Together, Iga Swiatek, Elena Rybakina and Alina Sabalenka won five Grand Slam singles titles. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have 64 wins.
Siwiatek, Rybakina and Sabalenka have been at the top of the sport for almost a year now. The combination of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic has appeared in the last 20 games.
Siwiatek, world No. 1 from Poland. Rybakina, 2022 Wimbledon champion for Kazakhstan, born and raised in Russia. And 2023 Australian Open winner Sabalenka from Belarus is still largely unknown to tennis fanatics. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are some of the most famous athletes on the planet.
Therefore, it is with the utmost hesitation, caution and respect that I bring up the term “Big 3” when talking about Siwiatek (21), Rybakina (23) and Sabalenka (25). That’s all.
But recently, something has happened to this group in the rival-hungry women’s game. The next two weeks of the French Open could all come together for a glorious roar. The first of the three to play at Roland Garros, Sabalenka opened the tournament with a win over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in a bitter wartime match. Siwiatek and Rivakina will meet in the first round on Tuesday, with Siwiatek facing 70th-ranked Kristina Bussa and Rivakina facing 18-year-old Linda Hruwirtova, ranked 59th.
Since Australia’s Ashley Barty retired in March 2022 at the age of 25 at the top of the rankings, Siwiatek, Ryvakina and Sabalenka have hogged nearly all of the most prestigious trophies. They often punch each other on their way to the winner’s circle, and the women’s match, if not other players in tennis, may be culminating in the kind of rivalry that has so far been largely lacking. It gives tennis executives hope that it won’t. 10 years, perhaps going back to the days when Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters were vying for supremacy.
“It’s where the best players want to go against each other over and over again,” WTA Tour chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a recent interview.
The budding rivalry also has a geopolitical backstory that adds more fuel and animosity. Siwiatek has been the most outspoken critic of the Russian aggression and has helped raise millions of dollars to support relief efforts in Ukraine. When she plays, she wears a pin with the Ukrainian flag on it. As Mr Kostyuk reminded everyone on Sunday, Mr Rybakina and Mr Sabalenka hail from the two countries that went to war.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to cast a shadow over the sport, especially with players from the eastern European countries most affected by the conflict. Kostyuk refused to shake Sabalenka’s hand after Sunday’s game.
Siwiatek has never performed as well as Kostyuk and other Ukrainian players, but whatever the relationship between Siwiatek and her two biggest rivals is, it is frosty. Siwiatek said she, Rybakina and Sabalenka respect each other but have no relationship off the court. She also said she tries not to think about politics when she plays.
“When I think about the players personally, it’s a no-brainer,” she said. “There’s really no time during the game to over-analyze everything else.”
However, there is no shortage of matches to analyze.
Siwiatek has already lost to Ryvakina three times this year. He withdrew from the Australian Open, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. and the Italian Open in Rome earlier this month with a foot injury early in the third set. . Rybakina won the tournament.
Rybakina provided the blueprint for beating three-time Grand Slam champion Siwiatek. Few could do that in 2022, when Siwiatek once had a 37-game winning streak. However, Rivakina is one of the most powerful players in the game, and she uses her abilities to hunt down Cyphiatech.
“It’s always a tough fight against Iga,” Ryvakina said earlier this year. “Everybody wants to beat her.”
Swirtek defeated Sabalenka in the final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany in April (car entered). Sabalenka returned the favor at the Madrid Open final in May.
Sabalenka defeated Ryvakina to win the Australian Open in January. In March, Ryvakina beat Sabalenka to win the title at Indian Wells, considered the fifth unofficial Grand Slam tournament in sports.
“Women’s tennis needs this kind of consistency for the No. 1 and No. 2 in the world to face each other in the final,” Sabalenka said after her victory in Madrid. “It’s harder.”
She also said that overtaking Sifiatek for first place has been her main motivation for the past year, and having a specific goal helps her understand what she needs to improve to get there. It also revealed that it helped
It doesn’t resemble the dynamic Federer, Nadal and Djokovic experienced at the height of their success. They know they are better than everyone else, they know the weapons their most powerful rivals have brought to the fore, and that finding a way to counter them is their top priority. I knew
Siwiatek said it was more fun that way and not just the audience. Playing against so many of the same tough matches and so many familiar tactics turns the sport into a quest for solutions to very specific problems.
“It’s very exciting because I haven’t had that in my career yet,” she said. “There is no doubt that the motivation will be even higher.”
It’s still not a true Big 3, but it’s not far off, and much closer than women’s tennis has been to the Big 3 in years.