Russia’s “#1” player Dinara Safina was booted out of the WTA tour event in Toronto last week in her first match in straight sets by an unseeded opponent. French Open winner and #6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova met exactly the same fate. And that was only the beginning of the horror for Russia, even though Russian’s #4 seed took the Toronto title. Look carefully, and you saw truly sickening results.
First, the big picture: Russian female players have taken eleven WTA titles so far this year. But only once has one of the five Russians who won such a tournament beaten a non-Russian ranked in the top 10 in the finals. That one quality win was by Vera Zvonareva over world #7 Ana Ivanovic at Indian Wells. Three of the other four Russian wins against non-Russians came by dumb luck, when the Russian was lucky enough to meet non-Russians ranked outside the world’s top 30 — two came against players ranked outside the top 50, one against a player not even ranked in the top 100.
And how about Russia’s other six wins? These came against other Russians. That’s right: The majority of Russia’s WTA tour titles this year have been won by default, because both of the players in the finals were Russians — including the most recent instance, last week’s Rogers Cup in Toronto, won by Elena Dementieva, who slaughtered the hapless Maria Sharapova in straight sets. Sharapova reached the finals due to more of her own personal inhuman good luck, avoiding both a quarter-finals match with the world #3 and a semi-finals match with the world #1 which the draw said she was owed, facing instead a series of straw women and a cakewalk to the finals.
So get this: nine of Russia’s eleven tournament wins this year have come either against another Russian player or against non-Russians ranked outside the world’s top 30. Only once this year has a Russian beaten a top-10 non-Russian in the finals of a tournament. Russians simply don’t take tournament titles from top-flight non-Russian players, and therefore their titles are fundamentally fraudulent.
Watching the two Russians play in Toronto, one could see why Russians need to play other Russians in order to collect tournament wins. Between them in the course of a very short match Dementieva and Sharapova struck a horrifying 17 double faults. Neither managed a first-serve percentage as high as 70%, and once again — just as occurred at the French Open final this year — the quality of play was so sickenly low as to make one have serious fear for the future of the women’s game. In fact, looking back it’s quite hard to say whether Russia was more humiliated by the first-round loss of its #1 player or by the win in the finals under these dismal circumstances.
And so it goes in Russia.