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Old Aug 6th, 2008, 06:52 AM   #3
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Re: News, Articles, Interviews - Anything Dinara

July is Over, and the Olympics are Almost Here... do you know where your Russians are? by Todd Spiker



Since Venus Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title a month ago, the WTA tour has been little more than a hot mess.

With the travel needed for a player to maintain a presence on the "road trip" that is the U.S. Open Series, just a few weeks after two European slams were contested over such a short span of time, the WTA schedule is hardly amenable to the multiple appearances that the Powers That Be in tennis annually hope will stir up heightened interest in the sport during the latter stages of the North American summer (well, at least it's difficult for anyone without the initials J.J. to pull it off). This season, with the Olympics taking place on the other side of the world right in the middle of the North American season, just two weeks before the start of the Open itself in New York on August 25, things were even more scattershot than usual. As it turned out, most of the top players only put in cameo appearances (if even that, considering the three '08 slam winners have played a combined total of three matches since play ceased at SW19) on tour.

Venus and Davenport never played. Serena did, but was injured. Sharapova was already injured, but didn't find out about it until after she played one match (whoops, there goes the Supernova's Olympic and Open aspirations for this season). Ivanovic returned to her early-out pre-Roland Garros title self last week, while fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic played when she probably shouldn't have, possibly setting herself up for even more drama (for good and bad) over the next few weeks.

In the interim, a string of newbies (some Z-Team members, some not) managed to become first-time finalists, maiden titlists and Top 20ers when several of the draws were thinned. But one thing WAS consistent in a noteworthy way -- the play of Dinara Safina. Normally, that might not be a good thing for the Russian Cat, but ever since she ended Justine Henin's career in April on the clay in Berlin she's been as difficult an out as there is on the entire WTA landscape.

She won on clay in May (reaching the RG final), then carried things over to the grass in June (reaching another final). In July, she was unstoppable on hard courts. For the first time since she won her first career title at age 16 back in 2002, Safina is showing the talent, temperament and intelligence that she looked as if she might possess when she was among the first of the Russian Horde to make inroads on the tour. Back-to-back titles in L.A. and Montreal crowned her U.S. Open Series champ, and sends her to Beijing as the hottest player on tour.

2008 has been an unpredictable season, for sure. There have been four different #1 players and three different slam champions, and there's a good possibility that both those numbers could swell even more by the end of the season. Good luck determining who's going to be the "Player of the Year" come November.

**TOP PLAYERS** July-Aug
1. Dinara Safina, RUS
...eat your heart out, Marat.
2. Sara Errani, ITA
...she pulled a "mini-Safina," winning back-to-back titles on a smaller scale in Europe.
3. Cara Black & Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
...I sure hope they can win in New York, so I can stop bringing up how they've won just about everything this season EXCEPT for a grand slam title.
4. Alize Cornet, FRA
...she threw everything against the wall in Budapest, and it finally stuck.
5. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
...what a novel concept: a Canadian WTA singles champion.
HM- Caroline Wozniacki, DEN & Pauline Parmentier, FRA
...C-Woz was one of four first-time champions over the past month, while Parmentier actually won her SECOND career title in less than a year. Really, she HAS won two titles. Look it up.
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