The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, October 15, 2019

Champion Coco -- The Race to Shenzen heats up -- Appreciating Andreescu

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Coco Gauff is the truth

Remember last week, when I was talking about how excited I was for the future of tennis, thanks to champions like Namoi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu, and Ash Barty?

Well, add Coco Gauff to that list of champions.

At just 15 years old, Gauff won her very first WTA title as a lucky loser in Linz, Austria last week, by defeating 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the final, 6–3, 1–6, 6–2.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, “lucky loser” means that Gauff lost in the qualification tournament to get a “qualifier” spot in the Linz draw, but because another player in the main draw pulled out of the tournament before their first-round match, Gauff got to play in the tournament, anyways.

With this win, Gauff became the youngest singles champion since Nicole Vaidisova in 2004.

So many promising young players in the past have been able to play to their potential on the biggest stages of the sport, playing against major champions and under the lights, with large crowds cheering them on. But so many have not been able to replicate that play at smaller tournaments such as Linz, on smaller courts, in different time zones, in these rank-and-file WTA Tour events where all-time greats pay their dues.

That’s what Gauff did last week; she embraced the smaller stage, and it paid off. She’s now ranked No. 71 in the world, and will get direct entry into the Australian Open.

Did I mention she’s only 15?

This week in tennis

Also last week, Rebecca Peterson defeated Heather Watson in the Tianjin final, 6-4, 6-4.

Even though she lost, it was great to see Watson back in a final.

Here’s the 2020 WTA calendar.

Oh my gosh, Marion Bartoli is coaching Jelena Ostapenko?!! Or at least she was in Linz. And I hope forever.

Love this Christopher Clarey piece looking at a joint effort between male and female players to demand more transparency from Grand Slam tournaments about how much money they make, and how they determine prize money. More joint efforts, please.

Danielle Collins was diagnosed by rheumatoid arthritis.

In Australia, Ash Barty, an Indigenous Tennis Ambassador, joined 14-time Grand Slam champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley to pay a surprise visit to 25 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tennis players.

Here’s a Race to Shenzen update:

  • In singles, defending champion Elina Svitolina clinched her spot in the WTA Finals this week. Right now, Serena Williams holds the No. 8 spot, with Kiki Bertens and Belinda Bencic trailing behind. However, it’s unlikely Williams will play in the WTA Finals, so there’s probably space for both.

  • In doubles, Anna-Lena Groenefeld / Demi Schuurs and Barbora Krejcikova / Katerina Siniakova have qualified and completed the doubles field.

This week, Elina Svitolina is the top seed at the Kremlin Cup.

And Elise Mertens is the top seed at the Luxembourg Open.

Tweet of the week

A tie:

Five at The IX: Bianca Andreescu

Last week, we talked a lot about Naomi Osaka, and rightly so. But I didn’t get to delve deeply into just how much Andreescu impressed me in her first tournament back after the U.S. Open. Even though she didn’t win, her play on the court and her answers in the press conferences made me more excited than ever about her future. (And I was already incredibly stoked.)

Here are some excerpts from her press conferences at the China Open that I thin you all will enjoy:

Q. What were you pleased with in terms l how you were approaching that first match in a while? In terms of the nerves, when did they start to dissipate a little bit?
BIANCA ANDREESCU: Yeah, I was a little bit nervous before the match. It’s my first match after a big win. I just tried to have the same mindset as I do in all of my matches. I wanted to just keep the momentum going.

I’m on a roll right now. Hopefully I can just keep it up because I think it gives me a lot of confidence.

Q. Does it feel like you’re on a roll? You had the big win, you had a little bit of a break, you have time to process everything that’s kind of happened, now it’s a brand-new swing of the season. Did you feel, stepping back on court, the momentum that you had built over the summer hard courts?
BIANCA ANDREESCU: Yeah, definitely. I don’t want to sound like cocky or anything, but I kind of forgot how it feels to lose, which I think is a good thing. When I do visualize and meditate, I always make sure to feel the feeling of myself winning. It’s good that I forgot about the other feeling (smiling).

Q. How hard was it to step back on the plane to head out to finish the season, after relaxing, going through all the promotional stuff after the US Open? Was it easy to be motivated to make the trip and finish off the season or was it difficult?
BIANCA ANDREESCU: It was definitely motivating. After being off for, like, only four or five days, I just wanted to get back into the rhythm of things. It’s a habit right now for me, being in the gym, being on the court.

I definitely would rather play a tournament than train, honestly. I was definitely looking forward to coming here and finishing off the year strong.

Q. Was that the first time you sat down with your coach in your professional career and watched a match, broken it down? A lot of players say when they’re preparing for a match, I’ll let my coach do it. Why don’t more of you watch it yourself?
BIANCA ANDREESCU: I always watch it on my own. He usually does his own thing as well. The next morning we’ll talk about it.

Last night we sat together and watched it. I think that’s a really effective tool because we can both talk about the match, like I said, not only after playing, but a couple weeks after. I think you see different things.

I usually don’t like watching myself play, but I think it’s very useful.

Q. Why don’t you like watching yourself play?
BIANCA ANDREESCU: I think it’s like that with anyone. A lot of people don’t like hearing themselves in a video. Oh, man, when I was screaming c’mons, I was cringing so hard, yeah.

I think it’s a very useful tool so I think I have to get used to it.

Q. Why do you think you were getting so negative with yourself? You finished the first set very well. What was hanging over your head?
BIANCA ANDREESCU: I expect a lot from myself. When there are a lot of positive things happening, even if there are a lot of positive things happening, I think for me, I overlook all the positive. When one negative thing happens, it triggers something in me. I know I can do better.

Sometimes I’ll win a point, I’ll still be pissed because I knew I could have won that point better. Even after this match, I was pretty down on myself. I have to realize that tennis isn’t a perfect sport. You’re going to have scrappy matches.

Q. You’re saying you cringed when you watched yourself shouting c’mon. Are you going to shout something different from now on or say less?
BIANCA ANDREESCU: It’s a habit now, just saying c’mon, let’s go, allez. Sometimes I don’t even want to say it, but it just comes out of me.

I think it pumps me up, though.

Q. Are you saying it in English and French or both?

Q. Chinese?
BIANCA ANDREESCU: Ooh, I don’t know about that. Don’t test me now. Someone told me what it was, but I forgot. I like to keep it fun (smiling).

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports Burn It All Down podcast
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
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.