Keothavong makes her presence felt as race to be No 1 gathers pace

It took Roger Federer more than four years to lose his position as the world No 1. It will probably take just three weeks for Ana Ivanovic's current reign at the top of the women's world rankings to end. At the start of play here yesterday Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva all had hopes of finishing at the top of the tree come the end of the US Open in a week's time.

Anne Keothavong, Britain's No 1, may have lost to Dementieva on Friday night and been shown the chasm that exists between her and the topmost branches of that tree, but she could not have picked a better time to give her profile a boost.

Defenders of women's tennis see the log jam at the top as evidence of its strength in depth. Critics see it as a vacuum, and insist that the sport needs strong champions. They point to men's tennis, which has thrived on the rivalry between Federer and Rafael Nadal, who took more than three years to make the final step up the ladder from No 2 in the rankings.

During Federer's unbroken reign there were no fewer than 14 changes at the head of the rankings on the Sony Ericsson Women's Tour and six worldNo 1s: Justine Henin, Amélie Mauresmo, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and Jankovic.

For a while it seemed that Henin and Sharapova would fight toe to toe for the top spot, but all that changed earlier this year. Henin retired abruptly, while Sharapova's long-term future has been thrown into doubt because of the shoulder injury that has kept her away from Flushing Meadows.

When Ivanovic won her first Grand Slam final at the French Open in June she seemed to have the world at her feet, but the past three months have been woeful for the 20-year-old Serb. She has played just three tournaments, losing in the third round at Wimbledon and Montreal and in the second round here. Having become the No 1 at the start of the summer, she was briefly overtaken earlier this month by Jankovic and will in all probability lose the position again here.

A thumb injury has not helped Ivanovic's cause, but somebelieve she has found life at the top hard to handle. "It takes a lot of time just to feel like a No 1," Dementieva said. "I think she has a very good, solid game, but there's extra pressure with this No 1 position. She's a very good, very athletic player. Maybe she was a little bit too tight on the court here, but it's something you have to learn to deal with.

"Everyone wants to reachthe top of the game, so it's quite open for a lot of players at themoment. I think it's very interesting for the sport, because we're going to see a lot of competition and a lot of tough matches because of this. It's extra motivation for all of us."

Svetlana Kuznetsova, ranked No 4, points out that most of the players at the top are comparatively young. "We're all new and I think we definitely feel a lot of nerves," she said. "Generations change so quickly. Most of us are 23 or younger.

"Since Justine left it's as though there's nobody left at the top. Everyone wants to get there, but we're also nervous about it."

Some players believe the ranking system is not weighted sufficiently in favour of the Grand Slam tournaments. Jankovic,for example, was able to reach No 1 despite never having played in a major final.

"To be No 1 you have to play a lot," Mauresmo said. "You definitely have to have quite a busy schedule, unless you win every tournament that you enter.

"There's no one that you feel is really comfortable out there, playing a strong game and being really consistent. There are certainly opportunities for other players to get to the highest level and create some big upsets."

The other leading women players all point to the continuing threat posed by the Williams sisters, but on current form the next No 1 may well come from Russia. Safina has had an outstanding year and has never looked back since losing to Ivanovic in the French Open final. Her only defeat, in three tournaments on hard courts this summer, was to Dementieva in the Olympic final.

Dementieva is also flying, which made Keothavong's spirited display on Friday night against the world No 6 all the more commendable. The British No 1, playing in her firstGrand Slam tournament outside Wimbledon, lost 6-3 6-4, but impressed with her confidence and aggression. Keothavong led 4-3 with a break in the second set and had two points for a 5-4 lead, but was never quite able to match Dementieva's consistencyat the crucial moments.

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable