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WTA - Germans race for top 10 ranking

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by Prakash

German tennis fans have been waiting for a top 10 player in women’s tennis since 1999 when their beloved Steffi Graf hung up her racket. Over the past 16 months, Andrea Petkovic has built a strong case as the answer to those prayers.

But like a lightning bolt from nowhere, Petkovic is now being challenged by another countrywoman, Julia Goerges, as their race to the top 10 heats up over the next two months. Petkovic, the current top-ranked German, is a delightful 23 year old, who has been winning the hearts and minds of fans across the world with her tennis and personality.

Her Petkorazzi videos and Petko-dance have acquired her a loyal brand of tennis fans and she has been backing it up with regular wins on the court. Ranked no. 55 at the time, Petkovic started to pile up some impressive results since January 2010, alternating them with some early exits.

She was a semi-finalist in Brisbane in January ’10 losing to Kim Clijsters. Although she did not go deep in any event over the next few months, she earned wins over higher ranked opponents like Aravane Rezai (ranked no.21 in Paris and Fed Cup) and Flavia Pennetta (top 15 ranked in Miami and Madrid) and lost close three setters to Serena Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva – making herself a dangerous floater in any draw she entered.

In June, she reached the finals of the WTA event in 'S-Hertogenbosch, losing another close battle to Justine Henin. The US Open was where she debuted her Petko-dance after upsetting world no. 16 Nadia Petrova in the first round.

Petkovic danced her way to the fourth round, losing to world no. 8 Vera Zvonareva. A semi-final in Linz helped her end 2010 with 34-26 record. As her profile kept getting bigger, the German kept racking up the wins. She went one better in Brisbane this January, reaching the finals and losing to Petra Kvitova.

In Melbourne, Venus Williams withdrew early in the first set from their third round encounter. Petkovic made the most of her good fortune, going on to beat Maria Sharapova in straight sets to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final where she lost to Li Na.

In Miami, Petkovic retired the Petko-dance but scored wins over world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and world no.7 Jelena Jankovic to reach the semi-finals where she was beaten by Sharapova. These impressive results have seen the German climb to no.

15 in the rankings and destined for top 10 glory in the coming monhts. No one expected Petkovic to now have to find herself locked in a race to become the first German woman to reach the top 10 in 12 years; certainly not Goerges herself.

The 22 year old Goerges has gone relatively unnoticed until she made her stunning breakthrough in her native land two weeks ago. Starting 2010 as world no. 77, Goerges won an ITF title in France in July, followed it by reaching the semi-finals in Palermo and winning her first WTA title in Bad Gastein, Austria – the highest ranked player she beat in that stretch was world no.46 Klara Zakopalova.

Goerges ended 2010 record with a 36-26 record, also reaching the finals in Luxembourg in the fall where she beat Ana Ivanovic , ranked no. 26 at the time. Having climbed to no. 40 at the start of this year, Goerges reached the semi-finals in Auckland and then beat world no.

21 Kaia Kanepi in the second round of the Australian Open. In then third round, she was up a break deep in the third set against Sharapova but lost the decider 6-4. Since the start of the clay court season, Georges has been on a tear.

She beat world no. 11 Shahar Peer in Charleston on the way to the quarter-finals – and then had her coming out party in Stuttgart, where she scored wins over world no. 5 Azarenka (retired due to injury), world no. 7 Sam Stosur and top-ranked to become the first German to win the Stuttgart title since 1994 and rising to no.

27 in the rankings. Earlier today, Goerges scored her second consecutive win over Wozniacki in the third round of the Madrid Open – this time in three sets. The WTA, in dire need of a new marketable star, will be hoping that Gorgeous Goerges will ride her good looks and big game to the top 10.

And Goerges might just be able to sneak past Petkovic to get there first. Goerges is defending only 175 ranking points from now till Wimbledon while Petkovic is defending nearly 570 points in the same time. Having reached the quarter-finals this week in Madrid, Georges is assured of 250 ranking points while Petkovic, who is now training with Heinz Guenthardt, the man who coached Graf for the final eight years of her career, could only earn 80 points for losing in the second round in Madrid.

And don’t forget Sabine Lisicki in the midst of all this. Lisicki might have the biggest game and most potential of all the three Germans. In 2009, at the age of 19, Lisicki used her powerful serve and big groundstrokes to full effect, winning the Family Circle Cup title in Charleston, over Wozniacki in the final, and reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, peaking at no.

22 in the rankings. Since then, Lisicki has been troubled by ankle injuries, which caused her to miss 5 months of the tour last year. She is currently ranked no. 132, up from no. 179 in January, thanks to a 14-8 record this year.

In Stuttgart, she beat world no. 27 Dominika Cibulkova and world no. 6 Li Na before losing to Goerges herself. If Lisicki can stay injury free, she will certainly be back in the mix with her higher-profile countrywomen a few months down the road.

And the trio will likely be a dominant force in Fed Cup – the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup – in the next few years. It’s certainly a good time to be a German tennis fan again. The next few months should answer the Germans prayers for a top 10 player.

The only question is who will get there first!! .

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