October 31, 2010

One, Two, Three?

When the next WTA rankings come out on Monday, as we now know, there will be a new world order.

Caroline Wozniacki, the most prolific woman on Tour this year, will be atop the polls, ahead of two-time Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva in the second spot and U.S. Open champ Kim Clijsters in third. It might not be was we expected at the start of the year, and while we may not all completely agree with the outcome, it’s hard to argue after this past week’s action in Doha that they didn’t get it pretty darn close.

Vera Zvonareva is probably the biggest surprise of the season, but her success has been a long time coming. Pro since 2000, she’s been a staple in the sport’s elite for most of the last seven years, finishing in the top ten for the past two. And though she -- surprisingly -- only won one title early this year in Pattaya City, her breakthrough at Wimbledon really put her on the map.

She got off to an impressive start at the year-end championships, stopping short Victoria Azarenka's impressive win streak in their first round robin match and avenging her heartbreaking New York loss to Clijsters with a two set win. She was the only woman to emerge from the early rounds without a loss and made the semifinals for the second time in her career.

Unfortunately for Bepa, she ran into top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday. The pair has literally traded off wins for the past two years, and coming into this tournament were tied at three wins apiece. And this time Caro kept the momentum on her side -- though Vera broke her serve twice in the first set, the young Dane held strong and bagelled her opponent in the second to make the finals in only her second appearance at the Championships.

It shouldn't be too shocking that Caro showed up this week. Since a one-sided loss in the fourth round of Wimbledon -- she won only two games against Petra Kvitova at the All England Club -- she's won the trophy at five of the seven events she's entered, beating heavyweights like Maria Sharapova, newly-retired Elena Dementieva and her good friend Victoria Azarenka along the way. But while she has certainly paid her dues on Tour this year, she may need a few more wins under her belt before she claims the big title.

Kim Clijsters was again the woman standing in her way. In a rematch of the 2008 2009 U.S. Open finals, the two-time year-ending champ was able to leverage her experience to her advantage, but she was in for a bit more of a battle this time around. After winning the first two games of the match, Clijsters allowed Wozniacki to get even before ultimately rolling to a 6-3, 4-1 lead. But the twenty-year old somehow found a way to turn on the juice and won seven of the next eight games to get her own lead in the deciding set.

Though Caroline's perseverance is certainly a good sign of her growing maturity and an indication of great things that are sure to come for her, it was Kim who stayed the slightest bit stronger, breaking back immediately and eventually getting ahead 4-2 in the third before running away with the championship. It was her fifth crown of 2010, the fortieth of her career and secured her best year-end finish since 2005.

It might be a little strange that for only the second time a year-end #1 hasn't already captured a Major trophy. Or that a woman whose only prize this year came at a relatively small tournament in February. Or that the most experienced and decorated of these ladies finishes behind both of them.

But it sure sets an interesting stage going into next year -- and I expect we'll see a lot more of all these women on the winner's podium then.


Anonymous said...

*rematch of the 2009 US Open final

Kavitha said...

Of course! Thanks for pointing out. Silly me!