Final thoughts from the Australian Open — Quotes from Melbourne champs
The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Jan. 30, 2024
Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! I’m finally back stateside after an incredible month Down Under at the Australian Open and I’m definitely feeling it. I really don’t know how players can do this not only on the regular, but compete week in, week out with the world’s best. Your boy has basically been sleeping since the tournament ended and I’m not even home yet.
Still, it’s the end of a Grand Slam, which means we recap the fortnight a la Jon Wertheim’s Parting Shots:
Fortunately, my prediction of an Aryna Sabalenka title defense came to fruition with her straight-set win over Zheng Qinwen. However, I was not expecting the high-level the Belarusian produced the entire two weeks — not dropping a set. In fact, in her two consecutive titles, she’s only dropped the one in last year’s championship over Elena Rybakina. While she continues to dominate Slams with deep runs, can she use this momentum to return to No. 1 and be the tour’s next unstoppable force?
What a tournament for Zheng Qinwen. She’s been touted as an heir to Li Na’s success and a maiden Grand Slam final a decade after Li’s final Grand Slam seemed fitting. Where does the Top 10er go from here? She’s even more comfortable on red clay so perhaps a title in Paris can be secured.
Doubles is severely underrated and the play of Elise Mertens and Hsieh Su-Wei proved that. They took home the doubles title with a win over Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko. They each now hold three of the four majors at some point with Mertens just needing Roland Garros and Hsieh missing out on the US Open. Hsieh is even more impressive by coming back after nearly two years away and winning Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian with different partners.
Mertens and Hsieh’s semifinal win over Storm Hunter and Katerina Siniakova was perhaps the match of the tournament and this match point is possibly not even Top 5 on the points in that match:
Hsieh wasn’t done, because she surprisingly got her first Grand Slam mixed doubles title, partnering with Jan Zielinski to knock out Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski. Krawczyk was going for the career Mixed Grand Slam and she and Skupski had a championship point in the match tiebreak before Hsieh and Zielinksi won
Special shout out to the semifinalists Coco Gauff and Dayana Yastremska. Gauff came in as the latest Grand Slam champion and powered her way through to the semifinals before Sabalenka gained revenge from the US Open final, but the American still has a positive perspective after the result. As for Yastremska, it was a career-best tournament that saw eight consecutive victories with the loss of one set before losing to Zheng in her first Major semifinal. The Ukrainian has much to be proud of and hopefully can build on the result now that she’s firmly back in the Top 100.
Renata Jamrichova won her first junior Grand Slam with a win over Aussie Emerson Jones in the final, while Americans Tyra Caterina Grant and Iva Jovic took home the doubles crown over Julie Pastikova and Julia Stusek.
The dominance of Diede de Groot is simply incredible:
I know the Australian Open is always looking to be innovative, but is the “hunting third shot forehand” necessary?
Something that got lost in the mayhem of tournament was Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova knowing their worth and keeping their match on Rod Laver Arena instead of being moved because of Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz’s match taking too long:
I’ll leave you with this thanks to yours truly and IX Friend Sloane Stephens:
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This Week in Women’s Tennis
Venus Williams updated fans on her injury progress and aims to comeback at Indian Wells and Miami in March:
The Miami Open will be adding wheelchair tennis and pickleball to their event lineup this year, giving fans more action around the grounds than just tennis. I’d love to see a junior tournament also be implemented and perhaps some more college tennis matches, too.
Ash Barty will be playing a pro-am event at a PGA tour stop in New Zealand next month and don’t be surprised if this might be a catalyst to something more.
Reem Abulleil got both Ons Jabeur and Mayar Sherif to sit down for a great podcast to discuss their career and being two of the greatest female Arab tennis players of all time.
While there have been much criticism of the WTA and Saudi Arabia going into an official partnership, Princess Reema Bandar Al Saud responded to the open letter Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert penned last week.
Dinara Safina spoke about Aryna Sabalenka’s strong character and also delved into what prevented her from making a full comeback from injury.
The Upper Austria Ladies Linz event is upgraded to a WTA 500 level and former champion Ana Ivanovic discussed what made the tournament so special, among other topics.
Tennis viewership seems to be doing well on ESPN:
Auburn announced that head coach Caroline Lilley was fired, while assistant Megan Falcon was allowed to resign, though specifics haven’t come out yet.
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Tweet of the Week
We’ve got another AO TikTok celebration from Aryna Sabalenka!
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Five at The IX: Australian Open Champions
Q. Now you’re able to talk about winning two slams and the relief in that. It was only last year before you arrived here, everyone wondered whether you’d win any. Did you ever have any concerns during the dark times you might not win any or did you always have the belief you’d get through?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, of course there was really a moment where I really didn’t believe that I’m gonna win it one day, especially those period when I was serving double faults and couldn’t fix my serve.
There was a lot of up and downs. But, you know, I just couldn’t quit. You know, I felt like I just have to keep doing what I’m doing. I just have to keep fighting for my dream and make sure that if there is something, I want to believe there is something that my father is watching me and very proud of me. So I just couldn’t stop for my family.
Of course there is the moment when you’re, like, probably I will never get it. But you just have to keep working hard and just keep trying. You’ll see at the end if it’s meant to be for you or it’s not. Like, you just have to stop thinking negative, you know.
Q. Su-Wei, I’m just kind of curious, schedule-wise will we be seeing you at 1000s and slams with Elise, or how are you going to manage your doubles schedule? What is that situation?
HSIEH SU-WEI: I’m waiting for Elise call. Anywhere she need to be, she give me a call, I am more than 50% will make it.
ELISE MERTENS: 50%.
HSIEH SU-WEI: Grand Slam 100%. Other I will think about it. I save my energy for the Grand Slam, big tournament.
ELISE MERTENS: That’s good. I like that.
HSIEH SU-WEI: I go home, I do gym.
ELISE MERTENS: Perfect.
HSIEH SU-WEI: I cannot do like you. Every match she finish a match, she go to the gym. She say, I’m going to the gym. I’m like, What are you doing, quarterfinals, semifinals? What are you doing?
ELISE MERTENS: Then you stretch and put your leg in your neck almost.
HSIEH SU-WEI: Be careful this girl, she working so hard.
ELISE MERTENS: Go to the gym.
HSIEH SU-WEI: No, not me.
Q. Congratulations to both of you. Hsieh Su-Wei, just in terms of this is your first mixed doubles title, I believe, so how does that feel to get through it? What do you think was the magic between the two of you to get this done?
HSIEH SU-WEI: Of course it’s very exciting and very different than the doubles, because I have win a few doubles. Last year I was in two finals, I was very chill. Probably the chillest player on the court. I was not even feel nervous on the court.
But with mixed doubles, it was exciting and my partner is very good. I know he’s very good from the baseline, at the net, and the serve. I just need to do my stuff to put the ball inside the court and pass the net person. This is my job, very clear. He’s doing his job so I’m doing my job and we’re doing good (smiling).
Q. Unbeaten now at Grand Slams for three years now, 2021. What still motivates you playing these tournaments, winning these tournaments? Novak Djokovic, for example, he still has the motivation to do more. What is your motivation to do more?
DIEDE de GROOT: So, like, I think everyone who saw the match today saw that I was still struggling with my serve, so I can still be such a — more better? I can still improve so much more than I already am doing now. So finding those little details at the moment is, I think, a very fun process.
Also, I think what motivates me is that the Grand Slams at the moment, they are making things better for us year by year. So then it’s fun to give that back (smiling).
So I’m really happy to be here and then to play in front of a lot of people in Kia Arena this year. Then as a player you want to do well.
So those are the things that keep me going.
Q. Congratulations. Well done. On the TV screens about five minutes before you came onto the court, they showed you and Emerson in the tunnel and you stood next to each other and laughing and pointing at the TV. Normally with the senior players they focus on themselves. You both seemed to be enjoying yourselves beforehand.
RENATA JAMRICHOVA: Yeah, I think just such a great experience for both of us to play that final. We’ve never played a Grand Slam final, so for both of us it was just, we did it, we are in the final, and we can just enjoy the match and just play. Yeah.
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
|By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
|By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
|By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
|By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
|By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer