Following my popular article last year, I will once again be giving my WTA predictions for the upcoming 2022 season. In this article, I will be giving my predictions on the biggest tournaments of the year (Grand Slams and WTA Finals). So without further a do, here are my predictions…
2021 Final: (3) Naomi Osaka d. (22) Jennifer Brady 6–4, 6–3
My Predicted Champion: Garbiñe Muguruza
To be honest, I was confident that Karolína Plíšková would finally break her Grand Slam duck, but tragically a chance of this well-deserved success will not be possible after the Czech had to withdraw with a hand injury. Therefore, I have predicted her pigeon Muguruza to win in her absence. The Spaniard has a 2-10 record against Plíšková, so the fact there is no chance of them facing each other in the tournament will do her confidence a world of good. Having ended 2021 with victory at the WTA Finals, Muguruza should be full of confidence and ready to start 2022 strong. She made the Australian Open final two years ago and had two match points in her 4th round match against eventual champion Osaka last year, so the Spaniard has shown that she can play well in Melbourne. With other key contenders due to falter at the Australian Open next year (I’ll get onto that in the next paragraphs), I am going to predict Muguruza to become a three-time Grand Slam winner by winning her first Australian Open.
Who else do I see in the mix?
Probably not Naomi Osaka. The Japanese player has a woeful record when defending champion. She has never successfully defended a title at any level and she has failed to reach the Quarter-finals in any of her defences so I expect another early exit, probably in the 3rd or 4th round. But we should be grateful that Osaka will be present in Melbourne, as injury has meant the other three semi-finalists from 2021 including finalist Jennifer Brady will not even make the start line.
Many people may pick to World No.1 Ashleigh Barty as their predicted champion as she is the top seed, playing at her home Slam, the most consistent WTA player and travelled back to Australia after the US Open for thorough preparation. However, I think the latter point will backfire as focusing so much on one event also means placing a lot of pressure to do well which ends up hindering performance. In addition, in the last two years Barty has faltered under the weight of expectation from fans to lesser players ranked outside the Top 10. I do think another deep run could well be on the cards but all this pressure stops her being a title contender in my opinion.
I would consider shock US Open champion Emma Raducanu having an outside chance of the title as for now she still has an aura of invincibility on hard courts at Grand Slam level having came through qualifying to win in New York without dropping a set. Even though she is only 2-3 since the US Open, this doesn’t concern me as she gives a very similar energy to Osaka in the sense that she is not really bothered for tour events. However, the Brit is no longer a a qualifier ranked No.150 but a Grand Slam champion who is one of the biggest names in the sport. This means her opponents are unlikely to put in shambolic performances against her like they did at the US Open, as the perceived embarrassment of losing to an unheralded teen that caused them to play so poorly is no longer present. Therefore, a 3rd or 4th round result seems more likely.
Other players who could be considered are the medallists from the Tokyo Olympics. I would rule out Bronze medallist Elina Svitolina out of the title picture because even if she is in good form she will always lose to someone in the quarters or semis as she is a small-match player. Silver medallist Marketa Vondrousova does seem to make random deep runs here and there, so if the draw opened up for her, then there is a very slim chance she could win the title. The most likely to win in Melbourne of the three is Gold medallist Belinda Bencic, whose biggest successes (excluding the juniors) have come on hard courts. For her, question marks would be about whether she can replicate her same peak form when not playing for her country which seemed to be an issue in 2021.
In-form players who may be considered in the title picture are Canada’s Leylah Fernandez and Estonia’s Annett Kontaveit. Fernandez backed up her surprise run to the US Open final, with a run to the 4th Round at Indian Wells. Meanwhile, Kontaveit won 29 of her last 33 matches in 2021, winning four titles during the season and ending the year with a runner-up finish at her first ever WTA Finals. She also reached the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2020. Both players could be ones to watch at the 2022 tournament.
I also would not rule out 2020 champion Sofia Kenin. We have not seen her play since I believe she broke the record for most unforced errors per minute at in her 2nd round defeat at Wimbledon this year. However, she may be due a resurgence in 2022 after a poor 2021 because she will be playing without pressure once again. It would be a shock given even winning one Grand Slam with her ability was a surprise, but this is the WTA where strange things are often the expectation.
2021 Final: Barbora Krejčíková d. (31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6–1, 2-6, 6-4
My Predicted Champion: Ashleigh Barty
This was a very hard one for me to pick as the last six champions have been first-time Grand Slam champions. However, there are no slamless players near the top of the rankings that I believe will win their first Grand Slam in Paris. Therefore, I have gone for World No.1 Ashleigh Barty to bring some stability to the women’s singles event at Roland Garros. Given that Barty has been the most consistent player in the WTA as of late, it makes sense to be to allocate a Slam to her in 2022. I don’t think she will win the Australian Open because of the weight of expectation playing at home, Wimbledon will be difficult as no woman has successfully defended a Grand Slam since 2016 (although it did happen at Wimbledon) and I think there is another player more primed to win the US Open next year. Therefore, only the French Open remains and given that she won her first Grand Slam there in 2019, there’s no reason why she cannot win again.
Who else do I see in the mix?
Probably not Barbora Krejčíková. The French Open women’s singles title has not been successfully defended since 2007! However, the defending champions in 2019 and 2021 reached the quarter-finals so I believe the fairly reliable Czech can do the same. I also don’t see Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lifting up the winner’s trophy in Paris. Although the Russian is one of the most likeable players on tour, I believe she lacks winner’s mentality and I actually see a retirement happening fairly soon given how long she has been on tour.
If the winner isn’t Barty or an unheralded player that was not on anybody’s radar, the other most realistic contender I see is 2020 champion Iga Świątek. The Pole was the only woman to reach the second week of every Grand Slam in 2021 and has a 14-2 record at the French Open, never losing before the 4th round! Therefore, a second French Open title would definitely be possible for Świątek with the right draw.
2021 Final: (1) Ashleigh Barty d. (8) Karolína Plíšková 6–3, 6–7(4–7), 6–3
My Predicted Champion: Iga Świątek
In recent years, the first-time Grand Slam champion at the French Open has won their second Grand Slam at Wimbledon the next year (or the next edition given the 2020 tournament was cancelled). This has been the case for three of the last four Wimbledon editions (2017, 2019, 2021) and the other time (2018) the previous year’s French Open champion lost to the eventual champion in the semi-finals despite not being a very talented player. Therefore, I believe Swiatek is ready to continue this trend by winning Wimbledon in 2022. Despite being labelled as a clay-court specialist, the Pole’s only junior Grand Slam title came at Wimbledon and with no maiden Grand Slam champion at SW19 since 2013 there will likely be less contenders in the mix to emerge victorious.
Who else do I see in the mix?
If there is anyone who can successfully defend a Grand Slam singles title in this era, it would be Ashleigh Barty. This is a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by a woman since 2016, but it was at Wimbledon. If she is not victorious at the French Open as I predicted, then she will be in with a shot of defending her crown but if my prediction is correct she will probably be eliminated from the most prestigious slam in the 4th round or earlier.
As previously mentioned, there has not been a maiden Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon since 2013 but if anyone could end that trend it would be last year’s finalist Karolína Plíšková. The Czech finally got over the hurdle of never performing well at Wimbledon despite having a game suited so well to grass in 2021. In addition, I had written off Plíšková ever reaching another Grand Slam final so the fact she managed to do so makes me believe she has a Grand Slam title in her. However, she will be aged 30 at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships so this may be her last chance to finally win a Grand Slam.
Another player I would have in the mix is Simona Halep. The 2019 champion was unable to defend her title this year due to injury in what was an injury-plagued season. Astonishingly it marked the first time since 2013 that she finished the year ranked outside the Top 4, currently languishing at No.20 in the rankings. Many may think Halep would be more of a threat at the French Open given clay is her best surface, but given that the Romanian is now aged 30, injuries are likely to be more common and so she will continue to have less match practice. The shorter grass court season favours experience as few players enter Wimbledon with many matches on grass under their belt. Therefore, if she can get through the early rounds she may be a contender for the title once again.
2021 Final: Emma Raducanu d. Leylah Fernandez 6–4, 6–3
My Predicted Champion: Naomi Osaka
2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open, 2020 US Open, 2021 Australian Open – it only seems logical that the 2022 US Open is Osaka’s next Grand Slam title right? When it comes to Grand Slams on hard courts in the past few years, as long as Osaka is not ranked No.1 or the defending champion she emerges victorious so I predict her to win her fifth Grand Slam title at next year’s US Open.
Who else do I see in the mix?
I would be shocked if Emma Raducanu managed to defend her US Open title. Her victory this year was impressive given that she came through qualifying and didn’t drop a set, something that had never been done before. But whilst I think she will be at the top of women’s tennis in the years to come, defending her crown seems unlikely. It will be almost impossible for her to get such an easy draw with no Top 10 players or Grand Slam champions (who aren’t way past their prime) and a series of mentally fatigued opponents who had come off a big win in the previous round so could not re-energise to play her. I can see her doing relatively well though, perhaps making it to the quarter-finals with the right draw.
Last year’s finalist Leylah Fernandez has a better chance of emerging victorious as she will not have the pressure of being defending champion. However, just because the calibre of players she beat to reach the final was better than that of Raducanu, it doesn’t make it impressive in its own right. Her last four victories in her run to the US Open final seem impressive by name but that’s where it ends. In the 3rd round she beat the defending champion who is known to falter early when dealing with the pressure of being defending champion, in the 4th round it was a player who had only advanced past that stage four times in 27 hard court Grand Slam appearances and in the quarters and semis she beat opponents who have a reputation of underperforming relative to their seeding at the Grand Slams. I’m a big fan of Fernandez but that run was not as impressive when you look at the context, especially as she had the privilege of being an unseeded teenager playing without pressure. Therefore, she will need to play even better if she is to reach the final (and win) the US Open next year.
Someone that can’t be ruled out is World No.1 Ashleigh Barty. If she is not victorious at any of the first three Grand Slams next year, I believe she will be a top contender for the US Open and I still think she has an outside chance as long as she isn’t victorious at Wimbledon (as only one player in the last decade has even been able to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open in their Wimbledon-winning year).
Considering this year’s Olympic medallists I’d once again rule out Bronze medallist Elina Svitolina from the title picture and consider Silver medallist Marketa Vondrousova to only have a very slim chance and require a depleting draw. Gold medallist Belinda Bencic will once again be in with a shout, with arguably a much better chance of winning here than at the Australian Open. She has reached the US Open quarter-finals or better in half her previous appearances so assuming she can put the demons from her terrible performance against Raducanu in this year’s quarter-final behind her she will be contender.
Meanwhile, WTA Finals runner-up Annett Kontaveit will be fancying her chances given her four titles on hard courts this year and six hard court finals in total (one which was never played due to scheduling). With her US Open win percentage equal to her Australian Open one, she will also be hoping for a deep run in New York. However, I am less hopeful for WTA Finals champion Garbiñe Muguruza as she has always struggled at the US Open, never advancing past the 4th round in nine attempts and having a win percentage almost 20% lower than her next weakest (third best of the four) Slam.
For home hopes, potentially Jennifer Brady and Sofia Kenin would be the best bets. Brady reached the final of the Australian Open this year and the semi-finals of the US Open in 2020, losing to eventual champion Osaka in both. Assuming she is at next year’s US Open with all her injury struggles behind her, she will be one to watch. Kenin is the USA’s most recent singles Grand Slam champion and if she plays the tennis she did in 2020 as opposed to what we saw in 2021 she may well be a title contender as she has proven that she knows what it takes to win a hard court Grand Slam.
2021 Final: (6) Garbiñe Muguruza d. (8) Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 7-5
My Predicted Champion: Ashleigh Barty
This very much depends on the accuracy of my other predictions but with five titles to her name in 2021 and the highest win percentage on tour, it makes logical sense to predict Barty to win the WTA Finals in 2022, especially as she won this title before on her debut in 2019.
Who else do I see in the mix?
Both players in this year’s showpiece, Garbiñe Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit will likely be contenders once again for the title. If the tournament is held in Mexico again, assuming the WTA continues their boycott of China (over the #WhereIsPengShaui scandal), Muguruza will be extra motivated to defend her title. Kontaveit won three titles on indoor hard courts in 2021 and reaching the final of the WTA Finals on debut is no mean feat so if she qualifies could be a title contender again.
Someone that should be a contender is Naomi Osaka. However, I question whether she will be motivated enough to give her all as she often doesn’t seem too bothered about winning outside the Grand Slams. In addition, she will need to play enough tour events to get the points required to qualify in the first place.
Which women do you think will win the big titles in 2022? Let me know in the comments!