Paging Dr. Tennis: WTA changes needed — Doha quotes

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Feb. 20, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and Happy Tennis Tuesday! With a little bit of a lull still in the tennis calendar, my brain tries to figure out some fun and hypothetical topics. I debated discussing where the WTA should unveil some more tournaments and/or WTA 125 events should get an upgrade, but I’m going to share a throwback — some WTA prescriptions if I were “Dr. Tennis.”

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Quality Points

Did you know that in the early to mid 2000s, players received bonus points based on certain wins they had? If you beat the No. 1 player in the world, you received x number of points (then it would decrease down the rankings).

Now, why did the bonus point system go away in 2005? To help ensure players play mandatory and other specific events. It also helped pave the system for some players to overplay and only count their best 16 results (and for those that played include the four Grand Slams and four mandatory WTA 1000 events).

In the past, players got points for every win over a ranked person — No. 1 or No. 1234. I’m a fan of that. By tabulating the best wins, the rankings will fully showcase the best player, not the player who played the best events well. When quality points were in effect, they were divided and calculated into a ranking, and I think that should stand too. Either have a set number and divide by that, or divide by the amount of tournaments the player played.

More Mixed Doubles

Other than World Team Tennis, the only time I saw mixed doubles on tour was the 2004 China Open, that had a full purse of $6,000. Mixed doubles brings out some phenomenal players and matchups and in my opinion, helps break down the narrative that women are the weaker gender in doubles. So many times, the women holding their serve is the biggest difference — and honestly, most of the time, the men choke.

On top of the WTA 1000 events that are combined, there are a number of WTA 250s and ITF events that host both men and women at the same time. There’s ample opportunity for not only more players to get matches under their belt, but build a legit mixed doubles ranking system to use throughout the year. And if there can’t be a mixed doubles ranking, give doubles players those points. Speaking of doubles points, only doubles rankings should be used in the entries if this idea ever comes to fruition. Doubles specialists are losing many chances to participate in tournaments because singles players can use their rankings to enter.

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Doubles Qualifying

I’ll keep this last one a little short. Both WTA and ITF World Tour events used to have qualifying in their doubles draws and I think it’s time for a comeback. It gives doubles players more opportunity to get into events and possibly a little more money and points. I would say that, at least at the WTA level, there should be two qualifier spots put in with two teams in directly and a wildcard from the tournament. The last spot is where I think some experimentation might be fun. Perhaps an all-ITF junior duo with a reward for their year-end ranking? Also something in the past was champions at the highest-level ITF World Tour events received exemptions into lower WTA tournaments. I say pair up all W80 and W100 events with WTA 250s and award the doubles champions a berth in their events. Qualifying is the perfect opportunity to test innovation but also reward those coming through the pipeline. Just something to think about.

Onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Iga Swiatek captured her third consecutive Qatar TotalEnergies Open title with a straight-sets win over Elena Rybakina. The World No. 1 became the first player since Serena Williams at Miami in 2015 to three-peat at a WTA tournament. The doubles title was won by Demi Schuurs and Luisa Stefani, who are only playing their second tournament as a pair. The No. 5 seeds defeated Caroline Dolehide and Desirae Krawczyk in the championship match.

Remember that “super tour” that’s been thrown around the last few months? In unsurprising news, it looks like all seven entities — the four Grand Slams, ATP, WTA and ITF — can’t all agree on one plan.

Simona Halep has filed a $10m lawsuit against the manufacturer she claims led to her doping suspension, a week after finalizing her appeal request with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Reminder: sports are the world’s biggest unifier. Players shouldn’t be told to “shut up and dribble” and players like Coco Gauff aren’t afraid to speak on sensitive subjects.

Though 34, Victoria Azarenka is still greatly motivated by the opportunity to get better and signals Novak Djokovic as a huge motivator behind that logic.

After six years together, Maria Sakkari and Tom Hill have parted ways, ending one of the tour’s longest coach-player relationships. In other coaching news, Karolina Pliskova shared that Zeljko Krajan has taken over duties.

Friend of The IX Sloane Stephens says she has plenty of tennis left, but she continues to leave a legacy beyond just tennis with her third annual Sloane Stephens Doc & Glo Scholarship.

WTA Insider caught up with Emma Navarro, who has gone from college tennis to Olympic hopeful in just three years. They also had Jelena Ostapenko on the WTA Insider Podcast for a must-listen discussion that included her resurgence, shopping and Serena Williams.

Coco Gauff applauded Sabrina Ionescu’s run at the NBA All-Star Skills Challenge and said she would like to see something similar with the WTA and ATP.

Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki have been awarded the first main draw wildcards for the BNP Paribas Open.

Amelie Mauresmo’s ex-wife was found guilty by a French court for harassing the two-time Grand Slam champion and Roland Garros tournament director.

A demolished hotel in Manhattan could lead to tournament tennis inside the city if Vornado Realty Trust has their way.

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Five at The IX: Doha Pressers

Q. Congratulations. Good to have you in Qatar. Since we are in February, what do you see as your goals for 2024?

IGA SWIATEK: I don’t know, because last season showed me that tennis season can be really crazy. My goal is to just, you know, develop as a player, and we’ll see.

Honestly, it’s so long, I’m really focusing just on this part and next week, I would say. Then I’ll see how it’s going to go. But Olympics, for sure, is a big tournament. I’m not gonna lie.

Yeah, but I wouldn’t say, like, one tournament is a specific goal for me, because at the end, I was proud of each of my seasons no matter which tournament I won or what happened. You’re just happy that you can overcome obstacles and work hard.

Sometimes the titles are more for Wikipedia than for you, but this season, yeah, I’m just taking it easy step by step and week by week.

Q. We, like media or fans, start talking about, like, WTA, like a big four, like you and Iga and Sabalenka and also like Coco would be like a big four in the women’s tennis. Do you agree with that? And do you have any preferred opponent to be called your rival?

ELENA RYBAKINA: Not really. I always say that it’s too early to say if it’s big three, big four. I think it should pass some years and we all need to continue playing well.

But for sure we, all of us, we’re trying to push each other, and there is a lot of good players. It’s not for me to say if there is big three, big four. For me, it’s still too early to say.

Q. You have had a long career. The first time you came into the first 100 players was 2008. Do you have some regret on your career? Which are your next goals?

ANASTASIA PAVLYUCHENKOVA: Well, I wouldn’t call them regrets. Of course if I look back, I have had very early, at the very early age, very fast success.

I think also on the court they announced that in 2009 I was only 17 and I made semifinal of Indian Wells, so everything was coming really fast.

Looking back, let’s say I wish I could, like, keep the momentum and be more stable and more consistent throughout my career to kind of have those results more often and more consistent, because I think I was very — not very, but of course there were moments I was good and moments not so good. So this consistency was missing.

That’s probably the only, I don’t know if I can call it regret, but in that time, I was doing everything I could, right. So maybe of course I was physically, I wish I was better physically and mentally stronger. I think those two parts were definitely not my strongest parts before.

But look, I’m here now, and I have missed a very long year in 2022 because of my knee injury after having a really good year in 2021. So I’m here now, and I’m giving my all and, you know, trying to give everything I can so I have no regrets after my career.

Q. What future awaits you? How do you see yourself in 10 years?

DANIELLE COLLINS: You know, I’m not sure. I’m not sure if I’ll kind of continue working in tennis. You know, I think I definitely want to start a family. That’s the main priority. And have other interests outside of the tennis court and kind of need to have the time and the space to be able to focus on, you know, what sparks my interest.

I feel like with the lifestyle we live and this being our full-time job and so much of our day-to-day revolving around preparing and getting ready for the next tournament and going out and competing, you know, we don’t have a lot of time to kind of think about that next chapter unless you are thinking about doing something in tennis.

So I kind of need a little bit of time to figure out what that’s going to be, but I think what I’m looking forward to the most is kind of stepping away from public eye a little bit and being able to have a, you know, quiet lifestyle and a simple one.

Q. In 2024, 12 victories/wins in 14 matches. One title won. You are near to the top 20. What happened from January?

EMMA NAVARRO: Well, yeah, maybe it seems like it’s happened really fast, and I guess, like, numbers-wise it kind of has, but I feel like I have been playing at a high level for a while now, maybe a year or so.

I felt like it was really important to just take my time and kind of go through this right of passage of playing ITFs and getting a bunch of matches in and just gaining confidence in who I am as a player and how I like to play and the plays I like to go to in big moments, just figuring all that stuff out. By getting a lot of matches in, I think that was really important for me and it gave me a lot of confidence coming into this new level.

Yeah, I guess it’s happened fast, but I feel like it hasn’t, for me at least, it doesn’t feel that fast. It feels like this has kind of been a long time in the making, so it’s cool to see a goal of mine pan out like it has been this year.

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