Swiatek and Alcaraz, new generational athletes?

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If you’re here, it’s that your tennis brain made it all the way through the clay season, so I salute you! And I thank you for still wanting more as you’ve opened that new Tennis Sweet Spot edition.

On this day, Jannik Sinner becomes the first Italian man to reach the World No.1 ranking. It’s also the first time since 2004, with Roger Federer (22) and Andy Roddick (21), that the Top 2 is owned by two players who are 22 and under.

Swiatek, the story of a domination

Iga Swiatek, the new clay queen

Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2024 champion (@ ‘On’)

They say she won a fourth Roland-Garros title 6-2, 6-1 against Jasmine Paolini, and so a fifth Grand Slam title (she won the US Open in 2022) at 23 years old. It means four French Open titles in the past five years (2020, 2022, 2023, 2024). Iga Swiatek, World No.1, hasn’t lost a match at Roland-Garros since 2021. An idea of her domination this year in Paris? When she didn’t break Jasmine Paolini’s first service game in the final, we were like, “Oh wow, maybe there’s going to be a match.” And when she got back to her chair à 1-2, a break down, we were at “gasping” level. Then she broke back and demolished Paolini’s game until the trophy was in her hands. Swiatek destroyed the entire draw, with the exception of that wonder of a thriller against Naomi Osaka in the second round. She went through the best players in the world like they were a league below. Sure, Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka might have been tougher obstacles, but only Swiatek remained to deliver until the end again.

- She’s the youngest player in the Open Era to secure their fourth Women’s singles title at Roland-Garros.
- She’s only the third player to win three titles in a row at Roland-Garros after Monica Seles and Justine Henin.
- She’s only the second player in the Open Era to win her first five Women’s singles finals, after Monica Seles.
- Since the WTA-1000 format was introduced in 2009, she’s only the second player to win Madrid, Rome, and Roland-Garros in a calendar year after Serena Williams in 2013.
- Nobody out of Steffi Graf (6) and Chris Evert (7) has won more titles at Roland-Garros. Crazily enough, these two legends records don’t look very safe right now.
- Venus Williams (who barely plays these days) is the only other active player with more Grand Slam titles (7) right now than Iga Swiatek. Naomi Osaka comes third with four.

“Winning five slams seems pretty surreal. I'm really proud of myself because the expectations have been pretty high from the outside. It gives me the feeling that I should always believe in myself. It gives me confidence. Obviously, I'm a perfectionist, so there is always pressure, but I think I'm fine with handling my own pressure. It's when the pressure from the outside hits me that it's a little bit worse. But I managed it really well at this tournament. At the beginning of eight weeks ago, when I went to Fed Cup, and then I didn't come back home for all these weeks, I was, like, ‘How am I going to survive that’? But here I am. I learned that if I enjoy life off the court, and I really enjoyed being in Madrid, Rome, and here, it helps me also to be fresh on the court. I had less drama compared to last year (thigh injury in Rome), and I could really just enjoy life.”

Shameless plug here, sorry. I had two exclusives with Swiatek’s team members, Daria Abramowicz (her sports psychologist) and Maciej Ryszczuk (her physio and strength and conditioning coach), and you can read all the fascinating things they have to say about working with Swiatek through that new victory here and there.

- Iga Swiatek’s margin on clay is “Nadalesque” and, just like Rafa, she doesn’t just stay there enjoying how good he is: she improves. She came back this year with a much better serve (motion shortened, speed on the rise). And there’s no doubt that her rivals can see her wonder of a heavy forehand in their nightmares. Overall, I’m still impressed at how the very emotional Iga Swiatek keeps handling the pressure of being the one to beat, the one who isn’t supposed to lose. It demands a special kind of champions to deliver again and again when all the eyes are on them.

- Swiatek found it herself because that’s how the perfectionist’s mind works: her net game. Now that we’re all turning our attention to Wimbledon, imagine the damage her game would finally make there if she was as confident at the net as on her baseline. You saw my one volley today that was supposed to [land] in, but it went out,” she says. “This will for sure stay in my head, and I don’t need to make any notes on that because I know I’m going to work to get that forehand volley next time. I just want to be a better player to improve in stuff where I don’t feel 100% confident”, she told The Guardian.

- She should volunteer for that night session once. There’s been zero women’s matches in the prime time slot of Roland-Garros this year. Iga Swiatek doesn’t like that spot because she likes to sleep at a decent hour. And we know she hates disturbing her routines. But sometimes, being the leader means taking one for the team. The fact that she requests not to play at night gives Roland-Garros an escape, and it needs to stop. The sports world needs to see that, yes, women get prime time at Grand Slams, no exception. The WTA is the most successful female sport, and it cannot tolerate being taken out of prime time, even if we all know that players (men and women) don’t like that spot. For good reasons. Optics, especially in this day and age, matter. Swiatek needs to lead the way in Paris, as she’s the only one that cannot be denied.

DOUBLES TITLE: Coco Gauff won her first Grand Slam doubles title, partnering with Katerina Siniakova, who already has a career Slam in doubles, for the first time. Gauff lost the doubles final in Paris in 2022 and the US Open doubles final in 2021.

Side note: as On has now partnered with Zendaya, when can we expect the first campaign with both her and Iga?

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Alcaraz keeps taking the Tour by storm

They say he won his first title at Roland-Garros, completing his Surface Slam after winning the US Open title in 2022 and Wimbledon in 2023. At 21, he’ll already be in a position to make the Career Slam at the next Australian Open. Have you said insanity? Or did I? Alcaraz went through the wringer to get that first French Open crown, his childhood dream. You could see him fighting all his demons during that semi-final against Jannik Sinner, and then a whole army of them came back for the final, joined by a very tired body. But still, Carlos Alcaraz prevailed: a force of nature, a force of willpower. Up 5-2 in that third set, he ended up losing it 7-5, and at this moment, really, he didn’t look like the guy who’s gonna leave with the trophy. Yet he did. Each time he keeps playing on his line and moving forward on the court, he turns into another player. It’s not the forehand, it’s the intensity he brings. He fully deserves to get that new tattoo to celebrate that third Major.

- He’s the youngest player in the Open Era to win the men’s singles titles at three different Grand Slam events.
- He’s the second-youngest player in the Open Era to win his first three men’s singles Grand Slam finals. Only Björn Borg (20) did better.
- With 13 appearances in men’s singles main draws, he has taken the fewest of them compared to any other player in the Open Era before clinching the titles on clay, grass, and hard court. It took 20 to Jimmy Connors and Rafael Nadal.

WHAT DID CARLOS SAY? “Probably this one is the moment that I’m really proud of myself because of everything that I have done the last month just to be ready for this tournament with my team. Winning your first in every Grand Slam is always super special. But in Roland Garros, knowing all the Spanish players who won this tournament and being able to put my name on that amazing list is unbelievable. Something that I have dreamed about being in this position since I started playing tennis when I was five or six years old. So it's a great feeling. I just want to keep going, and let's see how many Grand Slams I'm gonna take at the end of my career. Hopefully, I'll reach the 24, but right now, I'm going to enjoy my third one, and let's see in the future.”

Carlos Alcaraz had barely played on clay this year before landing in Paris due to a right arm injury, and he won that Roland-Garros without playing his best tennis at all. The margin for progression is astounding. The Spaniard also found a way through what should be his biggest opponents in the future: Jannik Sinner and his own body. His ability to fight through whatever came his way was his best shot of the fortnight. He didn’t look like a Roland-Garros favorite when the event started, and many would say he didn’t look like it until he converted that last match point. The only one that matters. Alcaraz could have played much better, but I don’t think he could have competed better.

- There’s one, but he can’t do anything about it, and he’s not even to be blamed. He’s not, for now, at the Tennis Avengers level. Watching him and Sinner play that semi-final and then watching that final was a wake-up call: the Avengers Era was the caviar-only era, and that’s an impossible standard to require. The Big 4 kept raising their level the moment the finish line was in sight. They gave us matches for the ages. They made us believe it was the normal thing to do. Carlos Alcaraz is an incredible player who just came after an era from another dimension. He looks human, whereas they look super-human. It’s all good, and we’ll get used to it. Or, who knows, he and Sinner will start to prove us wrong.

- What he might be able to act on is keeping his body in one piece. Here lies the Carlos Alcaraz equation: his results make us say he could own the next ten years of that sport, but the list of his injuries so far makes us say he could also break down at any time. His body, as The Athletic says, is his toughest opponent. When he beat Sinner, he talked about needing to “find joy in the suffering,” and it was like listening to Rafael Nadal. Yet, the joy in the pain will have its limits if pushed too hard.

DOUBLES TITLE: Mate Pavic completed his golden Slam as he won his fourth Grand Slam title with four different partners while notching the career slam. In Paris, he played with Marcelo Arevalo for only the second time, but it was still a win. Arevalo won here his second Major, as he had already won his first one at Roland-Garros to years ago.

Are they, or aren’t they?

In the last edition, I asked if you thought Novak Djokovic's injury was the last sign of the changing of the guard. You were 45,45% to tell me that it was “too early to say”.

Are Iga Swiatek and Carlos Alcaraz the new generational athletes?

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Roland-Garros sides with Warner Bros. Discovery, breaks up with NBC

It’s not you, it’s me. Or maybe it’s you. We don’t know that tea, sorry. Let’s stick to facts: Variety revealed that NBC, who had the US rights for Roland-Garros since 1983, had lost the bag. Who got the bag, then? Warner Bros. Discovery, already rights holder for Europe (since 1989), snatched the bag.

Warner Bros. Discovery intends to make content tied to the Open available across its linear cable networks, its Max streaming service, and its Bleacher Report digital sports hub, according to people familiar with the deal”, reports Variety. Obviously, you’re wondering how much money. Well, the Athletic reports that it will cost them $650 million for ten years, starting in 2025. The Athletic adds that the NBC deal was $12 million per year for the past twelve years. Peacock and Tennis Channel, by the way, had a sublicensing deal with NBC. And it’s all happening as Warner Bros. Discovery is in a rough situation with the negotiations over the NBA rights. Tennis coming to the rescue?

It also remains to be seen if that new deal and all the money it brings will grow the players' purses, too, and whether it will play a part in the backstage talks between the Grand Slams and the Tour about Saudi Arabia’s growing influence.

Rafa’s E-Boat Racing Team is growing

Wait, why am I talking about E-Boat? Do I even know anything about E-Boat? Guys, it’s Rafa-related, so we have to get on board with that electric boat racing series. Somehow. Maybe? Anyway, if you missed the news, Nadal became the owner of an E-Boat racing team in the spring. Formula 1 driver Sergio Perez also owns a team in that series that will launch later this year. Nadal is “investing in the league and its Blue Action Programme, which supports marine ecosystems”, said Front Office Sports back in April.

And now, Team Rafa (yes, it’s his team’s name because what else was it going to be??) is already growing on the investment side as Sunreef Yacht Eco (which promotes green boating and marine conservation) is joining the adventure. Nadal has a longtime relationship with Sunreef Yacht as he owns Great White, a catamaran from the company. Anyone who knows Rafa knows how much he loves his boats. Now he has a full team of them. Please, eyebrow up, everybody.

Wave Media Agency comes to sports organizations’ social media rescue

Sports Organizations that own some of the most valuable content rights don’t always make the most of them on social media. More often than not, it’s a lot of promotion but very little true content distribution. Well, Wave Sports + Entertainment, a company established in 2017 that has specialized in sports-theme videos targeting Gen Z on social media, is offering to change that. Boasting over 100 million followers, it has now launched Wave Media Agency to help the digital growth of these organizations.

As per CEO Brian Verne, the goal of the new division is to leverage Wave’s content creation and distribution expertise to help premier sports leagues and rights holders attract, engage, and monetize the next generation of sports fans,” says a report from DMN. Well, if they grow, Wave grows too so…Tennis Channel is listed among the first clients, joining the Los Angeles Clippers, CONCACAF, Serie A USA, Combate Global, as well as FIBA Next Gen Hoops.

Double dose of Murray at Wimbledon

cheer on andy murray GIF by Wimbledon

Gif by wimbledon on Giphy

For once, Judy Murray won’t have to run between both her sons' matches at Wimbledon. Andy and Jamie saved her the trouble by deciding to team up for the first time, as revealed by The Times. It will be the first time that the siblings play double together at a Grand Slam, and it’s surely not a coincidence that it will happen this year, as Andy could be playing his last Wimbledon. A wild card is unlikely to be needed as Andy’s singles ranking of No97 and Jamie’s doubles ranking of No24 should be high enough as a combined total to make the cut on the entry list”, says The Times. The brothers have had success together in the past, winning the Valencia Open in 2010 and the Japan Open in 2011.

Alcaraz already on grass next week? It seems!

Red Hot Chili Peppers Love GIF

Gif by OpticalArtInc on Giphy

Resting? Why? Despite the efforts produced to win this 2024 Roland-Garros, the Spaniard shouldn’t change his grass schedule plans and so would head to the Queen’s (17-23 June) next week. Marca reports that Alcaraz is supposed to land in London this weekend. But let’s be reassured as Marca also says that the player will take three days of vacation before coming back to the competition. You know who is going to maybe take more than three days? His coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero. Marca says he won’t be at the Queen’s as he intends to rest until Wimbledon. Samuel Lopez, who was already in Australia with Alcaraz when Ferrero had knee surgery, will be at the Queen’s. Like last year, when Alcaraz also left with that trophy.


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