Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2021 Wimbledon on the women’s side and looks ahead.
Ashleigh Barty added a second Grand Slam title to her name over the weekend, beating veteran Karolina Pliskova in the Wimbledon final.
In winning a first Wimbledon title, the 25-year-old did much more than win an entertaining back-and-forth affair to the tune of 6-3, 6-7(4) and 6-3. This title is the Australian’s second career Grand Slam, after the 2019 French Open, and allows her to strengthen her grip atop the WTA rankings. Here’s a player who took two years off from tennis in 2014, then came back to it rejuvenated to play some inspiring tennis. Then, Barty took full advantage of the shift in rules for the ranking points once the pandemic halted tennis last year. She regrouped and came back to the sport in full force this year.
And now, here she is with a Wimbledon title.
What does it mean for the WTA?
Number slam winners under the age of 30:
WTA – 10
ATP – 1
Still the misogynist WTA bashers will continue to attack it I guess.
— SerMM91 – Thanking Football Gods (@SerMM91) July 10, 2021
As indicated in the tweet embedded above, this past weekend produced quite the contrasting set of results on the ATP and WTA. But because the ones winning the big prizes in men’s tennis are sometimes the ones everyone loves (Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer) and more often than not the one everyone loves to hate (Novak Djokovic), then we say that there’s nothing wrong with the current state of the ATP. That, rather, there is something wrong with the WTA for producing such weird, quirky and unpredictable results—when unpredictable is undeniably good.
In any case, this got us thinking about who the main pretenders for the throne are in women’s tennis. Over the past couple of years, as it’s become clearer and clearer that the reign of the great Serena Williams was indeed truly over, we want to know who has got next. There are many contenders. Apologies to Sofia Kenin and Aryna Sabalenka, the last two names cut.
–Pros: The case for Barty is about as clear and easy to make as that for any other. The Australian is next to rule women’s tennis simply because she already rules the sport. It’s her name atop the rankings, no one else’s, and after winning Wimbledon she’s probably not relinquishing her lead anytime soon. Barty’s game is versatile and well-rounded, and it’s always easier to rule a sport when you start from the pole position.
–Cons: Just how high is Barty’s ceiling? There’s a sense that for all of her typical and steady excellence, maybe the Australian can’t quite reach the heights that some of her rivals can on their best days. The flip side of that, however, plays in her favour: if she has a lower ceiling but a higher floor, things should be fine for her, shouldn’t they? And things, after all, have worked out fine for her.
–Pros: At 23 years old, Naomi Osaka already has four Grand Slam titles to her name: those have come at the US Open and Australian Open (two each). She has perhaps the most lethal game on the women’s side, a great combination of shot-making, gall and attacking tennis that puts the onus on her opponents to match her shot for shot. And in most cases, it’s this that crowns her the winner.
–Cons: Well, the above is the case as long as matches are on hard courts. The 23-year-old Japanese may be an unbelievable ambassador for the sport, but her results haven’t been up to par on grass or clay. The “glass half empty” approach with Osaka says that she has four major titles, but that she’s only ever reached beyond the fourth round four times at majors. That she has to done more before we’re willing to crown her.
–Pros: At just 20 years old and already No. 9, Iga Swiatek is the youngest member of the WTA’s Top 10. She’s still yet to play her 200th career professional match, but already has won three titles: in Adelaide (a WTA 500 event), in Rome (a WTA 1000 event) and the French Open. That’s what you call ruthless and efficient.
–Cons: Maybe we pump the brakes a little bit? The Polish started competing on the WTA a mere two+ years ago, we have yet to truly comprehend all that she is capable of doing—and all that she might still become. She might still be the best in women’s tennis, but she’s not quite there yet.
–Pros: Bianca Andreescu, still just 21 years old, is already the highest-ranked and best player in Canadian tennis history. You’ll say that it’s not like Canada has a rich tennis history, which is true, but being the greatest of a country’s history at literally anything is a big deal. So Andreescu, yes, is a big deal. She took over women’s tennis in 2019, winning in Indian Wells, Rogers Cup and the US freaking Open. Her potential seemed just about limitless when she overwhelmed Serena Williams in Flushing Meadows.
–Cons: Since beating Serena Williams in that final almost two years ago, the Canadian has played a mere 25 matches, winning 15 of them. She’s made the final this year in Miami but otherwise, it’s been pretty rough for Andreescu. When she hasn’t been injured she simply hasn’t played well enough. (And when she’s been playing well, she’s been injured.) She’s undeniably a great player with oodles of talent. But will that be enough?
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG