FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – There has been a changing of the guard on the WTA Tour Player Council.
Tennis.Life has learned that two former Grand Slam champions, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka, will not return after their spots came up for re-election during Wimbledon.
Replacing Williams and Azarenka will be younger Americans Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens as top-20 player representatives.
Meanwhile, Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski will be on the Council for the first time.
The 27-year-old was elected to the spot that had been occupied by fellow top doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands in 2018 and 2019, that of players outside the top 20 who are full WTA Tour members.
Donna Vekic of Croatia was elected to the spot (players ranked between No. 20 and No. 50) held by the retired Lucie Safarova.
And Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic was voted into the No. 51 – No. 100 spot, which had been held by American Julia Boserup from 2017-2019. Boserup, as well, announced her retirement this year.
Three players with another year to go
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Johanna Konta remain as top-20 representatives, with another to run in their mandate.
So does American Kristie Ahn, who represents players outside the top 100 (a non-voting position).
Dabrowski has been involved in the politics of tennis – notably this year, when she met with the International Tennis Federation more than once regarding the issues around the disastrously-revamped ITF Tour.
She cares – a lot. And she has a lot to offer. No doubt she’ll be a terrific asset to the player council.
It’s not been a vintage year for Dabrowski and her Chinese partner Yifan (Julie) Xu.
Still, they’re tied at No. 15 in the WTA Tour doubles rankings. They made the semifinals at Indian Wells and the quarters in Miami.
Both times, they lost to the Sunshine Double(s) champs, Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka.
Xu has been dealing with some injuries, mainly her back. So you hope that by the time the busy spring and summer season roll around, they’ll be back to full strength.
She earned three of her eight career WTA Tour titles in 2018 (two with Xu, and one with Jelena Ostapenko). Dabrowski also claims three mixed doubles titles: the 2018 Australian Open and Roland Garros with Mate Pavic of Croatia, and the 2017 French Open with Rohan Bopanna.
Dabrowski’s next event will likely put her over the $2 million mark in career earnings. Which is a nice number for a player who makes her living playing women’s doubles.
But that success has forced her to all but abandon her singles career. It’s a first-world problem to have. But Dabrowski was and is a fine singles player.
If you’ve watched her Fed Cup teammate Bianca Andreescu over the last month, you get a sense of what she can do on the singles court. The only thing missing might be a little putaway power from the baseline. But that’s more a matter of confidence than ability.
The new ITF Tour has made it all but impossible for her to try to squeeze in some singles, with her current ranking of No. 401. She actually has more opportunities filling empty spots in the qualifying at the WTA events she plays.
But she’s at it this week, at a $80K ITF tournament in Palm Harbor, Fla.
As a junior, Dabrowski won the Orange Bowl in 2009, beating Kristina Mladenovic in the final. She reached the doubles final a month later at the Australian Open juniors with Timea Babos.
There aren’t many players who have won the Les Petits As event and the Orange Bowl. But Dabrowski was one of them.
She came along perhaps a little too early for the much-vaunted Tennis Canada high-performance program to help her.
Were she to do those sorts of things these days, the help and support would have been off the charts (under certain conditions, of course).
On the personal side, Dabrowski is bright, insightful and refreshingly aware of the world outside her personal tennis bubble. In her mid-20s, she’s coming into her own as a person, not only a tennis player.
The draw was complete for the qualifying at the Toray Pan-Pacific Open in Tokyo.
But there were two openings, after a pair of players – Miyu Kato and Ying Ying Duan – were held back playing doubles in Hiroshima. And, with three WTA Tour events in the same region in the same week, not a lot of backup players.
So two alternates – players who are mainly doubles specialists – got spots: Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski (No. 542) and Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova, who hadn’t won a singles match in a year and a half and is ranked outside the top 1,000.
Dabrowski doesn’t play much singles these days, either. Her top doubles status means she plays the larger events where her sub-500 singles ranking won’t let her even sniff the qualifying. But did play last week in Quebec City, and qualified.
As the draw shook out, if both got through their first rounds, Gabrowski would have had to face countrywoman and Fed Cup teammate Genie Bouchard for a spot in the main draw.
They forgot a player
Japan’s Misa Eguchi, ranking No. 454 – higher than both Dabrowski and Rodionova.
What to do?
Well, per the rules, Eguchi gets in, and Dabrowski and Rodionova have to play a preliminary match for the now one remaining spot in qualifying.
Which greatly confused the algorithms of the scoring system.
(We also don’t know why they put the winner of the match in Rodionova’s spot, not Dabrowski’s. But that’s likely because Eguchi was the higher ranked of the two, and therefore went into the spot where Dabrowski, who had been the higher-ranked between she and Rodionova, had been).
But what the changes did do, was to take Bouchard and Dabrowski out of each other’s way in the draw.
In the end, Dabrowski had to play two matches on Saturday just to get to the second and final round of qualifying. Which she did.
She beat Rodionova 7-5, 6-3, and then had a significantly easier time beating Miharu Imanishi.
Finally, the scoring was back in line.
Second straight main draw
Dabrowski also had a surprisingly easy time beating No. 8 seed Antonia Lottner (who had defeated two other Fed Cup teammates, Françoise Abanda and Bianca Andreescu in the Wimbledon qualifying this year), to reach the main draw.
According to the WTA Rules – as we understand them – Rodionova would still get first-round qualifying prize money ($1,750) and ranking points (1). She’ll also get her per diem reimbursed, although she’ll have one anyway as she is in the doubles draw.
For her part, Dabrowski will get the ranking points and prize money she earns, depending on how far she gets in the tournament.
Dabrowski’s first-round match will be against Johanna Konta on Tuesday afternoon in Tokyo. Even if she loses, she’ll still earn $7,150 and 26 ranking points.
Dabrowski and partner Yifan Xu of China are the No. seeds in the doubles as well.
Bonus money and points
As a bonus (for the extra work), per the WTA rules, Dabrowski also is to be given 25 per cent of the second-round money, and 35 per cent of the second-round ranking points. (Strictly speaking, the way the rule is laid out, it appears to refer to a main draw; we’ve drawn the conclusion that the same principles apply in a qualifying draw).
So that’s another $862, and four additional ranking points, (precisely, 3.71).
Given Dabrowski came in with a ranking of No. 541, just those four points are worth some 15 spots by themselves.
So the Canadian arrived in Tokyo with 54 ranking points and will leave, at minimum, with 84. That will bump up her singles ranking to around No. 430 – more than 100 spots.
That’s a good weekend’s work – despite the pink courts that are murder on the players’ depth perception.
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Sometimes Hawkeye taketh away.
But Tuesday in the women’s doubles quarterfinals at the BNP Paribas Open, it gave back to Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and her Chinese partner Yifan Xu.
And, as a result, it took away from Maria José Martinez Sánchez and Andreja Klepac.
The Spanish-Slovenian pair thought it had won the match, 10-8 in the match tiebreak.
They were jubilant, having been down in the match tiebreak and seemingly on their way out of the tournament. They even shook hands with Xu at the net, because Xu also thought it was over even though she and Dabrowski had challenged the call on the final lob.
The replay looked inconclusive – until it zoomed in close.
And still, the ball looked probably in. Until they zoomed in some more, and the official call came.
“The call is overturned”
And still, Martinez Sánchez and Klepac celebrated. And Xu conceded. But Dabrowski was, well, “Hey, wait a minute …”
The chair umpire had announced that the call was overturned. But no one seemed to hear it, except Dabrowski.
Once he explained it to the players, and they replayed the point, Dabrowski and Xu saved the match point and went on to win the match, 7-6 (7), 5-7, 12-10.
Here’s what it looked like.
It was a pretty crazy ending. No, it was really crazy.
And Martínez Sánchez and Klepac actually took it pretty well, considering.
Dabrowski and Xu were emotional and in a post-match interview on court, Xu explained that she had come into the tournament with a back injury, and hadn’t expected any kind of result.
Tough road to the final four
The first two victories were over very tough teams, even if they were unseeded. Dabrowski and Xu got past Coco Vandeweghe and Ashleigh Barty in a match tiebreak after dropping the first set 6-1.
In the second round, they defeated Nicole Melichar and Czech veteran Kveta Peschke, 6-4, 7-5.
But now, they’re in the semifinals, where they will face another unseeded team: Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova.
Dabrowski and Xu are coming up on a title defence in Miami, where they surprised everyone by taking the title. It remains the biggest of their career so far although Dabrowski has won two Grand Slams in mixed doubles.
MELBOURNE, Australia – Gabriela Dabrowski and Rohan Bopanna won the French Open mixed doubles title together last spring, only to lose a couple of tight ones in the quarters of Wimbledon and the US Open later in the summer.
Still, the 25-year-old Canadian didn’t expect to find out she’d been replaced by reading a story in an Indian news outlet online at the start of the season.
But that’s what Dabrowski says happened.
She let her racket do the talking as she exacted the best sort of revenge Sunday at the Australian Open.
The 25-year-old Canadian and new partner Mate Pavic of Croatia pulled out a 2-6, 6-4, 11-9 victory over Bopanna and his new partner, Timea Babos of Hungary and won the Australian Open mixed doubles title.
It was revenge best served cold on the only day of the tournament when the temperature and humidity were enough to finally close the roof of Rod Laver Arena.
Major No. 2 for the Canadian
“Well, a couple weeks ago in Brisbane I read an article where it said that Bopanna was playing with Babos, and I hadn’t spoken to him yet about playing. I had a lot of other things going on, so I was kind of just procrastinating the decision, I suppose, to find a partner for mixed doubles,” said Dabrowski, who barely let go of the championship trophy through the trophy ceremony through to the media interviews.
“Then after I read that article – well, it said he was playing with Timea. So straightaway, within a day, I messaged some people and Mate was one of those people and he responded almost immediately. Yeah, that’s how that happened.”
Dabrowski had contacted Jamie Murray, but he was already committed to Latisha Chan of Taipei. She also got in touch with Henri Kontinen, but he didn’t get the message before Pavic had agreed.
Tough (doubles) world out there
The doubles universe is a tough one. The stories of partners dumping partners if they feel a better offer has come along affects all but the top teams.
A year ago, Dabrowski thought she was all set to play the 2017 season with Maria José Martínez Sánchez of Spain. Until she wasn’t. Martínez Sánchez decided to go with Andreja Klepac of Slovenia. She began the season with Michaella Krajicek, but then the Dutch player got sick and left the Tour for awhile.
Luckily, Dabrowski randomly found Xu at Indian Wells, when she was looking for a partner for the Miami Open and the players’ two coaches happened to be sitting together at a lunch table.
Sometimes, things happen for a reason. Which doesn’t make the process any easier to take.
The story implies the two had discussed it, which Dabrowski said was not the case.
“(I was surprised) only because we hadn’t spoken about it. I wasn’t about to go find another partner without talking to him first. But this is the business, and this is the industry that we are in, and you kind of just have to have a tough skin. Having played predominantly doubles for the last few years, I’m kind of used to hearing stories like that, which is really unfortunate, I feel,” Dabrowski said.
“But at the same time, you know, clearly he made a good decision with her. They played so well all week. They’re both playing really well. So that’s the way it happens sometimes.”
Slow start, championship finish
Dabrowski admitted she was nervous in the first set because of the awkwardness of the situation. But she managed to put that to one side and focus on executing her shots the way she’d been working on them during the preseason and in practice.
The inside-out forehand return winner that clinched the title was exactly such a shot. She predicted where the serve would go, committed to what she wanted to do – and the return went exactly where she wanted it.
Knowing Bopanna from having played all those tight matches with him, Dabrowski also knew that his forehand can fail him in the late stages of matches. And that’s pretty much what happened in the end.
“I think we made a few good strategic plays on important points, which got us the break on Babos’ sserve in the second set. Then I think Mate served really, really well and had some clutch volleys. I think that pretty much carried us through to the end, she said. “I’m super happy. Australia has always been one of my favorite places in the whole world. It feels really special to be able to do well and play well and win here.”
This is the second mixed doubles Grand Slam for Dabrowski. She and partner Yifan Xu also made a quarter-final run in women’s doubles that came oh, so close to turning into something amazing but fell just short against No. 2 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.
But the fortnight caps a great trip Down Under for Dabrowski. She and Xu won the tuneup event in Sydney the week before the Australian Open.
Dabrowski was scheduled to head off to St. Petersburg, Russia Sunday night for the WTA Tour event there. She’ll rejoin Xu; the pair are the No. 1 seeds in the doubles draw.
And after that, it’s Fed Cup in Romania, from what Tennis.Life is told, although Dabrowski couldn’t confirm it Sunday.