Williams sisters into Rome quarterfinals

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

ROME — The Williams sisters have reached the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.

Top-ranked Serena Williams defeated Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 on Wednesday as she plays her first tournament in three months. Venus Williams also advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3, 6-4.

The sisters are back from knee injuries, and could meet in the semifinals after being placed in the same half of the draw.

Serena Williams had been off the tour since she won the singles and doubles at the Australian Open, and was a wild-card entry in Rome. Against the 49th-ranked Petkovic, her game was erratic at times. She closed the match with almost as many winners as unforced errors, 25 to 21.

Williams got off to a good start, winning the first set with a five-game streak. But she quickly fell 4-1 behind in the second, came back to 4-3 but conceded another, decisive break to Petkovic. In the third set, she picked up her game and played aggressively.

The fourth-seeded Venus Williams, sidelined with a knee problem since losing the Key Biscayne final, broke once in the first set and dropped just four points on her serve. Both players then lost serve early in the second, and Venus had to save two break points at 4-4 before getting the decisive break in the next game with a forehand winner.

She saved another break point when serving for the win before converting her second match point.

Also, Nadia Petrova of Russia won 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 against Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania, who knocked out defending champion Dinara Safina on Tuesday.

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This could be every tennis fan’s dream.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Imagine Bob Bryan playing with Venus Williams, against Andy Roddick and Serena Williams.

Or Mike Bryan playing with Melanie Oudin, against Rafael Nadal and a countrywoman from Spain.

Mixed doubles has been added to London 2012 Olympic Games, and the event could produce some interesting teams comprised of the world’s top players.

American Bob Bryan, who is part of the world’s No. 1 doubles team with his twin brother, Mike, is extremely excited about the possibility of playing in another Olympic Games.

“When I heard that mixed had been added, it put a big smile on my face,” said Bob, who along with Mike earned a bronze medal in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. “I always thought about that. Why didn’t they have mixed in it from the start? I was hoping that would happen.

“It’s awesome to have more chances to win a medal. Michael Phelps has like 10 chances to win a medal. We get one, or two, depending on if you play singles and or doubles.”

The Bryan brothers and the Williams sisters, along with Roddick, have already started some friendly smack talk via their Twitter accounts about the possible mixed doubles teams.

“We’re all so excited—I want to play, Mike wants to play, Andy wants to play, we’re all going to battle to the death for the gold in London,” Bob said, adding a friendly laugh. “I think it’s going to be so great for the fans. They’re going to get to see all the stars of the game, playing on one court, for their countries, for a medal. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

The format has not been settled for the 16-team mixed doubles tournament, which will be held at the All England Club—better known as the grass court home of Wimbledon.

It is likely to follow the standard at Grand Slams: having the top singles and doubles players in the world, as determined by rankings, entered. A country such as the U.S. will be able to field more teams, as there will be more high-ranked players, such as Roddick and the Williams sisters, available to form mixed teams.

Players who are the lone representative of their country in the singles tournament will probably be out of luck in getting a partner for the mixed tournament.

Jeff Ryan, the United States Tennis Association’s senior director of team events, said there is wide-spread enthusiasm for mixed doubles being part of the Olympic Games.

“That’s a great testament to this, if the Bryans love it so much, because they love doubles,” Ryan said. “Whatever makes the players happy, makes us happy. It’s good for the sport. The Grand Slams all have mixed doubles. One can argue that Grand Slams are the pinnacles of our sport, so adding mixed to the Olympics brings it up there with the Slams now.

“Tennis welcomes the opportunity to be in the Olympics. It’s every four years, a tremendous opportunity to be on even greater stages.”

Mixed doubles, aside from the game, always brings a special form of drama: does the male player go after the female player? Those who submit to chivalry may find the female player making them eat fuzz.

But if a male player really goes to hit a woman with a blistering return…let’s just say fans and her partner won’t be happy.

It’s a complex dilemma, but Bob has figured out a solution.

“Oh, I never let up, because those girls can just whale on the ball and make you look silly if you’re not careful,” Bob said. “Where I do well is with my lefty serve. I just bomb it out wide, and I’ve had girls just tell me they were scared of it. They don’t often see power, or a lefty serve, like that on their tour, so it’s an advantage for me. I’m never going to on purpose go for hitting a girl, that’s not right. But I am not going to let up playing, I am there to win, and so is my partner.”

Bob and Venus Williams have played together before, finishing as the runners-up for the 2006 Wimbledon mixed title.

He thinks they can do one better in the Olympic Games.

“How cool would that be if we won the gold at Wimbledon, at the Olympics?” Bob said. “That would be unreal. I’m fired up right now thinking about that.”

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Serena Williams Wins Australian Open

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Once again, Serena Williams is the queen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. By defeating Justine Henin, the formidable Belgian comeback kid, in three sets 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, Williams claimed her fifth Australian open single title and her 12th championship at a major grand slam tournament. On Friday, less than 24 hours earlier, Serena and Venus Williams clinched the doubles title, defeating top-seeded doubles specialists Cara Black (Zimbabwe) and Liezel Huber (U.S.) handily 6-4, 6-3.

The women's final was riveting, with two seasoned champions and wily competitors slugging it out, doggedly, playing generally at a very high level, and the momentum shifting. The 27-year-old Henin has a resume comparable to that of 28-year-old Williams, with seven grand slam wins, including a win in Australia in 2004.

Both players looked uncomfortable and displayed grim determination and few smiles throughout the joyless but fascinating two hour, seven minute contest. Neither player connected with the crowd. Although the final score does not look all that close, in fact Henin scored just five fewer points throughout the match. This reflects Williams' success at digging deep to win key points at critical junctures throughout the match—a hallmark of her tennis career.

This was the physically slight and non-flashy Henin's 11th match since returning from a one-season layoff (a brief retirement), during which she worked systematically to make changes in her technique and strategy. Expert commentators, such as Mary Joe Fernandez on the Tennis Channel, noted that she was moving in to the net frequently, even when that might not have been the ideal response in all instances. She also had difficulties with her serve, racking up six double faults and a low 50 percent first serve percentage

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Williams sisters win Women's Doubles title at Australian Open 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Venus and Serena Williams defeated Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-4, 6-3 in the Womens' Doubles Final at the Australian Open 2010 last night to take the title for the fourth time in their careers.

Not surprisingly, it was their offensive tactics of breaking the opposing team's serve that allowed them to take the lead and finish the game quickly. Venus did not repeat her mistakes from the Singles round and held her ground. Ultimately, Black and Huber played right into the Williams' sisters hands with several missed and netted shots.

"I have to congratulate Venus and Serena for a great tournament -- you guys are too good," Black said in an interview with ESPN afterward.

Serena still has to face former No.1 Justine Henin in the Singles Final on Saturday which will certainly be a tough match for both. Venus was eliminated by Na Li in the Quarterfinals on Wednesday.

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Henin and Serena meet in Australian Open final

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The tenacious Henin is playing her first Grand Slam since coming out of an 18-month retirement and kept her historic run going with a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of unseeded Chinese Zheng Jie.

Williams also had to negotiate Chinese opposition and was made to work hard by 16th seed Li Na before grinding her down 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/1) under a hot sun on the Rod Laver Arena to set up an enticing decider on Saturday.

Ever since she announced her return to tennis the talk has been about whether Henin could emulate Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters, who won last year's US Open on her own comeback. And the former world number one has lived up to expectations after being handed a wildcard by organizers. She destroyed Zheng as she stayed on track to add to her seven Grand Slam titles, including the 2004 Australian Open.

"The dream continues. I am going to play the number one and defending champion," said the 27-year-old, who became the first wildcard to reach the final here. "I wasn't sure about what I would feel on the court and how things would go. I have just enjoyed my tennis and taken it step by step. I can't wait for the final now, it is an amazing feeling."

Asked if she seriously expected to get this far, she revealed she was quietly confident, having booked a flight out for next Sunday before the start of the tournament. "I was curious about how things would go and I'm very happy to come back like this," she said.

Henin has negotiated some tough opposition to get this far, including fifth seed Elena Dementieva, 19th seed Nadia Petrova and talented Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.But the biggest test of her comeback will come in the form of Williams, who is angling for a 12th Grand Slam title to put her alongside Billie Jean King. 

She saw off Li in just over two hours, with the rising Chinese star saving four match points before a delighted Williams clinched the win with an ace. "I am happy I was able to pull it out, it was really close," said Williams. "I wasn't at my best today, but I'm still here which is shocking and I'm just going to do whatever I can to stay."

The world number one, who came back from the brink of defeat in a gruelling quarter-final against Victoria Azarenka, is also hoping to become the first player to successfully defend her title since American Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

But Williams was made to fight hard against a determined Li, who was not overawed playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final. She pushed Williams all the way and learned a lot from playing such a high-profile game.

"I lost the match and I was a little bit sad to be stopped in the semi-final, but I played good tennis today," said Li. "I think that I have to practice much, much more, particularly my serve."

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Federer, Serena moved on to Australian Open semi-finals

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MELBOURNE — Roger Federer and Serena Williams showed championship form to battle back from a set down and storm into their semi-finals at the Australian Open on Wednesday. Li Na also made the last four with an upset victory over Venus Williams, giving China two players in a Grand Slam semi for the first time. Her reward is a clash with top seed Serena.

But the tournament ended for ailing third seed Novak Djokovic who was knocked out in a thrilling late night five-setter by 10th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the man he beat in the 2008 final. The Frenchman will now meet Federer, who was given a scare by sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko when the Russian ace led 6-2, 3-1 before the Swiss star clicked into gear.

He won 13 straight games to take the next two sets before a titantic struggle in the fourth with the 15-time Grand Slam champion eventually coming home 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 to end Davydenko's 13-match winning streak. It puts Federer into his 23rd consecutive Grand Slam semi-final, having never missed out since his third round defeat to Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten at Roland Garros in 2004.

"I've played him many times and I know he goes through phases for half an hour, an hour," Federer said of Davydenko. "You've just got to stick with him and if you don't he's going to crush you." All of a sudden I went on a run like I did and that was a bit surprising, but I needed that cushion at the end of the fourth when he played well." Asked if he was concerned that he might lose, he said: "I was a touch worried, let's put it that way."

Tsonga prevailed 7-6 (10/8), 6-7 (5/7), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in a near four-hour marathon against Djokovic, who was struggling with illness and at one point took a medical timeout for an upset stomach. It was sweet revenge for the Frenchman after his 2008 disappointment. "It was just amazing the level we played at. I'm so happy I won," said Tsonga, who added he would be ready for Federer on Friday despite being taken to five sets in his past two matches -- the only five-setters of his career. "I will be ready," he said. "It's going to be tough though, he's the best player ever."

Fifth seeded Andy Murray faces 14th seeded Croat Marin Cilic in the other semi-final on Thursday, with the Scot seeking to win Britain's first Grand Slam since Fred Perry in 1936.

Like Federer, Serena was also on the ropes before staging a comeback to stay on track for her fifth Australian title. She was down 4-6, 0-4 to seventh seed Victoria Azarenka before fighting back and winning a tense tiebreaker to level the match.

Azarenka was rattled and Serena rammed home her advantage to win 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and set up a clash with Li, who came from behind to shock Venus 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5. Justine Henin and unseeded Chinese Zheng Jie contest Thursday's other semi. "I am surprised and I am just happy to still be here," said Serena. "I didn't expect to win when I was down 0-4."

Venus should have made it a sister act in the semis, but she threw it away against Li in a scrappy match where they made a incredible combined 110 unforced errors. She was a set and 4-2 up in the second when Li made her move, playing with greater freedom as Venus tightened up, with her forehand going to pieces. Venus, who has won seven Grand Slams but never in Melbourne, admitted Li was the better player.

"I think I was playing good tennis -- I don't think it has anything to do with whether I was playing good," she said. "I have to give her a lot of credit for playing well and picking her game up." Making the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time was a dream come true for the Chinese 16th seed. "It's the best day of my whole life," an exuberant Li said.

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A Year of Farewells, Returns and Surprises in Tennis

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
It was a sentimental tennis season. Marat Safin, Amélie Mauresmo and Ai Sugiyama retired and actually appeared to mean it. Meanwhile, the unretired Kim Clijsters clutched the United States Open trophy as her 18-month-old daughter, Jada, toddled around the hard court where her mother had played with such strength and composure.

It was a controversial season. Serena Williams failed anger management at the United States Open but somehow avoided suspension. Israeli players generated diplomatic incidents in Dubai, where Shahar Peer was not given a visa for the women’s tournament, and in Sweden, where officials in Malmo cited security concerns in barring fans from a Davis Cup match against Israel.

It was a literary season, as Williams and the retired Andre Agassi produced autobiographies that were more revealing than the usual as-told-to filler that passes for sports literature.

Above all, it was a historic season, with Roger Federer becoming a family man and the career leader in Grand Slam singles titles. Federer finally won the French Open, the only major singles title he was missing. He then rode the wave — with his archrival Rafael Nadal absent — and won his record 15th major title at Wimbledon, the game’s favorite throwback and newly equipped with a translucent, retractable roof that was not closed for any of Federer’s matches. His latest title further bolstered the argument that he is the greatest player of all time.

Though he hardly dominated week in, week out in 2009, he reached the final of all four majors and regained the year-end ranking he had lost to Nadal in 2008. How easy then to forget that until May, this looked like Year 2 of Nadal’s reign, with the Majorcan launching his season by disposing of Federer in a five-set Australian Open final that left the Swiss star muttering, “God, it’s killing me,” through the tears at the awards ceremony.

But public breakdowns apparently do not end eras. Nor do minor tantrums, like the one Federer indulged in by throwing his racket for the first time in years in Miami. Nadal would eventually get derailed by knee problems and by Robin Soderling, the Swede who dealt Nadal his first loss at the French Open.

Federer has now turned into a scrapper in his middle tennis age. He had to claw his way through multiple five-setters to win at last in Paris and then had to keep holding serve in the Wimbledon final before finally prevailing, 16-14, over Andy Roddick in the fifth.

Federer could not hold off Juan Martín del Potro at the United States Open, however, as the towering del Potro gradually settled into his first Grand Slam final. He pounded enough thunderous forehand winners to end Federer’s 40-match winning streak in New York and to become the first Argentine man to win there since Guillermo Vilas in 1977.

Just to remind Federer and Nadal that the new guard will not be the only threat to their status in 2010, Nikolay Davydenko — a member of the establishment — beat Nadal, Federer and del Potro to win the year-end tour championships in London.

SHOTS OF THE YEAR A YouTube poll would surely favor Federer’s no-look, between-the-legs winner off a lob from Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the United States Open. But the shot that really made all the difference for Federer came in the fourth round of the French Open against Tommy Haas. Down two sets to none and facing a break point at 3-4, Federer let fly with an inside-out forehand that caught the line. Federer said he knew then and there that he was going to win the tournament.

On the women’s side, it might not have been pretty, but Serena Williams’s lunging backhand volley against Elena Dementieva in a Wimbledon semifinal saved match point. Even if it clipped the net, it was a winner. Williams went on to win her third Wimbledon.

UPSETS OF THE YEAR No debate necessary for the men: Soderling’s victory over Nadal at Roland Garros. As for the women, Carla Suárez Navarro’s defeat of Venus Williams in the Australian Open certainly made waves. So did Sybille Bammer’s straight-set defeat of Serena Williams in Cincinnati. But it was the combined effect of Melanie Oudin’s run of upsets at the United States Open that made the biggest impression. Oudin, a 17-year-old American, knocked off three imposing Russians: Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova. Oudin has yet to win another main-draw match.

COMEBACKS OF THE YEAR Clijsters, the first unranked player to win a major singles title since Evonne Goolagong in 1977, is the obvious choice, but in any other season, the prize would have gone to Kimiko Date Krumm, the Japanese icon who won a tournament in Seoul at 38 after taking a nearly 12-year break from the game between 1996 and 2008.

For the men, Haas might have failed to close the deal against Federer in Paris, but he did get the job done against Marin Cilic and Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon in reaching the semifinals at 31. For the year, he improved his ranking 66 spots, finishing No. 18.

FLOPS OF THE YEAR The smooth-moving Ernests Gulbis of Latvia was on nearly everyone’s list of players to watch in 2009. He finished the year at No. 90. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion and former No. 1, struggled to get it right all season. Still charming, she was no longer as convincing with her serve or forehand, dropping out of the top 20 and failing to advance past the fourth round in a Slam.

MATCHES OF THE YEAR Serena Williams’s victory over Dementieva at Wimbledon was a three-set tussle brimming with athleticism, quality and courage. But Clijsters’ victory over Serena in the United States Open semifinals was more than a match. It was a spectacle wrapped up in a scandal. Clijsters kept her cool, and Williams most certainly did not as she threatened and swore at a lineswoman for calling a foot fault. Clijsters never had to win match point, but her brilliant play certainly brought Williams to the boiling point.

Nadal’s five-set victory over Fernando Verdasco in the Australian Open semifinals was an ode to tireless hitting and hard running. Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic had to play for more than six hours and withstand a record 78 aces before prevailing over Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the Davis Cup semifinals. But Federer-Roddick gets the nod on the strength and length of the occasion. Even if Federer didn’t play his best, he served brilliantly. And Roddick, who will probably never get so close to another major singles title, was such a class act in defeat.

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Nine of women's tennis top 10 to play at Sydney

Monday, December 7, 2009

SYDNEY — Nine of the women's top 10 will compete at January's Sydney International in the lead-up to the Australian Open Grand Slam, according to organisers.

World No. 1 Serena Williams heads the line-up, which also includes Dinara Safina, French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva.

Victoria Azarenka, Jelena Jankovic, Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska also join a field boosted by Australia's No. 13 Samantha Stosur and Italy's Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone.

The only top-10 player missing will be world No. 6 Venus Williams, who will warm up for the first Grand Slam of the year with an exhibition match in Thailand.

France's Gael Monfils, ranked 13, leads a men's field that includes Tomas Berdych, Australia's former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and one-time Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

"We are delighted with our confirmed player line-ups, in particular our women's field, which is certainly the strongest in the event's history," tournament director Craig Watson said.

"To have nine of the top 10 women in the world playing in Sydney is incredible and tennis fans would be hard-pressed to find a more impressive line-up, outside the Grand Slams, anywhere in the world."

Organisers will leave open spots in both draws for wildcards and qualifiers for the January 10-16 tournament.

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Serena Williams is fined $82,500

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Serena Williams, who reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in women's tennis this season, was fined a record $82,500 Monday for her profanity-laced outburst during the U.S. Open in September and could be suspended from the event if she commits another major infraction in the next two years.

The sanctions were announced Monday by Grand Slam administrator Bill Babcock after nearly three months of deliberation over how to discipline the most dominant player in women's tennis for an ugly tirade that was captured on national television and replayed countless times on sports highlight shows and YouTube.

In it, Williams cursed and physically threatened a lineswoman who called her for a foot fault, a seldom-cited infraction, just two points shy of match point in her semifinal against the tournament's eventual winner, wild card Kim Clijsters of Belgium.

The fine, while without precedent, represents a small fraction (8.25 percent) of the $1 million Williams could have been fined under the sport's code of conduct. It represents an even smaller fraction (about 1.25 percent) of the $6.5 million she earned this season, a record for a female tennis player.

"I am thankful that we now have closure on the incident, and we can all move forward," Williams said in statement released by her Los Angeles-based publicist. "I am back in training in preparation for next season, and I continue to be grateful for all of the support from my fans and the tennis community."

By every other measure, it was an exceptional year for Williams, 28, who captured two of the season's four major titles (the Australian Open and Wimbledon), became the first female tennis player to earn more than $6 million in a season and finished the year at No. 1 for the second time in her career, having achieved the feat in 2002.


Williams also published an autobiography, "On the Line," and diversified her business portfolio, acquiring an ownership stake in the Miami Dolphins and launching a new skin-care line.

According to the news release issued by the Grand Slam committee, which supervises competition at the sport's four majors, Williams was technically fined $175,000, which includes $10,000 she was fined in the immediate aftermath of the offense. That fine, however, has been reduced by half, to $82,500, provided she does not commit another major offense at any of the majors through 2011.

Similarly, the release stated, Williams will be suspended from the U.S. Open for one year if she commits another major offense at a Grand Slam event in the next two years. She could have been suspended from the next major, the Australian Open in January.

Stacey Allaster, chairwoman and chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, hailed Williams as "a great champion and role model to millions" in a statement released Monday and noted that Williams had already apologized for her behavior in September.

"I have no doubt that she has learned from this incident, and that we will never see her act in this manner again," Allaster said in a statement.

But in an e-mail exchange, former touring pro Mary Carillo, a sports commentator with ESPN, questioned why it took tennis officials three months to come up with what she called a "cockamamie decision."

"Serena Williams physically threatened and verbally assaulted an official during one of the most watched tennis matches of 2009, and after three months of thoughtful, considered cogitation the Grand Slam Committee came up with 'Grand Slam Probation' and a 'suspended ban'?" Carillo wrote. "And half of what was deemed to be her fine? Boy, that ought to show everyone."

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Serena Williams Is No. 1 in the World, and the Family

Monday, November 2, 2009

Serena Williams bested her sister Venus again Sunday, winning the season-ending WTA Championships final, 6-2, 7-6 (4), in Doha, Qatar.  

Serena Williams broke serve twice in the first set and lost only seven points on serve in her last match of the year. She looked sharper than Venus in every facet of a match that featured few long rallies.

Serena Williams earned $1.55 million after finishing the event undefeated. She also clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking last week after Dinara Safina of Russia pulled out of the tournament with an injury in her first match. It was Williams’s third tournament win of the season after Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

 

 

 She sealed the match with a crosscourt forehand winner and celebrated calmly with a simple fist pump before hugging her sister at the net.

“It feels great,” said Serena Williams, who also won the WTA Tour’s season-ending event in 2001. “I totally didn’t expect to come here and win.”

 

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