The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, May 19, 2020

Improving WTA doubles post-COVID — Interview: Alyssa Tobita — Must-see women's tennis links

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What can the WTA work on? For starters, doubles

Let’s talk about Open Court’s coverage of the latest developments in player funding and the drastic difference between singles and doubles players.

Doubles players only getting a small piece of the pie isn’t anything new. At an International-level tournament, the singles champion receives $43,000. The doubles champions? $13,580 — as a team. If you look at the 2020 prize money rankings, the first doubles-only player on the list is Latisha Chan at No. 104. That’s insane.

I understand that singles brings in the viewers on television and in tickets, but I would like to see the WTA use the tour’s suspension to strategize and work with doubles players on how to boost coverage on television and getting that part of the brand out there. I’d even like to see them create a task force with doubles legends and coaches in the industry to best navigate how to take advantage of the doubles scene.

I’m an avid tennis league player and could assume that 80% of the leagues around the country are doubles leagues. The majority of the United States plays doubles and it definitely is popular around the world. Plus, the notion of tennis being a lifetime sport boils down to players of old age only being able to play doubles. The WTA needs to market to the fans who can best relate to the players.

With that said, the WTA is doing a better job at providing overall coverage on their website and social media. During this pandemic, they’ve started including full-length doubles matches on their YouTube channel, which is definitely a good start. They’ve also been sure to include most of the Top 100 players in their yearly photoshoot that the entire tour’s calendar uses for marketing purposes.

The first thing I’d like to see the WTA implement is on their social media channels. During tournament play, they pick a handful of matches to provide live highlights on Twitter. I would scrap one of the singles matches and start incorporating a doubles match or some highlights from multiple matches.

The same goes for their Shot of the Day videos — include doubles all of the time! Most of the best trick shots in tennis come from the tennis court. It’s time to optimize the doubles side of the game.

Lastly, I think they should bring back their WTA Live Matches Facebook page. In the fall of 2017, they piloted having doubles matches streamed on Facebook Live and stored in their library for later use.

Having more features (like the Doubles Dossiers WTA Insider is doing) helps get the lesser-known players are voice in the tennis world. That, along with having doubles players provide tips and tricks on improving their game, could go on both the website and social. They can even use it as coverage throughout matches on TV. I’ve spoken to many doubles players for my interviews here and I know they would be open on providing more “off-court” resources if that led to more coverage and money in the doubles sector.

What better time to strategize and improve all facets of the tour than now? What are other improvements you’d like to see the WTA make before they return? Tweet me at @JoeyDillon or at @TheIXNewsletter. I would love to hear your thoughts on this and what else you’d like to see.

This Week In Women’s Tennis

The WTA added a few more European clay court tournaments to its cancellation list, further fueling to a North American hardcourt return – should play unfold.

The ITF announced their intentions to help support players ranked Nos.501-700 who will miss out on the greater Player Relief Fund the WTA and ATP are collaborating on.

Due to COVID-19, the 2021 International Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony, featuring 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez, has been cancelled. The 2020 honorees will join the 2021 class next year in an enlarged ceremony.

This week’s must-read (and watch) is Gigi Fernandez discussing her path that ultimately led to a career doubles Grand Slam, Olympic Gold and a berth in the ITHOF.

Kristy Pigeon reflects on having zero hesitation when joining the Original 9 and helping form the WTA in this week’s In The Moment column. Also be sure to read this Legacy Spotlight with Aussie player Janet Young, who ended up with a doctorate in sports psychology following her career.

Rising star Leylah Fernandez, Sharon Fichman and Rebecca Marino were a few of the recipients of a Canada National Bank grant given to Tennis Canada players to help offset costs while tennis is suspended.

In retirement news, Silvia Soler-Espinosa, a 2012 Olympian, announced her immediate retirement following a career that led to a No. 52 singles ranking and No. 39 doubles ranking. Though former World No. 25 Jamie Hampton hasn’t played since 2014, the American had gone through numerous surgeries to attempt a comeback. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make that a reality and took to Twitter today to say goodbye to tour life.

Though the last British National Championships were held in 2002, the LTA plans to have them make a comeback due to the COVID-19 crisis.

WTA Legend Gabriela Sabatini celebrated her 50th birthday this past week and WTA Insider caught up with the 1990 US Open champion and forever fan favorite.

Martina Hingis was a latest guest on the WTA-ATP join web venture, Tennis United. You can watch the full episode here.

Garbine Muguruza, Kim Clijsters and Cici Bellis are a few faces lending their support to help their local communities impacted by COVID-19.

Dayana Yastremska is finding new ways to stay busy during COVID-19 and released her first single last week on YouTube.

Maria Sharapova participated in the virtual Wall Street Journal Future of Everything Festival, where she discussed her current and future business plans post-retirement.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he’s open to working with professional sports organizations ready to start integrating play. Could the U.S. Open still be held this summer?

Alison Riske sat down with the Tennis Channel to discuss the late bloom that led up to her incredible 2019 run.

Curious what an Olympic Gold medalist reads? This week’s My Tennis Life episode on features Monica Puig’s book collection.

Our Big Announcement

Tweet of the Week

New week, new Krisite Ahn TikTok….Also, take a look at her Quarantine Q&A with where she gives a peek into a normal day staying home.

Five at the IX: Alyssa Tobita

Alyssa Tobita is currently ranked No. 1085 in singles and No. 707 in doubles. A two-time All-Pac 12 team honoree at Oregon, the Hawaii native embarked on her professional career last summer. She discusses her process as a Hawaiian player through college and where she would reach in tennis. You can follow her journey on her blog, as well as taking a look at her makeup tutorials and face mask business.

Joey: You come from Hawaii, which isn’t the most prominent area to develop elite juniors and professionals. Was the professional route where you envisioned going?
Alyssa: The professional route was definitely not something I would’ve originally thought I could reach. I was very lucky to have a couple coaches in Hawaii who had previously played at the college and professional levels and saw the potential I had. They were able to develop my skills as much as possible in Hawaii and it allowed me to reach the college level which eventually developed my game and confidence even further, until I realized that I was able to play at the professional level.

Joey: What were the biggest takeaways from your college experience at Oregon? Can you discuss the impact Title IX left on you as a female athlete?
Alyssa: At Oregon, I learned what hard work and discipline was on a daily basis. I was never pushed that hard in my life and although it was tough, especially with balancing tennis and school, I learned what my mind and body is able to accomplish. Title IX allowed me to fulfill my dream of playing on an elite college tennis team and also being able to show other people what I am capable of as a woman in sports.

Joey: Your first full year on tour was halted because of COVID-19. Can you assess your pro career so far? How are you handling training with everything up in the air?
Alyssa: My pro career so far has been tough but exciting. Unlike college tennis, playing on the tour is very lonely and you have to figure out your schedule, flights, and hitting partners all on your own. I am very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in doubles so far but I am still hungry for a doubles title. Training has been very difficult with the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve tried to do home workouts as much as possible to maintain, but hopefully I’ll be able to get back on the court soon.

Joey: How long do you see you testing out the professional circuit? Do you have specific goals? What do you see yourself pursuing once your playing career ends?
Alyssa: I want to stay on the circuit for a couple of years. I love the sport and I am so lucky to play at this level, so I don’t put unnecessary pressure on myself. My number one goal as of right now is to win a doubles title, but eventually I want to reach top 200 in doubles. I’m currently a teaching pro at a club at home, so I hope to continue teaching there since it allows me to be so close to my favorite game everyday.

Joey: What was the best piece of advice you’ve received and who gave it? If you could share wisdom to 18 year old Alyssa, what would you tell her?
Alyssa: The best piece of advice that I ever received was when my mom shared this quote by Oprah Winfrey: “I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky.” I think this quote has been so important in my life. Throughout my life, I have applied this quote to working very hard on my tennis and so I was prepared for the fantastic opportunities that were put in my path, such as being a student athlete on an elite college tennis team, getting a wild card berth at the WTA $60K Honolulu Open, and most recently, stepping in as an alternate for the injured Maria Sharipova to play in the Hawaii Open this past December. 

I know that continuing to be prepared will open up even more opportunities for me, wherever life takes me.  I know that I owe my successes to my preparation and that my hard work will allow me to be ready for the next opportunity that comes my way. If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to not be so hard on yourself and to accept failure as growth.

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 High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.