Goodbye, Melbourne! — Quotes from Australian Open Champs — Must-click women’s tennis links
The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Jan. 31, 2023
Happy Tennis Tuesday, everyone! Today, I head out to Gran Canaria to participate in the GLTA World Championships. The GLTA is an LGBT amateur tennis circuit with hundreds of tournaments all over the world and I was fortunate enough to grab the final spot in my division. I’ll also be playing mixed doubles, so I hope to write a Tennis Tuesday about it. Perhaps next week, but send all your positive vibes, please! Cue the shameless plug:
Now, it’s the end of the record-setting Australian Open. As usual, with first Grand Slam of the season complete, you know what that means — recapping the tournament in the style of Jon Wertheim’s Takeaways!
First, what a tournament for Aryna Sabalenka. She got over the hump and captured her first Grand Slam title with a thrilling three-set tussle over Elena Rybakina. Armed with one of the biggest games on tour to beat anyone on any day, she also received quite the love from her fellow players following her win. There are a few reasons why Sabalenka crossed that finish line: realizing she didn’t need sports psychologist because she needed to do the work on her own and doing everything in her being to fix her serve that was disastrous at last year’s AO. Also, take a listen with WTA Insider’s Champions Corner with Sabalenka, who is undefeated in 2023 and the only set she’s lost so far was in the final to Rybakina.
Elena Rybakina was constantly an afterthought this fortnight, even though she’s the reigning Wimbledon champion. Put out on the outside courts in the beginning of the tournament and handling pushback about her coach’s mid-match behavior, she played phenomenal tennis the entire tournament and displayed one of the best finals in recent Grand Slam history.
Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova are the WTA’s dominant duo, winning their seventh Grand Slam together with a win over first-time finalists Ena Shibahara and Shuko Ayoama. After winning their 25th consecutive Grand Slam match, they broke down their partnership to WTA Insider’s Champions Corner.
Congratulations to The IX alum Luisa Stefani, who won her first Grand Slam! After partner Caty McNally withdrew at the last hour, she teamed up with fellow Brazilian Rafael Matos for mixed doubles and win her fifth trophy in eight tournaments since her comeback from ACL surgery.
The women’s final wasn’t the only three-set battle that stole the show. The Girl’s Singles championship was tough, with Alina Korneeva taking the title in her Grand Slam debut over doubles partner Mira Andreeva.
One of my highlights was the mixed doubles final run of Sania Mirza, who was participating in her final Grand Slam and is retiring after the Middle East swing next month. Sure, it’s no storybook ending, but 18 years after her debut Australian Open, Mirza reminded us how much of a trailblazer she’s been.
I don’t know where Diede De Groot lives, but it’s not Planet Earth. The Dutchwoman took home her ninth consecutive Grand Slam in the wheelchair division, coming back from a 0-6 first set at that.
The Original 9 were celebrated for the WTA’s 50th anniversary and reflected on their half-century journey. tennis.com profiled Gladys Heldman, who was the catalyst behind the Original 9, which led to the formation of the WTA three years later.
It was nice to see Karolina Pliskova deep in a Grand Slam draw again, though I’m sure she would like to take back her quarterfinal upset by Magda Linette. That being said, she’s finding her groove and this could be the start for a big 2023 for the former World No. 1.
Someone finding their best tennis is 2012 and 2013 champion Victoria Azarenka, who played lights out to knock out Jessica Pegula before falling to Rybakina. Focusing on the process instead of the result has been the key for the Belarussian’s mindset, so you could see her re-enter the Top 10 sooner than later.
wtatennis.com’s Alex Macpherson delivered, breaking down all the numbers you need to know post-AO.
Speaking of coaches, who can finally give tactics mid-match, it’s always nice for a coach to be recognized — especially after so many peaks and valleys:
We knew Ashleigh Barty would be at the tournament this year and would likely hand out the trophy to this year’s winner, and fortunately that came true.
Tennis Australia delivered during their Pride Day, which included finals of the “Glam Slam,” a GLTA event, being played on some of the courts. Laura Robson spoke about the efforts for the day and reflected when she wore a rainbow hair tie following the homophobic comments from Margaret Court, who hasn’t been in attendance since the 2020 event.
The champions photoshoot is usually a great moment and Aryna Sabalenka slayed:
Curious how fast Grand Slam winners’ names are engraved on the trophy so fast? I got you! Note: I wonder if they’ll ever add “BLR” to it or keep it blank:
ESPN had exclusive coverage of the Australian Open, with most of the action unfortunately only available on ESPN+. When they were showing on television, commentators like John McEnroe — who would constantly talk about himself, mispronounce a name or not know basic knowledge about a player — were headlining the feed.
Someone who was delivering on court as an emcee is Jelena Dokic, who received praise from Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt for the former World No. 4 speaking out against the bodyshaming and trolls online.
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This Week in Women’s Tennis
Elena Rybakina finally makes her long-awaited Top 10 debut, even though she would have long been there if the WTA awarded points from Wimbledon.
Emma Raducanu is the latest name to sign up for the ATX Open, the WTA 250 in Austin, Texas, that will be held next month.
Something to keep an eye out on: Russia and Belarus’ potential ban from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. However, one of tennis’ biggest questions right now is if Wimbledon will reverse their ban for the upcoming tournament.
Hua Hin, Thailand is hosting a WTA 250 this week and Filipino rising star Alex Eala is a welcomed face to the tournament organizers.
Even the biggest stars are unaware of some of the rules. During her semifinal warmup, Victoria Azarenka wanted to wear her Paris Saint-Germain jersey for her son, Leo, but it apparently wasn’t within code.
If you know me, I love Big Babe Tennis and I hope it’s making a resurgence:
Les Petit As is the premier 14 & under tournament with multiple legends being among former champions. Armed with a great tennis name, Anna Pushkareva took the title to join the list of champions that include Grand Slam winners Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters, Jelena Ostapenko and Bianca Andreescu.
Will there be a LIV Tennis? I personally don’t think so, given the WTA’s response to the Peng Shuai situation and the ethics of Middle Eastern countries. However, if there’s a time for a tour to reel in stars, it’s certainly now.
Victoria Azarenka wins with this hilarious tweet:
College tennis is returning to the Australian Open! After a pause due to COVID-19, Universal Tennis announced plans to incorporate team matches in a partnership with Tennis Australia.
Wrapping up college news, be sure to check out the blog of Bucknell alum Maria Cioffi, who is a Tennis 4 America fellow through AmeriCorps.
Tweet of the Week
Sabalenka with the last laugh. We stan:
Five at The IX: Australian Open Champions
Q. The fact that this hasn’t come easy at all, does that make this sweeter?
ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I think it’s even more enjoyable, I would say, after all those tough matches. I really feel right now that I really needed those tough losses to kind of understand myself a little bit better. It was like a preparation, you know, for me.
I actually feel happy that I lost those matches, so right now I can be a different player and just different Aryna, you know?
Q. Luisa, you had a painful injury at the 2021 US Open. You were out for a long time. Here you are sitting as champions in mixed. Tell us about the journey.
LUISA STEFANI: Yeah, I think that was the best moment of my career when the injury happened in the semis. It was maybe the most important match of my life so far, besides Olympics. I mean, it was a big shock. I was away from tennis for a long time. At the same time I really tried to use that time wisely, as good as I could.
I moved back home, which was a big change, but it was extremely important. Obviously rehab, it’s tough. Everybody says it. I think there’s a lot of good things you can learn from it.
Besides not taking tennis for granted or matches for granted, I don’t think I ever really did even before injury, but I think it really showed me what I have outside of tennis as well, especially being near family, being back home, and how much we can do through sport.
Besides having a lot of time to work on things on tour, we usually don’t get the time to do so. I think I really had a good mindset with my team. I really think my team was extremely important, my coach, my physiotherapist, mental side.
I really tried to get everybody together to have the goal to come back stronger, work on my tennis, enjoy really the outside part when we were on tour that we’re not able to.
It’s paying off. I’m just really happy and willing to keep it going.
Q. Barbora, last night you were watching the women’s singles match. Maybe you were not cheering for a specific player. What brought you there? Did you get any good inspiration from that match?
BARBORA KREJCIKOVA: Well, I definitely wanted to watch it. It’s a women’s Grand Slam final. I felt it’s going to be a really special match. And it was.
I think both girls, they played amazing tennis. It was really up and down. There were so many situations where things could turn around for one or another side.
I mean, I really enjoyed it. I love to watch tennis. I mean, I had nothing better to do on Saturday night. I’m still here. I’m still in the competition.
I like going and watching matches. Just, yeah, maybe get inspired as well. So, yeah, I mean, it was a great match. I mean, huge congratulations to Aryna for becoming a slam champion.
I mean, yeah, we had a little conversation together. A couple years ago we played finals in doubles on the Rod Laver. We lost that one. I mean, after that, she said she’s not going to play because she wants to focus to win a singles major.
I’m really happy for her that she made it because I know how hard it is. I know how much hard work you have to put into. I know her and her team. They do it.
I’m really happy for her. I mean, also for Elena. Yeah, like, I’m sorry, but she try her best. She played great, great match. She’s already a slam champion.
Yeah, it was a really, really nice match, and I really enjoyed it.
Q. For both of you to have the success you’ve had consistently at the slams, how important do you feel it is to elevate the doubles game the way you have, historically it has helped doubles to have consistent champions? Do you feel it helps that side of the sport to have a dominant team?
KATERINA SINIAKOVA: It would be nice, but I think it’s not just in our hands. I mean, we trying to show our best. We doing what we love. We are just so happy that we having the titles.
But, I mean, someone needs to also help us to kind of, like, show the doubles is also interesting, that lot of players playing it, and it’s just different. Even if it’s hard to say because I feel that I’m really good doubles player, I’m world No. 1, but I don’t feel any ‘wow’ when I’m here. I don’t have courts for practices. I need to go to somewhere else because it’s just doubles.
I think I do the same work what the singles players does. I mean, I have a team. I practice every day. I work hard. So I’m really honored that I have the trophy, even when I’m like walking around I don’t feel so much pressure that everyone looking me.
It would be really nice that someone would, I don’t know, show more doubles, more the team, the teams who are playing more often, just promote them.
Q. Can you talk about what it means to win the Australian Open in your Grand Slam debut?
ALINA KORNEEVA: First of all, I’m so proud of myself, because I can’t believe that I could win with these problems. It’s my first Grand Slam and I hope not last one. I hope next year I will play woman’s already finals, and I hope I will win it.
Yeah, I’m so proud of myself, of my mentally game. Yeah.
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer|
|By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer|
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