Saturday, October 31, 2009

2009 Regional Honors

The 2009 Backspin Awards are still a week away, so consider this something of a mini-preview... region by region.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Serena Williams, USA
POY (RUNNER-UP): Venus Williams, USA
RISER: Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
VETERAN: Liezel Huber, USA
FRESH FACE: Melanie Oudin, USA
COMEBACK: Alexa Glatch, USA
DOWN: Mashona Washington, USA
ITF PLAYER: Valerie Tetreault, CAN
UNDERRATED: Carly Gullickson, USA
DOUBLES: Serena Williams/Venus Williams, USA
JUNIOR: Sloane Stephens, USA

POY (RUNNER-UP): Mailen Auroux, ARG
RISER: Gabriela Paz, VEN
SURPRISE: Bianca Botto, PER
VETERAN: Rossana de los Rios, PER
FRESH FACE: Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
COMEBACK: Catalina Castano, COL
DOWN: Mariana Duque Marino, COL
ITF PLAYER: Meilen Auroux, ARG
UNDERRATED: Maria Irigoyen, ARG
DOUBLES: Gisela Dulko, ARG
JUNIOR: Camila Silva, CHI

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Samantha Stosur, AUS
RISER: Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai, TPE/CHN
SURPRISE: Zhang Shuai, CHN
VETERAN: Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
FRESH FACE: Chang Kai-Chen, TPE
COMEBACK: Jelena Dokic, AUS
DOWN: Chan Yung-Jan/Chuang Chia-Jung, TPE
ITF PLAYER: Sacha Jones, NZL
UNDERRATED: Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ
DOUBLES: Samantha Stosur/Rennae Stubbs, AUS
JUNIOR: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA

POY (RUNNER-UP): Cara Black, ZIM
RISER: Pemra Ozgen, TUR
SURPRISE: Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR
VETERAN: Cara Black, ZIM
COMEBACK: Shahar Peer, ISR
DOWN: Natalie Grandin, RSA
ITF PLAYER: Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
UNDERRATED: Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
DOUBLES: Cara Black, ZIM
JUNIOR: Chanel Simmonds, RSA

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Svetlana Kuznetsova
POY (RUNNER-UP): Dinara Safina
RISER: Vera Zvonareva
SURPRISE: Elena Vesnina
VETERAN: Elena Dementieva
FRESH FACE: Ekaterina Makarova
COMEBACK: Maria Sharapova
DOWN: Anna Chakvetadze
ITF PLAYER: Regina Kulikova
UNDERRATED: Vera Dushevina
DOUBLES: Alisa Kleybanova
JUNIOR: Ksenia Pervak

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
POY (RUNNER-UP): Flavia Pennetta, ITA
RISER: Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
SURPRISE: Melinda Czink, HUN
VETERAN: Francesca Schiavone, ITA
FRESH FACE: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
COMEBACK: Kim Clijsters, BEL
DOWN: Ana Ivanovic, SRB
ITF PLAYER: Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
UNDERRATED: Petra Kvitova, CZE
DOUBLES: Nuria Llagostera-Vives/Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
JUNIOR: Kristina Mladenovic, FRA

Hey, it's never too early to look ahead to next year. Two months from the kickoff of the 2010 season, the upcoming campaigns of which players would seem to be the most intriguing? Well, here are a few to watch...

Justine Henin & Kim Clijsters, BEL: Make no mistake, their '10 results will not only be judged against the field and their respective pasts, but also in comparison to one another. If Henin opens with a huge trip Down Under in January, will Clijsters' will wane? If Clijsters carries over her Open success to Melbourne, surely no one will wonder if Henin might lose HER comeback desire. Ah, a year of Backspin "back to the future" fun awaits.
Sabine Lisicki, GER: if she can stay on the court, might a Top 10 run be in her near future?
Melanie Oudin, USA: So far, the U.S. Open letdown has been in full effect. Next year, the pressure to improve even more will be still greater. Can she be continue to be as tough as she was this summer?
Victoria Azarenka, BLR: In 2009, the A-Train both arrived on schedule and derailed at times throughout the season. Early in the season, she won her first title but literally couldn't take the heat in Melbourne. At the end of the season, she secured her Top 10 ranking but went out in the Doha heat with cramps. In between, at times, she looked like the next big WTA star, then imploded in a crash of anger and broken rackets at others. Which will she be in 2010?
Yanina Wickmayer, BEL: Is the WTA big enough for THREE Belgians in the Top 15? How about the Top 10?
Maria Sharapova, RUS: Back for a full season, with her serve on her side... maybe. If so, 2010 is going to be a great, wild ride for all.
Urszula Radwanska, POL: By the end of next season, could Agnieszka be feeling Urszula's breath on the back of her neck when it comes to determining who's the best player in the family?
Laura Robson & Heather Watson, GBR: There's safety in numbers, and England now has TWO young stars to root for. But which is going to have the brightest future?
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS: Back-to-back late-season wins over Venus could mark the end of Pavlyuchenkova's apprenticeship and the beginning of the title-winning phase of her pro career.
Sarah Gronert, GER: If she starts playing in and advancing through tour qualifiying rounds, might the whole controversy about Gronert's participation be sparked yet again?
Klaudia Jans & Alicja Rosolska, POL: In their mid-twenties and one of the most regular, day-in-and-day-out teams on the tour, their results keep getting better.
Chelsey Gullickson, USA: Will the Georgia Bulldog sophomore star carry over her in-season success and win the NCAA women's singles championship in 2010?

Looking to "buy stock" in a few players for 2010? Getting cold feet and thinking you should "sell" your holdings in one of those past investments? Here are a few WTA "market tips"... take them to heart at your own peril.

...she's got a thunderous serve as a weapon, and she's still only 14.

SOUTH AMERICA: Roxane Vaisemberg/BRA & Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
...there aren't many young South Americans winning ITF titles these days, but Vaisemberg (20) and Cepede Royg (17) did in '09.

...her late-season win over Safina was just one of the name-dropping moments that's pushed the 18-year old to the cusp of the Top 100.

...with Dubai and the slump behind her, Peer should be ready to rock-n-roll again next season.

RUSSIA: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova stop: Top 20.

REST OF EUROPE: Sabine Lisicki, GER
...please stay healthy, please stay healthy, please stay healthy.

...time catches up with everyone eventually.

SOUTH AMERICA: Rossana de los Rios, PAR
...well, I had to pick someone, and DLR pulled the short straw.

ASIA/PACIFIC: Rennae Stubbs, AUS
...TV is calling, though she might be able to balance the two for a little while longer (of course, that's exactly what I said a year ago, and while she DID go title-less for the first time since 1991, Stubbs was still a Top 5 doubles player in '09).

...yeah, I know she's already retired. So, unless she's got a little Kimiko in her, your nest egg might be in danger if you held on to your Obziler stock for too long.

RUSSIA: Dinara Safina
...2009 was probably the best chance she's ever going to have to win a slam (ditto for Jelena Jankovic).

REST OF EUROPE: Kim Clijsters, BEL
...after she won the Open in '05, she didn't seem to really care if she won another slam. After winning her first in KC II, might the same happen? I know I won't be investing any money in the possibility that that WON'T be the case again.

NORTH AMERICA: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
...2009 was a year of change for newlywed Bethanie. Maybe after getting her bearings, she can finally go about trying to win that first WTA singles title in 2010.

...she'll forget about blowing that Fed Cup match against Oudin. Some day.

ASIA/PACIFIC: Marina Erakovic/NZL & Casey Dellacqua/AUS
...after their promising careers were interrupted by injuries this season, it'll be a case of going back to the grind in '10.

...she looked promising in '08, but her coach made more news complaining about Gronert than his charge did on the court in '09.

RUSSIA: Nadia Petrova
...there are still some big moments left in those aching bones yet. Hopefully.

...a series of bad days and bad draws forestalled the Valkyrie's seemingly-accomplished '09 return to form. In 2010, maybe Szavay will be able to maintain her momentum all season long.

All for now.

...Revolving Doors - 2010 WTA Guide Preview
...2009 Regional Honors & '10 All-Intriguing Team and Market Tips
...The Decade's Best: Top 25 Players & Final Awards
...Backspin Awards (coming soon)
...Ms. Backspin (coming soon)
...WTA Yearbook (coming soon)
...BACKSPIN "WHAT IF?" SPECIAL (featuring "Anna Kournikova") (this offseason)
...ITF Backspin (every Monday throughout November & December)
...2010 Preview Series (in December)


Blogger Diane said...

I think, of all the players to still have a bit of faith in, Szavay is the best bet. I have no idea what's been going on with her, but she's simply too good to have another big slump. I hope.

I'm thinking of buying a little Shvedova, too--just to balance my portfolio.

Mon Nov 02, 03:00:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I just don't want to be charged with any "insider trading." :D

Mon Nov 02, 03:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jeppe said...

I'm keeping my faith in Safina and hopes she gets it together, wins a Slam and remains in the top 5.

I agree with you about Peer, Pav and Lisicki - they should move up. And I like Radwanska to establish herself at the top despite the increased competition.

By the way, there are very few teenagers at the top these days (when Caroline turns 20 in July, there may be zero in the top 30!) What's going on?

Thu Nov 05, 03:53:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, Pavlyuchenkova will only be 19 next year, so there's her. Oudin might be a consistent Top 30 presence by the end of 2010, too. But, yeah, the huge numbers of teens at the top of the game has seemed to slow down a bit.

I'm not sure why, but that is an interesting question to ponder. Hmmm... maybe it could have something to do with the physical nature of the game these days. Between the heavy hitters and long schedule, it's a true grind getting through a complete season without missing time due to injuries (just look at the carnage at the SEC), and it takes time for young players to get themselves conditioned for such a week in, week out situation.

Plus, the "Capriati Rule" limits the number of events that teenagers can play on tour when they're on their way up the ranks, and that is probably slowly down their development a bit. The rule is there to protect the teenagers, both emotionally and physically, so that they have longer careers and don't burn out before they turn 20, but there's always been an argument that it hinders the truly exceptionally talented players in that age group (as say Graf was, or Hingis) during what are important developmental years. That the number of teens in the Top 20/30 has dwindled is probably evidence of just that on some level.

Sat Nov 07, 11:47:00 PM EST  

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