The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, October 8, 2019
The allure of new rivalries -- Asian swing updates -- Naomi Osaka on having her dad as a coach
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The dawn of a new day
Hello, all! I apologize for my absence last week, but I’m thrilled to be back and getting us all caught up on what’s been going on in the Asian Swing. And goodness is there plenty to discuss.
When we last talked, Osaka had recaptured her championship form by taking the title in her birthplace of Osaka, Japan. Then last week, she kept the good times going by winning the China Open 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 over No. 1 Ash Barty in the final.
It wasn’t just that Osaka won, though; it was who she beat along the way, and what that means for the future of tennis. In the quarterfinals, she faced Bianca Andreescu, who was playing for the first time since winning the U.S. Open, and did not look like a player who was having a success hangover.
This was the first meeting between Andreescu and Osaka, and it was much-hyped. And, just like both Andreescu and Osaka individually, together, they did not disappoint. I was trying to just have this match on in the background while I did some WNBA Finals work last week, but I ended up just engrossed by every single slug of the ball. I enjoyed this recap of the match by Giri Nathan at Deadspin, so if you want to know more, please read it.
Osaka ended up snapping Andreescu’s 17-match winning streak 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. When asked how losing felt, Andreescu responded, “Honestly, it sucks. I didn’t miss it at all.”
Then, as if that wasn’t enough goodness for one week, in the final, Osaka faced off against Barty. Compared to 21-year-old Osaka and 19-year-old Andreescu, 23-year-old Barty feels like a rugged veteran, but truthfully, she’s coming into her prime at the same time the other two are. The final was incredibly tense, and with Osaka’s win, their head-to-head is now 2-2.
If this is a glimpse of things to come over the next 5-10 years in the WTA, then we are in for a treat. And while I hate making projections and putting that type of pressure on players, especially ones so young, these three really do seem to have the talent, the poise, and the competitive fire to stay at the top of the game for years to come. That’s not a bold prediction; that’s a fact.
The past two weeks in Tennis
It was great to see Aryna Sabalenka get back to her winning ways by taking the Wuhan Open 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 over Alison Riske. I enjoyed Kamakshi Tandon’s look at why “the tiger is back” for Tennis.com.
Alison Van Uytvanck won the Tashkent Open 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 over Sorana Cirstea. The final was phenomenal.
Remember Coco Gauff? Yeah, she made it into the Upper Austria Ladies Linz (no relation, I promise) as a lucky loser, and beat Stefanie Voegele, 6-3, 7-6(3) to advance to the second round. Awesome.
Always listen to and/or read conversations between Courtney Nguyen and Osaka.
Let’s get caught up on who has qualified for the 2019 Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, which start at the end of the month.
Singles: Ash Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu, Naomi Osaka, and Petra Kvitova
Doubles: Hsieh Su-Wei / Barbora Strycova, Elise Mertens / Aryna Sabalenka, Timea Babos / Kristina Mladenovic, Gabriela Dabrowski / Xu Yifan, Latisha Chan / Chan Hao-Ching and Samantha Stosur / Zhang Shuai
It looks like it’s between Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens, Serena Williams, and Belinda Bencic for the last two spots in the singles tournament. Serena has no plans to play this fall, as far as I know, so we’re probably looking at two spots for three people. Only 290 points separate them.
So happy to hear that Sabine Lisicki is on the comeback trail after being diagnosed with mono.
Impressive stuff from Riske at the Wuhan Open.
If you missed the Barty vs. Petra Kvitova match at the China Open like I did, this write-up will both get you caught up and give you FOMO.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Naomi Osaka’s China Open press conference
Q. Talk through the match, how you felt out there.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, in the first set honestly all I could think about was how much I wanted to win. That made me very emotional. I think that was pretty obvious. Like, I think you can see that from the outside.
In the second set, I just tried to rationalize everything.
Then in the third set, just continue what I was doing in the second.
Q. How does it feel to win two tournaments in a row?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, it feels good. For me, this was my goal. Like, after I lost in the US Open, I pretty much don’t want to say I planned, but I really, like, meditated on it. It just feels like I accomplished what I set out to do.
Q. On the on-court interview you said you wanted to prove something. What did you want to prove?
NAOMI OSAKA: Well, it’s more to myself. Just like even when I have bad days, I can still find a way to win type thing.
Yeah, for me, I didn’t play those two tournaments for myself, I kind of played them for my team because the US Open wasn’t that great, and I felt very apologetic.
I don’t know, it was more like that.
Q. You had a couple of coaching changes this year. Recently your dad started coaching you. How would you say he’s helped you with your recent success?
NAOMI OSAKA: He’s annoyed me so much that it just makes me angry, and I use the anger as a fuel to win (smiling).
The thing with my dad is, like, he keeps it very simple. He knows my personality because, like, he’s my dad. Most of the time he doesn’t even really say anything. He just waits for me to figure it out. After, we sort of talk about it.
He’s not a very dominating presence. Like, this is the first time he watched my matches in a couple years, like in the box.
Q. Can you see yourself sticking with him for a while or are you thinking of making another change?
NAOMI OSAKA: Deuces. It was good while it lasted (laughter).
He’s always there, you know. But I don’t think he can handle it. Like, not even just saying this, but he doesn’t like watching my matches. I think it stresses him out because he, like, twitches every time I hit a ball.
So, yeah, I feel like after US Open I asked him, Can you please come with me to Asia?
He said he’ll take the role very seriously, but I don’t think it’s a long-term thing.