Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon tries to predict the future in women’s tennis.
The future of women’s tennis is here.
The top of the WTA rankings has been getting progressively younger and younger over the past three seasons, and 2021 is no exception. More than half of the players in the top 10, top 15 and top 20 are 25 years old or younger. This is undeniably a good thing, but this isn’t the point of our column today.
We say all this to say this: we would do well to keep this in mind as we’re using the space this week to look into our proverbial crystal ball and try to predict the 2022 year-end Top 10 rankings in women’s tennis. That’s right, for the third year in a row we’re making predictions on who the 10 best players in the WTA will be a year from now. It’s a futile exercise, because our predictions are doomed to look ridiculous when they’re made 12 days ahead of time, let alone 12 months ahead of time!
That said, will we fare better this year than we did in years past? Probably not. Will we try our darndest to? You bet.
Projected year-end WTA rankings for 2021
1) Ashleigh Barty: Whereas most of us expected someone like Naomi Osaka to become the face of women’s tennis and take the sport into the next decade, Ashleigh Barty is apparently the one who’s up to the task. It’s tough to envision that someone who literally gave up the sport for two years is now the toughest out in tennis, but here we are. It’s well deserved for the baby-faced superstar.
This little bubba, who dreamt big as a kid will play her first Grand Slam Final tonight at 11 pm (EST) when she takes on Marketa Vondrousova. SBS are airing live coverage of the match. Let’s go Ash Barty #champ ???????#Indigenous #PROUD @ashbar96 #respect @TennisAustralia pic.twitter.com/7KOx4r8N5B
— Nova Peris OAM OLY (@NovaPeris) June 8, 2019
2) Aryna Sabalenka: For all of her excellent play since she first broke through to the very top of the top of the rankings, Aryna Sabalenka’s big problem has been at the Grand Slams. Her play had always been regular and excellent, but it lacked on the sport’s biggest stages. Fair or not, this was the knock on her. After semifinals in Wimbledon and the US Open just this year, this is a thing of the past.
3) Karolina Pliskova: Much to our dismay, Karolina Pliskova seems doomed to forever fall short at Grand Slams. The 29-year-old has now made 5 career quarterfinals, two semifinals and two finals–but she’s gone home empty-handed every time. She’ll go down as one of the most underrated players of her generation, a former World No. 1 who’s spent almost every week of the past five+ seasons among the best.
4) Iga Swiatek: For someone who had completely taken tennis by storm just the year prior, Iga Swiatek was oddly quiet in her follow-up. In the 2021 season, the Polish player couldn’t replicate her 2020 tour de force: she bowed down in the Roland-Garros quarterfinals. Here’s to hoping she’ll be back.
5) Elina Svitolina: Before a rare and small dip in form this past season, Elina Svitolina had been going on almost five years ranked about non-stop among the four or five best players of the WTA. She should get back to it before long.
And now our 6-10 picks
6) Simona Halep: Look, we’re well aware that slotting Simona Halep in the 2022 Top 10 is something like a lifetime achievement award and not quite based on the level of tennis she’s showcased this past season. But we can’t help it. It was only a couple of years ago that the Romanian was still the one to beat on tour. That’s gotta count for something.
7) Paula Badosa: Paula Badosa’s road to the No. 8 ranking in women’s tennis was largely built on the strength of four results from last season: quarterfinals at the French Open and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a semifinal at the WTA Finals and a title at the BNP Paribas Open. If the Spaniard hopes to stay among the 10 best players, then she’ll have to gun for just as good in 2022.
8) Maria Sakkari: If nothing else, Maria Sakkari’s 2021 season was electric. Her runs to the French Open and US Open semifinals, where she lost against eventual champions Barbora Krejcikova and Emma Raducanu, captivated all of us. If you’re buying stock in the Greek’s future, these two major semifinals are reasons 1a and 1b to do it.
9) Leylah Fernandez: A purely and completely wishful pick, here. Leylah Fernandez captured the hearts and minds of tennis fans, if not the title, at this year’s US Open. We don’t think this prediction will actually come to fruition–but we would love to be wrong.
10) Coco Gauff: We’re picking Coco Gauff to round out our Top 10 based on a hunch but there’s logic if you look hard enough for it. Still just 17 years old, the American’s career has been on a steady progression. Now ranked No. 22, she isn’t too far removed from the Top 10. Why not now?
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG