The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, March 12, 2019

Venus and Serena renew rivalries — early-round Indian Wells results — interview with Bianca Andreescu

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Rivalries rekindled

There haven’t been any monumental upsets so far in the women’s draw at the BNP Paribas Open** — most of the top seeds are still hanging on as the Round of 16 shifts into shape. But that doesn’t mean the early rounds haven’t been thrilling. Thanks to Venus and Serena Williams, there have been plenty of fireworks, and two of my favorite tennis rivalries have been rekindled, even if just for a moment.

First, we had the match that everyone was talking about as soon as the draw was released: Serena vs. Victoria Azarenka. These two players met in the second round, and the nostalgia levels were high headed into the match — after all, the two former No. 1s faced off in two thrilling Grand Slam finals once upon a time and during a time in Serena’s career when it felt like only Serena could beat Serena, Azarenka could so often push her to the brink (and occasionally over the edge) on the sport’s biggest stages. Plus, this was the first time they were playing since they became mothers.

Serena won the match 7-5, 6-3, but it was anything but a straightforward affair — 12 of the 21 games went to deuce, and the match lasted over two hours. It reminded us (or me, at least), of why the game is better with an in-form Azarenka, and why we* are rooting for her to climb her way back to the top from her current ranking of No. 51. (*At least, I am.)

Afterwards, both spoke highly of each other, as athletes, competitors, friends, and mothers.

“She’s a very good friend,” Serena told reporters, via WTA Insider’s Courtney Nguyen. “I would say we’re pretty close. We’re both moms, and we know how hard it is and how hard it’s been for us to come back, starting literally from scratch and fighting our way back. It’s been an arduous road, and I think we both really appreciate both of our efforts to do the best that we can do.”

Of course, big sister Venus wanted to get in on the fun, and she did just that in her own second-round match, when she came back from the brink to take out No. 3 Petra Kvitova, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Pretty much every time that these two heavy-hitters meet it is a scintillating three-set affair, and this was no different. Seriously, just watch these highlights. It didn’t quite live up to their agonizingly entertaining third-round affair at Wimbledon back in 2014, but it was close!

Venus has not had a great season so far, so it’s encouraging that the 38-year-old not only got a big win like this, but was able to back it up — she’s advanced all the way to the quarterfinals.

This Week in Tennis

Here’s a full breakdown of Serena-Azarenka, again via WTA Insider.

Unfortunately, Serena had to retire the next round, due to illness.

The IX crossover alert: I loved Serena’s support of the USWNT’s fight for equal pay.

**Why is it bad to wait to finish The IX into later in the day? Because your lede is outdated by the time you’re ready to send it off. On Tuesday in the fourth round, 19-year-old unseeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova beat No.2 Simona Halep 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

This is an absolutely must-read profile of Naomi Osaka by Soraya Nadia McDonald at The Undefeated.

Aryna Sabalenka is adjusting to life in the Top 10.

You can’t fake a pojd.

CiCi Bellis, who hasn’t played since Miami 2018, updates us on her comeback. WE MISS YOU.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Bianca Andreescu

Before Indian Wells kicked off, I reached out to Canadian Bianca Andreescu for an interview, because she’s had such a great season and was given a wild card to the tournament. Well, now, the 18-year-old has made it all the way to the QUARTERFINALS, taking out Irina Camelia-Begu, No. 32 Dominika Cibulkova, Stefanie Voegle, and No. 18 Qiang Wang along the way. (Agents, if you’re reading, I think this means that The IX brings good luck!)

Here’s the teen sensation on IW memories, warm-up music, and beating Venus.

Congratulations on the Indian Wells wild card! There have been so many special moments for women’s tennis here over the years. Do you have any favorite memories from watching the tournament?

For me, I’d have to say watching Naomi Osaka win her first Singles Title. It was such a pivotal moment in her career, and it was inspirational for other up-and-comers like myself to see her reach that point as early as she did.

What has been the most difficult part about the transition from juniors to the WTA Tour?

The toughest part was definitely the higher level of competition. On the WTA Tour, players don’t give you any leeway. Everyone is at the top of their game, so you can’t go into a match expecting any freebies or easy wins.

Do you listen to music on your headphones as you walk out onto the court? If so, what are your go-to pre-match songs?

Yes! I love listening to Hip Hop because it gets me pumped up. At the moment my go-to song is Drake’s song “Nonstop.”

What part of your game has improved the most over the past year?

I’ve learned to be more patient, to last longer in rallies both physically and mentally, and to pick the right shots at the right time.

Your career is so young, but you’ve already had some huge moments. At this point, what do you consider the most important match of your career?

My match against Venus Williams in Auckland. I’ve watched and admired her game for so long, it was a dream come true to even have the opportunity to play against her. It was a real point of pride for me to come out of that match with a win!

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
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.