The 2018 season was a mixed bag with both the older guard and the next gen winning Grand Slam titles. The Women's draw saw established pros like Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep win their first Grand Slam titles. Former World #1 Angelique Kerber became the only German to win Wimbledon since the legendary Steffi Graf. Naomi Osaka notched up her second win over Serena Williams in 2018 with a fine performance at the 2018 US Open Final.
Seeds of change have been sown with the next-gen ready to disrupt the status quo and expected to challenge the dominance of the established pecking order.
We discuss the prospects of four talented next gen tennis players across the WTA circuit who may well win a Grand Slam in the upcoming 2019 tennis season.
#4 Daria Kasatkina
21-year old Russian Daria Kasatkina has had a breakthrough season in 2018. She is presently the highest ranked Russian in the WTA rankings at World Number 10.
Kasatkina announced herself to the tennis world by notching up an impressive victory over newly crowned Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki at the St.Petersburg Open buoyed by the support of the enthusiastic Russian crowd.
Soon, she overtook Svetlana Kuznetsova to become Russia's top-ranked singles player. She notched up victories over all four reigning Grand Slam Champions - a remarkable feat for a player just aged 20. Victory against Wozniacki was followed by victories over Sloane Stephens and Garbine Muguruza.
At the BNP Paribas Open, she reached the quarterfinals beating Caroline Wozniacki for the second time in the year. In the quarterfinals and semi-finals, she notched up wins over two other Grand Slam Champions - Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams respectively. Another victory over Garbine Muguruza followed in Madrid.
A third victory of the year over Caroline Wozniacki followed at the French Open en route to her quarter-final loss to Sloane Stephens. Kasatkina reached her second Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon losing to eventual winner Angelique Kerber. Her first title of the year came at the Kremlin Cup meaning that she cracked the WTA Top-10 for the first time.
With the ageing duo of Sharapova and Kuznetsova now in the wrong side of their 30's, Russian tennis will look to Daria Kasatkina to be the ray of Grand Slam hope in 2019.
#3 Elina Svitolina
24-year old Ukranian Elina Svitolina had the best year of her tennis career so far notching up the biggest tournament win of her career at the 2018 WTA Finals held in Singapore in October.
Fresh from winning the Brisbane International, Svitolina enjoyed her highest ever seeding at a Grand Slam at the Australian Open early this year. She made the quarter-finals losing to Elise Mertens. She successfully defended her crown at Dubai and Rome with the latter coming after a victory over World # 1 Simona Halep.
Just when everyone thought that her form was on the dip going into the Asian Leg of the WTA Tour, she qualified for the WTA Finals albeit aided by other results going her way. She reserved her best for last going unbeaten at the WTA Finals beating the likes of Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens en-route to her path to the finals. In the finals having come back from a set down, she beat Sloane Stephens to claim the biggest cheque of her career so far.
The Ukranian is poised to be a strong contender to win the Australian Open where she is guaranteed to be seeded in the Top-5.
#2 Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka began 2018 reaching two quarterfinals at the Shenzhen Open, China and the Hobart International. At the Premier Level, she won her first match at the Indian Wells Open. She began her clay court season with a strong performance making the final at the Ladies' Open Lugano.
Her success here resulted in her making the WTA Top-50 for the first time in her career. At the Eastbourne International, she played five consecutive three set matches winning all five notching up victories over higher ranked players like Julia Goerges, Elise Mertens, Karolina Pliskova and Agnieszka Radwanska. At the Canadian Open, she notched up the biggest win of her career beating World #2 Caroline Wozniacki. She made the final of the Cincinnati Open.
Her biggest tournament win came at the Connecticut Open where she beat 9th seed Julia Goerges and Carla Suarez Navarro in the semis and finals respectively. At the US Open, she upset 2-time Grand Slam Champion Petra Kvitova and lost a tough 3-setter against eventual winner Naomi Osaka.
She was the only player to have taken a set off Naomi Osaka throughout the duration of the tournament. Her second biggest tournament came at the Wuhan Open where she beat avenged her Australian Open loss to Ashleigh Barty and also managed to beat 5th seed Elina Svitolina.
Sabalenka qualified for the WTA Elite Trophy after having risen to a World Ranking of Number 11. She made the semis of the tournament and was named 'WTA Newcomer of the Year'.
Sabalenka notched up eight victories over the Top-10 players in 2018 and will surely be a force to reckon with across all surfaces in the upcoming 2019 season.
#1 Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty is the top-ranked Australian player in both Singles(World Number 15) and Doubles (World Number 7).
Barty had a superb start to the year making the finals of the Sydney International in only her second tournament of the year. She was seeded for the first time at the Australian Open and had the full backing of the Australian public. She notched up an impressive victory over fellow youngster Aryna Sabalenka in the first round.
She lost to another young gun Naomi Osaka in the 3rd round much to the disappointment of the Aussie fans. At the French Open, Barty lost in the second round to Serena Williams in a tight 3-set contest.
Starting the grass court season, Barty looked strong on her favorite surface as she won the Nottingham Open. She reached the 3rd round at Wimbledon. At the Premier 5 level, Barty made the semis and the 3rd round at Canada and Cincinnati respectively losing to World #1 Simona Halep on both occasions.
Ranked inside the Top-20, Barty was eligible to compete at the WTA Elite Trophy. She lost her opening match-up to Sabalenka but bounced back to win her second group match against Caroline Garcia. With other results going her away, Barty scrapped through to the semis to defeat top-seed Julia Gorges. In the final, she won against Wang Qiang despite her opponent receiving the entire support of a partisan crowd.
The Australian who started the year 2017 ranked a lowly 325 after taking a two-year sabbatical to pursue cricket at a professional level, has quickly risen up the ranks in the WTA charts and will have the full backing of the Australian crowd as she gears up for the Opening Grand Slam of 2019 where with a ranking inside the Top-16 she is not expected to face any of the big names until the 4th round.