PARIS – It seems that all those questions about who will stand at the top once Serena Williams – who recently joined retired top seed Ash Partey – retires from the tennis tour – has been answered by three names: Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.
Heading into the French Open, defending champion Swiatek is ranked No. 1, Sabalenka is No. 2 and Rybakina No. 4. Garros: This group has smashed their last four Grand Slam titles, accolades that help define the greatness of their sport.
They are showing signs of a kind of ‘big three’ formation, and although they are not yet close, of course, to the level of dominance seen over the decades since the so-called ‘Big Three’ in the men’s game – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic with Over 20 Slam tournaments, some are beginning to see Swiatek, Sabalenka, and Rybakina as settling on top of the WTA.
“They kind of broke away from the rest of the group,” said Jessica Pegula, the 29-year-old American No. 3 seed and five-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist who lost to Swatik at the time. French Open and US Open. “It comes with the confidence to get lots of great results and breakthroughs.”
These are the three best players we currently have,” said Barbora Krejcikova, Roland Garros 2021 champion.
Swiatek, a 21-year-old Pole, is the reigning Roland Garros champion and US Open champion. Sabalenka, the 25-year-old Belarusian, won the Australian Open last January by defeating Rybakina in the final. Rybakina, the 23-year-old Kazakh, won Wimbledon last July.
There’s more: At two major US hard court championships this spring, she beat Rybakina Sabalenka in the final in Indian Wells, Calif., then was runner-up in Miami. When the circuit turned to European clay, Swiatek outlasted Sabalenka in the final in Stuttgart, Germany, a result that was reversed when they met for the trophy two weeks later in Madrid.
And in Roland Garros’ latest big clay-court adjustment, Rybakina clinched the title in Rome after taking the lead when Swiatek was stopped early in the third set of the quarterfinals with a right thigh injury (“Fortunately, nothing serious happened,” Swiatek said).
“It’s good for tennis to see top players succeed regularly. I think it pushed everyone to the next level and pushed everyone to do better and play better,” Sabalenka said, noting how Swiatek has put together a 37-match winning streak that includes six titles. “I think it’s something important. Really good to see. »
These can be some tempting rivalries, in part because of the variety of styles and personalities on offer.
Swiatek and Rybakina are generally more conservative. Sabalenka never hesitates to share her thoughts.
Swiatek is an expert tactician who covers every inch of the field with the greatest defense possible. Sabalenka and Rybakina bring as much power as anyone in the neighborhood, starting with terrifying blows.
Rybakina is first on the aces circuit this season with 278, more than any other woman with over 50. Sabalenka is third with 204.4. Swiatek ranks second in the league (among women with at least five games) with a win rate of 48.6% in 2023.
“It’s good to have someone watching you all the time. We’ve played many games against each other and we know (each other) is a good match tactically.” But sometimes we also have to find different solutions, which is very exciting, because I haven’t I get that in my career. »
And then, reflecting on the meetings of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, she continued: “I think that’s what the big three had to do, of course, when they played, I don’t know, 30 matches against each other. Even more. So I’m happy to learn new things.” And also, of course, we’re all working really hard to play better and better. It’s an extra motivation for sure. ”
After beating Swiatek 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the Madrid final three weeks ago, Sabalenka expressed a sentiment that the other two members of this elite trio definitely share.
“We hope to continue doing what we’ve been doing this season,” said Sabalenka.