NEWS

What 2018 may hold for women's tennis

December 28, 2017

After years of dominance by Serena Williams, 2017 has been a curious year for women's tennis. But with the 23-time Grand Slam winner planning to return from her maternity break at the Australian Open, 2018 should be a compelling spectacle.

The return of Venus Williams has also been a feature of 2017 and their appearance against each other in the Australian Open - combined with a Federer v Nadal men's final - led to the event being nicknamed the "throwback slam". Little did anyone know then, but Serena was making history by becoming the first woman to win a Grand Slam while pregnant.

With Serena off on maternity leave, there were chances for both the other top players and for emerging stars to get their hands on the big prizes. In the former case, Garbine Muguruza secured her second Grand Slam title at the Championships, Wimbledon, while the French and US Opens produced first-time winners in Elena Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens respectively. 

Stephens has been around a bit longer than Ostapenko, but her breakthrough capped a remarkable year for Americans players; even without Serena they occupied all four semi-final berths at Flushing Meadows.

All this leaves three big issues for 2018: Can Serena come back after giving birth in her mid-30s and still reign supreme over the rest? Can the other leading players win more than one Grand Slam between them, or will it be another year for players to land a maiden Grand Slam?

There have certainly been a few cases of women in modern times winning Grand Slams, but only one at Wimbledon since the First World War: Evonne Goolagong-Cawley In 1980. But having smashed the Open Era record once held by Steffi Graf and now just one behind Margaret Court's all-time record of 24, who would put anything past Serena?

That said, Venus Williams has shown she is certainly not finished yet and the opportunities must be out there for the pack. With Maria Sharapova working her way back up the rankings and 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli making a comeback, the depth will be greater. 

It remains to be seen if the likes of world number one Simona Halep and Muguruza can thrive, as well as whether players like Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska can regain their mojo. But there will undoubtedly be many watching Sharapova and Bartoli closely.

Ostapenko and Stephens will be trying hard to back up their 2017 glories, but 2018 might present a glorious chance for others to land their first Grand Slams.

Caroline Wozniacki and Johanna Konta are two in particular to look out for. Wozniacki has been world number one without yet winning a Grand Slam, but her victory in the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore might be the springboard for a great year.

Konta will carry British hopes and must be considered a contender after landing the services of Michael Joyce as coach. Having enjoyed a stellar partnership with Sharapova, the American may just be the man to help bring home Britain's first women's Grand Slam since 1977. If so, 2018 really will be a truly memorable year.

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