This beginning of the 2016 season on the women’s side has been highlighted with uncertainty and surprising results. Not many thought Angelique Kerber could win the Australian Open in Melbourne, or that Serena Williams would finish the month of March with no titles under her belt. After Miami we can surely say that Victoria Azarenka is in poll position to dominate the hard court season later this year, considering the level she showcased both in Indian Wells and Miami. That said, winning a Grand Slam title is another story, something the Belarusian has already managed to achieve twice. In the past years there have been majors with surprise winners, the most famous not-predicted winners being Samantha Stosur (Us Open 2011), Marion Bartoli (Wimbledon 2013) and Flavia Pennetta (Us Open 2015).
In this flow of uncertainty only one thing seems recurrent: Players born in the 90s can’t win a major title, with the only exception to the rule being Petra Kvitova, who with her 2 Wimbledon titles (2011 and 2014) is to date the only player born after December 31 1989 who has managed to win a Grand Slam.
When Petra won her firs title at the Championships in London beating Sharapova 6-3 6-4 in the final, almost no one predicted that in the following 5 years no player aged like Petra or younger would end up not winning a major title. No player with less than 26 years of age now can count a Grand Slam title in their palmares. It doesn’t really make sense then to talk about the absence of ”young” winners, as also players in their middle age can’t seem able to win a major title .
Here is a table to show the 55 players born in the 90s currently ranked in the top 100. The doesn’t follow the place these players occupy in the rankings, but on their date of birth. For each player we have indicated the best result achieved in a major tournament:
Players Born in 1990
A part from Petra Kvitova the other star player born in 1990 is Caroline Wozniacki. She was the first player of her generation to reach a Grand Slam final, in 2009 at the US Open. The Dane was only 19 years old back then, and she managed to tie that result 5 years after, losing to Serena Williams in the final in New York in 2014. In both major finals Caroline lost in straight sets. The absence of major titles won haunted Wozniacki when she was World No.1, for 67 weeks between 2010 and 2012.
Even though the final was reached just over a year ago, the strong second half of 2014 from Caroline has been so far the only highlight from the Dane. Wozniacki has entered a downfall which today has brought her outside the top 20. Aged like Petra and Caroline are also Cornet and Barthel, who have done well on the WTA tour, but never went too far in a Grand Slam tournament.
Players born in 1991
Simona Halep is the player born in 1991 who has gotten closer to a major title, when she lost in three sets to Maria Sharapova in the final of the 2014 French Open, won by the Russian with the final score of 6-4, 6-7, 6-4. After that result Simona has reached 2 major semi-finals, at Wimbledon (2014) and the US Open (2015).
Recently a player that has grabbed the spotlight has been the Brit Johanna Konta. Johanna has reached the semi-finals recently at the Australian Open this year, thanks to a good consistency and ability to be proactive in the points. Konta’s rise took eyes off Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who has reached her best Grand Slam result in 2011, with the quarter-finals reached both at Roland Garros and the US Open, before starting her decline. Better than the Russian in the Slams has recently been Coco Vandeweghe, who has reached the last 8 at Wimbledon last year, losing to Sharapova.
Other failed promises in the major events are Camila Giorgi and Bojana Jovanovski, who have both reached the 4th round as their best result in a major.
Players born in 1992
Only 5 players born in 1992 feature in the top 100 of the WTA rankings. That is half the number of representatives compared to the year before and after. Only one player is ranked in the top 50, and none able to win more than 2 consecutive matches in a major event.
That is quite a negative stat, especially for Karolina Pliskova, capable of entering the top 10, but who has never gone too far in a Grand Slam.
Players born in 1993
Compared to 1992, the year 1993 seems better off. Some of these players have already been able to go far in the main draw of a major event. Garbine Muguruza has finished Runner-up at Wimbledon 2015, Sloane Stephens was a semi-finalist in 2013 at the Australian Open. Other players seem able to further improve and feature in the latter stages of a Grand Slam tournament, such as Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia. Also Monica Puig has looked able to improve her tennis to climb the rankings.
Currently the Spaniard is atop of the pack, but the other players could still tie Garbine’s results or even do better, considering their potential.
Players born in 1994
Players born in 1994 are the most numerous in the top 100 of players born in the 90s, with a total of 12 representatives. Eugenie Bouchard is clearly the first player that comes to mind speaking of success in major events. The Canadian has reached the final at Wimbledon in 2014 and the semis in the same year in Melbourne and Paris. But after her crisis in 2015, she is now behind Svitolina, Schmiedlova, Gavrilova, Gasparyan, Beck.
Maybe here there is not the amount of talent we can witness in players born in 1993, but this is the year that produces the most top 50 players of all. As many of these players seem able to further improve and climb the rankings, it is possible and quite likely that other players in this year will go far in the majors.
Players born in 1995
Starting with the year 1995 we have to consider the precocity factor. Talented players are yet to showcase what they can really do, but the potential could be there. There are only 4 players born in 1994 that feature in the top 100, but there could be more coming in soon.
Surely, Madison Keys is atop of the pack here, with the semi-finals reached in 2015 at the Australian Open and the potential to win major titles with her aggressive and powerful tennis.
Players born in 1996
It seems too early to consider the players born in 1996, who will turn 20 this year and will have a chance to show what they are made of later on.
Players born in 1997
Despite what said for 1995 and 1996, the year 1997 doesn’t seem to need extra time to show what its girls are made of. There are already three players ranked in the top 100 and with high average rankings. Belinda Bencic is World No.8 and has already reached the quarters in a major, then there is Jelena Ostapenko (39) and Daria Kasatkina (36). All these players, also including Ana Konjhu, have managed to win at least one match in a Grand Slam tournament.
Who are the best candidates to win a Grand Slam?
To get the monkey off the back a player born in the 90s will have to win a major title, to join Petra Kvitova and break the jinx.
It is not easy to pick one player who above the others should sooner rather than later grasp a major trophy in her hands. The best pics come from even years. Simona Halep (1991) could be the top pic, followed by Garbine Muguruza (1993), Madison Keys (1995) and Belinda Bencic (1997). Other options could be Johanna Konta (1991), Sloane Stephens and maybe later Mladenovic and Garcia (all 1993).
We can’t forget how Eugenie Bouchard (1994) has gotten shy of just one match of winning a Slam. Genie has to find her way back and she probably will, in time not to have her talent wasted. Finally, there is hope for Karolina Pliskova (1992) to pass her fear of majors.
Even though Petra Kvitova has won her firs title 5 years go, it doesn’t really mean that players in the 90s should win a major very soon indeed. Chances are that Petra will probably not be alone for ever, but players from the 80s are all but gone or ready to leave the top of the game. After all, this seems to be Azarenka’s year, and she was born in 1989…
Why Celebrating LGBT+ Pride Month In Tennis Matters
Besides the fancy rainbow-coloured clothing that is worn, there is a far more important reason.
June is when players switch their focus from the clay to grass in order to tune up their preparations ahead of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships. But for some linked to the sport this month is also significant for another reason.
It is LGBT pride month which is an initiative that was originally created as a way to mark the Stonewall Riots which began on June 28th 1969 in New York. A series of protests took place in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn which was the catalyst in the fight for equal rights among the LGBT community. In the UK the first pride March was held in 1972 and today there are more than 100 events in the country annually.
Today Pride is about promoting equality in the world with various organizations taking part, including tennis. The British Lawn Tennis Association has gotten more involved this year by hosting a series of Pride Days at their ATP and WTA events. They have taken place on the Friday of tournaments in Nottingham, Birmingham and Queen’s. The final one is taking place this Friday in Eastbourne.
“We still live in a time when people don’t always feel like they can be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, so the more we can do to show support and let them know everything is ok the better,’ British player Liam Broady recently said.
Some may wonder as to if Pride events such as these are necessary in tennis considering it is 2022 and lives for LGBT people have improved considerably over the years. However, there is still work to be done. One study called OUTSPORT found that 90% of LGBT+ respondents believe that homophobia and transphobia is a problem in sport and 33% remain closeted in their own sporting context. Another study conducted in recent years is Out On The Fields which found almost eight out of 10 respondents felt that an openly gay person would not be very safe as a spectator at a sporting event. Obviously, these findings vary depending on the sport and the country, but it still illustrates the seriousness of the subject.
In tennis, the WTA Tour has seen various LGBT role models triumph at the very top. Both Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova were some of the very first professional athletes to come out publicly during the 1980s which was a decade when misinformation about the Aids crises lead to the stigmation of the gay community. King said she lost all of her endorsements within 24 hours after being outed in 1981 and that was before the Aids crisis erupted. Navratilova also experienced similar misfortunes.
“The WTA was founded on the principles of equality and opportunity, along with positivity and progress, and wholeheartedly supports and encourages players, tournaments, partners and fans’ commitment to LGBT+ initiatives,” the WTA told UbiTennis last week.
“The WTA supports LGBT+ projects across the tennis family, such as amplifying our athletes’ voices on this topic through the Tour’s global platforms, increasing awareness by incorporating the LGBT+ spirit into our wider corporate identity, among many other initiatives.”
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) tells UbiTennis the sport has a ‘proud history of advocating social change.’ The organization oversees the running of all junior events, Davis Cup, Billie Jean King Club and the Olympic tennis events.
“Inclusion is one of the ITF’s core values and a pillar of the ITF 2024 strategy. Tennis as a sport has a proud history of advocating social justice and instigating change. Within the tennis community, we embrace the LGBTQ community and full support any initiative, such as the celebration of Pride Month, that continues the conversation and furthers progress in ensuring sport and society are free from bias and discrimination in any form. There is always more that can be done, and we will continue to make every effort to ensure that all our participants, our employees and fans feel welcome, included, and respected day in, day out.” The ITF said in a statement.
Whilst the women’s Tour has had plenty of LGBT role models, it is different on the men’s circuit. At present there is no openly gay player in men’s tennis where around 2000 people have an ATP ranking. In recent months the governing body has looked into making the Tour more inclusive. Last year they reached out to Lou Englefield, the director of Pride Sports, a UK organisation that focuses on LGBTQ+phobia in sport and aims to improve access to sport for all LGBTQ+ people. Through their connection, they contacted Eric Denison, a behavioural science researcher at Monash University’s School of Social Sciences. Monash University supplied the ATP with a series of scientifically validated questions, which they used to ‘look under the hood’ at the factors which supports a culture where gay or bisexual players feel they are not welcome.
It has been over nine months since news of the survey taking place emerged but the findings are still to be published. In an email to Ubitennis, the ATP confirmed that they are ‘finalizing their next steps’ and will be making an announcement shortly. They acknowledge that the survey process has taken longer than expected but it is unclear as to why.
As for those who may be experiencing difficulty in their personal lives regarding their sexuality, Brian Vahaly has his own advice which he shared with Ubitennis last year. Vahaly is a former top 100 player who came out as gay after retiring from the sport.
“Find somebody to talk to, somebody you trust. Know that people like us are there if you have questions. It’s just nice to have somebody to talk to who can help you learn about yourself,” he said.
“What I try to do is in terms of putting my family forward is that we live a pretty ‘normal life.’ I have two kids, I have a house and I walked my kids to preschool this morning. It doesn’t have to be such a defining characteristic of who you are. In the sports world, it feels that it is magnified, but what I want to show is that you can have a great athletic career, meet somebody and have a family no matter your sexuality.”
Pride is as much about making sports such as tennis an open environment for everyone as it is about marking a series of historic protests which took place in America more than 40 years ago.
It’s Unfair, Rafa Is Too Good In Roland Garros Final
James Beck reflects on Nadal’s latest triumph at Roland Garros.
This one was almost unfair.
It was like Rafa Nadal giving lessons to one of his former students at the Nadal academy back home in Mallorca.
When this French Open men’s singles final was over in less than two hours and a half, Rafa celebrated, of course. But he didn’t even execute his usual championship ritual on Court Philippe Chatrier of falling on his back on the red clay all sprawled out.
This one was that easy for the 36-year-old Spanish left-hander. He yielded only six games.
It certainly didn’t have the characteristics of his many battles at Roland Garros with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
It must have been a bit shocking to the packed house of mostly Rafa fans.
RAFA DIDN’T MISS ‘HIS SHOT’ OFTEN
Nadal didn’t miss many of his patented shots such as his famed reverse cross-court forehand. He was awesome at times. Young 23-year-old Casper Ruud must have realized that by the middle of the second set when Rafa started on his amazing 11-game winning streak to finish off a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory.
Ruud is good. The Norway native will win his share of ATP titles, but probably not many Grand Slam titles. If any, at least until Rafa goes away to a retirement, certainly on his island of Mallorca.
Rafa already has his own statue on the grounds of Roland Garros. Perhaps, Mallorca should be renamed Rafa Island.
RUUD COULDN’T HANDLE RAFA’S PRESSURE
Ruud displayed a great forehand at times to an open court. But when Rafa applied his usual pressure to the corners Ruud’s forehand often went haywire.
Rafa’s domination started to show in the third set as Ruud stopped chasing Nadal’s wicked reverse cross-court forehands.
Ruud simply surrendered the last three games while Nadal yielded only three points. Nadal finished it off with a sizzling backhand down the line. In the end, nice guy, good sport and former student Ruud could only congratulate Rafa.
JOHNNY MAC: RAFA ‘INSANELY GOOD’
The great John McEnroe even called Nadal’s overall perfection “insanely good.”
If Iga Swiatek’s 6-1, 6-3 win in Saturday’s women’s final over young Coco Gauff was a mismatch, Iga’s tennis idol staged a complete domination of Ruud a day later.
It appears that the only thing that can slow Rafa down is his nearly always sore left foot, not his age. He won his first French Open final 17 years ago.
For Nadal to win a 22nd Grand Slam title to take a 22-20-20 lead over his friends and rivals Djokovic and Federer is mind-boggling, but not as virtually unbelievable as winning a 14th French Open title.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
At The French Open Rafa and Novak Lived Up To A Battle For The Ages
Rafa Nadal is simply amazing.
His herd of fans couldn’t have been more pleased with their hero on this day just hours from his 36th birthday. He was never better, his patented reverse cross-court forehand a marvel for the ages and his serve never more accurate.
The presence of his long-time friend and rival on the Court Philippe Chatrier that he loves so much made Nadal’s victory over Novak Djokovic even more special. The 59th meeting between these two warriors was a match for the ages, marvelous play by both players. Some games seemed to go on forever, with these two legends of the game dueling for every point for nearly four hours in a match that started in May and ended in June.
NADAL HAS NEVER PLAYED BETTER
The 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory sends Nadal into his birthday on Friday to face Alexander Zverev for a spot in Sunday’s final of the French Open. Win or lose now, Rafa will remain the all-time leader in Grand Slam singles titles until at least Wimbledon due to his current 21-20-20 edge over Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Nadal played like he could go on forever playing his game, but he is quick to remind that his career could end at any time. The always painful left foot remains in his mind.
But the Spanish left-hander has never played better than when he overcame a 5-2 deficit against Djokovic in the fourth set. Nadal sparkled with energy, easily holding service, then fighting off two set points with true grit, holding easily to get back to 5-5 and then holding serve at love for 6-6.
A 6-1 TIEBREAKER DEFICIT TOO MUCH FOR EVEN NOVAK
The tiebreaker belonged to Rafa for six of the first seven points. That was too tough a task for even Novak to overcome.
Rafa’s podiatrist must have felt relieved at least for now. If Rafa was in pain, he didn’t show it for the first time in quite awhile.
If Nadal could pull off the feat of taming the big game and serving accuracy Zverev displayed while conquering potential whiz kid Carlos Alcaraz, and then taking out whoever is left in the battle between Denmark’s young Holger Rune, Croatia’s veteran Marin Cilic, Norway’s Casper Ruud and Russian Andrey Rublev, Nadal might own a nearly unbeatable lead with 22 Grand Slam titles.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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