The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 23, 2020
Title IX's effect on tennis — Interview: Luisa Stefani — Must-click 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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Happy Birthday, Title IX!
48 years ago today, Title IX was put into legislation, forever changing the landscape of athletics.
First, please retweet our tweet thread and help grow The IX:
Now, like most, when I think of Title IX, I think of how college athletics granted women significantly more opportunity to play. I want to highlight some of the greatest players who played college and went onto the WTA Tour from the NCAA system that we know today.
Jill Craybas (University of Texas and University of Florida):
Jill Craybas began her college career at the University of Texas, helping the Longhorns win the 1993 NCAA Championship. She then transferred to the University of Florida, guiding the Gators to not only the 1996 NCAA Championship, Craybas took home the NCAA Singles Championship and Honda Award for Tennis as well.
She turned pro after graduating with her degree in telecommunications and had a long, but productive career on tour. Craybas’ 16-year career included 1 WTA singles title and 5 WTA doubles titles, an appearance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 45 consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances.
Before retiring at 39 in 2013, she peaked at No. 39 in singles and No. 41 in doubles and was in the Top 100 for 10 consecutive years. She’s best known for her upset over Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2005 and being the first female sponsored by Under Armor. This year, she created her own gourmet chocolate line and has worked to craft masks for front line workers in the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gator Hall of Famer also dabbles in coaching and commentating – both on TV and radio.
Patty Fendick-Mccain (Stanford University):
As you can see from the Pac-12 graphic above, Patty Fendick-McCain was a complete boss. Following her 1987 graduation from Stanford with a degree in Psychology, she played on the WTA until 1996. Although she won three WTA singles titles, she was stellar on the doubles court winning 26 WTA titles including the 1991 Australian Open. She also reached three other Australian Open doubles finals and one at the US Open.
After peaking at No. 19 in singles and No. 4 in doubles, the Stanford Hall of Famer began her coaching career at the University of Washington, leading the Huskies before moving and finishing her coaching career at the University of Texas. Following 17 years and a 281-149 record as a coach, she retired and created her own tennis recruiting firm, First Serve Consulting.
Lisa Raymond (University of Florida)
Lisa Raymond is seen as the greatest WTA player to emerge from the current NCAA system. In her two seasons at the University of Florida, Raymond curated an 84-4 singles record and 18-6 doubles record. She captured two NCAA Singles Championships and guided the Gators to the 1992 NCAA Championship.
Following her sophomore season, Raymond began an incredible 22-year career that included 4 WTA singles titles and 79 WTA doubles titles. She peaked at No. 15 in singles and first reached World No. 1 in doubles in 2000. She won 11 Grand Slams – 6 in women’s doubles and 5 in mixed doubles. Her career highlight was her 2012 Olympic bronze medal in mixed doubles with Bob Bryan.
After her retirement in 2015, the Gator Hall of Famer co-founded a fitness center, Star Fitclub in Pennsylvania and has also assisted the USTA as their Fed Cup coach. She currently works with protege Allie Kiick and has worked with Madison Keys and Cici Bellis in the past.
Like I’ve mentioned before, college tennis players are sweeping the Tour right now, specifically in doubles. The brightest examples from the NCAA include Danielle Collins, Nicole Gibbs, Jennifer Brady, Kristie Ahn and Ena Shibahara. Scroll down to see our interview with Doubles World No. 46 Luisa Stefani, who spent three years at Pepperdine before turning pro in 2018.
This Week in Women’s Tennis
A provisional 2020 WTA calendar was released, which still features the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen. It will be interesting to see tennis unfold, especially in an area where COVID-19 originated. The current Porsche Road to Shenzhen will continue with Sofia Kenin leading the way.
Donna Vekic, one of the WTA players involved with the COVID-ridden Adria Tour that Novak Djokovic organized, has fortunately tested negative:
The largest tennis event since COVID-19 kicks off today with the Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston. Madison Keys’ Team Kindness will take on Bethanie Mattek-Sands Team Peace in a Laver Cup-esque competition.
Many players go into commentating after their playing careers end and the WTA highlights a few who made the jump including Chris Evert and Daniela Hantuchova.
With Juneteenth recently celebrated, tennis.com celebrates the current and previous players of color making their mark on tour.
Angelique Kerber opened up about her grass court career and how she hopes her involvement with the postponed Bad Homburg Open will lead to more German talent on tour.
Coco Gauff sat down with ESPN to dissect her Wimbledon upset over Venus Williams that changed the course of her career. It’s part of a series highlighting the best of women’s sports and will also feature Serena and Venus Williams and Bianca Andreescu.
Kiki Bertens will release a book this week about her career to becoming the highest ranked Dutchwoman, where proceeds will benefit underprivileged Dutch players.
Lindsay Davenport sat down with the International Tennis Hall of Fame for an Instagram Live to discuss her illustrious career and answer fan questions – including one from protege Madison Keys.
Francesca Schiavone also turned 40 and spoke about her Roland Garros triumph, overcoming her cancer and her new bistro she’s operating.
The most recent episode of Tennis United featured Naomi Osaka, Alison Van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen.
Monica Puig gears up for her comeback from injury for the Credit One Bank Invitational in this week’s My Tennis Life on tennis.com
Tweet of the Week
Not a tweet, but Serena Williams narrating Venus’ first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2000 is a must watch:
Five at the IX: Luisa Stefani
Luisa Stefani (Twitter, Instagram) is currently ranked No. 46 in the WTA doubles rankings and is also No. 718 in singles. The former ITF Junior No. 10 played three seasons at Pepperdine University, becoming a three-time Singles All-American in the process. The Brazilian turned pro in 2018 and has won 1 WTA doubles title, along with 2 WTA 125k and 14 ITF doubles titles. She sits down to discuss her COVID-19 break, returning to tennis, her Olympic dreams and more.
Joey: How have you handled the break from COVID? I know you’ve been playing matches in Saddlebrook with their exhibition series. How has that helped your training.
Luisa: Well this has definitely been a tough time for everyone in many different ways. As for myself I was lucky to have plenty of space outdoors to stay active throughout the break and coincidently having the exhibition series here at Saddlebrook where I train also worked out well for me for sometime. It was nice to compete, keep myself in shape and sane, and specially work on my singles game, which has been pretty fun. I don’t usually have this much time away from tournaments so I tried to take this break as an opportunity to work on specific parts of my game, spend time at home, and enjoy some new and old hobbies that I usually wouldn’t have the time to do so. On the other hand, it’s also been a challenge to balance the amount of playing and training, and not over do it physically or mentally, while not knowing exactly when we’ll be able to go back on tour.
Joey: The US Open is set to commence and doubles there will have less teams, but solely doubles rankings making up the draw. Should that be universal? Also, with the news of the ATP COVID positives, how are you feeling about tennis starting back up?
Luisa: I’m still concerned about the current situation the world is facing in terms of international travel and all the restrictions that are in place so that tournaments can happen safely and successfully. As for the US Open, having such extreme guidelines, and to cut so many players who would be competing in a Grand Slam, (even if it’s a doubles only draw) I don’t see it as a fair solution at all, and it also seems like a very optimistic idea considering how affected NYC was during the pandemic. The new cases of COVID after the Aria tour are very unfortunate and I hope the players who tested positive will be alright, but it proves a point that there’s risks when coming back and we all need to be smart about it and not rush into having international tournaments if it’s not safe or responsible to do so yet. It’s a tricky situation and tough to make any drastic decisions right now so I’ll just stay patient and hope things will get better soon so that we can start competing again.
Joey: You’re very patriotic for Brazil and have represented in Fed Cup. Are the Tokyo Olympics on your radar in at least mixed doubles?
Luisa: Definitely in the radar and it’s one of my goals and dream to compete in the Olympics for Brazil. One of the criteria to make it in the mixed doubles event is that a player needs to be in either the singles or regular doubles draws first. So it’s difficult and I have a lot of work to do until next summer if I want a shot at getting in. That would be amazing though.
Joey: You, like many college alums, struggle with such a high doubles ranking, but still want to pursue singles. Can you talk about the struggles and where your head is at regarding being a doubles specialist?
Luisa: Around this time last year (2019), my results in doubles were much better than my singles and consequently the gap in my rankings left me with a question mark about which route to follow when scheduling the rest of my year. Even though it wasn’t exactly how I wanted my year to play out in singles I chose to use my doubles ranking to get in bigger tournaments and just use the momentum I was having in doubles, which seemed like a no-brainer decision to me at that time. Ideally I still want to play singles and compete in the big tournaments in both draws. I try not to overthink it so we’ll see how things play out in the future, but I’m happy with my decision and how things have unrolled so far.
Joey: The IX is an ode to Title IX. Can you describe the impact of your scholarship for Pepperdine and how college tennis benefited you on and off of the court?
Luisa: College was a great time for me to mature both on and off the court, build incredible friendships, and learn a lot about myself and my game. Getting a full scholarship was also a huge financial help for a few years. Receiving a great education, while benefiting from all athletic structure to keep improving my game, and playing tennis for the Pepperdine team which was my favorite part of it was definitely a very special opportunity.
Joey: Who gave you the best piece of advice and what was it? If you could go back and tell 18-year-old Luisa advice, what would you tell her?
Luisa: It’s tough to choose the best piece of advice ever, but I’d say a pretty good one my parents taught me is to always do the best as I can in whatever I choose to do, no matter what it is, just give it a 100%. It might be cliche but it’s good to have that in the back of my head and try to live by this mentality.
I would tell my younger self to not stress too much about big decisions and things that seem overwhelming in the moment. Everything passes and will fall into place eventually, so the least you stress about something, specially if it’s out of your control the better you will handle the lows in life. The same way you need to try to stay hopeful in the tough times, always remember to celebrate and enjoy the good times and small wins.