Top 30 in 2018: Women 15-11

Julia Goerges
If Goerges can improve her reaction time big results could await.

No. 15: Ashleigh Barty
It has taken the Aussie a couple years to get good again, because she had stopped playing tennis for a solid year. But she really missed it, so she came back to the WTA and month after month, she was more comfortable in singles, hitting it a little bit harder and understanding exactly what she needs to do. Barty plays a lot, and she also likes doubles, too. In singles, she can lose, but only against the top 10-ers, not against the mediocre competitors. She looks excellent and steady on the hard courts  and grass, but on clay, she still has a lot of work to do. However, next year, it she continues to improve, there is no doubt that she will walk into the top 10. In Australia, coming up soon, watching Barty play in Melbourne will be fascinating.  

No 14: Julia Goerges
It took the German a very long time to become very good, and this year, the 30-year old finally cracked the top 10 in August. At Wimbledon, in early July, she reached the semis, beating Kiki Bertens in the quarters, and then she lost to the famous Serena Williams. Regardless, over the past year and a half, she became more intelligent, she boosted her forehand and her first serve. On court, she is smart. At the end of the year, she won Luxembourg, taking down Belinda Bencic. Goerges has played on tour for the past 12 years. Will get better and better in 2019? Possibly, if she can impose with her second serve and return.

No 13: Aryna Sabalenka
The 20-year-old is rising extremely fast. At the start of the year, few people knew who she was, but from the summer on, she was locked in and pretty focused. The Belarus upset Caroline Wozniacki in Montreal before losing against Elise Mertens. In Cincinnati, she beat four very good players – Jo Konta, Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Garcia and Madison Keys – before losing to No. 1 Simona Halep. She won New Haven, and at the US Open, in the fourth round, she nearly beat Naomi Osaka — who eventually won the tournament —  but she went down 6-4 in the third. Both of them are two huge hitters. Sabalenka kept moving forward, winning Wuhan, beating down a number of very good players. Assuming she stays healthy, she will continue being fast, intelligent and steady. Without a doubt, soon enough, she will reach the final of a Grand Slam. She is all in.

No. 12: Elise Mertens
The Belgian also began to climb up the hill. This season, the 22-year-old won three events: Hobart, Lugano and Rabat. Exactly two years ago, she was ranked No. 120. Now she is way up there. At the 2018 Australian Open, she upset Elina Svitolina, but in the semis, Wozniaki pushed her back and she lost. Much of the year, she was pretty steady, quick and keeping her head up. She doesn’t always crush the ball, but she can touch the lines, and she can redirect the ball. Her serve is marginal, and she doesn’t often rush the net, but she is getting better. If Mertens wants to make the top 10, she has to push herself, even when she isn’t playing great. That is critical, all of them.

No. 11: Anastasija Sevastova
The veteran had a fine year, entering the 2017 US Open, stunning Svitolina and the champ Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3, finally losing to Serena Williams in the semis. Now that was massive. Really, during the entire year, she has been logical. In the fall, she reached the final  in Beijing, beating Osaka before losing to Wozniacki. She hustles, she is very intense and thoughtful. Sevastova retired for a few years because she was severely injured. But eventually she came back and now she is pretty sharp. As long as she can stay healthy, she will continue within the top 20 for a long time.