Doha Friday: Playing For Pride
Published October 28, 2010 12:00
Day 4 Preview - Round Robin
(4) Francesca Schiavone (ITA #6) vs. (7) Elena Dementieva (RUS #9)
Head-to-Head: Dementieva leads 7-5
Crafty Schiavone has acquitted herself with distinction this week, and while out of semifinal contention, she still has plenty to play for. Aside from pride, cash, and third place in the Maroon cohort, there's the matter of next week's Fed Cup final against the United States, for which she will jet to San Diego once Doha is done. No doubt the journey would be easier with a morale-boosting win in the bag, for the team competition matters enormously to Schiavone and she'll want to arrive for Italy's fourth final in five years at her feisty best. In the past, however, Dementieva has had the Italian's measure: Schiavone hasn't prevailed in a completed match since 2007, although their most recent encounter, in the semis at Tokyo a few weeks ago, was a tight two-setter. As for Dementieva? Her gripping defeat of Stosur on Thursday night couldn't stand in greater contrast to her previous round robin loss to Wozniacki - a match that had some questioning the Russian's decision to take to the court at all. Against Stosur, Dementieva showed the mettle that has made her a leading light for a decade, and her power off the ground, especially on the return, may once again prove a bit too much for her fellow veteran to handle.
Hots Stats: Schiavone is projected to finish the year ranked No.7 - a record among Italian women. Dementieva, playing her 849th professional match today (576-272), should finish in the Top 10 for the seventh time in eight years.
(2) Vera Zvonareva (RUS #2) vs. (3) Kim Clijsters (BEL #4)
Head-to-Head: Clijsters leads 6-2
Including her title run at the US Open and two round robin wins so far this week, Clijsters is now on a nine-match winning streak. While the biggest of those wins was against none other than Zvonareva at Flushing Meadows, Zvonareva can take heart in the fact that however bleak her overall head-to-head with the Belgian looks, she was the last player to beat her, in the quarters at Montréal. In fact, the Russian is 2-1 against Clijsters since the Belgian made her comeback, twice beating her in three-setters this season, In any case, both have delivered the goods in impressive style here; Zvonareva is the only player yet to drop a set all tournament, while Clijsters has been sharp considering her injury layoff, coming up trumps in both physically and mentally against Azarenka on Thursday. Whether she is quite ready to suppress an opponent who is at the top of her game, remains to be seen. The winner of this match will finish top of the White foursome on a perfect 3-0 record, with the winner to face Wozniacki in Saturday's semis and the loser to tackle Stosur. And, under the WTA Championships format, these two could still meet in Sunday's final, regardless of the result today.
Hot Stats: Zvonareva could bank the year-end No.2 ranking by winning today; if Clijsters prevails and goes on to win the tournament (and doesn't meet Zvonareva in the final), she is projected to finish at No.2 instead.
(6) Jelena Jankovic (SRB #8) vs. (8) Victoria Azarenka (BLR #10)
Head-to-Head: Jankovic leads 3-2
Like Schiavone, these two are playing for consolation. Perhaps surprisingly, it's the first time they've met since the round robin here 12 months ago, so there's no recent form to refer to. Given how unwell she has been, Jankovic - now 6-10 since Wimbledon - might well consider it an achievement that she has managed to play out the tournament; time will tell whether she can 'do a Dementieva' and emerge a different player after her day off yesterday. Meantime, Azarenka probably has more reason to be disappointed by the way things have panned out this week, following her fine run in Moscow. After her final set capitulation against Clijsters on Thursday night the 21-year-old confessed to being a bit weary, and at times it has seemed luck wasn't on her side either. Still, she's played well enough to deserve to leave Doha with at least one win against her name, and if she can do it today it will be a very positive sign her mental game is heading in the right direction. Whatever the outcome of this match, she can celebrate that title win at the Kremlin Cup, which should signpost a good start to the looming 2011 season.
Hot Stats: Jankovic is on course for her fourth straight Top 10 season finish, most likely at her current station of No.8. Despite slipping out of the elite for a while this year, Azarenka is set for her second Top 10 finish, after 2009.
- Adam Lincoln