A wild, wacky Wimbledon — Quotes from Week 1 and more

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, July 9, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and happy Tennis Tuesday! We finally have our Elite Eight at Wimbledon and while I expected some surprises, I don’t know if I was expecting this. As we head into the quarterfinals, here’s where we stand:

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(13) Jelena Ostapenko vs. (31) Barbora Krejcikova
(4) Elena Rybakina vs. (21) Elina Svitolina
(Q) Lulu Sun vs. Donna Vekic
(7) Jasmin Paolini vs. (19) Emma Navarro

Where do we start? It’s anyone’s game, so perhaps we should break it down by quarter.

First, Jelena Ostapenko has been finding some incredible form on the Wimbledon grass yet again. She is a former semifinalist and the way that she was playing, I would have picked her to upset Iga Swiatek in the fourth round. However, Yulia Putintseva was able to do that for her in the round earlier, taking out the World No. 1 in three sets. Ostapenko has dropped only 15 games in her four matches and she’s only been taken to a 6-3 set three times. She faces Barbora Krejcikova, who completed the career Grand Slam singles quarterfinal lineup with her straight sets win over Danielle Collins. After a marathon three-setter in her opening round win against Veronika Kudermetova, she hasn’t dropped a set — though she’s been tested nonetheless. She also benefitted from Jessica Bouzas Maneiro’s surprising upset over defending champion Marketa Vondrousova. However, like any of her matches, the result of this comes down to Ostapenko and I’m almost afraid to say she might be playing the cleanest/best tennis of her life. I told a friend yesterday, “if she’s winning matches on backhand slice approach winners, the others should be very afraid.” The Latvian is also in the doubles quarterfinals, while Krejcikova aims to join her today. The contrasting styles can result in a really fun encounter, but I think Ostapenko finds herself in her second Wimbledon semifinal to the delight of Lil Wayne.
Prediction: Ostapenko def. Krejcikova in 2 sets

Heading into the second quarter, if there’s one player that has been utterly ruthless in her first week, it’s 2022 champion Elena Rybakina. Clinical doesn’t even describe some of the tennis she’s produced this week and her 587-minue 6-0, 6-1 destruction of Caroline Wozniacki in the third round had me near speechless. Just an example, the one game Wozniacki had a break point had multiple deuces, but Rybakina hit a couple of winners and a couple of errors but an ace sandwich with a double fault in the middle and wrapped up the hold with her fourth and fifth aces — of the game. Still, she did drop the second set of her second round encounter with Laura Siegemund, so she hasn’t been invincible. On the other side of the net is Elina Svitolina, who is in her third Wimbledon quarterfinal. She had a long opener against Magda Linette and hasn’t dropped a set since — including a win against two-time defending finalist Ons Jabeur. Her quick win over Wang Xinyu in the round of 16 was emotional after a Ukrainian children’s hospital was bombed, so the intangible of representing her country publicly could be a lot for her. The way Rybakina has been in her last two matches, I can’t see Svitolina finding enough tennis to overcome, so I think we’ll get a blockbuster semifinal between two power hitters.
Prediction: Rybakina def. Svitolina in 2 sets

Heading into the top of the bottom half where everyone knew it was going to be a circus following the pre-tournament withdrawals of both Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka. That helped qualifier Lulu Sun, the first New Zealand woman to become a Wimbledon quarterfinalist after a three-set tussle against Emma Raducanu. If there’s a player of the world, it’s Sun — she was born in New Zealand to a Chinese mother and Croatian father, grew up and represented Switzerland (until this January when she changed flags to NZ and will make her Olympic debut in doubles with Erin Routliffe) and played collegiate tennis at the University of Texas. In fact, she and Peyton Stearns were teammates on the 2021 national championship winning squad where Sun clinched with the team score tied at 3-3. Her aggressive, lefty game on the grass has been similar to Petra Kvitova’s, but the big question mark is if the seven matches she’s played is too much. The fortunate news with that question is that Donna Vekic has had three of her four matches go the distance and she was playing through last weekend, making the final in Bad Homburg. Vekic is one of the tour’s best grasscourter’s but she always faltered at Wimbledon early, but with Pam Shriver in her corner, she’s broken through to the final eight. I thought the moment would’ve gotten to Sun against Raducanu, especially after she lost a tight second set, but she persevered with some great ballstriking. Still, I don’t know if there’s enough magic in the tank for her to overcome Vekic.
Prediction: Vekic def. Sun in 2 sets

Lastly, we have Roland Garros finalist Jasmine Paolini facing off against Emma Navarro, who’s playing in her first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal. Paolini might’ve lucked out when fourth round opponent Madison Keys hurt her hamstring a few points from the win before the American retired but to me, she was mighty impressive in her straight-sets victory over Bianca Andreescu. The Italian has an all-court game and it will be interesting now that she’s the overwhelming favorite on paper to reach her second consecutive Grand Slam final. However, Navarro is consistently reaching new heights at a noteworthy and gradual pace. She didn’t reach a Slam third round until this year’s Australian Open and then did a round better at Roland Garros and here we are, one round better. She sent Coco Gauff into a tailspin in the fourth round and out-edged Diana Shnaider in the battle of former collegiates, but she also dispatched Naomi Osaka in a straightforward second round encounter which I think put some alarm bells on in the draw. The other three matchups have some sort of aggression and/or grass court tactics in mind, but here we have two all-arounders that rely on consistency more than what you expect on the lawn. Paolini can bring some more punch than Navarro and I think that’s going to be perhaps the biggest difference maker.
Prediction: Paolini def. Navarro in 3 sets

From there, I think we’ll see Elena Rybakina defeat Jasmine Paolini to win her second Wimbledon crown. I think she’ll be able to withstand Jelena Ostapenko in the semifinals and to be honest, the draw is a bit uneven and any of the four in the top half will likely win against a player from the bottom. Of course, I’ve been able to eat my words more often than I’d like so we’ll just have to see how it unfolds at the All England Club.

On to links!

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This week in women’s tennis

Though it’s not the POV of a female player, please read this column by Conor Niland, who recently penned a book about his career toiling on the Challenger circuit aiming for Grand Slam glory.

The WTA is returning to Singapore next year with a WTA 250 after the Australian Open, replacing the sanction held by Hua Hin, Thailand. It will mark the first WTA tournament after they held the WTA Finals from 2014-2018.

Congratulations to Esther Vergeer, who was named this year’s Philippe Chatrier Award winner by the ITF for her contributions to tennis.

It was only fitting that Petra Kvitova and Alison Riske-Amritraj both gave birth to their first children during Wimbledon.

Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff are the top names projected to play in the Olympic Games, with the full list of players here.

Though he was due to play mixed doubles with Emma Raducanu before the 2021 US Open champion withdrew, Andy Murray was showered with praise by WTA players following his last Wimbledon match.

Jasmina Tinjić, who peaked at No. 236 in 2013, was charged with match-fixing that coincided an arrest in Sweden. Though she hasn’t played since 2018, she was given a six-year ban and a $20,000 fine ($18,000 suspended) that will expire in 2028. You can read the full decision here.

The Court for Arbitration for Sport declined Sydney Dorcil’s appeal for her four-year doping ban, citing that the American couldn’t prove the violation of Boldenone in her system — which she alleges is from a contaminated vitamin injection — wasn’t intentional.

Former Top 30 doubles player Raluca Olaru officially announced her retirement, finishing a career with one WTA singles final and 11 WTA doubles titles:

Maria Sharapova was at Wimbledon twenty years after her maiden Grand Slam glory and discussed her relationship today with Serena Williams, who was featured in the most recent episode of Hot Ones.

Marta Kostyuk continues to slay in her Wilson outfits, with her Wimbledon dress inspired by the wedding dress — also designed by Wilson — she wore.

As she enters the second half of her final season on tour, Danielle Collins has a fan in Oscar winning actor Matthew McConaughey.

Keep an eye out on Robin Montgomery, the American qualifier who won her first Grand Slam match of her career and aims to have a bigger presence on tour after a great junior career.

Ons Jabeur, Madison Keys and Emma Raducanu are all headed to Washington D.C. to kick off their North American hardcourt swing.

The WTA continued their Come Play program with Morgan Stanley with a clinic for 50 London girls to help improve their lives on and off of the court.

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Five at The IX: Wimbledon Week 1

Thanks to the wtatennis.com for compiling these.

“Yeah, change of an opponent an hour before the match is not the vibes. Do not recommend. Zero out of 10.” — Sloane Stephens after facing a lucky loser in the first round

“I think tennis in its more original form is a game of good sportsmanship and of camaraderie. I think one of the things I love about sport is that it brings a lot of different people together. So when I have a good relationship with my opponent, I think it just creates a really cool atmosphere where, obviously, we want to beat each other, but we’re out there fighting for the same thing and doing what we love, and it’s positive.” — Emma Navarro after her second-round win

“We have a cosmetic bag, makeup and different hair stuff because I got a lot of hair. Bobby pins because I’ve got bangs, and that can be hard to manage. Some little sweet potato snack things. Some blister Band-Aids. I’ve got headphones. I’ve got lots of SPF. When I say ‘lots,’ I mean lots of SPF because I burn easily, and I got to protect my skin. I’ve got more snacks. I’ve got another snack. I’ve got another snack.” — Danielle Collins itemizing the contents of her bag during her second-round press conference

“I wasn’t the best junior growing up, like ITFs and stuff. I wasn’t that great. A bit of a late developer. I lost a lot of matches from playing too safe. I kind of had enough of losing and was like, I need to change something. If I have it on my wrist, I can see it. It’s a little reminder at change of ends.” — Sonay Kartal explaining the symbol for “bravery” that she has tattooed on her wrist

“Love his energy. Love his attitude. Love the way he talks to me, Spanish. Sometimes I don’t even know what he’s saying, but sounds good.” — Ons Jabeur on working with Fernando Verdasco

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