Five WTA Players to Watch This Season

Keep an eye out for these players during the WTA’s slate of fall tournaments.

By Alexandra Cadet

The Indian Wells is drawing towards its conclusion, with the women’s singles’ quarterfinals well underway and the doubles’ final taking place on Friday. Keeping up with each and every player in the tournament (and in the WTA as a whole) can be rather exhausting, so we compiled this list of players that you should keep a close eye on during this tournament and future competitions.

  1. Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka entered the Indian Wells off the back of a rather disappointing season. The No. 32 player failed to reach the quarterfinals of all four Grand Slam tournaments, and had to drop out of the Qatar Open despite being the defending champion. Even more worrying, her Indian Wells quarter final opponent––No. 24 Jessie Pegula––had easily beaten her just months before at the Australian Open. All (or, at the very least, most) signs pointed to yet another hard-fought loss on Wednesday.

Caption: Victoria Azarenka. (Image courtesy of Tennis World USA)

Spoiler alert: she won. And if she sticks the landing against Jeļena Ostapenko in the semis, she’ll have booked her ticket to her second singles’ final of the season.

Any tennis fan worth their salt would enjoy watching Azarenka for her skill alone––in fact, she’s widely believed to possess one of the best backhands of all time. But here’s another reason if you’re not convinced: after her tumultuous year, Azarenka’s rise in the Indian Wells has “Cinderella story” written all over it––and who doesn’t love a good capital-N Narrative?

  1. Ons Jabeur

Just like Azarenka, Ons Jabeur recently advanced to the semi-finals of the Indian Wells. However, Jabeur’s real victory was the fact that she guaranteed her ascent into the top 10 of the WTA Women’s Singles rankings with her win on Thursday. 

This is yet another highlight in what is shaping up to be a fantastic year for Jabeur; she became the first Arab woman to win a title at the Viking Classic Birmingham in June, and is currently the WTA singles’ leader for most wins in 2021. It may be time to get on the Jabeur hype train, especially since she can do push-ups mid-game.

  1. Shelby Rogers

Overall, No. 44 Shelby Rogers had a respectable outing at the Indian Wells. She defeated 2021 U.S. Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in an absolutely thrilling Round of 16 match, and managed to improve upon her rather dismal showings in previous editions of the tournament. However, Rogers wasted her lead in the singles’ quarterfinal against Jeļena Ostapenko by not being clinical enough––she failed to convert 4 breakpoints––and ended up suffering a comeback at Ostapenko’s hands. And as for how Rogers’ doubles games went? Three guesses as to who was on the team she lost against.

Caption: Shelby Rogers. (Image courtesy of US Open)

Nevertheless, the reason why Rogers is absolutely worth watching is her affinity for toppling giants. Not only has she pulled off shock victories against Simona Halep and Serena Williams in 2017 and 2020 respectively, but she also defeated No. 1 Ashleigh Barty at the 2021 U.S. Open. Even though her Indian Wells tournament ended on a slightly sour note, we’re sure that Chaos Agent Rogers will be back in no time––and, with any luck, she’ll bring the upsets with her.

  1. Elise Mertens

No. 18 Elise Mertens started the year off with a bang, claiming the Gippsland Trophy in the singles’ division back in February. She also made a semi-final appearance at the Silicon Valley Classic at the end of the summer. 

But while Mertens is a capable solo player, she absolutely shines in doubles. She and her new partner Hsieh Su-Wei are nigh-unstoppable together, and they proved it during their wins at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. In fact, they have a chance to add to their trophy cabinet this weekend after cruising through the Indian Wells semis, so make sure to tune into the final on Saturday if you want to catch them in action together.

  1. Emma Raducanu

Unfortunately, Raducanu really struggled at the Indian Wells, losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in straight sets in the Round of 64. This was her first match after her triumph at the US Open, and it took place amid her search for a new coach. Furthermore, after her defeat, she announced that she had pulled out of the Kremlin Cup, meaning that you won’t get to see her in action for at least a couple of weeks. 

Caption: Emma Raducanu. (Image courtesy of The Guardian)

However, the news that she’ll be taking a short break from competing makes the prospect of her return that much more exciting. “I’m kind of glad that what happened today happened so I can learn and take it as a lesson. […] I think it’s going to take me time to adjust really to what’s going on. I mean, I’m still so new to everything,” she said after the tournament. Raducanu managed to win the US Open as an 18-year-old novice, so we can’t wait to see what she’ll do once she’s rested and more experienced.

A full list of the remaining games at Indian Wells can be found here

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