Aug 17th, 2005, 11:21 AM
Women's Look Forward: Canadian Open
This is the week all [insert random four letter word] won't break loose. Lindsay Davenport is not in the Canadian Open draw, so Maria Sharapova will become #1 next week.
Though that didn't absolutely settle whether she'll play. Several players pulled out before the Canadian Open draw was made (Venus Williams, who pulled out of Stockholm with flu, is claiming it again; Alicia Molik still isn't able to play; Elena Bovina and Silvia Farina Elia are not yet back, etc.) That left a questionable Maria Sharapova, who was still carrying that pectoral strain (interestingly, the WTA now says she suffered it on Monday, despite Sharapova's claim to have hurt herself last year) as the #1 seed. Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo is healthy as far as we know, though she hasn't played since Fed Cup; she's seeded #2. #3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova is healthy enough to be asking for a spot at New Haven (she didn't sign up for it), but her form is terrible. Justine Henin-Hardenne will be playing her first summer hardcourt event as the #4 seed. Serena Williams will try to return after all her injury problems; she's #5. Nadia Petrova is #6. Kim Clijsters, who seems to be trying to play herself back into injury, is #7, meaning that, if everyone plays, we have seven of the top ten. (A big "if," that.) Mary Pierce, who was hurt at Los Angeles last week, is #8. Anastasia Myskina flies in from Stockholm to take the #9 seed. (Bet she's hoping for a withdrawal so she gets promoted and has an extra day's rest.) Nathalie Dechy is #10, Jelena Jankovic #11. Ana Ivanovic, who hasn't played much lately because of age restrictions, is #12. Daniela Hantuchova is #13, Flavia Pennetta #14, Dinara Safina #15, Tatiana Golovin #16.
It's not just the seeds who are dubious. Ai Sugiyama will be trying to play despite her leg problems; she just missed seeding (and was promoted later to #17). Nicole Vaidisova, who won her first title in Vancouver, is another player whose schedule has been restricted by her age, but she'll be here looking for her first big win. Anna Chakvetadze is taking her one last chance to try to crank up her seeding before the U. S. Open. Anabel Medina Garrigues, Gisela Dulko, and Marion Bartoli are among the players trying to earn seeding. Evgenia Linetskaya and Shinobu Asagoe and Karolina Sprem are trying to shake slumps. And the presence of Sesil Karatancheva gives us a full slate of whiz kids.
Then came the Big News, as told by a staffer on-site.
"Steady drizzle wasn't the only reason it was a waiting day in Toronto -- tournament officials were also hanging on Maria Sharapova's status after she withdrew from Los Angeles earlier this week with a chest strain. By mid-afternoon, only five games had been completed in qualifying action, but the tournament's top seed was already out of the event. Word of Sharapova's withdrawal came in around 3:30, with officials saying that she had been advised not to pick up a racquet again till the middle of the week."
"As a result, the seedings were shuffled, leaving [third] seed Svetlana Kuznetsova at the top of the draw. The quarterfinal projections are now as follows: Kuznetsova vs. Anastasia Myskina, Serena Williams vs. Kim Clijsters, Mary Pierce vs. Justine Henin-Hardenne, and Nadia Petrova vs. Amelie Mauresmo.
"Tournament director Stacey Allaster was met with some skepticism as she announced the news, but she reiterated complete faith in the legitimacy of Sharapova's injury. Reports from L. A. indicated that Sharapova was visibly distraught at having to pull out of her quarterfinal against Daniela Hantuchova and struggled with the injury in her previous match against Anna Chakvetadze. Allaster also insisted that Venus Williams' withdrawal with flu was genuine as well. 'We've got everyone who's healthy,' she said.
"The words were an interesting contrast from the last time the women's event was held in Toronto in 2003, when the tournament was also hit with the high-profile pullouts of Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Jennifer Capriati. Allaster expressed outrage about the absence of Serena, who eventually developed a knee injury but had originally withdrawn due to a filming commitment in the same city that week. Allaster also expressed doubt about Jennifer Capriati's last minute decision not to play because of a shoulder problem, a potentially antagonizing and unusual move for a tournament director.
"This time, however, Allaster opted to express satisfaction with the remaining field, saying that a reformatted commitment system was making a difference in getting players to play the bigger WTA events. But she did query Myskina's and Venus Williams's decision to play in Stockholm last week (Venus eventually withdrew), saying that allowing Venus to play the event revealed a 'loophole' in the system. 'Larry's [WTA CEO Larry Scott] looking into it,' she said."
The WTA still officially says they don't have an injury problem. But we note that this is the third straight week in which a tournament has lost its #1 seed after the draw was made. Not just any seed, note, the #1 seed -- Davenport and Sharapova both bailed out of San Diego, Sharapova before and Davenport after the draw was made; Venus Williams pulled out of Stockholm. And now Sharapova is out of Toronto. That may not be an injury problem, but it's sure wearing us down; this is the third time we've rewritten this preview (and it probably shows; once again we have to ask you to forgive us for any last-minute inconsistencies). The WTA was very slow to release the updated draw. They did eventually follow the promotion rules: #3 seed Kuznetsova goes in Sharapova's spot, #5 Serena into Kuznetsova's, #9 Myskina into Serena's, #13 Hantuchova into Myskina's, and Sugiyama takes the #17 seed and takes Hantuchova's place.
Two other players also withdrew after the draw was made, leaving us with three Lucky Losers: Francesca Schiavone and Kveta Peschke are also out. We've shown who replaces whom in the draw in Stats & Facts, just so you can see how many changes there were.
Noteworthy First Round Matches. This is a 56-draw, with byes for the top eight seeds, but we still have some fairly noteworthy matches floating around -- though withdrawals eliminated several of them. Marching down the draw:
Sprem vs. (16) Golovin. Both have been slumping a little. (Well, Sprem has been slumping a lot.) Who will break out of it?
Asagoe vs. (WC) Wozniak. Shinobu Asagoe's U. S. Open quarterfinal comes off in a month, and she's been playing a limited schedule and not very well when she does play. Can she finally get over it against an opponent who isn't even Top 200?
Kirilenko vs. Razzano. Virginie Razzano hit a career high, then had to stop playing. Can she come back in form?
Vaidisova vs. Chakvetadze. Wow. Vaidisova wants back in the Top 30; Chakvetadze has a chance to hit the Top 25. Probably no other match here will tell us more about the state of the game five years from now.
Groenefeld vs. Martinez. Powerful, inexperienced kid against the sort of player who really gives powerful, inexperienced kids trouble.
The Rankings. Two events are coming off this week: The Olympics, and Cincinnati. Normally the Olympics would seem bigger -- but, this time, it's Cincinnati that counts. Lindsay Davenport was last year's Cincinnati champion. With those points off, she falls behind Maria Sharapova to become #2, even with Sharapova not playing. (Lest you are thinking that Sharapova just was bailing out to save herself, she did have a reason to play and do well here: If she had built up enough of a cushion here, then Davenport couldn't overtake her at New Haven. As it is, she might be #1 for just one week!)
Cincinnati was also big for finalist Vera Zvonareva, who hurt herself a couple of weeks ago and isn't playing; it looks as if she'll lose another couple of spots.
The winner at the Olympics last year was Justine Henin-Hardenne, and that represents so many points that her only chance of moving up and earning the #4 U. S. Open seed is to win Toronto, and it's not likely even in that case; she needs to have Svetlana Kuznetsova lose early and she needs good quality points. Also losing big Olympic points are Alicia Molik (280), Amelie Mauresmo (286), and Anastasia Myskina (150); Mary Pierce has 142.
This week's rankings really matter, too, since they will be used to seed the U. S. Open. That means we know the following about the Open seeds (assuming everyone plays):
Sharapova will be #1
Davenport will be #2
Mauresmo and Kuznetsova will be #3 and #4, probably in that order, though there is an outside chance that Kuznetsova could earn #3 if she wins Toronto and Mauresmo does badly
Seeds #5-#8 are wide-open. Elena Dementieva, who isn't playing this week, looks just about certain to be in the Top Eight, since she leads in safe points. But Henin-Hardenne, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Petrova, and Clijsters are all in the hunt for the other three seeds, with Pierce having an outside shot. Venus isn't playing; the others all are. Clijsters is in a pretty good position, but she's tired. Serena is also in a good position, but she's rusty. That situation is so complicated that we can't even list all the contingencies in a reasonable amount of space; we'll give more details as players start losing.
Seeds #9-#12 will include the three players not in the #5-#8 block, plus Patty Schnyder.
Odds are the #13-#16 will include Molik, Myskina, Dechy, and one other, Bovina, Jankovic, Ivanovic, or just possibly Hantuchova
It's too early to name the #17-#32 seeds, especially as we don't know who will be able to play at the U. S. Open. All of the players listed above are of course guaranteed some sort of seeding, as are Zvonareva, Likhovtseva, Schiavone, Farina Elia, Safina, and Golovin. Sugiyama, Asagoe, Chakvetadze, and Groenefeld look good, too. That leaves Pennetta, Peng, Vaidisova, Douchevina, Medina Garrigues, Dulko, Bartoli, and just possibly Peschke competing for probably three spots plus however many are opened by withdrawals. Peng, who is hurt, and Douchevina are not playing.
We'll be doing regular updates throughout the week, of course,
Key Matches. Note: This section is really messed up due to the much-delayed release of the post-Sharapova draw. We've had to eliminate a lot, without knowing what would replace it. And even before the Sharapova withdrawal, things were tricky. Given the complexity of the ranking situation, few matches are guaranteed key; most are conditional ("if X beats Y, then this other match becomes key"). But there are some which nearly guarantee things -- e.g. if Mauresmo beats Petrova in the quarterfinal, she is sure of the #3 ranking. On the other hand, for Petrova, a win there would probably earn her a Top Eight seed.
Two years ago, when Clijsters became #1, she lost early at the Canadian Open because she was tired. And her draw this year is tough: She faces Ivanovic in the Round of Sixteen. It was supposed to get easier after that; she was supposed to face Kuznetsova, who of course is slumping. But now she has to deal with Serena. If she wins that, we can guarantee her a Top Eight seed.
The main contenders for the #16 seed, since Bovina is hurt and not playing this week, are Jankovic and Ivanovic, with Jankovic about 100 points behind Bovina and Ivanovic some 70 points behind that. That means Jankovic has to at least beat Petrova to reach the quarterfinal if she wants the #16 spot (barring withdrawals); Ivanovic may have to reach the semifinal, which entails beating Clijsters in the Round of Sixteen and Kuznetsova in the quarterfinal.
Of the players desperately trying for a seed, Medina Garrigues faces a qualifier (replacing Schiavone), then Kuznetsova (or whoever takes Sharapova's place). Dulko would take on Golovin in the second round. Bartoli faces Kirilenko, then Ivanovic. We already mentioned the Vaidisova/Chakvetadze duel. If they both play their best, it could well be memorable.
The Qualifying. Saturday seemed to be "Let's pick on the wounded veterans" say. Poor Maja Matevzic won only one game against #4 seed Antonella Serra Zanetti. #14 Emmanuelle Gagliardi, who is just starting to come back, went down 6-2 6-2 against Elena Vesnina. And #15 Tatiana Panova lost to Saori Obata by the same score.
Gagliardi and Panova were among the few seeds to lose on Saturday -- other than Virginia Ruano Pascual, who was still playing doubles in Los Angeles. #1 Laura Granville, #2 Lucie Safarova, #3 Mariana Diaz-Oliva, and #4 Antonella Serra Zanetti all advanced (though her sister Adriana had lost to Granville); so did #5 Alina Jidkova. #6 Kristina Brandi retired hurt, and #7 Tathiana Garbin was still on her way from Los Angeles, but #8 Zheng Jie, #9 Maria Elena Camerin, #10 Jamea Jackson, #11 Stephanie Cohen-Aloro, and #12 Rika Fujiwara all came through.
Cara Black continues to struggle. Promoted to the #25 seed when Arantxa Parra Santonja pulled out, she lost 7-5 7-5 to Silvija Talaja.
We note with interest that Rita Grande, who has been out for almost a year (and in horrid form even before that), did play -- but lost 7-6 6-4 to Selima Sfar.
Day two action was interrupted by a long rain delay during the very first matches of the day. They did manage to finish the two remaining first round matches after that; Tathiana Garbin and Virginia Ruano Pascual both flattened low-ranked opponents. Garbin, in fact, scored a double-bagel against wildcard Katarina Zoricic. That let them face each other; Garbin finally qualified 4-6 6-3 6-2.
Other qualifiers are Rika Fujiwara, who beat Elena Vesnina in three sets; Shikha Uberoi, a three-set winner over Stephanie Cohen-Aloro; Laura Granville, who lost only four games against Galina Voskoboeva; Alina Jidkova, a straight-sets winner over Shenay Perry; Maria Sanchez-Lorenzo, who took out Antonella Serra Zanetti in three sets, Maria Elena Camerin, who lost the first set in a bagel to Hana Sromova but then won the next two; Zheng Jie, a 6-2 6-1 winner over Martina Muller; Lucie Safarova, a 6-7 6-3 6-3 winner over Saori Obata; and Mariana Diaz-Oliva, who topped Silvija Talaja in straight sets.
The long rain delay caused one match to be moved in mid-contest. Maria Emilia Salerni and Olena Antypina played the first set on an outside court, then moved to an inner court, and were still playing in the third when we sent this off; that match had lasted two and a half hours plus movement time and looks certain to reach the three hour mark before it's over. Assuming it ever is.
The Doubles. This being a non-American event, to goes for a full doubles draw: 28 teams, eight seeds, top four seeds have byes. Cara Black and Rennae Stubbs are #1, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova, who both have injured partners, have teamed up to take the #2 spot; Conchita Martinez and Virginia Ruano Pascual stay together as #3, Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama are #4, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Dinara Safina reunite as #5, Martina Navratilova returns to action as the #6 along with Anna-Lena Groenefeld; Marion Bartoli and Nicole Pratt are #7; Shinobu Asagoe and Tathiana Garbin are #8. Zheng Jie is playing with Hana Sromova rather than her usual partner Yan Xi; Bryanne Stewart hooks up with long-injured Rita Grande. (Samantha Stosur isn't in the draw, so we don't know if she's sticking with Lisa Raymond.) Els Callens is trying things out with Tina Krizan.
Ruano Pascual's #1 ranking doesn't appear to be in danger this week. But she would like to do well, and she'd like even more for Cara Black to do badly, so she'll have some cushion at the U. S. Open.
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