Coco Gauff has another golden chance to earn new WTA Rankings milestone

Shahida Jacobs
Aryna Sabalenka v Coco Gauff
Aryna Sabalenka v Coco Gauff battle for No 2 ranking

Coco Gauff will have another shot at reaching a new career-high of No 2 in the WTA Rankings at this week’s Italian Open as she is set to battle it out with incumbent Aryna Sabalenka.

Reigning US Open champion Gauff as well as Elena Rybakina had the opportunity to replace Sabalenka at No 2 at the Madrid Open, but the Belarusian held off her rivals as she gave a superb fighting display as she finished runner-up to Iga Swiatek at the WTA 1000 event.

Gauff, meanwhile, lost in the fourth round while Sabalenka defeated Rybakina in the semi-final.

Swiatek remains well clear at No 1 in the official rankings with a 3,000-plus lead while the Madrid results have helped Gauff to edge closer to Sabalenka as she is now 185 points adrift while the fourth-ranked Rybakina is another 640 points behind.

The top five in the rankings have been unchanged since the start of the year.

Top Five In WTA Rankings

1. Iga Swiatek – 10,910
2. Aryna Sabalenka – 7,498
3. Coco Gauff – 7,313
4. Elena Rybakina – 6,673
5. Jessica Pegula – 4,655

Rybakina is the defending champion in Rome over the next fortnight and it means she won’t be able to overtake Sabalenka as she will drop 1,000 points, leaving Gauff as Sabalenka’s only challenger for the No 2 spot.

READ MORE: Coco Gauff makes ‘top priority’ statement as she assesses importance of Olympics and Grand Slams

There is good news for both Sabalenka and Gauff as they don’t have a lot of points to defend at the WTA 1000 event as the former lost in the second round last year while Gauff went one round better.

Top 5 in Live WTA Rankings

1. Iga Swiatek – 10,705
2. Aryna Sabalenka – 7,498
3. Coco Gauff – 7,258
4. Elena Rybakina – 5,683
5. Jessica Pegula – 4,655

The permutations are simple for Gauff as she needs to reach at least the semi-final to have any chance of usurping Sabalenka to reach No 2 for the first time in her career. However, that can only happen if two-time Australian Open winner Sabalenka loses before the quarter-final.

If the Belarusian reaches the last eight or last four, then Gauff needs to reach the final. If Sabalenka reaches the final, then Gauff will need to win the title.

The pair are on the opposite side of the draw for the Italian Open and can only meet in the final, but Gauff could potentially face Swiatek in the semi-final while Sabalenka is in the same half as Rybakina.

Sabalenka will open her campaign against either Wang Yafan or Katie Volynets in the second round while Gauff will face Magdalena Frech.

READ MORE: Aryna Sabalenka weighs in on being part of a ‘Big 3’ with Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina