Still going strong: Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark at the recent China OpenNearly 40 years ago - Nov 3,1975 to be exact, WTA World rankings came in to existence to determine the best female tennis player in the world.A lot of things have changed since then.The world population has nearly doubled, reaching 7.3 billion from 4 billion in 1975. Along the way a mere 21 female players have ascended to the tennis throne as the World’s top ranked player.The effectiveness of the rankings was never really questioned until 2003 when Kim Clijsters reached the summit without having won a Grand Slam title. There have been multiple instances of such anomalies since then, which has cast a shadow over the ranking system.This list takes a look at all the female players who reached World No:1 before winning a Grandslam title.Some of them would go on to win multiple Grandslams in the future,where as others would remain with that invisible asterisk marked against their time at the top.Trivia: In the Men’s section, Ivan Lendl was ranked as World Number 1 in 1983 before winning a single Grand Slam.He would win the first of his eight majors at the French Open the following year. The only man to share Lendl’Âs situation was Marcelo Rios who, sadly, would remain the only male World No. 1 never to have won a major title.
#1 Kim Clijsters - August 2003
Kim Clijsters has won four Grand Slam titles – three at the US Open and one at the Australian Open in addition to spending 20 weeks as the World Number 1. But when she first climbed to the top of the rankings in 2003 (on two separate occassions), she had never won a major title.
In fact, Clijsters would lose four major finals – thrice to compatriot Justine Henin and once to Jennifer Capriati before ending her barren streak with a 6-3 6-1 victory over Mary Pierce in the 2005 US Open final,which would lead to another short stint at the top of the rankings in 2006. Clijsters would announce her retirement from tennis in 2007 at the age of 24 owing to injuries.
The Belgian would make a comeback two years later, as a wild card entry to the 2009 US Open. She would surprisingly win the title again en route to collecting the WTA Best Comeback of the Year award that season despite being active for only 3 months of the year.
She would successfully defend her US Open title in 2010 before winning the Australian Open crown in 2011 to ascend to the top of the rankings for the fourth time. Interestingly, 2011 was the only year where she would win a Grand Slam and reach World Number 1 in the same season.
Clijsters would retire for good in 2012 with the distinction of being the first mother to hold the Number 1 ranking.
#2 Amelie Mauresmo - September 2004
A then-unseeded Amelie Mauresmo had stunned the tennis world in 1999 by eliminating World No 1 Lindsay Davenport en route to reaching her first major final at the Australian Open, where she would eventually be beaten by Martina Hingis. Mauresmo would take another five years to climb to the top of the WTA rankings – a semifinal and three quarterfinal finishes at the majors of 2004 coupled with an Olympic Silver medal enough to lift her to World Number 1 that year.
How ever, it would take Mauresmo, long criticised for her mental fragility, another two years to taste Slam glory.
She finally did so at the 2006 Australian Open, albeit in slightly disappointing circumstances with her opponent in the final – Justine Henin - retiring due to gastroenteritis while Mauresmo was leading 6-1, 2-0. This would bring the French woman back to the top of the rankings in March.
Mauresmo would silence what remained of the doubters with a scintillating performance at Wimbledon the same year. Seeded first, Mauresmo would come back from a set down to beat Henin once again in the final to capture her second major title.
The Frenchwoman woud stay at the top for 34 weeks that year before being supplanted by Henin in November. She would retire from the game three years later ranked No. 21.
#3 Jelena Jankovic - August 2008
Jelena Jankovic would stay at the top of the WTA rankings for a combined total of 18 weeks starting with a one week reign in August 2008 and ending with a four month reign culminating on February 1, 2009.
In fact, when she replaced Ana Ivanovic as World Number 1 in 2008, she had never reached a Grand Slam final. A loss to Dinara Safina at the 2008 Olympics would end her initial run at the top.
However, a run of three straight tournament victories in the winter – the China Open, Stuttgart and the Kremlin Cup – along with a maiden Grand Slam final appearance at the 2008 US Open took the Serbian back to the summit in October. Jankovic would end the year as World Number 1, but would lose the top spot a month in to the new year.
She would remain without a Slam to her credit,reaching the semi finals of a major only once during the next seven years and is currently ranked No:24 in the world.
It seems likely that her only Grand Slam triumph will remain the 2007 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles title she won alongside Jamie Murray.
#4 Dinara Safina - April 2009
The younger sister of former men’s World Number 1 Marat Safin, Safina would join her brother as the only sibling duo to reach the top of the rankings in 2009. How ever, unlike two time Grandslam winner Marat who had captured the titles at the 2000 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open, Dinara would never win a Grandslam title, losing in three major finals.
Safina was in great form during 2008-09 period when she reached the finals of the French Open (twice) and the Australian Open in addition to the Olympic Gold medal match. But she would finish as the runner up on all four occassions losing to Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova at the French Open, to Serena Williams at the Australian Open and to Elena Dementieva at the Olympics.
Chronic back problems would curtail the career of the talented Russian and the then 24 year old competed in her final Grand Slam at the 2011 Australian Open. Safina would retire with 12 WTA Singles titles to her credit.
She has a US Open doubles title to her credit, having won the title in 2007 partnering Nathalie Dechy.
#5 Caroline Wozniacki - October 2010
Then-19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki would make history at the 2009 US Open by becoming the first woman from Scandinavia to reach a major final. While that appearance would result in a straight sets loss to the returning Kim Clijsters, Wozniacki would steadily improve her game over the years, winning six titles each in 2010 and 2011,ascending to the top of the WTA rankings for the first time in October 2010 and reclaiming the spot in 2011.
But despite spending 67 months at the top over that period, the Dane would never reach a Grand Slam final during that time, let alone win one. She would also lose in the final of the WTA Tour Championships to Clijsters and struggles with form would eventually see her fall out of the top 10.
Wozniacki would make a comback in 2014 with yet another US Open final appearance, but her luck never turned – a straight sets defeat to Serena Williams ending her hopes this time around.
The Dane is the only female to be year end No:1 on two consecutive years ( 2010 and 2011) without having won won a Grandslam title. How ever, at just 25, Wozniacki still has time on her side and is currently ranked just outside the top 10.