Let’s get political — Miami Open Week 2 quotes — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, April 4, 2023

Happy Tennis Tuesday, y’all! We’re a quarter through the season with the clay court season officially getting underway in Charleston and Bogota, Miami Open reactions, but first, there’s some political news we need to comb through.

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The first was the announcement that Russian and Belarussian players will be allowed to participate in this years’ Wimbledon Championships following their 2022 ban. It certainly isn’t a major shock considering the pushback the All England Club received from the sporting world — on top of the major fine set by the ATP and WTA. There were a few stipulations set forth by the tournament for a player to be allowed to play:

  • Players from Russia and Belarus must compete as a “neutral athlete.”
  • “Expressions of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” aren’t allowed.
  • Players who receive funding from Russian or Belarussian governments or sponsorship from companies who are aligned with them in any capacity.

It’s a move that had to be done, especially as the International Olympic Committee has hinted at inclusion for the 2024 Summer Games. As I’ve said in the past, tennis isn’t a sport of contracts where you’re guaranteed a salary. The players are all independent contractors and they can’t help where they represent unless they have to go through a multi-year process to switch. Miami Open champion Petra Kvitova shared she sides more with the Ukrainian players, while finalist Elena Rybakina — who was born and raised in Russia before switching allegiance to Kazakhstna — said players have been competing as neutral at all of the other tournaments so it only made sense.

Now, the other news coming out regards China. First, this week’s must-read comes from Jon Wertheim where he discusses the main question for the WTA — what matters more: principle or profit? The delicate balance of being the lone sporting entity to stand up against the Chinese regime in wake of Peng Shuai, while also being heavily aligned with the country at the time is mentioned throughout the piece. Moving a dozen tournaments out of the region, including the WTA Finals which was giving record prize money, has put the tour through the financial ringer.

Sure, Hologic commended the organization and created a long-term title partnership, but the big wildcard here is the recent CVC Capital deal. 20% of the WTA’s commercial capital is tied to the group, so it’s not just the Tour’s Board of Directors they have to appease too. WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon — who reportedly was visiting Saudi Arabia, a country with their own human rights issues — recently said we should expect an answer on China’s future in women’s tennis by the end of March.

Unfortunately, we still have no concrete answer, but the ITF announced that the World Tennis Tour will resume in the country in 2023. Tennis’ global governing body originally supported the WTA’s pullout, but honestly, it seems more like it was a COVID-related measure than anything else after ITF President David Haggerty said how it’s important that as many countries are represented on the calendar and pushed their grassroots efforts as a deflection tool.

When talking about China last year, it’s easy for me to say they should ban tournaments there until an unbiased investigation into Peng Shuai’s claims are met. However, the system in China is incredibly complex, plus we’re not sure what is contractually obligated for the WTA in the region. Players aren’t fond of traveling and staying in the country, but on the other hand, it does bring in significant revenue. That being said — whenever the statement comes — expect a return to China. If I had to guess, I’d envision it to begin in 2024.

Onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Petra Kvitova played twenty-four Sunshine Double tournaments and had never made a semifinal. That finally changed at the Miami Open and the two-time Wimbledon champion captured her 30th WTA title. She denied Elena Rybakina a chance at the complete Double herself and snapped the Kazakh’s 13-match winning streak, 7-6(14), 6-2.

Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff won their fifth WTA title as a duo and their third at the WTA 1000-level. With their straight-set win over Taylor Townsend and Leylah Fernandez, they became the first all-American pair to win Miami since Zina Garrison and Mary Joe Fernandez in 1991.

At the WTA 125 San Luis Potosi Open, top-seeded Elisabetta Cocciaretto beat compatriot Sara Errani in a titanic three-set tussle to win her second title at the 125 level. The doubles title went to Aliona Bolsova and Andrea Gamiz, who captured the win over Oksana Kalashnikova and Katarzyna Piter.

A major round of congratulations and applause are in store for Billie Jean King, who was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor — one of the United States’ highest civilian honors.

Garbine Muguruza posted on her Instagram Story that she is extending her hiatus from the sport into the clay and grass seasons — missing both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the places she won both of her Grand Slams.

Elina Svitolina returned from maternity leave yesterday in Charleston, armed with a lot of warm love from her fellow players. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist said that she will be going back to the ITF World Tour for the first time in a decade the first being the W100 tournament in Oeiras, Portugal in two weeks. Though her comeback was halted in a near-three-hour battle against Yulia Putintseva in the opening round, she helped raise $100,000 for Ukraine and her foundation through the tournament’s second annual Tennis Plays for Peace pro-am.

Bianca Andreescu shared that the injury she suffered in Miami is two torn ankle ligaments, but she’s already started the rehab process with a boot to match:

Burundi is hosting their first women’s professional event this week and their lone ranked player — No. 269 Sada Nahimana — is aiming to use the experience to launch herself into Grand Slam qualifying-territory.

The ITF World Tour shared their Q2 calendar, which saw more than a 10% increase in prize money compared to 2022’s Q2. Aiming to have more gender parity at the minor leagues, the organization said that the amount of tournaments and prize money are higher than pre-COVID times.

Former Top 100 player Jamea Jackson is now the head coach at Princeton University and sat with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s podcast to discuss her unique journey to where she’s at today. ITA No. 1 Fiona Crawley made her professional main draw debut — in either ITF or WTA action — in Charleston:

Per usual, be sure to not miss WTA Insider’s Champion’s Corner with both Petra Kvitova and Jessica Pegula/Coco Gauff.

2021 Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady hasn’t played since retiring in Cincinnati in August 2021 and has lost her ranking. That being said, we’re close to seeing the UCLA Bruin back on tour:

USTA Florida is looking to combat the lack of female coaches and thought leaders in tennis, among other gender-related issues in the sport through their Women in Tennis initiative.

World No. 3 Jessica Pegula is among the most consistent players on tour, but what will it take to emerge as the prey versus being a hunter?

Congratulations to IX friend Shelby Rogers on her engagement ahead of her hometown tournament in Charleston!

Tweet of the Week

Coco Gauff’s brother stole the show at the Miami Open:

Five at The IX: Miami Open Week 2

Q. You mentioned yesterday about all the sort of ups and downs in your career. As you look back on it, what has pulled you through all of those ups and downs, especially I guess the downs? Ups are probably pretty easy. And what kept you coming back? I know you said you loved the game, but seems like a lot of people love the game but not everybody…

PETRA KVITOVA: Yeah, definitely, you’re right. Well, even after ups it’s tough to get back to work, I would say. The downs make you really feel sad, and you just want to like kick it and just do better. So that’s why probably you just go to the court and trying to be better player every time you’re on the court.

Yeah, I love the game, as you mentioned, but I think is the motivation to do something better, and because I had a lot of ups, as well, that’s always been the motivation to have them again.

I think this is the best feeling what you can have, winning a final as I did today. That’s I love the most, the winning feeling of it.

Q. Can you both talk about obviously just the rapport that you guys have when it’s off the court and obviously together when you guys are playing together obviously on the court too?

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, I mean, on the court we obviously have good results. I think that kind of helped us off the court, too. I mean, I didn’t really know Jess that well until we started playing together. I mean, I always tell my team this and my coaches, I will play another doubles with someone I don’t really get along with off the court. Because singles is very stressful enough. You don’t want to play with someone that you don’t like. (Laughter.)

Yeah, I think that is a plus. I mean, Jess, you guys all know she’s such a nice person. I don’t think anyone has anything bad to say about her. For me, on the court, I know I can get emotional. She’s always there being positive and telling me, It’s okay, go for your shots. I think it’s nice having someone in your ear telling you that.

Q. After this run, after this entire year really, and Wimbledon of course, what is your mindset in terms of what you’re thinking about this spring and what you can accomplish versus a year ago when you were going back to Europe?

ELENA RYBAKINA: I think that every match I play it’s an experience, and one year, it’s a lot. Now the goal is still, as I said, to be healthy, because when even you play that good these two weeks, you never know how you’re gonna come out on clay and you need to do good preparation also there. That’s the most important.

Yeah, after so many matches, I feel confidence is just, yeah, as I said, to try to do good preparation. I won’t say that there is again a lot of time, but that’s a good problem to have (smiling).

Yeah, just keep on fighting, keep on working on the technique, physique, and a lot of aspects of my game.

Q. Looking overall at this tournament and indeed this whole Sunshine Swing, a quarterfinal and then a semifinal, I mean, that’s probably above what your expectations were coming in?

SORANA CIRSTEA: Yeah, I mean, I always know I have the potential, I always know I believe in my game. I think I have a very dangerous game. I worked very hard to be here.

But of course it’s nice to back all this work with a result, and definitely a quarter and a semi were great. Of course I’m a bit sad about today, because I thought I had my chances. But again, I’m leaving the U.S. with a smile on my face and with a lot of things to improve as well.

Q. You’ve had a fantastic start to the season. Can you reflect on the first three months and tell us what you’re proudest of?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I mean, like first three months of the year was fantastic for me. I’m just proud of the consistency of the game and hopefully I can keep it up and, well, just keep working, keep improving, and hopefully I can keep going the same way. I mean, I’ll just do my best to keep going the same way.

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
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By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
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Saturdays: Gymnastics
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Written by Joey Dillon