Naomi Osaka Gets Better, Serena Gets Older - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka Gets Better, Serena Gets Older

American sports writer Art Spander reflects on Williams’ exit from the Australian Open.

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September 10, 2020 - Serena Williams in action against Victoria Azarenka during a women's singles match at the 2020 US Open. (Photo by Simon Bruty/USTA)

The tears told us more than Serena Willams’ words. She had been asked after what we might consider a momentous, if unsurprising defeat, whether this was it. 

Whether the way she touched her heart as she strode sadly across the surface of Rod Laver Arena was a sign that, half a year from her 40th birthday, it was time to retire — from the Australian Open, if not tennis.

Her response in oh-so-many words was classic Serena, a blend of defiance and acceptance. This lady did not become the best women’s tennis player ever — and who cares if Margaret Court has one more Grand Slam victory than Williams? — because she gave in easily. 

The hope was that Williams, two nights ago, would defeat Naomi Osaka and advance to the Aussie Open finals. It was a false hope. Osaka is 23. She keeps getting better (yes, in that chaotic win over Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open, Osaka was just 21).

Serena keeps getting older.

We’re all victims of Father Time. That’s sports. That’s life, really, but we notice it more in the athletes. One day you’re the new kid. In the blink of an eye you’re a veteran, looking over your shoulder or across the net.

Serena losing to someone 16 years her junior is no sin. Nor is it any fun, no matter how much you’ve accomplished. Athletes are taught never to quit, never to concede. A Tom Brady may keep going, but he is rare.

Venus Williams kept getting knocked out in the opening rounds of Slams, until a victory in the first round of this Australian Open. Some would choose a less tortuous path. 

Who knows about Serena? She’s a wife and a mother. She’s also a competitor.

The tennis player who decides immediately following a loss, no matter how unexpected or enervating, is rare. Nobody wants that stinging defeat to be the final line in their resume.

 A day before the Osaka-Williams match, the sports talk show conversations were consistent. On ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption,” both Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser said they were pulling for Serena but expected Osaka to win.

Williams lacked her primary weapon, the devastating serve. Our bodies change. Our styles change. Maybe the serve will be there another day. Most likely it will. This was the day she needed it, and she didn’t have it.

The years and the tournaments go past. Serena’s last Grand Slam triumph was the 2017 Australian. Four years and a lifetime ago, Osaka was a kid. Now she’s a champion.

As is Serena. She has the 23 Slams. The question was, could she add one more? You know the answer.

“Today was not the ideal outcome or performance, but it happens,” Williams wrote in her post after the match.

Athletes have a tendency to think the results will get better, especially when for years they were better.

“I am so honored to be able to play in front of you all,” she posted. “Your support, your cheers, I only wish I could have done better for you today. I am forever in debt and grateful to each and every single one of you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I adore you.”

What she doesn’t love is the negative questions from the media, which doesn’t make her any different from the rest.

I don’t know if I’d ever tell when I’m going to retire,” she said with some agitation. Then she walked away, and left the press conference, insisting, “I’m done.”

At least for now.

Article by Art Spander and published with his permission

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays Carlos Alcaraz for the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship

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Carlos Alcaraz after winning his semifinal on Friday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 14 at The Championships hosts the championship matches in gentlemen’s singles and mixed doubles.

One year ago, Novak Djokovic was on a 34 match Wimbledon win streak, playing for his fifth consecutive title, and had not lost a match on Centre Court in a full decade.  But in a spectacular five-hour five-setter, Carlos Alcaraz upset the all-time great to win his first Wimbledon title.  On Sunday, we get the rematch, as Djokovic looks to avenge that painful loss, and Alcaraz looks to defend a Major title, and win back-to-back Majors, for the first time.


Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

They followed up last year’s championship match here with another fantastic final just a month later in Cincinnati, where Djokovic saved championship point to eventually win in a third-set tiebreak, and after nearly four hours of play.  Novak would go on three weeks later to win the US Open, while Carlitos was not the same player for some time.  Alcaraz would not reach another final at any event for over six months, until this past March in Indian Wells. 

Despite a few surprising losses, and an injury that disrupted his season, Alcaraz is now a strong 32-6 on the year, and a superb 17-1 at Majors.  Carlitos has been able to quickly rebound from upsets at smaller events, like his loss to Jack Draper a few weeks ago at Queen’s Club, and up his level for the big events.  He’s dropped five sets through six matches, most of which have contained some sloppy play at times, yet Carlitos has played his best when it mattered most to reach his fourth Major final.  And he’s 3-0 thus far in Major finals.

2024 has been a surprisingly subpar season in the illustrious career of Djokovic.  Not only has he not won a title to date, he hadn’t advanced to a final until now.  Playing a more limited schedule, he’s just 23-6 this season.  And it was just a month ago that he was forced to withdraw from the Roland Garros quarterfinals after suffering a knee injury, which required surgery and put his Wimbledon status in doubt.  Yet Novak has recovered almost miraculously, dropping only two sets to this stage, though he did receive a quarterfinal walkover of his own from an injured Alex de Minaur.

Overall Djokovic is 3-2 against Alcaraz, and they’ve split two meetings at Majors, both of which took place a year ago.  In the 2023 Roland Garros semifinals, Carlitos started cramping after just two sets of play, and provided little resistance in sets three and four.  That made his five-set victory in this final a month later all the more surprising.

Novak has not appeared to be significantly hampered by his surgically-repaired knee, though there’s no way it can be 100%.  So if another five-setter takes place on Sunday, that has to favor Carlitos, especially since he is an amazing 12-1 when pushed to five sets in his young career.

But the Djokovic CV at this tournament, and at this stage of Majors, is beyond formidable.  Since the start of The Championships in 2014, he is 59-3 at SW19.  And during the same span at all Majors, he is 42-8 in semifinals and finals.  Novak just very rarely loses matches like this, especially on Centre Court.

On a that surface usually favors the aggressor, Djokovic has been able to change that narrative with his stifling defense and court coverage.  However, Alcaraz is one of the only players Djokovic has ever faced who can match him defensively, and at times dictate play against him with his risk-taking style.  We saw here a year ago just how frustrated Novak became by Carlitos’ game, damaging the net post by breaking his racket against it after getting broken in the fifth set.

Yet as many have mentioned these last two weeks, Djokovic “has that look about him,” meaning the steely determination and confidence that he was lacking during the first six months of this year appear to be back.  He is extremely motivated to reassert himself atop the game, in a season where the new generation of Alcaraz and Sinner won the first two Majors. 

If Carlitos gets off to another slow start on Sunday (he’s lost the first set in three of his six matches thus far), or suffer lapses in his level again, Novak will take advantage of that better than any of the defending champion’s previous opponents.  And while he’ll surely do so at some point in his career, until Alcaraz defends a Major title, or wins back-to-back Majors, it’s hard to favor him to do so.  I’m backing Djokovic to win his eighth Wimbledon title, and his historical 25th Major singles title, the most of all-time.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Santiago Gonzalez and Giuliana Olmos vs. Jan Zielinski Su-wei Hsieh (7) – The Mexican team of Gonzalez and Olmos are playing for their first Major title, as Olmos is 0-1 in Major finals, while 41-year-old Gonzalez is 0-4.  Zielinski and Su-wei won this year’s Australian Open as a team, the first Major title of Zielinski’s career, while Su-wei has now won eight between women’s doubles and mixed, and is 8-1 in Major finals.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Jasmine Paolini Plays Barbora Krejcikova for the Ladies’ Singles Championship

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Jasmine Paolini after winning her semifinal on Thursday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 13 at The Championships hosts the championship matches in ladies’ singles, ladies’ doubles, and gentlemen’s doubles.

It’s cliché, and usually untrue, to say “No one expected these two finalists.”  But in this case, it is absolutely true.  Prior to this fortnight, Jasmine Paolini had never won a match at The Championships.  And Barbora Krejcikova arrived at SW19 with a losing record on the year.  Yet both will play in their second Major singles final on Saturday, after inspired play during this tournament.


Barbora Krejcikova (31) vs. Jasmine Paolini (7) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

After failing to advance beyond the second round in her first 16 appearances at Majors, Paolini is now 15-2 in her last three, and is the first WTA player to reach the final of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon since Serena Williams in 2016.  Jasmine is 30-12 on the year, and has won 14 of her last 16 matches.  She has been taken to three sets twice during this event, most recently outlasting Donna Vekic in a third-set tiebreak during Thursday’s semifinals.

Krejcikova has also required three sets in two of her six matches to this stage, upsetting 2022 champion Elena Rybakina in the semis.  That was the third win in a row for Barbora over a higher-seed, after ousting two other big hitters, Danielle Collins and Jelena Ostapenko.  She’s accomplished all this despite being just 7-9 this season before this tournament began.  Injuries have plagued her career since her 2021 Roland Garros singles title, including a back injury earlier this year. 

Paolini is 2-4 lifetime in singles finals at WTA level, while Krejcikova is 7-5.  However, when you consider their appearances in Major finals between singles and doubles, Paolini is 0-2, having lost both the women’s singles and doubles finals last month in Paris, while Krejcikova is an amazing 11-1.  That’s a huge contrast in success at Grand Slam level.

These players also possess contrasting styles.  Paolini has been crushing her forehand, using it to come forward and show off her great hands at the net.  Krejcikova has a good serve, as well as both power and guile on her groundstrokes.  She loves using her slice to keep her opponents off-balance.  However, that will be more difficult to do against such a great mover like Jasmine.  And Barbora’s forehand has become unreliable in some crucial moments during this fortnight, which the Italian can target.

But on this surface, and considering her history in Major finals, I give the edge to Krejcikova to win her second Major singles title.  Plus, Barbora has already won two ladies’ doubles titles on this same court.  And she would surely cherish the chance to honor her late coach and mentor Jana Novotna by holding the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft on Centre Court, just as Jana did in 1998.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson (15) vs. Harri Heliovaara and Henry Patten – This is a fourth Major final in men’s doubles for Purcell, who won this title two years ago alongside another Aussie, Matthew Ebden.  Thompson had never advanced beyond the fourth round of a Major in either men’s singles or doubles until this run.  Patten is also a Major final debutante, while Heliovaara won last year’s US Open in mixed doubles.

Katerina Siniakova and Taylor Townsend (4) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe (2) – Siniakova is playing for the ninth Major title in women’s doubles, while Townsend is playing for her first, after going 0-2 in previous finals.  Dabrowski and Routliffe are the reigning US Open champions, and Routliffe will become the new World No.1 in women’s doubles on Monday, regardless of Saturday’s result.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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England’s Euros Final Clash With Spain Will Not Be Shown At Wimbledon

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Crowds of spectators watch live action on the Big Screen on the Hill at The Championships 2023. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 7 Sunday 09/07/2023. Photo credit: AELTC/Adam Warner.

Football might be coming home on Sunday but those attending Wimbledon will have to leave the site if they want to watch the game. 

Gareth Southgate’s side takes on Spain for the chance to win their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup, as well as their first of any sort on international territory. Their semi-final win over the Netherlands was the most-watched TV programme this year so far in the UK with a peak audience of 20.3 million on ITV. This figure doesn’t include those who watch the game online via ITVX or in public places. Broadcasters are hopeful that the final, which will be shown on both the BBC and ITV, could break the 30 million mark for viewers. 

Despite the highly-anticipated sporting event, the communications department of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has confirmed to Ubitennis that they will not be showing the Euros match on their large screen, even if the matches finish by 8 pm. The men’s final is scheduled to begin six hours earlier at 2 pm local time. 

The AELTC explains that part of their reasons for doing so is due to the huge cleanup operation that will be taking place immediately after the event. Some of the equipment used at the Grand Slam needs to be packed and moved elsewhere to be used for the Paris Olympic Games. 

Whilst some football fans attending Wimbledon might be disappointed, the AELTC has always stated from day one that they don’t intend to show football matches with their sole focus being on tennis. 

We’re very much focused on the tennis, this has been the case in the past,” AELTC Chief executive Sally Bolton said on the first day of this year’s tournament.
“We won’t be showing the football on any of the screens here. We’re confident that everyone who’s coming here will want to watch the tennis. 
There will be no special arrangements.”

It remains to be seen if there will be a big exodus of fans from Wimbledon on Sunday evening before England’s tie with Spain. However, this depends on the length of the men’s final which last year lasted almost five hours. It is roughly a 30-minute walk to Wimbledon train station where many pubs nearby will be showing the football.  

Across the UK some schools are allowing children to start at a later time on Monday due to the Euros. Businesses such as Tesco and Lidl are making changes to their opening times. Meanwhile, the Wireless Festival is ending early and World Matchplay Darts has also moved to an earlier time.

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