From the Bob Larson Tennis International Newsletter:
Women's Look Forward: Warsaw, Bol
It looks like Venus Williams wants the #2 ranking back.
Venus has been almost in hibernation this year, having played only three events. That compares to six at this time last year -- and even that was the lightest schedule for any healthy player. The effect of her failure to play, and relative failure to win when she does play (since she has only one title in those three events) has been to drop her to #3 in the world behind Kim Clijsters. It's very strange: Even if one assumes that Venus wants to cut back her schedule, why did she cut back on her favorite surface (hardcourts) but stoke up on her worst surface (clay)? All right, maybe she is going all-out to win Roland Garros -- but playing three straight weeks of clay doesn't really seem like the answer.
Still, there is a good chance it will get her the #2 ranking back. Very possibly this week. Because, last year, Kim Clijsters won Hamburg in this week, beating Venus in the final. The only way Clijsters can stay #2 is if she can do the same thing this week: Last longer than Venus.
What's more, Venus can build up a pretty good lead here. That's because Hamburg, last year, was an ordinary Tier II. But Warsaw -- which last year was a Tier III, and before that had actually had to shut down for lack of a sponsor -- is not merely a Tier II, it's a bonus Tier II, with extra prize money and extra points to match.
Plus, Clijsters isn't playing. That means that Venus is guaranteed to take back the #2 sport. The only question is, how large will her margin be?
Though Venus is by no means assured of winning the title. There is at least one other very good clay player here (Amelie Mauresmo, arguably the best clay player on the WTA two years ago). The next three of seeds -- Daniela Hantuchova, Jelena Dokic, Magdalena Maleeva -- aren't as fond of clay, but Elena Daniilidou and Anna Pistolesi both like it well, and Elena Likhovtseva (who earned the #9 seed after Conchita Martinez withdrew) is an all-surface player, though very streaky. It's a bit odd to see Monica Seles skip the event, since it's a clay tournament outside Germany, but it is the offspring of Hamburg.
Good unseeded clay players in the draw include Francesca Schiavone, Magui Serna, Fabiola Zuluaga, and perhaps Barbara Schett (we say "perhaps" because Schett has been way off this year, and also missed Fed Cup). There is also one highly promising youngster, Myriam Casanova.
Bol, of course, is much weaker, being a Tier III. But it features Patty Schnyder, whose favorite surface is clay, as the #1 seed. Silvia Farina Elia, the #2 seed, is just coming back from a long layoff, but she too likes clay. #3 Vera Zvonareva is perhaps the best of the young Russians on clay, and her draw is fairly nice. #4 seed Nicole Pratt is no fan of dirt, but #5 Rita Grande won Casablanca on it about a month ago, Henrieta Nagyova has a lot of clay titles if she can ever get her game together, #7 Flavia Pennetta is a rising clay player, and Petra Mandula also prefers dirt.
As far as the rankings go, other than Venus's retaking of the #2 ranking, we aren't likely to see many changes at the top. Venus can't threaten Serena, and Justine Henin-Hardenne can't threaten Clijsters. Lindsay Davenport is safe at #5. Amelie Mauresmo might be able to boot Jennifer Capriati out of the #6 spot, but only by winning the title. Daniela Hantuchova might grab the #8 spot from Chanda Rubin, or possibly even get to #7, but only if she does very well.
Jelena Dokic was last year's semifinalist, so she might once again lost the #10 spot to Anastasia Myskina (whom she beat in the first round last year). The other 2002 semifinalist, Martina Hingis, will of course also be taking a fall.
Iva Majoli for some reason signed up for Warsaw rather than Bol, where she was finalist last year. She is likely to be hit hard. As will Asa Svensson, last year's Bol winner, who isn't even playing.
The Official Fashionista of the Royal Court