Highlights from final round action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Top 10 debuts on the WTA these days are like London buses: wait ages for one, then two come along at once.
Hot on the heels of Belinda Bencic onto the Top 10 bus is the evergreen Roberta Vinci, who – in spite of an early exit at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – hopped aboard on Monday.
Having closed in on the Top 10 with victory in St. Petersburg, Carla Suárez Navarro’s second-round loss in Dubai and the absences of Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams saw Vinci leapfrog her previous highest ranking of No.11.
It is the latest highlight of a remarkable return to form for Vinci, who last summer was ranked as low as No.58 before reviving her career with that run at the US Open.
The Italian, who turned 33 last week, is the 117th – and oldest – player to make their Top 10 debut and on Monday celebrated her ascent by dismissing Lesia Tsurenko, 6-2, 6-1, in the first round of the Qatar Total Open.
At the Australian Open, Vinci dropped hints on potential retirement dates, but with relatively few points to defend between now and August, this topic of conversation is likely to be shelved for the foreseeable future.
And Vinci is not the only upwardly mobile Italian.
Sara Errani (+5, No.22 to No.17): On Saturday, Sara Errani defeated Barbora Strycova in the Dubai final to lift the ninth, and most significant, title of her career. After slipping down the rankings following two wins in her first three tournaments of the year, the 28-year-old’s return to form takes her back into the Top 20.
Barbora Strycova (+9, No.47 to No.38): Errani’s victim in the final also enjoyed a productive week, victories over Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Garcia taking her back into the Top 40 for the first time since August.
Francesca Schavone (+38 No.132 to No.94): Having been an ever-present just shy of 15 years, last summer, Francesca Schiavone finally surrendered her place in the Top 100. However, at the Rio Open the 36-year-old rolled back the years to lift her first title since 2013 and jump back to No.94 in the rankings.
Shelby Rogers (+23, No.131 to No.108): Also enjoying a productive first outing of the year on clay was Shelby Rogers, who saw off No.8 seed Andreea Mitu and former World No.21 Sorana Cirstea before being edged out by Schiavone in the final.
It’s another milestone week for the WTA with Serena Williams hitting 157 consecutive weeks at No.1, passing Martina Navratilova for the second-longest streak at No.1 in WTA history.
Williams’ streak began in 2013 after defeating Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open; the American hadn’t been ranked No.1 in over two years after a foot injury and pulmonary embolism left her very career in question. Overcoming incredible adversity, a near-perfect 2012 season the the stage for the now-21-time Grand Slam champion to take back No.1 from Victoria Azarenka just over three years ago; she hasn’t reliquished the top spot since.
During this latest reign at No.1, Williams has won six major titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments – including two French and US Open titles – and remains one major victory away from tying Steffi Graff, who not only holds the Open Era record at 22 Grand Slam titles, but also has the longest streak for consecutive weeks at No.1 (186 weeks).