Nearly 11 years ago, Sorana Cirstea reached the pinnacle of her tennis career, rising to No. 21 in the rankings after an impressive run in Toronto for her first WTA 1000 final. She hovered in the No.21 and the No.22 spot for the next five months but never managed to break the Top 20 barrier. Cirstea, a Romanian, briefly worked her way back into the Top 25 two years ago but sank out of the Top 80 the following year.

At the age of 33, another window to enter the Top 20 has opened up. Over the past 12 months, Cirstea has reached the Miami semifinals, the Indian Wells and US Open quarterfinals, along with a Reus WTA 125 title. Last week, a quarterfinal run in Abu Dhabi boosted her four places from No.26 to No.22 -- her highest position since January of 2014. Cirstea has only 60 points to defend for the rest of February with that elusive Top 20 ranking is within sight.

Cirstea claims third straight win over Garcia in Abu Dhabi opener

Bogdan, Cristian receive boosts on home soil

Cirstea wasn't the only Romanian to taste success last week. Ana Bogdan delivered a crowd-pleasing run on home soil in Cluj-Napoca, winning back-to-back matches around the three-hour mark to reach her second career final (following Warsaw 2022). The 31-year-old didn't have enough left over to complete the week with the trophy, but she still rises 11 places from No.65 to No.54. Bogdan, whose career high is No.39, is also the reigning champion at two WTA 125 events in Iasi and Parma.

Meanwhile, Jaqueline Cristian reached her first semifinal on home soil in Cluj-Napoca, falling to Bogdan in a tight three-setter. Back in February of 2022, Cristian had just reached her career high of No.58 when she sustained a knee injury that sidelined her for six months. She fell out of the Top 100 in October later than year but worked her way back inside it last August. The 25-year-old moves back up nine spots from No.81 to No.72.

Other notable rankings movements

Elena Rybakina (+1, from No.5 to No.4): Abu Dhabi champion Rybakina overtook Jessica Pegula, rising one spot to No. 4 in the rankings, marking the only movement in the Top 10. Rybakina, the top seed, secured her seventh career title and second this season. 

Champions Reel: How Elena Rybakina won Abu Dhabi 2024

Karolina Pliskova (+19, from No.78 to No.59): Two weeks ago, former World No.1 Pliskova fell out of the Top 50 for the first time since May of 2014. She has wasted little time in starting her rebound. The Czech didn't drop a set in Cluj-Napoca en route to her first title since Brisbane 2020.

Harriet Dart (+11, from No.103 to No.92): Dart is also enjoying a resurgence lately. She hit her career high of No.84 in July 2022 but fell back out of the Top 100 the following January and was as low as No.161 in September. But she started 2024 with a first WTA 125 final, in Canberra, and backed that up in Cluj-Napoca with her first tour-level semifinal to return to the Top 100.

Darja Semenistaja (+9, from No.121 to No.112): In Mumbai last week, the Latvian claimed her first WTA 125 trophy and edges closer to a Top 100 debut. The title run completed a fine month for Semenistaja in India, where she has compiled a 14-2 record over the past four weeks, including victory at the Bengaluru ITF W50 as well. Indeed, the 21-year-old is quietly putting together a remarkable record in title matches. She has won 16 of her 17 professional finals to date.

Storm Hunter (+24, from No.150 to No.126): The former doubles No.1's ability on the singles court has rarely been in doubt. But Hunter's schedule to date has focused on doubles, and her singles peak remains No.119, a position she hit in October of 2021. That could be about to change. The 29-year-old reached the third round of a singles major for the first time at the Australian Open on home soil and reached her first WTA 125 final last week in Mumbai. 

Emma Raducanu (+34, from No.296 to No.262): Three tournaments into her comeback from multiple surgeries, the former US Open champion has compiled a 3-3 record, reaching the second round in Abu Dhabi last week. Next month, Raducanu has fourth-round points from Indian Wells to defend -- and then nothing else for the rest of the year.

Anastasija Sevastova (+174, from No.656 to No.482): Three tournaments into her comeback from maternity leave, the former World No.11 has compiled a 6-3 record. Sevastova has reached the last eight in each of her outings since her return -- twice at WTA 125 level at the end of 2023, in Andorra and Limoges, then last week in Cluj-Napoca for her first tour-level quarterfinal since Eastbourne 2021.

Teenage ITF standouts reach new peaks

Several fast-rising teenagers are at new career-high rankings this week after stellar performances on the ITF World Tour last week. Maya Joint, 17, backed up her eye-catching results in January with a first pro title at the Burnie W75. Unranked a year ago, the Australian moves up another 113 places from No.446 to No.333.

Aliona Falei, 19, claimed the Grenoble W75 title -- her third and biggest ITF trophy since September. Falei, who was ranked No.700 a year ago, climbs 48 spots from No.249 to No.201.

Japanese teenagers Sara Saito and Aoi Ito continued to have strong starts to the year. Ito, 19, reached her biggest final to date, at the Burnie W75, upsetting Destanee Aiava and Katie Swan before falling to Joint. She rises 37 places from No.329 to No.292. Junior No.6 Saito has reached at least the semifinals in all four of her pro tournaments this year, falling to Ito in the Burnie W75 last four. The 17-year-old is up another 24 places from No.268 to No.244.