WTA world no. 1 ranking records and statistics: A complete guide to the no. 1 ranking in women's tennis

Hannah Wilks in WTA 1 Feb 2019
  • Naomi Osaka has become the 26th player to rank world no. 1 in the Open Era
  • We look back at the players who have held the no. 1 spot since rankings began in 1975
  • Find records, statistics and information related to the WTA world no. 1 ranking here
Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka is the current WTA world no. 1 (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A complete guide to the WTA world no. 1 ranking, the players who have held the top spot and all WTA world no. 1 records and statistics.

The 2019 Australian Open final was a total historical first: For the first time in the history of the WTA (Women's Tennis Association), a world no. 1 ranking was on the line in a Grand Slam final played between two women who had never ranked world no. 1 - two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and US Open champion Naomi Osaka.

The 28-year-old Czech was trying to become the oldest woman to rank world no. 1 for the first time and made a gallant attempt in a thrilling final, saving three championship points in the second set to push the match to a decider.

But it was Osaka who triumphed in three sets, lifting the Australian Open trophy and becoming the first Asian player, the first Japanese player and the first player of Haitian descent to rank world no. 1.

We've put together a guide to the WTA world no. 1 ranking, the records and statistics associated with it and the different players who have held the top spot. 

1. The history of the WTA rankings

It may seem totally bizarre now, but there was a time when the rankings in professional tennis weren't determined by an objective, numerical standard, but designated on a subjective basis by tennis journalists and newspaper correspondents.

As far back as 1921, there has been a top women's tennis player, but back then when Suzanne Lenglen held the honour, it was simply an accolade from one journalist - Wallis Myers, first of the Daily Telegraph and then the Daily Mail, who single-handedly anointed first Lenglen and then Helen Wills Moody as world no. 1 from 1921 through to 1934. 

Over time, this job passed from Myers to various other journalists, presidents of national federations and even on occasion readers' polls. This state of affairs continued briefly after the WTA was founded in 1973 - and evolved into what is now the ITF World Champion award - but as tennis, and women's tennis, professionalized, it became clear that something entirely more scientific was needed.

On 3 November 1975, the WTA introduced computerized rankings, following in the footsteps of the ATP Tour, who first used computerized rankings on 23 August 1973.

Chris Evert was the first player to be ranked world no. 1 and since that time the top spot has changed hands 97 times, and been held by 25 different players.

2. How do the WTA rankings work?

The WTA rankings are an objective, merit-based system to track player performance and calculate tournament entries and seedings.

A player's ranking is determined by her results over the past 52 weeks of the year, and are updated and released weekly by the WTA on a Monday.

Points are awarded for each match a player competes in, with the amount of points varying according to the round and the category of the tournament. A player's ranking is based on her best 16 events from the past 52 weeks, but must include:

  • the four Grand Slams (the Australian, French and US Opens, and Wimbledon)
  • the four WTA Premier Mandatory tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing)
  • the WTA Finals if applicable
  • for top-20 players, the two best Premier-5 results
Grand Slams, even though they are not run by the WTA, award ranking points and use them as the basis for seedings.

Although the most points are available for winning Grand Slams - a Grand Slam champion earns 2,000 points - the system rewards consistency over the 52-week period. Hence there are many players who have won Grand Slams but never been ranked world no. 1. Conversely, there are the rarer cases of players who had yet to win a Grand Slam being ranked world no. 1, and even sometimes players holding the world no. 1 ranking who would never win a major title (see below).

3. Complete list of WTA world no. 1 players

Here is a complete list of players who have been ranked world no. 1 since 3 November 1975, in chronological order.

WTA world no. 1 players in chronological order

PlayerNationalityFirst ranked no. 1Last ranked no. 1Total weeks
Chris EvertUSA3 November 197524 November 1985260
Evonne Goolagong CawleyAustralia26 April 19769 May 19762
Martina NavratilovaUSA10 July 197816 August 1987332
Tracy AustinUSA7 April 198017 November 198021
Steffi Graf*Germany17 August 198730 March 1997377
Monica Seles*Yugoslavia/USA11 March 199114 November 1996178
Arantxa Sanchez VicarioSpain6 February 199511 June 199512
Martina HingisSwitzerland31 March 199714 October 2001209
Lindsay DavenportUSA12 October 199813 January 200238
Jennifer CapriatiUSA15 October 20019 June 200217
Venus WilliamsUSA25 February 20027 July 200211
Serena WilliamsUSA8 July 200214 May 2017319
Kim ClijstersBelgium11 August 200320 February 201120
Justine HeninBelgium20 October 200318 May 2008117
Amelie MauresmoFrance13 September 200412 November 200639
Maria SharapovaRussia22 August 20058 July 201221
Ana IvanovicSerbia9 June 200810 August 20089
Jelena JankovicSerbia11 August 20081 February 200918
Dinara SafinaRussia20 April 20091 November 200926
Caroline WozniackiDenmark11 October 201029 January 201267
Victoria AzarenkaBelarus30 January 201217 February 201351
Angelique KerberGermany12 September 201616 July 201734
Karolina PliskovaCzech Republic17 July 201710 September 20178
Garbine MuguruzaSpain11 September 20178 October 20174
Simona HalepRomania9 October 201727 January 201964
Naomi OsakaJapan28 January 2019--

*Monica Seles was stabbed during a WTA match on 30 April 1993, at which time she was ranked world no. 1. When she turned to competition in 1995, the WTA reinstated her alongside Steffi Graf as world no. 1 until she had accrued a full calendar year's worth of points.

Active players are given in bold.

Information is correct as of 1 February 2019.

4. Total weeks at world no. 1

Here is a list of the players who have spent the most total weeks as WTA world no. 1. 

Total weeks as WTA world no. 1

RankPlayerTotal weeks as no. 1
1Steffi Graf377
2Martina Navratilova332
3Serena Williams319
4Chris Evert260
5Martina Hingis209
6Monica Seles178
7Justine Henin117
8Lindsay Davenport98
9Caroline Wozniacki71
10Simona Halep64
11Victoria Azarenka51
12Amelie Mauresmo39
13Angelique Kerber34
14Dinara Safina26
15Tracy Austin21
-Maria Sharapova21
17Kim Clijsters20
18Jelena Jankovic18
19Jennifer Capriati17
20Arantxa Sachez Vicario12
-Ana Ivanovic12
22Venus Williams11
23Karolina Pliskova8
24Garbine Muguruza4
25Evonne Goolagong Cawley2

Active players are given in bold.

Information is correct as of 1 February 2019.

5. Most consecutive weeks as world no. 1. 

Here is a list of the players who have spent the most consecutive weeks as WTA world no. 1.

Consecutive weeks spent at WTA world no. 1

RankPlayerConsecutive weeks
1Steffi Graf186
-Serena Williams186
3Martina Navratilova156
4Chris Evert113
5Steffi Graf (2)94
6Monica Seles91
7Martina Navratilova (2)90
8Steffi Graf (3)87
9Martina Hingis80
10Chris Evert (2)76
11Martina Hingis (2)73
12Monica Seles (2)64
13Justine Henin61
14Serena Williams (2)57
15Serena Williams (3)49
-Caroline Wozniacki49
17Simona Halep48
18Justine Henin (2)44
-Lindsay Davenport44
20Martina Hingis (3)34
-Amelie Mauresmo34

Active players are given in bold.

Information is correct as of 1 February 2019.

6. WTA year-end world no. 1s

Here is a chronological list of all the players who have finished the WTA season ranked world no. 1. This is considered to be a significant achievement as it temporarily synchronizes the 52-week 'ranking' year with the calendar year, suggesting that the player who is currently ranked world no. 1 has been the best player of that season.

WTA year-end world no. 1s in chronological order

1975Chris EvertUSA
1976Chris Evert (2)USA
1977Chris Evert (3)USA
1978Martina NavratilovaUSA
1979Martina Navratilova (2)USA
1980Chris Evert (4)USA
1981Chris Evert (5)USA
1982Martina Navratilova (3)USA
1983Martina Navratilova (4)USA
1984Martina Navratilova (5)USA
1985Martina Navratilova (6)USA
1986Martina Navratilova (7)USA
1987Steffi GrafGermany
1988Steffi Graf (2)Germany
1989Steffi Graf (3)Germany
1990Steffi Graf (4)Germany
1991Monica SelesYugoslavia
1992Monica Seles (2)Yugoslavia
1993Steffi Graf (5)Germany
1994Steffi Graf (6)Germany
1995Steffi Graf (7)Germany
-Monica Seles (3)USA
1996Steffi Graf (8)Germany
1997Martina HingisSwitzerland
1998Lindsay DavenportUSA
1999Martina Hingis (2)Switzerland
2000Martina Hingis (3)Switzerland
2001Lindsay Davenport (2)USA
2002Serena WilliamsUSA
2003Justine HeninBelgium
2004Lindsay Davenport (3)USA
2005Lindsay Davenport (4)USA
2006Justine Henin (2)Belgium
2007Justine Henin (3)Belgium
2008Jelena JankovicSerbia
2009Serena Williams (2)USA
2010Caroline WozniackiDenmark
2011Caroline Wozniacki (2)Denmark
2012Victoria AzarenkaBelarus
2013Serena Williams (3)USA
2014Serena Williams (4)USA
2015Serena Williams (5)USA
2016Angelique KerberGermany
2017Simona HalepRomania
2018Simona Halep (2)Romania

This is a list of players who have finished year-end world no. 1s most frequently over the course of their careers.

Players who finished WTA year-end world no. 1 the most times

RankPlayerNo. of year-end no. 1 finishes
1Steffi Graf8
2Martina Navratilova7
3Chris Evert5
-Serena Williams5
5Lindsay Davenport4
6Monica Seles3
-Martina Hingis3
-Justine Henin3
9Caroline Wozniacki2
-Simona Halep2
11Jelena Jankovic1
-Victoria Azarenka1
-Angelique Kerber1

Active players are given in bold.

Information is correct as of 1 February 2019.

7. Slamless WTA no. 1s

It is occasionally the case that players who have yet to win a Grand Slam title become ranked world no. 1, although none has done so without reaching at least a Grand Slam final.

The following players were ranked world no. 1 before they won a major title, but did go on to do so.

Kim Clijsters
Clijsters was first ranked world no. 1 on 11 August 2003, over two years after she made her first Grand Slam final at the 2001 US Open. Clijsters would go on to win four majors - the 2005 US Open, then (after retiring from the game for two years to have a child) the 2009-10 US Opens and 2011 Australian Open. Clijsters retired again at the end of 2012.

Amelie Mauresmo
France's Mauresmo was first ranked world no. 1 on 13 September 2004 - five years after she had made her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in 1999. Mauresmo's 2004 tenure in the top spot did not last long but in 2006 she would be ranked world no. 1 again after winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon in the same year.

Caroline Wozniacki
Wozniacki was first ranked world no. 1 in October 2010, just over a year after reaching her first Grand Slam final at the US Open in 2009. The Dane received heavy criticism for her 'Slamless' status, but still compiled a total of 71 weeks in the top spot and finished year-end world no. 1 twice. She made a second Grand Slam final at the US Open in 2014, but it took until 2018 for Wozniacki to win her first Grand Slam title - that came when she defeated Simona Halep in the final of the Australian Open in 2018.

Simona Halep
A French Open finalist in 2014, Simona Halep was one of an unprecedented five women to rank world no. 1 during the 2017 season, with Serena Williams on maternity leave and Angelique Kerber, who had won a tremendous amount of matches in 2016, enduring a poor season. Halep, a French Open finalist again in 2017, held on to the world no. 1 ranking for much of 2018 as she reached the final of the Australian Open and won her maiden major at the French Open, but her tenure in the top spot ended (for now) when she lost in the round of 16 at the 2019 Australian Open.

There have been three players who have held the world no. 1 ranking without yet winning a major.

Dinara Safina
Now retired, Safina spent 26 weeks as world no. 1 during 2009 after having made two French Open finals in 2008-9 and the Australian Open final in 2009. Injuries forced her to retire in 2011 but although she never won a major, she does hold a unique distinction - she and brother Marat Safin are the only siblings ever to have both been ranked world no. 1 on their respective tours.

Jelena Jankovic
After making her first and only Grand Slam final at the 2008 US Open, Jelena Jankovic became world no. 1 but never reached another major final, let alone won a title. The Serb, now 33, has not officially retired but no longer has a WTA Tour ranking and hasn't played since the 2017 US Open.

Karolina Pliskova
The big-serving Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic made her first Grand Slam final in 2016 when she became one of the few women to defeat Venus and Serena Williams in the same tournament, and became ranked world no. 1 the following summer. Her time in the top spot did not last long, however, although she remains a consistent top-10 player and frequent presence in the second week of Grand Slams.

8. WTA world no. 1 records

Here are some records associated with the world no. 1 ranking.

Weeks at world no. 1 
Steffi Graf holds the record for longest reign as world no. 1 with 377 weeks spent at the top, followed by Martina Navratilova on 332 and Serena Williams on 319.

Youngest WTA world no. 1
Martina Hingis was aged 16 years and 152 days when she became world no. 1 on 1 March 1997.

Oldest WTA world no. 1
Serena Williams was aged 35 years and 224 days when she last ranked as world no. 1 on 8 May 2017.

Lowest-ranked player to defeat a world no. 1
Zhang Shuai of China was ranked world no. 226 when she defeated then-world no. 1 Dinara Safina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

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WTA world no. 1 ranking records and statistics: A complete guide to the no. 1 ranking in women's tennis

Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka has become the 26th woman in the Open Era to rank WTA world no. 1 - we look back at the history of the no. 1 ranking and the players who have held the top spot

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