As the tour moves from the hardcourts of Indian Wells and Miami to the slow, high-bouncing clay courts of Charleston and then Europe, players will look to make the transition quickly and successfully.
Here are five stars of the WTA to keep an eye on during the dirt swing:
A two-time French Open finalist and by far the most consistent player on clay over the last two years, Halep has to be the favorite to finally claim her first major crown at Roland Garros. The world No. 1's baseline grinding game suits the dirt perfectly. While she did not enjoy the best U.S. hard-court swing, the Romanian will look to defend her title in Madrid in May and ride that momentum to a trophy in Paris.
Svitolina is frequently putting herself in position to win big titles and on the dirt expect it to be no different. As the defending champion in Rome, the Ukrainian is well versed in how to win on the clay and as a multiple-time French Open quarterfinalist, she’ll be aiming to break her major spell with a deep run at Roland Garros.
You can’t forget the reigning French Open champion. Fresh off a run to the final in Miami, the Latvian is in good form. While her game may naturally work better on faster surfaces, Ostapenko has power matched by very few and is able to hit through even the slowest of clay courts. If the world No. 5 can reign in her big shots and get on a roll, she will be a threat anywhere on the dirt.
Possessing some of the most variety on the tour, the craft former French Open junior champion has a game that would make her a nightmare for any to play on clay. The young Russian, currently ranked No. 12, is in sublime form after reaching the Indian Wells final. The 20-year-old was in a new role in Charleston, where she was the defending champion. She would reach the quarters before falling to finalist Julia Goerges.
While inconsistency and injuries may have plagued Sharapova’s return to the tour, the Russian is a two-time French Open champion, despite her hard-hitting, grass-suited game. The former world No. 1 transformed her power game into a successful weapon on the dirt. Even in her comeback last year after a 15-month doping suspension, Sharapova showed signs of the form that has seen her collect eight titles on the clay since 2012.
The WTA clay court season began at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston before moving to the red clay of Bogota, Colombia and Lugano, Switzerland this week. In two weeks, the top women head to Europe for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. Madrid and Rome mark the last major stops on clay before the second Grand Slam of the season in Paris.
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—ATP Houston Outer Courts (4/9-4/13)
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—ATP Marrakech Final (4/15)
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—ATP Monte-Carlo (4/15-4/22)
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