Ranking the Top 10 Women's Players After Australian Open 2017

Joe Kennard@@JoeKennardFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2017

Ranking the Top 10 Women's Players After Australian Open 2017

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    2017 Australian Open champion Serena Williams.
    2017 Australian Open champion Serena Williams.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    A blast from the past decided the first Grand Slam of 2017.

    Meeting in their first major final since Wimbledon 2009, the Williams sisters ruled the last two weeks at the Australian Open.

    Serena, 35, and Venus, 36, may be two of the elder stateswomen on the WTA Tour, but they don't play like it, proving the game still revolves around them after all these years.

    When the dust settled, it was Serena who reigned victorious 6-4, 6-4, winning her 23rd Grand Slam title (and seventh in Australia) to surpass Steffi Graf's Open era record. With her historic victory, she further solidified her case to be considered the greatest ever.

    "I really would like to take this moment to congratulate Venus," Serena said, via ESPN's Greg Garber. "She's an amazing person. There's no way I'd be at 23 without her. There's no way I'd be at one."

    On the other side of the net, Venus' unexpected runner-up finish was the tournament's most inspiring story. Her best showing at a major this decade, Venus engineered a stirring addition to the closing act of her career.

    Both players will rise in the rankings, with Serena taking back the world No. 1 spot from 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber. But how should the rest of the top 10 look?

    Based on their projected positions and performances in Melbourne, we slotted in the rest of the players behind Serena. 

    Did Venus do enough to make the cut? Who are the top risers and fallers? Browse through the following slides to find out the answers.

Honorable Mentions

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    CoCo Vandeweghe had a lot to celebrate Down Under.
    CoCo Vandeweghe had a lot to celebrate Down Under.SAEED KHAN/Getty Images

    Qualifying for her debut Grand Slam semifinal, CoCo Vandeweghe will also crack the top 20 for the first time in her career.

    During her two weeks in Melbourne, the big-hitting American overpowered Eugenie Bouchard and a pair of top-10 opponents: No. 7 Garbine Muguruza and No. 1 Kerber.

    Vandeweghe's ride ended in a three-set loss to Venus Williams in the semifinals, but she gained invaluable experience in the process.

    Also missing the cut? Another American, ninth-ranked Madison Keys. 

    Because of offseason surgery on her left wrist, Keys had to sit out the Australian Open. While that absence drops her slightly for now, she can make up ground upon her return this spring.

10. Simona Halep

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    An injured Halep again crashed out of the Australian Open.
    An injured Halep again crashed out of the Australian Open.Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    Simona Halep traveled to Melbourne as one of the top contenders and in search of her first Grand Slam title.

    Instead, she exited the Australian Open in the first round for the second consecutive year, this time at the hands of 52nd-ranked Shelby Rogers in a 6-3, 6-1 rout.

    Fighting tendinitis in her left knee, Halep couldn't make much of an impact, performing far below her usual standard.

    Set to defend a good deal of points this spring, getting 100 percent healthy should be the primary focus for Halep in the coming weeks.

9. Agnieszka Radwanska

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    Radwanska failed to defend semifinals points in Australia and will fall in the rankings.
    Radwanska failed to defend semifinals points in Australia and will fall in the rankings.Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

    If not for Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska would have been the biggest drop on our list.

    A semifinalist in Australia last year, she failed to defend those points, losing in the second round, 6-3, 6-2, to 34-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. That result came on the heels of an appearance in the final at Sydney, where Johanna Konta defeated her in straight sets.

    On Monday, Radwanska will tumble three spots in the official rankings to No. 6. She's slightly lower here, overtaken by players who performed better down under.

    Nearing her 28th birthday, the clock is ticking louder than ever for Radwanska to break through her Grand Slam barrier.

8. Svetlana Kuznetsova

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    Kuznetsova tosses her racket during a fourth-round loss in Melbourne.
    Kuznetsova tosses her racket during a fourth-round loss in Melbourne.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Thanks to early exits by the previous two players on our list, Svetlana Kuznetsova leaps past them for the eighth spot.

    But she fared only slightly better at the Australian Open, lasting until the fourth round, where fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat her 6-4, 6-3.

    Kuznetsova had a resurgence in 2016, ending the year inside the top 10 for the first time since 2009. She did so despite not making a Grand Slam quarterfinal, something the 31-year-old last accomplished at the 2014 French Open.

    A two-time major champion, Kuznetsova hasn't done enough on the big stages lately to warrant a better spot here.

7. Dominika Cibulkova

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    Cibulkova preparing to serve during her third-round match.
    Cibulkova preparing to serve during her third-round match.Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    The 2014 Australian Open runner-up, Dominika Cibulkova bowed out of Melbourne early for the second year in a row.

    Undone in the third round by Ekaterina Makarova in a three-set defeat, Cibulkova missed an opportunity to go further in a favorable section of the draw.

    To begin 2017, she's compiled a 4-3 record, a setback after winning last fall's WTA Finals. That's not strong enough to go any higher on our rankings.

6. Johanna Konta

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    Konta remained in high spirits after her quarterfinal loss.
    Konta remained in high spirits after her quarterfinal loss.Graham Denholm/Getty Images

    Konta's rise continued with a quarterfinal showing in Australia.

    The 25-year-old Brit first broke into the top 10 last year, and she's playing like she intends to stay there for the foreseeable future.

    Winning the title in Sydney over Radwanska, Konta came to Melbourne full of confidence. And it showed as she sailed through the first four rounds without dropping a set. Along the way, she defeated a talented trio of players in Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki and Ekaterina Makarova to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals for the second straight time.

    Serena Williams schooled her with a 6-2, 6-3 masterpiece, but Konta found positives despite the result.

    "I think it was probably one of the best experiences of my life," Konta told Agence France-Presse (h/t Yahoo). "I think there's so many things I can learn from that, so many things I can look to improve on, also acknowledge some things that I did well.”

    Now 12-2 to start 2017, Konta's arrow points firmly upward.

5. Garbine Muguruza

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    Muguruza's stock is back on the rise.
    Muguruza's stock is back on the rise.WILLIAM WEST/Getty Images

    Unable to mount much resistance against the power of Vandeweghe, seventh-ranked Muguruza lost her quarterfinal match, 6-2, 6-3.

    "Her serve, her shots were there," Muguruza told WTATennis.com. "She barely missed. So it was a pretty good performance from her."

    There wasn't much Muguruza could do to slow the Vandeweghe train.

    Overall, she enjoyed a solid two weeks down under. Racing through her first four matches in straight sets, she advanced to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time since winning the 2016 French Open.

    In the official rankings, Muguruza will stay at No. 7. But we'll bump her ahead of Halep, Cibulkova and Radwanska, who all fell before the quarterfinals.

    That post-Roland Garros hangover that hindered Muguruza last year? It might already be a thing of the past.

4. Venus Williams

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    Williams defied expectations by making the Australian Open final.
    Williams defied expectations by making the Australian Open final.Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    The feel-good story of the 2017 Australian Open, Williams advanced to her first major final in nearly eight years, just falling short of completing the career Golden Slam.

    That magical journey will see her soar six spots in the rankings to No. 11, but she gets a larger reward from us after the beautiful tennis she conjured Down Under.

    Losing only one set on the way to the championship match, Venus fought valiantly before ceding the title to younger sister Serena.

    "To enjoy this moment and be breathing, this is a beautiful thing," Venus said after the final, per USA Today's Sandra Harwitt. "I’m so happy to be able to play in front of you."

    Serena has to feel the same way about her older sister, who's endured illness to give her career new life.

3. Karolina Pliskova

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    Will Pliskova nab a Grand Slam title later in 2017?
    Will Pliskova nab a Grand Slam title later in 2017?Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Because of her memorable run to last year's U.S. Open final, Karolina Pliskova, 24, came into this season as a trendy pick to become a Grand Slam champion.

    She didn't accomplish that mission in Melbourne, but she remains on the precipice of getting there.

    Advancing past the third round at the Australian Open for the first time, Pliskova won three of her first four matches without dropping a set. In the third round, she earned a marathon 4-6, 6-0, 10-8 victory over Jelena Ostapenko before demolishing Daria Gavrilova to reach the second week.

    Her stay ended when 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni, the tournament's underdog darling, beat her in three sets. It was a disappointing finish to an otherwise strong fortnight.

    On Monday, she's projected to climb to a new career-high No. 3, the same spot she occupies on our list.

2. Angelique Kerber

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    Kerber lost her throne and No. 1 ranking in Australia.
    Kerber lost her throne and No. 1 ranking in Australia.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The slump continues for Kerber.

    Following up her first-round loss in Sydney, Kerber failed to defend her championship at the Australian Open, falling in a 6-2, 6-3 fourth-round blowout to Vandeweghe.

    "I was not feeling the ball at all tonight," USA Today's Sandra Harwitt quoted Kerber as saying afterwards. "I was not playing good from the first point."

    Shaky all tournament, Kerber needed three sets to advance through each of her first two matches before Vandeweghe knocked her out. The spark just wasn't there for her this year.

    With that loss, Kerber's 2017 record stands at 4-3. She'll also relinquish her No. 1 ranking after Serena Williams' run to the title.

    Unless she regains her 2016 form at upcoming events, Kerber risks sliding down further.

1. Serena Williams

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    A beaming Williams eyes her championship trophy.
    A beaming Williams eyes her championship trophy.WILLIAM WEST/Getty Images

    The queen stays the queen.

    Serena roared to the finish line for a seventh time in Australia, making history in the process and reclaiming her throne from Kerber.

    She did so without dropping a set the entire tournament, marking one of the most dominant showings in her career. Not bad for someone who missed last fall because of injuries.

    Healthy and fit again, Williams couldn't be stopped. Ruthlessly efficient and laser-focused, she rewrote the record books by lifting the trophy above her head.

    Occupying first place both in the official rankings and on our list, Williams shows no hints of slowing down any time soon.

    Get ready to see her win a 24th Grand Slam title in the near future.


    All statistics are courtesy of WTATennis.com unless otherwise noted. 

    Joe Kennard is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.