Roland Garros continues rolling — Quotes from Paris — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 6, 2023

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! Roland Garros has already entered the second week and this is where our Elite Eight stands:

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First up, we have a rematch of last year’s championship and boy, is Iga Swiatek in form. A double bagel third-rounder on top of two 6-4, 6-0 victories and a 5-1 retirement win? That’s 9 games in four matches, while Coco Gauff has had two three-set matches en route to the quarters. I would argue that Gauff had a slightly tougher road through the first week, but Swiatek is by far the one to beat.

Someone quietly working their way through the draw is Ons Jabeur, who finally made her first Roland Garros quarterfinal 12 years after capturing the junior title. She’s now added her name to the list of players who have made the quarterfinals at all four Grand Slams. However, the biggest news of the first week was the withdrawal of Elena Rybakina in the third round due to illness. This opened up the quarter for Haddad Maia becoming the first Brazilian woman to make the quarterfinals in Paris since 1968. Her fourth round epic over Sara Sorribes Tormo took nearly four hours and my body hurts just thinking about that:

The quarterfinal between Muchova and Pavlyuchenkova is a toss-up between players I definitely plan seeing this far in the tournament. Muchova definitely followed up her first round upset over Maria Sakkari while Pavlyuchenkova has finally found the form that took her to the 2021 final after a lengthy knee injury layoff that caused her to miss last year’s tournament. Roland Garros typically spits out a surprise semifinalist, but both of them have done it before. For uncertainty alone, this is the match to watch.

Lastly, the final quarterfinal is perhaps the most juicy. After struggling in the beginning of her comeback from maternity leave, Elina Svitolina is riding high on confidence. She’s now made four quarterfinals in Paris, while her opponent Aryna Sabalenka is playing her first. Sabalenka is the only other player besides Swiatek who has yet to drop a set en route to the quarterfinals. She was up 5-0 in the fourth round against Sloane Stephens before edging out the American in a tiebreaker and the tennis she had to produce there and late in the second set was lightning in a bottle. Tie in the obvious Russia-Ukraine politics that led Sabalenka to forgo pressers for her mental health with the counterpunching from Svitolina? It can produce quite the show.

Because my pre-tournament predictions were a joke, lets just do this for funsies:

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (6) Coco Gauff
(7) Ons Jabeur def. (14) Beatriz Haddad Maia
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Karolina Muchova
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. Elina Svitolina

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (7) Ons Jabeur
(2) Aryna Sabalenka def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

(1) Iga Swiatek def. (2) Aryna Sabalenka

I can see Sabalenka taking the win over Swiatek, but the World No. 1 is just cruising too well so far. This second week should produce some quality tennis but until then, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

The WTA announced the rest of their 2023 calendar, which includes their return to China. Among the tournaments is the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic leaving the Bay Area for Washington DC.

WTA Insider has been busy at Roland Garros, but the features are *chef’s kiss*:

  • Anna Karolina Schmiedlova breaking through for her first Slam Round of 16.
  • Lesia Tsurenko overcoming the Ukraine conflict to play for more than herself.
  • Mirra Andreeva being a taste of the WTA’s future while the teenager handles her newfound fame.
  • Sara Sorribes Tormo using her injury layoff as a catalyst to reach new heights.
  • Kayla Day fighting through injuries, poor form and the pandemic before finding her career-best form.

It took until the fourth round for a women’s match to headline the night session and Tournament Director Amelie Mauresmo addressed the discrepancy.

Miyu Kato was defaulted in her second round women’s doubles match after accidentally hitting a ballkid lightly. Originally given a warning, opponents Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova argued for a disqualification, lighting up Tennis Twitter for their sportsmanship — first their asking for a default and then apparently laughing during the discussion. Kato and partner Aldila Sutjiadi were down a set, but up a break when the default was announced. Kato will apparently have her prize money and ranking points nulled, but she’s remained in mixed doubles where she’s made the semifinals. Hopefully an appeal was put through and granted because this was all an accident.

The WTA has unrolled some Pride Month content with various out players and allies from multiple sports lending vocal support. Martina Navratilova also penned a column saying the sport still has quite a ways to go, while also reflecting on the three-month period in 1981 where she and Billie Jean King were outed and the impact it had and still has to this day.

The Mason City Council approved a financial package to help fund the site of the Western & Southern Open to keep the tournament in Cincinnati after it was announced the new tournament owner wants to move the event to Charlotte.

IX Friend Sloane Stephens found her form on the tennis court en route to the fourth round in Paris, but she’s been just as impactful off-court through her WTA Players Council obligations.

Naomi Osaka shared the sex reveal of her pending child and the former World No. 1 is expecting a girl:

Venus Williams will make her return to competition for the first time since the first week of the year at the Libema Open. She and Elina Svitolina also accepted wildcards into the Rothesay Classic Birmingham.

Anasastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s ranking wouldn’t allow the Russian to enter Wimbledon and she’s not expecting a wildcard this year after the 2022 ban on Russians and Belarussians.

Emma Raducanu shared she and coach Sabastian Sachs have parted ways since she will be out of competition following a round of surgeries.

Can Mirra and Erika Andreeva be the sport’s next Williams Sisters?

In college news, the ITA announced the Division I All-Americans after the end of the NCAA season. After leading Iowa State to many program-firsts, Boomer Saia has left to take over the Clemson Tigers. NCAA champion Fangran Tian wasn’t on many radars at the start of the season, but the UCLA Bruin could be a potential program-great. Lastly, 2022 NCAA champion Peyton Stearns is still adapting in her first full year on tour that already included a WTA final, Top 100 entry and a first Grand Slam win.

UNC commit Tatum Evans was profiled before her journey to Paris for the Roland Garros junior tournament.

Tweet of the Week

Congratulations to Carla Suarez Navarro, who welcomed a set of twins with her partner, Olga Garcia

Five at The IX: Roland Garros Week 1

Q. You are on the players council. You’ve got a lot of brain cells you could rub together. I’m just wondering, the WTA Tour has been riveted lately with a lot of thorny, sensitive, personal, geopolitical pain. I’m just wondering how much you guys on the council talk about it, and do you possibly have an elegant solution to all the pain that’s happening these days?

SLOANE STEPHENS: Well, I think obviously we talk a lot. We have a ton of group chats. We have our subcommittees. We have all of these things going on. I will say that for as long as I’ve been on the player council, the last — since COVID, before COVID, I think I’ve been on four years now, too long, obviously — I would say that there has just been one thing after another, and it’s very hard on a tour where we’re so international. There are so many things happening. There are so many political things happening.

It’s really hard to grasp for every single player the importance of a single issue because one issue means a lot more to one person than it does to the other.

Then when another issue happens and it’s on the other side, there’s a lot of back and forth. I feel like on the council we try to make everyone happy and make everyone feel safe and everyone feels that they are a part of our tour and loved and cared for. Sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Sometimes there are just rules and regulations and decisions that are made that are not in our control.

I think a lot of the times our players maybe feel that they’re not spoken for, but I don’t think that’s the case. I feel like we have spoken too much, and sometimes things are just out of our control. A lot of the things that happen in general on the tour and in the world are so intertwined now that it’s not just tennis anymore. It’s a lot of worldly issues.

I wish that tennis could be tennis for a lot of our girls, and that’s just not how it is right now, which is unfortunate.

Q. We noticed that today there were a lot of tickets that were resold by people who are disappointed that it was not going to be male players. Is it something that touches you, affects you, and shows that female sports has difficulties in being unanimously appreciated by the audience?

ONS JABEUR: It is time to change that vision, because I find that people don’t watch many female matches, and they just judge that it’s gonna be a crappy match. But it’s not the case. There are a lot of extraordinary matches.

Women are training, making a lot of efforts, playing extraordinary matches. I met many people who say, Well, the female matches, blah, blah, blah, and I ask them, Did you watch a female match? They said no. How can you judge a female match without watching it?

I hope that is going to change the mentality of giving a chance for these women who fight on a daily basis. Because honestly, we do a lot of efforts. We make a lot of sacrifices that men don’t have to do on the tour.

We must schedule everything in our professional life, and it is time to change that, to change that vision. I hope that the stadium will be full tomorrow, because there are two excellent and incredible players who will be playing and it’s going to be an extraordinary match. So we have to give a chance to these women for all the female sports.

Q. Could you just detail the tough moments a little bit. Could you just detail, bring to life, some of the tough moments. Must have been a really challenging process. Were there some moments that expressed that?

KAYLA DAY: Yeah, like I said, I had a ton of injuries, and I also had mono, which made me feel not so well for a very long time.

I tore my quad. I fractured my foot. I tore both labrums in my hip. So it was just a lot of bad luck, one thing after another.

Then by the time I was trying to like make a comeback or I was feeling a lot better, it was COVID. It was really difficult, because all my injuries were, like, I would be out for three, four months, and I never took a protected ranking, so it was so hard for me to come back.

Every time I tried coming back, it just felt like something else would happen. So then when I started feeling good, it was in 2020 during COVID, and they canceled all the tournaments and my ranking had dropped to like 600 at that point.

So it was really tough to even try to get into a tournament to try to play. I think in 2020 I played like three tournaments or something. So it’s just, yeah, like I said, a lot of bad luck and bad timing.

Yeah, I found my way back (smiling).

Q. Having that because tennis players for so long — well, most of you from the very beginning play for yourselves, and it’s so internal, and you are the whole driving force. To be playing for something bigger, how different of a motivation have you found that?

LESIA TSURENKO: Yeah, as I’ve said, I never played for money. Never in my life I was thinking about money going on court and thinking about how big prize money I get if I win.

But, as I said, a year ago it was a point where I was thinking, okay, or I go back home and I will be a volunteer and do whatever is necessary for my country.

But, actually, I have to say that I had a conversation with Alex Dolgopolov which really helped me who told me, look, we will do our job here, and you continue your job, and you continue what you can do the best.

He told me that, You know, we need money.

I said, Okay.

So I continue playing. I want to improve myself. I want to improve my game, and I will donate. This is what I’m doing a lot, and I feel better when I do that because I still feel quite guilty that I’m not in Ukraine. I’m doing something really — you know, sport is definitely something great to do.

So, yes, it’s just a bigger thing in my head. And often when I have tough moments in my match, I also remind myself that I’m from Ukraine, that I’m Ukrainian, and I’m a part of the strongest nation, and I have to be proud, and I am proud that I’m Ukrainian.

Q. I’m just remembering something you said at the Australian Open earlier this year about how there was a period of time before that where you felt like you started playing not to lose rather than playing to win. I just wondered with the benefit of a bit more time and space from that if you can reflect on sort of how you fell into that and also how you got yourself out of it again.

IGA SWIATEK: Well, it’s kind of easy to fall into that, honestly, because I think, you know, preseason had something to do with that and me, like, kind of — because when I was during the season I was in that rhythm. You know, I didn’t really think about what other people said. It was easy for me to manage my own expectations, as well. So I felt like I just continued that, you know.

But when the season ended, I was, like, Okay, so now I have time to kind of see and reflect on what happened, and also, like, check, I don’t know, more the Internet. Also like I had more face-to-face contact with people that were actually sometimes approaching me and telling me stuff, and I just felt like struck with all the things that happened during my last season.

So when I came to Australia, it was pretty hard to kind of cut it off completely, suddenly. Next time I’m gonna think about, you know, my preseasons if I should also be in that season routine or kind of let my mind wander a little bit, because you can’t be in that rhythm constantly, but on the other hand, yeah, it didn’t help for Australia, for sure.

I felt like, yeah, everybody kind of were watching because that was the first season that I started as World No. 1, and last year I played in semifinals, so I felt like I can do even more, you know, because I just progressed. I felt like I can play better.

So all these thoughts, you know, came together, and it wasn’t easy. So, yeah, it happens, you know. That’s why it’s so hard to sometimes handle pressure and to be on top for longer time.

Also, I’m aware that it’s not gonna be constant that I’m gonna not have these thoughts or not feel the expectations. I’m gonna have ups and downs, and you kind of have to accept that, you know. But I’m working really hard to try to cut off all that stuff and just focus on tennis and focus on, you know, enjoying playing.

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Written by Joey Dillon