With Aussie Alexei Popyrin falling to Danish Holger Rune in the round of 16 in Rome, a strange fact will be true in regards to Europe’s domination of the highest levels. Seven of the eight quarterfinalists in Rome are European, marking the third consecutive Masters 1000 this was true for. It’s a European stravaganza in Rome once again.
The Monte-Carlo Masters, the Madrid Open and now the Italian Open have all been controlled by contenders from the European continent.
After two Americans bowed out in the Italian Open round of 32, only Argentina’s Francisco Cerundulo and Australia’s Alexei Popyrin remained in the male draw.
Francisco Cerundolo powered his way through Jannik Sinner in a comeback effort, tallying 24 forehand winners (!), to make it to the quarters. He will face 4-seed Casper Ruud Wednesday with a shot to make his first-ever Masters 1000 semifinals. Unless Cerundolo is able to keep producing magic and fight through Ruud, Novak Djokovic and one more European in the final of the tournament, Europe will retain its control of the surface.
The continental supremacy on clay is a bit head-scratching because South America and some parts of the southern United States are known for producing proficient clay court players. Especially in South America, clay courts are the norm. Clay is known to help tennis players construct points more effectively and create a workman-like offensive repertoire, a style non-European elites like Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime and Australia’s Alex de Minaur know well.
The quality difference between the upper echelon of the game (mostly European) and the second-tier group (more geographically diverse) appears to be exacerbated on red clay because points are harder to win. Europe’s reign over the surface – and the game at large – has spanned decades.
The “Big Three,” filled by the three most decorated men in tennis history, is all-European. As a group, the three have won 65 of the past 79 (82.3%) of the sport’s grand slams since Roger Federer’s first major at Wimbledon in 2003.
Switzerland’s Federer, Spain’s Rafa Nadal and Serbia’s Djokovic have produced arguably the greatest era of men’s tennis ever, and now Nadal and Djokovic are mired in a battle for eternal G.O.A.T. status. However, even their auxiliary competition, namely British Andy Murray, Swiss Stan Wawrinka and soon-to-be multiple-major Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz all hail from Europe.
Since the days of Andre Agassi and “Pistol” Pete Sampras, the sport simply hasn’t produced consistent elite competition for Europe’s finest. Nadal has won the French Open fourteen times, Monte-Carlo eleven times, and Rome ten times. Madrid hasn’t seen a non-European winner since 2007, Monte-Carlo since 2004 and Rome since 2002.