There’s just something about tennis in Texas.
Within the last few years, we’ve seen new events crop up across the state – the ATP 250 Dallas Open, the 2022 WTA Finals in Fort Worth, and now the ATX Open – that are helping bring professional tennis back to the U.S and expanding the American tennis fanbase. Not to mention the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, an ATP 250 tournament that has long been a fixture on the tennis calendar.
After covering the ATX Open last week, I’m optimistic that Austin could also soon become a mainstay on the WTA calendar for years to come. With full stands every day throughout the week, it was great to see enthusiastic crowds turn out for both singles and doubles.
During our interviews, players had nothing but positive things to say about their time in Austin, the player experience at the inaugural ATX Open, and the venue at Westwood Country Club.
In singles, 20-year-old Ukrainian No. 8 seed, Marta Kostyuk, defeated surprise finalist Varvara Grecheva 6-3, 7-5 to capture her maiden WTA title. In her acceptance speech, Kostyuk dedicated her win to her home country of Ukraine.
The doubles final featured a clash of the top two seeds, No. 1 Nicole Melichar-Martinez/Ellen Perez and No. 2 Erin Routliffe/Aldila Sutjiadi.
Routliffe and Sutjiadi prevailed in a nail-biting three setter, 6-4, 3-6, 10-8, to win their first doubles title together. This was the 7th of 15 matches that was decided in a third-set tiebreaker.
Routliffe won her third career doubles title while Sutjiadi captured her second title of 2023 and third career title. Melichar-Martinez and Perez played in their fifth finals together and 28th career doubles final for Melichar-Martinez.
We interviewed both doubles teams throughout the week, so it was a fitting occasion to see them square off against each other in the championship match.
Strength in Numbers: ATX Shows Off American WTA Depth
Given the current depth of U.S. tennis players on the ATP and WTA, attending 250 events is a gold mine for U.S. tennis fans right now. Draws are stacked with American players of all ages, rankings, playing styles, and personalities.
The ATX Open featured 15 American players in the singles main draw, which made up nearly half of the 32-player field. Throughout the tournament, fans were treated to seven intriguing all-American matchups.
We enjoyed sitting courtside for the highest profile of these All-American duels, a first-round contest between Sloane Stephens and Taylor Townsend. It was a terrific display of contrasting styles between Stephens, one of the fastest players on tour who blends offense with defense better than anyone, and Townsend, a lefty who takes an old-school, serve and volley approach with her game.
Others included veteran-newcomer matchups like Coco Vandeweghe vs. Robin Montgomery and Alison Riske vs. Katie Volynets. We also got to sit courtside for a hard-hitting, late-night battle of American youngsters between Ashlyn Krueger and Caty McNally. McNally’s incredible hands and variety were on full display as she prevailed 6-4, 6-3.
American Singles Standouts Shine in Austin
Many Americans impressed throughout the week. Perhaps the most remarkable American story of the tournament was hometown favorite and former UT standout, Peyton Stearns. The reigning NCAA champion captured the first two WTA wins of her career to advance to her first WTA quarterfinals appearance.
In the first round, she defeated Katie Boulter 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in 3 hours and 22 minutes. In the second round, she backed it up by scoring a straight-set victory over Mirjam Bjorklund, before falling to Katie Volynets in the quarterfinals.
Speaking of Katie Volynets… wow. In her second-round match against No. 3 Anastasia Potapova, Volynets rallied from 0-5, ad-out in the third set to win 27 of the next 32 points and win the match, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.
Both Stearns and Volynets will certainly be two rising young Americans to watch in 2023 and beyond as they climb up the singles ranks.
ATX Open Player Interviews
As a tennis journalist covering doubles for a growing website and podcast, attending 250 events in person is a great opportunity to experience more player access than you normally would at a bigger event. The small, 16-team doubles draw makes it easy to follow the tournament closely and familiarize yourselves with the stories and backgrounds of players you may or may not have known before the tournament.
Throughout the week, Will and I spoke with 11 different players in press conferences, post-match interviews, and podcast interviews. Check out our doubles diary below with takeaways and excerpts from some of these conversations.
Sloane Stephens: Former US Open Champion
We sat on the front row for Sloane Stephens’ press conference during media day on Sunday before the tournament kicked off. I asked her about playing doubles with Alycia Parks and what she was expecting ahead of her first-round clash with Taylor Townsend. It’s always interesting to see how players view and prioritize doubles when they sign up to play.
For Sloane, doubles seems like it’s a healthy distraction from singles and mostly a friendship-based decision. Though she downplayed her doubles abilities, Stephens impressed during her first-round doubles win alongside Alycia Parks over the tough Ukrainian team of Marta Kostyuk/Dayana Yastremska.
When she was asked how the partnership came about, Sloane offered one of the best doubles quotes of the tournament in her post-match interview.
“I thought I retired from doubles a long time ago. Alycia asked me to play, and I told her I wasn’t very good.”Sloane Stephens
Nicole Melichar-Martinez: WTA Top 20 Doubles Player & ATX Open Finalist
A repeat podcast guest and vocal doubles advocate, Nicole Melichar-Martinez always brings a great interview full of insight. We caught up with Nicole at the beginning of the week and listened to her analysis of she and Ellen Perez’s tough start to the season, what they are working on this week to improve, and her assessment of recent WTA doubles partnership splits and formations.
Doubles Only Podcast
When we asked Nicole who she thought was the best doubles player in the world right now, this is what she had to say…
“I would say Katerina Siniakova is the best doubles player right now. Not only has she won the last four slams with Barbora Krejcikova, but she’s also won multiple titles with a few different partners over the last year. She serves well, she returns well, she’s great at the net, and she’s quick. If you give her any time on the ball, she punishes it.”Nicole Melichar-Martinez
Ashlyn Krueger & Robin Montgomery: Rising American Stars
On Tuesday, we chatted with a pair of rising 18-year-old Americans, Ashlyn Krueger and Robin Montgomery. Both ranked between 150-200 in singles, they talked about how they balance scheduling between ITFs, WTA qualifying and main draw, and doubles. After watching them play in singles and doubles, we feel confident that Krueger and Montgomery will be two American names you won’t forget.
Doubles Only Podcast
When we asked Ashlyn and Robin about the best aspects of each other as doubles partners, here’s what they had to say…
Ashlyn about Robin as a doubles partner
“Robin always helps me mentally on the court and will crack a joke if I’m tight or nervous. If I don’t know what to do or where to serve, she always comes up with an answer. She’s a lefty…and I’m a righty. What I can’t do, she can. She’s great at communication.“
“Ashlyn understands the right way to communicate with me. We’ve gotten to know each other better off the court, which helps our chemistry on the court. Ashlyn helps me get through tough moments when I’m not playing my best. She’s tall and has a long wingspan. Her serve helps set me up at the net. When she’s on, I don’t need to do much.”Robin about Ashlyn as a doubles partner
Caty McNally: WTA Top 20 Doubles & Top 75 Singles Player
On Wednesday, we got the opportunity to chat with Caty McNally, who has consistently been one of the most requested guests for the podcast.
While she’s most well known for her doubles career, McNally is also making a name for herself on the singles court in 2023. She’s currently ranked a career-high of No. 73 in singles and made her first WTA semi-final in singles at the Merida Open the week before she came to Austin. She also won the doubles title in Merida with first-time partner, Diane Parry, who became McNally’s 10th partner to capture a title with on the WTA and ITF level.
Doubles Only Podcast
McNally mentioned Barbora Krejcikova as an inspiration for someone who had doubles success early on in her career before she climbed to the top of the singles game. When we asked her about her quick hands and strong defensive volleys, she smiled and shared a funny story about her tennis upbringing with her older brother John.
“I definitely give credit to my older brother, John, who played tennis at Ohio State. Growing up I always practiced with him, and he was constantly launching balls at my head. I didn’t really have a choice except to stand up there, put my racquet up and not be afraid. Now, even when I’m playing mixed doubles, I’m not afraid of the guys when they are hitting big forehands at me. The worst thing can happen is I’m probably just going to get hit. I just try to stand up and hold my ground.”Caty McNally
Ingrid Neel: WTA Top 100 Doubles Player & ATX Open Semifinalist
If you can guess how many doubles partners Ingrid Neel played with in 2022, we’d be impressed. Will Boucek sat down with the world No. 85 doubles player during the ATX Open and then got to speak with both Ingrid and her partner, Olivia Tjandramulia, later in the week.
Ingrid has a very warm personality and brings a strategic doubles mindset to the table. She also had a very detailed description of what her ideal doubles partner would look and play like (hint: Bryan Brothers).
Doubles Only Podcast
“In a perfect world, it would be someone a little like the Bryan Brothers where you lock down the net and form a wall. There’s a reason I don’t play singles anymore, and I don’t think that me hanging from the baseline is going to beat the players who make a living doing this in singles. Being a tandem unit at the net would be super fun and throw off other teams because they don’t see this playing style often in women’s doubles.”Ingrid Neel