With the second-tier WTA finals in Zhuhai now complete, the Nov. 5 rankings are the official year-end rankings for 2018.
With their efforts in Zhuhai, Ashleigh Barty and Qiang Wang both made inroads.
Barty, the Zhuhai champion, moved up four spots to a career-high singles ranking of No. 15 (she reached her best of No. 5 in doubles last May).
Wang, the 26-year-old who proved a revelation during the fall Asian swing, moved up two spots to sit right at No. 20 for the 2018 year-end.
Going into the US Open two months ago, the Chinese No. 1 was ranked No. 52. So that’s an impressive finish to the season.
But tennis goes on. And there is a lot to play for with more WTA 125K tournaments as well as $80,000 and $100,000 events on the ITF circuit.
The spots at the bottom end of the Australian Open main draw list are all to play for.
ON THE UPSWING
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR): No. 12 ————> No. 11
Ashleigh Barty (AUS): No. 19 ————> No. 15
Qiang Wang (CHN): No. 22 ————> No. 20
Belinda Bencic (SUI): No. 39 ————> No. 37 (Bencic not only defending some big ITF points from a year ago, she will try for a shot at a seed in Australia).
Dalila Jakupovic (SLO): No. 73 ————> No. 69 (The 27-year-old from Slovenia ended 2017 ranked No. 239. A low-key career year as she reaches a new career high after a semi in Mumbai).
Yafan Wang (CHN): No. 83 ————> No. 73
Kateryna Kozlova (UKR): No. 104 ————> No. 99 (A final at the Toronto ITF last weekend should ensure her main draw spot in Australia).
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS): No. 110 ————> No. 105 (A semifinal effort in Mumbai gets her closer to the Melbourne main draw. She’s efforting HARD; Gasparyan flew to Limoges, France for the 125K there this week. And she’s entered in a similar event back in Taipei next week.
Irina Khromacheva (RUS): No. 165 ————> No. 131 (A finalist in Mumbai; the former top junior is top 50 in doubles, but hasn’t had a major breakthrough in singles yet, even if she was in the top 100 in 2017.
Bianca Andreescu (CAN): No. 185 ————> No. 178
Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA): No. 235 ————> No. 184 (The Brazilian lefty, in the top 60 a year ago, at least ensured she can get into the Australian Open qualifying with her effort in Tyler, Texas.
ON THE DOWNSWING
Sofia Kenin (USA): No. 48 ————> No. 52 (Too bad for the young American, who finishes just outside the top 50. Might cost her a little bonus money).
Taylor Townsend (USA): No. 70 ————> No. 74
Katie Boulter (GBR): No. 95 ————> No. 100 (The Brit dropped five spots even though she wasn’t defending anything. She was idle, though – we spotted her in the stands cheering on Jack Sock in Paris. She should be in the main draw in Melbourne; we’ll find out soon enough if Sock will join her).
Coco Vandeweghe (USA): No. 102 ————> No. 104 (Vandeweghe is going to have to take her chances for Melbourne, as she’s done for the year).
Vitalia Diatchenko (RUS): No. 112 ————> No. 120
Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL): No. 120 ————> No. 150
Year-end top 20
The Nov. 5 rankings are considered the “year-end rankings” on the WTA Tour.
So here are the top 20, in order. Their rankings at the end of 2017 are in brackets.
1. Simona Halep (1)
2. Angelique Kerber (21)
3. Caroline Wozniacki (3)
4. Elina Svitolina (6)
5. Naomi Osaka (68)
6. Sloane Stephens (13)
7. Petra Kvitova (29)
8. Karolina Pliskova (4)
9. Kiki Bertens (31)
10. Daria Kasatkina (24)
11. Aryna Sabalenka (78)
12. Anastasija Sevastova (16)
13. Elise Mertens (35)
14. Julia Goerges (14)
15. Ashleigh Barty (17)
16. Serena Williams (22)
17. Madison Keys (19)
18. Garbiñe Muguruza (2)
19. Caroline Garcia (8)
20. Qiang Wang (45)
The biggest dropper is Muguruza, who finished the 2017 season as No. 2, right behind Halep.
Beyond the big years produced by 20-year-olds Sabalenka and Osaka (and by Kasatkina, who finishes in the top 10), the surprises lie more in those whose rankings didn’t change that much, year over year.
Great season, small change
First thoughts on Barty and Georges are that they had terrific seasons. And yet, they pretty much finished the year where they began in the rankings. And Sevastova, who also posted some great results, was already at No. 16 at the end of 2017, so a four-spot jump doesn’t seem that huge.
On the opposite side, it instinctively feels as though Madison Keys had a disappointing season, doesn’t it? But she actually ends 2018 two spots higher than she finished 2017.
Half of the players in the top 10 are used to having to play a “top-10 commitment season”, which limits their options, and their ability to play smaller events. But the other half – Stephens, Osaka, Kasatkina, Bertens and Kvitova (for the first time in a couple of years), will have to balance that out in 2019.
The battle for Melbourne
The deadline for main-draw entries into the Australian Open is Dec. 3.
So there’s still a month to go. And there should be some jostling for those final positions.
The expanded qualifying draw on the women’s side, now at 128, means 16 spots in the main draw rather than the 12 who qualified out of a 96-player draw.
So that means the cutoff is four sports lower, as well – at No. 104. But No. 104 is not guaranteed to make it; players who enter with protected rankings higher than that will get priority. It’s too soon to tell who they are, and how many there will be.
So a lot of players are on the bubble. Some of them are playing these late-season 125K events to get there. Others have ended their seasons.
FYI – Sara Errani is eligible to return from her doping suspension on Feb. 8, 2019.
This part of the rankings will be interesting to watch in the next few weeks.
Among those in action this week are Gasparyan and Minella in Limoges, and Watson in Las Vegas.
Longshots down the stretch
Tamara Korpatsch, ranked No. 121, is already up five spots to No. 116 with a first-round win in Limoges.
Vera Zvonareva (No. 123) also is up five spots in Limoges.
Timea Bacsinszky, ranked No. 241 this week, won a $25,000 ITF in Nantes, France last week and is already up to No. 200 in the live rankings without having started her effort in Limoges. She has a tough first-round opponent in wild card Alizé Cornet, seeded No. 2. Bacsinszky should be able to use her protected ranking for Australia.
On Sept. 4, Bacsinszky fell off the rankings chart completely. So it’s been an impressive return. If she managed to win in Limoges, she would jump about 110 spots by next Monday.
(For the full WTA Tour rankings picture, click here).
(Feature photo: WTA Elite Trophy Facebook page)