The 2016 US Open marked a seismic shift in the world of women’s tennis. For the first time in over three years, there is a woman not named Serena Williams at the top of the rankings. Someone else is the top dog, and rightly so. After a tournament full of surprises, it’s time to hand out the grades to WTA’s finest for their US Open performances.
Garbine Muguruza: D
Ever since winning her first career major title at the French Open, Garbine Muguruza has been a shadow of herself. The Spaniard has struggled all summer, but a second round loss here is a massive disappointment. She nearly went down in the first round after dropping the opening set, but was able to battle back. She could not manage the feat again in the second round, falling in straight sets to Anastasija Sevastova. Muguruza did get a little bit of redemption when Sevastova went on to reach the quarterfinals.
Agnieszka Radwanska: C-
Agnieszka Radwanska still just can’t seem to figure out the US Open. It remains the lone major when the Pole has never gotten past the fourth round. She was in good shape this year, getting to the round of sixteen without dropping a set, only to fall fairly timidly to Ana Konjuh, who was contesting her first round of sixteen match at a major. Radwanska’s wait for a first major title will continue into 2017.
Serena Williams: C-
While reaching the semifinals of a major is not actually a bad result, it is when you need to go further to hold on to your number one ranking, break the record for most consecutive weeks at number one and break the open era major singles titles. This was not just any loss for Serena Williams. For the second year in a row, a semifinal loss denied the American legend history. While she still could, and probably will, claim that record-breaking 23rd career major title, it’s unlikely she will ever break the record that she now shares with Steffi Graf for most consecutive weeks at number one with 186. The fact that she also lost to a first-time major semi-finalist for the second year in a row on home soil also makes the loss even worse.
Venus Williams: C+
The elder Williams sister very nearly crashed out in the opening round, needing three sets to advance. After cruising into the round of sixteen, she lost arguably the match of the year on the women’s tour to eventual runner-up Karolina Pliskova. While full credit goes to the Czech and it was hardly a bad performance for Williams, it can’t help but be very disappointing for a former champion looking to make one more run at a big title. Seeing that Pliskova went on to reach the final, it’s hard for this not to look like a missed opportunity.
Simona Halep: B-
Rogers Cup champion Simona Halep will no doubt be disappointed by failing to return to the semifinals in New York. That being said, Pliskova and Angelique Kerber owe Halep big time for the role she played in ending the dominance of Serena Williams. With the exception of a second set lull in the third round, the Romanian came into the quarterfinals on form and put up the fight of her life against the world number one. While she ultimately fell short in three sets, she took the air out of Williams, who was clearly exhausted in her semifinal loss to Pliskova. While that’s little consolation to Halep, she did send a message that she can battle with the best.
Caroline Wozniacki: A
Once again, New York was the city of magic for two-time US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki. Unseeded, Wozniacki took out two top-ten opponents before the quarterfinals, both in straight sets. In fact, after dropping the first set of her first round match, she reeled off 10 straight sets to reach the semifinals without dropping another set or losing more than four games in a set. While she was soundly beaten by eventual champion Kerber in the semis, it was a big-time bounce back performance from the former world number one.
Karolina Pliskova: A+
Going into the US Open, Pliskova was almost a joke. Considering she was and has been for a little while a member of the top ten, she had never gotten past the third round of a major. When she finally managed that, it felt like a long time coming. But considering her history, no one saw her run to the final coming. The fact that she took out both Williams sisters on the way, including a match-of-the-year candidate in the fourth round against Venus and ending Serena’s reign at number one in the semis, her run ranks among the most surprising in recent memory.
Even in the final, considering she had won more matches at the US Open than she had at the other three majors combined this year, she did not go away quietly against the women who had already played two major finals this year and was about to be crowned number one, Kerber. She pushed the soon-to-be world number one to three sets before her magical run ended. All of a sudden, Pliskova is someone to be taken very seriously.
Angelique Kerber: A+
Any time you end a tournament with a Grand Slam title and the world number one ranking, there is no other grade you can receive. Kerber capped off her magical year by claiming a second major title out of three finals, only stumbling in Paris, and did it in style. She reached the final without dropping a set, guaranteeing her ascension to number one just by reaching the final.
She faced a tough test in the form of Pliskova, who had denied her a title and the number one ranking last month in Cincinnati, but this time, with the top spot already wrapped up, she completed the dream year by topping the Czech in three sets to claim the US Open crown. The only question that remains is how long can she hold of Serena Williams at the top.