The Good, the Bad, and the Predictable (2016)
As the season's end rapidly approaches, the "time of the recapping" is upon us. This week: a look back at the picks made in the preseason "Prediction Blowout," just to see how right (or wrong) they turned out to be.
As far as my early predictions of the eleven most likely year-end Top 10-ranked players for 2016, seven are currently ranked in the Top 11, with another ranked at #15 despite multiple wins over #1-ranked players this season. Injuries and a suspension are the culprits for the falls of the other three, so I'd give the collective prediction an overall grade of "B+," as there have been twenty different players ranked in the Top 10 at one point or another over the course of this season.
The preseason picks were listed in three categories, as far as their chances to be in the season-ending '16 Top 10: "LOCKS"..."GOOD BETS"..."HUNCHES"
Simona Halep, ROU (#4) - still looking for that "next step," but consistency is hers
Angelique Kerber, GER (#1) - Angie rose even higher than expected
Petra Kvitova, CZE (#11) - she might still slip back into the Top 10
Garbine Muguruza, ESP (#6) - win a slam, but have your ranking go DOWN? Oh, Garbi.
Karolina Pliskova, CZE (#5) - finally, my faith in a Czech is rewarded
Aga Radwanska, POL (#3) - another run in Asia might even avoid a slip in year-end (#5 in '15) standing
Maria Sharapova, RUS (#93) - well, you know...
Elina Svitolina, UKR (#15) - she's shined brightly, but the Top 10 should come in '17
Serena Williams, USA (#2) - still has a chance for another season-ending #1
Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (#22) - after falling to #74 this summer, nearly being Top 20 now is admirable
I read the tea leaves really well in the doubles. Though, granted, picking the Top 10 there isn't nearly as much of a guessing game. As of this week, all ten of my Top 10 picks are currently ranked in the Top 10, including two -- Caroline Garcia and Chan Hao-Ching -- who finished outside the Top 10 in 2015.
1. Martina Hingis, SUI (#2)
2. Sania Mirza, IND (#1)
3t. Chan Hao-Ching, TPE (#9t)
3t. Chan Yung-Jan, TPE (#9t)
5. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA (#5)
6. Elena Vesnina, RUS (#7)
7. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS (#8)
8. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (#3)
9. Caroline Garcia, FRA (#4)
10. Lucie Safarova, CZE (#6)
[picked to fall out of Top 10]
Casey Dellacqua, AUS (#275)
Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ (#13)
A few choice comments that I managed to be correct about...
ON "TOP 10 LOCK" HALEP AND (only) "TOP 10 GOOD BET" MUGURUZA: "(Behind Halep) is where I've placed Muguruza heading into the season, but I'm still thinking her single BIGGEST '16 result will very likely outpace Halep's, even though I think the Romanian putting up a larger collection of "very good" results is a "safer" bet at this point. ... I think Garbi, at the moment, is the better BIG MATCH, BIG STAGE player. That's why I think she's sort of nudged Simona aside as the most likely "next first-time major champ."
Halep is currently ranked above Muguruza (#4 vs. #6), though the Spaniard won her maiden slam crown at Roland Garros. But that was Muguruza's ONLY 2016 title (so far), while Halep has won three, including big Premier events in Madrid and Montreal. She also reached SF in Cincinnati and Wuhan, and QF in Miami and Indian Wells. Muguruza's best non-RG results were SF in Rome and Cincinnati, and a QF in Doha. Though she didn't win a slam, Halep had two QF in majors, as well as a Round of 16. Muguruza's slam results outside of her Paris run were two 2nd Rounds and one 3rd Round defeat.
As it turned out, Kerber was the NEXT first-time major champ... but Muguruza followed in her footsteps just a few month later.
ON KERBER: "I just couldn't quite have (Kerber in the top two ranking tiers). ...She's ended the last three seasons at either #9 or #10, and just barely stayed inside the Top 10 this past year despite a career year (four titles, more than she had in her entire career before '15) on the regular tour. Her usual good slam results didn't really materialize, though. I'm thinking she might just switch those two around in '16 (that's a lot of points to defend in multiple events -- she'll need to make up the difference with a couple of QF-or-better slam runs) and go back to "normal," which means she'll once again be fighting to stay in the Top 10."
A bit of a mixed bag. Kerber, of course, not only isn't struggling to stay in the Top 10, she's surpassed Serena Williams for #1. But I was right about her flipping the script on her regular/major results. She won the Australian and U.S. Opens, and reached the final at Wimbledon (and the Olympics), but at this point she's actually won fewer overall titles (3, with the lower Premier event in Stuttgart her only non-slam win) than the career-best four she claimed in 2015.
ON SVITOLINA: "Svitolina is (a) possible Top 10 newcomer. The Ukrainian has gradually and consistently been moving up each year. She's gone from #49 to #29 to #19 (w/ a high of #15), and in 2015 reached her first slam QF in Paris. She's been a little in the shadow of Bencic the last season or so, but I think she really begins to step out in '16. She needs to get more consistent in the slams, though. Her other three slams in '15 ended before the Round of 16, though she did force a 3rd set vs. Serena at the Australian."
Like Justine Henin, I feel like I jumped on the Svitolina bandwagon at a very good time. The isn't in the Top 10 yet, but as of this week she's matched that career-high rank of #15 and last week became the first player in six years to have wins over different #1-ranked players (Serena and Kerber) in the same season. The good news is that she's still got a lot of room to grow. 4Q semifinal runs in Tokyo and Beijing are showing her to be strong down the backstretch of a season in which she's actually only won one title (Kuala Lumpur) and reached one Round of 16 at a major. Her only other semis came in New Haven (RU) and Dubai, though she did reach the Olympic QF.
Honestly, I'd forgotten that I'd even said that. I said, "Oh, yeah!" when I saw it while getting things together for this post. I think I sort of hit the Prediction Trifecta with Pliskova this year when, without a career slam Round of 16 heading into the U.S. Open, I picked her to reach the semifinals before what turned out to be her first trip to a major final. I also had her quite high (#7) on my preseason Grand Slam Master List in December, above players named Kerber, Radwanska, Azarenka, Williams (Venus) and Keys.
And, remarkably, all those Pliskova picks worked out. Thanks, Karo. But that wasn't all...
"The success of one Pliskova seemed to feed into the success of the other over the course of 2015 but, at this point, it just looks like Karolina is the better player. But, then again, at one time I thought Ula was going to be the more successful of the Radwanskas. Oops. Still, I think Kristyna could have a break-out season in '16. Not to the level of Karolina, but maybe make a push for the Top 50. Last season, she won three ITF titles (her most ever) and reached a career-best 3rd Round at Wimbledon (where she was the girls champ in '10)."
The same week that Karolina reached the U.S. Open final, Kristyna won the biggest title of her career at the WTA 125 Series event in Dalian, China. A few weeks later, she won her maiden tour-level title in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Going into this week, she was ranked at a career-best #64.
Of course, not all was "on-the-money"...
ON SHARAPOVA: "Sharapova is an almost 'by-default' lock just because it's hard to imagine nine non-Serenas who could out-point her over a full season, barring an injury. She's been a model of consistency over the years even as she's dealt with injuries. Ten of twelve seasons in the Top 10, five straight Top 4 finishes and thirteen consecutive seasons with a singles title (one away from tying Graf for third all-time behind Navratilova and Evert)."
Ah, but there was another way.
ON KEYS: "My take on Keys is that she'll take a step back before she takes another step forward -- and that was the idea before Davenport's family considerations led to the (coaching) change. I just think we've sort of seen this pattern before. Just as Keys followed Stephens and Bouchard as AO semifinalists, I think she'll slip a bit as they did. Just maybe not as far. We sort of saw Keys be unable to maintain her early season form as '15 progressed, and unless she can come close to another great run in Melbourne in January she's probably going to fall outside the Top 25 (or 30) before she begins her climb back."
Keys didn't have a SPECTACULAR season, but her only real step BACK came in her consistent four Round of 16 results compared to better one-off QF and SF finishes in majors in '15. She won her first title (Birmingham) in two years, finished just off the Olympic medal stand (4th place) and reached big-time finals in Rome and Montreal. She's up to a career-best #7 this past week, and has admirably joined the campaign against online abuse, as well.
ON BENCIC: "I'm expecting a big step forward season from Bencic. I ranked her run to the Toronto title as the "Performance of the Year" last season (def. Serena & Halep -- and all six wins were against players who'd either been #1, won a slam or played in a major final). She ended the season at #14 and was 8-2 vs. Top 10 players. She's still got some improvement to make, but it's been a while since an 18-year old looked this close to really becoming a BIG DEAL on the women's tour. She's occasionally prone to a tantrum or two on the court, but she's got heart and "want to" that she can reach deep inside and pull out (ala vs. Doi at the Open). I think it's possible she'll reach a slam semi in '16."
Well, maybe in 2017, eh?
My Award/First-Timer predictions:
...Chirico, Osaka and Ostapenko were just announced as "Newcomer of the Year" award nominees. While they not have had the seasons of the others, the three remaining players all had good moments in '16, as well. Kontaveit reached a career-high of #73, played in all four slam MD for the first time and reached semifinals in Monterrey and Guangzhou. Witthoeft reached the 3rd Round at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, as well as a QF in Gstaad and $100K and $75K finals on the challenger level. Galfi climbed into the Top 250 and recently won a $25K event. If I had my druthers, I'd like to have seen Daria Kasatkina on the WTA's newcomer list, with maybe Golubic changed to a "Most Improved" nominee.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS: Timea Babos/HUN, L.Kichenok/N.Kichenok (UKR/UKR), Danka Kovinic/MNE, Kristina Mladenovic/FRA, Kristyna Pliskova/CZE, Elina Svitolina/UKR, Wang Yafan/CHN
...none of these picks were included on the WTA's "Most Improved" nominee list, but almost all of them could have been. Babos, Kovinic, Pliskova, Svitolina and Wang all reached or matched career ranking highs. Pliskova became a first-time tour singles champ, while the Kichenok twins became just the fifth all-sibling pair to win multiple tour WD titles in their career (w/ win in Florianopolis) and will both finish in the Doubles Top 100 for a second straight year. Of the group, only Mladenovic really took a step back in singles, falling from #54 to #29, though she "made up" for her disappointing solo results by teaming with Caroline Garcia to become one of the top doubles teams on tour (winning RG and reaching the U.S. Open final) and leading the French squad to the Fed Cup final.
As far as the tour's "Most Improved" nominees, I suppose all are fine. Though if Kasatkina didn't make the "Newcomer" list she should have been here somewhere. She rose from #72 to #24 in 2016, making her the highest-ranked teenager (19) and the only one currently in the Top 40. Also, how on earth did Cagla Buyukakcay not get nominated here?
SURPRISE PLAYERS: Naomi Broady/GBR, Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER, Oksana Kalashnikova/GEO (doubles), Paula Kania/POL, Magda Linette/POL, Demi Schuurs/NED (doubles)
...a little hit and miss here, but I'd think Broady and Friedsam, at least, qualify as unquestioned successes. Broady climbed into the Top 100 for the first time this year, won a $100K title, reached the Kuala Lumpur semis, Auckland quarters, and U.S. Open 2nd Round; while Friedsam reached her first slam Round of 16 in Melbourne (nearly upsetting Radwanska), as well as the 3rd Round at Flushing Meadow. A WTA 125 Series final came her way, as well as a SF in Shenzhen en route to a Top 50 ranking. As for the rest: Schuurs won four ITF doubles titles (one $100K) and reached a WTA final, Kalashnikova reached a career-high doubles ranking and won a tour title, Linette played in the MD of all four majors for the first time and won her first $100K singles title, and Kania made it through Wimbledon qualifying.
Still, I need to do better here in my 2017 picks (maybe few Poles, and more Ukrainians?)
...both Cibulkova and King are included in the WTA's "Comeback Player" award nominee list, and Azarenka (Miami & Indian Wells champ) might have been if her season hadn't been cut short by her pregnancy and she'd finished the year in the Top 10 (or Top 5) after finishing #32 and #22 the last two seasons. Meanwhile, Peng has put on a great late-season comeback push in BOTH singles and doubles, highlighted by last week's win over Venus Williams. All in all, a pretty success group of picks here, I'd say. Pssssst... I'm thinking of including a certain Russian in the '17 comeback picks. Go figure.
ITF ACHIEVERS: Irina Maria Bara/ROU, Diana Buzean (Enache)/ROU, Valentini Grammatikopoulou/GRE, Gabriela Pantuckova/CZE, Nadia Podoroska/ARG, Maria Sakkari/GRE, Katerina Stewart/USA
...most -- Bara (2), Grammatikopoulou (1), Pantuckova (3), Podoroska (2) & Stewart (2) -- won ITF titles in '16. Pantuckova, especially, has picked things up as the season has moved along, also grabbing a circuit WD title with sister Magdalena. Sakkari has mostly moved on to the WTA tour, climbing into the Top 100. Stewart won a pair of titles early in the season, but has since decided to take the military route (check out the article -- there are some really nice photos) after first publicly discussing the possibility last spring. Eventually, she hopes to play college tennis for Army, but she'll need to put in two years as a cadet before she'll be eligible for that.
FIRST-TIME WTA CHAMPIONS: Denisa Allertova/CZE, Zarina Diyas/KAZ, Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER, Daria Gavrilova/AUS, Daria Kasatkina/RUS, Danka Kovinic/MNE, Tatjana Maria/GER, Andreea Mitu/ROU, Kristina Mladenovic/FRA, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Jelena Ostapenko/LAT
...a couple of seasons ago I nearly had a clean sweep of my first-time champion picks winning titles (7 of 8, w/ only Camila Giorgi missing out, after hold MP in TWO finals!). This year (so far, at least), I've done a complete REVERSE sweep. Really, though, I can hardly believe that NONE of these players found their way into the winner's circle in '16, and will probably end up picking most of them -- well, at least Kasatkina, Mladenovic, Osaka and Ostapenko, for sure -- once again in 2017. Of the group, at least Osaka, Ostapenko and Kovinic reached finals, while Friedsam played in a WTA 125 Series championship match.
FIRST-TIME WTA FINALISTS: Louisa Chirico/USA, Daria Gavrilova/AUS, Daria Kasatkina/RUS, Johanna Konta/GBR, Anett Kontaveit/EST, Tatjana Maria/GER, Andreea Mitu/ROU, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Laura Siegemund/GER, Katerina Siniakova/CZE, Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL, Wang Yafan/CHN, Carina Witthoeft/GER, Zheng Saisai/CHN
...Konta, Osaka, Siegemund and Siniakova all reached maiden finals. Konta has even climbed into the Top 10, the first Brit to do so in over thirty years. Especially with Chirico and Kasatkina, it seems just a matter of time before they best down this particular door and do far, far more than just reach a final.
NCAA CHAMPION: Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State
...she climbed as high as #2 as a freshman, and became the first player from Ohio State to win a national title. She's already won her second as a sophomore this fall.
NAMES TO WATCH IN THE JUNIOR SLAMS: Bianca Andreescu/CAN, Tessah Andrianjafitrimo/FRA, Sonya Kenin/USA, Claire Liu/USA, Olesya Pervushina/RUS, Charlotte Robillard-Millette/CAN, Elena Rybakina/RUS, Katie Swan/GBR
...none of these girls won a junior major, but all had moments to remember in '16. Andreescu reached girls #3, the U.S. Open junior semis and won her first pro singles and doubles titles. Andrianjafitrimo won an ITF title and reached the U.S. Open girls QF. Kenin reached #2, played in the junior U.S. Open semis and Wimbledon QF, and won a pair of ITF pro titles en route to claiming the USTA's "playoff" for a WC into the Open women's MD. Liu reached the girls Top 10, won a Grade 1 title and the Wimbledon girls doubles. Pervushina reached junior #1 and reached the semis at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Robillard-Millette won her first pro doubles title (w/ best friend Andreescu) and reached a Grade 1 junior singles final. Rybakina won a pair of Grade 1 pro titles. And Swan, with a bit of junior eligibility left, reached a career high of girls #2 early in the season.
...this was checked off rather quickly in Melbourne, which Kerber won. She also reached the Wimbledon final and won the U.S. Open on her way to overtaking Serena Williams for #1 after finishing #9, #10 and #10 from 2013-15.
FIRST-TIME SLAM SEMIFINALS: Belinda Bencic/SUI, Karolina Pliskova/CZE, Elina Svitolina/UKR
...Pliskova finally had her slam breakout at the U.S. Open, reaching the final after defeating BOTH Venus and Serena Wiliams. I'll be picking Svitolina again here for '17.
FIRST-TIME SLAM QUARTERFINALS: Daria Gavrilova/AUS, Karolina Pliskova/CZE, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK
...Gavrilova came close at the Australian (4th Rd.), while Pliskova did it (and more) in NYC. As for Schmiedlova... well, we're all trying to act as if her 2016 season didn't actually happen.
FIRST-TIME SLAM ROUND OF 16's: Caroline Garcia/FRA, Margarita Gasparyan/RUS, Daria Gavrilova/USA, Daria Kasatkina/RUS, Danka Kovinic/MNE, Tatjana Maria/GER, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Karolina Pliskova/CZE, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK, Katerina Siniakova/CZE, Lesia Tsurenko/UKR, Heather Watson/GBR
...Gasparyan, Gavrilova, Pliskova and Tsurenko all got checked off here. Kasatkina, Osaka, Siniakova and Garcia all reach 3rd Rounds at majors, coming up one round short.
#1-RANKED SINGLES PLAYER DURING SEASON: Serena Williams (all season)
...(bowing to Angie Kerber)
#1 RANKED DOUBLES PLAYERS DURING SEASON: Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza
...so far, so good. With their split, Mirza has pulled away and now holds the spot alone after they shared it for thirty-one weeks.
-SELECTED NATIONAL SEASON-END #1's-
CZE: Karolina Pliskova Yes (#5)
AUS: Daria Gavrilova second at #38, behind #18 Stosur
SUI: Belinda Bencic second at #41, behind #17 Bacsinszky
GER: Angelique Kerber Yes (#1)
ITA: Sara Errani second at #46, behind #16 Vinci
SRB: Jelena Jankovic Yes (#37)
FRA: Kristina Mladenovic third at #54, behind # 25 Garcia & #49 Cornet
JPN: Naomi Osaka second at #42, behind #30 Doi (so, it's still possible)
CHN: Wang Yafan fifth-best Chinese, who finally stepped up in '16
SVK: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova oh, boy -- fifth-best at #151, down from #26
SWE: Rebecca Peterson second at #126, as #47 Larsson didn't falter
TUR: Ipek Soylu second at #153, behind #65 Buyukakcay
Non-Williams USA: Sloane Stephens second at #36, behind #7 Keys (but w/ two more titles)
YOUNGEST IN SEASON-END TOP 20: Belinda Bencic/SUI
...Keys, at 21, though Kasatkina (19) isn't far off from the Top 20 at #24
YOUNGEST IN SEASON-END TOP 50: Jelena Ostapenko/LAT
...third at #43, behind #24 Kasatkina and #42 Osaka
YOUNGEST IN SEASON-END TOP 100: Ana Konjuh/CRO
...yes, as of now at #57
OLDEST IN SEASON-END TOP 100: Venus Williams/USA
...yes at #14 (Schiavone in second at #99)
FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 10 JUMPS (i.e. not necessarily season-ending): Belinda Bencic/SUI, Elina Svitolina/UKR, Roberta Vinci/ITA
...Bencic and Vinci made their Top 10 debuts at opposite ends of the age spectrum; Svitolina is at #15
FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 20 JUMPS: Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU, Daria Gavrilova/AUS, Camila Giorgi/ITA, Johanna Konta/GBR, Kristina Mladenovic/FRA, Anna Karolina Schiedlova/SVK
...Konta has reached the Top 10, while Begu (#22) and Gavrilova (#32) had noticable movement, but came up short at their high points.
FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 50 JUMPS: Margarita Gasparyan/RUS, Nao Hibino/JPN, Daria Kasatkina/RUS, Ana Konjuh/CRO, Anett Kontaveit/EST, Danka Kovinic/MNE, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Jelena Ostapenko/LAT, Yulia Putintseva/KAZ, Katerina Siniakova/CZE, Zheng Saisai/CHN
...Gasparyan, Kasatkina, Kovinic, Osaka, Ostapenko, and Putintseva made the jump. Siniakova (#51), Konjuh (#52), Hibino (#56), and Zheng (#60) have climbed the highest of the non-qualifiers.
FIRST-TIME IN-SEASON TOP 100 JUMPS: Paula Badosa/ESP, Louisa Chirico/USA, Oceane Dodin/FRA, Jana Fett/CRO, Dalma Galfi/HUN, Han Xinyun/CHN, Jovana Jaksic/SRB, Paula Kania/POL, Naomi Osaka/JPN, Rebecca Peterson/SWE, Wang Yafan/CHN, Maryna Zanevska/UKR
...Chirico, Dodin, and Osaka did it. Han (#115) and Peterson (#119) were the closest of the rest.
HIGHEST-RANKED PLAYERS WITHOUT A TOUR SINGLES TITLE IN CAREER: Lucie Hradecka/CZE, Johanna Konta/GBR, Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA, Zheng Saisai/CHN
...#24 Kasatkina (though that could still change in the closing weeks) is currently the highest-ranked title-less player, followed by Putintseva (#34), Gavrilova (#38), Osaka (#42) and Ostapenko (#43).
*MISCELLANEOUS TOP 20*
Serena Williams wins two slams to reach 23 for her career, passing Steffi Graf's Open Era mark of 22 and moving to within one of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24
...Serena won Wimbledon, and reached three slam finals, but is still one major short of Graf
Serena leads tour in titles for fifth consecutive year, and completes her third straight complete season in the #1 ranking
...She's won two titles, but is still only one win off the tour-best number of three (a five-way tie between Kerber, Radwanska, Halep, Azarenka and Stephens), and could still nip Kerber for season-ending #1, though not for a third straight start-to-finish season
Karolina Pliskova, with four tour titles so far, doubles her career title total by the end of 2016. She leads the tour in total finals once again, too.
...She's won two titles, and is in fourth place for finals with four (behind Kerber's seven, and Serena and Cibulkova's five)
...Yes, and yes. Kerber even WON her first major.
Muguruza wins singles titles on three different surfaces
...Garbi's only final (so far) was her winning turn on the clay of Roland Garros
Martina Hingis wins a Golden Slam in mixed doubles (winning a GS with Leander Paes, and Gold in Rio w/ Roger Federer), and comes within in eyelash of a women's doubles Grand Slam with Sania Mirza, as well
...Hingis & Mirza won the Australian Open (their third straight major, and fourth straight slam final), but ended their regular partnership before the U.S. Open. Hingis & Paes completed a Career Mixed Slam as a pair with their RG title, but she didn't get to play MX in Rio with Federer, who was out with a knee injury.
Hingis returns to the doubles #1 ranking for the first time since 2000
...Yes, she shared it for 31 weeks with Mirza
On home soil, Romania upsets the defending champion Czech Republic squad in the Fed Cup 1st Round... but Russia is ultimately crowned FC champion for the first time since 2008
...The Czechs defeated the Romanians 3-2, with Karolina Pliskova having a hand in all three points (Kvitova went 0-2), including in the deciding doubles match with Barbora Strycova. The Czech Republic will try to win another Fed Cup crown next month. Russia fell in a shocking upset vs. the Dutch in February in Moscow.
Francesca Schiavone matches and breaks Ai Sugiyama's WTA record of appearances in 62 consecutive grand slam main draws
...After failing to gain automatic entry and failing to get a main draw WC into the Australian Open, Schiavone lost in qualifying to come up one short of tying the record. Good job, Tennis Australia.
The Chan sisters win more doubles titles than any duo other than Hingis/Mirza, who win at least fourteen titles as a team
...Hingis/Mirza (w/ 5) still have more titles than any other pair in '16, though either Garcia/Mladenovic or Mattek-Sands/Safarova (4 each) could still catch them. The Chans have won two.
...Before her suspension, Sharapova lost her only '16 encounter with Serena at the Australian Open. And, yes, Azarenka DID defeat Williams in the Indian Wells final before injuries slowed her down, then her pregnancy ended her season, though Kerber had already defeated Serena in another '16 final (AO, ending Williams' 15-final winning streak), and she'd go on to lose to Muguruza in the RG final, as well.
The year-end junior #1 hails from North America
...Bannerette Kayla Day, who won the U.S. Open girls crown, is the current junior #1. After not having a year-end junior #1 from 1983-2011, Day could make it three U.S. girls in five years, joining Taylor Townsend (2012) and CiCi Bellis (2014).
Elina Svitolina wins a singles title at a lower level Premier event (her biggest title), and reaches the final at a higher level Premier event ($2m +)
...She won at the International level in Kuala Lumpur, while reaching a lower level Premier final (New Haven) and two semis (Dubai/Tokyo), as well as a high level Premier semi (Beijing). Still room to grow in '17.
Sharapova completes an undefeated season on red clay
...Well, technically, I guess this turned out to be 100% correct, right?
A Mexican woman plays a slam main draw singles match
...Maybe in 2017? With Victoria Rodriguez the most likely possibility.
Flavia Pennetta plays doubles or mixed in at least one event in 2016
At least six different Russians win WTA singles titles, more than any other nation
...To date, only Svetlana Kuznetsova has lifted a trophy. If she's still the only one in a few weeks, that'd be the fewest Russian women to win a tour title in a season since 2001, when ZERO did it.
...The Dane fell all the way down to #74 before the U.S. Open. But a semifinal run at Flushing Meadows and a title in Tokyo have brought her back within a few spots of a Top 20 return. Not exactly the precise numbers I was looking at back in January, but the pattern of her season worked out pretty close to how I expected.
Sloane Stephens and Genie Bouchard meet in a grand slam for the first time, sometime in the first three rounds
...No. But they did meet in Indian Wells (2nd Rd.) and at the Olympics (1st), with Bouchard sweeping to victory in both meetings. They hadn't met since 2013 in Beijing.
Simona Halep announces that she will be coached by Carlos Rodriguez beginning in 2017... though, admittedly, I suspect this now replaces the "Vaidisova will come out of retirement" prediction as an annual event
...Darren Cahill and Si-mo-na seem to have really hit it off, so let's pull back on this one. But I wouldn't rule it out sometime a ways down the road.
All in all, both hits and misses were in order from those picks from ten months ago. But some of the hits were PRETTY GOOD (Pliskova, Kerber & Muguruza), if I do say so myself. Sure, my longstanding Romanian Fed Cup run prediction went by the wayside (barely), and the Schmiedlova "career year" prospects seems like a fantasy rather than the nightmare it turned out to be in '16. But, on the whole, I'll take it all in and feel like I wasn't totally crazy about everything back then.
And NEXT season we can see about getting the likes of Kasatkina, Ostapenko and others their (now) overdue maiden titles.
Hard to believe, but the predictions for the 2017 season are only a few months away. Hopefully, by then, the U.S. will have avoided an election day armageddon, and the world will be breathing a little easier. Otherwise, we might have to wonder about the REAL culprit...
All for now.