The 2011 Australian Open's evolving storyline for the ladies never ceased as one drama after another unfolded both on and off court.
First and foremost, Serena Williams, defending champion, still injured, decided to withdraw before the tournament Down Under got underway.
Sister Venus Williams hobbled briefly into Melbourne, eliminated when she could no longer move. At that point, the elder Williams retired in the third round against up-and-comer German Andrea Petkovic.
Svetlana Kuznetsova entertained all with the most thrilling matches of the tournament. The newly svelte Russian held on to defeat Justine Henin in the third round 6-4, 7-6.
Subsequently, Henin announced her second permanent retirement from professional tennis.
But the best match of the tournament followed in the fourth round as Kuznetsova met the feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone. The two veterans battled for four hours and 44 minutes making it the longest women’s match ever.
It ended with Schiavone winning 6-4, 1-6, 16-14.
The Italian, however, had nothing left when she met the No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals.
The tournament ended with the crowning of Aussie Kim—her first championship in Melbourne.
The seasoned professionals, for the most part continued to give way to a new wave of hard-hitting ball-strikers working their way up the ranking.
A mix of the new with the "old" highlight our first Power Ranking of the 2011 season.
10. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Last Power Ranking: NR - Current WTA Ranking: 23
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (R 16), Sydney (Quarterfinalist), Auckland (R 16), Beijing (R 64).
Total Power Ranking Points: 328
Svetlana Kuznetsova got another bad draw at the 2011 Australian Open.
She had to look forward to meeting Justine Henin in the third round, if the Russian made it that far.
The former top 10 player had been in a slump much of 2010, finding her ranking plummet to No. 26 as she entered the Australian Open.
After getting through her first two matches in relative ease, Kuznetsova found herself, indeed, facing Justine Henin in the third round. The Russian, however, won the first set and then hung on for dear life to take the second in a tiebreak. Kuznetsova won 6-4, 7-6.
This sent her into the fourth round where the Russian waged an epic battle with the No. 6 seed Francesca Schiavone.
The match went almost five hours and the Russian came out on the losing end in three sets––the last one concluded at 16-14, as Schiavone got the break and held serve to win.
Still Kuznetsova moved up to No. 23 in the WTA rankings and enters our Power Rankings in the No. 10 spot.
9. Victoria Azarenka: Last Power Ranking: 4 - Current WTA Ranking: 9
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (R 16), Sydney (Quarterfinalist), Qatar (RR), Moscow (Winner).
Total Power Ranking Points: 367
Prior to the start of 2011 Australian Open, Victoria Azarenka lost to Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals in Sydney. But she was not discouraged.
Every year we expect Azarenka to break through and get to a major final.
Most of the time in Melbourne, she has run into Serena Williams which never proved to be lucky occasions for Azarenka.
This year, it looked good for the No. 8 seed, really good. That proved to be the case until the fourth round when Azarenka ran into Na Li of China.
Although many gave the Belarusian a good chance to win that match, Na Li never let Azarenka into the match as she went down to defeat 6-3, 6-3.
Consistently a top 10 player, Azarenka has the energy level and the desire to make it into the top five, but sometimes her impatience in a match does not bring the best results.
Still the No. 9 seed occupies the nine spot in our Power Rankings.
8. Agnieszka Radwanska: Last Power Ranking: NR - Current WTA Ranking: 10
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (Quarterfinalist), Beijing (R 64), Tokyo (Quarterfinalist), US Open (R 64).
Total Power Ranking Points: 514
After seeing her season derailed last October with a stress fracture in her foot, Agnieszka Radwanska dropped out of the top 10 to the No. 14 spot in the WTA rankings.
Without match play experience, no one gave the Pole much hope for success at the Australian Open after being sidelined for such an extended period.
But after stumbling out of the gates a bit in her first match with Kimiko Date-Krumm, Radwanska advanced in straight sets to the fourth round where she was tested once again by Shuai Peng of China.
The Pole finally prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.
In the quarterfinals, Radwanska faced Kim Clijsters, losing 6-3, 7-6 to the eventual champion.
Radwanska moved up to No. 10 in the WTA Rankings and comes in at the No. 8 spot on our first Power Ranking of the season.
7. Francesca Schiavone: Last Power Ranking: 6 - Current WTA Ranking: 4
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (Quarterfinalist), Sydney (R 32), Qatar (RR), Beijing (Quarterfinalist).
Total Power Ranking Points: 552
The 2010 French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone could never be accused of tanking in a match—of not giving her all.
100 percent all of the time––that is how the Italian plays.
People respond to her fire and her aggression on court. They love to watch Schiavone in action.
Everyone does, unless you are her opponent on the other side of the net.
At this year’s Australian Open, Schiavone is credited with being one-half of the most dramatic and thrilling match of the tournament as the Italian and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova battled for four hours and 44 minutes before Schiavone finally prevailed 16-14 in the third and final set.
The win sent Schiavone into the quarterfinals to face the No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki with very little gas left in the tank to keep pace with the 20 year old Dane.
It was a great tournament for the Italian who continues to play brilliant tennis at age 30.
Schiavone etched her place in our Power Rankings at No. 7.
6. Andrea Petkovic: Last Power Ranking: NR - Current WTA Ranking: 24
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (Quarterfinalist), Brisbane (Finalist), Moscow (R 16), Linz (Semifinalist).
Total Power Ranking Points: 560
The 23-year-old German performs a little dance at the conclusion of each match when she emerges a winner.
The Australian Open gave Petkovic plenty of opportunity to practice her “Petko Dance” steps as she took out a number of very famous names before the German finally lost in the quarterfinals to Na Li of China 6-2, 6-4.
In the fourth round the German defeated Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-3 in a rather routine win over the former Australian Open champion.
This after Petkovic advanced past Venus Williams in the third round. Williams had to retire in the second game of the match––having suffered a groin injury in her previous match.
The German entered the Australian Open ranked No. 33 and is currently ranked No. 24 after advancing to the quarterfinals in Melbourne.
Petkovic is another new face who surfaced in the past year, ready to do battle and fight her way up the rankings.
She surfaces at No. 6 in our Power Rankings.
5. Petra Kvitova: Last Power Ranking: NR - Current WTA Ranking: 18
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (Quarterfinalist), Brisbane (Winner), Poitiers (Semifinalist), Moscow (R 32).
Total Power Ranking Points: 572
To many Aussies, Petra Kvitova was a wrecking ball, knocking out their favorite Sam Stosur in the third round.
The Czech muscled her way through the tournament in Brisbane, earning her the title, her first of 2011.
She seemed unstoppable as she dismissed the No. 25 seed Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round.
With her powerful serve, her wicked return and her tenacity at the net Kvitova will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.
The Czech finally met her match facing Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals. The Russian with a deliberate game plan and consistent groundstrokes dismissed Kvitova in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.
But the impact of this rising star should not be overlooked.
The Czech made the semifinals of Wimbledon––during her first try on grass, unseeded.
Kvitova reached the No. 5 spot in our first Power Ranking of 2011.
4. Vera Zvonareva: Last Power Ranking: 3 - Current WTA Ranking: 3
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (Semifinals), Sydney (R 16), Qatar (Semifinals), Beijing (Finalist).
Total Power Ranking Points: 974
Russian Vera Zvonareva made it through to the semifinals of the Australian Open where she met and was defeated by eventual winner Kim Clijsters 6-3, 6-3.
The Russian enjoyed a resurgence in 2010 after suffering through an injury-ridden 2009 season.
Zvonareva who always had the game to be a winner, could never master her emotions, losing her concentration and her will if things did not go according to her plan.
Now the Russian remains steely in her determination to contain her nerves, sitting on the sidelines with a towel over her head to cut out distractions during a match.
This has proven to be a smart move on her part because Zvonareva’s success has been impressive.
She made two finals in 2010 at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The Russian was hoping the make it three in a row in Melbourne—but her dream ended in the semifinals.
After rising to secure the No. 2 ranking at the end of 2010, Zvonareva fell to No. 3 after Clijsters passed her at the conclusion of the Australian Open.
The Russian has earned the No. 4 spot in our first Power Ranking of the season.
3. Caroline Wozniacki: Last Power Ranking: 1 - Current WTA Ranking: 1
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (Semifinals), Sydney (R 16), Qatar (Finalist), Beijing (Winner)
Total Power Ranking Points: 1000
The No. 1 ranked player Caroline Wozniacki lost in the semifinals of the 2011 Australian Open to Li Na of China who said she was inspired to beat the Dane for the “Prize Money.”
This remark sent those assembled in the stands into peals of laughter.
But, for Wozniacki the loss was another matter.
No doubt, it will quickly become another spike the press will use to try to pound holes in the Dane's “right” to be ranked No. 1.
Wozniacki worked diligently to attain that No. 1 ranking after the U.S. Open. Now she holds a slight edge–a mere 140 points ahead of No. 2 Kim Clijsters.
The press will contend that the Dane does not deserve the ranking because she has not won a major.
No. 1 Wozniacki plans to extend her lead by winning the upcoming tournament in Dubai where No. 2 Clijsters is not scheduled to play.
The season continues in full gear. Most prominent seeds will be in action in Dubai.
Wozniacki will go on seeking that elusive grand slam singles title—her next opportunity coming in May at the 2011 French Open.
In the meantime, the Dane seeks to hold onto that top spot. For her efforts, Wozniacki ranks No. 3 in our Power Rankings.
2. Li Na: Last Power Ranking: NR - Current WTA Ranking: 7
Last Four Tournaments: Australian Open (Finalist), Sydney (Winner), Bali (Quarterfinalist), Moscow (R 32)
Total Power Ranking Points: 1561
Li Na of China was a big hit at the Aussie Open in 2011.
Not only did she play superlative tennis, her sense of humor remained in overdrive, especially during her post-match interviews.
The crowd roared at some of the Chinese lady’s retorts. She laughed all the way to the women’s final and so did her growing fan base.
Li Na became the first tennis player from Asia to reach a grand slam singles final.
Even though she lost her final match to Kim Clijsters, she won much respect for her aggressive game and her refreshing personality.
At age 28, Li Na again found her best form on the courts in Melbourne where she made it to the semifinals last year, losing to Serena Williams.
Li Na has moved up to the No. 7 WTA ranking after previously being ranked No. 11 prior to the Australian Open.
She opens up this year’s Power Ranking in the No. 2 spot after her brilliant run at the Australian Open in 2011.
1. Kim Clijsters: Last Power Ranking: 2 - Current WTA Ranking: 2
Last Four Tournaments Australian Open (Winner), Sydney (Finalist), Qatar (Winner), U.S. Open (Winner)
Total Power Ranking Points: 2244
27 year-old Aussie Kim finally won in Melbourne, extending her total slam count to four, three of them on the hard courts of New York.
This win was especially rewarding for the Belgian who made the finals in 2004 but who lost to another Belgian that year, Justine Henin.
Clijsters is now 4-4 in Grand Slam finals. A favorite of the Australian fans, a win here this year was especially sweet.
Clijsters suffered an injury following the U.S. Open that kept her off the court for an extended period during the fall indoor season.
After starting slowly, losing the opening set to her opponent Li Na of China in Saturday’s final, Clijsters fought hard to reclaim her game which deserted her in the early going.
Finding her consistency at long last, the Belgian defeated Li Na in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
The win gives Clijsters the No. 2 spot in the WTA rankings behind Caroline Wozniacki, who holds a slight 140 point lead over the Belgian.
Clijsters, however, holds the No. 1 spot in our first Power Ranking for 2011.
The Tennis Power Ranking Series is written by AJ Porter, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong who does the mathematical calculations. Click here to read how we arrive at our Power Ranking totals.