The winners in this week of Wuhan and a smaller event in Tashkent, Uzbekistan that is in its final edition, are the resurgent Aryna Sabalenka, and Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck.
For Sabalenka, who has had a crisis of confidence in 2019 (and even fired coach Dmitry Tursunov for a brief nanosecond), a return to territory where she had so much success a year ago was a tonic.
Sabalenka seeded No. 9, defeated unseeded Alison in a Wuhan final that didn’t exactly go according to form.
The Belarussian had beaten No. 6 Kiki Bertens in the third round, and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the semis.
In doing so, she defended her title and the 900 ranking points that went with it. Which had to be a relief, even if it didn’t do anything for a ranking that remains at No. 14.
For Van Uytvanck, who never got past the second round of any major this year, Tashkent was her second title of the season, fourth of her career.
This week’s Premier Mandatory in Beijing has already begun, with main-draw matches as early as Saturday.
It it not, however, as full a draw as it could be. Missing are both Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, although US Open champion Bianca Andreescu is back in action.
ON THE UPSWING
Simona Halep (ROU): No. 6 =============> No. 5 (Halep slides past the idle Andreescu, even if she had to retire in her second match (third round) with a back issue).
Sloane Stephens (USA): No. 15 =============> No. 12 (Stephens made the third round in Wuhan. But since she lost in the first round last year, that’s a net plus).
Petra Martic (CRO): No. 22 =============> No. 17 (The Croat returns to the top 20 and to a career high with a quarterfinal effort in Wuhan).
Alison Riske (USA): No. 35 =============> No. 24 (A surprise final in Wuhan and a career-high trip to the top 25. Married life clearly suits the 29-year-old American).
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS): No. 45=============> No. 42 (The 22-year-old ended the 2018 season ranked No. 115 and has gradually climbed the ranks all year, to another career high this week)
Elena Rybakina (KAZ): No. 50 =============> No. 43 (The 20-year-old from Kazakstan, a wild card into Wuhan, reaches the quarterfinals – benefiting from a retirement in the round of 16 by Simona Halep) and gets to the quarterfinals and a new career best).
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL): No. 61=============> No. 44 (The Belgian wins her second WTA title of the season in the now-defunct Tashkent).
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS): No. 69 =============> No. 56 (After a late start this season, and no results at all at the majors, Kuznetsova qualifies and gets to the third round in Wuhan, helping her own cause).
Sorana Cirstea (ROU): No. 96 =============> No. 75 (It hasn’t been much of a season for the 29-year-old Romanian. But she salvages part of it nicely with a finals appearance in Tashkent).
Christina Mchale (USA): No. 104 =============> No. 90 (The former No. 24 is back in the top 100 for the first time since just before the 2018 US Open).
Anna Kalinskaya (RUS): No. 116 =============> No. 100 (The 20-year-old Russian breaks into the top 100 for the first time after a quarter-final effort in Tashkent).
Katarina Zavatska (UKR): No. 142 =============> No. 118 (A career high for the 19-year-old from Ukraine).
Varvara Gracheva (RUS): No. 144 =============> No. 121 (Another 19-year-old on the come-up as the Russian wins the $60K ITF in Valencia, Spain with the loss of only one set. It’s her second consecutive title at the $60,000 level).
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN): No. 157 =============> No. 151 (She lost to the No. 272 player in the world in the first round of an ITF last week. But the way the numbers shook out, with 10 players within 10 points of each other in that part of the rankings, she moves up.
ON THE DOWNSWING
Qiang Wang (CHN): No. 16 =============> No. 20 (Wang lost in the third round in Wuhan, after reaching the semifinals a year ago. Worse for her, as she’s defending another semi in Beijing, is that happened Sunday in her first-round match against Ajla Tomljanovic. Wang was up 7-5, 5-2, and two points away from the win twice. But a right leg cramp forced her to retire, up 5-4 in the second set. Tomljanovic was superb in supporting her opponent. The upshot is that Wang will drop another nearly 400 ranking points next Monday).
Anett Kontaveit (EST): No. 20 =============> No. 25 (The injured Kontaveit lost a little bit of ground).
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS): No. 36 =============> No. 40
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR): No. 51 =============> No. 60 (She faces US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the first round of Beijing).
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS): No. 55 =============> No. 79 (The Russian with the one-handed backhand was the defending champion in Tashkent. But she lost in the second round this year).
Monica Puig (PUR): No. 71 =============> No. 83 (Puig lost in the second round in Wuhan after going from the quaifying to the quarterfinals a year ago. She has no points to defend the rest of the year. But she lost in a third-set tiebreak in the first round of Beijing to Saisai Zheng. Crazy stat: Puig now is 0-13 in third-set tiebreaks at the WTA level).
Anastasia Potapova (RUS): No. 73=============> No. 89
Daria Gavrilova (AUS): No. 122 =============> No. 145 (One-way traffic for the Aussie).
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK): No. 109 =============> No. 159 (Still inactive, the 30-year-old’s ranking is actively plummeting).
Rebecca Marino (CAN): No. 237 =============> No. 283 (No word when she’ll return, but it has to be discouraging to look at the numbers. Points from a title at the $25K ITF in Lubbock, Texas a year ago fall off).
Road to Shenzhen
Serena Williams, who pulled out of Beijing this week, will shut down her season unless she qualifies for the year-end finals.
And even then, it would be a pretty big challenge to rev up the machine again.
But there are three fairly close behind who will work to push her out of the top eight.
In the doubles race, Wuhan champions Mertens and Sabalenka move into the No. 1 spot.