WTA: Who is defending what this clay season?

Published by Leigh Rogers

A massive win, a huge upset. Garbine Muguruza beats Serena Williams to win the 2016 French Open. Photo: Getty Images.

The WTA Tour’s clay swing hits off on the green dirt of Charleston this week and culminates with the second Grand Slam of the season, the French Open, in late May.

Over the next nine weeks, the world’s best women will slide and grind on clay – but who is the pressure on most when it comes to defending ranking points?

Looking at the world’s top 20 active players (excluding the injured Petra Kvitova) there are a number of them needing to defend A LOT of points. This includes reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, whose current ranking point tally is more than half built around her outstanding performance during the 2016 clay swing.

Sam Stosur and Kiki Bertens both hit exceptional form on clay last year too, highlighted by runs to the Roland Garros semifinals. Stosur is defending 1,525 ranking points during this period – which makes up more than 71% of her current points tally. Bertens is defending a similarly daunting 64% of her points. Both players need another strong clay season to remain in the world’s top 20.

The battle for No.1 is a narrative that has dominated headlines so far this season – and it doesn’t look like this will change. Serena Williams could potentially return to the top spot this month without even needing to pick up a racquet. Kerber, who has Charleston semifinals and Stuttgart title points coming off her tally in coming weeks, needs strong performances in her next two tournaments to retain top spot.

Czech Karolina Pliskova could soon enter the No.1 race discussion too. With only 286 points to defend over the next two months, she has a chance to make giant gains. Recently-demoted Serena Williams on the otherhand is defending a Rome title and French Open final, which equates to almost a third of her current ranking tally.

The full list of who is defending what this clay season:

Rank Player Points to defend  % of point total
1 Angelique Kerber  676  9%
2 Serena Williams  2,200  31%
3 Karolina Pliskova  286  4%
4 Dominika Cibulkova  781  14%
5 Simona Halep  1,242  24%
6 Garbine Muguruza  2,515  52%
7 Johanna Konta 126  2%
8 Agnieszka Radwanska  435  10%
9 Svetlana Kuznetsova  550  13%
10 Venus Williams  355  9%
11 Madison Keys  946  24%
12 Caroline Wozniacki  0  0%
13 Elina Svitolina 307  8%
14 Elena Vesnina  575  17%
16 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova  252  11%
17 Sam Stosur  1,525  71%
18 Barbora Strycova  445  21%
19 Kristina Mladenovic  282  13%
20 Timea Bacsinszky  1,020  53%
21 Kiki Bertens  1,218  64%

Keep an eye on: Caroline Wozniacki. The former world No.1 missed the clay swing with an ankle injury in 2016. With no points to defend, she looks almost a certainty to return to the world’s top 10 in coming weeks.

Potential big mover: Johanna Konta could soon be in the world’s top five. It is no secret the Brit isn’t as comfortable on clay, but with little points to defend she looks capable of setting a new career-high ranking – especially if Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza fail to defend their big point hauls.

In trouble: Timea Bacsinszky. The Swiss world No.20, who has been struggling with injury so far this season, is at risk of a big rankings drop as she aims to defend more than half her current points in the next two months.

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