No, the Olympics don’t have an asterisk — The IX alums heading to Tokyo — Must-click women’s tennis links
The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, July 20, 2021
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The Olympics Still Reign Supreme
Since the draw for the Tokyo Olympic Games comes out on Thursday, so I can’t really give a good preview of what I think will happen. (Not like my predictions go according to plan, but I digress.)
There have been A LOT of unfortunate withdrawals from Tokyo for a variety of reasons, but COVID-19 positive tests taking over. The biggest recent name is Coco Gauff, who didn’t confirm or deny being vaccinated, but the wording makes it seem like she wasn’t.
Gauff’s announcement followed Johanna Konta’s, who was withdrawn from Wimbledon after being deemed a close contact and then revealing after the tournament, she too finally tested positive. This past week, Olympic medalists Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka shared they were not heading to Tokyo due to injury and COVID restrictions, respectively.
To say the field in Tokyo is becoming depleted is an understatement. There’s COVID itself, but the restrictions on players — so many tests, no fans, no family or loved ones allowed to join, etc. — really don’t bode well for players that already travel year-round across the globe. Annie has been giving us a great peek into life in Tokyo on Soccer Mondays, so be sure to keep reading those and following her on Twitter.
Many are criticizing the IOC for still hosting the Games as the pandemic wears on, especially in a hotbed like Japan. Unfortunately, it’s too late for anything to be done and as selfish as it sounds, I think the world needs the Olympics. They provide a huge sense of normalcy and patriotism like no other event in the world — sporting or not. Because of the restrictions and mass withdrawals, I’ve seen many tweets and articles saying that we shouldn’t even truly count these Games. To that I say “BYE, FELICIA!”
The Games still has a loaded entry list with Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka headlining the field. The entire world is watching Osaka in her home Games and Barty is playing like the World No. 1 she is. Another player to watch is Iga Swiatek, who has been more than adamant about her love and eagerness to play in Tokyo:
Five at The IX alum Blair Henley covered a lot of my thoughts perfectly — if you click on any link this week, please let it be this one. For many players, the Olympics don’t mean as much as a Grand Slam or a WTA 1000 title, but for the majority, that isn’t the case. We have to also remember that tennis wasn’t a non-demonstration sport until 1988, so it’s not high on the radar for many Olympic fans still.
Lindsay Davenport was spot on when reflecting her 1996 win in that there are multiple majors a year for tennis, where the Olympics are many sports’ pinnacle — every four years. You really don’t understand the magnitude of the Olympics until they arrive and many players probably don’t even grasp it until they’re on-site.
Think how global tennis is and where some stars are the face of their country. The best example is Monica Puig’s incredible run to gold in 2016. She wasn’t on anyone’s radar to go deep, but she played phenomenal and inspiring tennis with every match, capturing her country’s first gold medal in any sport. She’ll forever be an icon in tennis and beyond, no matter what result is achieved on tour.
Look at some tweets for players like Carla Suarez Navarro, who made the Olympics her goal while receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last year. Or Nadia Podoroska, whose gold medal at the 2019 Pan American secured her berth before she went on a hot streak in 2020 to launch into the Top 50.
The entire world will be watching what unfolds in Tokyo, but it’s a disservice to the athletes who may be fulfilling a patriotic duty, or simply completing a lifelong dream to say that these Games don’t matter. Again, should the Games even be held? I don’t know, I love the Olympics so much that I yearn for it all the time. And it’d be a slap in the face to those affected by COVID to be blatantly selfish.
I think with more time passing, we’ll see the Olympics be more of a priority for players. There may need to be more history and more impact of the Games for players and their countries to see how significant they really are. Sure, we can be excited for Serena Williams to destroy the field like she did in 2012, but could you imagine if Naomi Osaka comes away with a medal, let alone gold? You can feel the cheers rumbling throughout the world. I’ll leave you with this, especially since I admit that I sometimes watch this video randomly when needing some inspiration — not just when thinking of the Olympics.
This Week in Women’s Tennis
The 2020 and 2021 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductions were held this past weekend in Newport, Rhode Island. There are a few links that you must check out highlighting Conchita Martinez and the Original 9:
WTA Insider sharing their one-on-one with 1994 Wimbledon champion Martinez, as well as their review of the Original 9’s induction on the 50th anniversary of their forever-world-changing $1 contract.
The WTA’s Adam Lincoln profiling five female ITHOF inductees who were trailblazers in their own right, including the WTA’s first employee, Peachy Kellmeyer. He also shared an archived interview with Billie Jean King, who was inducted a second time as part of the Original 9 on top of her individual enshrinement.
Cindy Shmerler recognizing and honoring the Original 9 and their impact on today’s tour.
The tour was plenty busy post-Wimbledon with three WTA 250 tournaments in Europe heating up:
Top-seeded Yulia Putintseva captured her second WTA singles title at the Hungarian Grand Prix with a win over surprise finalist Anhelina Kalinina. In doubles, home fans left Budapest happy with Fanni Stollar and Mihaela Buzarnescu grabbing the title.
At the Livesport Prague Open, Barbora Krejcikova continues to play incredible tennis, winning her third title of the year with a win over compatriot Tereza Martincova. It was a Czech sweep with Marie Bouzkova and Lucie Hradecka winning the doubles crown.
Tamara Zidansek won her first WTA singles title with a come-from-behind win over Clara Burel at the Ladies Open Lausanne. Again, home fans were plenty happy with wildcards Susan Bandecchi and Simona Waltert shocking the field to win their first WTA title of any kind.
Barbora Krejcikova cannot knock on the Top 10’s door any closer than this week. The Roland Garros champion is three points — yes, three — from entering the game’s upper echelon.
Congratulations are in order for Elina Svitolina. The World No. 6 and longtime beau, ATP star Gael Monfils, tied the knot this past weekend. No honeymoon is in sight as the couple are both heading to Tokyo for the Olympic Games.
Sending best wishes to former World No. 9 Timea Bacsinszky, who announced her retirement following a struggle with injuries and not having played since September 2019. The Swiss player leaves the tour with four WTA singles titles, five WTA doubles titles, a 2016 Olympic silver medal in doubles and two semifinals at Roland Garros.
Add this to the “holy crap that’s awesome” binder:
Don’t have Netflix to watch Naomi Osaka’s new docuseries? Be sure to check out David Kane’s review of Naomi for tennis.com.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced a partnership with data company Swing Tennis, which I think is so dope! I use Swing Tennis to track my shots and record my practices and matches and feel I’m getting better, so fingers crossed the quality in college tennis rises just as much.
Tweet of the Week
Naomi Osaka deleted a deserved drag she gave Megyn Kelly following the announcement of her SI Swim cover. It’s also the wrong use of “Megan,” for me:
Five — Well, Four at The IX: IX Alums in Tokyo!
Four Five at The IX alums are participating in Tokyo as players or personnel. Giuliana Olmos, who got married last week, received word she received a doubles bid and is the fourth alum to punch her Tokyo ticket: