Madrid Masters 2023: The girls play, cement in the stands | Sports

It happens frequently, too much recurrence. The semifinals played this Thursday did not escape a vacuum, when both at noon and at night the cement predominated in the stands. A lot of empty seat and a lot of plastic, little fan. But it is not an exception. It is happening now in Madrid, where every time the tennis players intervene, the stands are depopulating. A third of the capacity, if not less. It doesn’t matter that the number one on the circuit, the Polish Iga Swiatek, plays that game so corrosive and so armored that she, if she keeps her line, perhaps she can guide him towards the territory of those players who have managed to leave their mark on the tennis.

The women’s poster for this edition featured a picture of bluebells –present all the top-10, except the Tunisian Ons Jabeur–, but so far he has not hooked the Madrid fan, who instead fills the stands every time Carlos Alcaraz intervenes. The Murcian, there is no doubt, is the great hook of this edition; the competition takes place to the beat of his punches and his runs, while he loses his power of attraction when the representatives of the WTA step onto the arena of Center Court. The role is practically sold, but both in the first turn (Sabalenka-Sakkari) and at night (Swiatek-Kudermetova) the scene that has prevailed throughout these two weeks of action was repeated again.

With the exception of Paula Badosa, the main attraction for the visitors until her elimination, the rest of the tennis players resignedly observe what they see around them: too much silence, hollow sound. And it is that there is not, at the moment, a player who manages to inherit the media witness of Serena Williams or that of other figures. There is Swiatek, who decisively accepted the challenge of filling the void left a little over a year ago by the formidable Australian Ashleigh Barty. Her game is not so seductive, but at 21 years old she already has three big ones – the same as the oceanic one – and ten other trophies; that is to say, she has all the numbers (and the mentality) to reserve a place for herself in history.

Before the Masters began to shoot, the one from Warsaw (double 6-1 against Veronika Kudermetova) expressed her regrets about the existing inequality between men and women upon her arrival in Madrid. “Tennis is one of the sports in which there is the most balance, but it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done,” she pointed out, referring to the prizes awarded by the tournaments. “All tennis players do the same job,” she defended, “but many people think that men’s tennis is more attractive to watch because it is more physical and they are stronger. They attack the women’s circuit for inconsistency, or saying that women are more emotional, but right now I would say that our circuit is more consistent than the men’s, even though the game is different”.

Swiatek serves during the match against Kudermetova on the night shift.
Swiatek serves during the match against Kudermetova on the night shift.INMA FLOWERS

The zeal of the WTA does not help excessively, which limits the exposure of the players – no personal interviews have been granted – out of fear that some may stand out with some off-key comment about the war in Ukraine. The number two, Sabalenka, and the numerous representatives of Russia and Belarus (12) who appear among the 100 best, apart from the Ukrainians, are watched. The defending champion has charisma –6-4 and 6-1 against Sakkari– and champion this year at the Australian Open, but something is wrong: the system, the projection, the “sports culture” that she was referring to a few days ago in this newspaper the director of the tournament, Feliciano López.

While it was decided who was going to be the second finalist, the tables on the terraces that surround the center were full of fans who ate the last dinners or a drink, oblivious to what was happening inside. Inside, the five rows of boxes that surround the track had hardly any tenants. The game closed when it was already past midnight and the need to stay up all night, regardless of gender, does not contribute to making the atmosphere warmer.

The boxes on the center court, empty in the midday session.
The boxes on the center court, empty in the midday session.INMA FLOWERS

“It’s great news that we’re being so consistent,” said Sabalenka, who, in addition to winning in Melbourne in January, has played two other finals, those in Indian Wells and Stuttgart; In the latter, precisely, they fell to Swiatek, who dominates 5-2 in the crosses between the two and who this year adds the prize in Doha to the prize won in Germany, in addition to the final in Dubai. It will be a power to power pulse. Since he achieved his first victory against a top-10In 2018, the Belarusian has signed a total of 25, compared to 24 for the Polish.

Sabalenka and Swiatek will meet in the final (not before 6:30 p.m.), offering Madrid one last chance to get on the show: one against two, the best duel possible in the definition of the tournament. This is guaranteed today by the presence of Carlos Alcaraz, quoted with Borna Coric (not before 4:00 p.m., Movistar and Teledeporte). The Chinese Zhizhen Zhang (7-6(3) and 6-4 for Aslan Karatsev) disappeared from the map and the German Jan-Lennard Struff, night executioner of Stefanos Tsitsipas (7-6(5), 5-7 and 6-3).

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