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Women's Look Forward: Shanghai
By Bob Larson
September 15 2003
Tennis News

If the folks who used to organize the Princess Cup had known that Ai Sugiyama would be contending for the Top Ten this week, and would be going for #1 in doubles, they might not have sold out their tournament license.

Sadly, they didn't have much clue. (Nobody did; at this time last year, Sugiyama was #20, but more than 1200 points away from the Top Ten, as opposed to now, when 150 points would make her Top Ten.) And that meant that Japan -- once one of the half-dozen strongest tennis countries in the world -- let this venerable tournament slip. Rights to the tournament went to Shanghai -- a rather less likely home for a tournament, considering that China's #1 player, as of last week, was Jie Zheng, #132 in the world, and their #2 was #176 Tian Tian Sun. Both of them needed wildcards to get into the draw, and that's it for Top 200 players. In doubles, their #1 players are Sun and Ting Li, co-#75, and that's it for the Top 100; Zheng and Zi Yan are co-#107.

And their exchange rate (kept artificially low against the dollar) means that sustaining a Tier II tournament is particularly expensive for them, since the prize money is paid in dollars. It doesn't seem like a particularly strong setting for a Tier II tournament. But hey, it's their money; who are we to argue?

All the changes from last year naturally make comparisons difficult. Who is the real defending champion here? Anna Pistolesi, who won Shanghai in its previous incarnation as a Tier IV? Or Serena Williams, who won last year's final Princess Cup?

(In the Strange Footnotes department, we note that Serena is moving up there in the Tournament Killing sweepstakes: Among active Tournament Terminators, we show that Serena was the final winner at Hannover and Munich as well as the Princess Cup; Lindsay Davenport, the current record-holder in this department, was the last-ever winner at Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a number of Tier III tournaments; Amelie Mauresmo was the last and only winner at Nice; Ai Sugiyama will terminate Scottsdale; Kim Clijsters took out Hamburg; Anastasia Myskina disposed of Bahia; Monica Seles was the one and only winner at Milan; and Conchita Martinez handled Stratton Mountain. Too much, of course, should not be made of this; although Davenport is a very prolific tournament-killer, some of that is that she has won a lot of tournaments, and early in her career, she won mostly small events, which have always been more unstable. Davenport killed more tournaments than Martina Hingis, her primary competition in her prime tournament-winning years -- Hingis killed only the New York version of the year-end championships -- but that's at least partly the events they scheduled: Davenport seems to like playing troubled tournaments, whereas Hingis tended to play the tougher, more firmly-established events.)

Though it doesn't matter whether you consider Pistolesi or Serena the defending champion; neither one is here. Indeed, there isn't a single player ranked higher than #8 in the field. Jennifer Capriati was supposed to play, but she withdrew citing the shoulder injury she suffered before the U. S. Open. That leaves a very weak field (a perpetual problem with out-of-the-way tournaments like this; if the WTA really wants an Asian event, it needs to find a way to establish at least one more Tier II in Asia in the fall); the top seed is Elena Dementieva, and she was a late entrant. Much of the rest of the field is a direct transfer from last week's event at Bali. The #2 seed is Bali finalist Chanda Rubin; Conchita Martinez, #3 at Bali, is #4 here; Jelena Dokic, #4 at Bali, is #5 here. #7 seed Emilie Loit also played Bali, and #8 Cara Black expected to but was in the U. S. Open doubles until the semifinal and pulled out. The one high Bali seed who is not playing here is Tamarine Tanasugarn; the two seeds who were not scheduled for Bali are #3 Ai Sugiyama and #6 Alicia Molik -- both of whom live in time zones not far removed from Shanghai.

You can probably tell that this isn't exactly a record-breakingly strong Tier II; there are only five Top 30 players. It appears that this will be the weakest Tier II of the year. That, of course, means a big opportunity for someone -- perhaps especially for the top two seeds, Rubin and Dementieva, both of whom are scrambling to try to get the last spot at the year-end championships. And there are some pretty good matches on the schedule. One we'd have our eyes on is the first rounder between #7 Emilie Loit and Maria Sharapova. Loit handled Sharapova easily at the U. S. Open (6-3 6-4), and this surface is probably slower, which should help Loit. Also interesting is Emmanuelle Gagliardi against Dinara Safina; they're fairly close in the rankings, and Gagliardi is a steady player while Safina loves to pound the ball. #5 seed Dokic opens against Janette Husarova, who is falling fast -- but Dokic isn't having much fun herself. #8 seed Black starts against Ashley Harkleroad, who became the #9 seed at Bali when Black withdrew (that won't happen this time; if there is a withdrawal, Petra Mandula will be the #9 seed). Harkleroad lost first round at Bali; can she snap back?

The second round will feature a match between #1 seed Dementieva, just off playing four straight matches, against Mandula, who is well-rested; Dokic against Safina or Gagliardi (that looks like it has real upset potential), and Rubin against Barbara Schett among others.

We do note with some sadness that Corina Morariu is out of the draw already; she won her opening qualifying match against Shiho Hisamatsu, but then retired against Jelena Jankovic.

The Rankings. This is the second straight week in which the total points "in the system" will decrease; last year, they played the Princess Cup and Quebec City during this week, and this year there is only Shanghai. The worst loser in terms of points will be last year's Princess Cup champion Serena Williams, but that won't threaten her #3 ranking. Kim Clijsters was last year's Princess Cup finalist -- but she has so many points in her #18 event that this will hardly affect her total at all; there is no possibility of Justine Henin-Hardenne passing her this week. Elena Bovina will take a hit as her Quebec City points come off; she'll fall out of the Top 30. Jelena Dokic has 104 points to defend; another early loss and she just might fall out of the Top 25. Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian has 160 points to defend, and Amy Frazier 142; they will both be falling. Tatiana Panova will also take another hit.

But there will be players looking to move up. Elena Dementieva and Chanda Rubin will again play for the #8 ranking -- and if Dementieva can win this event, she just might threaten Amelie Mauresmo's #7 ranking. That would translate into a career high.

We also note that #10 Anastasia Myskina is now less than 100 points ahead of Conchita Martinez and Ai Sugiyama, and Myskina isn't playing and the latter two are. A semifinal might be enough to put one of them in the Top Ten; if either can reach the final, it's certain. And Sugiyama is just on the fringes of the race for the #8 spot at the year-end championships; a big result here could do wonders for her chances. (Martinez is much further back in the Race, and doesn't like indoors at all; it appears she has no real chance of going to Los Angeles.)
 

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tennisIlove09 said:
Women's Look Forward: Shanghai
By Bob Larson
September 15 2003
Tennis News

If the folks who used to organize the Princess Cup had known that Ai Sugiyama would be contending for the Top Ten this week, and would be going for #1 in doubles, they might not have sold out their tournament license.

Sadly, they didn't have much clue. (Nobody did; at this time last year, Sugiyama was #20, but more than 1200 points away from the Top Ten, as opposed to now, when 150 points would make her Top Ten.) And that meant that Japan -- once one of the half-dozen strongest tennis countries in the world -- let this venerable tournament slip. Rights to the tournament went to Shanghai -- a rather less likely home for a tournament, considering that China's #1 player, as of last week, was Jie Zheng, #132 in the world, and their #2 was #176 Tian Tian Sun. Both of them needed wildcards to get into the draw, and that's it for Top 200 players. In doubles, their #1 players are Sun and Ting Li, co-#75, and that's it for the Top 100; Zheng and Zi Yan are co-#107.

And their exchange rate (kept artificially low against the dollar) means that sustaining a Tier II tournament is particularly expensive for them, since the prize money is paid in dollars. It doesn't seem like a particularly strong setting for a Tier II tournament. But hey, it's their money; who are we to argue?

All the changes from last year naturally make comparisons difficult. Who is the real defending champion here? Anna Pistolesi, who won Shanghai in its previous incarnation as a Tier IV? Or Serena Williams, who won last year's final Princess Cup?

(In the Strange Footnotes department, we note that Serena is moving up there in the Tournament Killing sweepstakes: Among active Tournament Terminators, we show that Serena was the final winner at Hannover and Munich as well as the Princess Cup; Lindsay Davenport, the current record-holder in this department, was the last-ever winner at Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a number of Tier III tournaments; Amelie Mauresmo was the last and only winner at Nice; Ai Sugiyama will terminate Scottsdale; Kim Clijsters took out Hamburg; Anastasia Myskina disposed of Bahia; Monica Seles was the one and only winner at Milan; and Conchita Martinez handled Stratton Mountain. Too much, of course, should not be made of this; although Davenport is a very prolific tournament-killer, some of that is that she has won a lot of tournaments, and early in her career, she won mostly small events, which have always been more unstable. Davenport killed more tournaments than Martina Hingis, her primary competition in her prime tournament-winning years -- Hingis killed only the New York version of the year-end championships -- but that's at least partly the events they scheduled: Davenport seems to like playing troubled tournaments, whereas Hingis tended to play the tougher, more firmly-established events.)

Though it doesn't matter whether you consider Pistolesi or Serena the defending champion; neither one is here. Indeed, there isn't a single player ranked higher than #8 in the field. Jennifer Capriati was supposed to play, but she withdrew citing the shoulder injury she suffered before the U. S. Open. That leaves a very weak field (a perpetual problem with out-of-the-way tournaments like this; if the WTA really wants an Asian event, it needs to find a way to establish at least one more Tier II in Asia in the fall); the top seed is Elena Dementieva, and she was a late entrant. Much of the rest of the field is a direct transfer from last week's event at Bali. The #2 seed is Bali finalist Chanda Rubin; Conchita Martinez, #3 at Bali, is #4 here; Jelena Dokic, #4 at Bali, is #5 here. #7 seed Emilie Loit also played Bali, and #8 Cara Black expected to but was in the U. S. Open doubles until the semifinal and pulled out. The one high Bali seed who is not playing here is Tamarine Tanasugarn; the two seeds who were not scheduled for Bali are #3 Ai Sugiyama and #6 Alicia Molik -- both of whom live in time zones not far removed from Shanghai.

You can probably tell that this isn't exactly a record-breakingly strong Tier II; there are only five Top 30 players. It appears that this will be the weakest Tier II of the year. That, of course, means a big opportunity for someone -- perhaps especially for the top two seeds, Rubin and Dementieva, both of whom are scrambling to try to get the last spot at the year-end championships. And there are some pretty good matches on the schedule. One we'd have our eyes on is the first rounder between #7 Emilie Loit and Maria Sharapova. Loit handled Sharapova easily at the U. S. Open (6-3 6-4), and this surface is probably slower, which should help Loit. Also interesting is Emmanuelle Gagliardi against Dinara Safina; they're fairly close in the rankings, and Gagliardi is a steady player while Safina loves to pound the ball. #5 seed Dokic opens against Janette Husarova, who is falling fast -- but Dokic isn't having much fun herself. #8 seed Black starts against Ashley Harkleroad, who became the #9 seed at Bali when Black withdrew (that won't happen this time; if there is a withdrawal, Petra Mandula will be the #9 seed). Harkleroad lost first round at Bali; can she snap back?

The second round will feature a match between #1 seed Dementieva, just off playing four straight matches, against Mandula, who is well-rested; Dokic against Safina or Gagliardi (that looks like it has real upset potential), and Rubin against Barbara Schett among others.

We do note with some sadness that Corina Morariu is out of the draw already; she won her opening qualifying match against Shiho Hisamatsu, but then retired against Jelena Jankovic.

The Rankings. This is the second straight week in which the total points "in the system" will decrease; last year, they played the Princess Cup and Quebec City during this week, and this year there is only Shanghai. The worst loser in terms of points will be last year's Princess Cup champion Serena Williams, but that won't threaten her #3 ranking. Kim Clijsters was last year's Princess Cup finalist -- but she has so many points in her #18 event that this will hardly affect her total at all; there is no possibility of Justine Henin-Hardenne passing her this week. Elena Bovina will take a hit as her Quebec City points come off; she'll fall out of the Top 30. Jelena Dokic has 104 points to defend; another early loss and she just might fall out of the Top 25. Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian has 160 points to defend, and Amy Frazier 142; they will both be falling. Tatiana Panova will also take another hit.

But there will be players looking to move up. Elena Dementieva and Chanda Rubin will again play for the #8 ranking -- and if Dementieva can win this event, she just might threaten Amelie Mauresmo's #7 ranking. That would translate into a career high.

We also note that #10 Anastasia Myskina is now less than 100 points ahead of Conchita Martinez and Ai Sugiyama, and Myskina isn't playing and the latter two are. A semifinal might be enough to put one of them in the Top Ten; if either can reach the final, it's certain. And Sugiyama is just on the fringes of the race for the #8 spot at the year-end championships; a big result here could do wonders for her chances. (Martinez is much further back in the Race, and doesn't like indoors at all; it appears she has no real chance of going to Los Angeles.)
Thanks for that :)
 
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