Women's Look Forward: Week of September 23
Posted on 9/22/2002 at 4:24 PM
From the Bob Larson Tennis News.
Women's Look Forward: Leipzig, Bali
Leipzig can't win.
It used to be that it was the last European indoor event before the Tour moved to Philadelphia and New York for the year-end. Since everyone who would be playing the year-end championship wanted to play Philadelphia as a warm-up, they almost all dodged Leipzig as too much of a burden. And the time zone shift from Leipzig to Philadelphia just made it worse.
Last year, with the year-end event in Munich rather than New York, Leipzig would have been in much better shape. Except -- they moved it. With the season being shortened, Leipzig was shoved forward to the start of the European indoor season. One week before Moscow. Two weeks before Filderstadt. Three weeks before Zurich. That's two Tier I events and everyone's favorite Tier II. Plus, instead of being the last event in Europe, it's now the first.
So, yes, Leipzig still ends up with an unspectacular field.
At least it doesn't suffer too much from competition with Bali. Bali is part of the Asian hardcourt circuit, and for the most part, players who play this circuit are those who have no expectations of going to the year-end event. (Monica Seles was a sort of partial exception last year: She played Asian hardcourts, and she did qualify for Munich -- but of course she didn't play Munich.) The field includes no Top 25 players; the #1 seed is Tamarine Tanasugarn, and #2 is Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (who, however, would be seeded behind #3 Clarisa Fernandez if this week's rankings were used). #4 seed Nicole Pratt is the only other player in the draw who is still in the Top 50, though #5 Adriana Serra Zanetti just fell out and #6 Cara Black looks like she will be back above #50 soon. The other seeds are #7 Emmanuelle Gagliardi and #8 Conchita Martinez (at first glance, it may seem a surprisingly clay-like draw, but of course the only other alternative is to play indoors; naturally the clay players will come here. Really, what the draw most resembles is the Princess Cup minus its top six seeds.)
Despite the weak field, there are some interesting potential matchups here. Angelique Widjaja, the defending champion, is unseeded (it appears she's the #2 unseeded player), and in real trouble; even if she defends (which doesn't seem all that likely), she's going to lose points because they've devalued Tier III tournaments this year.
There are several other promising youngsters in the draw: Svetlana Kuznetsova is the top unseeded player, and given her results over the past three months or so, she really ought not only to be seeded but to be seeded high. And Lina Krasnoroutskaya is here trying to rebuild her year. Plus we have veteran Corina Morariu trying to get back into the swing of singles.
That gives us several early round matches to watch with attention. Our list is as follows:
Kostanic vs. (8) Martinez. Jelena Kostanic hasn't really been knocking them dead this year, but she's been having probably the best year of her career, and Martinez is a mess. This has some upset potential.
Widjaja vs. Marrero. Two young talents. Widjaja the higher-ranked and the defending champion, and she likes the surface better. But how will she handle having to defend?
Torrens Valero vs. Morariu. Slumping clay player vs. recovering hardcourt player. A good test for Morariu.
(6) Black vs. Krasnoroutskaya. Both of these players were Top 40 before problems felled them around the start of the year. Krasnoroutskaya was hurt; Black -- well, anything we say is speculative, but she certainly fell apart. But she's back. This should be very good.
Kuznetsova vs. Molik. Kuznetsova will have had less time to prepare than anyone; she's just in from the Princess Cup doubles final. Molik hits very hard but doesn't move well and makes too many errors. Another one that could be interesting.
(4) Pratt vs. Widjaja. Another, bigger test for the defending champion.
Kuznetsova vs. (3) Fernandez. Two very promising young players, both of whom have had their best results on clay.
Ruano Pascual vs. (2) Sanchez-Vicario. Two clay lovers. Ruano Pascual is good at upsets. Lately, Sanchez-Vicario is good at suffering upsets. Another high-upset-potential match.
Which brings us to Leipzig. We'll admit that we held off on this one partly in shock. Serena Williams is going to play in Germany the week after she played in Japan? That's definitely a "we'll believe it when we see it."
Though she certainly has a nice enough draw -- a bye, then a qualifier or wildcard Elke Clijsters. (It says something rather scary about German tennis that they handed a wildcard to the younger Clijsters rather than one of their own.) Serena's draw is basically a free pass to the quarterfinal.
It will get tougher thereafter. The draw has only four Top Ten players, three of whom -- Serena, #2 Jelena Dokic, and #4 Kim Clijsters -- are just in from Japan; the other Top Tenner is #3 seed Justine Henin. But it gets solid below that: the #5 seed is Daniela Hantuchova, #6 is Anastasia Myskina, #7 is Silvia Farina Elia (rather weak on this surface), and #8 is Madgalena Maleeva (who loves this surface). There are quite a few solid unseeded players, too: Alexandra Stevenson (another player who likes this surface), Paola Suarez (who doesn't like indoors), Iva Majoli (who, until her Roland Garros win, had had her best results indoors), Francesca Schiavone, Eleni Daniilidou, Nadia Petrova, Nathalie Dechy, Daja Bedanova. Other than Serena's, there are no easy draws here.
For once, the difficulty of each player's draw seems almost to correspond to her seeding. Just chance, but that's how it worked out. We mentioned Serena's draw. Jelena Dokic is almost as lucky; after her bye, she'll face either mildly slumping Elena Likhovtseva (another player just in from Japan) or deeply slumping Meghann Shaughnessy (just in from Canada). #3 Henin, after her bye, will face either Suarez or a qualifier; the only danger to Henin is that she, like Suarez, doesn't like indoor surfaces much.
#4 Clijsters faces the first real opposition; she'll take on either Nadia Petrova or Martina Muller in the second round. If Petrova is all the way back -- by no means clear -- then that could well spell trouble.
#5 Hantuchova is the first player not to get a bye; she opens against Katarina Srebotnik (who, however, is more of a threat on clay). After that, it's either Majoli, who has been very inconsistent this year, or Rita Grande, who has not played nearly as well this year as last (though it's hard to call it a slump; Grande played way over her head in 2001).
#6 Myskina is truly in for it from the start, as she will open against Nathalie Dechy, followed by Daja Bedanova or a qualifier. Myskina is at a career high as a result of winning Bahia. This looks like a tougher proposition altogether.
#7 seed Farina Elia will start against Francesca Schiavone, who isn't fond of indoors but who is good at upsets. After that, she'll face either up-and-coming Eleni Daniilidou, who will be trying her new and improved game on indoors, or Barbara Rittner, something of an upset artist and German to boot.
#8 Magdalena Maleeva starts against Janette Husarova, who is having her best year ever, then Alexandra Stevenson or a qualifier.
It really looks like all the top four should make the quarterfinal, but below that, anyone could be upset.
It's interesting to note that there is only one past winner in the draw: Kim Clijsters, the only active player to have won Leipzig (previous winners were Nathalie Tauziat, Jana Novotna, Anke Huber, and Steffi Graf). It's an important result for her, and she does have a nice draw: She's in the same quarter as Farina Elia (the weakest of the seeds, at least on this surface) and the same half as Dokic (obviously weaker than Serena, and Clijsters just beat her at the Princess Cup. Though we wouldn't be surprised to see the rested Myskina, rather than the jet-lagged Dokic, in the semifinal).
It looks like it's Serena's tournament to win, if she plays. But it's worth remembering that she plays Magdalena Maleeva -- and it was Maleeva who handed Venus Williams her one indoor loss of 2001.
The other quarterfinal would pit Henin vs. Hantuchova. Hantuchova, of course, won their last meeting at the U. S. Open -- and this surface helps Hantuchova more than Henin.
The Rankings. The news at the top is always the same: Serena is #1, Venus #2, Capriati #3. Below that, it's complicated. Monica Seles is currently #4 and Jelena Dokic #5, but Dokic lost her opening match at Leipzig last year, and so could move up with a good result (she needs at least a semifinal and maybe a final). It looks like Justine Henin, ranked #7, needs a semifinal to move past #6 Mauresmo; if she can somehow contrive to win the thing, she might make #4. #8 Clijsters, with titleist points to defend, must make at least the semifinal, and maybe the final, to stay ahead of Lindsay Davenport; if she loses early, she'll find herself not much ahead of Martina Hingis. As for Hingis, she could fall out of the Top Ten if Daniela Hantuchova does well. But Hantuchova has 130 points to defend; it's going to take at least a semifinal, and maybe a final, for Hantuchova to make the Top Ten.
Elena Dementieva is not playing, and that means that, ironically, she will fall back below Sandrine Testud and end up at #16.
Magdalena Maleeva made the final last year; she really needs to defend. An early loss could drop her out of the Top 20. It appears that Tatiana Panova, who isn't playing this week and has points to defend, will also fall out of the Top 20, only one week after achieving it for the first time. That means Ai Sugiyama will be moving up. The other solid candidate is Eleni Daniilidou; although she's only #23 coming in, she's playing, and she's ahead of #22 Anne Kremer (who isn't playing) in safe points.
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