Women´s match of the day
Los Angeles - Round Robin
Kim Clijsters def. Chanda Rubin 6-4 6-4
We tend to try not to "repeat" players in Matches of the Day; part of the point of these items is to look at how a variety of players are doing. But that's a tough rule to follow at the Los Angeles Championships; with two of the day's three matches involving players who were also involved in Wednesday's action. And this is a big match. Because it gives Kim Clijsters a 2-0 record. And that spells semifinal.
Let's analyze the situation. Right now, Clijsters is atop the Red Group with a record of 2-0. Chanda Rubin and Amelie Mauresmo are 1-1; Elena Dementieva is just about out of it with a score of 0-2 and no sets won. Two matches are yet to be played: Clijsters vs. Mauresmo and Rubin vs. Dementieva. If Clijsters beats Mauresmo, that's that; she has a record of 3-0 and is in the semifinal. If Clijsters loses, then she and Mauresmo are each 2-1. In that case, if Rubin beats Dementieva (as looks likely), we have three players with a record of 2-1. (We can only hope that alternate Nadia Petrova doesn't get into the act; believe me, you don't want to get into those contingencies. We've read them twice and still get cross-eyed every time we think about it.) The tiebreak rules are:
* The final standings of each group shall be determined by the first of the following methods that apply:
a. Greatest number of wins
b. Greatest number of matches played
c. Head-to-head results from the Round Robin if only two (2) Players are tied, or if three (3) players are tied, then:
i) If three (3) Players have one win, a Player having played fewer than all three (3) matches is automatically eliminated and the Player advancing to the Single elimination competition is the winner of the match-up of the two (2) players tied with 1-2 records; or
ii) Highest percentage of sets won; or
iii) Highest percentage of games won.
Thus we have to get all the way down to c.ii to get a relevant tiebreak in this case: Sets won. Clijsters currently is 4-0; Mauresmo 3-2, Rubin 2-3. If we assume the worst-case scenario of Mauresmo beating Clijsters in straight sets, and Rubin beating Dementieva in straight sets, the records are Clijsters 4-2, Mauresmo 5-2, Rubin 4-3. Which means that Clijsters is in the semifinal (whew!), though we still don't know whether Mauresmo or Rubin will be the other survivor. And that means that Clijsters still has a chance to hold onto the year-end #1, though things got harder following Justine Henin-Hardenne's win over Anastasia Myskina.
It also puts Clijsters in an interesting situation. Under the WTA rules, there is no difference in round points between going 3-0 versus 2-1 in the Round Robin (assuming one qualifies for the semifinal, as Clijsters will do). She plays her third round robin match solely for quality points, plus to determine who will play Justine Henin-Hardenne in the other semifinal. This bears thinking about. Would Clijsters prefer to have Henin-Hardenne (or whoever is #1 in the Black Group) play Mauresmo or Rubin? Or, alternately, does she want to save a little energy by not going all-out in a dead match? Interesting choices, to say the least.
Though Clijsters probably needs to tighten things up a little if she is to win this tournament. The second set of this match was quite close, and settled by a single break. But the first was a typical "why can't she serve every game? contest; of Rubin's four games, two were holds (both tough) and two were breaks. We lost track of how many set points Clijsters had starting from 5-2; she had six set points on serve in one game alone, and probably half a dozen more along the way. Rubin was taking it hard to Clijsters, showing a much greater willingness to get to net, especially in the first set; if she had hit her volleys a little better, or played just a little cleaner, the results might have been surprisingly different. Clijsters still has to face Mauresmo and, possibly, Henin-Hardenne, both of whom, to our minds, play that aggressive game better than Rubin (who really can't approach off her backhand, since she can't blast as hard as her forehand and can't get the nasty low slices of a one-hander). If the one-handers were watching this match, they may have seen something they could use to their benefit. Which could be important, since Clijsters must win here to have any hope of staying #1.