Maria Sharapova moved up to No. 7 in this week's WTA Tour rankings. The two-spot jump came after the 27-year-old Russian won the second of back-to-back clay-court titles.
Sharapova had first slipped to ninth this year in March, her lowest position in three years. But since then she's won the Porsche Grand Prix and Madrid Open, pushing her record to 46-3 in her last 49 clay matches. Her only losses on the surface since the 2011 French Open are to Serena Williams.
“I haven’t thought about myself as the Queen of Clay, but I certainly feel that I’ve improved a lot on this surface,” Sharapova said. “I really trained myself to become better because I always struggled on it when I was younger. I realized I had no choice but to try to get stronger, prepare better, recover better and work on those things because they don’t just come automatically.”
Sharapova also climbed from No. 10 to No. 3 in the Race to Singapore, with the top eight earning berths for the season-ending WTA Championships.
In other rankings news:
• No. 5 Simona Halep closed within 21 points of No. 4 Victoria Azarenka, who has played only three tournaments this year because of injuries. Last year, Halep entered the Italian Open ranked No. 64. Since then, she's won seven titles and compiled a 61-15 record in WTA matches.
• Caroline Garcia made her top-50 debut, at No. 46, after reaching the Madrid Open quarterfinals as a qualifier. The 20-year-old finished last season at No. 75. "She's been up-and-coming for a really long time," said Sharapova, who memorably rallied to beat Garcia at the 2011 French Open when Garcia was a 17-year-old French qualifier. "It's great to see her really step up and showcase her game."
• Another 20-year-old, Jana Cepelova (No. 50) of Slovakia, also cracked the top 50 for the first time. Last month, she upset Serena Williams en route to the final of the Family Circle Cup.