Another GLTA worlds — My time ahead in Sydney — Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka return

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Jan. 2, 2024

SYDNEY — G’Day mates and Happy Tennis Tuesday! I hope everyone had a great holiday season with loved ones and a fantastic New Year with resolutions on the horizon!

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I’m reporting live currently from Sydney, Australia as I’ve embarked on a month-long holiday and luckily WTA Insider talked to some players about jet lag! I was fortunate to mark of New Year’s Eve and the Bridge Climb in Sydney off my bucket list, but I’m here on a mission. I’ve qualified for my second — and consecutive — GLTA World Championships in Melbourne in a few weeks and decided to make the long trip and play some warmup tournaments. This weekend, I’ll be in Perth, followed by a tournament that coincides the WTA in Hobart, then two weeks in Melbourne for Worlds and the AO Glam Slam during Finals Weekend!

I wanted to use this week to post a throwback from the week after the 2023 GLTA World Championships and share how we sometimes only think about pro tennis, but the sport provides so much more including a life-changing family for me.

I was reporting from Manacor, Spain at the Rafa Nadal Academy, where I was doing a half-week training camp. It’s been great so far and I happened to run into my neighbor next door, Top 10 player Felix Auger Aliassime:

I decided to attend the camp since I was “in the area” in Gran Canaria at the GLTA World Tour Championships, which I mentioned last week. I figured with a pretty light week in terms of tennis news, I would explain the GLTA and hopefully bring more awareness and players to an organization that has changed my life.

Me and five of the other seven Men’s C singles qualifiers

The GLTA is formally the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance, providing a safe haven for players that identify with the LGBTQIA+ community. However, you can be an ally and sign up to play with the 10,000+ player community. There are over 70 events throughout the calendar year currently in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Players have gotten to play on the same courts as the US Open, Cincinnati or most recently, during the AO Glam Slam, which was part of the Australian Open’s Pride efforts. Depending on your level, you can play Open (the highest), A, B, C or D singles and doubles. Some tournaments also offer mixed doubles, if there are enough women to enter.

Getting more female representation on the GLTA circuit is something I’m incredibly hopeful for. I love playing mixed doubles and was fortunate enough to walk away with the C runner-up trophy after a really tough roller coaster of a week in Men’s C Singles. There is a strong female contingent out of Europe so I was fortunate enough to play with players from England, Belgium and an American based out of Amsterdam. Note, if tournaments that lack a lot of female entries — which can be quite normal in the United States — women enter the men’s division, but a level down from their level.

Me and my mixed doubles partner in the finals, Christine

While the GLTA is extremely social and their own family, we’re all still tennis players looking to leave the weekend with hardware. Each division carries a certain number of points per win, which helps rate you to enter the tournaments at the correct level. However, there is also a “championship ranking” where you earn points per each round and more if you make the finals or win. There are five Masters tournaments where double points are offered. At the end of the ranking cycle — which is the end of October — the Top 8 of each division are offered acceptance into the GLTA World Championships, which rotate between North America, Europe and Australia every three years.

In Gran Canaria, Tennis Channel brought a film crew to record throughout the Championships, talk to the Executive Board and players — including myself and my twin brother, Kevin. We got to talk about our own journeys with GLTA and why we find the organization so special and what we want to see in it’s future. They are going to edit the package and plan to unveil it and run often throughout Tennis Channel Live, most likely during Roland Garros. However, there were talks that they could try to push it during Indian Wells.

Sure, there are plenty of amateur tennis leagues and events that may or may not be sanctioned, but the GLTA World Tour gives players of all levels the feeling of playing for something more than the love of the game. I started playing in August of 2021 and immediately caught the tournament bug, playing ten tournaments in 2022 and I’m planning around the same amount this year. Having a full circuit to train and look forward to is great and gives you a better understanding of what your favorite players have to endure — especially traveling and adapting to completely new areas and/or surfaces.

Being able to connect and play with others who perhaps understand your own struggles or have been in your shoes before is heart-warming. Each tournament also includes a raffle that helps benefit a local charity — many being ones that offer support to the LGBTQIA+ community. Tennis isn’t the most gay-friendly sport at the professional level and creating a safe and inclusive environment for players to be themselves without judgement is the cherry on top.

If you’re interested in learning more about the GLTA, or want to support their endeavors, please reach out to me! I would love to take the circuit to the next level!

Onto links!

This week in women’s tennis — well, two weeks

The Athletic did a great job discussing a lot of the behind-the-scenes roller coaster professional tennis has been from the super tour to Saudi Arabia wanting in.

Break Point on Netflix is set to return this month with Aryna Sabalenka, Maria Sakkari, Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff among the WTA stars featured.

Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens/Storm Hunter were named ITF World Champions for the 2023 season.

Friend of The IX Tara Moore was 100% cleared of her doping charge in Bogota due to contaminated meat, along with Barbara Gatica of Chile. As you can see, the impact is massive and perhaps the WTA should look into a Protected Ranking for cases like this as Tara was at the height of her career in the Top 100 when it happened and she’s now forced to start from scratch if she chooses:

The 2024 season kicked off this week with maternity leave comebacks from both Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka, while Emma Raducanu and Amanda Anisimova both return from injury and mental health breaks, respectfully.

While the WTA announced a viewership record of 1 billion — which I honestly scratch my head in confusion at — tennis bodies are finally rolling the ball on trying to combat online abuse at players.

Roland Garros runner-up Karolina Muchova continues to struggle with injuries and has been forced to withdraw from the Australian Open.

Congratulations to Petra Kvitova, who announced she and husband Jiri Vanek are expecting their first child in 2024:

Iga Swiatek has her sights set on the 2024 Olympics, but lesser-known players with incredible back stories like Daniela Seguel and Angella Okutoyi are names hoping to pencil a spot in Paris.

Elena Vesnina shared she will be making another comeback following maternity leave in 2024, likely with an eye on the Olympics:

Get to know new Top 100 debutants Emina Bektas — whose feistiness I adore — and Bai Zhaoxuan, who was outside of the Top 300 a year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are a lot of shakeups in the Australian Open doubles list, that includes Katerina Siniakova teaming up with Storm Hunter and Hsieh Su-Wei reuniting with Elise Mertens.

Zheng Qinwen is expecting a huge 2024 season after reuniting with coach Pere Riba, but the Chinese is learning to taper her expectations.

I love this piece on Ashlee Narker, the only deaf player ranked in the WTA rankings and heading to Iowa State University in the Fall.

Dominika Cibulkova is staying busy in retirement, this time taking on motherhood and business with the same energy she had on court.

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Tweet of the Week

Always a great reminder to see how (not so) glamorous life on the ITF World Tour is while players struggle to reach the top:

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