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Leipzig: Shotmakers Have to Stick Together
Martina Hingis owes the other short player in the Top Ten, Justine Henin, a big favor. Because Henin gave Hingis quite a gift: Another two weeks in the Top Ten. She did it with a big -- and surprising -- win in the Leipzig quarterfinal.

Friday's quarterfinals were largely a bore. No three set matches. And no surprises in the other matches: Serena Williams beat Janette Husarova 6-3 6-3 (though Husarova, by getting that far, moves up from #44 to #39 in the rankings, only one spot short of her career high), Kim Clijsters took out giant-killer Barbara Rittner 6-1 6-0, and Anastasia Myskina disposed of Meghann Shaughnessy 6-4 7-5 (Shaughnessy too benefits greatly, rising from #38 to #33).

But Hantuchova had beaten Henin at the U. S. Open, despite what looked at the time like a nasty fall. And the indoor surface is all to Hantuchova's benefit. No matter. Henin kept Hantuchova at #11 -- and pushed herself up to #6 -- with a 6-4 7-5 win.

Henin looked more like her usual indoor self in the semifinal against Serena Williams: Serena reached the final -- her seventh final in her last eight events -- 6-4 6-2.

The other semifinal, between defending champion Clijsters and up-and-comer Myskina, was far more interesting. But Clijsters seems to be developing a habit of coming up just short. It may not be mental; her bad arm has been described as chronic, and she may not be quite the player she once was. In any case, she fell to Myskina 6-4 5-7 7-6 -- and with it, fell from #8 to #9. Worse, she remains only #10 in points earned this year.

The final was routine: Serena won title #8 of the year 6-3 6-2, ending Myskina's winning streak at seven and stretching her own to 15.

We may have to revise our opinion of Serena's doubles, too, at least as long as she continues to play with big players like Alexandra Stevenson. Admittedly Leipzig was weak (very weak, in fact, in doubles), and such top players as were there were playing with unfamiliar partners (Paola Suarez was with Janette Husarova rather than Virginia Ruano Pascual, and Husarova was with Suarez rather than Elena Dementieva; Elena Likhovtseva was with Natasha Zvereva rather than Cara Black) -- but Stevenson isn't a very good partner, either, and Serena hasn't played with her. But they beat #1 seeds Husarova and Suarez in the final, 6-3 7-5. It's Serena's first title without Venus, and it means she'll be somewhere around the Top Thirty in doubles next week. And she stops Suarez's doubles winning streak at 12 (nine with Ruano Pascual and three with Husarova).


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Bali: I Hate to Do This....
It was all easy for Svetlana Kuznetsova until she had to face Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

Kuznetsova, the latest fast-climbing Russian, came in ranked #59, but she is certainly better than that, and she was helped by a little luck in the quarterfinal; she beat another young Russian, Lina Krasnoroutskaya, 6-3, retired (Krasnoroutskaya had to quit with a knee sprain -- something she did not need after missing more than half the year!).

#2 seed Sanchez-Vicario hadn't had it nearly as easy; she had played three sets in her opening round against Virginia Ruano Pascual, and on Friday, she was stretched again by Saori Obata; the Spaniard won 6-3 4-6 6-0 -- a win that at least keeps her in the Top 45. But that meant she had to face frequent doubles partner Kuznetsova in the semifinal. It bothered Kuznetsova, who admitted to great respect and liking for the Spaniard. But Kuznetsova is rising and Sanchez-Vicario falling, and Kuznetsova won 7-5 6-4 -- and by so doing hit the Top Fifty.

It may have cost the pair in the doubles, though. Having gotten to the final easily, getting a walkover from Martinez/Tarabini, they lost 6-2 6-3 (in a surprisingly slow 76 minutes -- you could tell that they're all clay-courters here) to #1 seeds Cara Black and Virginia Ruano Pascual. Sanchez-Vicario and Kuznetsova saw their doubles winning streak end at 14 (plus a walkover) -- tying, as best we can tell, the second-longest team winning streak of the year (Raymond and Stubbs won 18 straight at Pan Pacific, Scottsdale, Indian Wells, and Miami; Ruano Pascual and Suarez had 14 straight plus a walkover at Rome, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon; in addition, Hingis/Kournikova had a streak of 23 straight without a loss snapped at the U. S. Open, but they had withdrawals in that span). For Ruano Pascual, it was title #8 of the year, tying her with Raymond and Stubbs for the most this year; for Black, who has been having a tough time this year with Elena Likhovtseva, it was title #2. It's the first time Black and Ruano Pascual have played together.

We mentioned the withdrawal of Martinez and Tarabini in the doubles. Martinez was talking about her shoulder a lot, but it didn't seem to affect her singles game. On Friday, she pounded Rossana Neffa-de los Rios 6-1 6-3 to set up a meeting with qualifier Sarah Taylor -- who made her first WTA semifinal with a 6-3 7-5 win over Marta Marrero and should end up above #90 as a result. Martinez's semifinal was even more efficient than her quarterfinal; she beat Taylor 6-0 6-3 and pronounced herself pleased with her play on big points. As well she might; it was the first time this year she'd won four matches in a tournament (in fact, it was the first time she'd won three), and her first final since Roland Garros 2000.

But Kuznetsova didn't fade as easily as Taylor, and that perhaps gave her an edge as the match progressed. She beat Martinez 3-6 7-6 7-5 to earn her second title of the year (the first was at Helsinki), and the second of her career. She'll be going to Tokyo as the #47 player in the world -- a career high. She's clearly done playing qualifying at Tier III events; at this rate, she should be Top 30 by this time next year.


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Women's Match of the Day
Leipzig - Final
(1) Serena Williams def. (6) Anastasia Myskina 6-3 6-2


This is almost too routine to write about. You knew it was coming, really. Myskina had three points early on to go up 3-1 in the first set, but didn't, and that was that.

This result put the WTA into something of a statistical feeding frenzy; they noted, for instance, that Serena is the first player since Martina Hingis to have over 6000 points in her ranking total. This statistic has problems. First, points have been inflated this year; had Serena been judged under the 2001 ranking system, she'd be at about 5800 points, and if she'd been under the 1997 ranking system, it would be more like 5650; it's comparing apples and oranges. Second, the WTA has only kept cumulative points rankings since 1997. So the whole record seems pretty stupid.

But there are some very impressive numbers here. Serena wins her eighth singles title of the year -- a number only three active players (Hingis, Sanchez-Vicario, and Seles) have ever equalled, and only Hingis and Seles have exceeded. She's now won 15 straight -- her second streak of that length or greater this year, and her third of at least twelve. And she has, for the first time in her career, posted the Surface Sweep: Titles on all four major surfaces in a calendar year. And it's a good surface sweep: Although several active players have swept (Hingis in 1997 and 2000, Davenport in 1999), only one (Hingis in 1997) has done a Strong Sweep -- a Tier II or better on all four surfaces. Serena joins Hingis, Steffi Graf, and Martina Navratilova as the only players to post Strong Sweeps in singles since 1990 (inclusive). Pretty good company, we'd say.

And, of course, she increases her lead in the #1 ranking, passing, as the WTA noted, the 6000 point mark.

If there is a downside for Serena, it's hardly her fault: Like her title at the Princess Cup last week, Leipzig wasn't a particularly strong draw, and she didn't face the highest ranked of her potential opponents in two of her four matches. As a result, she earns less than 300 points for this win, meaning that she still hasn't formally put away the year-end #1. She's almost certain to get it, but she hasn't yet clinched.

It says something about the way the rankings stack up that Anastasia Myskina could come in ranked #12, reach the final -- and not only stay at #12 but hardly even make a dent in the gap between her and #11 Daniela Hantuchova, even though Hantuchova failed to defend some points. Right now, there's a Top 11 and an Everyone Else, and though Myskina is at the top of the Everyone Elses, she has a long, long ways to go to join the 11. Still, she's eleventh on the Tour in points this year (ahead of Lindsay Davenport, though Davenport is likely to close fast). And with this result, she clinched her place in the year-end championships. (The WTA denies this; they say only eight players have clinched -- Serena and Venus Williams, Capriati, Seles, Mauresmo, Henin, Hingis, and Dokic. But their algorithm is too conservative; Hantuchova, Kim Clijsters, and Myskina are also going. We'd bet a lot on Silvia Farina Elia and Chanda Rubin, also, though they aren't quite guaranteed.)
 

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I'd like to note a mistake with this article. Serena has won 2 doubles title without Venus and I believe they were mixed double titles at two different Grand Slams. Lets get it right.
 

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Tell that to Serena and Max Mirnyi. And tell all the mixed doubles champs to throw away their trophies and give back their prize money. What do you mean mixed don't count?! That's crazy talk.
 

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Well to many people who aren't as sophisticated as you and I the article would have one to believe that Serena has never won a doubles title without Venus (mixed or otherwise). It's just some what misleading. Why not say "Serena's first double title without Venus since her mixed title with Mirnyi in 1999 or just Serena's second time playing doubles without Venus and her first win....something a little more accurate.
 

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This was Serena's first title in doubles w/o Venus. She can't play dobles with Mirnyi. Mixed doubles and doubles are two different disciplines. It's not the matter of which one imatters more. They're just different. Apple and oranges and all that jazz...
 

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Normally when someone says doubles they're referring to same sex doubles, but if they want to refer to mixed, they have to say mixed doubles. Thats just the way its developed.
 
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