The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, March 10, 2020
Was cancelling Indian Wells the right call? | Interview: Sarah Stone on fostering the future of female coaches in tennis
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BNP Paribas Open Cancelled Last Minute
The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, unofficially called the “Fifth Grand Slam” by fans and media, was abruptly cancelled the night before qualifying was due to begin because of the risk COVID19 – “coronavirus” – could bring.
The ATP and WTA Player Councils had emergency meetings on Sunday following the announcement that a case of coronavirus was detected locally. The most vulnerable population for coronavirus are those over 60 and/or with compromised immune systems, which a majority of the full-time population locally fall under the former.
Indian Wells is just the latest of major events to cancel or postpone events, with South by Southwest, Coachella, Ultra Music Festival, TED2020 and all sporting events in Italy. Spain has announced that any major sporting event will be played without spectators until further notice, putting the Mutua Madrid Open in a bind. Coronavirus, with a one-week incubation period, is becoming more of a problem with each new day and more confirmed cases. Even though Indian Wells had only one case on Sunday, it was announced today that there are now six.
I understand the potential disaster bringing hundreds of thousands of fans together from all over the world with the chance they don’t know they’re infected. I also understand that the BNP Paribas Open doesn’t want to be labeled as the event that caused a mass spread of the virus. However, my biggest question is why not play without fans? Obviously a massive portion of the money brought into the tournament is funded through tickets, but what about the funds generated by the TV pool that now has no live footage to produce? In 2017, a study showed the BNP Paribas Open created over $400 million in economic impact for the Palm Springs area, with over half coming from direct spending from out-of-town visitors.
I’m sure there was plenty of discussions between the tours, player councils and the tournament, but tennis is a unique sport where there is no salary for a player. Their results create their paycheck. Not only that, but all of the players playing in Indian Wells were already on-site, paying their flights and board for their teams. It’s a disservice to players to have them travel across the world and at the last second, pull the cord. It’s another blow to players like Alison Van Uytvanck, who lost 250 ranking points when that tournament fell apart last minute.
Even Coco Gauff was impacted more as, because of the Age Eligibility Rule, had to skip events in February so she could use her last allotted tournament at Indian Wells before her birthday this Friday. Now, she can’t roll that over into her 16th year and misses out on even more ranking points.
Understandably, health for players and the communities affected should be the utmost priority, especially with no set date of coronavirus getting under control. However, if odds were always heading towards cancellation, doing it before the weekend could’ve saved a lot of players and altered their travel schedules in hopes of finding a smaller ITF tournament elsewhere. But what does that mean for the rest of the calendar? The Miami Open this month and April’s Fed Cup Finals are two of the biggest events for the foreseeable future. Nothing has been said about Fed Cup, due to be held indoors in Hungary, but it’s business as usual for Miami.
Keep an eye on coronavirus trends, especially if you plan on attending a tournament for the next month. Only time can tell how badly the tennis season will be affected by the virus spread.
This Week in Women’s Tennis
The WTA highlighted their athletes on International Women’s Day and the players shared their powerful thoughts on their social media channels.
In Monterrey, Elina Svitolina took home WTA title No. 14 and first of the year with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 marathon win over Marie Bouzkova. Kateryna Bondarenko won her first WTA doubles title since 2009 and since returning from maternity leave, partnering with Sharon Fichman to defeat Miyu Kato and Wang Yafan, 4-6, 6-3, 10-7.
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin won her second title of 2020 at the inaugural Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon, taking out a resurgent Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. In doubles, Laura Ioana Paar and Julia Wachaczyk won their first WTA title, knocking out Lesley Pattinama Kerkhov and Bibiane Schoofs, 7-5, 6-4.
Irina-Camelia Begu captured the WTA $125k event in Indian Wells, California, knocking out Misaki Doi 6-3, 6-3. Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend took the doubles title with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Caty McNally and Jessica Pegula.
Fans voted for the February WTA Awards and the results were announced this week. Simona Halep was named Player of the Month, Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-Wei were announced as the Doubles Team of the Month, Renata Zarazua received the Breakthrough of the Month and Magda Linette won Shot of the Month.
Last week, Katie Couric’s #ThankYouNotes series entered the tennis world with Sofia Kenin penning a note to Billie Jean King and then getting to recite it to the legend herself:
The WTA Development & Promotional Program for Officials, which gives select ITF White and Bronze umpires a chance to earn more tour experience, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The program offers education and mentorship with a priority focused on fostering future female officials.
Kim Clijsters is still searching for her first victory of her comeback, falling to 0-2 after a tough 6-3, 7-5 loss to No. 2 seed in Monterrey. After her match, she opened up about the small improvements that will provide big benefits.
Former World No. 17 and 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist Magdalena Rybarikova announced that she will retire at next month’s Fed Cup Finals.
Monica Puig continued her 2020 journey in Tennis.com’s My Tennis Life, where she was gearing up for her first match since October at Indian Wells. She also opened up about the pressures and depression that ensued after her 2016 Olympic Gold run.
The Oracle Pro Series, 25 dual-gender Pro Circuit events, offers more opportunities for lower-ranked players to earn more ranking points and a chance to break even in a sport where you’re in the red if not in the Top 200.
On the ITF Pro Circuit, the following players were crowned champions:
$25,000 Antalya, Turkey: Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (WTA #190)
$25,000 Las Vegas, Nevada, USA: Robin Montgomery (WTA #UNR, ITF #803/Juniors #5)
$25,000 Mildura, Australia: Marianna Zakarlyuk (#699)
$25,000 Potchefstroom, South Africa: Samantha Murray Sharan (#213)
$25,000 Yokohama, Japan: Yuriko Lily Miyazaki (#446)
$15,000 Cairo, Egypt: Sandra Samir (#377)
$15,000 Heraklion, Greece: Miriam Kolodziejova (#957)
$15,000 Monastir, Tunisia: Nefisa Berberovic (#648)
Tweet of the Week
On International Women’s Day, The International Tennis Federation shared an empowering video highlighting their Advantage All initiative:
Five at the IX: Sarah Stone
Sarah Stone is the founder and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Coaching Association and has a wealth of professional coaching under her belt, most notably for Sam Stosur and Alexa Glatch. A doubles specialist from Australia, she peaked just outside of the Top 100 and played the main draws of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon. A WTA Gold Coach, she currently acts as iTennis Cerrito’s Director of Tennis. She shares her background and strong push to having more female representation in tennis coaching.
Joey: When your playing career ended, did you always envision becoming a coach? What was the transition like?
Sarah: I started coaching for my dad when I was 14 years old. So it was a pretty easy transition after I was injured and couldn’t play anymore on the WTA tour. I transitioned into coaching my then-doubles partner Samantha Stosur. I was very familiar with her game and even though I was a younger person, at that stage I knew quite a lot about coaching because my dad was one of the worlds best coaches. When I was very young, he worked with Barbara Potter and was also a national Federation coach. I never wanted to become a coach, it was just something that happened organically. I never thought about what I would do after playing tennis until it happened and it was really a natural progression for me.
Joey: You helped create the WCTA, which has seen huge growth year over year. Do you have any specific 2020 goals?
Sarah: I am the founder and CEO of the WTCA so I have spent the vast majority of my time doing much of the grunt work in developing the entire concept. Our specific goals for 2020 are to continue to expand our global audience, which sits currently at over 80,000 people. A new innovation for us this year will be including Men’s tennis at our annual New York conference. From the beginning, it was important for us to highlight specific coaching when it comes to working with female athletes. Going forward, we want to set an example for the industry that all coaching summits and conferences should be incorporating specific education about coaching female players and male players. Although there are many similarities, we see the value in addressing both the men’s and women’s games individually along with sessions that incorporate both.
Joey: Women coaches are still a minority on the WTA tour. Why is that and how are you hoping to combat it?
Sarah: There are certainly not enough female coaches across our entire sport, particularly working on the professional tour. The biggest issue we need to tackle is gender bias. Without a doubt, women in our industry are held to a much higher standard. Education is the key to making this change in the industry. Implicit bias expert and civil rights attorney Thomas Newkirk has spoken at a number of our events and is an expert in this area. His presentations help coaches gain a lot better understanding of the issue. When they take this message back to their communities, it helps us to spread awareness and take steps towards stamping out gender bias in our industry. A number of the top federations are implementing initiatives to support gender equality in our sport. I am in constant contact and work closely with many of the top female coaches in the world. We are working together to unite in numbers, which certainly strengthens our mission. I think historically, women have tried to work together despite media and other sources constantly pitting us against one another, but I think now the strength of the women’s movement has enabled us the opportunity to achieve what collectively what our foremothers have always been striving for. My close friends Sandra Zawineska, Elise Tamaela, Janette Husarova, Anne Keothavong, Alicia Molik and many more are all working towards gender equity and solidarity to eliminate gender bias in our sport.
Joey: You’ve worked with many top WTA pros. Does one specific match or memory come to mind as your favorite?
Sarah: There have been many great moments that I have experienced sitting in the coaches box. Certainly the two that stand out the most to me when coming back from two years off the tour due to injuries, Alexa Glatch qualified for the 2015 French open. The other was when Sam Stour and Lisa Raymond won the U.S. Open. But right next to both of those amazing achievements is the fact that a young girl who came to my high-performance homeschool program in California went from not speaking to me at all for six months because she was so afraid, to becoming the most talkative person in my squad. The fact that I was able to create a safe space in which she could grow as a person and truly thrive is one of my personal coaching highlights. In many ways, it’s much more significant to me than players winning trophies.
Joey: What’s the single best piece of advice that has stayed with you throughout your career?
Sarah: There is not one single piece of advice, however I have always surrounded myself with people who support me and believe in my dreams. The single most important thing to me in my career is that I always stay true to myself and stand up for what I believe in.