For the second tournament in a row, the World No.2 ranking is in play.

Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka have maintained a stranglehold of the top two positions in the rankings for the past 66 weeks, ever since the 2023 Australian Open. Last week in Madrid, Sabalenka held off threats from Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina by reaching the final and thus remaining World No.2. She currently holds a slim 185-point lead over Gauff at No.3, with 7498 points to the American’s 7313.

In Rome, Sabalenka’s ranking is still under pressure, but only from Gauff. Rybakina, the defending champion, cannot overtake either, and will remain at No.4. Neither Sabalenka nor Gauff have a significant number of points to defend: last year, Sabalenka lost her opener to Sofia Kenin, while Gauff fell to Marie Bouzkova in the third round.

Gauff needs to reach at least the semifinals to chase down Sabalenka. If she does so, and Sabalenka has lost before the quarterfinals, then Gauff will become No.2 — a new career high for the US Open champion.

If Sabalenka reaches the quarterfinals or semifinals, Gauff can overtake her by reaching the final. If Sabalenka makes the final, Gauff — who is in the opposite half of the draw — will need to defeat her there to climb to No.2.

Both Sabalenka and Gauff are former semifinalists in Rome — Sabalenka in 2022 and Gauff in 2021. However, those runs mark the only times either has gone beyond the third round in the Italian capital. This year, Gauff will need to navigate a quarter containing Barbora Krejcikova, Zheng Qinwen, Naomi Osaka, Marta Kostyuk and Daria Kasatkina to return to the last four. Meanwhile, threats in Sabalenka’s quarter include Ons Jabeur, Elina Svitolina, Jelena Ostapenko and Dayana Yastremska.

This fortnight’s battle for No.2 could also have significant longer-term implications. The Roland Garros seedings will be based on the rankings following Rome, and so their performances here could determine whether Sabalenka or Gauff goes into Paris as the No.2 seed.


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