Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lions and Lambs

For Justine Henin and Svetlana Kuznetsova, March came in like a lamb. It's not the way things are supposed to go, but they'll both have a chance to regroup and try to play the lion in Miami.

Meanwhile, there are many lion wanna-be's licking their chops as they survey the Williams-less desert landscape of one of the biggest non-Grand-Slam tournaments on the calendar.

Kim Clijsters is the first name that comes to mind. She's worked her way back to a respectable No. 17 in the WTA rankings, but she's eager to get the taste of winning back in her mouth after the colossal thrashing that she suffered at the hands of Nadia Petrova in the 3rd round of the Australian Open.

While it's not imperative that Clijsters gets sparkling results every time out, these next two weeks would be a nice time for her to step up and rebuild some of the momentum she lost in Melbourne. She's been remarkably good at Indian Wells, having won 15 consecutive matches at dating back to 2003, but the four-time Indian Wells finalist will have to keep her claws sharp because the environment - as proved by Henin and Kuznetova's early disasters - is ripe for a shocker.

Additionally, while so much of the attention - and rightfully so - gets focused on the born-again Belgians, there are still a pair of young guns who are no doubt eager to prove that they belong at the top of the food chain at the WTA's premier level events.

Those are Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka, the number two and three seeds respectively. Azararenka is hot - she's only suffered losses at the hands of Serena, Venus, and Elena Dementieva this season, and she hasn't suffered an early loss in any of the three tournaments she's played in (qf's or better at Brisbane, Australia, and Dubai).The Belarusian is looking at a very intriguing match up with the "other Belgian" Yanina Wickmayer, in the 4th round. I won't prognosticate further but I will say that that match will be a good litmus test for both players (and I'm dying to see it).

Wozniacki, meanwhile, hasn't been past the round of 16 this season, with two losses to Na Li and one to Shahar Peer. I'm not one for saying it's time to panic - and clearly it isn't for Sunshine - but a run deep in the draw might be just what the doctor ordered for the 19-year-old Dane.

Whew. There really is a lot going on here. Keep in mind I've only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scenarios that may play out over the next week in the desert. Sharapova fought valiantly to overcome country mate Vera Dushevina and will next take on Australian Open semifinalist and brand new top-tenner Jie Zheng. Delena Dementieva is no doubt happy to see that Justine Henin made an early departure from her half of the draw, but she'll need to play one match at the time or she'll quickly become the hunted rather than the hunter.

And speaking of Russians, let's not forget Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (a semifinalist last year) and Alisa Kleybanova, both of whom snagged their first-ever WTA titles last month, and both of whom are knocking on the door of the top-20. And there is also last years champion Vera Zvonareva, who has been very consistent under the tutelage of Antonio Van Grichen this season.

Have I left anyone out? Of course I have. There are lions and lambs all over this draw. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only safe bet is not to bet.


  1. Did you miss somebody? Did you ever heard about Agnieszka Radwanska? You don't think Jelena Dementieva will have problem winning with her? She lost 3 of their 5 meetings. Wait, she doesn't have any weapons and her serves are weak...right!

  2. In response to the previous comment - Aggie's awesome, and if she grabs a W today, I'll give you major props for calling it.

    Radwanska has been having a good year this year, and I think you're right to be frustrated by the lack of respect that she gets.

    Thanks for the comment!


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