Here are the top twenty women players for 2013.
1. Serena Williams 13260
2. Victoria Azarenka 8046
3. Li Na 6045
4. Maria Sharapova 5891
5. Agnieszka Radwanska 5875
6. Petra Kvitova 4775
7. Sara Errani 4435
8. Jelena Jankovic 4170
9. Angelique Kerber 3965
10. Caroline Wozniacki 3520
11. Simona Halep 3335
12. Sloane Stephens 3185
13. Marion Bartoli 3172
14. Roberta Vinci 3170
15. Sabine Lisicki 2920
16. Ana Ivanovic 2850
17. Carla Suarez Navarro 2735
18. Samantha Stosur 2675
19. Maria Kirilenko 2640
20. Kirsten Flipkens 2495
Serena Williams is 5,214 points ahead of Victoria Azarenka, the only woman who comes even close to her point total. The rest of the top ten are eating the dust of the top player.
Source: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Europe)
Serena had a great year, a career year to be honest in 2013. She played a full schedule for the first time in recent memory and the toll it took on her mentally and physically was clear in Istanbul. She was running right up to the wall and somehow managed not to run into it. It looked for awhile in the final that Li Na would slam her face first into it but that turned out to be an illusion since Li was being stage managed by her coach, her every move dictated by him. Once Li was forced to stop cheating Serena showed that even running on fumes her killer instinct, her will to win would overcome any of her rivals.
I'm going to be honest here. Serena is 31 now. Her team got her over the finish line this time but will she be able to repeat what she accomplished this year? Will she hit the ground running in Melbourne this coming January? Will she be able to play the schedule she played one more time? In my opinion I don't think she will. She will play the majors including Miami during the US spring hard court swing and Charleston. The big question is will she play Basel again? She got a great welcome from the tournament and the fans there but a championship season depends on more than sentiment. And lets not forget the 2014 YEC will require the women to go from Europe to Asia and all that entails.
In fact the WTA's increased emphasis on Asia is going to force all the players to have to make interesting choices about where and when they play. I'll take the time now to say I'm going to miss Istanbul. The fans there are enthusiastic about women's tennis, a sentiment that's not shared by many fans anywhere else in the world.
But back to the top players.
I'm not sure Victoria Azarenka will hold on to the Number Two ranking. She appeared almost disinterested at the end of the year and you have to wonder if her mind is elsewhere. She appeared in her boyfriend Stefan Gordy's last video and the bright lights can be distracting. Li Na is close but if she has become dependent on Carlos Rodriguez to guide her every move I don't know if on her own she'll be able to push past Victoria, assuming Victoria is still interested. Don't forget Victoria's infamous ten minute medical time out because "she had to win" and it seemed like a good idea to feign injury. The warning Kader Nouni gave to Li may have set the tone for how other chair umps will approach the problem of Carlos Rodriguez. Let's see if he chairs any more of her matches next year or if another ump seems to always in the chair for her matches.
I'm reading all this stuff about Maria Sharapova stepping away from the sport because of her "recurring shoulder issue". Yeah right. With Azarenka and Li ahead of her now and threats being made about her exit I can see more soft draws to get her through to the quarters of majors, pretty much what they've been doing all of her career.
Don't forget Sharapova has all those endorsements that depend on her being a tennis star. Of course we don't know the terms of those contracts and maybe they're going to expire. I'll believe Sharapova is leaving the game when I see it.
I would love to know how Agniezska Radwanska feels looking back on her year. On the outside looking in I'd think she's a bit disappointed. I also think she had some kind of injury this year. Remember all those Player's Party pics where she was wearing flats all the time? Aga is not that girl. I was also surprised that she checked out of the YEC so early. It was obvious that mentally she was on a beach somewhere having an umbrella drink or two. She has firmed up her game and become a bit more offensive minded though and it'll be interesting to see how she plays in Oz.
There isn't much to say about Petra Kvitova. Instead of playing all those exhibitions in the Czech Republic she needs to get in better shape. As an asthmatic - she was seen using her inhaler court side during the YEC - she's always going to have some issues. Her gut hanging over the top of her skirt shouldn't be one of them.
I'm not even going to give more than a sentence or two to Sara Errani. She has no business in the top ten of the main tour. If you get a chance go and see her play live. She's a junk baller with no serve. She can give people a hard time given the right circumstances but I'm still pissed about the two hours of my life she took playing a match that had fans in the stands going "for fuck's sake".
Of the three women left, Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki they can move up in ranking but it's going to depend on how they think about how they ended the year and what they expect of themselves for next year.
Wozniacki as we all know finally announced that her father will be stepping aside and that Thomas Högstedt will be her coach for 2014. I'm not quite sure what he will bring to her game but there's no doubt she has to improve her aggressiveness on court. JJ, under her brother's tutelage, has to be happy about how she ended the year. If she can keep it up she's going to make herself relevant again.
As for Kerber she shouldn't have been shoe horned into the YEC and she may think more of her abilities than she should. She's got a wonky serve and trouble closing out the big girls. She's not my cup of tea but it seems some are really anxious to make her a favorite.
I am going to mention two players not in the top ten, Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens. She had a very nice end to the year and won a total of six titles out of the blue. Fans are predicting her to take the top ten by storm. One thing about the WTA is that doing well on the International level and so so in the majors is a route to the top that many have taken in the past. JJ and Wozniacki of course come to mind. You just play as much as you can physically stand and suddenly you're in the top five or approaching the top three. Halep is going to have to play big tournaments better. She's going to have to get past Jelena, Angelique and Caroline. None of them are going to hold the door open for her.
Stephens problems are different from those of Halep. Sloane became the Queen of Semifinals in 2013 since she could never get herself into a final. The one thing I think Sloane needs to do is trust her instincts. She does think pretty well on court when she's not throwing temper tantrums because frankly her opponents don't give a shit that she beat an injured Serena in Melbourne early in the year. It's fascinating that she plays a great first set with minimal interference from her coach. After a good first set the coach comes out and whatever he tells her she goes off the rails and stops doing what she was doing. All that smoke blown up her skirt by those around her didn't help her one bit and at some point someone is going to have to cull the herd that surrounds her now. I don't know what happened to her first coach but he seems out of the picture now. He played up her strengths and her on court attitude was so much better. Sloane you're not the shit. Not yet anyway. You're young I know but you've got to start handling your business.
Finally I can't say enough about the effect the increased WTA presence in Asia will have on the players. It has to be depressing to play in mostly empty stadiums where canned cheers are pumped in to give the illusion that there are really lots of fans there when that's obviously not the case. As for fans twelve to fourteen hour time differences don't make it easy to see matches and no one likes scoreboard watching. I'd like to be wrong but I don't think I am.
I plan to watch as much women's tennis as I can and I'm sure other fans will as well.
I also hope the WTA will start promoting the SPORT of women's tennis and not try and sell women's tennis as a bunch of hoochie's who happen to play tennis. We're often told that blondes are big in Asia so I guess that's the emphasis on players like Sabine Lisicki, Kerber and yes, Sharapova. That's why I don't see Pova walking away from the sport. They're going to find some way for her to win big again. You can bet that it won't involve her making too many changes to her game though. I think that horse is long gone.