Most of the top female players are at the Tokyo Olympics this week.
But regardless of the hardware they might bring home, there are no prize money cheques or ranking points that come with the privilege of representing your country on the world stage.
In the meantime, there were two WTA Tour events on red clay in Europe. And those tournament – while overlooked by those who only pay attention to the top of the pyramid – produced a number of first time finalists and winners.
These were bucket-list moments for those players.
And we salute them.
There were no changes in the top 20.
ON THE UPSWING
Danielle Collins (USA): No. 44 ==========> No. 35 (Collins has had a … heck of a 16 months since the pandemic hit – remember when she got bounced from World Team Tennis for breaking the bubble? She’s also had surgery for endometriosis and many otherh challenges. And here she is winning her first WTA Tour title at age 27, in Palermo on clay).
Zhang Shuai (CHN): No. 57 ==========> No. 53
Elena-Gabriela Ruse (ROU): No. 137 ==========> No. 105 (A career high for Ruse, who was at No. 198 when she undertook the qualifying at the Hamburg European Open. She went from the qualifying to the title there – winning her first WTA crown and beating Danielle Collins in the quarterfinals. After a week, she had to go right back into the qualifying in Palermo – and almost did it again. Ruse lost to Collins this time, and moved up nearly 100 spots in the space of two tournaments).
Océane Dodin (FRA): No. 120 ==========> No. 106 (Dodin’s career high of No. 46 was nearly four years ago. But she has taken a step closer to getting back into the top 100 with her run to the semis in Palermo).
Nuria Parrizas Diaz (ESP): No. 112 ==========> No. 108 (Another career high for Parrizas Diaz, who is 8-2 in three tournaments since losing in the final round of Roland Garros qualifying. She lost to eventual champion Zanevska in the quarterfinals in Gdynia).
Astra Sharma (AUS): No. 121 ==========> No. 111
Maryna Zanevska (BEL): No. 165 ==========> No. 115 (The 27-year-old went to Poland alone this week. No coach, no anyone. And won her first career WTA Tour title. She said it was a dream come true – to say the least).
Kristina Kucova (SVK): No. 150 ==========> No. 120 (Kucova has had some moments in her career – beating Genie Bouchard at home at the Rogers Cup a few years back was something else. But she had never reached a WTA Tour final before, at age 31. She fell short against Maryna Zanevska. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a more gracious runner-up).
Kateryna Kozlova (SVK): No. 141 ==========> No. 130 (A semifinalist in Gdynia, the 27-year-old also lost to the champion).
Francesca Jones (GBR): No. 178 ==========> No. 167 (With a semifinal at a $60,000 ITF in the Czech Republic the 20-year-old reaches another career high. She backed up a title at a similar event in Biarritz, France the previous week beautifully. She was at No. 206 before the last two weeks).
Lucia Bronzetti (ITA): No. 190 ==========> No. 174 (The 22-year-old had a great week in her homeland, reaching the quarterfinals. And it’s a continuation of a nice run of form on the clay. She’s 16-5 over the last five weeks, shaving some 100 places off her ranking).
Ekaterine Gorgodze (GEO): No. 208 ==========> No. 185 (The 29-year-old from Georgia is back in the top 200 with her effort in Gdynia – and also has the … honour? of being part of the longest match of the 2021 season. Even if it was in defeat, to Kucova).
Anna Bondar (HUN): No. 231 ==========> No. 197 (The 24-year-old Hungarian went from the qualifying to the quarterfinals in Poland).
Rebecca Marino (CAN): No. 273 ==========> No. 225 (The 30-year-old’s win at the $25K in Evansville, IND two weeks ago should be enough to get her into the qualifying at the US Open. She fell short for Wimbledon, because she had already used her two allowed special-ranking entries).
Cristina Dinu (ROU): No. 526 ==========> No. 376 (Dinu’s career high ranking of No. 153 came in May, 2019. But 150 spots is a great jump in a week, and the 28-year-old Dinu did it by winning a $25K in Italy two weeks ago. She’s 23-4 on the clay ITF circuit since May).
Weronika Falkowska (POL): No. 487 ==========> No. 393 (Having bigger tournaments at home, and taking advantage of the opportunities, is key for young players and Falkowska, 22, did that in Gdynia by qualifying and winning her first-round match. She’s in the top 400 for the first time).
Sara Bejlek (CZE): No. 1004 ==========> No. 447 (No idea if this 15-year-old is one to watch. But jumping … 557 spots in a week is eye-opening).
ON THE DOWNSWING
Kiki Bertens (NED): No. 21 ==========> No. 24 (Bertens, 29, is saying goodbye to pro tennis this week at the Olympics. She’s already out of the singles at the hands of Marketa Vondrousova, but is the No. 3 seed in doubles with Demi Schuurs. Her points from … drop off).
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT): No. 53 ==========> No. 65 (Currently in Rio, where she was ousted in the first round of singles, Sevastova drops points from winning her (short-lived) home-country tournament in Riga, Latvia in 2019).
Jil Teichmann (SUI): No. 55 ==========> No. 67 (An injury prevented the Swiss lefty from competing in Tokyo at the last minute. She drops points from winning Palermo in 2019).
Fiona Ferro (FRA): No. 64 ==========> No. 84 (That’s a tough drop for the Frenchwoman, who is still alive at the Olympics. She drops points from a title in 2019 in Lausanne and a quarterfinal in Palermo over the last two weeks – and 32 spots in the rankings. And that makes it a little tougher to get into the top tournaments for her. Even the qualifying).
Anastasia Potapova (RUS): No. 86 ==========> No. 95 (Potapova doesn’t defend her points from the 2019 Baltic Open).
Sara Errani (ITA): No. 104 ==========> No. 112 (Errani just managed to squeeze into the US Open main draw last week. Timing is everything in life).
Genie Bouchard (CAN): No. 129 ==========> No. 133
Lizette Cabrera (AUS): No. 146 ==========> No. 162
Katarzyna Kawa (POL): No. 143 ==========> No. 182 (The 28-year-old from Poland attempted to defend points from her run in Latvia in 2019, where she went from the qualifying to the final. She was trying to do it at home in Poland, at a new tournament. She got to the quarterfinals, but it wasn’t enough).
Katherine Sebov (CAN): No. 293 ==========> No. 313 (Sebov, a 22-year-old Canadian, isn’t playing much. And her ranking is going in the wrong direction).
Françoise Abanda (CAN): No. 330 ==========> No. 352 (Same situation for 24-year-old Abanda, who has hardly played at all since the pandemic hit).