The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 9, 2020
Celebrating Pride and Diversity in tennis — Interview: Gaby Dabrowski — Must-see women's tennis links
(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. In this moment, freelance budgets have been cut, reporters are losing their jobs. Women’s sports always bears the brunt of that first.
We’re here for you. And we are so thankful you, our subscribers, have been here for us. Let’s keep growing together! Our ask today: tell just ONE person you know, who would love The IX, about the work we do every day. If you can? Give that person a gift subscription. And thank you for making sure that whatever happens next, women’s sports coverage always has a home.)
Inclusivity in Tennis
We’re going to use this week as a bit of a follow-up/catch-up from last week’s conversation.
Before we start, this week’s must-watch (or listen) is a Town Hall by Game, Set, Chat – a channel hosted by Olympic Gold medalist Zina Garrison and former Top 10 player Chanda Rubin. Moderator Andrew Krasny led the chat that was also joined by Billie Jean King, James Blake, Kamau Murray and LZ Granderson to discuss bias in today’s culture, police interaction, the role of athletes and sporting organizations have in society and more.
Pride Month is this month and, as they do every year, the WTA changed their social media logo and banner to signify their support:
While I believe the WTA can do more than just changing some photos, especially given that Billie Jean King helped create the Tour, it speaks volumes for a premier sporting organization to be proactive and let their fans know that they’re an ally.
I also want to share this link of ITF Tennis speaking with journalist Nick McCarvel, who has been extremely proactive in creating conversations and engagement to bridge the LGBTQ+ community and professional tennis. He sat down to discuss the #LGBTennis initiative that keeps growing with each event.
Players on the GLTA (Gay & Lesbian Tennis Association) Tour have combined for a weekly Zoom meeting called “WTA Quarantrivia,” with Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka, Danielle Collins and Jennifer Brady among their guests. This past week, Sachia Vickery joined the crew and she went to social media to show her allyship, when most players stay silent. I commend the players to taking time out of their schedule to make sure marginalized groups are supported.
Last week, I gave the WTA a lot of heat for their silence on the growing social justice surrounding the murder of George Floyd, but they took on important conversations in the most recent episode of Tennis United.
The most candid and revealing part of the episode was Taylor Townsend discussing the implicit bias she and other players of color receive. She mentions arguing with fans who insist she’s Coco Gauff or Sloane Stephens when she corrects them of her identity. She also mentions going to tournaments where she and her coach have to constantly show their badges and have their badges checked as if they don’t belong there. It’s time for a cultural and societal reset – and I think we’re finally at the brink of it.
Chris Evert spoke out and supported the evolution we’re currently in, acknowledging her own faults and potential bias along with a willing to shift that.
Many players continue to speak out on the protests, as well as the suppression and injustice people of color constantly face. Serena Williams hosted an Instagram Live with husband and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who made headlines this week by announcing his resignation as a Reddit board member and asking for a person of color to be picked as his replacement.
While Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in tennis and Venus and Serena Williams destroyed the white elitist narrative tennis has, it’s the rising stars who are making their voices known – and they’re not backing down. It’s beyond refreshing to see Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka leading the current crop of youngsters no longer okay with the exclusion tennis has built over time.
Osaka’s presence lately has caught a lot of criticism in Japan and her response? *chef’s kiss*
It’s beautiful to see these young women of color change the narrative on their own terms. I’m curious to see how this transcends when the Tour resumes. Will we be caught up in post-COVID-19 problems or can these peaceful protests, conversations and actions continue to flip the script? Honestly, I’m more than hopeful. These ladies are the real deal.
Like the great Arthur Ashe once said, “success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
This Week in Women’s Tennis
Condolences to the family of Edy McGoldrick, an pioneer in women’s tennis and the early growth in the WTA, who passed away at the age of 87.
Gaby Dabrowski, this week’s Five at The IX interview, is more than happy to give back and spoke out about her new role in supporting the Special Olympics and the on-site activations the WTA hosts.
Danielle Collins sat down with Tennis Channel Live to discuss the struggles of being away from the Tour, her on-court demeanor, as well as her Australian Open run to the semifinals in 2019.
Chatting with former World No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova with Roland Garros’ daily show, Karolina Pliskova opened up her “ice queen” reputation and how far that is from the truth.
With Roland Garros moving to right after the US Open, there are a lot of concerns about the tournament. Joel Drucker discusses the natural effects Paris will face from shortened daylight, more rain and slightly more wind.
Former World No. 1 and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic did an Instagram Live with Barbara Schett-Eagle to discuss her tennis memories, playing tennis with husband Bastian Schweinsteiger and educating the future generation in hopes for a better world.
To combat the financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of the US Open, the USTA eliminated 110 jobs, closed their White Plains, NY office and consolidated departments among other measures.
WTA Legend Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario did an Instagram Live with We Are Tennis and delved into her early years and success at Roland Garros.
On this week’s episode of tennis.com’s My Tennis Life, Monica Puig shares some workouts she’s doing at home to stay in shape and prevent injuries.
Sania Mirza spoke with Bethanie Mattek-Sands on Tennis United and discussed her philanthropic efforts for COVID-19 relief and beyond in India.
Tweet of the Week
Coco Gauff spoke at a protest in Delray Beach and we have no choice but to stan. This is our future and I’m so excited to see what they do.
Five at the IX: Gaby Dabrowski
Gaby Dabrowski (Instagram, Twitter) is currently the Doubles World No. 7, her current career-high. In singles, she is currently No. 472, but holds a career high of No. 164. She’s won 9 WTA doubles titles, 11 ITF doubles titles and two ITF singles titles. The current WTA Player Council member takes time to discuss how active she is with the Tour’s standstill, being a doubles specialist but having desires for singles, as well as her duties on the Player Council.
Joey: How has training throughout COVID-19 impacted you, especially as a doubles player? Is it hard not knowing when or where the Tour will resume?
Gaby: I’ve been fine. I train at Saddlebrook in Florida, and they were able to still have the courts and gym partially open. For the first 2 months we did almost all workouts outside in the field we have. I definitely have felt grateful to be here because staying in shape and being in the sun helped to keep me sane. I’ve not practiced too much tennis really. I’ve enjoyed the break from the tour.
Joey: A lot of fans don’t see the process to finding a doubles partner on Tour. After a strong 2019 season, you and Xu Yifan parted ways and you didn’t have a set partner thus far in 2020. Can you describe the search process and what you look for in a partner? You’ve also done very well in mixed doubles. Could you see more mixed doubles forming at combined events?
Gaby: I did have a set partner for 2020, Alyona Ostapenko. It’s just she had a different schedule than me in January so I partnered with my friend Darija Jurak for Adelaide, then in Dubai, she had a last-minute schedule change and I played with Peng Shuai.
The search process in finding a doubles partner can at times be challenging, especially if you are lower ranked and on the cusp of getting into tournaments. There have been a few times where I’ve flown somewhere and not gotten into the draw. But it’s something you have to do if you want to sneak your way into the bigger tournaments… sometimes you get lucky and you make it into the draw, and then have a really good week where your ranking moves up and then it’s easier to enter the bigger events from then on.
In terms of what I look for in a partner, it depends. I don’t necessarily think there is a perfect answer, but there are some qualities that my game meshes with better than others. For example, because I love to be at the net, playing with Alyona is fun because she cracks the ball from the baseline and I then I can use my net game to finish the point.
I love mixed doubles but I don’t see it forming at more combined events unfortunately. It’s something I wish would happen but right now the tours have their hands full with other things.
Joey: You were recently elected to the WTA Player Council and have been part of key discussions as COVID-19 suspended play. What has your experience been like and what other goals or ideas would you like to bring up when the Tour resumes? Do you have any thoughts or concerns with the potential merger with the ATP?
Gaby: It’s been crazy busy. I never expected it to feel like a second job, but it does. Except you’re not getting paid (laughs). I care a lot about player issues. I’ve learned about what happens on the “business” side of things and what is going on behind the scenes. It’s good to understand the other side, but at the same time most players get the short end of the stick in a lot of ways, especially lower ranked players. Personally, I would like many things be different to help a broader group of players. One thing I’d like to see is a different prize money distribution. It is currently very top-heavy and I’d like to see more money go into qualies, the first few rounds, and doubles. I think this will be especially important whenever we are able to resume after COVID because players need a safety net.
I’m not that familiar with how mergers work, but I do know that it will need to benefit both sides and be done in a way where the men and women have equal power in terms of decision making.
Joey: You still play singles where you can squeeze into the draw and still compete well against top players. Is it frustrating to “sacrifice” your singles career to play doubles? Can you describe the thought process when it comes to playing singles as a doubles specialist?
Gaby: It definitely is frustrating. I began to lose my singles ranking about 6 years ago or so when I would go deep into a doubles draw and then not be able to make it to singles qualies the following week. Then the points that I wasn’t able to defend would drop off. I don’t think people realize how cutthroat the ranking system in tennis is.
I wish I was able to play more singles, but then I would need to sacrifice the doubles side. I would need to add more tournaments to my calendar which in turn takes away proper breaks or training blocks.
My thought process is pretty simple right now: sign into singles qualies and see if I get in. But then of course even when I do get in, I’ve not been training specifically for singles, so I don’t have the best results. I have had some good wins over great players here and there, which I think shows a little bit of my potential, but to give it a real go, I would need to change my schedule a lot.
Joey: What was the best piece of advice someone gave you and who gave it? If you could go back in time, what would you tell 18-year-old Gaby?
Gaby: Several years ago I worked with a life coach and she told me, “You are not your mind.” I didn’t quite realize it at the time, but that was the game changer for me. The concept is that your thoughts are not automatically facts, you can think something and if that thought is not serving you, it’s best to let it go. It taught me an awareness that I’d never before experienced. You could call it mindfulness. And once you see that and feel it, you can’t go back. Once you know, you know. It doesn’t mean that straight away you are this super aware and perfect person, all it means is that you are better able to choose how you react, feel, and respond to something… and that the more you practice this, the better you get at it. For example, one day instead of having an automatic negative reaction to something, you can actually notice what is happening and choose to react differently.
If I could go back in time I would tell myself to be my best friend and to be kind to myself. I was very very hard on myself, and still am, but now I am pretty good at separating tennis Gaby and human Gaby. And at the end of the day, human Gaby matters a lot more.