Caroline Wozniacki finished 2010 as the world No. 1, but Maria Sharapova has a shot to take the ranking to end 2011. (Icon/SMI)
Caroline Wozniacki's third-round loss to Kaia Kanepi in Tokyo gives No. 2 Maria Sharapova a chance -- emphasis on chance -- to snatch the No. 1 ranking after next week's China Open in Beijing.
Per WTA stat guru Kevin Fischer, here's how it would have to play out: Sharapova would need to both reach the final in Tokyo and win Beijing to have a shot at the top spot.
If Sharapova is the runner-up in Tokyo and wins Beijing, she'd have 7,765 points. However, if Wozniacki wins her first match in Beijing, she'll have 7,895 points and would hold on to the No. 1 ranking.
If Sharapova wins BOTH Tokyo and Beijing, she'll have racked up 8,085 total rankings points. If that happens, Wozniacki would need to make the Beijing semifinals to maintain her spot atop the rankings with 8,205 points.
Of course, this is just the projection for the next few weeks. Depending on how Tokyo and Beijing shake out, the WTA Championships in Istanbul may be decisive in who ends the year at No. 1.
Interestingly enough, year-end No. 1 is one accomplishment that isn't on Sharapova's résumé . How's that for motivation?