Naomi Osaka's third Grand Slam crown, sealed last week at the US Open in a thrilling final against Victoria Azarenka, has lifted the 22-year-old back into the Top 3 in the WTA Rankings.
Osaka's title run marks another remarkable achievement for the Japanese No.1, who previously won at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open. She becomes just the fifth player in the Open Era to win her first three Grand Slam finals, following Virginia Wade, Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati, and the first ever to walk away with the trophy after her first three Grand Slam semifinal showings. Indeed, every time Osaka has progressed beyond the fourth round of a major, she has ended up winning the title. Her three Grand Slam trophies now tie her with Angelique Kerber for the fourth-highest total among active players, behind only Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters.
As in Melbourne last year, Osaka would demonstrate her supreme clutch abilities and mental strength to come through four three-setters: in the first round against compatriot Misaki Doi, the third round against Ukrainian teenager prodigy Marta Kostyuk, the semifinals against surging Jennifer Brady and the final against Azarenka.
But the past fortnight was also superb evidence of the former World No.1's ability to deal with a different kind of pressure. Having made headlines for her bold social activism this year, Osaka revealed after her first-round win that she had brought seven masks to the tournament, each bearing the name of a different Black victim of violence in the United States in recent years. She would be able to wear all seven, motivated in part to bring attention to each injustice, and her US Open would be triumph of both sport and politics, and a demonstration of their inextricable link.
As a result, Osaka rises back to World No.3, a climb of six places, a position she last held in January.
Here are some of the week's other big rankings movers:
Naomi Osaka (+6, 9 to 3): Having sunk out of the Top 5 after losing the points from her 2019 Australian Open title in January, the former World No.1 has rebounded in style following the Tour shutdown, putting together an 11-match winning streak in New York - a final run at the Western & Southern Open that ended in giving Victoria Azarenka a walkover in the final, and then a scintillating run to her third Grand Slam crown at the US Open.
Victoria Azarenka (+13, 27 to 14): It might not have been third time lucky for Azarenka in the US Open final, but the past three weeks still mark a phenomenal resurgence for the Belarusian, who entered the New York bubble ranked World No.59 and on a four-match losing streak dating back to Cincinnati the previous year. Azarenka leaves having sealed her biggest title since 2016 at the Western & Southern Open, her first Grand Slam final since the 2013 US Open and her highest ranking since January 2017.
Jennifer Brady (+16, 41 to 25): Already one of the most improved players of 2020 both before and after the Tour shutdown, the American's hot streak not only continued at the US Open but, if anything, went up yet another gear. Having never been past the fourth round at a major, Brady delivered a barrage of brutal serving and ruthless ballstriking to power past a succession of names including Caroline Garcia, former champion Angelique Kerber and Yulia Putintseva before stretching eventual winner Naomi Osaka all the way in a high-quality semifinal. Having just hit a career-high ranking of World No.40 in August, Brady smashes into another to make her Top 30 debut.
Yulia Putintseva (+5, 35 to 30): Two-time Roland Garros quarterfinalist Putintseva became the first Kazakh to reach the last eight of the US Open with a run that included victory in one of the best matches of the tournament, a dramatic fourth-round three-setter over No.8 seed Petra Martic. As a result, the 25-year-old returns to the Top 30 for the first time since May 2019, and is just three spots off the career high of World No.27 she set in February 2017.
Shelby Rogers (+38, 93 to 55): After spending 13 months sidelined due to knee surgery, the American was unranked when she returned to action last April. But Rogers put in strong results on the ITF Pro Circuit in 2019 to regain a Top 200 year-end ranking, and her comeback has gathered serious momentum over the past month: a semifinal run in Lexington, where she stunned Serena Williams in the last eight, returned the 27-year-old to the Top 100, and a second Grand Slam quarterfinal run at the US Open - which, like the first at Roland Garros 2016, also involved a three-set upset of Petra Kvitova - has boosted her to within seven places of the World No.48 career high she set in January 2017.
Patricia Maria Tig (+30, 88 to 58): At the start of last week, the narrative about mothers in tennis centred around the record three in the US Open quarterfinals - but by the end of the week, the only one holding a singles trophy was Tig in Istanbul. The Romanian had left her daughter Sofia at home when travelling to New York - where she won her first Grand Slam main draw match at the US Open - but, reunited with her family in the Turkish capital, went all the way to her first WTA title, sealing victory in a third-set tiebreak over Eugenie Bouchard. Having given birth to Sofia in November 2018, Tig's comeback began with a 10-week stint in ITF W15 tournaments in Cancun in April 2019; she was unranked as recently as last July, but this week's performance sees the 26-year-old hit a new career high, smashing the previous peak of World No.83 she set in April 2017.
Madison Brengle (+11, 84 to 73): A second-round upset of No.19 seed Dayana Yastremska at the US Open returned Brengle to the third round of her home Grand Slam for the first time since 2015, and the 30-year-old former World No.35 consequently hits her highest ranking since last August.
Paula Badosa (+7, 94 to 87): The 2015 Roland Garros junior champion reached her second career WTA semifinal in Istanbul last week via a quarterfinal upset of No.3 seed Polona Hercog, and as a result climbs back to one spot off her career-high ranking of World No.86.
Varvara Gracheva (+8, 102 to 94): The 20-year-old Russian captured headlines in the first week of the US Open with an all-time great comeback, recovering from a 1-6, 1-5 deficit and saving four match points to stun No.30 seed Kristina Mladenovic 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-0 in the second round. Having reached the third round in her first ever Grand Slam main draw, Gracheva is rewarded with a new career high.
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (+11, 106 to 95): Between Madrid 2019 and the Tour shutdown, an extended slump saw the Belarusian post a meagre 4-18 record in WTA main draws - and consequently fall out of the Top 100 for the first time in three years in February. But Sasnovich has been resurgent since the resumption, starting with a quarterfinal showing in Palermo and then backing it up in the past fortnight with a series of remarkable results in both the US Open and Istanbul: at the former, the 26-year-old saved a match point in the first round against Francesca Di Lorenzo before upsetting No.12 seed Marketa Vondrousova to reach the third round; the following week, she essayed another comeback from two match points down to defeat Zarina Diyas in Istanbul before overturning a set-and-a-break deficit against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to reach the quarterfinals.
Leylah Fernandez (+6, 104 to 98): Competing in her second Grand Slam main draw at the US Open, Fernandez knocked out former runner-up Vera Zvonareva to score her first win on a major stage before playing No.2 seed Sofia Kenin tough in a second-round loss. The Canadian becomes the second player to crack the Top 100 for the first time in 2020 - following Varvara Gracheva - in the week she has turned 18.
Ann Li (+19, 128 to 109): Like Fernandez, 2017 Wimbledon junior finalist Li made her Grand Slam main draw debut at the Australian Open in January - and also posted her first win last week. The 20-year-old American went one better, reaching the third round via her maiden Top 20 win over compatriot Alison Riske, and hits a new career high as a result.
Marta Kostyuk (+18, 137 to 119): "I was the first who broke through and the first who fell," Kostyuk told WTA Insider last May, having reached the third round of the 2018 Australian Open as a 15-year-old qualifier and a peak of World No.116 the following January - but sinking back down to World No.320 by April 2019. Now, the Ukrainian - still only 18 - is back and better than ever, having reached the third round again in her second Grand Slam main draw - a run that involved a second-round upset of No.31 seed Anastasija Sevastova before stretching eventual champion Naomi Osaka all the way in a compelling three-set defeat.
Tereza Martincova (+15, 136 to 121): The Czech's third career WTA semifinal run saw her progress all the way from qualifying to the last four of Istanbul via impressive upsets of Caroline Garcia and Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The 25-year-old Martincova is now just seven places behind the career high of World No.114 she set in August 2017.
Elisabetta Cocciaretto (+16, 144 to 128): The rising 19-year-old Italian, who reached her maiden WTA quarterfinal at home a month ago in Palermo, delivered another sterling performance in the unique 128-draw test that was the Prague Open 125K. Seeded No.2 in the replacement for US Open qualifying, Cocciaretto held her seed to reach the biggest final of her career to date, defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Nadia Podoroska en route - and reaches a new career high this week.
Nadia Podoroska (+35, 165 to 130): The Argentinian Pan American Games gold medallist has been in terrific form throughout 2020, both before and after the Tour pause. Podoroska started the year with a 14-match winning streak encompassing two ITF W25 titles in Malibu and Guadeloupe and a maiden WTA 125K semifinal run in Newport Beach; over the last fortnight, the 23-year-old posted another last-four showing at 125K level in Prague and backed that up with her first ITF W60 trophy in Saint-Malo to extend her season win-loss record to an eyebrow-raising 35-6. Having reached a peak of World No.158 in May 2017 before injury struggles sidelined her for eight months, Podoroska has now sealed a new career high.
Kristina Kucova (+34, 173 to 139): The 30-year-old Slovak sealed the biggest title of her career to date at the Prague Open 125K in a run that included wins over former junior World No.1 Clara Tauson and No.2 seed Elisabetta Cocciaretto. Kucova, who hit a career high of World No.71 in September 2016 after reaching the Montréal semifinals that year, returns to her highest ranking since July 2017 as a result.
Tsvetana Pironkova (UNR to 156): Arguably the most remarkable story of the US Open this year was Pironkova's return to action. Having not competed in a professional match since Wimbledon 2017, the Bulgarian former World No.31 showed little sign of rust after over three years off - in which she had a son, Alexander, in April 2018 - to mow down a series of opponents including Garbiñe Muguruza and Donna Vekic to reach her first quarterfinal in Flushing Meadows, where she took a set off Serena Williams in an excellent contest. Pironkova is, it should be noted, used to coming out of nowhere to post big results: she had won just four WTA matches on grass before reaching the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals ranked World No.82; the following year, she had posted a main draw win-loss record of just 4-14 before reaching the SW19 quarterfinals again; and in 2014, she sealed her maiden title in Sydney as a qualifier ranked World No.107 who had not won a WTA main draw match in the previous six months. Last week's run was, then, impressively on-brand for the 32-year-old.
Eugenie Bouchard (+105, 272 to 167): An extended slump in 2019 saw the former World No.5 go on a 13-match losing streak between February and November, consequently falling to World No.328 this February - her lowest ranking since May 2012, when she was 18 years old. But Bouchard had quietly shown flashes of resurgent form this year, reaching the quarterfinals in Auckland in January and Prague on the Tour's resumption in August, and this came together in bruising fashion last week in Istanbul. Competing as a qualifying wildcard, Bouchard spent 14 hours and 56 minutes on court across seven matches, scoring marathon wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Danka Kovinic en route to reaching her first final since Kuala Lumpur 2016. There, she lost out in a third-set tiebreak to Patricia Maria Tig, but the Canadian's determination and stamina signal more positive results to come.