2018 WTA Player of the Year – Naomi Osaka
The 2018 WTA Player of the Year is a topic that could be debated without any clear verdict. Still, I think Naomi Osaka’s virtuoso performance at the US Open firmly established her as a player who can become the dominant force on the WTA Tour. She might not, but I don’t think any of the other 3 major winners this year are realistic tour dominators. Kerber had a great 2016, a really sound 2015, and played quite well in 2018. Halep reached two major finals and leads the computer ranking. Case closed? No. Losing in the 1st round of two majors may not have prevented her from the computer lead, but Tennis Abides is more subjective. Caroline Wozniacki cast off her zero slam critics, but did she do enough to win over the Tennis Abides committee of one? No.
Naomi Osaka reached a level in New York in which she could dictate play or absorb her opponent’s power and go from defense to offense. Many players look good when dictating. Dominant champions need to have the ability to dictate and to redirect. The other three slam winners in 2018 are excellent at redirecting. Madison Keys is excellent at dictating. Naomi Osaka has the ability to do both and that plus US Open and Indian Wells titles earns her my nod as 2018 WTA Player of the Year. The WTA has depth heading into 2019. If that depth is seeking to dethrone one to three dominant players, then the tour will hit a sweet spot that generates a lot of fan interest.
2018 ATP Player of the Year – Novak Djokovic
The 2018 ATP Player of the Year is an easier decision. Novak Djokovic’s January – May was not ideal. At Queen’s Club, he reached the final and grabbed 300 points. Then he won his 4th Wimbledon title in part by outdueling Rafael Nadal over 5 thrilling sets. He won his first Cincinnati title by beating Roger Federer in straight sets. He won the US Open for the 3rd time. He won Shanghai. He was runner-up at Paris. Those titles and runner-up finishes amounted to 6900 ranking points and a return to the #1 ranking. Novak Djokovic is the man to beat heading into 2019 and any whispered speculation about his demise seems like ancient history.