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The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, February 15, 2022

Happy Tennis Tuesday, y’all! Indoor tennis ruled this week for the women. Anett Kontaveit notched her 20th consecutive match on the surface to capture the WTA 500 in St. Petersburg, Russia, while the University of North Carolina made it a three-peat at the ITA Division I National Team Indoor Championship.

Ben Rothenberg shared this stat which really made the indoor fan in me upset:

This reminded me of a Tennis Tuesday I did in 2020 where we’ve lost some iconic indoor tournaments for the more lucrative events in China:

Something to consider when it comes to the WTA calendar are sanctions — which agencies, groups, cities, etc. are authorized to run an event. In the recent years, I’ve only seen tournaments selling their sanction to a new host. In the WTA’s defense, there could only be a certain number of tournament sanctions to host per year….If not, I would love to see many more American and European cities hosting tournaments. Many factors could have lead to those tournaments folding — money, host sites, logistics, etc., so I understand why it would be hard especially in the middle of a pandemic.

To continue my argument of increasing the globalization of the tour, I find it really important for the WTA to insert themselves in the market where they have big fan bases. Yes, it is important for the WTA to break into new ventures to see if it’s a growing opportunity long-term, but it shouldn’t be priority #1 after a shortened season where many tournaments (and the tour) were hit financially. They should take a page from their China book and see where their young rising stars with cross-market potential are from and start building tournaments in those areas. It’s time to scale back the calendar and build out local swings in places like Europe and North America again.

In the wake of Peng Shuai and the WTA pulling out of China, this is the perfect test period for the tour to start scoping new areas where players came from. Apparently, Kontaveit’s prowess indoors has Estonia getting a spot on the WTA calendar. This is GREAT news, as Estonia is an area I’ve wanted the WTA to explore and coinciding Kaia Kanepi’s Australian Open quarterfinal, 2022 is the perfect place. 2020 only had four indoor tournaments — four. As of right now, through July, there will only be three, however a large majority of the tournaments held indoors are put after the US Open.

The cities I mentioned previously that hosted some iconic indoor tournaments:

Zurich, Filderstadt, Leipzig, Bratislava, Antwerp, Paris, Hasselt, Kolkata, Quebec City, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and Memphis. Filderstadt is now held in Stuttgart, but on indoor clay. It used to be on carpet, which is the second fastest surface behind grass. There, Antwerp, Leipzig, Quebec City and Paris were held on the speedy surface before hardcourts took over. A big issue were the heightened amount of injuries, but also the court speed were keeping matches a bit too fast. Maybe it’s just the old-school lover in me, but the quick, aggressive points are much more exciting than the drawn out points the tour sees now. Anyways, back to cities.

Of those cities, I’d love to see Zurich and Quebec City come back with the success of Belinda Bencic and Bianca Andreescu/Leylah Fernandez, but lets check out some of the top players and where there haven’t been much indoor action professionally. How there hasn’t been a tournament in Minsk, Belarus is beyond my paygrade. Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka would have the local arena packed! Even though the grass season sees plenty of tournaments, Emma Raducanu bringing a tournament to Great Britain — perhaps even Scotland? — would be interesting. Maaayyybbbeeee not at the current moment, but Ukraine has been overdue for a tournament as well with Elina Svitolina, Dayana Yastremska and Marta Kostyuk leading a strong contingent of players in the Top 100.

The tournament sanction process on the WTA calendar is pretty tedious, but perhaps that can change as we continue a post-COVID and post-China world. An option I’d certainly suggest is creating a lot more WTA 125 events and see how crowds and sponsors react. There are plenty of ITF World Tour tournaments that could be upgraded like the Midland, Michigan event last year. I can’t stress this enough — the WTA needs to really scope out the market of their top players and research for events instead of just continuing the status quo. Is it the sanctions? The money needed to host? I’m sure there are plenty of places that would kill to host some of the world’s best in their city.

Onto links!



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This Week in Women’s Tennis

WTA Insider shared their Champions Corner with Anett Kontaveit, where the Estonian still couldn’t figure out how she clawed back in the finals against Maria Sakkari. They also gave their weekly wrap following St. Petersburg, as well as a Stats Corner to highlight Kontaveits winning streak on indoor courts.

Zendaya is reportedly set to star in a Luca Guadagnino film set on the Challenger circuit:
“Tashi, a tennis player turned coach, [who] has taken her husband, Art, and transformed him from a mediocre player into a world-famous grand slam champion. To jolt him out of his recent losing streak, she makes him play a ‘Challenger’ event — close to the lowest level of tournament on the pro tour — where he finds himself standing across the net from the once-promising, now burnt-out Patrick: his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend.”

I spoke recently of how Peng Shuai’s recent interview was a bunch of BS. Well, even the journalist who interviewed her has doubts if she is safe.

Five at The IX alum Sloane Stephens was on a White House panel to discuss mental health and wellness in the Black community. NBD:

Another alum of The IX, Leslie Allen spoke about her barrier-breaking title in Detroit in 1981, but she recently gave more insight on how that week evolved and how the WTA benefitted from having a Black player finally win a title.

It was a busy week on the ITF World Tour with 11 tournaments wrapping up and Brenda Fruhvirtova making history in the process:

  • $60,000 Grenoble, France:
    • (6) Katie Boulter def. (8) Anna Blinkova, 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-2
    • (4) Yuriko Lily Miyazaki/Prarthana G Thombare def. (3) Alicia Barnett/Olivia Nicholls, 6-3, 6-3
  • $25,000 Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt:
    • (4) Alexandra Ignatik def. Marina Melnikova, 0-6, 6-3, 6-3
    • Sapfo Sakellaridi/Hong Yi Cody Wong def. (3) Yulia Hatouka/Anastasia Zaharova, 7-5, 4-6, [10-6]
  • $25,000 Birmingham, Great Britain:
    • (WC) Sonay Kartal def. (WC) Talia Neilson Gatenby, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2
    • Andre Lukosiute/Eliz Maloney def. (1) Quinn Gleason/Catherine Harrison, 7-6(4), 3-6, [10-8]
  • $25,000 Tucuman, Argentina:
    • (SE) Brenda Fruhvirtova def. (1) Paula Ormaechea, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4
    • (3) Maria Lourdes Carle/Julieta Lara Estable def. (4) Nicole Fossa Huergo/Noelia Zeballos Melgar, 3-6, 6-0, [10-7]
  • $25,000 Porto, Portugal:
    • (1) Julia Grabher def. Maja Chwalinska, 6-3, 6-7(2), 7-5
    • (1) Valentini Grammatikopoulou/Quirine Lemoine def. (2) Audrey Albie/Leolia Jeanjean, 6-2, 6-3
  • $25,000 Cancun, Mexico:
    • (Q) Darka Semenistaja def. Lina Glushko, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2
    • (4) Kateryna Bondarenko/Carol Zhao def. Jacqueline Cabaj Awad/Lina Glushko, 7-5, 6-7(5), [10-5]
  • $25,000 Canberra, Australia:
    • (2) Asia Muhammad def. (3) Priscilla Hon, 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-2
    • (1) Asia Muhammad/Arina Rodionova def. (3) Alison Bai/Jaimee Fourlis, 6-3, 3-6, [10-6]
  • $15,000 Monastir, Tunisia:
    • Kristina Dmitruk def. (2) Valentina Ryser, 6-2, 6-1
    • Miyu Kato/Kisa Yoshioka def. Kristina Dmitruk/Ines Ibbou, 6-4, 7-5
  • $15,000 Antalya, Turkey:
    • (8) Selena Janicijevic def. (4) Angelica Moratelli, 6-3, 6-2
    • (3) Mariana Drazic/Katharina Hobharski def. (2) Angelica Moratelli/Amarissa Kiara Toth, 7-5, 6-4
  • $15,000 Jhajjar, India:
    • (2) Anna Ureke def. (1) Zeel Desai, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
    • (1) Punnin Kovapitukted/Anna Ureke def. (2) Vaidehi Chaudhari/Mihika Yadav, 7-5, 6-3
  • $15,000 Villena, Spain:
    • (1) Jessica Bouzas Maneiro def. (4) Ashley Lahey, 6-2, 6-1
    • (3) Lucia Cortez Llorca/Joelle Lilly Sophie Steur def. (1) Katharina Hering/Olga Parres Azcoitia, 6-2, 6-4

Ashleigh Barty headlines the BNP Paribas Open field, which is missing former champions Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu.

From one GOAT to another, Serena Williams continued her love for Nathan Chen:

Wimbledon announced that this year the women’s final will be priced the same as the men’s for the first time since 1991

Leading the week’s ranking moves is Anett Kontaveit, who reaches a career-high ranking of No. 6 following her St. Petersburg title.

Remember when people would say athletes couldn’t get COVID or if they did, they’d be fine? Well, Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic is still struggling with lung issues months following her off-season diagnosis.


Tweet of the Week

Congratulations to Five at The IX alum Vicky Duval, who joined the list of WTA graduates of IU East University!


Five at The IX: Super Bowl Sunday

First off, the best news of the entire Super Bowl was Billie Jean King doing the coin toss. ICON!

Serena Williams made an appearance in a commercial for Michelob Ultra, where she joined other sporting legends Alex Morgan and Peyton Manning:

Serena and co. also seemed to enjoy the Halftime Show as much as the rest of us:


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: Anne Tokarski, @annetokarski, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon