Can anyone predict what will happen on the women’s side at this year’s Summer of Tennis?
Martina Navratilova wrote on the WTA website in 2018, “we are now in a period of predictable unpredictability. I guess this lack of consistency is the new normal and we're going to keep on seeing it.”
Navratilova is right, that lack of consistency and continued unpredictable results has carried all the way through to 2021. Furthermore, due to the unprecedent challenges COVID-19 has brought to the game of tennis, the results for the WTA will continue to be erratic.
So, with the game so open at the moment, can anyone predict what will happen in Australia this upcoming month and a half?
With five WTA events being played in Australia (Gippsland Trophy, Yarra Valley Classic, Australian Open, Phillip Island Trophy and Adelaide International WTA 500), there is plenty of opportunities for glory Down Under.
But will the top ranked players achieve that glory, or is there a dark horse ready to rise to prominence.
Amongst the continued uncertainty of winners week to week is a group of stable and proven top 10 players.
World No. 2 Simona Halep has had 317 consecutive weeks inside the top 10. World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova has enjoyed 207 successive weeks in the top 10. World No. 9, Petra Kvitova has finished in the top-10 eight of the past 10 seasons. World No. 5 Elina Svitolina has managed 171 straight weeks in the top 10.
Furthermore, World No. 3, Naomi Osaka, has spent over 104 weeks in the top 10. Moreover, World No. 1, Ash Barty has spent a total of 58 weeks in the top spot (51 of those consecutive) since winning Roland Garros in 2019.
These statistics show that some of the top players have managed to stay consistent, without becoming dominant particularly at the majors, but as history shows, being a top 5 or even top 10 player doesn’t guarantee you accolades on the big stage. Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open from outside the top 10 and Iga Swiatek won the French Open from outside the top 50. Both events happened just last year.
Due to the effects COVID-19 and a range of unique player situations, it makes picking a winner of Australia’s tournaments all the more difficult.
Ash Barty may be seen as the favourite due to the home ground advantage. No quarantine and a ‘normal’ preparation compared to others may give her a leg up, but she hasn’t played a tournament in nearly 12 months meaning she is lacking match play.
Naomi Osaka is quarantining in Adelaide and can leave her hotel for five hours a day to practice, giving her a significant advantage over her fellow competitors.
All in all, every top 20 player has a claim to a title in Australia this year, and that’s ok. Really, it is a good thing. The narrative on the WTA Tour at the moment is exciting, complex and engaging. The openness of the game keeps fans on the edge of their sets.
It does leave the question though of why (despite the WTA tour being so exciting) is the tennis community continuing to be caught up on the fact we need consistent Grand Slam winners and a definitive top 10 on the WTA tour.
Is it because we have grown so accustom to seeing the big three win a lot on the ATP tour over the past decade and a half? What we have seen on the men’s tour is something not only extremely difficult, but extremely rare.
When Serena Williams was at the top of her game on the tour, many described the dominance as ‘boring.’ So, let’s appreciate what we have before it is gone.
At this current point in time the WTA tour is thrilling. We need to stop searching for our next Williams or Sharapova and rather go into every tournament with an open mind.
What can happen in the Australian Summer of Tennis in 2021 is unknown, and that’s a good thing.