Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Decade's Best: Players #21-25

Well, a season's worth of "Decade's Best" Special Editions has finally come to this -- the first installment in the countdown of Backspin's Top 25 players of the 2000's.

Most of the players ranked #21-25 are on the list, with all due respect, almost in spite of themselves. This group is made up of women who, at various times in the decade, were either "flighty" in pressure moments or downright disasters, entertaining "oddities," spending the back half of the decade mostly playing the part of a doubles threat (even while never losing the ability to pull a big upset in singles, just like the "old days"), or rising to the top of the heap only to find the environment too tough to handle. As a result, none of these five women were able to consistently maintain a place of TRUE power on the tour throughout the decade. But, then again, none could ever be discounted and/or forgotten, either.

#25 - Patty Schnyder, SUI

The sneaky, crafty lefty always seemed to be capable of defeating ANYONE on any given day. Unfortunately, she could also lose to just about anyone either the day before or after, as well. As a result, Schnyder has always seemed to come up just short when it came to becoming an "elite" player on the WTA tour. Still, she remained a consistent threat throughout the 2000's. She reached the 4th Round-or-better at a slam seventeen times in the decade, including a semifinal at the Australian Open in 2004. Reaching a career-high #7 ranking in '05, she was a Top 16 player from 2004-08 and only this season seems to be about to end a season outside the Top 25 for just the second time since 1998. For all the fun she brought to the WTA on court, Schnyder was a bit of an enigma off it. Teamed with husband/coach Rainer Hofmann, she worked on a promised-headline grabbing autobiography called "The White Mile" for years... though no one has ever actually gotten to read the tome.

#24 - Anastasia Myskina, RUS

The oft-tempestuous Czarina Myskina will always and forever be "the first." At the leading edge of the Russian tennis revolution, Myskina often took on a "mother figure" role for her slightly younger countrywomen during the mid-00's, before she retired in '07 and eventually became an ACTUAL mother. Always capable of providing a good quote, often making more "sense" than even she realized as she tried to synthesize the Russian and English languages, "The Mind of Myskina" was oddly entertaining long before "Jankovician" became part of the Backspin lexicon. Myskina will go down in history as the first Russian woman in the Top 5 (she reached #2), as well as the lighter of the fuse of the Hordettes' decade of dominance when she became the first of her countrywomen to win a grand slam crown at Roland Garros in 2004. The shocking win in Paris was a singular moment that she was never able to come close to repeating, but what a moment it was. As it is, Myskina becomes another "first" -- the first 2000's slam singles champion to appear on the Top 25 Players countdown.

#23 - Ai Sugiyama, JPN

Having just retired a week ago at age 34, Sugiyama wrapped up a long career as Japan's leading tennis lady that spanned seventeen years. Her final slam appearance at the U.S. Open extended her pro tennis record of having appeared in sixty-two straight slam events. That durability proved to be the foundation on which she built her career. While her last tour singles title came in 2004, she continued to maintain a Top 40 ranking, occasionally knocking off a top player (she reached the Sydney singles SF this past January), and be a force in doubles until her retirement. In all, she won twenty-eight doubles titles in the decade, including three slams. She first reached the doubles #1 ranking in 2000, and would reclaim it multiple times, the last coming in 2003. In 2004, a year after her only season-ending Top 10 ranking, she reached a career-high #8 in singles.

#22 - Jelena Jankovic, SRB

No history of the WTA in the late 2000's would be complete without a healthy dose of the walking-dramatic-moment that is Queen Chaos. Still, while the entertaining Serb has been a regular tour title-winner (eleven WTA titles in the decade), slam finalist (U.S. Open '08) and year-end #1 (2008), she's still in search of the TRUE career-high moment that will make all the false-starts and near-misses worth the fuss. Her defensive skill and ability to construct a point make her a fine player to watch, but her iffy serve and sometimes-lacking in-point aggression inevitably lead her down the dark alleys of long, drawn-out matches that either wear her out or set her up for one poor 30-minute being enough to dump her out of a winnable slam. Still, her never-give-up style and easy smile make her a fan favorite for which fingers will always be crossed during the four biggest tournaments of every season.

#21 - Ana Ivanovic, SRB

Two weeks after Justine Henin's 2008 retirement, AnaIvo seized the moment at Roland Garros. A year after being a runner-up in Paris and four months after doing the same in Melbourne, Ivanovic became the first Serbian woman to win a grand slam singles title. Just two days earlier, she'd assured herself of being the first Serb, male or female, to rise to the #1 ranking after having defeated countrywoman Jelena Jankovic in the RG semifinals. The victory made one of the tour's top up-and-comers into a star, but she's been mostly unsuccessfully dealing with that new life in the limelight (and under a microcsope) ever since. After winning seven titles in a three-and-a-half year period after taking Roland Garros, Ivanovic has won just one in the nearly seventeen months since. After having held the #1 ranking for twelve weeks, she's since dropped out of the Top 10 and not advanced past the 4th Round in any of the six slams she's played. Still, while her breakthrough moment may have come a bit earlier than she was prepared for it to arrive, at just 21, she can still be a force throughout the 2010's.

NEXT: #16-20

21. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
22. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
23. Ai Sugiyama, JPN
24. Anastasia Myskina, RUS
25. Patty Schnyder, SUI
HONORABLE MENTION- Martina Navratilova, USA

Here are the remaining 20 players on the countdown list:

Cara Black
Jennifer Capriati
Kim Clijsters
Lindsay Davenport
Elena Dementieva
Daniela Hantuchova
Justine Henin
Martina Hingis
Liezel Huber
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Amelie Mauresmo
Mary Pierce
Lisa Raymond
Virginia Ruano-Pascual
Dinara Safina
Maria Sharapova
Rennae Stubbs
Paola Suarez
Serena Williams
Venus Williams

*BACKSPIN'S 2000-09 HONOR ROLL, #27-113*
Nicole Arendt
Shinobu Asagoe
Victoria Azarenka
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
Carly Gullickson
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
Melanie Oudin
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
Sun Tiantian
Agnes Szavay
Tamarine Tanasugarn
Patricia Tarabini
Nathalie Tauziat
Nicole Vaidisova
Dominique van Roost
Elena Vesnina
Yanina Wickmayer
Caroline Wozniacki
Yan Zi
Zheng Jie
Fabiola Zuluaga
Vera Zvonareva

All for now.

...Players of the 2000's: Nomination List, Australian Open 2000-09, Roland Garros 2000-09, Wimbledon 2000-09, U.S. Open 2000-09


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's surprising to see Safina is the top 20... maybe she did manage to win a grand slam? in doubles of course.


Tue Oct 13, 04:18:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Todd, is there any good tennis academy in NYC?

Tue Oct 13, 04:20:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, Safina isn't TOO DEEP in the Top 20 (hint, hint). In fact, I'd say that she's planted firmly in the basement floor. :)

Truthfully, the bottom ten in the list could easily be scrambled and put into another order.

Myskina won a slam, and was the first Russian to do it, but she's ranked below players who haven't won any (maybe if she'd played a little longer?). Mary Pierce is coming up, and she really only had two great years in the decade and hasn't played at all since 2006. She's a real puzzle as far as deciding where to rank her. I put Ivanovic over Jankovic because she's reached more slam finals, even though if Jankovic just had that one slam title (or a better '09) she'd be an easy choice to be placed ahead of AnaIvo at this point.

I actually had Safina down around #23-24 after the U.S. Open, but then realized she's been ranked #1 longer (25 weeks) than quite a few players, including Austin, Clijsters, Capriati, Sharapova, Jankovic, Ivanovic, Sanchez-Vicario and Venus. Plus, she's third all-time in WTA titles won by Russians and, over the last year, has been a dominant player (up until recent weeks) in most every event other than the slams, where she's still managed to play deep into second weeks (unlike Ivanovic), even though she ultimately bombed out in the SF/F.

Needless to say, it was very close.

Tue Oct 13, 11:15:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...


I don't know any specifics, but here a few NY links you could check out:

New York tennis academies
Joel Ross Tennis
Gotham Tennis
New York Tennis Club

Tue Oct 13, 12:21:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I expect a #20 for Safina.

However, Ivanovic reached 3 slam finals and won once. Besides, in the two matches she lost, she won more games than any two matches lost by Safina. Safina usually lose in finals. Didn't she get bageled by both Venus and Serena this year?

Just don't agree that Safina is ranked higher than Ana :)

Thanks for the links.

Tue Oct 13, 09:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Hmm, I think that Safina should be ranked better than Ivanovic. Ivanovic has what, 8 titles I think? Maybe 9? Safina has got 12. Both have 3 Slam finals, but Ivanovic won one of them (against Safina). However, let's not forget that Ivanovic couldn't stand the pressure of being #1.

Though Safina can't stand some sort of pressure, it's not the one of being #1 that is the problem. Plus, she had some kind of domination in last year's second half and this year's clay season. Ivanovic never dominated the tour more than 2 weeks at a time. Which per se cannot be considered as a domination.

However, I would have thrown a few more doubles specialists in the 21-25, making Ivanovic and maybe Jankovic in the top 20. But that is the first caracteristic of such tops, everybody has his/her own opinion to throw in.

Wed Oct 14, 02:31:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of these girls are really good. Actually Ivanovic is one of the best in that list, but as a difference with my brother he is in love with Kournikova.
He says that she turns him to get
Generic Viagra

Mon Oct 04, 01:38:00 PM EDT  

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