PARTAB RAMCHAND | 26 JUNE, 2019
Women’s Tennis Lacks A Dominant Figure
Ever since Serena Williams’ dominance ended a couple of years ago.
Wimbledon is just around the corner and in complete contrast to the events around the ATP Tour circuit where the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are still calling the shots in the Grand Slams, the major tournaments and the rankings, the WTA Tour wears an open look. Almost every week a new No 1 emerges in the rankings, players climb and slip in the rankings as a matter of routine and tournaments are won by different players.
This has been the case ever since Serena Williams’ dominance ended a couple of years ago. Since her pregnancy and the birth of her child she has played only sporadically in tournaments. It speaks volumes of her durability and fighting qualities that at 37 she reached the final at Wimbledon and the US Open last year and is still No 11 in the rankings. But the last time Serena won a Grand Slam was at the Australian Open in 2017. There is no denying that her fortunes are finally on the decline and one is not sure whether she will achieve her lifelong ambition of equaling Margaret Court’s all time record of 24 Grand Slams (at the moment she is one short).
For long in the shadow of the great lady the current crop of top players are a mixture of the young and the experienced. But what is clear is that there is no dominant figure in women’s tennis which has been the case over the last half a century. The 60s and 70s was the era of Margaret Court and Billie Jean King. Then came the duo of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova who dominated the 70s and 80s. Thereafter it was the turn of Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis in the 80s and 90s while the Williams sisters Venus and Serena were the dominant players in the new new millennium. All of them won multiple Grand Slam titles besides being ranked No 1 over an extended period.
Graf for example was ranked world No 1 for a record 377 weeks in total – the longest period for any player, male or female. Furthermore she is the only player to have won each Grand Slam tournament at least four times. In recent years Serena held the No 1 ranking for 186 consecutive weeks tying the record set by Graf while she has been No 1 for a total of 319 weeks which ranks third behind Graf and Navratilova.
Nothing like all these mind boggling and eye rubbing feats can be associated with the leading stars of today and the honours have really been spread around. Players like Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina, Simona Halep, Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniacki have either won a Grand Slam event or been No 1 in the rankings. But newer and newer players are coming up.
The latest to join the bandwagon is Ashleigh Barty.The 23-year-old Australian earlier this month won the French Open an unexpected triumph that propelled her to the No 2 slot in the rankings. And just the other day by winning the WTA Tour title at Birmingham she became only the second Australian woman to top the world rankings dethroning Osaka. She emulated Evonne Goolagong Cawley who held the No 1 ranking for a fortnight in 1976. Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands too has been making waves of late and is perched at No 4. It is almost like anyone in the top ten could win a Grand Slam and anyone in the top ten could rise to No 1 in the rankings at any time.