The WTA season has come to a close, save for some smaller WTA 125 events through to the end of the month. One thing is certain though, and that is the top 10 won’t be changing anymore.
However, as we look forward to 2023, what alterations will occur by this time next year?
Looking back through the seasons since 2000, it came as a surprise to me, that there is so much movement from year to year in the top ten.
The average number of changes comes in at just over four per year, but has been as high as seven, and as low as one. Taking this into account, we can be almost certain that this year’s top ten, will not be next year’s.
If we work on the average of four changes, who will disappear from the top echelon, and who might make a push to get in? An almost impossible task to guess, but let’s take a look at this year’s alumni, and try to figure out who’s a lock to stay there, and who might be vulnerable…
Not much needs to be said about her 2022 season here, that hasn’t already been said. With a lead of well over 5000 points, I think it’s fairly safe to say she’s a certainty to finish top ten again next year. While I don’t expect her to defend all her points, it’s hard to see her falling from number 1, let alone the top ten.
Breaking into the top 10 last year, 2022 has been a very consistent year for Ons, reaching 2 Slam finals, and winning Madrid and Berlin. With no points to defend at the Australian Open or French open next year, it’s hard to see Ons dropping out of the top five in the world, so for me, she will be in a similar position this time next year.
Has made an enormous jump from just inside the top 20, to number 3 in the world. She has done this on the back of extraordinary consistency, reaching the quarter finals of 3 majors, and winning the second most matches on tour at WTA1000 and Slam events. However, this didn’t translate into titles, only claiming her first late in the year at Guadalajara. I see her as a player likely to stay in the top ten, as she doesn’t have many huge weeks to defend points, and has spread them out across the year. If she can take the next step at one or two majors, she’ll stay in the top 5.
A bit of a surprise packet this year, and somewhat of a resurgence in her career, sees her back inside the top ten after a few years on the slide. Caroline was able to arrest a fairly average start to the year, and turn it into one of her best years on the tour, culminating in a semi-final run at the US Open, and then spring-boarding off that, to take out the WTA Finals. If she can continue this form into the first few months on 2023, and capitalise on the early hard court swing, she can really set herself up to defend the back half of the year. Can she do that though? I believe so.
A fixture around the top ten for the last 4 years, Sabalenka’s results are somewhat scattered with matches you would expect her to win, but doesn’t. This (and her serving woes), are what is holding her back from being consistently at the very top. Before the WTA finals, I had strong doubts she could maintain enough consistency to stay at the top, but these doubts have been quelled a bit, now that Aryna has put a few more points between her and number 11. However, I probably see Aryna continuing her inconsistent form, meaning I can’t be certain we will find her here at the end of 2023.
Her second year finishing inside the top 10, Maria Sakkari failed to win a title this season. A three time finalist in 2022, at Indian Wells, St Petersburg, and Parma, yet a fourth round at the Australian Open was her best result in a major this year. This means she will have quite a few points to defend early on in the year. If she fails to do this, Sakkari might find her ranking dip a little, meaning the draws later in the year may become trickier. For me, it’s hard to get a read on what her trajectory will be for 2023, which makes me think she could finish anywhere from 5 – 20.
Still only 18 years old, it’s hard to believe she’s now a seasoned veteran on the tour. This season has been a real coming of age for Coco, first entrenching herself into the top 20, then the top 10, and finishing the year in the top 5. An extraordinary performance. The big knock on her is her inability to beat the players around her, as proven in the WTA Finals. I do believe she will overcome this, and once the penny drops, we’ll see the best of her.
Another post-Covid comeback year, and her highest ever year end finish. Two titles, at Granby and San Jose (where she knocked off Rybakina, Sabalenka, and Badosa), as well as a semi final run at Roland Garros are the standouts for 2022. The rest of the year was quite patchy though, and unless she takes full advantage of her high seedings early in the year, I think 2023 could be a battle for her.
A big jump from 31 at end of 2021, up into the top ten, is a well-deserved reward for a solid season. Looking back through her tournaments, there weren’t a lot of bad losses, and that kind of consistency could bode well for a longer stint up near the top. At 25 years old, we might be about to see the best of Veronika. Qualifying for doubles at the year-end finals, but not singles, may just give her that extra motivation to get there in 2023.
There is a large caveat here…and that is completely dependent on what happens regarding her drug suspension. Didn’t play a lot of tournaments this year anyway, but when she did, she is still putting herself in the frame to win. Assuming Simona stays fit, and assuming she’s allowed to play, I can still see her hanging around the top 10 for another year or two.
Probable (but with an asterisk* right now).
Assuming 4 will drop out, who are the 4 that have claims on pushing in to the top ten?
Madison Keys (currently 11th):
Been around the top 10-20 for 7 years now, yet hasn’t been able to make that one run can elevate her to the next level. I still have belief she can string a more consistent season together, or at the very least, perform across 2 or 3 majors in the one year. If she does that, Keys can get back into single figures next year.
Paula Badosa (12th):
Paula has made some big ranking gains in the last few years, but her early season form dropped away significantly towards the end of this season. The first 3 months of the year will be really important for her to defend, otherwise she could find herself outside the seedings at tournaments come mid-year. She definitely has the talent, but I’m not sure she can recapture that form in time.
Anett Kontaveit (17th):
A horror year for the Estonian who made it to number 2 in the world early on. Anett never fully recovered from Covid, and her results really trailed off after the first few months. If Kontaveit can have a good break, and a solid pre-season, I believe she is still every chance to pick up a few titles, and make one or two deep runs at a major. That might be enough.
Elena Rybakina (22nd):
We all know if Wimbledon points counted, she would be sitting in the top ten right now. But they didn’t, so she finds herself with some work to do in order to break in there. The good news for her is, she has very few points to defend at any of the majors, so an early season run at the Australian Open, could push her well into the seedings for the following tournaments, giving her the chance to make some more points. I think she’s a genuine shot at jumping back in.
Amanda Anisimova (23rd)
Amanda was putting together a very solid season leading into the American hardcourt swing, but a broken toe in the Western and Southern Open pretty much ended her year. If Amanda can stay fit over the pre-season, and hit the ground running, we might see her in the top ten towards the end of year.
Linda Fruhvirtova (78)
At age 17, it might be too much to ask to jump from 78 in to the top 10 within the next 12 months, but this time last year, she was barely inside 300. A stunning year from the Czech, and anyone who follows tennis, knows the hype around her and her sister. She has already won a title on the tour (Chennai), so who’s to say, with a full season playing Slams, she can’t make a few runs, and launch herself into the elite.
After all is said and done, it’s a bit of a lottery to predict what’s going to happen in 12 months time, but here’s what I have come up with:
There’s no major surprises there, but I genuinely can’t see a lot of change in the top 5 or so. The bottom half of the top ten is anyone’s guess, and realistically, there are dozens of players who could make one big Slam run, and lift themselves into contention.
I guess that is what makes 2023 so intriguing. Bring on January.