Billie Jean King Wins Lifetime Achievement Award At BBC Sports Personality Of The Year - UBITENNIS
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Billie Jean King Wins Lifetime Achievement Award At BBC Sports Personality Of The Year

The founder of the WTA Tour join the likes of footballer Pele and swimmer Michael Phelps in winning the award.

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Multiple grand slam champion Billie Jean King has been recognized for her contribution to sport by being awarded a lifetime achievement award at 2018 BBC Sports Personality Of The Year ceremony.

 

King was given the honour for her work both on and off the court. As a player, the American won a total of 39 grand slam titles over a 19-year period between 1961-1980. 12 of those titles were in singles competition. In total she won 129 singles trophies on the tour. As well as her sporting ability, King was an instrumental figure in the fight for equality in tennis and continues to be. In 1973 she won the infamous ‘battle of the sexes’ match against Bobby Riggs before going on to be the founder of the WTA Tour.

“Billie Jean is not just an inspiration for me, but I think for lots of athletes.” Former world No.1 Andy Murray said in a special tribute.
“She stood up for what she believed in. That certainly impacted future generations a lot.”

King is the first female player in history to have won more than $100,000 in prize money. Doing so in 1971. Overall, she won a total of $1,966,487 before retiring. King is the first woman to co-ed pro sports team (Philadelphia Freedoms, WorldTeamTennis 1974), first to be made commissioner in professional sports history (WorldTeamTennis, 1984) and was the first to have a major sports venue name in her honour (USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center).

“I like to thank everyone at the BBC for this lifetime achievement award and for including me in this historic evening.” An emotional King said during the trophy presentation.
“This part of the world (the UK) has played a major role in my life and in my career. I won my first national championship at the Irish Open in 1963 and I won my final Professional tour title in Birmingham in 1983.”

It was at The All England Club where the 75-year-old won more than half of her major titles. Claiming six trophies in singles, 10 in women’s doubles, and four in mixed doubles. In the history of the tournament, no other player has won more titles than King. Martina Navratilova also won a total of 20 titles at SW19.

“Next year I will be going to Wimbledon for the 59th year in a row. It is like a second home for me.” Said King.
“We never achieve success alone. I’ve been really fortunate to have the support of my partner, my family, coaches, friends, players and the people of my home town.”

Known for her campaigning for equal rights, King said she was first inspired to fight for the cause as a teenager growing up. Citing inspiration from Althea Gibson. The first black player to ever win a Wimbledon title back in 1957.

“At 12, I had an epiphany whilst sitting at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. Everybody who played played in white shoes, white clothes, played with white tennis balls and everybody that played was white. I asked myself ‘where is everybody else?’” She said.
“From that moment on, I committed myself to fight for equality and inclusion of all for the rest of my life.”

King is the third tennis player in history to win the BBC lifetime achievement award. Following in the footsteps of Navratilova (2003) and Bjorn Borg (2006).

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek Plays Karolina Muchova for the Women’s Championship

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Karolina Muchova after winning her first Major semifinal on Thursday (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The women’s singles championship match will be played on Saturday afternoon in Paris.

 

Iga Swiatek is playing for her fourth Major title, and her third French Open out of the last four.  She would become the first woman to win three RG titles in such a short span since Justine Henin, as well as the first woman to defend this title since Henin did in 2007.  And a fourth Slam title would tie Iga with Naomi Osaka as the second-most among non-retired female players, trailing only Venus Williams.  In short, a victory on Saturday would put Swiatek in elite company, especially on clay.

A year ago, Karolina Muchova left this tournament in a wheelchair, after turning her ankle in a third round encounter with Amanda Anisimova.  Multiple injuries across the last few years almost forced her into retirement, as doctors suggested she leave the sport.  But she pulled off an amazing comeback on Thursday against Aryna Sabalenka, where Karolina was down 2-5, 0-30 in the third, yet she won 20 of the last 24 points and saved a match point to achieve her first Major final.

Also on Saturday, the men’s doubles championship match features Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek (4) vs. Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.  Dodid and Krajicek lost last year’s final in three sets, though Ivan is a two-time Major champ in men’s doubles, including here with Marcelo Melo back in 2015.  This is a first Slam final in men’s doubles for Gille and Vliegen, but Joran was a runner-up here in mixed doubles a year ago.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Karolina Muchova – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Swiatek is 34-6 on the year overall, and 18-2 on clay.  She’s only lost two of her 29 career matches at Roland Garros, and only six of 58 completed sets. Iga hasn’t lost a set in Paris since the fourth round a year ago, to Qinwen Zheng.  She is 3-0 in Major finals, having never lost a set, and 13-4 in finals overall, though she has lost two of her last three.

Muchova is 23-7 this season, after going only 9-9 at tour level a year ago due to aforementioned injuries.  She’s the only player to defeat Aryna Sabalenka at a Slam this year, and is now 5-0 lifetime against top three opposition, with four of those upsets taking place at Majors.  Karolina dropped two sets to this stage, and this is only her third-ever WTA-level final, and her first in nearly four years.

Both players should be keen to win the first set on Saturday.  As Simon Cambers highlighted on Twitter, the winner of the first set has won the women’s final at Roland Garros in 19 of the last 21 years.  And Swiatek has only lost four times at Majors after taking the first set.

Muchova claimed their only previous meeting, which was a three-setter four years ago on clay in Prague, the biggest event in Karolina’s home country of the Czech Republic.  But four years later, Swiatek must be considered the favorite.  She has separated herself from all her competition on this surface.

But I do expect Muchova to challenge Swiatek on Saturday.  She has a well-rounded game with many offensive weapons, and will be feeling uber-confident after what she accomplished in the semifinals.  Plus, Karolina knows she is a considerable underdog, just as Iga knows she is a significant favorite, so the pressure will land decisively on the World No.1’s side of the net.  It should be a great final.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Iga Swiatek Appeared To Have An Easy Path To A Third French Title

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Iga Swiatek’s path to a third French Open title in four years looked so easy and accommodating.

 

There was a Brazilian left-hander few fans knew anything about and a Czech ranked 43rd in the world.

There wasn’t even power-hitting Aryna Sabalenka to worry about this time.

Surely, Swiatek could do a French waltz right past Beatriz Haddad Maia to the final and then take care of Karolina Muchova on Saturday.

TABLE WAS SET FOR IGA

The table was set for 22-year-old Iga Swiatek, the current No. 1 who couldn’t lose, or so it seemed.

But Haddad Maia turned out to be better than most observers expected in Thursday’s women’s semifinals. The Brazilian was 6-1 tall, and apparently capable of getting into Swiatek’s head.

The Polish Wonder couldn’t keep her eyes on the ball and still watch Haddad Maia’s move from a very wide stance to a narrow, moving, sometimes closer position even before Swiatek could make contact with her service toss.

HADDAD MAIA PROVIDES SERIOUS TEST

A double fault here and a double fault there, and Swiatek was in the middle of some serious opposition from Haddad Maia. Swiatek was even forced into a 16-point match tiebreaker before she could claim a 6-2, 7-6 (7) victory.

Most of the time, fans have grown to expect love games and few double faults from the usually near-flawless slender and speedy 5-9 Swiatek.

And now she could think about one more opponent. And Muchova already had taken care of Swiatek’s key rival for the world’s No. 1 ranking, the second-ranked Sabalenka, earlier in the day.

MUCHOVA MADE SABALENKA PAY A PRICE

Muchova made Sabalenka pay for her reckless play and over-hit forehands. Muchova, a slender  26-year-old, even won 20 of the last 24 points in a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5 upset of Sabalenka.

Of course, current Australian Open champion Sabalenka was hoping for a shot at a second straight Grand Slam title. From a break-point 5-2, match point opportunity in the third set, Sabalenka couldn’t find the court.

Once again, Swiatek will be going against an opponent who held a 1-0 edge in head-to-head matchups before the current French Open. Swiatek had lost one three-set match each against Haddad Maia and the 5-11 Muchova.

Don’t expect the gifted Swiatek to feel the pressure so much in the final against Muchova. The semifinal against Haddad Maia was just a little different. 

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic Collide in a Huge Semifinal

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Novak Djokovic on Tuesday in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

In arguably the biggest men’s match of the year to date, the World No.1 faces the 22-time Major champion on Friday in Paris.

 

Carlos Alcaraz has won his last 12 matches at Majors, and is vying for his second Slam final.  Novak Djokovic has won his last 19 matches at Majors, and is vying for his 34th Slam final.  And Djokovic is just two wins away from recapturing the World No.1 ranking, and surpassing Rafael Nadal with his 23rd Major singles title.  History is in the balance in Friday’s first semifinal.

The second semifinal features Casper Ruud, who is looking to return to the championship match at Roland Garros for the second straight year, and his third Major final out of the last five, and Sascha Zverev, who a year ago in this same round was wheeled off the court in a wheelchair. 


Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Novak Djokovic (3) – Not Before 2:45pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz is 35-3 this year, despite missing the Australian Open due to injury.  He has dropped one set to this stage.  This is Carlitos’ best performance at Roland Garros, after losing in the quarterfinals a year ago to Sascha Zverev in an extended fourth-set tiebreak.  A win on Friday would propel him to his sixth final of the year, and ensure he remains the World No.1.

Djokovic is 25-4 this year, despite missing Indian Wells and Miami due to his vaccination status, and missing Madrid due to an elbow injury.  He has also dropped only one set to this stage, to Karen Khachanov in the last round.  Novak is 22-11 in Major semifinals, and 6-5 in French Open semifinals, winning his last two, and five of his last six. 

Their only previous meeting was one of the best matches of 2022.  In the semifinals of Madrid, Alcaraz prevailed 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) after over three-and-a-half hours.  And that was just a day after defeating his idol, Rafael Nadal, for the first time.

Best-of-five almost always favors Djokovic, who is one of the sport’s best endurance players of all-time.  But 36-year-old Novak has not been fully healthy at any point this season.  And 20-year-old Carlitos is one of tennis’ fittest athletes, and has already proven his best-of-five prowess last summer in New York, when he won three consecutive five-setters, including an over five hour one against Jannik Sinner, just to make the final.

Betting against Djokovic, especially with so most history on the line, is a dangerous proposition.  This past January in Melbourne, he decimated the field despite being far from 100% physically.  But on Friday, I give the slight edge to Alcaraz.  He’s been the better and healthier player in 2023, and in this rare instance, best-of-five may not favor Novak.  And based on how long it took them to play three sets in Madrid, this could easily turn into a five or six hour contest.


Casper Ruud (4) vs. Sascha Zverev (22) – Not Before 5:30pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

2023 has been a tale of two seasons for Casper Ruud.  In the first three months, he was just 5-6, after an exhibition tour with Rafael Nadal shortened his off-season.  But Casper is now 16-5 on clay, and into his second French Open semifinal with the loss of three sets thus far.

Zverev was over three hours into his semifinal here a year ago with Nadal, with the second set yet to be completed, when he suffered an awful ankle injury which ended his season.  He is 21-14 on the year, and 13-5 on clay.  This is a third consecutive French Open semifinal for Sascha, though he’s yet to advance farther.  Two years ago, he lost a five-setter to Stefanos Tsitsipas in this round.

Zverev leads their head-to-head 2-1, with all three matches taking place on hard courts at Masters 1000 events.  Sascha claimed both of their 2021 meetings in straight sets, (Cincinnati, Bercy), while Casper took their 2022 meeting in three sets (Miami).

In 2023 on clay, Ruud should be favored to reach his second straight Roland Garros final.  His defense will be key in stifling Zverev’s offense, which while improving as the season progresses, is still not back to its peak level.  And Sascha is just 1-4 in Major semifinals, and has lost five of his last six semifinals overall.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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