2016 LWOT WTA End of Year Awards Roundtable

The 2016 women’s tennis season is over, at least at the highest levels of play. There are still awards to be given out, potentials to be discussed, and future years to look forward to. Several of our writers have penned their opinions on the match of the year, upset of the year, player of the year, newcomer of the year, and comeback player of the year. Our writers are Filippo Colombo, Sam Barker, Niall Clarke, Glenys Furness, and Niall Murray.

2016 LWOT WTA End of Year Awards Roundtable

Player of the Year
Sam:
Angelique Kerber–In what was a rather damning year for tennis off the court, Angelique Kerber was the shining light on it. To topple Serena Williams off of her perch takes almost unthinkable willpower and consistency. At the start of the year few would have backed her to win two Grand Slams but her marvelous baseline play saw that she did. The German was rewarded for years of dedication and this year will be remembered as her year.

Niall Clarke:
Angelique Kerber–It would be difficult to argue against Kerber. The German has dethroned Serena Williams as the best player in the world by displaying remarkable consistency throughout the year and winning her first two grand slam titles. Kerber has been better than everyone this year and is undoubtedly player of the year- even Serena agrees.

Glenys:
Johanna Konta–The Brit started the year low in the rankings, but fought her way up on a tremendous journey to end the year in the top 10. This is thee first time a Brit has ended in the Top 10 in decades.

Niall Murray:
Angelique Kerber–Kerber has had an unforgettable year. The German has dominated in 2016, winning two Grand Slam titles, an Olympic silver medal and ousting Serena Williams to become world #1. There simply isn’t any other player on the WTA Tour that deserves this award apart from Kerber.

Filippo:
Angelique Kerber–This is quite easy, but a player winning two Slams, a finalist at Wimbledon, and at the WTA Finals, silver medal at the Olympics and earning the #1 spot can’t be abything but being picked as the player of the year.

Comeback Player of the Year
Sam:
Caroline Wozniacki–Something of a rogue choice given that she actually ended the year ranked lower than last year. After her woeful form saw her tumble outside of the top #70 and sparked rumours of retirement however, to finish in the top #20 is a striking achievement. Her form from the US Open onwards has been spectacularly unexpected, with two titles and a Grand Slam semi-final to her name. The intrigue now is whether she can carry this form into 2017.

Niall Clarke:
Dominika Cibulkova–Cibulkova spent a lot of the 2015 season dealing with an Achilles injury, but the Slovakian has had a resurgent 2016 in which she has returned to the top 10 and won the WTA Championships. Cibulkova is back to the form that saw her make the Australian Open final in 2014, and is the WTA comeback player of the year.

Glenys:
Dominika Cibulkova–Returning from Achilles surgery undertaken in 2015 the Slovakian ended the year in the top 10. Cibulkova also won the end of season tournament in Singapore.

Niall Murray:
Dominika Cibulková–Cibulková crowned off a superb 2016 with victory at the WTA Finals in Singapore. Very few would have expected this at the start of the year given she sat at 38 in the rankings. However she went on to become #8 in the world – her highest ever ranking – and also won two titles in Katowice and Eastbourne. The Slovakian star also made a handful of finals and reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.

Filippo:
Shuai Zhang–I know it’s not a comeback from an injury, but her comeback in the top 30 was impressive and unexpected, and since no big enough injury-comeback happened this year this is the best choice to me.

Newcomer of the Year
Sam:
Naomi Osaka–Any player that can match Madison Keys for raw power is going to create a buzz. The Japanese teenage prodigy stands out amongst an impressive crop of juniors as one who can really trouble the top players. Her brutal ball-bashing alongside her thoroughly likeable and engaging persona means that she will more than likely be a global star before too long.

Niall Clarke:
Naomi Osaka–The 19-year-old Japanese player rose from outside the top 200 to finish inside the top 40 this year with a string of impressive victories which was capped off with a final run in Tokyo. It will be interesting to see how Osaka builds on an excellent year in 2017.

Glenys:
Jelena Ostapenko–Ending the year in the top 50, the Latvian has had a brilliant year, making her first premier final and knocking out Top 30 players to reach the semifinals in Poland.

Niall Murray:
Naomi Osaka–For me this accolade has to go to Naomi Osaka. The young Japanese player has truly been a breakthrough star in 2016. She ended last year ranked 203 and now sits 46 following some impressive performances. She reached the third round of the Australian, French and US Opens and also became the first Japanese player to reach a final in Tokyo since 1995. Expect big things from Osaka in 2017.

Filippo:
Naomi Osaka–Started the season ranked #144, ended it #48, reached the 3rd round at the US Open, premier final in Tokyo, and displayed talent, skills, and good attitude.

Match of the Year
Sam:
Wimbledon R64, A Radwanska d. Konjuh 62 46 97
This match simply had everything. World class shot-making, the emergence of a future star, a superb atmosphere, almost a phenomenal upset and a gut-wrenching finale. It was a piece of world-class entertainment. Konjuh coming so close to a big upset only to roll her ankle deep in the third set and leave the court in tears was a heartbreaking and memorable moment. To get her revenge in Flushing Meadows brought about a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful narrative.

Niall Clarke:
Miami R16, Azarenka d. Muguruza 76 76
This one might be an unusual choice as it was only a two set match, so the drama compared to many was not there. But in terms of ball-striking and quality, it is hard to find any match better than this.

Glenys:
Australian Open Final, Kerber d. S Williams 64 36 64
Serena went into the match as the favorite. The German stunned Williams and claimed her maiden Slam, denying Williams her 22nd slam title in the process.

Niall Murray:
Wimbledon R16, Cibulkova d. A Radwanska 63 57 97
This match was an absolute thriller. Three sets full of drama, but more importantly great tennis. Cibulková looked to be cruising as she took the first set and was serving for the second, but world #3 Radwanksa rallied to take it to a decider. There were numerous breaks of serve, exhaustingly long rallies and squandered match points. However in the end Cibulková emerged victorious, her 56 winners were eventually enough to grant her one of the best victories of her career.

Filippo:
Wimbledon R16, Cibulkova d. A Radwanska 63 57 97
Drama, good quality, match points saved and a match that seemed to last forever, showing why final-set tiebreaks are, yes, useful but can kill the entertainment.

Upset of the Year
Sam:
Australian Open Final, Kerber d. S Williams 64 36 64
Not only was it a huge upset on the day but retrospectively it upset the balance of the WTA Tour. It seemed unthinkable that Serena Williams would lose the final given her 2015 form. After winning three Grand Slams many assumed she would steamroll through the field. Out of the shadows stepped Angelique Kerber though. The rest, as they say, is history.

Niall Clarke:
US Open SF, Pliskova d. S Williams 62 76
With the WTA being as unpredictable as it is, there are not many results that are considered such a big shock. Nothing from 2016 tops Roberta Vinci ending Serena’s calendar year grand slam hopes, but Pliskova defeating her in the same arena was also shocking. The Czech had failed to breakthrough at Grand Slam level at this point and was expected to be defeated by the American, but Pliskova put in a great performance to defeat Serena in a big upset.

Glenys:
Rio Olympics Final, Puig d. Kerber 64 46 61
The Puerto Rican was the underdog against the 2nd seed in the Gold medal match. Unseeded Puig stunned the Australian Open champion in a thrilling 3-set match, claiming Puerto Rico’s first ever Olympic Gold Medal.

Niall Murray:
Monica Puig’s Olympic Gold
There have been numerous shocks this year, but the one that stands out is Monica Puig’s incredible journey to Olympic gold. There’s no doubt Puig arrived in Rio as an underdog. At the time the Puerto Rican was ranked #34 in the world and had never made a Grand Slam.

Filippo:
US Open SF, Pliskova d. S Williams 62 76
I’d say this for three main reasons: First of all, it was the match that gave Kerber the #1 spot. Secondly, after winning Wimbledon, Serena was the true favorite for the Slam, as the “22-taboo” was already broken, and she seemed more relaxed, playing with less tension. Third, it’s impressive for Pliskova to reach the final after passing the first week of a Slam for the first time in her career.

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