Five Breakthrough Performances in Women's Tennis in 2016
Here are some players who thoroughly impressed us in the 2016 season and could fire this year.
Despite being marred by the absence of the banned Maria Sharapova, the 2016 WTA season managed to spring in enough surprises to keep tennis fans hooked. For the first time since February 2013, someone managed to replace Serena Williams from the top of the WTA rankings.
A relatively unknown player from Puerto Rico won the Olympic Singles Gold Medal from literally out of nowhere. Let us take a look at the performances of these players in detail, and also of a few others who managed to make big breakthroughs this season -
1) Angelique Kerber
The 28-year old from Germany has been plying her trade on the WTA Tour since 2003. Angelique Kerber is a prime example of where hard work, determination, and focus can take you. The southpaw has no major weapon in her game, apart from being able to run down balls all day long, counter-punching, and hoping that her opponent would miss.
The fact she's been able to achieve what she has stands proof to her supreme levels of fitness, both physical and mental.
Kerber started her year on a good note, reaching the final of the Brisbane International. Matches under her belt helped her to come back from being a match point down in the first round of the Australian Open, to beating Serena Williams in the final.
It was truly a fairytale run for Kerber, which made her the first German to win a Grand Slam since Steffi Graff in 1999. People wrote her off as a "one-hit wonder" when she was knocked out in the first round of the French Open, but Kerber went on to prove them wrong.
Tennis is a very much a mental game, and Kerber had struggled in that aspect for a long time. But the numerous conversations she had with Graf began to bear fruit for her during this part of the season.
Kerber came back with a bang at Wimbledon, losing in the final to Serena Williams.
At the Rio Olympics, Kerber further asserted her increasing stature, bringing home a silver medal for Germany. After reaching the finals of the US Open, Kerber assured herself of being no. 1 the following week. Instead of being distracted by the news, Kerber kept her composure to see off the challenge of Karolina Pliskova in the final, leading herself to a second Grand Slam title.
Kerber's performances have helped tennis become one of the most popular sports in Germany again. Close to one million viewers watched the match between Kerber and Cibulkova at the WTA Finals in Singapore. These numbers were unheard of, since the time Boris Becker and Steffi Graff dominated the sports in the late 90's. One can expect more of that from Kerber in the 2017 season, for her tiny shoulders are resilient enough to carry the expectations of an entire nation on them.