I recently looked at the WTA rankings and, well, was shocked to see Maria Sharapova ranked No.30 in the world, even though she has not played a competitive match in 6+ months barring a one-off doubles appearance in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Even more shocking was to see Serena Williams on the top of the list. I do see the Williams sisters winning a slam here and there. But Serena, who for the last few years has been perennially going through one injury after another, has not gone thru a whole season playing all the majors tournaments since she dethroned Hingis and fought off her sister to complete the Serena Slam.
The usual suspects expected to reign on top after the retirement of Henin. The Serbs Ivanović and Jankovic have skyrocketed to the top of the rankings and both have managed to hold on to No.1 for sometime but neither has managed to do it with some conviction.
Ivanović atleast managed to win a slam on the way to the top but strangely her form dipped after her 2008 French Open victory and she has been struggling to recapture that ever since. Jankovic did play a lot of tournaments and was highly consistent but a slam still eludes her and we all do know that Marcelo Rios was a former No.1 but we keep forgetting that as he failed to capture a slam.
The Russian brigade is always strong and it was Anna Kournikova who started the tennis revolution. At one point seven out of the top ten players in the world were Russians. Maria Sharapova burst on to the scene and proved that she is not only better looking than Anna but also had the game to be the best in the world, winning three slams to date. Though she may have missed the last six months due to injuries, she is possibly the most recognized face in tennis, and also the highest paid female sportsperson of all time.
Masha took the lead and others like Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anna Chakvetadze, and Dinara Safina have all been ranked in the top ten. Off the lot Dinara shows the most promise, and she was the fan’s Player of the Year in 2008. If she manages to lose her brother’s Safin like syndrome then she could go on and conquer the WTA Tour.
We also had a string of European players coming thru and Nicole Vaidisova, who had the game and the looks to match Masha did have a stunning 2006. Her form though has dipped, and of late she is just part of the glam brigade along with Maria Kirilenko and Tatiana Golovin. Daniela Hantuchova, who at 26 seems like a veteran on the tour, is a player who has a supermodel physique and can give any player a run for her money.
The three players who have made a huge splash this year are no strangers and the oldest of them just turned 20 recently. You may confuse one with the other but Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwańska, and Caroline Wozniacki are all battling to become the next Sharapova. While a few players did have this tag, and after early promise just fizzled out , these three are an interesting pick.
With their age, similar structure, and blonde hair they may have an interesting future in women’s tennis. If you add in the likes of Safina, Ivanović, and ofcourse Masha, who is still young and has a few more years of quality tennis left in her, we could be all set for the most exciting phase in women’s tennis in a very long time.