Women's Tennis Stock Watch: Who's Rising, Falling Ahead of 2013 Madrid Open

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2013

Women's Tennis Stock Watch: Who's Rising, Falling Ahead of 2013 Madrid Open

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    This year, the 2013 Madrid Open will be played on red clay instead of the blue Smurf dirt that No. 1 Serena Williams won last year's tournament on.  

    Like Williams cares.  

    After defeating Maria Sharapova at the Sony Open in Miami, Williams was asked on which surface she prefers to play the Russian.

    “Anywhere. It could be ice, grass, clay. It could be — I don’t care. Just give me a racket and a ball. I’m ready.”

    The No. 1- and No. 2-ranked players on the WTA tour enter the Madrid Open with the top spot on the line.

    Williams must defend 1000 points. With only 250 points to defend, if Sharapova wins in Madrid, she is the new No. 1. 

    In no way are either of them a lock to win the title. But let's be real: the Madrid Open is all about Serena and Maria. Everyone else just blends into background noise. To be heard, they need to knock off one of these two tennis titans.

    Still, it's time to take stock of who's rising and who's falling ahead of the Madrid Open.  

Rising: Serena Williams

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    Serena Williams rolls into Madrid ranked No. 1 and trying to hold onto the spot going into the French Open.

    Since her devastating first-round loss in the French Open last year, Williams has been on a mission. The French Open is the only Grand Slam she's won just once.  

    She needs to defend this title to get that coveted No. 1 seed at the French.  

    Williams has said nobody hates losing more than she does. 

    Not losing her No. 1 ranking, and rebounding from that embarrassing loss at the French, could be all the motivation Williams needs to repeat as champion in Madrid. 

Rising: Maria Sharapova

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    Yes, Serena Williams is 12-2 against Sharapova. Yes, Sharapova hasn't beaten Williams in nearly 10 years.  

    However, recently Sharapova has emerged as the clay-court queen.  

    Sharapova has the highest winning percentage on clay among active players. 

    Last week, she defended her title at Stuttgart with a straight-sets win over Li Na. She is also the defending French Open champion.  

    A win at Madrid would return Sharapova to No. 1.

Rising: Jelena Jankovic

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    Jelena Jankovic is slowly finding her way back.

    The former No. 1 player's career took a nose dive last year as she toppled out of the Top 20 for the first time since 2005.

    But last month she put together two solid performances. She reached the semifinals at the Sony Open and then the finals in Charleston.

    Now ranked No. 18, Jankovic is once again playing in big matches. This makes her a dangerous player on tour. 

    Jankovic's 4-6 record against No. 1 Serena Williams is better than that of any player in the top five. 

Falling: Victoria Azarenka

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    It was only a few months ago that Victoria Azarenka was considered the only real threat to Serena Williams.  

    Azarenka defended her title at the Australian Open and then defeated Williams at the 2013 Qatar Open.

    Then she withdrew from Indian Wells and the Sony Open with an ankle injury. 

    Having slipped to No. 3, Azarenka enters the Madrid Open as the odd player out in the race for No. 1, a position she owned most of last year.

    Meanwhile, Sharapova and Williams have gone about the business of winning tournaments. 

Falling: Caroline Wozniacki

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    Caroline Wozniacki spent all but one week at No. 1 in 2011. Dogged by the "never won a slam" chatter, she fell from No. 1 to No. 11 in 2012.

    This year she's gotten more publicity for playing caddie for golfer boyfriend Rory McIlroy than for anything she's done on the court.

    Her counter-punching style seems best suited for clay. But she enters Madrid bordering on irrelevant. 

Falling: Sloane Stephens

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    Sloane Stephens is having a tough time. 

    Since making a splash with an upset win over Serena Williams in the Australian Open, Stephens has struggled to get anything going. 

    The ultimate dis came at the Fed Cup last month. After an abysmal loss in which Stephens had 64 unforced errors, she was essentially benched and replaced with an aging and ailing Venus Williams.   

    Last year, Stephens had a solid clay-court season. This year, she enters Madrid with her confidence shattered, searching for answers. 

Flat: Agnieszka Radwanska

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    A fixture among the WTA's top five, Agnieska Radwanska has replaced Wozniacki as that crafty, consistent all-around player who lacks the power to win a Grand Slam.  

    You'd think a player with her style would relish the clay-court season. But Radwanska has never progressed beyond the fourth round in the French Open.

    Radwanska needs a good showing at Madrid because more aggressive counter-punchers, like Angelique Kerber and Sara Errani, are gaining on her.  

Flat: Petra Kvitova

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    In February, Petra Kvitova put on a sensational performance in a loss against Serena Williams at the Qatar Open. She had Williams on the ropes.  

    She's back, we thought. 

    Since then, she's had an up-and-down year.

    We've seen the Kvitova who won Wimbledon and pushed Williams around in Doha. Then there's the Kvitova bounced by Kirsten Flipkens in Miami.

    Which Kvitova will show up in Madrid?