From Angelique Kerber at the top to Johanna Konta at the base of the world’s top 10 women tennis players, there have been quite a few top-notch performers coming to the fore this year. Here we take a look at five women players who took their tennis to the next level in 2016.
Kerber’s ‘dream-come-true’ year
The crowning glory of this late-bloomer’s career has to be finishing the year as world number one, ending Serena Williams’ long and dominating run at the top. After ending 2015 ranked number 10, few would have expected the German to rise to the summit of women’s tennis. Two grand slam wins and runner-up finishes at Wimbledon, Olympics and the WTA Tour Finals have enabled the best counter-puncher in the game to deservingly land the WTA-Player-of-the-Year award.
The resurgence of Dominika Cibulkova
The Slovakian has won the most number of singles titles in 2016 with the prestigious WTA Tour finals win at Singapore being the biggest. The 27-year-old always had the game but inconsistencies and injuries stood in her way. Be that as it may, a change in mentality this year has made her more confident of her abilities, which resulted in her ending the year at a career-best world number 5. Cibulkova’s new-found belief coupled with her power and speed could very well make her a strong contender for 2017.
The battling Russian
Svetlana Kuznetsova is a former world number 2 and has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency in recent years. However, 2016 saw Kuznetsova immensely getting better thanks to her tremendous all-court game and fantastic fighting spirit. The last woman to qualify for the elite season-ending championship in Singapore after successfully defending a title (Kremlin Cup) for the first time in her career, Kuznetsova fought gamely to reach the last four there, falling to eventual champion Cibulkova. The Russian ended the year ranked 9, reaching the top 10 for the first time since 2010 after being written-off by most.
There have been doubts over Karolina Pliskova’s ability to break into the top 10.The tall Czech, who has been on the periphery for a while, has a powerful game and has managed to out-serve even Serena Williams in 2016 with 530 aces to the latter’s 324. Another player to have successfully implemented a mental adjustment to her game, she skipped the Olympics to work on it and reaped rich rewards of it. Her big win came at the Cincinnati Masters, where she dispatched Kerber. She also beat both the Williams sisters en-route to the US Open final. As a result, she ended the year ranked number 6, her best-ever.
The most improved player on WTA Tour
Beginning the year ranked number 47, Johanna Konta won the WTA’s Most Improved Player award after ending 2016 ranked number 10 in the world. A surprise semi-finalist at the Australian Open, she won her first WTA title at Stanford and became the first Briton to finish in the top 10 rankings since Jo Durie in 1983. A fighter, she has a good serve and will be looking to show the world that she deserves to be among the best in the world come 2017.