Women's Look Forward: San Diego
Women's Look Forward: San Diego
It's a hard world out there.
Hard, as in "We have a new hardcourt Tier I." San Diego, which for many years has competed with Filderstadt for the title of "toughest event other than the Slams (or maybe including the Slams) on the Tour," finally will get the points that go with that distinction; it becomes the tenth Tier I event on the circuit (though the number will fall to nine next year as Berlin downgrades).
Not only that, but because it's a Tier I and so very big, it is the only summer event that doesn't get shuffled around in this Olympic year. It and it alone stays in the same week it occupied last year; everything else, including even the Canadian Open, has been shoved forward a week (two, in the case of Los Angeles).
It's nice to note that, for the second straight year, San Diego has the chance to settle something pretty big. Last year, Kim Clijsters went for the #1 ranking here (though she didn't actually manage to earn it). This year, of course, she isn't playing. And that means she's going to lose the #2 ranking. We'll get to that below....
This will be the weakest edition of San Diego in some years -- due, naturally, to the absence of the two Belgians. Below that, though, everyone is here. And we do mean everyone. Put it this way: Venus Williams, now that her special ranking has expired, is the #11 seed (and in the same half of the draw as Serena). That's because she was ranked #13 last week. Other than the Belgians, the only Top 20 player missing is Jennifer Capriati. Karolina Sprem, #20 last week, is unseeded.
Let's cover this systematically: Serena Williams, who unlike her sister does still have a protected ranking, is the top seed. Amelie Mauresmo, who is trying to reach #2, is seeded #2. Anastasia Myskina, also with chances for #2, is seeded #3 and in Serena's half of the draw. Lindsay Davenport -- who of course has had a very long couple of weeks -- is #4 and in Mauresmo's half. Elena Dementieva is #5, and in Mauresmo's quarter. Maria Sharapova, playing her first WTA match since Wimbledon, is #6, and is in Myskina's quarter. #7 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova is in Serena's quarter. And Ai Sugiyama, who just lost her Top Ten ranking, is #8 and in Davenport's quarter.
Further down, Paola Suarez -- who has been out since Wimbledon due to a minor health issue, and who just lost the #1 doubles ranking -- takes the #9 seed and would face Sugiyama in the Round of Sixteen. Nadia Petrova is #10 and in Dementieva's eighth. Venus is #11; the first seed she would face is Sharapova. Vera Zvonareva is #12, and would face Kuznetsova first. Patty Schnyder is #13, in Mauresmo's eighth. Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi is #14 and likely to be bowled over by Myskina. Francesca Schiavone is #15 and seeded to face Serena, less than a week after facing Venus. Silvia Farine Elia is the #16 seed and would face Lindsay Davenport in the Round of Sixteen.
That's if all those seeds last that long. It's not a particularly great bet, given all the solid unseeded players -- apart from the fact that Venus Williams pulled out of Los Angeles with a bad wrist. In addition to Sprem, the following were ranking above #35 last week but didn't get seeded: Lisa Raymond, Eleni Daniilidou (though she's now below #35), Elena Bovina, Nathalie Dechy, Daniela Hantuchova, Chanda Rubin, Mary Pierce, Maria Vento-Kabchi, Meghann Shaughnessy, Fabiola Zuluaga, Emilie Loit, Amy Frazier, and Alicia Molik. That's 28 of the Top 35. And then we have Conchita Martinez, who isn't even Top 35 any more.
Try it this way: This is a 56-draw, and Tamarine Tanasugarn -- #50 last week -- is in the qualifying. And Virginia Ruano Pascual (#53 last week) needed a wildcard to get in (it's an interesting set of wildcards, following now particular principle that we can see. Ruano Pascual is the new #1 in doubles. Also given a wildcard was Barbara Schett, who is a former Top Ten player but who has no other obvious qualification, given her collapse in the rankings, other than being very blonde. NCAA champion Amber Liu also earned a wildcard, and the fourth went to Ashley Harkleroad).
All in all, even without the Belgians, it's an amazing field.
Noteworthy First Round Matches
With such a strong field, we naturally have a lot of great matches:
Raymond vs. Daniilidou. Raymond wants to get back into the Top 30 and earn a U. S. Open slide; Daniilidou is desperate to finally earn some wins. The surface isn't particularly kind to either -- Raymond likes faster courts, and Daniilidou isn't at all fond of modern surfaces other than Rebound Ace. Emotionally, this could mean a lot for both players.
Bovina vs. (15) Schiavone. They're quite close in rankings -- Schiavone a low seed, Bovina #4 in line to replace a seed. Schiavone has been playing a lot, though with only modest success; Bovina hasn't been seen much lately. Schiavone tends to like things slow, Bovina does well on faster courts that reward her power. Potentially a very close match indeed.
(12) Zvonareva vs. Dechy. Dechy is just barely Top 30, but she hardly played the second half of last year. She's been struggling this year, but seems to be getting back on track. And Zvonareva has perhaps less fondness for hardcourts than most of the other Russians.
Rubin vs. (14) Smashnova-Pistolesi. Chanda Rubin seems finally to be recovering from her injury, but she's always error-prone. Smashnova-Pistolesi never makes errors. Can Rubin keep things clean enough to win? If she can, it might spell a return to the Top 20.
V. Williams vs. Dulko. This isn't really all that great a match; even if Venus remains a little shaky, she is clearly the favorite on hardcourt -- assuming her wrist isn't too bad. But it's historic in a funny sort of way: It has been years since she had to play a first round match at any event except a Slam or the year-end Championships.
Asagoe vs. Shaughnessy. Asagoe's ranking has been falling, but Shaughnessy isn't doing all that well herself. And the winner has to face Ai Sugiyama -- especially interesting if Asagoe comes through, since she'll be playing the Olympic doubles with Sugiyama.
Loit vs. Martinez. Their shot production isn't really all that similar, but their games are, in that both rely on a lot of variety. Martinez is slipping; Loit had been rising until she hurt herself earlier this year. There really isn't a clear favorite.
Molik vs. Pratt. Two Australians, one still coming into her own, the other a long-haul veteran. Molik has been away since Wimbledon; Pratt has been keeping busy. For Molik, there is the outside chance of a Top 25 ranking.
The Rankings. We already gave the big story away: Kim Clijsters is going to lose the #2 spot. She was last year's finalist, and has 237 points to defend. She leads Amelie Mauresmo by 126 points, and Mauresmo has nothing to defend. So Clijsters is certain to fall to no better than #3.
But will Mauresmo be the new #2? That question remains open. Because Anastasia Myskina and Lindsay Davenport are both in the draw. Either could theoretically grab the #2 ranking.
It's arguably hardest for Davenport, even though her results at Los Angeles put her back at #4 in the world, because she has 162 points to defend at San Diego, to 39 for Myskina and none for Mauresmo. But if Mauresmo loses early, and one of the others wins, then the winner will be #2. Roughly speaking, if Mauresmo reaches the final, she's #2 no matter what else happens. Even a semifinal might be enough to clinch.
We should probably note that Justine Henin-Hardenne does remain #1 -- for now. Last year's champion will see still more points fall off.
Below #2, all is in flux. As the above calculations show, Clijsters, Davenport, Mauresmo, and Myskina could end up in almost any order, except that Clijsters can't be #2. And, since this article has to be completed before the Los Angeles final (since play at San Diego starts Sunday), we can't really calculate yet who has to do what, since we don't know Davenport's point total going into San Diego.
It does appear that those five will remain the Top Five; Elena Dementieva is too far back. Dementieva herself will stay #6; she's well ahead of Jennifer Capriati and Maria Sharapova. Sharapova could move above her current #8, though, and take Capriati's #7 spot. It appears she would need a final to do it.
The last two spots in the Top Ten are up for grabs. Svetlana Kuznetsova is #9, but she has 132 points to defend, so she's under some pressure. And the #10 spot has been bouncing around for weeks. So the last two Top Ten spots could got to Kuznetsova, or Venus or Serena Williams, or Ai Sugiyama, or (rather less likely) to Nadia Petrova (who has 148 points to defend, so she runs a real risk of falling rather than rising) or Vera Zvonareva, or even theoretically to Patty Schnyder.
There will be quite a contest for spots in the Top 20, too: Magdalena Maleeva can't make it, but Elena Bovina or Amy Frazier or possibly even Chanda Rubin (who, however, has an even 100 points to defend) could bump Karolina Sprem and/or Silvia Farina Elia.
Several lower-ranked players have coming off: Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi has 188 points on the line, which could cost her a spot or two. Lisa Raymond is defending 106 points, which will make it a lot harder for her to get back into the Top 30. Elena Likhovtseva has 141 points from last year; her chances of staying Top 40 don't look good. Petra Mandula is defending 115 points; her odds of staying Top 50 don't appear too hot, either. And Klara Koukalova has 125 points coming off; since she won't be playing anything bigger than a Challenger, she is certain to fall.
Second round: (11) V. Williams vs. Pierce. If Venus's wrist isn't up to the task of playing, Pierce's power will surely bring it out!
Second round: Zuluaga vs. (9) Suarez. Two clay players. Suarez is just back. How will she hold up?
Sprem vs. (4) Davenport. Davenport has played two weeks straight, and a total of nine matches coming in. Historically, that heavy a load has often spelled injury for her. Sprem, of course, has been hurting herself, and she hasn't done well on hardcourts in the past. How much has she improved, and how much strength does Davenport have left?
Third Round: (11) V. Williams vs. (6) Sharapova. The first real test for the Wimbledon champion in her first post-Wimbledon event.
Quarterfinal: (5) Dementieva vs. (2) Mauresmo. This is the first really, really big challenge to Mauresmo, and could possibly determine if she makes #2 in the world or not.
Quarterfinal: (8) Sugiyama or (9) Suarez vs. (4) Davenport. Davenport gets a different look in every match she plays: First the power of Sprem, then probably the one-handed slice of Silvia Farina Elia or Conchita Martinez, then the steady shotmaking of Sugiyama or Suarez. It's quite a lot to take on.
Semifinal: (1) S. Williams vs. (11) V. Williams. This one isn't all that likely to come off -- not with Venus in the same quarter as Anastasia Myskina, and Venus hurting. But it will be interesting if it does happen.