Well now we know the cause of Dinara Safina’s “misery tour” which began this summer on the hard courts and ended with the world number one in tears at the WTA Finale at Doha.
After her retirement to Jelena Jankovic in their opening round match, Safina announced that she would not continue play at the Doha event due to a severe back injury she has battled for the last three months. Safina said her lower back was almost “fractured”, but didn’t say what was the cause. Safina tried taking cortisone injections this week to deal with the pain but it didn’t work.
Doctors have now advised Safina to take the next six weeks off and that appearing at the 2010 Australian Open is in jeopardy.
This is truly bad news for Safina who endured criticism the whole year not being worthy of her top ranking. It’s hard to say if the back injury was the cause of her many early round losses this summer, but one would think it was a major factor. The other issue is why did Safina not take time off after the U.S. Open and skip Asia rather than risk marring her 2010 schedule? And what about her coach Zeljko Krajan who has endured criticism himself for being too tough on Safina and not looking out for her best interest?
It’s unclear if Safina’s withdrawal will allow one of the alternate players, Agnieska Radwanska or Vera Zvonareva into the main draw. With Safina’s loss, Serena Williams will finish the year at No. 1. She clinched the top spot after winning an epic match against sister Venus Williams 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
In other early round play, Caroline Wozniacki came back from a set and a break down to defeat Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-4 7-5.
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The current investigation into Caroline Wozniacki’s retirement at the Luxembourg Open is one of those stories that you have examine several times to figure out if there really is a story or just a lot of events that seem connected or not.
Prior to retiring in her match to Anne Kremer while leading 7-5, 5-0, Wozniacki’s father, Piotr, came on to the court at 3-0 and told his daughter that with her hamstring injury it wasn’t worth her continuing since she wouldn’t be able to play the next round anyway. As his comments were picked up by on-court microphones, internet betting sites surged in traffic and bets against Wozniacki, implying that perhaps she was throwing the match.
The WTA continues to investigate if any match fixing was involved and a new Tennis Integrity Unit run by the tennis powers that be is also involved. Although consensus is high that Wozniacki will not be fined for any betting maneuvers, she could be fined for a “lack of effort”.
Even if Wozniacki and her father didn’t use the best judgment in ending the match at the right time, the fact that their discussion was broadcast on microphones for everybody is being overlooked.
Unlike the NBA, NFL, et al where coaches and players know they are being watched every second on TV and on court and use the “huddle” to hide their next move, WTA players and coaches tend to sit casually on the sideline and have a nice chat about how things are going. The WTA hasn’t figured out that by allowing mics on court, they are more likely opening the door for more betting speculation during on-court coaching rather then enhancing the audience experience by allowing fans to eavesdrop on a player/coach talk.
On court coaching and microphones during WTA matches isn’t doing anything to enhance or improve the game for players or the fans and should end. Instead of punishing Wozniacki for her sportsmanship, the WTA should refocus efforts on helping its players be healthy and consistent so they can play their best tennis each week which is all the fans really want in the end.
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The only real intrigue going on this week in Moscow, other than the mayor’s bold claim that he will create a “snow-less winter”, will be which of the remaining ladies with a fighting chance of making it to Doha will prevail at this week’s Kremlin Cup.
Jelena Jankovic, Agnieska Radwanska, and Vera Zvonareva are all competing for the final spot to Doha. Jankovic is defending champion at the event so all the pressure will be on her to not only defend but somehow outlast the other two ladies.
The men are also playing in Moscow this week but the stakes are not as high. Nikolay Davydenko is playing (of course) and will meet Marat Safin in the first round. Good luck with that Kolya.
And let’s not forget the return of Kim Clijsters who will show up in Luxembourg for her first post U.S. Open win event. She could face her fellow finalist Caroline Wozniacki who is also playing the event.
Who do you think will be that last to qualify for Doha?
Rather than analyze the “Serena Incident” which will be overanalyzed for the next six months, let’s take a quick look at the Women’s Singles Final for the U.S. Open.
On one side we have Caroline Wozniacki who has used her great defensive game and sharp two-handed backhand to wear down harder hitting opponents. What she lacks in power, she makes up for in great movement. Her serve though is a liability.
On the other side, there’s the story of the year now, Kim Clijsters, who after a two and half year layoff is back in her second consecutive U.S. Open final. Clijsters is hitting the ball harder and with more precision. Her serve is a bigger weapon now and she appears to have a lot more clarity on where she places the ball.
If this were say a quarterfinal or semifinal, I would give the immediate edge to Clijsters just for her level of play this whole summer. But since it is the finals, and an unexpected one for both players, nerves will be a factor going in. If Wozniacki is to win, she will somehow have to negate Clijsters’s groundstrokes and keep the rallies going hoping that Clijsters will miss a lot like in the Kuznetsova match. If Clijsters connects for winner after winner and also returns well, especially on Wozniacki’s second serve, it will be a quick match.
Even though Serena lost, the “incident” will still linger on the court, especially for Clijsters, who must find someway to forget it happened and just focus on Wozniacki.
For Clijsters to win the whole thing would be a remarkable achievement simply because she has played at a higher level than anyone on the WTA this summer. If Wozniacki does pull off the “upset”, she will have proven that the hype around her was for real and that many more Grand Slam Finals are around the corner.
And you thought Safina’s mind was the most cloudy part of women’s tennis.
According to the AP, the WTA has changed it’s mind again on when and if Serena Williams will become number one again. Now they are saying that if Serena repeats as U.S. Open champion, she will again regain the top ranking a week after the tournament ends.
Only a few days ago the WTA said that Serena just had to get to the final to resume her top spot.
Of course this will all be a mute point if somehow Clijsters, Wozniacki, or Wickmayer stop what appears to be an inevitable third major of the year for Serena.
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