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Australian Open 2014: Power Ranking Top Women's Contenders

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Serena Williams of the United States looks on in her second round match against Vesna Dolonc of Serbia during day three of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2014

If the temperatures keep rising at the Australian Open, I'll have to adjust these power rankings to simply identify the players who are best-suited to make it through a match without passing out. Let's hope it doesn't get to that.

At least SI.com is reporting that tournament officials have decided to enact the Extreme Heat Policy. 

I'd prefer to have the winner of the year's first major come via his or her skills and performance on the court, and in that regard, the battle for the women's title is going to be hotly contested. The matches should also be an intense battle.

Have a look at how I rank the top contenders for the women's title.

 

No. 1: Serena Williams

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Serena Williams of the United States plays a backhand in her second round match against Vesna Dolonc of Serbia during day three of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

No. 1 seed Serena Williams has done nothing to show she isn't ready to justify her No. 1 world ranking. In two matches, she's lost six total games.

Williams looks to be enjoying good health and her power game is as good as ever. She notched 10 aces in her last match to dispatch world No. 104 Vesna Dolonc

The hard courts of Melbourne are well-suited to Williams' game and she has had plenty of success here as a four-time winner of this event.

In fact, she's looked good enough for BBC Tennis to share this look into the future: 

Williams is coming off a year in which she claimed 11 titles, two of which were majors. She is well on her way to claiming yet another major with the form she's shown early in this tournament

 

No. 2: Victoria Azarenka

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16:  Victoria Azarenka of Belarus plays a forehand in her second round match against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic during day four of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2014 in Melbo
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Like Williams, the hard courts of Melbourne are well-suited for the power of Victoria Azarenka. This isn't exactly a revelation considering she is the two-time defending champion of this event.

The 24-year-old is off to a solid start to the tournament. However, she has been tested more stiffly than Williams. 

Azarenka won her first match against Johanna Larsson 7-6 (7-2), 6-2. 

She then got off to a fast start in the second round before facing a more difficult second set against Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, winning 6-1, 6-4. 

Azarenka was pressing a bit in that match and committed 18 unforced errors. Still, as Sky Sports noted, she was not bothered by some of those missteps. "I feel pretty good. I think it was a good match today. The second set was really competitive as Barbara played really well," she said.

Azarenka will have to cut down on her mistakes to win the title, but she certainly has the game to do just that. 

 

No. 3: Maria Sharapova

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16:  Maria Sharapova of Russia cools off during a break in her second round match against Karin Knapp of Italy during day four of the 2014 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Phot
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Third-seeded Maria Sharapova is going to need to make quick work of her next opponents if she wants to have the legs to challenge either of the other two athletes on this list. 

That is because Sharapova was locked in a grueling second-round match while others players were given a break with the Extreme Heat Policy. 

When the policy went into effect, players were told to finish their set. Sharapova was still in the early stages of her third set with No. 44 Karin Knapp. 

Sharapova went on to win 6-3, 4-6, 10-8. In all, the match lasted a whopping three hours and 28 minutes, and nearly an hour of that action came after officials ruled the heat was too great to allow players to continue. 

Sharapova has the talent to overcome this and advance deep into this tournament, but against elite competition, I have to wonder if this draining match will leave her at a disadvantage. 

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