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Monday, August 04, 2008

Postcards from a Russian Sports Bloodbath

It's difficult to describe in mere words the full humiliating extent of the massacre of Russian female athletes which occurred last week on opposite ends of the globe. It was a new low in the annals of Russian sport.

First there was the disqualification of not one, not two, not three, not four but five -- count them, five -- top female Russian athletes from the Bejing Olympiad due to doping charges. Two other Russian athletes, of lesser stature, we also suspended from their sports. And making things even worse was the response of the Russian sports authorities. Sergei Vasilyev, the coach of the offending players, stated: "This is pure politics. If these athletes, who are the main contenders for gold medals, are forced out of the games, the new favorites will automatically be the Chinese." Interesting. Is that what Mr. Vasilyev would have said if the disqualification of Americans left Russians in dominant position? Anyone who thinks so needs to have his head examined as closely as these cheating Russians have been. Welcome back to the USSR!

And then there was the tennis. Oh, the woeful, atrocious, jaw-dropping Russian female tennis at the Tier I Rogers Cup WTA tour event in Montreal Canada.

Russia started out the tournament in fine shape on paper, with half the sixteen seeds and six of the top eight. Then the trouble started. They stepped on the court, and that was a mistake. Two of the eight seeds lost their opening-round matches, and four more were eliminated after pathetic efforts in their second match of the tournament, in the third round (most of the seeded Russians had byes in the first round). Here's an overview of the carnage:

  • #3 seed Maria Sharapova barely survived her opening match against an unseeded Polish player, then quit the tournament claiming "injury." She then withdrew from Russia's Olympic team by publishing a note on her website, leaving her Russian coach slightly confused and saving her from the possiblity of having to play for her so-called country (of nationality only) against the one where she's actually lived most of her life.

  • #5 seed Elena Dementieva lost her opening round match in straight sets to an unseeded Slovakian, managing to win only six games in the entire contest.

  • #6 seed Anna Chakvetadze lost her second match of the tournament, in the third round following a bye. At least she, however, went down in three sets to a (lower) seeded payer.

  • #8 seed Vera Zvonareva lost her opening round match to an unseeded Frenchwoman. At least she did better than "the Demented One," pushing her opponent to three sets.

  • #12 seed Nadia Petrova was pulverized in her second match by the same Slovak who had crushed Dementieva out of the gate. She too, at least, outdid the higher-ranked serveless wonder, taking eight games in the straight-set loss.

  • And finally #13 seed Maria Kirilenko went down in her second match to an unseeded Canadian who was only in the tournament because of a wild card assignment.
  • Incidentally, just for good measure, the "world #1" Ana Ivanovic, who hails from Russia's beloved "little brother" Serbia, also lost in her second match (the third round) in humiliating fashion, to an unseeded Austrian player not ranked in the world's top 90 players (Ivanovic needed three sets to struggle past her unseeded first round opponent, just like Sharapova). "World #2" Serbian Jelena Jancovic had the chance to decisively pass Ivanovic and take the #1 ranking if only she could beat her unseeded quarter-finals opponent from Slovakia (a woman not ranked in the top 30 in the world). But she too suffered a humiliating straight-set blowout, winning just seven of nineteen games played. Showing what a ridiculous fraud the WTA ranking system really is, Jankovic is slated to become #1 anyway based on technical number cruching; she's ever even been in a grand slam final in her entire career, much less won one, and she didn't even make the semi-finals of the tournament that made her "#1" -- now that's justice Russian style!

So while Russia should have held six of the eight quarter-finals slots according to the seeding, in reality in attained only two of them -- and only one of Russia's eight tournament seeds managed to get that far without the helping hand of being able to face a fellow Russian along the way. #4 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova needed three tough sets to squeeze past her third-round opponent, an unseeded (and unheard of) Portuguese player who had, luckily for Kuznetsova, defeated the seeded opponent she would otherwise have had to face. #7 seed Dinara Safina was fortunate enough to draw a Russian opponent in her second-round match, thus giving her an easy road to a third-round contest with the #9 seed, where she became the only seeded Russian to beat a seed and advance to the quarter finals (beating the lower-seeded opponent in dominating fashion).

In other words, with six of the top eight seeds the only reason Russia even had a single berth in the semi-finals was the luck of the draw, that the only two surviving Russians happened to be in the same quarter of the draw and so they faced off in a quarter-finals match, guaranteeing a Russian spot in the semis regardless of the outcome.

The higher-ranked Russian, of course, Kuznetesova, then lost in disgraceful fashion, taking only five games total in the second two sets of a three-set contest.

So while Russians (and Serbians) held all of the top eight seeds in the tournament, only one of them managed to get as far as the semi-finals. The other three spots there were filled by the 10 and 11 seeds as well as one player who had no seed at all. Over and over and over and over again the Russians (and Serbians) collapsed in spectacular, humilating fashion at the hands of much lower ranked non-Russian (and non-Serbian) competition.


Anonymous said...

"Russian newspapers said the bans appeared to be a foreign plot to deprive the national team of at least five golds in Beijing."

Anonymous said...

USA also destroyed Russia in men's basketball exhibition, run-up to Olympics.

Anonymous said...

However, eventually it was Russian Dinara Safina who won the Rogers Cup title :)
russia rulez, playahaters :)