Players such as Henin, Kuznetsova, Dementieva, Pierce and even Venus Williams are no longer around or are fading fast from the world stage. Their potential replacements, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Marion Bartoli and Dinara Safina have all come and gone backwards since leaving a top list of thoroughly decent players but no real supreme champion among them.
Of course Serena Williams is still there but for how much longer? She missed much of 2011 through illness and although she reached the final of the US Open she was no match for the current number six in the WTA world rankings, Sam Stosur of Australia. Stosur of course was winning her first Grand Slam title emulating the first Grand Slam wins of Li Na who won the French Open in May and Petra Kvitova who triumphed at Wimbledon in July.
Belgian Kim Clijsters a player who has clearly benefitted by the loss of so many of her early career rivals did win the Australian Open in January giving her a fourth Grand Slam title. However, she got herself injured at the French Open where she lost in the second round and has hardly been seen since, missing out on both Wimbledon and the US Open. It is interesting to note that Clijsters now sits at number 13 in the world one place behind Serena.
Of course 2012 will start with the world number one Caroline Wozniacki still looking for her first Grand Slam crown. She will get her first opportunity in Melbourne at the Australian Open in January, and knows that to justify her position at the top she really does need to win. Clijsters is said to be fit again and will defend her crown while Serena will come to the tournament as the favourite to win her fifth Australian Open title.
We must not of course forget Maria Sharapova, who consolidated her comeback last year by finishing at number four in the world. She is also a past winner at the Australian Open, taking the crown in Melbourne in 2008 and was also runner up there to Serena in 2007.
Sharapova was always considered to have the potential to be one of the ‘greats’ of the game, especially after her stunning victory over Serena in the final at Wimbledon in 2004 when she was only 17 years old.
However, injuries, setbacks and contractual differences all led to her never quite realising this potential and she is still looking to add to the three Grand Slam titles she has already claimed. She did reach the final again at Wimbledon this year but was beaten in straight sets by Kvitova. She should be a major force on the circuit in 2012 but whether or not she will get back to her absolute best remains to be seen.
If there is one player who could take the woman’s game by storm it is indeed Kvitova, but she will need to learn consistency, something that her game has been lacking for some time. For instance, following her Wimbledon success she was promptly knocked out of the US Open in the first round. She certainly has the game to be a number one player and will start the New Year as the official number two.
World number three, Victoria Azarenka is another player thought to be a potential ‘Grand Slam’ winner, but so far she has failed to reach a final, although she was a semi finalist at Wimbledon. She wins regularly on the tour itself and has an outstanding game that should be good enough at the very top, all she needs to do now is prove it by claiming a first ‘Slam’ in 2012.
The 2012 year could well see a repeat of 2011 with four different "Grand Slam" winners and a new world number one, but who they will be is anyone’s guess