Women's Tennis Desperately Needs a Superstar to Emerge in 2012

Richard Smith@@richonracingContributor IIIDecember 22, 2011

DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 28:  Victoria Azarenka of Belarus shows her frustration against Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in their round robin match during the Sony Ericsson Championships at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex on October 28, 2009 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In complete contrast to the men's game, women’s tennis has become an unpredictable sport, plagued by player inconsistency and injuries.

With the Williams sisters on the decline, Henin retired and Kim Clijsters likely to follow, there is a distinct lack of any real superstars in the sport.

Not having any truly dominant women on tour does allow for more parity, but could equally be considered a negative in that there isn't the elite level of player that we have seen in the past to rival the ever-increasing profile of the male equivalent.

The past 12 months has confirmed that any one of those rated in the top 30 of the women's world rankings are capable of winning "Grand Slam" tournaments.

To add substance to this view, the top ranked player in the world currently, Caroline Wozniacki, has never won a "Grand Slam" and for the matter, she has only made it to the final of one and that came over two years ago at the US Open.

The same applies to the world No. 3, Victoria Azarenka, who has never made a "Grand Slam" final at all!

In fact, each of the four "Grand Slams" in 2011 was won by different players and of those four, only Kim Clijsters was a previous "slam" winner; she in fact took the Australian Open but she was barely seen again all year.

The Belgian did make the second round of the French Open but injury forced her to miss out Wimbledon and the US Open. Her long absence is the reason why she is now down to No. 13 in the World Rankings with retirement a possibility.

Winner of the French Open, Li Na, is currently ranked No. 5 and she at least made two "Grand Slam" finals in 2011.

She was defeated by Clijsters in Australia before winning at Roland Garros but failed to make another final in any other tournament all year. Her season effectively ended after her win in Paris; she was knocked out in the second round at Wimbledon then fell at the first hurdle at Flushing Meadows. Whether she has the game to repeat that success in the key events of 2012 remains to be seen.

Having won Wimbledon this year, tennis pundits and fans became more and more excited regarding the potential future of the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova.

She had performed well in Australia, losing in the quarterfinals, she made the fourth round at Roland Garros before winning Wimbledon but a first round exit at the US Open was a huge disappointment.

Wins later in the year in Istanbul and Austria moved the rangy left-hander up to No. 2 in the rankings and she will start 2012 as one of the biggest hopes in the women's game.

Australian Sam Stosur was very much a surprise winner of the US Open, particularly as she defeated three-time champion, Serena Williams, in the final. That however was her only win all year and although she is still ranked at No. 6, she, like most of those above her in the rankings, is a frustratingly inconsistent player.

Serena Williams' injury issues have clearly taken their toll. If she manages to get back to full fitness, then yes, she will be a major factor in 2012, but that is a big "if" and the American is not getting any younger.

Maria Sharapova has at least got herself back in the top echelons of the rankings, but she too failed to land a "Slam," although she did make the final at Wimbledon, losing to Kvitova.

Sharapova, who seems to have been around forever, is still only 24, but whether she can get back to the form she showed as a younger player is anyone’s guess right now.

All things considered, it would appear unlikely that much will change in the ladies game in 2012.

The top four players, Wozniacki, Kvitova, Azarenka and Sharapova, will be hard to dislodge at the top, particularly as those closely following are mostly past their best.

Serena is clearly a major threat if fit and still capable of winning.

There is plenty of optimism regarding the emergence of German, Sabine Lisicki, who made the semifinal at Wimbledon, the fourth round at the U.S. Open as well as winning a couple of tournaments during the year, but it is a lot to expect of the 22-year-old.

As it currently stands, women's tennis is in desperate need of the kind of superstars that its male equivalent has enjoyed in recent years and as it stands, it is unlikely that one will emerge any time soon.