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By Van Sias | @Van_Sias | Tuesday September 26, 2023

Sofia Kenin

Karen Khachanov and Maria Sakkari put an end to long title droughts this weekend, but Sofia Kenin and many others are still pining for a return to the winner's circle.

Photo Source: Mark Peterson/ Corleve

They say, “Good things come to those who wait.” Surely, Maria Sakkari and Karen Khachanov would have preferred not to wait quite as long as they did to claim their second and fifth career titles in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Zhuhai, China, respectively.

Sakkari, the former world No. 3 whose 2023 US Open campaign ended in tears, had lost her last six finals since her first tournament triumph in Morocco in May 2019. Khachanov’s previous victory was six months before that, when he topped off a late-season campaign to remember with a win at the Paris Masters.

Tennis Express

Both players have been among the more consistent performers on their respective tours, reaching multiple Grand Slam semifinals over the past few years. While there’s no discounting their talent, not everyone can be as prolific a champion as, say, Carlos Alcaraz or Iga Swiatek. A wide range of factors play into being the last one standing at the end of the week: from the capabilities of the person on the other side of the net to just plain old luck.

Sakkari and Khachanov had been in some fairly prestigious company up until the past few days. Here's a look at several of their peers who’ve been at or near the pinnacle of the game that are looking to end title droughts of their own.

Grigor Dimitrov
Most Recent Title: ATP Finals, 2017

It’s a testament to how hard it actually is to be a professional tennis player: Dimitrov—considered to be one of the most talented athletes of his generation—just ended a five-year finals drought this past May. The eight-time champion is coming off a semifinal showing last week in Chengdu, China, his fourth of the year as he continues to knock on the door while maintaining a top-20 ranking.

Sofia Kenin
Most Recent Title: Lyon 2020

Over the past couple of months, the 2020 WTA Player of the Year has emerged as a front-runner for another Tour award: Comeback Player of the Year. Injury and a prolonged slump saw her fall out of the top 200 by the end of 2022. In the second half of this season, though, she’s beaten Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka; advanced to her first final in three years in San Diego; and fought through to the semifinals in Guadalajara, a run that brought her back into the top 40. A title run could take her to a place among the game’s elite once again.

Andy Murray:
Most Recent Title: Antwerp, 2019

The fact that Murray is still ranked in the top 50 at this stage in his career after staring down retirement a few years ago is remarkable. Despite his Hall of Fame credentials, the former world No. 1 isn’t satisfied with resting on his laurels, having reached three finals over the past two seasons. Murray’s gone past the point of showing what someone with a titanium hip is capable of over the years. Winning back-to-back Challengers this year lends weight to the notion that a breakthrough at the Tour level could be imminent.

Karolina Pliskova
Most Recent Title: Brisbane 2020

Since her last victory, the Czech has reached a final at Wimbledon and battled her way back into the top 3 at one point. That championship round appearance at the All England Club, along with runner-up finishes in Rome and Montreal, came in 2021 and in the two years since, the former world No. 1 has struggled with injuries and a loss of form. Still one of the most powerful players on the WTA Tour, Pliskova has the potential to win any tournament she enters. It could just come down to a matter of catching fire at the right time.

Venus Williams
Most Recent Title: Taiwan, 2016

Back in 2017, Williams reached the 15th and 16th Grand Slam singles finals of her illustrious career—20 years after playing for her first major title—in a storybook campaign for the ages. Since then, however, the American’s time on the court has been marked by a series of stops and starts, with appearances either offering glimmers of hope or creating questions about her continued presence on the WTA Tour. She’s been sitting on 49 career singles titles for quite some time now: A 50th—however remote a possibility that may be—would only add to her legacy.


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