Our New Journalist Niall Clarke: What to Watch For in the 2015 WTA Season
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2014 was one of the most exciting years in recent memory for the WTA. If there is one thing that women’s tennis provides, it is great drama, and if you like drama then the upcoming season won’t disappoint.
2014 saw the impeccable Serena Williams finish the year as world number 1 for a third straight year. The American racked up 7 titles, including her 18th Grand Slam title at the US Open en route to claiming the year end number 1.
Li Na won the Australian Open, claiming her second Grand Slam title. Unfortunately for the world of tennis, she decided to call it a career later in the year. Tennis lost one of its biggest stars in Li, who was huge in her home country of China.
Simona Halep emerged as a top player, reaching her first Grand Slam final and finishing the year as world number three. But the Romanian wasn’t the only youngster to have a major breakthrough. Eugenie Bouchard had some great runs in the major events to finish inside the top eight for the first time in her career. There were also Grand Slam wins for Maria Sharapova, and Petra Kvitova, who won Roland Garros and Wimbledon respectively. With the strength of Serena’s grip on the tour loosening, 2015 will no doubt be one of the most dramatic season in years.
Serena, the world number one, has dominated the tour for the past three years, but at the age of 33, is her reign in jeopardy? The American claimed her 18th Grand Slam title in New York, and will look to catch Steffi Graf’s record 22 Grand Slam titles. However, it may not be as easy for Serena as many may expect. With the emergence of younger talent, and Williams’ potential decline, her ranking is now under threat. The world number one could easily fall down the rankings, but she could also just as easily bulldoze her competition yet again. The question of ‘How long can Serena’s reign last?’ is one of the most interesting storylines of 2015.
One of the hunters of the world number one will be Maria Sharapova. The 27 year old captured her 5th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, and will look to build on that in 2015. The world number two is one of the biggest names in women’s tennis, and that isn’t just down to her on court abilities. The brand of Maria Sharapova is growing bigger, and with the release of her candy ‘Sugarpova’ plus dating ATP star Grigor Dimitrov, the eyes of the tennis world won’t just be focused on the court when it comes to Sharapova.
The emergence of Simona Halep was one of the biggest storylines of 2014. The 23 year old broke through and established herself as one of the world’s best, and she’ll be looking to carry that momentum into 2015. Halep reached the French Open final, but narrowly lost to Maria Sharapova in 3 sets. The Romanian will be looking to go one further in the upcoming season, and write her name onto the Grand Slam honours list. Simona showed last year that she certainly has the potential to become world number one, and no doubt that she’ll be fighting for that honour in 2015. The question is, does she have enough firepower in her arsenal to do so?
Petra Kvitova will go into 2015 as the world number 4, and defending Wimbledon champion. The Czech has one of the biggest games on tour, and is a threat to anyone on any given day, but inconsistency has stopped her from reaching her full potential. Kvitova was touted to dominate the tour when she burst onto the scene and won her first Wimbledon title in 2011, but it hasn’t quite happened as of yet. Maybe 2015 will be the year Petra steps up and full fills her potential, or it may very well be another inconsistent year for the Wimbledon champion.
2014 saw the emergence of some of the younger talents in women’s tennis. Eugenie Bouchard led the pack with some great results in the bigger events, particularly at Wimbledon where she made the final. Bouchard may just be the future face of women’s tennis, but one must wonder whether she can handle the weight of expectation that is now on her shoulders. We will see how she copes with that pressure in 2015. Another prospect touted for big things is Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza. The 21 year old had an inconsistent 2014, but showed her potential in numerous of matches, the best being her destruction of Serena Williams at Roland Garros. Garbine finally resolved the issue of country representation, when she chose Spain over Venezuela. Now Garbine can focus on a potential top 10 finish in 2015. Other youngsters such as Madison Keys, and Belinda Bencic will also be looking to make a big impact on the WTA tour in the coming months. Both will have aspirations of finishing in the top 20 for the first time, and going deep in one of the major events.
Of course, these aren’t the only interesting players to follow in 2015. Caroline Wozniacki will be looking to continue her resurgence. The former world number one had relationship issues off the court, but her results on the court told a different story. Caro reached the US Open final last season, and will look to build on that and win her first major next season. Ana Ivanovic will be looking to build on an impressive 2014 too. The Serb is another former world number one who re-enteretd the top 8 last season. Ivanovic will be looking to win her second major in 2015. Agnieszska Radwanska will look to step out of the shadows of the top players and win her maiden grand slam title. The Pole has come close before and has been on the fringes in recent years. But despite her finesse, Aga hasn’t yet put it all together to win a slam. Will 2015 be her year?
2015 promises to be an open and dramatic season both on and off the court. The WTA always provides the drama and entertainment to keep us on the edge of our seats, and we will see that plus more in the upcoming season.
You can follow the WTA tour on Tennis Atlantic throughout the year.