Making the Step Up Part Two - Assessing Young WTA Players


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Having performed analysis of ATP players in Challengers, with a view to identifying players with potential to move up the rankings, as well as identifying which players have weak serves - highlighted as players with trading potential in the
first of this two-part series, I now wanted to look at the WTA Tour with a view to looking at exactly the same areas.

ITF stats aren't as easily available as Challenger data, so I've used WTA qualifier matches as a suitable metric to compare players.  Interestingly, there was no real statistical difference between various ages of players to how WTA players fared between qualifiers and main draw matches.  Obviously their stats declined as the standard of opponents improved, but it was in a fairly consistent ratio by age.

Performing well in qualifiers naturally opens doors to players.  If a player can make it through the two or three rounds of qualifying - often against low-ranked players - they will qualify for the main draw of an event.  In the opening round, they will be very acclimatised to conditions, having played several qualifiers, and have that as an advantage against their opponent.  

However, the point structure for the WTA is something worth discussing - an International event offers a mere 1 ranking point to the loser of a first round match (although 18 are obtained for winning the final qualifying round) and a quarter-final display at any ITF event with a $75,000 purse or greater, generates at least 21 ranking points.  

Therefore a player ranked outside the direct entry brackets for events should consider their options in some detail.  Would they be better suited to playing a high-level ITF event, as opposed to qualifying for a WTA tournament?  Clearly this is something that splits players, as the table below - showing some players play many less qualifiers than others - illustrates.

Maryna Zanevska played the most qualifiers (28) in my filtered sample...

The table below illustrates the 12 month WTA Qualifierr records (correct at 29th July 2014) of certain filtered players.  The following filters were applied:-

1.  Player must be ranked between 100-200.
2.  Player must be aged 22 or below.
3.  Player must not have a great deal of WTA level experience.

Player Age Current Qualifier Qualifier Qualifer Qualifier
Rank W/L Hold % Break % Combined 
Hold/Break %
(12 month) (12 month) (12 month)
Friedsam 20 102 6-4 68.9 38.1 107.0
Kovinic 19 106 17-8 70.3 40.8 111.1
Larcher de Brito 21 107 14-3 64.7 47.2 111.9
Min 20 109 15-6 69.3 49.8 119.1
Konjuh 16 110 6-1 80.8 37.0 117.8
Kumkhum 21 111 13-9 62.2 45.6 107.8
Zheng S 20 113 5-6 63.3 34.9 98.2
Siniakova 18 119 10-6 55.9 50.5 106.4
Rogers 21 121 6-7 61.5 31.7 93.2
Jaksic 20 123 5-6 67.7 37.8 105.5
Pfizenmaier 22 125 3-5 67.9 32.9 100.8
Sasnovich 20 126 4-9 60.3 33.1 93.4
Oudin 22 131 4-5 54.5 35.2 89.7
Krunic 21 136 11-5 70.0 50.3 120.3
Kozlova 20 137 8-4 62.7 45.1 107.8
Kiick 19 138 6-3 56.3 48.1 104.4
Cepede Royg 22 141 2-2 52.8 48.6 101.4
Vasylyeva 22 142 4-7 66.9 25.0 91.9
Townsend 18 143 5-2 73.5 35.8 109.3
Kontaveit 18 145 10-2 66.7 45.5 112.2
Gibbs 21 146 8-6 63.2 47.1 110.3
Eguchi 22 153 3-3 54.5 47.3 101.8
Mestach 20 155 7-6 68.4 41.4 109.8
Zanevska 20 156 17-11 62.6 44.0 106.6
Kichenok N 22 158 8-4 74.2 34.4 108.6
Hogenkamp 22 159 10-5 66.5 42.9 109.4
Witthoeft 19 161 7-5 61.2 35.5 96.7
Hozumi 20 162 8-6 52.9 48.5 101.4
Linette 22 163 3-5 60.8 35.4 96.2
Mitu 22 164 2-3 52.9 38.0 90.9
Kichenok L 22 168 9-5 69.4 37.9 107.3
Putintseva 19 169 7-7 59.1 42 101.1
Wang 22 170 3-5 60.3 36 96.3
Allertova 21 175 1-1 69.2 28 97.2
Jabeur 19 176 5-4 56.2 44.8 101.0
Abduraimova 20 179 5-5 59.4 39 98.4
Kania 21 181 9-14 64.7 31.9 96.6
Barty 18 184 10-2 75.2 38.5 113.7
De Vroome 18 185 3-3 66.7 48.3 115.0
Boserup 22 191 5-2 65.2 50 115.2
Vickery 19 193 11-9 63.7 40.3 104.0
Hesse 21 194 5-7 57.7 36.4 94.1
Ozaki 20 195 13-8 60.9 47.4 108.3

Based on my research, a hold/break percentage of over 110 in Qualifiers would indicate the player should be at least competitive in the lower levels of the WTA.  On that basis, the following players should be players with at least some potential to improve their rankings and break the top 100:-

Danka Kovinic
Michelle Larcher de Brito
Grace Min
Ana Konjuh
Alexsandra Krunic
Anett Kontaveit
Nicole Gibbs
Ashleigh Barty
Indy De Vroome
Julia Boserup

Of these players, it's Krunic with the most impressive stats.  However, at the age of 21, she's got much less improvement in her than the likes of Konjuh, who is five years her junior.  However, the Serbian can definitely improve her current 1-6 WTA record in the last 12 months, and build on that solitary win over Alexandra Panova.

For me, the player with the best potential has to be Ana Konjuh.  At 16 years of age her stats are truly remarkable, and she's already started to make a transition to main tour events, with 6 wins from 10 outings in the last year, and several of those wins came as underdog against much higher ranked opponents - Elina Svitolina, Magdalena Rybarikova and Yanina Wickmayer, to mention a few.

She also seems to be something of an all-courter, with various semi-finals of ITF events on clay to go with her recent WTA semi-final in Istanbul, and a 3rd round display at Wimbledon after qualifying.  This can only stand her in good stead for the future.

How good can she be?  

Looking at several younger members of the top 10, Simona Halep only started playing qualifiers at 17, and had a 2-2 record that year.  At 18, she was 19-7, holding 66.4% and breaking 50.8% - a combined percentage of 117.2%.  Konjuh's stats as a 16 year old slightly edge that, so with two years advantage over the compared stats, it's fair to say that Konjuh can at least match Halep if she realises her potential.

At 16, Eugenie Bouchard lost her solitary qualifier, and failed to play any in 2011, when she was 17.  At 18, her record was an unremarkable 4-3, holding 68.5% and breaking 32.9%.  No doubt Konjuh has much more potential than Bouchard.

Ana Konjuh has the world on her racquet...

Other 18/19 year olds with potential include Danka Kovinic, Katerina Siniakova, Taylor Townsend, Anett Kontaveit, Ashleigh Barty and Indy De Vroome.  It's the latter quartet - all at 18 years of age - that also have very high potential and there's no doubt they can make great waves in the WTA if they continue their progress.

Shelby Rogers is an interesting case.   The 21 year old American has a poor qualifying record but a good WTA record, winning 6/11 at the higher level.  She's also held and broken more in main draw matches, showing that she might be limited, but a player that relishes higher level competition.

The mean service hold in WTA Qualifiers is 61.6%.  Realistically, a player will need to hold at least 65% for this figure to hold in WTA main draw matches, but there are plenty below this level from the sample.  

The following players failed to hold 60% in WTA Qualifiers, and this should indicate that they will make for good material to oppose their serves in main draw matches:-

Katerina Siniakova
Melanie Oudin
Allie Kiick
Veronica Cepede Royg
Misa Eguchi
Eri Hozumi
Andreea Mitu
Yulia Putintseva
Ons Jabeur
Nigina Abduraimova
Amandine Hesse

Hopefully this article will have boosted your knowledge of young WTA players and will help you make positive expectation trading decisions.  As always, good luck in the markets and stay green!





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