WTA Predictions for 2018

Following on from the dissection of 2017 predictions on Moo’s Tennis Blog, here are the 2018 predictions. Every year is difficult to whittle it down to a top ten and this year was no different. The top 10 is followed by the “ones to watch” with a selection of players that i’ll be following with interest in 2018. As always, i’d love to hear all your predictions for the new year!

10. Madison Keys: I’d have Keys much higher but I still remain a little vigilant about the wrist. Keys’s run to the US Open final was superb and I think she is beginning to harness her power game. The partnership with Lindsay Davenport is a gorgeous match.

9. Maria Sharapova: The prospect of S.Williams, Sharapova and Azarenka all playing at the same time could be a fascinating plotline in 2018. While I think all three fully fit and playing regularly would crack the top ten again, the only one i’ve gone for in my list is Sharapova. Despite injuries in 2017, I actually thought Sharapova’s level was decent and she seemed highly motivated as ever. If she can stay healthy, I think that Sharapova will sneak back into the world’s top ten again with at least one deep run at a Slam.

8. Angelique Kerber: In hindsight, backing up the magnificent 2016 season was always going to be damn tough for Kerber. I like the fact that she has changed coach, to Wim Fissette, in what will be the start of a new chapter in her career. Currently ranked at number 21 in the rankings, I think that Kerber will thrive out of the spotlight and with a point to prove to get back into the world’s top ten.

7. Petra Kvitova: As the dust settles on a dramatic and emotional 2017 season, i’m just thrilled that Kvitova is playing tennis again. Even with playing half a year and with such uncertainty, Kvitova landed a top 30 finish in 2017. Now she has made the comeback to the tour, I think Kvitova will be able to focus more on her tennis and get back to where she belongs in the rankings. Even with her hand still not at 100%, there were flashes of pure brilliance in 2017.

6. Ashleigh Barty: Readers of this blog will know that i’m very fond of Barty. In my opinion, she has it all – serve, forehand, variety and a general understanding of the game. Barty has a great attitude and is one of the coolest customers on the WTA tour. Backing up a breakthrough season is never easy, yet Barty will get a headstart considering she was forced to go through qualifying for big events as recently as in August.

5. Karolina Pliskova: After cementing herself as a top five stalwart in 2017, i’d be surprised to see Pliskova tumble. The serve alone should keep her in the top ten and she will always be up there in the list of contenders for a Slam. I’d love to see her team up with Rennae Stubbs again.

4. Caroline Wozniacki: Staying healthy was the key factor for Wozniacki’s stunning 2017 season, as well as notable improvements in her game such as the serve and the forehand. I still remain a tad skeptical as to whether Wozniacki can string together seven match wins and triumph at a Slam. The Dane would likely have to get past an in-form big hitter and on a quick surface, compared to Singapore where she recently triumphed.

3. Simona Halep: There’s no doubt in my mind that, barring any serious injuries, Halep will end the year in the world’s top five. From Miami, her consistency on the WTA tour in 2017 was sensational. Whether she can win that first Slam is something i’m on the fence with. The way she reacted to the near-misses of reaching world number one with her run in Beijing was definitely encouraging.

2. Garbiñe Muguruza: I’ve been yoyoing on Muguruza for the past few years but i’m currently high on the Spaniard. I was super impressed with the consistency she brought to her game in 2017, coupled with an aggressive edge that came to the fore at Wimbledon. When she’s in that kind of form, feeling confident coming forward and clutch on big points, I don’t think there are many players who can rival Muguruza. Definitely more Slams on the horizon…

1. Elina Svitolina: I’ve really changed my opinion on Svitolina having seen her as a top 20 player in the past. The growing intent to become more aggressive was clear to see during many of her matches in 2017 and I admire her resilience on court. The next big obstacle is translating her form at the Premier events to the Slams. She came close to the big Slam breakthrough in 2017 but just came up short on a few occasions. Svitolina has improved her season-end ranking every single year she has been on the tour and I think she will do it again in 2018. Top of my list of newbies to win a first Slam.

Ones to watch:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: Always been a fan of Pavlyuchenkova’s game and I firmly believe that she is one of the cleanest ball strikers of the game. Pavs is currently at her best ranking for over six years and she did this with just one win at the last three Slams of 2017. I’ll never lose hope that she will be able to put it all together on a consistent basis and improve her focus in matches. A top 12 finish.

Daria Kasatkina: While not a straightforward year for Kasatkina, she still managed to improve her ranking in 2017. I think there is a long way to go for Kasatkina in terms of finding the balance between defence and attack, but I do think she’s going to be a regulation top ten, top five player in years to come. A top 15 finish.

CiCi Bellis: A rough end to the year but Bellis showed plenty of promise during 2017 and hit a career high ranking of 36 in August. For me, her mentality on court is one of the best i’ve seen from all of the up-and-coming players. I’d expect her to push on up into the world’s top 20 in 2018 and reach her first Slam quarter-final.

Belinda Bencic: You all know i’m big on Bencic and her recent run of form has not surprised me in the slightest – never write off BB! Bencic closed the season on a 15 match winning streak. All I see from Bencic is her going up, up and up. If she stays healthy, I don’t see why Bencic can’t be knocking on the door of the world’s top 25, perhaps higher.

Elise Mertens: Very impressed with Mertens during 2017 who enjoyed one of the most consistent seasons on tour, spearheaded by a strong start and finish. I really like her attitude and temperament, and she is still going under the radar for me. A top 25 finish.

Natalia Vikhlyantseva: I was super impressed by Vikhlyantseva in her last outing of the year in Moscow where she served sensationally well. A concern in her game is coming forward to the net, but those groundstrokes are lethal. A top 30 finish.

Aryna Sabalenka: One of the most exciting personalities on the tour. Sabalenka made a big splash at the end of the season with a final showing in Tianjin (such a fab final vs. Sharapova), Fed Cup exploits and her biggest title in Mumbai. One to watch in 2018 and I think she’ll be a seed for the final Slam of the year in 2018. A top 30 finish.

Kayla Day: Love Day’s game, it may take some time to adjust to the power on tour but high hopes for the future. A top 75 finish.

Amanda Anisimova: Just 16 but so much talent. Perhaps one year off her big breakthrough although I wouldn’t put it past Anisimova cracking the world’s top 100 in 2018.

Anastasia Potapova: All aboard for Potapova to be a thing in 2018. Like Anisimova, may be a year too early. Top 100 in sight.

Tentative (!) Slam Predictions

Australian Open: Muguruza

French Open: Svitolina

Wimbledon: S.Williams

US Open: Ka. Pliskova

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17 thoughts on “WTA Predictions for 2018

  1. I think your Top 10 predictions will be more successful this year. I was left in a state of confusion after reading them last year but fortunately don’t feel the same this year. The only very surprising pick for me was putting Svitolina as No.1 – I just don’t see it happening. My 2018 Top 10 predictions are as follows:

    1. Caroline Wozniacki
    2. Simona Halep
    3. Karolina Pliskova
    4. Serena Williams
    5. Elina Svitolina
    6. Garbine Muguruza
    7. Caroline Garcia
    8. Venus Williams
    9. Coco Vandeweghe
    10. Sloane Stephens

    I’m tentative with my slam predictions too but mine are completely different!

    – For me Svitolina screams Slamless having never beaten a Top 15 player in a major before (or any seed in the last 6 slams).
    – My hunch with Pliskova is that she will never make a Slam final again and reach one Slam semi each year like Radwanska did from 2013-16.
    – I can understand your Muguruza pick but I didn’t pick her as no player other than Serena has won more than 2 slams in the 2010s. Something always gets in the way for 2-time slam champs this decade: injuries/retirement for Li Na & Clijsters, injuries/pregnancy for Azarenka, suspension for Sharapova, attack for Kvitova, inability to handle pressure for Kerber. IMO, Probability (unfortunate event in 2018 for Muguruza) > Probability (Muguruza wins a slam in 2018)
    – Could definitely see Serena winning Wimbledon but only if she either (i) misses the AO and plays RG or (ii) plays the AO and wins it. As I don’t think either will happen at present, she is not pick pick for Wimbledon.

    If you are interesting in reading about my predictions for the slams in 2018, here is the link: http://lastwordontennis.com/2017/12/16/2018-wta-predictions-champions-contenders-and-dark-horses-for-the-grand-slams/

    Lastly, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I look forward to continue reading for blog for the upcoming tennis season!

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    • Hi Vithun, and merry Christmas.

      I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and particularly liked your comment that Jo Konta would have won her first Grand Slam title by now were it not for Serena. However, I would question whether this is the weakest era in WTA history (something I see claimed a lot where women’s tennis is discussed).

      In my view there may be fewer great players in women’s tennis than there once were, say in the mid-noughties, but there are a lot more very good ones. Maria Sharapova has said that one difference between playing tennis now and when she started out on the pro circuit is that players don’t get easy early rounds in tournaments any more.

      I think the overall level of players in the WTA is as high as it’s ever been, and probably higher.

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  2. Barty note—–In the WTA Elite tournament Barty averaged 10 aces against Kerber and Pav. 10 aces/match
    against quality opponents are Pliskova and Williams type numbers, but Barty is only 5’5. If she serves like that the whole year, Barty could be in the top ten.

    Moo, have a great time in Aussieland, but watch the sun.

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  3. Interesting read as always James. You may be correct in placing Elina Svitolina as being number One. She does remind me in many ways of Carolina Wozniacki as they are both fit and slim and do not mind playing in a lot of tournaments so they obtain lots of points to get to number One but they both may lack that extra quality required to win a GS. However quite a lot of players have won their maiden Grand Slam in recent years so maybe it will be the turn for Elina in 2018.

    Bit surprised that you have not mentioned Jelena Ostapenko. Won her first GS this year and reached the QF at Wimbledon. Only 20 and will have gained confidence from this year and could mature in 2018. Love watching her play and she’d be one of my fav players if she had a more sporting attitude etc. Would not surprise me if she finished in the top 10 by the end of 2018.

    I’m with you on CiCi Bellis who looks a very promising young player and I think that she can get her first WTA title in 2018. I also tend to agree with you about Daria Kasatkina who is improving with experience. Surprised she changed her coach but it does not seem to have done her any harm and I’ll be following her progress closely.

    I think that you are probably right about a top 25 for Belinda. I admire how she has dealt with her comeback from injury by performimg in lower grade events and winning some tournaments. I still think that she needs to lose some weight and get fitter if she wants to get back into the top 10 though & I can’t see her getting near a GS final until she does.

    Apologies to any fans of Karolina Pliskova but I am going to place my curse on her and say that she will win her first GS in 2018. A much improved player and I think that all will go right for her in at least one of the Grand Slams next year for her to obtain her first one.

    I hope that you are right about Maria Sharapova. Love her determined attitude and fighting spirit and she did well in the circumstances when returning from her ban. She is still ‘ Box Office ‘ and good for tennis in my opinion. Do worry that some of her past injury problems will return though and she is now 30 so I am not convinced about her making the top 10 in 2018 but really hope she does.

    The WTA website has Julia Goerges as winning one WTA title this year which made me wonder if I imagined her winning two in a row during the autumn…….but they are wrong so I am not going mad ! I see that she finished at number 14 and she will have gained confidence from those wins and if she can continue that good form next year then it will not take much for her to get into the top 10 at the end of 2018.

    Finally I hope you enjoy your trip to the Australian Open next month. Bit envious that you are escaping the English winter for a while. Have a safe journey and hope you get to see some exciting matches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Peter. Ostapenko and Garcia were two I deliberated over. I was so impressed with Ostapenko this year but favoured others in the end for the top 10. We all know what she incapable of but I questioned consistency and her serve.

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  4. That is wild but it is the state of WTA so…

    My prediction would be:
    10. Sloane Stephens
    09. Angelique Kerber
    08. Elina Svitolina
    07. Jelena Ostapenko
    06. Johanna Konta
    05. Karolina Pliskova
    04. Serena Williams
    03. Caroline Wozniacki
    02. Simona Halep
    01. Garbiñe Muguruza

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  5. hi there and i think Simona Halep will have one tough year now, will she be able to defend her dream of being No.1 i don’t think so

    i can see Caroline Garcia, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza being the frontrunners for the No.1 spot

    Garcia winning her first slam i predict as well

    Like

    • I would LOVE to see Garcia win a Slam. I’m not sure which she’d be most likely to win? Her game is probably best suited to Wimbledon…
      Having said that I expect her to have a bit of a dip after time to reflect on what she accomplished last year. She really struggled with her back against Cornet at Brisbane. Even when she was up, she was getting almost no depth or pace on either wing. I hope it won’t fall over into the Aus Open.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sorry to be a spoiler but you expect Serena to win Wimbledon but not end up in the top ten? She’d have to bomb in everything else…

    I do agree about Svitolina. Her first match of 2018 was super impressive, aggressive with stunning winners, a dozen aces AND points won at the net. I don’t think there’s a player out there as determined and professional as she is right now.

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  7. I’m going to go:

    1. Garbine Muguruza
    2. Elina Svitolina
    3. Serena Williams
    4. Karolina Pliskova
    5. Simona Halep
    6. Caroline Wozniacki
    7. Ashleigh Barty
    8. Jelena Ostapenko
    9. Sloane Stephens
    10. Jo Konta

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  8. I havent commented here in a very very long time because I was swamped with work, but I wanted to see 2018 predictions. I had said very firmly that Kerber wasnt going to win a slam in 2017 and she didnt, similarly I firmly believe that at present top 10 is open to everybody. I had a feeling that Wozniacki would win a slam last year but she didnt, I honestly believed that 2017 was her best chance.

    Even though I am a big Pliskova fan I agree with Vithun that she is more of a semi-final player. I think she has become too defensive and I agree she will make semis and quarters but winning a slam will take a lot more.

    I like how Kerber has started the year, she looks very good to me and I think she can win a slam this year if she continues the way she has been playing this year.

    Sharapova? I think her days are over! Azarenka – even worse! Serena however is Serena and a legend, I can never count her out for me she is always the one.

    Garcia I havent seen her a lot last year but as many might know she never impressed me with her complete lack of mental game and complete lack of plan B, she has probably turned it around because she did win a lot at the end of last year, I will have to see her matches this year to get a feeling.

    Ostapenko has been looking completely useless to me recently.

    Svitolina is probably the next Radwanska, if she wants to win a slam she needs to do it now in 2018.

    Muguruza I like and I had said she would become number one soon and she did, I had also said Bencic would be right there with her but that didnt happen and now it’s too late. Muguruza can definitely win more slams.

    Radwanska my favorite player, it’s unimaginably sad what has happened to her, looks completely useless the less said about her the better.

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    • Good post Brian. I think though that Belinda (Bencic) is still in with a good chance of another big title; she’s still only 20 and has plenty of time to improve still further.

      As for Aga, I wonder if the years are starting to catch up with her physically and she’s starting to find it harder now to meet the physical demands of the game (perhaps the same with Carla Suarez-Navarro), who is also in her late 20s and didn’t have too great a year last year either).

      Like

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