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Tennis briefing: will there be a WTA ‘Big Four’? What does Andrei Rublev eat?



Tennis briefing: will there be a WTA 'Big Four'?  What does Andrei Rublev eat?

Welcome to the Monday Tennis Briefing, true The Athletics will explain the story behind the stories of the past week in court.

This week, the European clay swing kicked off in earnest on the ATP and WTA tours, with tournaments in France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Romania. The top four women’s players faced off in Stuttgart, Barcelona witnessed the return of Rafael Nadal and we saw a zero-gravity serve.

If you want more tennis coverage, click here.

Do the WTA and ATP tours exchange their metas?

Over the past year there have been rumors about the formation of a ‘Big Four’ in women’s tennis. It was a ‘Big Three’ consisting of Iga Swiatek, Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka, but then Coco Gauff won the US Open and became a seriously consistent presence in the business side of tournaments, including the Australian Open semi-finals. She also climbed to number 3 in the rankings. At the same time, the meteoric rise of Carlos Alcaraz, followed by the slower burn of Jannik Sinner, with Daniil Medvedev being Daniil Medvedev, and the elastic continuity of Novak Djokovic created new rivalries on the ATP tour.

The past few months have disrupted that thinking. Despite not having won a Grand Slam title since last year’s French Open, Swiatek has continued to show every sign of being a dominant world No. 1 for some time now. The other three haven’t delivered the kind of consistency that would really justify using a name that has its roots in the Roger Federer/Djokovic/Nadal/Andy Murray dominance of the 2010s.

Ten years later, it’s easy to forget how often those names ended up on the final weekends of the biggest events. Look at 2012: of the sixteen places in the semi-finals of the four Grand Slam tournaments that year, Murray, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic accounted for twelve. Murray, Djokovic and Federer also took three of the semi-finals at the London Olympics that year.

Last week in Stuttgart, a rare mid-level tournament that attracted the top four women, it looked like they could reach a semi-final. But then Marketa Vondrousova defeated Sabalenka and Gauff lost to Marta Kostyuk, while Elena Rybakina won the tournament.

Next is Madrid. Maybe this time the quartet will be the last four standing.


Tennis’ top women say the sport is broken. This is why

What’s behind Andrei Rublev’s collapse in eight sets?

Good tennis players can see their form dip. Now it’s Rublev’s turn.

Rublev was number 5 in the world at the beginning of this year. He played at the Australian Open, but things have been going badly for him since he defaulted in the final matches of a semi-final against Alexander Bublik in Dubai in February.

Rublev protested angrily against a call to a line judge. Another line judge claimed that the Russian had used profanity in his native language.

He didn’t.

Tournament officials refused to review the belts before defaulting to Rublev and stripping him of his ranking points and earned prize money.

The video went viral and the ATP eventually reinstated his ranking points and the money he had earned – but the damage had already been done. Rublev has won just one match since then and he has lost to players ranked much lower than him, including world No. 44 Alexei Popyrin and last week world No. 87 Brandon Nakashima, with Rublev destroying his racket after losing match point.

The encounters weren’t very close either. Rublev has apparently been healthy, but he’s just not playing that well. He has dropped eight sets in 10 since defaulting in a run of four straight defeats.

These stats aren’t great, but they haven’t exactly dropped as much as his match results. However, look at something else…

The ‘dominance ratio’ is calculated by dividing the percentage of return points won by the percentage of service points lost. The last time Rublevov’s dominance ratio was this low was in 2015, when his high ranking for the year was No. 185 in the world and his low ranking was No. 438.

Coco Gauff does what Coco Gauff does… for how long?

Gauff gets a lot of credit for her perseverance, her competitiveness and her ability to play tight matches, especially over three sets.

The American may have all those qualities, but she can also do math.

Gauff has played 25 matches, winning 19 and losing six. Of those 25 matches, eight went the distance, and of those eight she lost four.

That’s two losses in seventeen two-set matches, and four losses in eight three-set matches.

What does this all mean?

Gauff found himself on the wrong end of a chaotic match (Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

Sure, her coach Brad Gilbert is the biggest advocate of winning ugly, but the “winning” part has to be there too. Gauff almost always shows up, and it’s worth remembering that of those two outright defeats, one was against Sabalenka in the Australian Open semi-final.

She could be a bit more clinical. As exciting as it is to watch Gauff fight, as wild as it is to see her win matches while far from her best, small margins ultimately catch up with the players. That happened in Stuttgart against Kostyuk, a player who defeated Gauff in three sets in Australia, but returned the favor in Germany.

It is a microcosm of the coinage that her three-setters have become.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud peak – but at the right time?

Tsitsipas and Ruud are two of the best clay court players in the world. Ruud has reached the final of the last two French Opens. Tsitsipas made it before that. Unfortunately, their opponents in those finals, Nadal and Djokovic, have won 46 Grand Slam titles between them, 17 of which came at Roland Garros.

Still, Tsitispas and Ruud have earned the right to build their clay-court seasons to a high point at the French Open, as both have deep stakes in the tournament and, depending on how the draw goes, they might also have a chance to win the tournament .

Ruud took charge of this final after a meek performance last week (Joan Valls/Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The way things are going, they may run out of fuel in their tanks.

For the second week in a row, Ruud and Tsitispas met in the final of a tournament, this time in Barcelona, ​​where Ruud avenged his loss to the Greek in Monte Carlo. It was Ruud’s third event of the clay-court season and Tsitispas’s second, with Madrid and Rome – both competitions just below the level of a Grand Slam – taking up the next four weeks of the calendar before Roland Garros began. That’s a lot of tennis, even for players in their mid-twenties like Ruud and Tsitispas.

Yes, this is the time of year when clay court stars try to rack up ranking points and prize money, but is that too much? Djokovic certainly thinks so, at least for him. Djokovic, a master of conserving energy and peaking at the biggest events, played Monte Carlo and lost to Ruud in the semi-finals, but he took last week off and has also withdrawn from Madrid. He will probably play against Rome and then go to Paris – fuel supplies are high.

Kick it, really good

It is a truth universally recognized – at least by readers of the beloved British children’s author Michael Rosen – that If you can’t go over or under it, you have to go through it.

Brazil’s raw but rising star, Joao Fonseca, does not recognize this truth.

Recommended reading:

🏆The winners of the week

🎾 ATP:

🏆 Casper Ruud Certainly. Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-3 to win the Banc Sabadell Open (500) in Barcelona. It is Ruud’s first ATP title above the 250 level.
🏆 Jan-Lennard Struff Certainly. Taylor Fritz 7-5, 6-3 to win the BMW Open (250) in Munich. It is Struff’s first ATP title.
🏆 Marton Fucsovics Certainly. Mariano Navone 6-4, 7-5 to win the Tiriac Open (250) in Bucharest. It is Fucsovics’ second ATP title.

🎾 WTA:

🏆 Elena Rybakina Certainly. Marta Kostchuk 6-3, 6-3 to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (500) in Stuttgart, Germany. It is Rybakina’s third title of 2024.
🏆 Sloane Stephens Certainly. Magda Linette 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 to win the Capfinances Rouen Metropole Open (250) in Rouen, France. It is Stephens’ first title since 2022.
🏆 Susan Lamens Certainly. Clara Tauson 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to win the Oeiras Ladies Open (125) in Oeiras, Portugal. In a wild final, Tauson trailed 0-5 in the second set before winning seven games in a row, but Lamens then recovered from 4-1 down in the third to win five games in a row for the title.

📈📉 On the rise / Down the line

📈 Marta Kostyuk rises six places from number 27 to number 21.
📈 Marton Fucsovics rises 29 places from number 82 to number 53.
📈 Magda Linette rises 12 places from No. 60 to No. 48.

📉 Carlos Alcaraz remains at number 3, but loses 1,000 points, eliminating his lead over Daniil Medvedev at number 4.
📉 Karolina Pliskova drops six places from the top 50, from No. 47 to No. 53.
📉 Dan Evans drops 20 places from No. 49 to No. 69.

📅Coming soon

🎾 ATP:

📍Madrid, Mutua Madrid Open (1000) April 24 – May 5 ft. Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz (..?) Rafael Nadal (..?).
📺 UK: Sky Sports; USA: Tennis Channel 💻 Tennis TV
📍Savannah, Savannah Challenger (75) ft. JJ Wolf, Bernard Tomic

🎾 WTA:

📍Madrid, Mutua Madrid Open (1000) April 24 – May 5 with Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, Coco Gauff.
📺 UK: Sky Sports; USA: Tennis Channel 💻 Tennis TV

Tell us what you noticed this week in the comments as the tours continue.

(Top Photos: Alex Grimm/Eric Alonso/Robert Prange/Getty Images)