Ekaterina Makarova had another up-and-down season this year, but fortunately, she was not affected by any injuries as she finally seemed to have found some of her best tennis against the top players this year, having a mid-season resurgence especially during the US Open series. The Russian had an extremely slow start to the year but was able to end the year inside the top-40 with some solid wins and her first WTA singles title since 2014.
With a 29-21 win-loss record in 2017, Makarova’s season will come off as very lackluster especially for a player of Makarova’s caliber. However, the whole storyline changes when nine of those wins came against top-10 players, ranking third on the tour in this category. However, she also suffered nine disappointing losses to lower-ranked players, with five of them being outside the top-100. She earned an impressive win over then-world number one Angelique Kerber at the French Open and also leveled her head-to-head against Dominika Cibulkova by taking three wins against her in this year alone.
Makarova’s best performance early in the year came at the Australian Open, where she has usually performed extremely well. The Russian reached the second week in Melbourne for an incredible seventh straight time, clinching a great win over Ekaterina Alexandrova and benefitting from a retirement by Sara Errani before finally taking her first ever win over Dominika Cibulkova, closing the victory out in three sets despite blowing a 6-1, 4-1 lead.
The Russian then sent her country into the World Group Play-offs by spearheading the weakened team against Chinese Taipei, winning both of her singles rubbers to lead Russia to a commanding 4-1 win.
Occasional impressive performances were produced by Makarova as she defeated Cibulkova in Dubai before ousting Agnieszka Radwanska in Stuttgart, but her best performance on clay this year came at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia. In Rome, she defeated home favorite Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-1 before outclassing the Slovakian for the third consecutive time in five months.
Roland Garros saw Makarova’s poor luck draw her against world number one Angelique Kerber, but she managed to claim an incredible 6-2, 6-2 win against the top-ranked player in just over an hour, dominating play from start to the finish.
Makarova had a sudden change in form after the grass-court season, unexpectedly storming to the title at the Citi Open. She was given a tough draw but still managed to beat the Olympic Gold Medalist Monica Puig and world number two Simona Halep en route to the final. She got through a tough opponent in Oceane Dodin, who provided a resilient fight before falling in three tight sets at the last four. Recovering from a huge deficit, the Russian sealed an incredible win against Julia Goerges in the Championship match, taking her first singles title since 2014.
Her momentum was then carried into both the Rogers Cup and Western and Southern Open. In Toronto, Makarova impressively defeated the higher-ranked Peng Shuai in straight sets before saving match points to oust world number seven Johanna Konta for her first ever win against the Brit. Cincinnati saw the Russian beat the dangerous Barbora Strycova also in straight sets, but she then got through a thrilling match against Kerber, saving a match point and overcoming cramps to grab the confidence-boosting win.
Everything just went well for Makarova during the US Open Series, having defeated Caroline Wozniacki in a blockbuster second-round clash at Flushing Meadows despite being 0-7 against her previously. The Russian seemed to have mounted a late-season resurgence, with a qualification spot at the WTA Elite Trophy edging closer to her. A quarterfinal appearance in Wuhan ensued after Makarova defeated Anastasija Sevastova and Daria Kasatkina for just her second last eight appearance this year. However, she was unable to rack up enough ranking points as she eventually ended the year as the world number 33.
Makarova had a lackluster start to the year as the Russian opened her season with a shocking straight-set loss to Misaki Doi in the first round of the Brisbane International before another opening-round exit in Sydney after Barbora Strycova proved to be too good.
The former top-10 player also suffered a three-match losing streak, first starting off with a third-round exit in Dubai where she lost the last 10 points of the match and fell to Lauren Davis in three sets. Makarova then had an early exit at both Indian Wells and Miami, falling to Sara Sorribes Tormo and Anett Kontaveit. She was able to claim her first win in a month at the Monterrey Open, but another disappointing loss ensued as the Russian fell to another player outside the top-100.
Arguably, Makarova’s worst loss this year came in the hands of Lesia Tsurenko, where she failed to back up her first-round win over Kerber at Roland Garros. The Russian was given a 2-6, 2-6 drubbing, being unable to find her normal aggressive tennis at all. The other most disappointing defeat was against Sloane Stephens in Cincinnati as Makarova failed to convert all her opportunities and led by a set and a break but ultimately fell in three sets.
Season Grade: B-
Makarova’s impressive second half of the year could not be undermined by her struggles early in the year, but after all, her inconsistency proved to have taken a toll on her ranking as the Russian failed to make a return to the top-30 and once fell to an all-year low ranking of 58. Undoubtedly, her nine wins over top 10 players were incredibly impressive, showing her ability to challenge the elite players. If she could keep up her high level of play consistently, a return to the top 20 should soon follow.