Rybakina is queen of the desert — Indian Wells quotes — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Mar. 21, 2023

Happy Tennis Tuesday, y’all! We’re halfway through the Sunshine Double and the BNP Paribas Open — beloved by most on tour — delivered with a really fun fortnight. To the delight of Elena Rybakina, I didn’t do any predictions last week but the reigning Wimbledon champion left Indian Wells with her first WTA 1000 title with a super-tight two-setter over Aryna Sabalenka.

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It was a rematch of the Australian Open final that Sabalenka took in three sets and opens the floodgates for a potential rivalry that could headline the tour this year and beyond.

Rybakina only lost one set in her six matches, but it was her 6-2, 6-2 demolition over World No. 1 Iga Swiatek that certainly stood out these last two weeks. Now hitting a career-high No. 7 — mind you, that’s without the 2,000 she deserves for winning Wimbledon — one must wonder if she’s the most-likely player that can dethrone Swiatek at some point this year.

I really enjoy watching Rybakina play — a big game led by a huge serve, something I strive for personally. But it’s her infamous demeanor that makes me want to continue watching. For someone with the game that takes such a presence on court, she’s beyond stoic. “Poker face” doesn’t even come close to what the Kazakh displays between the lines and her calmness even got a reaction from ATP star Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Right now, after me judging for many years about the ATP’s Big Three, we seem to have one on the WTA — Rybakina, Sabalenka and Swiatek. The three players have split the season’s biggest titles thus far, which makes the clay court swing a bit interesting. Swiatek is a two-time Roland Garros champion, but Rybakina has the game to beat anyone, any day on any surface. Sabalenka has seemed to put her double fault era behind her and the power she brings can’t be slowed down by the European red clay.

Before that though, we have the Miami Open. Looking at the draw, Swiatek and Rybakina are on a collision course to play in the quarterfinals. Again, I’m not going to label predictions here, but pencil that in. Jelena Ostapenko could be the one to deny Swiatek and Paula Badosa for Rybakina, but I just don’t see that happening. In that second quarter, Victoria Azarenka and Coco Gauff are good wildcards to pick to have a really deep run in the Sunshine State. Putting Sabalenka in the final from the bottom half isn’t a terrible pick, but Maria Sakkari, Ons Jabeur or even a hot-and-cold Madison Keys linger.

Next week, we’ll talk more about Miami, but until then — LINKS!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Babora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova have had a doubles career, but one thing missing was an Indian Wells title. That’s no longer the case following their three-set win over Laura Siegemund and Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Do not miss WTA Insider’s Champion Corners with both Elena Rybakina and Babora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova.

The Miami Open draw is out and all eyes zone in on one first-round matchup — Bianca Andreescu vs. Emma Raducanu. Talk about popcorn.

In amazing news, Martina Navratilova revealed she’s cancer-free after being diagnosed with both breast and throat cancer earlier this year.

With Pam Shriver‘s support, Lindsay Brandon is aims to combat predators on tour through her role as Director of Safeguarding for the WTA to combat predators on tour, .

Elina Svitolina will be coming back from maternity leave at the WTA 500 in Charleston after accepting a main draw wildcard.

Iga Swiatek was announced as one of the new faces for the Roger Federer-invested company, On Running:

Sorana Cirstea may be on tour for well over a decade, but she’s still learning new ways to improve thanks to new coach and 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson.

Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers are in less than a month and team nominations were announced with Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina among the names set to represent their country.

Victoria Chiesa profiled Camila Pinheiro, the artist of the super-cool 2023 US Open poster that features Billie Jean King in light of the 50th anniversary of the tournament awarding equal prize money.

The ITF Masters World Team Championship featured some former WTA players including Anne Schaefer, who shared she will be hanging up her racquets when her daughter enters school next year.

Pink had a great time at the BNP Paribas Open and we stan:

Former WTA players joined the men for the first time for some competition on the golf links with The IX friend Katrina Adams faring the best.

The WTA 250 in Tallin, Estonia is no more after a third of the budget — that came from the State — wasn’t renewed following the tour’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

This was a cute moment this week:

After wearing a Moscow sports jersey on-court, it was announced that Anastasia Potapova was formally warned by the WTA.

Venus Williams has leant her name and time to help restore and preserve the home of Nina Simone through an art auction.

Congratulations to former WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova, who gave birth to her second child:

Coco Gauff added “TV star” to her resume with a fun cameo on the CW show, “All American: Homecoming.”

Tweet of the Week

Lolz Bibi

Five at The IX: Indian Wells Week 2

Q. You’re now going to rise to No. 7. My question is years from now, what do you really hope to accomplish in this sport?

ELENA RYBAKINA: I think the biggest goal is of course to be No. 1. There is still long way to go. So this is the kind of end goal, I would say.

For now, I’m 7, but you know how quickly the ranking change. So I need to always focus on the next tournament I play.

Yeah, I’m just trying not to think so much about the ranking, especially now since it’s a long way to go (smiling).

Q. Do you go over it in your mind though, the one or two points that maybe might have made the difference? When you lie down at night…

ARYNA SABALENKA: Yeah, I think this will be my dream tonight. It’s going to be like in my head till tomorrow, because, yeah, there was so many points where I could play better and where I could handle myself better.

I mean, and especially serving for the set, like, there is no pressure on me, why would I go for like bigger serves. Just like serve to the body and just play the point, you know. I was, like, overhitting.

Yeah, this is just another lesson, and that’s okay. I have nothing against that. I will learn. I will come back better.

Q. Obviously you guys have won so many big things together but you have never won here. What does it mean to sort of be able to cross that off your list, an Indian Wells victory?

BARBORA KREJCIKOVA: Well, I think it’s a great feeling. It’s definitely a huge tournament. I mean, it’s called a fifth slam, so it’s definitely one of the tournaments that you want to win. I’m really happy that we were able to do it, because couple years ago we were in a finals, and it didn’t work out back then. But now it did.

It feels great. Definitely this, for us, this tournament is ending right now, but I’m definitely looking forward coming back here next year and try to get the title again (smiling).

Q. Feeling ill when you’re traveling is always terrible. What do you do for comfort and mentally to make yourself feel better and rest when you’re on the road?

IGA SWIATEK: Oh, that’s a nicer question (smiling). Like most of the time I read.

Actually, I didn’t have to like come up with many ideas on this tournament, because, like, the tournament made it really special for me. We really stayed in a nice place.

They even bought ukulele for us (smiling). It was really fun. I did like two sets of Legos. I wanted to really keep my mind busy and not think about tennis. Yeah, so it’s different stuff.

But for sure I feel like on the road sometimes it’s easier to rest than when you’re at home, because also, you know, when I’m at home, like most of my free time I’m spending sometimes, you know, working on the other part of my career, you know, like business-wise. Actually, this time, like before the tournaments, it’s like a chill time with some quality practices. I really like it.

Q. Do you have any idea of sort of like what percentage of the player that you are going to be or can be you’re at right now? I asked Coco this a couple months ago and she said she thought like 65% or something, because you guys are young. Curious, do you ever talk with your team about where you think you are in your trajectory right now?

EMMA RADUCANU: I would honestly say like 35%.

Q. Really?

EMMA RADUCANU: Yeah, like when I’m telling you I haven’t trained, like I haven’t trained (smiling). Physically I feel like that’s going to be one of my biggest assets. My team has spoken about it. I think that I’m going to be, like, one of the best athletes on the tour, and that’s going to be a big part of my game.

Yeah, I would say there is a very long way to go, but I’m definitely starting the right work now.

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