Ranking the Top 10 Women's Tennis Players Ahead of Clay-Court Season

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2015

Ranking the Top 10 Women's Tennis Players Ahead of Clay-Court Season

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    Serena Williams and Simona Halep shake hands after their semifinal match at the 2015 Miami Open.
    Serena Williams and Simona Halep shake hands after their semifinal match at the 2015 Miami Open.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Serena Williams is No. 1.

    That's one of the few things you can bank on when it comes to the WTA Tour's top tier. 

    Outside of Williams' dominance and Simona Halep's perseverance, the top of the tour is influx. The current rankings do not reflect the shift in momentum among the best players.

    Maria Sharapova, ranked No. 2, has been outplayed by Halep, No. 3. Petra Kvitova, ranked No. 4, hasn't played since February. Last season's darling, Eugenie Bouchard, is ranked No. 7 but playing like a newbie. 

    Despite their top-10 standing, Kvitova and Bouchard failed to make these power rankings.

    The power rankings reflect where players stand in terms of the measurable—2015 rankings points and record —and the intangibles, such as big wins, confidence and quality of play. 

    Sloane Stephens, headed in the wrong direction in the rankings most of this year, reached the fourth round at Indian Wells and the quarterfinals in Miami. Despite breaking her fall in the rankings, Stephens fails to register in the top of this power ranking. She's still only ranked No. 40.

    Those on the list are the strongest performers heading into the clay-court season. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Sabine Lisicki serves during a match at the 2015 Miami Open.
    Sabine Lisicki serves during a match at the 2015 Miami Open.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Sabine Lisicki, Jelena Jankovic and Stephens are players fighting their way back from slumps or injuries. 

    Although none of them are among the top 10 in the power rankings, they get honorable mention for their performances at Indian Wells and Miami.

    Lisicki, who struggles with consistency, reached the quarterfinals in Miami and the semifinals in Indian Wells. She's back in the top 20, ranked No. 18. Jankovic entered Indian Wells with a losing record, yet she reached the final.

10. Timea Bacsinszky

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    Timea Bacsinszky waves to the crowd at Indian Wells after a loss to Serena Williams.
    Timea Bacsinszky waves to the crowd at Indian Wells after a loss to Serena Williams.Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Timea Bacsinzky, ranked No. 22, is 21-3 this season. She went on a 15-match winning streak before a loss to Serena Williams at Indian Wells. She has two titles and two wins over top-10 players. The Swiss player must now take her winning ways to clay.

9. Ekaterina Makarova

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    Ekatarina Makarova hits a forehand during a match at the 2015 Miami Open.
    Ekatarina Makarova hits a forehand during a match at the 2015 Miami Open.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Ekaterina Makarova is the stealth top-10 player. She quietly moved up to No. 8, a career high. She's also No. 7 in the Road to Singapore. 

    Steady, Makarova is mostly living off points she earned at the Australian Open when she reached the semifinals. She is the Russian No. 2, behind Maria Sharapova. However, she reached the fourth round in Miami, where she lost to Andrea Petkovic.

8. Andrea Petkovic

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    Andrea Petkovic hits a forehand at the 2015 Miami Open.
    Andrea Petkovic hits a forehand at the 2015 Miami Open.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Andrea Petkovic may find it tough to defend her title in Charleston. She needed three sets to put away Chanelle Scheepers in the opening match. 

    Petkovic briefly made it back to the top 10 before falling to No. 11 this week. Petkovic seems to have conquered her chronic injuries and is back in contention.

7. Karolina Pliskova

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    Karolina Pliskova hits a backhand at Indian Wells.
    Karolina Pliskova hits a backhand at Indian Wells.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Karolina Pliskova reached a career-high No. 12. Armed with a big serve, Pliskova leads the WTA in aces this season with 197. Serena Williams is second with 166. Williams has played in 13 fewer matches.

    Pliskova is as surprised by her success as everyone else. She told The Independent“I wasn't expecting anything from the beginning of the year. ... You just don't know what to expect. But I'm happy with the way I started the year. It’s going pretty well.”

6. Caroline Wozniacki

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    Caroline Wozniacki hits a backhand during her match against Venus Williams at the 2015 Miami Open.
    Caroline Wozniacki hits a backhand during her match against Venus Williams at the 2015 Miami Open.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Caroline Wozniacki's U.S. spring swing flopped. She lost to teen Belinda Bencic at Indian Wells and then to Venus Williams in Miami.

    However, Wozniacki won the title in Kuala Lumpur. Ranked No. 8 in the Road to Singapore, Wozniacki comes in power-ranking below Venus Williams because she's yet to pull off the big win against a top opponent this spring. 

5. Venus Williams

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    Venus Williams hits a backhand during her match against Caroline Wozniacki  at the Miami Open.
    Venus Williams hits a backhand during her match against Caroline Wozniacki at the Miami Open.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Venus Williams lost a bizarre match to Carla Suarez Navarro. After blowing Suarez Navarro off the court, 6-0, in the first set, Williams produced the comedy of unforced errors. She struggled to find the court, spraying errant forehands all over the place. She lost 6-0, 1-6, 5-7.

    Williams played tight. However, Williams maintained her energy, something that eluded her much of last year. Even at 34, Williams seems healthier and stronger than she has since being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome.

4. Carla Suarez Navarro

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    Carla Suarez Navarro glides into a backhand slice during her match against Serena Williams at the 2015 Miami Open.
    Carla Suarez Navarro glides into a backhand slice during her match against Serena Williams at the 2015 Miami Open.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Despite an embarrassing 58-minute loss to Serena Williams in Miami, Carla Suarez Navarro can feel good about her game. The Spaniard cracked the top 10 for the first time in her career.

    Her game is just a bad matchup for Williams. Still, her all-court finesse make her a tough out. This season, she has the most wins, five, against top-10 players.

3. Maria Sharapova

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    Maria Sharapova hits a forehand in a loss at the 2015 Miami Open.
    Maria Sharapova hits a forehand in a loss at the 2015 Miami Open.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Maria Sharapova may be ranked No. 2, but her performances at Indian Wells and in Miami drop her to No. 3 in the power rankings.

    Although consistently one of the toughest players to beat on the tour, Sharapova has looked uncertain in her post-Australian Open run. She's lost two of her last four matches, including a stunner in Miami to Daria Gavrilova, the aggressor in that match. 

    Sharapova began the year in a position to challenge Serena Williams for the No. 1 ranking. Now she has to hold off Halep who is a little over 300 points behind.

    Sharapova heads into the clay-court season with titles to defend in Stuttgart, Madrid and Roland Garros. If she continues to play like she has of late, she could drop out of the top five before Wimbledon.

2. Simona Halep

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    Simona Halep hits a backhand during her semifinal match against Serena Williams at the 2015 Miami Open.
    Simona Halep hits a backhand during her semifinal match against Serena Williams at the 2015 Miami Open.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Simona Halep is ranked No. 3. However she takes the No. 2 spot in the power rankings because she is playing like the second-best on the tour. 

    Jankovic destroyed Halep in the first set of the Indian Wells final. It looked like the Serb would make quick work of the Romanian. However, Halep hung in there, making her shots and watching as Jankovic imploded.

    Similarly, she looked done in her first set against Serena Williams in Miami.

    Halep's ability to adjust and regroup during a match is an improvement upon last year. Once a nervous wreck in big matches, Halep seems to have found that urgent calm needed to win championships.

1. Serena Williams

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    Serena Williams celebrates her eighth title in Miami.
    Serena Williams celebrates her eighth title in Miami.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Serena Williams, 18-0 this season, continues to dominate the tour, despite appearing less dominant. Williams struggled with her serve in Miami. During matches against Lisicki and Halep, Williams landed fewer than 50 percent of her first serves. 

    Yet, she found a way to win. Williams is currently taking a break. She's now spent 235 weeks at No. 1, fourth on the all-time record list. 

    Williams' defense of her title and semifinals win over Halep put her back at No. 1 in the Road to Singapore. Halep had taken the top spot after winning the Indian Wells title.