BREAKING: Serena’s Farewell — Quotes from the Citi Open — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, August 9, 2022

Happy Tuesday, y’all — well, “happy.” Serena has me feeling many things.

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Today was going to share what makes the USTA Pro Circuit so unique compared to the rest of the ITF World Tour, largely in part because this afternoon, I’ll somehow be making my main draw debut at the $25,000 event in Columbus. I played in the singles qualifying and finally got to my elusive game point — four, at that! — but couldn’t get over the hurdle.

My opponent was Cash Hanzlik, a former Top 100 ITF junior and the No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2020. After dominating at the NJCAA level for two seasons at Tyler Junior College, he’s moving onto Arizona State University. Anyways, I was able to secure a doubles partner and everyone who signed up, got in. I’ll be playing today, not before 1pm, and receive my first professional paycheck. However, that topic will have to wait.

This morning, Serena Williams shared her September cover for Vogue, which isn’t anything too random. The GOAT has appeared on the cover and in the magazine numerous times. However, this time it’s different as the American shares what we all knew what was coming, but lived in denial about — retirement.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know when the farewell would begin or even be announced. I think I always expected Serena to go out quietly, so I was pretty surprised that she even came back for Wimbledon. To put in all the work to come back and leave, presumably at the U.S. Open, seems a bit rushed to me. And yes, that’s my denial talking. Serena won her first match in over 400 days yesterday and alluded to the end, but I sure wasn’t expecting this — in the middle of a tournament, at that.

However, Serena’s “evolution,” as she calls it, is running its course. She pens about becoming a mother again and continuing the expansion of her Serena Ventures portfolio. When she was first No. 1, she was criticized for having so many off-court projects, but it is perhaps what could be her greatest attribute moving forward.

In September, for Serena’s 40th birthday, I wrote her a letter and this part sticks out to me:

You don’t have to win another tournament, Grand Slam, even a single match for the rest of your life. You’re one of a kind and the blueprint of what a GOAT really is. You’re not only the best tennis player, male of female, of all time, but to me the greatest athlete. Period. Your stepping on the court forever changed the tennis landscape and you’ve worked hard to make sure you used your likeness and power to make the real world a better place.

People always talk about the on-court accomplishments that make up a “GOAT.” You see in men’s tennis how whoever has the most Grand Slams is the greatest, but to me, it’s the off-court impact that is the largest intangible. Representation is also something that Serena has brought to the tennis world. You see it in today’s stars like Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff. Without Serena — and Venus — there wouldn’t be them, or Sloane Stephens or Madison Keys. There’s going to be more of a void than just what Serena’s done on the court. She’s one of the players that transcended the sport into the power/all-court game we see today. She’s truly the athlete of a lifetime.

I really appreciated the candor the 23-time Grand Slam champion put on paper. She’s not sugarcoating ending one phase of life — something pretty much the world only identifies her as — and beginning the next chapter. Many athletes talk about the struggle of post-retirement and although she’s one in a million, Serena is no exception. For now, I’ll savor the last three tournaments, as well as the decades of memories she’s given to me and countless others.

So, while I lace up my own shoes and try to find a way to say goodbye to Serena at the Western and Southern Open to have one last hurrah with my forever favorite, let’s go to this week’s links.

This Week in Women’s Tennis

I mentioned above how representation matters. Daria Kasatkina’s coming out as a Russian athlete can help open many doors for athletes like her. While her personal life is thriving, so is her tennis. Kasatkina claimed the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic with a win over Shelby Rogers in the final, pushing her back into the Top 10. The doubles title went to Xu Yifan and Zhang Zhaoxuan, who defeated Chan Hao-Ching and Shuko Aoyama, 7-5, 6-0.

In a rain-filled second half week, Liudmila Samsonova won her second WTA singles title at the Citi Open by defeating Kaia Kanepi in a tough three-setter. Jessica Pegula and Erin Routliffe saved championship point to win the doubles crown over Anna Salinskaya and Caty McNally.

At the WTA 125 BCI Iasi Open, Ana Bogdan won the biggest title of her career. The Romanian downed Panna Udvardy for the title, while Darya Astakhova and Andreea Rosca won a three-set thriller over Udvardy and Reka Luca Jani.

This week, the WTA moves to Toronto for the National Bank Open. Leylah Fernandez made her comeback following a foot injury layoff and was happy to have a thriller in front of the home crowd. Meanwhile, Emma Raducanu and Maria Sakkari opened up about the expectations and reality of their seasons following their respective breakthroughs.

Iga Swiatek’s first breakthrough on the WTA stage came at the 2019 National Bank Open and the World No. 1 is definitely looking forward to her return to the hardcourts this season.

Victoria Azarenka would’ve loved to continue her U.S. Open prep in Toronto, but the Belarussian couldn’t make it due to Visa issues:

Last week, I talked about Elizabeth Mandlik, who broke through with her first WTA main draw win. The daughter of Hana Mandlikova is the subject of the WTA’s latest Getting to Know.

David Kane caught up with Camila Osorio, who battled Emma Raducanu in an extremely tight two-setter at the Citi Open, while WTA Insider sat down with Daria Kasatkina for an episode of Champion’s Corner.

I love the family circus of Tatjana Maria:

Sure, pickleball continues to be on the rise, but did you know about padel tennis, too? Get ready for another tennis-like boom.

More tennis films are in the works, with Rebel Wilson expected to star in a comedy, Double Fault.

Tweet of the Week

I’m really, really going to miss this

Five at The IX: More from Washington D.C.

Q. Obviously not being able to play Wimbledon this year, and you said you only had a month kind of of preparation with only practice, what does it mean to you to end up with the trophy after all of that? How hard was it for you to have to skip Wimbledon?

LIUDMILA SAMSONOVA: No, it’s amazing. I didn’t expect it at all. It’s like a dream, because I was practicing one month. I had some troubles off the court. I change my team, so it was not easy decision. I was not able to play Wimbledon. It was very tough for me.

So, yeah, I’m so happy about this week. I mean, it’s unbelievable.

Q. I imagine so much has happened to you in the past year. So now that you’re launching into the North American hard court season, it’s sort of maybe a calendar mark. Can you at all reflect on ways in which you feel wiser today than maybe this time 12 months ago, and any other reflections?

EMMA RADUCANU: Yeah, I think that I feel — it’s more I feel wiser now compared to, like, just after the US Open and the beginning of this year, because I think that no matter what I said, I probably did have, you know, certain expectations of myself that were probably a bit twisted.

And now I genuinely just accept it. Okay, it’s not going to be pretty necessarily or easy, but I’m like 100% okay for starting over, to be honest. Like if my ranking plummets to like 1000 and whatever, then I don’t care. I know that being a US Open champ I’m going to somehow pull my way back up there. It’s going to take a bit of time maybe, but, yeah, I’m just really, you know, accepting of that and looking forward to whatever journey it takes.

Q. Similar to what was asked, he asked about reaching the final, but I will ask about the year as a whole from the Aussie Open and the other benchmarks you have hit this year. I think you are now in the top 40 for the first time since 2014. How satisfying is it you are doing this now after having come back from injuries over the years, et cetera?

KAIA KANEPI: I don’t know. I don’t really think about the ranking that much. I just want to stay healthy and play well. Ranking really doesn’t matter at this stage anymore (smiling).

Q. I’m wondering, for the year as a whole, you have been back from your injury since the start of the year, but given the lengthy absence last year, how much of an appreciation do you have for weeks like this, opportunities like this, wins like this, given you didn’t have those opportunities a year ago?

DARIA SAVILLE: Before having surgery, I was actually really excited to have the surgery, because I have been struggling with the Achilles injury for a long time, and the reason why I didn’t have the surgery was because there wasn’t enough like damage. Then when there was enough damage, I was, like, Yes, finally (smiling).

The reason why I really wanted that surgery, I was like, This is just not giving me a chance like to see my whole potential. Because I was, like, I was hurting.

So now I’m like, Okay, you have a chance now every week to see how far you can go, how much improvement you can make. Like these little wins I take every single day or every single week. You know, today, even though I won the match, there were other things that I’m proud of myself.

So, yeah, I have kind of different appreciation for my job, for the sport, and I really, really enjoy it. I do really like tennis, so I really wanted to come back and get out and about and travel again and play tennis, yeah.

Q. Because you said the word “wizard” and you’re British, I have an obligatory question of which Harry Potter house, Hogwarts house you’d be in?

EMMA RADUCANU: I’d be in Slytherin, for sure.

Q. Why Slytherin?

EMMA RADUCANU: I just think that, you know, they haven’t got a great rep, but I just think they are really, hmm, cool. But they have like super — they’re pretty, in a way, brutal, but — I don’t know. They have got a, just mysterious sort of side to them, and I like that.

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