Today’s Women’s Feature (3/19)

Written by: on 18th March 2013
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Tennis Australian Open 2012
Today's Women's Feature (3/19)

epa03075024 Angieszka Radwanska of Poland serves to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in their quarter final match at the Rod Laver Arena, at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 24 January 2012. EPA/DAVID CROSLING  |

Women’s Look Forward: Miami


Could this week be the one that finally knocks Agnieszka Radwanska off her seemingly-permanent perch as #4?

Not likely. Last year’s champion has a big lead on #3 Li Na. But if you asked people what Radwanska did to earn the #5 ranking, winning this title would probably be the thing they mention. So, psychologically at least, it may be her biggest test.

And, to add to the fun, she’s in the same half as Serena Williams. Serena is, of course, the #1 seed, with Radwanska #4. Which perhaps gives us some poetic justice in the bottom half. Because the WTA uses last week’s rankings to seed this event, Victoria Azarenka is the #2 seed and Maria Sharapova #3. But, since they’re in the same half, they’ll get the chance, potentially to see which one should be ranked higher….

The next four seeds down are #5 Li Na, who missed Indian Wells and had the bad luck to end up in Serena’s quarter; #6 Angelique Kerber, who finally came back to life last week and who is in Azarenka’s quarter; #7 Petra Kvitova, who is in Radwanska’s quarter, and #8 Sara Errani, in Sharapova’s quarter.

The Round of Sixteen would see Serena face #13 Dominika Cibulkova. Li would face #9 Caroline Wozniacki. Radwanska would take on #16 Sloane Stephens. Kvitova would go against #10 Marion Bartoli. Errani is drawn against #12 Ana Ivanovic. Sharapova’s opponent is #14 Maria Kirilenko, whom she clobbered at Indian Wells. (It’s a pretty nice draw for Sharapova: A qualifier or a wildcard, then Elena Vesnina, then Kirilenko, then Errani. It could hardly have worked out better for her.) Kerber goes against #11 Nadia Petrova. Azarenka’s potential opponent would be #15 Roberta Vinci.

You’ll note a missing name in there: Samantha Stosur, who would have been the #9 seed, is not in the field — the only potential seed to miss the event. The next player missing is #40 Kaia Kanepi.

If we look at third round matches in the top half, it’s Serena against #31 Wickmayer, Cibulkova against #17 Safarova, Wozniacki versus #23 Pavlyuchenkova, #5 Li against #25 Lepchenko, Radwanska versus #27 Barthel, Stephens against #19 Venus Williams (now there is an interesting contest…), Bartoli versus #24 .Goerges, and Kvitova against Flipkens. In the bottom half, Errani would take on #26 Tamira Paszek, Ivanovic would face #18 Ekaterina Makarova, Kirilenko is drawn against #21 Klara Zakopalova, Sharapova is in the same section as #29 Vesnina. Kerber would face #17 Cirstea, Petrova #22 Jankovic, Vinci #20 Suarez Navarro, and Azarenka #32 Cornet.

That still leaves some fairly big-name unseeded players, such as Flavia Pennetta, who might face Serena in round two. Bartoli might face long-troubled Andrea Petkovic, who is in on a wildcard. Kvitova might have to face Peng Shuai. Errani will start against either Tsvetana Pironkova or Daniela Hantuchova. Paszek is likely to face Sabine Lisicki. Makarova will likely open against her countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kerber might have to take on what is left of Francesca Schiavone. Petrova will open against either Zheng Jie or Yaroslava Shvedova. And Vinci will likely start against Christina McHale.

The Rankings

This may be the most interesting week in the rankings in a long, long time. Formally, at least, absolutely everything is in play, from #1 on down.

That’s in part because the points to be defended are scattered so far up and down the rankings list. Agnieszka Radwanska was last year’s champion. Maria Sharapova was the finalist. Caroline Wozniacki and Marion Bartoli were semifinalists. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, and Venus Williams were semifinalists. Of the rest of the Top Ten, Samantha Stosur lost in the fourth round; Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani, and Petra Kvitova all lost their openers.

That means that Serena Williams has a big but not an insurmountable lead in the contest for #1. She is about 800 points ahead of Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, who are effectively tied. So if Azarenka or Sharapova wins Miami, and Serena loses by the fourth round, then the tournament winner will be #1. Otherwise, Serena is #1. As between Azarenka and Sharapova, whoever lasts longer is #2 (or just possibly #1), with ties to Azarenka.

#4 Agnieszka Radwanska has almost an 800 point lead on #5 Li Na, but if Li wins Miami, she could overtake Radwanska if Radwanska loses in the first few rounds.

#6 Angelique Kerber is fewer than 250 points behind Li, so she could move up with a quarterfinal or better, assuming Li falls a lot sooner than Kerber.

But Kerber could also lose the #6 spot. Errani or Kvitova could pass her, although either would need at least a semifinal. As between Errani and Kerber, they are effectively tied; whoever lasts longer will be at least #7, with ties to Errani.

We know that those eight — Serena, Azarenka, Sharapova, Radwanska, Li, Kerber, Errani, and Kvitova — will be the Top Eight in some order. Odds are that the other two in the Top Ten will be Stosur and Wozniacki; Wozniacki needs a quarterfinal to have any hope of keeping the #9 ranking. But the gap below Wozniacki is even larger; Petrova, the player closest to #10, needs a final to move above #11, and everyone else needs a title.

Interestingly, we have the same Top Twenty in safe points as we had coming in, with the sole exception of Venus Williams, a mere #22 in safe points. Potentially out of the Top Thirty is Yanina Wickmayer, with Tamira Paszek the leading candidate to replace here.

In doubles, Errani/Vinci will stay on top without even breaking a sweat.

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