Monday, September 29, 2008

Always a bridesmaid ...

Another slate of tournaments has gone by with Andy Roddick, Maria Kirilenko, Jelena Jankovic and first-time titlist Jo-Wilifried Tsonga grabbing the tournaments in Beijing, Korea, Beijing again and Thailand, respectively. Congrats to all the winners, especially my man Jo-Willie on bagging his first bit of first-place hardware.

However, the biggest story I feel to come out of the weekend's tournament results was what happened in Beijing on the women's side: Svetlana Kuznetsova fell to Jankovic pretty easily, a week after knocking her off on her way to the finals in Tokyo. The big deal about this is that Kuz has now lost 10 of her past 11 finals (thanks, Freakyfrites, for the numbers).

Folks, that's a pretty staggering amount.

You can look at it from the glass half-empty/half-full perspective: She's coming in second, but hey, at least she's getting that far. I think there's a little too much half-full-viewing going on over there because even if you were to look at it the past two weeks, the scorelines in the finals have been pretty one-sided. I don't think it's a matter of physical conditioning; she's consistently getting deep in draws, even over back-to-back weeks. Is it the intensity level falling off when she gets there? Being content? What? I know it is kind of baffling that a recent U.S. Open champ can't seal the deal on picking up a regular title.

In a way, it kind of reminds me of something that was going on with me in my younger days: When I was playing in the juniors and my first couple of years in college, my goal for my tournament-playing season was to at least get to one final, whether it was singles or doubles. That way, I could still focus on my partying! Then, the guy I was playing doubles with was winning every tournament in sight, and I thought, "Hey, I should set my goals a little higher." I did try harder; however, I 've gotten into a feeling-the-pressure kind of loop as to where now, if I win a match or two at a tournament, it's a mini-miracle.

I just hope Kuz doesn't fall into that cycle. It's a rough one to get out of.

(Photo: Getty Images)


Aaress said...

Wow - 10 out of 11 lost finals! That's a pretty staggering statistic and one that must be preying on Kuznetsova's already shaky confidence.

She is hard at work recrafting her game, including a coaching switch, so hopefully she can turn things around quickly.

TopSpin said...

Hi Van - well you already know my views on Kuznetsova so I'll save you another rant!
Although I was definitely pleased for Jankovic - she probably has the best defence in the women's game - if only she could sort out her serve and be more aggressive.

Shelia said...

Hey Van,

What happened to Kuznetsova? I know all of the song and dance about having a hard time being thrust into being the U.S. Open champion, but I thought that this woman was a shorter version of Serena Williams!

Is it a head game with her? There is no question that she has the talent, but executing it is another story.

van said...

• Hey Aaress! Glad to hear she's working on everything and I hope it all pays off for her.

• Topspin, you were the first person I thought of when I wrote this! And not to take away from Jankovic because it was a nice win, but I just wonder what could've been...

• Yeah, Sheila, I just don't know. Her game is as solid as anyone's out there, but for whatever reason it's not happening in the clutch. It must be her head holding her back when she gets to the finals.

heyheyhey said...

I always thought Sveta was a nutcase. The only reason she won a slam is because she was playing Dementieva, who was more of a nutcase.

Your college-days story reminds me of a friend of mine, who still plays at his club. But back in his glory years he was playing in a tournament, and just beating the crap out of his opponent, when my friend's father showed up, and my friend caught sight of him in the stands. My friend didn't win another game, and lost the match (iirc, it was a championship final, too.) It just shows you what pressure can do.

Steve said...

Hey Van

you are so right, she can and should do much better. That photo is encouraging - she is clearly unhappy with the defeat. I hope she channels that frustration and uses it to raise her game an extra10% rather than get it into her head that she can't beat Jelena.


hcfoo said...

I've lost count on the number of loses Kuzy had in the finals! But I didn't expect it to be 10 out of 11 matches.

I wonder if she'll be back to those glorious days i.e. winning another Grand Slam or at least more ATP titles.