While statistics played a large part in assembling this list—only those amassed from January 2010 through the 2019 US Open were considered—the final order was ultimately subjective, based on the player’s impact throughout the decade. (Getty Images)
10. Maria Sharapova
Sharapova became the 10th WTA player to complete a career Grand Slam at the 2012 French Open, added a second Roland Garros title two years later and had five successive seasons inside the Top 4. But in January 2016, she tested positive for meldonium, a substance added to the ITF’s banned list, and served a 15-month suspension as a result. Since resuming play, Sharapova has yet to return to the final round of a major.
9. Naomi Osaka
Osaka made a splash when she captured her first WTA title at Indian Wells in 2018. Within a year, she was the center of attention after winning consecutive majors at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open— which enabled the Japanese to become the first Asian, man or woman, to reach No. 1 in singles. While she’s struggled with handling her new status since then, Osaka has plenty of time to manage expectations.
Clijsters hung up her racquet in September 2012—or so we thought—but showed the current cohort, including Serena, that moms can win big, too. The Belgian retained her US Open title in 2010, then won her first major outside of NYC at the 2011 Australian Open. Shortly thereafter, she returned to No. 1, before a string of injuries began to take their toll on the fan favorite. Clijsters since announced that she’ll return in 2020.
7. Li Na
Li’s groundbreaking accomplishments have endured since her retirement in 2014, and extend far beyond the court. Asia’s first Grand Slam singles champion, the 2019 Hall of Fame inductee won the 2011 French Open, claimed the 2014 Australian Open after two runner-up finishes in Melbourne, rose to No. 2 and, most importantly, inspired China’s future generations to pick up a racquet and play on their own terms.
A true workhorse, Wozniacki lifted 24 WTA trophies, including at least one in each season from 2010 to 2018. She also showed detractors that persistence pays off. The yearend No. 1 in 2010 and 2011, the Dane won the 2017 WTA Finals with her unwavering counterpunch style, then got the Grand Slam monkey off her back in Melbourne. She went on to finish 2018 inside the Top 10 for the seventh time in nine years.
At her peak, Azarenka demonstrated a capacity to match Serena’s power and intensity, as the two gave fans gripping battles in and out of the majors. The Belarusian peaked at No. 1, won consecutive Australian Opens, finished second at two US Opens and captured two Olympic medals, including gold in mixed doubles. After taking time off to prioritize a custody battle over her son, Azarenka returned full-time in 2018.
Though uneven at the Slams, Kvitova twice won Wimbledon and triumphed at the 2011 WTA Finals. A Top-10 fixture with dependable results on tour—26 titles— the Czech was a substantial contributor to six Fed Cup crowns. More than that, Kvitova’s heart and resolve shone when she advanced to the 2019 Australian Open final just two years after surviving a home invasion that left her hitting hand badly injured.
Ranked No. 92, the German broke through at the 2011 US Open with a run to the semifinals—a launching pad for the left-hander’s ascendancy to the top, and evolution as one of the sport’s most tenacious athletes. Kerber proved to be one of the few players prepared to challenge Serena, defeating the American in two of her three major championship victories. She raised the bar for athletic counterpunchers.
2. Simona Halep
The year-end No. 1 in 2017 and 2018 (she also finished inside the Top 5 in the three prior years), the Romanian emerged as a consistent force after announcing herself with six WTA titles in 2013. Though she would fall in her first three major finals, Halep kept plugging away to taste victory at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, validating that her game and mental fortitude could withstand bigger ball-strikers and major moments.
With 12 singles majors, 236 weeks at No. 1, an Olympic gold medal and coming within three sets of attaining a calendar-year Grand Slam, she is the clearcut WTA player of the decade. The perennial champion overcame off-court challenges to contest at least one major final in all 10 years. Between the summers of 2012 and 2015, Williams went 8–0 in Grand Slam finals, completing her second Serena Slam in the process.