WTA Year In Review: 35-31 Including Anett Kontaveit

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Anett Kontaveit

This offseason, Last Word On Tennis will be looking back at the seasons of the top-50 players on each tour. This installment covers the WTA 2017 players ranked 35-31 including Anett Kontaveit and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

35. Shuai Zhang

A year of two halves with improvement coming later in the year.

High Points

A second career WTA title is the standout high point for Shuai Zhang in 2017. Four years after picking up her first WTA title in Guangzhou, Zhang returned to earn her second. Her form during that tournament was sensational, dropping just three games during her first three matches. A win over Garbine Muguruza in Doha was also a 2017 highlight.

Low Points

The Chinese No.2 stumbled out of the blocks at the start of the year. Her win-loss record until June was 6-13 and it took a drop down to the ITF circuit to get the season back on track. Despite having a decent year at the Slams, she could not replicate her 2016 Australian Open quarter-final.
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Other Highlights

Ending the season on a ten match winning streak was a nice early Christmas present for Zhang. An ITF tournament in Tokyo and a WTA $125 in Hawaii were the scenes of her victories which helped end her season on a high after a little bit of a slump. She also reached the third round of the French Open for the first time.

Outlook for 2018

Hopefully the end of season form will carry over into 2018 and Shuai Zhang can fly out of the traps. With little ranking points to defend in the first half of the year, Zhang has the potential to make moves back towards her career high ranking of No.23.

34. Anett Kontaveit

A breakthrough year for the hugely talented Estonian youngster.

High Points

Not only did Anett Kontaveit surge back into the top-100 but she blew into the top-50 with a statement year. She reached her first WTA final in Biel/Bienne and then backed that up with two more finals including a WTA title at the Ricoh Open. Most impressively was that her three finals all came on different surfaces, proving the talent of Anett Kontaveit.

Low Points

The rigours of a first full year on the WTA circuit did take their toll towards the back end of the season. From August onwards the Estonian’s season fell apart, winning just two matches in her final eight matches including disappointing defeats to Lizette Cabrera and Mihaela Buzarnescu.
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Other Highlights

As well as reaching three WTA finals, Anett Kontaveit also started dishing out high-profile scalps. Muguruza fell to the Estonian in Stuttgart while world No.1 at the time, Angelique Kerber, lost in Rome. She also recorded her first career wins at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

Outlook for 2018

If you are looking for a surprise name to make a top-10 run then you might have found it. 21-year-old Anett Kontaveit has all the tools to be a top-10 player and she will get there. Whether it will be in 2018 or not is yet to be seen but her consistency and talent across all surfaces means she will is an incredibly dangerous player.

33. Ekaterina Makarova

Wimbledon doubles title kick-starts singles season for Makarova.

High Points

It is hard to deny that a Grand Slam is a highlight even if it does not come in singles. Ekaterina Makarova picked up her third Grand Slam with Elena Vesnina when the pair sensationally won the Wimbledon title 6-0 6-0 in the final. The victory also took the pair one step closer to becoming the sixth women’s pair to claim the Career Slam, with just the Australian Open missing from their collection.

Low Points

While it was not terrible, her singles season got off to a fairly sluggish start until Wimbledon. Granted she reached the fourth round of the Australian Open but outside of that she lost in the first round of five of her first seven tournaments. She also briefly fell out of the top-50 for the first time since June 2012, a testament to her superb resilience in recent years.
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Other Highlights

On the singles circuit, Makarova came alive after Wimbledon. Her major success came at the Citi Open where she defeated Simona Halep en route to her third WTA title. In fact, her form towards the back end of the year was superb, boasting a 15-6 win-loss record and defeats over Caroline Wozniacki and Johanna Konta.

Outlook for 2018

Ekaterina Makarova continues to float around right on the edge of a Grand Slam seeding and is a player all the top players look to avoid. Incredibly in 2017 she claimed nine top-10 victories so still has the talent to challenge the very best. Much of the same expected for Makarova who will continue to dedicate plenty of her time to her excellent doubles career.

32. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

A simply sensation Australian Open run to the semi-finals but faded in the second half.

High Points

One of the years most memorable stories was the surprising but heartwarming run of Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to the Australian Open semi-finals. Catapulting her inside the top-30 it looked as though the veteran would be a potent force on the WTA circuit throughout much of 2017.

Low Points

Unfortunately that did not prove to be the case. Until May, Lucic-Baroni was on course to reach the WTA Finals in Singapore. Any dreams of that faded fast as the rest of the season unravelled. In her final ten tournaments of the year the Croat managed just four victories and called time on her season after the US Open.
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Other Highlights

After her Australian Open run she continued to play at an exceptional level. Semi-finals in Charleston and Acapulco and a quarter-final in Miami marked this as her best start to the season by a country mile. While she could not sustain it over the course of the season, her first four months were one of the best tennis stories of 2017.

Outlook for 2018

The chances of her replicating her remarkable 2017 are very slim. Most likely Mirjana Lucic-Baroni will continue to play but the chances of her remaining in the top-50 for long are not particularly high. Maybe it will be her last year on the WTA circuit? It would be a shame but not particularly a surprise.

31. Kiki Bertens

Predictable year as the Dutch star shines on clay but offers little elsewhere.

High Points

Unsurprisingly, Kiki Bertens’ success came exclusively on clay this year. Bertens won two WTA titles, Nurnberger and Gstaad, on the red stuff and reached a further two quarter-finals and a semi-final on the surface. In fact, her clay court record for the season was a remarkable 22-6.

Low Points

Unfortunately her clay success was counterbalanced by a terrible showing across the other surfaces. She failed to record a win and fared little better on hard courts. In fact, she recorded just five wins across 13 outdoor hard court tournaments, just once winning two consecutive matches.
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Other Highlights

Bertens did prove herself to be more of a multi-talent surface on the doubles tour. Her continued partnership with Sweden’s Johanna Larsson reached new heights this year as the pair reached five WTA finals this year, four on hard courts. The most prestigious of those by far was at the WTA Finals in Singapore where the pair narrowly lost in the final to Timea Babos and Andrea Hlavackova.

Outlook for 2018

In star contrast to Anett Kontaveit, Kiki Bertens is not a multi-surface player. Her success in 2018 depends exclusively on how she fares on clay. In 2016 she reached the French Open semi-finals and there is every chance she could replicate that feat. Do not expect to see her challenging outside of the clay season though.

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