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Old Oct 24th, 2009, 11:49 AM   #13
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Re: News and updates about Victoria Azarenka

Year-end title critical for Safina, and her reputation

Friday, October 23, 2009 | Feedback | Print Entry

With the season-ending championships coming up, let's look at what the stakes are for each of the eight qualifiers who have convened in Doha, Qatar, to hold a tug-of-war for the WTA Sony Ericsson Championships title -- theoretically, the most important title after the four majors. We'll take the eight qualifiers in the descending order of their ranking:

Dinara Safina
Anything can happen in tennis, and Safina certainly has both the game and time to win one or more Grand Slam events in her career. Still, this tournament has "must win" written all over it. She's like a bus that has labored up a very long, very steep hill only to start rolling backward, the brakes no longer holding, with the top in view.

If Safina can take this title, it will provide a very welcome balm for an ego that was kicked around a lot this year during the WTA rankings controversy. It wouldn't exactly hurt her confidence for 2010, especially if she counts coup on either or both of the women named Williams.

Serena Williams
A win in Doha cements her claim to the No. 1 ranking and further underscores the suspicion that it was truly hers all along. That would ordinarily be enough incentive for any player, but let's remember, this is Serena. She's won only two titles this year, but they represented 50 percent of the majors. If her competitive spirit decides to sleep in at Doha, anything can happen; if she gets a bee in her bonnet over Safina or the upstart Wozniacki, watch out!

Svetlana Kuznetsova
She's a little like the person who turns up at every party -- the only person whom nobody in the room knows, leaving them asking, "What's she doing here?" Her most accurate answer to that might be, "I had nothing better to do." Kuznetsova has never exactly burned with ambition; she's no score-settler or point-prover (which is exactly what many people like about her). She just happens to be very good at what she does, and she could be especially dangerous because of her moody nature. Let sleeping dogs lie, girls. This one does have a bite.

Caroline Wozniacki
She's plugged along very nicely after that enchanted run to the U.S. Open final (where she lost to Kim Clijsters, who didn't qualify for this event, mainly because of her lack of playing opportunity). This will be a big test for her. It's an opportunity because while nobody confuses the event with a do-or-die major, it's still a good one to put on the growing resume of a young talent and a definite step toward legitimacy as a top player.

Elena Dementieva
She's capable of anything, including nothing, and ranks as the best active woman player not to have won a major. I don't think the SEC trophy would compete for space on her trophy shelf with her Olympic Games gold medal (for singles), but Dementieva has a way of catching fire and inserting herself back into the mix at the top. This would be the right time to do it, and a win at the SEC would position her nicely for 2010.

Victoria Azarenka
When she bagged the singles title in the big dual event in Miami, everyone moved to the edge of his or her seat to see whether she was the new Maria Sharapova. But the pressure of her newfound status seemed to unnerve Azarenka, and she never did get a handle on the temper that has been such a mixed blessing for her. She's got one more shot this year to show that Miami was more a foretelling than a fluke, and she'd take a giant step, reputation-wise, if she found a way to sneak up on the favorites and snatch the title.

Venus Williams
Like Serena, Venus has two titles. Only hers aren't majors, and her play has been generally uninspired. She may have too many miles on the odometer to run one more great race. It's hard to see her motivation and confidence rise to the level necessary to beat some of the women who have far more at stake.

Jelena Jankovic
Can anyone stop her? Well, maybe nobody has to. After all, she backed into the tournament when her main rival for the last spot, Vera Zvonareva, was crushed -- by a qualifier, no less -- in Moscow. And this being wild and crazy Jankovic, you get the feeling that she might just go and win the entire thing.


Q. The young players like Azarenka, Wozniacki, Radwanska, who has impressed you the most?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Did you say besides them?

Q. No, including them.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, how much younger are they?

Q. Three or four years younger than you.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Why do you have to make me feel so old on a Thursday morning (laughter)?
You know, goodness, what can I say? I mean, I thought Azarenka is probably one of the best out of the pack . I think she has a really great fighting spirit. You know, she has a great all-around game. I felt like from the time I played her in L.A., to the time I played her in Beijing, you could see she lost the match against me, and there's that game plan going into the next match. She definitely improved how she played. I thought as a player, that's always pretty impressive because you always try to learn from your losses.
But, yeah, I think she's probably up there.
Jelena Jankovic | Maria Sharapova | Sabine Lisicki | Nicole Vaidisova
Venus Williams | Maria Kirilenko | Victoria Azarenka | Madison Keys

Last edited by Nina. : Oct 24th, 2009 at 11:57 AM.
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