Such a mysterious (and painful) orb!
The stadium court in Cincinnati, Ohio, stood humiliatingly half empty on August 21st as the women’s final of the WTA’s Western & Southern Open began.
The reason was simple: Russia’s second best player, the hapless and grating Maria Sharapova was playing. Had a second Russian stood on the court opposite, the place might well have been entirely vacant.
Another one of those days for a hapless Russian #1.
Russia’s best female tennis player, world #3 Vera Zvonareva, made a little trip out to Carlsbad, California the first week of August to play in the WTA Mercury Insurance Open. She had her little holiday planned out so nicely.
What made the tournament attractive for Zvonareva was that she would be seeded number 1 and the number 2 seed would be Andrea Petkovic of Germany, ranked #11 in the world. In other words, no other top ten player besides the Russian even entered the tournament, so Zvonareva would have a cake walk to the title and a pile of virtually free rankings points.
But the best-laid plans of mice and Russians gang aft agley! Despite her sweet little scheme, Zvonareva barely even made it to the finals and did not come close to taking the title.
Russian Women’s Tennis in Decline
Not that it was ever that great to begin with, but Russian women’s tennis ended 2010 in marked decline. We continue to see it as a perfect metaphor for Putin’s Russia — all illusion, no substance when you look beneath the shoddy, dishonest propaganda.
Russia now has only one player ranked in the top ten in the world. Going into the year-end WTA Tour Championships in Doha, Qatar last week it had two, and they were Russia’s sole representatives at the eight-player event. But the first, Elena Dementieva, was blown off the court in round-robin play, failed to advance to the elimination rounds and promptly announced her retirement from the sport.
And then there was one.
Confronted by Nadia Petrova, who can dare say Russian women are not the most beautiful in the world? And how about their fashion sense?!
Well, it wasn’t pretty. No, it surely was not.
Last year’s French Open finalist Dinara Safina of Russia was ousted in her very first match at this year’s tournament, ousted by a player who became the second-oldest in the tournament’s modern history to win as much as a single match.
Then there was the woman who defeated Safina to take the title last year, Svetlana Kuznetsova. She was ousted in her third match of the French Open by a player not seeded in the top 25.
So, just for starters, neither of the two Russians who contested last year’s final, widely seen as one of the most pathetic and unwatchable in the history of grand slam finals, managed to get as far as the fourth round this year.
Ouch, ouch, ouch. But there was more, oh, so very much more carnage to report.
What do they have in common? Within days of its beginning, all five had been ousted from the WTA Tour event in Madrid, Spain. They were among them four of Russia’s five seeds in the tournament, including its top three and its most famous player by far, blown away like lint. Not one got close to reaching even the quarter-finals of the tournament. Only Zvonareva and Dementieva managed to win as much as single match, not one got close to winning a second.
At the WTA Tour event in Rome, Italy last week, Russia had three of the top six seeds and therefore should have had three of eight slots in the quarter finals. Yet, not a single one of Russia’s three top seeds made it that far. In fact, they didn’t get remotely close. Instead, as per usual, Russia’s so-called “dominant” women humiliated themselves before a slack-jawed world.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, jubilant in victory
Russia fielded a far stronger singles team against the United States in the semi-final match of the Fed Cup championships which was contested in Birmingham, Alabama last weekend.
The US did not send one player ranked in the world’s top 30 in singles, while Russia sent world #7 Elena Dementieva. The US sent only one player ranked in the top 100 in the world in singles, while all three of Russia’s players were ranked in the world’s top 80.
The outcome, therefore, was a foregone conclusion.
That’s right, the USA whipped Russia’s butt.
The month of April brought five WTA tour events, including the “fifth grand slam” at the Sony Erickson Open in Miami, Florida. Five events meant ten opportunities for Russians to contest for a title.
Yet, despite having three of the world’s top ten players, Russia did not win a single title, and indeed placed only one of its female players into a final. That was Vera Zvonareva, who was brutally crushed at the event in Charleston. In Russia’s only bid for a title, Zvonareva managed to win just three of 15 games played, none in the first set, in a truly pathetic and humiliating display.
But it was nothing compared to what occurred at the vaunted Miami event.
The Hopman Cup is the Superbowl, the World Cup if you will, of mixed doubles tennis. Last year, Russia’s brother-sister tandem of Marat and Dinara Safina went down to sensational, humiliating defeat in the finals against a much lowlier team from Slovakia. It made a hat trick of championships for Slovakia in the event, which has been contested since 1988. The United States has won the tournament four of the past seven years. Russia has prevailed only once in its entire history.
The shame and disgrace for Russia at the Hopman continued last week as its Elena Dementieva (world rank #5) and Igor Andreev (world rank #35) went down to spectacular defeat at the hands of Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvevdova (world rank #51) and Andrei Golubev (world rank #133). The Kazakh team was the weakest in the group of eight nations contesting the title in round-robin play, and therefore seeded last in the draw. But the Russians could not handle them.
This meant that Russia fell to third place in its group and could only qualify for the finals by beating first-place Great Britain in its final tie and then seeing Kazakhstan lose. Neither happened, and Russia was sent packing.
Once again, Russia proved its “dominance” in the sport of tennis.
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.
At the WTA tour event in Tokyo, Japan this week Russia began the tournament with five of the sixteen seeds, more than 25%, and three of the top five. Not one of them made it to the tournament’s third round, despite most having byes in the first round.
Last week the WTA Tour event in Charleston, South Carolina was held, known as the Family Circle Cup. Once again, the top-ranked Russian women humiliated their country before the gaping eyes of the world.
Two weeks ago we reported on the humiliation suffered by Russia’s female tennis players at a major WTA tour event in California. Amazingly, things got even worse in the next tournament, billed as the “fifth grand slam” — the Sony Ericsson Tier I event in Miami.
The week of October 20th, Russia hosted a million-dollar ATP tennis tour event in St. Petersburg.
Showing how attractive Russia is as a venue, not one of the top three players in the world attended the event, and only two of the top 10 did so.
This left Russia with four of the eight seeds in the tournament, including its highest-ranked player Nikolay Davydenko as well as Mikhail Youzhny, Marat Safin and Dimitry Tursunov. Not one of them made it to the third round of the tournament.
Tursunov, world #26, was crushed in straight sets by an unseeded Slovakian in his first-round match. The Russian won only two of 14 games played. The other three (higher-ranked) Russians won their opening-round matches against their unseeded opponents, then were blown off the court in their second matches in easy straight sets. Davydenko didn’t even step on the court and handed his match over by forfeit. Safin won six games and Youzhny took nine in humiliating losses against their unseeded opponents.
Ouch. Only one top-ten non-Russian appeared in Putinland, and that player easily won the event over a non-Russian opponent.
As if things weren’t already bad enough for Russian sportsmen, Indian Vishy Anand raced out to a 6-3 dominating lead in the world chess championship, being contested in Bonn, Germany, over Russian star Vladimir Kramnik. With only four games remaining, that meant Kramnik had to win them all in order to take the title. Think he was able to do so?
And for the icing on this putrid cake, out came the New York Times with a story exposing the Potemkin fraud that is Russian professional ice hockey.
You know things are going rather badly for Russia’s female tennis players when they have the same number of representatives in the fourth round of a tournament as Russia’s woeful men do — and that’s exactly what occurred at last week’s U.S. Open tournament in New York City last week.