Women’s tennis could have a new world number one in the very near future. The current lady who holds the coveted top spot is 21-year-old Naomi Osaka. However, following the young Japanese’s shock defeat by Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva in a second-round match at the Nature Valley Classic at Birmingham a few days ago, Osaka could be toppled from pole position.
Who could replace her as world number one? Australia’s Ashleigh Barty.
Barty has already struck gold this year by taking the crown at Roland Garros and with Osaka’s latest stumble, following on from her surprise early exit at the French Open, the 23-year-old Aussie could be about to step up.
The former lady cricketer decided to return to her beloved tennis after playing cricket for Brisbane Heat for two years in the newly formed Women's Big Bash League. But her return to tennis in 2016 was marred by a nasty bone stress injury to her arm.
However, the year 2017 saw the then 19-year-old rise up through the ranks dramatically. After starting the season ranked 250th in the women’s singles and doubles, she ended-up the year being ranked world number 20 in both.
Women’s tennis is not quite as staid as the men’s game when it comes to the top rankings. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who looks unbeatable on clay, have been at the top of the pack for twenty plus years. Noval Djokovic is also a more recent addition to the list of current men’s tennis gargantuans.
In the ladies’ game, it is the Williams sisters who have dominated the game for the past few years, especially Serena. She has been ranked world number one on eight occasions between 2002 and 2017 and remained at number one for an amazing 186 consecutive weeks.
Although she made a strong return to women’s tennis, since her pregnancy in 2017, the era of her domination of the women’s game has ended.
The next lady to reach the number one spot could well be Ashleigh Barty. If she does make it, she will be the first Australian women’s tennis player to do so for 43-years - since the great Mrs Evonne Goolagong- Cawley - Ms Barty’s idol.
Barty has the credentials. Not only did she chalk up her first Grand Slam this year by winning at Roland Garros at the beginning of June, but in her warm-up for Wimbledon at Birmingham’s Nature Valley Classic, she also beat another of the former greats - Venus Williams.
At the beginning of 2019, she got to the final of the Sydney International. On the way, she beat the 2017 Roland Garros champion, Jeļena Ostapenko and former world number one, Simona Halep. She then took Petra Kvitova to three sets in the final before being beaten 6-7 in an epic finale.
Her next outing was the Australian Open where she became the first Australian woman to reach the quarter-finals in a decade. She lost to Kvitova - a habit she may have to break if she is to win Wimbledon.
Is she capable of winning her second grand slam in a row? She certainly is, and she will be well fired-up to do so.
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