Monday, March 29, 2010

Wk.12- Golf Stars, Dead Pop Music Idols, Genocidal German Leaders, Intelligence-Deficient Ex-Governors... and other news from Miami

Compared to Indian Wells, Miami has been a little "boring."

Of course, if you're a top-ranked player (and a second week fan), that's a good thing, as some truly intriguing matchups could be on tap in this farewell week for the 2010 1st Quarter. Thus, the question lingers... wither Jelena Jankovic? We shall soon see if she can thrive in the Florida serenity as well as she did in the California chaos.

NEWSFLASH!!!! The WTA just named Serena Williams the 2009 Player of the Year, over four months since that season ended and almost a quarter into the new campaign.

As it is, the singles draw is sturdy and with few surprises through to the Round of 16 (big upsets were reserved for the doubles, where both #1 Black/Huber and #2 Llagostera-Vives/MJMS failed to make it beyond the 2nd Round), with just three players who didn't receive 1st Round byes still standing.

NEWSFLASH!!! I hear Tiger Woods has had an "interesting" last few months, too. Anyone know what happened?

Still, though, the top and bottom halves of the draw are decidedly unbalanced. In the bottom, we've got a 4th Round rematch of the I.W. semifinal featuring Jankovic and Sam Stosur, an intriguing meeting between the Belgian Barbie and the Belarusian Basher, Justine Henin vs. Vera Zvonareva and I.W. runner-up Caroline Wozniacki facing off with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. This group could easily make up a pretty good SLAM QUARTERFINAL, minus the Williams Sisters. At least six or seven of those names could have been thrown out as potential Miami champions a week ago and been met with only minor resistence and raised eyebrows.

NEWSFLASH!! Did you know that Michael Jackson is dead? Wow. Who saw that coming?

In the top half, though, it's the tour's current hottest player (Venus Williams, on a 12-match winning streak and virtually playing in her backyard) and a group of players with notoriously patchy results in recent times. Yeah, Agnieszka Radwanska is always a threat, but if Venus is on her game it's hard to see A-Rad not being brushed aside. Meanwhile, Yanina Wickmayer's results have dipped a bit in recent weeks and you never know what you're going to get from the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova and/or Marion Bartoli. In other words, Venus is the odds-on favorite to reach the final at this point.

NEWSFLASH! I think I'm going to go with the Allies in World World II. I'm willing to take the bets of anyone who wants to wager against me. Seriously, you're going to take Hitler?

So, unlike last week, there's no need to re-pick the Miami draw in an attempt to scrape some dignity off a court cluttered with no-longer-there potential champions.

Sarah Palin won't get the irony of her being hired to be the subject of a reality show on TLC, The LEARNING Channel. See, some news never gets stale, or easy to fathom.


RISERS: Vera Zvonareva/RUS & Marion Bartoli/FRA
both of these players have often been bedeviled by injuries over the past year, but when they're on their game are a true danger for any player that comes up against them. Just two weeks away from the anniversary of her Charleston ankle injury, Zvonareva handled Melanie Oudin and Sara Errani to set up a 4th Round encounter with Justine Henin. Meanwhile, Bartoli's wins over Magdalena Rybarikova and Gisela Dulko put #1-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in her crosshairs in the Round of 16.
SURPRISES: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ & Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
only Henin, Shvedova and Bacsinszky have reached the Round of 16 without the benefit of a 1st Round bye, so these two qualify as the only real "surprises" of the week. Shvedova got wins over Ajla Tomljanovic and Andrea Petkovic, and was on the receiving end of Sabine Lisicki's latest retirement. Bacsinszky upset Li Na in a 2nd Round match decided by a 3rd set tie-break, a win which was sandwiched by additional victories over Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Polona Hercog.
COMEBACKS: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS & Justine Henin/BEL
Kuznetsova was the #1 seed for this event and her recent form said she might not reach the first weekend. She almost didn't, having to go three sets before escaping Peng Shuai in the 2nd Round. But a fairly swift win over Agnes Szavay has put her in position for a SF run (though Bartoli and Wickmayer might have something to say about that). Even though her serve is still a nagging issue, Henin has managed to rebound from her Indian Wells Dulko Debacle, moving past Jill Craybas, Elena Dementieva and Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets to reach the Round of 16.
VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA & Citizen's Newest Watch Model/BEL
Venus, who lives just ninety minutes from the Miami tournament grounds, has quite a history at this event. She's won it three times, but hasn't reached the final since 2001 (last year Serena knocked her out in the SF). With wins over Sorana Cirstea and Roberta Vinci, the oldest player in the current singles Top 40 finds herself in a favorable position in the top half of the draw, and might just be able to make her pre-tournament comments about her goals for 2010 ("win, win, win, win, win, win, win") seem quite prophetic by the close of this weekend. Meanwhile, Jada's Recently Slumping Mom seems to be on her game again in Florida, easily handling Petra Kvitova and Shahar Peer (allowing the Israeli just a single game... hmmm, I guess she knows how that feels after Oz, huh?) en route to the 4th Round. Next up is Azarenka, and then she might possibly have to defeat Jankovic and Henin just to reach the final.
FRESH FACES: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS & Sachie Ishizu/JPN
Pavlyuchenkova is the youngest player remaining in the Miami draw, one of just two teenagers (with Wozniacki), after reaching the 4th Round with wins over Tamira Paszek and Francesca Schiavone. 17-year old Ishizu won the $10K challenger in Kofu, Japan with a win over countrywoman Akiko Yonemura in a 1-6/6-1/6-0 final. It's her third career ITF title, one each in the past three seasons. Before the start of regular WTA tour play this year (Week 0?), the Top 10 junior from Japan won her first career Girls Grade A at the Casablanca Cup.
DOWN: Flavia Pennetta/ITA & Li Na/CHN
while the very top seeds survived the first week in Miami, there were a few early exits. Along with the likes of Sabine Lisicki and Zheng Jie, these two stood out as the most disappointing. Pennetta lost in the 2nd Round to Andrea Petkovic, getting bageled in the 3rd set, to drop her '10 record to x-x. Meanwhile, Li's spotty season continues to be buoyed by her one fabulous SF result in Melbourne, as she was tossed from the draw in the early rounds yet again with a three-set loss to Bacsinszky.
ITF PLAYER: Johanna Larsson/SWE
Larsson has been THE star of the challanger circuit so far in 2010. She won her ITF-leading third title (in four finals) of the year in the Jersey $25K in Britain, defeating home favorite Anna Smith in the final after notching previous wins over Romina Oprandi, Olivia Sanchez and Timea Babos.
JUNIOR STAR: Irina Khromacheva/RUS
the 14-year old Hordette, the #6 junior in the world, won the G1 International Junior event in the Philippines, defeating Tian Ran of China 6-1/6-2 in the final. It's the second straight week that the 16-year old from China went down at the hands of Khromacheva, having lost to her in the 3rd Round in Malaysia last time out.

OF NOTE: I see Yanina Wickmayer was named "Most Improved" player for last season at that belated Awards ceremony. I wonder if this decision was made before or after she was banished from the tour for two years in the final week of the '09 campaign, then bailed out of her predicament by a favorable Belgian court decision? Between you, me and maybe Samantha Stosur, Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez and Sabine Lisicki, we'll always wonder, huh? Yeah, riiiiight.

1. Miami 2nd Rd - Wozniacki d. Pironkova
Pironkova was Gisela Dulko before Dulko was Dulko. You know, often flashing enough talent to take down tall trees in preeminent forests, but never really showing the consistency required to put up good results throughout the course of a season. This match was a case of getting to see everything in Pironkova's bag in a single match. She went up a set and 3-1 on C-Woz, but lost her advantage. She was up 3-0 in the 3rd, too, but still ended up losing as Wozniacki pulled off one of her casual-start-turns-into-wait-'em-out victory twirls.
2. Miami 2nd Rd - Shvedova d. Lisicki
...6-3/0-1 ret.
With her Charleston defense waiting in the wings, Lisicki's inability to stay on the court is once again a frustrating and troublesome issue.
3. Miami 2nd Rd - Henin d. Dementieva
Elena must have a Justine magnet in her pocket. Sometimes it feels like she's single-handedly laying down the foundation for a successful Henin comeback season.
4. Miami 3rd Rd - Wozniacki d. Kirilenko
Ever since bumping off Kirilenko as the featured model for Stella McCartney's tennis attire on tour, C-Woz is 4-0 against her over the last ten months. Although, this WAS the first time Kirilenko took a set off her, having lost their most recent meeting in Indian Wells by a 6-0/6-3 score.
5. Miami 2nd Rd - Vinci d. Medina-Garrigues
AMG is 4-7 on tour for this season, 1-6 aside from her SF run in Hobart, and making me wonder whether Anna Smashnova might just remain the only WTA player with ten singles titles but zero slam QF results (the Spaniard still needs one title to reach double-digits, but hasn't looked very capable of winning it so far in '10). She's now lost four straight.
6. Miami 1st Rd - Molik d. Harkleroad 6-1/6-1; Miami 2nd Rd - Szavay d. Molik 6-0/6-0
Alicia welcomed Mama Ashley back with a hard lesson, which Agnes quickly made look like child's play.
7. Miami 2nd Rd - Zvonareva d. Oudin
The Hordettes have been getting collective revenge against Little MO ever since her Russian-tipping shenanigans in New York last summer.
8. Miami 2nd Rd - Safarova d. Martinez-Sanchez
Safarova saved three match points while putting away MJMS... then lost her next match against Azarenka. Figures.
9. Miami 2nd Rd - Hercog d. Wozniak
No Canadian Winter Olympian, A-Woz's record is now 3-6 in tour action in 2010.
10. Miami 2nd Rd - Ivanovic d. Parmentier
This win ended AnaIvo's career-worst four-match losing streak. Have no fear, though, she began a new one two days later when she lost 7-5/7-5 to Agnieszka Radwanska.
HM- $10K Antalya Final - Valentyna Ivakhnenko d. Mihaela Buzarnescu
The 16-year old Ukrainian qualifier wins her first challenger crown in yet another of the series of $10K events held in Antalya, Turkey.

1. Johanna Larsson, SWE
2. Zhang Shuai, CHN
3. Anna Lapushchenkova, RUS
4. Evelyn Mayr, ITA
5. Patricia Mayr, ITA
6. Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
7. Genna Piven, UKR
8. Jarmila Groth, AUS
9. Giulia Gotto-Monticone, ITA
10. Romina Oprandi, ITA

1. Sloane Stephens, USA
2. Heather Watson, GBR
3. Tang Hao-Chen, CHN
4. Beatrice Capra, USA
5. Lenka Jurikova, SVK
6. Sachie Ishizu, JPN
7. Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
8. Irina Khromacheva, RUS
9. Yulia Putintseva, RUS
10. Caroline Garcia, FRA

12...VENUS WILLIAMS (February-current after Miami 3rd Rd.)
11...Yanina Wickmayer (January; also had 1 win to end '09 season)

1998 Venus Williams d. Anna Kournikova
1999 Venus Williams d. Serena Williams
2000 Martina Hingis d. Lindsay Davenport
2001 Venus Williams d. Jennifer Capriati
2002 Serena Williams d. Jennifer Capriati
2003 Serena Williams d. Jennifer Capriati
2004 Serena Williams d. Elena Dementieva
2005 You-Know-Who d. Maria Sharapova
2006 Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Maria Sharapova
2007 Serena Williams d. Justine Henin
2008 Serena Williams d. Jelena Jankovic
2009 Victoria Azarenka d. Serena Williams

All for now.


Blogger jo shum said...

hi hi, was able to catch kim and justine's respective matches with online streaming. it's equally heartening to see the great peformances by the belgiums as well as the emotionally self destructed display by the likes of zvonavera and azarenka. it strikes me that both A & Z could play as best as the belgiums, only if they could just be calm and work their way out of adversity. need a lot of patience and self belief. they are probably so used to winning with their talents when they are on a roll, and never able to figure out a way to win when hitting roadblocks during the match. well think azarenka has more of that problem, and if she can not learn from this, it looks like it will be painfully recurring process when she meets a better player.

dementieva's case is a curious one. she must have known how important the match vs justine was, would kind of define her in a very long time to come. she faltered so badly under pressure (i didn't see the match, the scoreline didn't indicate a very interesting match), while henin really thrived under pressure as that would place a stamp in her 'successful' comeback. and i can't keep feeling strong that justine really got into the skin of dementieva and zvonareva even before they got into rythm of play in both matches.

we'll see how caroline performs now. stosur...have not really seen her play but doubt it would post much threat to kim. oh top half of the draw is boring. only if radwanska can put in some effort against venus.

Tue Mar 30, 01:31:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, it had appeared that Azarenka had finally gotten control of her emotions. But I guess two disappointing big tournaments in a row was enough to crack that egg and spill everything out on the court all over again.

As much as a good serve (or absence of one), the lack of belief separates the have's and have not's of women's tennis more than anything else. So many players (Ivanovic, Hantuchova, Azarenka, Zvonareva, etc.) have had the talent to do great things, but so often let themselves get in the way. Unfortunately, such emotional on-court moments tend to play into the stereotypes that many people have when it comes to female athletes (especially young ones). You'd think more players would try to emulate the self-belief that players such as the Williams sisters display, or at least learn not to let their doubts show (ala, I think, Henin, who's always so expertly publicly masked the inner doubts she's expressed off the court). Just being able to play the part would probably help them weather some storms in tight matches, and such results could instill that missing confidence over time.

But, as Federer said recently, "Sometimes you're winning easily; sometimes you're finding a way to win. That's being a champion, I guess."

Or not being one, in some cases.

Tue Mar 30, 12:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Karen said...

Yesterday's match with Venus just showed once again that you just cannot teach belief in a player. The player has to either have it or does not. How many times have we seen Venus and Serena faced with a player playing out of their minds and still come out with the W. At some point in time the Vikas, Veras, Elenas and Danis of this world either have to start putting up or get the hell out of the way. Last night Barbie was not even playing well in the first part of the match and Vika just allowed her to get in a groove and that was it. Same thing with Vera who although faced with an opponent who came to play was left screaming and hitting her head with her racquet in frustration. These women have no concept of what it takes to win and this on-court coaching nonsense has to stop. I have got off the up and coming youngsters bus as none of them are worth the time of day anymore. Venus was basically done and dusted for yesterday and all Hantuchova could do was keep calling Cahill to tell her to start believing in herself. WTF. Then he proceeds to tell his charge that Venus has done this before, i.e. get out of jail because she can. Way to inspire confidence in your player. Idiot. I have just given up on this whole women's tennis thing. For now I will continue to root for Venus and Serena until the day they decide to retire, and when they do, that is it for me. These young women have to learn to find ways to get the hell out of their own way on a tennis court. They have to learn to start thinking for themselves and know how to get out of tight spots.

Tue Mar 30, 12:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Melanie Oudin at the U.S. Open. Flavia and Francesca at a Fed Cup event. Serena at just about any event. Self-belief is, unfortunately, hard to come by, especially for females. If someone doesn't get it from her family of origin, then a coach can play a big role. Certain coaches, such as Oudin's and Henin's, teach belief the way they teach forehands.

Girls who play sports actually have an advantage over other girls, since--in most cultures--it is still considered "unfeminine" to be competitive and aggressive. This is why some of us are so adamant that the tour start promoting the players as athletes first and last.

The ATP also has its share of talented un-believers; self-belief can be quite elusive.

Tue Mar 30, 10:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger 伯臻采男 said...


Thu Apr 01, 07:20:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite surprised by Brian's Wife's win. I didn't expect her to win. I sensed she could beat Henin, surely didn't expect the score to be that close.

There's something about Justine, she plays like she doesn't have the dominant mind she had. She seems unlikely to win a slam at the moment... even a bit tour title.. will she?

Sun Apr 04, 01:00:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


maybe that will change during the clay court season?

Sun Apr 04, 01:01:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hmmm, I think even I'm needing to see a little something more from Justine to truly believe everything old will be new again in Paris. Late against C-Woz, everything seemed right with her world. Then in the SF, all the old/new issues rose up again. Maybe too much is being expected too soon from a player who built her former empire after a LOT of hard work.

So much goes into Henin playing well, with her game having so many moving parts. Her countrywoman's game is a good bit simpler, so maybe this is all to be expected.

Oh, well... now I get the "challenge" of writing an entire Backspin without using the Player of the Week's name. Should be interesting. :)

Thankfully, I have a number of old nicknames for you-know-who to pull from to get me through. (That and an energy drink should do the trick.)

Sun Apr 04, 08:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger sly said...

Mr Todd you should have predicted Mrs Barbie to win Miami... hmpf ;p

Sun Apr 04, 09:41:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I knew I must have done something wrong. :)

Sun Apr 04, 11:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

Do you guys think this looks like the early 2000 again? When Williams was dominant and kim and justine were trying to make their mark...

Tue Apr 06, 03:03:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really, Jo. the new Barbie seems to be better. the Queen was supreme, maybe she hadn't exercise her power in a while, seems like she doesn't rule well, give her some time to prove herself.

Sat Apr 10, 03:20:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

mmm... but actually in early 2001, 2002, barbie had been more prominent, i think the new barbie plays as well as the old barbie, but the new queen is yet to find the same form until hopefully FO.

Sat Apr 10, 06:15:00 AM EDT  
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