For years, people have wondered who could possibly replace tennis’ superstars once they inevitably moved on. Now, with Serena Williams and Roger Federer officially retired, and with injuries currently plaguing Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, it seems we’re getting a clearer picture of those ready to accept the mantle.
On Sunday, Iga Swiatek, Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune all successfully defended their titles at Stuttgart, Barcelona and Munich, respectively, and showed — yet again — that the future may have already arrived.
The much-hyped repeat Stuttgart final between Swiatek and reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, was, remarkably, the first title match between the top-two-ranked women in the world since 2018. Swiatek, 21, proved her continued dominance on clay with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 victory for her 13th career title. No matter what Sabalenka did, Swiatek continued to raise her level and leave no doubt about her status as the favorite for next month’s French Open.
Meanwhile, some 788 miles away in Barcelona, Spain, Alcaraz was giving himself an early birthday present in his final tournament before turning 20 with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. He now has nine career titles, the most by a teenager since — who else? — Nadal. Despite being more than four years older than Alcaraz, Tsitsipas said he couldn’t help but be inspired by his younger peer after the match.
“I think it’s fair enough to say that we see you as an example even though we are slightly older than you,” Tsitsipas said on court. “We see your achievements as something that will hopefully push us to do better.”
Alcaraz celebrated with the tournament’s traditional jump, or dive in his case, into the pool.
????♂️ @carlosalcaraz #BCNOpenBS pic.twitter.com/A1BWAoace5
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 23, 2023
In Munich, the 19-year-old Rune needed everything he had to stave off Botic van de Zandschulp for his fourth ATP trophy. Struggling with a right arm injury and trailing 5-2, 40-15 in the decider, Rune had a comeback for the ages, ultimately saving four match points for a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (3) win. With a win like that, he is now brimming with confidence on the clay.
While things can change in an instant in tennis, it certainly seems as if the future and present are very bright with these three in it. Now Swiatek and Rune join Alcaraz in Spain for the 1000-level Madrid Open. The women’s main draw gets underway Tuesday, and the men begin on Wednesday. Here’s more from this week in tennis:
Sabalenka still wins
Despite her loss Sunday to Swiatek, it has been an incredible year for Sabalenka. The 24-year-old has won two titles, including her first major, and reached four finals. And aside from her on-court prowess, she has a hilarious sense of humor. It was on display during the Stuttgart on-court trophy presentation, which included a Porsche to the victor.
When addressing the crowd, Sabalenka — who had just lost her third straight final at Stuttgart — posed a question to the tournament organizers.
“Can I make a deal?” she asked with a smile on her face. “If I make another final, I’ll just get an extra car?”