US Open Qualifying Darkhorses — Quotes from Cincinnati — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, August 22, 2023

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday!

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The US Open Fan Week and qualifying event kick off today and like I usually try to do is give you a few names that can not only qualify, but make a deep run in the main event. Fingers crossed that these ladies do a better job after I clearly jinxed my choices at Wimbledon with none advancing. ANYWHO…

Olivia Gadecki

Gadecki is currently ranked No. 139 — just a few shots shy of her career-high ranking in June and is coming off of her first WTA-level title this past week in doubles at Stanford. The 21-year-old stormed onto the scene in 2021 when she upset reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin as an unranked wildcard. This year alone, she’s made five ITF World Tour singles finals, including three at the $60,000 level. Mentored by Ashleigh Barty, the Australian No. 4 has the weapons to power through qualifying, highlighted by a huge serve. She won her debut Grand Slam main draw match earlier this year at the Australian Open, but she has a bit of a tough draw. I expect her to defeat Harmony Tan in the opening round, but she will likely play No. 1 seed Nao Hibino, who swept the singles and doubles titles at the WTA 250 in Prague. Should she get through that, Emina Bektas could possibly await — which would be fire if you’re a fan of Big Babe Tennis served with a side of aces.

Makenna Jones

Someone who is peaking in 2023 is University of North Carolina graduate Makenna Jones. The daughter of former Doubles No. 1 Kelly Jones and former Top 50 WTA player Tami Whitlinger-Jones, she secured a wildcard into qualifying after a successful summer on the ITF World Tour. This year alone, she’s won two $25,000 singles titles, but she’s been unreal in doubles. She’s 8-2 in 2023 doubles finals alone and is knocking on the door of the Top 100. What sealed a spot in New York was her $100,000 semifinal run in Landisville that saw her defeat Astra Sharma, Olivia Gadecki, and Caroline Dolehide before losing a nail-bitter to No. 56 Wang Xinyu. In the section of No. 14 Aliona Bolsova, she faces Mirjam Bjorkland in the first round.

Wang Yafan

In the last tournament before COVID-19, Wang Yafan reached the quarterfinals of the WTA 250 in Monterrey, Mexico, and was just off her career-high in the Top 50. She then didn’t play again until the Australian swing in 2021, but poor form and losses saw her cut her season at Wimbledon and her ranking tumbled to No. 300. It went as low as outside the Top 700 early this year, but the turnaround she has done this year in unremarkable. On the ITF World Tour, she’s 5-2 in singles finals, including a $60,000 championship where she defeated Olivia Gadecki in the final. This past week, she captured the WTA 125 in Stanford as a qualifier and defeated the top two seeds in the process. Currently, she sits at No. 115 in the rankings and honestly, she should qualify with ease unless she’s fatigued. Ann Li, who had a nice run in Cincinnati, could await in the second round, but I don’t see the upset happening.

A special shout-out goes to the 12th section because only one of these players will qualify:

(12) Dayana Yastremska vs. Heather Watson
Eugenie Bouchard vs. (WC) Katherine Hui
Kristina Mladenovic vs. Elena-Gabriela Ruse
(17) Dalma Galfi vs. Jessika Ponchet


Now, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Coco Gauff captured the biggest title of her career at the Western & Southern Open, defeating Karolina Muchova in the singles final. Taylor Townsend and Alycia Parks made it an American sweep by taking the doubles crown over Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez.

Wang Yafan and Tatjana Maria won last week’s WTA 125 titles in Stanford and Barranquilla, respectfully. The Stanford doubles title went to Jodie Burrage and Olivia Gadecki (over Hailey Baptiste and Claire Liu), while Barranquilla’s champions were Valentini Grammatikopoulou and Despina Papamichail, (over Yuliana Lizarazo and Maria Paulina Perez Garcia).

Because of her provisional suspension, Simona Halep was automatically withdrawn from the US Open and will lose her WTA ranking once last year’s points come off. Taylor Townsend replaces her in the main draw as a result.

Naomi Osaka 2024 alert:

Many American stars were highlighted in Vanity Fair ahead of the US Open, showing off their best poses and fashions.

Misaki Doi, who once broke into the Top 30, announced that next month, she will be playing her final events in her home country of Japan before retiring from tennis.

The WTA and Morgan Stanley’s partnership has a goal to give more communities access to not only in sport, but in financial literacy as well.

Steve Tignor does an excellent job about what makes Mason and the Western & Southern so special as the tournament fights to stay in Ohio.

This I can get MASSIVELY behind:

Be sure to check out WTA Insider’s Champions Corner with both Gauff and Townsend/Parks. Speaking of WTA Insider, some great Cincy features include who can match Gauff’s speed, Iga Swiatek opening up about the hate players get and Marketa Vondrousova setting her next goal on qualifying for the WTA Finals.

This year, the WTA players are trialing using the same duty tennis ball as the men for the entire North American swing, when they would historically use different ones during the US Open.

Victoria Azarenka, a WTA Player Council member, is open to changing the format of tennis to ensure there are no more 3 a.m. finishes like there were in Montreal.

Fifty-two years after Billie Jean King had the first all-women’s event in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Open was the first ATP Challenger/WTA 125 combined event to have equal prize money. Compare it to the Western & Southern Open, which….didn’t:

Jenny Dent, a former Top 60 player, and husband Taylor — a former Top 25 player himself — are giving back to the next generation of players in Keller, Texas.

Tweet of the Week

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Five at The IX: Western & Southern Open

Q. Your journey is such an inspiration to many of us in the black community. How do you feel about being an inspiration, especially a teen inspiration?

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, it’s something that I don’t take lightly. I think sometimes I guess it increases the pressure because I know that this community of people, the community of people of color, black people, look up to me a lot. Especially with Serena retiring, people consider me the next leader or something of tennis.

I don’t put myself in that box because Serena is the G.O.A.T. for a reason. It’s ‘greatest of all time.’ That’s what the word means. I’m part of all time, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to go as far as she did. That’s the dream. But also there’s a G.O.A.T. for the reason.

I think for me, it’s just trying my best to be the best version of myself and being the best Coco on and off the court. I think I try to pay attention to how I present myself and the causes that I support off the court.

Obviously, on the court, my game, I work hard, I can’t control the results all the time, but I can control how I present myself. I think that’s what I try to do to help girls and boys that look like me know that they can be something in a field that there’s not many of us in.

Q. How do you help people understand week in and week out the mentality you have to have that, no matter what the number is next to your name, sometimes you have an early loss and you pack your bags?

KAROLINA MUCHOVA: Yeah, honestly last year was really tough year for me. I didn’t want to see myself there, to be outside of 200. But you kind of have to accept it.

I wish I had in myself — when I practice with someone from Top 20, with the girls, I felt like I can beat them. I have a similar game. I was outside of 200. You have to accept it and kind of fight through and find a way how to get back.

I think I made it and I’m really proud of it. I think it makes me stronger, as well, to get there because it’s not easy. It’s not like this. You really have to build up. Yeah, I’m just really, really lucky and happy that I am where I am now.

Q. You said today your energy tank is almost empty. Next year this tournament will be two weeks tournament, which gives you a day off between the matches. At the same time there will be less time between tournaments. Which one is better for players?

IGA SWIATEK: I have no idea. I’ve been thinking actually of, like, asking former players, because they have more kind of experience in situations like that.

I know for sure that it’s different having a day off during the tournament. You’re still thinking about your matches and what to improve. It’s not like you can do a lot in terms of practicing, as well, because mostly you’re just catching rhythm for one hour because you have to stay fresh for matches.

It is going to be challenging in terms of that. Mentally, we got to kind of, like, all of us, all the players, kind of learn how to rest in those days off even though we’re still in a tournament and we still have to go on-site and see all these faces, eat tournament food, blah, blah, blah. So I think it will be tougher.

But for sure these two weeks, when you play well, it’s really tough comparing to even… The thing this year in Dubai and Doha, I got two retirements. I think this is what kind of saved me there. Madrid and Rome, Madrid is longer, so I had these days off.

I don’t know what’s better. We’ll see. But I think it’s going to be tough for us to play throughout the whole season. I think we will kind of have to choose that we’re going to skip one of these tournaments.

Q. The calendar is going to change a bit next year, new rules. How do you feel about that? How much, if any at all, you find…

SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, we can say how we feel, but at the end of the day, this is a business. So it’s where we are now obviously on the way to equal prize money, the tournament is getting longer, I think it will be a new dynamic for everyone.

Obviously, when I came on the tour, it was very different. The tournament schedule was very different to what it is now. I think next year will be an interesting year for everyone, because it will just be a new dynamic, be very different.

We kind of take it in stride, and I will say that I’m optimistic for a good schedule and outcome and players will be happy next year. But we don’t know until obviously, we get to Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, until we are actually in it.

So we just stay optimistic and we’ll see how it goes. The tournaments will try to do their best and players will try to do their best, be good sports about it and manage the things the best they can and we go from there.

Q. You talked about the rehab from early in the year being one of the toughest that you have had in your career. Mentally, what has it been bouncing back from that, and…

VENUS WILLIAMS: Right. Well, after I did that injury in Auckland, I knew it was bad. Then I got an MRI the next day and I wasn’t surprised that I was going to be out a while. I knew it was bad when I did it, especially walking off the court, I just knew.

So I actually didn’t rehab for about two months, because I had already rehabbed a year before that. I always joke I’m a professional rehabber now, not a professional athlete. I needed a break from the rehab.

So I took a couple months off. I was in France and felt like I had a driver that went the wrong way, and I passed by the French Open. I was, like, Man, that looks fun.

I was in Paris, and I literally was digging up a racquet. Serena has a place there, and I looked and looked and looked and looked, and I finally found a racquet. I found her shoes. Her shoes had the soles taken out.

I’m, like, in these shoes. They’re too big, with one racquet, and I’m trying to find string. I’m, like, Okay, I’m ready to do my rehab again (smiling).

So if I had not taken off that eight weeks, I probably could have made the French, but at some point you need a break from it. Constant rehab is very difficult work.

So right after Wimbledon, I went straight back to rehab. I felt like Amy Winehouse. I don’t want to go. (Laughter.)

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