June 20, 2009

The Last Leg

Now that we've all had time to digest the Big News from yesterday, it's time to look past our supreme disappointment that we won't see a repeat of last year's greatest game and remember that there are some people who actually had a thing of two to celebrate this week.

In only the second week of grass court warm-ups before Wimbledon kicks off on Monday, a slew of players turned up at the AEGON International and Ordina Open. While a ton of seeds were eliminated early, a couple did manage to fight their way into the latter part of the week, joined by a couple of newcomers looking to make their names known.

In Eastbourne the Canadian qualifier who took out top-seeded Igor Andreev in the first round, backed up his strong start by making it all the way to the finals. Frank Dancevic made his second career final by beating Fabrice Santoro in the semis on Friday. There he faced the second seed, twenty-seventh ranked Dmitry Tursunov, who'd put together back-to-back wins for only the second time this season. Though the younger Dancevic held his own, he wasn't able to earn himself even one break point on the Russian's serve, and allowed Dmitry his first grass court title.

The women's draw was upset even more, as neither Elena Dementieva nor French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova made it out of the second round. Dementieva's vanquisher, Virginie Razzano, continued her success by subsequently taking out Aggie Radwanska and Marion Bartoli, while Aleksandra Wozniak, who'd defeated Svets, succumbed to sort-of namesake Caroline Wozniacki. The Danish teenager, who's already won one title and made three finals this year, continued her very successful run and took home championship #4, despite dropping her serve three times.

A little further west in the Netherlands, it looked like last year's winner David Ferrer might have had an easy road to repeat when both Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Robredo lost in the first few rounds. But when he lost in the quarters, it seemed the title was up for grabs. Eventually qualifier Benjamin Becker and wildcard Raemon Sluiter made it to the finals, neither of whom had ever won a tournament. Becker, who originally made a name for himself and distinguished himself from the more-famous Boris when he ousted Andre Agassi from the 2006 U.S. Open, hadn't been able to capitalize on his early success -- until today, when he won his first trophy in straight sets over Sluiter.

The women's final at the Ordina Open was also populated by some surprising names. Though world #1 Dinara Safina advanced easily in her first two rounds, she was shocked by Tamarine Tanasugarn in the semis -- incidentally the same woman who'd beaten her in the finals last year. On the bottom half Estoril champion Yanina Wickmayer, who's had a great two-month run, defeated Roland Garros stand-out Sorana Cirstea and former top-twenty player Francesca Schiavone on her way to the finals. But the more experienced Tanasugarn was too much for Yanina, and she claimed her third career title in straight sets.

All this week's winners will have a tough road at Wimbledon, Rafa or no Rafa. But their break-through wins on grass certainly could give them a lot of encouragement. These days, it doesn't seem anyone's really a favorite -- and anything really can happen.

Congrats to all, and good luck!

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