Who can step into Serena Williams’ shoes on the WTA Tour?
When we watch the greatest athletes of all time achieve such success on the biggest stages of the world, they seem immortal. Watching these athletes dominate the pinnacle of their respective sports is something that feels forever. Unfortunately, there is always an end to the career of an all-time great, and for Serena Williams, that time has come.
Williams dominated the WTA Tour for two decades, setting countless records while cementing her place among the greatest athletes of all time. That said, Williams’ reach extends far beyond the tennis court. The 23-time Grand Slam champion is a spokesperson for numerous companies, including Gatorade, Intel, JPMorgan and Nike. She is also said to own around 0.5% stake in the Miami Dolphins. Williams has 15.2 million followers on Instagram, 10.7 million on Twitter and 7.4 million on Facebook.
Williams is far the most recognizable female tennis player of all time. Although we will probably never see a tennis player as dominant as Williams again, tournaments will still be played and the winners will be crowned. Here are three players who could potentially fill the massive void Williams will leave with her departure from the WTA Tour.
Three players who could fill the Serena Williams void
The 18-year-old American Coco Gauff is currently the 12th player in the world. Turning professional at the age of 14, Gauff apparently grew up in the spotlight of fans and pundits. The transition from Williams to Gauff seems almost too perfect. The young American grew up idolizing Williams, and as she progressed in her career, her game bears a strong resemblance to the 23-time Grand Slam champion. Gauff, like her predecessor, is an aggressive founder who likes to intimidate her opponents on the court. She is consistent and powerful on both sides. The 18-year-old is also very comfortable at net, as shown by her current world No. 1 ranking in doubles.
If it seems like you’ve been watching Coco Gauff for years, that’s because you did. That said, she is still only 18 years old. Gauff has already reached a Grand Slam final and is set to play her first WTA final this fall. Gauff’s personality is just as strong as his forehand. She’s a delight in post-game interviews and always gives her fans the time of day after games. Gauff has the personality, the talent and the backing of the WTA to become the next globally marketable star in women’s tennis.
Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka has been one of the most polarizing figures in women’s tennis in recent years. The 24-year-old has already won four Grand Slam titles and has held the top spot in the world rankings for 25 weeks. That said, recent tennis seasons for Osaka have been challenged by mental health issues that she has been very open about. The 24-year-old has as much raw talent as anyone in the sport, but will need to fully recommit to the game if she is to regain the form she once had. Osaka is just 1-5 in its last six matches heading into the final Slam of the season.
Osaka has proven that she would never sacrifice who she is just to be on top of the women’s tennis world. However, I believe there is a sweet spot she can find to balance all her passions with her profession to get back to the top of the WTA rankings. Either way, Osaka’s popularity isn’t going away anytime soon. Whether she’s ranked No. 1 in the world or No. 100, people will listen to her matches.
Iga Swiatek, 21, is currently the No. 1 ranked player in the world. Swiatek is not a polarizing figure. His matches aren’t filled with shouting-laden antics, nor are his press conferences filled with brash, newsworthy commentary. The young Pole lowers her head off the field and absolutely dominates her competition.
Swiatek has already won two Grand Slam titles in his young career. She has nine titles in total, combining those Grand Slam victories with five WTA 1000 titles. From late February until the third round of Wimbledon this year, the Pole did not lose a match. In fact, she’s only dropped seven sets during her 37-match winning streak. It was the longest winning streak since Martina Hingis won 37 in a row in 1997.
Although Swiatek is not a very vocal player, her absolute dominance over her opponents is reason enough to watch her every time she steps onto the court. She plays an attacking style of tennis that is very pleasing to the viewers. Swiatek’s combination of power and precision is unmatched by anyone on tour. At only 21 years old, it’s entirely reasonable to believe that Swiatek will be one of the best female tennis players of the next decade.
Other players to remember: Emma Raducanu (19), Clara Tauson (19), Amanda Anisimova (21), Elena Rybakina (23), Paula Badosa (24).
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