Sloane Stephens had to get past 3 former No. 1s and 4 Grand Slam winners to take the Miami Open title this weekend. Is everyone’s path to a Premier final getting tougher?
Stephens did her most to settle doubts about her consistency after her 2017 US Open title when she defeated Jelena Ostapenko in the finals of the Miami Open. Her title in Key Biscayne is her 2nd Premier title and her journey to that stat was anything but easy.
Not only was the final a meeting of two recently minted first-time Major winners, the 3 rounds leading up to the final put Stephens up against 3 former No. 1s. Stephens' draw might seem like a case of bad luck but there is more to it than that. The WTA is simply getting more competitive.
Looking at the median match predictions for the favoured players at Indian Wells and Miami from 2000 to 2018 shows a clear declining trend. In 2000, the median prediction was 73%; in 2018, that dropped to 69%. That 5% decline tells us that the margin separating the winners and losers of the WTA have been shrinking.
If we look at the latest rounds, considering the 4th round on, the trends show an even steeper decline. It’s noisier, owing to the smaller sample size, but the WTA has had 5 straight years of a median win prediction under 75% for the Sunshine Double.
Top events of the 2018 WTA calendar are on track to bring us a level of competition that could be record-making.