US Open…“Momming”

By Mark Winters

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It is not necessary to excel at Scrabble or Wordle to realize that Momming is a word… In fact it may have been derived from “Mumming” a 13th to 16th Century European winter festival activity involving groups of mask wearing pranksters (“Mummers”) who, in silence, brought merriment to village streets and homes. In time, its meaning expanded to denote mothering…with style and pizzazz.

During the US Open, Taylor Townsend, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki were among “the tour notables…” who discussed the “Dueling Devotion” challenges they faced. Their situations were as similar as they were unique, but each found ways to resolve issues… often with a touch of panache.

Elina Svitolina and daughter Skai. Source: TikTok

Stephanie Livaudais’ August 30th story for led – “Quote of the Day: Elina Svitolina says it takes a village to raise daughter Skaï – on the road and at home.” The subtitle should have been – “With the help of FaceTime”.

The October 2022 birth of Svitolina and her husband, French star Gaël Monfils’ daughter has been thoroughly documented…and so has their staying in touch via the app during their spring and summer tournament playing absences.

Svitolina returned to competition at the Charleston Open in April and won only one match in her first four tournaments. Slowly, she made “finding her game…” progress and was a Women’s Singles quarterfinalist at Roland Garros and a Ladies’ semifinalist in London…All the while, she served as the Ukrainian “Silence is betrayal…” spokesperson.

The Monfils’ daughter did travel with them to Paris, but, thereafter, to ensure the youngster develops a daily routine, she remained at home in Monte Carlo where both grandmothers have handled her care.

At the US Open, Svitolina admitted, “It’s been one month now that we didn’t see her. We FaceTime every single day. But, yeah, it’s not easy.”

A 2019 US Open Women’s Singles semifinalist, more “Skaï Time” resulted after Jessica Pegula, the No. 3 seed from the US defeated Svitolina, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the third round.

A total of 10 mothers played this year’s US Open… But, more noteworthy, six were members of the “Moms 2021” club…

Taylor Townsend and baby Adyn. Photo: Instagram

In a post-match interview Townsend, with a smile, explained, “…being a parent makes you want to pull your hair out…it’s more, like, learning and understanding when to push. Basically, to understand that most of the time…you want to be in control but you’re not in control, so you can control what you can, and what you can’t you got to let go.”

She has been quite candid about the difficult recovery she had following son Adyn’s March 2021 C-section delivery and how the experience helped her mature. The serve and volley left-hander, who was the 2012 Girls’ World No. 1 junior, lost to Karolína Muchová of the Czech Republic, 7-6,6-3 in the Women’s Singles third round but, with Leylah Fernandez of Canada, reached the doubles quarterfinals before being edged by tournament winners Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6.

After playing Muchová she thoughtfully admitted, “…motherhood has given me a different perspective, more so towards the game. I really have fallen back in love not only with the sport but with the process. For the longest time I was like, I know I can, I know I can, I know I can. But now I truly believe, I’m a top player. Being able to have matches like these and days like these, it shows me that I’m there.”

Caroline Wozniacki and her children. Photo: Instagram

For Wozniacki, a US Open Women’s Singles finalist in 2009 and ’14, New York was the third tournament on her “Return Tour…” Having had daughter Olivia in 2021 and son James in 2022, and not having played competitively for over three years, she needed a wild card to gain entry in the 2023 event.

After straight-setting Petra Kvitová of the Czech Republic in the second round and edging Jennifer Brady of the US in three sets in her next match, Coco Gauff, the eventual US Open Women’s Singles trophy winner, ended her impressive showing 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the fourth round.

Having become one of the few women to win US Open singles matches in three decades and stressing the importance of being a good role model for her children, she added, post-match, “I think there’s a lot of things that I can take away from playing this Slam…Obviously I beat some great players along the way. I wanted to see where I was tennis-wise, where I was physically and everything else. I think I’ve learned a lot from that.” 

Barbora Strýcová and son Vincent. Photo: Instagram

Barbora Strýcová, the 37-year-old from the Czech Republic, used a protected ranking to make the US Open the final tournament of her career. A successful “All Arounder”, she reached the third round of the US Open Women’s Singles in 2014, ’15 and ’18. She was a Women’s Doubles semifinalist with Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan in 2014 and in 2017 with countrywoman Lucie Šafářová.

Following her 6-4, 6-4 first round Women’s Singles loss to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, she told David Kane of, “I was looking at my son (Vincent, born October 2021), I was crying, at the same time I was laughing. I didn’t want to cry because it was kind of a happy moment, even though I lost the match. But the emotion takes over you. You are kind of like realizing, ‘Wow, it’s really my last match here. I won’t be coming back here ever. Maybe like a spectator, but…’”.

(In an all-Czech Republic second round US Open Women’s Doubles contest, she and Markéta Vondroušová lost 6-2, 6-3 to Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková. In the Mixed Doubles quarterfinals, she and Santiago González of Mexico were defeated by Mate Pavić of Croatia and Ena Shibahara of Japan, 6-4, 7-6.)

Tatjana Maria and family. Photo: Instagram

Not only was Tatjana Maria of Germany a “Moms 2021” she was also the only member to have “Doubled Daughters” – Charlotte was born in December 2013 and Cecilia in April 2021.

Recognized for reaching the Ladies’ Singles semifinals at The Championships in 2022 at the age of 34, Maria realized her best New York result teaming with Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands to reach the US Open Women’s Doubles third round, where Jennifer Brady of the US and Luisa Stefani of Brazil ended their run, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, whose daughter Luana arrived in April 2021, is another of that year’s Moms club who cannot be overlooked, after she earnt a place in the Women’s Singles draw as a Lucky Loser.

Coincidentally her best New York showing came in 2009 when she was a semifinalist losing 6-3, 6-3 to Wozniacki, in a contest between 19-year-olds. This year she defeated qualifier Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 6-4 in the first round. Madison Keys, the No. 17 of the US, was 6-1, 6-2 better in the second round.

Vera Zvonareva with her daughter Evelina and doubles partner Timea Bacsinszky in 2018. Photo: Instagram

Zvonareva, a 2010 US Open Women’s Singles Finalist, gave birth to daughter Evelina in 2016 but there are no details regarding the month (and Evelina wasn’t at the Open).

Playing with Elena Vesnina in the 2009 Women’s Doubles quarterfinals, they were edged 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 by Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Anastasia Rodionova of Australia. This year, she again came up short…this time with Laura Siegemund of Germany in the trophy round where Dabrowski and Routliffe prevailed 7-6, 6-3. 

In a September 9th Baseline story by Nina Pantic titled “Mom Zvonareva to play for US Open doubles crown”, she confessed after a long day it would be nice to return to her hotel room and relax but, “…there is my daughter, who is jumping like crazy on the bed, and like, ‘Mommy, you can’t sit, you can’t lay down. You have to play with me for the next three hours.'”

Margarita Betova (née Gasparyan), was almost a “Moms 2021” colleague except her son Daniil was born last December. One of the few women on the tour with a one-hand backhand, she used a protected ranking to enter the Open and lost to Japanese qualifier Yuriko Miyazaki 6-3, 6-3 in the first round. 

Patricia Maria Tig and daughter Sofia. Photo: Instagram

Patricia Maria Tig of Romania also used a protected ranking to access the Singles draw, making her third appearance in New York. In doing so she became the “Mom II” when it came to the age of children – daughter Sofia was born in November 2018.

In the first round she side-stepped Rebecca Marino of Canada, 7-6, 7-6. Then Pegula ended her New York stay, 6-1, 6-3 in the next round. (Trivia fans will enjoy…When she was 19, between November 2013 and December 2014, Tig won 10 straight singles titles on the ITF Tour.)

Victoria Azarenka, who gave birth to son Leo in December 2016, was effectively “No. 1 Mom” coming into New York with her ranking of 18.

A three-time US Open Women’s Singles Finalist (in 2012, ’13 and ’20); and also a 2019 finalist in doubles with Ash Barty, her run in singles this year was short-lived after being beaten by Zhu Lin, 6-3, 6-3, in the second round.

Momming, in its special way, brought merriment to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center…

Angelique Kerber before the birth of Liana. Photo: Instagram

And Angelique Kerber of Germany, whose daughter Liana was born in February, is preparing for the 2024 Australian Open.

As is Naomi Osaka, who gave birth to Shai in July. She revealed that she was looking forward to playing in Melbourne while in New York as a panel member for the “Mental Health and Sport: Why it Matters” forum.

Mothering with style and pizzazz promises to continue being one of the tour’s treasures…

Shai’s tennis jumpsuit. Photo: Instagram
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