WTA Top 10 Predictions for 2016

It’s time for the annual post of WTA predictions on Moo’s Tennis Blog. In case you missed it, you can read my predictions from previous years HERE and my review of how 2015 predictions fared HERE. I really struggled this year and there were two players in mind that I wanted to include in my top ten but I couldn’t fit them in (can you guess who they are?!). I’m hoping to do another post covering the players who I think will rise up the rankings in 2016. Anyway, here’s my top ten…

10. Lucie Safarova

Safarova

For the second straight year, Lucie is in my countdown at number ten. While the Czech player didn’t quite match the consistency of her performances in 2014, the high points were on a whole different level. Without doubt, the highlight of Lucie’s season was a sensational run to the final of Roland Garros. By virtue of her run in Paris, Lucie cracked the top ten for the first time in her career and even more impressively, managed to stay there for the remainder of the year despite being absent from the tour through the Asian Swing due to a bacterial infection.

Lucie has continued to show marked improvements in her mental toughness. While she still has her moments where confidence does waver, Lucie has come a long way in the past few years. It is no coincidence that this ties in with her partnership with Rob Steckley, which continues to blossom. Lucie’s performances in Paris and Doha this year were world class and she showed what she is truly capable of. Beating players ranked below her was more of an issue in 2015. Staying in the top ten will be a huge challenge but I think Lucie can do it…

9. Caroline Wozniacki 

Wozniacki

There’s no skirting around the issue… 2015 was a dire year for Caroline. Considering the way she finished 2014, including reaching her second US Open final, it was a surprise that the Dane was unable to push on. Wozniacki endured a miserable second half to 2015, posting more losses than wins, and being plagued by injuries. In my opinion, the knee injury may have been a factor in why she was unable to produce the aggressive and positive tennis she displayed in 2014 with confidence clearly a factor by the end of this year.

While 2015 was pretty disastrous, the advantage is that it cuts Wozniacki some slack in 2016 with plenty of ground to make up. Furthermore, being outside of the top ten means that Wozniacki will have no restrictions on playing International events. Scheduling will be crucial for Caroline; while it seems to be in her nature to play lots of matches, it seemed that she wasn’t listening to her ailments last year, using the excuse of WTA penalties to carry on playing. While recency bias goes against Caroline, I believe she will come back much stronger in 2016. The start of the year already looks promising on the schedule front for Caroline as she’s only down to play Auckland before the Australian Open. While I don’t see a Slam win on the horizon, I do predict much better performances at the Slams generally and a couple of Premier titles.

8. Karolina Pliskova

Pliskova

2015 was a mammoth year for Pliskova on many levels; cracking the top ten for the first time in her career (although dropping to number 11 by the end of the year) marked a breakthrough year for the Czech player. Furthermore, it was a gruelling year that saw Pliskova play 26 tournaments, the most out of anyone in the top 15. Pliskova started the year with real gusto, beating Victoria Azarenka in a thrilling season opener in Brisbane. She went on a tear through the first four months, winning the International tournament in Prague and reaching the final of Premier tournaments in Sydney and Dubai. Pliskova’s main downfall was at the Grand Slams where she is still yet to make it past the third round. Pliskova was clearly lagging towards the end of the year but a final appearance at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai and a star show in the Fed Cup final, winning two matches with a huge amount of pressure on her shoulders, were noteworthy showings.

There are plenty of variables that could ultimately control Pliskova’s path in 2016; Grand Slams and Premier finals are two hurdles that she needs to overcome, but scheduling will also be key. It won’t be sustainable to continue at the pace she was setting in 2015. Pliskova’s performances at the end of the year have rekindled the excitement for me that surrounded her game at the very start of 2015. I think the Czech player will keep on improving and finally crack it at the Slams. I’d fancy Pliskova to reach a couple of Slam quarter-finals and becoming a regulation top ten player.

7. Agnieszka Radwanska 

Radwanska

Optimism will be as high as it has ever been for Radwanska heading into the 2016 season. Radwanska won her biggest career title at the WTA Finals in Singapore, beating Halep, Muguruza and Kvitova back-to-back-to-back. It was a tremendous showing from Radwanska, who will have her eyes firmly fixed on the prize… a first Grand Slam title. Radwanska turned around her 2015 season in a huge way, rekindling the magic on the grass after a sub-par first half of the season where she compiled a disappointing (by Aga’s standards!) 14-10 W-L record.

Wimbledon will always be Radwanska’s best chance of winning a Grand Slam but I still have my reservations as to whether she can go all the way. It would require the Pole to reserve her energy throughout the early rounds and most probably, take out a big hitter. While it’s something that Radwanska can do on occasion, it requires a huge mental effort. Based on the game she plays, it’s hard to not see Radwanska somewhere in the top ten. As to whether she can bag the elusive Slam, I have to be honest and say that I am not so sure…

6. Simona Halep

Halep

2015 was a rollercoaster year for Halep but rankings wise, it was a career best as she finished at world number two. It wasn’t the most convincing of finishes though, failing to qualify from the round robin stage in Singapore. The semi-final loss at the US Open to the eventual champion, Flavia Pennetta, was a real blow and ended what had been a sparkling run of form. Halep would have fancied her chances in a Serena-less final but she was unable to bring her A-game with Pennetta taking full advantage of the opportunity and deservedly coming through to win the US Open.

Halep showed streaks of excellence in 2015; notably a cracking start to the year that saw her win three titles in three months and reaching back-to-back finals in Toronto and Cincy during the summer. However, early losses at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon killed the early momentum. Halep will be continuing her partnership with Darren Cahill next year which feels like a super move. I still have reservations about Halep going forward and whether she has the mettle to win a Grand Slam; a sprinkling of matches (for example, Makarova at the AO, Pennetta at the USO and Konta in Wuhan) are to blame for this. I’d expect Halep to have a much better clay court season in 2016 with expectation lower than this year, but she wouldn’t be my number one pick in the list of likely first time Slam champions next year.

5. Petra Kvitova

Kvitova

2015 was a rocky year for Petra, battling fatigue, a lack of motivation and mononucleosis. Despite all her challenges, Petra did remarkably well to finish the year as the world number six. Kvitova’s year featured a couple of standout performances, blazing her way to the titles in Madrid and New Haven. It was clear that Petra was still struggling towards the end of the year but she kept going and in the end, finished the year on a really encouraging note, reaching the final of the WTA Finals in Singapore and helping the Czech Republic win the Fed Cup.

Motivation is obviously key for Petra. It was fascinating to hear the insight of Petra’s long-term coach, David Kotyza in an interview and on the WTA Insider podcast. David encouraged Petra to take some time away from the tour at the start of 2015 after playing “without joy and without passion”. Kvitova faced so many challenges this year but she appeared to overcome them. Petra’s A-game beats almost everyone on tour but her consistency and ability to get through the opening rounds of tournaments is the obvious sticking point. After suffering her toughest loss of the year at Wimbledon in the third round to Jelena Jankovic, I believe that Petra’s strength of character will shine through once again at SW19.

4. Belinda Bencic

Bencic
New player alert… Belinda Bencic! I’ve been on the Belinda bandwagon for quite some time. While 2014 didn’t start in the most convincing fashion, Bencic transformed her fortunes from the grass court season, producing a brilliant 31-9 W-L record and securing six top ten wins including a fabulous victory over Serena Williams in Toronto. It was one of the best runs of the year with Bencic beating Bouchard, Wozniacki, Lisicki, Ivanovic, Serena and Halep to win the biggest title of her career.

It is Belinda’s mental application and ability to learn and adapt quickly that in my opinion, sets her apart from the rest of the “rising stars”. She managed to turn around previous losses against numerous opponents to actually secure wins. In the case of Wozniacki, Bencic was dealt a double bagel loss in Istanbul but just eight months later, Bencic beat Wozniacki in straight sets at Indian Wells. Bencic now holds a 4-1 leads in their head-to-head. Her attitude on court is still a concern although it’s hard to pick out any matches where she has lost because of it. If anything, it shows how much she cares. Also, it’s impressive how she can snap out of it too! In keeping with what I said in my last set of predictions, I think this will be Belinda’s big breakthrough year on tour. I’d fancy the 18-year-old to reach her first Grand Slam final and cement her place in the world’s top five.

3. Serena Williams

Serena 10

For the first time since 2013, Serena is not my number one. The American player had a remarkable 2015 year; while it ended on her lowest point of the year, it should not distract from her astounding achievements. Serena took her tally of Grand Slams to a magnificent 21 with victories in Melbourne, Paris and Wimbledon. In particular, the way that Serena battled through her draw at Roland Garros was exceptional; fighting off illness and overcoming some determined opponents, Serena came from a set down in four of her seven matches.

One of the most engaging storylines in Australia will be how Serena fares considering she will have been absent from the tour since the match against Roberta Vinci at Flushing Meadows. While I think Serena will find her mojo again and win at least one Slam (i’m thinking the US Open), the reason I’ve gone for Serena at number three is that I question whether she will fully commit to the tour like she has done in the past couple of years. 2015 saw Serena give walkovers at four tournaments and I think that the Slams and the Olympics will become an even higher priority.

2. Garbiñe MuguruzaMuguruza

I’ve been swapping between the top two but i’ve gone for Muguruza to rise one spot in 2016. The Spaniard had a breakthrough season in 2015 with a first Grand Slam final appearance catapulting her into the world’s top three. While Muguruza managed to peak for the events that really counted, there were still large spells of the year where she didn’t play particularly well; notably between Dubai and Roland Garros, and the entire US Open series.

While comparisons have been drawn between Muguruza and Bouchard, I think Muguruza proved her credentials with the way that she closed out her 2015 season. She played her first ever WTA Finals in Singapore, winning all three of her group matches, before finally running out of steam in a superb semifinal against Agnieszka Radwanska. Most impressive was her run to the title in Beijing, not at her physical best but finding a way to win… It was the mark of a champion. Still of some concern is that Muguruza has only won two WTA titles and she is prone to patches of inconsistency with her big hitting game. Despite some big wins, nerves still play a part in closing out matches (against Kerber in Wuhan springs to mind). However, in a wide-open WTA field, the opportunity is there for Muguruza and I believe that she is ready for the next step. I’m backing the Spaniard to win her first Grand Slam title in 2016 at Roland Garros.

1. Maria Sharapova

Sharapova

This was a tough choice… i’ve gone for Sharapova to finish 2016 as the world number one. Considering she was out of action for three full months, Sharapova did remarkably well to finish 2015 at number four in the rankings. Victories in Brisbane and Rome, and another Grand Slam final in Melbourne saw Sharapova keep on track in a whirlwind WTA year that saw many players struggle for consistency. The way that Sharapova ended her 2015 season was particularly encouraging, beating five top 11 players in Singapore and at the Fed Cup final. While Sharapova has always proven her experience and competitive spirit, it was an impressive effort considering how little tennis she had played prior to those tournaments. It was an almost perfect preparation for Sharapova to win a couple of high calibre matches and set herself up for the off-season and 2016.

Sharapova has plenty of room to make up ground during the clay court season, which is now generally regarded as one of her strongest stretches of the year. The US hard court season is also a big fat zero. I really like Sharapova’s chances of going all the way at the Australian Open and at the time of writing, she’s my pick for the first Grand Slam of the year. This feels slightly wild to me considering she hasn’t won a Slam other than the French Open since 2008 but it’s what my brain is thinking right now. Health will be a factor but with the allure of the Olympics and her desire and fighting spirit always shining bright, I think it will be a super year for Maria.

As always, comments are greatly appreciated and i’d love to hear your predictions too. Hopefully i’ll have some more posts up before Christmas but work is absolutely manic right now and it’s difficult to find time to blog. I have two more weeks left until holidays… I. Cannot. Wait.

82 thoughts on “WTA Top 10 Predictions for 2016

  1. very bold predictions for the top ten,James:))).From my point of view i will see Vika in the top ten next year,that not based i am a Vika fan,i really think she can do that.Also,based on what i saw this year i think Halep will win a grand slam,i really think Darren Cahill can focus her on that.I dont know wich one,maybe even AO.In rest i agree with your picks mostly,not sure if Maria will be number one but it could happen.

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    • Thanks, lestat! I think for me they are quite bold 😉 Azarenka was one of the two names I was referring to at the start. In the end, I left her out purely because I’m still concerned about all the injuries. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if she makes it back to the top ten. She’s certainly capable. And yes, Sharapova is a bit of a wild pick. Just a feeling that Serena won’t be number one and as I said, my rationale is based on her commitment to the rest of the tour aside from the Slams.

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  2. I really hope you’re right! Would love to see Sharapova end the year at number one (something she has never done) and win a slam off the clay again. Hope Bencic can crack the top 10 too but there are so many ladies fighting it out. 2015 was a messy year but I have a good feeling 2016 will be one of the best seasons in a while!

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    • I agree that 2015 was a messy year… I think it started with much promise but fizzled out after the US Open. I also have high hopes for 2016! Sharapova at number one feels a bit wild for me. I feel more confident in the Bencic pick and personally, I’d love to see her have a great year. She would be fun to have around at the top and has a very engaging personality.

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      • Sharapova is the one player I wouldn’t put at number one. If Serena is to leave the top than it would be Maria’s time to finally take over but I can’t see it happening.It would be great but just can’t see it. A lot will depend of how Muguruza starts the year for me. She could dominate 2016 if she builds up some wins.

        The worst part of 2015 for me was seeing top 10 players like Ivanovic, Wozniacki, Bouchard and for parts of the year like Radwanska and Kerber lose early consistently week in week out. I love upsets but this year was too much.

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      • I think I agree… I do enjoy the unpredictability of upsets but seeing the majority of the top ten struggling, particularly at the start of 2015, wasn’t great. I remember in Australia when so many of the seeds lost on the first day. It was fun on that day but it did kill some of the excitement.

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      • I think Muguruza will finish on top in 2016. Would be good to see new faces in Top 10, but I rather think there will be only Muguruza at the end of 2016, so please she can be the real deal and not fall like Bouchard. Wasn’t good for reputation of the new generation.

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      • I had Muguruza as my number one at one point but got cold feet at the last minute! Personally, I think Muguruza is the real deal but there will be a lot of pressure to deal with in 2016.

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  3. I enjoy reading your posts about the WTA, and your picks are always fun to read. I personally think (and it may be because she is my favorite to watch) Sabine Lisicki will have a turn around season, with not much points to defend I think her ranking will climb back into the teens and possibly a top 10. Also, I see another deep run for Domi at a Grand Slam possibly the US. I think 2016 is the season where many new faces begin to rise up the rankings and the “usual suspects” begin to decline.

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    • Thanks, Andrew! I’d fancy Domi to get back into the top 20 and wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her have a deep run at a Slam – she’s always done well at the AO. Bold pick of Lisicki, i’d like to see her come back but she has been so unpredictable in the last few years.

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  4. I can’t see Kerber outside of the Top 10! She ends the forth straight season as one of the ten best players and has improved a lot in 2015 compared to 2014.
    In contrast, I don’t see Pliskova in there. Always lost when it mattered most – both in finals and at Slams. Her H2H against Top 10/30 isn’t convincing at all, too!

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    • Fair points. I’m surprised I haven’t put Kerber in my top 10 and I may be regretting it! I always pick Angie deep in my draws but I just couldn’t fit her in! Angie and Vika were my 11 and 12 respectively. I’d love to see Kerber have a deep run at a Slam but her draws were tough in 2015. And for Pliskova, I was won over somewhat by her performances in Fed Cup where her nerve really held up. I’ve been back and forth in my head with that one. I admit it could be a case of recency bias there!

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      • Sometimes it’s just a feeling and mine says Pliskova won’t be a consistent Top 10 Player – just like other players like Venus or Safarova, who I see around 15 at the end of next year.
        Not because of their talent but they don’t have X Factor in my opinion.

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  5. James thanks for your top 10 in 2016.I have to agree with ‘lestat’ in regards to Azarenka,I don’t know if she can make the top 10 in 2016,her injury woes for the past 2 seasons,still concern me,in saying that the Plexicushion in Australia really suits her game,hoping that she can put in a good performance during Brisbane International and the AO.Another surface that suits her game is the USO,though at present I am not looking that far ahead:).

    In regards to Halep,I am interested to see how she fares working with Cahill full time,he is an excellent coach,I also liked the way she was playing more offensively on the HC,when he was coaching her,I still believe her game is made for the clay,I have always thought her best chance at a GS title would be at Roland Garos.

    I am really looking forward to watching Pliskova and Garbine play in 2016.I feel Garbine is an exciting prospect,hopefully Pliskova will not ‘over play’ in 2016,I felt it cost her in tournaments in 2015.

    I felt Serena made the right decision after the USO,I believe she needed the break,she was under immense pressure,Serena has always been a ’emotional player’,even though I am a fan,to me,she uses too much ’emotional energy’ on court during matches,still when she produces her A Game,there isn’t a current player in the WTA that can defeat her.I think the break will give Serena the passion,determination to do well in 2016,I am picking her to win the AO,where she has had great success in the past.If she can manage her body,keep healthy in 2016,I still feel she can be the No 1 ranked player.

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    • Thanks for your comments, Margaret! I’m thinking back to when I underestimated Serena at this year’s AO after she struggled at the Hopman Cup. I have a feeling I might come around by January! I’m intrigued to see Halep play on the clay next year after struggling somewhat in 2015. Also, the reason I didn’t pick Vika was my concerns over her injuries the past few years. Based on talent and if she is injury-free she’s back in the top ten for sure.

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    • You do make a fair point Margaret, with Serena, you take away the emotional part, she might as well quit. What you have left is a talented mess. May even make Lisicki, at her worst, look good. It is the mental, emotional aspects of her game that makes(and has made) her in my opinion.
      The grind, the sweat, the tears, the sickness on tour, you can’t wrestle with that daily just for money or laughs and giggles when you are a consummate champion like she does it. I feel the expectations and media hype stretched her too thin mentally during the USopen. They made it about her breaking records instead of the game of tennis, a shame that she unconsciously accepted that notion as the tournament progressed when she had been saying in interviews all summer that it was about the game.
      To be honest, I’m not sure the ranking points, or money, or improving some skillset is her main drive now(considering her age), it will still be how much love she has for the game and whether that ‘bittersweet’ USopen has changed any of her retirement goals. I too hope the time away will recharge her batteries, because she will really need a good clear head to navigate 2016. If she can let her tennis win, the records will come,…damn the No.1 ranking though.

      Not sure, but I feel had she gotten the Calendar Slam, she would have coasted through 2016 save for maybe the Olympics.

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  6. Any news on the surface to be used for Rio Olympics? I am guessing it’ll be clay :). Anyways who are your picks for Olympics and WTA Finals champs James?

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    • Rio 2016 organisation announced test plays will begin today on the courts. Actually they are not too dissimilar from courts found in the US open series, like Cincinnati or New Haven.

      A good segue into the hard court season for the regular tour since the Olympics is right before it. Difference might just be in the warmer, tropical South American weather. Not sure if Wimbledon will be of much help as a prep tournament( factoring in the British weather), but it is a fast surface.

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  7. I also have a feeling Serena will lose her #1 ranking at some point this year, though I reckon she’ll get it back by the end of the year. She’s still easily my favourite to win Australian Open and the US Open and if she plays the slams this year with the same intensity as last year then that alone will keep her in the top two.

    I mostly agree with your picks.
    I feel like Pliskova will struggle to defend all those finals but have her big breakthrough at the Slams and reach a couple of QF/SFS and win a Premiere 5/Mandatory. I also think Bencic will shoot up into the top five. I could see her winning a Slam this year- maybe Wimbledon? I’d replace Safarova and Wozniacki with Kerber and Ivanovic, who I feel will make a comeback if she can stay injury free.

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    • I’d probably say Bencic’s best shot would be at Wimbledon. I’m already regretting missing out Kerber in my list. I think she should be in there… but i’m not sure who I would remove! I have a feeling that Woz will come back stronger in 2016 and i’m unconvinced by Ivanovic to be honest.

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      • I just feel like Ivanovic has nothing to defend and nothing to lose. Last year injuries led to a really poor start which gives her an opportunity to gain ranking points.
        I think her playing the IPTL is a mistake physically, but she’s played some red hot tennis and she seems to enjoy playing more than the other big names. Wozniacki made it look a chore on court in 2015…

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      • Haha it did look like that for Woz towards the end of this season. Fair point about Ana, her year was heavily impacted by the foot injury she picked up in Australia.

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      • Ana usually starts the year well, she tends to, but needless to say, I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch. Infact, I’m not counting at all, the hen flew the coop.

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    • Pliskova needs to be really smart about picking her tournaments. Avoiding fatigue will be half her battle. I was pleasantly surprised by her level of steel during the crunch Fed Cup matches. She basically rescued the Czech Republic. Couple this with the right strategy and she can peak at the right time for major tournaments.

      With Belinda, I can’t really say. She is the type of fluid player who can end up in any slam final especially if the draw breaks her way. Being ‘doe-eyed’ and all, the itch to prove herself is quite strong. As long as she doesn’t over reach, I think she could find herself in some very favourable positions in tournaments next year. She thinks, and that is a plus.

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  8. Good post James, I agree with a lot of what you’ve said but for one thing; I think Aga’s getting better at playing the power players now.

    For one thing, she tries to keep the ball low so they that have trouble getting traction on their shots. This year, she’s beaten Serena (at the Hopman Cup), Petra Kvitova, Coco Vandey, Madison Keys and Karo Pliskova amongst others (I think she beat Garbi Muguruza in the WTA finals as well).

    I agree with you about her needing to conserve her energy better in the earlier rounds though if she’s going to go the distance in a slam. I read somewhere that her coach thinks she expends about 30% more energy in a match than most of her competitors do, because she does so much running around chasing down shots. I think it’s a problem they’re still very much working on

    Can I guess at your two other players? Angelique Kerber (who features heavily in your top 20 matches) and Venus Williams, who played some great tennis particularly towards the end of the season.

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    • Thanks, Graham. Good points about Aga. I was thinking that she has few points to defend up till Wimbledon so has a good opportunity to maintain/improve her ranking ready for her best Slam of the year. You’re correct with Kerber. In hindsight, I think she is in my top ten but I don’t know who I would take out! The other player was actually Azarenka. My concern though is the injuries that have affected her for the past two years. I have Venus in the 10-15 range. There is always a sense of uncertainty for Venus with the sjogren’s syndrome but my oh my, did she play some fantastic tennis this year. I’ve really warmed to Venus in the past couple of years and she is a tremendous role model for the WTA.

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    • I was glad with Aga’s YEC win, and I want her to really launch herself into bigger things. But, with Aga, there will always have to be some sort of ‘good fortune’ so to speak. Her style of play requires too much of her and if all things are equal, she will always be the one working harder against opponents. In a final against a Kerber or a Wozniacki, or a nervous Pliskova, she will be in it with a great chance. The others, she will have to earn her keep.

      Aside, it’s about time Caroline won a Slam, she should work on it.

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  9. I see the top 12 players being just about as they’ve been in 2015. It will just be a back and forth in positions who is number 1, 2, or 3 today, or top seed for this tournament. This year is a precursor of sorts, Depending on what Serena does, the top ranking will move accordingly. In my opinion, being ranked No.1 is nice and all, but the true achievement will be maintaining that ranking.

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  10. I fully support your choice with Sharapova at number one, not only because I’m a super Masha fan, but because of logistics. Serena will likely not be able to defend all the points from her super wins, so that’ll see her drop significantly already, but I too see Maria taking Australia this next year. I’d love to see her win 2 slams and the Olympic gold! I can dare to dream on that one 😛

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    • Serena doesn’t have a massive amount of points to defend really. Last year most of her points came from Slams so I think if she doesn’t defend those this year, she’ll be more driven in the other events. She’s about 30 weeks of having the longest consecutive streak as world #1, I think that’ll be a goal for her.

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      • Serena is defensding points from 3 grand slam wins, and wins in Cincinnati and Miami, which are Premier Mandatory tournaments. There is no way she can defend all of them! Sharapova had a disappointing US hard court season, then not to mention she missed the whole US Open series, she will pick up massive amounts of points.

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      • Sharapova has no points in the third quarter of the year at all so unless she wins back to back big titles early on it’ll be difficult for her to overtake Serena, whose points are spread out through the year.

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  11. I’m having a try as well:

    1. Garbine
    After her year she’s had and her effort during the Asian Swing I’m so much convinced she is winning a GS next year. I also think she will be very consistent and – as a side effect to Serena Williams playing even less tournaments – grab the no1 spot at the end of the year.

    2. Sharapova
    I think she will also win a GS this year.

    3. Bencic
    Well – we have seen what she is capable of.

    4. Serena
    Even if she’s not first in my list I predict her to equal Steffi Graf in terms of GS!

    5. Kvitova
    Also winning a GS (Wimbledon)

    6. Azarenka
    Not winning a GS but keeping everything together and coming back close to where she belongs when she is playing her best.

    7. Kerber
    Being as consistent as ever and reaching a GS final for the first time.

    8. Pliskova
    Having a deep run in two GS and turning her bad final quote around

    9. Radwanska
    Although she won the WTA finals I just cannot see her winning a GS. She’s always had issues with her body when she needed to be fully fit. I’d love to see her doing something really really really big though as I’m always in for variety and court intelligence.

    10. Halep
    One of my favourite players but I have the feeling she will have some sort of a set back next year.

    So..as you’ve seen above, predicted slam winners are:

    – Sharapova and Williams (hard court slams)
    – Garbi: French Open
    – Petra: Wimbledon

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    • Your list has merit, but I just don’t see Garbiñe taking number 1. She’s too inconsistent most of the time. And I don’t think she’ll be able to defend bejing or the Wimbledon final. She may get other events through the year, but I just don’t see her as #1

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      • I agree. I think Muguruza will struggle to keep a high level throughout the year and I think pressure will start to take its toll as clearly folks expect big things from her.

        What do you guys think of A K Schmiedlova? Her lone match in Zuhai is one of the most ruthless matches I’ve seen all year. She has SO much game (and a face sponsors will want). I could see her having the kind of year Muguruza had in 2015.

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      • Muguruza will surely have her ups-and-downs, but she has the ability to do big things when she’s on fire. She should stay in Top 5 at least but actually, I can only see her rising the rankings furthermore.

        Not each young player, who has had her breakthrough season, will fail to fulfil expectations. It’s funny because four years ago Kvitova has had her breakthrough year and nobody really wonders whether she could stay on top or not

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      • @Andrew: No idea tbh. Her backhand is gorgeous. And the angles she is able to create are stunning. I’m not sure whether she will be able to crack the TOP 10 but I definitely see her in the Top15 and doing some damage at the bigger tournaments!

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      • I’m looking forward to watching more of Schmiedlova in 2016. I don’t see her top ten but I’d fancy her to go up in the rankings, perhaps top 15 or top 20? Key for her is to have some big results at the Slams and/or Premier tournaments.

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  12. I think JJ could reenter top 10 if she stays healthy, last few months of the season were good for her and has not many points to defend till IW. Mid season preparations are crutial cause i think she is just not fit enough, she has her backhand back, a killing weapon. Also would love to see Petko doing well in the 2016, 2015 was ruined by her private problems.

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    • That’s true about JJ’s off-season preparations being hampered last year. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if 2016 was JJ’s last year on tour… fingers crossed it won’t!

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  13. Pretty realistic top 10 I’d say 🙂 I would have ranked Halep a little higher though.
    And I agree about Lucie, she can do it! (and btw you posted another beautiful picture of her, i really love it !)

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    • My four predicted Slam winners are Sharapova (Aus Open), Muguruza (French Open), Kvitova (Wimby) and Serena (US Open). I picked Sharapova as number one because I think she will be very consistent and win plenty of other titles too.

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      • Some good comments here. For me, everything depends on how well Serena is playing. At her best I don’t think anyone except Petra (or maybe Roberta Vinci?) can beat her.

        Lucie said that once Serena upped her game in the final set of the French Open there was simply nothing she could do in response, and she tried everything she knew. She also destroyed Carla in the second set of the final in Miami, just as Petra destroyed Eugenie in the second set at Wimbledon the year before.

        My preference is for players who haven’t yet won a slam to win the slam they’ve been in the final of, so Domi for the Australian Open, Lucie or perhaps Simona for the French, Aga for Wimbledon (I love Sabine but I don’t think she’s up to it at the moment, but I’d be happy to be wrong) and Caro Wozniacki for the US Open. I’ll be very surprised if that happens though.

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      • I like those predictions. I’d love to see Maria FINALLY win Miami!! She’s missed it what, 5 times now? She was in the final like 3 times in a row! I’d like to see her win more than one slam in a year, but I highly doubt that will happen haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • History tells me your picks are wishful thinking. She will not be number 1 and will not win the Australian Open. She might win French Open because it is an even year. Serena will remain number one. Serena, Vika , Keys, Venus, Halep and other big hitters will be contenders for the AO.

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  14. My other big hope for 2016 is that Caroline Garcia gains some confidence in herself and loosens up a little bit. She finished this year by winning an itf title so hopefully she uses that to go into next year.

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    • Agree Andrew Spence regarding Garcia,love watching her play,hopefully by winning that title,it will give her the confidence to build on in 2016.Garcia needs to ‘stay in the moment’ in big points and not go away,her mental focus at times in matches costs her,she has a great game.

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      • I think its all mental. There arent really any flaws in her game. She just tends to overhit when she’s under pressure instead of letting her game happen naturally.

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  15. I might be a bit late to the party but here are my predictions:

    1: Serena
    Even thought she had an emotional end to the year after the US Open, she said it herself that she wants to be the greatest of all time, and I just don’t think she will let it slip from her grasp. She only needs 1 GS to equal Graf, and I think 40ish more weeks at #1 to get the longest streak, and I can’t see her giving up on those. Think she will win the Aus Open and US Open, as she will want to impress and make up for a dissapointing 2015 US. I think she will either have another fantastic season or it will be a disaster I think…. Hopefully the former!

    2: Sharapova
    Considering the 0 ranking points between Wimbledon and the YEC, Maria should have a strong end to the year (if she isn’t injured), and as long as she doesn’t completely bomb out at the start of the year, should get enough ranking points by the second half of the year to climb back up the rankings. I think she will win the French.

    3: Muguruza
    There is just too much potential to be ignored, and it doesn’t look like she will go all Eugenie on us (hopefully). Although we won’t truly know how she handles the expectations until next year, but I’m hoping she does well! Think she will make some deep runs at slams, French final? US final?

    4: Kvitova
    While no-one ever knows what kind of Petra will walk on the court for any match, she is bound to hit purple patches at some points during the year, and if she can win just a couple of big tournaments like she did this year, I can’t see her dropping out of the top 5 again. A-game Petra is almost unbeatable, and if she plays well, maybe Wimbledon again….?

    6: Radwanska
    While I am a self-declared Aga super fan, I just can’t see her retaining the kind of consistency she showed after the US Open throughout all of 2016. If she can play during the first half of 2016 as well as she has been, I think she could crack the top 3 again, however she has so many points to defend during Asia I can’t see her finishing the year there. She will be extra motivated and super confident after winning the YEC, and if she can keep up her YEC form, she may just be a tentative finalist at both the Aus Open and Wimby…. Would LOVE to see her finally win a slam but I can’t see it happening… But fingers crossed!

    5: Halep
    I think Halep is overhyped, but when she is good, it’s something to behold! But she didn’t seem to be physically fit for chunks of the year, and she had some pretty bad losses… Don’t think she can defend her IW points, and just not sure she can handle the pressure. Not sure if there will be a deep run in a slam…

    7: Kerber
    Hopefully 2016 will be the year Angie can finally deliver consistently at slams. While she picked up 4 Premier titles in 2015, she made hardly any progress at the slams. Surely it’s time she made another deep run? Her consistency should keep her hovering in the top 10.

    8: Bencic
    A big question mark surrounds Belinda to see if she can continue to play some brilliant tennis, but I think she will be able to deliver, and make a deep run at some slams, maybe a deep run at her beloved US Open? If she can keep her emotions in check she should have a solid year.

    9: Safarova
    While the end of the year wasn’t great after Lucie caught the bacterial infection, hopefully a productive off-season will bring Lucie back to her physically best! If she remains injury free I reckon she can stay within the top 10, and she will be keen to make a deep run at the Aus Open!

    10: Bacsinszky
    I feel very wary putting Timea as 10, however she’s shown she can deliver. If she remains consistent, and makes some more deep runs at slams, I think she will be solid throughout the year. Thanks to her brilliant 2015, she knows what to expect of herself now and will be wanting to continue her good form. If she remais injury free…

    GS picks;

    Aus Open: Winner – Serena, Finalist – Radwanksa
    French Open: Winner – Sharapova, Finalist – Muguruza
    Wimbledon: Winner – Kvitova, Finalist – Radwanska
    US Open: Winner – Serena, Finalist – Muguruza

    Interesting to find out who the surprises will be in 2016, I think we need to keep an eye on Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova, Kiki Mladenovic and Daria Gavrilova! Think they will all make some breakthroughs.

    Let me know what you think!

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      • I love watching Mladenovic play. But her serve is a real concern! Especially against women who hit an aggressive return like Serena, Garbine, Maria, Ana…

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    • A Wimbledon final between Aga and Petra would really be something to look forward to IMO. if it happens I’d like to see Aga win purely because Petra already has two Wimbledons to her cre4dit.

      Does anyone else like the look of Elina Svitolina for next year? She pushed Serena hard in Cincinnati this year although she didn’t win, and she’s still young (21).

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    • Svitolina is the sort of player I see doing well at a Tier 1 tournament or two. However, I feel at Slam finals she needs another year or two on tour to hone her game for victory. The french Open (playing style wise) does offer her a good opportunity.

      Serena, I think, will start the year slowing, so I’m not predicting her to win the first two Slams. Wimbledon and the USopen seem to be it for me. I love Aga, but in a Wimbledon final against any seasoned base line player( on grass), I really can’t pick her to win. That’s just me, however, she is high on my list for girls who need to win one of the big ones.

      Speaking of winning slams, these are my ‘surprise’ winners: Halep – she must be pining for one of the trophies, Garbine – she’s being carried by her momentum and a flood of goodwill, Safarova – should she be well rested from her injuries come 2016, her experience and hardiness set her up perfectly to go on tear through one of the slams. You have to be hungry and willing to work fearlessly for it. This is why I’m watching out for Bencic and Pliskova too.

      Timea wears her heart on her sleeve, I believe that is both her greatest weapon and at the same time her ultimate weakness. It sees her through the difficult early parts of tournaments, but when she gets to the business end she seems spent and her inconsistencies become glaring just when you need to steel your emotions. If she can win a couple of non-slam events, I think the experience will push her up. I feel she knows this herself.

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  16. I agree (and thanks for replying to me comments re Elina). I think Simona has an anxiety / mental strength problem; her collapse against Aga in the WTA Finals match, where she pretty much checked out in the second set after losing the first, tightly contested one, seemed ominous to me. I hope now that she’s working with Darren (Cahill) full time she starts to get that sorted as her enthusiasm for the sport is a pleasure to behold; one of my strongest memories of the 2015 season was of her laughing as she chased one of Serena’s lobs to the back of the court during their semi-final in Miami.

    Timea I think is something of a ‘streaky’ player; she blows hot and cold. She did very well in the French Open and Wimbledon and later on in Beijing, but had little success in the US or Canada during the summer. (If you can read French, she had something to say in her blog about her first round exit to BZS at the US Open.) I think now that she’s made a big final against Garbine in Beijing she may start to believe she can actually do it and win a title; that lack of self-belief may be what has been holding her back so far.

    I think Garbine will win a big title soon (Belinda Bencic too). I really liked the way she fought back at Wimbledon and broke Serena to love when Serena was serving for the championship in the second set, and then won the next two games as well. My preference though is for one of the players who have been around a while (like Lucie Safarova) to do it first, as they have less of their career still ahead of them.

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  17. I see you changed your mind.
    In ‘womenstennisblog.com’ you have replaced Pliskova and Safarova with Kerber and Azarenka.
    Better choice in my opinion, too! 🙂

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    • Haha yes! Well since making my top ten predictions, it looks like Lucie could very well miss the entire Australian swing. I think it could take her a while to get going in 2016 because of the complications of the bacterial infection. For Pliskova, I’m concerned she didn’t seem to take much of a break during the off-season and therefore, whether she will be able to peak for the tournaments that really matter.

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  18. 1. Serena( if she doesn’t retire), however others could touch and occupy the number spot too, albeit, briefly like Halep, then Sharapova, then Muguruza, a revolving door. I strongly believe desire is what is going to win in 2016.
    2. Muguruza
    3.Sharapova
    4. Kvitova
    5. Radwanska
    6. Azarenka
    7. Pliskova
    8. Kerber
    9. Halep
    10. Keys
    This prescription should be taken with a pinch of salt, but if you are feeling extra ‘salty’ this coming new year, I’ll suggest you grab a spoonful of sugar for this one to go down.

    11. Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Svitolina, Lucie, Belinda …. just my opinion. But since it is the season of good cheer, If there is a feel good story to come out of 2016, Caroline or Halep or Radwanska wins a Slam, Serena finds her record and we have very competitive Slam tournaments. It will be good for the women’s tennis tour me thinks.

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    • A revolving door is a nice way of putting it. Intrigued to see if Keys can in fact crack the top ten in 2016. She needs to be much more consistent to stand a chance and already faces a challenge early up in defending SF points at the Aus Open.

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      • Right you are James, Indeed in making the picks I sort of discounted the early part of the hard court season.

        To be honest, this may also affect a player like Pliskova( fatigue) and could even pull Cibulkova somewhere near the top 10 if she plays smart and also continues into the 2nd half of the season( which is normally not her best half). I feel Serena will also allow the others to catchup with her first half results.

        With Keys, the new coach might be a big boost, plus, Davenport said she will still be available to give her some advice when she can. Lol..I guarantee there will be a quiet hush which will echo around the locker rooms the day Madison Keys is able to tame her mind and carpe diem with her power game. Until then even slight improvements now make her a handful so maybe say 10 – 12 ranking. Secretly though, I really want Lucie to comeback well rested. I feel she can be that proverbial ‘spanner in the works’, mature, gritty and can absorb hard hitters. Ah well, we’ll see. So many possibilities for one year!

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      • I wouldn’t be surprised if Lucie skipped the Australian swing. I hope she comes back sooooon. Always feeling positive and encouraged by the new tennis season and all the possibilities. Hope it’s a great one!

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  19. Julia Georges to make a deep run in a slam pliskova to win Aus por and lisicki to win Wimbledon French and olymics to Sharapova and US open to bencic

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    • It was that match against Azarenka in Australia that started all this for Kerber. It has been one of her best performances for me this year. Discounting the absence of Maria and Victoria, Kerber has worked hard to get where she has. I sincerely hope the number one ranking doesn’t become a merry-go-round. Glad Kerber became that feel good story, sorry Caroline. Likewise, Serena got the record she was longing for. It’s been a pretty good year.

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      • Yes, Vika came back after her defeat in the AO to win back to back titles in Indian Wells and Miami and then, after a short injury break, found she was pregnant! A very happy interlude in an illustrious career.

        In a way too, the tie between Serena and Steffi, in both the number of slams won and consecutive weeks at No. 1, was the best thing that could have happened because it allows the arguments to go on as to who is the greater player.

        It’s also good IMO to see older players like Sam Stosur, Elena Vesnina, Roberta Vinci and Sveta back in the top 20 and playing well (Bara Strycova was briefly in the top 20 but is now just outside it). 30 really isn’t too old these days to play tennis at the top level (let alone 36, which Venus is and she made the final in Stanford this year).

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  20. “as to who is or was the greater player” of course because Steffi isn’t still playing (at least not on the main circuit).

    One more thing; I’m sure we all have a good laugh looking at other people’s predictions and seen how badly they got it wrong at times, but tennis (and women’s tennis in particular) must be one of the most unpredictable sports there is. For example, did anyone at all predict before the Olympics started that Monica Puig would win the gold? It’s the very unpredictability, as much as the skill shown by the players, that makes the sport so worthwhile because most of the time you’re never sure who’s going to prevail.

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  21. Having been away recuperating did more than just pull Cibulkova towards the top 10. I think tournament choice is going to be Key for her as well Kerber if they are going to sustain their performance through 2017. this may be true for even Pliskova and Radwanska too. The coming year could be anybody’s or everybody’s year.

    Bencic, unfortunately, has been a disappointment for me this year.

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