Tennis’ two-week tournaments: Are they too much? — Final quotes from Madrid

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, May 7, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and happy Tennis Tuesday! National Tennis Month is officially here and I have to say — I’m already a bit exhausted by tennis’ calendar and how pretty much every WTA 1000 tournament is turning into a two-week fiasco. I’ll put it bluntly: I’m bored and so are the players and fans.

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I admit, I still am trying to find answers as to why both the WTA and ATP thought that expanding tournaments was a great idea. Was it to bring in more television revenue? Help lower-ranked players participate and earn more money? Give local fans more matches? Something to rival the Grand Slams and make their events more noteworthy? If you have an idea, I’m all ears.

Perhaps I’m a traditionalist. I like that the Grand Slams are unique with the 128 draw, with no byes, over two weeks. You might say, “hey Joey, Indian Wells and Miami have two weeks and the same lineup!” Which, I hear you, but with the calendar, there’s enough of a buffer between the Australian Open and the Sunshine Double. It’s also a great segue from the hardcourt season into clay and again, they have been ingrained in the calendar history for decades now. I do think that by making these tournaments two weeks, it blurs the line of importance of the Grand Slams while also confusing the casual fan into which tournaments ultimately “matter.”

Last year, the tours decided to turn Madrid and Rome into those same 12-day events to compare it to Indian Wells and Miami. Next year will also see Montreal/Toronto (remember, they alternate cities every year) and Cincinnati receiving that same treatment and I’m already scheduling my yawns for when that happens. Players like Caroline Garcia have been echoing the staleness and dragging out the tournament — especially when the middle weekend strikes.

The beauty of the WTA 1000 tournaments is that you had all of the top players condensed into a single week battling it out from the start. Mouth-watering first-round matchups were always a given, but now with the top players given byes, the opening rounds are a bit lackluster. Then, you could also argue that player health is jeopardized by prolonging these events — something that we’ve seen between Madrid and Rome withdrawals. Throw in concerns about mental fatigue as well, as players could usually find time to train or decompress away from the competition environment but now have to stay “on” for another four-week block a month after Indian Wells and Miami and a mere two weeks before Roland Garros. Sure, players might be having better physical recovery with the elongated tournament schedule, but where they are saving rest is being spent handling “tournament mode.”

We need to go back to compact WTA 1000 tournaments, plain and simple. More matches and tournament days doesn’t mean better or higher-quality tournaments. For the second consecutive year, Madrid proved that notion. I barely watched any tennis and I could tell on my social media timeline that players, reporters and fans were all simply just over it. That being said, I applaud the tennis makers for trying to look into format changes to see what works and what doesn’t, but I think the core events of the calendar don’t need to be touched.

Or am I just getting old and sounding like a Boomer?

Onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Iga Swiatek saved three championship points to defeat Aryna Sabalenka and capture her first Mutua Madrid Open title. Spaniards and last-minute entry Sara Sorribes Tormo and Cristina Bucsa won the doubles title, taking out Laura Siegemund and Barbora Krejcikova.

Katerina Siniakova and Lois Boisson had epic three-set encounters to take the WTA 125 titles in Lleida and Saint-Malo, respectively.

While Aryna Sabalenka aims to get over the heartbreaking loss in the Madrid final, Iga Swiatek shared how she found the grit to take the match and looks ahead to Rome.

TW: sexual assault. Former top junior Kylie McKenzie was awarded $9 million by a jury after she sued the USTA for failing to protect her from a coach who had assaulted her in practice.

In a teaser for her interview with Jon Wertheim for Tennis Channel, Simona Halep shared her reaction to receiving the news of her provisional doping suspension.

Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova represented tennis at last night’s Met Gala:

As Angella Okutoyi chases points to secure her Olympic berth, Tennis Kenya is looking to increase the amount of professional tournaments in the country.

Emma Raducanu and 2012 finalist Sara Errani are among the entries for the qualifying stage at Roland Garros.

Though she is retiring at the end of the year, Danielle Collins formally signed an apparel deal with Free People Movement.

Genie Bouchard, who is playing her first tennis tournament in eight months this week, opened up about handling her mental health as a high-performance athlete.

Birthday girl Mirra Andreeva said one player she’s always wanted to face was Paula Badosa, who split from Stefanos Tsitsipas this week, and she’ll finally get that chance in Rome.

In one of my career goals, Billie Jean King is getting the Wheaties box treatment!

Former ITF and Tennis Australia President Brian Tobin passed away last week at the age of 93.

Tweet of the Week

Sloane Stephens historically is a reporter’s dream and I’m excited to hear the launch of her podcast next week:

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Five at The IX: Mutua Madrid Open

Q. The level was high throughout, even if you felt you were a bit tight or this or that, the level was great from both, like you just said, she hits an ace, you hit a line, stuff like that. Do you surprise yourself that you’re able to sustain such a high level over 3 hours and 11 minutes in a high-stakes situation like that? I guess, like you said on the court, no one can say women’s tennis is boring after a match like that. How big of a statement was a match like that?

IGA SWIATEK: Physically and tennis-wise, I wasn’t surprised, but I was surprised that in the third set I felt the best, like, mentally. Because, yeah, I actually felt like I need to dig through for these two hours and it didn’t really work. I was, like, Oh, my God, am I going to feel a little bit more loose soon?

It didn’t really happen, and then after two hours, it did. I was surprised by that.

But honestly, one thing that came through my mind was actually that I think Rafa had couple of matches like that. Guys have three sets, so they may have a little bit more time on Grand Slams to do that.

But I remember exactly when he was playing Medvedev in Australia and it clicked for him. It felt like it. He also struggled for a bit of time with some, he was tense and I think stressed. I mean, I’m not sure because I haven’t talked to him. But it felt like that. That kind of gave me hope that maybe it will click, even after two hours. So yeah.

Q. You have played some roller coasters against Iga. Do you consider this rivalry and your matches as can be a classic in the future?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Wow, that’s a big question. That’s just the thing I really want to see. I really want to see many more finals against her. I want to see more wins than losses (smiling).

But I really hope that we’ll be able to keep the level or increase the level every year and just to be one of those three, that’s amazing, and I’m really happy to be one of these Big 3, you call us (smiling).

Yeah, that’s a pleasure, you know. It’s really motivating me a lot to keep working and to keep improving myself just so I stay there, and then kind of, like, you know, just be there and get as many wins against them as I can.

Q. In general, over your career, what has it been like building a team and deciding the people who should be around you to help you on your journey? And at what point you realized in your career it wasn’t just you and a coach, you need more people as a top pro tennis player?

MADISON KEYS: It’s obviously hard, and I think it’s constantly trying to find the balance of when you focus on bringing someone more for fitness on the road or when it’s more physio, and obviously the older I’ve gotten, the more the physio has been more and more important as far as on the road and being able to maintain.

I think probably the last few years of my career it’s been really up and down just because there is not a ton of windows to really build. You know, I feel like it’s constantly trying to maintain.

Unfortunately I was trying to maintain with something that was already a little bit broken. So in a lot of ways, having that time of missing the beginning of the year was really great, because it was the first time I’ve had in a while where we could really kind of rebuild and create a stronger base to then try to maintain on the road.

Q. And how good is it to have this rivalry with you pushing each other?

ELENA RYBAKINA: I think it’s good. After all these tough matches, you kind of see where you need to improve and what you could have done better.

I think it’s a good thing to analyze always. As you say and I always say, that we push each other, and I think that’s great. We push each other to improve.

I was trying to come to the net more often. Maybe I should have done it a bit more in the third set, but I mean, this is something to improve and work on.

Q. Tough luck today. What have you learned about yourself over these two weeks, obviously coming here and exceeding what you did last year?

MIRRA ANDREEVA: Well, I definitely feel more comfortable and confident on the court. It is important for me to have these good matches and good wins after a little stop.

Yeah, I feel like I became more strong mentally and physically on the court. Of course there is a lot of things to improve on. I’m sure we will improve in a few days. I mean, we will start to improve in a few days.

But yeah, just feel like I’m stronger mentally and I just need some time to know how to adjust it on court.

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
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Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon