Monday, September 26, 2011

Wk.38- To Be or Not To Be... Ms. Backspin

Let the debate begin.

Since Justine Henin was an easy choice in 2007, the process of figuring out each season's "Ms. Backspin" has been akin to a live-action Sudoku puzzle. When it's come to determining a worthy season honoree, I've often had to be a little creative, looking at the numbers and trying to "divine" an appropriate ending. A Fed Cup team, a doubles pair and a first-time slam winner who swept to the top on the wave of one beautifully emotional performance have been recent winners. But since Henin, there hasn't been a locked-in, dominant singles-based choice to be found. Early on, it looked as if 2011 might offer a return to "the basics" when it comes to this yearly debate. But it hasn't turned out that way.

"Ms. Backspin" is supposed to be about the best, most all-consuming, best-at-what-she-does female tennis player in the world. Ah, but there's the rub. Who's been that this season? Ummm, what day is it?

At the start of the season, it was Kim Clijsters. Then it was Li Na. Finally, this summer, Petra Kvitova looked like she was the choice of a new generation. But the Czech was bounced early a few times, and Serena Williams became THE dominant player of the hard court season... only to be trumped by Samantha Stosur in the Open final. Meanwhile, another player has won more matches and titles than any other, AND is the #1-ranked woman in the world, but, because of her lacking late-stage slam success (after coming within one point of the Oz final in January) no unbiased opinion could ever really see fit to place Caroline Wozniacki at the top of any "Player of the Year" list for 2011.

The case for "Ms. B," of course, HAS to begin with the slam winners. AO champ Clijsters has pretty much endured a lost season since picking up her first of multiple '11 injuries not long after winning in Melbourne. She's essentially been a wedding party ghost ever since. Li is the only woman with two slam finals to her credit on the season, but is it enough considering her general lack of results elsewhere? She's got the best chance of all the slam winners to be dubbed "Ms. Backspin," though, since her status as the Roland Garros winner and the first-ever Asian slam champ carries a great deal of weight now, and will probably mean even more not too far into the future. Kvitova? Oh, Petra. After Wimbledon, the crown was her's for the taking. Thing is, she could still pull off a late run to grab the honor, as she'll lead the Czech team in the Fed Cup final. A win there, plus another big one elsewhere (the WTA Championships, or at another Premier event, possibly giving her a shot to catch Wozniacki on the season titles list) likely puts her in the opening statement of the conversation. U.S. champ Sam Stosur is no "Ms. Backspin" contender after a generally subpar season leading into North American hard courts, but there will certainly be a place reserved for her at (well, make it "near" since Kvitova's SW19 run isn't going away) the top of the "Best Performance" list in the 2011 BSA's.

Still, even with such "squishy" footing when it comes to the four biggest names on the board, it's hard to imagine anyone OTHER than a slam champ taking home the honors this time around, as none of the doubles pairs have been dominant enough over the course of the season to be given serious consideration, another Russian FC title would seem perfunctory, and a win by the Czechs would add more juice to Kvitova's candidacy than that of the team's. Thus, it looks like this race is really down to a simple either/or head-to-head competition:

=UPDATED 2011 "Ms.Backspin" RANKINGS=
[w/ previous rank]
1. Li Na (2)...has "most important" win of season
2. Petra Kvitova (1)...a(nother) nod to the future?
3. CZE & RUS Fed Cup Teams (7)...no threat to move up
4. Caroline Wozniacki (5)...ditto (well, probably)
5. Peschke/Srebotnik (8)...they've had the best overall season in doubles
6. Kim Clijsters (3)...big start, small finish
7. Samantha Stosur (--)...small start, big finish
8. Victoria Azarenka (6)...progress, but still seeking that "career-defining" victory
9. Maria Sharapova (4)...promising, but still with lingering "career-resuscitation" questions
10. Serena Williams (10)...if she'd won in NYC, she'd possibly been as high as #3 or #4
HM (in order)- Liezel Huber, Roberta Vinci, Andrea Petkovic, Huber/Raymond, Hlavackova/Hradecka, Sabine Lisicki, Anabel Medina-Garrigues, Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, Vera Zvonareva, Marion Bartoli, Katarina Srebotnik

Really, only Wozniacki seems to have any potential to push herself between the Li/Kvitova stranglehold on the top two spots in the current "Ms. Backspin" rankings, but it would take some look-out-mama-here-she-comes results in the season's final handful of events to do it. She'd need a defense of her '10 title this week in Tokyo, and (at least) her first-ever WTA Championships win, as well. A double-digit cache of '11 titles would provide her with a compelling argument to finish #2 in the rankings. But even that wouldn't get her to THIS #1 spot.

I'm inclined to go with Li at the moment, but I'm keeping an eye on Kvitova. A little movement from her, and a certain friendly neighborhood Backspinner might find her charms too hard to resist about two months from now.



*WEEK 38 CHAMPIONS*
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (Int'l $220K/hard court outdoor)
S: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez def. Galina Voskoboeva 7-6/7-6
D: Grandin/Uhlirova d. Dushevina/Voskoboeva

GUANGZHOU, CHINA (Int'l $220K/hard court outdoor)
S: Chanelle Scheepers def. Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2/6-2
D: Hsieh/Sai.Zheng d. C-W.Chan/Han



PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP

...quick! Who has the best record in tour singles finals the last three seasons? Well, obviously, since I'm asking the question here, it's pretty obvious that the answer is MJMS. But I bet no one would have thought of her if the query had come up elsewhere, huh? Since 2009, with her win this weekend in Seoul, Martinez-Sanchez is 5-0 in WTA singles finals. She's 5-1 overall, so she's now won five in a row, and she's even starting to branch out even more at age 29, as this weekend's win marks her first hard court title. Her second title in '11, MJMS's week's work included victories over Irina Falconi, Kristyna Pliskova, Julia Goerges and Galina Voskoboeva.
=============================
RISERS: Vera Dushevina/RUS & Vania King/USA
...Dushevina, though she was a Wimbledon Girls champ (defeating Sharapova in the '02 final) and reached her first WTA final (Eastbourne '05) while still a teenager, has always been one of the quieter Hordettes. Despite her quick start, she didn't win her first (and, so far, only) title until two years ago, but she manages to stick around and occasionally has some very good weeks. Last week was one of them. She opened things by knocking off #1 Seoul seed Francesca Schiavone, then backed up the win by taking down Alexandra Dulgheru, as well, before losing in the QF to her doubles partner, Galina Voskoboeva. Their partnership undamaged, the pair teamed to later reach the doubles final. Also in Seoul, King continued the recent surge that began with great doubles success in '10, and has carried over to her singles of late in '11. Last week, after quite a few years on tour, King (after having knocked off Kimiko Date-Krumm in the 1st Round) finally got her first win over a Top 10 player when she upset #2-seed Marion Bartoli in the 2nd Round to reach the QF.
=============================
SURPRISES: Chanelle Scheepers/RSA & Tetiana Luzhanska/UKR

...proving to be another member of the "late bloomer" club, 27-year old Scheepers reached her first career WTA final in Guangzhou after wins over Anastasija Sevastova, Hsieh Su-Wei, Urszula Radwanska and top-seeded Maria Kirilenko, then grabbed her first title in a straight sets win over Magdalena Rybarikova. The first tour singles champion from South Africa since Amanda Coetzer in '03, Scheepers' ranking jumped from #73 to #41 today. In the same event, 27-year old Ukrainian Luzhanska also tread new career ground. A two-time ITF finalist (0-2) this season, Luzhanska has never finished a year ranked higher than #222. But she's already managed to raise her ranking into the Top 150, in '11 and she reached her first tour QF last week after making her way past Bojana Jovanovski by taking their 1st Round match in a 3rd set tie-break.
=============================
COMEBACKS: Galina Voskoboeva/KAZ & Urszula Radwanska/POL
...the season-long comeback bids of both of these players progressed still further in Seoul and Guangzhou, respectively. Continuing to show improvement in her game since taking on Alina Jidkova as coach, Voskoboeva, though she failed to become the first woman representing Kazakhstan to win a tour singles title, DID manage to reach her first career singles final on the back of wins over Ekaterina Makarova, Iveta Benesova, Vera Dushevina and Polona Hercog. She and Dushevina also reached the doubles final, making Voskoboeva the fifth woman this season to reach both finals in the same event. Meanwhile, a week after reaching her first career singles QF and SF in Tashkent, U-Rad backed up the result by reaching another quarter with wins over Anastasia Rodionova and Chan Yung-Jan. Over the weekend, she also made it through qualifying in Tokyo.
=============================
VETERANS: Natalie Grandin/Vladimira Uhlirova (RSA/CZE)
...living out the notion that "practice makes perfect," Grandin & Uhlirova finally got fed up with finishing second. In Seoul, in their fifth appearance in a WTA final in '11 (and sixth over the last two seasons), the pair finally won their first tour title as a duo with a win in the deciding match over Dushevina/Voskoboeva. Czech Uhlirova, 33, had at least already won four previous WTA doubles crowns, but this was 30-year old Grandin's first tour title after having previously gone 0-11 in doubles finals. As surprising as Scheepers' title was, one could make a case that the OTHER South African's championship run of Week 38 was an ever LONGER shot.
=============================
FRESH FACES: Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK & Chieh-Yu Hsu/USA
...22-year old Slovak Rybarikova reached her second final this season in Guangzhou after notching wins over Jill Craybas, Aravane Rezai, defending champ Jarmila Gajdosova and Zheng Jie. On the ITF circuit, yet another Bannerette made news, as Taiwan-born American Chieh-Yu Hsu, 19, claimed her second challenger title this month by taking the $10K event in Adana, Turkey. After having taken the doubles crown with Nikola Frankova, Hsu then went out and defeated Frankova in the singles final.
=============================
DOWN: Marion Bartoli/FRA & Bojana Jovanovski/SRB
...Bartoli's loss to King in the 2nd Round in Seoul means that ever since her trip to the Stanford final early this summer, she's exited prior to the QF at four of her last five events. Meanwhile, Bojo's season continues to slowly unwind after a nice start. Jovanovski started 2011 with an overall mark of 15-5, but has gone 13-20 since, including her fifth and sixth straight losses in the past week. After losing to Luzhanska in the 1st Round in Guangzhou, the Serb has already been rocked in Tokyo, losing her opening match by a 6-1/6-0 score to U.S. Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber.
=============================
ITF PLAYER: Sorana Cirstea/ROU
...despite slightly improved results this season, the Romanian has continued to slip into the WTA shadows in '11 as the memory of her Roland Garros quarterfinal result in '09 fades a little more all the time. She HAS made some headlines on the level just below the tour, though. This weekend, she won her second $100K event of the season, defeating Silvia Soler-Espinosa (who just won a $100K event a week earlier) in the final in Saint Malo, France.
=============================
JUNIOR STAR: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK
...the 17-year old Slovak won her first career Grade 1 title at the Perin Memorial in Umag, Croatia. The #25-ranked junior, and #2-seeded girl at this event, outlasted the top-seeded Natalija Kostic 7-5/4-0 before the Serb retired from the match.
=============================


1. Seoul Final - MJMS d. Voskoboeva
...7-6/7-6.
First-time tour singles finalists are now 0-9 in 2011. MJMS has handed out two of those losses, as she also defeated Patricia Mayr-Achleitner in the Austrian's first career final in Bad Gastein in the spring.
=============================
2. Guang Final - Scheepers d. Rybarikova
...6-2/6-2.
Scheepers is the third first-time champion on tour in the last two weeks. In Birmingham in 2009, Rybarikova claimed HER first career tour title. That week, she defeated Scheepers in the 2nd Round on her way to the winner's circle.
=============================
3. Guang 1st Rd - Chan d. Pervak 4-1 ret.
Seoul 1st Rd - Suarez-Navarro d. Birnerova 6-4/6-4
...
days earlier, Pervak and Birnerova had met in the Tashkent final.
=============================
4. Tokyo 1st Rd - Kanepi d. Pennetta
...3-6/6-4/6-4.
Might today's victory over the recently-in-form Pennetta be Kanepi's best win in a disappointing season? Even without any truly great results in her ledger (aside from a SF at the Paris indoors), she's managed to also beat the likes of Rybarikova, Cibulkova and Petkovic in '11.
=============================
5. $75K Shrewbury Final - Mona Barthel/GER d. Heather Watson/GBR
...6-0/6-3.
The German wins her second challenger title in two weeks. She also got wins over Ekaterina Bychkova, Anne Keothavong and Kristina Mladenovic.
=============================
6. $10K Madrid SF - Julia Mayr/ITA d. Evelyn Mayr/ITA
...6-2/6-1.
There have been a few sister-vs.-sister match-ups lately, and this was another. Julia went on to lose in the final to Rocio de la Torre Sanchez, but did manage (w/ Evelyn) to take down de la Torre Sanchez in the doubles final.
=============================
7. $25K Tbilisi Final - Lesia Tsurenko/UKR d. Reka-Luca Jani/HUN
...7-6/6-3.
Ah, here's the I-love-to-say-her-name Hungarian back for more after her recent U.S. Open exposure. Don't worry, though. Her week wasn't a complete disappointment -- she won the Tbilisi doubles title.
=============================


**MOST WTA TITLES - LAST 3 SEASONS**
15...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (3/6/6)
7...Victoria Azarenka, BLR (3/2/2)
7...Serena Williams, USA (3/2/2)
7...Kim Clijsters, BEL (1/5/1)
5...Petra Kvitova, CZE (1/0/4)
5...Roberta Vinci, ITA (1/1/3)
5...Maria Sharapova, RUS (1/2/2)
5...Vera Zvonareva, RUS (2/1/2)
5...MARIA JOSE MARTINEZ-SANCHEZ, ESP (2/1/2)

**2011 FIRST-TIME CHAMPIONS**
Fes = Alberta Brianti, ITA (age 31)
Bastad = Polona Hercog, SLO (age 20)
Tashkent = Ksenia Pervak, RUS (age 20)
Quebec City = Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE (age 25)
Guangzhou = CHANELLE SCHEEPERS, RSA (age 27)

**2011 WORST WIN PCT in 3+ FINALS**
.000 - Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU (0-2)
.000 - Jelena Jankovic, SRB (0-2)
.000 - MAGDALENA RYBARIKOVA, SVK (0-2)
.000 - Lucie Safarova, CZE (0-2)
.250 - Marion Bartoli, FRA (1-3)
.333 - Kim Clijsters, BEL (1-2)
.333 - Maria Sharapova, RUS (1-2)
.333 - Samantha Stosur, AUS (1-2)

**BEST FINAL WIN PCT - LAST 3 SEASONS**
[3-or-more finals]
1.000 - MARIA JOSE MARTINEZ-SANCHEZ, ESP (5-0)
1.000 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (3-0)
1.000 - Agnes Szavay, HUN (3-0)
.833 - Roberta Vinci, ITA (5-1)
.800 - Aravane Rezai, FRA (4-1)
.778 - Kim Clijsters, BEL (7-2)
.750 - Sabine Lisicki, GER (3-1)
.750 - Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP (3-1)
.714 - Petra Kvitova, CZE (5-2)
.700 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (7-3)
.700 - Serena Williams, USA (7-3)

**WORST 2011 SF WIN PCT - 3+**
.000 - KLARA ZAKOPALOVA, CZE (0-3)
.000 - Ana Ivanovic, SRB (0-2)
.000 - Angelique Kerber, GER (0-2)
.000 - Michaella Krajicek, NED (0-2)
.000 - Petra Martic, CRO (0-2)
.000 - Tamira Paszek, AUT (0-2)
.000 - Flavia Pennetta, ITA (0-2)
.200 - Peng Shuai, CHN (1-4)
--
NOTE: Cibulkova is 0-1 in finals, and has walkover loss in final

**DEFEATED TOP SEED, WON TITLE**
Auckland = Greta Arn, HUN (QF-Sharapova)
Paris = Petra Kvitova, CZE (F-Clijsters)
Pattaya City = Daniela Hantuchova, SVK (SF-Zvonareva)
Doha = Vera Zvonareva, RUS (F-Wozniacki)
Kuala Lumpur = Jelena Dokic, AUS (1st Rd-Schiavone)
Monterrey = Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (F-Jankovic)
Stuttgart = Julia Goerges, GER (F-Wozniacki)
Rome = Maria Sharapova, RUS (SF-Wozniacki)
Strasbourg = Andrea Petkovic, GER (F-Bartoli)
College Park = Nadia Petrova, RUS (F-Peer)
Carlsbad = Agnieszka Radwanska, POL (F-Zvonareva)
Guangzhou = CHANELLE SCHEEPERS, RSA (SF-Kirilenko)

**SINGLES/DOUBLES FINAL IN SAME EVENT**
Pattaya City - Sara Errani, ITA (L / W)
Acapulco - Arantxa Parra-Santonja, ESP (L / L)
Charleston - Elena Vesnina, RUS (L / W)
Madrid - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (L / W)
Seoul - GALINA VOSKOBOEVA, KAZ (L / L)

**CAREER WTA TITLES - SOUTH AFRICANS**
9 - Amanda Coetzer, 1993-03
5 - Yvonne Vermaak, 1977-84
3 - Linky Boshoff, 1976-77
3 - Patricia Pretorious-Walken, 1969-70
2 - Brigitte Cuypers, 1976-78
2 - Joannette Kruger, 1995-97
2 - Greer Stevens, 1976-79
1 - Mariaan de Swardt (1998)
1 - Ros Fairbank-Nideffer (1983)
1 - Jennifer Mundel-Reinbold (1983)
1 - Elna Reinach (1993)
1 - CHANELLE SCHEEPERS (2011)
1 - Dinky van Rensburg (1990)

**MOST 2011 ITF $100K FINALS**
3...Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU (2-1)
3...Pauline Parmentier, FRA (2-1)
3...Petra Cetkovska, CZE (0-3)
2...SORANA CIRSTEA, ROU (2-0)
2...Anastasiya Yakimova, BLR (2-0)
2...SILVIA SOLER-ESPINOSA, ESP (1-1)
2...Laura Pous-Tio, ESP (0-2)

=BACKSPIN PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR HISTORY=
[pre-Backspin]
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
1998 Jana Novotna, CZE
1999 Steffi Graf, GER
2000 Venus Williams, USA
["Ms. Backspin"]
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





TOKYO, JAPAN (Premier $2.05m/hard outdoor)
10 Final: Wozniacki d. Dementieva
11 Top Seeds: Wozniacki/Sharapova
10 Doubles Champions: Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova
=============================

=QF=
#1 Wozniacki d. (Q) Kerber
#3 Azarenka d. #10 Peng
#6 Stosur d. #4 Zvonareva
#2 Sharapova d. #5 Kvitova
=SF=
#1 Wozniacki d. #3 Azarenka
#2 Sharapova d. #6 Stosur
=FINAL=
#1 Wozniacki d. #2 Sharapova (in a hail of UE's)

...if only Kvitova had some post-Wimbledon results to look kindly upon, she'd be a nice pick here. With expectation now her daily companion, it'll be interesting to see how Stosur handles this first post-Open outing. The Czech or the Aussie would be fun picks, but, hedging bets, I'll go a safer route as Wozniacki tries to pull off her third successful title defense of the season.


All for now.



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13 Comments:

Blogger Hoergren said...

I don't know why you think a slam title give a chance of getting the prestigious title Miss Backspin - ALL 4 (four!) slam winners have made absolutely a minimum the rest of the year. Stosur managing to get 1 (one) point in Tokyo and Li Na not there! Why not look at the players who are managing to play tennis for one thing AND who manage to promote women tennis too. To me it's logical to do that instead. And I'm not saying this because of Wozz because there are several players who is working hard through the year. Perhaps I've misunderstood the intentions - have not been following you for that long, but I suggest you think again because NONE of the slam winners have deserved it - Serena maybe for her heroic fight to get back - although she lost a lot in the open final.

Tue Sep 27, 01:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Considering the lack of consistency of the Slam winners this year, I would personally pick Wozniacki as Miss Backspin/POY. Because she remained the clear #1 in the rankings all year (save one Clijsters week). But mostly because the talk about women's tennis all year long has been about her (mostly negatively, I admit and I three-quarter-agree). Even the talk about Kvitova winning Wimbledon has been as much about Wozniacki as about Kvitova.

Na Li would be an interesting pick with respect to the importance her Roland Garros title might have for the future of tennis. But the Chinese contingent is big enough already, I feel she will be credited for more than she will deserve for the horde of Chinese players that will arrive in 10 years. Though it is true she will be an inspiration for all of them, an inspiration that might push them to improve themselves. But since her victory didn't have a Schiavone feel, and I doubt her career has interesting moments left for us, I wouldn't pick her.

Hoergren - I doubt Todd would have left Serena #10 in his list (which I found a bit harsh) if he still kept the window open to pick her as his Miss Backspin.

Todd's focus on Slam winners is highly understandable. It doesn't take long in following tennis to understand that modern tennis is ALL about Slams. On what do 80% of tennis fans base themselves in stating Federer is the greatest of all time? 16 Slam, vs. 14 for Sampras. As simple and clear-cut as that. The only other player in the talk is Rod Laver (11). Why? (He has 3 less than Sampras, who is no longer really in the talk.) Because he won two Grand Slams (one in the Open era). Again, all about Slams.

Elena Dementieva has two Slam finals and a magnificent career, but as Todd pointed out in a few posts, it's really unclear whether she will be introduced to the Hall-of-Fame, and if she reaches it, it will be (at least a bit) controversial. Had she won only one of these 2 finals? Considering her overall career, there would be no debate. One match is enough to define a career.

Being #1 is nice, and it is a great feat, it DOES matter. People don't take that out of Wozniacki. But let's say finishing a year #1 is the fifth greatest feat a player can achieve in a tennis year. You know what are the first 4.

Todd focusing on the four greatest feats of the year makes complete sense. Maybe (probably?) this modern tennis focus on the Slams is unbalanced. Particularly for women, where matches are 2 out of 3. But this is still how tennis is in 2011. And the future still look sunshine bright for the Slams' importance.

Tue Sep 27, 03:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Even if i don't want to I'll agree with you a bit of the way - perhaps it's very wrong THIS year to focus on the slam winners because they have not shown anything else (harsly said - I know, but also true). I'm not watching male tennis - sorry but i find it boring, so maybe you are right about male tennis but - as I read your comment - it's something else for the women. Well it's my humble opinion as a sofa expert and a hopeless fan of female tennis.

Tue Sep 27, 04:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Tennis history is as slamcentric for women as for men (see my example above Dementieva above, or worse, how Mauresmo and Clijsters were treated before winning their first Slams - I was a big Maumo fan).

In ten years, should Wozniacki and Kvitova have no other highlights in their career except what they currently have, Kvitova will be more remembered than Wozniacki. Life can be a bitch. For a comparison, think about Miskina and Safina, both out of the game now. Miskina has built a tennis legacy of her own based on ONE Slam final (and title), Roland Garros 2004. Safina has, I think, 4 Slam finals (all lost) and spent a long time as #1 in the rankings (Serena could tell you a good story on Rome and Madrid), and this happened not that long ago. Despite the fact that Myskina left the sport since quite a while, her name resounds more than Safina's to me, and I have the feeling it's quite the same for most tennis fans (Todd and other readers could confirm or tell me I'm totally wrong). I could go on with many other comparisons.

A parallel with any big team sport: if a team regularly ends every season first in the rankings but never ends up winning the big championships trophy at the end of the playoffs (Stanley Cup, World Series, Super Bowl, World Cup, etc.), their success will be measured as less important as the success of players who did win the trophy. In the NHL (hockey), Vancouver finished the season first and did it to the final. Boston had a good but not amazing season, but won the Stanley Cup. Can I tell you Vancouver players would switch situation anytime?

For the best woman player of all time discussion, it's mainly a three-headed monster: Court (24 singles Slam titles), Graf (22 singles Slam titles, including one Grand Slam) and Navratilova (18 singles Slam titles). Court is usually dismissed quickly, as most of her success happened before the Open era (the same reason why, on the men's side, Laver's first Grand Slam in 1961 is often deconsidered).

Based on numbers, there shouldn't even be any discussion between Graf and Navratilova. However, history made it that Navratilova had a great rival even in her best years (Evert), while Graf's main rival in her generation was Seles, and, well, we know what happened. Had Seles been there, Graf's numbers might have looked closer to Navratilova. But still: the Golden Slam (4 Slams + Olympics in the same year), before Seles' stabbing, in my opinion, closes the discussion. But it's difficult to say because these are players I never saw play.

In a few years from now, once Serena closes her own tennis chapter, she will be added to the mix. Her current 13 Slams, her physical prowess (I think the debate has been long closed that no player, in her prime, has been as impressive as Serena in her prime) and her Serena Slam (4 Slams in a row, but not in the same season) will automatically qualify her in the discussion. Her many injuries (and drops of interest) would account for a few less than other contenders. Plus she has some time to add a few to her resume.

Eric - I just remember your question from a previous post. No, I'm not the izidane (or something like that) from another blog. Todd's blog is actually the only non-official tennis source I check in English.

Tue Sep 27, 08:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Another interesting fact about Kvitova so far in 2011--her four titles so far were won on three different surfaces.

Wed Sep 28, 01:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Life is a bitch but

Champions keep playing until they get it right.
Billie Jean King

So someday Caroline the champion will succeed too, but there is work to do. Played a bad game today in many ways.

Wed Sep 28, 10:02:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Li's win in Paris was certainly a great moment, probably only seemingly less so because of her AO runner-up result. The surprise of Schiavone's win made it the "moment of the year," but, in the long run, Li's win will surely have more historical resonance, even if another Italian woman never wins another slam.

As for Myskina, there's something to be said for being "the first," but I think she's already something of an answer to a trivia question. She won a slam, but she's not a Hall of Fame-type player. I'd tend to say that Li might be, though. When it comes to slams, it's always something of an individual case. Iva Majoli didn't suddenly become a great player because she won one, but Dementieva isn't "worthless" because she didn't. She DID win Olympic Gold and the Fed Cup, though, so Elena might slip into the HOF when all is said and done.

It's all very subjective.

The case is the same with the idea of Wozniacki and Kvitova going the rest of their careers never winning another slam. Oddly enough, if that happened, I'd probably look more kindly on Wozniacki in the end, if she retained her yearly 4-to-6 titles, one or two slam SF, Top 2-3 ranking over most of the course of such a span. Kvitova's Wimbledon win set the bar higher for her, and never winning another slam would put a less favorable tinge on her career. It's sort of what's happened with Kuznetsova. She's won two slams, but it's hard not to look at her career to this point as something of a "disappointment" because she's seemed capable of much more. We KNOW, barring some catastrophic injury, Kvitova is capable of more. Wozniacki? We don't really know yet, so maintaining her current level over that long a time might be seen as more admirable, even without a slam.

As far as this year's Ms. Backspin, if only Wozniacki had reached one slam final (or even better, two), I could mount an argument for POY when adding in everything else. But aside from her near-miss in Melbourne (which seems so LONG ago... I mean, at the time, Henin wasn't even retired yet -- and that seems like eons ago), Wozniacki really hasn't even looked like a possible '11 slam champ, I don't think. With that being the case for a #1-ranked player, to me, at least, naming her POY would seem like a case of rewarding underachievement. It's not like she's been a hard-luck loser in the slams the last two years, either. Aside from that Oz loss to Li, she's mostly been dumped out fairly unceremoniously (and usually with alarming ease).

I actually thought I was somewhat bending over backwards even opening the door to a #2 Ms. Backspin finish. And she didn't do herself any favors by losing to Kanepi today (speaking of which, nice to see Kaia finally "beginning" her '11 season late than never).

Wed Sep 28, 04:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Having Serena at #10 IS probably pretty low, considering she was a win away from at least #3, and maybe #1. But she did miss six months, and couldn't complete the deal at the Open. I was sort of hoping she'd win there and leave open the possibility of her slipping through the backdoor to get her first Ms.B in nine years. I didn't give her the honor recently when she won two slams in a season, and went with more unconventional choices. She could have been such a winner this time around. Darn you, Sammy.

Look, I'm not going to deny I'd really like to name Kvitova Ms. Backspin. It's not like she's been invisible outside of Wimbledon, either. As Diane noted, she's won titles on all surfaces, and I might add that she went through big-time players to do it. Clijsters at the Paris Indoors, Zvonareva/Li/Azarenka at Madrid, Sharapova at Wimbledon. She's behind only Wozniacki in titles (just 2 back, as of right now), not to mention she put the Czech FC team on her back, going 4-0 in singles to get to the Czechs' first final since '88. If she can win another big title, AND bring her nation its first FC championship in twenty-three years, I'd say that's one fabulous season. "Award-worthy," in fact.

Zidane, you make a good analogy with the NHL regular season/Stanley Cup playoffs and the slams. The Capitals, like Vancouver, recently won the President's Trophy, too, but had one of their patented postseason implosions. If a team SHOULD be championship-worthy, such a thing wastes the regular season success. As a long-suffering Caps fan, I'd be fine with a #3-#5-seeded regular season performance, if it meant a legit Stanley Cup run in the playoffs. The (pre-concussion, at least) Crosby vs. Ovechkin debate has been ongoing for a while. And, individually, Ovechkin has probably had more great regular seasons numbers, but Crosby's got a Cup and a Gold. In the end, that's more important than any numbers for those who are in the discussion for "the best" player in a sport.

In tennis, the slams are sort of like the playoffs, and the rest of the year is the "regular season." The regular season is important, but for the players at the top of the sport, it should largely be used to set up their positioning in the playoffs/slams. Get a higher seed and, supposedly, you're given an "easier" road to the ultimate championship.

For some players, the regular season is everything: off the top of my head, I have no idea what Roberta Vinci has done in the slams this year, but I know she's won three titles and had a GREAT season. But she's not a slam contender, so the expectations are different.

That's not the case with others, and we know who they are. For them, the slams are supposed to consolidate their reputations and positions in the sport. And if they fail to take advantage of those eight weeks of the season, whatever else happens in the rest of THEIR season suddenly doesn't mean quite as much. It's like a sandwich without the bread... it still tastes good, but there's nothing "holding it together."

Wed Sep 28, 04:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

I withdraw my comments about Serena as she has not taken place in Tokyo and Beijing. Maybe you should have a look at the finalists from Tokyo. Aga and Vera. Aga is making a massive impression right now coming back through the year from injury in 2010 and Vera has been solid most of this year and 2010 so why not Aga - if she wins in Tokyo? - I vote for her after her fine play in Tokyo.

Fri Sep 30, 10:44:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Zvonareva is a possible Top 5 Ms.B finisher. A-Rad... ummm, nah. :)

Zvonareva vs. Kvitova: man, Kvitova was pretty scary those first six games... then pretty scary, for totally different reasons, in the last ten or so. Typically frustrating Czech-not-named-Martina performance, I'm afraid.

Fri Sep 30, 01:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Aga won and played very well in the final and has actually presented good matches the last half year. Li Na lost in first round in China open to a qualifier Niculescu from Romania 64 60 - maybe she shouldn't have fired Michael Mortensen after all. Well says a little about part time players and part time peakers like the 4 slam winners this year. I still thinks Aga is among the favorites for your award.

Sun Oct 02, 06:48:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Clibanarius said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wed Oct 12, 12:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Clibanarius said...

The case is the same with the idea of Wozniacki and Kvitova going the rest of their careers never winning another slam.

Wozniacki would have to first win a Slam before going the rest of her career without winning another.

Wed Oct 12, 12:23:00 PM EDT  

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