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Up to the quarter-final stage of the Rome Masters, Rafa Nadal could be said to have had a fairly torrid time and when he faced Alexander Zverev for a place in the last four, many expected the German, last week’s Madrid Masters winner, to maintain his winning form over...

Pliskova to meet Ostapenko in Rome quarters

Karolina Pliskova is the sole seed in the lower half of the draw and takes on Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, while Petra Martic and Jessica Pegula will contest the last quarter on Friday.

Barty cruises, Gauff stuns Sabalenka and Svitolina swats Muguruza

World No 1 Ash Barty remains on track to add the Rome title to her expanding collection but must overcome Coco Gauff in the quarter-finals, who upset Aryna Sabalenka, the Madrid champion, at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Thursday, while Elina Svitolina took out...

Nadal one point from defeat

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Jo Konta and Venus Williams enter Nottingham

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Osaka leads march of seeds out of Rome

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Nadal back on track

Rafa Nadal, playing his first match at the Foro Italico following his quarter-final loss to Alexander Zverev at last week’s Madrid Masters, declared himself happy with his performance in overcoming Jannik Sinner in straight sets, but not so with the scheduling by the...

Konta follows Bencic and Mertens out of Rome

Seeds started to tumble at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, with Belinda Bencic and Elise Mertens followed out of the draw by Jo Konta, while Garbiñe Muguruza and Angelique Kerber were among those to win through on Tuesday.

Kvitova, Brady, Swiatek and Sakkari open Rome accounts

The Internazionali BNL d’Italia got under way at the Foro Italico in Rome on Monday, with some of the seeds in action and coming through unscathed, although Petra Kvitova had to come from a set down against Magda Linette to advance, while Jennifer Brady won in...

Evans crashes out of Rome

Dan Evans excellent run on clay over the past few weeks came to an end in the first round of the Rome Masters when h suffered a very-bad tempered loss to Taylor Fritz.
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The controversial battle for No 1

Criticism is being directed at the WTA for its interim changes to the rankings system, arising because of the 2020 WTA Tour being derailed by COVID-19, which is said to be artificially keeping Ash Barty as World No 1 when Naomi Osaka has won the last 2 Grand Slam titles.

I can’t control what anyone else does. For the tournaments or with the rankings, that’s out of my control. As for defending points, I think that’s a very negative way to look at it. Ash Barty

The WTA announced the changes to the system to prevent coronavirus unfairly affecting a player’s standing, and adopted a ‘frozen rankings’ system instead of the usual rolling 52 week calculator, which enabled a player’s best 16 results in tournaments since March 2019 to determine where they sit on the list.

The debate, no doubt, will rumble on, but in essence, Barty’s claim to the top spot comes as a result of her red-hot second half of the 2019 season, which has remained protected.

The 24-year-old chose not to travel outside of Australia in the middle of the global pandemic and only returned to the court during the lead-up events to this year’s Australian Open after an absence of 11 months.

The rankings are now being labelled ‘deeply out of sync’ with the reality that Barty’s position does not reflect her true place in the pecking order.

Since the 2018 US Open final, Osaka has won 4 of the 9 Grand Slams held, and although Barty won the French Open in 2019, she has only reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam twice in her career.

While Barty chose not to defend her title in Paris, her ranking remained protected, but a disappointing quarter-final loss to Karolina Muchova in Melbourne has underlined the frailties of the temporary system.

Despite Muchova being criticised for appearing to take a questionable medical time out before the match was flipped on its head, the fact is that Barty missed a golden opportunity to win her home Grand Slam, and now faces an uphill battle to retain her ranking by the time Wimbledon rolls around.


Naomi Osaka has won 2 Grand Slams in a row for the second time in her career and many believe she is the rightful World No 1

© William West/AFP via Getty Images

Barty shrugs off both disappointment and expectations, continuing ‘to go about her business’ as best as she can.

With Osaka now the newly crowned AO champion, many see the Japanese as the best player on the Tour at the moment.

Osaka also won the US Open in September 2020 and her Melbourne Park success saw her move up to No 2 this week, with Barty staying top largely thanks to the two-year rankings system adopted to counter last year’s enforced coronavirus-enforced hiatus.

“There’s no extra pressure,” Barty has said. “The extra pressure is non-existent for me.

“It’s just trying to go about my business and my training, my processes the right way for what works for me and my team.

“And that’s all that matters to us, really, is that we go about it the right way and make the right decisions for the right reasons and then we sleep well at night, regardless of what happens next to our name.

“I can’t control what anyone else does. For the tournaments or with the rankings, that’s out of my control.

“As for defending points, I think that’s a very negative way to look at it.

“Obviously I go back to tournaments knowing that I’ve had successes there. I’ve had good memories.”

Barty said last week that she will travel outside Australia this year, and her confidence has not been dented by her quarter-final defeat.

“We’ve planned and we’ve entered to play a few of the tour events coming up in the Middle East,” she said of her plan now.

“Right from the get-go, obviously it’s the first time we’ve looked to travel for quite some time now.

“We’ll sit back and kind of go through all of the health risks that are at this stage and to where we’re going, then we just work from there.”

Yet defending points is what makes the tour tick, and Barty has several key events over the next 5 months where she now has to defend significant rankings points, while Osaka has much greater scope to pick up points in the same time period.

Barty’s lead at the top with 9,186 points appears certain to come under siege from Osaka, who has 7,835 points, while Simona Halep is also in the race with 7,255 points.

Many believe Barty and Osaka will form a great on-court rivalry on the WTA Tour over the coming few years.

“I’ve only played her a couple times,” Barty said. “We haven’t played a lot.

“Obviously it’s depending on how the draw falls in a lot of tournaments. So hopefully it’s an opportunity for me to play against her in some big moments in big tournaments.

“That’s what we dream of is trying to put yourself in a position to win big titles. So maybe it will happen one day but for the time being that’s not what I’m stressed about.”

For now, Barty focuses on the defence of her title at the Adelaide International, taking it just one step at a time.

“We plan as best as we can,” the 24-year-old told reporters in Adelaide on Monday.

“Obviously in the current situation nothing’s certain. It’s difficult to plan, without a doubt, but we just go with the advice that we have been given.

“Of course I would love to be back on tour full-time, and all those decisions will come as close as we can to the events, but also as far out to try and plan a schedule and plan a tour.”





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