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 21-25.
WTA 2016 Year in Review: Rank 21-25
21. Samantha Stosur
The 2011 Us Open champion reached a semifinal in a Grand Slam tournament after four years, in Paris, though frequent early losses denied her a Top 20 ranking at the end of the year.
As mentioned in the introduction, the semifinal reached at the French Open is an outstanding result for the Australian. She performed well in the entire clay season, advancing to the semis in Madrid and to the final in Prague, where she lost against local Lucie Safarova.
In Paris, though, she beat Misaki Doi and Shuai Zhang, before taking her revenge to Safarova in the third round. Wins against Simona Halep and Roland Garros’ biggest surprise Tsvetana Pironkova gifted her the semis, where she lost to eventual champion Garbine Muguruza.
As usual, Sam Stosur showed poor performances in the Australian swing, where she always falls under the pressure of being the local talent, eventually losing to Krystina Pliskova–Karolina’s twin–in the first round of the Australian Open.
Moreover, second round both at Wimbledon and US Open are disappointing, especially the second one, considered how she performed there in the past.
Outlook for 2017
Stosur has never been a consistent player, so nobody expects her to be solid during the following season. A masterclass performance in a big tournament–a Slam or a Premier 5–would be enough for the Aussie girl.
22. Kiki Bertens
The Dutch girl started the season ranked #101. She ended it ranked #22, with a WTA title in singles, four in doubles and a Grand Slam semifinal. Not bad at all.
In what can be considered an overwhelming season, the clay swing has certainly been the highest part. Bertens, in fact, won the title in Nurnberg, and according to a legend that claims that the ones who win Nurnberg, the following week reach the semis in Paris–ask Eugenie Bouchard or Simona Halep–she reached that indeed!
After shocking Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the first round, the Dutch continued her impressive run defeating talented players such as Camila Giorgi, Daria Kasatkina (in a thrilling three setter), Madison Keys, and 2015 semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky, surrendering only to Serena Williams in an absurd match. Bertens, half-injured, managed to have several set points in the first set, but couldn’t convert them.
A final in Gstaad is worth mentioning, too.
Given her outstanding season, I’d say her low point is the terrible serve shown at the IPTL against Kirsten Flipkens when she was match point down. The video became viral, and everybody – the Dutch player included – laughed.
Outlook for 2017
Expectations for 2017 are stellar. The semis in Paris are not unimaginable, given her crystalline talent, and the feel is that her best is definitely yet to come.
23. Shuai Zhang
In the WTA round table, I labelled Shuai Zhang as the biggest comeback player of the year. What she’s done this season has been truly amazing, though fully deserved for such a brilliant and nice girl.
Prior to the Australian Open, the Chinese girl was contemplating retirement from tennis. Fallen down outside the Top 100 in the rankings, she’s never been able to win a single Main Draw match at Grand Slams, in multiple appearances.
She qualified for the first Slam of the year, and in the first round she shocked everyone, defeating Simona Halep in straight sets. The moment of her victory is one of the most touching scenes I’ve ever seen in this sport, with both Zhang and her coach crying of happiness.
Galvanized for the upset, she advanced until quarterfinals, where her friend Johanna Konta stopped her impressive run. The Brit defeated her in the quarterfinals in Beijing, too.
What’s more, thank to a wildcard she took part at the Zhuhai Elite Trophy. She finished ranked first in her round robin, defeating the WTA Timeas–Bacsinszky and Babos–and surrendered in the semifinal to super-in-shape Petra Kvitova.
Genuinely, I wouldn’t find a low point in the entire season of the Chinese girl.
Outlook for 2017
It’s hard to believe the Chinese will defend all her points, especially the ones at the Australian Open. The wish, however, is that she keeps playing as in this year and earn some satisfaction, after all the disappointment tennis gave her.
24. Caroline Garcia
Two WTA titles in singles, two in doubles including a Grand Slam and Fed Cup final are, as we’ll see, not enough for the super-talented French girl.
First of all, her partnership with Kiki Mladenovic in doubles proved prolific. The two paired up because of the Olympics, and managed to win Fed Cup matches that made France advance to the final. The most satisfactory win is, though, definitely the the French Open.
As far as singles is concerned, the Frenchwoman triumphed in Strasbourg and Mallorca, beating respectively Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Anastasia Sevastova. Moreover, though not enough for the team to win, her wins against Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova in the Fed Cup final are remarkable.
The lowest point of Garcia’s 2016 is certainly the Olympics. Rio was, in fact, the goal of her partnership with Mladenovic, though the two ended up losing in the opening round.
What’s more, she wasn’t able to win a medal in mixed doubles, either.
What’s worse, though, is the fact that in 2016 Caroline Garcia has been able to reach decent results in big stages, displaying all of her talent which is still denied. And the years are going on…
Outlook for 2017
Of course, the main preoccupation for the French girl will be her singles career. Hopefully, she’ll finally be able to write her name beside the top players in the world. Given her talent and her skills, the goal is totally within her range. The mental part is certainly the one who’s in need of improvement the most.
25. Daria Gavrilova
Starting the season in good shape, winning the Hopman Cup with Nick Kyrgios, Gavrilova though failed to stay at very high levels throughout the entire season.
The Hopman Cup, though only an exhibition, is well-respected amongst players, and winning it is clearly a great achievement.
Moreover, the Aussie youngster reached the fourth round in her home Slam, defeating Petra Kvitova in the second round and surrendering, with some regrets, to Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.
The final in Moscow, at the end of the year, is worth to being reminded of, too.
Definitely, performances in Slams. Apart from the Australian Open, she reached the second round only in Wimbledon, losing to Mariana Duque-Marino at Roland Garros and to Lucie Safarova at the US Open.
Outlook for 2017
Gavrilova is going to turn 23 next year, so that she’s not a rising star anymore. The time to shine has come, and 2017 will be an important turning point. We’ll se if she’ll make it to the top, or if she’ll remain another year around #25-#30 in the world.