Lets talk WTA Finals — Title IX’s Impact — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, September 21, 2021

Happy Tuesday, everyone! (Editor’s note: and Happy Birthday, Joey!)

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However, the first order of news I want to share is an unfortunate one. Adam Peterson, a renown USTA coach who helped guide Lindsay Davenport back to the No. 1 ranking before working with other players like Sam Stosur and Coco Vandeweghe, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt Lymphoma. He will need 8-9 rounds of chemotherapy and there is a GoFundMe in his name. The tennis community has already rallied together to get about half of his $100,000 goal. If you can, please donate.

I was fortunate enough to get guest access to the Tennis Ohio Championships, the WTA 125 event in Columbus, Ohio and watched some of the qualifying matches. It was nice to see a handful of Five at The IX alums in the field and also on-site. I watched Vicky Duval and Danielle Lao win their matches before facing each other with Lao winning a main draw berth, while also seeing Sabrina Santamaria and Asia Muhammad on-site. Due to the site (six indoor courts total) with the women’s event and ATP Challenger combined, fans aren’t permitted, but I hope to check out more tennis throughout the week, hopefully.

I briefly mentioned the other week that the WTA announced the Akron WTA Finals would be held in Guadalajara, Mexico. The first qualifiers for event were announced with Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova entering the singles field. It will be Sabalenka and Krejcikova’s singles debut at the tour’s crown jewel, while Barty won the last event held in 2019.

Krejcikova also qualified for the doubles event with partner Katerina Siniakova, which will be their third time participating in the WTA Finals. Ena Shibahara and Shuko Ayoama also sealed their berth in Mexico and will be making their debut appearance in the event.

I’m excited about the announcement because Mexico really loves their tennis, at all levels. Over the years, I’ve seen the smallest of ITF events in the country, including Guadalajara, pack their stadiums and rally behind all of the players, not just locals. I really do expect a great turnout for the tournament, especially after the WTA 250 tournament held earlier this year.

While I’m pumped for Guadalajara, many aren’t, especially Craig Tyzzer, the coach of World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. I empathize greatly as the COVID-19 travel restrictions have forced Team Barty to live out of their suitcase without returning home since March. On top of homesickness, Guadalajara is just under a mile above sea level and the altitude makes the balls flyyyyyyyy. The altitude is so intense, players have to use pressureless balls — something they don’t have to use much, if at all on tour.

The WTA Finals are the week of November 8, which gives the qualifiers some time to rest, recover and prepare. However, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California — relatively close to Guadalajara, is from October 6-17, followed by two more weeks of regular WTA tournaments. Then, the week of November 1 is the Billie Jean King Cup finals in Prague. Many players, either those who are qualified or in contention, are scheduled to participate in the event. To have a week’s worth of WTA Finals-level tennis, fly across the Atlantic and then straight away play in high altitude, on top of a long season away from home, isn’t the most ideal.

Tyzzer spoke to press revealing that Prague was in talks to host the WTA Finals, which was what I was lead to believe or perhaps another top European city. I was pretty stunned when the press release announcing Guadalajara came into my inbox, but again, it’s a welcomed change. I hate saying we should be grateful that we’re even having a WTA Finals, but I know another cancellation was an option.

I believe it’s pretty important for the WTA to have their signature event to showcase these incredible female athletes. 2021 has shown some impressive displays on court and we’ve never had a look at how good the future of the WTA is like we have the previous few months. Will Ashleigh Barty play in Guadalajara? My gut says no and she probably won’t be the only withdrawal. However, that doesn’t negate that the margins between the top players are razor-thin and the tennis won’t be anything but exceptional in Mexico.

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Clara Tauson won her second WTA title of 2021 and her career in Luxembourg. With only 6(!) unforced errors across three sets, she took out defending champion Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Alison Van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen won their second Luxembourg title together in straight sets over Erin Routliffe and Kimberly Zimmerman. It’s bittersweet because right after the final, the tournament announced it will no longer be on the WTA calendar and returning to its original roots as an invitational tournament. Fortunately, the highlight of the week for me was Mandy Minella finally securing her first main draw win on her 12th — and final — try.

In Potoroz, Slovenia, Jasmine Paolini became the latest first-time champ on the WTA Tour (see the list below for 2021’s debut winners). She bested No. 3 seed Alison Riske to take home the WTA, while Anna Kalinskaya and Tereza Mihalikova won the doubles crown in a thriller over Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove and Aleksandra Kruinc.

The wtatennis.com web team sat down to discuss the 2021 Grand Slam season, as well as making some early predictions for the Australian Open.

David Kane spoke with Alize Cornet in an awesome one-on-one after the former World No. 11 had her book translated to English. I’m hoping to add it to my Libby app sooner than later.

WTA Insider caught up with Emma Raducanu for a Champions Corner after the US Open champion had a moment to catch up following all of the attention she’s received.

Sports psychologists are becoming less of a rarity on the professional circuit and honestly, it’s about time.

A massive congratulations are in store for Simona Halep, who wed Toni Iuruc last week.

Maria Sakkari is finding herself in the Greek record books after rising to No. 13 following her US Open semifinal. She surpasses Eleni Daniilidou as the highest-ranked Greek woman in WTA history.

Kim Clijsters was a guest on the tennis.com podcast with Kamau Murray to discuss her reasons to step away from tennis to begin with, as well as the motivation still burning inside to have more glory on court as she comes back at age 38.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and the ATP’s Jamie Murray speak on the latest edition of Tennis United’s Crosscourt where the mixed doubles duo discuss the odds and ends of doubles and communication.

Former Luxembourg champions Ana Ivanovic and Julia Goerges were named honorees of the tournament’s Jana Novotna Award, which goes to players who show “an affinity and commitment” to the event.

ICYMI, Gladys Helman and the Original 9 were honored in New York at the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Legends Ball, while also leading the coin toss at the US Open final.

The biggest ranking news this week is Elise Mertens’ return to the Doubles No. 1 ranking, while Clara Tauson and Jasmine Paolini continue their spurt up the singles ranks.
The WTA announced the winners for the singles and doubles shots of the month, which you can see here.

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Five at the IX: Battle of the Sexes & Billie Jean King’s Impact

I’m going to do a different Five at The IX in light of the anniversary of the iconic Battle of the Sexes match that truly paved the way for women’s sports everywhere. I’ve gone into the archives of my Five at The IX and found some of my favorite answers on the impact Billie Jean King and Title IX, which had just gone into effect the year prior, had on them as female athletes.

“I consider myself a second generation beneficiary of Title IX.  The law which of course was enacted in 1972, opened opportunities for girls and women in sport and continues to have significant impact especially on participation numbers.  Now several generations in, we continue to see growth in participation, but on the professional side, we still fight for equity.  In the college space, most  university presidents and athletics directors are men.   Since Title IX was passed, the number of female head coaches and female athletics directors has declined.  Over the past decade, the percentage of female coaches of women’s teams has leveled off at around 40%, and since 1980s the percentage of female athletics directors has remained around 20%.  Women hold approximately 23 percent of all NCAA head coaching, athletics director, and conference commissioner positions.  Men on the other hand have gained many opportunities to coach female student-athletes, in 2015-16, men were head coaches of 59.8 percent of women’s teams.  In contrast women have experienced meager increases in opportunities to coach men holding on 4.6 percent of head coaching positions for men’s teams.  In addition, 95% of our sports media coverage in this country still focuses on men. Sports remain an arena of political struggle for women and for fairness in the United States and to compound the challenges, Title IX has been blamed when universities make financial decisions to cut men’s programs. 

Olympic and other international competitions have proven immensely important to women’s sport at the youth and intercollegiate levels. When the media, sports fans and young boys and girls see female athletes like the Williams sisters, Osaka and others competing on the world stage; when our US Women’s Soccer team thrills audiences with their courage, their strength and competitive spirit, they inspire dreams, they demand respect, and they raise the status of women in our society. And they continue to weaken the false perception that women are unable or uninterested in sports or that their participation does anything but lift their personal and their communities’ perception of women as full citizens, entitled to the right to reach their human potential.” – Delise O’Meally

“My journey with Title IX began before USC. I was in high school and there were no women’s sports teams in my high school and I decided that I wanted to play on my boys’ high school team. When tennis suddenly became popular in America in the in the mid-70s and I was just finishing up high school they said “oh, you can’t play on your tennis team because you’re a girl,” even though I was the best player in the area. The state tournament had started and just randomly one morning on a TV show on my little 13-inch black-and-white TV sitting on my dresser, I heard a person talking about the Women’s Law Fund and that Title IX had been passed. I knew my school was partially federally funded, so my family ended up suing the state and the Ohio Athletic Association so I could play. They ended up creating a special bracket for me in the tournament. 

Title IX first provided me and opportunity I was denied in high school, then I was allowed to go to school on an athletic scholarship. I started at Carnegie Mellon on an academic scholarship, before transferring to the Fashion Institute of Technology. Then, I walked on at USC, where I was at the bottom of the lineup, but I was able to finally improve my tennis by playing among some of the best players in the country.” – Leslie Allen

“Title IX has meant everything to me.  It paved the way for tennis to offer exceptional scholarship opportunities for women.  Growing up a middle class Ohio kid, I knew paying full tuition at a top university wasn’t likely to be an option for my family.  By age 12, I had one clear goal: to attain a D1 scholarship for tennis, ideally at my dream school, Stanford.  Having that “carrot” to drive my early success paved the way for a successful junior career, and then eventually delivered me my most prized possession–my Stanford degree.  Words cannot express how indebted I am to the women before me who paved the way for gender equality in sports, and allowed me to dream bigger than I otherwise might have.” – Nicole Gibbs

“Of course Billie Jean King was a pioneer in working for equality in mens and women’s sports.  It is because of her groundbreaking work that I was able to get a college scholarship under Title IX to play college tennis and attend USC. I have always respected and admired her on every level, and the chance to meet her and spend time on the court with her will be one of the most memorable moments in my life. Reading her book, “Pressure is a Privilege” changed my entire mindset on and off the tennis court and made me have a much greater appreciation for the life I am lucky enough to live. When you are around BJK, you get the feeling that she really cares and is always invested in other people’s well-being and this is what makes her special.” – Kaitlyn Christian

“College tennis was everything for me and I am so grateful that Title IX was in place to afford me the opportunity to attend one of the best schools in the World on a tennis scholarship. Northwestern University played a huge role in molding me into who I am today. Playing on a team, learning how to think about others, supporting their needs as a competitor, strategizing and training together, I wouldn’t trade that in for anything. These are basic qualities to succeed in business,. Learning to work together, relying on one another, stepping aside for someone else to shine, all of which are components of being successful. 

I recognized early on how fortunate I was, specifically when I learned that so many women before me, didn’t have the same opportunities. I have watched so many women excel in business because they were able to play collegiate sports, mostly on scholarships.

The women who fought for other’s futures are SHEROS for being the fearless leaders that they were.” – Katrina Adams

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, LPGA.com

Fridays: Hockey

By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster

Saturdays: Gymnastics

By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Joey Dillon