January 14, 2010

The Importance of Defense: Part 2

Earlier this week I pointed out how Andy Murray's decision not to defend his title in Doha last week might have some interesting consequences for the Australian Open draws released on Friday.

A similar situation is fomenting in Sydney this week. You might remember that 2009 champ Elena Dementieva won this trophy as part of a fifteen-match win streak. But this year she didn't go back to Auckland to defend that first title, so she's dropping points from her ranking regardless of her showing in Sydney.

She's doing well at this tournament so far. With a 6-3, 6-1 win over Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, Elena clinched her spot in the finals for a second straight year. There she'll meet Serena Williams who actually struggled in her semifinal match against Bali champ Aravane Rezai, and found herself two points from elimination before rallying for the win. Serena is certainly a formidable opponent to face -- if the Russian doesn't pull off the victory tomorrow, she'll close the gap between herself and world #6 Venus Williams.

Of course her situation isn't quite as crucial as Andy Murray's. Win or lose tomorrow, she'll still be ranked fifth in the world, one spot lower than she was at this time last year, so her potential draws won't be affected. More important than her point score, though, is what a successful defense would do to raise her profile. She's one of the most consistent players out there, having been ranked in the top ten for the better part of the last decade -- but she's often overlooked as a threat at the Majors, and it's easy to forget that she's actually played in two Slam finals. Adding another victory to her record would certainly get pundits talking about her again.

Dementieva has a decent record against Williams, having won most of their matches in the last five years, so her chances of repeating aren't that bad. And knocking off a top seed, whatever the circumstances, will always serve as a huge confidence booster. The timing of a potential win wouldn't hurt either -- as the last thing she remembers before going into the first Grand Slam of the year, momentum would certainly be on Elena's side.

It might not be the safest best, but I'm putting my money -- and hopes -- on an upset tomorrow -- after all, it would be fun to shake things up a little, wouldn't it?

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

Yay! That's all I have to say!