Top 4 Disappointments of WTA Season

Every year there are players that overachieve. However, there is a flip side to that as well and 2016 was no exception.

The 2016 WTA season will be remembered as the year that Angelique Kerber took over. She effectively announced that she was a major player on the big-tournament scene when she won the 2016 Australian Open. A title in Flushing Meadows would follow, along with the World No. 1 ranking. However, who were the players that were disappointing in 2016? In this article I look at a top-four list of flops from 2016, starting with the 4th biggest disappointment and moving to the 1st.

No. 4 disappointment: Caroline Wozniacki

I’ll start off with Danish player Caroline Wozniacki, the player who finished the year ranked as the World No. 16. She’s definitely a player that had some major highlights, however in this article I’m looking at the whole season. Her highlights are mainly from the US Open onwards while prior to that she struggled mightily to stay relevant on tour.

Wozniacki started the season off in the South Pacific with an Auckland loss to Sloane Stephens. The Dane followed suit with a first-round loss at Melbourne Park to an unproven player. The results weren’t just shots in the dark as many more losses to players outside of the Top 50 on tour would follow. All totaled Wozniacki lost six matches to the 50+ crowd to go with many more in the 20+ crowd. She did right the ship and injuries blighted her in 2016, however for such a talented player still in her mid-20s a finish of 16th has to be considered a largely-lost season.

No. 3 disappointment: Sloane Stephens

American Sloane Stephens fell off of the radar in 2016. The 23-year old started the season right with titles in both Auckland and Acapulco, however her Grand Slam results were weak:

  • Stephens lost in the first round at the Aussie to Quiang Wang (ranked 102)
  • Stephens lost in the third round at the French to Tsevetana Pironkova (ranked 102)
  • Stephens lost in the third round at Wimbledon to Svetlana Kuznetsova
  • Stephens missed the US Open with a foot injury, one that ended her season

A total of three titles in the small events doesn’t add up to a lot. Her run to the Aussie semifinals in 2013 seems like ages ago, as does her career-high ranking of World No. 11. Stephens finished the year ranked 36th, a result that’s partly due to injury but one that remains disappointing still.

No. 2 disappointment: Belinda Bencic

Belinda Bencic had an injury-riddled season that prevented the Teen Queen on tour from following up her strong 2015 season. Bencic fell to the World No. 43 position for a year-end ranking, a far cry from the World No. 7 ranking that she held in February.

When judged in terms of pure talent among the WTA’s young crop of stars, Bencic remains the player most likely to get to the World No. 1 ranking. Her claiming of the Premier Mandatory event in Toronto in 2015 at the age of 18 speaks more to her abilities than anything Madison Keys has accomplished. The torturous draw that tournament saw Bencic defeat Eugenie Bouchard, Caroline Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams, and Simona Halep. Her contrasting results in 2016 make her one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

No. 1 disappointment: Eugenie Bouchard

It’s hard to tell sometimes if Eugenie Bouchard cares about her potential. The 2014 Wimbledon runner-up may be guilty of cashing in quick and then just going through the motions of sorts. There are a lot of players on tour that lose some ambition after a major achievement. However, most of them recapture their drive down the road. We’ve seen nothing out of Bouchard since Wimbledon 2014 except for magazine photo shoots and, here in Canada, food commercials.

A pretty face counts for something when it comes to marketability, but so does stone-cold results on the court. In a year where Victoria Azarenka got pregnant, where Maria Sharapova got suspended, and where Serena Williams claimed just one Grand Slam title Bouchard could have been a major player. Instead she finished the year ranked 47th without any serious injury talk. That latter point is what separates her from all other players in this list and it makes her the biggest hands-down disappointment of the 2016 season in my view.

Shane Lambert