Eastern European players dominate the WTA rankings in the 26-30 spots at the years end. Here is a look at how the seasons went for these players, and whether they can accomplish even more in the coming season.
26: Daria Kasatkina
The teenage Russian Kasatkina had her first full season on tour in 2016 and was quite impressive, going 36-23 overall on the season, and competing at the top tour level throughout the year. Kasatkina went under the radar for most of the year, as she had just one tour level semifinal, and a host of quarterfinal performances. Her best result was quarterfinals in the Olympic games, as she just missed out in the quest for a medal. Kasatkina can improve further in the rankings if she’s able to perform better against the top 10. She posted two top 10 wins (over Venus Williams and Roberta Vinci), compared to nine losses against the top 10 in 2016. Those struggles against the top players in the game are why she wasn’t able to make any tour finals on the season.
Kasatkina is the third highest ranked Russian player, and the youngest of those three, so a goal for her next year is to become the new Russian #1.
27: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
At 25 years of age Pavs appears to have settled into this ranking range as a mid tier WTA regular. Her 26-24 record in the 2016 season falls into her usual range of results and her best showing on the season was a quarterfinal at Wimbledon. For the first time since the 2012 season, the Russian was denied a WTA title, and the coming year will feature her effort to rise back up the rankings, and return to the winners circle.
All of that said, Pavs career appears to be stuck where it is, and it’s a poor idea to suggest she’s going to return to the top 20 next year, much less the top 15, where she was at her career peak.
28: Timea Babos
The Hungarian #1 Babos had a breakthrough year in 2016, although it came without a WTA title. Babos 37-28 record was by far her best ever on tour, even though she achieved that record without a marquee win. Babos reached one WTA final, and also had a Masters quarterfinal, as she’s cemented herself safely into the WTA tour regular level. In the coming year Babos will need to build upon her success and use the confidence gained from this season to make a push into the top 20.
29: Irina-Camelia Begu
Romania’s #1 reached a career high ranking in 2016, despite posting three fewer wins than she did in the 2015 season at the WTA level. Begu went 25-23 with three big top 10 wins, a WTA title, and a Masters semifinal on clay. Begu showed signs of promise and can certainly improve in 2017, but she’ll need to improve her results off of clay if she’s going to reach the top 20.
30: Ekaterina Makarova
Makarova was once a top 10 player but she tumbled down the rankings to #30 by the end of 2016. The Russian may be suffering the effect of being 28, but her career is still far from over after going 26-25 in 2016. Makarova started the year strong with an Aussie Open fourth round showing, but off of grass, she had a pretty miserable year compared to previous results. If I had to make a prediction I’d back Makarova falling further down the rankings.