WATCH: Tennis Channel Live discusses the 2021 Indian Wells rematch between Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka.

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Tunisia's finest has big points to defend in the upcoming season.

Tunisia's finest has big points to defend in the upcoming season.

Ons Jabeur

In many ways, Jabeur met expectations in 2021, employing her audacious game to reach her first Wimbledon quarterfinal. What made her season truly remarkable was how easily—and often—Tunisia’s finest replicated that level. She won her first WTA title in Birmingham and nearly claimed her second in the Chicago 500 against Garbine Muguruza.

A clean bill of health previously held Jabeur back from consistently competing with the game’s best; last year, the 27-year-old tied for the tour lead with 48 match wins—though an elbow injury prevented a last push for the WTA Finals. With big points to defend early this season, how will the fearless ball-striker handle the spotlight?

24-year-old Badosa has returned stronger from every setback.

24-year-old Badosa has returned stronger from every setback.

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Paula Badosa

Badosa began last year locked down in a Melbourne hotel battling a protracted case of COVID-19, and ended it with a breakthrough victory at the BNP Paribas Open, a Top 10 debut and a spot in the season-ending championships. A player for all surfaces, the Spaniard reached the second week at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. After a shock coaching switch, she then proved her mettle in the California desert—outhitting Barbora Krejcikova and Angelique Kerber ahead of a titanic final with Victoria Azarenka.

Open about previous mental health struggles, the 24-year-old has returned stronger from every setback, and will be one to watch through the Australian summer.

It all comes down to how much Gauff can improve her forehand.

It all comes down to how much Gauff can improve her forehand.

Coco Gauff

Gauff ended a net-positive season with a case of narrative whiplash. Long the clear frontrunner among her peers, Gauff had many thinking she could convert a breakthrough Roland Garros into major glory. Three months later, the American found herself lapped by contemporaries Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, who contested a scene-stealing all-teen US Open final.

Still just 17, Gauff continues to put in the work, reaching her first major final in doubles with partner Catherine McNally and making her Top 20 singles debut in September. An athletic prodigy, it all comes down to how much she can improve her forehand, a shot that has quickly become a target of tour veterans.

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Following up that New York City fairytale fortnight may prove tricky for Raducanu.

Following up that New York City fairytale fortnight may prove tricky for Raducanu.

Emma Raducanu

Speaking of Raducanu, most tennis fans will remember where they were when the British teen roared to an improbable US Open victory, becoming the first qualifier to capture a major title in the Open Era—without the loss of a single set, no less. Modeled after idols Simona Halep and Li Na, the 19-year-old comes to court equipped with pristine technique and indomitable spirit.

Following up that fairytale fortnight, however, may prove tricky in the immediate future, as Raducanu sorts out her coaching team, and adjusts to both the rigors of tour life and the Mount Everest-sized microscope under which she suddenly finds herself. For Raducanu, it will be a manic Wimbledon every day she plays.

The 21-year-old Canadian star needs matches, stat.

The 21-year-old Canadian star needs matches, stat.

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Bianca Andreescu

Andreescu perfectly encapsulates the era of pre-pandemic optimism, and so too captures post-pandemic uncertainty. As a teenager, she blitzed through a monumental 2019 season that saw her shock Serena Williams to win the US Open, among other prestigious titles, but between injuries and lockdowns didn’t hit a ball in 2020. An erratic schedule punctuated by an ill-timed COVID-19 diagnosis derailed her clay-court swing and punctured her aura of invincibility, leaving her below her best when it came time to defend her biggest titles.

Never lacking in self-belief or natural talent, a rebound is surely in store, but the 21-year-old Canadian star needs matches, stat.

How far has the game evolved since Halep last led the tour?

How far has the game evolved since Halep last led the tour?

Simona Halep

On the brink of finishing 2020 atop the WTA rankings, Halep endured a great fall in the months that followed, one expedited by a calf injury that ended her delayed Wimbledon title defense before it could begin. The two-time Grand Slam champion would have been forgiven for thinking of a life beyond tennis, but the 30-year-old still has something to say on tour, proving her commitment to a stronger 2022 season by playing a full schedule of fall tournaments.

How far has the game evolved since the Romanian last led the tour? Abundant in experience, and seasoned on all surfaces, Halep may yet prove competitively viable, even against a slew of increasingly powerful challengers.