Next up I’m looking at the chances of two of the more recent additions at the very top of the women’s game – Dominika Cibulkova and Karolina Pliskova. Discounting Angelique Kerber’s domination, Dominika Cibulkova was the real surprise package of 2016. Always a streaky player capable of deep runs in Grand Slams and wins over pretty much anyone on her day, as well as inexplicable losses to players much less capable than her, by the end of 2016 Cibulkova had finally found the one skill that had previously eluded her – consistency.
With her destiny in her own hands, Cibulkova convincingly took the title in Linz to qualify for the Tour Finals for the first time before defying the odds to beat Halep, Kuznetsova and Kerber to take by far the biggest title of her career. She’d already won titles in Eastbourne and Katowice earlier in the year and reached big finals in Madrid and Wuhan. All in all it was the best year of her career, finishing the year ranked fifth in the world.
And she has a great opportunity to climb even further up the rankings. Besides a run to the final in Acapulco, she scored very few points before the clay court season in 2016, so with good performances in the Australian Open, the Middle East, Indian Wells and Miami, she has a very good chance of knocking on the door of the world’s top 3 – what a story that would be.
2016 was also the best year of Karolina Pliskova’s career. Previously known as a Grand Slam choker, she came agonisingly close to winning the US Open after stunning Serena in the semis before losing out to Kerber by the skin of her teeth in the final.
After an indifferent first half of the season, she came to life on the grass, winning in Nottingham and reaching the final in Eastbourne. Her form continued into the American hardcourt summer, as she stormed to the biggest title of her career in Cincinnati, thrashing Kerber in the final. Her results saw her qualify her for the Tour Final finals for the very first time, where she won an edgy match against Muguruza before bowing out with losses to Radwanska and Kuznetsova.
Her performances in the second half of 2016 finally propelled her into tennis’ big time, and she’ll be planning to progress even further in 2017 with Petra Kvitova’s longtime coach David Kotyza taking over the reins from Jiri Vanek.