WATCH: Casper Ruud's TenniStory

For all the homogenization happening in tennis, enough differences between the surfaces still exist for some specialists to remain—and even thrive—in their arena of choice. Two such specialists extended their respective winning streaks on Sunday: Anett Kontaveit won a 20th straight indoor match at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy while Casper Ruud hit 15 in a row on clay at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires.

Playing home favorite Diego Schwartzman, Ruud overcame some inspired play from the former French Open semifinalist to score a pivotal service break in the second set and ultimately seal the victory from a set down, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

While Kontaveit would have to rely on a rain dance or six to ensure an indoor major fortnight, Ruud continues to build his case as the Crown Prince of Clay with Roland Garros a short three months away. Were it not for the sudden and historic resurgence of Rafael Nadal, the Norwegian would look like an odds-on favorite to make his major breakthrough in Paris, where he lost his last clay match to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in five sets last spring.

At least, on paper. A closer look at each streak reveals that Kontaveit, who is up to a career-high ranking of No. 6 after winning her fifth title since last August, has beaten a who’s who of the game’s best through her 20 matches—Simona Halep, Garbiñe Muguruza, and Maria Sakkari, to name a few. By contrast, Ruud’s opponents rank, on average, outside the Top 100. At No. 15, Schwartzman is far and away the best player the 23-year-old has faced on the surface in the last 12 months, and was one of only two Top 50 men faced all week.

But even in spite of a superior indoor record, major success has not been immediate for Kontaveit, who exited in the Australian Open's second round after a semifinal finish in Sydney the week prior. In need of a stabilizing result, she duly ran the table with victories over Belinda Bencic and Jelena Ostapenko before overcoming Sakkari again in the final.

Ruud missed Melbourne entirely due to an ill-timed ankle injury that ruled him out of his opening match. Rather than return to hard courts, he opted for a quieter week in Buenos Aires—and who can say it didn't pay off?

So, after winning weeks for each, are either any closer to that elusive Grand Slam breakthrough?


Kontaveit has won five of her last six finals dating back to last August—four of which came indoors.

Kontaveit has won five of her last six finals dating back to last August—four of which came indoors.

Both Kontaveit and Ruud are blessed with big weapons, and Ruud’s forehand in particular is a shot built for high-bouncing courts with its blend of heavy top spin and high velocity. Both have been long capable of challenging top players, and both spent much of the 2021 season learning how to win. It paid off in spades on Sunday: Kontaveit rallied from a set, a break, and 5-2 down in the final set before dismissing Sakkari in St. Petersburg; a few hours later, Ruud shook off missed opportunities in the opening set—plus a partisan crowd—to leave Schwartzman settling for second place.

All that’s left to learn is how to become a champion, how to convert these decidedly smaller-stage accolades into experience that compensates for the unimaginable pressure each major brings.

Quality often supersedes quantity on tennis resumes, but one can neither knock the output from either Kontaveit or Ruud in the last year nor question if it’s a means without an end. Both made good on their foundational victories with impressive results at their respective year-end championships: Ruud upset nemesis Andrey Rublev to reach the semifinals in Turin while Kontaveit went one better and made the final in Guadalajara.

Winning, quite simply, begets more winning—regardless of where these streaks begin.

Though Kontaveit and Ruud will soon be taken out of their comfort zones for the upcoming Sunshine Swing, don’t expect either to recede from the tennis tapestry. A combination of confidence and some of that aforementioned homogenization will surely serve them well. More importantly, Indian Wells and Miami's mini-major atmospheres provide big stages on which to employ all they’ve learned and prove themselves more than mere surface specialists.