Who has not heard the news? A whole new era is afoot in women’s tennis.
Considering the players who captured headlines and the attention of tennis pundits during the second week of the 2011 Wimbledon Championships – you quickly surmised that the usual suspects were missing in action.
Gone was defending champion Serena Williams who had held the Rosewater Dish aloft four times, hoping that 2011 would bring her five.
Another Wimbledon win would tie Serena with her older sister Venus Williams who had won the All England Club Championship five times. Venus was also no longer in the house.
Absent, too, were French Open champion Li Na, who lost in the second round in a fierce contest as well as the No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki who failed again to make the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
No. 2 ranked Kim Clijsters never checked in for Championships, still sidelined with an ankle injury.
That left the field wide open for a newly invigorated Maria Sharapova, the wide-eyed power game of German Sabine Lisicki, the finely-honed game of Victoria Azarkena and the excellent grass-court assault of Petra Kvitova. It was a worthy fortnight – an ultimate contrast in competence and mental fortitude.
The “Power Rankings” are compiled and presented by JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong using . We present the periodic rankings at least four times a year.
Following are the latest top ten in our women’s tennis power rankings as determined at the conclusion of the 2011 Wimbledon Championships in London.
10. Francesca Schiavone (Italy)
Last Power Ranking 2; WTA Ranking: 8
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [R 32]; Eastbourne [R 16]; French Open [Finalist]; Brussels [Semifinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 489
It seems as though grass should be Schiavone’s surface of choice with her quick, fluid movement and her stellar net play. But so far, Wimbledon has not proven to be a successful venue for Italian.
Primarily upsets seemed to be the order of the day during the third round on day 6 at the All England Club. Unseeded Tamira Paszek refused to give in to No. 6 seed Schiavone. The pair battled for three hours and 41 minutes before Paszek prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 11-9.
The lengthy matched stretched over two days when the rain came again to cancel action on Day 5. When tournament officials suspended play, Schiavone and Paszek had each won one set.
When the two players returned to Court 12 on Saturday, the fans were treated to an all out shot-making feast as the two battled until Paszek took the final set 11-9.
Paszek last reached the fourth round at the All England Club in 2007.
For Schiavone, Wimbledon 2011was over, but she played some great matches and her undying competitive spirit kept the action intense until the last ball was struck.
There is always another Wimbledon down the road. Schiavone, heads now onto the hard courts where she will undoubted hope to add to her trophy case.
9. Tamira Paszek (Austria)
Last Power Ranking NR; WTA Ranking: 41
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist]; Eastbourne [R 32]; Birmingham [R 16]; Nottingham [Quarterfinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 515
Tamira Paszek survived a very tough third round contest with Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open winner and finalist in 2011.
Austrian Paszek outlasted the Italian 3-6, 6-4, 11-9 in a very exciting contest which not only tested her physical strength but also her mental edge.
In the fourth round Paszek met Ksenia Pervak of Russia, again extended to three sets before prevailing 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. Pervak had taken out two seeds, Sharhar Peer in the first round and Andrea Petkovic in the third round before falling to Paszek in the fourth round.
The Austrian’s quarterfinal opponent Victoria Azarenka, however, never allowed Paszek into the match, dispatching her 6-3, 6-1.
This is certainly what the Austrian hopes is the beginning of a new view of the women’s tour, from the upper echelons. Her run at Wimbledon saw Paszek advance from world No. 80 to No. 41, well into the top 50.
8. Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria)
Last Power Ranking NR; WTA Ranking: 48
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist]; Eastbourne [R32]; French Open [R 64]; Brussels [R32].
Power Ranking Points: 520
In her march through the tournament draw, Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria flattened two very high profile players before being stopped in the quarterfinals by the eventual champion Petra Kvitova.
Her second victim was the No. 2 seed Vera Zvonareva. Pironkova dispatched the Russian with very little fuss, 6-2, 6-3 in the second round.
The Bulgarian’s third victim, however was five-time champion, Venus Williams. It was the same match-up that sent the elder Williams sister out of the Wimbledon tournament in 2010 when Pironkova defeated Williams in the 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinals.
In last year’s Wimbledon Championship, the Bulgarian advanced all the way to the semifinals where she lost to Vera Zvonareva, the same woman Pironkova upset in round two in 2011.
During their third round contest Venus Williams failed to get the ball to fall within the painted lines. Predictably, once again, Pironkova took full advantage, defeating Williams 6-2, 6-3 to send the elder Williams sister packing.
In fact, the Bulgarian defeated Venus Williams for the third time in four meetings.
This took Pironkova into her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal where she met Czech Petra Kvitova.
Kvitova was stretched in her quarterfinal contest with Pironkova but not broken, advancing to the quarterfinals. Early on it seemed that Pironkova was totally overmatched.
The Czech seemed to be going strong and then inexplicably lost the second set to Pironkova. In the third set, the Czech regained her edge and finished the match strong 6-3, 6-7, 6-2.
Because Pironkova did not make it to the Wimbledon semifinals as she did in 2010, she saw her WTA ranking drop at the conclusion of the tournament. But her play during the fortnight had to give her some impetus going into the hardcourt season.
7. Li Na (China)
Last Power Ranking 1; WTA Ranking: 6
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [R 64]; Eastbourne [R 16]; French Open [Winner]; Rome [Semifinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 569
On Thursday of week one in a second round match, wild card entry Sabine Lisicki of Germany upset the No. 3 seed and French Open champion Li Na in a thrilling, hard-fought contest on Centre Court.
The German with the big serve took out Li 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 in two hours and 11 minutes. The outcome of the match, however, was in doubt until the last ball was struck.
Li held match point twice, the first time at 5-3 in the third set. But the lady from China could only watch in disbelief as Lisicki came back from the brink, blasting four first serve winners, two of them untouchable aces.
The final blow came as Li served for the match at 5-4, only to disintegrate with four unforced errors as she tried for lines rather than playing it safe. Li, who was one of the favorites to win Wimbledon 2011, was unceremoniously sent home after three days.
But the loss did nothing to diminish the great season Li Na had enjoyed coming into Wimbledon as a finalist at the Australian Open and the winner of the 2011 French Open.
In 2010, Li Na had advanced to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon where she lost to the eventual champion, Serena Williams.
Li Na can play on the grass. The loss will be only a temporary blip as she moves into the hard court season.
6. Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia)
Last Power Ranking NR; WTA Ranking: 20
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist]; ‘S-Hertogenbosch [Semifinalist]; French Open [R 128]; Madrid [Quarterfinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 572
Dominika Cibulkova, at 5’3, is the shortest player in the women’s top 50; but she came up tall during the Wimbledon Championships.
On day seven, the Slovakian ended the quest of world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki to advance to her first Wimbledon quarterfinal.
Prior to this match, Cibulkova stopped the campaign of the No. 16 seed Julia Goerges 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
The Slovakian was having a superb Wimbledon tournament.
The tennis commentators, of course, jumped all over Wozniacki again because the Dane has never won a Slam, even though Wozniacki is ranked No. 1 in the world and has been since last October.
In the quarterfinals, however, Cibulkova did come up very short against a woman who stood a full foot taller. Maria Sharapova defeated the Slovakian 6-1, 6-1 in one hour.
That was not a good day but it should do nothing to diminish the great wins Cibulkova had in making it to the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Cibulkova made the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in 2010 and has great hopes of going further than that in 2011.
5. Marion Bartoli (France)
Last Power Ranking 4; WTA Ranking: 9
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist]; Eastbourne [Winner]; French Open [Semifinalist]; Strasbourg [Finalist].
Power Ranking Points: 865
With her unorthodox style of play, utilizing two hands on both her forehand and backhand, the Bartoli game could not be called elegant or free-flowing.
There is a jerky service motion and an often cumbersome forward movement. Even so, Bartoli is effective, even if she over-exerts to score winners on the tennis court.
Coming into Wimbledon in 2011, Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli had made the French Open semifinals and had won the Wimbledon warm-up tournament at Eastborne, defeating Petra Kvitova in the final.
Before meeting Serena Williams in the fourth round, Bartoli had survived two three set matches, moving on each time, but never easily.
Then in an all-out war, Bartoli defeated Serena Williams, the defending champion, in their fourth-round contest 6-3, 7-6.
Williams in reflecting on her defeat took the loss in stride realizing that advancing this far was a great accomplishment, considering that she had not played competitive tennis for almost a year.
In the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Bartoli, despite her will to win and a great effort, fell to the unseeded German, Sabine Lisicki, 4-6, 7-6, 1-6, bringing down the curtain on the Frenchwoman’s Wimbledon run in 2011.
Bartoli simply ran out of gas in the final set.
Now in the top ten, Bartoli has announced her presence as a force to be reckoned with on tour.
4. Sabine Lisicki (Germany)
Last Power Ranking NR; WTA Ranking: 27
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Semifinalist]; Birmingham [Winner]; French Open [R 64]; Reggio Emilia [Semifinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 1,015
Unseeded Sabine Lisicki held on long enough in the second round of the Wimbledon Championship to upset the No. 3 seed Li Na, who had just won the 2011 French Open .
It was a huge shock when, under the closed roof of Centre Court, the German wild card Lisicki out-dueled Li Na 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 in two hours and 11 minutes. Coming into the tournament Li Na was highly regarded as a potential winner in 2011 at the All England Club.
Then in her quarterfinal match Sabine Lisicki took two hours and 21 minutes to beat Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.
The unseeded German with the big serve was going on into the 2011 Wimbledon semifinals where she would face the former Wimbledon champion, Maria Sharapova.
Although Lisicki could not muster another upset victory over Sharapova, her tournament was a rousing success and the German shot up from being ranked No. 62 to No. 27 in the WTA rankings.
The German’s march through the women’s draw at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships was spectacular.
After a year of injury and recovery, her results at Wimbledon in 2011 offer much promise for the future for this rising star.
3. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)
Last Power Ranking 5; WTA Ranking: 4
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Semifinalist]; Eastbourne [Quarterfinalist]; French Open [Quarterfinalist]; Rome [Quarterfinalist].
Power Ranking Points: 1,068
During Wimbledon 2011, Victorian Azarenka moved past the quarterfinal plateau where she seemed to be stuck! She met Tamira Paszek on Centre Court during the last women’s match of the day. Once the match was finished the ladies semifinal field would be complete.
Azarenka came out determined to win with her power dictating from the back of the court. She delivered 30 winners with only eight errors, defeating Paszek 6-3, 6-1.
The lady from Belarus was delighted to find herself in her first Wimbledon semifinal facing the eighth seed, Petra Kvitova.
The Czech left-hander, who dreamed of being a Wimbledon champion, needed to turn back the challenge of Victoria Azarenka in order to reach the final.
With her childhood idol, Czech-born compatriot Martina Navratilova, watching in the stands, Kvitova defeated Azarenka 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in one hour and 44 minutes on Centre Court.
The outcome of the match was in doubt until the early stages of the third set when Kvitova rose up to take the match. The Czech had to fight her nerves and a determined Azarenka, who threatened to break back in the last set but could not.
The win propelled Kvitova into the final where she would face former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova.
Azarenka had her best result at a major so far in her career and this must give
2. Maria Sharapova (Russia/United States)
Last Power Ranking 3; WTA Ranking: 5
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Finalist]; French Open [Semifinalist]; Rome [Winner]; Madrid [R 16].
Power Ranking Points: 1,708
For all the world it looked as though Maria Sharapova was all the way back. That meant, most picked the former world No. 1 to win her second Wimbledon championship over a woman who had never before stood on Centre Court to play in a Wimbledon final––Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic.
Sharapova had taken care of her quarterfinal opponent, standing a foot taller than the diminutive Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova. The Russian blasted her smaller opponent off the court on the eighth day of the tournament.
It took only an hour as Sharapova powered her way past Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1.
Then the Russian dispatched German Sabine Lisicki in the semifinals after a brief hiccup in the the early going. Once in stride, Sharapova began the slow task of taking back control of the match.
By the time the former champion worked way back to 4-4, Lisicki was beginning to feel the full weight of Sharapova’s determination to win.
When Sharapova broke to go up 5-4 and serve for the set, the tide had turned completely in Sharapova’s favor. The former Wimbledon champion won the first set 6-4 and went on to take the second set 6-3.
But there was no magic turnaround against Kvitova for Sharapova. The Czech won the championship match with power and steady nerves.
Sharapova tried mightily but could find no way to break the steel in the Kvitova racket. The Czech had the right responses all afternoon.
Yet, Sharapova is back, if not all the way, most of the way––ranked in the top five and ready to continue her climb on the American hardcourts.
1. Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
Last Power Ranking 9; WTA Ranking: 7
Last Four Tournaments: Wimbledon [Winner]; Eastbourne [Finalist]; French Open [R 16]; Prague 2 [Finalist].
Power Ranking Points: 2,274
There was something quite special about Petra Kvitova’s win in the 2011 Wimbledon final. To be on hand to witness the final strike of the ball, watching the tension drain from the young Czech’s face as jubilation slowly replaced it, was very moving.
It was like watching the birth of a new tennis star on Centre Court––just as it was when watching Li Na win her first major championship at Roland Garros approximately a month ago.
Kvitova won 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 25 minutes, making her the second woman in 2011 to win her first major.
Initially, it looked as though Sharapova would prevail as predicted because the former champ began the match by breaking Kvitova in the opening game chiefly on a pair of forehand errors.
But the Czech responded aggressively and broke back, not allowing Sharapova to feel comfortable throughout the match.
In fact, it became apparent right away that the former Wimbledon champion would have to dig down deep to come up with the strokes necessary to stay with Kvitova. Predictably, the double faults crept into the Sharapova serve as she struggled to stay with the Czech.
For Sharapova, her return game became her only inroad into staying the the match. To her credit, Sharapova kept fighting and managed to pull even in the second set. But that did not last long.
Eventually the superior power and shot-making of the Czech won out as she served for the set and the match.
Kvitova served it out at love, punctuating the last serve with an ace, her first of the match, to seal her first Wimbledon championship and the number one spot in our power rankings.
It looks like a new force has emerged in women’s tennis.