Monday, July 25, 2011

Wk.29- To Be Top 10, or Not to Be Top 10... what are the answers?

It's nearly August. Do you know where your eventual Top 10ers --as well as the past ones -- are?

With the WTA tour shifting to North America this week, and the U.S. Open Series kicking off in Stanford, it's obvious that the home stretch of the 2011 season is within view. And outside of winning slams, the biggest "accomplishment" for most top players has to be managing to put together a season-ending Top 10 ranking. Even if it isn't synonymous with "greatness" or (hardly, of course) "dominance," the honor surely signifies a season of consistency, and the number of Top 10 seasons a player can collect before the end of a career is always a way to place a player's non-slam winning accomplishments into some sort of context when it comes to the rest of the WTA field. So, I thought it'd be interesting to take a look back at what the Top 10 looked like one year ago, and give a quick look ahead to what it might look like come November when the tour season's books are finally closed.

First, the Top 10 on July 26, 2010... and where those players are now in the rankings:

1. Serena Williams (169): proof that rankings don't NECESSARILY mean a gosh darn thing
2. Jelena Jankovic (15): oh, Jelena. I didn't realize the fall had become THIS steep in just twelve months.
3. Caroline Wozniacki (1): today's Wozniology-101 lecture will have to wait until a new lesson plan is put together
4. Venus Williams (35): Venus hasn't really played too much more than Serena in the past year, but her ranking doesn't reflect it
5. Samantha Stosur (10): one has to think her Top 10 status is about to be rescinded
6. Elena Dementieva (retired): the newlywed isn't likely thinking about what she left on her WTA plate
7. Kim Clijsters (2): she's become Serena, specializing in ranking-propping-up slam titles
8. Francesca Schiavone (8): who'd have thought she'd still be Top 10 WITHOUT a RG title in her column?
9. Vera Zvonareva (3): The Dane's lack of a slam title has really taken a lot of pressure off Zvonareva's highly-ranked-with-little-flashy-hardware status
10. Agnieszka Radwanska (14): she always felt like a "accidental" Top 10er

A few numbers: there are four new Top 5 players compared to a year ago, and five different women are now in the Top 10. To go a little further, what about the Top 20 from a year ago?

11. Li Na (6): nice work, Na
12. Victoria Azarenka (4): ditto, Vika... but one figures you want more
13. Maria Sharapova (5): (see Azarenka)
14. Justine Henin (retired): alas, I knew her, Horatio
15. Flavia Pennetta (23): without her usual FC heroics, she's been a little out of sight, out of mind lately
16. Yanina Wickmayer (18): holding steady, but ALMOST seeming to tread water in the rankings, too
17. Shahar Peer (24): she was oh so close, but oh so far, from the Top 10 earlier this year
18. Aravane Rezai (110): whew! Triple-digits!
19. Svetlana Kuznetsova (12): it says something that her disappointing '11 actually looks good compared to her '10 campaign
20. Nadia Petrova (32): she's become more of a consistent doubles force over the past year than a singles threat, but there might be a few good singles results left in them thar bones, as well. Maybe this week in D.C.?

In all, eight different woman call themselves "Top 20 caliber" who couldn't rightfully say the same twelve months ago. Ah, but what about how things will look a few months from now? Truthfully, picking out most of the eventual Top 10ers isn't that difficult, as the ranking point standings have pretty much separated at least eight -- and maybe nine -- women from the pack by a large enough margin that, barring a major injury, it'd be hard to imagine them slipping to #11 or lower. Here's a quick thumbnail sketch of the field, and their Top 10 prospects:

[confidence level: near certain]
This group of seven -- the current Top 7 -- seem like pretty safe bets, as the gulf betwen #7 Petra Kvitova and #11 is around 2000 ranking points:

#1 Caroline Wozniacki, #2 Kim Clijsters, #3 Vera Zvonareva, #4 Victoria Azarenka, #5 Maria Sharapova, #6 Li Na, #7 Petra Kvitova

The current numbers 8 and 9 on the computer are separated by 600 points, and #10 is about 800 behind that. Those players aren't "locks" to finish in the Top 10, but it would probably take a pair of total collapses in the final months for BOTH of them to fall out. Meanwhile, the world #11 seems poised to move into the "elite" group, even if a Williams Sister puts on a late-season rush that somehow threatens to push them close to the Top 10, or someone such as Sabine Lisicki follows up her Wimbledon SF result with a similar (or better) one in NYC.

[confidence level: fairly high]
#9 Marion Bartoli
[confidence level: moderate]
#8 Francesca Schiavone, #11 Andrea Petkovic

Assuming ALL three of those women don't finish in the Top 10, that would leave at least one more spot up for grabs in the season's final months. Naturally, all the players anywhere near #10 are in the running, but one also has to consider a few players who stand somewhere outside the Top 20, but who've proven capable of putting up a huge result that could skyrocket them into the Top 10:

[the contenders, and their current ranks]
Dominika Cibulkova (19): of course, she'd have to actually WIN a title
Julia Goerges (20): seems too inconsistent, though
Jelena Jankovic (15): one more spin?
Svetlana Kuznetsova (12): depends on the Open result for the former champion
Sabine Lisicki (26): if she can star on the hard courts...
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (13): though you'd be hard-pressed to see the possibilities based on Baku
Samantha Stosur (10): color me unconvinced
Yanina Wickmayer (18): a former Open semifinalist
Serena Williams (169): with anyone else, it'd be a ridiculous possibility to climb so far so fast. But this IS Serena, after all.
Venus Williams (35): has to defend her '10 U.S. semifinal result

Of course, maybe the showing of so many young players in London will inspire still more to make career leaps between now and early September, too.

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN (Int'l $220K/hard court outdoor)
S: Vera Zvonareva def. Ksenia Pervak 6-1/6-4
D: Koryttseva/Poutchek d. Niculescu/Voskoboeva


...while she's made many finals the last few years, Zvonareva has mostly been specializing in winning only small events (the exception being her Doha title earlier this year) in recent seasons. The trend continued with her win in Azerbaijan, where she claimed the 12th singles title of her career with a win the final over fellow Hordette Ksenia Pervak. Zvonareva is the first Russian woman to garner two 2011 singles titles.
RISER: Mathilde Johansson/FRA
...the 26-year old Pastry reached her first tour final earlier this season in Bogota, and this past weekend she grabbed a $100K challenger title in Petange, Luxembourg with a straight sets win over Petra Cetkovska (0-3 in $100K finals in '11). MoJo also notched wins over Iveta Benesova and Akgul Amanmuradova in the event.
SURPRISES: Mariya Koryttseva/UKR & Galina Voskoboeva/KAZ
...the 26-year old Baku semifinaliasts, at #165 & #162, respectively, are two of the three lowest-ranked players to reach a Final 4 at a tour event in 2011. The result was Koryttseva's best since reaching the same stage in Bad Gastein in '08, while the semi was a caeer-best WTA result for Voskoboeva, who recently just missed out on qualifying for Wimbledon when she dropped a 12-10 3rd set to Alexa Glatch in the final round. The Ukrainian defeated Elena Baltacha, Anastasiya Yakimova and Kateryna Bondarenko in singles, then won the doubles title with Tatiana Pouchek (her second title of '11). Meanwhile, the formerly-Russian Kazakh got wins over Monica Niculescu and world #13 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, then lost in the doubles final, with Niculescu, to Koryttseva/Poutchek.
COMEBACK: Aravane Rezai/FRA
...finally, after going twenty-three WTA/Fed Cup outings without managing to win two matches (and dropping out the Top 100 in the singles rankings in the process), the Opionated Pastry finally broke the string in Baku when she pulled through her 2nd Round match against Elena Vesnina. Of course, her "feat" didn't come without an asterisk (see below).
VETERAN: Tatiana Poutchek/BLR
...the 32-year old (now) doubles specialist from Belarus grabbed her eighth career tour doubles crown in Baku with Koryttseva. It's her first since winning in Tashkent last year, and the first tour title she's collected outside her small circle of Tashkent/Guangzhou success over the years. All seven of her previous wins came in those two events, five in Tashkent (2002-03,06,09-10) and two in Guangzhou (08-09), including her previous title combo with Koryttseva at the latter tournament three years ago.
FRESH FACE: Ksenia Pervak/RUS

...the 20-year old Hordette has been climbing the WTA ladder in recent weeks, and her ascent continued in Baku when she reached her first career tour final with wins over Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, Vesna Dolonts, Aravane Rezai and Galina Voskoboeva. Pervak, the '09 Australia Open Girls champ, has already raised her ranking from a '10 season-ending #97 to her current #51.
DOWN: Melanie Oudin/USA
...was it really just two seasons ago that a 17-year old Little MO upset Sharapova, Dementieva and Petrova en route to the U.S. Open quaterfinals? Not totally unexpectedly, things have been tough for Oudin. Another example came last week when, as the #1 seed in a $50K challenger in Lexington, Kentucky, she was ousted by Chanel Simmonds in three sets. Additionally, she and Alison Riske were dumped out in the 1st Round of doubles by college players Hilary Barte & Allie Will.
ITF PLAYER: Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU
...when she reached her first WTA singles final in Marbella back in Week 14, Swarmette Begu was ranked #138. By the time she'd reached her second in Budapest two weeks ago she was up to #77. After this weekend, in which the 20-year old Romanian won her second $100K challenger title of the season (in her third $100K final of '11), she's up to #46. Talk about being in the running for "Most Improved" player of the year. Last week in Bucharest, Begu got a win over Carla Suarez-Navarro, then defeated Laura Pous-Tio in the final (she defeated the Spaniard in the $100K Cali final in February, as well), getting the singles to go along with her doubles title at the event. Overall, in her last five WTA/ITF events, Begu has reached three finals (winning in both ITF level attempts).
JUNIOR STAR: Yulia Putintseva/RUS
...the 16-year old, at #419 on the WTA computer and #13 in the junior ranks, won her second ITF event in recent months with a straight sets win over veteran Marta Domachowska in the final of a $25K challenger in Samsun, Turkey. Domachowska was the #2 seed in the event, just one of four seeds (along with #4, #5 and #7) that the Hordette ejected from the draw along the way.

1. WTT Final - Washington Kastles def. St.Louis Aces
While Venus and Serena Williams supplied much of the punch for Washington's undefeated (14-0) regular season, the first by any team in the WTT since 1994, they left it to the likes of Rennae Stubbs, Arina Rodionova and Co. to close out St.Louis in the rain-soaked final on Daniel Island (South Carolina) to give the Kastles a second league title in the last three years. The club's 16-0 mark is the first spotless ledger in the WTT's 36-year history.
2. Baku Final - Zvonareva d. Pervak
This was the twenty-sixth all-Hordette final in WTA history, but the first on tour since Kudryavtseva/Vesnina in Tashkent last season. In all, seventeen different Russians have participated in those finals, and while it's no suprise that Pervak had never been involved in one before this weekend, it IS a bit of a stunner that, before Sunday, Zvonareva hadn't managed to do so, either.
3. Baku 1st Rd - Pavlyuchenkova d. Solovieva
Speaking of all-Russian match-ups, this one occurred early on. And you have to wonder how upset Solovieva must feel with herself for not being able to defeat her countrywoman despite the twenty-five double-faults Pavlyuchenkova contributed to the effort. AP DF'd 27 times in her QF loss to Voskoboeva. I guess those extra two made the difference?
4. Baku 2nd Rd - Rezai d. Vesnina
...6-3/1-0 ret.
And here's the "asterisk" I mentioned earlier. True, Rezai DID finally get a second win in an event for the first time in twenty-four tries, but she "technically" only won through a retirement. So, in some small way, her unStreak continues.
5. $50K Lexington Final - Chichi Scholl/USA d. Amanda Fink/USA
The 19-year old American, ranked #235, won her second ITF title of the season, notching additional wins over Lauren Davis, Ashley Weinhold and Melinda Czink along the way. She also claimed the doubles crown with Tamaryn Hendler.

[career - active; w/ '11 titles]
43...Venus Williams, USA
41...Kim Clijsters, BEL (1)
37...Serena Williams, USA
23...Maria Sharapova, RUS (1)
17...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (5)
13...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
12...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
12...Dinara Safina, RUS
11...Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP (2)
10...Ana Ivanvoic, SRB
9...Flavia Pennetta, ITA
9...Nadia Petrova, RUS
[last 3 seasons]
14...Caroline Wozniacki [3-6-5]
7...Victoria Azarenka [3-2-2]
7...Kim Clijsters [1-5-1]
5...Petra Kvitova [1-0-4]
5...Roberta Vinci [1-1-3]
5...VERA ZVONAREVA [2-1-2]
5...Serena Williams [3-2-0]
[2011 hard courts]
3...Caroline Wozniacki
2...Petra Kvitova
[career - all-time Russians]
23...Maria Sharapova, 2003-11
16...Elena Dementieva, 2003-10
13...Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2002-10
12...VERA ZVONAREVA, 2003-11
12...Dinara Safina, 2002-09
10...Anastasia Myskina, 1999-05

23...Caroline Wozniacki (14-9)
10...Victoria Azarenka (7-3)
10...Maria Sharapova (4-6)
9...Kim Clijsters (7-2)
9...Venus Williams (4-5)
[2011 - Russians]
3...Maria Sharapova (1-2)
1...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (1-0)
1...Svetlana Kuznetsova (0-1)
1...Elena Vesnina (0-1)

Bogota - Mathilde Johansson, FRA (#98/age 25) - lost to Dominguez-Lino
Memphis - Rebecca Marino, CAN (#80/age 20) - lost to Rybarikova
Marbella - Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU (#138/agd 20) - lost to Azarenka
Bad Gastein - Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, AUT (#109/age 24) - lost to Martinez-Sanchez
BAKU - KSENIA PERVAK, RUS (#55/age 20) - lost to Zvonareva

#187 Mona Barthel, GER - Copenhagen
#150 Michaella Krajicek, NED - Kuala Lumpur

**2011 WEEKS IN TOP 10**
[of 30 weeks; * - current Top 10]
30...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN *
30...Kim Clijsters, BEL *
30...Vera Zvonareva, RUS *
30...Victoria Azarenka BLR *
30...Francesca Schiavone, ITA *
30...Samantha Stosur, AUS *
26...Li Na, CHN *
22...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
17...Maria Sharapova, RUS *
13...Venus Williams, USA
12...Petra Kvitova, CZE *
10...Marion Bartoli, FRA *
9...Serena Williams, USA
7...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
4...Elena Dementieva, RUS (retired)

3...Pauline Parmentier, FRA (2-1)

=1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place=
2004 Davenport, Mauresmo, Likhovtseva
2005 Clijsters, Pierce, Mauresmo
2006 Ivanovic, Sharapova, Clijsters
2007 Sharapova, Jankovic, Henin
2008 Safina, Bartoli, Cibulkova
2009 Dementieva, Pennetta/Jankovic
2010 Wozniacki, Clijsters, Kuznetsova

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA USA (Premier $721K/hard outdoor)
10 Final: Azarenka d. Sharapova
11 Top Seeds: Azarenka/Sharapova
10 Doubles Champions: Davenport/Huber

#1 Azarenka d. #3 Bartoli
S.Williams d. Lisicki
S.Williams d. #1 Azarenka

...Serena could face Sharapova in the QF in the first big hard court match-up of the summer. If she disposes of the 'Nova-in-waiting, what does it mean for New York? On that note, we still haven't seen Kvitova since Wimbledon, or Clijsters since Paris... and, amazingly, Wozniacki isn't playing this week, either. Imagine that... three weeks off for the Dane.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (College Park, MD) USA (Int'l $220K/hard outdoor)
10 Final: new event
11 Top Seeds: Peer/Petrova
10 Doubles Champions: new event

#3 Paszek d. #1 Peer
#4 Dokic d. #2 Petrova
#4 Dokic d. #3 Paszek

...the draw sets up fairly nicely for JD. Sorry, Jelena... I guess I just added another layer of difficulty to the task.

All for now.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are now nearing the "important" tournaments - why did I put them in quotes? well one of the wonders in the tennis world are when you see the withdrawals list in Carlsbad:

Chakvetadze, Anna (RUS) Dizziness
Clijsters, Kim (BEL) Right ankle injury
Czink, Melinda (HUN) Illness
Dulgheru, Alexandra (ROU) Knee injury
Johansson, Mathilde (FRA) Right ankle injury
Kuznetsova, Svetlana (RUS) Groin strain
Kvitova, Petra (CZE) Right adductor injury
Lepchenko, Varvara (USA) Right hip injury
Oprandi, Romina (ITA) Left wrist injury
Rybarikova, Magdalena (SVK) Left knee injury
Sevastova, Anastasija (LAT) Left ankle injury
Wickmayer, Yanina (BEL) Back injury

The wonder is that next week they are all healthy and fit for fight. One wonders don't we ;-) In one way I understand the pressure they are under, the players, but I really think the WTA should harden the commitments a bit don't you?

Mon Aug 01, 05:14:00 AM EDT  

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