Women Looking Forward
Women's Look Forward: Dubai
This is the week Lindsay Davenport gets to reassert herself. After spending three weeks worrying about Amelie Mauresmo -- and seeing Mauresmo come within one match of grabbing the #1 ranking -- Davenport will now have the chance to build up some cushion for herself.
She's going to have to work mighty hard to do it, though; this event -- assuming everyone plays -- features no fewer than six of the top nine players in the world. The only ones missing are Amelie Mauresmo, Maria Sharapova, and Elena Dementieva.
Though that caveat "assuming everyone plays" is significant, because both Williams Sisters are entered in the draw. Serena is the #2 seed (behind Davenport, of course); Venus is #5, behind #3 Anastasia Myskina and #4 Svetlana Kuznetsova. Alicia Molik is #6, Nathalie Dechy #7, and Patty Schnyder #8. That means that we have sundry Top 20 players unseeded: Elena Bovina (she's next in line in case of a withdrawal), Elena Likhovtseva, Paola Suarez, Francesca Schiavone. Top 30 players include Shinobu Asagoe, Ai Sugiyama, Silvia Farina Elia, Jelena Jankovic, and Daniela Hantuchova. Marion Bartoli, #35 in the world last week, is in qualifying, as are Vera Douchevina, Samantha Stosur, Na Li, Ana Ivanovic, Anne Kremer, Tatiana Panova, Jie Zheng, and Iroda Tulyaganova (who had to be wildcarded into qualifying, and lost 6-2 6-3 in the first round to Maria Vento-Kabchi). Conchita Martinez needed a wildcard. Other wildcards went to Sania Mirza and Selima Sfar. Except for that last, though, it's a powerful draw.
Noteworthy First Round Matches
In Davenport's quarter, there is just one: Conchita Martinez vs. Shinobu Asagoe. For Martinez, it's a chance to continue her recent hot results; for Asagoe, a chance to hit another career high.
We only know the participants in one first round match in the next quarter (Myskina's), but that's a fairly good one: Patty Schnyder vs. Magdalena Maleeva. Maleeva wants to get back firmly into the Top 30; Schnyder wants to keep up the results that have her Top Ten in the Race.
The next quarter, headed by Kuznetsova and Venus, is much tougher. Venus herself will have to deal with Silvia Farina Elia, though the Italian still seems bothered by her injury. Jelena Jankovic will face Paola Suarez, who is still looking for her first win of the year while Jankovic is looking for a career high. Jelena Kostanic will attempt to find out just how good Sania Mirza really is.
In the bottom quarter, a tired Alicia Molik will face an almost-as-tired Daniela Hantuchova, while Francesca Schiavone will contend with Elena Bovina as the latter plays her second event back.
We said it above, and it's true: The pressure is off Lindsay Davenport in the contest for #1. Amelie Mauresmo had to pass her last week or lose her chance. And she did lose her chance. Still, Mauresmo is strong enough at #2 that she can't be threatened this week. The big contest is for #3. Maria Sharapova just got it back, and she isn't defending anything. But Serena Williams, who lost the #3 spot, isn't defending anything either, and she's playing.
And that means that Serena can get back to #3 just by winning her opening (second round) match.
That's the only possible change in the Top Four. Below that, things get more complicated. The event that is coming off this week is Doha 2004, won by Anastasia Myskina. Svetlana Kuznetsova also has over 200 points to defend. Jennifer Capriati has 124 points coming off, and Justine Henin-Hardenne 113. Meghann Shaughnessy will lose 107 points.
Capriati won't lose the #10 ranking, but it's going to be a very close thing; if she can't get back in action soon, Vera Zvonareva will almost certainly overtake her, since Zvonareva will be only about 20 points back. Henin-Hardenne's inability to play will drop her to no better than #20.
The situation is most complicated at #5-#7, though. Elena Dementieva comes in at #6, but she's #5 in safe points, with Myskina #6 and Kuznetsova #7. Myskina needs a final to stay ahead of Dementieva; Kuznetsova's only hope of getting to #5, it appears, is to win and beat Davenport in the final. Even if Myskina loses first round, Kuznetsova needs a final to pass her. Still, the three could end up in any order.
Alicia Molik just took the #8 ranking from Venus Williams, but Venus could get it back with a good enough result. A semifinal would do it if Molik loses early.
The single most important match, rankings-wise, is obviously Serena's second round contest against Bovina or Schiavone. Win that, and Serena is #3. But it's not open and shut, not these days. Bovina, if she's genuinely healthy, has the power to compete with Serena, and Schiavone at least can sit out there and give players fits.
We'd also watch Alicia Molik. She has a tough opener against the resurgent Daniela Hantuchova, then will probably face Elena Likhovtseva. Then she gets her chance at Serena, with the winner facing Venus (assuming Venus makes it past Kuznetsova, which isn't a bet we'd want to make these days). If Venus and Molik meet, the winner could well be #8 -- though if Molik beats Serena, she might hold the #8 spot even if she loses to Venus.
On the other hand, Molik will be much more tired. And it might be fun to see a Venus versus Serena match these days.
The other big match is the top half semifinal between Davenport and Myskina. Davenport is still looking for her first title of the year -- indeed, she's looking for her first title since Filderstadt. And Myskina has won their last two meetings. Myskina is also looking for her first title of this year; her form has been poor. A semifinal win would really boost her confidence; given her recent form, a loss to Schnyder in the quarterfinal seems a real possibility.
US OPEN CHAMPION 2015
Thank you for all these moments over the last years! Supported you until your final point!