I know — and you know — that on February 18, it is way too early to make definitive pronouncements about the trajectory of a tennis season.
We don’t know what is going to happen, for one thing. Moreover, the time of year when a tennis season’s larger themes and realities are solidified is the two-month period from the Madrid and Rome tournaments to the end of Wimbledon. That is the busiest and most consequential two-month period on the tennis calendar.
Other two-month periods are very significant (March and April, September and October), but the mid-May through mid-July two-month period encompasses the end of two separate surface-specific seasons, clay and grass.
In that two-month period, the tennis world crowns its Roland Garros and Wimbledon champions. The U.S. Open answers the questions which remain on the table, but after Roland Garros and especially Wimbledon, we can arrive at some big-picture conclusions about the nature of a tennis season.
Obviously, it is far too early to say with certainty what will happen in 2020. Let’s at least wait for Indian Wells and Miami to run their course before we make broader statements.
Yet, with all of this having been said, if you were to look at the WTA landscape and offer a preliminary assessment of the tour on February 18, what would you be inclined to think?
Is this a tour which is showing the ability to consolidate power at the top, among a group of steady performers… ORRRRRRRRR, is this still the volatile tour we have witnessed basically since Serena Williams became a mom?
I think we can all agree on the (preliminary, tentative, hardly-set-in-stone) answer.
Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina — both U.S. Open semifinalists, both in the top six of the WTA rankings entering Dubai — crashed out of the tournament on Tuesday.
Bencic lost in three sets, but she lost two breadstick sets in her defeat at the hands of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Svitolina was drilled by Jennifer Brady, 2 and 1.
Bencic fell five spots to No. 9 in the rankings, given that she was defending her 2019 championship. Bianca Andreescu has been inactive, recuperating from injury, and yet she has moved up to No. 4 in the rankings.
On Tuesday — with four more days of play awaiting in Dubai — only one player ranked 4-12 in the live WTA rankings is still in the Dubai tournament: No. 5 (live rank) Sofia Kenin, who — at press time — was playing Elena Rybakina.
Yes, it’s very early in the 2020 tennis season. It is too early to definitively say this season will be defined by instability. Yet, on Feb. 18, instability is still the reality of the WTA Tour. We will see if that dynamic changes — and gives way to a more structured balance of power — as the year continues.