Tennis Briefing: Iga Swiatek and Alexander Zverev win Italian Open

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Welcome back to the Monday Tennis Briefing, where The Athletic will explain the stories from the last week on court.

This week, the coveted Masters 1000 in Rome drew to a close, with the men and women now readying themselves for a trip to Paris for the second Grand Slam of the season at Roland Garros. Alexander Zverev and Iga Swiatek ran out winners in the Italian capital, while Chile made a mark on men’s tennis, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal went up a snowy mountain, and wildcards caused something of a storm.

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How long is it since the WTA top three all made a semi-final?

The chatter around women’s tennis this year has been all about the logjam at the top of the sport. Iga Swiatek, the world No 1, is hogging the big titles — Doha, Indian Wells, Madrid, Rome — but world Nos 2, 3, and 4, Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff, and Elena Rybakina, have been making their way into the business ends of plenty of tournaments, too; Sabalenka won the Australian Open.

It still took this week, in Rome, to emphasize just how random women’s tennis has been for the past decade. When Swiatek, Sabalenka and Gauff all made the semi-finals of the Italian Open, it marked the first time in 11 years (Roland Garros 2013) that the women holding the top three spots in the rankings made the semi-finals of a WTA event. Rybakina didn’t get knocked out, either, she had to withdraw with illness.

That’s not just random, that’s bananas.

Swiatek’s win in Rome was her 21st WTA title, at 22 years old (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

It proved to be a banner week for once-in-a-blue-moon tennis occurrences. Americans nabbed three of the eight semi-final spots in Rome last week, thanks to Tommy Paul, Coco Gauff, and Danielle Collins.

That seemed a little odd given Americans and red clay don’t get along so well.

It was. It hadn’t happened for 22 years when Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick all made the final four in 2002. Agassi and Williams actually won that year. Two Americans did make it to the last four in Rome in 2021, 2016 and 2004, but three means it wasn’t accidental — and to look at the players who made it, there was actually a kind of logic.

The through line for this year’s semi-finalists is tons of time on clay in their childhoods. The club Paul’s mother and stepfather owned had green clay courts. Collins grew up in Florida, where green clay is popular because it drains the daily rains quickly. Gauff is a Floridian, too, and she also spent a couple months each year during her early teens on the red clay at Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy in France.



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Read More: Tennis Briefing: Iga Swiatek and Alexander Zverev win Italian Open 2024-05-20 22:55:41

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