Venus Williams once said “People relate to the champion. They also relate to the person that didn’t win because we all experience those moments in our life.” Sometimes the ebb and flow of professional sports, particularly in tennis, creates a number of unsung players getting lost within the game’s history. There are countless players who have accomplished great achievements but may not have lived up to their fullest potential by winning a Grand Slam singles title. In this post, I will be taking a closer look at the top five most talented female tennis players of the 21st Century who have yet to win a Grand Slam.
5. Jelena Jankovic
Why? The Serbian first made headlines in 2006 by reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Open, narrowly losing to 7-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin. In 2007, Jankovic cracked the top 10 by capturing 4 titles and reaching the semifinals of the French Open. She ended the year at #3 in the world. 2008 was Jelena’s best season to date as she accomplished a number of feats, most notably being that she ended the year at #1, and reached the finals of the U.S. Open. Unfortunately for Jankovic, that was the first and last grand slam final she has made. Since then, her form has not been quite as consistent as it was during those golden years. She reached the latter stages of Grand Slams on a couple of occasions but her level of play has not been the same. Nonetheless, Jankovic’s remarkable counter-punching ability and impeccable defense is what makes her such a dangerous player. Her results may be more sporadic nowadays but you should never truly underestimate a former world #1 player like herself.
4. Dinara Safina
Why? As the younger sister of Hall-of-Fame men’s champion Marat Safin, experts paid little attention until Dinara Safina made them pay attention. Her rise to tennis stardom occurred around the same time as Jankovic’s as she reached the finals of the French Open and U.S. Open semis in 2008. Safina also rose to the occasion at the Beijing Olympics, taking home a silver medal in singles. She followed up her 2008 season by reaching the first two Grand Slam finals of 2009 and became number one in the world for a total of 26 weeks. She also managed to reach the semis of Wimbledon but unfortunately, the demands of the sport proved to be too much for her. A nagging back-injury plagued Safina for the rest of her career, limiting her results and diminishing her own expectations. The constant injuries forced her to officially retire from the sport in 2014 although her last professional match was in 2011. During the time in which she did play, Safina was a constant threat. Her game was based on aggression and authority. Now, we can only wonder what could have been if Safina’s career wasn’t cut short.
3. Agnieszka Radwanska
Why? With a game based on incredible court intelligence and shotmaking, it’s no wonder why Agnieszka Radwanska appears on this list. The 28 year-old Pole has captured almost every major title outside the Grand Slams imaginable. Radwanska’s unique game is what separates her from the rest of her contemporaries and is why she is such a great player. She has a knack for toying with her opponents using tricky slices, drop-shots, and remarkable consistency. Radwanska’s only Grand Slam final dates back to 2012 when she reached the finals of Wimbledon, losing to Serena Williams in 3-sets. Although she hasn’t been to a Grand Slam final since then, Radwanska has collected a number of significant titles most notably being the 2015 WTA Season-Ending Championships, an elite tournament consisting of the 8 best tennis players of that given year. As of late, she has struggled with maintaining those consistent results, but Radwanska is still young which means her chances of winning that evasive maiden Grand Slam title bode well.
2. Caroline Wozniacki
Why? The great Dane has accomplished so much within the 10 years that she has been on tour. She’s captured 25 titles so far with many of them being some of the biggest tournaments outside the major events. She has reached 2 Grand Slam finals over the course of her illustrious career, and amassed a consistency most players strive to achieve their entire career. She has one at least 1 title a year since 2008, with her most successful years being from 2009 to 2011. In between that time frame, Wozniacki rose to the top of the rankings and remained as the top player in the world for a total of 67 weeks. Since then, Wozniacki has experienced a few dips in form but has still remains within the upper echelon of the women’s game. I believe that if she adds more aggression to her game she will finally be able to become a Grand Slam champion.
1. Elena Dementieva
Why? Although she retired in 2010, Elena Dementieva was a tour de force every year she played on tour. Between 2003 and her retirement in 2010, she finished every year inside the Top 10 except for 2007. The Siberian siren consistently challenged the greats of the game, earning repeated wins over legends Venus and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Martina Hingis. In 2000 at the age of 19, Dementieva won a silver medal in singles at the Sydney Olympics. She posted an even better result at the Beijing Olympics by capturing the gold medal over her fellow compatriot Dinara Safina.
Although Elena accomplished so much throughout her career, she was never able to reach the number one ranking. Dementieva concluded her career with a career-high ranking of #3 in the world, 16 career titles, over $14 million in prize money, and reached two Grand Slam finals in singles and another two in doubles. Some say that Elena was a bit of an underachiever in terms of her career-end statistics but those who watched her on court knew just exactly how talented of a player she was. She is heralded as one of the most well-liked players on tour, a great sportsperson, and an even greater tennis player.
Well, there you have it. My top 5 list of slamless WTA players. Do you agree or disagree? Who do you think belongs on this list? Comment below to let me know!