November 8, 2009

A French Revolution

It was a battle of the French this week in Bali, where the first ever Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Championships took place. The new tournament showcased the talent of new and established stars of the sport, inviting the ten highest-ranked women who'd won an international tournament this year -- and who didn't qualify for the season-ending championships in Doha -- plus two wild cards to compete for as much as a million dollars in prize money.

The headliners for the inaugural tournament didn't disappoint. Marion Bartoli and Sam Stosur claimed the top seeds while Sabine Lisicki, a finalist in Luxembourg and winner in Charleston, and veteran Kimiko Date Krumm accepted the final two spots. And right from the get-go there was quite a bit of drama to speak of. Two-time titlist Yanina Wickmayer voluntarily withdrew after word spread of her twelve-month suspension from the Tour (for not showing up for drug tests -- and in the week after Andre Agassi's confessions, it seems the authorities are just trying to make a point). Both Lisicki and Stosur were upset in their groups, and Bartoli was the only top seed to advance to the semis and ultimately to the finals.

There she met Aravane Rezai, the twenty-two year old who captured her first championship trophy when she beat Lucie Hradecka in Stasbourg last May. The rest of the year has been filled with ups and downs for her, though, as she lost a couple of tournaments in the early rounds and only barely qualified for Linz and Luxembourg to end the year. She'd lost her last two meetings with Bartoli, most recently in Tokyo this past September.

On Sunday afternoon in Bali, though, she fought her way back from being down set point at 3-5 to take the first 7-5. When Bartoli had to retire with a quadricep injury, Aravane held up the biggest trophy of her career thus far.

It's not quite enough to shoot Rezai into the top-most rankings, but it does make a case for French tennis on the women's Tour. The men already have Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, they have Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils. The women are struggling a bit with Amelie Mauresmo speaking of retirement and Virginie Razzano losing most of her matches against the top players.

But maybe with a little less than three months left before the first Grand Slam of next year, it might be time to start looking at another country to be a force on the courts.

By the way, the country you think is most likely to dominate in 2010, according to my admittedly unscientific poll, is Russia. Only one person voted for Belgium, something that shocked me. But even though the polls are closed, I still want to know what you think! Leave your comments below!

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