Wk.29- A Doll, a Foot, an Ankle & a Covered Posterior
Yeah, sure. The on-court WTA action has maybe been somewant wanting when it comes to the "compelling meter" so far this quarter. You can't win 'em all.
Truthfully, though, a few "comeback" titles, a back-to-back champion, a crown won by an opinionated Pastry and two first-time tour titlists is a collection of results that are abnormally notable when compared to most of the other "demilitarized zones" stationed between the conclusion of one slam and the run-up to the next, but you'd probably have to search far and wide to find much discussion of any of the events of the past few weeks anywhere where true tennis fans don't dominate the landscape.
But as more of the "big names" get back into action (well, most of them, anyway), the intrigue is already starting to spark. Just a little. Not that a player has to actually PLAY to generate interest and attention.
Last week, the latest edition of "As Serena's Foot Turns" included Williams' agent saying his client was a "quick healer" soon after the tour had issued its WTA/CIA (the WTA, covering its you-know-what) statement that assured everyone that Williams was indeed "questionable" for the U.S. Open after bagging all the tune-up events amidst calls that her injury/surgery might not be 100% legit. After the way the tour handled the Dubai Debacle two seasons ago, the ultra-quick response this time around either speaks well for the new WTA leadership... or was the surest of all signs that the nay-sayers were probably hitting a little close to the truth and Allaster and Co. were jumping on the chance for some early damage control.
Speaking of turned feet (well, to be more accurate, ankle), Queen Chaos returned to action last week... and hurt herself again. Only differently this time. This week, the would-be (s)upernova (still not worthy of the capital "S") and Slingin' Sammy are back, as well. The Roland Garros champ is in action, too. So is Washington Kastle replacement player Victoria Azarenka, as well as Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva.
As the North American hard court season finally begins in Stanford this week, I have a feeling things are about to get far more interesting.
*WEEK 29 CHAMPIONS*
PORTOROZ, SLOVENIA (Int'l $220K/hard outdoors)
S: Anna Chakvetadze def. Johanna Larsson 6-1/6-2
D: Kondratieva/Uhlirova d. Chakvetadze/Erakovic
BAD GASTEIN, GERMANY (Int'l $220K/red clay outdoor)
S: Julia Goerges def. Timea Bacsinszky 6-1/6-4
D: Hradecka/Medina-Garrigues d. Bacsinszky/Garbin
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Anna Chakvetadze/RUS
...after bursting onto the tour forefront in 2006-07, during which she won six titles, was a slam semifinalist and climbed to #5 in the rankings, Chakvetadze has traveled a very rocky road, losing her former luster on the court after suffering through the lingering effects of a psyche-beating home invasion in Moscow off it. At Wimbledon, after having appeared on the right track toward something better, she went out rather meekly to Serena, and it was difficult to not be discouraged. Last week in Portoroz, though, that all changed. At least for the moment. There, Chakvetadze not only won her first tour title in nearly two and a half years (Paris in February '08), but she also reached the doubles final with Marina Erakovic and made her way through the singles field in all sorts of ways that might signal that she's turned some sort of proverbial corner. From a pair of scrappy wins (coming from a set down to win a 7-5 3rd against Vera Dushevina, and rebounding from a love 1st set vs. Polona Hercog in the SF) to a trio of dominating ones (4 &1 vs. Ekaterina Makarova, 1 & 2 wins over Sara Errani and then Johanna Larsson in the final), Chakvetadze made the #103 ranking she carried into Slovenia look like the odd bird that it SHOULD be. It's Chakvetadze's eighth career title, and there's once again hope it won't be her last.
RISERS: Julia Goerges/GER & Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
...on the heals of winning a $100K challenger on the ITF circuit, Goerges carried over her momentum and won a $220K tour event. Not that the weather made things easy for her in Bad Gastein. After reaching the SF with victories over Klara Zakopalova, Mariya Koryttseva and Anastasia Pivovarova (a tight 6-4/6-7/6-4 match), rain pushed her semifinal meeting with Alize Cornet to Sunday. No matter, she simply defeated the Pastry 6-1/6-4, then took out Timea Bacsinszky by the same score in the final to grab her first career tour singles crown. Speaking of Bacsinszky, Bad Gastein was her second career singles final. She reached the doubles final with Tathiana Garbin, too, but failed to win a third straight title this quarter with the Italian vet when the pair lost to Lucie Hradecka and Anabel Medina-Garrigues.
SURPRISE: Johanna Larsson/SWE
...after being a productive player in Fed Cup and ITF action in the past, the 21-year old Swede finally saw her success translate to WTA accomplishment in Portoroz. She reached her first career tour final after notching wins over Sofia Arvidsson, Maria Elena Camerin, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ksenia Pervak.
COMEBACK: Alize Cornet/FRA
...Cornet hasn't exactly been lighting up the tour in '10, but she's most definitely shown signs of fighting back from her truly disappointing performance over the course of the '09 season. Her latest result-to-admire came in Bad Gastein, where she reached the SF after getting wins over Arantxa Rus, Patricia Mayr and defending champ/#1 seed Andrea Petkovic. Hmmm, I sense a "Buy" order going out for the Pastry for '11 when next season's "stock tips" are posted in these parts.
VETERAN: Yvonne Meusburger/AUT & Anabel Medina-Garrigues/ESP
...Austria's Meusburger reached her first SF of the season in Bad Gastein, taking out Anastasiya Sevastova and both parts of what turned out to be the tournament's doubles championship winning duo -- Hradecka and AMG. For her part, Medina-Garrigues was once again a non-factor in singles. That 1st Round loss to Meusburger puts in serious jeopardy her ability to extend her streak of consecutive seasons with at least one WTA singles titles to seven seasons before the end of 2010 (only Maria Sharapova's current eight-year streak is longer in all of women's tennis). But while AMG's singles career might be waning, her doubles career is picking up steam. Her Portoroz title with Hradecka gives her three for the season, each with a different partner (she earlier won with Iveta Benesova and Sorana Cirstea).
FRESH FACES: Ksenia Pervak/RUS & Heather Watson/GBR
...Hordette Pervak seems to be making quick strides as she plays more and more on the regular tour. The 19-year old reached her first career WTA SF in Portoroz, getting wins over the likes of Dominika Cibulkova and Anastasiya Yakimova. Unfortunately, she was forced to retire from her SF match against Larsson. Meanwhile, Britain's Watson salted away a $25K challenger title in Wrexham, GBR by getting a 6-2/6-4 win in the final over a very familar name -- Sania Mirza.
DOWN: Petra Kvitova/CZE
...in her first match since losing to Serena in the Wimbledon SF, Kvitova was taken out 5 & 2 by Stefanie Voegele in the 1st Round in Portoroz. If this was just a case of "Kanepi Syndrome" (during which a player follows up a good result with a bad one and then immediately rebounds the following week), then Petra should be looking forward to getting well this week in Istanbul.
ITF PLAYER: Mathilde Johansson/FRA
...three of the $100K challengers contested so far in 2010 have taken place in July, and Johansson won the last of the trio this weekend in Petange, Luxembourg. A straight sets win in the final over Monica Niculescu gives MoJo two circuits titles this season.
JUNIOR STAR: Jana Cepelova/SVK
...the Slovak teen won the Grade B1 European Junior Championships in Klosters, Switzerland, taking out Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino 6-2/6-3 in the final. She swept the doubles, as well, winning the title with the wonderfully-named Chantal Skamlova.
1. Porto 2nd Rd - Yakimova d. Jankovic
...1-6/6-3/1-0 ret. JJ went into Slovenia looking to answer questions about her Wimbledon back injury, and went out raising new ones after turning her ankle when leading Yakimova 6-1/2-1. Seven games later, she retired from the match (and pulled out of the doubles SF). She's says she's fine, but a late summer full of QC drama would seem to be in the air.
2. Porto Final - Chakvetadze d. Larsson
...6-2/6-2. Although her reputation for faltering in big moments has lingered in recent seasons, the Russian Doll is still an impressive 8-1 in career tour singles finals.
3. BG Final - Goerges d. Bacsinszky
...6-1/6-4. #52 Goerges was the highest-ranked of the weekend's eight semifinalists. A year after Germany's Petkovic won her first career title in the Fatherland, her countrywomen kept up with the new tradition.
4. Istanbul Q2 - Kr.Pliskova d. Pavlovic 6-3/2-6/7-6
Istanbul Q2 - Domachowska d. Ka.Pliskova 1-6/6-0/7-6
...the sisters are finally going their separate ways, as far a avoiding those in-lockstep same-round results from a few months back. Kristyna qualified by winning a 3rd set tie-break, while Karolina didn't qualify because she lost one.
5. $50K Lexington Final - Kurumi Nara d. Stephanie Dubois
...6-4/6-4. The Japanese teenager also notched wins over North Americans Rebecca Marino and Alison Riske.
6. $10K Brasilia Final - Paula Ormaechea d. Ana-Clara Duarte
...3-6/7-6/7-6. The Argentine teenager has three ITF titles this season.
7. $10K Casablanca Final - Ons Jabeur d. Anna Morgina
...7-5/6-3. The Tunisian junior star also won the doubles with Katarina Baranova.
8. $10K Evansville Final - Gabriela Paz d. Chichi Scholl
...6-4/6-0. You know, I've always thought we needed a "Chichi" on tour... and, then, voila! Of note, the very fresh Paz was fortunate enough to get walkover wins in both the QF (Amanda McDowell) and SF (Madison Keys).
9. BG 1st Rd - Zahlavova d. Zahlavova-Strycova
...7-5/6-3. BZS didn't last long in Bad Gastein after reaching her first career tour final a few days earlier in Prague.
10. $10K Knokke Final - Angelique van der Meet d. Sofie Oyen
...6-2/6-0. This is the second straight week that Waffle Oyen reached a challenger final in Belgium, only to fail to claim the crown.
**LOWEST-RANKED 2010 WTA CHAMPIONS**
#143 - Mariana Duque-Marino, COL (Bogota)
#103 - ANNA CHAKVETADZE, RUS (PORTOROZ)
#100 - Ekaterina Makarova, RUS (Eastbourne)
#74 - Anastasiya Sevastova, LAT (Estoril)
#67 - Iveta Benesova, CZE (Fes)
#65 - JULIA GOERGES, GER (BAD GASTEIN)
**WTA TITLES - RUSSIANS**
22...Maria Sharapova (2003-10)
16...Elena Dementieva (2003-10)
12...Dinara Safina (2002-09)
12...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2002-09)
10...Vera Zvonareva (2003-10)
10...Anastasia Myskina (1999-05)
9...Nadia Petrova (2005-08)
9...Olga Morozova (1969-75)
8...ANNA CHAKVETADZE (2006-10)
2 - Elena Dementieva (Sydney/Paris)
2 - Maria Sharapova (Memphis/Strasbourg)
1 - ANNA CHAKVETADZE (PORTOROZ)
1 - Alisa Kleybanova (Kuala Lumpur)
1 - Ekaterina Makarova (Eastbourne)
1 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Monterrey)
1 - Vera Zvonareva (Pattya)
**2010 FIRST-TIME FINALISTS - BY NATION**
3 - GERMANY (Barrois, Goerges-W, Kerber)
2 - Russia (Kleybanova-W, Pavlyuchenkova-W)
1 - Colombia (Duque-Marino-W)
1 - Latvia (Sevastova-W)
1 - Romania (Halep)
1 - Slovenia (Hercog)
1 - Spain (Parra-Santonja)
1 - SWEDEN (Larsson)
EIGHT CAREER TITLES - ACTIVE
(w/ season of last title)
ANNA CHAKVETADZE, RUS (2010)
Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN (2009)
Ana Ivanovic, SRB (2008)
**BEST 2010 FINAL WIN PCT - NATIONS**
1.000 - (2-0) France, Hungary
1.000 - (1-0) Colombia, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine
0.714 - (5-2) Belgium
0.692 - (9-4) Russia
0.571 - (4-3) United States
**SINGLES/DOUBLES FINAL IN SAME EVENT**
Wimbledon - Vera Zvonareva, RUS (L/L)
Bastad - Gisela Dulko, ARG (L/W)
Prague - Agnes Szavay, HUN (W/L)
PORTOROZ - ANNA CHAKVETADZE, RUS (W/L)
BAD GASTEIN - TIMEA BACSINSZKY, SUI (L/L)
**2010 $100K CHALLENGER FINALS**
Feb - MIDLAND: Elena Baltacha/GBR d. Lucie Hradecka/CZE
Apr - JOHANNESBURG: Nina Bratchikova/RUS d. Tamarine Tanasugarn/THA
May - CAGNES-SUR-MUR: Kaia Kanepi/EST d. Masa Zec-Peskiric/SLO
Jun - MARSEILLE: Klara Zakopalova/CZE d. Johanna Larsson/SWE
Jul - CUNEO: Romina Oprandi/ITA d. Pauline Parmentier/FRA
Jul - BIARRITZ: Julia Goerges/GER d. Sophie Ferguson/AUS
Jul - PETANGE: Mathilde Johansson/FRA d. Monica Niculescu/ROU
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA (Premier $700K/hard outdoor)
09 Final: Bartoli d. V.Williams
10 Top Seeds: Stosur/Dementieva
#4 Bartoli d. #1 Stosur
Sharapova d. Peer
Sharapova d. Bartoli
...with so many apparent questions swirling around many of the potential U.S. Open contenders, who'll step into the breach and make themselves a name to watch? Well, winning Stanford doesn't necessarily portend great things in New York, but kicking off the North American hard court season on a high note surely isn't something to shrug off, either. Top-seeded Stosur has no history of success at Flushing Meadows, and only a marginal confidence-building past in the events leading up to the Open. In her first event back since being drummed out of the 1st Round in Wimbledon by Kaia Kanepi, she faces potential roadblocks of '09 U.S. semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer (QF) and '09 Stanford champ Bartoli (SF). Bartoli herself doesn't have things easy: Kleybanova/Ivanovic in the 2nd Round, then Azarenka/Wozniak in the QF. I'll stick with La Trufflette to at least re-live some of her Stanford glory from a season ago. Meanwhile, with Elena Dementieva in her first action since Roland Garros, her form/health is a wild guess. She could face Dinara Safina (ditto on the form/health thing) in the 2nd Round. Lurking in the bottom half, though, is the unseeded Sharapova. She's made progress with her health, game and results this season, but she's still looking for a "supernovic" breakthrough moment that will erase the lingering doubts about whether or not she's REALLY an Open contender. A win here would be a huge step in that direction. I'm not sure I truly believe it'll happen this week, but in the absence of any other better options I'll go with her anyway.
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (Int'l $220K/hard outdoor)
09 Final: Dushevina d. Hradecka
10 Top Seeds: Schiavone/Kvitova
Vesnina d. #1 Schiavone
#2 Kvitova d. Amanmuradova
#2 Kvitova d. Vesnina
...did anyone REALLY think Serena was going to play this event? I'm just sayin', skipping out on the trip might be something you'd have an unnecessary surgery just to avoid. Maybe, you know? I'll go with Kvitova to win a title for the second straight week, even after being burned after doing so last week. But, hey, if Kanepi can bomb out in her first post-Wimbledon event and then win the next, why can't the woman who beat her at the All-England Club do exactly the same? Although, I'll admit that going with Vesnina to win her first title here is very enticing. But, no. I just can't do it. As for Amanmuradova in the SF... well, this is the sort of small event in a far off land in which she sometimes makes her best run of the season, so I'll take a flier on her over the likes of Schnyder and/or Pavlyuchenkova in that section.
All for now.