So Vera Zvonareva’s journey to the WTA Season Finale in Doha was almost like a chapter out of “Cinderella”.
She barely missed the final eight cut when she lost early in Moscow. However, being in the top ten she was invited as an alternate which meant she couldn’t dress up for the “royal ball” like the other “stepsisters”.
However when the “queen” of the ball aka Dinara Safina couldn’t fulfill her duties, Zvonareva now had a chance.
Zvonareva’s fairy tale almost came true today as she was down a set and a break to Caroline Woznicaki, but managed to fight her way back into a third set before losing 0-6, 7-6(3), 6-4.
Even if she can win her next match and go 1-1, it’s unlikely she can advance to the semifinals, unless another miracle occurs.
But of course we’ve seen miracles aplenty this year on the women’s tour, so anything is possible.
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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Busy news day here. In the WTA Series Finale at Doha, current world number one Dinara Safina lost to Jelena Jankovic in their first round after Dinara Safina stopped play at 1-1. Safina went over to her chair, put a towel to her face and starting crying before retiring the match.
It’s not clear if she will continue in the tournament. Serena Williams is currently taking on sister Venus.
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Interesting Q&A interview posted today in the New York Times with the head of the WTA Stacey Allaster which you can read here. One of the questions asked was about a recent poll of the top players in which they ranked the season ending championships tenth in terms of importance after the Slams and major events like Miami.
Obviously Doha offers those who qualify major bonus money and points for their rankings. And this year’s event will finally determine the number one ranking between Dinara Safina and Serena Williams. It’s certainly great to see the top eight ladies play each other, and you know you want to see the final match come down to Serena/Safina battle it out for number one, but at the end of the day, it all still feels like a big asterisk next to the Grand Slams.
What do you think?
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What a year 2009 has been for Dinara Safina. She gets smoked in the Australian Open final by Serena Williams, and despite a decent clay court season, chokes in the French Open final to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Then Safina got smoked again by Venus Williams at Wimbledon, then went on the “magical misery tour” this summer on the hard courts culminating in an early round loss at the U.S Open.
But Safina wasn’t done as she wanted to end the year in real style. Yesterday Safina posted the worst loss ever by a ranking number one player when she lost to 226th ranked Zhang Shuai at the China Open. The previous honor went to Julie Coin’s shocking second round defeat of then number one Ana Ivanovic at the U.S. Open last year. And we all know what happened after that.
If Serena Williams wins her match tomorrow she will regain the number one ranking which many have felt was hers all year. But Safina’s loss has increased calls for the WTA to change its rankings system again.
Personally I don’t think that needs to happen as the current system rewards consistency and playing many events which Safina had been doing. It’s one thing for Safina to lose it mentally in big finals where she felt the pressure to win a Slam, but these recent early round losses point to a larger problem that Safina needs to fix quickly.
So my advice for Safina? Do like Ana Ivanovic and take the rest of the year off, find a nice secluded place and start chanting — nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo….
What do you think about all this? Take the poll and let us know.
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Of course the drama filled WTA tour wouldn’t end right without a”dramatic” ending to the year. The tour announced on its website that the top ranking was “up for grabs” this week at the China Open depending on how well current number one Dinara Safina and the perceived, in the minds of many, number one Serena Williams play at the event.
Safina’s regin at number one has been debated ad nauseum as she has failed to win a Slam this year and her lackluster early round losses this summer. Serena’s claim to the throne, after winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, has fallen short due to her unstellar performances at top tier events.
As I’m writing this, Safina has just lost to wildcard Shuai Zhang 7-5. 7-6 (5) in the second round. So if Serena wins her next match then she should be number one.
But what if Serena loses? And what if Safina decides to play some Tier IV event, wins it, and get back on top? My point is is that even if Serena gets back to number one, this debate won’t change until one of these players has a consistent year both in the Slams and in the top tier events.
Safina said in a recent interview that being number one was more important than anything and that, and I’m paraphrasing, no one remembers who won what Slam but everybody remembers who was number one.
While I can understand her logic to a degree, and it is a defensive logic, I’m sure Safina would dearly love to win a Slam next year even it means not being number one. But with the return of Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and a renewed Maria Sharapova, that goal may be harder to reach than ever.
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