Monday, July 13, 2009

Wk.27- Nine Notions of Note

Is it a lingering case of post-Wimbledon Daily Backspin burnout that has led us to another version of a "musings" opening this week rather than the usual comments that would herald the accomplishments of Week 27 champs Agnes Szavay and Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez?

Maybe. But, hey, there were enough loose ends to warrent tying them all up like this, so here it goes.

1. Oh, please don't let this story about Simona Halep go truly wide... say, to ESPN. It'd just be another distraction that would be overly covered in lieu of giving the tour its just due.
2. News of Jelena Dokic being diagnosed with mononucleosis and prescribed a few weeks of total rest perhaps explains a bit about her recent on-court troubles. While her off-court world continues to consistently provide fodder for speculation and rumors (Damir possibly being near a diabetic coma, Jelena deciding not to visit him in jail, Damir's girlfriend reporting an extortion attempt, yaddayaddayadda), her actual tennis career has to be considered something "in limbo" again, too. Considering that bouts with mono essentially ended Mario Ancic's career, and last season turned Roger Federer from "the best player ever" into "the second best player in his prime" before he fully recovered and reclaimed his current position, there's no guarentee that this latest physical issue won't dog Dokic for quite a while, and she might never really shake it in time to reclaim the form she showed in Melbourne in January. Of course, things might be just fine in a month or so, too. How's that for a bit a speculation, rumor and hedging-of-bets?
3. Like Dokic, whose game I've always liked to compare to her's, Sania Mirza just can't ever quite catch a break, can she? No wonder she has such a hard time keeping her head above the rankings waters (barely finishing in the Top 100 last year).
4. The U.S. Open Series ads have begun to air, and the one being used to promote the ATP event in Washington, D.C. is quite hard to take. It features three-time D.C. champ Andy Roddick, hair done up in a fauxhawk, chin jutting forward in a too-tight camera shot that makes him look like he's trying to be tough. With a tone of total disinterest, in a monotone voice, he manages to spit out the Series '09 slogan -- "It must be love." -- it a way that couldn't for a second be seen by anyone associated with the tournament as an effective plea for fans to come out to see some tennis. This isn't the Roddick who re-captured the fans' -- especially American ones -- imaginations and hearts at Wimbledon, changing his game and his attitude and making people actually want to see him win rather than fall on his face yet again. It's the "punk" who was so hard to love not that long ago, and it really does a disservice to him to re-visit "old Andy" now. Of course, it really says more about the people who put together these ads, who were either clueless about the horrid nature of the line reading, or are too afraid to ask the players to do multiple takes so that something useful and effective could be caught on camera. Remember, this is the same group that shot, and allowed to air for two summers, the ad where the players were all on buses for the Series and Venus Williams says, "Road trip!" in a way that caused me to yell at the screen every time I saw the ad because she wrongfully stressed the word "trip" rather than "road," as was obviously the intent of whoever came up with the line in the first place. One need only to look at the wonderfully droll ESPN SportsCenter ads with Roger Federer to see the type of creative things that could be done with so many top players filming ads for the Series. The ads would be a golden opportunity to promote both the men's AND women's tours in the States, highlighting the personalities that are so often ignored, and might even become YouTube fascninations (EXAMPLE: "The U.S. Open Series, Starring Jelena Jankovic," who talks on and on and on and on, and she's still talking even as the commercial ends, cutting her off in mid-sentence). Naturally, that never seems to come about each summer. But, of course, I guess this sort of thing goes along hand-in-hand with the "success" of the Series itself, which always seems to have more potential than actual bite every year.
5. Caroline Wozniacki had yet another good result last week in Bastad, tying Dinara Safina for the tour season lead with her sixth appearance in a final. Still, one can't help but wonder why she was bothering to play an event on red clay -- her 29th tournament in the last twelve months) -- in a week sandwiched between the grass court season and summer hard courts. Maybe the lure of an event in Sweden, at least somewhat close to her Denmark home, was the reason? After all, she played and won a title in Stockholm last July, and then even played (and won again) an ITF event in her hometown of Odense weeks after the official WTA schedule had ended last fall, too. But, still.... even new 19-year olds need a little rest. Hey, at least she's taking a little time off THIS week.

A big congrats to Monica Seles on her Hall of Fame enshrinement this weekend in Newport. Which reminds me, I've got to pick up her autobiography so that I can finish it before the next Robert Langdon book from Dan Brown comes out in September.
7. I just loved the comment from James Blake I read today. "Loved" meaning "rolled my eyes and took note of his latest excuse for losing a match." Taking the place of Roddick on the USA's Davis Cup team this weekend against Croatia he, of course, lost the big match that led to the 3-2 loss by the Americans. Afterward, he noted how there was so much more pressure playing the "#1 singles" role than his usual #2. Of course, being in the "easier" #2 slot hasn't prevented him form losing big Davis Cup matches in the past, including matches in which he led two sets to love, so I'm not sure what his point was supposed to be.
8. This weekend might not have marked the beginning of the Szummer of Szavay, but a clay court title run in Budapest was still a good sign for Agnes Szavay as she heads off for the North American hard court season. Two years ago at this time, the then-18 year old began to look like a player with a special future. She reached three finals that szummer, winning in Palermo and Beijing (the WTA event) and putting a beating on Svetlana Kuznetsova in the New Haven final before she had to retire with a back injury. She reached as high as #13 in the rankings back then, but totally fell off the table in '08. She kept her won-lost record about .500, barely (going 26-25), but suffered twelve one-match-and-out results and lost six times to players with rankings in triple-digits. Every draw was a game of "Hungarian Roulette" that Szavay invariably lost. 2009 has been different, though. She's got Top 10 wins over Ana Ivanovic, Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams, and with her ranking up to #27 she's working her way back into the discussion of young players who could make a big move over the next year. She's still just 20 years old, and only Azarenka, Wozniacki, Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszska Radwanska are younger than her in the Top 20 (#25 Sabine Lisicki is, as well, of the players ranked above her).
9. Just call MJMS the season's only TRIPLE threat. She's a two-time singles champ. A three-time doubles titlist. And the only player who's really been able to get under Serena's skin in 2009... simply by refusing to admit a ball hit her arm, even though all angles of reality showed that it did. Hmmm, I bet she could get a job at NBC after she retires.

I was going to add something about Kim Clijsters being back soon, and that I was going to be posting a Backspin Quiz about her career in the next week or so, as well. But that would have given me TEN notions, and I'd have had to change the title. So this one doesn't count.

(Plus, I'm not sure it's really a "notion," anyway. Not that that's stopped me before, since I've done a little "musings" section like this that I called a "Non-Sequitur Jubilee," even though there really weren't any TRUE non-sequiturs involved.)


BASTAD, SWEDEN (Int'l $220K/red clay)
S: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez def. Caroline Wozniacki 7-5/6-4
D: Dulko/Pennetta d. Llagostera-Vives/Martinez-Sanchez

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (Int'l $220K/red clay)
S: Agnes Szavay def. Patty Schnyder 2-6/6-4/6-2
D: Kleybanova/Niculescu d. Bondarenko/Bondarenko

after not being able to rise to any occasion in '08, she got her first title since '07 in Bastad. Wins over Timea Bacsinszky and Alona Bondrarenko were preceded and followed, though, by more impressive outings. In the 2nd Round, Szavay came back to win a match against Tathiana Garbin in which the veteran served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd set, and in the final the Hungarian came back from a set down to knock off Patty Schnyder in the final. It's nice to have the Valkyrie in the winner's circle again, right where she belongs.
RISERS: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN & Gisela Dulko/ARG
with Wimbledon behind her, C-Woz was back on the courts in Sweden, reaching her sixth singles title of the season with victories over the likes of Petra Kvitova, Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta. Also back on the clay, Dulko put together a cool two-headed week of success, reaching the Bastad singles QF with wins over Marta Domachowska, Sorana Cirstea and Dominika Cibulkova, then winning the doubles titles with Pennetta.
SURPRISE: Ellen Allgurin/SWE
barely 15-year old Swede Allgurin got a wild card into the Bastad draw and, in her tour debut, got a 1st Round win over Ksenia Palkina. She lost to CSN in the 2nd Round, by a respectable 6-1/6-4 score. With her third pro tournament in hand, she made her debut in the rankings at #680 today.
VETERANS: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP & Patty Schnyder/SUI
26-year old MJMS is turning out to be the classic "late bloomer"/"most improved player" of 2009. Her Bastad title was her second of the season, and her string of wins over Kaia Kanepi, Carla Suarez-Navarro, Gisela Dulko and Wozniacki was quite impressive (even if Dulko did get a measure of revenge with Pennetta, defeating MJMS and Nuria Llagostera-Vives in the doubles final). She's the second player, with Serena, to reach both the singles and doubles finals at an event on TWO separate occasions this year. 30-year old Schnyder, with victories over Alisa Kleybanova and Edina Gallovits, reached her first singles final of the season in Budapest, losing to home favorite Szavay in three sets.
FRESH FACES: Petra Martic/CRO & Maryna Zanevska/UKR
in Budapest, 18-year of Martic qualified and reached her second career tour QF after upsetting Lucie Safarova and Mariya Koryttseva. Today, she successfully made it through qualifying in Prague, as well. 15-year old Zanevska, a "Junior Star" winner in Week 10, qualified for and won her first career ITF crown in a $10K in Brussels, defeating Katarzyna Piter 0-6/7-5/7-5 in the final. It was just the second pro event for the Ukrainian, who is apparently working out of the academy being run by Justine Henin and Carlos Rodriguez.
DOWN: Alize Cornet/FRA
Cornet is this year's version of 2008's Szavay, a player who seemed on the cusp of something really good in January but has found herself falling and not being to be up early in almost every tournament she's played in 2009. In Budapest, where the Pastry was the defending champ, it happened in the 2nd Round when she was knocked off by Shahar Peer 6-2/6-0.
ITF PLAYERS: Polona Hercog/SLO & Julia Goerges/GER
since I didn't pick an ITF Player last week, I'll cover the last two weeks here. A weekend ago, Hercog won her fourth ITF crown of '09 when she claimed the $100K in Cuneo, Italy. This weekend, Goerges took the $100K event in Biarritz, getting wins over Akgul Amanmuradova, Lucie Hradecka and Ekaterina Dzehalevich.
JUNIOR STAR: Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER
the 15-year old German has been on something of a tear of late. Over the last two weeks, she's won the G2 Biesterbos Open in the Netherlands and the G1 German Juniors event, defeating Yulia Putintseva in the final of the latter. Over the past two months, she's reached four consecutive G1/G2 finals, winning three titles in the process.

1. Bud 2nd - Szavay d. Garbin
Garbin served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd. Szavay would have lost this one ten times out of ten a season ago (of course, 9.9 times out of ten she would have lost in straight sets... in the 1st Round).
2. Bast F - Martinez-Sanchez d. Wozniacki
C-Woz has now reached finals on four different surfaces in 2009, more than any other player on tour, but didn't get a tour lead-tying third '09 title as her 19th birthday present on Saturday.
3. Bud F - Szavay d. Schnyder
This was Schnyder's twenty-fifth career singles final (11-14), and one has to wonder what the odds are that it very well could be her last.
4. Bast QF - Wozniacki d. Kirilenko
Wozniacki is now 2-0 against Kirilenko since it was announced by adidas that she'll replace the Russian as the sole model for Stella McCartney's tennis line.
5. Palermo Q's - Karatantcheva d. Lucic
Just thought I'd include this one to satiate some of those "where are they now?" pangs. Sesil ultimately got olgasavchuked (a nod again to Diane, from whom I'm borrowing that one again) today in the final round of Palermo qualifying.
HM- $10K Grapevine, TX Final - Tetreault d. Dubois
The Battle of Canada, non-Wozniak province, in Texas. Tetreault has now claimed three ITF titles this season.

**2009 WTA FINALS**
6...Dinara Safina (2-4)
3...Victoria Azarenka (3-0)
3...Serena Williams (2-1)
3...Elena Dementieva (2-1)
3...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-1)
3...Venus Williams (2-1)

3-0...Victoria Azarenka
2-0...Vera Zvonareva

4...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (green clay/red clay/grass/hard)
3...Venus Williams (grass/hard/red clay)
2...Marion Bartoli (red clay/hard)
2...Li Na (grass/red clay)
2...Virginie Razzano (grass/hard)
2...Dinara Safina (red clay/hard)
2...Yanina Wickmayer (grass/red clay)
2...Serena Williams (grass/hard)

3...Russia (Kuznetsova/Safina)
3...SPAIN (MARTINEZ-SANCHEZ/Medina-Garrigues)
2...France (Bartoli/Rezai)

4...Andrea Temesvari, 1982-85
3...AGNES SZAVAY, 2007-09
1...Rita Kuti Kis, 2000
1...Zsofia Gubacsi, 2001

[w/ most recent title]
Victoria Azarenka, BLR (2009: 3)
Elena Bovina, RUS (2004)
Gisela Dulko, ARG (2008)
Daniela Hantuchova, SVK (2007)
Michaella Krajicek, NED (2006)
Shahar Peer, ISR (2006)
Virginia Ruano-Pascual, ESP (2003)
Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA (2009: 1)
Iroda Tulyaganova, UZB (2001)
Zheng Jie, CHN (2006)

PALERMO, ITALY (Int'l $220K/red clay)
08 Final: Errani d. Koryttseva
09 Top Seeds: Pennetta/Schnyder

Pennetta d. Martinez-Sanchez
Dulko d. Errani
Dulko d. Pennetta

...yikes! Talk about a roll of the dice. Are there any two more dicey (dice... dicey, get it?) picks than perpetually underachieving Dulko and Pennetta-as-a-#1 seed? Of course, I've had seven champion picks reach finals and lose this year, so I guess it doesn't really matter, does it? Even good picks often turn out to be bad ones in the end.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (Int'l $220K/red clay)
08 Final: Zvonareva d. Azarenka
09 Top Seeds: Schiavone/Bammer

Schiavone d. Suarez-Navarro
Hradecka d. Benesova
Hradecka d. Schiavone

...Szavay playing at home in Hungary worked out last week, so why not Hradecka in the Czech Republic?

All for now.


Blogger Eric said...

doesn't venus have another final on clay (acapulco)?

Tue Jul 14, 09:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

They should probably leave Roddick out of those ads. Remember the 2005 "Andy's Mojo" ads? And then he lost in the first round. The only good part was that after Maria won a tough match and she was asked how she got through it, she said "I thinkk I found Andy's mojo."

I liked the road trip ads (yeah, the Venus thing bothered me, too), but I guess enough was enough. My favorite of all of them was you-know-who, looking bored as hell, saying she brought "the paparazzi." (I also love her Tennis Channel "Where else would I be?" promotion.)

Tue Jul 14, 10:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Eric - You're right. Thanks. I changed that. I had that third final in my notes, but I missed it when I compiled the list. :(

Diane - Yeah, I think the Road Trip ads were probably the best they've had. I'm not sure the "It Must Be Love" theme is going to work at all (sort of like the ATP's old "New Balls" promotion). I think if they'd just focus on the personality of the individual players in the ads, they really wouldn't need to come up with some questionable overarching theme each season.

Thu Jul 16, 04:22:00 PM EDT  

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