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The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Jan. 10, 2023

Happy Tennis Tuesday! It was quite the first week for the 2023 season with the United States dominating to claim the United Cup, Coco Gauff winning her first outdoor hardcourt title in Auckland and a zen Aryna Sabalenka taking the crown in Adelaide. However, it’s time for Grand Slam play already! Yesterday (today? Last night? Oh, time zones) had the first round of qualifying for the Australian Open completed and there were some upsets — most notably No. 2 seed and surprise Adelaide finalist Linda Noskova. However, there are a few names that won their openers and can make some noise in the main draw.


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Lets discuss a few of them:

Australian Open Sleepers

Alycia Parks

Top seed Alycia Parks just missed making the main draw — not only is she behind Taylor Townsend for the USTA’s wildcard, she’s already in the Top 75. The 22-year-old dominated the Fall indoor swing by qualifying for the WTA 500 in Ostrava and then beating Karolina Pliskova and Maria Sakkari back-to-back to make the quarters, THEN won back-to-back WTA 125 events, dropping four sets in those ten matches. She has one of — if not the biggest — serves on the WTA Tour, one that topped 129 mph at the 2021 US Open. Parks represented the United States at the United Cup, but didn’t see any on-court action, unfortunately. She won her first round in two tiebreaks over Aussie wildcard Alexandra Bozovic and has a tough match against Sara Beljak in round two. However, the American is confident entering the 2023 season with aspirations of breaking into the Top 10. She has the game and she has the belief, but will that be enough?

Petra Marcinko

Petra Marcinko began the 2022 season by capturing the Australian Open Girls Singles crown and honestly, she never looked back. She entered the year ranked No. 1 in juniors but No. 905 on the WTA. After a year of incredible play, she currently sits at No. 191 and is coming off of representing Croatia at the United Cup. She won two $25,000 ITF World Tour events, but finished the year strong by capturing the $80,000 event in Poiters, France. The ITF Junior World Champion has a tough test in the second round against Coco Vandeweghe, who’s more than ready to reclaim her place in the sport’s echelon. Not only is Vandeweghe a former Top 10 player, but she was a set from reaching the 2017 final in Melbourne. Don’t be too shocked to see the winner of this match in the main draw.


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Our The IX friends!

Two players that have done exclusive Five at The IXs with us — Ellen Perez and Asia Muhammad — won their first rounders in opposite fashion. Perez routed fellow wildcard and NCAA alum Petra Hule, while Muhammad had a tough win over former Top 100 player Paula Ormaechea, 7-5 in the third. While they’re both elite doubles players — Muhammad captured the Adelaide title last week and Perez sits at No. 20 in the rankings, they both sacrifice their singles goals to play doubles.

To say Muhammad plays her best tennis in Australia is an understatement. A run from qualifying to the second round in Brisbane catapulted her to a career-high ranking in 2017 and over her career, eight of her thirteen ITF singles titles have come Down Under. She’s won two WTA and seven ITF doubles titles in Australia, plus another WTA in New Zealand. She event went on a 27-match winning streak in both disciplines last year following the Australian Open. As for Perez, she’s maximized her WTA chances recently. Late last year, she qualified for Premier 700 tournaments in both San Diego and Tokyo and won a qualifying match at the WTA 1000 in Toronto. She’s also won seven ITF doubles titles in Australia and narrowly missed out on qualifying for last year’s WTA Finals.

Will these players make a dent? I’m hoping my Tennis Tuesday doesn’t jinx them, but it’s now onto links!


This Week in Women’s Tennis

The trailer for Netflix’s Break Point, which Jon Wertheim discussed after viewing the first five screeners, released their trailer:

A topic I’ve discussed in the past is the lack of female coaches on the WTA Tour. Linda Pearce delves into this topic which includes some bits from The IX friend Rennae Stubbs.

Like I mentioned last week, the United Cup is great for combining WTA and ATP action. However, the mixed doubles shouldn’t be the fifth match if they want to truly have impact. That being said, it was fantastic to watch Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari team up and bring Greece to the semifinals.

Venus Williams (injury sustained in Auckland) and Naomi Osaka (undisclosed) both withdrew from the Australian Open. With no real information as to why, her social media posts showing anything but tennis and the lack of playing time, Peter Bodo perfectly describes the “crossroads” Osaka is at. Also, People Magazine, do better:

The UTR rating vs. World Tennis Number bout continues to get a little testy. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association — which had been including results on UTR and has the former UTR CEO on their staff — partnering with the WTN as their official rating. The day after, Universal Tennis announced their strategic plan to incorporate college tennis and their statement spoke volumes. From my POV, the ITA followed where the money was guaranteed versus a product everyone knows and appreciates.

After injury thwarted her initial plans to say goodbye, Sania Mirza will be retiring next month in Dubai, where her academy has a base.

Congratulations to Ashleigh Barty, who will be mentoring Olivia Gadecki at the Australian Open and announced she and husband Garry Kissick are expecting their first child:

Armed with invigorated passion for the sport, Genie Bouchard is eager to return to the top following a long injury layoff.

Nike has cut ties with numerous players, including IX friend Sloane Stephens, but the 2017 US Open champ has announced her partnership with Free People Movement:

Gerard Pique-created agency Kosmos, picked up Elina Svitolina while Naomi Osaka’s Evolve announced Ons Jabeur is joining their roster:

TW: eating disorder. Major props to Caroline Garcia, who opened up about her struggles with bulimia throughout her tennis career.

Lauren Embree, one of college tennis’ most-consistent greats and my shoo-in to take over the Florida Gators, announced she’s stepping away from the program following the loss of her father:


Tweet of the Week

The Adelaide 2 qualifying draw was stacked, even forcing Karolina Pliskova to play qualifying at a WTA event for the first time since 2014:


Five at The IX: United Cup

Q. Jess, a similar one to yourself in that last year also was such a major year for you with your career-high ranking and all that. Is it a matter of you expect yourself to do it again this year? Is there an element of pressure to reproduce what you did last year? How do you feel starting the season now?

JESSICA PEGULA: I mean, I had an incredible year last year. I don’t think I really am putting pressure on myself to duplicate that year because I think it was very special and something that probably won’t be duplicated.

I feel like I have different goals this year. I feel like I kind of like am resetting the year, like going in because it’s a new year, because it is a new year and you never know what’s going to happen and you never know how you’re going to feel. It’s just a totally different type of challenges and goals than I had last year. I’m just going in as it’s a new year.

It’s been amazing to spend time with these guys and start the year like this. It’s been super fun and already super memorable. Something I won’t be able to duplicate the following year. I don’t really think you compare year to year. Everything is different and there’s always new challenges and I think that’s what tennis and sports in general is always going to bring. It’s always different challenges every single year.

I don’t really look, I mean, rankings, points, money, whatever it is, you just gotta take it day by day because it’s a long year.

FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, I wouldn’t look at rankings either if I was that close to No. 1 in the world (laughter).

Q. Did you recharge your batteries from last season?

IGA SWIATEK: Ooh. I would say for sure I learned how to rest properly, but when I came back home after vacation, which were great, by the way, I had like too much stuff to do off court, which is always the issue when I come back to Warsaw, and I’m working on that.

But sometimes, you know, you push all these things during the season to do them after, and then when preseason comes and all this stuff, you know, sometimes is a little bit too much.

I’m doing my best to plan everything properly and also take care of like the business side of my career. But, yeah, I’m still learning how to do that properly.

I would say I recharged my batteries, but preseason is so intense that when you’re playing first tournament of the season, you feel a little bit of fatigue. So I feel like I’m going to be more fresh before Australian Open actually than before this tournament.

Q. Jess, I know we brought it up the other day, but some good news overnight with Damar. Thoughts about that?

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, it’s amazing. Obviously the medical staff and everyone on field did an amazing job. They are expecting almost, what’s looking hopeful for 100% neurological recovery, which is incredible considering what we were all thinking of before.

So definitely good news when I woke up this morning. It was nice to see that. He’s doing better. He’s still got a little ways to go, obviously, but to hear that was just incredible.

Yeah, it’s also very weird, I didn’t realize I’m ranked No. 3 and he’s also No. 3. It’s weird. Yeah, crazy. I don’t know if you guys saw the day it happened, the Sabres had a game that night, and it was like someone scored a hat trick, third hat trick of the season, third in something. It was like all these crazy stats. Sometimes the world is just weird that way.

FRANCES TIAFOE: That’s actually wild.

JESSICA PEGULA: Crazy.

FRANCES TIAFOE: Too bad you’re going to be No. 1 in the world soon.

JESSICA PEGULA: Anyways, okay. I’m done.

FRANCES TIAFOE: Dead serious.

Q. What did it feel like to play that match? Because you were smiling almost the whole time, even when you were serving it looked like you were smiling. So what was it feeling like?

MARTINA TREVISAN: Yeah, with me, the smile for me, it’s help me a lot during the most nervous moment, because there was a lot of up and down, and I remember to smile, and I relax myself. Because as I already told to Barbara on court, I was in amazing stadium with a lot of people watching me, with all my teammate cheering for me. As I told to Barbara, you know, I looked around and say, How beautiful is it, the life, and the moment that I was living.

Q. Martina, this may be a big week for you, that great match against Sakkari. What do you think it’s going to do for you this year, the confidence, being part of this team, reaching the final over here? How much is that going to work for you?

MARTINA TREVISAN: Yeah, it’s been two incredible weeks for me. The important things is that I’m growing a lot in and off court. All the matches that I played during these two weeks happen to collect more experience and take with more confidence 2023.

So I’m very happy to be a part of this team, to be here, and that I have the chance to live these incredible moments.

(Applause.)


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: Eleni Demestihas, @strongforecheck, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon