Caroline Wozniacki ends the season as the top women's player
With the conclusion of the WTA Championships at Doha and the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions at Bali, 2010 women’s tennis season is officially over.
What a truly eventful season this has been! It began with Justine Henin coming back from her retirement and ended with Elena Dementieva calling it a career. It saw the young Dane Caroline Wozniacki fulfilling her potential and ending the year as the top ranked player in the world. It witnessed the magical run of Fancesca Schiavone at Roland Garros and becoming the first Italian Grand Slam winner in tennis history. And now the WTA tour even has a brand-new logo which was unveiled at the year-end championships at Doha.
Not surprisingly, all players from this week’s top-ten list either participated in Doha or Bali. For many, this has been a career-best season. It will be interesting to see whether they will be able to maintain their top form after a two-month lay-off. But before then, a vacation with loved ones is fully deserved.
The Top Ten
1. Caroline Wozniacki (Last Power Ranking: 1; Year-End WTA Ranking: 1)
Last Four Tournaments: YEC [Finalist], Beijing [Winner], Tokyo [Winner], US Open [Semifinalist]
Power Ranking Points: 1340
Caroline Wozniacki entered the year-end championships at Doha as the hottest player on the tour, having won two Premier events at Beijing and Tokyo back-to-back. She became the 20th player to ascend to No.1 on October 11 at Beijing. But her loss to Kim Clijsters in the final at Doha proved that she still has more work to do before being considered the truly best player in the world.
Having won a tour-leading six titles and finishing the year as the top-ranked player, the 10th player in history to accomplish that, this has indeed been a career-best year for the young Dane. The only disappointment is that she failed to win a Grand Slam, her best result being a semifinal finish at the US Open. She will for sure be eager to get rid of the title “no. 1 player without a Grand Slam title” in 2011, just ask Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina. With many claiming that she only achieved the no. 1 ranking due to the absence of Williams sisters and the Belgian duo, Wozniacki has a lot to prove next season.
2. Kim Clijsters (Last Power Ranking: 3; Year-End WTA Ranking: 3)
Last Four Tournaments: YEC [Winner], US Open [Winner], Montreal [Quarterfinalist], Cincinnati [Winner]
Power Ranking Points: 1290
Kim Clijsters took a long break, partly due to injuries, after successfully defending her US Open title. So it was a little surprising that she was able to lift the year-end trophy, the third one in her career. But I guess nothing is impossible with the “super-mom” Kim.
Clijsters won five titles from only 14 tournaments this season. Of the top players, only Justine Henin (11) and Serena Williams (13) played fewer events. With three straight victories over Henin, two of which decided by a third-set tie-breaker, Clijsters has turned the head-to-head in her favor, 13-12. It seems Clijsters is content with how things are right now. One just can’t stop wondering what would happen should she become more ambitious next season?
3. Vera Zvonareva (Last Power Ranking: 2; Year-End WTA Ranking: 2)
Last Four Tournaments: YEC [Semifinalist], Beijing [Finalist], Tokyo [Quarterfinalist], US Open [Finalist]
Power Ranking Points: 1023
Vera Zvonareva rose to a career-high ranking of no. 2 after a runner-up finish at Beijing, falling to Wozniacki in the final. She would once again lose to the Dane in the semifinal at the year-end championships. Though she was able to register a win over Clijsters in the round-robin play.
2010 has been a career-best season for Zvonareva, in which she reached two consecutive Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon (l. to S. Williams) and US Open (l. to Clijsters). Over all, she reached six finals, winning only one of them. But her consistency ensured that she will finish the season as the no. 2 player in the world. To have more success next year, especially in majors, she has to learn how to master her nerves and perform her best when it counts the most.
4. Victoria Azarenka (Last Power Ranking: 10; Year-End WTA Ranking: 10)
Last Four Tournaments: YEC [RR(1-2)], Moscow [Winner], Beijing [R64], Tokyo [Semifinalist]
Power Ranking Points: 594
Victoria Azarenka only secured her place in the year-end championships the week before, when she won her second title of the year at Moscow. She went 1-2 in the round-robin play, with her only win coming against the win-less Jankovic.
Besides a quarterfinal showing at the Australian Open, she made early exits in the next three majors. She finished the season at no. 10, three spots below her no. 7 finish last season. Once considered to be the next world no. 1, she has now been surpassed by a younger Wozniacki. She has yet to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in her career. 2011 could just be her break-through year.
5. Samantha Stosur (Last Power Ranking: NR; Year-End WTA Ranking: 6)
Last Four Tournaments: YEC [Semifinalist], Osaka [Quarterfinalist], Beijing [R64], Tokyo [R64]
Power Ranking Points: 549
Samantha Stosur entered the year-end championships with little momentum, losing in her opening matches in both Beijing and Tokyo. But she was able to beat the hottest player on the tour Wozniacki and also avenge her loss to Schiavone in the Roland Garros final. She fell to the eventual champion Clijsters in the semifinals.
Stosur first broke into the world’s top ten after a semifinal showing at Indian Wells. However, the best was yet to come. She advanced to her first Grand Slam final at the French Open, after beating three formal world no.1’s, Henin, S. Williams and Jankovic. Despite a first-round exit at Wimbledon, she reached a career-high ranking of no. 5 in July. With her power game, Stosur can have even better results in 2011. All she needs is a little more consistency.
6. Francesca Schiavone (Last Power Ranking: 4; Year-End WTA Ranking: 7)
Last Four Tournaments: YEC [RR(1-2)], Beijing [Quarterfinalist], Tokyo [Semifinalist], US Open [Quarterfinalist]
Power Ranking Points: 541
The clay-court season this year was filled with upsets, with Aravane Rezai winning Madrid and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez conquering Rome. But none was more surprising than Francesca Schiavone’s inspirational title run at Roland Garros, at age 29.9. It is hard to imagine that she lost in the first-round there just last year, falling to none other than Stosur, her final opponent this year. She subsequently rose to a career-best no. 6 in the world.
Schiavone went into a mental slump after her historic win at the French Open, only winning three matches in her next six tournaments. But she snapped back into focus at the US Open, reaching the quarterfinals. She went 1-2 in the round-robin play at Doha, losing to Stosur and Wozniacki and winning against Dementieva. Already aged 30, this year could very well turn out to be the veteran’s finest season in her career.
In the Fed Cup at San Diego last weekend, Schiavone, along with Flavia Pennetta, helped the Italian team successfully defend the title against the USA squad, their third triumph in the last five years.
7. Ana Ivanovic (Last Power Ranking: 8; Year-End WTA Ranking: 17)
Last Four Tournaments: Bali [Winner], Luxembourg [Quarterfinalist], Linz [Winner], Beijing [Quarterfinalist]
Power Ranking Points: 518
With her title run at Linz just weeks before, Ana Ivanovic qualified for the Bali championships. Though unseeded there, Ivanovic was clearly the most in-form player and claimed her second title of the season.
The formal world no. 1 struggled to find her best form in much of the season. A pair of semifinal showings at Rome and Cincinnati were her only good results before the US Open, where she fell in the round of 16 to the eventual champion Clijsters. But the Serbian finished the season strongly, winning 13 of her last 15 matches. Now back to the world’s top 20 again, 2011 is looking very promising for the 2008 French Open champion.
8. Elena Dementieva (Last Power Ranking: 6; Year-End WTA Ranking: 9)
Last Four Tournaments: YEC [RR(1-2)], Luxembourg [R16], Beijing [R16], Tokyo [Finalist]
Power Ranking Points: 511
Elena Dementieva opened her 2010 campaign with style, beating Serena Williams in the final at Sydney. After losing to Henin at the Australian Open, she won another title at Paris, the 16th and last title of her career.
After going 1-2 in the round-robin play at the year-end championships, Dementieva announced her retirement from the tour, saddening millions of her fans worldwide. It came as an utter surprise, though the elegant Russian admitted that she had already made up her mind before the start of the season.
Dementieva led the Russian charge on the women’s tour at the turn of the century. She has been in the world’s top 20 for almost ten straight years, reaching a career-high no. 3 in June 2009. Her career will probably be defined by her Gold Medal at the Beijing Olympics and two Grand Slam finals in 2004. But it was her sweet personality and charm that captured the hearts of her fans.
Farewell, Elena! All the best in your future life and career.
9. Alisa Kleybanova (Last Power Ranking: NR; Year-End WTA Ranking: 25)
Last Four Tournaments: Bali [Finalist], Moscow [Quarterfinalist], Beijing [R32], Tokyo [R64]
Power Ranking Points: 311
Alisa Kleybanova won two titles this season, at Kuala Lumpur in February and Seoul in September, thus qualifying for the Bali championships. Those are the first two titles of her career. She advanced to the final at Bali after beating Rezai and Yanina Wickmayer, but lost to Ivanovic in straight sets.
Kleybanova made her breakthrough in 2008 when she finished the season as no. 33. But she has not made much inroads since then, never reaching higher than no. 22 in the next two years. She is yet to advance to a quarterfinal at a Grand Slam. With a little more maturity, maybe she will finally crack the top 20 in 2011.
10. Kimiko Date Krumm (Last Power Ranking: NR; Year-End WTA Ranking: 46)
Last Four Tournaments: Bali [Third], Osaka [Finalist], Beijing [R32], Tokyo [R16]
Power Ranking Points: 267
Kimiko Date Krumm entered the Bali championships as a wild card. She immediately took out the no. 1 seed, Li Na, but fell to the eventual champion Ivanovic in the semifinals. She then beat Daniela Hantuchova, another wild card, for the third-place finish. The tennis season is not quite over for her though, as she is scheduled to play in the Asian Games later this month.
Krumm returned to professional tennis in 2008, 12 years after her retirement in 1996. She won her 12th title at Seoul last year, right before her 39th birthday. Though she did not win another title this year, it is no small feat for a 40-year-old to finish the season in the world’s top 50. If healthy, the veteran is not to be underestimated by any opponent in 2011.
[This is the last installment in 2010 of the "Women's Tennis Power Rankings" series, with contributions from JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Ronger Fengerer (Feng Rong). Thank you all for the support. See you in 2011!]