Roland Garros qualifying — Texas A&M wins NCAAs

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, May 21, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and happy Tennis Tuesday! While fans and players are struggling with two-week tournaments, I felt this week we wouldn’t necessarily have a topic and just catch up on what’s going on, particularly at Roland Garros.

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It’s no secret that the slow red clay can be a grind, but even with the tournaments being extended, I still feel like there hasn’t been too many tournaments. Even though during the events it’s slow as molasses, I’m shocked that we’re entering Roland Garros next week.

Qualifying at Roland Garros has started and I briefly wanted to name three players that could make a deep run:

  • (1) Sara Errani: Many thought the Italian was on the verge of retirement with her singles ranking sliding down amid serve struggles, but she’s found some new form largely in part to her doubles partnership with Jasmine Paolini. She’s in the Top 100 now, but unfortunately wasn’t by the time the main draw cutoff happened. The finalist in 2012, she’s a master on the clay and has a fantastic draw to qualify and should with ease, if being honest. If she gets a kind main draw, she could escape with a few wins.
  • (8) Katie Volynets: The player with the greatest tennis last name has been finding her career-best form even though she’s 30 spots off her best ranking. She beat Ons Jabeur in Indian Wells and has been winning matches across the European red clay circuit. Most notably, she took a set off of Aryna Sabalenka in the second round of Rome, so she’s capable of playing against the top players. I also think she has a kind draw in qualifying and her speed/variety can really adapt well on the clay. She’s done well qualifying for tournaments, so doing so in Paris wouldn’t be a shock at all.
  • (15) Emiliana Arango: A true clay-courter, the Colombian is also playing some solid tennis this year and a run at Roland Garros can launch her into the Top 100. Though tiny in stature, she moves so well and fights like hell which is something you don’t want to see on the other side of the net. She’s not in the best form compared to Errani and Volynets, she did qualify and win a round in Madrid. For her, it’s about confidence and she can play into form. A potential third-round match with Olivia Gadecki would be the one tall task in her way.

Also, on the college front, Texas A&M stunned the world by capturing the NCAA Women’s Team Championship with a 4-1 win over Georgia. The Aggies started the year 5-5 and went on a tear after, claiming the SEC Championship and finally getting a win over the Bulldogs on their fourth try this season.

This week, the individual championships are in action and both singles and doubles champions will be crowned. Any seed automatically receives All-American distinction, while those who make the singles third round or doubles quarterfinal will get it as well.

American winners generally receive a main draw US Open wildcard, so some names to be aware of to possibly claim are Fiona Crawley (UNC), Mary Stoiana (Texas A&M) and Alexa Noel (Miami).

On to links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

After sharing the 2025 calendar, the WTA and PIF have announced a deal for the Saudi Arabian fund to sponsor the WTA rankings, continuing the country’s presence taking over the tour.

Iga Swiatek again defeated Aryna Sabalenka to take the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and claim the Madrid-Rome double — but can she make it the Triple? Jasmine Paolini and Sara Errani brought delight to the home crowd and captured the doubles title with a tough three-set win over Coco Gauff and Erin Routliffe.

At the WTA 125 events, Diana Shnaider upset Emma Navarro to win the Trophee Clarins in Paris, while Anna Karolina Schmiedlova battled over Mayar Sherif to win the Parma Ladies Open. In doubles, Anna Danilina and Irina Khromacheva and Asia Muhammad and Aldila Sutjiadi won in Parma and Paris, respectively.

WTA Insider chatted with Iga Swiatek and Jasmine Paolini/Sara Errani for Champions Corner interviews, while they also did a podcast with Swiatek.

The Cincinnati Open continues their major rebrand and upgrades and things are going to look completely different once it’s all complete.

Even though I’m a Buckeye, check out this interview on former Michigan player Kara Hall who was the playing double for Zendaya in Challengers.

If you didn’t catch Jon Wertheim’s sit-down with Simona Halep, here’s a recap of the major points to note.

Former Top 30 player Jamie Hampton was announced as Yale’s new assistant coach.

Congratulations to Anett Kontaviet, who shared she’s expecting her first child:

On the latest episode of Sincerely, Sloane, recent NBA retiree Blake Griffin joined the podcast:

Danielle Collins was a guest on Andy Roddick’s Served podcast for a really fun interview and reflected on her career as she winds into retirement this year.

Alize Cornet, who is retiring following Roland Garros, led the list of wildcards for the main draw next week, while Emma Raducanu withdrew from the tournament.

The UTR Pro Tennis Tour aims to become more of a presence in the professional landscape and signed a deal with SportRadar to do that.

Serena Williams will be hosting the ESPY Awards this upcoming July.

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Five at The IX: Rome Week 2

Q. How important are your opponents now? I think everybody could be happy today is that people was very pumped about having No. 1 against No. 2 again after Madrid. It’s something you always said, that you want to win tournaments in a row. Now also your competitors like Gauff, Sabalenka, Rybakina, they’re doing very well on many weeks on the season. That’s how important for you and for WTA also?

IGA SWIATEK: Well, I would say that this year I’m less focused on rankings and points compared to last year. I felt like last year I needed to — I didn’t play Miami, so I felt like I needed always to chase. Even though I was first, I felt like I have somebody behind my back.

But this year, I just feel like I can focus on myself and not really think about that because, honestly, focusing on rankings is never helpful, I would say. There are plenty of things to focus on that we need to spend our energy for, that is just a waste of energy to focus on points and rankings.

I mean, last year also showed me that it doesn’t matter even if I’m going to have a couple of worse tournaments, I can play another tournament well, like WTA Finals, that I haven’t played that well before. No point to overanalyze. I leave that to my coach a little bit. He’s the one looking at these stats, points.

I know that he’s also not really focused on that because there are so many tournaments that you always have a chance to gain some points and suddenly be higher.

THE MODERATOR: Can you both talk about the feeling of winning the title on your home court in front of your home fans.

JASMINE PAOLINI: It’s unbelievable to win at home. We had great emotions. It’s a dream come true to win here at Foro Italico. Yeah, couldn’t be more happy than this.

SARA ERRANI: Yeah, it’s crazy. I mean, winning here, it’s crazy. After losing in the first match, we were like 7-5, 4-0 down in the first round. Win the tournament is incredible. I’m so happy and really proud of us.

Q. This is obviously a great week, two top-20 wins. What has it been accepting gradual progress? I mean, at the beginning of the year you knew it was going to take a while. So accepting three wins as a great result, building on that, rather than a final in the first tournament back.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, that’s a really good question for me because I’m still trying to figure it out (smiling).

It’s really tough. Also I feel very grateful at the same time. A little bit of a mix of emotions.

I think to be in this position that I am right now, and to have been able to beat Kasatkina in straight sets is something that I’m really happy about. But currently I’m talking to you because I lost a match.

I don’t know. I have to process things a little bit differently but also accept the last time I played quarters in Rome, I didn’t play seeded players probably. I don’t remember too well. I don’t think I did.

My daughter’s not even one yet, so I have to understand that. I’m very impatient. But I’ll try to be patient. I’ll try my best, so…

Q. As we go to Paris, do you consider yourself, after what you’ve done in Madrid, in Rome, and what you have done at Roland Garros in the past, as a tournament favorite there, or do you consider, with Iga’s success at that event, yourself an underdog there?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Well, I mean, I’m not like underdog there. Being No. 2 seeded, it’s tough to call yourself ‘underdog’.

I’m definitely not the favorite probably there. But at the same time I do feel that I can actually go for it. It’s 50/50, you know? But I prefer to be underdog (smiling).

Yeah, I really hope I’m going to make it to the final and I really hope I’ll be able to get that win, if it’s Iga or not. It’s an amazing tournament. It’s a Grand Slam. I’ll just go there and fight for every point and see what happens after the tournament.

Q. Looking ahead to Paris, can you discuss and reflect a little bit about from the start of the clay season until now how your confidence is trending as Paris looms, which obviously you have great success at?

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, I think from the start of the clay till now, I feel like my confidence is definitely very high. Like, it sucks to lose, but I know I lost playing the right way. I know that I’m a good player and that I can do better in those moments. I think I’m just trusting myself and my practice at that.

I think the way that I lost today, it wasn’t because a wing or a shot broke down, it’s because she was the better player today. If I lose matches like that, we go back and we practice.

I think going into Roland Garros, like if you asked me pretournament and now, I feel like I’m a different player in terms of just how I’ve been playing.

I think it really turned around in the Badosa match, then pushed through the Qinwen, and then today was a 4-3 loss. I feel like the scoreline doesn’t show how competitive it was. It was almost two hours at 6-4, 6-3.

Going into it, I know she’s the one to beat if I want to win Roland Garros. I’m going to take what I learned from today and try to apply that next time we play, which I hope is at Roland Garros.

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