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Sabalenka and Rybakina May Be Next WTA Superstars


Tennis fans appeared to start 2023 without  a true women’s superstar.

Iga Swiatek was the clear world’s No. 1 player because of her huge number of WTA Tour points, but she wasn’t a dominant player even though she was on the verge of dominating the tour.

That isn’t likely to happen with the continued show of strength in the game by Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, and especially the way Rybakina dominated Swiatek on Friday night in the Indian Wells semifinals.


It’s difficult for even stars to recover from losses such as the 6-2, 6-2 beating Swiatek took from


Swiatek couldn’t handle the service power and ground stroke power, and consistency that the Moscow native threw her way.

Swiatek will remember the beating for a long time. Swiatek has been great the last few years because of her intelligence and consistency off the ground.


Sabalenka is now beginning to take charge of her game.  She is almost as powerful as Serena Williams was during her prime. If the 24-year-old Sabalenka takes one more step forward by controlling her consistency, aggressiveness and emotions, the Belarusian will be practically unbeatable.

Of course, Australian Open runner-up Rybakina has much of the same potential, but just not quite as powerful as Sabalenka. Sunday’s Indian Wells final pitting these two potential superstars should reveal more about their budding rivalry.


These two could rule women’s tennis for much of the next decade. Right now, Coco Gauff looks like their only threat in the next year or so.

But Swiatek can never be counted out with her usual consistency and smarts. You have to assume that Swiatek just had a bad day against Rybakina. The Polish star appeared to try to match Rybakina’s power and over-hit too often, leading to a string of errors, especially in the second set.


Swiatek is just not a natural power hitter or server. Everything is based on placement. She caught  the women’s game by surprise by coming out of nowhere to win the 2020 French Open.

When Barty retired from the game in March 202, Swiatek simply took advantage of the opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the women’s game. No one else was even close, but Swiatek could lose a large number of her WTA points in the next six months, that is if she happens to cross paths with Sabalenka or Rybakina too often.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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