Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
What a difference a year makes, huh?
This time last year these two russian startlets were on the up and up, Kournikova consolidating her talent with an excellent fall season to gain the No.8 ranking and Dementieva breaking through at the US Open and having a brilliant run at the chase to improve her ranking 55 places to No.12.
Dementieva was probably given the most scope for improvement and was expected to solidify her place as a top ten player. Kournikova was expected to be thereabout s by years end. Injury ruined both their seasons.
Anna started the year solidly by reaching the quarters of the australian open, but was then dogged by injury for the rest of the year and she tumbled to No.74, missing the remaining three majors.
Just as Elena was finding her game on the American Hardcourts at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne she two was injured, missed most of the claycourt season and was rusty at the french. Her form picked up towards the end of the season when she stretched Kim at the Us Open, then defeated Martina en route to the final in Moscow and qualified for the Chase again. But her season would have been MUCH better had she been injury free, she is better than both Dokic and Mauresmo - especially on hardcourt.
I think Kournikova will be hungrier than ever this year and will win her first title, but I donm't think she will be ranked above Elena by years end if both have an uninterrupted season. Elena is more fluent, is quicker, stronger and has more natural flair. While Anna will always be a Top 15-20 player in my view, Elena has the potential to do more maybe even be a grandslam champion at some point and can definitely consistently reside in the lower regions of the top ten, perhaps with occassional forays into the top 5. Elena can beat the top players, in only two years at the top level she has already beaten Martina, Lindsay and Venus and gone close agaisnt Jennifer this season.
It was only this time last year that Elena was being mentioned with the likes of Clijsters, Dokic and Henin and we all know what they did this season as they enjoyed smooth sailing injury wise. Some even ranked her as a greater talent than the aforementioned trio, and certainly she was considered more forward in her development than Kim her reached the loft heights of the top 5 late in the season. I think Elena, given the absence of an injury, could really suprise a few people next year and make a move on the top 10.
Now to Dementieva Vs Kournikova...
I think although Elena is a superior player technically, Anna would have a slight edge at the moment given elena's woeful record against her countrywomen. Elena serves bigger and is more consistent than the flashy Anna so she will always be in the match. But she seems to have a mental block against russians, wish I think she will break soon. Another good thing to see is how hungry Anna has appeared in exhibitions recently and that could be crucial to her progress this year. In the future however I think you will see Elena win 7 out of 10 matches with Anna, especially with an edge on hardcourt and clay where her consistency and speed will wear anna down (anna has the edge on grass, where her flat groundies make it difficult to grind).
Hopefully both will bring a fresh attitude to the court this year and exorcise the demons of the 2001 season.