Like 2013, this year I will do a countdown of the top money list leaders from both the WTA and LPGA. Last year I did the top 30, but this year I will do the top 25. Note that as of this post, the retired Li Na has been removed from the WTA website money list rankings, but I will include her here. Thus, some WTA players will be off by one position on my list compared to the WTA website list. Also, Hyo Joo Kim is not on my LPGA list due to not being a member this year. I’m certain she will be on the list in the future. For the WTA, singles, doubles and mixed are combined for this top 25. Number 3 on this money list for each tour are Petra Kvitova (WTA) and Lydia Ko (LPGA).
PETRA KVITOVA (Czech Republic)
2014 Official WTA Prize Money: $5,203,236
Best Results: WINNER (3) Wimbledon, Wuhan Open, Connecticut Open; RUNNER-UP (1) China Open; SF (2) Mutua Madrid Open, Apia Sydney International; QF (3) Sony Open, Qatar Total Open, Aegon International
WTA Awards: (2) Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award, Diamond Aces
I know fans voted Maria Sharapova vs Simona Halep in the Roland Garros final and Serena Williams vs Caroline Wozniacki semifinal at the WTA Finals the best Major match and best match of the year respectively. I humbly and strongly disagree. For pure high level tennis, the round of 32 match between Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams was the best women’s match not only of this year but also in recent years. Their 5-7 7-6 (2) 7-5 instant classic was an example of two virtuosi pushing each other to rarefied brilliance. The match wasn’t just tight in terms of the scoreboard. I’ve seen plenty of tight matches full of sloppy play or uneven play. That wasn’t the case here. In the two matches voted on by the fans, there were patches where one or both of the players was less than stellar. Petra and Venus never slowed down. The shot-making, the athleticism, the focus…this was tennis at its most masterful. It’s common for women’s matches to be marked by a lot of service breaks. Here, through 37 games, there were only 2, 1 per player, including Petra finally breaking Venus in the final game of the match.
The match versus Venus would prove the toughest of Petra’s campaign to her second Wimbledon singles title. She dominated Eugenie Bouchard in the final, showing the kind of tennis I have longed to see from Petra on a more consistent basis. I’ve said it so many times I’ve lost count. When Petra is on her game, she is worthy of being world #1, surpassing even Serena Williams. She has that kind of talent. Wimbledon would be the springboard to launch a great second half of the season, her best year since 2011. In addition to her 3 singles titles, Petra led the Czech Republic to their third Fed Cup title in four years. She is a special talent. Look, everybody who makes it to this level of tennis is special. But Petra is SPECIAL. If she ever put it all together for a full season…whew, let me tell you…nobody could touch her.
LYDIA KO (New Zealand)
2014 Official LPGA Prize Money: $2,089,033
Best Results: WINNER (3) CME Group Tour Championship, Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, Marathon Classic; 3rd Wegmans LPGA Championship, T8 Evian Championship, T2 JTBC Founders Cup, T2 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, 3rd Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship, T3 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, T4 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, T5 Kingsmill Championship, T7 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, T7 Blue Bay LPGA, T8 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, T9 Lorena Ochoa Invitational
LPGA Awards: Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year
There was a lot of hype going into Lydia Ko’s rookie season. Most people saw 2014 as less competition than coronation of the diminutive Kiwi as clearly the cream of the rookie crop. And despite a couple of wins by fellow LPGA newcomer (in terms of being a member) Mi-Rim Lee, there was never a doubt who the best of the bunch was. In fact, Lydia was so good she elicited comparison to the greatest rookie seasons ever. She won 3 events, including the year-end CME Group Tour Championship. Along the way, she racked up the most points in the Race to the CME Globe. For that accomplishment, she was rewarded with a 1 million dollar bonus. That bonus did not count toward official LPGA prize money or she would be number 1 on the money list. So was it the best rookie season ever? I don’t know about that. We are sometimes quick to crown what is great in the present as the best ever. Certainly, her 2014 season is among the best. But there was no million dollar bonus during Nancy Lopez’s rookie campaign nor during Se Ri Pak’s. Just off the top of my head, speaking of Se Ri, the Korean trailblazer won two Majors among four victories her rookie year, including the biggest of them all, the US Women’s Open. Se Ri won $267,500 for her victory. This year, Michelle Wie picked up $720,000. So it’s difficult…if not misleading…to compare money totals from one era to another. Naturally, a great rookie today is likely to break old prize money records.
However, all of that being said it does not in any way mean that I am diminishing Lydia’s year. I talked above about Petra being special. Well, Lydia Ko is also truly special. To accomplish what she has before her 18th birthday is astonishing. While I don’t think I’d anoint her the greatest rookie ever, I will call her the greatest 17 year old player I’ve ever seen. For that matter, she was also the greatest 16 year old player I’ve ever seen and the greatest 15 year old as well. Something tells me that once her birthday comes around on April 24th next year, Lydia Ko will be on her way to being the greatest 18 year old player that I’ve ever seen.
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