WIMBLEDON, England — Aryna Sabalenka, up a set and a break at Ons Jabeur, looked poised to storm into the Wimbledon final. And, not insignificantly, to wrest the No.1 position from Iga Swiatek.
But the talented Tunisian came back to win in three and so Swiatek will enjoy a 68th week in a row as the Hologic WTA Tour’s top player. Was it possible No. 1 that appeared in the back of Sabalenka’s mind?
“I wouldn’t say I thought about it,” Sabalenka said later. “For me, it’s more about how you end the year than during the year, you’re first, second, you just go back and forth. I want to keep pushing myself and do everything I can to finish this year as world No. 1.”
The WTA Tour’s post-Wimbledon schedule features Budapest and Palermo this week, followed by Hamburg, Lausanne, Warsaw, Washington DC and Prague. Then there are the packed 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati leading up to the final major of the season in New York.
Swiatek enters Warsaw; Bencic, Andreeva goes to Lausanne
Needless to say, there is a lot going on. Here are some potential stories to whet your tennis appetite while you wait for the humidity to break:
Who will be No. 1?
If you include upcoming events in Warsaw, San Jose, Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open, Swiatek could defend as many as 2,270 points, while Sabalenka would defend 1,335. And this does not include any events, including two more at the 1000 level and the WTA Finals after New York.
What’s clearer is that, assuming neither Swiatek nor Sabalenka falter, this looks like a two-horse race for the year-end No. 1, as No. 3-ranked Elena Rybakina currently trails Sabalenka by 3,380 points.
Rankings Watch: Andreeva enters Top 100, Vondrousova makes Top 10 debut
Can Marketa Vondrousova keep it going?
She was the longest shot, the first unseeded player and the second lowest ranked woman to win Wimbledon. Vondrousova is the sixth different champion at the All England Club in the last six years, after Serena Williams went back-to-back in 2015-16.
She came into Wimbledon with a single win on the sumptuous lawns and now makes it seven straight. Vondrousova, who missed half the season a year ago with a recurring wrist injury, appears healthy but will have to forge a new path. She is 0-3 in Cincinnati, 5-4 at the US Open and has never played in Canada. The first top 10 finish will help with a better placement in the draws.
Will Rybakina come back?
After winning Wimbledon a year ago, Rybakina went a mediocre 4-4 into the North American hard-court season. The last gasp was a loss to qualifier Clara Burel (ranked No. 131) in the first round of the US Open.
Rybakina was defending her first major title, losing to Jabeur this year in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1. It was a rematch of last year’s final.
“It was kind of a new challenge for me coming in as the defending champion,” Rybakina said. “Obviously it’s a different feeling. I would say every game I played was a little bit better than the other. I think regardless of today’s result, it’s been a positive few weeks for me here.
“I just have to work a little bit more now, before the American swing. I want to take a lot of positive things from these two weeks.”
What’s next from Mirra Andreeva?
Let’s review the 16-year-old’s summer at the WTA Tour level:
- Advanced to the fourth round in Madrid and lost to Sabalenka.
- Won three qualifiers at Roland Garros, then two in the main draw before falling to Coco Gauff in the third round.
- Made it to the fourth round when she ran into Madison Keys.
It all adds up to 11 wins in 14 games. Avert your eyes, because her future isn’t just bright, it’s potentially dazzling. Andreeva is still playing under the Age Eligibility Rule, so her game plan will be limited and strategic until she turns 18. But one thing’s for sure: if she’s in the draw, it’s a tie to watch.
How will Jabeur regroup?
She was inconsolable after losing to Vondrousova in the final. There are two ways to look at it: 1) Jabeur is 0-3 in major finals, 2) She is made three of the last five major finals. That’s more than Swiatek and Rybakina (2) and Sabalenka (1). The difference, of course, is that they have won five of the last six major titles.
Wimbledon in review: Jabeur’s third-set heroics, Keys’ rebound and more
Jabeur believes that things happen for a reason and should soon regain an equilibrium. She can take solace in the fact that Simona Halep started 0-3 in Grand Slam singles finals, winning two. Kim Clijsters, who ran to the dressing room to console Jabeur after Saturday’s final, lost her first four. The Belgian great finished with four.
Can Elina Svitolina keep riding the wave?
The Ukrainian star was the emotional center of the fortnight. After giving birth to a daughter in October, Svitolina was ranked No. 1,344 in April. After a run to the quarterfinals in Paris and the semifinals at Wimbledon, she is on the cusp of the Top 25. Svitolina defeated Victoria Azarenka and Swiatek before losing to Vondrousova in the semifinals.
Motherhood and the ongoing battle at home has had a positive impact on her game. Svitolina is playing freely, with an aggressiveness we haven’t seen.
Will Swiatek repeat in New York?
Her forehand collapsed in the loss to Svitolina, but Swiatek produced her best Wimbledon effort to date in reaching the quarter-finals. It’s easy to forget that she turned 22 at the end of May.
✅It’s been a while since I’ve written more than a few sentences here, and maybe now is a good opportunity to elaborate.
✅ It’s been a while since I’ve written anything longer here, and maybe it’s a good time to get back to it.
— Iga Światek (@iga_swiatek) 14 July 2023
Even though Swiatek’s win at the US Open last year was No. 1, it surprised some people. Defeating three Top 10 players down the stretch – Jessica Pegula, Sabalenka and Jabeur – Swiatek showed tremendous poise.
The Big Three have not surprisingly been the best this year in the majors. It is likely that one of them will take home the US Open prize. With three Slams already in the can, here are their combined records: Sabalenka (17-2), Swiatek (14-2), Rybakina (12-3).