Does the Olympics hold priority in tennis?

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 18, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and happy Tennis Tuesday! The grass season officially kicked off last week with a pair of WTA 250 tournaments and while it’s a welcomed sight, it’s created a little bit of havoc when it comes to the upcoming Paris Olympics.

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Yesterday, both Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka announced that they wouldn’t be travelling to Paris to partake in the Games because the event will be held on the red clay of Roland Garros. Going from clay to grass, only to go back to clay for a week before starting the North American hardcourt swing is too much on the body — especially for a player struggling with injury like Jabeur.

The two top ten players aren’t the only ones skipping out on Paris, as Emma Raducanu declined one of the spots reserved for a former Grand Slam champion. Because she’s just beginning her comeback from a long injury layoff that required multiple surgeries, Raducanu thought it would be best to also continue the normal tennis schedule and preserve her body. With her announcement, it confirmed the two Grand Slam winner wildcards would be going to Naomi Osaka and Caroline Wozniacki. It’s a big moment for Wozniacki as the Olympics were a massive reason behind her coming back after motherhood:

Other players that will be missing Paris, even though they’ve qualified are Russians Liudmila Samsonova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Daria Kasatkina, as well as Doubles No. 1 Elise Mertens. Of course, there are plenty of players who would have played, but were snubbed due to the International Olympic Committee’s four player per country rule. No. 18 Emma Navarro is the highest-ranked player to be affected by that as the United States filled their quota with four of the Top 12 positions.

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There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the Olympics and tennis players seeing it as a significant event. I think it’s safe to say that in a lot of the Western world — particularly in countries like the United States, Great Britain, Australia, etc. have always prioritized the Olympics as the Mecca of sport. However, I think we should also note that tennis wasn’t an official sport at the Olympics until 1988 and also don not offer ranking points.

For an individual sport that doesn’t have a minimum salary, players have to be extra mindful of not only their rankings, but their bodies, too. It’s their money-maker and the quick changes between not one, not two, but three surfaces in a span of a month? It’s a bit of an ask for them to partake in Paris. As someone who adores the Olympic Games, I personally cannot fathom a player turning down their bid to participate, but the mental, physical and emotional energy to represent your country at sport’s highest honor can also be a bit too much for a lot of players and that’s ok.

I also think the WTA/ITF could do a better job at looking at ways to combat these mass withdrawals or encourage players to play the Olympics. Obviously ranking points are perhaps the easiest way to entice players, but because of the country quotas, is that truly fair? My imperfect solution would to always make the surface a hardcourt so players can continue their schedule without interruption or worry about injuring themselves. Sure, this could take the fun out of the event — 2012 was held at Wimbledon and this year is at Roland Garros — but an event on anything but hardcourts will always see crazy withdrawals.

That being said, because of these players skipping out, I’m very curious to see how Paris unfolds. Belinda Bencic was a semi-surprise winner at the Tokyo Olympics, but I have a gut feeling we’ll see a Monica Puig-esque champion unravel at Roland Garros. Like everything lately, it’s all on Iga Swiatek’s racquet, but at the Olympics, anything can truly happen.

On to links!

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This week in women’s tennis

Katie Boulter had a marathon day to capture her second consecutive Rothesay Open in Nottingham, having to take three-set wins over Emma Raducanu and Karolina Pliskova, respectfully. In doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe won their first title of the season, saving match point against Harriet Dart and Diane Parry.

Something you don’t see often is a WTA-ATP couple winning titles the same day/weekend. Katie Boulter and Alex De Minaur have not only done that once this year, but now twice.

Liudmila Samsonova won a three-set marathon over Bianca Andreescu to win her first title of the season at the Libema Open. The doubles title was won by Ingrid Neel and Bibiane Schoofs, who downed Tereza Mihalikova and Olivia Nicholls in the championship.

Ann Li won the WTA 125 BBVA Open Internacional de Valencia with an upset over No. 1 seed Viktoriya Tomova, while Katarzyna Piter and Fanny Stollar took the doubles crown with a win over Angelica Moratelli and Renata Zarazua.

WTA Insider sat down with Bianca Andreescu for an episode of the Insider podcast, discussing topics from her comeback and grabbing inspiration from Roger Federer’s commencement speaker speech at Dartmouth.

Sloane Stephens has partnered with Kindbody to normalize the conversation about female athletes’ fertility and freezing their eggs while competing. She also released a super cute bag collaboration with sustainable bag company GOT BAG, with three different bags and proceeds going to the Sloane Stephens Foundation. I’m personally tossing a coin between her tote and the larger cross body bag to carry on court with me.

Serena Williams, who debuted her documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, had some advice for Caitlin Clark as the WNBA rookie handles a lot of the negativity and pressures that come with her rise to fame.

Alesksandra Krunic returned to the site of her lone WTA singles title during her comeback from ACL injury and emerged with a massive win over Jessica Pegula. She discussed her comeback and the future of her career after the big win.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced their national award winners with Texas A&M player Mary Stoiana headlining the field with her Player of the Year award.

Tweet of the week

This is double bagel comedy:

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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