AO 23 Australian Open

The elusive great rivalry

It happened again.

Remember when Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty had a chance to meet in the first week of a major tournament, but it still didn’t happen despite the draw basically bending over backwards to make it a reality?

That happened again with Bianca Andreescu losing to Cristina Busca, a result which prevented the Canadian major champion from meeting Iga Swiatek in what would have been a delicious third-round matchup.

It’s true that Andreescu is not operating at the height of her powers; 2019 is now over three years ago. Nevertheless, playing Swiatek would have been an occasion in and of itself. Moreover, the experience of playing an elite player such as Iga would have given Andreescu the ability to measure her game against the world’s best, potentially offering pathways and epiphanies which could have fortified her game as the 2023 season moved along. Not facing Swiatek is frustrating for Andreescu (and her fans) not because there was a great chance she would beat the World No. 1. It’s frustrating because playing Swiatek held the possibility of giving Bibi a growth point for her game and her career.

The larger story, beyond Andreescu herself, is that once again, two big names on the WTA Tour did not meet at a major when there was a distinct possibility it would come to pass. We keep waiting for one or two rivalries to truly catch fire in a sport where Chris-Martina, Martina-Steffi, Steff-Monica, Venus-Serena, and Serena-Vika captured the imaginations of tennis fans across the planet. There’s so much that’s great about women’s tennis.

This is the one area where the sport needs something more. Maybe it will get lucky before too long.

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