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The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Aug. 30, 2022

Happy Tennis Tuesday, y’all! Honestly, how the hell is the end of August (and the US Open) already here!?

Let me preface what you’re about to read that I did my US Open predictions before the start of play yesterday — namely before Daria Snigur caused the upset of the tournament by knocking out Simona Halep for her first-ever WTA main draw win. It wasn’t the only Day 1 upset with Daria Kasatkina — winner of two WTA titles this summer alone — losing in three sets to Harriet Dart.

However, opening action was finished with perhaps the liveliest match we’ll possibly ever see in Serena Williams’ straight-setter over Danka Kovinic. I admit, I cried watching ESPN’s pre-match coverage as it was hitting me that I was about to witness my greatest inspiration’s first chapter ending. Fortunately — for me and you — that wasn’t the case. Instead, I get to make you laugh with my iconic predictions.

Here we go!

First Quarter: Iga or bust?

Though the summer might not have shown it, Iga Swiatek is still by far the No. 1 player on the WTA Tour. It’s hard to bet against the Pole. With that being said, while she’s done a round better with every year, she’s only playing her fourth senior US Open. Being the No. 1 seed has it’s pressures and while she won Roland Garros, she faltered early at Wimbledon and had early losses in both Toronto and Cincinnati. A potential second round clash with 2017 champion Sloane Stephens could be an upset given their tight tussle in Cincinnati only two weeks ago. Should she advance there, some big hitters can await in Amanda Anisimova, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko. Speaking of Ostapenko, I see her bowing out in the opening round to Zheng Qinwen, who is constantly looming for seeds and very much capable of a big run. Someone not mentioned yet and projected to face Swiatek in the quarters? Jessica Pegula. The No. 1 American is scarily consistent and I expect this tournament to be no exception. I’ll even go on a limb and say New York is where Pegula reaches her first Grand Slam semi.

Quarter 2: Can Emma Raducanu repeat?

I’ll answer that question off the bat — no. A first round opponent in Alize Cornet is a nightmare at a Grand Slam. Cornet stunned Swiatek at Wimbledon and has also defeated Grand Slam winners like Serena Williams and Simona Halep. Though I wouldn’t be shocked at the first round upset, most of my being says Raducanu somehow emerges out of that one, but I watched Taylor Townsend practice in Cincinnati and she was looking gooooooood. She stunned Halep just a few years ago and I think her best tennis is in front of her. Belarussians Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka are in this section and are for sure hungry to tear through Grand Slam play after being banned from Wimbledon. Speaking of, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina is here too and nobody is talking about her. Actually, as I go through it, this quarter is stacked. Naomi Osaka faces Danielle Collins in the first round and Venus Williams, Karolina Pliskova and Paula Badosa all have their berths here too. There’s a lot of potential here and as often as I make fun of my predictions, I actually have no idea. I know Rybakina is really keen on proving Wimbledon wasn’t a fluke, so perhaps pencil a second week run for her. The only thing certain is that — at least to me — the seedings will not hold up here.

Quarter 3: Summer Queens Galore

Pretty much anyone who had a solid summer and/or won a title the last month is sitting pretty here. Simona Halep won Toronto (over Beatriz Haddad Maia), Caroline Garcia won Cincinnati and Warsaw. Madison Keys showed some stellar ballstriking in Cincinnati and then you can filter in players like 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu, Coco Gauff and a very underrated No. 3 seed in Maria Sakkari. Alison Riske-Amritraj is also someone who can produce a deep run out of nowhere. Simona Halep is perhaps the clear favorite to emerge from the entire bottom half, but she’s historically not done well in New York. She’s made it past the fourth round twice and not since 2016. She’s had Coco Gauff’s number on the court, but I think this is the tournament that changes. I also foresee Caroline Garcia to continue the momentum she’s had as of late. Haddad Maia is playing her career-best tennis, but has never made it past the second round of a Slam. A potential second-round date with Andreescu looms, but if she gets past that, I think she’d be feeling she’s playing with house money and can continue the destruction she’s made since June. There’s a lot to think about from this section, but Halep and Garcia are by far the frontrunners.

Quarter 4: All Eyes on Serena

Of course, when the draw was revealed, we all fixated to where Serena Williams will end up for her final tournament. Unfortunately, it was pretty much at the bottom of the draw. A first-rounder against Kovinic and then a likely second-round date with the No. 2 seed, Anett Kontaveit. Fortunately for Serena, she plays beyond well in New York and Kontaveit is struggling with long-term COVID and not the best results on-court as of late. Her No. 2 ranking is padded from her unreal fall last year, so with the American crowd behind her, I think Serena can make a big push. However, as much as I want her to get to Grand Slam No. 24, I don’t see a Cinderella moment happening here. Daria Kasatkina won San Jose and Granby, while Liudmila Samsonova won Washington D.C. and Cleveland. Sure, those are “smaller” tournaments, but they’re both players who feast on confidence — especially Samsonova. A second round between Samsonova and Leylah Fernandez will be very juicy, in my opinion, but some other players to think about? Ons Jabeur, who is definitely hungry to not repeat her Wimbledon final showing. Shelby Rogers is a dangerous seed who defeated Ashleigh Barty in New York last year. Barbora Krejcikova and Ajla Tomljanovic are two players in Serena’s area of the draw that could show up and do some damage, but I don’t expect Krejcikova to do much here — if being honest. On paper, I think this is Jabeur’s to lose and even though she did partner with Serena in doubles in Eastbourne, she did put Caroline Wozniacki in retirement in 2020, so she’s not afraid to be the villain. Just something to think about.

Now, to unfold everything, my not-so-glorious-glorious-predictions:

Round of 16
(1) Iga Swiatek def. (24) Amanda Anisimova
(8) Jessica Pegula def. (21) Petra Kvitova
(26) Victoria Azarenka def. (22) Karolina Pliskova
(25) Elena Rybakina def. Naomi Osaka
(12) Coco Gauff def. (7) Simona Halep
(17) Caroline Garcia def. (3) Maria Sakkari
(5) Ons Jabeur def. (10) Daria Kasatkina
Serena Williams def. (14) Leylah Fernandez

Quarterfinals
(8) Jessica Pegula def. (1) Iga Swiatek
(25) Elena Rybakina def. (26) Victoria Azarenka
(12) Coco Gauff def. (17) Caroline Garcia
(5) Ons Jabeur def. Serena Williams

Semi-Finals
(8) Jessica Pegula def. (25) Elena Rybakina
(12) Coco Gauff def. (5) Ons Jabeur

Final
(8) Jessica Pegula def. (12) Coco Gauff

Wow, I’ve truly outdone myself when it comes to this. Please, don’t use these to bet because you’ll likely lose money. But I wouldn’t be mad at these events unfolding. I admit, I didn’t expect this to come down to the All-American final between doubles players but they are amongst the most consistent on tour and both have the potential to go all the way. We’ll have to see, eh?

Now, onto links!



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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Daria Kasatkina downed Daria Saville to claim the first Championnats Banque Nationale de Granby. It was the second WTA title of the summer for the Russian and sixth of her career. The doubles title went to the all-British duo of Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls, who have quietly built a solid partnership on the ITF World Tour. They defeated Harriet Dart and Rosalie van der Hoek in a match tiebreaker to win their first tour title.

Liudmila Samsonova is definitely a player to be feared in New York. The Russian won her second consecutive WTA title at Tennis in the Land presented by Motorola Edge. She became 3-0 in WTA finals with her win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, while Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez made their third consecutive doubles final in Cleveland. The duo — my “darkhorse” to win the US Open — finally got over their August hump by taking the title with a win over Anna Danilina and Aleksandra Krunic.

I’m going to bundle a few outlets on some must-reads for the US Open:

WTA:

  • My personal favorite: Alex Macpherson’s profile on Fernanda Contreras Gomez, who is a bad ass Vanderbilt grad who’s qualified for the last three Grand Slams.
  • Martina Navratilova’s US Open preview.
  • WTA Insider speaking with both Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff about Serena Williams.
  • Emma Raducanu returning to the scene of her Grand Slam glory one year later and another piece on Serena Williams’ impact on Coco Gauff (both via Greg Garber).

Tennis Channel:

  • I had a rough travel day a week ago getting back to Columbus from Philadelphia, but Petra Martic unfortunately wins the travel Olympics with her baggage fiasco (by David Kane).
  • Van Sias giving us the best of the best US Open qualifiers of the 2000s. I admit, I’m partial to 2002 since it was the first US Open I ever watched.
  • David Kane interviewing both a resurgent Caroline Garcia and consistent Jessica Pegula, who both could perhaps break through with Grand Slam glory after their summer results.
  • Sally Jacobs penning about Althea Gibson on what would have been the icon’s 95th birthday.
  • Alize Cornet talking to Matt Cronin about continuing to play through at least Roland Garros next year.

Leylah Fernandez might not have had the 12 months she envisioned after making last year’s US Open final, but the Canadian is eager to recreate the New York magic she did a year ago.

Venus and Serena Williams are teaming up in the US Open doubles draw after receiving a wildcard. NCAA doubles champion Jaeda Daniel was snubbed, making it the fourth consecutive year the USTA denied the national champion. Though she received a mixed doubles wildcard, the points and money gender doubles would go a lot of a longer way.

However, it was nice to see Angela Kulikov finally have her Grand Slam moment after losing her NCAA final holding championship point:

In huge personal news, Angelique Kerber announced she’s expecting her first child and as a result is stepping away from the tennis courts, while Petra Kvitova shared she and coach Jiri Vanek got engaged while at Wimbledon last month.

Want to feel old? Meet the newest Grand Slam debutants, as well as some familiar faces qualifying for the US Open.

Universal Tennis delivered with this series on ambassador Peyton Stearns, who recently turned pro after capturing the NCAA singles and team titles at the University of Texas:

After the USTA pulled Victoria Azarenka out of the Tennis Plays for Peace exhibition, the function raised over $1 million that will go towards Ukrainian relief.

If I were to ever get sponsored, remind me to never drag them in front of a camera like Bianca Andreescu did yesterday.

Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys were part of a panel between the WTA and their health sponsors to discuss the importance and data of women’s health.

Even AccuWeather is getting in on the Serena Williams swan song. Only Serena can do that….

Tom Humberstone’s book, Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis, based on French icon Suzanne Lenglen, comes out tomorrow and you can check out an excerpt on wtatennis.com


Tweet of the Week

Beyonce x Serena is always an ace in my book. Thanks, Gatorade:


Five at The IX: US Open Media Day

Thank you Richard Osborn and usopen.org

“She’s an icon. She’s a legend. She has done so much for the sport, not only for tennis players, but for women in general. She’s fought for us. She’s done incredible things. It’s a little sad to see her leave the sport. But she’s set out a good path for all of the WTA players, even the ATP players, to reach their own goals, voice their thoughts, keep fighting for what they believe in. I think it’s a great way to leave the sport.” — Leylah Fernandez on Serena Williams

“Sometimes being a woman, a Black woman in the world, you kind of settle for less. I feel like Serena taught me that. From watching her, she never settled for less. I can’t remember a moment in her career or life that she settled for less.” — Coco Gauff

“I was shocked in the end that he did it!” — Elena Rybakina, whose coach, Stefano Vukov, had her name tattooed on his arm after she won Wimbledon, making good on a bet they made two years ago

“I think the message is how strong the next generation is. We’re both really young. We’re going to be playing the sport for a long time.” — Reigning champion Emma Raducanu, reflecting on her all-teen 2021 US Open final against Leylah Fernandez

“It’s still pretty surreal when I see her. I still feel like I’m just a kid who’s watching. I’ve watched her my whole life.” — world No. 1 Iga Swiatek on Serena Williams


Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Eleni Demestihas, @strongforecheck, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon