CoCo Vandeweghe recently took to the court again, and also to the new kid on the podcast scene, FANtastic Tennis, in a recent episode.
Vandeweghe opened up about her recent left hand surgery, something of a secret on the WTA Tour since the World TeamTennis season held in West Virginia.
"I've been keeping it under wraps because it was such a freak accident, and I was on such a high when it happened," she shared with FANtastic Tennis host Jon Guerrica and Jon Sloan, the episode's titular "fan" sitting in on the conversation.
I’m thankful for this sport! First time since the accident I’ve hit two handed backhands! pic.twitter.com/KF61N4szt9— CoCo Vandeweghe (@CoCoVandey) November 26, 2020
What befell the American: She had warmed up a soupy snack in a bowl that proved not to be microwave-safe. "It exploded in my hand," she said, in typically straightforward fashion, continuing that the kitchen accident "cut my pinky and severed two ligaments and a nerve."
That came just two days after Vandeweghe struck the winning ball—a ferocious forehand-return winner—in her New York Empire team's championship-clinching match in the WTT finale.
Three days later, she would be in surgery.
"I've been doing rehab on that for almost 10 weeks now," Vandeweghe shared. "I'm just trying to get my pinky to bend because when you've severed both ligaments, you can't bend your finger."
A major champion in 2018 US Open doubles alongside Ashleigh Barty, Vandeweghe has also made singles semifinal runs in the 2017 US Open and Australian Open events.
She expects to be back in sanctioned WTA play no sooner than March 2021—a time by which everyone associated with the sport hopes against hope that professional sports again bear some semblance of normalcy in terms of tournament schedules,
Vandeweghe's full FANtastic podcast episode is hardly bound only to her but to chatter regarding her favorite side of the doubles court to return on, least favorite fellow pro to play, and amuse-bouches aplenty. She also recaps her own highs and lows, from the sideline, regarding how the 2020 season played out.
As a recently launched audio-intersection between touring pros and their fans, FANtastic Tennis bills itself as catalyzing high-energy conversations in which a "professional tennis player join one of their biggest fans as we dive into their career highlights, as well as the weekly drama, comedy and top stories from both the WTA and ATP tours."
Guerrica conceived the idea for FANtastic Tennis as a result of hosting what he dubbed "WTA Quarantrivia" gatherings on Zoom during 2020's downtime. Retired pros/current commentators and active players took part, including Vandeweghe, Andrea Petkovic, Lindsay Davenport, Chanda Rubin, Jennifer Brady, Dinara Safina, and more. Up to three dozen tennis super-fans enjoyed those calls, many of them relishing the chance to engage directly, and live, with some of their favorites.
"During quarantine I became a huge fan of podcasts," Guerrica said in a separate interview with Baseline. "I thought since 2020 has deprived both tennis fans and players from any interaction, what better way than a fun show that pairs tennis super-fans with their favorite players to discuss everything tennis? It’s been a great way to get some of that important fan-player interaction back to the sport."
Quarantini in hand, Guerrica has presided over a few vigorous chats with players and bands of fans. They've been prolonged ones at that—a Zoom call with Victoria Azarenka got so fun and chummy that the two-time major champion stayed on for about two-and-a-half hours. (Talk about a marathon match, if virtually.)
"The players have been loving hearing from a fan base they didn’t even know they had" in some cases, Guerrica posited. This author witnessed that on a few calls as well, as Brady and others seemed nearly incredulous that packs of fans would be pining over their every result.
Guerrica allowed that, as with any podcast, FANtastic Tennis doesn't come without its quirks in recording. "CoCo’s dog was barking throughout, and we had to stop numerous times and re-shoot or edit," he said.
Vandeweghe, a WTA Quarantrivia veteran (also alongside Guerrica), hit it off so well with her super-fan that she actually took Sloan’s spin-workout class after the interview. She and Guerrica have exchanged gin cocktail recipes to boot, though as Vandeweghe herself shared in a quick-strike set of questions mid-episode, she does tend to favor a margarita.
"So the experiment has worked," Guerrica affirmed, speaking to Zooming and podcasting, not to bartending.
FANtastic Tennis' upcoming episodes will feature 2020 headline-makers Jessica Pegula and Danielle Collins alongside eager observers of the sport and their respective careers. Future interviews are on tap with southpaw shotmaker Donald Young and beloved retired pro Corina Morariu as well. Other early episodes featured retired, story-laden WTA players Manuela Maleeva and Jelena Dokic. Additional guest stars are, as we like to say come Wimble-time, in queue.
Disclosure: The author is a friend of podcast host Jon Guerrica. The two compete on the GLTA World Tour.