OPINION: WTA dominance still very much up for grabs in 2023
Caroline Garcia completed a real Cinderella story to win the WTA Finals – and prove that women’s tennis is still waiting for it’s next truly dominant star.
While the ATP chases new elements of unpredictability, the WTA continues to revel in its own. The WTA Finals rolled into Fort Worth for the first time and, true to form, the unlikeliest of winners emerged with the title.
In many ways, that was a relief. Historically the WTA has lurched from one dominating force to the next; from Martina Navratilova to Steffi Graff, from Steffi Graff to Monica Seles, from Monica Seles to Martina Hingis, from Martina Hingis to Serena Williams. Granted, there have been short interludes between them, and some amazing rivalries along the way, but generally everyone has known the pecking order.
In fact, if you would have told us in January that Ashleigh Barty and Iga Swiatek would win three majors between them and Ons Jabeur would excel, we would have probably dismissed it out of hand – not because those players were not the best on Tour, but because it would have been far too predictable to be possible in the WTA. Remember, the final Grand Slam of last season produced a teenage qualifier as its champion.
Although Barty has walked way from tennis, we probably go into 2023 wondering if those days of the WTA being a total free-for-all are coming to an end. Swiatek has developed supreme consistency in her groundstrokes and shown she can win majors on multiple surfaces. Jabeur has consistently delivered too, while Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka have become fixtures in the top ten.
However, Caroline Garcia was on nobody’s radar this time last year. She was number 75 in the rankings and appeared to have missed her shot. The fact she finished the campaign as the WTA Finals champion and inside the top four proves the WTA is still an oasis of chaos amid a sporting desert of chronic calculable conformity.
It would be wrong to put that down to a lack of talent, though. In fact, it’s easy to argue that the WTA is richer in talent now than it has ever been. The challenge has always been getting it all firing at the same time, and it will be no different going into next year. Indeed, Garcia herself is testament to that.
While she was a surprise WTA Finals winner, she was certainly not an unworthy one. Will 2023 see Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu return to the level we know they have? What is next for Coco Gauff after her awful performance at Fort Worth? Will Sabalenka finally piece together her genius or continue to have her game dismantled by exceptionally badly-timed moments of madness?
Ultimately, while the WTA Finals proved brilliantly entertaining, we emerged from them knowing there is just one thing we can expect from women’s tennis is 2023 – and that is the unexpected.
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