Serena Williams relinquished the top spot on the WTA Tour rankings at the end of last year and one wants to bet against the 22-time Grand Slam women’s singles champion wrestling it back from Angelique Kerber this season.
Injuries plagued Williams during 2016 and, having celebrated her 35th birthday in September, one suspects that things are unlikely to get any better for her in 2017. Williams played in just eight women’s singles tournaments last year and one of them was the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in which there were no WTA Tour rankings points available. Williams ended last year with a 38-5 women’s singles record so one cannot say that she is a busted flush but her body is breaking down more and more regularly and, for various reasons, playing lots and lots of events has never been her thing anyway.
Williams accumulated 7,050 WTA Tour rankings points in 2016 to finish more 2,030 adrift of Kerber. Williams only won the Wimbledon women’s singles title but it is not as though she crashed and burned in any of the four major individual events – she made the semi-finals of the US Open and the final of both the Australian Open and the French Open. Kerber, however, had a French Open nightmare, losing 2-6 6-3 3-6 to Kiki Bertens in the first round at Roland Garros – at least the Dutchwoman went on to reach the semi-finals.
Kerber broke through in 2016, winning the Grand Slam women’s singles titles up for grabs in Melbourne and New York, as well as participating in the Wimbledon decider. Kerber let down herself on clay courts last year, losing each of her opening matches in Madrid, Rome and Paris. But Kerber did triumph on the red stuff in Stuttgart and her French Open results in previous years had been on par with those in other major tournaments. So, while Kerber has a lot of WTA Tour rankings points to defend on hard courts and grass courts, she has room for improvement on clay courts.
SkyBet is offering odds of +333 about Kerber retaining the year-end top spot on the WTA Tour rankings. With question marks about the fitness of Williams and the talent ranked lower than second at the conclusion of 2016, those odds about the 28-year-old German appear more than fair.
One is quite surprised that bookmakers are favouring Novak Djokovic over Andy Murray in their markets on the ATP Tour’s top dog in 2017. Djokovic lost his way in the second half of 2016, losing six of his 28 matches following his French Open victory. It is not just the fact that Djokovic lost half a dozen matches in August, September, October and November; it is that he lost most of his matches versus fellow big guns.
Murray rode the crest of a wave in the last couple of months of 2016 and confirmed his status as year end ATP Tour No. 1 in November. Murray was 25-0 in men’s singles matches after he recovered from trying to defend Great Britain’s ITF Davis Cup title singlehandedly and, critically, now he believes that he has the upper hand on Djokovic. Murray’s arrival at the summit of the ATP Tour rankings coincided with Ivan Lendl’s return to his coaching box and the naturalised American looks set to stick around for a little while.
In what appears to be a two-man race, Murray represents the value at odds of +125 with SkyBet to end 2017 as the ATP Tour’s highest ranked player. Murray has nothing to fear from any of his foes and his dedication is second to none.
Angelique Kerber to end 2017 as Highest Ranked Player
Andy Murray to end 2017 as Highest Ranked Player