The No.1 ranking on the WTA Tour has been more of a curse than a blessing in recent times. The paranormally inclined among us could be forgiven for speculating that the ghost of Justine Henin, who retired while holding the top spot 11 months ago, is hexing her successors.
First Jelena Jankovic suffered a catastrophic collapse in form after rising to pole position at the end of last year. The Serbian has now dropped to No. 4 and, presto, her form seems to be returning. She won this month in Andalucia.
Serena Williams was the next woman to step into the lead spot, but it didn't take long for her to be struck down with an injury that has hindered the start of her clay-court campaign.
Williams' left leg problem meant she was unable top defend her Family Circle Cup title in Charleston, facilitating the latest switch at the top.
However, Safina's stay could be short-lived. She has won only four matches since the Australian Open and was in desperately poor form in the North American hardcourt swing. More importantly, she has a mountain of points to defend over the summer and her position will come under heavy attack.
Safina's efforts over the past 12 months are worthy of the highest praise and she fully deserves her newfound status. But she is far from being the most dangerous player on tour just now, as we look at who is firing in the women's game. (Prior ranking listed in parentheses.)
1. (1) Serena Williams: Still the most feared player on tour but injury is a worry
2. (2) Venus Williams: Hoping for a better clay-court season this year
3. (3) Vera Zvonareva: Could be one of the stars of 2009
4. (4) Victoria Azarenka: Surely a future Slam champion
5. (5) Caroline Wozniacki: Starting to believe she can live with the best
6. (-) Jelena Jankovic: Burst back to form and looking forward to clay season
7. (6) Dinara Safina: Officially No.1 but needs a form transplant
8. (7) Elena Dementieva: Dramatic dip from excellent start to the year
- Dinara Safina
- Serena Williams