Tennis in 2019, at least till the Indian Wells finals on Sunday, is in a good place. Bianca Andreescu and Dominic Thiem’s stunning wins broke new records and showed once again how enthralling the uncertainties of sport can be.
In the first three months of the year, till the end of the season’s first ATP Masters and WTA Premier Mandatory tournament, top-flight tennis has seen something rare – no repeat champions. In the 32 tournaments so far – 19 ATP and 13 WTA – there have been 32 different champions.
This competition and depth has made 2019 one of the most exciting starts to the season in recent times, with the emergence of fearless new faces and resilient old names. While Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic won their second straight Grand Slams at the Australian Open, there was a chance that this season will see the dominance of the world No 1. Both had been knocked out of their first tournament of 2019 in upset losses – to Lesia Tsurenko in Brisbane and Roberto Bautista Agut in Doha – and the pattern of shock wins have continued so far.
But even without the top seeds, the competition is at an unprecedented level with youngsters giving WTA veterans a run for heir money while the usual suspects on the ATP Tour not falling to the ‘Big Three’.
While the women’s tour has long since seen this competitive uncertainty even at the highest level, this is the first time in history (since the tour began in 1990) that the start of a season has seen these many different champions.
At 18, the record was already set this year, but Thiem’s gritty win over Roger Federer to lift his first Masters title made it a stunning 19 different winners to start 2019. Eight of these matches went to the decider.
ATP winner 2019
|Roberto Bautista Agut||Doha|
|Alex de Minaur||Sydney|
|Novak Djokovic||Australian Open|
|Juan Ignacio Londero||Cordoba Open|
|Reilly Opelka||New York|
|Radu Albot||Delray Beach|
|Guido Pella||Sao Paulo|
|Dominic Thiem||Indian Wells|
A look at the list of the 19 men throws some very interesting names. For all the talk of dominance, this has been a breath of fresh air for the ATP tour. For Thiem to win his first Masters on a hardcourt after losing his last two finals on his favoured clay, Nick Kyrgios going on a scintillating run to beat Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Zverev at Acapulco to Roberto Bautista Agut beating Djokovic in the first tournament of the year.
Of the 19, seven are first-time ATP titlists (while Federer won title No 100) and only five are in the Top 10 (Tsitsipas climbed into the top 10 after winning his title). Frenchmen Tsonga and Monfils are winning a title after long layoff due to injury and indifferent final. Meanwhile, world No 2 and 3 Nadal and Zverev are yet to win a title... even though that is likely to change once the clay swing begins.
WTA winner 2019
|Naomi Osaka||Australian Open|
|Kiki Bertens||St. Petersburg|
|Alison Van Uytvanck||Budapest|
|Bianca Andreescu||Indian Wells|
This depth becomes even more exciting when it comes to the women’s tour, given the age of the winners.
Eight of the 13 titlists are 24 years old or younger (Andreescu 18, Bencic 22, Mertens 23, Kenin 20, Osaka 21, Sabalenka 20, Yastremska 18). Of these Andreescu is the first wildcard to win Indian Wells while Bencic went on a stunning run to get nine top-10 wins from Dubai to California. The level in the finals has also been of a great quality with a whopping 11 of 13 finals going to a decider.
How long this streak of different champions can last, with the Miami Open coming right up, only time will tell but this level of competition and depth is a fantastic sign for tennis fans.