2021 year-end review: top 5-1, the women

Ash Barty, Ashleigh Barty

5. Barbora Krejcikova
Pretty crazy that Krejcikova won the Roland Garros singles and doubles titles. Yes, over the past eight years, she look terrific in the mixed and doubles, winning a bunch of titles. But in the singles, she looked OK, but not fantastic. And then in Paris, she shook up her head, and she beat a number of very good players. She punched out everyone. She has a lot of variety, and she can kick the forehand, as well as her effective backhand. Each year, at the net and serving, she improved. Now, everyone knows who the Czech is. There are thinhs she has to work to improve, but she is looking climbing the mountain.

4. Karolina Pliskova
Every year, the Czech looks wonderful, nailing so many aces, and throwing in her winners, with her exploding forehand and blowtorch backhand. She is a basher, and she can hustle. The is a very talkative person, in the press, winning or losing. When she wins, she can be happy if she played great. But if her performance was so-so, she would say that “I just have to be better.” When she loses, she would also say, “I really sucked.” She is a smart person, and she has beaten all the top players. But, when very deep in the Grand Slams, she seizes up. It is somewhat amazing that the 29-year-old has yet to win a Slam, falling in two finals. Perhaps in 2022, she will finally achieve her gold trophy.
3. Garbiñe Muguruza
If you go back early in the year, the Spaniard was still struggling; she did not know where to turn. She had won two Slams a few years ago, and she was knocking off everyone with her forceful strokes. But in 2018 she started to slip, gradually, and she grew joyless. She loves hitting her serve and she can be swift. She also hit some spectacular shots. This year, she looked OK, until finally, at the WTA Finals, and she found herself again. Right there, she was back, being determined. “This is actually something important when the moment comes, the tough moments, the stressful matches, to not fear them,” she said. “You have to be like, ‘Okay, you know what, I know how to handle. Let’s see how it goes.’ Have a kind of better mindset to face them.” And she did, winning the WTA Finals. Because of she can keep that attitude, then she can reach No. 1 and win another Slam.

2. Aryna Sabalenka
Possibly the strongest woman on tour with her leg power, the Belarussian can knock out anybody with her ground strokes. She can pop her dynamic forehand and her blazing backhand, as well as her returns. Except for the Grand Slams, she was decent. But at the majors, she can become freaked out and commits many silly errors. She did play very well at Madrid, when she won it, but that is the only title this year. Sabalenka will always have a legitimate shot to win a Slam for the first time in 2022. But, just like Pliskova, if you freeze, or you will lose. She needs to stay controlled when playing under pressure. 

1. Ashleigh Barty
The Australian is still No. 1, mostly because when she is playing, she always keeps her focus. Talk about mixing it up, she is so lucid, moving it all over in the box. Her one-handed backhand is legendary, with she slices, spin, and on occasion, she can power it out. She is all about assortment. She has won two major titles, at the 2019 Roland Garros and the 2021 Wimbledon. But can she win the 2022 Australian Open, given that the Aussies haven’t won it in Melbourne since 1978 when Chris O’Neil’s grabbed the title? Barty has to snare it in January. “I’m looking forward to going out there this year and trying to tick that off and do the best that I can to give myself a chance to win the Australian Open,” she said. If she wants to reach the final — which she has not done before — then she will need to use her varied game and extraordinary athleticism.