The right final four: Kim vs. Jen, Justine vs. Amelie -
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old Nov 9th, 2003, 06:18 PM Thread Starter
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The right final four: Kim vs. Jen, Justine vs. Amelie

The right final four: Kim vs. Jen, Justine vs. Amelie
By Matthew Cronin

Fred Mullane/Camerawork USA
FROM THE WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS IN LA – After a tremendous amount of angst, tears, fever and bad hips, the Bank of America WTA Championships is scripting perfectly, with the world's four best healthy players ready to clash on Sunday. France's Amelie Mauresmo will play new No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne and defending champion Kim Clijsters will match up against Jennifer Capriati.

The Belgians are substantial favorites, but both Capriati, who played her burnt orange Fila outfit off in her 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Anastasia Myskina on Saturday, and Mauresmo, who lucked into the semis thanks to Chanda Rubin's tremendous choke against Elena Dementieva, will give tremendous efforts to earn a spot in the $1 million first prize playoff.

Capriati's victory over Myskina wasn't that pretty, but extremely gutsy. She said she was only 80 percent due her strained right hip flexor and could have given in before she walked on court, but she knows that much of the tennis universe expects much more of her than that. Not only is she the prime attractions for LA fans, but her near-win over Henin-Hardenne in New York teased the tennis legions that she might have a lot left.

That's why when she goes to play Clijsters – who is sure to yank her around a great deal – she will make a great effort not to embarrass herself. If she gets a toehold in the match, Capriati just might have a chance to pull off an upset. And yes, despite her lifetime 3-2 edge over the Belgian, it would be an upset, because Clijsters has beaten her twice this year, even though both matches were close.

"It would give meaning to my year for sure because I have been getting a lot of flack for not winning many titles," said Capriati, whose sole crown came in New Haven. "I don't expect anything but a tough match. Besides pride, there is a good incentive to win, it's a million dollars in prize money. Not many people have that that opportunity. You should try to take advantage of that."

Before we part with the Russians, it should be noted that Myskina has been and is that nation's player this year – not Maria Sharapova. She has nothing to be embarrassed about her performance here: two very close three-set losses to Henin-Hardenne and Capriati and a win over Sugiyama. The engaging Russian said that she is sad and still needs to learn to deal with her nerves better. But, there's a few more things she needs to improve: her second serve, court positioning and net game. Other than that, she truly does have Top 5 strokes and is a standout tactician when she's not emotionally overwhelmed.

Much the same can be said for Dementieva who, when she's feeling loose-goosey like she did in her no-pressure match against Rubin, can produce eye-popping displays from inside the baseline. She says that she owed Mauresmo a win last year after she snuck into Championships after the Frenchwoman withdrew, but it's Mauresmo – who was 1-2 but bagged more sets than either Rubin or Dementieva – who is now in debt. Dementieva's win was worth a cool $120,000 extra for Amelie.

"It's true the situation was pretty weird to watch it on TV and not know what's going to happen," Mauresmo said. "But Dementieva was able to reverse the situation. I'm going to buy her a nice present."

Hmm. What's worth $120,000 that Elena wants? A studio apartment on Red Square? A second serve that doesn't have Anna Kournikova's swing-motion attached to it. A coach who doesn't look like her mother?

Remarkably, Justine and Mauresmo have only played twice in their careers, with the Frenchwoman getting a straight-set win at the '99 US Open and the Belgian taking Mauresmo down in straight sets earlier this year in Berlin on clay.

It's obvious that Henin-Hardenne is the more improved player between, but if Mauresmo can get enough high balls up over Justine's shoulders, serve extremely well and attack the Belgians forehand when she's charging the net, she has a decent shot.

However, Henin has brought out her "A'" game in every super-important match since June save for her Wimbledon semifinal loss to Serena. If she's firing one-handed backhand missiles to the corners like she did against Capriati, Mauresmo won't be able to keep up with her.

Another Kim-Justine final appears very likely. Bring out the stools, the spittoons and smelling salts. Oh, and don't forget to tell Billie Jean King to bring Elton John over on Monday night to play a rousing rendition of "Funeral for an Ex-Belgian Friend."
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old Nov 9th, 2003, 06:21 PM
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Justine did bring her 'A' game against Serena at Wimbledon, but she still got demolished...
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old Nov 9th, 2003, 06:23 PM
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I think we CAN see a Amelie vs Kim re-match for the finals. Justine didnīt look good yesterday...ooops, that match didnīt count afterall.

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