Sunday, January 20, 2008

Let's hear it for the phenoms!

Last week, I talked about the tour's unofficial phenoms--Tamira Paszek, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Agnes Szavay, and I tossed in Caroline Wozniacki, too. As a group, they have done well at this Australian Open.

Szavay's performance was most likely disappointing to her fans: She was defeated in the first round by Ekaterina Makarova, who made it to the third round and lost to Nadia Petrova. Paszek went out in the first round, too, but in a blaze of glory, as she lost a three-hour, break-filled extravaganza to Jelena Jankovic.

Azarenka stuck around until the third round, then fell to Serena Williams. Wozniacki made it to the round of 16, and was quite impressive in terms of whom she had to get past to make it there: Gisela Dulko, Alona Bondarenko and Sabine Lisicki, the young player who defeated Dinara Safina. Wozniacki finally folded when she played Ana Ivanovic. She was hardly present for the first set, but in the second, she was on fire, and came close to pushing the match to a third set; the longer she played, the better she got.

Then there is Radwanska, who--not content just to take out world number 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova--knocked off Nadia Petrova in the round of 16, and gave her a third set bagel for good measure. Radwanska is now into the quarterfinals, in which she will play Daniela Hantuchova.

5 comments:

ken said...

Hantuchova seems to be flying under the radar a little bit. How far do you think she'll get? I haven't heard anything about what kind of shape her game is in right now.

Diane said...

Only bits and pieces were shown on TV, so I didn't see the Kirilenko match, but apparently, Hantuchova had her usual problems closing.

Given that Radwanska has already taken advantage of two head cases, if Hantuchova doesn't get her head together for the qf, Radwanska might dispense with her, too. Of course, being in a Grand Slam qf might mess with Radwanska's head, too.

At the end of last season, Hantuchova was playing well, and iwth somewhat more confidence than ususal. I don't really have a feel for how Radwanska is playing, except that she held herself together well enough to take out two players with serious head issues. Hantuchova has head issues, too, so I give Radwanska a chance.

Jen said...

Love the young players showing up! But when you got me thinking about the teenagers, I came up with a totally random oddity which I'll pass on anyway. There are currently 12 teens among the top 68 in the world (in order: Vaidisova, Szavay, Azarenka, Radwanska, Krajicek, Paszek, Govortsova, Cibulkova, Olaru, Cornet, Wozniacki, Chan). By the way, today is Alize Cornet's 18th b-day. Best wishes to a future top-tenner!

But I digress. The oddity is that I could not find another teenager between #68 and #106 (Cirstea). That's a strange gap of 37 players, considering the dozen that occur from #12 to #68. You'd normally expect an increase in the frequency of teenage players as you go down the ranking list.

To obtain some possible value from all this, I predict that of these top 12 teens we'll see 7 become future top tenners: Vaidisova, Szavay, Azarena, Radwanska, Paszek, Cornet and Wozniacki. I guess the first 5 are no-brainers, barring serious injury.

Finally, an interesting contrast between #47, Olga Govortsova and #48, Dominika Cibulkova. Olga stands 6' tall, while Dominika is but 5'3! So far they've reached the same place at roughly the same time (Cibulkova is actually several months younger). But wouldn't you think that height might be a challenge for Dominika later on?

That's all, Diane. Just marking time until 12:30am PST!!

Diane said...

Wow! Good research, Jen, and interesting information. And I agree with your predictions. And Happy B-day to Alize!

But I am shocked to learn that Cibulkova is only 5'3". I've seen her play, and she seemed much taller. She's very good, by the way, and she has something big going in her favor: She keeps her cool. I saw her come dangerously close to taking out Golovin in Charleston last year. That was after she had already knocked out Shvedova, the top qualifying seed.

Krajicek is very talented, but cannot string victories together. She has a new coach this season, so that may help.

I like Cirstea, from what I've seen. Her game needs work, yes, but she has talent and court poise, and I expect her to keep moving up.

Jen said...

Yes, I was very surprised as well when I saw that Cibulkova is 5'3"! I doubt it's a mistake because it's been on the WTA website for months. Okay, I note there are a handful of top 25 players within half an inch of 5'6: Henin, Schnyder, A. Bondarenko, Schiavone. Ai Sugiyama (now #41) is only 5'4 and has been as high as #8 in 2004. And the acclaimed teenager Tamira Pazsek is just 5'5, though she still has time to add an inch or two! But I would think that 5'3 is really pushing the envelope at bit. Time will tell. Yes, Krajicek may also break the top 10 in the end. All these great teens will be fascinating to watch, along with others not yet in the top 100 and of course Karatancheva, still 18 and now on the comeback trail as you noted. Fun stuff!