It’s that time of year again to make a fool of myself with some predictions :-D. Every year, Moo’s Tennis Blog lays down some predictions for 2015 including a top ten for the the 2015 year-end rankings. If you missed it, I reviewed my predictions for 2014 HERE. I’d love to hear your top ten predictions in the comment section…
Photos in this article by Moo’s Tennis Blog and Omar Boraby
1. Serena Williams
It seems a predictable choice, but I do believe that Serena is destined for another year at the top of the rankings. Serena showed signs of vulnerability in 2014, falling before the quarter-finals at three of the four Grand Slams. However, when Serena is at her peak, there is no denying that she is still the best player in the world. She proved that with her biggest titles of the year at the US Open and WTA Championships in Singapore; at Flushing Meadows Serena benefited from a breeze of a draw, but in Singapore she had to play some high quality tennis to come away as the champion. I think she will win one or two Slams in 2015 with the US Open and the French Open being her best opportunities at improving her current tally of 18. It has been Serena’s dedication to the tour that has helped her bag the number one spot for the last two years. It will be intriguing to see whether she commits to as many tournaments in 2015.
2. Caroline Wozniacki
The WTA Championships in Singapore was the culmination of a tremendous five months for Wozniacki. Perhaps this could be regarded as a reactive pick, but in my opinion, Wozniacki has shown an upward trend in results since Eastbourne and there’s no signs that this will stop in 2015. Her biggest problem in the past and even when she was world number one was being able to compete against the more powerful hitters. Displaying a more confident and aggressive gameplan in 2014, Wozniacki earnt back-to-back wins over Maria Sharapova and pushed Serena Williams to three sets on three separate occasions. Her biggest success of the year was reaching the final of the US Open. If Caroline can continue to produce performances like she did in Singapore, I honestly believe she can win a Grand Slam in 2015. I’d fancy her chances in Melbourne, but this will rely on a strong start down under…
3. Maria Sharapova
Unlike last year, Sharapova will head into the 2015 tennis season without any looming clouds of injury uncertainty. Sharapova finished the year at number two; there were some superb highs, most notably winning the French Open and titles in Stuttgart, Madrid and Beijing, but there were also large chunks of the season where she was well below her best. If Maria can remain fit during the 2015 tennis season, there’s absolutely no doubt that with her ball striking abilities and mental edge she will be there or thereabouts in the world’s top five. I’d also fancy her to make at least one Grand Slam final in 2015…
4. Simona Halep
Jumping on the Halep bandwagon in 2014 proved to be a good move! Halep had a magnificent year, finishing with an appearance in the final of the WTA Championships. Halep won just two titles in 2014 compared to the six she bagged in 2013, but her performances at the higher stature events went a long way to cementing her position as a legitimate contender at the top of the game. In 2014, Halep showed signs of vulnerabilities when playing back-to-back tournaments and was frequently unable to back up a good tournament. It is for that reason that I don’t expect her to improve on her 2014 year-end ranking. Defending all the points she earnt will also be challenging and the new coaching team (Halep is no longer with Wim Fissette) will add further uncertainty. Halep has proven through the last year and a half that her upturn in form is not a flash in the pan and I fully expect her to maintain her position in the top five. Her best results in 2015 came on the clay and I’d back Halep to go all the way at Roland Garros.
5. Petra Kvitova
The conundrum that is Petra Kvitova continues to be a fascinating dynamic on the WTA tour. Since winning Wimbledon, Kvitova’s form has remained typically Petra-like; she will always be an inconsistent and streaky player with the nature of her game, but there were signs of more consistent results in the second half of the year including a very solid Asian swing. To be able to maintain her position in the top five, Petra will need to find a way to perform better at the other three Slams. It’s always all-or-nothing and I do expect another mixed bag of results. Wimbledon will be her best chance at the Grand Slams; her lethal brand of hitting suits the grass perfectly and no matter what form she is in come June, she will be top of the list of contenders.
6. Victoria Azarenka
The only way is up for Vika in 2015. 2014 was a disappointing year for Azarenka as she spent much of the year on the sidelines. Any opportunities to build momentum were consistently halted by persistent, niggly injuries. Her determination on court still shone through as she managed to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open despite being well below her best level. The off-season will be a crucial time for Vika and whether she has improved her fitness remains a question mark. One thing for sure, Vika is likely to be the player everyone wants to avoid in practically every tennis draw through the first half of the 2015 season as she will be unseeded at most events. I’d definitely back her to crack the top ten, but it may not be quite as easy to push into the top three as the WTA is much stronger than it was a year or two ago.
7. Ana Ivanovic
Ivanovic’s form in 2014 was a pleasant surprise. In the first week of 2014, Ivanovic won her first title in over two years as she came through a make-or-break final against Venus Williams. Ivanovic blew a couple of chances to close out the match in straight sets, but held her nerve to win in three sets. This set the scene for a superb year as she won three more titles in Monterrey, Birmingham and Tokyo. The one area where Ivanovic struggled in 2014 was at the Grand Slams. She took out Serena Williams in Melbourne, but didn’t progress past the third round at the last three Slams of the year. Despite her poor performances at the Slams, Ivanovic looks to have turned a corner and has built up a pretty solid bank of confidence. The way she progressed through 2014, picking up some noteworthy wins over players she has previously struggled against, gives much hope for the year ahead. I’d fancy Ivanovic to qualify for the WTA Championships once again…
8. Agnieszka Radwanska
Radwanska’s 2014 season had its moments but there was a feeling that the second half of the year, despite winning in Montreal, petered out after Wimbledon. The addition of Martina Navratilova to her coaching team was a bold and exciting announcement. Tomasz Wiktorowski has had a very positive impact on Aga’s game, but there was the feeling that their coaching partnership had run its course. He remains on the team, but Navratilova will bring a new injection of life as she is set to be a consultant for the Grand Slams. I considered having Aga higher, but I am skeptical about whether Navratilova can change Aga’s Grand Slam fortunes. There have been some glowing examples where it has worked wonders, but I remain unconvinced that this coaching appointment will suddenly right the ship when in the past, it has been Aga’s lack of power and ruthlessness that has seen her waste valuable energy in the early rounds of Slams and come up short in the crucial latter stages.
9. Garbine Muguruza
New player alert! Last year it was Genie, but this year my punt is that Garbine Muguruza will crack the top ten. There are many talented up-and-comers that have the potential to make significant in-roads in 2015, but Garbine is, in my opinion, the one to watch. Muguruza missed the second half of 2013 with a foot injury, but she hit the ground running in 2014, winning a first title in Hobart and reaching the second week of the Australian Open. Between the first and second Grand Slams of the year, Muguruza showed signs of mental fragility. She lost a lot of confidence after wasting a seemingly unassailable lead in the final of Florianopolis, up 6-4 5-2 to Klara Zakopalova. She would go on to lose the last eleven games of the match. However, the memory of this final was well and truly wiped out when she showed her glittering potential with a stunning and ruthless 6-2 6-2 victory over the world number one, Serena Williams at the French Open. The scary thing about Muguruza is that there are many factors of her games that require attention, yet she still finished the year in the top 20. There are obvious flaws, such as the second serve, but these are all aspects that can be improved. I’ve got a good feeling about Garbine in 2015…
10. Lucie Safarova
The final space in my top ten was between Lucie Safarova and Angelique Kerber and perhaps, i’ve gone heart over head! Safarova had her best year on tour in 2014, reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon. I’ve spoke at length about Lucie’s improvement, which can be linked to her work with coach, Rob Steckley. Lucie’s results in 2014 were consistent, but apart from Wimbledon, there were no real highlights. It was the Grand Slams where she picked up valuable ranking points. After going six years without making it past the third round of a Grand Slam, Lucie achieved that feat at the last three Slams. The next step on the ladder is to convert some of her good performances against the current top ten players into victories. In 2014, she pushed Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova (X2), Petra Kvitova (X2), Simona Halep and Li Na all to three sets, but came up second best. Coming off another triumphant win in Fed Cup and what looks like a heavy off-season stint in Miami (if her Facebook posts are anything to go by), I have believe that Lucie will keep building in 2015…
Best of the rest:
Eugenie Bouchard: Genie’s list of achievements in 2014 was quite remarkable: A top ten finish, a first WTA title, a Premier final, two Grand Slam semi-finals, a Wimbledon final and qualifying for the WTA Championships. It’s easy to forget that Bouchard had to qualify for the Australian Open in 2013. 2015 is going to be a tough year for Genie defending all those points. She did a magnificent job at dealing with the hype and expectation during the first half of 2014, but her meteoric ascendancy up the rankings caught up with her towards the end of the season. I do think she will drop out of the top ten as I think I will take her time to adjust and settle after this year. I think she will be around the 15 mark, but I have no doubt that she’ll come back and smash her current best ranking in future years.
Prediction: Top 15
Angelique Kerber: Kerber’s 2014 season ended with two disappointing losses in Fed Cup action to Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova. However, there were plenty of positives to take away from the second of those matches against Petra Kvitova. During the 2014 season, Kerber was a part of many fantastic matches, but she came out second best in the majority of them. Kerber’s confidence ebbed and flowed during the 2014 tennis season and for her to maintain her position in the top ten, she’ll need a couple of big wins to start the year.
Prediction: Top 15
Belinda Bencic: Last year I had Bencic down as a top 100 player… And this was me being optimistic! Bencic had an incredible year, rightfully earning the tag of WTA Newcomer of the year and breaking into the world’s top 32 with a first ever Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open. Mentally, she is streaks ahead of other players her age. I had to restrain myself from putting Belinda in my top ten. She made such big moves on the tour in 2014 that I feel she is capable of making big leaps once again. However, I think we are one year away from Bencic making her “big” breakthrough.
Prediction: Top 15
Andrea Petkovic: Petko’s 2014 season was a riproaring success for the very fact that she stayed fit and healthy throughout the majority of the year. She has been dreadfully unlucky with injuries over the past couple of years, but 2014 was kind to her in that regard as she produced some excellent results, reaching her first ever Grand Slam semi-final at Roland Garros and winning three titles in Charleston, Bad Gastein and the Tournament of Champions event in Sofia. Petkovic was missing the consistency between tournaments, which was the main reason why she broke into the top ten in 2011. There’s always a caveat with Petko in regards to injuries but if she can stay healthy, I think she will maintain and marginally improve her current ranking position.
Prediction: Top 15
Jelena Jankovic: The day when Jelena Jankovic retires from the WTA tour is the day tennis fans weep. I do have my concerns next year for Jankovic, who turns 30 in February. Her 2014 season was a game of two halves. Before the French Open she was 30-11 (W-L record), but after the clay court season concluded, she went 8-9 (W-L record) for the rest of the year. JJ is a much better player technically than when she was world number one; her serve is now a legitimate weapon and she takes more chances on court. However, her consistency and winning mentality is not what it used to be. I’d be surprised if she gets back into the top ten… prove me wrong, Jelena!
Prediction: Top 20
Karolina Pliskova: One of 2014’s steady risers was Ka.Pliskova, who rose from world number 67 to 24. Her season ended on a high with a solid fall season that saw her reach three finals and win two titles in Seoul and Linz. Pliskova has had her biggest success at the smaller tournaments and is yet to make it to the second week of a Grand Slam. Pliskova showed signs of transitioning her game to the big league with a victory over Ana Ivanovic at the US Open. She was unable to back it up though losing in the third round to Casey Dellacqua. Pliskova has a huge game, as many of the up-and-comers do, but her concentration lets her down. Her movement around the court improved during 2014, but remains a weakness. I predict further improvements to be made in 2015…
Predicton: Top 20
Madison Keys: When comparing the actual performance to the expectation, Keys’s 2014 season was a little disappointing. There were signs of promise, most of that coming from the grass court season, but she never managed to build any momentum after a fabulous run to the title in Eastbourne. Keys won back-to-back matches at just one of her eight tournaments after Wimbledon. Keys made the biggest move in the off-season, plumping for big-hitting Lindsay Davenport in her coaching team. She’s currently in the middle ground in the rankings where she is missing out on seedings at Premier events and needs some big results to avoid meeting the best players early on in a tournament. Grass will be an exciting stage of the season for Madison and I believe if the draw gods are kind, she can make a very deep run at Wimbledon.
Prediction: Top 20
Shelby Rogers: The Americans have a long line of talented players coming through the ranks with Rogers one to watch in 2015. It was the second half of the season where Rogers made an impression on the tour; she came through qualifying and won a succession of main draw matches against higher ranked players in Bad Gastein (Final) and Montreal (R16). Now ranked at number 73, Rogers will get more opportunities at main draw entries into draws on the WTA tour…
Prediction: Top 40
Taylor Townsend: Of the new batch of up-and-comers, i’m championing Bencic and Townsend. I’ve only had the pleasure of watching Taylor a few times, but she’s already won me over with her delightful old school game. Townsend hasn’t had such a smooth transition to the WTA main tour as Bencic although she has stuck more closely to the ITF circult. Townsend showed her potential with some noteworthy performances at the French Open and Cincy. I’ve got high hopes for Taylor and hopefully we’ll get to see her more prominently on the WTA tour in 2015…
Prediction: Top 50
I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can disagree with my predictions, but I want to know why 😉