The seasonal move to clay plus a spate of injuries has shaken our power rankings as we crown a new No. 1 player.
The Top 10
1. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Current WTA Ranking: No. 8)
Last four events: Rome (finalist) 550 pts; Porsche Grand Prix (winner) 470 pts; Miami (semifinalist) 450 pts; Indian Wells (second round) 50 pts. Total pts—1520.
Kuznetsova shot like a rocket to the top of the power rankings based on her last three events. She found her game on the red European clay and announced her return to the top of the women’s game in sublime fashion.
Consistency, so long missing in her play, returned and propped up her faltering WTA ranking. Although she stumbled in the finals against Safina, expect her to do well in Madrid.
2. Dinara Safina (Current WTA Ranking: No. 1)
Last four events: Rome (winner) 800 pts; Porsche Grand Prix (finalist) 320 pts; Miami (third round) 80 pts; Indian Wells (quarterfinals) 250 pts. Total pts—1450.
The new WTA-ranked top player has finally found her form on the red clay. After an exhausting three hour contest battling Venus Williams in the Rome semis on Friday, Safina came back to defeat the hottest player on tour at the moment in straight sets during the Rome finals.
Safina is a whisper behind Kuznetsova in our power rankings. It marked Dinara’s first tournament win of the season—but, we suspect, not the last. She will be in the spotlight during Madrid and then will hope to peak for the upcoming French Open at the end of this month.
3. Victoria Azarenka (Current WTA Ranking: No. 9)
Last four events: Rome (semifinalist) 350 pts; Porsche Grand Prix (second round) 60 pts; Miami (winner) 1000 pts; Indian Wells (semifinalist) 450 pts. Total pts—1860.
Azarenka has been slowed by recent injuries, even though her overall season remains first rate. Still she continues to apply the pressure and work her way forward. What sets her apart is her consistency.
Without the injury, she may have been more of a factor. But as the clay season progresses, there are players passing her by. Expect there to be further movement during the Madrid tournament this week.
4. Vera Zvonareva (Current WTA Ranking: No. 6)
Last four events: Charleston (third round) 80 pts; Miami (third round) 80 pts; Indian Wells (winner) 1000 pts; Dubai (quarterfinals) 200 pts. Total pts—1360.
Zvonareva’s injury has kept her off the clay. She is not playing Madrid and will fall off the power rankings without further action. Despite her early success, she will have to fight her way back to the top as the season progresses because other players have found their footing and are finding great success on the clay. They are not likely to relinquish their hold as the French Open looms on the horizon.
5. Venus Williams (Current WTA Ranking: No. 5)
Last four events: Rome (semifinals) 350 pts; Charleston (round 3) 80 pts; Miami (semifinals) 450 pts; Acapulco (winner) 280 pts. Total pts—1160.
Venus has pulled ahead of sister Serena Williams in our power rankings because she has been playing well enough while Serena suffered further injury. Venus’ tough loss to Dinara Safina during the Rome semifinals illustrates her determination and her fight.
She presented Safina an ultimatum—“Either you beat me with your best or I am not leaving!” Venus has been playing as well on clay as we have ever witnessed. Her path in Madrid is not bad, although if seeding comes to fruition, she will meet Caroline Wozniacki in round three.
We anticipate Venus doing well and following that up with much better results at Roland Garros.
6. Serena Williams (Current WTA Ranking: No. 2)
Last four events: Rome (second round) 60 pts; Marbella (first round) 1 pt; Miami (finalist) 700 pts; Dubai (semifinals) 350 pts. Total pts—1111.
Serena lost her No. 1 ranking and is currently suffering from injury. Her clay experience in 2009 falls to about zero and her power rankings are also in a tail spin. Serena is seeded No. 2 in Madrid.
Doing well at this tournament will help her overall rankings and improve her chances on the red clay of Roland Garros. As usual for Serena, it's a wait-and-see game. You can never count her out until the last bell, but we wonder if she will show up for the weigh-in?
7. Ana Ivanovic (Current WTA Ranking: No. 7)
Last four events: Rome (third round) 110 pts; Miami (third round) 80 pts; Indian Wells (finalist) 700 pts; Dubai (quarterfinalist) 200 pts. Total pts—1090.
Injured again and withdrawn from Madrid, Ivanovic continues to hang onto her top 10 power ranking by virtue of her showing in Indian Wells. Soon she will join her Serbian compatriot by falling to the bottom of the charts.
The likelihood of defending her French Open title appears to be shrinking as the 2009 clay season culminates in Paris at Stade Roland Garros in another couple of weeks.
8. Caroline Wozniacki (Current WTA Ranking: No. 11)
Last four events: Rome (third round) 110 pts; Porsche Grand Prix (second round) 60 pts; Charleston (finalist) 320 pts; MPS Group Championships (winner) 280 pts. Total Pts—770.
The teenager is adjusting to the clay surface and she should be pleased. She has fought hard for some minor success on clay, which usually doesn't suit her game the best. Seeded No. 9 at Madrid, a potential match up could come against Venus Williams in the third round.
Wozniacki is a fighter and she will learn fast. Expect her play on the European clay to improve.
9. Agnieszka Radwanska (Current WTA Ranking: No. 12)
Last four events: Rome (quarterfinalist) 200 pts; Porsche Grand Prix (quarterfinalist) 120 pts; Miami (fourth round) 140 pts; Indian Wells (quarterfinalist) 250 pts. Total pts—710.
Radwanska has been fighting injuries as well during most of 2009 and has not enjoyed the success she perhaps deserves. Injury is a way of life on the WTA and each player must deal with it.
Because of her injuries and the lack of success on tour, Radwanska has dropped out of the top 10 WTA rankings and is now engaged in fighting her way back into that elite group. She is seeded No. 10 at Madrid.
10. Jelena Jankovic (Current WTA Ranking: No. 4)
Last four events: Rome (quarterfinalist) 200 pts; Porsche Grand Prix (quarterfinalist) 120 pts; Marbella (winner) 280 pts; Miami (second round) 50 pts. Total pts—650.
Except for Marbella, Jankovic has pretty much been invisible. Her quarterfinal showings at the last two events, however, show new signs of life. Jelena professes to be working hard at re-establishing herself at the top of the game again.
She is seeded No. 4 in Madrid and has a decent chance to advance far into the tournament.
Outside Looking In
Sabine Lisicki (Current WTA Ranking: No. 38)
Last four events: Estoril (quarterfinalist) 70 pts; Porsche Grand Prix (second round) 60 pts; Charleston (winner) 470 pts; MPS Group Championships (second round) 30 pts. Total pts—630.
Sabine’s first tournament win in Charleston has propelled her close to the top 10 power rankings, with injuries sidelining many of the higher ranked WTA players. She is just a stone’s throw from No. 10 Jankovic.
While her power game continues to improve her standing, she needs to develop some consistency in her game to allow her to improve and move up.
Elena Dementieva (Current WTA Ranking: No. 3)
Last four events: Porsche Grand Prix (semifinalist) 200 pts; Charleston (semifinalist) 200 pts; Miami (fourth round) 140 pts; Indian Wells (second round) 50 pts. Total pts—590.
After starting the season in sterling fashion, Dementieva fell off the radar and is now having to make her way back to the top, trying to regain her form and her confidence.
She is seeded No. 3 in Madrid and would, if seedings held true to form, meet Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals. Time will tell if that match comes to pass.
Also, keep your eyes on Anabel Mendia Garrigues of Spain!