Once again, Russia’s so-called “dominant” women tennis players humiliated themselves and their country spectacularly at a major championship, this time at the world-famous All-England Club at Wimbledon.
First, Russia started out the tournament without one single player among the top 10 seeds, and a mere three in the top 20, just seven overall — less than a quarter of the total. How the mighty have fallen!
Then, not only was Russia’s #3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova booted out of the tournament in the third round by an unseeded opponent, but she disgraced herself and her country even further by refusing to shake her opponent’s hand at the end of the match out of sheer, petty, childish spite at having been bested and ejected by a nobody — and for the final indignity her opponent was a Russian defector now living in Australia. It was one of the lowest moments in Russian tennis history, indeed in the history of Russian sport itself.
And then it got worse. Oh, so much worse.
The third round turned out to be an absolute bloodbath for Russia, a new low in the history of Russian tennis. In addition to #3 Kuznetsova, Russia’s #1 seed Nadia Petrova and its #4 seed Maria Kirilenko were also slaughtered in easy straight sets in the third round , as were #5 Alissa Kleybanova and #7 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
This left only two Russian seeds, #2 Maria Sharapova and #4 Vera Zvonareva, still standing by time the fourth round rolled in. And since no un-seeded Russians made it out of the third round, there were only two Russians of any kind among the 16 fourth-round contenders.
Sharapova, of course, can hardly even be called Russian, since she has lived in the USA most of her life, learned her game there, and almost never spends as much as single night in Russia. So in fact, only one “real” Russian got as far as the fourth round at the world’s ultimate tennis tournament this year.
Wow, what a disaster! Of course, it will hardly surprise anyone who is a regular consumer of our tennis coverage.
Set on opposite sides of the draw just like the American Williams sisters, the world faced the prospect of seeing either an all-Russian or all-American final at Wimby this year. Hmm . . . who would you rather see . . . Venus against Serena or Maria against Vera . . . that’s a real tough one, isn’t it?
The possibility of seeing that all-Russian final was, of course, mercifully remote, and in the event it did not occur. Our gal Shamapova was decisively spanked in straight sets in the fourth round by the mighty world #1 American Serena Williams, leaving just one Russian woman to get as far as the quarter-finals.
That player, Zvonareva, ended up reaching the finals. But an examination of her path to “glory” shows how freakishly easy the Russian had it.
In her fourth-round match, she faced the #4 seed, who retired after just ten games, handing the match to Zvonareva for free. In her quarter-finals match, she faced the #8 seed, who promptly fell apart and again handed the match to Zvonareva, who struck an anemic 23 winners in the course of the entire match, which consisted of 183 points, yet it was still good enough to beat her collapsing Belgian rival.
More good luck came Zvonareva’s way when Venus Williams lost her quarter-finals match, leaving Zvonareva to face an unseeded Bulgarian not ranked in the world’s top 80 players in the semis, a Bulgarian who had never before been past the third round in a grand slam event (Venus has won nearly as many grand slam titles at Wimbledon alone as all Russians who have ever played the game at all four grand slam venues combined). Venus struck what the Wimbledon website referred to as a “horrendous 29 unforced errors” in losing effort, but the website failed to notice that Zvonareva’s Belgian quarter-finals opponent had a whopping 36 as she handed the match to an unworthy Zvonareva. Then in the semis her Bulgarian foe imploded after winning the first set, taking only five games in the course of the next two. Zvonareva walked virtually unopposed from the third round to the finals.
To say that Zvonareva is a lackluster player would be a major understatement. There was so little interest in her semi-final contest that that stands stood half empty as she took the court. Once again, it was disturbingly clear what would happen — as we have indicated here on this blog many times — to the women’s game if Russians were relied upon to sustain it. It’s really quite simple: Nobody with a clue wants to watch Russians play tennis. The women’s game would collapse if it had to rely upon the Russian contingent.
So the world was forced to endure to the spectacle of a Russian not seeded in the top 20 compete the finals of the greatest tennis tournament on earth, and the tennis-watching world gave a massive shrug and sigh of boredom, disappointment and sadness. It knew what would happen when Zvonareva faced world #1 American Serena Williams before seeing the match. It knew there would be a brutal drubbing, a Russian exposed and humiliated for the third-rate pretender that she was.
And that is what precisely what occurred. Zvonareva was fileted liked a flounder the way Russian players almost always are when the meet non-Russians in big matches. Russians have won six grand slam titles in tennis history and half of them (both French Open titles and one of the US Open titles) have been won with two Russians in the finals. Maria Sharapova is the only “Russian” in all of tennis history who ever won a grand slam title by beating a non-Russian in the finals, and as we’ve already noted Sharapova has lived in America most of her life and learned her game there.
For the sour cherry on this cake of failure, Zvonareva was also part of an all-Russian doubles team that made the finals, only to lose again to an American (teamed with a Kazakh) in straight sets, winning just two pathetic games in the second. This loss was even more humiliating that the singles thrashing, because here Zvonareva’s opponents were unseeded, just the fifth such pair to win the title in the past 75 years. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
Americans ended up with both the singles and doubles crowns after the women had completed play. Russia ended up with absolutely nothing.
And so it went once again for the “dominant” women of Russian tennis at the All-England Club this year.