Monday, September 21, 2009

Wk.37- Comebacks X 10

With the hangover from the wild and crazy just-completed U.S. Open still in full effect in most corners, the WTA and ITF head honchos cared little, as both respective tours played on last week. But, oddly enough, the underlying theme was STILL comebacks... times ten:

1) Justine Henin's return to the WTA tour is still in the whispers-and-rumor phase at the moment, with nothing official to report. Of course, this doesn't mean that your friendly neighborhood Backspinner doesn't enter each day itching to see the breaking news of a scheduled press conference in Belgium crossing the wire at any hour.

2) La Petit Taureau's silence didn't extend to Alicia Molik, though. After retiring last year with an elbow injury after a long fight with illness, Molik made a very under-the-radar doubles return in New Haven and the U.S. Open last month, going 0-2 with partner Meghann Shaughnessy. Last week, the Aussie Steamer hit the ITF courts in singles in Darwin, Australia (make your own comment about the evolution of Molik's second career here) in her first of seven appearances in challengers Down Under in the season's closing months. How did she do? Well, she won... the title. Two of them, in fact, as she won nine matches in all to claim both the singles and doubles championships. She hadn't played in an official singles match since the Olympics in Beijing last summer.

3) Quell the notion of an early fall comeback from Nadia Petrova, at least for this week. She couldn't follow-up her U.S. Open spark when she hopped, skipped and jumped over to Quebec City. Hmmm, maybe she shouldn't have hopped, skipped OR jumped... she ended up retiring in the QF.

4) Shahar Peer DID carry over HER Open success, though. After back-to-back upsets in New York, she went all the way to China and won her first tour singles title in three years.

5) Kimiko Date-Krumm hasn't won a tour title since 1996. She still hasn't, but her Guangzhou run last week DID include a spot in the doubles final. She turns 39 next Monday.

6) Jelena Dokic's second Act of her '09 comeback hasn't come off very well. There was a sense that her QF run at the Australian Open might end up being her season's high point, and that's how things have turned out. Fatigue and inconsistency have taken turns overwhelming her season as the year has gone on, and it continued in a challenger in Sofia last week, where she lost in the 2nd Round to Andrea Hlavackova. Since her QF run in Melbourne, she's gone just 8-10 in WTA/ITF matches (2-7 in WTA main draw contests) and only advanced past the 2nd Round once in any event.

7) one-time WTA up-and-comer Karolina Sprem has yet to make another dent on the big tour, but she's fashioned something of a resurgence on the ITF circuit lately. It continued this weekend when she won a $50K in Mestre, Italy with wins over Ekaterina Bychkova, Kristina Kucova, Arina Rodionova and Yvonne Meusburger.

8) Kim Clijsters won't be playing the WTA events in Tokyo or Beijing, as she'd previously scheduled. Not a surprise, since she didn't likely think she'd have so many matches and so much success behind her already in KCII.

9) Martina Hingis isn't back on the WTA tour (hmmm, when does that suspension that she chose not to fight end, anyway?), but she is back in the spotlight. Well, she WAS, at least. Following in the footsteps of Monica Seles on the American version of "Dancing with the Stars," the Swiss Miss just became the first star voted off the British version of the show. All right, who's next?

10) As for Serena... well, I guess the tour is still "investigating" the "incident." Who knew a thirty-second blow-up in front of tens of thousands of fans, millions of TV viewers and in full view and sound of cameras and microphones could have so many "layers" to investigate. Why, maybe in a few years, Bill Kurtis will host an A&E special called "The Bystanders Who Overheard Serena" to truly get to the bottom of the issue. Well, either that, or he'll join her in another of those fun commercials he's been in recently where he could challenge Williams to a contest... "on the internet." Although, I'm not sure Serena could contort her face into such a perplexed visage as Andy Roddick did in HIS losing ad battle with Kurtis. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.


GUANGZHOU, CHINA (Int'l $220K/hard indoor)
S: Shahar Peer def. Alberta Brianti 6-3/6-4
D: Govortsova/Poutchek d. Date-Krumm/T.Sun

QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC CAN (Int'l $220K/hard outdoor)
S: Melinda Czink def. Lucie Safarova 4-6/6-3/7-5
D: King/Zahlavova-Strycova d. Arvidsson/Bremond-Beltrame

once a Top 15 player, Peer went into Guangzhou with her ranking hovering in the high #50's. This season, she'd made more news when she WASN'T ALLOWED to play than she had when she actually did. After a recent slight upswing in results, which included U.S. Open wins over Agnes Szavay and Carla Suarez-Navarro, her trip to China resulted in her first final since 2007 (Memphis) and first tour singles crown since taking Istanbul in '06. Her string of victories came at the expense of the likes of Akgul Amanmuradova, Chang Yung-Jan, Peng Shuai and Alberta Brianti in the final.
RISERS: Melinda Czink/HUN & Vania King/USA
Czink, 26, has always sort of existed on the fringes of the tour, making a one-day story here and there with a nice win or a close loss against a top player. But until Sunday in Quebec City she'd never actually won a tour title of any kind. Her singles crown came with wins over Severine Bremond-Beltrame, Nadia Petrova, Aleksandra Wozniak and Lucie Safarova. She's the oldest first-time singles champ on tour this year (beating out Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, who won her maiden title earlier this season, by a few months on title-winning day). Meanwhile, King had a great summer with WTT success and some wins as a wild card in the U.S. Open. She began her fall campaign by claiming her second doubles crown of the season, winning in Quebec City with Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova
SURPRISE: Alicia Molik/AUS
Molik sort of put Clijsters to shame, you know. I mean, Kim's only won ONE title in HER comeback. Ha. Yeah, putting things into perspective, Molik's ITF title in the Darwin $25K came with wins over a series of players -- Emily Webley-Smith, Isabella Holland, Sacha Jones & Sally Peers -- who haven't COMBINED to accomplish as much as former Top 10er Molik has, but after the battles with illness and injury that ultimately led to her retirement last year, coming back and winning five straight matches to take a title in her first tournament is quite an accomplishment. Winning four matches with Nicole Kriz to win the doubles was just icing on the cake... or should I say Vegemite on the bread, even though just the thought of that makes my stomach turn?
VETERANS: Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN & Alberta Brianti/ITA
38-year old Date-Krumm hadn't played in a tour final since 1996 before her runner-up result with Sun Tiantian in the Guangzhou doubles final. Add to that she almost upset singles #1 seed Anabel Medina-Garrigues in the 1st Round, too. Brianti, 29, reached her first career tour singles final in Guangzhou, losing to Peer after getting wins over Lenka Wienerova & Ayumi Morita. She's something of a late bloomer, as the Italian's first career SF came in Portoroz earlier this season.
FRESH FACE: Ayumi Morita/JPN
the 19-year old reached her second SF of the season in Guangzhou, getting wins over Abigail Spears and Olga Savchuk.
DOWN: Nadia Petrova/RUS
Petrova had an awful summer run on hard courts that often included losses to Maria Sharapova. Then she make something of a surprisingly adept U.S. Open run, lasting until the Round of 16 and her sacrifice on the Altar of Oudin, "for the good of the tournament." In Quebec City as both the defending champion and the #1 seed, one hoped that she'd continue her momentum to kick off a better 4Q. Umm, nope. She went out in the QF, retiring after one set against eventual champ Melinda Czink.
ITF PLAYER: Aleksandra Dulgheru/ROU
Dulgheru, who won a tour event in Warsaw earlier this year, won her second ITF crown of '09 in a $100K in Sofia. She notched wins over Marta Domachowska, Petra Martic and Tathiana Garbin in a three-set final, 6-7/7-5/6-1.
JUNIOR STAR: Irina Khromacheva/RUS
they just keep coming, don't they? The 14-year old Hordette, #25 in the junior rankings, won the G1 Kentucky International Junior Tennis Derby in Lexington, defeating China's top junior, Zheng Saisai (#31), in the final.

1. Darwin $25K Final - Molik d. Peers
This comeback thing seems to be contagious. Hmmm, I wonder if someone else is paying attention?
2. Quebec City Final - Czink d. Safarova
Last week was one of those occasional good weeks for Safarova that make you wonder why she doesn't have more of them. She probably pushed her luck by knocking out Quebec native Stephanie Dubois in the 1st Round. Bad Quebec karma, you know.
3. Guangzhou Final - Peer d. Brianti
See what Dubai missed?
4. Guangzhou 1st Rd. - Medina-Garrigues d. Date-Krumm
Oh, Date-Krumm was SO CLOSE to maybe her biggest win since the Clinton administration... or since George H.W. Bush threw up in the lap of the Japanese prime minister. Whichever floats your boat.
5. Quebec City 1st Rd. - Czink d. Petrova
...7-6, ret.
You know I had to say it. So, here it goes... oh, Nadia.

Brisbane - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (age 19)
Hobart - Petra Kvitova, CZE (age 18)
Bogota - Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP (age 26)
Charleston - Sabine Lisicki, GER (age 19)
Estoril - Yanina Wickmayer, BEL (age 19)
Strasbourg - Aravane Rezai, FRA (age 22)
Warsaw - Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU (age 19)
Birmingham - Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK (age 20)
Bad Gastein - Andrea Petkovic, GER (age 21)
Istanbul - Vera Dushevina, RUS (age 22)

Miami - Victoria Azarenka - def. S.Williams in Final

[last title]
Agnieszka Radwanska, POL [2008]
Lisa Raymond, USA [2003]
Lucie Safarova, CZE [2008]
Katarina Srebotnik, SLO [2005]

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (Int'l $220K/hard court indoor)
08 Final: Kirilenko d. Stosur
09 Top Seeds: Hantuchova/Medina-Garrigues

Kirilenko d. Hantuchova
Cirstea d. Bammer
Cirstea d. Kirilenko

...Kirilenko has been to the Seoul final the last two years. Three of her five career titles have come in Asia, while five of her eight career singles finals were in tournaments held on the continent. I just can't bring myself to pick her to defend her title, but I'll predict another final (while going with Cirstea to "defend" HER title from a year ago, only in a different week in a different city, as she won the 2008 version of this week's other tournament in Tashkent).

TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN (Int'l $220K/hard court outdoor)
08 Final: Cirstea d. Lisicki
09 Top Seeds: Shvedova/Peer

Shvedova d. Voegele
Voskoboeva d. Peer
Shvedova d. Voskoboeva

...sure, Peer is the in-form player here. But the possibility of a post-title letdown, plus the chance to pick the WTA's first-ever all-Kazakh singles final proved too irresistible a force to overcome (even if Voegele vs. Peer might be a more likely pairing).

All for now.


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