We know certain things about top WTA players in 2012 — Victoria Azarenka was virtually unstoppable on hard courts, Maria Sharapova was unusually great on clay, and Serena Williams was undefeated on grass.
But we can take that one step further by examining the composition of their rankings. What percentage of their total ranking points was accumulated on each surface?
Here’s a visual look at the top 8 players, examining where their ranking points are coming from.
Over 3/4 of Victoria Azarenka’s 10,595 WTA ranking points were earned on hard courts, her best surface. The World No. 1 earned 2210 more points than Serena Williams on hard courts.
Of course, hard courts comprise a larger part of the WTA Tour than clay and grass, but Azarenka performed particularly well on the surface, ending the year with an impressive 47-5 record (winning more than 90% of her matches). Even more importantly for rankings’ sake, Azarenka was 13-1 in hard court Majors.
Azarenka was less stellar on clay (12-3, or 80%) and grass (10-2, or 83.3%), but still quite solid.
Maria Sharapova, who had won just three clay court titles before 2012, racked up an astonishing record on clay this year, going 18-1 (94.7%) on the surface, and winning three more clay titles, including the French Open.
Her record on grass (8-2, or 80%) and hard courts (33-8, or 80.4%) was also good, but it was her clay season that cemented her No. 2 ranking.
Serena Williams went undefeated on grass this year, earning the maximum number of points at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games. Her run at those events helped her ranking, but she was also quite good on hard courts (26-3, or 89.6%).
The interesting part of Williams’ season is her strong record on clay (15-1). Though Williams started the clay season extremely strongly, winning Charleston, going 2-0 in Fed Cup, winning Madrid, and reaching the semifinal in Rome before pulling out with a stiff back, her first round loss at Roland Garros still cost her greatly in the WTA rankings.
Williams left Roland Garros with just 5 WTA ranking points to show for it, and though many have speculated that she could have a higher ranking had she played more tournaments (which is true), she also could’ve improved on her ranking had she performed better in the biggest clay tournament of the year.
Agnieszka Radwanska proved herself capable of translating her game to each surface. She went 41-12 (77.3%) on hard courts, 12-4 (75%) on clay, and 6-3 (66.6%) on grass. The grass court winning percentage is slightly deceptive, because she did reach the final at Wimbledon, earning 1400 points for her efforts. But she struggled at Eastbourne and the Olympics, falling in the first round of each.
Like Radwanska, Angelique Kerber performed comparably well on each surface. She went 34-14 (70.8%) on hard courts, 12-4 (75%) on clay courts, and 12-3 (80%) on grass.
Sara Errani is truly a clay specialist, earning 51% of her ranking points on that surface, and going 28-3 (90.3%). On grass, she particularly struggled, going 2-3. She performed reasonably well on hard courts, going 23-14 (62.1%) on the year.
Li Na performed well enough on hard courts (30-11, or 73.1%) to earn 73% of her ranking points there. The former French Open champion did well on clay too (11-4, 73.3%). But she outdid even Errani in struggling on grass. She won just one match on grass to earn a measly 100 ranking points.
Petra Kvitova, known as notoriously inconsistent, was actually fairly consistent in transitioning her game to each surface. She went 24-9 (72.7%) on hard courts, 10-4 (71.4%) on clay, and 7-3 (70%) on grass.
A big thank you to the WTA’s Kevin Fischer, who provided the rankings data.