WTA Tour 2019: Barty and Andreescu shine
Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu were the big winners in a dramatic 2019 on the WTA Tour.
The conclusion of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen on November 3 wrapped up an unpredictable year that began with action on December 31, 2018.
Four different players, two of whom were first-time major winners, triumphed in the Grand Slam events and the world rankings were completely shaken up from where they stood at the end of the previous campaign.
The continued emergence of quality young players in 2019 was combined with more established stars like Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova battling to preserve their status towards the top of the sport.
That fascinating situation left room for plenty of optimism about the health of the women's game going into 2020 and beyond.
Grand Slam champions
Australian Open – Naomi Osaka
French Open – Ashleigh Barty
Wimbledon – Simona Halep
US Open – Bianca Andreescu
After winning the 2018 US Open, Naomi Osaka made it back-to-back Grand Slams with a dramatic victory at the Australian Open.
She defeated Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 in a tense final, having also been taken the full three-set distance in her third round, fourth round and semi-final matches.
Until Osaka's win, no player had triumphed in two straight majors since Serena Williams in 2015, while she was the first for 18 years to win her opening two Grand Slam titles at consecutive events, Jennifer Capriati being the previous.
The Japanese star could not quite continue that momentum for the rest of the year, struggling with form and fitness for much of the clay and grass seasons, her lowest moment being a first-round exit at Wimbledon.
In August, she posted on social media about how she had not enjoyed tennis since Australia and was putting too much emphasis on results as opposed to learning from and enjoying her matches.
She put in a creditable showing in defence of her title at the US Open, reaching the fourth round despite carrying a knee injury into the New York tournament and ultimately losing to Belinda Bencic.
Osaka then impressed on the Asian swing to end the year on a high with two titles, including finally winning the Pan Pacific Open on home soil, having twice before lost in the final at that event.
Australian Barty won her first Grand Slam at the French Open, thrashing surprise finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 to win the trophy. She had recovered from losing the first set to beat another young star, Amanda Anisimova, in the semis.
Anisimova, then just 17, had previously accounted for defending champion Simona Halep.
But Halep ensured she would remember 2019 fondly by winning Wimbledon for the first time, producing a masterclass in the final to beat Serena Williams 6-2 6-2 in only 56 minutes, making just three unforced errors.
The Romanian only dropped one set in the whole tournament and denied Serena a record-equalling 24th career major, a milestone held by Margaret Court.
Wimbledon's official YouTube channel has posted highlights which we have added below.
Serena, 37, suffered the same fate in the final of the US Open, losing 6-3 7-5 to another inspired opponent in the shape of Andreescu.
She launched a late comeback after trailing 5-1 in the second set, saving two championship points along the way, but fell short to lose a fourth straight Grand Slam final, much to the disappointment of her vociferous fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
A battle of generations was illustrated by the fact Andreescu had not even been born when Serena won her first US Open title in 1999.
She became the first Canadian – male or female – to win a tennis major and the first teenager to win a Grand Slam on the WTA Tour since Maria Sharapova's victory at the same tournament in 2006.
Other top tournaments
After the Grand Slams, the WTA Finals was the biggest accolade up for grabs and the tournament was even more lucrative in 2019 with the Tour confirming a total prize fund of $14,000,000 for the eight players to battle over. The figure was double that of the previous year.
Barty crowned a fine campaign with victory in Shenzhen and took home a record winner's cheque of $4,420,000, topping the previous high mark of $3.85m won by Andreescu at the US Open.
Recovering from a round-robin loss to Kiki Bertens, who had replaced the injured Osaka, she defeated Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-3 in the final.
Barty had beaten Pliskova in the last four, with Svitolina getting the better of Bencic, who retired injured when 4-1 down in the deciding set.
The year-ending event came a week after the WTA Elite Trophy, which is open to the second tier of players in the world rankings who miss out on the Finals.
It had been won by Barty in 2018 and this year's champion was Aryna Sabalenka, who was a 6–4 6–2 victor in the final against Bertens.
Premier Mandatory & Premier 5 events
Nine other key events were the four Premier Mandatory tournaments along with the Premier 5 series.
Andreescu was the only player to win two of those, triumphing in the Canadian Open on home soil having won at Indian Wells earlier in the year.
Barty took home the Miami Open title, but lost to Osaka in the final of the China Open.
Sabalenka successfully defended the Wuhan Open, Madison Keys took the biggest title of her career to date at the Cincinnati Open, Bertens came out on top at the Madrid Open and Bencic won the Dubai Tennis Championship.
Pliskova claimed the Italian Open in Rome and while she won three other events on Tour over the course of 2019, the Czech would likely have been disappointed not to have made more of a mark in the higher profile tournaments.
WTA Tour titles
Most WTA Tour singles tiles won in 2019
4 – Ashleigh Barty
4 – Karolina Pliskova
3 – Bianca Andreescu
3 – Naomi Osaka
3 – Aryna Sabalenka
3 – Sofia Kenin
American Sofia Kenin won three WTA International events to state her case as a force to be reckoned with in the years ahead, while Coco Gauff also won her first title at the age of 15, triumphing in the Linz Open.
Year-end number one
Barty claimed the year-end number one position for the first time in her career, rising from finishing the previous year down in 15th spot. She was also the first Australian to achieve the feat.
Three players held the number one ranking over the course of the year and there were five different reigns at top spot across 2019.
Halep started the year at the summit but did not hold on for long, losing it to Osaka after the Australian Open.
Osaka surrendered the position to Barty in June before re-claiming it two months later.
That only lasted a month, however, as Barty took over decisively in September, with the WTA Finals success ensuring she ended the campaign with a significant advantage. Her total win-loss record finished at 56-12.
Top 10 at end of 2019
1 - Ashleigh Barty
2 - Karolina Pliskova
3 - Naomi Osaka
4 - Simona Halep
5 - Bianca Andreescu
6 - Elina Svitolina
7 - Petra Kvitova
8 - Belinda Bencic
9 - Kiki Bertens
10 - Serena Williams
Astonishingly, Andreescu had ended 2018 ranked 178 and finished 2019 up at number five.
Pliskova's consistency in regular events was highlighted by her finish at number two, despite having only won one crown at Premier 5 level or higher. Bencic was the biggest riser in the top 10, surging up from number 37 to eight in the space of 12 months.
It was a poor year for Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens and Daria Kasatkina.
Kerber, having won Wimbledon, ended 2018 at number two in the world but finished 2019 at number 20, while Wozniacki sunk from third to 38th over the course of the year.
Stephens fell from sixth to 25th, while Kasatkina dropped from number 10 to 69.
We hope you enjoyed our review of the 2019 season on the WTA Tour. Some of our other tennis content may be of interest to you, including:
Naomi Osaka player profile
Bianca Andreescu player profile