At the Tier I Family Circle Cup WTA tour event last week in Charleston South Carolina, Russia and its Slavic “little brother” Serbia occupied all of the top four seeds. Yet, only one of them managed to get as far as the semi-finals.
The #1 seed, Serbia’s Jelena Jancovic, was beaten in the quarter finals by Russia’s #8 seed Vera Zvonareva; Jancovic was able to win only two games in the decisive third set against the vastly inferior Russian journeywoman. Russia’s top seed, the #2 Maria Shamapova, was crushed by the lower-ranked Serena Williams, winning just one game in the third set of their quarter-finals match. Russia’s #3 seed, Anna Chakvetadze, lost her opening round match to an unseeded opponent, taking just four games out of 16 played in the two sets she lost. It also bears noting that Russia’s other seed, #8 seed Dinara Safina, lost to a lower-ranked non-Russian in straight sets in her second match of the tournament.
This left a gigantic yawner of a semi-finals match between the lone Russian to justify her seed, the woeful serveless wonder Elena Dementieva, who lost though seeded higher, and Zvonareva. If the sport had to rely on matches of that kind for its survival, it would have gone extinct long ago. In the other semi, instead of Chakvetadze against Sharapova, we got Williams against an unseeded Frenchwoman. Then we got Serena against the Russian in a totally lame final and the predictable Williams dominating victory, with Zvonareva serving eight double faults and offering twelve break points to Serena. Ho, hum.
It’s more than obvious that the Russian contingent cannot be seen as a viable front for the sport. When Americans like Everett and Navratilova, or the Williams sisters and Lindsey Davenport, dominated the seeding, the quality of play was outstanding and the level of interest was high. Russians, however, seem to have no ability to generate that kind of electric buzz, and indeed to lack even the apparent desire to do so. Their attitude seems to be to simply grab whatever they can and disappear as fast as possible.
The apple does not fall far from the tree.