This is the annual post on Moo’s Tennis Blog where I attempt to predict next year’s season end rankings. 2018 was actually not too bad as I correctly predicted six of the world’s top ten. Read on for my top 10 for 2019, followed by selected others who I will following with much interest in 2019. As always, i’d love to hear all your predictions for the new year!
The top 10
10. Daria Kasatkina
I thought my top 12 prediction for Kasatkina last year was a tad on the bold side but that was not the case. Kasatkina demonstrated flashes of brilliance throughout 2018 and has developed into one of the most creative and instinctive players on the tour. Kasatkina has some key areas to work on if she is to maintain and improve her current ranking such as the serve and generally backing herself and being more aggressive. I’d fancy Kasatkina to get a Slam semi under her belt, most likely at the French, and to continue to build her confidence on the tour.
9. Angelique Kerber
I’m on the fence with Kerber for 2019 as she starts the season with another new coach in Rainer Schuettler. She was completely rejuvenated at the start of 2018 as she tore through the competition down under and then went onto win her third Slam at Wimbledon. However, she never came close to producing the form from the first half of 2018 post-Wimbledon. It will be intriguing to see how she handles defending all the points in Australia and at Wimbledon. While still in the top ten, i’d be more inclined to say that Angie will have a challenge on her hands to defend her current position in the rankings.
8. Victoria Azarenka
When I started constructing this post I had Azarenka in my top five. After reading recent reports about the custody battle involving her son, i’m feeling slightly more cautious. I still believe that Azarenka has much more left to give on the WTA tour. Her level was decent during much of 2018 – to me, she simply needs more matches. The Belarusian has bundles of variety and is one of the few players who i’d say has a plan B when plan A isn’t working. The pairing with Wim Fissette is one I expect to flourish. If, and now it seems to be quite a big if, she can play a full season then I think she can be contending for the Slams again. I’ve actually gone for Vika as my wild punt for the US Open.
7. Ash Barty
Backing up a breakthrough season is never straightforward. Barty performed admirably in 2018 to end the season two places higher in the rankings compared to 2017. I felt Barty was lacking confidence during large chunks of the season. Still, her base game and general court craft saw her win so many matches, particularly during the second half of the season. The Aussie has become one of the most reliable at beating players ranked below her. Her serve, particularly the second serve, is underrated considering her height. Winning her first Slam in doubles was surely a big moment for Ash and I think everything is in place for the next push in singles.
6. Karolina Pliskova
Pliskova enjoyed another solid season in 2018 as she successfully qualified for the WTA Finals. While there was a tendency for Pliskova to play more defensively in 2018, the Czech player was generally clutch in the key moments and has developed into one of the most consistent players on tour. I love her current coaching set-up that includes both Conchita Martinez and Rennae Stubbs. Personally I don’t think Pliskova will win a Slam in 2019, but she seems a pretty safe banker for a top ten slot.
5. Sloane Stephens
Stephens wasn’t even a consideration in my top ten last year, mainly because of concerns over her consistency. While there was the odd insipid display in 2018, on the whole, Stephens was very impressive. There were a handful of tournaments where the American player looked in complete control as she befuddled opponents with her defence, particularly on the slower surfaces. If she can stay motivated and committed, then I think she will remain ever-present in the top ten and contending for the Slams.
4. Aryna Sabalenka
Sabalenka’s rise up the rankings in 2018 was rather staggering. While her potential has always been huge, Sabalenka went on an absolute tear during the second half of 2018 with coach, Dmitry Tursunov in tow. It will be intriguing to see how she reacts to an inevitable drop in form/confidence and whether the field start to figure her game out. Personally i’d say her game is sound and would love to see her continue to be positive in coming forward to the net. I’d tag Sabalenka as one to watch for winning a first Slam in 2019. Fascinated to see what she can do on grass.
3. Simona Halep
There are a few question marks around Halep after the news that coach, Darren Cahill will take a year to be with his family. Of all the recent first time Slam winners, Halep was the one that I expected to drive forward with confidence. I think we’ve seen this to a degree, particularly during the summer hard court season where she was superb. The coaching changes for 2019 make me slightly cautious, but i’m more concerned by the persistent injuries that she has battled over the past few years.
2. Garbiñe Muguruza
I’m going for a Muguruza resurgence in 2019. She’s proved before that she can click into form at the Slams without very little warning and I think the disappointments from 2018 will drive her forward. She’s too good to be languishing outside the world’s top 15. The coaching set-up with Sam Sumyk has drawn a lot of negativity from fans and pundits. I’ve definitely been critical of the partnership in the past and their intense changeover chats can be uncomfortable to watch. However, I think he deserves more credit than he gets and it’s not something that I think will hold her back in 2019. I’d fancy at least one more Slam for Muguruza in 2019. In my eyes, the Spaniard is one of the favourites for the French Open.
1. Elina Svitolina
For the second straight year, i’ve gone for Svitolina as my season-ending number one. Svitolina has made steady progress each year, so much so that she has been able to improve her ranking every single year on tour. I’m still on the fence as to whether she can make that big breakthrough at a Slam. Even with the Singapore success, the pressure seems to ramp up with each Slam. However, I do think that she will be the most consistent player on tour in 2019. I admire her drive and resilience – when she gets knocked down or criticised, this only seems to make her hungrier to prove people wrong.
Best of the rest:
Naomi Osaka: I am certain Osaka will win more Slams in the future. However, I would not be surprised if 2019 was more of an adjustment year. Top 12.
Petra Kvitova: 2018 was a season of two halves for Kvitova – the first half was sensational, but Wimbledon seemed to stop her in her tracks, as well as perhaps some tiredness from the heavy schedule between February and June. I wouldn’t say i’m that high on Kvitova next year. No doubt she will catch a hot streak at some point during the year because she’s too good not to. I really, really, really hope she can peak for a Slam next year 🤞. Top 12.
Wang Qiang: Arguably the star of this year’s Asian Swing. It was so nice to see Wang Qiang backing herself and going after her shots. The game has always been there, but it’s lifted to another level with her improved mentality. The key will be whether she can translate her form in Asia to the rest of the tour. Pushing towards the top ten. Top 15.
Timea Bacsinszky: With Safarova retiring, Bacsinszky will be promoted to my favourite active player! With her attitude and spirit alone, I think Bacsinszky will race up the rankings again. While getting into tournaments may be an issue, she has no pressure of defending points and the clay season should be a rewarding time. Always an outside contender for the French Open. Fingers crossed she can stay healthy 🤞. Top 20.
CoCo Vandeweghe: 2018 was an injury riddled year so if she can stay healthy, i’d fancy a CoCo resurgence. Always one to watch on grass. Top 30.
Viktoria Kuzmova: Love the big hitting game of Kuzmova and coupled with a pretty potent serve. Still waiting for that big win as she’s yet to beat a top 30 player on tour. I think she’ll flourish in playing more WTA events. Top 30.
Dayana Yastremska: I hadn’t seen much of Yastremska until the end of 2018 when she stormed through the field in Hong Kong to win her first title. A really exciting player who seems fearless on court. I don’t expect to see consistent results yet but I think there will be a couple of flashy weeks where she makes a name for herself. Top 30.
Amanda Anisimova: I think Anisimova is a future world number one and Slam champion. I don’t see any major weaknesses in her game and she seems to have it mentally which is huge these days. AA had a little dip at the end of 2018 but in the grand scheme of things, I think she will continue to improve and impress. Still restricted by age for the WTA main tour so tempering my prediction a tad! Top 40.
Caroline Dolehide: The American has some huge weapons in her game. Dolehide reminds me of Stosur and showcased a bold mentality when she pushed Halep to the brink in Indian Wells. I think her game will take some time to gel but excited about the potential and expect to see some of that come through next year. Top 40.
Anastasia Potapova: Fancy Potapova to progress further in 2019 with her ranking likely to get her into the main draws of the Slams. Top 50.
Marta Kostyuk: Big talent, big personality and big potential. I think Kostyuk will break the world’s top 100 in 2019. Still restricted on playing the WTA tour due to her age. Top 75.
Whitney Osuigwe: One to watch for 2019. Top 100.
Australian Open: S.Williams
French Open: Muguruza
US Open: Azarenka