Previewing the North American Hardcourt Swing — Danielle Collins from San Jose — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, August 10, 2021

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All Aboard the New York Express

The North American hardcourt swing may have already started, but with the first of two WTA 1000 events beginning yesterday, there are plenty of storylines.

A bit north, some good news as well: Rebecca Marino, who I profiled before the Australian Open, was playing in her first Omnium Banque Nationale since 2011 and earned her first Top 50 win in over a decade to knock out No. 16 seed Madison Keys.

In the spirit of the WTA Editorial Team giving their North American roundtable, there are a few storylines I think we should keep an eye on.

  • Will the unpredictability continue?: Honestly, I hope so. The WTA is deep as hell and although I joke about my predictions being so far off, it’s exciting to see. I think we’re in for a surprising Summer and we’ll have at least one name nobody had on their radar to make a deep run at the US Open. Danielle Collins certainly has her name as the frontrunner to be a dark horse. Maybe someone like Jennifer Brady, who’s been battling injury but has played the best tennis outside of Osaka at the last two hardcourt majors. Five at The IX alum Sloane Stephens did come out of nowhere to take her lone Slam at the Open in 2017. Victoria Azarenka emerged last year in the New York bubble reinvigorated, but hasn’t really matched it since. One name that can defeat anyone on any day but hasn’t had much luck in New York? Petra Kvitova. The name I’d love to see silence any and every hater though is Venus Williams. The legend has nothing to prove and simply plays for the love of the game, but even as she tinkers her game and competes so well, I want her to have one last good run.

  • Simona Halep returning: For the first time since January 2014, the Romanian isn’t a fixture in the Top 10. She is playing for the first time since her calf tear in Rome. After the injury took her out of her favorite Slam at Roland Garros and from defending her Wimbledon title, it also forced her out of the Tokyo Olympics. I don’t see Simona playing unless she was fully healthy and ready to go and this area of the calendar has been fruitful in the past. Not only is she a two-time champion in Canada, she’s won it both when held in Montreal. She’s a three-time finalist in Cincinnati, but surprisingly it has never translated to a positive New York tournament. She’s made it to the quarterfinals or better twice and since her 2016 quarterfinal, she holds a 1-3 record. She says she has no pressure, so maybe this is the year she finally flips the script?

  • Kim Clijsters’ comeback: This was one of my items a year ago and here we are again. Honestly, is it actually going to happen? She showed some promise last Summer during World Team Tennis, but hasn’t played a pro match since nearly winning her US Open first round last year. COVID has been the biggest opponent for the Hall of Famer in shutting down the tour as she was starting out and then contracting it late last year. She recently played an exhibition against Sloane Stephens during the ATP event in Atlanta, but her calf was wrapped up pretty heavily.

    Will she — or can she be healthy enough to take on the Tour again? She never was going to do a full calendar and it always seemed like she was gearing up to peak during this part of the season, but her plans have been radio silent. It doesn’t seem like the most positive news.

  • The curious case of Bianca Andreescu: 2019 was a banner year for the Canadian and since, she’s rarely been on court. Montreal kicks off the start where the majority of her ranking points stand. Should she not do well here or the US Open and eventually Indian Wells, she could tumble down the rankings — hard. With that said, if there’s anyone that doesn’t need much match practice and deliver, it’s Bibi. Armed with a new coach, I feel like she’s going to defend many points or crash out early. Not sure if there’s any in between.

  • Post-Tokyo Blues: How will medalists Belinda Bencic, Marketa Vondrousova and Elina Svitolina handle the new pressures or spotlight it comes with such a big moment? For these three, I don’t think it will be anything too crazy they can’t handle — only the self-pressure they may inflict on themselves. If anything, it’s just the tight turnaround in schedule in a completely different time zone. Two Olympians I’m curious about aren’t even in Montreal: Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka. Barty’s first-round exit was one of the toughest first-rounders and she rallied to win a bronze medal in mixed doubles, but Osaka’s loss in the second round was lightyears from what is arguably the best hardcourt Slam player of the last 3 years. Was the pressure of being the face of Tokyo — including lighting the Olympic Cauldron — simply too much? Keep an eye in Cincinnati on those two.

  • Serena Williams and the elusive Slam No. 24: All eyes will be on Serena next week when she returns to the Western & Southern Open. It will be her first match since her retirement in the first round of Wimbledon. Will her hamstring be 100%? Will she overcome some of the mental blocks she’s faced when looking to tie Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record? The only thing I know is that if she does or doesn’t — she’s still the GOAT. She’s going to turn 40 next month and people are quick to write her off, which is usually when she thrives.

Onto the links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Danielle Collins captured her second consecutive — and overall — WTA title at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. The American held six championship points in the second before Daria Kasatkina forced a third, but the UVA grad emerged victorious in the WTA 500 event. It was a nice end of the week for both players who are overcoming physical and mental challenges. Andreja Klepac and Darija Jurak took home the doubles title over Five at The IX alums Gaby Dabrowski and Luisa Stefani.

Andrea Petkovic has dealt with numerous injuries and surgeries, but she looked in fine form to win the Winners Open in Cluj-Napoca. She defeated trailblazer Mayar Sherif, the first Egyptian to advance to a WTA singles final to capture her 7th singles crown. In doubles, Natela Dzalamidze and Kaja Juvan took the win over Sherif and Katarzyna Piter. Also, we always stan Petko, but this was lovely:

With a Polish family from tournament housing, Magdalena Frech felt right at home to win the biggest title of her career at the WTA 125 Thoreau Tennis Open, a WTA 125 event. Peangtarn Plipuech and Jessy Rompies each won their first WTA-level tournament, taking the doubles event over Usue Arconada and Cristina Bucsa.

This week’s must-read is from Steve Tignor, who reached out to four people across the tennis spectrum to discuss the sport’s shutdown, its reopening and what it means.

Be sure to check out WTA Insider’s Champions Corner with Danielle Collins, as well as their wrap of the last week.

I’m going to be heading to Tennis in the Land for the first few days of the tournament and Tournament Director Kyle Ross penned a great op-ed about women’s tennis coming to Cleveland and I’m glad to hear this isn’t a one-off.

David Kane spoke with Maria Sakkari about the Summer success she’s been having following her maiden Grand Slam semifinal and her first Olympic Games.

Coco Gauff opened up about her COVID-19 diagnosis, saying she still doesn’t have a sense of smell but aims to be fully vaccinated following the US Open.

In coaching news, Bianca Andreescu confirmed she’s trialing a partnership with Sven Groeneveld, who’s worked with Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic in the past.

In this week’s rankings, Barbora Krejcikova cracks the Top 10 and Mayar Sherif continues to make history for Egypt — breaking the Top 100 barrier.

Conny Perrin and Marie Bouzkova/Lucie Hradecka were voted by fans with the Shots of the Month for July.

The Western & Southern Open wins for this wildcard announcement. It’s the dress and necklace, for me:

Tweet of the Week

I mean, as the OG Danimal Collins stan, everything about this is iconic. The reaction, the slow pan, the eye-fluttering. QUEEN BEHAVIOR

Five at the IX: Danielle Collins from San Jose

“It’s a huge honor and, to be quite honest, I feel like I don’t deserve to have my name in the same sentence as some of the people who have won this event previously and who have contributed so much to this sport. I feel like I have so much more that I need to contribute and I hope I can follow in their footsteps.” – when asked about having her name attached to the list of champions of the women’s only event, celebrating it’s 50th anniversary.

“I think part of the game is being able to ride out the storm, being able to have letdowns, being able to get wiped out and trying to find solutions to fix issues along the way.” – on finally winning on her 7th championship point.

“I think there’s so much truth to that. I wasn’t always the best athlete, I wasn’t always the strongest, I wasn’t always the tallest, I wasn’t the most talented, but I put in so much hard work. I never wanted to lose, I always wanted to give it my best and I went out in every match with a competitive spirit. trying my hardest, diving after balls. I think all of that has helped me get to where I’m at today.” – on a former coach giving her the nickname “Tenacious D”.”

“No, it honestly wasn’t even a thought in my brain. It was one of my goals this year to win a title and to now win two is incredible. It’s hard to comprehend that I won two back-to-back.” – on her thinking she could win when she was facing endometriosis surgery earlier this year.

“This is one of the amazing things about modern-day medicine. You can be in a pretty difficult situation and now with the way medicine has come along the last couple of years, it’s just incredible. Years and years ago, they didn’t have these types of operations to help solve a major life problem like I was having. I’m just really grateful.” – more on her operation.

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,
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Joey Dillon