The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, October 29, 2019

A sad farewell -- Shenzhen WTA Finals update -- Halep and Cahill, reunited at last

(Editor’s note: Working with Lindsay Gibbs is one of the purest pleasures I have in this business. That’s why I do it at every possible turn, and why I’m sad to see her go, even as I cannot wait to watch her remarkable new solo project blossom. Read more about that below.

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In the meantime, we’re working on how to properly replace our Tuesday contribution from Lindsay, and we’re open to suggestions, too!

Well, I guess I shouldn’t beat around the bush here. I’m sad to announce that this will be my last Tennis Tuesday.

Tomorrow, I am launching my own newsletter on Substack, called Power Plays, which is a big-picture, no-bullshit newsletter focused on ending sexism in sports.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say you can sign up here.

(Editor’s note: DO IT. I already have!)

But this announcement comes with a heavy heart, because it has been such an honor to be a part of the team at The IX for the past 10 months, and to get to write about tennis every Tuesday.

Nobody is covering the day-to-day in women’s sports as well as Howard, Erica, Annie, and Carly. And that is absolutely vital. Yes, we need to zoom out and look at the larger issues at play. Yes, we need to hold those in power accountable (which will be a big part of Power Plays). But none of that matters if there’s not an investment in what is happening on the fields, courses, courts, and rinks where these female athletes are playing. None of that matters if there aren’t people highlighting the personalities and the controversies, the trades and the trash talk, the coaching changes and the upsets.

That’s what The IX does so well. It’s why I will continue to be an avid reader and supporter of this newsletter, and why I’m confident that Power Plays and The IX are not competitors in the newsletter world; they’re compliments to one another.

I’ll still be around, reading, learning, and growing from The IX on a daily basis. I hope you stick around here too, and tell everyone you know.

I realize this intro didn’t have much to do with tennis, but the links have you covered this week. I’m just going to leave you with one of my favorite things to come out every tennis season, the iconic official photo (and selfie!) of the best eight WTA players in 2019.

It’s an honor to cover these women. (Fashion wise, I think Naomi and Svitolina win the day.)

This week in tennis

Aryna Sabalenka finished what had been a disappointing season with a bang, winning the WTA Elite Trophy tournament in Zhuhai. Hope she brings that form into 2020.

I enjoyed Matt Zemek’s takedown of the sparse crowds at Shenzhen over at Tennis with an Accent.

Another good piece from Zemek about how high the ranking points are for the WTA Elite Trophy tournament, and why that’s problematic.

Here’s John Clarke on the huge prize money at the WTA Finals, including a record $4.75 million for the winner, if she goes undefeated during the round-robin tournament. The ATP-equivalent tournament only offers an $8 million purse.

The WTA Finals plan to be in Shenzhen for a staggering 10 years.

The Guardian’s Tumaini Carayol points out the problematic backdrop of that decision; Shenzhen is just 20 miles away from Hong Kong. The WTA was rooted in fighting oppression; what does it mean that it is now essentially profiting from it?

Simona Halep’s round-robin win over Bianca Andreescu was highly entertaining. More of that match-up, please.

Naomi Osaka had to withdraw from the WTA Finals on Tuesday with a right shoulder injury. Kiki Bertens replaced her.

All Bertens did was come in as a sub and beat No. 1 Ash Barty.

Obsessed with this video of Andreescu getting surprised by her junior coach in Shenzhen.

Here are advancement scenarios. They are far too complicated for me.

Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Simona Halep on Darren Cahill’s return

Simona Halep is off to a winning start in Shenzhen, and I loved her presser after beating Andreescu. I’m so glad Cahill is back in her corner.

Q. First time you played Bianca. What challenges did she give you?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, it’s been a great match both sides, in my opinion. She did great this year. Winning so many tournaments gave her a lot of confidence. I expected a very tough match.

I’m really proud actually that I could fight in this way because I have a month that I didn’t really practice with my back, with the injury. But looks like I’m still there.

Today it was a challenge because she’s 10 years younger than me. It was a good fight. I’m happy about my victory.

Q. What were you trying to tell yourself, especially after the first set, late in the second set? Seemed like you had to fight yourself a little bit to believe you could flip the match around.
SIMONA HALEP: Well, honestly I believed before the match that I have a chance, even if I had the long break. I know if my legs are strong on court, I can do anything. I felt great the last four days here. Actually, I’m happy that Darren is back. He gave me a little bit of power also.

In the second set, even if she was leading, I had a thought that I’m stronger mentally. We had some long rallies, and I won those balls. Then I just didn’t think about the result. I’ve been focused on myself. I just had in my head what I have to play against her to be good.

I did it. It was a really good match.

Q. You called Darren onto the court a few times. Were there specific things he told you that helped?
SIMONA HALEP: I called him so many times because I missed him this year (smiling). I just wanted to make sure I have him the full charge, let’s say. I ask once more when she got the medical, and they said, You had already too many. I said, Okay.

He told me good advice. He gave me advice that I’m playing okay, even if I thought I’m not playing very solid during the match. He told me that I’m okay and I can serve better, which is true. Even if I didn’t serve great in this match, in the end was a little bit better.

Yeah, advice about the game, so he helped me.

Q. Is there anything she did that surprised you, something you didn’t pick up from watching?
SIMONA HALEP: I didn’t watch her live at all. I just watched the TV a little bit because I’m not a big fan of watching tennis in my free time. But I heard and also Darren told me that she’s playing great, and I have just to stay strong.

I felt that she’s moving well. She hitting strong. Also she returns pretty well. I think she’s a powerful player.

Q. You saved a match point there in the second set. What were you telling yourself? What was the key tactically because she’s been a difficult player for other players to solve because she can change from point to point how she plays.
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, she changes a lot the rhythm, with some slices that you don’t really expect them. I think at the match point I’ve been aggressive with the backhand down the line, if I remember well.

I didn’t think that I can lose the match. I just wanted to start, even if could have been too late, to start to hit the ball and go down the line. I think today it was a good shot against her.

Q. Some players are mentally tougher than others. You’re a big fighter. Talk about the fighting spirit is something you’re born with or you can train.
SIMONA HALEP: I think you have it natural. To train this part is a little bit difficult because if you don’t have the fire inside it’s tough. Of course, I think you can improve in all the ways. You can improve also in the spirit.

But I have it natural. I always had it. Also when I was junior. Thanks God I don’t have to work on that direction because I have many directions that I’m working on. It’s good that this part is helping me.

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