Last week in Beijing, Elina Svitolina beat new WTA #1 Angelique Kerber. It was the first time the Ukrainian defeated Kerber this season, but it wasn’t her first 2016 triumph over a player ranked #1. At the Rio Olympics in August, Svitolina upset then-top-ranked Serena Williams.
It’s unusual for a player to face two (or more) different #1-ranked opponents in the same season. Since 1985, it has happened 136 times on the WTA tour and 148 times on the ATP tour. That’s less than five times per season per tour.
Of course, it’s much less common to upset multiple #1-ranked opponents, as Svitolina did. This was only the 16th time a woman did so (again, since 1985), while it has happened on the men’s side 18 times.
Here is a full list of WTA player-seasons that featured defeats of more than one top-ranked player:
Year Player Upsets 2016 Elina Svitolina Kerber; Serena 2010 Samantha Stosur Serena; Wozniacki 2009 Venus Williams Serena; Safina 2008 Dinara Safina Henin; Sharapova; Jankovic 2006 Justine Henin Davenport; Mauresmo 2003 Justine Henin Serena; Clijsters 2002 Kim Clijsters Serena; Venus 2002 Serena Williams Capriati; Venus 2001 Lindsay Davenport Capriati; Hingis 1999 Amelie Mauresmo Hingis; Davenport 1999 Venus Williams Davenport; Hingis 1997 Amanda Coetzer Hingis; Graf 1996 Jana Novotna Graf; Seles 1996 Kimiko Date Krumm Graf; Seles 1991 Martina Navratilova Graf; Seles 1991 Gabriela Sabatini Graf; Seles
It’s quite an accomplished list. As we might expect, there’s a lot of overlap between the players who achieved these upsets and past and future #1-ranked players. The real standouts here are Justine Henin and Venus Williams, who managed the feat twice, and Dinara Safina, who faced three different #1s in 2008, going undefeated against them.
Here are the men who beat multiple #1s in the same season:
Year Player Upsets 2013 Juan Martin Del Potro Nadal; Djokovic 2012 Andy Murray Federer; Djokovic 2011 David Ferrer Nadal; Djokovic 2011 Jo Wilfried Tsonga Nadal; Djokovic 2010 Marcos Baghdatis Nadal; Federer 2009 Juan Martin Del Potro Nadal; Federer 2008 Andy Murray Nadal; Federer 2008 Gilles Simon Nadal; Federer 2003 Rainer Schuettler Roddick; Agassi 2003 Fernando Gonzalez Hewitt; Agassi 2001 Greg Rusedski Safin; Kuerten 2001 Max Mirnyi Safin; Kuerten 1995 Michael Chang Agassi; Sampras 1992 Richard Krajicek Courier; Edberg 1991 Guy Forget Edberg; Becker 1991 Andrei Cherkasov Edberg; Becker 1990 Boris Becker Lendl; Edberg 1988 Boris Becker Wilander; Lendl
This list isn’t quite as impressive, though it does capture several very good players at their best. It also highlights the world-beating potential of Max Mirnyi, who–despite never reaching the top 15 himself–finished the 2001 season with a 3-1 record against ATP #1s.
The rarity of facing multiple #1s in the same season–let alone beating them–stops us from drawing any meaningful conclusions about what Svitolina’s feat indicates for her future. At the very least, however, it reminds us of the Ukrainian’s potential as a future star, and puts her among some very good historical company.