WTA Power Rankings: Venus Williams Overtakes Sister Serena at No. 1

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WTA Power Rankings: Venus Williams Overtakes Sister Serena at No. 1
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With Serena Williams nursing an injury and the WTA Tour going on a one-week break for Fed Cup action, sister Venus made the most of the opportunity to jump to the top of the power rankings.

With two tournaments in Paris and Pattaya City a fortnight ago and a trio of competitions in Dubai, Memphis, and Bogota last week, there was a real chance for players to move both up and down the rankings.

The biggest opportunities came to the lower ranked players on tour, with the field being split between a pair International events in North and South America.

The top mover in the WTA rankings was German Angelique Kerber, who had a corresponding rise in the power rankings, and there were also jumps into the top 16 by Agnieszka Radwanska, Maria Sharapova, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Ten players from the last power rankings held on to their spot inside the top 16, with the likes of Dinara Safina and Yanina Wickmayer dropping out after a few weeks of inactivity and poor performances respectively.

With tournaments ongoing in Acapulco and Kuala Lumpur and a third International competition Monterrey just around the corner, the next two weeks afford more opportunities for the lesser-ranked players to make a name for themselves.

Top tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami take place in March, and as a result the top stars are going to be coming back out of the woodwork real soon.

This may be the last chance for some of the players outside the world's top 32 to grab a spot on the board before the European clay court season comes around.

Here are the top 16 in the latest edition of the WTA power rankings.

 

1) Venus Williams (WTA ranking 5, Previous power ranking 8)

With the previous top two seeds in the power rankings (Serena Williams and Justine Henin) not competing in Paris or Dubai, the older of the Williams' sisters takes the top spot in the ranking with a victory in the UAE.

Williams won the $2 million Premier event for the second straight year, defeating Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5 in Saturday's final.

Williams looked in great form throughout the week, defeating Sabine Lisicki, Olga Govortsova, Anatsasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Shahar Peer without dropping a set en route to the finals.

Such as the way the draw worked out, Williams did not meet another seed until the final, with potential opponents Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur losing in the first two rounds, Elena Dementieva retiring in her first match, and likely semifinal opponent Caroline Wozniacki losing out to Peer in round three.

As in 2009 when Williams beat Virginie Razzano to lift the trophy, the No. 3 seed proved she was too strong again this week in winning her first event of the year.

She is set to compete in Acapulco next week, but she will likely drop out of the top spot in the next rankings because she is not scheduled to play in Indian Wells.

 

2) Serena Williams (WTA ranking 1, Previous power ranking 1)

Serena slips to No. 3 in the power rankings after a left leg injury kept her from competing in Paris and Dubai.

The 28-year-old favored her leg throughout the defense of her Australian Open crown last month, and decided to avoid competition in order to rest up and recover.

This week she announced she will also miss an exhibition tournament at Madison Square Garden. There has not been any word yet on whether she will compete in Miami, but with a month to rehab her leg, she should be good to go.

 

3) Victoria Azarenka (WTA ranking 6, Previous power ranking 5)

Azarenka's run to the final in Dubai helps her climb three places to the No. 2 spot in the ranking.

Azarenka, who had a first-round bye, benefited from Kateryna Bondarenko's retirement in the second round after just five games. While she struggled a little more than expected against Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the third round this week, she was in devastating form to dispatch No. 12 seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarters and No. 7 Agnieszka Radwanska in the semis.

She also made it to the semifinal in Sydney and the quarterfinal at the Australian Open, so Azarenka is clearly in good hard court form to begin the year. She could be a very dangerous top-10 player going forward this year.

Azarenka will likely skip the three international events in Acapulco, Kuala Lumpur, and Monterrey to rest up ahead of the two big tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami in March.

 

4) Justine Henin (WTA ranking -, Previous power ranking 2)

Henin drops four places from No. 2 to No. 6 after not playing an event this fortnight. She has not been in action since her Aussie Open final, but the points accumulated there are enough to keep her hanging around inside the top 10.

If she had played in Dubai, even if she lost in the third round, she would have been in at least fourth place.

I don't know her plans for the coming fortnight, although she is definitely not taking part in Kuala Lumpur next week. I'll update things if she hits the red clay courts of Mexico.

 

5) Na Li (WTA ranking 10, Previous power ranking 4)

China's Na Li drops one spot in the power rankings.

She played a lot of tennis in the heat of Dubai and it finally got to her when she was forced to retire in her quarterfinal match with Peer.

She needed a tiebreak and three sets to see off Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in round two, and she had to win 11 straight games against Marion Bartoli in round three to fight back from 6-3, 5-2 down.

But Li had to call it a day at a set and 3-0 down against the Israeli after hurting her back. She said she heard a crack after hitting a high backhand towards the end of the opening set and even though she tried to continue, she was unable to fight through the pain.

She's the No. 2 seed in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, although she will be more focused on recovering in time for Indian Wells.

 

6) Elena Dementieva (WTA ranking 7, Previous power ranking 12)

Dementieva climbs three places to No. 9 on the strength of her second title of the year in Paris.

She was the top seed in the tournament and the only top-10 player in the event following the withdrawal of Serena Williams.

Dementieva made the most of the opportunity, coming through a relatively weak field to win the title. But her week was not without incident. She was a set down against German Andrea Petkovic in the quarterfinal, a set down to American Melanie Oudin in the semis, and a set down to Lucie Safarova in the final.

Heading into Dubai with confidence, Dementieva was forced to pull out of her second round match with Daniela Hantuchova with a shoulder injury.

Things are very close from ninth to sixth in my power rankings, and had Dementieva advanced past the Slovakian Hantuchova, she would be sitting at least three places higher right now.

She will have a chance to move even higher as the No. 1 seed in Malaysia next week.

 

7) Shahar Peer (WTA ranking 20, Previous power ranking 15)

Peer just edged into the top 16 of my last edition of the power rankings, but she leaps up to the No. 4 spot with decent performances in Paris and Dubai.

She has already played in five tournaments this year, and she has made it to one final, two semifinals, and a quarterfinal.

Over the last fortnight, Peer picked up good ranking points in France at the Open GDF SUEZ and in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships where she upset Caroline Wozniacki and Na Li.

Venus proved to be a step too far, but expect Peer to continue her rise up the charts.

 

8) Vera Zvonareva (WTA ranking 15, Previous power ranking 17)

Zvonareva missed out on a top 16 in the power rankings last time out, but soars into the top 10 here with a victory in Thailand.

The top seed at the Pattaya Open two weeks ago, Zvonareva grew as the tournament went on, culminating in her 6-4, 6-4 win over unseeded Tamarine Tanasugarn.

The Russian labored through her semifinal against Yaroslava Shvedova, but played well enough against hometown favorite Tanasugarn to pick up her 10th WTA Tour title.

The world No. 14 will have a three-week break ahead of Indian Wells on March 10.

 

9) Agnieszka Radwanska (WTA ranking 8, Previous power ranking 26)

Radwanska is one of the biggest climbers in the top 10 this week following her fantastic run to the semifinals in Dubai.

The No. 7 seed lost out to Victoria Azarenka with a place in the final on the line, but she can be proud of her performances in the UAE which included an impressive dismantling of Italian Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-0.

The world No. 9 pushed Dinara Safina in Sydney, but she was far from her best in Melbourne. This week's performance in Dubai is more like what we expected from Poland's top player.

Indian Wells and Miami are up next for Radwanska.

 

10) Jie Zheng (WTA ranking 21, Previous power ranking 3)

A surprise first-round exit to qualifier Alicia Molik in Dubai this week sees Zheng freefalling from No. 3 to No. 10.

After passing on Paris following her semifinal defeat to Henin in Melbourne, Zheng came crashing back down to earth with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 loss to the Australian.

She remains inside the top 10 based on her AO performance, although she will need a strong run in Kuala Lumpur if she wants to stay there. She is the No. 3 seed and will face a qualifier in the first round.

 

11) Flavia Pennetta (WTA ranking 11, Previous power ranking 20)

I had Pennetta on the bubble in the last power rankings, and she climbed into the top 16 this time with two good performances.

After two Fed Cup victories against the Bondarenko sisters (which do not count in these rankings), Pennetta made the semifinals in Paris and the quarterfinals in Dubai. She needed the points from both competitions to claim her No. 11 ranking here, and she would likely have dropped to around No. 30 had she not competed in Dubai this week.

She really should have beaten Lucie Safarova in Paris, having taken the opening set, but she was thoroughly outplayed by Radwanska in the UAE.

Pennetta is one of only two top 20 players competing on the red clay of Acapulco next week, so she'll have every chance to move into the top 10 of the power rankings.

 

12) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (WTA ranking 27, Previous power ranking 40)

Pavlyuchenkova made it to her second quarterfinal this week with a solid run to the final eight in Dubai.

After dropping the opening set to Tathiana Garbin in the second round, Pavlyuchenkova looked fantastic in the rest of the match, dropping just three more games on her way to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win.

She was equally impressive against No. 27 Daniela Hantuchova in the round of 16, but she was just overmatched in the quarters against eventual winner, Venus Williams.

Dubai was a good response for the Russian after a second-round exit in Paris to top seed Elena Dementieva. Still, it was a decent fortnight for Pavlyuchenkova who makes her first appearance in the top 16 of the power rankings in 2010.

 

13) Svetlana Kuznetsova (WTA ranking 3, Previous power ranking 14)

Kuznetsova climbs a spot up to No. 13 despite a disappointing exit to Regina Kulikova in Dubai. Seeded No. 2, Kuznetsova was one of the favorites to win the event before crashing out to the unseeded Russian.

What will disappoint Kuznetsova even more than throwing away a one set lead was that she had a walkover in her opening match with Anabel Medina Garrigues, a considerably tougher opponent.

Whether it was lack of match practice or just the fallout from participating in the Fed Cup against Serbia, the world No. 3 will be looking to get back in form ahead of Indian Wells next month.

Had Dinara Safina competed in the last few weeks, or had Francesca Schiavone not performed horribly iin both Paris and Dubai (both second round exits), Kuznetsova may have dropped out of the top 16 here.

 

14) Maria Sharapova (WTA ranking 13, Previous power ranking 85)

The top seed in Memphis, Sharapova jumps into the top 16 on the strength of a comfortable victory in Tennessee.

The Russian never dropped a set in Memphis, and she only lost two games in each of her first two matches.

She was solid in her quarterfinal against England's Elena Baltacha, and she did everything necessary to beat the tired Petra Kvitova in her semi.

The world No. 16 has only played one tournament other than Memphis this year (Australian Open) and she has been languishing just inside the top 100 on my power rankings.

She crashed out to Maria Kirilenko at Melbourne Park in the first round there last month, but she looked in much better form this week. She deserves to be fighting for a top 16 spot every week really, so No.13 is about where she should be. She will next compete at Indian Wells and then Miami.

 

15) Angelique Kerber (WTA ranking 66, Previous power ranking 35)

German Angelique Kerber jumped 19 places in the WTA rankings this week and 20 places in the power rankings.

The 21-year-old followed up a fantastic performance at the Australian Open—where she won three qualifying matches and advanced to the round of 32, pushing Kuznetsova to three sets—by reaching the finals of Bogota last week.

While the then-ranked No. 85 was only seeded fifth on the red clay courts of Columbia, she knocked off top seed Gisela Dulko en route to one of her best performances on Tour of her young career.

She is a capable player on both hard and clay courts, and even though she will not likely remain inside the top 16 for very long, she is a player to keep an eye out for going forward the rest of the year—she could definitely cause an upset at some of the bigger tournaments if she's taken too lightly.

 

16) Caroline Wozniacki (WTA ranking 4, Previous power ranking 16)

There's no change for Wozniacki in the final spot in the rankings. She lost in the second round in Dubai to Shahar Peer, but the points she earned are just enough to keep her hanging around.

She has only participated in three events this year, and her 4-3 record is not really what she had expected to start 2010.

She is obviously still a world-class player, but in power rankings that focus on the present more than the past, Wozniacki is skating on thin ice in her bid to remain inside this top 16.

 

On the Bubble: Mariana Duque Marino, Francesca Schiavone, Nadia Petrova, Maria Kirilenko, Sofia Arvidsson, Alona Bondarenko, Lucie Safarova.

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