Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Intriguing Questions




The new year has arrived. What better time to look at 100 of the upcoming season's most intriguing questions (not to mention make a few predictions, region-by-region)?

*NORTH AMERICA*
1. Serena Williams, USA: seriously, when was the last time a player with her legacy and dominance could honestly say she was entering a season needing to "redeem" her reputation (not in her eyes, nor Backspin's... but in the opinion of a suspiciously high number of others)?
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2. Venus Williams, USA: has it really been seven years since she reached a slam singles final somewhere other than SW19?
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3. Melanie Oudin, USA: a year ago, I wondered if she was "about to become the first Top 100 U.S. teen who truly bears watching since the Sisters." Since she was just that a season ago (and then some, finishing in the Top 50), it's natural that the new version of the question is this: Can she can avoid all the "year after" pitfalls and become the first Top 20 American teen since Serena?
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4. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN: who wants even more of those "more fun than a barrel of monkeys" A-Woz vs. C-Woz matches?
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5. Mary Joe Fernandez & the USA Fed Cup Team: all right, MJF, what do you do for an encore? First up, the Amelie-less French. As Bullwinkle J. Moose used to say, "Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat." Followed by Rocky the Flying Squirrel retorting, "Again?"
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6. Lindsay Davenport, USA: all right, it IS finally over now, right? I mean, you're not going to be texting and emailing Kim Clijsters for advice during the season are you? Maybe we should ask the soon-to-be-ex-Mrs. Woods if you're practicing more than usual?
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7. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA: is her "honeymoon hangover" a thing of the past? Maybe she should go back to trying to get attention with her thrift-shop on-court attire?
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8. Lisa Raymond, USA: with Rennae Stubbs back at her side, is she poised to add a few more major titles to the tail end of her most underrated career?
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9. Christina McHale, USA: has she learned to hydrate? Maybe Oudin can get her a pair of shoes with "h-y-d-r-a-t-e" on the sides.
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10. Ashley Harkleroad, USA: will she ever make news with her clothes on again?
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11. Sloane Stephens, USA: is she just the first potentially major player in a long line of African-American girls inspired to pick up a racket by Venus and Serena?
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12. Madison Keys, USA: how big could her serve be a few years from now?
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13. Williams/Williams, USA: how much of a chance is there that they might add the "Premier 9" events to their schedule and, along with the majors, use their doubles dominance to get Serena into the simultaneous #1 ranking in both singles and doubles by the end of the year?
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14. Serena's website prose: is she going to just skip the middleman (and woman) this year and continue to rankle feathers without bothering to shake a racket and offer up a tasty fuzz-covered meal to a guest in front of a few thousands of her "closest friends?" Really, could the WTA's first big Twitter controversy (Twitterercy?) be just around the corner?
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15. The U.S. Girls' Talent Pool: the talk about the lack of new talent has died down a bit, hasn't it?
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16. FIRST TITLE?: Sloane Stephens/USA (ITF & Jr. Slam), Madison Keys/USA (ITF), Christina McHale/USA (ITF)
17. FIRST FINAL?: Melanie Oudin/USA
18. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Melanie Oudin/USA, Alexa Glatch/USA, Beatrice Capra/USA (Jr. Slam)
19. FIRST QUARTERFINAL?: Gabriela Dabrowski/CAN (Jr. Slam)

*SOUTH AMERICA*
20. Rossana de los Rios, PAR: is the almost 35-year old the next veteran to have a late-career surge?
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21. Gisela Dulko, ARG: hmmm, was that really the career-long Argentine tease showing some honest-to-Betsy (whoever she is) consistency last season, good enough for her best year-end ranking since '05?
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22. Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR & Bianco Botto, PER & Camila Silva, CHI & Gabriela Paz, VEN: is this the best group of young South American girls in a handful of generations?
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23. FIRST TITLE?: Rossana de los Rios/PAR
24. FIRST SINGLES/DOUBLES TITLE SWEEP?: Gisela Dulko/ARG

*EUROPE*
25. Justine Henin, BEL: can you see my smile? Well, can ya? She thinks she can be BETTER in LPT II? Seriously, how great is that? You gotta love it when a player doesn't go the "I just hope I can compete" route?
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26. Jelena Jankovic, SRB: she didn't go to Mexico again, did she? Whew. Ummm... does she know Justine is back? Uh-oh.
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27. Kim Clijsters, BEL: defeating Venus in an exhibition in Antwerp was "more exciting" than winning the U.S. Open? Really? And here there was the thought that maybe her kissing-the-crowd's-collective-butt-for-approval days were left behind in KC 1. Will she even be an active part of the WTA storyline by this time next year?
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28. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN: sometime in 2010, will we be looking back at the 2009 SEC and saying that THAT was when everything changed for C-Woz?
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29. Ana Ivanovic, SRB: "overtraining" is why she's fallen off the table? Really?
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30. Sven Groenefeld: can he play the role of Larisa Savchenko to AnaIvo's Kuznetsova in 2010?
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31. Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP: all right, CSN. After some hemming-and-hawing in '09, it's time to take the next step, don't you think?
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32. Victoria Azarenka, BLR: she DOES know what she's doing, right?
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33. Tamira Paszek, AUT: do you think she's glad she's not Belgian? Go talk to Wickmayer about it.
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34. Nicole Vaidisova, CZE: remember her? At least SHE finally seems to, hence the long-overdue step down to the ITF level to get her career together after waking up one day in a little town called Oblivion. Hopefully, she's finally decided that it isn't a town she can never leave.
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35. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK: how many remember that she actually reached a slam semifinal last season? Ah, just as I thought.
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36. Agnes Szavay, HUN: will the real Szavay please stand up? No, not you, Blanka.
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37. Flavia Pennetta, ITA: can she possibly improve upon a season in which she reached the Top 10, maybe had her best slam moment in that U.S. Open comeback against Zvonareva and then capped the year by winning the Fed Cup?
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38. Anne Keothavong, GBR: can a happier Keothavong be an even better Keothavong than the one she was rounding into before her injury last season? Of course, when it comes to this Brit, "happier" is probably a relative term.
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39. The Radwanskas, POL: how close will Urszula be to Agnieszka in the rankings at this time next year? Surely, at least A-Rad's Top 10 days are numbered.
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40. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA: how hopeless will the grace vacuum be now that she's gone?
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41. Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR: when will the tipping point come when her ability outweighs the noise pollution factor when it comes to media coverage?
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42. Tatiana Golovin, FRA: it's really over, isn't it? Crap.
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43. Sabine Lisicki, GER: can she? You know what I'm talking about, but I don't want to say it out loud so that the Tennis Gods can hear. I mean, it would be so great if she could, you know?
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44. The Brit Question: who's going to have the better career? Laura Robson or Heather Watson? And how weird is it to even have two young British girls good enough to make the question legit?
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45. Those Ukrainian Twins: how many times will the Kichenoks meet up in singles finals in 2010? Are they the anti-Battlin' Bondarenkos?
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46. Sorana Cirstea, ROU: I wonder if C-Woz will throw some of her McCartney cast-offs her way?
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47. The Next Boomlet: will it be the Belarusians or the Ukrainians who produce the next mini-revolution within the heart of Europe?
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48. Katarina Srebotnik, SLO: is there any potential comeback of note being ignored more than her's?
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49. Patty Schnyder, SUI: are we a season away from asking, "Remember her?"
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50. Alize Cornet, FRA: 2009 was just a hiccup, right?
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51. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, ESP: hmmm, I wonder if that lineswoman from the U.S. Open will suggest that MJMS try to hit Serena in the arm (or maybe aim a little higher) with a ball the next time they meet?
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52. Marion Bartoli & Virginie Razzano, FRA: I wonder if they've finished that "interrupted" handshake?
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53. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA: the next Pastry hope to do in Paris what Mauresmo never could?
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54. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL: hmmm, am I ready to adopt another Belgian who wants to stick real and perceived slights right back in the eyes of the people they came from?
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55. FIRST TITLE?: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK, Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP, Anne Keothavong/GBR, Olgo Govortsova/BLR, Kaia Kanepi/EST, Victoriya Kutuzova/UKR
56. FIRST FINAL?: Anne Keothavong/GBR, Urszula Radwanska/POL, Stefanie Voegele/SUI, Jana Cepalova/SVK (Jr. Slam)
57. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Urszula Radwanska/POL, Petra Martic/CRO, Arantxa Rus/NED, Lenka Wienerova/SVK, Anastasiya Sevastova/LAT, Sabine Lisicki/GER (Slam), Maryna Zanevska/UKR (Jr. Slam)
58. FIRST QUARTERFINAL?: Lenka Wienerova/SVK, Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
59. ALSO?: Anabel Medina-Garrigues/ESP will win her tenth career singles title, but not reach a slam singles QF, making her just the second player in WTA history (Anna Smashnova) with double-digit tour singles crowns but no slam QF results.

*AFRICA/MIDDLE EAST*
60. Shahar Peer, ISR: Dubai, anyone?
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61. Chanel Simmonds, RSA: just seeing her name in a draw makes you think back to little Amanda Coetzer, the South African who rode her mighy mite status all the way to a few slam semifinals back in the day, doesn't it? Maybe it's just me.
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62. Cara Black, ZIM: if she passes Navratilova's records for most consecutive weeks at #1 (she's a year away) and overall career weeks atop the rankings (she needs about eighty more weeks or so), how good will her case be for being in the discussion for all-time best doubles player?
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FIRST SINGLES MATCH WIN IN DUBAI: Shahar Peer/ISR
AT LEAST TWO SLAM DOUBLES TITLES: Cara Black/ZIM (Doubles & Mixed)
63. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Chanel Simmonds/RSA (Jr. Slam)

*ASIA/PACIFIC*
64. Jelena Dokic, AUS: what will she do for an encore?
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65. Sania Mirza, IND: has marriage and the appearance of a new tennis-playing Indian teen (Poojashree Venkatesha) taken away some of the pressure?
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66. Samantha Stosur, AUS: does her new status as a slam semifinalist, WTA singles titlist and big-time confidence spewer mean she's finally capable of backing up her promise and becoming the first Top 10 Aussie since Alicia Molik?
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67. Alicia Molik, AUS: speaking of... her late-season Down Under comeback was fairly under-the-radar, but does her immediate success means she's going to evolve into at least a Top 20 threat again?
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68. Li Na, CHN: in ice hockey parlance, Li's career +/- numbers wouldn't be all that great when it comes to weighing talent against actual accomplishments, you know?
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69. Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN: last year, I asked how much a 38-year old tennis player could accomplish? Quite a bit more than anticipated, as it turned out. So, can a 39-year old tennis player not named Jimmy Connors do even better one year later?
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70. Casey Dellacqua, AUS: after a year of trial, will she finally make her grandma smile in Melbourne again? Winning the Australian Open Wild Card Playoff tournament was certainly a good start.
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71. Chinese Fed Cup Team: hmm, vs. the Slovaks in the opening Fed Cup weekend... could Daniela Hantuchova kick off yet another disappointing FC season for the Chinese?
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72. Peng Shuai, CHN: well, I guess it's nice that she at least seems to have found her niche as a doubles achiever, right?
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73. Marina Erakovic, NZL: so, how long before she knocks Sacha Jones off and reclaims her spot on the pedastal as the top-ranked Kiwi?
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74. Jarmila Groth & Anastasia Rodionova, AUS: which newly-minted Sheila will feel the Aussie love first?
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75. Olivia Rogowska, AUS: is she the next Australian teenager who'll set hearts afire Down Under?
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76. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA: what will the big tour experience be like for the former #1 junior?
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77. Sesil Karatantcheva, KAZ: remember her?
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78. FIRST TITLE?: Casey Dellacqua/AUS
79. FIRST FINAL?: Jelena Dokic/AUS (since 2003), Chang Kai-Chen/TPE, Casey Dellacqua/AUS, Miyabi Inoue/JPN (Jr. Slam)
80. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Casey Dellacqua/AUS, Olivia Rogowska/AUS, Chang Kai-Chen/TPE
81. FIRST QUARTERFINAL?: Sacha Jones/NZL, Olivia Rogowska/AUS
82. ALSO?: Jelena Dokic will reach the Wimbledon Round of 16 for the first time since 2002

*RUSSIA*
83. Dinara Safina, RUS: is she the new AnaIvo (the post-'08 Roland Garos version)?
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84. Maria Sharapova, RUS: is the long Supernovic nightmare over?
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85. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS: with another slam in hand, are we going to see the same Kuznetsova in '10 that we saw in '05?
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86. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS: do those two wins over Venus mean she's close?
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87. Elena Dementieva, RUS: did her slam title window slam closed when she failed to convert match point against Serena at Wimbledon? If she goes slam title-less through four slams in '10, she'll have played forty-eight slams without winning one, and no women's slam singles champ has ever taken more than forty-five attempts (Jana Novotna in slam #45 at Wimbledon '98, with Amelie Mauresmo's win in #31 second) to raise a trophy.
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88. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS: remember her?
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89. Vera Zvonareva, RUS: she didn't have Sharapova's old set of doctors guiding her rehab, did she? Or Jankovic's trainers? Whew. There's still hope.
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90. Elena Vesnina, RUS: is she the "craziest" Hordette in tight on-court moments? (Of course, to even consider that to be so you'd have to erase from your mind the image of Zvonareva attacking the tape on her knees at last year's U.S. Open after squandering more than half a dozen match points against Pennetta.)
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91. Nadia Petrova, RUS: does she have one more slam run in her? Alas, probably not. Oh, Nadia.
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92. Russian Fed Cup Team: things will HAVE to turn out better in 2010, right?
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93. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS: the next Hordette to make a mark? She reached back-to-back tour finals in '09, but lost both.
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94. The Next Wave: a year ago, Sports Illustrated was wondering whether the Russian Revolution's tide had receded. Is the question still being asked after a season in which one Hordette won a junior slam, two more reached junior slam finals and five girls finished in the year-end Girls Top 25?
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95. Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS: I'm guessing she probably knew better than to say anything about Madison Keys' outfit after she lost to her in Ponte Vedra Beach, right?
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96. FIRST TITLE?: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Alisa Kleybanova, Ekaterina Makarova, Yulia Putintseva (Jr. Slam), Daria Gavrilova (Jr. Slam)
97. FIRST FINAL?: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
98. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Evgeniya Rodina
99. FIRST QUARTERFINAL?: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Slam)
100. ALSO?: Pavlyuchenkova will finish 2010 ranked in the Top 20

*AND FIVE MORE, JUST BECAUSE*
100a. Pam Shriver, ESPN2: will someone at ESPN realize that maybe Shriver should just stay in the booth and/or studio at the 2010 U.S. Open?
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100b. The 2010 Official Guide to Professional Tennis... NOT: who's bright idea was it to decide the WTA wouldn't produce a tour guide this season? If it was a case of it being too expensive, then there's yet another reason to have levied an even larger fine on Dubai.
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100c. The "Tournament of Champions" and the "Season-Ending Championships?: who decided to play the TOC AFTER the SEC anyway? It's like holding a conference tournament after a national championship.
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100d. AP Female Athlete of the Year: it's nice that Serena won the award, but I think that Clijsters finished third says a great deal about how lacking the accomplishments were in other women's sports in '09, as a year without the Olympics providing a slew of new faces and no LPGA golfer having a season worthy of consideration pretty much left tennis (and maybe basketball) as the only sports to choose from. Of course, that Zenyatta, a horse that didn't win a Triple Crown face, finished ahead of the Belgian did sort of bring a smile to my face. Bazinga!
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100e. USA TODAY: who's running the shop at USA TODAY when it comes to sorting through tennis news and results? In recent weeks, the newspaper called Wickmayer a "he" (sure, it could be just a typo -- but part of me thinks someone just didn't know the difference between her and Xavier Malisse in a note about their ban), listed Martina Hingis' "fall from grace" as one of the ten biggest sports letdowns of the decade (considering the hinkyness of her ban, especially after the Gasquet and Agassi news this past year, it was hardly worthy of a listing), chose the Federer/Roddick '09 Wimbledon final as the only tennis entry in the ten greatest sports moments/feats of the 2000's (but didn't mention the Nadal/Federer "Greatest Match Ever Playerd" from a year earlier) and failed to list the "Serena Slam" at all. As they say on "Modern Family" -- "WTF? Why the face?"
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All for now.



2010 Preview Series Link: Wozniacki: Charm, with a Side of Harm, ATP Top 10 Predictions, Prediction Blowout
NEXT: "Player v. Player" & Dorothy Tour/1st Quarter Preview

6 Comments:

Blogger Bruce said...

100b. Just found the 2010 Tour guide online at the WTA site. Thought you might like to know.

Fri Jan 01, 10:41:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

That's it? Just a hundred? What, are you messing around enjoying the holidays or something?

So here's 101: What would it mean to a certain Serb if she were able to defeat a certain Belgian this season?

Fri Jan 01, 11:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Bruce... yeah, I know that there's something online, but I'll never use it. I mean, who cares about who's included in it there since everyone and everything is already online anyway. It doesn't "matter." It's just not the same as having the actual pages at hand, being able to make notes in the margins, flag pages for a quick look in case you want to check something. Without the combined WTA/ATP Guide, if you want to find out something, you have to go online, go there, look around... blahblahblah. By that time, with my internet connection being as slow as it sometimes is, I'd likely just skip it and not put together that particular list that week.

Okay, rant over. :)

Diane... yeah, but do you REALLY think that'll happen? I mean, it's not as if we're talking about something that'll NEVER happen in a million years -- like, say, Clijsters saying, "I don't care what people think or say about me" -- but one wonders if it'll happen THIS year. :D

Of course, if it did, it'd be a big deal. But I can't help but think it's not a coincidence that JJ's best slam result came just a few months after Henin was retired and thought "gone" in her mind. Then she over did it last offseason, all the while thinking, "this is my big chance," and really probably squandered it because of that overeagerness.

Sat Jan 02, 12:02:00 AM EST  
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