Elena Vesnina’s season could only be described with one word: strange. Claiming the biggest title of her career, the Russian broke into the top 15 of the rankings for the first time in her career but the rest of 2017 was lackluster for the three-time doubles Grand Slam champion, failing to back up her results.
Vesnina finds herself ending the year inside the top 20 for the second consecutive year after a resurgence in 2016, but now the Russian faces an even more challenging task next year: defending her BNP Paribas Open points. Without the points from Indian Wells, Vesnina would be ranked outside the top 40, which shows how important her triumph was.
Vesnina owns an extremely disappointing 26-26 win-loss record this year, and it is exceptionally shocking to see a top-20 player have that record. The Russian earned only two top-10 wins throughout this year, but both of them came at the BNP Paribas Open and Vesnina has failed to perform well in the other events.
Another shocking statistic was that 21 of her losses came against lower-ranked players, reflecting how she struggles to triumph in the matches in which she was expected to win. Six of those lower-ranked players were also outside the top-100 when their matches were played, showing how terrible those losses were.
Her first excellent showing of the year was at her home tournament in St. Petersburg, where she impressively defeated Ekaterina Makarova and exacted her Brisbane loss against Alize Cornet in a three-set thriller for her first quarterfinal appearance of the year.
Without a doubt, Vesnina’s best performance this year came at the BNP Paribas Open. She came into Indian Wells with no expectations and was given an extremely tough draw which no one thought she could have prevailed from. However, she went against all the odds and started her campaign against Shelby Rogers, who had a 2-0 winning record over the Russian before the tournament. Nonetheless, Vesnina triumphed in two tight sets before grabbing a tough win over Timea Babos on Stadium 1.
Her impressive run continued with the biggest victory of her career, defeating world number two Angelique Kerber to progress into the quarterfinals. Going up against the legendary Venus Williams, Vesnina was not intimidated and instead stepped up to the occasion, clinching the win in three sets once again. The Cinderella run of the Russian did not seem to run out of gas as another excellent win over the in-form Kristina Mladenovic ensued, securing her place in the final. Coming from a break down in the final set, Vesnina sealed the best week of her singles career with a title as she ousted compatriot and good friend, Svetlana Kuznetsova, in a three-hour final.
Poor results followed for the Russian as she did not manage to reach even a single quarterfinal in the remainder of the year, but she also occasionally produced some good wins just like her first-round win over Daria Kasatkina at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Roland Garros witnessed Vesnina defeat the in-form Beatriz Haddad Maia in three sets, and the Russian ultimately reached the third round where she lost to Carla Suarez Navarro. Another impressive win came at the Western and Southern Open with her determination and willpower allowing her to get past Caroline Garcia in a blockbuster match.
2017 was filled with low points for Vesnina’s singles career despite her triumph in Indian Wells. Back-to-back first-round exits saw Vesnina start 2017 in the worst possible way, falling to Alize Cornet in Brisbane despite having a 6-3, 4-1 lead before facing some injury concerns which forced her to retire against Coco Vandeweghe in Sydney.
Vesnina performed badly during the slams, but she also had her own tough draws to blame. The Australian Open was the only Major which provided the Russian with a good draw, but she failed to capitalize on her opportunities as she shockingly fell to Jennifer Brady in straight sets. Her other Grand Slam losses came against Carla Suarez Navarro, Victoria Azarenka, and Madison Keys, who are all decent opponents.
The Russian also went on a four-match losing streak from the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix to the Internationaux de Strasbourg, failing to grab a single win heading into the second slam of the year. Other disappointing losses include a second-round exit to Ajla Tomljanovic in the Miami Open where she failed to back up her Indian Wells title, and also another opening-round loss to youngster Fanny Stollar at the Volvo Car Open, where she was the defending finalist.
Draws have generally been kind towards Vesnina throughout the year, but she has always been unable to convert her chances as she lost in the opening round of the Connecticut Open and fell to eventual semifinalist Maria Sakkari in Wuhan. She ended the year on a five-match losing streak as she gave Luksika Kumkhum and Natalia Vikhlyantseva their career-best victories while she was forced to retire at the WTA Elite Trophy because of a dislocated SI joint, causing her unable to play her best tennis.
Season Grade: C
Inconsistent is a word that can be used to describe Vesnina’s lackluster season. Being straight to the point, Vesnina’s season was extremely disappointing if not for her title in Indian Wells which kept her inside the top 20 of the rankings. The Russian would have to find her best tennis early next year as failure to defend her title could result in a drastic drop in the rankings.