My picks for the 2023 WTA Awards — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Nov. 21, 2023

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! Yesterday, the WTA announced their nominees for their annual awards and like I have every year since, I wanted to share who would receive my vote.

Continue reading with a subscription to The IX

Get unlimited access to our exclusive coverage of a varitety of women’s sports, including our premium newsletter by subscribing today!

Join today

(Editor’s Note: The IX will be off Wednesday and Thursday, returning for Hockey Friday on Nov. 24. We are all thankful for you, dear readers.)

Singles Player of the Year

  • Iga Swiatek
  • Aryna Sabalenka
  • Coco Gauff
  • Jessica Pegula
  • Elena Rybakina
  • Marketa Vondrousova

I will say, I don’t like that the WTA gives an automatic nominee to a Grand Slam champion. Vondrousova might’ve won Wimbledon, but she didn’t do that much outside of a quarterfinal at the US Open. Gauff’s summer was pretty epic, but we’re supposed to consider the entire season overall, right? I’d argue Pegula landing higher on my list than Gauff — she was awfully consistent, capturing 59 wins and two Slam quarterfinals. That being said, there is truly one player that stands out compared to the rest and that’s Swiatek. Year-end No. 1, six titles that included Roland Garros and the WTA Finals — totaling a 68-11 record. Swiatek just edged Sabalenka — who won the Australian Open and made the semifinals at the other three Slams — in my book. The intangible of having a target on her back the entire season, to me, and delivering also secures Swiatek’s vote.

Doubles Team of the Year

  • Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova
  • Storm Hunter/Elise Mertens
  • Gabriela Dabrowski/Erin Routliffe
  • Coco Gauff/Jessica Pegula
  • Laura Siegemund/Vera Zvonareva

I’ll keep this one pretty brief because, honestly, there really aren’t any standouts when looking at a full calendar season. Siegemund/Zvonareva’s fall that ended with them capturing the WTA Finals is tempting, but they qualified for the Finals the last second possible. Gauff/Pegula, like their singles seasons, were greatly consistent. I give the edge to the all-Czech duo of Krejcikova/Siniakova. They started the year strong with the Australian Open title and Siniakova was the No. 1 player for most of the season, which holds a bit of weight when looking at the nominees.

Most Improved Player

  • Wang Xinyu
  • Zhu Lin
  • Katie Boulter
  • Zheng Qinwen
  • Jasmine Paolini

I do think Zheng will get this award, but she was ranked No. 25 when the season started. Still, making the jump into the Top 15 was buoyed by her first career titles including a WTA 500, a debut Grand Slam quarterfinal and reaching the final of the WTA Elite Trophy. I was personally impressed with Zhu’s rise into the Top 40 that was marked with her first WTA title and another final, a fourth round at the Australian Open and four Top 20 wins — when she only had two entering 2023. She’s by far the oldest of the nominees and truthfully, the most improved.

Newcomer of the Year

  • Mira Andreeva
  • Diana Shnaider
  • Peyton Stearns
  • Elina Avanesyan
  • Linda Noskova

This is definitely a no-brainer even though I find it very impressive that Shnaider was balancing college tennis and WTA events until she left NC State in May. Andreeva was simply a revelation, skyrocketing from outside the Top 400 in the beginning of the year to inside the Top 50. Sure, she didn’t make a WTA final like all of the nominees, but when given the chance, she delivered on the big stage. We also have to remember she’s 16 years old and under the Age Eligibility Rule, still. To make the fourth round of Madrid and Wimbledon, as well as the third round of Roland Garros on a limited schedule is noteworthy.

Comeback Player of the Year

  • Marketa Vondrousova
  • Karolina Muchova
  • Elina Svitolina
  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
  • Hsieh Su-Wei

While Vondrousova and Muchova had career-best seasons following injuries and qualified for the WTA Finals, two of the nominees stood out to me. First is Hsieh, who was away from the tour for 18 months following injuries. She came back in April at Madrid and not only won the Roland Garros title with Wang Xinyu, but she followed it up by winning Wimbledon with Barbora Strycova — ending a season she started unranked at No. 6. That’s simply unheard of, to be honest. Svitolina receives my vote because her comeback from motherhood in April was a bit slow. A few long, three-set encounters didn’t go her way, but she found some form at the end of the claycourt swing to win Strasbourg and then make the Roland Garros quarterfinal. Perhaps what was even more surprising was her run to the Wimbledon semifinals that included a scalp over World No. 1 Iga Swiatek. While the run from outside the Top 500 to No. 27 is remarkable, she also has been a consistent face and presence for the country of Ukraine as they continue their battle against Russia. To have the weight of your country on your back, while managing your own family and expectations, says a lot about Svitolina’s resilience.

WTA Coach of the Year

  • Brad Gilber/Pere Riba (Coco Gauff)
  • Tomasz Wiktorowski (Iga Swiatek)
  • Anton Dubrov (Aryna Sabalenka)
  • Emil Miske (Karolina Muchova)
  • Stefano Vukov (Elena Rybakina)
  • Raemon Sluiter (Elina Svitolina)

Like my earlier pick for Singles Player of the Year, this really is a tossup between Wiktorowski and Dubrov. However, I give Dubrov my pick because Aryna Sabalenka was scary consistent this year. With her gamestyle, bad days are near-inevitable and she was able to find wins playing nowhere near her best. With Dubrov at the helm, Sabalenka made six finals, won three titles and reached World No. 1 for the first time in her career. In fact, she led the WTA Race until the last match of the year, where Iga Swiatek grabbed the year-end No. 1. Sabalenka was the first player since Serena Williams in 2016 to make the semifinals of all four Grand Slams and she also made the semis of the WTA Finals.

Now, onto links!

24/7 women’s soccer coverage with The Equalizer

The IX is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribers to The IX receive 50% off their subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Sara Bejlek won the biggest title of her career at the WTA 125 LP Open by IND with a win over Diane Parry in the final. The doubles title went to Julia Lohoff and Conny Perrin, who downed Lucciana Perez Alarcon and Daniela Seguel.

Gone are the days of a small handful of clothing brands outfitting the top players. Players like Leylah Fernandez and IX Friend Sloane Stephen are the most recent examples of stepping away from the top brands and partnering with fresh faces to the scene.

Billie Jean King opens up about the past, present and future of women’s sports as she discusses her PBS series, Groundbreakers.

While the team recaps the top playersstats for the season, they also look ahead to the big stories in 2024.

Peter Bodo writes what I’m hoping for on my holiday wish list: faster courts!

Tennis is always an international sports at the collegiate level, but something you might not think about is the presence of foreign athletes at HBCUs.

As Tennis Canada receives the love following their big win at the Billie Jean King Cup, it’s safe to say that they are potentially one to stay at the top of team competitions.

Serena Williams will be one of the next inductees into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

50 years after her historic win at the Australian Open, Evonne Goolagong Cawley will be honored at Melbourne Park.

Congratulations to Barbora Strycova, who shared she is expecting her second child not long after officially retiring at the US Open.

Martina Navratilova dissects how the likes of Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka can take their games to the next level after they all had big 2023s.

Want women’s hockey content? Subscribe to The Ice Garden!

Here at The IX, we’re collaborating with The Ice Garden to bring you Hockey Friday. And if you want the women’s hockey goodness 24/7? Well, you should subscribe to The Ice Garden now!

Tweet of the Week

Well look who took the practice court:

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon