The Elite Eight of the WTA Finals — Must-click women’s tennis links
The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Oct. 25, 2022
Happy Tennis Tuesday, The IX readers! First, I would like to echo Ben Rothenberg’s sentiments in hopes that the top players repping Adidas will call for the brand to drop Kanye West and denounce the anti-Semitic rhetoric he’s been spewing. It’s the last TT of October and at last, we finally know who will be heading to Fort Worth and play the WTA Finals!
The final WTA tournament of the season was the Guadaljara Open Akron, a WTA 1000 event. Jessica Pegula and Storm Sanders/Luisa Stefani emerged as champions. However, the final qualifiers came down to the wire after there were 17 potential names at the tournament’s start.
- Iga Swiatek
- Ons Jabeur
- Jessica Pegula
- Coco Gauff
- Caroline Garcia
- Aryna Sabalenka
- Daria Kasatkina
- Maria Sakkari
Some storylines to think about leading into Fort Worth:
Iga, Iga, Iga, Can’t You See?
Iga Swiatek has utterly dominated the 2022 season, she’s among the half of the field will be making their WTA Finals debut. Being among the true elite could add some extra pressure. She’s the clear favorite to storm away with the title, and while I lean to agree, I think we should wait until the round robin groups are announced. I flip flop about if skipping Guadalajara was the right move, but she finaled in Ostrava and won San Diego and withdrew as a precaution to be be fresh. With most of the field qualifying just this past week, could momentum swing in their favor? Historically, those qualifying late into the season — Caroline Garcia in 2017 or Anett Kontaveit, last year for example — continued their form into deep runs at the tournament.
While Swiatek is the one to beat, I think with how Guadalajara unfolded, this may be Jessica Pegula’s chance to turn her misfortunes against the Pole around. After being scarily consistent throughout the year, she was always the bridesmaid. That changed this week with her title run and honestly, sometimes it just takes one match to turn a No. 3 career with one WTA 1000 title to one that has a WTA Finals trophy and contending for No. 1. While many would say the amount of tennis — combined with also qualifying for doubles with Coco Gauff — would be too much for Pegula, I beg to differ. She’s always been a player to need reps and find rhythm, especially to make the final weekend. She had to beat four former Grand Slam champions to win Guadalajara. Sure, her main nemesis this year has been Swiatek and she was missing, but this week was massive for Pegula. Plus, the week to train, rest and adapt to Texas will be more beneficial for her than most.
Who’s Making the Semis and the WTA Finals?
The fact I am even asking this when five spots were up for the taking this time a week ago is comical. However, this can’t be answered until the groups are announced. Still, I’m not 100% sure if the Top 4 will emerge as semifinalists. If I were to guess, Ons Jabeur may be the most likely upset, but it boils down to matchups. Of those Nos. 5-8 that, in my opinion, have the highest chance of making the semifinals? Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari, especially the Greek after the tennis she produced to make the finals in Guadalajara. Her winner-take-No. 8 match against Veronika Kudermetova could be a career-changing one as many have doubted Sakkari’s mental state. Sabalenka has the game to literally knock anyone off the court, so when she’s on, it’s a wrap. The indoor settings could favor her, as well. The biggest intangible the two of them have is qualifying previously with Sakkari doing one better by making the 2021 semifinals.
Now, lets play ball!
Oh, before we go onto links, I have one request for future WTA Finals. Can we bring back best-of-five finals?
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This Week in Women’s Tennis
Obviously, the biggest news in tennis happened off the court with the announcement of Simona Halep’s provisional suspension for a doping violation. I’ll write more on this during the offseason when recapping the year in doping/betting. While we let due process do its course, she did make her own announcement:
Maryna Zanevska won her first WTA 125 title in Rouen, France with a straight-set win over Viktorija Golubic in the final. The doubles title went to Natela Dzalamidze and Kamilla Rakhimova, who beat Misaki Doi and Oksana Kalashnikova.
In news I personally think is getting blown out of proportion, Serena Williams says she’s not retired and the chances of a return are “high.” She’s always used the word “evolution,” so I think she’s being cheeky with her words. I would be shocked if she came back after the big sendoff she had at the US Open, but at the same time, her level throughout the tournament was getting sickening. There’s no way in hell I’m predicting whether or not she returns, given my track record.
Lucie Hradecka, a Top 5 doubles player with a pair of Olympic medals, announced her retirement following Guadalajara. Though not as well-known amongst her other Czech peers, she was a force in doubles with 26 total WTA titles including three Grand Slams.
Chris Evert stressed the importance of genetic testing following her cancer diagnosis, while IX alum Rennae Stubbs spoke about turning mental health in sport away from being a taboo topic.
Belinda Bencic sat down with WTA Insider to discuss teaming up with Dmitry Tursunov for the final event of the season and looking ahead to their partnership in 2023.
Remember when I spoke a few months ago about the WTA needing a Legends Tour? Well, the former WTA 250 in Luxembourg downsized into an eight-retiree showdown and the tennis? Pretty solid — except Jelena Jankovic tearing her Achilles in her opening match, of course.
Guadalajara killed it in 2022 by hosting their WTA 250 in February and the 1000 event last week, but look for the later to stay with Merida likely taking over the 250’s sanction next year.
Donna Vekic shared that Pam Shriver was a voice throughout her final-run in San Diego and hopes to use that momentum and injury-free end to the season with a big splash in Australia.
This week’s $60,000 ITF World Tour event in Toronto, Canada aims to celebrate women and girls in sport with the final ball kids and umpiring crew being all female and more empowerment events throughout the week.
The WTA’s Giulia Orlandi said the WTA doesn’t face gender discrimination, which I found a bit interesting. Compare the organization to other similar organizations? Maybe, but compared to the ATP? Perhaps not discrimination, but the casual fan’s response to thoughts on the perspective tours may say otherwise.
Never fear, Coco Gauff will always be on top of the TikTok trends:
Nicole Kankam of the USTA sat down to discuss the evolution of the fan experience at the US Open and how they’ve adapted to current times, as well as navigating COVID.
One of the names to watch out for in 2023 is Alex Eala, who I’ve mentioned before in news. She can be a massive star for Asia, especially in the wake of the WTA’s pullout of China.
If you didn’t know, legendary broadcaster Dick Vitale is massively into tennis and also supported a fall collegiate tournament annually in the past. His granddaughter, Ava Krug — a Top 100 ITF junior — recently committed to play college tennis at Duke University, joining her two brothers.
Tweet of the Week
Sad news on the print side of tennis with Tennis Magazine announcing they’re moving to digital-only. As someone who’s gotten their monthly for well over a decade, it’s sad to see it go. Racquet Magazine put it best, though:
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer|
|By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer|
|By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next|
|By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX|
|By: Eleni Demestihas, @strongforecheck, The Ice Garden|
|By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer|