Monday, December 14, 2009

ITF Backspin (Wk.49)- A Brit, Two Belgians & Another Hemming-and-Hawing Russian

The 2010 season is suddenly visible just around the corner, and some early-season topics of conversation are coming into view, too.

for the third straight week, Broady won an ITF event. This time, for the second straight week, it was a $10K in La Habana, Cuba. She defeated Pastry Valentine Confalonieri in a 6-2/6-2 final. Broady has four challenger titles on the season.
RISER: Julia Cohen/USA
the 20-year old American claimed a $10K challenger in Xalapa, Mexico with a 5-7/6-2/7-5 win over countrywoman Gira Schofield.
SURPRISE: Ana-Clara Duarte/BRA
keeping things continental, the Brazilian won the $10K in Santiago, Chile with a 6-2/6-0 win over Argentine Carla Lucero in the final. She also won the doubles with Veronica Spiegel, defeating Lucero and countrywoman Julieta Soledad Rodriguez in yet another final.
VETERAN: Laura Pous Tio/ESP
in a season of comebacks, here is yet another to ponder. The 25-year old Spaniard was banned for two years back in '07 after failing a drug test at Wimbledon after she admittedly carelessly took medication that included a banned substance. This weekend in a $10K in Benicarlo, Spain, Pous Tio won her second challenger since her mid-2009 return to professional tennis. With a singles final win over Leticia Costas-Moreira (and doubles title with Romina Oprandi), the former world #74 (in '05) now has nine career ITF crowns as she struggles to push her ranking back into the Top 600 (she's now #644). Hopefully, we won't have to have a similar "comeback" conversation about Yanina Wickmayer in a year or so.
FRESH FACE: Coco Vandeweghe/USA
the '08 U.S. Open Girls champ won the American battle for a wild card into the Australian Open. After knocking off Asia Muhammad and Julia Boserup in the playoff event, she took down Christina McHale (who won this W.C. playoff a year ago, then had that dramatic, wobbly 1st Round meeting with Jessica Moore in Melbourne) in the final by a 7-6/0-6/6-3 score.
DOWN: Dinara Safina/RUS
hmmm. Let's see, Safina ended her '09 season with a potential '10 season-scrambling (in a worst case scenario) back injury, but stated a hope that she'd be ready for the Australian Open. She was entered in the Week 1 Brisbane event. Until last week, that is, when she officially pulled out... while still being signed up for Sydney, and stating lingering hope that she'll be ready for Melbourne. Didn't we go through this push-and-pull with another Russian at about this time a year ago? You remember, when Maria Sharapova seemed to be angling to start her '09 season Down Under. Didn't happen. In fact, she ended up not being able to begin her comeback from shoulder surgery until well into the season. Could a similar pattern be just starting to play out with world #2 Safina? It's worth keeping an eye on, considering how back injuries can play havoc with any athlete's expected schedule. With many points to defend, and Sharapova and the Belgians back for full-season stints, the Russian's ranking might be about to tumble.
JUNIOR STAR: Gabriela Dabrowski/CAN
17-year old Ottawa native Dabrowski, who last week lost in the Eddie Herr SF to eventual champ Daria Gavrilova, made the leap in the Orange Bowl, taking the title with a 6-3/2-6/7-5 victory over world junior #1 Kristina Mladenovic. The Canadian's jump up to #13 in the junior rankings came after she also notched wins over Beatrice Capra, Polina Leykina and Nastja Kolar.

1. Cairo Exhibition - Henin d. Petrova 7-6/6-2
Antwerp Exhibition - Clijsters d. V.Williams 6-1/7-5
Their results will be compared throughout the 2010 season, so it figures that they'd both be playing in an exhibition match -- just not against each other -- during the same week of their "offseason." Naturally, they both won, too. After additional earlier wins over Kirsten Flipkens and Flavia Pennetta in Belgium, Henin is rounding into form for her comeback next month in Australia. No one really thought she wouldn't be ready, did they? One new thing that we DID learn about Henin last week, though, was that she's got a new travel companion. She affectionately calls him Deuce... and he's rumored to do tricks on her command. Ah, finally someone I can relate to.
2. Australian Open Wild Card Playoff Final (USA) - Vandeweghe d. McHale
McHale's Down Under Drama 2010 will have to include a few qualifying wins in the Aussie heat. I hope she remembers to hydrate this time.
3. Orange Bowl 3rd Rd. - Ajla Tomljanovic d. Yulia Putintseva 5-7/6-0/6-1
Orange Bowl QF - Ajla Tomljanovic d. Heather Watson 6-2/6-3
Even without grabbing a major title, the 16-year old Croat, the #9-ranked junior, continues to impress.
4. Orange Bowl 3rd Rd. - Madison Keys d. Daria Gavrilova 6-3/4-6/6-3
Orange Bowl QF - Kristina Mladenovic d. Madison Keys 6-7/7-5/6-1
Still facing off against "old" teens -- at least compared to her -- Keys continues to hint at bigger and better things down the road. She defeated Gavrilova, fresh off the #5-ranked girl's Eddie Herr championship, then pushed Mladenovic, who's only the #1-ranked junior in the world, to three sets.
5. $10K Santiago SF - Ana-Clara Duarte d. Chanel Simmonds
It's becoming clear that teen Simmonds might be the best South African player since little Amanda Coetzer.
HM- Aussies in the News
No Australian players won titles last week, but that didn't mean the Shielas weren't in the news. Alicia Molik, on the heels of her great ITF circuit comeback run, announced her engagement, while Anastasia Rodionova (just a few weeks after Jarmila Groth did the same) finally received her Aussie citizenship and the right to represent her new country throughout the 2010 season.

1.Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2.Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA
3.Timea Babos, HUN
4.Heather Watson, GBR
5.Daria Gavrilova, RUS
6.Miyabi Inoue, JPN
7.Ksenia Pervak, RUS
8.Silvia Njiric, CRO
9.Ajla Tomljanovic, CRO
10.Camila Silva, CHI
11.Sloane Stephens, USA
12.Nastja Kolar, SLO
13.Gabriela Dabrowski, CAN
14.Yana Buchina, RUS
15.Maryna Zanevska, UKR
16.Yulia Putintseva, RUS
17.Richel Hogenkamp, NED
18.Valeria Solovieva, RUS
19.Zsofia Susanyi, HUN
20.Jana Cepalova, SVK

4...Naomi Broady
2...Elena Baltacha
2...Amanda Carreras
2...Katie O'Brien
2...Emily Webley-Smith
1...Jocelyn Rae
1...Anna Smith
1...Georgie Stoop
1...Heather Watson
1...Jade Windley

With one final week of '09 ITF action remaining, all for now.

THIS WEEK: What If Parody: In Search of "Citizen Anna"