Ash Barty is a false world No. 1Ash Barty now has to prove she deserves the No. 1 ranking.


A WTA rankings technicality is all that is keeping Ash Barty’s status as the best player in the world together.

A disappointing quarter-final elimination at the hands of Karolina Muchova has brought the Aussie champion back to the pack — but dramatic changes to the rankings system, as a result of the 2020 WTA Tour being derailed by COVID-19, is the reason Barty is still more than 1000 rankings points clear of dual Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka.

Barty’s claim to the throne relies heavily on her red-hot second half of the 2019 season.

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 Open, picking up tournament wins in Adelaide and the Melbourne Summer Series.

Lost in the dramatic fall-out to her defeat to Muchova — who was criticised for appearing to take a questionable medical time out before the match was flipped on its head — is the fact Barty faces an uphill battle to retain her ranking by the time Wimbledon rolls around.

Her reign at the top continues because of the WTA’s announcement of changes to its system used to calculate rankings points, beginning from June.

Rather than its usual rolling 52-week window, the WTA revealed it would instead rely on a player’s best 16 results in tournaments since March 2019 to determine where they sit. The governing body did not want coronavirus to unfairly affect a player’s standing, so adopted the “frozen rankings” system.

It played right into Barty’s hands — and it caused a stir in November when French star Alize Cornet publicly questioned Barty’s spot at the top.

Responding to an announcement of the rankings on Twitter, Cornet wrote: “Really @WTA?!? Big fan of Ash but come on …”

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

Since the 2018 US Open final, Osaka has won four of the nine grand slams held. No other player has won more than one.

Barty has only reached the semi-finals of a grand slam twice in her career.

New York Times tennis reporter Chris Clarey pointed the technicality out on Twitter Monday morning.

An upbeat Barty revealed after her exit last week that she will travel outside Australia this year and her confidence has not been deterred 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.”

While her confidence has not been shaken, the confidence in her from some tennis commentators has.

Tennis commentator Brett Phillips served up a dose of reality last week when he said it is no certainty that Barty will ever add to her grand slam victory at the French Open in 2019.

“That’s definitely one that got away for Ash Barty. If there was ever a chance for her to win the Australian Open it was this year,” he said.

“She’s world number one but she was never a player that was going to go on and just steam-roll grand slams,” Phillips said.

“Serena’s been a freak winning 23. Sharapova won five and really had to battle to win those five. Kerber’s won three, Osaka’s won three … I mean, Ash may only ever be a one-time grand slam winner, who knows? It’s so tough in the women’s game. It’s deep, it’s competitive.”

The unfortunate truth could be realised as early as June when Wimbledon returns after being cancelled in 2020.

She has several key events in the next five months where she is defending 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 9186 points appears certain to come under siege from Osaka (7835 points), while Simona Halep is also in the contest with 7255 points.


March — Miami Open, 1000 points to defend after tournament win

April — Madrid Open, 215 points to defend after quarter-final exit

May — French Open, 2000 points to defend after tournament win

June — Birmingham Classic, 470 points to defend after tournament win

Unknown (delayed) — Indian Wells, 120 points to defend after round of 16 exit


March — Miami Open, 65 points to defend after round of 16 exit

March — Madrid Open, 215 points to defend after quarter-final exit

April — Stuttgart Grand Prix, 185 points to defend after semi-final exit

May — French Open, 130 points to defend after third round exit

May — Rome International, 190 points to defend after quarter-final exit

June — Birmingham Classic, 55 points to defend after round of 16 exit

Unknown (delayed) — Indian Wells, 120 points to defend after round of 16 exit



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