Who were the most clutch players during the 2018 season? Who stepped it up when facing the game's elite? WTA Insider and SAP Sports have the numbers.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
November 12, 2018

The 2018 WTA Season is in the books. Now to synthesize what just happened over the last 11 months.

Everyone knows the margins are small in women's tennis. One point here or there, a tight result in a big match, a confidence-boosting win over a top player, all can spell the difference between a breakout season and a slump. WTA Insider and SAP Sports analyze the numbers to see which players held their nerve throughout the 2018 season when the pressure to crumble was at its highest. 

When it comes to the tour's three-set warriors, 2018 WTA Newcomer of the Year Aryna Sabalenka, led the way. The 20-year-old played the most three-set matches this year - 29 - and posted the most three-set wins on tour, compiling an impressive 21-8 record over her breakout season, in which nearly half of her main draw wins came in three sets (21 of 45 main draw wins). After starting the season ranked No.78, Sabalenka evolved into the toughest out in the sport, particularly over the second half of the season, finishing the year at No.11.

READ: 'Sabalenka can change the game the way Serena, Seles changed the game'

World No.1 Simona Halep posted the best winning percentage in three-setters this season (minimum 20 deciding sets), going 16-4 and winning 80% of her deciding sets. Halep's outstanding 2018 campaign hinged on very small margins. Of the 6 championship matches she played, 4 went to a deciding set. Halep won two - against Sloane Stephens in both the Roland Garros and Montreal finals - and lost two - against Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open, and Kiki Bertens in Cincinnati.

Big-serving Julia Goerges led the way in the tiebreak department this season, winning a tour-best 14 tiebreakers over the season. For more about the German's outstanding serving season, click here

While Goerges posted the most tiebreak wins, Australia's Daria Gavrilova had the most impressive tiebreak winning percentage in 2018. The 24-year-old won 13 of the 15 tiebreaks she played in 2018, a strike-rate of 86.7%.

Yet when it comes to 2018 'what-ifs', one has to think of No.10 Kiki Bertens and No.19 Caroline Garcia. No one played more tiebreaks than Bertens this season (25), yet the Dutchwoman won just 10 of them, a winning percentage of 40.0%. Garcia was not far behind. Having began the season ranked No.8, Garcia's ranking slipped over 10 spots due to some narrow losses. She played 19 tiebreaks this season and won just 7, a winning percentage of 36.8%.

Bertens' tiebreak record may have made her 2018 season a steeper road, but the Dutchwoman still posted the most Top 10 wins on tour, going 12-7 on the season, the only woman to score more than 10 Top 10 wins this season. Prior to this season, Bertens had just 3 Top 10 wins to her name, but all that changed at the Mutua Madrid Open in May. Bertens snapped her 9-match losing streak to the Top 10 (which dated back to 2016 Roland Garros) with a win over No.2 Caroline Wozniacki and never looked back. 

When it comes to the best winning percentage against the Top 10 (minimum 10 matches), 2018 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion Elina Svitolina set the top mark. The World No.4 won 75.0% of her matches against Top 10 opposition, followed by Sabalenka (66.7%), Petra Kvitova (63.6%), and Bertens (63.1%).

When it comes to being the best at beating the best, it's a three-way tie between No.6 Stephens, No.9 Bertens, and No.10 Kasatkina, each of whom won 5 of their 7 matches against Top 5 opposition. Stephens' two losses came to No.1 Halep, Bertens' came to Wozniacki and Muguruza in January, and Kasatkina's both came against Svitolina. 

On winning percentage against Top 5 opponents (minimum 5 matches), No.8 Karolina Pliskova posted the best success rate. The Czech won 4 of her 5 matches against the Top 5 this season. Her one loss came to Halep in the Australian Open quarterfinals, a loss she avenged on clay en route to the Madrid semifinals.

Stats and information provided by SAP Analytics.