With the new season just days away, WTA Insider looks at six players ranked outside the Top 10, who look well-positioned for higher heights in 2018. From the power games of Julia Goerges, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Anett Kontaveit, to the grit and guile of Ashleigh Barty, Daria Kasatkina, and Daria Gavrilova, here are the women on the brink of a major breakthrough.
Julia Goerges (Current rank: No.14)
The German put together her best season ever to finish at a career-high ranking of No.14 and earn bragging rights as the top-ranked German. In all, Goerges made five finals, winning her last two at the Kremlin Cup and WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai to end her year on a nine-match winning streak.
The one blip on Goerges' season? Her Slam performance. Back-to-back first round losses at Roland Garros and Wimbledon stung, as did her second-round loss to Jelena Jankovic at the Australian Open. Thanks to her strong 2017 finish, the 29-year-old will likely be a Top 16 seed at all four Slams, which should put her in great position to make her Top 10 debut if she can hold her form.
Hear more from the German in her last appearance on the WTA Insider Podcast.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Current rank: No.15)
Much like Goerges, Pavlyuchenkova enjoyed arguably her best season ever, winning three titles and posting the best year-end ranking of her career. And like Goerges, Pavlyuchenkova will be looking to improve her Slam performance. After making the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, the 26-year-old lost in the second round of Roland Garros and first round of Wimbledon and the US Open.
Ashleigh Barty (Current rank: No.17)
Barty's all-court game is a beautiful thing to watch when she's in full flow, and her stunning 2017 season has set her up to be a consistent threat in 2018. The 21-year-old was ranked No.271 when she kicked off her 2017 campaign at her home tournament in Brisbane last season. Next week she will return as the top-ranked Aussie, under the bright spotlight that chased her away from the sport in 2014.
But "Barty 2.0" is far more mature and prepared to embrace the challenge. The prodigious talent, who won junior Wimbledon at 15, plans to play a disciplined schedule to avoid burnout and keep her body in check. With wins over Garbiñe Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Venus Williams, Johanna Konta, and Jelena Ostapenko, the young Queenslander is definitely one to watch in 2018.
Daria Kasatkina (Current rank: No.24)
The 20-year-old Russian won her first title last season, beating Ostapenko in the final of the Volvo Car Open, and proceeded to finish the year out strong, making the China Open quarterfinal (l. Halep) and Kremlin Cup final (l. Goerges). Her season finish was particularly impressive as it came after her split with coach Vladamir Platenik. Together, the two rose from No.370 at the start of the 2014 season to a Top 30 staple.
As Kasatkina told WTA Insider last season, after establishing a good fundamental and tactical base over her first four seasons on tour, she's now ready to grow up and strike her own path. She's brought on Belgian coach Philippe Dehaes to help guide and refine her instinctual, athletic style of play in 2018.
Daria Gavrilova (Current rank: No.25)
You had to feel for Gavrilova last season. The Aussie was consistently on the brink of getting big dramatic wins, playing a tour-leading 27 three-set matches over the year, but falling short nearly 50% of the time. But the bigger takeaway was that the feisty 23-year-old was constantly putting herself in the position to get those wins, and if a handful had swung her way, her season would have looked much different.
Despite the frustration, Gavrilova finished the season with her best year-end ranking and finally broke through to capture her first title, beating Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova to win a Premier title at the Connecticut Open. Gavrilova was on the brink in 2017 and 2018 could finally be the year of her big breakthrough.
Anett Kontaveit (Current rank: No.34)
There is so much to like about the 22-year-old Estonian's game, which revolves around her big baseline power. After years fighting to just stay in the Top 100, 2017 was the year things finally came together for Kontaveit. She was ranked outside the Top 100 in March and proceeded to run through the clay and grass seasons.
Kontaveit made her first WTA final in Biel, blasted her way to the quarterfinals in Stuttgart as a qualifier, and then rolled past No.1 Angelique Kerber to make the quarterfinals of Rome. After winning her first title in s'Hertogenbosch, and her third final of the year in Gstaad, she was sitting at a career-high No.27 in July. With her proven prowess on all surfaces, she's a player no top player will want to draw in the early rounds.