Surprise return for Serena — Playing Advice — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 21, 2022

Happy Tennis Tuesday, y’all! We’re officially in summer mode and yes, I say that because Beyonce finally released some new music to bump with the windows down. However, Wimbledon is beginning with qualifying today and the main draw already has someone we, or at least I, wasn’t expecting — Serena Williams. The GOAT is playing doubles today at the Rothesay International with Ons Jabeur before making her singles return next week at Wimbledon.

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We already know by know that I’m a Serena stan and she’s literally the reason why I’m even into tennis to begin with. However, since she retired from her first round match at Wimbledon last year and more time was passing by, I was preparing myself that that would be the last we saw of her. She always said she wouldn’t make a big deal out of retirement and would quietly step away without any official announcement. I still hope that isn’t the case.

Though she could have technically signed up and received a Protected Ranking to play the tournament, she never entered, instead receiving a wildcard from the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. Because of the ranking points not being awarded, Serena will drop out of the WTA rankings when the post-Wimbledon rotation gets released, but she will reappear with results from the North American hardcourt swing.

Serena returning from a year-long layoff in Eastbourne isn’t new for her — she came back from a 51-week layoff from a foot injury and pulmonary embolism in 2011 at the same tournament. However, playing doubles-only as a comeback is something we only saw once when Serena came back from maternity leave at the Billie Jean King Cup in 2018.

As of press time, Serena and Jabeur are slated to play Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo, though there were concerns after Serena cancelled her Monday practice and Jabeur withdrew from singles following her title-winning run in Berlin last week. Still, Jabeur spoke with WTA Insider about the surprise partnership that formed just before Roland Garros. The Tunisian admits she’s a lot closer with Venus and thinks Serena’s older sister had a help in suggesting the partnership.

While many players spoke about Serena’s return this week, one thing is still certain — they don’t want to play her even with a year’s worth of rust to boot.

Of course, while the tennis world usually puts Serena in the winner’s circle whenever she returns, I think we should take a deep breath before doing so. Don’t be surprised if the duo loses their opening match, but also don’t be surprised if they take the title — the WTA is still too deep and as a result, unpredictable. We love that journey for us, though!

Next week, I’ll break down the Wimbledon draw and give my iconic predictions, but will have a better grip on where Serena stands in her comeback. I’m also extremely curious once she talks to press about what led to this comeback as again, I’m pretty sure everyone had written her off until the announcement.

Until then, watch this on loop to get ready.

Onto links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Need a laugh? Please enjoy this clip of Five at The IX alum Catherine Harrison this past week in Birmingham:

Ignoring the xenophobia of Wimbledon, the US Open shared that players of Russian and Belarussian status will be allowed to compete in the tournament.

In “news that just doesn’t make sense,” apparently players can pick and choose when they’re drug tested. This could potentially open the floodgates for players to be able to mask performance enhancing drugs.

Ons Jabeur captured the bett1open title when Belinda Bencic was forced to retire in the second set of their final. The doubles crown went to Storm Sanders and Katerina Siniakova, who beat Alize Cornet and Jil Teichmann.

Did you have Beatriz Haddad Maia winning 10 consecutive matches on grass this year? The Brazilian won her second consecutive and overall WTA title at the Rothesay Classic Birmingham when Zhang Shuai also had to retire in their first set. The injury to Zhang forced the Chinese and Elise Mertens to hand a walkover and the doubles title to Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko.

At the the inaugural Veneto Open Internazionali Confindustria Venezia e Rovigo, Alison Van Uytvanck downed Sara Errani to win the WTA 125 event. In doubles, Madison Brengle and Claire Liu won the biggest doubles title of their careers, defeating Vitalia Diatchenko and Oksana Kalashnikova to win.

Natela Dzalamidze, a doubles specialist from Russia, was able to secure a country switch ahead of Wimbledon. Dzalamidze’s change from Russia to Georgia will now allow the 29-year-old to play in Wimbledon next week.

Genie Bouchard was set to make her comeback at Wimbledon next week, but following the tournament not being awarded ranking points, she will save her Protected Ranking tournament etries:

Following the launch of the LIV golf tour, rumors have Saudi Arabia seeking a potential bid to host a WTA event in the future. Considering the fallout of Peng Shuai and the suspension of China and Hong Kong, we may want to keep an eye on this potential development.

Ugh, I love love:

WTA Insider’s weekly wrap highlighted Ons Jabeur’s reply to the pressure to perform deep in every tournament while Coco Gauff continues her fine Roland Garros form on the grass.

The ITF World Tour was busy with the “Wimbledon of the North” headlining the week in Ilkey, Great Britain. Sumter winner Sophie Chang was also profiled by the circuit discussing how beneficial they are for players looking to break into the top WTA tournaments.

  • $100,000 Ilkey, Great Britain:
    • (1) Dalma Galfi def. (WC) Jodie Anna Burrage, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
    • Lizette Cabrera/Sujeong Jang def. (WC) Naiktha Bains/Maia Lumsden, 6-7(7), 6-0, [11-9]
  • $60,000 Ceska Lipa, Czech Republic:
    • (12) Sara Bejlek def. (10) Jesika Maleckova, 6-4, 6-4
    • Karolina Kubanova/Aneta Kucmova def. (3) Nuria Brancaccio/Despina Papamichail, 6-2, 7-6(9)
  • $60,000 Madrid, Spain:
    • (14) Marina Bassols Ribera def. Alexandra Eala, 6-4, 7-5
    • (1) Anna Danilina/Anastasia Tikhonova def. Jia-Jing Lu/Xiaodi You, 6-4, 6-2
  • $25,000 Denain, France:
    • Leyre Romero Gormaz def. (1) Aliona Bolsova, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
    • (1) Katharina Hobgarski/Valeriya Strakhova def. (2) Kamilla Bartone/Anita Wagner, 6-0, 6-4
  • $25,000 Sumter, South Carolina:
    • (2) Sophie Chang def. (1) Hanna Chang, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(5)
    • (4) Kylie Collins/Peyton Stearns def. (2) Allura Zamarripa/Maribella Zamarripa, 6-3, 5-7, [10-7]
  • $25,000 Poertschach, Austria:
    • (5) Sinja Kraus def. Ivana Korovic, 6-1, 1-6, 6-2
    • (4) Michaela Baylerova/Tina Cvetkovic def. (1) Caijsa Wilda Hennemann/Martyna Kubka, 6-3, 6-3
  • $25,000 Raanana, Israel:
    • Polina Kudermetova def. Maria Timofeeva, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
    • (3) Ya-Hsuan Lee/Fang-Hsien Wu def. Chihiro Muramatsu/Rebeka Stolmar, 6-3, 6-1
  • $25,000 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:
    • (5) Hurricane Tyra Black def. (13) Jana Kolodynska, 6-3, 6-3
    • Alicia Herrero Linana/Melany Solange Krywoj def. Gabriela Andrea Knutson/Katarina Stresnakova, 6-2,6-4
  • $15,000 Monastir, Tunisia:
    • (6) Francesca Curmi def. Sayaka Ishii, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5
    • I-Hsuan Cho/Matilde Mariani def. Chloe Cirotte/Marie Villet, 7-5, 6-1
  • $15,000 Chiang Rai, Thailand:
    • (5) Naho Sato def. Mananchaya Sawangkaew, 6-4, 6-2
    • (3) Anri Nagata/Naho Sato def. (2) Fangzhou Liu/Fang Ying Xun, 6-2, 6-4
  • $15,000 San Diego, California:
    • (Q) Makenna Jones def. (Q) Megan McCray, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
    • (4) Bunyawi Thamchaiway/Ya Yi Yang def. (3) Sara Daavettila/Makenna Jones, 6-3, 6-4

Congratulations to Caroline Wozniacki, who is now expecting her second child with husband David Lee:

Former assistant coach Hannah Keeling will be taking over NAIA powerhouse Georgia Gwinnett College following the announcement that longtime coach Chase Hodges has accepted a position with Universal Tennis.

Last week’s Universal Tennis Pro Tennis Tour results:

Legendary designer Tory Burch was announced at the official outfitter of the Billie Jean King Cup

Tweet of the Week

Sloane Stephens introduced Vice President Kamala Harris this past week as the White House launched a task force to combat online abuse — an issue tennis players are too familiar with:

Five at The IX: Alums Giving On-Court Advice

In the spirit of me getting into another ITF World Tour event and getting my butt handed another double bagel, I thought this week would be a good time to break down some advice Five at The IX alums have shared when taking the court:

Play to win, that way you will always learn and have no regrets whether you win or lose. – Simone Jardim

I think one of the most helpful things for me when I’m playing on court is taking my time on my serve and making sure I have a good toss. Also, just picking 1 or 2 things to tell myself to focus on, sometimes focusing on too many things while you’re playing can be really unhelpful. – Samantha Crawford

To be physically fit makes a big difference. In today’s tennis being fit can help you win those finals set. – Francoise Abanda

Remember to enjoy it. And if you can go out there and practice and play and feel like you’ve gotten .5% better that day, then you have won the day! – Lisa Raymond

 As cliche as it sounds, I would say have fun and enjoy being out there. – Allie Kiick

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