WTA Year in Review: 16-20 Including Ashleigh Barty

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Ashleigh Barty

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 20-16, including Ashleigh Barty and Madison Keys.

20. Magdalena Rybarikova

One of the comeback players of the year as the Slovakian makes waves on tour.

High Points

The level of her performance throughout the year was superb but it was on the grass where she truly came alive. Magdalena Rybarikova’s talent on her favourite surface has been well-hidden throughout her career by a disappointing record at Wimbledon. That changed in 2017 as she reached the semi-final, defeating Karolina Pliskova and Coco Vandeweghe en route before losing out to eventual champion Garbine Muguruza.

On top of that, she also reached her first WTA final in three years, losing in the final of Linz. Starting her year on the ITF circuit she won four titles before transferring that form to Wimbledon.

Low Points

Rybarikova bounced back from a string of nasty injuries, cracked the top-30 for the first time and ended the year a top-20 player. As late as March she was ranked outside the top-450. There really has been no low point throughout her year.
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Outlook for 2018

In 2017 she proved that she is a danger across all surfaces and did not falter when regularly facing some of the worlds best. She may have claimed just two top-10 scalps this year but expect that number to increase in 2018. Providing she can stay injury free she will remain in the top-20, especially given the potency of her forehand.

19. Madison Keys

A year hampered by injuries but her talent glistened when she was healthy.

High Points

There’s a reason many have tipped her to be a future world no.1 and she demonstrated this potential late in the season. After a slow return from injury, Madison Keys came alive from August onwards. Despite winning just six matches before this, Keys surged through the field to win the Stanford title. Carrying this form into the US Open, the youngster reached her first Grand Slam final, losing out to fellow American Sloane Stephens in the final.

Low Points

The first half of Keys’ year was hampered by a left wrist injury that kept her out of the Australian Open. Even at 22, injuries are already becoming a regular concern for the American. Her return from this injury was, perhaps understandably, sluggish. At one point she lost in the first round of three consecutive tournaments.
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Outlook for 2018

A lot depends on whether Madison Keys can remain fit. If she can keep her body in check, she is undoubtedly a top-10, possibly even a top-5 player. Few players possess the raw power of Keys and she can blow anyone off the court on her day. That maiden Grand Slam is getting closer and 2018 might just be the year she obtains it.

18. Elena Vesnina

Remains one of the greatest players to operate at the highest level on both the singles and doubles circuits.

High Points

A career highlight undoubtedly came at Indian Wells where Elena Vesnina shocked everyone to leave with the title. Amazingly Vesnina defeated Angelique Kerber, Venus Williams, Kristina Mladenovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova in succession on her way to her first Premier title.

Her most remarkable feat of the year though, came on the doubles circuit. Not only did she win the Wimbledon title alongside long-term partner Ekaterina Makarova, but she did it by dishing out a 6-0 6-0 “double bagel” scoreline in the final. This was the first time in 64 years that the final had ended with this score.

Low Points

Despite her singles ranking remaining within 13 and 21 all season, she had a fairly poor year outside of Indian Wells. The Russian lost in the first round of 11 of her 26 tournaments including disappointing losses to lower ranked players such as Fanny Stoller, Luksika Kumkhum and Ajla Tomljanovic.
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Outlook for 2018

It will be interesting to see whether the 31-year-old can continue to balance competing on both the singles and doubles circuits at such a high level. 2017 would suggest that her singles ability is waning slightly while she is becoming a better doubles player. Moving forward her attention may be drawn more to doubles, especially as this is where she is having her Grand Slam success. May be a player who falls out of the top-30 in the singles rankings in 2018.

17. Ashleigh Barty

The remarkable story of Ashleigh Barty continues to roll on as she emerges as a serious and regular threat.

High Points

There is a reason that Garbine Muguruza recently declared Ashleigh Barty a Grand Slam contender in 2018. Since returning from a year out to play professional cricket, Barty has thrived. In March she reached her first WTA singles final in Malaysia, defeating Nao Hibino to claim the title. She went on to reach two more including in Wuhan, a Premier 5 event. Her form in Wuhan proved how devastating the Australian can be as she defeated Johanna Konta, Karolina Pliskova and Jelena Ostapenko in quick succession before losing to Caroline Garcia in the final.

Her doubles success was equally impressive. Continuing her formidable partnership with Casey Dellacqua, the pair reached six finals, including the French Open and three WTA Premier events.

Low Points

It is genuinely a hard task to find a low point for Ashleigh Barty in 2017. Perhaps losing a fourth Grand Slam doubles final. Or perhaps struggling to compete with Elina Svitolina, losing all three matches against the Ukranian. That is if you are being extremely picky though.
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Outlook for 2018

The sky really is the limit for Ashleigh Barty. She is one of the greatest all-rounders on the circuit at present and should be challenging for Grand Slam titles. The top-10 beckons and it would not be surprising if she has a year similar to Elina Svitolina had in 2017.

16. Anastasija Sevastova

In the shadow of Ostapenko, the Latvian no.2 had a remarkably steady year.

High Points

Breaking inside the top-20 for the first time was a landmark moment for the Latvian. After retiring from the spot in 2013 due to injuries, few expected her to be a top-20 player four years later. Her consistency across all surfaces is key to her success and nine quarter-finals for the year certainly helped elevate her. Ending a seven year wait, Sevastova also picked up her second WTA trophy after winning on the grass courts of Mallorca.

Low Points

Apart from being overshadowed in her home country thanks to the success of Ostapenko, Sevastova did struggle to make much of a splash at the other Slams. For a top-20 player, reaching the fourth round just once is perhaps a little disappointing. This may have come from a lack of experience though as this is just the fourth time she has played all four Slam in a year.
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Outlook for 2018

At 27, Sevastova is beginning to come into her prime. The cornerstone of her game is her sturdiness from the baseline and this will continue to maintain her at her current ranking. Whether she can climb much further is debateable, especially given some of the quality surrounding her. Even so, she is a name that has been underappreciated in 2017.

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