Google Down the Line!: 2010-11-07

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MEDIA MASHUP: All things must come to an end

With all my time away from the keyboard vacaying and stuff I missed coverage of the ladies' year-end tourneys including the WTA Championships, Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions and FED CUP.

Here's a quick recap:

WTA Championships, Kim Clijsters d. Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 5-7, 6-3

Kimmie won her third year-end championship and fifth title of the year. She also denied Wozzi, who clinched the year-end top spot for the first time, the exclamation point on the best season of her career so far. Compared to the rest of the lady ballers who actually made it to Doha the Belgian had the best year of 'em all in terms of quality wins so it was a fitting end for her.

Woz played more, is ranked No. 1 and earned more titles than anyone else (six) but fell short at the big ones. I've heard some say she's just another Jelena Jankovic - all defense with no clear weapons. But I tend to disagree. She's more athletic, more of a "jock" than the Serb and can get gritty when down which will continue to serve her well. The Dane will enter 2011 with an enormous target on her back, though, so the path to her first Grand Slam won't get any easier.

Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions, Ana Ivanovic d. Alisa Kleybanova 6-2, 7-6(5)

Ana Ivanovic seems to have discovered some of the confidence that has alluded her since winning Roland Garros in 2008 and residing in the WTA Penthouse. She won at Linz a few weeks ago and capped off her season by grabbing Bali over Kleybs.

Interestingly, NaturAna parted ways with Coach Heinz Gunthardt during this span. I always find it puzzling when a coaching relationship comes to end right when it seems a baller has turned a corner after struggling for a while. But, sometimes it's really not in their control if the coach wants out for some reason, in this case Heinz's desire not to travel full-time. It'll be interesting to see if NaturAna starts 2011 coachless or secures someone during the off-season. I'd hate for her to lose this momentum she's worked so hard to find.

BTW, ain't she so pretty all gussied up in her Bali-wear?

FED CUP, Italy d. USA 3-1

A big "BRAVA!" to Italy for defending their FED CUP championship over the USA. The Italians had so much experience on their side not to mention a Grand Slam champion in their midst (that would be Francesca Schiavone, duh.) And they got even more help with Coach Mary Jo Fernandez's inane decision to bench Melanie Oudin for Coco Vandeweghe in the opening rubber. Listen, I know Mels has been in slump city but she certainly has light years more experience, relatively speaking, in pressure moments on the big stage than Coco. That counts in FED CUP play. One has to hope the tears the young American cried after losing the final rubber over Flavia Pennetta don't haunt her. It was a bad move on MJ's part. Coco never really had a chance.

Elena Dementieva says BUH-BYE and the ladies pay tribute.

Come to think of it, maybe I should just cover the WTA. You know, the longer off-season and stuff...

[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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Monday, November 8, 2010

VANtage Point: Paris-Bercy brings the Masters 1000 season to a close

Hey DtL readers, it’s Van — last seen around these parts during the U.S. Open — with a final VANtage Point for the year. It was a pretty good season for the Point with some now-legendary calls, both good (Francesca Schiavone getting to the finals at the French) and bad (and I quote, from my Wimbledon breakdown on Rafael Nadal’s chances: “I think his draw is super, super tough so catch him while you can!”)

Anyway, in consults with Down the Line! honcho Rich, we decided I’d do a wrap-up of the year in ATP Masters 1000 tournaments (or “Super 9s” for you old-schoolers out there) before looking at the final one on the calendar taking place this week in Paris. So in VP fashion, let’s start with …

A Look Back: It was quite a year for the prestigious tournaments.

· If Indian Wells was going to be any indication for how the season would go, then we were all probably shocked. Veteran Ivan Ljubicic won the biggest title of his career, dusting multiple top tenners along the way: Novak Djokovic in the 16s, Rafa in the semis and Andy Roddick in the final.

· Roddick bounced back, though, in a big way in his next event, winning in Miami over Tomas Berdych in the final. This was Roddick’s first Masters 1000 title since Cincinnati in ’06. That win against Berdych was nice, but it was the semifinal win over Nadal that really stood out.

· Not that I want to cheat you out of more of the beautiful prose that makes up VANtage Point but I think I’m going to lump all the clay-court notes into one nifty little paragraph, especially seeing as how one man conquered the three big tourneys: Nadal. Just when doubt was growing about his game, a trip to Monte Carlo worked wonders as he won his first title of the year against countryman Fernando Verdasco. Then, it was off to Rome, where he blew out another Spaniard, David Ferrer, in the final. In his third final of the Masters 1000 clay-court swing, Nadal defeated Roger Federer in Madrid, reversing the previous year’s result. During this run of his, Nadal only dropped two sets in 15 matches and became the first player to sweep the Masters’ dirt stretch.

· After Wimbledon, it was back to North America for the summer hard court season. Andy Murray won the first big event in Toronto, going back-to-back against Nadal and Fed in the semis and finals, respectively.

· Federer won at Cincy in a dogfight with surprise finalist Mardy Fish. Funny that Federer had to work so hard in the finals because the road there wasn’t tough at all with a first-round bye, a retirement in the second round and a walkover in the third!

· Shanghai was number eight on the slate and Murray took the shield there for his second title of the year with both wins coming against Federer.

And now, here we are.

This Week’s Spotlight: The final regular-season event before the ATP World Tour Finals, the Paris Masters. It’s the crown jewel of the indoor season, and the defending champ is Novak Djokovic, who beat hometown fave Gael Monfils in the finals. The tournament, which kicked off yesterday, has already been rocked by the withdrawal of Nadal, but the rest of the gang is there. Plus, it’s the final place those in the hunt for a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals can gain points, which leads to ...

Players to Watch: There are three spots left for the Finals, and right now, Berdych is in sixth place, followed by last week’s Valencia Open champ Ferrer and Swiss Indoors semifinalist Roddick. You remember Berdych, right? That guy that put himself into the mix of Slam contenders after years of unfulfilled promise? Looks like he’s in a bit of a rut, to say the least. So is another Finals hopeful, Verdasco, who’s won only a single match since the U.S. Open. Watch out for Nikolay Davydenko and Monfils hurting their respective chances. I don’t think any of those guys will make the semis, though.

The Final Four: Federer, who has been in great form indoors, will take out Murray in the top half of the draw, while Roddick will stop Djokovic.

And the Winner Is … : Federer, for his first title at this event, which would be a nice way to enter the year-end championships, don’t you think?

So, signing off for VANtage Point this year, it’s Van (Get it? Van? VANtage Point?) saying see you later and enjoy your tennis viewing!

Van Sias writes the blog Tennis Talk, Anyone?

[Photo(s): Getty Images]
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