As the WTA Tour returns to her favourite clay surface, Simona Halep has a target on her back.
The reigning Roland Garros champion is preparing to defend a Grand Slam title for the first time – which means a lot of ranking points to defend too.
Halep, who got within one win of a No.1 return in Miami last week, earned 2900 ranking points during last year’s clay-court season. This equates to half of her current ranking-points total.
World No.1 Naomi Osaka is in a strikingly different situation. The reigning Australian Open champion earned just 255 points on clay in 2018, the least among all current top 20 players. With only four per cent of her ranking total to defend, Osaka’s hold on the No.1 ranking is looking more secure.
Maria Sharapova, a two-time French Open champion, has the highest percentage of points to defend among all top 30 players.
Below is a snapshot of the ranking points the world’s top players are defending in clay-court tournaments across four different continents over the next 10 weeks, culminating with the French Open:
|Rank||Player||Points defending||% of points total|
|27||Carla Suarez Navarro||287||16%|
On the rise: Belinda Bencic and Bianca Andreescu are two of the most in-form players so far in 2019. Both have a chance to continue their rapid ranking rises, with few ranking points to defend on clay.
Under pressure: Sloane Stephens, who only scored six wins in her first six tournaments in 2019, needs to find form quickly. The American, who was a finalist at Roland Garros last year, has 1527 ranking points to defend on clay.
Pressure free: French Open 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko entered last year’s clay swing with 2645 points to defend. This year, she has just 310. It means the 21-year-old, a former world No.5 who has slipped outside the world’s top 30, can play with less pressure – a dangerous proposition for her opponents.
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