Women's Tennis Power Rankings: Victoria Azarenka Tops List with Miami Victory

Ronger FengererCorrespondent IApril 7, 2011

Women's Tennis Power Rankings: Victoria Azarenka Tops List with Miami Victory

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    Since the conclusion of the first major of the year—the Australian Open—there has been 11 tournaments and ten winners on the WTA tour. The only double-titlist? Caroline Wozniacki, the current world No. 1.

    These Power Rankings focus more on the recent tournaments, aiming to give a measure of form rather than overall ability. In the current case, results from the last two Premier Mandatory events at Miami and Indian Wells will largely decide the rankings.

    However, that won't do justice to many titlists who aren't featured in the power rankings.

    Here's a quick list of honorable-mentions:

    Petra Kvitova won her second title of the year at Paris, also triumphing at Brisbane at the begging of the season. She subsequently rose to a career-high ranking of No. 14. However, she was unable to keep her momentum going, winning only one out of her next five matches.

    Daniela Hantuchova won the Pattaya City title without dropping a set. Before that, she had lost all four of her matches of the season, including a first-round exit at Melbourne. Since then she has suffered two more first-round defeats. The talented Slovakian is competing at the clay-court event at Charleston this week.

    Magdalena Rybarikova, another Slovakian currently ranked No. 69 in the world, won the Memphis title back in February, only her second career-title. In her first tour-level match since then, she lost in the first-round at Charleston this week.

    Lourdes Dominguez Lino is a 30-year-old veteran from Spain, currently ranked No. 46 in the world. She won the clay-court event at Bogota in February, also winning there in 2006. In fact, those are her only two career-titles. She lost in the second-round at Marbella this week.

    Gisela Dulko won the clay-court event at Acapulco, her first singles title in three years, though she is the current No. 1 in doubles. She did not have much success on the hard-courts, suffering three first-round exits already. Maybe the clay season will do her some good.

    Jelena Dokic was the surprise winner at Kuala Lumpur, beating Francesca Schiavone in the first-round. It was her first title since 2002. Unfortunately for the former world No. 4, she also lost in the first-round at Charleston this week.

    Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova successfully defended her title at Monterey this year. She won her first career-title there last year. She reached her career-high ranking of No. 14 after a third-round effort at Melbourne. She is the youngest player in the top 50 and should have a very successful career.

    Without further ado, here is this week's top ten list.

    The Power Ranking series is ran by JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and myself. Please also check out the latest men's tennis power rankings.

No. 10 Peng Shuai (China)

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    Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 30

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [R16], Indian Wells [Quarterfinalist], Doha [Quarterfinalist], Dubai [R32]

    Power Ranking Points: 261

    Peng Shuai from China has compiled a 28-8 match record in 2011 so far. Her 28 wins lead the WTA tour, Caroline Wozniacki being the second with 22 wins. With so many wins, it is a bit surprising that Peng has yet to advance to a final this season, her best results being two semifinal finishes. However, her consistency has earned her a career-high ranking of No. 30 this week.

    With her country-woman Li Na dominating the spotlight at Melbourne with her historic run to the Australian Open final, it is easy to overlook a fourth-round showing of Peng, which was her best performance at a major. Now with Li struggling to find her form again, Peng's consistent play is all that Chinese fans can cheer for.

    Peng is playing, and blogging, at Charleston this week as the No. 11 seed.

No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)

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    Last Power Ranking: 8; WTA Ranking: 13

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [Quarterfinalist], Indian Wells [R16], Doha [R32], Dubai [Quarterfinalist]

    Power Ranking Points: 329

    Agnieszka Radwanska opened her 2011 campaign with a quarterfinal showing at Melbourne, losing to the eventual champion Kim Clijsters. She reached another quarterfinal last week at Miami, scoring her first top-ten win of the season over Francesca Schiavone in the round of 16.

    Radwanska won three titles back in 2008, when she was still a teenager. It was surely a break-through season for her, and she finished in the top ten that year. Though she was able to stay in the top 20 mostly since then, she has yet to win another title.

    Clay is not her favorite surface, though she did win the clay-event at Istanbul in 2008. With only 365 points to defend for the entire clay-court season, she could return to top ten by the end of the French Open.

No. 8 Jelena Jankovic (Serbia)

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    Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 8

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [Quarterfinalist], Indian Wells [R16], Monterrey [Finalist], Doha [Semifinalist]

    Power Ranking Points: 370

    Jelena Jankovic's 2011 campaign did not begin well, with a first-round loss at Sydney and a second-round defeat at the Australian Open, her earliest exit from a major since 2009 US Open. She has gradually gotten back some of her form, reaching two semifinals and one final since then. But she was unable to defend her title at Indian Wells, losing to her compatriot Ana Ivanovic in the round of 16.

    Jankovic played quite well last year during the clay-court season, reaching the final at Rome and the semifinal at Roland Garros. She is the no. 3 seed at Charleston this week, where she reached the quarterfinal last year. She will be aiming to reach that stage again today. She has been to the semifinal at the French Open three times, so it will be interesting to see how she fares this year.

No. 7 Marion Bartoli (France)

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    Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 12

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [R16], Indian Wells [Finalist], Kuala Lumpur [Quarterfinalist], Doha [Semifinalist]

    Power Ranking Points: 421

    Marion Bartoli has played in eight of maximum possible nine tournaments since the start of the season. And she is again playing this week at Charleston, as the No. 4 seed. She has been playing overall solid tennis, without too much ups and downs. Her best performance so far this year was a final showing at Indian Wells, losing to Caroline Wozniacki. Besides a retirement win over Kim Clijsters, she is yet to beat a top ten player this season.

    Bartoli has been able to finish inside the top 20 in each of the last five years. And her career-high ranking is No. 9, achieved in October 2007. This basically sums up her career, which is good but not superb. Only 26-year-old, it is not too late for her to make another career push towards the top. Her self-claimed high IQ should help down the road, one hopes.

    Her transition to clay did not go very smoothly, as she suffered an opening-match loss to Sabine Lisicki at Charleston this week.

No. 6 Andrea Petkovic (Germany)

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    Last Power Ranking: 6; WTA Ranking: 19

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [Semifinalist], Indian Wells [R32], Dubai [R32], Paris [Quarterfinalist]

    Power Ranking Points: 502

    Andrea Petkovic has been playing quite solid tennis since US Open last year, reaching the round of 16 there and losing to the eventual runner-up Vera Zvonareva. Before then, she had never advanced beyond the second in a major. At the Australian Open this year, she did even better and could only be stopped by a red-hot Li Na in the quarterfinal.

    She continued her fine form last week at Miami, defeating Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic before losing to Maria Sharapova in the semifinal, all in three-sets. She is enjoying a career-high ranking of No. 19 this week.

    Petkovic started her now-famous Petko Dance after her first-round win over Nadia Petrova at last year's US Open. As her results since then suggest, the dance has done her good. It makes sense since one tends to have more success while enjoying doing something. Maybe the fun German could dance her way into the top ten in the short future.

No. 5 Kim Clijsters (Belgium)

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    Last Power Ranking: 1; WTA Ranking: 2

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [Quarterfinalist], Indian Wells [R16], Paris [Finalist], Australian Open [Winner]

    Power Ranking Points: 537

    Kim Clijsters had a great start to her 2011 season, reaching three consecutive finals and winning her first Australian Open crown. She even had time to win two matches for her country in the Fed Cup and got back to world No. 1 for a week. It appeared the race between her and Caroline Wozniacki for the No. 1 spot would be a constant topic in the coming tournaments.

    Then the injury came. She had to retire from her match against Marion Bartoli at Indian Wells. And after her heroic win over Ana Ivanovic from five match points down at Miami, she had little left to fight with the eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.

    She has just announced that she will miss about a month of action due to nagging shoulder and wrist injuries. She should be back in time for the French Open, which she has not played since reaching the semifinal in 2006.

No. 4 Vera Zvonareva (Russia)

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    Last Power Ranking: 4; WTA Ranking: 3

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [Semifinalist], Indian Wells [R32], Doha [Winner], Dubai [R16]

    Power Ranking Points: 573

    Vera Zvonareva is ranked No. 3 in the world behind Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters, and rightfully so. She is not quite as consistent as the former, and has not been able to capture the biggest titles as the latter. She has reached two finals and one semifinal in the last three majors, but she is yet to make that final step which defines greatness.

    Her best performance so far this year was her title-run at Doha, where she defeated Jelena Jankovic in the semifinal and Wozniacki in the final. She lost to the eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in the semifinal at Miami last week.

    She has never done well at Roland Garros, only reaching the quarterfinal once back in 2003. She reached the final at Charleston last year, but is not playing there this year. After this week, she has only 181 points to defend for the remaining clay season. So she should be able to get back to world No. 2 soon, especially now that Clijsters will be absent from the tour for about a month.

No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

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    Last Power Ranking: 3; WTA Ranking: 1

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [R16], Indian Wells [Winner], Doha [Finalist], Dubai [Winner]

    Power Ranking Points: 655

    Caroline Wozniacki has a 22-3 match record since her surprising opening-match loss to Dominika Cibulkova at Sydney, reaching three straight finals and winning two of them. Due to her consistency, she not only is the current world No. 1, but also leads the race to Istanbul.

    She won the clay-court event at Ponte Vedra Beach last year, but didn't make much inroads after that till a quarterfinal showing at Roland Garros, losing to an inspired Francesca Schiavone. She is the No. 1 seed at Charleston this week, where she won her opening-match against Irina Falconi easily.

    With her amazing retrieving skills, she should be able to have more success at the French Open. And with more maturity and confidence, she should be ready to make the next step at a major soon.

No. 2 Maria Sharapova (Russia)

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    Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 9

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [Finalist], Indian Wells [Semifinalist], Australian Open [R16], Auckland [Quarterfinalist]

    Power Ranking Points: 883

    Maria Sharapova is back in the world top ten for the first time in more than two years after her final run at Key Biscayne. She played the longest match in tournament history against Alexandra Delgheru in the quarterfinal before avenging her Australian Open loss to Andrea Petkovic in the semifinal. Without much left in her tank, she lost handily to Victoria Azarenka in the final.

    Ever since her shoulder injury in 2008, she has been struggling with double-faults and unforced errors. It often resulted in lengthy matches and she managed to win many of them with her incredible fighting spirit. But for her to move further up the ladder, she needs to play at a more consistent level.

    The French Open is the only major missing from her collection. She reached the semifinal there back in 2007. It is unlikely that she will be able to achieve the career Grand Slam this year.

No. 1 Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)

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    Last Power Ranking: 9; WTA Ranking: 6

    Last Four Tournaments: Miami [Winner], Indian Wells [Quarterfinalist], Doha [R32], Dubai [R16]

    Power Ranking Points: 1101

    Victoria Azarenka's title run at Miami last week came as a bit of a surprise since she retired in her match against Caroline Wozniacki at Indian Wells. After some tough fights in the earlier rounds, she rolled over Kim Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva and Maria Sharapova, averaging a loss of less than five games each match. She has matched her career-high ranking of No. 6 this week.

    Last year, she had a 4-6 match record during the clay-court season. With several first-round losses, including at Roland Garros, she has virtually nothing to defend on clay this year. So it is very likely that she will be able to reach a new career high very soon.

    Maybe she just can't wait to achieve that goal, since she is playing at Marbella this week as the No. 1 seed. She is one-match away from meeting Dinara Safina in the quarterfinals, who is starting to pick up some pace in her come-back from a back injury.