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The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, July 4, 2023

Howdy, y’all, Happy Fourth of July and Happy Tennis Tuesday! Wimbledon’s main draw has started and we already have Sofia Kenin knocking out Coco Gauff in yesterday’s first round, as well as Venus Williams bowing out to Elina Svitolina.

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Since play is already underway, I figured I would break down my draw predictions and see how the next two weeks will unfold. Remember, grass nowadays isn’t the same as the past and it’s a lot slower than in previous years. This can help players that aren’t as reliant on power and flat groundstrokes and give some players time to set up.

Obviously, the WTA’s “Big Three” in Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina are headlining predictions on who will take the tournament. As for mine?

Round of 16
(1) Iga Swiatek def. Danielle Collins
(7) Coco Gauff def. (19) Victoria Azarenka
(4) Jessica Pegula def. (15) Liudmila Samsonova
(20) Donna Vekic def. (5) Caroline Garcia
(9) Petra Kvitova def. (6) Ons Jabeur
(3) Elena Rybakina def. (17) Jelena Ostapenko
(25) Madison Keys def. (10) Barbora Krejcikova
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. (16) Karolina Muchova

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (7) Coco Gauff
(4) Jessica Pegula def. (20) Donna Vekic
(3) Elena Rybakina def. (9) Petra Kvitova
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. (25) Madison Keys

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (4) Jessica Pegula
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. (3) Elena Rybakina

(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. (1) Iga Swiatek

Obviously, my Coco Gauff pick to make the quarterfinals is already a bust, but I always hate when I have the seedings live up to their numbers. I know, laugh at my semifinals now instead of later. I think the quarterfinal lineup will have a few surprises, with Donna Vekic and Madison Keys having the games and draws to go super deep. The potential second round between Vekic and Sloane Stephens, in my opinion, will deliver the quarterfinalist in Caroline Garcia’s section.

Keys’ game is tailor-made for grass and her run last week in Eastbourne should have everyone on notice. Petra Kvitova is a two-time Wimbledon champion and played dominant tennis in Berlin a few weeks ago to claim the WTA 500 event there. Both players are in the quarter of Elena Rybakina, who has struggled with a virus that forced her to withdraw mid-tournament in Roland Garros and from Eastbourne last week.

Remember, Rybakina is the reigning champion and certainly has the game to repeat, but I don’t necessarily think her draw helps the Kazakh to ease into matchplay. Last year’s runner-up Ons Jabeur is due for her own Grand Slam breakthrough, but her health is always her biggest question mark. Can she maintain her play throughout a full fortnight? Can she outslice and outmaneuver someone like a Kvitova or Rybakina? She’s hungry and wants to right last year’s wrong, but I don’t think this year will see that happen.

For me, I think Aryna Sabalenka getting over the monkey on her back in Australia is this year’s biggest revelation. She’s gone deep at SW19 in the past and has a draw for her to work into the second week. A potential Roland Garros semifinal rematch against Karolina Muchova is tasty, but I think her sheer power is enough to pencil her into the final weekend. Iga Swiatek is a former junior champion at Wimbledon, even though she says she’s not the biggest fan of grass. To be blunt, she got a dream draw and anything less than a semifinal result — to me — would be shocking.

Will the draw unfold how I imagine? You already know it absolutely won’t, but that’s the beauty of a Grand Slam. It’s anyone’s game. The WTA is so deep and Wimbledon always can deliver the best surprises. 2013, anyone? Don’t be too surprised if this year’s draw “falls apart,” or honestly, live up to the seedings. It’s all up in the air.

Now, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

There are a few must-reads this week. The first is this piece on Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s friendship being more than legendary rivals and the other is this look into the predatory behavior on the WTA.

Former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki announced her comeback to the WTA after three years away and the birth of her two children. The 2024 Olympics are a major goal for the Dane, who says she’s playing her best tennis ahead of her return in Montreal next month.

Madison Keys captured her second Rothesay International with a tight two-set win over Daria Kasatkina. The match point? Simply sensational:

Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs downed Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez to claim the doubles crown.

At the Bad Homberg Open, Katerina Siniakova won her first career grass court title, defeating Lucia Bronzetti. Ingrid Gamarra Martins and Lidziya Marozava won their first title as a duo, taking the doubles over Monica Niculescu and Eri Hozumi.

The WTA held some 50th anniversary events ahead of Wimbledon and in case you needed a reminder, the Original 9 are some bad asses!

Could Saudi Arabia be the next channel of big-time funding for the WTA? After the announcement that the tour is aiming to match the ATP at their large events, Billie Jean King said that could be a reality.

Caroline Naef is among the Grand Slam debutants this week in Wimbledon and she has a familiar face in her corner guiding her this fortnight.

Valerie Tetreault is the tournament director for the Omnium Banque Nationale and the former player is proud that the tournament is on their way to offering equal prize money.

Ons Jabeur continues to be the face of Arab tennis, but wants to see more people from her background at the top of the women’s game.

Alize Cornet has earned 25 wins over Top 10 opponents and she spoke with wtatennis.com’s Alex Macpherson to reflect on each one. Macpherson also sat down with wildcard Jodie Burrage, who continues to break through on the British grass.

Mirra Andreeva is the latest star to have Netflix cameras in tow as the teenager begins her debut at the grounds of the All England Club.

Tweet of the Week

Congrats to Ashleigh Barty, as the former World No. 1 gave birth to her first child!

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Five at The IX: Pre-Wimbledon

Q. How will it feel playing your opening match on Centre Court, having the honor of doing that as defending champion? You spoke a bit after winning Wimbledon about how maybe you were disrespected by some tournaments by not getting the main stadium. What will that be like on Tuesday?

ELENA RYBAKINA: Yeah, it’s going to be exciting for me. Yeah, to play now like first matches on big courts, it’s different for me. Also to come to the tournament as a defending champion, it’s something new, like new chapter. Hopefully I continue like this coming to the tournaments.

But, well, the goal is the same. I would say that the atmosphere is always really nice on Centre Court, on big court. Yeah, I try to enjoy. Yeah, hopefully I’m going to win.

Q. Moving from clay to grass, what are the specific adjustments you’re making to do better on grass in terms of court positioning, serve strategy, that kind of stuff?

IGA SWIATEK: Well, I think mainly I’m focused on footwork because that’s I think where my strength is on other surfaces. For sure sliding is tricky here, so you have to slow down and stop before the shot in a different way.

Yeah, you kind of have to just — I feel like if you have time to adjust to the surface and then use your intuition on matches, I was able to do that a little bit in Bad Homburg. I think it’s going to be fine.

But the thing is, last year when I didn’t play any matches before Wimbledon, it was hard to use my intuition because there was pressure. I felt like I’m playing a Grand Slam, and I played so well in Roland Garros that I should play well here as well. But it’s different.

Your brain kind of has to kind of feel the ball is bouncing lower. You can’t think about things like that during the match. So I think this year, it’s going to be a little bit easier for me to use my intuition a little bit more.

Q. There’s been a lot of talk recently because of who has won the recent majors of a big three. What goes through your mind when you hear that? What do you make of that trio and the rest of the field?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, I’m not in the big three, I don’t think (smiling).

No, I mean, I think it’s true. With the results that they’ve had, they have kind of shown they are the ones to beat, and I think have been consistently swapping titles with each other or making finals and going deep.

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s exciting. I’m glad that women’s tennis can have something to talk about along the lines of having the top three.

Yeah, I guess we’ll see. I mean, Iga dominated so much last year, and obviously Aryna and Rybakina have had a great last few years. It’s crazy just to think the big three dominated for a really long time. I don’t know how long those girls are going to be able to dominate. For 10 years? I don’t know.

I think it’s exciting to have something for us to talk about and for fans to get involved in and hopefully be excited to watch them battle it out. But I hope I’m part of that conversation at some point. I guess that’s all I have to say.

Q. How often does last year’s Wimbledon enter your mind? How often do you hear about it from other people wherever you go?

ONS JABEUR: It’s coming back right now. People mentioning I’m the finalist of last year. It’s not great going in the locker room and seeing Elena’s picture, but I try to take it off (laughter).

It’s very nice, having the attention. You did a Grand Slam final. It’s not a bad thing. It’s something that it’s great. Maybe sometimes I didn’t see it that way because obviously I wanted to go for the title.

But again, a final is a great final, it’s a Grand Slam final. I just want to use that experience, use the pressure that I felt last year, to maybe do better this year.

But again, my first goal here is to really enjoy playing on grass, maybe recreate greater memories like last year or the year before.

Q. You’re one of the few players to have won a WTA title as a lucky loser. Can you think back to that week. Did that second chance make you play more relaxed or free?

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, I remember that was my first title. It was actually Maria Sakkari pulled out, got the opportunity for me to play. Obviously I think she was hurt.

I remember my dad telling me – I found out 20 or 30 minutes before the match – he was like, You can’t lose twice. We just laughed at it. I don’t think we ever thought we would win the tournament.

But, yeah, that was a crazy moment. I didn’t think in Linz, Austria, out of all the places, that would be my first title. But, yeah, it was a real cool moment.

I actually broke the trophy that same day (smiling). Yeah, I remember they were, like, taking pictures. I was trying to hide the broken piece. It’s still not fixed to this day. I tried to fix it with nail glue. The tournament offered to fix it for me. I was just like, You know, it’s a memory, I think I’m going to keep it like that (smiling).

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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