It’s time for a WTA Champions Tour — Black History tennis reads — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, February 8, 2022

Happy Tuesday, y’all! It’s admittedly a slow week in women’s tennis, so I thought this would be a perfect time to discuss one of my ideas I would love to see the WTA implement: their own Champions Tour.

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The men currently have their own tour and to be eligible, you must qualify one of the following:

  • Have held the World No. 1 ranking
  • Reached a Grand Slam singles final
  • Been a singles player in a victorious Davis Cup team

Events can also award wild cards to former players of their choice to complete the event. I wouldn’t be opposed to making similar suggestions. You could have Li Na, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva of recent years, but then zoom it back to the 1990s and early 2000s with the likes of Mary Joe Fernandez, Iva Majoli and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

However, I say to start off, scrap singles and begin with doubles-only. Sure, the players I mentioned can be part of the doubles matches, but I think it’s vastly important to include some of the greatest doubles players of all time: Rennae Stubbs, Cara Black and Lisa Raymond come to mind. Stubbs and Black participated in the Legend’s Doubles event at the Australian Open, but in my opinion, it’s a shade above a country club exhibition given the atmosphere and short scoring. The WTA Finals have had their own Legends event, which I loved, but it didn’t get a lot of momentum before COVID entered the picture.

I would love to see a Champions Tour where each WTA 500 and above has eight teams — six direct entry and two wildcards — battle it out in an actual draw and make it part of the tournament experience. Get rid of the Fast Four format Tennis Australia tries to produce and match it with the regular scoring the WTA uses. I would also recommend setting the age requirement to 35 and older, but opening up to players still actively competing on the WTA and ITF circuits. I think it would be cool to incorporate players like Akgul Ammanmuradova, who broke the Top 40 in doubles in 2010 but still competes to this day. Or how about Tamarine Tansugarn? She is still ranked No. 551 at 44 after playing in ITFs 46-year-old Kveta Peschke is the oldest player on the WTA singles and doubles rankings at No. 61, so it’s not like you lose your edge as you get older.

Plenty of “senior” players like Martina Navratilova still want to get their competitive juices flowing, but sometimes there are players who are forced out of the game like Jelena Dokic or soon, Sania Mirza. These players have massive fan followings that want to see their favorites in action or “relive the glory days.” You also have to remember, the majority of tennis fans play a lot more doubles than singles and see these skills up close can really impact their on-court play. I would also make it mandatory for these Champions events to host one or two on-site clinics with fans — or sponsors — and really enhance the fan experience.

Lastly, I say test this in conjunction with the men as a pilot before branching off on their own. #TennisUnited, right? The merging of the ATP/WTA doesn’t have to be strictly for the active tours. This is somewhat already going to be tested this weekend at the Delray Beach Open. Bob and Mike Bryan, the greatest doubles team of all time, will be teaming up with Leylah Fernandez and her sister Bianca. Keep an eye out on this to not only see how competitive it is, but how the fans enjoy it.

I could just be daydreaming this Tuesday away, but I can’t be the only one that still wants to see my past favorites in action, right? Anyways, onto the links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

I always love when the Olympics are on, but in the wake of Peng Shuai, I just can’t fully get behind the Beijing Games. The former Doubles No. 1 gave an “interview” to L’Equipe and I use “interview” very loosely. It’s still incredibly frustrating and sad that Peng is censored and pretty much forced into retirement after coming forward as a survivor of sexual assault. IOC president Thomas Bach chimed in to say how Peng is free to go around China. Duh, she’s being monitored wherever she goes and has pretty much been brainwashed. The WTA released another statement, but one thing Peng mentions is speaking with WTA Player Relations officials from their Asia-Pacific office, something the tour hasn’t confirmed or denied.

WTA Insider featured Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who made her maiden Grand Slam final last year, still has major career goals in sights in 2022. The WTA also released a video of a day in the life of the Russian, who won the Billie Jean King Cup and Olympic Mixed Doubles gold medal last year:

In light of the WTA’s partnership with WHOOP, Stephanie Livaudais breaks down the transformation of wearable technology in tennis.

Want to feel old? 14-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova leads last week’s ITF World Tour champions:

  • $60,000 Rome, Georgia:
    • (Q) Tatjana Maria def. (WC) Alycia Parks, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
    • Sophie Chang/Angela Kulikov def. (1) Emina Bektas/Tara Moore, 6-3, 6-7(2), [10-7]
  • $25,000 Manacor, Spain:
    • (6) Andrea Lazaro Garcia def. Elsa Jacquemot, 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-1
    • (2) Andrea Lazaro Garcia/Fernanda Contreras Gomez def. (1) Tereza Mihalikova/Linda Noskova, 6-1, 3-6, [10-6]
  • $25,000 Tucuman, Argentina:
    • (JE) Brenda Fruhvirotva def. (5) Carolina Alves, 6-3, 6-3
    • (2) Barbara Gatica/Rebeca Pereira def. (3) Andrea Gamiz/Paula Ormaechea, 6-3, 7-5
  • $25,000 Sharm El Sheik, Egypt:
    • (5) Lucrezia Stefanini def. (7) Alexandra Ignatik, 6-2, 3-0, retired
    • (4) Isabelle Haverlag/Justina Mikulskyte def. Irina Fetecau/Simona Waltert, 6-1, 6-2
  • $15,000 Cancun, Mexico:
    • Julie Belgraver def. (5) Miharu Imanishi, 1-6, 6-3, 7-5
    • (1) Jacqueline Cabaj Awad/Ana Filipa Santos def. Astrid Cirotte/Anastasia Syoseva, 6-4, 6-3
  • $15,000 Monastir, Tunisia:
    • (5) Chiara Scholl def. (2) Haruna Arakawa, 6-2, 6-4
    • (1) Haruna Arakaw/Jasmijn Gimbrere def. (3) Kelia Le Bihan/Nina Radovanovic, 6-4, 6-0
  • $15,000 Antalya, Turkey:
    • (2) Hurricane Tyra Black def. (6) Ilay Yoruk, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
    • Doga Turkmen/Melis Ayda Uyar def. (2) Evgeniya Burdina/Aleksandra Pospelova, 4-6, 7-6(4), [10-7]

Paula Badosa made her Top 5 debut this week, headlining four Spanish women in the Top 50 — the first time in eight years that’s happened.

Serena Williams and Prince Harry teamed up for a virtual event in partnership with BetterUp where the GOAT revealed how the Brit has helped her with a variety of life advice.

The University of Texas continues to lead in last week’s ITA Division I Top 25 Coaches Poll.

Enjoy this montage of our friend of The IX, Sloane Stephens:

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and US Open champion Emma Raducanu are among those nominated for a Laureus Sport Award.

Match Point Canada, Tennis Canada’s podcast, catches up with Australian Open Girls Doubles runner-ups Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko.

Speaking of Canada, the Vancouver-based Odlum Brown VanOpen will be returning to the tour following COVID-related cancellations as a WTA 125 event.

The Dallas Open, a new ATP 250 event, welcomed a guest for their inaugural event — Naomi Osaka.

Greg Garber discusses how important it was for Angella Okutoyi and Meshkatolzahra Safi to break through in the Australian Open junior event.

US Open referee Soeren Friemel, most notably the one who defaulted Novak Djokovic at the 2020 US Open, has reportedly been suspended for 12 months following an investigation into claims of abuse of power.

Tweet of the Week

Because this always deserves a repost whenever I see it

Five at The IX: Black History tennis links

The USTA is doing an incredible job profiling various members of the Black community throughout the entire month.

Former women’s Georgia Tech and current men’s Florida Head Coach Bryan Shelton shares his groundbreaking journey from player to professional to coach.

Jewel Peterson, a former Top 300 WTA player, reflects on coaching Coco Gauff as an 8-year-old and how Gauff has utilized her platform as a young, Black athlete.

Ann Koger not only broke color barriers on the tennis court, but she was even one to break the gender glass ceiling too.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame releasing their Breaking Boundaries in Black Tennis exhibit.

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