Analysis: Three battling it out at Australian Open to be WTA world number one

Naomi Osaka Petra Kvitova Karolina Pliskova

There will be a new WTA world number one after the Australian Open, but who could it be and what needs to happen?

Since Serena Williams stepped away from the tour to concentrate on the demands of motherhood, the only predictable thing about women’s tennis has been its unpredictability.

Williams, of course, is very much back in the fold now, albeit it with a reduced schedule. Indeed, she reached two Grand Slam finals last season without even appearing to warm-up for the rest of the year.

However, as we speak, it is Simona Halep who sits atop the world rankings. That’s a fair reflection on 2018, too, given her French Open title and her Australian Open final appearance.

She is set to be replaced at the top following her defeat to Williams in Melbourne when the fresh rankings are calculated next week.

The question, though, is who is going to replace her? The Australian Open quarter-finals saw the list of possibilities reduce to just three:

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka celebrates at Australian Open

Osaka is who the tennis world believes to be the true heiress to Williams’ crown in women’s tennis. Motherhood or no motherhood, Serena is 37 now, and even she can’t defeat the demands of age forever.

Japanese star Osaka famously, or infamously, beat Williams in the final of the US Open last year, so everyone knows she has what it takes.

She is currently ranked fourth in the world, but will become world number one next week should she equal or better the performance of Petra Kvitova in Melbourne.

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova celebrates

No one would begrudge Petra Kvitova a spell at world number one.

Kvitova is a two-time Wimbledon champion and former world number two who, in December 2016, suffered “severe” injuries to her racket hand when defending herself from a knife-wielding home-intruder.

The then 26-year-old suffered deep cuts to the four fingers and underwent surgery to help repair the ligaments and tendons. It cost her 18 months out of the game.

She is back now though and looking strong. Kvitova announced her return last year by winning in Birmingham and is enjoying an exceptional Australian Open.

Should she go further than Osaka, she will claim the world number one.

Karolina Pliskova

Karolina Pliskova celebrates

Pliskova is the outsider to claim the number one spot, but she was also the outsider to defeat Serena Williams from 5-1 down in the deciding set in their quarter-final, so don’t write her off.

The Czech has been on top of the pile before, in 2017, so she certainly has the proven pedigree.

However, she needs to straight up win the title in Melbourne if she’s to reclaim that position next week.


  • Kvitova must go one round better than Osaka
  • If Pliskova reaches the final, Kvitova needs to win the title
  • Osaka needs to equal or better Kvitova’s performance
  • Pliskova needs to win the title

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