WTA Power Rankings: Venus Williams Reigns Supreme, Retains No. 1 Spot

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WTA Power Rankings: Venus Williams Reigns Supreme, Retains No. 1 Spot
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Venus Williams held on to her top spot in the power rankings with a victory in Acapulco, while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alisa Kleybanova recorded their first ever WTA Tour titles in Monterrey and Kuala Lumpur, respectively. 

Less than half of the women from my last series of rankings have claimed a place here, with many of the more established players opting to miss the trio of events over the past fortnight in favor of resting up for the big competitions in Indian Wells and Miami.

One thing is for sure though. With Venus yet again giving the BNP Paribas Open a miss, there will be a new name at the No. 1 spot by the time IW is through.

Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki will both fancy their chances, and both Victoria Azarenka and Elena Dementieva will enter the tournament full of confidence and form. Reigning champion Vera Zvonareva will her hands full if she wants to carry the trophy away for the second straight year, but there's no shortage of players looking to claim the $4.5 million payday.

Urszula Radwanska, Shahar Peer, Jill Craybas, and Na Li all upset the apple cart in California 12 months ago...who will it be in 2010?

 

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

Venus won her second straight tournament on the red clay of Acapulco to maintain her spot at the top of the power rankings. In fact, the victory in Mexico gave her a back-to-back Dubai-Acapulco double, a pair of tournaments she also won in 2009.

Williams has only appeared in three competitions this year, but she is 14-1 and she proved she is still capable of winning on a surface other than the hard courts.

The top seed was pushed all the way though, needing three three-set victories in the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final.

Williams reeled off six straight games against Spanish qualifier Laura Pous Tio in
the quarterfinals to fight back from 1-5 down to book her place in the final four. Williams wasn't in as much trouble against Edina Gallovits, but she still needed to regroup after dropping the second set 2-6. The American then claimed her 43rd Tour title against Polona Hercog—looking for her first—after powering through the final two sets 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 in a tick over two hours.

She will return to action in Miami in two weeks time after her customary absence at Indian Wells this week, but she will be no higher than third in the next power rankings list.

Should any of the other 15 women in this edition of the power rankings make it to the quarterfinals in California, Williams will drop even further down by the time she plays her next game. It's not too far fetched to think she could drop to fifth or sixth.

 

2) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (WTA ranking 25, Previous power ranking 12)

The No. 3 seed in Monterrey started March off on the right foot by claiming her maiden Tour title.

In a relatively weak field, Pavlyuchenkova was never seriously tested until the final. She won her first three matches without dropping more than three games in any one set, and with the exception of a mid-game blip against Anastasija Stevastova, the Russian cruised into the final against second seed Daniela Hantuchova.

But the rain delays meant that Pavlyuchenkova had to play both her semifinal and final on Sunday, whereas Huntuchova had all of sunday to relax, recover, and prepare. It didn't seem to daunt the teenager, who became the youngest player inside the top 40 to win a main event.

The Slovakian jumped out to an early 6-1 first set, but Pavlyuchenkova fought back with stunning tennis to take 12 of the next 13 games to win 1-6, 6-1, 6-0. It was her first ever WTA Tour title, and her first trophy since an ITF win in 2008. Fatigue? What fatigue?

She jumps three spots in the WTA rankings and, with the help of a quarterfinal run in Dubai, moves up to the No. 2 spot in these power rankings. There's every reason to think she will be inside the top 10 again after Indian Wells.

 

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

After retiring injured in Dubai last month, Dementieva showed she was back to full health with a run to the final in Malaysia.

She did not drop a set until the final, and she made light work of fellow seeds Magdelena Rybarikova and Sybille Bammer in the quarterfinals and semifinals. In fact, Dementieva only lost 15 games in her opening four matches. Originally the No. 2 seed, Dementieva was given the top spot after Serena Williams' continued injury ruled her out of action.

Kuala Lumpur was a great chance for Dementieva to pick up her third title of the year, but she will still head into Indian Wells with a lot of confidence. She may have had difficulty putting away points against Kleybanova, but I would expect her to be a lot more clinical when the stakes are upped in California.

 

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

20-year-old Azarenka drops just one spot, despite not playing in any of the three events over the past fortnight. Her loss to Venus in the final at Dubai is the only thing holding her inside the top 10.

She is set to compete in Indian Wells and Miami before returning to Europe to play in the Andalucia Tennis Experience International event in Marbella, Spain. She made it to the semis in Indian Wells in 2009 and followed that up by beating Serena Williams in the final at Miami, so expect her to maintain her position near the top of the rankings over the next month or so as the clay court season gets into full swing.

 

5) Daniela Hantuchova (WTA ranking 22, Previous power ranking 27)

Hantuchova makes her first appearance in the power rankings for 2010 after making it to the final in Monterrey last week.

She took home $19,000 for her efforts, but she will be left wondering how her fourth Tour title slipped away after running out to a rapid-fire 6-1 first set.

Hantuchova had struggled early on against both Vania King and fellow Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, but she had grown in strength as the two matches wore on. After taking the opening set of the final, many expected her to wrap up the match without much of a second thought, especially considering she completed her semifinal on Saturday before the rain came.

She will be happy with her performance up until the second set of the final, and there's obviously more titles in her future.

 

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

Peer, like Azarenka, did not play in Acapulco, Kuala Lumpur, or Monterrey, but makes the rare move of climbing one spot because of the combination of Na Li's first round exit and Serena Williams and Justine Henin not playing since the Australian Open.

She was originally expected to compete in Monterrey, but she was forced to withdraw because of plantar fascitis, or an inflamed left foot, to you and I.

If Peer performs well in Indian Wells, there's a good chance she will stick her spot inside the top 10. If not, she may need a late run in Miami to climb back into the upper echelons of the rankings.

She's only made it past the fourth round at Indian Wells once (quarterfinals, 2007) and once at Miami (semifinals, 2007), so don't expect miracles this time around either. Both events attract the cream of the crop and, with $4.5 million on the line, nothing comes easily. She'll need two good feet to stand a chance.

 

7) Alisa Kleybanova (WTA ranking 27, Previous power ranking 50)

Kleybanova moved to within three spots of her career WTA high by winning in Kuala Lumpur. She had never even been to a major final before this tournament, having lost at all three semifinals she contested in 2009 (Fes, Toronto, and Moscow).

The 20-year-old had not had the greatest start to the season, with three first-round exits in the first five tournaments, but only against Anastasia Rodionova was she really tested at the Malaysian Open.

I'm not sure many experts gave her a chance against the red-hot Dementieva, but her 6-3, 6-2 victory was actually as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. Whether you want to attribute much of her success to the 90-minute rain delay or not, Kleybanova proved she could hold her own against am on-form big hitter in cruising to victory in the all-Russian affair.

 

8) Vera Zvonareva (WTA ranking 14, Previous power ranking 8)

Zvonareva is still riding the coat tails of her performances in Pattaya City and Dubai, and she remains in the top 10 despite giving Acapulco and Monterrey a pass in order to rest up for Indian Wells.

She has made it to the quarterfinals on four of her five trips to the BNP Paribas Open and, as defending champion, she will be among those expected to perform well again. She will be seeded around 12 or 13 when the draw comes out, meaning her first real test would likely come in the quarterfinal.

She met Ana Ivanovic in each of the past two years there. Are we in for a rubber match this week?

 

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

Radwanska is the last of the top 10 to gold onto a place in the power rankings without playing a competitive match this past fortnight. It's no real surprise, as she too wants to be in the running for Indian Wells.

Not including her Fed Cup matches for Poland in February, Radwanska has only played nine matches this year, so there's no reason to think she needed the rest this early on in the season. If anything, a lack of match practice could be her downfall pver the next three weeks.

She will likely have her best ever seedings for Indian Wells and Miami, and if history is anything to go by, will need every advantage she can get. She has never advanced past the the quarters in IW or the fourth round in Miami.

 

10) Polona Hercog (WTA ranking 52, Previous power ranking 81)

Hercog is an unknown to a lot of casual fans, but I like the 19-year-old from what I know of her. She is a decent clay courter and she takes her inspiration from role model Justine Henin.

After winning an ITF event in Cali, Columbia, last month, Hercog made the world take notice of her game when she gave Venus a fright in Acapulco.

As the No. 8 seed, Hercog cruised through her opening two contests before getting a set up on second seed Agnes Szavay who had to retire with a left abdominal strain.

She then beat Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in straight sets in the semifinal, and she was a set up against Venus in the final before the experienced American found her groove. It would be an understatement to Hercog's game to say Venus handed her the first set, because she earned every point and rarely missed a shot.

She could be dangerous later this spring on clay, although I wouldn't expect too much more from her until then. She's ojn the cusp of the top 50..expect her to crack it this year.

 

11) Agnes Szavay (WTA ranking 30, Previous power ranking 38)

Unlike a lot of the top women, Szavay used the past fortnight to get more experience and points under her belt. She currently sits at No. 30 in the WTA rankings, and even if she gets a favorable draw at Indian Wells, she's not someone who's really expected to make it through to the second week of the competition.

That said, she picked up four more victories over the last two weeks, and that's good enough to move her inside the top 16. She was the only player on the Tour, in fact, to make it to the quarterfinals of two events since the last power rankings came out a fortnight ago.

As noted above, she had to retire in her quarterfinal match with Hercog at Acapulco, and she was a set up against Cibulkova the following week in Mexico before losing 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

The 21-year-old will be making just her second appearance at Indian Wells, but she will need to get past the third round to maintain her spot here.

 

12) Dominika Cibulkova (WTA ranking 29, Previous power ranking 55)

Cibulkova had her best finish of the year so far when she made it to the semifinals of the Monterrey Open. Three of the top four seeds made it to the semis though, and with the Slovakian in the wrong half of the draw, she had the more difficult of the matchups.

Cibulkova was never firing on all cylinders throughout the tournament though, and she needed three sets to see of lower-ranked Sara Errani and Agnes Szavay on her way to the semifinal. She won the opening set against Daniela Hantuchova 6-4 before finally running out of steam and dropping to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 defeat.

She should get a first-round bye at Indian Wells this week, but a run past the round of 32—however the draw pans out—is anything but a sure thing.

 

13) Anastasija Sevastova (WTA ranking 63, Previous power ranking 69)

Sevastova earned herself some major points in Monterrey as the other losing semifinalist.

The Latvian teenager had never made it to a Tour semifinal before and, when she was drawn against top seed Jelena Jankovic, nobody gave her a chance at progressing.

But Sevastova, ranked 72nd in the world coming into the tournament, came from a break down in the deciding set to clinch a 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory. She then dispatched Iveta Benesova in short order one and two, before rallying from a set down to beat France's Alize Cornet in the quarters.

Her semifinal match with eventual winner Pavlyuchenkova was postponed from the Saturday to the Sunday because of heavy rain, but after two even sets (3-6, 6-2) the Russian found an extra gear in the decider.

Still, it moves Sevastova nine players in the WTA rankings and into the top 16 in the power rankings when combined with her qualification in Dubai.

 

14) Flavia Pennetta (WTA ranking 12, Previous power ranking 11)

The World No. 12 hasn't done anything over the past fortnight, and she is clinging on to a spot in the rankings on the diminishing strength of a semifinal appearance in Paris and a third-round exit in Dubai.

She'll be seeded at both Indian Wells and Miami, although her best chance for ranking points could come in April in Marbella. Serena and Azarenka are also scheduled to compete for the Andalucia title, but a run to a semifinal is certainly possible.

Getting back to the immediate future, Pennetta has only ever made it past the third round of Indian Wells once. In a similar vain, she's never made it past the round of 32 in Miami. It's set to be a long month for the Italian.

 

15) Sybille Bammer (WTA ranking 47, Previous power ranking 57)

Bammer's run to the semifinals in Kuala Lumpur highlight an otherwise disappointing first few months of 2010.

She fell at the first hurdle in Dubai, Hobart, and Sydney, drew Venus Williams at the Australian Open, and lost to top seed Vera Zvonareva in Thailand.

Bammer, the No. 6 seed at the Malaysia Open, fought hard to overturn an opening set deficit against Kai-Chen Chang in the quarters, but she was simply overmatched against Dementieva in the semifinal, losing 6-3, 6-1.

Her career has kinda stalled since she broke into the top 50 in 2007, and she'll need more good performances in the Premier and, more likely, International events.

 

16) Lucie Safarova (WTA ranking 39, Previous power ranking 23)

Much like Bammer, Safarova's season has been very poor so far. She has climbed up seven places into the top 16 this time out, but "backed in" to the top 16 is more fitting.

She crashed out in the first round of Monterrey to Julie Coin who is 50 places below her in the rankings, and she only climbs spots is because the results from the Australian Open—where she also went out in the first round—are no longer taken into consideration.

Her runner-up trophey from Paris is all that stands between Safarova and obscurity right now, as her three first-round exits point to a player underperforming right now.

She hasn't been terrible at Roland Garros over the past three years, which is good considering that is all she really has to look forward to.

 

On the Bubble: Gisela Dulko, Na Li, Mariano Duque Marino, Maria Sharapova, Carla Suarez Navarro, Sara Errani, 

 

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