WTA 2017 Preview – 4 WTA Players Who Could Amaze (pt. 1/2)
In this two-part article, I look at 4 players that have never been in the top ten who could still make major headlines in 2017.
I absolutely love the 2017 WTA season to be the year of the newbie. But who are the players that have never been inside the Top 10 as of yet that could make major headlines in 2017? My take on four such players follows, in no particular order, in this two-part article.
No. 1 Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine
Elina Svitolina might not be off the radar for a lot of tennis fans. She’s at least a peripheral contender in any tournament she enters following a World No. 14 finish to 2016. Furthermore, she already has four career tour titles which isn’t that bad of a tally for someone who is just 22 years old. However, she is yet to crack the Top 10 on tour, something she could do with emphasis in 2017.
Svitolina has all kinds of quality match-wins in her career already. She beat the World No. 1 on two occasions in 2017, once at WTA Beijing (Angelique Kerber) and once at the Rio Olympics (Serena Williams).
The Ukrainian is yet to do much in Grand Slam play, however she does have a couple nice results from Roland Garros. She made the quarters in 2015 and the fourth round in 2016. With a 9-4 singles record at the event, it is emerging as her best Grand Slam. In 2016, I expect Svitolina to win two WTA tour titles and to make it into the top ten. With the right draw, an appearance in the Roland Garros semifinals is by no means out of her reach.
Catherine Bellis of the United States
Catherine Bellis first made significant headlines when she beat Dominika Cibulkova at the 2014 US Open. At the time of the match, Bellis was just 15 years old and the result catapulted her up some 800 ranking points. She finished 2015 in the Top 250 on tour and she finished 2016 in the Top 100. At the age of 17, there are no teenagers with as much clear potential as Catherine Bellis except for Belinda Bencic, a player that turns 20 soon.
Bellis’ finish to her 2016 season was not headline grabbing except for in dedicated tennis websites. She won two ITF events in Saguenay and Toronto in October, an effort that involved winning nine straight matches (plus one walkover). There was no one of note in Bellis’ draw with the exception of former French Open fourth rounder Aleksandra Wozniak. Bellis picked up small paycheques for each ITF title and some significant ranking points for a player that was outside of the top 100.
The American then finished the year by running the tables in Honolulu in a 160-level event, defeating 23rd-ranked Shuai Zhang in the final. What was very interesting about the Honolulu event was that it was won in straight sets. Bellis, who is ranked 75th, is clearly better than the players that you find in the small events. Look for her to claim a WTA title in 2017 and to add a bunch of quarterfinal and semifinal appearances as well.