When Naomi Osaka claimed her second Grand Slam title in succession during January at the Australian Open, it seemed like the WTA could have located a player with sufficient dignity to surpass Serena Williams. The primary obstacles that are standing in her way appear to be three other Grand Slam champions, including Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitová, and Simona Halep.
The hype was enormous. Referring to Osaka and Williams, a news article published in The Atlantic stated: “Women’s tennis is currently a two-headed monster while the rest are still lurking.”
The WTA Becomes a 14-Headed Monster
However, Osaka managed to draw a blank with the weeks that followed after the Australian Open. She was knocked out before the quarterfinals in two large tournaments, including the Miami Open and the BNP Paribas Open, which are both considered the most significant tournaments when it comes to Grand Slams. Perhaps more intriguing is the fact that her demise wasn’t the handiwork of Grand Slam champions, but instead at the hands of Su-Wei Hsieh and Belinda Bencic, neither of whom were ranked in the top 20.
Now, after 12 weeks into 2019, the WTA is not regarded as a two-headed monster anymore, but a 14 headed monster due to the number of single tournaments along with different tournament champions that have been produced in the new year. Meanwhile, Kerber, Kvitová, and Halep have one title between them which Kvitová managed to secure in Sydney. So what gives?
“It’s fantastic, isn’t it?” stated Ashleigh Barty after she claimed the Miami Open tournament earlier this month. “Especially when you look at the women’s side, I believe everything has evened out while the depth has grown considerably over the last couple of years.”
There’s no denying that the days when a top 8 seed could sleepwalk through to the quarterfinals without having to surrender more than a couple of matches are long gone. However, it still took the tour a couple of generations to fully achieve and mature the competitive depth we have now. The young generation, players up to 22 years of age, might be the strongest yet. Ashleigh Barty, currently ranked at number 9, might be its talisman.
The WTA Tournament Group
Ashleigh Barty was so well disciplined and schooled that she managed to burn out just after she turned 18. She decided to leave the tour for over a year and made her return in the minor league in May 2016. She’s only 22 years old at the moment, and there’s no one else that has claimed a WTA tournament on the hard courts in 2019. In recent years, some winners were considerably younger. The WTA tournament group includes Jelena Ostapenko who was the French Open Champion in 2017, Belinda Bencic, a struggling 21-year old who claimed a Grand Slam event, and Bianca Andreescu who was the first wild card entry to claim victory at Indian Wells. So there’s no denying that the competition is getting more difficult with each passing year.