Last week, the WTA Tour Championships tournament was played out in Doha, Qatar. Supposedly the marquee event of the entire women’s season, deciding the best player of the year in round-robin competition, the event was despoiled by the presence of far too many Russian frauds.
Four of the eight players in the draw were Russians, so Russia might have hoped to fill all four slots in the semi-finals after round robin play in which the group of eight highest-ranked players this season is divided in half and each player has a match against each other group member, with the best two results moving into a semi-finals contest.
But once again, the Russians went down to humiliating failure. At the end of the tournament, Russia was left to have its honor defended in the finals by its lowly and yawn-inducing #5 player, Vera Zvonareva, who’s never even reached a grand slam semi in her entire career, against America’s thrilling and charismatic #2, Venus Williams, the year’s Wimbledon champion, in the finals. The study in contrasts could not have been more unfavorable to Russia, nor the outcome more humiliating. The Russian had four set points in the first set on her serve but could not convert them, and was forced into a tiebreaker which she won on a freak net cord in her favor. She then failed to win a single game in the second set and took just two in the third, getting emphatically blown off the court by the American, who seemed to be playing an entirely different sport.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg where Russian failure was concerned.
Russia’s top-ranked player, Dinara Safina, lost every single one of her round-robin matches, and indeed every single one of her sets, going down in humiliating straight sets each and every time she stepped on the court. Russia’s #3 player, Svetlana Kuznetsova, did exactly the same thing — even though the third of her matches was played against a substitute straw-man player with no stake in the outcome after Serbian Ana Ivanovic pulled out with an injury. So half of Russia’s entrants in the tournament, two of its top three players in the world, failed to win a single set in 12 tries. Impressive, no?
Russia’s second-ranked player, Elena “the serveless wonder” Dementieva, made it into the semis — but it wasn’t pretty. Her only true match victory came against the woeful Safina. In her second match she was blown off the court by American Venus Williams, and then Venus’s sister Serena withdrew from the tournament, allowing Dementieva to play her third match against a stand-in, and she was lucky enough to face fellow Russian Nadia Petrova, squeaking out a three-set win against another player who had no stake in the outcome.
The net result (excuse the pun) was that only one of Russia’s four players in the Championship draw recorded a match win over one of the four non-Russians in round-robin play. This came when Russia’s lowest-ranked entrant, Vera Zvonareva, beat world #1 Serbian Jelena Jancovic. Zvonareva also beat the other Serbian, Ivanovic, and crushed Kuznetsova, making her the only Russian in the field to actually earn a place in the semis.
Russia was then guaranteed a place in the finals when the tournament structure set Zvonareva against Dementieva in the semi-finals. The presence of any Russians, much less the ridiculous pair of Zvonareva and Dementieva, deep in the draw of a tournament that is supposed to showcase the world’s most exciting players and produce the year’s most epic finals confrontation, can only induce a coma in the mind of any knowledgeable fan of the sport. Nobody in their right mind is interested in paying serious coin to watch either player, much less both on the same court playing each other. The only reason it happened, to be sure, is that not one but two non-Russian players withdrew with injuries. The two Americans and the two Serbians so far out-classed the four Russians in the draw that comparisons seem silly.
Zvonareva then dismissed Dementieva, leaving Russia’s most lowly player in the draw to defend Russia’s honor against the mighty Venus Williams, who soundly whipped Jancovic in three sets and who has won Wimbeldon two years running. Zvonareva has never even reached a grand slam semifinal, and won only two titles on the WTA tour in all of 2008.
Zvonareva managed to squeak out the first set by sheer dumb luck despite truly woeful play, and then was summarily and humiliatingly crushed by Williams in the next two sets. Not only did Zvonareva simply give up, she actually began sobbing like a schoolgirl during points in the third set. Also sobbing were all those who paid big bucks to watch this pathetic implosion, ruinous to the reputationof the women’s game. It was the final chapter in yet another book of failure written by the Russian female tennis players as they continue to poison the sport and alienate its fan base with their embarrassing, colorless play.
We’re not the only ones, by the way, who’ve been sticking pins in Russia’s tennis balloon illusion.
Tennis News reports:
Russia’s position as the foremost power in women’s tennis is in danger of being compromised by an alarming drop in the overall standard of junior coaching according to Olga Morozova, the woman who served as the pioneer for the masses of players from her country which today crowd the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s world rankings.
Morozova, who has spent much of the last six weeks back in her hometown of Moscow after being appointed the new coach of world no.7 Svetlana Kuznetsova, stressed her concerns that the clamor by parents to put more and more children on the path to stardom might affect the overall standard.
Her new job has given her the chance to study many of the top clubs around Moscow as she has sought quality practice facilities for Kuznetsova who has just moved back to Russia after basing herself for many years in Spain. Consequently Morozova has had a chance to inspect the quality of tennis talent set to follow the current generation of Russian players.
“Tennis is getting bigger and bigger and there are so many more courts and clubs than say five years ago,” she said. “The success of the Russian players on the world stage means everywhere there are kids playing tennis and rarely is it even possible to find a free court which of course is a very healthy thing.
“However the thing that concerns me is the overall quality of coaching. Before the standard was very high but now there is a greater demand, more people are taking charge of youngsters and I have seen things that make me worry that the standard will drop. I’m not sure what sort of effect this will have on our top flight players in eight to ten years time.”
Since the turn of the century the Russian Federation has hugely improved the tournament structure and ensured that it is nation wide rather than just concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “That is excellent,” added Morozova. “But the clamor for parents to get their children coached is getting more and more intense and sometimes people are doing the job without being properly educated in the best ways of developing young talent.”
When it came to writing the initial chapters of Russian female tennis history, Morozova could almost claim a monopoly. She was the first player from the Soviet Union to win the Wimbledon junior title in 1965, the first to contest major singles finals as she lost to Chris Evert at both the French Open and Wimbledon in 1974. That same spring she partnered Evert to win the women’s doubles title at Roland Garros.
A year later she also became the first Russian to contest the season ending Virginia Slims Championships in Los Angeles. Now, after living for the last 15 years in Britain and a spell in charge of women’s tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association, she is in Doha for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships with her new charge Kuznetsova.
And so it goes in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.