Tennis: Who Has Best Shot at No. 1 Ranking: Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova?

Madhusudan G RaoContributor IIIFebruary 7, 2013

Aug 4, 2012; London, United Kingdom; USA player Serena Williams (right) with Maria Sharapova (RUS) prior to the gold medal match during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Wimbledon. Williams defeated Sharapova in straight sets to win the gold medal. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The first Grand Slam of 2013 is complete, and we had a repeat winner on the women's side who was not Serena or Venus Williams or Maria Sharapova!

Let us read the sentence once again. Did we get it right? Was Victoria Azarenka the deserving winner? 

Well, this article doesn't focus on that aspect but more on the point of who can catch up on the Belarusian.

The two contenders for Azarenka's top position are very well-known, but whether their form and fitness accompanies them to every tournament is a big guess.

In the Australian Open, the form that Sharapova showed in the initial rounds was ominous for her opponents. But, she slumped to an easy (by her standards) defeat to Li Na.

Serena on the other hand, lost to the new teenage American sensation, Sloane Stephens, in the quarterfinal in a well-fought three-set match.

How these defeats will play on the minds of Serena and Sharapova remains to be seen. Of course, they are senior enough to brush aside these matches and focus on the next tournament.

But, can they rally back to catch up with Azarenka in the WTA rankings?

Let us look at the points that the top three players gained after the Australian Open.

Azarenka was defending 2,000 points which she successfully won back after her title win.

Sharapova, on the other hand, lost 500 points after her performance while Serena gained 220 points (due to her comparatively poor performance last year).

Thanks to the difference in points, Serena moved ahead in the rankings to stay mid-point between Sharapova and Azarenka.

The next question then is when will Serena and Sharapova play again on the Tour. According to NDTV, the latest reports suggest that Serena will play in the Qatar Open (where her sister Venus has pulled out). Sharapova's website also suggests that she will be in Doha for the same tournament.

The matchup between these two (as well as the presence of top-seed Azarenka) makes the tournament one to follow closely.

Will this tournament see the rankings change? Not by much (maybe the swapping of Sharapova and Serena), but it will give us an indication of what to expect in the following tournaments.

Sharapova won the French Open in 2012, and she must be really looking forward to the clay court season to further her claims. Serena has not won much recently on red clay, but she will try to set her record straight.

All this makes the women's tour an exciting one to follow in 2013. Don't you think so?