Progress report 2019: the leading women

Published by Matt Trollope

It's been a year of milestones for Ash Barty (pictured), the most significant being her first Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros and her rise to world No.1 (Getty Images)
How have the top women fared in singles in 2019? And what might be to come? We summarise their progress — and that of a few others — at the halfway point of the season.

With the first six months of the season complete, a new world order has taken shape.

Australia’s Ash Barty and Japan’s Naomi Osaka reign at the top of the rankings, a rare dominant duo from outside Europe and America. Angelique Kerber is out of the top 10. Serena Williams just lost a third straight Grand Slam final for the first time ever. Teenage talents are emerging, fast.

NEWS: Simona Halep beats Serena Williams to win Wimbledon

And some things have remained the same, with the ultra-consistent Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova in the top five, and Elina Svitolina and Sloane Stephens continuing to hold down a place in the top 10.

Most of the top women have taken a break post-Wimbledon before firing up again for the North American hard court season.

Which makes this the perfect time to summarise where things are currently at on the WTA tour – and where they might be headed from here.

1 Barty A stunning year for the talented Aussie has been highlighted by milestones, including first Grand Slam quarterfinal (January), top-10 debut (March), first major singles title (French Open) and rise to world No.1 (June). Barty owns a win-loss record of 39-6, has won singles titles on all three surfaces (Miami, French Open, Birmingham) and is the only player — among women and men — ranked in the singles and doubles top 10. She built winning streaks of 15 matches and 21 sets before Alison Riske stopped her in Wimbledon’s fourth round. Sensible scheduling means she should be fresh going forward.
2 Osaka A year beginning so strongly has since turned south. The Japanese powerhouse won her second straight Grand Slam singles title with an electrifying performance at the Australian Open, but has not won another title. Was impressive on clay – winning nine of 11 matches – but fell in the third round at Roland Garros and bombed in the first round of Wimbledon, cutting short her subsequent press conference and making a hasty exit. Several straight-sets losses to opponents ranked far lower have been concerning. Next big goal is defending her US Open title.
3 Pliskova Consistent Czech has won 38 of her 48 singles matches in 2019 and, like Barty, has won three titles on three different surfaces. After coming within a set of the Australian Open final, Pliskova has fallen short at the majors. She won Rome then fell in the third round in Paris, and won Eastbourne only to lose in the last 16 at Wimbledon. Since promoting Conchita Martinez to head full-time coaching position, Pliskova has gone 17-4. Looking ahead, North American hardcourts typically bring out the best in her game.
4 Halep Romanian returned to the top five – after a rare stint outside it – with her stunning victory at Wimbledon, where she thumped Azarenka, Svitolina and Serena en route to her second major title. Incredibly, it was her first trophy of 2019, yet Halep had nonetheless enjoyed a consistent season, arriving in London with a win-loss record of 29-10 after finals appearances in Doha and Madrid and a semifinal in Miami. This year she has reached the second week at all Grand Slam events and has points to defend at just two more tournaments – Toronto and Cincinnati – for the rest of the season.
5 Bertens Impressive follow-up season to a breakout 2018. Bertens hit a career-high ranking of No.4 in May after winning in Madrid, the biggest title of her career to date. Once a clay-court “specialist”, Bertens has continued to thrive on all surfaces; after winning on St Petersburg’s indoor hard courts, she reached clay-court semifinals in Stuttgart and Rome before a trip to the final on grass in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The one black spot was an illness-induced retirement in the second round at Roland Garros, a tournament many were predicting her to win. Soon to defend big title in Cincinnati.
6 Kvitova After years of earlier-than-expected exits at the majors, Petra Kvitova has overcome her Grand Slam block in 2019, first with an emotional run to the final at the Australian Open. It followed on from her title in Sydney in what was a brilliant start to the year. Went on to reach the Dubai final and win a second title in Stuttgart. While a forearm muscle tear ruled her out of Roland Garros, she recovered impressively and won through to the second week at Wimbledon. Win-loss record now stands at 31-9.
7 Svitolina A curious year for the Ukrainian. Has posted a win-loss record of just 19-12 yet has enjoyed a career-best season at the Grand Slams, most recently advancing to her first ever major semifinal at Wimbledon. After reaching the Australian Open quarters and then three straight semifinals in Doha, Dubai and Indian Wells, a knee injury forced her off court for six weeks and the effects lingered until she rediscovered her best on grass.
8 Stephens Madrid semifinal and Roland Garros quarterfinal — shortly after hiring new coach Sven Groeneveld — have been the highlights of an up-and-down season for Stephens, who has not won a title since Miami in March 2018. A fourth-round finish at the Australian Open has also helped her hold down a top-eight ranking, although she has many points to defend in the back half of 2019.
9 Serena Serena has battled knee problems throughout 2019, restricting her to just six tournaments. A rolled ankle contributed to her missing four match points in an Australian Open quarterfinal loss to Pliskova, and although she reached a second straight Wimbledon final, she collected just four games against Halep. Simply needs more court time to build confidence and match toughness – and to regain her aura – as she targets major title No.24.
10 Sabalenka If the Belarusian does not rediscover some form soon, her ranking is set to plummet. She began the season encouragingly with the Shenzhen title, yet in the past three months Sabalenka has suffered five first-round exits – most recently at Wimbledon – and is just 6-8 in 14 matches. On US hard courts last year she reached the Cincinnati semis, won New Haven and advanced to the fourth round in New York.
11 Sevastova Bright spots for the Latvian have included fourth-round runs at the Australian and French Opens and a semifinal in Mallorca. She’s up to a career-high ranking, but she’s just 21-16* in 2019 and has semifinal points to defend at the upcoming US Open.
12 Bencic Heart-warming return to form for the oft-injured Bencic. The gifted Swiss owns more wins against top-five and top-10 opponents than anyone else in 2019 and after winning the Premier 5 title in Dubai she reached semifinals in Indian Wells and Madrid. Grand Slam third rounds have proved a stumbling block this season.
13 Kerber After starting the season at No.2, Kerber has fallen outside the top 10, mostly due to underperforming at the majors. Fell in the second round of her Wimbledon title defence and struggled with an ankle injury throughout the clay season. More positively, she reached finals at Indian Wells and Eastbourne and has few points to defend from here.
14 Wang Chinese star reached the Miami Open quarters in March and cracked the top 15 in June, yet in 2019 her win-loss record is just 16-13, she has not advanced beyond the third round at a major, and she is yet to reach a tournament final. Many points to defend during the post-US Open Asian swing.
15 Konta Stunning resurgence highlighted by semifinal at the French Open and quarterfinal at Wimbledon. After years of floundering on red dirt, Konta become a clay-court force in 2019, reaching the Rabat and Rome finals before her run at Roland Garros. Back in the top 15 after falling as low as 47th in late April, and loves the upcoming North American hard court swing.
16 Vondrousova Breakthrough year for the crafty Czech lefty, who advanced to her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros and earlier in 2019 scored two wins over Halep. Stalled somewhat since Paris but has nonetheless built a win-loss record of 29-9 and has improved her ranking by 65 places since February.
17 Keys Victory in Charleston with new coach Juan Todero the highlight in an otherwise lean 2019 for the American, whose only other notable result was a quarterfinal at the French Open. Keys, who has played just eight tournaments this year, soon has Cincinnati quarterfinal and US Open semifinal points to defend.
18 Wozniacki The Dane is just 13-10 in 2019; the highest-ranked player she has beaten this year Buzarnescu (then No.30) in Charleston, where Wozniacki went on to make the final — her best result of the season. Entering a time of the season that is historically her most fruitful — she’s twice a US Open finalist — with the points from her 2018 China Open title to defend beyond that.
19 Kontaveit Kontaveit became the highest-ranked Estonian player in history when she ascended to No.14 in April after reaching the Miami Open semis. She followed that up with a run to the Stuttgart final, but since then has lost six of her next 10 matches.
20 Mertens Since breaking through for her biggest career title in Doha, Mertens has progressed to the quarterfinals just twice in her next 13 tournaments — at International-level events in Rabat and Mallorca. Had a golden opportunity to reach her first Wimbledon quarterfinal when she lead Barbora Strycova 6-4 5-2, but lost.
23 Anisimova Teen phenom stunned defending champ Halep to reach her first career Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros. That result was foreshadowed by her maiden WTA title on clay in Bogota, and a trip to the Australian Open fourth round. Two more quarterfinals — Auckland, Mallorca — have helped boost her ranking 64 places since the start of 2019. Youngest player in top 100.
24 Andreescu Canadian teenager became a huge story in March when she won Indian Wells for her first career title. Combined creativity and competitive fire to build a staggering win-loss record of 31-4 in first three months of season yet has barely played since reaching Miami fourth round, undone by a shoulder injury.
27 Muguruza Muguruza has not gone beyond the fourth round at her last five majors and has slipped from 15th to 27th in the rankings since February. One minor title in Monterrey in April is her only trophy in the past 15 months. After falling in the first round of Wimbledon, parted ways with Sam Sumyk and is on the lookout for a new coach.
38 Azarenka Former world No.1 yet to regain her best form consistently but is trending in the right direction. Was ranked 67th in April but has since returned to top 40 thanks to wins over top-10 women Kerber, Pliskova and Svitolina in that time. Needs to boost ranking further to earn tournament seedings and avoid big guns early.
51 Venus At age 39, Williams continues to inspire, but after first-round losses in Paris and London she’ll be looking to rebound on US hard courts. A quarterfinal at Indian Wells and fourth-round run in Miami bode well. Just 14-8 in a light 2019 schedule.

* does not include this week’s results at the WTA tournament in Jurmala, Latvia

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