It’s hard to imagine how the Russian contingent at the year-end round-robin Tour Championships in Doha, Qatar, could have humiliated itself in a more spectacular fashion.
So-called “World #1” Dinara Safina quit playing in the third game of her opening match against Jelena Jancovic claiming a back injury, left the court in tears and withdrew from the tournament. In doing so, she guaranteed that American Serena Williams would end 2009 with the #1 ranking.
Safina was replaced with Vera Zvonareva, who had been eliminated from actual qualification by Jancovic in Moscow the week before with her own sensationally pathetic play on her home turf. Zvonareva was promptly slaughtered in her opening match by Caroline Wozniaki, and then she too withdrew from the tournament claiming injury, forcing the WTA to make yet a second replacement.
Also in the year-end draw were Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva, placed into the half of the draw that contained both of the dangerous Williams sisters. Kuznetsova was summarily thrashed by both of sisters, while Dementieva managed to beat Venus but then fell apart against Serena. Since Venus was beaten by Serena, this meant that the only way a Russia could avoid advancing at least one player beyond round-robin play was if Dementieva was unable to defeat the woeful Kuznetsova in the all-Russian match.
But even though Kuznetsova had been crushed in both her prior matches, Dementieva could not manage to beat her, and in fact surrendered in pathetic straights sets. This let both the Williams sisters into the semi-finals and meant that not a single Russian made it out of round-robin play.
To add insult to injury, both Venus and Serena won their semi-finals contests, resulting in an all-American final. So though Russia had placed three players into the eight-woman draw while America had only two, Russia didn’t get a single player as far as the semis while America occupied not one but two slots in the finals. So much for Russian dominance!
There’s simply no way Russia could have been more humilated in Doha, and the capper is that three of Russia’s four competitors had refused to play in their own country’s tournament in Moscow the week before in order to “get ready” for Doha.
And so it goes in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.