Let’s talk Wimbledon, NIL & Olympics — Best Wimbledon photos — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, July 6, 2021

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What a two weeks

We’re halfway through the year and we’re back in action! First, let’s talk Wimbledon.

The semifinals are set and we’re guaranteed a power versus all-court final and I’m honestly excited. I wouldn’t be mad about any particular winner, but this is where we’re at:

(1) Ashleigh Barty vs. (25) Angelique Kerber

(2) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (8) Karolina Pliskova

Kerber is definitely finding some form after winning the WTA 250 in Hamburg the week before, but I do expect Barty to pull through in three sets. Kerber, the clear winner of Serena Williams’ retirement in the opening round, has quite a record on Center Court and obviously is the lone remaining former champ in the field. The Aussie has been finding her form throughout the tournament and looked incredibly sharp in her quarterfinal win over Ajla Tomljanovic.

Sabalenka was nearly knocked out in the second round against Katie Boulter, but since then, the Belarusian is also playing some incredible, controlled power tennis. She was authoritative in her quarterfinal win over Ons Jabeur. However, she’s in her first Grand Slam semifinal, while Pliskova is in her fourth. The Czech has now made the final four at all four Slams and she’s the only player who hasn’t dropped a set en route. Sabalenka and Pliskova’s two meetings have been as razor-thin as possible — Sabalenka winning both 7-6 and 7-5 in the third set. Because of the grass and their power games, I expect short rallies and most likely a two-setter. My gut says Sabalenka, but we know how great of a bettor I am.

We’ll see if I’m right, but right now, I’m calling Sabalenka leaving with her first Grand Slam over Barty.

Since we last spoke, the NCAA board of directors voted to allow college athletes to earn money off of their name, image and likeness. Because tennis is one of the only sports where players can compete “professionally” and collegiately simultaneously, I took to Twitter to see if this new rule will eventually change amateurism in college tennis. Be sure to check out the replies and quote tweets:

@jwilsontennis broke down the most-followed college players and discussed more in a thread, but perhaps the potential biggest earner in tennis is Klara Mrcela of Cleveland State, who shared with her 150k+ Instagram followers how this could really impact international athletes:


Right now, there’s a gray area when it comes to NIL, so could top college players receive appearance fees into events? Right now, players are limited when it comes to on-court prize money, but I feel like the goalposts are going to be constantly moved around and we’re possibly going to see some more rule changes eventually. I’m not sure where I stand. Should there be a ranking cutoff for players wanting to be in NCAA? A dollar amount? Age? However, please enjoy this clip, even though it’s not a female athlete:


Lastly, the entries for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were announced, with Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka headlining the field. A wild stat: For the first time since 1996, Venus Williams will not be partaking in the Games. Five at The IX alums Ellen Perez (Australia) and Gaby Dabrowski (Canada) will be playing in the Games, and we send them a huge amount of congratulations.

In 2016, Monica Puig stunned the world by becoming Puerto Rico’s first-ever gold medalist. She’s out with injury, but what a story if someone captured the magic she did to leave Tokyo with gold. We’ll go into more detail before the tournament, but right now, I see Barty, Sabalenka and Osaka as the favorites in singles and Ena Shibahara/Shuko Ayoama in doubles. It could be a big explosion if the host nation medals — especially more than once.

Also heading to Tokyo is Megan Rose, one of our Advisory Board members! She is the team leader for Team USA Tennis, so we can’t wait to hear her perspective!

This week in women’s tennis

The second half of the WTA calendar was announced, with another WTA 250 added in Chicago and the Asian Swing missing for a second consecutive year. Where will the WTA Finals be held now? That’s still TBD.

As always, WTA Insider delivers on its features, but some that you must read:

  • Coco Vandeweghe on her comeback with a renewed vision.

  • Getting to know Emma Raducanu, who made her Grand Slam debut a success by reaching the fourth round.

  • Roundup of the first two rounds covering Serena Williams’ exit and more.

Remember when I said the tour needs more mixed doubles? Venus Williams and Nick Kyrgios teaming up at Wimbledon was the best example of why. And shout out to Five at The IX alum Sabrina Santamaria, who was Tennis Twitter’s — and the media’s — darling of the match.

The BNP Paribas Open announced that nearly everyone must be vaccinated in order to attend the October tournament. I think it’s a great move, but maybe add players too?

Raquel Atawo, who peaked at No. 10 in the doubles rankings before retiring in 2019, was announced as the new head coach at Washington State University.

Alex Macpherson features Jule Niemeier, who could possibly be the next star for Germany — a country desperate for new blood.

Remember how I’ve mentioned the abuse tennis players receive on social media, specifically bettors? Well, plot twist here: A professional soccer player slid into Daria Kasatkina’s DMs and it didn’t go well.

Angelique Kerber and Sara Sorribes Tormo had an absolute battle in the Wimbledon second round, cracking the top 10 of 2021’s longest matches.

Cambridge Global Payments, the WTA’s official payment provider, announced a partnership with rising star Leylah Fernandez that will make the Canadian an official ambassador.

Doubles World No. 109 Yana Sizikova has filed a lawsuit for libel and slander following her brief arrest on match-fixing allegations.

Love, love, love this Olympic feature on 1996 gold medalist Lindsay Davenport:

In the charity world, the WTA shared that it has expanded its partnership with the Special Olympics, while Garbine Muguruza helped build a library in Cambodia through Room to Read.

Be sure to vote for June’s Shot of the Month on wtatennis.com.

Tweet of the week

Representation matters. And Ons Jabeur continuing to be a trailblazer for Arab women isn’t going unnoticed.

Five at The IX: Photos of the week

Christopher Clarey is on-site at Wimbledon and has been supplying pictures of the day. Here’s a few of my favs:

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: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam, LPGA.com
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Joey Dillon