Monday, October 11, 2010

Wk.40- What's Done is Done

Let the debate begin. Well, no. Not really. Truthfully, there is absolutely nothing to debate.

All Caroline Wozniacki needed to do in Beijing was reach the quarterfinals to assure herself of becoming the twentieth woman to sit atop the WTA singles rankings. She ended up winning the title. Typically, while so many of the tour's top players tend to do "too little," the Dane often finds herself doing more than required. Oh, she hasn't had a plastic doll molded in her likeness, or a triple-image statue dedicated in her honor, but where it counts -- on the court -- she can't be accused of dogging it or having her mind elsewhere.

Yeah, she's still missing that one (most important) career accomplishment when it comes to weighing one champion against another on an epic, historical scale. But, at just age 20, she's working her way toward that goal, and while nothing is destined or should ever even be expected this sport, she surely appears to be doing everything right and working progressively toward being able to lift a slam trophy above her head and clean up any of the "slivers of distrust" that might at that point still remain about her "worthiness" of being the top-ranked female tennis player in the world.

As it is, after failing to grab the U.S. Open title last month, she'll have to live with the "label" of being the fifth woman to rise to #1 without having first won a slam singles title. What's done is done. There's nothing that can change that now. What was she supposed to do, end her season early to make her chances of finishing the season at #2 that much better? Of course not. As usual, and often to her detriment in the past (but not this time), she simply went out and played. Good for her.

The fact is, though, there really is NO reason to question Wozniacki's position as the world #1. Here's the better question: If not her, then which OTHER woman should be #1? The only player with even a whiff of an argument is Serena Williams. While the American surely holds the "unofficial" crown as the "best" player, she's not and shouldn't be the #1-ranked one if there is someone such as Wozniacki around to offer an alternative. While Serena has been often-spectacular when she's been on the court in '10, she's been off it for seven of the season's ten months. She's won two slams, but played in only three other events. We haven't seen her on a court since early July, and with her "re-strain" of her foot she pulled out of this week's event in Linz, and might not return until next January. Williams' slam prowess is great for posterity and Hall of Fame/Greatest of All Time credentials, but it's not what the computer rankings are there to measure -- which is the top player over a twelve-month span, on a week-by-week basis. That Serena could hold the top spot for so long while so rarely playing is a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to her big-event greatness, not to mention the relative inability of the rest of the WTA field to produce a single player who rates as a constant, consistent presence and/or threat on tour. Until now, that is.

Once again, the Dane showed her mettle last week in Beijing. Fresh off the biggest title of her career in Tokyo, she arrived in China battling illness. By the quarterfinals, her left knee was wrapped. In a week where a ridiculous number of top players were announcing that their seasons would be ending early due to injuries, Wozniacki played on. She only lost one set, wrapping up yet another title today against Vera Zvonareva (the second time in '10, with Montreal, Wozniacki has defeated the Russian in a rain-delayed Monday final) to make Beijing the NEW "biggest title of her career." After Zvonareva ended her thirteen-match winning streak in the U.S. Open semifinals, Wozniacki has now rebounded by running off ten more victories in a row. She's 23-1 in her last twenty-four outings, and 29-2 since Wimbledon. In a couple weeks, she'll show up in Doha, ready, willing and probably able to add another feather to her (latest) career season's cap in the same tournament where a year ago she proved about as much as any teenager could without actually winning anything.

Of course, even if Wozniacki does correct that niggling "omission" this time around, she'll still end '10 leading the tour in nearly every meaningful category imaginable EXCEPT slam titles. But she'll have to live with that... until January, June, July or September.

Between now and then, expect the Dane to continue to show the willingness and ability to improve that helped get her to #1 in the first place. One of these days, maybe all that hard work will pay off in an even grander fashion... if the Tennis Gods have any sense of fairness, that is.


BEIJING, CHINA (Premier $4.5m/hard outdoor)
S: Caroline Wozniacki def. Vera Zvonareva 6-3/3-6/6-3
D: Chuang/Govortosva d. Dulko/Pennetta

S: Anastasia Rodionova (AUS) def. Sania Mirza (IND) 6-3/2-6/7-6
D: Rodionova/Peers (AUS) d. Moore/Rogowska (AUS)
M: Rae/Fleming (SCO) d. Rodionova/Hanley (AUS)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
the Dane's third consecutive Premier event title included wins over Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic, Shahar Peer and Zvonareva. It extends her tour-leading title collection to six (half of her career total). She can't make that grand slam leap this season, but there IS still one more opportunity to once again win her "biggest tournament yet." Doha, here she comes.... but will anyone ELSE show up?
RISERS: Anastasia Rodionova/AUS & Rebecca Marino/CAN
it's been less than a year since Rodionova was officially declared "Australian enough" to represent her new country in international tennis events, and the former Hordette made good on her desire to win for her country at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. In fact, she very nearly did so THREE times over. She won the event's first-ever women's singles Gold with a win in the final over Sania Mirza, claimed doubles Gold with Sally Peers and just came up short of taking mixed Gold, as well, with partner Paul Hanley, as the pair finished with a Silver Medal. In the $50K Kansas City challenger, Marino won her second ITF crown of the season with victories over Julie Ditty, Alexa Glatch and Edina Gallovits in a 6-7/6-0/6-2 final.
SURPRISES: Chuang Chia-Jung/Olga Govortsova (TPE/BLR) & Sally Peers/AUS
Chuang and Govortsova had never won a doubles title together before last week (and had only won one tour doubles crown between them all season), but they made up for that absence of winning moments by taking the championship at the $4.5 million Premier event in Beijing this weekend, defeating Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta in the final. It's Chuang's fifteenth career title, and Govortsova's fourth. In the Commonwealth Games, Aussie Peers, whose biggest previous '10 headline probably came when she showed up for her U.S. Open 2nd Round match with the Belgian Barbie armed with a 2003 photo of her pre-teen self with Jada's Mama, made some noise ON the court. She defeated countrywoman Olivia Rogowska in the event's Bronze Medal match, and took doubles Gold with Anastasia Rodionova.
COMEBACKS: Ana Ivanovic/SRB & Sania Mirza/IND
in Beijing, AnaIvo showed some signs that the hoped-for rekindling of her career's flame could be coming -- some day -- with a QF run that included nice wins over Marion Bartoli, Olga Govortsova and Elena Dementieva. Meanwhile, at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Mirza failed to win the event's inaugural women's tennis Gold in front of many of her Indian fans, but she did walk away with a singles Silver and Doubles Bronze to continue to spark her recent post-wedding upturn in results.
Chinese fans saw Li begin her season with a SF at the Australian Open. While the remainder of her season didn't match those early high hopes (she's won just one title), she seems to be ending it in a workable physical condition, which isn't always a given when it comes to the veteran. In Beijing, she reached her fifth semifinal of the season with victories over Alla Kudryavtseva, Alisa Kleybanova, Angelique Kerber and Anastasiya Sevastova.
FRESH FACES: Anastasiya Sevastova/LAT & Alison Riske/USA
Sevastova made good use of her time in Beijing. A title-winner in Estoril earlier this season, the Latvian made it through qualifying and then got main draw wins over Samantha Stosur, Dominika Cibulkova and Nadia Petrova (walkover) en route to the QF. Meanwhile, hard-serving American Riske won her second career challenger title in a $75K event in Barnstaple, Great Britain (recently, she came within two points in a 3rd set tie-break of defeating Marino in the final of the $50K Saquenay challenger). After defeating #1-seed Romina Oprandi, #4 Ksenia Pervak and #5 Pauline Parmentier earlier in the tournmament, she took out #2 Johanna Larsson in the final.
DOWN: Victoria Azarenka/BLR & Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
a week after reaching the SF in Tokyo, Azarenka was back to her (unfortunately) "normal" self in Beijing, retiring from her 2nd Round match with a left thigh strain. It's the Belarusan's seventh retirement in twenty WTA/Fed Cup events entered in 2010 -- more than one-third!! Here's to hoping that Azarenka has taken notice of Wozniacki's great results since making a concerted effort to get into better condition over the past year, with special attention to what she did to physically improve her chances of staying on the court in the best shape possible right after Wimbledon. Azarenka simply goes down with far too many muscle pulls and strains, not to mention all her lack-of-conditioning exits in intense heat situations, for a player with as much talent as she possesses. In order to put herself in the best position to capitalize on her abilities, she needs to get with a real trainer and improve herself in every strength and cardio category possible. Of course, since she didn't seem to learn anything from the cramping Dane's ability to STILL defeat her in a match in Doha at the end of last season even while barely being able to stand up, I have my doubts that this offseason will play out any differently from any other for Azarenka -- which means we'll probably be able to look forward to at least half a dozen more "false-starts" from the Belarusan next season, as well. As for Kuznetsova, her week in Beijing pretty much symbolized the majority of her mostly-forgettable season. She entered the tournament as the defending champ, but was quickly dumped out in the 1st Round by Roberta Vinci. Afterward, she announced that illness was leading her to put her '10 season out of its misery... err, I mean to end her trying '10 campaign early while looking forward to a better one in 2011.
ITF PLAYERS: Ayumi Morita/JPN & Petra Cetkovska/CZE
two $100K challenger events were decided over the weekend, so I'll go with both winners as the circuit's top players for Week 40. In Tokyo, Morita defeated the likes of Alberta Brianti, Urszula Radwanska, Coco Vandeweghe and Jill Craybas to claim her title; while in Pounieh, Cetkovska claimed her third challenger title of the season with victories over Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, Renata Voracova and Mathilde Johansson in the final.
JUNIOR STARS: Russian Junior Fed Cup Team
there were no truly "good" choices here for this week, so I'll go back in time -- well, only a week -- and honor the Russian Junior Fed Cup team for winning its second straight title in Mexico. Daria Gavrilova (the U.S. Open Girls champ) and fellow Hordette Margarita Gasparyan defeated China's team of Zheng Saisai & Tian Ran 7-5/6-4 in doubles to lock away the crown by a 2-1 score.

1. Beij 2nd Rd - Vesnina d. Sharapova
What exactly is happening with Sharapova? She lost to Date-Krumm last time out, then lost early again here just days after (once again) dropping out of the Top 20. Has her difficulty moved beyond mere shoulder/serving problems, with what is ailing her having migrated less a foot north? That could be something even more troublesome to repair.
2. Beij 2nd Rd - Kvitova d. Kanepi
In a rematch of the Wimbledon QF that launched the Czech into her first slam semifinal (after saving five Kanepi match points), Kvitova yet again got the best of the Estonian. Maybe there's hope for her yet.
3. Beij 3rd Rd - Wozniacki d. Kvitova
Of course, that hope didn't show up in the Kvitova's next match, as she served as the "nameless" opponent officially assured C-Woz that she'd rise to #1 in the rankings today.
4. Beij Final - Wozniacki d. Zvonareva
Zvonareva had a great week in China, where she won an Olympic Bronze two years ago, as she defeated the likes of Safina, Petkovic, Kirilenko, Schiavone and Li to reach her sixth WTA singles final in 2010. Thing is, she's now 1-5 in those finals and has lost five straight.
5. Beij 2nd Rd - Jovanovski d. Jankovic
Wozniacki grabbed the proverbial #1-ranking torch from Serena in Beijing, while Bojana Jovanovski attempted to rip the not-quite-as-proverbial torch of Serbia women's tennis from JJ's hands in the same tournament. Serena will likely rebound in a big way in '11. Will Jankovic?
6. Beij 1st Rd - Dulko d. Rezai
This loss gave Rezai seven consecutive exits in the 1st or 2nd Round of events.
7. Beij 2nd Rd - Zvonareva d. Safina
And with this, Safina ends her '10 season complaining once again of back problems. Not that she was alone in issuing cease and desist orders on a '10 WTA season. Also shutting down their seasons early were Kuznetsova, Agnieszka Radwanksa, Venus Williams, Kirsten Flipkens and maybe even Serena. Are we certain the season has to last until November? An early October end would seem a much more appropriate end date somewhere down the road.
8. $10K Nonthaburi Final - Nungnadda Wannasuk d. Zhu Lin
Yes, once again I take the "low road" and note a result of this 20-year old Thai simply because saying her name sort of makes me chuckle. Oh, well. At least we know that she's an ITF titlist, which might not be the case if her name was, say, Jane Smith.
9. $10K Algiers Final - Silvia Njiric d. Fatima El Allami
The 17-year old Croat wins her first career challenger title. Njiric began the season as a Top 10 junior, and reached the Australian Open QF and Roland Garros SF in Girls competition.
10. Commonwealth Games Final - Rodionova d. Mirza
Two naturalized Aussies (Rodinova and Groth) have now lifted a championship singles trophy this quarter. Sammy... the Australia-born baton has been passed to you, as you attempt to defend your Osaska crown this week.

[singles titles/slam titles]
377...Steffi Graff [107/22]
331...Martina Navratilova [167/18]
260...Chris Evert [154/18]
209...Martina Hingis [43/5]
178...Monica Seles [53/9]
122...Serena Williams [37/13]
117...Justine Henin [43/7]
98...Lindsay Davenport [55/3]
39...Amelie Mauresmo [25/2]
26...Dinara Safina [12/0]
22...Tracy Austin [30/2]
19...Belgian Barbie [39/3]
18...Jelena Jankovic [12/0]
17...Jennifer Capriati [14/3]
17...Maria Sharapova [22/3]
12...Ana Ivanovic [8/1]
12...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario [29/4]
11...Venus Williams [43/7]
2...Evonne Goolagong [68/7]

5...Maria Sharapova (2-3)

February - Venus Williams - Dubai/Acapulco
July - Agnes Szavay - Budapest/Prague
August - Caroline Wozniacki - Montreal/New Haven
* - active streak

Dubai: Venus Williams/USA
Indian Wells: Jelena Jankovic/SRB
Miami: Belgian Barbia/BEL
Rome: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP
Madrid: Aravane Rezai/FRA
Cincinnati: Belgian Barbie/BEL
Montreal: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
Tokyo: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
Dubai: Llagostera-Vives/Martinez-Sanchez, ESP/ESP
Indian Wells: Peschke/Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
Miami: Dulko/Pennetta, ARG/ITA
Rome: Dulko/Pennetta, ARG/ITA
Madrid: Williams/Williams, USA/USA
Cincinnati: Azarenka/Kirilenko, BLR/RUS
Montreal: Dulko/Pennetta, ARG/ITA
Tokyo: Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE/CZE

15...Venus Williams, February-April
13...Caroline Wozniacki, August-September
12...Agnes Szavay, July-August
11...Yanina Wickmayer, January
11...Samantha Stosur, April-May
10...Serena Williams, January-May
10...Anna Chakvetadze, July-August

Tracy Austin - Portland '77
Jennifer Capriati - Puerto Rico '90
Monica Seles - Houston '89
Martina Hingis - Filderstadt '96
Chris Evert - St.Petersburg '71
Steffi Graf - Hilton Head '86
Arantxa Sanchez - Brussels '88
Lindsay Davenport - Lucerne '93
Justine Henin - Antwerp '99
Belgian Barbie - Luxembourg '99
Dinara Safina - Sopot '02
Maria Sharapova - Tokyo '03
Martina Navratilova - Orlando '74
Venus Williams - Oklahoma City '98
Serena Williams - Paris '99
Ana Ivanovic - Canberra '05
Evonne Goolagong - Southport '70
Jelena Jankovic - Budapest '04
Amelie Mauresmo - Bratislava '99

[CAPS - year-end #1]
2000: (2) Davenport, HINGIS
2001: (3) Capriati, DAVENPORT, Hingis
2002: (4) Capraiti, Davenport, S.WILLIAMS, V.Williams
2003: (3) Barbie, HENIN-HARDENNE, S.Williams
2004: (3) DAVENPORT, Henin, Mauresmo
2005: (2) DAVENPORT, Sharapova
2006: (4) Barbie, Davenport, HENIN-HARDENNE, Mauresmo
2007: (2) HENIN, Sharapova
2008: (5) Henin, Ivanovic, JANKOVIC, Sharapova, S.Williams
2009: (3) Jankovic, Safina, S.WILLIAMS
2010: (2) S.Williams, Wozniacki

LINZ, AUSTRIA (Int'l $220K/hard indoor)
09 Final: Wickmayer d. Kvitova
10 Top Seeds: Hantuchova/A.Bondarenko

#3 A.Bondarenko d. #7 Ivanovic
#6 Petkovic d. Schnyder
#6 Petkovic d. #3 A.Bondarenko

...why not? Maybe she'll dance.

OSAKA, JAPAN (Int'l $220K/hard outdoor)
09 Final: Stosur d. Schiavone
10 Top Seeds: Stosur/Bartoli

#1 Stosur d. #3 Peer
#4 Kirilenko d. #2 Bartoli
#1 Stosur d. #4 Kirilenko

...Stosur has been a non-factor since the Open concluded, but she won her first career title at this event a season ago. Slingin' Sammy + comfortability = confidence. Confidence = title. Or so the theory goes.

"2011 All-Intriguing Team" and "2011 Market Tips" coming soon. All for now.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual it's a pleasant moment in the week where you can "open" a new Todd Spiker blog. There is a natural witty flavour over it in a kind way. As usual you grab the central things of tennis and are not under the pressure from the slam punkers - sorry about this expression, but I think it's a rediculous discussion about the true #1.Thank you for a decent blog. It seems to me that Serena has to PROVE that she is the real #1.
Caroline is also good friends with the sisters and Belgian Barbie. The sisters have pointed at Caroline as the new member of the players council on the WTAtour regie now Patty Scnyder is pulling out, and Caroline and the Belgian Barbie are going to play an exhibition match January 1st or 2nd in Thailand - why are journalists trying to make walls between the players with stories about #1. I'm sure Serena is respecting what Caroline has done - she did it sending Caroline a SMS in China telling her "Well done" - that's the way a top player has to act.

Fri Oct 15, 02:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Mark said...

Excellent blog.

Fancy the content I have seen so far and I am your regular reader of your blog.

I am very much interested in adding in my blog

I am pleased to see my blog in your blog list.

I would like to know whether you are interested in adding my blog in your blog list.

Hope to see a positive reply.

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Mon Oct 18, 05:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Sure, and thanks for the kind words. :)

Tue Oct 19, 01:41:00 PM EDT  
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