Monday, November 01, 2010

Wk.43- Make.Believe?

On the heels of the WTA debuting a new logo at the season-ending championships in Doha, tour partner Sony Ericsson's on-court advertising might have inadvertantly spoke for all the things that haven't exactly colored the tour in richness in 2010.

Come on. Really? Did no one realize that while "make" and "believe" are fine advertising slogans/buzz words on their own, when you place them side-by-side, separated by only a period, they form another phrase that likely means something that no one on the WTA tour wants to link to the women's game.

Aside from any advertising mumbojumbo, "make believe" means fake. Not what it seems. Not real.

Fittingly, in the tournament's singles final, it was hard to know whether what you were seeing meant anything. It was a good match, and the eventual champion deserved to win. But as the Tennis Channel (TC) announcers wondered during coverage, what was really learned from it? Was it won outright, nearly choked away, pulled back from a blowout to become a competitive match, or simply fumbled away in the end? There was at least a smidgen of truth in every possibility.

In a discussion about the #1 ranking over the weekend, TC announcer Lindsay Davenport said that Caroline Wozniacki did indeed "deserve" her top ranking, but the American noted that, personally, she doesn't put much credence in the #1 singles ranking. I'll give credit to Davenport for honesty, as she admitted that she also didn't think that SHE was the best player on tour when she was #1 (she finished #1 three times in seasons in which she didn't win a slam, and twice when she failed to reach a slam final) because she wasn't winning the big titles. Of course, her broadcasting partner then ignored everything she'd been trying to say and instead lauded her for finishing so many seasons at #1... but you can't use his inattentiveness to take away from her good point and humility.

Maybe it was fitting that the "make.believe" phrase lingered in the background all week.

For, while Wozniacki did wrap up the #1 ranking for 2010 in Doha, she very easily could have lost it to Vera Zvonareva. Although the Russian reached two slam finals this season, she only won a single title (the Dane won six, while the Belgian Barbie had five), in a small event in Pattaya City in February, no less. The WTA didn't have to try to explain that one to its always-present detractors, but that the situation almost became reality is surely eyebrow-raising.

Of course, what else is new when it comes to the WTA "rankings?"

Serena and Venus Williams missed half the season, but still finished in the Top 5. Jelena Jankovic and Victoria Azarenka (though less so than the Serb) had disappointing seasons, but finished in the Top 10. Elena Dementieva talked about how old she was before she retired last week, but she still managed to end the year at a solid #9. Francesca Schiavone ended Samantha Stosur's grand slam dream in Paris in the spring, but the Aussie managed to edge her out in the final rankings. Meanwhile, Justine Henin -- remember her? -- came back and went away seemingly so long ago that it's almost hard to recall that she returned at all, but she still had the twelfth-best season in women's tennis in 2010 according to the WTA computer.

All the rankings are real, and well-earned. But as in any imperfect system, there are always going to be questions about how much or how little a simple collection of numbers can be truly trusted and/or believed.

Two months from now, maybe we'll be able to begin to find out... but a year from now, I suspect we'll likely just have a whole new set of questions to ponder.


DOHA, QATAR (SEC/$4.55m/hard outdoor)
S: Belgian Barbie d. Caroline Wozniacki 6-3/5-7/6-3
D: Dulko/Pennetta d. Peschke/Srebotnik 7-5/6-4

her Championships title was the third in her career, more than any other active player, and is fewer than only Navratilova (6) and Graf (5) on the all-time list. Once again proving to be able to overcome a Serena-esque break, the Belgian won after having not played a match since winning the U.S. Open. The victory ended what was an up-and-down season for her, which peaked in NYC and in tense early wins over countrywoman Justine Henin before this trip to Doha. I must admit, while BB was far from a consistently superior threat in '10, she was more impressive than I figured she'd be before the season began. The questions about her desire/motivation were legit, and she resembled that potential lack of inspiration more than once. But she rose to the occasion on the hard courts (on which all five of her titles came), and proved that she's the best in the world on the surface. In many ways, this might have been her best season. Armed with a 5-0 mark in finals, she finished #3 (her best year-end ranking since '05). While her countrywoman Henin's comeback was wobbly, and was cut short for the year at Wimbledon, Barbie has proven that the 2.0 version of HERSELF is a far more accomplished and reliable one than the original. I guess that decision to return to the tour was a prety good one.
RISERS: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN & Vera Zvonareva/RUS
both players went to Doha with a chance to exit it as the #1-ranked player in the world. C-Woz wrapped up the year-end #1 spot during the round robin, then defeated the Russian in the semifinals (though she'd surely have given up that win for a SF victory over Zvonareva in NYC in September). Wozniacki lost twice in Doha, to Sam Stosur and Barbie, but still ended her '10 season on a 32-4 run since Wimbledon. For her part, Zvonareva was undefeated in round robin play (including getting a win over Jada's Mom) before going out in hardly-encouraging fashion with a bagel 2nd set against the Dane in the straight sets loss.
SURPRISE: Adriana Perez/VEN
there's been something of a South American resurgence on the ITF circuit in 2010, and the 17-year old Perez is just the lastest to pick up a title in the rush. The Venezuelan won the $10K Bogota challenger to claim her second title of the season, defeating Colombia's Karen Emilia Castiblanco Duarte 6-1/1-6/6-1 in the final.
COMEBACK: Katarina Srebotnik/SLO
while her singles results have rarely been up to her pre-injury level, Srebotnik has fashioned a very successful doubles career over the past two seasons. It culminated in her and partner Kveta Peschke playing in the WTA Championships final on Sunday against Dulko/Pennetta. They didn't win, but it was good enough to bump Srebnotnik's doubles ranking to #6.
VETERANS: Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta, ARG/ITA
without a slam to their credit in their previous nine titles as a duo, I doubted that Dulko & Pennetta would rise to the occasion and win the WTA Championships. I was wrong. They never lost a set, grabbing title #10 (and tour-leading seventh this season) and pushing Dulko into the #1 doubles ranking for the first time in her career (Pennetta has the same number of rankings points, but is ranked #2). Argentine Dulko is the twenty-fifth woman to hold the spot (the fifth different player this year!), but the first South American woman to sit atop the doubles world since countrywoman Paola Suarez, who held or shared the spot for eighty-seven weeks in the early 2000's.
FRESH FACE: Lauren Davis/USA
the 5-foot-2, 17-year old American from Cleveland grabbed her second challenger title of the season, winning a $25K in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. After defeating the likes of Sloane Stephens and Ajla Tomljanovic earlier in the week, she defeated Madison Keys in the final by a 7-6/6-4 score.
DOWN: Jelena Jankovic/SRB & Liezel Huber/USA
even though she managed to stay in the Top 10 all season, Jankovic has been a shadow of her former self. Not only in terms of her play and results, but also her formerly Jankovician on-court attitude and sense of fun. Lingering injuries really seemed to sap her desire over the course of a long season, and her barely-there apperance in Doha was but the final evidence of it. She went 0-3 in the WTA Championships, never winning more than five games in a match. Of all the season-ending Top 10ers, as of today, she would seem to be the least likely (well, maybe a good case could be made for Francesca Schiavone one season after her "career year") to currently look like a player who'll be able to stay there in 2011. But she's suprised us before. It'd be nice to get at least one more (good) shock from her before she goes the way of Dementieva. In the doubles rankings, the idle Huber wasn't able to defend herself agaisnt a hostile takeover since she wasn't a member of a season-ending championships qualifying team even though the event began with her holding onto the #1 ranking. While the American prepared for the Fed Cup final, Dulko swooped in and took over the top spot. Huber now stands at #3, while ex-partner Cara Black is down at #13.
ITF PLAYER: Sofia Arvidsson/SWE
the Swede won the $100K Poitiers challenger, notching wins over Lucie Hradecka, Stephanie Cohen Aloro, Anne Kremer and Petra Kvitova before taking out Pauline Parmentier 6-2/7-6 in the final.
JUNIOR STARS: Zheng Saisai/CHN & Ashleigh Barty/AUS
a week ago, Chinese 16-year old Zheng won the Grade A Mayor's Cup junior event in Osaka. This weekend, she claimed her second career ITF singles title in a $10K event in Taipei. She defeated top-seeded Zhang Ling of Hong Kong 6-3/6-3 in the final. Meanwhile, Aussie Barty, 14, was the champion of a Grade 2 junior event in Nonthaburi, Thailand. She defeated top-seeded Zhu Lin of China in the final.

1. WTA Chsp Final - Belgian Barbie d. Wozniacki
After C-Woz failed to capitlize on early break chances, the Belgian grabbed the lead and started to run away with the match. Down 6-3/4-1, the Dane fashioned a comeback as Barbie's game fell off a bit. At 3-2 in the 3rd, Wozniacki's serve was broken in Game #6. She had three chances to earn the break back at 5-3, failing on three forehands in a game in which Barbie double-faulted on her first match point. In the end, Jada's Mom had her first Tour Championships title since 2003, and that little fender-bender before her earlier meeting with Stosur was assured of getting far more footnotes in news stories than it likely deserved. While Wozniacki ends her season on an off-note, she surely seemed a more dangerous foe here than than the one who lost to Barbie in their only previous meeting in the '09 U.S. Open final. Still, after going out of multiple slams (and very nearly here) with little more than a whimper, the world #1 still has much work to do this offseason to prepare herself for 2011.
2. WTA Chsp SF - Clijsters d. Stosur
A bit of an S.O.S. -- Same Old Sam -- situation here, as the Aussie led 3-0 in the 1st, held a set point at 5-4 and was up a mini-break in the tie-break, but still ended up losing in straight sets.
3. WTA Chsp Maroon Group rr - Wozniacki d. Schiavone
This one assured Wozniacki that she'd be the year-end #1.
4. WTA Chsp Maroon Group rr - Dementieva d. Stosur
At least Elena won the rematch of that latest-ending ever U.S. Open women's match from September. It turned out to be her final victory.
5. WTA Chsp Maroon Group rr - Schiavone d. Dementieva
Punch-Sober's final match. Farewell. She will be missed.
HM- WTA Chsp SF - Wozniacki d. Zvonareva
C-Woz held in an eight-deuce game to begin the match, and Vera maybe never forgot her lost opportunity. This #1 vs. #2 match was the first on tour since 2008, and just the third in the last six seasons.

43...Venus Williams, USA
43...Justine Henin, BEL
37...Serena Williams, USA
22...Maria Sharapova

**2010 WTA FINALS**
6...Vera Zvonareva, RUS (1-5)
5...Maria Sharapova, RUS (2-2)

**2010 CONSECUTIVE...**
3...Venus Williams, February-April (Dubai-W + Acapulco-W + Miami-L)
3...CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, OCTOBER (Tokyo-W + Beijing-W + WTA Chsp-L)
2...eight players tied
2...Venus Williams, February (Dubai/Acapulco)
2...Agnes Szavay, July (Budapest/Prague)
2...Caroline Wozniacki, August (Montreal/New Haven)
2...Caroline Wozniacki, October (Tokyo/Beijing)

Auckland - Yanina Wickmayer (def. Pennetta in Final)
Sydney - Elena Dementieva (def. S.Williams in Final)
Hobart - Alona Bondarenko (def. Medina-Garrigues in SF)
Kuala Lumpur - Alisa Kleybanova (def. Dementieva in Final)
Palermo - Kaia Kanepi (def. Pennetta in Final)
Stanford - Victoria Azarenka (def. Stosur in SF)

[singles finals, 2000-10]
2000 Martina Hingis d. Monica Seles
2001 Serena Williams d. Lindsay Davenport
2002 Belgian Barbie d. Serena Williams
2003 Belgian Barbie d. Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Maria Sharapova d. Serena Williams
2005 Amelie Mauresmo d. Mary Pierce
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne d. Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Justine Henin d. Maria Sharapova
2008 Venus Williams d. Vera Zvonareva
2009 Serena Williams d. Venus Williams
2010 Belgian Barbie d. Caroline Wozniacki
[singles final appearances]
11...Martina Navratilova (6-5)
6...Steffi Graf (5-1)
5...Chris Evert (3-2)
4...Monica Seles (3-1)
4...Gabriela Sabatini (2-2)
4...Serena Williams (2-2)
3...Tracy Austin (2-1)
3...Martina Hingis (1-2)
3...Amelie Mauresmo (1-2)
3...Lindsay Davenport (0-3)
2...Justine Henin (2-0)
2...Maria Sharapova (1-1)
2...Venus Williams (1-1)
2...Mary Pierce (0-2)
1...Jana Novotna (1-0)
1...Francoise Durr (0-1)
1...Anke Huber (0-1)
1...Andrea Jaeger (0-1)
1...Billie Jean King (0-1)
1...Hana Mandlikova (0-1)
1...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (0-1)
1...Pam Shriver (0-1)
1...Helena Sukova (0-1)
1...Vera Zvonareva (0-1)
[doubles champions, 2000-10]
2000 Martina Hingis/Anna Kournikova
2001 Lisa Raymond/Rennae Stubbs
2002 Elena Dementieva/Janette Husarova
2003 Virginia Ruano Pascual/Paola Suarez
2004 Nadia Petrova/Meghann Shaughnessy
2005 Lisa Raymond/Samantha Stosur
2006 Lisa Raymond/Samantha Stosur
2007 Cara Black/Liezel Huber
2008 Cara Black/Liezel Huber
2009 Nuria Llagostera-Vives/Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez
2010 Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta

**#1 vs. #2 MEETINGS - SINCE 2002**
2002 Wimbledon Final - #2 Serena Williams d. #1 Venus Williams
2002 US Open Final - #1 Serena Williams d. #2 Venus Williams
2003 Australian Open Final - #1 Serena Williams d. #2 Venus Williams
2003 Filderstadt Final - #1 Belgian Barbie d. #2 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2004 Australian Open Final - #1 Justine Henin-Hardenne d. #2 Belgian Barbie
2004 Filderstadt Final - #2 Lindsay Davenport d. #1 Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Athens Olympic Final - #1 Justine Henin-Hardenne d. #2 Amelie Mauresmo
2006 Antwerp Final - #2 Amelie Mauresmo d. #2 Belgian Barbie
2008 Sydney Final - #1 Justine Henin d. #2 Svetlana Kuznetsova
2010 WTA Chsp SF - #1 Caroline Wozniacki d. #2 Vera Zvonareva

January - Sydney Final - #5 Elena Dementieva d. Serena Williams
May - Rome SF - #7 Jelena Jankovic d. Serena Williams
May - Madrid 3rd Rd - #18 Nadia Petrova d. Serena Williams
June - Roland Garros QF - #7 Samantha Stosur d. Serena Williams
October - WTA Chsp rr - #7 Samantha Stosur d. Caroline Wozniacki
October - WTA Chsp Final - #4 Belgian Barbie d. Caroline Wozniacki
[most season wins over diff. #1-ranked players - since '08]
2008: Dinara Safina (3)
2009: Venus Williams (2)
2010: Samantha Stosur (2)

5...Caroline Wozniacki
2...Victoria Azarenka
2...Elena Dementieva
2...Alisa Kleybanova

3...Serena Williams/Venus Williams
3...Iveta Benesova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova
3...Timea Bacsinszky/Tathiana Garbin

**2010 WEEKS IN WTA TOP 10**
[of 44, CAPS in current Top 10]
33...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
22...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
22...Dinara Safina, RUS
16...Li Na, CHN
3...Flavia Pennetta, ITA

3...Mathilde Johansson, FRA (2-1)
2...Romina Oprandi, ITA (2-0)

FED CUP FINAL (San Diego/hard outdoor)
09 Final: ITA d. USA

Italy def. United States 4-1

TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS (Bali, Indonesia/hard indoor)
09 Final: Rezai d. Bartoli

#1 Li d. (WC) Date-Krumm
Ivanovic d. #3 Pavlyuchenkova
#4 Wickmayer d. (WC) Hantuchova
Kleybanova d. #2 Rezai
Ivanovic d. #1 Li
Kleybanova d. #4 Wickmayer
Kleybanova d. Ivanovic

Part 1 of the 2010 Backspin Awards arrives this week (with "Ms. Backspin" and the "WTA Yearbook" coming next week). All for now.

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