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Can we make predictions in women's tennis today? Compare January 2011 picks and year-end Top 10

In the beginning of the year our loyal contributor John Bolan made a prediction of how Top 10 would look like at the end of the season and a lot of readers presented their Top 10 picks in the comments. Now that the tennis 2011 has ended, I thought it was perfect time to ask John to do a comparison of the prediction and the actual season-ending rankings. He was eager to accept my proposal. Continue reading to see the shocking changes over the last 11 months, such as Justine Henin and Dinara Safina not playing any more and Petra Kvitova, who was never even mentioned, joining the elite big time.

On January 8, 2011 the Women’s Tennis Blog published my article "Who will be Top 10 players at the end of 2011?".  My picks were listed with reasons why I chose them. Many fans used the comment section to submit their picks. Now that the year is over, let’s find out how we did.

Most of us only named about 5 out of the 10 Top finishers. The reason that we did so poorly was the injury factor. Five of the top players were injured for most of the year – Justin Henin, Kim Clijsters, Dinara Safina, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. Most of us had at least 3 of these injured stars on our Top 10 list. The most difficult factor in picking the Top 10 is trying to guess who will not be able to play a full season and 2011 was an unusual year with so many of the top stars injured for so long.

No one picked the number 2 finisher – Petra Kvitova. Only one person picked Marion Bartoli and only one picked Andrea Petkovic. These omissions hurt the overall accuracy of our picks.

1. Caroline Wozniacki did the near impossible in 2011 by repeating as the world’s number one. Because the WTA deducts ranking points won the year before, Caroline had the most points to lose. This meant she had to win more than she did in 2010 just to stay even. Only 3 people picked her to repeat. All but one person did include her in their Top 10. Caroline was the most consistent player on the Tour for the second straight season.

2. Petra Kvitova came from nowhere to finish number two. Although she was named as the most improved by the WTA for 2010, none of us thought she would have the year she had in 2011. She won both Wimbledon and the WTA Championships and must be included on the short list for number one in 2012.

3. Victoria Azarenka was my pick for number one and would have made it if not for the outstanding play of Caroline and Petra. Victoria continued to improve in 2011 and is poised to go even higher in 2012. She should continue her championship finals battle with Kvitova next year for the world’s number one player.

4. Maria Sharapova had a wonderful year rising to number two until faltering at the end with a disastrous showing in the final championships. Maria makes it through many matches on guts and determination alone. She may never be the player she once was before her shoulder injury, but she isn’t about to stop trying. By far the most popular player in women’s sports, Maria is also the most competitive.

5. Li Na played better than anyone at times in 2011, but she also played poorly too often. Maybe Caroline could lend her some of her consistency, and Li could show Caroline how to win a major in 2012. She won the French Open and is the best Asian player ever. She turns 30 early next year and has the honor of being the oldest player in the Top 10.

6. Samantha Stosur made all of us her fans at the US Open with her great win. Calm, cool and collected Sam may be the most popular player on the tour after Maria. She is a national hero in Australia and has the desire and talent to rise to the top of the standings.

7. Vera Zvonareva hired a new coach for 2011 and found a new demeanor on the court. The emotion has been replaced by a steely determination. She is now a very consistent player who is a safe bet to remain a Top 10 player.

8. Agnieszka Radwanska had a great run in the US Open Series. I watched her win the tournament at La Costa beating two Top 10 players, Petkovic and Zvonareva, with a heavily bandaged right shoulder.  Hopefully, the off-season will give her shoulder a chance to heal, and she will come back even stronger in 2012.

9. Marion Bartoli surprised us all in 2011. I never thought she would be in the Top 10, but she managed to be consistent enough to finish 9th. She just missed qualifying for the year-end Championships, but she did win her only game there as an alternate over Azarenka the eventual runner-up.

10. Andrea Petkovic (above is my photo with her) is the most exciting player in women’s tennis. She also works harder than any other and deserves her surprising fast rise to the Top 10. Let’s hope her knee heals this winter because the WTA needs to see her dance even more in 2012.

Of all the people who commented on my post with predictions, I think Paul was the top picker. He not only was one of three who had Caroline Wozniacki as number one, he was the only one to pick Andrea Petkovic. He even picked Andrea correct at number 10. In addition Paul had eight of the ten top players on his list. His other two picks were both injured but still managed to finish near the Top 10 – Kim Clijsters #13 and Serena Williams #12. He missed only Kvitova whom no one picked and Bartoli picked by only one person. Therefore, I proposed to Marija to send him one autographed picture of a WTA star (either Dinara Safina, Yanina Wickmayer, Flavia Pennetta or Shahar Peer) and she will gladly send him his award.

Start thinking about your 2012 picks!

John, thank you for reflecting on your January's predictions. This article witnesses how fast women's tennis changes and how nothing is set in stone. (photos courtesy of John Bolan, Tony and Ralf Reinecke)

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10 thoughts on “Can we make predictions in women's tennis today? Compare January 2011 picks and year-end Top 10

  1. Marine

    Interesting, yes women's tennis is so topsy-turvy right now that I'm almost apprehensive about making a prediction, lol.
    So, instead of giving a ranking prediction I think these players will end up in top 10:
    Azarenka,Clijsters,Ivanovic(my optimism knows no boundaries :-P Kvitova, Lisicki, ,Petkovic, Radwanska, Sharapova, S.Williams, Wozniacki,

  2. Omair

    Good article Bolan :)
    I think Kvitova will outsmart Wozniaki and Azrenka. With her weapons, she can walk step by step with Williams, one of the best tennis players (though I dont like her but her game no doubt is great) and Clijsters (Williams and Clijsters being the 2 queens of WTA and the players to be defeated in 2012, if healthy and playing.
    All in all 2012 seems to be a promising year. Lets hope for the best and lets hope that Li and Stousr also find their games that took them to the French Open and US Open titles respectively. It will be interesting to watch if Li and Stousr are also on their games during 2012.

  3. James

    I never expected that Kvitova would be world number 2 at the start of the year! I'm already interested to see how the rankings will change in 2012 and fully expect Kvitova to take the number one spot at some point. I am predicting that Zvonareva, Li and Bartoli will move out of the top 10 and be replaced by Serena, Pavlyuchenkova and Lisicki. Pavlyuchenkova has so much potential but is let down by her serve and movement. I really hope she uses this off-season wisely…

  4. Omair

    I second James in the movement of Li and Bartoli out of top 10 but not Zvonareva. I dont see Zvonareva going out of top 10, though she go out f top 10 for some time during the year but that wont be for long. I forsee her qualifying for the YEC next year as well. And yup i hope Pavlyuchenkova can make into top 10, she has a great potential no doubt. If Kim plays full year, she will be a top 5 contender as well, but i think she will retire after 2012 Olympics….

  5. Mirjana

    Women tennis is today just impossible to predict. Kvitova should be no. 1 next year, i'll be very suprised if that doesn't happen. She's a great attacker, but i think more tactics and concentration in some moments would make her even more dangerous. Caroline isn't playing well since the clay court season, and if she doesn't change something her ranking will only fall. For some reason i'm also still optimistic about Ana, but she needs to stay injury-free to finally do something serious in a longer period. Maria had a great season, but i'm not sure is this the best she can do, i really hope she will be able to finally rely on her serve.

  6. John Bolan

    Thanks Omair. I agree with you that Vera will stay in the top 10. She is very consistent. Mirjana, I agree – I don't think Caroline will be the top competitor versus Kvitova. I think it will be Azarenka. I love Ana and she has a great new athletically trim and muscled body. But comparing her work ethic (which is very good) to Andrea Petkovic, her doubles partner and workout buddy, shows she needs more time on the practice courts.
    I hope Marija will have a new top ten prediction contest for 2012!!

  7. Marija Post author

    John, I've contacted Paul and asked him if he would like to contribute with a Top 10 prediction. Otherwise, I'm inviting you to predict for the next season again! :) We'll see.

  8. Omair

    I hope Petkovic can make some more noise during 2011, and i hope she recovers well from her injury :)
    I think if Clijsters and Williams play the whole year long, those 3 will definitely be in the top 10, as will Masha, provided that she plays whole year long :), Another top 10 will be Zvonareva. I like Stousr's and Schiavone's game, i also love Li Na's game. I hope Li can find that confidence back and can be back as a contender at majors :) but i dont for-see Li making it a top 0 finish again. Azarenka and Pavlynkova (I am poor at spelling the names :( ) will also be top 10 players as far as I see. Lets hope for some great encounter between the young and the old (Clijsters, Williamses vs Azarenka, Kvitova). Lets hope for some gruelling battles during 2012 :)

  9. siddiq haroon

    jhon,i,m dissapointed by your comment about sharapova,she will emerge in 2012 as best player as she was befour shoulder injury.she has the best service return on tour,she just needs to work on her serve,if her serve is right,then she is the best.i believe that she will finish 2012 season as world no 1.

  10. jason

    Here is my two cents on 2012 prediction. I think Li and Bartoli have the highest risk of leaving top 10, while Serena and Lisicki will move in.
    I also love to see Li's game. The key to her comeback is finding a good coach. Maria stole a good one from her.

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