The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, September 22, 2020

Happy 50th, Original 9! — Interview: Sandra Zaniewska — Must-click women's tennis links

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When Naomi Osaka, Jennifer Brady, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams took the stage for the US Open semifinals, the tournament used the night to honor the founding members of the WTA: the Original 9.

On September 23, 1970, Gladys Heldman, then the publisher of World Tennis Magazine, and the Original 9 banded together to form the Virginia Slims circuit:

The Original 9 make up of Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Peaches Bartkowicz, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Judy Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid. Links go to’s interviews with the Original 9. Check out all of their content here. The WTA has done an amazing job throughout the year with their own features I’ve shared. That can be seen here.

After being treated as second class citizens to the men, the players signed $1 contracts even though they risked being banned from international and Grand Slam play. That week in Houston, Texas, helped eventually form the organizing body known as the Women’s Tennis Association.

That week formed more than just a tour for women’s tennis. It created a dream for young girls with the hopes of being able to compete and earn a living doing so. Where would women’s tennis be if the Original 9 didn’t unite and take a stand? It’s ghastly to imagine.

The Original 9 weren’t just tennis players. They were marketers, media liaisons, grassroots organizers, you name it. They were true pioneers starting the tour from the ground up. Yes, Gladys Heldman had the tools and financial backing to assist, but the star power of the players, who sensed their larger purpose, was the true key that has helped the WTA grow to this day.

In 1971, players could make $10,000 in a winter circuit over a three-month period when the men were making $50,000. At the 2019 WTA Finals, champion Ashleigh Barty walked away with a $4.42 million check. In an open letter to the Original 9, Bianca Andreescu knew her success would never have happened if it weren’t for their gamble.

The Top 9 spots in Forbes highest-paid female athletes were from the WTA and last year, Serena Williams was named the Female Athlete of the Decade by the Associated Press. The WTA is the premier women’s sporting organization in the world. The perseverance of the Original 9 made that happen with a vision and a few $1 bills. The current generation of players know that and continue to build onto their legacy.

This past weekend also featured the 47th anniversary of Billie Jean King’s historic victory in Battle of the Sexes. With the entire world tuning in ready to demean women asking for equality, she delivered.

Thank you Billie Jean, Judy, Julie, Kerry, Kristy, Nancy, Peaches, Rosie, and Valerie. You completely changed the landscape for women in sport and what we’ve seen — and continue to see — are all because of you.

This Week in Women’s Tennis

The Fed Cup has rebranded their tournament and announcing their new name this week – the Billie Jean King Cup. King is a 10-time winner of the event in her days as both a player and a coach.

In her third attempt, Simona Halep continued to practice patience and won her first Internationali BNL d’Italia title this past week when Karolina Pliskova retired at 6-0, 2-1 in their final. Hsieh Su-Wei and Barbora Strycova reunited for the first time since the tour’s reopening to win their fourth title of 2020 over Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru.

Lisa Raymond and the Original 9 have been announced to the 2021 ballot to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Roland Garros qualifying is underway with Ann Li headlining the strong young contingent as the No. 1 seed.

2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu will not be playing at Roland Garros or the rest of 2020 as she isn’t fit enough to play following injuries. She hasn’t played since last year’s WTA Finals in October.

Caroline Wozniacki sat down with the podcast to discuss a variety of topics, including Advantage Hers, a global initiative to empower women living with inflammatory illnesses.

HolterMedia handles press and content strategy for the Western & Southern Open and shared a thread about how 2020 altered their strategy for this year’s tournament that was affected by COVID-19:

Due to an increase of COVID-19 infections in Moscow, the 2020 VTB Kremlin Cup has been cancelled.

Johanna Konta has split with coach Thomas Hogstedt after their three-week trial in the United States.

Tennis United was a winner at the Leader Sports Awards, taking home the prize for “Content Creation”

Tweet of the Week

I mean…..Hsieh Su-Wei continues to do Hsieh Su-Wei things:

Five at the IX: Sandra Zaniewska

Sandra Zaniewska is a former tennis player with career-high rankings of No. 142 in singles and No. 203 in doubles. As a junior, she peaked at No. 28 and was the doubles runner-up at the Australian Open Junior Championships. Now, at only 28, she is one of the most well-known female WTA coaches and recently published her first coaching book. After a successful partnership with Petra Martic, she currently coaches Alize Cornet, who reached the Round of 16 at the US Open. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram or find her website here.

Joey: You were one of the top juniors in the world, but retired pretty early before joining the coaching ranks. Can you tell us a bit about your tennis journey and what led you to your current role?
Sandra: Yes, I haven’t had a very long career. Unfortunately, I had many injuries and there came a time when I couldn’t play a full season without getting injured, so it started to take its toll on me mentally. Then I initially started coaching a friend of mine (Petra Martic) and that quickly turned into a full-time cooperation which led to great results and here I am, my third year as a coach on tour. 

Joey: Though the WTA is the premier women’s sporting organization, the majority of coaches on tour are male. Why do you think that is? What can be done to improve the number of WTA female coaches?
Sandra: I think majority of the coaches are male because it has always been perceived as a ‘male job’. There are a couple of reasons for that and one of them is the fact that a lot of women decide to stay home and have children, they aren’t always eager to travel and as we know, to be a coach – you need to be available to travel for the majority of the year. However, I think that there could still be more female coaches on tour and for that to happen players need to start realizing that a female coach can help them too. A lot of them don’t even consider female coaches, because they were always coached by men, so it becomes natural to choose a male coach. 

Joey: What’s the biggest difference you notice from being a player vs. being a coach?
Sandra: The biggest difference for me is the nerves 🙂 It’s much tougher to sit on the side and watch the match unfold without having any control over the game. But obviously the fact that I was a player before helps in coaching a lot, you can relate to your player and (more importantly) your player can relate to you and it creates a deeper bond. 

Joey: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your coaching? Were you and Alize able to work together during the shutdown? What are your thoughts with the tour’s reopen?
Sandra: During the shutdown, Alize was in France and couldn’t leave her apartment (except to the supermarket) for 6 weeks. At that time, she just did her fitness training at home and I was also at my home. We started working again shortly before the US swing. I think it’s great that the WTA has worked so hard to bring the tour back this year. Honestly, I didn’t think that it would happen – I was kind of ready to restart next year. So it came as a surprise and as it turned out, they were able to pull quite some events off and I think players are really grateful for that. It’s different than it used to be, but they still have the chance to play and compete, which is most important.

Joey: What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you? If you could go back in time, what would you tell 18-year-old Sandra?
Sandra: If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to focus on the long term vision, rather than short term gains. Tennis career (and life) is actually a long road and sometimes we get too stuck on little things that won’t matter in a couple of years and at the same time, we underestimate other things that if consistently repeated – can lead to big things in months or years time. 

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.