for the one-time world #13, the defeat at the hands of the current hottest player on tour in the QF might actually help to begin to lift the Hungarian out of her fourteen month-long doldrums.
2. Acap Final - V.Williams d. Pennetta
After three consecutive losses to Pennetta, Venus has now won two in a row to neutralize her once-vexing opponent and knot their series at 3-3. So far, the only player to beat Venus this year is Carla Suarez-Navarro.
3. Acap 1st - V.Williams d. Llagostera-Vives 6-4/4-6/6-2
Acap 2nd - V.Williams d. Arn 6-3/6-7/6-4
Never a "great" claycourter, it took Venus a few rounds to acclimate herself. But once she did, she swept through the SF and Final without dropping a set (and only a handful of games).
4. Biberach, GER $50K Final - Sprem d. Flipkens 6-1/6-2
Clearwater, FLA $50K Final - Coin d. Wickmayer 3-6/1-1 defaulted.
It might have been a rare two-title weekend for Belgium without either Henin or Clijsters being involved. As it turned out, the only celebratory waffles on Monday morning will be covered in syrup.
5. Clearwater, FLA $50K 2nd - Date-Krumm d. Nakamura

Hey, they finally updated Kimiko's bio photo!
Date-Krumm comes all the way to Florida and she STILL faces another Japanese player. The veteran defeated a player twenty-one years her junior -- a whole Ana Ivanovic lifespan -- in Lauren Embree in the 1st Round before losing to Bratislava-born, Melbourne-residing Jarmila Groth in a 3-6/7-5/7-5 contest in the QF. Date-Krumm's ranking is up to #155.
HM- Monterrey Q2 - Jozami d. Paszek
While Szavay's week rollercoastered down, then up. Paszek is riding the down trip this week after failing to qualify for Week 9's inaugural Monterrey event, getting wiped out by Betina Jozami, the same player that Melanie Oudin knocked off in that big Fed Cup match a few weeks back.

2...Elena Dementieva (Auckland/Sydney)
2...Victoria Azarenka (Brisbane/Memphis)

**2009 TOP 10ers - WON/LOST**
[WTA/Fed Cup matches]
21-3...Elena Dementieva
16-2...Serena Williams
12-2...Vera Zvonareva (+2-0 ex.)
11-1...Venus Williams (+2-0 ex.)
10-3...Dinara Safina (+3-1 ex.)
9-3...Jelena Jankovic (+0-1 ex.)
8-3...Ana Ivanovic
7-2...Svetlana Kuznetsova
7-5...Agnieszka Radwanska
3-2...Nadia Petrova
0-0...Maria Sharapova

**2009 WIN STREAKS**
15...Elena Dementieva, January
10...Serena Williams, January-February

**2009 WTA FINALS**
3...Elena Dementieva (2-1)
2...Dinara Safina (0-2)

[longest current streaks, w/ '09 title]
4 years - Elena Dementieva (2006-09)
3 years - VENUS WILLIAMS (2007-09)

Dubai (Wk.7) - Elena Dementieva (QF-S.Williams)
Bogota (Wk.7) - Nuria Llagostera-Vives (2nd-P.Mayr)
Acapulco (Wk.8) - Flavia Pennetta (RU-V.Williams)

9 - Russia
6 - France, United States
4 - Czech Republic
2 - Belarus, Great Britain, Italy, Slovak Republic

#1 seed - 3
#2 seed - 3
#3 seed - 1
#4 seed - 1
#6 seed - 1
#7 seed - 1
unseeded - 1

Wk.5 - Flavia Pennetta, ITA
Wk.6 - Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
Wk.7 - vacant
Wk.8 - Venus Williams, USA
Wk.5 - Julia Vakulenko, UKR
Wk.6 - Lucie Hradecka, CZE
Wk.7 - Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
Wk.8 - Julie Coin, FRA
Wk.5 - none
Wk.6 - Paola Cos, USA & Blanka Szavay, HUN
Wk.7 - Chelsey Gullickson, USA (Univ. of Georgia)
Wk.8 - Elena Bogdan, ROU

MONTERREY, MEXICO (Int'l $220K-Red Clay)
08 Final: (new event)
09 Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Bartoli

Benesova d. Kirilenko
Dulko d. Bartoli

Dulko d. Benesova

...Dulko is due for a good finish to a week, and she's coming off a short stint in Acapulco. So she should be well-rested.

Madison Square Garden, New York City

=SF (1-set)=
V.Williams d. Jankovic
S.Williams d. Ivanovic

=FINAL (3-set)=
V.Williams d. S.Williams

...Venus is on a roll, and has mostly had Serena's number of late. Of course, this is New York City, where the stars come out to shine. And with Sharapova sidelined, there is no bigger STAR in tennis than Serena.

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

Quite a month, wasn't it? I'm still reeling over Flavia's wretched performance in the Acapulco final, and still delighted with Amelie's fantastic performance in Paris.

I have so little "feel" for Indian Wells, maybe because the Peer event took up so much of our thoughts, or because the Williams sisters have been so dominant. All the top contenders for Indian Wells are head cases, so who knows what will happen.

Mon Mar 02, 05:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tucker said...

I love your work on here, and I've been reading for a while. Great work! I can't help but think you were a little harsh on Venus, though. I understand that Paris was a sort of week of renewal for Amelie, but how does one victory in a $700K Premier trump victories in a $2 Mil Premier and an international event? I certainly hope that Amelie uses her success in Paris as a springboard for a better year, but I don't think her five victories there should have netted her honors as player of the month.

Tue Mar 03, 09:11:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Diane -
It's especially difficult to get a feel for Indian Wells since we sort of know we won't be able to see as much of the action as we'd like thanks to the FSN situation, huh? :)

Tucker -
I get your point about Venus not being Player of the Month, since she was the BEST player of the past four weeks. But since I left the POW award vacant the week of Dubai, I chose to disregard it as a factor in choosing POM. Plus, after getting on Venus a bit about her lack of early support in the Peer debacle, I thought it would be sort of hypocritical of me to then name her Player of the Month just a week later. If a player places herself in the position of being the "leading spokeswoman" for the players, as Venus pretty much has with her spearheading the drive for equal prize money, a little bit more is expected from her when big issues like this come up and I think the general opinion is that she was a bit lacking when everything was weighed and balanced in the end. So, I felt like I had to "penalize" her in the only way little-ol-me could. :D

Anyway, that was my reasoning.

I won't do that as far as the 1st Quarter Awards go, though. And as of right now, the rankings would probably look something like this:

1. Serena Williams
2. Venus Williams
3. Elena Dementieva
4. Victoria Azarenka

Tue Mar 03, 11:51:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Tennis TV is going to air some Indian Wells matches--I think quite a few. I would rather watch them on Tennis TV than Fox Sports, anyway.

Tue Mar 03, 12:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tucker said...

Thanks for taking the time to explain, Todd. Your rationale definitely makes sense, and I can totally see where you're coming from. Keep up the fantastic work!

Wed Mar 04, 05:56:00 PM EST  
Blogger Goldy said...

Todd, great to see you looking at other players other than the top girls. There is life & great tennis a bit further down the rankings and some of these girls are the "big guns" of tomorrow".


Sun Mar 08, 10:42:00 AM EDT  

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