Sunday, October 03, 2010

Wk.39- Smells Like the Dane's Spirit

It came a few weeks later than it would have been preferred (and better for nearly all involved and associated), but Caroline Wozniacki's tour-leading fifth 2010 title this weekend in Tokyo now sets the stage for the tour's latest "debate."

I guess it's a good thing C-Woz has such fine defensive skills.

After coming back from a set down to take out Elena Dementieva 1-6/6-3/6-3 in the final, the Dane put herself into position to become the WTA's twentieth different woman to rise to the #1 singles ranking in the world as early as this week in Beijing. But she'd also be the fifth to do so -- and third in the last three seasons -- without having first won a grand slam title. If the move up from #2 doesn't occur in China, where she'd need to only win two matches to reach the QF to do the deed, it would seem likely to occur in the season's closing weeks with Serena Williams' continued absence from the tour after her foot surgery.

Oh, Caroline. Winning in New York would have make this potential experience so much more stream-lined and less messy. You'd have been #1 AND a slam champion in one fell swoop. But who's to argue with success, however it comes, I guess? Right? Well no -- I'd never hold myself to that sort of pledge. Unfortunately, others won't where the Dane is concerned, either.

A #1-ranked Wozniacki will surely have to answer questions that dance around and/or directly ask her to defend her "worthiness" to hold the position without having one of the sport's four biggest titles. She WILL, but she shouldn't have to. Is she the BEST player in the world? Well, no... that's Serena -- but she doesn't require a ranking to hold that unoffiical title. C-Woz WILL, though, have risen through the ranks through hard work, steady improvement and a decided knack for knowing how to bank singles titles. At just 20, she's already grabbed eleven, on multiple surfaces. She's not only won more titles than any other woman in 2010 (going 5-1 in finals), but she's claimed the most (8) over the past two seasons. The past three (11), too. She's the only player on tour to have won three-or-more titles for three consecutive seasons (on the ATP tour, only some guy named Rafa can make the claim, and that Roger guy is still one more '10 title away from saying the same), and she's put together an impressive 23-2 run since making a post-Wimbledon effort to improve her fitness and arrive on the hard court scene in the best form possible.

It was almost enough to grab that slam title that would have made the sure-to-come annoyances non-existent and/or difficult to back up. But so be it. As is usually the case, I'm fairly sure she'll handle the situation with aplomb. Or at least better than some of her #1-ranked WTA compatriots have the last few seasons. Wozniacki generally does what she's SUPPOSED to do, after all. It's not her fault that so many around her have failed so often to hold up THEIR end of the bargain. While Wozniacki has been training and (mostly) winning, some of the tour's biggest names have been sidelined, resting and/or rehabilitating. No one ever mentions that Wozniacki likely would already be #1 had she not suffered her own ankle injury in the spring, an occurrence that hampered her results for months (including her preparation for two slams). But SHE'S come out of her season's worst section better than she was before. The others will get their soon to do the same, if not this month then next year.

Wozniacki can't make Serena healthy, or force her to feel the need to focus on ranking points-gathering non-slam events (nor should anyone else). She can't teach the Russians to win big matches again, Sharapova to hold her breath, Kuznetsova to care, or sell Justine Henin any tennis state secrets to ensure that LPT 3.0 is more like LPT 1.0 than LPT 2.0 in 2011. She could play her part in the seeming worldwide campaign to turn a certain Belgian Barbie into some sort of Messianic icon (dolls, statues... what's next -- a splits-inspired religious text?), but why join the crowd simply for fear of standing out? Beyond that, she can only control what's happening when SHE'S on the court. So far, she's done it more consistently than any other player on tour this year.

A season ago, Wozniacki truly sparked in the 4th Quarter of the season, rising to the occasion in Doha at the season-ending championships by showing previously-unseen guts and guile while battling cramps and STILL managing to win matches. It was apparent then that there was more to the Dane than might meet the eye, and that notion has proved itself out over the course of the 2010 season. The "next phase" of her career would have been less bumpy than it will soon be had it taken place a month ago, without so many asterisks and things left to prove. No defense would have been "necessary."

But who says everything is supposed to be easy? A young player such as Wozniacki is SUPPOSED to turn such negative energy into postive inspiration to do ever better and grander things. Somehow, I get the notion that that's just what she might do. If not immediately, then soon.

*WEEK 39 CHAMPIONS*

TOKYO, JAPAN (Premier $2m/hard outdoor)
S: Caroline Wozniacki def. Elena Dementieva 1-6/6-3/6-3
D: Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova d. Peer/Peng



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...
Wozniacki's second consecutive (with Montreal) top-nine Premier event title, her eleventh career tour singles title, ties the 20-year old with veteran Patty Schnyder for tenth place on the career title list for active WTA players. She's just one title behind former #1's Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina (both with 12), and two behind two-time slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova. Next highest on the list is Wozniacki's Tokyo final opponent, Elena Dementieva, with 16 to rank #6 on the active list. In Tokyo, C-Woz went through Greta Arn, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka before taking out Punch-Sober in the deciding match.
=============================
RISERS: Victoria Azarenka/BLR & Kaia Kanepi/EST
...
in her first action since her U.S. Open (literal) collapse, Azarenka advanced to her sixth singles semifinal of the season (only C-Woz has more) after getting victories over Lucie Safarova, Marion Bartoli and Coco Vandeweghe. Meanwhile, Kanepi continued to cement her place atop the "Player to Watch" list for 2011 with an impressive Tokyo run that included wins over Melanie Oudin, Shahar Peer and Jelena Jankovic en route to the QF. This weekend in Beijing, she was at it again, getting a win over Pavlyuchenkova in the 1st Round.
=============================
SURPRISE: Iveta Benesova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE/CZE
...
both of these Czechs lost their 1st Round singles matches in Tokyo, but ended up making up for it as a pair as they claimed the biggest doubles titles of either's career with the $2.0 million Premier event championship. It's their third '10 title as a team (and fifth overall). Both has re-written the course of her respective career over the past two seasons, becoming much more prominant doubles players than they were earlier. Both Benesova, 27, and Zahlavova-Strycova, 24, came into the season with five career doubles titles on their resumes, but the Tokyo title gives them both four additional doubles crowns this season alone.
=============================
COMEBACK: Maggie Maleeva/BUL
...
back in 1996, Maggie, the third of the tennis-playing Maleeva sisters, reached a career-high rank of #4 on the WTA computer. In 2005, she retired and drifted to the back of our collective tennis memory. Until last week. At 35, she emerged from retirement to win the Bulgarian national championshp over 18-year old Izabella Shinikova in Plovdiv, a full twenty-two years after she'd won the same title as a 13-year old.
=============================
VETERANS: Elena Dementieva/RUS & Francesca Schiavone/ITA
...
once again, as has been her pattern over the balance of the '10 season, Dementieva came up a day late and a dollar short in Tokyo. She reached the final, losing in three sets after getting off to a dominating start against Wozniacki after getting wins over the likes of Yaroslava Shvedova, Flavia Pennetta, Vera Zvonareva and Francesca Schiavone. It was the Russian's fourth final appearance this season, but her first since Week 8 (after she reached three finals in the season's first two months, winning two titles). Meanwhile, Schiavone is proving that success hasn't dampened her enthusiasm or desire to succeed (the tour's youngsters should pay attention and learn something). After a short, celebration-inspired downturn after her Roland Garros title, she bounced back late in the summer in North America. In Tokyo, she reached the SF with strong victories over Alexandra Dulgheru, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Kaia Kanepi. With the season-ending championships and Fed Cup final still on her plate before the end of '11, might the 30-year old Italian still be up to staking a claim to Player of the Year honors? Hmmm... maybe.
=============================
FRESH FACE: Coco Vandeweghe/USA
...
the American continued her under-the-radar mini-breakthrough season in Tokyo, qualifying (getting a win over Jarmila Groth) and reached her second '10 tour QF after notching main draw wins over Aravane Rezai and Julia Goerges.
=============================
DOWN: Samantha Stosur/AUS & Petra Kvitova/CZE
...
in 2009, Stosur helped to launch her '10 breakthrough season by finally winning her first tour singles title in Osaka in October. So far, the Aussie's return trip to Asia hasn't carried over such feel-good momentum. Last week in Tokyo, she dropped her opening match to Julia Goerges 7-5/6-3. Then, this weekend in Beijing, she dropped another opening match to Anastasiya Sevastova 2-6/7-6/7-5. So far this quarter, Stosur's 1st Round byes are 2-0, but she's 0-2. Meanwhile, last week Kvitova continued to handle winning that Wimbledon QF over Kanepi far worse that the Estonian has handled losing it. The Czech's 1st Round Tokyo loss to Alona Bondarenko dropped her to 2-7 since SW19, and stretched her non-slam singles losing streak to eight matches. Thankfully for her (but not for Madame Butterfly), she finally that poor run with a 1st Round win in Beijing over Flavia Pennetta.
=============================
ITF PLAYER: Alberta Brianti/ITA
...
the 30-year old Italian won the $100K challenger in Ningbo, China. She notched wins over Zhang Shuai, Sophie Ferguson, Olga Savchuk and Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4/6-4 in the final.
=============================
JUNIOR STAR: Anaeve Pain/CAL
...
the 16-year old from New Caledonia won the New Zealand 18 & Under Championships, defeating Western Samoa's Steffi Carruthers in the final. Pain has now won fifteen consecutive matches while securing titles at her last three junior events. She also won the doubles title, along with partner Carruthers. The pair have an eight-match winning streak and have won back-to-back titles.
=============================


1. Tokyo SF - Wozniacki d. Azarenka
...6-2/6-7/6-4.
Finally, we get the sequel to that dramatic SEC match in Doha from last year. The Dane has grown quite a bit as a player since that cramps-clogged thriller, while Azarenka is pretty much right where she was a season ago. Close, but still lacking that certain "something" to raise herself into "the conversation" the way that Wozniacki has in '10. Maybe a few more matches against C-Woz will help push her forward? They could meet in the SF again in Beijing.
=============================
2. Tokyo 1st Rd - Garbin/Schiavone d. King/Shvedova
...7-6/6-2.
The Wimbledon/US Open champions fall. While they're 12-0 in slam competition, they're only 7-7 as a team in regular tour events.
=============================
3. Tokyo Final - Wozniacki d. Dementieva
...1-6/6-3/6-3.
No wild swings of fortune ala this two's New Haven semifinal struggle before the U.S. Open. This time, after being a bit discombobulated in the 1st set, Wozniacki simply held on, waited for the Russian's level of play to take a step back, then gradually calmed down and methodically took control of and put away the match. You know, the blueprint she usually follows to win three-set matches.
=============================
4. Tokyo 3rd Rd - Kanepi d. Jankovic
...6-4/6-4.
As was the case in Flushing Meadows, JJ doesn't have an answer for the Estonian. The Serb won exactly eight games against Kanepi in both meetings.
=============================
5. Tokyo 3rd Rd - Schiavone d. Date-Krumm
...6-3/6-3.
The 30-year old defeats the 40-year old. As Schiavone said, likening the match to a Senior Tour event, "we were 70 together!"
=============================
6. Beijing 1st Rd - Date-Krumm d. Medina-Garrigues
...6-0/6-4.
These early weekend opening round matches really play havoc with the "Backspin Monday" schedule (hence the Sunday edition). Grrrr. Meanwhile, Kimiko laughs in the face of time.
=============================
7. $100K Ningbo 1st Rd - Han Xinyun d. Jelena Dokic
...6-4/6-4.
Hey, Sophie Ferguson was in the draw in this one. Jelena was obviously distracted. And that's the story I'm sticking with until someone builds a Dokic statue somewhere other than Belgium.
=============================


**MOST WTA TITLES - 2008-10**
11...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (3/3/5)
9...Serena Williams (4/3/2)
8...Elena Dementieva (3/3/2)
7...Jelana Jankovic (4/2/1)
7...Dinara Safina (4/3/0)
7...Venus Williams (3/2/2)
6...Maria Sharapova (3/1/2)

**MOST 2010 WTA FINALS**
6...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (5-1)
5...Maria Sharapova (2-3)
5...Vera Zvonareva (1-4)
4...Belgian Barbie (4-0)
4...ELENA DEMENTIEVA (2-2)
4...Justine Henin (2-2)

**MOST 2010 WTA SEMIFINALS**
8...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (6-2)
6...VICTORIA AZARENKA (3-3)
6...ELENA DEMENTIEVA (3-3)
6...Flavia Pennetta (3-3)
6...Samantha Stosur (3-3)

**2010 PREMIER $2m+ FINALS**
[results]
Dubai: Venus Williams def. Victoria Azarenka
Indian Wells: Jelena Jankovic def. Caroline Wozniacki
Miami: Belgian Barbia def. Venus Williams
Rome: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez def. Jelena Jankovic
Madrid: Aravane Rezai def. Venus Williams
Cincinnati: Belgian Barbie def. Maria Sharapova
Montreal: Caroline Wozniacki def. Vera Zvonareva
Tokyo: Caroline Wozniacki def. Elena Dementieva
Beijing: (this week)
[two or more finals - individuals]
2-0...Belgian Barbie, BEL
2-1...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, DEN
1-1...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
1-2...Venus Williams, USA
[two or more finals - nations]
2-0...Belgium
2-1...DENMARK
1-1...Serbia
1-1...United States
0-3...RUSSIA

**2010 WTA DOUBLES TITLES**
[individuals]
6...Gisela Dulko, ARG
5...Cara Black, ZIM (w/ 2 Mixed)
5...Liezel Huber, USA (w/ 1 Mixed)
5...Flavia Pennetta, ITA
4...IVETA BENESOVA, CZE
4...Vania King, USA
4...BARBORA ZAHLAVOVA-STRYCOVA, CZE
[teams]
5...Dulko/Pennetta
3...BENESOVA/ZAHLAVOVA-STRYCOVA
3...Williams/Williams

**"PREMIER" EVENT TITLES, 2009-10**
[$4.5m/$2.0m/$600K-$1m]
5...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, DEN (0/2/3)
4...Elena Dementieva, RUS (0/1/3)
3...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (1/0/2)
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR (1/0/1)
2...Belgian Barbie, BEL (1/1/0)
2...Jelena Jankovic, SRB (1/1/0)
2...Dinara Safina, RUS (1/1/0)
2...Maria Sharapova, RUS (0/1/1)
2...Venus Williams, USA (0/2/0)

**MOST 2010 BACKSPIN "JUNIOR STAR" AWARD WINS**
3...Beatrice Capra, USA
3...Sachie Ishizu, JPN
3...Karolina Pliskova, CZE
2...Jana Cepelova, SVK
2...Daria Gavrilova, RUS
2...Krista Hardebeck, USA
2...ANAEVE PAIN, CAL
2...Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
2...Elina Svitolina, UKR

**BECAME #1-RANKED PLAYER WITHOUT SLAM TITLE**
August 2003 - Belgian Barbie (won '05 U.S. Open)
September 2004 - Amelie Mauresmo (won '06 Australian Open)
August 2008 - Jelena Jankovic
April 2009 - Dinara Safina
OCTOBER 2010 - CAROLINE WOZNIACKI???





...first a Barbie doll, and now a fountain/statue? Seriously, this is getting just a tad out of hand. "The Statue of Limberty" continues to re-define the boundaries of what is expected and necessary. I'll leave it up to you to determine whether or not that's a "good" thing. My question: where's the infected, mole-less foot plaque, or the mini-statue of Jada?





BEIJING, CHINA (Premier+ $4.5m/hard outdoor)
09 Final: Kuznetsova d. A.Radwanska
10 Top Seeds: Wozniacki/Zvonareva
=============================

=QF=
#1 Wozniacki d. #7 Dementieva
#12 Sharapova d. #15 Peer
Kleybanova d. #13 Petrova
#2 Zvonareva d. #5 Schiavone
=SF=
#1 Wozniacki d. #12 Sharapova
#2 Zvonareva d. Kleybanova
=FINAL=
#1 Wozniacki d. #2 Zvonareva

... ugh. I hate spitting into the face of the Tennis Gods like this. Last week, I should have -- but didn't -- pick Wozniacki to win the title in Tokyo, choosing Zvonareva over her in the final. Naturally, Zvonareva went out in the QF and C-Woz won the whole thing. So, here it goes again... and this time I'll pick Caroline. So, I guess I should go ahead and congratulate Vera on her forthcoming Beijing crown.

All for now.



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7 Comments:

Blogger Hoergren said...

"Wozniacki can't make Serena healthy" you say and continues with many fine points. I agree with you in most of it. But it could be fun if loosing the #1 spot could bring back Serena on the road again, because I don't think she deserves the #1 spot only winning slams. If you don't follow what all the other players have to do - you have to miss points for every tournament you are not taking part in then perhaps we have the real wta tour. Until then I hope we'll see Caroline win tomorrow (Thursday) and gain the #1 spot she deserves it.

Wed Oct 06, 02:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger TennisAce said...

I am not quite sure why people get the idea that Serena raises much of a fuss about a ranking. If Serena is ranked 140 she considers herself the best player in women's tennis. She is the only player on either tour who strongly believes that she is better than everyone else.

Some may call it ego. I call it belief. As a Serena fan I think Wozniacki is No.1 based on her results. She is not the best player in the world in the women's game right now, but she is the best when it comes to consistency.

In terms of winning a major, if Wozniacki does not learn come 2011 to stop calling Daddy Dearest down courtside her results at the majors will be the same as they were in 2010. She will get blown off the court again and again. She has to learn to fix things by herself. Until then ...

Wed Oct 06, 03:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Serena believes she is the best player on the tour because she IS the best player on the tour. The rest is a race for second-best, for what it's worth. Wozniacki has really impressed me this season, however. But I agree that she needs to figure things out for herself, and I see no reason why she can't.

Wed Oct 06, 10:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hoergren-

Maybe more likely is that not playing the Open will spur Serena to be as dominant as she possibly can be at the slams in 2011.

T-Ace & Diane-

You took the words right out of my mouth. Reading Hoergren's comments, I thought to myself, "truthfully, Serena doesn't really care if she's ranked #1." She cares about the slams, and has proven that she can win those whether she's ranked #1 or #80. Until further notice, as long as she's sound (and maybe even when she's not quite that) Serena is the best out there.

Also, thing is, Wozniacki's slam exits this summer didn't even require a player to blow her off the court. Schiavone confused her in Paris, Zvonareva simply outplayed and out-thought her in NY, etc. Not that she couldn't have been blown off the court had she met a Serena or a big-time power player. Though she did manage to defeat Sharapova (even if that feat doesn't quite mean what it used to the moment).

That said, congrats to Caroline for defeating Kvitova (who she lost to at Wimbledon) today in Beijing to assure herself of becoming the twentieth #1-ranked woman in WTA history on Monday. :)

Thu Oct 07, 03:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger vijit said...

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Sun Oct 10, 04:56:00 PM EDT  
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