Wk.27- Odds & Ends Between the Grass and New York City
With apologies to Alicia Keys...
"Ooohh New York
Ooohh New York
They'll comin' to a town that is famous as the place of movie scenes
Noise will always be loud, there are sirens all around
and the people in the stands are sometimes mean
But if they can make it there, they can make it anywhere, that's what they say
Seeing their face in lights or their name on scoreboard marquees found not far from Broadway
They're gonna make it by any means, They got a pocketful of dreams
Baby, They'll soon be in New York
New York, hard court jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothin' they can't do
They'll soon be in New York
Those blue-colored courts will make them feel brand new
Big lights will inspire, too
Let's hear it for New York, New York,
Just don't foot fault if you know what's good for you
Oooh New York
Oooh New York
New York, New York"
-- sort of from "Empire State of Mind" (Alicia Keys, 2009)
[3Q hard courts]
Samantha Stosur, AUS: she reached a final and a SF during the U.S. Open Series a season ago. After her disappointing Roland Garros final and grass court campaign, Sam needs to at least sling a HC title in order to avoid being viewed as having already reached her season (career?) zenith.
Jelena Jankovic, SRB: QC nemesis Justine's not supposed to be around come Open time. If JJ can hold onto her #2 ranking she could be in good position for a deep run there. In order to do that, she's going to need to be on her game in North America and then enter the year's final slam with a head of steam. Winning the U.S. Open Series would be a nice goal to shoot for.
Victoria Azarenka, BLR: if she's going to get back into the Top 10 by season's end, Azarenka has to kick-start her results starting now.
Serena Williams, USA: it's a slam, so Serena will come to play. Wanna bet the entire crowd goes silent and waits with bated breath the first time she foot faults in the tournament? Yeah, as if any linesperson will call a foot fault on her again. One well-timed smile and a wink from Serena and all will be forgiven and forgotten, if it hasn't already.
The Waffle Queen: that U.S. Open title last September, plus her matches with Justine Henin, have been the (only?) highlights of Blondie's comeback. Thing is, does winning again really matter to her?
Maria Sharapova, RUS: the Open has traditionally been Sharapova's best slam venue. Healthier and with more confidence than she's possessed in quite a while, can she be exquisite in the city once again?
Elena Dementieva, RUS: the reigning U.S. Open Series winner, Dementieva's slam appearances will ALWAYS be important until she is either no longer slam-less or hangs up her rackets for good. After the first Punch-Sober-less slam since 1998, her appearance in the Open will be career slam attempt #47.
[3Q hard courts]
Serena Williams, USA: it doesn't matter if she wins a tune-up (does she ever?). It's all about Flushing Meadows. A good, hard-fought close loss will do her just as much -- or more -- good as any Series title.
Francesca Schiavone, ITA: isn't the Fed Cup final the only thing that really matters for the rest of her season?
Williams/Williams, USA: not that they'll skip the Open or anything, but with the calendar year Grand Slam now an impossibility one of those second week walkover exits re-enters the possibility equation.
**POISED FOR "GREATNESS"**
[3Q hard court]
Liezel Huber, USA or Cara Black, ZIM: the search for their first post-Her slam Doubles title continues. For her part, Huber still has a decent shot (well, likely better than Black's, at least) at ending the season as the sole top-ranked doubles player in the world. They won in Cincy (and reached the Open final) as a team last 3Q, and Huber's part-time teaming with Lindsay Davenport in Stanford and San Diego might provide an opportunity to hold onto some of those points.
Nuria Llagostera-Vives/Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP: somewhat surprisingly, they swept through Toronto and New Haven last season and left with a pair of titles.
Serena Williams, USA: six titles in the last nine slams, anyone?
Jada's Defending Champion Mama: yep... backing up her '09 title with another would go a LONG way toward changing the what-she-hasn't-done-lately notion that that immediate post-comeback Open title was pretty flukey. But what are the chances THAT happens?
Vera Zvonareva, RUS: what better way to put away any lingering memories of the Pennetta match and that "bad tape job" from last year?
The Pliskova sisters, CZE: both are playing tour-level singles this week. If they're entered in the Girls competition come the Open, might they produce the first all-sister slam junior final? If either wins the Girls crown, she'd be the first two-time junior slam winner in a single season since Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in '06 (Azarenka did it in '05, as did Kirsten Flipkens in '03).
**READY TO TURN HEADS**
[3Q hard court]
Aravane Rezai, FRA: the hard-hitting, go-for-winners-from-anywhere game should translate to the hard courts without much effort. Her pre-North American clay success should stoke her confidence.
Lindsay Davenport, USA & Martina Hingis, SUI???: Davenport last won a tour doubles title early in the '08 season. She'll have a shot at another when she teams with Huber in Stanford and San Diego. Hingis is back this month in World Team Tennis action. After that, who knows?
Petra Kvitova, CZE: the last Czech woman to reach the U.S. Open SF was Helena Sukova in 1993.
**HOLD YOUR HORSES**
[3Q hard court]
Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL: (checking watch, waiting to see how long until we know if Wimbledon meant anything or not)
Samantha Stosur, AUS: you think her Wimbledon best-ever result of a single 3rd Round is disappointing? Well, Stosur's never advanced past the 2nd Round at Flushing Meadows, and is 1-6 in her last seven matches there.
Melanie Oudin, USA & Yanina Wickmayer, BEL: Oudin won't be the star of the Open at age 18 that she was at 17. Ever since she started experiencing elbow problems, Wickmayer's results have been scattershot. Maybe the '09 semifinalist will gather herself for another great run in Flushing Meadows that Pam Shriver will surely be right on top of this time around. I suspect Pam will tag the Belgian as a "player to watch" in the first week, just to avoid a sequel.
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN: the '09 runner-up, C-Woz entered the last two slams with diminished expectations due to her injury. She performed better than expected, but was ultimately ejected under a cloud of frustration. This time at the Open, she'll have higher expectations and something to lose.
**LURCHING TOWARD DISASTER?**
[3Q hard court]
Ana Ivanovic, SRB: AnaIvo won the U.S. Open Series in '06. My how things have changed.
Dinara Safina, RUS: how low can she go before the '08 U.S. Open Series winner finally begins to climb back? Will she be able to climb back? The Safin family is a resilient brood, albeit a frustrating and unpredictable one, as well.
Basketball Brian's Wifey: hmmm, the last time she won in New York, she injured herself right before the Open and didn't return to defend her title the following year. Just something to think about.
=U.S. OPEN - POWER RANKINGS... from two months out=
1. Serena Williams: will F-bombs be raining down on Ashe again this year? Or will the rain be replaced by another reign. Ha, see how I did that there? Cool, huh? With Serena seeking some Big Apple redemption, she looks to be the axis upon which yet another slam will spin.
2. The Defending Champ: with expectations tagging along behind her, don't expect a repeat. The Belgian has resembled her old slam self ever since winning in NY. Still, of the people expected to attend, only Serena has more U.S. Open titles than she does.
3. Maria Sharapova: how much did she gain from pushing Serena at SW19 more than any other player?
4. Jelena Jankovic: can she slip in through the back door and make a move in a Justine-less Open?
5. Petra Kvitova: she sure looked like a potential more-than-once threat in London. We'll see.
6. Vera Zvonareva: can she block out the bad '09 memories?
7. Caroline Wozniacki: she might be starting to feel the pressure. At least a little.
8. Elena Dementieva: bless her heart, she's back for more.
Incompletes- Svetlana Kuznetsova & Dinara Safina: their talent says yes, but Safina's back and Kuznetova's attitude say no.
Wild Cards- Li Na & someone whose chances Pam Shriver dismissively pooh-poohs somewhere around the middle weekend: it's never wise to overlook Li. Hmmm, maybe if Shriver did, though, Li would become the first Chinese slam champion. If Shriver talks about a player with "under-the-radar" talent having no chance whatsoever of advancing past the first week, pencil her in for at least a QF result.
Lucky "14," here she comes?
*WEEK 27 CHAMPIONS*
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (Int'l $220K/red clay outdoors)
S: Agnes Szavay def. Patty Schnyder 6-2/6-4
D: Bacsinszky/Garbin d. Cirstea/Medina-Garrigues
BASTAD, SWEDEN (Int'l $220K/red clay outdoor)
S: Aravane Rezai def. Gisela Dulko 6-3/4-6/6-4
D: Dulko/Pennetta d. Voracova/Zahlavova-Strycova
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta, ARG/ITA
...I don't know if this is the first time that a doubles team has grabbed the regular POW award or not, but it's surely not a normal occurrence. The circumstances warrent it, though. And not just because the other choices were singles winners of two of the small red clay tounaments that are tucked safely away in the multi-week crevice between the too-short grass season (seriously, why not make the Newport Hall of Fame celebration an alternating event that allows the women to take center stage there every other year?) and the 3Q North American hard court stretch. Dulko and Pennetta's title in Bastad was their tour-leading fourth of the season, and seventh as a team. Dulko actually has five doubles titles in 2010, more than any other woman. Also, the two met in the singles semis, as well, with Dulko taking out the top-seeded Pennetta in two quick sets. Naturally, Dulko lost in the singles final, as she continues to cruelly tease me with success, then pull away at the last moment the possibility that my pre-season prediction of her pulling off a singles/doubles title sweep at some point this season will come true.
RISER: Aravane Rezai/FRA
...proving herself to be an all-surface threat in 2010, Rezai picked up her second clay title of the season with a win in Bastad. Her fourth career title, all coming in the last fourteen months, came with wins over the likes of the perpetually unpredictable Lucie Safarova and Dulko. With the victory, she's back in the Top 20 (so long, Svetlana... maybe we'll see you again at some point) and is going for another clay crown in Palermo this week.
SURPRISES: Ana Vrljic/CRO & Jamie Hampton/USA
...the 25-year old, #270-ranked Vrljic qualified in Bastad (highlighted by a win over the still-plugging-away-in-unfortunate-obscurity Elena Bovina) then put on a run to her first career tour QF. She notched victories over Angelique Kerber (who retired down 3-0 in the 3rd) and Arantaxa Rus before being forced to exit with an injury of her own in the 3rd set against Dulko (who'd built up a 5-0 lead). On the ITF circuit, Jamie Hampton continued to star. In Grapevine, Texas, I heard it through the gr... well, you know... that she won a $50K challenger to claim her third lower level title of the year. After wins over Anna Lapushchenkova and Beatrice Capra, Hampton took out Kurumi Nara 6-3/6-4 in the final.
COMEBACK??: Agnes Szavay/HUN
...back in 2007, Szavay looked like a player on the move. She reached three finals, winning two (retiring with the lead in the other). In early 2008, she was up to #13 in the rankings. After that, the bottom dropped out as she managed to lose to every qualifier and 1st Round opponent that the Draw Gods threw at her. Over the past two years, her results have at least worked their way out of their hide-your-eyes state, but she's struggled to come close to living up to the promise of three seasons ago. She HAS managed to regain her footing back home in Hungary, though. In 2009, the only SF-or-better result she had was her title run in Budapest. This weekend, with her first SF-or-better result since last July, she defended that title. She even repeated her win in the final over Patty Schnyder. Wins over Alize Cornet and Alexandra Dulgheru show her path to another final was no cakewalk, but whether or not her latest "bubble up" will result in a few more over the last half of the season is anyone's guess.
VETERANS: Patty Schnyder/SUI & Zuzana Ondraskova/CZE
...Sneaky Patty refuses to be totally written off. Over the past year, she's gone from a Top 20 player to someone fighting to remain in the Top 50 and causing her fans to wonder if the end is near. Arriving in Budapest as #56-and-falling in the world with her last SF-or better result coming with her runner-up result in the same tournament a year ago, she showed that her career hasn't yet turned onto the off-ramp of The White Mile. After upsetting top-seeded Alisa Kleybanova, then Polona Hercog and Zuzana Ondaskova, she lost in the final once again to Szavay. Speaking of Ondraskova, her trip to the SF was even more unexpected. The 30-year old Czech, #144 in the world, qualified in Budapest, and then notched main draw upsets of Sorana Cirstea, Roberta Vinci and Anabel Medina-Garrigues. A WTA singles champion in Prague back in 2005, this was Ondraskova's first QF result since 2006 in Estoril.
FRESH FACES: Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU & Madalina Gojnea/ROU
...Dulgheru didn't push through to the Budapest final, losing to Szavay in a close three-set SF, but she maintained her position as the Swarmette with the most to offer the tour at the moment (thanks to Cirstea's disappointing inconsistency in '10). The Romanian got singles wins over Sandra Zahlavova, Anna Chakvetadze and Anastasiya Sevastova, and also reached the doubles SF with Kleybanova. In ITF action, Dulgheru's countrywoman Gojnea reached the $25K Aschaffenburg final, where she defeated Carolina Garcia 6-1/6-0 to win her circuit-best fifth challenger title of the season.
DOWN: Kaia Kanepi/EST
...after blowing those five match points in the Wimbledon QF against Petra Kvitova, Kanepi said that she'd get over the disappointment pretty quickly. Hmmm. Well, in Bastad, she lost in her first match back since her collapse, dropping a 6-4/7-5 contest to Arantxa Parra-Santonja in the 1st Round. Over it yet? She's back in action this week, and won her 1st Round match in Palermo today.
ITF PLAYER: Julia Goerges/GER
...the German won the $100K Biarritz challenger over Aussie Sophie Ferguson, 6-2/6-2. She also got wins over Pauline Parmentier, Evgeniya Rodina and Stephanie Foretz en route to her first ITF title of the season.
JUNIOR STAR: Victoria Kan/RUS
...another week, another Hordette wins a Grade I junior event. This time it was 14-year old Kan at the AirBerlin German event, where the unseeded Russian knocked off three seeded players, including #1 Anna-Lena Friedsam in the SF. Germany's Annika Beck fell in the final, 6-2/6-2.
1. Brussels Exhibition - Belgian Barbiella d. S.Williams
...6-3/6-2. Not-the-Greatest-of-All-Time was there to bask in the Belgian aduration, while Serena was there to simply fill the injured Justine Henin's role in the spectacle. Somehow, I doubt that Henin would have gone down so soundly in what would have been something more than the meaningless exhibition that this event at King Baudouin Stadium turned out to be. But who knows? Anyway, the Martina Navratilova-umpired occasion did what it was supposed to do -- attract 35,681 fans to break the attendence record (30,472) for an exhibition, previously held by the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs "Battle of the Sexes" meeting at the Houston Astrodome in 1973.
2. Bastad Final - Rezai d. Dulko
...6-3/4-6/6-4. The opinionated Pastry is now one of eight different players tied for the 2010 tour lead with two singles titles on the season. This week in Palermo, she goes for #3.
3. Budapest Final - Szavay d. Schnyder
...6-2/6-4. A result so nice, they produced it twice. Last season, Szavay won 2-6/6-4/6-2.
4. Budapest SF - Szavay d. Dulgheru
...6-1/5-7/7-5. This is the sort of good-in-the-latter-stages result that Szavay won routinely a few years ago. The two could meet again in the Prague QF this week.
5. Bastad SF - Dulko d. Pennetta
...6-3/6-1. These two are perfect doubles partners. You never know what you're going to get from either of them in singles, but put them together and they cover up each other's tattered edges and win more doubles titles than any other duo on tour. Voila!
HM- World Cup Final - Spain d. Netherlands
...1-0. Finally, the long wait is over. No, not the wait for the first-ever WC crown for Espana that Rafa Nadal is likely celebrating as we speak... but for this event to be over and out of sight, out of mind for another four years. Hallelujah. By the way, the time it took you to read those words was more time than I spent actually watching this "classic."
**FOUR CAREER TITLES - ACTIVE**
Agnieszka Radwanska, POL (last title: 2008)
Lisa Raymond, USA (2003)
ARAVANE REZAI, FRA (2 titles in 2010)
Lucie Safarova, CZE (2008)
Francesca Schiavone, ITA (2 titles in 2010)
Katarina Srebotnik, SLO (2005)
AGNES SZAVAY, HUN (1 title in 2010)
**BEST 2010 FINAL WIN PCT. - 2+ FINALS**
100% - Barbie, BEL (2-0)
100% - ARAVANE REZAI, FRA (2-0)
100% - Francesca Schiavone, ITA (2-0)
67% - Serena Williams (2-1)
67% - Elena Dementieva (2-1)
67% - Maria Sharapova (2-1)
**MOST 2010 SF**
5...Justine Henin (4-1)
5...Samantha Stosur (3-2)
5...Shahar Peer (1-4)
4...Venus Williams (4-0)
4...Serena Williams (3-1)
4...Elena Dementieva (2-2)
4...FLAVIA PENNETTA (2-2)
4...ARAVANE REZAI (2-2)
4...ALEXANDRA DULGHERU (1-3)
**2010 TITLES - DOUBLES TEAMS**
2...Black/Paes, ZIM/IND (Mixed)
**CONSECUTIVE SEASONS w/ 2+ TITLES**
[streaks extended in 2010]
5 years - Elena Dementieva, 2006-10
4 years - Serena Williams, 2007-10
4 years - Venus Williams, 2007-10
2 years - ARAVANE REZAI, 2009-10
[streaks not yet extended in 2010]
3 years - Jelena Jankovic, 2007-09
2 years - Flavia Pennetta, 2008-09
2 years - Dinara Safina, 2008-09
2 years - Caroline Wozniacki, 2008-09
2 years - Vera Zvonareva, 2008-09
**2010 TITLE DEFENSES**
Sydney - Elena Dementieva
Australian Open - Serena Williams
Pattaya - Vera Zvonareva
Dubai - Venus Williams
Acapulco - Venus Williams
Ponte Vedra Beach - Caroline Wozniacki
Warsaw - Alexandra Dulgheru
Wimbedon - Serena Williams
BUDAPEST - AGNES SZAVAY
**WTA TITLES - BY NATION**
[champions from most different nations]
2007: 17 nations
2008: 18 nations
2009: 20 nations
2010: 16 nations (through Week 27)
**2010 ITF TITLES**
5...MADALINA GOJNEA, ROU
4...Olivia Sanchez, FRA
3...Edina Gallovits, ROU
3...JAMIE HAMPTON, USA
3...Sachie Ishizu, JPN
3...Anna Lapushchenkova, RUS
3...Johanna Larsson, SWE
3...Lee Jin-A, KOR
3...Patricia Mayr, AUT
3...Romina Oprandi, ITA
3...Chanel Simmonds, RSA
3...Liana-Gabriela Ungur, ROU
**RECENT U.S. OPEN FINAL FOURS**
Belgian Barbie, BEL (W)
Mary Pierce, FRA (RU)
Maria Sharapova, RUS
Elena Dementieva, RUS
Maria Sharapova, RUS (W)
Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL (RU)
Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
Jelena Jankovic, SRB
Justine Henin, BEL (W)
Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (RU)
Venus Williams, USA
Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
Serena Williams, USA (W)
Jelena Jankovic, SRB (RU)
Dinara Safina, RUS
Elena Dementieva, RUS
Squeegee Queen, BEL (W)
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (RU)
Serena Williams, USA
Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
**RECENT U.S. OPEN TOP SEEDS**
1987-91 - Steffi Graf, GER
1992 Monica Seles, YUG
1993-96 - Steffi Graf, GER
1997-01 - Martina Hingis, SUI
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2003 Belgian Barbie, BEL
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2005 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2007 Justine Henin, BEL
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS
PALERMO, ITALY (Int'l $220K/red clay outdoor)
09 Final: Pennetta d. Errani
10 Top Seeds: Pennetta/Rezai
Pennetta d. Pironkova
Rezai d. Errani
Rezai d. Pennetta
...well, the pressure's on Tsvetana now. Will her Wimbledon SF translate into anything? Here's her first chance. I'm picking Rezai, but since Pennetta usually does just the opposite of what I pick I'm more than half-expecting Madame Butterfly to win.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC (Int'l $220K/red clay outdoor)
09 Final: Bammer d. Schiavone
10 Top Seeds: Safarova/Dulgheru
Safarova d. Schnyder
Dulgheru d. Bacsinszky
Dulgheru d. Safarova
...well, I'll try this Dulgheru title thing for a second straight week. Of course, Szavay could derail things once again.
All for now.