2Q Clay Court Awards: Born This Way
"Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way..."
-- from "Born This Way" (Lady Gaga, 2011)
One of the most unpredictable clay court seasons ever produced a couple of months that saw the world #1 get beaten in a series of matches, by a handful of aggressive players ranked outside the Top 10, that served to make her seem even less of a threat to win a slam than she was when critics FIRST started complaining about her slam-less resume. But, still, she won more titles than anyone else during the quarter. Several young players flashed brilliance in tune-up events, and seemed to potentially be slam-worthy in a wide open Roland Garros draw. None won. Neither did the long-time not-ready-for-clay superstar who'd suddenly upped her game and become the favorite on the terre battue. Instead, another veteran, a player who went eleven weeks this season without notching a win, ended up becoming a first-time slam champion.
In the end, as surprising as it all was, really, probably nothing should have surprised anyone. So don't hide in regret, just love it for what you get. Eventually, everything will get back on the "right" track, baby. The WTA was just born this way.
Well, at least for 2011, it seems.
*2Q Clay Court Awards - Wks.14-22*
1. Li Na, CHN
...timing is everything, and no one had better this clay court season. By the time Week 16 rolled around, Li hadn't won a singles match in eleven weeks. After a successful coaching change, she rolled out of the clay court season having won fourteen of her last sixteen matches and became the first Chinese player to win a slam singles championship. Even with her two-month-plus black hole in the middle of her season, Li is in contention for Player of the Year (see the "Ms. Backspin" updated rankings below). In a quarter in which no player won more than one title on red clay, Li's win was the biggest. So she's an easy #1 here.
2. Maria Sharapova. RUS
...hmmm, still looking on this list for a player who anyone would have said was even a "good" claycourter at the start of the quarter. Sharapova didn't fashion a true "second coming" of her Supernova self in recent weeks, but her title in Rome and SF run in Paris surely gives rise to the notion that by the end of the summer "Supernova II" could be the hottest sequel in the land.
3. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
...once again, Azarenka came up short of the final four in a slam. Once again, Azarenka went through a retirement-every-other-event phase. Once again, Azarenka was arguably the best player of the clay court season, winning a title and going 16-4, with two losses by retirement in matches she was winning against eventual tournament champions. The other losses? To Li and Petra Kvitova, two more champions who went through the Belarusian to get the title. At least she didn't pass out and have to be wheeled off the court this time. Baby steps.
4. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
...one year after her stunning run in Paris, she didn't get the same heartwarming ending one year later, but the 30-year old's trip to a second consecutive Roland Garros final was arguably even more dramatic and unexpected than her first. The most natural claycourter in the women's game, who's to say Schiavone won't get a third chance to lift Lenglen in '12?
5. Petra Kvitova, CZE
...she flashed brilliance -- as she often does when she's "on" -- in winning Madrid, smashing Li (SF) and Azarenka (Final) en route. But one bad half-set in Paris against Li might have cost her a chance for a career-defining moment on Chatrier a few rounds later. Her streaky quality is still an issue, but in a field where "flash" is highly valued, but rare, the Czech is a threat to crash through the slam door at any time on the sheer force of her game, if she could just hold it together for seven matches. Hmmm, she's sort of a lefty version of Sharapova in that way.
6. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...the #1-ranked Dane was actually the only player to win two titles on clay -- one green, one red (her first ever) -- this quarter, but it's her losses to aggressive, hard-hitting players that will be remembered. In Paris, even her well-honed consistency wasn't enough to get her to the second week. With Sharapova rising, Clijsters getting heathtly and the Sisters returning on the grass and hard courts, things aren't going to get any easier in the big events for Wozniacki. If the likes of an Azarenka or Kvitova (or someone else from her age group) manages to beat her to the slam winner's circle, she runs the risk of quickly becoming obsolete in a very Hingisian way... unless she bites the bullet and adjusts her game and schedule to better facilitate her being more capable of winning a major. She's only four titles from 20 in her career (just Pam Shriver, with 21, won more without taking a slam), and by the end of '11 could very well be the "winningest" slam-less woman ever. Surely, a frontrunner for a "dubious achievement award."
7. Marion Bartoli, FRA
...La Trufflette came into Paris with an injury question hovering over her head. Two weeks later, she'd reached the Roland Garros semifinals.
8. Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka, CZE
...as a dangerously unseeded duo, H² became the first all-Czech team to win the RG Doubles title in over twenty years.
9. Julia Goerges, GER
...at times, Goerges' game was stunning on the clay, as she won in Stuttgart and twice made top-ranked Wozniacki look like an "above-average journeywoman." If she had a little more of her countrywoman Petkovic's bravado and confidence, she might have made a mark in Paris, too.
10. Andrea Petkovic, GER
...speaking of the highest-ranked German. Petkovic still will have one of "those matches" on occasion, but she's put up consistent results in the slams over the last year. Her RG quarterfinal was her second in a slam in '11, and her third straight 4th Round-or-better result in a major.
"I feel confident and I know I can win a slam." - Caroline Wozniacki, after winning Charleston in April
1. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2. Petra Kvitova, CZE
3. Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka, CZE
4. Julie Goerges, GER
5. Andrea Petkovic, GER
6. Sania Mirza/Elena Vesnina, IND/RUS
7. Peng Shuai, CHN
8. Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova, USA/KAZ
9. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
10. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
11. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
12. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
13. Peng Shuai/Zheng Jie, CHN
14. Iveta Benesova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
15. Victoria Azarenka/Maria Kirilenko, BLR/RUS
16. Johanna Larsson, SWE
17. Sara Errani, ITA
18. Elena Vesnina, RUS
19. Chan Yung-Jan, TPE
20. Sofia Arvidsson, SWE
HM- Lucie Safarova, CZE
1. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
2. Caroline Garcia, FRA
3. Arantxa Rus, NED
4. Simona Halep, ROU
5. Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
6. Christina McHale, USA
7. Monica Niculescu, ROU
8. Heather Watson, GBR
9. Sloane Stephens, USA
10. Ayumi Morita, JPN
11. Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, ESP
12. Anastasia Pivovarova, RUS
13. Lesya Tsurenko, UKR
14. Irina Falconi, USA
15. Jamie Hampton, USA
16. Yuliana Lizarazo, COL
17. Sachie Ishizu, JPN
18. Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
19. Alexandra Krunic, SRB
20. Yana Buchina, RUS
HM- Carina Witthoeft, GER
1. Ons Jabeur, TUN
2. Irina Khromacheva, RUS
3. Caroline Garcia, FRA
4. Alison van Uytvanck, BEL
5. Monica Puig, PUR
6. Jana Juricova (Stanford)
7. Anett Kontaveit, EST
8. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
9. Yulia Putintseva, RUS
10. Kyle McPhillips, USA
11. Samantha Crawford, USA
12. Gabby Andrews, USA
13. Lauren Embree (Florida)
14. Alexandra Kiick, USA
15. Stacey Tan (Stanford)
HM- Hilary Barte & Mallory Burdette (Stanford)
1. Lucie Hradecka, CZE
2. Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP
3. Greta Arn, HUN
4. Olga Govortsova, BLR
5. Nadia Lalami, MAR
6. Olga Savchuk, UKR
7. Klaudia Jans/Alicjia Rosolska, POL/POL
8. Iryna Bremond, FRA
9. Angelique Kerber, GER
10. Kristina Barrois, GER
11. Mona Barthel, GER
12. Laura Pous-Tio, ESP
13. Romina Oprandi, ITA
14. Chanelle Scheepers, RSA
15. Corinna Dentoni, ITA
16. Estrella Cabeza-Candela, ESP
17. Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
18. Varvara Lepchenko, USA
19. Stephanie Foretz-Gacon, FRA
20. Zuzana Kucova, SVK
HM- Anna Tatishvili, GEO
1. Li Na, CHN
2. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
3. Marion Bartoli, FRA
4. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
5. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
6. Iveta Benesova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
7. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
8. Roberta Vinci, ITA
9. Alberta Brianti, ITA
10. Greta Arn, HUN
11. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
12. Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
13. Samantha Stosur, AUS
14. Laura Pous-Tio, ESP
15. Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP
16. Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
17. Rennae Stubbs, AUS
18. Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Meghann Shaughnessy, USA
19. Eleni Daniilidou, GRE
20. Rika Fujiwara, JPN
HM- Patty Schnyder, SUI
1. Maria Sharapova, RUS
2. Sabine Lisicki, GER
3. Casey Dellacqua, AUS
4. Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
5. Marina Erakovic, NZL
6. Galina Voskoboeva, KAZ
7. Sorana Cirstea, ROU
8. Sania Mirza, IND
9. Svetlana Kuznesova, RUS
10. Olga Puchkova, RUS
11. Severine Beltrame, FRA
12. Mirjana Lucic, CRO
13. Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
14. Russian Fed Cup Team
HM- Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
1. Samantha Stosur, AUS
2. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
3. Kim Clijsters, BEL
4. Dinara Safina, RUS
5. Shahar Peer, ISR
6. Italian Fed Cup Team
7. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
8. Aravane Rezai, FRA
9. Alisa Kleybanova, RUS
10. Maria Joe Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
11. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
12. Coco Vandeweghe, USA
13. Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
14. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
15. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
HM- Jelena Jankovic, SRB
"I know I'm a great player." - Caroline Wozniacki, after her 3rd Round exit at Roland Garros
1. Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
2. Sorana Cirstea, ROU
3. Valeria Savinykh, RUS
4. Marina Erakovic, NZL
5. Andrea Benitez, ARG
HM- Chanel Simmonds, RSA & Melinda Czink, HUN
1. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2. Petra Kvitova, CZE
3. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
4. Jelena Jankovic/Alexandra Krunic, SRB
5. Andrea Petkovic, GER
6. Iveta Benesova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
7. Lesya Tsurenko/Olga Savchuk, UKR
8. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
9. Polona Hercog, SLO
10. Patty Schnyder, SUI
HM- Olga Govortsova, BLR
"I felt a lot of pain on court today. The pain is permanent within me. It's very hard. But it felt good to be surrounded by so many people and to be here. I tried to pay tribute to Stephane today. It was almost a 'mission impossible,' but I did my best." - Virginie Razzano, after losing her opening round match at Roland Garros, eight days after the sudden death of her coach/fiance
1. The Roland Garros Finalists nobody saw coming. It probably shouldn't have been that way, though, considering that Francesca Schiavone was the defending champion and Li Na had been the runner-up at the Australian Open in January. When they met -- in the oldest women's slam final in thirteen years -- to determine the champion of the most recent wide open tussle in Paris, 29-year old Li became a first-time slam champion one year after now 30-year old Schiavone had done the same.
2. Queen Chaos saves Serbia's bacon. In the Fed Cup World Group playoffs, Jelena Jankovic wasn't even originally scheduled to play. But, on the final day of the tie, JJ was called into action with Serbia down 2-1 and one match loss away from defeat. After defeating Daniela Hantuchova in 2:47, Jankovic came back later in the day in doubles, as she and Alexandra Krunic came back from a 6-2/5-1 deficit to defeat Hantuchova and Magdalena Rybarikova, saving two match points and winning a 9-7 3rd set in a 3:17 match. All in a day's work... well, 6:04 of it anyway.
3. One week after winning a hard court crown in Miami, Victoria Azarenka kicks off the 2Q by heading to Marbella and winning a tour event on red clay. Since 2000, only Venus Williams ('09 & '10) has managed a similar two-surface, two-continent two-fer in consecutive weeks.
4. Petra Kvitova notches convincing Top 10 wins over Vera Zvonareva, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka en route to the Madrid title.
5. Maria Sharapova wins Rome, claiming her biggest career clay court title with wins over Samantha Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki.
6. Julia Goerges becomes the first German to win the Stuttgart title since 1996, getting wins over Samantha Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki
7. Anabel Medina-Garrigues wins her tenth career tour singles title in Estoril. The win ties her with Anna Smashnova as the only women in WTA history with double-digit career title totals who have never advanced to a grand slam quarterfinal.
8. Ons Jabeur becomes the first Tunisian to win a slam junior singles crown when she wins the Roland Garros Girls title one year after having lost in the final
"Like I said some days ago, is like fine wine. Stay in the bottle more is much, much better." - 30-year old Francesca Schiavone, in Paris, en route to her second straight Roland Garros final
1. FC WG PO (SRB/SVK) - Jankovic d. Hantuchova 6-2/3-6/7-5
FC WG PO (SRB/SVK) - Jankovic/Krunic d. Hantuchova/Rybarikova 2-6/7-5/9-7
...JJ surely never thought that the 2:47 win over Hantuchova would be her SHORTEST match of the day. When Rybarikova couldn't serve out the tie at 5-4 in the 3rd, the Serbs came all the way back to take the tie 3-2 with a deciding doubles win in 3:17.
2. Roland Garros 2nd Rd. - Zvonareva d. Lisicki
...4-6/7-5/7-5. The German led 6-4/5-4, and was just two points on serve from taking out the #3 seeded Russian. Lisicki led and served at 5-2 in the 3rd, had a match point on Zvonareva's serve in Game #8, and was once again two points from victory one game later. But, suffering from cramps, the continually star-crossed Lisicki ultimately lost the match, crumpling to the ground after shaking hands with Zvonareva, and being carried off the the court on a stretcher nine months after being injured and wheeled off the court at the U.S. Open last summer.
3. Rome 1st Rd. - Arn d. Kuznetsova
...3-6/7-6/7-6. Further proof of the Hungarian vet's unexpected late-career resurgence. She saved four match points in 3:22 against the two-time slam champion.
HM- Roland Garros Final - Li d. Schiavone
...6-4/7-6. The win that launches a million+ "little Na's" into potential tennis stardom? Li became the fifteenth first-time Open era slam champ to claim her maiden crown in Paris. But if that late line call had gone the other way, what might have happened in a deciding 3rd set? The RG women's final hasn't seen a three-setter since 2001.
"Maybe children, they saw the match, and they think that maybe one day they can do the same or even better." - Li Na, after her Roland Garros semifinal win over Maria Sharapova
*CHOKES (or is it "Comebacks?")*
1. Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Errani d. McHale
...6-7/6-2/9-7. McHale led 5-0 in the 3rd set, and later admitted -- unlike most of her stubbornly prideful tennis counterparts who've lived through the same drama -- experiencing "panic" while trying to close out the match. Less than two weeks later, the American won her first pro singles title at a challenger event. Hmmm... coincidence? [NOTE: After losing this week in Birmingham to Errani once again, though, McHale will have to "find a lesson in there somewhere" yet again.]
2. Roland Garros 3rd Rd. - Dulko d. Stosur
...6-4/1-6/6-3. Dulko attacked the '10 RG finalist's serve from the start, and the Aussie wilted under the pressure. With zero aces in the match, and a sub-50% 1st serve win percentage in the final set, Stosur blew her last shot at contention when leading 3-1 in the 3rd, throwing in two double-faults to contribute to her own service break. She didn't win another game. And RG is supposd to be Stosur's BEST slam.
3. Charleston QF - Wozniacki d. Wickmayer
...4-6/6-4/6-4. Wickmayer led 6-4/4-4 and led 40/love on Wozniacki's serve, but failed to put away an easy break point on a ball that popped up softly off the net. In the aftermath, the Dane won nine consecutive points to take the set, then claimed the 3rd set to win the match. She went on to win the tournament.
4. Roland Garros 1st Rd. - Larsson d. Ivanovic
...7-6/0-6/6-2. Larsson had one only career grand slam match win to her credit, and was 1-8 against Top 30 players. Ivanovic won RG three years ago. Naturally, Larsson won, with AnaIvo being broken at love to end the match. The former world #1 left her post-match press conference in tears.
5. Stuttgart QF - Wozniacki d. Petkovic
...6-4/6-1. After leading 4-1, Petkovic missed a swing volley for a 5-2 lead. Wozniacki held for 4-3 instead. In the next game, the German missed another swing volley on game point. After giving up the break, Petkovic's lead degenerated into dropping ten of the match's final eleven games.
HM- FC WG Playoff (UKR/AUS) - Savchuk/Tsurenko (UKR) d. Groth/Rodionova (AUS) [on hard court]
...0-6/7-6/6-3. The Aussies were without Stosur or Dokic, but the Ukrainian team was Bondarenko-less. Playing at home, the Aussies built a 2-1 lead and seemed assured of winning the tie. But, no. Anastasia Rodionova, already with a loss to Lesya Tsurenko, a player ranked 59 spots below her, lost the potential clinching singles match to Olga Savchuk, as well, in a pair of tie-breaks. In the deciding doubles match, the Aussies won the 1st set at love, and Rodionova served for the victory in the tie, holding two match points in the 2nd set. The Ukrainians won in three.
*COMEBACKS (or is it "Chokes?")*
1. Roland Garros QF - Schiavone d. Pavlyuchenkova
...1-6/7-5/7-5. Down 6-1/4-1, Schiavone started to believe that RG might just love her as much as she loves it. She didn't win the title, but this match proved just how "unbeatable" a player can sometimes be when they're playing on a court with which they believe they have a "special" relationship.
2. Roland Garros 2nd Rd. - Sharapova d. Garcia
...3-6/6-4/6-0. For a set and a half, the French teen (ranked #188) was outhitting Sharapova. Leading 6-3/4-1, two breaks up, the Pastry was making it look like a Star was about to be born. Umm, no. Garcia may eventually get there, but not on this day. Once she realized what she was about to do, she had little chance of doing it. Sharapova noticed the doubt on her opponent's face. The rest was history... or the un-making of it.
"I'm 20. If I declare myself dead at the age of 20, that would be bad." - Alize Cornet, still fighting the good fight and answering "career" questions with her teen years just barely in her rear view mirror
1. Roland Garros 2nd Rd. - Rus d. Clijsters
...3-6/7-5/6-1. Clijsters, back after missing the entire clay court season -- first with shoulder and wrist injuries, then due to a topple on the dance floor -- led Dutch 20-year old Rus 6-3/5-2 and held two match points. But, with nothing left to lose, world #114 Rus started to hit out on her shots. Combined with Clijsters' own 65 unforced errors, it resulted in the #2-seed losing eleven of the last twelve games to suffer her earlier slam loss since the 2002 Wimbledon. Fifty-three minutes after she held match point, the '10 U.S. Open and '11 AO champion was out of Roland Garros.
2. FC WG Playoff - Ukraine d. Australia 3-2
...there'll be no World Group for the Aussies in 2012.
3. Roland Garros 3rd Rd. - Hantuchova d. Wozniacki
...6-1/6-3. Hantuchova was 0-6 in her career against reigning #1 players, 0-3 versus Wozniacki and was without a single set won against the Dane (winning more than three games in a set only once). But, once again, to the aggressor went the spoils in a Wozniacki match... and that wasn't C-Woz, who notched zero winners in the 1st set.
"That serve is so tortured-looking I'm surprised she hasn't cut off her ear." - Martina Navratilova, "getting her van Gogh on" while talking about Marion Bartoli's busy pre-serve machinations
Mary Carillo (especially when teaming with Martina Navratilova) on Tennis Channel's coverage of Roland Garros
The long-overdue post-Steffi Graf German women's tennis revolution
17-year old Pastry Caroline Garcia making good on her wild card entries into the '11 slams. At the AO, she won a maid draw match. At RG, she won a match and nearly took down Sharapova.
Casey Dellacqua's comeback from a long injury-related absence hits its high point in Paris with a Mixed Doubles slam title
Olga Puchkova, a one-time Anna/Maria wanna-be, wins an ITF challenger for her first singles title since 2006
Progressing right on schedule, 19-year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova reaches her first career slam QF at Roland Garros
Petra Kvitova leads the Czechs to the Fed Cup final for the first time since 1988, when the Czech and Slovak Republics were still joined together as Czechoslovakia
The coaching web that seems to have worked out well for everyone. Well, ALMOST everyone. Thomas Hogstedt leaves Li Na for Maria Sharapova, and sees the former #1 player produce her best tennis in two years. Meanwhile, Li, after a protracted slide after her AO final appearance, "demotes" her husband from coach to hitting partner, then hits her stride with new coach Michael Mortensen on her way to winning Roland Garros. Mortensen was suggested to Li by Piotr Wozniacki, as the coach had once worked a bit with his daughter Caroline. Actually, the only person who seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle in all this is the world #1, who over the past fews months seems to have possibly lost quite a bit of ground in her "grand slam quest."
"Obviously, it's disappointing. As an athlete, you want to win. There's no doubt. But, you know, good retail therapy, and I'll be fine." - Maria Sharapova, after losing in the Roland Garros semifinals, ending her hopes to complete a Career Grand Slam in Paris
No HawkEye replay at Roland Garros, leaving the chair umpires to "divine" spare marks on the terre battue like they were "hanging chads" (Ooh, a 2000 U.S. Presidential election reference... who says I'm not topical?).
Roland Garros not allowing Amelie Mauresmo into the Mixed Doubles draw
Aravane Rezai's continued on-court slide after all the off-court controversy
R.I.P., Jelena Jankovic's Top 10 ranking... no longer in existence for the first time since February 2007
Dinara Safina's career, now teetering precariously on the edge of disaster during her "indefinite leave" from the sport because of back problems
Shahar Peer's inability to become the first Israeli woman ranked in the Top 10. After at one point this quarter being five ranking points and one match win from #10, she's now fallen all the way out of the Top 20.
"At the moment, I can't do anything tennis-wise... I don't want to torture myself and my body anymore." - Dinara Safina
Two-time defending Fed Cup champion Italy, playing without either Flavia Pennetta or Francesca Schiavone, is whitewashed 5-0 by Russia in the semifinals
The U.S. drops out of the FC top tier for the first time ever, then no U.S. men or women are ranked in the Top 10 for the first time since the start of computer rankings. Following Roland Garros, Andy Roddick DID return to the Top 10... but now both Williams Sisters have fallen out of the Top 20.
=THE UNSURPRISING, though maybe a few years later than expected=
Anna Kournikova returns to television, as a celebrity trainer on NBC's "The Biggest Loser"
Martina Navratilova may eventually work with Caroline Wozniacki
When Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli lost in the Roland Garros semifinals, we missed out on a potential women's singles final between players who have previously compared themselves playing on red clay, respectively, to a "cow on ice" and an "elephant in a porcelain shop."
Kim Clijsters tears ankle ligaments dancing at her cousin's wedding, then injuries her toe (unsuccessfully) trying to escape the dance floor without getting stepped on by the other revelers
Clijsters lands on Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" list for "juggling" motherhood with her athletic career
"I don’t know what happened. Maybe just my husband left and I can win six games in a row." - Li Na, after staging a 3rd set comeback from 3-0 down against Petra Kvitova in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros, a surge which began only after her husband/ex-coach Jiang Shan left his seat in the stands
=THE (POSSIBLY?) EXPLAINABLE=
What with her penchant for injuries cropping up yet again, might Kim Clijsters have decided to play Roland Garros despite having no match play on clay (and then expressing no regrets when she exited early) because this very well could be her last opportunity to play in Paris? She's stated she wants to play at the Olympics next year... but nothing is ever written in stone.
=THE (RELATIVE, for her) CALM BEFORE THE STORM?=
Serena Williams returned to the practice court, and is scheduled to return to the WTA next week after a 49-week absence. On its face, it's an absurd idea that she could actually successfully defend her Wimbledon title... but then you remember who we're talking about.
"She played this cat-and-mouse game, and sometimes you just felt like the silly mouse." - Maria Sharapova, on Patty Schnyder
=AND AN END TO THE WHITE MILE=
Patty Schnyder retired after a 17-year career, 500+ wins, 11 singles titles, and 59 slam appearances. Goodbye, "Sneaky" Patty.
**2011 Weeks in WTA Rankings - of 23**
[Singles Top 10]
4...Elena Dementieva (ret.)
CAPS- in current rankings
=BACKSPIN PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR HISTORY=
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
1998 Jana Novotna, CZE
1999 Steffi Graf, GER
2000 Venus Williams, USA
2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
2002 Serena Williams, USA
2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2004 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2005 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2007 Justine Henin, BEL
2008 Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
2009 Italian Fed Cup Team
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
=UPDATED 2011 "Ms.Backspin" RANKINGS=
1. Li Na...like a Williams, she's risen at the slams
2. Kim Clijsters...Melbourne is still a shining light
3. Caroline Wozniacki...she wins more often than anyone
4. Petra Kvitova...3-0 in finals, and could lead CZE to the FC title
5. Victoria Azarenka...STILL (forever?) on the cusp of something greater
6. Russian & Czech Republic FC Teams...to be continued
7. Dulko/Pennetta...world's #1 team, and AO champs
8. Hlavackova/Hradecka...surprise RG champs
9. Marion Bartoli...always underestimated
10. Vera Zvonareva..."getting-over-the-hump" problems
11. Maria Sharapova...could go way up way fast starting way soon
12. Francesca Schiavone...second-best is never enough
13. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova...best teenager in the world
14. Andrea Petkovic...(trying hard to not make a dancing reference... oops, too late)
15. Julia Goerges...can she re-capture Stuttgart magic?
"This is just the beginning of many things to come. This is just the start of everything." - Maria Sharapova, after winning Rome
All for now.