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Indian Wells crowns for Alcaraz and Świątek come as tennis begins thrilling period after dominance of Large Three and Serena Williams


When Nick Kyrgios went on Logan Paul’s podcast (please do not depart) he was requested who he thought the best tennis participant of all time was.

He rattled by way of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and settled on Novak Djokovic. Co-host Mike Majlak questioned: “So no Sampras, no McEnroe, Agassi — none of these guys?”

Kyrgios appeared virtually baffled by the interjection, shaking his head and emphatically answering: “No approach.”

And he is proper.

Even other than the very US-centric framing of the query, Pete Sampras and John McEnroe mixed have only one extra slam than Federer — the least prolific of the vaunted “Large Three”.

Nadal is the same as Andre Agassi plus Jimmy Connors plus Boris Becker, whereas Djokovic’s 24-slam tally is a Frankenstein’s monster of Björn Borg’s 11, Mats Wilander’s seven and Stefan Edberg’s six.

They’re merely on one other airplane of tennis greatness since tennis turned skilled within the late Sixties.

Within the Open Period, 61 girls have received grand slam titles, and 59 males.

Of the 454 grand slam singles titles up for grabs within the Open Period, solely 22 girls and 22 males have received greater than two of them, making up a whopping 77.5 per cent (352) of the entire main singles titles.

The 22 girls with three or extra main crowns account for 174 of 227 titles, and that quantity is 178 for the lads.

There are 5 champions who’ve slam tallies within the double digits on all sides of the draw — they personal 92 of the ladies’s trophies and 91 of the lads’s.

But it surely’s the historic unfold that differentiates the 2 excursions.

Of the 5 girls with double-digit main tallies, Margaret Court docket (11 within the Open Period) handed over to Chris Evert (18) within the mid-70s, Martina Navratilova (18) dominated the 80s, Steffi Graf (22) had the 90s and Serena Williams (23) the 2000s and 2010s.

Of the 5 GOAT contenders on the lads’s aspect, all however one — 11-time winner Björn Borg — began successful from 1990 onwards.

The hole between Federer’s first main and Djokovic’s is lower than 5 years, with Nadal’s debut slam crammed in between, and the latter two had a mortgage on majors by way of the 2010s.

In 2024, Federer and Williams are lengthy since retired, Nadal is struggling to get again on court docket for longer than a single match, and even 36-year-old Djokovic is with no title by way of the primary three months of the yr for the primary (non-vaccination-related) time since 2018.

The last-standing member of the Large Three continues to be the world primary, however your complete draw has seen him bleed.

Novak Djokovic is blurry in the foreground as Jannik Sinner shakes the umpire's hand after their match at the Australian Open.

Jannik Sinner has crushed Novak Djokovic on huge levels thrice since late 2023.(Getty Photos: Daniel Pockett)

Of the present high 10, solely two have by no means crushed Djokovic. He misplaced within the Australian Open semis for the primary time and final week dropped a match to somebody exterior the highest 100 for simply the second time in six years (the final one coming within the midst of his visa drama in early 2022).

The tide is not turning, it is turned. And with it, so too should our expectations and understanding of what greatness is.

Elite rivalries and depth in addition

Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff walk on court during their Australian Open semifinal.

Aryna Sabalenka (left) is a two-time Australian Open winner and 20-year-old Coco Gauff (proper) is the reigning US Open champion.(AP: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

Since Serena’s twenty third and closing grand slam title on the 2017 Australian Open, 17 completely different girls have received the 27 trophies on provide, with just a few gamers elevating their heads above the pack within the two years since Ash Barty’s retirement.

All the most important titles within the 2022 Australian Open, other than Markéta Vondroušová’s at Wimbledon final yr, have been received by the present high 4 of Iga Świątek, Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina. Of that group, two-time Australian Open winner Sabalenka is the oldest at 25 years of age.

Gauff, Sabalenka and Rybakina have additionally been runners-up in that point and Tunisian Ons Jabeur has made three slam finals with out successful. In the meantime, Naomi Osaka, considered one of solely 17 girls within the Open Period with 4 slams to their identify, is on the comeback path.

You may view this as a mini model of the Large Three plus Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, however the depth of each draw is obvious to see.

Of the WTA high 12, solely two — fifth-ranked Jessica Pegula and world quantity 9 Maria Sakkari — are but to make the semis of a slam, however no-one within the high 40 would look misplaced within the closing 4 of a significant.

Outdoors the highest 10 lurk main winners and finalists Karolína Muchová (eleventh), Petra Kvitova (18th), Madison Keys (twentieth), Barbora Krejčíková (twenty first), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (twenty fourth), Victoria Azarenka (thirtieth), Leylah Fernandez (thirty fourth) and Karolína Plíšková (thirty ninth).

They’re all nonetheless in or round their primes, with solely Kvitova and Azarenka older than 32.

Coco Gauff, Elena Rybakina, Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek reach for the WTA Finals trophy.

Aryna Sabalenka (centre) has established herself as a challenger to Iga Świątek’s (proper) once-presumptive standing as the most effective girls’s participant.(Getty Photos: Sarah Stier)

Two months out from the French Open, males’s tennis can also be trying extra even than at any level up to now 20 years, and we must always see a correct shootout at grand slams slightly than ready to see which of the Large Three will lose within the semis each time.

Twenty-two-year-old Jannik Sinner has joined Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev as main winners of their prime, with breakthroughs for sturdy slam performers like Alex Zverev, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas feeling virtually inevitable, and the likes of Australian Alex de Minaur, Holger Rune, Andrey Rublev, Taylor Fritz, Ben Shelton, Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul behind them.

All of the whereas, 2022 Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios continues his lengthy rehab journey.

Indian Wells provides us predictable champions after thrilling draw

For the primary time in a very long time, each event, each week is a contest.

A whole crapshoot would recommend no really elite expertise, however widespread brilliance results in a cushty predictability by way of the primary half of the large tournaments, then an exhilarating rush to the end.

Carlos Alcaraz throws his hands in the air while holding a tennis racquet as he celebrates winning Indian Wells.

Carlos Alcaraz received his second-straight Indian Wells title after a gradual begin to the season.(Getty Photos: Matthew Stockman)

Wanting on the final eight of the lads’s draw at this yr’s Indian Wells — typically referred to as the “fifth main” — seven spots have been populated by the aforementioned contenders, with Czech thirty second seed Jiri Lehecka the one ring-in.

On the earlier spherical within the Californian desert we misplaced de Minaur, Tsitsipas, Shelton and Fritz, in addition to veterans Gael Monfils and Grigor Dimitrov, and bolters Luca Nardi and Fábián Marozsán.

On the ladies’s aspect, Świątek, Gauff and Sakkari reached the semifinals, joined by 21-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, sporting the Thirty first-seed tag after an Australian Open quarterfinal and a runner-up end in San Diego.

Świątek dealt with Kostyuk the way in which a champion ought to, whereas Sakkari endured back-to-back marathons in opposition to Sabalenka slayer Emma Navarro and Gauff to succeed in the ultimate.

Iga Świątek poses for a photo with Hollywood star Zendaya after winning Indian Wells.

Tennis is so sizzling proper now that Zendaya (proper) is making motion pictures about it, and Iga Świątek (left) is main the ladies’s cost.(AP: Ryan Solar)

World primary Świątek dominated Sakkari 6-4, 6-0 within the closing to remind everybody of her brilliance, and Alcaraz (after handing Sinner his first lack of 2024) did the identical with a 7-6(7/5), 6-1 win over Medvedev.

Alcaraz is simply 20 years previous with a significant win on grass and arduous court docket, plus 4 Masters titles (two on clay, three on arduous), displaying all-court brilliance and composure that was maybe past even Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. In the meantime, Świątek is someway nonetheless simply 22, boasting three French Opens and a US Open win, not far off the six-slam tally of Williams on the identical age.

They’re lofty heights for each, however we’ve to watch out to not get carried away.

Approaching tennis with a brand new ‘actuality’

Simply as her third-round Australian Open loss to teenager Linda Nosková (avenged at Indian Wells) proved little greater than a blip, it is no trigger for alarm if Świątek “fails” to win a third-straight title at Roland Garros in June, a couple of week after her twenty third birthday.

5-time grand slam finalist Andy Roddick mentioned on his Served podcast that “we really feel entitled to peak efficiency the entire time, for many years at a time” because of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Williams.

Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Roger Federer stand at the net on a tennis court.

There are 67 grand slam titles on this picture — greater than each Australian participant mixed within the Open Period.(Getty Photos: TPN)

“That is not actual life,” the 2003 US Open winner mentioned.

“They made it their actual life, however that is not the expectation set going ahead.”

Roddick instructed a narrative from the 2022 US Open of the strain being heaped on a then-19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who at that stage had received simply 13 grand slam matches.

“There was plenty of hype round him, and … it was like, ‘Is Alcaraz going to win 10 majors?'” Roddick mentioned.

“I am like, ‘He hasn’t received a single main but and also you’re placing him forward of Agassi, Lendl, McEnroe, Connors, Becker, Edberg.’

“The fact with which we method conversations, or the dearth of actuality, is insane.”

Alcaraz went on to win that US Open and take down Djokovic to win Wimbledon the subsequent yr, so the expectations are unlikely to abate any time quickly, however a quarterfinal exit to Zverev at this yr’s Australian Open adopted by a semifinal loss to the twenty first seed in Buenos Aires would not have to be a harbinger for his standing as one of many world’s greatest gamers.

“He is allowed to play effectively typically after which play badly six months later. It occurs,” Roddick mentioned.

Wanting on the previous by way of rose-coloured glasses

It is price remembering that after successful the US Open as a 17-year-old in 1999, Williams did not win one other main in 2000 or 2001, and had slam-less seasons in 2004 and 2006.

Djokovic received his first in 2008, then did not win one other till a three-slam 2011; Nadal solely had two multi-major seasons within the first 14 years of his profession; and Federer … effectively, he was about as constantly wonderful in his prime as all of us keep in mind, though he did not win his first slam till he was 22, making him the most recent bloomer of any of those legends.


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