Over the next 10 weeks the world’s best players will slide and grind in clay-court tournaments across four different continents, in a swing that culminates with the French Open in June.
The green clay of Charleston is the first stop as the WTA Tour’s clay swing begins this week, with defending champion Daria Kasatkina one of seven top-20 players in the field.
World No.1 and last year’s French Open runner-up Simona Halep is not slated to start her clay campaign until Stuttgart later this month – and when she does, the pressure will be on.
Halep has 3070 points defend on clay, more than a third of her current ranking total. With world No.2 Caroline Wozniacki only defending nine per cent of her ranking points, Halep needs a strong showing to retain her No.1 ranking.
Reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko has 2645 points to defend – which equates to almost half of her ranking total.
|Rank||Player||Points defending||% of point total|
Keep an eye on: Sloane Stephens, who won Charleston in 2016, missed last year’s clay swing with injury. With no points to defend, the American could climb much higher than her current career high of No.9.
In trouble: Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic was a finalist in Stuttgart and Madrid last year, before making a stirring run to the Roland Garros quarterfinals. The 24-year-old has struggled with form and consistency since, adding to the pressure as she aims to defend 60 per cent of her ranking points.
Beware: Former world No.1s Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka missed last year’s clay swing, while Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber also have little to defend. These former Grand Slam champions all have a great chance to make big ranking improvements.
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