Australian Open 2012: Who Will Become the Women's World No. 1?
The 2012 Australian Open just got very, very important.
At least for the women anyway.
As Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray all continue their merry ways in the men's tournament, the women's draw takes on extra significance since the winner of the 2012 Australian Open may very well take the world No. 1 ranking with them.
With five players still technically in the frame for the world No. 1 ranking, the final seven days of the tournament have an extra significance not seen before, and this tournament could be critical for rankings in other tournaments later in the year.
As I said, it just got very, very important in Australia, and the big question remains as to who will win the women's tournament and take home the trophy—and possibly the world No. 1 ranking.
Let's find out.
Current WTA Standings and Points
In short, the world rankings are based on a points system, and different points are available for different stages of the tournament—so essentially the further you go in a tournament, the more points you get.
Current WTA Standings as of January 16th, 2012, are as follows:
|1. Caroline Wozniacki||7,485 points|
|2. Petra Kvitova||7,290 points|
|3. Victoria Azarenka||6,865 points|
|4. Maria Sharapova||6,440 points|
|5. Samantha Stosur||5,585 points|
|6. Li Na ||5,570 points|
For any Grand Slam tournament, the following points are assigned to the following stages of the tournament:
- First round—5 points
- Second round—100 points
- Third round—160 points
- Round of 16—280 points
- Quarterfinal—500 points
- Semifinal—900 points
- Runner-up—1,400 points
- Winner—2,000 points
So as we can see, any of the top six players (except Stosur, who's already lost) could potentially take home the No. 1 world ranking along with their Australian Open title come the final week of the tournament.
Current World No. 6: Li Na
China's Li Na is through to the fourth round of the Australian Open, where she will play a rematch of last year's final against Kim Clijsters.
After taking time off to have children, the Belgian queen is climbing back through the WTA rankings and is not the ideal opponent to meet in the fourth round.
And the fourth round will be as far as Li gets this year—Clijsters is just too strong for the Chinese hopeful. Li Na has not faced quality opposition so far this tournament, whereas Clijsters looked strong in her straight-set defeat of Daniela Hantuchova.
So Li will pick up points from her Australian Open campaign, but will bounce back with a tournament victory some time in the next few months on the WTA circuit to re-assert her dominance in the sport.
Final points prediction: 4,450 points
Current World No. 5: Samantha Stosur
This one is the easy one.
Current world No. 5 and soon-to-be world No. 6 Samantha Stosur was sensationally knocked out in the first round of the tournament 6-0, 6-1 by Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who was knocked out in the third round by Sara Errani.
That adds five points to Stosur's total, as she seeks to find answers to her shock defeat.
Final prediction: 5,430
Current World No. 4: Maria Sharapova
After disposing of all who have come her way so far this tournament, Maria Sharapova has set up a fourth-round matchup with Sabine Lisicki—a match that she should really win.
Sharapova has been clinical all tournament—dropping just six games in three matches—and compared to Lisicki, who struggled early before Kuznetsova imploded in the final set, she should simply be in another class.
That will set up a mouth-watering and ear-popping quarterfinal with American Serena Williams, who also has dominated her opponents with ease this tournament. Williams holds a 7-2 head-to-head advantage over her opponent, including wins on all surfaces, and has not lost to Sharapova in seven years.
It appears that Williams will be too good for the powerful Russian in a game that is sure to feature plenty of winners, aces, yelling and quality shots, but not enough games for Sharapova as Williams takes her down in a thrilling three-set encounter.
Final prediction: 6,660 points
Current World No. 3: Victoria Azarenka
Current world No. 3 Azarenka has a fourth-round encounter with Iveta Benesova, and she should be too good and have too much game for the unseeded Czech player.
That will move her through to the quarterfinals for a matchup against Agnieszka Radwanska, who, despite a shaky start to the tournament, has moved through to the second week of the Australian Open.
Azarenka has not dropped a set all tournament, appears to be hitting quality shots at clutch moments of the match and will be too good for Radwanska.
Radwanska will showcase some of her best fighting spirit as she rallies from a set down, but won't be good enough to overcome the Belarussian.
That will put her in to a semifinal with current world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who is still searching for her first Grand Slam victory.
And despite the Dane winning her past three matches, Azarenka could prove to be tough to get past. Azarenka pushed her all the way in two of their last three encounters, and in the third, she succumbed to an injury.
However, this year Azarenka looks to be in scintillating form and will move through to the final to take on Czech Petra Kvitova.
Maybe the Wozniacki game will have taken much out of her, or maybe Kvitova is simply in such brilliant form this year, but Azarenka is wiped off the court in under an hour.
Kvitova wraps up a comfortable straight-set victory, proving to be too powerful and too strong when it mattered the most.
Still, Azarenka will still benefit greatly from the 1,400 points she picks up for running second—I'm sure, however, that she would have rather had the trophy and a Grand Slam title next to her name.
Final prediction: ,985 points
Current World No. 2: Petra Kvitova
Well, if you read that last slide properly, then yes, you would have read that Petra Kvitova will go on to win the 2012 Australian Open.
She will dispose of Jie Zheng in the quarterfinals; Zheng simply is not in the same class or form as the Czech Republic hopeful.
Meeting Serena Williams in the semifinal however, that's a different ballgame all together.
To beat Williams, you need driving power, and after watching Sharapova come unstuck with this, Kvitova will adjust her power game to frustrate Williams and get under her skin.
Which means Serena should just have a ball—pun intended—as Petra moves through to the final.
All the momentum will be with the Czech, who impressed greatly throughout 2011 and deserves the world No. 1 ranking with this win.
Petra's combination of deft touch and driving power is tough to find on the women's circuit, and her ability to win on all surfaces will hold her in great stead for the years to come.
Final prediction: 8,790 points
Current World No. 1: Caroline Wozniacki
After not dropping a set so far in the tournament, Wozniacki will meet Jelena Jankovic.
Despite the Serb holding a 4-3 head-to-head advantage, Caroline has won the past three encounters between the two. Jankovic is not what she used to be on the circuit; Wozniacki has improved her game greatly in the past year and will breeze past her in straight sets.
She will then meet Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals in a game that really could go either way.
I know she hasn't won a major, and I know Kim is Kim, but there's something to like about the way Caroline has played this year. She is more composed than usual and her ground game—backhand in particular—has improved considerably.
It's a tight game, but I'll take Wozniacki to win a tough first set and then have enough momentum to take the second as well.
However, she will falter in the semis again, this time to Victoria Azarenka. She did win the last few matches between these two, but this prediction is more of a reflection on Wozniacki than anything.
She is a quality tennis player—definitely top three in the world—but she cannot close a match and she cannot close a tournament.
That will change one day, and I look forward to the day it does—but it just won't happen here.
Final prediction: 7,485 points
Final WTA Standings and Points
So with the victory and the 2012 Australian Open next to her name, it's time to meet your new World No. 1—Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.
Final standings and points are as follows:
|1. Petra Kvitova||8,790 points|
|2. Victoria Azarenka ||7,985 points|
|3. Caroline Wozniacki ||7,485 points|
|4. Maria Sharapova||6,660 points|
5. Samantha Stosur
|6. Agnieszka Radwanksa ||5,330 points|
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