What will the 2017 WTA season look like?
With the WTA season being just about done, many fans might be wondering what will happen next year. This was a year that saw wild results, with top players dropping early in tournaments and lower ranked players making a name for themselves. Tennis viewers also saw for the first time in three years Serena Williams knocked off her thrown as the number one player in the world by German Angelique Kerber. For that reason alone, the question of what will the season look like next year, must be asked.
Angelique Kerber might not be a household name but there is no denying her incredible results this season. Kerber made it to three grand slams finals and out of the three finals she managed to win two of them beating Serena Williams in one of those matches in a fierce three set match. As if that wasn’t enough Kerber also managed to take home a silver medal in Rio. Kerber came very close to putting a nice bow tie on the year at the WTA finals in Singapore. However, spunky Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, put that scenario to an end by defeating Kerber in the finals. Because of all these wins, Angelique became the oldest player, at age 28, to debut as the world number one.
Next season, Kerber will have quite the task defending those points but if it’s one thing viewers learned about Kerber this season, is that she is a fighter. Time after time, Kerber was in jeopardy of losing a match but time after time she found ways to win. Kerber proved that she has both the physical and mental fortitude to compete with anyone on the court and there is little to say otherwise. Maybe the pressure of being the world number one and the defending grand slam champions at two of the three majors might get to her at some point but that does not seem likely based off how she responded this year.
Now as far as Serena Williams goes, attention, as always, will be paid to her. Serena for the past couple of years, has been the picture of dominance. In 2015 she was one two matches short of completing the elusive calendar year grand slam. This season however was not the same.
It was a wide known fact that if Serena were to lose a title, it would be because she lost in the early rounds. Tennis fans and experts alike knew that once Serena made it to the semifinals she was almost a lock to win the title. That is until this season when Serena faulted in three of the finals she appeared in (two of them being grand slam championships). Serena level of consistency at the grand slams this year would the envy of many a player, but Serena is not the average player. For Serena, it is championship or bust
Unfortunately, that was the case for most for the season. Serena only managed to win the Wimbledon Championships this year. With that win Serena was able to match Steffi Graff’s 22 grand slam record (she also matched Steffi’s consecutive weeks as the number one player at 186 weeks later at the Open). Despite this accomplishment, surely Serena was dissatisfied with only winning one grand slam this year.
Since Serena only has one slam to her name this year, many may be wondering how will Serena bounce back next season. That same question was asked last year after Serena’s devastating lost at the 2015 US Open. Serena’s response was a finals appearance at the Aussie Open. So, there is no doubt that Serena can have the same response next year (she has earned that level of optimism).
But Serena is a year older and as the saying goes “father time is undefeated”. Serena missed a couple of big tournaments this year, including the year end championships (for the second time in a row, though she missed last year to recover from the lost at the Open), because of various injuries. Thus, the question remains how long can her body hold up? Assuming she continues to play a light schedule, with the focus being on the grand slams, tennis fans must ask how long can she be motivated. At this point, Serena has won everything there is to be won. Regaining the number one ranking could motivate Serena further but she, along with the whole world knows, that if she plays her best she is still the favorite to win any tournament. Therefore, it doesn’t seem like Serena is going to enter extra tournaments in hope of getting back her number one spot. Serena will play and mostly likely she will win but fans might wonder whether next season will finally be the year where Serena shows a bit of a decline.
There are some other stars on the WTA tour that will be intriguing to watch next season. Dominika Cibulkova was one of the last players to qualify for the year end championships (only the top eight compete) and she made the most of her experience by winning the tournament. Stunning new number one Angelique Kerber in a comprehensive two set victory. Cibulkova will end the year in the top five for the first time and career and fans will be wondering if she can build off that success.
Viewers might be wondering how will Karolin Pliskova do after her impressive second half of this season. Not only did Pliskova win a premiere event in Cincinnati, she also knocked out both Venus and Serena at the US Open and gave Kerber a tough three set match in the finals. Very few player have taken out both Williams Sisters in a grand slam tournament so that result speaks to the talent and danger level of Pliskova. Tennis fans should know that Pliskova’s serve is a devastating weapon, whether Karolina will make improvements in other aspects of her to consistently challenge for a title will remain to be seen.
What about American player Madison Keys? For years’ fans, have known the talents of Ms. Keys. This season it appeared that Madison finally put the pieces together. Madison made her was consistent throughout the entire year, going deep in most the tournaments she entered. It was this consistency that caused her to make her top ten debut (the first American since Serena made her top ten debut ions ago). How will Madison perform next season, now having solidified herself into a top player will be interesting to watch.
Finally, what is going to happen when Maria Sharapova returns to the tour. As mentioned in another article Sharapova’s suspension was reduced to 15 months, after it was initially two years. Sharapova was suspended after testing positive for a banned substance on the WADA list. Sharapova’s last official match was at the Australian Open. With the reduced ban Sharapova is slated to return to action in April. Even with the reduction it will be a year and half before Maria would have played a competitive match. How will she bounce back; will be something tennis viewers will be tuning into to see.
The 2017 tennis season for the ladies will be as exciting as ever. With a new player on top and new faces making a name for themselves, the WTA is becoming more competitive. This increase in competition will lead to higher quality matches. Viewers should stay tuned and enjoy the ride.