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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

WTA US OPEN 2016 Finals Wrap-up

Angelique Kerber captured the world #1 ranking on her way to her second grand slam title and first US OPEN championship. She did it while only dropping one set in seven matches. That lone set loss came in the Finals against Karolina Pliskova, who defeated Serena Williams in the Semifinals. Pliskova had beaten Kerber the previous week to win the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

That loss to Pliskova had kept Kerber from entering the US Open as the world number one. To win the US Open, Kerber solidified her dominance by beating four players, three of whom can loom large as she prepares to become the next dominant player on the WTA tour. From the Fourth Round, Kerber aced Petra Kvitova, Roberta Vinci, Caroline Wozniacki and Pliskova. Of the four, only Vinci is over age 30.

Though Kvitova also has two grand slam titles, her game and motivation seemed to have waned, and reaching the Fourth Round signaled she might be ready to reenergize her game. As the WTA heads into the end of the year, the “Asian Swing” en route to the “Road to Singapore” for the year-end championships, Kvitova will have a chance to play herself back into the Top 10.

Glancing at the WTA Rankings and making some quick judgments, one has to remove Serena and Venus Williams out of any discussion in regards to any of the other players being their “competition”. For Serena, she has 22 grand slam singles titles, so being ranked number one has a historical meaning because she held the spot since 2013. But, Serena truly is focused on the grand slam championships, specifically reaching 25 titles. She skipped the Asian Swing and Singapore last year and might do so again.

For Venus, she has won 7 grand slam singles titles and lost 6 times in the Finals of a grand slam to Serena. Her legacy is cemented, and it is amazing that she has returned to the tour and currently ranked in the Top 10. She narrowly missed qualifying for Singapore last year, and enters this week ranked 13th, five slots behind the last qualification spot.

As much as it is a great storyline, it is not Kerber versus Serena. It is actually Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep, Madison Keys and now Karolina Pliskova trying to make sure Kerber does not go too far past them. Those are the younger Top 10 players, but there’s nothing that states we will not get surprise showings from veterans such as Kvitova or Agnieszka Radwanska.

Lastly, it will be interesting to see what we get from the return of Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

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