Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai Tops Tennis Power Rankings: Paris Awaits

JA AllenSenior Writer IMay 20, 2010

The ladies prepare to do battle on the red clay of Stade Roland Garros as the 2010 French Open begins on Sunday.

Questions abound concerning which players are fit to play—fully recovered from injuries, mentally and physically.

Further, which top players are peaking at just the right moment? Who will ride the wave and find herself standing on Court Philippe-Chatrier for the final match June 5th?

The Power Rankings give a clue as to which players are on top of their games at just the right time—to help us see who has the right stuff to make it through to the French Open finals.

The draw will be out soon—until then, here are the latest Power Rankings for the ladies.


The Top 10

1. Aravane Rezai (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 16)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid (Winner), Rome [R2], Marabella [R2], Barcelona [R1]. Power Ranking Points: 1040

Ooh la la! The tennis world was shocked by this Frenchwoman’s run through the high-profile tournament in Madrid. Rezai defeated a red-hot Venus Williams in the final after dismissing Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic on her march through the draw.

Rezai’s game plan was simple: She blasted the ball, never hesitating to step into the court, and hit the ball with amazing power and depth. In the end, the moment did not faze her or cause her to doubt herself or her game plan. She refused to go away—unlike Williams.

Does it make the Frenchwoman a favorite going into Paris? You have to like her chances on the red clay after such a dazzling performance in Madrid. She certainly will have the French crowds behind her. That may be enough to carry her over the top.


2. Venus Williams (Last Power Ranking: 3; WTA Ranking: 2)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [Finalist], Rome [Quarterfinalist], Miami [Finalist], Acapulco [Winner]. Power Ranking Points: 936

Tout est possible! Venus Williams moved into the No. 2 WTA ranking spot this week after her sizzling play during the early months of 2010. Her play on clay has been especially high-quality—a surface where the elder Williams sister typically does not do well.

Williams advanced to the finals of Madrid, where she was the favorite. But she could not muster the wherewithal or the stamina to detour Frenchwoman Rezai’s power game. It had to be a huge disappointment for Williams to lose that final.

Williams’ chances on the red clay of Stade Roland Garros appear to be better than last year. She should enter Paris with an abundance of confidence. Much will depend upon her draw and the weather. If the court is damp and heavy, the road to the final gets tougher.


3. Jelena Jankovic (Last Power Ranking: 5; WTA Ranking: 4)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [Quarterfinalist], Rome [Finalist], Stuttgart [Quarterfinalist], Charleston [Quarterfinalist]. Power Ranking Points: 624

Le monde ancien est nouveau nouveau! Jelena Jankovic has found her missing game on the European clay, ranked once again in the Top Five. In Rome Jankovic defeated both Williams sisters on her way to the finals, where she lost to Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez.

The clay surface allows the Serb time to make the most of her counterpunching style of play.

Jankovic seems to be peaking at just the right time with the French Open on the horizon. She must be considered one of the favorites as the tour heads into Paris for the second major of the season.


4. Lucie Safarova (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 25)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [Semifinalist], Rome [Quarterfinalist], Stuttgart [Quarterfinalist], Barcelona [R1]. Power Ranking Points: 603

Bonne chance! Lucie Safarova from the Czech Republic has made her presence felt on the European clay in 2010. The red dirt remains Safarova’s preferred surface. She earned some substantial wins over top 10 players to date. These victories prompted a climb in her WTA ranking.

Safarova was forced to retire in her semifinal contest with Rezai in Madrid, which may hinder her chances at a run during the French Open if she has a lingering ailment. Otherwise her play of late has marked her as a real contender at the French Open this year.


5. Shahar Pe’er (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 19)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [Semifinalist], Rome [R3], Stuttgart [Semifinalist], Miami [R3]. Power Ranking Points: 591

Est-il dans les cartes? Pe’er had an impressive tournament at the Madrid Open, reaching the semifinal round, where she lost to Venus Williams. Enjoying one of her best seasons to date, Pe’er works diligently toward her goal to break into the Top 10 by the end of the year.

Ranked No. 19 in the world, Pe’er will be seeded at the French Open, and based upon her recent play the Israeli has a great opportunity to advance into week two.

Playing on the big stages is something Pe’er has achieved before, having made the quarterfinals at both the Australian and US Opens. Maybe this year even bigger results are in the cards for Pe’er.


6. Samantha Stosur (Last Power Ranking: 1; WTA Ranking: 7)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [Quarterfinalist], Stuttgart [Finalist], Charleston [Winner], Miami [Quarterfinalist]. Power Ranking Points: 486

Sur le feu! After withdrawing from the tournament in Rome, Samantha Stosur returned to her red-hot form in Madrid. She met Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, however, and could not conquer the elder Williams sister.

Stosur’s rise into the Top 10 in 2010 has been remarkable, as her stellar serve and volley style of play has allowed her to work her way deep into tournaments.

At last year’s French Open, Stosur made it into the semifinals. Because of that and her play in 2010, Stosur must be regarded as one of the favorites for the French Open crown.


7. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 21)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [R2], Rome [Winner], Barcelona [R2], Marabella [Semifinalist]. Power Ranking Points: 483

Venir de derriere! Martinez-Sanchez’s play at the Italian Open in Rome, winning the title after defeating Jelena Jankovic in the final, propelled the Spaniard into the Top 20 for the first time in her career. In Madrid, however, she lost in the second round to Stosur and slipped back to No. 21.

Martinez-Sanchez will be seeded at the French Open and will be accorded “dark horse” status. She has a great chance to play deep into the tournament if her recent play is any indication.


8. Serena Williams (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 1)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [R3], Rome [Semifinalist], Australian Open [Winner], Sydney [Finalist]. Power Ranking Points: 480

C’est le destin! After winning the 2010 Australian Open, Serena Williams was sidelined with injuries throughout the remainder of the hard court season. Finally reappearing on clay in Rome, the younger Williams sister made it to the semifinals, where she lost to Jelena Jankovic. In Madrid Williams went out early, losing to Nadia Petrova in round three.

While clay seems to negate her strengths, no one ever dismisses Williams’ chances to win in Paris at Stade Roland Garros. She has not won this title since 2002, but rest assured, she is very capable of winning it again and remains one of the favorites this year in everybody’s book.


9. Nadia Petrova (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 20)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [Quarterfinalist], Rome [Quarterfinalist], Charleston [Quarterfinalist], Miami [R3]. Power Ranking Points: 398

Tenir ensemble! Nadia Petrova has enjoyed some good wins over top-ranked players in 2010. In Madrid she defeated Serena Williams in the third round before falling to Lucie Safarova in the quarterfinals.

No one has ever doubted Petrova’s abilities on clay—or on any surface. Where Petrova fails is dealing with her nerves in the big matches. She has excellent ground strokes and hits the ball as cleanly as anyone on tour.

She has the game to win the French—but you have to question her ability to steady her nerves.


10. Justine Henin (Last Power Ranking: 6; WTA Ranking: 23)

Last Four Tournaments: Madrid [R1], Stuttgart [Winner], Miami [Semifinalist], Indian Wells [R64]. Power Ranking Points: 232

Allez! Justine Henin suffered much of the clay season with a finger injury. Her return to action at Stuttgart resulted in Henin’s 42nd tour victory. At Madrid, Henin lost in the first round to the eventual champion Rezai.

There is no doubt that Henin is in the conversation when discussing probable French Open champions. Henin’s main concern at the moment is consistency. She has not enjoyed consecutive weeks of top-notch competition. Her results have been up and down so far.

In order to win the French Open again, Henin must regain her renowned consistency day after day, match after match. The question remains: Can she return to the form that saw her win four previous French Open crowns?


Outside Looking In

Ana Ivanovic: Power Ranking Points = 214

The Serbian is improving but still lacks the knockout punch she enjoyed in 2008.


Kim Clijsters: Power Ranking Points = 167

Clijsters' injury will not allow her to compete in the French Open this year, and that is everybody’s loss because she had the game and the attitude to win it all.


Yanina Wickmayer: Power Ranking Points = 134

Earlier this month Wickmayer had surgery on her right elbow to remove a bone spur. She is hopeful to be able to play at the French, but nothing is confirmed as of yet.


Other Contenders for the French

Svetlana Kuznetsova

The defending champion has had no success on the clay leading up to the French Open. She is the tour’s “invisible woman.” It goes without saying that Kuznetsova has the game to win the French Open because she won it in 2009. But no one is paying any attention to her as a contender in 2010.


Caroline Wozniacki

The teenager rolled her ankle in April and recently had to withdraw with injury from the Warsaw Open. She has not been able to put together a productive clay season. Her success at the French will depend on her ability to recover from her injuries and play up to her capabilities. It does not look promising for Wozniacki.


Elena Dementieva

The Russian has not found her footing on the clay so far in 2010, losing early in both Rome and Madrid. Recently Dementieva fell to qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova at Warsaw. Her lead-up to the French has been less than spectacular, which clouds her chances to win in Paris at the 2010 French Open.


Victoria Azarenka

Returning from injuries, Azarenka fell in the second round to Ivanovic in Rome and then lost in her opener to wild card Shuai Peng in Madrid—where Azarenka withdrew with a right thigh strain. Her lack of a successful clay campaign plus her injury make Azarenka’s chances to win at the French Open seem slim.


Dinara Safina

Returning from an injury that cost her much of 2009 and her No. 1 ranking, Safina has not found her way back to her previous form. It seems likely with the severity of her back injury that she may not ever find the form that took her to the French Open finals two years in a row. 2010 certainly will not find Safina standing on the court ready to do battle on the final Saturday.


[Author's note: For all you who speak French, please forgive any errors I may have committed in trying to provide French phrases with my 18 hours of college French studied in my youth! Advise me if I said anything inappropriate!]


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