Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2011's Intriguing Questions




The new year is nearly here. What better time to look at 100 of the upcoming season's most intriguing questions (not to mention make a few predictions), region-by-region?

*NORTH AMERICA*
1. Serena Williams, USA: hmmm, Serena will be coming back from an injury that has kept her off tour for over six months (probably more line nine, when things are all said and done). She'll be given the task of getting her body and game into shape by summertime in order to be a slam contender in London and New York. Uh, haven't we heard some variation of this storyline more than once over the years? You do remember what usually occurs in the final act, don't you?
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2. Venus Williams, USA: winning in Dubai and Acapulco in back-to-back weeks every season (well, two years running, anyway) is nice, but don't you think Venus would gladly sacrifice that early season fortnight of dominance for the chance to raise a more important -- even if less ornamental -- trophy following a different fortnight?
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3. Melanie Oudin, USA: her "season after" syndrome wasn't exactly unexpected, but it's hard to believe that Fed Cup coach Mary Joe Fernandez didn't remember that Little MO literally cut her teeth under FC pressure BEFORE her starring role in New York in '09. Maybe Oudin's "I'll show her" singles win in the final against Italy will be the stepping stone for a hopefully better '11 campaign?
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4. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN: her unexpected success (in '08, she became the first Canadian title-winner in twenty years) sort of ushered in the current era of North Americans not named Williams becoming legit topics of contending conversation on tour, so isn't it a shame that her recent injury troubles are causing her to be passed by in droves by her peers and (yikes) already largely "forgotten?"
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5. Mary Joe Fernandez & the "Bannerettes": all right, MJF & Co., what do you do for an encore to your encore? Well, a win in the 1st Round against Belgium (possibly featuring you-know-who, as well as the other-you-know-who) would exceed expectations yet again... even if Venus plays.
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6. Coco Vandeweghe, USA: her future looks bright, but one year from now will the notion of playing Coco over Little MO in the Fed Cup final's opening singles match be a case of "in hindsight, it was rather elementary, my dear Mary Joe" or remain a questionable risk? Vandeweghe's 2011 success after bearing the brunt (going 0-2 in singles) of Team USA's losses will be the ultimate judge, and being handled rather easily by a 17-year old isn't exactly a good sign. Speaking of that 17-year old...
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7. Lauren Davis, USA: she ended her '10 season by winning back-to-back-to-back prestigious junior titles at the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl events. Considering that Daria Gavrilova won Eddie Herr a year ago, then went on to win the U.S. Open Girls title and finish as the #1-ranked junior in the world, is the currently #3-ranked Davis the latest "next big thing" in what is starting to look like the most promising generation of young Americans in quite some time? And considering that Davis just qualified for the Australian Open by wiping out Vandeweghe in the U.S.'s qualifying playoff final, extending her winning streak to twenty-seven matches (and 36 of 37) should maybe MJF have considered playing HER in the Fed Cup final? And I ask that only half-kiddingly, of course, since the Fed Cup captain has already publicly lauded Davis for her efforts in the playoff in Atlanta.
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8. Rebecca Marino, CAN: all right, just how on-target was Venus when said the Canuck reminded her of herself?
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9. Alison Riske, USA: she might be the least-known of the latest generation of would-be U.S. stars -- but is she actually the best of the lot?
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10. Beatrice Capra, USA: will her U.S. Open flash be more Oudin-esque or Stevenson-like... and a few years from now, will there be any difference?
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11. Martina Navratilova, USA: do we think "less" of her for not completing her trek up Mt. Kilamanjaro? OF COURSE NOT. It just proved once again that she is indeed human... and makes all her previous feats seem all the more impressive all over again.
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12. Serena Williams' cast: seriously, could it possibly be more fabulously "Serena-esque?

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13. Williams/Williams, USA: they have to get back on the SW19 title-winning horse, right?
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14. Oudin's word-emblazoned footwear: "Believe" worked. "Courage" didn't. It's time to retire this gimmick, don't you agree?
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15. FIRST TITLE?: Gabriela Dabrowski/CAN (ITF), Krista Hardebeck/USA (ITF), Christina McHale/USA (ITF), Shelby Rogers/USA (ITF), Sloane Stephens/USA (ITF), Coco Vandeweghe/USA, two Americans at slams (Girls singles, the first since Coco at the '08 U.S. Open)
16. FIRST FINAL?: Lauren Davis/USA (Jr.slam), Rebecca Marino/CAN, Melanie Oudin/USA, Alison Riske/USA, Sloane Stephens/USA (Jr.slam), Coco Vandeweghe/USA
17. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Rebecca Marino/CAN, Coco Vandeweghe/USA
18. SEASON-ENDING RANKING MILESTONES?: Rebecca Marino/CAN (Top 50), Christina McHale/USA (Top 100), Melanie Oudin/USA (Top 50), Alison Riske/USA (Top 100), Coco Vandeweghe/USA (Top 100)
19. BIG WINS?: Williams/Williams (Wimbledon Doubles), Vania King/USA (w/ Yaroslava Shvedova, a 3rd slam doubles crown)
20. WHOPPER?: Vania King becomes the #1-ranked doubles player in the world

*SOUTH AMERICA*
21. Gisela Dulko, ARG: will she finally win a slam doubles title? For all the talk of what singles #1 Caroline Wozniacki DIDN'T win in '10, doubles #1 Dulko also didn't win a slam doubles title or reach a slam doubles final. In fact, she's never done either.
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22. Mariana Duque-Marino/COL, Camila Silva/CHI, Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR, Bianca Botto/PER & Gabriela Paz/VEN (as well as Miami Hurricane Laura Vallverdu/VEN, the NCAA women's Player of the Year): after another year of continuing and building success, is it STILL premature to think this might be the leading edge of the best group of young South American girls in a handful of generations, if not ever? Duque-Marino has already become the first Colombian to win a WTA singles title, while Silva and Cepede Royg now have the best chances to one day become their nations' first tour titlists. Meanwhile, Botto and Paz both garnered ITF titles in '10.
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23. Roxane Vaisemberg, BRA: the tour hasn't seen a Brazilian woman win a singles title since 1988, but that doesn't mean that 21-year old Vaisemberg's five ITF titles in 2010 (one off the circuit's season-best) are to be discounted, right?
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24. FIRST TITLE?: Laura Vallverdu/VEN (ITF or NCAA Women's Singles Championship)
25. FIRST SINGLES/DOUBLES TITLE SWEEP?: Gisela Dulko/ARG (I tried this one last year, and just missed on it... so I'll go with it again)
26. WHOPPER?: South America will double (at least) it's season-ending number of players ranked in the Top 100, after having just one in 2010

*EUROPE*
27. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN: is she really as level-headed as she seems, or were her slip-on-a-banana-peel '10 exits from the slams a bad sign when it comes to how she'll continue to handle her "end game" on the game's biggest stages?
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28. Kim Clijsters, BEL: is she really going to win another U.S. Open -- or another slam altogether -- and force me to view her only through the prism of her second, impressive-at-collecting-slam-titles post-comeback career? That wouldn't be nearly as fun, as far as I'm concerned.
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29. Justine Henin, BEL: is she really going put forth another lackluster season that will force me to view her through the prism of her second, rather ordinary, post-comeback career?
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30. Clijsters/Henin, BEL: is this prospective 2012 Olympic doubles team the first true sign that the apocalypse will soon be upon us? Considering Henin's "bad luck" last year whenever Clijsters crossed her path, maybe she should re-think the proposition. In 2010, Clijsters acted as virtual Kryponite to Henin. Justine went 0-3 against her countrywoman, holding a match point in one meeting and being a point away from a MP in another, then injuring her elbow and ending her season in match-up #3. But that wasn't all. The elbow injury that prevented her from joining Cljisters in that post-SW19 Brussels exhibition wasn't the only injury she sustained with "black cat" Clijsters nearby, as she also broke her pinky during practice for a Fed Cup tie in which Barbie was her teammate. And that's not even counting how Clijsters "showed up" Henin when she publicly donated her prize money to a children's hospital during the post-final trophy presentation in Brisbane. Be afraid, La Petit Taureau. Be very afraid.
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31. Victoria Azarenka, BLR: has she been eating her Wheaties, and getting herself (adaquately) physically prepared for the rigors of a full WTA season? Another year of retiring from a third of her tournaments without the excuse of suffering a major injury will be, to be blunt, totally unprofessional.
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32. Ana Ivanovic, SRB: is she ready to handle everything that comes with success this time around?
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33. Jelena Jankovic, SRB: like a student at exam time, did she totally sleep through her alarm clock and miss out on her chance to become something other than the minor star of a semi-oddball tangent in the middle of the Williams/Russian/Belgian era of women's tennis?
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34. Francesca Schiavone, ITA: wouldn't it have been the perfect "Hollywood" ending if Francesca had simply looked back at her '10 season, realized that it could never get any better than that, and walked off into the WTA sunset with a perpetual skip in her step and an eternal smile on her face? That said, it's nicer to continue to have her around now that she can be better appreciated.
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35. Italian Fed Cup Team: the title run has to end, right? Or maybe Francesca, Flavia & Co. know something that we don't?
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36. Piotr Wozniacki: he gets a great deal of credit for his daughter's rise to #1, but when does her (over?) reliance on his advice/instruction become a hinderance, since she has yet to be able to find her way out of a match's darkness in the slams when she can't turn to him?
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37. Sabine Lisicki, GER: we're not looking at another head-in-your-hands, if-only-she-could-have-stayed-healthy, sequel to "The Julia Vakulenko Story" here are we?
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38. Nicole Vaidisova, ex-CZE: is she restless yet?
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39. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL: after getting out all her frustration by winning at the start of the season, she sort of lost her mojo for the remainder of the year. Will a less-stressful offseason and beginning to '11 allow her to begin to find her way back to the level of play that got her into the U.S. Open semis in '09?
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40. Petra Kvitova, CZE: no player's results swung as wildly as Kvitova's did last year, as she showed slam semifinalist talent one moment, then can't-overcome-her-own-head deficiencies for long stretches afterward. We don't have a Czech case of "Novotna II" here, do we?
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41. Aravane Rezai, FRA & Laura Robson, GBR: which one will make the mistake of slipping and saying something stupid first?
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42. The Radwanskas, POL: an injury prevented Urszula from edging nearer to Agnieszka in the rankings in '10. With A-Rad beginning '11 on the injured list, will U-Rad finally begin the process of coming into her own on the WTA tour?
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43. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP: will I continue to crack open the old Backspin chestnut about how AMG is just one tour title away from joining only Anna Smashnova in WTA history as players with double-digit singles titles, but zero QF-or-better slam results in their careers? Umm, I think I just answered my own question.
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44. Mirjana Lucic, CRO: a minor heartwarming story in '10, can the Croat shift her comeback into a higher gear in '11?
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45. Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU: is she the best young player totally flying under everyone's radar?
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46. Tamira Paszek, AUT: after finding her way back into the winner's circle, will she now pick up where she left off a few years ago?
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47. Kaia Kanepi, EST: after her career-best '10 campaign (though it wasn't without its rocky moments), she looked like a sure bet to potentially create a "Rocky moment" or two in a slam in '11. But how much will her fractured left elbow hold her back in the seasons opening months as she will have to build back her game up from a dead-stop, rather than being able to seamlessly carry over the momentum she'd garnered last season?
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48. Andrea Petkovic, GER: does she have too many interests (and too much personality?) to be as single-minded an automaton... err, I mean "dedicated tennis player" as many need to be in order to fulfill their potential? And, in a not-so-odd way, is that actually a good thing?
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49. The Pliskova sisters: after becoming the first pair of sisters to ever win junior slam titles in the same season, what sibling-related list will they add their names to (or start) next?
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50. Heinz Gunthardt: if AnaIvo has a great run in Melbourne, how many requests will Gunthardt receive for his coaching expertise? "Heinz... Dinara is on Line 1."
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51. Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL: is last year's Wimbledon run by one of the WTA's most frustrating "talent teases" all we'll EVER get out of her?
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52. Doggie Wars: Deuce vs. Stella???: Henin is 10-0 against Jankovic in their careers. But how would Justine's pooch, Deuce, fair in a footrace against Jelena's new pal, Stella?
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53. "Clijsters Worship": last year, it was a Kim version of Barbie, then the glorification of her philanthropic side in Brisbane. After that, she was canonized by way of a three-figure monument erected in her image(s). What'll it be in 2011? A tennis arena named in her honor? A newly-formed religion? Maybe even... Backspin "reparation proceedings" (bite your tongue... that day is still an unrealized dream/nightmare, but it's frightfully closer to becoming reality than it was a few months ago, I must admit)?
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54. FIRST TITLE?: Edina Gallovits/ROU, Caroline Garcia/FRA (ITF), Simona Halep/ROU, Polona Hercog/SLO, Bojana Jovanovski/SRB, Johanna Larsson/SWE, An-Sophie Mestach/BEL (ITF), Urszula Radwanska/POL, Elina Svitolina/UKR (ITF), Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
55. FIRST FINAL?: Mathilde Johansson/FRA, Bojana Jovanovski/SRB, Urszula Radwanska/POL, Stefanie Voegele/SUI, Renata Voracova/CZE
56. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Victoria Azarenka/BLR (at a slam), Ana Ivanovic/SRB (at a slam, since '08), Bojana Jovanovski/SRB, Urszula Radwanska/POL
57. FIRST QUARTERFINAL?: Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU (at a slam), Bojana Jovanovski/SRB, Urszula Radwanska/POL, Laura Robson/GBR, Heather Watson/GBR
58. SEASON-ENDING RANKING MILESTONES?: Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU (Top 20), Simona Halep/ROU (Top 50), Bojana Jovanovski/SRB (Top 50), Kaia Kanepi/EST (Top 20), Petra Kvitova/CZE (Top 20), Johanna Larsson/SWE (Top 50), Tamira Paszek/AUT (Top 50), Urszula Radwanska/POL (Top 50), Ajla Tomljanovic/CRO (Top 100)
59. TOUR TITLE-WINNING LEADER?: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
60. FIRST SINGLES/DOUBLES TITLE SWEEP?: Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
61. WHOPPER?: Kaia Kanepi/EST will reach a slam semifinal

*AFRICA/MIDDLE EAST*
62. Shahar Peer, ISR: one year after the Dubai Debacle, Peer put together the best overall season of her career and finished at #13. With a few more wins (she was 1-6 in semifinals), can she become the first Israeli player to ever be ranked in the Top 10?
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63. Ons Jabeur, TUN: is it even questionable that she's the best non-Israeli female player to ever come out of a Middle East nation?
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64. Cara Black, ZIM: how many tour doubles titles does she need to win this year to be able to figuratively rub her success in Liezel Huber's face?
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65. FIRST TITLE?: Ons Jabeur/TUN (Jr.slam)
66. FIRST QUARTERFINAL?: Chanel Simmonds/RSA
67. SWEET REVENGE?: Cara Black/ZIM will win two slam Mixed Doubles titles, defeating Huber in one of the finals
68. WHOPPER?: Shahar Peer/ISR will become a Top 10 player, but only briefly. She won't finish the season there.

*ASIA/PACIFIC*
69. Samantha Stosur, AUS: is countrywoman Anastasia Rodionova touting Stosur as a possible slam champion in '11 (including in Melbourne) just a bit more pressure than the Slingin' one really needed heading into a season in which she's going to need a third consecutive "career year" to maintain her standing in the sport, especially considering she has just one slam QF-or-better result outside of Paris?
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70. Jarmila Groth or Olivia Rogowska, AUS: Groth was an eye-catcher in the slams and won her first tour title last year, while Rogowska just claimed Tennis Australia's Wild Card Playoff tournament title by coming back from match points down in the final to defeat Jelena Dokic. Does this mean that there will soon be a legitimate question about which is her nation's best young player?
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71. Jelena Dokic, AUS: hmmm, since she missed out on taking control of the situation herself over the weekend, will Dokic gain entry into the AO draw thanks to a "discretionary" wild card doled out by Tennis Australia? You know, the same "free slam pass" that was so ludicrously denied her for Flushing Meadows last summer. "Ms. Sophie Ferguson... a 'TA' has left a message for you."
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72. Anastasia Rodionova, AUS: does her near Gold medal sweep (only her Silver in Mixed Doubles wasn't ultra-shiny) at the Asian Games solidy her early candidacy to be the tour's Most Improved Player in 2011?
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73. Yaroslava Shvedova & Zarina Diyas, KAZ: is the race now officially on to see which will one day become the first player representing Kazakhstan to win a WTA singles title?
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74. Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN: is Martina Navratilova's tour record for oldest singles match winner in jeopardy? If so, that means we've got at least five more years of Kimiko to look forward to.
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75. Li Na & Zheng Jie, CHN: does it seem like a lifetime ago to you, too, that this pair was in the Australian Open singles semifinals?
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76. Chinese Fed Cup Team: so, is it now official Chinese Tennis Federation policy that they don't care about team competitions unless the event is held in Asia?
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77. Sania Mirza, IND: does a little off-court "stability" and "sanity" (which is probably far different for the Indian Princess than nearly ever other player on tour) mean things will pick up again ON the court? Two medals at the Asian Games, as well as a late-December $75K challenger win in Dubai, would seem to hint that it might.
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78. Tennis Australia: what sort of wild card shenanigans will TA pull this year? Well, I know that I'M waiting with bated breath to find out.
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79. FIRST TITLE?: Peng Shuai/CHN, Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ (as a Kazakh), Xu Yi-Fan/CHN (ITF)
80. FIRST FINAL?: Chang Kai-Chen/TPE, Anastasia Rodionova/AUS
81. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Chang Kai-Chen/TPE, Zarina Diyas/KAZ, Olivia Rogowska/AUS
82. FIRST QUARTERFINAL?: Misaki Doi/JPN, Kurumi Nara/JPN, Olivia Rogowska/AUS
83. SEASON-ENDING RANKING MILESTONES?: Chang Kai-Chen/TPE (Top 100), Zarina Diyas/KAZ (Top 100), Kurumi Nara/JPN (Top 100), Anastasia Rodionova/AUS (Top 50), Olivia Rogowska/AUS (Top 100)
84. FIRST SINGLES/DOUBLES TITLE SWEEP?: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
85. WHOPPER?: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ will not only win a third slam Doubles title with Vania King, she'll also win her first slam crown in Mixed Doubles

*RUSSIA*
86. Maria Sharapova, RUS: if she can't get back to (at least) close to the top, is a career as a player ranked #8-15 for the next five or six years really palatable for a player who has flown so high and who has so many other interests/commitments?
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87. Vera Zvonareva, RUS: Zvonareva's 2010 season produced one small tournament title early in the year, but no more. If she wins a handful of crowns in 2011's first half, Wozniacki fails to title in Melbourne (or maybe even reach the final), while Zvonareva puts together another (or two) pre-Wimbledon runs deep into the draw of a slam, can the Russian -- at least temporarily -- swipe the #1 ranking from the Dane after missing out on her chance to do so at the Tour Championships in November?
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88. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS: feeling better now? Ready to act like a professional again? All right, then let's go.
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89. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS: is she one solid season of focusing on her fitness from making a run at the Top 10?
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90. Dinara Safina, RUS: is 2011 a virtual make-or-break season when it comes to the rest of Safina's career, possibly even ultimately determining whether or not she still has a tennis career at all in 2012?
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91. Nadia Petrova, RUS: Nadia had one of the most underrated good seasons on tour last year (she was one of only three players ranked in the Top 15 in both singles and doubles, and the only one not named Williams), but are her days of winning singles crowns (contending at a slam would seem a "crazed" fairy tale) a thing of the past?
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92. Alisa Kleybanova, RUS: no new Russian woman has climbed into the Top 10 since Anna Chakvetadze in 2007. Is Kleybanova the next "Hordette of note?"
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93. Russian Fed Cup Team: reinforcements (Ms.Sharapova, you're up) have been called in, but without the reliable Elena Dementieva can the Hordettes reclaim the spot FC victory circle that they once dominated?
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94. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS: was her Birmingham title (five wins over Top 20 players en route to her maiden tour crown) the most overlooked great performance of 2010?
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95. FIRST TITLE?: Daria Gavrilova (ITF), Irina Khromacheva (ITF)
96. FIRST FINAL?: Ksenia Pervak
97. FIRST SEMIFINAL?: Regina Kulikova
98. FIRST QUARTERFINAL?: Alisa Kleybanova (slam), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (slam)
99. SEASON-ENDING RANKING MILESTONES?: Alisa Kleybanova (Top 10), Evgeniya Rodina (Top 100)
100. WHOPPERS?: Daria Gavrilova will win her second career junior slam singles title, Alisa Kleybanova will notch two wins over a world #1, and Vera Zvonareva will briefly rise to the #1 ranking after Roland Garros (only to see Wozniacki regain the top spot after a week or two)

*AND FIVE MORE, JUST BECAUSE*
101. Pam Shriver, ESPN2: who'll she annoy, pique, tick-off or infuriate first in 2011? You'll notice I'm not even questioning IF it'll happen, only when. Hmmm, I wonder if SHE had anything to do with Mary Carillo deciding to end her participation in ESPN's tennis coverage?
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102. Fed Cup: when will the Fed Cup adopt the much-better Davis Cup format of playing the doubles match in the middle of the tie rather than at the end, thereby virtually assuring that every roster player will take part in a meaningful match? Plus, it'd set up the possibility of some super-intense Match #5 singles battles that would decide things.
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103. The Season-Ending Championships: when will the tour championships, following in the footsteps of the ATP World Finals' much-approved-of-by-the-players shift to London in '10, see fit to return the season's last major singles event to Europe or North America? After years of being lost in the shuffle -- not to mention the news cycle -- while playing in Doha the last few seasons, it'll be played in Turkey this season. Whose nightmare, err, I mean dream was the basis for that move, anyway?
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104. What's this... could it be... sanity???: roofs planned for new stadiums at Flushing Meadows. Shocking!! The WTA announcing its season award winners at the END of the season rather than three months into the NEXT one. What a concept!! What IS this, anyway? Have the feces-throwing chimps that had locked themselves inside the WTA & USTA HQ boardrooms finally been lured away with some sweet-tasting bananas, and a sport that has so often recently seemed allergic to logic is suddenly transformed?



Hmmm, then again... not so fast.
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105. Zenyatta & Serena... still antidotes for "Clijsters Worship": a year ago, when Serena was named the AP Female Athlete of the Year, 2nd place Zenyatta finished ahead of 3rd place Clijsters. This year, both Zenyatta (2nd) and Serena (4th) finished ahead of "official" WTA Tour Player of the Year Clijsters yet again. And I'm sure there'll be a four-legged toy version of Zenyatta soon, trumping Barbie's two-legged one last year (well, unless you count that mini-Jada).

(Hey, I have to get in all my shots at Kim now, since I fear I might not be able to have as much fun at her expense in due time, possibly as soon as about a month from now.)
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All for now.



2011 Preview Series Links: 'Twas the Backspin Before Christmas, Prediction Blowout, The Final Seduction of Miss Caroline Wozniacki

STILL TO COME: 1Q Preview/Week 1 Picks

8 Comments:

Blogger Christina said...

I love WTA Backspin, but it's really almost impossible to read in Google Reader, which is how I read 99.9% of my blog content. The colours you use in your fonts absolutely do not show up on a white background.

Tue Dec 21, 05:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Todd, great writing. Are you planning to predict the Top 10 for 2011?

Wed Dec 22, 08:22:00 AM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

As always - well done. May I wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New tennis year and hope you will continue to please all your fans in the years ahead. You bring a "twist" to the WTA tour and I like that :-)

Wed Dec 22, 04:43:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Wow. That's a lot to digest. And yes, I think that:

1. Alison Riske is probably the best of the new-generation Bannerette lot. Riske has a maturity that may serve her quite well in seasons to come.

2. Pavlyuchenkova is the real thing, but she better be getting her fitness act together as I write this. Pavlyuchenkova may be actually be cursed by talent, a la Hingis. One needs art and craft to get to the top.

3. This may be Azarenka's last chance to overcome her fragility and get her act together.

4. Rezai could kick everyone's ass if she would find the right "mental fitness trainer," to use a Schiavone phrase. I also have doubts that she will do this.

5. Clijsters will continue to dominate Henin.

As for JJ--that's too sad to think about.

Wed Dec 22, 07:36:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Christina-

I've dealt with white background issues on ATP Backspin when I've re-posted things there in the past, and worked around it by not using lighter colors like gold and white. There, blues, greens, oranges and reds show up all right. Can you see text using darker colors that show up better against a white background? If so, I'll stop using the lighter colors and just use the "darker crayons" in my coloring box from now on (and will replace the lighter colors with them in the four preview posts I've posted over the past week, too).

Jo-

I pick the Top 10 in the Prediction Blowout post (there's a link at the end of the Intriguing 100 post)... though I'm once again not actually picking them in order so that I won't tempt the old "Kuznetsova Curse" that always strikes the player I pick #1.

Hoergren-

Thanks! I can't believe we're only about ten days from the season starting. The offseason really is too short... so imagine how the players feel.

Diane-

1. Lauren Davis has been the "Player of the Offseason," but I can't wait to see how long it takes for someone at ESPN2 to strike the "I've never heard of Riske before. Have you, Mary? Mary? Mary? Where's Mary?" pose in 2011. Somehow, I have a sneaky suspicion good ol' Pam would be a good name to pick in that office pool.

2. Yeah, I'm kind of looking at 2012 for Pavlyuchenkova precisely for that reason. I remember last year before Wimbledon reading that she made some sort of comment about people telling her that her game should translate well to the grass, but she seemed to be oblivious to the notion. Obviously, she's been playing on natural talent and not a whole lot of tactical thought and physical preparation since she started dominating the juniors.

3. For a player who at least SEEMS to want it as much as Azarenka, I've got to think she's going to figure this out soon. It's not as if she's seemingly physically cursed ala Lisicki, and her lingering physical issues would seem to be easily correctable with some effort.

4. Sometimes, players whose first language isn't English just find ways to cut right through it all and simplify things. Right now, I'd say Schiavone is the best at it.

5. I fear you might be right about KC and Henin, but I'm at least going to set foot into 2011 with the thought that after having been so close in her first two meetings with Clijsters last season, Henin has fine-tuned enough aspects of her game to be able to at least win half her meetings with Barbie this coming season. Still, I'm girded for potential disappointment and the notion that I might have to praise Clijsters a great deal this season. (Yuck... that already leaves a bad taste in my mouth.)

JJ... there MIGHT be one final chance. With no Serena and enough questions with the other top players to potentially produce some chaos, I'm thinking that the '11 AO might just be Jankovic's final (semi-)legit chance to win a slam. Not that I think that'll happen.

Oh, and speaking of JJ, she made an appearance on Marv Albert's year-end sports clips rundown on David Letterman's show the other night with the footage of her not being able to lift her trophy last season and having to pose with it setting on a table during the post-match ceremonies. So at least there's that.

Thu Dec 23, 12:49:00 AM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Just a funny thing about the exhibition match Caroline against Cleijsters on January 1st in Thailand. It's for the king of Thailand and because they believe that colours have an effect on peoples health both players will play in PINK! Well you haven't found the nickname Belgian Barbie without a reason - must be nice to get ones theory right ;-)

Mon Dec 27, 05:47:00 PM EST  
Blogger Colette Lewis said...

Todd:
The Pliskova sisters "age out" of juniors in 2010. No more junior slams for either of them in 2011.

Wed Dec 29, 05:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Really? Already? Sheesh. I figured they'd at least play in Melbourne. Some players seem like they play forever. Hmmm, I guess that opens up a prediction slot then... I guess I'll replace a Pliskova with another American girl.

Thanks, Colette.

Wed Dec 29, 11:28:00 PM EST  

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