Fans and pundits are left frustrated by Caroline Wozniacki's slam-less reign over women's tennis may be couraged to know that she could be eclipsed by season's end. Except that Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva also have yet to win a major.
A slam on Wozniacki's No 1
Fans and pundits left frustrated by Caroline Wozniacki’s slam-less reign over women’s tennis, now only six days short of a year, may be encouraged to know that she could be eclipsed before the end of 2011.
When Jelena Jankovic ended the 2008 season ranked No 1 in the world, she became the first player, male or female, to finish a year at the top without winning a grand slam title in that season.
Wozniacki pulled it off in 2010 and seems likely to reprise that act this year, barring some interesting but not extraordinary results this month.
The 21-year-old Dane leads Azarenka by 2,700 points and Zvonareva by 2,440. However, Wozniacki finished strongly last year and has 1,890 points to defend at two tournaments, at Beijing this week and in the Tour Championships three weeks hence.
Azarenka, meanwhile, has only 375 points to defend at those two tournaments, both played on hard courts, her best surface.
She took a 580-point bite out of what had been a 3,280-point Wozniacki lead over the weekend by reaching the semi-finals at Tokyo after Wozniacki was dismissed in the last 16 by the little-known Estonian, Kaia Kanepi.
An Azarenka run deep in the Beijing tournament, in tandem with an early departure by Wozniaki, could produce a swing of 1,500-plus points, and it would be "game on" for the end-of-year No 1 ranking.
Zvonareva is defending more points than Azarenka, so her chances of erasing her deficit are slimmer but not impossible. (And the No 2, Maria Sharapova, has pulled out of Beijing and will not be returning to No 1 this year.)
All this begs the question of whether another player without a major championship on her CV would represent an aesthetic improvement over Wozniacki.
She has won six tournaments this year, beginning with the Dubai Championships in February, and has been in the final of two more.
However, she again was unable to impress on the grand stages, failing to reach the final of any of the slams. It was additionally unflattering for her that the presumably lesser players Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur all won their first grand slams in 2011.
Azarenka and Zvonareva fared no better at the major events this year; each managed one semi-final to Wozniacki's two.
But a sense of "let someone else take a whack at No 1" seems to be suffusing the sport.
If Wozniacki were unable to take advantage of her top seeding in all four 2011 slams, perhaps Azarenka or Zvonareva could rise to the occasion.