The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, September 1, 2020

Naomi Osaka takes a needed stand & the US Open's here! — Interview: Tara Moore — Must-click women's tennis links

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Thank You, Naomi Osaka

After gutting out an intense 3-setter against Anett Kontaveit, Naomi Osaka took to Twitter with some breaking news; she wouldn’t be playing her Western & Southern Open semifinal on Thursday in protest of the continuing murders of marginalized people:

Although it wasn’t the first time WTA players inserted themselves into the Black Lives Matter movement, it was the first time in tennis someone joined other professional athletes in on-court solidarity.

Not only did Naomi rise to the occasion and be a voice for players — and people — of color, but the tennis world had her back 100%.

After the World No. 9 made her announcement, WTA Chairman & CEO contacted Osaka to discuss what more could be done. As a result, play was paused on Semifinal Friday to recognize the discourse in America and have the sport take a united stand.

Though it was united in the end, Naomi was the one to start the movement and Steve Simon/WTA brought it up to further discussion. Don’t let anyone fool you, the women mean business and are the shift behind the wave of change.

Let’s be clear: If Naomi Osaka didn’t rise when everyone else was silent, tennis would have proceeded as if nothing happened. She’s only 22 years old and has the entire country of Japan, even the entire continent of Asia, watching her every move. On top of that, her global reach is as great as virtually any athlete. She can take the BLM movement to new heights. For her to put her professional reputation on the line to make that stance is incredible, awe-inspiring and hopefully a catalyst moving forward.

Tennis is a predominately white sport, though Venus and Serena Williams have and should be recognized for making the sport’s current and future generations more diverse. Naomi Osaka is adding her name to that list.

Osaka is still getting accustomed to the power and attention she receives and was shocked to see her decision make headlines all over the world. The more she stays in the spotlight, I think the bigger impact she will have on both tennis and sport.

She’s just getting comfortable, but she’s just getting started. With that said:

This Week in Women’s Tennis

We are sending our absolute best wishes to Carla Suarez Navarro. The former World No. 6 announced she’s been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and will endure six months of chemotherapy. The Spaniard was due to retire this season before COVID-19 put those plans in the air:

Also, this goes without saying, but Billie Jean King….you’re a badass:

Though she hasn’t played much, Victoria Azarenka hadn’t won a match since the 2019 Cincinnati tournament when she entered “Cincinnati” in New York. The former World No. 1 emerged champion at the Western & Southern Open when Naomi Osaka withdrew from the final due to injury. It was the first title since 2016 and first since motherhood for the two-time Grand Slam champion, who rocketed back into the Top 30 as a result.

In doubles news, 2018 & 2019 finalist Demi Schuurs and 2005 & 2013 finalist Kveta Peschke captured the Western & Southern Open doubles title with a win over Nicole Melichar and Xu Yifan. At the US Open, defending champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka headline the 2020 field, which only features 32 teams this year.

Frenchman Benoit Paire tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, putting many players in his vicinity in doubt. The USTA went against their initial rules and controversially decided that those players will be allowed to compete.

Through the new WTA Future Stars Mentoring Program and the SAP-enabled WTA University platform, the next generation of WTA stars are able to take their game to the next level.

Watch….and enjoy:

Alja Tomljanovic was a guest on the podcast to discuss life in the New York bubble and competing throughout the summer in non-WTA events.

Former World No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova previewed the US Open women’s field and discussed her growing podcast, new Youtube channel and commentating for Amazon Prime.

Tatjana Maria, who announced she was expecting her second child in April, still played the US Open. Based on the match highlights against No. 13 seed Alison Riske, she held up her end pretty well.

Arina Rodionova, the top singles-ranked doubles player at No. 152, became the first player to be an “alternate,” not “lucky loser” when Lesia Tsurenko withdrew. The Australian had to face one of her best friends in Madison Brengle, but took the opportunity in stride:

The Sloane Stephens Foundation is the recipient of an initiative Mercedes Benz USA and the USTA have collaborated on. For every ace at the US Open, they will donate $50 to the Rally to Rebuild program:

Ben Rothenberg featured wildcard Robin Montgomery, who is making her WTA main draw debut as the youngest player — in either draw.

Anastasia Potapova announced she has had ankle surgery and the earliest she can return to the court is in December:

If you’re curious about the outfits and gear the players are wearing at the US Open, Marija Zivlak of Women’s Tennis Blog has you covered.

Tweet of the Week

Barbora Strycova, welcome back to Twitter:

Five at the IX: Tara Moore

Tara Moore is currently ranked No. 446 (career-high: No. 145) in singles and No. 235 (career-high: No. 151) in doubles. She has won 9 ITF sinigles titles and 13 ITF doubles titles throughout her career and has been a member of the Great Britain Fed Cup team. This year, she was elected to help represent players on the ITF Player Panel. With The IX, she discusses her role, navigating playing in tennis’ current landscape and more. You can follow Tara on Twitter at @TaraMoore92 and Instagram at @TaraMoore92.

Joey: How have you been handling the shutdown of the ITF Pro Circuit? Some tournaments are beginning, but a majority have been cancelled, especially in the US where you have played a lot of your past year. How can someone of your ranking plan out a schedule with so much uncertainty? Do you have ranking/playing concerns with the restart of tennis?
Tara: I’ve used this time to rest my body, I was kind of lucky with the timing of the shutdown as I needed surgery on my right shoulder so it just happened that I could get the surgery done the day before all elective surgery was shut down. Its been different being home and in one place for so long but I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed it. I haven’t really been planning what tournaments are next up- as you said, many are cancelled in the US and I don’t really feel safe flying right now.. I would maybe drive to tournaments at the moment but flying scares me quite a bit still.

Joey: You’ve been elected to the inaugural ITF Player Panel to give players a seat at the table to voice their concerns. Even though COVID-19 has put a halt to most of the calendar, what are some of the things the panel has collaborated on and what are some immediate goals you have?
Tara: Working on the panel has opened my eyes into the behind the scenes working of the ITF. It’s been a real humbling experience to be voted in by my fellow peers and I’m thankful to them that they’ve given me this opportunity to represent them. I try to keep the players updated as much as possible on every meeting we have with the ITF and they’re more than welcome to ask myself or the other panel members questions. The other panel members and I have sent a list of ideas to the ITF like creating a pre-acceptance list for doubles on the IPIN website to help players know what tournaments they’re getting into beforehand, that’s just one of the things we’ve suggested. The ITF has been really receptive and want to make a change. They have taken all the suggestions we have given them from the players on board and continue to want to improve their system.

Joey: There has been a lot of talk between a potential merger between the ATP and WTA. What are your thoughts and hopes of that? Also, do you have any thoughts or concerns on the male-only PTPA?
Tara: Theres been huge talk about a merger between the ATP and WTA and honestly I feel like during this pandemic the men have been much more vocal on how the systems aren’t necessarily helping players who are ranked outside the Top 80. I’ve gotten a group of women together and want to hear more on the PTPA from Vasek and Novak and see if its something the women can get behind. Its a work in progress and honestly I’d love to see women empowering and helping other women. It can’t all be down to the men.

Joey: Not only are you an out tennis player, but you’re partners with a fellow player, Emina Bektas. How does that impact your relationship? She’s also your doubles partner. Does the on-court relationship ever flood into home life?
Tara: To be honest, the tennis community has always been really open and accepting of my sexuality. I think as a sport, tennis is quite open minded on that front. Its always tough working with your partner (laughs) but I think we deal with it well and we haven’t killed each other during quarantine. Well, not yet anyway!

Joey: What was the best piece of advice you’ve received and who gave it? If you could go back in time, what would you tell 18-year-old Tara?
Tara: I think the best advice and what I’ve learned over the (many) years of playing this sport is to enjoy it. I would also tell myself that you can’t judge your self worth by winning or losing matches, I think this alone would have saved me many therapy sessions (laughs)

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 Joey Dillon