US Open’s Elite Eight — Quotes from Week 1 — Must-click women’s tennis links

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

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! The first week of the US Open has been checked off and our quarterfinals are set! While some faces are perhaps a no-brainer, there are a couple that have me quite surprised. Here’s where we stand:

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(20) Jelena Ostapenko vs. (9) Coco Gauff
(30) Sorana Cirstea vs. (10) Karolina Muchova
(9) Marketa Vondrousova vs. (17) Madison Keys
(23) Zheng Qinwen vs. (2) Aryna Sabalenka

Of the eight, perhaps the most-favorited players to make it this far were Gauff, Muchova and Sabalenka. The biggest upset of the tournament came from Ostapenko coming back from a set down to take out No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the fourth round. Of the four quarterfinals, I’m looking most forward to her matchup against Gauff. Gauff also had a three-set match to end the comeback of Caroline Wozniacki and while she has been touted as one to beat this event, my gut says otherwise. I’ve also been mighty impressed by Sorana Cirstea this tournament, where she knocked out my champion pick Elena Rybakina in a third round night thriller, but followed it up with a straight-sets win over Belinda Bencic. Muchova had three straight-forward wins until a second set blip in the fourth round against Wang Xinyu before steamrolling in the third, but I expect a three-setter there.

In the bottom half, Vondrousova aims to make it 12 consecutive Grand Slam wins, but she looked pretty beat up following her three-set win over Peyton Stearns yesterday. She then was caught on the player center camera wrapped in ice and crying to doubles partner Barbora Strycova because they had to withdraw from doubles — in Strycova’s final event. While the Czech has Slam momentum, I personally think all of that went out the window thanks to Madison Keys. The American has been playing some incredible tennis and can honestly shock some people here come Saturday. Keys took out my pick for runner-up, Jessica Pegula, in just over an hour. When Keys is on, it’s magic. However, she’s never been able to produce it for seven consecutive matches. Zheng Qinwen took advantage of an ailing Ons Jabeur to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, but newly-crowned World No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka played lights-out in her fourth round win over Daria Kasatkina. Not only is the Belarussian the lone player to not lose a set this tournament, but she’s only dropped 16 games in four matches. Now that she has the No. 1 ranking next week, will the pressure finally be gone and she can take home another Slam?

As for my predictions? We started strong last week, but the Round of 16 crumbled quite a few pathways. Still, here we go:

(9) Coco Gauff def. (20) Jelena Ostapenko
(10) Karolina Muchova def. (30) Sorana Cirstea
(17) Madison Keys def. (9) Marketa Vondrousova
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. (23) Zheng Qinwen

(9) Coco Gauff def. (10) Karolina Muchova
(17) Madison Keys def. (2) Aryna Sabalenka

(17) Madison Keys def. (9) Coco Gauff

I’m hoping we get this final because it would be juicy. However, until then — onto links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Apparently both the ATP and WTA don’t want tennis to end up in Saudi Arabia — physically or financially — so the tours are reportedly going to meet very soon to discuss a merger.

Iga Swiatek reflected on her 75-week run as World No. 1 and where she goes following her fourth round loss at the US Open.

While Billie Jean King was lauded for rallying the creation of the WTA, this was a great piece on a Title IX trailblazer in tennis — Phyllis Graber Jensen.

Wang Yafan is playing some of the best tennis and it’s all thanks to a break caused by some injuries and China’s strict COVID-19 travel guidelines.

Men and women are using the same balls for the first time and unfortunately, a large amount of shoulder and wrist injuries have emerged.

Caroline Wozniacki had her best result since coming back to the tour and though she’s not playing the rest of the season, we will see her in Australia next year.

Fiona Crawley stunned to win three matches and make the US Open main draw, but the University of North Carolina Tar Heel can’t take her $81,000 payday if she wants to return for her final year. In a land of NIL, will we see a change in the NCAA rules for tennis players sooner than later?

Zheng Qinwen credits WTA Legend Li Na for planting the seed she can go deep in a Grand Slam as she makes her first Slam quarterfinal

Coco Vandeweghe retired at the US Open following her opening-round doubles loss with Sofia Kenin, ending a career that reached No. 9 in singles, No. 14 in doubles, a US Open women’s doubles title and a spot on the 2016 Olympic team.

Has tennis cracked the code with on-court coaching or are we just doomed?

Taylor Townsend and Caroline Wozniacki continued their comebacks from maternity leave with nice runs at the US Open and I think we’ll continue to see more moms coming back.

Off-court ventures are nothing new for Venus Williams, but it’s crazy to see what all she’s been able to build on and off of the court.

Jessica Pegula is one of the most consistent players on the WTA Tour and WTA Insider breaks down how that is exactly the American’s biggest weapon.

David Kane recapped how Elina Svitolina made herself look super-human in such a short return from maternity leave.

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Five at the IX: US Open Week 1

Q. You talked about how you were proud at how you kept your composure. I’m curious whether you have a different perspective since motherhood. Does that make it kind of easier to keep things in perspective, keep an even keel on the court?

TAYLOR TOWNSEND: No, it’s the exact opposite. I think like being a parent makes you want to pull your hair out (laughter).

I think it’s more so, like, learning and understanding when to push. Basically to understand that most of the time, like, you want to be in control but you’re not in control, so you can control what you can, and what you can’t you got to let go.

I think that’s like the basis of tennis all around. You have ups, you have downs, but it’s how you manage.

But motherhood has given me a different perspective, more so towards the game. I really have fallen back in love not only with the sport but with the process. For the longest time I was like, I know I can, I know I can, I know I can. But really now I truly believe, like, I’m a top player. Being able to have matches like these and days like these, it shows me that I’m there.

I’ve continued to say to myself, to my team, It’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. I feel this in my gut and I know.

Just putting one foot in front of the other has been my goal. Days like this are really truly special to me because it just highlights kind of what I’ve been building in my mind and in myself and with the people that are around me, that belief. That’s the biggest thing I think it showed today.

Q. You started the tournament 636. You’ve moved up to about 230 or so. You’ve been in this situation before in your previous life. In one sense, has it surprised you what you’ve already achieved?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Honestly, not really (smiling). I guess I always had the belief in myself. It takes a little time just to get back into the match rhythm. I was practicing really well. I felt like I had a great rhythm. I was working on my fitness to get back into good shape.

All of that I knew, knowing what I’ve experienced throughout my career, I knew where I was at. Obviously day by day I feel like I’m getting a little bit better.

Would I have been surprised had I lost in the first round? No. Would I be surprised if I keep winning? Also no.

I think it was just kind of a go out there, give it your best, fight your heart out. If I play my best tennis, I know I’m tough to beat. Someone really has to play well.

At this point I’m just happy to be in the fourth round, and anything can happen from now on, as well.

Q. We know how much this tournament means to you. Where are your emotions with it not ending the way you would have hoped? You talked about the lack of ability to be able to prepare the way you’re accustomed. When you’re assessing how long you want to continue playing, is it about the results or is it about your ability to prepare between those results the way you want?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Obviously preparation is always a fantastic thing to have in life, in general, especially as an athlete.

Yeah, I mean, I definitely could have hoped for more throughout the year. Honestly, I just had some really bad luck. I don’t think it was a lack of my body not holding up, it was just a lack of, like, really bad luck with injuries. There were things I couldn’t control.

I was really happy to be here. When I had to withdraw from Cleveland, I wasn’t sure that I could be here. I have to really thank my doctors for helping me to get here. That in itself was a blessing.

I love playing here. I really gave it my all today. I really played some great shots, but she had some incredible answers to that. I wish I could have been more prepared for that.

Q. It’s a really great accomplishment at this stage of your career to make this solid, wonderful run at the US Open. Can you just talk about your career and the balance between the great upsides, the glamour, the big checks, big arenas, and yet the grind, ferocity, how tough it is, how it sort of tests your spirit? Could you just talk about that balance and how you did it.

MADISON KEYS: I think that there’s obviously been some really great highs and there’s been some lows. I think when you’re looking at people’s careers, almost everyone has a year or two that are really tough. Being able to kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel in those years and just keep the best perspective that you can during those years is the most important, because I think those are the years that can really feel like they’re taking years off of your career.

So just having a better perspective of, I mean, my worst year at my job is still traveling the world and playing tennis. Realistically it’s not that bad.

Q. In terms of what your story is, if you can encapsulate it from deciding to play tennis, pursuing it, what do you think is the nugget?

BARBORA STRYCOVA: I had many obstacles during my career, but I wasn’t sure if I want to really come back after giving birth. I am so happy that I kind of decided to do so because I didn’t miss tennis at all. I didn’t want to come back because I was missing it, I just wanted to come back because I was feeling like I need to close this chapter from my side. I feel like the tennis, I need it, and also my tennis needs that. I did it. It was challenging, and it is still challenging.

I am happy that I’m done. I love tennis. It’s a great sport. Also I love my life without it. I have so many things what I want to do, what I did, with my son what I want.

I can’t wait to come back to my life without tennis. Maybe I will one day write a book about a lot of things, yeah (smiling).

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