Women´s look forward: Zurich
Women's Look Forward: Zurich
And here we thought, with Filderstadt and Moscow so strong, that a lot of people would skip Zurich.
They did, but they didn't tell the organizers. The last Tier I of the year had an initial field strong enough that Tatiana Golovin, #29 in the world, was stuck in qualifying. So were Jelena Kostanic, Iveta Benesova, Flavia Pennetta, and Emilie Loit, all of them Top 40 last week, as well as Maria Vento-Kabchi, who was Top 30 earlier this year, and such fairly big names as Tatiana Panova and Magui Serna. (It probably helps that there are no other WTA events this week; if a player wants to play, it's Zurich or a Challenger.)
Though the really amazing part is that Swiss players Emmanuelle Gagliardi and Marie Gayanay Mikaelian (that's this week's spelling, at least) were in qualifying. And Gagliardi lost first roundm though Mikaelian made it through (along with Golovin, Shinobu Asagoe, and Ana Ivanovic; Kostanic and Pennetta will play the main draw as Lucky Losers). One of the main draw wildcards went to the Swiss teenager Timea Bacsinszky, but Lisa Raymond and Vera Douchevina got the others.
The event was initially supposed to feature five of the Top Ten: Amelie Mauresmo as the #1 seed (even though she's now ranked #2), Lindsay Davenport #2, Elena Dementieva #3, Maria Sharapova (finally playing a big indoor event after all that time on Pacific hardcourts) #4, Serena Williams #5. But Davenport pulled out with some sort of bug that she picked up in Zurich, and Serena withdrew with a continuing knee injury. (The fact that sister Venus is also in the draw probably didn't hurt either.) That promoted Dementieva to, in effect, the #2 spot, and earned #6 seed Zvonareva a promotion to de facto #4, with a first round bye. Venus Williams is still #7, Nadia Petrova #8; Ai Sugiyama was promoted to the #9 seed and local favorite Patty Schnyder is up to #10; there are two spots for Lucky Losers.
We wouldn't be surprised if more openings show up, but there won't be any more seed promotions. Zurich plays on a single court, which means that they have to start action on Sunday. In the past, they've often played singles matches on Sunday. This time, with the draw not released until very late, they didn't try it; Sunday's matches included the qualifying final and some first round doubles. And it's a pretty impressive doubles field: The world's top pair, Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez, are the #1 seeds. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Likhovtseva skipped the event, but that opened the door for Cara Black and Rennae Stubbs to take #2. Nadia Petrova and Meghann Shaughnessy are back together as the #3 seeds, though Shaughnessy won't be playing singles (she was ranked too low for direct entry, and was still playing at Tashkent when qualifying started). It falls off a .little below that, mostly because some familiar pairs have split and some aren't playing doubles. Ai Sugiyama, for instance, is playing singles only, so Alicia Molik was available. But instead of going back to Magui Serna (who is playing with countrywoman Anabel Medina Garrigues), she signed up with Janette Husarova. Lisa Raymond is again playing with Mary Pierce (and they suffered a surprising first round loss to Hantuchova and Maleeva). Lindsay Davenport was supposed to play with Corina Morariu, but we assume she'll pull out. Liezel Huber is with Emilie Loit. The split between Tina Krizan and Katarina Srebotnik looks permanent; Krizan is playing with Maria Vento-Kabchi and Srebotnik is sticking with Shinobu Asagoe. Emmanuelle Gagliardi is hoping to play with Anna-Lena Groenefeld, with whom she has had good results this summer, but Groenefeld hurt her wrist at Tashkent, so that looks uncertain. All that leaves Barbara Schett and Patty Schnyder as the #4 doubles seeds (and clear crowd favorites).
The singles too has lots of strong unseeded players. Even after all those withdrawals and seed promotions, we have five unseeded players who are Top 20 last week: Paola Suarez, Alicia Molik, Karolina Sprem, Elena Bovina, and Francesca Schiavone. Other Top 25 players are Fabiola Zuluaga, Magdalena Maleeva, Silvia Farina Elia, Nathalie Dechy. And Top 30 players include Mary Pierce and Lisa Raymond. The only player with direct entry who is not Top 30 is Daniela "Ain't It Great To Be Gold Exempt" Hantuchova.
Noteworthy First Round Matches
Given this field, there are naturally a lot of these. The one that's gathered the most talk is the Wimbledon rematch, Venus Williams vs. Karolina Sprem. That doesn't really look all that good from here. Venus, of course, is in horrid shape -- though Zurich is an indoor hardcourt, which she'll like better than the carpet at Moscow. But Sprem doesn't like the surface either.
Our pick for Best First Round would be Magdalena Maleeva (great indoor player) against #1 seed Patty Schnyder (likes slower surfaces better, but she's Swiss). Both are past champions -- in fact, this is probably the best title either of them ever won.
Not quite in that league, but certainly intriguing, is the contest between #8 Nadia Petrova and Lisa Raymond. Petrova has all the weapons -- but Raymond of course has the more complete game.
Also intriguing is Molik vs. Farina Elia (power versus guile, and neither has had great indoor results), Bacsinszky vs. Dechy (promising kid playing only her second WTA match, and her first in her home country, against a skilled veteran with no big weapons), Bovina vs. Schiavone (two Top 20 players, one stronger but the other with more variety), and Douchevina vs. Hantuchova.
Just about every week this fall has been a bit funny, rankings-wise. This week, the curiosity is that two events (Linz and Luxembourg) come off, and only one goes on -- but the one the goes on is much bigger. Kim Clijsters is the defending Luxembourg champion; the loss of those points means that she will be falling out of the Top Ten, no matter what; the only question is how low she will fall (best guess would be #12). Ai Sugiyama won Linz, which is the bigger event, but she's playing and has some rankings cushion anyway; she may well stay Top 15.
Four other top players have over 100 points on the line: Nadia Petrova has a full 202, meaning that she has no chance of hitting the Top Ten and could fall a spot or two (though the player right behind her is Sugiyama, so she too has some cushion). Chanda Rubin is defending 125 points, and not playing; she's already out of the Top 30 and will fall to probably around #36. Patty Schnyder has 149 points to defend; an early loss for her could drop her out of the Top 15 (if you're wondering why so many midrange players have points to defend, it's a calendar effect: Linz was the last event in Europe last year, which meant that all the top players skipped it to play in Philadelphia or rest up for Los Angeles). And, finally, Vera Zvonareva has 131 points to worry about, which means that it is probably Venus Williams, not Zvonareva, who will replace Clijsters in the Top Ten.
Not all movement will be downward, of course. With Amelie Mauresmo supposed to play and Lindsay Davenport out, we could see the #1 ranking change hands again (briefly, until Mauresmo's title at Philadelphia comes off). Mauresmo needs not quite 150 points to pass Davenport. If she can make the semifinal, she gets it.
Anastasia Myskina is safe at #3. But Svetlana Kuznetsova is by no means safe at #4. Elena Dementieva is just more than 150 points back. A semifinal might let her pass Kuznetsova; a final would make it certain.
Below the Top Five, we won't see much action. Maria Sharapova can gain some ground, but not enough to overtake Justine Henin-Hardenne at #6. #8 and #9 Jennifer Capriati and Serena Williams aren't playing, so they will maintain their relative positions. Venus Williams or Vera Zvonareva, probably the former, will enter the Top Ten, replacing Clijsters, but Venus needs a title to overtake Capriati and Serena, and it appears Zvonareva can't do it at all.
Given what we said above, it's obvious what the most key match of the event is: The quarterfinal, Mauresmo vs. Schnyder or Maleeva or Pierce. If Mauresmo wins that, she's #1.
Though she will have to deal with Paola Suarez in the second round. And she's been hurt. So that's pretty high on the Key list, too.
The bottom half has its own interest as Elena Dementieva tries to reach #4. Her opener is likely to be a rematch of last week's Moscow semifinal, where she faced Elena Bovina. If Bovina wins that, she just might have a shot at the Top 15. After that, Dementieva would face Ai Sugiyama. If Sugiyama wins it, she ought to stay Top 15. And then Dementieva would face either Maria Sharapova or Venus Williams, with a win guaranteeing Dementieva the #4 ranking. (As well as another final, but she probably doesn't want to think about that right now....)