Can Naomi Osaka hold onto No.1 in Stuttgart?

Published by Tennismash

ONE TO WATCH: Naomi Osaka is hoping to hold onto the No.1 ranking in Stuttgart this week; Getty Images
Naomi Osaka begins her clay court season in Stuttgart this week, where her No.1 ranking is under threat.

World No.1 Naomi Osaka has a lot to prove this clay court season.

The 21-year-old might have won the past two Grand Slam tournaments, but even she admits her clay court form is questionable.

“Every other court or (surface), I have more experience than I have on clay because honestly, every time I come here I get injured,” Osaka told reporters in Stuttgart.

“I’m hoping that won’t happen this year.

“Every clay season I missed out on at least one tournament. So honestly, my main goal is to not get injured and just ride it up until French Open.”

Osaka only won three matches on European clay last season, which means she has few ranking points to defend in coming weeks. However the reigning Australian Open champion is still at risk of losing her No.1 ranking this week in Stuttgart.

FEATURE: Who has the most clay ranking points to defend?

The top-seeded Osaka, who receives a first round bye, needs to reach the quarterfinals to retain her top ranking. If she does not, Petra Kvitova could overtake with a title-winning run this week.

Simona Halep would have also been in contention for a No.1 return, but the reigning Roland Garros champion withdrew from the tournament with a left hip injury.

Osaka’s opening opponent will be either China’s Wang Qiang or Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh. They play their first-round match on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Belgian Elise Mertens and Latvian Jelena Ostapenko were among the high-profile first round casualties yesterday.

Mertens went out in straight sets to Daria Kasatkina.

The 21-year-old Russian, who entered the tournament with a 4-7 season record, saved set points in both sets to beat the No.18-ranked Mertens 7-6(8) 7-5 in a little under two hours.

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Ostapenko, the French Open 2017 champion, went down 6-2 4-6 6-0 to compatriot Anastasija Sevastova.

Sixth seed Kiki Bertens defeated German qualifier Anna-Lena Friedsam 7-5 6-2, former Stuttgart champion Laura Siegemund saw off the challenge of Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 6-2, and Andrea Petkovic beat qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3 6-4 to move into the next round.

Top seed out in Istanbul

World No.117 Lara Arruabarrena started her Istanbul campaign in style, upsetting top seed Carla Suarez Navarro. The 27-year-old Spaniard defeated her No.27-ranked compatriot 6-4 7-5.

It was a rough day for seeded players, with No.7 Katerina Siniakova, No.8 Maria Sakkari and No.9 Viktoria Kuzmova also eliminated.

Second seed Mihaela Buzarnescu bucked the trend, with the world No.30 proving too strong for Julia Glushko in a 6-4 6-4 opening round win.

Wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion currently ranked No.98 and returning from a knee injury, defeated local favourite Cagla Buyukakcay 6-3 7-6(4).

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