The NYJTL Bronx Open: A Tournament for the Fans

When it comes to tennis, it’s hard to beat the showcase that the U.S. Open has to offer. Bright lights, star-studded matchups, and the largest (tennis) stadium in the world: Arthur Ashe.

However, amongst the glitz & glam, the everyday tennis fan can find themselves alienated from being able to enjoy the full experience.

The U.S. Open is able to offer one-of-a-kind memories. For example, during my first visit to Flushing Meadows, I was able to catch a glimpse of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, John Isner, Martina Hingis, and Madison Keys warming up alongside each other on the practice courts. A buffet of tennis greats!

Although, the U.S. Open also conjures memories of endless hours waiting in line for a Melon Ball, squinting at the action from Section 320 Row V, and the miserable ride back to Manhattan on the cramped 7 train.

Until recently, the U.S. Open was one the only way a New Yorker could whet his or her tennis palate. However, in the past two seasons, both the ATP & WTA have launched tour-level events in the Big Apple. The ATP hosts the New York Open in Long Island while the WTA organizes the NYJTL Open in the Bronx.

This past summer, I was able to check out the action at the NYJTL Open and I have to say I was quite impressed.

Staged at the Carry Leeds Tennis Center, the NYJTL Open created a tennis experience that is accessible to the everyday tennis fan.

In terms of economic accessibility, the event is budget-friendly. In fact, admission is free (apart from the suggested $10 donation). In terms of geographic accessibility, the event is only a short walk from the 6 train (which runs alongside Manhattan’s east side).

Most importantly, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. With no ticketed seating, fans are able to access the venue’s variety of seating options freely. If you’d like to check out the action from up close, feel free to sit courtside. If you’d prefer to lounge in the shade, feel free to rotate amongst the venue’s bleachers throughout the day.

With a compact site, gone are the days of having to pick which match to see. At the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, it is not uncommon to have to trek from one end of the grounds to the other in order to catch a glimpse of two matches. Conversely, at the Carry Leeds Tennis Center, both courts lit side-by-side each other. For example, I was able to simultaneously enjoy Camila Giorgi take on Alizé Cornet and Wang Qiang survive a challenge from Anna Blinkova during my visit to the tournament.

Feeling hungry? No need to miss a single point. Sitting on a hill overlooking the courts are food trucks. Furthermore, with picnic tables dotting the hill, feel free to take a minute to enjoy that hamburger that didn’t cost $20.

Numerous immigrant communities from all over the world call New York City home. At the NYJTL, tennis fans from these communities are able to cheer for their homegrown heroes. Compared to the U.S. Open in which the casual tennis fan’s experience can be agnostic of the matches outcome, it was refreshing to be surrounded by fans who are actually invested in the match.

For example, during my visit, there was one particularly fanatic Polish attendee who would cheer “Who’s the best? Magda’s the best!” after each and every point. No exaggeration. Each. And. Every. Point.

Magda Linette NYJTL Open 2019

Don’t get me wrong, the U.S. Open offers a one-of-a-kind experience for New York tennis fans. However, the NYJTL is able to deliver what the diehard New York tennis fan cares about most: the tennis.


WTA Retirement Watch 2020

As the decade pulls away in the rearview mirror, the prospect of retirement looms ahead for many of the recent decade’s greats.

Just recently, the tennis world digested the news of the immediate retirement of Dominika Cibulkova, former world No. 4, 2016 WTA Finals Champion and 2014 Australian Open runner-up. It is impossible for any die-hard tennis fan not to miss the peppy Slovakian, with her tennis ball-sniffing prowess and tendency to create knock-down, drag-out classics (if there is one match you have to watch it is her 2016 Wimbledon fourth round versus ‘The Magician’ herself, Agnieska Radwanska).

However, Dominika certainly isn’t alone in her contemplation of retirement. In fact, on the ATP Tour, many of her male contemporaries, such as David Ferrer & Tomas Berdych, have also called it quits. With the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo looming around the corner, many of these players may find it to be the perfect time to hang up their racquets.

Check out below for my list of the Top 10 players likely to retire by the close of 2020.

(NOTE: for the purposes of this list, only players formerly ranked in the Top 10 are in consideration):


10. Sam Stosur

Being a former World No. 1 in doubles, a three-time double Grand Slam winner, and a singles Grand Slam champion, Sam Stosur’s CV arguably earns her a place in the tennis Hall of Fame. In fact, her triumph over Serena Williams in the 2011 US Open Final ranks amongst one of the biggest Grand Slam final upsets in history.

However, the Australian’s best days appear to be over. A wrist injury in 2017 saw her ranking dip and she currently ranks World No. 92. In 2018, to start the year, she hoisted her home Slam’s trophy in Melbourne by winning the doubles title alongside Zhang Shuai. However, her year was punctuated by losing a dramatic Fed Cup rubber to France.

It is questionable whether she’ll be able to qualify for the Olympics, given how long her singles ranking has fallen and the fact that only the Top 10 ranked doubles players gain direct entry into the event (and Sam currently sits at World No. 15 in that discipline).

She’s recently hired a new coach, former doubles partner Rennae Stubbs. However, I expect the 2020 season to be treated as a victory lap for the Aussie veteran.


9. Sara Errani

The former World No. 5 & 2012 French Open Finalist’s reputation took a permanent hit when the ITF announced that the Italian failed a doping testing in February of 2017. Given her string of poor results leading up to the failed test, the controversy may not have made headlines if she had not attributed the failed result to “accidentally” ingesting her mother’s cancer meds while eating homemade tortellini…

While she petitioned to reduce her sentence, her own federation petitioned for it to be extended. Ever since she’s been struggling to regain Top 100 form (heck, she’s even been struggling to get her serve in the court).

While Errani may have been the tour’s most consistent Italian from 2012-2013, her compatriots Francesca Schiavoni,  Flavia Pennetta, and Roberta Vinci have since surpassed her accomplishments (and retired themselves). I expect the Italian to hang up her racquet and join their ranks in the coming months.

Carla Suarez

8. Carla Suarez Navarro

It feels like Carla has been on tour forever. Turning pro in 2003 (at the age of 14), many pundits made comparisons to another Spanish teen phenom–Rafael Nadal. While her career never quite rivaled Rafa’s, she did enjoy success in her own right.

In 2016, the Spaniard was on a tear, notching nine Top-10 wins during the first five months of the season, reaching the finals of Miami & Rome in the process (losing to Serena Williams & Maria Sharapova in those finals, no less). The run of form buoyed her ranking to World No. 6 & the trophy in Dubai the following year.

Her seven (yes, seven) Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances are nothing to laugh at. However, her form has taken a slide after suffering a wrist injury in 2018. The technique on her one-handed backhand (which is a work of art), depends on the ability to flick her wrist, and as such, she hasn’t been able to produce the angles that her game depends on.

While she still ranks amongst the world’s Top 40, I expect the Spaniard to call it a career after 2020.

(NOTE: On December 3rd, 2019, Carla announced that 2020 will be her final season.)


7. Andrea Petkovic

Andrea Petkovic is certainly the player I would miss most if she chose to bid adieu to the tour.

The German’s story matches her unique personality. After a dazzling 2011, in which she reached three (yes, three) Grand Slam quarter-finals, she suffered a gruesome on-court knee injury, tearing her ACL. Returning to tour nearly two years later, she reaggravated the injury in her comeback faceoff versus Viktoria Azarenka.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Petko returned, briefly reentering the Top 10 in 2015 and reaching the French Open semifinals. However, since, she’s hovered around World No. 60.

Andrea is one of the most intelligent players on tour. She studied political science in university & consistently talks about her love of writers like Ernest Hemingway in her press conferences. In fact, she recently won a journalism award for her contributions to Racquet Magazine.

All in all, I expect the German to always be a consistent presence in the tennis community, however, due to her uncooperative body, her playing days may be numbered. Hopefully, we’ll get to see the Petko dance at least one last time!

(NOTE: On December 11th, 2019, Andrea announced that she has no plans to return, however, a recurring injury will likely force her to miss the 2020 Australian Open.)


6. Svetlana Kuznetsova

In 2019, the Russian reminded us why to never count her out. In Cinncinatti, she sliced and diced her way through the likes of Anastasia Sevastova, Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova, and World No. 1 Ash Barty before losing a tight final to Madison Keys,

However, despite the run of form, the Russian failed to carry momentum into any other tournaments to close out the year.

Svetlana is an interesting character. She first tasted the highest glory that the sport can offer by winning the US Open as a teenager in 2004. She would eventually rise to World No. 2 and once again taste Grand Slam success by winning Roland Garros in 2009. However, her results in the past decade have not nearly touched those heights.

When she reached the semifinals of the 2016 WTA Finals (after a bizarre match in which she gave herself an on-court haircut), she explained the source of her energy to continue to fight, even after all these years: her heart.

However, given her recurring wrist & knee injuries, you have to wonder how much more heart the Russian has left to give through 2020.


5. Caroline Wozniacki

The Dane has long-rued the moniker of “Slamless No. 1”. However, after overcoming a hobbled Simona Halep in the 2018 Australian Open final, her days of answering the question, “When are you going to win a Slam?” are finally over.

Since hoising the biggest trophy of her career, she has failed to replicate that success. She’s reached only eight quarterfinals in thirty tournament appearances between 2018 & 2019. At the end of 2018, she revealed her diagnosis and battle with autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis. While she claims to have managed the condition, she played a truncated season this year (compared to the jam-packed schedule she typically plays).

While she may be experiencing difficulties on-court, off-court she appears to be in good spirits. She recently married retired NBA star, David Lee. Considering the humiliating manner to which her former-fiancé Rory McIlroy called off their wedding not-to-be, I’m sure she couldn’t be happier. In fact, many of her on-court contemporaries, like Daniela Hantuchova, have alluded to the fact that her happiness off-court may be eating at her devotion to the sport, especially given all that she’s achieved.

(NOTE: On December 6th, 2019, Caro announced that the 2020 Australian Open will be her final professional tournament.)

US Open Tennis

4. Venus Williams

At the age of 40, Venus Williams could become the oldest player to compete in Olympic singles (since the sport was reintroduced in 1988). However, at the moment, Venus is far behind in the race to claim one of the four singles qualifying spots on the U.S. team. Currently, her sister Serena, Madison Keys, Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske, and Coco Gauff rank above the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion.

While there is one wildcard that the Olympic committee may grant to a former Gold Medalist or Grand Slam champion, that wildcard looks like a highly competitive prize with 2016 champion Monica Puig, Maria Sharapova, Viktoria Azarenka and Williams all vying to make the cut.

Queen V is a trailblazer true and true, but, after years of setting her sights on Tokyo, you have to question where the future Hall of Famer finds the motivation to continue to fight heading into her forties.


3. Maria Sharapova

Speaking of Sharapova, the Russian is still on a quest for redemption, after her brief 2016 ITF suspension due to a failed drugs test. While her competitive flair remains intact, she has yet to generate any kind of momentum since returning to tour in 2017.

Her first-round losses at Wimbledon & the US Open were nothing short of humiliating (particularly her 6-1, 6-1 drubbing by “nemesis” Serena Williams). In fact, she ended her season ranked World No. 131, her lowest ranking since 2002.

It certainly doesn’t help that she has basically been in rehab for the majority of her return, attending to recurring shoulder, forearm, and hip injuries.

The game has evolved since Sharapova hit her peak–requiring a blend of strength, spin, and athleticism to reach the top. Sharapova possesses only one of those assets, and, combined with an uncooperating body, it appears her days are numbered.


2. Viktoria Azarenka

I cannot think of a player with worse luck than Viktoria Azarenka.

Winning the Australian Open in 2012 amidst a 26-match win-streak, Vika emerged as the de facto World No. 1 and the decade’s only true rival to the GOAT, Serena Williams.

However, her reign at the top was cut short due to an aggravated Achilles injury. It took her a few years to regain confidence in her movement (and an endless series of unfortunate first-round draws didn’t help either).

When she achieved the Sunshine Double in 2016, blasting Serena Williams off-court in the Miami final no less, it appeared that the Belarussian had reascended. However, her pregnancy, which she announced shortly thereafter, forced her away from competition yet again.

Unfortunately, due to a highly-publicized custody battle, Vika didn’t return to court until 2018. And, since her return, she has yet to win a title or make a deep run at a Grand Slam.

This year, she enlisted the help of Wim Fissette, who coached her to the Sunshine Double in 2016. In fact, the Belgian is responsible for career-best seasons from many players, including Simona Halep, Kim Clijsters, Angelique Kerber, Johana Konta, and Sabine Lisicki.  However, it appears that he has left Vika’s camp and is now working with Naomi Osaka.

After a first-round loss in Melbourne this year, Vika broke down in tears, admitting, “I’ve been through a lot of things in my life, and sometimes I wonder why I go through them.” She continues, “But I think they’re going to make me stronger. I want to believe that. And, I’m going to work hard for it.”

We all have to hope that 2020 starts to show the fruits of the former World No. 1’s labor, because few deserve it more.


1. Angelique Kerber

It might seem premature to list the 2018 Wimbledon Champion as a prime candidate for retirement. However, while the German has realized her greatest achievements in recent years, they have all occurred after the age of 28. Angelique holds the unique distinction of being the oldest woman to ascend to World No. 1 for the first time.

The German reached the Indian Wells final to lead 2019, her season was undone by Bianca Andreescu and an ankle injury that she succumbed to during practice in Madrid. She ended the year ranked World No. 20.

It is no secret that Angelique is one of the more popular players on tour. However, many of her closest friends that she rose through the ranks with, including Ana Ivanovic, Aga Radwanska, and Caroline Wozniacki, have already called it a career.

While recently, the German has made it a habit of excelling in  even-numbered-years, you have to wonder if the German might contemplate calling it quits if she faces another difficult year.