Three WTA questions for 2024 — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Dec. 12, 2023

Howdy, y’all, and Happy Tennis Tuesday! We’re inching a lot closer to the 2024 WTA season, which honestly is beyond mind-blowing. That being said, there are three specific storylines that I think we should keep an extra keen eye on.

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  • Comebacks and Retirements: Caroline Wozniacki surprised most by coming back this summer and making the Round of 16 at the US Open and the Dane says she’s playing the some super confident tennis before her return to Melbourne Park next month — home of her lone Grand Slam title and the place she initially retired in 2020. Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber are both former No. 1 players coming back from maternity leave, while Emma Raducanu hasn’t played a match since the Spring after a series of surgeries and is currently sitting outside of main draw acceptance for the Australian Open. There are other players like Bianca Andreescu who have rarely played the last couple of years because of injury and motivation, but light up the crowds when they’re active. Wozniacki said the Paris Olympics was a big goal behind her comeback and recently, Osaka shared that’s high on her priority list as well. Olympic seasons usually mean many players will be saying farewell. Among my guesses that will look to hang up their racquet? Alize Cornet is among the first that come to mind, but Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva are among the oldest active players. Some younger players that have a few years left — in my opinion — but might say goodbye are Czechs Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova. Someone I also don’t anticipate coming back anytime soon is Garbine Muguruza, who said in October she’s content living her off-court life at the moment.
  • Will the WTA lay in bed with the Saudis? Unfortunately, it’s more than highly likely and I don’t believe the WTA when they say a decision hasn’t been made. Sure, the money is great and something the WTA certainly needs, but WTA Legends Chrissie Evert and Martina Navratilova have been outspoken about tennis moving to Saudi Arabia, a country with a terrible human rights record. Something to also note is the WTA’s standing with CVC Capital Partners, whose $150 million investment in the tour was chosen over the Saudi Public Investment Fund. We applauded Steve Simon for ignoring the heavy financial hand China had on the tour when Peng Shuai went missing, but I feel a move to Saudi Arabia negates any of the player-first mentality he had years ago. What about the players who are gay and might have to choose between playing the WTA Finals or being persecuted? After the horrendous fiasco Cancun was, the WTA needs to be more than concise and smart when picking a venue/area to host their “crown jewel.” The people are watching, Steve…
  • Will tours actually unite? The recent rumblings of a “premier-led” tour with the Grand Slams and 1000 events being separated from the rest of the tour calendars was a surprise to many, but it honestly sounds like a logistical nightmare. While the ITF does oversee the Grand Slams, one entity shouldn’t have that much control over the tennis calendar like that — unless a actual merger happens with the WTA and ATP. Creating a new, unified body with an equal board to decide major items like tournaments, calendar spacing, media rights, etc. seems to be more important than ever. Both tours are going to be in a weird space with their biggest stars — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, etc. — saying goodbye to the game and while there is a lot of promise in young guns Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek, they don’t transcend the sport. The recent murmurs of a split system led ATP chief Andrea Guadenzi to be more publicly open about a merger with the WTA and shying away from a “civil war in tennis.” Personally, I want to see a merger happen, but I just don’t know how it can be done with the way tournaments are set up, each tour having their own rights deals and honestly some of the egos on both sides. Throw in the heat from players about calendar length, balls causing injuries and getting a bigger piece of the revenue pie, a collective bargaining agreement could find its way on tour, too.

These are just some “simple” questions to ponder over the holidays. Who the hell knows what’s going to unfold in 2024?

Well, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

The WTA announced their season awards with Iga Swiatek named Player of the Year, while Elina Svitolina received Comeback Player of the Year, Zheng Qinwen was honored as Most Improved and Mirra Andreeva being awarded Newcomer of the Year. Ons Jabeur and Jessica Pegula also received tour awards and Swiatek’s coach Tomasz Wiktorowski was named Coach of the Year. In doubles, Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens took home team honors.

Clara Burel won her first WTA 125 title at the Open P2i Angers Arena Loire, defeating Chloe Paquet in an all-French affair. The doubles title was won by Cristina Bucsa and Monica Niculescu, who downed Anna Danilina and Alexandra Panova.

Renata Zarazua also won the biggest title of her career by taking the WTA 125 Montevideo Open, upsetting Diane Parry in the final. Maria Lourdes Carle and Julia Riera outlasted Freya Christie and Yuliana Lizarazo in two tight sets to win the doubles crown.

Sam Stosur was named Alicia Molik’s replacement as captain of Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup team.

WTA Insider continues their Life on Tour series and this week’s feature focuses on the players’ favorite food on the tour calendar.

The roundtable has been busy recapping 2023 and looking ahead by discussing the year’s memorable matches, biggest upsets and rivalries.

The first batch of Australian Open wildcards were announced with 2019 champion Caroline Wozniacki the most decorated recipient, while Australian No. 1 Arina Rodionova has yet to receive one following a career-best season. Alize Cornet will continue her active streak of 68 consecutive Grand Slam main draws played after receiving the French Federation’s slot in Melbourne.

Maria Timofeeva shocked the world this year by winning her first WTA title as a lucky loser in her tour debut, but she’s among those to watch next year alongside Alina Korneeva and Marina Stakusic.

The University of Washington caught up with graduate Stacey Fung, who looks to improve on a stellar 2023 campaign that included three ITF World Tour titles.

University of Georgia sophomore Anastasiia Lopata describes overcoming the Ukraine war and finding a home in Athens, while compatriot Diana Khodan turned her ACL injury into a new path as a student coach at Miami.

The Credit One Charleston Open has unveiled some of their 2024 entries that include reigning champion Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens.

Coco Gauff not only found herself on People’s 25 Most Intriguing list, but was also named the highest-paid female athlete according to Sportico.

Wang Qiang came back this week and captured the Chinese Tennis Association Tour finals in Macao and will make her WTA comeback in Hua Hin following the Australian Open.

Stats Perform will continue being the official rights partner for the WTA after extending their agreement.

Tweet of the Week

We’re wishing the best for Chrissie Evert, who unfortunately shared that her cancer has returned and she will not be joining ESPN for Australian Open commentary.

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