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Christmas Countdown: Does women's tennis need 'the next Serena Williams'?

Kachi Wachuku in Opinion 4 Dec 2018
  • Women's tennis has a ton of good players but not enough excellent ones, the game needs Serena now more than ever
  • Why the women's game might suffer in the long run without the 'next Serena Williams' 
Naomi Osaka. (credit: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

No player even comes close to the excellence that Serena Williams has brought to the tennis court over the past two decades is celebrating the off-season with a Christmas countdown series of articles in which our editors give their take on the burning questions facing tennis in 2019, from the stars to the schedule to the sport’s very structure. You can find the master list of articles here – and feel free to join in the debate via our Twitter and Facebook pages!

In an era with a myriad of very good players, the women's game simply lacks excellent ones. Serena Williams has dominated women's tennis for the better part of the last two decades, accumulating 23 major titles and 72 career singles trophies overall. She has conquered the best of the best from Graf to Safina to Henin, Sharapova, Wozniacki and Halep. Now a 37-year old mother of one, with a significantly reduced playing schedule, the American legend has given way to the rise of younger players - current World No.1 Halep, Osaka, Stephens and upsurging Svitolina to mention a few. Though the depth of the WTA is intriguing, the lack of consistency from top players in the big events is dampening the level of prominence of the women's game. 

Over the past 24 months, eight different women have won the last eight majors. But if you look closely at each of their performances in the subsequent slam (excluding Osaka whose next major is next year in Australia), only two managed to make it to the second week. Serena Williams couldn't play at Roland Garros 2017 due to pregnancy, while just Ostapenko and Wozniacki reached the second week after maiden Grand Slam victories - losing in the quarterfinals and fourth round of Wimbledon 2017 and Roland Garros 2018 respectively.

Serena Williams. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Serena Williams made a stunning comeback since suffering life-threatening complications after the birth of her daughter, she reached the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, falling to Kerber and Osaka. She then re-entered the top 20 thanks to those results, but didn't play another match after that controversial US Open final. Even with her absence during large chunks of the past two seasons, no player has come close to matching that high-level of form and consistency we have come to associate with a world number one or Grand Slam champion.

The men's game has done relatively well without Federer at the past two Roland Garros tournaments, absentee Djokovic during the second half of 2017 and even Murray for over a year now. The same can't be said about the women's game, the dips and lapses from the supposed 'top players' is disappointing to say the least. Top three players Halep, Kerber and Wozniacki enjoyed very good seasons, winning one Grand Slam each, but more or less vanished in the second half of the season.

Halep struggled with a back injury which cut her season short and forced her to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup and WTA Finals in Singapore. Wozniacki revealed she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis but won the China Open and fell in the group stage of the WTA Finals - where she was the defending champion. While Kerber finished her 2018 season with successive 3R losses in Cincinnatti, New York, Wuhan and Beijing, before being dismissed in the WTA Finals group stage. 
Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Five-time Grand Slam champion and former No.1 Maria Sharapova is nowhere near her best since returning from a drug ban, and it honestly looks like her glory days are behind her. Unlike the Russian, Williams has been knocking on the door for another major title to equal Margaret Court's 24 and you can't help but think that elusive title is just around the corner for the American if she sticks around long enough.

Williams will begin her 2019 season at the Hopman Cup, representing Team USA with partner Frances Tiafoe. Coach Patrick Mouratoglou stated, "her motivation is the maximum I've seen, she has worked more than I've seen her work ever." With that said women's tennis certainly needs Serena Williams, or at least someone to restore that commanding star power brought by consistently justifying your top ranking. Whether Serena returns to dominate, Osaka continues to rise, current No.1 Halep starts to show more stability, or someone else steps up to the plate, the women's game needs a force (player) to be reckoned with. 

Check back tomorrow for the next in our Christmas countdown series!

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Christmas Countdown: Does women's tennis need 'the next Serena Williams'?

The depth of women's tennis has been exciting to watch in the past 24 months of so, but top players have struggled with consistency across the full calendar year. So this begs the burning question, does the women's game need a player with the same high level of consistency across seasons as the great Serena Williams?

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