This offseason, Last Word On Tennis will be looking back at the seasons of the top 50 players on each tour. This installment includes the WTA 2016 players ranked 16-20.
WTA 2016 Year in Review: 16-20
16. Elena Vesnina
At the beginning of the season, nobody would have bet Elena Vesnina would finish the season ranked this high. The doubles specialist, though, managed to have a masterclass year in single, too, with a Slam semifinal and a final in a WTA tournament.
As I said before, Vesnina is a double specialist, and her achievements in this category are worth being mentioned. In January, she won the mixed doubles at the Australian Open with Bruno Soares, but the most terrific is that she won the gold medal at the Olympics with her long-time partner Ekaterina Makarova, with whom she won the WTA Finals in Singapore.
The most surprising part of her season is the singles, though.
Starting the year ranked outside the Top 100, she managed to reach the final in Charleston, starting from qualies, surrendering only to Sloane Stephens. Her lifetime achievement, however, has certainly been the semifinals at Wimbledon. After a dramatic match against her doubles partner Ekaterina Makarova, a player she never beat before, she won 9-7 in the third set and reached her first Grand Slam semifinal. She eventually lost in less than an hour to Serena Williams, a defeat which is definitely acceptable, given the strength of her opponent, who was battling for her 22nd Slam Title.
From March on, it’s hard to find her some low points. She showed consistency, beating lower-ranked players, though often losing to higher-ranked player, sometimes showing no skills to challenge them, as, for example, against Elina Svitolina in Zhuahai.
Outlook for 2017
It certainly won’t be easy for her to defend her ranking points, especially at Wimbledon, though she’ll need a good start of the season to earn some points, in order not to fall too down in the rankings after the Championships. Given her performances these year, this goal is definitely within her range.
17. Venus Williams
At the age of thirty-six – you read it correctly! – Venus Williams ended her year ranked inside the top 20, reaching the semis at Wimbledon after nine years. Chapeau!
Her semifinal at Wimbledon has been an historic moment, since she showed everybody that there is a reason why she has been number one in the world and, mostly, that there is a reason why she won the Championships five times. Only Angelique Kerber denied a final between the Williams, which would have been one of the most epic moments in tennis, giving the age of the two players. The two, however, managed to win the doubles together.
Moreover, she was a finalist in Stanford, and eventually won the silver medal at the Olympics in the mixed doubles, pairing with Rajeev Ram.
After a career like the one she’s had, it is unfair to consider the following low points, though it is true that some poor performances by her have disappointed her fans. For example, the early loss in the first round at the Olympics in singles against Kirsten Flipkens from Belgium, and also the loss in the first round in doubles, pairing with her sister Serena.
Outlook for 2017
If Venus keeps playing with willingness to fight and good results, it would be a gift for the entire tennis world. So, let’s hope to see her again in big stages next year.
18. Roberta Vinci
For the first time in her career, the Italian became Top 10, after winning a title in St. Petersburg, and she remained in the élite until the US Open, when she was called to defend a final, reached after that titanic win against Serena Williams in 2015–a match that tennis fans won’t forget.
Aged 33, Roberta Vinci became the oldest woman in the Open Era to enter the Top 10. Galvanized by her life-time match against Serena Williams in the semifinals of 2015 US Open, she started the season definitely pumped, winning a her 10th WTA title and the first since Palermo in 2013 in St. Petersburg, and eventually rising until the 7th position of the ranking later, in May.
Thus, 3rd round both at Australian Open and Wimbledon are worth mentioning, as well as the quarterfinals in Doha. Furthermore, at the US Open she was able to reach quarterfinals again, surrendering only to Angelique Kerber, US Open champion.
With US Open being the only exception, from May on Vinci’s season lacked consistency and, sometimes, motivation. She lost some matches she should have definitely won, even in minor stages, displaying a game and a fighting spirit far behind her possibility.
Outlook for 2017
Recently, Vinci stated that she won’t retire, and that she’ll be back on court as soon as in January, in Australia, so that we’ll see that beautiful slice backhand live again.
If she decided not to quit, that means she’s really determined to fight and she feels she has the potential to compete at her best. I do hope that 2017 will gift her some personal satisfaction.
19. Caroline Wozniacki
I dealt with Wozniacki’s incredible turnaround once already, so there is obviously much more to say here. From the US Open on, the Danish girl had a masterclass season, with a Slam semifinal and two WTA titles. Impressive, given how she started the year!
In the first round of the US Open, Wozniacki played a horrible three-setter against local youngster Taylor Townsend, though somehow the former #1 in the world managed to win and advanced to the following round. From there on, she defeated players like Svetlana Kuznetsova or Madison Keys, and surprisingly reached the semis, surrendering – just like Roberta Vinci in the quarterfinals – only to eventual champion Angelique Kerber.
What’s more, in the Asian swing she won a WTA title in Tokyo, guaranteeing her ninth straight year with a title, and then again in Hong Kong, too.
She ended the season winning 21 of her last 24 matches, a terrific stat.
To be honest, there are so many low points of Wozniacki’s 2016. Unexplainable losses such as against Anett Kontaveit in Nottingham, or against Sam Stosur in Eastbourne, a player whose game is not suited to grass. Moreover, she suffered first round losses at Australian Open and Wimbledon – though against tough players, respectively Sloane Stephens and Svetlana Kuznetsova, and an injury which denied her part of the season.
However, given her post-US Open season, all of these seems belonging to the past, and are relevant no more.
Outlook for 2017
It is fair to say that Wozniacki – together with Agnieszka Radwanska – is the player who deserve a Slam title the most. Looking at her last part of the season, the goal seems within her range. I expect her to be determined as ever to win it.
20. Barbora Strycova
The Czech showed neither particular highs, nor particular lows this year, though she confirmed herself as one of the trickiest and funniest players on tour.
Strycova was able to reach her career-best rank of 19th in the world this year, reaching the finals in Dubai and Birmingham, and her personal best of 39 main draw wins in a season. Moreover, she won the bronze medal in doubles at the Olympics with Lucie Safarova.
I wouldn’t say Strycova’s season has had some low points, maybe only the fact of not having emerged in a big tournament, such as a Slam or a Premier 5.
Outlook for 2017
I expect her to remain consistent, tough to beat, though I honestly don’t see the Czech to make something terrific. Though, tennis is unpredictable, and I’ll probably be proven wrong.