Jasmine Paolini - could be a big threat in clay season

Four unlikely challengers capable of big WTA clay seasons

Clay season is known for being perhaps the most gruelling test of the tennis season. The matches are longer, the conditions are tougher, and there is a seeming clay specialist lurking around every corner. 

Of course, ‘clay specialist’ is an unfair term. Some players are just naturally best suited to the slower court – generally players with get a lot of action on the ball and are able to construct points in a very cerebral way that faster courts rarely allow for.

So who might those players be in the WTA this clay season? Well there are four that will likely worry the top players on the red dirt a lot more than they usually do.

Jasmine Paolini 

Jasmine Paolini is a player who has been on a consistently upwards trajectory in the rankings now for seven straight seasons, and that speaks of a player with incredibly good habits. 2024 has already seen her break into the top 15 in the world for the first time, largely thanks to a maiden WTA 1000 title in Dubai.

While she is still awaiting her first WTA title on clay, the statistics suggest it is her strongest surface and seven ITF and two Challenger crowns certainly back that up.

Emma Navarro

In 2019, Emma Navarro went to the French Open and won the junior doubles title before losing the singles final to Leylah Fernandez, so it’s clear she knows what she is doing on clay. Add in five titles on the red dirt at ITF level, including the prestigious Charleston Pro event last year, and that picture becomes even more clear.

The American has made a fine start to the current season as well, claiming a maiden WTA title in Hobart and defeating Aryna Sabalenka at Indian Wells.

Anna Kalinskaya

You wouldn’t say it has always been a smooth transition up the rankings for Anna Kalinskaya, but 2024 has certainly seen her achieve a big breakthrough. A run to the last eight of the Australian Open and the final in Dubai, where she beat both Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek, saw her break into the top 25 in the world.

She has a good pedigree in clay events at IFT level, winning five titles on the surface, and she is also a former Roland Garros girls runner-up, so she will be seeing clay season as a chance to push on even further up the rankings and possibly win a maiden Tour-level title.

Linda Noskova

20-year-old Czech Linda Noskova is still making her way in tennis, but if you beat Iga Swiatek at a Grand Slam, you’re going to get noticed. That win at this year’s Australian Open saw her become the first teenager to beat a WTA world number one at a major this century.

At the moment, her claycourt prowess is more an assumption than anything she has proven. She is yet to win a Tour-level clat event, but she was prolific on the surface at junior level – including winning the 2021 French Open girl’s title.

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.