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WTA Ranking: Comparing 2014 and 2013

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TENNIS WTA RANKING – How much has women’s tennis changed over the last 12 months? Serena Williams is still world number 1, but Azarenka is in crisis and Li Na has retired from the professional game. Claudio Gilardelli, translated by P. Sassoon

 

With the season over, it is time to analyse the last 12 months. What has changed over the last year? A superficial observer would say not much, Serena Williams is still number 1 at 33 years old. Yet there are many changes looking beyond the first place of the rankings, let’s have a look.

THE TOP TEN

Looking at the end-of-year rankings of the 24th of November 2014 with the that of 2013 you can notice that there four new entries in the top 10. Halep, Bouchard and Cibulkova are in the best 10 for the first time and there is also a welcome return like Ivanovic at number 5. World numbers 2 and 3 of 2013, Azarenka and Li Na, have made way to other players for different reasons, the Belarusian has dropped to 31st through injury and the Chinese decided to retire. Also Errani and Jankovic have dropped out of the top 10 and are now around 15th place.

photo1Some more numbers:

tab2Serena Williams has finished a season in the top ten 13 times in her career, four as world number. Her longest streak in the top ten was from 1999 to 2004 when she finished tenth or better for six years in a row. The only other athlete in the top 10 to have been end-of-year number one is Caroline Wozniacki who managed this feat twice in 2010 and 2011. The other two former world number one’s, Sharapova and Ivanovic, have not managed to end the year on top of the rankings. Also the American has been voted the best player of the year for the sixth time ahead of Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic and Li Na.

Six players have been consistently in the top ten over the last three seasons: Williams (3rd year), Sharapova, Radwanska, Kvitova (4th year) and Kerber (3rd). The German is the only one of the bunch not to have played a Grand Slam final, but her consistency has allowed her to remain in the top 10 since the 21st of May 2012. Her highest ranking was 5th.

Amongst the new entries, Eugenie Bouchard is the one to have climbed the most places in the last 12 months so it is not surprising that she has been voted most improved player of 2014. At the end of 2013 the Canadian was 32nd and today she is 7th with a best ranking of 5th. Eugenie’s ranking is the result of having played three Major finals in the first three Slams of the year. Cibulkova instead is number 10 mainly thanks to the Australian Open final where she collected 1300 points of her 3052.

Ana Ivanovic is an unexpected and welcome return to this level. After a couple of years of absence during which we thought we lost her at the highest level, it already seemed like a miracle that she was returned at a medium level (number 13 in 2012, 16 in 2013). I think nobody would have bet on her return in the top 5 in 2014. Ana didn’t shine in the Slams (excluding the Australian Open when she defeated Serena Williams), but she undoubtedly had a positive year winning 4 tournaments (Tokyo, Birmingham, Monterrey, Auckland), reaching two finals (Cincinnati and Stuttgart) and a couple of semifinals as well (Beijing and Rome).

Instead Halep cannot be considered a surprise. In 2013 she had already left her mark with 6 tournament wins (in 6 finals) ending the year as world number 11. 12 months ago she was already being touted as one of the players to watch in 2014, and she was.

So what can we expect in 2015? The questions are always the same. Who will be number 1? Will Halep, Bouchard and Ivanovic confirm their 2014? Who will break into the top 10? Will it be the more experienced players like Pennetta or Petkovic? Who will drop out? And what is going to happen to Azarenka? It is impossible to make reliable predictions, but we can always make some hypothesis based on personal opinion and the current state of affairs.

POSITIONS 11 TO 20

The top 20 places in the ranking have changed significantly. Halep and Ivanovic have migrated to better positions, Errani and Jankovic are worryingly dropping. Suarez Navarro is the only name in these positions that was there also in 2013, but it isn’t a positive note for the Spaniard. After jumping from number 34 to number 17 in 2013, it was expected that she could make a further step up, but it didn’t happen in 2014. Carla reached her best ranking (14) in September, so is this the best she can achieve? Or is her talent good enough to propel her to better positions? Personally I believe she should be between the 8th and 12th place, but to do so she has to improve the mental aspect to her game.

photo3Let’s see who is up and who is down. The biggest disappointment is certainly Stephens. In 12 months she dropped 24 places down to number 36. In 2014 the American failed to improve or even maintain herself at the same level. She crashed out of tournaments in the first round 8 times. The fourth round in Melbourne and Paris remain her best results in Slams. In other tournaments the best results were two quarterfinals in Indian Wells and Birmingham.

Excluding Stosur (-4 places, n.22) who is still close to the best players and Bartoli who retired, the rest of the 2013 top 20 have lost many places. Vinci lost 33 positions and is now 47th, Flipkens -25 to 45th, Lisicki -11 to 26th and most of all Kirilenko who dropped from 19th to 190th but it has to be said that she had to deal with injury problems. Out of all of these names the German seems to be the only one to have a real chance of getting back into the top 20 in a short time. After Wimbledon she fell from 19th to 33rd, but she came back to 24th in September before settling at the 26th position.

Of the top 20 there are only 2 players who haven’t been so high in the rankings before, Makarova (11th) and Muguruza (20th). The Spanish player is the one that has made the biggest improvement by jumping ahead by 43 places compared to 2013 with some excellent results. She reached the quarterfinals in Paris and the last 16 in Melbourne. She won the Hobart tournament starting from the qualifiers reaching also the finals in Florianopolis and the semifinals in Sofia, Tokyo and Marrakech. Against top 10 players, Muguruza has a record of 3 wins and 5 defeats (the highlight was the defeat of Serena Williams in Paris) and against the top 20 she has won 7 times losing just twice. Makarova’s ranking is the result of her excellent performances in the Majors (semifinals at the US Open, quarterfinals in London and 4th round in Australia). If she is able to beat players ranked below her, the Russian has a chance of breaking into the top 10 in the early part of 2015.

The other players have been in these positions before if not better. Safarova (16) ended 2012 as 17th, Pennetta (12) and Petkovic (13) are former top 10 players, Venus Williams (18) needs no introduction and Cornet (19) was world number 11 even if it was in 2009.

Also in this case the doubts are the obvious ones for players that have been around for a while like Pennetta or Venus Williams. Or players in crisis like Jankovic and Errani. Or even who will be the next revelation.

THE TOP 100

For the athletes placed between positions 21 and 100 I decided to focus on the new entries, on players that have dropped out of the top 100, the players that made the big improvements or the biggest falls. For clarity and simplicity I will let the tables speak leaving each one of you the task of going to check the situation of their favourite player.

25 players have left the Top 100:

photo4Briefly I want to highlight the big drops of Hampton (-301 places), Robson (-885) and Medina Garrigues (-355). They have been replaced by:

tab5Out of these players, only 12 are in the top 100 for the first time: Bencic, Diyas, Smitkova, Rogers, Siniakova, Diatchenlo, Friedsam, Konjuh, Brengle, Gibbs, Zheng and Mestach.

Here are the 30 players that improved the most:

tab6It is obvious that breaking into the top 100 from far behind represents the biggest improvements so it is to no surprise that in the top 18 places of the most improved we find 18 players from the previous table. But if we compare the two lists and make a simple subtraction we can see that:

tab7Camila Giorgi is the second player amongst the top 100 to have progressed the most since 2013. One of the surprises of the year, Zahlavova Strycova is first, Pliskova third, Muguruza fourth and Eugenie Bouchard ninth.

Here are the players that have lost the most places in the rankings, but are still in the top 100:

tab8The names of Azarenka and Stephens stand out in this table, but this table also highlights the fact that all the Italian players (Schiavone, Vinci, Knapp and Errani) lost places except for Giorgi and Pennetta.

YOUNG PLAYERS

We can argue what the term “young” means in tennis, in my personal ranking system it is applied to players under 20 years of age. In this case I wanted to include also athletes born in 1993 and 1992 to have a more complete vision of the new generation.

tab9What emerges is Keys is the only player representing the class of 1995 in the top 100 (is there a missing generation?). There are also just a few players born in 1996 and 1997, but Konjuh, Bencic (Newcomer of the year) and Siniakova have progressed significantly during the last 12 months (as the next table shows). Vekic confirmed her place in the top 100 for the second time.

(“Età” means age, “RNK” is ranking, “Scarto” means difference with previous year)

tab10There is the same number of under 22 players, 30, as a year ago. The difference is that in 2014 ten players broke into the top 100 for the first time compared to 15 in 2013.

tab11Can we talk of a slower pace of change and rise of the new generation? This feeling is confirmed by the slight rise in the average age of the top 100 players, in 2014 it’s 25.05 compared to 24.81 of a year ago.

(“Età” means age, “Media” means average)

tab12Yet, if we look at the top of the rankings then the tendency is different:

tab13The top 10 is younger by about a year and overall also the age of the top 100 has fallen, albeit by a small amount, indicating that the rise of the new players hasn’t stalled.

NATIONS

In the last 12 months we have a reduced “diversity” in the top 100. In 2013 there were 37 nationalities represented, in 2014 it is 33. Israel, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil and Taipei have dropped out, but Bulgaria is back. The USA has the biggest contingent (12 athletes) followed by the Czech Republic (8), Russia and Germany (7), and Italy (6).

tab14bThe USA, Russia and Romania have gained a player, but their average ranking has increased. Italy and Serbia are not doing as well as a year ago. Serbia has a top 10 player, a top 15 player that are both not to be considered young anymore, but they have a group of younger players emerging (Jovanovski n57, Krunic n.102 and Jaksic n130). Italy on the other hand does not have a new generation of players emerging. The average age of the Italian contingent in the top 100 is 29, only Giorgi was born in 1991. Behind her there is Barbieri (born in 1991, ranked 204) and Burnett (1992, n240).

Germany has improved it’s average ranking with 7 players in the top 100 like 12 months ago. Also France and Spain have improved their average ranking, they lost a player in the top 100 though, and the Czech Republic.

The Czechs are on the ascendency. They have three more players in the top 100 compared to 2013 and their average ranking has dropped by almost 10 places. Considering that two of the new entries in the top 100 are Siniakova and Smitkova, will the Czechs become the new superpower in world tennis?

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Alycia Parks Stuns Garcia To Win First Tour Title In Lyon

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Image via WTA Twitter

Rising star Alycia Parks is on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 50 for the first time after stunning world No.4 Caroline Garcia in straight sets to win the Lyon Open. 

 

22-year-old Parks, who contested just three WTA main draws last year, battled to a 7-6(7), 7-5, win over Garcia who is the first top-five player she has beaten on the Tour. Throughout the final, the American didn’t drop serve after saving all four break points she faced. In total, she produced 28 winners with 15 of those being aces. It is only the second time she has beaten a top 10 player on the Tour after Maria Sakkari at the Ostrava Open last year. 

“I want to thank you for all coming out, this title means a lot to me,” Parks said afterwards. “France has a special part in my heart right now. I want to congratulate Garcia, you had an amazing week, keep playing how you’re playing.”

The victory caps off what has been a breakthrough week for Parks who dropped two sets in five matches played which was in her opening two rounds. Earlier in the tournament, she also defeated seventh seed Danka Kovinic and fourth seed Petra Martic to become only the third unseeded player to win a WTA event so far this year.  

Parks was ranked 199th in the world 12 months ago but has climbed up the rankings and is now set to break into the world’s top 70 for the first time on Monday. Towards the end of last year, she won back-to-back WTA 125 tournaments and has now won 16 out of her last 17 matches played. Her only loss was to Czech teenager Sara Bejlek in the second round of qualifying at the Australian Open.

As for Garcia, Sunday’s clash was the first time she had contested a WTA final in her home city of Lyon. Coming into her clash with Parks, she had won 10 out of her last 11 finals played on the Tour. It is the 40th time in her career she has lost to an American player in a WTA main draw.

Congrats on an amazing week and the (past) couple of months have been unbelievable (for you),” said Garcia. “It’s your first WTA title today and it was well deserved. You played amazing and if you keep playing like this you are for sure going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks, who graduated from High School in 2019, is coached on the Tour by her father Michael who has been her main mentor since childhood. 

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Garbine Muguruza Switches Focus From Ranking Points To Enjoyment In Hunt For Form

Ranked outside the WTA top 80 for the first time since 2013, Muguruza is hoping to stage a comeback with the help of a new perspective.

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Garbine Muguruza (ESP) waves to the crowd after defeating Fiona Ferro (FRA) on No.2 Court in the first round of the Ladies' Singles at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 1 Monday 28/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

To say that last year was tough for Gabine Muguruza is a bit of an understatement. 

 

The Spaniard started 2022 among the best players in the world and was ranked No.3 as a result of her triumph at the WTA Finals just a couple of months earlier. However, the year didn’t go as planned for two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza who won just 12 matches. In total, she played in 17 tournaments but only managed to score back-to-back victories in two of them. In October she plummeted down the rankings from 13th to 57th. 

Muguruza’s problems have continued into this season. She is yet to win a match and is now down to 82nd in the world which is her lowest position in almost a decade. January 2013 was the last time the 29-year-old was ranked outside the top 100. 

“I’ve had so many moments in my career where I’ve been so high, and other moments when I’ve not been so high. It’s a process of trying to get back up there,” the former world No.1 told The National. “Now I’m focusing on training hard and being humble.
“You have to know that maybe you haven’t had the success recently as you had in other years, but that’s fine because things can change very quickly.
“With tennis, one week it can go wrong, then next week it can go well, then everything changes again. I think experience helps me to stay calm in the not-so-good moments when I haven’t been playing as well or results haven’t followed.”

It is a frustrating situation for somebody of Muguruza’s ability to be in. At the 2021 WTA Finals, she scored four wins over top-10 players but since then hasn’t beaten anybody ranked higher than No.31 in the world. 

Eager to get back to the top of the sport, she has decided to change her outlook on how she approaches the Tour. Muguruza, who is coached by Conchita Martinez, now says her main priority is enjoying her tennis. If this is achieved, she is confident the results will follow in due course. 

“I feel that this year it’s more about keeping it calm and more simple,” she said. “Last year I put myself under a lot of pressure, telling myself to keep going to stay at the top all the time. That definitely didn’t help me, and it was a bit of a struggle.
“This year, yes ranking is important – I’ve been at every possible ranking – but that is not my priority anymore. Now it’s about enjoying my time on court and taking the trophies back home, then we’ll see what the ranking is.”

Muguruza’s next test will be at the Abu Dhabi Open, which will get underway on Monday. She has been drawn to play Karolina Pliskova in the first round who recently reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Then if she wins, she faces Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. 

“I played some good tennis [in Australia]. A bit disappointed about the quarter-final but overall my level is there. Of course, there are some things to improve to become more solid but overall the situation is quite good,” Pliskova said ahead of the first round clash. 

12 months ago Muguruza reached the third round in Abu Dhabi before losing to Maria Sakkari. 

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Injured Bianca Andreescu retires From Semi-Final match In Hua Hin

The Canadian was looking to book a spot in her first WTA final of the year but was forced to retire after injuring her right shoulder.

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Lesia Tsurenko booked her spot in the final of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire whilst down 7-6, 4-0.

 

The first set was extremely tight with the first four games being breaks of serve. Andreescu got the crucial break to lead 5-3 and served for the first set but the Ukrainian fought back to level the set at 5-5. Then Tsurenko was the one to break serve but she was able to close out the first set.

After the opener, the semi-final clash went completely one-sided with Tsurenko taking over by winning four games off the trot before Andreescu decided to call it quits. The Canadian had a medical timeout during a second set changeover.

Tsurenko gave full credit to her opponent and despite the retirement says it was a very difficult match.

“Bianca is such an amazing player she said. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today”. She said.

Tsurenko is looking to win her fifth WTA title and will be playing in her first final since 2019 in Hua Hin. She faces the China’s Lin Zhu who earlier in the day beat the number seven seed Xinyu Wang 6-2, 6-4, in one hour and 38 minutes to book her spot in the final.

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