WTA / ATP: Rybakina and Ruud bite back

There were plenty of trophy lifts over the weekend as the world's best vie to build momentum on the Road to Roland-Garros 2024.

Casper Ruud / Titre ATP 500 Barcelone ©Josep Lago / AFP
 - Alex Sharp

Two champions snapping 10-match winning streaks, two players who are leading their tours with consistent brilliance.

Elena Rybakina and Casper Ruud are the names, laying down their marker for Roland-Garros 2024 with silverware on Sunday.

Rybakina strikes in Stuttgart

World No.4 Rybakina is clicking into top gear just at the right time. The Kazakh captured her eighth title, third this season, with an emphatic 6-2, 6-2 scoreboard over Marta Kostyuk in Stuttgart.

Kostyuk was mesmerising in Germany, downing the likes of US Open champion Coco Gauff and Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova to reach the final. However, Rybakina was utterly ruthless from start to finish.

Back in the semi-finals Rybakina had also played head-turning tennis to defeat reigning champion Iga Swiatek 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 and dissolve the Pole's 10-match winning streak at the event.

In doing so, Rybakina is the first WTA player to reach five finals in the season's first four months since Victoria Azarenka in 2012.

The commanding tennis, the numbers, the composure, it's all looking very enticing for Rybakina in Paris next month.

"I always believe in myself, of course, but it's not only depends on me," said Rybakina, having posted a Tour-leading 26th victory of the season.

"There is a lot of great players, tough opponents. But I know if I feel fresh, if I'm physically ready, healthy, I'm playing my game, of course I have all the chances to win a Grand Slam on any surface."

Over to Rouen, France, and American Sloane Stephens lifted her first title on clay in eight years with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 triumph over Magda Linette.

Ruud gains BCN revenge

Just seven days before, world No.7 Stefanos Tsitsipas swept Ruud aside to win the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Fast forward a week and Casper responded in style with a 7-5, 6-3 scoreline in the Barcelona Open final.

"Just to kind of bring it to him a little bit more than last week,” said Ruud, after halting Tsitsipas' 10-match winning run.

“In the final in Monte-Carlo I was always on the back foot, too far behind, and he had too much time to control the game."

All of Ruud's previous 10 titles had been claimed at ATP 250 level. The 25-year-old's blistering week in Barcelona made up for 11 other final losses, including Roland-Garros 2022 and Roland-Garros 2023. It was a milestone moment for the Norwegian.

Honestly, this has been worth the wait,” said Ruud, amassing a Tour-leading 29 match victories in 2024.

“A lot of finals that I’ve lost have been tough, a bit disappointing. Any time you reach a final, it’s nonetheless a good week, so you can’t be too hard on yourself, but this one has been a long time coming.

“I’m super happy to do it here in Barcelona in front of a packed stadium and on Rafa Nadal Court. It’s special to me because I looked up to him all my childhood, came here myself as a 13-year-old boy to watch him and the others play here. It’s a great feeling.”

Can Ruud's feel-good vibes propel him to glory in Paris? In current form, when playing on the front foot, the Norwegian is certainly a key contender.

Home is where the heart is for Struffi

Due to the soggy conditions in Munich, Jan-Lennard Struff had to complete his quarter-final with Felix Auger-Aliassime, before returning to court on Saturday to face reigning champion Holger Rune.

No problem. The German put in a flawless display to dismiss world No.12 Rune 6-2, 6-0 and backed that up on Sunday, by edging world No.13 Taylor Fritz 7-5, 6-3 for a maiden career crown.

“It feels unbelievable, and to do it on home soil is just incredible,” said Struff, who had been 0-3 in previous ATP finals.

“I waited so long. I’m 33-years-old and played so long on Tour. It’s just an amazing feeling to do it here in Germany.”

Marton Fucsovics also had a week to remember, claiming his first title since 2018. The Hungarian overcame the fast-rising Argentine Mariano Navone 6-4, 7-5 at the Tiriac Open in Bucharest.