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Munich: The Candidates

With only three weeks left in the WTA schedule, and only two major tournaments (Zurich and Linz) left before the Munich Championships, the women are getting down to the wire. Sixteen women will play at Munich, and the players on the edge don't have many more chances to qualify.

Unlike the ATP, the women's ranking system doesn't just let you count results and determine who is in. This makes it noticeably harder to predict which players will qualify for the year-end event. (Though the ATP, ironically, has not taken advantage of the sole real virtue of their ranking system and used it to accurately predict which players will play Sydney.) At any given tournament, you can place an absolute lower bound on the points the winner will receive, and also an upper bound once the draw is done -- but because the women award quality points, they don't know until the matches are played exactly how each player will do. Chances are that at least one spot at Munich will come close to the wire -- we probably won't know the complete list until the quarterfinal of Linz. Maybe later. And injuries might change even that list.

In addition, Championship Race scores do not parallel Best 17 ranking scores. Unlike the men, the women use the same point values for their Race as for their regular rankings -- but in the rankings, only the best 17 scores count; in the Championship Race, everything counts. This means that one's championship race score can actually be higher than your ranking! (This happened to Martina Hingis last year to the tune of several hundred points, and it's true in a small way of Silvia Farina Elia right now; it's impossible on the ATP.)

But for all the unpredictability of the WTA rankings, we can say that twelve players are set for Munich (though at least two -- Hingis and Seles -- will not play), and by even the most generous reckoning, no more than two dozen are still in the running. We'll list the candidates in terms of their Champions Race standings (based on the final numbers from last week; we can't include Zurich since it's still in progress and players are playing different rounds), provide a few statistics (again, through last week), and then comment on the situation.

1. Jennifer Capriati
Current Ranking: #1
2001 Titles: 3 -- Australian Open (Slam), Charleston (I), Roland Garros (Slam)
2001 Indoor Record: 4-2
Career Indoor Titles: 2 -- Luxembourg 2000, Quebec City 1999
Comments: Capriati has just taken the #1 ranking, but she did it by the back door: Neither she nor Martina Hingis is winning these days. Capriati will end the year at #1, unless Venus Williams decides to come out and play (which she might; Venus is scheduled to play Linz, and if she can do well there and win Munich, she might pass Capriati) or Lindsay Davenport has an absolutely dominant season. But Capriati has only two indoor titles in her career, both small; while she is obviously going to make it to Munich, she probably isn't as much of a threat there as she would be on other, slower surfaces.

2. Venus Williams
Current Ranking: #4
2001 Titles: 6 -- Ericsson (I), Hamburg (II), Wimbledon (Slam), San Diego (II), New Haven (II), U. S. Open (Slam)
2001 Indoor Record: 2-1
Career Indoor Titles: 3 -- Zurich 1999, Oklahoma City 1999, Oklahoma City 1998
Comments: Venus has certainly been the most effective player on a per-tournament basis this year; the only reason she isn't #1 is that she doesn't play enough. And yet, she doesn't seem to like playing indoors. Her only indoor event this year, Nice, saw her suffer a loss in the semifinal to Magdalena Maleeva. In 2000, she played only one indoor event, at Linz, and lost to Lindsay Davenport. Her only strong indoor title is Zurich 1999. She can do better than this. But will she commit to improving? Will she even play?

3. Martina Hingis
Current Ranking: #2
2001 Titles: 3 -- Sydney (II), Doha (III), Dubai (II)
2001 Indoor Record: 6-3
Career Indoor Titles: 14
Comments: Hingis had one of the best indoor seasons in WTA history in 2000, but that was last year. She's now injured and in the worst slump of her career since 1996. And she won't be playing Munich. She will end the year at #4, and may fall lower next spring.

4. Lindsay Davenport
Current Ranking: #3
2001 Titles: 5 -- Pan Pacific (I), Scottsdale (II), Eastbourne (II), Los Angeles (II), Filderstadt (II)
2001 Indoor Record: 8-0
Career Indoor Titles:12
Comments: No one is talking about Davenport this year, but she's showing every sign of being the top indoor player on the Tour. She probably can't end the year at #1, but her indoor form could yet make her #2. Last year, she had only two indoor losses -- to Hingis at Zurich and Dementieva at the Chase. Hingis is out for the year (and was out of it even before that), and Dementieva is off.

5. Justine Henin
Current Ranking: #7
2001 Titles: 3 -- Gold Coast (III), Canberra (III), 's-Hertogenbosch (III)
2001 Indoor Record: 5-3
Career Indoor Titles: None
Comments: Henin reached the Filderstadt final, which was a major indoor breakthrough for her. But can she take the next step? She'll be playing her first year-end Championship, and she really needs to be more aggressive to succeed indoors. She's currently #5 in the Race, but may be hard-pressed to stay there.

6. Kim Clijsters
Current Ranking: #5
2001 Titles: 2 -- Stanford (II), Leipzig (II)
2001 Indoor Record: 4-1
Career Indoor Titles: 3 -- Leipzig 2000, Leipzig 2001, Luxembourg 1999
Comments: One of the best indoor players on the Tour, enjoying the best year of her young career. But she also has been playing more than every before in her life; how much gas does she have left? She lost her opening match at Filderstadt. She could end the year ranked as high as #5 or as low as #8.

7. Amelie Mauresmo
Current Ranking:
2001 Titles: Paris (II), Nice (II), Amelia Island (II), Berlin (II)
2001 Indoor Record: 12-2
Career Indoor Titles: 3 -- Paris 2001, Nice 2001, Bratislava 1999
Comments: Mauresmo has been having a terrific year indoors -- but both her good results were in France. Historically, she has always liked slow surfaces (clay and Rebound Ace). Can she succeed in Munich?

8. Serena Williams
Current Ranking: #9
2001 Titles: 2 -- Indian Wells (I), Canadian Open (I)
2001 Indoor Record: 0-0
Career Indoor Titles: 2 -- Hannover 2000, Paris 1999
Comments: Serena has reasonably solid indoor results when she's played. But she hasn't played under a roof in almost two years. And she's subject to odd upsets on this stuff (as, e.g., to Sandrine Testud at Filderstadt 1999). Even if she plays Munich (and she never played even when it was in the United States), will she be in form for an indoor tournament?

9. Jelena Dokic
Current Ranking: #10
2001 Titles: 3 -- Rome (I), Princess Cup (II), Moscow (I)
2001 Indoor Record: 9-1
Career Indoor Titles: 1 -- Moscow 2001
Comments: Until this year, Dokic hated modern surfaces, with indoor courts being surely the worst of all. This year, she has turned herself into an all-surface player. She's also played herself to death, and is paying for it with injury. What will she have left for Munich?

10. Monica Seles
Current Ranking: #8
2001 Titles: 4 -- Oklahoma City (III), Bahia (II), Bali (III), Shanghai (IV)
2001 Indoor Record: 4-0
Career Indoor Titles: 11
Comments: Monica Seles has eleven indoor titles, including three year-end championships, but hasn't won a strong indoor event in her comeback; her only titles are two Tier IIIs at Oklahoma City. But it won't matter; she isn't playing Munich. She will suffer the penalty for this; last year, she was the Chase finalist, and those points are largely responsible for her current #8 ranking. She is said to be done for the year, and though she has been stacking up titles in Asia, those are the boondocks and she isn't earning any real points playing at Tier IV events with no other Top Twenty players. That means she will end 2001 ranked no higher than #10, and might fall below it.

11. Meghann Shaughnessy
Current Ranking: #12
2001 Titles: 1 -- Quebec City (III)
2001 Indoor Record: 7-3
Career Indoor Titles: 1 -- Quebec City 2001
Comments: Shaughnessy had a terrific spring, but it seems to be costing her. Like so many players with extreme schedules, she gives evidence of running down. She's all but sure to end in the Top Fifteen, and will be playing her first year-end championship. But she may not be much of a force there.

12. Sandrine Testud
Current Ranking: #14
2001 Titles: 1 -- Big Island (IV)
2001 Indoor Record: 5-4
Career Indoor Titles: 1 -- Filderstadt 1998
Comments: Sandrine Testud has a few really good results each year; this year, Filderstadt was one of them. She does like indoor surfaces; Filderstadt 1998 was her only Tier II title, and Pan Pacific 2000 her only Tier I final. If she has one of her really good weeks in Munich, she just might end in the Top Ten. But she never won a Championship match in New York.

13. Silvia Farina Elia
Current Ranking: 15
2001 Titles: 1 - Strasbourg (III)
2001 Indoor Record: 7-4 (plus 1-1 in qualifying)
Career Indoor Titles: 0
Comments: Those who want to give up on Martina Hingis or Anna Kournikova or some other young burnout should keep Silvia Farina Elia firmly in mind. Farina Elia is 29, and didn't win her first title or make her first appearance in the Top 15 until this year. On a per-tournament basis, she still isn't a huge threat; she doesn't instill deep fear in the top players. But she plays a lot, and she's steady, and she picks up occasional points here and there, and it's enough to assure her a spot in her first-ever year-end championships. She isn't at her best indoors, and probably won't end the year as high as #13. But while some of the players below her might yet overtake her in the Race (though, with a 200 point lead on Dementieva, who is out of Zurich, it's not likely), it can't be more than one or two; she is in Munich. What we want to know is, having had a career year at 29, what can she do for an encore?
14. Elena Dementieva
Current Ranking: 13
2001 Titles: 0
2001 Indoor Record: 8-3
Career Indoor Titles: 0
Comments: Until she beat Martina Hingis at Moscow, Dementieva didn't look like a particularly great bet to make Munich. She had injured herself during the clay season, and it took her months to get back in form. The Moscow win changed that. Dementieva hurt her chances a bit by losing at Zurich, but she's at #14, and most of the players below her are also out; the odds of five players overtaking her are slight.

15. Nathalie Tauziat
Current Ranking: #11
2001 Titles: 1 -- Birmingham (III)
2001 Indoor Record: 5-4
Career Indoor Titles: 5 -- Paris 2000, Moscow 1999, Leipzig 1999, Quebec City 1993, Bayonne 1990
Comments: A lot of players try to earn points in the spring and summer, then coast through the fall indoor season. Nathalie Tauziat is the reverse: She tries to survive through the summer (except for the brief pleasure of the grass season), and then makes her big move indoors. Around mid-year, it always seems like she's out of the Race, and then she somehow makes it anyway. In terms of points, it might seem like someone could overtake her. But this is indoors. She's already knocked off Magdalena Maleeva and Iroda Tulyaganova, and that combined with losses by other players means that Tauziat will move up to #14 in the Race this week. And she still has Linz. And she is always healthy; after nearly twenty years on the Tour, she has never had a major injury. The question for Tauziat is not if she'll make Munich (as of now, it's a sure thing, though it wasn't on Monday); it's if she can earn enough points there to end the year -- and her career -- in the Top Ten. Those who prefer winning with style to winning with power certainly hope so.

16. Magdalena Maleeva
Current Ranking: #16
2001 Titles: 1 -- Budapest (V)
2001 Indoor Record: 16-6
Career Indoor Titles: 5 -- Chicago 1995, Moscow 1995, Oakland 1995, Moscow 1994, Zurich 1994
Comments: If Nathalie Tauziat is mostly an indoor player, Magdalena Maleeva is perhaps the most indoor-specialized player in the Top 20. She beat Venus Williams at Nice, and twice came close against Martina Hingis. She's had no such results on other surfaces. Unfortunately for her, she had to play Tauziat at Zurich, and lost. With two players (Hingis and Seles) not playing Munich, she's probably set. If it weren't for that, she might be in some trouble. But she'll get another chance at Linz.
17. Anke Huber
Current Ranking: #19
2001 Titles: 0
2001 Indoor Record: 10-5
Career Indoor Titles: 6 -- Leipzig 1006, Luxembourg 1996, Leipzig 1995, Filderstadt 1994, Philadelphia 1994, Filderstadt 1991
Comments: Anke Huber is one of those rare players who has won events on all four surfaces, but indoors is pretty clearly her best. And this year, she has extra incentive; It's her last year, and her last time in Germany. She would really like to play Munich. After last week, it looked like she would. After her first round loss at Zurich, her chances aren't quite as good. But few of the players below her are good indoors, and two would have to pass her to set her aside, and she'll have one more chance next week. Her Race score says she's only moderately likely to get in. Her history and her nationality say her chances are better.

18. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
Current Ranking: #18
2001 Titles: 2 -- Porto (IV), Madrid (III)
2001 Indoor Record: 0-1
Career Indoor Titles: 1 -- Oakland 1994
Comments: How much does Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario want to make it to Munich? Enough that she played the Asian microevents to try to earn points, and when that failed, she came east and started playing indoors. That is a significant act; Sanchez-Vicario hates indoors, and it's her worst surface by far. But Munich means easy points, and it's also symbolic; even though she hasn't won a match there since 1997, and hasn't won two since 1993, she has been in the draw every year since 1989. But 2001 might end the streak. At #18, Sanchez-Vicario is the last player in line for direct entry, and she's already out of Zurich, and the next two players both did better than she did though they have a lot of catching up to do. The Spaniard would really help her chances if she cranked up her indoor game just a little.

19. Amanda Coetzer
Current Ranking: #17
2001 Titles: 1 -- Acupulco (III)
2001 Indoor Record: 1-3
Career Indoor Titles: 1 -- Luxembourg 1997
Comments: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario could almost be wearing a sign saying, "Kick Me (Out of Munich)." That's what her indoor history is like. Fortunately for Sanchez-Vicario, the next player in the Race is Amanda Coetzer, who doesn't like indoor tournaments any better than the Spaniard. And Coetzer is a long way back. But Coetzer won a match at Zurich, which Sanchez-Vicario didn't. A little more, or one more injury, and the South African might make Munich.

20. Barbara Schett
Current Ranking: #20
2001 Titles: 0
2001 Indoor Record: 2-3
Career Indoor Titles: 0
Comments: Schett has had some good indoor results in her life (better, proportionally, than Coetzer or Sanchez-Vicario); she made the final at Moscow 1999. Given more time on indoor courts, she might well pass Sanchez-Vicario and Coetzer. But she's hundreds of points back and running out of time. Her chances are really not very good.
21. Angeles Montolio
Current Ranking: #27
2001 Titles: 2 -- Estoril (IV), Bol (III)
2001 Indoor Record: 1-2
Career Indoor Titles: 0
Comments: Montolio has only one more chance for Munich, and she is a clay player. The math says she could still qualify. But she won't. Not unless more players start withdrawing.

22. Magui Serna
Current Ranking: #31
2001 Titles: 0
2001 Indoor Record: 3-5
Career Indoor Titles: 0
Comments: Serna is so far back that she really needs a title to win. She has never won a WTA event, nor even reached a final. She can upset top players, but can't back it up. Like Montolio, she has a mathematical chance but no practical chance.

23. Iroda Tulyaganova
Current Ranking: #23
2001 Titles: 2 -- Vienna (III), Knokke-Heist (V)
2001 Indoor Record: 1-2 (plus 1-1 in qualifying)
Career Indoor Titles: 0
Comments: Tulyaganova, in terms of points, isn't much behind Montolio, and by winning a match at Zurich, actually moved ahead of Serna. But she's in the same boat: She must win a title (and, since she's out of Zurich, it has to be Linz). She has done it in the past; she in fact has three titles. But none indoors, and none at the big events. Her only real hope is a rash of withdrawals.
(bob larson newsletter)

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
To Adrian & Moon:
I didn't compose the post. It is Bob Larson's weekly newsletter as I clearly indicated at the bottom of the C/P, giving him full credit. Got a problem with his writing style? Why not write and tell him so. Personally i think his newsletters are terrific and never miss reading them!
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