MERT ERTUNGA — @MertovsTDesk
Will an elite rivalry emerge as the preeminent agency of the tour?
This is not to say that having a central rivalry is a good or a bad thing. History nevertheless points to the fact that having a Navratilova-Evert or a Graf-Seles type of rivalry at the top of the game shines a brighter spotlight on the sport. Personally, I loved having four different winners at the majors and witnessing the rise of young players such as Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka to the top echelons of the rankings. I do not believe, however, that I represent the common tennis fan out there who may only tune in for the big events.
An emerging rivalry between two aspiring players may expedite the process of putting more butts in the seats of tennis stadiums, or in the couches found in front of TV screens in homes around the world. Imagine if two names met on the last weekend of all four majors and went 2-2, with two or three of those matches going to the distance and ending in thrillers. Do you see the marketing potential of such a rivalry? Feel free to juggle your memory and remember those periods of years during which an elite rivalry (in either the WTA or ATP) foregrounded the sport in the media.
ANDREW BURTON — @burtonad
Even if no single player emerges as a dominant No. 1, will a group of players separate from the peloton and set up some long-lived, high-quality rivalries? Or is the 2019 WTA an “any given Saturday” tour?
MATT ZEMEK — @mzemek
Will a WTA player not named Williams make three major semifinals?
Serena has made at least three major semifinals in a year on numerous occasions. Venus was the only WTA player to make three major semifinals in 2017. [The other 13 semifinal slots that year went to Serena (1), CoCo Vandeweghe (2), Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (1), Karolina Pliskova (1), Jelena Ostapenko (1), Timea Bacsinszky (1), Simona Halep (1), Garbine Muguruza (1), Magdalena Rybarikova (1), Sloane Stephens (1), Madison Keys (1), and Jo Konta (1).]
No one made three major semifinals last year – Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams, and Madison Keys all made two. [The other eight major semifinal slots went to Elise Mertens, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Julia Goerges, Naomi Osaka, and Anastasija Sevastova.]
If a refreshed Serena made three semis, would anyone be too surprised? Let’s see if someone other than Serena can do it and thereby cement herself at the forefront of the WTA Tour.