You’d be hardpressed to find another player that saw the breakout that Barbora Krejcikova saw in the 2021 season. If it was any indication of how the season ended for the 25-year old player from the Czech Republic, you shouldn’t need to look much farther than the three nominations received for the annual WTA Awards.
1. WTA PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
Ashleigh Barty is the current frontrunner to win the Player of the Year award after holding on to the world’s No. 1 overall ranking for the entirety of the season. However, Barbora Krejcikova is someone you should keep an eye on. She is the only player nominated in three different categories. After a breakout season in her run in singles draws – which culminated in winning at Roland-Garros- you shouldn’t be too surprised if Krejcikova found out herself accepting the award at the end of the year. The only negative to receiving three awards nominations is that you’ll probably not make a clean sweep- even if you deserve it. Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, and Garbine Muguruza played well and had good seasons, but it’s narrowed down to Barty and Krejcikova as the possible winners.
2. WTA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR
It’s tough to argue against Krejcikova being the winner of this award. While we saw vast improvements in many of the women on the WTA tour, perhaps none was more impressive than Krejcikova’s. Having ended the 2020 season ranked No. 65 in the world, the 25-year old will end 2021 as the world’s No. 5 and saw her rank get as high as No. 3. This may be the most difficult award to decide as every nominee has experienced an excellent level of success and improvement, if you will, in 2021.
Maria Sakkari earned her way into her first two Grand Slam semifinals, becoming the first woman from Greece ever to reach a Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open. Her season record finished 38-20, which is a smaller win percentage overall than the other nominees, but Sakkari showed up to play in Majors, and that’s where she made her mark. This is also how she was able to go from No. 22 in November of 2020 to No. 6 just a year later.
Ons Jabeur played all season consistently, as the Tunisian started 2021 ranked No. 31 and finished in the Top 10 and No. 10. Jabeur was 43-19 on the year and saw a Quarterfinal match at Wimbledon, where Aryna Sabalenka just overpowered her. Jabeur won her first WTA title at the Birmingham Classic, becoming the first Arab woman to win a WTA title.
Leylah Fernandez didn’t break out until the US Open, where she won over fans as an underdog. Fernandez’s run at the US Open could prove pivotal enough to win the award as she became just the third player in the Open Era to defeat three of the Top 5 seeds en route to reaching a final. Had Fernandez started her epic rise earlier in the season, the narrative would be different as she could most certainly be in the mix- for now, she’s on the outside, looking in.
A sleeper pick in this class is Anett Kontaveit, who quietly put together an outstanding 2021 season. Kontaveit finished with a record and won four WTA titles over the course of the year, falling just short of winning her fifth of 2021 at the WTA finals to Muguruza.
Paula Badosa climbed 62 spots on the WTA rankings from a year ago when she was ranked No. 70. Now, inside the Top 10 after finishing the 2021 season with a 43-17 record. The only knock on Badosa’s resume is that she didn’t win many titles compared to her fellow nominees, and despite her meteoric rise up the rankings ladder, that could seal her fate in winning the award.
Jessica Pegula said it best herself on Twitter when seeing the nominated to win the award. “Damn, I feel like I improved, but this is a tough group,” she tweeted. Finishing your season with a 39-19 record and climbing from No. 62 to No. 18 in the world is the definition of a successful season. The harsh truth is while Pegula had a successful season, it was less successful than some of the other women in the field.
3. DOUBLES TEAM OF THE YEAR
This is almost a “just give them the award now” scenario for Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova as the all-Czech team dominated the doubles court for the vast majority of the 2021 season. The level of success of this team throughout the season totaled 40 wins to just ten losses, including four doubles titles and an Olympic gold medal. The Porsche Race Doubles has the duo still ranked No. 1 overall with 6450 points, ahead of No. 2 Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara with 5070 points.