World No.4 Naomi Osaka can leave Melbourne as the youngest WTA World No.1 since Caroline Wozniacki. Only the Czech duo can stop her.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
January 23, 2019

MELBOURNE, Australia - A new WTA World No.1 is set to be crowned as the Battle for No.1 heads into the Australian Open semifinals. Eleven women had a chance to leave Melbourne with the top spot at the start of the tournament. Now three women are left to duke it out over the final three days of the Australian Open.

No.4 Naomi Osaka, No.6 Petra Kvitova, and No.8 Karolina Pliskova each booked their spots in the final four, and as it stands, the 21-year-old from Japan is in line to become the first Japanese player, man or woman, to ascend to the No.1 ranking unless either Kvitova or Pliskova win the Australian Open title. 

While Kvitova's win over Ashleigh Barty in the quarterfinals guaranteed there would be a New No.1, ending Simona Halep's 48-week reign at the top, Osaka's win over No.6 Elina Svitolina allowed her to pass Kvitova on points. The 2018 US Open champion edged ahead of Kvitova and Pliskova, meaning the Czechs will have to run the table to unseat her. 

Here's the updated point table for the remainder of the tournament: 

The semifinal in the bottom half of the draw is set, with Kvitova set to face surprise semifinalist No.35 Danielle Collins for a spot in Saturday's final. 

Pliskova's dramatic comeback to oust Serena Williams in the quarterfinals on Wednesday kept the former No.1 in the running for a return to the top spot. Pliskova and Osaka face-off in Thursday's semifinal, with each woman seeking to make their first Australian Open final and second major final. A Pliskova win would freeze Osaka's point total at 5,810 points.

Kvitova, who reached a career-high No.2 in 2011, must go one round better than Osaka for a chance of rising to No.1. Additionally, if Pliskova reaches the final then Kvitova would need to win the title to book her spot at No.1. A semifinalist here in 2012, Kvitova came within two wins of becoming No.1 during that Australian Open run, where she lost a tense three-set battle with Maria Sharapova in the semifinals. 
   
Pliskova, who became the first woman representing the Czech Republic to hold the No.1 ranking in 2017, must win the title to return to the top spot. 

With the tight point spread amongst Osaka, Kvitova, and Pliskova, there is a good possibility that Saturday's final could be a match for both the title and for the No.1 ranking.

  • If Osaka and Kvitova advance to the final, the winner will be No.1.
  • If Kvitova and Pliskova advance to the final, the all-Czech Derby will decide the No.1.
  • If Pliskova and Collins advance to the final, Pliskova must win to retake the No.1 ranking.
  • If Osaka and Collins advance to the final, Osaka will have already clinched the No.1 ranking regardless of the result.