The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, June 25, 2019

Wimbledon prep — must-click links — Ash Barty's thoughts on being the new No. 1

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Wimbledon favorites?

So. Hi. I know we just finished the French Open, and haven’t even processed the new world where Ash Barty is a major champion, but I have some news: Wimbledon begins in five days. That is not many days!

You all know how I feel about the “WTA is in chaos” hysteria that boils over at every tournament these days, but I’m going to be straight with you all: I have absolutely no clue who is going to win Wimbledon, and anyone who even pretends to be certain is a fool.

Serena Williams has not looked her best all year long, and she didn’t play a warm-up tournament, which honestly, seems like an odd decision given her lack of match play this year, and the fact that this late in her career, it’s not as easy to flip that competitive switch in majors as it once was.

Angelique Kerber is the defending champion — I know, I honestly forgot that, too, until I was prepping this newsletter — and she looked in pretty good form last week in Mallorca, where she lost a tight match in the semis to Belinda Bencic. If Petra Kvitova is healthy enough, she’s a legitimate threat, obviously.

Ash Barty, Birmingham champion and the new WTA No. 1, should be a big favorite at the All England Club, and Naomi Osaka might be feeling downright loose now that she’s lost that crown. Any other player in the Top 10 has a legitimate shot, too: Karolina Pliskova, Kiki Bertens, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens, and Aryna Sabalenka. (Okay, actually, now that I think about it, I feel fairly safe crossing Sabalenka off this list given her lack of form this year.)

Looking outside the Top 10 and Serena, I’d say my five biggest threats are: Belinda Bencic, Madison Keys, Donna Vekic, Sofia Kenin, and Victoria Azarenka. How confident am I that the winner will come from one of those 15? Only about 85%, hahaha. The depth is absurd, honestly.

We’ll know more when the draw is set and the last-minute withdrawals come through. But, although I don’t have the slightest clue what will happen, I couldn’t be more excited for Wimbledon to get started. It truly is my favorite tournament of the year.

This Week in Tennis

Sofia Kenin won Mallorca!

Love this by Ben Rothenberg on Noah Rubin’s “Behind the Racquet” Instagram series, which does often feature WTA players so it’s worth a mention here.

Here’s Tumaini Carayol on Maria Sharapova’s recent struggles and uncertain future.

Serena Williams is on the Wheaties box, and honestly, it’s about damn time.


Bianca Andreescu has withdrawn from Wimbledon, which is highly disappointing. I miss her.

A must-read on Fran Jones, an 18-year-old Brit in the Wimbledon qualifying tournament who has eight fingers and seven toes.

New life goal: Get photobombed by Venus Williams.

Last week, I talked a lot about the battle of the Pliskovas. Well, the match was incredibly close, and the underdog sister, Kristyna, ended up taking down the former No. 1 Karolina.

The WTA has a new partnership with Amazon.

Everyone is enjoying the #BartyParty.

In an excerpt from his new book, Sascha Bajin opens up about working with Naomi Osaka.

Barty talks with Courtney Nguyen at WTA Insider about No. 1.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Ash Barty on becoming No. 1

Here are some good excerpts from Barty’s press conference after winning Birmingham and becoming the new WTA No. 1.

Q. And obviously the second Australian to reach the No. 1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley. What in particular does that mean to you?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: Oh it’s just been the most amazing journey for myself and my team and we’ve got to this point by doing all the small things right and I think we will continue to try and do that. But it’s certainly just been the most amazing month of tennis for us and really an amazing three years.

Q. Can you cast your mind back to 2016 and did you have a plan like this, or has it just gone beyond your expectations?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: (Smiling) We had a very vague plan to try and get back in obviously to the rhythm of it and to playing again. But certainly not for it to happen this quickly. It is always a goal to try and be the best. It’s ultimately why we train, why we compete and play, but for it to happen in this way has been amazing. It’s a testament to all of my team who have put so much time and invested so much passion and energy into my career and try and make me the best that I can be.

Q. What was the difference in terms of the feelings in clinching match-point in winning the French Open compared today clinching match-point and rising to world No. 1? How different did they feel and maybe can you say was one better than the other?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: Very different feelings. I think very unique feelings, both of them. But really hard to put into words, I think. Particularly at the French, it was just, it felt like a whirlwind. And this week felt more like a regular week if there’s such a thing just to try and go about things the right way and be really process-based.

But, yeah, I mean, it’s just hard to put into words what we have been able to achieve over the last few years and to be where we are now is just incredible.

Q. Has it sunk in yet that you are, or what is it like to be the same status now as your friend and mentor, Evonne Goolagong? Has that sunk in for you?
ASHLEIGH BARTY: I think I’m nowhere near her status. To be mentioned in the same sentence is incredible. Evonne, she’s an amazing human being and has set the tone for so many Australians and so many indigenous Australians around our country and around the world, she is an amazing person. And what she has done in her career was incredible and what she continues to do off the court for us as a sport is amazing.

But to have her as a friend is amazing and I’m sure that I will be able to chat to her in the next few days and yes, just I mean chatted through all of it.

Q. What does this change for you this new ranking?
ASHLEIGH BARTY: (Laughing) Nothing. Nothing at all. It’s an amazing place to be in but certainly nothing changes.

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.