The IX: Tennis Tuesday by Lindsay Gibbs, June 4, 2019
French Open update -- a familiar, sexist refrain -- and Markéta Vondroušová's arrival
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New faces, but a familiar, sexist refrain
So, here we are more than halfway through the French Open. Since we last spoke, there have been some shake-ups in the draw.
After both surviving scares in the first two rounds, both Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka were upset in the third round. No. 10 Williams fell to 20-year-old American, Sofia Kenin, 6-2, 7-5, and No. 1 Osaka fell to Katerina Siniakova, 6-4, 6-2. Look, it’s always going to be a bit of a surprise to see Williams lose, as doubting her is a fool’s errand, and Osaka’s winning streak at majors deserved deference. But honestly, both Williams and Osaka looked injured coming into this tournament, and looked lead-footed during it, and it’s not shocking to see both of them fall in the first week.
In the top half of the draw, the quarterfinals will be played on Wednesday. There is some real star power left there, as No. 14 Madison Keys will take on No. 8 Ashleigh Barty, and No. 3 Simona Halep will face unseeded 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova.
In the bottom half, most of the top seeds faded pretty meekly, and we’re left with two surprise semifinalists: No. 26 Johanna Konta, a Brit who is in unfathomably good form and upset Sloane Stephens in the quarters, and Markéta Vondroušová, a 19-year-old Czech lefty who is in the midst of a breakout season.
The defending champion is here! Two teen sensations are still standing! Ash Barty, one of the most consistent players on tour this season! A top Brit! A top American! And yet, in press in Paris, a few bad-seed reporters turned the conversation back to the stalest topic of all time: What’s wrong with women’s tennis?
I have an answer for you: Absolutely nothing. For as long as I’ve been a die-hard tennis obsessive, which is going on about 15 years now, people have been asking that question. They ask it when Serena loses, they ask it when Serena beats everyone. They ask it when there are great rivalries, they ask it when there aren’t. They ask it when there are upset, and when the draw goes relatively to form. It’s almost like it’s more about the question itself than the state of women’s tennis! It’s almost like we are obsessed as a society with stories of women’s sports being in peril, and don’t know any other narratives to tell!
Now, look. Would I have liked it if Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens had all been healthier and been able to go deeper — or play, period — in Roland Garros? Yes, of course. Kvitova and Bertens in particular were two of the most in-form players coming into this tournament, and I’m mad at the injury gods that they weren’t allowed to live their best life on the biggest stage. But that’s what happens!
The great thing about women’s tennis is that these days, every player has bouts of fearlessness. Everyone has a mix of power and speed, guts and guile, drop shots and down-the-line forehands. Danger lurks everywhere. Don’t dismiss the surprises as flukes; embrace them as emergences worth of praise and attention. Every player has a story. Every point has potential. And the outcome of every match is up in the air. It’s a thrilling time in women’s tennis; not a down time. Enjoy the rest of the show, friends.
This Week in Tennis
Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
I should never overlook Petra Martic, but Karolina Pliskova’s third-round loss was still the result that surprised me the most this tournament.
Get to know American wunderkind — and Roland Garros quarterfinalist — Amanda Anisimova.
A must-read by Ben Rothenberg on female coaches in tennis — and I’m not saying that just because he references The IX, though I must say that will get you an automatic inclusion into this roundup.
Martic took her quarterfinal loss hard. I need to stop discounting her. Remind me of this.
Naomi Osaka was disappointed by her loss, but also feels like she can breathe again, which I think is good. I am pro breathing.
Internalized misogyny is a hell of a drug.
Where do I sign up for a Serena Williams pep talk?
The New York Times previews the unlikely Johanna Konta vs. Marketa Vondrousova semifinal.
Christopher Clarey on the beautiful partnership between immigrant families and American tennis.
Here’s Liz Clarke on Serena Williams’ loss to Sofia Kenin, and perspective.
The Serena Williams empire is still going strong.
Three American women made the French Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2004, and none of them were a Williams.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Markéta Vondroušová finally defeats Petra Martić
Here are a few snippets from Markéta Vondroušová’s press conference, after she beat Martićfor the first time in five meetings, and, oh yeah, made her first Grand Slam semifinal, too. Honestly, it’s not as endearing without all of her giggles, so maybe watch the video, too.
Q: Can you describe your state of mind?
Yeah, I mean, it’s not happening every day, right? I’m just so happy with my game, and it was a very tough match for me. I beat her for the first time in my life and it’s amazing.
Q: What feels better, making it to a semifinal or finally beating Martic?
Both (laughs). No, I mean, it’s very good I beat her in this tournament, I was waiting for this to happen like five matches, it’s great it happened here.
Q: What were you thinking as you got close? You had 5-2, there was a double fault on match point, what was going through your mind as it started to get interesting?
Yeah, I was very close, I had like 5-2, and match point, but I think she played some amazing points, so I was just trying to play, like, my game, and stay focused on every point. And I’m just happy I did it.
Q: You’ve got Joanna Konta next, what do you know of her, are you quite close friend on the Tour?
I played with her twice, one time won and one time lost in Rome, like three weeks ago. I mean, she has a great form and it’s going to be a tough match, but yeah, we’ll see.