WTA Post-Australian Open Rankings: Serena Williams Returns to No. 1, Lucic-Baroni Rises 50 Places - UBITENNIS
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WTA Post-Australian Open Rankings: Serena Williams Returns to No. 1, Lucic-Baroni Rises 50 Places

Following her 23rd grand slam title, Serena Williams reclaims her World No. 1 throne. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is the mover of the week, getting from No. 79 to No. 29 after reaching semifinals.

Jakub Bobro

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Top 10

 

Now that the first major of the year is over, it is good to take a look at how the Top 10 has been shaken up:
1. Serena Williams (USA) 7780
2017 is already an amazing year for Serena. Not only did she overtake Steffi Graf with her 23rd grand slam, but she also reclaimed her No. 1 spot from Kerber after almost 5 months. Serena will enjoy her title and skip February, expected to return in Indian Wells. However, this decision might be changed if her No. 1 spot is in jeopardy.

2. Angelique Kerber (GER) 7115
After a weak start to 2017, Kerber has lost the No. 1 ranking. Her 4th Round exit to Coco Vandeweghe meant she will not be able to defend her Australian Open title, and that Serena will be at No. 1. However, Kerber is scheduled to play the Middle East swing with Dubai and Doha, where 1370 points are at stake. The German is defending only 1 point, meaning that a solid result from these events would close the gap and put her back at No. 1. However, if Kerber has a chance at No. 1, it is likely that Serena will take a wild card into Dubai, or reclaim it in Indian Wells.

3. Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 5270
Almost 2000 points lower is Pliskova, at a New Career High ranking of 3. The Czech is on fire in 2017 so far, winning Brisbane and reaching quarterfinals at Australian Open. She will try to capitulate on her form in the Middle East as well. She is defending just 2 points, so she will have a lot of room to tighten the gap between her and the Top 2.

4. Simona Halep (ROU) 5073
Despite dealing with a knee injury during Australian Open, Halep is in St. Petersburg this week, not giving herself a big break to recover. After that, the Romanian is skipping Doha and returning in Dubai. Halep is also defending only two points in the Middle East, so she doesn’t have any pressure there. However, she needs to keep playing, because Cibulkova, and Radwanska are right at her heels.

5. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) 4985
Cibulkova has not had a good 2017 so far, reaching subpar results in the lead-up and Australian Open itself. That said, she defends very few points until April, and should definitely be able to keep herself in Top 5 until then. She is within 300 points of Pliskova, so if the Slovak manages to get great results in the upcoming weeks, she could rise.

6. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 4915
Radwanska experienced the biggest move in Top 10, dropping from No. 3 to No. 6, after failing to defend semifinal points from last year. Lucic-Baroni defeated the Pole on her epic semifinal journey, making Radwanska one of the biggest casualties of the faster courts this year. Radwanska is in for both Doha and Dubai, and with these very close differences between the players ahead of her, it might take just one big result to get back.

7. Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 4720
Battling an injury, Muguruza kept it together in Melbourne, took advantage of the draw and made quarterfinals, which managed to keep her at No. 7. The Spaniard is the last of the ‘peloton’ that has formed in the Top 10. Seperating No. 3 Pliskova and No. 7 Muguruza is just 550 points at this point, so a great run in the Middle East could put her right back to Top 5.

8. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 3915
Kuznetsova is a bit more lagging behind, with 805 points between herself and Muguruza. The Russian has to be content though, holding on to Top 10 at age 31. Next she will play at her home tournament in St. Petersburg, and she has no points to defend in the Middle East or Indian Wells. However, she will need to accumulate as many as she can, because Kuznetsova will have to defend a Miami final, dropping 650 points. If she wants to hold her position, she will need to make those points up, as it’s very unlikely that she can recreate her Miami run.

9. Madison Keys (USA) 3897
Keys is yet to play in 2017, as her start has been hindered by injury. Luckily she has no points to defend until Miami, allowing her to ease back into action in Indian Wells. Keys is a player with a lot of potential, and a Top 5 ranking in 2017 could definitely be in the cards for her.

10. Johanna Konta (GBR) 3705
Despite having a rocket start to 2017, Konta still dropped by a spot in the rankings, due to an unlucky draw in Melbourne, which had her face Serena in quarterfinals. But if Konta can keep her form in the Middle East, she could be a dark horse for that double.

11. Venus Williams (USA) 3530
Although not in Top 10, it would be shameful not to mention Australian Open finalist in the same breath. This incredible run has had Venus rise from No. 17 to No. 11, just within 175 points of Konta. Surprisingly, Williams is playing this week in St. Petersburg, but is skipping the Middle East swing and Indian Wells. However, she shouldn’t drop by much, since with the exception of Svitolina, the players just behind her seem very stagnant at the moment.

Significant Rises

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (No. 79 to No. 29)
After her incredible semifinal run, Lucic-Baroni moves from a player that often had to fight her way through qualifying to a Top 30 player. It is also not unrealistic for the 34 year-old to hold her ranking and be seeded at Roland Garros. Curiously enough, Lucic-Baroni has no tournaments scheduled, so it will be interesting to see where the Croat makes her comeback, or if she just eases into retirement after her career run.
Coco Vandeweghe (No. 35 to No. 20)
The American reached her career high ranking after a semifinal run, where Vandeweghe just steamrolled through opponents like Kerber and Muguruza. To see her play this kind of tennis has to make fans excited about what she can do, and the fact is that she can beat almost anyone when she plays at her best. Coco has now broken into Top 20, but a Top 15 ranking is almost probable. Even though she has points to defend both in Middle East and the Sunshine Double, the players ahead of her will be vulnerable. Kvitova and Azarenka are both out for the long-term, Suarez Navarro and Bacsinszky are out of form, and Vesnina doesn’t really have the consistency to be a long term Top 20 player.
Sorana Cirstea (No. 78 to No. 59)
Cirstea’s Round of 16 run went a bit unnoticed, despite beating Suarez Navarro and Riske back-to-back. It didn’t go unnoticed in the rankings though, where the Romanian has risen by 18 spaces back to Top 60, this should mark her safe from qualification at most tournaments, allowing her to work at coming back to her former heights.
Jennifer Brady (No. 116 to No. 78)
Jennifer Brady belonged among the biggest stories of the first week at the Australian Open. The American started her journey in the qualifying, where after back-to-back-to-back three set matches, she made her first Grand Slam main draw. The draw was lenient, and put her up against lucky loser Maryna Zanevska, whom she managed to beat quite easily. Then followed the match after which she was truly noticed, defeating Heather Watson 10-8 in the deciding set, which Brady backed up with a 7-6 6-2 win over 14th seed Elena Vesnina. Brady finally fell to Lucic-Baroni in the Round of 16, but she is now a Top 80 player, so we will see her at the biggest WTA tournaments for sure.

Significant Falls

Belinda Bencic (No. 59 to No. 80)
Former World No. 7 got really screwed by the draw, putting her up against Serena Williams. This meant Bencic would drop her Round of 16 points from last year, and she has now gone all the way down to No. 80, being ranked behind players like Qiang Wang or Kristina Kucova. The Swiss also defends finals points from St. Petersburg, so she will most likely fall out of Top 100. Positives would be that she is yet to turn 20, having more than 10 years still ahead of her, and she is still the same player as before. Also, after St. Petersburg, Bencic has less than 80 points to defend until grass court, so if she stays healthy and keeps her level, she will be back to Top 30 very soon.
Victoria Azarenka (No. 14 to No. 19)
Victoria Azarenka dropped her quarterfinal points from Australian Open as she enjoys maternity leave with her son Leo. The Belorussian experienced only a slight fall by 5 spots, but after Miami, she drops her points from winning the Sunshine Double, which will leave her with 131 points, equivalent to No. 324 in the rankings. After Roland Garros, Azarenka will be unranked. The Former World No. 1 has made no announcements of a comeback, but she is expected to return eventually.
Annika Beck (No. 50 to No. 67)
The German is winless so far in 2017, suffering losses to Osaka, Bertens and most recently Ashleigh Barty. This meant Beck wouldn’t defend her Round of 16 points from last year, seeing her drop by 17 spots to No. 67. Hopefully this won’t affect her too much, she is just 22 years old, meaning she has her whole career ahead of her.
Anna-Lena Friedsam (No. 76 to No. 116)
A more extreme but similar situation has happened to Anna-Lena Friedsam, another German who didn’t defend her Round of 16 points from last year. However, this means that Friedsam will drop out of Top 100, forcing her to qualify for most WTA events. Friedsam is also currently injured and hasn’t played since US Open, meaning that her entire career could be in trouble.

Doubles
Doubles has had some pretty major shake-ups in the rankings. Bethanie Mattek-Sands remains the World No. 1, but her partner Lucie Safarova has moved from No. 8 to No. 2 as a result of their title in Australian Open. Sania Mirza has dropped by five to No. 7 and Martina Hingis by three to No. 8, while Shuai Peng has gone up by 24 spaces to No. 17, after reaching the finals. Also worth noting was the Japanese team Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato, who reached the semifinals and are now both Top 30 doubles players.

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Botic Van de Zandschulp cruised past Joao Sousa 6-2 6-3 to reach the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. Van de Zandschulp won 83% of his first serve points and hit 28 winners to Sousa’s six. 

 

The Dutchman will face Liam Broady, who Serbian wild-card Hamad Medjedovic 7-5 6-3. 

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Danish Next Gen rising star Holger Rune edged past Tim Van Rijthoven 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6) to reach the second round at the Sofia Open in his first appearance at this tournament. 

 

Both players went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Rune earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. 

The second set started with a trade of breaks in the first two games. There was little to separate both players in the next games, which went on serve en route to the tie-break. Rune saved a set point at 5-6 in the tie-break of the second set and won the final three points to close out the second set 8-6. 

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 “I did not want to go to three sets. I had the break and led 5-2 in the second set tie-break. If it had happened, I was going to fight for sure and try to take it in three, but I am very happy to win in two. I am really working hard every day and trying to improve any small things I can. I think today I stayed very focused all the time. I lost my focus one time on serve, when maybe I should not have been broken, but other than that I am very happy with my first match. The first match is always a  bit difficult”, said Rune. 

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Fognini earned a break to take a 2-1 lead. Vukic broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2 in the fourth game. Fognini lost four consecutive points from 4-5 30-0. Vukic earned the decisive break on his first match point to seal the second set 7-5. 

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Dominic Thiem came back from one set down to beat Laslo Djere 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in 2 hours and 40 minutes reaching the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. 

 

Djere broke serve in the third game to take a 3-1 lead. Thiem broke back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Djere earned his second break in the 11th game to close out the first set 7-5. 

Thiem broke serve at deuce in the sixth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Djere broke back in the seventh game to draw level to 4-4. Djere earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-3. 

Thiem did not face a break point in the third set and converted his fourth break point in the third game to seal the third set 6-4. 

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