Friday, June 04, 2010

RG.13- Odds & Ends Between Paris and London

The second quarter's clay court season still has one match remaining, but that doesn't mean we can't go ahead and turn our eyes to the grass. You know, for something of a breather.

(And, no, I didn't INTEND for that to sound a little bit 420-ish.)

Throughout the last ten years, the run-up to and Wimbledon itself has been something of a moment to take a deep breath. For the most part, the grass has allowed all the sometimes-craziness of the clay season to fade away and for things to happen, I don't know, a little bit more "on schedule."

The would seem to be the case in 2010, too.

Wimbledon and the Williams Sisters have essentially gone hand-in-hand since 2000. It'll probably play out that way this season, as well. A top clay court player -- even the best one -- probably isn't going to win at SW19, but she could get moderately close. The last time a player swept both Paris and London was in 2002 during the "Serena Slam," though a certain Aussie might at least be in the conversation to do it soon. But when something "different" does occur in London, it tends to be somewhat "epic" in nature. Maria Sharapova proved it early in her career, while Jana Novotna did so late. This year, a player like Samantha Stosur could take her career to an even higher level if she follows up her Paris heroics with a similar run on the grass. A two-fer from her and some might argue that she's the most complete player in the WTA universe.

I've always felt that the short, compact nature of the grass season almost makes it something of a late-spring/early-summer "vacation." It's almost refreshing. Of course, that's not really the case for the players. Here's how some of them might view their grass court season differently:

Serena Williams, USA: Venus has long been the queen of the All-England Club's courts, but Serena is 3-1 against her in SW19 finals. After getting so close in Paris, she's going to be looking toward London for redemption. That's not a good thing for the rest of the field.

Venus Williams, USA: in some of her worst seasons, Venus managed to "save" the year with good results at Wimbledon. Even with all her success elsewhere in '10, SW19 is still the biggest fortnight of her season. Title #6 remains there for the taking... even if she has to go through her sister to get it. She could, too.

Justine Henin, BEL: she said she came back because she wanted to win Wimbledon. After her hit-and-miss clay season, it's hard to see that dream becoming reality in 2010. But, then again, maybe the shorter grass court points will provide fewer opportunities for Henin's mind to drift, her tactics to come up short and her likely-even-more-forceful aggression to go unrewarded. Her last two grass events produced a title ('07 Eastbourne) and a Wimbledon SF. After RG, the pressure is sort of off now, and that freedom could be liberating. Remember, with her clay aura in question heading into Stuttgart (I even pre-picked Stosur to beat her in the final of that event), she played her best tennis and won the title. Of course, she could get upended early in London, too. Yes, at the moment, even Henin is THAT sort of player.

...through trick of fate or other priorities, the grass season sometimes is even less of a blip on some players' radars than even its short, month-long length would usually indicate.

Elena Dementieva, RUS: she was a point away from the Wimbledon final in '09, but her health means she's probably looking toward being healthy for the hard court season. Having to bend down to reach low-bouncing balls while struggling with a calf injury wouldn't seem to be a good combination that would lead to much success. Still, she might not be able to keep herself from making a 47th straight slam appearance, even if it turns out to be just a cameo.

Francesca Schiavone, ITA: it's something of a surprise that Schiavone reached a grass court semifinal AND the Wimbledon QF a season ago. But after her Roland Garros success, the celebration hangover is a pretty good bet to make the next month an afterthought.

..."greatness" being a relative term, meaning anything from true "breakout" success to a reclaiming of a former position in the sport.

Williams/Williams, USA: they're 29-1 at Wimbledon, and have won twenty-six straight sets. Barring injury, them taking a third straight SW19 title is probably the biggest lock at any slam this year.

Samantha Stosur, AUS: could the Slingin' Sam legend grow exponentially? Stosur's game has always seemed as if it'd be a good fit on the grass, but her results haven't backed up that notion. In her current form, though, maybe that'll change. More in a moment.

Maria Sharapova, RUS: she had her first huge success on grass, but after winning three grass titles in 2004-05, she's won none since. For her, a tune-up championship might be necessary to put her in the right frame of mind to maintain her late-clay season momentum. For the first time in a few years, Sharapova might be a true dark horse to challenge for a second Wimbledon title.

Yanina Wickmayer, BEL: after suffering from elbow issues and seeing her results sag, she finally seemed to rebound ever so slightly in Paris. She's reached grasscourt finals in each of the past two seasons. Maybe this year she won't peak a week too soon, and will instead make a dent in London.

...could these players soon cobble together a storyline in which they star?

Aravane Rezai, FRA: think about it... if Rezai could have put away one of her three match points against Petrova in the 3rd Round in Paris, it might be HER playing in the singles final on Saturday. The swifter grass courts would seem to fit her game, and her seed should give her a decent shot to at least follow along a nice path to the 4th Round.

Belgian Barbie, BEL: she hasn't played on the grass since '06, but she's a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist. Her post-Open slam results have been atrocious (AO) or non-existent (RG), but she'll have a shot to reclaim the Belgium-related headlines in London.

Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK: the Slovak qualified for SW19 in '08, then won a grass court title last season.

Daniela Hantuchova, SVK: she has the skills, and has managed to become a singles player of note again over the last two seasons. She usually does herself in right before she pulls off something big, though.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA: healthy and focused, the (anti-?)fashionista, who reached the Round of 16 in '08, might have a shot at a few upsets in London.

Sabine Lisicki, GER: Lisicki reached the SW19 quarters in '09, and is always a potential threat. But she's rarely healthy enough to get on the court.

Heather Watson, GBR: two years ago, Laura Robson won the Girls title at Wimbledon. Could '09 U.S. Open junior champ Watson be next?

...great expectations can sometimes be undone by forces beyond one's control.

Samantha Stosur, AUS: hmmm, that kick-serve won't bounce nearly as high on the grass as it has on the clay. Plus, Slingin' Sam's Wimbledon best is just a single 3rd Round result (last year). Of course, she was under-.500 for her career in Paris before 2009, too.

Sabine Lisicki, GER: see "Ready to Turn Heads" above.

Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP: not being your typical Spanish player, and blessed with doubles skills, one's tempted to think that MJMS might be able to win a few matches on the grass. But she's just 2-3 in her career at SW19.

Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA: she's won the tune-up event in the Netherlands for two years running, and reached the Wimbledon QF in '08. At 33, can she pull off another season-making month on the grass courts?

...the tea leaves don't look good for many of the Hordettes. Will the next month be the moment when a reinvigorated Sharapova surges past her countrywomen and back into the top-ranked-Russian position?

Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS: it's doubtful too many of the new up-and-comers will be respectful and just let the cranky-all-season Kuznetsova defeat them. Maybe that decision to go back home to Moscow wasn't a very good one, after all.

Elena Dementieva, RUS: will her forty-six straight slam streak end? Probably not, but just that it's a possibility doesn't speak well for Punch-Sober's chances to get anywhere close to repeating her match-point-in-the-semis near-miss against Serena at SW19 last year.

Dinara Safina, RUS: she replaced her dominating clay season with barely a whimper. Her RG final points dropped off in favor of 1st Round ones. She reached the SF in London last year. Yikes. Look out below.

Victoria Azarenka, BLR: look out below. Is there an echo in here? She reached the Wimbledon QF in '09, but has mostly been an oft-injured after thought since she blew that match against Serena in Melbourne.

For the last decade, Wimbledon has been all about the Williams Sisters. They've won eight of the last ten titles, and filled thirteen of twenty spots in the final since 2000. With the pair ranked #1 and #2, there's probably little reason to believe it'll be anything other than a fourth all-Williams Ladies Championship match come the final Saturday at SW19. But, then again, Henin's streak of twenty-four straight wins was just ended at Roland Garros, so...

Yeah, one thing really doesn't have anything to do with the other.

1. Serena Williams: her Grand Slam hopes are now gone, but that probably only makes her even more determined to win on the grass.
2. Venus Williams: SW19 is usually Venus' to lose, except when Serena is healthy and hungry. Ummm, it should be a great final, though. Maybe she'll win it.
3. Maria Sharapova: with her confidence restored (and maybe service issues in the past?), she could be a force again.
4. Samantha Stosur: we'll find out just how much clay court-inspired confidence means on the grass.
5. Justine Henin: needless to say, I'm a bit noncommital about her chances. After failing to win in Paris, there's no reason to think her Wimbledon goal has a better chance to be achieved now that it did during LPT 1.
6. Squeegee Queen: if she's healthy, she might end up being the Last Belgian Standing. (Pa-tooey! Now I have to wash out my mouth.)
7. Caroline Wozniacki: she won't likely get befuddled by a clay court spinster like Schiavone on the lawns.
8. Jelena Jankovic: she lost in the Wimbledon 3rd Round to Oudin last year. But she's beaten Venus there, too. So... what? Essential JJ.
9. Aravane Rezai: why not? Dokic always played well at the All-England Club.
10. Elena Dementieva: if she was able to play, I'd probably put her a bit higher (even though she'd still likley have no chance to win)

...the Williams Sisters won the Doubles titles, defeating Peschke/Srebotnik 6-2/6-3. It's their twelfth career slam title as a team, and their fourth straight (I heard Mary Joe Fernandez call it the "SistersSlam" the other day, but then what would it be dubbed if they win both Wimbledon and the Open to get a TRUE Grand Slam?). junior play, Ons Jabeur defeated #3 Irina Khromacheva, and Siliva Njiric was knocked out by Elina Svitolina, both by 6-2/6-3 scores. With that, Ukrainian Svitolina is the "Junior Breakout" for this tournament. With Agustin Velotti (ARG) and Andrea Collarini (USA) in the Boys final, all four of the junior singles slots are filled by unseeded players. The last American to win the RG Boys title was John McEnroe in 1977. Hey, Collarini's name at least SOUNDS like he'd be a good clay courter, so mayble he'll make a little history.

Timea Babos and Sloane Stephens will face the all-Spanish team of Lara Aruabarrena-Vecino & Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor in the Girls Doubles championship.

...and, finally... umm, I've got nothing else after two weeks and nothing to gripe at NBC about. Let's just play the final, probably come up with some "Legend of Slingin' Sam" narrative for Saturday, and get to the grass season.

#7 Samantha Stosur/AUS vs. #17 Francesca Schiavone/ITA

#5 Robin Soderling/SWE vs. #2 Rafael Nadal/ESP

#1 Williams/Williams (USA/USA) def. #12 Peschke/Srebotnik (CZE/SLO) 6-2/6-3

#3 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) vs. #2 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)

#6 Srebotnik/Zimonjic (SLO/SRB) def. Shvedova/Knowle (KAZ/AUT) 4-6/7-6/11-9

Elina Svitolina/UKR vs. Ons Jabeur/TUN

Agustin Velotti/ARG vs. Andrea Collarini/USA

#5 Babos/Stephens (HUN/USA) vs. Arruabarrena-Vecino/Torro-Flor (ESP/ESP)

Arguello/Velotti (ARG/ARG) vs. #7 Beretta/Quiroz (PER/ECU)

5...Venus Williams
3...Justine Henin
3...Maria Sharapova
3...Serena Williams
2...Belgian Barbie
2...Tamarine Tanasugarn
=players with 1 title=
Kateryna Bondarenko, Anna Chakvetadze, Eleni Daniilidou, Jelena Dokic, Jelena Jankovic, Michaella Krajicek, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Lisa Raymond, Magdalena Rybarikova, Caroline Wozniacki, Klara Zakopalova, Vera Zvonareva

2007 Mariana Duque-Marino, COL
2008 Simona Halep, ROU & Elena Bogdan, ROU
2009 Daria Gavrilova, RUS
2010 Elina Svitolina, UKR
=other 2010 winners=
AO: Karolina & Krystina Pliskova, CZE

[Open Era, 1968-present]
18...Evonne Goolagong (7-11)
12...Margaret Smith-Court (11-1)
3...Kerry Melville-Reid (1-2)
3...Wendy Turnbull (0-3)
2...Helen Gourlay (0-2)
1...Chris O'Neil (1-0)
1...Dianne Balestrat (0-1)
1...Judy Tegart (0-1)

20...Martina Navratilova/Pam Shriver
20...Louise Brough/Margaret Osborne
14...Gigi Fernandez/Natasha Zvereva

12...Serena Williams
12...Venus Williams
10...Virginia Ruano Pascual
5...Cara Black
5...Lisa Raymond
4...Liezel Huber
4...Rennae Stubbs
2...Belgian Barbie
2...Anabel Medina-Garrigues
2...Samantha Stosur
2...Yan Zi
2...Zheng Jie
ALSO: L.Davenport (3)

Serena Williams - 12 singles, 12 doubles, 2 mixed
Venus Williams - 7 singles, 12 doubles, 2 mixed
NOTE: Samantha Stosur has 2 doubles & 2 mixed titles

45...Jana Novotna, CZE ('98 Wimbledon)
[Francesca Schiavone in 39th slam]
31...Amelie Mauresmo, FRA ('06 Australian)
29...Jennifer Capriati, USA ('01 Australian)
[Samantha Stosur in 28th slam]
28...Kerry Melville Reid, AUS ('77 Australian)
26...Lindsay Davenport, USA ('98 U.S.)

=oldest first-time champions=
[Francesca Schiavone is 29]
29...Jana Novotna, CZE ('98 Wimbledon)
29...Kerry Melville Reid, AUS ('77 Australian)
26...Amelie Mauresmo, FRA ('06 Australian)
[Samantha Stosur is 26]

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Venus Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Samantha Stosur/AUS
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Kurumi Nara/JPN d. Monica Niculescu/ROU 4-6/7-6/10-8
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd: #6 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS d. Andrea Petkovic/GER 4-6/7-5/6-4
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd: #19 Nadia Petrova/RUS d. #15 Aravane Rezai/FRA 6-7/6-4/10-8
FIRST WIN: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK (1st Rd. - def. Ekaterina Ivanova/RUS)
FIRST SEED OUT: #10 Victoria Azarenka/BLR (1st Rd. - lost to Dulko/ARG)
UPSET QUEENS: The Australians
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Chanelle Scheepers/RSA (4th Rd.)
IT GIRL: Ons Jabeur/TUN (jr.)
CRASH & BURN: #9 Dinara Safina/RUS, 2008-09 Runner-Up (1st Rd. - lost to Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #7 Samantha Stosur/AUS (QF - down MP to Serena Williams/USA)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: Marion Bartoli/FRA & Aravane Rezai/FRA (3rd Rd.)
DOUBLES STAR Katarina Srebotnik/SLO

All for Day 13. More tomorrow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sat Jun 05, 06:38:00 AM EDT  

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