The headlines in women’s tennis have, for the last six months, focused squarely on a certain Belgian duo and on Serena. In one fell swoop, the elder Williams sister has this week reclaimed the limelight with back-to-back titles.
At 30, Venus is looking and sounding like a 20-year-old: fit, healthy, and full of enthusiasm. She has made hay while injury has subdued the top two seeds—Serena and Dinara Safina—and while the two Belgians have disappeared to regroup.
Top of the Power Rankings, and now clear of Justine Henin in the list of active WTA title holders, she appears hungry for more: “Who wants to have a limit on titles? Not me!”
The Top 10
1. Venus Williams (Last Power Ranking: 10; Current WTA Ranking: 5)
Last four tournaments : Acapulco [Winner], Dubai [Winner], Australian Open [Quarterfinals], Doha [Finals].
Power Ranking Points: 871
Venus has hit a purple patch, and the most impressive part of her successes this last fortnight is that she’s managed them on the hard courts of Dubai followed, in short order, by the clay of Mexico. It’s some achievement, all the more so because she won both tournaments last year as well.
She’s now reached 43 WTA titles, the highest amongst active players and two more than Justine Henin.
Venus was outstanding in Dubai, not dropping a set, though she did not have to beat a player above herself in the rankings.
It should have been easier progress still in Acapulco, but in the quarters she fought back from 5-1 in the third set against qualifier Laura Pous, and dropped a set in the semis and finals against relatively low ranked opposition.
It’s a credit to her current fitness and her will to win that she pulled through those challenges.
She misses Indian Wells, as last year, and heads straight to Miami. She will hope the draw is kinder to her this time: she met and was beaten by her younger sister in the semis.
Venus looks fit and eager, and there are few better sights in the women’s game than that. Does she have the desire to win? I think so. Can she make it to Miami’s winner’s podium? It may depend on that draw!
2. Serena Williams (Last Power Ranking: 1; Current WTA Ranking: 1)
Last four tournaments: Australian Open [Winner], Sydney [Finals], Doha [Winner], Beijing [R16].
Power Ranking Points: 536
Serena has not played since Melbourne, sidelined with injury. She has just pulled out of the exho Billie Jean Cup in New York, still unfit to play. With points lost from Dubai and Paris, she will be glad she has a big buffer at the top of the rankings.
She is not scheduled to play until Miami, where she was a finalist last year, and it will be tough to hit the ground running against all the big names in contention there. But, time out for rehab has given her the space to visit Kenya and the schools she sponsors there.
She seems to thrive on variety and stimulation off the court as well as on, so who would bet against her coming back to the tour raring to go and strong as ever? She did, after all, beat Henin in a Grand Slam final with possibly the heaviest leg strapping Melbourne has ever seen.
3. Victoria Azarenka (Last Power Ranking: 9; Current WTA Ranking: 6)
Last four tournaments: Dubai [Finals], Australian Open [Quarterfinals], Sydney [Semifinals], Doha [RR 1-2]
Power Ranking Points: 459
After a strong performance in Melbourne, falling to the younger Williams, Azarenka continued to make her presence felt in Dubai. This time, she came up against the elder Williams, losing in the final in straight sets. But, she performed well in beating Radwanska and Zvonareva on the way.
It looks as though she is warming up nicely for the Premier events, just as she did last year. The title holder in Miami and a semifinalist in Indian Wells, her big hitting game seems to suit the hot and hard courts.
She continues to edge up the rankings and, if she stays fit and keeps those emotions under control, she is one to watch this year.
4. Elena Dementieva (Last Power Ranking: 2; Current WTA Ranking: 7)
Last four tournaments: Kuala Lumpur [Finals], Dubai [R32], Paris GDF Suez [Winner], Australian Open [R 64]
Power Ranking Points: 377
Dementieva is another woman holding her own over many who are several years her junior.
After a rough draw in Melbourne that pitted her against Henin in the second round, she had a disappointing Dubai, where she was forced to retire with a shoulder injury in her first match against Hantuchova.
It’s a pleasure, then, to see her bounce back in the Malaysian Open this week, where she posted very convincing scores, albeit against a moderate field. She lost in the final to an overpowering performance from fellow Russian Alisa Kleybanova, but she also confirmed that her injury seems to be healed.
Many will hope for her to repeat her giant-killing run of Sydney when she arrives in Indian Wells.
She remains one of the most elegant and varied shot-makers on the women’s tour, and had the fitness to cope with the heat and humidity of Kuala Lumpur better than many. All these factors will stand her in good stead in the Premiers ahead.
5. Justine Henin (Last Power Ranking: 3; Current WTA Ranking: NR)
Last four* tournaments: Brisbane [Finals], Australian Open [Finals].
(*Only two events played.)
Power Ranking Points: 305
Still with only two tournaments in the space of two months, after two years away from tennis, the quality of those performances keeps her in the Power Rankings.
In losing to Serena Williams in Melbourne, she started to show a few signs of strain from lack of match play, especially in her serve. She’s taken time out to get her body back in good order and, no doubt, to work on that service toss.
Still unranked, she has been given a wild card for Indian Wells. The seeds there will be watching the draw anxiously in the hope they are not drawn in her quarter.
Her performance in North America will be an indicator of her progress to her major goals in the summer. First Roland Garros and then, her declared ambition, Wimbledon. Her attack, slice and volleying could prove to be the perfect package the second time around.
6. Na Li (Last Power Ranking: 5; Current WTA Ranking: 10)
Last four tournaments: Kuala Lumpur [R32], Dubai [Quarterfinals], Australian Open [Semifinals], Sydney [R16].
Power Ranking Points: 302
Li may have expected a better result in Dubai than the quarterfinals, but a sore back forced her to throw in the towel against Peer.
She went straight into the Malaysian Open and lost in the opening round: perhaps too quick a return.
She has dropped Monterrey—where she reached the final last year—from her schedule, so by Indian Wells, we should see a fully fit Li again.
Her fast and athletic game suits the North American Premier events, as evidenced by decent results there in 2009.
This year, too, she is showing more confidence than ever, surely built on vastly improved financial support for Chinese tennis. She’s enjoying, at 28, her highest-ever No. 10 ranking. The slow-developing, steadily improving Li looks as though she could just be hitting her prime.
7. Shahar Peer (Last Power Ranking: 8: Current WTA Ranking: 20)
Last four tournaments: Dubai [Semifinals], Paris GDF Suez [Quarterfinals], Australian Open [R32], Hobart [Finals].
Power Ranking Points: 298
Peer continues to work hard, with five tournaments notched up already this year. She had an excellent run to the semis in Dubai, taking out the No. 1 seed in the process.
She was a listed player for Monterrey this week as well, but does not appear in the draw so it seems she has taken the sensible course of recharging her batteries ahead of the coming Premier events.
She could make some useful improvements there over last year, and continue her gradual rise in the rankings.
8. Vera Zvonareva (Last Power Ranking: 4; Current WTA Ranking: 15)
Last four tournaments: Dubai [Quarterfinals], Pattaya City [Winner], Australian Open [R16], Sydney [R32].
Power Ranking Points: 262
Zvonareva won the Thailand Open for the second consecutive time and progressed to the quarterfinals in Dubai with barely a day off. So the pattern thus far is very similar to last year’s. If that pattern continues, she ought to take the title at Indian Wells, which she did in some style in 2009.
She has lost ground in the rankings of late, so certainly needs to be near her best in North America to hold her position. This time around, though, there will be two tough Belgians back in the draw.
9. Agnieszka Radwanska (Last Power Ranking: NR; Current WTA Ranking: 8)
Last four tournaments: Dubai [Semifinals], Australian Open [R32], Sydney [R16], Doha [1-0].
Power Ranking Points: 251
Radwanska’s return to WTA play hides her stint in the Fed Cup before Dubai, representing Poland against Belgium, where she lost, narrowly, to Wickmayer in three tough sets. It gave her a good springboard back to top form, as she powered to the semis in Dubai with some ease before meeting her good friend, Azarenka.
This likable Pole has room to improve her ranking in Indian Wells and Miami, where she made only modest progress last year. She would be a popular participant in the latter stages, but whether she has the power to get the better of women like her friend is less certain.
10. Jie Zheng (Last Power Ranking: 6; Current WTA Ranking: 21)
Last four tournaments : Kuala Lumpur [R16], Dubai [R64], Australian Open [Semifinals], Hobart [Quarterfinals].
Power Ranking Points: 221
Zheng clings on to her Power Ranking by the skin of her teeth, with mediocre performances since Melbourne.
She struggled against the up-and-coming young Taiwan woman, Kai-Chen Chang, in Malaysia, getting broken five times during her 6-2, 6-3 loss.
It’s hard to see Zheng having the weapons to out-hit many of the contenders in Indian Wells, or make much progress in the draw in the light of those who are Outside Looking In.
Outside Looking In
Maria Sharapova (Last Power Ranking: NR; Current WTA Ranking: 13)
Last four tournaments: Memphis [Winner], Australian Open [R128], Beijing [R16], Tokyo [Winner] .
Power Ranking Points: 184
Well she’s back, and with no points to defend in the coming months due to her extended break with injury last year, she is primed to advance even further than her current No. 13 ranking.
On the basis of her outstanding performance in Memphis, where she didn’t so much as drop a set on her way to the title, she will no longer be “outside looking in” by the time the next Power Rankings appear.
Kim Clijsters (Last Power Ranking: OLI; Current WTA Ranking: 17)
Last four tournaments: Australian Open [R 32], Brisbane [Winner], Luxembourg [R16], US Open [Winner].
Power Ranking Points: 149
After Clijsters’ early exit from Melbourne, she went back to the drawing board on her game and fitness. Her first appearance since then was in the Billie Jean King Cup today—a fun way to get back into match play against some quality opposition.
Clijsters returns to the Tour at Indian Wells. Fingers crossed that she’s back to her pre-Australian best.
Caroline Wozniacki (Last Power Ranking: NR; Current WTA Ranking: 4)
Last four tournaments: Dubai [R16], Australian Open [R16], Sydney [R32], Doha [Semifinals].
Power Ranking Points: 148
Wozniacki may have been the top seed in Dubai, but she only won one match before losing to Peer in straight sets.
Still only 19, it was at this time last year that she really began to impose herself on the Tour, reaching the quarterfinals of Indian Wells and Miami, and reaching the finals of her next two events.
She now needs to work hard to consolidate her top five status.
Svetlana Kuznetsova (Last Power Ranking: OLI; Current WTA Ranking: 3)
Last four tournaments: Dubai [R16], Australian Open [R16], Sydney [Quarterfinals], Doha [RR went 1-2].
Power Ranking Points: 148
Kuznetsova played the Fed Cup before Dubai, where she lost to Jelena Jankovic and beat Ana Ivanovic. Her uninspiring performance in Dubai, losing to the qualifier Regina Kulikova in a three hour battle, was nevertheless enough to reclaim the third position from Wozniacki in the WTA rankings.
The Russian can gain points in Indian Wells, but will really need to up her game to do so. There may be a useful pointer to her form when she plays Venus Williams at Madison Square Gardens in the BJK cup later today.
The five tournaments of the last fortnight have both reasserted the reputations of some of the WTA’s biggest names but also thrown some interesting new names into the limelight. Here are three to watch out for during the coming months.
Alisa Kleybanova beat fellow Russian, Dementieva, this week to take her first WTA title in Kuala Lumpur. She has now risen to 26 in the world rankings. This young, heavy-hitting 20-year-old with a formidable serve is improving all the time.
Slovenian Polona Hercog made her first ATP final in Acapulco this week, and took a set from the eventual champion, Venus Williams. She went on to win her first ever title in the doubles at the same event.
Earlier this month, she won an ITF tournament in Cali, one of a string of successes in ITF events in the last year. The 6’ 19-year-old has risen 20 places, to No. 53, since the beginning of the year, and from No. 243 since this time last year.
Mariana Duque Marino also won her first WTA singles title last week in her home tournament of Bogota. As a result, she climbed inside the top 100 from a ranking of 143.
The Power Rankings are based on a unique formula devised by Feng Rong. Click here to see how they are calculated.