Internazionali BNL d'Italia semifinalists Maria Sharapova and Anett Kontaveit both receive ranking boosts, while there's a Top 100 debut for 20-year-old Viktoria Kuzmova.
Alex Macpherson
May 21, 2018

Former World No.1 Maria Sharapova's fortunes are looking up after a strong showing in Rome and Madrid.

The Russian's progress had been derailed at the start of the year as a third-round loss to Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open kickstarted a four-match losing streak, Sharapova's longest since 2003, and a slip outside the Top 50. But an encouraging fortnight in Madrid, where she made the quarterfinals, and Rome, where she lost to Simona Halep in the semifinals, alongside re-hired coach Thomas Hogstedt has seen the 31-year-old rebound.

Read more: Sharapova survives Ostapenko in epic Rome thriller

Last week's run at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia was Sharapova's biggest semifinal run since she made the last four at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in 2015, and included three hard-fought three-setters over No.16 seed Ashleigh Barty, Dominika Cibulkova and No.5 seed Jelena Ostapenko.

With her new ranking of No.29, Sharapova has achieved her stated goal at the start of the week to make the likely Roland Garros seeds.

Here are some of this week's most notable ranking movers:

Anett Kontaveit (+1, 26 to 25): The Estonian powered to her second Premier semifinal of this year's clay season in Rome with a run that was spectacular for both her breathtaking hitting and the names she mowed down: No.12 seed and Stuttgart finalist CoCo Vandeweghe, former Roland Garros champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, seven-time major winner Venus Williams and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki. Kontaveit's reward is a new career high ranking.

Maria Sharapova (+11, 40 to 29): Battling clay-court three-setters have been a Sharapova signature in several previous seasons, and there were echoes of those years in her wins from a set down against Dominika Cibulkova and Jelena Ostapenko in Rome.

Maria Sakkari (+3, 42 to 39): The Greek No.1 was a giant-killer in Rome, defeating two of this year's clay champions in her opening two rounds: Charleston winner (and Madrid runner-up) Kiki Bertens in the first round, followed by a second career Top 10 victory over Stuttgart titlist Karolina Pliskova in the second round. As a result, Sakkari becomes just the second Greek player to crack the Top 40 following Eleni Daniilidou.

Kaia Kanepi (+8, 59 to 51): This time last year, the Estonian was ranked World No.624 and had been absent from the sport for 11 months due to sundry illnesses and injuries. Her spectacular comeback has included a US Open quarterfinal and third-round showing at the Australian Open; still playing a reduced schedule (Kanepi has played just seven tournaments in 2018), the 32-year-old qualified and made the second round in Rome before stretching Sloane Stephens to a 6-4 third set. The result takes her to the brink of the Top 50 - a group she was last ranked inside in June 2015.

Vera Lapko (+16, 93 to 77): Three weeks after making her Top 100 debut, the 19-year-old continues to rise. Lapko is now on a 10-match winning streak, and has gone 15-1 since April - a spectacular run of form that started with her first WTA semifinal in Lugano on clay, continued as she took the ITF $100,000 title in Khimki, Russia on indoor hard courts and has resumed on clay with the ITF $60,000 title in Saint-Gaudens, France. Across the last two events, Lapko dropped just one set, to Jaimee Fourlis in the Saint-Gaudens semifinals. With five Top 100 wins under her belt this year, the Belarusian is poised to make some noise this summer.

Amazing week for me🏆 #100k

A post shared by Vikuš Kužmová (@vikikuzmova) on

Viktoria Kuzmova (+22, 106 to 84): Another member of the 1998-born generation making a splash in 2018 is Slovakia's Kuzmova, who captured the biggest title of her career so far last week in front of her home crowd at the ITF $100,000 event in Trnava. The 20-year-old's run featured the eighth, ninth and tenth Top 100 wins of her career, over No.5 seed Madison Brengle, No.1 seed Johanna Larsson and in the final, No.3 seed (and previous year's runner-up) Veronica Cepede Royg 6-4, 1-6, 6-1. Kuzmova, who also reached her first WTA semifinal in Budapest in February as a lucky loser, becomes the ninth player to crack the Top 100 for the first time this year; she is also the 17th Slovak player in history to break the milestone, and the first debutante from her country since Kristina Kucova in July 2016.

Ayano Shimizu (+37, 235 to 198): Completing a triptych of 1998-born high-grade ITF champions this week, the Japanese 20-year-old also captured a home title at the ITF $60,000 in Kurume. Shimizu's run included her first Top 200 victory over Arina Rodionova 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.