A new face at the top of the power rankings may lead many to believe Elena Dementieva’s presence is a harbinger of changes to come.
There are myriad story lines adding to excitement of the first major of the year for the women’s tour: Along with the resurrection of the tennis careers of the Belgian duo of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, there is the attempted return of Maria Sharapova.
There are also many questions about the promise yet to be realized for Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina as well as the scalability of newbies Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, and big-serving Sabine Lisicki.
Add to that the staying power of the Williams sisters.
The preseason power rankings borrow a little from 2009 and a lot from 2010. Here is how they stack up early in the year...
The Top 10
1. Elena Dementieva (Last Power Ranking: NR; Current WTA Ranking: 5)
Last four tournaments: Sydney [Winner], Doha [RR 2-1], Beijing [Quarterfinalist], Tokyo [R32].
Power Ranking Points: 518
On her way to the finals in Sydney, Elena Dementieva defeated No. 2 seed Dinara Safina, No. 6 seed Victoria Azarenka, and No. 1 seed Serena Williams to collect her first tour championship of the season.
Unfortunately for Dementieva, she was drawn into the most contested quarter of the draw and can expect to meet reborn Justine Henin in round 2. The quarter also includes No. 3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 15 seed Kim Clijsters. This quarter is jam packed with potential champions. It will be a real test for the Russian to find herself standing in the quarterfinals.
If Dementieva gets past Henin, it will mark a major hurdle. But it would still only be round two. There remains a mountain of matches left to win before the finish line. If the Russian makes it there, she may retain her No. 1 power ranking at the conclusion of the Australian Open.
2. Serena Williams (Last Power Ranking: 1; Current WTA Ranking: 1)
Last four tournaments: Sydney [Finalist], Doha [Winner], Beijing [R16], U.S.Open [SF].
Power Ranking Points: 502
Serena Williams comes into the Australian Open as the No. 1 seed, holding the WTA No. 1 ranking as she did at the conclusion of 2009.
After winning the season-ending WTA Tournament in Doha, the American advanced to the finals of the tournament in Sydney. There Williams lost to Russian Dementieva, 6-3, 6-2, suffering from an apparent left knee injury.
Serena’s quarter of the draw poses some interesting match-ups—perhaps the most interesting is with Sabine Lisicki should they both survive into the fourth round.
If Williams is playing well without battling the left knee injury, she should survive and make her way into the quarterfinals where she might encounter the No. 7 seed Victoria Azarenka or Ana Ivanovic, the Serb who lost her game after the French Open in 2008.
If Serena reclaims this championship, she will retake the No. 1 power ranking.
3. Alona Bondarenko (Last Power Ranking: NR; Current WTA Ranking: 30)
Last four tournaments: Hobart [Winner], Moscow [Semifinalist], Beijing [R16], Tokyo [R64].
Power Ranking Points: 305
The blond Alona Bondarenko from Ukraine recently won the tournament in Hobart, defeating Shahar Peer in the finals. She makes her way into our power rankings for the first time based upon her win and her improved play during the waning season of 2009.
Bondarenko is seeded in Serena Williams' quarter of the draw at the Australian Open.
She meets German qualifier Kathrin Woerle in the opening round with the potential to meet No. 8 seed Jelena Jankovic in the second round.
Bondarenko has never beaten the Serb in nine tries, but they have not met since Stuttgart in 2008, and the Ukrainian has improved her game immensely since then. It will be an important match for both of these ladies.
4. Shahar Peer (Last Power Ranking: NR: Current WTA Ranking: 28)
Last four tournaments: Hobart [Finalist], Auckland [Semifinalist], Bali [R1], Luxembourg [SF].
Power Ranking Points: 351
This is also Peer’s first time in the power rankings. Based on her play in early 2010, the Israeli accumulated enough points to break into our top five. Peer reached the semifinals in Auckland, losing to eventual champion Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 7-5. She also participated in the tournament in Hobart where she reached the finals, losing to Alona Bondarenko 6-2, 6-4.
Peer begins her campaign down under facing Czech Lucie Hradecka. If she advances, she could conceivably meet No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki. The furthest the Israeli advanced in the Australian Open was the quarterfinals in 2007 where she met and lost to Serena Williams—the eventual champion.
Peer will have to play her heart out to make it that far this year even though she is playing well to start the season.
5. Aravane Rezai (Last Power Ranking: 6; Current WTA Ranking: 23)
Last four tournaments: Sydney [Semifinals], Auckland [R16], Bali [Winner], Linz [R1].
Power Ranking Points: 256
Aravane Rezai has risen from the No. 6 position in our last power rankings to No. 5 as she gets ready to take the court in Melbourne. Rezai lost in the round of 16 to Dominika Cibulkova in Auckland but made it to the semifinals in Sydney, losing to Serena Williams 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
She begins proceedings at the Australian Open in Svetlana Kuznetsova’s quarter of the draw, seeded No. 26. Her first opponent was unseeded Sania Mirza of India. Rezai defeated Mirza, 6-4, 6-2. It is possible that the young Frenchwoman would meet Kuznetsova in the third round.
Rezai is a player who deserves notice because she shows great promise.
6. Kim Clijsters (Last Power Ranking: 9; Current WTA Ranking: 15)
Last four tournaments: Brisbane [Winner], Luxembourg [R16], U.S.Open [Winner], Toronto [R16].
Power Ranking Points: 253
Kim Clijsters won the tournament in Brisbane, defeating her fellow country woman and former nemesis, Justine Henin. Her re-emergence has cemented her popularity and her game as she finds herself as one of the favorites to win the Australian Open in 2010.
Clijsters has landed in the overpowering third quarter where No. 3 seed Russian Kuznetsova and her fellow country woman No. 6 seed Dementieva await as well as Justine Henin.
Coming through the third quarter intact will prove to be winning it the hard way.
7. Victoria Azarenka (Last Power Ranking: 10; Current WTA Ranking: 7)
Last four tournaments: Sydney [Semifinalist], Doha [RR 1-2] Beijing [R2], Tokyo [Quarterfinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 249
Victoria Azarenka made it to the semifinals in Sydney where she lost to eventual champion Dementieva in the semifinals 6-3, 6-1. Battling injury for a great deal of 2009, Azarenka hopes to make inroads into the top tier of women in 2010, starting with the Australian Open.
Azarenka is still stinging over her battle at the Australian Open in 2009 when she was leading Serena Williams after taking the first set but had to retire due to illness.
The lady from Belarus reacts with fiery determination and explosive anger that highlight her great desire to win.
The complaint against her is that she has no major weapons. But Azarenka never gives up, and she will find a way to win. She is once again in Serena Williams' quarter of the draw—maybe she can avenge her setback from last year.
8. Yanina Wickmayer (Last Power Ranking: NR; Current WTA Ranking: 16)
Last four tournaments: Auckland [Winner] Bali [R1], Luxembourg [Semifinalist], Linz [Winner].
Power Ranking Points: 181
Wickmayer has made waves of late—but positively by winning the tournament in Auckland, defeating Flavia Pennetta in the final by a 6-3, 6-2 score.
She had to qualify to make it into the Australian open and then got placed in the power broker third quarter along with her country women Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin. She has already progressed into the second round, defeating Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania in a real battle to the finish, 1-6, 7-5, 10-8.
She will meet the same Flavia Pennetta she defeated in the finals of Auckland in the second round. Wickmayer has played a lot of tennis of late. How long can she sustain her winning ways down under?
9. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Last Power Ranking: 2; Current WTA Ranking: 3)
Last four tournaments: Sydney [Quarterfinalist], [Doha [RR went 1-2], Beijing [Winner], Tokyo [R32].
Power Ranking Points: 158
Kuznetsova began her campaign in Australia in Sydney by losing to Dominika Cibulkova in the round of 16. She enters the Australian Open seeded No. 3 in possibly one of the toughest quarters ever.
The furthest Kuznetsova has ever advanced in the Australian Open is the quarterfinals where she met Maria Sharapova in 2005, losing 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Last year in 2009 she met and lost to eventual champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1.
Her likely fourth-round opponent is Kim Clijsters. Not a good draw for either player.
Kuznetsova won her opening match—defeating Anastasia Rodionva of Australia, 6-1, 6-2—and will next play fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuuchenkova as action is underway in Melbourne.
10. Francesca Schiavone (Last Power Ranking: NR; Current WTA Ranking: 18)
Last four tournaments: Sydney [R1], Auckland [Semifinalist]; Moscow [Winner], Osaka [Finalist].
Power Ranking Points: 116
The veteran enjoyed a stellar season in 2009 and occupies the No. 10 spot in our power rankings based on her improved play and her good start in 2010. Schiavone made it to the semifinals in Auckland where she was defeated by Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-0.
Seeded No. 17, the Italian will face dangerous French woman Alize Cornet of France in the first round.
She may meet No. 10 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round if they both survive the early rounds. Schiavone has been a surprise—but just one of many surprises present in the women's tour...
Author's Thoughts on Power Rankings...
We begin our power rankings a little early this year in order to shed some light on the matchups at the Australian Open. The formula we use to arrive at our point totals was developed by Feng Rong. Click here to read how he calculates the numbers for this column every week.
The Bleacher Tennis Writers working on this series are JA Allen, Marianne Bevis, and Feng Rong. We look forward to a very enticing 2010 and hope you will join us each week as we unveil the rankings.