Monday, July 06, 2009

The Decade's Best: Wimbledon, 2000-09

In 1999, Lindsay Davenport won Wimbledon. A year later, everything changed.

In the 2000's, SW19 was all about the Williams Sisters. In 2000, Venus won her first title. A year later, she won her second. In 2002, it was Serena's turn. By the end of the decade, thirteen of the twenty spots in the Ladies' final during the decade were filled by either Venus or Serena, and in nine of the ten years at least one was present on the court. Eight times they won singles crown, and four times they claimed the doubles, as well. Four all-Williams finals were hosted on Centre Court during an eight-year span from 2002-09, as the Williams Era of women's tennis was never more in full force that at the All-England Club.

Of course, other players experienced success at Wimbledon over the past ten years, too. Just not as much as Venus and Serena. Here's a look back at some of them:

*2000's TOP 10 - WIMBLEDON*
1. Venus Williams, USA:

The decade didn't end as she would have wished, as Serena prevented her from tying Martina Navratilova's record of decade dominance with a sixth title from 2000-09, but Venus' five wins, eight finals, 56-5 record and four doubles crowns will have to suffice. After seeing her win the title from all over the draw during the 2000's -- as a #5, #2, #14, #23 and #7 seed -- I guess we should have known something was up when Venus made her Wimbledon debut back in 1997. Back then, before she'd even played her first match, she'd managed to reach the second week thanks to a record amount of London rainfall. As if the fact that the trophy is called the Venus Rosewater Dish shouldn't have already been a raging clue.
2. Serena Williams, USA: Serena now has three Wimbledon singles titles to her credit, all of them coming at the expense of sister Venus in the final (Venus only returned the favor once at SW19, in 2008). But while Venus has never lost a Ladies final to anyone other than her sister, Serena has -- against Maria Sharapova in '04. Still, while the sisters share the four doubles titles, Serena DOES have one other advantage over Venus when it comes to Wimbledon -- SHE has a Mixed Doubles title (with Max Mirnyi in 1998), something which her big sister can't claim.
3. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA: She notched two 4th Round results, two semifinals and a singles title in '06 (the only year in the decade in which the final was sans a single Williams) over Justine Henin that solidified her Hall of Fame credentials and gave her the chance to bask in the glow of a slam title after Henin's sudden retirement against her in the Australian Open final five months before.
4. Maria Sharapova, RUS: She won the title in just her second appearance in the Ladies' draw in '04, and reached two additional semifinals and a pair of Round of 16's. But her great start as a 17-year old champion had primed everyone for so much more, so the completion of her abbreviated decade feels like something of a disappointment, especially after shoulder problems and a nearly ten-month absence from the tour played a part in back-to-back early exits in 2008-09. With a lack of the true athleticism of either the Williamses or Mauresmo, the only other 2000's champions, her one great tournament in London might turn out to be an aberration in her career SW19 results... but what an exciting aberration it was.
5. Cara Black, ZIM: A one-time Girls junior singles and doubles champ at Wimbledon (1997), Black has won more different tournament titles at SW19 than any other player. During the 2000's, she picked up three Women's Doubles crowns, as well as a Mixed Double title.
6. Lindsay Davenport, USA: She reached singles finals in '00 and '05, but could never get title #2 to go along with the one she won in 1999. In another era, Davenport's heavy groundstrokes and pulverizing serve would have served up at least one or two more Ladies' titles, but the Sisters got in the way in the 2000's. Davenport lost both her finals in the decade to Venus, one after holding a match point in the classic '05 championship.
7. Justine Henin, BEL: La Petit Taureau reached two Wimbledon finals, both three-setters against Venus ('01) and Mauresmo ('06), but Wimbledon remained the only slam she never won in her career. If she hadn't up and retired in '08 when she was solidly on top of the women's game, she likely would have gotten a few more chances to fill that hole in her resume. Who knows, she may still yet one day... but at this point in time, it appears that won't be the case.
8. Ai Sugiyama, JPN: She reached five Women's Doubles finals with four different partners, winning one title in '03 with Kim Clijsters.
9. Kim Clijsters, BEL: The Belgian reached two singles semifinals, a quarterfinal and two Round of 16's, but Wimbledon was never Clijsters' place to shine. She did win that '03 Doubles title with Sugiyama, and reached another final with her in '01, though. Of course, with her comeback, now she might get a chance for more.
10. Elena Dementieva, RUS: The Russian appeared in two semifinals in the final two years of the decade (last week losing that classic SF against Serena in which she held match point), as well as a quarterfinal and a 4th Round.
HM- Jennifer Capriati, USA: In her "second" career in tennis, Capriati reached a 4th Round, three quarterfinals and, in 2001, carved out a semifinal result exactly ten years after -- as a 15-year old -- she'd defeated Martina Navratilova in the Wimbledon QF to reach her first SF at the All-England Club.

1. Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA: Four titles, and a 29-1 career record at Wimbledon.
2. Cara Black, ZIM: Three Women's Doubles crowns, and a Mixed (she reached this year's Mixed final).
3. Ai Sugiyama, JPN: Everybody's favorite doubles partner at Wimbledon during the 2000's, though she has so far failed to reach a SW19 final with current regular partner Daniela Hantuchova.
4. Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA: The only pair other than the Sisters to win two Doubles titles during the decade.
5. Rennae Stubbs, AUS: The Aussie won Doubles crowns with Black and Lisa Raymond, and reached this year's final with Sam Stosur.
6. Martina Navratilova, USA: In 2003, at age 46, she won the Mixed title with Leander Paes to tie Billie Jean King's all-time overall (singles/doubles/mixed) Wimbledon title mark with her twentieth All-England Club championship. It came twenty-seven years after she won her first by claiming the Ladies' Doubles with Chris Evert in 1976.
7. Kim Clijsters/Ai Sugiyama, BEL/JPN: One title, on runner-up result.
8. Virginia Ruano-Pascual/Paola Suarez, ESP/ARG: They reached three finals, but never won the title.
9. Lisa Raymond, USA: One Doubles title and a runner-up.
10. Samantha Stosur, AUS: Once a Mixed Doubles champion, and twice a Doubles runner-up.

Sisters: While Venus and Serena dominated the Ladies' Singles, the sisters theme carried over to the junior competition, as well. Amongst the tennis-playing siblings who won Girls titles during the 2000's were Agnieszka Radwanska (2005), Urszula Radwanska (2007) and Kateryna Bondarenko (2004).
Laura Robson, GBR: In 2008, the cheeky teen became the first Brit to claim the Girls title since Annabel Croft in 1984.
Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA: The Thai teen was the only player during the decade to reach two Girls singles finals, in 2008 (lost to Robson) and '09 (won).
MOST INTERESTING FINAL - 2002 Vera Dushevina def. Maria Sharapova: Their careers have gone a tad differently since then.

Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA: a QF and four Round of 16's
Nadia Petrova, RUS: two QF and four Round of 16's
Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS: three QF and a Round of 16
Zheng Jie, CHN: a Doubles champion, and the first Chinese slam semifinalist in singles in 2008
Ai Sugiyama, JPN: a title and four RU in Doubles, a QF and two Round of 16's in singles
Lisa Raymond, USA: a Doubles champ and RU, she reached a singles QF and Round of 16 -- and nearly upset Venus in the 2nd Round in 2006, at one time leading the match 7-6/5-2

Justine Henin, BEL: the only slam she never won
Monica Seles, USA: the reached the QF in her only two appearances in the decade (2000 & '02), ten and eight years after her sole appearance in the Wimbledon final in '92 -- her last SW19 before her stabbing the next year
Lindsay Davenport, USA: after she failed to convert the match point against Venus in the '05 final, she never again advanced past a slam QF in her career
Virginia Ruano-Pascual/Paola Suarez, ESP/ARG: the only slam the pair, once as dominant as Black & Huber have been in recent seasons, never won as a team

[Champions That Almost Never Were]
2005 - Venus Williams was down match point to Lindsay Davenport in Final
2007 - Venus Williams was two points from loss to Alla Kudryavtseva in 1st Round
2007 - Venus Williams saw Akiko Morigami serve for match at 5-3 in 3rd set in 3rd Round
2009 - Serena Williams was down match point to Elena Dementieva in Semifinal
[A Champion Who Was Gone, Then Wasn't]
2004 - Martina Navratilova, at age 47, returned to the All-England Club in singles, defeating Catalina Castano in the 1st Round before losing to Gisela Dulko in the 2nd

2004 Final - Sharapova def. S.Williams 6-1/6-4 wasn't so much that the Russian won, it was that she did it by beating Williams at her own game. Thus, a Supernova was born.
2008 Zheng Jie
...with her sporting a ranking in triple-digits after missing time with an injury, the Club granted Zheng a wild card into the main draw. She ended up becoming the first Chinese woman to ever reach the semfinals of a slam.

2006 Final - Mauresmo def. Henin 2-6/6-3/6-4
...finally, the Frenchwoman got to celebrate.

2001 1st Rd. - Ruano-Pacual def. Hingis
...two years after her stunning 1st Round loss to Jelena Dokic in the 1st Round, it happened again to Hingis. She retired from the game not long after, and didn't play again at SW19 until 2006 following her comeback to the sport.
2007 SF - Bartoli def. Henin
...after leading 6-1/5-3, Henin was taken down in her final Wimbledon by a combination of wind and Bartoli, the most surprising Ladies' finalist of the decade. Henin had been in the finals of her previous five slams, and would win the U.S. Open title two months later.

Venus vs. Serena happened four different times in the final, and the Sisters shared eight singles titles in the decade
[#1 vs. #2]
In 2002, the championship match-up between #1-ranked Serena and #2-ranked Venus was the only time at Wimbledon this decade when the WTA's top two ranked women actually faced off against each other on the court.
2004 Doubles Final: Black/Stubbs def. L.Huber/Sugiyama. Black and Huber would win the title as a team in '05 and '07.

2001: a month after Jennifer Capriati won a 12-10 3rd set over Kim Clijsters in the Roland Garros final, the Wimbledon championship produced no such final set drama as Venus Williams bageled a young Justine Henin 6-0 in the Belgian's first major final appearance.
2008: Venus swept through both the singles and doubles draws without losing a set

Jelena Dokic's 2000 SF
...a year after her headline-grabbing QF run as a qualfier in '99, Dokic actually did better a year later, reaching her only slam career semifinal. Six years later, Dokic was again relegated to playing the Wimbledon qualifying tournament, where she lost in the opening round to Alexandra Stevenson, the same fellow qualifier who'd knocked her off in the QF in 1999. In 2009, ten years and a day after her 1st Round upset of #1-ranked Martina Hingis in '99, Dokic herself was the 1st Round Wimbledon victim of a qualifier, Tatjana Malek.
The Kiss of Life
...a month after winning the 2008 Roland Garros title, Ana Ivanovic was saved in her 2nd Round Wimbledon match against Nathalie Dechy when a match point for the Frenchwoman was denied by a net cord shot that plopped the Serb's way. Rather than breathe a sigh of relief at her stroke of luck, AnaIvo seemed to think she didn't deserve to remain in the tournament. With her confidence lacking, she lost her next match and has been in a tooth-and-nail struggle to regain her footing ever since.
Two Noteworthy Wins, but What Else?
...despite being the only player to have notched Wimbledon victories over both Martina Navratilova (2004) and Maria Sharapova (2009), Gisela Dulko has never advanced beyond the 3rd Round at SW19.

2008 2nd Rd. - Kudryavtseva d. Sharapova
and the misunderstood "bash" of Sharapova's outfit.
2006 3rd Rd. - Jankovic d. V.Williams
around the loss to the pre-Chaos JJ, Venus won three titles from 2005-08.
2005 3rd Rd. - Craybas d. S.Williams
this exit by an injured Serena matched her worst-ever Wimbledon performance, in her SW19 debut in '98 more than a year before she won her first career slam at the U.S. Open.
2005 1st Rd. - Daniilidou d. Henin
this was Henin's only pre-Round of 16 loss at a slam from 2002-08 when she wasn't being dragged down by the cytomegalovirus.
2004 2nd Rd. - Sprem d. V.Williams
the one where the umpire -- and the players -- failed to catch a scoring error in a tie-break that gave Sprem an extra point.

2005 Final - V.Williams def. Davenport 4-6/7-6/9-7
and Venus jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped. Then she jumped some more.
2009 SF - S.Williams def. Dementieva 6-7/7-5/8-6
the longest women's SF at Wimbledon in the Open Era, Serena saved a match point and went on to win the title two days later.

There were still more more Wimbledon chapters that revolved around siblings in the 2000's.

In 2007, Michaella Krajicek reached the singles quarterfinals, eleven years after her brother Richard won the men's title in 1996. He defeated Pete Sampras in the SF, a loss that ultimately prevented Sampras from winning eight straight titles from 1993-2000. Then, after Marat Safin reached the men's SF in 2008, his sister Dinara did the same in the women's singles in 2009.
Amelie Mauresmo was the only Ladies' champion ('06) during the decade who was also a Girls champ ('96) as a junior. 2004 titlist Maria Sharapova was the Girls runner-up in '02.
Most Women's Doubles titles: Serena Williams (4), Venus Williams (4), Cara Black (3), Rennae Stubbs (2), Liezel Huber (2)
Cara Black's Title-Winning Partners: Wayne Black (Mixed, her brother), Liezel Huber, Rennae Stubbs
Doubles finals with most partners: 4-Ai Sugiyama (Clijsters/Halard-Decugis/L.Huber/Srebotnik), 3-Rennae Stubbs (Black/Raymond/Stosur), 2-Cara Black (L.Huber/Stubbs), 2-Liezel Huber (Black/Sugiyama), 2-Lisa Raymond (Stosur/Stubbs)
Most Doubles Finals: Ai Sugiyama (5), Serena Williams (4), Venus Williams (4), Cara Black (3), Liezel Huber (3), Virginia Ruano-Pascual (3), Rennae Stubbs (3), Paola Suarez (3), Kim Clijsters (2), Lisa Raymond (2), Samantha Stosur (2)
Players who won both Singles and Doubles titles: Amelie Mauresmo (1/1), Serena Williams (3/4), Venus Williams (5/4)

NOTE: Martina Navratilova, a nine-time singles titlist from 1978-90, won a Mixed Doubles title in 2003.

1. Serena Williams, USA
2. Jennifer Capriati, USA
3. Lindsay Davenport, USA
4. Justine Henin, BEL
5. Maria Sharapova, RUS
6. Martina Hingis, SUI
7. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
8. Kim Clijsters, BEL
9. Venus Williams, USA
10. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
HM- Rennae Stubbs, AUS
DOUBLES TEAM: Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA/USA

1. Justine Henin, BEL
2. Virginia Ruano-Pascual, ESP
3. Mary Pierce, FRA
4. Jennifer Capriati, USA
5. Serena Williams, USA
6. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
7. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
8. Kim Clijsters, BEL
9. Anastasia Myskina, RUS
10. Paola Suarez, ARG
HM- Lisa Raymond, USA
DOUBLES TEAM: Virginia Ruano-Pascual/Paola Suarez, ESP/ARG

The quest to rank the Top 25 (formerly 20, but I just can't bring myself to cut some players without a specific mention) "Players of the Decade" has reached its third checkpoint. This cutdown of the original nomination list is a short one. Coming into Wimbledon, the list stood at 26. Sabine Lisicki became a first-time slam quarterfinalist at SW19, adding her name to the Honor Roll and being cut from the remaining group in one fell swoop. Later this year, assuming she finishes the season in the Top 10, Caroline Wozniacki will be amongst a few more added to the decade's overall list, but unless she literally pulls a "Grand" rabbit out of her hat in NYC the final list of twenty-five wouldn't be amended to include her (or some other would-be slam champ not yet having met the prerequisites for inclusion).

So, with the list STILL at 26, it's time to make the final cut of the player who will technically be included as the "Honorable Mention"-worthy #26 player of the 2000's. Here's the current list:

Victoria Azarenka
Cara Black
Jennifer Capriati
Kim Clijsters
Lindsay Davenport
Elena Dementieva
Daniela Hantuchova
Justine Henin
Martina Hingis
Liezel Huber
Ana Ivanovic
Jelena Jankovic
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Amelie Mauresmo
Anastasia Myskina
Martina Navratilova
Mary Pierce
Lisa Raymond
Virginia Ruano-Pascual
Dinara Safina
Patty Schnyder
Maria Sharapova
Rennae Stubbs
Paola Suarez
Serena Williams
Venus Williams

The choice here really comes down to two people, one an all-time great (Navratilova) and another (Azarenka) with a seeminly star-lit future. Following in the tradition of the NBA's All-Time Top 50 list from a while back, when a young Shaquille O'Neal was included largely because of what his career COULD ultimately (and did) become, I'm going with the previously-expressed thought that Azarenka will win a slam by the end of 2010 -- if Serena will ALLOW it, that is. So she makes the cut (just in case the A-Train barrels through NYC a little earlier than expected in a few months). Thus, that means Navratilova is #26.

HONORABLE MENTION (#26)- Martina Navratilova, USA

Martina's Hall of Fame career was at its height during the 1970's, '80's and '90's as she totalled up career tour title marks in both singles and doubles. But she was a factor in the 2000's, as well. In her forties, Navratilova returned to the WTA as a doubles specialist, adding twelve addition tour Doubles titles and three Mixed slam crowns. She even made brief returns to singles from 2002-05, playing both Roland Garros and Wimbledon in '04, where she got a 1st Round SW19 win at age 47. Her final doubles title came with Nadia Petrova in Montreal in '06, at 49 years and 10 months of age (a WTA record), then she became the oldest grand slam titlist ever (5 weeks from her 50th birthday) when she and Bob Bryan won the U.S. Open Mixed title a few weeks later. She just competed in -- and won, naturally -- the Senior Invitiational title at this year's Wimbledon at age 52, and could be a competitor in her FIFTH decade at the All-England Club if she participates in the series of exhibition matches again in 2010.

Until the U.S. Open, after which the official countdown of the Top 25 will begin.

*BACKSPIN'S 2000-09 HONOR ROLL, #27-109, as of July 2009*
Nicole Arendt
Shinobu Asagoe
Sybille Bammer
Marion Bartoli
Daja Bedanova
Alona Bondarenko
Kateryna Bondarenko
Kristie Boogert
Elena Bovina
Severine Bremond
Els Callens
Anna Chakvetadze
Chan Yung-Jan
Chuang Chia-Jung
Dominika Cibulkova
Sorana Cirstea
Amanda Coetzer
Eleni Daniilidou
Nathalie Dechy
Casey Dellacqua
Mariaan de Swardt
Jelena Dokic
Silvia Farina Elia
Clarisa Fernandez
Tatiana Golovin
Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Julie Halard-Decugis
Anke Huber
Janette Husarova
Kaia Kanepi
Sesil Karatantcheva
Vania King
Anna Kournikova
Michaella Krajicek
Lina Krasnoroutskaya
Li Na
Li Ting
Elena Likhovtseva
Sabine Lisicki
Petra Mandula
Marta Marrero
Conchita Martinez
Anabel Medina-Garrigues
Sania Mirza
Alicia Molik
Corina Morariu
Miriam Oremans
Shahar Peer
Flavia Pennetta
Tatiana Perebiynis
Kveta Peschke
Nadia Petrova
Kimberly Po-Messerli
Agnieszka Radwanska
Anastasia Rodionova
Chanda Rubin
Lucie Safarova
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
Mara Santangelo
Barbara Schett
Francesca Schiavone
Monica Seles
Magui Serna
Antonella Serra-Zanetti
Meghann Shaughnessy
Anna Smashnova
Karolina Sprem
Katarina Srebnotnik
Samantha Stosur
Carla Suarez-Navarro
Ai Sugiyama
Sun Tiantian
Agnes Szavay
Tamarine Tanasugarn
Patricia Tarabini
Nathalie Tauziat
Nicole Vaidisova
Dominique van Roost
Elena Vesnina
Yan Zi
Zheng Jie
Fabiola Zuluaga
Vera Zvonareva

All for now.

...Players of the 2000's: Nomination List, Decade's Best: Australian Open 2000-09, Decade's Best: Roland Garros 2000-09


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Tue Jan 04, 08:39:00 AM EST  

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