Ranking the Top 10 Women's Tennis Players for 2016

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistNovember 4, 2016

Ranking the Top 10 Women's Tennis Players for 2016

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    Dominika Cibulkova poses with the trophy after winning the 2016 WTA Tour Finals  in Singapore.
    Dominika Cibulkova poses with the trophy after winning the 2016 WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Angelique Kerber's rise to the top spot, Maria Sharapova's drug ban and Victoria Azarenka's pregnancy were just a few surprises that shook up the WTA Tour's Top 10 in 2016. 

    Although the WTA's Elite Trophy tournament is still going on, the season is essentially over. The top players battled it out at the WTA Finals last week in Singapore, and the next time most of them will convene in the same place will be in 2017. 

    So who were the best players this year? 

    The top two are obvious. Kerber finishes the season ranked No. 1 with a 63-18 record. Meanwhile, Serena Williams closes out her year 38-6 and ranked No. 2 despite playing in just eight tournaments. 

    But how about the best of the rest? Did a late-season surge propel Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova to this season-ending top-10 list? 

    This list takes into consideration the WTA rankings, this year's points totals, a player's record against Top 10 players and momentum heading into next year. 

    There are some new faces occupying spaces at the top. To understand the upheaval among the top 10 players, consider the season-ending Top 10 for 2015. Williams was No. 1, Simona Halep was No. 2 and Maria Sharapova was No. 4. Venus Williams finished ranked No. 6.  Flavia Pennetta was No. 8, Lucie Safarova was No. 9 and Kerber rounded out the Top 10. 

    Today, Pennetta is retired, Safarova is ranked No. 64. Venus is no longer in the Top 10, and Sharapova isn't ranked at all.

    Meanwhile, Dominika Cibulkova, ranked No. 38 in January, is now ranked No. 5. Where does she land on this list? The following are the top 10 players of 2016. 

Honorable Mention: Petra Kvitova

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    Petra Kvitova hits a forehand during the 2016 China Open.
    Petra Kvitova hits a forehand during the 2016 China Open.Etienne Oliveau/Getty Images

    Kvitova missed out on the WTA Finals and instead is playing in the Elite Trophy tournament, the WTA's version of college basketball's NIT. 

    Still, Kvitova is ending her season on a high note. Kvitova won the Wuhan Open, reached the quarterfinals in Beijing and the finals in Luxembourg.

    Because the two-time Wimbledon champion lost in the second round of the 2016 Australian Open, she will be in position to play her way back into the top 10 early in 2017. 

10. Johanna Konta

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    Johanna Konta hits a forehand during the 2016 China Open in Beijing.
    Johanna Konta hits a forehand during the 2016 China Open in Beijing.Andy Wong/Associated Press

    Johanna Konta was so close to making the WTA finals that she traveled to Singapore and participated in the pre-tournament photo shoots. 

    However, a mad dash by Kuznetsova left the British No. 1 out of Singapore. Konta had to settle for the No. 1 seed at the Elite Trophy event, at which she defeated Sam Stosur.

    Konta earned her biggest victory this year when she upset Venus Williams at Stanford. She's reached a career-high No. 9 and will end the year ranked No. 10. 

9. Garbine Muguruza

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    Garbine Muguruza hits a backhand during a match at the 2016 China Open in Beijing.
    Garbine Muguruza hits a backhand during a match at the 2016 China Open in Beijing.Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images

    The highlight of Garbine Muguruza's season was upsetting Serena Williams to win the 2016 French Open. That title lifted Muguruza to a career-high No. 2. However, she's stumbled since.

    She is currently ranked No. 7 and finished No. 6 in the singles points race. But Muruguza is No. 9 here because of her poor showing (1-2) at the WTA finals and inexplicable collapse down the final stretch of the season.

    She finished 7-7 in her last 14 matches. She lost in the second round at the U.S. Open and her first match at Wuhan. 

8. Madison Keys

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    Madison Keys serves during the 2016 WTA Finals in Singapore.
    Madison Keys serves during the 2016 WTA Finals in Singapore.Andy Wong/Associated Press

    Madison Keys became the first American woman—other than Venus or Serena Williams—to compete in the WTA Finals since 2005, when Lindsay Davenport last made the championships. 

    This year, Keys made her debut in the Top 10. She still has the propensity to produce a streak of unforced errors when under pressure. But her progress remains steady. 

    She finishes the year 47-17, her best record since turning pro. At 21, Keys is the youngest player in the Top 20. Another year of experience will make her even more dangerous in 2017.

7. Svetlana Kuznetsova

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    Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a forehand during a match at the 2016 WTA Finals.
    Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a forehand during a match at the 2016 WTA Finals.Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

    Serena Williams' withdrawal from the WTA finals created an opening for Konta, Carla Suarez Navarro or Kuznetsova. 

    Konta had the inside track because she was ranked ahead of the other two when Williams announced her withdrawal. However, she was out with an injury. 

    Kuznetsova took a late wild card into the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Suarez Navarro's bid ended when she retired from the Kremlin Cup with a wrist injury

    That left Kuznetsova with a chance to play her way into the finals. She did. While she was hoisting the trophy in Moscow, the other finalists were already in Singapore posing for photos.

    With no rest, it seemed Kuznetsova might be too weary to mount any run in Singapore. Instead, she came close to making the finals.

    Winner of two Grand Slams, Kuznetsova, 31, is experiencing a Li Na-like late-career rebirth. 

6. Karolina Pliskova

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    Karolina Pliskova waves to fans after her winning the semifinals match at the 2016 U.S. Open.
    Karolina Pliskova waves to fans after her winning the semifinals match at the 2016 U.S. Open.TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

    Karolina Pliskova's surprise run to the final of the U.S. Open was a coming-out party for the hard-hitting Czech.

    Pliskova finished the season with the most aces, topping Serena Williams. Her steely on-court demeanor is unmatched among top players. She's rarely rattled. She's finish No. 6 in the WTA rankings, down one from a career-high No. 5. She's also No. 5 in the points race.

    She comes in at No. 6 here only because Halep had a better year and edged her out. 

    Pliskova finished with two titles, including an upset win over Kerber in Cincinnati. 

    After the WTA finals, Pliskova told reporters (via ASAPsports transcripts) that she may scale back her offseason schedule. The past two years, she's participated in International Premier Tennis League and Fed Cup tournaments. 

     "I'm going to change this year, because two years in a row it cannot be like this," she said. "I just want to prepare for the next season better than I did last year, to rest a little bit more, because the season was pretty long."

5. Simona Halep

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    Simona Halep during a match at the 2016 WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.
    Simona Halep during a match at the 2016 WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Halep finished the season ranked No. 4 and No. 3 in the points race. However, she comes in at No. 6 in these rankings because—like Muguruza—Halep shrunk in big moments down the stretch.

    After defeating Keys in her opening match in the finals, Halep suffered a lopsided 6-4, 6-2 loss to Kerber.

    Halep then fell in straight sets to Cibulkova. 

    Halep had a solid year. Most players would love to have finished in the quarterfinals in two Grand Slams. But Halep, a finalist at the 2014 French Open, is trying to win a Grand Slam and compete for No. 1.

    She still has much work to do. 

4. Dominika Cibulkova

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    Dominika Cibulkova shows off the trophy she won at the 2016 WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.
    Dominika Cibulkova shows off the trophy she won at the 2016 WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Cibulkova began the year ranked No. 38 and ends ranked No. 5. She stunned Kerber in the WTA finals. 

    It's not as if the "Pocket Rocket" has never shown championship talent. She reached the final of the 2014 Australian Open.

    Still, her rise to the Top 10 has to be one of the biggest surprises this year. 

    "I never saw myself as a great or consistent player, somebody who could be in the Top 5," she said. "...Now I believe in myself that I can really be even better," she told tennis.com's Kamakshi Tandon. 

3. Agnieszka Radwanska

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    Agnieszka Radwanska hits a forehand during a match at the 2016 WTA Finals.
    Agnieszka Radwanska hits a forehand during a match at the 2016 WTA Finals.ROSLAN RAHMAN/Getty Images

    Agnieszka Radwanska remains No. 3. She's also closed the gap between her and No. 2 Serena Williams.

    Radwanska turns 28 in March, and her window of opportunity may be closing. She appears to be stuck in a rut. Either big hitters out-slug her or younger players outlast her.

    Still, she is one of the most consistent players on the tour. 

2. Serena Williams

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    Serena Williams hits a forehand during the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Open.
    Serena Williams hits a forehand during the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Open.TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

    It's been a while since Williams has finished the year out of the top spot. 

    Williams may have lost the No. 1 ranking, but she's still considered the best player on the tour when healthy. The number back that up. 

    Kerber is 2-6 against Williams. Kerber's winning percentage, 77.7, is nearly 10 points less than Williams' 86.3. 

    Williams' decision to end her season early in 2015 and 2016 contributed to her fall from the top spot. She begins next year in Auckland and has semifinals points to defend at the Australian Open.

    Her focus will be on winning Grand Slams. Williams could end Kerber's reign at No. 1 by winning the Australian Open, depending on how Kerber performs

1. Angelique Kerber

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    Angelique Kerber holds up the No. 1 sign as she shows off the trophy given to the WTA Tour's new No. 1 player at Flushing Meadows, NY.
    Angelique Kerber holds up the No. 1 sign as she shows off the trophy given to the WTA Tour's new No. 1 player at Flushing Meadows, NY.Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

    Kerber finishes the year ranked No. 1 and as the leader in the points race. She was the best player in 2016.

    She won two Grand Slams and reached the finals in all but the French Open. 

    Although she ends her season with a loss to Cibulkova, Kerber padded her lead over Serena Williams. She heads into 2017 ahead more than 2,000 points.

    Even Serena Williams acknowledged Kerber as the No. 1 player for 2016. When the WTA posted its candidates for WTA Player of the Year on Instagram, Serena replied "Kerber."