Messy Madrid — Quotes from Spain— Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, May 9, 2023

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! The first of two back-to-back two-week WTA 1000 events has come to the end and unfortunately, there’s some drama we need to discuss.

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First, let us start with good news from the Mutua Madrid Open. Aryna Sabalenka found herself in another final battle against Iga Swiatek, but powered through in a tough three-setter for her second MMO title in three years and a continuation of a fine 2023. Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia came home with the doubles title, knocking off Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.

Now, this fortnight had some issues from the beginning.

First, the women’s matches received your normal ballkids in normal outfits. The men? Women dressed in croptops and skirts:

The tournament — with ATP player Feliciano Lopez at the helm — attempted to do damage control by fitting the ladies with baggy pants, but still their midriff showing. The tournament attempted this in 2004 when they hired models to be ballgirls and it obviously didn’t stick. While this was only for the men, it helped show the tennis world a glimpse of how the MMO views women.

Now, enter cakegate.

Aryna Sabalenka and ATP No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz both share a birthday and par the course, tournaments usually surprise the player with a cake. However, the difference between the two lit up social media:

Bianca Andreescu and Victoria Azarenka both chimed in on the double standard and Lopez…….doubled down:

In perhaps the most infuriating moment of the tournament, the women’s doubles finalists were not given a chance to speak to the crowd following their match. Can you name a tournament where the winners and runner-ups were silenced? I can’t, but I have to wonder if Azarenka — whose comment about the cakes began the conversation — being part of the match had anything to do with it.

Coco Gauff continued the conversation in her thank yous she gave on Twitter, while Jessica Pegula and Ons Jabeur chimed in:

And in honorable mention, scheduling was a nightmare. I still wonder how the tournament had extra days compared to last year, yet still had numerous night sessions finish well after 1 AM local time. Fortunately, Iga Swiatek did allude to it in her runner-up speech to Lopez’s dismay:

I hope at some point the WTA comments to ensure this never happens again. The tours love to throw in “Tennis United” when it’s convenient but when it’s time to support women? *Crickets* My ultimate wish is that Lopez gets it together and makes sure that the tournament treats the WTA players like he does his ATP counterparts.

Now, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

At the WTA 125 l’Open 35 de Saint Malo, Sloane Stephens — playing a WTA 125 event for the first time — found herself in the winners circle, beating Greet Minnen. In doubles, Minnen and Bibiane Schoofs upset Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway and Eri Hozumi in two tiebreakers to capture the crown.

Sorana Cirstea had to save a championship point against Elizabeth Mandlik to capture the WTA 125 Catalonia Open in Reus, Spain. Ellen Perez and Storm Hunter won the doubles title over Alexa Guarachi and Erin Routliffe.

While the PTPA continues to try to create a presence on tour, Jon Wertheim discusses how the tours need to brand outside of the Grand Slams to maintain growth and longevity.

Amanda Anisimova (mental health) and Emma Raducanu (hand and ankle surgeries) announced that they will be away from the circuit for the immediate future:

Joel Drucker profiles 1973 junior and 1975 women’s doubles Wimbledon champion Ann Kiyomura-Hayashi in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Sara Errani enters Rome this week finally in the Top 100 again and goes in with no main goals other than to keep enjoying tennis.

Jeff Wallace, the second-winningest women’s tennis coach in collegiate history, announced he is retiring from UGA after this season. Associate Head Coach Drake Bernstein, another UGA alum, will be overtaking the program.

Emma Navarro, who cracked the Top 100 two years after winning the NCAA singles title as a freshman, will be making her Roland Garros debut after winning the USTA wildcard:

Before there was a Paula Badosa, or a Garbine Muguruza, there was an Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario bringing new heights to Spanish women’s tennis.

The F1 Grand Prix in Miami brought out some tennis royalty including Venus and Serena Williams.

Tweet of the Week

I don’t know where Madrid is living, but it’s in the future

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Five at The IX: Quotes from Mutua Madrid Open

Q. Congratulations. When you first played Iga for the first time a few years ago and then early last season as well, it seemed like you would get very amped up to play her and really wanted to beat her. Seems like the last few times it’s been a lot calmer. How much do you associate that with obviously your change on your side but also kind of the respect that you have for her in terms of what the level is that you have to bring to beat her compared to like a year ago?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, no, I definitely respect her a lot. She’s a great player, and what she did last season and what she’s keep doing, it’s really motivate me a lot to improve, to keep working hard, to, yeah, to keep fighting.

Yeah, I know that it’s always battles against her. It’s always really great matches.

Yeah, of course I respect her a lot. I would say that like this year matches is completely different matches than it was last year. I improved a lot, and I really want to win against her, because she’s such a great player.

To have this win, especially on clay, that’s something unbelievable. I really happy that I’m able to fight against her and I’m able to get these wins so it’s not like so super boring for people to watch our matches. (Laughter.)

Q. It’s a rare occurrence for No. 1 and No. 2 to reach a final on the WTA Tour. Obviously you and Aryna have now done it twice. Curious, from your perspective, why is that a statistic that’s rare? How hard is it to maintain your positions at the top of the game and to navigate these draws to be there on championship day?

IGA SWIATEK: Well, honestly, I think Daria could answer it better, but for me, of course it’s tough. Like people are saying it’s tough to get to top, but staying at the top is even tougher.

I don’t know. I haven’t lived enough to know if that’s like true or not, but getting to the top, I felt like it would be harder anyway, and staying at the top is hard, but I think I’m doing a good job anyway.

I don’t know. It’s just a matter of kind of not thinking about it that you’re gonna stay here, but it’s more like reaching to other stuff that can motivate you and that you can do better no matter what position you’re in.

I think, you know, that was the change for me in terms of how I felt at the beginning of the season with the pressure of being World No. 1 and how I feel right now. I don’t know if other players are doing it differently or they had, the ones that stayed on top for a longer time, they had different like paths or reasons that they stayed there.

But for sure, I don’t know, me and Aryna, I feel like we just, we’re just hard workers. I know that she’s super professional as well in terms of, you know, fitness and other stuff, and we’re kind of progressing no matter if we’re on top or not, so I think that’s why we are kind of solid.

Q. I would like to ask you about the new format of the tournament, two weeks, and if you have had some time to visit the city, to enjoy a little bit of Madrid?

MARIA SAKKARI: I mean, there are positives and negatives. I would say the positive thing is that when you play a match and the next — most of the times you have a day off, and you can just relax and do fun things, as you said, visit the city, walk around, go have a nice dinner.

When you play back to back, then you don’t have that chance. But then some of the negatives are that let’s say I’m lucky because I’m from Europe, so even if I had lost, I could go back home and just rest and fly to Rome, which is an hour flight from home. But for someone that comes from far away, it’s tough, because they have to either stay here or try and find a place to train.

Yeah, it’s not easy. I don’t know. I have heard different opinions, and I just don’t know what else to say about it.

Q. In terms of the memories that you have on that court, both good and bad, do you feel like now, having these two wins under it, maybe banishing the demons of last year, that you can just settle into this tournament as a regular tournament or will this tournament never be a regular tournament regardless of the stage?

PAULA BADOSA: I mean, I would like if it would be a normal tournament. It will never be a normal tournament. I think every year that I will come first round, I will cramp, for sure (smiling). I will be very nervous.

As well as every time I get out on the court I guess goosebumps. It’s tough not to get it. You feel like the noise, the people, and it’s nice. It’s good. It’s in a positive way.

But still, it’s never going to be like a normal tournament. I mean, it was my first or second WTA in my life when I was 17 years old, so it will always be special. It was my first semifinals of a 1000. This tournament will always be special for me.

Q. What is the thing you are most proud of today? Making your first WTA 1000 (semifinal)? Getting a top-5 win over someone who has been so consistent in Jessica? What gives you the most pride today?

VERONIKA KUDERMETOVA: Maybe, you know, I mean, like I say, play every match almost three hours. Today was not easy to play against Jessica in quarterfinal in 1000, and I think most important that I stay focused, I stay in the game. Doesn’t matter how many hours I play before, but I try to fight and try to be in the game.

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