In this week’s edition of Hot Shots, we cover International Women's Day, a new twist on the pre-match coin toss, and Naomi Osaka's emergence as a role model.
On International Women's Day, two mulitple-time Grand Slam winners and mothers will square off in Round 2 of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., as Serena Williams faces Victoria Azarenka in Friday's evening session. The pair's 22nd meeting (and first since the 2016 Indian Wells final, won by Azarenka) will be played in front of a HeForShe backdrop on the back wall of Court 1, in support of gender equality.
"We haven't played since we both became moms, so it's going to be a special one," Azarenka told WTATennis.com. “She’s the toughest opponent out there ... I always feel very inspired and motivated because of her—she pushes the limits and she pushes me to improve.”
While both women are fierce competitors on the court, they remain supportive of each other and of their fellow WTA players off it. For International Women's Day, Williams penned a Fortune Magazine article on the importance of that shared support, for all women.
The midweek start of main-draw play at Indian Wells left Tuesday night free for a "Rafa and Friends" edition of Tie Break Tens in Southern California. Champion Milos Raonic claimed the winner-take-all $150,000 prize, defeating 2016 US Open men's singles champion Stan Wawrinka in the final. Also competing were semifinalists Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic, along with first-round losers Dominic Thiem, Taylor Fritz, Gael Monfils and David Goffin.
The one-night, eight-player knockout tournament format utilizes ten-point tiebreaks to create drama and tension from the first serve. But even before the first ball was struck in each match, the fun started with a game of rock, paper, scissors in lieu of the traditional coin toss for serve.
Had he not been recovering from his recent hip surgery, Andy Murray might have taken part in the event, too. (He competed in the first two Tie Break Tens tournaments, in London in 2015 and in Vienna, Italy, in 2016.) But there is good news from the Briton: in an interview with BBC Sport, he revealed that he is now pain free and looking forward to a potential return to the ATP Tour.
Naomi Osaka is relishing life as the new WTA No. 1, and the once-shy 21-year-old is embracing her position as a role model. She has recently appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's World Fame 100 issue and will be the subject of a Vogue photoshoot next week.
And lastly, fitting the theme of role models and International Women's Day, the spotlight on Osaka caught the eye of the makers of Barbie Doll. Check out their latest product, modeled after the reigning US Open and Australian Open women's singles champ.