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Sofia Kenin: Year-end No. 4, but deserved 2020 WTA Player of the Year
The 22-year-old American may not have finished No. 1, but the current ranking system doesn’t tell the full story of 2020—and it’s by far not the first time the year-end No. 1 hasn’t been WTA Player of the Year.
Published Dec 12, 2020
The WTA Player Awards were announced this week, and the biggest honor—WTA Player of the Year—went to Sofia Kenin. The American's breakthrough year not only saw her win her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, but also reach another Grand Slam final at Roland Garros in October.
But some may question how the year-end No. 4 is the WTA Player of the Year, and not No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, No. 2 Simona Halep or No. 3 Naomi Osaka—and there are a few things to keep in mind.
Firstly, and most importantly, the 2020 year-end rankings don’t tell the full story of 2020. The ATP and WTA have been using a revised ranking system since the restart in August, and players currently have points from results in 2019 on their totals—Barty still has her 2,000 points from winning Roland Garros last year, for instance, and Halep still has her 2,000 points from winning Wimbledon last year.
When it comes to 2020 alone, Kenin shone brighter than anyone on the women’s tour. Not only did she win one of the only three majors that were played, she was also the only player to reach the final at two of the three—and she was actually the only player to appear in the semis twice.
The 22-year-old went 16-2 at the majors this year, reaching the fourth round at the US Open as well.
“Obviously I’m playing some really good tennis at the Slams. In Australia I won, US Open I got to the fourth round—had a tough one against Elise Mertens. Here, getting to the finals,” Kenin said at Roland Garros. “Overall it’s a good ratio in the Grand Slams. I feel like I’m playing some really good tennis.”
And secondly, even if 2020 were a completely normal year without the COVID-19 suspension and Kenin ended at No. 4, she wouldn’t be the first woman to finish behind the top spot and be named WTA Player of the Year. Kenin wouldn’t even be the first year-end No. 4 to be named WTA Player of the Year.
In 1977, though Chris Evert finished at No. 1, it was year-end No. 4 Virginia Wade who got WTA Player of the Year, likely for her historic triumph at Wimbledon in front of Queen Elizabeth II. Plus, there was a different winner at every major—no one even made multiple major finals.
And in 2004, Maria Sharapova—another year-end No. 4—earned WTA Player of the Year. Again, there were four different winners at the majors that year, but Sharapova’s triumph at Wimbledon, as well as winning the fifth-biggest event at the WTA Finals, was likely just too much to deny her the honor.
This is the 14th time in the 44 years of the WTA Awards that someone other than the year-end No. 1 on the WTA rankings has been named WTA Player of the Year:
1977: No. 4 Virginia Wade (year-end No. 1: Chris Evert)
1980: No. 2 Tracy Austin (year-end No. 1: Chris Evert)
1999: No. 2 Lindsay Davenport (year-end No. 1: Martina Hingis)
2000: No. 3 Venus Williams (year-end No. 1: Martina Hingis)
2001: No. 2 Jennifer Capriati (year-end No. 1: Lindsay Davenport)
2004: No. 4 Maria Sharapova (year-end No. 1: Lindsay Davenport)
2005: No. 2 Kim Clijsters (year-end No. 1: Lindsay Davenport)
2006: No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo (year-end No. 1: Justine Henin)
2008: No. 2 Serena Williams (year-end No. 1: Jelena Jankovic)
2010: No. 3 Kim Clijsters (year-end No. 1: Caroline Wozniacki)
2011: No. 2 Petra Kvitova (year-end No. 1: Caroline Wozniacki)
2012: No. 3 Serena Williams (year-end No. 1: Victoria Azarenka)
2017: No. 2 Garbine Muguruza (year-end No. 1: Simona Halep)
2020: No. 4 Sofia Kenin (year-end No. 1: Ashleigh Barty)