The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, June 8, 2021

Are we *finally* getting a WTA-ATP merger? — Quotes from Roland Garros — Must-click women's tennis links

(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. By connecting these worlds, it gives women’s sports the networking boost men’s sports can take for granted.

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One Tennis — Is it tennis’ fix?

Yesterday, it came out that a merger between the ATP and WTA is a lot closer than we think. CVC Capital Partners, which has previously invested in both Petco and Formula One Group, is in talks to secure a $600 million deal that could forever change the landscape of professional tennis. According to Financial Times, CVC would be securing a 15% stake in the venture, valuing the entire enterprise, named One Tennis, at roughly $4 billion.

Now, while nothing has been confirmed, this deal seems to be strictly on the commercial side of the tennis. The ATP and WTA would continue to run as their own separate entities on an operational front. The big difference will be in the media and data rights, which seems to be an ongoing trend in CVC’s foray into athletics:

CVC’s recent strategy has been to try to acquire minority stakes in leading competitions in an effort to gain enough influence to take over the commercial running of sports leagues and tournaments and bundle together media rights packages to sell around the world.

Ideally, this will be more than just television access and data deals with gambling companies. Should this “merge” happen, there needs to be more on the player side of tennis bundled in. A few ideas come to mind:

  • A Players’ Union: This should literally be the highest-priority for players who want their concerns to be met. Tara Moore, who sits on the ITF’s Player Panel, tweeted last week how the Novak Djokovic & Vasek Pospisil-led PTPA isn’t ready to formally be introduced, but whatever union is created needs to but players first — not just males. Items like player healthcare, mental health resources, media training, retirement and education options, etc. should be available to any player with a ranking, not just those in the upper echelon.

  • Redesigning the ITF World Tour: There needs to simply be more access to tournaments for players, especially in a post-COVID world. Perhaps with CVC’s portfolio, in both money and geographically, more amounts of tournaments of all levels will snowball into the calendar. Before COVID — and CEO Mark Hurd’s death, Oracle was investing $1 million into dozens of USTA Pro Circuit events. That could have created countless opportunities for players who possibly couldn’t afford international travel. I see the same opportunities possibly arising from this announcement.

  • Prioritizing doubles: More doubles matches on center courts and on TV screens. Doubles players worked just as hard as singles players to get to the highest level and they shouldn’t be see as second-class citizens.

  • Incorporating Universal Tennis: UTR is here and here to stay. I mentioned the Oracle Pro Series, but when COVID hit, Oracle moved their resources into the UTR Pro Tennis Series. The company is growing immensely and the tools they hold are incredible. They’re providing a lot of playing opportunities to all levels, all around the globe. Many draws can be incredibly uneven, but their algorithm gets rid of that and they should — and I predict — will be incorporated in the ATP/WTA fields, putting the ITF World Tennis Number into extinction.

  • Equal prize money/scheduling/scoring at Slams: Need I say more?

  • Getting tennis on as many TV screens as possible: This has been heavy on tennis twitter this week. While Tennis Channel has the majority of Roland Garros action, Peacock had exclusive access to a few night sessions, but it was Peacock Plus, which you need to pay for. So that, plus Tennis Channel (and Tennis Channel Everywhere), that you need to pay for. PLUS NBC!? We’re going to lose fans and then miss out on new fans if we make access to tennis either too expensive or simply inaccessible.

I’m forever an optimist, but the odds of any of this happening off the bat are extremely slim. What are your thoughts on a merger? Will women finally be seen as equals in the tennis landscape?

This Week in Women’s Tennis

The quarterfinals of Roland Garros are underway and wow, are we in for a second week:

(24) Coco Gauff vs. Barbora Krejcikova
(17) Maria Sakkari vs. (8) Iga Swiatek
(21) Elena Rybakina vs. (31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
(33) Paula Badosa vs. Tamara Zidansek

An Open Era-record six of the eight quarterfinalists have never made it this far in a Slam, with defending champion Swiatek and Pavlyuchenkova the odd pair out

Pick your winner below. Mine’s Krejcikova:

What a great platform Calm is. The mental health/mindfulness app announced that, in light of Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal, they will cover any fine against all players who don’t do their press conferences for mental health reasons.

Roland Garros continues to be sexist, by putting men in six of the first seven night sessions. Victoria Azarenka spoke out by saying equality is more than just equal prize money. Amen!

You must read this Ben Rothenberg piece on The IX friend Sloane Stephens, who shared her thoughts on the Naomi Osaka situation, her own mental health and bouncing back.

In surprising news, Bianca Andreescu announced she and longtime coach Sylvain Bruneau have parted ways following her first round exit at Roland Garros.

Plenty has been said about Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal, but make sure to check out this read on legend Martina Navratilova, one of the true OG outspoken players.

Man, was it great to see Carla Suarez Navarro back. The cancer survivor almost knocked out Sloane Stephens in the first round, but this video by both ATP and WTA players was so awesome to watch:

Daria Abramowicz is lauded for her mental coaching on Iga Swiatek and the psychologist opens up about working with the Pole, especially in light of her newfound stardom.

So much has happened this week, we almost forgot that Petra Kvitova had to withdraw from her second round match because she fell in post-match press. I heard off-the-record she missed a step at a specific television setup.

In news you don’t see every day, Russian player Yana Sizikova was arrested after her first round loss in doubles for suspicion of match-fixing from her 2020 Roland Garros loss. Nothing more has been shared, but it is worth noting that it’s only local authorities involved, not ones in the Tennis Integrity Unit.

Reigning Olympic champion Monica Puig will unfortunately be missing the Tokyo Games and the rest of the season following a shoulder surgery. Last week, Genie Bouchard also had shoulder surgery, but her timeline to return is unknown.

The Western & Southern Open is holding the 2021 event in Mason and at full fan capacity. Ticket sales are already hitting record numbers — up 140% from 2019.

Learn more about rising American star Ann Li, who’s in a way playing catchup to other American teens.

Venus Williams and Coco Gauff playing doubles was pretty iconic, but perhaps a test for a Tokyo Olympic duo?

Everyone is becoming an Iga Swiatek stan — and rightfully so:

Make sure to cast your vote for the WTA May singles and doubles shots of the month.

In college tennis news, the 2021 ITA All-American singles and doubles selections were announced. NCAA runner-up Estela Perez-Somarriba was the final No. 1 singles player for the 2020-21 season, while NCAA champions Makenna Jones/Elizabeth Scotty were the top doubles duo. Also, Victoria Flores of Georgia Tech was named recipient of the 2021 ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award.

Monica Seles was Chris Evert’s latest guest on the WTA series One on One with Chris Evert.

Tweets of the Week

The Williams sisters stole the show in the pressroom this week. Just enjoy Venus’ masterclass against the press pool and Serena needing to English translated…to English:

Five at The IX: Roland Garros First Week Quotes

“It was definitely close. I’m so close. There is literally a point here, a point there, that could change the whole course of the match. I’m not winning those points. That like literally could just change everything.” – Serena Williams

“I think that the most proud of myself that I am is all that things that I’m being able to block all that expectations. I’m just focused on being better every day, on practicing, on the things that I have to improve on court, off court, and not listening too much on the expectations or not paying attention on that.” – Paula Badosa

“I have the same playlist as in Rome, so it’s Led Zeppelin right now. Last year it was Guns N’ Roses. So similar kind of music but different band.” – Iga Swiatek

“I know that if I don’t close the match in two sets, it will be so difficult for me. But I’m really proud, too, of myself and really happy to have the chance to play here one last time.” Carla Suarez Navarro

“The legend of the sport. Of course I want to be with her on the court, to feel this power and everything. I was watching her matches when I was growing up, and it will be nice to play with Serena. Why not (smiling)?” – Elena Rybakina

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: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam,
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Howard Megdal

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