TENNIS US OPEN – She’s rolling now, crushing opponents and symbolically all those who doubted her. A season that seemed destined to go nowhere for Serena Williams, a season that made some of us suggest that at almost 33 years old her best days were over, is now headed to the stars. Art Spander for bleacherreport.com
She’s rolling now, crushing opponents and symbolically all those who doubted her. (Blush!). A season that seemed destined to go nowhere for Serena Williams, a season that made some of us suggest that at almost 33 years old her best days were over, is now headed to the stars—and the record books.
Was she ever any better than she was Friday afternoon in a semifinal of the U.S. Open? Was she any more dominant, more overwhelming more—yes—awesome? Maybe, but probably not.
Serena destroyed bewildered Ekaterina Makarova, 6-1, 6-3. She needed only one hour. That’s 60 minutes. That’s ridiculous.
It was a terrible, swift sword of a victory, a win that told us whatever happened at the Australian Open, at the French Open and at Wimbledon, she remains a major force. In women’s tennis, she’s the major force.
“Well, Serena, she’s a great, unbelievable player,” said Makarova.
The Russian hadn’t lost a set in five previous matches this Open. This day, as the sun shone, the thermometer climbed into the 80s and—as so often happens at Arthur Ashe Stadium—the wind swirled; Makarova was fortunate to win four games.
“It’s always tough to play against her,” said Makarova, who had been 1-3 against Williams in their careers. “Today, she was so aggressive. I didn’t think she will be that aggressive. She was coming (for the ball) so early, so sometimes I was too late because she was too fast.
“I lost against No. 1.”
As Williams stands currently in the rankings and, now, after her 18th win in the last 19 matches since going out in the third round at Wimbledon, she certainly will remain in that position. Her only loss during the stretch was to older sister Venus a month ago at Montreal.
And for those of us who gave up on Williams, who believed that not even reaching the second week at the other three Grand Slams this year, much less the quarterfinals, she had meaningful advice:
“Well, there’s always…what is the word, skeptics?” Williams reminded. “I don’t know. I’m losing my mind. Anyways, that people might write or people might not believe.
“I worked really hard for Wimbledon. I worked really, really hard, and I was really disappointed and sad and shocked that I wasn’t able to win. I worked hours, more than I worked before. Maybe it’s just paying off now.”
The old order, relatively speaking, refuses to give up or give in. Thursday night, Roger Federer, who having turned 33 in August is about six weeks older than Williams, showed he still has a serve, a forehand and method.
Federer overcame a two-set deficit to beat Gael Monfils and reach the semis against Marin Cilic.
“It’s amazing to see,” Williams observed. “We’re both making it so far. It would be cool if we did it together. It would really be just an amazing, amazing feat for the both of us.”
Especially since they both have 17 Grand Slam titles, for Williams five of those at the Open, including the last two years.
Still, from a distance, nothing Williams does is amazing. And everything she does is amazing.
The lady is unpredictable. She can blow her stack, as she did five years ago in the Open, cursing out a meek lineswoman who had the temerity to call a foot fault on Williams. She can be absolutely charming and humble, praising opponents—including Makarova.
Williams is a close friend of Caroline Wozniacki, who she’ll meet in the Sunday final after Wozniacki’s opposition in the other semi, Shuai Peng, was forced to withdraw because of cramping.
“She really knows my game well and knows how to play,” said Williams, talking about Wozniacki much like a football coach talks about the team he’s playing next. All positive. Nothing negative.
Still, Williams is the favorite, having won seven of the eight matches they have played starting in 2009. The most recent were close, however, Serena needing three sets to win at Cincinnati and Montreal, both within the last month.
If Williams serves with the ferocity and accuracy she did against Makarova, she’ll be the champion.
“When she’s on fire, she’s hard to beat,” said Wozniacki. “But I have had two tough matches against her the last few weeks. I was really close. Hopefully for me that would be the third time’s the charm.”
Serena had some good things to say about the Woz.
“She’s so consistent,” said Williams. “I think that’s one of the things that makes her really tough. So I just have to be ready for that and, again, just stay calm and just be able to relax and be happy. You know, the beginning…the past six months I would never thought I’d be here.”
Neither did a great many of us, the ones Serena labels as skeptics. Perhaps we should have been careful. Perhaps Williams should have been successful. She won three Slams in 2013, needing only one more to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Then she bumbles through the first three Slams of 2014.
“In the beginning of the week,” she said about her play at the Open, “I definitely wasn’t sure I would make it this long.”
Does she mean it? Or is she teasing us? What goes through her mind? How does she stomp Alize Cornet, 6-1, in the first set of their Wimbledon match and then lose the next two sets? How does she batter Makarova and then tell us, “I didn’t see myself being that aggressive?”
Makarova did. Everyone in the arena did.
“You don’t know what it means to me,” she said to the crowd over the public address system about the win. Now Caroline wants to go for her first Grand Slam. “I want to make some history.”
She’s made plenty of history. She’s also made her critics as baffled as poor Ekaterina Makarova was on court. What a lady.
Article from bleacherreport.com
Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round
It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.
Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.
The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.
“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.
After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.
At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.
The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.
Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.
Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.
It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.
The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.
After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.
“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.
Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.
Bianca Andreescu Begins Indian Wells Title Defense With Rollercoaster win
The Canadian began her title defense from 2019 with a three-set win over her American opponent.
Reigning Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu is into the third round after a epic two-hour and 48 battle with Alison Riske which she eventually won 7-6, 5-7, 6-2.
” I’m very happy to be back and I felt all the emotions coming back here to Indian Wells, especially stepping on this court and it honestly feels awesome”. Said Andreescu.
The Toronto native fired 30 winners in a match that went back and forth in the last match on Stadium court.
The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Canadian with the first two chances of the match to break and she was able to get the first break of serve in the match but failed to consolidate and Riske broke back the following game.
Andreescu had another chance at 3-3 but was snuffed by the world number 51 and the first set was decided by a tiebreaker. In that breaker, the number 16 seed jumped out to a 4-2 lead which was enough to take the first set.
After holding in her opening service game the Canadian had three chances for an early break in the second set but the American was able to save all three and held serve.
At 2-1, the world number 21 had two more chances and with a return winner on double break point she took a 3-1 lead and this time was able to consolidate the break and hold serve.
At 4-2, the world number 51 attempted a comeback and after earning two breakpoints of her own broke back to put the set back on serve but at 5-4 the Canadian had two match points but the American saved both.
At 5-5, Riske had two more breakpoints and managed to get the crucial break of serve and serve out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.
The number 16 seed was keen on getting the early lead in the third set and she did just that to take a 2-0 lead and at 4-1 managed to turn her break into a double break and served out the match.
After the match in her on-court interview, Andreescu was asked what had happened in the second set and how she was able to respond in the third set.
” She played very well, I honestly had no idea what happened and she picked up her level while I kinda stayed the same,” she said. “Then I had to refocus for the third set and I had to change my tactics a little bit and it helped”.
Andreescu is now lifetime 8-0 in Indian Wells dating back to 2019 when she won and is still the current defending champion. She will take that record into her next match where she will face Anett Kontaveit.
Aryna Sabalenka Out Of Indian Wells After Positive COVID Test
Sabalenka is the latest player to be ruled out of a tournament after testing positive for the virus.
World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka says she is ‘looking OK’ after confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Belarussian was set to be the top seed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells which will get underway next week after Ash Barty withdrew from the draw. It is not known as to if Sabalenka is currently experiencing any symptoms at present or when exactly she tested positive for the virus. She hasn’t played on the Tour since reaching the semi-finals of the US Open last month.
“Unfortunately I’ve tested positive at Indian Wells and won’t be able to compete,” Sabalenka wrote in an Instagram story.
“I’ve started my isolation and I’ll be staying here until I’m cleared by the doctors and health officials.
“So far I’m looking OK but really sad to not be able to play this year.”
It is unclear if the 23-year-old has received a COVID vaccination after she previously expressed caution over receiving one. During the Miami Open in March Sabalenka told reporters she was concerned about how quickly the vaccine has been produced and the effects it might have on her body.
“So far I don’t really trust it. It’s tough to say, but I don’t really want mine yet, actually, and I don’t want my family have it,” she said. “I will think about this. I mean, if I will have to do it, then of course I have to do it, because our life is a travel life and I think we are the ones who actually should make it. But I will see.”
In recent months tennis’ governing bodies have been urging their players to get vaccinated but some such as Sabalenka are still hesitant. On the other hand, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has previously called for the vaccine to be made mandatory on the Tour.
So far this season Sabalenka has achieved a win-loss record of 42-14 and has reached the semi-finals at her two most recent Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon and the US Open). She has won two titles in Abu Dhabi at the start of the season and then Madrid in May. Sabalenka also reached the final of another tournament in Stuttgart.
Replacing Sabalenka as the top seed in Indian Wells will be Karolina Pliskova who is a two-time semi-finalist in the tournament.
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