Recognizing 2023 retirees — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Dec. 5, 2023

Howdy, y’all, and Happy Tennis Tuesday! It’s been a long season, and, while we’ve seen plenty of breakthroughs, we also had our fair share of goodbyes from some of our favorite WTA players. There are more than just the confirmed ITIA players that submit their paperwork to withdraw from anti-doping authorities and get their names off of the WTA rankings.

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  • January:
    • Samantha Stosur: Obviously a stalwart for Australian tennis, the five-time Olympian ended her 23-year professional career with first-round losses in doubles and mixed doubles. Peaking at No. 4 in singles, Stosur captured nine singles titles with her highlight becoming US Open champion in 2011. With 28 titles, she was one of the best doubles players of her generation and reached world No. 1 in 2006. She won four Grand Slams and was close to capturing a career Grand Slam, but fell in the Wimbledon final three times. She also won three mixed doubles Grand Slams and led Australia to the Billie Jean King Cup final in both 2019 and 2022.
  • February:
    • Lucie Hradecka: Hradecka competed in her final event in 2022 in Ostrava and is primarily known for her doubles success. She reached the No. 4 ranking in 2012 — a year she made two semifinals and another two finals at Grand Slams, was runner-up at the WTA Finals and also secured an Olympic silver medal. In total, she won 26 WTA titles, which include her two Grand Slams. She also won one mixed doubles Grand Slam and a bronze medal in the discipline in 2016. In singles, she reached No. 41 in the rankings and, although she didn’t win a singles title, she did make seven finals between 2008 and 2015.
  • April
    • Sania Mirza: Perhaps my generation’s Ons Jabeur, Mirza broke pretty much every glass ceiling for Indian women’s tennis. She emerged on the scene in 2005, winning her first — and only — WTA singles title and eventually reaching No. 27 in 2007. However, injuries derailed her singles career, and she was forced to exclusively play doubles in 2013. That is where she was able to shine, where she won 43 titles and was world No. 1 in 2015, the year she and Martina Hingis teamed up to become one of the century’s most dominating duos. On top of her two WTA Finals championships, she won seven Grand Slams (four in doubles, three in mixed) — only missing out in the Roland Garros doubles final in 2011 and semifinals of Wimbledon in 2022 to earn a career doubles Grand Slam set. Representing causes larger than herself, she completely paved the path for more female athletes to thrive in India.
  • July
    • Anett Kontaveit: Unfortunately, sometimes players are forced into retirement, and this was the case for 27-year-old Kontaveit. She won six WTA singles titles and reached a career-high ranking of No. 2, the best ever for an Estonian tennis player. Her 2021 season ended in high style, with her winning four of her last seven tournaments to earn a last-minute berth into the WTA Finals, where she reached the final. Her journey to the top was short-lived as a persistent back injury began to take its toll in 2022, forcing her to call her season short. After the beginning of this year, she said that the lumbar disc degeneration diagnosis she received would force her to retire early, which she did at Wimbledon following her second-round singles and first-round mixed doubles losses.
    • Kirsten Flipkens: Winner of one WTA singles title and seven WTA doubles titles, she was always a steady fixture on tour and first reached the Top 100 in 2009. Many would consider her a journeywoman, but her career highlight was advancing all the way to the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2013, which eventually saw her hit No. 13 in the singles rankings. She was a constant for Team Belgium in international play, helping the team to a 2006 runner-up finish in Billie Jean King Cup, and also gave Venus Williams her first opening-round Olympic loss at the 2016 Games. Originally saying goodbye to singles in 2022, Flipkens retired following a third-round doubles loss at Wimbledon.
  • August
    • Anastasia Rodionova: Winner of 11 WTA titles — all in doubles — Rodionova peaked at Nos. 62 and 15 in singles and doubles, respectively. She won gold medals in singles and doubles at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and also took home the silver medal in mixed doubles. She made the quarterfinals of all four Grand Slams in doubles and advanced to the 2010 US Open semifinals. She did, however, make a Grand Slam final in mixed doubles at the 2003 Wimbledon Championships. She made a surprise comeback after two and a half years in 2021, following the birth of her son, and made the third round with sister Arina. She played only a handful of tournaments afterward and hasn’t competed since April 2022, when she fell in the opening round of Stuttgart.
    • Irina Falconi: A friend of The IX, Falconi retired after falling in Wimbledon qualifying’s first round. She came back in the beginning of the season following the birth of her daughter with her sights on saying goodbye on her terms through her protected ranking. She won one WTA title, at the 2016 Bogota tournament and reached No. 63 in the WTA singles rankings and No. 70 in doubles. She captured the gold medal at the 2011 Pan-American Games and was a standout player for Georgia Tech, where she was the No. 1 ranked player in the country before turning pro.
  • September
    • Barbora Strycova: Strycova was another player who had an extremely long (two-decade) career. She won two WTA singles titles and another 32 in doubles. In singles, she reached No. 16 and made the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2019. She peaked at No. 1 in doubles, winning Wimbledon twice, in 2019 and this year. She won six Billie Jean King Cups with the Czech Republic and also won the 2016 women’s doubles bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. She originally announced her retirement in 2021 following the announcement of her pregnancy, but didn’t close the door to one more tournament to say goodbye either at Wimbledon or at home. She came back this April and won a round of singles at Wimbledon but stunned the world with a doubles crown with Hsieh Su-Wei. Her career ended with a walkover in the third round of the US Open due to an injury to partner Marketa Vondrousova, and she announced her second pregnancy not long following retirement.
    • Ayumi Morita: Morita first broke onto the scene in 2008 and eventually reached No. 40 in singles in 2011, peaking at No. 65 in doubles. While she never won a WTA title, she fared well on the ITF circuit, winning 10 singles and three doubles titles. Injuries, especially to the back, ravaged her career, and she was forced to retire in dozens of matches. In fact, three of her last five losses ended prematurely. She never found her Top 100 form but did capture two $15,000 ITF singles tournaments in 2022. She couldn’t stay healthy, though, and her final match was last year at a $60,000 ITF event in Japan.
    • Coco Vandeweghe: Vandeweghe struggled with health and injuries toward the end of her career, which saw the American reach No. 9 in singles and No. 14 in doubles. She won two WTA singles titles and four doubles titles, which included the 2018 US Open with Ashleigh Barty. In mixed doubles, she reached the finals of the Australian Open and US Open in 2016 and also the Hopman Cup in 2017. She led Team USA to the Billie Jean King Cup in 2017, partnering with Shelby Rogers in the decisive rubber match to win the title over Belarus. 2017 was her best season, where she made the Australian Open and US Open semifinals, as well as the Wimbledon quarterfinals and WTA Elite Trophy final. At her home tournament in San Diego, she retired after making the doubles final alongside Danielle Collins.
    • Maryna Zanevska: Though only 30, a back injury forced Zanevska — a Belgian who originally represented Ukraine — into early retirement following this year’s US Open. She won her lone WTA 250 title in Gydnia in 2021, but also picked up one WTA 125 title in each singles and doubles. She peaked at No. 62 in singles and No. 86 in doubles. In her post announcing her decision, she did say goodbye “for now,” so you might see her back if the four-year injury she’s struggled with is healed.
  • October
    • Misaki Doi: Another player with a long career, Doi first turned professional in 2006. Her career included the 2015 Luxembourg singles title, a pair of WTA doubles titles and two WTA 125 singles titles. She reached No. 30 in singles and No. 72 in doubles, and, like Kontaveit and Zanevska, struggled with back injuries that caused her to retire at 32. She played her final at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, where she delighted the crowd with a first-round win before losing to Maria Sakkari.
    • Jana Cepelova: Only 30, Cepelova came back this year following maternity leave to say goodbye on her own terms. She reached No. 50 in 2014, the year she reached her lone WTA final — in singles in Charleston, where she defeated Serena Williams. She won seven ITF singles and three ITF doubles titles throughout her career, which ended following a loss in the opening round of qualifying at the US Open.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised with the lack of names retiring this year. However, 2024 will have the Paris Olympics, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see quite a few players holding out to say goodbye there or at the end of the season.

Now, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Jessica Pegula was featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list thanks to her on-court performance as well as being a leader on the WTA Players’ Council:

Laura Pigossi won the biggest title of her career at the WTA 125 IEB+ Argentina Open, downing Maria Lourdes Carle in the final. In doubles, Carle and Despina Papamichail outlasted Maria Paulina Perez Garcia and Sofia Sewing in a match tiebreaker to win the tournament.

At the WTA 125 Creand Andorra Open, Marina Bassols Ribera won her second title at that level with a victory over Erika Andreeva in a tough two-and-a-half-hour straight-setter. Andreeva then teamed up with Celine Naef to win the doubles title over Timea Babos and Heather Watson.

Steve Tignor delves into what could a Grand Slam–led tour — which is still a rumor — could mean for the sport.

I am loving WTA Insider’s Life on Tour series, and I can relate to the players on what they do or don’t want to hear following a loss.

Sure, Saudi Arabia is dishing up the coins, but should women’s tennis have a presence there?

Alicia Molik’s tenure as tournament director for the Adelaide International kicked off with some unexpected drama, but the field will be featuring the likes of Elena Rybakina, Caroline Garcia and Zheng Qinwen, who recently shared her reunion with coach Pere Riba.

The Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, a $100,000 ITF World Tour event, boasts former champions Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli while also being the catalyst behind tennis’s presence in the Middle East.

Wang Qiang shared at a Chinese Tennis Association tournament that she will be coming back to the tour at Hua Hin next year:

In some college news, Team USA won the Master’U BNP Paribas Championship, blitzing Great Britain in the final. The ITA also announced its newest inductees into the Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, as well as a relaunch of its College Tennis Alumni network.

This is pretty dope, to be honest. We need more of these creatives from the WTA:

The WTA announced that the Transylvania Open will be returning in 2024 in Cluj-Napoca. The tour also shared the senior team that will be making up its WTA Ventures leaders.

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Tweet of the Week

Congratulations to The IX friend Shelby Rogers, who got married over the weekend, joining fellow player Anastasia Potapova in some weekend wedded bliss!

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon