Women's Power Rankings: Petra Kvitova Shows When You're Hot, You're Hot
From the beginning, 2011 made its mark as the “Year of Injuries” for the top-ranked women in tennis.
Serena Williams, who cut her foot on broken glass after the 2010 Wimbledon Tournament, was out of tennis for most of the year.
Sister Venus Williams also suffered from illness and injury throughout 2011.
Kim Clijsters, who won the 2011 Australian Open over Li Na of China, sprained her ankle and never was able to compete fully after April of this year.
Justine Henin retired for the second and last time in January of 2011 after further injuring her elbow at the Australian Open. It was the same elbow she injured in a fall at Wimbledon in 2010.
For the most part the old guard was disappearing, it seemed, in the blink of an eye. That meant new champions would emerge.
Therefore, 2011 quickly evolved into the “Year of the Newcomers” in women’s tennis.
Li Na won the 2011 French Open, to claim her first major title.
Petra Kvitova, barely 21, won the 2011 Wimbledon title, defeating former champion Maria Sharapova in the final—even though the Williams sisters were competing once again.
Samantha Stosur finally won her first major at the US Open defeating Serena Williams in a brilliant display of tennis acumen and nerve.
The 2011 season culminated in Istanbul at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships where the elite eight women met to battle for the final title of the season.
10. Maria Sharapova [Russia]
Last Power Ranking: 9; WTA Ranking 4
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Round Robin], Tokyo [Quarterfinalist], US Open [R 32], Cincinnati [Winner].
Power Ranking Points: 287
After making the semifinals of the 2011 French Open and the finals of Wimbledon as well as winning masters tournaments in Rome and in Cincinnati, Maria Sharapova found herself ranked in the top five in women’s tennis once again.
A win at the year-end championships in Istanbul would have ceded the No. 1 ranking back to Sharapova.
But Sharapova had been battling an ankle injury which limited her movement on court. Even though the Russian beauty tried to compete in Istanbul, she could not keep pace against the world’s best.
Sharapova started the tournament by losing to Samantha Stosur—whom she had defeated nine times prior to their meeting during the first round-robin contest.
Then she lost to Li Na of China. Obviously, Sharapova could not compete, withdrawing from the tournament, replaced by Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli.
Sharapova will now turn her attention to the start of 2012 and the Australian Open—which she won back in 2008.
9. Andrea Petkovic [Germany]
Last Power Ranking: 5; WTA Ranking 10
Last four tournaments: Beijing [Finalist], US Open [Quarterfinalist], Cincinnati [Semifinalist], Toronto [Quarterfinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 292
After injuring her right knee, Andrea Petkovic was forced to withdraw from Tokyo. Even though she competed at Beijing, coming in second behind Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, the knee injury resurfaced. Petkovic was forced to withdraw from Linz and Luxembourg.
This eliminated the German from making the WTA elite eight field in Istanbul.
Still, her year has been a great one. Petkovic made the quarterfinals of each major in 2011 except Wimbledon, where she fell in the third round.
Her success allowed Petkovic to leap into the WTA top ten as another of the promising German women making their way to the top of the women’s game.
Petkovic has endeared herself to fans and the media by performing a “dance” on court to celebrate a victory. She is also very relaxed in dealing with the media and considers herself a student of the game.
The future looks very bright for Petkovic as she makes her way into 2012.
8. Li Na [China]
Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking 5
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Round Robin], Beijing [R 64], US Open [R 128], New Haven [Semifinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 392
After her amazing run the first half of year, culminating with her win over Francesca Schiavone to capture the 2011 French Open title, Li Na of China finally seemed to come to life during the WTA year-end championships in Istanbul.
She defeated Maria Sharapova—but failed to make the semifinals after losing to Victoria Azarenka and finally Samantha Stosur.
Perhaps the expectation to win after capturing her first grand slam title—the first for any player, male or female, from China—presented too much pressure. She had won only seven matches since the French Open.
Li Na’s victory, however, over a top-ranked player during the week-long tournament in Istanbul may revive her spirits as Li Na heads back to Australia to start 2012.
After all, it was her play in Australia that began her remarkable run one year ago.
7. Marion Bartoli [France]
Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking 9
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Round Robin], Moscow [Quarterfinalist], Osaka [Winner], Beijing [R 16], Tokyo [Quarterfinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 418
While Caroline Wozniacki was resting after the 2011 US Open, Marion Bartoli made up her mind to battle her way into the WTA elite eight field in Istanbul.
To that end, the Frenchwoman played a great deal of tennis—and she played well enough to make it into the tournament after Sharapova had to retire with a foot injury.
After winning the tournament in Osaka, Bartoli was well on her way to making her goal outright, but a viral illness caused her to withdraw after reaching the quarterfinals in Moscow.
That kept the Frenchwoman from making the elite eight field, but as the first alternate, she gained entry when Sharapova withdrew with an injury.
She made her mark in the tournament by defeating Victoria Azarenka in their round-robin match—the only loss suffered by Azarenka in her last eight matches.
It was a rewarding ending for the Frenchwoman who had something to show for all of her effort in making the tournament in Istanbul.
6. Caroline Wozniacki [Denmark]
Last Power Ranking: 3; WTA Ranking 1
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Round Robin], Beijing [Quarterfinalist], Tokyo [R 16], US Open [Semifinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 570
After playing a lot of tennis leading up to the 2011 US Open, Caroline Wozniacki decided to take it easy.
Therefore, the Dane had only participated in three tournaments since the US Open concluded, including the WTA year-end tournament in Istanbul.
Although Wozniacki did not make it out of her round robin Red Group into the semifinals, the World No. 1 will end the year at the top of the WTA rankings.
For the year, Wozniacki won 6 tour titles, giving her 18 career titles to date. None of those victories, however, include a grand slam title. Wozniacki failed to make a grand slam final in 2011 but that will certainly be her primary motivation in 2012.
It is time for Wozniacki to take her game one more step, finding more power and more domination in major tournaments.
5. Vera Zvonareva [Russia]
Last Power Ranking: 5; WTA Ranking 7
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Semifinalist], Moscow [Quarterfinalist], Beijing [R 16], Tokyo [finalist]
Power Ranking Points: 589
Vera Zvonareva made it into the the elite eight at the 2011 TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships held in Istanbul.
She was drawn into the Red Group with Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska.
The Russian won her match over Wozniacki but lost against Kvitova and Radwanska.
Even so, because of the number of sets and games won, Zvonareva advanced to the semifinals where she faced Victoria Azarenka.
Prior to their semifinal match in Istanbul, Zvonareva held a 6-4 advantage in their head to head meetings.
But Azarenka was not to be denied and took care of business, defeating the Russian 6-2, 6-3.
Still, Zvonareva ends 2011 on a positive note, making the elite eight in Istanbul and looking forward to another opportunity to win that elusive slam title in 2012.
4. Samantha Stosur [Australia]
Last Power Ranking: 1; WTA Ranking 6
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Semifinalist], Osaka [Finalist], Beijing [R 32], Tokyo [R 32].
Power Ranking Points: 617
By defeating the seemingly invincible Serena Williams in the finals of the 2011 US Open, Samantha Stosur finally arrived as a legitimate contender for a top spot in the WTA tennis rankings.
Having appeared in only three tournaments since she won the 2011 US Open, Stosur recently began to play up to her potential by reaching the finals at Osaka where she lost to Marion Bartoli.
In the WTA year-end championship tournament, Stosur survived to the semifinals where she met and was defeated by an on-fire Petra Kvitova in three sets.
Stosur will end the year ranked in the WTA top ten, eyeing another opportunity to seize the Australian Open championships which would, of course, constitute the piece de resistance for the Aussie.
3. Agnieszka Radwanska [Poland]
Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking 8
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Round Robin], Moscow [R 16], Beijing [Winner], Tokyo [Winner].
Power Ranking Points: 801
After the 2011 US Open, there had been no one hotter on tour during the hardcourt indoor season than Agnieszka Radwanska, who won titles in both Beijing and Tokyo, defeating Andrea Petkovic and Vera Zvonareva, respectively.
Upon making the WTA final eight field in Istanbul, Radwanska was drawn into the Red Group where she faced Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and Vera Zvonareva.
While Radwanska lost to Wozniacki and Kvitova, she defeated Vera Zvonareva and had an opportunity to advance to the semifinals—but she had to win at least one set in her match with Kvitova.
Radwanska, however, failed to do that and was excused from the tournament.
Still it was a remarkable fall season for Radwanska. She will look ahead to 2012 with much confidence.
2. Victoria Azarenka [Belarus]
Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking 3
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Finalist], Luxembourg [Winner], Beijing [R 16], Tokyo [Semifinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 1,144
The fall indoor season has been a good one for Victoria Azarenka, as she won her eighth WTA title in Luxembourg as the No. 1 seed.
In Istanbul at the WTA year-end championships, Azarenka stormed through the white group defeating both Samantha Stosur and Li Na of China to qualify for the semifinals.
She was subsequently defeated by Marion Bartoli in her third round-robin match. The Frenchwoman stepped in to replace an injured Maria Sharapova—but the match was meaningless to Azarenka, who would play in the semifinals regardless of the outcome.
Prior to her loss to Bartoli, Azarenka had won seven matches in a row, all without dropping a set. Azarenka defeated Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.
This sent the lady from Belarus into the finals to meet Petra Kvitova to determine the winner of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships.
The final was hard fought with high-quality tennis for almost three hours. Even though Azarenka fell short, losing 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, she showed great resilience and great poise under pressure.
Azarenka took the next step forward in her tennis career by being able to control her temper and avoid subsequent destructive meltdowns. Expect Azarenka to carry this forward into 2012.
1. Petra Kvitova [Czech Republic]
Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking 2
Last four tournaments: Istanbul [Winner], Linz [Winner], Beijing [R 32], Tokyo [Semifinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 1,674
After her astonishing win at Wimbledon earlier this summer, Petra Kvitova reeled under the weight of new expectation.
The young Czech simply evaporated under the shimmering sun and the sizzling heat during the summer hard-court season. People began to speculate that perhaps the win was too much and Kvitova could not regain her winning form.
But late into the fall indoor season, the young Czech stirred to life and began to win again, recalling that power game that brought her to the heights of glory at the All-England Club.
But Kvitova’s ultimate glory came at 2011 TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships where she remained perfect through the round robin portion of the tournament, 3-0 in win-loss and 6-0 in sets.
That sent Kvitova into the semifinals against Sam Stosur, which she won in three tough sets.
In the finals, Kvitova faced Victoria Azarkena, who was also playing at the top of her game. Even though she stormed out to a 5-0 lead, Azarenka fought back to even the score in the first set.
Kvitova eventually took the first set 7-5 but Azarenka came back to win the second set 6-4. Kvitova took the third set 6-3 to win the title in a high-quality match that lasted almost three hours.
There appear to be no limits to the power and ability of the Czech Kvitova, who now rises to the No. 2 spot in the WTA.