Catching up as the WTA season wraps — Quotes from Indian Wells — Must-click women’s tennis links
The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, October 26, 2021
Happy Tuesday! I’m glad to be back and apologize for my absence. I was admitted to the hospital for a perforated ulcer in my stomach, so essentially had to spend two weeks recovering. However, I’m back and ready to catch up on things like Indian Wells (the BNP Paribas Open) and the AKRON WTA Finals Guadalajara.
First, how amazing was it to have tennis in Indian Wells again? With some top players like Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams not participating, it seemed to be an open field. We’ll gladly ignore my predictions, per usual, but I don’t think I was expecting Paula Badosa to leave Coachella Valley with the title. In perhaps the match of the year, the Spanaird kept her composure to knock out Victoria Azarenka 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-6(2). The rallies were long and intense and both players were going for their shots to paint the baseline. It really was such an entertaining final, something worthy at a tournament many call the “Fifth Grand Slam.”
The doubles title went to Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens, who defeated Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina in the championship match. The duo continues to find their rhythm, winning their second title in eight tournaments as a team, adding to their Wimbledon trophy. However, it was after the final where Su-Wei went all dragon mode:
While I was gone, there have been some big updates in the race towards the AKRON WTA Finals Guadalajara. The biggest news item is that World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty isn’t defending her title, choosing to end her season early and return home to Australia. It’s not a true shock, as she’s been on the road since March and she enjoys her time at home. She will still end the season ranked No. 1 regardless of any result.
In doubles, three more teams sealed their berth in Mexico — Hsieh Su-Wei/Elise Mertens, Nicole Melichar-Martinez/Demi Schuurs and Zhang Shuai/Samantha Stosur. Three spots remain, but some teams in contention, including Coco Gauff/Caty McNally and Desirae Krawczyk/Alexa Guarachi aren’t playing this week and I don’t expect them to be playing in Linz next week. They may just be holding out hope teams ranked below them don’t pass their position.
The singles competition also secured more participants. First, Maria Sakkari created Greek history with a qualification, then yesterday, three spots went to Iga Swiatek, Garbine Muguruza and Paula Badosa. Only one singles spot remains and, fortunately, it’s pretty crystal clear who will complete the field.
It’s highly likely that Ons Jabeur, who made her own history this week breaking in the Top 10, will claim the final spot in Mexico. Anett Kontaveit, arguably one of the tour’s best players as of late, will need to win the WTA 250 Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Simona Halep is the top seed there and I only see a Cinderella story for their most popular athlete to emerge as champion. I also predict the occasion and loads of tennis Kontaveit has been playing will be too much for the Estonian.
However as we know, I’m no Miss Cleo.
With the season ending soon, I’d love to hear what you want to hear about. Never hesitate to comment, tweet or email me! The off-season is rapidly approaching!
This Week in Women’s Tennis
Serena Williams made an emotional video for her former physio, Esther Lee, who was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Feel free to sign up or donate in her name for the LA Cancer Challenge 5k on October 31st:
The 2021 surge continues for Anett Kontaveit, who captured the VTB Kremlin Cup over Ekaterina Alexandrova. Down 4-6, 0-4, the Estonian won her second WTA 500 of the year and third title overall, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. The doubles title went to Jelena Ostapenko and Katarina Siniakova, who knocked out No.4 seeds Nadiia Kichenok and Raluca Olaru 6-2, 4-6, [10-8] to win their first title in only their second tournament together.
At the inaugural Tenerife Ladies Open in Spain, Ann Li emerged with her first WTA title, winning over Camila Osorio. 6-1, 6-4. In doubles, Five at The IX alum Ellen Perez partnered with Ulrikke Eikeri to win their first title as a duo over No. 3 seeds Lyudmyla Kichenok and Marta Kostyuk, 6-3, 6-3. It is the third WTA title for Perez and first for Eikeri.
With their titles this past week, Anett Kontaveit and Ann Li lead the list of players with new career-high rankings.
As of right now, unvaccinated players will need to quarantine for two weeks, while vaccinated players will not be required to for the Australian Open. I’m not sure how I feel about that considering the efforts and lockdowns the locals have had to endure. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to Aussies. Qualifying will also be played in Melbourne Park after this year’s edition was played in Dubai.
David Kane spoke with Alize Lim, who is hosting Academy Life on Tennis Channel International where she visits different academies around the world to give a glimpse at some of the world’s best training spots.
With all of the seasons WTA 1000 events completed, the wtatennis.com roundtable discussed the biggest moments from the tour’s biggest tournaments.
Ana Ivanovic, Cara Black and Flavia Pennetta are among the players eligible for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2022. Lisa Raymond is also up for induction again after missing out in 2021.
After five years together, Elina Svitolina and coach Andrew Bettles have split. The pair won an Olympic bronze medal and 11 WTA titles including the 2018 WTA Finals.
Learn more about Donna Vekic and her new candle company as the WTA continues to profile entrepreneurs on tour.
Matt Cronin discussed the COVID-19 setback Aryna Sabalenka faced that put her out of the BNP Paribas Open, where the World No. 2 is still unsure of her fitness level.
Congratulations to Jessica Pegula, who got married this past weekend. She will next represent the United States at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague in a few weeks:
Don’t be surprised if Emma Raducanu goes through an array of coaches as she fully begins her WTA journey, says former Raducanu coach Mark Petchey.
ICYMI, check out wtatennis.com’s winners for singles and doubles shots of the month in September.
Tweet of the Week
A more in-depth trailer for King Richard, the biopic of Richard Williams, was released and it includes a new Beyonce song – as if I needed more reason to be reeled in. I can’t wait to watch and report back my review for you all once it’s released November 19th
Five at The IX: BNP Paribas Open
Though there are countless quotes from the two weeks in Indian Wells, here are some from Paula Badosa, Victoria Azarenka, Hsieh Su-Wei/Elise Mertens.
Q. With the week that you’ve had, beating four top-20 players and Azarenka, what has this taught you about the tennis and how you’re able to compete with the best?
PAULA BADOSA: Well, I think the first thing that I’ve learned this week is that nothing is impossible. If you fight, if you work, after all these years, you can achieve anything. That’s the first message that I see that could happen. And to dream. Sometimes you have tough moments. In my case I have been through tough moments. I never stopped dreaming. That’s what kept me working hard and believing until the last moment.
Today was the same, so I’m really proud of it.
Q. Potential moments that could have derailed your season, how have you been able to manage those disappointments to come back stronger every time?
PAULA BADOSA: You know, this year I had, of course, a roller-coaster year, disappointments and everything. But after all I’ve been through in my life, it wasn’t disappointment. That’s the good part. When you suffer a lot, when you’re young, when you have a little bit of disappointment, you don’t feel it like that. So that’s the good part of what happened this year.
Of course, I have bad moments. But compared to the things I’ve been through, it’s nothing. For me it’s okay (smiling).
Q. This is actually the longest women’s final ever at Indian Wells. It’s the longest women’s match of any kind this year. The two of you seemed to be not really fazed by that. Is that fair to say? Was it pretty exhausting out there? Could you talk about the match physically and mentally.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I think both come together. I think if you kind of give in mentally, physically it becomes even harder. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that we weren’t really unfazed by it. I think just in the moment this is what you have to do, is keep fighting for one more point. The adrenaline is there.
I think after the match, when you ask her or me, Was it challenging physically? Of course it was. But I was actually very happy that I was able at the same time to maintain that level of fitness, of my game throughout over three hours. That’s a really positive sign. It actually motivates me to keep moving forward.
This year has been challenging a bit. But finishing on a strong note not necessarily with the result I wanted but with the progress I wanted to seek, that’s really positive.
Q. What do you think you can take from this strong finish after a tough year? Even in defeat does it give you some satisfaction that you had such a great run here?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, I’ve been talking that I’ve been looking to implement some of the changes into my game. I have done that well today. I think that throughout these two weeks I’ve been improving little by little those things that I wanted to do. Those are the things that I actually want to take out into this off-season, work on it, and bring it even hopefully better next season.
But the most important for me was to also see for myself that physically I’m there, I’m ready to play as long as it’s needed, match after match. I think that was a bit of a challenge, as I said before, for me during the year physically with some injuries.
It’s time to rest, train smart, and no quarantine in Australia for me (laughter).
Q. Congratulations on an amazing achievement. Going back to Elise being a coach, an important aspect of any athlete that does well is you have to be coachable. So within the team, how would you rate her as being someone who is truly coachable and how she handles that feedback?
SU-WEI HSIEH: I do what my partner say, everything.
Q. So was the hat her idea then?
ELISE MERTENS: No, no, it’s her idea for the hat. But it makes it fun. (Laughter.)
I mean, we try to discuss a lot of things. We are on the bench when there is changeovers, we just try to focus and repeat what we do well but also what we can do better.
I think we are both coachable, understand each other, what makes us a good team.
Q. How did the proposal go in detail? Where did it happen, about this partnership?
ELISE MERTENS: It’s been a while. I think you just texted me. I mean, it’s as easy as that.
Q. No flowers involved then?
ELISE MERTENS: No flowers.
SU-WEI HSIEH: No ring, sorry.