Since the resumption of the WTA Tour, few players have matched Elise Mertens' consistency across surfaces and continents. The Belgian has won at least two matches in every tournament she has played since August, including runner-up places on clay in Prague and indoors in Ostrava last year as well as a third Grand Slam quarterfinal run, at the US Open.
At the Gippsland Trophy last week, Mertens kept things motoring. The 25-year-old has historically had plentiful success in Australia, winning her maiden title in Hobart in 2017, successfully defending it the following year and backing that up with her only major semifinal to date at the 2018 Australian Open. That's the form she has once again delivered in Melbourne, demonstrating her trademark savvy and court smarts in taking out Mayo Hibi, Caroline Garcia, Elina Svitolina and Kaia Kanepi to capture the WTA 500 title - her second at this level following Doha 2019.
Mertens' performance was all the more impressive considering that a shoulder injury forced her to withdraw from this year's first tournament in Abu Dhabi - and her sixth career trophy has boosted her back up four places to World No.16, her highest position since March 2019.
Garbiñe Muguruza (+1, 15 to 14): Another player continuing a trend of success Down Under last week was Muguruza, who also won her maiden title in Hobart back in 2014 and who reached her fourth Grand Slam final at the Australian Open. The Spaniard was at her ruthless best as she took down a succession of impressive names en route to last week's Yarra Valley Classic final, including a quarterfinal revenge on Sofia Kenin, her conqueror in Melbourne a year ago. Indeed, Muguruza would lose just 10 games in four matches, a dominant streak halted only by World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the title match - and rises to her highest position since October 2018 as a result.
Danielle Collins (+6, 46 to 40): For the third straight year, Collins has opened her season by taking names in Australia. In 2019, the hard-hitting American powered to her maiden Grand Slam semifinal in Melbourne; last year, she notched up routs of Elina Svitolina, Sofia Kenin and Belinda Bencic in Brisbane and Adelaide. Last week, it was Karolina Pliskova's turn to fall victim to Collins' no-holds-barred approach in the third round of the Yarra Valley Classic, the 27-year-old's fifth Top 10 victory (and fourth on Australian soil); though Collins would fall to Serena Williams in a match tiebreak, her quarterfinal run has boosted her back into the Top 40 again.
Nadia Podoroska (+2, 47 to 45): One player making a significant statement last week was Podoroska, who surprised the tennis world last October by becoming the first qualifier in the Open Era to reach the Roland Garros semifinals. That was no fluke, as the Argentinian No.1 underlined with another bravura run to the Yarra Valley Classic quarterfinals, highlighted by an epic 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(7) upset of Petra Kvitova. The result means Podoroska has now won her first two encounters against Top 10 players. Her No. 45 ranking is a new career high.
Barbora Krejcikova (+7, 66 to 59): Also hitting a new career high is former doubles World No.1 Krejcikova. The Czech has been raising her threat level in singles ever since the tour's resumption, and last week she scored a career-best victory over Elena Rybakina 4-6, 6-2, [10-6] in the second round of the Grampians Trophy. It was Krejcikova's first win against a Top-20 player, even though the 25-year-old had forced a third set in six of her previous eight losses to opposition in that echelon.
Kaia Kanepi (+29, 94 to 65): A player who is no stranger to dealing out upsets is Kanepi, who proved at the Gippsland Trophy that unseeded 35 years old, she can still loom. The Estonian unceremoniously ended Aryna Sabalenka's 15-match winning streak 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 in the second round for her 12th Top 10 win, but more unusually, proceeded to back it up by powering all the way to her ninth career final, her first appearance in a title match since winning Brussels in 2013. Kanepi fell to Elise Mertens there, but her ranking has bounced back to its highest since December 2018.
Ann Li (+30, 99 to 69): Few players would have expected hard quarantine to be their preparation for a career-best result, but 20-year-old Li, who only broke the Top 100 for the first time last November - emerged from her 14-day spell in a Melbourne hotel room to immediately reach her first WTA final at the Grampians Trophy. The American - the 2017 Wimbledon junior runner-up - overcame Abu Dhabi finalist Veronika Kudermetova and US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady and, although she was unable to compete for a maiden title after the final was cancelled due to the scheduling back-up, Li zooms up to a new career high as a result.