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 players ranked 36-40.
41. Alizé Cornet
The 26-year-old endured an uninspiring season posting a 28-23 record in singles. She kicked off the campaign on a high note by winning the WTA International title at Hobart. However, the Nice native went through a long slump, failing to collect a top 100 win in between the Australian Open and the French Open. Solid third round showings at both her home Slam and at Wimbledon led to a better yet not stellar second half of 2016. On the one hand, she posted remarkable wins over 8th ranked Dominika Cibulkova and 14th ranked Venus Williams at Beijing and Hong Kong respectively. On the other hand, she was unable to clinch the Fed Cup for France, losing the fourth rubber in straight sets to Barbora Strycova
Since we are mainly talking about singles, there is no other way around it: Mladenovic´s year was underwhelming. She started the season as a Top 30 player with high expectations coming off of a quarterfinal run at the 2015 US Open. Nevertheless, the 6-feet-tall French player collapsed in the first third of the year. While she was on the verge of advancing to the Australian Open round of 16 (losing 11-9 in the decider against Daria Gavrilova), Kiki could only muster two additional wins in 11 WTA events until the week before Roland Garros.
She sort of bounced back later in the year with a pair of WTA International final appearances at ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Hong Kong. According to the WTA official stats, the 23-year-old won exactly 50% of the points she played, posting a relatable 31-32 overall record, sufficient to dwell in the lower end of the Top 50. Notwithstanding, that won’t cut it if she wants to make a leap.
In spite of the singles stagnation, Mladenovic will never forget 2016. Along with her long-time friend Caroline Garcia, she won the Ladies Doubles French Open, thus becoming prophets in their own land. The French duo also reached the US Open final, which boosted Mladenovic to a career-high number 2 in the doubles ladder. They finished the year with a bitter taste, though, as they dropped the title-deciding fifth rubber in the Fed Cup final against the Czech Republic.
43. Belinda Bencic
Talking about disappointments, Bencic´s season was nothing but discouraging, partially due to injuries affecting her back and wrist throughout the year. She made it to the second week in Melbourne, where she was Maria Sharapova´s last victim, breaking into the top 10. The 19-year-old kept living up to the hype by beating both Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber on the road, but nothing was the same after that magical Fed Cup weekend in February. Martina Hingis’ protégé missed the full European clay swing and the Rio Olympics. The Swiss never found her groove for the remainder of 2016. Her record was a middling 20-21, including a whopping five retirements. Barring new physical impediments, expect to find Bencic higher in the rankings come this time next year.
44. Jelena Ostapenko
On paper, it was a superb season for the young Latvian, as she rose 35 spots all the way from the number 79 position she held in the 2015 year-end WTA rankings. If we dig deeper, though, it is fair to conclude Ostapenko had a mediocre campaign (20-28 record) camouflaged by an unexpected final run in Doha’s Premier 5 against a stacked field. That five-match winning spree against the likes of Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova looks like an outlier now. The 19-year-old obtained in Qatar 585 WTA points, roughly 48% of her total. She failed to win a Grand Slam contest. Her latest tour victory dates back to late August. Unless she strings together several good tournaments early in 2017, Ostapenko is bound to plummet down the ladder.
45. Christina McHale
The New Jersey native earned a 45th place in the rankings, her best output since 2012. The seventh best American won in September her maiden WTA International tournament in Tokyo, curiously edging all five opponents in three sets. Besides that, she lifted the $50,000 ITF Maui trophy in February. Other highlights include a win over French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza at Indian Wells and a near upset over Serena Williams at Wimbledon (lost 6-7 6-2 6-4). Furthermore, McHale won two doubles crowns in her first (Hobart) and last (Tianjin) tournaments of the season, climbing to a career-best 37th spot in the doubles rankings in October.