July 12, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

WTA Rankings Report – As of Jan. 29, 2024

MELBOURNE, Australia – As with the end of any Grand Slam tournament, plenty of changes at the top to reflect points not defended, and surprise efforts at the event that vault some deserving players right into the mix at the top and change their career trajectory.

But therein also lies some pathos. In defending her Australian Open title – a very hard thing to do – Aryna Sabalenka only stays afloat, without an opportunity to make progress in the 52-week cycle.

That’s 2,000 points falling off, and 2,000 points added.

(For the complete, updated WTA rankings for Monday, click here).

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ON THE UPSWING

Coco Gauff (USA): No. 4 =========> No. 3 (Had Gauff been on the other side of the draw, she might well have made the Australian Open final. As it is, she battled to get to the semifinals but ran into the buzzsaw that is Sabalenka in that final-four round).

Jessica Pegula (USA): No. 5 =========> No. 4 (The simple truth is that Pegula played far too much tennis in 2023 – in singles, doubles and mixed – all the while dealing with the concerning illness of her mother Kim. And that hangover is showing in 2024, as it has for many players who have risen to the top 10 on supreme effort, only to have a bit of a hangover the following year. She had little trouble with Rebecca Marino in the first round, but lost pretty quickly to Clara Burel. And she and Gauff withdrew from the doubles).

Zheng Qinwen (CHN): No. 15 =========> No. 7 (Zheng didn’t face a top-50 player until the AO final. But the computer doesn’t factor in who you play, rather how many matches you win. She won six, going all the way to the final before being outgunned by Sabalenka. Still – a leap into the top 10 and a career high).

Elina Svitolina (UKR): No. 23 =========> No. 19 (It took Svitolina very little time to get back into the top-20 after a fairly short maternity leave. Only back spasms in the fourth round prevented an even better run for her in Melbourne).

Emma Navarro (USA): No. 26 =========> No. 23 (A year ago, Navarro was ranked No. 149. She has played a ton of smaller events – even ITFs in the U.S. – and worked on crunching the numbers and getting her ranking to the point where she’s inside the top 25, a career high – and also was seeded at the Australian Open. She was taken out by the clearly in form Dayana Yastremska in the third round). Navarro also won her first career title the week before the main event, in Hobart. A year ago, she opted to play ITFs in the U.S. instead of going Down Under to try to quality. It paid off. But she also played … 29 tournaments in 2023, with not much of a break. And we’ve seen what that workload has done to some players).

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Marta Kostyuk (UKR): No. 37 =========> No. 28 (At 14, Kostyuk won the Australian Open juniots, a year later, at 15, she made the third round of the main draw. It has taken her some time to get back there. But her run to the quarterfinals in 2024 moves her into the top 30 for the first time, and most think it’s long overdue.

Dayana Yastremska (UKR): No. 93=========> No. 29 (Yastremska, still just 23, reached a career high of No. 21 all the way back in Jan 2020 – just before the pandemic and the war in Ukraine hit. She was outside the top 100 at the entry deadline and had to go through qualifying in Melbourne. She did, and reached the semifinals before losing to Zheng. Getting back into the top 30 is a career changer. She’s also already banked over $1 million in 2024, and we’re still in January).

Linda Noskova (CZE): No. 50 =========> No. 30 (A lot of teenagers got more attention over the last few years – especially those named Andreeva and Fruhvirtova). But the 19-year-old Noskova is the queen of them all, reaching the top 30 after getting to the quarterfinals, with an assist from Svitolina).

Mirra Andreeva (RUS): No. 47 =========> No. 35 (A career high for Andreeva, who doesn’t turn 17 until April 29. She made the great escape in the third round against Diane Parry, losing in three sets to Krejcikova in the round of 16).

Anna Kalinskaya (RUS): No. 75 =========> No. 38 (Kalinskaya cut her ranking in half with her run to the AO semifinals. A good draw – qualifier Volynets, Rus, a comeback over Stephens, No. 26 Paolini, before finally succumbing to Zheng).

Magdalena Frech (POL): No. 69 =========> No. 51 (The Polish player is now No. 2 in her own country behind Iga Swiatek with her career-high ranking. She got to the second week at the AO after she upset a Caroline Garcia who was a shadow of the player who had beaten the returning Naomi Osaka in the first round)

Océane Dodin (FRA): No. 95 =========> No. 75 (Dodin didn’t even go to Australia a year ago, opting to get her failing ranking back up by playing  series of ITF tournaments in Tunisia and France. It paid off. And her run to the AO fourth round paid off even more).

Wang Yafan (CHN): No. 94 =========> No. 68 (Nice run for the 29-year-old who fell off the map a few years ago. It was a combination of China’s strict COVID quarantines, a few injuries and the fact that she was recently married. Her husband couldn’t travel with her because of the strict 28-day quarantine upon return. So she would have – as her compatriot Zhang Shuai can attest – basically stayed away from home for month and months on end. Her AO run ended with a tight battle against her younger, rising, more-celebrated countrywoman Zheng).

Paula Badosa (ESP): No. 100 =========> No. 83 (Her ranking was in the mid-60s going into Melbourne, after back woes scuttled the second half of her 2023 season. It was down to 100 after her Adelaide points from a year ago fell off. She was out from Wimbledon through to Adelaide, the second week of 2024. Her wins in Melbourne against Taylor Townsend and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will be encouraging).

Brenda Fruhvirtova (CZE): No. 107 =========> No. 96 (Fruhvirtova, also still just 16, moves into the top 100 after she qualified and won a round. It remains to be seen how that ranking will hold up as she no longer will consistently be playing lower-level competition. But it’s a good start).

Maria Timofeeva (RUS): No. 170 =========> No. 100 (The 20-year-old roars into the top 100 after beating far more experienced players – Cornet, Wozniacki, Haddad Maia – before losing to Kostyuk. And that was after three wins in the qualifying).

Alina Korneeva (RUS): No. 179 =========> No. 141 (Last year’s Australian Open junior champion hasn’t had the same rise as the player she beat in tha final, Mirra Andreeva. But she qualified for the main draw this year – and got through Sara Sorribes Tormo, no mean feat. At 16, her future is bright.

Rebecca Marino (CAN): No. 182 =========> No. 166 (No luck in the first round of the main draw against Jessica Pegula. But Marino’s ranking is back on the comeup again as she enters 2024 both healthy and fit).

McCartney Kessler (USA): No. 206 =========> No. 177 (Kessler, 24, got the USTA’s reciprocal wild card for the AO and made good use of it, moving into the top 200 for the first time).

Caroline Wozniacki (DEN): No. 252 =========> No. 204 (Wozniacki was gone too long to take advantage of the maternity-leave ranking. But she’s slowly getting her real ranking back up there although she’ll be disappointed with her AO performance, losing to the inexperienced Timofeeva. She can get top-20 wild cards wherever she wants to play. And so will carry on).

Amanda Anisimova (USA): No. 442 =========> No. 214 (Anisimova took a personal break in 2023, when her ranking was in the mid-60s but falling, as she was really struggling with things. She announced her return in Melbourne with a new coach in Marc Lucero and run to the fourth round and through Samsonova, Podoroska and Badosa. That cut that real ranking in half. She’ll have plenty more opportunity to use a protected ranking to play more big events).

Clervie Mgounoue (USA): No. 490 =========> No. 402 (The 17-year-old American appears done with the junior circuit. But she rose 88 spots in the WTA rankings with her quarter-final effort in Vero Beach, ater winning a $25K in Naples, Fla. the previous week).

Angelique Kerber (GER): No. 655 =========> No. 607 (Kerber is another new mom playing on a protected ranking, who has looked sort of middling in her matches since her return this month. She got a tough draw, too, facing former finalist Danielle Collins in the first round and going down. Kerber took a wild card into Linz this week).

Layne Sleeth (CAN): No. 745 =========> No. 651 (The 22-year-old Canadian, a recent university graduate, moved up nearly 100 spots with her efforts in Vero Beach on the ITF circuit. It’s a distance from her career high, reached when she was still 17 back in 2019. But she’s just getting started in her “real” pro career. Her doubles ranking stands at a career high No. 338).

Carson Branstine (CAN): No. 902 =========> No. 843 (The 23-year-old Canadian-American, who finished her college career, is moving up the rankings at the lower levels of the ITF circuit as quickly as she can. Mostly in Tunisia. She qualified and won a round in her first two events, taking her ranking from infinity to No. 843 in the process. Last week, she won her first tournament at the W35 level. When those points show up next week, she’ll make a nice jump ).

ON THE DOWNSWING

Elena Rybakina (KAZ): No. 3 =========> No. 5 (Still in the top five, Rybakina was shocked by Anna Blinkova in the second round in Melbourne, thus dropping two spots. That crazy 22-20 match tiebreak won’t soon be forgotten).

Victoria Azarenka (BLR): No. 22 =========> No. 33 (Azarenka had a tough opener against Camia Giorgi, and got through. She also had a tough time against Clara Tauson and in the end, didn’t have much to get past Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round. After a semifinal last year, she drops out of the top 30).

Donna Vekic (CRO): No. 25 =========> No. 34 (Vekic came down to Australia, but it was fairly evident she wasn’t 100 per cent as she first pulled out of a pre-AO exhibition, then lost in the first round to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova).

Zhu Lin (CHN): No. 32 =========> No. 45 (Zhu was a great story a year ago in Oz, beating Maria Sakkari and making the fourth round. It shot her ranking up from 87 to 54. And then she won the WTA event in Thailand, which bumped her up near the top 40. Seeded No. 29, she found herself out of the tournament in the first round this year at the hands of Océane Dodin. She’s the No. 2 seed in Thailand this week and did get through her first round Tuesday).

Magda Linette (POL): No. 24=========> No. 56 (Linette had a lot tied up in her semifinal run in Melbourne last year. And from the looks of it she didn’t come in healthy, and retired down 6-2, 2-0 to Wozniacki in the first round. Linette played everything last year – 24 tournaments – and finished the season quite late. Seems like it took a toll, as it so often does).

Camila Giorgi (ITA): No. 53 =========> No. 68 (You never know where Giorgi’s ranking will be at any random point of the year; such is the feast-or-family nature of her results. A third round last year in Melbourne was backed up by a first-round loss this year – i.e., not backed up. To be fair, getting Azarenka in the first round was tough luck, too. So she drops).

Karolina Pliskova (CZE): No. 38 =========> No. 77 (Pliskova’s ranking about doubles, as last year’s quarterfinalists lost in the first round this year. Another tough-luck draw, as she faced 2023 finalist Rybakina. She has plenty of points to defend during the Middle East swing in February, where she had to qualify in Doha despite being in the top 20. She might be in the same boat this year; you get the sense that she’s kind of winding it down).

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Bianca Andreescu (CAN): No. 106 =========> No. 115 (It’s been one-way traffic for the Canadian, who hasn’t played since Montreal last summer. Last word we have she might not be back until April. In the meantime, she has semifinal points to defend this week in Thailand, where she retired during her match against Lesia Tsurenko. Without those, she’ll drop another 30 spots although she does return, she would have yet another protected-ranking period).

Linda Fruhvirtova (CZE): No. 84 =========> No. 126 (For the first time this week, 18-year-old Linda is below little sister Brenda on the rankings charts. It’s too soon to know if this will be a gut punch or a kick start, as big sister’s example might well be followed by her similarly-gamed sister. Getting into the top 100 is one thing if you’re a steady player who competes hard. Staying there is rather another matter, as Linda has found out).

Caty McNally (USA): No. 145 =========> No. 171 (McNally was ranked No. 67 at Wimbledon. And she hasn’t played since. She’s expected back imminently, but that’s a long time to be out.

Shelby Rogers (USA): No. 161 =========> No. 187 (Rogers also had been out since Wimbledon, when her ranking was No. 49, before finally returning at the Australian Open on a protected ranking. She has won just one match since playing her hometown event in Charleston. She lost in the first round to the also returning Emma Raducanu. On the plus side, she’s a newlywed).

Zhang Shuai (CHN): No. 255 =========> No. 603 (Zhang played FAR too much tennis when she just wasn’t in a state of mind to complete in 2023, before FINALLY giving herself a break. Zhang made the fourth round in Australia last year – and then won her first-round match against Madison Brengle in Lyon the following week – only to lose every match she played the rest of the season until her final one in Montreal. There are a lot of Chinese players back in the fray these days – Wang Yafan, Zheng Saisai, Wang Qiang – but no sign yet of the 35-year-old. This is undoubtedly a good thing, at least for now).

THE CANADIANS

DOUBLES RANKINGS

THE ROAD TO THE FINALS (Singles)

THE ROAD TO THE FINALS (Doubles)

 

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