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Tennis

🎾Wimbledon

June 27, 2022

📗 The history

SOURCE: HISTORIC ENGLAND/TWITTER

Officially known as “The Championships, Wimbledon” (how fancy), this competition dates back to 1877, making it the oldest — and arguably the most prestigious — tennis tournament in the world.

  • A fun fact? Since its inception, Wimbledon’s been played at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, a grass court (more on that later) nestled in the London neighborhood of Wimbledon, of course.

The early years were men’s singles only, but a women’s singles championship was introduced in 1884, the same year a men’s doubles tourney was added. By 1913, the tournament featured mixed doubles and women’s doubles, but Wimbledon wouldn’t open to professionals until 1968.

🎾 The surface

SOURCE: WIMBLEDON/TWITTER

Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tennis event played on grass, and similar to clay, pros either excel on or fall victim to the terrain.

  • The grass is so precious to the club that Serena Williams was fined a whopping $10,000 (!!!) in 2019 for damaging the court during practice. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks for the “get off my lawn” crowd.
  • Another way organizers protected the court? Installing a retractable roof over Centre Court back in 2009 in preparation for rainy English days. But this upgrade was met with lots of controversy. Change can be difficult.

Back to those players who excel on the surface, while they haven’t quite reached Rafael Nadal’s “King of Clay” status, Martina Navratilova and Roger Federer can be considered the goddess and god of grass. Navratilova’s won a whopping nine Wimbledon titles, the most of any tennis player, and Federer’s secured eight, the most of any man.

  • Plus, they have respective career win rates of around 89% and 87% on the surface. Pretty good.

🍓 The traditions

SOURCE: CARL COURT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

With nearly 150 years of history, it’s no surprise that Wimbledon has many notable traditions. For starters, the tournament mandates a strict dress code for participants, complete with a list of rules dedicated specifically to clothing and equipment.

  • Good thing it’s played well before Labor Day, because that dress code includes white — Wimbledon’s staple color.
  • The original reasoning behind the color choice was due, in part, to the supposed cooling effects, but it also allowed athletes to sweat discreetly on hot summer days since signs of sweat were deemed “improper.”
  • Many players have challenged the dress code over the years. If they don’t abide by the rules, though? They may be asked to change or even be disqualified. Okay, fashion police.

As for a sweeter tradition, Wimbledon’s also known for a delicious summertime snack staple — strawberries and cream.

  • In 2019, 191,930 servings of strawberries and cream were consumed, and the price has remained the same since 2010: £2.50 (about $3 USD). Spectators are allowed to bring their own bottle of wine or champagne or two cans of beer to cut down on costs.

And finally, it’s not Wimbledon without a member of the Royal Family making an appearance. While the Queen has only attended four times, her grandsons and their partners have been known to enjoy the tournament more frequently.

💪 Women to watch

SOURCE: WIMBLEDON/TWITTER

While we sadly won’t see Naomi Osaka in action after she withdrew last week with an Achilles injury, there are plenty of other contenders in this stacked women’s field.

Serena Williams: But of course. As mentioned, it’s been nearly a year since Williams took the court in a Grand Slam. It’s only fitting that her comeback begins at Wimbledon, where she’s won seven of her 23 career major titles. We’ve been waiting for this one.

World No. 1 Iga Świątek: Świątek’s dominance has been the story of the 2022 tennis season — she’s riding a 35-match win streak into Wimbledon, an epic run highlighted by her French Open victory a few weeks ago. One more W and she’ll break a tie with Venus Williams for the longest women’s win streak in the 21st century. Bet on it.

World No. 3 Ons Jabeur: Jabeur’s recent rise to No. 3 in the WTA rankings marks a career-high for the Tunisian star. But the quest for her first Grand Slam title could be in danger: Jabeur (and her doubles partner Serena) withdrew from last week’s tune-up event after Jabeur suffered a knee injury.

World No. 12 Coco Gauff: The American phenom burst onto the scene with a run all the way to the French Open finals, her first appearance in a Grand Slam final. Now the 18-year-old will be looking to beat her previous best at Wimbledon, where she was bounced in the fourth round last year. Can confirm — we’re still loco for Coco.

👊 Men to watch

SOURCE: SIMON BRUTY/ANYCHANCE/GETTY IMAGES

World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev won’t be competing due to Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes (more on that below) and the aforementioned Federer is out of the main draw for the first time since 1998 as he continues to recover from knee surgery, leaving the door wide open for these contenders.

World No. 3 Novak Djokovic: The defending champ, Djokovic’s had plenty of success on grass, with six of his 20 Grand Slam titles won at Wimbledon. And he’ll need to make it seven if he wants to keep pace with Rafael Nadal’s current record of 22 men’s titles. Speaking of…

World No. 4 Rafael Nadal: Rafa hasn’t been as successful as Djokovic in London, but he still boasts two Wimbledon trophies. Plus, the Spaniard’s been on a tear this year, winning the first two majors on the calendar. Could this be a Grand Slam in the making?

World No. 7 Carlos Alcaraz: The 19-year-old put the tennis world on notice with his dominant clay-court play earlier this year, and while he struggled in his first grass match of the season last week, the No. 5 seed is still a threat to make a deep run in London.

World No. 11 Matteo Berrettini: Last year’s runner-up, Berrettini has yet to reach a Grand Slam final this season, but that could change at Wimbledon, especially considering the Italian’s success on grass. With a favorable draw, he could just burst through for his first major title.

📺 How to tune in

SOURCE: PETER MACDIARMID/GETTY IMAGES

The 128 men’s and women’s singles contenders will begin their two-week quest for the Gentleman’s Singles Trophy and Venus Rosewater Dish tomorrow, with all the action airing on ESPN in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.

  • Then mark your cal for the women’s singles final on Saturday, July 9th, followed by the men’s on Sunday, July 10th. Serve it up.

🎾CVC Capital Partners, Saudi Arabia inquire about investment in WTA

June 22, 2022
JEFF CHEVRIER/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES
JEFF CHEVRIER/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The WTA is being courted, and the suitors could not be any more different. On Monday, it was announced that both Luxembourg-based private equity firm CVC Capital Partners and Saudi Arabia have reportedly inquired about investing in the women’s pro tennis body.

The deals: Prolific sports investor CVC has offered over $122 million for stake in a new jointly-run WTA Tour plus access to the organization’s commercial rights. It’s not their first serve in the tennis world, either — last summer, the company allegedly offered $600 million in a proposed deal that would combine the ATP and WTA.

  • On the other side, Saudi Arabia is reportedly making a concerted effort to bring pro tennis to the country. After being rebuffed by the ATP over the last few years, the kingdom is hoping that the WTA’s financial headwinds will make the association sweet on a deal.

The context: The WTA suspended its ties with China last year amidst the 18-day disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai, foregoing well over $120 million in the process. The sporting body’s decision to place ethics over finances may have earned the respect and sponsorship of other companies, but it now sits in a more precarious financial position.

  • If the tennis association’s previous values-based marketing moves are any indicator, CVC should be the frontrunner in this race. Saudi Arabia’s track record of sportswashing in the wake of human rights abuses would make it a hypocritical partnership for a sporting body that recently leaned on its morals.

Zooming out: The WTA has confirmed talks with CVC, but has declined to comment on Saudi Arabia’s interest. But with athletes defecting to Saudi sports entities for bigger purses, how long — deal or no deal — until the Saudis simply build another Tour?

  • One hopeful path exists: Significant principles-based investments by brands that truly want to capitalize on Gen Z’s consumer power.
  • Partnering with teams, athletes and sporting bodies who make the hard, but ethical, choice isn’t just an immediate investment — it’s a step to building relationships with the next most powerful consumer generation.

🎾French Open: Świątek, Nadal take all

June 06, 2022
SOURCE: RYAN PIERSE/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: RYAN PIERSE/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Two of tennis’ best shined brightest in the City of Lights, with women’s No. 1 Iga Świątek and men’s No. 4 Rafael Nadal turning in historic finals performances to round out an epic two weeks at Roland-Garros.

Men’s: Nadal further cemented his “King of Clay” status yesterday, withstanding injury to defeat No. 8 seed Casper Ruud in straight sets and claim a record-extending 14th French Open title.

  • A fun fact? The victory made 36-year-old Rafa the oldest men’s singles champion in French Open history, and it came on the exact date Nadal won his first French Open title back in 2005.
  • The win also extended Nadal’s record for most men’s Grand Slam victories. With 22 titles, he’s now two ahead of fellow Big Three members Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Women’s: It was a similar story of dominance in the women’s draw as Świątek topped No. 18 seed Coco Gauff in straight sets on Saturday to win her second French Open trophy and her 35th straight match, tying Venus Williams for the longest win streak on the WTA tour this century. Damn.

  • As for Gauff, the 18-year-old held her head high after reaching her first career Grand Slam final, using her platform for advocacy and handling the loss with incredible poise and grace.

🎾French Open: Świątek vs. Gauff

June 03, 2022
SOURCE: CLIVE BRUNSKILL/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: CLIVE BRUNSKILL/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Tennis’ second Grand Slam of the year is nearing its dramatic conclusion, with the men’s semis set to begin shortly and an epic women’s final on deck tomorrow. Magnifique.

Men’s: Today’s 8:45 a.m. ET match is a clash of two titans, with 13-time French Open winner No. 5 Rafael Nadal squaring off against No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who’s competing in his second straight Roland-Garros semifinal. Can the wedgie-picker Nadal advance for a shot at a record-extending 22nd men’s Grand Slam title?

  • Whoever emerges victorious will face the winner of today’s 11:30 a.m. ET battle between No. 8 Casper Ruud and No. 20 Marin Čilić. Nothing like brunch and a break point.

Women’s: There’s a whole lot of history on the line for tomorrow’s 9 a.m. ET women’s final between No. 1 Iga Świątek and No. 18 Coco Gauff. In yesterday’s semis, Świątek dispatched No. 20 Daria Kasatkina in straight sets to claim her 34th consecutive match.

  • As for Gauff, the 18-year-old American dominated Martina Trevisan to reach her first career Grand Slam final.
  • With a victory, not only will Świątek hoist her second French Open trophy, she’ll also join Venus Williams for the longest winning streak on the WTA tour in the 21st century. If Gauff wins, she can call herself a Grand Slam champion. Can it end in a tie, please?

🎾French Open: Gauff advances to first Grand Slam semis

June 01, 2022
SOURCE: WTA INSIDER/TWITTER
SOURCE: WTA INSIDER/TWITTER

The GIST: After a wild week and a half in Paris (even by Emily’s standards), the women’s and men’s French Open semis are nearly set. Time flies when you’re watching the best of the best.

Women’s: Recent high school grad and world No. 23 Coco Gauff’s whirlwind week continued yesterday as the 18-year-old American topped countrywoman Sloane Stephens in straight sets to advance to her first-ever semis appearance at a Grand Slam. Incroyable.

  • Gauff will face Italy’s Martina Trevisan, who continued her Cinderella tour de force with yesterday’s back-and-forth win over the world No. 18, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez.
  • Elsewhere, No. 1 Iga Świątek’s 32-match win streak is currently being tested in her quarter-final battle with No. 11 Jessica Pegula.

Men’s: Sorry to the rest of men’s tourney, but it’ll be tough to beat the drama of yesterday’s quarter-final clash between No. 5 Rafael Nadal and reigning French Open champ, No. 1 Novak Djokovic, which Nadal won in four stunning sets to advance to his record-extending 15th semi at Roland-Garros.

  • The “King of Clay” and men’s major record-holder will face Germany’s No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who ended No. 6 Carlos Alcaraz’s teenage dreams in the quarters yesterday, while the other half of the semis will be decided today.