Wozniacki’s back & retiring ‘retirement’ — Quotes from Washington DC — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, August 8, 2023

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! The tennis world moves to Canada this week for the National Bank Open in Montreal. One of the biggest storylines of the tournament is the comeback of Caroline Wozniacki. Three years ago, Wozniacki played her final match at the Australian Open, losing to Ons Jabeur in the third round.

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1,292 days later, “Sunshine” is back in WTA action and a winner.

The former World No. 1 was absolutely sublime in her 6-2, 6-2 win over Australian qualifier Kim Birrell, displaying the tennis thought brought the Dane to a 2018 Australian Open title. The vintage Wozniacki movement and backhand had many wondering if she was ever away from the tour.

Next up for the mother of two could be Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, who faces Mayar Sherif in her first singles match since claiming her maiden Grand Slam title.

Wozniacki’s comeback is part of a bigger story — players announcing their farewell and eventually coming back. Martina Hingis did it twice, as did Kim Clijsters. Even former Top 5 player Anna Chakvetadze is on the entry lists for ITF World Tour tournaments this month. Tie in players recently coming back or are currently on maternity leave like Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka. They all have intentions of coming back to the tour, but nothing is ever certain. Garbine Muguruza is still in the midst of an extended mental health break, too.

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What’s fascinating about Wozniacki’s return is that she shared her retirement plans ahead of time and had her farewell ceremony but in her Vogue essay, she said her rheumatoid arthritis was the reason behind her departure. Following the births of her children, she found herself hitting for fun and playing her best tennis. Now, she’s guaranteed a spot back on the WTA rankings and already has secured wildcards for Cincinnati next week and the US Open. She has her sights on the Paris 2024 Olympics, so expect a full schedule from the Dane. Commentating in retirement has done wonders for Wozniacki’s game, in my opinion, too. Keeping up-to-date on players the last few years from a bird’s eye view only helps the high tennis IQ she already has. I think that will be the biggest wildcard in the future Hall of Famer’s deck.

The word “retirement” will never go away, but I think we’re going to see more top players say goodbye or maybe just step away without an official announcement, only to pop back on the court. The tour is a grind and these players have dedicated decades to the sport, so burnout is totally normal. That being said, tennis is a lifelong sport. The desire that brought these athletes to the top of the game never fully leaves. Tie in prize money that’s at an all-time high? Why not come back?

Wozniacki coming back continues the awesome story that mothers can balance their children and dominating on the court. She credits players like good friend Serena Williams — who also said goodbye but left the door open — as inspiration for her tennis journey post-motherhood. The women’s game is so strong — and open — so why not see where you can take things. Players like Wozniacki are great for the game and will bring more casual fans in person and on television.

Will she inspire other players to come back? I personally would love to see Agnieszka Radwanska attempt a comeback, as well as Ana Ivanovic. Those two are unlikely, but perhaps Ashleigh Barty or Johanna Konta might be more willing after their recent births. Barty has already done the comeback once and we saw how that turned out. Why not go for it again? Hell, someone sign Serena up too!

Alright, alright, I’m just rambling now. The gist is, people like Wozniacki are cool as hell for ignoring the doubters and marching to the beat of her own drum to continue to write their own story — on their own terms. That, friends, is impressive.

Now, onto links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Coco Gauff won the biggest title of her career at the WTA 500 Mubadala Citi Open DC, defeating Maria Sakkari in the final. The doubles title went to Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva, who downed Alexa Guarachi and Monica Niculescu for their fourth career title as a team.

At the Livesport Prague Open, Nao Hibino captured her third career WTA singles title, beating home favorite Linda Noskova in straight sets. She also won the doubles title, outlasting Quinn Gleason and Elixane Lechemia with Oksana Kalashnikova.

At the World University Games, Guo Hanyu took home the women’s gold medal, while Yang Ya-yi won the silver and Alice Robbe and Liang En-shuo shared the bronze.

Ever wanted to tape someone’s mouth shut? Well, Iga Swiatek did it to herself as part of a new training regimen.

Arizona State player Chelsea Fontenel has been an ace for the Sun Devils, but she also balances a music career that originally saw her star in The Voice Kids in Europe.

Don’t expect to see Venus Williams on tour as a full-time coach as the legend is still fighting to be a presence on tour.

Leylah Fernandez hopes to use the National Bank Open as a jumpstart back up the rankings following a dip caused by injury and poor play.

Former World No. 40 Ayumi Morita formally announced her retirement from tennis, ending a injury-riddled career that spanned well over a decade.

Unfortunately, Martina Navratilova continues to spew transphobic opinions on Twitter following a player’s win at a USTA national adult tournament and outrage over another playing a tournament in Wyoming.

Billie Jean King announced that she is investing in the Billie Jean King Cup as a part-time owner of the international team event.

As International Tennis Hall of Fame Honorary President, Kim Clijsters aims to enhance the exhibit’s profile abroad and continue sharing its importance for the younger generation.

Tweet of the Week

Some more Jen Brady content for ya as she continues her comeback from injury:

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Five at The IX: Mubadala Citi Open DC

Q. We have known you in tennis seems like for so long, but at the same time you’re still so young in the sport. Will you be able to take a moment tonight and just appreciate what that means and that kind of milestone on your way as you go on your career?

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, it’s really cool, to be honest (smiling). I know I have said this in a press conference in the past, where people are pulling these stats out everywhere, like, youngest person to, like, hit an ace in 73-degree weather. That’s how I feel about some of these stats.

But this one is a legit stat. I actually like hearing this one, like, being the youngest to win this tournament is pretty cool.

Yeah, and I mean, I’m looking at the names on that wall, and one of my main motivations was really to be on that wall, so I’m really happy that it will remain here for as long as the tournament stays here, hopefully forever.

So, yeah, that is a cool factor, and being the youngest to do it is really cool. I mean, most of my life has been like that. But, you know, there are certain ones where I’m, like, Okay, that’s really special, and I think this is one of those stats that’s really special. Other ones, I’m, like, Okay, guys. We can’t be the youngest in everything (smiling).

Q. You mentioned in your on-court interview and just now how a month ago you wouldn’t expect to see yourself here. Can you speak more on how you were able to bounce back from that disappointing Wimbledon defeat?

MARIA SAKKARI: Yeah, I mean, it was tough, because when you’re a top-10 player, you don’t expect losing two Grand Slam first rounds in a row.

It’s tough to accept it. Okay, I played semis in Berlin, but still, it wasn’t as good as I expected.

So the last, you know, maybe two months haven’t been ideal for me. But the same time, I just trust in myself. As I said, I spent a lot of hours on the court and in the gym. That’s how I get it back.

There is no secret behind it. It’s just that I have to put the hours in order for me to feel good with myself, with my body, and with my tennis.

Then as long as I’m working with my mental coach, then I know that, you know, it’s going to come.

Q. Not your first time in D.C. Obviously a past champ. What was your impression this week being a 500 level for women and men? Overall what are your impressions this week?

JESSICA PEGULA: It’s great seeing it be a 500. The depth and the field here was great. Super tough. I think the fans, at least in my experience, have always loved watching the women play here. To get to see an even bigger and deeper field is probably great for tennis here and great for the event.

I think we’re all very grateful that, you know, it’s the first joint 500. You know, it’s nice being on the East Coast, being able to travel to, whether it’s Montreal or Toronto, Cincy, and then US Open.

I think it’s great that it’s back on the calendar and it’s joint. Hopefully we can get that up to equal prize money, as well. I think it will just help the event improve every year.

Some girls that haven’t played here before, so they really enjoyed it and didn’t realize how much the fans really love the event. I think that’s really nice, knowing that the fans are really behind the event, especially the women here.

That’s ideally what we love to play when the fans are great. That’s been something really nice to hear from some of the players that haven’t been here.

Q. I’m just wondering, going back to the spring and the success you had and the run at Wimbledon, does that momentum carry over now, or is that so far removed, different surfaces, et cetera? Is there momentum or is it you are starting fresh here almost?

ELINA SVITOLINA: I try to take the positives from the wins that I had, because I had great wins against great champions at Grand Slam, which is always tricky, because everyone is really hungry and striving for the good result at the slams.

So I’m just taking, you know, these moments with me, and I tried to understand what I did good at that matches.

You know, I have been practicing after Wimbledon in a good spirit. Of course was really upset that I didn’t go to the final, but somehow, you know, I still had this motivation to practice and to go for more, rather than some semifinals before the pregnancy where I was like really sad for weeks and didn’t want to practice, I was mentally like broke almost.

In this case, you know, I was really hungry to go on the court, practice my game, and almost the day after when I went back home, I practiced with Gael already after the semifinal. So that’s why, you know, for me it’s a different story than before, so I try just to take the positives and build on that.

Q. Do you have a different appreciation for the sport of tennis, especially now that you have a son and as you have distanced yourself a little bit from being a top-ranked player and your early Australian Open titles?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Do I have a better appreciation for tennis than when I was younger? I think when I was younger I was a bit more self-focused. Self-centered sounds kind of narcissistic, but I would say more self-focused, and I do feel with the years of experience and kind of my ambition for making the place of work a better place and kind of push and drawing also inspiration from Billie Jean King and Venus Williams that fought hard for equal prize money, that’s something that inspires me and motivates me to keep going.

I obviously have still ambitions and dreams for my own game, but I also do feel that I take a lot on off-court work. It fulfills me. I feel that when you help create maybe a little bit of change or makes somebody else’s life better, for me it’s more rewarding than you do something for yourself. When I look back at my career, I don’t usually look at titles and I don’t look at, you know, matches I win as much as I look at things that hopefully helped other people.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
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By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
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Written by Joey Dillon