Tuesday, September 21, 2010

3Q BSA's: Resting in Pieces

Better late than never. Although... I AM talking about the 3rd Quarter of 2010, so maybe I shouldn't assume anything.

*3Q Backspin Awards - Wk.27-36*
1. Kim Clijsters, BEL
...even if she did ultimately "ruin" the Open's building mojo, she proved once again that hard court is where her heart is. Plus, there is a certain skill in finally learning how to stand upright while all those around you are falling on their faces.
2. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...sort of like a period of "Indian summer" in the middle of a cool spell, the Dane provided some great excitement for a brief while. Too bad the "Wozniacki summer" didn't have a more charming end in New York.
3. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
...for the second straight slam, Zvonareva has to tell herself to not let the lush "forest" of her '10 surge be obscured by the more immediately visible scrawny "trees" of her final matches in London and Flushing Meadows.
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
...the Open didn't go as she'd hoped, but over the course of the North American hard court season, Kuznetsova managed to lift herself up from the ashes of her previously forgettable '10 campaign.
5. Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova, USA/KAZ
...Venus & Serena who? Just kidding. Still, with the absence of the Sisters in NYC, the top seeds weren't the teams who took advantage at the Open. It was this pair, who've now won the only two slams in which they've entered as a team. King is now the highest-ranked American-born doubles player (and I guess I should say that Shvedova is now the highest-ranked Russian-born player representing Kazakhstan, too... you know, just to be totally accurate).
6. Liezel Huber, USA
...different partners, same results. She won titles with Lindsay Davenport and Bob Bryan, and reached the Open final with Nadia Petrova.
7. Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta, ARG/ITA
...they flamed out in New York as the #1 seed, but they won two 3Q titles.
8. Agnes Szavay, HUN
...she started the 3Q with a bang, winning back-to-back titles before the tour turned to North America.
9. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
...she was literally wheeled off the court at the Open, but should be noted that her Super-enka Stanford title (and Cincy doubles crown) was noteworthy enough that many considered her a threat to win the whole thing in Flushing Meadows.
10. Timea Bacsinszky/Tathiana Garbin, SUI/ITA
...the pair teamed to win two doubles crowns early in the quarter.
HM- Anna Chakvetadze/RUS, Kaia Kanepi/EST, Maria Kirilenko/RUS, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS, Aravane Rezai/FRA, Maria Sharapova/RUS, Venus Williams/USA

1. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
3. Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova, USA/KAZ
4. Agnes Szavay, HUN
5. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
6. Kaia Kanepi, EST
7. Aravane Rezai, FRA
8. Maria Kirilenko, RUS
9. Andrea Petkovic, GER
10. Shahar Peer, ISR
11. Jarmila Groth, AUS
12. Julia Goerges, GER
13. Elena Vesnina, RUS
14. Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
15. Anastasia Rodionova, AUS
HM- Timea Bacsinszky/SUI & Carly Gullickson/Chelsey Gullickson, USA/USA

1. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS
2. Alexandra Dulgheru, ROU
3. Rebecca Marino, CAN
4. Johanna Larsson, SWE
5. Beatrice Capra, USA (at the Open)
6. Ksenia Pervak, RUS
7. Coco Vandeweghe, USA
8. Polona Hercog, SLO
9. Simona Halep, ROU
10. Monica Niculescu, ROU
11. Anastasiya Sevastova, LAT
12. Stefanie Voegele, SUI
13. Zhang Shuai, CHN
14. Laura Robson, GBR
15. Heather Watson, GBR
16. Sally Peers, AUS
17. Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR
18. Chelsey Gullickson, USA
19. Jamie Hampton, USA
20. Irina Falconi, USA

1. Daria Gavrilova, RUS
2. Beatrice Capra, USA
3. Yulia Putintseva, RUS
4. Ons Jabeur, TUN
5. Sloane Stephens, USA
6. Timea Babos/Sloane Stephens, HUN/USA
7. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
8. Monica Puig, PUR
9. Jana Cepelova, SVK
10. Camila Silva, CHI
11. Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
12. Caroline Garcia, FRA
13. Chanel Simmonds, RSA
14. Robin Anderson, USA
15. Nastja Kolar, SLO
16. Tara Moore, GBR
17. Lenka Jurikova, SVK
18. Eleonor Dean, GBR
19. An-Sophie Mestach, BEL
20. Cristina Dinu, ROU

1. Mandy Minella, LUX
2. Anna Lapushchenkova, RUS
3. Patricia Mayr, AUT
4. Romina Oprandi, ITA
5. Lucie Hradecka, CZE
6. Akgul Amanmuradova, UZB
7. Olga Savchuk, UKR
8. Meilen Auroux, ARG
9. Ana Vrljic, CRO
10. Alexandra Mueller, USA
HM- Florencia Molinero/ARG & Alexandra Panova/RUS

1. Kim Clijsters, BEL
2. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
3. Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta, ARG/ITA
4. Liezel Huber, USA
5. Venus Williams, USA
6. Gisela Dulko, ARG
7. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
8. Flavia Pennetta, ITA
9. Nadia Petrova, RUS
10. Patty Schnyder, SUI
11. Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
12. Elena Dementieva, RUS
13. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
14. Tathiana Garbin, ITA
15. Zuzana Ondraskova, CZE
16. Maria Elena Camerin, ITA
17. Yvonne Meusburger, AUT
18. Zuzana Kucova, SVK
19. Nuria Llagostera-Vives, ESP
20. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
HM- Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, ESP

1. Agnes Szavay, HUN
2. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
3. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
4. Mirjana Lucic, CRO
5. Sania Mirza, IND
6. Tamira Paszek, AUT
7. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
8. Alize Cornet, FRA
9. Dinara Safina, RUS
10. Virginie Razzano, FRA
HM- Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS & Lindsay Davenport, USA

1. Serena Williams, USA & Justine Henin, BEL
2. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
3. Melanie Oudin, USA
4. Petra Kvitova, CZE
5. Carly Gullickson, USA (US Open Mixed Doubles)
HM- Nuria Llagostera-Vives/Marie Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP/ESP & Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN

1. Jelena Dokic, AUS
2. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
3. Renata Voracova, CZE
4. Julia Goerges, GER
5. Magda Linette, POL
6. Julia Mayr, ITA
7. Liana-Gabriela Ungur, ROU
8. Andrea Hlavackova, CZE
9. Mathilde Johansson, FRA
10. Madalina Gojnea, ROU
11. Meilen Auroux, ARG
12. Zuzana Zlochova, SVK
13. Jamie Hampton, USA
14. Paula Ormaechea, ARG
15. Angelique van der Meet, NED
HM- Evelyn Mayr, ITA

[Best Feel-Good]
Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova overcome match points in two matches en route to winning the U.S. Open Doubles title, their second straight slam championship
[Best Feel-Good, to everyone but Tennis Australia]
Jelena Dokic wins three straight ITF challenger events, but Tennis Australia doesn't deem her worthy of its discretionary wild card into the U.S. Open main draw. Ignoring the dictionary definition of the word "discretionary" by saying that the decision was made weeks earlier (after Dokic's first of three titles) and that the spot was automatically given to the then-higher ranked Sophie Ferguson (rather than the #82-ranked-when-the-Open-began Dokic). Forced to carry her fifteen-match winning streak into the qualies, Dokic lost in the opening round. In the main draw, Ferguson was easily dumped out after one match. Thus, "feel-good" became "no-good" for all involved.
[Mixed Feelings]
Caroline Wozniacki wins back-to-back titles in Montreal and New Haven (her third straight win at Yale) and heads to the Open as the #1 seed. For nearly two weeks, she was the top story of the women's draw at Flushing Meadows... until she was a virtual no-show in the breezy semifinal match-up with Vera Zvonareva. Speaking of the Russian, she ended her summer by playing in her third slam final in a little more than two months. After going 0-2 in the Wimbledon singles and doubles finals, she also lost the Open singles decider.
[Mixed Feelings, Pt.2]
The U.S. Open medical crew was swift to respond to Victoria Azarenka's on-court collapse in her 1st Round match against Gisela Dulko. Good job. Of course, if the Belarusian's pre-match concussion after a fall in practice had been diagnosed before she stepped onto the court, the tournament's scariest moment would never have occurred in the first place. Bad job.
[It Felt "Good" at the Time]
Kim Clijsters won Cincinnati one year after she made her comeback from retirement in the same tournament, climbing back from match point down three times against Maria Sharapova in the final. Her ranking rose to #4.
[But Just Because "Good Times" Was Set in New York Doesn't Mean That the Open was Dyno-mite]
Clijsters defended her Open title at Flushing Meadows, winning her third slam crown and extending her tournament winning streak to twenty-one matches. Her ranking fell to #5. Oh, and the final was a monumentally anticlimactic bore, too.

*QUOTES...with still more feeling*
"There's nothing like being match fit." - Jelena Dokic
"Every match I win now, it's like winning an entire tournament." - Mirjana Lucic
"It's one of the most devastating moments of my career." - Serena Williams
"It's definitely the best moment of my life." - Beatrice Capra
"This whole experience will make me stronger. I plan to come back better than ever." - Serena Williams
"I can have cake now." - Victoria Azarenka
"I can't do anything!!!" - Jelena Jankovic

U.S. Open 4th Rd. - Samantha Stosur d. Elena Dementieva
In the women's match of the tournament, Stosur makes it back-to-back slams in which she pulled out a victory after being down match point down. In this one, which lasted until 1:35 am, the Aussie saved four MP's after overcoming a stretch that saw her serve broken five straight times.
U.S. Open Doubles 3rd Rd. - King/Shvedova d. Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova
In the 3-hour plus match, the teams traded match points (and double-faults) before reaching a nailbiting conclusion.
U.S. Open Doubles Final - King/Shvedova d. Huber/Petrova
Spread out over two days, King & Shvedova again overcame a late match point to rebound and win a second 2010 slam title.
Cincinnati Final - Kim Ciljsters d. Maria Sharapova
In an early North American circuit contest that would come to symbolize the whole, a match characterized by poor play ultimately crowned the Belgian as the champion on her fifth match point after she'd overcome three match points against the unable-to-close Russian. Oh, and there was a 74-minute rain delay thrown in to mess with everyone's heads, too.
New Haven SF - Caroline Wozniacki d. Elena Dementieva
Punch-Sober gave a pre-Open preview of her performance at Flushing Meadows, blowing a break point for a 4-1 3rd set lead and her chance to serve out the match at 5-3.
Stanford QF - Maria Sharapova d. Elena Dementieva
Sensing a trend here? Yep, it's Dementieva AGAIN. In this one, Sharapova committed fifteen double-faults, but Dementieva was still bested in the end when her not-yet-Supernovic countrywoman found a way to use her serve to dig out of the hole it'd previously dug for her.
Istanbul Final - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Elena Vesnina
Vesnina led 7-5/4-0, but fell in the end at the conclusion of this 3:11 match. Afterward, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to newly-20 year old Pavlyuchenkova.
U.S. Open 2nd Rd. - Beatrice Capra d. Aravane Rezai
The American proved to be no second coming of Melanie Oudin, but the Capraesque wild card did provide the tournament with a getting-its-wings moment. In the end, the Open wasn't so lucky, though. Capra simply lost her next match, but the tournament's wings were literally pulled off by a certain Belgian on the final weekend.
U.S. Open SF - Kim Clijsters d. Venus Williams
It looked like Venus was going to pull a "Williams Moment" out of her bag of magic, but her game crashed at precisely the wrong moment.
Stanford Doubles Final - Davenport/Huber d. Chan/Zheng
And to think that Azarenka's win and this result opened up the North American circuit. Everything looked so promising. Sigh.
U.S. Open 1st Rd. - Jelena Jankovic d. Simona Halep
Not a "Classic" Queen Chaos match, but as good as we got in this lean 3Q.

Andrea Petkovic: Three-way Threat. She dances! She blogs! She saves three match points against Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the Open! No wonder Ipek Senoglu said she is "not only a great tennis player but is also very intelligent and funny, and interested in different parts of life other than just tennis."
Mirjana Lucic getting her first grand slam main draw singles win in eight years, and first at the Open since 1999
Ana Ivanovic reaching the Cincinnati SF after getting peeved about not receiving a wild card into the upcoming Montreal event (she turned down the spot in the draw after it was belatedly offered), then tying her career-best U.S. Open result when she reached the Round of 16
Agnes Szavay's back-to-back pre-North American circuit titles, and Anna Chakvetadze's back-from-the-depths tour title and $100K challenger championship
A post-Wimbledon QF collapse Kaia Kanepi's first career tour singles title

The roof-less Arthur Ashe Stadium, and the USTA's excuses for keeping it that way
The U.S. Open women's singles final
Victoria Azarenka's star-crossed grand slam career... so far
Maria Sharapova's inability to "get over the hump" and on to the other side

Caroline Wozniacki goes out of a slam without seeming to have any answers for her opponent's game... again
Venus Williams' very un-Serena-esque failure seize the spotlight at the Open
Kim Clijsters' final grand slam matches in 2010: a near double-bagel at the hands of Petrova in Oz, a collapse vs. Zvonareva at Wimbledon, and the snooze-fest on Ashe (also against Zvonareva)

The Brussels match between Clijsters & Serena that broke the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs "Battle of the Sexes" record for attendence for a tennis exhibition. Plus, it opened the door for all the speculation about Williams' foot injury since she played the match right after she was hurt.

"Courage" didn't work as well as "Believe" on Melanie Oudin's shoes at the Open

A 12-year old Sally Peers' photo with Kim Clijsters at the 2003 Davis Cup featuring the Australian team, viewed before the fan-turned-opponent Aussie played her 2nd Round U.S. Open match against the Belgian

Chelsey Gullickson, coming off her sophomore semester at the University of Georgia, made her grand slam debut on Ashe Stadium against Caroline Wozniacki in a match that began at 11:50 pm on Day 2, and didn't end until Day 3 at 1:00 am

John McEnroe's questions about women's abilities to physically/mentally hold up over the course of a 10-month season. Though the "evidence" backing his thought process is somewhat compelling, it's sort of done in by the sight of so many MEN being unable to survive in the late summer New York heat at the Open.

Whether the Williams Sisters' committment to playing for the U.S. in the Fed Cup final against Italy will hold up long enough for both of them to be healthy enough to actually play

And the fitting comment to end the Quarter That is Better Left Forgotten (even if I might have managed to sift through the wreckage to find enough decent moments to soften the deadening blow that the last few months have taken on the women's game):

"I'd like to thank the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for everything they've done to us." - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, saying it better than I ever could

Oh, out of the mouths of Hordettes. Rest in pieces, 3rd Quarter.

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

As for this year... well, it seemed that Serena Williams had the 2010 title all but wrapped up after she won Wimbledon. She probably still does Although, if Caroline Wozniacki had pulled off a victory in New York a legitimate argument would have been able to be built for the Dane's candidacy, especially since Williams' return to the court is still shrouded in so much mystery at this point.

After awarding the title to the Italians a season ago, a repeat Fed Cup crown probably wouldn't be enough for Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta & Co. to defend THIS crown. Although, I might be willing to consider Roland Garros champ Schiavone if she were to lead Team Italia to the title with, say, wins over the Williams Sisters in the final. On the other hand, if Serena were to lead the Americans to the crown, giving "Ms. Backspin" to the American team would be a way to honor the previously-upstart Bannerettes AND Williams, who hasn't been much of a factor except in Melbourne and London in '10 but is still the most solid choice for POW (which sort of says much about the seasons of everyone else).

The race might be over, but maybe not. Probably Francesca is the only REAL potential late-season spoiler. As of now...

**"Ms. BACKSPIN '10... so far**
[The Contenders]
1. Serena Williams, USA
...she deserves a second "Ms. B" award (along with her '02 crown) for her resurgence the last couple of years. After holding back and going for "unconventional" choices for 2008-09, it'll take something remarkable to knock her off this perch for '10, injured foot or no injured foot.
2t. Italian Fed Cup Team/United States Fed Cup Team
...to be determined in November.
3. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
...her title in Paris will go down as THE feel-good moment of the season, but she still might have one more shocker left to spring on us.

[The Second Tier, in alphabetical order]
Kim Clijsters, BEL
...without the Open title, she's nowhere near this level. With it, by "Tennis Australia"-like rules, she's an automatic entry even though her only previous '10 highs have come with many months between them.
Samantha Stosur, AUS
...now a solid Top 10er and slam finalist, but some questions linger.
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...she came within two wins of having a real shot at the gold ring.
Vera Zvonareva, RUS
...physically (and mentally) recovered from her '09 lows, she's the highest ranked Russian in the world and the only woman not named Serena to appear in two slam singles finals in '10.

[The Doubles Contingent]
Cara Black, ZIM
...early-season wins with ex-partner Liezel Huber, and two Mixed Doubles slam titles, put her on the board.
Dulko/Pennetta, ARG/ITA
...they've won more titles than any other team, but have stumbled in the slams.
Liezel Huber, USA
...the top-ranked doubles player in the world, capable of winning with any partner. But will she get into the action in the Fed Cup final if it comes down to the final Doubles match, and Venus & Serena are ready, willing and able to go? THAT would be an interesting decision for MJF to have to make.
King/Shvedova, USA/KAZ
...matched the Sisters with two '10 slam titles.
Williams/Williams, USA/USA
...alas, a true "Sisters Grand Slam" would have been enough to claim the POW honors.

[Major Accomplishments, Minor Movement]
Elena Dementieva/RUS, Justine Henin/BEL, Jelena Jankovic/SRB, Petra Kvitova/CZE, Li Na/CHN, Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL, Venus Williams/USA, Zheng Jie/CHN
...they all put up a slam SF-or-better result this season.

[They Have to Be Mentioned]
Victoria Azarenka/BLR, Azarenka/Kirilenko (BLR/RUS), Dominika Cibulkova/SVK, Jarmila Groth/AUS, Kaia Kanepi/EST, Maria Kirilenko/RUS, Llagostera-Vives/MJMS (ESP/ESP), Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS, Shahar Peer/ISR, Flavia Pennetta/ITA, Peschke/Srebotnit (CZE/SLO), Nadia Petrova/RUS, Aravane Rezai/FRA, Maria Sharapova/RUS, Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ, Katarina Srebotnik/SLO, Agnes Szavay/HUN
...a grab bag/catch-all that includes all the other players with multiple titles, slam QF results, notable accomplishments, etc.

All for now.


Blogger NC said...

How exactly did Kim Clijsters, ruin the US Open. It still had a feel good story and showed a woman, perhaps, asserting herself as a dominant force. You chide Clijsters for winning easily, when you have also notably preached about the lack of a prominent figure in women's tennis. Clijsters asserted herself, took advantage of the final and won her second consecutive open and 21st straight match there. It may not have been the desired result, but it certainly didn't ruin the open. I get that elements of entertaining drama or competetiveness were left waning but there's still worth to the final. Francesca's French Open victory was build on a similar foundation of lackluster opponent play in the final, and personal conviction. Clisjters applied the same principles but is viewed as a destructive force rather than a hallmark achievement. from an emotional perspective, yes, Schivone's victory wholeheartedly trumps Clijster's effort this year, but that doesn't make Kim's win invaluable. I'm actually not a fervent Clijsters supporter. She can be ridiculously over hyped as the supreme example of kindness, but she won ugly, then won convincingly just like every other champion. She exemplified some level of consistency (2 consecutive Opens) and shouldn't be lambasted for it.

Tue Sep 21, 07:22:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Fruen. I'm not so fond of her but if she can win she's the best at that moment. It's the same problem with people arguing about the lack of meeting top 10 players (C-Woz), but that's not her problem someone defeated them and must be better at that moment. You are a bit disappointed by C-Woz and so am I, but I can understand that this can happen and her period was from 2nd of August until she was defeated in US semi (ok a little break in Cincinnati where she came from an indoor tournament till 35 C and jetlag). Sometimes you run out of steam. Kim did what she was supposed to do - she won again and bravo for that. For the moment womens tennis is quite equal which makes it a litlle bit exciting I think. Will be VERY interesting to see how Serena is turning out to be. I look forward to Tokyo and Beijing - we still can get a new #1 before 2011 - and it might be C-Woz :-) (Yeah super optimist - I know)

Wed Sep 22, 08:58:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excitement is rising - Serena out of Tokyo and Beijing and possibly also Doha - I think Caro should seek her chance even if Serena isn't there. Normally you are not out for so long with that type of injury so I have a lot of mixed feelings about Serena's motives. What is the consequences for her moneywise and other things in connection to the WTA tour??

Sat Sep 25, 12:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Opinions differ, of course. But I stand by my belief that Clijsters winning damaged the Open, and the decided lack of attention/excitement the result generated in the actual country in which the tournament (especially compared to when she won a year ago) was played only solidified my notion.

After the horrendous hard court season the tour had to endure as a lead up to the final slam of the year, something new, exciting, heartwarming and unexpected (all of which applied to what happened in Paris, but not NY) was needed to repair the damage. With Venus and Wozniacki alive in the final four, and I'll throw Zvonareva in that mix, too, the possibility was there for all of those things to lift up the women's tournament/summer on the final weekend. It surely didn't happen on Saturday (and then all the rain sort of wasted the men's final, as well).

I'd like to chalk that up to karma, but that'd probably be stretching it.

Mon Sep 27, 10:03:00 PM EDT  

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