The WTA never fails to amuse anyone or everyone who follows it closely. Only the one who expects the unexpected from this tour is able to cope with the surprises it comes up with. That is why predicting the outcome of a WTA tournament is an extremely difficult task.
With the Australian Open starting off next week, an ordinary tennis fan can have multiple prospective candidates who can win the tournament this season. However, can one truly say anything when it comes to the WTA?
Even then, this article will try to predict five players who might go long in the tournament this year.
#1 Angelique Kerber
If anyone has a chance of dominating at a particular grand slam, it is the defending champion of the same. Moreover, if she is world no.1, her chances augment even more.
Kerber, riding on the back of a stupendous 2016, will have her sights on the Australian Open trophy yet again. This time around, she will not be the challenger but the one to be challenged. It would be interesting to see if the German will be able to cope with the pressure of being the tournament favourite.
“I’m now the hunted, not the hunter,” said Kerber last week. She knows she has different challenges to look forward to this season, and following her quest will be fascinating to say the least.
The 28-year-old still has a few points to prove. She has struggled in the big matches a couple of times and has not started this season in the best of fashion. With Simona Halep in the same draw as Kerber, the latter has to ensure that she is at the top of her game quickly. She has points to defend and must be vigilant right from the start of the tournament.
The Laureus Sportswoman of the Year nominee will start the tournament as a heavy favourite, along with last year’s fellow finalist, Serena Williams.
#2 Serena Williams
Serena Williams had a moderate season last year. In spite of that, she managed to win a Grand Slam, was the runner-up at two other Slams and reached the semi-final of one. It is the incredible level of consistency and dominance that Williams has maintained throughout her career is what makes the tennis fraternity expect the highest from her.
This Australian Open, she has to answer a few underlying questions. She crashed out of Auckland at the start of this month. With Bencic being her first round opponent at the Australian Open, the world no. 2 is up for a tricky start.
The 35-year-old would look to go a step further from last year, thereby converting her runner’s up plate into the champion’s trophy. Her powerful game will be the key to dethroning the defending champion and if Williams manages to hold off the unforced errors, she will most certainly be crowned the queen of Melbourne for the 7th time.
She will be particularly motivated to get the job done as it would mean that she has the coveted 23rd Grand Slam title, which will enable her to rewrite the pages of tennis history once again!
#3 Agnieszka Radwanska
When one looks at Agnieszka Radwanska's talent and astounding game, it seems that the Pole hasn’t done complete justice to her capability. Her underachievement shows in the fact that in spite of being in the top 10 for the last 6 years and possessing the ability that she does, she hasn’t been able to add a Grand Slam trophy to her cabinet.
This Australian Open will give her a chance to change that – one she should take with both hands. The world no. 3 had an excellent season in 2016 and has backed that up with two strong results to start this season – she reached the quarter-final at the Shenzhen Open and made a run at the Sydney International title when she reached its final.
The 27-year-old is a fan favourite, thanks to the power, pace and precision that she manages to project in her hotshots. She even won the WTA Fan Favourite award for 2016.
She has as good a chance as anyone to win the Australian Open, if she manages to exude her big game when the moment calls for it. She was a semi-finalist at Melbourne in 2010 and will look to better that performance this season.
#4 Simona Halep
While 2016 bore witness to substantive changes and unexpected outcomes in the tennis world, Simona Halep quietly had a fruitful season. The world no. 4, who was once known for her prowess on the clay courts, can now say that she has had the most productive time on hard courts, especially in the last few months.
When Halep came two games close to winning the 2014 French Open, she was considered to have the ability to dethrone Serena to etch her name as the next world no. 1. However, the Romanian could not get the job done then.
She might do it this time.
The 25-year-old has age on her side. While most of her contemporaries are past 27, Halep still has the time to impose herself on the WTA tour by making a fresh start this season. However, she crashed out of the Shenzhen Open at the beginning of the season and is still to find the best form this year.
One thing that Halep has going for her is that her draw is comparatively easier. She will not face an opponent ranked higher than her all the way to the semi-finals. Her agile movements, passive aggressive game and strong baseline play can definitely take her to the top of the pile.
The question is – does the Romanian have it in her to step up and stun the Rod Laver Arena, following up on her poor start to the season?
#5 Johanna Konta
As mentioned before, the WTA has the habit of bemusing all tennis fans and experts alike. Every season, at least two out of four Grand Slams have an unexpected finalist on the women’s side of the proceedings.
At this year’s Australian Open, that surprise finalist might just be the world no. 10, Johanna Konta. It is not that tough for her to better her 2016 performance, wherein she reached the semi-finals, especially after her mighty impressive performance at Sydney International this week.
She managed to beat an inspired Eugenie Bouchard to reach the final, wherein she got the better of Radwanska in straight sets. The Australian-born player was world no. 150 at the end of 2014, but the 25-year-old turned things around with grit and her steadily improving game.
Standing tall at 5’11”, she is a high court penetrator who can make her opponents squeamish with her powerful game.
She has a decent chance of being a top contender for the trophy, especially considering her good form coming into the tournament. Who knows, she might even go to win the tournament at Rod Laver Arena – the time right now is definitely good for British tennis!