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Women's top ranking up for grabs

August 30, 2008 09:55 IST

Top-seeded world number one Ana Ivanovic fell victim to the wave of volatility in women's tennis when she was ousted from the US Open in the second round by 188th-ranked qualifier Julie Coin of France.

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The abrupt exit, earliest by a women's top seed at the US championships in 42 years, left the 20-year-old Serb a passive bystander among five women with a mathematical chance of emerging from the year's final slam as world number one.

An unscientific survey of 10 tennis fans in the plaza in front of Arthur Ashe Stadium court on Friday found no one able to name every one of the five players vying to lay claim to being the women's best.

Even members of the media would be hard pressed to name Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina and Serena Williams as the five contenders for the throne.

Some fans said they yearned for the days when there was a dominant women's player, like Steffi Graf, ruling the rankings. Others thought the scramble at the top was a healthy thing.

Beth Carey of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, named four of the five, inserting 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova instead of Safina. She thought the women's game was more interesting than ever.

"I like it because I think that any match is up for grabs. I think there's a lot of depth," she said. "I think it's kind of exciting that a player ranked 180 in the world can beat the number one. That's exciting."

Carole Ducruet of Lyon, France, had a different view.

"I preferred it when there was Steffi Graf, and the tennis she was playing was really nice to watch," she said. "It's difficult to remember all the Russian names."

New Yorker Sandi Durell agreed.

"I haven't paid that much attention to the women since Steffi. There are too many 'viches'," she said. "There are so many Russians, Eastern Europeans. They have very long names and are very tall."


Some nostalgic fans named former number ones Lindsay Davenport (ranked 23rd) and France's Amelie Mauresmo (29th) on their list.

Since the sudden retirement of last year's Open winner Justine Henin of Belgium in May, the women's rankings have been crowded at the top.

Bo Folchi of Bloomfield, New Jersey, said he liked it that way, between sips of his drink at Baseline Cocktails.

"I like that there are several women at the top who can interchange, even monthly. I didn't like Federer being number one for five years. I like a decent mix of challengers."

Others echoed that sentiment.

"It's a lot more competitive, more enjoyable to watch," said New Yorker Nora Mazzarino. "It used to be a little bit boring. Now you get a lot more speed, different shots and fashion-wise it's very big now."

New York's Saul Kagan said, "It's much better than it was 10 years ago. It's more exciting to watch. I like that they hit the ball harder than they used to in the moon-ball era."

Kagan had Ivanovic, Jankovic and Serena Williams but struggled to round out the quintet before summoning up an old favourite. "I would say Anna Kournikova, she's my number one forever," Kagan said.

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