A post-China WTA — Top player reactions to China suspension — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, December 7, 2021

Happy Tuesday, y’all! It’s December and we’re already less than a month away from the beginning of the 2022 season! Let’s get right into the biggest news of the week: the WTA holding up their end of the bargain and suspending play in China and Hong Kong for the 2022 season.

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Holy. Shit. Things are real.

Am I surprised this was announced? To be honest, no and I’m so glad to say that. Lets keep it real, most WTA fans — and honestly, most likely the players too — weren’t fans of China investing so much in the game. However, you also can’t fault the tour for going to where the money is not only guaranteed, but plentiful. Amy Lundy Dahl said it best, this is a David vs. Goliath situation:

Like I mentioned two week ago, this needed to be done. The WTA could’ve gone the safe route and decided to have their focus take place on money. Look at corporations like Nike or other leagues like the NBA, who don’t dip their feet into the foray of politics so they can cash in as much as possible. However, their portfolios are vast enough where they can choose to do that. What makes the WTA’s decision so awe-inspiring is that this could potentially leave billions in the tour’s rearview mirror.

Again, the WTA was founded on creating a safe, inclusive and equal space for female tennis players. It honestly would’ve been the biggest dose of hypocrisy to do anything other than stand behind their player. A decision could’ve waited until Simon received his rightfully-due one-on-one with Peng, but something in his demands made it clear nothing would be done anytime soon: a thorough and unbiased investigation into Peng’s sexual assault allegations. China has already done enough scrubbing of the allegations, Peng and the WTA and their statement following the WTA’s announcement doesn’t make it seem like any truce is on the horizon.

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While the WTA still hasn’t gotten to speak to Peng, the International Olympic Committee sat down with the former Doubles No. 1 for a second time. I don’t know if I will ever have enough brainpower to understand how that makes sense. On top of that, neither a video nor a transcript was released, so we actually don’t know where things with Peng actually stand. It was another example of the IOC pushing optics out to the public thinking they’d take the bite. And with the United States announcing a diplomatic boycott, clearly it’s not working. Shame on the IOC for using Peng as human bait to further their agenda and coup as much money as possible for the Beijing Games.

The biggest disappointment in all of this has been the padded support from those in the tennis community and beyond. It’s extremely frustrating to see the WTA, the ones who literally could potentially lose a majority of their revenue, be the only ones to foster a strong statement. The ATP and ITF took over 24 hours after the WTA’s announcement to share their own, which didn’t even use the word “China” in it. Tennis Twitter quickly lit up both accounts because, truthfully, it was bullshit:

The WTA and ATP have been forcing their #TennisUnited partnership for two years and earlier this year, I heard that a merge was awfully close. I’m not sure how their “statement” really embodies a true partnership. While their near-silence was irritating, it was the ITF who got my blood boiling when they said they didn’t want to “punish 1.4 billion people” by suspending their tournaments in the region. ARE YOU JOKING!? I would’ve had more respect if they just said “we like the money we get from China and we also don’t want to alienate our partnership with the IOC.” The ITF hasn’t hosted tournaments in the region since the COVID-19 pandemic began and they could’ve used that as momentum to suspend for the foreseeable future. ITF President David Haggerty said since the ITF is the full governing body of the sport, they have to think of the grassroots initiatives. It’s a poor copout and again tells those kids that are learning the game that their life has a price tag on it.

It was heartwarming to see some men’s players like Novak Djokovic, Reilly Opelka and Tennys Sandgren applauding the WTA’s decision. However, I can’t help but think if it’s easier for them to say that so they don’t have to travel/play in the area or, perhaps in Djokovic’s case, a ploy to go full steam ahead with his Professional Tennis Players Association initiative. Sport is perhaps the biggest unifier, bringing all backgrounds together, but how can we bypass the regimes or geopolitics that simply can’t see equality? These countries like China, Russia, the UAE, they have massive – ma$$ive – pull and frankly, it’s time for other countries or markets to step up to the plate to help offset situations the WTA is most likely going to endure. Fortunately, the WTA Finals Guadalajara was a fantastic stepping stone into a post-China WTA world and I hope more brands see this new wave of women’s tennis and rally behind their re-inspired messaging.

In the wake of the announcement, iQiyi, a streaming platform with a long-term stake in the WTA amounting to $120 million, has asked to have their logo taken off of the WTA’s website. However, the 10-year deal seems to be in place — for now. Right now, this suspension is only for the 2022 season, but Simon has said that it could go past that and I’m comfortable saying that it should. This is the perfect opportunity for the tour to return to iconic places, while also immersing themselves in new markets. I plan on writing a Tennis Tuesday in the coming weeks about places I would like the China tournaments to go to and without spoiling one of them, here’s a hint: this area currently rules a lot on the ITF World Tour but hasn’t had a WTA tournament in decades.

This saga is far from over, but again, I cannot commend Steve Simon and the WTA enough for really showing up for their athletes. Like this Twitter user put it best, #ItTakesBalls.

This Week in Women’s Tennis

The 2022 WTA calendar was announced — kind of. The Tour shared the calendar through Wimbledon, most likely to figure out which tournaments will be held in place of those originally scheduled in China and Hong Kong.

In a bit of surprising news, to me at least, Johanna Konta announced her retirement from tennis. The Brit peaked at No. 4, reaching the semifinals of three of the four majors, while capturing four WTA singles titles. WTA Insider had a fantastic series of interviews with Konta following the announcement, where she dissected the decision, her future and standout moments/advice.

Bianca Andreescu shared that she will not be going to Australia to kick of the 2022 season. The 2019 US Open champion discussed how the COVID quarantines, as well as her grandmother’s diagnosis to the virus, worsened her mental health and she wants to be as fresh and ready as possible before playing.

Billie Jean King, who opened up about her abortion to advocate for Roe v. Wade, was named the recipient for this year’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award at the Sports Illustrated Awards.

Congratulations to Kristyna Pliskova, who is expecting her first child.

In a surprise announcement, Iga Swiatek she and longtime coach Piotr Sierzputowski parted ways after a five-year partnership that saw the Pole capture the 2018 junior Wimbledon title before WTA success at the 2020 French Open.

Maria Sharapova announced that she’s taken an equity stake in public.com, an investment platform where you can buy/sell stock and cryptocurrency.

The odds of the 2022 Australian Open being Sam Stosur’s final are pretty high according to the 2011 US Open champion.

Don’t miss out on the Top 25 Match Points of the 2021 WTA season:

Congratulations to Daria Gavrilova, who married longtime boyfriend, ATP player Luke Saville, over the weekend. The pair, together for 10 years, also showed off a rehearsed first dance for their friends and family.

Our friend Sloane Stephens has her own Facebook Bulletin, where she talks a variety of topics; Black hair as an athlete, facing life on the road or even just her Top 10 Jay-Z songs. Where she went right, Encore with Linkin Park, but 99 Problems, as well as his collab with Queen B of Deja Vu. But that’s just my $0.02. Sloane’s Bulletin is a must-subscribe! And it’s free!

21-time Grand Slam champion Darlene Hard, who played nearly all of her career pre-Open Era, passed away at the age of 85. You can learn more about her life here.

GEMS Life is back on TikTok killing it:

The WTA will renew their partnership with the Ronald McDonald House as the lead initiative for #GivingTuesday.

As I struggle with Winter’s beginnings, Ajla Tomljanovic showed off her Anguilla vacation in tennis.com’s latest episode of My Tennis Life.

Tweet of the Week

Because the Princess of Pop is free and she led my Spotify Wrapped, I must share this gem of a throwback from Courtney Nguyen:

Five at The IX: Reactions to Steve Simon’s Announcement

I figured I would do something a little different and highlight some of our Five at The IX alums who haven’t been afraid to support Steve Simon and the tour’s decision to suspend tournaments in China:

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