The week in tennis: Players voice new concerns, Djokovic wins in another sport, and more

Tennis

Another week, more discontent from professional tennis players.

In a season marred by concerns regarding scheduling, lack of transparency and unequal prize money, we’re not done hearing from players just yet. Last week, Zizou Bergs, currently ranked No. 181 in the world, posted on his Instagram story about the number of wrist injuries currently seen in the sport.

“I think it’s time to look carefully at the fact that many players are getting wrist injuries, which could possibly be prevented by not changing the balls every week,” Bergs, who himself was sidelined earlier this year with torn ligament in his wrist, wrote.

His comments drew immediate attention.

Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka shared Berg’s post, adding emojis to show he agreed, and top-ranked American Taylor Fritz tweeted in response to it as well.

“Have been dealing [with] wrist issues since beginning of USO series cause of ball changes,” Fritz wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We went 3 different balls in 3 weeks.”

During his news conference ahead of the China Open, Daniil Medvedev echoed those complaints when asked about the conditions on the court at the event.

“The balls again and again, it’s almost every tennis player that this season said they go like this,” Medvedev said as he motioned the balls getting bigger. “For the shoulder, elbow and stuff like this, [it’s] not good. But it’s the reality right now.”

And that’s far from the only thing that drew ire this week. Two-time major champion Petra Kvitova took to X to voice her frustrations about the scheduling at the China Open. Kvitova finished her opening-round match — a three-set victory over Wang Xiyu — in the early morning hours on Monday and then had to play her second-round match on Monday afternoon. She lost the match.

Scheduling has turned into a contentious issue for both WTA and ATP players, highlighted particularly this year in part due to frequent weather delays and quick turnarounds.

And it’s not just those playing at the highest level of the sport dealing with less-than-ideal conditions. On Wednesday, former Baylor All-American Finn Bass took to social media to show what the courts were like at an ITF event in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Wawrinka was among those who shared Bass’ videos. On X, Wawrinka tagged the ITF and asked if the organization had any comment. The ITF did not publicly respond.

While discontent is nothing new in professional sports, the number of players speaking up seems to have increased in recent years. But now the question is, will it change anything? Stay tuned.

Here’s what else you might have missed:


Moving Ons

Ons Jabeur won the fifth WTA title of her career and second of the season on Saturday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Diana Shnaider in the Ningbo Open final. The tournament’s top-ranked seed, Jabeur, a three-time major finalist, left nothing to chance and was dominant throughout the 78-minute match.

“Playing a final here is more relaxed than playing a Grand Slam final, but I think it will help me gain confidence more and to help me manage the pressure and stress,” she said after the match.

The 29-year-old Tunisian is currently in the hunt for one of the last three remaining WTA Finals bids and will look to further her last-minute push at this week’s China Open.

But really we’re just telling you all of this so we have an excuse to show you this perfect tweener from Jabeur’s quarterfinal match against Vera Zvonareva. It will undoubtedly be one of the best shots you’ll see all week.

And if now you’re in the mood for more epic shots, you’re in luck. During the very first point of Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek‘s opening round doubles match at the China Open, Dodig had an absolutely ridiculous behind-the-back shot to win the point.


Kudermetova’s new hardware

In the other tour-level tournament to wrap up over the weekend — the ATP has two tournaments that began last week but conclude on Tuesday (Astana Open) and Wednesday (China Open) — Veronika Kudermetova defeated Jessica Pegula, 7-5, 6-1, for the title in Tokyo on Sunday. It marked the second career title for the 26-year-old and snapped a four-match losing streak in finals.

It also capped the end of an impressive week in Japan, in which Kudermetova upset world No. 2 Iga Swiatek, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, in the quarterfinals, as well as her fellow Russian and 2021 French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a grueling three sets in the semis.

Despite the loss in the final, Pegula clinched her spot in the WTA Finals after her performance in Tokyo. She had already booked her ticket in doubles with partner Coco Gauff, but will now play in both draws at the year-end event for the second-straight season. Gauff has also cemented her spot in singles, as have Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.


Dramatic split

After winning the gold medal at the Asian Games late last month, Qinwen Zheng revealed she had parted ways with coach Wim Fissette after the US Open. As she had reached the first major quarterfinal of her career in New York, and had won her first WTA title in Palermo in July while working together, the end of their partnership was a surprise to many — including Zheng herself.

Zheng told reporters that Fissette abruptly ended their working relationship a week after the US Open in order to start working again with former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka, who plans on returning to the tour after maternity leave in early 2024. Zheng said she knew Fissette had been talking to Osaka’s team during the US Open but had been assured by her manager that he wouldn’t stop working with her to return to Osaka.

“It was quite a big impact to me and my team members and my family. I cried after hearing that. There were no fights, no arguments in our collaboration …”, said Zheng. “I thought that was an unethical end to that collaboration. I understand that Osaka can provide a better offer to him. I understand from his perspective this might be a better position. He has a family to support. I understand his decision, but it doesn’t mean I will forgive him for making such a decision.”

The 20-year-old said Rob Brandsma, who had been her fitness coach, is now taking over coaching responsibilities.

Neither Fissette nor Osaka has yet to comment. Fissette previously worked with Osaka from 2019 until July of 2022, and she won two of her four major titles during that span.


All he does is win, win, win (no matter what sport it is)

Since winning his milestone 24th major title at the US Open last month, and then representing Serbia in the Davis Cup just days later, Novak Djokovic is taking a well-deserved break from the ATP Tour. He isn’t expected to return until the Paris Masters at the end of the month — but he hasn’t stopped competing for titles.

On Wednesday, the world No. 1 participated in the All Star match ahead of the Ryder Cup and, even though he said he had never played golf in front of so many people, Djokovic found a way to do what he does best: Win.

Teaming up with Kipp Popert, the world No. 1 golfer with disability, and playing against Formula One driver Carlos Sainz and Tommaso Perrino, another top-ranked golfer with disability, Djokovic got the crowd on his side early as he walked out onto the first tee with his tennis racket in hand and pretended to swing. He ultimately switched the racket for his driver but the racket stayed prominently displayed in his bag throughout the round. Fueled by the frequent cheers and chants from the crowd, Djokovic made his mark on the event as he drove the green on the par-4 16th hole.

“I was going to play [it] safe but the crowd made me do it,” he said about it. “It was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit.”

Djokovic and Popert won 3-1 and their team ultimately took home the trophy.


The speech that keeps on giving

Gauff wowed the world last month with her gutsy, come-from-behind victory to capture her first major title at the US Open, and then followed up the triumph with an equally memorable speech on court moments later. Weeks later, Gauff’s speech continues to inspire and resonate.

On Tuesday, New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart was named the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player and during her acceptance speech, she couldn’t help but shout out Gauff.

“Coco, what you said when you won the US Open stuck with me,” Stewart said. “I try my best to carry this with grace but honestly to those who thought they were putting water on my fire, you were really adding gas. And now I’m burning so bright.”

Gauff congratulated Stewart on Instagram for the new hardware. And, as the Liberty advanced to the WNBA Finals on Sunday, Stewart and her teammates could have the chance to give a noteworthy victory speech all their own this month.

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