Woodbridge: Where is the next WTA champion?

Published by Todd Woodbridge

Angelique Kerber appears to have struggled to cope with the pressure of being world No.1. Photo: Getty Images
With Serena sidelined for the foreseeable future, the WTA is crying out for a player to dominate the game.

With Serena out, when I look at the current women’s rankings there is no dynamic player with the game that can shake things up and dominate at the moment.

There are a lot of players with the same attributes: they are solid but not spectacular. Yes, they are good enough to be in the Top 10, but it’s hard to see any of them taking ownership of the top spot for an extended period of time. Because of that, we could see an enormous amount of new No.1s over the next 12-18 months – perhaps as many as four or five.

The thing that strikes me is that none of the current top players seem to have the belief that they can reach – and then stay – at No.1. Kerber got to No.1 after a great year in 2016, but we repeatedly see her succumbing to the pressure of being at the top.

It’s the same story with other players in the Top 10.

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It looked for a while like Muguruza could make a run, but she has been unable to handle the stresses that come with being a Grand Slam champion: the time that gets taken away from you, sponsor expectations… things like that.

Their game styles don’t help them, either. Because so many in the Top 10 are counterpunchers, they are not dynamic enough to go out and win a match, particularly when they start getting nervous.

This does open the door to some big names, though.

I’ve always said that Petra Kvitova should be the No.1 player in the world. Will she come back from her setback with an invigorated mindset? We’ll see. Sharapova’s comeback hasn’t gone as well as it could have done, but I believe that she’ll get back on track once she gets used to things like travelling and recovery after match day. And Vika Azarenka potentially has another window to dominate – she’ll be watching what is happening and thinking ‘I like what I see’.

In the meantime, we may see Venus Williams win a Slam this year. She’s already reached the finals of the Australian Open, her consistency is back and her body is holding up. She is the only one I see in this group – if you take out Kuznetsova – who has the ability to say: ‘this is mine for the taking’.

What the women’s game needs right now is a young player to come along who has a multi-faceted game style, with the ability to change things up. We haven’t seen that for a long time. We need someone like a Henin – a player who can hit a slice, move forward and change things up tactically. If a player can display all those attributes then they are going to do really well.

This is a period of the WTA’s history when they need one of their champions to step up and take control of the rankings; to deliver a really positive message for the game. They do not need people reaching the heights because other players are unable to cope.

In the end, all of this comes back to mentality: who on the WTA Tour has the self-belief to stand up and take what is on offer: Grand Slam titles and the world No.1?

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