Will tennis be fully united? — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Jan. 3, 2023

Happy New Year, everyone and Happy Tennis Tuesday!

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I’m sure everyone is still reeling from last night’s NFL game and the medical emergency with Damar Hamlin. I hope this puts a contingency plan in place not only for the NFL, but all sports, including tennis. Should something like this happen during a tennis match or a different kind of traumatic event affecting a tournament, play should be called for the day — at a minimum.

We obviously send our best to Damar, his family and both teams who have had to deal with quite a range of emotions. Here is a link to Damar’s toy drive he created in 2020 through his “The Chasing M’s Foundation.”

Now, this week is pretty much all about the inaugural United Cup — the joint ATP-WTA team event featuring $15 million in prize money, as well as high-quality matchups to kick off the 2023 season.

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As of submission, not all of the round robin groups have been finalized, but Italy, the United States and Great Britain have punched their tickets into the City Finals. Wait, City Finals? So, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth are each hosting two groups. The winners of each group will play off in the City Finals for a berth in the United Cup Final Four. The fourth team will be whichever City Final runner-up had the best record.

Lets recap some of the top moments we’ve already had:

While the United Cup is a good thing, it doesn’t fully grasp a united feel, in my opinion. The format for each team match is two women’s singles, two men’s singles and a mixed doubles match. Each team has at least two players of each gender, with many having doubles specialists on the bench. Therefore, I would have loved to see the format mimic World Team Tennis by having one singles and doubles match for each gender and then a mixed doubles match. While singles players are the main moneymakers on tour, I think giving each discipline their due isn’t so hard to ask.

Having the United Cup kick off the first week of the season is a great move by both tours. I loved the Hopman Cup, but giving money and ranking points solidifies the tournament’s place on the calendar. While “United Tennis” was built and promoted since the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown, this is truly the beginning of a new era in the professional game. Sure, the tours have collaborated greatly on the web and social media, but having a true combined tournament featuring 18 countries does counter the notion that the tours are strictly competitors. The Team Zone with coaches, captains and players huddling around the players playing is something that’s a breath of fresh air.

That being said, this is just one tournament. The talks of a true merger are gone thanks to the ATP amending their by-laws to not allow firms to buy stake in their product — something the WTA is allegedly doing with CVC Capital Partners. With all of this camaraderie on and off the court, is it time for a commissioner? With the WTA and ATP blending forces, where does the ITF World Tour come into play? The minor leagues are a staple for both tours but there isn’t much said about the players at that level. What about incorporating more mixed doubles at combined events, which is something I’ve been shouting to happen for quite some time. The United Cup is fabulous, but is it the true beginning of something substantial?

Just something to think about as 2023 will have a lot more united action, including Netflix’s Break Point.

On to links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

WTA Legend Martina Navratilova announced she was diagnosed with Stage 1 throat and breast cancer, 12 years after she overcame an original bout of breast cancer. Fortunately, it looks like doctors caught it early and the type of cancer is one of the more treatable forms.

2023 marks 50 years of the WTA and the tour announced their season campaign: WTA 50: Just Starting

In standalone events, the WTA season kicked off in Adelaide and Auckland. Venus Williams accepted an Auckland wildcard and won her first match since Wimbledon 2021, while Bianca Andreescu came from 6-0, 5-2 down to take out Garbine Muguruza in Adelaide.

Ashleigh Barty seems to turn the key tighter on the door between herself and another comeback. She spoke to Christopher Clarey ahead of a busy Australian summer off the tennis court.

Aryna Sabalenka shared her thoughts on Wimbledon’s Russian/Belarussian ban and honestly, did it serve any real purpose?

Former Top 5 player Jelena Dokic opened up about her mental health struggles and how she’s been able to overcome them.

Seven of the Top 10 highest-paid female athletes come from tennis, per Forbes’ most recent report.

Remember how I said smaller tennis countries need to produce more grassroots events to build a network of pros? While India debates hosting larger professional events, it looks like Malaysia will be having some ITF World Tour events in 2023.

Armed with a new coach, fitness trainer and fresh outlook, Emma Raducanu aims to reclaim a Top 10 ranking as the off-court endorsements continue to pile on.

Alexandra Eala is fine with sacrificing teenage milestones if it means a better shot at Grand Slam glory.

Tennis Channel’s Inside-In podcast sat down with the United States’ Billie Jean King Cup Captain, Kathy Rinaldi, to discuss her career and path towards her current positions at the USTA.

Martina Navratilova doesn’t see Iga Swiatek, the European Sportsperson of the Year, slowing down her dominance anytime in 2023.

All-American Salma Ewing graduated in December from the University of Southern California and is joining Texas A&M for the Spring season. Already a loaded roster, the Aggies could be the team to beat in May, now.

Speaking of college tennis, be sure to check this clip out of the Master’U BNP Paribas event that brings collegiate players from all over the world:

Apparently Camilla Giorgi is being investigated for (allegedly) falsifying her COVID-19 vaccine records.

In my favorite crossover — Bravo x Tennis — Gigi Fernandez was the latest guest to appear on the reality tv show Below Deck, with her Olympic Gold medal in tow.

Tweet of the Week

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
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon