Monthly Archives: June 2019

Inside the Tour with Nina and Irina — CiCi Bellis on enduring four surgeries and planning a comeback

“Each one I was like, no, I’m not doing the surgery. I’m done with tennis. I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to put my body through this anymore. It’s just not worth it… But I ended up doing it. My gut told me to do it and fix it and try to come back.”

This week’s Podcast features special guest CiCi Bellis alongside co-hosts Nina Pantic and Irina Falconi. The 20-year-old American has been off the tour since March 2018 with right wrist and elbow injuries. She’s undergone four surgeries, but despite all she’s been through—including a surgery that shortened the bone in her arm—she’s planning to be back this year, maybe even in time for the US Open.

At 15, Bellis burst onto the scene at the 2014 US Open with an upset of Dominika Cibulkova. She forwent a scholarship at Stanford to turn pro, and earned WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2017 after reaching a career-high ranking of No. 35.

Her long injury hiatus has given her new perspective on life, and allowed her to spend more time with family, friends and her boyfriend, University of Florida Gator Sam Riffice. She’s also started working toward her college degree online with Indiana University East.

Inside the Tour with Nina and Irina — Wrapping up Roland Garros 2019 and debating grass

Roland Garros 2019 ended with Ashleigh Barty and Rafael Nadal raising the trophies. Podcast co-hosts Nina Pantic and Irina Falconi reflect on the fortnight, and look ahead to the grass season—which is already underway.

Nadal handled Dominic Thiem in four sets in the final, and then handled the press with similar expert finesse. He claims he’s not openly chasing Roger Federer’s 20 Grand Slams, saying no matter what number he ends up on, it’s been “unbelievable, no?”

While Nadal wrote more history, Barty made Australia proud with her first major. Irina has a personal take on what’s so good about Barty as a player and a person, having faced the new world No. 2 twice in her career.

Before either champion can properly celebrate their achievements, the tours have swung into the grass-court season. Nina makes a case for why it can be a brutal surface to play on, while Irina counters with what’s amazing about it (hint: Centre Court).

Inside the Tour with Nina and Irina — Debating Federer’s chances against Nadal at Roland Garros

Week 2 of Roland Garros has been highlighted by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer setting up their 39th career meeting in Friday’s semifinals. Podcast co-hosts Irina Falconi and Nina Pantic debate Federer’s chances. Federer may have won their last five meetings, but it’s hard to give the Swiss the edge against the King of Clay.

One of Federer’s many challenges against Nadal is that the Spaniard is left handed. What does that advantage really entail? There’s another left-hander making big moves: Marketa Vondrousova. The Czech teenager has made drop shots cool again with her variety-packed game.

Her semifinal against Johanna Konta has been pushed back to Friday because of rain washing out play on Wednesday. What do players do during rain delays, and how do they stay on top of their tournament routines?

Inside the Tour with Nina and Irina — Youth swagger rules Week 1 at Roland Garros

Week 1 at Roland Garros officially wrapped on Saturday with the fourth round set in both the men’s and women’s draws. podcast co-hosts Nina Pantic and Irina Falconi break down and react to some of the most exciting storylines.

They kick off with Sofia Kenin’s stunning 6-2, 7-5 upset over Serena Williams, and the rise of youth swagger on the WTA tour with 20-year-old Kenin and teenagers Amanda Anisimova and Iga Swiatek all getting wins on Saturday. Swag really is key when it comes to pulling off upsets on the biggest stages of the sport. Falconi actually played against Swiatek just last year and has insight on how good the Pole really is.

Pantic and Falconi also take a stab at the poll: Whose shot at history is most notable? Adjusting to remove Serena from her bid for Grand Slam No. 24, the options remain: Rafael Nadal’s 12th Roland Garros crown, Novak Djokovic’s fourth Slam in a row (again) or Roger Federer’s 21st major.

The Podcast will be back next week for more coverage of Roland Garros.