The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, July 9, 2019

Serena has three challengers remaining — Wimbledon round-up — Coco's final thoughts

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Serena’s challengers

Okay, look. There were a lot of phenomenal stories in the first four rounds of Wimbledon — especially Coco Gauff, who I wrote about in this space last week, and who made it all the way to Manic Monday’s Round of 16 before falling to former No. 1 Simona Halep.

But we’re here at the business end of the tournament, and there’s only one question remaining: Is it finally time for Serena to get No. 24?

Of course, I’m referring to her 24th major title — the one that would tie her for the most singles majors in tennis history, with Margaret Court, who is a homophobic prick who racked up her Slam count with about a million Australian Opens during the years when good players often skipped the Australian Open. In other words: Court’s count doesn’t matter, but it sure would be nice for Serena to equal her so that the record can be erased for good.

The semifinals are set, and honestly, it’s shaping up really well for Serena, who has played herself into form and fought gallantly into the semifinals, particularly shining in a three-set defeat over in-form American Alison Riske earlier on Tuesday.

In the semis, Serena will face Barbora Strycova, an unseeded Czech firecracker ranked No. 54 in the world. Strycova is 33 years old, and before this tournament had only ever made it to one other major quarterfinal, back in 2016 at Wimbledon. She’s had a great run here, obviously, taking out four seeded players: No. 32 Lesia Tsurenko, No. 4 Kiki Bertens, No. 21 Elise Mertens, and No. 19 Johanna Konta. She’s an incredibly tricky, aggressive player that can get under her opponents’ skin, and even though she’s never made it this far in singles before, she’s a major champion in doubles and has played tennis long enough to not be rattled. Serena will be the favorite, but Strycova will be able to take advantage if Serena is off her game.

The final should be particularly compelling, no matter who makes it on the other side. In the second semifinal, No. 7 Simona Halep will face No. 8 Elina Svitolina. Halep is, of course, a former No. 1 and French Open champion who is formidable on any and every surface, and she pushed Serena to the brink in their Round of 16 match at the Australian Open this year. It would be really fun for Serena to have to get through a champion like Halep to capture No. 24. However, Serena leads their head-to-head 9-1.

Svitolina, meanwhile, is widely considered one of the best WTA players without a major title, probably right behind Karolina Pliskova. Despite her immense success on the WTA Tour over the past few years, the 24-year-old Ukranian had never made it to a major semifinal before today, when she fought off Karolina Muchova in an incredibly tense two-set affair. She leads the head-to-head over Halep 4-3, and has the type of all-court, versatile, athletic, and creative game that can give anyone fits. She even has a win over Serena, back at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

So, I guess what I’m saying is this: The semifinals and beyond aren’t all about Serena. There are three other phenomenal players left, and there’s a path for each one of them to get to victory. But, for the first time since she came back from maternity leave, it feels like Serena is in command physically and mentally out there on the tennis court. That’s enough to make another Court extremely nervous.

This week in tennis

Two good reads from Ben Rothenberg over at the NYT on two of the best personalities in tennis, Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-wei.

Love this: Former teen prodigies give advice to Coco Gauff.

Here’s a good ESPN breakdown of where Coco goes from here, which is complicated because of age restrictions.

Serena Williams looks stunning on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, and gives a revealing interview about the aftermath of the U.S. Open final last year.

The great Soraya Nadia McDonald gives her take on Serena’s revelations, and her note to Naomi Osaka.

God I love how Johanna Konta deals with the press — this time, she takes on a reporter for being patronizing.

When The IX worlds collide: The Lionesses visited Wimbledon today.

Ash Barty had a good attitude after being upset by Alison Riske.

Great look back at Riske’s phenomenal grass-court swing. So happy she has a Wimbledon quarterfinal to her name.

Karolina Pliskova’s loss to Karolina Muchova in the fourth round really stunned me — here’s how it happened, in epic fashion.

One of the most delightful Wimbledon stories is the tale of the friendship between Muchova and Rebel Wilson. (Yes, that Rebel Wilson.)

Svitolina made history.

Despite her Round of 16 loss, Barty will remain No. 1 after this tournament, WTA Insider tells me.

Not going to lie, I think this is good news: Garbine Muguruza, who has been having an awful year, splits with her coach Sam Sumyk.

Aaaah, Lucie Safarova is pregnant!!

A couple of early-round result that I already forgot about: Taylor Townsend had match points against Kiki Bertens in the second round, but ended up losing.

And Lauren Davis upset Angelique Kerber!

Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Coco Gauff

Enjoy these excerpts from Gauff’s Manic Monday press conference after she fell to Halep in the fourth round.

Q. How would you describe what you’ve learned from the experience here this week?

CORI GAUFF: I learned a lot. I learned how to play in front of a big crowd. I learned what it was like to be under pressure. I learned a lot and I’m really thankful for this experience.

Q. Years and years from now, somebody asks you about, The first Wimbledon, what do you think will stick out in your mind as the strongest memory from this wild ride?

CORI GAUFF: Definitely the crowd. They’ve been amazing, like even this match. Even though I wasn’t feeling my best, I wasn’t playing my best, but they were still supporting me no matter what.

Q. Outside of tennis, do you have an idol, someone who really inspires you?

CORI GAUFF: Yeah. Beyonce, Rihanna, Michelle Obama. It’s many people. The list goes on.

I mostly look up to the females because, you know… I have a lot of on-court and off-court role models. I would say the off-court role models shape my personality a lot, then the on-court role models kind of shape my game.

Q. Serena said herself that she was nothing compared to you when she was your age. She said it was incredible how much more you were at this stage. She was really impressed by that. I don’t know if you’ve talked to her about that. If so, what is your response?

CORI GAUFF: Yeah, I haven’t spoken to her since she said that. I didn’t know she said that. But that’s pretty cool that they said that.

Obviously, I mean, I still look up to her, even though we’re playing the same tournament. I feel like I’ll always kind of look up to her until we one day face each other on the other side. And win or lose, I’ll still look up to her. So it’s fine.

Q. Is it almost daunting to try to get into context how much your life has changed over this past week or so? How do you get back to doing the high school work now? You’re due to finish this summer?

CORI GAUFF: Yeah, I literally have two weeks left. I probably could have been done if I didn’t play this, but I’m so close. My teachers definitely let me take a break a little after this so I could focus on my matches.

To answer your first question, I’m just going to go get back to work. I’m going to rest obviously for a couple days. I don’t know where we’re going to go. Definitely going to take like a mini weekend family vacation. I don’t know where we’ll go.

I’m excited to just kind of chill for a little bit.

Q. Last year in Paris you said you definitely wanted to go to college. Do you still intend to do that now?

CORI GAUFF: Well, I’m going to do it online. I still want to go to college. Kind of like a requirement, I guess, from my parents. Obviously I’m still going to be playing professional. I’m definitely going to take some online courses.

I mean, I’m still fairly new to high school, so I haven’t figured all that out yet.

Q. This was something of your introduction to the world for many new fans, people beyond tennis. What do you hope they learned about you?

CORI GAUFF: I hope they learned about me that I’m a fighter. I’ll never give up. I hope they learned from me that, I mean, anything is possible if you work hard, just continue to dream big.

I mean, like I said, if somebody told me this maybe three weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t believe it. But I think just putting in the work definitely raised my confidence because I knew how hard I worked and I knew what shots I could make and what was possible.

I’m only 15. Like, I’ve not nearly gotten or developed my game. I started tennis at six. I’m so excited to see, if I continue to work hard, what other success I can do in the future.

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.