How has the world of tennis changed since the last BNP?
The world was a different place in March 2019, there is no doubt about it.
While politics and the pandemic seem to have consumed our lives, it’s always nice that sport is playing a welcome distraction role.
The BNP Paribas Open returns to Indian Wells on Monday for the first time since March 17, 2019. Let’s leave the rest of the world aside and focus solely on the world of tennis. That too has changed a lot over the past 31 months.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways:
20 slam champions
Remarkably, there have been 10 Grand Slam tournaments since the last BNP, and as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have continued to hit the old guard, many new faces have retained the game’s most coveted material.
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On the men’s side, in the last 10 slams, Djokovic has won five and Nadal has won three. But Dominic Thiem, the reigning champion here at that 2019 tournament, won his first Slam, winning the 2020 US Open. And last month Daniil Medvedev won his first Grand Slam title at the 2021 US Open. Of those four, only Medvedev will be in town this month for the BNP Paribas Open.
Side note: On March 17, 2019 Roger Federer had 20 Grand Slam titles, Nadal had 18 and Djokovic had 15. Now all three have 20.
As you can imagine, on the women’s side, the last 10 Slam champions have been less predictable. Eight different women won, only Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty won twice. Simona Halep won Wimbledon 2019 for her second career slam, but the five remaining champions were all rookies.
Bianca Andreescu followed Naomi Osaka’s path the previous year, winning the BNP and then returning to the same year by winning the 2019 US Open. American Sofia Kenin won the 2020 Australian Open. The Polish star Iga Swiatek won the 2020 French Open. Czech star Barbora Krejčíková won the 2021 French Open, and last month Emma Raducanu, the teenager from Great Britain, won the 2021 US Open. group, Andreescu, Swiatek, Krejcikova and Raducanu are expected to be in the BNP Paribas Open field.
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Changes in the Top 10
It’s fun to look back at how the landscape atop the tennis world has changed in the 124 weeks since the tournament. Consider the classification differences.
These were the 10 best players in the world in March 2019 with their current ranking in parentheses:
- 1. Novak Djokovic (1)
- 2. Rafael Nadal (6)
- 3. Alexander Zverev (4)
- 4. Roger Federer (9)
- 5. Kevin Anderson (69)
- 6. Kei Nishikori (52)
- 7. Dominique Thiem (8)
- 8. John Isner (21)
- 9. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3)
- 10 Marin Cilic (40)
Or if you want to see it the other way around, here is the current top 10 compared to March 2019 in parentheses.
- 1. Novak Djokovic (1)
- 2. Daniel Medvedev (15)
- 3. Stefanos Tsitsipas (9)
- 4. Alex Zverev (3)
- 5. Andrei Rublev (102)
- 6. Rafael Nadal (2)
- 7. Marco Berrettini (57)
- 8. Dominique Thiem (7)
- 9. Roger Federer (4)
- 10. Casper Ruud (94)
To note: Djokovic, Nadal, Thiem and Federer will not participate in this year’s BNP Paribas Open.
Let’s do the same exercise for women, here is then vs now. It should be noted that Kiki Bertens who was in the Top 10 in 2019 has since retired from tennis after an Achilles tendon injury. His last competitive game was at the Olympics earlier this summer.
- 1. Naomi Osaka (7)
- 2. Simona Halep (15)
- 3. Petra Kvitova (11)
- 4. Sloane Stephens (63)
- 5. Karolina Pliskova (3)
- 6. Elina Svitolina (6)
- 7. Kiki Bertens (retired)
- 8. Angelique Kerber (14)
- 9. Aryna Sabalenka (2)
- 10. Serena Williams (40)
And now against then, including notable jumps for Swiatek and Krejcikova.
- 1. Ash Barty (12)
- 2. Aryna Sabalenka (9)
- 3. Karolina Pliskova (5)
- 4. Iga Swiatek (125)
- 5. Barbora Krejcikova (207)
- 6. Elina Svitolina (6)
- 7. Naomi Osaka (1)
- 8. Sofia Kenin (33)
- 9. Garbine Muguruza (20)
- 10. Maria Sakkari (41)
To note: Barty, Osaka and Kenin will not participate in this year’s BNP Paribas Open.
Welcome to the party
And of course, there are popular faces that just didn’t exist in professional tennis circles in 2019, and will now be fan favorites.
Most notably, the American Coco Gauff who was due to make her BNP Parabis Open debut in 2020 before its cancellation. She will finally have her chance this week, and she will do so as the top ranked American in the field, as the world No.19 player.
US Open champion Raducanu and co-finalist Leylah Fernandez of Canada will also make their Open BNP Paribas debut.
On the men’s side, Carlos Alcaraz, the Spanish teenager who burst onto the US Open stage will be on the pitch for the first time.
Pensions and non-pensions
Some of the most popular names in the tennis world have retired since the last BNP Paribas Open. Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki both hung up their rackets in 2020, as did Julie Georges who was the No. 15 seed at the Open BNP Paribas 2019.
On the men’s side, a notable absence will be that the Bryan Brothers will not compete in the doubles event at the BNP Paribas Open for the first time in decades. They too retired from competitive tennis in 2020.
And then there is the flip side. Welcome to the party if you will.
Kim Clijsters and Andy Murray, two of tennis’ all-time greats, retired at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open, but both returned to active tennis and are on the court this year.
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So the world of tennis has certainly changed over the past 932 days. New faces have appeared, the favorites have said goodbye, but it all shows, you can’t take anything for granted in this sport because things can change quickly.
Take the example of Russian Andrey Rublev: at the Open BNP Paribas 2019, he was in the qualifying tournament and lost. He was then able to play in the main draw as a “lucky loser”. He won a match and then lost. This year, Rublev is ranked in the top five in the world and will likely be the No.4 seed when the draw is revealed.
No luck needed this time.
Shad Powers is a sports columnist for the Desert Sun. Contact him at [email protected]