Monday, March 15, 2010

Wk.10- Random Musings & Dark Clouds

As I type the "I" in Indian Wells, the second half of the 3rd Round is taking place, but that doesn't mean that a semi-recap of the past week isn't possible, or necessary.

Ten random thoughts from Week 10...

1) Justine Henin lost early, but it probably means zilch.
2) Sloane Stephens outshined Melanie Oudin on home soil (a Watson/Robson-like situation?).
3) Sabine Lisicki got hurt... again. Are you kidding me? Is she made of tissue paper?
4) I'll bet Anastasiya Sevastova wishes she could play Serbian players EVERY round.
5) Svetlana Kuznetsova once again nominated herself for "biggest disappointment" honors. But...
6) It's a good thing for her that Ana Ivanovic has pull with the judges. She edges ahead since...
7) Li Na's results bob up-and-down so much that no one can safely expect anything from her.
8) I wonder if anyone realizes that Vera Zvonareva is the defending champion of this event?
9) Wasn't all the Agassi/Sampras exhibition stuff GREAT? (Their's has always been an uneasy truce.)
10) Does anyone else sense a dark cloud rising? It'd just be SO LIKE HER, you know? (See tournament re-picks below)

STAT OF THE WEEK: There were six different former Indian Wells singles champions in the draw when play began last Wednesday. With the 3rd Round only half-completed, four (Hantuchova, Henin, Ivanovic and Sharapova), are already gone, with only '09 titlist Vera Zvonareva and '03/'05 winner Belgian Barbie remaining. Of the players who've filled the last eight I.W. finalist slots from 2006-09, only Zvonareva and Elena Dementieva remain.

MAGAZINE ALERT: In the April edition of Tennis magazine, Peter Bodo has a nice article about the perplexing fall of Nicole Vaidisova. Not that he unearthred any real answers in the investigation, other than that she apparently stopped working hard and often looks like she doesn't care. Not exactly a newsflash, but still food for thought.

Naturally, though, I have to give out a few mini-awards...

RISERS: Zheng Jie/CHN & Elena Baltacha/GBR
Zheng got a win over the mostly slumping Sorana Cirstea, but it was her upset of Maria Sharapova that will make everyone forget the forgettable results the Chinese players have had since their breakout Melbourne performances. Meanwhile, Baltacha qualified for the I.W. main draw, then got wins over Alexa Glatch and Li Na (fighting off three match points) before losing to Alicia Molik in the 3rd Round.
SURPRISE: Roberta Vinci/ITA
the veteran always manages to sneak up on people. In Indiana Wells, it was Melanie Oudin and two-time champion Daniela Hantuchova.
COMEBACK: Alicia Molik/AUS
while Jelena Dokic's fortunes have faded again, fellow Aussie Molik's comeback continued top pick up steam with victories last week over Tatjana Malek, Anabel Medina-Garrigues and Baltacha.
VETERAN: Nadia Petrova/RUS
might Nadia be the dark horse remaining in this field? She's got wins over Patty Schndyer and Peng Shuai. She next faces Caroline Wozniacki in the 4th Round.
FRESH FACES: Anastasiya Sevastova/LAT & Sloane Stephens/USA
a week after upsetting Jelena Jankovic and reaching the SF in Monterrey, Sevastsova got a win over Ana Ivanovic. She'll face defending champ Zvonareva today. Stephens qualified, then grabbed her first career WTA main draw win with a victory over Lucie Hradecka. She lost in the 2nd Round to Zvonareva.
DOWN: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS, Ana Ivanovic/SRB & Sabine Lisicki/GER
the beat goes on for all three. Kuznetsova fell to Carla Suarez-Navarro in the 2nd Round (after a bye). Ivanovic did the same against Sevastova, while Lisiski injured her ankle and retired (again) in her 2nd Rounder against Jill Craybas.
ITF PLAYER: Johanna Larsson/SWE
for the second time in three weeks, Larsson claimed an ITF title. This one was in the $25K in Clearwater, Florida as she knocked out Zhang Shuai 7-6/6-0 in the final. She also notched a win over Zhou Yi-Miao.
JUNIOR STAR: Beatrice Capra/USA
the 17-year old American, the #8 seed, won the G1 Banana Bowl in Blumenau, Brazil. Following wins over Monica Puig and Paula Ormaechea, she took out Norway's Ulrikke Eikeri in the final.

1. IW 2nd Rd - Dulko d. Henin 6-2/1-6/6-4
IW 3rd Rd - A.Radwanska d. Dulko 6-1/6-0
Seriously, could we have gotten a better example of the enigma that is Gisela Dulko than for her to upset Henin, then turn around two days later and lose 1 & love to A-Rad? If she were Victoria Azarenka -- or behaved the way Azarenka USED TO) -- no one within racket-tossing distance of the court would be safe.
2. IW 3rd Rd - Zheng d. Sharapova
Maybe the Supernova moniker will never again be uttered in these parts other than as a wistful reminder of glory days gone by. With her serve again playing the role of double agent, Sharapova experience fourteen double-faults and lost a 2:45 match. Could it be that MEMPHIS will be the abberation of her 2010 season?
3. IW 2nd Rd - Suarez-Navarro d. Kuznetsova
Not really a big shocker. CSN has pulled off her share of upsets, while #1-seeded Kuznetsova looks like she's decided to take 2010 off. Hey, it worked out all right for the Belgians.
4. IW 2nd Rd - Sevastova d. Ivanovic
What did an Indian Wells title and runner-up result the last two years get AnaIvo? A "sloppy seconds" upset by a Latvian who beat JJ a little farther south on the continent last week. Maybe Ana should try Del Monte rather than Heinz?
5. IW 1st Rd - Dushevina d. Dokic
Dokic is 1-4 in main draw tour matches in 2010.
6. IW 2nd Rd - Baltacha d. Li
Li held three match points. The loss, her third in a raw, drops her to 8-6 on the season. Outside of her AO semifinal run, she's 3-5.
7. IW 1st Rd - Vinci d. Oudin
That 3rd set score speaks to everything that Oudin HASN'T been since she broke through in '09.
8. IW 3rd Rd - Wozniacki d. Kirilenko
C-Woz hasn't exactly re-assumed her "Girl with the Curl" role again, but after two impressively quick wins in Indian Wells, it's easy to want to think she's finally started her '10 campaign.
9. Nonthaburi (THA) Jr. Final - Irina Khromacheva d. Tamara Curovic
The 14-year old Hordette claimed the Grade 1 title with a win over the Serb.
10. $10K Antalya (TUR) Final - Michaela Pochabova d. Evelyn Mayr
The Slovak prevented Mayr from becoming the first woman to win a third ITF crown this season. Mayr's sister Julia reached the QF.

**2010 - MOST ITF TITLES**
2...Evelyn Mayr, ITA
2...Olivia Sanchez, FRA

2...Elena Dementieva (def. S.Williams/Safina)
1...Alona Bondarenko (Jankovic)
1...Barbie (Henin)
1...Gisela Dulko (Henin)
1...Justine Henin (Ivanovic)
1...Alisa Kleybanova (Ivanovic)
1...Svetlana Kuznetsova (Ivanovic)
1...Li Na (V.Williams)
1...Nadia Petrova (Barbie)
1...Agnes Szavay (Jankovic)
1...Serena Williams (Henin)
1...Zheng Jie (Sharapova)
1...Vera Zvonareva (Jankovic)

2001 Serena Williams d. Jada's Future Mama
2002 Daniela Hantuchova d. Martina Hingis
2003 Brian's Future Wifey d. Lindsay Davenport
2004 Justine Henin d. Lindsay Davenport
2005 Justine's Countrywoman d. Lindsay Davenport
2006 Maria Sharapova d. Elena Dementieva
2007 Daniela Hantuchova d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2008 Ana Ivanovic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Vera Zvonareva d. Ana Ivanovic

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier $4.5m-Hard Outdoor)

Jada's Mama d. Pennetta
Azarenka d. Zvonareva
Dementieva d. A.Radwanska
Petrova d. Zheng

Brian's Wifey d. Azarenka
Dementieva d. Petrova

Justine's Countrywoman d. Dementieva

...yep, I've gone to "the dark side." Well, at least for a few days. Plus, a "re-pick" doesn't really count, anyway.

All for now.


Blogger Karen said...

Sorry Todd but both of your picks got knocked out last night. Belgian Barbie lost to Klebs after being up 3-1 in the third set and 4-0 in the tie-break. She then proceeded to lose 7 straight points to lose the match. As to Azarenka,did not see one ball that she hit but she fought hard from 5-1 down in the first set only to lose in the tie-break and never recovered from being down 2 breaks early in the second. Phewt. Sometimes I just feel like giving up on these guys (Azarenka mostly). The courts at IW are playing so slow that I am not at all surprised by the results. It is giving players who are not known for being good movers or fleet of foot a chance to chase down balls and make good plays. On to Miami and the 5th Slam and the Williams Sisters for me.

Tue Mar 16, 09:19:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

when i woke up (in asia time) and saw that justine lost... thought it sucked. but then it looked really strange now with no one to point to. so would it be: petrova (finally?), dementieva, kleb, wosniaki/wickmayer. actually it's got to the point it is only interesting to see the result but not to watch the matches.

Tue Mar 16, 10:21:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Karen... you know, a case could be made that picking the-former-Mrs.-Henin-Hardenne's-suddenly-looking-very-KC 1-ish countrywoman was a subliminal attempt by your's truly to push off some of the bad I.W. mojo onto her. I mean, if that was the case, then mission accomplished, right? IF that was the thought process in the back of my mind, you know? But, then again, I'd NEVER stoop to such things. Never... not even if hours after (re)picking her I was watching some of the match and thinking, "I'd be nice to be REALLY wrong on that pick" and wondering if even I didn't realize what my true goals were at the time. Heehee.

I heard Tracy Austin last night talking about how BB has the pressure of expectation this year that she DIDN'T have late last summer. It's a whole different ball game when everyone expects you to win, especially when you were such a big-event underachiever in your career's previous incarnation.

Jo... yeah, this is turning into one of "those tournaments" where absolutely nothing would surprise you at this point. Maybe a Belgian CAN still win this title. And maybe even a SERB? Hey, that'd be okay. Let Chaos reign. It would be a fitting conclusion. :)

Tue Mar 16, 11:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

wow, federer is out... upset starts spreading. be interesting to see if more will come in the men's side. well i change my mind, perhaps zheng should win for this WTA, for the fun of it.

Wed Mar 17, 01:31:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Karen said...

hehehe Todd you are too bad. You know I like Wozniacki. I think she seems like a really nice girl and I have been following her career ever since she played that tournament in Las Vegas in 2007 and won, but Lord help me I cannot stand her game. All these moonballs, plus it would seem as if her handlers have decided to go with the whole nice girl theme for her a la BB. I dont know but I like my tennis players to be a little bit feisty, you know like Azarenka. I like when players emote on the court and show that they really want it. All this sunshine and daisies and care bears stuff is a tad boring. That being said last night's match with Jheng and Wozniacki was one of the best matches I have seen on the women's side in quite some time. Jheng forced Woz to play tennis in order to win that match. Good clean hitting and stuff. Give Jheng a better serve and she takes that match last night. As to picking BB in order to offset the juju, I think I do that sometimes as well :)

Thu Mar 18, 09:21:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I know what you mean. I like a bit of orneriness in my tennis players, too. It gives the clenched fists and stares across the net a nice little edge. It's a fine line, though. I didn't like that side of Henin when she denied Serena that serve she put her hand up to stop back in 2003 in Paris, but loved it when she donned the "black hat" later during her climb to the top. That little tinge of in-your-eye works for me when it comes to watching Jankovic, too. And Wickmayer. Yep, I do sort of like it. It makes things more interesting.

That said, I've found myself really liking Wozniacki's personality (hence, the "Princess of Charm"). It seemed genuine at the start, so I guess it's all right for it to be marketed. As long as she doesn't start buying champagne for the crowd, squeegeeing courts and pulling a grandstanding move like announcing that she's donating all her prize money during a post-match ceremony (making the other player who isn't look like something of a heel while she basks in the warm, you'd-BETTER-cheer-me-for-my-generosity-or-else-you'll-feel-guilty applause) then I'll continue to embrace her doesn't-seem-desperate acts of kindness. Plus, someone like her tends to make the personalities of the players who aren't that way stand out a bit more. It might even make them more, in a word, "magnetic."

Hey, anything that inspires and grabs some attention is good, especially in a sport that produces more than a few Vaidisova's (who's apparently now quit the sport at 20... though I wonder if it's really the last time we see her).

I've been trying to tie Wozniacki and Azarenka together in a package for a while now, so it's great how your first impulse in looking for the polar opposite of the Dane was the Belarusian. It'd be nice if they could meet up in some important matches soon, because both their game styles and personalities are surely in opposition. That's the stuff of a good rivalry.

Yeah, I've found myself having slight issues with C-Woz's game at times, as well, and couldn't help but talk about how she needs to add a little bit to make things "bigger." If for nothing else to prevent herself from having to play so many long matches. Obviously, when pressed, she can "up" her game. She probably needs to make it more a part of her game on regular basis, though.

Of course, I should note that the "Princess of Charm" did show a good deal of previously-hidden "Harm" in her game and personality during her run in the YEC last year, fighting back from the cramps and big deficits to win (including in a match against Azarenka).

Thu Mar 18, 12:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I like Woz, too, but I have noticed that she's becoming increasingly prissy.

I'm liking her serve more and more, however.

Fri Mar 19, 06:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Uh-oh. A pampered teenager can be dangerous. :D

Meanwhile, Chaos merrily moves along.

Fri Mar 19, 10:25:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kinda surprised by nicole v's decision. she had potential.

the most disappointing thing is she will never play sharapova, lol

Sat Mar 20, 06:32:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

or she will return as Nicole Stepanekova in the future..

Sat Mar 20, 06:36:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jeppe said...

I'm very pleased to see Caroline in the final - hopefully she'll get that win over JJ as well.

I agree that her personality and playing style make her seem like a Golden Retriever in a Pit Bull kennel at the top of the women's game, but I think her tactical intelligence and mental toughness is still underrated.

Sun Mar 21, 07:39:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say not all that you know, believe not all that you hear...................................................

Mon Mar 22, 09:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...


Truthfully, I wasn't all that surprised by Vaidisova. I can still remember watching her play Stosur at Wimbledon in 2008 and her acting like she didn't really care what happened. When nothing changed, and probably got worse over almost two yeasr, I sort of thought this decision could come at any time, and that it probably SHOULD. Maybe the loss to Watson was the last straw?

Oddly enough, that she finally walked away might mean she has a better chance of returning someday. If the marriage to Stepanek does go off as planned, she'll still be around the sport and could grow to enjoy it again. If it doesn't, she might miss it one day. She's only 20, and some have only partly in jest said that it should almost be REQUIRED that young players take a year or so off in order to get their head straight. At least if she does come back, then she'll be doing so because she wants to, not because she feels like she's supposed to.

And, yeah, hard to believe that that Sharapova/Vaidisova thing never happened even once in all these years. What are the odds of that?


Hmmm, using breeds of dogs to describe female players. I don't think I'll touch that one. :D

Tue Mar 23, 12:17:00 AM EDT  
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