Two weeks ago we reported on the humiliation suffered by Russia’s female tennis players at a major WTA tour event in California. Amazingly, things got even worse in the next tournament, billed as the “fifth grand slam” — the Sony Ericsson Tier I event in Miami.
Russia’s top-ranked and seeded player, Dinara Safina, who only two weeks ago had the (pathetically muffed) chance to take over the #1 ranking, was blown off the court by an unseeded Australian in her second match of the tournament, winning just 5 of 17 games played. Russia’s #3 seed, Vera Zvonareva, was likewise crushed in her second match, by an unseeded woman from China. The carnage did not stop there, as Russia’s #5 seed Nadia Petrova was also destroyed in straight sets, winning just one game in the second set against an unseeded Russian opponent (usually, seeded Russians can at least count on being able to beat unseeded Russians), and Russia’s #6 seed Anna Chakvedtadze went down in equally inglorious fashion, though at least she had the excuse of losing to a higher-ranked opponent (a Bulgarian). Shockingly, both of the top players representing Russia’s “Slavic little brother” Serbia lost their second matches as well, making the bloodbath truly complete.
This meant that only two of Russia’s top six seeds in the tournament managed to win their second matches, namely #2 Elena Dementieva and #4 Svetlana Kuznetsova. As cruel fate would have it, they were placed in the same quarter of the draw, so that at most one top Russian could have reached the semi-finals.
They did not get the chance to eliminate each other. Dementieva lost her third-round match to a much lower-seeded player from Denmark in straight sets, leaving Russia with just one entrant in the quarterfinals, the woeful Kuznetsova. How did Svetlana manage this feat? It was quite simple, really. She drew the #24 seed, a fellow Russian, instead of the #12 seeded non-Russian she should have had to face in her third-round match.
Luckily for Svetlana, she then had to face only the #13 seed in the quarters, not the #4 Dementieva, and she managed to squeak out her quarter-finals contest in three sets. Reaching the semi-finals, Kuznetsova again lucked out, needing only to beat the tournaments’s #11 seed rather than the top-five player she should have needed to face. What’s more, both of the two lethal American sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, were lodged on the other half of the draw so that they would face each other in the semi-finals and Kuznetsov would have to deal with only one of them, in perhaps an exhausted state after the battle of giants.
But like Safina two weeks before, Kuznetsova could not capitalize on this remarkable lucky streak. She never made it to the finals, getting eliminated by her lower-seeded Bulgarian opponent in three sets in their semi-finals match.
So much for the Russians.