Will world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka be able to hold off both of those challengers for the top spot on the WTA rankings in 2013?
All three of them were dominant at some point in 2012, perhaps none more so than Williams, who won two Grand Slam singles titles, the Olympic Gold Medal in singles and the year-end championship. Perhaps fittingly, Williams was named the player of the year on the women's tour after such achievements.
However, there have been few hot starts to a season in recent years like the one Azarenka had to kick off last year. After capturing the warmup tournament in Sydney, Australia, she went on to win her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Victories in Doha and Indian Wells brought her record to 23-0 to start the year.
With records being spoken of and talks of repeating what Novak Djokovic had accomplished on the men's side the year before, Azarenka surprisingly had her winning streak snapped in Miami by Marion Bartoli. From there, it was off to the clay courts, where she made two finals on the dirt but lost early in Rome and at the French Open.
The French went to Sharapova and post Roland Garros, Williams began to make her move. But Azarenka made a deep run at Wimbledon and the Olympics.
The hard-court season was basically nonexistent until the U.S. Open, when she memorably served for the title against Williams. Had Azarenka won then, it would have been the perfect bookend to her Grand Slam season.
She did well, though, to rebound from that crushing loss and went on another winning streak with titles in Beijing and Linz, Austria before the year-end event.
Azarenka has always relished a challenge: Note her on-court demeanor. The fiery star faces a huge fight ahead of her in 2013 with Sharapova and Williams playing up to their Hall-of-Fame caliber.
One thing's for sure: Azarenka will be ready to do battle to hold on to the No. 1 ranking.
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