A new tennis season is already upon us, with the world’s best female players currently assembled in Australia for this month’s Grand Slam.
It looks to be an exciting 12 months ahead, with established stars eying up Grand Slam titles and emerging talents looking to rise up the WTA rankings.
As a result, GiveMeSport Women picks out five things that could happen in tennis this year.
Emma Raducanu breaks in world top 10
Raducanu enjoyed a sensational end to 2021. The British star started the year ranked 343rd but ended it inside the world’s top 20.
Her meteoric rise was the result of an improbable victory at the US Open in September. Raducanu became the first qualifier, male or female, to ever win a Grand Slam.
It was also the first time a female British tennis player had won a major since Virginia Wade in 1977.
At world number 19, Raducanu is poised to break into the world top 10 this year. Another Grand Slam victory is unlikely, but winning a WTA Tour title elsewhere will only aid Raducanu’s blossoming career.
Aryna Sabalenka wins Grand Slam
World number two Aryna Sabalenka could be one of the stars of 2022. The Belarusian had a breakthrough 2021, but failed to win the biggest title of all – a Grand Slam.
Sabalenka did reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open, but lost to Karolína Plíšková and Leylah Fernandez respectively.
This year she will be raring to go two steps further – reach a Grand Slam final, and win the title. With a wealth of experience now under her belt, Sabalenka could well achieve her dream in 2022.
Ashleigh Barty extends streak as world number one
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty has held the top spot in women’s tennis since September 2019, a streak of 102 weeks.
Barty maintained her world number one status during the COVID-19 pandemic after the rankings were frozen, but the 25-year-old proved she was still the best in 2021. She triumphed at Wimbledon and claimed a tour-leading five WTA titles.
With her grip firmly on world number one, Barty could well enjoy another year at the top of the standings.
Her nearest challengers are Sabalenka and Garbiñe Muguruza, but if Barty can keep up her winning ways, she should be able to hold them off with ease.
Resurgence of Simona Halep
Simona Halep finished 2021 as the world number 20, the first time since 2014 she did not end a year inside the top five.
The former world number one sat out of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a calf injury, the reason behind her fall down the world rankings last year.
Halep revealed she is aiming to re-establish herself in the top 10 this year, telling WTA Insider that it is her “main goal”.
If Halep remains fit and can find her form of old, there is no reason why she can’t move back up the world rankings in 2022.
Serena Williams retires
Serena Williams has not played since June, when she quit her first-round match at Wimbledon with a leg injury.
She revealed last month she would not be competing at the Australian Open, and a date for her return from injury has not yet been confirmed.
Although it would send the world of tennis into despair, 2022 could be the year Williams retires from the sport.
The 40-year-old has been chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam since 2017, and it is looking increasingly out of her reach. If she cannot get herself back to full fitness, she may have to hang up her tennis racket for good.
Alternatively, Williams may prove all the doubters wrong, battling back from injury to win yet another Grand Slam…