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By Alberto Amalfi | Tuesday, December 13, 2016

 
Genie Bouchard

"Everyone has ups and downs, tennis and in life. I have experienced both of those to the extreme probably in tennis," said Genie Bouchard.

Photo credit: Dennis Grombkowski/Getty

Major achievement creates great expectations for former Top 10 players.

Sometimes, stress is the stumbling block that prevents a Top 10 return.

More: Top 5 Men’s Disappointments of 2016

Injuries, sagging confidence and even scandal can conspire to stall careers.

Every player on our list of Top 5 WTA Disappointments of 2016 has contested at least one Grand Slam final and all five confronted professional turmoil this season.

We believe all five ladies on this list can comeback with strong seasons in 2017.

Which player on our list do you believe will have the biggest bounce-back season in 2017?

No. 46 Genie Bouchard

The Good: The Genie Army was mobilizing as Bouchard reached two finals in her first five tournaments of 2016. In a happy homecoming in Montreal, Bouchard beat Grand Slam finalists Lucie Safarova and Dominika Cibulkova back-to-back to reach the round of 16.



The Bad: Flagging considerably after her Montreal burst, Bouchard managed just three main-draw wins the rest of the season.

The Ugly: The 2014 Wimbledon finalist has failed to survive the second round in five of her last seven Grand Slam starts. More than two years removed from her career-high rank of No. 5, Bouchard finishes a second straight year ranked in the mid 40s. Is this the new normal?

Confessional Comment: “Everyone has ups and downs, tennis and in life. I have experienced both of those to the extreme probably in tennis. I have learned a lot from it. I have been able to experience feeling those expectations and pressure and all that kind of stuff, which weighed down on me a little bit let's say last year. So I have learned from that, and now I really find the joy in tennis and kind of only want to look forward and just try to become the best player I can be.”—Genie Bouchard on facing emotional extremes.

No. 49 Sara Errani

The Good: A fast start saw the former French Open finalist win seven of her first 10 tournament matches. Errani crushed Barbora Strycova, 6-0, 6-2, in the Dubai final, claiming her first career Premier-level title while dropping just one set in five matches.

The Bad: The Italian counterpuncher went 8-1 winning Dubai and reaching the Charleston semifinals, but was a combined 13-23 the rest of the season.



The Ugly: After reaching the round of 16 at the Rio Olympics, Errani won only one more match the rest of the season.

Confessional Comment: “I'm tired, but I know how to play when you're tired. I just try to fight. I don't think I'm really fit. I think there are other persons that are maybe much better than me physically, but I think I just try to fight, to stay on the court, suffer on the court and still keep going, stay there even if I'm dead.”—Sara Errani discussing her fitness and fighting spirit in Dubai.

No. 54 Jelena Jankovic

The Good: The former No. 1 contested the Guangzhou final and semifinals in Mallorca and Hong Kong. Jankovic upset then world No. 3 Garbine Muguruza in Wuhan.



The Bad: A severely strained shoulder sidelined the Serbian at times during the spring making serving—and washing her hair—a painful prospect. JJ’s run of 12 consecutive seasons holding a year-end Top 30 ranking was snapped.

The Ugly: Major horror: The 2008 US Open finalist managed just three major wins—her worst Grand Slam season in 12 years. Jankovic faced a health scare when doctors removed a large thyroid cyst in Miami.

Confessional Comment: “I have been in these situations before, and I know what it takes to come back, but at the same time it's not easy because you have to start basically from zero and just go on the court and have to change certain things. You need time in order for them to improve and get to the normal stage and then to the strength I used to have. So basically a month ago I could not lift my arm up. I could not wash my hair with the right hand. Now I'm able to serve.”—Jelena Jankovic on returning from injury in Rome.

No. 63 Ana Ivanovic

The Good: Career concerns can’t detract from the pure joy Ivanovic experienced marrying long-time fiancĂ© and soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger at the Venice city hall in July. The former world No. 1 played her most dynamic tennis in February, contesting the St. Petersburg final and defeating then world No. 3 Simona Halep en route to the Dubai quarterfinals. She scored nearly a third of her 15 wins in those two tournaments.



The Bad: Fragile confidence and chronic toe and wrist injuries took a toll. A year after she contested the Roland Garros semifinals, Ivanovic advanced to one semifinal in 16 tournaments starts. The former French Open champion ever made it past the third round of a major and conceded she was searching for answers.

The Ugly: Following her loss in the Mallorca quarterfinals, Ivanovic did not win a match the rest of the year, pulling the plug on her season after a US Open first-round exit. The 29-year-old Ivanovic concludes the year ranked outside the Top 25 for the first time since 2004 when she finished her second full pro season ranked No. 97.

Confessional Comment: “It's been very frustrating that throughout the year I felt like my forehand has actually been letting me down, and that's something that's my biggest strength. I really feel like I have to reassess because, like I said, I have been putting so many hours on court and in the gym in particular trying to get my body healthy. Last year I ended up with very, very bad back, and this year it hasn't been coming back because I worked so hard at it. It's just like I said, I haven't been really rewarded for my hard work.”—Ana Ivanovic on source of her 2016 frustration.

Maria Sharapova

The Good: The former No. 1 appealed her drug suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, winning a reduced sentence that will put her back on court in April, 2017 in time for Roland Garros. Given Sharapova missed nearly four months of the 2015 season citing forearm and leg injuries, the drug suspension that limited her to five matches this year could give her exactly what she needs most: Time to heal and train to return at full strength next April. One of the most popular players in the game, Sharapova's return will generate major buzz for the WTA Tour.

The Bad: Hit with a two-year doping ban after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium at the Australian Open, Sharapova’s career and brand took a big hit. She will return unranked and while the five-time Grand Slam champion will receive wild card entry into tournaments she faces the prospect of demanding early-round matches as she tries to rebuild her ranking and reputaton.



The Ugly: Even after winning a shortened sentence on appeal, Sharapova’s sniping with the ITF in a PR battle caused some to brand her arrogant and ungracious. Colleagues on the WTA Tour, including Kristina Mladenovic, Dominika Cibulkova and Samantha Stosur, shared blunt assessment of the former No. 1’s case and character. “She's a totally unlikeable person,” Cibulkova said of Sharapova. “Arrogant, conceited and cold. When I sit beside her in the locker room, she won't even say hello."

Confessional Comment: "I’ve gone from one of the toughest days of my career last March when I learned about my suspension to now, one of my happiest days, as I found out I can return to tennis in April. In so many ways, I feel like something I love was taken away from me and it will feel really good to have it back. Tennis is my passion and I have missed it. I am counting the days until I can return to the court."—Maria Sharapova’s reacton after winning a shortened suspension in the appeal of her drug ban.


 

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