January Post Aussie Year Preview...Does his predictions pass?
2002 Women's Preview
Familiar Names at the Top
By The B Man
Outsports Tennis Correspondent
Jennifer Capriati, VenU.S. Williams, and Monica Seles lead our annual preview of the year ahead. Who else is favored in the Outsports tennis rankings? And what will happen at the seasonís remaining Slams?
Jennifer Capriati. When you look at Jenniferís 2001 record closely, you see a lot of finals but only three Wís. You know what?Öthat might be a good thing. The way we set it, Jennyís inability to win more tournaments last year is actually going to help her in 2002. Sure, she has a lot of points to defend at the French, but any other title she gathers this year is pure points gravy. With Davenport out for a few months and Jenniferís dominance over Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters extended, events like Scottsdale are ripe for the picking. And if Jenny is able to settle her score against Monica Seles, who didnít lose to Jennifer after January of last year, Capriatiís tenure at No. 1 might not see an end in 2002. No player geared up for ALL of the Slams like Jennifer Capriati, who reached the semiís at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year after winning the first two Majors of 2001. Donít get us wrong, Capriati will certainly be tested in 2002, most probably by Seles and by Venus Williams. A French Open repeat would be grand, but seems unlikely with Martina Hingis seeking a whole lot of revenge and Seles surging, but seeing the 2002 U.S. Open trophy go home with Jennifer would not surprise us one bit.
2. Venus Williams. Did some ask about a three-peat?! Can Venus. Williams make history by winning three consecutive Wimbledon titles? This summer will determine what kind of champion Venus. Williams is, and what mark on tennis history she will leave. Wimbledon aside, Venus. has been winning six titles a year for the past three years. Sheís already ahead of herself in 2002, winning at Gold Coast before the Australian Open. If she can correct missteps at Nice (lost early to Maleeva on carpet) and Berlin (lost on clay to Henin), Venus. can diversify her resume and feel less pressure to perform so perfectly over the summer and into the fall; by picking up a title here or there in the spring, she can relax a bit heading into the U.S. Open and winter indoor season. And while clay is certainly not her best surface, Venus. can reduce some of the expectations placed on her by making it to the fourth round or quarters of the French, a goal certainly within her reach. Can she win Wimbledon? Weíll be interested to see. Can she win the U.S. Open again, too, and three-peat there? We think it depends on what happens at Wimbledon. If she doesnít win the Big W, Venus. will be aiming to defend her U.S. Open title against anyone. Hell, weíd say sheíd jump into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson, if needed. The best possible scenario would be Jennifer Capriati vs. Venus. Williams in the final (not the semiís) for all the beans, No. 1 ranking included.
3. Monica Seles. Are we making too much of her win against Venus in Oz? Maybe. She did lose in the next round to Martina Hingis, after all. Something tells U.S., though, that Monica has only just begun. Her partnership with (hottie!) new coach Mike Sell has the potential to yield some of Monicaís best results in years. Sell prepares Monica for matches by hitting with her, mimicking the style of play of her next opponent. This prep must've contributed to her success against Venus. in the Oz quarters. Monica won four titles in 2001, but didnít play at Roland Garros or at Wimbledon. The shock of having her back in the draw, with an improved ranking and seeding no less, is likely to throw the womenís field off. Sheís more vulnerable on grass than on clay, but reached the quarters of the Slams on both surfaces last time she played them. The Australian must have given her confidence, Sell is definitely giving her confidence and helping her improve her game, Monica plays well on clay, and has an outstanding record against the defending French champion: itís pretty clear to us right now that Monica Seles should be the player to beat in Paris.
4. Martina Hingis. She has improved. Really. Martina Hingis played damn good tennis to reach the Australian Open final. And even in the final, Martina Hingis executed her game extremely well. Sheís young, sheís in great shape, and sheís been so frustratingly close recently that you have to believe Martina is not going to give up any time soon. To her advantage, Martina rarely goes on losing streaks against other players. Sheís usually been able to find a way to reverse fortunes, as evidenced by her come-from-behind victory against Monica Seles in the Australian semiís. Sooner or later, Martina is going to figure a way to beat Capriati, too. While Martinaís best chance at doing so melted away in the Australian heat this year, sheís likely to have chances at the French Open and Wimbledon. Martinaís about due for another good Wimbledon run, anyway, and is likely to at least duplicate her 2001 semifinal finishes at the French and U.S. Opens, or even do better, in 2002.
5. Lindsay Davenport. Off the tour again with yet another injury, Davenportís place at the top may be in jeopardy. There was scuttlebutt last summer about Davenport retiring from the tour. Months later, though, Davenport rebounded from her quarterfinal loss to Serena Williams at the U.S. Open by winning three consecutive events and reaching the final of the Sanex Championships. In that stretch, Davenport went 15-0. If injuries are in the back of Lindsayís head, however, look for her to play sparingly on hard courts this year. She should prefer, instead, grass and carpet, surfaces which suit her game well by allowing her to end points quickly. Davenport is as consistent in the Slams as any other top ranked woman, but may be off a step if sheís not feeling confident in her body or her game after her most recently injury. By the time the Sanex Championship rolls around, though, look for Lindsay to be picking up some serious. steam.
6. Serena Williams. We had all but written Serena off when she got serious about her tennis and went on a beautiful tear at Toronto, beating Seles in the semiís and Capriati in a fairly close three-set final. It seemed for a while that Serena was indignant about losing. It seemed Serena thought she was just supposed to win matches, and that the supposing to win was going to make the win happen. Something mustíve clicked for Serena after her disappointing losses to Capriati at the French and Wimbledon, because after Toronto Serena stormed all the way to the US Open final, beating Henin, Davenport, and Hingis on the way. Quick, powerful, and able to improvise, Serenaís game works very well on hard courts and faster surfaces, but she should also have a better record on clay and at the French Open. The deck is already stacked with contenders for the rest of the Slams: Jenny and Venus for the US Open, Martina and Jenny vying against Monica for the French, Venus leading Martina and Lindsay for top-billing at Wimbledon. Serenaís success at the US Open cannot be denied, though, so she cannot simply be counted out. We like her for a good run at the French, too.
7. Kim Clijsters. Finalist at the 2001 French Open and quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year, Kim Clijsters started 2002 by reaching the semiís of Sydney and the Australian Open. Kim showed remarkable consistency in 2001, winning at Stanford, Leipzig, and Luxembourg and finishing as the runner-up at Indian Wells and 's-Hertogenbosch. Look for Kim to improve at the Tier I events, and to make the quarters of the French and US Opens.
8. Justine Henin. No player had a more impressive transition from clay courts to grass courts last summer than Justine Henin. After a great run in Berlin, where she beat Venus Williams before falling, literally, in her semifinal match against Jennifer Capriati, Justine Henin cruised to the French Open semiís. Weeks later, she avenged her loss in the French semiís by beating Kim Clijsters on grass in the 's-Hertogenbosch final. And as if that werenít enough, Justine made an improbable run at Wimbledon, defeating Lisa Raymond, Anke Huber, Conchita Martinez, and Jennifer Capriati, before facing defending champion Venus Williams in the final. Justine went on to reach two other finals, one on hard courts and one on carpet, after Wimbledon.
9. Jelena Dokic. After winning her first career title in Rome, Jelena Dokic had a great 2001. The Rome win, itself, was impressive, as she swept past Conchita Martinez in the semiís and beat red-hot Amelie Mauresmo in the final. Jelena should have done better at the French, but showed indications of a strong fast-court game by advancing to the semiís at 's-Hertogenbosch and playing Lindsay Davenport closely in the Final 16 at Wimbledon. She was runner-up to Monica on hard courts in Brazil but won Tokyo over Clijsters and Sanchez-Vicario and Moscow, on carpet, over Dementieva. After Moscow, Dokic reached two more consecutive finals, Zurich and Linz, but she lost to Davenport at both events. With titles on clay, hard court, and carpet, and strong finishes on grass, Dokic has to be considered an emerging power on the womenís tour.
10. Sandrine Testud. The feisty Frenchwoman reached the final 16 at the French, Wimbledon, and the US Open last year. She won the Waikoloa event in Hawaii, beating Justine Henin in the final, and reached two other finals and three other semiís. Perhaps most impressive were her late-season wins over Capriati; she beat Jennifer at Filderstadt and again at the Sanex Championships. Testud is a fairly consistent player who is learning to hold her own against the upper tier of womenís tennis. She should earn at least one title in 2002, and may very well break through to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance since 1998. Look out for her at Roland Garros and the US Open.
On the Bubble
Players who just missed the Outsports Top Ten, but who could very well finish high in the WTA rankings at year end!
1. Meghann Shaughnessy. The scrappy young American has won just two titles, but has notched impressive career wins over Kim Clijsters, Monica Seles, and Venus Williams. Upset early at the 2002 Australian Open, she did reach final of the Oz tune-up in Sydney. 2001 highlights: won Quebec City; reached the finals of Scottsdale on hard court and Hamburg on clay; reached Gold Coast and Stanford semiís.
2. Daniela Hantuchova. Played an exceptional match against Venus Williams in the third round of the Australian this year. Won Australian mixed doubles, and reach the womenís doubles final. 2001 highlights: reached the Oklahoma semiís (defeated Coetzer before losing to in three to Capriati), Birmingham semiís on grass, Leipzig quarters (by defeating Dokic by a third set score of 6-0 in the rd. of 16), and Zurich quarters (defeating Shaughnessy and Schett before losing in three to Davenport).
3. Francesca Schiavone. The surprise of the 2002 Hopman Cup, where she defeated Monica Seles and Kim Clijsters. A quarterfinalist at the French Open last year, her other 2001 highlights include: semiís at Auckland, quarters at Rome on clay, quarters at Moscow on indoor carpet.