How will Ukraine, Russia impact tennis? — Quotes from Doha — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, March 1, 2022

Happy Tennis Tuesday and Happy March! As I’m sure everyone is, the current crisis between Ukraine and Russia is weighing heavily on my mind and it had me thinking how this could ultimately affect professional tennis.

If there is any one piece of writing you read from me today, please let it be Dayana Yastremska telling Aishwarya Kumar about fleeing Ukraine and getting to Lyon, France for this week’s WTA 250 tournament. The World No. 128 shared how she and her family were in an underground parking garage for two days in Odessa before her father put her and her younger sister on a boat headed to Romania since all commercial air travel was cancelled. Yastremska’s parents stayed behind and unfortunately, there’s a chance she may never see them again. The Yastremska sisters are two of millions in Ukraine facing so much familial and economic uncertainty and it’s heart-breaking to see it happening in real-time.

It was nice to see the tennis community rally around the Yastremskas and other Ukrainian players. The Open 6e Sens granted the sisters a doubles wildcard, giving 15-year-old Ivanna her professional debut. Unfortunately, they lost 6-2, 6-4, to Xenia Knoll and Georgina Garcia Perez, but Knoll had a nice chat with Dayana after the match and the chair umpire twice told them to “stay strong, girls.” Sometimes, a little acknowledgement can mean much more for the players.

Iga Swiatek shared some nice words in the Qatar TotalEnergies Open trophy ceremony and also penned to Twitter her own thoughts about the events unfolding. Sloane Stephens also shared yesterday that she will be donating her entire winnings from Guadalajara to World Rescue Kitchen, the International Rescue Committee and UNICEF:

While the tennis world provides their thoughts and prayers for those affected, what can the tour do? Should they do anything? The International Olympic Committee recommended for organizations to exclude Russian athletes and officials from international events and FIFA has suspended the country from the World Cup. I reached out to the WTA over the weekend for a comment on tournaments, as well as any plans to offer Ukrainian players assistance, though I’ve yet to hear back.

The silence so far from the WTA is a bit disappointing, especially how incredible and quick they were with Peng Shuai. Marta Kostyuk was the first top Ukranian player to speak out, criticizing the tour for staying quiet and asking them and the ITF to declare Russian athletes as neutral and cancelling any Russian tournaments:

The ITF did release a statement saying that their upcoming men’s event in Russia, as well as any organized tournament in the country will be suspended. Ben Rothenberg did note that the WTA removed Russian flags from broadcast and the rankings page, but last night they flags were back. Still, the WTA needs to join other premier sporting organizations to denounce Russia and suspend any affiliated tournaments.

Elina Svitolina, Ukraine’s most-accoladed player in the Open Era, announced that any prize money she will be making will be going towards efforts in her homeland. Yesterday, the Tokyo Bronze medalist went on social media and shared that she will not play any matches against Russian or Belarussian players until her demands that the governing bodies neutralize them on paper.

Svitolina is the top seed in Monterrey this week and she’s set to face Russian Anastasia Potapova tonight — certainly heating up the WTA’s seat. According to sources, the match will go on after demands were met, but nothing specific was shared.

It’s still unfathomable to me that the WTA is silent so far on this, considering how players and their families are at-risk in Ukraine and it’s affecting their preparation at tournaments. China was a massive stakeholder for the WTA and I’ve gone on and on at how inspiring and encouraging Steve Simon was in suspending the 2022 tournaments after Peng Shuai disappeared following her announcement of sexual assault. Russia doesn’t have as much leverage on the calendar, so I can only wonder why they’re so slow to announce anything. I honestly don’t expect them to remain silent much longer, but the longer they do, the worse they’ll look.

In the meantime, some links where you can donate if you’re inclined:

Now, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

The WTA announced the next portion of their 2022 calendar with tournaments added across Europe and North America following Wimbledon. The big chunk of the Chinese tournaments that aren’t happening this year in the wake of Peng Shuai have yet to announce their replacements.

At the Qatar TotalEnergies Open, Iga Swiatek routed Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 6-0, to capture her first title of the year. It’s her second career WTA 1000 title and fourth overall. Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula won the doubles title — their first as a duo — with a come-from-behind win over Elise Mertens and Veronika Kudermetova. Be sure to read WTA Insider’s Champions Corner with both Swiatek and Gauff/Pegula.

Congratulations to The IX friend Sloane Stephens, who captured her first WTA singles title since 2018 at the Abierto AKRON Zapopan with a hard-fought three-setter over Marie Bouzkova. It was fitting that Stephens captured her second title on Mexican soil exactly six years after her win in Acapulco. Another alum of Five at The IX, Kaitlyn Christian, captured her first WTA title, partnering with Lidziya Marozava to defeat alernates Wang Xinyu and Zhu Lin.

Brittany Collens, who also did a Five at The IX with us, penned about the struggles of playing and moving up in the rankings throughout the pandemic for Tweener Head Tennis.

Former British No. 1 and current coach/commentator Lucie Ahl spoke with Sportskeeda and discussed her journey as a player, coaching the next generation and dissecting the Brits on tour.

If you wanted some more “on this day” content, Joel Drucker revisits February 28, 1999 when Venus and Serena Williams both captured WTA titles in different continents. Venus defended her first career WTA title in Oklahoma City, while Serena captured her first title in Paris. Last week also was the 20-year anniversary of Venus reaching the No. 1 ranking, which is 50 shades of iconic considering she’s still playing today.

Congratulations to Will Smith, who took home a SAG Award for his role in King Richard, with Venus Williams and Isha Price at his side:

In this week’s rankings update, Anett Kontaveit makes her Top 5 debut while Sloane Stephens makes the largest jump in the Top 100.

Anhzelika Isaeva led the ITF World Tour this past week by capturing her first professional singles title at the W60 in Nur-Sultan. Your weekly winners:

  • $60,000 Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan:
    • (Q) Anhzelika Isaeva def. (1) Greet Minnen, 6-4, retired
    • Ekaterina Makarova/Linda Noskova def. Anna Siskova/Maria Timofeeva, 6-2, 6-3
  • $25,000 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:
    • (2) Katie Swan def. (7) Sachia Vickery, 6-4, 6-3
    • Anna Sinclair Rogers/Christina Rosca def. Jasmijn Gimbrere/Isabella Haverlag, 6-2, 6-2
  • $25,000 Macon, France:
    • (1) Vitalia Diatchenko def. Cristiana Ferrando, 6-4, 6-3
    • (1) Xenia Knoll/Andreea Mitu def. Emily Appleton/Ali Collins, 6-1, 6-1
  • $25,000 Antalya, Turkey:
    • (2) Reka Luca Jani def. Yafan Wang, 6-4, 6-3
    • (2) Miriam Kolodziejova/Jesika Maleckova def. Funa Kozaki/Naho Sato, 7-6(2), 7-6(4)
  • $15,000 Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt:
    • (8) Hong Yi Cody Wong def. Mirra Andreeva, 6-4, 6-1
    • Hiromi Abe/Pei-Chi Lee def. (1) Elena-Teodora Cadar/Hong Yi Cody Wong, 5-7, 7-5, [10-5]
  • $15,000 Monastir, Tunisia:
    • (1) Haruna Arakawa def. Ayumi Morita, walkover
    • (WC) Clervie Ngounoue/Hanne Vandewinkel def. Mara Guth/Mia Mack, 6-1, 6-2
  • $15,000 Ahmedabad, India:
    • (3) Emily Seibold def. (1) Zeel Desai, 6-2, 6-1
    • (2) Punnin Kovapitukted/Anna Ureke def. Sharmada Balu/Sravya Shivani Chilakalapudi, 6-3, 6-1

For some final Black History Month reads, check out the USTA’s features on former top junior/college player and now Howard University coach Breaunna Addison and often-overlooked Ora Washington, who dominated the American Tennis Association in the 1930s, and Zina Garrison celebrating 30 years of her academy.

In some fashion news, Venus Williams was announced as Lacoste’s newest Global Ambassador, while the wtatennis.com staff broke down the footwear used in the Middle East. Serena Williams also made an appearance at Paris Fashion Week, where she walked in the late Virgil Abloh’s final Off-White show:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is out for 10 weeks with a knee injury, putting her long-awaited potential Top 10 debut in jeopardy. She’s the lone Top 40 player not on the Miami Open entry list.

The USTA is selling their ATP sanction for the Western & Southern Open — but good news — this shouldn’t affect the WTA side of the tournament or the location. Still, it’s a story to keep an eye on.


Tweet of the Week

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Five at The IX: Doha Quotes

Q. How happy are you with your, I guess, consistency but also backing up your semifinal run in Australia to then coming to February and win a 1000 tournament?

IGA SWIATEK: Well, for me, it’s kind of overwhelming because I didn’t expect to have such a great level of tennis week by week on hard court.

I always considered myself, as people actually told, a clay court player. I was improving on hard court, but for sure this season my progress is faster. It’s so nice to have these kind of matches where you don’t have actually problems with, you know, keeping the pace and with staying aggressive, because right now I’m the more aggressive player, and I really love it, because it’s giving me a lot of confidence on and off court. It’s just making sometimes life on court easier.

Q. Your thoughts on approaching Indian Wells and having some rest at home the next couple of weeks.

IGA SWIATEK: I didn’t really think about that, because even though we are going to travel there in a few days basically, it seems so far away, I want to celebrate right now the victory, and we are gonna see how the preparation is going to go in Indian Wells. We are going to go there a little bit earlier to practice in the same condition as the tournament is.

But for now at home I want to chill out a little bit, have a few days off, so I’ll be back to work when I need to (smiling).

Q. A bit of a silver lining to this week is that you’ll make your top 5 debut on Monday. Just talk about you have been working towards that, your thoughts on that and how pleased you are with that.

ANETT KONTAVEIT: Yeah, I think it’s a great achievement. Really happy with the way that I have actually improved my game and the results have sort of been reflecting and the ranking also rising. So very happy with that.

Of course I have set some goals, and now I will have to set some new goals. It’s really exciting.

Q. In terms of what it means, it’s a 1000, and not just that, but again, you beat like really good teams this week, I mean, what does this title mean to you guys, both as a team and individually?

JESSICA PEGULA: Well, I think it just proves we are good doubles players. It’s kind of like the same thing in singles, when you start winning and get a couple big wins, and you’re like, Oh, wow, I can actually play at this level, I can win this tournament.

It’s just like that next step of like belief, I guess. With doubles it’s the same thing. You’re still out there competing and you want to win.

You know, again, taking home a 1000 is awesome. We were joking too, I mean, they’re a good team. They play amazing with other, they have won slams, won medals, so, yeah, I think it just proves we can play at that level.

I think we were really aggressive today, and I think it just proved that it paid off and won us the match where maybe we’re a little bit more hesitant than some other doubles teams, but I think we proved that we can play like that.

COCO GAUFF: Yeah.

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, I definitely think we will play together more. I mean, how can you not? It’s a 1000.

I mean, how can you not? We are going to talk about it and look at the schedule and figure out when to play. I think that after this week it definitely kind of put in perspective that we are a good team. We lost first round like three times, I think —

JESSICA PEGULA: Against some really good teams that won the tournament or made semis, finals.

COCO GAUFF: We are like, Okay, oh, we won. It really changes like your perspective. Yeah, I think for sure we are going to play some more.

JESSICA PEGULA: We are pretty much on similar schedules.

COCO GAUFF: We play pretty much the same tournaments.

JESSICA PEGULA: It’s going to help we are ranked around the same singles, and I think we will definitely be able to pair up and our singles and doubles will both be high.

COCO GAUFF: Yeah.

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, we’ll get in and stuff like that. Definitely we will play at some point. And race to Shenzhen, year end.

Trust me, yeah, you know me. I’m already processing —

COCO GAUFF: That’s the first thing she said afterwards. I’m not even thinking about the race. (Laughter.)

JESSICA PEGULA: David was like, You know if you win, you guys are going to be the top team in the race, like you have to play again. I’m like, I know, but…

COCO GAUFF: We will play again.

JESSICA PEGULA: Yeah, we will. (Laughter.)


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: Anne Tokarski, @annetokarski, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon