For the On the Rise (a tennis blog) panel of experts' predictions for USA men and under-21 men, see yesterday's post.
Participants: Jonathan Kelley, David G., Joey Dillon, Parsa, Romain Azema, Juki. Both Juki and I took the extra step to predict what the players' year-end WTA rankings will be. And for a bonus, see Joey's end-of-post comments and honorable mentions.
Analysis: If we assign one point for each 10th place prediction up to 10 points for each #1 prediction, we get:
1. Serena Williams -- 60
The queen shall retain her throne. And so say all of us.
P.S. Don't ask me why I put her to finish world #2. She literally has zero points to defend after the US Open. Hard to see anyone overtaking her, and she's chasing the all-time weeks at #1 record. But there you go.
2. Madison Keys -- 50
By the fuzz off a tennis ball, Madison Keys beat out the elder Williams Sister. All but one participant had her in 2nd or 3rd place.
3. Venus Williams -- 49
Like Keys, everyone picked her 2nd or 3rd with the exception of one 4th place vote. Quite amazing for the elder stateswoman of the tennis world.
4. Sloane Stephens -- 45
Four picked her to pick her in 4th, with one optimistic fellow picking her 2nd. Will be interesting to see how the loss of Coach Saviano affects her.
5. CoCo Vandeweghe -- 33
5th is where she finished 2015. 5th is where half our voters picked her to end 2016. The other half picked her 6th.
6. Bethanie Mattek-Sands -- 22
This is where it starts getting interesting. BMS was guessed to finish anywhere from 5th to outside the Top 10. The main issue, as always, is how her body holds up.
7. (tie) Varvara Lepchenko -- 20
Speaking of health issues, Lepchenko had a run of illness in 2015. Maybe the prospect of a return to the Olympics will have her back at her crafty, lefty best.
7. (tie) Christina McHale -- 20
Yet another player trying to regain top form after malady struck. A big goal for her should be closing out winnable matches sooner.
9. Louisa Chirico -- 9
The youngest player in our top 10, she finished 2015 strong with a final of the $125K in Limoges.
10. Madison Brengle -- 8
Remarkably, the woman who finished 2015 as the 6th-ranked American had only 2 voters keeping her in the Top 10. One reason: she has more points to defend in the early stages of the year than her home state of Delaware has square miles.
Others receiving votes: Alison Riske (7), Lauren Davis (2), Irina Falconi (2), CiCi Bellis (1), Samantha Crawford (1), Katerina Stewart (1)
Notes from Joey:
Honorable Mention: Madison Brengle, Nicole Gibbs, Jessica Pegula, Shelby Rogers, Vicky Duval and Robin Anderson (in that order)
Almost no change from the top 10 this year and I think the #10 American will be in the Top 70. Big year ahead! I do expect a solid year from Sloane (at least one Slam QF). I also see Bethanie earning a career-high ranking in 2016 at some point. Madison Brengle will dip and Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers will gain consistency and hopefully no injuries that lead to their solid US Open runs. I'm most excited to see the return of Vicky Duval. She's hitting very nice in practice, but hopefully she'll have an injury-free 2016. She starts at Hopman Cup as an Alternate and then play at Melbourne. My sleeper pick for 2016 is Robin Anderson. I think she'll be Top 150 or even knocking on the Top 100. Lots of talent that will progress from college onto the WTA.