What could happen on the WTA Tour 2022?
WTA Tour schedule and players to watch
With the new tennis season set to start in early January, we have taken a look at how the WTA Tour 2022 season could unfold.
The women’s game is wide open at the moment with no one dominant player, which should make for a fascinating year.
What are the key dates on the WTA Tour?
In addition to the four Grand Slams there are a further seven WTA 1000 tournaments which have been scheduled throughout the year and offer a significant number of ranking points.
The first big event on the 2022 calendar will be the Australian Open, where all eyes will be on defending champion Naomi Osaka as she makes her return after taking a break from the sport last year.
The four Grand Slam singles titles were all won by different players in 2021 – a trend which extends all the way back to 2016 when Angelique Kerber became the last female player to secure multiple Grand Slams in the same year.
Current world number one Ashleigh Barty appears best placed to emulate Kerber as the only player to win more than one of the 11 most prestigious tournaments last year.
Which tournaments could spring a surprise?
Of the 11 tournaments that offer at least 1,000 ranking points to the winner, the Indian Wells Open in March has seen the most variety in recent singles finals.
Across the last 10 tournaments at Indian Wells there have been nine different winners and 16 different finalists out of a possible 20.
The Canadian Open could also produce a new singles champion in August as it has also seen 16 of its last 20 final berths occupied by different players, including eight unique winners.
The tournament which has provided the least variety in its singles final is the Madrid Open, with just 11 different finalists in its last 10 stagings.
Does seeding matter in Grand Slams?
We can tighten our focus to the four Grand Slam events to see which is the likeliest to produce a shock this year. Again reviewing the most recent 10 stagings of each tournament, we can track the progress of the top eight seeds to see how many of them end up occupying the eight quarter-final places each year.
The season opener in Melbourne appears the least likely to shock us, with the highest proportion of top eight seeds reaching the latter stages of the women’s singles. In total, 38 out of a possible 80 quarter-finalists were seeded eighth or higher at the start of the tournament, with seven number one seeds making it this far.
In contrast, the other three Grand Slams have seen a much lower proportion of the highest-ranked seeds among the last eight – 26 to 27. Wimbledon has been particularly tough for top seeds, with only three number ones out of a possible 10 making it to the quarter-final stage.
Recent history suggests that fourth seeds have fared the best at Grand Slams in this period, with 20 quarter-finals reached out of a possible 40. Conversely there’s been a jinx on the sixth seeds, with only eight of them getting this far in the biggest events.
The 2021 WTA Tour was a classic example of this, with the sixth seed falling before the quarter-final stage in all four Grand Slams including two first-round exits.
Who leads the current WTA rankings?
Ashleigh Barty leads the WTA rankings at the end of 2021 with just over 1,200 points more than her nearest rival, Aryna Sabalenka. Therefore the Australian Open – which provides 2,000 points to the winner – could dramatically change the picture at the top of the women’s game and set the tone for another competitive WTA Tour.
Which top players have the edge over their rivals?
Keeping our attention on the top 10 of the current WTA rankings, we can look at each player’s record against the other nine to predict who might come out on top in this year’s finals.
Barty looks capable of extending her spell as world number one with a better than 70% win rate from 34 singles matches against the chasing pack.
Karolína Plíšková – currently ranked fourth – looks well-placed to add an overdue trophy this year. The experienced Czech has won almost 62% of her career matches against the rest of the current top 10 but only has two WTA 1000 titles to her name.
The most recent of these was the Italian Open in 2019 and she has reached the final in both of her subsequent attempts, surely making this her favourite tournament. More impressively, she reached the final at Wimbledon last year, losing to Barty over three sets.
Who are the rising stars on the WTA tour?
There are 10 players currently ranked among the top 20 who earned at least 1,000 more ranking points in 2021 than they did the year before.
Another Czech player, Barbora Krejčíková, saw the largest increase from just over 1,000 points in 2020 to more than 5,000 last year, boosted by her win at the French Open.
Spain’s Paula Badosa rose from a similar level last year after becoming the latest first-time winner of the Indian Wells Open.
Badosa had never even reached a significant quarter-final prior to 2021, but made it to the last eight of the French Open and the final four of both the Madrid Open and the end-of-year WTA Finals, so is definitely one to watch.