The 2023 season is finally over — Quotes from Billie Jean King Cup — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Nov. 14, 2023

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! While the WTA Finals capped the actual 2023 season, we still had Billie Jean King Cup Finals to go through. Canada stunned the world by claiming their first team title with wins over Poland and Spain in the group stage before upsetting Czech Republic to make the championship. They then beat Italy to claim the title of “World Champions.”

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Leylah Fernandez was the catalyst behind Canada’s glory, but this week was the coming out party for Marina Stakusic, who earned wins over Rebeka Masarova, Magdalena Frech and Martina Trevisan. She was just coming off a big $60k ITF World Tour title and could be one to watch out for in 2024.

After the Finals, it was announced that Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova — perhaps the most dominant doubles duo of the last five years — announced their split. While they are not playing WTA tournaments, don’t be surprised to see them suit up for BJK Cup and the Paris Olympic Games. This year’s Finals also marked the last ties for Australian captain Alicia Molik and American head Kathy Rinaldi. Molik led the Aussie contingent for a decade, while Rinaldi, who will be replaced by Lindsay Davenport, took over in 2017.

Now, we get to look ahead to the 2024 season! Fortunately, the WTA heard enough of the Internet trolling them for not having a schedule released out and it was unveiled yesterday!

In true WTA fashion, it’s not 100% complete with the WTA 1000 in Wuhan not having a date, nor is there a date/location for the WTA Elite Trophy and WTA Finals. A few things to note:

  • Of the 55 events, 36 are on hardcourts, 12 are on clay and 7 are played on grass. Unfortunately, there’s only one indoor tournament all year in Linz.
  • An increase in WTA 500 tournaments means less WTA 250 tournaments. This is nothing new as previously reported. The WTA’s structure for players is changing with the goal of equal prize money by 2027 leading the way.
  • There are plenty of weeks where players ranked between 40-100 that might not have a main tournament to play. Filling in weeks with WTA 125 tournaments is fine, but that’s putting a band-aid on a leak.

I try to be optimistic, but I’m legitimately worried about the post-US Open swing like we were this year. That’s even without factoring in the Olympics and the potential fatigue after that event. The calendar can be more geographically cohesive, but having more than a first quarter before the end of the year is a welcomed sight. That being said, do we have to applaud the WTA doing literally the bare minimum to alert fans of where their product is playing?

Onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Various Billie Jean King Cup Finals players discussed the significance of BJK herself and the Battle of the Sexes match that transcended the sport.

Racquet Magazine‘s future is unknown after a disagreement between co-founders David Shaftel and Caitlin Thompson.

Armed with Florian Zitzelsberger in her camp, Naomi Osaka will make her comeback from maternity leave at the Brisbane International in January — a tournament that will also see former champion Victoria Azarenka.

Anett Kontaveit celebrated her retirement with an exhibition in Tallin against Ons Jabeur, marking the end of the greatest Estonian tennis career.

One of the 2024 storylines I’m personally keeping an eye on is the 4th Olympic spot for a few countries, including the United States. Emma Navarro might be the one to sneak away with it as she quietly builds her resume that included a hometown $100k ITF title. Another storyline that will have much more impact is the Middle East looking to continue claiming stakes in professional sports.

The United States defended their Junior Billie Jean King Cup with a win over Czech Republic in the finals:

Fernanda Contreras Gomez is releasing her first novel, Rise of the Darkness, which surprisingly isn’t tennis-related.

Serena Williams was recognized with a “Fashion Icon” award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards.

Jessie Irvine had professional tennis aspirations until her body broke down as a teenager. After being introduced to CBD, she’s now found success on the pickleball circuit. Kim Clijsters also opened up about her journey to becoming a pickleball team owner.

Tweet of the Week

Sabine Lisicki won her first title since her ACL tear and penned how much it meant to her:

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Five at The IX: BJK Cup Captains

Q. Kathy, just wonder if you can reflect on this week and what memories you’ll take away from this last week with the team.

CAPTAIN KATHY RINALDI: (Tearing up.) It’s an incredible week, an incredible week. Everybody was selfless. It was all about the players. The private coaches that came in, the staff, it was just an incredible week.

I’ll take this week back, I’ll take all my ties, always incredible. I loved my position as captain. I’ll miss it greatly. But I’m very grateful and very honored that I had the years that I did, and there are so many memories.

My saying was “What happens at Billie Jean King Cup stays at Billie Jean King Cup.” So I’m not giving anything away, and that’s ours. I feel like that’s what’s so special.

And the bench. I’m going to have to get one of those for my backyard, a bench, and you guys are going to have to come visit me on the bench. That bench is extra special. On the court and the players off the court on the bench. You know, they fight together.

TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I’m going to remember her face now because you made her cry.

CAPTAIN KATHY RINALDI: She changed the suicides to sangrias.

DANIELLE COLLINS: No, I have to say I think what’s most memorable about being on Kathy’s teams and having gotten to know Kathy so well over the years, not just as a coach but as a person is, you know, everybody that’s played for Kathy feels the same way about Kathy.

Kathy is not just a coach. Kathy has been a true friend to all of us. She’s been a role model to all of us Americans, men and women, the memories that we have created over the years, the stories.

CAPTAIN KATHY RINALDI: We’ve got stories.

DANIELLE COLLINS: Yeah, and just the way that she helps us. I had a tough practice this year at French Open coming back from an injury. You know, walk off, you know, bawling my eyes out. Kathy runs me down and spends the next hour with me sitting in the bathroom making sure that I was in a better head space before, you know, leaving my day at the office.

During COVID, with so many of the challenges, you know, I think everyone was facing challenges during that time, but that was definitely a difficult time for me. Kathy was always the first person that made herself available to talk, to be a friend.

You know, that is what separates Kathy. That’s why this week has been, you know, emotional for all of us, because we love Kathy so much. She’s so near and dear to us. Yeah.

We all feel the same exact way about Kathy, and there has been a lot of tears. If I had it my way, I’d bring back Kathy every tie and I would have her at every tournament and have her be my neighbor. (Laughter.) My roommate, anything.

We just have so much fun together. Yeah. There’s never a dull moment with Kathy. The way Kathy looks out for all of us as people, you know, life is not always easy, you know, as athletes or as people in general. We go through ups and downs, and Kathy has been one of the consistent themes and consistent people in our lives.

You know, I just love her to death.

CAPTAIN KATHY RINALDI: I love you too, sweety.

Q. A question for Heidi. I was just wondering, could you just say a word about Marina’s performance this week? Was there any part of you today that considered switching up the singles at all after yesterday? You got some other great options in your team. Sort of why, you know, why keeping the faith in Marina?

CAPTAIN HEIDI EL TABAKH: Yeah, look, it’s been an incredible week. It was a close decision, obviously. It’s never an easy decision deciding which player gets to play.

You know, I mean, we waited basically till the end of the week to see how everyone is doing. But look, I mean, I was nervous for Marina. When I first put her, I was thinking what am I going to tell her when she’s nervous? I was preparing all these things in my head of what I could possibly say. And then after she hit the first return, I’m, like, All right, I think she’s good (smiling).

I think it’s fair to say that a champion is born this week. She exceeded everyone’s expectations. But with that said, I’m very, very, very proud of her and the way she showed up for her team.

I’m also incredibly proud of every single girl that’s sitting here. It’s been a pleasure sharing the court with them all week, and everyone who is here currently has been a huge asset to the Canadian team throughout the years. We wouldn’t be here without every single one of them right now.

Q. Alicia, a bit awkward not knowing whether you’re through or not, but if this is your last press conference as the captain, I was just wondering if you could say a few words about what this has meant to you over the last ten years and your sort of message for the team going forward.

CAPTAIN ALICIA MOLIK: Yeah. Well, I’m pretty lucky, pretty fortunate to have experienced a few Finals over the last couple of years. Women’s tennis in Australia has been, from a team’s perspective, in a really strong position.

In my tenure in the last 10 years, we went from having a No. 4 in the world in Sam Stosur to a No. 1 in the world in singles in Ash Barty. Ash started her career and finished her career under my tenure. We have another No. 1 in Storm Sanders. Ellen’s hit one of the highest points in her doubles career, as well. It’s in an incredibly healthy spot.

For me, it was always a highlight playing for Australia. I had the fortune of playing alongside Nicole Pratt, who I have had the pleasure of working with the last 10 years. We have been friends for probably 25 years.

Rennae Stubbs, have played with Sam Stosur, Casey Dellacqua. A really thick group of strong women, strong identities, and strong role models. My memories aren’t just as a captain; they’re as a player. A lot of those relationships in Fed Cup at the time helped form who I was as a player. They are always the friendships that I relied on through the tour years.

I feel like that’s what the players have now amongst each other, but that’s something that they have created, a real credit to themselves. I’m not here with team success without the wider group and our team of staff. You know, they give everything for the players.

You know, it’s a real privilege to be involved with this group of women, because, you know, I really reflect on a lot of other nations. I don’t think that the relationships are as thick as what they are within the Australian team.

It’s true and it’s honest. Sometimes we have to take stock of that too, because, you know, often it’s the memories of Fed Cups and Billie Jean King Cups that stick in my mind the strongest, you know, when I think about the tour. I’m retired now from playing, but when I think about all the most important or most enjoyable times that I had were always amongst the team. A lot of fun, funny times.

So I’m lucky to have those. That will live on. I’m not going anywhere. You know, I’ll still be big supporters of these women, because they are genuine. They’re very good friends of mine. You know, I just can’t wait to see what’s in store for them.

But I have given it everything. I feel really content moving on, because there is also a next stage for me too, but I have given everything I feel that I possibly could have also.

Q. Unlucky today, guys. I just wonder, what are the biggest lessons you’re going to take away from this week, the success you have had and the impact that you have had, as well, in reaching the final for the first time in 10 years?

CAPTAIN TATHIANA GARBIN: Yes, sometimes I said when you fell down means you have something to pick up, you know. You have to look around and find what is your treasure is in the ground.

So I think we learn a lot this week. I think my team, it’s getting so close as a family, so we are really close to each other. We know when somebody fell down, there are a group of people that is able to take you up, you know.

That’s what I like. We lost today, but we were together. In the win, in the past couple of days, we were enjoy, and we are together when we lose. We enjoy anyway, because we learn something.

I think we learn how to stand up but stand up together. That’s the lesson, most important lesson we learn.

Q. Julien, you had some strong words about the format at the end of this tie today. Could you explain the changes that you would like to see to the format?

CAPTAIN JULIEN BENNETEAU: The fact that you have two ties today on center court for nothing, it’s not possible for World Cup of Tennis, as they call it. You cannot have that.

So if you don’t change the format and you stay with 12 teams, group of 3, the first 2 should qualify and play quarterfinals. Like this, every match will count.

In sports, the main thing is that even you play it, like, straight eliminatory, if you do a group stage, one defeat shouldn’t be eliminatory. For example, World Cup in football and rugby, you can lose one game in group and still qualify and go very far in the competition.

In this format with three teams per group, you cannot qualify if you lose one match, or it’s extremely rare. Last year it happened, but the main thing is that you avoid the matches. You should not have to play for nothing when it’s a World Cup. I think. But once again, this is to the ITF to think very well and to manage that.

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