Monday, February 28, 2011

February Awards: The Queens' Speeches

Following such an eye-opening and newsworthy January, one had every reason to figure that February would be a big letdown. And you'd have been right to worry.

After all, "all" the past month produced was the sight of the only two nations to lift a Fed Cup championship since 2004 having to dig out of early holes to avoid being ousted in the 1st Round. After that, Australian Open champ Kim Clijsters reclaimed the #1 ranking for the first time since 2006, then promptly was upset in Paris by rising Czech star Petra Kvitova. Just a few days later, former #1 Caroline Wozniacki snatched back the top spot en route to winning a big title in Dubai. A week later, world #3 Vera Zvonareva belatedly made her '11 presence known by upsetting Wozniacki in Doha to win her first title in over a year.

Like I said... booooooooorrrrrrring.

So, with another month safely locked away for history, all the queens' speeches and all the queens' yens head into March still so-far-successfully combining to piece together an increasingly great season all over again.

And, to think, February only consisted of twenty-eight short days. With the Williams Sisters waiting in the WTA wings, one can only guess what the year's more lengthy months might have in store for a season that already resembles a sometimes crazily good stemwinder.

*February Awards - Wk.5-8*
**TOP PLAYERS**
1. Caroline Woziacki, DEN
...over the past month, we've seen the future, and it just might be grand. But as the Doha final proved, it wouldn't be smart to get ahead of oneself and think that this fairy tale's happy ending will be coming sometime over the next seven months. It could... but just don't hold your breath, and instead settle in for the novelized version of "The Tale of Wozniacki."
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2. Petra Kvitova, CZE
...it says something about Kvitova's season so far that she seems at least somewhat close to being on par with the current top three ranked players in the game, but she appears to only be scratching the surface of her eventual potential.
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3. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
...it'd be nice if the Italian could put away a big regular tour title once in a while -- the closest she got in February was a SF in Dubai -- but the Fed Cup legacy she's carved out for herself, one which she added to yet again a few weeks ago, might be enough for her to be declared a Hall of Famer when all is said and done.
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4. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
...just when it looked as if Zvonareva was being passed up in the chase for the #1 ranking, she knocks off top-ranked Wozniacki in Doha and secures her biggest title in nearly two years.
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5. Russian Fed Cup Team
...really, more like Anastasia Pavluychenkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. After falling into a 0-2 hole in the 1st Round against France after losses by Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova, these two put the four-time champions on their backs and carried them over the finish line in one of the most spirited comebacks in FC history. Kuznetsova, for her part, then parlayed that confidence-building success into a run to the final in Dubai.
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HM- Daniela Hantuchova/SVK, Kim Clijsters/BEL, Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik (CZE/SLO), Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci (ITA/ITA), Gisela Dulko/ARG, Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP, Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK, Liezel Huber/USA

**RISERS**
1. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2. Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci, ITA/ITA
3. Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
4. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
5. Andrea Petkovic, GER
6. Alisa Kleybanova, RUS
7. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
8. Mathilde Johansson, FRA
9. Marion Bartoli, FRA
10. Sara Errani, ITA
HM- Kaia Kanepi/EST & Johanna Larsson/SWE

**FRESH FACES**
1. Petra Kvitova, CZE
2. Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
3. Rebecca Marino, CAN
4. Ayumi Morita, JPN
5. Evgeniya Rodina, RUS
6. Petra Martic, CRO
7. Ksenia Pervak, RUS
8. Zhang Shuai, CHN
9. Heather Watson, GBR
10. Kristina Kucova, SVK
HM- Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR

**JUNIORS**
1. Monica Puig, PUR
2. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
3. Alison van Utyvanck, BEL
4. Ilka Csoregi, ROU
5. Jana Cepelova, SVK

**SURPRISES**
1. Han Xinyun, CHN
2. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, ESP
3. Arantxa Parra-Santonja, ESP
4. Galina Voskoboeva, KAZ
5. Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP
6. Nina Bratchikova, RUS
7. Corinna Dentoni, ITA
8. Sanda Zahlavova, CZE
9. Beatriz Garcia-Vidagany, ESP
10. Maria Irigoyen, ARG
HM- Stephanie Foretz-Gacon, FRA & Ashley Weinhold, USA

**VETERANS**
1. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
3. Kim Clijsters, BEL
4. Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
5. Gisela Dulko, ARG
HM- Liezel Huber, USA & Jelena Dokic, AUS

**COMEBACKS**
1. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
3. Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
4. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
5. Galina Voskoboeva, KAZ
6. Sania Mirza, IND
7. Maggie Maleeva, BUL
8. Meghann Shaughnessy, USA
9. Alexa Glatch, USA
10. Anne Keothavong, GBR
HM- Casey Dellacqua, AUS

**DOWN**
1. Li Na, CHN
2. Samantha Stosur, AUS
3. Maria Kirilenko, RUS
4. Maria Sharapova, RUS
5. Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
HM- Mariana Duque-Marino, COL

**ITF PLAYERS**
1. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2. Lucie Hradecka, CZE
3. Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
4. Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
5. Iryna Kuryanovich, BLR
HM- Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE & Varatchaya Wongteanchai, THA

**FED CUP**
1. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
3. Petra Kvitova, CZE
4. Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
5. Andrea Petkovic, GER
6. Kim Clijsters, BEL
7. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
8. Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
9. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
10. Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
HM- Ayumi Morita, JPN

**And a Final Goodbye to...**
Rennae Stubbs/AUS & Stephanie Cohen-Aloro/FRA



**TOP PERFORMANCES**
1. Petra Kvitova wins Paris, saving match point in the 2nd Round, coming back from a 5-3 3rd set deficit in the QF and then defeating soon-to-become #1 Kim Clijsters for the first time in the final
2. Flavia Pennetta once again is the Italian Fed Cup team's unwavering leader in the 1st Round
3. Using a flawless combination of offense and defense, Caroline Wozniacki re-gains the #1 ranking en route to winning Dubai without dropping a set, wrapping things up with possibly the best big match performance of her career in the final against Svetlana Kuznetsova
4. Young stars -- Andrea Petkovic, Kateryna Bondarenko and Bojana Jovanovski -- put their nations' Fed Cup teams on their backs and carry them to victory with very little help from another teammate

*TOP MATCHES*
1. Fed Cup 1st Rd/#2 Singles - Pennetta d. Stosur
...7-6/6-7/6-4.
With defending champ Italy down 1-0, Pennetta needed a win to avoid possible disaster. Stosur led 5-3 in the 1st, but failed to put it away when she had the chance as Pennetta personally ended Italy's sixteen-match losing streak against Australia in FC play and Team Italia advanced to the semis.
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2. Doha 1st Rd - Cibulkova d. Groth
...6-4/4-6/7-6.
Once again, an Aussie didn't come through in the end. Groth held quadruple match point at 6-2 in the 3rd set tie-break, but dropped six straight points to lose the match.
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*COMEBACKS*
A Narrow Escape
...looking to rebound in '11 and reclaim the Fed Cup title for the first time since 2008, Team Russia nearly had things go horridly wrong from the get-go as France jumped up 2-0 on Day 1 of the two nations' 1st Round tie. On Day 2, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova replaced Maria Sharapova and kept the tie "live," while Svetlana Kuznetsova redeemed herself with a win after her loss in the first match on Saturday. The two then paired in doubles to pull the Hordettes all the way back and into the SF, becoming only the fourth team to survive a 0-2 deficit since the best-of-five FC format was adopted in 1995.
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A Short-Term Headliner
...by defeating Jelena Dokic in the Paris QF, Kim Ciljsters returned to the #1 singles ranking for the first time since 2006, a five-year span between top-ranked stints that stands as the second longest in WTA history, just nine weeks shorter than Serena Williams' time away from #1 from 2003-08. Clijsters' return to #1 last only one week, though, as Caroline Wozniacki moved back into the spot seven days later.
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Another Sister (Re)Enters the Fray
...the youngest of the record-breaking Maleeva sisters (all three reached the Top 10, and in June/July 1993 they were ranked consecutively from #11-through-#13), 35-year old Maggie returned to Fed Cup action for the first time since a comeback from her 2005 retirement. In zone play, the former world #4 (1996) went undefeated in doubles action for Bulgaria.
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*UPSETS*
1. Fed Cup 1st Rd / #1 & #2 Singles
Cornet d. Kuznetsova 3-6/6-3/6-4
Razzano d. Sharapova 5-3/6-4
...
Cornet erased a 6-3/2-0 deficit to grab her first career Fed Cup win, surviving badly turning her ankle in the 3rd following a string of six consecutive breaks of serve between her and Kuznetsova. Razzano then pounced on a poor-serving Sharapova (who wouldn't play again in February, as Pavlyuchenkova played on Day 2, then Sharapova subsequently pulled out of her tour commitments due to a virus) to give the Pastries a shocking 2-0 lead. It didn't last, of course. In the end, the two victories only serve as a reminder of might have been for the French team.
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=Oh, and Anna Chakvetadze...=
...ended up flat on her back in Dubai, passing out due to an illness while serving for the 2nd set against Wozniacki in the 2nd Round. It says something about the wealth of WTA stories this past month that the moment barely manages to even crack the review lineup.


So far in 2011, all the players currently in the running for this season's "best player" have carried on a playground game of "I Can Top That." Li Na issued the first challenges of the year in January by upsetting Clijsters in Sydney, then coming back from match point against Wozniacki to the reach Australian Open final (Li's the only player with '11 wins over both players who've spent time in the #1 ranking this season). After that, Clijsters defeated Li to win the AO, then rose to #1, only to immediately lose to Kvitova. Wozniacki then re-claimed the #1 spot, only to be upended by Zvonareva.

So, either the next move is on Clijsters' or Li's rackets and we can start this round-about all over again, or someone new is about to join in on the fun.


Read ATP Backspin's February Awards here. All for now.

3 Comments:

Blogger Hoergren said...

Todd cheer up - spring is coming back together with lighter days :-) I've been entertained quite well this month in the Wozzy world. Now another tournament is coming up and Caro has said on a press conference that she is going for a win. I think that she has learned a great deal about confidence and aggressive play the last month and it will be interesting to see how she and Zvonareva will manage.
Hope you follow the developement in the Serena Williams saga with her last stroke. Sad to see a great player being sidelined like that.

Wed Mar 02, 11:35:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Not to be superstitious or anything, but it IS quite odd how much bad luck she's encountered since she won slam #13.

In better news, congrats to Flavia Pennetta for finally moving into a co-#1 position in the Doubles rankings with partner Gisela Dulko. She's the first Italian player to ever be ranked #1 in professional tennis.

Wed Mar 02, 03:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger The Fan Child said...

Very excited to see Kvitova this spring. I think she has top-ten potential this year for sure.

Sun Mar 06, 01:40:00 AM EST  

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