The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, March 5, 2019

Wang Yafan's surprise — must-click links — Indian Wells draw — doubles love

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The phrase, “that’s why they play the game,” is overused so much in sportswriting that it has become trite, and yet, that’s all I could think of as I watched the events in Acapulco unfold last week.

While most of the world’s attention was on Nick Kyrgios’s antics on the men’s side of the draw, Wang Yafan marched through the women’s tournament to win the WTA crown, taking down Sofia Kenin in the final, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.

If you’re scratching your head a bit at that, you’re not alone! I don’t think anyone would have picked Wang to take this title at the beginning of the week. The 24-year-old came into the tournament ranked No. 65 in the world, she was unseeded in the draw, and she’d only ever made it to one WTA final in her career.

Then, in the final, she was down 6-2, 2-0 to Kenin, before she finally started finding her range — and Kenin’s errors. But thanks to her powerful groundstrokes, great movement, and indomitable competitive spirit, she was able to pull it out.

"This is my first time in Acapulco, and I really like it here," she said after the match. "It was an amazing week. This is a good tournament and everything is very nice."  That seems like an understatement!

This time last year is when Wang made it to the Round of 16 in Miami and first broke into the Top 100. Now, she’s a career-high ranking of No. 49 in the world. The stories in tennis are literally everywhere.


This Week in Tennis

Victoria Azarenka and Zheng Saisai took the doubles title in Mexico. So good to see Vika smile. (This was her first title of any kind as a mom!)

Great week from Kenin. The American made it to the Acapulco final with big wins over Azarenka in the quarters and Bianca Andreescu in the semifinals. She is now up to a career-high ranking of No. 33.

IT IS TIME FOR INDIAN WELLS. I will wax poetically about this tournament next week, you can be certain about that, but for now: check out the draw!

My favorite part of the draw? A possible Victoria Azarenka vs. Serena Williams match in the second round. I miss that rivalry.

This video is allowed because it features Elina Svitolina, even though I readily admit she is not the star of it. But watch it, I promise you will not regret it.

Naomi Osaka hired a new coach: Jermaine Jenkins, former hitting partner of Venus Williams.

This is old, but it’s still a fun look back at 10 Indian Wells matches for the ages. So glad Vesnina/Kuznetsova got some love.

Maria Sharapova had a “small procedure” on her shoulder, and will miss Miami. Get well soon!


Tweet of the Week

Acapulco has some of the best trophy pictures in the game.


Five at IX: Barbora Strycova and Hseih Su-Wei

One of the best parts of Indian Wells is doubles — the doubles field is always completely stacked, since a lot of singles players enter the draw because the tournament is spread out over a week and a half, so the schedule isn’t as crowded. So, in honor of that fact, I thought I’d feature my favorite doubles team on the planet right now, Barbora Strycova and Hseih Su-Wei. If you like your tennis with a heaping dose of personality, this is the team for you.

It’s been a year since the duo first came together and won Indian Wells, so the timing is right for some appreciation. Below, you will find their entire press conference after their big victory in Dubai last month. Trust me, you’re going to want to read to the very end.

Q. What happened, if you can explain?

BARBORA STRYCOVA: What do you mean?

Q. Thoughts on the match.

BARBORA STRYCOVA: Oh, okay.

I think we were playing really, really good, high level, especially second set when we were leading 4-1. Until 4-1, 40-Love, we didn't kind of miss any ball. We had the chemistry on court. We know exactly what to do.

Yeah, this game I had easy volley there to finish it to 5-1. Didn't make it. Su was at the net when it was 4-All, I was serving, and she helped me there three times. That helped us a lot to have the confidence again.

Q. How special is this partnership? Do you think of going through the whole season, Grand Slams?

HSIEH SU-WEI: Don't leave me!

BARBORA STRYCOVA: So I won't leave her (laughter). Looks like a very good way.

You can talk also (to Su-Wei).

HSIEH SU-WEI: I'm happy to play together. We always enjoy. I mean, last week was tough, but I was very positive. I don't really worry about it. We try really hard this week to improve little bit than last week. We do better and better.

It is very good combination what we do. We covering. We are running everywhere. Was pretty fun. Always fight. Partner always fighting with you.

BARBORA STRYCOVA: Not with her, but on court (laughter).

Q. What is the one quality between the two of you that keeps you going?

BARBORA STRYCOVA: Well, Su is unbelievable at the net. I mean, not just at the net. She is so good. I mean, she has the magic hands. Sometimes I can finish it pretty easy at the net, and she can prepare me the balls and the rally.

She knows exactly where she's playing. She says it, she goes for it. I know it's going to be there. I think that's why she's playing also very good singles. You can see the big hitters has problems to play against her because she's everywhere.

Q. Barbora, when you say you kind of knew where each other were going to be on the court, Hsieh Su-Wei, you play an unpredictable game, as well as you, Barbora, how is it that you know where each other is going to be on the court and what you're going to do?

BARBORA STRYCOVA: That's a good question.

Q. Thank you.

BARBORA STRYCOVA: But we kind of just know it.

Yeah, we are players that don't have so much power, but we can win balls different way. I kind of know when it comes. I know her pretty long. We know each other since juniors. I know how she's playing. She knows how I'm playing. It just suit us, the game.

The most important, we really have fun on court, right?

HSIEH SU-WEI: (Nodding head.)

Q. You've known each other since juniors. How different is she now compared to when you were juniors?

HSIEH SU-WEI: Always look same.

BARBORA STRYCOVA: That's good (laughter). 15 years older, I'm looking same.


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 PGA.com
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster