Naomi Osaka has barely kept hold of her No. 1 ranking this week, with Simona Halep coming within one match of taking the top spot at Madrid.
Halep would have been No. 1 if she had won the title at the Spanish capital, but fell to Kiki Bertens in the final. Now, Osaka must reach the quarterfinals of Rome to guarantee herself the top ranking—otherwise Halep can reach No. 1 by winning the title.
Osaka is especially motivated because the holder of the No. 1 ranking next week will also be the No. 1 seed at the French Open.
"I really want to be No. 1 for French. That's one of my biggest goals. At the same time I know there's steps that I have to take to reach that goal," she told press in Rome. "I need to play well, to win the matches. Yeah, of course I'm thinking short-term and long-term. I definitely am thinking about keeping the No. 1 ranking."
While the 21-year-old from Japan has been a fixture in the top spot since winning the Aussie Open, she's even more keen on topping the draw at a Grand Slam.
"And for me, like, after the Australian they said that I was going to be No. 1. But for me, I feel like the biggest impact would be, like, being seeded No. 1 in a Grand Slam," she said. "Of course, I've been telling people, I don't really care about rankings as long as I can get into a tournament. At the same time, like... Grand Slams are the things that I care about the most."
While clay isn't her favorite surface, she has been solid at the European events this season.
Osaka withdrew from the semifinals of Stuttgart with an abdominal injury, and reached the quarterfinals at Madrid.