One Improvement Top Women's Tennis Players Must Make Before 2014
The 2013 WTA season is over. However, the 2014 season gets underway in less than two months. Tune-up tournaments for the first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, begin in December. Meanwhile, players are trying to fine-tune their games.
Even No. 1 Serena Williams, who is coming off perhaps the best season of her career, can make improvements.
What to tweak? Some players, like Sara Errani for instance, have a glaring weakness. Then there is Victoria Azarenka, who, judging by how her 2013 season ended, simply seems a bit off.
This list looks at the Top 10 players on the WTA tour and singles out a specific improvement they need to make before 2014.
10. Caroline Wozniacki: Up the Offense
Caroline Wozniacki hired Maria Sharapova's former coach, Thomas Hogstedt, this offseason. Hogstedt helped Sharapova recapture her form after shoulder surgery. Perhaps he can help Wozniacki improve her game enough to win a Grand Slam.
The biggest improvement Wozniacki has to make is in her style of play. She has to become more aggressive. Her great defensive skills keep her in the hunt, but when she faces more aggressive players like Sharapova or Serena Williams, Wozniacki gets caught retrieving balls until she's finally hit off the court.
9. Angelique Kerber: Rev Up Her Return
Angelique Kerber has enough power to stay in rallies with the biggest hitters on tour. She falls short, however, on her return of service games. Kerber won just 38.7 percent of the points off her opponent's first serve. She's only winning 58.3 percent off their second serves.
It's okay that Kerber likes to go for it on the return of serve. She just needs to aim with more accuracy.
No. 8 Jelena Jankovic: Dim the Drama
Jelena Jankovic worked her way back to the Top 10 during the 2013 season. The former No. 1 even managed to reach the WTA Championships. But for all her talent, Jankovic continues to let on-court drama interfere with her game. She gets into animated arguments with her brother and coach Marko. During a match in Charleston, Jankovic exchanged words with Serena Williams in between points.
These type of distractions take her out of her game. She needs to tone it down before 2014.
7. Sara Errani: Get a Serve
Sara Errani does a lot with a little. She's one of the shortest women on tour. She's been consistent enough to finish in the Top 10 for the second consecutive year. But if she wants to stay in the Top 10, Errani has to improve her weak serve.
She wins just 56.4 percent of her first serves and only 44.8 percent of her second serves. During her French Open match against Serena Williams, Errani was dropping balls in at 60 mph. Despite her lackluster serve, Errani routinely makes it to the semifinals at tournaments. Imagine if she had a serve.
6. Petra Kvitova: Fine-Tune Fitness
Petra Kvitova has the big forehand. She's got a killer serve and even plays well at the net. She can improve on her fitness, and she knows it. Kvitova hired a new fitness coach after the U.S. Open. The move seems to already be paying off. Since the U.S. Open, Kvitova has won 10 of her last 13 matches.
5. Agnieszka Radwanska: Power Up
Like Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska could make an improvement via the gym. Radwanska is listed at 5'8" and 123 pounds. Li Na is 5'7 3/4" and 143 pounds. Little Errani weighs 132 pounds. Radwanska moves well, so she's certainly fit. But she could use more muscle. She lacks the power to compete against the heavy hitters like Williams, Li, Sharapova and Azarenka. A little more ammunition to take on the big guns could help Aggie win her first Slam.
4. Maria Sharapova: Net Game
When you are one of the tallest women on tour, it's easy to settle back at the baseline and try to overpower opponents. But Sharapova could improve her game if she charged the net more. Look at how effective this style has been for Venus Williams, who is an inch shorter than Sharapova.
With that wing span, Sharapova could dominate at the net.
3. Li Na: Close Encounters
Li Na's game has improved under coach Carlos Rodriguez. He has Li playing more aggressively and throwing in some serve and volley. However, Li continues to struggle closing out matches against top players. She took the first set off Azarenka in the Australian Open final before eventually losing.
In the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, after losing the first set in a tie breaker, Li took the second set off Radwanska. But then she was trounced 6-2 in the third. Li dominated Williams in the first set at the WTA Championships. But then she collapsed in the second and third sets. Maybe it's just nerves, but if Li figures out how to close out, it will be lights out for opponents.
2. Victoria Azarenka: Recapture Confidence
Victoria Azarenka has lost some fire. Her biggest challenge has been confidence. She seemed resigned to losing at the WTA Championships. She lost four of her last five matches. Luckily for Azarenka, the Australian Open is around the corner. She has won the Aussie Open the last two years. Maybe a return to Melbourne will help Vika get her mojo back.
1. Serena Williams: Fight for Focus
Williams often talks about how she has room to improve her game. That's a scary thought for her opponents. After all, she's already the most dominant player this decade, and considered one of the greatest of all time.
But Williams can work on her focus. Sometimes she drifts from fabulous to fizzle. She loses focus and lets her opponents get back into matches. She squandered a 3-0 lead against Sabine Lisicki in the final set of the fourth round at Wimbledon. She allowed Azarenka to climb back into the match in the U.S. Open final.
If Williams can reduce these lapses in concentration, she will continue her reign as queen of tennis.