The 2021 season has come to an end and the rankings have changed dramatically since the start of the year, with many famous players falling and many prodigies on the rise. Records have been broken, players have improved and the next season looks to be full of potential. Here’s how the best players did in the 2021 WTA Tour.
WTA Rankings and Titles (2020 rank)
- Ashleigh Barty (1)
Ashleigh Barty might not have completely dominated every tournament, but it’s still been an impressive year for the world number one. The Australian won more singles titles than anyone else at five. She won her second grand slam at Wimbledon, her third masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, and became the fourth woman in history to finish as world number one three seasons in a row. Barty also hit her highest match win percentage this year at 84%.
- Aryna Sabalenka (11)
Abu Dhabi 500
After three years of floating around the number 10 spot in the rankings, Sabalenka has finally made it to the top of the game. The Belorussian was always a strong presence at the masters 1000 tournaments, she always collected 1 title a year in that category and even continued the trend into this year, bagging the Madrid 1000. However, what has allowed the 23-year-old to become a top player is finally competing in the slams, which always seemed to elude her before. She posted her best result at all four slams this year, most impressive of which were her two semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open. She puts the improvement down to working on her mental game, important for a player so error prone. In the coming season, she’ll be hoping to win her first grand slam, as you can only go so long in the top three without a slam to your name.
- Garbine Muguruza (15)
WTA Finals 1375
Four years have passed since Garbine Muguruza hit world number one, the peak of her career in 2015 to 2017 a distant memory as physical struggles repeatedly left her able to show only flashes of her previous brilliance. Now, after winning two titles in spectacular fashion, Muguruza is a threat once more, returning to the top of the game. 2021 has been the first multi-title season for Muguruza since 2017. She started early, with her Dubai 1000 win and peaked again towards the end of the season with the Chicago 500. The Spaniard was back in the top ten for the first time in years. She qualified in the fifth seed spot in the WTA finals, which she won, beating everyone bar Karolina Pliskova in the group round, despite having the worst historical win rate against everyone else in the tournament. Muguruza is back in the top three now and should be back in action at the slams next year.
- Karolina Pliskova (5)
Pliskova is one of two players to have started the year in the top ten and remained there a year later. Still one of the best players to never win a slam, Pliskova remains a consistent player at the top of the game. The Czech didn’t win a title this year, but there’s plenty to be proud of, she made the finals of the Rome 1000, Canada 1000 and made her first Wimbledon final this year. Pliskova qualified for the WTA finals and was the only player to beat the overall winner Garbine Muguruza in the group stages. She’s one position higher than last year and should continue to be a reliably good player.
- Barbora Krejcikova (74)
Roland Garros 2000
At the start of the year Barbora Krejcikova was a doubles player, one of the best in the world in fact, and that hasn’t changed in 2021. The only difference now is she is one of the best singles players in the world too. As well as having one of her best ever doubles seasons, winning Roland Garros, the WTA finals, Olympic gold and the Madrid 1000, and the Australian open mixed doubles, she also had time to win the Roland Garros singles. Krejcikova posted her best result at all four singles slams, she had a crack at all of the WTA 1000 events, making the final of the Dubai 1000. This year she finishes world number five in the singles and world number two in the doubles.
- Maria Sakkari (22)
Maria Sakkari is another player in the top ten without any titles to her name, but became the first Greek woman in the top ten in history after the US Open. She has only won one title in her career. Sakkari’s success has come from three key semifinals, at the French Open, the US Open and the WTA Finals. Sakkari had always been a strong defensive player with great physicality, but this year she ramped up her ability to attack and moved herself to the top of the women’s game. The consistency is there, now she needs titles, which will surely come next year.
- Anett Kontaveit (23)
Anett Kontaveit has some pretty meagre grand slam results to her name this year, never advancing beyond the third round. And her WTA 1000 results aren’t great either, also struggling with the third round in all but Indian Wells, where she grabbed a quarterfinal. Kontaveit has made her success in the smaller tournaments. She sits second on the rankings of singles title winners, behind only Barty. Anett made a mad dash for the WTA finals in the last part of the season, starting with the Cleveland 250 which she won, the to the Ostrava 500 which she also won, Kontaveit went to the Chicago 500 and had to withdraw, but then proceeded to win the last two tournaments she would play in; the Kremlin cup in Moscow and the Transylvanian Open in Romania. Out of nowhere, Kontaveit narrowly beat Ons Jabeur to the final eight. At the tour finals themselves, Kontaveit was almost unstoppable, beating everyone else, but lost to Muguruza, once in the group stage and once in the final. Still the event capped off a strong year from the Estonian, and poses her the challenge of success in big tournaments, if she wants to remain in the top eight.
- Paula Badosa (69)
Indian Wells 1000
Paula Badosa has been on a steady rise through the ranks, and this year she had a big breakthrough with all sorts of firsts. She started with a strong clay season, Badosa beat world number one Ash Barty in the Charleston 500 quarterfinal. She then went on to reach her first WTA 1000 semifinal in her home tournament in Madrid, in which Barty got revenge. Badosa won her first WTA tournament on the clay of Belgrade and capped off the clay swing with a quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Her summer went well, with a best result in the fourth round of Wimbledon, then a quarterfinal in the Olympics. She had a good run at Cincinnati, beating world number three Arnya Sabalenka, but she pulled out of the quarterfinal against Pliskova due to a shoulder injury. Subsequently Badosa had a poor US Open, but recaptured her form afterwards, winning her first WTA 1000 event at Indian Wells, defeating several notable opponents, and recovering from a break down in the final set of a three hour epic final against two time winner Azarenka. Badosa qualified for the WTA finals and made the semifinals, before being beaten by eventual winner Muguruza. Badosa seems to be reaching her zenith as a powerful player, she’s still young and yet to find her ceiling. The Spaniard is one to watch for the future, particularly in the clay swing of the season.
- Iga Swiatek (17)
Swiatek has managed this year what a lot of players fail to do; to keep being good after a breakthrough. After winning the 2020 French Open, Swiatek could have settled into a comfortable top 20 position with occasional flashes of previous brilliance, and coasted along on her name alone, but she put in the work. Swiatek has shown up to all four grand slams, never finishing earlier than the fourth round, she failed to defend her french open title, but at least made the quarterfinal. Swiatek is here for the long haul, posting success in other tournaments too, this year she won her first WTA 1000 tournament in Rome. Swiatek is one of the few players to have shown true consistency and at 20 years old, she has plenty of time to up her level even more.
- Ons Jabeur (31)
Ons Jabeur became the first Arab player to make either the WTA or ATP top ten this year. She won the second WTA title of her career. Jabeur made her second grand slam final at Wimbledon, her previous best at the championships was the second round. Her run at Wimbledon was an impressive one, as she beat three grand slam champions on the way; Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek. It took world number four Aryna Sabalenka to stop her. Jabeur also made her first semifinal in a WTA 1000 event this year at Indian Wells. She narrowly missed out on the WTA finals. In future Jabeur should continue to be consistently near the very top of the game and can beat anyone on her day.
Other noteworthy players
11. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (38)
Roland Garros finalist, Olympic gold for mixed doubles. Career high.
12. Sofia Kenin (4)
Dropped from fourth due to poor form after appendicitis struggle.
13. Naomi Osaka (3)
Australian Open champion, struggles with mental health and home olympic pressure.
15. Elina Svitolina (5)
Chicago 250 title, Olympic bronze. Dropped rankings due to covid freeze unfreezing.
16. Angelique Kerber (25)
Poor first half of the season, strong grass swing. Bad Homburg 250 title, first grand slam semifinal in three years at Wimbledon.
17. Petra Kvitova (8)
Doha 500 title, first person born in the 1990s to win a title in three decades. Worst season for a while, struggled with injury and form.
19. Emma Raducanu (343)
US Open 2000, Wimbledon fourth round withdrawal. Struggled with form since firing coach, finally has coach for next year.
20. Simona Halep (2)
Struggled with shoulder injury all year. Quarterfinal at AUS Open, fourth round at US Open.
23. Belinda Bencic (12)
Olympic gold, fourth round at Wimbledon, quarterfinal at US Open.
24. Leylah Fernandez (88)
Final at US Open, Monterrey 250 title.
WTA Finals points leaderboard
The effect the WTA finals had on the rankings.
- Garbine Muguruza 1375 Points
Now: World number 3
- Annett Kontaveit 955 Points
Now: World number 7
- Paula Badosa 625 Points
Now: World number 8
- Karolina Pliskova 625 Points
Now: World number 4
- Maria Sakkari 625 Points
Now: World number 6
- Aryna Sabalenka 500 Points
Now: World number 2
- Iga Swiatek 500 Points
Now: World number 9
- Barbora Krejcikova 375 Points
Now: World number 5
- (Alt) Jessica Pegula 0 Points
Now: World number 18
- (Alt) Elise Mertens 0 Points
Now: World number 21