The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 2, 2020

WTA's silence on BLM speaks volumes — Interview: Alla Kudryavtseva — Must-see women's tennis links

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#BlackLivesMatter: Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff speak out, while the WTA stays silent.

It’s hard for me to write about tennis in today’s climate. There are way too many more important conversations to have. Please click on this list and see where you can best help out protesters in your area and beyond.

As many take a break from social media and work through the #BlackoutTuesday campaign, I still can’t help but be shocked that the WTA has yet to address the George Floyd and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The only action the tour has taken has been reposting Frances Tiafoe and Ayan Broomfield’s video where they compiled players, coaches and executives of color to put their racquets down and their hands up to spread awareness:

I searched the WTA statements and they’ve had their thoughts on Raymond Moore’s comments in Indian Wells, the misogyny by Sergiy Stakhovsky, Roland Garros’s sexist semifinal scheduling, among many other examples of significantly less magnitude. To me, no statement from the premier women’s sporting organizing body where the majority of their greatest players and biggest future stars are all women of color is inexcusable.

A spokesperson from the WTA did not immediately respond to an inquiry on this. We will update on our Twitter account, @TheIXNewsletter, if that changes.

The WTA was created and built as a peaceful protest against pay inequality and for them to not take initiative is a slap in the face to the players of color on tour. Do they have to wait for other competitors to give their two cents before they can hop on the bandwagon?

Let me be clear: White elitism runs thick through tennis’ blood and history, but the longer the WTA remains silent, the longer they stay complicit.

In my opinion, the only bright spot in tennis as the world reels in the murder of George Floyd has been the emergence of activism from Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff.

In a sensitive time where Black voices constantly go unheard, to have two of the game’s brightest young stars go against the norm and dedicate their platform to protest in person and online is monumental. Their fellow players of color have also made sure to not be silent and support on their own platforms:

The quicker we acknowledge the disparities minorities face on and off of the court, the better off society will be. I’ll end this week by asking you to check out some of the work WTA players of color are doing off-court to make the world a better place:

Chanda Rubin created her Foundation, which then funded ITF Junior Circuit tournaments around the South to give low-ranked, but promising juniors access to tournaments and build enough points to play Grand Slams.

The Sloane Stephens Foundation’s three pillars focus on tennis, education and community engagement for the underprivileged.

The Zina Garrison Academy offers 45 weeks of free instruction to children in the Houston area. Since 1993, the ZGA has impacted over 50,000 children.

Madison Keys’ Kindness Wins organization aims to positively impact society through kindness-driven partnerships and promoting kindness movements on social media and in the community.

This Week in Women’s Tennis

The Western & Southern Open may have their 2020 edition moved to New York, just before the US Open, so players can stay in one area throughout their stay in the United States. The US Open is starting to explore all of their operational options to safely and effectively host the Grand Slam on time.

Recently, I discussed how doubles needs to be better promoted. Not long after, Marion Bartoli discussed that the tour should cut more doubles to better fund singles players, among other comments on doubles specialists. Scroll down for Alla Kudryavtseva’s exclusive thoughts on her statement.

Billie Jean King hosted her 22nd BJK Power Hour virtually with some of the game’s top rising juniors and current professionals on knowing their “why?” and “how?” and using their platform for greater good.

ITF players Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett collaborated to create the £30,000 Progress Tour Women’s Championships including some of Britain’s best talent next month.

Victoria Azarenka and Monica Puig took part in Peloton’s All-Star Ride, pedaling to have Peloton donate one million meals to the Food Bank for New York City.

Serena Williams played with a blacked out Wilson prototype for the first time in her 25-year career. She spoke to Complex about her love for newer technology and maintaining social distancing as a businesswoman and athlete.

Garbine Muguruza is penning a column for Vogue Spain and her debut article details her thoughts throughout quarantine and what goals she has following the tour’s return. The two-time Grand Slam champion was also a featured guest on the past episode of Tennis United, where Sania Mirza also made an appearance.

Petra Kvitova won a local exhibition tournament in Prague, defeating Karolina Muchova.

Venus Williams’ CBS show Game On! with Rob Gronkowski, premiered Wednesday, with the former World No. 1 opening more about working with the NFL star to Gayle King on CBS This Morning.

Monica Puig, out of action since October following elbow surgery, is excited to test her game in a few weeks at the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston. Local native Shelby Rogers also expressed her excitement during her appearance on Tennis Channel Live.

In the WTA’s Best of Social roundup, Marion Bartoli announced her first pregnancy, while other players shared their thoughts on missing out on this year’s Roland Garros.

The WTA highlighted France’s most recent Roland Garros champion, Mary Pierce, won the singles and doubles titles in 2000.

Tweet of the Week

I’m more than hopeful if our future generation is full of Coco Gauffs.

Five at the IX: Alla Kudryavtseva

Alla Kudryavtseva is a Russian tennis player with 1 WTA singles title, 2 ITF singles titles, 9 WTA doubles titles and 15 ITF doubles titles under her belt. She peaked at No. 56 in singles and No. 15 in doubles and participated in the 2014 WTA Finals. Beginning her comeback from maternity leave, she sits down to discuss her comeback, goals, her online doubles module and her opinion on Marion Bartoli’s comments.

Joey: You’ve started your comeback from maternity leave in the Fall and only had a few tournaments under your belt before COVID-19 stopped the Tour. How are you feeling now and do you have any specific goals or a timeline?
Alla: I want to be ready to play whenever the tour resumes. I have been taking care of my son full time, therefore I didn’t have the same opportunities to work out and stay fit as some of the other girls, so I anticipate it will be difficult. But I believe my experience will help me get back into the swing of things faster and smoother than most. I try not to put any pressure on myself and have no timelines, I just want to enjoy tennis and hopefully make some money. My number one goal is by the end of my special ranking allowance to be able to play Grand Slams in doubles. I think it’s a realistic and achievable goal, just the way I like my goals to be.

Joey: One of the projects you’ve been working on is your online doubles seminar. How has that gone and have you received any feedback from your fellow players?
Alla: We are on module 5 of 7, so it’s been going pretty well. I’ve ran into some technical difficulties in the beginning, but now I think I have a good grip on it. I have a lot of information I want to share but again, with my son running around it isn’t always easy to find time. I have a lot of positive feedback from coaches and players. Overall it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

Joey: You’ve thrown your name in the ring to run for a spot on the newly-created ITF Player’s Council. What are some of the biggest and easiest changes they need to make?Alla: Well, it actually wasn’t me who has thrown my name into the ring, but a friend of mine, who thought I would be good at it. I think she is right. I have a lot of experiences on both tours (WTA and ITF) . I’ve been around long enough to see some positive changes on the WTA side and I know how much effort on the player’s side it took to see those changes implemented. So, I am not going to the ITF demanding salaries and free airfare sponsorships for all players. I want to be taken seriously. In the long run, I want to see increase in prize-money on all levels, more tournaments in the calendar and different formula for prize-money distribution. But post-Covid-19, my number one goal is removal of the fees for physical therapy, for not staying at the official hotels and for getting into a WTA tournament (on the women’s side). I also think “looking for doubles list” and “looking for roommate lists” are very easy and could help. More tournaments with hospitality could help both the players financially and to keep sanitary and safe environments for everyone involved in running a tournament. 

Joey: You’re one of the few players to take advantage of the WTA’s partnerships with both IU East and Harvard Business School. What are your hopes following your retirement? Do you want to stay in tennis and coach or move into the business side of things?
Alla: I want to help grow the sport and I hope I’ll be able to find a role in any of the tennis governing bodies that will help me achieve the dream of thousands of players making a living playing tennis. But if I can’t find such role, I want to open my own business. Everyone keeps telling me I am not going to be happy at a 9-5 job, so owning a business is what I will pursue unless I can find something inspiring within tennis industry. 

Joey: What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received and who gave it? If you could go back in time, what would you tell 18-year-old Alla?
Alla: The greatest piece of advice I’ve ever gotten was from my father. He told me to never limit my self identity to only a tennis player. He always encouraged me to read, study and grow as a person.

If I could go back in time I would tell my 18 year old self to let go of losses faster and to treat everything about tennis as a business, except for the game itself. The game is beautiful; the ups, the downs, the “c’moooons” on top of your lungs, even the broken rackets and tears after losses. In the end of your career they don’t sting anymore. You are left with mostly good feelings and emotions. But everything else is hard; the travel, the coaches, the agents, the doubles partners, who dump you midway through the season. I always tried to be nice and fair, because that’s how I want to be treated. But for most of the people surrounding tennis, it’s business, so I wish I treated it the same way. I’d have a lot less trust issues and probably two times more money by now. 

Since I delayed this response, I would like to make a comment on Marion Bartoli’s recent statement. NO ONE who plays doubles only travels with a team of 6 people. Eliminating doubles to help lower ranked player is like taking money from poor and giving it to impoverished. It doesn’t solve anything. Currently, the Grand Slam champion is making 65 times more money than someone who lost in the first round of a grand slam in singles. 65 times more money for winning 6 matches. At the International-level WTA event ,the winner gets 21 times more. And this continues all the way to $15k-level events. If you are looking for answers these are your answers. This is the way more players will make a decent living playing tennis, not taking the jobs from a few doubles specialist. 

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 High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.