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By Erik Gudris | Monday, June 2 2014

Serena Williams Roland Garros 2014

Serena Williams and Li Na, who both lost early in Paris, need to hit the reset button if they want to lay claim to the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples

It's hard to think that the current top two women in the WTA appear in need of hitting the proverbial reset button. But that certainly seems to be the case for both Serena Williams and Li Na who both exited this year's French Open earlier than expected. How both bounce back, or don't, in the second half of the season could well determine who ends up as Year-End No. 1.

French Open: Learning from The Losers in Paris

Despite winning three WTA titles already, Wiliams has also lost four matches this year -- the same number of defeats she posted for the entirety of her remarkable 2013 campaign. Though still the top player on tour and for many still the woman to beat, Williams has looked less than imposing for the first half of this season. After struggling to win Miami, the planet's best player crashed out of Charleston at the hands of Jana Cepelova. Citing a need to take a break, Williams did so and seemed recharged as she headed over to Europe. But en route to winning Rome, Williams kept reiterating she didn't feel any pressure to defend her French Open title nor seem too concerned if she didn't.

A strange admission from a woman who throughout her career has said she wants to win no matter what. Williams, who knows every additional Grand Slam title is just an extra sweet addition to her already savory career, appears to have adopted a "Que Sera, Sera" attitude about results moving forward, especially at the majors. Will it work? Wimbledon may give us the best answer as Williams will once again enter there as the favorite.

Her fans might be worried but Williams, who posted photos of herself in a leopard bathing suit while down in Miami recently, already appears to have moved on. She was joined there by beach gal pal Caroline Wozniacki, who if anybody needs a vacation it's definitely the former No. 1 after the last few weeks she's had. Perhaps taking more breaks at the beach or just away from the game, even it means missing a few more events between the majors, could also be a necessary subtraction, not addition, for Williams moving forward.

But if anyone needs to rewind, refresh, and reboot, it is Li Na. After crashing out to Kristina Mladenovic in the first round of Paris, Li admitted she wasn't mentally ready to play that match. Candor is always appreciated, but when it comes from a woman who just won her second Grand Slam title in Melbourne at the start of the year, one wonders where exactly is Li's head these days.

Li contemplated retiring a year ago after losing early in the French Open. After being talked out of it, Li surged to No. 2 in the world and took advantage at this year's Australian Open when other big names lost early. Despite having a decent if not stellar clay court lead up, Li looked poised to perhaps reach another Grand Slam final. But the mental confusion she showed in the match versus Mladenovic proved Li can't always be expected to ease through early rounds anywhere really. And that's not a comforting thought for a woman who could become No. 1 in the world. But does Li really want to be at the top of the rankings? She may be known for her honesty, but it's a question that perhaps she isn't yet ready to answer.

Williams still holds a healthy 2000 plus point lead in the WTA rankings race over Li. But if Williams wants to finish No.1 at the end of the year, she will need to post a solid result at Wimbledon just in case she can't defend her US Open title from last year. Li, on the other hand, will need help from Williams and yet another deep run at a major if she wants to close in on the top spot.

A fascinating and close battle for the top ranking could be in store for the women's game in the second half of the season. How that all plays out could well be determined on how well both Williams and Li spend this unexpected down time away from the City of Light.


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