As January draws to a close, the Hologic WTA Tour through Australia and New Zealand has completed its demanding opening swing. 

Now we set our sights on February, and women's tennis shows no signs of slowing down. The tour spreads to Asia, Europe and North America at the following events:

Jan. 29 - Feb. 4

  • WTA 500 Upper Austria Ladies Linz, Linz, Austria (2023 champion: Anastasia Potapova)
  • WTA 250 Thailand Open, Hua Hin, Thailand (2023 champion: Zhu Lin)

Feb. 5-11

  • WTA 500 Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. (2023 champion: Belinda Bencic)
  • WTA 250 Transylvania Open, Cluj-Napoca, Romania (2023 champion: Tamara Korpatsch)

Feb. 11-17

  • WTA 1000 Qatar TotalEnergies Open, Doha, Qatar (2023 champion: Iga Swiatek)

Feb 18-24

  • WTA 1000 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Dubai, UAE (2023 champion: Barbora Krejcikova)

Feb. 26 - Mar. 3

  • WTA 500 San Diego Open, San Diego, U.S. (2023 champion: Barbora Krejcikova)
  • WTA 250 ATX Open, Austin, U.S. (2023 champion: Marta Kostyuk)

With this bevy of tournaments ahead of us, here are some of the key storylines to keep an eye on next month:

Sabalenka eyeing more hardware

Last year, Aryna Sabalenka won her first 13 matches of the season through the Aussie swing, establishing herself as the dominant hard-court player of January. Despite making big hard-court finals at Indian Wells and the US Open, she won only one more title in 2023, and that was on clay in Madrid.

This year, now as a two-time Australian Open champion, can Sabalenka use her momentum to pick up some more hard-court titles? She has multiple opportunities to do so in February’s Middle East swing, where she is entered in WTA 1000 events in Doha and Dubai.

Sabalenka has a successful history here, with titles at 2020 Doha and 2021 Abu Dhabi. Adding a crown (or two) early in the season could be the edge she needs as she makes another go at the year-end World No.1 ranking she narrowly missed in 2023.

Update: Sabalenka has withdrawn from Doha due to a change of schedule. 


Swiatek tries to safeguard No.1

Regarding that year-end World No.1 ranking, Iga Swiatek edged Sabalenka on the last day of the season by winning the Finals in Cancun. Swiatek had a solid chance to extend her lead at No.1 after the Australian Open, with Sabalenka’s 2,000 championship points dropping off and Swiatek defending only a fourth-round showing from 2023.

As it turned out, though, the gap between the two has narrowed. Sabalenka defended each one of those 2,000 points, while Swiatek lost one round earlier in Melbourne. 

Swiatek bounced back last year, winning Doha and making the Dubai final, and there is no reason to expect she won’t rebound once more. But with last year's points coming off, even if Swiatek again posts solid results, there could be an immediate tussle for the World No.1 ranking, which could last all season long.

Andy Cheung/Getty Images

Surge of the new class

And how about this group of young players who posted breakthrough Grand Slam results Down Under? Noskova, 19, made the quarterfinals and is now inside the Top 30. The 2023 WTA Newcomer of the Year, 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, reached the Australian Open Round of 16, as did 20-year-old Maria Timofeeva in her Grand Slam main-draw debut.

Two more 16-year-olds, Brenda Fruhvirtova and Alina Korneeva, notched their first career Grand Slam main-draw wins in Melbourne. Even Ukrainians Dayana Yastremska and Marta Kostyuk, who posted career-best major showings in Australia, are still only 23 and 21 years old, respectively.

There is a new class rapidly rising up the ranks, and with eight events taking place during February, opportunity knocks. Already this week, Australian Open semifinalist Yastremska grabbed a wild card into Linz, while Korneeva has qualified for the Hua Hin main draw.

Slam champs look ahead

Pay attention to the following quartet of major champions as they move through February. Reigning US Open titlist Coco Gauff had a stellar January, defending her Auckland title before making her first Australian Open semifinal and giving Sabalenka her toughest match of the fortnight.

Elena Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon victor, had mixed results Down Under. She cruised past Sabalenka to win the Brisbane title but then lost a dramatic and historic third-set tiebreak to Anna Blinkova in the Australian Open second round.

And former World No.1 players Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber will keep their comebacks rolling. The new moms both suffered first-round losses in difficult Australian Open draws, but after they were each away from the game for over a year, they are making sure to line up more matches. Kerber took a wild card into Linz this week, and Osaka took singles and doubles wild cards into Abu Dhabi.

Jabeur the fan favorite

With the Middle East tournaments on the horizon, spectators will be looking forward to the appearance of Arab superstar Ons Jabeur, who is entered in all three events. The Tunisian will try to use the support she will get at each of those locations to kickstart her season. The No.6-ranked player has played only one event this year, where she was dispatched by Mirra Andreeva in the second round of the Australian Open.

Jabeur had a similarly slow start last year, and she was unable to capitalize on her region’s support when she withdrew from every Middle East event with an injury. 

Zheng leads Chinese wave

In Melbourne, Zheng Qinwen made her first Grand Slam final, and in turn became the second Chinese player to crack the Top 10, after Li Na. Exactly a decade after Li's trailblazing Australian Open title, Zheng could be spearheading a Chinese surge, which might pick up steam this month.

There are currently seven Chinese women in the Top 100, with four of those players under 23 years old, including 21-year-old Zheng. Also keep an eye on 30-year-old Zhu Lin, who this week is trying to win back-to-back Hua Hin titles, and 29-year-old Wang Yafan, who nearly beat Zheng at the Australian Open.

Doubles intrigue

A large number of doubles partnerships dissolved and reformed at the end of 2023, and it was interesting to see who would come out on top in Australia. The repaired duo of Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens were the biggest winners as they collected another Grand Slam title on Sunday in Melbourne.

In retrospect, it made sense. After a lengthy absence, Hsieh returned to tennis last spring and has since been nearly unstoppable at the majors. In the span of less than a year, Hsieh has already added four Grand Slam titles to her resume (with four different teammates), including her first Grand Slam mixed doubles crown in Australia.

After their championship weekend, Hsieh and Mertens said they will not overtax their schedules and will focus on the biggest events. Will that streamlining pay off, or will new teams like Storm Hunter/Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova/Laura Siegemund rise? Or could returning pairs like Coco Gauff/Jessica Pegula and Gabriela Dabrowski/Erin Routliffe take the lead?