The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, August 25, 2020

Anyone can win the US Open — Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka talk from Cincinnati — Must-click women's tennis links

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New York is a crapshoot

The Western & Southern Open started this past weekend and after all of the players played their first match, there’s one common theme — anyone can win.

Now, this isn’t brand new information. The WTA is deep. However, the top players in “Cincinnati” have struggled with Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin and Madison Keys losing their openers and Serena Williams taking a third set tiebreaker.

Round of 16 matches are happening today and at the time of this writing, Elise Mertens, Jessica Pegula, Anett Kontaveit, Naomi Osaka and Johanna Konta are into the quarterfinals. An unseeded semifinalist is guaranteed on the fourth quarter and at best, only three of the top eight seeds will make the quarters. Two third round matchups lived up to their predicted outcomes: (4) Naomi Osaka vs. (16) Dayana Yastremska and (3) Serena Williams vs. (13) Maria Sakkari.

Who is doing well this week? Qualifiers. The players getting additional reps in an organized environment have done super well since the Tour resumed. The 12 qualifiers have won a combined 12 matches, with Pegula in the quarterfinals and Vera Zvonareva losing in the third round. Christina McHale has yet to play her third rounder against Ons Jabeur.

With that said, will the unpredictability continue at the US Open? There is no qualifying tournament, so the majority of the players won’t even have multiple matches under their belt. I think it makes sense that in Cincinnati, we’re seeing players who have some momentum making a run. For the US Open, I expect the same, but with the players doing well this week.

I find it personally exciting that things are so up in the air in New York and you should too. We could have a player like Serena Williams finally win Grand Slam No. 24 or we can have a player win their first title (#TBT to Ostapenko claiming Roland Garros).

2020 has been a wild wide and continue to expect the unexpected while play heats up in New York. Who are your picks to win this week? Any dark horses for the US Open? Tweet me at @JoeyDillon or at @TheIXNewsletter to give us your picks!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

This week’s must-read is courtesy of the University of Miami. The IX’s own Megan Rose was the center of this awesome profile by the Hurricanes.

Today would have been Althea Gibson’s 93rd birthday. The WTA reflected on the color barrier-breaking champion and how her impact is still loudly heard today.

Jessica Pegula isn’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on her rise to the top. The American, who won Washington DC last year and was runner-up to Serena Williams in Auckland in January, says “it’s time” for her to have a Grand Slam breakthrough.

Players including Ons Jabeur, Jennifer Brady and Marketa Vondrousova caught everyone up on their feelings on returning to tennis’ “new normal” and what they did in the months of quarantine.

US Open Tournament Director Stacey Allaster is confident in the plans she and the USTA have created to ensure a safe and productive US Open. She also sat down with Jon Wertheim for an episode of Sports Illustrated’s Beyond the Baseline.

Taylor Townsend was one of the players profiled in this CNN piece about the tennis’ dark side – betting and the threats from anonymous accounts.

Naomi Osaka was interviewed by a high schooler for TIME Magazine and was candid about how the Black Lives Matter movement was “life changing” and how it’s rewritten how she wants her legacy to be written.

In coaching news, Michael Joyce opened up about the New York bubble, where protege Timea Babos opted to only play the US Open. Sandra Zaniewska, who coached Petra Martic to a Top 20 season in 2019 and currently works with Alize Cornet, released her first book on coaching female players. Vera Zvonareva, on another comeback trail from injury, reunited with Sam Sumyk, who left his partnership with Garbine Muguruza:

The Czech Republic currently has a loaded contingent in the Top 100. WTA Insider profiled Karolina Muchova, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal last year and discussed the various challenges she’s faced throughout her career.

Caroline Wozniacki will be joining ESPN for US Open commentary, adding her name to former WTA players Chris Evert, Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Fernandez, Alexandra Stevenson and Rennae Stubbs:

In 2017, Caroline Garcia became the first player to capture the China Double — taking the Wuhan Open and China Open back-to-back. She reflected on her career-changing fortnight that helped result in a Top 5 ranking and WTA Finals berth.

Kim Clijsters may have had to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open due to injury, but the Hall of Famer still has hopes of recreating the magic of her first comeback that resulted in a surprise 2009 US Open title.

Congratulations to Tatiana Golovin, who announced she’s expecting her third child. The former Top 15 star was attempting a comeback late last year after almost 12 years away, going 0-2 in the fall:

Tweet of the Week

Hawkeye will be the star of this New York fortnight

Five at the IX: Pre-Western & Southern Open Bites

Q. You are the fan favorite at the US Open. How are you going to handle not having that fan support at Ashe Stadium? And second question, just not being able to go out and about in Manhattan, you love the city, what’s that going to be like?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I hope I’m a fan favorite. I love playing here. I’m vintage, so, it’s like I don’t have that many years left at some point.

It would be nice to try to keep winning. I don’t know. I don’t mind not having the fans. I would love if the fans were here, because it’s so special to play with the fans and they really pull me up when I’m down, but at the same time, we need to be safe right now, so let’s not have anyone — when we are all feeling better, we can all come back and we can all have fun.

And I’m okay to not go out. I don’t really go out much anyway. Yeah, I literally stay home all the time, because it’s kind of hard for me to go out.

So this is not really new. I mean, I might go to a restaurant every now and then, but especially during the US Open, it’s a hardship to go out because it’s, like, everyone’s eyes are ready for New York and they are ready to see tennis players, so it’s not the best situation for me, you know, if I’m trying to stay focused and stay in a zone, so that part hasn’t been a huge adjustment for me.

Q.I’m curious, you are the only Top 10 player from Europe to make the trip over to America. So I’m curious, was this an easy decision for you to do this, and are you surprised you’re the only one from that group?

KAROLINA PLISKOVA: Maybe I’m surprised a little bit. For me, it was easy decision because I was, since early beginning when we started really thinking about playing some tournaments, I was sure I want to make this trip.

I mean, for me, surprised that the rest of the girls, maybe not all of them — I know maybe for some it’s tough to make it, but I think some of the countries, I think they possibly could make it. But it’s a decision on them. So maybe they don’t feel that safe. I actually feel quite safe.

I think everybody here is doing great job just to make this, everything possible, this all happen. I feel actually safe. It’s not that nothing can happen. Of course it’s always, even if I stay home, something can happen.

But I always knew I want to go play tournaments when they start to be happening. So it was quite easy. I was not really thinking about it.

Q.You stepped up recently, been eloquent about some important issues. The big story of the week is about the California senator Kamala Harris as the vice presidential candidate. She has an Asian mother and a father from the Caribbean. Does that resonate with you?

NAOMI OSAKA: To be honest, I didn’t know that. There were some people, like, tagging me on Twitter, but I didn’t open it.

I would say it’s a bit weird, the stance I have to take. I’m not supposed to talk about politics, to be honest, because technically I’m not American, per se. I kind of have always been advised not to say anything.

I don’t know. It’s a bit weird when you’re living in the country and you’re seeing the things that are going on, and you kind of want to say what you think but you’re not supposed to.

Yeah, I would just say everything that’s going on is really interesting. I feel like the younger generation is definitely trying to do something about it. It’s going to be interesting how it turns out.

Q.This should have been your first time playing in Cincinnati. Your doubles partner, Caty, is from Cincinnati. Did she ever talk to you about Cincinnati, what it’s like to play there? Anything in particular you were looking forward to?

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, I mean, Caty obviously being from there, she told me it’s a great tournament, a lot of things to do there. I’ve heard from other people, as well, that it’s a great tournament.

I mean, it is a bummer that isn’t being held in Cincinnati, since I’ve never been to Cincinnati before. Actually my dad likes the city, so I was hoping to go there.

I mean, at least we’re able to play the tournament. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to go and experience the Cincinnati culture.

What do you call it, Cincinnatians?

Q.I’m curious for you, two things: You’re one of only four WTA Top 10 players playing these tournaments as of now. I’m curious what you make of that, six of the Top 10 being out. Does that change your look at the tournament at all? And secondly, what’s it like having a suite to yourself in the stadium? Feels like it’s one big apartment building of top tennis players now. They are all neighbors with their balconies and stuff. Curious what that environment has been like for you.

SOFIA KENIN: First question, yeah, I obviously wanted to come here and wanted to play. Like I said, I’m playing and I obviously want to be here, but it’s unfortunate the other top six players are not able to come. Obviously wish they could have come. This obviously isn’t the way life is.

Of course mindset-wise I’m playing the same, exactly as if they would be here or not here, so I just hope everything is going to go back and I will see them next tournaments.

About the suite, I really like it. I have quite a big suite. It’s really comfortable there. I have a couch, TV, go outside on the balcony, watch practices on Ashe.

It’s a bit special. I’m really happy with the suites. It makes us feel a lot better and a bit special. I’m really grateful for that.

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.