WTA Year in Review: 25-21 Including Serena Williams

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Serena Williams

This off-season, 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 25-21, including Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.

25. Daria Gavrilova

Another year of steady if unspectacular growth for the popular and energetic Australian.

High Points

Prior to 2017 Daria Gavrilova had reached just one WTA Final. This year she made three, including picking up her first title at the Connecticut Open. During the tournament she upset two players who featured in the last edition of WTA Year in Review; Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova. Gavrilova also had a nice run at her home tournament, progressing to the fourth round of the Australian Open for the second consecutive year.

Low Points

The 23-year-old struggled on the grass, recording just two victories and falling in the first round of Wimbledon. After an extremely promising clay court season, a first round loss at the French Open at the hands of Elise Mertens stands out as a disappointing result. On the whole though, Gavrilova was one of the most remarkably consistent WTA players ranked inside the top-50.
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Outlook for 2018

Daria Gavrilova may not possess the most powerful game on the circuit. It is easy to forget though, that she is only 23 and will continue to develop over the coming years. Sealing the first WTA trophy should open the door to a handful more and Gavrilova could and should cement herself as a seasoned top-20 regular.

24. Daria Kasatkina

The 20-year-old Russian built a platform with which to make an assault on the top-20 in 2018.

High Points

It is perhaps unsurprising that Daria Gavrilova and Daria Kasatkina are separated by just one ranking spot. Not only do they share the same first name but are also best friends and doubles partners. Ironically, their years were similar too. Kasatkina also won her first WTA trophy, defeating Jelena Ostapenko in a Premier final in Charleston. Her form was most impressive towards the end of the season, reaching a second Premier final – which she lost to Julia Goerges – and defeating world no.1 Simona Halep.

Low Points

While Gavrilova remained consistent throughout much of the year, Kasatkina was more patchy. Confusingly, her form either side of her WTA title was poor. Both before and after her Charleston success, the young Russian lost in the first round of three straight WTA events. Aside from the inconsistency, the Russian had very little to complain about in 2017.
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Outlook for 2018

At just 20-years-old, Daria Kasatkina is one of the WTA’s most exciting prospects. Her game is suited to multiple surfaces and mentally she seems motivated. Ostapenko’s marvellous French Open run will have given players like Kasatkina the confidence to achieve similar feats. Expect it to happen sooner rather than later as Kasatkina is a star in the making.

23. Barbora Strycova

The Czech athlete continues to be in-and-around the mix while balancing singles and doubles.

High Points

Stopping a notorious run of five straight WTA final losses was a big plus for Barbora Strycova. The 31-year-old added a second WTA trophy to her cabinet after claiming the Linz title, six years after winning her first. Her consistency throughout the season also helped to maintain her impressive ranking as she lost in the first round of just three of her 25 tournaments this year.

Low Points

Hard to find any real low points in a year which saw Strycova achieve similar to what was expected of her. Perhaps the biggest disappointment came on the doubles tour where she split with partner Sania Mirza despite reaching five finals in eight months.
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Outlook for 2018

It is difficult to make a case for Barbora Strycova having a year drastically better or worse than her 2017. The very nature of her tennis style suggests that she will continue to be a solid but unspectacular player on tour. The odd upset will be on the cards but the depth on the WTA circuit and rising young talents mean there will not be room for her in the top-20.

22. Serena Williams

Won the Australian Open while pregnant then obviously called time on her season. Simply remarkable.

High Points

At this point in time, nothing that Serena Williams achieves should surprise anyone. Yet somehow she managed to take it to another level by steamrolling through to the Australian Open final without dropping a set before sealing her 23rd Grand Slam. She then announced that she had been competing in Melbourne while pregnant and called time on her season to give birth and get married. A standout year in an awe-inspiring career on both a personal and professional level.

Low Points

Selfishly, the only complaint is that tennis fans did not have the pleasure of seeing Serena Williams play more tennis this year. That’s just being selfish though. Her year was virtually flawless.
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Outlook for 2018

Serena Williams will be back at some point. Whether that is at the Australian Open or not remains to be seen. Given the improvements of some other such as Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams may find the Tour is slightly more challenging for her. Regardless it would be something of a surprise of she does not walk away with at least one more Grand Slam to add to the collection.

21. Angelique Kerber

A seriously disappointing downturn in form after her phenomenal 2016.

High Points

Her win over Karolina Pliskova was impressive in Tokyo towards the end of the season but she was not able to build on that. She did reach a final in Monterrey although did not take home the title.

Low Points

What a chasm between 2016 Angelique Kerber and 2017 Angelique Kerber. 2016 Kerber reached eight finals, winning two Grand Slams in the process. In 2017 she reached one final. 2016 Kerber defeated no less than 12 top-10 opponents. In 2017 she defeated one. To really emphasise how catastrophic the loss of form was for Kerber, not only did she fall away from her 2016 incarnation, but she also dropped out of the top-20 for the first time since early 2012.
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Outlook for 2018

A very hard player to predict how 2018 will pan out. A lot of her 2017 slump centred on a mental struggle to cope with the success she had achieved in the previous year. If she can address this she could return to the top-20 where she belongs. Alternatively, she could continue to fall further and further down the rankings. The former is ideal but the latter seems more plausible currently.

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