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
Kim Clijsters Handed Wildcards For Top American Tournaments
The four-time Grand Slam champion says she is ‘excited’ to be returning to the Tour.
Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters isn’t giving up on her comeback to tennis anytime soon after confirming that she will play at the Miami Open later this month.
The Belgian has been awarded with a wildcard to play at the prestigious WTA 1000 event which is held at the Hard Rock Stadium. It will be the first tournament Clijsters has played since the US Open last year and the first time she has played in Miami since 2012. She is a two-time winner in Miami after triumphing in 2005 when she was unseeded in the draw, as well as 2010.
“The Miami Open was always a favorite stop on tour for me,” said Clijsters. “I have great memories and also had great results there. I’m excited to be coming back to Miami.”
Clijsters is currently in the process of her second comeback to the Tour. She first retired from the sport in May 2007 before returning two years later. She would continue playing for another five years before calling it quits at the 2012 US Open following a lengthy battle with injuries. Last year she played in a total of three tournaments but lost her opening matches to Garbine Muguruza in Dubai, Johanna Konta in Monterrey and Ekaterina Alexandrova at the US Open.
James Blake, who is the tournament director of the Miami Open, has hailed the return of Clijsters to the tournament. Paying tribute to her both on and off the court.
“We are very excited to have Kim returning to Miami,” he said. “She is a tremendous player and an even better person. Plus, it’s not often you get the opportunity to see someone who has been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame compete at an event of this level.”
After Miami, Clijsters will kick-off her clay court campaign in the country after receiving a pass to play at the Charleston Open which takes place the week after Miami. It will be the first time in her career she has played at the event which has been part of the women’s Tour for more than 30 years.
Clijsters has won 41 WTA titles so far in her career with the most recent occurring back in 2011 at the Australian Open. She has spent a total of 20 weeks as world No.1 which is a longer period than Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Jelena Jankovic.
The Miami Open will get underway on March 22nd.
‘Very Happy’ Madison Keys Stuns Bencic In First Match Since September At Qatar Open
The world No.19 speaks out about her comeback win after recovering from COVID-19.
Former US Open finalist Madison Keys has marked her return to the WTA Tour with a straight sets triumph over Belinda Bencic in the first round of the Qatar Open.
Keys, who last played at the French Open prior to this week, looked to be in top form as she dismissed the sixth seed 6-1, 6-4, in just over an hour. The American hit 24 winners against 13 unforced errors as she won 83% of her first service points. She was only broken once in the match which was during the closing stages of the opening set.
“It’s amazing to be back. I’m smiling under my mask,” Keys said during her on-court interview. “Disappointed that I couldn’t go to Australia, but very happy to have the first match of my season like this.”
The 26-year-old is looking to get back on track after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this year which ruled her out of the Australian Open. Keys endured a lacklustre 2020 season where she only played five tournaments due to the pandemic and registered eight wins on the Tour.
“I just had super, super mild symptoms, so I was really lucky and got back on the court as soon as I was over it.” She explained.
This week the world No.19 is seeking her first title of any sort since the 2019 Cincinnati Open and the sixth in her career. Next up for the American will be a clash against Maria Sakkari who kicked off her campaign in Doha on Monday with a clinical 6-0, 6-3, win over Egypt’s Mayar Sherif.
Unlike other tournaments, Keys has the luxury of playing in front of fans under strict COVID-19 regulations. Visitors are required to use a contact tracing app, undergo temperature checks and wear masks at all times. The number of spectators has been capped at 20% of its normal capacity.
“To come out and play in front of fans again is so amazing. We (the players) really appreciate everyone who comes out and cheers us. I’m super happy to see them back,” said Keys.
“It’s going to be a really tough match (against Sakkari). She got me the last time we played. I’m going to have to look at that match to see what she did better than what I did and hope I do a better job next time,” she later added.
In other matches, Germany’s Laura Siegemund set up a meeting with Victoria Azarenka after battling past Elena Rybakina 7-6(7), 7-6(5). Also through to the next round is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, One Jabeur and Jessica Pegula who won their matches in straight sets.
Former Tennis Star Reveals 2016 Retirement Was Linked To 18-Month Ban
The former world No.66 says she was suspended from the sport after engaging in a fight with another player following one of her matches.
A top 100 player who stunned Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round of the 2005 US Open when she was the defending champion has made a shock revelation about the reason why she retired from the sport.
Ekaterina Bychkova, who peaked at a ranking high of 66th in her career, was a familiar face on the women’s Tour that played in 15 Grand Slam main draws between 2005-2011. During her career, she won 10 ITF singles titles and five in the doubles. She hung up her racket in 2016 after playing one qualifying match in St Petersburg but the decision to retire wasn’t entirely her choice.
In a recent interview Bychkova revealed for the first time she was slammed with a 18-month suspension from the sport after engaging in a fight with another player. The incident took place following her match against Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova at an ITF $100,000 event in Nanjing, China.
“In the third set Kuchova began to suffer from convulsions (cramps). But according to the rules, you cannot call a doctor for convulsions and you cannot lie on the court for five minutes. However, she lay on the court for several minutes, then the supervisor came, who said that it was not a seizure, which means that a break was needed. He clearly sympathized with her,” she said during an interview with website Bookmaker Ratings.
“Kuchova returned to the match and immediately began to serve powerfully, kick the ball and move well. She was released psychologically, but on the contrary, I was shackled.”
A furious Bychkova ended up losing the first round match 7-5, 6-7(1), 3-6, to Kucova who is currently ranked 149th in the world. Although the incident between the two players didn’t take place on the court. It occurred later on that day when they crossed paths again.
“I was asked to take a walk for 20-30 minutes. Suddenly this beauty floats past me, cheerful. I broke down and started a fight,” she said.
“Two days later, the supervisor announced to me that our fight was on camera. It was a hostel on the court grounds, not an official hotel, and in fact the fight did not take place on the territory of the tournament.”
Reflecting on her actions, which was caught on CCTV, the Russian says they were in no way justifiable and she regrets how she reacted. Not only did she end up with a 18-month ban from the sport, she was also fined $3,150.
At the time Bychkova said she had the option to appeal the decision but opted not to do so because she didn’t want to go through the process of hiring lawyers and travelling to London for an ITF hearing. Claiming that the fight didn’t actually occur on the tournament site but at a hostel located on the surrounding grounds. She also said her decision to not to appeal was because she was ‘tired of tennis.’
Now at the age of 35 she has decided to give playing professional tennis another go. This week she played her first match in five years at an ITF event in Moscow where she lost in the first round to world No.611 Anastasia Tikhonova.
There has been no public comment from Kucova regarding Bychkova’s account of what happened in China.
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