Daily Tennis Player Awards 2004: The Women
Player of the Year:
Honorable Mention: Justine Henin-Hardenne
We can't give an award when we can't give a nominee, and no player did well enough to be nominated under our fixed criteria.
Odds are that the media will vote the award to Maria Sharapova. But she's only #4 in the WTA rankings, and our numbers still say Sharapova is #7 in the world on per-tournament basis. Lindsay Davenport is ranked #1, but without a Slam title, or a Slam final, or a year-end Championship; she only has two Tier I titles, and one of them very weak (Pan Pacific). The same criticisms apply to #2 Amelie Mauresmo, though at least she won three Tier I titles, all at reasonably strong events. Anastasia Myskina won only three titles; ditto Svetlana Kuznetsova. Justine Henin-Hardenne had five titles, and was clearly the best in the world when she was able to play; if we have to pick a PoY, it's her. But, really, nobody this year was good enough to stand in the company of past Players of the Year.
Doubles Team of the Year:
Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez
They won three Slams, and ended the year #1/#2. They were more than a little weak on other grounds -- see the next award -- but you'd never listen to us if we told you that it should be Nadia Petrova and Meghann Shaughnessy, who was the choice of one of our voters (see next item).
Doubles Player of the Year:
This is awarded to a player who does the most to help out her partners -- for players like John McEnroe or Martina Navratilova or Martina Hingis, of whom we might say "[This Player] and anyone is the best doubles team in the world."
We already said that the world's top pair, Ruano Pascual and Suarez, had problems. That's really putting it rather mildly for a #1 team. They ended up with only six titles, one of which wasn't even a Tier II. Ruano Pascual actually had a losing record in finals (6-7). They're not a force on fast surfaces. And Petrova/Shaughnessy owned their head-to-head.
By contrast, Petrova won seven titles, and was 7-0 in finals. Her ranking is poor because she really clutched up in Slams. If she ever gets over that, watch out.
Most Improved Player:
Honorable Mentions: Alicia Molik, Maria Sharapova
We thought about giving Molik this award, but she won it last year, and it's rather unfair to hand it to the same player twice, even if Molik looks almost certain to hit the Top Ten in 2005. Sharapova also did amazingly well, rising from #32 to #4, and would be a worthy choice -- but Kuznetsova's results overall are comparable, and she actually climbed more (from #35 to #5), and she did it while still playing doubles.
Most Impressive Newcomer:
Honorable Mention: Tatiana Golovin
Our initial candidate list excluded Vaidisova, because she isn't Top 50. But she was the unanimous pick for Newcomer, so we bent the rules and gave it to her. Among Top 50 players, the pickings were pretty slim (Golovin, Gisela Dulko, and Jelena Jankovic, and Jankovic and Dulko have been around for a while; if we follow the must-be-Top-50 rule, then Golovin is the obvious winner).
Comeback Player of the Year:
At this time last year, Davenport seemed a sure bet to retire in 2004. Instead, she made it to year-end #1.
Throwback Player of the Year:
Honorable Mention: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
Testud came back from motherhood with an injury ranking, and husbanded it carefully to have one
more exemption available come the Olympics. She played the Olympics -- and promptly declared herself injured and didn't play another match all year.
Sanchez-Vicario also made an Olympic comeback, but unlike Testud, she stuck with doubles -- and did
play after the Open. As well as winning a title.
Best Hardcourt Player:
Honorable Mention: Justine Henin-Hardenne
Davenport didn't win a Slam, but she had four hardcourt titles, three of them at the Tier II or higher level, including the very tough event at San Diego. Nobody else was close. Henin-Hardenne technically exceeded that (five titles on hardcourts), but two of them were on Rebound Ace, which is really a separate thing.
Best Indoor Player:
Honorable Mentions: Alicia Molik, Maria Sharapova
This was the toughest of the surface awards; the members of the committee all hesitated over it. Sharapova won the biggest indoor event, the year-end Championships, but had no other indoor titles. The indoor Tier I events went three ways: Davenport won the Pan Pacific, Myskina won Moscow, Molik won Zurich. Molik also won Luxembourg, but Davenport won Filderstadt, the strongest indoor event other than the Championships. Amelie Mauresmo had two indoor Tier II wins, but they weren't as strong. Still, this is close to a tie.
Best Clay Player:
Honorable Mention: Anastasia Myskina
Another not-quite-unanimous award. Yes, Myskina won Roland Garros, but that was her only clay title. Mauresmo won both Berlin and Rome. Outside of French Slams, her clay dominance was obvious. Problem is, Roland Garros is both a Slam and a French event. Still, the name of the award is "best clay player," not "mentally strongest clay player."
We don't give an award for grass, because there are so few events. But it obviously would have gone to Sharapova if we had one.
Russian Player of the Year:
New award, but it looks like it will be around for a while. Myskina trailed Sharapova in Titles By a Russian, but she won Moscow, which gets her points at home, and she's the top-ranked Russian, and she was the first to win a Slam. And besides, she's genuinely Russian.
Player You Should Have Been Watching But Haven't
: Jelena Jankovic
Jankovic made the Top 30 based almost solely on hard work, and no one seems to have noticed yet.
The Nathalie Tauziat Award...
...for Most Delayed Career Take-off:
After a dozen year career spent mostly trying to get direct entry into Slams, Washington had the best summer of her career and made the Top 50 for the first time.
The Martina Navratilova Ironwoman of the Year Award...
... for greatest display of stamina:
Silvia Farina Elia, Rome
Her second round match on Wednesday didn't complete, so she had to polish off a 6-2 7-5 win over Meghann Shaughnessy on Thursday, then turn around and beat Maria Sharapova 7-6 6-0.
The Herbert Lawford Award
...for Most Overdue Title Win:
Less than a month before turning 31, after fifteen years as a pro, Pratt finally picked up her first singles title at Hyderabad.
The Chris O'Neil Award for Biggest Surprise of the Year:
The Roland Garros final between Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva
Amelie Mauresmo at the Slams
Three chokes and one back injury. (Well, maybe two back injuries. That doesn't change the three chokes.)
The Anyone-but-Patty-Schnyder Award
...for Best Act of Apparent Hypnotism:
Asagoe had three Top 20 wins last year, and two of them at Slams. She was 7-4 at Slams, 12-18 everywhere else (and 8-17 after the Australian Open). Think she'd like a real "fifth Slam"?
The Check-Her-Pulse Award
...for the healthy player who most inexplicably went completely bad:
She played 25 events, so she must have been healthy -- but won only eight matches all year and went from #29 at the start of 2004 to #131 at the end
Honorable Mention: Jelena Dokic. Actually, Dokic won the voting on this -- but we'll get her again further down.
Player We'd Most Like to Watch:
She still comes unglued much too often, but when she's on, she's the best hit-'em-where-they-ain't-or-at-least-don't-wanna-be player since Martina Hingis.
Player Whose Mechanics We'd Most Like to Steal:
Best One-Two-Three Punch:
And there are more where they came from.
Most Dramatic Exit:
Anastasia Myskina, Olympic semifinal and bronze medal match
The Scylla and Charibdis Award for a No-Win Situation:
The Fed Cup Organizers
They are fiddling with the format again.
As if any of the last seven hundred or so changes helped....
Most Likely to Earn a Surgeon General's Warning...
...for greatest annual impact on fans' blood pressure:
Amelia Mauresmo at Slams. We hear that the number of coronary incidents at French hospitals go up every time she takes the court at Roland Garros.
Personal Nemesis Award:
Venus Williams and the Top Ten
Venus played a Top Ten opponent seven times in 2004. She lost all seven.
Honorable Mention: Any Russian against any other Russian
The Pot Calling the Kettle Black Award:
After accepting an absurdly wrong override in her favor against Serena Williams at the U. S. Open, Capriati said you just had to accept errors. In her next match, she was more than a little sour about some line calls she didn't like.
The Shoe Is On the Other Foot Award for Stupidest Prediction:
Referring to Venus and Serena Williams and their past domination, "That story is so over." Maybe, but they're still on the good side of #100....
The "Who Says You Can't Take It With You" Award:
Schett, depending on her recovery from an injury, is either already retired or will retire after the Australian Open. Is it just coincidence that Vienna, the largest city of Schett's native Austria, has given up its women's event?
The Jennifer Capriati Award
...for Best Argument For Abolishing Press Conferences:
She several times sent the audience out looking for proof that she had deliberately lied.
Worst Hissy Fit:
Sesil Karatancheva. Indian Wells
opponents other than Maria Sharapova, dear. Or, as one of our voters put it, Karatancheva was "just a brat."
The Kim Clijsters/Lleyton Hewitt Award
for Couple Most Likely to Be the Result of Illegal Genetic Engineering:
With Kim and Lleyton history, how about sisters Kim and Elke Clijsters? Kim was a good player, and Elke never was -- but Kim went down with her injury just about at the moment Elke retired with a bad back.
The Jelena Dokic Award
... for the player most likely to be part of an International Incident:
Reports in Russia claim that Myskina, the two-time Doha champion, was stopped by Qatari authorities, who were engaged in a retaliation game with the Russians at the time.
The Way to Fish For a Cell Phone Endorsement Contract Award:
Remember the Wimbledon final? It worked, too.
Best Argument for Age Restrictions Continuing Until at least Age 40:
She reached the final at Auckland. She got hurt. She got married. Now she says she's retired. At age 19. With no education and a husband (Alex Bogomolov Jr.) who has shown far less potential than she herself.
The "Is It My Breath?" Award For Having Absurdly Many Doubles Partners:
She and Ai Sugiyama won the Canadian Open, made the Olympic semifinal -- and stopped playing together. Asagoe ended up with 14 doubles partners in 2004 (in 23 events counting the Olympics), leading the Top 30 -- and she had no more than four events with any partner despite winning titles with three different players.
Worst Fed Cup Decision:
We don't know what they did to turn off Amelie Mauresmo for the final rounds, but they did it, and it cost them Mary Pierce also. And, of course, they lost the final.
The Jim McIngvale "Now Why Didn't I Think Of That" Award
...for Biggest Tournament Fix:
The U. S. Olympic Team, for including two ineligible players on their singles roster -- and getting away with it
The "No One Ever Suggested There Not Be A Cover-Up" Award
...for Most Extreme Ex Post Facto Rule:
The WTA gave Venus and Serena Williams the biggest gift in its history in the form of its special rankings -- and claimed it had been using the same rule all along. Even Lindsay Davenport, the last player to get a ranking by fiat, questioned it. And, of course, Venus and Serena between them made exactly one Slam final with all that ranking protection.
The "Get That Man A Calculator" Award
...for worst job of counting on his fingers
Wimbledon, second round, Venus Williams vs. Karolina Sprem. In the second set tiebreak, the umpire gave Sprem point when she served a called fault. Sprem proceeded to hit a second serve, and lost the point -- but she won the tiebreak helped by a point that never existed.
The "Grass Is For Cows" Award
For most persistent refusal by a top player to play on a perfectly reasonable surface
Conchita Martinez didn't play even one
indoor event in 2004. Not on carpet, not on indoor hard, nowhere. She wasn't the only one -- but Justine Henin-Hardenne at least had the excuse of being sick.
Best Reason to Join a Nunnery:
(Or at least quit your day job):
Just how many emotional meltdowns can one player have?
Honorable mention: Vera Zvonareva -- but she at least managed to win a lot of matches despite striving for the WTA's over-acting award.
The Serena Williams Award...
...for completely confusing accuracy and precision:
Since this is an inaugural award, it naturally goes to Serena. Example: In referring to the pain of her (genuine) injury at the year-end championships, she said "On a zero to a ten, it was about a ten and a half."
The Marie-Gayan-a-e-i-o-u-and-sometimes-y Mikaelian Award....
...for most name changes in a single season
Anna Smashnova. She was Pistolesi at the end of last year, then Smashnova-Pistolesi, and ended the year as Smashnova. The reason is sad: She and her husband/coach broke up.
Most Likely to Break the Rules:
Clear reason to overrule, huh?
Silliest Civil War:
Anastasia Myskina (and the rest of the Russians)
For saying that Maria Sharapova wasn't welcome on Russia's Fed Cup team.
At least wait for her to volunteer before you kick her off....
Best Gesture from the Heart:
A number of players made donations of one sort or another to tsunami relief, but Sharapova's $10,000 gift was one of the biggest, and she was one of the first.
Your Mother Is Proud Of You, Dear:
(For Doing the Honorable Thing Even When It's Really, Really Stupid):
After playing the Olympics, she took a week off, played and won the U. S. Open -- and then played Bali and Beijing before finally giving up and saying she needed some rest.
And You Think Your Boss Is Tough?
The German Olympic Committee
With two women (Anca Barna and Marlene Weingartner) qualified for the Olympics, they refused to send either
The Kimberly Po-Messerli "No, I'm Swiss, I Really Am" Award...
...For Silliest Change in Personal Data:
(nee Tchakvetadze). As if an English speaker will pronounce it right in either spelling....
The Brooke Shields Award...
... for non-tennis related TV appearance inspiring the most wisecracks:
Anna Kournikova and John McEnroe on "The Apprentice."
Honorable Mention to the guy who tried to work a date with Anna out of the TV production.
The Mac the Mouth Award...
...for the best stir created by a semi-inadvertent comment:
Andy Roddick, when told of the grudge match between Karatancheva and Sharapova, commented, "Now there's a match I'd pay money to see."
The "Dan Quayle Spells It Potatoe" Award...
...for Point You Wish They'd Stop Replaying:
Serena Williams vs. Jennifer Capriati. U. S. Open. You know which point we mean.
The Most Gratuitous Use of the Phrase "The Next Kournikova" in a public place:
As in "I'm not...."
Fashion Awards (Take This, "WTA Best Dressed List"):
The Serena Williams Award...
...For Best Reason to Require Tennis Uniforms:
Even a vote split couldn't deny Serena this award, with the two choices being the "dominiatrix" boots outfit at the U. S. Open, and the Year-end
championships ensemble that evoked the "dancing hippos in Fantasia."
The Chad Cooper "You-Mean-That-Isn't-a-Bathing Suit?" Award:
Venus Williams, Philadelphia
Quoth Chad as he watched the match, "A tasteful one-piece."
The Where-Are-the-British-Tabloids-When-You-Need-Them Award...
... For the most absurdly short skirt:
Jelena Jankovic, Philadelphia
And, just to prove that we aren't always
Venus Williams, Wimbledon
Second year in a row. Now if only she'd worn it at Philadelphia.
Honorable Mention: Elena Dementieva
She always looked good without ever looking either naked or silly
Story of the Year: