Ah, women’s tennis. The ever unpredictable side of the sport where anything and everything can happen. Whist on the men’s side you can almost plot out who will finish where in the tournament, the WTA side of the tournament is like a lottery.
As we approach Manic Monday at Wimbledon, Karolina Pliskova is the only top ten player to make the second week, and less than half of the field left have a number next to their name. Why is that? Why is it that draws seem to fall apart on the women’s side of the tourn5678ament? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
Is it depth?
There could be an argument mad that women’s tennis is deeper than ever in terms of talent. Circumstances may have dictated it, but to have the likes of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka as unseeded players speaks to the current depth.
The tour also has younger players such as Daria Kasatkina and Naomi Osaka looking set to break through at any moment, whilst the likes of Belinda Bencic are ranked outside the top 50.
If we explore the losses of the top seeds at Wimbledon, you can make the case for the tours depth.
Simona Halep- Lost to the very unique style of Su-Wei Hsieh
Caroline Wozniacki- Lost to former Grand Slam semi finalist Ekaterina Makarova
Garbine Muguruza- Lost to Alison Van Uytvanck who is a former quarter finalist at Wimbledon
Sloane Stephens- Lost to one of the most dangerous unseeded players in Donna Vekic
Caroline Garcia- Lost to the once highly touted Belinda Bencic who is clearly better than her ranking suggests
Venus Williams- Lost to Grand Slam semi finalist Kiki Bertens
It could be argued that these players drew some rough unseeded players in their draw. Now you would expect top ten players to deal with these players, but there are some players in there who could easily be top 20 if they hit run of form. The tour is deeper than ever, there is no denying that, but is there more to it that that?
Does the top of the game lack stability?
Since Serena Williams left the tour to have her child, there has not been a player who has stepped up to dominate the women’s game. Halep is currently the top ranked player, but you would hardly call her a ‘dominant’ number one would you? The Romanian is very consistent and has been rewarded for her consistency over the past 12 months, but she has very little titles to her name.
Caroline Wozniacki is very much in the same boat. She is a consistent player but hardly looking like she will dominate the game by winning multiple Grand Slams and Premier titles during the year like Serena.
Then if you look further down the rankings, nobody looks like stepping up to be a dominant player or even a stable player at Grand Slam level.
Muguruza, Keys, Kvitova and Stephens are inconsistent, Svitolina has struggled to make a Grand Slam break through, Garcia is still trying to find her footing as a top player, Pliskova struggles in Grand Slams, and Venus is at the back end of her career. There is no established order at the top of the women’s game like there was in the men’s game during the era of the ‘big four’.
Is it just the nature of the women’s game?
When you compare the women’s game to the men’s game you can see why the women’s game often has more unpredictability and upsets. Men hit the ball harder, serve bigger, and play longer.
In the Grand Slams, women play best of three sets which makes upsets more likely. It is easier to win two sets off a top player than it is to win three, as proven by the ATP tour where Grand Slams produce less upsets than the tour events.
If women played best of five sets in Grand Slams, would upsets be less likely? That is a reasonable assumption to make, but I also believe the top of the women’s game would look different in a best of five environment.
Then when you look at the actual tennis aspect, women serve at much slower service speeds than men making service breaks much more easier and likely to come by than in the men’s game.
The truth is, it is likely the combination of all three. The women’s game is naturally more unpredictable due to the less physical nature of the sport. Best of three makes upsets more likely naturally compared to best of five, and the slower service speeds make breaks of the serve more likely.
The tour is deeper than ever with some very talented players not even being ranked inside the top 50 in some cases, but at the top nobody has stepped up to dominate like Serena or Steffi Graf in the past.
Overall I believe that the unpredictability of women’s tennis separates it from the men’s game and makes it a more unique spectacle. You never know what will happen on the women’s side whilst on the men’s side you can predict Roger Federer will advance in straight sets until the quarter finals at the very least.
But there must be some order and structure brought in too. Unpredictability is fine, but only one top 10 seed making the round of 16 is a bad look on the sport and it is tough to take that seriously.
Main Image (Getty)