Day 1 of the post-Henin era sees Maria Sharapova take over the number-one spot on the WTA rankings, but can she hold on to it? That's the million-dollar question. The way I see it, there's really only two other legit contenders and here's a hint: Their last name begins with "W" and ends in "illiams."
By the time it's all said and done, I think that barring injury the top three spots at the end of the year will be filled by Maria, Serena and Venus: not necessarily in that order, but there, nonetheless. Here's why:
• Coming to the surfaces: S. Williams and Sharapova have both had pretty dominant clay-court seasons so far, which both would say is their worst surface. And V. Williams, after taking some time off for whatever reason, had a really good win today over Vera Zvonareva, who's having one of the most solid seasons on the tour right now. They're racking up great results now. Imagine what will happen when they all get to the grass and hard-court seasons.
• Power balling: No one hits all-out like the Williams and Sharapova. Henin could give as good as she got, but she also mixed up her game to thwart their bomb-dropping, throwing in slices and loops to keep them off balance. No one in the top 10 has the variety Henin has, save for Patty Schnyder, and it's past the point of her coming through. Now I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility for SMV to just totally blast opponents off the court.
• The Major difference: Besides the big 3, the only other top 20 player out there with a Slam right now is Svetlana Kuznetsova, and she can't even win a regular tour final right now. Ana Ivanovic has gotten to a couple of Major finals, but lost them. Jelena Jankovic hasn't tasted Slam runner-up glory yet, and I don't see it this year. Serena, Venus and Maria all know about sealing the deal, and have each come through with at least one big title in the past couple of years. They know what to do when it comes down to playing for the big hardware, especially if it's NOT against each other!
Things will really heat up week after next when the French Open starts. Expect one of the big three to come through with the other two nipping at her heels!
An old friend of mine and I used to talk tennis for hours, whether it was our own games or what was happening in the pros. I've started Tennis Talk, Anyone? to, well, talk tennis with an even broader crowd! My name is Van Sias and I've been playing for 20 years now, and not only am I player, I'm a huge fan of the game as well: pro, amateur, you name it. I'll post links to news items related to the sport, and offer my own personal opinion, predictions and hopefully get some of yours as well.