Women’s tennis has been dominated over nearly the past two decades by the nearly undefeatable Serena Williams, who this year regained her World No. 1 ranking at the Australian Open after having lost it for a short period of time to Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
35-year-old Williams has recently lost the ranking after an injury ruled her out of Indian Wells, but one could argue perhaps that we are now seeing a change of guard in women’s tennis as 29-year-old Angelique Kerber, too, has not found an ideal consistency in her gameplay.
Women’s tennis may have seemed one-sided for a time, and for good reason – with 23 Majors, and a number of other titles across every playable surface, it is not hard to see why Serena Williams is considered the Greatest of All Time.
Here are 5 women who we think could get to the top of the WTA rankings:
Catherine ‘CiCi’ Bellis
All of 17 years old, Catherine ‘CiCi’ Bellis of the United States of America has already become a sensation. Currently ranked 55th on the WTA tour, Bellis has had consistent wins over players much higher-ranked than herself from the 2016 season. Playing top-40 singles player Jelena Ostapenko at Stanford last year, Bellis, who entered the tournament as a wildcard, managed a quarter-final finish, putting up a fight against former World No. 1 Venus Williams.
Perhaps her standout performance came at the 2016 US Open, when Bellis started off through three rounds of qualifying, taking down two top-100 players – among them American Shelby Rogers, to set up a Round of 32 match against No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber. Although she eventually lost, Bellis, who was more on the ITF circuit, declared herself with that run.
The California native last year won the WTA title in Honolulu, beating 23rd ranked Shuai Zhang in straight sets – Bellis did not drop a single set en route to the trophy.
This year, with a steady ascent up the rankings, Bellis started off at 73rd, but has had her career-best tournament so far in Dubai. With all but one of her opponents in the top 30, Bellis took a couple of straight sets wins before demolishing World No. 6 Agnieszka Radwasnka in what has been Bellis’ biggest career upset so far.
Entering that tournament ranked World No. 70, Bellis is now at 55th and got off to a losing start at Indian Wells, but took a set off experienced campaigner Kirsten Flipkens en route to her eventual loss.
With her best years ahead of her and already mounting a steady climb up the rankings, Bellis could well find herself in the top 20 by the end of this year.