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WTA Tour end of year review


WTA Tour end of year review

With the 2019 season around the corner, this review of the 2018 season looks at player data from the WTA Tour, with a view to establishing some predictions for the upcoming year. Read on for an in-depth review of the 2018 WTA Tour season.

A more level playing field?

In the last couple of years, with the trio of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka no longer head and shoulders above the rest of the WTA Tour, we have witnessed a rather level playing field in the women’s game.

This phenomenon was evidenced yet again in 2018 with four different Grand Slam winners, and six different finalists. In short, there is no outstanding player on the WTA Tour right now, with the top 20 or more comprising of strong (but not particularly elite level, compared to years gone by) players who are capable of beating each other on any given day.

Indeed, a look a little lower down the rankings also sees a number of other strong players, including a number of high-profile veterans - perhaps in slight decline - who are also capable of strong performances on occasion.

Top 20 players in 2018

Such a dynamic makes for a fascinating upcoming 2019 season, with the table below indicating that there are a number of themes worth discussing as the season gets underway (data correct at 21 December, 2018)

WTA player data table

Player

Rank

2018 Season, Service Points Won %

2018 Season, Return Points Won %

2018 Season, Total Points Won %

Last Six Months, Service Points Won %

Last Six Months, Return Points Won %

Last Six Months, Total Points Won %

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simona Halep

1

58.3

49.4

107.7

56.9

47.7

104.6

Angelique Kerber

2

58.8

47.6

106.4

58.5

46.8

105.3

Caroline Wozniacki

3

59.7

46.7

106.4

59.6

45.1

104.7

Elina Svitolina

4

60.1

45.6

105.7

58.8

44.5

103.3

Naomi Osaka

5

60.7

44.3

105.0

61.7

43.6

105.3

Sloane Stephens

6

56.8

47.3

104.1

56.3

46.3

102.6

Petra Kvitova

7

59.9

44.7

104.6

56.5

43.1

99.6

Karolina Pliskova

8

59.6

43.4

103.0

59.1

43.2

102.3

Kiki Bertens

9

58.9

46.1

105.0

59.8

47.2

107.0

Daria Kasatkina

10

54.6

48.3

102.9

52.3

49.8

102.1

Anastasija Sevastova

11

58.1

45.6

103.7

58.3

47.0

105.3

Elise Mertens

12

58.2

46.1

104.3

58.3

45.1

103.4

Aryna Sabalenka

13

60.6

42.3

102.9

61.8

42.7

104.5

Julia Goerges

14

62.4

39.8

102.2

62.5

40.6

103.1

Ashleigh Barty

15

63.6

42.9

106.5

62.1

43.6

105.7

Serena Williams

16

63.8

43.5

107.3

65.1

44.8

109.9

Madison Keys

17

62.2

44.2

106.4

64.2

43.0

107.2

Garbine Muguruza

18

59.5

45.6

105.1

58.4

44.4

102.8

Caroline Garcia

19

60.7

41.1

101.8

60.0

42.0

102.0

Qiang Wang

20

58.5

46.9

105.4

59.3

49.0

108.3

The table aptly illustrates the rather level playing field among the top 20 on the WTA Tour. If we look at the 2018 season combined total points won percentage in isolation, we can see that world number one Simona Halep justified her year-end ranking, with the Romanian also boasting the best percentage for this metric.

However, all of the top 20 were able to win at least 101.8% of combined total points across the season, making the gap between Halep and Caroline Garcia (the lowest rated player according to this metric) a mere 5.9%. With such a small difference, it is not surprising at all that the top 20 were able to beat each other on a regular basis.

A glimpse at the data for the last six months also makes for fascinating reading, and adds to the themes worth discussing. Top-ranked Halep showed a drop in her data (3.1% decline in the last six months, compared to the season-long data), and this is likely to be due to the back injury that she sustained during the latter half of the year.

Other players who showed a marked drop-off in level include Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza, and it’s worth noting that longer-term data has established that the duo, who have had great success on tour in recent years, had been a little over-rated last season. Certainly Kvitova, who arguably hasn’t hit her peak level regularly since her long-term injury, has a little to prove in 2019, while Muguruza’s struggles tend to focus on issues with consistency.

What players might dramatically improve in 2019?

In addition, there are some big-name players outside the top 20 who some may feel also have to increase their level in 2019, and these include Johanna Konta, who will go into the new season with another new coach.

The likes of the aforementioned Sharapova and Azarenka actually have good data across the last six months - easily top ten level - but their issues mainly focus around getting on court enough to provide a sustained challenge.

The two best players on tour across the last six months, when looking at combined total points won, was actually Serena, and rather surprisingly, Qiang Wang. Serena went 13-4 in that time period, boasting the best service numbers on the tour - only Madison Keys was close - and while her return game isn’t of elite level any more, any WTA player who can hold in excess of 80% of their service games will be extremely difficult to beat. It is far from inconceivable that we see a Serena resurgence in 2019.

As for Wang, she ended 2018 in great form, going 28-10 across the last six months, getting to the final of the tour-ending Zhuhai Championships, and reaching six semi-finals (including one title) in a row, post US Open - if she can replicate this level in 2019, she will be able to improve on her current ranking of 20th.

Is Serena Williams still the best player on tour?

Finally, while it is possible that the 37 year old Williams could still be the best player on tour in 2019, there are a number of young prospects who will be keen to make an impact in the coming season.

WTA players often find it easier to step up to the main tour at very young ages, and based on the service/return points won data highlighted above, the best of these who are currently ranked in the top 100 include Donna Vekic - who has finally started to justify the potential shown a few years ago - as well as Sofia Kenin, Dayana Yastremska, Marketa Vondrousova, Tamara Zidansek, Anastasia Potapova and Amanda Anisimova.

All of these players will be confident of rapid ranking improvements in the coming season.

 

 


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