Monday, May 18, 2009

Wk.19- Shake It Up (Scrambled Backspin, Bacon & Eggs)

3...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Venus Williams, USA
2...Elena Dementieva, RUS
2...Vera Zvonareva, RUS

2...Elena Dementieva (Auckland/Sydney)
2...Venus Williams (Dubai/Acapulco)

Dubai - Venus Williams, USA
Indian Wells - Vera Zvonareva, RUS
Miami - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Rome - Dinara Safina, RUS
Dubai - Black/Huber, ZIM/USA
Indian Wells - Azarenka/Zvonareva, BLR/RUS
Miami - Kuznetsova/Mauresmo, RUS/FRA
Rome - Hsieh/Peng, TPE/CHN

15...Elena Dementieva, January
14...Venus Williams, February-April
10...DINARA SAFINA, MAY-current
10...Serena Williams, January-February
10...Victoria Azarenka, February-March

1. Wimb Exhibition - Clijsters d. Graf
Interesting fact: apparently, it was the first month of training for this event that planted the seed for a comeback in Clijsters' mind. Might the notion of preparing for the first closing of the roof on one of the Roland Garros stadiums be enough to coax another Waffle out of premature retirement?
2. Madrid Final - Safina d. Wozniacki
The winner here would have become the first two-time clay title winner in '09 (AMG goes for her second of the season, and third in a row, in Strasbourg this week). C-Woz has reached more finals (four) this season than the two Serbs combined.
3. Madrid 1st - Schiavone d. S.Williams 6-4 ret.
Madrid 2nd - Kleybanova d. V.Williams 6-3/3-6/7-5
When does Wimbledon begin?
4. Madrid 2nd - A.Bondarenko d. Kuznetsova
With A-Bond, you never know what you're going to get. Today, she double-bageled Katarzyna Piter in Warsaw. After two straight finals, this performance from the Contessova has the whiff of a top player being forced to show up for a major event... and then her doing just that, and ONLY just that.
5. Madrid 3rd - A.Bondarenko d. Chakvetadze
Anna C lost, but she again showed resiliency (yeah, and inconsistency, too... but that's another issue) after dropping the 1st set at love.
6. Madrid 3rd - Szavay d. Azarenka
Hopefully, Azarenka's doubles match retirement with a knee injury was just precautionary.
7. Madrid Doubles F - Black/Huber d. Peschke/Raymond
Finally, Black and Huber get some traction on the dirt. RG is the only slam the pair hasn't won as a duo.
8. $50K Saint-Gaudens Final - Anastasiya Yakimova d. Yanina Wickmayer
The Belgian fails to get an ITF title a week after winning her first WTA tour crown in Estoril.
9. Warsaw 1st - Sharapova d. Garbin
The Supernova lives!
10. Wimb Exhibition - Clijsters/Henman d. Agassi/Graf

Technically, the "first match" on a closed Centre Court.

Hmmm, it seems to me that a regular opening remarks segment this week might be a virtual copy of last week's (blame Dinara). So, just a few quick thoughts instead:

I wonder if Safina is peaking too soon again? Last year, she burned up the tour right BEFORE Roland Garros, then was stopped short in the final in Paris. Last summer, she won the U.S. Open Series, then went out in the SF in New York. This time around, she's won back-to-back pre-RG titles and reached three straight finals. Will the third time allow her to carry over her charming momentum a FULL two additional weeks, or will history repeat itself and she'll have to hear Serena's naysaying whispers in her ear all summer long?
Does her Madrid SF run mean Amelie Mauresmo might finally be a belated factor in Paris?
Nice to see Patty Schnyder finally rounding into some sort of form... just in time for her to have her usual 4th Round exit in Paris.
Looks like Venus and Serena will have some extra time for a few shopping excursions in Paris, eh? Get that "Williams Family Home: London Edition" ready, baby.

If you saw it (on Tennis Channel here), the Wimbledon roof exhibition event was quite a nice little affair. Random musings: I think the fans were happier to see Andy Murray "stop by" than he was to be there (SW19 has yet to become HIS tournament)... of course, it's always difficult to tell with him. Steffi Graf always seems to be having so much fun when she hits the court these days, doesn't she? Did Andre Agassi look a tad puffy, or was it just me? With Roland Garros announcing plans last week to have a retractable roof in place by 2011, that'll leave only the U.S. Open roof-less amongst the slams (sort of a symbolic statement about the current state of American men's tennis, I'd say). Bite my tongue, but I was actually excited to see Kim Clijsters smacking tennis balls around again. Maybe I'll be taking the liking to Mama Kim that a gradually lost over time for pre-Mama Kim during the era of Clijsters the First.

While the likes of the twilight ending of last year's Nadal/Federer classic will be lost to history forever thanks to the Centre Court roof, the benefits of such a contraption a month from now will render any lingering quibbles mute. Case in point, during Sunday's exhibition event, after the roof had been closed, it began to pour down rain outside all over the grounds of the All-England Club. From here on out, during the upcoming fortnight and forever after, such a moment won't mean that all the tennis has to stop. Ah, progress.

Now, about getting a retractable roof for Ashe Stadium...

WARSAW, POLAND (Premier $600K/Red Clay)
08 Final: (Berlin) Safina d. Dementieva
09 Top Seeds: Wozniacki (w/d) /Zheng

A.Bondarenko d. Dokic
Zheng d. Errani
Zheng d. A.Bondarenko

...perhaps smartly following the "what is good for Caroline in the long run" gameplan, C-Woz pulled out of this one, which she was planning on playing due to her parents' Polish heritage. Unlike JJ, she might be able to get her schedule straight before she turns 20.

STRASBOURG, FRANCE (Int'l $220K/Red Clay)
08 Final: Medina-Garrigues d. Srebotnik
09 Top Seeds: Medina-Garrigues/Bammer

Medina-Garrigues d. Vesnina
Groenefeld d. Dulko
Medina-Garrigues d. Groenefeld

...AMG is just as likely to lose her 1st Round match as she is to claim her third straight Strasbourg title. Still, I'll take a deep breath, close my eyes and yell "Geronimo!" with this pick. Hey, she KNOWS she won't be reaching the QF at Roland Garros, so she's got no reason to hold anything back, right?


Later this week, the latest edition of "Backspin Time Capsule" will take a look back at the 1989 Roland Garros as we approach the twentieth anniversary of the dual stunners pulled in Paris by then 17-year old Arantxa Sanchez and Michael Chang. On Saturday, the official prediction column for this year's two-week Parisian whirlwind bows. After that, the Daily Backspin returns.

Editing Note: Yes, this edition is another Backspin shake-up "gimmick" meant to make a single week on the WTA schedule stand out for all the wrong reasons. Not wanting to repeat last year's "Scrambled Backspin & Eggs" edition, for 2009 it's "Scrambled Backspin, Bacon & Eggs." Sheesh. Alas, I'm sorry to say I doubt that this will be the last three-ring circus hoisted upon everyone by Your Friendly Neighborhood Backspinner in an attempt to bridge the gap between somewhat repetitive weeks with something other than "the same old same old."


MADRID, SPAIN (Premier+ $4.5m/Retractable Roof Red Clay)
S: Dinara Safina def. Caroline Wozniacki 6-2/6-4
D: Black/Huber d. Peschke/Raymond

14-1, including ten straight wins, since she became #1, Safina is a slam title away from silencing any of the expected sideways glances that go with becoming the fourth woman (after Clijsters, Mauresmo & Jankovic) to reach the top ranking without having won a major.
RISERS: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN & Agnes Szavay/HUN
I'm tempted to say, "Don't Mess with the Woz," but I just can't. Not yet. You can't help but watch the Dane and think of Jelena Jankovic, circa 2007 and much of 2008. Great movement. Not always a lot of pop on her shots, and with a plainly weak second serve. Still, she scrambles (hey, a perfect match for a Scrambled Edition of Backspin), plays a great deal (she's got the most tour wins over the last year), sometimes when she probably shouldn't (last year's post-WTA season ITF event in her hometown, this week in her parents' native Poland... the last of which she decided against today), puts forth a pleasant personality on the court and makes you want to root for her to win (even when you'd previously picked a certain Russian #1 to win the tournament before it started). Her Madrid RU put Wozniacki in the Top 10 for the first time today, but the 18-year old currently finds herself in a situation when she tends to lose to power players like Safina when she has to go up against them head-up, face-to-face. She can still defeat them, but it takes a great deal of work (see her win over Dementieva in PVB at the start of the clay season). Like JJ, she's going to need to get a bit more power and improve her serve. Hopefully, she won't spend HER offseason training in Mexico trying to get it done, though. Meanwhile, Szavay is really starting to resemble the player who had so much promise back in 2007. In Madrid, she ousted Flavia Pennetta and Victoria Azarenka to reach the QF.
SURPRISES: Anna Chakvetadze/RUS & Vera Dushevina/RUS
one more good result and the former world #5's resurgence will no longer be a surprise. Chakvetadze reached the 3rd Round in Madrid, getting wins over Ruano-Pascual and Stosur, then pushing A.Bondarenko to three sets in the 3rd Round after dropping the opening set at love. Dushevina is the forgotten Hordette, not to mention the forgotten Vera. She qualified in Madrid, then got a string of nice wins over some veterans -- Medina-Garrigues, Vinci & Schiavone -- to reach a surprise QF.
VETERANS: Amelie Mauresmo/FRA & Patty Schnyder/SUI
Schnyder's recent spark continued in Spain with a SF result and good wins over Errani, Wozniak, Petrova and Jankovic. Mauresmo, never a factor in Paris in the past, is probably France's best shot at doing ANYTHING in the women's draw this year. In Madrid, she continued to hold up her end, knocking off Sugiyama, Zheng, Dementieva and Szavay to reach the SF and push her way back into the Top 20. Now, if she could only get a good draw at Roland Garros... yeah, it probably WON'T matter. But wouldn't it be a remarkably sweet surprise if she could at least last deep into the second week?
FRESH FACE: Ksenia Lykina/RUS
the 18-year old defeated fellow Russian Elena Chalova in the final of the $50K in Kurume, Japan to claim her second career challenger title (she won a $10K in '08). Lykina was one of four Russians to win ITF events this weekend, along with Nina Bratchikova, Galina Fokina and Daria Kuchmina.
DOWN: Serena Williams/USA & Venus Williams/USA
hmmm, maybe Serena shouldn't question the current #1's credibility at the same time that SHE is riding a four-match losing streak, nursing a knee injury and "competing" on her worst surface, while the Russian in question is on a three-tournament tear. Any other time of the season, she'd have a point. Doing it now only sets her up to be deemed a poor sport. I'm sure she doesn't care, though... and I really like that. Meanwhile, Venus looks right on schedule for her annual first week upset in Paris, giving her an extra week to get ready to attempt to three-peat at Wimbledon by grabbing her sixth career SW19 plate.
ITF PLAYER: Melanie Oudin/USA
a week ago, Oudin won a $50K event in Indian Harbour Beach. This weekend, she won another $50K in Raleigh, North Carolina, defeating Lindsay Lee-Waters in the final.
JUNIOR STAR: Yulia Putintseva/RUS
it's never a bad move to highlight an accomplishment by a young Russian. This time the honor goes to the 14-year old for her recently claiming her first-ever ITF junior title, in a Grade 2 in Prato, Italy. Putintseva qualified in the event, knocked off #1 seed Martina Trevisan in the main draw, and reeled off fourteen straight sets to win the title. This past weekend, she won her second straight title -- a Grade 1 in Santa Croce. Looks like we might have "another one."

Tous pour maintenant. (Psst...blame this year's unseasonably cold spring mornings for all this.)


Blogger Kutta said...

I love Amelie with all my heart but I don't see her going much further than the 4th round at RG, and that too with a *very* kind draw. Still, it's nice to see her ranked solidly in the Top 20 and I hope she has one more good run at Wimbly before retiring.

Allez Amelie!

Tue May 19, 12:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

A season or so ago, I was on the kick that Mauresmo should have retired when she had the chance and before her '06 slam legacy had totally faded from most people's memory. But I was wrong. I'm glad she's stuck around and tried to re-climb the mountain. Games as classically beautiful as her's are few and far between these days, and the sports needs their likes to stick around as long as possible.

Tue May 19, 08:36:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Colette Lewis said...

The ITF tournament in Italy that Putintseva won was a Grade 1, not a Grade 2.

Tue May 19, 11:00:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Thanks, Colette. Actually, in the post I was referring to the Grade 2 she won in Prato a week earlier. I didn't realize she'd also just won the Grade 1 in Santa Croce (I had issues with getting the ITF website to work on Monday) that I think you're talking about.

I updated the information in the post. So, I guess she was even more deserving of "Junior Star" than I realized. :)

Wed May 20, 11:28:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I think that this time, Safina may not have peaked too soon. The reason: Thrill Ride has cut down on thrill ride incidents. Those stunts in Berlin and Paris were amazing, but they did her in. She's a been a bit less exciting and a bit more careful this time.

Fri May 22, 01:16:00 PM EDT  

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