Entries in Serena Williams (92)

8:54AM Changes at the Top of US Tennis

By Art Spander

NEW YORK -- It's a sport built on names as much as talent. Tennis is different, except for golf. Most loyalties are with uniforms, no matter who's wearing them. If you're a Yankees fan, you're a Yankees fan whether the guy at short is Phil Rizzuto or Derek Jeter, and that lasts forever.

Tennis players come and go all too quickly. The window closes before you know it. What happened to Andre Agassi? To Pete Sampras? To Jennifer Capriati? To Martina Navratilova?

Careers are short. Players start young and retire young. You lose a step. Or some racquet speed. And coming up quickly from behind is some 19-year-old with great skills who virtually no one's ever heard of, especially if she or he comes from Serbia or Slovania.

To make tennis go in America particularly -- and that's where the television money comes from, where the yearly U.S. Open now underway draws 700,000 people during the two weeks -- tennis needs Americans near the top or at the top, Americans who are known throughout America, if not the world.

Andy Roddick and Venus Williams fit well into that category. They and Venus' younger sister, Serena, were about the only U.S. players who could make a showing in a Grand Slam event, about the only U.S. players who were celebrities as well as athletes.

But in a space of 24 hours, both were chased from the 2009 U.S. Open, Roddick on Saturday night by the man who might someday replace him, John Isner, and Venus on Sunday afternoon by a 26-year-old Belgian who had quit the game for two years to marry and have a baby, Kim Clijsters.

Roddick will be back. You can't be sure of Venus. She is 29, and despite the best intentions, most tennis stars start to slip around 30, especially because their bodies begin to fail.

Venus is having left knee trouble, wearing heavy taping. One of her great assets, the ability to fly around the court, has been restricted.

Serena still is capable. She again is the favorite to repeat last year's victory. Crushed her fourth-round opponent, Daniela Hantuchova, on Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Straight sets, a little more than an hour. The lady they call the Drama Queen, for all the incidents, was undramatic in a match that lacked any suspense.

So Serena is still here and one hopes will stay. But who's next, who to step in for Venus and eventually, if not now, Roddick?

Maybe Melanie Oudin, the Munchkin from the suburbs of Atlanta, who beat Elena Dementieva and then the glamour lady and former champ, Maria Sharapova.

Maybe John Isner. He had 39 service aces against Roddick, who himself holds the record for all-time fastest serve, 156 mph. Pow, smash, whap.

By all rights, Isner should have been the next Tyler Hansbrough. He's 6-foot-9 and from North Carolina. But he worked on his drop shot, not his jump shot. Then, unlike most tennis stars these days, he went to college, the University of Georgia, where he not only helped win an NCAA team title, he graduated. How about that, Dawg?

And how about the 5-foot-6 Oudin, also from Georgia? That's not a state people think about when it comes to a new Roger Federer or Chris Evert. But that's our problem, not Georgia's.

Oudin was to face yet another Russian, her third in a row, Nadia Petrova, in Monday's fourth round. Melanie doesn't figure to keep winning.

She's too young (17). Too inexperienced. But if she does keep winning, she has a chance to become the star America needs, after Serena and, depending on what happens, replacing Venus. If indeed Venus can be replaced.

An interesting phenomenon Sunday at Ashe Stadium. The crowd was supporting Clijsters more than it was supporting Venus Williams. Was that because Clijsters had been away and the fans were welcoming her return? Or because the Williams sisters, even as heroines, had stayed too long at the fair?

Isner said he had to play the match of his life to beat Roddick, who until the defeat had been playing the best of all the men. But if Isner is to make it to the top, as a player, as a personality, he has to have a lot of repeat performances, especially in Grand Slams. He has to rouse the curiosity of sports fans who don't know a volley from a rally.

Is he prepared and capable? How about Melanie Oudin? So often kids make an impression, and about the time the headlines arrive, they flame and burn out.

Oudin acts humble enough, something that will endear her to the masses, but how long does that last? And how long does she last?

You'd think in a country of 300 million, more than one or two could become a tennis star.

Serena, Venus and Andy were able to do it. Is there anybody else?

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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© RealClearSports 2009
4:27PM For Serena, a win isn't a win without dramatics

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

NEW YORK -- The threats went unfulfilled. There was no brawl. There were no angry words. Serena Williams did get irritated, but only with herself.

"Because," she explained, "I wasn't very happy with my performance."

As compared to the previous time when she wasn't very happy with Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, accusing her of cheating when they faced each other the end of May in the French Open.

That's when Serena growled at Martinez Sanchez across the net, "I'm going to get you in the locker room for that."

That day Serena whipped Martinez Sanchez, on the clay court, not off it, winning in three sets. On Friday, an ocean away, Williams shook herself out of lethargy and won 6-3, 7-5 in the third round of the U.S. Open.

This one closed with a handshake, followed later by a denial from Martinez Sanchez she even heard Serena's boast three months earlier in Paris.

In the first set that day, Serena ripped a ball that virtually everybody contended hit Martinez Sanchez, meaning Williams would have won the point. But after the ball plopped back in front of Serena, Martinez Sanchez said it hit her racquet, not her body.

Serena then complained to the chair umpire, who attempted to avoid any decision.

"I said, 'Did you ask her?'" Serena said that afternoon. "He said, 'Well, she's saying it didn't happen.' I looked her dead in the eye. 'Why? Just be honest, if the ball hit you or not.' I mean, hello, it totally hit her.

"She just looked down, and I just have no respect for anybody who can't play a professional game and be just be really professional out here."

Then, having lost the argument and shortly later the set in a match she would take 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, Serena told the umpire, "She better not come to the net again."

Strong words? "Well," Williams answered, "I am from Compton, you do know ..."

We do, although Serena now is based in Florida with older sister Venus. Martinez Sanchez, 27, is from Spain.

Asked if there were a repercussion from the French incident, if that's the proper description, Martinez Sanchez said, "No. I never think about it."

You can be certain Serena hasn't stopped thinking about it. When confronted Thursday after a doubles match, she said, "The ball hit her."

On Friday, wearing a post-match T-shirt upon which was printed, "You Can't Spell Dynasty Without Nasty," Williams was less direct.

When asked if she lost respect for players whom she considered cheaters, Serena was more politician than critic. "I can only speak for me," she said. "I try to be very professional, extremely professional in my job. That's what I'm here to do, and win, I hope."

Read between the lines, or specifically interpret between the quotes. At the French, Serena sneered at Martinez Sanchez's refusal to admit guilt. "I would never do that," Williams said. "I've never done that. I've never sunk so low ... because that's all I've ever been was extremely professional to anyone I've ever played."

Implying, what, Martinez Sanchez was not? "She's a tough player," was the Williams observation on Friday. "I was just trying to go out there and do my best. And I knew I had to be serious today."

Serena's the Drama Queen. With her it's usually something. In 2003 at the French, it was the "C" word again, cheating, when eventual champion Justine Henin raised her hand while Williams was serving and later denied it. At the 2004 U.S. Open. Serena got some awful line calls while losing to Jennifer Capriati. That led to acceptance of the Hawk-Eye electronic replay system.

On Friday, Serena, defending champion in the Open, offered some histrionics when she was down 3-1 in the second set.

"I got nasty today, but to myself," was the way Serena framed it. "I was screaming to myself because I wasn't very happy with my performance ... I have my own mental issues, and everyone has to battle themselves sometimes."

Serena's autobiography, On the Line, reached bookstores a few days ago. She discusses her insecurities, the depression after sister Yetunde Price was murdered and her dealing with a muscular body she finally has come to accept and appreciate.

When someone wondered about early reviews, Serena reminded, "I've been playing this [tournament], so I've been working. I haven't had the chance to see the reviews yet. I've been doing the job that I've been doing."

Which Friday included a victory in which she got mad at herself, not the opponent.

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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.

RealClearSports: They're Having a Ball in New York

By Art Spander

NEW YORK -- Last week it was Tiger. This week it's Serena, Venus and Roger. It's always Alex. This is the place where the ball's always bouncing, along fairways, on hard courts, down the third base line.

This is place where the fans don't miss a thing, especially if Andy Roddick misses a forehand or Jerry Hairston misses a grounder.

This the place where the headlines call teams the Bombers or the Amazin's, the Jints or Gang Green. This is the place where you can buy a fake Rolex on the street or buy the real Brooklyn Bridge in a tourist trap.

Everything goes in New York. Anything goes in New York.

The front page in the Daily News was more of a declaration: "When Khadafy comes to New York this month, we should throw him straight into prison.'' The back page head, over a picture of Hairston fumbling the grounder that ended Andy Pettitte's perfect game, was "BAD HAIR DAY."

Baseball matters here. Fifteen years ago, 1994, the sport had gone into suspended animation. The players called a strike in August, the owners cancelled the World Series in September. We were told symbolically, if not directly, that everything we believed in was a mirage.

If they could wipe out the Series after 90-something years, then why care?

But the game survived, even flourished. We're told the McGwire-Sosa home run chase of '98 was what brought back the fans, re-established the interest, and while that's not untrue, New York also played its part.

This is where the Babe and the Iron Horse played. Where Jackie Robinson joined the majors. Where the term "Subway Series'' became part of the lexicon.

New York, with its ethnic diversity, where the kids grew up playing stickball, always was baseball country. Still is. If not at the expense of any other sport.

The Barclays golf tournament was played last weekend across New York Harbor, with the State of Liberty visible from the course. The big guns --  Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington -- showed up, although Heath Slocum won.

Twenty-four hours later, across the bay, a U.S. Open began. The second one in the region in two and half months. That one was the golf Open, out on Long Island. This is the tennis Open, a rollicking two weeks of day and night competition.

Sellout after sellout, matches that begin at 11 a.m., matches -- such as Andy Roddick's win over Bjorn Phau, Monday night to Tuesday morning -- that end at 12:45 a.m. New Yorkers love it. If not quite as much as they love their baseball.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the defending champions, opened the Open on Monday afternoon, but the tabloids went with the Yankees, who were down in Baltimore.

"CLOSE BUT NO PERFECTO!'' said the Post on its back page ‘"Awesome Andy,'' proclaimed Newsday, alluding to Pettitte's performance. And, course, the Daily News went after Hairston, who made the error that for a time will exist in infamy.

The Yanks, the Bronx Bombers, own this region during spring and summer. If it's not Alex Rodriguez who's being featured, it's Derek Jeter. The Mets, the Other Team, attract attention only for their foibles, and there have been plenty.

Omar Minaya is the Mets' general manager, and now he's been trashed as much for his failure to make a point clearly in interviews as for the failure of his team.

Minaya's language didn't matter when the Mets were winning, wrote Bob Raissman in the News, but now he must communicate how to correct the problems and he is incapable. A bit unfair, but this is New York, where imperfection of any sort is almost sinful.

Whether you're allowing a ground ball to dribble under your glove or fumbling syntax before a microphone.

In New York, virtually or actually, there's no place to hide. From the Battery to the Bronx, the Hudson River to Queens, you're always in somebody's headlights. Or, as Roddick was in the wee small hours, somebody's stadium lights.

The other night, Venus Williams was down 5-4 in the second set against Vera Dushevina after having lost the first set and was serving to stay in the match. The crowd was roaring.

"One of those great New York moments,'' said Venus, who went on to a three-set victory.

One of those New York moments of which a full explanation might be available from A-Rod or Omar Minaya, if with opposing viewpoints.

"It must be love'' is the promotional double-entendre slogan of the Open. Love or hate, with the attention, it must be New York, where you can hit a forehand, a home run and the jackpot at any time.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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© RealClearSports 2009
8:39PM New York version of Grand Slam all about fun, entertainment

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

NEW YORK -- They've made it here. It doesn't matter if they can make it anywhere else.

The United States Tennis Association found the formula to mine gold, to make history, to have a tournament that's an event, noisy, boisterous and, as Andy Roddick verified at 12:45 a.m. ET Tuesday, virtually never-ending.

Truly, there's nothing like it. Other than the corner of 42nd and Broadway. Or 57th and Lexington. Or other intersections in Manhattan.

Wimbledon is quiet lawns and British reserve. The French Open, Roland Garros, is clay courts and long rallies. The U.S. Open is a crowded, rollicking 14 days of celebrity watching, T-shirt selling, latte sipping, beer guzzling, pastrami chewing and great shot-making.

Night and day it goes. Day and night. Seemingly no sooner had Roddick departed in the wee hours than Julia Goerges and 2004 women's singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova were arriving for their 11 a.m. start. Less than an hour and a half later, Kuznetsova was a 6-3, 6-2 winner.

On to Arthur Ashe Court came the No. 1 women's seed, Dinara Safina, and an Australian named Olivia Rogowska, ranked 167th in the world. And on to the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center came thousands of fans, great gobs of them standing in the bright sunshine outside the stadium, in front of the fountain and watching on the big TV screen as Rogowska took a 3-0 lead in the third set.

Screams and gasps. How could this be happening, the top seed getting beat in the first round? By the time anyone else figured it out, Safina had figured it out, slipping by Rogowska, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.

"I try to do something good," said Safina, the Russian, who, despite never having won a Grand Slam event is atop the women's rankings, "but when it doesn't go good, then I go like too much into myself, what I'm doing right, wrong, instead of thinking what I have to do with the ball."

Which, of course, is hit it over the net to places where Rogowska can't hit back over the net.

Then, echoing Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, Safina mused that she had made it to the next round "and tomorrow is another day."

Sometimes at the Open, it's difficult to separate yesterday, today and tomorrow. You know the line, about waking up in the city that never sleeps. What about not going to bed at all?

For years they've been writing songs about late hours in New York, "... When a Broadway baby says good night it's early in the morning ..." It's hard to say if the milkman was on his way when Roddick said good night -- do they still have people who deliver milk? -- but presumably some people were on their way to work.

There were some opening-night ceremonies with famous types, including the former basketball player David Robinson, and by the time Venus Williams and Vera Dushevina began, it was almost 8 o'clock.

When they finished, Venus staggering through in three sets, it was almost 11. And Roddick and his opponent, Bjorn Phau, still were waiting.

"The later the better," Roddick would say. "You know what it is. It's just something that's always been there in New York. It's tough sometimes. It's all part of it, kind of the crazies who stay 'til 1 in the morning. There's something fun about that."

Fun is an appropriate word for the Open. And lunacy. Tennis often is thought as a dispassionate activity for the elite. But here they've turned it into around-the-clock entertainment.

James Blake has a cheering section, the "J Block." Sam Querrey, the kid from Southern California who Tuesday beat Michael Yani, is shouted on by his "Samurai."

The famous Carnegie Deli has a booth here, and the lineup for one of those monster corned beef sandwiches is almost as long as it is to get on to Court 13, where Tuesday the lineup included Fernando Verdasco, the No. 10 seed, who defeated B. Becker -- Benjamin, not Boris.

Ralph Lauren Polo is the official clothing outfitter for the Open, but Nike and LaCoste, which Roddick wears, are well represented. If unofficially.

Nike is not allowed to use the phrase U.S. Open on its attire, so the stuff has subtle references such as "New York 2009." A T-shirt with those words costs $22, while a Nike model with "RF" (for Roger Federer) runs $40.

The New York Post had its fashion reporter, one Anahita Moussavian, critique the clothing and jewelry on display by the competitors. The observations were hardly positive.

Moussavian called Serena Williams' choice of basic black for night matches "misguided" and described Roddick's shirts and shorts as "a double fault ... it's boring."

She's entitled to her opinion, but if there's any description that never should be applied to the U.S. Open, it's "boring." On the contrary. For two weeks, the Open might be the most exciting place in the country.

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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
10:54AM Serena beats Venus for her third Wimbledon title

Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England - She's a tennis player again. The champion again. The Serena Williams who wanted to dabble in television and fashion is now back on the stage she knows best and back on top. Who said there are no second acts in American lives?

Serena won the battle of the Williams sisters, the battle of Wimbledon, defeating her older sibling, Venus, 7-6 (3), 6-2, Saturday in the women's final.

This was Serena's 11th major singles title and, starting with the U.S. Open last September, her third in the last four. She's missing only the French, where she made it to the quarterfinals.Not long ago, television commentator Mary Carillo reminded her audience that an athlete, in this case Serena, would regret not taking advantage of her peak years.

But now Serena is looking forward again. At 27, she is talking about competition for another three or four years. She's back where she was in 2003 and 2004. In fact, she's better than she was in '03 and '04.

"I've played a lot this year, and I've paid the price. I've really just wanted to focus on tennis, and I've really been doing that.''

What she did to Venus, who had won 20 straight matches, 34 straight sets, two straight Wimbledons and a total of five overall, was keep her moving, slugging forehands to the corners. Then Serena won the first-set tiebreak, reminiscent of the U.S. Open quarterfinals, where she beat Venus with two tiebreakers.

"When I went out on court, I felt this was one of the few times I didn't expect to come out with the win. I felt I had nothing to lose. Then when I won that first set, I was like, 'Wow, this is great.' No matter what, I'm a set away.''

Venus again had wads of tape on her left leg to protect a knee her father, Richard, said was a problem but which she refused to discuss. "I think I played well,'' Venus said, noticeably dispirited, "but she just seemed to play better. There's no easy way of losing, especially when it's so close to the crown.''

This was the fourth time Serena had beaten Venus in a major final and the 11th time Serena had beaten Venus of the 21 matches they have played overall.

"In the tiebreak,'' Venus said, "I would play a good shot, and she'd just hit a winner off of it or put me in a position where she could hit another winner.''

In other words, despite predictions, Serena controlled the match, not Venus, who conceded in the second set she began to rush her shots. "I think I lost it from the ground [strokes],'' was Venus' analysis.

There was a brief rain shower about an hour before the 2 p.m. (British summer time) start, but after tarps were placed on court, the sun came out, and there was no thought of utilizing the new roof.

What Venus could have utilized was that big serve, but as she mentioned a few days ago, against Serena her 127-mph serve often comes flying back.

"It feels so amazing," Serena said after being presented the trophy, called coincidentally the Venus Rosewater Dish. "I can't believe I'm holding it and Venus isn't in. She always wins.''

Serena has won three of the past four major singles titles, though when the world rankings come out tomorrow, she will be No. 2 to Dinara Safina, whom Venus destroyed in the semifinals.

"If you hold three Grand Slam titles, maybe you should be No. 1, but not on the WTA Tour, obviously," Serena said.

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