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Doha Preview 10/23/2009 - 9:00 AM

91590942by Bobby Chintapalli, TW Special Correspondent

Before this year’s tennis season ends, before Venus Williams takes guitar lessons, before Dinara Safina eats a second piece of chocolate cake, before Jelena Jankovic hits the beach in some cute bikini, there’s Doha. With the year’s eight top women tennis players heading to the desert for the season-ending championships (SEC), which will be held from October 27 to November 1, it’s time to look back and do the numbers - as well as look ahead and make some guesses.

It’s all about the Ws. Not the kind with swanky lobby bars in midtown Manhattan and downtown Chicago but the kind in Paris and London – or, heck, Portoroz and Tashkent – that move tennis players one round, one batch of ranking points, one event closer to their goals. Wins – that’s what it’s about for a tennis player.
The match-win percentages may surprise some of you, while for others it will only confirm what you believe: When it came to winning tennis matches this year, nobody did it better, nobody did it quite as good as Serena; clearly she’s the best. The real No. 2 - and a really close one at that - is Dinara Safina. Conspicuously at the bottom are Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic.
Serena Williams – 78.9%
Dinara Safina – 78.6%
Victoria Azarenka – 77.2%
Elena Dementieva – 77.1%
Caroline Wozniacki – 75.6%
Svetlana Kuznetsova – 75.0%
Venus Williams – 73.5%
Jelena Jankovic – 72.4%
You have to figure that the only thing better than match wins is how players are rewarded for them – prize money. How else can a girl splurge on, say, Pilates equipment (but how much more “core work” do you really need, Elena?) or Christian Louboutin stilettos (and you wonder why you need injury timeouts, Jelena?). And here too, Serena comes out on top - this time by a much larger margin. Let’s have some fun with this and calculate how much prize money each woman averaged in each match she played. On average, Miss S. Williams earned more than $70,000 per match. That’s more than triple the amount earned by the two players at the bottom of this list. Will this redefine the concept of "equal prize money"? Here are the details:
Serena Williams – $70,780
Svetlana Kuznetsova – $55,015
Dinara Safina – $50,019
Venus Williams – $33,893
Victoria Azarenka – $28,557
Elena Dementieva – $24,002
Caroline Wozniacki – $23,523
Jelena Jankovic – $20,127
91236515 The most interesting figure that may surprise some is "number of singles titles won." Five players won three titles each, and a sixth, Jankovic, may be on her way in Moscow this week. The other two (hint: they’re related) won only two. In Serena’s case (yes, Serena, we are looking at your titles, as that provocative t-shirt asked), they both happen to be – surprise, surprise – Grand Slam triumphs. Regardless, when it comes to the Sisters W, do numbers matter? You don’t have to read the fine print to realize that any logical link between past and future performance for these two can't really be established. So much for the fine art of handicapping.
The SECs are fun because players don’t start by playing Mynameis Somethingpova of Uzbekistan, and progress through series of more difficult and higher-ranked players. They start with the best and play them all week. That calls for a different mental approach and it churns up some interesting and unexpected results - especially in a round-robin format. Plus, it’s the end of the year – some players are in form, while others are, well, infirm. That skews the form chart even more dramatically.
Recent form suggests that the woman in best trim is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the Premier tournament in Beijing earlier this month. But the hottest hands at the last Grand Slam of the year belonged to Caroline Wozniacki, a finalist, and Serena, a semifinalist (and an especially YouTube-worthy one at that). And Serena’s already the bookmaker's favorite to win the next major, the 2010 Australian Open.
The infirm category includes just about everyone, from Caroline Wozniacki (thigh?) to Jelena Jankovic (wrist?) to Victoria Azarenka (shoulder?) and Venus Williams (knee?).
Of course, few of these limping woman warriors have a need for walkers or rocking chairs. One of the players, Baby Caroline, is still a teenager. This may be why, in terms of total matches played this year, Caroline Wozniacki is the new Jelena Jankovic; she played at least 25 percent more matches than all the others.
Speaking of the others, they’re twentysomethings, but several are close to thirtysomething, which is geriatric by tennis standards. Maybe that’s why the WTA website calls this year’s group “relatively mature.” (That’s a phrase to save for later use, isn’t it?) You have to love these women…if only for making the rest of us feel a bit younger.
If you were so inclined, you could group the players into three age categories:
The golden girls (28-29) – Venus, Serena, Elena
The green kangaroos (23-24) – Jelena, Svetlana, Dinara
The young ‘uns (19-20) – Victoria, Caroline
Will the golden girls use their experience and “relatively mature” tennis skills to show who’s boss? Will the green kangaroos step out of the long shadows cast by the Williams sisters, and   step up in the manner of the hard-charging, grunting, Stella McCartney-modeling young ‘uns? We'll find out soon enough and hopefully see some good tennis in the process.

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Posted by Ruth 10/25/2009 at 06:36 PM

Master Ace: I am happy to see that, unlike the official WTA rankings, you Ace rankings don't change when one or both players don't set foot on a court! LOL

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2009 at 06:44 PM

Yes, unlike Ravi on ESPN2 where he put Roger first despite Roger not hitting a ball in a match since USO.

Posted by david 10/25/2009 at 07:32 PM

Sveta/Dementieva v. Wozniacki/Azarenka
Sveta v. Wozniacki
YEC Champion: Wozniacki

I expect most matches to be poor poor quality w/ the player most able to keep the ball in play to win. Venus and Safina to go 0-3.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2009 at 08:15 PM

You can not have that semifinal as Svetlana and Dementieva are in the Maroon Group while Victoria and Caroline are in the White Group unless that you are predicting on who is going to advance to the semifinals. Also, Venus will win one match somehow.

Posted by Ruth 10/25/2009 at 08:29 PM

MA: I give Ravi a pass on almost anything because he's smart enough to realize, unlike some TWers, that it is possible to logically and sensibly include both top professional men playing each other and top professional women playing each other on the same ranking list. :)

But I did smile a little at his "Roger stays on top because no one else was spectacularthis week" rationale.

Posted by Pat from Philippines 10/25/2009 at 09:12 PM

thanks for the draw master ace..

im afraid vee had a slim chance of defending this championhips.. serena and sveta is on her draw and both are playing better tennis than her... sveta and rere had a good h2h against her... well, she can defeat elena...

here's my predictions:

dinara - win against caro, lost to vika, lost to jj
victoria - win against caro, lost to jj, win dina
caroline - win against jj, lost to dina, lost to vika (im sorry caro)
jj - win against dina, win against vika, lost to caro

semis: vika and jj

serena - ofcourse lost to elena, win sveta, win venus(?)
sveta - lost to elena, win venus (hopes vee do well), lost serena
venus - lost serena, lost to sveta, win elena --- win doubles (i still love you vee)
elena - win serena (6/0 6/0, well serena is a fighter! make it 6/1, 7/6(13-11), lost to vee (6/1. 6/1), win against sveta (0/6, 6/3, 6/4)

semis: serena, elena

semis: vika v. elena = elena wins
jj v. serena = jj wins

winner: elena wins her first wta champs...

(*really hopes that vee would overturn my picks...)

hi guys check this pix:

sveta looks like your usual divorced wife, elena looks gorgeous (the upper part of the gown though is VERY revealing, i liked the dress worn by dina, but dina's arms destroy all of it, vika looked very good- she's like a model, jj had a good overall outfit, but i guess the hair could've done it a little better, caro looked good, she should have changed her hairstyle, ive seen her doing that hairstlye on other promotional stuff, vee looked casual chic, not too forced, and serena just ruined the whole concept of gowns and dresses opted to wear a jumpsuit?/pants thingy...though she looked very very good in her new looks)

Posted by M-life 10/26/2009 at 12:06 AM

Thats a bold prediction David.

Posted by david 10/26/2009 at 02:48 AM

I expect Serena to lose to Elena since it's not a slam, but I think she can beat Venus but then again w/ the sister's matches you just never know who will win. Form is almost never an indicator unless one of them is in dire form which Venus kinda is. For Serena the important match is the Sveta match and honestly I just don't think Serena has the fire at the YEC so I expect her to go down to Sveta who is playing well. Venus has been playing atrociously bad all summer and fall so really her and Safina are the gimme wins. Jankovic is a bit of a mess and I think Aza and Woz can take her out. Safina has been pure crap and survives by playing miles behind the baseline and hoping her opponents miss. And Woz for the win cuz well no one is playing well except maybe Sveta and I don't think Sveta has the ability to play that many clean matches in a row. I just think in a tournament or a match where neither player is playing well always pick the pusher. So Woz for the win (assuming her injury is not that bad if it is... then maybe Jankovic or Azarenka to win).

Posted by Master Ace 10/26/2009 at 08:06 AM

Tuesday Order of Play
Action starts at 10 AM to be shown LIVE on Tennis Channel

Victoria Azarenka vs Jelena Jankovic
Elena Dementieva vs Venus Williams
Serena Williams vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Off: Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki

Posted by Bobby 10/26/2009 at 10:14 AM

I'm so disappointed about the groups. For too many reasons. The Williams sisters are together... again. Elena's with them... again. (At least the Golden Girls are together, I suppose.) All the Grand Slam singles winners and Olympic gold medalists are together -- and joined by the player who may be in best form right now (Svetlana)... ugh. I have to admit that one thing I am happy about is that, unlike last year, Dinara, who could use a mental boost right now, isn't with the Williams sisters. OK, I'm done venting.

Ruth, I'm sorry for making you want to start reading 'On the Line' before January. :) I can't help it; it's good. In my own defense though, I have to mention that Venus is coming out with a book pretty soon. Isn't that right? Plus there are a few slightly older good books. Have you read Jon Wertheim's 'Venus Envy'? You probably have. If not though, I highly recommend it!

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 10/26/2009 at 03:46 PM

Bobby: have enjoyed your posts. I'm not sure there's anyone who'll deny one Doha group is stronger (at the moment) than the other, but, like you, I'm hoping Dinara will seize this opportunity to end her season on a high note.

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