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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quest for No.1: Wozniacki Fumbles, Sharapova Stumbles

What's happening with the WTA?

By the end of 2011, we may have a new world number one, but really... who deserves it?

(Via Getty Images)
For a moment you think the crown should remain on Caroline Wozniacki. The "golden retriever" is an absolute backboard, pushing her opponents to do their very best if they want to capture a set. She has dominated the rankings for the past year, holding the top spot since October of 2010 (minus Clijsters' brief moment). All in all, the Dane has been the pinnacle of consistency... or has she?

Since getting drubbed by Hantuchova at the French Open, Wozniacki hasn't done what she once did so well: win matches. She was ousted by Cibulkova at Wimbledon, stunned by Vinci in Toronto, kicked aside by McHale in Cincinnati and most recently, lost a lead to Kanepi in Tokyo. If you saw match point (video in link), then you would have wondered who the higher ranked player really was...

What has she done lately? She won New Haven (woo...) and made it to the semis of the US Open, which, while impressive, is overshadowed by the fact that Serena made her look like a scrub on a practice court.

Then you think, maybe it's Maria Sharapova. Maybe she's finally returned to the intimidating play that earned her the top ranking some odd years ago. Then you watch her serve and realize you were mistaken.

AP via
Surprisingly, Sharapova has been the most consistent contender in the slams this year. She made the semifinals in Paris and the finals at Wimbledon, and despite a third round loss in NYC, people are expecting great things from her in the Asian Swing. That is... until she rolled her ankle.

During her quarterfinal clash against Petra Kvitova in Tokyo—a rematch of the Wimbledon championship—Sharapova's serve added a whole new problem to the Russian's already inconsistent play: the landing. While it's usually her toss or timing which falter, Sharapova actually had trouble with her feet during the eighth game of the match. Serving at 3-4, all six feet, two inches of tall blonde came crashing to the ground after landing awkwardly. Sitting on the court, Sharapova looked dismayed and bewildered. Moments later, she was forced to retire.

Who, then, is deserving of the top ranking? Is it Victoria Azarenka? The under-achieving Belarusian has every tool needed to be the world's no.1, and yet she continues to cap-off at second or third best. A natural born fighter, Azarenka can't be content with quarter and semifinals. It's time she takes advantage of her innate skills and win the titles that are waiting to be claimed.

What about Zvonareva, Li, or the rest of the top 10? While not all of them have enough points to be in contention for no. 1, almost all of them are as undeservingly deserving of the honor.

What it should come down to is the world year-end championships. With any luck, this final big tournament (a dogfight between the top 8 women) should be a contest for number one. I want to see Wozniacki, Sharapova and Azarenka all make it into the semifinals, hungry to end 2011 on top of the rankings.

But, as the WTA has come to teach us, expect the unexpected....

-Kedzie Teller, ITB Senior Editor


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