The fight for top spot in the WTA Rankings will resume at the first WTA 1000 event of the season in February with Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka once again going head-to-head.
With Sabalenka successfully defending her Australian Open title and Swiatek losing in the third round, the Pole’s lead at the top has been trimmed to 865 points.
Both players will next be in action at the Qatar Open, which runs from February 12-25 in Doha.
There is further bad news for Swiatek – or good news for Sabalenka if you want to look at it that way – as the Pole will drop another 470 points before the tournament as she is the defending champion in Doha.
That will put the four-time Grand Slam winner on 9,300 points while Sabalenka will remain on 8,905 points as she didn’t compete in Qatar last year. It is effectively a 395-point lead for Swiatek while Coco Gauff will be a distant third as she will drop 100 points.
Iga Swiatek 9,300
Aryna Sabalenka 8,905
Coco Gauff 7,100
A title run for Sabalenka coupled with an early defeat for Swiatek would’ve resulted in a change at No 1 in the rankings last year, but there is another twist to their battle.
This year’s Qatar Open is a WTA 1000 with the winner earning 1,000 points, the runner-up 650 points and a semi-finalist 390.
It means Swiatek will be assured of staying at No 1 just by reaching the final even if Sabalenka wins the title as the 650 points would give her a 1,045-point advantage.
The best reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff can do is to close the gap between the two front-runners as she will break the 8,000-point barrier for the first time in her career if she wins the title.
But the top three in the rankings won’t have it all their own way as the top 16 players in the WTA Rankings are all on the entry list for the WTA 1000 event.
Even if Swiatek ends up holding onto her No 1 ranking after Doha, Sabalenka will get another bite at the cherry at Dubai Tennis Championships – another WTA 1000 event – and this time Gauff could be in with a shout as well if she wins in Qatar.
Swiatek finished runner-up last year so she will drop 585 points, Sabalenka lost in the quarter-final (190 points) while Gauff lost in the semi-final (350 points).
But success is not guaranteed for the top three as all the big guns will once again compete in the United Arab Emirates.