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King
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Random thread, but still bored in lockdown Dublin, so rolling with it anyway.

Lots of nostalgic talk on here lately, and the realization of the demise of the Golden Era of Russian women's tennis got me thinking about where we rank the peak levels of some of the most accomplished Russian players of this era. I've added the most accomplished 15 Russian players of the last 20 years or so to my list, as it was a bit trickier to exclude it to just 10. For my list, I took into consideration genuine top levels of play that we seen on multiple occasions, and did give a slight nod to ability to deliver that level in bigger situations - something which most of the girls were usually rubbish at. It's also a bit trickier to compare the likes of Kournikova to some newer players since she did play in a different era, but I tried to balance it in my head as much as possible.

My list looks like:

1. Sharapova - She is of course the most accomplished, but I genuinely feel like her peak level was just more reliable, consistent, and she was more mentally effective than the majority of her peers combined.

2. Kuznetsova - Kuznetsova's peak, peak level was extremely high, but we only really seen it a handful of times, and she flopped so many times even in best years to much lesser players in big matches. Still, I don't think anybody bar peak Sharapova would be able to handle her at her very peak.

3. Dementieva - I obviously have a soft spot for her, but when everything was on, she was able to hang with anybody on any surface, and she just never put everything together at the right time to peak for slams (completely her own fault).

4. Safina - Very short peak level, but her clay court form and 08 HC form were mercieless for 95% of the tour. She just wasn't as good of an athlete as either Kuznetsova or Dementieva though, and off of clay, wouldn't be a match for peak Sharapova;

5. Myskina - I believe that her best level is not that impressive vs. others, and she is one of the least accomplished slam winners of all time - never made it past the QF of another slam - but I do believe she was more reliable in terms of bringing her top level consistently on bigger stages vs. some of those which came close to her in my list.

6. Petrova - Petrova was very talented, and could play almost every shot in the book, but IMO, she was often just out-gunned against the elite, and she never truly felt like a slam contended outside of the RG 06 notorious flop.

7. Kournikova - I'm sure Kournikova's inclusion will be different on everybody's list here, but I do genuinely think she had game for her time, and was much more versatile vs. more accomplished players that came after her.

8. Zvonareva - Definitely above Kournikova in terms of results of course, but she was always an overachiever of the era considering that she spent most of the 00s as a 8-12 level player in ranking, and was obviously less dangerous vs. even some of the other bridesmaids of her era. Still, her natural ability to shift the direction of the ball regardless of where it came from is one of the best of all time.

9. Chakvetadze - Smart, and fun player to watch, who had her career cut short by illness. I don't think she was ever going to win a slam either, and her top 5 showing was a bit of an apparition, but she should have spent a couple more seasons in the top 20 and had some decent slam runs

10. Pavlyuchenkova - Actually, this was a hard one between herself and Makarova - Makarova has her slam SFs, but Pavluchenkova's game at her very best is more dangerous to a wider group of players.

The rest....

Players who maximised their talent despite obvious limitations - 11. Makarova (not super athletic without proper weapons, but a good upset artist of her time), 12. Kirilenko (pretty but underpowered game, but definitely maximised her potential).

13. Likhovsteva - Boring but effective top 20 player, with solid career results that couldn't be missed from this list.

14. Vesnina - B/C-list basher that is probably the most undeniable overachiever from the list, but she was quite inoffensive and innocuous for the majority of her career.

15. Kasatkina - Boring pusher, and the least interesting of all.

Discuss and feedback.
 

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Stanning for Andi
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As brief as her peak was, I would put Safina slightly ahead of Dementieva. I didn't really enjoy her game style but she was undeniably devastating from the baseline for large parts of 2008-09.

Dementieva's base level was exceptionally high all the way through the 2000s but what do we consider to be her peak? In terms of base level as opposed to peak level, I would put her second on the list.
 

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This is very close
Sharapova at 2008 AO was probably best
Safina
Kuznetsova
Petrova Kim at AO
Dementieva
Myskina
Kournikova when she beat Seles 75 64, Conchita Martinez 63 60 then Davenport & ASV in Miami
Zvonareva
Chakvetadze
 

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1 Sharapova
2 Kuznetsova
3 Myskina (Nobody gave her the FO. She thrashed Capriati in the SF and Dementieva in the Final. Got to number 2 in the world and had a winning H2H against all the other top Russians. Sharapova (3-2), Kuznetsova (4-2), Safina (5-1), Zvonareva (3-1), Dementieva (9-3), Petrova (3-2) Injuries ruined her career)
4 Safina
5 Zvonareva
6 Dementieva. (not much between 4-6 but Safina was dominant on the WTA for a few months and was a deserved number 1. Dementieva had 2 winnable slam finals, Zvonareva didn't)
7 Makarova (twice a GS semi finalist, 6 times a GS quarter finalist and strangely overlooked for some reason)
8 Chakvetadze
9 Petrova (incapable of beating other Russians in big matches and was 0-5 to Chakvetadze)
10 Pavlyuchenkova. Won 12 tournaments and reached QF at all slams.

Kournikova never won a tournament in singles. If the subject is most successful players, she just misses the top ten for me.
 

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1. Sharapova (before she got banned)
2. Kuznetsova
3. Dementieva (more than ten years inside the Top 20, most of the time Top 10 + Olympic Gold)
4. Zvonareva
5. Petrova (like Dementieva, staying inside the Top 20 for so many years, won several TIER I tournaments and reached a couple of Major semi-finals)
6. Safina (very short career)
7. Myskina (she played well during the French Open 2004 but was never the same before and after that, a very short career overall too)
7. Kournikova/Chakvetdaze - tough to compare, Chakvetdaze had just one great season in 2007, before and afterward here and there some solid results. Kournikova was at her peak in 1998-2000 but never won a tournament. Her era was a little bit stronger than in 2007.
 

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In one recent Russian interview Elena Vesnina was asked who are the top 3 Russian female players in her opinion and she said Sharapova, Kuznetsova and Dementieva. I'd agree with that.

1. Sharapova
2. Kuznetsova
3. Dementieva

Zvonareva, Petrova, Safina, Myskina in no specific order between number 4 and 7.
 

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King
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Discussion Starter #8
As brief as her peak was, I would put Safina slightly ahead of Dementieva. I didn't really enjoy her game style but she was undeniably devastating from the baseline for large parts of 2008-09.

Dementieva's base level was exceptionally high all the way through the 2000s but what do we consider to be her peak? In terms of base level as opposed to peak level, I would put her second on the list.
Safina has a consistently higher top level for a more extended period than Dementieva, hence why the former made #1 during her 08-09 run, and Dementieva only peaked @ #3. Peak Safina would beat Peak Dementieva on clay, but outside of that Dementieva would have the edge on all surfaced IMO. Plus, Dementieva did actually play her very close during one her peak clay runs in 08, taking a set off of her in Berlin, and having MP @ RG that year too - one of the least remembered chokes/flops of all time.
 

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La Divina Assoluta
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I think it's obvious that Kuznetsova had the most complete game out of all the top Russians. Plus she was as good as an athlete as Dementieva, Myskina etc. I think her peak level is actually slightly overrated, as I feel there's been quite a few matches where Kuznetsova has played extremely well and lost, so I don't think she was unplayable at her best.

I feel like on groundstrokes alone, Dementieva had the greatest of all the Russians (and perhaps anyone in WTA history), but I think her ranking here is diminished by her joke of a serve for the best part of her career and a complete lack of variety and transition game that became almost comical in her later years against the likes of Wozniacki and Radwanska.

Petrova maybe had the best serve of all the Russians (definitely the most consistent anyway), but I don't think her 'prime' level was astounding compared to others. A good, strong player with a heavy baseline game, but a lot of flaws and hardly the game's greatest match player to put it mildly.

I put Myskina, Zvonareva and Chakvetdaze on near enough the same level. Myskina obviously has the RG title to her name, but if you look at her overall game and results, they're almost extremely similar or worse than the other two. A terrific, nimble athlete, but not an overwhelming game and played a tentative counter-punching game that was probably improved upon by the likes of Jankovic and maybe even Zvonareva in 2009-2010.

Safina has the best non-slam winning accomplishments out of all the Russians and her prime level on clay was pretty high. That said though, her game was based almost solely on attrition, with not very natural timing and a brutish ground game that relied more on grinding players down rather than with overwhelmingly aggressive tennis like Kuznetsova or Sharapova.

Kournikova was the original Russian teen phenom and had a very varied, all-court game that was ideal for the uber-fast playing conditions of the late 90s and early 2000s. That said, her game, although flashy, lacked an overwhelming weapon and her serve was a total liability even when playing well. Arguably though, she had the best net game of any of the high profile Russians.

Sharapova of course I think must rank highest in terms of level and her results and her overall consistency from 2004 to around 2015. Plus, I think her indoor form in 2006 was the most consistently aggressive, secure and mentally tough level we've seen from any Russian player. I think also at her best, she had the best serve and BH CC.
 

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1 M Sharapova
2 S Kuznetsova
3 D Safina
4 A Myskina
5 V Zvonarëva
6 E Dementieva
7 N Petrova
8 O Morozova
9 A Chakvetadze
10 E Makarova
11 A Kournikova
12 E Vesnina
13 A Pavlyuchenkova
14 E Likhovtseva
15 M Kirilenko
Special Mention: D Kasatkina, N Chmyreva
 

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Sugarpova, Kuz, Myskina... I don't get the Safina love.

More importantly, when you list out the Russians like the OP did, the first thing that came to my mind was that collectively their biggest weakness was their mental game even with Sharapova.
 

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I'd put Dementieva at #1 if we are talking about who has the highest peak. I saw her do things in baseline rallies that i have never seen any woman do before or since. Lena had an all-time great game, but never got the results to match.

I don't have too many complaints with the OP's list other than that he is obviously a Kasatkina hater... but Dasha has the potential to go deep at the FO and i can see her making things very uncomfortable for her critics at some point.

I wouldn't include Kirilenko in the Top 15 list at all, i'd substitute Bovina at #12 in her place.
 

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Sharapova's 1st, Kuznetsova's 2nd.

But I always liked Kuznetsova's tennis more, FH in her prime was arguably one of the best FH-s in WTA ever.

No one else even close.
 

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1. Masha- Speaks for itself, especially 2004-2008
2. Sveta
3. Lena D
4. Safina
5. Zvonareva
6. Petrova- Ranked this low because I don’t think she ever showed her peak level.
7. Kournikova- Anna was beyond talented, even with a suspect serve she could have spent the early 2000s a solid top 10 player and potential slam champ
8. Kirilenko- Controversial, but she got injured at a critical point in her career, MaKiri could have been a good top 5 player, she was a good defender, good at the net, decent server
9. Anna Chakvetadze/Vesnina/Myskina- Nastya was lucky to get that slam, I enjoyed watching her game and I think Pornina was much more than a brainless ballbasher.
 

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The one ironic thing this shows about the Russian players is how diverse their play styles are:

Sharapova to Svetlana to Dinara to Kasatkina to Myskina to Zvonareva to Chakvetadze to Kournikova to Kirilenko to Dementieva to Lihkovsteva all played very different. Relentless power player, physical all court play, heavy spins and angles, craft and variety, counter punching, baseline grinding...... it's odd because i feel like a majority of people just see one as yet another "OVA".

On pure peak:
1. Sharapova
2. Kuznetsova
3. Kournikova
4. Dementieva
5. Safina/ Chavetdaze
 

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King
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Discussion Starter #16
I'd put Dementieva at #1 if we are talking about who has the highest peak. I saw her do things in baseline rallies that i have never seen any woman do before or since. Lena had an all-time great game, but never got the results to match.
I kind of wanted to make a thread titled 'Dementieva - Why Wasn't She Better?' but I guess the answers are mostly obvious.

Throughout her career, Dementieva was one of the best athletes, one of the most dangerous and consistent hitters in tandem, yet compared to a lot of players who came after her, it feels like she really has totally underachieved, and overall, in retrospect, her game just felt less than the sum of its parts.

Yes, we know her serve was shockingly shit for years, but for some reason, I'm still not convinced that even if we added her 2009 serve to her 2004/5 game that she would have won multiple slams. Her career management was completely shit, and she always scheduled around events that are now mostly meaningless - Fed Cup, random T1/2s that either no longer exist or are on their way out of the tour - she often shit in her pants in pretty much all of the biggest slam moments of her career, and tactically was one of the least gifted players of her generation. Still, as one of the biggest Lena D. fans on her during the 00s, it still pains me that her career ended up as flaccid results-wise when we look back on paper, with so many inferior players ended up with slams soon after she retired, and even compared with some of the multi-slam winners of the last 10 years.

A reminder of some of her highlights of the early 00s before she became a top 10 mainstay - the match where she trashed Hingis in Moscow (20 years ago now!) ranks as one of my best early tennis memories:









 

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King
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Discussion Starter #17
More importantly, when you list out the Russians like the OP did, the first thing that came to my mind was that collectively their biggest weakness was their mental game even with Sharapova.
Sharapova's confidence took a big knock from the shoulder injury, and some of the Serena lashings, but I would still rank her as one of the mentally toughest players of all time - with or without Meldonium - and just a million times ahead of the other girls on this list.

Also great should re: Bovina - completely missed her, even though she's definitely close to the top 10 in terms of peak levels for Russian players of all time.
 

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I kind of wanted to make a thread titled 'Dementieva - Why Wasn't She Better?' but I guess the answers are mostly obvious.

Throughout her career, Dementieva was one of the best athletes, one of the most dangerous and consistent hitters in tandem, yet compared to a lot of players who came after her, it feels like she really has totally underachieved, and overall, in retrospect, her game just felt less than the sum of its parts.

Yes, we know her serve was shockingly shit for years, but for some reason, I'm still not convinced that even if we added her 2009 serve to her 2004/5 game that she would have won multiple slams. Her career management was completely shit, and she always scheduled around events that are now mostly meaningless - Fed Cup, random T1/2s that either no longer exist or are on their way out of the tour - she often shit in her pants in pretty much all of the biggest slam moments of her career, and tactically was one of the least gifted players of her generation. Still, as one of the biggest Lena D. fans on her during the 00s, it still pains me that her career ended up as flaccid results-wise when we look back on paper, with so many inferior players ended up with slams soon after she retired, and even compared with some of the multi-slam winners of the last 10 years.

A reminder of some of her highlights of the early 00s before she became a top 10 mainstay - the match where she trashed Hingis in Moscow (20 years ago now!) ranks as one of my best early tennis memories:

fabulous clips all.

I've said this in other threads, but the real reason Lena D has no Slam titles is that she retired too early. She played her last full season on tour at age 28 and quit literally right as the tour got a lot weaker. Let's remember that Serena Williams and Lena are only 2 weeks apart in age... she could have played a lot longer.

Who's going to tell me that in-form Dementieva at age 29/30/31 in 2011-12-13 wouldn't have been a favorite to beat Na Li/Sharapova/Williams in Paris? She was clearly better than all of 3 them on clay and she could have won the FO in any (or all!) of those years. But she wasn't in the draw :-(
 

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I always forget that Lena retired in her 20s. She spent so long in top 20 I always just think of her as being older when she retired. As you said if she held out a bit longer maybe she could’ve nabbed slam.
 
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