At the U.S. Open this year, Russia started out with ten women in the singles draw and just a puny four of them seeded. The draw sheet symbolized the virtual disappearance of Russian players, who some not long ago were claiming would “dominate” the sport, from the top ranks of the women’s game; Russia has only one player, Maria Sharapova, ranked in the top 10 in the world, and Sharapova lives and learned to play tennis in the USA.
By the time play had concluded, Russia’s decimated ranks had done nothing to salvage Russian honor.
Two of Russia’s four seeds, #14 Maria Kirilenko and #17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, were ejected from the tournament by unseeded opponents prior to the fourth round of the tournament, and all six of Russia’s unseeded female players met the same fate, ignominious defeat in the early rounds of the final grand slam event of the year. Unseeded players from Georgia, Great Britain, Bulgaria and Czech Republic reached the fourth round, but not one unseeded Russian even vaguely threatened to do so.
This left only #19 Nadia Petrova and Russia’s best player, #3 Sharapova, with a chance of reaching the quarterfinals. As luck would have it, they were drawn to face each other in the fourth round, meaning that Russia was guaranteed of having one player reach the quarterfinals.
In yet another display of her incredible dumb luck, Sharapova won the match after being saved while on the brink of defeat in the third set by a rain delay. Similar circumstances allowed Sharapova to win her semi-finals match at Wimbledon the year she “won” the title there. Her fellow Russian Petrova heaped much-deserved scorn on Sharapova after the match, in yet another profound display of Russian sportsmanship and camaraderie.
So once again, the only “Russian” woman with a chance of winning a major title was Sharapova, a player who has lived in the USA since she was a child and who learned how to play tennis there. She is, in other words, a “Russian” in name only.
And the dumb luck was just beginning for Sharapova. In her next match, she played a lower-ranked Frenchwoman and promptly lost the first four games of the match, seeing her vaunted serve broken twice. And then the rain started again!! And this time it lasted long enough for the match to be continued into the next day. Before the rain delay, Sharapova was 0-4. After it, she was 15-9 and managed to win the second and third sets.
But then Sharapova’s luck ran out, when she ran into world #1 Victoria Azarenka her semifinals match. Her luck continued through the first set of that match, which she managed to win, but then saw the pseudo-Russian soundly thrashed in the next two sets, winning just six of 18 games played. Sharapova ended the match with a shocking 10 double faults and 42 unforced errors, double the numbers put forth by her opponent.
So that was the end of the Russians. The “best” Russian player, who got the furthest in the draw, was the Russian who left the country at a young age and learned her game in the USA. And even that American help was not enough to vault her into the finals, much less provide her with the title. And next to that “best” Russian, the rest of the country’s entries in the tournament looked like mere pretenders.
P.S.: In case you were wondering, the U.S. which the same critics said was all washed up won the women’s singles, men’s doubles and girls singles and doubles, four of the nine titles that were available during the fortnight. Russia won zero titles.