It was a disappointing season for Ekaterina Makarova, who just could not string together a good run this year. The Russian is a former top-10 player and had the potential to remain there for a good period of time if not for injuries. However, ever since 2015, Makarova failed to find her best tennis and never reached greater heights in her career. After a disappointing 2018, Makarova now finds herself outside the top-60.
Ending 2018 with a poor 16-21 win-loss record, it is notable that Makarova continued to live up to her giant-killer tag; earning four top-10 wins along the way amidst all her struggles. Tough draws also played a part in Makarova’s struggles to produce a good run, but she has achieved some impressive feats in doubles — reaching the world number one spot after years of hard work and adding two titles to her collection.
High Points of the season
Makarova’s first tournament of the year was the Apia International Sydney and ironically, her season looked bright when her first win of the season came against the seventh-ranked Jelena Ostapenko in the opening round. However, that perfect start to the season was too good to be true, as the Russian only managed to reach one single quarterfinal throughout the entire year.
Makarova had an extremely impressive run to the second week at Wimbledon. She started her campaign with a terrific three-set win over Petra Martic before overcoming some late nerves to outlast second seed Caroline Wozniacki in a thriller. The Russian then prevailed in yet another high-quality affair with former top-10 player Lucie Safarova, but ultimately fell to Camila Giorgi in straight sets.
Her only quarterfinal of the year came at the Connecticut Open during the US Open Series. She surprisingly eased past fourth seed and eighth-ranked Karolina Pliskova before coming from a set down to defeat the tricky Magdalena Rybarikova.
Her run ended in the hands of Julia Goerges in the last eight, though she managed to exact revenge on the German a week later at the US Open, upsetting the ninth-ranked and hard-hitting Goerges in a high-quality straight-sets match.
Low Points of the season
Starting the year ranked 33rd, Makarova would have fancied her chances at the smaller tournaments but she continued to enter the top tournaments alongside the top players. Owning a golden opportunity to produce a deep run, she fell in the second round of the Apia International Sydney to Barbora Strycova.
Seeded 31st at the Australian Open, Makarova blew a huge lead (6-3, 4-0) against Irina-Camelia Begu in the opening round, missing out on the perfect chance to excel in Melbourne where she was a semifinalist back in 2015. She was also upset in the second round of the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy by Katerina Siniakova despite having ousted compatriot and the higher-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova previously.
A series of tough draws played a huge part in Makarova’s decline throughout the majority of the season. In four consecutive tournaments from Doha to Miami, the Russian sealed an impressive first-round victory over a quality opponent but due to her lowly ranking, she had to face a top-10 player in the second round. And, on all four occasions, she was just the second-best on the court.
Makarova’s weaknesses on clay were exhibited through her results. She endured through consecutive first-round exits in Istanbul and Madrid before being down with a viral illness which caused her to withdraw from Rome. Yet another early exit at Roland Garros finally ended the tough run for the Russian.
Unexpectedly, Makarova also struggled during her grass-court preparation. Losses to Alize Cornet and Dominika Cibulkova meant that she went into Wimbledon without a win on grass but she surprisingly reached the second week ultimately.
Makarova’s inability to defend her title at the Citi Open after suffering from a first-round exit caused her to fall outside the top-40 of the rankings before an early exit at the Rogers Cup followed. She ended the year on a four-match losing streak, with her poorest performance possibly coming against the 186th-ranked Lizette Cabrera in the first round of qualifying at the Wuhan Open.
Season Grade: D
For a player of Makarova’s calibre, 2018 has definitely a tough season. Having a negative win-loss record, dropping outside of the top-60 having just reached one quarterfinal throughout the entire year is considered disastrous but the Russian’s season is salvaged by her achievements in doubles. Nonetheless, she enters the new year with a renewed mindset and will look to rise in the rankings once more.