Comparing the ATP’s stability and WTA’s wild uncertainty: “Both tours would do well with just 10 percent of what the other has” – Match Points excerpt

In the latest edition of Match Points, host Josh Cohen guides the panel through a discussion about the states of the men’s and women’s tours — which could not be more different at the moment.

July 1, 2021
The figures

In our latest episode of Match Points, host Josh Cohen is joined by Marion Bartoli, Simon Cambers, and Ben Rothenberg to compare and contrast — mainly contrast! — the current situations on the ATP and WTA tours.

On the men’s side, of course, Novak Djokovic is dominating the Grand Slams. Going back a little bit farther, the Big 3 — Djokovic plus Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer — have had a stranglehold on most of the big titles. It is a much different story with the women, as there are no clear-cut favorites at the moment. In fact, there have not been any dominant top players for a while now. For example, Serena Williams has not won a slam since the 2017 Australian Open. As we recently saw at the French Open, just about anything can happen at any major.

Serena Williams, 23 Grand Slam titles
In the Open era, Serena Williams is the player who has captured the most Grand Slam tournaments (23) among the men and the women. From 1999 to 2017, the American won 7 Australian Opens, 7 Wimbledons, 6 US Opens and 3 Roland Garros titles. She hopes to equal Margaret Court’s record (24 Grand Slam titles) before the end of her career.

Former Wimbledon champion turned commentator Marion Bartoli indicated that she was talking with some tennis fans earlier this month and they could not tell her who won the French Open women’s singles title (the correct answer was Barbora Krejcikova, who won a surprising final against Anastasia Pavlyuchekova).

Bartoli: “Osaka is so important for women’s tennis”

“I was doing an activity the other day in France and I asked the panel — they watched tennis; they watched Roland-Garros — and I asked them who [won] Roland-Garros on the female side. I couldn’t get the name. It happened a week before!

“This is why for me Naomi (Osaka) — and Ashleigh (Barty) in a way — is so important for women’s tennis.”

© Panoramic

Osaka has won four Grand Slams, all within the last four years. In fact, not counting absences and withdrawals she has lifted the trophy in four of her last eight slam appearances. Barty is ranked No 1 in the world but has been dealing with injuries after skipping most of the 2020 season because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The respective plights of Osaka and Barty are part of the reason why there has been so much recent parity on the WTA Tour.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty on the women’s tour,” Cambers noted, “but I really don’t like the argument that it’s bad for the women’s tour to have new champions.”

Rothenberg: “I think both tours have to be envious a bit of what the other one has”

Rothenberg thinks neither extreme — a monopoly for one player, or at most a select few, in the men’s game; a relative lack of star power in the women’s game — is good for the sport. The New York Times contributor thinks a mixture of both would be good for each tour. He knows superstars like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal are great for the men’s tour, but it may not be great that they — and Djokovic especially — are winning basically every big event.

“I think both tours have to be envious a bit of what the other one has,” Rothenberg explained. “The women have unpredictability and new stars being born all the time. The men have narratives, and consistent superstars to sort of orbit around. Both would do well to even have just 10 percent of what the other one has in terms of chaos versus stability. Because right now they’re too far apart. The balance is off for both.”

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