Predicting the Top 10 Players in the WTA Rankings at the End of 2013
The women's field has been both strong and shaky this year.
With half of the 2013 season already in the books, we have a good idea of how the future tournaments will play out.
Again, some of the athletes on the WTA tour continue to impress out of nowhere while also vanishing just as quickly as they appeared.
I recognize that some of the players may fall apart during the summer swing and that some will have unexpectedly good results, but the rankings should remain largely unchanged by the time the year finishes.
Here are the projected Top 10 rankings for the WTA at the end of the year.
1. Serena Williams
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Serena Williams has only won one Slam this year and did not go further than the quarterfinals in the other two events, but she is clearly ranked No. 1 for a reason.
The current best player in the world by a long shot had a 34-match winning streak beginning after the Australian Open.
She was also undefeated on clay for the entire year, which is her worst surface by far.
Many analysts would likely still label her as the favorite for the U.S. Open unless the lead-up tournaments showed her vulnerability.
Since she and the following two players in the rankings have played the least number of tournaments and are still so far ahead in terms of ranking points, they should not be touched by any other players for a while.
2. Maria Sharapova
The Russian superstar has improved so much in the past few years.
It has shown in her results, confidence, attitude and even her physical strokes on the court.
She had a very good clay season by her standards but fell very short of the finish line in a few other important events.
It is possible that she could win the U.S. Open and other similar tournaments, but she may not be able to pick up momentum, considering her Wimbledon run and tournament withdrawals made her look less dominant than usual.
There is no doubt, though, that she will remain at least at No. 3 in the world, and I do not think Azarenka has enough time to catch her just yet.
3. Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka started off the year incredibly strong with a career second major title.
Since then, she has had a French Open semifinal showing but not too much else.
However, she is one of the best hard-court players out there and will likely have one of the best summers results-wise.
The top three players have been rock-solid and are different caliber players from the other women in the Top 10.
4. Agnieszka Radwanska
If anybody should take over the No. 3 spot in the rankings, it is Agnieszka Radwanska.
The Polish star has been participating in the latter stages of events all year, and while she has also given up a few easier-than-usual opportunities, she has been good enough to stay in the Top Four for several months.
Radwanska is narrowly ahead of Li Na in the rankings, but the Chinese woman's results are fairly inconsistent. At the moment, it is tough to say whether or not they will swap places.
The hard court is a comfortable surface for both players, but Li Na leads their head-to-head 5-2 on all hard courts. This statistic would only matter if they drew each other in the draws of the summer events, though.
5. Li Na
Li Na's success comes and goes, but there is no doubt that she can win any match on any given day.
She is a true veteran of the game, and perhaps her age and routines are the reasons why her results are inconsistent.
The 31-year-old can play on any surface and deals with external conditions pretty well, but again, it is tough to make radical predictions for her future.
As this list has shown the current women's rankings in an unchanged order thus far, it is safe to say they have been a very strong Top Five—perhaps one of the toughest groups in a long time.
The hero to China has had multiple chances to win majors, so do not rule her out for 2014, either.
6. Sara Errani
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Not much separates Li Na's ranking from Sara Errani's, but their past results could be a good indicator of how they will finish the year.
Errani had a better-than-expected finish to the year last year—however, Li Na's performances were shaky and also a part of her "patchy" career story.
Surely, the Italian woman has a chance to move up even higher in terms of accomplishments, but she must learn how to use her weapons—agility and the forehand—more fiercely if she wants to have a chance to win as many events as possible.
I have some good news for the remainder of this list, though. This is where the end-of-year projected rankings start to change up a little bit from the current positions.
7. Angelique Kerber
The feisty German, Angelique Kerber, has an unorthodox way of hitting the ball, but it sure is effective.
Her powerful mix of top spin and flat balls has allowed her to compete at a high level for a couple of years now.
She has an unprecedented tenacity and an unwillingness to go away in matches.
With that being said, I think she can have another amazing summer and move up past Marion Bartoli and Petra Kvitova in the rankings.
Establishing herself as a new force on the tour at a young age, Kerber has since shown signs of a true champion and may just get some major titles to her name in the near future.
8. Petra Kvitova
This incredibly talented lefty has been a top player for a few years, and she still shows much promise for the future.
However, her results are similar to Li Na's in that she is shaky at times and amazing in other moments.
She had a really good opportunity at Wimbledon this year and let it slip away, but let's focus on the rankings concept.
She and Marion Bartoli are neck and neck with points, but her summer will probably be far superior just because she is an overall better player. But Bartoli's confidence could be at an all-time high as well.
Kvitova should not fall apart too significantly, but she does seem to be slipping in a minor way as of late. I believe she will be in the Top Five soon.
9. Marion Bartoli
Bartoli lost in consecutive third-round matches in the first two majors of the year but surprised the world by winning the Wimbledon Championships.
And on top of that, she was so dominant that she did not drop one single set the entire fortnight.
It is possible that she can ride this wave of success until the end of the season but has not proved that she can be consistent at all.
Her end of the year will be the toughest to predict, but then again, she probably has less expectations for herself. After all, she never imagined she would have won Wimbledon six years after being in her first final there.
Her ranking recently dropped from seventh to eighth, but I think she will fall one more spot in the next few months.
10. Maria Kirilenko/Sloane Stephens
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Maria Kirilenko is currently ranked at No. 12 and Sloane Stephens at No. 15 in the world.
These are the two women who I suspect will have unusually amazing summer swings.
Perhaps only one of them will shine as bright as I am predicting, and maybe neither will have enough time to reach the Top 10 prior to the end of the year, but they will be making their move.
Caroline Wozniacki, Roberta Vinci, Sam Stosur and Kirsten Flipkens are somewhat steady but do not have that "it" factor (well, maybe Stosur does, but she has been mental in recent months) to keep them at the top of the women's game.
A new crowd of top players is slowly approaching, and the world is about to see some very entertaining, worthwhile tennis.