Friday, January 3, 2020

The 20s won't all be about youth

If 2019 is any indication--and surely it is--the new decade will firmly plant the new WTA generation as the leaders of the tour. Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu are in line to be the super-stars, and following them (as of now) are Amanda Anisimova, Elena Rybakina, Marie Bouzkova, Karolina Muchova, Dayana Yastremska, Marketa Vondrousova (who has been off of the tour for a while), Sofia Kenin, and Coco Gauff.

But what about the old and "not quite as old" guard? Who are the stars from this past decade who will continue to claim some form of dominance in the next decade?

My vote for the most likely of those players to step deftly into a new decade is Simona Halep. Sometimes it feels as though Halep is just getting warmed up, so I expect her to fight her way to more big titles.

I also still have hope that Elina Svitolina will do something really big. Svitolina is not unlike Halep in that her path is slow and (for the most part) steady. Ukrainian is certainly a star of the tour, but not yet the bright star we associate with winning a major. 2020 is likely to be the year she does that.

And then there's Petra Kvitova. Her ascendance to the 2019 Australian Open final (I'm still upset that she lost the final) was quite a breakthrough, considering everything that she has been through. Kvitova's health is always a significant factor, so if she can stay relatively free from illness and her arm is fully healed, she can have a new "breakthrough" season.

Karolina Pliskova has yet to win a major, but is almost always on the cusp of winning one. I believe that she will, sooner than later. Madison Keys has also fallen short, though her 2019 victories in Charleston and Cincinnati may be hopeful signposts.

Finally, there is--drumroll!........Serena Williams. Williams is still quite good at reaching big finals, but she hasn't won one for a while. There is every reason to believe that she will make another big surge in 2020, with her best shot--in my opinion--being the acquisition of another Wimbledon title. But this is Serena Williams, and she could conceivably wind up with any title. But there is also the possibility that the undisputed queen of women's tennis will have another "almost" year like 2019. Players are not afraid of Williams the way they used to be, and the fear factor in tennis is a significant one.

2020 has a kind of "anything goes" feeling for me. In addition to the solid stars and up-and-coming stars already mentioned, there are other players who could make major strides. Those would include Aryna Sabalenka, Anett Kontveit, the somewhat unpredictable Kiki Bertens, the very unpredictable Kiki Mladenovic, Donna Vekic, the mercurial Daria Kasatkina, and EliseMertens.

 But as unpredictable as some of the above-mentioned players are, they are joined by stars of much greater stature. Sloane Stephens runs hot and cold, and there's no reason to believe that that pattern will change. Alona Ostapenko, as of the latter half of 2019, appeared to be getting her mojo back, and if she does, she could make the tour very interesting.

And then, of course, there's the ultimate mystery character in that trio--Garbine Muguruza. On paper, the Spaniard should be winning just about everything, but it hasn't worked out that way. However, having released herself from what seemed to be a less-than-effective (a nod to understatement) coaching situation, Muguruza could be back on track. When she won the French Open and Wimbledon, the victories appeared almost effortless, so fluid is the Spanish star's game; that makes her slump all the more shocking.

So my second pick among "younger veterans" to glide nicely into the new season is Muguruza. Maybe. She's just too hard to predict.


colt13 said...

Of course it just won't be about the 20's. Gauff is 15 :)

So much talent that I can't see anyone winning more than 4 titles-WTA only.

Diane said...


You're right--there's a gold mine of talent on the tour right now. (But it's only a matter of time until we hear whining about upsets, lack of rivalries, etc.)

annie makai said...

Where do you think Madison Keys fit in to the 20s?

Diane said...

Good question, Annie, and it's interesting that I left her out of the post (it wasn't on purpose--I plan to add her name--but it says something that her name didn't just spring to mind, even though I was kind of tired when I wrote it). Keys, also, has turned into something of an enigma. Her outstanding performances in Charleston and Cincinnati next year point toward a better season in 2020, yet I still can't quite get behind the idea that she will do something big.

If, on the other hand, she can keep her momentum going throughout this season, she does have a shot at winning the U.S. Open. I do expect her to win some titles. Inconsistency has plagued several really good players on the tour.

Tennis Fan said...

I expect Amanda Anisimova to have a good year. She is only 18.