Following on from our male predictions, it’s time to look at the women. The women’s tour feels like it’s entering a new age, full of youth and entertainment whilst still retaining the old hands such as Sharapova and Serena.
Serena experienced massive success in 2015, and she will be hoping to go one better in 2016 and win all the slams. Do we think she’ll do it? Once again, great thanks to Emma for her hours of work getting the graphics perfect.
Unfortunately, James couldn’t join us for the women – so it’s just me, Charlie, Emma and Josh. As usual, we will see the top 10, our reasonings and then look at who we think will win the major tournaments. We will end with Josh’s tip of player to watch in 2016.
The normal names remain at the top – it’s too early for a massive game changer but the next few years could see some shuffling.
Serena, Muguruza and Halep are a settled top three, and the only difference will be the order of the latter two. If possible, I think Serena will get better this year, and win all the slams. Either that, or the others won’t quite reach her level. For a few years now, Kvitova has been the best of the rest, and she’ll continue that tag into 2016, along with Radwanska who will be rejuvenated following her tour finals win.
How can you not pick Serena to finish the year at number one? She dominates women tennis and the next generation won’t challenge her yet. Beyond Serena, I’ve gone for quite a young top 10. The average age across the ten is 25, which drops to 23 when considering the final 9. The aforementioned generation, led by Halep and Muguruza, are ready to start winning slams and I don’t think Serena will get close to winning all four next year (more on Radwanska and Keys later).
Serena Williams has dominated the women’s game for much of the past 15 years, and it seems unthinkable to consider that she won’t stay on the pinnacle of the women’s game for many years to come. However, following her agonizing failure to complete the Grand Slam last year, probably her last real chance to do so at 33, she cancelled her schedule for the rest of the year, leading to the question of whether she has anything left to give. However, with Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles within reach, I think the break will re-charge Serena’s batteries, and she will remain on top for at least another year.
Apart from anything else, the challengers for a serious tilt at the no. 1 ranking aren’t there. Her closest rival across all surfaces is Maria Sharapova, and although I expect Sharapova to return to no. 2 next year, her record against Williams is lamentable. Petra Kvitova is a remarkable talent, and has a real chance of winning Grand Slams on faster surfaces, especially Wimbledon. She struggled this year with illness, and it’s hard to know how this will affect her game in the long-run. However, reaching the final of the WTA Tour Finals suggests that she’s back, and even though she lacks the consistency to be no. 1, on her day on a fast court there’s no-one better.
Victoria Azarenka has endured a lean couple of years, which have been blighted by injuries, and has dropped outside the world top 20. However, she is a genuinely world-class player, and if she is fully fit will surely reclaim her place in the top 5. Garbine Muguruza, who has just enjoyed the best year of her career at 22, looks to be the real deal and will surely keep her top 5 place.
Bottom half of the womens’ table could have been made up of 10 or more names, but I’ve gone for the more experienced names and for Belinda Bencic to have an impressive year.
The bottom five were much harder to pick, although Maria had to be in there somewhere. This is the year for Keys, Bencic and Pliskova to break into the top 10, where at least the first two will remain for many years. My final pick, in 9th, is Safarova – consistency is her key and that’ll help her stay where she is at the moment.
I think the top 3 are obvious, but the other 7 aren’t. I see Bencic and Pliskova as the real deal and expect them to reach the top 10 soon. Radwanska, Sharapova and Kvitova are permanent fixtures in there, always contend for major glories and could finish in any position. My gut says that Madison Keys will have a stellar year, culminating in a grand slam victory, and that Wozniacki will return to the top 10. There’s little reason behind the last call other than I think she’s too good to stay out for long. I had the pleasure of seeing Ms Keys play at Wimbledon, and that was enough to convince me of imminent slam glory.
Simona Halep, who finished 2015 at no. 2, will just miss out of the top 5 as I don’t see her as a serious contender for the biggest prizes, but her consistency will see her remain there-or-thereabouts.
Agnieszka Radwanska, like Halep, perhaps lacks the height and the power to seriously contend for Grand Slams. But she is a remarkable player, and has just won the WTA Tour Finals to roar back into the top 10, and I expect her to stay there. Belinda Bencic has enjoyed a remarkable 2015 by any standards, including a stunning win over Serena Williams, but when you take into account that she is just 17 years of age, it looks as though tennis has a real prodigy again. I know young players don’t always progress in a linear fashion, but I do expect her to join the top 10, and the same goes for Madison Keys, who has steadily improved year-after-year for a while now. The final place is more difficult; based on guesswork, I’ll plump for Ana Ivanovic.
Gareth talks us through the slam picks: It appears the group believes that most of slams will be won by Serena, which is unsurprising. I believe that this is the year for the likes of Muguruza and Keys to break through whereas the other guys don’t, sticking with the status quo.
Josh‘s tip has a British feel to it:
Her career has been ruined by injury, but hopefully 2016 will see Laura Robson return to professional tennis. While I don’t think it’s fair to expect overnight miracles, it will be wonderful if she can win a few matches and get back towards the top 100. Also on the domestic front, a remarkable run of form has pushed Johanna Konta into the world top 50 and to be British no. 1. Was it a fluke or the emergence of a genuinely elite player? This year may well give us the answers.