LONDON (AP) - From Australia to Belarus to China, the top of the women’s tennis rankings looks like a United Nations of tennis.
For the first time since the inception of the WTA rankings in 1975, the top 10 players hail from 10 different countries.
“Having 10 different players represent the top 10 rankings shows how truly global tennis has become,” WTA Chair and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a statement after the release of Monday’s latest rankings.
The ascendancy of Chinese star and Australian Open runner-up Li Na combined with Serena Williams’ injury layoff and the retirement of Russia’s Elena Dementieva set up the new-look rankings.
With Danish player Caroline Wozniacki remaining at No. 1, the top 11 women are from 11 different countries.
After Wozniacki come Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters of Belgium, Vera Zvonareva of Russia, Francesca Schiavone of Italy, Sam Stosur of Australia, Venus Williams of the U.S., Li, Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and Shahar Peer of Israel.
Three of those are all-time highs for a country’s player: Schiavone is the first Italian to break into the top five, Li the first Chinese player to reach No. 7, and Peer the first Israeli as high as No. 11.
Thirty of the top 60 players are from different nations.
In the men’s rankings, No. 1 Rafael Nadal leads three Spanish men in the top 10, along with No. 6 David Ferrer and No. 9 Fernando Verdasco. The other seven players, including Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia at No. 3 and Roger Federer of Switzerland at No. 2, are from different countries.
Serena Williams’ drop from No. 4 to No. 12 in the rankings is due to her foot injury. The 2010 Australian Open champion lost more than 2,000 points in the latest rankings, mainly because she did not defend her title in Melbourne.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion has been off the court since winning Wimbledon last year.
Dementieva, who retired at the end of last year but was still No. 10 in the last set of rankings, is no longer listed.
Both the United States and Russia have spent much of the last few years with more than one player in the top 10. The Americans have held steady with the Williams sisters and now-retired Lindsay Davenport, while the Russians have loaded the top with Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nadia Petrova, Dinara Safina and Anna Chakvetadze.
Cljisters and Belgian teammate Justine Henin also spent years together near the top, but both retired before coming back. Henin retired for a second time last week, but Clijsters has now won three Grand Slam titles since emerging from her 2 1/2-year break in late 2009 _ all after becoming a mother.
Li became the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final.
“Li Na’s breakthrough performance will propel the popularity of women’s tennis forward exponentially in the China market,” Allaster said last week in an e-mail. “Women’s tennis is already one of the fastest growing sports in China thanks to the celebrity status and success of Li Na and her compatriots.”
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