BIRMINGHAM, England - World No.1 Naomi Osaka and No.2 Ashleigh Barty top the field at the Nature Valley Classic, making it the first time in tournament history the WTA Top 2 will both play at the grass-court event, which begins on Monday.
With No.3 Karolina Pliskova accepting a wildcard into the first Premier tournament of the grass season, this is only the second time since June 2012 that the WTA Top 3 will be competing at the same WTA Tour tournament outside of a WTA top-tier event (WTA Finals, Premier Mandatory, Premier 5). The Top 3 also competed at 2017 Eastbourne.
Coming off her inspired run to her maiden major title at Roland Garros, Barty now sits within striking distance of overtaking Osaka for the top spot this week in Birmingham. Already the No.1 in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, the 23-year-old is bidding to become the second Australian WTA No.1 and first since 1976. Evonne Goolagong Cawley was the first Australian World No.1, holding the top spot for two weeks from April 26, 1976 to May 9, 1976.
On Monday, after 2018 Nottingham points drop off the rankings, Osaka’s lead over Barty was 252 points. Barty, the 2018 Nottingham champion, dropped to 6125 points, with Osaka, a semifinalist in Nottingham last year, dropping to 6377 points.
In Birmingham, Barty can overtake Osaka by winning the title. But, if Osaka makes the final, she will secure the No.1 ranking and be the provisional top seed for Wimbledon. For the full draw, click here.
Playing in her first event since losing in the third round of the French Open to Katerina Siniakova, top-seeded Osaka will open her tournament against No.33 Maria Sakkari. The top seeds in Osaka's top half are No.7 Elina Svitolina, Roland Garros semifinalist and No.18 Johanna Konta, and No.19 Julia Goerges.
A finalist in Birmingham two years ago, Barty opens her grass season against No.22 Donna Vekic. The surging Croatian, who is enjoying the best season of her career, is currently in the finals of Nottingham.
The top seeds in Barty's bottom half of the draw are No.3 Pliskova, No.10 Aryna Sabalenka, and No.15 Wang Qiang. Barty could face American wildcard Venus Williams in the quarterfinals.