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Women's Look Forward: Los Angeles, Palermo



Welcome to Olympic Rescheduling Week #2!

The need to fit the Olympics into the summer schedule gives this summer a rather different look. The first effect was felt last week, with Stanford moved a week closer to Wimbledon. Had the WTA just shoved everything forward, this would have been the week of San Diego. But San Diego is special: For years, it's been the Tier II that should have been a Slam; it's been among the strongest events on the Tour. Even last year, it was a bonus Tier II, with extra prize money and points. This year, it's a new-minted Tier I. That means that it is not to be moved on the calendar. (The WTA shuffles low-tier events freely -- as witness the fact that Palermo is two weeks later this year than last -- but rarely moves Tier II events unless forced to, and the Tier I events are very firmly fixed in the calendar.) If San Diego was to stay in place, and Stanford moved forward, that left only one possibility: Los Angeles had to move forward two weeks. And so it did.

With the tournament moved so far forward in the calendar, there was a certain similarity to Stanford, also shoved forward if not as much, in the qualifying draw: Once again it's a 16-player field (Palermo, despite being smaller, had a full 32-draw, though it was short enough on players that four of them got byes). Marissa Irvin was again seeded #1, Alexandra Stevenson #4 (and, just as last week, she is out as a result of injury), Loudmila Skavronskaia #5, Evgenia Lineskaya #6, Meilen Tu #7, and Vilmarie Castellvi #8. Abigail Spears, Anne Kremer, Lilia Osterloh, and Jessica Nguyen are all back as well.

The main draw is another thing altogether. For one thing, Stanford was a 28-draw, Los Angeles a 56-draw (making it one of only two 56-draw "ordinary" Tier II events on the calendar, Amelia Island being the other. The WTA, it appears, decided on this early in the year, when Palermo was scheduled for the same time as Stanford. When Palermo was shifted back a week, Los Angeles kept its large draw size). Los Angeles is also a good deal stronger than Stanford: Nearly everyone from Stanford is here also, but lots of high-ranking players have joined the field. Even more amazing, both Williams Sisters are in the initial draw. It's been quite a while since that has been true at a non-Slam, non-Miami, non-year-end event.

The one thing Los Angeles is missing is the very top players: No Justine Henin-Hardenne or Kim Clijsters, of course, but also no Amelie Mauresmo or Anastasia Myskina. From #5 on down, the players are pretty thick: Lindsay Davenport is the top player here (though seeded #3 behind Serena and Venus Williams because of their special rankings). Elena Dementieva takes the #4 seed. Neither Jennifer Capriati nor Maria Sharapova is here; that gives Svetlana Kuznetsova the #5 seed, and Ai Sugiyama #6; that the tournament four Top Ten players (Davenport, Dementieva, Kuznetsova, Sugiyama; Stanford had one Top Ten player.) Nadia Petrova is #7, Vera Zvonareva #8 (meaning she is the last player to get a first round bye). Patty Schnyder -- who was #3 at Stanford! -- is the #9 seed, Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi (#5 at Stanford) is #10, Francesca Schiavone (#4 at Stanford) #11, Silvia Farina Elia #12, Fabiola Zuluaga #13, Chanda Rubin #14, Amy Frazier (#6 at Stanford) is #15, Meghann Shaughnessy (#7 at Stanford) takes the #16 seed. Maria Vento-Kabchi, the Stanford semifinalist who has big points to defend this week, is unseeded (she's next in line if there is a withdrawal, and would have been seeded had this week's rankings been used); other noteworthy unseeded players include Eleni Daniilidou, Daniela Hantuchova, Conchita Martinez, Jelena Kostanic, and Nathalie Dechy. It's one of those draws that is rather weak at the top but very strong in the middle.

That's in contrast to Palermo, which doesn't have a single Top 50 player. Klara Koukalova is the #1 seed, Anabel Medina Garrigues #2, Denisa Chladkova #3, Katarina Srebotnik #4, Flavia Pennetta #5, Lubomira Kurhajcova #6, Melinda Czink #7, and Ludmila Cervanova #8. This tournament has a long tradition of producing first-time tournament winners (perhaps the most notable recent example being Anastasia Myskina); it seems quite likely that that will be the case again this year. Indeed, the players with the most experience in finals are both unseeded: Sandrine Testud is here as a wildcard (and she too won her first title here); Henrieta Nagyova is another past winner.

Noteworthy First Round Matches

Most of these, naturally, are at Los Angeles, though the eight first round byes cost us a few chances for hot opening matches. One of particular interest is Chanda Rubin's opening match against a qualifier. Rubin still hasn't won an actual WTA match since her injury. Daniela Hantuchova makes her first post-Wimbledon appearance against Cara Black. Conchita Martinez and Nathalie Dechy didn't miss seeding by much, and they meet in the first round.

The most interesting match at Palermo is probably the one between Testud and #8 seed Cervanova. The Testud of three years ago would have been the best player here -- but, of course, Testud has yet to get back into form.

The Rankings

The big question, for the next few weeks, is going to be the #2 ranking. Kim Clijsters won Stanford last year, and those points come off this week; had Amelie Mauresmo played Los Angeles, a good result would have made her #2. As it is, she'll have to wait.

Myskina's decision to skip Los Angeles potentially places her #4 ranking in some danger. Lindsay Davenport has to do well, but the #4 spot is well within her reach (though she has a thousand points to defend in the next six weeks, to 300 for Myskina, so it will be hard for the American to hold).

Davenport is certainly safe at #5, and since Jennifer Capriati isn't playing, Elena Dementieva will stay at #6. Capriati herself will lose some points, but with Maria Sharapova not playing, she too is safe. Not so Sharapova; Svetlana Kuznetsova can pass her, though she probably needs a win. And there are quite a few competitors for the final spot in the Top Ten: Venus Williams, current holder Ai Sugiyama, Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva.

Players with a lot to defend include Maria Vento-Kabchi, who could lose the Top 30 spot she just gained, and Amy Frazier, who could fall below #25.

Key Matches

Since we went into so much detail about rankings milestones above, maybe we should list what each player needs to do to reach one:

For Serena Williams to return to the Top 15, she needs to win her opening match and lost longer than Patty Schnyder. Which probably translates back as, If Schnyder wishes to stay Top 15, she has to at least beat Nadia Petrova in the Round of 16.

Then there is that one remaining Top Ten spot. Right now, it's Ai Sugiyama's. Petrova is about 70 points back, meaning that she had to reach the quarterfinal, and might have to make the semifinal. Which probably means beating Davenport.

Venus is about 100 points back, but she faces Sugiyama in the quarterfinal. The loser of that match will not be Top Ten; the winner probably will be, though it depends on Petrova and Zvonareva.

Zvonareva is almost 200 points back. She needs to make at least the final, implying a win over Serena in the quarterfinal, to have a chance.

Kuznetsova needs over 250 points to pass Sharapova. So she needs a win.

Davenport needs about 175 points to pass Myskina. So if she can beat Venus again and reach the final, she'll probably make it to #4.

Got all that? If not, we hardly blame you; as things start to sort themselves, we will of course have updates in Daily Tennis.
 

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Wow....what we miss are the very top players?! :lol: Wow and that about an event with BOTH sisters in it. Have their stock dropped so low?!
 

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Go Lindsay, snatch that 3rd place!
 

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Thanks for the info! Very interesting and well analyzed.
 

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Thanks. I always like reading this stuff.
 

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Where do you guys get these..."Women look forward to" articles from ?
 

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Cam'ron Giles said:
Where do you guys get these..."Women look forward to" articles from ?

dailytennis.com or tennisone.com from Bob Larson.
 
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