Insider’s Glimpse at Tennis in the Land — Interview: Alexa Glatch
The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, August 24, 2021
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to get a media credential for Tennis in the Land, a WTA 250 tournament making their debut in Cleveland, Ohio. The site of the event is at Jacob’s Pavillion, an open-air amphitheater right next to Lake Erie. It’s in a fabulous district of Downtown Cleveland, known as the Flats, where there’s plenty of activity — from the Aquarium to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just moments away. In a non-COVID world, there’s so much to do in the site’s vicinity, which really could boost the tournament’s future. You even get to hear the hourly tugboat sound from one of the Lake Erie cruises. It’s something different that Bethanie Mattek-Sands mentioned and took in stride.
After getting my credential, I went to Match Courts 1 and 2 where I watched Five at The IX alums Catherine Harrison and Tara Moore battle out in close two-setters. It was a sweltering Saturday and there was almost no shade for fans and limited seating. It was also a bit of a hike to get from the Stadium court and the courts were built on a parking lot, so I would suggest moving it a lot more central where there’s higher activity by the boats passing through.
Some of the Saturday action I also watched was Emina Bektas, wife of Tara, take out local wildcard and Xavier University player Anna Roggenburk, who had the largest crowd but was simply outclassed. I caught a little of Alexa Glatch win over Connie Hsu and then agree to join me for a Five at The IX, so scroll down for that. Ena Shibahara had one of the two three-setters of the day, bouncing from two points from defeat to take out Sophie Chang.
Sunday play concluded qualifying, but also had main draw start on the Stadium court — loved that.
I really dig the amphitheater as a tennis court vibe. It was nice and cool in the humid-as-hell Cleveland air and should a Summer shower appear, play wouldn’t be delayed. I will say that the Stadium court plays completely different than the Match courts, which are your textbook tennis courts on top of concrete. The Stadium court has what looks like two thin layers of court on top of wood. It’s incredibly similar to those you would see at a tennis exhibition on top of a basketball court. It also plays a lot faster than the Match courts, while I’ve noticed that all three courts have taken quite a bit of fuzz — none more than Stadium. If you were curious on how the courts were made and developed, this article details it with Topnotch Management CEO Sam Duvall. It’s quite interesting.
Sunday saw Emina Bektas grind out a big win over rising star Linda Fuhrvirtova, joining Glatch, Harrison and Ulrikke Eikeri as a qualifier. There was quite a large crowd on Stadium throughout the day and they were ever-so-present getting behind Cincinnati native Caty McNally. The American had a tough time closing out University of Florida grad Anna Danilina, but secured a win in two and a half hours.
I’m really curious how the rest of the event will unfold. All four qualifying second round losers made it in as Lucky Losers due to many withdrawals, something you always notice the week before a Grand Slam. Daria Kasatkina is the top seed after taking a wildcard and really appreciated the crowd in her match yesterday. She also likened the Stadium court to her beloved Kremlin Cup. Caroline Garcia, perhaps Topnotch’s best player in the draw, knocked out Harrison with ease and Anett Kontaveit had to overcome Cleveland native in her opener with a PEAK WTA scoreline of 1-6, 6-0, 6-0. You never know who can emerge in these tournaments the week before a Major and the draw may not be textbook stacked, but the depth of the field is quite something.
While the tennis has been quite enjoyable, I do hope to see some improvements from a fan and media standpoint. The team should definitely take a few pages from the Western & Southern Open, albeit at a smaller scale. The only on-site food option was the Jacob’s Pavillion concessions and I can’t say my soft pretzel and cheese sauce was worth the $5. There was also no specific space for media to sit in Stadium or a designated Media Center. The former wasn’t that big of a deal since there’s enough General Admission seating, but it was difficult to die in the heat/sun and also take Zooms in my car. Even though some media was on site, there was also no in-person press option, but per usual, the WTA is killing the virtual media world. It would’ve been nice to have the option to get quotes or a quick one-on-one in person.
Though I did complain, I cannot send enough kudos to the Topnotch team and Tournament Director Kyle Ross. It really is a team effort on-site and their team of TM staff and interns aren’t above any task. They’ll help out with ice, carry tennis ball boxes, sweep ball fuzz, etc. They are truly putting in the hard hours to make sure the debut is a success. The Cleveland community clearly loves their tennis and I truly think it can only get better.
As much as I love Cincinnati, I also hope to make Tennis in the Land part of my Summer staples. The tournament is here for at least three years, but I’m selfish enough to hope it lasts a lot longer and hopefully pressure Columbus to complete an Ohio trifecta on the WTA Tour.
This Week in Women’s Tennis
Ashleigh Barty became the first player since Serena Williams in 2014 to capture at least five WTA singles titles in a single season with her win over surprise finalist Jil Teichmann at the Western & Southern Open. Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai won their third title as a team with a win over Luisa Stefani and Gabriela Dabrowski.
In ranking news, Jil Teichmann nearly halved her ranking, while Ashleigh Barty extended her lead at No. 1. In the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, there’s a new No. 2 in Barbora Krejcikova.
At the Chicago Tennis Festival 125k, Clara Burel outlasted Emma Raducanu to win the singles crown, while Eri Hozumi and Peangtarn Plipuech took home the doubles title.
Some WTA Insider features that you should check out:
– Champions Corner with Ashleigh Barty about changing her tactics in Cincinnati that led to her winning without dropping a set.
– Insider Wrap covering the standout moments from Cincinnati.
– Five at the IX alums Luisa Stefani and Gabriela Dabrowski discussing their new partnership where they’ve reached four finals in their four career tournaments.
The US Open wildcards were announced, with one update from the initial list — Alycia Parks replacing Venus Williams, who got in directly. Ashlyn Krueger won the USTA Billie Jean King Girls 18s National Championships to earn her wildcard.
The WTA and ATP’s newly-integrated marketing team have announced a second season of Tennis United, with Crosscourt taking place — where a WTA and ATP player will talk on-on-one discussing various topics.
The US Open champions will face a pay cut, but the majority of the tournament’s field will see more pay compared to last year.
Varvara Lepchenko, coming off the biggest title of her career a few weeks ago, was provisionally suspended by the ITF for a positive doping test. This isn’t a good look for the American, who was previously suspended for a Meldonium violation in 2016, but cleared after it was figured out she took it before the drug was banned.
Caty McNally spoke to Matt Fitzgerald ahead of her hometown showing at the Western & Southern Open to talk life on tour, Iga Swiatek and her dog, Stella.
I mentioned last week that the players that graduated from the WTA’s Indiana University East education program, but this article has some quotes from Teodora Mircic, Shelby Rogers, Magda Linette and Nicole Melichar.
David Kane caught up with Paula Badosa, who had a fantastic showing in Cincinnati reaching the quarterfinals, to talk her recent coaching split with Javier Marti.
Though she was knocked out in the third round, it was nice to see Naomi Osaka pledge her Cincinnati winnings to support the Haiti Earthquake relief efforts. It was even better to see the tournament match her.
Forever a two-time Olympic medalist, Belinda Bencic opened up about life post-Tokyo and how she’s hoping to use her experience to create some Grand Slam glory.
Tweet of the Week
Luke Siegel, the son of former Texas Tech men’s tennis coach Tim, passed away due to COVID-19 pneumonia. It’s a devastating end to a story that started with a golf cart accident to an inspiring foundation. Please watch this nice bit from Andy Roddick and please — get vaccinated and wear your mask.
Five at The IX: Alexa Glatch
Alexa Glatch is currently ranked No. 297 in the WTA singles rankings with a career-high of No. 102 and No. 376 in the WTA doubles rankings with a career-high of No. 98. She holds 10 ITF singles and 8 ITF doubles titles and was the star of the USA’s win over the Czech Republic at the 2009 Billie Jean King Cup. She took some time following her first round of qualifying to answer a few questions about her injuries and comeback.
Joey: You were coming back strong before COVID hit. How are you feeling about your tennis at the moment?
Alexa: At the moment I’m feeling pretty good, yeah. It was definitely a tough blow. I was coming back from injury and I finally got my ranking back up inside the Top 300, just outside getting into the Grand Slams. It’s been unlucky, bad timing for me and I didn’t really get to play that much the past year so finally now there’s more tournaments coming back on the calendar and hopefully I can get some momentum back
Joey: With all of the injuries and setbacks, what are your on-court goals? Does she have an idea of how long you plan to play?
Alexa: Yeah, I just want to at least give it probably through the end of the year and see where I’m at. I know there’s a lot of tournaments coming up in the Fall so I’m excited to play those. My goal is to get back into the Grand Slams, but I would like to start playing more doubles as well. I played doubles for the first time last week in about two years and ended up winning it [$100k ITF in Landisville]. As long as I’m enjoying it and you know I’m getting some wins then I’ll keep going.
Joey: Can you give us a brief rundown of those injuries?
Alexa: I don’t know the timeline, but I’ve had four hip surgeries, two knee surgeries and a surgery on my hand and I’ve had back issues. I’ve had a lot of injuries, so I feel like throughout my career, I’ve been playing as much as I’ve been out with injury, so it’s kind of been 50-50. I don’t feel as if I’d play on tour maybe as much as someone else my age. Everyone’s playing a bit into their late thirties now, so it’s just see what happens. You never know what’s going to happen
Joey: What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Alexa: I would just tell myself I probably should not be so hard on myself. You know that everyone loses almost every week, so it’s not the end of the world. Focus on progress and then just controlling controllables. There’s so many things that are out of your control, especially as a tennis player, so you know focusing on those things doesn’t really help. Doing everything in your power to focus on the things you can control and let the rest fall into kind of place is something I’ve picked up over time.
*thank you to WTA Communications for coordinating this interview*
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