If there was one thing that was predictable about the WTA tour in 2017, it’s that every week was unpredictable. Angelique Kerber tumbling from the top spot, Sloane Stephens winning the US Open after spending most of the year sidelined by injury, Serena Williams going on maternity leave…the whole season was a guessing game.
And it was an exciting one, too, as the unexpected happened on a regular basis. In an attempt to make a call on what lies ahead, here are five WTA predictions for 2018:
Serena will keep marching toward history
How Williams goes, so goes the WTA season. Arguably the greatest player of all time, Williams will return to a landscape changed by her absence in 2017, when family became a priority. It could be some time before she resumes her dominant ways, but she can definitely be written in for a Grand Slam—or two.
It’s Wozniacki’s time, or Halep’s, or Pliskova’s.
Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova have all reached the No. 1 spot in the world without winning a major. For one of them, that dubious mark will come to an end in 2018. Halep, the current No. 1, is a two-time French Open finalist and could come through in Paris. Pliskova and Wozniacki, former US Open runner-ups, are at their best on hard courts, and Wozniacki ended 2017 on a high note, capturing the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals.
Look for a Kerber comeback, of sorts
Has there ever been as big a disappointing follow-up season after a career year as the one Kerber is coming off of? After winning two Grand Slams in 2016, the former world No. 1 only reached one tour final in 2017. It appeared the pressure of being the hunted got to the German, but now that she’s back in the pack, she can go out there with nothing to lose. Taking two majors in a year is no fluke, a fact she would do well to remember as she makes a run to the Top 10 again.
Sharapova will continue to rise up the rankings
After returning to the tour following a 15-month doping suspension, Sharapova’s season was filled with stops and starts. Having gotten her ranking to a high-enough spot where she won’t have to worry about the controversy around receiving main-draw wild cards, the Russian will make significant gains in the standings and be in contention for Grand Slams.
For Ashleigh Barty, the Top 10 beckons
It’s hard to believe after the season she just had that Ashleigh Barty recently took off more than a year to play cricket. It’s a testament to her ability that she cracked the Top 20 and won her first career title just over a year into her comeback. Expect more breakthroughs from the young Australian in 2018, including a Top-10 singles debut.
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