The WTA Tour suffers from a huge ranking point gap right now between the top 8 players and everyone else. Ana Ivanovic, at #8, currently has a 1600 point lead on Petrova in 9th. Petrova has actually done well to remain in the top 10 as she has been struggling with injury and illness for much of the year so far. The current #10 is Agnieszka Radwanska, who has looked out of form lately, losing easily in the first round of Dubai to her younger sister Urzsula. Because of the Petrova and Radwanska situations, this would seem to be the perfect opportunity for one of the very talented young players in the 11-15 group to make an assault on the top 10. But judging by their schedules, they seem perfectly content to wallow outside highest echelon.
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark provides an excellent example of this phenomenon. Touted by many to be a future slam winner, she currently sits at #12, 600 points out of the top 10. A final appearance this week in Dubai provides 550 points, which would put her within striking distance, but Wozniacki has elected to play the International level event in Memphis, where the winner receives 280 points. This has been the case with Wozniacki’s schedule all year, as she also elected to play Pattaya City last week and Auckland as the first tournament of the year. Wozniacki is always one of the top seeds at these events, and usually is able to go quite far. Thee problems inherent in this decision are two-fold. First, she is missing out on major opportunities for ranking points, but she is also not getting experience playing against the best players in the world. The logic behind playing International events seems to be that she can rack up points against easier opponents, rather than running the risk of going out early at a premier event to a top player. Wozniacki should not be afraid of losing to these players. She needs to play against them regularly, otherwise, when she comes up against them at majors, she will have no experience to draw upon and will lose. At both Wimbledon and the US Open last year, Wozniacki fell to Jankovic in three sets after winning the first. With more experience in the big matches, she could have won.
It is somewhat unfair to single out Wozniacki since her fellow players at 11-15 have the same schedule. Number 15, Flavia Pennetta, signed up to play Bogota. Victoria Azarenka at #14, who had Serena Williams against the ropes at the Australian Open before succumbing to the heat, has also elected to play Memphis instead of Dubai. Azarenka is certainly the favorite to make the final against Wozniacki, but considering that unheralded players like Kaia Kanepi and Virginie Razzano are walking away from Dubai with at least 350 points, this seems like a misguided decision.
Current #11 Alize Cornet and #13 Marion Bartoli, both of France, are the only players in this position who chose to play Dubai. Bartoli pulled out with injury and Cornet was taken out in the third round by Venus Williams. Even though Cornet lost handily to Williams, it is encouraging that she at least attempted to play this match. Even though Cornet is sometimes reviled for her lack of a power game or obvious weapons, she deserves the #10 ranking. She is the one who actually wants it.