The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, June 18, 2019

WTA (finally) embraces Pride — grass-court links — previewing the clash of the Pliskovas

Hi friends. No offense to the phenomenal Wimbledon tune-up tournaments that are happening right now and all of the women who are competing in them, but let’s be real: For most of us, the week after a major tournament like the French Open ends is a week to catch our breath, and, if we’re living across the pond from where most of the tennis action is happening, perhaps sleep in a little bit.

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This tennis calendar is unforgiving for players and fans alike!

But, who am I to complain? Grass-court season is my favorite time of the year. And it’s far too short — just five weeks! — for anyone to take any time off. I’ll be giving you all of my grass-court hot takes in this space in upcoming Tennis Tuesday, as we all get ready for Wimbledon, which starts in less than two weeks, if you can believe it.

Before I do that, though, I want to take a quick moment to recognize something I was very, very glad to see this week: The WTA recognizing Pride month on its official social media accounts.

This shouldn’t be worth even noting. After all, the WTA is the home of legends like Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova; of course it’s LGBTQ friendly, right? Well, not so fast.

As Ben mentions in his tweet — and as I’ve written about before — tennis has actually pivoted away from its progressive past in recent years, and seemingly tried to cater completely to a more conservative crowd. In past years, they have not done anything notable for Pride month; Margaret Court hasn’t been completely shunned, despite her rampant and exuberant homophobia; and at the Australian Open this year, only three women’s singles players — Alison Van Uytvanck, Johanna Larsson, and Richel Hogenkamp — were believed to be out.

Adding rainbow to their logo doesn’t fix all of this overnight, and they certainly need to take further, actionable steps to make the WTA Tour a more inclusive environment for players, coaches, and fans. But, it is a step nonetheless.

Happy Pride, to those celebrating. I see you.

This Week in Tennis

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Caroline Garcia beat Donna Vekic in the Nottingham final, 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4). What. A. Match.

In the Netherlands, Alison Riske saved five championship points to topple Kiki Bertens, 0-6, 7-6(3), 7-5. PHEW. What. A. Start. To. Grass. Season.

Don’t miss the newest New Challenges Remaining episode, which wraps up the French Open.

Kiki Bertens Forever. (Seriously, click that and read the anecdote. NOW.)

A new WTA event will be held in the Bronx the week before the U.S. Open. It’s good that particular calendar spot has been filled, but read Daniel Kaplan at The Athletic for more information on this tournament, which will be held in a very small stadium and be free to attend.

The U.S. Open is maybe (or maybe not?) going to experiment with on-court coaching.

I love how much Romania loves Simona Halep.

Naomi Osaka survived an early scare in Birmingham.

Maria Sharapova is back! She got a win in her first match, and faces Angelique Kerber on Thursday, so definitely don’t sleep in on that day.

You’re definitely going to want to flip through all 64 of these photos in Vogue from Caroline Wozniacki’s wedding. If you need convincing: Bridesmaid Serena, and matching Olympia.

On Wednesday, the Pliskova twins will face off on the WTA Tour for the first time ever.

This week, Osaka leads the way in a stacked Birmingham field. And Kerber is the top seed in Mallorca.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Karolina Pliskova previews the Twin Showdown (and answers a dumb question)

Karolina Pliskova spoke to reporters in Birmingham about her twin sister, Kristyna, and talks about the possibility of playing one another — a possibility we now know will be a reality. Of course, some reporter ruined a great conversation with a dumb question, but that’s par for the course.

Q. How much fun is it to be here with Kristyna?

KAROLINA PLISKOVA: Yeah, we spent a lot of time together here; every dinner, every breakfast, every warmup because she is my only chance to hit on grass, so I did warmup with her every day. And I watch a couple of matches what she played so it is nice, a change for me and also for her that we share a lot of time because sometimes we don’t have that much chances.

And if I have bigger team, then we don’t really spend the time together and here because the tournament is smaller, there is more time and more possibilities to be together, so it is nice.

Q. When was the last time that you guys were able to sort of be this close together?

KAROLINA PLISKOVA: Well, we are always kind of together every time we can, but sometimes my husband is there, so not always is it that easy, but here it is only me and her and my coach and her coach, so it is quite easy to pull it together.

So even when sometimes it is just one day we can go for a dinner we try to make it, also in Grand Slams or bigger tournaments, so I want to be at home. She lives basically ten metres from me (smiling) so we both are in the same part so we see each other pretty often.

Q. The downside is that if Kristyna wins, you play her. How did you feel about playing her at the beginning of your career and how do you feel about it now?

KAROLINA PLISKOVA: Well, I think now it is going to be more difficult because, of course, more people will follow and especially on grass, I think. She has a different ranking than me, but I think it can be 50/50 if she wins, she has still has one more round to go. But we didn’t play for a while so there’s going to be some strange emotions and maybe nerves. I don’t know what is going to happen if we play because maybe five, six years when we played the last time.

Before we used to play a little bit more and we were together a little bit more, so I didn’t feel that strange, as I would feel now. But it was supposed to happen last in Prague, it didn’t happen, so I think we both were like expecting it is going to come one day so we pray for not to be in a Grand Slam first round because that would be the worst.

It’s just a tennis match. I hope we can both take it normal way and just play.

Q. There’s a lot of depth — we always talk about the depth in tennis right now. Do you think that with players not dominating, that does tennis need stars, or is it okay that everyone is on the same level?

KAROLINA PLISKOVA: I don’t know what I can do about it, so… I get this question every press conference and there is nothing except that I play my best tennis that I can do something about this.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
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.