Women's Look Forward: Week of September 9
Women's Look Forward: Bahia, Big Island, Shanghai
Only in tennis....
Only in tennis would the week following the last big event of the summer be followed by -- three different tournaments.
That's particularly bad news for Monica Seles, who last year won two of the three events played this week -- Shanghai was played later in the year last year, but has been moved forward this time around. On the other hand, it's very good news for a lot of lower-ranked players: with 92 spots open in the main draws of this week's events, and relatively few top players playing, there are a lot of cheap points floating around for the taking.
Take Shanghai. The top seed is Anna Smashnova, followed by Ai Sugiyama, Clarisa Fernandez, Anna Kournikova, Adriana Serra Zanetti, Patricia Wartusch, Angelique Widjaja, and Silvija Talaja. That's zero Top Fifteen players, two who have been hanging around #20 lately, a total of four who are Top 40, and nobody else in the Top 50. Talaja was #79 on the last ranking list, and has fallen since. (Put it this way: We know, off the top of our heads, something about every player in the Top 100, and quite a few below. But we can't tell you a thing about a quarter of the players in the Shanghai draw.)
Kournikova, no doubt, is trying once again to get on track. Historically, she is the best player in the field. Currently -- well, hard to say. Sugiyama has been hot lately. Smashnova has had the best year, but hardcourts have cooled her off. It's hard to predict much about this draw.
We would say that #4 seed Kournikova has the easiest draw of the top seeds, with no strong early opposition; it looks like her first test would be in the semifinal, when she faces Sugiyama or Serra Zanetti. Though those two would both be tough opponents for her, since they are steady players -- the last thing Kournikova needs.
#1 Smashnova could find herself in a bit of trouble in the second round, when she faces either Yoon Jeong Cho, who just has a big result at the U. S. Open, or Shinobu Asagoe, who was steadily rising until a bunch of problems afflicted her last year. #2 Sugiyama's biggest challenge may be all the Japanese opponents she faces -- first Saori Obata, then her current doubles partner Rika Fujiwara (they're the #1 doubles seeds, followed by Kournikova and Janet Lee. It seems nearly certain that one of those teams will win the doubles; there really isn't much else in the doubles field. The tournament is much stronger in doubles -- Kournikova is #8, Sugiyama #13, Fujiwara #16 -- than singles). The other seed with an interesting draw is #5 Serra Zanetti, who could face sister Antonella in the second round.
We would give Kournikova and Lee a little bit of a warning: Don't expect too much cooperation around here. Not for a team consisting of a player from Taiwan and one from Russia playing in China....
At least Bahia can boast three Top Fifteen players. Of course, two of them are the Tour's leading self-abusers: Jelena Dokic and Anastasia Myskina, neither of whom knows the meaning of the term "rest." (It was supposed to have Venus Williams as well, but we doubt anyone really expected her to play. And she isn't; she pulled out on Sunday, citing a need to rest after the U. S. Open. Our guess is that this is an event she was "hard assigned" by the WTA Tour.)
But that still leaves one big name: Defending champion Monica Seles, who obviously is playing at least some fall events.
Seles really is one of the few players where who isn't an "over-player," though. The #4 seed is Patty Schnyder, #5 is Iva Majoli (yes, this is another event where the players seem to expect to play on clay -- but they won't), #6 is Tatiana Panova, #7 Nathalie Dechy, and #8 Eleni Daniilidou. There are even some dangerous floaters in the draw: Amanda Coetzer, Meghann Shaughnessy, Janette Husarova (all in Dechy's section -- talk about a stacked draw), Iroda Tulyaganova, Paola Suarez.
Being a Tier II obviously helps. If the event doesn't feature many top players, it is well-endowed in the midrange.
Indeed, this is a "bonus" Tier II; it offers extra money, and so gets extra points even though it will be one of the weakest Tier II events of the year.
Looking at the seeds' sections, it is -- as already mentioned -- a very uneven draw. #1 seed Jelena Dokic (like all the top four seeds) gets a first round bye, then faces Tatiana Poutchek or a qualifier. #2 Monica Seles gets it much harder (except for Dechy's eighth, it's an incredibly bottom-heavy draw); after her bye, she faces either Paola Suarez (who just won the U. S. Open doubles) or Tina Pisnik, who has been having a pretty solid year herself.
#3 seed Anastasia Myskina will face a qualifier in the second round, but #4 Schnyder will face either Martina Sucha or Katarina Srebotnik, both of whom are having solid years. #4 Iva Majoli opens against a wildcard, but her second round opponent will be either Henrieta Nagyova or Asa Svensson, both of whom -- like Majoli -- prefer clay. If Nagyova is healthy, there is some upset potential there.
Back up in the top half, #6 Tatiana Panova opens against Maja Matevzic, whose ranking just nosedived, then a wildcard or slumping Cristina Torrens Valero. But #7 Dechy opens against Shaughnessy, then either Husarova or Coetzer. That's good news for Dokic, who faces the winner; she'll probably face a tired opponent.
#8 seed Eleni Daniilidou opens against a qualifier, then either Emilie Loit (who is climbing) or Iroda Tulyaganova (slumping, but she's been Top 20 this year). Daniilidou had a great summer, and may have tired herself out, but she's probably rested by now.
Big Island has come down in the world this year; defending champion Sandrine Testud of course is not coming back, but neither is finalist Justine Henin, nor Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, and a lot of the lower-level players are being split with Shanghai. The top seed is Anne Kremer, and #2 is Lisa Raymond, meaning that there isn't a single Top 20 player here -- though the draw doesn't fall off quite as steeply as Shanghai; the #3 seed is Barbara Schett, who has been having trouble this year but seems to be springing back a little. #4 is Elena Likhovtseva, #5 Meilen Tu, #6 Marissa Irvin, #7 is Conchita Martinez -- who here will finally have a chance to actually pick up points in a pretty easy draw -- and #8 Alina Jidkova.
Despite the weak draw, there are some interesting floaters: Corina Morariu is a wildcard, and since she opens against a qualifier, she might finally get that first singles win. Also in the draw is Bea Bielik, who will open against Els Callens and then gets a shot at Marissa Irvin. In addition, there is the young prospect Su-Wei Hsieh, who opens against Schett.
Overall, it's not a very experienced field; Martinez has about twice as many titles as everyone else in the draw combined, and Martinez isn't having much of a year. We frankly can't even guess how this thing will turn out. The most interesting aspect will be seeing how all these new players -- Bielik, Hsieh, also Ansley Cargill and Ashley Harkleroad -- perform, as well as how the injured veterans -- Martinez, Morariu -- spring back.
The Rankings. Seles and Dokic are so close to each other that Seles is literally breathing down Dokic's throat. And Seles has a big lead in points this year. But it doesn't look like Seles will be catching Dokic this week -- not with Seles having titleist points to defend and Dokic finalist points plus a lot in the bank. The only way Seles can pass Dokic, it appears at first glance, is to win the event and have Dokic lose by the semifinal. And even so, Seles will have irreplaceable points come off shortly after, when Shanghai comes off.
That's it for possible activity in the Top Five; Venus, Serena, and Capriati aren't playing this week, and are safe at #1, #2, and #3 respectively. The other players with big points this week are the retired Sandrine Testud, who won Big Island last year, and Justine Henin, the Big Island finalist. Testud is going to fall to #14 or lower, depending on how Myskina does; that should let Chanda Rubin move up to #12. And Henin looks like she'll be falling to #7, with Amelie Mauresmo moving up to #6.
from tennisnews.com/bob larson