Monday, March 08, 2010

Wk.9- .now for All (The 6th Annual Backwards Backspin)

[Helpful Hint: It might be easier to read this week's edition of Backspin from the bottom up]

The draw comes out soon, so I'll make picks then. All for now.

Of note, AnaIvo won this title in '08, and was runner-up a year ago. If her slide continues and she exits early in '10, her ranking will take an even bigger hit than it has since she won RG.

09 FINAL: Zvonareva d. Ivanovic
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier $4.5m-Hard Outdoor)

2...Liezel Huber, USA (2 doubles)
2...IVETA BENESOVA, CZE (2 doubles)
3...Cara Black, ZIM (2 doubles/1 mixed)

Polona Hercog, SLO (19, Acapulco...lost to V.Williams)
Alisa Kleybanova, RUS (20, Kuala Lumpur...def. Dementieva)
Angelique Kerber, GER (22, Bogota...lost to Duque-Marino)
Mariana Duque-Marino, COL (20, Bogota...def. Kerber)

# - apparently, until further notice... I guess
* - Fernandez/Zvereva were elected to the Hall of Fame last week
87...Paola Suarez
111...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
117...Lisa Raymond
159...CARA BLACK #
237...Martina Navratilova

22...Maria Sharapova (Memphis)
20...Yanina Wickmayer (Auckland)
20...Alisa Kleybanova (Kuala Lumpur)
20...Mariana Duque-Marino (Bogota)

Well, apparently, Cara Black IS still ranked #1 on the doubles computer, with Liezel Huber, and always has been. In a bit of Orwellian manuevering, the WTA's web site now again lists the pair as co-#1's (including in the "previous week's ranking" column) after three weeks of having Huber in the top spot not only on the official rankings page, but also on their individiual bio pages. In fact, I now notice that early last week the site had a small item about the two which "casually" mentioned that they'd shared the top ranking since sometime in 2007. Then, days later, the rankings page reflects it, too. Isn't that sort of like a newspaper listing a correction of a front page story in a one inch by one inch area on page D18 almost a month later? So, apparently, Black never lost the ranking and is still on course to match Navratilova's ranking records. Good for her. But, seriously, if you can't take the WTA's official site's word on who the top-ranked players in the world are, whose word can you take? Maybe we should just say Venus and Serena are #1... since that's probably more accurate than the "rankings," anyway. :NOTE

Yep, more sisters. The Italian siblings met up to decide which would win her second ITF title of 2010. As it turned out, 20-year old Evelyn won out over 18-year old Julia, giving her a 2-0 challenger final record for the season and dropping little sis to 1-1. .6-2/6-2...
Evelyn Mayr d. Julia Mayr - Final $10K Antalya .7

I can't believe Barb almost lost to her. She had to save a match point. Maybe the Petrova loss in Melbourne really did get inside her head. .7-6...
Barbie d. Ivanovic - SF MSG .6

Hmmm, maybe Cibulkova hasn't usurped Hantuchova's ages-old role as the top Slovak, after all? .4-6/6-3/6-0...
Hantuchova d. Cibulkova - SF Mont .5

Vaidisova came in ranked #177. As shocking as that is, that she lost to a junior ranked #484 on the WTA computer might be even more so. But then you remember how far Vaidisova has fallen... and you just shake your head .4-7/7-6/7-6...
Watson d. Vaidisova - 1st Rd. $25K Hammond .4

She's the fifth different Russian to win a WTA crown in 2010. Outside of the Hordettes, only six other players have won tour singles titles this season. .1-6/6-1/6-0...
Pavluchenkova d. Hantuchova - Final Mont .3

Remember when QC was always on the winning side of scorelines like this? .5-7/6-4/6-4...
Sevastsova d. Jankovic - 1st Rd. Mont .2

Playing in her fourth three-setter in five days, Venus came back from a 4-2 3rd set deficit (she also erased a 2-0 lead by Svetlana Kuznetsova in their one-set SF contest) in front of a very pro-Venus crowd. I don't know if Barbie was a little unnerved by the sound of fans calling out in the middle of points to distract HER or not, but she surely didn't look the most composed of the two here. .6-4/3-6/7-5...
V.Williams d. Brian's Wife - Final MSG .1

the 18-year old from Paraguay won the G1 Asuncion Bowl in her home country, defeating Venezuela's Adriana Perez (who upset Jana Cepelova in the SF) in the final. Cepede Royg also got a win over American Beatrice Capra...
Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR :JUNIOR STAR
Zhang won the $25K Hammond challenger, defeating American Jamie Hampton (in her second ITF final of the season) in a 6-2/6-1 final. A winner over Safina in a match late last season, Zhang also defeated Watson in the QF...
nothing seems to be working for JJ these days. As the #1 seed in Monterrey, she went out early with a 1st Round defeat at the hands of Anastasiya Sevastova. Sadly, I don't think Orbit's "Smile Ambassador" has been flashing that winning grin too much lately...
Jelena Jankovic/SRB :DOWN
in the $25K Hammond, Louisiana challenger, 17-year old Brit Watson's QF run was highlighted by a hard-fought 1st Round victory over Nicole Vaidisova. She's currently the #4-ranked junior in the world...
Heather Watson/GBR :FRESH FACE
Venus followed up her Dubai and Acapulco crowns by heading to New York last Monday and winning the one-night Billie Jean King Cup exhibition at Madison Square Garden (where she'd lost to Serena in '09). The highlight? Her late-in-the-3rd-set "from the rafters" smash at the net against Justine's Countrywoman. It was classic Venus... with a hint of Pete Sampras' overpowering, leaping smash shot thrown in for good measure. In the $25K challenger in Minsk, Bovina reached the singles SF (losing to eventual champ Anna Lapushchenkova) and won the doubles with Irena Pavlovic...
Venus Williams/USA & Elena Bovina/RUS :VETERANS
at one time, Hantuchova was the WTA's "Wonder Girl," the chosen one who so many felt would one day be #1. Didn't happen. But, at 26, she still occasionally flashes the form that got her a great deal of attention, if not all that many tour singles titles over the years. In Monterrey, she ran off a string of wins over Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, Kaia Kanepi, Vania King and Cibulkova before finally going down in three sets against Pavlyuchenkova in the final. It was Hantuchova's first singles final since winning Linz in 2007...
Daniela Hantuchova/SVK :COMEBACK
yes, Latvians DO play tennis. At least Sevastova does. She opened the week in Monterrey by taking out #1-seed Jelena Jankovic, and then the 19-year old followed that up with victories over Benesova and Alize Cornet to reach her first career tour SF. Her previous best result was a QF in Guangzhou last season. So far in 2010, fifty-two singles semifinalist berths have been garnered by women from twenty-six different nations, a list to which Sevastova added Latvia's name this weekend...
Anastasiya Sevatsova/LAT :SURPRISE
Cibulkova was one of three semifinalists in Monterrey who were looking for their first tour singles titles. She didn't get her's, losing to countrywoman Hantuchova in three sets, but good wins over Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani and Agnes Szavay at least are a sign that the promise she showed a couple of seasons ago wasn't an illusion. Meanwhile, Czech Zahlavova-Strycova became the first women with three tour doubles titles in '10, winning the Monterrey crown with Iveta Benesova one year after the pair were the runners-up there in '09. BZS won in Acapulco last week with Polona Hercog, and teamed with Benesova earlier to take the crown in Paris...
Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE :RISERS
for the second consecutive week, a Russian Hordette grabbed her first career title. After Alisa Kleybanova did it in Kuala Lumpur, Pavlyuchenkova followed suit in Monterrey this weekend. The 18-year old made often-quick work of the likes of Anna Tatishvili, Polona Hercog and Klara Zakopalova early in the week, and then was forced to play both the semifinal and final on Sunday after her match was rained out on Saturday. No matter, though, as she showed impressive closing ability against Anastasija Sevastova (6-1 in the 3rd) in the SF and Daniela Hantuchova (6-1/6-0 in sets two and three) in the final...
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS :PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Venus Williams def. Jada's Mother 6-4/3-6/7-5
BILLIE JEAN KING CUP (Exhibition - Madison Square Garden, NYC)

D: Benesova/Zahalvova-Strycova d. Groenefeld/King
S: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Daniela Hantuchova 1-6/6-1/6-0

MONTERREY, MEXICO (Int'l $220K-Red Clay)


ANSWER: Hmmm... we'll have to wait and see. The former dominant junior #1 has been an image in the top players' rear view mirrors for a couple of seasons now. Late last year, though, she knocked off Venus Williams twice. A few months later she has her first title. With more confidence has come greater success. With greater success comes more pressure to succeed. Is she a Vaidisova or Ivanovic in Russian clothing? Her junior success hints that she can handle the progression of her career. But, for the time being, let's just say the next hurdle to clear will be to reach the Top 20, which could very well happen in short order for the current world #25.

QUESTION: So Pavlyuchenkova's going to have a good, but not great, career then?

ANSWER: Yep. The likes of Safina, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova all won their first titles BEFORE turning eighteen... and all went on to either become #1 or win a slam, or both in Sharapova's case. None of the other four have been consistent and/or long-term slam threats, though Myskina DID win Roland Garros in 2004.

QUESTION: Hmmm, there's been sort of a mixed bag of promising/disappointing career results from that group, huh?

ANSWER: Four. Elena Likhovtseva, Anastasia Myskina, Vera Zvonareva and Maria Kirilenko.

QUESTION: Back to what actually happened last week. How many other Russian women have won their first WTA singles title at age 18?

ANSWER: Good point, nameless Backspin reader most definitely not also named Todd. Call it the bad luck of the draw, sort of like when Dinara Safina wins a title the week before a slam and it's shrugged off by my caveman friend in his "Bare Bones" version of the weekly round-up, when he spends half the time making not-so-vague threats against me. Of course, I have nothing against... umm, should I call her "A-Pav?" Well, no, I guess I threw that one out a while back... so AP's shorthand moniker is still waiting for inspiration.. But, yes, that champion pick might end up being my best one of the season (though my predictions are already eons better than last year's -- eight correct winners in seventeen total events, as opposed to just thirteen in sixty-one in '09, plus eight-for-eight in Fed Cup picks). Of course, I've probably initiated a long losing streak by just mentioning that. Speaking of gimmicks, though, this annual edition of Backspin was scheduled before "Pavvy" (?????)) won in Monterrey, so it would have taken a monumentally odd/brilliant/mesmerizing/worrisome result at the tournament -- and, hey, the chaotically-challenged JJ lost in the 1st Round, so... -- to scuttle plans for this sixth attempt to bridge the gap between Mondays during one of the tour's slow weeks, which usually come in late February/early March, then again in April (look out, here comes another spring edition of "Scrambled Backspin," with or without eggs or bacon, but maybe toast, in a few weeks).

QUESTION: So, Todd, why are you once again using this gimmicky "Backwards Backspin" trick? Isn't it getting old? As usual when you do this, it seems as if you're not giving this week's one tour singles champion -- 18-year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova -- equal credit compared to the "Players of the Week" the rest of the season. Which surprises me, since you actually guessed right... err, I mean picked her to win the tournament last Monday.



Blogger Eric said...

Hi Todd,

Couple notes:
- If Vaidisova lost to Heather Watson, that would make sense since Heather Watson is not a bad player and she'd know the Bolleitieri style of play
- AnaIvo slide reminds me of Kuznetsova's slide...i think after she gets a couple good wins (and the new coach helps) she'll be back...(not that i like her that much...but whatev)

-my friend and I were interested in going to legg mason/rogers cup...since you live close to legg mason, i was hoping you'd been before and had some inside information on what's good/bad to see. For exmaple, I didn't know if we could just buy the higher up seats and then maybe sneak down later if we see a lot of empty seats...

my friend also wanted to go to the championships for legg mason...or would you recommend seeing the earlier rounds...or getting grounds passes (do they have those?)...since i've never attended a tourney before, i don't know what to expect.

any help/suggestions would be appreciated

(i feel like i'm always asking you personal questions here...sorry! let me know if you don't like that...or if there is another form of communication...)


Tue Mar 09, 12:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

do you get my email from my posts?

Tue Mar 09, 12:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

What I was saying about Vaidisova/Watson was more about how far Vaidisova has fallen. Remember, she was nearly (should have been, really) a slam finalist just a fews ago and had reached the Top 10. She's seemed to want to place the blame on her fall on a wrist injury, but I think it's a lot more personal than that.

Speaking of juniors, I see that Sloane Stephens got a win in qualifying over Arantxa Parra. Good for her. At least I'll have a "Fresh Face" now for next week's "mid-IW" post.

Hmmm, I think I mixed up a comment here with one on the IW picks post. Anyway, as I said there, I wonder if Ivanovic's problems will be solved with different coaching. Her issue has seemed to be confidence and handling pressure, and Gunthardt never had to deal with that with Graf. I remember Hantuchova jumping between coaches a few years ago when her slide began, and she never did regain a consistent, slam-contending singles game after that. And I wonder if going to the MSG event, then failing to put away that upset bid over Barbie, might end up hurting her mindset more than helping it (as it probably should).

Actually, I've only gone to the men's D.C. event once, and it's been quite a long while. (Informative Hint: the big match of the day was Brad Gilbert coming back from two sets to love down to defeat Boris Becker... that's how long ago it was. :D)

What I remember about that day was that I think I almost became a footnote in the match storyline. :) I was sitting near the top of the stadium, and it was so ridiculously humid (as it always is that time of here in the area). Naturally, I wasn't wearing a hat and hadn't had anything to drink. As Gilbert stretched the match out so long, I started feeling nauseous, and maybe dizzy. I'm pretty sure I was on the edge of having heat sickness, and felt like I might throw up at any moment (damn Gilbert doing this to me!). I can remember staking out a path of least resistence to the edge of the stands where I could vomit over the side if I had to. I'm sure the move would have caused a bit of a commotion, and the long drop of whatever came out of me to the pavement below would not have been pretty. Thankfully, the match ended before that moment had to occur.

So, anyway, I've never gone back. :D I wish they still had a women's tour event in the area, because I'd more than likely find a way to go (the final of that one was at least held indoors at George Mason University when I went to it).

I'd think, though, that you might get more bang for the dollar with a grounds pass. You'd get to see more players. Depends on your mindset, I guess.

No, I don't get your email from the posts. But if you want to email me, you can go to my Blogger profile (there are a few links to that in the sidebar) and get my contact address there. Sometimes I don't check that email for a few days, though. :)

Wed Mar 10, 03:52:00 PM EST  

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