Monday, April 16, 2012

Wk.15- To Want, or Not to Want

Well, a certain Dane continues to drag a certain Backspinner from pillar to post.

It's always fun to try to flag big moments when players "get it," or turn the corner toward something greater. And ever since the inevitable happened and Caroline Wozniacki finally fell from the #1 ranking, there's been an intense temptation to try to point out the moment when Wozniacki might begin to answer her critics with a series of on-court occurrences and/or a change in attitude when it comes to realizing that all the things said about her game and approach over the past year should have been listened to rather than resisted.

There have been many such instances since last summer, starting with the rise of so many other players from her generation, two of which have raised slam trophies in the past year. But nothing notable, on any major scale, really changed with Wozniacki. The whole Ricardo Sanchez coaching thing never really had much chance to work, but the willingness to have a new set of eyes look over things seemed a first step. But what are the chances another such situation is going to develop in the future, after the Sanchez fiasco essentially only served to allow Piotr Wozniacki to tighten his grip on his daughter's tennis future? Losing the #1 ranking, which most thought might finally do the trick, didn't really kick her in the butt, either. Instead, she chose to criticize the likes of Martina Navratilova for criticizing her.

But then a player like Agnieszka Radwanska, with a game not that far off from Wozniacki's, continues to tweak her approach, and sees her results highlight the work she's done. So, a player with Polish heritage starts to do the right things -- and a friend of the Dane's, no less -- and it makes one think that Wozniacki will finally step out of her bubble and think, "Gee, if she can do that, why can't I?"

Hope springs eternal once more.

The win over Serena in Miami seemed like a good start, even if Williams' professing to have played at "20%" of her normal level turned out to ring fairly true when the American showed up ready to wrestle bears in Charleston. But Wozniacki did seem to have a bit more "want to" in the match, so it seemed like a forward step, as much for the hint of the hungry player INSIDE that she appeared to be as for anything she did with her racket. Thus, one take on her childish blow-up and unsportswomanlike actions toward chair umpire Kader Nouni one match later against Maria Sharapova was that she FINALLY realized how much she wanted to win and was frustrated that she didn't. You know, sort of like how Azarenka used to be.

Then she goes and puts out the "Oxygen" single for charity. On one level, it's a altruistic act and it's hard to attack it, but on another it also puts the spotlight back on her for non-winning tennis reasons and speaks to something of a lack of focus and real concern about a series of happenings that led her to fall from #1 to #6 in the rankings (with still more players breathing down her neck in the Top 10) in the blink of an eye. I mean, it's not as if she's practically begging to be loved by giving all the fans at one of her matches bottles of champagne. But still.

But maybe the "spark" of the Williams win was still there. Surely, heading back home to Copenhagen for her home tournament (her likeness is even in the event's logo) would provide a nice next step. Surely she'd finally put another notch in her title belt and... umm, no. Wozniacki lost in the final in straight sets to Angelique Kerber, squandering a break lead in the 2nd set and then practically daring anyone who didn't know the result to determine the winner by looking at the two as they met at the net.

Then, after the win, there was Wozniacki still holding onto the I've-got-time, I've-got-tournaments, it's-no-biggie frame of mind that makes it easy to question her. "You always want to win," she said. "Yes, it's a disappointment to lose, but it's not a disaster. You lose matches sometimes, and today was one of those times. There's a new match and new tournament coming, so you go on." It's a notion, on one level, that puts things into perspective, but it's also irksome for such blasé comments to come from a former #1, hounded by critics who take every opportunity to turns her words against her (the recent overblown reaction to her "tennis players are underpaid" comment being just the latest example), who just lost in a tournament that wouldn't even exist if not for her. If that doesn't stir her to be angry with herself, then what will?

Maybe I'm pulling off a version of unfair over-analysis, as well, by constantly reading between the lines of her comments, looking for more "want" and less "whine," for more "I'll show you" and less "I've got time, it's no biggie" sentiment. But nitpicky examination of words and actions only seem to serve to back up what often is seen with the naked eye when it comes to Wozniacki: sure, she cares about winning, but she doesn't REALLLLLY care (she pulled out the "it's not a disaster" line after getting rolled by AnaIvo in Indian Wells, too). At least not in any sort of Azarenkian sort of way. Not enough to fully devote herself to it, anyway. And as long as that's the case, she won't win, either. Again, at least not in any sort of Azarenkian sort of way.

Sounds a little (or a lot) like a certain non-LPT Belgian from a few years ago. You know, the same one who didn't really begin to live up to her potential until she left the sport and then returned with a more mature viewpoint about not taking things for granted.

Maybe Wozniacki's competitiveness will fully kick in one day without having to retire from the sport. If not, no biggie. It won't be a disaster if we've already seen the best she'll ever have to offer. There are more than enough truly competitive players who WANT to be the best, and do everything they can to at least TRY to make it so, to compensate for one player who might not. Ever.

S: Angelique Kerber/GER def. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN 6-4/6-4
D: Date-Krumm/Fujiwara (JPN/JPN) d. Arvidsson/Kanepi (SWE/EST)

S: Sara Errani/ITA def. Dominika Cibulkova/SVK 6-2/6-2
D: Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) d. Pennetta/Schiavone (ITA/ITA)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Angelique Kerber/GER
...look out, Petra. Kerber now has TWO 2012 indoor titles. After busting out in February in Paris, where she followed up the aforementioned Czech's '11 title with her very own, the German slipped into Copenhagen last week and caused all sorts of troubles for everyone but herself. Namely, she outlasted Mona Barthel in an all-German QF match that rightly determined which was going to be officially declared the German Player of the Year (so far), stopped Jelena Jankovic's resurgent week cold with a straight sets SF win, then took down Wozniacki in her home tournament in another straight sets win, coming back from a 4-2 2nd set deficit to win the final four games of the match. Kerber's win over the top-seeded Wozniacki marks the third time (no other player has done it more than once) in eight events that she's defeated a tournament's #1 seed.
RISERS: Sara Errani/ITA & Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
...much like Kerber's SF run at the U.S. Open last summer, Errani's QF result at the Australian Open in January has proven to be a prelude to great things for the Italian's career. She was at it again in Barcelona, sweeping the singles and doubles titles there just as she did in Acapulco earlier this season. Errani has won four career tour singles titles, and this is the THIRD time she's won the doubles at the event on those four weekends (she did it once back in '08, too). She reeled off impressive wins over the likes of Irina-Camelia Begu, Julia Goerges, Carla Suarez-Navarro and Dominika Cibulkova last week, and her doubles crown with Roberta Vinci ties the duo with Huber/Raymond for the '12 tour lead with three. They've won eight overall titles as pair. Cibulkova, for her part, is continuing to right her season's ship. Heading into Miami, she'd had a very disappointing year, then very nearly ended Victoria Azarenka's season-opening winning streak. In her first event since then, she reached the Barcelona final (the fifth of her career) after knocking off Iryna Bremond, Klara Zakopalova, Yuliya Beygelzimer and Sorana Cirstea. She's now managed to even her '12 record at 10-10.
SURPRISE: Yuliya Beygelzimer/UKR
...Beygelzimer has seemingly been around forever, but only rarely does she spring up with something to grab your attention. Usually, it takes place on the ITF circuit, where she's won 9 titles, the most recent coming back in Week 7. But last week, the 28-year old was creating a bit of havoc on the big tour. In Barcelona, the Ukrainian made it through qualifying, then reached the quarterfinals, getting wins over Alexandra Cadantu and (a little shockingly) Flavia Pennetta.
VETERANS: Jelena Jankovic/SRB & Hsieh Su-Wei/TPE
...right on cue, JJ surged back just when all hope seemed about to be lost. Last week, I noted how the Serb had dropped down to #20 in the rankings and was in danger of seeing her tour-best streak of 295 weeks in the Top 20 end in the near future. So, she went to Copenhagen, sweated out a tight three-setter against Laura Robson in the 1st Round, quickly handled youngster Yulia Putintseva and then put down Kaia Kanepi in another three-set contest. Sure, she got blitzed by Kerber in the SF, but her work bumped her back up to #18 in the rankings today, giving her 296 consecutive weeks in the Top 20 (and a little breathing room). Now, it's off to Russia to try to get Serbia into its very first Fed Cup final. Meanwhile, in Wenshan, China, Hsieh Su-Wei matched her surprise success in the tour level Kuala Lumpur event (her first ever WTA title) by taking the crown at a $50K challenger event (her 21st career ITF title) with a win in the final over Zheng Saisai. She also won the doubles with her sister. The Taiwanese vet, 26, is the first player this season to win both WTA and ITF singles titles, and she's now at a career-high rank of #69.
COMEBACKS: Kaia Kanepi/EST & Evgenia Linetskaya/ISR
...since her Week 1 title in Brisbane, Kanepi had pretty much been an afterthought before last week in Copenhagen. But wins over Anastasia Rodionova and Timea Babos (in a 3rd set tie-break) got her into the QF, and her doubles RU result only served to back up some belief that she might be ready to have a nice spring/summer, after all. Elsewhere, in a challenger event in Hvar, Croatia, Evgenia Linetskaya emerged from some pretty long shadows to garner her first main draw victories -- on any level -- since 2007. At one time, the Russian-born Israeli sported a Backspin nickname of "Doc" (the teenager had plans to become a doctor) and looked to have a promising tennis career lined up, as well. She reached the Australian Open 4th Round and climbed into the Top 40 back in 2005, only to end up at the center of one the nastiest stories in the sport in this or any other year, with charges ranging from a physical assault on her by the father, and a possible sexual assault by her coach. Needless to say, Linetskaya's career essentially dissolved after that. She sat out most of the '06 season, came back in '07 and had some ITF success, then missed half of that season, as well. She was last seen in action early in the '08 season. Just recently, though, the now-25 year old showed up in qualifying in a small event in Turkey, then managed to qualify in the Croatian event. She then won two main draw matches, reaching the quarterfinals. At this point, tennis success is sort of secondary, I guess. It's the perseverance, and continued attempts to reclaim her life, that should be commended.
FRESH FACE: Fatma Al Nabhani/OMA
...the 20-year old from Oman grabbed the $10K challenger in Fujairah, UAE over the weekend, defeating India's Ankita Raina in the final. It's Al Nabhani's first ITF title since she won the same event back in 2010.
DOWN: Francesca Schiavone/ITA
...we're coming up on the two-year anniversary of Schiavone's dreamland Roland Garros title run, and even the Italian veteran looks to be possibly showing the signs of wear and tear. Well, at least her results are. That shockingly comprehensive Fed Cup loss to Lesia Tsurenko in February has sort of set the tone for her '12 season. After dropping her 1st Round match (on clay) in Barcelona to Olga Govortsova last week, the 31-year old's season record dropped to 7-9. Since reaching a semifinal in Week 1, she's suffered two 1st Round exits, along with four in the 2nd Round and a 3rd Round retirement. Now, we're once again entering a Fed Cup weekend. The Italian team is showing a little age, but its experience still makes it dangerous. Just like long-time member Schiavone.
ITF PLAYER: Heidi El Tabakh/CAN
...for the second consecutive weekend, El Tabakh was a winner on the ITF circuit. The Canadian took the $25K challenger in Pelham, Alabama by notching wins over Misaki Doi, Madison Brengle, Coco Vandeweghe, Mariana Duque-Marino and Edina Gallovits-Hall in the final. She also reached the doubles final.
JUNIOR STAR: Taylor Townsend/USA
...the 15-year old (Sweet 16 today, though!) swept the Girls titles at the Australian Open in January, and the American was busy heavy lifting once again in the Easter Bowl in Rancho Mirage, California. Of course, much of that had to do with the Friday Cali rain that backed Townsend into a corner on the weekend. She had to play both her singles SF and Final on Saturday. Townsend won them both, taking out Brooke Austin in three sets in the deciding match. She had to play both her doubles SF and Final, too, running her on-court time to over five hours on the day. She and Gabby Andrews, her partner in Melbourne, reached the final, but Townsend retired with a foot injury, giving the crown to Samantha Crawford and Allie Kiick. Colette Lewis tells us all about it over at Zoo Tennis.

1. Cop Final - Kerber d. Wozniacki
Last year, it was Goerges and Petkovic who were the Germans handing the Dane hurtful (or, at least, one would like to think they were) losses. This year, it's been Goerges and Kerber.
2. Barc Final - Errani d. Cibulkova
The Slovak is now 1-4 in career tour singles finals.
3. Cop QF - Kerber d. Barthel
Kerber wins the battle of the two highest-ranked Germans who can actually manage to stay on the court.
4. Barc 1st Rd - Govortsova d. Schiavone
Not exactly the best form with which to head into a very important Fed Cup tie, but Francesca will have to find a way to make due next weekend.
5. Barc 1st Rd - Goerges d. Rezai 6-4/6-0
Cop 1st Rd - Parmentier d. Chakvetadze 7-5/6-1
they can lead themselves through qualifying, but they can't make themselves drink the main draw water.
HM- $10K Antalya Final - Nicole Melichar/USA d. Hulya Esen/TUR
The 18-year old American wins her first career ITF title.

1. Cop 1st Rd - Wozniacki d. U.Radwanska
Hopefully, The Radwanska won't hold it against Caroline. Of course, even if It did, the Dane wouldn't consider it a "disaster."
2. Cop Doub SF - Date-Krumm/Fujiwara d. Rodionova/Rodionova
Two unrelated Japanese vets > a pair of sisters representing Russia and Australia. Go figure.
3. $10K Antalya 1st Rd - Hulya Esen/TUR d. Lutifiya Esen/TUR
An all-sister match-up that garners far less attention than most others would.
4. $50K Wenshan Doub Final - Hsieh Su-Wei/Hsieh Shu-Ying (TPE/TPE) d. Liu Wanting/Xu Yifan (CHN/CHN)
Hey, Su-Wei was kind enough to spread a bit of her Week 15 wealth to her little sis. How nice of her.
5. $10K Caracas Doub Final - Lauren Albanese/Zuzana Zlochova (USA/SVK) d. Marcela Guimaraes Bueno/Flavia Guimaraes Bueno (BRA/BRA)
Apparently, they grow tennis siblings in South America, too.

**2012 WTA TITLES**
4...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL

**2012 WIN LEADERS**
26 - Victoria Azarenka (26-1)
26 - Agnieszka Radwanska (26-4)
21 - SARA ERRANI (21-7)
NOTE: Radwanksa also w/ 4 wins in Fed Cup Zone play

Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER (Acapulco)
Vania King, USA (Bangkok)
Shahar Peer, ISR (Prague)
Dinara Safina, RUS (Gold Coast)
Alize Cornet, FRA (Budapest)
Lindsay Davenport, USA (Memphis)
Maria Kirilenko, RUS (Estoril)
Nadia Petrova, RUS (Cincinnati)
Venus Williams (Wimbledon)
Victoria Azarenka, BLR (Memphis)
Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP (Bogota)
Serena Williams, USA (Australian Open)
Serena Williams, USA (Wimbledon)
Vera Zvonareva, RUS (Indian Wells)
Iveta Benesova, CZE (Fes)
Serena Williams, USA (Australian Open)
SARA ERRANI, ITA (Barcelona)

Sydney - Li Na, CHN (lost to Azarenka)
Pattaya - Daniela Hantuchova, SVK (def. Kirilenko)
Copenhagen - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (lost to Kerber)

**2012 WTA SF**
4...Victoria Azarenka, BLR (4-0)
4...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL (2-2)
3...Maria Sharapova, RUS (3-0)
3...SARA ERRANI, ITA (2-1)
3...Marion Bartoli, FRA (1-2)
8 - Italy
7 - Germany
7 - Russia
5 - Romania

Hobart - Mona Barthel, GER (Wickmayer in Final)
Paris - Angelique Kerber, GER (Sharapova in QF)
Acapulco - Sara Errani, ITA (Vinci in SF)
Charleston - Serena Williams, USA (#2 Stosur in SF)
Copenhagen - Angelique Kerber, GER (Wozniacki in Final)

Sydney - Victoria Azarenka, BLR (Li in Final)
Hobart - Mona Barthel, GER (Gajdosova in QF)
Copenhagen - Angelique Kerber, GER (Wozniacki in Final)

41...KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM, JPN (Copenhagen)
38...Lisa Raymond, USA (Paris, Doha, Dubai & Indian Wells)
36...Kveta Peschke, CZE (Sydney)
35...Liezel Huber, USA (Paris, Doha, Dubai & Indian Wells)

Henrieta Nagyova, SVK
Maria Sharapova, RUS
Iveta Benesova, CZE
Li Na, CHN
Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP
Flavia Pennetta, ITA
Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
Amy Frazier, USA
Lucie Safarova, CZE
Alona Bondarenko, UKR
Anna Smashnova, ISR
Maria Kirilenko, RUS
Akiko Morigami, JPN
Pauline Parmentier, FRA
Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
Agnes Szavay, HUN
Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP
Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
Andrea Petkovic, GER
Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
Jarmila Groth, AUS (Gajdosova)
Kaia Kanepi, EST
Tamira Paszek, AUT
Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE


Russia (H) def. Serbia (A) 3-2
Czech Republic (H) def. Italy (A) 3-2

...the Serbs, in their first-ever FC semifinal, have a full contingent of players with AnaIvo, JJ, BoJo and Krunic on the roster. But the Hordettes have FC workhorse Kuznetsova and home-court advantage. Meanwhile, after winning four straight road ties, the Czechs are actually playing at home. The pressure of the home crowd could prove to be a hindrance, especially to a player like Lucie Safarova, who might have to contribute at least one singles win if the defending champs are going to reach another final, even if Petra Kvitova can add two more victories to her monster indoor match win streak.

=World Group Playoffs=
United States (A) d. Ukraine (H) 4-1 -- Serena, but no Venus
Japan (H) d. Belgium (A) 5-0 -- no Kim, Yanina or Kirsten
Slovak Republic (A) d. Spain (H) 3-2 -- I'll probably regret this one
Australia (A) d. Germany (H) 3-2 -- Aussies on the road = a good chance
=World Group II Playoffs=
France (H) d. Slovenia (A) 4-1 -- FRA lacking starpower, but persevering
Switzerland (H) d. Belarus (A) 3-2 -- don't count out BLR, even without Vika
Sweden (H) d. Great Britain (A) 3-2 -- SWE's Dyanamic Duo -- Arvidsson & Larsson -- lead the way
Argentina (H) d. China (A) 5-0 -- here we go again

All for now.


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