Coming into 2012, there was a feeling that world #1 Caroline Wozniacki was not the true #1; that Petra Kvitova, 2011 Player of the Year, Wimbledon and Tour Championship winner was on top of the women’s tennis world. One month into the 2012 season, it has been proven that there is a new queen of tennis, but her name is Victoria Azarenka. Vika crushed Maria Sharapova in the 2012 Australian Open final, bordering on embarrassing Masha, 6-3 6-0. Sharapova is the name more known to the casual sports fan, but to hardcore tennis fans, it’s no surprise Azarenka won this title. She looked dominant earlier this month taking the crown in Sydney. She’s also owned Masha in recent meetings. Even when Vika lost to Sharapova due to retiring in Rome, she was up a set. What was surprising is how complete and lopsided this victory was, even dropping the dreaded bagel on Masha in the second set. A straight set win for Azarenka is understandable, but winning 12 of the final 13 games of the match? It seems the real final was the rollercoaster semifinal three setter between Vika and Kim Clijsters. Azarenka is the new world #1. Nobody should be arguing that right now.
Azarenka moves to 12-0 on the year, and it’s easy to see why. Even against great opponents like Clijsters and Sharapova, Vika is not giving them anything cheaply. She is making players work and work and work on nearly every rally without giving them any holes to exploit. And she has power to back up that consistency. The way she’s playing right now is going to be a nightmare for anybody challenging her. She has the consistency of Caroline Wozniacki combined with the attack game of Clijsters. That’s scary.
Vika absolutely deserves her #1 ranking and more importantly, wears that ranking with a Major win. However, there are challengers aplenty on her heels. The new rankings following the Australian Open are:
1. Victoria Azarenka
2. Petra Kvitova
3. Maria Sharapova
4. Caroline Wozniacki
5. Samantha Stosur
I have some quibbles with the computer over those rankings. 1 and 2 are fine. I still think I would put Caroline ahead of Maria right now. Samantha Stosur won the 2011 US Open, but she has been way off her game to start 2012, with more losses than wins so far. That said, as well as Vika played to win Sydney and Melbourne, Clijsters had many chances in the semifinal match to get important breaks of serve against Azarenka which Kimmie did not capitalize on. And the ones she did capitalize on, she gave right back on her serve. Also, just as Vika seems to have Masha’s number I think Kvitova matches up better with Vika. As I’ve said here before, styles make fights as the boxing saying goes. Masha’s game gives Vika no problems. Kvitova’s does. But Kvitova needs to tighten up mentally. Petra lost in Sydney to Li Na in a match she should have won. Petra had chances and probably should have beaten Masha in the Australian Open semis. But Kvitova gets these lapses sometimes. If you take everybody in the top 5 and ask me who I think is best IF they play their best game, I would say Petra Kvitova. However, she occassionally has these periods where she will let matches get away from her. Vika is much tighter at this moment. I also think Caroline Wozniacki’s style can give Vika problems. She has losing records against both Kvitova and Wozniacki. Right now, Vika is letting opponents beat themselves with errors. Wozniacki at her best won’t give you a lot of errors. Vika will have to go for more against Caroline. But it’s a long season and there might be lots of musical chairs for the #1 spot this year. For today, it belongs to Vika.
Singles – Final
(3) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (4) Maria Sharapova (RUS) 63 60
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