Monday, September 27, 2010

Wk.38- A Russian State of Mind

While the Sisters, and Belgians, and Italians, and (non-Hordette) Blondes, and... whew, well, you get the idea... are away, the Russians decided that they would play. And win.

The 4th Quarter is always an odd time of the year. Many of the top players are absent at the tail end of a long schedule, while a select group of players tend to pop up with their best results of the season once the tour heads East and into Asia. Sometimes, you'll see players who garner great results in late September/October not be heard from again until deep into the following season. Last week, three of four finalists had never won a tour singles title, and one first-time titlist emerged. This past weekend, another first-timer was crowned. Of course, undoubtably, none of these players will ever be acknowleged by the likes of Pam Shriver to have "ever done anything"... but, alas, such is the "drawback" of late-season success in a time zone far, far away, I suppose.

But there's one thing that crosses all quantum barriers and continental boundary lines -- the Russians. Five of this weekend's eight semifinalists were Hordettes, and three of those women reached singles finals. Two were crowned champions, one of them for the first time in her career.

Of course, this is nothing new. After all, the Russians lead in virtually every category comparing one nation against another when it comes to tennis success. Well, nearly every one BUT the one that lists 2010's grand slam singles champions, that is.

But the Hordettes have had their day in the grand slam sun before, and they likely will again one day.

*WEEK 38 CHAMPIONS*

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (Int'l $220K/hard outdoor)
S: Alisa Kleybanova def. Klara Zakopalova 6-1/6-3
D: Goerges/Hercog d. Grandin/Uhlirova


TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN (Int'l $220K/hard outdoor)
S: Alla Kudryavtseva def. Elena Vesnina 6-4/6-4
D: Panova/Poutchek d. Dulgheru/Rybarikova



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS
...
a little over a week ago, Kudryavtseva had yet to reach a tour singles final in her career. Flashforward to today, and she's now appeared in back-to-back finals, and on Sunday in Tashkent she became the fourth Russian woman in 2010 to become a first-time tour champ (and ninth different Hordette overall to win a WTA singles crown, three times as many as any other nation). A week after losing in Guangzhou to Aussie Jarmila Groth, Kudryavtseva found her comfort zone. Naturally, it was against a slew of other Russians. Three of the four semifinalists in Uzbekistan were Hordettes, and Kudryavtseva herself had to defeat two of her countrywoman (Alexandra Panova and Evgeniya Rodina, along with home fave Akgul Amanmuradova) to reach the final to, you guessed it, face off with another Russian -- Elena Vesnina. With one of the woman assured of winning her first WTA singles title, Kudryavtseva made it a point to keep Vesnina's trophy case empty, winning in straight sets.
=============================
RISERS: Alisa Kleybanova/RUS & Monica Niculescu/ROU
...
Kleybanova has shown an ability to play with anyone -- sometimes on the sport's biggest stages -- over the last two seasons, and in 2010 that ability has finally led to tour titles. The 21-year old Russian grabbed her first tour title earlier this season in Kuala Lumpur, and this weekend in Seoul she got her second. Wins over Chang Kai-Chen, Ksenia Pervak, Ekaterina Makarova and Agnes Szavay got her to the final. Once there, she took out Klara Zakopalova in straight sets. In Tashkent, Niculescu became the fifth Romanian woman to reach a tour semifinal in 2010, but it was HER first trip into a tour event final four in her career. To get there, she had to knock off the #1-seed -- and countrywoman -- Alexandra Dulgheru in the QF.
=============================
SURPRISE: Madalina Gojnea/ROU
...
23-year old Gojnea might not have a very high profile on the WTA landscape, but she's been sitting atop the ITF charts for much of 2010. She added another feather to her second circuit cap this weekend, winning a $25K event in Bucharest over Kristina Kucova, 6-4/6-4. It was the Swarmette's seventh ITF final this season, and her victory added to her circuit leading total, giving her six on the year.
=============================
COMEBACKS: Dinara Safina/RUS & Mirjana Lucic/CRO
...
Safina received a wild card into the Seoul draw and made pretty good use of it. Wins over Simona Halep and an impressive straight sets victory over Maria Kirilenko got her into the QF. After getting a win at the U.S. Open last month, Lucic said that single slam match victory was "like winning an entire tourmament." So, I guess what the Croat did this weekend must have felt like winning a match at the U.S. Open. For the second time this season, the former Wimbledon semifinalist (1999) won a challenger event singles crown. In Alburquerque, New Mexico, Lucic defeated Lindsay Lee-Waters 6-1/6-4 in the final to take the title.
=============================
VETERANS: Klara Zakopalova/CZE & Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN
...
Czech vet Zakopalova didn't pick up her third career tour title in Seoul, but she did reach her eleventh WTA singles final there. Wins over the likes of Julia Goerges, Vera Dushevina, Dinara Safina and Nadia Petrova put her into her second final this season. She fell to 0-2 after dropping her match the Alisa Kleybanova, making her 2-9 in tour finals in her career. She won both of her only singles crowns back in 2005. In the same Seoul tournament, Kimiko Date-Krumm wasn't able to defend her '09 comeback title, but notched a suprisingly easy win over #2 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (just under half the 39-year old's age), 6-2/6-1, to reach the QF. Then, today in Tokyo, she pulled a big upset by taking out THAT tournament's defending champion (see below) one day before she celebrates her fortieth birthday.
=============================
FRESH FACES: Evgeniya Rodina/RUS & Rebecca Marino/CAN
...
Hordette Rodina, 21, reached her first career WTA SF in Tashkent with wins over Anna Chakvetadze and Stefanie Voegele. On the ITF circuit, U.S. Open revelation (and recent Marion Bartoli conqueror) Rebecca Marino took advantage of the familiar Canadian air to win a $50K challenger in Saguenay. It's her second career ITF singles crown, but first in two years. She won what reads like a pretty entertaining final against fellow hard-hitting North American up-and-comer Alison Riske, 6-4/6-7/7-6.
=============================
DOWN: Elena Vesnina/RUS & Maria Sharapova/RUS
...
of course, with so many Russians rising, a few had to fall, as well. Vesnina and Sharapova get the dishonor. For her part, Vesnina DID reach the Tashkent final, her second tour singles decider this season. But after losing to Kudryavtseva, she's still seeking her first title. She's 0-4 in WTA finals in her career. Meanwhile, there was legitimate curiosity about how well Sharapova would do this 4Q in Asia, a part of the world where's she's always played well and had great support, after her hit-early-and-miss-late North American campaign. A year ago, she won the Tokyo crown, her biggest title since shoulder surgery. Today, though, she was taken out in her opening match by Date-Krumm on the eve of her 40th. Many of the Japanese vet's biggest wins in her comeback have come against Russians, most notably her multiple victories over Safina. That's not exactly the player whose recent career trajectory that the nonSupernova wants HER plight recognizably compared to.
=============================
ITF PLAYER: Romina Oprandi/ITA
...
for the second time this season, Oprandi has claimed a $100K singles championship. This weekend, she won the Saint Melo, France event, defeating Alize Cornet 6-2/2-6/6-2 in the final. Oprandi has now reached eight ITF singles final in '10, winning half of them.
=============================
JUNIOR STAR: Natalija Kostic/SRB
...
the 16-year old Serb won the Perin Memorial G1 event in Umag, Croatia. She defeated top-seeded Sofiya Kovalets (UKR) in straight sets in the final.
=============================


1. Tokyo 1st Rd - Date-Krumm d. Sharapova
...7-5/3-6/6-3.
Sigh. Is the end nigh? And just how big of an overreaction would such a wandering random thought be?
=============================
2. Tash 1st Rd - Petrova d. Groth 6-3/6-2
Tokyo Q2 - Vandeweghe d. Groth 6-4/7-6
...
A title in Guangzhou the week before guarantees absolutely nothing. Just ask Jarmila.
=============================
3. Tash Final - Kudryavtseva d. Vesnina
...6-4/6-4.
This was the twenty-fifth time that two Russian women have matched up to decide a WTA singles title (and the third such final in '10). And to think, just seven years ago in 2003, when Anastasia Myskina faced Elena Likhovtseva in Doha, such an occasion was something that the tour had never witnessed before.
=============================
4. Seoul Final - Kleybanova d. Zakopalova
...6-1/6-3.
Kleybanova is now one of the throng of ten women tied with two titles this season, two behind the tour's co-leaders, Barbie and Caroline Wozniacki (both with four).
=============================
5. Tokyo 1st Rd / When Players are Forced to Play Premier Events... cough, cough... "interesting" results occur in the opening round:
Vinci d. Tashkent semifinalist Petrova 7-5/6-4
Vandeweghe d. Seoul RU Zakopalova 6-4/7-6
Ivanovic d. Seoul champion Kleybanova 6-3/6-2
...
and that's just a small sampling.
=============================
6. Seoul 2nd Rd - Safina d. Kirilenko
...6-2/6-3.
Dinara is still having a hard time stringing together more than a few wins at a time, but the easy-looking scoreline here would seem to be a good sign that things are progressing well enough while no one is paying much attention.
=============================
7. Tokyo 1st Rd - Kuznetsova d. Szavay
...4-3 ret.
What is it with Szavay having to retire whenever she faces Kuznetsova anyway?
=============================
8. $10K Thessaloniki Final - Anastasia Mukhametova d. Basak Eraydin
...1-6/6-1/6-3.
One of sixteen different Russian women who've won ITF singles titles this season, the 18-year old Mukhametova is just one of four from that group to win multiple crowns in '10. She also picked up the doubles championship.
=============================
9. $10K Caracas Final - Andrea Gamiz d. Adriana Perez
...1-6/6-4/7-5.
One week earlier, in another $10K final in Caracas, it was Perez getting the best of Venezuelan countrywoman Gamiz.
=============================
10. Tokyo 2nd Rd - Jankovic d. A.Bondarenko
...6-4/6-1.
JJ's back. Ah, but WHICH JJ? This was a good first step, as Jankovic attempts to defend her '09 Tokyo runner-up points this week.
=============================


**RECORDS IN ALL-RUSSIAN WTA FINALS**
12...Elena Dementieva (6-6)
8...Svetlana Kuznetsova (4-4)
7...Dinara Safina (3-4)
5...Maria Sharapova (3-2)
4...Anastasia Myskina (4-0)
3...ELENA VESNINA (0-3)
2...Anna Chakvetadze (2-0)
2...ALISA KLEYBANOVA (2-0)
2...Nadia Petrova (0-2)

**MOST DIFFERENT 2010 WTA CHAMPIONS - NATIONS**
9...RUSSIA *
3...Belgium (Barbie/Henin/Wickmayer)
2...Australia (Groth/Stosur)
2...Italy (Pennetta/Schiavone)
2...United States (Williams/Williams
-
* - Chakvetadze, Dementieva, Kleybanova, Kudryavtseva, Kuznetsova, Makarova, Pavlyuchenkova, Sharapova, Zvonareva

**BEST 2010 RECORDS IN WTA FINALS**
[two or more finals]
4-0...Belgian Barbie, BEL
4-1...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2-0...ALISA KLEYBANOVA, RUS
2-0...Anastasia Pavlyuchenova, RUS
2-0...Aravane Rezai, FRA
2-0...Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2-0...Agnes Szavay, HUN
2-1...Elena Dementieva, RUS
2-1...Serena Williams, USA

**WORST 2010 RECORDS IN WTA FINALS**
[two or more finals]
0-2...ELENA VESNINA, RUS
0-2...KLARA ZAKOPALOVA, CZE
1-4...Vera Zvonareva, RUS
1-2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
1-2...Flavia Pennetta, ITA
1-2...Samantha Stosur, AUS

**2010 ALL-NATION FINALS**
January - (Brisbane) Belgium: Barbie def. Henin
February - (Kuala Lumpur) Russia: Kleybanova def. Dementieva
April - (Barcelone) Italy: Schiavone def. Vinci
July - (Istanbul) Russia: Pavlyuchenkova def. Vesnina
SEPTEMBER - (TASHKENT) RUSSIA: KUDRYAVTSEVA def. VESNINA

**2010 WTA FINALS - BY NATION**
25...RUSSIA (13 titles)
9...Belgium (7)
8...United States (8)
6...Italy (3)
5...Denmark (4)
5...Czech Republic (1)
4...Australia (2)
4...Belarus (2)
4...Germany (1)

**2010 HARD COURT TITLES**
4...Belgian Barbie, BEL
3...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2...Elena Dementieva, RUS
2...ALISA KLEYBANOVA, RUS

**MOST 2010 BACKSPIN "ITF PLAYER OF THE WEEK" AWARDS**
3...Jelena Dokic, AUS
3...Johanna Larsson, SWE
3...Mathilde Johansson, FRA
2...Edina Gallovits, ROU
2...Anna Lapushchenkova, RUS
2...ROMINA OPRANDI, ITA





TOKYO, JAPAN (Premier+ $2m/hard outdoor)
09 Final: Sharapova d. Jankovic
10 Top Seeds: Wozniacki/Zvonareva
=============================

=QF=
#1 Wozniacki d. #10 Kuznetsova
#4 Stosur d. Ivanovic
#5 Schiavone d. Kanepi
#2 Zvonareva d. Kirilenko
=SF=
#1 Wozniacki d. #4 Stosur
#2 Zvonareva d. #5 Schiavone
=FINAL=
#2 Zvonareva d. #1 Wozniacki

...who bounces back from their Open ending better? On a hunch, and keeping with this week's theme, I'll go with the Russian.

All for now.



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5 Comments:

Blogger Hoergren said...

Nice as always - I have a question. Does Serena pay any fines for not playing? Normally you are NOT away from your "job" for such a long time for that sort of injury. Does the WTAtour demand documents from doctors? I'm coming to the conclusion that you can say that Serena is NOT the real #1 if she won't follow the rules of the tour and only plays the tournaments she likes - that is the slams.

Wed Sep 29, 12:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I think they just have to have "legitimate" injuries to not be fined for missing premier tournaments, and I'd think that having surgery on your foot would qualify... even if a bit of time has passed since she went under the knife.

I mean, the recently-crowned "Statue of Limberty" just pulled out of Beijing after having moles removed from her foot, so I'm thinking that the "burden of proof" when it comes to injuries isn't TOO strenuous.

Thu Sep 30, 10:56:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Well before you comment Caro's 5th title I have a question about all the records Caro must have set this year. Have you got an overview of those records?

Sun Oct 03, 06:37:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I'm not sure what sort of records you're referring to, but I do have some numbers for Wozniacki's season included in the new Backspin (in the write-up and the lists section).

Sun Oct 03, 06:39:00 PM EDT  
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