2017 WTA season preview: time for Radwanska and Halep to step up?

In my third post previewing the upcoming 2017 WTA tour, I’m looking at world numbers three and four, Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep.If truth be told, the player I’ve thought about most during the off season is Agnieszka Radwanska. This all started after she was thrashed (6-2 6-1) by Kerber in the Tour Finals semis. Think back to this time a year ago and it seemed she’d truly showed her mettle by beating Petra Kvitova in a humdinger of a final at the Tour Finals. It was the biggest title of her career and was the best possible way to set herself up for Grand Slam success in 2016. Flash forward a year and, to be brutally honest, she’s back to square one.

Her season started off on the right track – title in Shenzhen, semi final losses to Serena at the Australian Open and Indian Wells (at Indian Wells pushing her the most she has since the 2012 Wimbledon final) and semis in Doha (notwithstanding a dire performance against Suarez Navarro in the semis).

However, things started to unravel pretty quickly after this, losing to players she simply shouldn’t have been losing to (Bacsinszky, Siegemund, Pironkova, Vandeweghe, Paylyuchenkova, Zheng and Konjuh), not to mention three losses to Cibulkova, two to Kuznetsova and one to Wozniacki – players she really should be beating to be at the very top of the game.

She looked to be back to her very best towards the end of the season, winning the title pretty easily in Beijing, but a jittery loss to Kuznetsova and the aforementioned mauling by Kerber at the Tour Finals will have left her with much to contemplate over the past few months. Once again, I’ve seen fans debating whether she’ll ever win a Slam and, harsh as it is, I have to say that it’s becoming increasingly unlikely.

“Simona Halep” by Beth Wilson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2016 was bit of a mixed one for Simona Halep. Bar impressive wins at major tournaments in Madrid and Montreal, her form was all over the place. She was competitive against Serena in losses at Indian Wells and the US Open and Kerber in Cincinnati, but lost twice to Shuai Zhang (winning only three games against her in Beijing), was thrashed by Siegemund in Stuttgart and on the back of her Madrid title lost early to Gavrilova in Rome and came up well short in a tense and unimpressive match in the rain at Roland Garros against Stosur. She also put in disappointing displays against Kvitova in Wuhan and Kerber and Cibulkova at the Tour Finals.

It’s been over two years since she got so close to winning the title at Roland Garros and hasn’t looked truly comfortable at a Grand Slam since. That said, she has one of the best coaches in the game in Darren Cahill, and she and her team have been raving about her pre-season training, away from her family and friends, in Australia so better things could be on the horizon.

Both Halep and Radwanska kick off their seasons in Shenzhen, where they’ve both won the title previously. Radwanska will then head on to Sydney while Halep makes the more sensible decision to skip a week before the Australian Open.

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