The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 16, 2020

US Open is officially a go — Interview: Volvo Car Open's Eleanor Adams — 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.

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Tennis’ New York State of Mind

It’s official: tennis is coming back and the US Open is still happening — unsurprisingly, without fans.

The USTA released a full statement, announcing that the Western & Southern Open, annually held in Mason, Ohio, will be held the week before the tournament in New York. A rollout of measures and rules in place will likely be announced tomorrow, which I’ll make sure to cover next week for you all.

Tournament details haven’t been released, but I’ve heard that no qualifying and fewer doubles teams will be among the changes made for this year’s edition. Players will only allowed to have one tournament guest onsite with them, which was criticized by Novak Djokovic. Danielle Collins, not one to be afraid to use her voice and platform, called Djokovic out for his “contradictions,” and that we should embrace the opportunity for players to make money again.

I personally think this is a good (and massive) first step. I don’t see fans attending tournaments throughout the rest of the season — or even until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine that is substantial. The COVID-19 curve in New York City is flattening and with two months until tennis heads to the Big Apple, there may not be a need to worry as long as the right measures are being met. I also acknowledge that I’m not a professional tennis player and my opinion might be skewed on wanting to see tennis again and to see the players make money.

Jon Wertheim mentioned the loss of revenue the USTA, who had to lay off 110 employees last week, expects to receive while maintaining a high prize money purse.

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty is one of the players who are tentative about participating in the US Open. Simona Halep, the second-ranked player, will most likely the first withdrawal from New York, as well as the Asian swing. She seems to be focusing on Roland Garros, still scheduled a few weeks following the US Open. Right now, she’s a lock for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, but will that even be held — in China…or at all?

The biggest question that pops up in my head right now is what about play the first week of August — where the Citi Open in Washington DC is scheduled to be held. There are many players who will qualify for the US Open, but may not be able to get into the Western & Southern Open on their ranking. How can players get a fair chance to get into playing shape, but also quarantine appropriately? Right now, it’s all hearsay until the WTA makes an official statement regarding the tennis calendar, which is expected this week.

The US Open is known for its innovation on and off of the court and I have no doubt with the world watching, they will do anything they can to ensure a safe and productive tournament. It was an extremely smart move for the USTA to follow the NBA’s lead of having a centralized location and moving the Western & Southern Open, partially owned by the USTA, to the same location. That helps both players and staff maintain a routine while adhering to isolation procedures.

Unfortunately, only time will tell between protocols, as well as the COVID-19 curve. I’ll continue to be hopeful that we aren’t jumping the gun.

Lastly, I’d also like to give a significant shout out to former WTA CEO Stacey Allaster, who is now the Chief Executive of Professional Tennis for the USTA. She was named the US Open Tournament Director, becoming the first female to hold that title and replaces David Brewer. Expect a Five at The IX with Allaster within the next few weeks. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them at @TheIXNewsletter or myself @JoeyDillon.

This Week in Women’s Tennis

As the tour is at a standstill, the WTA partnered with SAP to create WTA University, a platform was created to assist players will personal and wellness tools to handle home isolation, as well as transitioning into playing and beyond.

This week’s must-read is the WTA’s feature on Alison Van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen. The Belgians, who have been dating for four years, discuss their relationship on and off of the court, as well as their one WTA meeting that ended with a viral kiss at the net.

Original 9 member Judy Dalton discusses what she did with her first professional check after the creation of the WTA, as well as seeing the “bigger picture of equality” in the most recent In the Moment column.

WTA’s latest My Inspiration piece features Ilana Kloss discussing her partner, Billie Jean King – who she calls “the People’s Champion.” Former Top 10 star Barbara Schett also wrote a piece, on Judith Wiesner’s impact on her career.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands spoke to Tennis Channel Live to discuss next week’s Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston. Be sure to scroll down for our interview with Eleanor Adams, the Tournament Manager for the Volvo Car Open, which is rumored to still be happening when tennis returns.

Congratulations to 2016 WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova, who welcomed her first child, Jakub, with husband Michal Navara:

British player Tara Moore penned an open letter to the tennis authorities to request more transparency between all professional players, not just the WTA’s elite:

She was also a guest on the Headstrong Mind podcast, hosted by former professional tennis player Danielle Mills. If you have time, definitely hear what she has to say.

Slovenia’s top players, including Polona Hercog, Tamara Zidansek, Kaja Juvan and Andreja Klepac, played in the newly-created Mima Jausovec Cup to help raise funds for COVID-19 releif, as well as Jausovec’s foundation.

Andrew Bettles, coach of Elina Svitolina and Tom Hill, coach of Maria Sakkari, were highlights of this feature that discusses their journey from pro aspirations to college tennis and their current role.

Simona Halep joining in on coach Darren Cahill’s charity package, Taylor Townsend giving back to the Chicago hospital she was born in and Elina Svitolina’s limited edition cookies were all featured in the WTA’s latest Social Support.

Christina McHale spoke to the podcast last week to talk training and quarantining with her sister and brother-in-law, ATP player Ryan Harrison, along with some tidbits about her home life, growing up and her love for The Vampire Diaries.

The most recent episode of Tennis United included Martina Navratilova and Mary Pierce, who also opened up about her life journey and relationship with her father on Beyond the Racquet.

Katie Boulter was in the beginning of her comeback from injury when COVID-19 shut play down. She’s now partnered up with Age UK to support people of old age to help with some tasks, be a friend and fill their time with activities.

Tweet of the Week

A Naomi Osaka story, in two parts

Also, this one defending friend Colin Kaepernick was a highlight:

Oh and this one:

Five at the IX: Eleanor Adams

Eleanor Adams has been in the professional industry for over two decades and currently serves as the Tournament Manager for the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, SC. She sits down to discuss her journey in tennis, COVID-19s impact on the tournament, as well as the upcoming Credit One Bank Invitational.

Joey: You’ve been working for the Volvo Car Open for over 20 years. How did you get to your position and what is a normal day like for you?
Eleanor: 21 years ago, when I first started working in Professional tennis, the Internet was still fairly new. Linked In didn’t start until the early 2000’s and there were not many, if any job posting sites.  I had been a junior tennis player, and continued to play for enjoyment all of my adult life.  There had been a big announcement that the Family Circle Cup was moving to Charleston.  I saw an ad in the classified section of the local paper for a position as Assistant to the Tournament Director.  I applied for the job and have been here ever since!  Once of the things I enjoy most about my job is there are very few “normal” days!  I usually get to the office no later than 8:00 am.  I try to leave by 4:30 but that doesn’t always happen.  January, March & April leading up to the tournament are 6 or 7 day workweeks.  During the tournament, the days are about 17 hours long when we have day and evening sessions.

Joey: Obviously, because of COVID-19, the 2020 edition of the VCO was cancelled. How has that impacted the tournament overall? Are there any changes from an operational standpoint to avoid any future losses (pandemic insurance, for example)? 
Eleanor: We had been watching the development of COVID-19 closely, however never imagining that it would have the impact that it has now had.  The Indian Wells tournament, which is about 26 days before ours announced the night before Play that they were canceling.  We then knew that we were in jeopardy.  We immediately started conversations with our partners at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) regarding preventative measures.  Then Miami announced that they were canceling and quickly thereafter President Trump announced the Travel Ban.  The players had about 48 hours to leave the US or they would have to stay.  It was then that we knew cancelling was the right things to do.   The tournament venue was about 80% built out, so there was a cost associated with all of that work.  Sponsorships had been paid, deposit monies had been paid to vendors etc.   We will for sure dive into the insurance world a bit more, we will see where it takes us and if it’s affordable.

Joey: Do you have any plans to host something sanctioned when tennis returns or do you see the exhibition this month as a replacement?
Eleanor: We are absolutely open to a sanctioned event! It’s a bit complicated due to other tournaments trying to re-schedule too.  It all has to make sense from the players point of view with travel, health and safety protocols etc.  The Credit One Bank Invitational tournament this month is a way to bring tennis back to its fans and an opportunity for players to play.  Using a team format, with no fans we don’t see it as a replacement for the Volvo Car Open.

Joey: Charleston is definitely a player-favorite destination. What are your top memories throughout your tenure? What visions do you and the team have for the tournament in the coming years? 
I have so many great memories. Looking back over the years, it’s been fun to just watch the players grow up!  Most of them start coming to Charleston as teenagers. For example; Serena Williams has become not only one of the best female athletes of all time, but now a wife, mother, entrepreneur, and social advocate. More and more players are getting their college degrees while playing.  Some players I’m in touch with year round and we check in on each other.  The friendships made are lovely.   As for the future, we never take anything for granted.  Fans have a lot of ways to spend their money and we never want to become stale.  We are investing in our fan experience more and more because of that.   

Joey: What was the best piece of advice you received and who gave it? If you could go back in time, what would you tell 18-year-old Eleanor?
Eleanor: I think the best advice I received was to work hard and put the hours in leading up to the tournament.  This was  advice given by my now boss, who wasn’t my boss at the time!  Going back in time: I would have told myself to be a better, more aggressive advocate for myself!  I admire that in the young women professionals these days, they seem much more aware and unafraid than we were. Brava!

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 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.